Jen and I went to see Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the other night (after a spectacular meal at Baroncini, currently our favorite restaurant in Iowa City), and really enjoyed it. The two of us had each read and loved the book by Stieg Larsson, so although I have liked Fincher’s work before (esp. Fight Club), our expectations were moderate. I expected something like the experience of watching Atonement, a perfectly fine film, but nowhere near touching the level of Ian McEwan’s novel. I did have a couple of thoughts, so I thought I’d get them down in print. The following includes spoilers, so… ALERT. (more…)

The important people know why.

No sooner do I say I’m going on hiatus than I have an interesting, if brief, conversation in the comments over at Crooked Timber about the value of teacher training for people who have earned their Ph.D in English. This was started with a post by Michael Bérubé about the job market (and lack thereof) for English docs. I wish I’d taken more care with my tone (important lesson, kids: always assume others in a conversation are discussing/arguing in good faith!), but I hope to take a little time to expand on some of what was said. It would be great if we could find a way to let those who have a love of literature come into the classroom with some teacher training without forcing them into a long program, if that could be done in a way that doesn’t mean any schmoe with an advanced degree  can float into the classroom with no understanding of or care about the kids they’ll be teaching.

Obviously, I’ve not been blogging, so Panoptiblog has entered kind of an informal hiatus. Light blogging will be the norm this summer, as I try to get this dissertation written. As of this post, blogger guilt will not be a sufficient excuse to avoid doc work. I may still write a short post here and there, but for the most part it’s full speed ahead on getting drafts of the last two chapters.

Let me take a moment to address my dear students who graduated tonight:

Teaching you over the past two years has been a joy and an inspiration. It hasn’t always been easy or pleasant; it never is. But on balance, you have proven to be hardworking, funny, resourceful, creative, and smart. Best of all, willing to see yourselves as changing and growing, rather than stubbornly, steadfastly resisting new ideas and possibilities.

As Conan O’Brien said in his farewell speech on The Tonight Show, “Nobody in life gets exactly what they want. But if you work hard, and be kind, amazing things will happen.”

Work hard. Be kind. And keep in touch.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s J.K. Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard. Enjoy.

Part Two, after the jump.


For the 30th Anniversary of Pac-Man’s release, Google has a playable logo. It’ll only be there today, I’m sure, so hurry! Now! Go!

The people who own the Field of Dreams near Dyersville are selling:

Sanders said the majority of those who’ve reached out have shown interest in preserving the property. But he’s also heard from people thinking about putting up a hotel, water park and even some contemplating whether to build a minor league ballpark on the site.

A water park? Why not just raze it and put a Wal-Mart there?

Despite the awful “Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa” bumper stickers it spawned, I always liked Field of Dreams more than is probably warranted, as well as Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe. I don’t know if it would hold up to another read–I originally read it a dozen years ago or so–but part of the appeal (as a native Iowa Citian), was reading about places I knew, which I’d not known before. Having read Conroy and Vonnegut since, the novelty of that is probably gone.

This TED talk has to be one of the most interesting on the website (I’d embed it, but it uses (gasp!) Flash). Nicholas Christakis studies how social networks shape us. He was part of the group whose study about obesity made headlines a couple of years ago (though he mentions some caveats, in the talk, about how it was received). Related to my research in some obvious ways, but accessible to a mainstream audience. Implications for education abound…

There’s also a story in the current issue of Harvard Magazine about Christakis and his colleagues. One tidbit:

A more lighthearted study led by a member of Christakis’s lab group searched for meaning behind users’ decisions to make their Facebook profiles public or restrict who can view them. It found that users with public profiles had a higher-than-average chance of listing the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin among their favorite musical artists, whereas people who restricted access to their profiles were more likely to list Coldplay, Rage Against the Machine, and Ray Charles.

Make of that what you will. What about Radiohead?

Just discovered a hybrid webcomic/blog called Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh. Funny stuff. Here we have the mythical creature known primarily from high school English papers: the Alot.

Go check it.

Well, in case you were convinced by news today that yesterday’s stock market nosedive was just a computer error, trader typo, or some other non-panicky event, here’s NBC’s Brian Williams (on Letterman last night) to talk you back into investing in gold and shotgun shells:

I look at the photos from Greece yesterday, and listen to Williams, and I remember back to this moment from the spring of 2000, when I was watching an episode of Nightline. It was about the government in Afghanistan–somebody called the “Taliban”–and how their extremist practices included destroying huge ancient Buddhist statues. I had this sense of human loss, as I watched the video of the statues’ demolition, but it wasn’t until about sixteen months later that I thought about that episode of Nightline again. I hope we don’t end up having similar flashbacks to Greece aflame, but there doesn’t seem to be much reason for optimism that this is a short-term problem in Europe.

Enjoy the weekend, folks.

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