I would have made this a Twitter roundup, but the #mla11 feed is admirably polite and professional, aside from concerns about cliquishness among a certain group. To which I say, this is a convention, not high school, so make your own group if you don’t like the dominant group. It can be done. It’s a large convention, not a cafeteria. Watch “Police Academy” or “Stripes” or any other inspiring misfit comedy, take some notes and call me in the morning.
Anyway, on to the roundup:
1. I haven’t seen much about individual interviews, but I feel comfortable saying that the award for Worst MLA Interview 2011 has already been won. Here’s a sliver from College Misery about an awkward meeting with an inside candidate … right in the middle of the interview:
“Oh, Glen is also a candidate for the job. But since he knows more about the position than the rest of us, we asked him to come along so that all the candidates would benefit from his knowledge.”
“And he left the room…” I started.
“Oh, yes,” the chair said. “It would be poor form for him to sit in for the interview.”
Poor form, indeed. I’d like to propose an MLA rule: If you have an inside candidate you like so much that you have him sit in on all the interviews, then at least save the other interviewees some trouble and use Skype. I’d also love to know how the candidate made it through that hot mess without going all Hulk on the committee.
2. Speaking of the Hulk, what would an MLA online roundup be without a comment from the MLA’s biggest star:
adjuncthulk: #MLA11 IS LIKE MARVEL COMIC: FULL OF LOTS OF PEOPLE IN FUNNY CLOTHES, NAMEDROPPING OTHER PEOPLE IN FUNNY CLOTHES!!!
May Adjunct Hulk get an even better job from the MLA … and not necessarily in academia. Adjunct Hulk has some serious comedy-writing chops!
Cover of Smart Set Magazine, September 1911. From Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Last time, we offered some tips about what to do and (mostly) what to eat near the MLA convention site downtown. Just to follow up, it looks like 9th and Hope is a food truck stop downtown, since the Roaming Hunger map shows a few trucks queued there.
At this point of the conference, you’re probably eager to get out and about a bit, especially since it’s also a Friday night. You might be done with your interviews by tonight, had your fill of going to panels, or just want to get away from networking central to catch your breath. Here are a few tips about what you can do around town, provided you have access to a car or are willing to pay for a cab–don’t know how much it costs to taxi it from downtown to, say, Hollywood, but I wouldn’t suggest paying a fare to go to Santa Monica or the West LA.
Below are a few relatively easy junkets you can do if you have some time to kill. Whether you can walk ’em is pretty subjective, though I pretty much end up driving from one place to the other, this being L.A. and all. Anyway, you won’t be able to get to these places without a car, whether you’ve rented one or are bumming a ride, so you might as well just worry about parking instead of walking. Again, click the links to get specific addresses and info on the locations listed.
Amoeba Records: The Hollywood Amoeba is probably the best record store anywhere, even though I’m partial to the original one in Berkeley. Forget stuffing your luggage with half-priced scores from the book fair, and save space for stacks of CDs, vinyl, and DVDs from Amoeba. If there’s music your looking for and you can’t find it anywhere else, they’ll have it at Amoeba — the used section itself is probably bigger than any other record store.
Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles: Just down Sunset towards the 101 and a short turn down Gower is Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. It is pretty as advertised, fried chicken and waffles, which you can have either sweet (with syrup) or savory (with gravy). The waffles are awesome by themselves, as is the fried chicken, but you just gotta eat ’em together. The menu is stacked with tons of great soul food, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve gotten the same Scoe’s Special every single time. Maybe, though, you should eat first, then shed the calories with record shopping.
Thai Town and Dinner with Thai Elvis: Or if you’re really into one-of-a-kind pop cultural phenomena, you might skip Roscoe’s and go up a big block to Hollywood Blvd and check out Thai Elvis at the Palms Thai. If you go at the right time, Thai Elvis will serenade you with classic sounds while you eat pretty good, affordable Thai food–actually someone I know who’s a foodie says it’s some of the best Thai food he’s had, but he was also sloshed when he told me this. Plus, once you’re on Hollywood Blvd, you might as well take a nice drive past all the touristy sites, like the Capitol Records building and the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Highland. You can see the Hollywood sign so that you can check that off your to-do list too.
