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I Guess All Graduate Students Come From the Elite Classes. I Hereby Renounce My Ph.D. For Lacking Proper Skills in Snobbery

[ 190 ] August 1, 2012 |

So Inside Higher Ed ran basically the worst article ever written about how to be a good graduate student, by Katy Meyers, Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University:

Knowing wine used to be a skill that you were raised to possess. Wine was an ever-present entity on family dinner tables and at social gatherings. However, with the increasing standardization of wine, that has led to juicy high alcohol wines that all taste the same, there isn’t a need for this knowledge. Think about Barefoot or Yellow Tail- I’m not saying these are bad wines, but the taste they have is due to mass production techniques rather than being innate to the grape itself. Its similar to the production of light beers which has caused the loss of knowledge about actual beer styles.

Tasting wine is my favorite non-academic pursuit. If I gave up pursuing my PhD, I would probably go work on a winery. I grew up in the Finger Lakes Wine region, have taken numerous tasting tours in France, California and New York, and was on the 2010 Championship Blind Wine Tasting Team for University of Edinburgh. I’ve found that knowing wine is a surprisingly valuable skill for grad school. At those dinners with professors, I’ve used my wine knowledge to purchase the alcohol for the table, making sure to pick something that will pair with our meals. It is also nice to be able to engage in wine conversations with the ‘adults’.

So…….

“Knowing wine used to be a skill that you were raised to possess.” Is that so? All graduate students come from the elite classes! It’s a must! I know that when I was a kid, my parents, pulling in their solid $25,000 a year in the 80s, wouldn’t be watching TV after a hard day’s work. And they wouldn’t be just wanting to relax either. Nope. They’d put me and my brother in the car(74 Dodge Brougham if I recall correctly, at least for a time. When we were really well off, the 81 Plymouth Reliant K-Car, although ours had wood paneling on the side. Dad, if I’m wrong, tell me so.) and we’d head into the Willamette Valley wine fields. The Oregon wine industry was just starting in the early 80s, but my parents knew the only way I’d succeed in life is if I was raised to know wine. Chardonnay, Cabernet, whatever. My parents forced me to know wine. Really, if it wasn’t for their incredible sacrifice to teach me wine culture, where would I be right now? Cooking meth in a trailer on the edge of the Willamette National Forest, that’s where. After our wine excursions, despite the fact that my Dad was still covered in plywood glue, his arms full of wood slivers, and completely exhausted, we’d head home joyful with my new knowledge of wine culture. And really, was it even a sacrifice, since EVERYONE was taught wine culture in those days!

In all seriousness, the alcohol-related skill I was raised to possess was to get my Dad a Hamms after his 10 hour day in the plywood mill.

If I had a graduate student who pulled this snotty attitude when I was around, we’d be having a talk. First, the talk would be to quit sucking up. The second subject of the talk would be look around at colleges in the country and figure out what type of people you think you are going to be teaching, because it probably ain’t wine snobs who grew up in the Finger Lakes region and have participated in wine taste tests. The third subject of the talk would be my 10 minute rant about how not to think that just because you are a graduate student that you think you are better than regular people.

And really, what’s with the “adults” bit? I don’t know about the anthropology department at Michigan State, but this kind of thing would not go over AT ALL with most of the academics I know. When I meet a graduate student, the last thing I want to see is some put-on false sophistication. I can tolerate quite a bit from people, but not that. I want to see intellectual interest, hopefully the ability to communicate with regular people (these are graduate students and future academics so it’s hardly a given), and general camaraderie, engagement, and curiosity.

What I don’t want to see is pretension. I ain’t no damn “adult.” I’m just a dude who cares an awful lot about the past and the present and the future and making people’s lives better. If I can shape a few graduate students a tiny bit, that’s cool. But I ain’t more than that. I have some skills and do what I can with them, just like an auto worker, a plumber, or a public school teacher.

And if any graduate student tries to order wine for me (and really, if everyone knows this skill, shouldn’t the “adults” be doing it not only for themselves but for the “children,” i.e. graduate students), not only am I going to order 8 Coors Lights in a row, but I am going to proceed to talk VERY LOUDLY AND FOR A VERY LONG TIME about the snobbery of wine culture and how it is a betrayal of working-class America to think you drink better than other people.

God knows I have developed my own tastes in alcohol. Less in wine than beer and whiskey, but still. Quality wine is a great thing. But so is cheap wine and it doesn’t make you any less of a person to say, Hey! I have $3 and I want a bottle of wine and I am going to Trader Joe’s and getting a bottle of Three Buck Chuck. Or for that matter to get a 6-pack of Bud Light tall boys. And it damn well doesn’t make you a better person to put on airs about what wine goes with the fish when you are dining with your exam committee.

Most of all, thinking that being smart about wine or any other “adult” topic is going to help your graduate career is absurd. How about writing a good dissertation instead? The people I respect are those that do good work, regardless of economic background, social class, or taste in alcohol.

UPDATE: As a friend of mine said about this on Twitter, “It’s as though Charles Murray paid someone to write a piece making academics look like the elitists he thinks they are.” Boom!

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  1. William Burns says:

    Do you respect people who do good work even if they’re wine snobs? How do you know Katy Myers doesn’t do good work? And spare us the prolier than thou inverse snobbery.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Of course I’d respect the work if it was good–but I don’t respect the snobbery. This piece is a course in how to suck up to professors–both bad advice and the worst kind of ass-kissing.

