Monday, December 31, 2012

Thinking about 2012, thinking about 2013.

I did a wrap-up of 2011 this time last year, so it seems fitting to do one now. This blog has been silent since July, because I made a policy of blogging only when I have something worth saying that was positive/productive. I'm working on extending that to Twitter, but it's a slow process. This calendar year has been incredibly difficult for a lot of reasons, which is why I'm so set on making 2013 better. I closed last year's wrap-up saying that 2012 would be the best year yet. Well, I was wrong. But that doesn't mean that I can't be hopeful, and hopefully productive. So, here it is, my month-by-month summary of 2012. It's interesting how little I can remember.

January: I took 2nd-semester German and Women & Religion during winter session. I "learned" German, and "learned" that taking intro level humanities classes as a senior (to fulfill the requirements of my newly acquired, newly developed major) wasn't the best idea ever. I had a fun experience involving a crazy roommate, which is basically why I decided to live alone now.

February: My classmates went off to student teach, and I didn't. It was a big relief to not student teach, and to take classes instead. Things were changing, though, and it was clear that we would all be leaving each other soon.

March: Started spring break at the EMP/IASPM-US Pop Conference at NYU (blog post here), and was pretty stinking inspired by it. By the end of spring break, my car died, I had a complete first draft of my senior thesis, and got accepted to give my first conference paper. I ended spring break helping out at the MTSMA meeting at UD, and talked to nice folks.

April: I gave that conference paper at the AMS Capital Chapter meeting, and had a pretty nice time doing so. The secret to any good presentation is to play a verse or 2 of "Love Me, I'm a Liberal." A week later, I defended my senior thesis in front of some truly great people, and had a lot of fun doing it.  The next week, I dreaded my birthday, but it happened anyway.

May: The end was near, then it happened. I graduated, which was probably the most bittersweet moment of my life so far. The day after graduation, I hopped over to DC for the summer.

June: Got into the swing of things as a 2012 Library of Congress Junior Fellow, which was definitely the highlight of my year. You can read about my experiences as an intern there in my recent archives, so I won't bother summing it up again. It was awesome. I made a few really great friends along the way, too—the types of friends I get to see with some regularity as long as we all stay in this crazy field.

July: More LC-ing. Had a nice time on the 4th, watching fireworks from the Mall. It was about 300 degrees with 700% humidity at all times (with the exception of my cubicle, which was about 4 degrees). Dressing myself was a challenge.

August: Left DC, packed up everything I had owned & accumulated throughout my life, and flew to Seattle. I got my first dose of the Seattle Freeze when all four of my apartment viewings for the first day flaked out.

September: Spent the first week bussing from the Eastside all around Seattle looking for a place to live. I hate Craigslist, and hope to never apartment-hunt that way again. I finally got my fab apartment, and things worked out that way. I prepared to try to figure out how to be an English teacher and a grad student immediately after separating myself from everyone and everything I loved by about 3,000 miles. Yes, I did choose to come here. I just expected a bit more institutional & social support. The first week of classes were miserable, which brings me to

October: The Worst. Un-bloggable, for various reasons.

November: The month started in New Orleans, and it was absolutely necessary to talk extensively with everyone I was missing who came to the conference. When things are awful, it's nice to get a break and remember that there are people out there who care very much, even if they're on the other side of the country. I only made it to a few papers, but the ones I saw were generally great. The rest of the month was still pretty bad, but not as bad as October. The hardest part was when I would be casually asked if I was going home for Thanksgiving.

December: Fall quarter ended, and I promptly got on a plane back to NY. Took a quick trip to Philly, then back to NY. I made a mental list of things that make Seattle better than NY, and came up with a few. Coming back to Seattle was anticlimactic; I still hate it here. I've been saying since the beginning that this would be an amazing place to live if one has friends and is career-satisfied, but those things don't apply to me, at least not yet.

For very major things, 2012 has been a year of built-up expectations with major let downs, and bait & switch situations. Maybe that means that 2012 was the year to learn to deal with disappointment and alone-ness. I suppose that's a good lesson to learn, even if it's not fun.

I have a few un-bloggable new year's resolutions for 2013, but here are a few I'm willing to share:

  • finally run a 5K
  • get re-inspired about my work
  • start creatively cooking again
  • explore the city through the SPL branch libraries (3 down, 24 to go)
  • read Don Quixote, and maybe The Fountainhead (which would be pain-FUL! but is something I feel I should read)
The biggest, most important resolution I have for 2013 is to continue trying as hard as I can to make it work. (Although the song is incredibly disturbing in its original context,) maybe this time, I'll win. 

Happy 2013, folks. Wishing you all the best.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The world's got me dizzy again

You'd think after twenty-two years I'd be used to the spin
And it only feels worse when I stay in one place
So I'm always pacing around or walking away
 Bright Eyes, "Land Locked Blues"


I graduated two months ago, today. Somehow, I managed to work nine weeks in between.

Yesterday, I had lunch with someone incredibly important to my college experience, and then dinner with someone incredibly important to my high school experience. The juxtaposition was so jarring that I needed to call someone else who was incredibly important to my college experience to sort it all out. The fact is that people change. I'll be the first to admit that I am not the same person I was in high school, or even as a college junior. I actually think I changed more in the last year than any year before that, maybe since learning how to walk and talk. I also know that that's ok, and *gulp* "normal."And I know that "normal" legitimately doesn't exist, no matter how much the culture industry tries to tell us otherwise. It's like there's these paths that well-adjusted people are supposed to follow to properly achieve milestones at the right times, and if they don't, they're social lepers. Well, guess what? I call shenanigans. I guess I know some people who do things the "right" way, but very few actually do.

I might be the first person to mention Lady Gaga and Bright Eyes in the same breath, but they are both so so relevant to what I'm thinking right now. I'm at this fabulous stage in my life that offers fresh starts when I need them. When the world drives me crazy, I wait it out a bit, then move. I'm 22, just like Connor Oberst, when he sang that song. (Sort of...) And then there's "Born This Way." Have you actually listened to the song's lyrics? I totally don't agree with a good portion of them, but I get the sentiment. Love yourself, no matter who you are. (Unless, I suppose, you're some sort of dangerous criminal. She should have been a bit more specific.) These two songs don't go together on their own, but they're both about me, in that narcissistic way that music is always about me.* Like take today: I bid farewell to many of my favorite spots in the city by visiting them one last time. I went to the National Gallery (spent about 93% of my time in the east building, of course), the Hirshhorn, and the Phillips. While at the Phillips, I went to their small version of Tryst, and ordered iced coffee. This is what it looked like:

Ok, this is what it looked like after I drank almost all of it...
My point is that this was a very pretentious-looking cup of iced coffee, and I drank it at a very pretentious-seeming attraction, while reading David Foster Wallace, a very pretentious-seeming author. But I did all of this because these are things I enjoy. I don't go to places because I've been socialized to think I should; I make these little choices based on things I actually want to do.

