Post Academic

Setting Up Interviews You Don’t Want to Have

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on December 7, 2010
Tags: , ,

"No cellphones Southside Place TX," by WhisperToMe (Public Domain)

You’d think the hard part was actually doing the interview — but, if you assumed that, you haven’t been reading Post Academic for long enough!  Because those of you have would know that I’m the sort of person who even has trouble setting up the interview when I get ’em.  Basically, I learned my lesson to just let any calls from unfamiliar area codes in early December go to voicemail.  For someone who’s not great at thinking/talking on my feet, it gives me time to gather myself and collect my thoughts.  And since I’m paranoid, it also gives me confirmation that what I heard was true, that I got the interview in the first place.  Better yet is corresponding by email, since it’s all in writing.

I only learned these lessons from some awkward experiences that left me nervous and antsy after I actually succeeded in getting the interview….

Driving ‘n Calling: In a lot of place now, you can get a ticket for driving and calling.  But before they made a law about that, I used to make calls while I was in the car and I don’t think I was so much of a menace.  One call I wish I didn’t take while I was driving, though, was an interview request, which ended up being the one that I had to hike up the stairs to get to.  What happened was I received a call from an unknown area code and decided to answer it because of the curiosity factor; I had just received another interview request earlier in the day, so I couldn’t leave well enough alone.   Of course, it was just what I wanted, except I was even more flustered answering the call than I would’ve been because I was on the road.

More after the jump…


The Best Kinds of Academic Snoozing

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on November 28, 2010
Tags: , ,

While tripping on Tryptophan after multiple turkey-based meals over Thanksgiving, I realized that familiar feeling I was feeling reminded me most of…snoozing in lecture.  There’s a reason why I was willing to overlook students sleeping in class even when I was a stickler for texting and YouTubing during my lectures: it’s not just that I remember dozing off while I was an undergrad or that a lot of the kids are taking a ton of classes and working too.  But deep down, I think I also appreciated that there’s a kind of deeply relaxing sleep you can only get when the lighting is right and you’re bored out of your mind.

"Louis & Chanel taking a nap" by Macphreak (Creative Commons license)

Here are some of the situations I found myself as a grad student where I liked to sneak a quick catnap:

Seminar: I know it’s shameless, but you know how hard it is to stay awake for three hours in the mid-afternoon, maybe after you’ve taught earlier in the day and/or been studying/prepping/grading all night.  I didn’t do it very often and I’m betting my profs saw it, since it’s not like you can hide in a group of twelve around a not-that-big table.  Most of the time stopped myself from indulging, though that neck-snapping whiplash-y thing — you know what I’m talking about, right? — is probably more conspicuous and distracting.

More below the fold…


Girls, Get That Glassdoor Account!

Posted in Absurdities,Breaking Academic Stereotypes,The Education Industry,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on November 22, 2010

Image Source*Only using “girls” for playful alliteration purposes! I’d recommend much of the advice in this article for guys, too.

With the non-passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, it’s more important than ever for women to know their worth and fight for the same pay as men, one job at a time. Obviously, the people who have been elected to office are more interested in pleasing a base rather than doing what’s right … anyway … let’s look out for ourselves since our legislators won’t do their jobs.

Despite the academy’s claims to be a forward-thinking meritocracy, female academics are suffering from the same pay inequalities as hamsters. Newsweek reported that female academics don’t make as much as male academics (Hat Tip: Worst Professor Ever): “… female faculty members have made no progress at all and have actually regressed. In 1972 women teachers made 83 percent what male faculty members earned; today, they’ve lost a cent for every dollar, earning just 82 percent.” That’s inexcusable–especially since salaries for professors at public schools are so easy to look up.

So, want to get paid as well as your male counterparts? It’s time to make like a negotiator, and it’s easy.

1. If the job is for a public school, look up the pay in a database. Local papers usually have handy salary databases for all public employees. For example, the Contra Costa Times has a salary database for the state of California.
2. If the school is private, go to Professor salaries are up there; just look up the name of the school. For even more information, try If the information lines up, you should know exactly what you can get.
3. If you are offered the job and salary comes up, have a number in mind. Penelope Trunk advises that you should make the prospective employer give the salary number first. Sometimes, that’s not easy. Whatever your situation, do not short-change yourself. You should be making about the same as what everyone else is making–or more.
4. (the hard part) If you don’t get the salary you want, don’t take the job. Obviously, if you are a poor grad student in dire financial straits, I’m not going to judge you if you do take the job. The only thing is that these universities know bloody well how broke and desperate you are, and you shouldn’t let them take advantage of you. You should push for every penny you can.

