This is part two of Colin's talk with Dr. Brent J. Steele of the University of Utah about the academic job market. Colin and Brent start out by walking us through the interview process, including the infamous Dinner, in which a candidate talks with the committee and tries not to order too many drinks and say something stupid. From there, they get into interview nightmares, which range from problems with technology to rude dinner and lunch companions, to phone calls from long-forgotten committee people.
In the intro, Colin provides a Coronavirus update and debates whether anything we now know about the job market has been rendered moot by the pandemic. Happy April, y'all!
Dr. Brent J. Steele, head of the Political Science Department at the University of Utah (and loyal friend of the podcast) returns to American Rambler to talk about the (challenging? woeful?) state of the job market for Ph.D.s. Unfortunately the Coronavirus is only going to make harder an already daunting job search process. Is there hope for those wanting to land a tenure track position or just a good, stable job at some kind of research institution?
2020 may suck so far, but times have always been hard for scholars. And in Part I of this discussion, Brent and Colin talk about the many tricky turns in navigating the job market, from building your CV, to applying en masse, to getting that coveted first interview. What are grad students to expect when they are looking for work? More so, what might anyone expect who is trying to land a job at a college or university? Well, the good doctors are here to help!
A fascination with Game of Thrones inspired Megan Kate Nelson's new book, The Three-Cornered War, which examines the role of the Union, Confederacy and Native Americans in the southwestern theatre of the Civil War. It's Megan's third book. Now that she is writing full time, she shows no signs of slowing down.
Megan is a native of the West herself, and to write The Three-Cornered War, she traveled to the places she describes in her book. She lives in Massachusetts, but she is still fascinated by the West she grew up in. She is already working on her fourth book, on the history of Yellowstone, which is slated for publication in 2022.
Are you thinking about grad school? While they both have Ph.D.s, Colin and Megan talk about the difficulties of being on the tenure track and how one should maybe consider the option of "alt-ac" careers. What do you do with a Ph.D. if academia isn't for you? Megan has shown that there is life, and success, beyond the Ivory Tower. And you can start by deciding not to write for free anymore.
You can find out more about Dr. Nelson at: http://www.megankatenelson.com/
She lives near Austin now, but musician Bonnie Montgomery is a native of Arkansas. Raised in a musical family in Searcy that owned a music shop, she started playing classical piano at a young age. Later, she picked up a guitar. After graduating with a graduate degree in music, she taught in China, lived in Nashville, and traveled overseas with the popular (though now defunct) Arkansas group The Gossip.
She is known for her alt-country records, but it was an opera she co-wrote with a college friend that got her noticed. The subject: Bill Clinton, of course. With an opera to her credit, she soon turned to writing country songs.
Her self-titled, full album debut, Bonnie Montgomery, was released in 2014. Her work won her an Ameripolitan award in 2016 and got the attention of the Outlaw Country community. In 2018, she released Forever, her second album, which combines country and classical elements and features a duet with Dale Watson. These days, you can find her playing not only with Dale Watson but Ray Wiley Hubbard and Rosie Flores. Bonnie made her first appearance on the Outlaw Country Cruise this year and lived to tell the tale.
Music in this episode: "Joy" from Bonnie Montgomery; "Black County" from Bonnie Montgomery; "Goin' Out Tonight (with Dale Watson) from Forever; and "No More" from Forever. You can read more about Bonnie and buy her music at www.bonniemontgomerymusic.com.
Part two of Colin's talk with author and historian G. J. Meyer goes deeper into the writing life. It's an honest discussion of how the business works and how success is fleeting and difficult to predict amid the "sorry state of the American publishing industry."
Jerry is working on a novel, so he and Colin discuss the literary influences that have made Jerry want to write fiction. For him, those included The Paris Review, Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O'Connor, and Annie Poulx. They also find time to discuss Faulkner, Walker Percy, Robert Penn Warren, and how Otto Von Bismarck turned out to be a not-so-great subject to write about.
He lives in England now, but historian G. J. Meyer is a native of St. Louis, who developed his journalism chops at newspapers in the mid-west. Jerry rose in the ranks at the St. Louis Dispatch, and his writing won him a Neiman fellowship at Harvard. He published a book on a Memphis serial killer in 1974, but he eventually left journalism to work in corporate America, which became the basis for his second book, Executive Blues. He returned to writing full-time once he landed in New York and found a publisher for World Undone, a tour de force history of World War I.
In part one of his two part talk with Colin, Jerry discusses his winding path to becoming a full-time writer. He also talks about how World Undone was different from other books on the Great War, and how that tragic conflict changed the global landscape.
