Friday, March 06, 2009
The Minds that Move the World
Well, I’m off for “spring” “break” to Cancun. Actually, we’re visiting Nick in New Haven, then I’m taking Jamie with me to sunny Iowa, and then I have to get myself to an AAUP meeting in Washington, DC. So lots of traveling, very little blogging, but maybe I’ll wind up with a whole bunch of new travel stories to blog about.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this. Back when I was the director of Illinois’ humanities program, we had our conferences and our lecture series and such things. For obvious reasons, it is much more difficult to host such things than to be a guest at them, and the experience taught me not only what it’s like to have Host Anxiety Dreams but also—I hope!—how to be a Good Guest. What’s it like to deal with the Guest From Hell? Well, one year, at the urging of a colleague, I booked a speaker who wound up changing his flight arrangements at the last moment, at a stunning cost of $1000, and then cancelled on us anyway. When he eventually arrived, the next semester, he gave a mildly interesting if off-the-cuff talk, went home, and then sent me an outraged email when his honorarium arrived, for, although it was in the amount we’d stipulated, it was not in the amount to which he had (quite quickly!) become accustomed. When I pointed this out to him, things quickly escalated to the point at which he threatened to tell my dean on me, to which I replied, please do, by all means, and I will be happy to copy your department chair and dean on all our correspondence, going back to your initial change of travel plans and subsequent cancellation. That ended that little exchange, and I don’t believe we’ve kept in touch since.
Anyway, having encountered a few Guests From Hell, I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to host an entire Speakers’ Series From Hell. And now I know! Check out this parade of horribles calling itself “The Minds That Move the World.” Holy greataunt of Moloch! It’s like watching cable teevee, live—for only $49.50 to $179.50 a seat! (Plus processing, handling, shipping, and convenience fees.) The most delicious event in this world-historical lineup, surely, has to be Janet Reno, Alberto Gonzales, and John Ashcroft discussing domestic and international law. Dang, Francisco Franco wasn’t available? What’s up for next year, the John Yoo / Dick Cheney Variety Hour? And hey, look here! It appears that “VIP tickets include a formal pre-show reception in the Roxy Suite with each evening’s speakers. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served and each guest will have a photo opportunity with the speakers.” Mmm, mmmm! Stuffed mushrooms, prosecco, and photo ops with people who authorize torture! Though the real downside of meeting and chatting with Gonzales is that he won’t even remember it later.
Anyway, the season-opening extravaganza featuring the world-moving minds of Bill Maher and Ann Coulter is this coming Monday, but if you’re busy next week, like me, you can hold out until Charlie Rose interviews James Carville and Karl Rove on May 26. For that one, VIP guests will be given a choice of a formal pre-show reception in the Roxy Suite or, if they prefer, a handful of sharp sticks suitable for plunging into their eyes and/or ears.