Monday, October 23, 2006

No minutes today...

Our beloved professor is not "lecturing" today. Instead, we've had the pleasure of an incoherent ramble from one of the gentlemen who wrote one of our readings--- someone shoot me now. Please.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Class #13

5:15 Professor mentions shortening days. Expresses regret over loss of light during class time.
5:16-5:18 Professor takes show of hands to see who’s done reading. Discusses nature of readings complementing each other, and suggests we read one piece “IN CONJUNCTION WITH” the other.
5:19 “What happens in this story?” “What is this story about?”
5:20 Professor admits to omitting words randomly from sentences. Compares class to “canaries in a coal mine.”
5:21 External door has begun to bother Professor. Closes door. “What happens in this story?” Ooh, a new approach—“what’s the problem that sets this story off?”
5:22 He’s been in the room for seven minutes. But there was scribbling on manila!
5:25 I just heard “Andrew Jackson” mentioned. Apparently we’re listening to “that guy” tell us an anachronistic historical anecdote.
5:27 Professor become confused by student’s use of word “explanation” in question. Asks her to repeat it twice
5:30-5:31 Professor pauses mid-sentence, begins thirty seconds of total silence. Writes on manila folder. Punctuates silence with “uh. Oh, I know.” Another 15 seconds of total silence.
5:32 What the fuck is he writing? We’ve got to steal a goddamn folder one of these days.
5:33 Professor singles out several students at random and accuses their parents of exploiting tax loopholes. Mention of second paper. Still not assigned, by the way.
5:34 Professor assigns sections of his book to read. Becomes confused over whether he wrote the introduction or the conclusion. Unable to decide.
5:36 Another twenty seconds of silence. It looks like he’s drawing some kind of diagram, maybe?
5:38 Oh, no way. Another twenty seconds swallowed by the mouth of the manila God.
5:40 Professor just pushed me. Literally. This was part of an effort to get class to come up with phrase “pressure groups.”
5:41 Professor admits to hating freshmen.
5:42 Lyndon Johnson is still “important.” Professor implies that his class is not very easy and naturally selects a cross-section of undergraduates that are “a cut above” the average. Looking around the room, especially at “that guy”, I question the accuracy of this.
5:43 Professor asks about the “picture” of American politics. Stares at the seating chart.
5:45 Professor tells “old joke” about life in the shtetl. Point is ENTIRELY unclear.
5:46 Professor has difficulty understanding “last three sentences” of student’s comment. Observes inexplicability of difficulty, as student is not “fast and slick, from Chicago.”
5:50 Student’s concern that comment may be tangential prompts Professor’s response of “if it’s not helpful, I’ll ignore it. If it is, we’ll go off on it.”
5:53 Professor’s daughter, while in high school, “never went out with an Anglo boy. Man. Man-child.”
5:55 Ooh, shtetls mentioned again! Beginning to question whether finishing this course is at all worth picking up the major.
5:56 Boyfriend to professor’s daughter in high school had “the most beautiful mouth I’ve ever seen.” Apparently he looked like Michaelangelo’s David. Professor tries to get several students to take an art history course with him.
5:57 Professor asks student to pass toothpicks to another student before stopping himself and remembering that “women don’t chew toothpicks.”
5:58 Professor bemoans loss of professional wrestling on television. Sings praises of get-rich-quick real estate infomercials.
5:59 Ingmar Bergman and tax scandals.
6:01-6:02 “That guy” suggests that one way affirmative action could have been stopped would have been to have Congress expand the benefits of affirmative action to all people, thus negating any advantage it would otherwise confer.
6:03 Professor trichotomizes his oeuvre by color of the respective covers of books.
6:04 “What is this story about?
6:05 Professor suggests that one student get a blood test to check her metabolism. Offers to give other student “his shot.” Begins to bemoan similarity of many of the students’ names in the class.
6:06 Professor attacks political correctness, wonders if disabled Americans will attack phrase “lame duck” and demand “handicapped duck.”
6:07 “If there was a riot in New Orleans, what would Bush have done? OPENED THE FLOODGATES!!”
6:08-6:09 Professor apparently dislikes “artistic” photographs. Expresses confusion and frustration about black Americans being patriotic.
6:10 Professor urges class to take any legal stimulants before coming to class. Suggests “a sip of tea, a nice watercress sandwich,” mentions that he would buy class food if he could afford it. I ask him to repeat comment verbatim.
6:11-6:12 Professor takes toothpick from student, reads label: “teatree therapy,” checks with student to ensure that he will not have an adverse reaction. Reminisces about time student left three joints in his classroom.
6:12 Professor tells story about varsity athlete who discovered marijuana, “had the munchies for two years and became a blimp, or at least blimpish.” Observes that we at least don’t look stoned, just tired.
6:13 Professor expresses amusement at fact that I’m taking down his comments word for word. Oh, if he only knew. Scribbles on manila. Discards, finds new manila, scribbles.
6:14 We’re half a class behind, apparently? He’s still dismissing us now—in fairness, he’s doing it because he feels badly for all of us being lethargic. Let nobody say that our Professor is not benevolent and sympathetic.

