Archive for April, 2004

The Single Guy

Thoughful posts all around about the recent Chronicle articles on the single/parents divide in the profession. The two most prominent articles, “Singular Mistreatment: Unmarried professors are outsiders in the Ozzie and Harriet world of academe” and “Singing the Grad-School Baby Blues.” These articles invoke many of the typical difficulties that singles and parents face within the academic profession (whether or not to have kids if you’re married, whether you can talk about baby strollers with your married colleagues). Like Laura at 11D (who has a thoughtful post on the issue), I think these conflicts reflect the pressures of an incredibly tight job market, leading workers to turn on each other. Laura adds that:

Everybody else’s life looks better than their own. The parent workers are jealous of their single counterparts who can work uninterrupted, who get a full night’s sleep and a weekend off. The singles feel that they don’t have the excuse of a soccer game to get them out of a departmental meeting.

Quite honestly, I generally don’t think I’ve ever felt “discriminated against” (as the Chronicle article describes it) because of my status as a single person. I don’t feel like an outsider at parties, even if the topic changes to the best brands of baby strollers. And while I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of some university perks such as cheaper tuition for my children, I don’t perceive that as a personal loss because it’s not an expense I face (perhaps a small bonus to apply towards my student loan payments would balance things, but I’ve got no real beef here).

I also realize that being single gives me lots of free time to think, write, and read, all tremendous assets in my profession. I don’t have to worry about budgeting my time as carefully, which is kind of nice. I’ve felt a little pressure to teach at certain times because of my “single” status, but usually those times coincide with my personal schedule, so it hasn’t been a major problem. Other singles complain of the difficulty of being single during the stressful, lonely moments of academic life, which I know from experience can be demanding, especially when combined with household tasks (running errands, paying bills, etc).

In general, I like being single (I’d make more of an effort to change things if I didn’t), so I simply don’t perceieve myself as being slighted here. Then again, according to the “Singular Mistreatment” article, my feelings could have a basis in my gender:

Women in academe seem to experience singleness differently from their male counterparts. That may be in part because female professors are more likely to be single. According to the Higher Education Research Institute’s survey, 82 percent of male professors were married in the 2001-2 academic year, compared with 65.5 percent of female faculty members. The single male professor has an “almost fetishized status,” says Johnnie Wilcox, an assistant professor of English at Ohio University’s main campus.

It does seem significant that most of the people who were interviewed for (or at least quoted in) the Chronicle article were women, but in general, I’d imagine this is a question that deserves further investigation than the fleeting observations I’d be able to make. I do think these comments speak to how married and single people believe themselves to be perceived by their colleagues.

The “Singular Mistreatment” article does raise the point that the job market can be difficult for single people who have little choice about where they live, which might mean living in a small town where there are few romantic prospects, but again, I think marrieds and singles face similar difficulties here. While it might appear easier to be married in a small town, parents may be concerned about the schools and other community opportunities their children miss. Again, I think the real issue is that we’re facing a tight market, and competition for a limited number of jobs brings out these complaints of bias, loneliness, and alienation. I don’t have any solutions here, and I really should be grading, but I think it’s important to recognize that both singles and “smug marrieds” are confronting similar problems, and that those problems are symptomatic of another, larger problem, which is a competitive job market and a struggling economy.

I may write more about Bella DePaulo’s focus on the “psychology of singleness” later, but for now, I’ll agree that I don’t see singleness as a problem that needs fixing. And now, I really have to get back to work on finishing some grading. Regular classes end tomorrow at Georgia Tech, so I’ve got a busy day (and night) ahead of me.

All of these links via Scribblingwoman, who was too busy with parental obligations to comment at length (perhaps illustrating that I have it easier than I thought).

Update: These articles only pay the mildest lip service to gays and lesbians, who still tend to face difficulties in obtaining partner benefits at many major universities.

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All the President’s Men II

Casting began today for All the President’s Men II according to a source close to the chutry experiment. A long-awaited sequel to the 1976 feature film starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as WaPo reporters Woodward and Bernstein who broke the famous Watergate scandal. Due to budgetary constraints, Dustin Hoffan’s Bernstein has been dropped from the sequel, but Redford is in serious negotiations to reprise his role as Bob Woodward. Tinseltown is abuzz as conspiracy thrillers seem to be making a comeback unprecedented since the mid 1970s aftermath of the Nixon administration, with “Presidents” slated to compete with the movie version of Richard Clarke’s insider book, Against All Enemies (this part is actually true).

Conveniently Woodward has a new book, Plan of Attack, that will provide the basis for a shooting script. In order to ensure brisk box office, only limited plot details are available, but the film promises at least 20% more scandal (and a much larger explosion budget) than the original. Woodward coyly revealed some of the details in an interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes Sunday night (now I really wish I’d watched). Perhaps the most surprising news was the revelation (and I wish I were making this up) that Saudi Prince Bandar has promised to flood the US oil market just before the election:

Prince Bandar enjoys easy access to the Oval Office. His family and the Bush family are close. And Woodward told 60 Minutes that Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election – to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day.