Colin welcomes back Dana Buckler, the Florida-based host of the popular movie podcast, The Dana Buckler Show (formerly How is This Movie?). Dana tells Colin about his path to success as a podcaster, including an honest discussion of some missteps he's made along the way. Dana, however, has seen his audience grow over the years as well as his guest list. What began as a one-man show has turned into an interview podcast featuring guests such as State of Grace director Phil Jouano, screenwriter Jim Hemphill, and Dana's biggest catch to date, John Travolta. Dana gives some good advice to aspiring podcasters and also talks about his future career plans, which were made possible by his podcast.
New York City writer Adam Bulger returns to American Rambler to discuss the recent death of legendary Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart. He also talks about the band's back catalogue.
Rush has always existed somewhere between contemptuous critics and adoring fans. Robert Christgau once called the Canadian trio "the most obnoxious band currently making a killing on the zonked teen circuit." Rolling Stone has written of Rush's "preconceptual roots as dull, perennially second-billed metal plotzers." Rush did not join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until 2013, 14 years after the band was first eligible.
Rush, nevertheless, is a staple of classic rock radio with such songs as "Tom Sawyer," "Limelight," "Spirit of the Radio," "Time Stand Still," and "Closer to the Heart." Love them or hate them, they are on the soundtrack of late 20th century American suburban life.
But should you like them? Mr. Bulger takes a deep dive into Rush, learning to appreciate the band as a listener and a guitar player. He recommends the Netflix doc Beyond the Lighted Stage to get a better sense of the band's history and music. Was the nerdy Neil Peart a rock god? Rush might live forever on your FM dial, but can they make Ayn Rand interesting?
Also, in the wake of the recent white supremacy/NRA rally in Richmond, Colin and Adam talk about gun control for 20 minutes. If you want to get to skip to Rush, it starts around the 30 minute mark.
Eric Foner is one of the most accomplished historians of the 19th century United States. His first book, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, about the rise of the Republican Party, is a classic. So too is his 1988 work Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, which won the Bancroft Prize. More recently, he has turned his attention to Abraham Lincoln. His 2011 book, The Fiery Trial, about Lincoln's views on slavery, won the Pulitzer and Lincoln Prize.
Eric discusses his early career at Columbia, including his experiences working with the renowned historian Richard Hofstadter, who won the Pulitzer Prize twice in his short life. Dr. Foner also discusses his politics, his views on the current state of the history profession, and the Trump administration.
He is retired from teaching, but Eric shows no signs of slowing down. He is still on a speaking tour for his most recent book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, which came out in September of 2019.
Colin merrily rings in the new year and a possible impending war with Iran by recapping his Christmas break. Mostly, it comes down to two words: Star Wars. Colin saw The Rise of Skywalker and finished the first season of The Mandalorian. He now has a serious crush on Baby Yoda.
Also, Marriage Story, zipper vs. pull-over hoodies, Chernobyl, Watchmen, Righteous Gemstones, and the joys of Friday brunch.
Wilco put out a new album in 2019 called Ode to Joy. To talk about it, Colin brings back historian and music expert Court Carney, a professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and a longtime Wilco fan. Together, Colin and Court discuss not just Wilco's new record, but the band's 25 year history.
Court was a fan of Uncle Tupelo, an early-90s southern Illinois alt-country band that featured songwriters Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, who would go on to form, respectively, Wilco and Son Volt. Initially, Court was on "team Jay" before becoming enamored with Jeff Tweedy's music.
Since putting out his first Wilco record, Tweedy has been involved in various side projects, including Golden Smog and Loose Fur, as well as the memorable Mermaid Avenue sessions, where Wilco and Billy Bragg interpreted unfinished Woody Guthrie songs. Tweedy has also done solo work by himself and with his son Spencer.
But Wilco endures. And how has the sonic journey of Wilco compared to other great bands, such as the Beatles, Dylan, and Led Zeppelin? Does Wilco's recent work measure up to expectations? Whether or not you love the latest record, Wilco still loves you, baby.
Musician and actor Ben Dickey is the star of the 2018 biopic Blaze, where he played the doomed, legendary singer-songwriter Blaze Foley. Blaze was from Arkansas and so is Ben. As he tells Colin, he learned music from his grandfather, who sang and played guitar, turning him on to country stars Jimmie Rodgers and Lefty Frizzell. Ben drew on many influences growing up, and by the time he was in high school, he was playing and recording for the math rock group Shake Ray Turbine.
