Monday, August 29, 2005

for the attention of any wandering academics

Society for Cinema and Media Studies
March 2-5, 2006
Vancouver, Canada

Call for Papers: "Signs of Intelligent Life in the Media"

Is it a good thing to appear intelligent? More to the point for our purposes, what does the media think of smarts? Academics have frequently seen anti-intellectualism in movies and television, but is the media’s view of smart people really as simple as the pompous, bumbling professor? Is there in fact any cultural capital to being smart?

This panel hopes to examine the nuances of depictions of intelligence in the mass media. Some possible areas of inquiry include: the connections between intelligence and social skills; intelligence and mental health; brains as an asset or liability in reality programming; intelligence in sport narratives; connections between race, class, gender, and images of intelligence; mental strategy depicted in non-intellectual competitions, such as wrestling or competitive eating.

Proposals covering any media are welcome. Please send a 150-word abstract plus a vita and bio statement to Dr. Mike S. DuBose at by September 3rd.

random news and a new season of posting

School is back in session, so I have been spending most of my time working on related issues. As you know, I am now a Lecturer at University of Toledo. I have been trying to deal with the usual array of student concerns (which I really don't want to get into here), but I have also been trying to get my office together. The plus side? I have an amazing Dell, fast as all git-out, big monitor, laser printer. Unfortunately, though, it does make my home machine seem ancient.

The only down sides to my new office are (1) the ugliness of this old place and (2) lack of shelving. Both will be corected eventually when building maintenance can get here, but who knows when that will be. I'm going with wall mount shelving, but I gotta store the shelves in my office lest another faculty lay claim...and some of these boards are long. I have to move chairs over stacks of boards when a student comes by. But, I suppose, there are worse tragedies.

Now that I have an actual office out of which to work, I find that (1) I feel much more professional, and (2) I seem to be more organized over my do lists and everything. I hope this means that I will get back to writing once I finish with the first stack of papers (which is, groan, already here). I should also have more time to blog while I'm at it.

This all leads me, however, to one scary thought: I think that I might be becoming an adult. My friend Jamie got me referring to my "adult salary," and I have been putting it to adult uses (paying off bills and restocking the liquor cabinet with good is, by the way, really fun to buy five bottles at the liquor store). The responsibility at work also seems adult, as does the fact that the office staff now actually knows who I am. Hell, I'm even planning when I can afford to buy a new car, which is really my newest one was about ten years old when I got it.

Is dressing formally really that far behind? Will I quit drinking too much? How about getting mad at the young whippersnappers across the street who make noise to all hours of the night? Will I start complaining about how today's music doesn't have melody like it did in my age? Who can indeed understand these kids today?

Somebody give me a comic, quick!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

a concert and a fashion crisis

For those of you who know me, the fact that I do in fact actually think about fashion might come as a suprise. But this is an area of my life that has been thrust to the forefront by two recent events.

First, some history. Back in high school, I was mister Heavy Metal, complete with the jeans, dark sunglasses, concert shirts, denim jacket, and long hair (briefly in a Bon Jovi-esque perm...not that I was trying to emulate the man...I still dislike his music...not that any of this is relevant). In this fashion, I was not very distinguishable from most of the other heavy metal fans.

Eventually, I got tired of being a conformist non-conformist, if you get my drift. So I was looking for the next Mike fashion when I decided to go tie-die.

Keep in mind that this was the late eighties. I did not choose tie-dies due to any love of the hippie movement, although I did listen to the Dead when hung over. Rather, I thought that if I wore such clothing, I would at least have a certain uniqueness. After all, who in the hell wore tie-dies in 1987?

But tie-dies, perhaps on the coattails of the suddenly radio-friendly Grateful Dead, came back. They started to show up everywhere. I realized the full extent of their incursion into the fashion realm when, sitting on the porch of a downtown restaurant listening to a friend sing and play, I saw a three year old in a (gasp) tie-die.

That was it. My choice of fashion had been coopted by kiddie clothiers. Something had to be done.

My next choice for what now was, I admitted, my pursuit of an anti-fashion was the humble Hawaiian shirt. So I got a few, had my dearest Mummy (a good seamstress) make me some very loud Hawaiians. I thought I looked good...or at least, reasonably bad. And hey, I thought in 1995, Hawaiian shirts wouldn't dare come back into fashion, would they? Surely, the public would continue to ignore them.

And you all know what happened. Personally, I started worrying when they started showing up at Old Navy. Then Red Lobster adopted them as work uniforms. Then there was the episode of The Simpsons, where Homer told Marge, "Only two types of guys wear Hawaiian shirts: gay guys and big, fat party animals." When they hit the local Meijer, I really freaked.

I tried valiently to be zen about the whole cooptation thing. I tried shaking it up by combining the Hawaiian shirt with tie-dies, but it was obviously an example of "trying too hard." Eventually, I came to the conclusion that as I was simply destined to be a fashion pioneer and whatever I moved to next would become the next "big thing," I might as well just bite the bullet and wait the trend out, until Hawaiian shirts became comfortably retro again.

Two things have made me really think about this, however. First off, the Chronicle of Higher Education published one of their first person pieces about clothing and teaching, which drew a connection between a professor's choice of attire and their teaching style. No problem. Contrary to what my parents think (they feel I should now start dressing professionally as I finally have a "real" job), my fashion choices have always been pedagogically thought-out. Hawaiian shirts work in front of a class. First, the students stay awake...the bright colors, you know. Second, I appear less a suit, a 6'5" large guy would scare the hell out of them.

What the article did do, though, was make me wonder how exactly the students see me. What is their image of their fearless leader? Especially as I express a few liberal ideas during the course of a (heh heh) course, such as homosexuals might well be real people, and women and minorities are not always treated nicely by they, following the model of Homer Simpson, think I'm gay?

The second event was this past weekend. I've mentioned in this space before that my wife got us tickets to see Hall and Oates. Well, the post-tick reschedule was last week. There's a lot I can say about the show (solid band, very caucasian-heavy audience, Hall is still tired, why don't they let Oates sing?, $5 for a Bud?), but the main attraction was the crowd.

Immersed in that body of humanity, I did feel really good about my a large percentage of males had bald spots that would put that of my friend Joe to shame. But it became quickly obvious that in this crowd, a Hawaiian shirt was more a uniform than an anti-fashion statement.

My God, I thought, I've been dressing up like a mid-fifties, thinking about retirement, lower-middle class WASP! Is that how my students see me? What can I do about it?

Lori thinks I'm thinking about fashion a bit too much, but I feel shaken. I don't know where else to go. I'd like to adopt a whole work uniform thing, but none of the thrift stores seem to sell any. I though briefly about going Izod, but I really can't see adopting the preppie look. I could return to the high school concert shirt image, but it doesn't go with my now short hair. I have realized belatedly in my life that I am a man without a fashion plan...and surprisingly, that frightens me.

Suggestions are welcome...hit the comment link below.

a cultural pioneer is gone

Man Who Helped Branson Thrive Dies at 76.