projectcollegebound asked: Hi ! Can you possibly give us some questions you received during your dissertation defence? Also, the answers you gave. You had an earlier post of what not to do, can you give us "WHAT" to do? Thanks!
Most of the questions I got were specific to the dissertation itself so they weren’t wholly relevant to other people. The questions mostly asked about specific components of my analysis, challenging me on some of my main suppositions, methods, and approaches. Other questions I received pertained to how my work related to the field - in other words, how does my work respond to pre-existing debates within the literature? In what ways is my work really ‘political science’? How did I see my research trajectory?
Pinoy breakfast at Ludi’s in downtown Seattle
I am in Seattle for the Western Political Science Association conference, which is amazing for all sorts of professional reasons (compared to other poli sci conferences, WPSA is probably where I belong the most because of my shared research interests with the people involved) and also for foodie reasons. Seattle has amazing food. I’ve only been here for a day and already I’ve had several excellent cups of coffee, a delicious blueberry cinnamon donut from Top Pot Doughnuts, a delicious bowl of clam chowder and a crab roll from Pike Place Chowder, and a decent steak from Il Bistro. And yes, these tasted even better because my travel grant covers my meals - ha!
The culinary highlight for me thus far, though, was the breakfast I had from Ludi’s today. Ludi’s, located on 2nd and Pike, is a nondescript diner a stone’s throw away from Target City. It is very easy to pass by but don’t be deceived by the exteriors and the interiors, which consists of a few scattered formica tables. Inside, there is decent diner food, harkening back to diners from decades past but with a Filipino twist. Pictured above is the longsilog, Filipino shorthand for longanisa (sweetened sausages), eggs, and all you can eat garlic fried rice, with a side order of corn beef hash and a bowl of spicy Bicol express (a Filipino pork curry-like dish with shrimp paste) which the nice proprietors gave to me for free. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal because it brought me all the way back to the simple, hearty breakfasts I had growing up in the Philippines.
The downside is that I finished all of the food (minus the rice, which I ate a quarter of) and so now I am groggy. But whoever complains about being too full? And paying under $10 for a meal? Not me! Go to Ludi’s, Seattleites. You won’t be disappointed.
What will the last season of Mad Men bring?
Oh Man Men, how I waited for your return! Now that the final season has begun airing on AMC, huge chunks of my time will be spent watching and re-watching episodes, reading analysis of these episodes online, talking to fellow Mad Men fans about the show, and writing and endlessly thinking about it. It is without exaggeration when I say that for me and for a lot of my friends, Mad Men has become more than a television series. Don, Joan, Peggy, Betty, Sally, Roger, and even - sigh - Pete have been woven into the fabric of our lives through repeated references (e.g., I tell my friend H that she is “such a Peggy” all the time) and through repeated invocations of key events that took place in the series. Doing so makes people who aren’t in the know think that we’re referring to actual people we know in real life (e.g., my constant lamentations on the state of Peggy’s love life [Ted??? Abe??? Really???] has led more than one person to ask me how long I’ve known Peggy and whether they can meet her. Ugh).
So what did I think of the season premier? (Spoilers ahead). Well, I really liked it. In fact, I thought this premier was one of the strongest yet. From the close up shot of Freddy Rumsen delivering a surprisingly strong advertising pitch to the abysmal shot of Don shivering in the New York cold, I was riveted. A lot of bloggers, such as Duana from Lainey Gossip, felt that this episode showed that Mad Men has lost its mojo. They found the episode slow and dull and the characters uninspired and uninteresting. I couldn’t disagree more. We all know that Mad Men is a slow burn, with later episodes ramping up the action.
This episode succeeded because it planted the seeds for future episodes. We are left wondering about the fate of key characters. Will Joan finally be given the respect she deserves? (And, on that note, the casting director did an excellent job making sure that the MBA guy who mansplained her had the most punchable face. I wanted to kick his twerpy little ass the minute he walked into the shot). Will Pete’s zen-like frame of mind last or will he implode? Will Roger ever mature? Will our girl Peggy break the glass ceiling and be SCP’s new creative director while also having a fulfilling personal life (and on that note, yeah, ok, I finally get why Stan + Peggy shippers have been calling for those two to get together)? And, more importantly, what will happen to Don?
