Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 51 "In the trenches" (head-down in the foxhole edition)

Things change. Joy ends; so does sorrow. Wealth & health go. If you see something horrible, don't cling to it. If you see something beautiful, don't cling to it.

Learn that lesson--the fundamental truth of Buddhism--and you can cope with almost anything life throws at you. Refuse/resist that lesson, and that resistance will make you and the people around you suffer, and things will still change.

Can't say much about it, except to comment that, in a bearish economy and a backward state, every time a respected colleague makes a job change, anybody with any brains still on the faculty will re-evaluate his/her own position. I'm a pessimist by personality but obligated to behave constructively as a result of spiritual strictures. That doesn't mean I don't engage in crystal-ball-gazing, but it does mean that I try to recognize that other persons' professional situations are not my own, that everyone's career path and career moves are different, and that decisions taken in panic, or on the basis of gut intuitions, are generally not sound.

And the reality is that Dharmonia and I still have a remarkably positive situation here: I'm tenured and chair, she's tenure-track, we both have ensembles we run the way we want, we've got colleagues we like and admire, and we work in the same department. This is almost unheard-of in the fine arts academic world, and it's what keeps us here when others look elsewhere: many, many academic couples have to live apart--we don't.

Update to the "retrain after the coffee-break syndrome": every bit as bad as I thought it would be: showing up late, showing up w/out assignments, not showing up at all. It's a fine line to walk: the asses you really want to kick are precisely those same who don't show up, so it doesn't make any sense to yell at the ones who did. The idea instead is to re-focus them: to find a way to get them back in the game, remind them that the semester hasn't ended yet, and that in fact the toughest part of the calendar is coming up.

So we take roll, give the upcoming deadlines and assignments, and then immediately stick them into a "mini-essay" segment: play them a piece from before Spring Break, give them some things to listen for and take notes about, and then by 15 minutes into class have them into a timed-writing exercise they'll have to submit as soon as they're done. It's remarkable how quick you can get them back into school-head by replicating the same activities they'd been doing before the break.

Below the jump: Finnish rock band The Leningrad Cowboys cover Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," joined by the Red Army Chorus, balalaikas and 4-row accordions to the fore. Though it's hilarious, it's also profound--this, this right here, is why communism fell. It had fuck-all to do with Ronnie Reagan and his posturing B-movie sentimental "tear down this wall, Mr Gorbachev," and everything to do with the fact that art is by nature revolutionary. There is no way that even Stalin could stamp out the power of rock 'n' roll or of any other people's music. Reagan and "Star Wars" didn't end communism. Popular expression did.

Want more proof? Ask Vaclav Havel about Frank Zappa.

h/t to Roger Landes for passing along this gem.

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