Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sometimes You're the Windshield, Sometimes You're the Bug

Okay, so one of my office mates got an awesome PFO today. It went beyond ink-on-paper expression of passive voice bullshit. It was an avant garde experiment in mixed media conceptual art--and all just to tell a candidate to fuck off! On the letter itself, just to the right of the middle of the page, there were the squished remains of a green bug smeared across the paper.

I think the subtext is clear enough.



Sisyphus said...

That reminds me I gotta get around to using all my old PFOs in some sort of performance art piece. Hmm. Suggestions?

Anonymous said...

not the green bug letter! good god, man: that's appalling news.
worse than getting the five orange pips.
i had a friend in grad school who received the green bug letter. at that time--it was around '82, if my memory serves--we thought little of it. but then no jobs came to him that year, and the next year proved equally fruitless.
several years later i met him in st. louis--i had taken up a prebendary post in rural wichita, and longed now and then for its relatively metropolitan charms.

how he had changed! why, i never would have picked him out on the street had he not approached me himself. even now it pains me to recall it.
"done alright for yourself, eh reg?" were his first words on seeing me.
"come sir," i said to him, thinking him a common mendicant who had lit on my name by luck, "come, sir; we'll have none of this. let me pass or i'll hail that constable."
i put on a brave face--one must when confronted by these sorts--but the smell of spiritous drink, combined with the effects of his advanced dissolution, had not only turned my stomach, but filled me with a deep uneasiness, a kind of formless guilty dread.
"won't know your own chum, reg? won't even take this hand," he gestured, not quite menacingly, with what might once have been an appendage of that description, but was now unrecognizably swathed in filthy rags, "this hand what has been called on by almog, burge and donnellan?"

it was the sound of these names rather than my own christian name--so easily lit upon by chance--that distilled my queasy doubts into a sickened certitude. 'good god, smithers!" i said to him unconsciously taking a step backwards, "that's never you, is it?"

Anonymous said...

Very clever, "Reg", or should I say "very clever, Watson". A tolerable pastiche of the good medico's maunderings.

And yet you do not seem to understand your own thoughts. Let us retrace the course of your meditations. The larger links of the chain run thus: green bug, "Gold Bug", Poe, Dupin, Holmes, "The Five Orange Pips", and thence to your holmesian homage.

This was perhaps aided by PGS' comment that "the subtext is clear enough", a transparent allusion to Poe's Legrand, who famously searches for "the text for my context".

And yet what most attracts the eye in your case is the characteristic elision of Dupin. Always the Anglo-American wishes to efface the French, to claim for itself the propriety of "analytic". This logic of elimination wants to silence the true originary. Not the bourgeois Victorian Holmes, but the Chevalier Dupin was the first to detect, to deduce, to see into the souls of men, to calculate from the slightest hints. And France it was that welcomed Poe's genius, knowing it for its own.

Your little interlude, then, disguises a death; not only the death of a green bug, from which it distracts us, but the death of "The Gold Bug" and its Francophilic author, and indeed the ongoing death of Francophone philosophy in Anglophone affairs.

J'accuse, Reg, and je t'accuse, and with you the profession entire! Thieves and murderers! You bug me!

Anonymous said...

I'm preping for an upcoming interview, and reflecting on my recent interview experiences. I think of interviewing as a two-way street: they want to learn about you, and you want to learn about them. But I think sometimes my interest in the school has been misunderstood by committees. I've heard people recommend that candidates should only ask light-weight questions, at least during initial interviews, and I'm beginning to think that's right-if you want to make it to the second round, that is. Maybe substantive questions should even be held back until after the on-campus stage, when an offer has been made. That sees like doing due diligence after the fact and therefore stupid, but maybe it's the best approach pragmatically.

This would imply that schools recognize the relationship between school and candidate as highly asymmetric: they think they have all the power, and therefore expect to control the initial interview(s) for their own purposes. I doubt most SC members would say this explicitly, or believe it's true, but it would seem to be true based on their practice if not their conscious intention.

Anonymous said...

Might you scan it for us, maybe?

(Or at least share the text?)

I am thoroughly intrigued by this one.

Anonymous said...

