Best College Bars
Last falI, I posted some pictures and information from our trip to Colorado. One of the bars we visited was The Sink – an historic dive bar (Thebeerchaser Does Colorado – Part II) in Boulder, near the campus of the University of Colorado.
It was recently selected as one of the “Top 25 College Bars in America.” Some under-achieving college student may have toured the country developing this list for The Daily Meal, but The Sink, a ninety-three year old watering hole for CU students should clearly be on this list.
As described by Dr.Thomas Noel in his book, A Liquid History & Tavern Guide to the Highest State:
“During the 1960’s and 1970’s when I was at CU, students sat around here in puddles of beer, smoked pot, and watched Batman and Star Trek…..Mobs of students consumed oceans of beer by the quart.
After a 1995 restoration, the reincarnated Sink still lives in this two-story house with a tacked-on storefront. Among gobs of graffiti, the place’s crowning achievement is a re-creation of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Man, with God holding down a Sinkburger to Sink Rats in the “Sink-stine Chapel.”
You Probably Don’t Want to Take a Class or Have a Beer with This Guy!
And while we are on the subject of higher education, it is fitting to revisit another topic addressed briefly in this blog in May 2013, in an excerpt entitled, “Emotional Disequilibrium, Rotating Metaphors and ‘On Bullshit.’” I took exception to what I viewed as extremely pretentious behavior by one, Dr. David Shields, an author and literature professor at the University of Washington.
Now UW is a great institution – one of the finest on the West Coast (both my oldest daughter and son-in-law are alums….), but a quote from an interview in which the good professor was quoted astounded me:
“What I am good at, I think, I hope, is meditating with rigor and candor on my emotional disequilibrium and trying to rotate that out as metaphor so it comes to feel, God forbid, somewhat universal and it makes the reader feel as Phillip Lopate says, ‘less freakish and more human.’” (For the unwashed, Phillip Lopate is a writer, media critic and professor of English at Hofstra University.)
Here’s a more recent Shields quote:
“So many of these formal gestures seem to me a way to get beyond self. I marry the self, through braided collage gestures, to the cultural warp and woof. That seems to me one of collage’s blessings, its potential for multiplicity of investigative modes…..”
Dr. Shields is no slouch – he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown and has written fifteen books – one of which made the New York Times best-seller list and has received numerous writing awards. But I would suggest that the good professor’s humility quotient needs to increase. He appears to validate the premise put forth by one scholar – possibly a classic Greek philosopher: “A damned fool with a Ph.D., is still a damned fool!”
To validate my visceral reaction, I checked out some of the student reviews of their esteemed lecturer. For example, one student wrote: “I never got the impression that he actually wanted to be there, or had any interest in helping students improve, and certainly didn’t seem to want to actually read any student writing. He only wants you to listen in awe while he muses about why fiction is so useless. He thinks everything he has to say about writing is gospel and it gets old fast.”
A quote from Princeton Emeritus Professor Dr. Harry Frankfurt, author of the brilliant book, On Bullshit, who I named as January 2012 Beerchaser-of-the-Month, seems appropriate to describe the above statements by Dr. Shields:
“When we characterize talk as hot air, we mean that what comes out of the speaker’s mouth is only that. It is mere vapor. His speech is empty, without substance or content. His use of language accordingly does not contribute to the purpose it purports to serve.”
This is not to suggest that I have a problem with academicians. I have had some wonderful professors both at Oregon State and at Portland State. I even singled out my graduate school Public Finance professor at PSU – Dr. John Walker, as the Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in June 2012, for his dry wit and pithy statements. I learned a bunch in his class and loved going to his lectures for such gems as:
“It’s much more economically efficient to bury people vertically rather than horizontally.”
“It is my opinion that we could lower the defense budget to zero and the Russians would not attack….However the Mexicans would.”
“Under the Oregon fraternal organization statutes, something has to be given to charity each year to be exempt from property taxes. The law doesn’t say how much — all you have to do is give $1 to any deserving midget once per year. When the Department of Revenue conducts an audit and asks what your charity is, the organization simply replies, ‘Marvin.’”
Two Ph.D.’s – both the current and a former President of Marylhurst University – Dr. Melody Rose and Dr. Nancy Wilgenbusch – with whom I have raised a mug and martini, respectively – on multiple occasions are shining examples. They are leaders who have not only risen in the academic world, but are educators who convey their wisdom clearly and articulately – even in casual conversations over a beer or cocktail.
Back to Dr. Shields – well, his ostentatious style appears to continue – at least as opined by one 1/27/15 review in The Stranger – a weekly Seattle newspaper, who takes issue with Dr. Shields’ latest book I Think You are Totally Wrong. as evidenced in the following excerpt from his scathing review:
“…A handful will swoon over his genius, but more likely you’ll hear a rant about his endless lectures, which my many accounts are packed with self-promotion, name dropping and smug proclamations.”
“The most unbelievable aspect of (this new book) is that everyone involved in its publication somehow thought it was worthy of publication.”
“Shields and (his co-author) simply talk for a little over 250 pages. One man is the closest thing to a celebrity you’ll find in academic circles; the other is a failed writer……….(The book) serves as a blooper reel of 21st century literature failings, with its elevation of two privileged white dudes talking about beer and pop culture, its mistaken belief that a postmodern acceptance of your own flaws somehow serves as absolution for them.”
Perhaps an apology should be forthcoming for my rant, and it may be an overreaction, but there are shining examples of university faculty who are both brilliant teachers and good writers – who have a sense of humor and a refreshing perspective that motivates students.
If you want an example, just read Portland, the award-winning quarterly magazine of the University of Portland edited by Portland author, Brian Doyle. Contrast David Shield’s writing with a brief excerpt from a wonderful essay entitled, “What is Quantum Mechanics?” by Dr. Max Schlosshauer, professor of physics at UP:
“Quantum mechanics also made me a humble scientist, because it tells me that while nature may at some point be fully describable, nature will never be fully knowable.
But quantum mechanics is also emporwering for it tells us that our interaction with the world – our choice of which door to open, which question to ask – brings forth genuinely new events that were in no way determined by anything that has gone before. And thus every one of our actions helps write nature’s eternally unfinished story.”
This is the kind of guy with whom you want to have a draft PBR at the Twilight Room near the UP campus or, heaven forbid (for a political science major) even audit one of his courses!
And perhaps if Dr. David Shields is tired of teaching, he should focus on just being an author and attending book signings. There are evidently many individuals more intelligent and cultured than Thebeerchaser who love his writing, but Abe Lincoln’s quote summarizes this reader’s opinion:
“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.”