That's the biggest change I've made, and it was a very conscious change. It's clearly a process that'll be ongoing for a while, if not forever, but it's great. I used to do just about everything because I thought somebody wanted me to do it that way. For example, someone did my makeup for an event (my senior recital...), and people told me I looked good with lipstick. I ate up the compliment, and started to wear lipstick in regular life. It lasted about a month, before I got frustrated and stopped. An even better example is my hair. I wanted to go short & styled for several years, but I always had some friend or other who would tell me it was a bad idea and I'd look dumb. When I left Delaware and realized I had no social accountability, I went out and got the haircut I wanted. (The problem happened when it grew out and I needed a trim, and went to the Hair Cuttery to save money. Never again. Ever. Resist the discount haircut.) Getting that first right haircut was great, and people just accepted it as my hair.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that change can be a great thing, particularly if it's change that allows action to align more with personal ideals. Change is also scary, so it's always good to have someone to call to put things into perspective, even long-distance.

I'm not done figuring myself out yet. I don't know if anybody ever is, but I know I still have quite a ways to go. It was weird to be confronted with 4+ years of change in such quick succession, yesterday, but I'm glad it happened. I like the person I am now more than I like the person I was 1, 2, 4, or more years ago, but I will always like the people who were there for the ride, even if all we have in common is our past. Last fall, I caught up with the oldest friend I have. We hadn't seen or spoken to each other for almost four years, but we were able to talk for almost an entire day about our shared past. I think it's good to remember who I used to be, to shed some perspective on who I am, and who I will be.

———
As annoying as this post may read, it's something I needed to get out. After this week, I'll recap my final two weeks at the library. Interesting stuff happened last week, and I'll throw it in when I write about this coming week, which will be my last week in DC.
———

*It's about you, too, but I would never admit that.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Briefer updates and thoughts, with 2 weeks left in the district

Whenever I tell people I'm moving to Seattle, they buckle just a bit. Everyone seems incredibly happy to hear it, and at least a bit jealous. It makes me wonder if I'm such a quick read and it's obvious that it will be the right place for me, or if there's some sort of collective unconscious driving mid-Atlantic east coasters to the PNW. (Besides having a place to live lined up,) I'm so ready to go. I "moved on" from my hometown ages ago, and I "moved on" from Delaware the second we drove away from my awful apartment complex in Newark. I suppose I won't officially move on from that area, though, until I stop listening to WHYY all the time and hearing about traffic on the Schuylkill... . I do still have two more weeks here in DC, but I'm not all that connected to the city. It's a great place to be, but as things are winding down and people are leaving, I mostly just find myself a cranky northerner longing for better weather and more local, dive-y food. (For the record, today's weather was "warm Seattle." I appreciated it, even if it did get close to 80.)

I can't believe I only have two more weeks, though! The longer I stay at the LC, the longer I want to stay here. Aside from the two drawbacks of the work environment (sitting under an aggressive AC vent and the less-than-functional automatic paper towel dispensers), it's awesome! I have reached the point in my RISM reporting that I can identify several copyists and their locations by their musical handwriting, and I have memorized all the Plaine and Easie incipit coding language except for a few irregular commands. Along the way, I am LOVING going through Oscar Sonneck's card catalog. Sonneck was the first chief of the Music Division back in the day, and he took amazing notes. Many of his cards give standard cataloging information, but some items get 4 or 5 3x5 index cards full of prose commentary. One of the copyists I deal with is Alfred Wotquenne, who is probably most famous for his cataloging of CPE Bach, and conservatory library cataloging. Oh, the good ol' days when musicology was...old. Anyway, from what I can tell (and from stories I've heard), Sonneck had almost no respect for Wotquenne. I'd like to dig up more of the dirt, but anything substantial would be in French, probably in Brussels. By the time I get around to learning French and going to Brussels, something else will catch my attention. It's sad that I only have about a week left with this material. Between the giant display we've been planning for all summer, the all-day rehearsal for it, and presumably an entire day of HR out-processing, there's only so much opera I can report before it's time to leave.

'til next time...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wolke sechs

That moment when your blog generates way more traffic than usual, without being referenced by a significantly more famous blog(ger)? Yeah, that happened yesterday into today. Sorry if I offended, kids, but I know I'm not the only one who feels the way I do! I'd actually love to argue it out with someone who feels strongly the other way; I don't think I'm objectively right, but I think what I think.

Well, do you want to know what else has taken up my time this week that I find worth writing about? If you do, keep reading!

Wednesday was the country's birthday, so the library was closed. I had a lovely afternoon/evening (until the metro ride home, which was one of my worst nightmares realized), and I enjoyed the mid-week weekend. Every week should have Wednesday off. Or any weekday, really. I miss having a college schedule, where I didn't have the same hours every day, five days a week.

But regardless of the real-world hours, I think my job is fantastic. I'm reporting all these manuscript copies of pre-Beethoven composers to RISM, so I'm doing a bit of actual research, learning the details of things like Grove and MGG, and using a coding language to write musical incipits. Most of my manuscripts are early-20th century copies, but some are 18th century, contemporary with the autographs (but the autographs aren't on my radar since they're in a different call number class and already reported). The funny part to me is how the 18th century manuscripts are in significantly better condition than the 20th century ones. It probably has to do with paper in the early 20th century being mass-produced, rather than it being used for more special occasions in the 18th century. Or something like that.

And then the weekend happened, and it was still inhumanly hot outside.

I decided it was finally time to go to the Phillips Collection, which had been the only museum on my to-do list that isn't free. Oh my lordy, was it worth the cost of admission! I walked in through the entrance to the gallery part, and the security guard asked me if I was looking for anything in particular--perhaps the Jasper Johns exhibit, or the restrooms. My response: "Rothko," without missing even half a beat. It was amazing, and I went to the Rothko Room three times during my visit to the gallery. I don't know what it is about his work that makes me unable to look away. It's mesmerizing, and I don't know enough about painting to explain why. I just really love it. The Jasper Johns exhibit was also really cool. I enjoyed walking through, and recognizing Merce Cunningham's face in one of the pieces. I also liked walking through another section of the museum and seeing John Cage's watercolor paintings. I didn't really know what to think about that one, but I audibly laughed when I read the description card. That gallery was absolutely amazing, and I'll probably go back before I leave (which is *tear* in a month).

Two other not-as-exciting things that happened yesterday:
I wanted a coffeeish shop lunch, so I wandered into Teaism by the gallery, north of DuPont Circle. It was good, and my book was good, but the cashier was curious. I've never had somebody try to convince me not to buy something at the place they work, and this guy was really against me getting the tofu dish. Something about fermented soybeans, and tofu making people more hungry than before eating it. The thing about tofu is that its pretty much the only form of soy besides soybeans themselves that's actually a good, healthy product. I wanted to tell him to read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, but I was too hungry and dehydrated, so I ordered the seaweed salad instead. I love a good seaweed salad.

I also went to the (slightly) indie movie theater and saw To Rome, With Love. It was amazing!! My favorite line, by Woody Allen himself: "I once did a production of Rigoletto where everyone was dressed as white mice." If you're into Woody Allen, awkward musician jokes, Alec Baldwin being amazing, or Ellen Page being amazing, just go see it. I happen to be into all those things, so I was more than satisfied. I was a bit upset to overhear a couple around my age complaining that it was the worst movie they had ever seen, but it was a good excuse to sit in air conditioning for 2 hours.

