Fab farewell

Sarah Jessica Parker

There was a memorial service Monday at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for designer Alexander McQueen, who sadly killed himself earlier this year.  It looks like it was a fitting tribute–fashionistas turned out in McQueen’s designs, and Vogue‘s Anna Wintour spoke in tribute.

I could never, in a million years, wear shoes like these, but I thought SJP’s ensemble (at left) was adorable.  I tend to go for more tailored looks, but it would be fun to be able to dress more romantically and theatrically sometimes.  Living in small town Colorado means that I don’t get the opportunity to dress up very often.  Continue reading

She opened the press release all by herself!

At least a dozen ways to stoopid, by Froma Harrop:

Bill Gates recently predicted: “Five years from now on the Web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.”

A year at a university costs an average $50,000, the Microsoft founder and Harvard dropout said last month. The Web can deliver the same quality education for $2,000.

Yet American colleges continue to float in the bubble of economic exceptionalism once occupied by Detroit carmakers.  American median income has grown 6.5 times over the past 40 years, but the cost of attending one’s own state college has ballooned 15 times. This kind of income-price mismatch haunted the housing market right before it melted down.

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As the father of a student at Kenyon College told me, “It’s like driving a new Corvette to Ohio every September, leaving the keys and taking the bus home.”

This reminds me of that old Calgon bath salts commercialinternets, take us away!!!  So why does that father choose to do what Harrop implies is the economically irrational thing and continue to drive that Corvette every autumn to Ohio?  Gee, I wonder! Continue reading

Little things mean a lot

Not every American woman gets raped or sexually harassed every day.  We don’t all get overcharged on cars or appliances we buy every single time.  (Most of us are chronically underpaid for our work relative to our male peers, however–that is something of a constant, I’m afraid!)  But sometimes it’s the little things about being a woman that add up to teh suckity-suck.  Exhibit A, from Suzie at Echidne’s place:

I received a party invitation that read: “Please bring a dish to share – a bottle of wine or soft drink will be acceptable from male guests. :-)” Because this was sent to students mostly from other countries, the host may have felt the need to spell out what many Americans already acknowledge. Women are expected to cook or, at the least, buy a side dish or dessert for a potluck. Men get less criticism for bringing less.

What a helpful lesson in the different care work expectations for American women and men!  (And I just love the little smiley face, which seems to acknowledge the unfairness of it all but also remind us that it’s all in good fun!Continue reading

E-textbooks: still inferior to the codex versions

Unimpressive in actual classroom applications

Did anyone else hear this story on NPR last night about how allegedly the iPad is finally going to end the suckitude of e-textbooks?  Except the content of the story seemed to undermine the headline–it was all about how badly the Kindle sucked and how students were reluctant to buy their own iPads because they still kind of suck.  (They were happy to use the free iPads offered in trials for e-texts, though.)  The interview with Reed College Political Scientist Alex Montgomery-Amo is pretty much what I would have predicted:

Last year they tried out the Kindle and this year they’ve been given free iPads to test. Montgomery-Amo says they’re hoping to have better luck with the iPad than they had with the Kindle.

“That went … I think horribly would be a good way of putting it,” he says. “The problem is that the Kindle is less interactive than a piece of paper in that the paper, you can quickly write notes in the margin or star something or highlight something, and the Kindle was so slow at highlighting and making notes that the students stopped reading them as scholarly texts and started reading them like novels.”

The result, according to Montgomery-Amo, is that his students didn’t understand the material as well as they did when using a traditional textbook.

To make matters worse, he says the Kindle proved unable to keep up with the class discussion — it would take half a minute to load a page and by then, the discussion would have lost its momentum.

I absolutely understand the allure of e-texts.  Codex textbooks are heavy, expensive, and they use a lot of paper–there should be a better way, shouldn’t there be?  Except:  the “better way” has to actually be better than the codex edition.  Continue reading

Disney's Pocahontas reconsidered

Fifteen years ago when Walt Disney’s Pocahontas was released, it was the Princess movie everyone loved to hate:  feminists were appalled by the buxom babe makeover of the title protagonist, who was in fact only a little girl when John Smith was part of the Jamestowne settlement.  Conservatives saw a disturbing anti-growth environmental message with the simplistic contrast of ecologically harmonious Indian villages versus rapacious English despoilers of the North American environment.  Historians were appalled that John Smith’s self-serving fictions were spun once again into a historical romance with Pocahontas. 

I was in graduate school in 1995 when the movie was first released, and since I didn’t have any young children in my life, I never got around to watching it until about five years ago.  I like the movie a lot, and find a lot of the criticism of the movie at the time it was released too literal-minded.  I’ve even used clips of it to illustrate points I want to make in my undergraduate classes at both the introductory level and in upper-division classes.  The movie’s distortions are mostly in the service of fitting the Pocahontas legend into the Disney Princess mold–for example, the romance with Smith (we have to have a handsome prince, right?), the rebellion against her father (think about the wicked Queen or stepmothers, or King Triton in The Little Mermaid), the supernatural Mother Willow (fairy godmother, anyone?) and the adorably mischievous raccoon and hummingbird companions (Snow White’s forest friends, or the mice in Cinderella).  And although Pocahontas looks like she might have had breast implants, her costume is no more revealing than Ariel’s clamshell bra.  Continue reading