Post Academic


Live Blogging (kinda) James Franco at the Oscars

Posted in Absurdities by postacademic on February 27, 2011
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You didn’t think we’d miss out on the opportunity to live blog — as best we can, at least — about James Franco at the Oscars, or at least anything related to his adventures as a Ph.D. student.  Here’s what we’ve caught of the coverage so far…

5:00 PM (west coast time): James Franco does a promo interview in some kind of fake bar setting, talking about his hosting duties.  The interviewer asked him what is was like spending the last two weeks prepping for the broadcast, when he quickly corrects that he has only been here for the weekends because of…wait for it…class!  So that’s the first mention of grad school, for any of you playing James Franco drinking game.  The ha-ha banter continues, with something about taking an Oscars class and acing it, though Franco does flash some self-deprecating humor to the random correspondent about getting a B+.

What are odds that we’ll hear about Yale during the monologue?

5:45 PM: What, no grad school jokes so far?  What a let down…

6:45 PM: I’m getting hungry waiting for some grad school jokes.  I have to say, though, that Franco is pretty good, much better than the trying-too-hard Anne Hathaway, imho.  He’s got that too-cool-for-seminar thing down pat.

6:55 PM: He gave a shout-out to nerds–does that count?

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The life of a grad student, James Franco-style

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on November 14, 2010
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Guess what?  It’s time for another James Franco post, which might be timely because our modern-day Renaissance man has a new movie — 127 Hours — and a new book — the short story collection, Palo Alto — to promote.  Some of the promo interviews Franco has given for the film deal with how grad school is going for him, which provides some good fodder for the blog.

Actually, Franco’s day-to-day life as a grad student might not sound that different the rest of us.  Even if his lecture snooze seen round cyberspace might suggest otherwise, he apparently doesn’t sleep very much, getting by on five hours of sleep.  And he’s late to sidejob because he didn’t want to miss class, although I imagine no one else’s office is on the red carpet.  Such was the case when apparently showed up late at the premiere of 127 Hours in NYC, since he didn’t want to skip out on Michael Warner’s seminar on Walt Whitman.

As for the rest of his grad school experience up to now, we’ll let Mr. Franco speak for himself, especially because he has had a lot to say about it.

On his grad school applications and admissions: “I applied to 15 creative writing Ph.D. programs. I got into 14. Some of them only accepted one fiction writer. I know there’s this idea that I’m getting a lot of opportunities because I’m a celebrity, and there certainly is truth to that, but it’s not like I’m coasting. I’m working all the time. Short of writing under an alias, I’m doing everything I can to treat this as seriously as I can.” (from Moviefone.com)

On being a perfectionist: “School offered a way to focus on something that had a new criteria for success, and its own rewards. It’s the reward of knowledge and learning things that I’m interested in. What it does is release me from pressure that I put on myself, where everything has to be perfect.” (from Moviefone.com)

On what his teachers think of him: “I showed that last movie at NYU last month, at a faculty critique,” Franco says, flinching a little. “It’s a fairly confrontational piece, and it got a little ugly. One faculty member — she’s always tough on me, but she flat-out called me an asshole. She jumped me. She was muttering it the whole time: What an asshole. What an asshole.” (from Esquire interview)

On not finishing *all* his reading: “You know, in Eat, Pray, Love, my character mostly appears in the first twenty pages of the book,” he says, and now the smile is broad, inviting, self-aware. “And I can definitely say I read the first twenty pages.” (from Esquire interview)

On extra-extracurricular activities: “I do masturbate a lot.  I don’t know why.  It’s like you have those days where it’s just like, I have a ton of writing to do, or a ton of reading to do, and you’re just like, OK, I’m just going to be on the couch all day or in bed all day just doing that….I tend to have a four- or five-time day.” (Gawker, originally from a Hollywood Reporter interview)

Ewww…that’s probably why they didn’t let him TA at Yale, because who knows what would happen with a ton of grading to do.