Today was stupid. My two plans (go to Georgetown to get it over with, and see the 6pm Kennedy Center Millennium Stage performance) were spoiled by the heat and my inability to navigate the bus system. I also wore flip flops, which is just never a good idea for walking around. But I did have two great experiences. The first time I went to the National Gallery's east building, I must have not realized that there's a full basement floor of amazing things I wanted to see. More Rothko, but without the ambiance, and lots of other great M/modern art. I also went to the smaller Smithsonian galleries, and I really loved the African Art gallery. There was a really neat contemporary exhibit of harem artistic tropes revised with transgressive imagery. Also, the nice thing about going to the smaller galleries is that they aren't generally on tourist radar. At the National Gallery, I was visibly annoyed at tourist families practically yelling across the room that the pieces couldn't be art, and they looked so easy to do. That, along with looking like I belong in a modern art museum, made me aware of the degree of snobiness into which I have been socialized.

It seems like the heat wave is finally breaking. I have only one more month here, which is probably exactly how much more time I want to have left.

'Til next time!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

in quick defense of AC

It goes like this:

I had ~1600 words on Anderson Cooper's coming out letter in a draft. Technically, I still have it in a draft. Like I do with the heavier things I write, I put at 24 hour waiting period on publishing it. 24 hours turned into days, and it didn't feel like the write thing to publish for all the world and the future Googling world to see. If you'd like to read what I wrote, email me and I can send it to you. Nothing I wrote is a secret, but that doesn't mean that things have to go global. Even though I decided not to publish my original thoughts, I still feel the need to say what I need to say.

Everybody that's hating on Anderson for not coming out sooner, or for still making it seem like he's ashamed, is actually making it harder for people that aren't out or aren't public. There's a difference. All that criticism makes it seem like if you don't make a big deal of coming out the second you hit puberty, you have something to hide, or something to be ashamed of. Super false. Not making a public statement isn't the same as being ashamed of anything. Some people (dare I say "us?") are just not into making a big deal of things that don't feel like a big deal.

I'm expecting tomatoes to be thrown at me any minute now...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

5 down, 5 to go.

I have been remiss in saying interesting things here. Pictures of storm wreckage are interesting, I suppose, but I do actually have some better things to talk about. It just never happens, because I hardly turn on my computer anymore, and I spend so little time in the house that I prefer to spend my free time doing stupid things like watching Netflix or HBO. I'm slightly worried that I've forgotten how to write in the last month or so, which could be a problem, considering I'll be teaching writing in the fall. It's more likely that—like so many other academic things—I need the summer completely *off* to recharge. I've had these two articles sitting in my pocket for weeks, both of which involve me writing something in a low-stakes setting, and I've been putting them both off. The first seems really cool, and would be something new for me. The Huffington Post has a section that allows folks like me to summarize our undergrad theses and make them publicly searchable on the site. Mine's already up on my academia.edu page, but it would be cool to make it even more available. On the other hand, it's not amazing. I'm proud of the work I did, and—given my life circumstances in the last year and a half—is the best I could have done, but it still could be a lot better. It's a jumping off point, and future long-term projects will be better. Right? That's the whole point of the thing, in my opinion. The second page in my pocket is a CFP from IASPM-US for blog posts on the subject "The First Time I Ever Heard... ." I have a topic in mind, and a month to sit down and actually formulate something. No big deal for a 1,000 word blog post. I've also written there before, so I feel good about my story/audience. I won't spoil it here until it's more formulated and written, though.

Anyway, I championed a few things this week, and I'm proud enough to post about them on my blog. Ready? Here they are:

  • Wearing my spinster sweater at work. If you know me, you unfortunately know this sweater. It's bulky, sort of a wrap-around, blue & gray, and horribly unattractive. Still, it's incredibly warm and comfortable, and I sit under an AC vent that seems determined to turn me into a human popsicle. I also work in a library, so I occasionally think it's fun to dress like a stereotypical old librarian. Nobody I work with dresses that way, but I wish someone would.
  • MS Publisher. I'm making a poster/banner/timeline *thing* of opera and American history since my birth. It's a bit gimmicky, but that's partially the point. I have absolutely no graphic design experience, so the poster isn't fancy, but it's almost done.
  • Finding ice cream near the library. This sounds trivial, but it was a big deal. The trick was to not look for ice cream itself, but to go to Good Stuff and order milkshakes. Why there's no standalone ice cream or froyo shop on Pennsylvania between 1st & 3rd SE is beyond me.
  • The office Keurig. I bought a box of k-cups, and I keep tea bags in my bag. Consistent hot drinks helps offset the tundra climate mentioned above.
I'm also working on championing this new part of my job, which is reporting manuscripts and transcriptions to RISM. RISM's OPAC is auf Deutsch, as is MGG, which is typically more comprehensive than Grove. My scores so far are old Italian operas (the cut-off date for this section of RISM is Beethoven; any composers born before B's birthday in 1770 count), so the manuscripts themselves are in Italiano, and I also reference sources en Français. I also spend time writing musical incipits with a special code that turns letters, numbers, and punctuation into something that looks like printed music (I hope). This is the perfect mix of being an intern and a musicologist; I do the tedious, never-been-done, detail-oriented work that needs to be done for research, but it has absolutely nothing to do with my own research (what research?). It's surprisingly rewarding, though. When I put in all the work for an opera that isn't listed in a catalog of the composer's works, it's tedious because I'm actually making note of the score, where it has been previously ignored. These works have been available in the library's catalog, an international database gets more attention (and is much more standardized, to be honest). So, my time at work is split between operas since my birth and operas by composers before the birth of Beethoven. It's cool, and not something I thought I'd be doing, but something that's pretty amazing. I can't believe this thing is already halfway over!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The micro-surge

On Friday night, I caught the 6:30 showing of Disney/Pixar's Brave. I could write about how it bothered me as a Pixar fan, a feminist, and a musicologist, but instead I'll tell you about what happened after the movie.

I caught the metro toward Glenmont at Gallery Place, and was one of maybe 5 people in the car. Odd for any human hour on the red line, but scarily lonely on a Friday evening. It moved slowly, especially north of New York avenue, but the metro is occasionally strange like that. I get off at Brookland and there are a lot of leaves on the ground. I walk down the road toward 10th street, and I see this tree down on the side of the road:


So I continue walking home, and I get to 12th street, and it's roped off as seen here:

Between 12th and 13th, some nice people outside tell me not to walk on the live electric wires that are down on the street. This happened after I saw this scene, a tree down across Otis:

The house didn't have power from 7pm Friday night through 7am this (Sunday) morning. The rest of the city was barely aware of a storm. We didn't make the news, and nobody I spoke to all weekend outside of my house had any experience with a storm except for a bit of rain and wind. I love it.

So...because of the weather mishap, I couldn't take down this prescriptive article about what a woman should want out of life and why she can't have it while I had the steam to write. Thankfully, others have.

I've also gotten back into reading fiction, which I haven't really done since high school. But that's for another post...

For now, I have the password to my parents' HBO Go account, and I am incredibly invested in these spoiled Brooklyn girls. And I need to find out what happens to Winston Smith with the Thought Police.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Week 3 from a bus

I'm currently on a bus from DC to NY, and I have a great wifi signal that just happens to block Netflix, which I excitedly reactivated a few days ago after almost a year without it. I already caught up on all my reading for the week, and I'm not ready to read an actual book yet (really, I'm just listening to great music and can't seriously read with music playing), so I'm blogging from my iPad on 95 somewhere in Maryland. Really...why not? I'm on the way home for a family party. It's nice, because I get to go home and see some family who I haven't seen in years, but it's a whole lot of time commuting for less than 24 hours in Mount Kisco.

