Sunday, April 21, 2013

Last Week of School, and some Reviews

The gradepocalypse is about to begin again. We have six class periods left before finals start, but, unfortunately, I have a lot of seniors in my classes. Why does this matter one might ask?  Well, because Xavier does something in the spring semesters that is very tough on faculty members who have a lot of seniors. That is, classes end on April 29, Monday, and Senior grades are due by noon on April 30, Tuesday.   This is so that grades can be cleared before our graduation ceremonies.

This means that during the final week I’m not only teaching classes but administering finals to all seniors. It means all papers are due during the last week. It also means I’m administering makeups because lord forbid everyone take the test when it is scheduled, and lord forbid that they wouldn’t be seniors so that they, too, have to have grades in on the 30th.  It means that I get a very few days to complete all my grading and turn in grades. And since grades are turned in early, and students get to see them, it means numerous emails and phone calls from students begging for a few more points. Spring is not a good time to be a teacher.

On the upside, though, after April 30th I will be more than ¾ s done with my grading. I only have one actual exam during finals week. I guess we’ll see if I live long enough to enjoy it. In the meantime, let it be known that I will be making only sporadic appearances on the blogs until after May 1st.

I should be completed with ‘everything’ by May 12th and then summer writing begins. I can’t wait.

Let me leave you with a few reviews of various kinds:

The Walking Dead: Graphic Novel series:  I’m getting ready to start volume 8 of The Walking Dead graphic novel series. I’ve been a big fan of the TV series since it first aired. Here are my thoughts on volumes 1-7 of the graphic novels.  The novels aren’t as good as the TV series to me, although had I read them first I might feel differently.  In particular, the absence of key characters in the TV series, Darrell and Merle, takes away some of the enjoyment for me. The Governor is also far less nuanced in the novels and I prefer the TV version.  On the other hand, Michone is a more complete character in the novels than in the TV show, although she has been developing more in the last season. The novels are also quite a bit more graphic, which is saying something considering that the show is pretty graphic as well.  After the first 4 of the novel series I almost abandoned them, but Lana is reading them and bringing them home from the library, and after reading 5-7 I think I’m finally hooked and will follow the novel series to the end as well.

The Dark Knight Rises: Lana and I finally got around to watching this movie and neither of us cared much for it. The Dark Knight was long enough, but it had an amazing Joker, played by Heath Ledger, and everything made sense to me within the context of the film. The Dark Knight Rises had “Bane,” with a great name and a completely lame characterization. It was also very long, and it won’t leave me with a lot of great memories. The two main problems I had with the movie, though.  First, the timing seemed subtly off on everything. It’s hard to explain but things seemed to always happen too late or too early for the plotline. Second, the Bane character just wasn’t used right.  At least this is my opinion.

Doc Savage: Skull Island: How could I resist getting a book in which Doc Savage faces King Kong? This is, of course, a modern continuation of the Doc Savage series, written by Will Murray rather than Lester Dent. That was actually an attraction for me, because while I enjoy the original Doc Savage series, I’m not very enamored of Dent’s writing.  I also have very much enjoyed Murray’s work on the Destroyer series. However, whether by intent or not, Murray’s prose seemed to echo Dent’s pretty closely so I didn’t find myself getting lost in the prose of this tale. The story started out wonderfully by beginning just at the point where the movie, King Kong, left off. A dead Kong’s body must be hauled off and Doc Savage and his crew get the job. After that, we flash back to Doc’s first meeting with Kong, which took place before he’d even reached the age of 21. I didn’t particularly like the flashback aspect but once we flashed back we stayed there so it wasn’t much of a problem. I did enjoy getting to know more about Doc’s history, particularly with his father and his grandfather, although I thought it took a bit longer than necessary to get to Kong’s island. I’d rather have spent some time exploring and detailing the characteristics of the island itself. I won’t give away the ending but will say that I enjoyed it. It’s good fun, just not as much fun as I was hoping it would be. Maybe I was just expecting too much.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you'll be free to write soon. Sorry you didn't like The Dark Knight Rises.

Randy Johnson said...

