Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My very own work of Abstract Impressionism

This is me working out my frustrations that no one was listening to me during my class today.

Of course, this isn't really true. Most were listening to me during my class today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another publication

For those of you keeping track, I have had another review published in the primary journal for popular music studies, Popular Music. You can find my review of David Pattie's book, Rock Music in Performance (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) in Popular Music 27:3 (October 2008), pp. 515-516.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I have often been fascinated (especially when I've visited the Parks) with the power of Disney. What always go me was (is) their park in Florida. I've been there many times in the last seven years (oh, to have that money back; alternately, oh, to be there again) and I really like the fact that the Disney parks in Florida cover an area the size of Boston, they have their own transportation infrastructure, and police, too (well, security guards really).

It's about POWER. It's not the cuteness or the imagery, although I like that too. It's not the sanitization of the global experience (although that is an element of their power). It's the sheer control that the corporation holds.

I don't think this is a negative (although it might very well be). It is certainly fascinating.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Apostle Paul's Movie Guide

Peter Kerr, in a vignette article in the book, Understanding Evangelical Media (edited by Schultze and Wood), writes about how Evangelicals filter which mainstream movies should be watched. "WWJD" is often an acronym that comes up in oonversation: what would Jesus do? Well, in a way, I think that is a bit of a loaded question. Would he go to a movie in the first place? Not sure - they didn't have movies when He was on the planet, so we don't know. We know that He ate with sinners, which I suspect might be similar to going to bars and so forth. He drank real-life wine - most would agree with that. Would he engage with modern media and entertainment? Well, if He was truly human (and most would agree with that), then he would have engaged with whatever mainstream media there was then.

I wonder if people would consider what Jesus would do when they get into a car. Would He drive? Not sure. He didn't drive while He was on the planet (most would agree with that). So should we drive now?

But that's maybe not a moral issue. Or is it?

Back to media, and the article at hand, Kerr suggests that Paul might have something to say about watching movies. Kerr quotes 1 Corinthians 6:12 and comments:
He refuses to become a slave to things that are merely permissible and not really beneficial. He captures the middle ground between outright rejection and mindless acceptance. (p.63)
I suspect that Paul liked entertainment a lot. He was a scholar after all, and probably liked to think about how things, thoughts, metanarratives, work. He did flesh out much of the theology of the Christian Church (most would agree with that).

And I think most of us like entertainment. That's why many of us find it hard to just stop watching everything; you know, Jesus didn't own a television (most would agree with that).

My final question, though, is how do you know if some kind of media object (film television broadcast, popular song) is ultimately beneficial. Who is the judge of such things? What is the answer? Who knows (and most would agree with that).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blogging as a waste of time

In a short piece that is inserted in the first chapter of Schultze’s Understanding Evangelical Media, the author suggests that Evangelicals might spend more time doing nothing in the activity of blogging, and reading blogs, than being productive. I wonder, though, what the difference might be between wasting time blogging (or reading blogs) or wasting time going to church.

While I’m not suggesting that one shouldn’t go to church, I’m thinking that it is not much of a stretch to suggest that there are times in each of our lives when attending a church service is an activity of shutting down. We do not want to be there and we spend that precious time with a black cloud over our head, as if it was raining and everything. We wish we were elsewhere and we spend all of that time thinking of other things when we should be thinking about God and allowing Christ to change our lives.

I wonder if the author decided that blogs were apparently the real “time stealers” of society, one of the most terrible ills brought to us by the satanic members of the New Media cadre. Now, perhaps I’m going too far; after all, the short segment appears in a chapter of a book that is, in part, encouraging Evangelical media makers to make Evangelical media better. But why all of the negativity regarding blogging? Can not the same criticisms (that we waste time) be levied against all text-based media that ends up not imparting much wisdom to the reader?

I bet you’ve wasted all kinds of time reading this little rant. Go to church!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

At the intersection of society and media

I had an interesting talk with a local newspaper journalist about the advent of new media and its implications on society. She mentioned that she has progrssive lenses, where the top of her lens is for seeing far, the middle of the lens is for mid-distance looking, and the bottom of her lens is for reading.

She mentioned that, for reading things online, she required mid-distance lenses, but because the style of glasses a few years ago were too thin from top to bottom, this would cause problems with her reading of a computer screen. She claims that it is better with the wider (or taller) styles of glasses now. There is more room for that mid-range section in the middle of the progressive lens.

This just might be a case of new media (newspapers online, for instance) beginning to dictate style.

Or not. But it is something very interesting that I never ever thought about.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Things are being repaired at our place at a quick pace - at least in terms of foundation work. I suppose that when you pay lots for something do be done, it is, and it's done quickly.

We will still have to wait until September for the bathroom and, I suppose, the other plumbing work to be done. We are hoping that there isn't a problem with the main sewer drain, but there might be.

As for work, things are moving along. I'm continuing to finalize the syllabi and they are just about done. I am looking forward to teaching these courses.

That's all for now.

Believe me, no news from this end could very well be good news.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Foundation problems with the new house. $15k.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

There are plumbers here

We have plumbers ripping up concrete in our basement to install a sump pump and pit right now. I'm content that they are doing work but not so happy that the work needs to be done in any case. I'm glad that we are getting increased flood protection, and the fellows were also going to redo the pipes that are coming down from up above (because they are completely illegal), but the wall hasn't been moved yet (we were not told that this was going to be done today). In any case, it will be rescheduled. That means that the wall needs to be moved soon, as early as early next week.

