Monday, February 21, 2005

"A Place for Music"

Hey guess what guys guess what guess what? I just actually saw a really good musicology paper. Really! I was beginning to forget what they looked like—well-researched, but also with a point, revisionist, but also thoughtfully argued, well-written and entertainingly delivered. The dreary IHR seminar series has now surpassed everything I've seen at Oxford or Cambridge, although it will take a lot to make up for the painful IHR paper of two weeks ago (see also: vomit).

Someone recently said my blog was "cryptic." I suppose I shall endeavor to refrain from in-jokes for a while.

Anyway, after the paper, I went up to the speaker and complimented her, and she said, "and what's you name?" I told her. "Oh! G—B—! I've heard about you!" It totally felt like I was famous.

In other news, I'm looking forward to the arrival, on Thursday, of the conveniently-initialed "BF" more than I can say. (Oops, that was cryptic again wasn't it? Sorry.)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

All meinen Unmut geb ich preis...

... Aus meinem sonnumrahmten Fenster

That's a propos of nothing except that it is sunny today. And I've been worried about how to an external observer, I'm afraid I appear to be depressed. I mean, I find it very hard get out of bed, I pad around the house in my pajamas, I avoid human contact, I eat at odd hours. I'm not depressed. But I might look like it.

I finally got my banking figured out, after a fashion—I can put my money into the bank, and then withdraw £200 per day. But I have been deemed not worthy of a check book, or a debit card. How, you ask, is this different from keeping my money in a sock under the mattress? Well, if I had my money under a mattress, I could withdraw as much as wanted. Grr.

To celebrate my paycheck finally clearing, I went on a shopping spree. But it's okay, because it was at T.J. Max. Did you know they have T.J. Max in the UK? Well, they do, except, mysteriously it is called T.K. Max. Why, oh why?

I bought a denim jacket, one which can very easily be labeled "chav fashion." I'm not sure if I've written here about the whole chav phenomenon in this country, but it is, in fact, fascinating. Not the existence of the chavs themselves—although there are things to be discussed there—but rather the extreme cultural anxiety that so obvious lurks just below the constant barrage of chav jokes that permeate various media. The chavs, they are disruptive to certain reassuring class categories.

I'm not up to explaining this all right now. Do some googling if you're interested; I may post my thoughts later. For now, the point is that I'm engaging with the chavs by wearing a denim jacket with the word "SUPERIOR" embroidered in Olde English lettering in a semicircle across the belly. Oh yes...

In other news, the revisions for the Andriessen review are done. Last night I went to see a really, really good movie. Seriously, if you get a chance to see it, run don't walk—it's been released with the English title Head On. It's... the kind of movie I really, really like. Oh and I had an experience I'm pretty sure I've never had before—I saw the movie, alone, with no one else in the theater...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kiki and Herb

So I saw Kiki and Herb. And here's the thing: why has no one has ever explained to me that Kiki is just one big Bambi Lake impersonator? The act should be called "Bambi-esque" or "Night of a Thousand Bambis" or some such. The mannerisms, the tweaker gestures, the distinctive style of racontage—even the signing voice was basically just lifted straight from Bambers. Except when Bambi does it, it's not a joke.

During intermission, I tried to explain this to my companions—and then I was validated in the second half of the show, during which Kiki spent, like, 20 minutes actually just doing an avowed Bambi Lake impression, reënacting a phone call from Bambi describing her recent arrest after calling in a bomb threat to the "Backflip" [sic; recte "Bambuddha Lounge"] when the Rolling Stones were having a party there. (Can anyone tell me if this actually happened? I must admit, it rang true.) Anyway, the point is that the whole thing looked to me like a Bambi Lake show manquée, just missing the one element that makes Bambi transfixing: her absolute, utter conviction, her (dare I say it?) authenticity.

So, yeah, it kinda made me uncomfortable. Not least because I couldn't shake the feeling that if Bambi HAD seen herself impersonated in this way, and described in such unflattering (if perhaps honest) terms, then SOMEBODY would be getting a stiletto heel through the eye-socket right about now...