Your latest James Franco update

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on September 26, 2010
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By now, you probably know that James Franco has started his Ph.D. program at Yale,  but that’s not all: Did you know that he’s apparently also taking classes at the Rhode Island School of Design?  Haters who’ve gone through some grad school might be inclined to be a bit skeptical about how serious our favorite celeb grad student is about getting his Ph.D. at a really top-flight program if he’s dabbling in another program of study.  Art + Auction’s “In the Air” blog is a bit dubious about Franco’s plans, thinking that “this is physically impossible (the schools are in different states)”; even if CT and RI are small states, that’s still 100 miles each way.  (Wait, maybe he’s learning to fly too — see photo below — to cut down on the commute time.)  That’s not to mention, you know, the actual coursework, though maybe he’s just auditing at RISD or something.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a grad student..."James Franco Blue Angels", courtesy of the US Navy (Public Domain)

Still, despite its naysaying, In the Air does point out that Franco might just be taking his interest in art seriously, pointing out that he has been involved with some heavy hitters in the art world recently.  In particular, it notes that current LA MOCA Director and noted gallerist Jeffrey Deitch is on record telling the LA Times that, “I wish Andy were here to meet James Franco. Andy would have been so enthusiastic” — Andy being Andy Warhol.  And in a review of an installation art piece by Franco, the New York Times notes that Franco has had a life-long passion for the visual arts, even though it is less sanguine about his prospects as an artist, giving his exhibit a meh at best for its gratuitous violence and sex.  These lines pretty much sum up Roberta Smith’s mixed review:

Some people would probably feel better to read that Mr. Franco’s Clocktower effort can be dismissed as bad beyond redemption, an outsider’s naïve dalliance in things he doesn’t really understand. I initially inclined toward that conclusion, although in the end it turned out to be more interesting and complicated than that.

Despite the second sentence, you just get the sense that Smith really wants to be “some people” hating on Franco’s art, don’t you?

But I digress, because the big news for those of us interested in Franco’s foray into grad school is the big news making the rounds of the gossip columns is that Franco has admitted to earning a “D” in, get this, acting, while earning his master’s at NYU.  As he tells Showbiz 411:

“I did the work, I did well in everything else,” he said. “But the acting teacher probably felt uncomfortable with a working well known actor in his class. It was not the norm.” Also, as Franco pointed out, he missed a lot of classes because he was shooting “127 Hours.”

Excuses, excuses — though he might have a point, because a grad school “D” sounds like a pretty vindictive grade.  But is this what he’s gonna pull come December when his first round of papers are due and he needs to take incompletes to finish a film or something?   It’s time for Franco to buckle down on that Walt Whitman class he’s apparently taking, which, he tells Showbiz 411, has a “massive amount of reading.”  It must be this one taught by Michael Warner, so Franco better make sure not make the chair who accepted him into the Ph.D. program look bad.  In any case, his advisor at Yale might want to sit the school’s prized first-year student down and get him focused, provided s/he can figure out where Franco is, between New Haven, Providence, NYC, and Hollywood.

We were right about James Franco not teaching

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on August 1, 2010
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"James Franco Feb 09" by John Harrison (Creative Commons license)

We at Post Academic have been all over the big–and really only?–celeb/academia crossover story of 2010: James Franco enrolling in the Yale Ph.D. program.  The last thing we heard about was Franco’s stated desire to start teaching immediately upon entering as a grad student, something we claimed–rightly– that Ivy types would not be doing as first years.  We suggested that Franco attend an equally well-regarded public university Ph.D. program if teaching was so important to him, since I’m sure any UC that would accept him would happily let him pass along his fellowship package to someone else.  Speaking of which, I wonder what kind of funding package Franco is getting or whether he would just pass up a fellowship, considering he’s gotta be making millions for being in a Planet of the Apes remake prequel.

Anyway, here’s how the (not) teaching saga went down: Apparently, Franco claimed on “Good Morning America” earlier in the month that he would be teaching a “very special class” starting in January 2011.  This, however, lead to a clarification by Yale English chair Michael Warner in the school paper explaining that grad students don’t typically start teaching at Yale until their 3rd years and that Franco’s proposal to teach a self-designed course was turned down–ouch!  However, Franco’s proposal has somehow been turned into some kind of project that’s either a musical or film, described by the Most Famous Soon-to-Be Grad Student Ever as a “stage/film/musical/crazy production.”  So that’s what it takes to get into one of the best programs in the country, in case anyone reading is preparing her/his application.

What’s probably more interesting, at least to us geeks, is the way a media that is totally clueless about academia has been covering the story.  Perez Hilton doesn’t seem to have any grasp of what an academic calendar is like, describing the incoming student as “currently enrolled.”  Perhaps more galling and totally inaccurate is the way that MTV.com has already put Franco on the tenure track: “James Franco, college professor? It’s happening–and it’s not for a role.”  So according to MTV, either anyone who teaches at a college-level is a professor or any Ph.D. student is a college professor.  OK, we might expect this from MTV, but even the Yale Daily News, which probably should know better, gets confused in its headline: “Sorry, Ladies: No Prof. Franco just yet.”  Gotta love, too, how the Yalie commenters blasted the headline for the heteronormative assumptions of the headline, exclaiming that, “This is Yale, we gay boys were clamoring for Franco, too!”

