Category Archives: academics

Maturity Abounds

wallyYou’d think that once you get to a certain age, you’d grow up, act like a responsible adult and other responsible adults would curtly acknowledge your maturity with a slight nod of their head as you passed them on the street. Yeah, this never happens. You will remain that silly little five-year old FOREVER! Except, unlike when you were five, you now have the leeway to drink, drive, vote and make babies (not necessarily all together – though it could make for interesting voter news footage). You’re probably thinking that my story is going to waddle off on yet another rant about students and student life. You’re wrong. This little tale has to do with those who are in charge of moulding the minds of tomorrow’s street cleaners MacDonald’s waiter leaders.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that from time to time academics are prone to behave somewhat…err… oddly.  I’ve usually been on the receiving end of their antics. Begging for wine money in Ireland comes to mind, as does placarding expletives in foreign languages all over the lecturer’s lounge, but usually it’s all in good fun, and the short burst of immaturity morphs back into absent-minded nodding at strangers.  Unfortunately, there are some ‘grown-ups’ who never got the memo.

200155_9617200561_1372_nI am sorry to say, that today, after a number of good laughs were had while attempting to bring to life our own version of Where’s Wally, the ‘grown-up’ surveillance system decided that in an institution of higher learning and students, there is no room for practical jokes, immaturity and silliness. It’s all rather unprofessional, don’t you know. As you can see from the picture of our ‘clients’ alongside, we’re all about serving humourless, mature adults. 184_24834065561_3971_n

No room for joking here!

Instead, our morning has been filled with emails flying backwards and forwards, requesting permission from management 100kms away if we can go pee-pee. Yup, it sure is fun to be a grown-up.

PS The bathroom break was noted and granted.

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Bring the Whiskey!

DSC_0072We spent last night at the Jameson’s Whiskey Distillery. Nothing happened. The end!

Just kidding! Where would the world be if a trip to whiskey Disneyland didn’t end in some crazy antics; especially when you add our more northerly colleagues, from the land of gold to the mix? We started off in this amazing bar, illuminated in green and whiskey bottles. We then went on a tour to learn how whiskey is made. Instead, we found the original cat that used to hunt for mice during the 1700s in the original distillery. Apparently, like the ancient Egyptians, the Irish have a thing for worshipping cats and decided to reward the little hunter by stuffing him for permenant display to honour his hard work (looked too skinny to have been a good hunter if you ask me, but hey, maybe the mice took some revenge on his carcass).

We then got shown some ancient torture device. Actually it was some machine that used to mix whiskey and those guys that were late for work were punished by having to clean this machine every so often. He got special tap shoes so the guys on the outside could hear him, and when they stopped hearing him, they knew he was probably dead. But not to worry, they had instructions on revival plastered all over the place.DSC_0078

Then we got to taste whiskey. I decided to have it the Irish way, with ginger ale and lime. If you’ve never tried it, DO IT! It’s the most yummy drink in the world. The doctor had one too, but also managed to con threaten convince the innocent one travelling with us to grab a shot for her as well. But as usually happens with doctors, her diagnosis for innocence is more whiskey, and a bit of wine thrown in.

That’s when our northerly friends took over and somehow, the dancing was taken over by South Africans, forming conga lines, ululating and speculating widely about the use of sports bras and jock straps by Irish dancers. What? More wine? Yes, please!

Apparently a glass should never be empty in Ireland. I think it’s a wonderful life philosophy. More cultures should honour this age old tradition. I’m convinced it would bring world peace. Just look at our conference. One night and we united China, Ireland, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Austria, America, Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece, Yemen, Lebanon and probably a whole lot more I can’t remember. But that’s an impressive achievement.

No politics, just whiskey!*

*If any whiskey label wants to use this slogan, I’ll be happy to sell the copyright for a lifetime supply of your best brand 🙂

And Round and Round We Go…

This trip is going badly. I got us lost… AGAIN! This time though we ended up at the bus depot near the airport, waiting for a new bus to take us back to town. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, otherwise you’d be seeing photos of the super frollicking in the heather, picking wild flowers (which is illegal) and marvelling at the beautiful countryside. We eventually made it back to the conference venue and were greeted by the President of Ireland himself. Obviously, he heard we were coming, and we all know how important and influential I am in the world of supreme higher beings.

