Re: Your suffering is my cilice

1

Whiners.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:49 AM
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oh man. that really gave me the shakes. post-traumatic stress re-triggered. screaming meemies.

at least parts of it were very funny. e.g.:
"the slurred speech of Doctor Peace Bear and his equally drunk and self-satisfied Boomer colleague Professor Hippypants."

yeah, i had horrible experiences at those apa things, year after year. i could show you the scars, but they aren't even pleasant to look at.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:59 AM
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Why are you throwing me red meat?

Leiter thinks that the philosophy job market is perfectly wonderful, and how could that motherfucker be wrong?

I still think that it's a cartel, or at least a closed guild. I'd like to see some kind of statistical analysis of the way that the consensus rankings of departments (and in effect, subspecialties and schools) published by Leiter affect hirings, promotions, and staffing, which will in turn feed back to the next years consensus ranking.

I read something recently by a lady philosopher who felt that she was being nudged into ethics, which is apparently a girl topic, rather than philosophy of mind which is what she really wanted to do.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:01 PM
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You're in philosophy, bitzer? How long have you been at your current institution?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:02 PM
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Bitzer is like Bourbaki. Don't get personal with him. They are touchy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:03 PM
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I'd like to see some kind of statistical analysis

It's in the works. Meanwhile, there's this paper for other fields.

I read something recently by a lady philosopher who felt that she was being nudged into ethics

Sally Haslanger. Ethics, History and Ancient are the archetypal girlie fields. Metaphysics, Mind and Language are where the big boys hang out.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:05 PM
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4--
some of us are.
some of us ply other trades (and other taws).
not long.

3--
hasn't kieran healy already done a lot of that statistical analysis?
i remember him posting a breakdown on ct which used leiter's raw data and showed (to simplify) that much of the rating data amounted to "my department likes the kind of departments that like my department". but google kieran and leiter back at ct and you'll probably find it.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:06 PM
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not long.

Ah, ok.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:07 PM
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8--

me no get--what were you wondering about, and why does 'not long' satisfy?


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:08 PM
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He thought you were Donald Davidson.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:10 PM
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[Redacted. I'm compiling dossiers on everyone.]


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:10 PM
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Now I'm off to swim...


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:10 PM
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There's also this paper.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:11 PM
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Ogged is compiling dossiers on all of us.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:11 PM
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History (which many people take to include Ancient...) and ethics are also areas that are popular on the market, whereas M&E and, to an even greater degree, language & mind are less popular on the market than they are in R-I institutions.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:12 PM
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11--

look, if you want a date you can just be up-front about it.

if i knew where you were an undergrad, that might help narrow down which one of us posting that day.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:12 PM
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As FL says, popularity is segmented by status. The best example is bioethics, for which there is a very large and often quite high-paying market, but which has no status at all at the elite end.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:14 PM
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Or, on the other end, something like philosophy of math & logic, which is horrible for job-hunting, but "prestigious."


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:18 PM
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Dating Bitzer, as I said, would be like dating Bourbaki. I hear that they lure their prey into a room, lock the door, and have their way with their "dates". It's not pretty at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:22 PM
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it's true, bourbaki did make some contributions to group theory.

especially lie groups.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:24 PM
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I liked the part about Dr. Peace Bear and Professor Hippypants, too. Normally I don't like to think in terms of generational politics, but in academic the job market the differences in generational experience and the resulting cluelessness many of those in control, is overwhelming.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:26 PM
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hmm--
just checked my current ip address.
it's nowhere near my institution.
i think that's what proxies do.
(or as woody allen said, "i was nowhere *near* oakland!")


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:27 PM
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How come I missed out on the boomer graft? Shit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:28 PM
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There does also seem to be a difference in how you present yourself if you're going after R-1 positions versus how you set yourself up if you're going after everything else.

I submit that M&E suffer on the market largely because while it's prestigious, there's only three people who are good at giving M&E talks in total, ever.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:28 PM
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The part about everyone competing for these one-year positions hit home. I was looking at the foreigh language job listings the other day, and some of them want someone to revamp their undergraduate curriculum, attract new students, play an active role in the community, be actively publishing, teach 3/3, and develop outreach courses... as a one-year hire. Makes me see red.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:31 PM
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Man, I was bummed to see that John was teaching 4 sections with a total of 250 students. That's huge. The raw number of students is a big factor.

I'm teaching 5 sections (4 preps) with a total of 150 students, and it's really fucking killing me. I'm also getting credit for an extra course (as if I were teaching 6 courses) because I'm moving a course on line for the first time. I didn't find out I was teaching on-line until late in the game, and I've had to create my online content on the fly. When I told this to a cow-orker, he said that what I was trying to do was simply impossible, and that I should have spent the summer setting up the on-line environment. Now someone tells me.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:32 PM
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There does also seem to be a difference in how you present yourself if you're going after R-1 positions versus how you set yourself up if you're going after everything else.

Definitely ... this kind of classification (and self-classification) starts very early, and to a large extent is structured by choice of grad school. Upward mobility right out of grad school is extremely difficult. E.g., if you're at a Tier 3 place and want a Tier 1 job, you can forget it, absent some pretty unusual circumstances.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:32 PM
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John s/b Jon


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:33 PM
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Fucking boomers. The job market in English is somewhat better, but only marginally. Most of the good interviews take place at MLA in hotel suites, where the candidate is often asked to perch on the bed while a standing phalanx of bored-looking faculty observe you squirming. I've heard horror stories that you'd wish would get porny but don't.

And in every field I've talked to people in, young women academics get shoved around by, on one side, boomer "old boys" who just open their eyes wide and say "brave new world, eh?" and then ignore anything women might be trying to bring to the table, and on the other side by boomer women who have fetishized the difficulty of their own rise and are obsessed with re-enacting it on young women out of a misguided sense that we all "need to toughen up." Fucking assholes. Die, already.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:33 PM
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17/18: See biglaw vs. non-profit/in-house/SG's office.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:35 PM
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25: I had that kind of temp job for 8 years. It is simply exploitational. I think I'm going to presidential mode in case I slip into really bad mouthing former employers.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:35 PM
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The difference in the skills required for R-I jobs and jobs in the rest of the industry hurts candidates at every level, because everyone wants to believe they are in the R-1 game, when really almost no one is. So it graduate school most programs groom you to be an R-1 candidate, even though there is no chance of you breaking into the old boys network. Once out temping, people act as though the adjuncts should be research professors, to community outreach and publishing papers, even if they have to teach four sections of intro every semester.

I had a job where I taught four sections of ethics to about 140-150 students and my contract was reviewed every year--in fact, I had to reapply for my job competing against outside candidates--and the criteria for rehiring were all research oriented.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:42 PM
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Sad thing is, you could possibly be one of several people I know, GHWB.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:42 PM
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27: so true. I can report from the search committee that my department thinks, having been burned by "best student ever" letters from mediocre PhD programs in the past, that we should just avoid interviewing anyone from just about any unranked institution, unless there's something really good in the dossier (e.g., a publication record). And this makes sense, given the limited interview schedule and so on.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:42 PM
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People seem reluctant to identify the real culprit, which is tenure.

http://suburbdad.blogspot.com/2004/06/thoughts-on-tenure_24.html


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:45 PM
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ghwb--
again--sickening stories that bring back bad memories.
the treatment you are describing is wronger than wrong. *and* misguided. in that it does not lead to good teaching.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:46 PM
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The fact is, as soon as you blame tenure for the problems in the job market, you guarantee that you will have more problems on the job market.

Saying bad things about tenure is about as much of a career killer as organizing a grad student union.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:52 PM
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Lots of things irk about the job market, but I have to say that whining about the smoking tables seems a bit off, or at least no worse than the private sector where they might expect you to demonstrate some charm and collegiality, too.

I'm sort of hosed anyway. Should have been an ethicist, I guess.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:58 PM
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Wait, there are multiple bitzers?


Posted by: SEKid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:59 PM
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39--
now, now--unauthorized use constitutes infringement.
cease and desist, sek, or you'll be receiving a registered letter from the law firm of bitzer, bitzer, and bitzer--and you ain't a partner.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:04 PM
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38--
the parts about the smoker may not be the most substantively damning, but they sure are funny.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:06 PM
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What struck me about that blog is how obviously smart that guy is. If that's the competition, I would have no hope.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:08 PM
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The smoker is an easy target for jokes, but its really just a petty indignity, not one of the structural problems of the market.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:15 PM
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Today's Bitzer unit sees no problem, which leads me to conclude that he teaches at Western Kansas Poly. Probably at his school you're judged by your taste in chewing tobacco and jerky.

Take that, Kid! Zing!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:22 PM
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taken. zinged. don't go dissing my alma mater. it's jerky.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:24 PM
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Oh, man, I started reading that blog and then got sucked into reading all the archives. That's horrendous. I can't promise to never complain about career problems again, if I did I'd last about fifteen minutes, but that's a sin.

Shouldn't the APA have some kind of rule that a department can admit no more grad students than it placed in the last year? (Or, maybe twice as many to allow for dropouts?) Admitting Ph.D students with no hope of getting jobs is just evil.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:25 PM
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The worst post is about the departments where they dress up the students all pretty for a job, and then the students find out, nobody from that department's ever gotten a job.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:29 PM
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From what people have told me, the philosophy job market is wonderful compared to English and History.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:29 PM
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No, Emerson, I think English is doing fine these days. I'm really not worried about being offered a position. Whether it will be a position I want is another matter, but I'll get some kind of offer. The majority of grads from my maybe-top-20 program get tenure-track jobs.

It could be that we perform better on the market because we have a fairly prestigious faculty on the one hand, but gruelingly heavy teaching loads on the other, so we get the benefits of East-Coast-eliteness and hardscrabble-sweathogness. But I'm not worried about me or my friends.

If I were in Philosophy, though, I'd be tearing my fucking hair out.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:34 PM
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Yeah, I'm pretty much hairless at this point and suicidally depressed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:36 PM
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50: Boo. Is this due to a post-hoc assessment of your chances or the grind or uncertainty that everyone faces while the market is unfolding?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:39 PM
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grind of uncertainty


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:39 PM
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Damn. If that blog is real I'd be hairless and depressed in your place too. Is a solution coming up with an alternative career plan that actually sounds attractive, so you're almost hoping not to get a job?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:41 PM
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But don't grad students have a pretty good idea about this stuff well ahead? Surely it's not a well kept secret.

Then again, I'm confronted with daily evidence of hope beating out experience: I get 4 or 5 resumes a day, while I have no openings, and even if I did, the chances that I would hire someone who sent me an unsolicited and uncompelling resume are about nil.

That's every day, by the way, so if we go with four, that's 1400+ people a year going with wtf, rather than a plan that might get them somewhere. Sometimes they'll call -- well, only one a month or so -- to tell me they'll be in town, and ask if I want to interview them.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:44 PM
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One of the structural conditions that makes philosophy unique is that it attracts the most talented people (as measured on raw GRE scores across all three segments of the test), is highly professionalized internally, but is not itself a profession in the broader sense, like law or (increasingly) economics. Nor does it have any real grant-getting power within universities, unlike other social sciences. And neither is it even in the same position as modern languages or English, where you can at least justify large budgets by having to teach freshmen how to write. So there's lots of talent but no leverage to secure a budget proportionate to it. Hence, crunch.



Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:46 PM
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It is mystifying, though, if you're not a desirable candidate. While I'm old and getting stale now, and need to find a permanent home rather than flitting merrily from firm to firm, I've got the sort of resume that made job hunting trivial -- get handed a summer job with a permanent offer at the end of it in school, and afterwards go to a headhunter and get picked up by firms who want someone from my school with my grades. Someone who's as good or better a lawyer, from a mediocre school with mediocre grades? I have no idea what they do other than send out resumes at random -- I've got friends in that position and it sounds awful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:48 PM
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It helps that I've sat on faculty membership committees both at my graduate schools (MA and PhD programs) and at the school where I teach. I don't know if this is an option for you philosophers going on the market, but it has been a real eye-opener to participate in the hiring process in my field over the past six years.

I've seen some terrible job talks. I've seen some that were good in a way, but didn't show a fit with our school. And I've seen some that made me proud to do what I do, and gave me a benchmark for my future talks. And sitting in on the discussions afterwards has been fascinating.

First of all, this is where departmental sexism and racism is its nastiest. Every time there is a female candidate, there will be a discussion of whether she is pretty or not, and if she is pretty, there will be a discussion in dating language about whether she's "out of our league" or not. If she's not pretty or if she's overweight, there will be talk about how she's "low energy" or "not trying hard enough" or whatever.

If it's a white, handsome man in a suit with an expensive tie who speaks in a loud voice, he'll be offered the job. If it's a man of color, there will be murmurs about whether the department is "ready" for him or not. Women of color are seriously considered for the job even if the department didn't like the talk.

This stuff is as ugly as humanities departments get. You find out who your colleagues really are when they discuss future colleagues. It's depressing and gross. On the other hand, it's taught me a lot about what I need to do when I go on the market, and the kind of crap I have to be prepared for.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:50 PM
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Someone who's as good or better a lawyer, from a mediocre school with mediocre grades?

Well this is the problem. The economists say, "Where's the credible signal of being better?" The sociologists say, "Social closure makes the world go round." Either way, you're screwed.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:50 PM
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Every time there is a female candidate, there will be a discussion of whether she is pretty or not

Holy shit. Is this a department-level or field-level phenomenon? Anyone who tried that in my department at a hiring meeting would be ostracized.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:53 PM
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58: In lawyering, or at least the parts of the job market I know about, there's almost no way I know of to change the signal sent by your law school credentials and grades. You can be absolutely spectacular as a professional, but there is no way to communicate that to someone who might hire you.

You can make yourself desirable by having a stable of clients that will follow you to a new firm, but you don't get clients by being a good lawyer. (You keep them by being a good lawyer, but you get them by being their brother-in-law or being on some committee with them.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:54 PM
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If it's a white, handsome man in a suit with an expensive tie who speaks in a loud voice, he'll be offered the job.

Note to self: speak up, buy spiffy suit, get plastic surgery.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:54 PM
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According to RMP, aren't you already hotter than both Slolerner and Labs? You should be fine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:56 PM
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Oh, they do get ostracized, but even the stupidest objections have to be taken into account, because this is the faculty that will have to live with this person for the next twenty years.

We have a woman prof in my grad department who just hates women in her field who do any kind of political analysis. Bringing up race or gender w/r/t her favorite author is an inexcusable crime. And it infuriates everyone, and prevents really great hires. But what are you going to do? This prof would just make that person's life a misery. And yes, she gets ostracized for it, but she doesn't care.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:56 PM
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Bringing up race or gender w/r/t her favorite author is an inexcusable crime. And it infuriates everyone,

Yeah but this kind of bias is at least nominally intellectual. "She's hott" or "What a porker" are a bit different, no?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:58 PM
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I don't think descriptions of hottness have been that explicit, as they get buried under language like, "Do you think she's even interested in us? She must have so many departments after her." or "She seems kinda low-energy to me." It's not an explicit conversation, but I think it's clear in that context what's going on.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:01 PM
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According to RMP, aren't you already hotter than both Slolerner and Labs?

Sadly, I think this says more about my fellow grad students here than slol or Labs. We're an ugly bunch.

This prof would just make that person's life a misery.

Only if she could prevent tenure though, right? Otherwise, the candidate would fit well with the rest of the department, and this prof. would avoid her anyway, right?

(And what's with all these depressing Unfogged threads, damn it?)


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:03 PM
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I've been involved in as much of the hiring process as you can be as a grad student. I don't think I'm going to even bother going on the market now. I didn't think it was possible to hate the discipline as much as I do right now.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:05 PM
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Cala, you're not helping.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:06 PM
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In my limited experience, your fellow grad students are attractive and charming.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:06 PM
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I'll hire someone with less than stellar academic credentials if they bring something else to the table. And it doesn't have to be clients -- which, indeed, would be pretty rare for a junior lawyer.

It's not totally irrational, though, to look down on someone who got Cs in first year torts, or contracts. This stuff just isn't all that hard.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:08 PM
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Back on the veldt, language skills were primarily learned tduring sexual activity, and the most successful language teachers were hott, slender women.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:10 PM
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Wait, Jake, what? Have you managed to pierce my cloak of anonymity?


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:10 PM
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I think it was Dean Dad who wrote something about how the hiring process is like bringing a new lamp into a large, old room where some of the corners are dark. And while the idea is to brighten up a dark corner, that light also exposes cobwebs, filth, and other nastiness that one doesn't really want to have to clean up or have exposed.

In a good hiring process, the new lamp helps the department to change, to clean itself up better. In a bad hiring process, the new lamp pisses everyone off by exposing entrenched prejudice.

It's not my analogy, so it's allowed, right?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:10 PM
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Oh, I'm not saying it's totally irrational, just that there doesn't seem to be any way of developing post-law-school evidence of competence or excellence other than a book of business.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:11 PM
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74 -- Five years of progressively responsible government employ, in an agency we appear before. Five years trying criminal cases as a JAG. To pick two.

Equivalent years at a lower status private firm aren't going to do much, it's true, unless we're desperate. In which case, maybe a contract position is the first step.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:15 PM
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60: I suppose that the answer could be to found a niche firm and then merge with a Big firm. Some people who are otherwise mediocre are able to collect clients quite well. Sometimes old-boy types who have gone to a prestigious undergrad, but a slightly less prestigious law school do fine.

Admitting Ph.D students with no hope of getting jobs is just evil.

Yup. Harv/ard's Clas/sics Department is loaded. To attract more undergraduates, they started paying for dinner at Bert/ucci's to get a Latin table off the ground. They could fund a ton of graduate students with the money they have, but they choose to admit very few, because they think that it would be wrong train too many, since there aren't very many jobs.

I actually heard of a story of one guy who had gone to law school but decided that he wanted to go back for grad school. He was spending all of his time reading Plutarch and was really eager and surely highly qualified, but one of his old professors refused to write him a recommendation unless he finished law school first. The professor felt strongly that it was important for the student to finish a degree that gave him real employment prospects once he'd started it.

60 again: LB, do you think that this can be at all remedied by good references from professors? I don't think I'd ever want to work in Big Law, but my school career was pretty uneven. My exam performances, like IDP's, weren't always great, but there are professors who thought that I was plenty smart, and I did very well in some classes.

Some of those professors keep up with their former students. My life's been so screwy that it'll take divine intervention for a lot of stuff to happen, but I'm wondering what options there are for very good people who may not have perfect credentials. I mean, obviously, the Supreme Court's out, but is one relegated to becoming an ambulance chaser?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:16 PM
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72: Maybe? Was the proper response to "I'm a grad student in c/omp l/it at <some school>" not "Oh, with SEK?"


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:16 PM
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I'd have said a year at the SG's office, but no one gets there with mediocre credentials.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:16 PM
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In my limited experience on hiring committees everyone must give a lot of lip service to affirmative action, and is very wary of saying anything that can be interpreted as sexist or racist.

Nevertheless, there are some people who find some way to torpedo all the female and minority candidates. Moreover, you can't say to the torpedo man "you just don't like candidate X because she is a woman" even though everyone knows it is true.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:18 PM
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60: Charley's on the hiring end of this -- I just hear things from friends -- so what he says is reliable compared to what I say. But getting a job as a lawyer once you're not coming with good grades from a very good school is, from the impression I have, an unpleasant and random process. You can make money as a contract attorney, I understand, but I don't know much about how easy it is to get work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:21 PM
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Oh, I'm not saying it's totally irrational, just that there doesn't seem to be any way of developing post-law-school evidence of competence or excellence other than a book of business.

Does the "work at largeish firm, impress better-credentialled lawyer who goes on to better things, and then have said lawyer say 'I worked with this person, they kick ass, we should talk to them'" dynamic exist?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:21 PM
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It's not totally irrational, though, to look down on someone who got Cs in first year torts, or contracts. This stuff just isn't all that hard.

Not C's*, but what if it turns out that you're not good at the racehorse exams with ten page fact patterns that your torts professor set, but you're really good at harder, more technical stuff, e.g., corporate tax, trusts, benefits law?

And what if the school's curve was super strict?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:21 PM
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81: That's what I'm saying -- as far as I can tell, not really. If you first-hand impressed someone who was literally themselves making a hiring decision, that could do it, but other than that I don't think recommendations from anyone make much of a difference.

82: Depends on the school, I think. If your bad grades aren't C's, and your good grades are some variety of A, from a decent school, that doesn't sound bad at all, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:26 PM
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77: I just didn't realize there was a gra/duate stu/dent in co/mp l/it at U/C/I on Un/fog/ged. (Or, did I? I'm such a dunce.) Also, w/hy i/s every/one Goo/gle/-/proof/ing every/thin/g to/day/?/


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:26 PM
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SEK, aren't you the object lesson in why one mightn't want to attract certain kinds of attention?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:29 PM
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Oh, your fellow grad student wasn't posting at unfogged, but drinking whiskey at Zeitgeist.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:31 PM
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85: Point taken. It's a function of the very anxiety under discussion, but it still seems strange to see so much Google-proofing in a single thread. Also, were there a way to return to anonymity, I probably would. (I think. I go back and forth on this.)