Breaking!: James Franco to actually attend Yale English

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on May 4, 2010
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"James Franco discussing the film Milk" by David Shankbone (Creative Commons)

We know that this is the celebrity news you’ve been waiting for: According to People, actor James Franco has ended weeks of speculation and will be attending Yale’s Ph.D. English program.  And get this, he wants to start TAing as soon as he starts!  The Yale Herald pops this balloon by explaining what’s at least obvious to us, that first-year Ph.D. students don’t teach at Yale–and anyway, can you trust a grad student wants to teach right from the beginning?  If he wants to teach so much, maybe Mr. Franco could attend one of the equally well-reputed UC grad programs–like at his alma mater, UCLA–which would be happy to get as much cheap labor out of him as possible teaching intro-level comp!

But really, that’s pretty cool that Franco seems so enthusiastic about starting grad school that he’s champing at the bit to teach.  Here’s what he had to say about being a student to People:

“I love school,” Franco told PEOPLE at the Tribeca Film Festival screening of his directorial debut, the documentary Saturday Night, in New York Sunday. “I go to school because I love being around people who are interested in what I’m interested in and I’m having a great experience.”

Seriously, that sounds like a good enough reason to pursue your Ph.D., especially if you don’t have to worry about the worst job market ever.  And hey, we’ve got our lead when we start to cast, Post Academic: The Movie!

(h/t to reader Patty for the breaking celeb gossip)

Happy Birthday to Us!

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on February 28, 2011
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"Birthday Candles" (Creative Commons license)

Today is a big milestone day for us: This post is our 500th and it marks the one-year anniversary of Post Academic’s launch.  Thanks to all who’ve found their way here, especially the cohort of likeminded bloggers who made us feel as if we weren’t crazy, bitter, and alone.  Not to get mushy on you, but it’s really helped knowing the likes of Worst Prof, Eliza Woolf, Adventures in Gradland, Sell Out Your Soul, among others, are doing their thing–it’s helped to give us a sense of purpose above and beyond our own individual concerns and complaints.

When Caroline and I started Post Academic, I was mulling over becoming, well, post academic.  It just so happened that Caroline was interested in developing her own blog on job tips and etiquette, at the same time I had started thinking about compiling my futile attempts on the academic job market.  My reasons were two-fold: the first was practical–to learn how to blog and the basics of blog maintenance–and the second was more personal–to work through another year of disappointment on the market.  At some point, I figured I had to make a decision as to what to do about my so-called academic career: I could always find enough excuses and reasons to hang on and keep trying, to go through the same thing over and over again, year after year.  But you know what, I got sick of it, so I wanted to channel my energies elsewhere, which was my contribution to in conceiving of Post Academic.

To be honest with you, I’m not sure I would’ve ever done it–write about being post academic (or at least ambivalent academic), that is–if Caroline hadn’t shot off our first entry on UNLV’s football team and the school’s budget woes.  But once Post Academic became real and I realized I needed to keep up my end of the bargain, things took off.  Hey, checking site stats beats scanning the Academic Jobs Wiki obsessively any day!  Getting back into the habit of writing regularly did wonders for me, and it was just the act of writing and writing (good or bad) that helped me get out of my academia-induced rut, even more than the semi-soul searching of the posts themselves.  Maybe it wasn’t all the blog’s doing, but, post-Post Academic, we both started fulfilling jobs that made use of our skills, I got back into freelance music writing, and I’ve been unburdened of the doubt, expectations, and unfulfilled potential of all those years spent on my Ph.D.

Through it all–collaborating on opposite ends of the continent, family life, childcare, a new baby, job interviews, new work schedules, business trips, vacations, holidays, illnesses, whatever else–we posted every single day until pretty much Christmas time.  But upon our one-year birthday, we’ve decided that we’re scaling back the schedule for Post Academic, as much because we need a break from the routine as we find ourselves in very different places from where we began, when it comes to the blog’s reason for being.  For me, it’s just that I don’t define my identity in relation to being an academic, post- or otherwise, any more. In that respect (and many more), Caroline was a perfect partner-in-crime in this endeavor: She was a role model for me, since she had successfully navigated her way from the college campus to the hamster world long before I ever thought of it, with all the spirit and good energy that anyone who knows her can’t help but be uplifted by.