220px-Michael_d_higginsHe spoke about why media is important and referred to that guy Habermas (if you’re in the field you would think this is hilarious, I promise). But what impressed me so much was his complete lack of politicking. The whole time he spoke, we were waiting for him to use the stage as an opportunity to push one issue or another. He didn’t. It was refreshing, soothing, and overall, I wish I could go back in time to when he did work in academia so that he could have been my lecturer.

My favourite part came afterwards, free wine and food (although I didn’t see any – convinced I’ve aligned myself with the wine connoisseurs of academia, so food is always avoided in case it mars the robust flavours). Unfortunately, the wine didn’t flow as freely as we required, so we decided to find a good old fashioned pub. Our less worldly counterparts from the coast are rather scared of the working class vicinity of their hotel, so we (now experts in public transport) ventured off to take them from the dodgy end of town to the Brazen Head pub (we wanted old fashioned and this was the first pub in Dublin. Founded in the 10th century).

We only realised once we arrived that it was closer to 10pm than dinner, but using the power of the super and her fair maiden sidekick from the coast, they somehow flirted offered services convinced the very handsome barkeeper to serve us dinner. It was huge, it was amazing, it was starchy. Only in Ireland are you given two baked potatoes with mash and gravy on the side.

You know, this trip isn’t so bad. The diet when I get back will be though 😦

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To Avoid Blackmail

guinness_181345tI’m always being told that I know far too much. It’s true, the more secrets people have and  the more you know about them, the harder it is for them to dispose of you, or hold too much over your head. So for sake of full disclosure, and to ensure that nothing can be lauded over me when we come back, I shall come clean on two things that have happened since arriving in Dublin (so wah-wah Doc, no blackmailing power for you).

After the bad flights and lack of sleep over the previous 26 hours, we really didn’t think we’d be doing much of anything on our first night in Dublin. Well, I didn’t at least. And then somehow, at dinner, an entire bottle of Chardonnay disappeared, and we felt the need to find some traditional Irish music to help everything digest. Lucky for us, there’s a pub right next door to our hotel; and they have traditional Irish music (actually, it was just an Irish guy singing songs from contemporary Irish bands, but I disgress).

Anyway, we decided that since we are in Ireland, and that neither of us have ever tasted Guinness we were going to order a couple of drinks and a pint of Guinness. Luckily, Guinness is really cheap because it is the most vile concoction I’ve ever put in my mouth (and I emphasise the coc here). The problem was, we couldn’t work out how to dispose of the ghastly black stuff without arousing suspicion, and possibly causing an international incident.

Being the sound-minded, brilliant and inventive person that she is, the doctor thought that if we headed outside with our drinks, have a quick chat, and leave forget the goo outside, that nobody would notice and we could avoid offending the locals. There was just one problem. His name was George. He was the bouncer. And he saw the offending message which we were sending back to South Africa, moaning about how awful Guinness is. He took the glass from us and said that if we’re going to be so rude about Ireland, he’ll bring us something better. He did. It was red. It was little. And it was good!

It’s how I ended up with the pin below. George said it was for the Children’s Hospital. The doctor said it was a con. I said okay George, you’re right (because postgrads never listen to their supers) and handed over five euros and a kiss on the cheek and he gave me his pin. The doctor now says I’ve been initiated into some underground IRA unit. I think she’s just jealous because no-one offered her a pin into a secret Irish society.

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Unfortunately, she got her own back the next morning. We decided to do a tour of the city and then head to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (if you don’t know what that is, click the link!). As per normal, I took the lead and started navigating through the streets of Dublin. All the while being told that I was going in the wrong direction. I pointed out that I had never gotten us lost before, I remembered were things were in an airport I’d only been to once, and that certain touring academics have tendencies to wander off and end up in dodgy bars. I knew where I was going.

And so we arrived, at Christchurch Catherdral. It wasn’t Trinity College, but I got us to the church; on time to hear the bells toll four 140px-The_Spire-doyler79o’clock. Actually, I had no idea where I was going and like a true academic, I just wandered aimlessly with a more slightly less aimless supervisor in tow. So yes, I got us lost. My supervisor knew the way and got us home.

But, we did amble for three hours through Dublin to get home and found that while we’d been out, somebody had erected a giant spike in the middle of the street in front of our hotel. Apparently, it’d actually been erected a few years ago, but we didn’t see it the day before. So either there really are leprechauns with mischief and magic, or the Irish have invented invisibility cloaking, because trust me, there is NO WAY that both of us would have missed a 120 metre high phallic light pole.