More mini-trips, after the jump…
In an effort to be helpful without being (too) snarky, we at Post Academic want to offer up a semi-local guide to L.A. for MLA. We’ve been following the #mla11 tweets about folks grabbing food between sessions, and we wanna make sure you’ve got more choices than the monstrosity that L.A. Live apparently is. A couple of caveats: One, I’m pretty much allergic to alcohol so I’m not much help with bars, though I’m guessing most of MLA’ers are subscribing to the tradition of the hotel lobby drink and the cash bar circuit. Two, I’m not super-familiar with Downtown; for more recommendations, check out the LA Weekly restaurant guide. Three, you could just do the typical touristy stuff if you have time–like find your way to the beach, go see Hollywood, Beverly Hills, etc.–and that would be fine too.
But like I said, I think we can come up with some more choices than L.A. Live or room service, even if it means you need to take a cab or bum a ride. We’ll start with downtown now, then cover some sites of interest that’ll definitely require a car tomorrow, once you’re starting to feel a little stir crazy stuck at the convention. For exact locations, click on the links to the sites’ sites.
Stuff within Walking-Shuttle-Short-Taxi Distance
Mexican Food!: There are two Los Angeles institutions within walking distance. If you’re staying at the Bonaventure or up that way, there’s Border Grill’s downtown outpost. Foodies will know that Border Grill is a pioneering gourmet Mexican food. Closer to the convention hub is El Cholo, which specializes in hearty, greasy, yummy Mexican classics. You know, just what you want right before an interview or giving a paper at a session.
Downtown Walking Tour: After eating the heavy Mexican food, you could check out some of the interesting architectural sites downtown, from the Bonaventure (made theoretically famous by Jameson’s Postmodernism) to Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. In particular, walking around/through/inside/on top of Disney Hall is really fun, actually better than taking in a performance, since the seats feel tight and the decor looks 80s. Plus, you can feel like your on the set of some of your favorite L.A. movies, whether it’s L.A. Confidential at City Hall or Blade Runner and Die Hard near the deserted skyscrapers or the random greenspaces of (500) Days of Summer.
Chinatown: You won’t be able to walk there and it can seem quiet after dark, but L.A. Chinatown is a nice combination of kitschy and hip. You can grab on-the-go pastries and Boba tea at various bakeries or take some time and have dim sum. Phoenix Bakery has always looked pretty cool, though I’ve never been there. Late night, there’s a fun live-band karaoke bar called Grand Star Jazz Club. And if you don’t want Asian food, nearby is Philippe’s, The Original, the self-proclaimed home of the French Dip!
Little Tokyo: A little bit closer to convention central, but probably not all that walkable is Little Tokyo. The blocks around Little Tokyo are really walkable and offer up lots of good food choices, like sushi, ramen, and lots of frozen yogurt. There’s also some two great museums worth spending some time at: the Japanese American National Museum and the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. (There’s also the main MOCA across the street from Disney Hall on Grand, but the Geffen Contemporary is more fun, I think.) The Japanese American National Museum includes the must-see internment camp barrack, along with interesting permanent and rotating exhibits. The Geffen Contemporary houses a lot of hip exhibits — in the past, it featured the big Murakami show and Gregor Schneider’s Dead House U R installation. And apparently there has been a big brouhaha about some graffiti art that was commissioned by MOCA, only to be whitewashed.
Food Trucks: What would a trip to L.A. be without sampling its latest, greatest food innovation, the food truck. And as luck would have it, the grandaddy of all food truck, Kogi truck, will be serving pretty close to MLA at 9th and Hope for Friday dinner, 6:30 PM to 8:30. Unfortunately, some of my other favorites — Grilled Cheese Truck and reality show stars Nom Nom Truck — aren’t headed to downtown. But a lot of trucks congregate in the same area, so maybe you’ll find some others near Kogi. Otherwise, check out the Roaming Hunger LA site, which has a real-time map of where the trucks are, provided you’ve been able to figure out the downtown landscape well enough.
Tomorrow, we’ll give you some suggestions for some fun destinations you can head to, if you can spare a few hours away from MLA or if you want to celebrate finishing your interviews.
