Saturday, September 25, 2010

8 hours later and still not out of the country

I left the house almost 8 hours ago and have not made it out of the country. Cville's weak link is defiantly escape.

By this morning I felt almost ready and even felt chilled out enough to make cookies with Rebecca to sell at a lemonade stand. She wanted to charge $2 which seemed stiff to me. Thing 1 and 2 were far too busy to even notice my leaving. 1 was distracted by the bake sale, which she assumed would make her rich. And 2 had his first soccer game. Thing 3 on the other hand had a full tantrum complete with locking himself in the bathroom. When I went up stairs to rescue him and say good-bye I found him in the suitcase with big sad brown eyes. I figured out in the car that I forgot my coat—hard to think about cold when it’s ninety degrees out. And I forgot the yummy chocolate I had stored in the fridge for my hostess. Manuel is happy about that.

Other than my usual snafu’s at TSA the Richmond leg of things was fine. (The nice man behind me called it the TSA massage…..) Detroit however did not go as well. I got off the plane and realized the monitors were high and small and impossible to read. After asking three stranger to help and getting nothing but looks that suggested they thought I was a sociopath I gave up and stood on line at the Delta counter. They told me Gate A 38. A38 seemed to be going to Tai Pai but when I questioned yet another condescending Delta person they informed me that Amsterdam was for sure next. So I took myself to the sushi bar across the hall for a snack and glass of wine. Having zipped through the hundred pages of reading for the seminar I’m speaking at I decided I’d organized the wrong talk and spent some time recouping a different one. I am in theory talking about Orfeo and Echo but the readings are all very theoretical and now I’m thinking castrati as Cyborgs and sonic effects as virtual reality might have been more appropriate. Whenever I’m invited to give a talk, especially in another country, I always feel like I pick the wrong one. Someone will have to teach me how to nail a talk. We can add this to the list of things they did not teach us in Grad School.

Strolling back to my gate feeling smug I noted that the crowd was still mostly Asian people—many of who seemed to have the same backpacks as the supposedly clearing out Tai Pai via Tokyo flight. I busted through the line and demanded to know where the Amsterdam gate was. The nice lady told me to “look at the monitor” I explained the can’t see thing which prompted her to look up the gate and say oh you are Gate A TWENTY 8. I said really because three of your agents have now told me THIRTY 8. So I ran, and I do mean really let it rip while feeling lucky that I chose to wear yoga pants and running shoes for this journey, to my actual gate. I got on the plane. However the plane has a punctured fusalage. I have no idea what that means or how to spell it. But

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Leavning on a Jet Plane

It never fails that no matter what happens the few days before I leave the country are totally spazzy. This time I’m going to Ireland to give a series of talks. Since I’m 100% sure that I do not have an Irish following I decided to do a mix of old and new talks with the new stuff coming from the chapter I’m working on. This seemed like it would be easy—and would take less time away from my book. I had until this week an explicit rule against working on talks before my kids went to bed. The coolest part of the gig involves speaking the Dublin Science museum at an exhibit called Body rhythms. It looks completely cool and is otherwise populated by experimental musicians, hip technology, and hipper scholars. After I looked at the web site I had a full panic attack about how I was not at all hip enough. Manuel talked me off the ledge I agreed to give a talk based on material from my first book. It is very nitty gritty anatomical and seemed just up their alley. Sadly the version of the talks that I have is twice as long as it was supposed to be. It’s never easy to cut something in half though I did find that cutting out all references to contributions to musicology and obsessive use of long quotations to drive a point into the ground helped matters. The legth was not my biggest problem. I wrote it two computers ago, one job ago, and a pre-technology as in no power point, no itunes music exampes, no bells and whistles. Oops. I enjoyed returning to some excellent illustrations and was reminded of some of my very favorite quotations from my research ever like when a woman has intercourse her voice changes because “her upper neck responds in sympathy to her lower neck” And in theory that I wrote a book once before suggests I can do it again. The video of the vocal cords in action is also always stunning.

