strange_complex: (Tonino reading)
Very neatly, [ profile] wig tagged me for this meme on LJ, and TAFKAK tagged me for it on Facebook on the same day last week. So I shall answer it in both places, but obviously LJ lends itself better to nice formatting and having space to make some actual comments about the books. I have taken the concept of the books 'staying with me' seriously, and thus listed ones which both meant a lot to me at the time of original discovery and to which I have returned regularly since. They are listed (as best as I could remember) in the order in which I first encountered them.

L. Frank Baum (1900), The Wizard of Oz
This stands for the whole series, of course. I was certainly quite obsessed with them by the age of six, and indeed a picture of me reading one of them to my friends on that birthday can be seen here. The 1939 film was important too, of course, and I'm pretty sure I had seen it by that age, but there were more of the books, with far more wonderful characters and adventures than the film could deliver. Dad used to read the books to me as bedtime stories, I used to read and re-read them myself, and of course there was a great deal of dressing up, playing at being characters from the books and so on with the very friends shown in the picture, and especially [ profile] hollyione. A lifetime love of fantastical stories was to follow...

Alison Uttley (1939), A Traveller in Time
Did loads of other people read this as children? I don't hear it mentioned very often as a children's classic, but it was another big favourite of my childhood, and has literally stayed with me in the sense that I still have my copy of it. I haven't done that for many of my childhood books - though the Oz series are another exception. Doubtless one of the attractions all along was the fact that the main character, a young girl from the 20th century, is called Penelope. But also, time travel! While staying in a Tudor manor house, she repeatedly finds herself slipping back to its early days, and interacting with characters from the reign of Elizabeth I. Clearly at the roots of my love of both fantastical time travel stories, and the real-life dialogue between present and past.

Bram Stoker (1897), Dracula
Ha, I hardly need to explain this one right now, do I? See my dracula tag, passim, for details. First read, as far as I can tell, in early 1986, when I was nine years old, on the back of having seen the Hammer film the previous autumn. Left me with a love of all things Gothic, which has waxed and waned but never really left me ever since. As the wise [ profile] inbetween_girl once said, you never really stop being a Goth. At best, you're in recovery. Or perhaps lapsed, would be another way of putting it.

Diana Wynne Jones (1977), Charmed Life
Initially read via a copy from the school library aged 9 or 10, this came back and 'haunted' me with memories of a book of matches, a castle and a strange magical man in my early 20s. By then, the internet was advanced enough to have forums where I could ask what the title of the book I was remembering might be, and to deliver an answer within a few hours. So I bought a copy, swiftly followed by copies of the other Chrestomanci books, and then copies of multiple other DWJ books (see my diana wynne jones tag for details). As an adult, I can see that the real appeal of DWJ's writing lies in the combination of her light yet original prose style, imaginative vision and sharp understanding of human interactions, but as a child I'm pretty sure it was all about the unrecognised magical powers and multiple interconnected magical worlds. As per the Oz books, I really love that stuff.

Gene Wright (1986), Horrorshows: the A-Z of Horror in Film, TV, Radio and Theatre
In 2010, Mark Gatiss presented a documentary series called A History of Horror, during which he held up a book about horror films which he had owned since childhood, and explained how it was his personal Horror Bible, which had opened up to him the wonderful world of the genre. From the reaction on Twitter, it instantly became clear that everyone who had grown up loving horror films before the emergence of the internet had also owned such a book, and this is mine. I bought it at a book fair in about 1987 or 1988, devoured it greedily, and have been faithfully ticking off every film in it which I have seen ever since. Of course, the internet has long rendered such books obsolete, and insofar as this one was ever comprehensive at the time of original purchase, it certainly isn't now. So it is utterly meaningless to tick off all the films in it, as though somehow the end goal is to tick off every single film in the book - at which time, I don't know, a fanfare will sound and a man in a rhinestone suit will pop out to tell me I've won a prize, or something? But I still add a tick each time I see a new film from within its pages anyway, because heck I have been doing so for 25 years, and I'm not going to stop now. Besides, it's not like I care about horror films made after 1986 anyway (I struggle to care about those made after 1976, TBH), so it doesn't matter to me that it is enormously out of date.

