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March 08, 1985 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-03-08
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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The production is fair, but the band
could use a lot more depth of
sound-the songs cry for the kind of
polished mix that, unfortunately, only
money can usually buy. The extreme
good humor that Mary's Birthday con-
veys make me hope that they'll arrange
another A2 date soon-this kind of
goodwill is hard to come by. D.H.

Mary's Birthday-Quite Contrary (Ultra
modern Records, EP)
Detroit synthpop trio Mary's Birthday
made an auspicious Ann Arbor debut
last term as openers for the Waitresses
at the Michigan Ballroom. Technical-
dilemmas and dreadful acoustics cur-
tailed their set after a scant five songs,
so it's no small accomplishment that
the band still managed to convey a lot
of charm. This five-song EP is not
great, but it conveys adequately the
band's disarming interest in nothing
but good, semi-clean fun. The cover of
"King of the Road" is a clear mistake,
and the potentially appealling "Swtich"
is simply too speed-crazed to succeed
as it ought. But the jovial "Mary's
Rap" spells out the group's anti-dirge
philosophy ("Just ask the band.and you
will see/the way to be is not scary"),
and "Bang!" amusingly chronicles the
terror of snagging an unwelcome bar
conquest in chanty Comateens-type
white funk fashion. A bit more
songwriting expertise and a bit less tin-
niness from keyboard/quitar sounds,
and this outfit will be more than A-OK.

Hunters and Colletors-The Jaws of
Life (Slash)
A perfect example of the sort of band
one wants to like but can't, quite. Hun-
ters and Collectors are an Australian
outfit who (quoting the bio) "first for-
med in 1980 in Melbourne. . . initially
including upward of 20 people on stage,
then believing that large numbers
enhanced the spiritely woven imagery
of their music. Several albums, per-
sonnel changes and continent shifts
followed, causing many fans to scratch
their heads wondering what was going
on." Some of us are still scratching.
This beat-happy eight piece (current
weight) is impressively eccentric and
varied, but The Jaws of Life leaves
their appeal as confused as ever. With
its abrasive lead vocals, big horn sec-
tions ans still bigger bass/drums
/guitar sound, Hunters and Collectors
sound like a big-band art-wave group.

Too bad they don't quite make sense as
one. The lack of particularly strong
songwriting or a coherent point of view
renders this interesting but still tran-
sitional-sounding stuff for the adven-
tureous. D.-H.
Love Tractor - Love Tractor
(dB/Landslide Records)
Love Tractor has been rumbling
around the now-lusted-after Atlanta
scene in a state of semi-obscurity for
some years now, last year putting out
an EP, Till The Cows Come Home, that
was a seamlessly beautiful com-
bination of songs and instrumental
tracks. We tend to think of instrumen-
tals in pop/rock as filler, or as slim ex-
cuses for virtuoistic indulgence, but
Love Tractor's are so un-hellbent on
featuring soloists - they're such fully
realized compositions - that the lack of
vocals is never missed, or even noticed.
This disc repackages some of the
band's best material from Cows
("Neon Lights") and from their two
earlier long-plays, Around the Bend
and Love Tractor, and it's never less
than completely persuasive.
Beautifully' layered
guitar/bass/rhythm textures, with oc-
casional horn and keyboard extras. The
sound squares off, odd as it may seem,
as a sort of early-New Order-meete-
Ventures thing, without the neurotic
obsessiveness or of the former or the
genre limitations of the latter. There's
a certain value here in psychedelia and
'60's-revival value, but Love Tractor
doesn't really confine itself enough to
allow any easy genrefication. My par-
ticular fave is "Seventeen Days," in
which two guitars lazily interweave in
what starts out as a simple crossstitch
and ends up on the edge of a very large
tapestry. But, as they must say
somewhere, it's all cool, man. D. H.

Elvis Presley - A Valentine Gift for
You (RCA)
As part of Elvis' 50th anniversary,
RCA has been re-releasing Elvis singles,
mono recordings, and (here) greatest
hits packages. Elvis is of course Elvis,
but this is surely one of the weaker of-
ferings the second time around. It isn't
so much that Elvis is out of form, just
that by collecting the "love songs" RCA
is presenting only one side of the King.
This album does offer "Are You
Lonesome Tonight?," "Can't Help
Falling in Love," and a cover of Bob
Dylan's "Tomorrow is a Long Time,"
but in the end it comes across as one-
dimensional. The re-releases of Elvis
Presley (his first album) and Elvis'.
Golden Records are more worthwhile.
One last note, though, Valentine is
being released on red vinyl, whatever
that's worth. J.K.
John Hiatt - Warming Up the Ice Age
(Geffen)
Hiatt is a long-time blues artist
making a grab for crossover success.
His gimmick is a marriage of a funky
rhythm to topnotch blues. Horrible as it
may sound, he pulls it off excellently.
The sugar coating never completely
covers up the blues underneath and
makes for a fresh blend that works both
for dancing and listening. Working with
a variety of styles within the
framework, Hiatt appraoches at dif-
ferent times such different sounds as
ZZ Top, Elvis Costello (who chips in
back-up vocals on one number), and
Albert King, but never loses his own
identity. With luck, "Number One
Honest Game" could turn into a
crossover hit, but either way the album
is certainly worth looking into. J.K.

