Friday, June 30, 2006

Less Inauspicious

Future employers take note: my second class went much better.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Folks, you are not going to be believe what I did yesterday. I hesitated to even blog about it, because this is exactly the sort of story one does not want a future employer reading. But here we go: you know how this summer I am teaching my own course for the first time, an introductory lecture course on popular music to about sixty undergraduates? And that I have been very excited about teaching this class, and getting to pretend to be a "real" professor type, and write my own syllabus, teach my own material, and all that?

Well, yesterday I almost missed the very first day of class.

Somehow, all quarter, I have had written down in my calendar that the summer quarter begins on June 29. Thus, I had arranged to get back from England on the 26th, giving me enough time to get over jet lag and make last-minute preparations. Well, I got in from the UK at 10pm Monday night, horribly jet-lagged, and suffering from a bad cold I had picked up my last day in London. Just before I collapse in bed, I see an email from my colleague and TA extraordinaire, K--, asking if I need anything before tomorrow. I cheerfully write back, "of course not, we don't teach until Thursday!" Then I go to sleep.

At 3am, my jet-lagged body wakes up, and I check my email. There is a note from K-- which says, in effect, "okay, but you know that the registrar has us listed as starting tomorrow?" Sure enough, she's right. I am due to be teaching that morning, at 9:30 am.

Now mind you, I have completed my syllabus, and had done a fair amount of prep for my first lecture. But I now I have an extra class I didn't plan for, which means re-shuffling my whole syllabus around. And there is still quite a few loose ends and details to be cleared up for my lecture. So at about 3:30 am, I get to work. By 9:30am, I am indeed ready to go, but let me tell you, it was one of the worst lecture experiences of my life. I had slept about three hours in the last 32 hours, had a bad cold, and was not as prepared as I wanted to be. My voice kept giving out, I was feverishly sweating, I occasionally had to steady myself on the piano, and I kept losing my train of thought mid-sentence.

Somehow made it through though. It's a good learning experience, and as several people have pointed out to me, teaching conditions are rarely any more adverse than this. I just hope I can win back my class on Thursday!

This post will self-destruct as soon as I am on the job market.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Barnet ex-bound

It's been a lovely week. But now I'm headed home.

Monday, June 19, 2006


There a number of towns in England which have been kept meticulously "historic." I'm thinking, for example, of Stratford-upon-Avon, Windsor, Bourton-on-the-Water, and so on. There is a subtle formula that creates these towns: they can't be too large, because then the pressures of industrialization, need for housing, public transportation, etc., tend to have overriden any desire to maintain older buildings with consistency. But they also can't be too small, because it does take money to maintain all of that history. And of course, the most important part of the formula is tourism, which provides the money and energy to create systematic plans to retain the historic character of entire districts, rather than just individual buildings.

The thing is, of course, that all of these "historic" towns end up kind of looking the same. Stratford-upon-Avon looks a lot like Bourton-on-the-Water, which looks a lot like Windsor, which looks a lot like St. Albans. These towns are all in drastically different areas, and have very different histories, but they really do all blend together. I think it is because people, especially tourists but also the historic preservation industry, privilege certain historical architectural styles over others. We love timbered construction (what we call "Tudor" style in the U.S.), low ceilings, thatched roofs, wattle and daub walls, and so on. And so certain buildings get preserved, but not others--in the Cotswolds, for instance, there are lots of stories of people "renovating" Jacobean and Georgian structures by adding thatched roofs!

Anyways, I don't have any larger point here. Yesterday, Mary, Laura and I spent a very pleasant afternoon in St. Albans, which is only about ten minutes away from Barnet. It was the home of a famous abbey once upon a time, although post-Henry VIII all that remains now is a large gate. But there is also a funny little cathedral, and a really nice park that has some great Roman ruins. We had a leisurely lunch at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, a very old pub that was once the pigeon house for the abbey. All day I'd had a hankering for British food, and I was pleased to be able get a Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding. Delicious!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

St. George on a Stick

I arrived safely in London yesterday after a fairly hassle-free flight. Air New Zealand was nice enough. About the same level of service as BA, although they did have a nicer in-flight entertainment system. (As you might expect, the entire Lord of the Rings cycle was available fore viewing). On the way back from Heathrow we stopped for lunch at Wagamama (I would give anything for them to expand to the U.S.), and then had a pleasant evening relaxing around the house and the local pub.