Douglas Adams (1979), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
First read c. age 11, and read at least another 8 times since. I know this because I have kept a tally of how many times I read it in the front of the book - classic geekish behaviour, of course. Once again, it's basically all about travel to wondrous other worlds, but this time instead of being magical (Oz, Chrestomanci), historical (A Traveller in Time), or supernatural (Dracula, everything else in Horrorshows), they are in space! It's not actually like I discovered adventures in space for the first time from Hitchhiker's, because of course I was also watching Doctor Who on a regular basis in parallel with all of this reading material, with which of course Hitchhiker's is intimately linked. But yeah - given everything else which has already appeared on this list, it is no big surprise that I loved Hitchhiker's.

C. Suetonius Tranquillus (c. AD 120), The Twelve Caesars
And now my list radically changes tack, because having established that I love stories about the fantastical, the rest of it is made up of books which mark key stages in the emergence of my academic interest in the ancient world. I am not, of course, unaware that this in itself also basically boils down to yet another interest in a wondrous other world, albeit one which actually existed in this case. Really, the mode of engagement is very similar - we have little snippets of information about the Roman world (texts, objects, places), just as we have little snippets of information about fictional fantasy worlds (texts, screen portrayals, merchandise), but there is also so much we don't know, and are at liberty to extrapolate from what we do. Plus the similar-yet-different qualities and the opportunity to compare and contrast can let us think about our own world in ways that just don't open up if we only think about it directly. And so I found a way to apply the thought-patterns and approaches I'd been developing from early childhood to something which grown-ups thought was admirable and serious, and which it was possible to acquire prestige and eventually even money through studying. As for Suetonius himself, he is here because he was one of the earliest ancient authors I really came to feel familiar with and fond of, mainly during A-level Ancient History. Tacitus may well be clever and sharp, but there is always a judgemental, sanctimonious undertone with him that I don't very much like. The things which interest Suetonius, by contrast, make him seem so utterly human - but there are also all sorts of clever structures and allusions to discover in his text on close reading, which together make him incredibly rewarding. I once literally hugged my Penguin copy of Suetonius to my chest as a sort of talisman when feeling alone, upset and in need of comfort. I can't really imagine anyone doing that with Tacitus.

J.B. Ward-Perkins (1991), Roman Imperial Architecture
One of the first books I bought about ancient material culture (as opposed to texts), in the context of a module on Roman architecture which I did in (I think) my second year as an undergraduate at Bristol. While strictly about buildings rather than cities, it nonetheless includes a lot of material about how those buildings fitted into the urban landscapes where they were located - unsurprisingly, since Ward-Perkins himself was really interested in cities first and architecture second, and wrote one of the earliest English-language books on the subject. So it is to this book which my interest in Roman urbanism can really be traced, and I still turn to it occasionally when I need to get to grips with a new (to me) city.

Christopher Hibbert (1987), Rome: the biography of a city
This one is from my third year at Bristol, and the best undergraduate module I ever did - Responses to Rome with Catharine Edwards and Duncan Kennedy, which was all about post-Classical responses to ancient Rome from the medieval period to the present day. I sat in those classes falling in love with Rome, and then went home to pore through this book and the wonders within. I still return to it in order to refresh my memory of medieval myths about the city's ancient past, Grand Tourism or fascist appropriations, all of which I have needed to do in the past few years.

Greg Woolf (1998), Becoming Roman: The Origins of Provincial Civilization in Gaul
And finally, the book which I consulted most frequently while writing my PhD thesis. It had utterly redefined thinking about the relationship between Rome the state and its provincial populations, killing off tired old paradigms of 'beneficial imperialism' (think: What have the Romans ever done for us?) for good, so would have been important no matter what province I had used to look at the relationship between Roman ideas about the urban periphery and the reality on the ground in a provincial setting. But since I had chosen Gaul as my own main case-study anyway, it was gold-dust. Fifteen years later, it remains at the forefront of scholarly thinking on the topic, and thus still features regularly on my module reading lists, amongst my recommendations to research students, and indeed in the bibliographies of my own published works.

I'm not tagging anyone, because pretty much everyone in the world has done this meme already by now - but feel free to take this post as a prompt to do it yourself if you haven't and want to.