If you’re getting jittery because your MLA interviews are but hours away and you’re too paralyzed to do anything but read Post Academic for some reason, you might as well take a look and tick off what’s on our handy little checklist below. For real, nuts-and-bolts advice, check out this great post from On the Fence by our blog friend Eliza Woolf and this piece from Inside Higher Ed by Claire Potter (aka Tenured Radical) on MLA and AHA convention interviews. One note of caution about Tenured Radical’s piece: Do prep your dissertation spiel, but be forewarned that it’s not always the ice-breaker question and might appear in a less explicit form, at least for MLA interviews. Just be flexible and don’t automatically go into rote memorization robot mode right when you step in the room — my first ever interview question was to describe my best undergrad experience, which was not anything anyone prepared me for.
1. Do you know where to go for your interviews and when? Think this one’s obvious? I had a friend who once missed an interview because she had the wrong time written down. Also, hotel suites can change, so check in at the job information center and maybe have a contact email/cell number ready.
2. Did you turn off your cellphone? Once you know where you’re going and everything’s set, be sure to turn off your cellphone. The Search Committee might take calls to, you know, make lunch plans, but you sure as heck shouldn’t.
3. Did you bring a pad of paper and pen? Like we wrote last time, look interested!
4. Did you bring your sample syllabi? And be sure to bring enough for everyone!
5. Do you have your prepped questions for the search committee? Committees usually give you a chance to ask questions. Use the time wisely to catch your breath and take control of the interview for at least a little bit. Good questions also show that you’ve done your homework.
6. Did you bring your emergency bottle of water? If you’re a germaphobe like me, bring your own water. And if you’re not, bring your own water because they might not have any for you. You can always take a sip and use it as a time-out to collect yourself — just don’t do it *too many* times.
7. Did you pee? If you did bring your own water, don’t drink too much of it! And be prepared in advance in case you do.
We’re probably getting to this a little late to be tipping you as to what to bring with you to MLA 11 in LA, since many folks are either here or on your way. But just in case you’re furiously packing and happen to be online at the same time, here are a few essentials you might want to take with you westward — unless you happen to one of the peeps tweeting about going to MLA with only carry-on luggage! (FYI: For the latest helpful, not-so-helpful, and absurd MLA tweets, search #MLA11 when you’re on Twitter.)
BRING your computer: I mentioned a while back that it might not be a bad idea to leave your computer at home and be unencumbered with extra baggage–literally and figuratively–for MLA. OK, I lied: Do bring your computer, because no one is ever 100% prepared before arriving at MLA. In addition to logging onto Post Academic, of course, you can use your laptop to do practical things like looking up people on the search committee, skimming their writing via JSTOR via your school library network, finishing up any docs you need for the interview, and finding where the nearest FedEx Office (aka Kinkos) is so that you don’t hafta pay the ridiculous hotel “business office” printing rates. If nothing else, your computer is a security blanket, so don’t be without it now!
BRING your sample syllabi: Speaking of sample syllabi, always bring ’em to interviews, whether solicited or not. Search committees always get giddy over them and it gives you something concrete to talk about, kinda like a script that lets you control the flow of the discussion at least a little bit. I always do up fake real ones that fit the quarter or semester schedule the school is on, but the best is real real syllabi you’ve taught. Why? You don’t have to make things up, you don’t have to put books on that you actually haven’t read and might be asked about, and you have actual teaching experience to talk about. Sample syllabi are great however you slice it, as long as you don’t out-think yourself and sweat too many of the details.
BRING a pad of paper and pen: Go old-school by bringing a pad and pen, preferably in that portfolio you got from our Xmas gift list. Come prepared by bringing some questions for the search committee which show you’ve done you’re homework. It’s also important to show that you’re interested enough in the minutiae of the job that you’re taking notes, from teaching load to distribution requirements to whatever arcane curricular ephemera that every school is proud of. Have something on paper to follow-up on, which can also help you catch your breath in the middle of an interview. Also, it might help jog your memory when you’re inevitably playing rewind in your mind after the face-to-face.
DON’T BRING books: We talked about this already. Trust me, you won’t have time to glean the plot points of all the book you haven’t read but feel you should’ve. Just avoid talking about them by not putting them in your sample syllabi on in your dissertation spiel. You’ll have plenty of things that you know a lot about to talk about anyway. Plus, save luggage space to bring books home from the MLA book fair, if that floats your boat.
