Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunday Night Follies: In Which The Radical Answers Four Questions

And now, to lighten your Sunday night of grading, lecture writing and sorting your socks for the coming week, here are four answers to urgent questions, none of which have been asked by my fans.

What Zenith college publication is still available in a printed copy?

One of you got it right, but yesterday's post gathered fewer guesses than I thought it would, so I'll tell you. The answer is: the telephone directory, which can be requested; they print one up for you and send it in the next day's office mail. This solution to an otherwise intractable problem was reached after a colleague of mine made an impassioned, and utterly sincere, plea on behalf of his departmental secretary, who was distraught at the change in her work environment wreaked by the loss of a printed Zenith telephone book. I was terribly grateful, and ordered one specially printed up too. Why? Because I can never remember how many people are in the Zenith history department, that's why. There is actually a list in the back of the printed version that allows me to count them up periodically. And I was grateful because sometimes I can't remember someone's name, but if I remember that person's department and look at the list of people in that department, it jogs my memory. And because if I don't remember a person's name, I can't look that person up in the Directory if I need to give them a call, can I? I can't. At least, not easily.

What do you do when you are not working, Professor Radical?

I read, blog, work out, and search the internet for television shows that feature beautiful teenagers and their very complicated lives. In my favorite ones, the teenagers live in southern California, but I adore Friday Night Lights, and those people live in Texas. I like these shows in part because the teenagers, whatever their class background, are concerned with more elevated things than money and grades: for example, they easily navigate complex love affairs, fidelity, being demoted to QB2, pregnancy out of wedlock, what to wear to Blair Waldorf's coming out party, wedlock triggered by pregnancy, whether to lose your virginity at 13 or 14, and terrible, backbiting gossip that would cause the rest of us to bend or break. Furthermore, all of these kids can be turned to in a pinch to help adults solve problems like alcoholism, bad marriages and chronic unemployment. Most seem to do quite well when they are more or less abandoned by their feckless mothers and fathers to live independently while still attending high school. I want to be more like them, and I want to be able to teach my students to be like them too. I also watch American Idol and try to imagine how job searches in history could be more like American Idol.

Why, after having taken a four-year break, are you once again watching American Idol?

Because the older I get the more sympathetic I am to Simon Cowell, who at his age must have to work very hard to keep the body he pours into that sweater for every show. But I also think people just think they can kick Simon around, and they do not see that he is a real person under that nasty exterior. For example, last week when that flaky chick who was at the bottom said she did not care what the judges thought about her performance during the previous week, my first thought was, "Well up your nose with a rubber hose, my dear, you cannot just care what they think when they say what you want to hear. Show business is a school of hard knocks. Get used to it, dearie." My second response was to identify heavily with what a slap in the face that was to Simon. I did not wish I was a free spirit like Flaky Chick and rush out to get an armful of tattoos. No sirree. My third response was, "Flaky Chick, you can't be on this show and just take, take, take. Have you learned nothing from Paula Abdul? If this is the case, then I do not care about you either." Simon thought the exact same thing as me and, expressing this for both of us in the most effective way possible, did not use his "save" for her.

When you are not obsessing about what it would be like to hold the copyright to American Idol and make gobs of money, what do you obsess about?

I obsess about how at a certain point I made a wrong turn in my life and did not become a Native Americanist, which happens to be just about the most happening field there is in American Studies and in United States history at this moment in time. This actually dovetails with my other life question which was why, when I had the chance to apply myself to an intro Anthropology class in college, I wrote a long abstruse paper on James Joyce instead. This decision, which netted me an "A" in Joyce and a "D" in anthropology, caused me to become more generally allergic to all courses related to anthropology, such as ethnohistory and Native American Studies. It also caused me to pursue an English major, from which it took me a long time to recover.

To learn more about the intellectual grounds for my regret on this count, go to this link for a podcast of a March 25, 2009 interview of University of Michigan History and American Cultures Professor, Philip J. Deloria (Note: if I were a Native Americanist, Phil Deloria and I might be best friends, but instead we are mere acquaintances, which is another burden I will have to bear for having obsessed about Joyce rather than paying attention when the TA was explaining kinship structure and cross-cousins for the fifth or sixth time.) The interview was done by my colleague, Kehaulani Kauanui, on her radio show "Indigenous Politics: From Native New England And Beyond," which originates at WESU (Middletown, CT). You might want to bookmark this site for more of Kauanui's interviews of critical contemporary figures in Native American Studies: they are really good, and because of the internet, they have a national audience.


GayProf said...

NAS is great, but I also tend to think good things are happening in Chicano/a Studies too. I am not sayin', I am just sayin'.

Susan said...

So, TR, what's my prize?

Tenured Radical said...

Gayprof: You are right. But I am waiting for NEPOD to come out to really declare the field cutting edge.

Susan: A set of Berks coffee mugs?

Susan said...

Only if you have more of the "Women with a Past" ones!

Dr. Chewkovski said...

Why do you call yourself a radical? You disagree with some of the senior scholars in your field and drive 10mph above the speed limit?

Tenured Radical said...

Why do you call yourself Chewkovski?

Honor said...

Don't you think that the academic job search is already enough like American Idol as is?! (Though importing armies of stylists might be nice . . . )

Tenured Radical said...


I like the immediate feedback.

Simon: "You know, Honah --that theory just isn't yew. It's about as interesting as reading a cereal box."
Ryan: "Randy?"
Randy: "Yeah, yeah -well, I've got to disagree with Simon. I think going with Foucault was risky. I like the energy. You go girl."
Ryan: "Paula?"
Paula: "Aw honey, Foucault wasn't the best fit. But you've got to be yourself. Follow your dream. I love you."

And then -- this is the best part -- the national audience gets to vote!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think you like American Idol this season because openly gay Adam Lambert has a chance at winning? AM I right?

Tenured Radical said...

No, I liked it before Adam had a chance of winning. And he's *not* openly gay. That's part of the thrill!