86: Ah, I see. Well, good for him/her, and/or you, for meeting one of us not stricken with gout.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:34 PM
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Huh. Ah well. I thought it was cool to run into someone who was even vaguely connected to the surprisingly well-composed text that appears on my computer screen. But maybe not. I am confused.

Anyway, I wasn't sure what the level of cross-blog anonymity was, but I guess the answer is "high"?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:39 PM
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A lot of this sounds familiar from what I saw of my dad's experience trying to get jobs in English (although he's technically a Boomer, so I wouldn't expect that exact intergenerational issue to come up). He had the fatal flaw of refusing to play the game, in some pretty significant ways. I think he wears the same suit from the 1970s, elbow patches included, to all of his job interviews at the MLA.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:41 PM
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Jake, no, it's completely cool. Since I've finished coursework, most of the people in my department know me because of the blogging. (Some professors have even been annoyed by the fact that they were asked if they knew me when strangers learned that they were at UCI. But that's a story only a President can tell.)


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:44 PM
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I've told my parents that, since I'm saving their money by not getting married, I would like help buying a suit for my MLA interviews, probably next year. I believe my words were, "An interview suit is my wedding gown." It's sad, but the effect a tailored suit has on the terms a committee uses to discuss a candidate is shocking.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:45 PM
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He had the fatal flaw of refusing to play the game

Nathan, I am your father.

Academics are highly independent vs. generic Americans, but servile vs. their own hierarchy. Or so I claim.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:48 PM
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It's sad, but the effect a tailored suit has on the terms a committee uses to discuss a candidate is shocking.

It's funny, but the opposite almost seems true here. The well-composed candidates are seen as "superficial," whereas the wrinkled, I-just-flew-in I-was-still-working-on-this-at-the-hotel I-had-no-time-to-change I'm-just-that-devoted folk are lauded. This may an institutional thing, however, since we're hiring (mostly) well-published, senior-level faculty, not grad students fresh on the market.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:49 PM
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Sorry, that sounded snobbish. I'm not saying my institution's better than AWB's, only that I've never seen a newly-minted Ph.D. seriously considered for a position here.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:51 PM
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92: "Or so I claim."

Just before sorting their severed heads into not more than two piles.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:52 PM
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SEK hijacks another thread, people head for the exits.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:54 PM
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I apologize for offending your delicate sensibilities. In the future, I'll refrain from topicality.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:59 PM
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I want a jacket with elbow patches so bad.

Academic philosophers: may I recommend hitching your wagons to c/ognitive n/euroscience? Money galore! Babes! Brains for the eating!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:06 PM
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And really shitty philosophy, too! Hurray for cognitive neuroscience!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:07 PM
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96: I just bet he's a muslim.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:07 PM
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SEK's school is better than AWB's school, which is in turn better than today's Kid Bitzer unit's school. Let us have no false modesty from horrible, successful people who can be assumed to have attained their present eminence by the performance of unspeakable acts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:08 PM
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82 -- B's don't give me pause. But then I'm not hiring in the rarified air that LB is breathing, either.

There are plenty of jobs that aren't 'biglaw' or ambulance chasing. Even in the private sector. Think of will: his firm isn't biglaw, but I've no doubt that it's very well regarded in the market/community. It ought to be possible to find a slot at a firm that does a kind of law you find interesting -- or, if corporate and trust issues are your bag, in the law department of a financial institution.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:08 PM
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100: You should see what I've got strapped to my chest.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:08 PM
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99: well, hey, not necessarily. I mean, Church/lands, right? They're okay.

Seriously, we need you. Come aboard, unemployed metaphysicists; stare at our imaging! Thrill to our matlab!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:09 PM
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Also, ev psych needs people knowledgeable about the veldt. If Unfogged isn't the veldt, what is?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:10 PM
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81 -- Well, we do hire associates who've worked with partners who join us, even if the associate isn't going to work exclusively with the partner.

And I shouldn't be so negative generally: we have a number of people who've "upgraded" to join us, based on a specific skill and a specific need. For example, if we were looking for a bankruptcy lawyer, skill and experience might count for more than academics, and I might well favor a bankruptcy court clerkship over a Circuit clerkship.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:14 PM
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105: Once, at school, a Time-Life promo came in the mail that said "The ground rules are simple: Kill or be killed. Run fast or die." We had our own ground rules, which were different, so we adopted those.

I should have added those to the house style thread. Is it too late? What about hovertext?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:17 PM
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there are some people who find some way to torpedo all the female and minority candidates

At some universities, this is done above the departmental level.


Posted by: e a ross | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:34 PM
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I must say that I perversely appreciate being reminded of just how horrid the philosophy job market -- the whole process of going on the market -- is. I left the field (ABD) in part because of all this: it just began to look like a really bad investment, of my time, and of money. I couldn't help but feel that I was wimping out; but the fact is that it really was/is that bad. Those I knew who had managed to find jobs were teaching, yeah 4/4, hundreds of students, dirt pay, moving back and forth across the country every year.

As of when I left, my department was beginning to change its stance, beginning to discourage undergrads from pursuing the Ph.D., and on occasion advising certain 2nd or 3rd year grad students to leave.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:36 PM
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And people doubt the goodwill of the likes of Tim Burke when they tell people that to a first approximation "Don't Go To Grad School" is true for everyone.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:39 PM
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Yeah, this thread is really making me happy about my decision not to go to grad school.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:40 PM
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Don't Go To Grad School In The Humanities

I mean, I hope there's still that qualifier.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:40 PM
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This is why I went to work for the labor movement.

But then again, I'm plotting revenge.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:41 PM
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Yeah I was implicitly thinking "in the humanities" too. But I was self-censoring to avoid anti-humanities bias.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:43 PM
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109: Agreed. Dropping out of philosophy grad school was the best career move I ever made.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:45 PM
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The trouble is that it can be such a great life for a certain kind of person, and lots of people think they're smart enough, or could be lucky enough, to get to live it. It's hard to impress on people that they're basically playing the lottery, but instead of buying a ticket, they're spending several years of their lives.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:47 PM
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In our job search last year, my favorite candidate got dismissed for being too "flamboyant". Which was a euphemism for gay.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:47 PM
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We used to defend a university in various employment discrimination actions: failure to hire, firings, denials of tenure. As with any employment litigation, the stories were always complex and interesting.

You academics must really love your fields, though, to put up with this.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:47 PM
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lots of people think they're smart enough, or could be lucky enough

Trying to keep a structural perspective on the market is extremely important both for reconciling oneself to failure but also for not getting ruined by success. But people always want to think of themselves as the exception.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:50 PM
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117: That's the most fucked up thing I've ever heard. My doctorate is political science, and my alma mater is a big private urban school. And we only ever let prejudices over ideology, methodology and internal politics take precedence over the quality of someone's work when making an appointment.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:50 PM
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On the flip side, some of those positions with 350 applicants end up with "top" candidates who have offers from more than one school. So the schools the candidates end up not choosing might end up with no one hired that year for that position. And then the process starts again.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:51 PM
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Why are people googleproofing c/ognitive n/euroscience and the ch/urchlands?

I think it would be cool if Pat and Paul showed up here.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:52 PM
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Sure. In the humanities. But for god's sake, I don't regret having gone: I did some great work, and hell, I love philosophy.

I wouldn't tell people not to go, but there were quite a few things I didn't grasp going in: it's a *market*, and the competition is going to be fierce. You are training to market yourself in order to get a *job*, and your success in this matter will be somewhat related to your philosophical work, but, uh, not necessarily.

I expect that entering grad school already realizing all this would be a great boon. As it stood, we were all pretty clueless; some took the revelation in stride, some didn't. A number of my fellow grad students changed their dissertation directions to be more marketable.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:53 PM
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116: the one fully tenured philosophy professor I know does seem to have a pretty terrific life. On the other hand, their spouse owns a lot of commercial real estate, which can't hurt things.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:54 PM
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122: to follow up on SEK's joke. I think it'd be swell if they showed up here, but utterly, utterly unlikely.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:54 PM
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122: You do realize that SCMT is actually Paul Churchland, right?


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:55 PM
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120: You must be missing some of the code that is being used. Perhaps methodological issues are used as a proxy for race/gender/etc.?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:55 PM
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it's a *market*, and the competition is going to be fierce. You are training to market yourself in order to get a *job*

The other thing -- and notwithstanding my use of the term above -- is that that despite fierce competition and the need to think about the job and career, it's not really a market at all.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:56 PM
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Timbot: explained!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:56 PM
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I sort of regret having gone to grad school, but I was pretty much aware of the market before going and left for other reasons.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:57 PM
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Two and a half chapters in is too late to throw in the towel, right?

That said, I'm looking at other career options. I love what I do, but not enough to do it in most of the places where there are jobs.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 3:58 PM
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Sunk costs are sunk.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:00 PM
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Sunk costs are sunk.

Oh, come on, you're not really telling a guy with two and half chapters done that he should quit now.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:01 PM
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No, he's telling a woman that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:02 PM
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Depends how long he's taken to write them.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:02 PM
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Back around 1985 at my alma mater (Portland State University, tier three of three) a visiting professor (from Oxbridge, I think) quit in the middle of his appointment because he velieved that the tenured faculty there were mostly using their jobs to support their lifestyles. The narrowness of their methodological approach has a lot to do with my hatred of analytical philosophy. They were able to crank out "philosophy" effortlessly because their methodology bracketed out everything difficult.

I really think that the cartelization of philosophy, its professionalization, its narrowed range and rigid methodological demands, its low profile in the public sphere, and the fattening up of tenured faculty at the expense of the next philosophical generation all are tightly interrelated.

but I always say that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:02 PM
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123: Yeah, I don't regret going. I spent five years studying in a field I love, and having interesting conversations with some of the smartest people I'll ever meet.

It's something I could not have done at any other point in my life: like taking early retirement at the beginning of my career, instead of at the end.

On the other hand, I have no regrets about dropping out. The dissertation was going nowhere, and I saw what the job market was doing to people, and said To Hell With That.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:02 PM
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133: ogged you think Blume is a guy?

You are a terrible stalker, sir.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:03 PM
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No, he's telling a woman that.

Oops, sorry, I knew that.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:03 PM
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Blume is one of those Jewish guys with vulvas that Marcus claims don't exist.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:06 PM
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Two and a half chapters in is too late to throw in the towel, right?

God. It's a major decision. Finish if you can! It took me a few years to forgive myself for ditching, but, you know, you only have one life.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:07 PM
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And people doubt the goodwill of the likes of Tim Burke when they tell people that to a first approximation "Don't Go To Grad School" is true for everyone.

I never saw that advice when I was an undergraduate, but I wish I had. I ended up deciding against grad school anyway, and I think it was a great decision.

I'm still occasionally sad about the fact that grad school would not have been good, but the decision to not go looks better and better.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:08 PM
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1 year research (= living in great city and going to theater 3-6x a week. That was awesome.)
1 year writing after that.
Planning to finish up by the end of next summer. 2-3 years seems like a reasonable amount of time for a dissertation, though the administration is pushing to make 1-2 more the norm.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:08 PM
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95 also to the last sentence of 136.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:10 PM
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I occasionally google the names I can remember of fellow philosophy grad students. I've only found two that have jobs; only one with tenure.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:10 PM
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I talked to a guy once who was very happy with his PhD thesis (based on fieldwork in Nepal) but couldn't publish it and couldn't get a job. He's an MD now. He was very unhappy; he didn't like being an MD. He struck me as exactly the kind of guy you'd want the universities to support. He really loved his topic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:10 PM
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143 is correct and the administration is not.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:11 PM
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136: I am convinced that there are two kinds departments in academic philosophy, the kind that only wants to protect their sinecure and the kind that are super-ambitious about climbing a status hierarchy that is somewhere between meaningless and actively opposed to the production of knowledge, and indeed, the welfare of mankind.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:12 PM
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Having chapters written means different things in different fields or at least to different people, doesn't it? I know people who did all the writing in a year or so, but needed more for the research. Two chapters would have meant they were pretty close to done.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:12 PM
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Watch that, Blume. See, sometimes administrations start that crack down right in the middle of your, oh, fourth year. Meaning that extra year you'd thought you'd have? You don't have. Of course, the resources (here, senior faculty) that they had for the first two years? They don't have for you.

The good news is that shivbunny can get his green card if I die over this.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:13 PM
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you know, you only have one life

Funny, one of the biggest motivators for me to stick with it is that if I do pull it off, get a job I can live with, all that stuff, I can continue to have this double life of sorts, between the u.s. and Berlin.

(This is the part where it starts to sound obnoxious-- woe is me, I won't be able to summer on the continent.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:13 PM
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You are training to market yourself in order to get a *job*, and your success in this matter will be somewhat related to your philosophical work, but, uh, not necessarily.

Yes, this is something I've learned more and more recently. I'm not actually on the job market yet [being sort of ABD -- although there's not really a UK equivalent] but I see peers who have gone on the market. And it's pretty clear to me the ones who are doing well are the self-promoters. Some people arrive and from day one they are networking and making sure they get close to people who can help them out in the future.

I'm not even being bitter about it. These people are good philosophers* but what's getting them where they are going -- them rather than a dozen other good people -- is the other stuff. I just wish I had paid more attention to it myself.

* I can think of one or two people who aren't I suppose, but the couple of people I've noticed being the most conscientious workers of social connections are actually really excellent people producing good/interesting stuff and just show more awareness of the pragmatic stuff they need to do to progress.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:14 PM
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What of the people who don't have what I've got?
Are they victims of my leisure?


Posted by: D. Boon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:15 PM
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You're absolutely right, Cala-- I've already got contingency plans! Because there have been some pretty extreme things coming down from on high here in the last few years.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:16 PM
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God. It's a major decision. Finish if you can! It took me a few years to forgive myself for ditching, but, you know, you only have one life.

Really? I burned those bridges and never looked back. There's only one person I'm still in touch with.

On the other hand, he's now one of the top metaphysicians in the country, and just got poached from Rutgers by NYU; so in retrospect I should have hitched my career to him instead of trying to write a dissertation on the First Critique. But how could I have known that?


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:16 PM
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If you're still in grad school it's really not right to think it's too late to do this kind of thing. One summer hanging out in the right place can do a lot.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:16 PM
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his double life of sorts

Perhaps you've already glimpsed your double out of a bus window in Berlin.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:16 PM
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156 -> 152.



Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:17 PM
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No, all the chicks are ridiculously tall and skinny there.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:18 PM
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155: He's one of the interestingly rare cases of persistent upward mobility, too. (ie no elite ugrad or grad).


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:19 PM
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I seem to have lost a t in 157. That should have been this.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:19 PM
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(ridiculously tall and skinny = definitely not my double)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:20 PM
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155: You obviously know who I'm referring to.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:20 PM
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163: Yes.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:21 PM
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In 165, "155" s/b "160".


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:21 PM
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Blume is actually 7'6" feet tall and ninety pounds; she's being modest, or perhaps trying to pass as American.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:23 PM
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Feet feet feet feet feet feet, '.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:24 PM
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164: He really is the smartest person I've ever met.

And I'm annoyed as hell that that the one footnote to me in his first book is misprinted, because our last names differ only in the final letter, so the footnote reads "XXXXr 1997" instead of "XXXXs 1997" as it should.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:25 PM
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(This is the part where it starts to sound obnoxious-- woe is me, I won't be able to summer on the continent.)

I actually don't find that obnoxious. I think that grad school decisions may wind up sorting themselves according to questions of ambition. I made the decision to leave because quality of life -- the life I wanted -- was more important to me than ambition. Moving hither and thither with little security was, upon reflection, a dreadful idea for me.

Decide what you want and/or need and make decisions accordingly.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:26 PM
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I'm pretty sure I know who you mean, too. Ridiculously smart and very nice.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:28 PM
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So what is his n/a/m/e? Is it libellous to proclaim someone to be one of the nicest and smartest people in the world? Would that negatively impact his career?

Probably yes. It would be regarded as the unprofessional cultivation of a cult following by the savage, hideous reptilian dullards controlling the profession.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:37 PM
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The scary part, having worked on the issue generally (ie not just in philosophy), is that there is no broader understanding among elites or the public that there's a general academic staffing problem -- overuse of contingent faculty, declining numbers of full time slots. And there's not a lot of love in the citizenry for the professoriate generally. That's even before David Horowitz tried to make y'all the new liberal media. But really, you're facing a situation not that much different from what the Teamsters faced at UPS before they went on strike a few years back. Mind you, I don't think this is the way it has to be, but its a big hill to climb, and an expensive one to pave.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:37 PM
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There's a photo of me on his website, as it happens. (I say this mainly to piss Emerson off.)


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:38 PM
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S/B "Probably yes. The savage, hideous reptilian dullards who dominate the profession would regard that as the result of the unprofessional cultivation of a cult following."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:38 PM
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159,162: Fair enough. I was just trying to keep references where they belong: in threads not devoted to them.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:39 PM
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173: And a link to some of my work on his Links page.

I'm also saying this just to piss Emerson off.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:44 PM
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Comity!


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:45 PM
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Hey, you wrote that poem! Ha!


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:46 PM
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173: Gonerill is Ed Gettier.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:47 PM
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178: Yes, I did. It's one of two good things I wrote in grad school. The other one is the paper referenced in the misprinted footnote.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:48 PM
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Man, academic philosophy is a small, small world if you all know who you're talking about on this much information.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:49 PM
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As is Unfogged, LB.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:51 PM
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I just did a google for

"PhD almamater.edu" philosophy -site:almamater.edu

Other than the two I already knew about, I found one other person I knew from grad school.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:52 PM
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182: sorry, what's the difference again?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:53 PM
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The sad thing is I am neither a philosopher nor a poster at unfogged.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:56 PM
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With mention of the schools, it would be surprising if people didn't know who it was. I'd certainly know if someone was 'poached' from/to similarly prestigious programs in my field. (Which, granted, is a bit smaller than philosophy, but still.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:56 PM
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academic philosophy is a small, small world if you all know who you're talking about on this much information.

They're toying with you: only zadfrack and gonerill know who they're talking about. The other philosophers around here may be madly trying to think of foremost metaphysicians who're likely candidates, but if they are, it's because academic philosophy is a small, small world, and nobody can stand not knowing something.

heh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:57 PM
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Especially if one's school lost out on the poaching.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:57 PM
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Yes, "this much" information is actually quite a lot.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:58 PM
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With mention of the schools

Oh. I skipped right over that. Scratch my 187.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:58 PM
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187: Cala knows, too.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:58 PM
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Well, T*d S*d*r seems like a pleasant fellow, based on his picture.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:00 PM
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Is it normal to hate your dissertation and all of philosophy?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:00 PM
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193: Yes, but most of us aren't actually getting the doctorate in philosophy.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:02 PM
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Don't spread yourself too thin. Just specialize in one philosopher to hate in a definitive way. My hating career dead-ended when I decided to hate the entire dominant school of the field.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:03 PM
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193: Based on personal experience - your dissertation, yes; all of philosophy, no.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:04 PM
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I think its pretty easy to hate the entire dominant school in your field, and also quite easy to fear that when you actually doing work in that school that you're just sucking up.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:04 PM
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Dozens of people have their picture on the website, so Gonerill is safe.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:05 PM
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Oh man, Cala, how much longer do you have to hold on before you're done?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:05 PM
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I think "Emerson hating" is a sub-sub-specialty in high demand these days.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:05 PM
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I think I'm sort of at the point where I'm bored with my dissertation topic, more than outright hatred. I'm done with it, but the bugger hasn't gotten itself written. I need to outsource the actual writing.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:06 PM
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Cala, the hospital I worked at had three humanities PhDs in routine supervisory positions. So it's not like it's a total deadend.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:07 PM
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It really is perfectly normal to hate everything just before you're done. If you stick it out and write a book, you will most likely hate the shit out of that, too, as you are revising it for publication.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:07 PM
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Let me know when you find a place that will provide that service!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:07 PM
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198: Gonerill is Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:07 PM
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I thought it was going to be one year, and now it looks like two, and I'm quite literally losing my mind, and then FL puts up a job market post, so now I'm getting drunk and hoping shivbunny doesn't notice I'm sad again.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:08 PM
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This is not advice: two years is a long time to be at your wit's end.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:09 PM
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Tim Burke should update his page to answer the question "Should I drop out of grad school?"


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:12 PM
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If I can get a certain critical mass of philosophers to hate me, I will have arrived. So far I've annoyed certain medium-sized names (Velleman, Crooked Timber) but that's far from enough.

Holbo is actually quite friendly.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:12 PM
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Velleman's easy to piss off, though.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:13 PM
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I'm quite literally losing my mind

Well it's not worth that. But it is basically true that everyone has a shit time during the writing-up/job market phase.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:14 PM
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If I can get a certain critical mass of philosophers to hate me

They're too busy arguing with each other, John. I'd give up.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:15 PM
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Thanks, Cala. So really I've accomplished nothing at all. Fine.

And you're looking for sympathy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:16 PM
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I think I'm sort of at the point where I'm bored with my dissertation topic, more than outright hatred. I'm done with it, but the bugger hasn't gotten itself written. I need to outsource the actual writing

Oh, man, I recognize this: feeling that the thing is done already, it's been worked out and is now boring, and one would like to move on to the next thing. Except that it hasn't actually been written out.