Barnet is still more or less the same as ever. The one funny thing about London at the moment is that every pub, house, apartment, and car is flying the English flag at the moment--not the Union Jack, but the red and white cross that is specific to just England, rather than Great Britain. It is theoretically in celebration of the World Cup (not that England has much to celebrate at the moment), but it is a weird phenomenon, because flying the English flag has for a long time been associated with the BNP and various right-wing fascist movements in the U.K. There is a lot of talk in the papers of English citizens "reappropriating" the flag back from racist use, but I have to say, I'm not sure I like it. True, the flag now has less racist connotations than it once did. But at the same time, I have yet to see a non-white Brit flying the flag from his or her car, and I bet they are supporting the World Cup as much as everyone else. It's like the Confederate flag in the states--you can say it means whatever you want, but as a matter of how people receive it, there will always be resonances beyond your control. And even if the flag was purely harmless, flying flags from your car is such an....American way to celebrate things.

I've decided that Brazil is going to be my team for the World Cup this year. Both the U.S. and the U.K. are unworthy of my support, and Brazil has Kaka, who is pretty hot.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Barnet Bound

In a few hours, I am bound for Barnet once more. This trip it is courtesy of Air New Zealand, which should be fun. I have my iPod, a stack of grading, and some books both academic and non. I actually kind of look forward to these gigantic flights I take every so often. There is something zen about having to sit in one place for eleven hours. Plenty of time to think.

My plans for London?

1. Windsor Castle. Last summer I kept meaning to go, but sundry events like terrorist bombings kept getting in the way. It's going to happen this time. Mary's working, so I'll probably just take the train myself one day.
2. Cooking. I'm going to cook a dinner for all of Mary's rotation-mates, all twelve of them.
3. Rambling. The weather is lovely in London right now, so I plan to spend as much time as I can poking around in meadows and forests.
4. Work. Only mild, mild, amounts. But I do need to start preparing my lectures for this summer.

I never updated my blog this week, so here's another list:

1. Turned in the worst seminar paper of my life. Also my last, so I guess it is a good news/bad news kind of thing.

2. I successfully defended my dissertation proposal, and I am now ABD. Shocking! The best part is that it happened in time for me to teach this summer on a higher pay scale. It's not a gigantic difference, but I'll take what I can get. My goal is to write my Cage chapter this summer. I think that is very do-able, since I've written a forty-page version of it already, much of which I can keep. That way I'll be off to a running start, and will have a completed chapter for fellowship applications this fall.

3. Gave the final for the class I'm TAing. My grand plan was to grade it that night so that I could be completely done with this quarter before leaving. That didn't happen.

I think that's it! ta-ta!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Apologies for the blog silence. Suffice to say, I am at the point right now where I weighing these options:

1) Finish writing my seminar paper due tomorrow morning.
2) Drop out of graduate school, work at MacDonald's for the rest of my life.

It's a toss-up at the moment.


Update: I chose option #1, but I'm not happy about it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


A funny thing happened today: I went to my very last class of my life. Truth be told, it's a little anticlimatic, but I am happy nevertheless. It's been four long years of graduate coursework, preceded with no break by four years of undergraduate coursework. That's a lot of classes. Afterwards, our professor took me and the other two musicologists in the seminar out for drinks at the faculty club.

Other good things happened today as well:

1. TA assignments were decided for next year, and I got my first choice: the second half of our two-year music history sequence, so from Beethoven to the present. I'm very excited by this. Most of my teaching so far has been with non-majors, and in pop music classes. It will be nice to teach good ol' fashioned classical music to good ol' fashioned music majors for once.

2. I scheduled my proposal defense. Barring a very unfortunate defense, by this time next week I will be ABD!

3. I cleaned my room, and did some laundry. The cats helped by turning my "recyclable paper" pile into a swirling playground of paper fun. It's the thought that counts.