For those interested about application numbers for jobs recently announced, Oakland University recently sent out a confirmation e-mail in which they said that they had received almost 200 applications. Now, this is a TT job rather than a one-year, but it shows there are still a lot of people looking for jobs.

Mr. Zero. said...

I just got an acknowledgment email for the VAP position at Oakland University in Rochester MI saying they got almost 200 applications. Fuck. So much for the "easy" VAP market. Fuck, fuck.

Also, I just got a PFO from the post-doc at Columbia that included this sentence: "it is fair to say that if you haven’t been contacted yet you are not one of the finalists."

Is it just me, or is that unspeakably rude? "It's fair to say"? I mean, I get it: I didn't get the fellowship. I didn't think I was going to get the fellowship. But who taught these people their manners? Can it really be that difficult to tell someone they didn't get the job without being a dick about it?

Anonymous said...

Can't rival the bug, but I just got a sweet PFO email from Columbia's Committee on Global Thought:

"While the Committee has not settled on the list of Fellows for the 2008-2009 academic year, it is fair to say that if you haven’t been contacted yet you are not one of the finalists."

They're not even passively telling me I've been rejected! Apparently, it would be fair to do that, but they're not even going to that much trouble.

I think it's fair to say they're a bunch of douchebags.

Anonymous said...

Anybody know what happened with the two openings at Middlebury?
No news on the Wiki,

Anonymous said...

I think all PFOs should be Hallmark cards featuring Ziggy adorably effacing his dreams of becoming a race-car driver. Then, perhaps, in the corner, ever so subtly, an arrow pointing to a mouse turd with two words above it, reading "Your Face!"

Is that so much to ask?

Anonymous said...

anon 3:04, anon 5:26 -- what a delight!

Anonymous said...

what utter buggery...

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't that then be a...PBO letter? I'm cute! :")

Anonymous said...

I think those who received the ultimate PFO from Columbia's Committee on Global Thought are well justified in replying to them about the unprofessional tone of the letter. Suggest some alternative wordings so that they are no longer ignorant of common courtesy. Fuckheads. CC their Dean as well. Hell, maybe even Columbia's president and the APA and the AAUP. Be snarky, too.

Brad C said...

anon 11:37 --

Both Middlebury Jobs are filled.

Anonymous said...

That Leiter blog isn't moving too fast.

Anonymous said...

Please read some Grice before ranting about PFOs in this way. Surely the circumlocutions are caused by people's discomfort at telling other people that they suck, and not cruelty.

On the other hand, there are ways of combining politeness (i.e., polite indirection about the rejected applicant's qualifications, which were ceteris paribus inferior to the nominal 'winner') and directness:

"Dear [name],

Thank your for applying for [the job]. We have offered the job to one of many excellent candidates. You were not that candidate. Our selection process is not perfect, and your failure does not reflect on your potential to be a professional philosopher. Best wishes, [SC]."

mr. zero said...

Dear Gricemeister,

A certain level of "circumlocution" is fine. But some of these PFO writers are so careless that they end up sending out unspeakably rude letters (see, for example, the Columbia letter I complained about up there or the Cal State Longbeach letter; sending out a letter with a dead bug on it isn't very nice, either), or else they write nonsense, such as this piece of crap I got from St. Norbert a while back:

"I'm sorry to inform you that the purpose of this letter is to inform you that you are no longer under consideration..."

What? What are you sorry about? That you're informing me, or that this is what the purpose of this letter is? I'm sure Grice would agree with me when I say that it's bad manners to be such a coward that you end up being impolite or incoherent. They should just say what they mean.

Here's an example of an excellent PFO, from the University of Chicago:

"Thank you very much for your application to our advertised position. After a long and careful process, I regret to say that we are not furthering your candidacy. I wish you the very best in your further endeavors, and look forward to many years as colleagues in our common profession.

"Yours very warmly, ..."

Excellent. The author thanks me for applying, politely tells me to fuck off but is not an asshole about it, takes responsibility for making the decision, and wishes me well. Sweet. That's how it's done, people.

Gricemeister said...

Agreed, Mssr Zero. Chicago's is an excellent PEVKFO (ever-so-kindly), except for the "furthering your candidacy" bit. A little too HR-speak for me.