A Dimensional Hiatus

The latest bedtime storytime jags come from Moers’s The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, a fantastic slingshot across Zamonia, equal velocity-measures zany, smart, and surprising. Tonight, Bluebear began his transition away from the Nocturnal Academy and out of life, what is it now?, six?, The Gloomberg Mountains. To leave the school, he has to make his way through an especially disorienting labyrinth. Bluebear walks on and on until walking gives out, Fitbit.

For several hours I remained lying on my back, spreadeagled with my gaze fixed on the roof of the tunnel. I had made up my mind to dematerialize, vanish without a trace, rust away like a piece of old iron, and thus become an integral part of the Gloomberg Mountains. It seems that rusty tunnel walls have an unwholesome effect on overtaxed brains. I would never had entertained such an idea under normal circumstances, but anyone who has brooded for hours will feel, in a truly physical sense, what it’s like to rust away. It’s a strange but far from unpleasant sensation. You surrender to the forces of nature, utterly serene, then slowly turn metallic. Your body becomes coated by degrees with fine, rust-red fur and starts to crumble. The rust eats into you, ever deeper. Layer after layer flakes off, and before long you’re just a little mound of red dust to be blown away by a captive puff of wind and scattered along the endless tunnels of the Gloomberg Mountains. That was as far as my dire imaginings had progressed when my shoulder was nudged by something soft and slimy but not unfamiliar. It was Qwerty Uiop.

‘What are you doing here?’ he inquired anxiously.

‘Rusting away,’ I replied. (175-176)

Rusting away, I replied. Rusting away. But his school-friend Qwerty, from the 2364th dimension, comes along, sort of glop-bumps into him, and mentions that he has found a dimensional hiatus–a portal he knows by smell will, when he plunges into it (if he can summon the courage), jump him to another dimension. But Qwerty hesitates to jump, afraid of the unknown.

I won’t spoil it. It’s enough to take a quick snapshot of this rich bedtime reading, of Bluebear’s post-Nocturnal Academy disorienteering, his will to dematerialize, to rust, and his friend, Qwerty’s, rescue-interruption, motivated by his own crisis about risking a known dimension for an unknown dimension.

Reason enough to continue reading.

New Faculty Orientation

I’ve been pleasantly surprised–impressed, even–by EMU’s new faculty orientation. Monday and Tuesday consisted of optional workshops: one- and two-hour sessions put on by everyone from librarians and IT folks to faculty and human resources staff. The required two-day orientation started today and runs through tomorrow. I would guess much of the program is similar at other universities. We (26 new faculty) met and talked with the president and provost, worked through a stack of HR materials (benefits, direct deposit, flex accounts, and so on), looked at couple of FERPA scenarios with assistant general counsel, mingled with various department chairs, board of regents members, and new colleagues during a mid-day social hour, snaked through the EMU information fair booths, and ended the day with a 40-minute co-created theater production called C2 Close Up Classroom in which faculty and students enacted various teaching scenarios. As I walked over to the auditorium, I have to admit that my expectations were somewhat medium-low, that I was beginning to feel tired (now carrying five+ pounds of paper collected throughout the day), and that it didn’t seem possible to top what for the entire day had been exceptionally well-done orientation programming. The thing is, I might even go so far as to report that I was stunned by the quality of the production. I mean, this thing was really, really smartly done. After the 40-minute performance, we talked about EMU, about its students, and about teaching for another hour. Ended the day unexpectedly energized, just after 4:30 p.m.