27 March 2013

Grading Day, so Link

Blast! I begin each term with such an effective schedule--no course assignments overlap, due dates are spread out, and so on. Blast! Each term's schedule ends up collapsing about week four. Granted, "collapse" is a bit hyperbolic, but it's inevitable that something will occur to shake up the term's choreography. Yes. I am behind schedule.

Anyway, I've been responding to student work all week, and the end approaches: I sit with 50 papers before me. I will meet with half of the authors in conference tomorrow and Friday. The remainder I will respond to via email today and tomorrow.  As much as I'd love to spend today writing about SCOTUS and WKRP in Cincinnati, I've my priorities. Instead, I'll leave a link to Lawyers, Guns, and Money, where you'll always find insightful challenging posts on a number of issues (academia, politics, ideology, pop culture, etc). Love that blog.

25 March 2013

Howard Zinn, Ideology, and Faulty Scholarship

It's a day (and night) for grading papers, so I'll put this here: part review of a biography of Howard Zinn, and part critique of Zinn's career, David Greenberg's "Howard Zinn's Influential Mutilations of American History" in The New Republic (hardly a bastion of traditionalism or of conservatism). I appreciate Greenberg's approach to revisionism such as Zinn's: he calls out Zinn's willingness to castigate the USA's actions and ideologies while ignoring or minimizing other nations' cruelties--his silences on the brutalities of Soviet Russia, and so on.

Of Zinn's scholarship in A People's History of the United States, Greenberg says:
Zinn rests satisfied with what strikes him as the scandalous revelation that claims of objectivity often mask ideological predilections. Imagine! And on the basis of this sophomoric insight, he renounces the ideals of objectivity and empirical responsibility, and makes the dubious leap to the notion that a historian need only lay his ideological cards on the table and tell whatever history he chooses.
Lord, but I have heard this methodology set forth by undergraduates in courses past: "as long as I identify my point of view and find sufficient quotes that seem to lend authority, my work is done." Rather than reasoning and sound evidence that reflects a thorough consideration of the issue, support becomes a quote-hunt, the results of which are often cherry-picked, redefined, and decontextualized.

Don't such arguments (aligned with specific ideologies, supported with cherry-picked evidence)  become non-arguable? Rather than dealing with reason, we deal with emotion and belief--and one can't really (fairly) argue with feeling or faith.

It's tempting to go on and to develop, somewhat, these initial thoughts, but I have yards of paper to read before I sleep.

Aside: Apparently Ralph Ellison didn't think much of Zinn's scholarship. Who knew?

24 March 2013

Marinetti's Manifesto (link)

The Futurist Manifesto, by F. T. Marinetti, is online!

Marinetti wrote this baby in 1909 to announce a break with traditional artistic conventions. Here are the Manifesto's bullet points:
  1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
  2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
  3. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.
  4. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
  5. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit.
  6. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
  7. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.
  8. We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  9. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
  10. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.

  11. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds. 
Sounds a wee bit fascistic, yes? But then, Marinetti was one of the early supporters of Mussolini.

For me, this document's significance--beyond historical value-rests in its influence on Pound, Lewis, et. al. who created Vorticism as a response to/variation on Futurism. This work also influenced L'arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noises), by Luigi Russolo, which, in turn, had a profound influence on 20th century music (more on that another time--when I have the time and energy to laud Pierre Henry, Steve Reich, et al).

Anyway, just sharing.

23 March 2013

Pierre Henry

I love this man. Genius of Musique Concrete and grumpy old guy. There is a great documentary out on him, Pierre Henry: The Art of Sounds, which is quite entertaining. I recommend it if you're intrigued by the post-war avant garde or just interested in how an innovator of mashups/sampling/electronica/noise continues to do his thing in his 80s.

Goodies--all kinds (link)

Just sharing something here: a  vast collection of films, texts, audio, and illustrations that fall under public domain is available to all & sundry. Go here now:  http://www.publicdomainreview.org

22 March 2013

"Militants" Life Magazine, 1913

On March 3rd, 1913, people from around the nation collected in Washington DC for the Woman Suffrage Parade. At least five thousand people joined together to "march in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded" (LOC). Many participants concluded the march successfully; many were taken to hospital because of onlookers' violent behavior:
Women were jeered, tripped, grabbed, shoved, and many heard “indecent epithets” and “barnyard conversation.” Instead of protecting the parade, the police “seemed to enjoy all the ribald jokes and laughter and part participated in them.” One policeman explained that they should stay at home where they belonged. The men in the procession heard shouts of “Henpecko” and “Where are your skirts?” As one witness explained, “There was a sort of spirit of levity connected with the crowd. They did not regard the affair very seriously.” (LOC)
The cartoon below, from Life Magazine's issue of 3/27/1913, just weeks after parade, reflects the march's onlookers' perspective (click for larger view/to read captions):

Aside: as an undergrad, I found this cartoon in an oversize sourcebook of feminism's history. If I'd have known then that one day I'd share a Xerox of this document with the world...anyways, I've been packing this around for nearly 30 years. Enjoy.

21 March 2013

The Happy* Adjunct

* for now

What follows is a Twitter session from a few weeks back. I wanted to share it with a wider audience primarily because there is intense pressure on academics to continue in academia; in fact, if you're in a PhD program, chances are that you're only "trained" for a career in academe--specifically, in a tenure track job. We know, however, that universities continue to rely on adjuncts for teaching rather than extending/adding  tenure lines. Michael Bérubé, the MLA president of 2012-13, notes that, "contingent faculty members now make up over 1 million of the 1.5 million people teaching in American colleges and universities." If you leave your degree program expecting to find a FT/TT position, chances are you'll be disappointed. Devastatingly so.

