12/11/2007

The Bombest

Walking along the second floor of Mills Hall a few weeks back, and what do I spot attached to a bulletin board? Why, it's some random piece of paper described as the "Mills College Emergency Action Guide." Of course! I must memorize this important leaflet that tells me to call 911 for every possible emergency.



More importantly, the Emergency Action Guide offers me a set of Bomb Threat Procedures. Sweet, this gives me blog fodder. As an added bonus, it actually gives me self-referential blog fodder. That's twice the fun for half the wasted time.


BOMB THREAT
If you receive, listen carefully to caller and ask: Don't hang up the phone.
When is the bomb to go off?
Where is the bomb now?
What kind of bomb is it?
What does the bomb look like?
Why did you place the bomb?

Evacuate to at least 500 ft. from building.


---------

INT. MILLS HALL. STUDENTS WANDER BETWEEN CLASSES RATHER THAN STUDYING. I AM DOING NOTHING.

CLASSMATE
I'm so glad I signed up for Diane's class. She's the bomb.

ME
What? What did you say?

CLASSMATE
Diane's the bomb. I heard Stanford wants to publish her book.

ME
The bomb? When is it supposed to go off?

CLASSMATE
I dunno, probably next year. She didn't say they had agreed to it yet.

ME
Well, where is it now?

CLASSMATE
Um, in her computer I guess. Where else would it be?

ME
I see. And what kind of bomb is it?

CLASSMATE
What are you talking about? And why are you writing down everything I say?

ME
Uh, I'm just interested in what you're telling me. But we'll skip that one. Do you know what it looks like?

CLASSMATE
What *what* looks like?

ME
(to self)
She said Diane is the bomb ... (to CLASSMATE) Uh, Diane. What does Diane look like?

CLASSMATE
You are, like, totally weirding me out! Diane is our professor, you're in that class with me.

ME
I see.

CLASSMATE
By the way, did you hear about Emma's paper? She's writing about the struggle for discursive realities in a post-colonial framework.

ME
Oh, that sounds interesting.

CLASSMATE
Totally. She's really smart.

ME
So, why did you place the bomb?

CLASSMATE
Oh my God. I am so out of here.

ME
Wait! We have to get 500 feet away. Do you have a tape measure?

12/03/2007

She Should Have Worked 'Hat Trick' In There Somehow



Fellow current and former grad students can confirm my generalization that grad students get a lot of worthless e-mail. Someone in the department is always forwarding something that is either pointless or only noteworthy to five people in your program. I try to read as little of it as possible, but my internal filter is not as good as it should be.

Today, my classmates and I received a five-page personal reminiscence about a life in writing by a senior faculty member at Mills College. She writes about how "forks in the road" on her journey have taken her to unexpected places. I can hear your eyes rolling already, and well they should. There is nothing like an academic memoir to get hearts pounding. I wish I could link to an essay on this subject that I read several years ago in The Baffler; unfortunately, they do not post their contents online. However, the title of the essay to which I refer says it all: "What About Me? Memoirs of an academic reading academic memoirs."

But the ungrammatic agglomeration of tripe and treacle that landed in my in-box is more than just another navel-gazing effort to relive the halcyon days of yore, disguised as such treatises often are as "helping inspire future generations." In fact, the writer manages to accomplish the exact opposite of one of her stated goals, and only takes until the end of the second paragraph to do so. To wit:

Just when I thought I had my writing life in gear and knew where it was going to take me, I was thrown a curve ball. While I’ve spent more than twenty-five years teaching children’s literature and composition classes, developing K-12 curriculum focusing on diversity and social justice and editing fiction and creative non-fiction, a call from Sharon Robinson, then the director of Education for the Office of the Commission on Major League Baseball changed the course. I was invited to put on a glove (metaphorically speaking), step up to the plate and pitch ideas that would serve as a new foundation for the project. Earlier attempts to make this project work resulted in too many fouls. Based on working as a concept editor for two books for Robinson, she felt I really should be playing on her team. In conjunction with my curriculum development work, I had developed lesson plans and bibliographies focusing on gender and women in sports.


Based on this, I would not be interested in seeing her curriculum on gender and women in sports. It would probably just reinforce the idea that women know nothing about sports. Step up to the plate and pitch? Too many fouls (in a baseball metaphor)? And this woman was hired by Jackie Robinson's widow to develop curriculum sponsored by Major League Baseball. I think we've just discovered exactly how much Major League Baseball cares about its curriculum-development partnership with Scholastic publishing.

I suppose I should not say this e-mail was "worthless." Because of this woman's cluelessness, I learned that you don't really have to know anything about a subject in order to be hired to write about it. I also learned, based on her random capitalization, omitted commas, repetitive redundancies, and non-sequitur paragraph structure, that you don't have to know anything about writing in order to be hired as a writer. But sadly, I already knew all of that. I guess this e-mail was worthless after all.