I had a semi-fruitful conversation with my advisor about this at some point: his approach was to, however painfully, drag himself back to the original question/problem/problematic stance, pretend to be interested in it again, walk through the resolution again. Of course, he was able to use the courses he was teaching for this purpose: nothing like going back to Frege, Russell and early Wittgenstein if you're working on later Wittgenstein.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:17 PM
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I could easily do an impersonation of John Hawthorne.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:18 PM
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The conversation about careers reminds me a recent series of thoughts about "the life of the mind."

When I was an undergraduate I loved the life of a student (I was a social misfit, but that's another matter); I loved being surrounded by so many interesting things to know about. When I could, I would try to get people outside my disciplines to tell me about everything they were studying. I felt smart, and like the only limit on how much I could learn was the limit of what I could take in.

I would also run out of energy, and spend a lot of time off by myself, but the academic setting was an energizing one.

These days, I feel like my interests have narrowed. I don't have nearly as much energy to learn new things just because they're interesting or cool. When people start to tell me about things they're working on, half the time I apologize and tell them that I don't have the energy or attention to follow the details.

I miss that feeling of intellectual energy from being a student and I try to figure out what happened to it.

Part of it is the predictable experience of getting older, having more things to think about, having a real job that takes real energy, and so on.

But recently I was thinking that, in addition to all of the predictable reasons, I feel like my work has changed the way I relate to my mind and intellectual energy. I'm curious to know if anyone else at unfogged has had this experience. I feel like working as a computer programmer I have had to learn to be able to think of my own mental output as "product" and to be able to focus on producing things that
are specific and useful rather than general and quirky. I've become very good at that, and acquired a sense of discipline that I lacked before, but I feel like that's cost me something.

I also think that, as a student, I had a luxury that I didn't appreciate to be able to flutter around the edges of problems and probe them until I found a spot that was interesting and that my mind could penetrate. As a student, it doesn't matter that much if you stay precisely on topic, as long as you produce something interesting. As an employee it matters a lot (and this is as much about self-definition as it is imposed by my job. I suspect I could be less disciplined than I am about my job and still be a good employee, but the purpose for which I am trying to use my mind is different, and that changes my entire life.

Does this match anyone else's experience, I've been trying to decide what to do with this realization, and I don't know if anyone has advice.

Consider this an Ask The Mineshaft.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:19 PM
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Wouldn't that mean that the bulk of your impersonation would be in footnotes?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:19 PM
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NickS, you're no longer an early 20s undergraduate. That tired thing is what happens when you get old.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:21 PM
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As the years go by and my dissertation idea becomes riper for writing, my ideas about it get increasingly meta and unlocked in time. God, I don't want to turn into the people I'm supposed to emulate. It's never been my aspiration to disappear into some grimy office somewhere, cranking out boring books no one reads and wondering whether I've wasted my life. I love my work, but mostly the parts of it that diverge completely from the norms of my field and profession.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:21 PM
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You're doomed, AWB. When I was supposed to be writing my diss, I was instead moderating HipMama, and look at what happened to me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:23 PM
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omg, I sound like Emerson.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:24 PM
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And her adviser is telling her to start a small magazine, too.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:24 PM
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NickS, you're no longer an early 20s undergraduate. That tired thing is what happens when you get old.

Probably that's it. I may be over-analyzing but, as I said, I'm not sure if it's just age. I think it's also life circumstances and I'm trying to decide if that's something I can and/or want to change.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:24 PM
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Does this match anyone else's experience

Precisely, including your observation about programming.

I've marked it up to getting old. Hence I'm glad I went to grad school while I was young.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:26 PM
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I've heard that Velleman's a pretty nice guy; is this not true?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:26 PM
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225: If he hates Emerson, he can't be all bad.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:29 PM
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Cala, I'm going strictly by the picture.

NickS, I think that interesting stuff can't be institutionalized or made into a job. I worked it out WRT the humanities, but I suspect that it's more generally true.

I think that what's happening now is, on the one hand, the humanities professions are going through certain demographic / institutional / fiscal shocks, and on the other, the professionalization of the humanities damaged the humanities and made the fields less appealing and worthwhile.

But since the humanities have been defined as work, already humanities people are doing other stuff for their own entertainment. So as the humanities professions become less appealing, the humanities topics might not be picked up by amateurs again. The humanities were mostly amateur up until 50-100 years ago.

My opinion is not widely shared.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:29 PM
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In biology it seems like the people who have successful careers in academia are the people who love what they're doing as grad students and want to keep working on that forever. In that case you can spend your last two or three years of grad school networking with people in your boss's field and latch onto at least a short-term postdoc with one of his friends/competitors quite easily.

If you end up doing your PhD on something that you fell into because there was an opening for a grad student with that professor, and you have no particular interest in continuing to contribute to work about it after you graduate (this describes most people), you can probably get a postdoc doing something similar, but you aren't going to want to work on that the rest of your life, so you have to figure out a way to transition into what you're really excited about (this may or may not be possible depending on what your boss allows you to do with your free time as a postdoc).

I'm not interested in what I'm doing, but if I immerse myself in it I can see its value, and I think the project is well-conceived enough that I can accomplish it without the heroic efforts that require authentic inspiration, so I'm sticking with it. Because in any non-academic place where I'd want to work, the bosses are people with PhDs (or sometimes MDs), and I think I'd be one of the smarter people wherever I work, so I'd like to have the option of being the boss someday.

Since only 10% of grants get approved from national agencies on first pass these days, we'll see more grad students forced to work with whoever has a free space, as very few people can be confident that they can be supporting a student four years from now. This will probably reduce the number of people excited about academia, thus reducing the number of people looking for academic jobs in a few years, which is a good thing.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:30 PM
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I've lost energy and focus, but I still have a fascination with the things I'm interested in. It's not just aging.

I was always pretty antagonistic to the dominant paradigm, but I'm more pessimistic or embittered now than I used to be. "Something will work out eventually" becomes increasingly less plausible as the years pass.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:34 PM
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I've heard that Vell/eman's a pretty nice guy; is this not true?

I've heard he's nice, but opinionated, and like most philosophers, doesn't suffer fools gladly.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:34 PM
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So how 'bout them Giants?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:35 PM
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I've found that hating the entire dominant school in your field is a good reason to get the hell out.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:37 PM
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doesn't suffer fools gladly

This usually just means "is a jerk." I mean, who suffers fools gladly?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:37 PM
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And now off to watch Planet Earth with the kid.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:38 PM
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I don't suffer fools gladly either. Velleman and I were made for each other.

Aren't their two Vellemans?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:41 PM
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I always try to suffer fools gladly. I mean, they have such a hard time.


Posted by: Zippy Zaius | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:41 PM
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who suffers fools gladly?

It's been said that I'm "very good with idiots." But I guess you all knew that.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:43 PM
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It's been said that I'm "very good with idiots."

Dare I ask by whom?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:46 PM
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It's been said that I'm "very good with idiots."

It's possible, sweetie, that they didn't mean what you think they meant.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:48 PM
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193: yes, 196 is right. Hating your discipline is a bad sign. Your dissertation is (hopefully) temporary, but if all goes well you will be doing your discipline most of the day, most every day, for the rest of your life. You better like it, or else find something else to do.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:48 PM
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Dare I ask by whom?

By my former-future-mother-in-law, when I was on the phone with someone at some business who was, clearly, based on my side of the conversation, a moron.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:50 PM
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228: I'll admit to not reading the entire thread but your description of how science differs from humanities is pretty accurate. I take exception to your assertion that reducing demand for academic job is necessarily good. There are already an abnormally high number of academic jobs to be filled, and that's only going to get worse in the near future, regardless of the effect you describe. The baby boomer glut is retiring in massive numbers and replacing them has become rather difficult. I'd rather see more demand for academic jobs than less (though that's easy for me to say from this side of the desk).

I'll also add that it's much more common in biology to just continue doing what you did as a Ph.D. and post-doc than it is in the rest of the sciences, where you're generally expected to not step on your advisor's toes.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:50 PM
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But since the humanities have been defined as work, already humanities people are doing other stuff for their own entertainment. So as the humanities professions become less appealing, the humanities topics might not be picked up by amateurs again. The humanities were mostly amateur up until 50-100 years ago.

A wonderful dream, but it raises the question of how such work is supported. It might be better to go to a world in which people supported themselves through other means while they worked in the humanities in their spare time.

See also (ignoring the pronouns):

To be more specific, there are three primary ways in which modern artists have resolved the problem of their livelihood; they have taken second jobs, they have found patrons to support them, or they have managed to place the work itself on the market and pay the rent with fees and royalties. The underlying structure that is common to all of these -- a double economy and the conversion of market wealth to gift wealth -- may be easiest to see in the case of an artist who has taken a secondary job, some work more or less unrelated to his art -- night watchman, merchant seaman, Berlitz teacher, doctor, or insurance executive. . . . The second job frees his art from the burden of financial responsibility so that when he is creating the work he may turn from questions of market value and labor in the protected gift sphere. He earns a wage in the marketplace and gives it to his art.

The case of patronage (or nowadays, grants) is a little more subtle. The artist who takes a second job becomes, in a sense, his own patron; he decides his work is worthy of support, just as the patron does, but then he himself must go out and raise the cash. The artist who manages to attract an actual patron may seem to be less involved with the market. The patron's support is not a wage or a fee for service but a gift given in recognition of the artist's own. With patronage the artist's livelihood seems to lie wholly within the gift-sphere in which the work is made.

But if we fail to see the market here, it is because we are looking only at the artist. When an artist takes a second job, a single person moves in both economies, but with patronage there is a division of labor. It is the patron who has entered the market and converted its wealth to gifts. Once made, the point hardly needs elaboration. . . .


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:52 PM
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See, I love what I think of as philosophy, but not the dominant faction in the field. That's where the bitterness comes from.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:53 PM
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It might be better to go to a world in which people supported themselves through other means while they worked in the humanities in their spare time.

Honestly, I think I'd work better this way. Like Leibniz, except that the principle of sufficient reason can bite my fine ass.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:54 PM
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216: I feel like the things you describe are even true for academics in science these days too. Thanks to the current funding squeeze, useful has become far more important than interesting, and I think academia suffers as a result.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:54 PM
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245: I.e., a world in which women don't get to do intellectual work because once you have kids you have no spare time? No thanks.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:56 PM
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A second, related problem is that maintaining a middle-class lifestyle (paying for it, living it, and raising middle-class kids) takes all of your time. If you're going to be your own patron, unless you're extremely high-energy or have a skill in high demand, you will probably have to drop out of normal middle class life.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:58 PM
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Isn't the only woman to have ever made a significant contribution to the life of the mind Jane Austen? What exactly would we be giving up here?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:58 PM
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Rightly or wrongly, the "patron" is often the wife, or much less often, the husband.

B., the premise of everything we're saying is that the academic system isn't working. If it worked it would be preferable to amateurism.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:00 PM
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Trolling your own blog is so gauche, ogged.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:00 PM
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249: "We" who, Kemo Sabe?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:00 PM
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We, western civilization.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:01 PM
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251: Isn't working by what standard? The perfect is the enemy of the good, my friend. Baby bathwater, etc. etc.

Also there's no reason that we can't have both systems, you know. Unless you're hung up on wanting to do the work *and* have the recognition of the academy, which is going to be pretty difficult to get if you do away with the academy altogether.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:02 PM
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245: I've thought the same about myself and, when I decided not to apply for any more funding, I thought I'd try it this year. There are people who drop out - and avoid fees - and continue to work until they're close to done, maintain contact with some faculty and students, and then apply for reinstatement and enroll for just long enough to have the degree conferred.

But then I thought this was probably crazy and I should focus more on finding another career and a real social life. I really like my topic and field, though.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:03 PM
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Ogged, you're part of the Asiatic hive mind. We tolerate you, but don't presume to be one of us.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:03 PM
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We, western civilization.

I thought you were Iranian.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:04 PM
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253: I feel certain that you knew exactly how irate that comment would make me, and exactly why, and therefore I'm not going to bother.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:04 PM
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254: not working according to a lot of the people here and a lot of people at the old Invisible Adjunct. According to me, not working in the sense that the scope of permissible thought has narrowed in many fields, and the thought remaining is scholastic. According to you, not working in the sense that you couldn't stand to continue at your school on the tundra.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:06 PM
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Are even obvious jokes trollbait around here now? Are you all really so weak-willed? Anyway, I have to go cook, while B enjoys the fruit of her husband's labor by ordering chinese or whatever.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:06 PM
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Was joke. Ha.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:07 PM
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Gah, looking at Zadfrack's friend's website, I am dismayed at how much he has published. He's not that much older than me.

It seems like some people out there are able to just write. They sit down, type words, send them to the journal and get them published. How do they do this? Why am I not able to do this? It looks like doing this is as simple as deciding to do it, yet only some people get it done.

Gah Gah gah.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:09 PM
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Unfogged: Where Trolls Baiting Trolls Baiting Trolls Bait Trolls.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:09 PM
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If you weren't a Bush, you'd probably have greater facility with the writing thing.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:10 PM
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259: I know, there's a lot that's fucked up about academia these days. But I do think that most of it isn't academia per se: it's the funding situation, to which academia and academics are continuously trying to adjust and react.

Anyway, my real point was that the "if only we could go back to the good old days, when (male) intellectuals worked as insurance clerks or whatever and lived in lonely genteel poverty, is awfully romantic and kind of a poor answer.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:11 PM
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I actually have soft of the disability that is frequently attributed to the Bush clan. Yet I pursued a Ph.D. in philosophy, brushing off writing problems the way people joke about Matt Y's spelling.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:12 PM
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disability s/b syntactic disability


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:13 PM
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while B enjoys the fruit of her husband's labor by ordering chinese or whatever.

God, that sounds like a great idea. Yesterday I spent all afternoon making coq au vin from Julia Childs's recipe. Takeout Chinese sounds like a nice overreaction in the opposite direction.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:13 PM
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In history, at least, I thought the 19th century amateurs were men living in genteel non-poverty. Although there was a guy, whose name escapes me at the moment, who worked a 9 to 5 job and then headed for the New York Public Library in his off hours. After publishing one or two books, he got an academic job. This was in the 1920s or 30s.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:14 PM
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148, 262

I am convinced that there are two kinds of departments in academic philosophy, the kind that only wants to protect their sinecure and the kind that are super-ambitious about climbing a status hierarchy that is somewhere between meaningless and actively opposed to the production of knowledge, and indeed, the welfare of mankind.

It seems like some people out there are able to just write. They sit down, type words, send them to the journal and get them published. How do they do this? Why am I not able to do this?

Sounds like you're pretty conflicted. What I saw of the biz 1983-1990 told me that I couldn't possibly function there. But I was still interested in the subject matter, even including quite a bit of academic philosophy. (But a lot of the authors I like saw their careers deadend, and couldn't place grad students.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:15 PM
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B - I'm pretty sure Emerson is right about the staffing model really not working for people who are or aspire to actually being researchers and teachers, particularly in the humanities. People study out of love or a sense that they want to have this lifestyle/ethos, but those same desires turn them into chattel labor. When I compared academics situation to that of Teamsters at UPS above, what I meant was that UPS was cutting down on the use of full timers and increasing the use of part timers who lack benefits as part of its business model. I see the same thing at th university level. At least I know where the money went at UPS. Not so sure where its going at the colleges.

What's even scarier is that management while sometimes goo, is all too often pretty well right in line with private sector managers when it comes to worship of the bottom line.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:18 PM
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262 and earlier:
In meta/physics, I am especially interested in meta/meta/physics

Holy crap, this man is lapping the rest of the field. You guys best get busy.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:19 PM
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I'm not recommending exact replication of some past state. I'm just working on an alternative.

I've more or less tried to do the self-patron thing. Problems:

1. Many jobs and careers demand more than 40 hours a week, especially if you want to advance.

2. Conflicts with family life.

3. Repeated reminders that you're not to be taken seriously by the real pros.

4. Lack of involvement in the ongoing dialogue.

5. Most likely if you're putting most of your energy into your avocation, your earnings will suffer, and you'll have to make financial sacrifices and might drop out of the middle class. (A working class income is livable, but there are many, many adjustment.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:21 PM
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Meta-meta. Didn't we reach level four meta around here recently?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:23 PM
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262 Scariest thing is that I didn't start publishing until I quit. Now I can publish pretty much what I want, where I want. Part of that is my employer has a weird cachet that give my words greater weight. Part of it is that I'm much more interested in picking fights with ideas that I think really need to be challenged. Not being inside the academic incentive structure is totally liberating in that way.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:24 PM
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275 is why I'm doing the magazine.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:28 PM
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Part of that is my employer has a weird cachet that give my words greater weight.

This is a pretty intriguing statement. I wonder where benton works.

The RAND Corporation? The Alamo? The New York Public Library?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:28 PM
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the staffing model really not working for people who are or aspire to actually being researchers and teachers, particularly in the humanities.

Okay, so that's what you (we) mean by saying it doesn't work. That's specific; and as it happens I agree.

I think, though, that the problem again, isn't academia: it's funding. Public education funding has been going down and down even while credentialism--the expectation that entry-level jobs require at least a BA--has been going up and up. Money isn't getting allotted to the general fund: private and public money is being dedicated to specific research agendas in the sciences, rather than to pure research. Academia's problems come from trying to deal with having more students and less money for faculty--of *course* they/we are going to use grad students and adjuncts to staff the courses. What else can we do? Other than simply throw up our hands, declare that we simply cannot provide courses in the humanities at all, and close those departments?

Which I'm sure is precisely why we're in this situation: consciously or not, the legislatures in charge of the purse strings really don't think we *should* be providing humanities educations.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:29 PM
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273 seems exactly right.

I don't even have an avocation, only hobbies, but that matches my observations.

John, I'm glad Hyde's language resonates with you, the passage quoted in 243 is one of the ideas from that book that sticks with me.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:30 PM
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and you'll have to make financial sacrifices and might drop out of the middle class.

John, this is the second time you've mentioned this, dropping out of the middle class, or not being able to maintain a middle-class lifestyle (also at your 248). I'm surprised that it's a concern you raise.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:31 PM
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273: 1, 2 and 5 are the reasons why I'm saying "replace the current system with ye olde amateurism" is a poor solution. 3 I think is a regrettable effect of professionalism, and 4 is an inevitable factor of 5: if you don't have money to access journals or collections or archives or conferences, you can't keep up with the conversation.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:31 PM
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280: Why surprised? Being poor sucks.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:33 PM
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280: What's surprising about it? Are you surprised that a significant drop in one's social class and standard of living is a worry, or are you surprised that Emerson thinks such a significant drop is a likely result of focusing outside his career? Or are you surprised that he thinks of himself as talking to mainly middle class people, on a website that's populated largely by lawyers and academic philosophers.

I find your surprise surprising.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:34 PM
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273 No. To shred another layer of pseudonymity, try googling Faculty and Co/llege Excellence and you'll get to the ballpark, and get a sense of something I've helped out with on just this issue. Having said that, I at least can now get meetings with folks at RAND.

My sister did work at NY Public Library. I remember telling her that they needed to call their computer system "NYPL-NET"


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:37 PM
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278: And this is exactly the problem education faces as a profession whenever and wherever it's democratized. As soon as just about everyone starts getting a liberal arts education, the easier it is for anti-democratic forces to insist that such an education is meaningless for the creation of even stranger class and social distinctions. Meanwhile, critical thought is being taught more widely than ever, and yet we're told that "these kids today" are dumber than ever.

Every time I see Andy Rooney on the TV, I think, "Thank God I live in a world in which that fucker is a stupid old dinosaur." These kids today, they may lack some of the classical distinctions and value judgments of their predecessors, but they learn how to read, they instinctively spot prejudice (even in cases where they share that prejudice), and they aren't suckered by mere platitudes.

I guarantee, this anti-education "bias" is mostly old boomers (who need to die) who feel cheated that now --- lo, even brown people, and women, are getting what they were denied. Once the boomers finally die off, we'll have built the infrastructure for our new society. Let's get to work, people!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:38 PM
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I actually was always rather fond of the name of their electronic catalog -- CAT-NYP.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:38 PM
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If you drop down in social class and status you find out who it's important to. Short answer: lots of people.

During my working years I was never hungry, always had a roof over my head, always had medical insurance, but my discretionary spending was restricted. It didn't bother me personally much, but you tend to be excluded from activities defining social groups.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:48 PM
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as to the question "why are the universities screwing labor the way ups does, and not even showing a profit for it?" remember a theme that saiselgy has expounded a time or two:

the economy as a whole keeps showing productivity increases because of mechanization, computerization, economies of scale, and outsourcing. most things you buy are as cheap as they were a few decades ago, or cheaper (anything with chips in it, e.g.).

meanwhile, education is not so amenable to any of those cost-saving strategies. so we are treated to yearly screaming headlines about college tuition rising faster than inflation. of course it is; it is rising as fast as inflation would have risen, if all the other sectors were still produced in the u.s., using manual labor, the way that higher ed is produced.

so the result is that higher ed feels a huge squeeze, largely in labor costs, which is to say teachers. so we get screwed, even while the universities are not making a pile.

and parsimon, i too have been bitching about how the academic life is a downwardly mobile life-style, though i can't remember whether that was on this thread or the other one.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:49 PM
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287 word.
i.e., not thinking social class matters is a marker of a certain social class.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:50 PM
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Anti-education boomers is me?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:51 PM
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And, while I'm ranting, I will go on to say that the 50-70s-aged profs I've met look impossibly brilliant from afar, but then unbelievably petty, small-minded, unethical, inward, vain, and shallow the closer I get to them. And that includes the ones I love like family. But that's just it; I love them like family.