I'm continuing to plan courses and that is going well. Two syllabi are well on their way, one is in development with a lot of supporting documentation from the publishers (which should be a great help). There is a 3rd year course on New Media which will be supported by a coursepack (actually, articles on reserve in the library). It will be extremely interesting. I have a great idea for a large-scale project, one which, while large, could be interesting for all involved.

The other night I drove from Niverville in the dark (maybe a 25 minute drive) - it went well. I am becoming more confident, although I don't like it so much.

That's all. I will update the work going on downstairs soon.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Still alive

Things are crazy. We are still alive. I'm driving a Yaris. I have cut the lawn 3 times already. I cleaned the eaves troughs. I ordered textbooks for the classes. My wife and I (and a colleague) have gutted the basement (what was a finished basement is now unfinished - we had water upon entry).

My sister had a baby boy on the 2nd of July. I haven't gotten paid yet, but I haven't had to fill the gas tank yet either.

We are getting the bathroom renovated. We need to have a sump pump installed. We are getting the plumbing fixed.

I've been outside more in the last 2 weeks than in the last 7 years. I have arm muscles now (although I can stand to lose a few more pounds - I'm not big by any means, but I should be a little leaner).

That's all. I will update as things progress.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Moving soon

I'm just getting ready to pack up the computer (although I just got a Macbook, so I won't be out of computer range) so I thought I would type a little note before ... um ... packing up the computer.

We're moving. The apartment is a mess of boxes. Almost everything is done except for some larger items, and I'm trying to get most everything of the rest in boxes before tomorrow. The truck is supposed to come, although I have yet to hear confirmation that they will in fact be coming tomorrow, and at what time.

In any case, the wireless network will come down tonight, and that'll be it for internet until next Friday (although we'll have access in Hamilton, on our way to Winnipeg).

As some might know, my sister is due to deliver her new baby boy any time now, so we are all excited for that.

I am entering another phase of my life. I never thought that I would get a job. I am anxious about it, although I know deep down that I can do it and things will turn out. I'm just very very very very scared. And, I think, when I'm scared, I freeze and things don't get done. So that'll be a thing to work on when we arrive in Winnipeg. This coming week will be a forced "relaxing" time before the busy-ness of home improvement and course preparation.

I will check in again when we arrive in Winnipeg. Thanks for reading, and for those who feel so inclined, please consider praying for us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A few more thoughts on Feist after a long while

After returning from the conference at Brock, I never got around to writing out some of the comments and thoughts that my colleagues of IASPM imparted to me after the presentation of the paper (which was well-received). For one, Feist's perceived weakness (or actual weakness, if one takes into account her vocal injury) is a choice. Perhaps she is able to sing loudly, but it is a stylistic choice of hers to sing softly. Something to think about: the relationship between the timbre of the bass (fuzzy vs. clear) and the timbre or clarity of the voice (this is what one listener latched onto when hearing "1234"). Finally, the work of ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt might be something to think about, in terms of songs that sound like games (although Gaunt's work, I think, explores games with songs, rather than the case of Feist - songs without games). See Gaunt, The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop (New York: NYU Press, 2006).

In case you might be wondering, right now I'm "reading" the following:

Wilbert J. McKeachie & Marilla Svinicki, McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, 12th Edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006).

Parker J. Palmer, To Know as We are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journal (New York: HarperOne, 1993).

Sheila Whiteley & Jennifer Rycenga, eds., Queering the Popular Pitch (New York: Routledge, 2006). [I've got to write a review of this one for a journal.]

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (in the public domain in Canada, downloaded from here).

Dan Brown, Deception Point (New York: Pocket Books, 2001).

By the way, we say goodbye to Montreal this coming Friday, June 13. Au Revoir, city of my birth.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Moz album

True to You, Morrissey's mouthpiece to the outside world (run by the super-fan Julia Riley) announces that a new album, entitled Years of Refusal, will be released in September. Also, a remastered version of Southpaw Grammar will be released in July, with 3 unreleased bonus tracks (probably just live).

[Photo from here.]

Monday, May 26, 2008

Just checking in

Yes, I am still alive. The last few weeks have been hectic. I finished the revisions to a chapter on Feist for a book that will appear in 2009. I presented a new paper at the IASPM Canada conference at Brock. And my wife, father and I went to Winnipeg, signed papers and got possession of the house. There might be a bit of work at the house - nothing major, really - although the large yard needs some work.

So, in short (too late), I'm still alive, trying to clean things up here in Montreal to get ready for a move in 3 weeks.

By the way, while in Ottawa, I was able to secure myself a fully working iMac DV SE (graphite) for $5. Retail in 1999, $1499 USD.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not that it matters

I got preliminary results from FQRSC (the provincial funding body for postdoctoral fellowships). Confusing at best, but not confusing enough to give me hope that I got the fellowship. I didn't get it, but I don't know why yet. Something must have been wrong with my application.

The results are as follows:
Cote attribuée par le comité d'évaluation à votre demande: Z [apparently because I didn't receive a passing grade in one or more of the sections]
Rang attribué par le comité d'évaluation à votre demande: 40
Nombre de bourses offertes actuellement dans votre comité: 44
So, this would lead me to believe that I would have gotten a fellowship, as I am ranked 40, and 44 got the fellowship. But what is this "Z" all about? Last time I got a "C."