Over dinner afterwards I tried to recall as many memories of Bambi as I could, and I realized that she is, against all odds, implicated in a number of my most treasured memories of the City. This includes even moments when, at the time, I wished I could've been somewhere else...

Tonight: Colloquium at Cambridge! Which is sort of like drag cabaret, but different!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Recent Obsessions

I spent a very lovely evening with the very lovely R, an old Williams classmate (well, two years older than me) who is now a scientist. We talked and talked and talked. It was lovely. The subject of Valentines was not raised at any point.

For the first time in many years I received a Valentine. (That is to say, in addition to one from my mom.) He sent me a poem, as if he knew that, for a stretch of years in my youth, I received a poem every year on Valentine's Day from... well, some of you know the story. Oddly though, this year I received renaissance French verse, while my Valentine years ago tended to involve 20th-century Americans along the lines of O'Hara and Koch. This is only odd because my first love is currently living in sin with a boy who spends much of his intellectual life in the world of renaissance verse. What to make of all this?

And what does it matter, when we now learn that Michael Jackson tried to get Corey Feldman "in the mood" by showing him some sort of venereal disease textbook! I swore I would not get interested in the Jackson trial—swore—but come on! They're gonna subpoena Emmanuel Lewis!

Did I mention there was some sort of venereal disease textbook? [Only a few musicologist will get that last link... private joke; don't worry about it.]

Anyway, I've been doing less work since I discovered The 80s TV Theme SuperSite. Super indeed! After losing several hours of my life to this site, I've now settled into a comforting routine of just listening to THIS over and over and over again.

Do not resist. Just click it again.

Tomorrow: Kiki and Herb.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Well, I can add another notch in my "adulthood" belt—I've now dealt with an aggressive collection agency! The details of my problem are somewhat involved, and I won't go into it here, but let it suffice to say that I'm not happy with Cingular Wireless right now. In order to get $63.62 out of me, the collection agency called my parents, then threatened me, lied to me, and were generally unpleasant. The collection agency is staffed entirely by angry black people in Texas. It appears that all the men at the collection agency say that their name is "Jameson." I suspect that this name was chosen to give alcoholic debtors a warm, comfortable feeling. ("Mmmm.... Jameson....") The best part about dealing with the collection agency: when I called a second time to pay the money, the exchange was quiet, civil, and polite—but in the background I could hear this woman absolutely screaming to some other poor person: "WHY DO YOU THINK I'M CALLING YOU, THEN? YOU EXPLAIN TO ME WHY I'M CALLING YOU! HUNH!"

I would like to imagine she was screaming at a lonely elderly woman who got behind on her payments for her Craftmatic adjustable bed because of the high cost of her heart medication. I have caught a furtive glimpse at the dark underbelly of American capitalism, folks.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

English Food

Oh, I forgot to mention: after missing the Oxford colloquium, I went to dinner in the dining hall of St. Catherine's College. The meal was as follows:

1) potato skins, filled with scrambled eggs(!)
2) beef lasagna
3) green salad with no dressing
4) french fries
5) peach cobbler with custard

Lasagna with french fries! I'm sayin'!

Oxford; Self-Doubt

So I went to Oxford again, and again arrived late. In fact, I missed the entire colloquium, although this was partly due to the fact that I was locked out of the building. But regardless, this means that I have never, in my life, arrived in Oxford on time. The Spaniard has no reason to believe that I have ever arrived anywhere on time. We were making plans to travel to see Tess Knighton's talk on Spanish musical historiography in Cambridge next week, and he suddenly got all serious—"Let me plan everything. If you are on time, we go together, if not, I go alone." And he wouldn't have even known about this talk if I hadn't invited him!

So what's wrong with me? The obvious answer is that I have essentially no schedule for anything in my life now. When I gave my Royal Academy presentation, it was the first time I'd left the house before 9am since... well, since I arrived in the UK, I think. As we all know, productivity grows out of structure, and so, while I do feel busy all the time, I'm not actually producing much to show for it.