This semester, I'm teaching from a 70's textbook on poetry, one that I studied from as a grad student, and my students' reactions are hilariously apt. They notice that he's classist, and sexist. They always bring up ways that he associates "value" with new poetry that mines classical poetry for tropes. They keep asking why he never quotes any poets they actually like (and they do like a lot of poetry, immediately). And all I can say is, that was the academy of the 70's: institutionalized racism, sexism, and classism declaring itself to be cultural capital. You have to learn his language so you can prove him wrong.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:51 PM
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290: Bill O'Reilly, etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:52 PM
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278: I think that funding doesn't explain it. There are a lot of demographic reasons why the system had to hit a wall. Education can only bring as many people up into the middle class as there are middle class jobs for, and can only place as many philosophy PhDs as there are positions. There would be a pinch no matter what, especially if protecting tenured faculty is rule one.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:57 PM
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282, 283:

Oh, I was mostly surprised that *Emerson* was lamenting this.

I guess I want to say that if you decline to participate in the dominant paradigm, you would normally expect that this comes at a cost.

Of course it's a worry, and people will calculate the importance of what LB phrased as "a significant drop in one's social class and standard of living".

The evolving structure of the market in general, whether it's the academic market or any other, has us over a barrel as long as we put a premium on raising middle-class families (using this phrase as code for a bunch of things that involve basically having to capitulate).

But we all know this. If you don't play the game, you will have to make financial sacrifices.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:58 PM
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288: Baumol's cost disease is certainly part of it. But its more than a baumol cost disease problem. K-12 faculty isn't having quite the same dislocations, although clearly things aren't doing so well there either. I suspect that higher ed has some extra top spin.

Part of it I suspect is a lot of bad decision making about things like creating law schools that aren't needed, buying into a star system rather than trying to build a farm system, etc. And I suspect that we're producing administrators at a much faster rate than we are faculty. But that's just a suspicion. And I don't know the relative importance of any of them, overall.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:59 PM
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I'm not surprised to find that trope-a-dope jokes have already been made.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:02 PM
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"If you don't play the game, you will have to make financial sacrifices."

not me. i was brash and did it my way. i broke all the rules and stuck it to the man. i was bad to the bone and went it alone. and at the end of it i wound up so wealthy i could buy them all at retail, sell them at wholesale, and never notice the loss.

this brief fantasy brought to you by ayn rand and dr. suess.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:02 PM
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Jesus, AWB, could you lay off the boomer-hate a little? I promise you there are just as many petty, small-minded, unethical, inward, vain, and shallow persons of your age as there are of mine. They just don't have as much scope for expression yet.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:03 PM
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298--

yeah, probably. but is your generation going to wear hippypants?

if not, then you can just give up on being equally hatable.

(though the seattle grunge goatee thing could age into some fairly ripe hatability after a few decades).


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:05 PM
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243 - night watchman, merchant seaman, Berlitz teacher, doctor, or insurance executive

Okay, that's Kerouac (or maybe someone else), Joyce, Williams, and Stevens. Who was the night watchman?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:05 PM
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Jesus, AWB, could you lay off the boomer-hate a little? I promise you there are just as many petty, small-minded, unethical, inward, vain, and shallow persons of your age as there are of mine. They just don't have as much scope for expression yet.

They don't have jobs or tenure, either. Makes them harder to hate.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:06 PM
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And, while I'm ranting, I will go on to say that the 50-70s-aged profs I've met look impossibly brilliant from afar, but then unbelievably petty, small-minded, unethical, inward, vain, and shallow the closer I get to them.

This is surprising? I'm trying to think of a group this statement would not be true of. (Well, Unfogged commenters, of course. But I still can't think of another group...)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:07 PM
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Some really manic individuals can make a few million and retire young. More power to Bitzer if he was one of them.

George Soros dropped out of Oxford or Cambridge philosophy to go into business. He still regrets that, even though he became a billionaire.

If you make the sacrifice you tend to go into a different world. Musicians, actors, and artists have a supportive subculture and somewhat of a community spirit, whereby the more successful help out the less successful, but academics tend to forget or even shun people who leave the system.

One of my turning points came when I found that a guy I highly admired in Mongol studies (Pa/ul Bu/ell), an incredibly demanding field, had never had a permanent appointment even though he was fully credentialled from the best places.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:09 PM
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I sure hope Bear is right about Boomers. If my stabbing myself in the chest would kill a thousand tenured professors averaging my age, I'd be tempted. Now, on contract lawyer projects, I find myself working with people around my age whose inflexibility and sense of entitlement fills me with wonder and disgust.

But—I think it's a characteristic that many have through life and only really shows later on, when people in middle age need to confront the new. I don't think it's going to stop with boomers, and there are people older than boomers who adapt just fine.

Agree that the people I went to grad school in the seventies with were already by-and-large shitheads then, though.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:11 PM
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Boomer-hate is OK with me. They're my ex-acquaintances who I lost touch with. I can imagine what they're like now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:11 PM
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A swarm of larval Bill O'Reillys is being incubated in right wing think tanks at this very moment.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:11 PM
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Should the signature in 267 be redacted (as revealing the identity of our presidential contributor)? Or is the correction not by the poster? Just checking.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:12 PM
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I'm sure there's a good popular account of the rise of credentialist America out there. Well into the 19th century, you didn't need an undergraduate degree to go to medical school, let alone be a lawyer or a journalist.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:12 PM
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Musicians, actors, and artists have a supportive subculture and somewhat of a community spirit, whereby the more successful help out the less successful

I saw this in a movie once. It looked real cool.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:15 PM
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I'll bet John, mcmc, and Bitzer would all agree that we're not in the slightest surprised that the people we went to school with, at whatever level, are such creeps. Coulda told you.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:16 PM
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weird--i don't remember any 'president merganser'.

and, no, j.e., none of us ever made it rich, i'm pretty sure. 297 was fantasy pure and simple.

i'm pretty sure none of us did...

if one of us is holding out on us, though...


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:17 PM
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310--

you know how you kids feel about old people?
you fucking hate 'em, right?
well, that's how old people feel about old people.

golden pond my ass.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:19 PM
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306: this is certainly true.

I have a feeling that the right is better off at plugging in young people to do that sort of thing for a living than the left. I have a good friend from law school--he has the snazziest credentials imaginable for a young lawyer (short of clerking for the S. Court--but he's checked every other possible box, really), has run a successful (albeit local) campaign, is generally awesome, but no connections in D.C. & wasn't willing or able to work for free for months to get the connections. So he ended up at a firm when he would've preferred to make a lot less money on Capitol Hill.

I don't think that would've happened if he were conservative. I guess a big part of it is controlling DOJ versus not, but I still get the sense that there's a big imbalance.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:20 PM
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Even when I went, late, to law school in my thirties, young people then were railing about boomers, and I and the other boomers in my class were laughing along and saying "You don't know the half of it..."


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:22 PM
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and yet--
doesn't 306 strike you as somewhat redundant in phrasing?

i mean, "larval Bill O'Reillys"?


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:23 PM
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I just can't believe we live in a culture that fears it has not yet jerked off Bob Dylan sufficiently. Is there no amount of endless swooning that will satisfy the Dylanic thirst for nostalgia-bukkake? Cf. everything else "these kids today" don't know how to properly appreciate, almost all of which is stuff by white dudes who were fully and sufficiently appreciated in their own time.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:25 PM
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See? Dylan is underrated.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:26 PM
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And honestly, there are a lot of little jerk-offs getting indoctrinated by O'Reilly et al, but while O'Reilly's conservatism is based in a psychotic longing for the good old white dudely days of his own personal yore, the larvals wouldn't even know what that looks like. They'll grow out of it when spewing venom loses a little of its perceived social status.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:28 PM
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316--

for the aged and clueless here, could you explain the whole dylan/nostalgia nexus you're alluding to? also how the jerking off fits in? i'm just not following how this connects to your earlier posts (though i note a certain continuity of tone).


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:29 PM
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Oh, preach it sister!


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:29 PM
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I have a feeling that the right is better off at plugging in young people to do that sort of thing for a living than the left.

That's an enormous issue. The Democratic party and the liberals spend very little money on message development and dissemination. Ann Coulter has been doing very well for at least 15 years. Much smarter liberals have been scrounging by.

The Democratic Party begs huge amounts of money to spend on campaigns but little to change public opinion. Money down the drain every 2 years. I'm convinced that it's because they're captive to donors and pros who do not want to see a strong Democratic message developed.

Even the truly liberal big money people seem to have little interest in funding idea people. I have the idea that the Republican caricature of vain, silly Hollywood hottub shits is too accurate.

As far as I know, very few of the top Democratic bloggers make a good living, and many don't make a living at all. The contrast to the fat, lazy, stupid, dishonest pundits at the Post and the Times is excruciating.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:30 PM
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I have a bad attitude tonight. I will go grade papers and tomorrow, I will be the placid, thoughtful Bear you all know and love.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:33 PM
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321--

and you know the standard winger riposte, right?
that the universities themselves are our terrorist training grounds for indoctrinating the next generation of godless, atheist, communist, free-love lefties.

so that it's really the poor, put-upon right that needs all of that wing-nut welfare to compete with the lefties lock on academe.

a perspective that, in the light of this thread, looks pretty hopelessly false, of course. here in academia we're too busy eating our young and keeping talent from rising ever to cultivate a next generation of lefties.

yeah, i wish we did have wingnut welfare institutions comparable to the many that the right have. universities will never be them. no university would have hired the left-wing version of a ben domenich after his disgrace; but last time i checked he had a nice title and a nice job.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:35 PM
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322--
awb, i love you pissed off as much as i love you placid. please don't tone it down or dull it out on my account
honest, i just wanted to understand, that's all--that's all my question amounted to.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:36 PM
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318: you think? I went to law school with some larval Yoos and Gonzaleses. (Actual quote from a discussion of legal services for the poor in the Texas criminal justice system: "Some people drive Lexuses, some people drive Toyotas.") I mean, I don't know if they'll do as much damage as the originals. But I doubt it's just a phase.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:38 PM
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So the problem with modern academia is economic in nature. Since the government no longer supports higher education (providing about 10% of the operating budgets of public universities), even public universities are run like businesses. So money to pay salaries needs to come from somewhere else. One way to do this is to raise tuition and increase enrollment. Another is to only hire cheap temporary faculty. A third option is to bring in big money grants, which is largely restricted to the sciences, especially life sciences.

How to fix this: 1) increase government support of higher education. 2) Ditch tenure.

Other things I'd like to see that probably wouldn't help: 1) Reduce enrollment in most universities; most undergrads don't belong in the university system. 2) Provide some other post-secondary school for those people; either trade schools or maybe even privately run large schools like University of Phoenix.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:41 PM
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Provide some other post-secondary school for those people; either trade schools or maybe even privately run large schools like University of Phoenix.

You mean like community colleges, which are already plentiful?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:43 PM
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Indeed, teo. But I think half of the students in our university system belong in community colleges. Also, community colleges are widely seen, especially in the west, as a way to get into university. They should be legitimate destinations in their own right.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:47 PM
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This thread has just made me very aware of how angry I am at feeling like my generation is constantly being hobbled by the dominant culture, which controls all the major media, the universities, the economy, the government, etc. Since I was a very little girl, I wanted to be optimistic about what I could do to change the world for the better. I was told I should do that through the church, so I was a Christian, until I realized that Christianity wanted me to marry someone who would change the world. I became a scientist, until I realized that all my research would basically mean nothing unless it produced some hideously expensive drug whose side-effects would be swept under the rug. So I became a writer, until I realized that, unless I sounded exactly like the bland shitty bourgeois self-absorbed novelists du jour, I'd never get a contract. So I became an academic, and I'm becoming increasingly aware that ideas that have the potential to affect more than 150 people in the world are considered not terribly interesting, and it would really help if I was a lot older and already famous for having done something traditional.

It's just getting boring, not leaving any fucking divots anywhere I play, having to learn some conservative, outmoded, pessimistic, classist language in order to try to talk my way out of that model of scholarship and pedagogy. And I'm seeing more and more of my peers, both in academia and outside it, get told that, no, we can't do what we want because the generation that came before us has all the money and all the power, and you have to learn to make them happy first. Fuck 'em. That's all I'm saying.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:48 PM
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AWB, if you've been forced to listen to a lot of Bob Dylan, or even worse, people talking about Bob Dylan, recently, I can understand the intensity your feelings. But while O'Reilly's conservatism is based in a psychotic longing for the good old white dudely days of his own personal yore, the larvals wouldn't even know what that looks like. They'll grow out of it when spewing venom loses a little of its perceived social status. is just wrong, because perceived social status is not the reward the larvals are looking for--that would be actual money and power, which they will obtain by aligning themselves with the interests of our ruling class, which predates the boomer generation and will outlast it. Do you seriously imagine that we are moving in a direction of increased equality? Commenter, please.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:49 PM
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Who was the night watchman

Faulkner.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:50 PM
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I'm not about the read the preceding 350 comments, so my apologies if this has already been thoroughly covered, but surely I can't be the only one who keeps inadvertently reading the title of this thread as "Your suffering is my clitoris", right?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:51 PM
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If by "clitoris" you mean "cliché", then yes.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:53 PM
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Fucking Dylan. I like Dylan, but nothing makes me hate him quite as much as being told I have to appreciate him more.

The humanities have really damaged their future, though it sounds like the damagers will face no consequences for it. Business school is an instructive comparison: business schools produce a lot of masters' students, but only a few Ph.D.s. Thus, most business Ph.D. students get academic jobs. At the same time, producing a big crop of masters' students has created a class of people appreciative of the work of Ph.D.s. (There's nothing necessary about executives getting MBAs, but once executives with MBAs get hired, they will tend to look for executives who also have MBAs.) The humanities could have opted for a system where lots of people get to participate in the life of the mind vicariously at the graduate level, and where a select few get to go on. Instead, they have created a system where all but a fraction of their graduate students end up alienated and hating academics.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:54 PM
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The fact that the Democrats root their intellectual base is in the universities as opposed to think tanks is an advantage for the party as far as fidelity to the truth goes, but a disadvantage politically.

This is mostly so for domestic/economic policy...so far as I can tell all the "foreign policy" people are hacks.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:55 PM
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Do you seriously imagine that we are moving in a direction of increased equality?

How could I get up in the morning if I didn't? I see the desire for it everywhere, and yet the Right has convinced us that it's better for the Left to be pessimistic than to look stupid.

I've written about this, now deleted, but I teach an extremely conservative population of students, none of whom are actual conservatives if you ask them more than three questions on any topic about their values. They don't know dick about conservative ideas; they just know talking points. They're an easy target for anyone.

The Dylan thing was meant synecdochally for the way my generation seems to have grown up obsessed with a culture we never had anything to do with, and we are constantly being forced to acknowledge that our music isn't as good, our poetry isn't as good, we're all stupid compared to them, blah blah. It's self-defeating.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:55 PM
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It's ridiculous to see Dylan as a synecdoche for some obnoxious generation. It's quite obvious that he holds his generation is as much contempt as anyone. He's never had anything to do with "Big Chill" style nostalgia.

He transcended his time and he's for the ages now. Tagging him with the stuff you don't like about 60 year old people is like blaming Emily Dickinson for the Civil War or something.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:59 PM
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Oh, and we're sluts, too; don't forget. You can't let a woman under 30 out of the house without her showing her cooch to someone. And pantilessness was invented three years ago, as were stupid celebrities.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:00 PM
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Boomers: "If we couldn't change the world, nobody can."
Younger people: "You did change the world. And now it's easier to change people's opinions than ever, because of the Internet."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:00 PM
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I never blamed Dylan. I blamed my generation for feeling the need to give a shit about Dylan.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:01 PM
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BTW, 333 is not something I recommend saying on a date.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:01 PM
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If you can give a shit about Faulkner or Emerson, why can't you give a shit about Dylan? Ostentatiously refusing to do so is just as artificial as doing so.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:03 PM
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Dylan isn't the proper target for your ire. I blame my generation for giving a shit about Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Look you idiots, My Morning Jacket is out there playing great shows everywhere constantly. Go follow them around religiously, they'll appreciate it.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:03 PM
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We can agree about Jim Morrison -- utterly pointless except for nostalgia the year you lost your virginity, etc.

It's adopting other peoples' nostalgia that's the problem. Of course, eventually my generation will force people to be nostalgic for A-ha and Dexy's Midnight Runners.

A few are worthwhile for more than nostalgia. The push on for those guys is about helping them outlast the oldies station.

Funny thing is, Dylan himself is nostalgic for American circa about 1920. Or maybe before.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:07 PM
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342: Because I happen not to think that Faulkner or Emerson or Dylan are particularly interesting or in need of my praise of them. I care about other things, which should be sufficient. Compulsory Dylanism is just as bad as compulsory Emersonianism; it's a cult of white masculinist so-called "self-sufficiency" that doesn't appeal to me. It's not ostentation to feel like a particular set of values does not reach through history to personally grab me.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:07 PM
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how angry I am at feeling like my generation is constantly being hobbled by the dominant culture, which controls all the major media, the universities, the economy, the government, etc.

And yours is the first generation to have found itself in this position, you think?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:07 PM
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346: Yeah, wasn't this the essence of the hippy movement?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:09 PM
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343: I am hijacking this thread again! By which I mean: the opening scene in the excellent The Lookout, with the fireflies and My Morning Jacket, is a fucking wonder to behold. I drove the wife insane by pausing the DVD and insisting we watch it again. Then, after she'd gone to bed, I watched it twice more. Brilliant.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:09 PM
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346: I think mine happens to face a particularly entrenched and unified front against progress that works by constructing ever-more-convincing boogeymen representing what will happen if anyone listens to us. The media is different from what it used to be.

In my particular mood, I'm just pissing everyone off, and I need to do work. I don't hate you for loving Dylan, or for being a boomer, or any of that. I just don't want to have to become you to have your respect. Comity, or what?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:11 PM
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The humanities could have opted for a system where lots of people get to participate in the life of the mind vicariously at the graduate level, and where a select few get to go on.

In a world where humanities MAs have similar effects on employment prospects as MBAs, maybe.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:13 PM
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I think mine happens to face a particularly entrenched and unified front against progress that works by constructing ever-more-convincing boogeymen representing what will happen if anyone listens to us. The media is different from what it used to be.

I doubt it. If you wanted an entrenched and unified front against any counterculture, three TV networks and Eisenhower was what you needed. These days, much messier.

I'm not a boomer and I don't own any Dylan.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:15 PM
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I think mine happens to face a particularly entrenched and unified front against progress that works by constructing ever-more-convincing boogeymen representing what will happen if anyone listens to us.

I thought that for every generation before the boomers, it was just tradition and wisdom that young people should defer to old people, and they were the first generation to challenge it, and the only ones to succeed.

Respect your elders AWB! Someday you too will have wisdom and experience.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:15 PM
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"So I became an academic, and I'm becoming increasingly aware that ideas that have the potential to affect more than 150 people in the world are considered not terribly interesting"

Oh boy is this true of law! And marcus, this is the problem with rooting things at universities in certain fields. I'm not saying create cushy think tank jobs for the liberal equivalent of ben domenech; I'm saying politically engaged liberal people have a hell of a hard time finding a relevant job that pays a salary.

I love Dylan, and am probably more generally sixties-nostalgic in the way AWB deplores, but it has nothing to do with thinking my parents' generation is preferable to ours (I'm assuming we're around the same age, though I think you're a bit younger). It's more: gee, I wish this earnest, idealistic streak I have were a little more socially acceptable.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:15 PM
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345: Well, sure, now you're disagreeing with canons in general. You could make the same claim about Shakespeare. But by the age of 21, nothing's really compulsory. Some people have acolytes and get lots of cultural space. You get to say you think they're crap, just don't be surprised when some people disagree with you.

And "masculinist self-sufficiency"...if you want to say the American narrative of individualist self-creation is off, well, there's some truth to that, but attaching an "ism" to it is just name-calling. That narrative is drawn on by numerous major American artists, Dylan and Emerson have practically nothing in common beyond their individualism. And in fact they both question that narrative in interesting ways as well.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:15 PM
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(oh & needless to say I don't think liking Dylan is compulsory or what have you. I'm a real sucker for acoustic guitar, is all).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:17 PM
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The boomers should disappear from the scene relatively quickly, no?


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:17 PM
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attaching an "ism" to it is just name-calling.

