Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lady Gaga

I was asked by one of my students to post my recent thoughts on the song "Bloody Mary" by Lady Gaga, so I decided I would post it here. This fragment is a part of a much larger presentation on Gaga's "queer space." It isn't much, but it will probably be a paper one day.

Lady Gaga addresses the theme of death, I think, with a track on her newest album called “Bloody Mary,” a track which has recently been proposed (by her fans) as a “Halloween single.” In that song, Gaga sings, “I’ll dance dance dance / With my hands hands hands / Above my head head head / Like Jesus said.” This line always evokes strong imagery for me. When one considers lyrics, I think a simple question to ask, before “What does it mean?”, is “Why would she choose to write these lyrics?”, or “Why would she choose to sing these lyrics?” I wonder, why would she use such language? What did Jesus say? He certainly never talked about dancing with hands above his head, at least not in my recollection. He did tell his disciples, though, that they would have to carry their cross. Was Christ’s experience on the cross a kind of dance, with his own hands above his head?

The song is filled with agonizing screams, choir-like voices incanting the name “Gaga,” and the singer stating, “I won’t cry for you / I won’t crucify the things you do.” I read this song as a kind of defiant stance by the singer, suggesting that, though she be crucified (perhaps “carrying her cross,” as Christ said, a kind of “dance,” I suppose, one that demands that her hands be over her head as their nailed into the cross), she will not crucify others. Though she be judged, she will not judge. Here I must quote from Peter Kline: Gaga is “a figure we’d like to make capital off of (whether religious or cultural), but who instead confronts us with our own violence, and in doing so calls us to freedom.”

Later in the song, Gaga sings, “We are not just art for Michelangelo / To carve he can’t rewrite the agro / Of my furied heart I’ll wait / On mountain tops in Paris cold / Je ne veux pas mourire tout seule.” Here, perhaps she is pointing to her humanity (she is flesh, not art, no matter what others--or she--might say), what others might call the “human condition,” one of frustration (of “agro,” as shecalls it). Still, she will wait, as she does not want to die alone. Who is she waiting for?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Academic Freedom

I'm struggling right now with the notion of academic freedom in higher education in Canada. I'm thinking about this notion in the context of religious higher education. At the institution where I teach, all faculty are required to function within a certain framework of belief. If any work of the faculty fall outside of this framework of belief, then there might be a problem. Technically, this might seem to indicate a lack of academic freedom, though it is also a move against the agreed-upon framework of belief.

At my institution, I am restricted by a framework of religious belief. At all institutions, all academic work is restricted by an agreed upon framework of belief. There are certain subjects and viewpoints that are not acceptable even at public universities, and that might jeopardize employment.

I suppose the crux of the discussion is, what does academic freedom actually mean? What does it mean to have academic freedom within the bounds of explicitly-stated religious belief? What does it mean to have academic freedom within the bounds of implicitly-stated agreed-upon discourse?

I am struggling with these questions, in the light of CAUT's continued blacklisting of religious-based academic institutions.

Monday, October 03, 2011

What to say, what to say...

I'm preparing for class this afternoon, and wondering why I've forgotten my Dr. Martens boots at home.

I'm discussing the notion of appropriation with my class today, and using Dr. Martens boots as an example. The first experience I have with these kinds of boots were my friends wearing them in high school (the early 1990s). The people that I hung around with that wore them were of a certain ethnic group that are stereotypically well-off. In this case, I think they were, but I can't be certain. But they did wear the boots.

The other groups who wore the boots then were the local "skinheads." I was never sure if they were real skinheads or not (I remember one fellow in my class was rather quiet and seemingly kind, so this seemed to not quite mesh with the picture we might have of roving violent gangs). I do remember some of these folk at my high school wearing clothing that denounced racism, so maybe these were the nice kinds.

My sister used to mention that one of her professors in Biology wore Docs. I thought that was interesting (and I think my sister wore Docs before I did). Once I went to college (to take theology) after a few years at university, I also bought my first pair of Docs, for utilitarian reasons. We needed shoes to wear to chapel; there was a dress code in place. I thought it would be easiest to get a pair of shoes I could wear all the time, and the Docs seemed to fit the bill. So that's what I bought. I wore those for years, then amassing all sorts of pairs: a couple of 3-eyelet pairs of shoes, both black and oxblood; two pairs of boots, "greasers" (which I still have) and a pair of shiny black ones (the first pair of boots, probably upon going to grad school).

At some point, I wanted to get another pair of boots, but found out that they were no longer made in England (they have since introduced a line that continues to be produced in England). So I moved to another brand, Blundstone boots, which have proved to be more comfortable to me. But immediately after I bought mine, they also announced that they would no longer be made in Tazmania. So, mine were the last of the Australian Blundstones. I need new ones soon, and I'm trying to decide whether to go with new Blunnies (made in China, probably), or return to Docs (English-made).

