The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Apr 29th, 2009 by Dr Karma

I haven’t read the books, but I’ve been watching the television show on HBO.  I have to say that I’ve been relatively disappointed in television lately, but I’m definitely looking forward to The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency each week.  I’m hooked.

It’s a detective show, but the attraction for the viewer is not figuring out the mysteries.  Instead, the mysteries exist to reveal character and to explore “issues.”

I love the setting of the show–Botswana and the scenic views the show provides (though I’m not sure how much is actually filmed in Botswana).  I love the gestures toward using authentic accents and colloquialisms (and that the show assumes you’ll be able to get a few foreign words if repeated in context).

My favorite aspect of the show, however, is that it leaves me thinking.  The main characters are very interested in doing the right thing (but they don’t engage in any “what would Jesus do” questions).  They want honesty and a better Botswana.  The problem is figuring out what’s right.  Is it right to confirm that someone is cheating if that means a family will be torn apart?  Should a detective lead on a cheater to confirm that he is so (or is that a sting)?  While it’s the detective’s responsibility to find a “truth,” what is the responsibility in reporting the findings–is she allowed to frame it in a certain way?

Watch the show:


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Nickel and Dimed out of Sleep
Apr 26th, 2009 by Dr Karma

I was rereading Nickel and Dimed last night, as I’ve been asked to give a talk on it in a week and a half (the integrated studies students have read it and I’ve been asked to connect the text to next year’s campus book project, The Geography of Bliss.

Nothing in either text surprised me–I’ve read them both, but I was a bit surprised by my response last night.  Reading the text again in this economic climate is very different.  Loved ones are being laid off, friends are having problems finding jobs, and my own position is not (yet) secure for next year. 

It’s no good when bedtime reading causes anxiety attacks.

The Simpsons hurt my feelings
Apr 24th, 2009 by Dr Karma

As many of you know, the possibility of a writer from The Simpsons coming to talk to my class has been dangling before me for some time now. Well, one woman at the show (not at the writers’ end) called yesterday to take the opportunity out of my sight.

She had been forwarded an email in which I recounted meeting Dana Gould (appearing on Bill Maher’s show this week) and him asking if I’d had anyone from the show visit my class. I had replied to him that I didn’t even know I could ask for that.

The woman from the show said, “And that’s funny. Because you can’t.”

That’s not funny. Now we know why she doesn’t work in the writers’ room.

At first, she said that they couldn’t have anyone speak because it might seem like an endorsement of my book (which is by nature and necessity “unofficial” (as basically all literary analysis/pedagogy books are, by the way)). I explained that the class wasn’t my book and that I was not after an endorsement.

Doesn’t matter.

So I asked if I could have a guest speaker after my book went to the publisher.

She said perhaps, but also reminded me that there are lots of Simpsons classes out there. (I’m not special.)

I had been thinking about trying to get one of the writers here next year as part of our “Conversations With Writers” series. I would hate to think that UC Davis students can’t speak to them because I’m writing / will have written a book.

I tried to salvage the situation by addressing another legal issue, since she kept talking about the legal problem of “endorsing” me. One of the things I need the show to tell me is how long a dialogue can I use and have them consider it fair use.

I try to respect intellectual property and am responsible for getting permissions, after all. Denise and I need to know these things and our publisher doesn’t know what use would tee the show off.

I tried to ask her and she just refused to hear what I was saying (it was like she was in “no” mode and had decided before she called that I would get nothing out of her). First, she said they didn’t have time to read my book and that they couldn’t authorize anything because they didn’t know what we were writing, no matter how well-intentioned we might be.

I wasn’t asking for a reading or an authorization.

So I tried to give her an example. There’s a five line exchange I want to use–how do I know if that’s “too much” and falls out of fair use.

She suggested that I use the DVDs to check the accuracy of the quote, as they can’t do that.

Um, I wasn’t asking for that.

“Could someone tell me what’s considered fair use?”


I still don’t think she got what I was asking.

I’m extremely frustrated. I’m going to try to maintain my other contacts (who have all been very nice) so that perhaps one day I can get someone to say “ten lines is too much; nine is fine” or that they would be happy to have someone speak to us at UCD (which at least one writer did say, until we were told he couldn’t).

