Parody or Anti-Israelitism?

Tell me this is parody. Please. I think not, though.

Paper cups with Hebrew writing disturbed both employees and medical staff at King Khaled National Guard Hospital on Saturday. The catering subcontractor for the hospital coffee shops began using them on Saturday after their usual supply ran out.

(Of course, practicing the hermeneutics of trust we can know that it’s not JEWS they hate, only Israelis. If Jews who lived in New Zealand and repudiated Zionism made paper cups, those cups would be would be welcome in Saudi Arabia? Maybe not.)
via Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy

Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh is a great place to start a course in the Foundations of European Studies. One can argue about the Mesopotamian relevance (though I don’t – it’s as reasonable a place to start as any) to “Europe,” but the work is so very grand! One of the best things about it is that even callow first year students with backwards ball caps (well, until I ask them to remove them) is that though this story is really OLD when first written down (if he’s historic, Gilgamesh is sometime around 2500 B.C.) it’s as sophisticated as anything they’re ever going to read.
One of the constant themes of my teaching is that they can’t let time make them underestimate people — just because they didn’t have electricity doesn’t mean they were “stupid” or “worse” or some such. Life was harder in physical senses, but I try to convince my students (in every class, every semester) that in psychic senses life hasn’t changed. Life is hard.
“Gilgamesh, though he was king,/Had never looked at death before.” Isn’t that always one of the difficulties of the callow young (though it’s not at all clear that Gilgamesh is young, only heedless)? And then there’s this:


All he had to give was being weak and rage
About the kings and elders and the animals
In the underworld that crowded sleep,
About the feathers that grew from his arms
In the house of dust whose occupants
Sat in the dark devoid of light
With clay as food, the flutterings of wings
As substitutes for life.
The priest and the ecstatic sat there too,
Their spirits gone, each body like an old recluse
No longer inhabiting its island.
Like shells one finds among shore rocks,
Only the slightest evidence
Of life survived.

Makes you wish you could read Sumerian and Akkadian, doesn’t it?

And today . . .

This is the 2nd day of classes. Today I get to teach Greek Art & Architecture — I’m passing out the list of Olympians for Thursday quiz purposes and telling them to memorize the orders for next week. Historiography meets for the first time this afternoon – what a fun seminar! Today they get to try to define Art, History, and Art History.

“Cheating” or Technological Generation Gap? I vote for the latter.

Department officials said that some problem sets from textbooks used in introductory graduate economics courses have answer keys online. At least one student found answers for a course taken by all first-year students, and apparently shared the information with classmates. Though the solutions were apparently available, David Mills, chair of the economics department, said students should have “known it was off-limits,” but that they instead “used it without the professor being aware.”

Read the story. I disagree with the university’s actions. The students should not have “known it was off-limits” AND the professor should have been aware it was available for their use. That’s where the problem comes — someone gave a test or homework without writing any original material and didn’t bother to check the online resources pushed by the publisher. Bozo.

Back to class . . .

. . . for the new year. Let’s see – I’m teaching Greek Art & Architecture, Art Historiography, and the shattered first-semester remnant of Western Civ. (which passes under the name of European Studies, lately). Shoring up fragments, etc.
I’m starting off my year by narrating Machiavelli’s letter to Vettori* and the Great Conversation model of what-it-is-we-do-here. And I get to wear seersucker.

*the top google result when I was looking for a free text to post online for my students is an amusing blogospheric small world. Click and read for content and setting.

What I did this next-to-last morning of summer vacation . . .


I supervised 20 or so students in a Pulteney Park cleanup — the photo doesn’t show the brush piles. Everything is much neater now — and I hope the students have a feeling of belonging to Geneva now. I got to narrate the foundation story — Sir William Pulteney, the Pulteney Land Tract, Capt. Williamson, the Land Office, the Geneva Hotel (now the Pulteney Apartments and my own place of residence), and Pulteney Park. Just the way to start off the school year!

Block Scheduling – Does it Work?

The Washington Post has a collection of anecdotes about block scheduling in one Northern Virginia school system; the general impression is that this isn’t a magic solution to our woes, either.
It’s interesting, but no one expressed what I thought would be a serious drawback. Let’s say Mary and Louise both take Latin I in 9th grade under a block schedule and Latin II in 10th grade under a block schedule. Mary takes Latin I in the 2nd semester and Latin II in the first semester. She would have the summer slippage, but she would also have 90 minute classes from January to December of one calendar year — I think she would do pretty well. What about Louise, who gets stuck with Latin I in the fall term of her 9th grade year and Latin II in the spring term of her 10th grade year? Even if she’s a good student that puts an entire calendar year between the two courses. No block schedule advocate (and there were lots percolating around Atlanta in the 1990s) even tried to convince me that this wouldn’t happen regularly.
I think that would be an academic disaster for Louise. Mary – hmm. I think she’d benefit; how much is open to question.

Someone let the Manolo know . . .

O.K. – I’ll email him.
Did you know that Converse will sell you a pair of Converses without laces?
This paragraph from the description makes me weep for America:

With a deconstructed upper and All Star embroidery, it’s a unique look, too. Laces? We don’t need no stinking laces!

There are two forbidden and one “don’t go there” words in that sentence! I forbid my students the use of “unique” and “look” (n.). Nothing in art is unique – or almost nothing. When I say “unique example*” junior majors gasp and take notes rapidly. “Look” (n.) is appropriate to hairstylists, rather like “creme.” I have had to forbid “cream” because all too often it was spelled with a final e. “Deconstruct?” Let’s just say that no one under 25 should use it in public. They haven’t read enough.

*implying, of course, that there must’ve been more but that we happen to know THIS ONE EXAMPLE.

Lawyering Up for High School Sports

For the first time this season, Severna Park Athletic Director Wayne Mook required his coaches to record running times and player evaluation grades, then hand in that paperwork to him. It is an arduous process that many coaches find tiresome, but Mook instituted it for a reason: After a player was cut from the girls’ lacrosse team last spring, the family hired lawyers to meet with the school.

That’s really the best part of this story (the rest is the sad tale of a lad who works hard but doesn’t make it — sorry to spoil the suspense).

Evil Union Presidents and Mr. T. Talk!

I love reading about the Washington, DC, government schools — they are a glowing example to us all. The former administration of the Washington Teachers’ Union is on trial for embezzlement; in the trial of the former administrative assistant to the [evil] president the defense lawyer said about the [evil] president: “I pity the fool who has the nerve to ask this woman about her spending.” Mr. T. Lives!