Sunday Lowdown #104

WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS

While I’ve had some “interesting” situations with professors over the course of my time as a college student, none have matched what one student at Concordia University in Montreal discovered: his professor has been dead for two years. Thanks to the pandemic, online classes that use video-recorded lectures is the norm. However, no one told the folks in Canadian Art History that their professor’s lectures were archived, and that the school holds the license to them. In true college student fashion, the professor was described as, “this sweet old French guy who’s just absolutely thrilled to talk paintings of snow and horses . . .”


Think you’ve developed some weird habits during the pandemic? One person on Twitter has a question for the rest of us:


Over the last week, I’ve messaged Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku several times, per usual. Frequently, she shares pictures holding the new baby, who is totally passed out, because clearly the book Jackie is reading to her is really boring (or it’s because she’s a baby). I asked Jackie to create a “Books That Put My Baby To Sleep” blog post, but we’ll see. Caring for baby is a full-time job!

Apparently, baby does not care for The Dark Frigate. Photo used courtesy of Jackie.

THIS WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

I had a triple threat! Three collections of poems published by Pearlsong Press that came together thanks to the Fat Poets’ Society. I’m so glad you all were able to see the progression in the collections that I tried to highlight. Check out my brief reviews of the three Fat Poets Speak collections.

Switching things up in 2021, I added a discussion question to my review of Foundation by Mercedes Lackey, which is part of #ReadingValdemar. Thanks to those who participated in the conversation about what happens when a genre book focuses more on character building than the genre tropes. Missed the conversation? Participate here!

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

What happens when a criminal attorney is convinced to take on a divorce? Lots of bumbling, it seems, but also a cut-throat, take-them-for-everything approach to negotiations! Susan Rieger, a highly-experienced lawyer herself, knocks one out of the park with her epistolary-ish novel The Divorce Papers.

After contacting Pearlsong Press, I received a few offers to participate in my Meet the Writer feature. On Thursday, you’ll meet Leslie Moïse, who writes in a number of genres. I bought her memoir about her friendship with another woman, which focuses on knitting, cancer, mental health, domestic violence, and self-acceptance and am stoked to read it.

BOOKS ADDED TO THE TBR PILE

I’ve taught Studs Terkel essays about race (most famously the one between a Klan member and his coworker, a black woman), admiring how powerful his style of journalism was, but never sought out a complete collection of his work. As for Wilkerson’s book, I know it’s famous but didn’t realize it was mostly personal stories. These two books have quite a bit in common, given their anecdotal approach to reporting.

43 comments

    • Apparently, the professor had agreed to let the college have a ten year license to his work, so thanks to online learning, they showed the recordings of him and a different professor graded the tests/papers.

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  1. Looking good Jackie (and baby)! I looked up The Dark Frigate, another Newberry winner, will you ever make it to the end? Not happy about the hero ending up on the Royalist side in the (English) Civil War. But don’t they always. Perhaps baby wants a story where Parliament comes out on top (which they did).

    I liked your new approach to Valdemar, and even took the opportunity (as a non-Valdemar reader) to contribute to the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think she’s reading the Newberry books in order, so she might be further along than I think.

      I’m glad tying in a discussion question worked for you, Bill! I hadn’t considered it before because I don’t typically have discussion questions.

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    • Haha– I am sooo close to the end! This book is definitely taking me a long time to finish, however. It’s not just Baby who is falling asleep here… Let’s just say this won’t be one of my top 10 favorite Newbery Winners. and I’m still on track to complete my quest! Trying to do so by January 2022. Only 11 months left to go!

      You know, I’ll definitely look for a book where Parliament comes out on top. I bet that is what her problem is — though Charles I hasn’t been executed yet in this book. I’m sure that’ll happen *right* after the book ends… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow. I can see this becoming a real problem. Schools start using lectures of dead professors regularly (until they are outdated??) and have an adjunct or grad student grade the papers. The schools charge the students the same amount, but now they get to pay someone even less to “teach” the course!

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    • As if the adjunct gang didn’t feel disrespected enough as it is… Now they’re being replaced by lovely dead people. Is this how all those auto workers felt when factories became automated??

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      • Yeah, that has to hurt. And the ethics are really shady. You’re supposedly paying for the expertise of the professor, but not if he’s been dead for ten years and his lectures are now outdated!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think this is going to be a huge problem in the future for academia. I expect there will be estates suing universities in the future. The worst part is that tenured professors often have their intellectual property owned by the university. I wonder if professors seeking tenure will be negotiating for how long their videos can be used? I get really frustrated with shady ethics in applications like this with intellectual property. I mean, did the professor know his videos would be used like this in the future?