For the first time, The Simpsons has made me sad.

Dr. Karma bitches about Jurassic Park
Apr 22nd, 2009 by Dr Karma

Back from The Big Easy
Apr 14th, 2009 by Dr Karma

Being in The Big Easy was hard, mainly because we were all sick.  Also, a certain mother behaved badly.  Enough said–I don’t want to rant about that (I’m still sick and I don’t want to get sicker by writing for hours).

My mother and step-father used to have a time-share in New Orleans, so that was our family vacation destination when I was a child.  I’ve returned only a few times as an adult and each time, the place loses a bit of magic for me.

Why was it better before?

Lucky Dogs were a dollar instead of 5.25 (and New Orleans was the only place I could have hot dogs before).

I hadn’t been any place else (now I’ve been to two whole other countries and found cities I love more.

Growing up hasn’t made me like Bourbon Street any more.  It still smells bad & is full of annoying drunk people.

As I have my own income now, being in New Orleans isn’t the only place where I can have a little bit of money to spend at a place like the French Market.

Don’t get me wrong–New Orleans still has its charms–I love being covered in powdered sugar at the Cafe Du Monde and listening to Jazz and Blues.  I like that the people are friendly for the most part and I generally like the food.

I’m just glad that, unlike when I was a child, this city isn’t the only vacation spot available to me.

Offending pca/aca people.
Apr 10th, 2009 by Dr Karma

Last night was my presentation on Twilight. I had a handout that talked about Edward as an abstinence vampire. Included a pic I found on a website with Edward and Bella’s heads on bodies wearing Mormon underwear.

I intended the picture to be used as a visual representation of the abstinence of the characters.

After the presentation, a guy came up to me and told me that some people in the Mormon faith would find the picture more offensive than hard core porn.

I thanked him for letting me know. If he had said he was offended, I would have apologized for offending him. I mean to be thought provoking, but never offensive. Unfortunately, it’s easy to blur the lines.

In the back of my mind, I do know that Mormons take offense at having the sacred underwear discussed or shown. I wasn’t thinking about that. I think my underlying problem is that I would have had a picture of hard core porn if it suited my point.

I hope I didn’t offend anyone. Maybe I should show my underwear to even things out.

Voodoo works!
Apr 9th, 2009 by Dr Karma

I was just in a little voodoo shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans and received the long awaited phone call from Denise of Grace Films (aka The Simpsons). My class may get a guest speaker!

In other news, it takes way too long to go anywhere or do anything with five people!

Recent Observations
Apr 8th, 2009 by Dr Karma

Ack.  Have been down South with the family in anticipation of a low-attendance conference presentation (8:30 p.m. in New Orleans–really, who do they think is going to be there?)

Am exhausted from a lack of sleep and family-induced stress and illness.  Ken can now walk around again, but we’re both having to take a lot of medication to do so.

I had the opportunity to watch a few hours of 7th Heaven with my grandmother (and by opportunity, I mean the viewing was forced upon me).  Vacuous characters, inane dialogue.  One episode managed to make the evils of smoking part of all four intertwined plots!  If you need these people telling you about smoking for an hour, you really need to be smoking something.

Now that Obama is the president, my grandmother no longer believes America is a great country.  She said so twice.  Now, if I’d said something like that a few months ago, when someone else was President, I would be called unpatriotic.  For once, I would like consistency.  Just a little consistency.

Margaret Atwood has been nominated for an award for her nonfiction Payback, which I’m teaching in UWP 18. 

I love the beach, but not when it’s filled with Spring Breakers.  What is it about Spring Break that makes people act like that?  Why don’t they just drink and have sex in regular life, so it’s not such a big deal on vacation?

I miss Kelly and Tessa.

I keep thinking about drinking games I could start with my mother (like every time she starts talking bitching about a certain thing that she’s obsessed with now, I could take a shot).  Unfortunately, all conversation roads apparently lead to this subject and I’d be dead of alcohol poisoning in half an hour.  It’s still tempting, if only to dull the road to death that will surely be caused by these conversations anyway.

Hi, Emily!  (I heard you’ve been reading!)

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