October 21, 2008

Clues for the clueless #12

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , , , at 12:18 pm by profart

Hint: In order to get an “incomplete” for a course, you first must complete some work for it.

And emailing the professor to tell him/her that other colleges allow you to do this just makes you look like an idiot. S/he knows quite well the incomplete policy is system-wide.


October 15, 2008

Art Everyone Should Know

Posted in teaching revelations tagged , , , , , , at 1:03 am by profart

One of my favorite blogs, the Cranky Epistles, has posted a list of books everyone should read (part two of the the list here). In response, I’d just like to note an incomplete list of art objects everyone should know. There are images that pervade our society, shape it, change it, and make us ask that most basic of questions: what is art? 

Now, you may not like all of these objects. It doesn’t matter. What is important is that they are important to society, to the history of communication and culture. It’s a good start.

La Gioconda (The Mona Lisa)
Leonardo Da Vinci
1503-1505 CE, oil on canvas
Milan, Italy

The Sistine Chapel
Various Artists
1477-1541 CE; restored 1984-1994 CE.

On A Mountain Path In Spring
Ma Yuan
ca. 1200-1225 CE
China; Southern Song Dynasty
Album leaf; ink and color on silk.

The Parthenon
Architecture: Iktinos and Kallikrates
Sculpture: Phidias
447-432 BCE
Marble and limestone
Athens, Greece

Donatello di Niccolo di Betto Bardi
Bronze, ca. 1440 CE
Florence, Italy

The Pantheon
Design attributed to Hadrian
Concrete with marble and travertine veneer
ca. 125 CE
Rome, Italy

The Horyu-ji
Dedicated by Shotoku Taishi in 607 CE
Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Original timber constructions
Current construction, completed 711 CE, restored 1374 CE, 1603 CE, 1954 CE

American Gothic
Grant Wood
1930 CE; oil on beaverboard
Chicago, Illinois

Les Demoiselles D’ Avignon
Pablo Picasso
1907 Ce, oil on canvas
Paris, France

Amida Nyorai
Jocho Busshi
Joined wood, gilded, ca. 1053 CE
Ho-o-do, Byodo-in, Kyoto, Japan

What at objects do you find significant?

October 14, 2008

Discussions out of academia

Posted in student stories tagged , , , , , , , at 1:10 pm by profart

I’ve been a bad profart, engaging in discussions of academic nature outside of academia. Problems of grammar, diction, syntax, critical thought, analysis, and focus are things people think apply only in the classrooms of the Ivory Tower. They seem unaware of the significance of these discussions, the need for clarity, or the importance of thinking about a subject before turning into a screaming, gnashing, flailing idiot- or at least coming across as one. 

When one is communicating with words, it is important to understand how language works. You may think your mistakes are no big deal; but for your readers, trips in grammar can result in confusion and misunderstanding. 

Let’s take the example of “[sic]”. I have come across a person who thinks that when you coin a term, you use “[sic]”. this is confusing, because “[sic]” indicates that you are quoting someone else who used in an incorrect or unusual term; coining your own terms is indicated with quotes (or, if it is a foreign term you are using in a new context, you italicize it). What is worse, this person has sunk their teeth into the improper use of “[sic]” like a rabid bulldog, pulling up the definition from Wikipedia to defend their own position on the issue (please note that Wikipedia uses a perfectly good definition of “[sic]” and includes relevant examples to clarify its use, making the rabid bulldog look even more ridiculous). 

If you were quoting my paragraph above, you would probably want to use “[sic]” to indicate my use of the word “their.” I use the plural instead of the specific singular to protect identity (though when talking about student errors, it also is useful because I often several students make the mistake, but it gets confusing to speak in plurals- instead, I condense the problem into a singular incident, but retain the plural pronoun as a conceit). It would be appropriate to indicate that you haven’t mistyped, but that my text was “just so.” 