So today I’m at two days and counting. Eli delightfully had the day off from school for the 15th Jewish holiday this month all of which fall on Manuel’s teaching days. In the morning he performed perfect child and played quietly, did an art project and sang songs while Emily and I worked on music examples and power points. He has a new gritty rock voice that he uses for everything. He became a devil child around lunch time and ended up in time out where Matt, the second grad student who came to my house for a meeting was treated to throwing things, wining, yanking my shirt off etc..

While he was being good child and amusing himself he was extremely busy. First he called 911—yes really. And explained that “my gawilla is sick and I can’t help him”
He packed a suitcase to come to Ireland with me and put in clothes, toys, books, a hole puncher, an empty soda can, a few carrots, some pretzels, and a small plastic pink knife. He made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich “all by myself.” He listened to my ipod obsessively which was on PJ Harvey because makes an appearance in the gllery talk. He learned the following words “lick my legs I’m on fire” And finally he gathered ingredients for baking cookies, which involved an egg. The egg promptly broke on the floor.

I don’t have a good track record for these sorts of trips. When I did a similar adventure in France two years ago it began with Eli having a baby tantrum and flailing so hard that he wacked me in the face and bruised my eye. I believe he was trying to steel apples from a farmers market and I rudely picked him up. I noticed at my parents’ house the night before my flight (two hours from home) that I had Rebecca’s passport not mine. Something bad happened to my flight and I ended up stranded in Zurich for five hours watching other planes fly to Paris. When I explained in Paris that I could not see the signs to find my bagge I was given a wheel chair. And then for the kicker I lost my friends apartment number and only located her by sweet-talking some French construction workers into letting me use their cell phones.

Friday, September 17, 2010

2nd grade theology

Last week one of my friends posted on Facebook that she was often reminded of how different her holiday preparations were from her grandmothers. I think of this more often when making latkes with my food processor, but it’s a good point. Our grandmothers did not for the most part crashing through their work days six hours before a holiday dinner. But they also didn’t have food processors, microwaves, and husbands who do some of the labor and in some cases all. The new year fell inconveniently on a weds this year meaning that Manuel had a meeting until 4:30 and I had various things to do during day which kept me out of the house until I picked up Eli at 3:15 leaving about two hours to get everything ready. The big kids were at play date and Eli and I set about to make a holiday meal which involved for starters him cutting his toy apple over and over again and pretending to be a shofar—a truly grating sound. (I promptly started blasting Velvet Underground to encourage another kind of expression) I turned into some combo of mad chef and hyperactive 7 year old and was running around the house trying to make kooogle, honey cake and other things in record time. The consequence of rushing and tired eyes from an eye doctor appointment was four cuts on my hands and burns in various places and lots of completely inappropriate cursing. At a low point Eli stirred the koogle all by himself and then put a batch to bake in his toy oven, dripping a delightful mix of eggs, sugar and butter all over the floor. Every third word was completely inappropriate for a preschooler and had a jump back from the toy oven move. While I cleaned up that mess he tried to tune the piano--this meant standing on the piano keyboard which he accomplished with a series of stepstool and banging on it with a "fork" and hammer. He heard the tuner explain to Rebecca about pitchforks and the hammers inside. I think he got the words but missed the content. Remarkably we pulled it off and Rebecca got home she set about a project of new placemats for the holiday—gorgeous hot pink felt with more glitter than I knew we had in the house. We tried out annual ritual of getting the kids to think about what they might do better next year. Apparently none need any improvement though they all had big advice for each other—missed the boat….. We did however have an interesting theological discussion which requires dialogue to translate the full effect.

Jonathan: Ok I have something to tell you that I’ve never told you.
Me Ok what
J (With gusto and speed) I don’t believe in God.
Me Ok why
J Because of evolution. God didn’t make the world evolution did. Got that man. (the last statement made while looking at the sky.
Rebecca Well Jonathan I understand what you’re saying but I think something differet. (she must have learned this in school her response to disagreement is usually less articulate)
Me. Hmmmm
Manuel Silent and trying not to choke on food from laughing at seriousness of the kids. And at Eli’s ability to just keep singing at the top of his lungs no matter what is going on.
R I believe in G0d
Me hmmm why
R Because of the stories. You know the burning bush how would it have caught on fire and not burned up.
J Can I have more milk?