The thing about working in the real world with regular hours is that I never know what day it is; when I have the same hours Monday through Friday, all weekdays basically seem the same. This week did have a few highlights worth remembering and sharing (besides frozen margaritas and sunflowers, which are a few of my favorite things but not really worth elaborating upon).

A fantastic result of knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time, I got an unofficial tour of the instrument vault at the library. I got up close and personal with lots of ridiculous old Italian instruments. I have no pictures, because I got pulled into the vault while I was in the middle of inventorying scores (best surprise in the middle of working, right?), but it was definitely an experience to remember!

DC has famously humid summers, but it's been so far tolerable. The one day this week that was particularly intolerable, however, was the one day I simply had to run. I'm a new and inexperienced runner, and this was the first time I ran over 2 miles straight without stopping to walk. It's a milestone for me, though it might be laughable for others. Still, I'm proud of myself.

Perhaps most relevant to the title of this blog, I went to Jazz in the Park yesterday at the National Sculpture Garden to hear a Dixieland band. It started at 5, but I didn't get there until closer to 5:30. The place was crowded when I got there, but just got crazier and crazier! It was amazing how many people were interested in Dixieland, or really just interested in sangria and cheese. Most of those people were in their 20s and 30s, white, wealthy, and trendy. By about 6:30, the sculpture garden was so packed that there wasn't actually room to walk around. It was a pretty interesting dynamic. The music was good, but the band took super long breaks. Still, it was a fun (and free) experience.

Well, I'm not enjoying typing so much on this thing, so I'll finish this up. More interesting things to come soon, perhaps!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Week 2 and Betty Friedan

I got my first mean blog comment on the last post. Does that mean I'm popular? Probably not...well, definitely not. I embarrassingly do want to become internet-famous, but it'll happen when/if it happens.

If it wasn't clear from last week's ramble, I really love DC. There isn't much time to stop and smell the roses, but that almost makes it seem like I'm always smelling them. There is always stuff to do, and it's almost always free. I will say that a "normal" 9–5 job is difficult and taxing in ways I didn't understand until I've started living it myself. My hours are 8:30–5, which puts me on the metro right in the middle of peak rush hour, both ways. Sometimes, I miss a relatively empty train by seconds only to wait for a completely packed one a few minutes later. Other times, I get lucky and end up on the quiet one. Getting to work for 8:30 means waking up at 6:15, which is something I certainly did not miss from high school days. Given the choice, my body would sleep from 11:30–8 every night, but it doesn't get the choice. Tough. It's also just difficult having the same schedule every day. I thought the regularity would be refreshing, but it makes the week feel a lot longer. It turns out I'm not as into routines as I thought I was. There's also the issue of the arctic office, but that seems pretty pervasive in this town.

Aside from the aforementioned grumblings, things are pretty great. My job is cool; it's one of those situations where things take a while to make sense, but they have clicked and I'm looking forward to doing this stuff for the next 8 weeks. Spoiler alert: it's a good thing I have a basic understanding of both the German and French languages. More on that as it gets more interesting than looking through a card catalog. The program is also really cool. I didn't realize until I saw this press release, but it's actually really selective and I'm very lucky to have been chosen to participate! On Tuesday, we had an optional day trip to Culpeper, Virginia, where recorded media gets archived. It was pretty amazing. There was absolutely nothing in the area except mountains and fields, but they were beautiful.

The work they do down in Culpeper is fascinating and the view is clearly beautiful. I should have taken some pictures of the building itself, which is very m(M?)odern and makes excellent use of natural light. I wouldn't trade my DC location for it, though...this place is tops. I've been hanging out a bit more in the DuPont circle area, and wishing I lived closer to it all. I'm on the red line, but way on the other side, on the east side of the loop. Being a straight shot from DuPont is convenient for things like the Capital Pride parade, when Planned Parenthood heads across P street with a giant condom held up by pink hula hoops on sticks.
unfortunate timing with the person in front of me, but you get the picture...
Some other cool stuff I've done since the last update? I explored used bookstores, saw a free dance show at the Kennedy Center, went to the spy museum, did a loop of the tidal basin to see the monuments, spent some time in Foggy Bottom by GWU (which I won't do again unless there's a very good reason to do so), and read books in parks and coffee shops.

Even with all the cool stuff I've been doing—patriotic, resistent, or neutral—I've been reading books just because I feel like reading them. Not having assignments, projects, or work to take home is pretty liberating. If I decide to read Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, I can request it (4 times...the first 3 failed) from the Library, and check it out to read at my leisure! (If you're keeping score, I already finished Jonah Lehrer's Imagine, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I'm also working on Mary Wollstonecraft's Frankenstein and George Orwell's 1984.) I can also sit there reading it, questioning how women could possibly grow up believing the things they did, and I can baffle at how much has changed in the fifty-year interim. I don't think I was ever once told—directly or indirectly—that my purpose in life was to find a husband and become a mother. I might do those things, or I might not, and the situational outcome doesn't validate or invalidate my femininity. Even better—if I don't do those things, my life won't suck because of it. Thanks, recent generations of feminists, for demanding and achieving personhood. Thanks to those who fought, in the streets or in their writings, I cannot process what it would feel like to not consider myself a full and capable person because of my sex or gender. I'm reading The Feminine Mystique to try to understand the phenomenon, and I'm really glad that it's something I'm learning from a book rather than from my environment.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

DC week 1 wrap-up

I'm finally resting up for week 2, and realizing that I should get this on paper—well...um—before it all falls out of my brain. Let me first say that this summer experience is exactly what I need after breaking my back for the last 3 years (freshman year was mostly coasting, if I remember correctly). I'm the type of person who feels like being productive is the only way to be, and who fights that constantly. In the last 6 or 7 months, I've taken more time to not be productive, and my overall life quality has improved dramatically. Each time I have a moment of "hey, I'm having so much fun right now—wait, I should be doing x," I tell myself that I deserve the break. Plus, I'm doing good things, like walking the entire city and going to museums and concerts. Seriously, today I walked over 8 miles just in traveling distance—that doesn't include walking through the zoo or museums. My Birkenstocks are well-traveled... I'm also reading a lot, and I have no academic projects planned now (I also don't plan on developing any until they're assigned for courses in the fall, and I don't plan on developing longer-term projects until at least winter break. I NEED A MENTAL BREAK. I deserve a mental break. I feel like I have the academic equivalent of somnorexia, and I need to get better at spacing out work. For now, I'm a bit burnt out...)

So, what have I been doing in the last week? Living the life. I don't have any friends in this town, but people are nice. My roommates are nice. They don't start unintentional fires, which is something every previous roommate of mine has done. But even though I don't have actual friends here, I don't feel lonely. There's so much to do that I don't seem to mind, at least not yet. I'm here for my internship, which comes first. I'm working in the music division at the LoC, cataloging mostly undocumented opera scores from various periods and in various stages of disintegration. When I open a particularly old and browning one, I sneeze twice. I work in a cubicle, and fight with a Windows computer. I somewhat frequently use a trilingual card catalog; it seems my limited knowledge of French and German is sufficient for what I need to do! In case you're wondering, I also now know the difference between quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment, and I know to lock my computer when I walk away from my desk. On Friday, I spent lunch+ watching a video of a Burt Bacharach celebration concert. The music division likes music, curiously enough! On Thursday, I took a tour of the Jefferson building (the pretty one), and I learned that there will always be 20-year-old boys who laugh at the word "lesbian." I also learned that the people who designed the LoC were badass, and there is tons of awesome stuff I need to check out in that building.