Toilet Paper Wars and the Missing PJs

6520499-leprechaun-with-beers-and-rainbow--color-illustrationIreland! Yay! We made it. And after more than 26 hours of travelling I probably have enough material for about four posts. But I’m sure I’ll get it all down; maybe not by the time we leave, but definitely while the experience is fresh in my mind. Everything started off normally. I made fun of the good doctor because like all academics, she often has greater issues on her mind than the frivolities of packing a suitcase so I made sure to text her son to check her bags so nothing was forgotten (I won’t mention what was forgotten the last time, but let’s just say that the unmentionable item was relatively important).

Anyway, this time, our colleague, who was manipulated kindly offered to drive the good doctor and myself to the airport, got to experience first-hand that OMG moment when the doctor realised that she’d forgotten to pack any pajamas. I just laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I stopped. Took a deep breath and laughed some more. Our colleague was a little more sympathetic and suggested popping into the Woolies at the airport. I chose a bright orange top with ‘party’ printed on the front. I said it was so her husband knew what to expect the next time he got into bed. She rolled her eyes, took something suitable and boring off the rack and bought that. By that stage I was bored of humiliating giving fashion advice, and started listening to the consistent warning over the PA system: “Any passengers caught making inappropriate remarks about terrorism, hijacking, explosives or violence will be prosecuted in terms of the Civil Aviation Act”.

I yelled, “BOMBS! SILENCE, I KILL YOU!” Well, not really, but that’s how I like to hear the story when I think back. It’s like putting a button in front of me and telling me not to push it. It’s just mean! Anyway, after that we boarded the plane for Dubai (without the terrorist in my head popping out) and left.

It was a bad flight. Freezing plane, tiny seats, no leg room, and the air hostesses had a massive public argument in the middle of dinner service about whose responsibility it was to re-fill the toilet paper dispenser in the bathrooms.

“Chicken or beef?  No! I can’t put toilet paper in there I’m trying to give this lady her dinner. I’m only halfway through.”

“Well do it! It’s your responsibility. Not mine.”

“But I’m only halfway through this. I’ll try to remember when I’m done with the food”.

“Do it now and then come back to food”.

Anyway, this went on for a while, interspersed with the occassional chicken or beef question to passengers as the two women worked down the aisle.

I thought the missing pajamas was pretty funny, then we got a fight about toilet paper during dinner service, which I’m sure ended in toilet paper being flung ninja style at the back of the plane. Nothing was going to top this, right? Wrong!

By now we’d landed in Dubai, and were waiting to board for Dublin. Both of us are grumpy, tired and sore (did I mention how small the seats were on our first flight?). I tried to lighten the mood with some bad Irish jokes and puns. The Irish are supposed to be a bit daft apparently, so I thought it would make a fun introductory phase to our journey . The doctor just sighed, closed her eyes and shook her head. I swear I heard some whisper about idiotic grad student, but I may have been the voice in my head again (he doesn’t like being told no).

They finally start boarding the plane. They called all the first class and business class passengers first, because airlines like to remind you that to them, you are a pleb who needs to know their place: last. Then anybody travelling with small children and they lined up. Then they called the ordinary cattle to waddle through the gates.

So there we all were, in line, importants at the front, mortals at the back. But the line didn’t move. Everyone is shuffling, shifting and groaning. Why won’t they open the damn gates? We can see the plane, they’ve called us all through. What the hell? Then we realised. Everyone had lined up at the wrong door. The right one was behind us. The entire contingent of passengers (made up mostly of Irish nationals) had lined up backwards. And as if transported into some bad Irish joke, Paddy says loudly, “only the Irish can be so backward”.

And then we left.

Keep It Simple Stupid

imagesToday, I’m going to get a little personal. I apologise to everyone in advance, but I write this post as a way to, hopefully, generate a little discussion about the lives of students. Every so often my department tries to “promote a culture of learning” and invites all their postgrads to a seminar in which either a senior postgrad student, or a staff member, talks for an hour and a half about their research. The problem is that it’s usually only the most junior of postgrads who attend (there are reasons for this, but I’m not at liberty to divulge them), and for me, it appears that most don’t want to be there, and honestly, don’t really seem that interested. I’m not sure how true this is, I’m hoping that some will be brave enough to comment on this post and talk about their feelings (I’m like a cool social media therapist in that way).