Ben left Little Rock for Philadelphia. A day job as a chef helped him pay the bills, while he played live gigs and recorded several albums with Blood Feathers. In Philly, he met his lifelong sweetheart, who was friends with Ethan Hawke's wife. Ethan and Ben became friends, and Ethan would direct Ben in Blaze later. It was Ben's first major role, and his turn as Blaze won him an acting award at Sundance.
These days, Ben tries to balance a life as a busy actor and musician. Music remains his first love, but he is working with Ethan Hawke again on a cable series about abolitionist John Brown. The show will air in 2020 on Showtime.
Ben's been around the country and back, a journey that has involved everything from gigging in a Bob Wills cover band in Arizona to playing with John Prine and sharing the screen with Kris Kristofferson. Among his many talents, he also does a killer Bill Clinton impersonation.
Music in this episode: Ben Dickey and cast, "Let Me Ride in Your Big Cadillac" from Blaze soundtrack; Ben Dickey, "The Bizzy Waltz," from A Glimmer on the Outskirts; Ben Dickey and cast, "Clay Pigeons" from Blaze soundtrack; Ben Dickey; "Down the Shore," from Sexy Birds & Salt Water Classics.
Winston Hodges is a Richmond comic. He started doing comedy and experienced quick success back in 2015. A native of rural Virginia, he graduated from Virginia Tech before winning a contest at the Funny Bone, where he riffed on roller coasters. It was his first time doing comedy on stage. Ever.
Recorded at the Fuzzy Cactus in Richmond, Colin and Winston talk about the local comedy scene, doing blue material vs. working clean, fast food, commuting, and what it's like to get laughs around kids. They also tackle some heavy stuff, such as losing a family member to cancer.
Winston has a comedy album, Rad Bod as well as a podcast, the Winstmas Games. Here, you can hear him talk about his comedy influences and why he's exhausted with Louie CK. Also, this episode gives Colin a chance to pull out his impression of Bill Hicks's mom. You can check out Winston's upcoming dates at www.winstonhodges.com.
Wiseguy Adam Bulger stops by for an unprecedented third American Rambler appearance to talk about Martin Scorsese's new flick The Irishman. Adam thinks Scorsese is the best filmmaker of the 20th century, but how has he fared in the 21st? Does The Irishman measure up to expectations? How does it fit into the Scorsese canon?
This Siskel & Ebert-ish discussion soon evolves into a talk about other Italian-American directors, The Sopranos, and The Wire. Also, no conversation would be complete without a Dennis Miller impersonation courtesy of Mr. Bulger.
Virginia native Ben Cleary is the author of Searching for Stonewall Jackson, a non-traditional military history of one of the Civil War's most famous generals. As Ben tells Colin, his interest in "Old Jack" stems from how different the general seems to modern students of the war.
Ben's book builds on a career spent writing and teaching. He began his work on Jackson after writing articles for the New York Times "Disunion" feature during the Civil War sesquicentennial. He is also a veteran of the Richmond writing scene and has taught at public schools in the area and in the juvenile justice system.
Ben and Colin discuss Jackson's campaigns as well as the general's thoughts on slavery, religion, and family life. Ben talks, too, about his early writing career in the "Scarytown" era of Richmond and how he learned Russian literature from a chain-smoking countess at VCU.
Recorded earlier in the fall, Colin talks about his love of stand up comedy as well as his recent trips to the Funny Bone in Richmond, where he saw T. J. Miller and Doug Stanhope.
In the intro, the Rambler examines how there's no great way to travel from Virginia to Massachusetts by car. Hope you've digested all the turkey by now!
And hey, check out my blog post on Massachusetts comedy:
Dan Carter is one of the best historians of the South. A native of South Carolina, he won the Bancroft Prize for his first book, Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South, which was published in 1969. Since then, he has written about the Reconstruction period, before turning his attention to 20th century politics in The Politics of Rage: The Origins of the New Conservatism and the Transformation of Politics (1995) and From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963-1994 (1999). Retired from teaching, he lives in western North Carolina, where he is writing about the white supremacist, faux Native American, and Hollywood screenwriter, Forrest Carter.
Colin and Dan talk about southern politics; the realignment of parties in the late-20th century; the persistence of Lost Cause ideology; and worrisome nature of the Trump era.
American Rambler talks some music, including an overview of his vinyl collection, hitting on bands and solo artists in the H-J range. Ginger Baker makes an appearance from beyond the grave. Colin gives a few thoughts on the new Wilco record. And everyone should know about Adam Faucett.
Trae Wisecarver is the "Outlaw Historian," and he's not messing around. A native of southern Arkansas, he's working on his Ph.D in history at Texas A & M University, where he is writing about the Civil War in his home state.