As for anyone who is reading this blog who is employed, male or female, do your female colleagues a solid and share your salary on Glassdoor or leave a review of the company. (No, I’m not doing any shilling for them; I’ve just found what’s on there extremely helpful.) Until a Paycheck Fairness Act actually passes (don’t bet on it), then we have to help each other.

The We Can Do It! poster. What else? From Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

The life of a grad student, James Franco-style

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

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

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

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.

Online browsing shoulds and shouldn’ts, MLA edition

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on November 12, 2010
Tags: , , , ,

"Tailoring First Fit Front 01" by SummerWithMorons (Creative Commons license)

We know you can’t spend all your time preparing for secondary application requests or even the possibility of MLA interviews (note: start prepping your real syllabi as sample syllabi).  But you’re probably on your computer, which means you’re probably wasting time online.  Well, you might as well be productive spending your time poking around online and maybe even spending a little money that you might not have too.  Now or later, you’re gonna hafta accrue some (more) debt on your credit card, so you might as well be prepared to do it in advance if you can swing it.

Here’s a brief list of what you should looking for online and what you should avoid…

Should: Kayak it…alreadyThe last time (if I’m remembering correctly) we told you what you could be doing online while on the job market, I mentioned that it’s never too early to go onto Kayak and at least start comparing ticket fares and hotel rates for MLA.  Well, now, you might as well pay out now if you find a reasonable enough deal.  I know, I know, who wants to front around $1000 when you’re not even sure you’re gonna be out in LA for MLA–I’ve been in that situation before.  Last year, I ate the $150 flight cancel fee because I did the cost-benefit analysis on forking over much to go to Philly between Xmas and New Year’s and doing one interview I wasn’t so excited about.  But forget about me and think positively: Just get your itinerary together if you find a good deal, because it might not be there tomorrow.

More shoulds and shouldn’ts below the fold…


Communication breakdown: A Post Academic with nothing to say

Posted in Absurdities,First Person by Arnold Pan on November 5, 2010
Tags: ,

I mentioned last time how the flip side of no longer possessing the academic gift for gab is that I find myself pretty much unable to chit-chat in any situation any more–great, I have to go to a wedding of someone who’s barely acquaintance tomorrow!  I know, I know, it’s probably hard to believe that I’m so tongue-tied when meeting new folks, considering how I can be a virtual blabbermouth.  But when I’m at a kids party or some kind of get-together where I only know the hosts, you best believe I’m camping out at the buffet, chowing down on the Trader Joe’s snacks or the greasy pizza.  To be honest with you, I’d probably find it hard being at a gathering of people I know these days, though it’s tough to say since it’s not like I’ve been around my party of my peeps or even talked to them on the phone since the summer.

"Conversation by Friedrick Moosbrugger" (Public Domain)

Anyhow, based on a sampling of Halloween events and birthday parties I’ve recently attended, here are some of the reasons why I find “real world” shindigs somewhat more difficult for me to deal with–though the real explanation might be just that I’m a misanthrope.

(Not) finding the common ground: When an academic is released into the wild…er, life outside of the ivory tower…adaptation to a different environment can be difficult.  Within the sorta friendly confines of academia, you might not like everyone you know, but at least you have something built-in to talk about that’s based on some kind of shared interest.  Even now in a post academic stage, I find I can easily slip into some whiny complaint about the academic job market when I run into an acquaintance because that’s something I know how to do.

More to say about having not much to say, below the jump…


Until Worst Prof Ever, The Series becomes a reality…

…this xtranormal video “So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities” (below) will have to suffice.  It was tipped to us by one of our oldest and best blog friends Gradland, and I’ve noticed since that it has been slowly but surely popping up on many a Facebook status update.  The thing really speaks for itself, but the video really picks up at about the 1 minute 15 sec mark, when the prof tells the student, “I’m tempted to throw you out of this office, that I share with four other professors.”  Anyway, the four-and-a-half minute clip slams Harold Bloom, debunks the myth of flexible time, offers a perfect short-but-sweet explanation of the two-body-problem, and makes you fear a world with Tea Party overlords — and all of it is made better and more unnerving thanks to the robot voices that actually replicate an office-hour back-and-forth with eerie accuracy.  Basically, the mini tour-de-force might have just rendered Post Academic obsolete.

OK, I’m getting out of the way, but suffice it to say that we may have all been the student at some point in our lives, but we really wish we could be that professor at least once in our careers.

Academia as TV, redux (with poll)

Yesterday, one of our bestest blog compatriots Worst Professor Ever put out a call to post/academics to pool our collective grad school/ faculty experiences, along with whatever’s left of our creative energies after our spirit-sucking time in academia, and put together a “FX-style-show about professors.”  So please heed Worst Prof’s “Prof Pitch ’10”:

So c’mon, throw your hat in the ring. We need names, plotlines, dialogue, whatever — and a name for our show, especially, since I’ll be the first to admit Professors On the Edge sucks pretty hard — too soap-y, not scary enough.