They must not have received one of my letters (see all about that here), although I would think that that would have been reflected in my ranking.

As I say, not that it matters. But it still makes me sad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


(as seen from space! - More info soon.)

For those who might be interested...

New single by Nine Inch Nails. You can legally download it by going here (the link brings you to NIN's website). I like it a lot. The mp3 tags of the song encourage the listener to visit nin.com on May 5th. A new album perhaps, with the same distribution and payment model as Ghosts I-IV? I can only hope.

Did I mention that I like the song a lot?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More work on "Canada" (veiled as an exciting blog entry)

I will post a bit of news from our recent trip to Winnipeg, a visit to my future workplace and a search for a place to live. For now, though, I need to write a short bit on Canadian identity and nation building in the postwar period. For that, I am happy to quote Paul Litt:
Canadian Nationalism in the postwar period, then, was fuelled by hope and fear--hope that Canada could seize the moment and ensure its destiny; fear that American influences would smother a new Canadianism in its cradle. (377)
Litt maps the Canadian "experience" as the movement after World War II from a colony of Britain to a stand-alone nation, with the fear that Canada would become a colony again, but this time of the United States. The locus of this perceived fear was in the area of culture.

Source: Paul Litt, "The Massey Commission, Americanization, and Canadian Cultural Nationalism," Queen's Quarterly 98:2 (Summer 1991), 375-387.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Canada as instituted by the government

Maurice Charland presents the notion of "technological nationalism," where Canada is said to be manifest by the Canadian Pacific Railroad (a transportation technology which allowed the eastern part of the country to be united with the western part, in terms of trade, commerce, passenger movement, and even communications in the form of the telegraph which followed the tracks) and the CBC, the uniting factor for Canada in terms of media communications. He calls this a "rhetoric of technological nationalism in anglophone Canada which ascribes to technology the capacity to create a nation by enhancing communication." Furthermore, "the CBC is legitimated in political discourse by the CPR." (197)

Source: Maurice Charland, "Technological Nationalism," Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 10:1-2 (1986), 196-220;

Friday, April 11, 2008

Regarding Canada as a "mosaic" rather than a "melting pot"

Another prevalent model of Canadian nationalism is that Canada is a "mosaic" rather than a "melting pot," the latter being a model upon which the United States is (arguably) based. The "mosaic" model is actually the policy of "multiculturalism," as instated in 1971, "where cultural difference is acknowledged and accomodated within the "mosaic" of national culture." But there is an argument that multiculturalism is "simply another way of entrenching separateness and marginalizing those not recognized as belonging to the dominant culture." Furthermore, the "mosaic" model:
views cultural inscriptions, and hence the notion of difference, as stable, coherent and autonomous. . . . In such a "multicultural" nation, differences are organized into neat, virtual grids of distinct ethnic communities, each with its own "culture."
The "melting pot" model (which is what is generally considered to be the American model of nation-building) refers to a "process of assimilation, where the different cultural and ethnic communities in a nation are conceived as coming together to create a new 'American' race or culture."

Source: Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, "'Between Mosaic and Melting Pot': Negotiating Multiculturalism and Cultural Citizenship in Bharati Mukherjee's Narratives of Diaspora," Postcolonial Text 1:2 (2005); available from http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/viewArticle/420/147; Internet; accessed 8 April 2008.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More about being "Canadian"

Harry Hillier talks about the evolution of thinking in terms of what constitutes the "nation" of Canada. From the country's inception, there was an idea that the political entity affiliated with Britain would bear its imprint (called anglo-conformity). This evolved into the two-nation view by 1960, when new accommodations between English and French in Canada were required. By the 1990s, the notions of a three-nation view emerged, with the "realization" of the prior presence of First Nations. So, in conclusion, the cores and essentials of Canadian nationality are no longer clear. (295)

Kieran Keohane suggests that "Canadian" is defined as manifested in a "way of life." In other words, "Canadian" is how we live. (19) He also suggests that there is an enjoyment of endurance hardwired into Canadians:
Throughout Canadian popular culture there are discourses that celebrate an enjoyment of endurance and a valuation of tolerance. (35)
There also exists a lack of particularity in the character of Canadians. (38)

Keohane writes:
At the heart of the symbolic order of Canada is a knot where endurance and enjoyment, and enjoyment of endurance of lack of particularity, are articulated. This knot of meanings supports values of tolerance and unpretentiousness. (40)
Of course, one of the common conceptions of Canada is that it is not the United States, and nor are Canadians all the same.

Finally, there is a friendly character of Canadian humour. We are not afraid of making fun of ourselves, with self-disclosure and self-deprication. (153-154)

Sources: Harry H. Hillier, Canadian Society: A Macro Analysis (Fifth Edition) (Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006); Hieran Keohane, Symptoms of Canada: An Essay on the Canadian Identity (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Defining "Canadian-ness"

In an article that appeared in the Dominion paper, Susana Ferreira discusses how the definition of being "Canadian" is difficult (in the context of immigration, in particular), and that this difficulty is part of how one defines "Canadian":
The question of Canadian Identity is a familiar and prominent one. Canadians spend so much time agonizing over our lack of solid, touchable, definable identity that it has practically become a national pastime. Some would argue that it is this agonizing itself that best defines our national identity.
She goes on to suggest that a firm identity of who we are requires a firm identity of what we are not. I think that most would agree that Canadians certainly know what they are not, and that this knowledge does nothing to tell them who they are: Canadians are not American (or, to a much lesser extent, British or French).