In any case, these are an interesting example of appropriation. What I think is an excellent question to ask is, what do Docs (or Blunnies, for that matter), mean to me? Why do I wear them? For certain, there is much more that simple utility going on here.

Friday, September 30, 2011


I've officially made some money on my book. The amount so far: $66.50.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Queer theory

I received a call for papers from IASPM (that's the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, for those who might not know) today, and I found the write-up quite interesting. It deals with queer theory, and I think that it is one of the most misunderstood areas of theoretical inquiry around (especially in my immediate scholarly circles). So here is the write up:
Queer theory is likely one of the most well-known and controversial recent schools of thought, and its impact has been felt in the academic world and beyond. It appeared in the early 1990s in the United States, as a direct offshoot of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) collectives, the work of Foucault (in particular, his History of Sexuality and ideas such as “biopolitics”), and Derrida’s deconstructionism. This school of thought, while in no way a homogenous trend, is characterized by the questioning of the notion of gender and the idea that sexual identity and behaviour would be genetically determined. In this context, queer theory formulates the hypothesis that sexuality is actually a social construction. This presumes that sexuality is not biologically stamped on human nature, but rather takes on ever-changing social forms, wherein a given individual can live out one or many sexual identities. This hypothesis leads us to call into question social classifications from the fields of traditional psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology, which tend to look at one measure at a time for classifying individuals (class, gender, etc.).

Musicology has also fallen under the influence of queer theory, what with the research groups, books, articles, and dissertations that address previously unexplored or even taboo issues, such as the construction of sexual identity through or in music. From a methodological perspective, this school of thought has been part of the recent theoretical renewal at an international level, wherein “traditional” methods of musical analysis and historical musicology are used in concert with historical, sociological, literary, aesthetic, anthropological, and socio-geographical techniques. This allows the researcher to apprehend the construction process of the musical “object” and its social dimension in all its complexity.
If interested, you can find the original call for papers here.

By the way, I do this in my work, I think.

Friday, September 16, 2011


This has been quite a week, especially in terms of my health.

I'm not dying or anything, but I have a terrible cold. I really don't care for it. And it isn't gone yet. (And it hasn't stopped me from writing in sentence fragments.)

In any case, I will begin to blog again presently. After all, there is really no excuse (except for the house being for sale, and coming home late, and having a daughter that continues to not want to sleep, plus all of the work for school, and the committee work, and the new program, and the fact that I have a cold).

Of course, I'm drunk with power, so I won't punish myself for not posting a blog post for the last 3 days; as professors throughout generations have exclaimed, "I've already taken the exam!" Even so, I will continue posting starting now (I've got the weekend to recover, after all). The Feist ideas are still germinating, and I'm beginning to think about the Gaga material I need to put together in earnest. Here's a hint on that latter material:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
You might think you know my answer re: Gaga, but you might be wrong. Or you might be right. Or whatever. I had better move on before my sentence fragments return.

Monday, September 12, 2011


And I don't mean that in the "cool" way either. I've got a terrible cold, and I don't care for it one bit.

I've decided to begin writing about Feist's new single and her status as Canada's "darling," and the celebrant of the CBC's 75th anniversary. There should be some interesting relationships there, I think. I'm also going to start the presentation on Gaga for the end of the month at Aqua Books in Winnipeg. It'll be a busy few weeks. Did I mention that I'm developing my paper from the U of W McLuhan conference into an essay for a book? Add that to the list as well.

And a new Stonehill album is coming out next week. I'm glad for that. But for now, I must sleep. I feel so terribly sick tonight.

Friday, September 09, 2011

New Feist

I was listening to CBC Radio 2 today (it is something that I have done in the past, but I have made a more consistent effort to do so the last few days) and they were promoting a concert to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the CBC. For those of you who might not know, CBC is Canada's public broadcaster; in other words, Canadians pay taxes, and some of that tax money goes to the broadcaster. It is supposed to be a kind of public service, both in terms of education and entertainment, but also in terms of culture. The CBC is like Canada's cultural watchdog, from the terrible influence of our American neighbours.

As a prize for this contest, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the CBC, the broadcaster is hosting a concert at their own Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto (my wife and I saw Douglas Coupland speak there once - it is quite the space). The featured artist at the concert is none other than Canadian songstress Leslie Feist. At the concert, she will be "debuting" her new album, Metals. Now, without reading too much into this (although I suppose I'm paid to do this kind of thing), Feist (remember: Canadian songstress) is being associated with: 1) our public broadcaster; and 2) Canada itself. Not only is Feist being associated with the CBC, but with 75 years of the CBC. Thus, Feist not only connotes Canada here, but a kind of nostalgic notion of Canada.

I'll post more on Feist in the days to come.

By the way, some might credit the CBC with Feist's stardom. In fact, it was Apple that made Feist famous.

