Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Christina of the Bailey"? "Rumpole's World"?

Some days the Grim Reaper harvests weird couplets of characters.

Friday was one of those days.

Imagine Andrew Wyeth and John Mortimer locked together in death in our minds.

In life, sadly, the painter and the writer never met — at least that I know of. It is fun to imagine the encounter. Oh to be the fly on that wall.

Today, after reading their long obituaries in the Times, I can’t think of one without the other.

Whimsically, their most popular works merge.

For those dropping in from Mars, those would be Wyeth's "Christina's World" (left) and Mortimer's "Rumpole of the Bailey" (Mortimer is above with actor Leo McKern, who played Rumpole in the BBC series).

The mergers have a fine, artistic madness to them.

"Christina of the Bailey" (Christina has her famous back side to the courtroom gallery and to the viewer. She is stretched out on the massive defense barrister's table, pleading before a jury of art critics on behalf of exhibit #1 — none other than Wyeth’s iconic and often satirized “Christina’s World.”)

"Rumpole’s World." (The rotund and rumpled Rumpole in his ill-fitting powdered wig, is sprawled Christina-like in her minutely painted field, staring off at, longing for justice in, London’s fusty and distant Crown Court.)

I like to imagine Mortimer and Wyeth trading just such whimsies wherever they are.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

An academic question: Is the inauguration "relevant"?

Today PCC Sylvania's president, Linda Gerber, backed off her exuberance about a campus celebration of the Obama inauguration next Tuesday.

Seems that I wasn't alone in wondering how to make the festivities relevant to beginning drawing, advanced calculus or transmission repair.

Gerber is now saying that Tuesday will be "business as usual" on the campus — well, sort of.

You be the judge. Here's what the campus president had to say today about how students and faculty should, or could, approach Tuesday's events. I've bold-faced the relevant sections:

Sylvania Campus,

I’ve received several questions about the events that ASPCC has planned for January 20 to celebrate the presidential inauguration. Foremost among these is whether it is appropriate to close offices or to cancel classes. My previous e-mail was not clear on that point.

ASPCC students have planned numerous activities on inauguration day and, since the inauguration is occurring on the same day that the campus would typically celebrate Martin Luther King Day, they have merged the two events. As with all ASPCC events to which the entire campus is invited, faculty and staff involvement is encouraged, but in no way mandatory.

Please be aware that the college, and Sylvania campus, will be open for “business as usual” throughout the day on January 20. Faculty are welcome to have their classes attend any of the events, if the event topic supports the course curriculum. Departments and offices should ensure that there is appropriate and adequate coverage so that our students and community are served as usual.

Thank you,

Linda Gerber, Ed.D.
President, Sylvania Campus
Portland Community College

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Inauguration Party Time on Campus!

Four and eight years ago, I don't recall campuses — or the nation for that matter — treating the inauguration of George W. Bush as a national holiday.

One reason might be that many of us doubted that W. actually won.

Nor do I recall campus partying and rearranged class schedules for William Jefferson Clinton's inaugurations, even though there was no doubt that he won.

No, Barack Obama's victory is something else again. It was more than an election win, so that his inauguration is being treated as a liberation, a cleansing of our national collective psyche. It is the awakening from an eight-year nightmare haunted by Dick Cheney and his minion in the oval office.

So it's celebration time for the inauguration of Barack Obama.

I'm loving it but it does seems odd. Remember this is a country where we don't even get the day off to vote.

I happen to be teaching two classes next Tuesday, a day which the campus president has declared a day of "fun," "exciting" and "educational" celebration. Would she have done as much for W? For Bubba?

I'm adjusting. For one class, "Introduction to Media Writing," the day's events, particularly the speech, is a perfect fit. The class also happens to be at just the time of the speech.

For the second class, "Introduction to Information Gathering," it's a stretch, but we'll probably manage, particularly because the campus president's invitation to enjoy the day's events, somehow lumping them in with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which, lest we forget, is Monday, not Tuesday.

How dental hygiene, auto repair and calculus classes adapt is a mystery.

Here, for the record, is the president's memo regarding campus activities on Tuesday.

Dear Faculty and Staff,

As you well know, Inauguration Day is right around the corner, and thanks to the efforts of ... Sylvania’s ASPCC Programs team, a variety of activities are planned for the Sylvania campus to celebrate this historic moment, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

I encourage faculty to bring their classes and urge students and staff to participate in what is sure to be an exciting, fun, educational day....

Look forward to seeing you next Tuesday at one or all of the many events ... !

Linda Gerber, Ed. D.
Campus President
Portland Community College, Sylvania

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Chip off the Old Blog

My son Evan has started a blog devoted to World War II and related books, games, movies, etc.

He's off to a good start. For all the loss. sacrifice and tragedy of war, the topic is endlessly interesting.

I hope that Evan will relate any lessons learned from his research and explorations to today's troubled world.

Check out Legacy of the Iron Cross.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Auto eye

Why did this headlight catch my attention as I was hanging out in Multnomah Village today? Standing in the misty rain, I was waiting to meet a source for a Hillsdale News story.

Probably had something to do with ovals and planes in opposition. The citrus reflection of orange. The swirl of detail.

Headlights are "eyes" and this one seemed remarkable and strange. Searching two ways at once.