      • Dave says:

        Those two paragraphs are certainly teeth-achingly pretentious, and amazingly clueless for someone who purports to be an anthropologist.

        • justaguy says:

          Seriously – presumably if he hasn’t read Bourdieu’s Distinctions, he’s come across the idea that the kind of aesthetic judgments he’s bragging about being able to make are ways of naturalizing social class.

          • justaguy says:

            *She, that is.

            • William Burns says:

              Of course, another way of reinforcing class barriers is when a member of a subordinate class (eg. a graduate student) is mocked by a member of a dominant class (eg. a professor) for having tastes above their station. At least Loomis hasn’t called for a revival of sumptuary laws.

              • Brett says:

                I too am going with: LOL WUT?

              • Warren Terra says:

                You don’t seem to understand the difference between being able to talk interestingly and non-condescendingly about an interest, whether it be wine or accordian bands, and sneering at the plebeian ignorance of not only your graduate student peers but also your professors, presuming to order the wine for the table and to lecture the others about your superior knowledge.

                Think of it like taste in music: rhapsodizing about how great your favorite band is makes you human. Hectoring someone about how shit their taste in music is makes you a dick. Now add snobbery, and snobbery of a specifically class-conscious sort. And not only class-conscious: tremendously wealthy and cultured people all over the world have no interest in wines, either because they consume no alcohol or because their culture doesn’t traditionally drink its alcohol in that form.

                If the author had written her piece about the value of having outside interests, and that through discussion of these you can establish a human connection with your academic peers and superiors, and that hers happened to be wine, that’d be fine. And Loomis, fan of fine tipples that he is, would doubtlessly never have objected. It’s the absurd sneering at the allegedly inferior knowledge of those around her that rankles.

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  I actually would love to talk to a graduate student–or anybody–about accordion bands. Or at least accordions in bands.

                • rea says:

                  Fine, high class accordian bands, though, I’m sure . . .

                • Holden Pattern says:

                  Play accordion, go to jail, it’s the law.

                  More seriously, JAMES FEARNLEY!

                • William Burns says:

                  What I read here is a tenured (I believe Loomis is tenured, if not, sorry) professor mocking a graduate student, already setting my teeth on edge, and then describing a couple of his fantasies about humiliating graduate students. So as an ex-graduate student, you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t join Loomis’s cheering section on this one. (BTW, none of the quoted material appears at the link; has the post been altered?)

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  Tenured? Check back in 5 years.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Or at least accordions in bands.

                  David Thomas of Pere Ubu is the underappreciated musical genius of our time.

                  Discuss.

                • Warren Terra says:

                  By the way, William Burns, when you wrote:

                  describing a couple of his fantasies about humiliating graduate students

                  Loomis says that if he saw a student making a display of themselves in a dickish fashion, he’d want to have a talk to them. You presume this would be done in public, to shame the student. A more likely interpretation – and I write this because I’ve been on both sides of it – is that it can be a very generous act to take someone aside and quietly explain to them that they may not be aware of how their behavior is being perceived by those around them, and the possible effects this could have.

                  The student who authored this piece embarrassed herself yesterday, and has now obviously realized this, as evidenced by the editing of the post. Doubtlessly in her post she was expressing views that she’d previously expressed in less public venues, with friends. Don’t you think she would have been better served by one of those friends having a quiet word with her, telling her that the way she expresses some of her views was likely to offend?

                • William Burns says:

                  Oh, for heaven’s sake, Warren. Did you even read the post? Are the words “ten-minute rant” and “very loudly” associated with “a quiet word”?

                • Warren Terra says:

                  William,
                  Look three paragraphs earlier for the section where Loomis says he’d have a word with the student, quite likely in private. The section you are referring to, in which Loomis says he’d respond in kind if a student attempted to snottily demonstrate their superiority to him in public, is separate.

                • William Burns says:

                  The section you refer to is the one that includes the phrase “ten-minute rant.” If you think that’s appropriate behavior from a professor to a graduate student, we have nothing to discuss.

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  Right–you must be unfamiliar with hyperbole.

                • justaguy says:

                  What are you even talking about? My advisor one talked to me and some of her students about her love and knowledge of wine. The conversation was about how, up until she got tenure she was obsessed with her research and then she just said, “fuck it, I’m going to learn abut something different.” You need, she told us, to have interests outside your research or you’ll burn out. That’s a conversation about wine which is in no way pretentious.

                  This article is about how knowledge of how to appreciate wine is a necessary mark of sophistication which everyone should have. It presupposes that there was a back in the day when “most Americans” could go to an expensive restaurant and discuss/appreciate the wine selection. And it suggests that grad students need to develop this level of sophistication to impress others.

                  As practical advice, its absurd – this is in no way reflective of my experience of grad school. And its suggesting that a set of knowledge which is expensive to acquire is necessary for appearing to be an adult. Which is silly.

                • Warren Terra says:

                  Justaguy,
                  I have no idea whom you’re addressing. I’m pretty sure it isn’t me.

      • William Burns says:

        Yes, because sucking up to professors is never an effective strategy for grad students. How I wish I lived in your world of flawless meritocracy!

    • Craigo says:

      She can only be judged by the product she puts forth. This, sadly, is it.

