[lit-ideas] Re: Mowing etc.

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 09:39:50 -0800

"basic field fence" -- are you talking about chain link? 
Julie Krueger

No. There's a step below chain link, like a heavy chicken wire, with green metal posts.

Perhaps I should start a ministry of lawn sheep? Somewhere in downtown Paris I could keep an office, whence would come sage advice on how the countryside should be run? Also suburbia.

Why am I thinking such whimsical thoughts? Because whimsy is how I cope with the world, but also because I spent the whole weekend reading what were supposed to be nearly-complete drafts of senior theses. This reading took three times as long as it should simply because the students had been lazy and the text was thus very hard to follow. By the end of this ordeal I was not in a good mood and was considering whether I should just have returned the drafts to them saying, "You'll have to do better before I'll begin to read." In the good old days I might have. I had colleagues who knew that I wouldn't take such a decision lightly. But today the likely result would be a fuss with the unter-dean, who would say something like "in all disputes both sides are to blame." If students aren't writing well, it's because they haven't been taught well.

Our tree saga continues. A maple blew down. The insurance decided that they could pay any amount to get the tree off our neighbor's property. Twelve hundred dollars they paid some cowboy who came and solved the problem by cutting the base of the tree in such a way that it rolled onto our property. Done! Now it's not a "liability" problem it's a "brush removal" problem and the maximum payout for that category is five hundred dollars...with a one thousand dollar deductible. The other thing they'll pay for is re-building our field fence. Thus I have field fences currently in mind.

When the insurance guy came to tell me all this, I asked whether he would pay to take down the other maple tree, which was damaged by the fall of the first. Not a chance. The right way to live, according to the dictates of his world, is to wait for the tree to fall. If it falls on our neighbors' yard, there will be a payout for removal. If it falls on ours, hard luck. Unless...unless...we wait for the tree to die, leave it in the ground and thus are negligent. Then the insurance will pay for all damage caused by the tree.

I talked with our college's chief P.R. person yesterday, a woman named Vesper. She explained that our new slogan, "Connecting students to the world through art and design education" was the brainchild of one person, "but it played well in focus groups." We, a college of some two hundred and fifty students, not only now have several P.R. people; we also have focus groups, who like our slogan. I tried to explain that "connecting students to the world" seems like a silly thing to say. She, being a thorough professional, agreed but explained that they wanted to get something done and so went ahead "without complete buy-in." Which is to say we, the faculty, weren't asked.

What would we have responded? I tried the slogan on some colleagues and learned that the word "connected" is one of those terms that sets everyone aglow. Connected is morally sound, just the sort of thing a person wants to be. It's the opposite of loneliness, of the artist in her garrett working out the struggle dictated by her genius. And "connected" doesn't mean much more than "having slight knowledge of." You can be "connected to the world" if you just know a thing or two about what artists in Australia are making.

Time to go re-connect with students.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon.

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