Well, this reminded me that we tried to find the best TV analogy for academia a while back, though our goal wasn’t to come up with a treatment or a pitch, but more just an excuse to write about TV.  So here’s our first contribution — hopefully of many to come — to Worst Prof’s worthwhile and ingenious project.

"1950's television" by Zaphod (Creative Commons license)


Below are some picks we offered as to what might make for the most compelling dramatic, comedic, or reality TV reinterpretation of academia.  We left off one obvious choice: Seinfeld, seeing as it’s a show about nothing.

1. Top Chef: Take a bunch of talented, competitive grad students, some of whom are total a-holes–but only one will win the title of “top geek.”  Put them through a series of challenges, from “Quickfire” abstract submissions to “Elimination Challenges” that involve convention interviews and teaching demos, and bring on celebrity academics as the judges.  And only one person ends up with a tenure-track position, though I’ll take the 1-in-20 odds over the 200+ applicant pool of any actual job search in a heartbeat.  Bonus points for making these folks live together in the same house.  Of course, we actually turned this idea into our Post Academic “original” virtual reality series, “Top Grad Student”!

More academia-TV analogies below the fold…


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…


Fake academics on TV and in the movies

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on October 17, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

So didya know that Drew Barrymore plays a grad student in her latest movie, Going the Distance, which assumes you knew that such a film existed?  I have nothing against Drew Barrymore or anything, but “grad student” doesn’t really come to mind when you think of her, does it?  Apparently, she plays a Stanford journalism grad student in a long-distance relationship, the latter of which, oddly enough, doesn’t seem that far-fetched a premise, considering that is actually something folks deal with.  Apparently, though, the film has been a box-office bust and not a critically well-received one, either.  I haven’t seen the film, don’t plan on seeing it, and I’m betting it won’t make it on “The Alcoholic Horndog” series, so you could check out this blog post on it instead.  But we do learn two things: 1. film plots that involve grad school life too centrally aren’t very popular and 2. Drew Barrymore really wants to be a J-School grad — didn’t she play one in Never Been Kissed, too?

Anyway, it got me thinking about other fake academics in TV and film, though I’ll have to rely on my sketchy memory of these things.  This could become a mini-series along the lines of Academic Horndog, if you, our readers, can help us brainstorm…

Ross Geller from Friends (played by David Schwimmer): Ugh–I was never a Friends fan, and the fact that Schwimmer’s character was some kind of prof really irked me.  I never watched the show enough to follow what was going on, except that he was an archeologist (paleontologist), so I’ll have to quote the hilarious Wiki entry about the Ross character’s occupation as a Prof:

Ross later works as a professor at New York University and causes a stir among his colleagues by dating one of his students, Elizabeth. Eventually, he is given tenure, despite that fact that his papers (including a publication on sediment flow rates) are supposedly widely discredited, forgetting a class once, boring his students to sleep and occasionally giving grades without even looking at students’ work.

Awesome!  So Geller gets tenure despite being a horndog, probably getting bad teaching evals, and being a crap scholar.  Hmm…maybe that hits too close to home for some, since I bet we’d like to imagine some tenured folks we know are guilty of all the above, huh?

Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford): With all the swashbuckling in the Indiana Jones movies, it’s easy to forget that Dr. Jones was supposed to be an archeology prof by trade.  According to Wiki, he taught at a fictional college called Marshall College in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I don’t know, the movies don’t really play up the academia angle so much and the ’80s Ford was probably too hunky to be a geek, but you can’t tell me you didn’t feel like jumping out your window during office hours with long line waiting outside your door.  Except your queue probably wasn’t swooning in the hallway waiting to be in the presence of your hot self.

Roger and Virginia Clarvin, AKA “The Lov-ahs”, from SNL (Played by Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch): Maybe my friends and I were the only ones who thought these semi-recurring characters were great, but remember how Ferrell and Dratch played past-their-primes (in many ways) fifty-something ex-hippies/ex-swingers who loved hot-tubbing on early 2000s SNLs?  You know, they were the ones who called each other “Lov-ah”, usually grossing out random guests like new faculty and other straight-laced folks by hamming up memories of overindulgent sexcapades involving leg of lamb and baklava, if I remember correctly.  Ferrell was definitely the more memorable character with a totally prof-like wardrobe and beard, but Dratch totally reminded me of a real-life prof — you Anteaters reading this might know exactly whom I’m talking about too.  Anyway, lechery, beards, reliving past glories, bad poetry, awkward get-togethers all make for a pretty good facsimile of academic life.  If only they could’ve worked in a Trader Joe’s tout…

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