Ferreira blames Canada's laissez-faire attitude regarding identity to the "broad embrace of Multiculturalism."

She outlines how "Canadian-ness" is built: "The process of nation-building is tied to space, language, education, and common or shared knowledge." For Ferreira, Multiculturalism is a barrier to a shared space, language, education and knowledge. She states, "Canadianness becomes something obtainable via assimilation to White, Western mindsets and practices."

Sumayya Kassamali and Usamah Ahmad continue with similar sentiments in suggesting that Canada is built on the ideals of tolerance, democracy and justice. They also identify the difficulties faced by immigrant communities even in a supposedly multicultural society.
Nationalism always works to shroud status quo relations and exploitation by constructing an imagined commune to which one must be emotionally and viscerally committed. There have thus been charges that if certain groups do not accept dominant mores, they have no reason to be here. We are forced into celebratory nationalism or are labeled "Enemies Within" who need to be exorcised (or deported).
While these two articles provide scathing criticisms of Canadian nationalism and especially multiculturalism, they point to inadequacies of the Canadian "imaginary," to borrow from Kassamali and Ahmad. Do other countries suffer with similar problems? Or perhaps as Ferreira suggests, "Canadian-ness" must make the Other suffer, and thus (I would argue) suffer itself, in order to remain "Canadian."

Sources: Susana Ferreira, "Multiculturalism: It Hurts Us All," The Dominion (6 November 2004); available from http://www.dominionpaper.ca/features/2004/11/06/multicultu.html; Internet; accessed 8 April 2008. Sumayya Kassamali & Usamah Ahmad, "Wounded Sentiments: Multiculturalism, the 'Toronto 17,' and the National Imaginary," The Peak 123:7 (19 June 2006); available from http://peak.sfu.ca/the-peak/2006-2/issue7/fe-mus.html; Internet; accessed 8 April 2008.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I thought I would chime in...

I'm a bit late but I would like to congratulate Leslie Feist on winning 5 Juno awards this last weekend. I wasn't able to watch the telecast on Sunday night, but I did see many of her acceptance speeches on the CTV website (only after I downloaded the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in; Silverlight is MS's answer to Flash video). She seemed genuinely thankful to receive the recognition that came with the awards.

I'm writing about her right now, so she's on my mind.

Picture from REUTERS/Todd Korol (and here).

Friday, April 04, 2008

More on Feist, Leclerc and France

Christopher M. Jones describes Felix Leclerc in Paris in 1974:
Felix Leclerc was the authentic Quebecois--with acoustic guitar, boots, and flannel shirts on stage at the Olympia in Paris--seemingly just emerged from the woods, representing the origin myth, an unspoiled New World Man.
In an interesting twist, Jones suggests that, with few exceptions of what he calls "crossover" artists, Quebec music has not been embraced in France, nor have French artists been embraced in Quebec (he quotes Gilbert Ohayon of EMI France to support this). So, Perhaps Leclerc was seen as an Other, a kind of "exotic" or something. In a way, perhaps Feist is seen in a similar way, but where Leclerc was linked to a Quebec "nationalism," Feist is linked to ... nothing.

Source: Christopher M. Jones, "Quebec Song: Strategies in the Cultural Marketplace," Quebec Studies 31 (Spring-Summer 2001), 50-60. Also available here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The successes of Félix Leclerc vs. Feist

Things are starting to become a bit more clear in terms of why Feist's successes in France problematize her categorization as "Canadian," while the successes of Félix Leclerc in France do not problematize his status as a contributor to Quebec culture within Canada.

To recap a bit of what I wrote yesterday, there is a historic boundary in Quebec music. On one side are songwriters (and Michèle Ollivier calls these "rock artists" as well), and on the other are interpreters - Ollivier calls them artistes populaires (they primarily perform songs written by others).

I suggest that Feist's work in the French language can be placed in the second category, as she does not write her songs in French. She usually performs known works (like "La Javanaise" with Juliette Gréco or Gainsbourg's "Boomerang"), while her more recent song in French for the movie Paris, Je t'Aime was written by Elizabeth Anaïs and Christophe Montieux.

Here is what Ollivier says about Félix Leclerc's successes:
[His] success in France as a songwriter-interpreter in the 1950s contributed to the emergence both of a new style of popular music and of a strong nationalist movement in Quebec. (98)
Ollivier suggests that there is a high level of "prestige" associated with Leclerc and artists like him in the Quebec music scene. This "prestige" also corresponds to those artists that are considered "song writers." rather than those who were only trying for quick and temporary successes. (98, 103) Again, from Ollivier:
Félix Leclerc experienced a phenomenal success in France. His success abroad gave new legitimacy to local artists and paved the way for the development of a new genre of popular music artists, who became known as the chansonniers. (99)
One might wish to compare Feist to three Quebec singers that Ollivier mentions: Céline Dion (large success in the United States), Roch Voisine (large success in Europe), and Ginette Reno (large success in the rest of Canada). Feist is different that these artists in that she is completely outside of the Quebec music scene. Her French work does not find its origin in Quebec. Her origins might be placed in Nova Scotia (by birth), Calgary (early music formation), Toronto (as a base of operations and beginnings of success) and even Berlin or Paris ("origins" of her currently popular persona).

