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Sunday, February 26, 2012

10 (minus 6) Things I Hate About You (but mostly the world in general)

Celebrities who complain about being celebrities

This is a long list that includes pro athletes irritated at the press for “holding them to higher standards”, or more accurately, covering their lower standards; stars incredulous when the media refuses to give them their due privacy when their vast fortunes were made entirely by the media turning them into house-hold names (it’s definitely not their acting that’s worth millions); and perhaps more so than anyone, singers who lament how hard it is to be rich and famous in songs, which in turn will make them richer and famous-er.  Aside from the obvious putridity of this, my biggest gripe with all of these infants is that if their respective celebrity is really such a burden, they can simply dump it.  They can donate their money to charity and move to Canada where no one cares about anyone.  Bam!  Problem solved.  The single mom who has to work two jobs and can’t afford to go back to school to better her situation because she needs to pay for daycare, yeah, she can’t just get rid of those problems.  So celebrities, stop asking us to walk a mile in your shoes to see how we like it because even if we didn’t, we would either appreciate that we couldn’t have everything or just lose the shoes and not bitch about it. 

Incorrect usage of “literally” –

Let’s say you have been waiting at a bus stop on a cold day.  If it is exceptionally cold the guy standing next to you might quip, “I am literally freezing.”  Of course, you know this isn’t true.  If he were literally freezing he wouldn’t be able to speak, and then casually return to his soduku.  What he meant was, “it’s very cold” or, “it’s so cold I feel almost like I’m freezing.”  Where he said “literally” what he meant was “figuratively”, or in other words, the exact opposite of “literally”.  Every once in a while this misuse of words for hyperbole-sake is acceptable, but recently people have been committing gramtical genocide with it.  Instead of using such qualifiers as “very”, “really”, and “so” to amplify moderators and accurately convey their thoughts, folks these days cram in “literally” all willy-nilly like.  If I want to say that someone is very beautiful or so beautiful, I don’t tell them they are literally beautiful. 

Though hilarious, you're setting a bad example Rob Lowe.

Inexplicable road construction blocking my way no matter where I’m going –

Where’s my hoverboard already, science? 
The blueprint is right there for you, science

No filter on the Facebook status feed

This is a double-edged sword or maybe a tripled-edged sword here because as much as I loathe facebook for creating this feature and facebook users for thinking anyone cares whether they, “have no motivation to do work today”, I hate myself for addictively scanning the feed every 20 seconds.  It’s like a crack addiction where the crack never runs out, and despite what you crackheads might believe, that’s not a good thing.  Important updates like, “I got in into grad school”, “I got engaged”, “I’m coming back to Indianapolis this weekend”, interesting articles; those are all appropriate statuses.  Here’s a general rule: anything that you would call more than five people to say can be a status update.  If you wouldn’t normally call your friends Jason, Zach, Billy, Kimberly, and Trini to say that you, “just got back from the gym and can’t wait to watch Modern Family”, then you shouldn’t make that your status!  Facebook needs to listen to me on this.

I offer this rant because, though pertinent, I don’t feel like writing about grad schools this week.  My status remains the same; accepted by Mizzou’s MA program, waitlisted by Minnesota’s MFA program.  I’m still researching both programs and getting some good stuff, yeah good stuff, but I’m taking off this week in terms of analysis—at least in blog form. 

So tune in next week boys and girls; same justdumbenough channel, same justdrumbenough station!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't Put it out with Your Boot!

In my AmeriCorps days spent fighting wildfires I quickly learned an important lesson; put out the biggest fire first then repeat.  It could be said that this philosophy fosters a chaotic non-stop lifestyle where one can never get ahead of one’s problems, and that’s true, and pretty accurate of wildland fire fighting, and perhaps it’s not the best strategy to employ in one’s non fire fighting life.

Perhaps, but just what constitutes a fire, really?

"Call the fire department!  This one's out of control!"

 When I began applying to graduate schools this past fall I did so knowing that it was going to be one big, enduring fire that I was going to have to devout my full attention to before I could move on to fight the next fire.  The next fire is researching the programs.  Now of course, I researched these programs somewhat before applying to them—somewhat.  I knew they all carried full-rides with teaching assistanships and were ranked high in most surveys and handbooks, as were their faculties.  But past that… and now it’s time to fight that fire.