DON’T BRING a heavy jacket: Hey, it’s Los Angeles, not Philly or Chicago. I know, it’s been raining more than ever in So Cal this past month, but it’s really not that cold for most of you from Midwest and East Coast winter climates. It looks like the weekend will be in the 60s, so you definitely don’t need that cold weather coat you brought for all those other MLAs. A nice coat will do or you could even go to your interview in just your suit for a change!
BRING a sense of perspective: Everyone is stressed out and, being language types, we read way too much into everything. You’ll be nervous and paranoid about strangers thinking that they have their own agendas, and maybe even look sideways at your bestest friends–believe me, I’ve been embroiled more friend drama at MLA than anywhere else, between folks feeling slighted by not hanging out and others getting bent out of shape comparing job interviews. Try not to let everything get to you and remember that you’re probably acting just as weird as you think everyone else is!
I started to do some holiday shopping over the weekend, only to realize that I have no idea what to get people I’m supposed to get gifts for (except my daughter, who wants everything that’s on an ad on Nick) and that I actually really don’t want anything myself. It’s not that I’m against conspicuous consumption or anything, it’s just that there’s so much stuff on display that nothing stands out or seems that appealing. Me, I think I’m gonna go to Amoeba and trade in a bunch of old records, then take what I get back to treat myself to CDs and DVDs.
This got me thinking about what I might want — besides a tenure-track job in a place I want to live — if I was going to MLA and was spending all my holiday time and mental energy thinking about interviews. So we’re throwing together a little Post Academic holiday wish list, whether you’re the interviewee who doesn’t know what you want or you have a prickly, finicky academic to shop for…
Portfolio: I’m of a mind that less is more when it comes to interviewing. So why carry a big bookbag full of stuff to your MLA interview and risk something falling out of your bag that may or may not embarrass you? Really, all you need is to bring a pad of paper, a pen, and maybe sample syllabi — oh, that’s another blog topic for another day — which fit nicely into a portfolio. It’s more streamlined and you look neat carrying a presentable one with your fancy clothes. The thing is, a nice AND affordable one is actually a lot harder to find than you’d think; the ones at frou-frou stationary stores can get pricey and cheapy plastic ones are more befitting an undergrad. I got a pretty good leather-looking Swiss Army one at Office Depot for around $30 — then I lost it at MLA, though it was at least after my interviews. Can’t seem to find it online, but something like this would do the trick…
More stuff to ask Santa for, after the jump…
This post goes out to all you bright-eyed, bushy-tailed dissertators who are full of hope and, probably for good reason, looking forward to a bright future in academia. Of course, I’m not entirely sure why you’d be reading this blog if that describes you, unless you’re just wasting time on the Academic Jobs Wiki and you unknowingly stray here from there. In any case, maybe you can learn something about what NOT to do when you land your first MLA interview, from what happened to me five years ago in DC.
Here’s the backstory: In my first real go-round, I got one interview request from a pretty elite SLAC (Small Liberal Arts College, if you’re not in the know) for a job in what’s now my area of specialization — except that it wasn’t my field of expertise then, unless 40% of my diss counts as “expertise.” Suffice it to say that I didn’t get the position, though I didn’t actually think I had much of a chance to begin with and looked at the whole thing as a learning experience. Which leads me to my first piece of advice for first-time jobseekers…
Don’t waste opportunities: Only in academia do you tell yourself that it’s okay to spend about a thousand dollars and waste the days off between Christmas and New Year’s just to make yourself a better job candidate *next* time — or the next time or the next or the next. That’s the attitude I had going in, which I suppose might’ve been a defense mechanism for my self-esteem or a not-so-great way to try to take the pressure off myself. But it’s a bad gameplan to go into something thinking that you’re going to lose. So even though I had better possibilities and fits later on, there are never enough opportunities for you to just to write one off.
More things not to do, below the fold…
So here’s yet another reason why you should bolt from the conference site as soon as you can: What do you do when you run into your interviewers outside the headquarters hotel or on an escalator or at a restaurant? Most people would say you should just act normally, like you would with any acquaintance. OK, I think I can do that. But I always end up feeling compelled to stretch out the small talk, which then gets me into trouble because I wonder whether this goes into the interview file or if I’m expected to show how much I want the job at every turn. In the end, I imagine search committee folks would be even less psyched to be caught in these situations, having to be reminded of job interviews after doing a few whole days of them.