Many of my friends IRL, and many people I "know" via social media, are teachers and scholars. I see them--whether degree candidates, Post Docs, or PhDs who've been on the market for three, four years (or more) tear themselves up and make themselves ill (really!) because of the jobsearch. They fight to find open tenure positions, fight to be hired, and fight to achieve tenure. The process is demoralizing at the very minimum. Yet when asked "why not turn your sights from a tenure placement," several reply that it's what they've been prepared for. There's an institutional expectation that PhDs (especially in the humanities) will go on to tenured positions, so it's kind of scary to turn from that. It's also scary because turning away from tenure also means turning away from the securities and benefits that tenure offers. 

I opted against seeking a tenured job, but I didn't want to leave academia. I love teaching, and I love being around people who ask questions for a living. I opted to work as an adjunct, and, at this point anyway, I am a happy one. What follows explains my choice to abandon the TT dream and why I still think it's a good decision:

(reason #2)

It's true: there are variations in how institutions treat adjuncts. My current school pays me well (not exceptional, but significantly better than previous jobs). I have some benefits. I have an office. I am treated as a member of the department rather than as an interloper. Please note:
     2) My experience is not the norm. 
     3) Adjuncts are, in general, treated horrifically.
In the position I held prior to the one I Tweeted about, I was paid approximately $10.00 an hour. I had no office, so no space to meet students, to hang my coat, or to store student papers (I still have stacks of them at home waiting for the deadline when I can remove them). Adjuncts were not invited to department events (excepting the “adjunct appreciation lunch” at the beginning of  Fall term), and a strict division existed between full-time/tenured and contingent faculty. And, of course, benefits did not exist. I was poor, isolated, and overworked/underpaid--this experience is common to an adjunct. Groups have organized to combat that mistreatment and exploitation of contingent faculty, and chief among these is  New Faculty Majority. Check it out.

Country Roads.

 Let me talk about music (some more)
While growing up, my exposure to music was limited. 

            My family didn’t have wide-ranging tastes. My mother collected LPs by standard artists: Elvis (Blue Hawaii, Gold Records, and 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong: Elvis' Gold Records – Volume 2), Gene Pitney (Greatest Hits), 101 Strings, and Henry Mancini. My grandparents had Sinatra (Sings for Only the Lonely and Ring a Ding Ding—still my favorite Sinatra album), and a multi-volume Time-Life classical collection. Mind you, no one ever seemed to listen to these albums; they collected dust.

             One Christmas, my grandmother presented me with a Mickey Mouse turntable and a few soundtracks from Disney animated films. I listened to those LPs until they popped and jumped, as LPs were wont to do, and then I moved onto the grown-ups’ records. I believe I was the only child in town who went about singing “A Foggy Day” under her breath. In contrast, my classmates were talking about Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard. I had no idea who Sweet might have been, and I certainly had no access to the LP (and Lord, by the time I heard my classmates talking about Desolation Boulevard, it must have been five or six years old). Someone wither inherited the album from an older sibling or they discovered it somewhere in “the city.” 
       Radio-wise, we lived in a mountain-bound community where one AM radio station held sway; FM was non-existent without fancy equipment to help capture stations from 100 miles away. This radio station, based in Idaho’s Silver Valley (which I think was KWAL), operated only between 5:00 AM and about 7:00 PM daily. It played a blend of farm reports, news updates, Paul Harvey commentaries, and country/pop hits (for example, I remember hearing both Lyn Anderson’s “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads," and Wings’ “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”). Essentially, you can say that while children elsewhere had the option of spinning a dial to discover radio stations offering different genres, I had what was pretty much a news station that played music, rather anodyne music, as filler. I did gain an appreciation for Paul Harvey that continues to this day.

20 March 2013

Let Me (Start) Talk(ing) About Music For a Bit...

Last night I attended a show at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA (just outside of Philadelphia), which shook me in its intensity, its energy, and its theatricality. Sharon Van Etten opened the show; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds headlined. Van Etten received a warm (if not always enthusiastic) response from the audience*; Cave and the Bad Seeds? The audience gave them a thunderous response throughout/

I was struck by this rapturous audience's makeup: many people older than me, sure (Cave himself is 55), but people younger (some much younger) than me made up a significant part of the crowd. How did these adolescents and young adults discover Cave and musicians like him, e.g., unconventional or non-mainstream performers? In the Internet age, it seems a foolish question, true. Really, though, isn't the answer the same as ever? Musical discovery, and the development of taste, is determined by environment and technology.

Contrast someone raised in a small, homogeneous community with limited resources with someone raised in a city like Philadelphia, with its diverse musical history and wealth of radio stations. In the latter, it's a no-brainer that you'll be exposed to music of all genres. Add the Internet, a primary source for music for at least 15 years, and the problem becomes one of filtering what's good rather than trying to find music at all.

My experience has been vastly different from that of the average Millennial, and I'm sure it's an experience that people born before 1985 or so could relate to, especially if they were raised in a small, rural communities. so I am going to talk about that in a series of posts (that's the plan, anyway). A musical biography, if you will. If your experience is similar, feel free to chime in with your own anecdotes and memories.

And if you have a chance to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' tour? Do it. Don't think. Don't consider, simply do it. You'll be well rewarded.

* Van Etten noted that she wasn't Nick Cave more than once, and at one point said she had "only two more songs" before the Bad Seeds would come on. Apparently, someone in front commented on this remark: Van Etten relayed that "the girl dressed like a princess says 'yeah!' [and to the girl in question] "Good to see you again."  Take from that what you will.

Let Me Talk About Music for a Bit

My greatest hits from childhood, all played on one of these: 

19 March 2013

Hazy, but: here's some Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Keswick Theater, Glenside PA March 19, 2013

Honestly, you didn't think I'd post my good shots, now did you?