Trae became a Twitter sensation in 2019. He took a cue from Keri Leigh Merritt and posted a video about the need for a new Civil War documentary that improves upon Ken Burns's 1990 film. Not one to shy away from a fight, Trae has run afoul of the dubious character Dinesh D'Souza as well as online Nazis, neo-Confederates, and other unsavory characters. Trae keeps up a spirited Twitter account, and after his original feed was suspended, he is back (and more fired up than ever.)
In addition to his interview show The Outlaw Historian, you can also catch his wrestling podcast, The Oh My Godcast: An ECW Retrospective, which he co-hosts with his friend Ben Dangerously.
In part two of Colin's talk with Brent J. Steele, Brent discusses his newest book, Restraint in International Politics, which is available from Cambridge University Press. And with several decades of college life between them, Colin and Brent talk about striking a good balance between work and life. How do you get scholarship done while also being a responsible family person? What changes will you have to make in your creative process? Are your days of third-shift writing over? Probably, but there are other ways of being productive.
In the intro, Colin talks about the World Series and how the Nat's were the team of destiny for reasons involving baby sharks, dancing, and Donald Trump.
Brent J. Steele is the head of the political science department at the University of Utah. As he tells Colin, it was an intro to American politics his freshman year at college that made him want to become a college professor. A native of Iowa, he also got his Ph.D. there. As an academic, he has a long list of publications that weave together analysis of American politics with ideas based in Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and modern psychology.
Brent stays busy. He has a book coming out soon from Cambridge University Press, Restraint and International Politics. He is also the host of his own podcast The Hayseed Scholar, which may or may not contain beer drinking. Colin and Brent cover a lot of ground concerning foreign policy and the political shifts in the period from Vietnam to the Trump and Twitter age.
In this short episode, Colin provides a brief overview of the General Sam V. Wilson Papers project, which he is working on at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Sam Wilson was a native of Rice, Virginia, and a veteran of the Burma campaign during World War II. The American offensive in Burma became the basis for the book and film Merrill's Marauders. Wilson survived that brutal campaign, and after the war, he learned Russian and went into intelligence. Years before people knew where Vietnam was, Wilson studied counter-insurgency, which became a doctrine for the U.S. military in Southeast Asia and beyond.
After serving in Vietnam, Wilson returned to intelligence work, living in the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. He retired from the military in 1977 and later became the president of Hampden-Sydney College. General Wilson died in 2017. The Wilson papers processing project began in July of 2019 and is funded for two years.
John Sacher is the head of the history department at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is also the author of A Perfect War of Politics: Parties, Politicians, and Democracy in Louisiana, 1824-1861. John has been on a steady career path, but as he tells Colin, he had his doubts about staying in the history game while he was in grad school.
John attended Notre Dame as an undergraduate. As much as he loved it there, he went to LSU for grad school. In Baton Rouge, he studied with William J. Cooper (a previous podcast guest). John completed a master's thesis and dissertation on Louisiana politics, which became the basis of his first book. After spending some years in Kansas, he is back in his home state of Florida. Now, he is finishing a book on conscription in the Confederacy, the first full-length scholarly book on the subject in many decades.
As John and Colin discuss, even for the most committed students, graduate school can be daunting. Also challenging is the move from scholar to administrator later in one's career--a path that might be as inevitable for some as it is practical.
Matt Hulbert was "born in the shadow of Stone Mountain," but it wasn't until much later in life that he knew the place's controversial history. By then, he was well on his way to becoming a Civil War historian. First, though, he had to lay aside his dream of becoming a cowboy.
Matt completed his doctorate at the University of Georgia, where he studied with John Inscoe. His dissertation won the C. Vann Woodward Prize. A year later, it was published as The Ghosts of Guerrilla Memory and won the Wiley-Silver Prize for best first book. He is now working on a biography of Virginia editor turned Missourian John Newman Edwards.
Matt and Colin talk about the eastern vs. western theaters as well as the violence that characterized both. Also, a certain recent article on the Civil War and the merits of social media came up. This is by far the best podcast recorded this year in a basement office at Hampden-Sydney College. And they raise the question: who would you rather have dinner with, Nathan Bedford Forrest or Robert E. Lee? Give it a listen!
In this mini-series, American Rambler talks about one of the two classic movies he saw on the big screen this summer. Jaws is one of Colin's favorite movies, but he had never seen it at a theater before. What did he notice this time around? Does it matter, when you've seen a movie dozens of time on TV, VHS, DVD, and even have read the book?
Yes, of course! So if you're a Jaws fanatic, you might want to give this one a listen. If you've never seen it, warning: spoilers abound!