Here’s what runs through my mind when I see one of my interviewers coming right towards me when it’s too late to do anything about it…
No, I’m not a stalker: Rather than just assume that an interviewer would see a chance run-in for what it really is, a mere coincidence, I get too caught up in my own head and start to worry s/he might get the wrong idea. One time, I found myself walking right behind the search committee directly after an interview, which definitely might’ve seem stalker-ish. On a few occasions, I averted my eyes or dart off in another direction, hoping to avoid eye contact — I don’t know if this strategy works, since I’ve never looked back for fear of getting caught. My own neuroses capture the mood swings of the job search process, which go from feeling completely miniscule to megalomaniacal, thinking that I matter *that* much to search committee folks who’ve probably set aside my file and put me out of their minds the instant I’ve walked out of that hotel suite.
More after the jump…
I know, it’s a little early to start thinking about MLA interviews, especially since the first notifications probably aren’t happening for almost a month. And who knows how things are gonna work this year, when MLA is a few weeks later — or, at least, I don’t know, because I didn’t go on the market? What, could they be notifying you after New Year’s this go-round?
Anyhow, I’m gonna start strolling down memory lane with a series of posts about my MLA interviews, ranging from mildly annoying to writing’s-on-the-wall uneventful to ego-crushing abysmal. I figured that the sooner a hypothetical would-be interviewee could learn from my mistakes, the better prepared s/he might be — though I would hardly say that I gained too much from experience, because new problems would pop up the next time.
Before we get going with the first post, here’s a sample of coming attractions…
* See my dream job interview turn into a nightmare when I’m told that I should’ve focused on a different book for a diss chapter and that the premise of another chapter was completely wrong! And that’s before the search chair got confused about which UC that I came from…
* Then experience how I totally called it in for my next interview, because I didn’t really see the point…
* Watch me climb about 10 stories from lobby to hotel suite for an interview, because all the elevators were jammed up…
* Try and fathom why I decided *not* to go to MLA, just because I had only one interview for a school I didn’t really want to apply to in the first place…
* Feel my jitters as I go into my very first interview, where I’m so tongue-tied I can’t even spit out the formalities without stuttering.
Rather than start chronologically, I’ll begin with the interview I found the most perplexing and inappropriate. I wrote about this a while back, but what better way to kick off the “Interviews You Don’t Want to Have” series than with “Inappropriate Academic Interview #1”, which I’ve cut-and-pasted in its entirety after the jump…
We’re launching a mini-series here about the interpersonal skills you need to navigate the academic job market. You might almost be through the initial stages which only require you to know enough about which formalities to include in a cover letter or introduction email. But soon, you’ll probably have to interact with real, live people about what’s happening with your job search, from friends, family, and mentors on your side to search committees and administrators on the other end. And sometimes, it might actually be harder and demand more diplomacy from you to talk to those folks who are cheering you on than it is with complete strangers with your future in their hands.
We’ll start with your friends, though I’m not exactly one to speak here, because I don’t think I’ve talked to or corresponded with any of my grad school peeps in months–if any of those folks are reading this, I’m not slighting you, but I’ve pretty much stopped using my cellphone to talk to anyone but family these days. When I’m not AWOL, my friends are the ones who are not only my support system to get me through the ups-and-downs of the job application process, but also a source of good gossip and scoop, especially when we’re applying for the same jobs. And I do my best to return the favor too.
The thing is, what’s a boon can also lead to some prickly situations. And let me tell you, the job market requires interpersonal skills even with the people you know best, since I’ve definitely had a few friend flare-ups, though no friend break-ups as far as I know. Below are a few aspects of relationships that develop or change with the whims of the job market:
Unconditional Support: While I’ve always considered myself a good friend and someone that people can rely on, I have to admit that I get peeved when I don’t feel that the give-and-take is mutual. But in a lot of cases, I probably owe more than I’ve given, though my friends probably aren’t the kind of keep score like I sometimes do. Pretty much everyone I’ve been close to has stuck with me through thin and thinner, and given me feedback that doesn’t hold back, but they can deliver constructive criticism in way that builds me up and gets me to work harder rather than bum me out. Whether or not what they tell you actually means anything to anyone else is up in the air, but it doesn’t matter much when you need a pick-me-up.
More types of more complicated relationships after the jump…