Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Annual Summer Wake

While other departments on campus are holding “Welcome Back” events for the new fall semester, here in the DoD we think it useful to take leave of summer before entertaining thoughts of welcoming the fall.  Consequently, this Friday we hold our annual wake in honor of the summer that was. 

We encourage all participants to bring along fond recollections, travel selfies, souvenir t-shirts, and, naturally, much melancholy.  Really, the only thing we forbid is the question, “Was your summer productive?” or any analogues concerning academically “useful” activity.  We have studied too much Zhuangzi to think that usefulness is all it’s popularly cracked up to be.  Besides, you can save all that conversation for the Dean’s party, where looking busy might win you more traction than here.

So, come help us lay the corpse of summer to rest.  Second line forms at 7 pm.  Oh, summer, we hardly knew ye!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Job Market Mentoring: Sit, Stay, Roll Over Edition

It’s that time of year again, that time when senior deviant graduate students everywhere must begin to prepare their job applications.  We here in the DoD are acutely aware that our graduate students lack “pedigree.”  While we would revel in a world populated by a happy chaos of mutts, alas, we are not in charge.  We recognize that mutts too need to eat.  And so we are doing our level best to help them find jobs that will pay for groceries and even vet checkups. 

To that end, we are offering job market mentoring, the first session of which happens this Tuesday.  This session will be devoted to problems arising when one lacks Kennel Club recognized lineage. 

We will address how to appear non-threatening and well-behaved, even when your scrappy ancestors were not.  Students will thus learn how to judiciously measure exposure of their deviance so as not to alarm the pure breds.  We will also talk about how to make your coat shinier and glossier than anyone would expect of a mutt.  Some say that a mutt who can simply walk upright will impress, but this is likely not enough to win a job in the present market.  So we’ll discuss how to perform elaborate tricks sure to pleasingly shock those who expect little of you but soiling carpets.  Finally, we will conclude with a heartening tour through tales of mutts-made-good, detailing exemplars of the type and sussing out just how they managed to win their jobs.

New Graduate Student Recruiting Initiative Arrives at DoD

We here at the DoD have somehow secured funding for a new effort at marketing our graduate program.  The university, as many know, has recently stepped up its own marketing efforts, the finest result of which is the new university motto, appearing on t-shirts, beer cozies, and stationary everywhere:

Out Standing in the Field of Excellence

It’s true that the English Department was dismayed by the inadvertent error in rendering outstanding as out  standing.  But we here in the DoD are enamored of this pithy accidental poetry and indeed often find ourselves out standing in fields of all sorts.  We doubt we have ever stumbled into the field of excellence, but we do live in hope.

Taking our inspiration from the university and taking the money they offered too, we have resolved to up our own game at marketing the graduate program.  We hired professional academic motto consultant, Stephen Ellis.  His sartorial choices – overalls that had seen better days – immediately convinced us that here was a consultant we could trust.  And indeed, Ellis delivered the goods.  The motto, like ourselves, manages to be happily wordy and yet indefinite all at the same time.  We are pleased and offer it here for your delectation:

We would like to think that we’re not so closed-minded
as to screw up our graduate students in the usual way.

The DoD has begun inscribing the motto on anything that does not move.  Physical plant is unhappy with our use of Sharpies to write it all over the bathroom walls, but we are undeterred in our efforts.  The DoD has also, naturally, notified the Grad Studies Committee to brace themselves for what will surely be a flood of applications.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

DoD’s Exclusive Focus on Outliers Criticized

We here at the DoD generally try to steer clear of controversy over canons.  The fact that our own canon is perennially – nay, eternally! – under construction really helps with this.  As does the fact that our modest work is largely ignored in the vast reaches of Normalcy.  As we’ve learned from our dealings with admin, being forgotten by the powers-that-be can be a blessing.  Cats being away, mice playing, and all of that.  Most of the time, it’s practically Mouse-a-palooza around here.  Not lately, alas.

Despite our best efforts, the DoD recently came under fire for its indifference to Normalcy.  We may not have a competing canon, sure, but our efforts are proving a distraction to those who do.  While we carry on in our quest to know more things, some of the things already Normally known may yet not be totally known.  How, our critics implored, can you advocate for Deviance when Normality is not yet, not quite, not totalizingly, absolutely everywhere?  Priorities, people!  

Shocked, we decided to offer an apologia for our work.  And we decided to call it an “apologia” too, since throwing in a little Greek when you can reassures the Normal that however Deviant you may be, you have been put through the Normal paces.  While we achieved unanimous agreement on what to call what we were about to do, departmental opinion swiftly divided over less interesting details, like what to actually say. 

On the one hand were the Deviants who wanted to vigorously resist this bit of apparent Normal greed. After all, in contemporary academia, the Normal are many and the Deviant few, so it seems churlish to begrudge the Deviant their attentions to things Deviant.  Or to begrudge them commending the Deviant to others, even if that entails that not every single scrap of Normalcy will get funding and attention.  Commending things to others is part of the whole academic business after all.  And, to be sure, if some scrap of Normal does get neglected long enough, who knows?  Maybe it can become Deviant too! 

On the other hand were Deviants who simply wanted to reassure the Normal that we mean them no harm and carry no bias against them however much we may ignore them.  Yea, verily, some of our best friends are Normal.  (If you ask us to name them, we’ll have to get back to you on that.  Sorry.)  Our only trouble is that we are mortal and our budget finite.  We’ve heard it said that there is only so much one can be expected to try to know and only so much that can be funded.  We tend not to alibi our neglect of things this way, but hey, the irony here is just too delicious to resist.     

On still another hand, the truly pugnacious among us wanted to engage in a little armchair psychoanalytics and speculate about what dark fears may lurk in the hearts of Normal.  Perhaps, these Deviants wondered, Normality is worried about threats to its dominance?  After all, when we teach Deviance, students do seem to like it.  And some of the ones who like it are Deviant.  If that keeps up, Deviant could become the new Normal.  This faction of the department, in short, wanted to throw out an admittedly smug “don’t hate us because we’re beautiful” response to it all. 

On yet a still additional hand were those who thought it would be rich to offer neglected Normal a little advice, not unlike that often offered ourselves.  The trick here, we would say, is to do good work that Normal People will like and the attention will follow.  While we ourselves typically bypass this patronizing path toward Normality and instead wander off into the thickets of our own fancy, maybe others will find it appealing and plausible. 

Most persuasively, on the final hand, a wise and seasoned professor emerita of Deviance advised that the best apologia is silence.  After all, give the Normal five minutes and they’ll forget we Deviants exist again.

For those of you counting the number of hands we have, it’s true that we have more than the usual two.  We are many handed, not unlike Shiva the Destroyer.