  2. Manju says:

    When do you start raising the kids to know wine? Age 5? 13? Probably 5, right?

    You want to leave some time to teach them the bong. Comes in handy in college, right after tapping a keg.

  3. Thers says:

    The idea of a grad student “judging” free alcohol. Like back in the day I judged the free cheese cubes.

  4. djw says:

    The whole “pine for a past in which all that’s wrong with our world war right, before the fall” jeremiad is such a common trope it barely warrants mentioning, but the notion that there was once a (better) time when “most Americans” were wine-literate. Of course, she probably means “most Americans of the social classes I assume to populate academia” but even that seems empirically implausible. We’re at our post-Prohibition peak for wine consumption as a nation, and it’s driven much more by the young than the old. So if there is a golden age of wine snobbery literacy, this is probably it.

    Also, isn’t this the kind of bullshit we’d expect to see in the Chronicle? I thought the whole point of IHE was to do what the Chronicle should be doing, without the trolling and the idiocy.

    • Heron says:

      Well writ, and yet another reason to strongly doubt Ms. Meyers’ scholarly abilities, considering both the USian aversion to wine and booze-snobbery are hardly obscure bits of knowledge. It pains me to give a complement to the History Channel, but a viewer who watched any one of the three episodes in which Modern Marvels covers alcohol(wine, beer, and spirits) would have a far better understanding of the history of drinking in the United States than Ms. Meyers exhibits in this article.

      What really makes this a farce, however, is that wine knowledge is, objectively, a farce. As every double-blind scientific study of wine-tasting ever done has shown, the skills at identification which wine snobs claim are all so much hokum, and the “nose”(the smell, but calling it that is hardly pretentious enough I guess) of a wine is entirely subjective; a point Ms. Meyers herself makes without realizing it in step 3 of the how to taste properly section of her article. Along a similar vein, the whole concept of “pairing” wine to different foods is also entirely subjective. The palette of the eater is what determines which wines taste good with which foods; the concept that certain wines fit certain dishes* is a cultural, and specifically a class, distinction, not one founded in reality.

      Wine snobbery began as a way to distinguish social class and so it remains; far from revealing her “knowledge” here, Ms. Meyers has merely revealed her class-conscious disdain for the “rabble” unschooled in the finer fripperies of wealth.

      *Though this is hardly restricted to wine. The rise of Whiskey, Gin, and vodka snobbery in the US -and the related rise of Spirit-tasting parties- during the last decade was one of the first signs to me that we were headed into a far more aristocratic era than had pertained previously. Rich people always want to distinguish themselves from the non-rich, and the major way they do that is by introducing class into the everyday things that they like via “specialized knowledge”(ie, snobbery) and “elite goods”(i.e. new brands of the same stuff but with exclusionary prices).

      • Craigo says:

        I came here to post the double-blind part, which I’m apt to raise at social gatherings involving both 1) wine and 2) companions who are insufferably snotty about wine. But, only when those two conditions coincide, I swear.

        • Heron says:

          Oh indubitably, good sir; I would never charge a fellow pedant of unnecessarily belaboring a point outside the proper context.

        • Laura C says:

          Make me the third (at least) who came in to mention the blind trials issue. And the evidence keeps stacking up on that front.

          Yeah, there’s terrible wine. And actually, I’m with that idiot on Yellow Tail. But it’s not because it’s mass-produced, it’s because it’s manufactured for people with soda-drinker’s palates, ie intentionally sweet. But that’s just not my taste.

          A friend of mine calls it the bullshit horizon in wine pricing: past a certain (pretty low) price point, it’s all about placebo effect and what quality you think you’re getting.

        • Warren Terra says:

          I’ve had blind taste tests with friends. None of us claimed to know much, and it was for fun, and we paired the wines with the wrong sorts of snacks and didn’t stay sober. Done that way, it can be good fun. And FWIW, it turned out that our preferences had no correlation to price, though we were hardly reaching into the stratosphere in the wines we sampled (though some of the cheapest wines did taste off somehow).

      • Erik Loomis says:

        The rise of bullshit in the beer world is really frustrating to me as well. Anyone who uses the term “mouthfeel” can please stop talking.

        • Heron says:

          Yup, I’d even go so far as to say it is a betrayal of the very values of beer itself. What is the proper venue for beer drinking? The proletarian Pub and the egalitarian Beer Garden!

    • djw says:

      The article has now been mysteriously altered, removing the implausible claim I mock here. But it really was there last night! Opening sentence, even!

  5. bbot says:

    And if they were STEM grad students, they’d be buying vodka off the internet, for the best possible alcohol mL/dollar ratio.

    • bbot says:

      Doing the math…

      Assume $3 Chuck actually costs you $3. Assume 12.5% ABV, for a 750mL bottle that’s 93.75mL of alcohol: 31.25mL/dollar

      thewhiskeyplace will sell me a 1750mL bottle of Svedka vodka for $23.99. Assume 40% ABV, and no shipping or tax, that’s 29.17mL/dollar!

      Slightly worse! Guess I was wrong.

      • Warren Terra says:

        1) Here in CA it’s Two Buck Chuck.
        2) I don’t really buy booze, but I think you can go cheaper than your vodka price quote.

