March 16, 2009

The Unbearable Seriousness of Academia

Filed under: writing — jrice @ 5:02 pm

In stages:

Stage 1. “I’m getting like that character in Hannah and her Sisters,” I said to my wife in San Francisco. “Which one? Michael Caine?” “No,” I said. “The Max Van Something or other. He hated everyone and thought they were all idiots. He didn’t want to sell his paintings.” “He was sad,” she said. “Yes,” I said. “He was.”

Stage 2: Conference observations. Here’s one: The proponents of critical thinking buying 6 dollar Buds just so that they can hold a beer and talk.

Stage 3. I cannot understand the phenomenon of the “Irish pub.” Harp. Guinness. Fried food. Is this the Irish symbolic? Is that all there is?

Stage 4. At a conference, attendees are afraid to venture too far off. “Let’s eat here” or “Let’s drink here” really means “There is a place close to the hotel that might serve something we can consume.” The attendees forget that the city extends outward, far away from the Hilton or its clone.

Stage 5. Why should I single myself out or be singled out for complaining about academia? For four days, attendees complained about wireless connectivity or lack of. “What do I know about building negotiations,” I thought. “And besides, hotels like this (Hilton) are not made for conventional stays. They are designed for reimbursement. For that reason, wireless is obligated to be expensive and extra. It is an expense.”

Stage 6. At a given conference, people must know how your town is treating you. “How is life in Columbia?” they ask. They. Everyone. They ask it more than once. “How is Columbia?” “It is cold in the winter and hot in the summer,” I say. “Really?” they say. “Really.” Do we really care about each other’s cities? Do you have weasels or monkeys where you live? How does your toilet flush? Is your marriage over? What smells bad where you live? Are there midgets?

Stage 7. This genre of writing makes me feel like Larry King writing a column….


  1. Crap. I’m at stage 5. I had this very conversation today with someone–the reason wifi was $15/day is because that’s what corporate expense accounts will bear. It’s not rocket surgery.

    Comment by collin — March 16, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  2. my marriage is over and my toilet flushes, quite nicely, precisely because my ex-wife is no longer around to flush inappropriate objects down the bog.

    your best post in ages. consolidate.

    Comment by ink stained luddite — March 16, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

  3. I guess I’m in stage 6, but it’s not all bad: for me, the question is what beer do you have in your city? Brewpubs? Tastings? Tell me, man, what’s the beer like where you live, I gotta know…. Then they usually turn and buy one of those 6 dollar Buds.

    Comment by Glenn — March 16, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  4. Hmmm, no one asked me what life is like in CT, and I went with people to eat across the bridge in Sausalito so we could watch yuppies carry yoga mats to Starbucks and get away from the din of the Hilton lobby. I also skipped the Ohio State party at the Irish Pub to have dinner at Jamie’s restaurant (from Top Chef). I did complain, though, about about audience members at various panels. Guess I’m not really an academic, yet, which probably doesn’t surprise many.

    Comment by Nels — March 17, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  5. Are there weasels wear I live? Yes.

    Comment by Bill DeGenaro — March 17, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

  6. I was going to post about 4Cs myself but now, what is the point?

    Comment by Mike — March 18, 2009 @ 12:56 am

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