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Friday, 30 September 2011 20:37
strange_complex: (Snape writing)
I'm afraid I am completely rubbish at livejournal at the moment, because I am busy trying to meet article deadlines - and this state of affairs is guaranteed to last until at least November. Still, the good news is that I submitted one article today, bang on the required deadline. This is a Wordle of the final product:

Betcha can't guess what it was about! (There's a clue in my tags).

Meanwhile, I have finished implementing all but one of the editor's suggests on another article (actually submitted several months ago), but I still need to arrange the illustrations for it. I'm less panicky about that now than I was a week ago, though, as I have discovered a nice chap in the University's Print and Copy bureau who can draw plans better than I can, and have already been working successfully with him on the illustrations for the article I submitted today. This means I feel confident about asking him to do the illustrations for the other article as well, which will cover all of them except for one photograph that I will need to go through the tedious process of tracking down permission to reproduce.

And I've now at last started work on the written version of the paper on the clustering of workshops in Roman cities which I delivered in Oxford in July - rather later than I'd have liked to, given that it is due for submission on November 1st ARGH, and term has started ARGH and I have two guest talks to deliver during October ARGH and how will I find the time ARGH! But I guess I will just have to, and I have at least managed to plan it out properly and write the first 500 words over the last two days. Evenings and weekends will clearly be things that happen to other people while I keep on writing for the next month... but there's a reasonable chance I'll have at least something to submit, along with another set of illustrations, by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, here are two things which pleased me immensely (for quite different reasons) on reading through the OUP style guide which we were sent for the book of which the clustering paper will form a part:
  • "A hallmark of our house style is the serial comma [otherwise known as the Oxford comma, natch], the comma before ‘and’ or ‘or’ in lists of three or more items: ‘red, white, and blue’, ‘feminine, masculine, or neuter’."
  • "Please make every effort to avoid any form of language or expression that might be interpreted by a reader as racist or sexist, derogatory of a particular religion or creed, or otherwise offensive. The gender-specific pronouns ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ should be avoided in any reference relevant to males and females; to achieve this, pluralize the reference, repeat the noun, use the passive voice, or use both pronoun forms (though the last solution is clumsy and undesirable for more than occasional use)." - exactly the point I made myself at the actual conference!
Apologies in advance if I'm now completely silent, or post only about work, for the next month or so. Once this batch of articles is finished, I will pretty much have my REF submission in the bag - everything will have been written, although one long-delayed article will still need chasing, and possibly rescuing and submitting to an alternative publication outlet if necessary. I'll then be able to concentrate properly on developing exciting new projects, like my work on the upcoming bimillennium of Augustus' death in 2014... and, yanno, maybe have a life a bit as well. But for the moment, I just need to jump over this final hurdle.

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strange_complex: (Penny Dreadful)
Because its vice-chancellor thinks it is OK to publish an article like this one (scroll down to the 'LUST' section) about sexual relationships between (female) students and (male) staff at Universities, which includes such choice phrases as these:

"Equally, the universities are where the male scholars and the female acolytes are."

So, no female scholars, then? All the women at University are there purely to enable men, and possibly drink admiringly from the founts of male knowledge?

"The fault lies with the females"

Like everything, of course!

And, worst of all in my view:

"Normal girls - more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos - will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers"

I think I would like to go and vomit now. What a wanker!

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strange_complex: (Belly Pantheon)
I don't normally comment about the reporting of my subject area in the media, because I've long ago accepted that it's bound to seem flawed from my perspective, and am basically just happy it's in the news at all. But since today the alternative is further work on my Teaching Portfolio, I will!

The item that's caught my eye today is coverage of a story about the Capitoline Wolf. Background on the statue's dating )

Today's news reports, and why they are clearly not telling the whole story. With Science! )

What must be missing )

I'm happy enough for the wolf to be medieval. In fact, I think that would be fantastically cool, since it would constitute a charming response to stories of the ancient past on the part of the medieval inhabitants of Rome. Good for them. But I am not happy that the general public should be asked to accept this redating on the basis of half-information.

Rant over. I guess I'd better get some work done.

strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
I've just received an email from a female student, addressing me as 'Miss X' - not at all an uncommon occurrence. I like to think I'm not the kind of person who would feel the need to go round with a stick up my ass about people getting my title wrong like this - except that the rest of her email goes on to demonstrate perfectly why, nevertheless, I do. Within three sentences, she has gone on to mention (in the context of possible dissertation supervisors for next year) two of my male colleagues - and both of them are referred to, entirely correctly, as 'Dr. Y' and 'Dr. Z'.