        • bbot says:

          I picked mid-shelf because I wanted a vodka you could at least theoretically drink neat, rather than introducing mixers into the price equation. thewhiskeyplace also sells 1750mL of Georgi vodka for $14, which seems ominous.

          • Walt says:

            If you’re truly committed to saving money, but not quite committed to drinking anything irrespective of taste, you’d buy the cheapest vodka and stick it in the freezer. (Apparently you can also run it through a water filter, like a Brita, but I don’t know how cost-effective that is — I don’t know how much vodka you can run through a single filter.)

      • localnebula says:

        Wild Irish Rose was $2.99/bottle at Albertson’s when I lived in WA. It’s 18% ABV, so that’s 45.15 mL/$. Also, a handle (1750mL) of everclear is $17.99 at the liquor store down the street, which is a ridiculous 92.41 mL/$. Need mixers to avoid chemical burns with that one, though.

    • Sev says:

      Dunno about vodka. I used to swill 190 lab alcohol when I had the privilege of working in a lab. Burns a little, but you get used to it.

    • Patrick says:

      Before WA did away with state liquor stores the Liquor Control Board even had an excel spreadsheet on their site with each brands volume, proof and price. One row of formulas later and you can find the best value – I’d recommend it as a mixer only though. Bounced between 100 proof Prince Alexis(?) and Popov if I recall correctly.

      • elm says:

        Oh lord, Popov vodka. Many a fine night drinking Popovs in college.

        Hey, it was a step up from the Vodka City brand Vodka. (Real thing. Made in fabulous Perth Amboy, NJ, though I can find no evidence of it online anymore. OK, maybe it was all a Popov’s inspired hallucination…)

  6. ironic irony says:

    Her article seems like a long winded way of saying “I like wine. Alot.”

    Me, too. Nothing like kicking back with a glass of eiswein and watching the WWE.

    • gmack says:

      I will add that there is a decent amount of this kind of idiotic snobbery in certain wings of the academy. Just to have more fun with stereotypes, my experience is that philosophers are the worst. In one dinner party conversation, two male philosophers who didn’t get along were talking about scotch, and eventually one of them literally challenged the other to name all of the single isle Scotches. Even funnier is that the person challenged actually named a good many of them, but the sheer infantile nature of the exercise seemed to be lost on all involved.

      • CJColucci says:

        I hosted a party once at which an invitee’s date slugged down the remains of a bottle of Cardhu scotch, a pretty good, but not — to my taste at least — great single-malt. He went on and on about how that’s all he drinks and how wonderful it was, and was there any more.
        I took the empty bottle, went back to the kitchen, and filled it with Passport, an acceptable cheap scotch for mixed drinks, but that’s about it. His eyes lit up and he kept slugging it down, neat, rhapsodizing all the way.
        The invitee eventually dumped him. I’d like to think I had something to do with that.

  7. blowback says:

    She might be correct, with the outsourcing of jobs to China &c impoverishing the so-called American middle classes (bunch of oiks if ever I saw one). can any of them afford to eat out anywhere other than Macdonald’s or Denny’s these days. Perhaps it is time for Macdonald’s to raise their game. Côte-MacRôtie or Château-MacGrillet anyone?

  8. c u n d gulag says:

    Ah, I remember when I went to college, you could always count on seeing Orson Welles hawking Paul Masson wines.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSs6DcA6dFI

    And every time he’d say, “We sell no wine before it’s time,” we’d all pop open the nearest beer, glug the nearest wine or booze, or take a hit on a joint or bong, and yell “IT’S TIME!!!”

    Back then, we weren’t wine snobs – we were drunken slobs.

    Ah, memories…
    I wish I had more of them.

  9. Cody says:

    Surely if she ordered a vodka martini on your dinner excursion, you would have a similar talk to her. Maybe someone from LGM “War On Vodka” staff should write a comment for IHE about Gin!

  10. Ken Houghton says:

    we’d head into the Willamette Valley wine fields. The Oregon wine industry was just starting in the early 80s, but my parents knew the only way I’d succeed in life is if I was raised to know wine. Chardonnay, Cabernet, whatever.

    Geez, Loomis, the best bloody Pinots in the World and you’re talking about Wine for Women Who Don’t Drink and something Californians do better.

    Have you no shame, man? Can you not see that your parents scarred you for life with their poor choices?

  11. Corey says:

    OK dude, we get it, you’re a super-authentic representation of the working class.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Needs moar Lennon.

    • mark f says:

      God, Erik is such a rent seeker.

    • Walt says:

      OK dude, we get it. You have a weird obsession with Erik and everything he says.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      What’s funny about what a dipshit you are about Erik is that the wine industry is FULL of working class people who know the wines as well as or better than the snobs they sell to (and in many cases, work for, since investing in winemaking is sort of a vanity project for bored rich people).

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Right–part of the problem here is the idea that decent wine is something that separates us by class. Why on earth should that be the case?

      • Jon says:

        For that matter, it’s not like the Finger Lakes in particular are Napa Valley or something (is Napa Valley a bunch of 1%er jetsetting fat cats or something? I don’t know). I mean, hell, I’ve been to Seneca Lake, there are some wineries with aspirations, but nowhere you can’t get a bottle for $12 or a tasting for a couple bucks. And of course there’s the places where the party buses pull up, packed with happy drinkers who probably haven’t sat through many anthropology lectures.

