Monday, March 27, 2006

Historic Hollywood

In my desperation to avoid writing my final paper, I found a web site that has a bunch of neat photographs of West Hollywood from the 1920s and 1930s.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Having lived in my current apartment for two and a half years now--the longest I have lived anywhere since my parent's home!--I have become accustomed to the particular soundscape of my neighborhood. At night I often hear police helicopters, cars zooming away from the valet parking of the Mexican restaurant on the corner, the rumble of partying on the Sunset Strip, and late at night the stumbling footsteps of drunken gay men returning home from the boulevard. The predominantly Russian residents of my building often have loud conversations in the courtyard that always sound angry to me. The male nurses for an elderly lady downstairs often sit outside having a cigarette and discussing Shakespeare (no joke), and the woman below me watches television most nights at a volume that is not overly loud, but loud enough to slightly vibrate my floor in this creaky building. In the building next door there is a woman I have never met, or even seen, but she carries on long conversations with her dog. She is from the south; the dog's name is Oliver.

These sounds are all rather comforting to me now. But there is one that I just cannot figure out. Sporadically, what sounds like an older man will cough loudly. That might seem innocuous, but it is a bizarre cough--very dry and hacking, and always just in a single burst. I wish I could transcribe it somehow, or record it, but I never know when it is coming. Just when I least expect it, a booming "hack!" will come careening in my window, and every time it happens I am startled.

Okay, enough procastination.

It's the Small Things

I don't know why this makes me so happy, but I just quoted Gayatri Spivak for the first time in an academic paper. For some reason, it feels like an accomplishment.

In other news, I would love to be done with these exams. They are not very fun. If they were due tomorrow, I would be more than happy to stay up all night finishing them, and frankly they would probably be about the same quality. But, unfortunately, they aren't due until Thursday.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Missing E

So, there is this young fashion designer named Erin Fetherston who has been getting a lot of press lately. I don't follow these things so much, usually, but happened to skim an article in the Los Angeles Times about LA Fashion Week that mentioned her meteoric rise to stardom--originally from "Berkeley," she ran into Kirsten Dunst at a party, made friends, and is now this big deal designer.

Now, former Piedmonters--among my small but loyal readership, I guess that would be my parents-- help me out. Was there not a girl in my year named Erin Fetherstone? (with an "e", I could have sworn.) This could totally be her, albeit much more glammed up than she ever was in AP English.

My life suddenly seems rather dull.

Update: My informants reveal that she was indeed a classmate of mine. But there was no "e" then either, so it isn't some sort of fashion designer affectation.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Day One

I apologize if for the next week my posts get a little monotonous! Such is the life of qualifying exams. I have seven days to write three fifteen-page essays, which really ain't so bad. I wrote a fifteen page paper in one day last week, after all.

I picked up my exam questions today at noon. They are...okay. It's not to say they are bad questions, as they accurately reflect my reading list and the written rationale I provided. However, it makes me realize that I wrote the first draft of that list practically a year ago. At the time, I knew that eventually my research interests were headed in a slightly different direction, but now that I am dealing concretely with this field I defined last year, I am struck how much some of my intellectual positions have changed. On the surface level, it would be easy to miss this, since I am mostly still working on the same subjects I have been working on since I started graduate school, even since I started doing musicology as a junior in college, really. But there have been some important changes in my theoretical mindset, and in my intellectual priorities.

I'm not sure why this is. Certain seminars I have taken have helped, both in and out of my department. Participating in several national conferences, where for the first time I had to present myself as a serious scholar with coherent positions, certainly affected things. Not unrelated, I've been working on my dissertation proposal for the last quarter, which in effect is my last chance to define what sort of scholarship I intend to pursue for the next few years. And personally, I've gone through a bit of a journey these past few months. All told, it seems like this last year--really, almost the exact amount of time I've been writing this blog, interestingly--has been a time for figuring out what sort of scholar and person I want to be for the foreseeable future.

So I guess what feels a little weird about these exams is that I feel pulled back, to a certain extent, to who I was a year ago. It's not a bad thing, and it is certainly not my committee's fault. But I hope when I get back to work tomorrow, I can stop being so darn introspective and start writing!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Exam Prep

Before American Pie, before Bring it On, before 10 Things I Hate About You, there was....Can't Hardly Wait.

Now, there are countless wonderful things about this movie, a touching coming-of-age tale set entirely at a high school graduation party in 1998. But one of the most amazing thing was the large cast of young unknown actors, almost all of whom went on to...well, not better things, but similar things.