Can you identify the model of car this belongs to?

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Drill, Baby, Drill — community college style

The following is a glimpse into either a) weird goings-on at Portland Community College or b) a terrifying sign of the times (in more ways than one).

Note that what was once called an "Active Shooter" drill, a vivid term, is now called a "Lockdown" drill.

One can only guess why the name was changed. One grammatical reason is that there is no such thing as an "inactive" shooter so "active shooter" is redundant.

Another is that the whole "shooter" bit could discourage enrollment.

"Lockdown," on the other hand, is a prison term. Of course prisons are now called "correctional facilities," and, in a sense, community colleges are "correctional facilities."

I know I do a fair amount of correcting in my writing class.

Anyway, at 10:30 a.m. Monday, you might give a kindly passing thought to the alarms going off at PCC. Fortunately, I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm not going anywhere near the place on Monday.

Here's the campus memo with a smattering of snide, bracketed, and probably uncalled-for comments from a hypercritical, underpaid adjunct faculty member:

Lockdown Drills/Winter Term 2009
Information Sheet

What: Sylvania Campus will hold its winter term Lockdown drills (formerly called “Active Shooter” drills) on Monday. The drills are an opportunity [You got to love these "opportunities."] to practice a non-evacuation emergency and are DIFFERENT than [Correctional facility note: The writer means "from."] fire alarm/evacuation drills.

When: The alarm will be sounded, and everyone on campus will participate in the Lockdown drills. Our campus will hold two Lockdown drills during the second week of the winter term. Following are the confirmed details [Are there unconfirmed details?]:

Date: Monday, Jan. 12
Times: 10:30 a.m., and again at 7 p.m.

Please note – there will NOT be a Saturday drill. [How about Thursday?]

Why: The campus will practice the recommended Lockdown procedures [would it practice unrecommended procedures?] so that in the event of an actual [as opposed to a fantasy one?] emergency, students, faculty and staff will be prepared. Preparation saves lives. Preparation requires us to think in advance about what we would do to protect ourselves and others. Our goals are to:

• Determine whether Sylvania’s Lockdown alarm works and is reasonably [as opposed to unreasonably?] audible in all locations;
• Familiarize those on campus of the alert sound; and
• Educate those on campus of the first actions they should take when the alarm sounds and practice those actions.

Where: All buildings and all common areas will participate in the drills. [Actually people, not the buildings and areas will participate.]

How: The alert will sound for approximately three minutes on the day and times listed above. There will NOT be an "all clear" signal. The silencing of the alert constitutes the "all clear" for these drills. In the event of a real emergency situation, the alarm would continue to sound until there was absolute certainty [simple certainty should do it] that the situation had been rectified. [The situation, remember, is an "active shooting." Let's not go to what "rectifying" might mean.]

We want faculty, staff and students to know in advance that these drills will happen [If you let someone know something will happen; by definition you do it "in advance"], to know why we are conducting them, and what they are expected to do during the drills. Some students (for example, those with post traumatic stress disorder) may be adversely affected [IE. be freaked out] by the sound of the alert and talk of “a Lockdown drill.” For these students, it is important to discuss the drills in advance and to let them know our Counseling Center is prepared to help them if they feel the need. Its telephone number is (503) 977-4531 or 4936. [As if these students don't have enough problems as is.]

If you are an instructor, please notify your students of the drills in a class period prior to the day of the drills. Inform them of the drills’ purpose and what actions you will be asking them to perform when the Lockdown alarm sounds. Special care should be taken to inform and care for the needs of deaf students, students with mobility issues [This happens a lot. Dead batteries. Lost keys. Traffic jams.] and students with limited English language abilities. [Say again?]

As part of the drill, ALL Sylvania employees will proceed as follows:

• If you are in a classroom, lab or office, you will direct others (students or campus visitors) within that space to conceal and cover [This is hard to visualize. Blankets? Camouflage netting? Helmets with twigs stuck on them? See below for details.] and then do the same yourself.
• If you are in an indoor, non-classroom, student or public gathering area (such as the CC Mall), Building and Floor Monitors [lower case, please] will direct all employees, students and campus visitors to the safest place possible and direct them to conceal and cover. You will cooperate in this process.
• If you are in an outside area, Sylvania Campus deans [you need a PhD. and a six-figure salary for this outdoor work] will direct others (students or campus visitors) to seek a safe area and conceal and cover, then do the same themselves. You will cooperate in this process. [Unless, of course, you are "adversely affected"]

Conceal and cover means to do the following:

• Remain in your office/work area;
• Close the door and turn off all lights;
• Lock the outside door to your office/workspace (if you have a key) or use (furniture/ other means to barricade the door, if possible);
• Shut all window blinds and/or curtains;
• Stay away from doors and windows and stay as low to the ground as possible; and
• Keep quiet and act as if no one is in the room or office.

What’s next: The campus will conduct drills at least two times each year to ensure we are prepared to act in the event of a Lockdown situation. In addition, unannounced fire alarm/evacuation drills will be held so that we can practice for these kinds of emergencies [What kinds of emergencies? We have what the grammarians call a "reference" problem here.] and learn to distinguish between the two different types of emergency alarms. [Remember that alarm in January? Well, try this one! EEEEEEEEEurrrrrEEEEEEEEurrrr etc.]

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