Just for the record, it's not that she hasn't had every opportunity of noticing that I am a Doctor, too. She took one of my modules last year, so would have seen it on the module documentation. Meanwhile, this year she is studying in Italy, and as such has received numerous emails from me in my capacity as Study Abroad coordinator, all of which included my full name and title in the signature file. Also, one of the male colleagues she mentions is of a very similar age to me - so this should rule out the possibility that she is assuming I am too young to have become a Doctor yet. All that's left is an apparent unconscious assumption that female academics are not equivalent in status to their male colleagues.

It's not the first time I've seen this, or the first time I've seen it coming from someone who is female themselves. I recognise that a lot of people don't really understand what academic titles mean, or how you earn them. But even if you don't know the fine details, I think it's generally clear enough that 'Doctor' is an honorific, earned title. Seeing female academics regularly stripped of it by underlying assumptions about their intellectual status, while their male colleagues are not, is just one more sign of how unbalanced gender relations continue to be.

strange_complex: (Corpus Agrimensorum colonia)
I bought myself a copy of CivCity: Rome in mid-April, but hadn't dared play it until I knew I had some proper free time to devote to it. This weekend, I've been finding out how wise that policy was!

Late-night gaming )

What I thought of it )

On dialogue between gamers and academics - or the lack of it )

So the right sort of noises are beginning to be made on the academic side, and the interest is clearly flourishing on the gaming side. We just need to stretch our hands out - that - little - bit - further...

strange_complex: (Snape writing)
1. Last Wednesday - went off for the day with Mum on the Severn Valley Railway. We saw partridges, pheasants, rabbits, butterflies, great crested grebe, elephants, bison and gazelle. Although I suppose it's only fair to explain that the last three were in a safari park visible from the railway. Enjoyed a lovely picnic at Arley, then walked along the river a bit, glorying in the warm weather. All the way there and back, I examined properties along the route with a buyer's eye. I can't help it now - force of habit.

2. On that note, I'm still waiting to hear about the house. My first offer was rejected; I raised it to what was my absolute upper limit and said so; the seller relayed that it was rather less than she wanted but she'd think about it; I enquired again of the estate agents on Friday, but they said she still hadn't decided. I do know that no other offers have been made, though. So ideally she'll wait a bit longer, see that no-one else is offering and accept my bid. Two people saw it over the weekend, apparently, but I know a lot of people have seen it by now and very few have offered, so I'm cautiously hopeful.

3. Thursday to Saturday saw me attending the annual Classical Association conference. Well, actually it carried on this morning too, but I decided to bunk the last part for the sake of a lie-in and some more relaxed parent time. I must say it was probably the best CA conference I've been to (out of three altogether) in terms of papers and general conviviality. Logistics perhaps not so great - it was in a fairly second-rate hotel, with not wonderful food and tedious queues at the lifts to move around the building. But I spent the conference dinner last night (in the much nicer surroundings of the University of Birmingham's Great Hall) with a big grin on my face, feeling on a high from the whole experience. There's too much to record now, of course, but highlights were the comedy caretaker during John Henderson's opening lecture, some cracking panels on Roman cities and all flavours of Classical Receptions (including Buffy and Achilles / Patroclus m-preg fanfics), and all the lovely people I got to catch up with.

4. Did some enjoyable shopping in Brum on Saturday afternoon - scheduled as excursion time for conference-goers, but I'd been to all the places they suggested visiting many times before, having grown up here. Surprised myself slightly by buying some baseball boots - not my normal style, but I really was desperate for new shoes by this stage, and I think they can become my style. Also got CivCity: Rome, which I've wanted for about a year now, ever since I first heard it was coming out, and was reminded of by a great session on Classics in computer games at the conference. And I enjoyed just generally wandering around Birmingham city centre, experiencing the weird combination of things which haven't changed at all and things which are totally unrecognisable, and exploring the various memories which streets and buildings threw up in my mind. I'm proud of my roots here.

