The reaction to the Liver Mush Wager that my friend Mary Byrnes and I made in the fall has been very weird. Mary and I never intended for our wager to be a big deal. It was simply a goofy way of holding ourselves accountable to complete work that we had each already begun. Our university’s PR office noticed my blog post about the wager in the fall, and this spring they pitched the story to Inside Higher Ed, who, obviously, ran with it. Other than some slight misquotings, I have no issue with the Inside Higher Ed story. The author, Kevin Kiley, does a fair enough job of capturing the spirit of our wager. I do, however, want to respond to some of the comments that have appeared on the Inside Higher Ed website.
At the risk of feeding trolls (some of the comments), I want to respond, individually, to the nine comments that have so far appeared on the story.
Mush or mush
Posted by Tom Riley , Dean, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at NDSU on May 6, 2011 at 10:00am EDT
Liver mush is good. I hope the papers are not mush. I would love to know the rules for them. It is easier to publish on, say, ‘the graphic novel in virtual environments’ than on Shakespeare. I hope one of the professors is not into the contemporary graphic novel and the other a Shakespearean scholar–ouch! Of course, ‘Shakespeare in Virtual worlds’ might just get into print!
First, I’d like to say that I really respect Tom Riley for posting under his real name. That is a quite ethical thing for Mr Riley to do. I think, however, that his perspective is quite frightening, especially coming from a dean. I think that the rigor of the venue determines whether a work is difficult to publish or “easy” to publish, not the topic. That is, it would be easy to get a crappy Shakespeare article published in a crappy journal, but quite difficult to get any article published in a top Shakespeare journal. Similarly, it probably would be easier to get an article on graphic novels published in a third tier venue than in a top tier venue. All of the articles that I have completed thus far have been submitted to top venues. They may not all be accepted for publication. However, I seek out only publication in top venues, and I have not been farming out crap articles to crap journals—nor will I. The academy has shown time and again, for several decades now, that graphic novels and other pop culture are as worthy of study as Shakespeare. It is the quality of thought that goes into any project that determines whether or not the project is worthwhile, not the subject of study.
I have not simply cranked out junk work this past year to fulfill a silly bet. I have followed through on meaningful projects that I would have undertaken with or without the bet. The bet is silly and insignificant, and only a goofy means through which we have tried to hold ourselves accountable and on task.
Posted by Jeanne on May 6, 2011 at 10:30am EDT
Well done– I may adopt the livermush as penalty idea… and the notion of building a cross- discipline community to keep each other accountable is lovely. Keep up the good work.
I don’t know about “brilliant,” Jeanne, but thank you for recognizing our wager for what it is, simply a fun way to deal with the stresses of work.
Posted by Beth Gazley, Indiana University on May 6, 2011 at 10:45am EDT
Having just reached the finish line myself, I say good for you! Best wishes, and enjoy the journey.
Thanks, Beth! And thanks also for having the courage to leave a comment under your own name. Jaron Lanier would be very proud of you and Tom!
Posted by Betty Allen , Alumni at Western Carolina University on May 6, 2011 at 11:00am EDT
There are foods from various areas of the country that I know I would never try, so I understand their thoughts on livermush. In fact, if I am ever with people from places other than the area around Shelby, NC, and if there seems to be a lull in the conversation, I just might throw out the word livermush to get some sort of conversation going.
As far as I am concerned. . . I love livermush! I don’t need to know what is in it, I just know I love it. Having grown up in Shelby, I was exposed to livermush as a toddler.
Shelby is known for many things, and livermush is one of them. There is even a Livermush Expo in Shelby in the fall. Perhaps that would be the perfect backdrop to the end of this competition.”
Thanks, Betty, for your comment and for posting under your real name. I love that a WCU alum came across the story and posted this. One thing I have determined from all of this is that I must give it a shot. I think it would be more successful, however, if it were perhaps promoted under a more appetizing name.
Posted by Jethro Jones , Reading on May 6, 2011 at 11:30am EDT
This article and story is offensive. Maybe next bet you can wager a plate of chitterlings!