Mizzou is particularly tricky because it’s an M.A. program.  I know from speaking with former professors, advisors, and current grad students that ideally, I want an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.  The M.F.A. in Creative Writing is a terminal degree meaning that it is the highest degree in its field and you can teach with it.  That makes sense.  Most of the M.F.A. program is spent writing your own stuff and learning teaching pedagogy so what would a PhD in Creative Writing be?  Writing a longer book?  And even though I’ve been told that an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and an M.A. in English with a Creative Writing concentration—which is the kind of M.A. Mizzou offers--are virtually comprised of the exact same classes, you can’t teach with just an M.A., meaning that a PhD in English with a concentration in Creative Writing is also required.  Hurray Academia! 

So if this equation is true;

M.A.(x) + PhD(x)  =  M.F.A. in Creative Writing, 

where x = in English with a concentration in Creative Writing,

then essentially the only difference here is the additional 3-4 years that the PhD would take to complete.  Gulp.  It’s an eerie, eerie thing to all of a sudden fast-forward to thinking of yourself at 33-yrs-old, even if that is as a 33-yr-old doctor—yeah, yeah an academic doctor, I'm going there.  Whatever.

Then again I can’t imagine that having a PhD can hurt me as a professorial job candidate.  Maybe it could really put me ahead of those M.F.A. applicants?  If an M.F.A. is the way to go,  but Mizzou's M.A. program is the only one that accepts me, would I turn it down?

These are just some of the many questions leading to the many more decisions that I’ll have to make, but finding the answers will come before making the decisions.  I've never been a good adequate planner, but you know the old saying; you can’t fight the fire until your cross the bridge first, unless the fire burns the bridge, and you never want to burn your bridges, or something like that… 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dot Dot Dot

Damn it!  I thought I had more time!  There was so much I wanted to do, or more accurately, not do.  So many Internet videos I wanted to watch, video games I wanted to beat, walls with wet paint I wanted to watch dry!  I just thought there was more time!

But time is fleeting and my beautiful ignorant bliss free from decision-making has officially expired—those bastards!

This Tuesday I receieved my first response from a grad school; I’m waitlisted by the University of Minnesota.  Hurrah!

I'm the AC Slater to Minnesota's Kelly Kapowski
I was all set to explain what wait-listing is, to detail how it essentially means that I’m a back-up date to the school who is completely at the mercy of the fabled “accepted” to determine my fate there.  I was all ready to admit that even though Minnesota also wait-listed me last year, I had a pretty good feeling about it this time, which I still do, but all of that takes a backseat now.

Drumroll please.

This Friday I got an e-mail from the University of Missouri (Mizzou) saying that I had receieved a full acceptance into their M.A. program.  That means full tuition coverage, a teaching assistantship, and the possibility of qualifying for an additional monetary award on top of all that.

Whoosh!  Whoosh! Crack!  Boom!  Sparkle!  And the fireworks explode into the night air, and it’s so beautiful, so beautiful.  Ooh, aww...

This is my frist acceptance from a grad school in two years of applying to them—I’m writing it now and I’m still not sure if I believe myself.  It’s an M.A. (Master of Arts) degree in English with a focus in Creative Writing as opposed to an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) degree in Creative Writing.  The biggest difference between the two is that an M.F.A. is a terminal degree where as the M.A. can/ is expected to follow up with a PhD because it applies a broader examination of English.  Mizzou’s the only M.A. program I applied to.

There are a couple of reasons that Mizzou’s M.A. cracked my list of M.F.A.s; for one an M.A. in English, and possibly a PhD gives me some more versatility and appeal as professorial job candidate afterwards; location was a factor; and again there’s that whole full ride schtick—that’s pretty nice too.  Every place I’ve applied to carries the same full-ride and assistantship with its acceptance, but Mizzou’s the only caller who’s come a’court’n so far.  

