Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chin / Progress

The Judgement
Progress. The powerful prince
Is honored with horses in large numbers.
In a single day he is granted audience three times.

Progress means making advance. Clarity rises high
over the earth. Devoted and clinging to this great
clarity, the weak progresses and goes upward.
Hence it is said: "The powerful prince is honored
with horses in large numbers. In a single day he is
granted audience three times.

The Image
The sun rises over the earth:
The image of Progress.
Thus the superior man himself
Brightens his bright virtue.

With her talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Mary managed to be in Dublin today, just in time for some riots. They were fairly small and contained, however, and she and her friends are fine. Tomorrow she is off to work on a cattle ranch outside of Belfast for two weeks. And of course, nothing bad ever happens in Belfast...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Conference Roundup

My conference went pretty well. My paper was fairly well-received, I think. Giving a paper at these big conferences is often anti-climatic. Beforehand, you visualize all these scenarios where famous senior scholars quiz you on minute details of your presentations, and you spend hours trying to think up snappy replies. In reality, you get one or two questions about some insignificant detail, and that's it. Still, I think people were pretty receptive. They laughed at my jokes, at least.

Friday night I had dinner with an old family friend--my grandmother's boarding school roommate, as I said earlier--who is the grande dame of Nashville society. It was pretty amazing, and involved a gigantic mansion and a butler, but I'll leave it at that. Afterwards I went out with her grandchildren to the Bluebird Cafe, a famous little bar in Nashville that is a forum for up-and-coming country songwriters to show off their tunes. Friday nights they have a regular residency with these four guys who have been playing together there for twenty years--the only one I had heard of was the songwriter Don Schlitz, who has written songs for Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, and others. The bar is a tiny little place that seats about 50. There is no stage, just a little clearing in the middle where the four musicians sit in a circle facing each other. They play their own tunes, chat, tell jokes, and it is a very entertaining few hours.

Today was a whole range of papers to see. A really good one about the fifties child star Brenda Lee was probably my favorite. Then tonight, the graduate students all hit the karaoke night at the hotel. Hearing a grad student sing a song that he is writing his dissertation about? Good times. And there was even a Very Distinguished Senior Scholar listening to all of us from the corner of the bar. Afterwards, suffice to say, I cannot say I really know Very Distinguished Senior Scholar all that well, but I can say that I have done shots with him.

Looking forward to coming home tomorrow!

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Fascinating! These things are all over California.

It is always interesting to see how different regions build mass amounts of housing for the lower-to-middle classes. In Philadelphia and Baltimore, they tend to be very small, two-story brick row houses. In Boston you have the wooden triple-decker duplexes. San Francisco has the small, modular suburban-style home that span hundreds of blocks in the Sunset and the Richmond. New York... I'm not sure what the New York equivalent is. The older big tenement buildings of lower Manhattan are kind of the equivalent, I suppose, but the more direct correllation might be those ugly brick houses in Queens. (Think of where George Constanza's parents live on Seinfeld.) Washington, D.C. never had an industrial base, so it doesn't really have these working class habitats. Instead Northeast and Southeast DC have lots of dreadful post-war housing projects and apartment complexes that started decaying about a month after they were built.

Incidentally, I arrived safely in Nashville. Jet lag is unfortunately having its way with me, hence me blogging instead of sleeping. Wish me luck for tomorrow!

Nashville Bound

After a busy couple of days, I am about fly out to Nashville, to give a paper at a conference. This will be my first time in Tennessee, and my first real stay in the non-coastal south The best part of this trip is that I am going to be having dinner one night with my grandmother's old boarding school roommate/mother's godmother/daughter of the man who owned the Grand Ole Opry. Fun! And then afterwards I'm accompanying her grandchildren to some sort of country music concert. Fun again!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

OnDemand Ate My Life

Over the summer, my faithful cable provider began a new service called "OnDemand." I think it is supposed to compete with TiVo, although it functions somewhat differently. Rather than recording TV to a hard disk, it lets you access a library of free television shows and movies. When you are watching them, you can pause and rewind just like TiVo.

Anyhow, the upshot is that now I have available to me, for free, the entire first five seasons of The Sopranos. The last two days, Mary and I have watched dozens of hour-long episodes. And now that she has flown back to England, I am still watching them. Luckily, only two more episodes and then I run out.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Earlier this week I was walking by the main administrative building here, and I realized that I had never picked up the diploma for the master's degree I earned last spring. So I went in, and with the flash of a student ID got it. It's quite nice. Not as snobby looking as Wesleyan's, but definitely much nicer than Brandeis's. The best part is that it is signed by Governor Arnold.

It gets me thinking about the value of graduate degrees, however. For so many people, having a master's degree is the main barrier to a comfortable middle-class life. There are so many people out there who slave away for years earning a master's, attending night school, taking off time from work, taking student loans. And here I am, picking up a second master's degree for practically nothing, in a field where it means almost nothing.

No great point to be drawn from this, but it feels weird.