Howdy, friends: I was away for a long holiday weekend, but now I’m back in the saddle and ready to ride on out. Lots of great news and views in the blogosphere–so I’ll let your fingers do the clicking while I catch up on my day job!
- First, Tenured Radical has a great post up (and a great comments thread) about the “culture” of campus drinking and the curious blindness or acceptance we adults have for the very real personal and financial consequences. We like to think it’s the under-25s, but it isn’t. I can attest to that–this weekend in Denver it was the annual Rocky Mountain showdown between in-state rivals, the University of Colorado and Baa Ram U. When we were out and about on Saturday night, it wasn’t just the under-25s making the 16th St. Mall Ride smell like a brewery. There were plenty of middle-aged people literally stumbling around town in their Buffs or Rams jerseys. (Sometimes even with their grade-school aged–or younger–kids! No joke. That kind of shocked me.) Pathological drinking doesn’t come from nowhere–and I’ve heard that local hospitals go on Red Alert in many college towns during Parents’ Weekend–not because the student drinking is any worse, but because a lot of parents drink themselves into stupors that require hospitalization!
- But, at least the more dedicated and experienced drinkers among us know how to be reasonably discreet. One thing I think that has changed about student drinking since I was in college is the sense of entitlement today’s students have not just to drink on campus or in their houses and dorms, but to behave as though the campus extends to wherever they happen to be, subjecting innocents to public drunkenness and really trashy behavior. I had the unfortunate experience of swimming in a rooftop pool Saturday afternoon at what I thought was a pretty swank hotel, when I found myself in the middle of some a$$holes’ beer commercial fantasy: a gaggle of Buffs fans, energized by their team’s crushing victory over Baa Ram U., shambled into the pool area with their suitcase of Keystone Light, jumped into the pool with their trousers on, sending the terrified young children in the pool to the edges of the deep end (8 feet) while they cannonballed and splashed in the shallow end (4 feet deep). Super-sophisticated, our Buffs fans! Fortunately, the house phone was adjacent to the deep end so I got hotel management on the case, and the dirtbags were ejected forthwith. Stay classy, football fans! They topped it all off by scaring a little girl in the elevator on her way back to her room as she cowered behind her mother. Super-duper classy, and very manly too!
- At the pool and otherwise, I got a good jump on Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom this weekend. I’ll offer a complete review here once I’ve finished it. So far it’s a good book, but not a great one. Franzen is a wonderful limner of most of his characters and of parent-child relationships, but he’s weak on plot. This book (so far) is like the Great Gatsby crossed with Cheever country, only “Tom Buchanan” is a thoroughly decent, self-made virtuous husband, father, and environmentalist; “Jay Gatsby” is a dirtbag rock-and-roller; and Daisy is just as vapid and underdeveloped as Fitzgerald’s Daisy. It’s a complete mystery why “Tom” (Walter) and “Gatsby” (Richard) are so into her (Patty.) This is a major problem for the book–to say nothing of the ninth-grade philosophizing over “freedom,” and the tortured major subplot involving mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia.
- Notorious Girl, Ph.D., against her own better judgment, offers some really good advice to people about how to find the best graduate program for themselves. She makes a really fantastic point about disabusing potential applicants of the desirability of just looking in one’s hometown or particular region: “But why city X? Must you stay there? Do you have a spouse or family member or some other reason why you can’t possibly leave, or is it a matter of geographic preference? City X, I’ve heard, is very nice, sure. But if your geographic limitations are based on preference, rather than actual necessity, you need to reexamine your priorities, especially if you’re looking at graduate programs and beyond.” Word. If you have a problem leaving home, chances are slim you’ll ever work in academia, friends. Mobility is key–you need to find the strongest program, wherever it is, and then if you ever get offered an actual job professing somewhere, you need to go wherever it is. No one ends up where they want to, or think they want to, successful academics learn to bloom where they’re planted.
- Finally, I have it on good authority that Squadratomagico is back from Burning Man. She’s got a preliminary report up here, but more Burning Man blogging will follow, so watch this space!