Monkey II

In my last post, I discussed the joy of dealing with incomplete grades for students. For anyone who doesn’t know what this entails, it is a basic right students have in the event they are not able to compete the coursework for a semester. There may be some variations on this policy from school to school, but here are the basic conditions:

  • The student needs to fill out an agreement with the instructor regarding their need to finish their coursework beyond the semester.
  • There is usually one assignment that’s needed to satisfy the requirements for a student’s grade, but there may be more.
  • The student has one year from the end of the semester date to complete their work.
  • After the conditions have been outlined in the agreement and the instructor turns in the agreement, the student’s grade is recorded as “I” or INCOMPLETE.
  • Here is the dangerous part: If a student does not complete the work necessary for them to get a passing grade, their “I” or INCOMPLETE will turn into an F.

I’ve never took an incomplete in college. I’ve never been a big fan of paper work, and the less there is, the better. Now, this is an unrealistic desire for someone in my profession. When I was in graduate school, there was some silly piece of paper to turn in to some office every week. Of course, this is a gross over-exaggeration, but I don’t think I’m too far from the truth. The incomplete was simply another document to fill out.

Given that, I did not make it a habit to approach my professor mentors and tormentors for incompletes. I usually finished my coursework by the end of the semester, even it killed me. There were many times where it almost did.

There was only one semester where I ever approached a professor to do an incomplete. It was a course on the great world novel and I chose to my semester paper on Shusaku Endo‘s Silence. This novel’s theme was suffering, which I would ironically experience as I struggled through the year to do the paper.

For some reason, it took me a while to decide on using this work as the topic for my paper. However, it would take me a long while to get it done. I often found excuses not to do it. The following semester, I dealt with drama. I had a personal and professional falling out with the professor who helped me get into graduate school (a cautionary tale against doing graduate programs in your undergraduate alma mater). It didn’t help that I worked as assistant editor for his disturbingly sick literary* journal at the time (I formally resigned mid-year shortly after any sign of friendship and personal regard disintegrated on both sides). I had an unrequited interest in a supposedly good friend of mine who took advantage of it. He lived in my apartment for a while and he didn’t hesitate to cash in the benefits when it suited him. He rejected me at a point when I started to think I had a chance with him. I then kicked him out of my apartment, but my woes were far from over. I wound up seeing a counselor that spring semester to deal with both issues, and one of the things that came up in the conversation from time to time was the incomplete.

In the aftermath, I was dealing with the emotional issues listed above, but I still struggled with getting a silly essay done. I still had to do creative writing for the workshops and readings for the lit courses in my program, which also had essays. I kept putting it off and putting it off, but the incomplete was always on my mind.

I did manage to get it before the year was over. The paper wasn’t great at all; however, I didn’t let it turn into an F. I just couldn’t afford it.

After that, I vowed never to take on another incomplete again. To use a cliché, it was a monkey on my back. I could not stop thinking about it even when I wasn’t working on it, and that was a constant distraction. As for the drama that served as a nice excuse? It soon passed. From time to time, I had to deal with the former mentor on a bureaucratic level. As for so-called friend, I realized he was useless and I never fell into that unrequited trap again. I am glad that the counselor didn’t let me forget about making sure I satisfied the incomplete.

Knowing that I don’t work well like this, I always feel some concern for students who take this on. As a teacher, I’m not too crazy to being tied to any class for a year.

*This is not a statement of literary conservatism on my part as it is more of a pot shot.

Vintage ShindoTV: The University Years

I thought my website on the University server was lost forever. Naturally, after I graduated, my computer computer account was deleted a year later. Not that I really cared, but some of my writing files were on that incarnation of ShindoTV, and recreating those files can be a bitch. I don’t like to type things over if I don’t have to. Unfortunately, I don’t have a secretary so I really don’t have a choice in the matter. I found all my fears and anxieties were unfounded — there’s an internet archive that keeps track of most of what’s put on the web.

Here is the archive for my website on the university server.

Here’s the mirror site on my personal computer account during the university years.

Someday, this blog will be stored in the Borgified web archive. I remember Seven of Nine saying something about when a Borg dies, they live on the collective memory, so that what I feel has happened to my dead websites.

Click on the links if you want to see the early millenium models of ShindoTV. Better yet, enter in your web addresses into the Internet Archive.

