Sunday, April 29, 2007

Los Angeles 4/27 to 4/30

Stop One: Los Angeles

Home. Strange concept. Born and raised in LA, yet I feel very little attachment to it. In four years, Claremont felt more like "home" than Los Angeles ever did (and yes, I know lots of people who consider Claremont part of Los Angeles). But here I am referring to the city. Disregard these comments when we talk about my mother's house...that is "home" or at least what "home" means in this transitional stage of my life.

Home is where I can do laundry for free. Home is where I get fed and can sleep for free. Home is where I get hugs from my mother. Home is where my stepdad makes me a martini at the end of a very long day.

I have yet to start my "vacation." Today I pulled together a brand new cover letter (third job opportunity at the same institution demands originality). My mother just happened to have some beautiful linen ivory stock on hand so that was absolutely fortuitous. Our printer ran out of black ink (yes, we brought our printer with us!) so again, mom came to the rescue and I used hers. I updated my c.v. and will send it out to the dossier service tomorrow. These are all tasks I had not anticipated worrying about on my trip. But, opportunity, I realize, is RARELY convenient.

Part of me feels that we should have spent the weekend doing "LA" things. As it was, we did hit the first Trader Joe's that ever was (in Pasadena). I suppose that counts. But most of the weekend was spent revising the rest of our trip, pulling my job application together, shipping a box of stuff off to Somerville, and figuring out how to repack the car.

On the other hand, I did read an entire mystery novel from cover to cover--something I haven't done in a VERY long time. Well worth it. It was Peter Tremayne's Act of Mercy (1999). My mother and I both enjoy his Sister Fidelma series...what could be cooler than a 7th-c mystery-solving Irish nun?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

And we're off...

Well, it did happen. The VERY LARGE semi did come and did pick up all our stuff. We packed the car up and headed down to Los Angeles.

But, not without complications (of course!)

Turns out Allied (corporate) vetoed our request for a preferred delivery date of May 12th (AFTER we had signed our agreement for the date of 5/12). Corporate didn't tell our sales rep and our sales rep didn't follow up with corporate. SO, our driver shows up with his semi and says "Alright, so we're dropping off in Boston on the 9th." Say WHAT????

So, guess who gets to cut their vacation short?

Evidently, "corporate" also didn't communicate that our apartment was on the second floor--so the stairs were a bit of a surprise to our driver and his brother (the only two movers).

But, after a very very very long day, we saw our stuff go off on the truck and oddly enough, I felt relieved. You might think watching all your worldly possessions disappear with a man you've only known for less than 24 hours might be unsettling, but at that point, I basically just wanted it to "go away." The scary part was all that was left in our apartment.

We didn't leave SB the next day until 7pm (which was ok because we missed Friday night rush hour). By some miracle (basically called Deetie and Hubby) we fit just about everything into Guinevere (our Volvo). We gave away everything we could and threw away a few items we might not have otherwise, and we were off.

We barely would have made our truck deadline if it weren't for JDT and DM who spent a good portion of the weekend AND the night before helping pack up all our stuff (which I still contend was procreating when we weren't looking).

Yesterday was hard. Goodbyes are terrible. I'm sure it will REALLY hit me once we leave California. But when we arrived in LA yesterday, my stepdad made us martinis as we unloaded the car and I could tell that I was already feeling seriously blah.

My time in SB defines the quintessential "love-hate relationship." I've got a lot to sort out in the coming weeks.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

When packing gets boring

This is what I start doing to the boxes when packing just gets too humdrum. I'm SURE the movers will appreciate my efforts.

Actually, now that I think about it "Books & Bottles" is the perfect alliterative title for my dream enterprise: A Bookstore Bar!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Microsoft does Mona

I find this frightening and astonishing at the same time. I also note the appropriation of "Kyrie eleison" in the soundtrack for future reference. (Eventually I will stop viewing the world through the lens of my dissertation...right?)

Friday, April 20, 2007


In a month filled with goodbyes, I've just had two really hard ones in the last week. The permanency of those is hard to reconcile.

