The random opportunities of an alt-ac career path

Somehow– I’m not really sure how– I have found myself on an electronic mailing list for the Kimble Group, which is a “recruitment search firm focused on the hiring needs of Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses nationwide.” I must have clicked on something at some point, maybe at one of those moments where I think that I’ve “had enough” of academia or something, I’m not sure.

Anyway, here is a selection of the hundreds of different jobs these emails have suggested I apply for:

  • Substitute Teacher/Paraprofessional
  • Assistant Manager, Checkers Drive-In
  • Team Leader-Optical Dispenser-OptimEyes
  • Licensed Cosmetologist-Detroit Airport Spa
  • Assistant principal, Secondary (Detroit Int’l Academy)
  • Food and Beverage Supervisor, MGM Grand
  • Detroit Red Wings – Red Patrol Member
  • Executive Producer, McCann Detroit
  • Disk Jockey
  • Assistant Professor of Journalism – Public Relations
  • Medical Assistant
  • Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies – Filmmaking
  • Detroit Tigers Foundation Intern
  • Medical Assistant-Infectious Disease
  • Assistant General Manager, Taco Bell
  • Division Head, Hematology/Oncology – Henry Ford Health System

And so forth.

To be fair to the Kimble Group people, I think I was getting random job suggestions like this because I never updated my profile, though that was because I never quite understood how I started getting these emails in the first place. Once I did update it to stuff I could probably actually do (freelance writer and content strategy, for example), I did get an email for jobs I could kinda/sorta apply to.

Still, it’s amusing to me to think that what the Kimble Group was doing was sending me their best guesses as to what someone who has been a college professor for 21 years might be qualified to do, which is to say everything, anything, and nothing all at the same time.

When is it okay to make fun of grammar?

Remember Weird Al? Yeah, me neither. Well, no– that’s not true. Of course I “remember” Weird Al from lots of different parodies over the years, all the way back to “My Bologna” to “Like a Surgeon” to his latest releases that have come out this past week. It’s just that I don’t find myself thinking about Weird Al one way or the other– except when he pops up in the media once in a while, like now.

WA has a new album out and one his parody songs is called “Word Crimes:”

Sung to the tune of “Blurred Lines,” it’s a series common “grammar nerd” criticisms that are ridiculously picky (it is a parody, of course) and that rhyme in funny ways. As someone who appreciates word humor, I thought it was funny and I didn’t think much more about it. Ha ha.

And then the hating/backlash began.

There was Forrest Wickman’s Slate article,”Weird Al Is Tired of Your “Word Crimes” in New Video,” which goes into equally silly detail in out pet-peeving WA’s pet peeves. A more pointed critique came from Mignon “Grammar Girl” Fogarty here, “Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” Video.” She is not amused:

Perhaps the most troubling thing for me is seeing teachers who say they are going to use this in class because kids will find it funny and it will make them care about grammar. The entire ending of the video is putting down people who have trouble writing. The video says it’s OK to call people who can’t spell morons, droolers, spastics, and mouth breathers. Really, you’re going to use an educational tool that tells your struggling kids that they’re stupid? It just blows my mind that any teacher would think that’s OK.

It’s also hard for me to separate my feelings about this video from my feelings about his 2010 grammar videos that reinforce simplistic ideas, such as one in which he goes off about signs that read drive slow being wrong. The problem is that slow can be used as something called a flat adverb. The sign isn’t wrong, but drive slow is one of those things that people who don’t bother looking things up love to rant about. Those videos were extremely popular, so I imagine at least a few people told him that he got it wrong, but his comments from the NPR video suggest to me that he didn’t take the time to listen to those people and figure it out—that he still thinks he was making those signs better. If, as he says, “correcting people’s grammar is kind of a big deal” for him, then with the kind of power he has, I expect him to get things right.

The bottom line is that I don’t believe in word crimes, and I don’t believe in encouraging people to think about language that way.

In my Facebook world of comp/rhet folks, there seems to be a fair number of people in the Grammar Girl camp, finding WA’s song offensive– it’s not funny to make fun of people who can’t spell, it’s not funny to make fun of people who can’t write, we don’t need to be calling bad writers dumb, etc., etc., etc.

First off, I’m not going to “mansplain” anyone about the definition of parody. That’s a recipe for disaster. Though one fun fact: here’s the second link I found on Google searching for parody. That WA is everywhere right now.

But in a tradition that includes  a “modest proposal” to eat the children of the poor and more recently a runaway hit Broadway musical that skewers Mormonism with lots of filthy and hilarious songs, it seems kind of strange to me for people to get bent out of shape over “Word Crimes.” Even for a Weird Al video, this is pretty tame stuff.  Where were these people with arguably more offensive WA parodies like the racially charged “White and Nerdy” (fun fact– this video has Key and Peele in it!), or the food/fat-hating “Eat It” and “Fat?”