5. Term starts again tomorrow. Wah! Only two weeks of teaching and one of revision classes, but they're going to be pretty tough. I'm more-or-less ready, but have a lot to do over the next few days.

6. Haven't seen this week's Who yet, as I was out at the dinner last night, and now my parents' cable box is broken! So that will have to be squeezed in over the next few days too. Have been reading people's online reactions, though. It seems to have provoked quite a lot of discussion and some division.

7. I am travelling home first class in the train tonight, because there was a cheap weekend upgrade available, and I've always wanted to try it out. It'll be a bit different from the Severan Valley Railway, where we were in a third-class compartment!

All in a day's work

Wednesday, 7 March 2007 11:00
strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
Yesterday, leaving work at around 7pm, I realised that I had spent three hours of the day teaching (lecture on sources for Julius Caesar; lecture on Roman houses; seminar on issues and problems with Pompeii) and three and a half learning things (2-hour Italian class1; 1.5 hour Leeds Classical Association lecture on ancient entertainments as illuminated by inscriptions from Aphrodisias and Ephesus). And I wasn't even going home, either - I was going to have dinner with some colleagues and the lady who had delivered the Classical Association lecture, Prof. Charlotte Roueché.

I'd not met her before, but wow! She was amazing. A firebolt of energy, fantastically interested in everything and everyone around her (related to her subject or not), extremely insightful and superbly well able to communicate her specialist area in all its complexity to non-experts, and have them laughing along and utterly absorbed in what she had to say. That's what I want to be like when I grow up, please.

It was a great day, though. One of those where you feel wrapped up and stimulated by everything going on around you, and it's all so exciting that you don't feel tired at all. Well, not until the end of our meal, anyway, by which time I had faded like a wilting violet, and was fighting unsuccessfully to suppress yawns...

Now today I have just spent the whole of the last two hours writing important emails and filling in a rather silly risk assessment form for the trip I will be taking students on to Lincoln: "Is the area politically stable?"; "Are at least two members of the party competent in the local language?"; "Have the local police been consulted?". Um... I know Lincoln has its dodgy areas, just like any town, but seriously - the most dangerous thing my students will be doing on the trip is crossing the road... just like they do every day.

Time for a bit of lecture preparation, I think.
1. During which we made origami penguins and told each other how to make our favourite recipes.

strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
You know, academia is pretty hard work sometimes. But out of term time, it does have distinct advantages. Such as that you can look out of your window, observe that the current weather conditions are unfit for a dog, and say, "Stuff it, I'm staying home today!"

Pile of essays I've been avoiding - your time has come!

strange_complex: (Lady Penelope)
Woot! I have prepared two classes' worth of stuff for the summer school today. That plus the fact that there isn't a class on Wednesday morning means I now don't need to do any more work on it (other than teach the actual classes, natch) until Wednesday itself, when I shall begin preparing Thursday's class. And there are only three classes this week anyway (four is more normal), so by 9:30am on Thursday morning, I'll be done for the week. Should stand a real chance of getting some of my own stuff done this week, then.

Backtracking a little, Smell tests in Warwick )

Purcell's Fairy Queen )

Framing, furnishings, chocolate and Dr. Who )

So, quite busy, and I'm pretty tired (as ever!), but feeling much better about things now. The summer school nearly got on top of me the week before it started, but I've turned things round now, and I'm definitely back on top of it. Now time for an early night, so I'm ready to teach again tomorrow at 8:30(!)...

School's in

Sunday, 2 July 2006 22:00
strange_complex: (Snape writing)
The summer school began officially this evening, with a faculty meeting for us tutors, followed by an opening dinner for all. This took place in St. John's college hall, with faculty members sitting on high table, and the rest of the hall completely packed out with students. With welcoming speeches, wide-eyed newcomers, and a healthy scattering of the sort of eccentric academics that I think only Britain can really produce, it all had a rather Potteresque feel to it. And I certainly enjoyed the thrill of eating at St. John's high table in an official academic capacity - even if only temporarily.

Now things are really kicking off, I'm feeling quite whipped up in it all. The students are all American, mainly from Rhodes College, Memphis and Sewanee, Tennessee. Those I've met so far all seem very keen - mainly in a freshly-scrubbed, jacket-and-tie sort of way, but I was pleased to spot one young lady with purple hair and all dressed in black at dinner! I hope she is on my course.

