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Jan 1, 2005 6:52 pm

Academic Hair Association ...

The American Historical Association will meet from 6-9 January in Seattle and some of the Cliopatriarchs will be there. In fact, some of us expect to meet for the 2nd Annual Cliopatria Banquet at the convention. The 1st Annual Banquet at last year's AHA convention was canceled at the last minute, when I was struck with a humiliating illness and had to cancel out on the convention. But this year, we're doing it. The major problem is that we've never actually met each other, so how will we recognize fellow Cliopatriarchs among all the mere mortal historians at the AHA convention?

I was thinking about that when I read Fontana Labs' account of his experience at the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Boston. He wasn't actually there,* but his account of it rang so true of all academic conventions that I'm just plagiarizing his whole thing over here at Cliopatria:

I couldn't liveblog it, sadly, but here's what it would have been like if I did:

Tuesday night: arrive in Boston, find the hotel, run into some old friends, have dinner. I see Cornel West back in the lobby, but I resist the temptation to ask him if he lists his CD on his CV. I stop by the reception ("the smoker" if you're old-school) and run into at least three people who are demonstrably smarter than me and have either no jobs at all or really bad jobs. I resolve to be a less terrible person in the new year. I drink several cups of the bad (but free) beer the APA hands out at this thing while resenting that I'm one of the only people tipping the bartenders.

I make this solemn vow: I will never have extravagant academic hair, the kind of hair that makes you look like you're trying too hard to look eccentric and brilliant, the kind of hair that everyone who knows better laughs at.

Later Tuesday night: hit a nearby bar with the old grad school cronies. Some of these guys are as-yet unemployed, so I put everyone on my tab. Suddenly my friends start drinking Chivas.

Wednesday morning: I wake up around 10 hating myself for having too much to drink. I console myself with"Dawson's Creek"-- Joey finally gets laid! Dawson handles euthanasia! I wonder just how pleasurable it would be to punch James Vanderbeek in the face.

Wednesday afternoon: I make it to the gay marriage session. I'm a little scared by Cheshire Calhoun's hair, but her paper is mildly interesting, if not really philosophical. Claudia Card: still hatin' on marriage. I notice that Richard Mohr, professional homosexual, is wearing a leather tie. I resist the temptation to ask if he's still getting royalties for"My Sharona." Ralph (say"Rafe") Wedgwood is there, and, as usual, looks resplendent and contemptuous at the same time. I admire his pants in a heterosexual sort of way.

Overheard in an elevator. Civilian:"is there some kind of convention here?" APA guy:"it's the American Philosophical Association-- mostly philosophy professors." Civilian:"Oh, that explains all the beards."

Wednesday night: a nice dinner with friends, then another round at the reception. I make some attempts to schmooze, but my heart's not in it. I see one prominent philosopher grab the ass of another during a hello embrace. Sweet. We head to a bar, have trouble finding one, and make it just before last call. Fortunate: this lets me catch my train the next morning without any problem.

Note to all the other Cliopatriarchs: I'm the one with the extravagant academic hair.

*Correction: Ogged tells me that Fontana Labs actually was at the eastern division meeting of the APA. He just wasn't liveblogging. It sounded pretty much like most academic conventions I've attended.

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More Comments:

David Lion Salmanson - 1/3/2005

Won't be there either. Although if I were I would be the short skinny Jewish guy with the Elvis Costello glasses. oops, that just described half the men on the job market.
Anyway, I will probably host the dinner in Philly, unless Tim Burke wants to. And there is a picture of Tim on his web site.

Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2005

Ooops. That's one nominee.

Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2005

Well, here's <">one nominee</a> for starters. Surely, we can do better than that.

Jonathan Dresner - 1/2/2005

Einstein. That's academic hair. Everything else is stylin' or something. Historians, as near as I can tell, mostly go for very conservative hair, or if they're going to be dramatic about it, go for the long-haired ponytail hippy look.

Boy, I'm going to be looking at people's heads a lot more next week than usual....

Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2005

I hasten to assure you that I do _not_ have Dame Edna hair! Not even Diana Ross hair! Actually, I just thought Fontana Labs's phrase was so funny that I decided to claim it for me. You can go to Fontana's post at Unfogged and find what they mean. They are actually linking to pictures of contemporary philosophers with extravagent academic hair. Do you think we do the same thing with historians? Any nominees?

Julie A Hofmann - 1/2/2005

Ok, Ralph --- my immediate impression when I read this was 'Well, he's from the South ... does that mean he has Big Hair?' Please say it's not so! :-)

But ... er ... please tell me what the masculine version of extravagant hair is, b/c I keep jumping from Delta Burke to Farrah Fawcett to Dame Edna -- none of them pretty pictures.

Manan Ahmed - 1/1/2005

THAT is funny.

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/1/2005

The piece by Fontana Labs reinforces in me the prior belief that the best part of professional conferences is not the quality of papers, but the people-watching. My first philosophy conference was devoted to an examination of the philosophy of Brand Blanshard. It really brought out the walking fossils (an expression that originated with my advisor, I assure you, who took his doctorate and a grad seminar at Yale under Blanshard). It was an interesting look back in time -- Blanshard had taken his doctorate, if I remember correctly, under Hocking. There was Charles Hartshorne, sitting in the front row with his beret, stomping his foot and cursing the name of Hilary Putnam (for reasons unknown to me) right in the middle of a paper delivered by a mumbling, slouching Richard Rorty (with hands in pockets) who drew parallels (to much confusion) between the thought of Blanshard and that of Quine.

The old folks were spotlessly dressed, in three-piece suits (with watch fobs) -- Errol Harris and crew. The young turks (Rorty et al) were dressed in downtrodden graduate student chic. Except James Cornman, who showed up in a leisure suit. Then there was Wilfrid Sellars who they poured into his shoes to give the presidential address -- the guy had a hollow leg, apparently. Then the editor of the organization's journal stood up to complain about being pressured by members to publish their papers, at which point another stood up and said he couldn't imagine there was any other purpose to joining the organization. If you were there, it was pretty funny at the time.

Manan Ahmed - 1/1/2005

My uneducated guess is that ALL of the blogging brown guys at AHA could easily be accomodated at Cliopatria's academic banquet. For identification purposes - brown guy with no beard, no extravagant hair, no too-cool-for-school glasses, but with a hangover (on account of friday night plans)

Julie A Hofmann - 1/1/2005

Nope! and seldom wear my 'too cool for school' glasses, because they show people how very nearsighted I am!

Ralph E. Luker - 1/1/2005

Do you have a beard?

Julie A Hofmann - 1/1/2005

I will be there, but I am neither a Cliopatriarch nor a guy ;-)

Jonathan T. Reynolds - 1/1/2005

You know, back in the early-mid 1990s when I was desperately seeking employment, someone at one of the places I interviewed told me I "didn't look enough like an academic." So, I grew a goatee and got little round glasses. I had a job within a few months. Coincidence? Beats me.

Sorry that I, my beard, and my coffee cup won't be at the AHA.


Jonathan Dresner - 1/1/2005

Sorry, Ralph, I didn't realize. The picture on your website's out of date, then. Umm... If anyone is looking at a couple of bearded guys with coffee cups talking about blogging, I'm the wide one.

Ralph E. Luker - 1/1/2005

Dog gone it. Besides extravagent academic hair, I'm also bearded guy with coffee cup. Is Jonathan Dresner coming to the AHA disguised as Ralph Luker? If so, he will have to face the consequences of doing that. My enemies will be after you. Now that I think about it, Tim Burke will at least bring another beard, if not a cup of coffee. Must be a convention of historians. Maybe if we all look alike, my enemies won't know who to target. Is there some protocal that female Cliopatriarchs must also be bearded?

Ralph E. Luker - 1/1/2005

So modest. You didn't say "handsome brown guy," "brilliant brown guy," "brown guy with extravagent academic hair" .... Must we welcome all brown guys at Cliopatria's academic banquet in order to be sure that Manan is not excluded?

Jonathan Dresner - 1/1/2005

... that's me.

Manan Ahmed - 1/1/2005

... that would be me.