will robert barshop

Email at wrbarshop@crimson.ua.edu

Brown Bag Lecture

Yesterday at the Ferguson Center Forum, author Kellie Wells read her short story, “Ever After,” which was published in this year’s issue of The Fairy Tale Review. Wells is a professor of English at the University, has won the Flannery O’Connor award for her short fiction, and published her second novel, Fat Girl, Terrestrial, through FC2 this October.

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Wells describes “Ever After” as a “retelling and corruption of the story of Adam and Eve.” It’s written from the perspective of Eve, and full of dense symbolism, comparing the sky to “tabernacles made of the stretched hide of blue goats.” Wells also made some major changes to the story as it is told in the Bible. Instead of Adam naming the animals, Eve renames them after him. A snapping turtle tempts Eve instead of a serpent. Eve has a very atypical relationship with her children, Cain and Abel. After about 35 minutes, Wells finished

During the Q&A portion of the lecture, Wells explained that while the objections to the gender roles in Genesis are well documented (“they made women responsible for sin, blahh[sic]!”) she still wanted to submit her own creative interpretation of the ancient story. She said she was mainly interested in the idea of being the first person to experience time as we know it.

The lecture was a part of the Brown Bag Lecture Series, presented by the Women’s Resource Center.

Wells’ novels are available through the University of Alabama Press. The UA Press supports the works of several professors and alumni of the University.

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Speak-Off

On Tuesday, 13 November the University’s COM123 (Public Speaking) classes held this semester’s Speak-Off, a competition between students testing their ability to deliver a speech to an audience. I was one of the six contestants to make it to the final round.

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The rules were simple: deliver an informative speech on the topic of your choosing. Each lab section chose one of their own to compete in a preliminary round, and the TA’s judged which six would deliver their speeches in Morgan auditorium the next week. Promised extra credit in the class for attending the event, many COM123 students filled the seats in the audience.

The freedom to choose any topic we could imagine created a colorful variety of speeches. While I spent my time talking about how Spelling Bees have been portrayed in pop culture, another speaker, Haas Byrd, discussed this year’s NFL referee lockout.

One girl, Leah Juliano, took the stage to walk us through the life of Etta James, singing bits of the artist’s songs along the way. Christina Zabala took us behind the scenes of the hit sitcom, FRIENDS.

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Left: Juliano, Right: Zabala

The judges, three members of the College of Communication faculty, tallied their scores while a member of the forensics team performed a dramatic but comedic piece of prose. A few minutes later they announced that I was the winner.

While the challenge to go out on a stage in front of hundreds of my peers and simply talk was more than a little nerve-wracking (moments before I went on I actually fell down a flight of stairs backstage), I was ecstatic to be honored as the best speaker in the competition.

Harry Potter Alliance

The Harry Potter Alliance has recently begun this year’s mission of community service under the theme of the beloved fantasy series by J.K. Rowling. President Monica Day led the first meeting by introducing the new members to the HPA’s values of equal rights and opportunities via social action.

I don't find that surprising at all!

The club was advertised in chalk on the Ferguson Plaza.

The meeting began by sorting everyone his or her House. While being significant in the Harry Potter universe, within the HPA they represent specific issues that each team will work against, such as illiteracy or discrimination. The Houses also provide a quirky way of team-building that is a major strength of the organization. It is serious about making a difference, but not afraid to have fun while doing so.

Currently, the HPA is supporting the Not in Harry’s Name movement to ensure all Harry Potter-sponsored chocolate is bought and sold under Fair Trade agreements. The group also promotes the Wrock the Vote campaign which encourages consciousness of the issues of education and marriage equality when it comes to the coming election. The UA chapter of the HPA is working out the details of a bake sale and several members are walking in the Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk today, 14 October.

Perhaps the most pressing priority, however, is that Auburn has a new HPA club, and they think theirs is better than ours. Stay updated on a possible upcoming tournament of magical challenges.

Chicago

This week marks UA’s return from Fall Break, and the midterm point of the semester. I was lucky enough to catch a flight back to Chicago for the weekend, and took the time to relax with my family and friends from home.

One day while I was there, my girlfriend took me to her campus at DePaul University and to the Skydeck at the Willis (neé Sears) Tower. The tower recently had clear boxes installed on the 103rd floor that visitors can walk into to see the city from above.

Deanna and I waited in line behind spectators ranging from a man who refused to go in to have his picture taken, to one who insisted on doing pushups inside the box.