So I’m pretty stoked about getting into grad school—hey, remember the fireworks?—but I feel like I’m not as excited as some others are for me.  I know it’s practically all I’ve talked about over the past year, I’ve even dedicated an entire cough, cough totally awesome blog to it that everyone should tell their friends about cough, cough, but this moment is more emotionally complex to me than just fireworks.  Oscar Wilde once said that there are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it.  There are a lot of bittersweet components to getting what you want and without going into them here and now, I’ll just say that I haven’t made any decisions yet, about anything.  It’s just nice to have options on the table now.

I’m going to an Open House for the program in Columbia, MO in March where I’ll learn a lot more about the program and how it fits in with my needs.  Between then and now hopefully I receive some more acceptances, but even if I don’t, it won’t eliminate the need to make a decision that lies ahead of me.  I'll continue to blog, if only for my own sanity, so don't worry, or continue to worry depending on what you were doing beforehand.

Thanks for all of the support and well wishes from everyone!  They mean a lot. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Once and Future Applicants

The past two weeks working in my department have been dominated by faculty candidate interviews.  Old Professor Granderson is retiring after this semester, which means the department must find his replacement.

I was working in the same position last year when we hired two professors and a new chair so I know the routine.  It is a routine for us, a gauntlet for the candidates.  Interviewing for a professorship is very different than interviewing for most jobs.  It’s a three-day marathon where after each candidate arrives at his hotel, he steps into a 72-hour-long interview.  Contestants on “Who Wants to be a Career-Academic?” have personal interviews with the department chair, each faculty member, the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and two or three sub deans aside from meeting with the graduate students and the staff—that’s me!—over lunch-ins where all we care about is the free food.  

Visual depiction of the interview process.
They must present their research to an assembly of faculty and students, guest-teach a class, even their meals and “free time” are choreographed “we just want to get to know you better” sessions with different faculty members tagging in and out to probe the candidates for red flags in their personalities.  Their two nights of sleep are their only respites from this onslaught of professional judgment.  It’s an exhausting process and an unfair trial to subject potential co-workers to, yet every contender pushes through it with plastered smiles shellacked on their faces.  I guess that must mean that being a professor is awesome and definitely worth going through all that crap?

In the past the department has selected two or three applicants to invite to interview, most of them being 40 or 50-something veteran educators from other schools.  But this time we brought in four applicants fresh off of earning their doctorates, and by “fresh”, I’m talking like 28 or 29, or a year or two older than me.

Typical candidate
For those of you with scorecards out there, a 28-year-old doctor is someone who’s just spent the last 25 consecutive years in school.  While I was playing in the woods with AmeriCorps and being generally baffled by life, they were buying new trapper keepers and putting the final touches on their dissertations.  As I watched them this week being paraded around the campus in new suits still too big for them that neatly covered the tattoos that were surely up their arms and on their ankles, I couldn’t decide if I was insanely jealous of them or sadly sympathetic of their deaths of lives.

Typically, every transition between meetings is an orchestrated mini-interview with a designated moderator, but after a professor called in sick one day this week, I was asked to drive one of the candidates back to his hotel. 

The fifteen-minute drive to the hotel felt a little like how I imagine sitting in a deep sea depressurizing chamber must feel like before the divers are allowed to return to the surface world.  This guy was pulled tight, clenched, maybe only held together by the stock pleasantries and forced compliments he had been reciting all week.  Apparently, I lived in “what must be one of the greatest cities in the world!” 

But somewhere along the way, maybe after officially getting off of campus and before grabbing the Sublime CD from my visor rack, this guy declenched and normalized a little.  He told me he was glad for the experience, and though he didn’t think he was going to get the job, he also wasn’t sure if it was right for him.  Now he was just looking forward to getting some actual sleep, but he had a flight back to California with two layovers to get through first.  When I dropped him off he thanked me and said he hoped to see me around the halls in the fall.

The ultimate equalizer, apparently.

Crazy.  This guy was totally prepared to move cross-country, leaving behind whatever friends and assemblance of a life he had there, for a job that had just spent the past three days poking him in the face with the judgey stick, and he wasn’t even sure that he even wanted it!

So yeah, can’t wait to hear back from those grad schools…