Archive for Academia

Arkansas Last in College Grads

We are officially behind West Virginia as the state with the least percentage of the population holding college degrees. Down to 18.2 from 19.7 percent. I don’t know factors are included here, other than what the AP said by calling it “number of adults completing college.” They give the numbers in such a way to read like raw population percentages, as opposed to number of people who start and finish college. I would think those are two different numbers, but I didn’t take stats in college!


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Anonymous Photographs

A few years ago, through a weird coincidence, I ended up owning all the personal photographs of my hometown’s most recent “crazy lady.” Maybe these women aren’t as visible as they were when I was a child, but it used to be common for small towns to have at least one woman who lived alone and acted however she felt, regardless of the social norm.

When I was growing up, that woman was M.T., for a lot of reasons. For one, she wore a full-length fake fur coat and a knee-length strand of pearls everywhere she went long after she was the age that could pull that off. And she wore it year round. For the rest of the story, you’ll have to wait for me to get brave enough to blog about or write about in an essay.

Lucille Morris 1935

I bought M.T.’s personal photos at an auction of her materials after she died. Eventually I’m going to get my hands on her manuscripts, too, but that’s another story.

I’ve owned these photographs for a very long time. I bought them in my hometown,  but I lugged them along from Arkansas to Colorado and back again, then all over the state until I finally settled in Little Rock. Recently, I pulled them out of storage and started looking through them.

I was looking, at first, for pictures of M.T.; I want to write an essay about her based on photographs from different stages of her life. But those rare pictures of her are mixed in dozens of photographs from different time periods of people I don’t know.

Most of them aren’t marked. Some of them are probably M.T.’s family. Some of them belong to the family she lived with for many years at the end of her life, whose name I think was Eudy. Possibly Otto Eudy. That’s all I can seem to gather from the materials I have at hand.

I started looking at some of the photographs in this box and realized I have a real treasure here. I may not know any of these people, but their snapshots, especially those from the 1920’s and 1930’s, are amazing. For example, the picture above is one of the few photographs I have that has a name on it: Lucille Morris, 1935.

Anonymous Couple circa 1920-1930

The scan doesn’t show it well, but the black in the ink of this photograph has a beautiful shiny luster to it that makes Ms. Morris seem even more striking than she already does.

The thing that really surprises me about many of those photographs is that they show so much detail, even in black and white. I feel like I can see every line in Ms. Morris’s face here.

This second photograph of an anonymous couple which I’m placing, based on their clothes, circa 1920’s or 1930’s, also shows some great detail. Both of the faces are obscured or faded here, but the clothing is sharp and crisp. The detail on the clothing makes the photo seem very iconic to me — as if this is a photo of the quintessential “flapper” and her man.

The next photo that struck me was this shot of an infant in his or her crib, shown to the right here. There’s something almost artful about the way the child is placed right at a sharp divide between shadow and light, but still the baby is very clearly lit in the picture. The child’s face is crisp and clear here, and its expression is clearly contented. The detail in the bassinet creates an interesting movement between the child’s smooth forehead and that blast of sunlight in the back ground.

Finally, I have a much smaller snapshot of two girls outside what I think is maybe a school or some kind of public function. It’s a snapshot that has an almost posed air about it. As if the photographer was trying to get the two girlsAnonymous two young girls circa 1920\'s to “act casual. ”

I like the detail of the clothing here too. I’m amazed at how ornate some of physical materials are in many of these photos. The gather of the skirts in this picture, alone, is pretty amazing. Look at the careful gathers of fabric in the baby’s bassinet; or at the creases in the “lover boy’s” pants in the second photo. It’s a part of the past that I personally rarely get to see.

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Back from AP Reading

Well, I’m home and settled in from my 10 days working for Education Testing Services at the Advanced Placement reading in Louisville, KY. I read AP English Literature and Composition exams.