I have yet to see THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Not sure why, it's been available ON DEMAND for some time now, but I suspect I picked up some of the clues you mention from the trailers I've seen. Just not inspired to give it a try as yet.

THe WALKING DEAD graphic novels may be given a try soon. I do like what they've done with the TV series.

The Doc/Kong novel i've got and as soon as I get some review obligations out of the way I'm diving in.

laughingwolf said...

you'll do your 'teach' bit just fine - as always - then a good break :)

my younger daughter is a huge batman fan, so she'll be all over em - i wanna see 'man of steel'

never thought much of doc savage...

Travis Cody said...

The good news is that on the other side of all of this fast paced testing and grading, is a summer's full of reading and writing for your own pleasure and benefit.

Ty said...

I tend to like the Walking Dead graphic novels over the show, but I started with those. Though I think you're points about Merle, Daryl, and the governor are correct. Part of what draws me more to the graphic novels is I feel the Rick character is much stronger, and much more the central figure, than in the show.

One thing that has bothered me a bit about the show is just how clean everything and everyone is, especially in Woodbury. The apocalypse has come, zombies are walking the Earth, yet here's this little corner of the world that looks like Mayberry? People are out roasting wienies, walking their dogs, taking the kids for a stroll ... and 10 feet away on the other side of a wall are undead flesh-eating monsters? I don't think so. At least not just a year or two into this new world.

Adventuresfantastic said...

"Spring is not a good time to be a teacher."

Yea, verily. I feel your pain. I've got about 2 weeks before my crunch really hits.

Cloudia said...

You are well equal to this herculean task, Charles. Empathy nonetheless.

Recently read Robert Dunbar short stories and recommend his work, as I do yours.

Best wishes for Spring liberation in time to you and Lana.

from Wacky Waikiki
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° > <3
> < } } ( ° >

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, eh, I've never actually been a big fan of comic book movies, although I did like the comic Batman.

Randy, I'll be interested to hear your take on Doc versus Kong.

Laughingwolf, I'm surprised they're making another Superman. seems not long ago we had one.

Travis Cody, yes yes yes!

Ty, Lana and I have both remarked on the relative cleanness of the cast in the Walking Dead TV show. I would expect some seriously more scraggly hair and so on. And yes, Woodbury was a bit much in the show, although more realistic probably in the novel series.

Keith, It's an approach/avoidance conflict with finals. I don't want them to get here because of the work, but then I want them to get here so they can be over with. :)

Cloudia, I'll have to check out Dunbar. Don't know anything about him.

Chris said...

I had the first 7 or so Walking Dead GNs because I'd heard nothing but good things about them. My son read them and liked them. When the show came out, I hated it so much I sold the GNs unread. Heh. Different strokes, I guess. I think I'm suffering zombie burnout.

I was pretty unimpressed with The Dark Knight Rises myself. Saw it, didn't love it, haven't been compelled to watch it again since it's been available. The new Superman looks fantastic, though.

Riot Kitty said...

You will live through it! I didn't like Dark Knight so I skipped this one, but also because Bane looked ridiculous in the previews.

the walking man said...

I never knew I could beg for a higher grade the few months I spent in the halls of higher education. I was cool with my 3.6. I did though not mind sitting with the professor who made my GPA drop and mock them over a cup of coffee.

You have done it again with the rest of your post--hit on subject matter I know absolutely nothing about, so I won't beg for any more paints to raise my 0.0

Charles Gramlich said...

Chris, the Walking Dead books are fairly different from the TV show. I think a lot depends on what one sees, and likes, first.

Riot Kitty, I haven't read the Bane comics at all so I don't know how close he was to that. He looked and sounded rather silly to me, though.

Mark, ahh, success! :)

BernardL said...

I agree with your critique of The Dark Knight Rises. It had some great scenes, but on a whole, it was tough to suspend reality on this one.

Travis Erwin said...

Happy writing my friend. hope it is fruitful summer.

Snowbrush said...

Oh, the joy of summer vacation. I taught elementary school for four years, and I well remember the pleasure of those two month driving trips that Peggy and I used to make.

Vesper said...