Perhaps part of the problem is that most of them have just come from a two hour seminar, but I think there’s more to it than that. Yesterday was one of those days, and while I was listening to people talk after the presentation, certain things struck me as to why most students don’t seem that interested in attending these talks. But before I begin, I want to make one thing clear, yesterday’s presentation was interesting, and if you’d read the piece of work the presenter was talking around, it would have made it easier to follow.

Anyway, I think a lot of the problem has to do with the delivery of the whole thing because there’s a definite sense of them and us. Everyone seems oblivious to the fact that most of the people attending these workshops are still starting out in their academic careers and are still learning how all of this works. And that they’re still apprehensive about seeing and talking to their lecturers as people. Some would argue, tough they must grow up, and that this process isn’t meant for them, but to give staff members a chance to understand each other’s research and work. Well then, if that’s the case, why not just set aside a time to do this privately (again, I have theories, but I value my life)? We do this because the little ones must be given a chance to see where research goes, they tell me.  But then why does it seem that everyone is incapable of talking about things in a simple manner, and making it and themselves more accessible? Maybe, it’s just the academic way, but for me (and this is where it gets personal) it appears that most people are just trying to sound smart rather than having the ability to generate real discussion around an issue. I’m sure that if people were less concerned with using four-syllable words and academic jargon (usually incorrectly), they would get more people joining in on a discussion.

It’s no wonder that the ‘real-world’ view academics as living in ivory towers coming up with ideal ideas about things that have no bearing on the realities of the outside world. The sad irony of it all is that there is a lot of value in the research that is done at universities, but because of the way it’s delivered, the general population are excluded from engaging with it.  One of my students recently wrote a post complaining about the way that academic articles are written, and I see her point. So for the next seminar, which I have the misfortune of having to present, I’m going to try something different. Keeping it as simple as possible. It may work, it may fall flat on its pimply pre-pubescent posterior, but I’m going to try. So, no more pedagogical endeavours masquerading as entertainment, mine’s about chilling, chatting, laughing and having fun.  Oh, and there will be wine because the best discussions always have wine.

5 Ways to Get Your PhD

student_dreaming_graduation_lg_whtAnybody who told you that getting a PhD was about hard grafting, reading vast volumes of work and writing up your findings in a couple hundred pages was lying. Getting a PhD goes far beyond that. I’ve promised that one day I’ll write an entire book detailing the things that I’ve had to endure while being a grad student. Today, however, is not that day; instead, it’s the best advice I can give anybody who thinks that becoming a grad student is a good idea, and how to get out as quickly as you can.

1. Assing Around 

It may sound absurd, but hear me out.  Being a grad student generally involves taking some time to work as a grad assistant, or grad ass, as I like to say (with the emphasis on ass). You’re at the bottom of the food chain in the academic environment, which means that you are responsible for the ass-end of things, and the general mopping up of any shit that goes down. And I mean that quite literally. I’ve actually been made to dispose of scat left by the building’s feline colony (I have my suspicions that it’s actually students leaving a warning to various lecturers about their teaching styles, but I try not to rock the boat and keep my mouth shut).  Anyway, you should prepare to be treated like an ass.  You’re a necessary evil to make people’s lives easier, but something that most don’t like to deal with. The quicker you learn that, the faster you can impress your supervisor who will speed up the process of reading your work to irrigate the department, so to speak.

2. Learn how to reference

This might seem like an obvious tip, but I don’t mean learn how to reference for your thesis. I mean, learn how to reference using every style that you can lay your hands on. Why? Because referencing is a time-consuming banality of academics.  The chances are when your wise and supremely talented superior submits an article for publication they are far too busy contemplating existentialism and the meaning of life to worry about such menial chores, so you, as the ass, will be entrusted to put their reference lists together.  And God help you if the article is rejected because of bad referencing. You will spend an extra six months waiting for your draft to come back because you cocked up, and your supreme leader has to take time away from your thesis to fix your incompetence.