          That said, with many subjects the relevant subject material is changing quickly. So, there might be some hope here?

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          • I hadn’t known that professors’ work was owned by the universities. This seems pitiful, considering that they already don’t get paid for writing and reviewing for academic journals. The least they could get is the rights to their work.

            I would like to think that changing subjects would mean old lectures couldn’t be used that long. And yet, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to imagine someone in admin going, “Oh, Shakespeare hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. Think how much money we’ll save by not hiring a Shakespeare professor anymore!” The sciences might be able to stress the importance of up-to-date research more than the humanities.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, especially since this professor was teaching what I believe was an introductory course, so they’re likely thinking nothing changed. I had an Oceanography professor who was still using transparencies on an over-head projector circa 2004. I guess he figured basic info about the oceans wouldn’t, and didn’t, change since the 90s. Now with climate change affecting the earth noticeably every year, one hopes he’s done some updating.

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              • Yeah, that’s really awkward.

                I was reading an article in The Guardian about universities wanting to publish their own textbooks. Because academic publishing is lucrative for the publishers since the professors who write and review the articles do it free. Then school libraries are charged exorbitant amounts to be able to access the articles their professors wrote.

                At first, I thought, yeah, great idea. Why not keep your own work? But now I wonder how universities would use that work if they owned all the professors’ publications….

                Liked by 1 person

          • Based on the article I read, it seems like the guy was fine with the university owning and using his videos. He’s been dead two years, and his subject was art history. So, if this were an introductory course, it’s likely his passion was more what they considered than if the content was out of date.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Confession: I will often take a sauce/spice bowl (1 oz) and fill it with chocolate chips and snack on them. This has been happening for years. My pandemic snack habit? Eating Nutella straight out of the container with a spoon. In fact, I’ve started doing this so frequently that we started buying Nutella jars at CostCo. They are the size of my HEAD. Delicious.

    If I can ever finish The Dark Frigate, I’ll take more photos of Baby and Me reading time. If I’m going to do this right, I need to get the book cover in the photos. Most of the ones I’ve taken so far don’t include the book cover. A fun project for the next few weeks of maternity leave. 🙂

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    • I recently looked for a recipe for Nutella that you can make at home without putting so much sugar in it and found one. However, this lady said she had one spoonful of Nutella per day, meaning it was gone within a week, which meant she was an ADDICT. An addict? Really? You know how recipes are now long personal stories + a recipe at the end? Below her recipe, she wrote that her own Nutella was gone within a week. I couldn’t help but wonder if she thought she was a home-made Nutella addict…. people are surprising, you know? And a bit air-headed?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think the whole world of food/recipe blogs is a bit weird. They have all sorts of preconcieved notions about what makes someone obsessed or addicted or whatever sorta-negative connotation you can apply to their experiences… I honestly wonder if it’s a rub off from all the crazy media influences on how we should look and act. You can’t eat your entire homemade Nutella in one week without being crazy, obviously!

        I rarely, if ever, read those personal stories. I find most of them are just “this is the most amazing!” over and over again. And a description on how to cook the thing which is full of sentences and sometimes photos… I mean, that’s what the recipe is for. I dunno. Subcultures, man.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You are too funny Melanie. Love the art history piece, and Jackie! I used to read a lot while breastfeeding and snuggling – a silver lining in an exhausting (but wonderful) time.

    And that’s all from me – it’s 6am and I should go back to bad or it will be time to get up.

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  5. Oh wow, finding out your professor is actually dead sounds like it would be traumatizing! I suppose if they have the lectures archived and have rights to that material it makes sense to me to use that material, but being upfront about it would certainly make more sense!

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  6. Coincidentally, I’ve just started making my own chocolate hazelnut spread too, with a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup to sweeten. (But I’ve been reducing or nearly eliminating my sugar, depending how you view things, for a little more than a year now, so I’m finding that a very little sweetening goes a long way for me now.) For Valentine’s Day I used the same spread to fill little truffles like Ferraro Rochers, even with a hazelnut in the middle which pleased the punch outa me (small things). Now I”ll have to see how long my batch lasts! (There are only two truffles left.) I read and reviewed The Divorce Papers a few years ago, but I think you had more fun with it than I did. I know we both enjoy workplace stories!

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    • I liked how I learned things about workplace dynamics from The Divorce Papers. What’s appropriate or not, where people are biased….I feel like we have few good examples of workplace professionalism that I was surprised to see it in a book with a bubble-gum pink cover.

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