Woodward says that Bandar understood that economic conditions were key before a presidential election: “They’re [oil prices] high. And they could go down very quickly. That’s the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer, or as we get closer to the election, they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly.”

In addition to the “votes for oil” scheme, President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld also apparently worked a deal for General Tommy Franks to have unlimited finanical support for planning the Iraq invasion by November of 2001 (see Daily Kos for more on this topic), and by June of 2002, the President approved $700 million to support build-up for the Iraq war without getting Congressional approval:

“Gets to a point where in July, the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn’t know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. …Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this.”

Details about the rest of the cast are sketchy right now (in other words this metaphor is running out of steam, fast), but look for a major plotline around Dick “War Fever” Cheney. The major difficult confronting the screenwriters now is keeping the film down to a manageable length, forcing the writers to exclude some of the Bush presidency’s most famous scandals. Producers hope to have a film ready by the end-of-the-year Oscar season, and it has been confirmed that the film’s marketing slogan will be: “History?…We’ll All Be Dead.”

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Tuition Hikes

Short Attention Span Sunday continues at the chutry experiment. I just learned from the Atlanta Desk that Georgia’s four major research universities have all petitioned the Board of Regents to raise tuition by as much as 10% this year. University budgets are already clearly tapped out. According to the article, UGA and Georgia Tech have already laid off some employees, while other staff members do the work of two or three people. These increases are not just affecting research universities; community colleges have also requested tuition hikes.

These tuition hikes will also have the effect of endangering the already imperiled HOPE scholarship program (instituted by former governor Zell Miller before he launched his second career as a cultural critic). Of course we got a nice, shiny tax cut to play with, so I probably shouldn’t complain.

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Duke Abolishes 8 AM Classes

Duke administrators made what I regard to be one of the better university administrative decisions I’ve seen in a long time (note: Yahoo links are notoriously unstable). They’ve decided to eliminate 8 AM classes in order to “help its sleep-deprived students, who too often are struggling to survive on a mix of caffeine, adrenaline and ambition.” Not to mention their sleep-deprived, over-caffienated, ambitious professors.

I really do think this is a good idea and not just because I am a “night person.” Okay, I can’t really think of any other good reasons, but still, early morning classes were nearly impossible for me. I do find it disconcerting that someone who could qualify for admission to Duke University would need sleep orientation to “understand the importance of sleep.”

Yes, I’m in the middle of a grading marathon, which means I’ll be easily distracted for the next few days.

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George W. Bush’s Philosophy of History

From the Washington Post’s report on Bob Woodward’s new book, Plan of Attack, via Wonkette:

Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.”

Wonkette’s punchline is better than anything I could come up with, even after two cups of coffee. By the way, there’s a good article on the hip new Washington gossip-satirist blogger in the New York Times.

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Cinema India

My morning coffee reading: Interesting New York Times article on Cinema India, a film program touring the United States showing several Indian films.

A.O. Scott details several of the Indian film industry’s features, specifically its deep roots in musical numbers, especially in Tamil movies. What I found interesting about the article is Scott’s discussion of the “breezy cosmopolitanism” of many Bollywood films (this was something I’d noticed when watching Kal Ho Naa Ho a few months ago). And as Scott suggests, American audiences are often unaware of the fact of Bollywood’s popularity.

In his discussion of 1995’s Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ, as many fans call it), one of the films playing in the Cinema India series, Scott also discusses the attempts in recent Bollywood film to negotiate economic globalization while sustaining a unique cultural identity. He notes that DDLJ’s “deft combination of adventurousness and conservatism — of youthful rebellion and filial duty, which are brought into harmony at the end — may be one source of its appeal. It suggests that India, which in the 90’s was rushing headlong toward participation in the global economy after decades of semi-isolation, could embrace the wider world without sacrificing its history or its identity.”

Note: I just did some digging and the festival is coming to Atlanta’s High Museum of Art in May. Perhaps I can work in some extra credit in my film class this summer for students who attend one of these films.

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Driving Votes

Via Danah Boyd, I just came across Driving Votes, a website devoted to coordinating road trips to swing states to register voters for the 2004 election, with the goal of defeating Bush in 2004. The site appears to work on the grassroots principles similar to those of MoveOn.org. Driving Votes includes a “Blog Center,” where you can learn more about the participants.

There is something strange about the logic that “votes in swing states count more,” but I’m willing to admit that it’s probably the political logic of 2004.

