Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Back-to-Grad-School Fashion (Dissertation edition)

Going to a family reunion and want to avoid That Question?

There's a shirt for that.

Wrote 20 pages yesterday?

There's a shirt for that, too.

Click here if you're interested.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beowulf Anxiety Syndrome

Grr. . . Aaargh.*

I have a bad case of BAS (Beowulf [the Movie] Anxiety Syndrome), so I'm curious to hear what y'all are thinking about it. I already know I'm going to go see it: it's pretty much de rigeur if you're a medievalist who plans to teach undergraduates or visit the local watering hole. But I'm feeling particularly apprehensive about the whole thing.

In part, that's because most other mass-media interpretations of Beowulf have been appallingly awful and because even the rather pallid translation in my undergraduate anthology could not keep me from loving Beowulf at first sight. (I was warned that I'd hate it, which just made the experience that much more fun. **) The combination of those two factors means that I desperately want Beowulf to finally get, if not the movie it deserves, then at least a movie that doesn't reduce it to a creaky and appalling wreck.

Anyway, on the one hand, uhm, Angelina Jolie plays Grendel's mother (check out the trailer, which is available here). Hmm. Not sure what I think about that. I mean, I do think there's good reason to read a certain gendered/sexual frisson into Beowulf's encounter with Ms. Bad-Ass. But she's supposed to be a troll, and she didn't seem to be interested in making any babies with Our Hero--she was too busy trying to kill him. So, yeah, I dunno.

On the other hand, don't ask me why, because I don't think I know myself, but Crispin Glover as the basis for Grendel strikes me as being an inspired, interesting, and unexpected choice.

You'll notice that I focus on the monsters first. I always like the monsters best. Frankly, I could very nearly care less who plays Beowulf himself. Wealtheow is another matter, of course, but I'm reasonably satisfied with the idea of Robin Wright Penn in that role.

I'm also not sure how I feel about the whole combination live-action/animation thing. To be honest, it looks a bit clunky from what I've seen in the trailers.

On the other hand, I do want to believe in this movie. I am always so hopeful about medieval films--maybe because most of them seem to be so disappointing. Sure, a successful film version would mean would mean un-teaching students some things as part of teaching the text, but it also would mean that at least a few more of them might approach the poem with some enthusiasm and sense of context.

Anyway, I'm not categorically against re-interpretations, anachronisms, and inaccuracies in medieval(esque) films--so long as they're part of a generally creative and interesting revision, that's fine by me. Stories naturally adapt over time, and there's a legitimate, understandable need for cultural translation from an eleventh-century epic poem in Old English to a twenty-first century film in that language's distant offspring.

I'll admit that I also want to believe in Neil Gaiman, whose work I admire for its general ethical complexity and dark sense of humor. So far as his film projects go, I thought Stardust was sweetly enjoyable, and I absolutely love Mirrormask.

But, then again, as befits a dyed-in-the-wool neurotic, the very fact that I so very much want this movie to be good makes me nervous all over again. Sigh.

So. What do you think? Should I be hopeful or cynical?

(P.S. You also might find this recent interpretation of Beowulf from The London Times interesting . . . )


* Sorry about the cheesy Joss Whedon reference. Sometimes I just can't help myself.
**Of course, the same people gave me dire warnings about Alexander Pope, and I thought he was marvelous.
The Rape of the Lock still makes me laugh until I cry--particularly if I skip that whole Cave of Spleen section.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Will we learn anything from the VTech massacre?

So, the Virginia Governor's Panel has issued a report on the VTech massacre (the full AP article is here). It includes several criticisms of the university, including this one:

The report . . . concluded that while Cho had demonstrated numerous signs of mental instability, the university did not intervene effectively.

The governor's panel sharply critiqued the university's counseling center, where Cho was referred for treatment in 2005 after a stretch of bizarre behavior and concerns that he was suicidal.

The panel concluded that the counseling center failed to provide needed support and services to Cho, due to a lack of resources, misinterpretation of privacy laws and passivity.

The report also noted that records of Cho's "minimal treatment" at the counseling center are missing.

(Emphasis mine.)

This isn't the first time a college student's inability to get adequate mental health care resulted in tragedy: it's just the most obvious one.

When are campus counseling centers going to realize that potential liabilities are less important than giving clients the care they need?

And when are politicians and government officials going to realize that funding student services like mental health care is not optional?

Some Recent Feminist News

I'm a sincere animal lover and am outraged about the atrocities Michael Vick committed. Still, I do think this article about the discrepancy between professional athletes' punishment for dogfighting and for domestic violence makes a very good point:

Beat a Woman? Play On; Beat a Dog? You're Gone

Women headed back to campus are facing staggering increases in birth control costs that may well prevent some of them from getting the care they need:

The High Price of Campus Birth Control

Some Recent Medieval News

A couple of items I've seen recently are reminding me how little I know about (and giving me a tantalizing glimpse of) the non-European Middle Ages:

Medieval Cambodian City Was World's Largest
Muhsin Mahdi: An Unsurpassed Scholar

The Mellon Foundation is helping the University of North Carolina work to address knowledge gaps like mine--to the tune of $2.5 million (!):

Medieval Program Receives Funding

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, among others, has noted that BBC 3's got a fascinating David Wallace audio program on Le Morte D'Arthur available online only through September 3 here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Grad-school financing 101

Acre on academia's diminishing-returns financial policy of grossly underpaying graduate students and recent Ph.D.s--and how it feels to be on the recieving end.

