My typist has an early morning meeting tomorrow -- one of those really wacko meetings that could only happen in the academy: the salary committee will meet to award merit points for a non-existent pool of merit money (call it Excellence Without Money: Keeping It [Un]Real!) -- so this will be quick. We know many of you count on us to be your eyes and ears on the culture, and, though that knowledge humbles and unnerves us, we feel an obligation to let you know what's on our radar screens even when we don't have time to blog it properly. We don't want you to embarrass yourselves by not knowing what all the other kids are talking about at the lunch table, so here you go. Here is what matters, right now, in Roxie's World:
1. Watch this heartwarming vid of a Detroit couple whose 6-pound Chihuahua, Tinker Bell, was picked up in a 70-mph wind gust and blown nearly a mile away during a sudden storm. The miraculous tale involves a flea market, a pet psychic, and two dog lovers named Dorothy and Lavern Utley. You know we don't make this stuff up. Watch the vid:
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2. Too busy to pay careful attention to all the Holy Crap, He Really IS the President! assessments of Obama's first 100 days in office? Newsweek does it quick and dirty in a 5-minute highlight reel. There really has been a lot going on, and we give the dude credit for staying cool as a cucumber. I'm pretty sure we would have melted down the moment Roberts screwed up the oath of office right there on Moment One of Day One, so paws up to the Big Guy with the Tall Wife and the Frisky Dog.
3. From the Office of Burning the Village in Order to Save It (Higher Ed. Division): You've probably seen the Times Op-Ed piece by Mark C. Taylor, chair of the religion department at Columbia, which proposes that "If American higher education is to thrive in the 21st century, colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated and completely restructured." Among Taylor's suggestions -- and sing along if you've heard this song before -- are the abolition of tenure and the abolition of departments, which would be replaced by "problem-focused programs." By "problem-focused programs," Taylor means, um, well, for example, "Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water."
Moose's favorite line in the column was,"Consider, for example, a Water program," which set her mind spinning out a fantasy MLA interview in which the Water Program at Big Coastal Ag School seeks to add a lit critter to its crack team of H2O specialists. She imagined an interview committee comprised of an engineer, an economist, a meteorologist, and a microbiologist feigning interest as a desperate young job seeker tried valiantly to connect her dissertation on transatlantic modernism to the program's goals and foci. "Water is at the heart of the project," she gamely essays. "Transatlantic Modernism -- Get it?" Historiann offers a more substantive critique of Taylor's column here.
4. Further evidence that the term "post-feminist" may be premature, indeed, delusional: The MLA has released a study, aptly titled "Standing Still," which shows that English and foreign language departments "promote male associate professors to full professors on average at least a year -- and in some cases, depending on type of institutions, several years -- more speedily than they promote women," according to a summary of the report on Inside Higher Ed. In doctoral-granting English departments, men spend an average of 7.5 years as associate professors, while women spend an average of 9.8 years. The gap is even bigger in doctoral-granting foreign language departments, where men spend an average of 6.7 years as associate profs, while women average 10.2 years in the rank. I would spend time delving into the hows, whats, and whys of this gap, but my typist, who has been an associate professor for, um, awhile now, would like to move on to other topics. Go read the Inside Higher Ed analysis. It's really good, if sobering.
5. From the Office of You Say "Potato," I Say "Queer Studies," But I Wish You Would Just Stop Talking: If you haven't seen it, you really must go read Larry Kramer's petty, narcissistic, and wrong on a thousand levels speech to the Yale Gay and Lesbian Association, which bestowed its first Lifetime Achievement Award on the writer and activist. The speech is an attack not only on Yale, with whom Kramer has had a famously contentious relationship over his efforts to fund gay-related things at his alma mater, but on the projects of queer theory and gender studies and on versions of LGBT history that are, in Kramer's anything but humble opinion, overly influenced by those fields of inquiry and thus insufficiently committed to producing what Historiann wittily describes as The Big Book of Transhistorical Gayness. (Great discussion going on in the comments on this post, by the way. Don't skip 'em, or Historiann will catch you in her lasso!) Tenured Radical, herself a Yale alum, takes on Kramer, too, and Inside Higher Ed has a report with comments from several prominent historians, including a very diplomatic and now at Yale George Chauncey (whom Kramer, in his speech, tried to co-opt as an ally).
Note to self: When somebody is kind enough to give you an award, the most important thing to say is thank you. Here is a list of ten tips for writing an effective thank-you speech, and nowhere on it do I see, "Attack the institution hosting the event and fill your remarks with mean-spirited invective that demonstrates how little you know about anything other than Your Self."
Chew on that one, darlings, as you lull your own lovely selves to sleep. Sweet dreams.