But life is full of goodbyes--constantly. Sometimes we say goodbye to ourselves, shed the old us for a new version. That brings me to yesterday's horoscope:

You appear to have all the requisite tools to remodel those aspects of your life that, according to you, need it most. What more is there to say but go for it?

Well, I'm going for it, that's for sure. But I'm taking some luggage with me (luggage--not baggage). Mementos are important...even the non-tangible ones.

It well may be
That we will never meet again
But in this lifetime
Let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I've learned from you
You'll be with me,
Like a handprint on my heart

(from Wicked)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

If you weren't feeling ill enough already...

...let these guys help.

From The Progress Report

"Where was the spirit of self-defense here?" mused John Derbyshire on the National Review's blog yesterday. "Why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake -- one of them reportedly a .22." Nathanael Blake, writing on Human Events's The Right Angle, agreed. "Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture," wrote Blake. "Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that." Though both pundits admit that they don't know if they "would live up to" their own notions of bravery, Blake says he would be "ashamed" of himself if he did not, suggesting that the innocent victims at Virginia Tech should feel embarrassed for "ducking, running and holding doors shut" to avoid the bullets of a killer. As MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said when he awarded them his "Worst Person in the World" award last night, "[I]t is John Derbyshire and Nathanael Blake who should be ashamed today."

Warning Signs

It's easy to understand how everyone has their own blame theories regarding the Virginia Tech shooting. It has to be someone's fault. Cho Seung-hui is dead, so there has to be some place palpable to put all that anger.

Some have taken the opportunity for political grandstanding, but I do think the many cries for gun control come from a sincere desire to DO something in the face of feeling helpless.

But gun control is not the only issue here. What is more pressing, in my opinion, is monitoring these students who are on the brink of explosion before they self-destruct, taking down others in the process. Ian MacFarlane, a former classmate of Cho's, has posted two of Cho's plays on his blog. I read the first and thought, "How on earth was he allowed to remain on campus?" It isn't because the plays were violent and graphic...we'd have to institutionalize most of Hollywood's greatest directors if that were the criteria. What is so scary about the play I read is that it is so clearly a diary entry. I don't know if Cho had a stepfather who molested him, but I can tell, clear as day, that this was an angry young man who was ready to burst at the seams. The play itself has little structure and is essentially a rant...a stream-of-consciousness display of rage.
Evidently the police referred Cho to counseling back in 2005. According to MacFarlane, he wrote these plays last fall, which would be 2006 by my understanding. MacFarlane notes:
As far as notifying authorities, there isn't (to my knowledge) any system set up that lets people say "Hey! This guy has some issues! Maybe you should look into this guy!" If there were, I definitely would have tried to get the kid some help. I think that could have had a good chance of averting yesterday's tragedy more than anything.

Ah. What recourse do students have to "alert" authorities about their peer? What of the possible backlash? What happens if every quiet, morose, soul instantly becomes suspect? These are no easy answers. But I do believe that schools and colleges need to invest much, much more in their understanding of mental health issues.

I was fortunate enough to go to a small college where the students knew all the administrators and they knew most of the students. There was a young woman who had suffered a great loss and her reaction to this loss brought to light some very disturbing issues. Although I did not feel she was a danger to anyone else, I did think she was a danger to herself. Immediately after I became aware of her behavior, I ran to my voice lesson and called the Dean of Students. There was IMMEDIATE intervention. Her parents arrived within two days and she left campus. She did return a couple of years later I believe and finished her degree--healthier and stronger. She wrote an e-mail to some of us shortly after she had left, thanking us.

I'm not equating her set of problems with Cho's. What I am saying is that a student who is not fit to take a class with his peers has no business being in school, period. This situation should have been handled long before he even bought those guns.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

50 Book Challenge: #5 and #6


Review: Bach Among the Theologians by Jaroslav Pelikan. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1986).