I am also elegantly balancing being a tourist with doing native-DC things. I have gone to more museums than I can count, and I look at maps when I need to, but I always know where I'm going. I walk on the left side of the escalator, and I don't stand up on the metro until the car stops. I also bring a book. I have a few things worth sharing about my extracurricular activities, I suppose.

  • The East building at the National Gallery of Art is where it's at if you're into modern art (personally, I'm not into visual art pre-Impressionism). There's some great stuff in the West building, but I drooled over far more in the East building.
  • The zoo is fine, but nowhere near as dense or comprehensive as the Bronx Zoo, which I will always love and cherish unconditionally. 
  • Just because you can see the Washington monument doesn't mean it's close to where you are.
  • Wear sunscreen. I have a peeling burn on my shoulders for the first time in probably close to a decade.
  • I had expected Logan Circle and DuPont Circle to be fun and happening, but they were pretty dull. Hopefully that won't be the case next weekend for the pride parade! Adams Morgan is awesome, and I wish I was living on that side of town. Today, I walked from the zoo down to the art gallery, which was just under 8 miles. Factor in walking to & from the metro, and walking through the places I visited, and I probably walked 10 miles. Walking is great.
  • I'm just not that into sound mass. I saw a concert that would have been great if the pieces were more diverse. I guess that's the trouble with having a program featuring a composer and his students. I walked out at the same time as another fed-up audience member who told me to check out the free concerts at the Kennedy Center. Sometimes, music people can be great and super helpful!
  • I cannot get over how much one can do for free in this town. It almost makes up for the unreasonably high rent. If I go to a museum and I get tired or hungry, I don't have to feel like I need to get my money's worth. I can always go back!
I could easily go on about most of the things I'm doing, but I'm going to leave it here. If you have visited/lived in DC and have suggestions for things I should do, leave a message in the comments box!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Blog turns a bit diary, post-grad

The last few weeks have been fairly crazy, and—surprisingly—I've been too present to reflect. That's the opposite of my usual problem.

The first Crazy Thing was going to Seattle. I flew out for the weekend to visit my new school, and get a feel for the city. Believe it or not, the city actually exists! The decision to go to UW didn't quite fall into my lap, but it was the best possible outcome on paper, and I've wanted to live in the northwest since I realized that the country is more than just Boston to DC and occasionally Florida. I decided to attend the school without visiting first, and the only time I was ever on the west coast was San Francisco in November for AMS. Basically, I wasn't quite convinced that Seattle existed, so I needed to go there to make sure it was a real place. Not only does it exist, but it exists for me. Is that a narcissistic thing to say? Abso-freaking-lutely. But it's true. I'm super pumped to move out there in the fall, and to get excited about school again. (Except that now, I'm really loving not having school to worry about)

So after I came back from Seattle, I had to do the Crazy Thing of finishing my undergraduate career. Technically, it's not over; I have 13 credits in progress. I'm done, but the grading isn't. I would have had to screw up pretty royally to not graduate, but I'll feel better when all my grades are in. I'll be graduating with distinction for writing a senior thesis, and I believe I earned the magna cum laude title. I think that might change if my grades from this semester bump my GPA down a bunch, but I have far more important things to care about than the latin phrase on my diploma. Leaving Delaware is probably the most bittersweet thing I've had to do so far. There was so much about the school and town that I absolutely could not stand. It's probably a good thing that the last thing I did was move out of my terrible apartment. Hey, UD students: don't live in the University Gardens. Just don't do it. But on the 'bitter' side, I had to leave the most amazing people who helped me through the most formative years of my life since preschool. Most of the mourning took place weeks before actually leaving, but I did a lot of spontaneous crying in April and May, right up until the night before graduation. On graduation day, I kept my cool until the reception after the music department convocation, and I never completely lost it, but there were visible tears. Thank goodness for waterproof mascara. Also, thank goodness for texting, Facebook, Skype, and the promise of coffee at conferences. Leaving isn't actually leaving, it's just relocating.

And finally, Crazy Thing number three is moving to DC, which I did yesterday. I start work tomorrow, so I spent today first doing a dry-run of the commute, then running all over the Capitol Hill area museum-hopping (and getting sunburnt in the process). Basically, I did a lot of touristy things. I'll probably continue to do lots of touristy things all summer, because they're super fun for American history nerds like myself. They're also typically free, which is awesome.

Things are in flux, but it's necessary. Stay tuned here for more reflective rather than descriptive updates, and some arguments and thoughts.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I am a graduate

And this is (part of) how I feel:

(I still have 13 credits in progress, so hopefully I didn't screw up too terribly and I actually did graduate...)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

#musicdiary2012

This looks fun. I'm keeping track of the music I listen to from 5/7–5/13. For sanity's sake, I won't include the snippets used as musical examples in my three music classes or in my pop culture sociology class. That would get a bit crazy.

Monday:
  • A Chorus Line soundtrack, while getting ready in the morning
  • Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue, all morning at the library. I'm writing a paper on the work, so this one will probably show up pretty regularly. Revised: not worth re-listing each time it happens. Just assume I'm listening to the piece a lot this week...
  • Gin Blossoms, New Miserable Experience while jogging/walking. I walk a song, jog a song, rinse, repeat (except that now I'm working that down to walking a song, jogging 2 songs. I will run a 5k. It will happen.)
  • Christina Aguilera's self-titled debut, because it's somehow alphabetized right after A Chorus Line in iTunes, when sorting by album.
  • Turtle Island Quartet & Ying Quartet, 4 + Four, while blogging (and while I should have been writing about piano solos in Rhapsody in Blue).
  • Genius playlist based on "Where Does the Good Go?" by Tegan and Sara, while writing emails and aimlessly surfing the internet. Dear reader, if you don't already use the Genius feature of iTunes, you are truly missing out. It isn't always perfect, but it does a damn good job.
Tuesday:
  • I sought out almost no music today. That's what happens when I have class aaaaalllllllll day. I spend that much time listening actively that I give my ears a rest. I did go to support a friend performing in the horn and tuba ensembles concert. I got there too late to get a program, but there was...lots of conical brass.
Wednesday:
  • Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell. I haven't listened to this in ages, but I woke up with "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" stuck in my head. 
  • Beach Boys, Greatest Hits, while running. I know greatest hits albums are lame, but I think actually don't think they are. 
  • Ani DiFranco's new song "Hearse," because NPR told me to listen to it. This happened during my "read everything on the internet I missed today" purge. If you don't use Pocket already, you really should. I use it with Chrome and my iPhone, but I believe it's super compatible with just about everything. It's particularly awesome with Twitter and Google Reader. I digress.
Thursday:
  • Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, while getting ready for classes
  • Generic, boring, fusion-y smooth jazz, while sitting in my typical coffee shop and trying to write a paper (but, as expected, failing somewhat miserably)
  • Lo-fi MTVU audio at the gym. It was <sarcasm> amazing </sarcasm>
Friday:
  • All the ABBA I have on my computer, thanks to the stupidly fabulous Eurovision yesterday.
  • Also went to an elementary school choir/strings/band concert and heard lots of tunes, and then saw Puccini's Il trittico. Lots of music, but I'm not sure it fits in with the spirit of this music diary thing.
Saturday:
  • Various arrangements of pop songs at the D#s' a cappella concert
  • Beatles For Sale while running. (Probably my favorite pre-psychedelia Beatles album)
  • Jeremy Denk's Ligeti/Beethoven album on First Listen. Thanks, NPR!
Sunday:
  • Be OK, by Ingrid Michaelson
  • Tails, by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories (because sometimes I like to pretend I was a teenager in the '90s)
  • Begin to Hope, by Regina Spektor
Ok, so maybe this was less interesting and entertaining than I had hoped it would be. Maybe that's the point?