Also, for my sister-in-law, you can find the post about Buffy here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Not the most exciting event

I've asked my students to write about a local, national or international event of the day in their blogs. Many have chosen instead to write about their lives on any particular day. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is interesting. On the one hand, I'm happy to read about the kinds of things that my students struggle with or enjoy; on the other, I don't want the daily writing assignment to be simply a place for students to write "sweet nothings" on the (web)page.

In any case, here's a bit of my life today. I've got this silly HP printer that I got with a purchase of my iMac; it was basically free with a rebate, so it seemed a good purchase. It had been sitting in my small office at home for quite a while and I thought that I would take it to school to use as a printer in my office there. Instead of transferring files from my MacBook to the institutional computer, I would simply print out a copy on the HP printer. Well, you would think it would be so easy. Instead, it has not been so easy.

It seems that I can't download the drivers for this particular printer from Apple (I never thought I would type such words - "drivers" and "Apple" in the same sentence). As an Apple shareholder (2 shares), I blame HP for this. Now, dear reader, not all hope is lost. I will try again with my MacBook and see if I can get the thing to work (it seems to work fine with the iMac, so there is hope, I think).


I'm toying with posting some writing that explores more interesting moments in popular music--hooks that make us listen and bring us pleasure (Roland Barthes, my favourite theorist, writes about cruising a text and finding those things that hook, and ultimately repeat, sites in which we experience pleasure). We'll see if I do that. You can see some of this kind of thing if you search my blog for an entry on Dylan and Tara's song on Buffy. I suspect that you could also read my book on the subject. Did I mention that already?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

I've asked my students to do this, soooooo...

I haven't posted since May (my ever-so-wonderful post waxing eloquently about U2 and notions of time and Christian redemption). Since I have asked my students in "Writing for the Media" to post every day (except weekends and holidays), I thought I would take on the challenge as well.

This is not the first time I've assigned this; the last time worked wonders for some and some, not so much. In any case, I will be interested to see what people write about. For now, I will convey some of the thoughts after my first double block of teaching. It was a bit short - I suspect that my students didn't mind. Often, with all of the introductory things and changes that accompany the first week of University, a shorter class might seem a pleasant chance to catch one's breath. I trust my students used the early dismissal as a chance to set up their blogs and, perhaps, take a breath.

We talked about Steve Jobs at (and away from) Apple, the transition from analog to digital television signals (over the air) and what Michael Geist calls UBB: Usage Based Billing. More on that here. For those who might not know, Dr. Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa. He's Canada's version of Lawrence Lessig, a powerhouse when it comes to copyright law and internet/intellectual property discussions. For any interested in Communications & Media issues in Canada, he is a good one to follow.

Above is 257 words, in case anyone is counting. That is all. I will make all attempts to post tomorrow with insight, wit and intelligence.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some thoughts on U2: "What time is it in the world?"

I had the privilege of seeing U2 in Winnipeg last evening.

"What time is it in the world?" This was a question asked (both directly and indirectly) throughout the concert. Before the band came out, the large screen displayed the current time and the corresponding time at other places around the globe, answering that question.

That question was alluded to in the video introduction to "Zooropa," when questions like "What do you want?" were asked. While "What time is it in the world?" was not one of those questions, the theme of questioning continued.

What is most interesting, though, was the asking of the question by the voice over the loudspeakers before the encore. The answer is, "It's showtime!" The band then embarked on their rendition of "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," a song that originally appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Batman Forever. The original video for that song shows an animated MacPhisto, Bono's devilish character, as the singer of the song. Bono seemed to embody this character last evening as well, at a few times during the concert.

He was MacPhisto without the horns or makeup while singing "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," but he was also MacPhisto during "Until the End of the World," where he also played Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. At the start of "Until the End of the World," the video screen displayed what appeared to be the time, "4:33." It is unclear what this "time" means. Perhaps it is a scriptural reference (one can't help but be reminded of the numbers on the cover of All That You Can't Leave Behind, J33-3, which refer to Jeremiah 33:3), though this seems unlikely. Perhaps it is a reference to the length of the previous song on the setlist ("Elevation") - also unlikely. Is it the length of that particular song? Maybe.

What it does do is link that moment with the later one. "What time is it in the world? It's showtime." That question, once we hear it, was asked earlier (silently), and an answer was given (4:33). Then darkness came out. Judas, or MacPhisto, or Bono, sang of betrayal, of sinking, and of redemption. This talk of redemption doesn't last though: MacPhisto returns later (probably at 5:30 or 6:00, of we want to push this silly time reference), less redeemed, as it is, after all, showtime.

What does this mean? I don't know, but maybe it speaks a bit to the notion of redemption and fallenness, failure and restoration. These are perilous states, as is, perhaps, the state of being at a concert. As concert goers, we are liminal, "betwixt-and-between," somewhat in a state of timelessness as well, removed from the everyday, ritualized.