Class #12

5:10 Being shot and receiving a cold blood transfusion? That's the "worst insult."
5:16 Question of the day: How soon can one have sex after heart surgery? A: 3-5 days.
5:20 Professor exits room. Returns. No explanation given.
5:23 Hydraulics!!!
5:32 Does he know what hydraulics are? Unclear.
5:33 Apparently I'm a genius. Hooray... also, ATOMIZATION!!!!
5:49 Phrase "strong ideas and causal dynamics" repeated. Six times. Point and context still hazy.
5:50 Storytime about Professor and his youth.
6:04 Judges don't know shit about anything.
6:08 Professor begins to chew gum, actually becomes more unintelligible than before. Impressive.

Class #11

5:15-5:20 Professor contemplates the genius of his friends.
5:32 "That guy" raises cogent point... world stops for a moment.
5:38 "What's this story about?" KEY THEMES!!!
5:40 The Birdcage and public policy!
5:44 "That guy" says something inane. World proceeds as normal.
5:56 You know what's great about Alzheimer's? Meeting new people every day.
6:00 Miranda: career criminal, but all-around nice guy.
6:10 Did we mention that we have a divided government? And that ideas have force? Oh, we did? Oh, well.
6:13 Weak parties and strong ideas. GOOD CHRIST!!!
6:19 Stop talking about hydraulics. Please.

Class #10-- alternate version

5:10 Politics to Policymaking, as it relates to rights, courts, and the law.
5:20 Dukakis again! Being anal about orange traffic cones.
5:22 Professor pauses. Glances at minutes. Apparently fails to understand.
5:24 Clock's absence noted.
5:26 People make future on individual merit, rather than parties.
5:36 Professor sits down. Not sure what we're talking about at this point.
5:42 Why do we make policy? Because the world SUCKS!
5:51 Professor re-examines seating chart. Now he's rotating it... maybe this will help?
5:57 Discussion of dustless chalk.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Class #10

