Post Academic

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 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?

Follow-Ups: Wisconsin Protests and “Chef Law”

Posted in Housekeeping by postacademic on February 27, 2011
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We wanted to follow up on a few of our better trafficked posts from the past week, Caroline’s on the Wisconsin protests and Arnold’s on plagiarism in Top Chef.

Wisconsin Protests: Thanks to all the wonderful comments to our post on the ongoing Wisconsin saga–to cite a cliche, we can disagree without being disagreeable!  Lest we get too far into the political principles of the thing (and anyways, you know where we stand), Talking Points Memo passes along an interesting note on who’d be one of the first affected by the Gov. Scott Walker’s threats to start laying off state workers: the school counselor wife of the GOP State Senate Majority Leader, a chief political ally.  In fact, all 34 of that particular school district’s teaching staff have been given their preliminary walking papers.

Here’s a YouTube of the protests, which apparently stars a friend of ours –well, at least her hat for an instant or so–who’s a prof in the Wisconsin system…

Chef Law: On a much lighter note, this week’s Top Chef plagiarism controversy has generated a lot of interest, though we’re betting that anything that happens on the show leads to a storm of posts on the foodie blogosphere.  Mike Isabella, the cheater, has washed his hands of the whole thing, claiming that it was all editing and that Richard Blais, the cheated-upon, bears no ill will and agrees with him.  Uh-huh.  One of the more interesting perspectives on this tempest-in-a-teapot comes from Dale Talde, who was chopped (to mix reality-show catchphrases) from the episode.

When asked by TV Guide in a post-show debriefing, he basically pooh-poohed the idea of plagiarism, even as he called out Isabella for bad form:  “You can’t patent food, but you also can’t straight-up tell people that you ripped this dude’s dish off and you won $5,000 and shove it in his face. That sucks.”  And like we pointed out in the post, you just can’t give plagiarists an inch, which is something Dale had apparently been advising Richard all along: “He’s been very forthcoming with information….Why are you telling people this? I think he’s learned his lesson now. I’m not stingy, but it’s like: Dude, do your homework; do your homework. You know you’re going on the show, so do your homework.”

So something else that Top Chef’s confirmed for us about plagiarism is a lot about bad form and  that it’s never cut-and-dried, never black-and-white.  And the best way to not get embroiled in it is to not get into the gray area of helping a little too much.

Just Like “Texts From Last Night,” but Greener and With a PhD

Posted in Housekeeping by Caroline Roberts on January 8, 2011

Image SourceSo I’ve been poring over the #mla11 Twitter feed. Most people are being cautious and discreet, probably because there are up for interviews, and others simply can’t pack their dissertations into 140 characters, but a few academic tweeters are using social media to make the nerve-wracking MLA a little less boring. A few examples:


MLAConvention: Because matched suit for women doesn’t seem the only good choice. Best advice: wear clothes they will forget. Or just: wear clothes. #mla11

lawnsports: No, it’s just — brown suit? C’mon – take this seriously. You’re in LA to interview, not to recreate #Swingers #mla11

SampleReality: #MLA11 Tip: There are many ways to say “Your work is interesting, but let me tell you about MINE.” But it’s best to say it just like that.

Prof Syn: Tip 8 (the last): Never ever picture the members of an interview committee in their underwear. The horror.

Hmmmm … I can’t wait for AdjunctHulk to break out of Bill Bixby mode and go all Lou Ferrigno on #mla11.

Image from Madame Tussauds, London, by Nevit Dilman from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Ask Post Academic!

Posted in Ask an Academic,Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on December 19, 2010
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"Henderson Family Day Arm 2007" by Teo Sze Lee (Creative Commons license)

With all the interest in Caroline’s last post and all the great tips she offers day in, day out, I figured it might not be a bad idea to start up our own Ask Post Academic advice column, provided you have questions and you trust our answers.  Plus, it could be useful to hear what you want us to cover, instead just blogging about what we *think* you want us to cover.  I don’t know if you want to rely on me with life-changing tips or anything big (though I can vouch for Caroline on this front), but we might be able to help you with protocol questions and Miss Manners-type deals for post/marginal/fully committed academics.   And if we can’t quite come up with a good response, we’ll do our best to find someone who can.  Issues that I’ve thought about at this point of the job season dealt with whether it’s a good idea to send a quick email as a “thank you” note after an interview or how to react to inadvertently inappropriate questions from search committees.

If you have a question and want a response, write a comment below or Tweet us or you could post on our Facebook page if you don’t mind non-anonymity.  I guess you could email us too, but we don’t check the Post Academic account all that often.


