Monday, October 24, 2005

Reader Mail!

Today on Greg's London Ramblings, we'll be answering some persistant questions from our loyal readers.

Q: Greg, are you going to the AMS conference?

A: No. The British government still has possession of my passport, I still don't have access to my money, my hotel plans fell through, etc. etc. etc. Also, with the extent to which I've bungled job applications so far, the AMS would be the source of humiliating questions.

Q: You bungled your job applications?

A: I'll tell you about it later.

Q: Greg, when are you coming back to California?

A: Well, this partly rests in the hands of the Home Office. If they say that they won't extend my visa, it could conceivably be fairly soon. But that won't happen. If all goes well, I will be leaving the UK on December 20. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to live with my sister for while, until after the AMS 50 deadline, and the deadline for abstracts for next year's conference. So I'll be in SF around January 16.

Q: Greg, are you depressed?

A: I don't think so. Then again, I called R— last week and he asked me how I was. I told him that I was disappointed in myself because of the job thing, I was still angry about the money situation, I have some boy problems. And R— says to me, exasperated, "where is all this guilt coming from?! You know what you sound like? You sound like a Texas housewife, barefoot and pregnant!" (R— is from Texas, you see.) But I'm fine bascially.

Q: Greg, why don't you reply to my emails?

A: I don't know. Because I'm a bad friend. Also, because sometimes I don't read my email, because if I haven't read it, then I can't feel guilty about not replying. Of course, then I feel more guilt when I do read the deferred message, and realize that it was time-sensitive all along.

Q: Greg, you have so much to do, why do manage to find time to write these Londonist things?

A: Shut up. Seriously, though, they don't take me very long - usually about an hour to write, and another hour to edit and format.

Q: Have you been to any good museums recently?

A: Yes. The Rembrant self-portrait at Kenwood House was one of the... purest aesthetic encounters I've ever had. The Estorick Collection was patchy, but fascinating. I think the Wallace Collection is overrated.

Q: How's the weather?

A: It been getting cold, but in a good way. Tender Crisp has recently expressed the same opinion. But now it's raining. And after we set the clocks back, it will be getting dark at 5 again. Not looking forward to that.

Q: Where should I go to find out your ex-boyfriend's opinions about opera singers?

A: Right here. Go read right now.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Adventures Continue

Okay, so my check got deposited. Three cheers for the Royal Mail! It only took them (in partnership with USPS, let's not forget) nineteen days to deliver a letter that they said should take four to five!

So, my problems are solved, right? Ha ha! Of course not. I believe I may have neglected to mention that my ATM card expired. I didn't receive a replacement. I called my bank. They cancelled the card they had send (in August!) and reissued a new card. Two and a half weeks went by. I called the bank again. ONLY THEN am I informed that they can't/don't send new cards overseas. I am perturbed.

Okay, so this story isn't actually that interesting. But readers of Greg's London Ramblings will be more interested to know about the reaction of the bank supervisor that I was transferred to. She was extremely apologetic. She was utterly ingratiating. She suggested possible solutions. She apologized again.

You all know where this is heading: I really can't imagine quite this reaction happening in the UK. They would apologize, sure. But with a more "shit happens" kind of affect. Recently Gweneth Paltrow has been in the news for... um... politely pointing this out.

Anyway, I should confess something about job applications. But I don't want admit to it, just now.

Siegfried was so fucking mediocre. Not even bad enough to get upset about. Just... nothing. (The exception was John Tomlinson as the Wanderer, who was perfect.)

Recently R— was talking about a substandard performance of the Goldberg Variations he had seen in Oxford. His reaction was "if you're going to do the Goldberg, you gotta bring your A game..." I knew what he meant.

I think the same is true of directing the Ring. Not to be too... reverent or anything, but seriously: the Ring has a LOT of ideas in it. And the ideas are TIGHT. If you're going to stage this, you need to bring your A game. The director at Covent Garden appeared to have no ideas whatsoever. Seriously. There was nothing. Spirals. Clouds. Ugly clothes... I throw up my hands.

Luckily, Mark Morris came to cleanse my palate of all the mediocrity. (Yes, I wrote a review, although I have a LOT of ideas about the Stravinsky piece that didn't make it in.) This was, I'm pretty sure, the fourth time I've seen V -- the first (some of you may remember?) was a "pre-premiere" performance in Berkeley a few weeks after September 11th, 2001. I'm not kidding about crying at the coda... can't exactly explain it.

Oh, perhaps you are wondering how the ATM card will be (as they say in this country) sorted? Simple: I just have to change my address to my sister's address, get the card sent to her, then change me address back. What could possibly go wrong with this simple plan?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Adventures in Academe

Okay, I've been putting off and putting off writing a report here, not because I've been upset or depressed or anything, but because I've been trying to figure out how to get the tone right -- how to convey that I was, in fact, pretty upset, but that at the same time I know it's really not that big a deal.

Because, really, the talk on Tuesday went really well. Like I said, there are parts of it that I'm quite pleased with. More than that, though, there was really just one person in the audience that I really needed to impress. You know: the young opera studies professor, co-editor of a particularly important publication... that one. In my mind, he was the only person who mattered. And that particular person really, really liked the talk. Granted, he is also a really nice guy who seems to like me personally, so he might have been generally positive even if he hadn't actually enjoyed it that much. But on the basis of his questions, I'm pretty sure that he genuinely thought I had said something interesting and correct.