I’d never done this summer gig before and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. However, I must say that ETS did a good job from an reader’s perspective. They put us up in a very nice hotel, fed us well, and offered plenty to do after work hours. The work itself was mind-numbing (as a whole, we read over a million essays in 7 days), but I felt like I was being paid fairly for it.

I met some great folks while I was there, too. The only complaint I can offer is that the pre-reading materials were confusing and didn’t explain the exact dates of the work well, so I ended up showing up a whole day early and had to find a place to stay for that night. Other than that, the experience was definitely a good one. I would suggest any English Composition instructor at the college level should look into picking up this gig during the summer months.

I hear that they will switch the reading over to Cincinnati next year. I don’t know much about Cincinnati but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Louisville is a pretty cool town. I had no idea it was such a happening place.

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Orphan Story#1: The Phalanges

Note: Yes, I do really write “serious” stuff. I just don’t write about writing much. It’s so . . . meta, or something.  I also don’t share my writing on this blog because that’s too meta too.  If you want to read my best work, you’re going to have to buy the journals where it shows up (or the book, maybe, eventually).  However, I’m realizing that there are some pieces of “creative writing” (whatever that means anymore) that might fit for the blog. Below is a snippet of a piece of writing I’ve done that fits nowhere. I can’t seem to squeeze it into anything larger and it doesn’t really work on its own for something a literary journal would take. So I’m presenting it to you in the hopes that it might lose its orphan status by getting a read or two.

Orphan Story#1: The Phalanges

I was born into a house where my father’s huge textbooks lay on every surface. Later, when we moved to Little Rock for Dad to attend Medical School, they transformed into medical books. One room of our rent house was devoted to ceiling-high stacks of back issues of the Journal of the American Medical Association. I started reading at two years old, through a combination of memorizing my favorite stories and a little instruction from Mom. I was completely familiar with the notion of careful word choice by the time I hit kindergarten, because Dad used me as a study tool for his anatomy class. This had the effect of my deciding that there were correct words for certain things, that most people just got them wrong, and it was my job to correct them when it happened.


I went to kindergarten at Fair Park Elementary on the edge of the Hillcrest neighborhood in Little Rock. By then, Dad was already in Gross Anatomy II, so I’d already spent a semester memorizing the medical terms for my body parts. I suppose to test our cognitive skills, the Kindergarten teacher had each child stand up before her and recite the names for certain body parts. She pointed to my forehead and said, “What’s that?”

 “My cranium,” I said.

“No, your forehead,” the Teacher corrected me.

No, it’s my cranium.”

The teacher ignored me and moved on. “What are these?” She waved her hand in front of my face.

“Phalanges,” I said.

“No, fingers. Those are your fingers,” she insisted.

“No they aren’t. They are my phalanges. And those things at the end of my feet are phalanges too.”  The teacher stared at me, incredulous.

“Do you have a dictionary?”  I said. 

My mom got a phone call at work later that day and I got my first academic victory. Mom had to explain I was using the scientific terms for bones, since my father used me as a living dummy to study for his anatomy class. The teacher didn’t quite know what to do, so she looked it up. When she discovered I was right, she just let me say whatever came out of my mouth in reference to body parts. It’s a good thing we didn’t do the Human Body for our class play, because I would have refused to say breastbone and insisted on saying manubrium. I was that sort of kid.


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Ozark Link Sharing

Here’s a really interesting study of slavery in the Arkansas Ozarks I stumpled across today.  It’s great secondary source for anyone doing general historical research on life in the 19th century Ozarks. 

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Genetics tip

Genographic Project theorizes near human extinction around 70,000 years ago or so, right before what Jared Diamond calls “the great leap forward.”


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Communicating about Race

Wow, what a little wordpress blog surfing will turn up.  I just stumbled across this study on communicating about racial equality by the Frameworks Institute. It’s fascinating.  While I was at it, I found this gem.  It’s a study and online course/presentation on Americans’ attitudes about rural life issues.   Both are fascinating from a rhetorical perspective :).  I wonder if any critics have got ahold of this info and tried to apply it to current political rhetoric? 

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