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?

Public Service Announcement: The Alterna-MLA

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on December 5, 2010
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So I was forwarded an email about an Alterna-MLA that’s taking place in LA during the “real MLA.” Actually, they’re calling it a “Counter-Conference.”  Maybe Post-Academic should set up some counter/alterna job interviews at it?  Anyway, I’m cutting-and-pasting the info on it below (there doesn’t seem to be a centralized website for it yet), in case, you know, you need to get your blood boiling between convention interviews…

A Counter-Conference: Strategies for Defending Higher Education

This counter-conference will take place during the annual Modern Language Convention in Los Angeles, January 8th, 2011 from 1-5 at Loyola Law School (919 Albany St).  While thousands of people will be meeting at the traditional convention, we will hold a one-day event centered on discussing actual strategies for making higher education more just.  Speakers will be presenting short papers on topics like the death of tenure, the corporatization of the university, the possibilities of unionization, direct social action, the use and abuse of graduate students, organizing contingent faculty, and taking back shared governance.


Remaking the University of California: 1:00-1:45
Catharine Liu, Chris Newfield, Joshua Clover

Defending the Humanities and Shared Governance: 1:45-2:30
Cary Nelson, Jeffrey Williams, Michelle Masse

Organizing Labor and the Academic Class War: 2:30-3:15
Marc Bousquet, Maria Maisto, Joe Berry

Quality, Access, and Affordability:  3:30-4:15
Murray Sperber and Bob Samuels

Open Discussion on Strategies for Changing Higher Education: 4:15-4:45.
(We may also add a panel on student organizing)

Please RSVP to bobsamuels_us [at] yahoo [dot] com if you plan to come; a $10 donation will be suggested but not required, and you do not have to be a member of MLA to attend.

A Hamster Thanksgiving

Posted in Housekeeping,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on November 26, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionHappy Thanksgiving! In this special Post Academic holiday episode, I wanted to count my blessings regarding my job choices. No one’s job is ever completely bad unless you’re working for an asshole–and if that’s the case, try reading Bob Sutton. You’ll be glad you did!

Since I am a grad-student-turned-hamster, I have days when I wish I were still an academic. But I am truly thankful to be a hamster, for many reasons:

Clear goals. The best part of being in the Hamster world is that I don’t feel like I’m flailing. I am assigned tasks, and I finish them. Some of the tasks require long days and boring meetings, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something on a regular basis. I help build what you see on the web, and I’m not working on one big project whose finish line is years away.

More after the jump! Image of a heritage turkey by stu_spivack from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Being Thankful for Academics Who Aren’t Assholes

Posted in Housekeeping,Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on November 25, 2010
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PhotobucketIf you’ve been reading Post Academic lately, you might justifiably believe that I think academics are either straight-up assholes or, to borrow the colorful language of Melissa Rivers on the “Celebrity Apprentice,” “whore pit-vipers.” That is not true. I made some of my closest friends in academia, and I had excellent advisors. Assholes just stand out because, according to Bob Sutton, interactions with assholes are five times more powerful than interactions with nice people.

Assholes know the extent of their power, which is why they do what they do. Why not undercut that power by giving a Thanksgiving shoutout to the nice people in academia?

I’m happy to start. I am thankful to all my grad student friends who checked up on me when I was sick, which was most of grad school. I am thankful for my friends who subbed for me at the SAT academy when I had to leave town. I am thankful for the advisors and friends who attended a certain weekly lunch meeting at UCI. And I am most thankful for everyone who stayed positive and didn’t let workplace gossip get to them.

More after the jump! Image of a Thanksgiving dinner by Alcinoe from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Today is the best day of the year!

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on November 7, 2010
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"You can't stop time..." by Ranveig (Public Domain)

Two words: Fall back!  Every since my college days or maybe even before, the Sunday on which Daylight Savings ends has been my favorite day of the year, because it’s the 25-hour day.  So what if it’s gonna start getting dark earlier now and my body clock gets out of whack, it’s all worth it to milk that extra one hour we get today.  I’m not one for planning my day minute-by-minute any more, but I love budgeting the bonus hour we pocket today.  And somehow that hour becomes something like seven, because I tell myself all day I’ve got extra time to spend.  Here’s everything I can somehow pack into that single hour:

Sleep: This is the best way to begin the day, either sleeping the same amount but waking up an hour early or banking more sleep while getting up at the same time.