Dear “Jethro,” I think your pseudonym is more offensive to rural sensibilities than our wager. I was raised by a single mother in Appalachia. I have killed and cleaned my own meat, and enjoyed it (see picture below). I celebrate rural people and rural ways of life, which is why I accepted my current position, in a very rural community. You may want to check out my other website: the Rural Image Cooperative.
re: Jethro Jones is offended
Posted by Neophyte prof , College of Tech at John Deere University on May 6, 2011 at 1:15pm EDT
Hmmmm…I certainly didn’t read the article with any sense of negativity toward any kind of diversity…or whatever the reader found offensive…sorry Jethro Jones. Not really sure why it was offensive…of course it could have been any food for that matter (mac ‘n cheese, cow’s tongue, fish eyes…many of my Italian ancestors ate things that I think are completely out of the question). The point of the article was clearly to show a healthy and competitive collegial partnership. As a neophyte I will certainly adopt this approach as I think (sans weird food penalty) it’s a very good idea.
One has to have a pretty thick skin to succeed in the academe Jethro. I don’t believe the intent was even remotely to offend.
Thanks, Neophyte prof. What’s worrisome to me is that some readers think that Mary and I would have cranked out junk scholarship simply to satisfy this bet. Really, people think that I would crank out junk writing to avoid a plate of liver mush? Sorry folks, but I worked too damn hard to earn a PhD at a top university to throw my academic reputation away that stupidly or that quickly.
re: re: Jethro Jones
Posted by ztm , Alumni at Clemson University on May 6, 2011 at 3:30pm EDT
Hey Neophyte prof, JJ is trolling you. Calm down!
publish or livermush
Posted by A Dude in Academe on May 6, 2011 at 5:15pm EDT
The article is hugely offensive, but in academic terms, not cultural ones. The point of research used to be to discover new, important knowledge. The only motivation a scholar needed was a desire to improve humanity through discovery. Nowadays, though, much research is done for purely professional reasons–publish or perish (which translates to, “improve our rankings through scholarly productivity or you walk”). The fact that junior faculty need to resort to sadomasochism to get themselves through the tenure track sums up everything wrong with higher ed today.
It is telling that “publish or perish” is not enough to motivate these two; they need the threat of livermush to get them to work hard. This suggests that losing their jobs is not really that horrible a prospect (not enough to motivate their scholarship, anyway), but livermush is. Livermush, by the way, would seem to sum up everything that is wrong with our food industry today…
The Dude here is offensive. I undertake important work, and my primary research is into how the intelligence community (the CIA and its sister agencies) uses rhetoric in its work. My work seeks to address the intelligence failures of 9/11 and the mistaken WMD intelligence, and will hopefully contribute to improving analytical practice within the intelligence community and preventing unnecessary armed conflicts. As you might be figuring out, I don’t scrawl that scholarship out on the back of diner napkins and send it off to journals. I slave over it. I research meticulously, and I do seek to create new knowledge.
And, given the budget situation here in North Carolina, I actually live in constant fear of losing my job. This bet is a way to try to inject a little humor into an otherwise stressful process. Chill out.
Posted by electronicmuse on May 6, 2011 at 8:15pm EDT
The contestants should throw all of their articles, and all of the livermush they are unable to eat in a 24 hour period down the longest set of steps on campus.
The literary “output” that travels the farthest wins.
“Fair is fair.”
Thanks for your advice, electronicmuse. I actually took it. I took a sheaf of papers, all my research that I’ve conducted over the past year, and tossed it, and I mean really chucked it, down the biggest flight of stairs I could find (about 12 stories, in a dorm, and the undergrads gave me some very weird looks as I did this). When I went down to pick up my papers, all of my ideas were still intact. The research still held true. My work was vindicated—it had survived a fall that would have killed most human beings. Now, your flawlessly designed empirical experiment has validated a year’s worth of work. I am much relieved.
All in all, this experience has reaffirmed what I already knew about the world. There are lots of people with a sense of humor in this world, but there are also lots of humorless people in the world. And, I should probably give liver mush a try.