Monday, June 13, 2005


More than a few people have accused me of trying to have it both ways.

1. Pretending to be some outrageous fictional character, writing in a voice that has no responsibilities for consequences.


2. Being in fact an indentifiable academic administrator at a major research university

For reasons I am not going to make specific, I am now convinced that the critics were right, all along. I can't have it both ways.

So...let's forget the whole thing. I will post here only those things that I am willing to stand behind, and believe, in my actual life as Mike Munger, Duke Professor. Since I don't think I have anything interesting to say, in a blog at least, in that voice I don't expect any further blogging on this URL.

And, I'll start an anonymous blog where I can rant with impunity.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Performance Art Saga

A retrospective, on the three Performance Art posts:

1. Grocery

2. Starbucks

3. Hinky Lube

Now, one of my loyal readers had this observation:

do you get off on getting people fired?

are you an elitist pig or something?

you work like four hours a day teaching one class...

how hard can that be?

Yes, if they suck.
Obviously, if by elitist you mean "believes in merit-based discrimination."
It's summer; I don't teach at all. I write things. Just finished a couple of papers, and am now working on revising one of my books with Mel Hinich.
Not very hard; thanks for asking.

More seriously: Professors, for the most part, are not primarily teachers. We are writers and researchers. I voluntarily teach a double overload most semesters. Because I like to teach. But the "work" that we do is by and large our research work. I love that. It is fun, and interesting, and I learn things. And, of course, it leaves lots of time where I can haul my big elitist butt out into the public and get idiots fired from jobs they can't do.

He must be one hell of a good cameraman

Consider the following excerpt, from Lenslinger's "Top Ten Things I learned covering Hurricane Isabel"

3) The Bigger the Market, the Cheesier the Anchor.
Like I said, we did satellite live shots for stations across the country, from L.A. to Tampa to Philly to Vegas and all points in between. Without fail, the bigger the city, the more over-affected and cartoon-like the anchor's voice on the other line. I heard enough booming voices and over-enunciation to last a lifetime - or at least until I do another self-serving piece on the local Top 40 radio station. Or a profile on the visiting tent evangelist. Like Sting says, they all sound like game show hosts to me.


Now...cameramen are by nature misanthropic, and with cause, since the slice of humanity on whom they focus their cameras are by and large (1) brain dead, (2) horribly guilty, (3) completely self-centered, or (4) all of the above (meaning news anchors).

But Lenslinger is taking this to a new level. Some news anchors can read things that are NOT in big letters and scrolling down a glass teleprompter, and if someone reads his blog...well, Lenslinger must be a really good cameraman.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Clove Hitch

Yobbo channels Hitchens.

As Patton said, "God help me, I do love it so!"

Hinky Lube Performance Art

Sometimes, cashiers do it to themselves.

I go to the Happy Lube, or whatever they call themselves. Quick lube and oil change, you pay big $$, but it's quick.

As I arrived, an employee came out to my car, eating spaghetti from a dirty bowl. He said, “What do you need?”

I told him I wanted an oil change. He curtly nodded, and pointed at Bay #2. No other words. This was rather odd, as this was NOT the way I usually get treated at Horny Lube. Formulaic courtesy is what I expect. Stepford employees. This guy was kind of cool. Like a Mickey Rooney character/mechanic in a World War II comedy about a motor pool. Cocky, crusty, but with a heart of gold. Or not, as it turned out.

Oil change is done; I go up to pay. The same Mickey Rooney guy starts to ring up the charges. I hand him my $10 coupon. He says, “just put it down there; I’ll get to it.” I did.

But he didn’t. Get to it, that is. He rang up the charge without the coupon. I didn’t notice, and gave him my credit card. After I signed, I noticed that there was no credit for the coupon.

When I pointed this out, he said, “Well, there’s really nothing I can do about it now. I already rang up the order. You should have said something.”

So, I turned and made a brief speech to the other customers: "What you have just seen would be a tragedy, in any other country. But in the U.S., it is okay. There many Puffy Lubes, and from now on we should all go to another one. Because this one is inhabited by thieves, and what you have witnessed here is theft." All the other customers tried to pretend they were watching Oprah. Which was hard, because the TV was tuned to local news.

Mickey became angry about my theft remark. He started saying in a loud voice that anyone could make mistakes, that I wasn’t perfect either…and so on. This was in front of other customers. By this time they weren't pretending to watch anything, except the worst employee in the history of the world. He was shouting at my back as I went out the door.

I wrote a letter to the manager, and sent it. He called two days later, laughing. "This is the best letter I've ever seen. What a story! Did he actually say, 'What do you need?'" Turns out he had fired Mickey as soon as he got the letter, since this was third or fourth major complaint he had gotten in THAT ONE DAY. This, mind you, had been his (the manager's) first day at the new job: Day one--Fire Mickey. One of the causes for firing was "Eating on the job." Who would eat while changing oil?

And, when the manager stopped laughing, he offered me a free oil change in compensation. I love Hippy Lube. And God bless America.

Kgrease, bringing equilibrium to employment markets everywhere.

Edwards: Plotting the Presidency

John Edwards couldn't be running harder if he were being chased by a pack of Plott hounds (that's the NC state dog, by the way!).

After the election, I said that he would go back to law practice, or not. If he did, that meant his political aspirations were ended.

But he has a think tank, and a political organization and is giving talks all over the place.

This is costing him $10million a year, at least, in lost legal fees. So, he is serious.

So, he is definitely running. In fact, I am a little surprised he is running so openly. There is nothing coy or shy about this. He is going for it full bore, all the time.

The talks, the picket lines, the appearances at conferences....these are all the work of someone trying to build a resume. His particular weakness is foreign policy, of course. He is trying to build a record of knowledge about foreign policy (see the task force with Kemp), but it is going to be hard.

He has no relevant experience, and his time in the Senate gave absolutely no indication of either knowledge of or aptitude for foreign policy questions. Right now, Edwards is a one trick pony: Two Americas, Two Americas, etc. That's why he has the "One America Committee," to emphasize the two Americas theme. IF there were a Dem administration in the White House, he could get appointed to some kind of committee, or task force. But Bush is not going to help, so all Edwards can do is this aggressive "offensive of caring", where he makes appearances and expresses the fact that he really cares about foreign policy. (I'm joking. Some more jokes on Edwards)

Hillary has no more foreign policy experience than Edwards does, but she lived in the White House. She visited foreign dignitaries, presidents. She has flown on Air Force One. And, unlike Edwards, Hillary did things in the Senate the right way: she acted like a senator. She served on committees, did reports, and kept a low profile building experience and respect. Edwards acted like his hair was on fire, and never participated in the Senate as a Senator in any important way.

Hillary cannot win the general election; her negatives are too high (more than 50%, in some polls). But she might defeat Edwards in enough key primaries (New York, Massachusetts, California) to deny him the nomination.