Another fun and confusing mistake (that increasingly gets on my nerves) is the improper use of an apostrophe in a plural. Apostrophes indicate a possessive, not a plural. If you are talking about “apple’s”, then I automatically think, “The apple’s what?” What belongs to that apple? It isn’t just a typo, either- people who tend to do this, tend to do it with some consistency, and adding apostrophes are no easy feat. Leaving them out is easier to follow than adding them in. 

It is always strange to me to have people completely unable to analyze, to think about what is being said in a rational manner and see the faults therein; to be so absolutely oblivious to their own assumptions and logical holes. I know there are plenty of folks who have never learned these skills- I see them in essay grading for ETS, essay grading for my own classes, and in conversations with others every day. I fear for these people, who may send their money to Nigeria or purchase used cars at high prices over holiday weekends. I worry about these people voting, when they cannot sort through rhetoric to find fact. It is very strange; a way of experiencing the world that is outside my own experience and understanding. I do my best to remember these folks are out there, and what their lives must be like, but it is kind of like trying to understand how people live and understand the world when living in France… or China. A whole different world to me.

October 12, 2008

Clues For The Clueless #11

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , , , , , at 8:18 pm by profart

Hint: Read the syllabus. I didn’t create it for my health. I created it for yours. 

Stupid Questions I Get All the Time:


  1. How long does the exam essay need to be?
    1. This may seem like a perfectly reasonable question, except that the only answer is “long enough to answer the question and demonstrate your understanding of art history.” Some people take longer than others to do this. If you are wondering if you’ve written enough, and you have more to share on the topic, you haven’t written enough.


  1. How many questions are on the multiple-choice part of our exam?
    1. Again, seems reasonable, right? Except that I include this information in a presentation and two separate documents all my students are required to be familiar with. Asking this only proves the student isn’t paying attention- or has really poor reading comprehension skills.


  1. What should we focus on- concepts, artists, art in general?
    1. All of it. This is an art history course. You are supposed to be learning at history- all parts. Asking a professor basically, “what of what you are teaching me can I ignore?” is insulting and rude.




  1. Is the multiple-choice section of our test open-book?
    1. This is another “you didn’t read the syllabus” type of question. I state this at every opportunity, and yet it still gets asked- over and over and over again- to the point I often go back and check to make sure it’s still in the syllabus. It is. 

Midterm Approaches

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:00 am by profart

I have some fond, if strange, memories of past midterm seasons. Midterm is a strange and wonderful time. Every year you have at least one student show up for a midterm whom you have ever seen before, or who has never logged in before. If they have been dropped from your rolls for excessive absence/no show, they act all surprised and start asking what they need to do to be re-enrolled. If they haven’t been dropped, they invariably fail the exam. And I don’t mean a little fail. We’re talking EPIC FAIL. After all, they have attended no classes, done no reading, you don’t even know who they are. 

Another bad sign for online classes are the students who don’t recognize your name on posts yet. Every year I get at least one student who, especially around midterm (particularly on the midterm review forum) starts arguing me about something (often something important, like the definition of humanism or the idea of selflessness), and finally devolves into something more or less like, “Who do you think you are, anyway?” How does one professionally reply, “I’m your professor”? 

Yet another lovely memory are the “please report everything” requests. I put into my orientation presentations, and now into my syllabi, that printing out the weekly assignments- BEFORE you complete them, so you have all the answer choices- is a good idea. Apparently some folks still don’t understand that when your professor says something is a “good idea”, it translates as “DO THIS.” Instead, they ask that all the assignments be reposted. It wouldn’t really help, anyway, as once they complete the quiz, the program will only present them with their answers, the correct answers, and the pre-set feedback comments. But I always get a flood of requests. I did report them a couple of times- and every time, people who hadn’t completed them when they should have then tried to turn them in, and complained when I didn’t count the grade. Loudly. To the dean. Never again. 

Ah, yes, midterm season. Here comes another one. The signs have already begun.

October 9, 2008

Blessed with a Quiet Semester

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:48 pm by profart

As midterms approach, I’d just like to say thank you to my wonderful students for giving me such a smooth semester so far. Not that there is no material for later creeping about the forums and assignments and emails, but far less than usual. 


Let’s keep up the good work, folks.