Monday, February 02, 2009

My New Favourite YouTuber

OK, some background. When I went to the Slayage academic conference this past June in Arkansas, I met two guys on the shuttle from the airport to our hotel, named Ian and Ryan. I was travelling with my best friend Sue, and we quickly became BFFs with these two guys and hung out with them the entire weekend. They were awesome and funny and a heck of a lot of fun to be with, and two of the main reasons why I cannot wait for Slayage 2010. I've become a devotee of both their blogs (Ian here, Ryan here), and a couple of weeks ago Ryan posted a video blog complaining about a particular incident at Starbucks and why he hates the way they treat customers who can't order properly. Me? I'm not a coffee drinker, but if I were, I'd be a Tim Hortons girl (see, I never drank coffee through high school or university because I figured I wanted to save it up for that first all-night cramming session. And then I did. And I was awake for two days. So I STILL use coffee for that reason, and have no immunity to its amazing potency... I know, I'm the complete oddball at work for never being part of that big coffee order every morning). But I won't ever set foot in a Starbucks simply because of what Ryan was complaining about: they have the audacity to create this completely effed-up language and then expect their clients to speak it. Then charge you double for making you do that. No thanks.

The video was very funny, and brought back all the memories of how much fun Ryan was. But somewhere along the last two weeks Ryan has become bolder, funnier, with very sophisticated edits, and he's turning into a thespian. Now he's posting a new video every day and it's one of my favourite things to check out.

But so far, this one still stands out as my favourite. I took five years of English lit, and in this sketch Ryan acts out the "types" you find in every English lit class (i.e. the non-English lit students who always manage to crash the party). As I watched I thought, "Hey, so far he hasn't done one that is like me" until he introduces the "Ryan" character. Yep, that was me. The chick who HATED the fact these evil professors had this big chunk of "participation" percentages, simply because the talkers weren't necessarily the thinkers, they just knew how to bullshit their way through everything. I was that student who read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original old English (seriously... seriously) while every other kid went out and bought the translation, which was easier to find than the bloody old English version. I read The Canterbury Tales in middle English, once again eschewing the much easier translation. I spent weeks poring over these, rather than one night reading the quickie version. I've never looked at a Cliff's Note in my life -- I have no idea what's even in one. I was the total keener who learned because I loved learning... but ask me to participate in a discussion and I tended to be the quiet one, scared to jump in for fear I'd say the stupidest thing imaginable, and even though it sounded smart in my head the prof inevitably looked at me like I was some sort of crazytown and moved on to the next person.

Somewhere after graduating, I lost that shyness and no have no problem talking in front of people. Maybe they should have had university courses on Lost when I was there...

So without any further ado, here's Ryan's take on those awkward classes. I howled with laughter at this one (and to my university prof friends watching this, I'm sure he's not talking about you...) ;) If you like what you see, you can check out his other videos here.

Love you, Ryan. Keep these coming!!


Ryan said...

How nice, Nikki! Thank you so much!

And it's funny, because I recently read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original Old English too -- only to not contribute anything substantial to that day's discussion. Sigh.

And as for the professor disclaimer - yes, a few of my own profs (who double as my friends) watched this and were able to find humor -- no harm intended! I want to be a professor myself!

Many thanks,

Cedar said...

Well, Ryan, I like you, and I like your blog, and I love your interpretations of the students and some of what you have done with the professor. And, based on what Nikki has said about you, I look forward to seeing you at the next Slayage conference. But as a professor, I was actually quite saddened to see your overall interpretation of the professor. I know you have a disclaimer and that, as you say, you want to be a prof, and that it was all in good fun. But as someone who tries so, so, so very hard (to the point of utter exhaustion every semester) to make my classes interesting for the students, to be available to help students, as someone who has to include participation marks because of department policy, who is as frustrated as you are with the annoying students, who survives each semester only because of the hardworking students (like you!), I was quite disheartened to think that even my best students (those who do the reading and make valuable comments) may actually think of my efforts in this way. Perhaps I will retreat into my Middle English version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and find the symbolism in the green sash of humility.

Nikki Stafford said...

Cedar: Oh, not the green sash of humility!! :) (I'd write that in old English but... I can't remember a word of it. Hm. Maybe the slackers were on to something.)

I think, as in every situation, there are good and bad people. Ryan makes fun of the eager theatre student who is checking her cellphone when asked an important question, but not every theatre student is like that. Not every film student is laughing and making no sense whatsoever. And similarly, not every professor is like this. I had many a prof who knew who the good students were, and a few profs who didn't realize the overenthusiasm of some students masked their unpreparedness.

