Ever since I moved to an electronic gradebook, keeping track of attendance has been a nagging problem. Usually I circulate a sign-in sheet—but sometimes I forget, or let them accumulate before updating my spreadsheet. I’ve even misplaced one or two.
David M. Reed Software’s Attendance is designed—by a professor—for people like me, or even more organized people who teach or run meetings.
Read the whole thing (and enjoy the Green Lantern screen grab)!]]>
The first such post, about Angus McLaren’s splendid new book, Impotence: A Cultural History (U of Chicago P, 2007), went up last night. McLaren shows how even the most basic questions of the male body–am I hard? can I get it up?–have been construed very differently in Western history.
From the interview:
To say that “impotence has a history” means that every age has had its own ideas about what caused and cured male sexual dysfunctions. Fiascos in the bedroom have been attributed at one time or another to witchcraft, masturbation, homosexual desires, shell-shock, sexual excesses, feminism, and the Oedipal complex. In recovering this history we not only learn about other cultures, more importantly we find that what it meant to be a man differed in each epoch. Countless studies have tracked the ways in which women’s sexuality was “constructed” or repressed or policed but next to nothing has as yet been said about how normative standards of male performance were established.
And, from the review:
Despite the presence of a blurb from Dr. Ruth on the back cover, McLaren is a refreshingly low-key guide to the vicissitudes of impotence. The book is almost unmissable for its extensive cataloging of tests (“fifteenth-century English courts sometimes employed ‘honest women’ to examine the man”) and treatments (ranging from the implantation of monkey and goat glands, to the construction of mechanical scaffolding, to various forms of pastes, salves, and unguents, applied topically, orally, or anally).
Read the whole piece!
(Update: Andrew Sullivan’s link to the interview; Cliopatria’s link; and the one from the U of Chicago Press.)]]>
This book delivers almost exactly what the title offers: A sympathetic, perhaps even sentimental, look at the slightly crazy people who organize their lives around rose competitions. If you imagine a non-satirical Best in Show, except with flowers, then you will have an almost perfect mental image of this book. The book is breezily charming, and, unless you are already an avid competitive rose enthusiast—and if you read PopMatters regularly I’m betting you’re not—it also might teach you something about roses.
It turns out, for instance, that when Gertude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” she was lying.
Read the whole thing!]]>
One of the book’s strongest features is its implicit commentary on American masculinity, especially in its adolescent and 20-something variants. Cistulli’s poems are sports-besotted, not with the usual lyrical extolling of, say, the slow time of baseball, or the jazzy flow of basketball, but, rather, with the media- and stats-filtered consciousness of the fan and the player. “Postgame Comments by Celtics’ Captain Paul Pierce as an Approach to the Creative Process” takes as its text an infamous comment by the Boston superstar wherein he compared basketball to war at a time when U.S. troops were fighting overseas. Cistulli splices in “poetry” for “basketball,” with good effect: “people don’t understand / the psychology of the poetry / I was just trying to / get my poetry fired up.” He also writes a series of prose poems for Jiri Welsch, an obscure NBA player, and has other poems that draw their key images from baseball, soccer, video games, and other activities of the 20-something male (the Welsch poem has my current favorite Matthew Arnold allusion: “After that, I read an account of someone’s normal day, except it’s written in Middle English. In it, some rather intelligent armies clash by night: no you are, Matthew Arnold!”). What’s striking about these moments is that they point up the way these activities structure the conversation of young men without being condescending about it. In effect, they treat sports, including fantasy sports and video games, as the natural stuff of poetry, which seems pretty reasonable.
Read the whole thing here.]]>
Three of Brenda Maddox’s splendid biographies center on famous modernist marriages: D. H. & Frieda Lawrence, W. B. & Georgie Yeats, and James and Nora Joyce. Like many modernists, Lawrence, Yeats, and Joyce each was keenly interested in making art more psychologically rich and complex. That Maddox’s newest biography should focus on Ernest Jones thus makes a satisfyingly perverse sense: For what was Jones but Freud’s work wife?
Read the whole thing here.]]>
I will say this: My four-year-old thinks The Dangerous Book for Boys is the greatest book I’ve ever been assigned to review. It’s the only book he’s stolen off my desk, and he asks me about pictures or stories from it almost daily. This is almost entirely the result of “Famous Battles—Part One,” “Famous Battles—Part Two,” and “A Brief History of Artillery,” though sections on astronomy and on bugs have also piqued his interest. There can be no doubt that the Iggulden brothers have a fine sense of “what boys like.”
Then again, the fact that my son recognized the topics of the book at a glance suggests that the crisis of Anglo-American boyhood might be a little overstated. (Might I suggest taking a break from Christina Hoff Sommers?) Let’s face it: As an English professor and book reviewer, I’m hardly the burliest guy out there—yet even my kid knows about soldiers and battles and the virtues of honor.
Read the whole thing!]]>