Notes on a Fallout

It’s always interesting when you know someone with a pattern of close, but short term friendships. Yesterday, a fellow alum from my alma mater’s English program and I compared notes on Liza Radley*. He had his falling out with her a couple of years ago and I fell out with her last year. Without getting into too much detail, she picked fights with both of us when it came to expressing her disappointment. Regarding my colleague, Liza screamed at him on the phone until he hung up. I, on the other hand, got some very insulting e-mails. I then fell into the worst trap of all–responding. I recalled some event where she failed me and put it in the reply. That ended the friendship right there.

She also fell out with close friend and poetic collaborator Alexandra and then Shelly, her best friend from her undergrad years. Who knows why it happened, but the news about Liza dissolving her frienship with Alexandra spread quickly through the university’s MFA program, which was such a gossip mill.

A couple of years before my “break-up” with Liza, I was seeing a counselor who asked me in one session to rate the healthiness of my friendships on a scale of 1 to 10. I think I rated Liza 3 or 4. Not good at all.

*Pseudonym from “Liza Radley” by the Jam. Here are the lyrics.

That Nap Was A Killer

I went home yesterday afternoon and has a killer nap. I don’t mean I had a great nap that gets me rested for the rest of the day, but I crashed around 4 in the afternoon and slept until midnight. I haven’t collapsed like this since my final year in graduate school. Back them, I was doing coursework, tutoring, a TA assignment, and an internship at a local community college. Somehow, I managed to to this using public transportation (not a small feat in San Diego). There was one Saturday when I was getting a haircut and I kept falling asleep in my chair. When I walked home, I went to bed in the late afternoon, only to sleep for fourteen hours.

My story now? I have an early class at 7:30 am and I’ve been waking up anytime between 3:00am to 5:00am to get ready. It’s always easy to take care of some work the earlier I wake up. It’s a combination of time management and getting to sleep on time. I’m not truly a morning person yet. I’m still accustomed to being up until midnight, and 2:00am is late for me. However, I’ve got to get used to it. The morning classes won’t go away anytime soon.

I’ll go to back to bed for a couple of hours. I don’t want to say I’ve been up since 12:00am.

MFA Graduation Readings for Abbie Berry, Kimball Taylor, & Tony Shafer

OK, I didn’t get to see Bjork or go to Cochella, but I did get to hear Abbie Berry read some of her work. This was part of an MFA rite of passage–the graduation reading. This one was held at the Hardy Memorial Tower, at the end of the Campanile Mall at San Diego State University. The event was supposed to start at 7pm, but started sometime after 8pm due to some technical difficulties in setting up. I saw some people I knew from my MFA past, and a lot I didn’t know at all. Joanne Meschery, a very popular visiting writing professor, gave the introductions once the event got started.

I’ve known Abbie a couple of years before getting into SDSU’s graduate writing program. Her writing centers around love and desire, definitely a Marguerite Duras influence. Given that comparison, the rhythm of her writing is her own and that was apparent in a very strong version of her story “Topography.” Abbie’s reading, overall, was wonderful.
I’ve never met Kimball Taylor or had any previous exposure to his writing, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. This guy is good, and I enjoyed his Texas Street story immensely. It just sounds too strange to be true.
Tony Shafer delivered a quirky, rambling multi-media presentation with a flair for the dramatic. He was accompanied by a few of his friends, who read various monologues, dictionary definitions, and bits of trivia. One reader was in the audience, while the others read from the balcony in the back of the lecture hall. Tony also used PowerPoint slides to illustrate points in his story. A bit like Kenji Siratori, but there was more story.
Overall, a very enjoyable evening. I’ll be looking out for these three in print in the future.

If You Want To Go To Graduate School (Part 19)

Last time in this series, I discussed my own 9/11 craziness and explored Professor Joseph K’s “Madness in Literature” course. It’s been a while since I’ve written any installments for this series, so here’s a link to the introduction if you want to read up. This latest entry is the story of a friend I met in the program.

Liza Radley
If any of my MFA experiences were like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories or Cabaret, then Liza Radley was my Sally Bowles. She had that classic gamine appeal, somewhere between Audrey Hepburn and Liza Minelli*. Artsy and free spirited without having the affected persona that often accompanies those traits, Liza commanded attention nonetheless. Though small in stature, she was outgoing, openly passionate, and loudly opinionated, which made her a memorable presence as a poet.