Meanwhile, my colleagues all seem very nice so far, although I do stand out a bit by being blatantly the youngest, and also the only one who hasn't taught on the programme before. Still, we had an interesting conversation about drag over dinner, which took in Bugs Bunny, Lily Savage, Vesta Tilley, Benny Hill and that 'yeah-but-no-but' girl from Little Britain. Got to be a good start.

Should I choose to, I can go on an almost infinite number of pre-paid trips and excursions over the next few weeks, taking in plays at both Stratford and the Globe, early cathedrals, Cotswold villages and even a weekend excursion to Ghent and Bruges complete with choral concert! How much I'll get involved in that side I'm not quite sure yet, since too much of it will very quickly soak up the small amounts of free time I still have left to do my own things and, y'know, actually see my friends a bit before I move away from Oxford. But I'll probably be tempted along for a few of them. And I'll certainly be attending the swanky black-tie dinner they're having on Tuesday to mark the Fourth of July. Time to get out my big purple ball-skirt, I think. :)


Saturday, 22 April 2006 21:13
strange_complex: (Victory in triumphal chariot)
Oh. My. God.

I have written a book.


No, I definitely have. There it is.


This is certainly turning out to be an incredible year for me.

I can tell that I've written a book, not just because I've got to the end. But because I really feel that I've said everything I have to say about Roman suburbs. That's it now. There's nothing more to add. It's all in the book. And, bar a few final tasks, and perhaps the odd extra word chopped out here and there, it's ready to go out to the world.

The first sentence reads thus:

"A Roman city, like a text, a vase or a statue, is an artefact of the society which produced it."

and the last one thus:

"Thus it is in their use of the urban periphery as a place for constructing monumental public buildings that the relationship with Rome can best be traced."

If you want to find out what happens in between, you'd better join the queue to buy a copy, hadn't you? ;)
strange_complex: (Silver Jubilee knees-up)

*does the chapter-6-is-finished dance*

It's 3,500 words shorter than when I started (about 1/6 of its original length), and a damn sight better, too.

Not bad going, considering term only ended ten days ago. See what happens when I get a bit of time to do some real work? Pity I know perfectly well it was always going to be the easiest chapter to revise in the whole book. And that the hideous spectre that is chapter 4 still awaits me... :/

Feels good, though, and my timing r0xx0r, since tonight is Intrusion, so I get to go off and dance as a nice reward. 'Scuse me while I go paint my nails!

Fame at last!

Tuesday, 5 July 2005 09:35
strange_complex: (Daria star)
Apparently, I enjoyed fifteen seconds of fame yesterday evening. The award of Gloria Hunniford's honorary degree was covered on UTV (Ulster Television, the local equivalent of ITV), and I'm told that footage showing her standing on the platform during the ceremony featured me sitting in the background. A good thing I'd realised at the time that I was on show, then (even if I didn't know the event was being covered for the news), and had resolved to Sit Up Straight and Not Pick My Nose.

The evening ceremony last night, meanwhile, was much as the morning one, except without Gloria Hunniford, David Whitehead, or, I'm sorry to say, anyone doing a victory leap on the stage. One poor fellow I chatted to in the academic procession had a whopping seven ceremonies to do over the course of the week. He was in fact a chaplain, whose role seemed to be to support his flock as part of a rota which ensured that the University chaplaincy was represented at all of the week's ceremonies. I don't envy him having to do it all seven times, anyway.

I had a lovely time at both the garden party and the evening reception (which was exactly the same as the garden party, except in the evening), chatting to students, and feeling nostalgic about the fact that it will probably be the last time I see them. The weather was fine, the strawberries were good and the achievements being celebrated were important. And now this morning a fresh batch of proud parents and slightly embarrassed students are pouring in to do it all again. Gah, maybe that chaplain isn't so unlucky after all.

One down

Monday, 4 July 2005 12:32
strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
That's one graduation ceremony done, then. I could actually have attended three today, but I decided limits had to be drawn, so I'm just doing this morning and this evening, plus a garden party (= free strawberries) and an evening reception (= free wine).