  12. DrDick says:

    Speaking on behalf of the anthropology profession, and I actually know a couple of people at MSU, we don’t know this twit, we don’t want to know this twit, and if we ever saw this twit we would laugh and point. While it is changing, anthropologists tend to be beer snobs, not wine snobs, and we pride ourselves on our down-to-earthness (sometimes fake, but still). She might get away with this at the Ivies or Berkeley, but MSU is a pretty blue collar attitude school (at least from the people I have met).

    • bradp says:

      This is a generalization and not meant to question your down-to-Earth bonifides, but it just seems like anthropology would be a field of study that would complement snobbiness.

      • Craigo says:

        Generally curious, why would that be?

        • bradp says:

          The subject matter, really. Trying to explain human behavior is tough, and would seem to draw people who think they are good at it. And then, in turn, if you think you are good at understanding and explaining human behavior, you might also be inclined to snobbery.

          Same thing goes for economists.

          And it is mostly just pulled from my ass.

          • Furious Jorge says:

            As a recovering economist, I’m going to have to argue with you … but only a little.

            There is a large gap between believing you are good at understanding and explaining human behavior, and thinking you are better than those other humans whose behavior you are explaining. You are making an unsupported logical leap, though you do at least more or less admit it in your original comment.

            That said, I have found this attitude to be more common in economics than in the other social sciences I’ve had the opportunity to explore. It’s a big part of why all the other economists won’t pick me for dodgeball at recess, I think.

            • Anonymous says:

              There is a large gap between believing you are good at understanding and explaining human behavior, and thinking you are better than those other humans whose behavior you are explaining. You are making an unsupported logical leap, though you do at least more or less admit it in your original comment.

              Yeah. I don’t mean to say that one logically follows from the other. There are certainly many examples of people who buck the trend (if the trend exists at all).

              I just think if you pull a bunch of people with the former characteristic, you are likely to come up with a higher ratio of people who have the latter.

              That said, I have found this attitude to be more common in economics than in the other social sciences I’ve had the opportunity to explore. It’s a big part of why all the other economists won’t pick me for dodgeball at recess, I think.

              I have no doubt this is true.

            • gmack says:

              Just to add to this: in my view the ability to explain human behavior ought to be understood precisely to make one “worse” (or dumber) than the people one is explaining. All humans have an astonishing mastery of an amazing array of subtle social rules, cues, etc. Apparently, most people can utilize and understand those rules without social scientific training. Only morons like me have to think about them at great length. I’m being mildly facetious, but only mildly: in my view, the only thing I ever do is make explicit a bunch of stuff that everyone already knows. If I know something, it’s not some great insight, but only an ability to speak well or craft. Or put differently, among academic social scientists there are no great thoughts, only great expressions.

      • DrDick says:

        Snobbery is not generally an effective way to establish rapport with your subjects, who tend not to be wealthy. Most anthropologists get into the field because we like people (except some archaeologists and the bone folks) and we spend much of our careers among the downtrodden of the earth. We mostly tend to be fairly leftish politically, though there are exceptions.

        • Anonymous says:

          we spend much of our careers among the downtrodden of the earth

          Fair enough, but microbiologists could make the claim that they spend their careers among bacteria. (Well, we can all say that, but I will get to the point)

          How is an anthropologist to keep herself from viewing people the way a mathematician views numbers. Then, on the other hand, how does an anthropologist maintain objectivity in the kind of immersion you refer to?

          And I would also point out that it seems to me that past experience would show students of human culture have tended to not view their subjects as equal. How much of a problem is inaccuracy from giving other cultures too much credit?

          Again, this is not a knock. I love the subject (and I can be snobby), and I’m actually curious.

        • firefall says:

          Clearly you haven’t spent enough time studying the esoteric folkways of the Chinless Wonders of Lesser Twittiana, with their quaint automobile lifts and gem-studded toilets. I recommend an indepth analysis.

        • John says:

          There are plenty of leftish snobs.

      • Bruce Baugh says:

        I’ve been reading some general-audience medieval history lately, so now I’ve got that plus this comment rattling around in my head:

        Indulge in snobbishness when studying anthropology.

        Indulge in simony when studying economics.

        …and so on.

      • MPAVictoria says:

        Really? I would say Law or Business would be more conducive to snobbery.

    • Michael H Schneider says:

      “anthropologists tend to be beer snobs”

      Doesn’t that tend to vary by specialty? I’ve seen a lot of archeologists drinking beer, and a lot of primatologists drinking all manner of stuff, and the post structuralist hermaneutics folks drinking wine. Also, what’s done while in the field may not be be what’s done while on campus.

      FWIW, this prson probably doesn’t hoist too many with the subjects of her research. She’s into mortuary studies.
      http://www.bonesdontlie.com/

    • elm says:

      I think you nail something that Erik is missing: this type of snobbery plays spectacularly well at the elite schools. If that’s the crowd you’re running in (or wish to run in), being able to talk about wine and sucking up to professors is exactly what you should be doing. I don’t know anything about the MSU anthro program, so I don’t know if this grad student has any chance of grabbing one of those snooty jobs, but there are plenty of places in academia where being able to at least pretend to have the right class markers is quite helpful.

      • DrDick says:

        I think that is true. Some of the anthropologists I know from elite schools (Chicago, northwestern, Columbia, and Berkeley) can be a bit snobbish, but generally less so than their colleagues in other fields.