Ah, summer writing starting May 12th... this is bliss! Just think of it and the exams will pass more easily... :-)
Enjoyed reading your reviews. I've never been a Batman fan. I really want to watch The Walking Dead though.

G. B. Miller said...


Sounds like that particular rule was created by people who don't teach and probably have never set foot in a classroom except to observe.

But summer put a new twist on a tired cliche, "Can you smell what The Gramlich is cooking?"

Barbara Martin said...

Ah, finals. Soon you will be past that and into the summer period to enjoy, rest and write.

Rick Robinson said...

Have you read any of the other Murray Doc Savage books? I bought all six of them but have so far read only DESERT TERRORS, which I'd rate as average+. I'll be reading them in order published, so Skull Island will be the last of the bunch.

I agree on Dark Knight Rises, not as good as the previous couple of B-Man films. As for that grading, good luck with that. Do some teachers really adjust grades because students plea for it? Man, not back in my day!

eric1313 said...

Charles, sounds like you need a really good slave-grader for your younger students while you handle the seniors. If I hear of one, I'll send them down there right away. ;)

Take it easy and don't get dragged down into the morass of the "gradepocalypse".

meanwhile, I've been reading a lot lately, thought I would share this little poem.

Nothing left: thought smoke. A moment - a billion years.

Don't curl like orange peels, don't ape a mummified past. Uncage eternity.

When selfs let go, universe is all - O for speed to get past time.

~Shinkichi Takahashi

Sounds like you could use that kind of speed, so I shared this little nugget of zen.

eric1313 said...

One more thing, speaking of graphic novels, I know a really great webcomic that is extremely original. Girl Genius, by the Professors Foglio, a married couple who do some really great work... It's in the whole Steam Punk genre, though they call it "Gaslight Fantasy". Rather cool. It's all about Mad Scientists, and it's very addictive.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernard, yeah, hard to put my finger on the primary issue with The Dark Knight Rises. Lots of little things.

Travis Erwin, me too!

Snowbrush, Lana and I will take a couple of nice long drives but mostly I enjoy staying home and reading and writing.

Vesper, I'm just a like a kid looking forward to summer.

G.B., lol. I like that. I will use it!

Barbara Martin, you can get an Amen on that one!

Richard R., I haven't read any of the other Murray written Doc Savage.This one was particularly of interest but given my response I won't be in a big hurry to read others, although I may in time. I think the very fact that so many students plead means it has worked for them in the past.

eric1313, cool poem. Thanks for the link. I will check it out as soon as grading is done!

jodi said...

Charles-the pressure of all of that would kill me. Hang tough and know that relief will be soon. I have all new respect for my past teachers!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I didn't know students could ask professors for more points. Here, I think, they would be hauled up before the principal! I liked Christian Bale in "Batman Begins" more than in the two films that followed and I thought Liam Neeson lifted it a great deal.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Every professor I know, and I know a lot, talks about grading incessantly. My husband calls out how many papers or exams he has left hourly this time of year.
Very few movies should run more than 100 minutes. I see no reason that a story can't be told more economically. Or else make it a TV series.

eric1313 said...

After reading about 1.5 pages of Girl Genius, I realized I had to catch it from the beginning. It's really good, so definitely check it out if you remember to. It's a comic so it kind of just flies by, but it's very intelligent, and not in the least girly, despite the title. And tell Lana, she would probably dig it too. I don't always recommend stuff this adamantly.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, thanks for the new Doc Savage heads up ... yeah, the prose was mostly pedestrian back in the day but, for awhile when I was a kid, I ate them like candy. I think I'll give this one a go. Don

Chris Benjamin said...

One day to get grades in?! That's just cruel.

I've heard that a lot about Dark Knight Rises. Haven't bothered seeing it yet but the anticipation isn't exactly building.

Ron Scheer said...

Yet another reason why April is the cruelest month. You have my sympathy.

Golden Eagle said...

That is a lot of work in a short amount of time.

Thanks for the reviews!

Lisa said...

You accomplish things Charles.

ivan said...

...A bit off the wall, but I think Batman and Robin are just friends.