Studying: This hour seemed to matter a lot when I actually, you know, studied and/or did research.  Of course, I probably could’ve found an hour for reading pretty much every day if I was more efficient, but receiving time from the change just seemed better.  Then again, the extra hour became less enjoyable when I had to use it grading papers.

Hanging out: Back in college, the extra hour could be stretched into multiple social plans, since I could spend a little more time to meet up with friends because I seemed to be an hour ahead of the game all day.

Errands: There’s always shit to do when you’re trying to sleep or catching up on studying/grading papers or killing time with your friends.  This is the one day you can actually catch up on all those things you’ve been putting aside, like doing laundry, cleaning your room, organizing stuff.  You might not be able to take care of everything, but getting even a little stuff done will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

Added bonus this week: UC types (and probably all public employee academics) get Thursday off for Veterans’ Day, which some could turn into at least a four-day weekend if you find a way to take Friday off.  And for those with envious Tues/Thurs schedules, you end up with, like, half of November off, seeing that you get basically a week’s vacation this week and for Thanksgiving.  It’s not bad timing either, considering you can chill a bit before things get crazy with job applications/final papers/grading final papers/holiday travel next month.

Now stop reading this post, and go use up those extra 58 minutes you still have left today!

Footnotes: The one in which the music died

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on September 19, 2010
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“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.  This one we’re devoting to college radio and college rock, two of our favorite things about college and one of the first bonding topics that brought together the Post Academic team back in grad school.  Unfortunately, we only have bad news to convey here: Can the crapped out economy plus the conservative right really kill the rock for the kids?

Rice U’s KTRU station sold: KTRU is something of a college radio institution, at least as Arnold’s high school friends from Rice have told him.  But that didn’t stop Rice U’s admin, through some shady, secret deal, from selling the school station’s frequency and transmitter to the U of Houston for $9.5 million.  Under the plan, its freeform format will undergo a facelift and become a NPR-affiliated classical music station, under the callsign of KUHC, with KTRU still existing online.  What’s interesting is that the public U of H seems to be taking advantage of the well-heeled, highly-endowed private Rice, which claims it’s selling due to recession-related budget woes.  Relatedly, Rice UP is being shuttered after restarting a few years ago as an online-only publisher.  The best line from the Houston Chronicle piece linked above is that “the secrecy surrounding [the sale] was counter to academia’s preferred openness.”  Seriously, academia prefers openness?  Like, you know, in all those job searches and tenure reviews?

Anyhow, for more info from those on the ground, check out the Save KTRU blog.

Vandy’s WRVU considers selling: That’s probably a situation that weird music listening Vandy alums–like four-year DJ Caroline Roberts!–should keep an eye on, since their alma mater’s WRVU is exploring the possibility of selling its license and frequency to go online.  The official line from the student-run station is that “the proceeds would be used to create an endowment to support innovative student media experiences, facilities and operations at Vanderbilt in perpetuity.”  But according to Nashville alt-weekly The Scene, there might be something more dubious afoot, passing along unconfirmed speculation that a Christian network–Educational Media Foundation–is interested in picking up the frequency to work its way into the market.  It doesn’t help, either, that Vanderbilt Student Communications, which runs the station, pre-empted any dissent by buying up domain names like “  In any case, the financial motive is for Vanderbilt Student Communications to use the money to endow an online-only station that would supposedly be unburdened from relying on finding revenue in other ways.

After these two stories, you gotta be asking what up with fancy privates sometimes referred to as “the Harvard of the South” selling/out their radio stations?

New Pornographers cancelled by Christian college: As if no one could see this was coming, but Christian school Calvin College in Michigan cancelled a scheduled performance by indie-supergroup the New Pornographers.  For those of you not in the know, the New Pornographers are really not pornographic at all, unless you count sentimental love songs with a tinge of humor as X-rated.  Pretty much the only thing racy about the outfit is that part-time singer Neko Case was unsolicitedly voted as the “Sexiest Babe in Indie Rock” in a Playboy poll.

The reasoning given by the Calvin College powers-that-be was that, “after weeks of discussion and consideration, the irony of the band’s name was impossible to explain to many.”  That’s kinda hilarious, because there’s some kind of assumption that the band’s moniker could only be ironic–however the CC folks define that–if it wasn’t serious.  This article in The Grand Rapids Press compiles all the jokes made at the expense of Calvin College because of its decision.  Even better is yet another piece in the GRP–has anything else happened in Grand Rapids this week?–pointing out how other bands much more sketchy thematically have performed at Calvin, from too sexy Liz Phair to too drunken Hold Steady.  My question is how does Calvin College get such great shows in the first place?

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