Thursday, May 27, 2010

Catterford (or, as it is better known in the UK, "Jam & Jerusalem")

I first heard of Clatterford (or, Jam & Jerusalem, as they first called it in the UK) from my friend, Kelly. We were both excited about the show (though she saw it long before I did) because it was another collaboration of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders (of AbFab and Vicar of Dibley fame). Kelly's initial feelings about the show were not all that positive, but I can understand that coming off of AbFab. I waited a long time to watch it, but finally had a chance back in April...and I have been hooked ever since.

There are some very familiar faces in the series...

Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, and, of course, Dawn French. These three actresses usually dominate every series, but, for the most part, they only appear rarely in this series (though French's role really takes off towards the end of season one and into season two). I was disappointed at first (and I think that this is what drove Kelly away), but the more I really watched the show, I fell in love with it.
Of course, the show takes place in England in a made up town called Clatterford. There are all kinds of characters, but the main ones are the women. During season one, there are basically the women in the church's women's guild and those who aren't (really, only Sal and Tib...see below). However, God and the church are at a distance in this series...but occasionally they sneek in, but only in ways that stand in for basic human morality.

Clatterford poses as a comedy (and, yes, there are plenty of funny moments), but the real story is about Sal, the woman in the nurse's uniform in the photo above. Her husband, the town doctor, dies in the first episode and the rest of the series is really about her and the women of the town.

This brings me to the real reason I am so sad that BBC dissolved the French and Saunders team. I think that these two women did more for women on television (in the UK, but also worldwide), than most people realize. Their shows have always emphasized the roles of women, funny and otherwise.

is no different. I love that we get to see a more mature protagonist in Sal and her best friend, Tib (who plays the receptionist at the doctor's office). I get the feeling that Sal and her husband enjoyed one another, but their first love and the bonding agent between them was the job. Tib loves the time at the office because it allows her to be female and gossipy, while at home she helps (though loudly complains about it) her farmer husband do very taxing jobs. You can tell that Tib loves her husband and, even though she complains, she really loves being able to live out the rough-and-tumble side of her personality on the farm, as well. I like Tib, because she has a sweet husband and she is capable of doing just about anything. What you see is what you get...and, yet, she is just as uncomfortable in her own skin about some things as everyone else is.

Sal has two children, James and Tash. James has come back with his wife to be the new town doctor and his wife, who is scared of all things carrying germs and blood, is the new clinic nurse. Tash is a free spirit who has never settled down, in spite of the fact that she has a child. There are some really complicated dynamics here. I find myself not really caring that much about James or his wife, though I do like them in the series. But Tash is a different story. She is completely frustrating and unlikeable to the viewer at first because she is such a child...even though she is 36. She wants to be taken care of so badly, and this makes Sal's character even more complex. She loves Tash, has kept her in this position in many ways, but I get the feeling that this really only took place when Tash became an adult. I am not sure that Sal or her husband were that interested in their children early on, perhaps letting them run wild. Tash wants to portray the free spirit, yet she desperately clings to home and the irresponsible behavior of a teenager.

Then there is Rosie, who for the first season and a half I really thought was only there for comic relief. Rosie, played by French, is taken care of by the entire town, but especially by the church's women's guild. Now, this series has a silent character in the women's guild, and the guild is what circulates throughout. It symbolizes tradition and seemingly oppression, and the guild constantly tries to envelop Sal and Tib, though they resist fiercely. They see the guild as something old-fashioned and stodgy. However, the guild comes to be a bonding place for all kinds of women (the rich Caroline and her friend Susie, the new-age Kate who proclaims that she doesn't even believe in God, the attention starved Eileen, and, Rosie, the mentally disabled). Note: there are other members, but these are my favorites.

Anyway, Rosie has two personalities: Rosie, who is chidlike; and, Margaret, who is her alter ego and only comes out when things are really bad. Margaret tries to hurt Rosie as well. Like I said, these moments work as comic relief until season 2...and I really loved how the moment of truth came out. I won't give it away, but the series can turn from comedy to drama on a dime.

Watching all of these women communicate and interact, even if the only place they come together sometimes is within the guild meeting, is fascinating. Sal's character is refreshingly modern and there is a lot about her that is both uplifting and depressing. I haven't seen season 3 (not on DVD yet), but I did see a bit of the first episode on YouTube and Sal is in quite a state...something I have been expecting for a long time.

Even though the series takes place in a town that looks like it is stuck in time and tradition (i.e. the women's guild, too), this is the most accurate series to capture modern life (esp. the 21st century woman) in a long time. It is smart in ways that Sex and the City was smart in the beginning of its run. If you have some time, check it out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


...on nothing important:

I actually watched a bit of Dancing with the Stars last night. I have watched more of it this season that I ever have, mostly to see how horribly Kate G. danced...mean, I know...but she should stop trying...and last night was proof positive. I have never seen someone love to be on camera so much.

Anyway, I am glad that the winners got the vote. They are wonderful.

Other than that, I did five miles last night...and my body hurts today. Still, I am proud of myself. Actually, when I think about it, I did around six miles because it is a mile to work and back from my car. Hooray!

On the reading front:
I am trying to finish up another reading of The Old Curiosity Shop. If I am reading for pleasure, I speed right through. But, reading for research...well, that takes a while. So, I have been meticulously trying to grab every potential passage that I could use and it has slowed me tremendously. I am supposed to turn in my first chapter in mid-June. Ugh. I will turn something in, but it won't be wonderful.