So I would put that sash down and back away, and assume he doesn't mean you. :) I'm sure Ryan's had his share of good profs or he'd have run away screaming by now. It was the good profs I had who kept me there, learning and loving it, year after year. I dealt with the other ones, but they were few, thankfully. :)

Cedar said...

Yes, and it is the good students like you and like Ryan who keep me at the university. Indeed, I call my participation mark "professionalism" in order to allow for quiet yet hardworking students to get a good mark in that category. When I was an undergraduate student, I did not say a single word during class discussion the entire time I was there! And I tell those who talk too much (in some sort of attempt to get a good mark) to stop talking so much. I too can spot those who have not read the text. BUT, all that aside, I just have to clarify that Sir Gawain is a Middle English (not Old English) poem written at approximately the same time as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. But I still believe you read it. :)

Nikki Stafford said...

You know, as I was typing it I was thinking it was middle English, but I remember it feeling different from Canterbury. But I know I read an Old English text, too... Maybe it was one of those Viking books written by Snurlsy Snurlsiggidson.

Man, I am SO glad I worked so hard in that class. It TOTALLY stuck with me.

Cedar said...

Okay, someday maybe we should all do a mock video of a university English class. Perhaps we could submit it to the Evil League of Evil.

Meanwhile, back to the text... Sir Gawain is written in a different dialect of Middle English than Canterbury Tales because the author is from a different region of England than Chaucer. Beowulf is written in Old English, several hundred years earlier than either Sir Gawain or Canterbury Tales.

Okay... enough of the good old days! I'm headed back to working on Dr. Horrible for the day (since I have a PhD in Horribleness.)

Ryan said...

Just a note:

The video is called "Worst College Discussion Ever" -- it's a combination of the most negative aspects of a situation; anything that could go wrong, does.

Were this video in any way sincere, I would have recounted a specific anecdote (a la my Starbucks video), instead of performing an exaggerated parody.

I genuinely apologize if any offense is taken, but have I ever received a lower grade because of a mandated participation policy? Yes. Do I think that it was fair? No. Rather than rant, I made something humorous and light.

Believe it or not, many of my closest friends are professors and grad students, and they/I viewed this as more of a "joke of the trade" type of video - the type of thing discussed over coffee in the break room. Even "I" come across as silly/nervous/inarticulate within it. The "Me" doesn't serve as a realistic depiction of me and certainly shouldn't serve as a depiction of "every undergrad."

PS to Cedar: I seriously need to suggest your "Professionalism" policy to my department -- it sounds fantastic and like much more cognizant method of evaluating a student's effort.

Cedar said...

Thanks for the clarification, Ryan. I guess what bothered me in the video is that the professor does not recognize the valid comment from a good student when it occurs.

I should confess though--to get things back to television talk--that the one thing that has always bothered me to distraction about the Buffyverse is the portrayal of the professors. If professor Walsh weren't bad enough, just think of that guy from "The Freshman"--the obnoxious professor in the popular culture course. At least that guy is balanced somewhat by that nice poetry professor who doesn't know how to use the slide projector. On the other hand, we know from the Slayage keynote address by Jeanine Basinger that Joss Whedon himself had at least one professor who made a positive and lasting impression on him!

As to the professionalism mark, my course outlines often include the following phrase: "continually dominating discussion, or regularly making comments that are irrelevant to the current discussion will not result in a high professionalism mark." The overall mark is based on "my evaluation of your attitude, attendance, punctuality, and preparation for discussion." From what you've said about yourself, I'm sure you'd do fine in terms of professionalism.

Chris in NF said...

Sigh. What's kind of sad for me is that -- at least as far as first-year english classes go here at MUN -- that level of participation would be amazing. Most first-year English classes I've taught have been like giant puddings ... silent, absorbing everything I throw at them with nary a quiver or response. A colleague of mine and I want to do a film short in which a professor doesn't realize his entire class have become zombies, because it makes no difference from the average day of teaching.

Brilliant stuff, Ryan. It makes me want to do one from the professor's perspective ... and one in which the different professor charicatures would be depicted at a departmental meeting(the crazy embittered Marxist, the tweedy British Shakespearean, the flaky creative writing prof, the harassed and overworked contractual ...)

Cedar said...

@ Chris in NF. LOL! Too bad we're on opposite sides of the country--I'd love to be in the zombie film.

Nikki Stafford said...

Chris: I cannot wait to see it! You KNOW you have to do it now. You can't just make an empty promise.

I know where you live.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a hoot! Thanks, Nikki & Ryan. I'm recommending this vid to all my English majors (yikes--just hope they don't see me as "well-intentioned-prof"!) Still funny.