5:11-5:14 Professor writes title of course on board and breaks into constituent parts. For 9th time this semester.
5:15 Professor opens exterior door. Struggles to choose appropriate doorstop, settles on lectern.
5:16 “What is this story about?” “What happens in this story?”
5:16-5:19 Review of content.
5:20 Preston Sturges mentioned. Unclear what he has to do with anything.
5:21 Professor reminds class that Lyndon Johnson “is important.”
5:21-5:23 Professor blames Iraq situation on Vietnam. Somehow ties both of these to OPEC’s use of force.
5:23 Professor tells story about daughter. Point seems to be that his daughter is a moron. Suggests that World War II was entirely a result of World War I, with no other causes.
5:23 Ooops, we’re back on Preston Sturges and his film “The Great McGinty.” Gonna have to check that out on imdb today.
5:24 Dukakis?
5:25 Professor celebrates that broken clock is gone. Asks student if they are personally responsible for its removal. Student disavows knowledge.
5:25-5:26 Oh lord. We’re back on the Duke, somehow.
5:27-5:28 Electoral politics of the American south, 1900-1960ish. Reminder, for third time today, that job of a public official is to get elected and re-elected.
5:28 Thematic minute from hell! “What happens in this story?” “What is this story about?” “The job of politicians…”
5:29-5:31 Student asks substantive question challenging professorial rant. Professor stares at the ceiling, fiddles with windowshade cord. Answers question with a series of alternating run-ons/sentence fragments, then attributes all political change in 20th Century to death of previous generations. Professor appeals to second student to answer question in his stead.
5:32 While students begin discussion of material, Professor writes “where start” on board and repeats random phrases from student conversation.
5:33 Professor lists things we don’t inherit from our parents.
5:34-5:35 Professor claims that Americans are anti-party in their political beliefs and tendencies. Oh God. We’re back on the Articles of Confederation. This has nothing to do with anything, though I’m interested to learn that the Articles did not have an executive. I didn’t know that before.
5:35 Class is now aimed at uncovering the purpose of fraternities.
5:36 Professor sits in student seat, fidgets with attached desk.
5:37 Professor goes on rant about the laziness of American fire fighters. Tells story involving a car seat.
5:38 I tuned out for a second. Professor is now talking about Tammany Hall—I missed the link, but I somehow doubt it would have made any sense anyway.
5:39 SAT (as in the bubble test,) is lauded as a democratizing force.
5:39 I really hope that I’m just not paying close enough attention, because I think he just said sexual orientation is a choice???
5:40 Professor finishes rant from question asked at 5:29, asks if question is answered. Student says, “I guess,” prompting Professor to share that the answer has made him tired.
5:41 I will be impressed if we can get through a single day of this class without him mentioning Newt Gingrich. Today ain’t the day, though.
5:43-5:45 Professor asks why we make policy at all. Review of main themes of course.
5:46 Professor lists the central disputes which have made up the small number of readings we have done thus far.
5:46-5:48 Professor launches into discussion of Dennis Hastert and his knowledge of Mark Foley’s pedophilic activities. Gingrich is mentioned again.
5:48-5:49 Monica Lewinsky, Catholic clergy, and pedophiles mentioned in discussion of something… maybe illicit sex? Class argues over how old Monica Lewinsky actually is.
5:50-5:51 Student suggest that Tom Reynolds may be negatively impacted by Foley scandal. Professor asks who Tom Reynolds is.
5:51 Professor examines seating chart while student rambles on. There are 17 people in this room. INCLUDING the Professor.
5:52 Oh God. While counting the number of people in the room, I just heard someone say NAMBLA as part of the discussion.
5:53 Still talking about Mark Foley. Not sure why this is relevant, interesting, or distinct from any number of op-eds.
5:54 Rant against vague political terms. “Judicial activism” targeted. Professor observes that Monica Lewinsky looks like every girl he went to high school with, laments that they weren’t as “aggressive” as she was.
5:54-5:55 “What happens in this story?” “What is this story about?”
5:55 Hey, we’re scribbling notes on a manila folder!
5:56 Discussion has returned to “detention centers”. Where’s the corequisite discussion of the semiotics of the Holocaust?
5:57-5:58 Professor complains about chalk dust on hands. Mentions that he thinks he eats chalk. Asks class if we know anyone involved in campus emergency medical services, ridicules emergency response crew for driving fast on campus, suggesting they were “on their way to save someone from their hangnail.”
6:00-6:01 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Explicit topic of conversation right now is immigration policy, but discussion is centered on cost differential between hiring a lawyer and running for Senate. Apparently a lawyer costs less than a successful Senate campaign.
6:01 “What is the world coming to?” Professor sees fit to end his silly platitude with a preposition.
6:03 Professor and student argue briefly about whether student’s hand was up.
6:03-6:04 “Three minute history of American rights.” Time elapsed: roughly 45 seconds.
6:05-6:06 Professor begins list of marginalized American groups. So far: immigrants, gays, handicapped.
6:07 Professor is now listing types of rights. I can’t bring myself to copy them down.
6:08 Professor becomes angry about protection of the rights of “MOLLUSKS!!!” and “crustaceans.” After student suggests economic motivation for concern, Professor conceded “my zoology is not as good as yours.” Discussion may be veering towards reminder than environmentalism is a religion.
6:09 “Environmentalism” said for the first time. Professor ridicules concept of ecosystemic interdependence.
6:10-6:11 Professor is angrily scribbling on manila again. During time, student asks very clear and simple question.
6:12 Professor asks student “what’s your question?”
6:13 Is Boston a fancy city? Professor doesn’t think so. Discussion of the distinction between liners and exteriors of coats, as well as the distinction between real fur and synthetic fur.
6:14 Professor scribbles some more.
6:15-6:16 Ockham’s Razor proposed as model to understand political behavior of Ted Kennedy.
6:17-6:18 Shakespeare believed in “weak men and strong women.” Professor believes in “weak parties and strong ideas.”
6:18 Professor references own book again, claims credit as author for first time. Admits “I don’t even understand it” in reference to part he wrote himself.
6:19 Third paper discussed, although second one has not yet been assigned.
6:19 Class dismissed? He can’t ramble about something else for 11 minutes?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Class #9