Sorry to offend; masculinism is accepted and interesting, supple terminology in my field of study. Forgot that it just sounds mean anywhere else.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:18 PM
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How old are you, anyway?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:18 PM
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I'm having a hard time thinking of academics in history who were a big part of the post-50s expansion of the fields of social history who were not boomers, actually, if boomer means born in the late 40s to 50s, college in the late 60s, first publications in the mid-to-late 70s. A number were older. They aren't representative of all boomers, of course.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:19 PM
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The anti-Emersonianism is indeed disturbing.

For the record, I think that most successful boomers misread the politics of the 60s. It was a big flop (the civil rights movement was earlier and different people). SEK and I have argued about this, but I don't think anyone then or now realized how peculiarly hopeless the anti-Vietnam war movement was. In 1965 we had two war parties, and when the peace wing of the Democrats spit the party, the Republicans took over. And the dominant Democrats have hated the peace Democrats ever since.

I don't think that more dignified tactics would have worked -- they were tried at first (the moratoriums and big marches). But once the war machine was in gear (1965) it was very hard to stop.

but this is an enormous topic.



Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:19 PM
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In my particular mood, I'm just pissing everyone off,

I can't speak for anyone else, but you aren't pissing me off in the slightest.

I will say, however, in response to your stated desire to change the world, that I feel like it's important to define what you mean by the world. My experience is that you frequently have to make the choice between making significant and visible changes in a small community, or making much smaller changes in the lives of a large number of people.

If you make the lives of 20 people, or 200 people obviously better is that a substitute for changing the world? I don't know if it is.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:19 PM
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Yeah, wasn't this the essence of the hippy movement?

Yeah, but the image of the 1960s is that people tried to do something about it, as opposed to resigning themselves to it.

Sara Davidson's Loose Change impressed a friend of mine, so I read it -- chronicle of 3 women in the Sixties, written in dreary journalistic prose. My takeaway was that some of the radicals really believed that some sort of revolution was going to happen, or was at least possible.

Which seems utterly naive and irony-deficient to me ... thus showing, I guess, how unconsciously conservative I am?


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:20 PM
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(I should note here that my uncle, quite solidly a Boomer, has written three volumes of biography/stuff on Dylan, and is working on a fourth. I've never read them.)


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:20 PM
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You know, it seems *totally fucking obvious* to me that in the long run Goldwater and Reagan and the Young Americans for Freedom won the 60s, and hippie/boomer nostalgia is just a way for certain people to try to ignore that. The cultural space given to boomer icons like Martin Luther King (forget Dylan, I'm waiting for AWB's no-holds-barred attack on King, where her logic would also seem to apply) is a way of ignoring the ways the 60s failed.

The only sense I can make of resentment against hippie boomers is as a way of setting up a bogeyman about peoples' frustrations at their current sense of powerlessness, which is quite valid but should seek out *current enemies* to concern itself with.

I'm a little tipsy at the moment, hence the tone. No offense to anyone.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:23 PM
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363: So is he an autodidact, or does he make money from his scholarship?

ZING POW! Back to the topic of the thread!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:23 PM
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343: That's the funny thing about all this failure to move forward--so much of the music and, um, "youth culture" of the sixties and seventies is a total fucking embarrassment. But Jimi Hendrix was great. (We all have at least one exception).


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:25 PM
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AWB is probably right about boomers in academia. It's a different thing than actually evaluating or analyzing the sixties.

I graduated from college at age 34 in 1980, when people my age were already teaching, and many of my fellow students hated those guys. To me they did seem terribly vain and smug, though I couldn't think of it generationally.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:26 PM
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in the long run Goldwater and Reagan and the Young Americans for Freedom won the 60s

I dunno -- maybe that should be, "in the SHORT run." As Chou put it, too soon to tell ...?


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:27 PM
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Mostly OT (maybe completely): All of this bad job market in academia is just making me think about jobs generally, and since I have plenty of sorrows to drown, I think that some of the Bostonians should try for another meetup soonish.

Also, teo's and my birthday, is coming up this Saturday. (Being jewish, teo, this means nothing to you, but it also happens to be the Feast of St. Mich/ael and all the Angels.) So, I think that we should find a way to celebrate sometime in early October.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:29 PM
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368: I love that "too soon to tell" quote, it always struck me as really profound. Although maybe I'm just an orientalist.

It does give you some perspective on how China must be viewing our flailing around in the world right now.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:30 PM
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You know, it seems *totally fucking obvious* to me that in the long run Goldwater and Reagan and the Young Americans for Freedom won the 60s,

I disagree, and agree instead with Cryptic Ned in 352.

The 60's/early 70's changed the culture. Civil Rights, Feminism, Gay Liberation all won a tremendous amount of cultural terrain.

The cultural orthodoxy today is much broader and more fractured than it was, and that is a victory.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:30 PM
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(though the seattle grunge goatee thing could age into some fairly ripe hatability after a few decades).

I haven't caught up with this thread yet, but if you aren't hating on those damn goatees already, there is something wrong with you.

Note: I cannot grow a descent goatee, much less a beard.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:30 PM
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I was aware that my (and BG's) birthday is Michaelmas, which obviously means nothing to me, but I don't think it means anything to most Christians either, at least in this country.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:32 PM
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270: My academic career has not turned out the way I'd like (although it could be worse) and I alternately blame myself and the system. How surprising can this be?


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:32 PM
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Hey BG, did you get my email?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:32 PM
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371: I guess it's a matter of perspective. Some things have changed, some have not. Look at income inequality, the prison population, and the Iraq war, get one conclusion, feminism and gay rights, another.

One thing for sure: I think a triumphalist narrative for the 60s left is way off. Places like NPR try to push that with their constant focus on the civil rights movement.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:33 PM
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I really don't think of civil rights as the sixties. It was pre-hippy and pre-Vietnam. A very good thing, but the culmination of older stuff.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:35 PM
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I guess it's a matter of perspective. Some things have changed, some have not. Look at income inequality, the prison population, and the Iraq war, get one conclusion, feminism and gay rights, another

Or, the same story: the continuous expansion of a distinctive culture of individual responsibility, with various sorts of systematic structural consequences.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:36 PM
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Just a ditto for mcmc's 298. For the record. I have no idea what's been said since.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:36 PM
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I just did two minutes ago, mcmc. Thanks so much. I do know about that female group you mentioned. I'll send a proper reply tomorrow. I couldn't get to sleep until 1:40 last night and was up at 7. I have to be somewhere tomorrow at 7:45. So, I'm off to bed.

I have a friend who works in ad/van/cement, and I need to ask her about higher ed jobs. I think she wants to leave the field of high/er ed--but they have good health insurance!

I think that I'd really like a business school RA job, but I need to think as broadly as possible.

Right now, though, I'm off to bed.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:42 PM
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Or, the same story: the continuous expansion of a distinctive culture of individual responsibility, with various sorts of systematic structural consequences.

This seems convincing and, at the same time, doesn't feel completely right.

I think that a flip side of this is that the country has become bigger, more urban, and has more complicated structures of authority. I feel like the world has become more rule driven and bureaucratic since the 60s, and that prejudices and, conversely, ethics that used to be enforced on the level of individual decision have become instituational in a warped way.

That is to say that it's a shift away from, for example, business owners that can hire, fire, and set policies as they chose, (which is one form of individual responsibility) to people being judged by formal enforcement bodies.

This could be totally off base. Does anyone know, for example, what percentage of the population works for publically traded corporations now vs 40 years ago?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:46 PM
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307: Out of consistency, 267 should be redacted, but in the end it hardly matters. Nothing significant has been divulged on this thread.


Posted by: G.H.W. Bush | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:51 PM
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378: bingo. Just another chapter in the growth of capitalist individualism. You can see this over and over...feminism is now identified almost completely with those parts of it that were compatible with cutting womens' ties to pre-capitalist institutions, mobilizing women for the labor market, etc. The communitarian aspect is lost.

But it's interesting that the military is a pre-capitalist and communal institution that fully retained its prestige, and militarism is alive and well. This was probably only possible because of the elimination of the draft, which was the biggest intrusion of the military into daily life.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:51 PM
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But it's interesting that the military is a pre-capitalist and communal institution that fully retained its prestige

(a) All volunteer. (b) "An Army of One."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:56 PM
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381 is a great comment too (as was 378, in case that wasn't clear).

Just speculating, but perhaps once informal communitarian forms of authority are stripped away, they must be replaced by more rigidly defined procedural/institutional ones. Perhaps we once controlled deviance through informal socialization and ostracism, but now must actually bring charges formally, so to speak.

There's a dynamic tension between individualism and bureaucratic authoritarianism that gets underplayed, I think. The two are in tension but feed each other.

Historically, you can see an explosion in deviance starting in the early 60s (crime rates soar, single parenthood goes way up, etc.) followed during the 80s-90s by authoritarian reaction.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:57 PM
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384, right, that was what I was getting by referencing the elimination of the draft.

The military serves as a symbolic repository for the communal values lost in daily life...so long as the vast majority don't actually have to join it and can just pay lip service.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:00 PM
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We now have a lot more freedom to be selfish, but not to be free. This is one of the aspects in which a capacity for shame has become a weakness. Unsurprisingly, this has increased the power of corporations over humans.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:02 PM
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Now, Ned, corporations are people too.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:03 PM
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ZOMG FREE MARKET LAWLZ


Posted by: OPINIONATED LIBERTARIAN | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:04 PM
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This comment in 336 articulates something that I've been thinking, but I haven't been able to put into words:

I see the desire for it everywhere, and yet the Right has convinced us that it's better for the Left to be pessimistic than to look stupid.

I don't know if you can necessarily pin this on the Right, but definitely pessimism on the Left is driven by the desire to not look stupid. Somehow ever being too optimistic is the worst possible fate.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:04 PM
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perhaps once informal communitarian forms of authority are stripped away, they must be replaced by more rigidly defined procedural/institutional ones

If memory serves, this is the standard Foucauldian critique. Not that he'd say "must be replaced," but that managerial, technical systems now exercise power in ways that are both more "granular" (to borrow a business term) and more insidious for co-opting the consent of those upon whom power is exercised.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:05 PM
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387: another great comment. We're on a roll. But that won't liberate us.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:05 PM
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perhaps once informal communitarian forms of authority are stripped away, they must be replaced by more rigidly defined procedural/institutional ones

This sound like Wiebe's interpretation of the changes in the US between 1870-1920 in The Search for Order (1967).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:08 PM
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Perhaps once a belief that God will provide is stripped away, it must be replaced by The Secret.


Posted by: OPINIONATED LIBERTARIAN | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:10 PM
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394: Geez, of all the times for the comment box to actually remember my info.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:11 PM
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383 - But it wasn't a totally ludicrous idea -- look at Portugal and the Carnation Revolution, or the end of the Fourth Republic. I had something approaching a grand unified theory of why there's never been a revolution in the U.S. the way you get the Communards over and over again in France, and it had to do with race and unionization. Sadly, I don't know enough about Mike Walsh to make this point, and he's my synecdoche for how it happened. I should flesh this out a little further at some point and have Emerson knock holes in it. Ishmael Reed goes straight at this in Mumbo Jumbo in a very blame-Whitey sort of way. Whether it happened again in the '60s is slightly more complex than Walsh's transformation from the most radicalized politician in New York to a Confederate sympathizer.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:18 PM
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393: I think the Progressive movement was the first large-scale appearance of managerialism on the American political / social scene. The early 20th century is the beginning of lots of forms of credentialism and regulation too. But obviously there's a lot of further development since then. Some key moves in response to the 60s: the war on drugs, the disintegration of even the nuclear family as a barrier to mobilization into the market, the replacement of local small business and crafts by national chains/franchises, the greatly increased use of prison and the law to mediate what would once have been neighborhood conflicts.

391: Yeah, this can be seen as Foucault...but lots of people theorized this, Weber probably being the first and in many ways the best. But even Marx in some ways. Also, Foucault always seemed to me a bit one-sided, in the sense that these moves are liberatory and authoritarian all at once. But honestly I'm not as familiar with him as I should be, considering the number of times I tried and failed to finish his books.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:23 PM
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I was being more hand-waving than usual in my dorkiness in 397, obviously stuff like the replacement of local business by national corporations was ongoing throughout the 20th century, and was plenty visible in the 1870-1920 period.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:25 PM
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397: Also, Foucault always seemed to me a bit one-sided, in the sense that these moves are liberatory and authoritarian all at once.

Ummm, why do you think Foucault would object to this?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:28 PM
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400!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:43 PM
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But why else would he?


Posted by: SD | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:45 PM
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399: probably cuz I'm stupid.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:46 PM
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Of course a big difference between 1870-1920 is that the push for regulation gained strength during that period while deregulation has had a lot of political success since the 1970s. I've heard this described as a shift from an approach to society and government based on the idea of competing collective interests,* broadly defined - labor, capital, etc. - to an approach based on individual rights. In a sense, segregation was a regulatory regime.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:46 PM
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That * wasn't supposed to be there.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:47 PM
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403: Yeah, one of the striking things about the post-60s reaction was how totally the language of this sort of market authoritarianism swept the field. It's like there are no other ideologies allowed any more. I mean, it's definitely not the case that competing collective interests have vanished.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:49 PM
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402: Well, no, I'm just saying he wasn't (I don't think) monomanically concerned with portraying everything as authoritarian is all.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:54 PM
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401: ?tahw eh dluow esle yhw tuB


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 9:56 PM
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74

"Oh, I'm not saying it's totally irrational, just that there doesn't seem to be any way of developing post-law-school evidence of competence or excellence other than a book of business. "

Publications?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 10:05 PM
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Good God damn people, had I not hijacked this thread dead, it might've come to something. Denounce me already, why don't you!?!


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 10:10 PM
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288

"the economy as a whole keeps showing productivity increases because of mechanization, computerization, economies of scale, and outsourcing. most things you buy are as cheap as they were a few decades ago, or cheaper (anything with chips in it, e.g.).

meanwhile, education is not so amenable to any of those cost-saving strategies. so we are treated to yearly screaming headlines about college tuition rising faster than inflation. of course it is; it is rising as fast as inflation would have risen, if all the other sectors were still produced in the u.s., using manual labor, the way that higher ed is produced."

I disagree with this. Education, particularly at the university level, is very amenable to technological improvements. How much would it cost to record lectures and put them on the web? Why pay people to give the same lectures every year? It is easier and cheaper to learn stuff than it has ever been.

Tutition at "good" colleges is rising for the same reason that home prices in "good" areas are rising, status competition is bidding up prices.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 10:19 PM
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383

"But it's interesting that the military is a pre-capitalist and communal institution that fully retained its prestige ..."

Has the military really fully retained its prestige? Is it considered as desirable a career as in the past?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 10:22 PM
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I had something approaching a grand unified theory of why there's never been a revolution in the U.S. the way you get the Communards over and over again in France, and it had to do with race and unionization.

Really? My mostly uninformed speculation was that big business in America, or whomever the other powers that be wer, had figured out that squeezing the little guy hard enough to get him to revolt was always a losing move, much better to make him feel like he has a chance to get a bit of the game.

I guess the same principles may apply to unionization or lack thereof; firing union organizers probably works much better if you give everyone a bit of a raise and make noises about how it would be a shame if the union made things devolve into all-out warfare between management and labor.


Posted by: jake | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 10:22 PM
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284: Hmmm. I either know benton or we know a lot of people in common. Not that I'm working on that stuff -- just know a number of people who are.


Posted by: zwichenzug | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:42 PM
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410--

"I disagree with this. Education, particularly at the university level, is very amenable to technological improvements. How much would it cost to record lectures and put them on the web? Why pay people to give the same lectures every year? It is easier and cheaper to learn stuff than it has ever been."

well, this just seems kind of sad to me.

i'm assuming you went to some kind of higher ed. but apparently not the kind i teach at.

i don't give the same lectures every year; they are different every year. and most of what i do is not lecturing but talking with students, in discussion, in a way that eliza hasn't been able to duplicate yet. ("i hear you saying that goethe's faust seems to have lost the genuinely diabolical elements of marlowe's faust. how do you feel about that?")

and graduate education is an entirely different story again, one not so amenable to memorex. (i have to teach the damn kids how to order off a wine-list, apparently.)

sure, we could tape a lot of stuff and put it on the web, and i'm not opposed to that, either. but it wouldn't replace what most teachers do.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 3:33 AM
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oh--and awb,
thanks for clarifying the dylan thing. i think i've got it now.
man, of all the cultural capital not worth accumulating.
i think dylan would be right up there with the states-of-the-union teaspoon set from the back of parade magazine.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 3:57 AM
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384, 411:
(a) All volunteer. (b) "An Army of One."

"The Army of One" is a hoax. Probably some of the humiliating nonsense of the draftee army has been eliminated, but someone in Iraq is George Bush's slaves until he or she is killed and sent home.

The volunteer army is a near-hoax, perhaps a bait-and-switch. It's presented as a job option, but it's only a good one for someone in a peacetime army. It's a job you can't quit, the only one, and it's the only job where you may possibly be required to walk into near-certain death. (This only happens in positional battles, which we're not fighting in Iraq. But it happens.) Liberals are the enemy for many of them.

Has the military really fully retained its prestige? Is it considered as desirable a career as in the past?

Yes, probably more so, but only for certain populations: Christians, Southerners and some Westerners, and small-town kids. Around 1990 when I was researching schools I found that the service academies had amazingly high SAT scores.

There was a horrible story right near here where a returned Iraq veteran committed suicide-by-cop. In the newspaper story I read both the man's family and his pastor made a point of saying that they didn't blame the Iraq War for his problems, even though he'd been a cheerful, problem-free kid before he had left. My reading was that when he came back with his negative Iraq experiences and tried to tell his support-the-troops family and friends what he had learned there, that they had refused to listen. (A conjecture, but a reasonable one). From their statement it was clear that they had no idea what had happened to him, but were intent on preserving their pro-war convictions.

Wartime service does not make any ense from a contract point of view. It has to be communitarian, and often it's sacrifice. And it's a hostile, fight-the-enemy kind of communitarianism. I dread what will happen when the troops come home.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 5:16 AM
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"Killed or sent home".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 5:17 AM
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"Liberals are the enemy for many of them." belongs at the very end.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 5:18 AM
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Dylan's in the canon, like it or not. People knew he'd be in the canon 40 years ago, and they were right. I don't know anyone who's started up in the last 5 years who'll be in the canon 40 years hence -- this is as much about me as it is about people starting these days, but if anyone has a nomination, I'd be willing to listen.

I myself talk about Boomers, but one has to admit that it's pretty silly to use a category that includes John Emerson, Laura Bush, Dan Quayle, and Madonna -- among tens of millions of others -- in anything other than talking about who can remember the moon landing. And can't remember WWII. (I prefer the 1942-1960 description)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 5:26 AM
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I love Dylan, but no one else has to. The people who annoy AWB also annoyed me as early as 1980-1985. I say "complacent" rather than "Boomer", but it's about the same people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 5:33 AM
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Yeah, you don't have to love everything in the canon.

There's complacency in every cohort. There are some anomalous things about the Boomer cohort, though. Of particular relevance to the post, I've always thought that a great many men went to grad school in the late 60s, because doing so kept them out of the jungles of Southeast Asia. A rational enough choice to make, on an individual level, and I further suppose that many/most of them convinced themseleves that it was for love of the subject, not fear of wasting their lives. So now someone who was 18 in 1965 is 60, has had tenure for 30 years, and is wondering why the kids are all so hateful.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 5:50 AM
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In some cases, that guy (the pragmatist avoid-the-drafter) is also wondering why he didn't make millions in business or the other professions like some of his peers.

That's different than the third son of a well-educated old New England family that is sliding into genteel poverty who chose to go into academia because it was an honorable, pleasant way to live a life. Some of the guys who are just retiring or have just retired came out of that world. I often quite like them: they rarely have the neurosis that you find in either Mr. Boomer Agonistes or in the anxiously careerist folks of my generation and younger.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 6:04 AM
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Re: 410. Taping lectures and putting on the web would be an alternative form of publication, not of teaching. Like a guided book. That's pretty much how I see what The Teaching Company does, for example (and I think their product is fairly good). You can teach yourself from a book. You can teach yourself from a tape. But anyone who has ever tried to do so finds pretty quickly that you hit a wall in terms of learning that way. Beyond that, you either have to do what you're learning (and without observers or feedback, how will you ever know if you're doing it well?) or have someone show you, in real-time and with all the dialogic responsiveness of a living person, how to do it.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 6:07 AM
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A fair proportion of the Vietnam draftees really, really didn't want to go. The support-the-troops mantra doesn't help them any. I must know a couple of dozen unwilling Vietnam Vets.

Besides academic careers, a number of children were born for draft-dodging reasons. This method didn't always work, producing the worst possible outcome when the father was sent off.

Others went into the ministry or the National Guard (which around here was well-recognized as a form of draft-dodging). As time went on, a lot of the petty exemptions disappeared, IIRC, and at some point Canada became a more difficult option.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 6:12 AM
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Canada benefited from being open at first and closed later; the early draft evaders, like Naomi Klein's parents, became ornaments to that society, the later were worth barring.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 6:37 AM
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the early draft evaders, like Naomi Klein's parents, became ornaments to that society, the later were worth barring.