Go read it. Especially if you're thinking about going to grad school.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Still kicking, though not at all vigorously

Sorry it's been so moribund around here (again). I've been ill, and then suffering from migraines, for the past two weeks. So, yeah, I've been having too much fun to post anything for public consumption. After all, there's nothing like getting unscheduled laser-light shows when you close your eyes and having to wear cyborg shades everywhere you go to cheer a gal up!

In considerably more cheerful news, Beautiful Boss managed to get everyone on her staff a nice little bonus check and a commendation from Big City U's administration. Seriously, people, there just isn't a better boss anywhere. I know you envy me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Can I get an "amen"?

Ornamenting Away posts a brilliant open response to a "friend" who accused her of reacting "like a chihuahua" when he made sexist comments at a party and told her that women should just be able to laugh off comments like his. As a nice little bonus, this passage leads up to a punch line that neatly refutes the idea that women who react negatively to sexism "just need to get a sense of humor".
The thing is: From the minute I leave my house in the morning I am inundated by misogynistic messages, from the things I hear people say to the images I see all around me. For every one time that I make any sort of comment on these messages there are approximately 1,172 times that I’ve recognized something as sexist and not said anything. There are about 5,249 messages that I didn’t even pick up on.

Once I first really understood what the patriarchy was, it became the Framework. The Context. Everything fell into place and finally began to make sense. Once I was at that place, there was no going back to when I didn’t see and hear and feel a seething hatred of femaleness all around me. Feminism became the lens through which I viewed the world. And that’s that.

I am happy, or at the very least willing, to debate whether or not a certain act, behavior, word, or belief is inherently sexist or misogynistic. I am not, however, willing to debate the importance or necessity of feminism. Honestly, if you really truly think feminism is wrong, or that women just have it made these days and that we should suck it up and be grateful for the rights men have already granted us, then you’re a complete fucking tool. Period. No discussion necessary. I won’t ever entertain the notion, no matter how passionately you argue or how solid you think your points are. To try and argue with me about this would be like trying convince Neo that there is no Matrix.
You should go read the whole thing. In fact, she's got a series of posts that powerfully demonstrate the kinds of harassment, nastiness, and condescentions women have to face every single day from strangers, billboards, magazine ads, radios, televisions, movie screens, and pretty much every other form of social communication, including--yes--their "friends".

I've recently been encountering, both online and off, a particularly annoying phenomenon related to this kind of experience and would like to add a public service announcement. Folks, when a member of a group of people to which you do not belong tells you about negative experiences based on his or her membership in that group, please count to 10 before opening your mouth and uttering the following knee-jerk response: "But I've never seen/experienced that kind of behavior."

Let me explain something, 'kay? It's very likely that

1) you actually have seen that kind of behavior, but because you were not its target or did not recognize the social signals surrounding it, you were not able to see it for what it was.

2) if you have not experienced that behavior, perhaps that is because you are not a member of the group in question. For example, if you are a man and a woman tells you that she experiences street harassment on a daily basis, telling her that street harassment of that kind has never happened to you is nothing short of stupid. Why would you have experienced sexual harassment on the street, when street harassment is a form of social control aimed primarily at women and you aren't a woman?

Frankly, your need to defend the status quo, make yourself feel better by denying that you have social privileges others don't, and maintain your coping mechanisms isn't useful. It denies the legitimately difficult experiences of others and repeats the abuse by refusing to acknowledge it as real or trust the person you're speaking with. You become part of the problem and make yourself look like a gigantic ass in the process. So please just don't do it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

News flash!

The General's in labor: Baby General is on the way!


ETA: Baby General arrived late in the afternoon. Hurray!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

No comment

Unfortunate call letters for a radio station


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

In which I really, really geek out

I've been away for a while and terrible about responding to comments. I'm sorry! I had all kinds of ideas about writing a monster post concerning what's going on with me and how I'm having to reconstruct my personality in order to get my dissertation written and how that's probably making me a much better person and all. But personality reconstruction is hard work, y'all, so I'm pouring a lot of time into it. And thus, the post is not getting written, at least not right now.

But I do have news to share: It's payday, and I just bought a longbow!

I am so deliriously excited about this. Seriously. Bring on the SCA jokes, 'cause I really don't care. Besides, as I've recently been (re-)learning, SCA-types know some shit.

For example, wanna know how to make duello gloves? Look here for a set of directions, complete with citations and diagrams.

Got rusted armor? Help is available!

A few other gems I've found lately (just don't ask, okay?):

--Want to find out how to reconstruct clothes found on the bog people of northern Europe? Check this out.

--Did you, like me, want to grow up to be Tom Baker's incarnation of Doctor Who? Well, here's your chance to at least imitate him sartorially.

--Need big hair fast? Just look here!

And, by the way, if any of you are interested in equipping a dungeon, here's your source. (By the way, some of the reconstructed clothing available at that site is seriously drool-worthy.)