So, is it ever okay to parody and/or make fun of bad writing, grammar, and students? Are these even more off-limits than fatness, religion, and eating babies?

Don’t get me wrong– I don’t think it would be fair to make fun of/mock particular students in public, which is where sites like Shit My Students Write more or less crosses a line. There is at least the illusion that these are “real” quotes from “real” students– though I think that the realness here is debatable. Though some of the stuff on that site is pretty funny.

Of course I don’t think a prescriptive/pet peeve approach to grammar is write for teaching at any level and I’ve never done that. Of course it’s not useful to call students dumb or accuse them of committing “word crimes” or whatever. Of course.

But bad writing is funny and fair game for parody, and you know what? there are “word crimes” of various sorts. We see them every day in bad apostrophes or stupid exclamation points or “unnecessary” quotation “marks” or even passive aggressive notes.  My experience has been that these kinds of “word crimes” are ones that students at all levels recognize and they’re often actually an entry into a less picky discussion into what constitutes correctness and the rhetorical/persuasive impact of effective or ineffective grammar.

So lighten up, people. But don’t get me started on that bastard’s mocking of the Amish.

“How To Public Speaking”

I have posted here once in a while about public speaking and conference presentations– how it’s bad for people to just read papers, but it’s also as bad (maybe worse) for people to just “wing it” since very few of us are actually good at that.  But the main reason I’m posting this here is as a “note to self” and also as something that I think might make a good teaching tool in the next class I teach that involves student presentations.  As is usually the case, ze frank offers advice that is both humorous and extremely useful.

Mysterious “Thank You” package makes my day

I have a variety of things I want to blog about– some reading on competing networks of assessment, a bunch of links I need to put someplace– and I have a variety of other things I need to do/stop procrastinating from– I’m talking to you, Written Communication web site– but I had to post about the mystery package from yesterday first.

I always love mystery packages.  One of my favorite (still) unpublished stories (but not really a story because it does more or less recount something that happened) was about the time that Annette and I received a package addressed to us in our Richmond apartment but that was clearly meant for someone else.  So I was intrigued with yesterday’s package, one which was delivered to EMU and was addressed to me.

At first, I didn’t recognize the name on the outside.  Here’s what I found on the inside:

On the right is the package’s main contents, a copy of a journal called Readerly/Writerly Texts. I had an article published in a special issu of it back in 1999, an article titled “Teacher Learning (Not Teaching) HTML with Students:  An Experimental Lesson Plan for Introducing Web Authoring into Writing Classes,” an article I’m tempted to give to a couple of my colleagues even though it is really ancient history.

Here’s a close-up on the front of the card:

Very nice.  And the inside of the card:

After reading the note, I finally put it all together:  as the handwritten part of this very clever card from Archelaus Fine Cards explained, this is from my former MA student Sheri France (I directed her project many moons ago).  As she explains in the card, Sheri was moving offices from one place of employment to another and she thought it would be best to return her long ago borrowed copy of the journal I loaned her.

Ha!  And they say there are no rewards in academia!

On the off-chance you are reading this, Sheri:  you’re welcome, no worries about returning that journal so late, and if you get a chance to drop me an email to update me on your professional life to share on the writing program web site, let me know.

Yet another collection of miscellaneous links

With all the news about delicious going belly-up (or not?), it seems more important than ever for me to park some links here that I want to keep track of:

Lotsa links/reader round-up

I have been procrastinating from cleaning my office by a) teaching (well, that’s kinda my job, so that doesn’t count as procrastination), and b) looking through some piled up google reader links.  So in an effort to put off office cleaning a bit longer, here’s a bunch of links in no particular order:

Okay, cleaning will commence.  Soon….

This doesn’t make me a jerk, does it?

So, on one of my many errands today, I was in the Food (W)hole with a cart full of provisions– not a mountain of shopping (that would come later at Costco), but a fair amount.  I was searching for an open line, I found one where the purchase was winding down, so I jumped in.  As I’m putting my stuff up on the belt, I notice behind me an older man (60s?) standing behind me holding a carton of self-serve soup and giving me a look of ‘tude.

Now, in my defense, 1) I am (almost) certain that I didn’t cut this guy off in getting to the line; 2) while I clearly had more than him, I did not have an extreme amount of stuff, and 3) I’ve got places to go to0, and hey, you shoulda hustled.  Anyway, as this goes along, the dude is still giving me the evil eye (or perhaps I was just projecting that, I’m unsure), so as I was paying, I mumbled something like “Jeez, I guess I should have let you go ahead of me.”  Which, to be completely honest, I didn’t really mean– see my previously offered defense.

So I ask you:  I wasn’t too big of a jerk here, was I?  Or maybe– just maybe– maybe it was the soup guy who was the jerk because he was trying to make me feel bad with his evil stare and sigh!  Yeah!