Post Academic

The Post Academic Holiday Gift Guide

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on December 14, 2010
Tags: , ,

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…

"Chicago Santa Claus 1902" by Chicago Daily News (Public Domain)

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…

Dreamsack: I admit I can be a bit of a prima donna when it comes to icky hotel rooms.  Then again, interviews are high stress and the last thing you want are gross living quarters.  But when you’re fronting a bunch of credit — er, debt — during the holidays to go to MLA, there’s only so much you want to spend.  As great as TripAdvisor can be giving you an idea about the hotel,  you won’t really know what it’s gonna be like until you’re there.  So be prepared and ask for/get yourself a Dreamsack, like this one from Magellan’s: It’s basically a thin silk sheet sewed-up into a sleeping bag that you can use as a liner inside your hotel bed.  The thing is, it’s actually pretty warm and you can use it over and over again whenever you travel.  The bonus is that it folds up into a little package, so it won’t take up any luggage space.

Mini Shemergency Kit: My wife vouches for the Mini Shemergency Kit, and it looks like Amazon shoppers agree — they’re currently out of stock!  I’m probably a brow-waxing short of being a metrosexual, but I can see how something that has go-to grooming devices might come in handy for pretty much anyone getting ready to look and do their best.  Maybe you don’t have to go for the name brand and make your own equivalent for a good stocking stuffer.  Now that’s pretty metrosexual of me!

Stuff for the Airplane: The biggest pain of MLA and probably of the holiday season in general is traveling.  Since your dear interviewees will be in transit and waiting to be in transit for a good chunk of time, why not get ’em something for all their travels, like iTunes credits to download music or movies or apps?  Or if your travel mileage is transferable — I wouldn’t know, since I never accrue mileage because I just go for the cheapest flight — maybe you could get ’em vouchers to help them get an upgraded seat or those snack boxes.  Anything that makes the trip go faster is much appreciated.

"Hickory Farms Product" by Stepshep (Creative Commons license)

Groceries: I don’t just mean gift certificates to a fancy-schmancy Whole Foods or the intelligentsia’s stand-by Trader Joe’s, I mean actual groceries or some kind of homemade Hickory Farms-ish food basket, just more balanced and organic than the one pictured..  Because when a discombobulated job candidate is in the zone preparing or in the middle of freaking out, the last thing s/he wants to do is go to the market and figure out what to eat.  So bring them something to keep them going, whether it’s snackies to keep them going or easy-to-put-together meals.  Even if you think it’s better for them to get out of their apartment for some fresh air, they’ll probably prefer to hunker down and power through their work.  Maybe a nice take-out dinner to eat-in would work, for a special treat.

Cold Hard Cash: Just forget the pretense of finding something that shows you care and break out your wallets.  Being Chinese, my family never had any scruples about stuffing some crisp bills into an envelope for just about any occasion that calls for a gift.  Don’t be sentimental or worry about trying: Whether it’s for taking care of last-minute needs or cab fare or a few drinks or whatever, your academic will know how to spend the money better than you do.

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