Chris Uggen's Blog: April 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

soundtrack to brooke

Whenever I'm tempted to whine about the strains of academic life, I recall summer jobs cutting asbestos and spreading tar for minimum wage. By comparison, things seem pret-ty cushy down here at the brain mill. That said, we academics often sprint a bit harder at this time of year. Department chairs tend to shift into triage-mode, as we try to reconcile the important (curriculum, merit reviews, student registration) with the urgent (staffing events, payroll hiccups), and the urgently important (hiring, retention, personal crises for students, staff, and faculty).

The problem with triage is that slightly-less-urgently-important priorities (one's own research, service work, personal matters) tend to pile up and tangle themselves into a big hairy stress-inducing knot of unmet responsibility. I was fretting about these things tonight, when I happened upon the picture above. I have no idea why Brooke Harrington shared this groovy image on facebook and even less idea why it put me in such a good mood. But I figured I'd best spread it around a bit in case the feeling is contagious.

I had sooo many questions for the artist. Might the dancers be Ted Koppel and Dianne Sawyer, circa 1968? Judging from her shoes, bracelets, earrings, and dress, this was clearly not an era in which the kids worried about being too matchy-matchy. And where might I find the lad's boot-and-belt combo? I'd wear those tomorrow. Finally, and most importantly, what lurks beneath those awesome bangs? Their foreheads must be enormous!

In any case, Brooke's image was so affecting that I sought out the perfect soundtrack: Booker T. and the MGs at the height of their powers, grooving in some dance grotto.

Ah, that's better. Just a taste of green onions and we'll all be right as rain.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

editing and the elements of style

Professional editing is our "secret advantage" at TSP and this secret advantage has a name: Ms. Letta Page. Without her sharp-eyed and supportive editorial work, we'd be offering far less content on The Society Pages -- and what we could provide would be much sloppier and less readable. Together with web editor Jon Smajda, she's also responsible for much of the elegant design work and illustration you see around the site.

Associate editor Letta Page usually toils anonymously in her behind the scenes role as self-described editrix and language maven. Today, however, she's featured in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune style section. Letta's style and positive energy shine through in her editorial work, but she's also got killer fashion sense. Because her contemporaries are rarely so passionate about grammar, diction, and the (retro-cool) Elements of Style, she suspects that our authors tend to picture her as "the sort of editor who wears her glasses on a chain."

Ms. Page is also passionate about intellectual property, ensuring that we don't appropriate the work of photographers, writers, and artists without their permission. A shortened version of the article is online, but you'll have to purchase the newsprint version of this morning's Strib to see the full story and images.

Our authors don't care so much about our fashion choices, of course (which is fortunate, in light of the crimes against fashion routinely perpetrated by professors Uggen and Hartmann). But they do appreciate an editor who can simultaneously sharpen their prose and bring their ideas to full flower. Great editing, like great style, never goes out of fashion.