The processing part of it all was lots of fun. There's a picture of a Queen's academic procession under the link, which gives an idea of the sort of thing involved. (And I note from that page that anyone mad enough to want to do so could actually watch me process in at the beginning of this evening's ceremony via a live web-cast). Walking across from the main University building to the graduation hall just felt like a jolly stroll, which I passed in chatting to a member of the Institute of Theology, but then we were filing into the hall itself, and suddenly there was an organ playing, and hundreds of people standing up to honour us, and we changed from ordinary people to symbolic representatives of the University bestowing the degrees. I shifted my posture from the customary sideways slouch to a suitably proud and erect bearing, and took up my institutional role.

As a graduate of Oxford University, I of course should be representing my alma mater as well by wearing the gown of the degree which they bestowed on me. Unfortunately, this proved to be impossible, since I don't own such a gown myself, and Queen's didn't have them available for hire either. Instead, then, I mounted the platform in a generic alternative: a standard black, billowy academic gown (think Snape, although it isn't actually floor-length like his). I am doing my bit to represent Oxford, however, by unnecessarily wearing sub-fusc. Here, I could wear anything I liked under the black gown, but I've elected to wear the black trousers, white blouse and black length of ribbon around my neck which I would be required to wear in a formal academic context in Oxford. So my gown may be generic, but my under-clothes are fully in keeping with Oxford requirements.

The ceremony itself was of course much like any other. Oxford ceremonies do stand out, and I presume Cambridge ones likewise, by dint of being in Latin, in a rather special setting (the Sheldonian Theatre) and having students presented in small groups by college, rather than in one long stream. But I've also attended ceremonies now at Bristol, Birmingham, Queen Mary University of London and now Queen's University Belfast, and I can tell you that they are all the same. A name is read, a person walks across the stage, you clap - again, and again, and again.

The interest lies in the occasional student who does or wears something to draw attention to themselves - like the chap today who leaped up and punched the air after he'd shaken the Vice-Chancellor's hand, winning himself a much longer than usual round of laughter and applause. And of course the people you know: the ones whom you're there to support. Four of my actual students graduated this morning, and I beamed proudly for each one and gave them a special clap. Gloria Hunniford also received a degree honoris causa, which I intended to be terribly cynical about, but was in fact rather sweet to witness.

But, best of all, my head of department, Professor David Whitehead, was graduating today as a Doctor of Literature. He had no real need to do this of course - he's already been a Doctor of Philosophy for 30 years, and is also now a Professor and head of an academic department (OK, a very small one, but he is). But he found out that he could present himself for the degree by offering a portfolio of work to be assessed by the University, so he did, and was accepted for it. This meant for me that I sat on the stage, symbolically playing my part in bestowing an academic qualification on my boss. It's not often that you get to do that.

After the ceremony, I was waylaid by [ profile] davesangel, who is just fresh back from Live 8. She had some work to do in the library, but shortly we will go for lunch together so I can hear all about it and see pictures. Then follows a hard afternoon of strawberries, sunshine and congratulating people who deserve it. Pity me! ;)
strange_complex: (Apollo Belvedere)
Gosh, there was a very erudite conversation going on in the kitchen in our building just now. Although our building is History, next door is Philosophy, and some of the Philosophy post-grads use the kitchen here to eat their lunch in.

Hence, two chaps sitting there today, sharing a terribly wide-ranging conversation about different schools of philosophy. In the mere time it took me to spread cream cheese on a bagel and pop some cherry tomatoes on the top, they had ranged over Plato, Aristotle, Scepticism, Rationalism and Empiricism. Then, as if the actual philosophy itself weren't enough for them, they branched out into art history, and began discussing the various messages in Raphael's fresco, The School of Athens.

I felt I'd moved a step closer to enlightenment just by being there.
strange_complex: (Default)
Particularly scientific academics at the moment, but it could develop further:

Google Scholar

It searches specifically for articles and books, linking you to the text of the article if publically available online, or allowing you to do a library search for it or search for references to it on the web if not. It also provides links to all web sites which have cited the work.

Could become a viable replacement for lots and lots of individual bibliographic databases if it develops successfully. I guess it all depends on how much demand for it there seems to be.

Oh, and can I be the only person who just wants the two 'o's in Google to be little eyes, with a mortar board balancing above them? Perhaps they considered it and decided it was too twee?


strange_complex: (Default)

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