And that was that. We can’t figure out why Jonathan thought this was some sort of secret or why a surprise. It turns out he’s been discussin his atheisms quite vehemently at Sunday School for quite a while and we were the last to know. Eli meanwhile repeated the conversation on the long van ride from New Jersey. I would have missed it had my mom not said “honey your kid is saying something to you.” I was deeply engaged in reading an Eloisa James Romance on my kindle and purposefully ignoring all of my kids and my parents. Eli’s version was shorter. “I don’t twust God cause of the evolutionary war.”

The kids hated the koogle and the honey cake causing me to wonder why I ever cook anything. Maybe they are old enough to fast this year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Haircuts and Soundscapes

There’s nothing better than a good haircut. Especially if the stylist always remembers your nut allergy, gives a great head massage, and is a punk rock dj which means playing very cool music instead of the usual salon faux-relaxing stuff that is precisely the opposite of relaxing. Two summers ago I went to get my hair cut and announced that we had to rush so I could thing 1 and to swim lessons—no need to mess around with blow drying or even washing it. He said, “now if you’re just going to stick your hair in a pony tail, jump in the chlorinated pool, and stay in the sun all summer we might as well save your money and my time and just give you a little bang trim” So he basically told me to come back when I could treat my hair like a grown up. And while by big city standards anything in cvillle is cheap when the thermometer tops 90 I’d still rather buy beer and ice cream than a hair cut. We now have an arrangement which involves ignoring my hair for four months and letting it get disgusting from the pool and general summer grime and then chopping all the damaged crappy dread lock f stuff off at the start of school. He claims it’s a sassy style. So if you live in cville you should get your hair done by Christopher Hayes. You might even get to hear an old acoustic Sonic Youth tune.

It’s also always important to be well coiffed for the preschool parent orientation when you’re husband has already forbidden you to speak because your cynicism about the whole business will traumatize new parents. It’s also useful if you have already decided in advance that because you failed preschool and find arts and crafts traumatic there is no way in hell you will even approach the project that will for sure involves glue, markers, scissors and construction paper. (yes they did try to hold me back in preschool for failure to string cheerios which I still can not do.) But in the end nothing topped the mother, who after a long earnest discourse on the benefits of play based education by the teacher followed by parents who wanted their kids to learn to make friends, said that she really wanted her child to learn letters. I did not say that my kid went to that preschool and was the only child who didn’t know letters at the beginning of kindergarten but could still read Great Men of Rome by the end of the year. I also got a chance to continue activating my anti power point text guerrilla warfare. This involves aggressively texting on my very large phone when pages of text appear for the audience to read. I’m all for pictures and bullet points but the long illegible blocks of text drive me nuts. My phone, “the easy use” phone is specially designed for people over 80 who are not familiar with technology so texting is a large type affair which may be distracting to those around me. (it also has a red 911 button which is dangerous if you live with a preschooler who loves the phone) I began this during a completely ludicrous orientation about a new web based system required of the faculty in which some young thing from the Deans office stuck large text based slides on a screen.

On the scholarly front this is likely old news to anyone doing interdisciplinary work I was struck again today by the perils of interdisciplinarity. An article I wrote was reviewed by a person who does history of sound as a Historian. He liked the article but thought in essence that I ought to tone down the music as in the stuff with scores and composers whose names we know. I have spent much of career attempting to think beyond the notes, to think about what the experience of sound was in the early modern period. And I’ve always learned a great deal from scholars working outside of music who taught me the value of thinking about broader sounds capes—thunder, speech cadences, wheels turning etc…. And indeed some of the things I work on involve productions with no scores so this is a useful tact. But I was hoping for a convergence—how did those sounds that stand outside of what imagine as music inflect the sound experience. But let’s not get rid of the music all together. Let me stress that the review was positive, thoughtful and helpful and I’d love to meet the person who wrote it. But as a rule I didn’t think it was especially tactful to insert verbatim at least five paragraphs of text from your own article. Such habits also do get in the way of anonymity, it’s best to assume that anyone who writes history or early modern Europe is probably pretty good as searching and identifying authors and ideas through key phrases and has probably learned to be a wiz with google. Back to the soundscape of a house with an almost four year old who imagines himself to be a rock star—loud!!!!!!!