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Mad Men and Colonel Sanders

Mad Men has wrapped up, and with the closing of this beautifully executed AMC series, we say goodbye to the wave of nostalgia that has gripped the cable networks for most of recent memory. However, just as Don left on a commercial note–Coke, in this case–the fast food chains have filled the vacuum with characters from their golden days. Colonel Sanders and the Hamburglar are back at KFC and McDonald’s.

I don’t know the rationale behind it, and Darrell Hammond isn’t exactly a clone of the Colonel, but it’s schtick that should at least turn some heads. I remember Chicken Littles from the Colonel Sanders era of KFC. I remember playing on the McDonald’s playground where the plastic Hamburglar lurked over in the corner.

One company’s dealings with nostalgia did not go as planned. Last year, Hardee’s quietly did away with the Cinnamon Raisin Biscuit. Those had been around ever since I was a child, and I have fond memories of getting ready for school early enough so that my dad would take me to Hardee’s on our way and we would share an order of those. It didn’t happen often, but it was fun. Many have similar memories, and when those biscuits were replaced by an inferior Cinnamon Pull Apart, all hell broke loose. Even the clerks at the register admitted the company made a mistake. At last check, Hardee’s had put things back to normal and acted like the ill-advised move never happened.

The lesson here? Nostalgia is a tricky thing. Mad Men seemed to have run its course, as had the viewing audience’s appetite for a midcentury modern drama. However, where food is concerned, appeals to the past are timeless. Now, go get yourself some home cooking at a restaurant nearby….”just like Mom used to make.”

Edward Said’s Orientialism

Orientalism was itself  a product of certain political forces and activities.

Said wrote this in 1978, but fast-forward to 2015 and we can easily substitute Orient for Middle East or Islam or Arab. None of these terms point to an objective Truth; rather, they are the subjective signifiers of some “other” culture, whose only common definition among a random sampling of 10 people might be that they “aren’t us.” In the context of the humanities, Oriental art and literature are not some imperfect versions of European or American works produced people who are imperfect versions of “us” and need some kind of rescue.

It is an intellectual, rather than political, colonization of regions of the world we aren’t ready to admit we know a whole heck of a lot about. Said Said: “My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided [associated] the Orient’s difference with its weakness” (61).

Consider Nietzsche’s version of truth: ideas “which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people…illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are” (60). In this case, it’s not a matter of forgetting, but never knowing. Students in world literature or art classes never knew a time in which Middle East or Islam or Arab didn’t have a mountain of obligatory ideas surrounding the terms.

In essence, it’s a system in which the identities of ours/us is always opposite theirs/them. Foucault contends that there is no normal without an abnormal; if we settle upon Orientalism being a way to comfortably label an “Other” culture, then we place ourselves in the realm of the normal. It is a refusal (whether intentional or not) to identify this culture with our own—to reduce a group of human beings to an idea that can be studied and dissected, rather than seeing individuals who do share common bonds with us.

Source: Said, Edward. (1995). Extracts from Orientalism. In A. Easthope & K. McGowan (Eds.), A critical and cultural theory reader (pp. 55-61). Toronto, ON: Toronto University Press. (Reprinted from Orientalism, by E. Said, 1978, New York: Random House.)

Book Design in Word or InDesign?


I get a lot of manuscripts in Microsoft Word. Fair enough, as Word’s Track Changes feature is the gold standard for the editorial process. However, once we move from editing to actual typesetting and book layout, Word is horrible. It essentially treats everything (and I mean everything) like a continuous line of text. Graphics placement is a bear, columns and tables are cumbersome, and dependent files are unreliable.

Enter Adobe InDesign (ID). Back in my yearbook days, this was Aldus PageMaker. Adobe bought the company and we now have the ghost of PageMaker present in InDesign. I love the program. It’s much easier to do book layout in an application that treats everything spatially as ID does. No, there aren’t many editorial capabilities for copy in ID, but we’re talking layout here.