This isn’t goodbye–we’ll still be around to post, though somewhat irregularly, when we’ve got something to write about and postacademic.org will be around as a resource (if you can call it that) or a time capsule or an out-of-date journal we’ll be cringing about in a few years.  And besides, who else is gonna keep up with James Franco’s grad school progress, anyway?

Footnotes, with Our Standard Stuff

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on February 1, 2011
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Your latest Footnotes covers the stuff we usually blurb about, like indie rock and, of course, James Franco.  And, oh yeah, vindictive peeing-in-public profs…

Marking Your Math Dept Territory: Apparently, the way you settle a mathlete geek off is by peeing in front of your nemesis’s office door.  Last December, Cal State Northridge math prof Tihomir Petrov was caught in the act by a camera set up after “puddles” of urine were found in the hall.  According the CSUN Math Dept website, Petrov is an Asst Prof, so here’s hoping for he’s not pissing his career away!

Iron and Wine, Post Academic: So who knew that Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam was a kind of a postacademic?  (Not me, at least, though I’m not a huge fan or anything.)  That’s right, the indie troubadour actually taught film and cinematography at the University of Miami and Miami International University of Art and Design. I guess that adds some backstory that helps Beam stand out from all the bearded neo-folkies in the indie-verse — you know who you are — these days.  Check out his top ten films list from a guest post he did for the Criterion Collection, which is definitely chin-strokingly auteurish enough.

Last but not Least…Your Latest James Franco Update: So you’ve probably been seeing Ph.D. poster child James Franco a lot recently, what with all the awards shows and Sundance going on.  And you’ll be seeing even more of him once the Oscars come around, since he’s not only nominated for Best Actor, but he’s also hosting the thing.  Still, he doesn’t seem to be sweating it too much, since he told the AP (check out the vid on Yahoo!) that he wasn’t going to miss class at Yale in order to do PR for his likely Oscar nom.  But just as you start thinking Franco was earnest and not getting a big head, the latest, most-up-to-datest news search on Google unearths that he’ll be teaching a course about…himself!  That’s right, “Master Class: Editing James Franco…With James Franco” will be offered at something called Columbia College Hollywood, not connected to either Columbias in NYC or Chicago.  We knew Franco wanted to teach, but this seems like he’s just trying too hard!

Footnotes

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on December 12, 2010
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Hey, look, Footnotes is back one more time before 2010 enters the digital dustbin of history.  Just to remind you, “Footnotes” is supposed to be a semi-regular series that collects some stories and postings that are semi-relevant to the semi-academic focus of the blog…which, of course, means the latest on James Franco.

"Bill Nye" by Ed Schipul (Creative Commons license)

If Bill Nye falls at USC and everyone is Tweeting about it…: That’s the riddle of what happened about a month ago, when Bill Nye the Science Guy collapsed on stage while giving a lecture at USC.  The only things not in question are that Nye fell and a bunch of USC students Tweeted about it in real time.  What’s in dispute is whether any folks actually tried to help Nye, if they did so fast enough, if USC kids are particularly obnoxious, or if their hands were full Tweeting the news.  The initial assumption, based on a report from one outraged student, was that the latter happened, fueling the kids-these-days-and their-newfangled-technology meme that we’re happy to participate in — after all, who’s not surprised by the alleged bad behavior, especially anyone who’s taught an auditorium full of students texting, listening to their iPods, checking their email, so on?  In fact, the last word on the matter was a LA Times “On the Media” column which focused on netiquette instead of trying to resolve the question of whether or not anyone did help the Science Guy.  Talk about going meta, a news story about news stories about Tweeting about what actually occurred.

Another Indie Rocking Academic: During the summer, we put together a Post Academic Overeducated Rockers Virtual Music Fest.  Well, we have another addition to the lineup, Blake Schwarzenbach, one-time frontman of influential, almost-made-it-big proto-emo punks Jawbreaker.  According to our friend Jane (thanks for the tip!), Schwarzenbach is an English grad student studying British Romanticism and teaching at CUNY Hunter — check out what he says about his MA Thesis on Shelley, which prompts a response in the comments thread about someone’s thesis on Andrew WK and the Romantics.  When you think about it, the emo-Romanticism connection would make a lot of sense, huh?

