1) ELVIS ALBUM
My first book was about how people are influenced by their perceptions of others’ opinions and beliefs. I mentioned this Elvis album in the book, so a friend found a copy of the album for me. Elvis is riffing on “Fifty-Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong,” a 1920s song alluding to the comparatively free and easy social mores in France relative to the U.S. However, I’ve since learned that although there weren’t actually 50 million Frenchmen in the 1920s, there were easily more than 50 million Elvis fans.
Pippin is a yellow-naped Amazon parrot. I have had many pets over the years, but never a bird, and never such an intelligent animal. He talks, flies, and shoots baskets. The problem with intelligent animals is that they become bored easily, so Pippin needs to be out and about. My office is perfect. He’s more interesting than I am, so he definitely causes more people to stop by and say hello.
3) ALBUM OF CARDS
The best thing about being a professor is the relationships you develop with students over the years. I realized that I had been at the job long enough that I might lose track of some of these wonderful people if I didn’t do something more systematic, so I started an album of cards and notes. On bad days I re-read them and remember what I love about my job.
I found this at a garage sale when I was still in graduate school and the price was right. Plus I thought it would look good in the office of a wannabe-scholar studying media and politics. The newsprint is from the 70s, but the block print over it is ironic because if you look carefully it’s really all bad news—unemployment, oil shortages, the same old same old. News has probably always been about problems.
5) PENGUIN AND BEAR
The oversized stuffed animals in my office are gifts from my father. The bear was always in his office and I inherited it when he retired. The penguin came later, when I became Director at the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics at Penn. Their outfits change depending on the season.