Thursday, February 9, 2012


One of the real pleasures of US academic life is The Job Dinner.  This would have been unimaginable in England, when all the candidates get seen on one day, and - certainly in Oxford colleges - get (oh horrors) dined at the same time.  At least, that's what used to happen in my time.  So all the candidates look nervously around for Clues and Signs.  Who's taking whom into dinner?  Who's sitting next to who?  What implausible near-falsehoods is one trotting out in an effort to be Impressive.  There was a time when I held forth at some length on Kurdish politics and health care south of Diyabakir: I only hope the person I was talking to didn't already know anything about the subject.  That was a job that was already lost, anyway - the dinner was post all our interviews, and the person who was quite evidently the Successful Candidate was making himself into the life and soul of the (all male) common room group, and attacking the brandy in the drinks cabinet.  Those were grim social occasions.  My worst ever potential faux pas at one of these events (and I know at least one of the other people present will be reading this ... ) came at pre-dinner, pre interview drinks in (this time) a women's college.  College principal - Kate?  What would you like to drink?  - A gin and tonic, please.  [duly poured].  L--- ?  Oh, an orange juice.   D --- ?  An orange juice, please.  N---?  An orange juice for me too, please.  Happily, the tactful principal poured herself some whiskey.

Here, of course, one not only has the pleasure of the candidate's company, but one gets to talk with one's colleagues in an interesting way, AND one gets to eat in great places (at least in LA: I imagine it's different if one's in, for sake of example, Idaho [though who knows?]).  And, as this apparently infinite bar suggests, one needn't worry, if one's host or candidate, about what to have to drink.  Let me recommend the Pinot Grigio (let alone the food ...) at Osteria Mozza ...

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