The latter "What time is it in the world?" reminds one of the earlier moment of "waves of regret, waves of joy," reaching out to a redeemer. "What time is it in the world?" It is a time of failure, fallenness, redemption.

Followed by failure, fallenness and, thankfully, redemption.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Happy birthday to Steven Patrick Morrissey, who turns 52 today. “In my own strange way . . . I’ll always stay true to you.”

Providence Communications & Media

Consider Communications & Media at Providence College; an excellent education from a Christian perspective. http://tinyurl.com/3zlo5fw

Monday, January 31, 2011

André Racicot

It's not really a secret that I used to be a major fan of Montreal goaltender André Racicot. In fact, I used to collect every possible variant version of his cards (I still have them). I remember that I once sent a letter to him (care of the Canadiens), hoping that he would send me an autograph, but I never received anything back.

I remember, also, when my father and I went to see the Canadiens play at the Corel Centre (now Scotia Place, or whatever) and there was a girl in the distance that was wearing a Habs jersey with "Racicot" on the back. My father encouraged me to go up to her and say hello (I didn't).

I did a search for Racicot just now and found a page on the Canadiens' web site that did a kind of "Where are they now?" interview, so I thought I would reproduce it here:
Where are you living these days?
I live in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts in the Laurentians.

What have you been up to?
I’m working for a mining company called Agnico-Eagle. We’re just starting a new project in Nunavut that will see us open a gold mine there soon.

How many times a year do you strap the pads back on?
I got back at it last November. I was in nets in a game honoring the 45th Anniversary of the Rouyn-Noranda Citadelles, my old junior team. Prior to that, it had been five years since I’d played though. I’ve got to say that it really got the juices flowing again. I still play in a beer league with my buddies but not in nets.

Are you still in touch with any old teammates?
I’m still in contact with a few guys from the Rouyn area that are around my age, guys like Eric Desjardins, Pierre Turgeon and Stephane Matteau. We get together every once in a while, but we all have our own families and hectic schedules.

How many Habs games do you watch per year?
I watch whenever I can and I make sure to catch a few games at Bell Centre each season.

Who is your favorite current Canadiens player?
I really liked what I saw from Maxim Lapierre last season. He works really hard and has a nice edge to his game.

What is the favorite piece of Habs memorabilia that you own?
I sold a few things, but I still have a few collector’s items. Aside from my jerseys that I still have, I’ve a collection of blown up action shots of myself.

Where do you keep your 1993 Stanley Cup ring?
It’s resting comfortably in a safety deposit box at the bank and I never take it out. It’s probably been about seven years since I’ve seen it.
I think it's a bit sad that he doesn't wear his cup ring. He should be proud that he was part of that team.

Yay André!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yay for acceptance letters!

My paper, entitled "'There is a Light that Never Goes Out': The Stage as Mediation in Live Performance," has been accepted for the IASPM-CA conference in Montreal in June. I'm very happy about this. It will be a return to Montreal for longer than a day, something I haven't been able to do since we moved in 2008, plus it will be a return to my doctoral school, McGill. I'm very pleased.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Great recent pic

- from True to You, posted 11 December 2010 during the student protests in London.

(Note the Smiths T-Shirt that she is wearing)

Friday, January 28, 2011

There's a book coming out that you should check out (because I'm in it)

Coming in May 2011: Jim Berti and Durrell Bowman, Editors, Rush and Philosophy (Popular Culture and Philosophy Series) (Open Court, 2011).

From Amazon:
Rush and Philosophy does not set out to sway the public’s opinion, nor is it an awkward gushing of how much the authors love Rush. Rush and Philosophy is a fascinating look at the music and lyrics of the band, setting out to address thought-provoking questions. For example, elements of philosophical thinking from the likes of Jean Paul-Sartre, Ayn Rand, and Plato can be found in Peart’s lyrics; does this make Peart a disciple of philosophy? In what ways has technology influenced the band through the decades? Can there be too much technology for a power-trio? Can listening to Rush’s music and lyrics lead listeners to think more clearly, responsibly, and happily? Is the band’s music a “pleasant distraction” from the singing of Geddy Lee? In what ways is Rush Canadian? How can a band that has been referred to as “right-wing” also criticize big government, religion, and imperialism? Rush and Philosophy is written by an assortment of philosophers and scholars with eclectic and diverse backgrounds who love Rush’s music and who “get” the meaning and importance of it.
The part of the description that mentions the idea of "pleasant distraction" is referring to my essay, entitled "'Cruising in Prime Time': The Drumming of Neil Peart as Distraction." Look for it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wonderful Quote

Don't let the guy with the broom decide how many elephants are going to be in the parade.
- Merlin Mann, MacBreak Weekly Podcast #191: "Lost" (20 April 2010).