I met Liza at the first or second week mixer for new MFA’s. It is difficult to remember everything about someone at those meetings. I also met her on the bus ride home from one of my fiction workshops and on a bus evacuation of the campus during 9/11, but neither of those meetings had much impact on me. Even though she was never my girlfriend, a date had the most impact on me in getting to know her as my friend. Since Liza was new to town, she often took new friends to Hipps, a notorious drag queen nightclub was in the district where she lived. Somewhere between my time at Professor K. office doing journal work and her time at the poetry journal office, we agreed to meet at Hipps at the end of the week. I put on my favorite iridescent shirt and boots, while Liza showed up in a simple red chemise. Oddly, some blonde women who looked like they were from the more conservative eastern part of the county thought Liza was a drag queen. We both found that perception strange and amusing, and something about conspiratorially watching the drag queens humiliate selected patrons was fun. After Hipps had its run, we went down to a British styled pub, where Liza flirted with an Irish bartender who knew nothing of Seamus Heaney. At the end of the night and our drinks, we walked arm and arm for a couple of more blocks and crashed at her apartment. We had breakfast at a Russian restaurant a block north of her place, which was good for our hangovers.

I soon started to hang out with Liza and Alexandra, a gifted, but conservative poet who pursued having a close friendship with Liza. Occasionally in the orbit of the Liza/Alexandra nucleus were Brandon, the mid-western surfer poet who sounded had more of a southern California accent than I, and Gabriel, a textbook Gen-X type who always had something sarcastic to say about everyone. There were a few times where Alexandra, Brandon, Gabriel, and I hung out and played cards and drank lots of red wine. Then there was the time where we went to Monster Trucks at the stadium. Liza made spontaneous plans to go to to the event and got Alexandra and Gabriel on board. I got the message late, so I bought a ticket from a scalper and tried to find them once there. If I had a cell phone, locating them would have been easy. However, I spent an hour canvassing a few levels, and finally met my friends by chance. I described it as a “happy accident,” which Gabriel would make fun of for a while. That night, I also met Topher, her on and off boyfriend of the past few years who would become central to the drama of her life in the next year.

Before Topher was back in her life, she dated a nerdy guy from the Essay Composition department. I don’t remember if I’ve met him on any outings, but I do remember hanging out with him for a bit at the Halloween party at her boyfriend’s house. Liza wore a small, tight black dress, a cowboy hat and boots, transforming the outfit with spiderwebs and Arachne on her skin, done with eyeliner. My skirt was longer, of course. I had a Chinaman’s cheongsam and I wore that. Some other people, such as Brandon dressed up as an Australian outbacker and Gabriel in a priest’s outfit, were present. There was one guy, Hosea, whose form-fitting skeleton costume highlighted the shape of his ass, which I kept looking at throughout the entire party. For a while afterwards, I would refer to him having a nice ass if I couldn’t or didn’t want to remember his name. Liza and her boyfriend retreated at one point from the party to his room, where they had loud sex that could be heard by everyone in the living room. They would date for a short while more, though the Halloween party is the last time I can concretely remember them being together.

Since Brandon and I were quick friends and we were in the “Teaching Composition” course together, we would often talk about our mutual crush on Liza Radley. Mine was the gay man’s type, which doesn’t go anywhere and is often expressed in an admiration and friendship, while Brandon’s was very strong. Of course, I had an attraction to Brandon, making this a “bizarre love triange” of sorts.

After the Christmas break, with Liza Radley, Brandon, and Alexandra back in town, there was a small get-together. I met up with Liza, Alexandra, and Gabriel at a Japanese restaurant for dinner and the party later moved to Liza’s apartment with card playing, conversation, and copious amounts of red wine. Brandon crashed the party, drank wine out of a Pyrex measuring cup, and took his shirt off and gave me a lapdance while I commented on how sexy he was. When the party was over, Alexandra went home and I got a ride with Gabriel. However, Brandon remained, and then it would be a story of he said/she said.

to be continued…

*Liza Minelli’s portrayal of Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

Rate My Professor: Joseph K

Here is a sampling of RateMyProfessor.Com comments about Professor Joseph K (by students). I have altered the name and the university reference to maintain continuity with “If You Want To Go To Graduate School.” Here are posts from various students, ranging from praise to criticism to ad hominen attacks on critics:

A very stimulating experience–as long as you’ve got an open mind!

Interesting and unconventional–not recommended for the ultra conservative

Some of the best and most interesting classes I’ve had yet at the University, taught by one of its best scholars. Prepare to be challenged and inspired to expand your intellectual horizons beyond the typical University sanitized comfort zones. Very supportive.

Sensitive and encouraging; always open to discuss any concerns students might have. Stands by students and provides an atmosphere of openness and freedom of expression that enabled me to feel completely comfortable to do some of my best work yet.

He is very inspiring, but has a very different teaching style, go to his office and talk to him, the more he knows about the more he will help you get a better grade. Make sure to have a very open mind if you decide to take this class.