So far, so good. But then there was this other Oxford faculty member. The one who writes dreary essays on Bach. (Bach scholars! Why do they vex me so!) This other faculty member did not like my talk. More than that, he thought that the kind of questions I was asking were fundamentally unfit to be asked. To his credit, he did not say this publicly during the Q&A -- rather, he came up to me afterwards. He said a lot, and it hit me so fast I wasn't really able to process it all at the time. But the words used included: "misleading," "meaningless," and (most memorably) "duplicitous."

Why should I let this get under my skin at all? Normally I'm pretty impervious to this kind of thing. Then again normally I'm a little more confidant about my arguments. Here's the thing: he started out with a criticism that was completely valid. (I was, in fact, painting "twentieth-century singing" with a very broad brush -- this is exactly what I mentioned in my last posting here about the argument I wanted to equivocate around a bit more. And yet, I'd like to believe this was less a straw man I was setting up, and more a interpretive heuristic.) In any case, because he latched on to precisely the aspect of the paper I was least confident about, I was utterly unprepared to respond when he told me he thought I should do "real history" rather than airy-fairy cultural musings.

And here's where he hit another nerve, because I have, more times than I care to recall, criticized scholars (usually behind their backs) for being "not historical enough." (Often this criticism is directed at... south of Berkeley.) Was this guy actually just upset with me for making any sort of a-historical turn in the paper at all? Or had I, in fact, turned into the bad musicologist which I despise?

Of course, I have to believe that it was the former, particularly because he only criticized things that happened in the last three pages of a 30-page talk. (And I had revised the final text to erase references to any particular text, in favor of the phrase "a broadly Foucauldian reading.") In addition, his suggestion of "real history" that I should be doing was so ridiculous -- Wagner got turned on by Schröder-Devrient in drag, a piece of evidence that tells us about Wagner's psychopathology and nothing else -- that it was clear we were on completely different paths.

So... a learning experience. I have lots of ideas about how the chapter will preempt some of this criticism, added to all the ideas about how the chapter will be fleshed out that I already have scrawled down. And did I mention that the person who matters really liked it? And so did the rest of the audience? Things are good.

The rest of the week was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit unsettled. I went to the opening at the V&A of the Diane Arbus show that originated in SF. I went to an appalling concert in the Handel House museum. I got drunk Thursday night, then stayed home Friday to work on my cover letter.

I'm mailing off job applications today. Urgh.

Still no money in the bank.

I spent a lot of money I don't have on a ticket to Siegfried next Tuesday.

Also: I live in a city will a lot more and better art than San Francisco, as well as a lot more and better buildings. So why am I so, so jealous of the new DeYoung opening? I just listened to John King's podcast. (I have a crush on John King.) I really, really wish I were there. Perhaps it is because I associate Golden Gate Park with being on drugs...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Last Night's Anxiety Dream

I actually meant to write here ages ago about my most vivid anxiety dream from before the jaunt to Rome, which involved little zombie-children. I mean, six-year-olds who'd been turned into zombies, or something. And were eating people. And chasing me.

Last night's anxiety dream was much tamer -- it involved the suspicion that my bag (my little yellow man-purse, to be precise) was continually being rifled through by strangers. I would set the bag down, and then look at it a moment later to find that everything had been taken out and rearranged. At one point my baby-blanket was in the bag, and then later I found the blanket laying out in open somewhere else. And I'm all like "Hey! That's my baby-blanket! Leave it inside the bag!"

The baby-blanket represents all my ignorance of Italian opera, ignorance which I fear will be ripped out and exposed for all to see tomorrow. I have never even looked at the score of Marino Faliero. I ran out of time to even read the Bini/Commons material for Poliuto and Martyrs. Damn.

In the real world, as opposed to in my subconscious, I gave a practice run of the talk yesterday, and it went well. I'm optimistic about the talk, actually. And honestly, being forced to make the ideas presentable has forced me to think in a much more directed way about what this chapter will look like in the end, and how to go about completing it. (Looking at Marino Faliero is on the list...)

After some discussion after the pratice talk, I convinced myself that one of the main points in the paper is... well, not wrong exactly, but in need of serious qualification and equivocation. It's basically a matter of replacing "is" with "tends to be" in a few sentences. And I have, what?, almost 24 hours for final edits? No problem.

My ex-boyfriend is getting paid $1000 to fly to SF, watch Dr Atomic, and write an article about it. Fuck you, ex-boyfriend. I hate you.

Also, my high-school drama teacher just died. This is very, very sad.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Time marches on

The Colloquium: It's lacking a conclusion, but has a lot of prose I like. It will be okay.

The Visa: Mailed off on Monday. There is a document that I maybe should have included that I didn't; wondering if it's worth sending under separate cover. I received a letter from the Home Office today informing me that they'd taken my money. It takes then three days to take my money, but 4-8 weeks to return my passport. Grr.

The Fellowship Check: It appears that, just like last time I tried to mail a check to my US bank, the check is lost in Royal Mail limbo. I hate the Royal Mail so, so much. I probably have enough money to allow me to eat. For now.

Londonist: I'm taking a break for obvious reasons, although I was finally able to post this, which I wrote a while ago, and which I'm actually rather pleased with. I'm thinking of taking a break from colloquium work tonight to write a quick thing about the Xenakis Festival this weekend.

Other News: I did tear myself away from work last Saturday to accept an invitation fro Dr. H to go to a gay and lesbian ballroom dancing night at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park. It was actually incredibly fun. The ballroom is beautiful beyond description. This deserves a long, long essay of its own, but... I just don't have it in me right now. Suffice it to say that it was very very fun, the steps came back to me very quick, there was hilarious line-dancing, the drinks were way cheap, I very fond of Dr. H's new boyfriend, and... some details of the night's conclusion will have to be consigned to a more discreet forum.

Tomorrow: The conclusion gets written, come hell or high water. Etc.