Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bad Day at Pope Rock

When I was about to start teaching at USF, the late Patrick Finley advised me to cultivate a little eccentricity in the classroom: In other words, dance with the neuroses that brung you.

And so I have, though I must admit that as I have grown older, slower and more distant from the kids and what the kids think, believe and need, I've probably sunk back into the merely odd.

(That does not place you in strong bas-relief on most faculties on most campuses. Academics are an odd tribe and all the more charming for it.)

But yesterday the calculated odd sagged into the unintentionally weird, and I might as well tell you about it because it made my wife laugh and thus can't be that bad, not actionable, or she wouldn't laugh, you think?

It all *started* with my wife. She got an email, a dim tone-deaf email filled with condescension and general cluelessness, and she did what mates do. She forwarded the email to me, said email trailing her fury.

Fond and helpful, I emailed back: "You ask them what part of 'Fuck You' they don't understand." I didn't expect her to ask. I could have just said "I love you and you're wonderful," of course, but instead I said it in code.

It was just another way of saying I love you, albeit a ferocious way. We've been married a very long time. It's not that you run out of ways to say it, but you do try to cultivate variety, adjusted to circumstance.

SWAK. Sealed with a kiss and and the sound of the back of your hand to anyone who disrepects the lady in question.

I said I emailed her back. Well, somehow I didn't hit "send" in the hurry of rushing off to journalism ethics class, which is held in a "smart classroom," which means I can plug in my laptop and project either from the laptop or from the Internet. The mechanics of the thing require you to turn on the projector first and only then plug in your laptop and turn it on and see explode in all its glory what you have carefully placed on your laptop screen in readiness.

It's quite hectic. It seems I can never quite replicate the right moves, and there are fumblings and interruptions. And so it was yesterday, and thus, after some fuss, there flashed on the big screen not a fabulous Powerpoint but an unsent email, that is:

You remember what it said. I am not engaging in gratuitous obscenity here. I am not cultivating my eccentricity. Oh no. Apparently, my eccentricity is viral.

My rude email was quickly hustled offscreen like a streaker at the Oscars, but -- also like a streaker at the Oscars -- it was noticed. Much unease and loud explanation on my part:

"My wife. An email. Well, not to her...." My students enlarged their vocabulary. So that's fatuity, they thought.

To cover the moment, I went in search of the News University, an online journalism education site supported by the Poynter Institute, which works hard trying to nuture young journalists and revive old ones beaten down in midcareer. NU has an excellent interactive unit on interviewing trauma victims, which you can click through at your own speed.

Ethics class has been talking about the ethics of interviewing.

I had not been to the site in months. It is one of those sites that -- when you return to it -- posts your username and asks for your password. So there my username bloomed on the projection screen:

olddirtyrobertson

I've thought since about how that username came to be. I think I remember that the day I found News University I also learned that there was a musician who called himself Old Dirty Bastard. I thought he was some old blues musician. He wasn't. He was a rapper and founding member of the WuTang Clan, whatever that was. (Dead now, dead young, poor fellow.)

Anyway, clearly I signed up for News University while in a fit of merriment over the cognomen Old Dirty Bastard. Yesterday in class up went olddirtyrobertson, and in a genuine panic I couldn't remember my password and there it hung for seconds turning into large fractions of a minute...

Well, finally, I signed in. You know what my password is? It's beeswax, and no I have no idea why. I guess I don't have to have a reason.

I'm eccentric, so they tell me.

4 comments:

david silver said...

oh wow, what a post! what a day!

i'm a fan of the phrase and it certainly has its time and place.

Banjo said...

Odd? Sinister is more like it.

the cancer blogs said...

Doc, did you know ODB later changed his name to Sweet Baby Jesus. then of course he died.
between your undergrad experience and your teaching gig, I think you could stand it for ODB.
george

....J.Michael Robertson said...

George, thanks for the compliment. I get older and dirtier every day, it's true.