5:10 Professor has student take broken clock off wall. Professor’s phone rings.
5:10-5:11 Professor lists Secretaries of State. Point of list is still unclear.
5:11 Professor makes joke about broken clocks.
5:11-5:12 Minute of near-silence. Professor re-examines seating chart.
5:12-5:13 Professor discusses merits of comparative methods of chalkboard writing.
5:13-undetermined time Discussion of assignments.
5:13 Professor actively encourages illegal gambling.
5:14 Professor encourages us to provide “mid-course correction.” Perhaps we should send him this website?
5:14-5:15 Professor suggests students should approach him on campus.
5:16-5:17 Reminder that environmentalism is an evil evil religion.
5:17-5:18 Return to broken clock. Suggests misguided fundraising priorities. Story about dinner party.
5:18-5:21 Three minute presentation of “distillation” of four sentence paper topic.
5:21-5:22 Encouragement of parsing of words. Endorsement of Clinton’s position of “not having had sexual relations” with Lewinsky. Discussion of own teenage sexual beliefs.
5:25 Professor asks for definition of lynching.
5:27-5:28 Professor discusses the comparative merit of types of hotels.
5:28-5:31 Professor discusses the nature of rights.
5:32 Professor scribbles notes to himself in total silence.
5:33 Professor argues with himself for roughly 45 seconds as to the precise date civil rights became a political issue.
5:37 Foreign graduate students arrive.
5:38 Professor apologizes to student for causing existential angst, recommends suicide hotline numbers.
5:38-5:39 Professor suggests Simpsons is highly overrated television. Admits to having watched it three times for five minutes each.
5:41-5:42 Professor suggsts that we would have covered entire history of rights in class today, if we had been more focused.
5:42-5:43 We’re talking about primaries and caucuses. No idea what this has to do with anything.
5:43-5:44 West Virginian mafia? Argues that Teamsters are the legitimate arm of the Mafia.
5:46 “Atomization” mentioned for the first time in today’s class. Also written on board at this time: “openness,” “fluid,” “porous,” and “xenophobia.”
5:47 Apparently explicitly done discussing papers. Papers have not been mentioned in roughly 25 minutes.
5:48 Ooops, he spoke too soon. We’re now discussing the first paper and its due date. Professor scribbles more notes to himself on a manila folder.
5:49 Professor describes his hatred of email, encourages phone calls, claiming to be “very lonesome.”
5:50 Foreign graduate students whispering to each other in some non-English language. Laughing, presumably at Professor.
5:50-5:51 Further discussion of papers. Still no substantive material has been discussed.
5:52 Professor suggests that second paper will deal with second set of readings, but closely resemble first paper in format. Reads first paper assignment out loud, substituting names of later readings for those listed on sheet. Scribbles some more notes to himself. How many manila folders does he have?
5:53 Professor asks for the first time: “what happens in this story?” He’s referring to immigration reform. Follows this by asking “what’s this story about?”
5:54 Professor opens external classroom door.
5:55 Substantive material begins. So far, reviewing material that has already been covered at least once, if not more.
5:57 1776 and 1789 mentioned. No discussion of substantive content of Declaration of Independence or Constitution follows.
5:58-5:59 Professor questions whether his use of term “left-handed compliment” could be construed as offensive.
6:01-6:02 Professor laments the end of the public-access television career of former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson. Expresses shock that no student in class remembers his “excellent program.”
6:02-6:03 Professor suggests electoral base of Wyoming polticians is composed mainly of sheep. Not followers, the wooly kind.
6:04 Professor discusses possibility of writing novel about Brandeis entitled either “Blackstone University” or “Cardozo University.” Mentions literary merit of unrelated novel, “The Gay Place.” Writes title on board.
6:05 Professor interrupts student three times after calling on her.
6:06 Professor suggests that Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota, are all same place. Further suggests that only major political issues in those states are “sheep and oil.”
6:07 Professor suggests Pledge of Allegiance should be changed to say “One Nation Under Canada.” Robin Williams mentioned.
6:09-6:10 Professor points to Student A and asks Student B if her name is Rebecca. Student A offers answer for herself. Professor informs class that one of his daughters is named Rebecca, and that the other is Jessica. Encourages class to bring any friends named Jessica to class so he can easily remember their name.
6:11 Professor, during discussion of immigrant “detention camps,” suggests the misnomer of “concentration camps.” Asks class “you’ve heard of concentration camps, right?” Launches into brief discussion of linguistic treatment of holocaust survivors.
6:12 Scribbling more notes on manila envelope. This one has some vehement underlining. Silence for about thirty seconds.
6:13-6:15 Professor asks which students are from California. Expresses pleasure with fact that “every state” is represented by 18 person class. Suggests that student from Florida is “the same” as students from California.
6:17 Professor’s sentence trails off while he fidgets with his cell phone. Announces that he wants to “tie up” this discussion.
6:18 These “minutes” are now on three pages. I may want to be more selective in future weeks. Exciting change of pace. Sorts through some plain white paper and scribbles his notes on the backs of those, rather than manila folders.
6:20 Is he wrapping up early? Apparently, we’ve covered “what happens in this story,” and will turn our attention to “what is this story about” for next week. Professor repeats this question aloud several times.
6:21 Back to the manila envelope. What the hell is he writing? Mission for next week: steal one, and try to decipher the notes.
6:23 Dismisses class. What the hell have we been doing for the last hour and thirteen minutes??
Class #8