If season 7 brings Don’s redemption - as many have speculated - I wonder whether that entails another attempt at reinvention. And does this then mean shedding his propensity towards abusive behaviour? In the final shot, note that Don ended up not drinking the bottle of whisky next to him, which to me indicates an attempt to be sober. And the way he said no to the overtures of the widow on the plane further illustrates that he is trying to mend his ways. That the conversation he had with this woman included references to her dead husband, who “died of thirst” (i.e., he was an alcoholic) and who only lived to see his 50th year (Don, at 42, is eight years away) provided a sobering reminder of his mortality.
So what do I hope to see this season? I don’t want to venture to fan fic territory here but I really and truly hope that the redemptive arc Don has been on will continue, leading him to put to rest past traumas. While others have speculated that the falling man from the opening credits foreshadows Don’s eventual suicide, I really do not think Matthew Weiner would take such a literal interpretation. We’ve journeyed through seven seasons with Don. We saw him rise to the top, stay there, then gradually plunge to rock-bottom last season. Don is already depleted - he’s on forced hiatus from SCP which must be devastating for who is Don without his work?! His second marriage looks as though it will once again end up in divorce. In short, his life is a wreck. Surely things can only get better?
But maybe this is me seeking the happily-ever-after, which is all I really want for the other characters. Heck, I’d love for Joan and Peggy to say fuck you to the old boys’ club and start their own agency, bringing with them Stan and Ginsburg! (I would so watch that spin-off). I’d like Betty to find fulfillment as a politician’s wife and Sally to grow up not too fucked up! I’d like Ken Cosgrove to leave the toxicity of the corporate world and write best-selling novels! I’d love to see Roger still being a loveable scamp but gaining some maturity by becoming a better father to Margaret and to baby Kevin! And maybe Pete can stay in exile in California forever.
I know, though, that maintaining the integrity of the series means following various character arcs to their logical conclusion. So who knows what will happen?
"EW. Why would you date someone born in the 1980s?!"
Drunk undergrad # 1: I so do not want to turn 20! It’s the beginning of the end! Being 19 is amazing!
Drunk undergrad # 2: I know, right? I mean, we’re young enough to be cute and not have any responsibilities, but old enough to go to bars!
DU # 1: We’re young enough that guys want to date us but old enough to date guys who our parents warn us against! I mean, they can’t ground us - we’re adults!
DU # 2: I don’t know about that. I mean, EW, why would you date someone born in the 1980s? That’s so old!!!
DU # 2: I know, right?
'Deadlines' and playing a game of academic chicken with your fellow conference panelists
Despite what we tell our students in big, bold letters in our course syllabi, most academics are notorious for being unable to meet deadlines. For example, when a book chapter deadline is slated for May 1, it is usually a safe bet to assume that your fellow book contributors won’t hand their chapters in until maybe two weeks/months/years later. (Notable exceptions are grant application deadlines. There is hardly any flexibility when it comes to those!) Heck, I should know! I co-edited a book and we most definitely did not follow the original timeline we devised!
What I find funny, though, is how academics - despite knowing that everyone is likely in the same boat - constantly feel tremendous guilt. Such guilt, of course, does not then translate into actually meeting deadlines. And so what ends up happening is that academics end up playing a game of chicken with their collaborators, waiting to see who blinks and hands in their work first. As days pass after the original deadline, academics check their emails, waiting with dread to see if others have turned their papers in - and every time they see that nope, no one hasn’t turned anything in yet, they feel a rush of relief, shrug their shoulders, and move on to other more pressing things, which invariably do not involve writing the damn paper.
And then the day comes when someone finally hands in their work. ”Ack,” the other members of the group think when they see Dr. Overachiever’s emailed attachment of his/her paper. ”Now I’ve really got to write my piece.” Fear of failure breaks through the writer’s block/research ennui/existential crisis/insert-crisis that the other collaborators were experiencing that prevented them from meeting the deadline in the first place! Miraculously, they get their asses in gear and turn in their work. All it really takes is that one person to guilt the group into action.
What happens if no one blinks? Then you run the risk of no one turning anything in, ever, until the discussant/book editor/project lead gets frustrated enough to fire off increasingly irate messages to the group.
When realizing that the semester is about to end and feeling like I have nothing to show for it
I mean, didn’t I just start my postdoc? When looking at the past few months, what exactly have I accomplished? (Don’t answer that).