    • wjts says:

      …anthropologists tend to be beer snobs, not wine snobs, and we pride ourselves on our down-to-earthness…

      Somebody’s never read Michael Silverstein.

      (But, yes, beer is the drink of choice for almost every anthropologist I know.)

  13. bradp says:

    I Hereby Renounce My Ph.D. For Lacking Proper Skills in Snobbery

    Don’t sell yourself short!

  14. Rob says:

    Coors is a fucking scab beer. Go with Pabst, Miller, or Bud

  15. Growing up in the Finger Lakes region isn’t any sort of qualification to be a wine snob.

    • Marek says:

      Right. I don’t know when she grew up there, but only recently have some of the regional wines reached the quality (or price) that a snob would deem worthy.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Yeah, as I found out on a recent tour with some homework you can find some good reds (Damini is especially good), but unless you really like Riesling it’s not exactly a haven for wine snobs.

        • CJColucci says:

          Ditto on Finger Lakes wines. Then there’s Long Isalnd. Several years ago, my wife (a master of finding dood, inexpensive wines), her sister, and I hit the north fork wineries. At one tasting, my sister-in-law tasted something that went for $20 (this was about 10 years ago). Not bad, but you could get a lot better version of the same thing from South America or Australia in those days for $7-8. My sister-in-law said: “I’ve never tasted a $20-a-bottle wine.” My wife said, “You still haven’t.”

          • cayuga says:

            BITD, Finger Lakes wines were best appreciated at 17. The long since departed Prior Dark was enjoyable at any age.

          • Jon says:

            Last fall I was at a small winery up there when a short, bearded man, very much playing the part of Paul Giammatti, starting fuming that he would never pay $30 for a bottle of New York wine. The crowd chastised him and he shut up.

            He was being a prick, but he probably wasn’t entirely wrong.

  16. Guillermo says:

    One of the main reasons I went to grad school (physics) was because I wanted to work around people who didn’t give a single fuck “adult” things. For most physicists and grad students I know, bathing and getting dressed are already Herculean efforts which really only get done when the inspiration is there, nevermind knowing about wine!

  17. Guillermo says:

    Also, here’s the San Francisco wine scene, around 1890 (?), courtesy of Jack Black:

    “The wine dumps, where the wine bums or ‘winos’ hung out, interested me. Long, dark, dirty rooms with rows of rickety tables and a long bar behind which were barrels of the deadly ‘foot juice’ or ‘red ink,’ as the winos called it…
    The patrons of the wine dumps were recruited from every walk of life. Scholars, quoting Greek and Latin poets, lawyers dissecting Blackstone, writers with greasy rolls of manuscript fraternized with broken bums from the road, sailors too old for the sea, and scrapped mechanics from the factories — all under the lash of alcohol. They sat in groups at the tables drinking the wine, alcohol in its cheapest and deadliest form, from every conceivable kind of vessel: tin cans, pewter mugs, beer glasses, stems, and cracked soup bowls — anything unbreakable that the boss could buy from the junkman. They talked volubly. They seldom laughed and never fought—too far gone for laughing and fighting.”

    Classy!

  18. Ya know what’s fun? Getting a free ticket to a wine tasting, then mortifying half of the people in the room by pointing out that wine tasting is hokum. I was just there for the free wine (and I like wine, fwiw).

  19. Randy says:

    “I . . . was on the 2010 Championship Blind Wine Tasting Team for University of Edinburgh.”

    What does competitve wine-tasting look like? Are you judged by the number of adjectives you can come up with? Extra points for good brow-furrowing?

  20. greylocks says:

    As someone who grew up in the Finger Lakes region and who attended The University Formerly Known as Michigan Agricultural College aka The University That Takes the Students U Mich Won’t, let me say that no one who has done either is in any position to be a snob.

    And about all you need to know about Finger Lakes wines is that at any price point, there are dozens if not hundreds of California wines that are better. The climate is not actually suited to growing great grapes.

  21. Bill Murray says:

    I’ve found that knowing wine is a surprisingly valuable skill for grad school. At those dinners with professors, I’ve used my wine knowledge to purchase the alcohol for the table, making sure to pick something that will pair with our meals.

    Anthropology is clearly much different than my engineering field. I don’t think I ever had a dinner with my advisor, although I did have dinner at a conference with the dean of my college.

    I also haven’t had dinner with more than a couple of grad students in my professorial career. This may be due to my misanthropy

  22. Dana says:

    Well, with the wholesale disinvestment in the public sector I’m sure we can look forward to a future where pretty much every grad student comprehends the world in much the same way as the New York Times Style section. The only people who’ll able to afford a phd, esp. in the humanities, will be the independently wealthy.

  23. Yellow Dog says:

    Superb rant, Erik. Doesn’t apply to bourbon here in Kentucky, of course, where you can’t really write a decent dissertation if you don’t know the difference between Old Grandad and Woodford Reserve.

    • Furious Jorge says:

      What amazes me about the distilleries in Kentucky is how many of them really seem to believe their own bullshit about how the limestone aquifer “purifies” the water and makes it special. The opposite is actually true – limestone, or karst, aquifers offer pretty much no natural filtration of groundwater at all, due to limestone’s wicked impermeability. The water just flows through cracks and crevices that are far too large to filter out anything at all – so if someone pours some old grotty motor oil into a sinkhole outside of Lexington one morning, it could hypothetically be in a barrel of bourbon by that evening.

