Showing posts from August, 2014

Taste of Iceland

Almost a decade ago now, I applied for grants to go to Iceland for my PhD research. I was awarded grants from both the U.S. State department Fulbright program, and an American Scandinavian Foundation fellowship. I would not have been able to accept Icelandic citizenship under the Fullbright, so I turned it down. Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson, who was Ambassador to Iceland when I worked at the Smithsonian, is fond of introducing me to people today as the only person he knows to have turned down a Fullbright. But obviously it was more important to me to have Icelandic citizenship than it was to have a Fullbright. I didn't reflect on it much at the time, but I can psychoanalyze it now to say ego was more tied to satisfying my identity as an Icelander than to satisfying my identity as prestigious scholar. The job I have now is likely a continuation, and a reflection, of that choice. And although sometimes I regret not having the sort of pure academic position that leaves me time to write

Escape artist

I guess this term comes from Harry Houdini, who made an art out of escaping. But this could be a false etymology. Like my brother was saying last night, we often mistake phrases for things that are of more recent history. The tv show American Slang gets stuff like that wrong all the time.  I wonder if people who change jobs a lot are escape artists also. Or politicians and bankers who evade      criminal prosecution.  It doesn't seem an especially good talent, if one wishes to be considered a responsible human being. You can't be good at disappearing and also considered reliable. Not even in Iceland, I don't believe.