And so the mad rush to be productive before the end of the semester begins.
"Should I hit on my prof even though I don’t know if he’s interested in me?"
Recently, I’ve received emails from two readers, both young women pursuing their undergraduate studies. With their permission, I’ve decided to blog about their predicaments. Although their circumstances differ, both have the same question at the heart of their queries, namely, what should they do about their crushes on their professors. Let me be clear that in both cases, their professors have not expressed anything more than a professional interest in their well-being. Knowing this, though, has not dissuaded them from thinking that it is time to yell out YOLO and make a move. With classes ending next week, both thought that it was prime time to act now.
I can’t lie and say that I haven’t had crushes on authority figures. In fact, one of the reasons I did so well in an introduction to political theory class as an undergraduate was because my TA was so amazingly helpful and smart and made theory accessible. He was also incredibly charismatic and good-looking and seemed, at least to 17 year old me, to be the epitome of intelligence. I am certain that I spent numerous tutorials gazing at him with cartoon-hearts coming out of my eyes. A friend taking the same class, knowing that I thought our TA was cute, even snuck into the graduate student lounge and stole his picture from the bulletin board featuring photos from graduate student events. Her gesture was as sweet as it was creepy and I hung onto the photo that entire semester.
My crush, though, never moved from Sweet Valley Twins onto Gossip Girl territory. Translation: beyond writing glowing teaching reviews and asking my TA for advice on whether I should apply for the Political Science honours program, it never occurred to me to act on my crush. What was I going to do? Send him a lascivious note? At that age, I was so nerdy that I wouldn’t even know how to begin writing said note. And so the crush ended when the term ended.
Sending her professor a lascivious note was exactly what a former flatmate of mine did. Let’s call her PS, who, at that time, was 21. Apparently, said professor was in his mid-30s and single, both facts PS discerned via Google. Although her professor never showed signs that he was interested in her, PS, in a fit of boldness, wrote at the bottom of her final exam the following short but sweet note:
"Fuck me or fuck off."
She added her number at the bottom.
Her professor called her up and thus commenced one of the more tortured relationships I’ve ever heard about. (And yes, they did date). At issue for her was the fact that he only ever wanted to have sex and never seemed keen on her meeting his friends. Long story short: her professor-turned-boyfriend was actually quite a self-involved, narcissistic asshole.
And ultimately, this is what I told my two readers. Classroom crushes are best left in the classroom. Sure, they can devise ways to hit on their professors, as PS did. These tactics may work. But if they do work, isn’t there something just a little bit skeevy about the fact that their professors went with it?
I told my readers that hitting on their professors produces one of two outcomes. First, their professors may turn them down, which would lead them to feel the pains of rejection. Second, their professors may take them up on their offers, which makes me question their ethics. As authority figures, they should have an awareness of boundaries and the ethical conundrums emerging from arrangements with extreme power imbalances; that they disregarded these concerns makes me wonder about their judgements and intentions.
But even if their feelings aren’t mutual wouldn’t s/he want to know that I felt this way?, asked one of my letter writers. Don’t they deserve to know?
To that, I said, and I quote, oh-hell-fucking-no. No no no no no! As someone who has spent the last seven years teaching in university settings, I can honestly say that I absolutely do not ever want to be in a situation where I am in a room with a student disclosing his/her romantic feelings. Academia is such a precarious space and, I, like all of my colleagues, am fearful of any allegations of impropriety. Such allegations are the easiest way to discredit your academic career. I cannot think of a situation where I would be grateful that a student told me about his/her feelings, even if the student’s intention was only to tell me the truth. This isn’t that scene in Love Actually, where Keira Knightley’s character stands by her doorway as her husband’s best friend disclosed, using signs, that he loved her. Such romantic notions need to be stomped out completely. (And, as an aside, I always found that scene to be disturbing. Stop mooning over your best friend’s wife and get a life).
The final thing I will add is that I personally know about successful relationships between students and former TAs/professors. Three have even resulted in happy marriages. In all cases, the attraction was mutual from outset, there wasn’t a substantial age difference between the different partners, and the relationships started long after class was over. The circumstances I discussed above, though, are different in that the feelings are one-sided. And in these cases, I would strongly advice against throwing all caution to the wind and seeing what happens when bold declarations of love/lust are made.