Have we all looked at the new AMS Newsletter that just came out? In Jan LaRue's obit, we read:

His time on Okinawa led to one of the earliest American Ph.D. dissertations on an ethnomusicological subject.... He catalogued, identified, and classified virtually the entire body of eighteenth-century instrumental ensemble music, bringing together detailed information on manuscripts and prints in libraries from Bremen to Bombay. [...] Concerned not with description but with explanation, Jan transformed the way we talk about musical style. His influence in this regard was not limited to the Classical period, but spread across the entire discipline of musicology. LaRue’s work on watermark identification and papyrology is the cornerstone of all such work in the discipline....

So, not to make someone's death all about me or anything, but how can I compete with this? I mean, seriously! Even my own adviser... The Stolz article and the Frezzolini articles alone, at my current rate, would seem to have taken me about two years each. And nobody even reads the Frezzolini article, since it's in such a crap publication!

Self-doubt... it's the new self-confidence!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Stone-Cold Sober Adventures

Much has happened since the last entry—too much, in fact for one entry. This should teach me to post more often, I suppose. Anyway, if I had been posting as much as I should have, there would have been posts with the following titles: (1) I Went to A House of Ill Repute, and Slept in Hackney; (2) I Had Brunch; (3) The Archivist Hates Me, I Think; (3) I Had Dinner with Elderly Musicologists, And Then Violently Vomited.

But wait, you say, isn't this "Stone-Cold Sober Adventures"? Yes, it is. Let's just say that if you've ever at a cheap-looking Scicilian restaurant off Tottenham Court Road, just don't order the ravioli, okay?

Since my sister reads this, it's probably best that I don't go into too many details about the House of Ill Repute. (The much-missed Bean Tails blog was brought down for lack of discretion on similar matters.) Let it suffice to say that it was pretty fantastic, with the normal provisos. Brunch was likewise good, if less scandalous.

When I arrived at the archive yesterday, I apologized for being a little late, and she said "Well, I know you don't keep very strict hours..." Her voice sort of trailed off at the end, as if she realized halfway through the sentence that she was saying something she shouldn't be. This comes after her earlier implication that I had not washed my hands as prescribed in the Readers' Guidelines, and her accusation that I was using a pen too close to documents. I though that she might think I was less of a doofus if she came and listened to my presentation to the Royal Academy seminar. (Did I forget to write about that here? It went well.) So yesterday, after having been accused of being an incompetent flake, I say, "I wanted to thank you again for attending my presentation." And she replied, "Well, since you were using some archive materials, I had to be there..." All I could think of to say was, "Well, thank you for not reading the newspaper during my talk?" She hates me.

After all day in the archive, I went to the Music and Society seminar that I skipped out on two weeks ago. It was not horrible, but the presenter needed to find a point in a bad way. I again talked too much during q-and-a. During dinner I may have been flirting with another seminar attendee (who was not elderly, like most of them). Then again, perhaps I was not. It was not entirely clear.

Then I got home and vomited. Today, I am feeling out of sorts. If I'm feeling better by three, then I'll go to Oxford for colloquium.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Decomposing Remains of Dissertation Subjects

Garcia Grave
Originally uploaded by gwdexter.
Well, I was considering not doing it, but now I've done it. At least I didn't bring flowers. Perhaps I will on the anniversary of his death, on July 1. The inscription reads, below the dates, "HIS WORKS DO FOLLOW HIM" — Whether this is or is not a musical reference to the Brahms Requiem, it seems to speak to the role that his works are beginning to play in my life. Rest in peace, Señor... you've done enough to keep me busy for a while.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

America is on the Verge of a Complete Cultural Meltdown

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

I'm tempted to make witty commentary, but I'll leave it at this: I sure as hell do not want my children exposed to Mormonism.

PS - Went to a colloquium at Oxford. It was okay.