Post Academic

“Top Grad Student”, our imaginary virtual reality show

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on July 10, 2010
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"Tom Colicchio at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival" by David Shankbone (Creative Commons license)

We usually use the weekends to scratch our pop culture itch, what with Caroline’s great Alcoholic Horndog Tenured Prof Stereotype film series and our Footnotes odds’n’ends that have featured the likes of Lady Gaga and James Franco.  We also mused way back when about what TV show resembles grad school the most, which is kind of the inspiration for today’s ridiculous post re-imagining grad school as a grueling series of reality show contests à la “Top Chef”–heck, if artists can get their own show (“Work of Art”), you best believe academics should!  Although it looks like our original poll had “Mad Men” winning as the best extended metaphor for academia, which means you better read the post about not antagonizing the admin and staff because the Joan Holloway of your dept might make or break your professional life.

Off the top of my head, let’s imagine we have Ph.D.-candidate contestants from various disciplines who compete for, say, a tenure-track position or equivalent at the University of Phoenix, which would totally be our sponsor.  We could have great settings for the show, like a seminar room and a bucolic campus.  Then, maybe all the contestants could be forced to live in university subsidized housing together, which could possibly lead to another reality show spin-off, like a nerdy “Bachelor/ette” or something–wait, didn’t they already have that show already (“Beauty and the Geek”)?  In any case, is this format so different from the stages between the convention interview, with about 12 or so candidates (at least in MLA fields), being whittled down to a handful of campus visits, before a chosen one is selected?  Our daydreamed TV show would be more entertaining and, who knows, maybe it would only capture the absurdities of a real-life job search, documentary film-like.

Maybe it’s because it’s too early in the morning while I’m writing this, but I’m a little punchy: Why don’t we do this thing online and call it a virtual fan-fiction reality show or something?  We’ll put a poll at the bottom of this post, and you can vote for whom you imagine would win any given contest.  And we’ll periodically return to this thing if folks actually vote.

Anyway, our first competition should be a get-to-know-you sort of thing, so let’s start with a feat-of-strength about writing a CV.  Who do you think would win this round, based on style, formatting, the number of accomplishments, length, reasonable embellishment?  The hypothetical student with the most votes gets immunity next round, while the contestant with the fewest votes is voted out!  And use the message board if you feel like justifying your vote–you can be your very own “Judges Table”!

And if there are any show developers lurking here, you know where to reach us!

Footnotes: Gleek edition

Footnotes is a semi-regular series that collects some stories and postings that are semi-relevant to the semi-academic focus of the blog.  This time around, we found a bunch of music-related things we’ve read–or, in this case, watched–online.  And, if you’re asking, no, I’m not a Gleek myself, but we did get snookered by the American Idol lead-in ploy into watching a few episodes.

"Glee premiere party" by Kristin Dos Santos (Creative Commons license)

Glee Club, Copyright Infringers?: I’m not an intellectual property lawyer (obviously), but this posting by Yale Law fellow Christina Mulligan on the Balkinization blog about Glee and imagined copyright infringement seems kinda humorless in an academic kinda way.  It is pretty interesting, though, that Mulligan uses the hit show as a case study for copyright law, surmising that if the fictional Glee kids really did produce that faux “Vogue” video of Sue Sylvester, they would be owing Madonna something like $150,000.  But by trying to carry over her hypothetical example over to real life, Mulligan overlooks the realities of the culture industry: I imagine the actual licensing of all the pop hits on the show is legally airtight and done with the permission of the copyright holders as cross-promotion that helps both the original artists and the show.  Put it this way: I’m betting that whoever licensed “To Sir with Love” and “Don’t Stop Believin'” for the season finale aren’t worrying so much about dreamed-up copyright transgressions, not when the soundtrack to the show is the #1 downloaded album on iTunes.

Or maybe Mulligan is just trying to become a Glee scriptwriter on the sly, because an episode with the glee club having to stage a fundraiser to pay off licensing fees after being caught for infringing on, say, Hall and Oates’s catalog sounds like it could work?

Librarians Gaga for Gaga: And if Mulligan had her wish, Lady Gaga would have to go after these U Washington information studies folks for some kind of violation.  Their geeky revamping of “Poker Face” into something about search databases and catalogs (see below) is clever enough, even if it’s not as impressive as the choreographed “Telephone” redux by the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.  If there’s one thing Lady Gaga knows, any free promotion at the expense of a little copyright infringement is better than paying for it.

Classics Rock: There’s little chance that the band Glass Wave will be fretting about copyright infringement or piracy violations by Gleeks or YouTube amateurs, though they’ve been cribbing the classics–no doubt out of copyright!  That’s because the great books-inspired kinda rock made by this band of Stanford and UCLA lit profs is anything but the stuff of pop music, with songs that are supposed to turn “old stories into new forms” and “revitalize the source texts that inspire the music”.  According to that trendsetting tastemaker Inside Higher Ed, the band supposedly combines 1970s prog rock sound with the Western canon, evidenced by songs named after Ophelia, Mrs. Bennet, and Lolita.  For scholars invested in lit, they seem to take the music end even more seriously, as Stanford Prof Robert Harrison explains: “This kind of music really stands or falls on how much it translates into aesthetic pleasure,” he says. “It has to succeed musically first and foremost. The lyrics can be absolutely fantastic. But if the music sucks, it’s going nowhere”.  I’m tempted to put my music critic hat on right now, but you can judge for yourself if the music stands or falls on the YouTube below.

Footnotes, celebrity edition

Lindsay Lohan mugshot (public domain)

Our irregularly recurring “Footnotes” feature pops up every once in a while on a weekend to collect some stories floating around online that may or may not be directly relevant to academia, but that are kind-of entertaining and maybe even interesting.  This time around, we have some tidbits about celebrities.

1. Even fake grad students are having a hard time finding work: So according to TMZ, Lindsay Lohan was supposed to star in a role as a graduate student in a film titled The Other Side–until she was fired for not being a “bankable” enough star.  You know what else isn’t bankable?  The premise of the film, which was apparently about a “grad student working on a deserted island.”  Hey, if Lindsay Lohan could pull off playing a grad student of any type, maybe she’d be a better actor than she’s given credit for. (h/t to reader Patty)

2. Maybe Lindsay Lohan would be better off as a the subject of grad student research–like Lady Gaga!: Let us introduce you to “Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art about Lady Gaga”, an e-journal/blog about Material Girl 2.0.  “Gaga Stigmata” describes itself as a “a new technological breed of journal that intends to take seriously the brazenly unserious shock pop phenomenon and fame monster known as Lady Gaga”, with a goal of producing a collection of published writing on the topic.  We’ve discussed the frustrations associated with the conventional means of publishing academic research, from the limited opportunities for young scholars to the timeliness of research to what we call the time-lag problem, so, hey, more power to “Gaga Stigmata.”

"Lady Gaga and Monster announce Project RED Heartbeats" by Domain Barnyard from Wikipedia Commons (Creative Commons)

3. Celebrity commencement speakers, coming to a campus near you: At this time of year, you might be just as likely to see a celebrity on campus giving a commencement speech as you are tracking one on the Gawker Stalker.  Some celeb speakers include Meryl Streep at Barnard, Alec Baldwin at NYU, Anderson Cooper at Tulane, and Vassar ’85 alum Lisa Kudrow at her alma mater.  For a more comprehensive list of commencement speakers, celeb or otherwise, go to this College Confidential forum.