Before bed, I am reading a book right now called WWW: Wake. It is a sci-fi book and so far I like it. The narration changes a bit too much for my taste, but when Caitlyn, the teen-aged narrator and protagonist, takes over the book is really good. I feel like the author is trying to be too cinematic at times and it drives me crazy. I don't need a scene to change after a few paragraphs. I want to stick with the same person for a while and get to know them.

As for the story, it is an interesting premise and this book is the first in a trilogy. Here is part of the blurb from Amazon for Publishers Weekly:

"[the book] explores the origins and emergence of consciousness. Blind teen Caitlin Decter gets an experimental signal-processing implant that inexplicably opens up her vision to the wondrous infrastructure of the World Wide Web. Inside the Web is a newborn webmind, a globe-spanning self-contained consciousness that is just becoming aware of the outside world. Secondary plot threads about a highly intelligent hybrid primate and Chinese bloggers battling a repressive government extend the motif of expanding awareness" (see Publishers Weekly Review )

What else...well, I am working everyday at the magazine and researching in the afternoons. This weekend, I hope to get some writing done, for a change!

More later!...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I couldn't agree more...

From a new article at the Chronicle about the reasons why the Ph.D. isn't necessarily the only (or the real, in my opinion,) mark of a true scholar...

"Reading an essay by Alex Pang, whom I had known as a postdoctoral fellow, made me catch my breath. A historian of science, Alex discussed how leaving academe had led him to realize that nonhistorians can and do provide thought-provoking analyses of historic problems. Sometimes, Alex wryly noted, being outside academe actually made their analyses better.

I found his essay reassuring. It meant that, although I was leaving higher education, I would still grow intellectually. My experiences since leaving bear that out. Because I live in a large city, as opposed to the small college towns where I was a professor, I live in a world of museums, lectures, public seminars, extraordinary bookstores, fantastic archives, and libraries. I live in a place that has racial as well as ethnic diversity. All of those factors encourage me to think about historical problems in a rigorous albeit different fashion from how I saw them in academe.

The people I have met in the nonacademic world share my enthusiasms. I belong to a book group founded, much to my delight, by reporters who work or worked at NPR as well as many experts from other federal agencies. Our discussions are just as wide ranging and thought provoking as the ones I had in academe.

I live where a lot of archives are—which makes research easier than it was in academe. I write and publish. My new book, researched and written completely outside academe, was just published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Since leaving academe, I have continued to endorse the belief that being an intellectual entails analyzing and understanding issues from multiple angles. I hope that in advising their undergraduates, academics will encourage their students to share that view. More important, I hope faculty members will encourage students to do informational interviews and extensive research on career options—before entering a Ph.D. program, which is, after all, only one path to the life of the mind."
--Alexandra M. Lord

(All bold is my emphasis.)


So, no--I am not considering leaving the Ph.D. out in the land of the unfinished. Of course, I will finish. I just think that this is good advice and that Lord is absolutely correct in emphasizing that we should be searchers before submitting to the label. The search is what makes a scholar. I have met plenty of people who hold higher degrees...and not all of them are scholars. Nor does one need to be pretentious to be a scholar. Scholarship should, before all else, fulfill your greatest needs and desires. Your research should always take place to help you explore the problems and/or truths closest to your heart. The only important research is that which is taken up because it MUST be done--not because someone assigns it to you. I know, a lot of good comes out of assigned research. However, the final project will never reach its full potential if the researcher would rather leave the library in pursuit of a video game (and I am not knocking a video game...God knows they provide mindless entertainment for me).

In closing: there are scholars everywhere. There are thinkers everywhere. And some of the best have never set foot in college. They are the observers and those who truly live life.


Basically, I don't have any. Usually, I am okay with that idea, but there are times when it really frustrates me. I feel like my life is at a standstill because so many things need to be done and no matter how fast or hard I work, they just don't progress. Then, of course, you face the inevitable need for "me" time. I have to indulge in nothingness or frivolity at certain points because, otherwise, I will go insane.

Some of the things I like to do? Mostly nerdy, of course, but who cares?

1. Add to my Amazon profile reviews. I have watched my rank change over the last few months and it can be very addictive.
2. Goodreads

BTW: both of these accounts are accessible via links on the right of this page...

3. Reading blogs/posting on my blogs. I still like this one of course, but I also like my other one as well (for different reasons).
4. Reading "trashy" books...though I hate to call them this because there are some really good books that just aren't considered literary at this time.
5. Going out to eat with my best friends
6. Talking on the phone to Kelly (those who know me also know that I HATE the phone, so this is a departure for me)
7. Watching Whatever Martha

So, yes, I do not have a very exciting life all of the time, but down time is a necessity.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


You bend over backwards to help someone and they end up complaining. It never fails.

Monday, May 03, 2010


I arrived at the building today and my students were all out in the hallway. The room, they thought, was locked. So, I walked into the main office in this building and the secretary said to walk across the street to the English building to have someone come open the door. She was preparing for a confrontation with me over this, I could tell. But, then, my students yelled out that the door was unlocked.


Why can't the secretary just ask someone in this building to take a key and open the door? One more example of the craziness that can take place on this campus sometimes. This happens all over. The stories are numerous. It is like the departments are at war.