“Pick a country in Eastern Europe.” “Ukraine?” “Pick a hair color.” “…Red? Why?”
For a podcast series, I was recently asked to do a dramatic reading of Violet, the text adventure game I wrote as my Secret Hobby Project of 2008. Maybe I’ll talk about that later, but suffice it to say that text adventures (much less dramatic readings thereof) are niche interests that I have no illusions correspond to the niche interests of this blog.
However: the opening 3:20 of the podcast is me recounting an altogether insane text-ing adventure that happened the last week of my stint in Paris this spring, and if curious, click here. (Also a must-click for any adenoidal-voice fetishists.)
I just received my invitation to participate in the 4th Annual “Professors Unplugged.” While it sounds to me like it’s an evening of professors who have gone off the deep end, it’s
also actually a talent show hosted by the College of First Year Studies – a forum for faculty to “showcase their talents that are not usually seen by students.” The email suggests “singing, poetry or short story reading, dancing, and the like.”
If I sign up, I promise to tell you what I choose to showcase. In the meantime, what’s your hidden talent?
The below comes from my colleague Philip Cohen. (Spanier was president of Penn State from 1995 until yesterday):
Excerpts from Graham Spanier’s article: “Higher Education Administration: One Sociologist’s View,” Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer, 1990), pp. 295-300, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1389050.
I truly believe that it is something like athletic accomplishment. To be really good you must want to do it, be willing to make the sacrifice, put in the hours of preparation, and stick with it against sometimes great odds. But apart from such commitment, only some will move to positions at the highest level, because some basic personal characteristics must be there to begin with and they are not easily learned. The most dedicated athlete may simply not make the cut. Similarly, some faculty just aren’t cut out for administration, despite a keen interest in it.
Continued involvement in the profession doesn’t have to focus on the collection of original data. It can entail involvement in association leadership positions, an occasional book review, an essay of the sort that an “elder statesman” might write, and teaching a course from time to time. Such involvement is also good insurance. Administrative positions have always been vulnerable, and are increasingly so. Academics must preserve the opportunity to return to a productive role as a faculty member, not just the right to return to a tenured position.
My plea is not that administrators should have thick skins. Rather, one needs perspective. One must be prepared to feel bad, be able to survive it, and then bounce back quickly-very quickly-and get everything back on track. If you can’t handle the occasional attack, don’t subject yourself to it. (On the other hand, if this happens a lot you are probably doing something wrong and shouldn’t be in the job in the first place.)
Don’t accept an administrative position unless you are prepared to make every decision in relation to what is best for the institution. You should have your own agenda, of course, but every decision must be weighed in relation to the good of the university. The easy decision is often one that is not best for the department, college, or university in the long run. If you can’t make that tough decision, don’t take the job.
Administrators who are fearful of the consequences of a controversial or difficult decision often make the choice that is not in the best interests of the institution. Realism and compromise find their way into most tough situations, but above all, be committed to integrity and principle.
As long as we’re having name tag ribbons, I think we should also make a sash. The sash should be given as a great honor, worn by a different person each day. We can decide who gets it through a series of competitions. One of the competitions should be at the scatterplot party, and the sash will be given as a door prize based on some criteria. I suggest the criteria be, “that person who clearly least wants the sash.” But that’s negotiable. There’s no way org theory will have a sash. Take that, org theory!
So this morning I’m calling to set up an appointment to get my hair cut.
Shamus: I need a hair cut.
Salon: Great! [Details…] Oh! And we’re having a special right now. With a hair cut you get a free make-up consult.
Shamus: Um… I’m single. [Meaning: there’s no one in my life who could use that]
Salon: PERFECT! This could be that extra thing to give you a boost in your dating life.
Shamus: Um… something tells me… [Interrupted]
Salon: You know, a lot of men are using make up to enhance their natural features. How old are you?
Salon: PERFECT! I mean, you’re much too young for a little nip/tuck! But you’ll find that eye liner and a little foundation can do wonders, and even hold off that knife for a few years.
Shamus: Um… something tells me you’re not the salon for me…
Salon: WHAT? We could be just what you need.
Shamus: If you met me, you’d realize how surreal this conversation is.
Continue reading “adventures in new york”
“Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.”
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter, “The Bug”
I can’t stand how the phrase “a whole nother” has slipped into our language (447,000 hits on Google, the variant in the title produces a mere 25,500 hits). I’m hearing it everywhere these days–even news anchors are saying it now! The worst part, it’s so ubiquitous it is coming out of MY mouth. This madness must stop.
It reminds me of a whole nother error, “irregardless,” which, of course, is not a word, and even if it were, it would mean the opposite of what its typical user means to say. For years, I made fun of people who used this word. As a result, I was actually saying the “word” quite a bit, in a mocking tone. And, it started sticking in my brain as a result. One day in graduate school while chatting with one of my professors, it actually slipped out of my mouth. Before I could get to the convoluted explanation of how this could possibly have happened, said professor corrected me “I think you mean either irrespective or regardless.” I was mortified.
Similarly, I once had the word “epiphone” on my mind, which is a brand of guitar (the cheaper line of the Gibson company). I always thought that was a dumb name for a guitar brand, and had been facetiously pronouncing it “epiphany” since high school. Then one day I was writing an email to my advisor in grad school, announcing I had been working on some kind of difficult problem and had had an “epiphone!”*
I’m not sure if there is a lesson in this, other than to avoid repeating other peoples’ mistakes, even in gest, because its going to take up residents in you’re mind and come back to bite you in the but.
*I’m extremely curious if this person remembers the exchange. The answer is probably no, which will verify my expectation that the things that seem so big in our own minds are routinely ignored by others.
I spoke at Northwestern’s proseminar for first-year graduate students yesterday. You know that family dinner scene in Say Anything where Lloyd Dobbler realizes he’s started off badly and tries to talk his way out of it and comes across worse and then tries to talk his way out of that and comes across worse still? That’s me. If only I had been holding a boombox over my head and it was pouring rain in the seminar room, I would have been Lloyd Dobbler exactly. Seriously, by the end I felt like somebody who was coming across like he had just stepped off the mothership, and I’m not talking the P-Funk Mothership. Continue reading “another oratorical misadventure”