In no particular order, and with some assistance from IMDB:

1. Noted Beethoven scholar Lauren "Claire on Six Feet Under" Ambrose
2. Seth Green playing a jive-talking little white boy.
3. Sean "Save the Last Dance" Patrick Thomas
4. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Her Neck.
5. Freddy "Six Feet Under" Rodriguez
6. Jamie "My Name is Earl" Presley
7. Hottest Proto-Lesbian in the World Clea DuVall
8. Donald "Scrubs" Faison
9. Nicole "Bring it On" Bilderback
10. Selma Blair, now my girlfriend.
11. Jenna "Dharma and Greg" Elfman
12. Melissa "Clarissa the Teenage Witch" Joan Hart
13. Chris "The Sherminator" Owen

and, lastly, but most amazingly....

14. Charlie Korsmo, who most of us know as the little boy from Hook! The best part is that after Hook, Charlie never really acted again. He went to MIT to get a degree in physics, and is now a policy analyst for the House Republicans. But somehow, in some way, somebody managed to convince the little boy from Hook to come out of retirement to play a drunken nerd who rocks out a version of "Welcome to the Jungle."

Has any other movie had such an amazing ensemble cast? Oops, now Lauren Ambrose and Seth Green are about to kiss. Gotta go.

p.s. Apparently the kid who plays the foreign exchange student is Dean Martin's grandson.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Grading, Grading, Gone!

It's been a six hour marathon, but I just finished all my grading for the quarter.

After grading sixty final papers this last weekend, we had our final exam today. I start my exams on Thursday, so originally I was going to take this evening and tomorrow to do the grading. But after further reflection, I realized that it would be very, very nice to have a day off to relax and re-group before I plunge into the ordeal, so I resolved to just start grading as soon as the final was over, and not stop until I was done.

It's now 11:30 pm, but I am done!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Conference Roundup

My conference this weekend went very well.

Now, I just have to grade, grade like the wind for the next two days. And then, on to my exams!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Viva Chongqing

Today's Guardian has an interesting article about Chongqing, the city in China where my grandfather grew up. Apparently, it is now the largest and fastest-growing municipality in the world, with 32 million residents. I visited there once with my grandparents, in 1992, to celebrate the centennial of the hospital my great-grandfather administered back in the 1920s. I remember the city as being fairly small and quiet. That might just be my faulty memory, but I imagine that the growth of the city has largely occurred in the last decade or so, especially with the nearby Three Gorges dam. Millions of farms and small towns near the Yangtze river were displaced by the dam and reservoir system, and Chongqing is probably the closest city to emigrate to. It's a mysterious country, China.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Doris is Everywhere

My project this weekend has been to finish up a seminar paper before I head out of town this week. The topic is doo-wop, specifically the early African-American vocal quartets of the late forties and early fifties who sang in what is called the "sweet gospel" style. It includes groups like the Ink Spots, the Drifters, the Orioles, the Penguins, and so on. Anyhow, I've been struggling for a specific topic to focus on. I've always been intrigued by the classic doo-wop chord progression: I-vi-IV-V. (The educated reader might know it best from a song like "Earth Angel.") Rarely in popular music is a single chord progression so utterly dominant--there are literally thousands of songs from this genre that use it.

So anyways, I was jut listening to lots of this music, when I stumbled across the fact that two of these early groups, the Orioles, and the Moonglows, recorded cover versions of the hit 1953 Doris Day song "Secret Love," a song I know quite well having just delivered a paper on it at a conference. The weird thing is that while the Orioles version does a fairly straight version of it--a bit jazzed up, but otherwise so straight it could be a parody--the Moonglows version reharmonizes the song to fit a variant of the doo-wop progression. They keep the melody the same, but underneath it just paste I-vi-ii-V. It doesn't fit at all, and when they get to the chorus they have to give it up and go back to the original chords. Still, the compulsion to use the doo-wop progression makes them do pretty weird things to the tune. So bizarre!

Friday, March 03, 2006


I was filling out one of those Visited States maps, and I realized that I have never been to Maine. I can understand why I haven't been to that whole Idaho to Wisconsin area, but Maine? I lived in New England for five years.

I'm having trouble keeping the energy to post to my blog. Lots of craziness going on right now. I'm taking my special fields exams in three weeks. In two weeks I am giving a slightly controversial paper at a a fairly important conference. In one and a half weeks I have to turn in a seminar paper on a subject (doo-wop) I've never written about before. After all of this is done, I have to write and defend a dissertation proposal, and pass a Spanish exam. All of this in an attempt to advance to candidacy by the end of next quarter. And to be honest, I've been going through some really hard stuff of a non-bloggable nature.

So, apologies, loyal readers, for my non-posting, but hopefully I shall return soon!