Book Meme

Aesthetics of Cultural Studies

Friend, former bandmate, political blogger and — oh yes — Paterno Family Professor of English Michael Berube has just edited a new book called The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies, including essays by yours truly, Steven Rubio, Rita Felski, Laura Kipnis), and a cavalcade of other clever people.

And here’s a story to go with it:

Back in February 1999, I was a fresh(er) young PhD interviewing at the University of Pittsburgh for a job in the Communication Department. A number of my then-future (now former) colleagues are interested in aesthetics of various sorts. It’s a thing in rhetorical studies. Anyway, on the interview I found myself in one person’s office being asked whether I think aesthetics is making a comeback. We chatted about it, and I said that if it’s really coming back into vogue for academics to make judgements, I’m all for us trying to figure out the good and the true, but I draw the line at the beautiful.

I still do (go to a conference and look at how we all dress before you challenge me on this one), but I’ve since rethought a few other things — which led to my essay for the book. The other fun thing about it is that I directly rip off Hayden White (“The Burden of History”) at the beginning.

The apartment is relatively clean, parents are asleep and so is Carrie. I wish I was, but hey, at least it’s a chance to blog. I don’t mind waking up thinking about stuff, but I’d rather that it were at like 11am.

Excitement at Chateau Frontenac

Okay, so I just finished the third draft of my SSHRC application, incorporating comments from two grant officers and three colleagues. I think it’s very close, apart from the probably 1 million typos in it. Ah well. After I proof it out loud and impose on Carrie, Tuesday, it will go to the Research Grants Office, and that will be that. In terms of word count, it’s probably about the same as a 40 page paper and it has completely absorbed my September and part of my October. Two years ago, when I started seriously looking at digital audio as an object of research I had no idea that I’d have the kind of resources at my disposal that this grant would give me. Of course, one of the things about SSHRC is that they like to trim applicants’ budgets, but I can’t help being excited just by the possibility. And while McGill’s success rate is quite good in comparison with the rest of Canada, it is by no means a sure thing. But it’s impossible not to dream while putting the application together and it’s probably better in terms of making the writing engaging for reviewers.

With finishing off the tenure file next on the docket, you could say that this is the fall of applications.

In other news:

Carrie’s dad and his partner Diane arrive tonight for the thanksgiving weekend (yes, American readers, Canada has a different thanksgiving), and Sunday we’ll do up a full-on vegetarian feast. It also means a couple of VERY BADLY NEEDED days off for yours truly. We’ll see what it’s like to have guests in the loft. We still don’t have that digital camera to show and tell, but there’s a hole in the wall that separates our bedroom and the living room: the only truly private rooms in the place are the bathroom and the studio/guestroom.

Canadiana/Franglais Update:

Wednesday morning’s cabdriver (what, me late for class? never!) was a retired Montreal police officer, who was very active in his union (which he called “the brotherhood”) and spent 10 winters as a snowbird in Florida until health insurance costs got too high. I got in and even got through a couple exchanges in my broken French (which was an accomplishment). The guy was super chatty and had lots of stories to tell, but my favorite exchange happened at the end:

Him: “You gonna stay in your neighborhood?”
Me: “At least for awhile. The neighbors are nice, the price is right, and although it’s not as hip as the Plateau, it’s a nice place to be.”
Him: “The Pleateau is bullshit. I grew up there. It used to be cheap and for working people. Now it’s not.”

“The Plateau is bullshit.” That’s a combination of words you don’t hear too often in Montreal. Wish I could catch that guy’s cab every time I needed a ride.


OK, off to the obligatory pre-parental-guest vacuuming.


It has come to my attention that the last few blog entries have been cranky. This is out of character and needs to stop. And so, I’ll just provide a poem for you tonight which sums up my feelings about the VP debate.

In quantity of intelligence
Bush competes with the weevil
Cheney’s much smarter
But three times as evil.

Thank you and good night.

The End of 1700 years’ dominion

So the Globe and Mail today ran a story about how Canadian Christian leaders are worried that if Canada legalizes same-sex marriage, it will end the Church’s 1700 year domination of law in Western states. What a delightful proposition, don’t you think?

Those churches will be left feeling marginalized by the state — a state they will no longer see as an expression of a Christian(1) point of view and fulfilling certain Christian ideals, said Christopher Lind, director of the Toronto School of Theology, the federation of theological colleges affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Poor conservative Christians! They will be oppressed because they will no longer foist their beliefs on others. This is absurd; an abuse of the language of civil rights violations where none exist. It is not a violation of a person’s civil rights for the state to support a position they do not. The US government did not violate southern whites’ rights when it forcibly integrated public schools half a century ago any more than Canada will violate the rights of religious extremists by peacefully integrating marriage.

Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada — representing more than three million Canadians(2) through 130 affiliated denominations, ministry organizations and educational institutions — says the redefinition of marriage in Canada would cause conservative Christians to feel stripped of public language with which to express their values on marriage.