I don't understand this. What's the difference between the early and late draft evaders, apart from their age?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:11 AM
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Lectures are largely worthless as a means of teaching, though; they originated when books were scarce, and getting the students to take notes was a cheap form of information replication.

Of course, this has long been obsolete, but it persists chiefly because of the status that accrues to those who give lectures.

It is no accident that the universities that were set up before the introduction of movable type - the lead kind, smartass - are also the ones who are keenest on small-group tutorials, which are always where the real learning happens. There, and in the library, the lab, and the bar.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:13 AM
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414: When the AI revolution fully kicks in, I'll still want to teach my classes, but, good God, I look forward to the day when a computer can give them meaningful feedback on poe/try anal/ysis papers. Jiminy Christmas, I hate commenting on papers. In the class, I feel flexible, open to new ideas, regularly surprised by their ingenuity, and even the productivity of their hostility. But if I read one more goddamn poe/try anal/ysis that says something about po/ets "putting me/ter into their poems to make them better and more popular and easier to read," I will lose my fucking mind. I have had two hours of sleep, which can't help.

[Long comment about Billy Joel deleted here for its being TOO INFLAMMATORY!]


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:14 AM
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I've always thought that libraries should all have drinking sections.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:14 AM
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Billy Joel the accountant?

billy Joel is NOT a Sixties guy. Nor is Barry Manilow.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:16 AM
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He's not a 60's guy, but y'all are far more responsible for his ass. I was just thinking about how "We Didn't Start the Fire" is a great summation of the sort of attitude I know the dominant generation of academics has---they can fetishize the radical events of their lifetimes while disavowing any responsibility for perpetuating the bullshit that makes the academy elitist, sexist, racist, and imperialist.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:18 AM
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428/30 -- My son's seventh grade English class included an assignment to quiz parents on the references in We Didn't Start the Fire.

It's not canonical, but American Pie is.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:21 AM
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Sorry. I have my degree of involvement in Jim Morrison, and I actually like Dylan and Hendrix, and the Grateful dead are totally Sixties even though I've never liked them, but BJ is a bridge too far. I've always hated him. He was always recognizably a Tin Pan Alley guy.

Come on pretty soon you're going to blame us for the Holocaust and tooth decay. Jesus.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:27 AM
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Looking at wikipedia, I see that WDSTF was preceded in the No. 1 spot by Milli Vanilli's Blame it on the Rain.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:27 AM
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I don't understand this. What's the difference between the early and late draft evaders, apart from their age?

The amount of support in the culture at large, the profusion of dodges people would assist you with, the scale of the protest movement.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:28 AM
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This is not advice: two years is a long time to be at your wit's end.

Not for those of us on the academic job market. It was at least three years for me. I think I may still be crazy as a result.

Here, enjoy: this is absolutely cross-my-heart, happened-to-me, true:

Search committee chair: The committee have unanimously agreed that you're our first choice.
slol: Wonderful!
Search committee chair: The dean and I agreed we'd be hiring a different candidate.
slol: Oh. <pause> Could I ask, who got the job?
Search committee chair: It was-- heh. My wife, actually.

Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:29 AM
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AWB: No no, we need to take responsibility for Joel. It's only fair. "We didn't start the fire" in particular is the sort of thing that could have only happened in music a generation after the baby boom. It's a list song, like the sort Dylan excelled at, but it is a pointless list that sucks. This is what happens when music degenerates.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:30 AM
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Early draft resisters were sort of elite. As time went on and it became a mass movement including AWOLs, the group became more mixed. including some desperate people. The number of resisters, non-registrants, and AWOLs by 1972 was in the tens of thousands, maybe even in the six figures.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:31 AM
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Ahem, excuse me.

For all references in thread to Dylan/Billy Joel/wassname who did American Pie: s/canonical/ephemeral/

Yours sincerely, a boomer.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:32 AM
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Also, I believe properly designed interactive class websites could reduce the amount of contact time needed between teachers and students by 1/3 to 1/2, depending on the course and the students learning style. This would at the very least save money by reducing the amount you use campus buildings.

I wouldn't use this technique to increase the number of students per teacher, though. At many schools, you will need this technology just to properly handle the number of students teachers currently have.

At least, that's the sort of thing I've been experimenting with right now.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:33 AM
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436: oh good lord.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:33 AM
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436: slol, that's priceless.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:34 AM
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436: At least more rage than despair inducing?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:34 AM
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436: Reason number 76 to carry a small recorder in your case on these occasions. Colour me gobsmacked.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:36 AM
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I guess it's kind of funny, now.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:37 AM
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Aw, I was just teasing, Emerson. My generation takes a lot of shit for having ruined the world, being lazy and stupid, contributing nothing of worth to culture, slutting around, fucking up perfectly nice social divisions and hierarchies, and so forth. We have to at least be able to pin Billy Joel on you. Barry Manilow we can let slide.

I know it's stupid to be excited about the future, specifically my own future, but I am. I feel very confident and capable of something; I don't know yet whether that's strictly within academia, and I'm guessing not. I just don't want to get discouraged because there were people before me whose revolution got absorbed by corporate conservatism. In part, I'm not discouraged because, as many have commented here, the world has changed, in some ways for the worse, and in some ways for the better.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:37 AM
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I know it's stupid to be excited about the future,

Why? Being excited about the future sounds like a much happier way to live.

I'm not very good at it, though.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:42 AM
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436:
I don't know whether I'm idealizing some non-existent past or not. Maybe I'm just gradually realizing how the world has always worked. But connections seem increasingly important compared to meritocracy. I remember the first time I met an ambitious who thought of college almost entirely as networking rather than as learning subject matter was in 1983, when I was in Taiwan meeting various grad student / junior year abroad / post-BA types who were supposedly getting language skills. More than one person was entirely connections-focussed.

I don't remember that 1964-1967, but maybe people just weren't cluing me in. 1975-80 at a much lesser college I saw networking with a few people -- that school groomed a few selected people for grad school -- but they all also had strong subject-matter interests. But the 1983 people (many top schools) were not into subject matter.

The Bush administration is the apotheosis. Where connections and loyalty come first, corruption follows.



Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:43 AM
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Slutting around is cool with most Sixties types, especially but not only if you're slutting around with them (us).

My revolution wasn't absorbed, it was just smashed. The peace and equality left has been losing since about 1972, after a little flurry of hope.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:46 AM
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I noticed and admired the precision and judiciousness of this:

who were fully and sufficiently appreciated in their own time

That's what she was saying; why does the response have to be: "Great is Diana of the Ephesians Bob Dylan!"


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:50 AM
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I was aware that my (and BG's) birthday is Michaelmas, which obviously means nothing to me, but I don't think it means anything to most Christians either, at least in this country.

No, teo, it doesn't mean anything to most Christians in this country, nor even most Episcopalians, but I grew up as a small child in a weird subculture of the Episcopal church which originated in the Oxford movement, known as Anglo-Catholicism. One of the two major Anglo-Catholic churches in Boston, which happens to be the one where I was baptized does celebrate it with a solemn mass. There are still some old family friends who go to that church, and there's at least one person who would remember that it's my birthday.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:57 AM
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Even if we can make sense of the idea of a popular music canon, I don't think the fact that Dylan fans thought he'd be part of that canon 40 years ago (and turned out to be sort of right*) is of any particular interest. Any given generation is keen on proclaiming the importance and relevance of its artists -- the fact that they are sometimes right [but often wrong] tells us ... not much.

* from my point of view, he's a lot less interesting and relevant than a lot of his contemporaries, but that's personal taste, I suppose.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:58 AM
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Is that the Scots pro-Donovan bias emerging, ttaM? (My own indifference to Dylan might have something to do with having been raised by defiant Donovanites.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:00 AM
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I've been to Anglo-Catholic services in Chicago a number of times: very interesting and moving. But my wife and I are students of Nineteenth Century British culture and thought, and I would think so.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:03 AM
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A former colleague who was a folkie in the early 60s remembers seeing Dylan getting the bums rush from a folk club in Yorkshire in about 1962, for being so naff.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:04 AM
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re: 453

No, it's more that I tend to concur with Dylan's own [probably apocryphal] view of his own importance when compared to one William 'Smokey' Robinson [to pick just one example of a song-writing contemporary].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:05 AM
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Lectures are largely worthless as a means of teaching, though; they originated when books were scarce, and getting the students to take notes was a cheap form of information replication.

I don't know that this is true. I think that they can be enormously useful when an academic is working on something new and is trying to explain it to others. This may be more useful to the academic than to the student, but I do thing that some of the enthusiasm can be transferred to the student, and that it can be useful to learn about cutting-edge stuff.

I also know that I tend to remember orally transmitted information better than things I read--unless the written stuff is written with a distinctive voice and personality, and most academic stuff isn't. Having someone go over stuff that I've read and talk about the material ---even in a non-interactive setting--is very useful to me. In fact, seminars almost never do this and can be frustrating to me for that very reason.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:07 AM
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re: 457

I am almost completely the opposite. If a spoken presentation isn't highly interactive then I switch off. Not always; I've seen some really excellent engaging lecturers, but generally, I prefer small group sessions or reading.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:13 AM
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when compared to one William 'Smokey' Robinson [to pick just one... Yes. My wife's first gift to me was the vinyl re-release of Hi We're The Miracles!


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:14 AM
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456--
smokey robinson--now *that's* one for the ages. i mean, between ooh baby baby and arma virumque, you know who's going to win.

455--'naff' is a great slam.

436--count me also gob-smacked. that's about as bad as it gets, and i've never seen it get that bad. at least you had the consolation (?) of knowing that you did not lose the job on the merits.

on the other hand, the proliferation of dual-academic couples may lead to more of this stuff, ugly as it is. or things very like it, that may seem more scrupulous if you know all the details, but will look just as pernicious if you don't.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:15 AM
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451: Sexagesima Sunday. Heh.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:17 AM
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I preferred lectures to seminars & small groups in college because the lectures tended to be led by professors & the seminars by TA's who couldn't really lead a good discussion. I actually prefer the law school/high school format--lecture w/ disussion & questions to the class by the professor--to both. (Assuming the professor isn't a jerk about it, obviously--most weren't, and they either relied primarily on volunteers, let people pass, or gave people advance notice that they were going to be on call that day).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:18 AM
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A good example of really effective lectures are the Chatauqua-like ones in Bar Review courses. Polished routines, they can be appreciated as such even as they're making points in easily-remembered ways. I actually enjoyed them.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:18 AM
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Dual-academic couples; now there's Bourdieu's professorate always enlarging itself from within for you...

Anyway, the other main purpose of lectures is to see who shows up.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:19 AM
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464--
"the other main purpose of lectures is to see who shows up."

exactly: you can tell a lot about a prof if he doesn't show up for his lectures.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:20 AM
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There are more of those than you think - the serial canceller is a recognisable type. For that matter, there's usually at least one lecture or seminar that happens so unreliably you can safely ignore it.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:33 AM
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Says CharleyCarp: I don't know anyone who's started up in the last 5 years who'll be in the canon 40 years hence -- this is as much about me as it is about people starting these days, but if anyone has a nomination, I'd be willing to listen.

Off the top of my head: Leslie Feist and Sufjan Stevens are both candidates in the singer-songwriter mode (depending on how you define "started in the last five years," certainly both have risen to prominence in that time). In a different idiom, Damian Marley. Winehouse is in there on the strength of one album alone, hopefully she manages to produce more before drug addiction kills her. Broaden the scope to the last fifteen years and you have Jack White (White Stripes), Neko Case (haters be damned), Thom Yorke (Radiohead), PJ Harvey, Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Ben Harper, Kurt Cobain (much though it pains me to admit it) et cetera. All have made contributions that should have at least a few decades' longevity in them.

425: What are you basing that on?

457: Yeah, if you're working with resource constraints, lectures are the worst approach... except for all the others.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:35 AM
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I look forward to the day when a computer can give them meaningful feedback on poe/try anal/ysis papers.

When this grading scheme becomes real, it'll be like a CNN commentator or the narrator of "1985" (which Richard Thompson has a very nice cover of), something that sucks the life out through unrelenting imitation.

Too bad that you deleted the rant-- the angry register suits you, and Billy Joel is a pretty interesting topic, since he's a technically gifted songwriter who either is an imbecile or chooses the voice of an imbecile for commercial reasons.

Regarding anger at the mismanaging boomers: A generation of Brits watched things get worse as global power slipped away. C. N. Parkinson described the symptoms in a lot of detail with humor rather than apparent anger. There are plenty of non-english speaking responses to (different) decline. These may not fit with personal optimism, which is always a good idea, even in the ruins.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:36 AM
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lw, are you the guy that was at the meetup, at Pie on Armitage?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:44 AM
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re: 467

Most of the candidates in 467 are good, although a few I'd dispute*, but it's an odd list. Where's the rap artists, for a start?

* Damian Marley? Ben Harper? Neko Case? Really?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:48 AM
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I had both kinds in college. I also took classes which were lecture-ish with a grad student discussion but were fairly small. And there were some courses that were taught in a semi-lecture format but only had 16 people in them. These were taught by professors, but I had a lot of faculty contact in my undergraduate career. Many undergraduates had their senior thesis advised by a grad student. In part to protect the department's graduate students, mine required that our advisors be professors.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:53 AM
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I look forward to the day when a computer can give them meaningful feedback on poe/try anal/ysis papers.

At first, I couldn't figure out what the hell kind of a curriculum included assigned papers on Edgar Allen Poe, anal sex, and some unknown-to-me author named "Ysis".


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:54 AM
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472: But if anybody ever devises such a thing, it'll be somebody from Unfogged.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 8:57 AM
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Re: musical canon

I've tried to stay out of this conversation because I think for any canon there's a tension between their role in highlighting the value of people who came before us, and in excluding equally valuable work for reasons of historical accident.

But, here is the classic statement of the superiority of pop music of the past to today. I think much of it is completely wrongheaded (his love of Prog rock for example) but provacatively so. The argument that sticks with me is:

The problem here is more statistical than absolute: the Sixties produced great, innovative bands as a rule - the Eighties and Nineties produce them as exceptions. That is not to say, of course, that I regard every Sixties group as a great one by definition, of course not. There was a great deal of crap written in the Sixties as well. But certainly less than in our times, when crap is regarded as norm and good bands regarded as exceptions.

Is Feist any more interesting than Peggy Seager? Is Sufjan Stevens any more interesting than Tom Paxton? Is Neko Case any more interesting than Pentangle? If the first set of artists are held up as some of the best people working today, and the latter group are well known but marginal figures from their era, isn't that a statement about the eras?

(obDisclaimer: of course there's lots of good music being produced today, and of course it's better to go and support the bands that are out there, rather than listening to musty old recordings -- as I am guilty of doing. Also I'd add elliot smith and Iron & Wine to the list in 467 and everyone should listen to the new CR Avery album when it comes out next month).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:00 AM
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467, we can't tell based on only 5 years.

If I try to think of someone with only a couple albums who seems like a songwriting genius...I just can't tell. The Hold Steady guy and Feist, for example, but both of them were in other bands before.

What's entered "the canon" from the eighties? Anything? Paul Simon's Graceland? Springsteen? U2? What does this mean?

Whose canon? The Doors aren't in my canon. Every one of their songs sucks. I'd put Mountain in the late-sixties canon before them.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:02 AM
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But certainly less than in our times, when crap is regarded as norm and good bands regarded as exceptions.

A) It's easier to release an album now. That means it's harder to find a good one.

B) What you hear on the radio bears no relation to anybody's idea of "good music". The radio caters to 14-year-olds. So do the major labels. Major labels are part of the entertainment industry and cater to the lowest common denominator. There are no major labels that see their mission as finding and publicizing the best musicians out there. I get the feeling this was different in the sixties.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:05 AM
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re: 474

The quote in 474 is total bollocks, though.

the Sixties produced great, innovative bands as a rule - the Eighties and Nineties produce them as exceptions.

Total shite. Go and look at the charts from the 1960s and you find them full of utter drivel. Shit manufactured novelty pop, half-arsed recyclings of the current hit sounds of the day by lesser bands, leavened by a smattering of really tremendous records. That is, you find charts that look pretty much like the charts of today.

Of course tons of innovative rock and pop records were being made then, the genre was new.

The innovative music of the current period isn't being made in genres invented in the 1950s and early 60s, it's being made in other genres. People looking for innovative records in genres that have existed for 50 years are in exactly the same position as people looking for bleeding edge big-band swing records, or the latest moves in be-bop.

It's disingenuous to be comparing the current period to the 1960s with respect to the genres that were being developed then and demanding 'where are the really great [60s genre] records?'.

And Iron and Wine? Fuck off.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:15 AM
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I think much of it is completely wrongheaded (his love of Prog rock for example)

Come again, Nick?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:16 AM
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meetup, at Pie on Armitage?

Nope. My visits to Chicago are usually hurried, unfortunately.

How about LCD soundsystem, Daft Punk, or Chemical Brothers for new canon? There are always nice songwriters in each generation, but it's a fragile and slowly changing form, one which IMO is as ill-suited to lasting fame as say blown glass, or turned wood.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:16 AM
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* from my point of view, he's a lot less interesting and relevant than a lot of his contemporaries, but that's personal taste, I suppose.

How long will Danny Ben-Israel's "The Hippies of Today are the Assholes of Tomorrow" remain obscured?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:20 AM
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474: Is Feist any more interesting than Peggy Seager? Is Sufjan Stevens any more interesting than Tom Paxton? Is Neko Case any more interesting than Pentangle?

Trick questions? I'd answer "yes" to each without hesitation.

Of course, comparing the recording industry of today to the Sixties is simply apples and oranges. Over the three elapsed decades the industry came to increasingly rely on the kind of heavily-processed pop product which in the Sixties was still something of a novelty (the Monkees, Twiggy). Now it's almost totally dependent on this model, and visibly collapsing as a result. The music of today is a different story.

Damian Marley? Ben Harper? Neko Case? Really?

Sure, I'd say so. Maybe not quite in the bracket of Dylan or Guthrie, but I'm reasonably confident that at least Harper and Case will still get listened to down the road. Maybe too early to tell with Marley.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:21 AM
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Denial of the canon merely proves its existence.

I'd never say that a contemporary artist can't get into the canon -- I'm not seeing anyone contemporary who's as obvious a candidate as Dylan was in 66-67, but that's more about me than them.

Canonical isn't the same as 'I like it.'

Springsteen is in the canon based on 70s work, but would make for his 80s work as well.

It's all imaginary, I'll say again, but one shouldn't confuse 'boomer' and '60s' -- obviously they overlap, in that one contains fully the other, but it's only a piece. Example: Frampton Comes Alive a boomer product, though one of the latter boomer products in real time.

There were oceans of crap in the 60s and 70s.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:23 AM
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(I think ttaM is a little hard on Iron & Wine, but I have to say I don't have the same fondness for that guy that I do for Stevens.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:23 AM
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Denial of the canon merely proves its existence.

Seriously, what is the canon? Is it 80% artists of the 1960s? Does it include Springsteen, U2, Pearl Jam?

The lack of universally beloved bands is a sign of the fragmentation of the entertainment industry into niches. I have no problem with that.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:27 AM
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I think you can reasonably talk about a "canon" insofar as there are a number of bands of each generation that will tend to attract admirers outside their initial time and place. What the record industry was once good at was creating and driving this type of canon. Now that it's mostly lost that ability, becoming "canon" will be a chancier affair. Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:31 AM
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Total shite. Go and look at the charts from the 1960s and you find them full of utter drivel.

Of course, but I'm not sure what that proves. We aren't talking about contemporaries with enormous commercial success. I mean, obviously any sixties nostalgia is due in part to survivor bias, but I think you'd have an easier time coming up with 20 great bands from the 70-77 than you would from 2000-07.

And Iron and Wine? Fuck off.

Meh, I don't have much invested in defending Iron & Wine, but I'd make the argument that, in 40 years, he'll still be listened to.

Come again, Nick?

I was thnking of this line: "The fact that prog has been replaced by punk is, by all means, either a historical error, or a historical tragedy" (emphasis his).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:33 AM
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Oh. I didn't read the article, of course.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:35 AM
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Is it 80% artists of the 1960s?

No.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:35 AM
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Damian Marley? Ben Harper? Neko Case? Really?

I don't think any of them even scrape over the starting line, frankly. Harper? US white-boy college music at best. Being a Brit that whole genre passes me by.*

* where for most of that type of music 'passes me by' is a polite way of saying 'forms a pool of stinking, fœtid shite into which I choose not to dip'.**

** sounds a little harsh, but if you can't have strong opinions about music, what can you have strong opinions about?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:37 AM
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Trick questions? I'd answer "yes" to each without hesitation.