As weird as they get. First night he came into class with very dark sunglasses on and just stood up front staring at the class. During “Howl” he just kept repeating “Endless****and balls” (line from the poem) over and over. Made us buy his book, which was all about weird sex and violence in the future. However, he did expose us to a lot of good modern American lit and I learned a lot.

My comments: Regarding the first two comments, they’re general and just praise him. They could easily be from the disciples of a cult leader. The same could be said about the next three. Thses would definitely come from those in the inner circle, especially the part about going to his office. Be part of the party before class. The people who stop by his office before class are part of his “in crowd” (unless it’s that one time they need to discuss something with him). Learning from office visits? Shouldn’t that come from first reading the book and then from the lectures? I believe there are those students’ of Professor Joseph K who are perfectly aware of his abuses, yet defend him. Didn’t Jim Jones have similar defenders?

The last one is perhaps the most right on as far as positive comments go. The three before that have some merit, but they also could be written by a sycophant. This one highlights some of K’s oddness, but the student feels he or she has learned something in the end. I have my issues with Professor K; however, I did learn a lot from his classes.

Prof. K is condescending and vague. I’d never take another class with him.

What is with this dude and his SHADES? He wears wrap-around sunglasses in the classroom EVEN at night. I imagine this gives him a “secret identity” mindset that let’s him abuse and insult students he is afraid to talk to in the clear light. So POLITICALLY oriented that faking agreement with his politics is all it really takes to glide through A+!

really the worst parody of an mfa professor. with ego ten times bigger than his talent, and an uncanny knack for using and abusing his students, K plods on and on and on, publishing his friends work in his journals and getting published in turn in theirs. as sad a case of logrolling as is.

K is a joke! He writes no better than most students but has somehow slipped through the cracks. He uses his influence and power to help make the MFA at the University a lower than average experience while playing the characature part of hipster black-clad underground writer. Run!

A self-absorbed, condescending washed-up writer. Interested in obscure “cutting edge” fiction which no one reads. A coffee house writer-wannabe with a PhD. Thinks he’s avant garde cause he owns an all-black wardrobe. Really shouldn’t be teaching.

My comments: These people are really angry! The first one is general, could fit any disgruntled student. The second two seem to come from people who had some relationship with Joseph K. Of course, they’re disgruntled, but they’re more articlulate about their rage. They could be students who felt trampled on by Professor K, or they could have worked for him. The last two simply characterize him as a hack. His work has questionable literary merit, and he inflicts his books upon his students, who have no idea how to approach his text. They often fear saying, “I don’t get it.” The emperor is naked and no one wants to be unfit for an A or even a B. Several of the posts accurately depict his wardrobe choices and how he uses them for his persona.

Ad Hominen Attacks on Critics
The people who complain about K are probably bitter because of all the rejection letters coming their way. Get over yourselves. He’s a great teacher.

Comment: How does predicting rejection letters for critics help this poster’s case?

One of the most helpful professors at the University, provided you make an effort to talk to him about your work. He’s as flexible and fair as a prof can be. To the ranting girlies prior to this post: it’s time to unbunch your Victorian panties.

Comment: Ranting girlies? Victorian panties? This person is incredibly guilty of using sexist language to attack the critics.

Students who dislike Professor K fear unstructured assignments, demand conformity of themselves and others, never did drugs and are most likely sexually repressed. To create postmodern fiction is to live it, and vice versa. If that sounds lame or obscure to you, you may have a calling in Business or Comm. If not, you’ll love K.

Comment: Unstructured assignments – I don’t remember his assignments being unstructured. The irony of so called “non-conformists” is that they are accusing some people of not conforming to their views – that drug use is some kind of rite of passage and living a post-modern life (whatever that is) is a prerequisite to writing. As far as a so-called conformist having a call for Business or Communication, perhaps they are the smarter ones in the end. Maybe the humanities takes more brains, but full time professorships are at an all time low and being an adjunct prof for several institutions is just financial suicide.

In ref. to accusations–Work of disturbed individuals attempting to get out of doing course work, trying to force their own personal agendas/issues on the rest of us, using Prof. K as an easy target for their negativity. Don’t credit rumors as fact.

Any professor rated on this website will have a fair shair of praise and criticism. Some professors recieve almost nothing but nice things, while others are constantly attacked. Then there are the cult of personalities such as Professor Joseph K, whose disciples can see no wrong, while the disgruntled wish to see him get his just due.

The comments in the first two categories have merit. These are the posts that best represent views on him. The ad hominen attacks, however, are just weak.