4. A week from tomorrow, I leave for England for a ten day visit before summer teaching begins. For a brief moment, my blog's title will make sense!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Rock n' Roll

The show last night was a ton of fun. The Boy Least Likely To might not be the prettiest men in the world--they can't help it, they're British--but their personalities are certainly infectious. As a number of reviews have pointed out, the great thing about the BLLT is that they take that kind of cutesy, poppy Indie thing but add a certain dark sense of humor. So they have lots of kind of cute songs with names like "Warm Panda Cola" and "Fur Soft as Fur" and "I'm Glad I Hitched My Wagon to Your Apple Star," and they are very peppy with plinky bells and banjos and whatnot, but they've always got an edge. The eponymous creatures of "Monsters," for instance, are his childhood friends who have now grown up and had babies. And the songwriting is totally top-notch. Anyways, I highly recommend their album. You can get it on iTunes if need be. And their US tour is just starting, so non-LA people might be able to catch them live this summer.

And also loves The Bicycles, a Toronto bad who opened. Their drummer looks distinctly like Patti Smith, they sing in chipmunk voices and were covered in temporary tattoos, and I have more than a little crush on their lead singer, who had a mohawk and had written on his guitar, "This Machine Kills Fashions."

I don't have the time, energy, or inclination to care too much about the rock n' roll kids listen to nowadays. It's a full-time job to keep up with indie rock. But going to a good show occasionally reminds me that live music is fun!

Speaking of rock n' roll, and kids, I'm finally putting together my syllabus for this summer. How I am supposed to recount the history of popular music in the United States in twelve classes, I ask you!? Oh wait, Fourth of July holiday, make that eleven the final exam, make that ten classes...yikes! I think reggae is going to have to go. And probably country rock too, not that that's a big loss.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Boy Least Likely to Get Work Done

Despite some logistical issues, and a dreadful sound system, our gig last night went well. Violet Vixen has a review that covers all the bases. Steph and I are hoping to play more this summer, once our schedules calm down some. Plus, we want to expand a little bit--a bassist and a drummer would be nice. It's funny how playing music is!

Tonight is yet another rock show, but this time as a spectator. Last night at 2 am I couldn't sleep, so I was mindlessly reading various blogs. A number of them were talking about a show tonight at the Roxy by The Boy Least Likely To, a British indie-pop duo. I went to their web site, listen to their single and really liked it, went and bought their album on iTunes, and now, voilĂ , less than 24 hours later a bunch of us are going to go hear them play! Should be a good time, and it is always nice to actually do something on the Sunset Strip, rather than just skulking about.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

Look how handsome Carlos is! This picture is about a week old, and his collar already fits much better. Right now, he is very energetically licking my elbow. We're a little suspicious that these kitties have a little bit of canine to them. Pablo in particular: when you pet him, he often rolls over so you can get his tummy, and he has these funny bow legs that make him walk like a bull dog.

In other news, tonight a friend and I are playing an all-Elvis set at TransUnity Pride at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. "It's Alright Mama," "Love Me Tender," and "Trying to Get To You," all in our patented banjo-electric guitar instrumentation. Good times.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I Been Travelin' Over Mountains

Two more tasks accomplished! I had to do a presentation today in seminar (also known as The Last Class I Will Ever Take In My Life After Taking Many Classes For Many Years.) That went okay, especially considering I was presenting about a topic I knew absolutely nothing about. And in front of a professor who is an expert in said topic, no less. One more class to go, and one more paper, and then the coursework phase of my graduate career is completely done. About time, considering this is my fourth year of it!

But more importantly, the faculty passed my proposal this afternoon--haven't heard the details, but sounds like there were no real problems. If you will indulge me in a quick moment of immodesty, one professor in particular, whose opinion I care about more than any other person in the world possibly, told me she thought it was, and I quote, "brilliant." So that really made my day. (End of bragging. I apologize.)

But I have to say, as nice as that was, it also made me realize just how run down I am right now. It has been a long quarter, coming on the end of a pretty rough year. And my supply of emotional energy is just about depleted--even the kind of validation that every grad student craves isn't quite enough to pep me up as much as it should. I'm really looking forward to my upcoming trip to England, and to a summer that I hope will be a little more...different. Than now.