It was a hasty list. I like Peggy Seeger, but I'll admit that her voice is annoying, but Tom Paxon vs Stevens? It's hard to judge because Tom Paxon's career is so long, and he released so many bad records, but I've just been listening to Even A Gray Day and it's really good.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:38 AM
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489 gets it right. John Mayer = Ben Harper.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:39 AM
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Harper oughtn't to be blamed for the berkishness of most of his fanbase, any more than Dylan should. The songs hold up, which is what matters; same with Case. If we were talking about Belle and Sebastian or The Arcade Fire it'd be a different story.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:40 AM
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I would be extremely surprised if Iron & Wine endures. I don't know from Harper.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:41 AM
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Meh, I don't have much invested in defending Iron & Wine, but I'd make the argument that, in 40 years, he'll still be listened to.

More white-boy singer-songwriter college music.

I don't mean to sound harsh, but this music is just irrelevant. Footnotes to some future discussion of the 'canon' at best.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:41 AM
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John Mayer = Ben Harper

Ned has clearly gone deaf from listening to too much Stump. It's an honorable way to lose your judgment; I'll go give to an appropriate charity.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:42 AM
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Why is it that you people who know so much music have such crap taste in it? Eh? I suppose this is true for most hobbies/pursuits.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:42 AM
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yeah, to me Tom Paxton calls up a song about a toy going zip when it moved & bop when it stopped....


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:44 AM
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re: 492

It's not his fan-base. It's his music. Which isn't interesting.

Also, 496 is right. You people have fucking shitty taste in music.



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:44 AM
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446: Pinning things

J Hendrix, born 1942, not boomer
J Morrison, born 1943, not boomer
B Manilow, born 1943, not boomer
B Joel, born 1949, boomer

Dem's de facts.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:45 AM
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Harper oughtn't to be blamed for the berkishness of most of his fanbase, any more than Dylan should. The songs hold up, which is what matters;

This is the Ben Harper song I've heard the most recently. You're telling me that's not a John Mayer song?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:46 AM
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'Endures' is also not the same as 'canonical' -- see, again, Frampton Comes Alive.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:47 AM
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497--

i'm fairly sure (w/out googling, tho) that tom paxton is also the genius who gave us the tune to "my dog's better than your dog 'cause he eats ken-l-ration"

which is, like, more canonical than most of what bach wrote.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:48 AM
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One should also make explicit that canonicity is not quality, and that it can be fragmented. BOF, you know. Bob Drake will never be part of a universal pop music canon, but he's put out six extremely good, innovative albums, one of which, The Skull Mailbox (And Other Horrors), is a masterpiece.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:49 AM
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Why is it that you people who know so much music have such crap taste in it?

What's your basis for making that statment?

Listening to a lot of music means that you can't avoid listening to bad music as well as good music. Is anyone on this thread really talking about their favorite music, or just music that's good enough to be used as a referece point?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:49 AM
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Nobody knew how old those guys were when they came out in 1967-69.

"Boomer" is not actually a straight demographic term, is it? For the purposes of this discussion I thought it meant ex-hippies, especially in academia. Billy Joel the Accountant is Mr. Jones.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:50 AM
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499 -- As noted above, I prefer 1942-1960 for my imaginary lines. Boomer is a cultural term, not really a demographic one. At least when talking about culture.

And obviously entertainers can skew young (who cares when Raffi was born) or old, depending. Madonna is a Boomer no matter whose math you use, but the music? No way would you call that Boomer culture.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:51 AM
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Personally, I thought I was supposed to be talking about the music which I both like and which is by one recognizable singer-songwriter and which is in some way comparable to the music of the last four decades and which is likely to be recognized by more than 5% of the US population. That's not a very big category, which is why I'm like "Ummmm....Feist?" instead of being enthusiastic about anything.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:52 AM
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Any discussion of the future cannon is going to have to begin and pretty much end with music derived from urban black culture over the past 20 years. That's not to say that there isn't great music being made outside hip-hop and dance-derived genres, but the well-spring of innovation is basically US urban black music (and its recycling by Brits and French people, basically).*

* I'm getting deja vu from another recent thread.

re: 503

Sure, and lots of the music I personally love is like that. Some of it is interesting and innovative, but just won't be part of any future canon, and some of it is just really great work within an established genre. There's loads of really great British jazz being made at the moment, but I wouldn't kid myself that people will be talking about some of those artists in 40 years time.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:52 AM
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500: Too playful to be a Mayer song -- it does sounds like the sort of thing that Mayer attempts, badly -- but also not exactly representative of Harper's oeuvre, right? Or even most of what's on Burn to Shine for that matter.

I'll try to skip to the end of the "do not, do too" conversation about musical taste and say you're allowed to dislike country or singer-songwriter folk if you want, I just think (in ttaM's case) you're kidding yourself about its relevance or lack thereof. We can have the same conversation about which minority of hip-hop acts will prove influential down the road. Let's talk about taste, baby.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:55 AM
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I don't know jack about music, but isn't there an obvious distinction between music Boomers listened to in their formative years -- Boomer music -- made by people a decade or so older, and music made by Boomers? Billy Joel's a Boomer, but anyone who was listening to his stuff as it came out is a post-Boomer -- my age to ten years older.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:56 AM
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more canonical than most of what bach wrote

This may say more about you than about Bach. After his first wife died, he remarried. Shortly after their wedding, he wrote the French suites for her to play. Have you ever listened to these? Bach is inappropriate shorthand for overrated classical music; I hate Liszt, personally. Pick on him.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:57 AM
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FUCK YOU, LISZT


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:57 AM
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I hate AWB for turning this into a pop thread.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:58 AM
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You won the other version of the thread, John. Just savor it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 9:59 AM
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re: 509

I just think (in ttaM's case) you're kidding yourself about its relevance or lack thereof

I'm completely confident I'm right on this. In fact I'd stake a LOT on the view that Iron and Wine and Ben Harper are total nothing acts with zero relevance and no future importance. Harmless 'nice' music. That's it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:00 AM
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Well, where's my cookie?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:03 AM
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515: Okay, you can't admit to knowing nothing about a musical genre and claim to be authoritative about it, man. I call shenanigans.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:05 AM
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Even back when I was still listening to new music I still waited a year before bothering. New stuff needs too much filtering. My up-to-the-minute friend had his heart broken repeatedly by flash-in-the-pan never-really-that-good-after-all experiences.

That said, I'll recommend Miranda Lamber, the shitkicker concealed-carry singer-songwriter.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:07 AM
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505-506: The canonical phrase is "post-war baby boom," is it not? Born in 42, 43 very much not post-war.

Now something like "boomer music" gets complicated because colloquially it's what certain cohorts were listening to in their formative years. So someone at the leading edge of said boom is 18 when the Beatles perform on Ed Sullivan, 25 when Jim Morrison dies in Paris. Billy Joel, to take a not-so-random example, would have been 15 and 22 respectively. So the music that shaped B Joel, a boomer himself, was mostly made by non-boomers. (S Robinson, born 1940, not boomer; Beatles, all not boomers.)

The ever-reliable Wikipedia says the commonest definition for the end of the US boom is 1964. For those folks, formative music is more likely to be disco or punk, but there you go.

So the question is what are we talking about? Music that shaped typical boomers, or music made by boomers? Former, Beatles, Dylan, etc; latter, Billy Joel et al.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:07 AM
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I hate AWB for turning this into a pop thread.

How much more was there to say about the academy?

I think the Progressive movement was the first large-scale appearance of managerialism on the American political / social scene. The early 20th century is the beginning of lots of forms of credentialism and regulation too. But obviously there's a lot of further development since then.

Part of my point in brining up the increasing amount of rule-making and enforcing is that I don't think that represents the triumph of any specific ideology.

It may not be ideologically neutral, but it is being driven by social/technological/economic forces, and I think it's inevitable to some extent with a more urban country.

Both left and right ideologues can try to take advantage of that transformation or shift it in directions they prefer, but I don't think we have a choice about the transformation.

For as much sympathy as I have with the communitarian aspects of the 60s, I think that was doomed from the start. Or, at least, a rearguard and counter-culture effort, not something that could be integrated into the larger culture.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:07 AM
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511--
"Bach is inappropriate shorthand for overrated classical music"

well, far be it from me to do anything inappropriate, but in fact i was not using his name as shorthand for overrated classical music.

the joke in 502 only makes sense if bach is being held up as a standard of unsurpassable excellence, not as an example of overrating. and that it is a joke should have been clear from the intrusive 'like', if not from the very comparison itself.

and i chose bach rather than e.g. stravinsky because bach is famous for writing canons, and stravinsky isn't. canons. get it?

for fuck's sake.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:08 AM
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though we can surely find comity on hating liszt.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:09 AM
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Some reassure me that if I'd said that Neko Case is part of the canon, I'd be kicked off the blog for trolling.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:10 AM
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re: 517

When did I admit to knowing nothing about it? I said I thought it was shite and tried to avoid it. There's a difference.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:10 AM
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515: You have to pay for it with cache.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:10 AM
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How much more was there to say about the academy?

We could talk about how screwed up things are above the junior hiring level.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:10 AM
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The 1812 Overture. Cannonical. Heh.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:10 AM
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Some reassure me

Someone, I meant.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:10 AM
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527--
i'm sure there's a way to not get your joke, j.e., but i don't think i have the ingenuity to find it.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:12 AM
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Madonna is a Boomer no matter whose math you use, but the music?

Madonna went to school with my younger sister, so she must have been born around 1960. I'd have thought that was post-boomer.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:12 AM
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I have to check Liszt out. He was one of the leaders of the anti-German movement in music, along with Berlioz. He was an amazing pianist, but not really much of a composer it seems. But as a fighter against the Nazis, he deserves our respect.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:12 AM
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519 -- No, really, Doug. In cultural terms, it's not about being born after WWII, but having no real time memory of WWII. I don't care what Wiki says. I think the Strauss & Howe formulation fits reality, over the course of the 20th century, and well into the 19th, than other imaginary line drawing exercises.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:15 AM
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famous for writing canons

I'm thick this morning-- that's funny and I completely missed it.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:15 AM
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530: 1958.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:15 AM
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530 -- Madonna is my age. 1958.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:15 AM
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Someone reassure me that if I'd said that Neko Case is part of the canon, I'd be kicked off the blog for trolling.

You would have been trolling if you'd said that.

We know that DS is committed defender of her music.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:16 AM
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533--

i wouldn't go so far as to say it was funny--i only said it was a joke.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:17 AM
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My brother born 1960 considers himself the last of the boomers, and only because he had 4 older brothers. We drug him along with us.

When he came out to the West Coast with his Rush and Kiss albums, we mocked him.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:17 AM
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For Fux sake. Canons.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:18 AM
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538--
so what's your order in the sequence of boys?

and what do you think about that hypothesis that being late in a string of boy-births predisposes men to homosexuality?

and what are you doing next saturday night?


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:18 AM
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532: Isn't the other part of it being literally in an unusually high-population cohort, which didn't kick in until 1946.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:20 AM
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When he came out to the West Coast with his Rush and Kiss albums, we mocked him.

It was the only merciful thing to do.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:21 AM
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I am #1 of 5. My little brother is sort of femmy but straight. We are all straight, rather ineffectually so.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:22 AM
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541 -- Oh, yeah. The thing is, while the demographic spike is important, it's not as important as a bunch of other things also going on.

I'm staked out my position, though, and will move along. There's not much sense arguing with members of the Rosemary's Baby Generation about this sort of thing anyway. Or with literalists about much of anything.

The more interesting imaginary line, to me, is the one unfolding today -- pre-1982 vs. post-1982. That is, the Golden Ones vs. the Rosemarys.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:26 AM
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That is, the Golden Ones vs. the Rosemarys.

What's this distinction supposed to be?

[Curious]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:30 AM
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A lot of other things going on:

LSD! LSD! LSD!

As I've explained, "The Sixties" shouldn't get any credit for the civil rights movement, if the drug culture is included.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:30 AM
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The more interesting imaginary line, to me, is the one unfolding today -- pre-1982 vs. post-1982. That is, the Golden Ones vs. the Rosemarys.

????

Both those terms are new to me, but if I were going to draw an imaginary line, I wouldn't put it in 1982. I think of myself, 1971, as a slightly lagging Gen. Xer. (Well, I don't actually, often, unless someone brings up generations.) I'm in a cohort with people, say, up to seven or eight years older than I am, and three or four younger. But 1982 seems awfully late to draw a line between whatever group I'm in and the next one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:31 AM
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I will now comprehensively enumerate the canon of 20th century short-song artists (allowing five empty slots in recognition of my faulty memory):

Bill Monroe
Ralph Stanley
Robert Johnson
Sarah Vaughn
Billie Holiday
Frank Sinatra
Smokey Robinson
Otis Redding
Miles Davis
Bob Dylan
Joni Mitchell
Johnny Cash
Elvis
The Rolling Stones
AC/DC
Bruce Springsteen
Public Enemy
(Pick your exemplar of wussy white boy music that I know nothing about.)

The end.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:33 AM
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Madonna is my age. 1958.

Christ, here even the old people are young. I've always thought of the boomer generation as primarily associated with the postwar demographic spike, and of people Charley's age as the tail end of it. My parents, born in 1947 and 1951, would be the height of it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:34 AM
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re: 547

Yeah, I am curious for similar reasons. I'm a year or so younger than you, and most of my friends are in a similar age cohort [perhaps slanting slightly younger, in the sense that I do have a few friends who were born in the 80s and none born much earlier than about 67].

I'm definitely conscious, for example, in the UK of a line between those old enough to be young adults during Thatcher's reign, and those younger than that.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:35 AM
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I don't think 1982 is quite the right place to draw the line, but there is an important distinction between my generation, the first to have no memory of the Cold War, and the preceding one.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:36 AM
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wussy white boy music

You already mentioned Sinatra.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:36 AM
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552: and elvis


Posted by: wussy white boys | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:37 AM
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re: 551

Yeah, the 'memory of the Cold War' dividing line would roughly map onto the Thatcher line that I've noticed.

Also, remembering that for any given historical dividing line, those pre- that line think those post- that line are pathetic whiners.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:37 AM
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551: Four years younger than me has the end of the Cold War happening in their high school years -- so someone that age would clearly remember the end, but probably wouldn't have been all that aware of the Cold War before it. I think that puts someone that age or younger on your side of the line.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:40 AM
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Dylan will be completely forgotten in 50 years. The only pop music that will be remembered from the last half of the twentieth century are the Beatles, Motown, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive", and Grandmaster Flash' "The Message".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:43 AM
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re: 555

Yeah, I'd draw some line in the mid 70s, for roughly those reasons.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:44 AM
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I think 548 should be a new post.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:48 AM
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I don't know, I think someone who had grown up hearing about the Soviets all the time would qualify as being aware of the Cold War. I have literally no memory of it at all. Maybe "remembers the fall of the Berlin Wall" is a better, or at least more specific, criterion.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:49 AM
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1978--I remember the Cold War, but not in an actively-scared-of-nuclear war way like my older sisters. So I guess I'd say I'm more in teo's cohort than LB's. But there aren't actually neat lines, anyway.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:49 AM
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On second thought, maybe for the in-between people (of whom we have quite a few here) it's a matter of whether they identify more with those a few years older or those a few years younger.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:51 AM
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re: 560

Yeah, my wife is the same age as you. She remembers it a bit more vividly, as she grew up in a communist country. So her memories pre-1989 involve things like swearing oaths of loyalty, pictures of Husak on the wall, and the like. But her memories of the politics of the time are vague whereas I was 17 when the Berlin wall came down and have quite distinct memories of the politics of the period.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:54 AM
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Although the earlier idea of the boomers, about ten years after 1945 obviously operates for some distinctions we're making here, the demographic one which extends it for another ten is obviously meaningful culturally as well.

Of people active on this site, only Biohazard is too old to be a boomer, I think. There are several dozen of us who are boomers, more from the first ten than the second, I think, but it may be about evenly balanced. Of the regulars, either John or Bitzer is the oldest boomer, and I think Parsimon the youngest.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:54 AM
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But there aren't actually neat lines, anyway.

Absolutely true. 1982 just seemed way, way off to me unless there's something driving a break-point I hadn't thought of.

But I make cracks here about feeling elderly, and a lot of it is that there are a lot of commenters in their twenties, who seem to me to be in an entirely different generation than I am, in a way I don't feel about people in their forties. There's a generational gap between me and a twenty-nine or thirty year old, that isn't there between me and a forty-five year old.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:55 AM
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There's a generational gap between me and a twenty-nine or thirty year old

I don't feel that, it has to be said. But the lines are fuzzy, I just draw them a year or two later than you.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 10:58 AM
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Like everything, where you draw the line depends on the individual, and I'm not talking about a generation gap as anything terribly difficult to get over -- I'm certainly not talking here to people in their twenties while thinking of them as callow or uninformed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:02 AM
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That is, the Golden Ones vs. the Rosemarys.

What?

Absolutely true. 1982 just seemed way, way off to me unless there's something driving a break-point I hadn't thought of.

I think that break-point would be, as mentioned earlier, whether the person has any memory of the Cold War or not. I don't.

But I make cracks here about feeling elderly, and a lot of it is that there are a lot of commenters in their twenties, who seem to me to be in an entirely different generation than I am, in a way I don't feel about people in their forties. There's a generational gap between me and a twenty-nine or thirty year old, that isn't there between me and a forty-five year old.

Typewriters vs. computers?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:03 AM
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1982 just seemed way, way off to me unless there's something driving a break-point I hadn't thought of.

1982 was when the first of the original members of KISS left the band. The next year, they took off the makeup.

Duh.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:03 AM
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I see 1982 as a pivotal year for dividing people into two groups, as people born after 1982 are younger than me, whereas people born before 1982 are older than me. Others might have different systems.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:04 AM
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re: 568

It's also the year Kraftwerk released 'The Model' and Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder solved racism forever. Clearly a monumental year in music.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:06 AM
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I'm thinking it might be represented graphically by shading, to show the thinning out of the incidence of a particular characteristic outlook, and a certain amount of overlap as well. A very strong bar in the late forties and early fifties, thinning to vanishing by the early seventies.

This is how I would demonstrate that there are people born around 1970 who share the outlook, but also people born in the early sixties who never have.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:06 AM
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That's actually a nice point -- I'm one of the youngest people for whom conventionally having a computer in the house as a standard piece of office equipment is a novelty. My sister was sent off to college in 1986 with a really spiffy typewriter, and I got a Mac in 1991.

( We did have an Atari 800 when I was growing up, but it was an educational toy, more than anything serious. I did write papers on it, though.)

Somewhere between me and people who used the Web (rather than the pre-Web Internet) in college is another line that fits rather nicely with the Cold War line.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:07 AM
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I am old enough to have learned about the difference between Democracy and Communism in elementary school social studies, which may count for something. I also considered myself to know enough about Cold War history from my parents' Nation magazines to write letters to the N Y Times about it in high school. And I remember learning about one of my parent's cousins going to Nicaragua with some peace group. So maybe I am too old for Generation Awesome or whatever stupid name they are calling it by these days after all.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:08 AM
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545 -- The evil ones in whose favor Boomer society does and will do nothing whatsoever (other than bequeath a sackful of ashes) vs. the precious ones for whom it was all done.

When you heard 'think of the children' -- in a non-ironic way -- it was usually about post 1982 people. Along with car seat laws, and a host of other things.

I'll say again, it's all imaginary, and, like all generalizations, subject to all manner of individual modification. That said, I think the Strauss & Howe 90 year cycle, with generational quarters, is a fairly accuate description. Of course you'll have plenty of intra-generational difference -- John Emerson, Laura Bush, Dan Quayle, Madonna -- but the aggregate personality type seems to fit, as i said, over the last century and a half. Or not.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:09 AM
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570: And the year that Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a live bat onstage, and Cats began its regrettable Broadway run. I suspect the two events are linked.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:10 AM
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re: 572

I was working for an internet company when the Web was invented -- I actually remember setting up one of the very early web servers [or helping to]. It post-dates the end of the Cold War by a few years. Perhaps forms part of the same fuzzy boundary, though.

re: 574

Ah yeah, that makes some sense.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:11 AM
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I watch Seinfeld and it seems as current today as it did then. Then I notice that there are no computers or cell phones. It probably doesn't seem as current today as it did then to somebody five years younger than me. I'll ask my sister.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:12 AM
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( We did have an Atari 800 when I was growing up, but it was an educational toy, more than anything serious. I did write papers on it, though.)

We had a KayPro when I was growing up.

I am in the cohort for whom e-mail is at least as important as the phone as a way to stay in contact with people. I am, for example, more likely to e-mail a note like, "I left a package on your porch" than I am to call someone.

OTOH, I haven't been habituated to IM at all.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:13 AM
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he evil ones in whose favor Boomer society does and will do nothing whatsoever (other than bequeath a sackful of ashes) vs. the precious ones for whom it was all done.

Also, that seems to capture something right. Hyperbolic or not. And might explain also why a lot of my peers feel the way they do about the Boom generation.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:13 AM
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524: You admitted to knowing nothing about it when you tried to class Harper and Iron & Wine together. Not as bad as Harper = Mayer but close.

I am furrowing my brow as to how you can be so emphatic about the importance of urban black culture to the future canon but think that Damien Marley doesn't rate. My brow is at Maximum Furrow.