Another James Franco Update: What “Footnotes” doesn’t include a little something something about James Franco?  The latest is that the world’s most famous grad student will be hosting the Oscars — hopefully, the awards show coincides with his spring break at Yale?  He was also  just featured on “Inside the Actors Studio”, which apparently drew its largest crowd ever.  Did anyone watch the interview and see if he had anything to say about being in grad school?

From US Magazine’s 25 Smartest Stars list

Coming on the heels of the great comments and suggestions for actors as fake academics, I was tipped to US Magazine‘s list of “25 Smartest Stars”.  Sorry, Rachelle, it doesn’t look like any Cusacks or members of the Six Feet Under cast made it, but the list basically includes any celeb that went to an Ivy League school, plus business smarts types, as if bank was a sign of intelligence.  We’re not reproducing the whole list because who really cares that John Krasinski and Masi Oka went to Brown or that US thinks Bono, Jay-Z, Will Smith are whizzes because they’re media moguls or that Alicia Keys was a valedictorian in high school.  Then there the obvious picks that everyone would guess, like Jodie Foster (Yale alum), Meryl Streep (the best actress, like, ever), Matt Damon (went to Harvard), Ben Affleck (because Matt Damon is on the list), and so on.  Instead, we’re listing a few highlights below:

"A Ford Escape Hybrid and David Duchovny" by Ford Motor Company (Creative Commons license)

David Duchovny (US reason: “Princeton and Yale graduate”) — Yeah, this one is pretty good for real and fake reasons.  This reminds me how a friend and I once skimmed a copy a X-Files fan bio that describes how the future Fox Mulder was a grad student at Yale studying with J. Hillis Miller–now that’s some kinda detail for pulp paperback.  If you look him up his Wiki page, it explains that his undergrad thesis was titled “The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett’s Early Novels” and that he was working on a diss called Magic and Technology in Contemporary Poetry and Prose at Yale.  James Franco ain’t got nothing on him!

As for the fake academic angle, doesn’t his character in Californication play a sex-addicted writer who’s also prof of some sort?  (I wouldn’t know, since I don’t have pay cable and haven’t seen the show.)  So maybe the show is a case of art imitating reality in more than one way.  I want to believe!

Dolph Lundgren (US reason: “awarded Fulbright scholarship”) — Post Academic readers know this already, but it’s good that Drago gets his props.

More smart stars below the fold…

(more…)

The first and only time anyone ranked academic publishers

Posted in Publish and Perish by Arnold Pan on August 22, 2010
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A few days ago, Huffington Post College did up one of their snazzy photo gallery polls for — get this — the best academic publishers!  You’d think that HuffPo College was trying to find its own U.S. News Top Colleges and Grad Schools list or Princeton Review’s Most Drunken Schools list with its incessant bombardment of photo polls.  HuffPo probably should’ve just stuck to the celebs-in-school slideshows, but I guess there’s only so many times you can point out that Hermione Granger is going to Brown–although I guess talking about James Franco going to Yale English is ever interesting and fascinating, right?

"Oxford University Press at D Ground Park, Faisalabad" by "Minhajian" (public domain)

Anyway, HuffPo College must be scraping the bottom of the marketability barrel by compiling the 17 “Most Innovative” academic presses.  When you skim through the story, two obvious thoughts come to mind: There are actually 17 academic presses that are still publishing these days and how is one of the top academic presses NOT Duke UP, which, for my money, comes out with the most interesting and best looking academicky books.  When you include 17 U Presses on the list, you’ll obviously get (most of) the best and most obvious picks like UC Press, U Minnesota Press, NYU Press.  But others are big name picks that aren’t exactly cutting edge both in terms of selection and design; I’m thinking of one of the industry’s standard bearers, Oxford UP, while Yale and Chicago have never really done it for me personally.  And then there are the smaller UP’s that I never knew existed, like Kansas and Colorado.

Maybe Duke UP boycotted the rankings out of some kind of moral stand, like how Stanford sat out of the US News ratings and, coincidence or not, subsequently dropped in the poll.  Oh yeah, maybe MIT Press sat out the rankings too, since it definitely covers very timely techie-fuzzy topics and its books look really awesome.  Our new home team–the UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press–didn’t chart either, but wait ’til next year when our online offerings are up-and-running!

What’s next, the HuffPo College list of best esoteric journal titles?  Maybe we can beat them to the punch on that one, and make it Post Academic’s trademark rankings dealie.

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