Here are some of my favorite comparative reviews from over the years:

Why use InDesign instead of MS Word?

Book Design: MS Word vs. Adobe InDesign

Document Design: Word or InDesign?


Negative Feedback, Effectively


From Harvard Business Review – Your Employees Want the Negative Feedback You Hate to Give

What is clear is the paradox our data reveal, no matter how we slice them. People believe constructive criticism is essential to their career development. They want it from their leaders. But their leaders often don’t feel comfortable offering it up. From this we conclude that the ability to give corrective feedback constructively is one of the critical keys to leadership, an essential skill to boost your team’s performance that could set you apart.

Transformational Leadership

My PhD work at Clemson involved a great deal of organizational theory, and I ran across a quick motivational photo on LinkedIn that reminded me of Bernard Bass’ Transformational Leadership model.

Here’s the image:


Though not verbatim, these 5 characteristics best describe Transformational Leadership (TL).

First, let’s explain what TL is not. It isn’t charismatic leadership – bending the will of your employees or colleagues by sheer force of charm or mesmerizing them. I saw this sort of leadership at play in a former career, where everyone was jumping on the bandwagon to take the FranklinCovey seminars and become masters of their day-planners. It was a charismatic movement. Individuals were trained by the FranklinCovey staff and given a captive audience of colleagues to teach. These trainers became gurus, and inspired their students to become trainers as well. The focus seemed to be more on the process, product sold, and the individual teaching moreso than the content or mastery itself.

So what is Transformational Leadership?

It is based on 4 moral components:

  1. Inspirational motivation
  2. Idealized influence
  3. Individualized consideration
  4. Intellectual stimulation

It is further based on 3 moral aspects:

  1. Moral character
  2. Ethical values
  3. Morality of the process

I remember a quote from a case study: the purpose of the leader is to “enable others to thrive.” Not to cast the spotlight on oneself. The focus is on the process and the goals, getting there as a team, and activating team members’ higher-order needs.

Bulleted Lists and Seriation

Commas Save Lives

I often run across numbered lists, bulleted lists, and in-sentence lists, known either as seriation or enumeration, depending on what style one uses. The three major style guides (APA, Chicago, MLA) are very clear on how to do these.

APA resources:

APA Style Blog: Lists (a 6-part series including both lists and seriation within a sentence)

Purdue OWL: APA Lists

For those disciplines that require Chicago or Turabian, as well as non-academic manuscripts:

Middlebury College: Vertical Lists (Chicago style)

MLA format does not recommend the use of vertical lists; rather, seriation by comma is suggested.


Positive and Negative Correlation

Let’s assume for a moment that we compared number of hours studied by a group of college students to their final exam scores. We might assume that those who studied longer hours would score higher on the final exam. That is considered a positive correlation.

Now, let’s think about hours exercised per week by a group of college students, and how that might relate to percent body fat. More hours exercised would reasonably lead to a lower percent body fat, right? (Actually, that’s more of a thesis question, but for the sake of my example let’s say yes.) That is considered a negative correlation.

Further reading here.

Rivalry Week: Clemson Football

This is the week that most residents of South Carolina will spend their time talking trash about either Carolina or Clemson, depending on their allegiances.

Rather than say anything negative about USC, I’d like to draw attention to one of the greatest entrances in college football. Last year’s home opener against Georgia featured a pregame segment on ESPN that documented the bus ride the players and coaches take from one end of the stadium to the other. It’s a tradition that began when the team dressed in the old Fike Fieldhouse then walked to the stadium and ran down The Hill. The facilities are now on the other end of the stadium, under the West End Zone, but the tradition remains. It’s part of the pregame pageantry that makes Clemson’s entrance “The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football,” to quote Brent Musberger. I have to say, as a Clemson alumnus and football fan, there is nothing like this. Being in the stadium while this is going down, after singing the Clemson Alma Mater with my dad and 80,000 others, is a memory I get to relive every year for all the home games.