A Conversation with Dr. Sistrom

Photo taken by Dori Medlin
by Dori Medlin

Dr. Sistrom is the chairman of the Department of History at Greensboro College. At 9 a.m. on Jan. 16, I sat down with Dr. Sistrom in his office to have a serious conversation about life, music and the president’s fashion choices.
Q: As the chairman of the Department of History, would you rather eat a hot dog every day of your life, or never feel happy again?
A: Well, since I don’t eat meat… if I ate a hot dog every day I get to be happy? Yes, you would be able to feel happiness, or you can eat whatever you want, but you would never feel happy again. Oh, well I would take the hot dog.
Q: If you could pick five historical figures, dead or alive, to become the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” who would you pick?
A: Well, if we can count Barack Obama as historical since he certainly is, even though he’s still alive, I’d pick him as one. Because he’s the coolest guy on the planet and he’s really funny, and he writes well. I’d also pick Mark Twain because he’s funny and satiric. Thomas Jefferson. Teddy Roosevelt, he’d do funny characters. That’s all men, we don’t want a bunch of men … I’ve been a fan of “Saturday Night Live” since the original, so I take this stuff seriously. I’d pick Dolly Madison because she was funny, she told a good story. She liked costumes.
Q: So which one of those five would do Weekend Update?
A: Probably Jefferson. You’d think Obama would be the obvious answer but Jefferson I think would be more quick, he’d be quicker and a little more snarky.
Q: Let’s say you got to sit down withour current president and you could give him a piece of advice, but it had to strictly be about his fashion choices. What would you say to make the world a better place?
A: Tie your tie very tightly around your neck. [Laugh] It has to be shorten the tie or consider a bowtie. His tie hangs just below the belt buckle pointing at, you know, and I’m sure that’s the point of it. Of course, maybe if he had a bowtie he’d spend all day trying to tie the bowtie and he could get into less trouble.

Q: I’m going to give you three people, and you say who you’d marry, who you’d kill and who you’d give a firm handshake to: Marge Simpson, Hillary Clinton, Flo the Progressive Lady.
A: But I don’t want to kill anybody! Flo I’d probably have to kill because she’s annoying, and it would be less of a loss to the world. Again, if you had to make that tough choice. Marge I would marry, because I think she would be a good wife and she deserves a good
husband after Homer. She puts up with so much, and deserves someone to take care of her. And that would leave the firm handshake to Clinton.
Q: If you could visit your past self in your college years, what would you tell yourself?
A: I have thought this often, as many people probably do. Probably like my fifth year senior year, I would tell myself, “Don’t get burned out in grad school. Stay, get done sooner.” I wouldn’t say don’t go to grad school, I wouldn’t say don’t be a historian, but I would say don’t procrastinate so much.
Q: If you could pick one album that you had to force every student in this school to listen to, what would it be?
A: Only one? Oh goodness. I’d pick one that I think most students would find accessible so they’d be willing to listen to it, and would open them up to exploring other music and see music as serious art and not just auto-tuned pop. Probably “Graceland” by Paul Simon. One that I would be surprised if anyone listened to that and not be engaged by the musicality of it.

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