Quebec does not figure at all in the career of Feist. Therefore, when she aligns herself with French singers and chanson, this does not gain her any prestige with Quebec audiences, because she's not from there. Leclerc and these others were able to remain Québécois(e) because of the strong ties to that province; their global successes followed them back to their home to reinforce that original nationalist association (I cringe to use the term "nationalist"). Or at least that's what I think.

Feist is English-speaking and Canadian. Her alignment with France and French culture problematizes her status as Canadian. If she was from Quebec, or if she was French-Canadian, perhaps her successes and acceptance in France would imbue her with "prestige" back at home.

Source: Michèle Ollivier, "Snobs and Quétaines: Prestige and Boundaries in Popular Music in Quebec," Popular Music 25:1 (2006), 97-116.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Feist and Quebec

In preparing revisions to my paper on Feist and Canadian Popular Music, I'm exploring how her case is different from other Canadian musicians as per the following. Why is it that her acceptance into the French (as in France) chanson scene renders her less Canadian (or as a problematized Canadian) when a Quebec singer like Felix Leclerc is popular in France but still considered no less of a Quebecois artist?

There is a historical conception of popular music in Quebec as being separated into two genres, chanson (or singer/songwriter) and mass culture, or American-style pop styles. (Grenier 212) It seems that all French-language Quebec music has since been bunched together as chanson, and that, though the distinction in styles has been ignored, there has also been a resurgence in popularity of the traditional singer/songwriter or chanson style. (220)

Also, Quebec music has found itself aligned to (or included in) a greater global "movement" of francophone music, "la francophonie." There seems less nationalistic associations embedded in this music, then, when considered from a global perspective.

I wonder if Feist's "Canadian-ness" is simply* a non-francophone "Canadian-ness." Her chanson singing is part of this "francophonie" rather than a Canadian French-language tradition.

* "simply" is not the right word. Nothing is simple, and if one argues that something is simple, someone else can argue that it's not. Thus, with the presentation of that argument, the thing is certainly no longer "simple," whether one thinks it is ... or not.

Source: Line Grenier, "The Aftermath of a Crisis: Quebec Music Industries in the 1980s," Popular Music 12:3 (October 1993), 209-227.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I'm pleased to announce that I've accepted the job as Assistant Professor in Communications and Media at Providence College & Seminary outside of Winnipeg. Very exciting!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Post #151 and news

I'm pleased to announce that I've been offered a job as Assistant Professor in Communications and Media at Providence College & Seminary outside of Winnipeg.

Post #150 - and an update from the West

Back from Winnipeg, where I had a nice time meeting with professors and discussing the place of Communications and Media in the context of theology and Christianity. I should hear something later today about moving out there.

I'm very tired. I'm going to try to do something today - I have all kinds of things to do in the next 4 weeks (even if moving isn't one of them).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Easter

I wish everyone reading a blessed Easter. This is the time of year that Christians remember the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, for our redemption and salvation. Thank God for His goodness.

I am off to Ottawa for the weekend and then flying out to Winnipeg. I will not be back until Wednesday, although breaks on this blog are no surprise. I hope to have some (good) news upon my return.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Approaching 150 posts

I'm very busy right now. I've had quite an eventful few days.

I'm off to Winnipeg to visit a school on Easter Monday, right after visiting my family in Ottawa. My Feist article has been accepted as a chapter in a book. I've been accepted to present a paper at the IASPM Canada conference at Brock University in May.

I still have that book review on the go as well as that piece for that national religious magazine (Friday was really productive).

I might be in the market for a laptop. It depends how today goes. I might require one for my little post-Easter trip.

(By the way, Friday wasn't productive at all, in case you didn't get my dry humour over the Internet)

Friday, March 14, 2008

I'm not feeling well (but here's a nice picture of my iPod)

Things are getting crazy here. I haven't been feeling 100% in the last few weeks, not sure why. I'm trying to get better before the next few weeks come upon me, as they may be a bit crazy.

I'm going to try to get another piece for a national religious publication out today. Thus far, none of my pieces have been approved for publication, but this one might.

I am half-way through a review of a book on authenticity and rock performance. I should be able to scrub that one together and get it out. Sometimes I just need to dedicate a relatively short time and just do what I need to. It's not that hard.

One of my chapters on Feist has been conditionally accepted for a book on Canadian popular music. The next 6 weeks will be filled with research for the revisions of that. I'm happy about this, though.

I was approached by a German publisher about publishing my dissertation. Apparently the only thing that separates this particular press from a "vanity press" is that it doesn't charge the author to publish the work (unlike something like Lulu.com), and it does pay royalties. The press also markets through amazon.com and other online retailers. The publication, though, is not peer-reviewed.

I've been advised against publishing this way, though another colleague told me to go ahead, publish with this press, and then concentrate on publishing new material. The above piece on Feist will be the first publication of new material, which might be a signal to publish the dissertation with the German press. I'll have to think about it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

By the way, the iPod arrived safe and sound

Sorry to keep everyone in suspense (as if). My brand new Project (RED) 1gig iPod Shuffle arrived by FedEx on Friday (after missing the delivery guy on Thursday). The little thing left China on Monday and arrived in Canada on Thursday. What a world traveller.