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As I stepped out onto the glass, I recognized the familiar combination of nausea and excitement that has come with the various first steps I have taken in my life. Not the least of which is my first step here at the University of Alabama, which has seen the birth of new relationships, habits, difficulties, and opportunities. Like standing in a glass box 1,300 feet from the ground, I know I have the support I need, but it doesn’t make the view less unnerving.

While my precious days at home were refreshing, classes start again this week, and I return to a different Skydeck.

C&IS CommUnity Gathering

On Wednesday, 26 September, members of the UA College of Communications convened at the steps of Reese Phifer for the second annual CommUnity Gathering, an event intended to inform and motivate communications students.

Associate professor, Dr. Jason Black introduced the event and commented on the changing face of the communications program, and the growth he has seen in the past few years. The president of <acronymtitle=”Alabama Student Society for Communication Arts”>ASSCA</acronym>, Susan Griffiths, was absent due to a prior engagement, but the VP read the speech she prepared about the importance of student involvement with the college. Finally, Dean Loy Singleton expressed his pride in the recognition that students and faculty receive, and read an impressive list of awards and honors that they have accumulated just in the past year.

After the speeches concluded, we students were ushered into the building to visit the many C&IS organizations that had set up tables in the Reese Phifer rotunda (and enjoy free pizza courtesy of the college). The room was packed with students, but the crowd flowed steadily in a circle passing each of the booths and their representatives.

If the goal of CommUnity was to make me eager to jump into the field of communications, then it worked. The surplus of talent and accomplishments in my fellow students reminded me that I was not going to reach their position by sitting around waiting for someone to notice me. It is my responsibility to show people what I can do. The long list of accolades that Dean Singleton provided also reminded me of the strong competition right here at the University and that there is no good time to stop making an effort to stay on top. The information I gathered from the student organizations was all useful, but the most valuable part of CommUnity for me was the picture of what these next four years will be like.

Free Flu Shots

If you have set foot on campus during the past few weeks, you should be aware that the Capstone College of Nursing is administering free flu shots to all students, faculty, and staff to prevent the spread of illness this season.

It is unknown if the poster is intentionally shaped like Illinois.

This poster is a reminder for the residents of Lakeside West, Floor 3, posted by the RA, Brianna Miller, who will be administering the shots on Friday.

The station had already given 450 shots this afternoon, 26 September, bringing the total to over 5,000 so far. The University has 8,000 vaccinations in all, and will continue its campaign until all the shots have been used.

I stopped by one of the nurses’ stations on the quad this afternoon before class to get my own vaccination, and I was pleasantly surprised by how painless and efficient the process was. From signing my name to getting the shot, I spent less than a minute with the UA nursing students before I asked to take my picture.

I didn't cry at all.

This is the nurse who put the shot in my arm

With the amount of unavoidable close contact the average student is subjected to in the winter months, getting vaccinated now is a no-brainer. As the nurses-to-be have been shouting at passers-by, “It’s free, so you might as well!”

Get-on-Board Day

On Tuesday, 11 September, over 200 of University of Alabama’s student organizations gathered to promote themselves and recruit new members for Get-On-Board Day. Thousands of students crowded the Ferguson Center Promenade gathering information, collecting SWAG (Stuff We All Get) and scribbling their names on e-mail lists. UA departments, local businesses and nonprofits also set up tables with their own presentations and prizes, raising the total number of organizations at the event to 340. GOBD also featured a stage at the Ferguson Plaza, where musical acts performed and organizations spoke during their own spotlight segment.

The groups at GOBD ranged from volunteer opportunities like Beat Hunger Beat Auburn, to enthusiasts of unique interests like the Crimson Tide Ballroom Dancers, to branches of nationwide communities like the NAACP and LGBT. For this journalist, the diversity and scope of the event was a vote of confidence for the face of the university today.

One group that stood out to me was Creative Campus, a body of students from various majors and backgrounds that organizes events from art shows, to special guest speakers to Quidditch games. As they talked through their presentation, one member handed me a piece of multicolored chalk.

One of my more interesting pieces of SWAG

She told me that the group’s goal is to “make campus a more interesting place.” Without any instructions on what to write with my chalk or where, she put me in charge of reaching that goal. While the effectiveness of the messages on the sidewalk of the quad is questionable, they are at the very least interesting. GOBD is a sign that now, more than ever, young people like the students at UA have the means and opportunity to make their opinion heard, celebrate what they love and reach out to others. The only thing up to us is the motivation.

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