Yeah, that's right. Aimee Mann.
Recently I was struck, but unmoved, by the desire to present without comment two rather different curmudgeons' rather different takes on the academic job market, more or less without comment; now a couple of posts elsewhere in blogdom, related to one of the takes, has forced my hand. I still haven't got much commentary to make (or perhaps, having made comments in other venues (mostly in person), I'm not highly motivated to make them again, especially in monologic form), but the other of the takes, because not all that related to the other posts, has been dialectically reduced to the status of curio (and despite its author's protestations, one can be reasonably confident it was facetious all along). Namely: that of Daniel Davies.
The apparently more serious post is that of noted crank (in the best sense!) John Emerson, who to the best of my knowledge actually pursued the not at all easy-sounding path he describes. The relata: a nice post on An und für sich by voyou (bonus boredom-themed voyou content) and this article in CHE, which is technically not a blog post but which I only know about because of Crooked Timber, which excerpts this paragraph and one other:
College and university leaders—trustees, presidents, chief academic officers—have the unenviable responsibility of ensuring their institutions' continued financial viability while pursuing increasingly ambitious academic missions. In this pursuit, their strong turn to the competitive marketplace is understandable. But it is also clear that more is happening here. There is an insatiable appetite for prestige and status that accompanies the drive for revenues.
I confess that my first reaction on reading this paragraph was to wonder, isn't it possible that the current academic mission is, you know, basically ok as it is? A sort of thought that is near and dear to me because, like all graduates of the University of Chicago, I am completely convinced that as soon as I left—in fact before I left—it began an inexorable decline in quality, in my case as a result of the university's strange (to me) decision to attempt to begin appealing to, and admitting, more students (with the numbers hopefully working out such that even though more students would be admitted, yet more students than that would be appealed to, so as to increase overall selectivity-as-measured-by-US-News). When, as far as was apparent to me (not that I had what one could call a perspicuous overview of the university's situation as a whole), the student body was not in need of supplementation and the fact that it was largely self-selected was not a big deal.1
(On review I am uncertain how apparent the connection, if there is indeed a connection, between Emerson's piece, voyou's, and the CHE article is; I remain, however, disinclined to go into it, in part for the reason stated above (tired of it as a result of having done so elsewhere) and in part because, having already written the below, I fear that if I do so my own crankdom will be made a bit too thoroughly manifest, aided by my tendency to hyperbole.)
 In fact the undergraduate population has been increasing steadily since the early 80s. Note that the impression the article text gives is that it's been increasing since the early 70s, though the graph does not really bear this suggestion out. The article as a whole is somewhat perplexing, though one must bear in mind that the genre "article in alumni magazine" has certain rhetorical goals. Note its statement, for instance, that "at Chicago and elsewhere, part-time instructors and lecturers with PhDs shoulder some of the responsibility for teaching." (This in response to the hypothetical reasonable question, "if the faculty numbers have held constant and the undergraduate population has increased, who teaches?") How—one thinks, on reading this—neighborly of these part-time instructors! It's downright decent of them to shoulder this responsibility. If it had been the case that the populations started diverging in the early 70s, that would explain the establishment of the Harper-Schmidt fellowship program, which began in 1975. And in fact there does seem to be a decline from 1972 to the late 1970s, though the graph is not very detailed. The scale is such, however, as to make one skeptical that the approval of a whopping 22 new professorships (an increase of about 1.8% since the level in the mid-70s as against the undergrad population's increase of 25%) will do anything at all to change the overall shape of the graph, being as it is plausibly within the year-to-year fluctuations already visible (e.g. between 1995 and 1996). (And of course the e.g. laboratory scientists recruited under this scheme will not be able to teach the intro soc, hum, or civ sequences, one of each of which all students must take.)
Here's a pleasingly loopy statement from the Dean:
"The kind of home run that we're always looking for in an assistant professor," says Boyer, is "someone whose first or second book—or first and second books together—will redefine the way people think about the field of scholarship in which it's written, raise totally different questions, or reshape basic paradigms of understanding."
If one could extract similar statements from deans at the institutions Chicago would like to consider its peers (and I'm sure that, approached from representatives from their own alumni magazines, they would produce such statements), one could be forgiven for thinking that the deans collectively imagine that the fields studied at their institutions are (or could be, anyway) in total disarray, all the time.