Monday, May 7, 2012

In defense of the spoiled, straight, liberal, white _Girls_.

I really wish I had HBO so I could actually watch Girls, but I saw the pilot and I know enough to make the claims I want to make. I've been wanting to make this point since reading "In Defense of Liz Lemon" in the New Yorker, and I just now have enough ammo, thanks to Lena Dunham's appearance on Fresh Air. Side note: I really love Terry Gross; she has this amazing ability to pull out exactly what I want to hear from her guests. A friend also posted something on Facebook that gave me even more ammo for this topic (though I'll leave that out of my rant).

I'm terribly annoyed at consumer culture's decision that every protagonist or creator who isn't a heterosexual white man is instantly a role model or spokesperson for whatever label the protagonist or creator embodies that isn't white, male, or heterosexual. Liz Lemon isn't a Bad Feminist; Liz Lemon is a character on a topical, somewhat zeitgeisty comedy show. Sure, she isn't the Most Liberated Woman Ever, but who is? She's a nut, but she does what she can. Making her into a more active feminist would likely mean diminishing the writers' goal--which is comedy. It's like when Jon Stewart went on Fox News Sunday and explained how Fox's primary motivation is its political agenda, and his is his comedic agenda. If there happen to be politics emerging from that agenda, fine, but the motivation is comedy.

Enter: Girls. Again, I have (regrettably) only seen the pilot. Still, I'm so opposed to all the backlash the show is receiving. Enough with the "hipster racism,"the lack of diversity, and the Bad Feminism. It's a show about a few characters. If anything, we should be praising Dunham for showing something different. Nowhere does she claim that the characters she portrays represent any sort of universal experience. Instead, the characters represent one type of being different that isn't typically portrayed on TV. Please listen to the Fresh Air interview; she explains the show and characters' origins better than I can.

Just because a TV show (or book or radio show or CD or...or...or...) shows something that isn't cookie cutter-based does not mean it has to represent every way of being different. It's unrealistic to expect that of a show, and it (frankly) probably wouldn't make for the most entertaining program. Lay off, people!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

Two posts in one day! I'm usually lucky if that happens in a week. Lordy, lordy, lordy.

I have this one little hobby I go to when the world gets a little too ridiculous or overwhelming. I read along with YouTube recordings of T. S. Eliot reading his poems. It sounds totally pretentious, but I just find it fun. I don't analyze the poetry beyond a surface glance, but I love the way the words and sounds go together. Try it, I dare you.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," by T. S. Eliot (1920).

 S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
 
LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats        5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….        10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
 
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
 
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,        15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,        20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
 
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;        25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;        30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
 
In the room the women come and go        35
Talking of Michelangelo.
 
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—        40
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare        45
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
 
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,        50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?
 
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—        55
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?        60
  And how should I presume?
 
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress        65
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
  And should I then presume?
  And how should I begin?
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets        70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…
 
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!        75
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?        80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,        85
And in short, I was afraid.
 
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,        90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—        95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
  That is not it, at all.”
 
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,        100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:        105
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
        110
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,        115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
 
I grow old … I grow old …        120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
 
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
 
I do not think that they will sing to me.        125
 
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
 
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown        130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
 

Surface-level observations regarding three early 20thC American piano trios

Dear string quartets,
I'm just not that into you.

That's blasphemy, I know, but it's true. I like some individually, but they just don't speak to me. I'm a much greater fan of chamber music that involves a piano. Stick a piano with a string quartet, and that's cool. But the four strings on their own are just not (usually) for me. Actually, stick another instrument with a string quartet--an extra viola or cello--and we're in business. Today, I'm all about piano trios.

I'm preparing for a presentation in my chamber music lit class tomorrow. It's just supposed to be on Copland's Vitebsk, but the assignment is pretty flexible, so I decided to expand to include Ives' and Bernstein's piano trios. Hope that's ok... Three weird pieces by three even weirder composers. As for the composers, I love two of them as people, and one as a character. Can you guess which is the character? I hope you can.

Ives completed his trio in 1911, and revised it around 1914–5. Somewhat curiously, the score I picked up at the library marks the year 1904 under the composer's name. It must be a typo, because I can't find any significance to that year. I suppose the most famous movement is the second-movement scherzo, TSIAJ. What does that stand for? "This scherzo is a joke." While I'd hate to have to learn and perform the piece, I really like listening to it, with Stephen Foster quotations galore! I don't have much to say about the piece, other than it being fun.

Copland wrote his trio Vitebsk in 1928, two years before the Piano Variations. I heard this piece performed live in August, by the resident ensemble for the Copland House. They're based in Peekskill, and they did a performance at a church in Pleasantville. I really enjoyed the performance, mostly because it was Copland that didn't sound like "Copland." It's pre-war, pre-populist, and largely atonal. Still, it manages not to sound too difficult. The piece is loosely based on a Jewish/Yiddish folk tune from the (amorphous) shtetel, and is probably Copland's most blatant musical expression of his own religion.

And finally, we have Bernstein, who always makes me smile. I'm listening to his piano trio for the first time as I type. He wrote it in 1937 as an undergraduate at Harvard, and I can only describe it as "Lenny." It blends traditional harmony/tonality, jazz, and harsher big-M-Modernism with that characterizing sense of adolescent optimism and excess I absolutely love about Bernstein. Fun pizzicato in the middle movement.

The three pieces work well together, and I'd highly recommend listening to all if you get a chance. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Brahmsian perspective, or something like that.

Yesterday's post was Debbie Downer city. For that, I apologize. I don't regret it, though. I hate reading people's posts that invite pity parties, but I needed some catharsis.

I had a bit of a renewing experience today. It wasn't life-changing, and it wasn't magic, but it sure took my mind off of everything for an hour or so. Once my mind moved, I got some perspective.

After a somewhat complicated and involved sequence of events, I ended up turning pages for a pianist at a chamber music recital. I find it hard to believe, but this was the first time I was a page turner. The program was chamber works for violin & piano/cello & piano by Brahms and Schumann. I'm not all that much of a 19th century person, but I'm a fan of those two. Given the two composers, my job was on the easy side, but not mind-numbingly boring. It worked out well. Still, page turning requires concentration. For about an hour and a half, I followed along in the music, making sure I would know when to stand up and wait for the nod to turn the page.

I didn't rehearse the music and I didn't even know the pianist until a few minutes before the recital. Still, I felt connected to a musical performance, and that felt special. I also found an example of Brahms paraphrasing himself, and that's probably my favorite thing to do while participating in musical performances.

I also decided to start running. If I put it on something this public, it has to happen. I've tried to start running a few times, but I've never followed through. This is the time to do it. A friend who was a cross-country runner in high school and ran a 5K in the rain this morning told me to go out and run, and run 5 minutes longer than I want to run. I'm going to try that.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bloggity bloggy blog.