While same-sex couples must beware for their personal safety in some quarters before publically expressing their values, conservative Christians are worried about feeling bad because some people call them bigots. So, according to their logic, it’s okay to tell hays and lesbians they’re going to hell, but when people come back and call them bigots for that attitude, that’s oppression. Give break.

On the bright side, the only reason this article exists at all is because it’s looking like Canada is about to rewrite marriage law to support same-sex marriage, and conservative Christians are a tiny, shrill minority. What a cool country.(3)

(1)Yes, Virginia: many believing Christians actually support same-sex marriage.
(2)With a population of about 30 million people, that’s 10% of Canadians, not all of whom support their church leaders who speak in their name. If standard estimates are correct, then about 3 million Canadians (10%) have a preference for same-sex partners. Let’s call it a tie: the Canadian state should not ban Christianity, and it should legalize same-sex marriage. Solomon has spoken!
(3)Footnotes in a blog. I’m such a geek.

2 Crappy DJs

Montreal is a city of festivals, most of which I missed by virtue of not moving here until the end of summer, some of which I’ve missed because I’m too busy.

This weekend was the Montreal Pop Festival, for which our friend Kembrew was in town. We had dinner and then went off to check out DJ Vadom vs. Kool Keith (Franz Ferdinand, who are rumored to have a great live show, were already sold out). The temperature drops, and our original plan to get tickets at 8:30 and then go have a drink somewhere morphs into gratitude at getting inside Club Soda into elation at discovering a table with three chairs that have backs to them and a good view of the stage. This is the old* person’s rock and roll fantasy. We settle in, order drinks and chat. A few minutes later, on came the opening act, consisting of two young DJs spinning snippets of tunes (the technique was all in the cueing; it wasn’t full-on mixing). For the first hour, their selection of obscure old funk beats was pretty interesting. By the second hour, it was getting pained but we figured that it was just that the headliners were late like usual. Conversation turned to the relationship of the kind of DJing we were witnessing (not to be confused with Qbert or Spooky or Shadow or any other DJ who plays the turntable like an instrument) and connoisseurship: basically, instead of just collecting music, you could now literally perform your knowledge of esoteric music. Mmm. Smells like Bourdieuean spirit. By the third hour, it was geting painful for us. Really painful. conversation turned to Beavis and Butthead-like jokes about how much the next song was going to suck. Finally, a little after midnight, after THREE HOURS OF A MEDIOCRE OPENING ACT, they bring on another opening act that is basically a cliched DJ/MC act, though the DJ was much better than his two predecessors. Enough was enough, and we took off.

The guys had an hour worth of good ideas, which is perfectly respectable. No unknown act can stretch a set like that and get away with it. Kembrew speculated that it was all Kool Keith’s fault and that he probably wasn’t even in Montreal yet.

It’s one thing for P-Funk or Springsteen to put on a three hour show, but otherwise, there’s a reason why sets are usually limited to 45 minutes.

Enough said.

Who’s Your Master of Low Expectations?

Actually, I thought they both were. Kerry didn’t look like his Republican caricature, so the dems call it a success. But he missed a couple opportunities to really put it to Bush, especially when Bush said he knew how hard war was from watching it on TV. How come that didn’t make the highlight reels?

Bush looked alternately pissed off, defensive and pathetic. He’d clearly rehearsed his opening remarks and it was downhill from there. You can’t criticize him for not being on message, though.

Still, the fact that we expected so little out of each of them makes it kind of a draw. Which is too bad. But then, it does appear that Bush has found a way to make it difficult to debate a stupid person.

It was awesome to watch the debate with Canadians, though. When Bush started talking about not signing on to the International Criminal Court, the looks of horror on everyone in the room were priceless.

In the good old USofA, when the president says “we didn’t sign on because then they could have tried some of our people as criminals” to some (like the people with the big US OUT OF UN banner near our old Pittsburgh house) he must sound like’s protecting god and country. Here, people just recognize that it’s evil.


In other news, Will Straw (namecheck!) took us to this nice little place with 15 kinds of poutine beforehand. Poutine is comfort food, good on cold nights when you’re really hungry. The bottom fries get soggy, but by then the cheese has melted so it’s more, well, like nachos but with fries. Same concept, though. It was good in that soft food sort of way. I had a strictly don’t-ask-don’t-tell relationship with the sauce.


I’ve been at this for weeks now and not a peep about recording. Still none, as I’m waiting for a new computer for the studio. In the meantime, I noodle on my instruments inbetween writing sessions and class prep, and a new copy of Tape Op arrived in the mail yesterday. It is definitely the best recording magazine anywhere. It’s also the only one that’s a) political and b) moderately feminist. Which is quite an achievement in an industry where they still sell microphone preamps with breasts in other magazines, and many writers still assume their audience is all male. I only skimmed it in bed, but there’s an article about a woman who made an album with just an old PC and a library card, and the end column (usually an oped about music) has been given over to urge people to vote in the US election. How cool is that?