Swimming Upstream

It’s that “I’m so busy I’m so busy I’m so busy” time of the semester again, so of course I’m blogging instead of writing. Actually procrastinating other work. I’m particularly pleased because one of my advisees just landed her first tenure-track job. Maybe Full Professors get jaded about this kind of thing, but I’m thrilled.

For all my complaining about being busy (and a big of bloglect), I’ve gotten tons of writing done in the past couple weeks. Current projects include:

–Proposal for sound studies reader (the proposal is done and it will have the best market research routledge ever saw for a cultural studies tome, but my god, it could easily have 80 chapters. how to cut the table of contents to a manageable size?)
–Afterword (or is it “Afterward”) to an edited volume called Cybersounds that deals with music and the internet (forthcomign Peter Lang sometime late 2005 or 2006)
–An essay for Bad Subjects called “My Canadian Confusion” that’s turned out to be quite, well, confusing to write (will be up later this month or early April).
–An essay on digital timekeeping and the regulation of movement for a conference in April. I’m coauthoring with a student.
–An essay on the circulation of Osama bin Laden’s voice in American broadcast media (which I presented at two different events on two consecutive days — Sunday and Monday. A couple more public presentations and revisions and it will get shipped off to a journal).

Since I’m doing all of this at once while continuing to teach (mmm. new lectures!) and perform various service functions, each project feels like it is slowly moving along. I guess there is a virtue in serial project monogamy. At least I’m starting to have the good sense to turn things down.

More Strike, More Copies

Good to see some responses on the strike stuff. The big news now is that there are two more actions planned. The Student Society of McGill University is going on another 1-day strike on Thursday the 24th and there’s some big province-wide thing on Wednesday the 30th. I was downtown on Saturday and it seemed like there was a big march — but I wasn’t close enough to know if it was a strike-related event or something else. I have no idea if anything’s working more than it was before, but I will say that it’s pretty exciting. I heard that one of the French papers estimated the march I attended Wednesday at 80,000 people.

As for McGill students, I assumed that the reputation was a result of the internationality of the student body and their relatively higher class status with respect to students at other schools in town. But I’m also cautious enough to wonder if that’s a stereotype or if it’s true. I think some are striking out of solidarity or, maybe for the really young ones, just flexing their political muscles and seeing what it’s like. I’m sure there are others affected by the cuts. Bottom line is that the thing seems to have taken on a life of its own. In other words, even though the CEGEP and the McGill students may have “not that much in common” they recognize some shred of common interest, or it looks to them like by banding together they can actually make a difference for the better, which might be just enough motivation sometimes. Who knows? Anyway, it’s clear to me that the students are in the right on this one, and it’s really outstanding to see mass outrage at big cuts to education after years of watching cuts with little reaction in the United States.


I can’t escape this original/copy thing. I saw a paper this weekend (thank you Ted Striphas!) that convinced me that it’s actually central to the current intellectual property debates, which I’m currently working through in order to get a grip for my mp3 book this summer (which, I must assert, is NOT about intellectual property law but about sound, technology and music). What’s interesting to me is how much American law mimics the conservative strain in cultural criticism that is so concerned about copies circulating in some form unmoored from the original. I don’t know what to do with it except to point it out for now and to say it’s one more reason why I don’t like that formulation. As for Benjamin, I pretty much stand by my original point from TAP: the footnote on the auratic status of a painting of the Madonna pretty much undoes the whole transhistorical thesis of the essay. Then again, Benjamin’s is a messianic philosophy and mine isn’t. That said, I’ll still probably teach that one in my repetition seminar next fall unless someone else covered it in prosem or something.

Quebec Student Strike

This is another one for the Bad Subjects website. Go on over and have a look at what I wrote.

Yesterday’s protest was indeed wild, since it was my first Canadian protest. Bigger and louder than anything I remember in the U.S. It would be an understatement to say that I was impressed.

This weekend is taken up with a visit from our friend Carol and the meeting of a working group, so I expect it’ll be all quiet here until early next week.

Almost a week has gone by and there’s no report from the provinces; will we lose the colony?

And I’m still not caught up on other people’s blogs. Guess that’s what happens when you have a party and don’t work on the weekend.

It’s been a great but busy week, including three nights out (though last night was spontaneous). Movie nite featured Be Cool which ought to have been entitled Be Lame. The Rock and Andre 3000 stole every scene they were in, partly because all the Hollywood stars were so busy mugging for the camera that they forgot to actually act. At least the Indian food and dinner company were excellent. Thursday night featured a great lecture on the history of gaslight and fireworks (ok, yes, I’m a geek but in my defense I did tell the speaker that I especially liked the parts of the paper where things blew up) and the subsequent dinner out with the guest and the usual HPS crowd plus a few new folks. James and Nick, the two main HPS organizers, are always very good about insisting that Carrie come to dinner (if not the talk) but she actually came to the talk this time. I was totally worried that she’d find History of Science stuff boring but she actually really liked it. It helps that the talk was quite good. Next week’s topic is alchemical fraud, but I’ll have to miss it, alas. Last night featured a spontaneous dinner out with our colleagues Ting and Bronwen which was lovely. I’d originally planned to finish reading a book to review and to go nowhere near my office, but the coffee shop was full, and I’d just had lunch with Tom Porcello, an ethnomusicologists who writes on sound recording, and I was real close to the office. Ah well! So much for getting work done. . . . I did find out that through a misprint I am listed as department chair in the new undergraduate bulletin. Since the new chair has not yet been announced, you might think this is a bad omen. I hope not: I’m already signed on for other administrative duty next year (graduate program director) and I’ve only been at McGill one year, which would make me a bad candidate. Nevertheless, the office staff thought it was the funniest thing in the world to congratulate me on my new post. Cruel!

Thanks to my colleague Darin, this week I learned what the “notwithstanding clause” is: it is one of the weirdest bits of constitutional law I have ever heard. Canada has a charter of rights and freedoms, which is sort of like a bill of rights. Except that there’s the clause that says that the government can pass a law “notwithstanding” the charter. For instance, in Quebec, if you run a business your sign must have French on it. The “notwithstanding clause” means that you can’t plead “freedom of expression” for an English-only sign. I understand the logic there, but you can quickly see how this can get out of control. It’s at the center of debates around whether the government can pass a law, for instance, on same-sex marriage.

One of these days, I will update my tiny blogroll and introduce you to the other blogs I read, which are almost exclusively authored by friends or acquaintances. But not today.