A few days ago, Dr. Crazy wrote about not really wanting to blog anymore. That post gave me palpitations. For some reason, I've decided that Dr. Crazy is my blogging idol, and that I'm probably going to be her when and if I ever grow up. If I could only be that cool. And I'm not into pseudonymous blogging...or anything, really. As much as I appreciate insight those blogging under pseudonyms can provide, I'm more comfortable attaching my name to my thoughts and knowing they're mine. But that's not the point. The point is that I'm nostalgic for something I missed.

I came into academic awareness about 5–10 years too late to be in the thick of blogging culture. I promised myself a long time ago that I would never regret or apologize for my age; it's the one thing in my life over which I have absolutely no control and never will. But I still wish I could have been more in the heyday of blogging. The people that still blog write awesome things, but I keep hearing of all these amazing bloggers from 5 or so years ago who burned out. Nobody in my age bracket maintains a freestanding blog (except my friend Allie who is building a yoga blog). My cohort is more active on Tumblr, if anything at all. (I was a Tumblr early adopter--I have an account that I used to use quite religiously until I realized that it wasn't satisfying my sharing needs. Now, I mostly use it to follow a few news sources and reblog the occasional New Yorker comic.) We started on EasyJournal, moved to Xanga, then to LiveJournal, then fizzled out. While I and others my age were doing those things, academic blogging was amazing. Every once in a while, I'll peek into the archive of a favorite blogger, and see wonderful things from 7 or 8 years ago an wish I was "there."

Ok, well, I've read my Raymond Williams. I know cultures emerge and cultures die. Blogging culture isn't necessarily dying right now, but it certainly isn't gaining any steam. Normally, I'm fine with that. It's the way the world works, and *maybe* it's time to say "goodbye" to cultural institutions instead of trying to save that which doesn't want to be saved. But I want so badly to be part of this machine. I want to read and have readers. What a way to engage with a community! Twitter's fun, for sure, but 140 characters is limiting (especially when replying to things others say).

I guess I care so much because I want so badly to connect. I'm a person who's a perpetual "me" rather than part of a "we," so I'm one of those who uses the internet to form and enhance social relationships. (Have you read the recent literature?) In all honesty, if I had a richer social life, I probably wouldn't use social media so frequently. You're all thinking it--I'm just admitting it. When I was in middle school and Xanga was taking off (or was it LiveJournal? I can't remember. Either way, 14-year-olds should not have blogs. I'm living proof of having adolescent blogs go terribly wrong.), a friend said that she didn't understand why we were all using these things because she'd rather be out living her life than writing about it. To an extent, she's right. But I was one that never got invited out to Applebee's on Friday nights--oh, how painful that was--and so was my friend with whom I remember that particular preadolescent gem. Now that I'm a bit older and wiser, I know that social media can be a very good thing. The jury is still out on using Facebook to connect with people I see regularly, but I love how social media lets me stay connected with those I don't often see. I also love how I can make friends through Twitter. The awkward "I think I follow you on Twitter" moment is one I really enjoy at conferences.

Maybe things will change when I go to grad school, but I'm just dying to nerd out with people in the same stage of their careers as me. I feel like blogging did that for students a decade ago, or maybe they were just more connected than someone like me who grew up with social media as a gifthorse since early high school. I don't want to do nerdy things all the time, but it would be nice to not be treated like a leper by most when I do get a bit nerdy.

I defended my senior thesis on Thursday. It was relatively low key, and I passed (I don't think people fail, but I'm told it's an available possibility). Two of the attendees were my friends since our freshman year. They've seen my entire undergraduate transformation and are among the small handful of my classmates--read: undergrad music majors graduating next month--who work under the philosophy of finding oneself rather than conforming to the cookie cutter. They're good friends to keep around. I mention this because they talked to each other after my presentation, and one of them told me about it today. She told me that they could see how excited I am about my work, and how it's clear that I'm going into something that a) I like, b) I can be good at, and c) will constantly challenge me. I was on my game that day; I wouldn't change anything about the defense if I could go back. I couldn't answer all the questions that were thrown at me, and that's because I was asked a lot of tough, deep questions. My friends who were there saw me in a space where I could exercise a part of myself that my environment tries (and succeeds, unfortunately) to stifle. I've found what I want to do and how I want to do it in a community that doesn't have new members. I've had no peers to figure this path out with. No matter how much time I have spent talking with professors, eventually, I'd have to leave and go back to people who didn't have similar goals or understandings. As much as I love my friends who love me, I know my needs aren't being met. Would blogging have made me feel better about this? Maybe. There's no way to know. It's a community, and I want one of those. For now, I'm just glad I have the hope of one to enter soon soon soon and some famous bloggers to read to hold me over.

Epilogue: Dr. Crazy posted today that she will not give up blogging. She's a star; her audience loves her. Thank goodness.

P.S.: Things will work out and be good. They might be a bit rough now, but looming change can do that. I know things will change, and they will probably change for the better.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In which I come out as strongly against tiered tuition

I am just baffled and a bit tickled by how much blog traffic I got from my post-PopCon reflections! Maybe that means I'll have a readership of more than 4 (thank you Dana, Marion, Allie, and...myself). Since that blog entry, a lot has happened and I've wanted to comment on so much of it. I decided where to go to grad school. I finished the first draft of my thesis, which is pretty cool. I defend two weeks from today, which means I need to get a more polished draft to my committee members (official and unofficial) a week from today. I got my first conference paper abstract accepted, and I'll be presenting at the AMS Capital Chapter meeting next Saturday.

A few days ago, I started drafting a post on the issue of Bruce Springsteen using a teleprompter in concerts. Unfortunately (or not), I got really sleepy and busy and lost steam. The short story: The Boss can do whatever he wants because we're paying for a nostalgia show and Bruce can do whatever he needs to do to deliver.

But the reality of this all is that I'm generally too busy or exhausted to write my deep thoughts on pertinent issues. They pull at my consciousness for a few days, and then it wears off. By the time I can catch my breath (usually Thursday evenings), I opt for other things. I really enjoy this kind of writing--a low-stakes arena for trying to explain my "deep" thoughts about things I don't explore in written form in my daily life. There's also something that keeps coming back in the news and it really bothers me...a lot. It's the issue with Santa Monica College.

This has been all over the news, and I'm sure that somebody, somewhere--probably someone who gets paid to write his/her thoughts--has articulated my feelings about it. In case you missed it, Santa Monica College, a community college in southern California, is trying to introduce tiered tuition based on course popularity and desirability. By this plan, an introductory English or psychology course would be significantly more expensive than an upper level philosophy course. It is a very micro-level version of abusing the principles of supply and demand.

The difference between California and the rest of the country is that California students actually protest when they are taken advantage of. Some students protested the tuition hike on Tuesday night and were pepper sprayed for their protest. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment...

Awful as that may be, I'm more concerned about the precedent it might set for tuition across the country.

Tuition is absolutely ridiculous; there's no way around it. When I was a freshman, out-of-state tuition was around $18,000/year. Not a bargain, except when compared to all the other major public universities in the northeast and all the private colleges and universities. The only better bargain would have been in the SUNY system, and none of those schools had what I was looking for. Now, in my senior year, tuition is approximately $26,000/year. That's a significant increase to my non-mathematical eyes.

What would happen if tuition wasn't a flat fee for full-time students? Would it prevent students from taking mandatory intro-level courses? Maybe it would coerce students into taking upper level courses earlier than they would prefer, if at all. Would that force professors to dumb down their upper level courses since those would be the more affordable options? What would that do to university-wide budgets? There are too many questions and I don't have any of the answers.