  24. dave brockington says:

    “Cooking meth in a trailer on the edge of the Willamette National Forest, that’s where.” Considering revenue streams, start-up costs, opportunity costs (all those un-earning years in grad school), my thinking is that meth production would have been the superior choice in economic terms. Plus, you have control over your ultimate geographic disposition.

  25. Linnaeus says:

    I like wine and my rule about wine drinking is “good wine is wine you like”. That’s all you need to know.

    • Warren Terra says:

      She does end her article saying something like this.

      Amusingly, even then she’s snobbish: she concedes that if you’re irredeemably indiscriminate in your tastes you might as well enjoy drinking a $6 bottle of Cabernet from Trader Joe’s. Regular shoppers at Trader Joe’s will know this means she is referring to one of the wines they sell specifically to be moderately fancier than their famous Charles Shaw “Two-Buck-Chuck” (Three-Buck-Chuck in some areas). Even when trying to embrace the drinking of cheap wine she can’t quite being herself to do it.

    • CD says:

      “You should drink what you like,” with the appropriate tone of condescension, is no less snobbish. (Say it aloud with an emphasis on “you.”)

  26. meg says:

    It appears the part you quoted here is no longer part of the blog post on Inside Higher Ed?

  27. Phoinix says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I found some outstanding cheap wine pairings to go with pizza in grad school. Expensive doesn’t always mean good either, something you should really have understood by the time you’re a grad student.

    Yeah, there’s a lot of politics in grad school, but being a condescending snob isn’t going to help you out at all. Frankly you don’t get through school on your own, you need people to help you out along the way with advice, assistance or favors, and being a pretentious brat is going to shut off a lot of that help. Try doing research if the library or archive staff (including the undergrad staff working there) hate your guts. God help you if you get on the wrong side of the departmental admin staff. And will your peers cover your discussion section for you while you’re sick or need to leave town suddenly? Seriously, making it through grad school is an unending series of give-and-take situations that depend as much on your ability to get along with people as it does your academics.

    Can you make it through by being a self-involved brat? Sure, but it’s a lot harder (and THEN you have to find a job… So good luck with that kiddo).

    And the fastest way to make a prof hate your young little guts is to pretend to have knowledge and experience that you don’t.

    I’m SURE her comments brought tears of joy to the eyes of advertising and brand executives everywhere though.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Was the post edited? I don’t see the quoted paragraphs when I click through.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Yes–it was cut in half after a lot of people expressed irritation.

      • Warren Terra says:

        But it’s done in a really dishonest, disreputable way. There’s no acknowledgment that a previous version existed, or that it has been edited. Sure, the previous version was an embarrassment and even potentially a very minor professional liability for this young woman – but there ought to be some indication that the existing version has been edited in response to comments, even if she doesn’t go into detail. I’m actually a bit worried about the editorial and ethical policies of the IHE over this bit of Memory Hole whitewashing.

        And there’s no Google Cache of the old version …

  29. CD says:

    The intro to the IHE piece has been pruned back quite a lot, including removing “the production of light beers which has caused the loss of knowledge about actual beer styles.” so it seems unfair to go after it now, but notice the dominant trope lamenting the loss of an older, local, attentive-to-nature knowledge. As djw points out this never existed for wine; this is bullshit history for beer too.

    And I clearly went to the wrong grad school. Our miserable stipends barely covered beer.

    • Linnaeus says:

      And I clearly went to the wrong grad school. Our miserable stipends barely covered beer.

      I think that’s what we used our loan money for.

    • DrDick says:

      When I was in grad school, the favorite beer of grad students was Old Milwaukee, because it was the cheapest so you could get really drunk.

      • Bill Murray says:

        we had a bar that had $1 pitchers of Ole Mil during Monday Night Football (on the only big screen in town). Those were 15+ pitcher nights for my friends and I

      • Dennis says:

        That’s currently why most of the people in my department get PBR for student run events. But I suppose that’s engaging in super negative double reverse snobbery for some reason these days?

  30. Peter Hovde says:

    As the scion of an academic family, I naturally received instruction in dueling and the minuet as a youth.

  31. herr doktor bimler says:

    I was just saying at the High Table the other night, how embarrassing it is when social climbers over-egg the pudding in their attempts to imitate their betters.

  32. Sean Peters says:

    Am I missing something? I went to the link and I’m not finding anything that resembles this quote. The entire blog post seems to consist of a brief introductory paragraph, followed by some technical notes on wine terms and how to taste a wine.

    Has the post been revised to remove the objectionable snobbery, or what exactly is going on?

  33. Archaeologist says:

    I know Katy Meyers and I can say with all sincerity that Loomis’ take on this piece is right on target. Indeed, Meyers has alienated many of her colleagues with these kinds of comments and has very little actual archaeology experience to outweigh her personality.