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Some of the News That’s Fit to Print

As Jen Brock at The Atlanta Desk mentions, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution now requires people who access the paper online to register. I’ve registered for the New York Times, Washington Post, and 2 or 3 other papers, but what makes this registration annoying is that you are required to list your phone number and address. Obviously they plan to sell this information to telemarketers and junk mail distributors. Initially, I was so annoyed that I refused to register, but then one of my students reminded me, “You know, Chuck, you could just make something up.” So I did. I gave them the number of their own advertising department.

In addition to requiring people to subscribe, the AJC has decided to designate most of their sports columnists as “premium” content and to charge an exorbitant fee to read this material online. Now, I don’t have to read the sports section, but it would be kind of nice. Consider me annoyed.

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If I Had a Billion Dollars

So I managed to finish and mail my taxes about six hours earlier this year than I did last year. Quite an improvement. And while I was out mailing my taxes, I found a few people from the local chapter of the Billionaires for Bush (a group Rachael mentioned a few days ago) staging a little street theater, handing outleaflets and thanking people for paying “their” taxes. If nothing else, the “Billionaires” made me smile, an impressive feat after I spent the whole day doing my taxes, only to find out that I owed money this year.

Update: Of course, the only reason I paid my taxes at all is to avoid being “shamed” on the web.

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More Uncovered Stuff

For my paper for CSA, one more review from OFFOFFOFF–The Guide to Alternative New York. Features reader comments. The review also handily summarizes some of the film’s major claims about the war in Iraq.

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Movies, Memories, and Time Travel

I’m never going to get around to writing full blog entries on these topics, so here’s another grab-bag entry chock-full of interesting reading:

  • First an article from The San Franciso Chronicle on a DVD player, ClearPlay, soon to be marketed by RCA that will allow viewers to edit out offensive content from movies. The two Stevens (Spielberg and Soderbergh) are naturally quite angry, but apparently when Wal-Mart speaks, manufacturers listen. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. After all, the lawsuit seems to based on the concept that the film is the sole property of the filmmaker, but my fear is that technologies like this DVD player will continue to limit the kinds of films that are made and distributed.
  • Second, Douglas Rushkoff’s interesting essay on cameraphones. He observes that cameraphones allow “us” (not me because I still don’t have a cell phone) to take pictures anytime they want, therefore changing the status of the photograph, specifically in relationship to the creation of photographic memory. He writes: “But that’s just the point: it’s the photo we happened to capture. Instead of elevating the events in our lives to “memories,” as we did in the Kodak era, we are simply grabbing some visual data points or a momentary sensation. The intentionality is gone. And unless the image is spectacular (not in execution, but in its content) we’ll trash it without printing” (via Anne).
  • And because I’m a time travel junkie, I’ll also mention Matt’s discussion of timetraveler_00, a “live movie” adapting the story of John Titor, whose writings appeared on the Internet in 2000-2001, in which he claimed to be a time traveler from the year 2036. Not much to add there for now, but because of my book project, I’m always intrigued by time travel hoaxes.

Now, I must get back to grading my students’ research papers.

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Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty

Carson Daly, who is 30 years old, will be receiving a lifetime achievement award from MTV’s Total Request Live this week. He joins elder statesman, Sean “Puffy”/”P. Diddy”/”Puff Daddy” Combs who is 34, on the long list of TRL lifetime achievement winners. Via Salon (subscription or day-pass required).

This doesn’t make me feel old. Instead all I can think is how sad it must be to be confined to the dustbin of pseudo-history before you’re even old enough to run for President of the United States.

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Adaptation Review

Weird. I didn’t realize that my review of Adaptation is out. Not sure when I would have noticed, but I just got an email from someone who’d come across the review. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s my best writing. Still, the review conveys my ambivalence about Adaptation’s cynicism. That’s what really matters.

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Spider-Man Meets The Donald

While talking to some of my students before (during?) class on Monday, one of them mentioned a USA Today article on recent movie marketing efforts on television. The article emphasizes a 2.5-minute trailer for Spider-Man 2 (IMDB), which apparently aired during annoyingly ubiqitous reality TV show, The Apprentice.

Other examples include the USA cable network broadcasting the first ten minutes of the new Dawn of the Dead remake (my take on the film). Movie marketers describe this technique as “sampling.” As usual, the USA Today article is irritatingly brief, but might provide a reference point for thinking about the marketing of Dawn for my horror film article.

Speaking of Spider-Man 2, I just learned that Michael Chabon wrote the screenplay. How cool is that? I’m probably the last person to know this (the last person who cares, anyway). Just politely ignore me if you knew about Chabon writing the screenplay six months ago.

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Learning From Toys

I’m fascinated by some of the toys and collectibles that have emerged after September 11. Here’s yet another innocent childhood toy from Playmobil, a security check in (here’s another image in case the previous one doesn’t work), complete with conveyor belt to screen luggage and a metal detector (via Metafilter).

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