For now, it's good that Santa Monica College was asked to hold off its proposed tuition changes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

PopCon Roundup

I am simultaneously exhausted and beyond energized post-EMP/IASPM-US Pop Conference. The exhausted part comes from waking up too early, focusing for long periods of time, and dealing with the FDR and I-87 south of the GWB (and obnoxious New York pedestrians. When I walk, I'm one of them; when I drive, I hate them).

This was my first Pop Conference, and I'm so glad I was able to go. Not previously being all that in-the-loop, I found out about it as part of an IASPM-US tweet. The dates nicely coincided with the opening weekend of UD's spring break, so I'd be able to stay over in the 'burbs and commute into the city for the few days. When I looked at the program online, I noticed lots of big names. I also noticed some very familiar names--two out of three of my thesis committee members slated to present. (The third works on 16th century Italian music. Not exactly PopCon material). So that was it, I decided to go! I'm glad I got to go at this point in my career, a point at which I'm finishing up a chapter and thinking about how to write the next one. I've got some potential projects budding in my mind, and the motivation to follow through. My senior thesis needs to get done first, though.

If you're a Twitter follower of mine, I'm sorry. I think I tweeted close to 50 times during the conference. There were lots of great moments throughout, and I'd like to flesh a few of them out in a bit more than 140 characters. I'll go in chronological order.

Friday morning, 11:15-12:45. I went to the NYC Boombox session for Kathryn Ostrofsky's paper "Taking Sesame to the Streets: Young Children's Interactions with Pop Music in the Urban Classrooms of 1970s New York." I saw on the Twitter later that she won the award for best student paper. Seriously deserved! Sesame Street isn't cool; there's really no way around that. Regardless, her paper presented a well-researched, interesting, and approachable account of Sesame Street's capacity to educate. The show's philosophy states that entertainment should be a prerequisite for learning. Rather than simply glorifying the show's success and reach, Ostrofsky exposed its pitfalls and occasional tendencies to not accurately reach its goals. I'm eager to relate her work to my own on Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts, in which Bernstein used entertainment as a prerequisite for learning, if I may borrow the phrase.

I stayed for the rest of the session, and heard an interesting paper on boombox culture, and an interesting postmodern rant about a compilation record.

Saturday morning, 9-11. Beauty, Noise, and the Canon. All four papers were really great, but one stuck out to me. "Noise and the Canon: The Meaning of Classical Music in Late-1960s Rock," presented by Jessica Wood. Her work examined classical quotation in rock music, but many references were obscure. The obscurity of the pieces she studied was acknowledged in the Q&A. The part I found most interesting was an anecdote about the New Jersey Bach Society (which doesn't seem to exist anymore) demanding that radio stations not play songs that quote classical repertoire because such songs are abominations. Radio stations responded saying that most contemporary performances are equally problematic and that they would continue giving the rock songs airplay.

(Shout-out to my two UD professors, Phil Gentry and David Suisman, for their awesome papers. Neither were in my area of expertise, so I'll leave it to someone else to sum those up.)

Sunday morning, 9-11. Started with Daphne Brooks' "'One of These Mornings, You're Gonna Rise up Singing': The Secret Black Feminist History of the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess." Fun fact: "Summertime" is the most recorded song out there. I wanted to stay and ask about the Janis Joplin cover, something I listen to with nothing but love and energy. Instead, I dashed to the "Distanced Learning" session in time to hear Mark Katz's paper on digital turntables. The final paper in that session, Karl Hagstrom Miller's "I am Sitting in a Room: The Private Pop Experience," was one of the best treats the conference had to offer. Miller started with Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting in a Room" as an example of repetition smoothing out imperfections (in Lucier's case, his stutter). He then played a clip of himself trying to play the opening of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," with imperfections galore. His paper went on to present digital ethnographic (and well-theorized) work on people playing music alone in their rooms, mostly captured on YouTube. Best quote: "sounding terrible must be the most universal experience of being a musician." We all start awful, and practice--repetition--helps us smooth out imperfections. This works if we're learning a virtuosic concerto or sweating through 3 open chords on a guitar.

So, thanks to the EMP Museum and IASPM-US for putting together a great conference! I look forward to many more pop conferences.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Change, progression, opposition: music

Whenever I think of changing my attitude or outlook on life, I think of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." I'll spare you a link to the music video because it brings up another crazy set of baggage that's irrelevant here. But I think he has a good point with the song. "If you wanna make the world a better place / take a look at yourself and make a change." It kind of goes with that over-used, out-of-context Gandhi quote: "be the change you wish to see in the world." Change is important, and it should be embraced. They tell us not to change ourselves, but sometimes, we should. If we don't like the way we act, it behooves us to change the way we act. If we find ourselves with the wrong friends or on the wrong career track or in the wrong city or...whatever, then we need to change those things. I can say from experience that when I have made those changes, the world becomes a better place. I'm not presumptuous enough to think the entire world becomes a better place, but my world becomes better. If my world becomes better, I'm a better person to the people around me, and they become better people to the people around them. The world can benefit from a giant act of positive pay-it-forward if we all just acted always with compassion toward others, but in our own self-interest.

And then there's the David Bowie approach. "And these children that you spit upon / as they try to change their worlds / are immune to your consultation / they're quite aware what they're going through." If I remember correctly, that lyric is projected in the opening scene of The Breakfast Club, my favorite of the John Hughes-Brat Pack movies. The whole thing is about change. The group discovers that they don't have to fit into their oppressive clique-stereotypes and that they can coexist. So what is Bowie telling us? I'm getting that change should be embraced and authority figures should stop trying to stifle change from happening.

Which brings me to the point of this post. My point is that I want to clap in between movements.

I don't know why we don't clap between movements. I don't remember the first time I was told not to do it, but I remember instantly feeling afraid that I would clap at the wrong time. I remember giving people who broke the rules dirty looks and judging their ignorance. Only in the last few years have I changed my views on the matter. I'm a flip-flopper, and I think politicians who claim to value "integrity" aim to spread the message that learning and adapting is detrimental to society. Good job, guys. I digress. So I don't know about you all, but I don't think there's any reason not to clap between movements. When the music comes to a close, I want to show my enthusiasm for it. When something good happens, I want to applaud. It happens at the opera; it happens at the ballet; it happens at every other performance-based art performance. Why do classical musicians have a monopoly on audience snobbery?

I couldn't possibly pick a favorite number from A Chorus Line, but one of the better ones is "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three." (Perhaps better known as "Tits and Ass.") Without advocating cosmetic plastic surgery, I'd like to advocate the general message of the song, exemplified by the lyric "keep the best of you, change the rest of you." If we already have the great music, great performers, great spaces, blah blah blah, why do we have to hold onto antiquated rituals that alienate potential audience members? I have no idea! But, for some reason, we do. Why can't we keep the best and change the rest? Adapt, people!

John Mellencamp also said it pretty well: "if you're not part of the future then get out of the way."

Change is important. It happens, whether we want it to or not. We'd all be a lot better off if we anticipated and embraced change rather than fighting it off, tooth and nail. Change makes life interesting.

(This post appears to be brought to you by the 1980s. Enjoy at your own risk.)

I'd love to hear what you all think about this! Please comment, and feel free to argue!