Thursday, April 4, 2013

Crash 2 - Center for American Progress: "Getting Top Talent into the Nation's Schools" - 12:30pm

I'm on the Twitter Machine now @PanelCrasher.

For my second foray into panel crashing, I ventured back across the aisle to the Center for American Progress for a lunchtime panel discussion called "Getting Top Talent into the Nation's Schools," which was centered around a new report some guy had just come out with called "Getting the Best People into the Toughest Jobs." In almost every way, this was the exact opposite of yesterday's event: Ridiculously baller food spread, substantially less hilarious subject matter, discussed by an almost unbearably boring group of people (except for one). I zoned out so many times, and was so distracted by this one dude's amazing outfit that I honestly can't even really tell you what the hell they were talking about. I will try though, and I will most definitely provide the kind of extensive, hard-hitting coverage and creepy pics of this man and his outfit that you've come to expect from this blog. But first, I would like to do some self-congratulating: Yesterday's post has already been viewed in TEN different countries around the world! Most insanely? It has been read by two people in SOUTH SUDAN!! Who are you people?! How do you have the internet?? Identify yourselves at once! And thank you! Oh man, the internet is the weirdest huh? Moving right along.

My first and only encounter with the CAP intern crew (CAPtern Crew?? TM), was outside the CAP offices during the check-in when I rolled up to these two ladies.

Now, like a total rookie, I'd failed to register for this event. That was my fist mistake. My second was going to the girl on the left. Look her just grilling me! What's you're problem intern girl? Can't a guy creepily take a picture of a couple strangers at a panel event without getting a goddamn death stare anymore? And I thought this was a liberal organization? Lose the sweater/collar combo. Loosen up. Accessorize. Throw a scarf on or something like your friend there!

Anyway, I told her I hadn't registered, but she still asked for my name so she could check her little spreadsheet to act like she was performing some sort of essential function. Then, helpfully, she confirmed to me what I had already just told her. Great job! You can add a new bullet to your resume: "Oversaw advanced event entrance screening procedures and database in order to repeat back to people things they had already told me and totally waste both of our time".

Having done so, she then hesitated and acted like she had to make a really tough decision. She looked around, looked back at her spread sheet unnecessarily, breathed heavily, acted like she was doing me a huge favor by being real cool and lenient, and said "okay. You know what. You can just go in. It's fine". Oh, I can?! It's fine?! Are you sure?! Why thank you so much! Like, was there a chance she was going to deny me entrance? Does she have that kind of authority? No. Of course not. You're an intern. Relax. I'm trying to get a Cosi sandwich, not a reservation at Dorsia on a Friday night.

So having moved past the Intern Iron Curtain, I came upon the absolutely top notch food spread. Great job CAP. Really great job. All kinds of sandwiches, wraps, vegetarian options, and they even had potato salad, cole slaw, and a massive bowl of pickles! I had two pickles. (Treat. Yo. Self.)
If you look very carefully on the far right side of the above picture in the immediate foreground, you'll catch your first glimpse of my favorite audience member and his epic sweater/jeans combo. I hadn't even noticed him at the time because I was too busy stuffing pickles down my pants. (it was awkward when I had to tell my girlfriend that while I was happy to see her, that was in fact a pickle in my pants). You'll also see that my man is clearly a panelist-crashing pro. Note the skillful holding of the Evian water bottle (classy!) that he brought with him, underneath his sandwich plate, both with his left hand, while he applies his mustard with the right hand. Can't see what I mean? ENHANCE!!:

Look at that finger placement! This gentleman is a multi-talented wonder. Fashion swag and condiment application skills for days. Really next level stuff.

If I had to nitpick though, and I most certainly do, I was a little disappointed that the quantity of potato salad and slaw was disproportionately low relative to the Last Supper-level sandwich trays:

Not nearly as entertaining or absurd as yesterday's guy, and no real obvious dopplegangers amongst today's panelists. The first part of the event was an introduction from this old lady from CAP, who. was. terrible. Her boring ramblings really set the tone for the whole thing. The only highlight was her sweater, which she clearly made herself from a quilt or something:

Next up was a presentation by the old guy who wrote the paper, and man did he stumble and bumble his way through. He had a powerpoint presentation that was set up on the complete opposite side of the room from him. That was really confusing. Where am I supposed to look? At you? The screen? It was like when you don't know what to do with your hands. Real awkward:
On top of that he kept losing his place and muttering that he was lost as he had to fast forward and rewind the slides while rummaging through his papers. Total disaster. The only highlight of his entire train wreck of a presentation, ironically, was his invocation of a train wreck metaphor that made absolutely zero sense. As he closed out his speech he said "the road forward will have bumps, but the train has left the station”.... Um, what, in god's name, are you talking about dude? Trains don’t travel on roads. Rails don’t have bumps. If rails do have bumps, then it is NOT a minor deal like it is on a road. Your fucking train derails and everyone on board dies....Unless Bruce Willis' character from Unbreakable is on the train. He survives, 100% of the time:

The other most mind boggling moment was when he revealed the "core messages" of his groundbreaking research. The first one? Are you ready?... "Talent matters". Yep. That's one of the the two primary conclusions in this guy's paper. Thanks for that game changing conclusion Allan! Until that moment I'd really been on the fence as to whether teachers being incredibly shitty at teaching had any impact on student outcomes. But the results are in people, and it turns out that in fact, "talent matters". That's particularly interesting stuff when you compare teaching to other professions, where of course everyone knows that talent doesn't matter at all. So if you donate to CAP, pat yourself on the back for really shaking up the education debate people! Just changing the world, one mindblowingly self-evident finding at a time.