Some of you astute readers might remember that I had a shuffle before - a coveted Orange one. I returned it because of a perceived "hum." Alas, it seems that the hum is a "feature" of this model, and I now feel that I should have kept that beautiful little marvel. The price did go down, though, so I still come out a winner.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Larry Norman 1947-2008

Anyone who listens to what is now called Contemporary Christian Music should know the name Larry Norman. In 1969, Norman recorded Upon This Rock on Capitol Records, considered by many the first rock release that was also considered gospel music. He later went on to create the Solid Rock label, which had on its roster Randy Stonehill, Daniel Amos (the band), and Mark Heard, as well as others. So, I suppose that I owe him for my musical tastes. Although I own no Larry Norman recordings, his mark is left on the music of Stonehill and Daniel Amos. He was always a mysterious figure for me - there was always an air of controversy around him, especially because, when I was a teen, he and Stonehill (as well as all of the old Solid Rock people) were not talking. It seems that the various parties forgot their differences in recent years, although I know that the Daniel Amos people were trying to put together a reissue that was a bit undermined by the release of said reissue by Norman's people.

Details are silly, though, at this point. You can find more information around the Internet about Larry Norman, and even more about the controversies, and so forth. I know that I'll give some of his stuff a chance today, and I'll certainly pull out a copy of Stonehill's Welcome to Paradise in Larry Norman's honour.

New iPod Shuffle Tracking

I ordered myself an iPod Shuffle (Project (RED) version) from Apple and it's on its way to me. Funny that those in charge would send it straight from the factories in China instead of sending it from the Apple Store in Laval, about an hour and a half away by metro. I can expect to receive it at some point this week, I assume.

As for the Christmas CD, I still haven't received it. I again spoke to the store and I'm not going to initiate a charge-back with my credit card just yet. It's not really acceptable, though.

We might invest in a Dyson DC21 stowaway vacuum.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I think I'm getting a cold.

I'm starting to cough. I don't like that.

Did I mention that I'm really into photography? We were at my parents' house this weekend and I took some pictures. While I have learned an important principle in photography ("The quality of the camera makes much less of a difference than the quality of the photographer" - since most of my pictures are still pretty bad), I do enjoy it. I hope that at some point I'm able to take a few high quality pics. Right now I'm just learning how to control the aperture to make a blurry picture (with a subject in focus). I'm not sure that the aperture setting can go as low as I would like. But I don't know enough about the camera. It might be that I can zoom and then change the aperture. I have to play with the camera a bit.

It must be really exciting to read something from someone that actually doesn't know what they're talking about. But I'm getting better!

Mail woes continue with me. I ordered a Christmas CD at the beginning of December and it has yet to reach me. Perhaps it will arrive before next Christmas. I've been in touch with the store and I hope that they will resolve the issue soon (i.e. send me a new one).

Also, I sent an envelope by Canada Post expresspost on Thursday to Manitoba and it hasn't arrived, according to tracking HQ. I'm really not impressed. I could have sent it regular, instead of being ripped off of $15 by sending it express. As long as it gets there. Right now, it's who knows where.

Here's a picture of an RCA Victor SHC667 Integrated Amp (circa 1961) that I am interested in (i.e. getting my cousin to fix for me so that I can gloat). It has tubes!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

SSHRC bid unsuccessful

I received the letter from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada today, announcing that my bid for a 2008 postdoctoral fellowship was unsuccessful. The success rate was 25.2% this year, and the letter suggests that there were 676 applicants trying for funding.

I did receive 2 points more than I did last year (that's a 6.7% increase from last year's score!). This was reflected in the "Track Record" portion of the ratings, rather than the "Program of Work" (or proposal) portion. The latter actually scored slightly lower than last time, which is strange considering I worked on that part to improve it.

FQRSC, my next chance for postdoctoral funding, announces results in April.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I'm lonely already

My wife is leaving for Hamilton as her grandfather has passed away. Although I do have experience living alone, I'm a bit lonely right now, and she hasn't even left the city yet!

I'll be praying for her and her family this weekend.


My cousin told me that I should consider becoming a professional photographer. I'm not sure if it's the quality of the photos (in terms of composition) or the fact that I "look" like a photographer.

Anyway, here are a couple of shots of me in "photography" mode.

(The second photo was flipped in a very inelegant way, importing the 10 megapixel image into Apple Pages, flipping the photo horizontally, and then taking a screen capture to .jpg and uploading it here.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Picture for Lent

I went to a Lenten service today at the Prebyterian church in downtown Montreal, after a Bible study on 1 Peter chapter 5. Before the chapel service, I took a quick picture of the tapestry that hangs there with my new camera. It isn't the most wonderful photo in the world, but it's not bad.

The service was very nice. The sermon was excellent (very thought provoking, exploring the modernist notion that all religions are the same). The Bible study was also quite stimulating, and although there was a bit of discussion, there wasn't the real "getting off the rails" that there sometimes is when attending such discussions. The church also has a lunch after the chapel services during Lent. I didn't go today (part of me is thinking that not eating lunch on Thursdays might be my Lenten sacrifice), but I might go next week.

By the way, I submitted a proposal for a conference in Vancouver in the early summer, but the proposal was rejected. I was hoping to present at that conference.

