Ridiculous 6 – Indeed

I don’t know whether I should scream or laugh hysterically at the announcement of Adam Sandler’s latest venture Ridiculous 6; surely a fitting title for any venture that features Sandler.  I am really hoping this is not going to be a pathetic attempt to lampoon The Magnificent Seven.  I am at a loss to explain how Sandler continues to be given any films, or how he maintains any box office appeal:  I think he is one of the most annoying and one-dimensional performers (I refuse to call him an actor) I have had the misfortune to watch.  Please make him stop.


Future of Star Wars

There is a lot of buzz surrounding the announcement of a new series of Star Wars, following Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm.  George Lucas discusses the handing over of the series to Kathleen Kennedy, the new president of Lucasfilm.  I am not too optimistic about a  new series of Star War films if they are going to be anything like the last three, which were very disappointing and, in many ways, facile, with poor scripts, mediocre acting, heavy-handed direction, and annoying characters. Kennedy has an excellent track record as a producer, so Lucasfilms should be in good hands.  I think that if anyone can produce new decent-quality Star Wars films, it’s Kennedy, but has the series jumped the shark?


Horror Films

In honour of Halloween, Movie Morlocks provides a fascinating look at the development of the horror film genre. Horror is not my favourite genre, as I can be quite easily scared and value my sleep time.  My first experience with the horror genre was the 1922 Nosferatu, which I saw at the age of six.  I remember my father warning me that the film would frighten me but, stubborn as always, I said that I could handle it, then spent most of the film with my hands over my eyes.  I was terrified by the bald, rat-like Count Orlock, and the eerie, Expressionistic feel (which I have come to love) of the film and the incredible use of shadows.  I could not sleep for a week.  I now own this film and love it, but it’s still very chilly are eerie.  I avoid any films that involve demonic possession, as they terrify me.  I have never watched The Exorcist and have no desire to do so.  Below are my favourite horror films which, not surprisingly, are atmospheric rather than horrifying:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920


Today’s Faculty: Stressed, Focused on Teaching, and Undeterred by Long Odds

This article in The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that “Faculty members are feeling stressed out and strapped for time to teach” and that at the same time “many of the most economically vulnerable members of the professoriate remain improbably hopeful about their career prospects.”  A survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA concludes that “Self-imposed high expectations, lack of personal time, and working with underprepared students were the leading sources of stress for faculty.”

The article raises the interesting question of the responsibility of academic institutions to accept doctoral students when career options for future graduates are known to be slim.  I think that many doctoral students pursue their studies with an idealistic notion of what the career of an academic entails, and of their chances of finding permanent employment.  When I was pursuing my doctorate, nothing prepared me for the high service and committee component of the job of an academic, how to negotiate the bureaucracies that are so fundamental to universities and, perhaps more importantly, how to be an engaging and effective instructor.  I was fortunate in that I had previous experience as a high school teacher before pursuing my PhD,  and had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, so I was much more prepared than most.  While more PhD programs are providing students with mentoring and learning opportunities with respect to teaching, I have not observed a similar level of preparation for the service aspect of the profession.  While service does not count as highly as teaching and research for tenure and promotion, it does constitute a significant percentage of an academic’s life, which only increases with time.  More importantly, perhaps, the article points to a mismatch between doctoral students’ expectations for having permanent employment, and the reality that many will face, which often entails accepting part-time, non-tenured positions on a rotating basis. How well, if at all, do doctoral programs prepare students for the reality of the career prospects they face?







Convocation speech

I was fortunate last night to be present at the convocation speech given by Lieutenant-General The Honourable Roméo Dallaire, who was awarded an honourary degree last night. I’ve been to several convocation ceremonies in my time (an average of two a year); this was by far the best convocation speech I have heard. Without making reference to any notes, Lt-Gen. Dallaire challenged everyone present to “muddy their boots”, by making every effort to visit some of the places where nearly 80% of the world’s population does not enjoy the rights, privileges, and freedoms that we have in Canada; we should all have a pair of boots under our beds with the mud of these places. Lt.-Gen. Dallaire discussed also two significant anniversaries that will affect Canadians in 2017: The 150th anniversary of Confederation, and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. There are lots of plans for celebrating these events, said Lt.-Gen. Dallaire, but what is our strategic plan for moving forward as a nation? Lt.-Gen. Dallaire was charming, warm, and gracious during the following reception, and took the time to speak to many faculty and new graduates. This is the second time I’ve heard Lt.-Gen. Dallaire speak in person and consider myself privileged to have had these opportunities.