Pelikan's work is an unsentimental look at the influence of Pietism and evangelical thought on a composer who has been too often oversimplified as "staunchly Lutheran." He questions the assumptions we make based on a standardized "psychobiography."

Not surprisingly, there is not an in-depth engagement with the music (he relies heavily on Spitta, Schweitzer, etc.), but Pelikan does offer some excellent textual analyses. He promotes a re-reading of Bach's career, demonstrating that a lack of sacred output in Cöthen did not necessarily define a "low point" for the composer.

While the book as a whole seems to lack cohesion in some places, it does function very well as a set of separate essays. Particularly cogent are the chapters on ""Mediation on Human Redemption" in the St. Matthew Passion" and "Pietism, Piety and Devotion in Bach's Cantatas." The book is an important contribution to interdisciplinary dialogue about the figureheads of classical music and should be embraced in that spirit.


Review: 40 Days & 40 Bytes: Making Computers Work for your Congregation by Aaron Spiegel, Nancy Armstrong and Brent Bill. (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2004)

40 Days & 40 Bytes is an excellent resource for congregations who may be in the beginning stages of electronic fortification or who may be looking to streamline their electronic efficiency. While not focused heavily on websites and e-evangelism, the book offers a thorough review of all considerations when buying CMS (congregational management software), computers, and setting up a network. It offers several helpful appendices that serve as checklists, including: "Congregational Culture Questions" and a "Technology Assessment Form."

The book is set up in such a way that you can skip irrelevant sections (some chapters are devoted to the general basics, like defining a CPU, for example). Infused with good humor and an ecumenical spirit, 40 Days & 40 Bytes is one of the best resources I have seen for the non-techie layperson interested in helping move their congregation into the 21st century.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
6 / 50

Friday, April 13, 2007

Another lost voice

When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

“It is done.”

People did not like it here.

from Requiem by Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) Resquiat in pace

Monday, April 09, 2007

Holey Scholarship

In a thought-provoking discussion with DK on Thursday, we talked about the idea that in academia, nothing you ever publish will be all that you want it to be. In some sense, all articles, conference papers, etc., have that feeling of the night-before-it's-due seminar paper. You could have always done more and there will always be an imperfect paragraph or an underdeveloped idea.

Initially, I was disheartened by this thought. I used to be a perfectionist and this goes against that tendency. But, giving it some thought, maybe that's what perpetuates our field! Just like God would cease to be if people of faith had all the answers, maybe the "holes" in our work are absolutely necessary to sustain scholarship.

That said, I am NOT advocating lazy scholarship There are divots, and then there are deep, gaping chasms. I guess we have to set our own guidelines, in some respects. Maybe that's where we should start...ask ourselves "What is important?" What is important might change in different contexts, sure. But there should be some sort of baseline intellectual integrity that we establish for ourselves...some minimum level of "I've done my work" even if the work isn't polished or finessed.

I think most of us do that naturally and I'd venture that we've all had those moments where we knowingly sacrificed that integrity (and probably got the response we deserved). The hard part is establishing that integrity as some sort of uniform mandate. We know that there are the "scholars" who basically amount to yellow journalists. If they have holes in their research, they either plagiarize or simply manufacture the facts. Sometimes this is because they are lazy or opportunists. But I wonder how much of this has been stimulated by an ever-increasing need fill in every last hole in order to establish any kind of real credibility.

I once heard a paper based entirely on someone else's gap in another paper. It was not a large gap, just a reasonable question mark that, once answered, would have perpetuated exploration into different and exciting offshoots. But instead, this paper chose to belabor the point to the extent that the whole reason for the topic ceased to exist. It was obvious, at least to me, that this person had absolutely nothing new to contribute, but only wanted to jump up and down and alert everyone to the emperor's nakedness. Even that fails to be all that useful at some point.

So, to summarize this meandering and hole-ridden's to gaps, and holes, and divots, and cracks. Let's try to fill them in, but not at the cost of forgetting the joy of inquiry as our impetus.

(Cross-posted to LiveJournal)


Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea