It’s time to stop titling posts LFH and go back to writing Weeknotes. Living from home is what I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future, so I may as well accept it. Parts of my state, including neighboring counties, are opening up this week. This does not make me happy but at least as of now STL city and county are continuing their stay-at-home orders until mid-May.
Last week was reading period and the beginning of finals week, or what used to be finals week. I gave both classes until this week to turn in all their post-spring-break writing assignments, so I’m watching them trickle in as the deadline approaches. I have some work to do but it’s not too bad, thanks to my teaching assistants. Which is good, because the undergrad admin stuff has ramped up again. We are doing a virtual commencement ceremony for our majors, which requires coordination and coming up with something Zoom-focused. Nothing is going to replace the usual ceremonies, and students have said as much. But not doing anything is worse than doing something that we all agree isn’t what we wanted. I’m emailing with my counterparts in other departments to try and figure out what will work and what makes sense. I’ll keep you posted.
I have three pieces out for review. Who knows when they will come back from the editors. But we’ve done our part. On to the next paper on the list.
It was such a pleasure to write a blog post on reading, because it signified that I’d done enough to warrant a post! TheH and I had a chat about Angela Thirkell over dinner. It occurred to me that since Thirkell published a book a year about everyday village life, the books she wrote during the war might have a special resonance for us right now. So much of what is written about past events is retrospective. The best novels integrate the past and the present (Swift’s Journal of the Plague Year draws on both the actual plague and the contemporaneous fears about a cholera epidemic, for example). But works that chronicle what is happening at the moment are rarer. TheH has never read Thirkell but enjoys midcentury UK fiction, so I’ve suggested some places to start (her oeuvre is large) and I’m going to reread some of the war years books with a new lens.
We’ve continued watching Vera and Maigret, but we’ve also been seeking out feel-good movies. To that end we watched The First Wives Club this past weekend. It is a total Hollywood vehicle and it doesn’t have a great IMDB rating, but we hadn’t seen it for a while and got a kick out of it. Part of the fun was watching extremely talented people deliver a highly competent, polished product. And it has three middle-aged women at its center, women who achieve their goals. How often does that happen? Yes it’s Hollywood schlock, but it’s extremely well executed schlock. Not just the star turns but the supporting roles are well done, as are the set decoration, the costumes, and the cinematography. And it’s still true, more than two decades later, that as Goldie Hawn proclaims, ”There are only three ages for women in Hollywood: babe, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy.” No wonder I like revenge comedies.
We’re also keeping up with the weekly installments of World on Fire, mostly for the excellent performances by Sean Bean, Lesley Manville, and the young actor who plays the Polish refugee. The scene where Manville tells off the schoolboys was classic, and the scenes with Bean and Manville together make up for the soap-opera storylines of the younger characters.
We’re still watching a couple of hours of news each night (local/BBC/Newhour), but we drift away and start making dinner when it gets to be too much. The disconnect between what is happening and what is being said in public is just too great sometimes, and I’m not just talking about the Dangerous Idiot President. We are giving hundreds of millions of $$$ in relief to big companies while we put low-wage workers on the front lines and threaten to take away unemployment benefits from people who don’t think it’s safe to go back to work. It’s enraging. We are a wealthy nation and we could provide safety nets for people at risk, but we don’t. As usual.
I’m cutting back on the time I spend reading my main three newspapers (WaPo, NYT, Guardian). Especially with the NYT and Guardian, they are running so many “how to do x in the age of coronavirus” that I want to throw the computer across the room. No one has to do x. It’s a pandemic! We don’t need TV recaps, we’re watching the damn shows. Or we’re not, in which case we really don’t need them. The first half-dozen stories about how Everyone Is Having The Same Issues You Are are heartening. After that, they’re filler. We are in a damn pandemic. It is not going away. Stop trying to sell us shit, including your newspaper. We’re already buying it, and more than a few of us are reading it for the news, not for the crap.
David Hare, the great playwright, has a diary entry in the latest New Statesman in which he summed up my problem with both the NYT and the Guardian (WaPo is bad but has never had a great arts section so the change isn’t as obvious to me):
… the absence of any featured analysis of what any work of art was actually about. For the Guardian, arts are purely an adjunct of lifestyle. They’re a box-tick.
YES. I’ve been reading the Grauniad intermittently for over 30 years and daily for nearly two decades, and the changes in the Arts, Lifestyle, and Society sections are huge. Today, it’s not enough to report that Stephenie Meyer has a Twilight book coming out (the whole shebang again, now written from Edward’s POV, because apparently there hasn’t been enough fanfic). No, there also has to be a column telling us why this is such a wonderful thing.
I was about to say that at least the Twilight news gave us a break from the Guardian‘s first-class carriage on the Sally Rooney Hype Train, but then I remembered the article about the lead male character’s gold neck chain. It apparently has its own Instagram account. I’m pretty sure that learning this shaved at least 25 IQ points off my previous score. It makes me want to cry, scream, and/or throw things. I miss real books and arts coverage.
Productivity is getting out of bed in the morning, making said bed, taking a shower, and turning on the work computer in my office. Isn’t it?
Yes, I do think that’s an acceptable minimum. But I am trying to do more than that, mostly because I feel better when I do. I managed a brisk, hour-long walk in the park on the weekend, which was my first decent outing in a couple of weeks (I walk the dogs a couple of times a day but that’s just in the neighborhood). It felt good.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to create a reasonably productive schedule once the semester is over. Right now I live on email and work around deadlines, but those are going to diminish considerably after the 15th, and I know I need to keep working for my mental health. I think I’m going to go back to logging hours, giving myself a reasonable goal every day and then trying to meet it. And adjusting it as necessary.
Grades! Virtual convocation planning! A faculty meeting that may or may not be pleasant. The fun never stops. But hey, it’s spring and our plants are flowering, and the weather is nice enough to grill outside.