3. Learn how to use Google

Again, this many seem obvious, but when you are putting together that reference list the chances are, that in their ultimate wisdom, your supreme ruler will have forgotten to include one or two references, page numbers, journal details or the like to test your abilities. It’s up to you, like a super smooth 1920s detective, to work out where the information came from and fill in the blanks. Being able to find missing references is an art, especially when you are looking for a page number of a quote from a book that’s been out of print for the last 50 years. Being able to do this fast, and correctly, will prove to your supervisor that you are worthy of a few extra minutes of their time. Remember, every minute you save your supervisor, is an extra minute they can dedicate to your thesis.

4. Be able to define a ‘thingie’

If you’ve ever watch The Devil Wears Prada, you might remember the scene where Miranda tells Andy to book that restaurant that she likes with the guy whose name was on the piece of paper that she had in her hand last week (or something to that effect at least).  Now combine this vagueness with the more stereotypical vagueness of an academic and you come out with the following conversation:

Supervisor: What did I do with that thingie from two days ago.

Me: It’s on your desk under the book on phenomenology.

Supervisor: No that’s the other thingie. I’m talking about the one with the thing that has the thing on the thing with a thing.

Me: Oh that! Here you go.

I’m that good. And sometimes, if I’ve been really good, I even get a thank you and a whole two minutes to discuss my latest theoretical idea.

5. Be observant

Always pay attention. You will be asked to find lost books, envelopes, passports and of course, thingies. Like a wild game hunter, you need to know your surroundings and be able to notice when something’s amiss. That’s the difference between an average grad ass and a super grade A ass. Your ability to notice and remember where you see things can make it seem like you’re super-human, with awesome psychic powers or x-ray vision, and nobody wants to mess with a superhero. If you are able to locate random missplaced essentials with seemingly no effort, your supervisor will speed up the process. Either because they fear what you may do with your super powers if you turn to the dark side, or because there are only so many times that their egos can be upstaged by a know-it-all grad student. Either way, you’ll get out fast.

And if all else fails, threaten to write a book 🙂

What If…

We’re always faced with a multitude of what ifs in our lives. What if I’d never gone overseas, what if I’d never had that one night stand, what if I’d stopped at that red light. But I think the question that plagues me day in and day out as I ponder my existentialism is what if I’d stopped after my undergrad and got a real job. You see, that was always my plan. I never meant to carry on to do Honours, let alone anything more. But as life happened and things unfolded, Honours ended up being the way to go. Once I got in, the powers that be thought it was a good idea to give me my own first year minions. They hung on my every word and celebrated my amazing intellect (not really, but I like to pretend they did). But more importantly, they did what I said (not that they had a choice… It was either that or fail).

From then I realised that being a postgrad meant you had power. Not as much as the old wrinkly lecturers, but enough to allow illusions of grandeur to permeate my psyche. Looking back now I realise how misguided and naive I was as a baby postgrad. There wasn’t any power, just a lot of first years who liked being able to say that they’d seen someone who taught them stuff drunk. The higher you go there’s less fun and people start to believe that you are intellectually capable and should take on more responsibility. Ugh! True, it was fun as a baby postgrad, but I’m now convinced that’s how they trap you. They give that false belief that you are awesome, then once you’re in, they make you wish you were dead. Research, writing, suicidal students, menopausal lecturers, oh, and a thesis or two. You have to deal with it all.

Why couldn’t I have just left when I had the chance? I could’ve been someone… Or I could still be unemployed whining about the fact that I should’ve done Honours. I guess that’s how it is. You never know. To be honest, I enjoy most of what I do, but it would be interesting to see where I’d been if things were different.

Disclaimer

It has recently come to my attention that silly silly people thought that it would be a good idea to refer to my blog as an example of what Media students are participating in online. Now I have no problem with this really.. Except that the silly silly people which I am referring to, hint that I use my blog in an academic way, contributing toward the public sphere of global communication. So I feel it is only necessary and my public duty to correct any assumption that this blog may be in any way important or educational.. IT’S NOT!!

The point of this blog is for me to say what I like about various stupid things, make myself laugh at how stupid I am, hopefully get others to laugh as well, and generally destroy any sense of innocence you ever saw in the Sound of Music or Bambi! I am a disturbed Masters student who has a mind scared of leaving the gutter and loves to procrastinate instead of work 🙂 So, if you’ve come here thinking you are going to find academic brilliance, then I am afraid you have been horribly deluded. All you are likely to find here are evil bunnies, red dresses, and the occassional story of massacaring students with a chainsaw and blunt spoons!

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