No word on the electric train set yet.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Site changes

If you still see google ads at the top of this site, then let me know in the comments, because there shouldn't be any anymore. I've removed the code from the site as far as I can tell.

Also, I encourage any interested parties to visit my website at nicholasgreco.ca. If the page still says "NetFirms" at the top, then refresh the page and see what comes up. I'm now hosted on .mac because of google ads on NetFirms.

I'm no longer a fan of Google AdSense (if I ever really was).

Monday, January 28, 2008

A quote from Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest rank in the Church of England, had this to say about Pullman's His Dark Materials in 2004:
If the Authority [who is killed in Pullman's novel] is not God, why has the historic Church so often behaved as if it did indeed exist to protect a mortal and finite God? What would a church life look like that actually expressed the reality of a divine freedom enabling human freedom?

A modern French Christian writer spoke about "purification by atheism" - meaning faith needed to be reminded regularly of the gods in which it should not believe. I think Pullman and Wright do this very effectively for the believer. I hope too that for the non-believing spectator, the question may somehow be raised of what exactly the God is in whom they don't believe.
For Williams, the Church of the books is a Church "without creation or redemption, certainly without Christ." You can read the whole article, which is in fact a review of the stage play, written by Nicholas Wright, based on the books, here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I did some work today!

Just to update those who care, I worked on an expansion of a musical analysis that is in my dissertation. Being away from musical transcription for a long time meant that writing out a simple melody seemed to take forever. I can only assume that the next bit of the melody line will be easier since I'm now "in the zone" (of course, I'll be "out of the zone" tomorrow when I continue to do this work).

I'm going to now read a bit of a book that I'm to review for Popular Music, so that I can get a review out to them sometime soon. I just need to get back into it; I need to read to the end of the chapter I was on.

I'm also continuing Pullman's The Golden Compass. There's something that bothers me about the title, though. It has been published here as The Golden Compass, although the original title is Northern Lights. There isn't a compass in the book, although the althiometer is compass-like, and I can only suppose it's golden. But why do the publishers (or whoever) think that they need to change the name of the book for the American (or North American) audience? The same thing happened with the American version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (called ...and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S.).

I'd also like to start to read Nadine Hubbs' The Queer Composition of America's Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). First step is to take it off the shelf.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A new camera

I've just put an order in for this:

It's a new Sony dSLR. We're using most of our points from our credit card to buy this (I have a Sony Points card), and only a bit of cash for taxes. I'm excited - I hope my pictures get less blurry with this camera!

Some might know that I am a notoriously bad photographer, but I always wanted to get a high quality still camera. This looks like a good choice. And now that Apple is introducing HD movie rentals over iTunes and AppleTV (which I have), I'm glad that I didn't jump into buying a Blu-ray player (although I'm sure "Cars" on Blu-ray would make me cry ALL OVER AGAIN). Even if HD rentals aren't available in Canada until later this year, I hope that this distribution system brings some sort of serious competition for next-generation disc-based video formats. I've said that this was coming, and felt that Blu-ray and HD DVD was silly in the light of future broadband distribution from companies like Apple (although it was really late coming - and, actually, it's not here yet, just announced).

I do like the MacBook Air, but I don't need one.

I'm really enjoying Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. My Christian faith hasn't been shaken yet, nor do I expect it to be.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Almost done with that pesky proposal

The proposal is coming along nicely this morning, thank God. I'm done the basic part, but I would like to add a little bit about the importance of melody to the music of Feist. It seems that after her vocal injury (from decidedly unmelodic singing), Feist learned to appreciate melody through her learning of the guitar in the late 1990s. At least this is what she says in an interview from 2005:
"It was a dark time…being unsure of what’s going to happen is scary, but it motivated me in a way to learn guitar, because I had just been a singer up until then. I found a new way to understand [melodies] through playing guitar."
Seth Berkman, "Feist," Mote Magazine, 29 November 2005. Available here.

She says a similar thing in another interview:
“It felt like an exciting self-project to not speak. I wrote a lot of letters, bought a guitar and a four-track [recorder]. … I would have never approached singing in a quiet, melodic way when I was with [Placebo]. Once you're by yourself, you realize singing monotone won't cut it.”
Krissy Teegerstrom, "Venus: Feist," Venus Zine. No longer available online.

So, I suppose her music is now decidedly melodic. There is a certain quality that her melodiousness carries with it but, again, I'm having trouble putting it into words. Perhaps it's a European sensibility, or just an older pop sensibility (I have no way to back this up - these are just feelings I have). There isn't the same sense of melody in much of the pop or dance music available today. That's not really a slight against current popular music (or "pop" music in particular).

Leslie's use of melody seems to add to a certain sophistication.

In a more recent article from Venus Zine, Feist's music is described as follows:
her records gracefully unfurl like fading nostalgia, like the soundtrack to seductions, soft and lithe, mysterious and breathy. Both Let It Die and The Reminder ostensibly could come from a time when movies were black and white and when “romantic” wasn’t always attached to “comedy.” And much to Feist’s chagrin, there’s something inherently French about her songs that conjure up the imagery of a European café filled with aromas of espressos and cigarettes.
Arye Dworkin, "Feist," Venus Zine 31 (Spring 2007). Available here.

Here is an unusual pictures of Leslie that I found on my computer today which I forgot about. The picture shows her holding a cigarette, and comes from Teegerstrom's Venus article above. I am not sure if Feist smokes - strange to me if she does.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

By the way...