;-; - II- I.II

Ts:
A prof's
equal?
By Sean Jackson
"Why can't a professor teach this
course?"
"My TA doesn't speak English."
"I'm not paying $7,000 -a year to be
taught by a graduate student."
"Ihate TAs."
T O UNDERGRADUATES AT THE
University, the above complaints
sound familiar. Students complain
about the quality of graduate student
teaching assistants and ask why many
professors spend a great deal of time on
research and graduate study rather
than undergraduate teaching.
TAs have been an integral part of un-
dergraduate education for 20 years, but
that may soon change. In the next few
years the University's liberal arts
college may shift its emphasis on
research and graduate study in order to
improve the reputation of the un-
dergraduate program.
At a recent faculty meeting, LSA
Dean Peter Steiner said the college
faculty should consider replacing the
graduate students who teach freshman
and sophomore courses with professors
and professional teachers.
Steiner emphasized that he has not
yet decided whether to implement such
a plan. "I'm thinking about it. Whether
or not it's got merit I don't know." But
whether or not Steiner's suggestion will
ever be implemented, it highlights the
serious questions surrounding the use
of TAs.
THE REASON FOR THE
change, the dean said, is that the
current system of teaching is outdated.
The combination of lectures by faculty
members and discussion sections led by
TAs began to be used here with the post-
war baby boom.
In less than a decade, starting in 1956,
undergraduate enrollment increased
by 200 percent while there was only a 50
percent boost in the number of faculty.
After four years of college, an in-
creasing number of students sought the
opportunity to do graduate work and
research. By creating the role of the
teaching assistant, LSA was able to
handle the large number of un-
dergraduates and make faculty
available for graduate study and
research. Graduate students were able
to support themselves with the teaching
jobs.
The first major change in that system
came during the Vietnam War as more
and more graduates began to attend
law, business, and engineering schools.
The drop in graduate liberal arts
students led LSA to encourage
graduates to stay longer, accept more
foreign students, and admit lower
quality students to serve as TAs.
That system remains in use today,
but another major change in the
academic market could lead to a dif-

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Psych. Prof. Richard Mann: TA's ar
ferent system. The number of high
school graduates in the University's
prime recruiting grounds of Michigan,
Illinois, and the Northeast will drop
sharply by the end of this decade. A 17
percent drop in expected in 1989 alone,
followed by an additional 9 percent drop
in 1990.
By reducing the number of teaching
assistants, the college could con-
ceivably improve the reputation of its
undergraduate program and recruit
more students. If the student body is to
remain the same size despite the drop
in the number of high school graduates,
the University will have to actively
compete for undergraduates.
THE PLAN WHICH Steiner has put
on the table would replace many
of the TAs with professors and full-time
lecturers. While the students who com-
plain about their TAs might be quick to
approve such a plan, others argue that
TAs are the best teachers for un-
dergraduates.
The debate centers around two
issues--who is best at teaching un-
dergraduates and whether the faculty
and the University would be willing to
lessen the emphasis on research and
advanced work.
The TA's initial problem is a lack of
teaching experience. It varies from
year to year, according to Professor
.Nancy Konigsberg, the co-author of a
handbook for teaching assistants. "We
find that the majority of them have not
taught before."
Konigsberg says that before the han-
dbook, originally printed in 1980 by the
Center for Research on Learning and

Teaching, incoming teaching assistants
were only given a book about the city
similar to the one given to incoming
freshpersons.
The book contains articles about the
art of lecturing, how to conduct
discussion sections, questioning
techniques, and designing exams. All
TA's are invited to orientation sessions
before school starts where teaching
techniques are discussed and the han-
dbook is passed out.
Before the creation of the handbook
and orientation, TAs were having
,problems. "There were graduate
students asking for help," said
Konigsberg, who formerly directed the
orientation. "There were still a sub-
stantial number of departments who
were not doing anything to train their,
graduate students. How can they learn
about teaching when they don't have
any assistance from their own depar-
tment?"
Idealistically, the basic training
would come at the orientation with
specifics offered by the departments,
said Konigsberg, now a Chemistry lec-
turer. According to James Kulik, a
research scientist for CRLT, "the basic
responsibility has to be through the
department" since the orientation
programs are voluntary.
The orientation programs, however,
do not appear to make up for the lack of
teaching experience, according to
Kulik. He reviews the results of the
3,500 course evaluations conducted by
CRLT every semester.
"Student ratings of the (new) TAs are
somewhat lower than individual faculty
members," he said. "After the fire
semester there was a notable im-

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PERSONAL AD

much, much more, with a

(764-0557)

14 Weekend/Friday, March 8, 1985

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