5:10-5:25 Topic: Environmentalism as religion and zealotry. “Trees are now grown as crops.”
5:25-5:30 Redid Seating Chart
5:29 Professor’s phone rings….on schedule.
5:30-5:33 Professor introduces overview of themes for the course. During eighth meeting of course.
5:33-5:37 Sidetrack onto environmental policy of Oakland. Explanation of the costs/benefits of clean water. Discussion as to why Professor likes black people and hates mollusks who have more political clout.
5:37-5:45 Professor discusses broad themes of the course, including characteristics of modern policymaking.
5:45-5:47 Pause to thank God for Al Gore and the Internet. Also condemns Kerry for being a bum who is totally dependent on his wife.
5:47-5:55 Paradoxes of slow vs. rapid action in gov’t. Decentralized power of the courts. Politics are fragmented. Oakland’s recent struggles, and whether legislation should be called “gridlocked” or “deadlocked.”
5:55-6:01 Professor tells story about splashing Mr. Clean in his eye. Point of story is unclear. Professor then talks about his desire to use older products. Point remains in doubt. Begin immigration discussion. Legislation used to be quick, now it’s slow. This is a paradox. Next several weeks will be spent discussing this. Quick overview of later in semester.
6:01-6:03 Professor asks a question. Correct answer given. Professor spends remaining 2 minutes arriving at the same conclusion.
6:06 Anecdote about Professor’s poor writing abilities. Professor pauses to dust off chair.
6:06-6:08 90’s politics is supposed to be partisan. Policymaking is centrist, though. How does this happen? Paradox. Begins to conclude overview when…
6:08-6:? Question sidetracks conversation. Homestead Act mentioned. Linked to immigration….somehow. Author loses focus.
6:12-6:16 Current topic is somehow teenage pregnancy and abortion. Move into intimacy and warmth of sex. Conversation has become extremely awkward. Onto AIDS. Conversation seems to be focusing on American Culture and sexual habits.
6:16-6:17 Minute of total silence.
6:17-6:20 How did immigration reform pass? To be discussed in coming weeks. Painfully irrelevant discussion on America’s influence on world affairs.
6:20-6:30 Conclusion: What are the politics of policymaking? How does legislation get passed?
This blog will chronicle the adventures of a small politics seminar at a liberal arts university in the Northeastern United States. It will pick up in the class's eighth meeting, because our intrepid minutes-takers did not start the process until that point.

Each time the class meets, one of two students will keep careful minutes of the class's activities. Enjoy.