When he finally got through his presentation, he and the old lady joined the three guest panelists on stage, and their facial expressions really tell you everything:
The star of the whole thing was the woman on the left in the orange shirt. She's the Superintendent of the Newark Public School system, which means she must basically be the most badass woman on the planet. In my head, she's some sort of unstoppable mutant, combining Michelle Pfeifer's feminine empathy and appreciation of hip-hop culture in Dangerous Minds with Tom Berenger's special forces military training and skillset in the Substitute:

Speaking of Dangerous Minds, here is a recent photo of Coolio. He has aged exactly as well as I'd hoped. Which is to say he has aged terribly. You're welcome:

Anyway the Newark Superintendent mentioned she was an athlete and used a lot sports metaphors and coaching references. By the looks of her, I'm guessing she was one of those girls who started the women’s rugby club in college or made it onto the JV football team in high school. She also called herself a “campus revolutionary” at one point when I wasn’t paying attention. Without context, that seemed cocky as shit. Then she started texting on her blackberry! That is definitely one of the all time cockiest power moves you can pull on a panel, short of going Jim Everett on everyone, flipping a table, and attacking the moderator. Points off for having a Blackberry though. What kind of example are you setting for your students with that thing you maniac!?

As for the lady on the right with the dreads, she literally said not one word until the very end. Guy on the far left said nothing that I can remember. The old lady in the quilt sweater was supposedly moderating, but she refused to interject or interrupt anyone, so everybody just rambled the hell on whenever they had the chance. That caused the whole thing to run over by about half an hour, which sucked because I finished my food in the first five minutes and the pants pickles (TM) were starting to soak through my boxers.

Best Audience Member:
And now, for my favorite person of any panel I've ever been to.... This guy!

Look at those jeans! Look at that sweater! This guy rules. Before I fully explore the wonders of his outfit though, allow me to regale you with how I got this pulitzer-worthy picture. I caught my first glimpse of this guy as I exited the sandwich station, but I couldn't get a pic before he sat down across the aisle from me.  This threw my whole operation off because I then spent the entire two hours trying to get a better look at him and taking weird pictures like this, which in no way capture this man's glory:
In doing so, I did notice that he had even more sandwiches than me. I wasn't mad though. Just really impressed. He had three whole sandwiches, AND and an entire bagel sandwich! A bagel is equivalent to four pieces of bread, in case you didn't know, so this guy basically knocked back a full loaf of bread like it was nothing. Suck on that Dr. Atkins (RIP). 

As time went on though, I became really anxious that he was going to leave early and I wouldn't be able to get the proper angle for a picture and my blog would be ruined. Eventually my anxiety became so overwhelming that I just up and moved seats. Right in the middle of panel. Having moved to the back of the room to an aisle seat behind my new friend, I was first able to get a clean shot of the back of his sweater:
Is it an eagle?? A dragon?? I just don't know. I may never know, which is one of the greatest failures of my life. The point though, is that not a single element of this guy's ensemble makes any sense. He's got Air Force Ones from 2001, but is wearing them under wide leg acid washed jeans straight out 1995, and what appears to be a hand embroidered homemade attempt at one of those Affliction graphic hoodies that you see those MMA weirdos wearing:

As for the jeans, the ONLY possible explanation I can come up with for where he got his jeans is that he works for the Wizards and Michael Jordan gave them to him. That's the only way. And wearing Michael Jordan's jeans to an education panel, my friends, is cooler than anything you've ever done:

Ultimately my strategic repositioning proved to be genius, as when the panel ended he walked right by me and I was able to get the above iconic walk-by photo that will be burned into your brains forever. I thought I would never see him again. But THEN, like some sort of sign from God, who did I find at the urinal standing right next to me when I went to the bathroom afterwards?! You guessed it. I couldn't work up the courage to start a conversation with him though to get some background. It's awkward and challenging enough trying to chat up a guy peeing next to you who doesn't have Michael Jordan's jeans on, ya know? My next thought was to take a picture of him, but I'm pretty sure that's illegal. A man has to draw a line in the sand somewhere I guess.

Follow me on Twitter @PanelCrasher


  1. I don't want to overhype this blog, but it makes Woodward & Bernstein look like the authors of a refrigerator owner's manual. Bravo.

  2. If you're interested in hitting up the university panel scene:
    The Human Rights Institute Fact-Finding Mission 2012-13 cordially invites you to the The Report Launch of: TAPPED OUT Threats to the Human Right to Water in Urban United States. Wednesday, April 17, 2013 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
    (Food will be provided.) McDonough Hall, Room 160, Georgetown University Law Center 600 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20001. Free and Open to the Public.

  3. This is the best blog ever -- I am a Georgetown grad student and this is basically the story of my life ... I, like you, find an almost inexhaustible quantity of panels of all manners of ridiculousness around this town - many with excellent food and abysmal substance and inanity. Best of luck in your continued endeavors.