  34. Anthropologist says:

    I also know Katy Myers, and I second what Archaeologist said above. Loomis’ reading of this (original) blog post, and the majority of what he & others say about Katy herself based on the post, is dead on. She has indeed annoyed & alienated many people here at Michigan State, and she seems overall to be so wrapped up in thinking about herself and how things affect her that she’s fairly oblivious to how she comes off to other people. She also seems to be so caught up in and enamored by digital humanities stuff that she can’t be bothered to pay attention to other things that are going on, or maybe it’s better to say that she doesn’t appear to see much value in anything else, since she (over?)values everything digital so highly. Finally, her advisor is very similar to her – annoys many of the people around her, is oblivious to how people react to her, self-absorbed and uninterested in things or opinions that aren’t part of or relevant to her own pet projects. So it’s no wonder that Katy gets encouragement and praise instead of caution and some frank advice.

    Just please know that she definitely doesn’t reflect or represent the majority of the anthropology department at Michigan State University!

    • Archaeologist says:

      That’s the problem. I think it’s safe to say that we all wish she would stop 1) representing MSU graduate students 2) giving advice on how to hack grad school altogether. She is an okay academic (a bit of a lazy thinker), but she’s managed to draw the ire of most of her fellow graduate students and a few faculty as well. How is that successful?

      • Ethan Watrall says:

        Pot, meet kettle…you guys are clearly doing a bang up job representing the department here…with all of your lovely anonymous complaining.

        • Kristin, another archaeologist says:

          This is all so ugly and petty. This whole thread is an example of how not to behave. Katy’s blog post may have been elitist and may have lacked introspection, but it was a mistake borne out of naivete not malice. These responses, however, seem cruel, nasty, and vengeful borne out of spite and are far beyond the scale warranted by those egos which may have suffered the injurious blow.

          I am a graduate student at MSU. MSU’s Department of Anthropology was my first choice in graduate programs and was the only program to which I applied. I had the opportunity to apply to many top-notch programs. In response to one of the earlier comments, I did not apply to MSU because I didn’t think I could get into Univ of Michigan. TYVM.

  35. Jennifer says:

    I just got me a PhD from Michigan State. I’m from North Dakota, and we drink mouthwash there. Well, some of us do. Anyway, I think Katy’s blog about wine was super snobby and in poor taste. But I really want to know who “Anthropologist” is and learn more about his/her problem with Lynne Goldstein. Dr. Goldstein was on my dissertation committee, and I am forever grateful to her for her guidance over the years. She is a smart woman with strong opinions, and I guess some people don’t like that. I like it, though. She challenged me to sharpen my critical thinking skills and to dive deeper into some of my interpretations. That is why I went to grad school- to get challenged, not to be babied by professors. If you are a good student and you try hard and you demostrate a real interest in the work you are doing (which you should, as you are in GRADUATE SCHOOL), Dr. Goldstein will always support you. And, for the record, Dr. Goldstein is not a wine snob, nor do I think wine knowledge impresses her that much. ARCHAEOLOGICAL knowledge impresses her. And that’s the real way to get in good with your professors- learn stuff, do good work, and like what you do.

  36. Emily says:

    I’ve been craving a glass of wine for about a week now and while I was at the grocery store today I picked up a bottle of Yellow Tail Merlot. Admittedly, I know squat about wine (and I never drink it unless someone hands me a glass) but I bought the YT because it was cheap, it had a pretty label, and it was the only name I recognized.

    So of course when I get home I Google-ed it to see what the worldwide web had to say and found this blog and laughed. A lot.

    See my parents tried their absolute hardest to make me appreciate a good bottle of wine, beer, and alcohol in general from an early age. To be clear, they encouraged ‘social drinking’ not underage hill-parties, and were probably at the lowest end of the snob-spectrum. Anyway, my stubborn way of rebelling was to not drink period- high school, undergrad, basically until I became “an adult” (aka what was hopefully only a quarter life crises, and yeah, kind of my attempt at being facetious).

    So I found this whole situation to be incredibly, and frightfully truthful on both sides. Big picture: I mean I don’t want to say Ms. Meyers is right (cause I mean, she’s not), but she has a valid, underlying point. (Clearly lacking tact but what academic doesn’t, and with all due respect I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume she is not a social anthropologist). It’s been my humble experience that having a touch of, we’ll say finesse, can go a long way in the real world. Obviously you need to play it right, but being able to successfully hobnob with your superiores is going to score you some major points (not rocket science, that’s like ANT 101)

    Case in point: my little brother, aka GC. Ignoring the fact that he is beyond brilliant, and has a tendency to be a tad arrogant (love you bro!). GC knows how to work it. He got his BA in three years, nailed an interview at Vandy (that included a wine tasting), scored a full ride for his PhD in molecular biology, holiday dinners with his professors, a research project at the U of Dublin, to where he has since transferred, and recently attended a reception with the Lord Mayor. Sure his GPA speaks for itself, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture and it unfortunately doesn’t close the door.

    I on the other-hand – in my deeply seeded stubborn nature and firm belief that life, especially academics and higher education, should be about hard work, dedication, a quest for knowledge benefiting the greater society, driven by personal self-fulfillment, not financial gain, social status, or be about who you know – (Disclaimer: in absolutely no way is the meant to offend GC, or Ms. Meyers for that matter) am pulling in a solid $25,000 working in Corporate America while paying down student loans from a BA in Education and a post-bac in Anthropology, while daydreaming about digging holes and trasping through the jungle. Just saying, if I had to attend a wine tasting as part of an interview weekend, it would not end well (at least not for the right reasons).

    Dr. Loomis, thank you for restoring my faith in humanity.

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