548: Public Enemy: best live show I ever saw. Bar none, and that includes David Bowie and Dizzy Gillespie. But their genius was production, spectacle and marketing, not songs.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:14 AM
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I do think Charley's right that the distinction in attitude toward boomers is important. Personally, I have no problem with them; they're my parents and my parents' friends, my teachers and professors, with all of whom my interactions have mostly been pleasant and supportive. People a few years older than me (like AWB) seem to have a very different take.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:16 AM
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574, 579: The evil ones in whose favor Boomer society does and will do nothing whatsoever (other than bequeath a sackful of ashes) vs. the precious ones for whom it was all done.

Spin this out a little? I guess I don't have a sense of Boomer active hostility to Xers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:16 AM
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My daughter, b.1990, wrote on a computer, circa 1994-95, before she could read. Memorized words: Love mommy, daddy, in combinations. And the word "edit," at the c: prompt, to call the program where she did this.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:17 AM
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Actually, it looks like Charley was talking about attitudes of rather than towards boomers. In any case, I think the distinction I made is still important.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:18 AM
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You admitted to knowing nothing about it when you tried to class Harper and Iron & Wine together. Not as bad as Harper = Mayer but close.

I continue to insist that Harper is a lot more like Mayer than like Iron & Wine. His lyrics are relentlessly boring, for one.

As for 1982, it was the year of ABC's "Poison Arrow", XTC's English Settlement, the first R.E.M. record, the first Sonic Youth record, Soft Cell's "Sex Dwarf", and the entire Haysi Fantayzee era.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:18 AM
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I've got to get off to work. Check this out.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:18 AM
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tr: 580

Because Damien Marley doesn't seem to me to be an especially interesting example of it? I'd say the same about lots of other popular artists.



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:18 AM
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586 addresses outlooks more than personality types, I know, but can't help falsely suggesting the latter. Like the Years of the ... placemats in an old-style Chinese American restaurant.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:23 AM
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The timing seems sort of uselessly non-specific -- on the most obvious level, large wars aren't 90 years apart, but they're surely going to have similar generational effects.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:25 AM
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Yeah, much as I love Public Enemy, the real musical geniuses there were The Bomb Squad.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:26 AM
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586 works about as well as the placemats for me; it's just too generalized to be convincing.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:29 AM
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re: 590

Although Chuck D does have a pretty unique flow and tone, I think you're right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:31 AM
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large wars aren't 90 years apart

1775–1861: 86 years
1861–1941: 80 years

Surprisingly close.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:31 AM
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By you, The Great War wasn't "large"?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:35 AM
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Falsificationism is dead, Slol.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:36 AM
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589 -- Wars are going to have different effects depending on what happens. And who you are. The effect of the Civil War in Vermont, traumatic as it was, was very different from the effect in Georgia. The effect of Korea was different from the effect of Viet Nam. Different again from the Mexican War.

588 -- One doesn't have to buy any of it, of course. But the fact that a couple of guys predicted in 1990 that just after 2000, the US would badly overreact to something or other and initiate a crusade on which the fate of civilization would be said to rest is something.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:36 AM
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Falsificationism is dead, Slol.

Hippie.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:40 AM
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I don't believe in impersonal historic forces. It's all contigent.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:41 AM
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By you, The Great War wasn't "large"?

Not for the US, no.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:42 AM
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Teo: One aspect of being a Gen Xer is that you had to listen to Boomers talk about you all the time. Now that we're several generations past the Boom, I'm not surprised you don't have the same feeling of being under constant surveillance.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:44 AM
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But this is supposed to be some universal theory of History--Europe got devastated twice in 25 years. & what about Vietnam?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:44 AM
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582: The mid-generation bit? There's people who are older/younger than you and influence your life, such as your boss or your professor, or your students or junior employees. And then there's your children and parents. Inter-group hatred is much more common across the former age range than the latter.

Boomers don't have much effect on me; I'm out of college and they aren't comfortable enough around computers for me to come into contact with them at work. But the new crowd people in college for whom the internet means file sharing and social networking? USELESS! ALL OF THEM!


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:45 AM
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Not for the US, no.

It's all in how you measure it, of course, but in terms of soldiers and civilians mobilized as percent of population, cost to the federal government as percent of GDP, and deaths per day, it was huge -- don't have my figures to hand, but I believe it was easily up there with WWII and the Civil War.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:46 AM
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the canon of 20th century short-song artists

Yeah, I don't think those floppy-haired lads from Liverpool are going anywhere.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:46 AM
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53,402 battle deaths in a year and a half, more by six thousand than Vietnam, over a much longer period. Plus about 63,000 deaths not battlefield. Influenza would be a big part of that. About a sixth of WWII casualties.

But profound changes in American Society. American nationalism during WWI gave the world the shape our parents knew it.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:50 AM
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603: Really? That surprises me, since US entry into the war was so late, but I bow to your actual expertise about this time period.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:51 AM
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One aspect of being a Gen Xer is that you had to listen to Boomers talk about you all the time.

I never had that feeling personally, but I've seen other references to it. Perhaps I just lack a sense of generational solidarity, how common is this?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:51 AM
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585: I continue to insist that Harper is a lot more like Mayer than like Iron & Wine.

I'd be more sympathetic to this view if I thought Mayer were capable of producing songs like "Faded," "Power of the Gospel" or "Like a King." I don't see it. Harper's lyrics tend to be simple, of course, which for what he's doing is a feature rather than a defect.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:52 AM
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your actual expertise

Technically, it was IDP who came up with the figures/proportions.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:54 AM
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One aspect of being a Gen Xer is that you had to listen to Boomers talk about you all the time. Now that we're several generations past the Boom, I'm not surprised you don't have the same feeling of being under constant surveillance.

"A new generation! How cute! I bet they think they can come up with music and political opinions, too!"

608: Okay, I'll check out those songs, then.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:54 AM
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563--
"Of the regulars, either John or Bitzer is the oldest boomer"

i) please--i'm not a regular
ii) should i report mean, median, or mode?


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:56 AM
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607: I think the feeling started early. Both the movie Slackers and the book Generation X in part motivated by it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 11:56 AM
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611.2: report them all.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:00 PM
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590: Wasn't Chuck actually a member of the Bomb Squad? Charles Ryder = Charles Hidenhour = Chuck D.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:01 PM
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Here it is. He was using the name Carl Ryder.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:04 PM
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614: Yeah, he was. But the albums produced without the Shocklees really seem to be missing the touch.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:08 PM
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I feel a little awkward being the one to do this here, not being an academician at all, but...isn't the notion of a popular music canon for the last twenty years kind of presuming a lot? If it's as simple as "music that a lot of people will still like listening to forty years from now", then it depends on demographics a lot - there are more boomers around now than there will be folks now in their mid-teens to mid-twenties forty years hence. If it's "music approved by $SOMEONE forty years from now", then I'd like to know something about who's being imagined doing the approving, and why.

But it's really hard to overstate the impact of changes in music publication and distribution. The arrival of SoundScan demonstrated just how thoroughly radio (and TV) had gotten out of sync with listening preferences, and a lot of other aspects of the business fragment the audience as well. I'm going to guess that there are interesting writings on canon formation in relatively fragmented versus relatively homogeneous social environments (this is me trolling for citations), but it doesn't take detailed study to see some of the obvious consequences. A comparison of emerging talents from nearly half a century ago to emerging talents now seems to me to presume a lot that I'm far from convinced should be presumed.

I could be really overestimating the fragmenting and underestimating the uniting, of course. I've been known to do that. If so, I will be glad to learn things that show me my error, too.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:34 PM
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I mentioned that the lack of a potential canon as seen by today's 50-year-olds has a lot to do with the industry becoming a bunch of niches.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:36 PM
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Mitch, Carl and Winona. What a concept.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:39 PM
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What the hell, this thread is long enough for another grand statement:

If one has to choose just one category of idea to study as the key to how an industrial or post-industrial society works, it should be what is taught formally and informally to managers. I think that a whole lot of American history since about 1890, at least, can be understood very well through the lens of managerial expectations for themselves and for the people and resources they manage. Look at how confident managers are of their l33tness and what they understand the scope of their authority and expertise to be, and you'll find what's going on the heads of the people who matter most in influencing war, prosperity, and social order.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:41 PM
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I think that the lack of potential canon as seen by today's 50-year-olds has a lot to do with those 50-year-olds being bitter because they spent their youths too drugged up to save up to buy lawns to tell everyone to get off of.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:42 PM
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If one has to choose just one category of idea to study as the key to how an industrial or post-industrial society works, it should be what is taught formally and informally to managers.

That's immediately makes me think of McNamara and, specifically, his discussion of his years at Ford in The Fog Of War.

It seems like an interesting idea, but not one I know much about.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:44 PM
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Aren't managers by definition confident of their l33tness?

Or do you mean in a larger sense, as signifying worth, and the answers to questions beyond their concerns, etc.?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:47 PM
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fuck you, walt, get off my heating-grate.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:56 PM
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One more comment about the music industry. I find myself thinking about debut albums as a sign of the health of the music culture (ignoring the huge caveat about it being easier to put out albums now than it used to be). It's not possible to put out a great debut album without having good influences. It seems like that's a sign of good music going on in the culture, and venues to perform and listen to good music.

Off the top of my head, in the 70s you had

Can't Buy A Thrill -- '72
Horses -- '75
The Clash -- '77
Look Sharp -- '79
My Aim Is True -- '79

All of those combine individual talent and inspiration, with the ability to draw influence from and respond seriously to the music of the day in a way that's harder to imagine now.

Pure speculation on my part, but the biggest reason may be that live musical performances have less cultural space than they used to. I don't think there's less musical talent now, but I think that the mileau of populat music is less vital.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 12:57 PM
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Funny, NickS, I was thinking about saying something about how it's exponentially easier for a band to release its debut album now -- without having to get a record deal, without having to build a fanbase, without having to pay dues or win "battle of the bands" competitions, and without having to pay much for recording or for a producer.

For bands today, the juvenilia gets released as the debut album at a point in their careers when they really aren't set on their sound or their message or whether they want to have a career or not.

The debut album is maybe the aspect of the music industry that has changed most utterly since 30 years ago.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:01 PM
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I think you're probably right. You made a coment about that earlier, and the importance shouldn't be understated.

But I still think there's less sense of bands really pushing each other to achieve. Perhaps that's more noticeable within musical niches, but within mainstream pop music?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:05 PM
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It's just easier to release music now and get it heard by at least a few people. The only bands that see the music industry as a zero-sum competition for attention are scorned as careerists and sellouts. That does encourage laziness, I suppose.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:08 PM
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My Aim is True was 1977. (My favorite album for years, and my birth year, so I always remember.)
(Was '78 in the u.s., I think.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:11 PM
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You caught me on the one album I didn't look up. Also, I keep thinking that The Pretenders was '79 but allmusic shows it as '80.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:13 PM
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Was '78 in the u.s., I think

That feels right.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:13 PM
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Huh, wikipedia says the genre of My Aim is True is "pub rock". That's a new one for me.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:19 PM
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saying something about how it's exponentially easier for a band to release its debut album

A few other thoughts on the same topic:

Many people have said that the switch from LPs to CDs was bad for music because it required that musicians have 60 minutes of music rather than 40 to release an album.

In general album space has become cheaper, and that creates less incentive to maximize the value of each minute of recording time.

I've said that a truly great song has to have several great elements -- not just a great hook, but great lyrics or great delivery, or inspired subject matter, and that I hear so many songs that have something great about them, but feel noteably average in other ways.

I wonder if this is a prejudice on my part in favor of a certain version of the "short form song." There is no reason why the pinnacle of pop music has to be distilling as much as possible into three minutes. Perhaps the drop in price of album space makes the model of the "three minute pop song" the wrong standard of judgement.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:23 PM
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Just to dilute my boomer stigma, I like Chrissie Hynde and Elvis Costello on a level with Dylan, Hendrix, and the early Stones, who are the only boomer musicians that are central for me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:26 PM
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617: I'm not sure what you're looking for, actually. The question of aesthetic judgment is orthogonal to what sells from moment.

I really don't know that a better method exists of guessing what will still be appreciated down the road except for the flawed, subjective process of figuring out which cultural products of the present day have enough arguable aesthetic merit to make a leap to being appreciated by other sensibilities than those of the moment. Of necessity that's largely a combination of educated guesswork and gut instinct. We could add charts and demographic projections to this process, but that sort of thing carries the ring of what in History departments used to aptly be called "science envy." Record companies do no end of market studies and it doesn't seem to have helped their predictive or perceptive powers.

626: Indeed. A promoter I know claims that the "major" labels are now almost completely unconnected to finding and breaking new talent, except where they've manufactured it.

633: Yeah, especially delivery. Great lyrics and conceptual brilliance are bonuses when they're there, and the songs have to be well-structured, but the delivery is the difference between great songs and just okay ones. That's a big part of the secret of influential music period, IMO, whether it's Pavarotti or Hank Williams Sr. or Tribe Called Quest or Iggy and the Stooges.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:44 PM
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re: 633

Yeah, the album length thing, I've heard a bit, too. It does make some sense. After reading your comment I was trying to think of post-CD albums that I think really work, as an entire album, and where the album takes advantage of the whole duration available; rather than functioning as 4 or 5 really good songs plus filler.

I couldn't think of many. Or at least not many that fall into the 'collection of songs' category. More atmospheric, less song-driven things, yeah.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:56 PM
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I really don't know that a better method exists of guessing what will still be appreciated down the road except for the flawed, subjective process of figuring out which cultural products of the present day have enough arguable aesthetic merit to make a leap to being appreciated by other sensibilities than those of the moment.

Also seems right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:58 PM
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Many people have said that the switch from LPs to CDs was bad for music because it required that musicians have 60 minutes of music rather than 40 to release an album.

I don't know, it's the rare album that has 60 minutes of material. Most seem to be in the 40-minute range, despite the increased capacity.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 1:59 PM
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I don't know, it's the rare album that has 60 minutes of material.

Well, you must've missed the big hip-hop push in the late 90s and early 2000s to make every album an "event" that filled all 70 minutes. That was the root of those damn skits that seemed to corrupt a number of possible amazing albums.

As for possible canon fodder since 1990, I think we need to focus on albums more that artists (as most of the previous canon did). And bear in mind that most of the future canon won't be great music or unique music as much as it will be semi-unique and quite good music that just happened to get well known enough to enter the canon. That said, I'll try to list some albums and/or genres that I feel have a good shot at making it.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 2:57 PM
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Certain to join the canon (or it's already happened) (roughly genre then chronological order):
Public Enemy Nation of Millions... and Fear of a Black Planet
N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton
DJ Shadow Endtroducing...
Daft Punk Homework
My Bloody Valentine Loveless
Radiohead OK Computer


Good shots:
Wu-Tang Clan Enter the 36 Chambers
Madlib (not sure what album will get canonized, but almost surely something from his production work will make it)
Beck Odelay
The Beta Band The 3 EPs
The Unicorns Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?
Broken Social Scene You Forgot It in People

Outside shots:
El-P Fantastic Damage (hip-hop this hardcore and synth-based might not get enough of a following)
Interpol Turn Out the Bright Lights (might be considered too derivative)
Liars album (too early to tell which one would have the best shot)
TV on the Radio (ditto, depends if they produce more great albums)
Subtle A New White (still fairly obscure, but gaining notice and genuinely unique)


There's also almost certain to be someone along the lines of Negativland, Girl Talk, The Avalanches, etc. who gets canonized as a representative of the very recent movement to cut out and reassemble tiny pieces of hundreds of other works into a complete whole that only bears the slightest resemblance to any of the components. I think it's a movement that will only get larger, and need someone canonized as the progenitor of the popular genre.

This comment is hardly meant to be comprehensive, though it is intended to be authoritative. I will gladly defend these choices and may add others if I continue to be bored at work and they continue to come to mind.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 3:22 PM
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most of the future canon won't be great music or unique music as much as it will be semi-unique and quite good music

I don't see why any lowering of the bar from "great" to "good" would be needed. The span from '90 to '07 is replete with simply great music.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 3:24 PM
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The list in 640 is great. I don't agree with all of them, although I agree with a lot, but even the ones I don't, I can see how someone else could make a strong case for them.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 3:34 PM
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And I think in some cases that focussing on groups is probably still the most illuminating. Surely true of Wu-Tang Clan, whose various constituents are by now almost a sub-genre of hip-hop by themselves, or even several sub-genres. Likewise with NWA given the widespread subsequent work of their members, especially Dre. Likewise with Broken Social Scene (here Feist comes up again).

There are certain labels whose specific sound and constellation of artists seems to be a bigger phenomenon than any single act. Ninja Tunes would be a good example (home of TCO, Kid Koala and Amon Tobin among others).


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 3:38 PM
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I don't see why any lowering of the bar from "great" to "good" would be needed.

To be honest, I said that because I don't think that much of the current canon is "great". Partly that's my own taste, but a lot is also because the albums and groups that get idolized decades later owe as much to being in the right place at the right time, or being name-checked by the right artist a decade later, as they do to their inherent quality. An album doesn't have to be superb to get canonized, it just has to be original and lucky enough to get noticed.

And thanks, ttaM, 642 actually means a lot to me. Now I'm almost afraid of adding more albums to the list for fear of getting my approval revoked.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 3:45 PM
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644.1: Right, but the people who noticed or name-checked this or that album or artist were presumably not doing so because they thought they were merely good. Why hold yourself to a lower standard in your own name-checking?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 4:00 PM
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I do second ttaM's sentiment on the list in 640, by the way. I'm not snarking at you.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 4:01 PM
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re: 643

Yes, re: labels. I think of Warp in that context (as well as Ninja Tunes, early Mo' Wax, etc.).



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 4:05 PM
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I'm finding pinning down relatively recent stuff I'd definitely think of as candidates for some putative future canon pretty hard.

Maybe:

The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin
Lambchop, Nixon
Björk, Homogenic
The Good, the Bad and the Queen.

The latter isn't an obvious choice, but it really works for me as as a self-contained whole. It's a real album, rather than a collection of songs.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 4:19 PM
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I don't believe in impersonal historic forces. It's all contigent.

Of course it is, which is why they have a generation skip in the 19th century cycle. (No heroes emerge from the Civil War cohort, just exhausted people glad to be alive -- again on a gross generalization, not individual, level). The idea that a self-absorbed generation gives rise to neglected and self-sufficient kids isn't all that wacky. Nor is the idea that a high acheiving hard working generation is going to give rise to complacent self absorbed children. In the grossest of gross.

On the canon, I wouldn't expect to see nearly as much boomer music 40 years hence as now. I'd expect some Dylan to survive, but who knows. Canons are constantly changing, just at a slower pace, and using different criteria, than the Top 40 or whatever. Think of the relative position of Moby Dick in the literary canon between 1880 and 1980.



Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 4:38 PM
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I feel like I should like the Flaming Lips (they're ambitious and interesting and smart) but find that I just don't. I own The Soft Bulletin and have listened to it maybe twice.

Bjork is a good call, and not just for Homogenic.

At least one of Josh Homme's various projects, probably the Eagles of Death Metal.

Le Tigre if there's any justice, albeit that there's a backlash against them recently.

Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, the Roots, the Fugees and specifically Lauryn Hill, and Mos Def.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 4:40 PM
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I feel like I should like the Flaming Lips (they're ambitious and interesting and smart) but find that I just don't.

Actually, I feel the same way about much of their stuff, but the Soft Bulletin grabbed me in a way that the rest doesn't. It also stands up, I think, as a coherent single album.

With Björk, Homogenic wouldn't be my own personal favourite. Verspertine, is the album I probably liked most when it first came out. But Homogenic is probably, I think, when she was at her peak.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 5:38 PM
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423

"... You can teach yourself from a book. You can teach yourself from a tape. But anyone who has ever tried to do so finds pretty quickly that you hit a wall in terms of learning that way. Beyond that, you either have to do what you're learning (and without observers or feedback, how will you ever know if you're doing it well?) or have someone show you, in real-time and with all the dialogic responsiveness of a living person, how to do it"

That has not been my experience. Many people are not motivated or self-disciplined enough to systematically learn a body of material without the structure of a course to force them to keep at it. But this is not really necessary. For things like mathematics or physics with definite right answers it is easy enough to tell whether you have mastered the material. Either you can solve the problems correctly or you can't.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:37 PM
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410

"i'm assuming you went to some kind of higher ed. but apparently not the kind i teach at.

i don't give the same lectures every year; they are different every year. and most of what i do is not lecturing but talking with students, in discussion, in a way that eliza hasn't been able to duplicate yet. ("i hear you saying that goethe's faust seems to have lost the genuinely diabolical elements of marlowe's faust. how do you feel about that?")"

I am thinking of subject like physics or mathematics. I listened to two years of lectures based on Feynman's "Lectures on Physics". I doubt a high fidelity recording of Feynman giving these lectures himself would have been any worse.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 7:45 PM
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I don't try to keep up any more, but I've found Bjork's stuff tremendously impressive. In some respect it's not really my style, but looking at it from a musical point of view she seems to be able to pull a lot of different things into something that works.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-25-07 4:48 AM
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Hey, Feynman (or, say, JK Galbraith, Keynes, Edgar Dijkstra..) is an exception; genius is always an exception.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-25-07 4:52 AM
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