In case you were following, T.O. wants me to post a photo with the engineer's hat that I got for Christmas. Unfortunately (for you, but fortunately for me) the hat is not with me. It is with the train. And the train is not here. Nor is my train set (which is not yet available in North America).

When all the things come together, you will get your wish, me with the hat and pictures of the train up and running. In abundance.

Be careful what you wish for.

I'll probably be crying with happiness when that photo is taken, me in a hat with a train set running.

Boy, am I struggling...

Talk about staring at a piece of paper/screen/book. I'm trying to finish up this proposal (as I have been since we returned from Christmas break) and I just can't crack it. Maybe I need to do a bit of research, but I know what I want to do - I just can't seem to put it down on paper.

So, like I so often do (at the expense of you, my dear reader), I will try to flesh out my thoughts on this very blog.

By the way, right now I'm listening to Scott Walker. This probably doesn't help. He's a bit dark.

My whole idea focuses on Roland Barthes and his point that there is a kind of artistic expression that somehow externalizes "discourse." I'm not exactly sure what he's saying here, but I don't have to know right now. What he does say is that, in this externalization, there exists "bliss." Again, the exact meaning of his terms doesn't matter so much. He is talking about pleasure and desire - this is clear. So, there is a certain pleasure that comes from this exteriorization of discourse, and he calls this exteriorization of discourse "writing aloud," and he suggests that it finds its best representation in singing.

Except, for Barthes, melody is dead.

So, instead, he looks to cinema. But let's back up for a second. Who says that melody is dead? I don't. Our friend Leslie Feist is certainly melodic, and, compared to our other friend Steven Patrick Morrissey, overly melodic (active? masculine? different paper?).

I would like to explore Feist's über-hit "1234" and that melody for this "writing aloud" in order to get to the root of that elusive "bliss." We can also assume that this "writing" occurs in conjunction with the lyrics that she sings. So I would like to do a contour analysis of her melodic output, as well as a textual analysis of what she sings, and look at the result of those two things together. Such an analysis would be looking at elements of singing such as musical phrasing, word pronunciation and vocal timbre, too. As for analytical frameworks, I know one that talks about gender and inactive melodies (and, I'm sure, my readers do too . . . and are sick of reading about it), so I think I can try to leave it at that.

As for conclusions, I want to conclude that: 1) melody is not dead (at least, not in this song); and 2) "here" are the examples of "vocal writing" in the song.

Any feedback is welcome.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I should add this while I'm at it

We also ordered one of these Procor tank cars from a store in Ottawa for the future train set, as my wife's grandfather used to work for the company, fitting the couplers. It should be very similar to the one below, except in black with white lettering.

I forgot

I also have a new book to read and review. The book is called Rock Music in Performance by David Pattie. It explores the assumption that live performance in rock music is a sign of "authenticity," as opposed to the mediated nature of "pop" music. Pattie argues that live rock performance is also mediated, and he goes on to explore the live experience of U2 and later talks about Morrissey, gender and performance. It seems that this book, released in 2007, is a good choice for me, as I am pretty familiar with all of these subjects. So that is also on my plate.

The bad thing is that I don't feel like doing any of this. I received a couple of rejection letters over the holidays. I'm a bit in the dumps.

On a lighter side, here's one of the train cars that my father purchased for me over the holidays. It's a VIA baggage car. Yesterday I mentioned that the colours were from the 1970s, but they might be a bit later than that.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Putting stuff in order

Now that Christmas is over (and that I am now 34 years old), and a new year has started, I thought I would sign in again and use this blog as a place for me to organize myself and try to get going on work I need to do.

For instance, I've been contacted by a prominent national magazine which focuses on a particular religious fellowship to write a short article (or articles) for possible publication. I've sent one and I've been asked to write another.

I have to rewrite my musical analysis, again for possible publication (I've forgotten about this over the holidays). There is a blog entry from before Christmas that gets into this.

I am developing a proposal for some conferences in the spring; one proposal is due this week and another before the end of the month of January. I'm again going to explore Leslie Feist as a singer, but now as one who successfully employs melody which, for Roland Barthes, seems to be a key to "writing aloud," a bodily "exteriorization of discourse."

I was telling my wife that I mentioned my current research to a couple of my academic mentors, that is, applying Barthes' notions of pleasure of the text to the study of the singing voice in order to try to figure out how to discuss the singing voice and why we like "it." These two profs both said something to the effect of "good luck with that." She laughed.

At me.

In other news, the train has been ordered. My father was kind enough to buy me a couple of VIA train cars circa. 1970s, which I'm happy with. My sister gave me some money for a locomotive, so I bought the one below, and got the nice people at the store to install a DCC chip in it, so that it would be fully compatible with the Hornby DCC set I've ordered. She also thought of getting me an engineer's hat, which made me cry at Christmas.

I am thinking about picking up a Blu-Ray player, now that the format war is pretty much over. I am considering a PS3, simply because it has full Super Audio CD support, and it plays games, all for the same price as (or cheaper than) a BD player. Or a 400 disc DVD player. Or a dSLR. Anyway, it has to be a Sony product. I have Sony points and I've decided that I no longer wish to collect Sony points - I want to get cash back on credit card purchases instead. Now, if there was an Apple card, that would be another matter.

Here's the locomotive: