Thursday, December 27, 2007

OZMA

Wow, I am just full of posts today. Perhaps it is because I've been sick and laying around thinking all day; or else it is because I am *still stuck in Pennsylvania*. Oy.

I would like to take advantage of my sole ownership of this forum and introduce anyone reading to the GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME: OZMA. I know, this is a lofty title to bestow upon any one group, but I think they are one of the most creative and ground-breaking popular music group I've ever heard. I admire their innovative use of non-traditional instruments for rock instrumentation, their implementation of varying harmonies (modal and pentatonic scales, for example), and quirky, geeky love of video games (they play a version of the Tetris song). I've included several of their tracks on my new PLAYLIST to the right of my main blog. Have a listen, watch some of the videos below, and indulge yourself. :)

Link to Ozma video for "Spending Time on the Borderline," on YouTube.



Link for Ozma's "Bad Dogs" video.

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Merry Yuletide, Happy Winter Solstice, etc., whatever you celebrate. I am stuck in rural Pennsylvania with a head cold, sore throat and flu from my crazy family, and am playing around with geeky gadgets on the Internet to amuse myself. I think this video by Linkin Park is inspirational. I am subjecting anyone who reads this blog to it and the lyrics.



Linkin Park, "What I've Done."

In this farewell
There’s no blood
There’s no Alibi
‘Cause I’ve Drawn Regret
From the truth
Of a Thousand Lies

[Pre-Chorus:]
So let Mercy Come
And Wash Away
What I’ve Done

[Chorus:]
I'll face myself
To Cross out what I’ve Become
Erase Myself
And let Go of What I’ve done

Put to rest
What you Thought of Me
While I clean this Slate
With the Hands of Uncertainty

For What I’ve Done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I’m Forgiving What I’ve Done

EDIT: Right, so this blog is by a person who thinks for herself. So why do I find the above inspirational?

1. The song lyrics call for a cleansing and renewing for something better. "Wash away, what I've become ... I start again ... I'm forgiving what I've done." As 2007 comes to a close and a new year is on the horizon, I'd like to think that whatever mistakes I've made in the past, I can wipe the slate clean. I am not damned, but the world still holds promise and hope. Very nice message.

2. The startling images throughout the video bring things into perspective, which is the ultimate message of the song. No matter what, have perspective, things could be a lot worse. One image is of a starving man, juxtaposed against images of an overweight person stuff himself with food and a very thin person measuring her waist with measuring tape. It is easy to think that life is over and nothing can get better, but there is real truth in the reality that life holds promise and possibilities.

Watch the video and read the lyrics and think for yourself. Yet again, music and video come together to convey a powerful message.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Where have all the geek girls gone?

I have been known to read a shitty magazine or two, now and again. I can't help it; I enjoy reading things like Allure and Glamour and Fitness and Self sometimes. So sue me. I do have my standards, though. I do NOT read Cosmo, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, tabloids, US Weekly, or (usually) People. However, recently I was waiting to see my therapist and picked up a People magazine. It was the Sexiest Man Alive issue and I wanted to do some babe-watching -- I didn't intend to read anything and let the silly words infest my brain. Unfortunately, just after the Sexiest Man Alive photos was an article on how 2007 was the year of the geek: this year, suddenly geeks have become desirable, cool, and sexy. My brain perked up at the mention of "geek." I have had an infatuation with all things from geekdom since I played my first video game, watched my first bit of sci-fi, read my first fantasy novel, participated in my first RPG. I'm a geek/nerd through-and-through, and quite unabashedly. So why am I bothered by articles about geeks and the current pop culture fetishization of geekdom?

I'm bothered for two reasons. First of all, although People magazine targets both men and women, all of the geeks featured in the article are MEN. The article was entitled "Sexy Geeks," but there are only MALES. Men! Of course, the geek girl is completely absent. If popular culture is to be believed, she is an endangered species. Even Beauty and the Geek, a show that mostly celebrates authentic geekness, has until recently had NO female geeks. This season features the very first female geek, and she has not received the same attention and celebration as the male geeks. I know for a fact that episodes have been re-edited and re-vamped to downplay her influence on the show.

Secondly, the men in the article, like many so-called "geeks" celebrated in popular culture, aren't even that geeky. These men are Adam Brody, Clay Aiken, Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Martin, Jon Stewart, Zach Braff, Jay Baruchel, Topher Grace, Beck, Jon Heder, and Elijah Wood. Why are they considered geeky? Apparently, because Elijah Wood collects action figures, Jon Heder starred as "Napoleon Dynamite," Beck has an album entitled "Loser" and wears polyester suits, Topher plays a lot of dice, Monopoly and poker, Jay is not a confident person, Zach is a self-avowed "film geek" and idolizes Woody Allen, Jon was called "Soupy" in high school and was called "awesome" by Alpha Geek, Chris is a vegetarian activist, Neil Patrick stars in Broadway musicals and has supposed geek cred for being Doogie Howser as a kid, Clay Aiken calls himself a "forever ... nerd," and Adam Brody is a "comic-book fanatic." Hhhhhhhhmmmmm. Now, I suppose there isn't a way of objectively defining a geek, but let's think. I'd say that I know enough geeks to be able to argue fairly convincingly that it is not a single geek interest that shows a person's inner geek: it's a conglomeration of interests and social awkwardness and intelligence and just general geekiness. You know when you're in the presence of a true geek. I know geeks, too: I've always found the sight of a guy in a lab coat to be very HOT. DarkWater.com defines the following as geeks: "gamers, ravers, science fiction fans, punks, perverts, programmers, nerds, subgenii, and trekkies. These are people who did not go to their high school proms, and many would be offended by the suggestion that they should have even wanted to." I would say that pretty much sums it up. Most geeks see themselves as disparate from the "norm." Sure, everyone feels like they don't fit in now and again, but not everyone grows up feeling separate from society, and views their entire life as growing apart from society and popular culture. This is the essence of the geek: to have a great interest in what is marginalized and misunderstood by society as a whole, and to see their life as parallel to society, but on a different plane from it.

Anyway.............. why aren't there more geeky girls in popular culture? I picked up a copy of Geek magazine to read on the train on my way to NYC on Saturday, and there was mention of a recent past issue with Tina Fey on the cover. AGAIN. What is so geeky about Tina Fey? I know, a geek girl, good, but seriously... is all that is necessary to define oneself as a geek a pair of plastic, dark-rimmed glasses?

That is all.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Music and Influence

I consider myself to be a very opinionated person, but not in a bad way. Just that I have very defined opinions that I like to share, but I expect others to lend their opinions and engage in an interesting dialogue with me. I tell my students that I hope they will disagree with me and engage in debate. I share my opinions with my students, which I expect them to take with a grain of salt. I realize that the freshman under my tutelage will not always understand and may be influenced by my musical opinions, but I try to convey to them that we don't have to like the same music. Recently, I have gotten to the habit of selecting music for playing to my students at the beginning of class, so as to enrich their exposure to different musics and get them to know a bit more about music history. I played one of my favourite bands, Ozma, for my students this week. The point was to illustrate how popular music can be very complicated and interesting and utilize different musical styles and techniques. In this case, the track in question contains pentatonic scales and interesting instrumentation not common in "typical" rock music, such as a prominent melody on the flute. I don't remember how we started talking about music I like to listen to for fun, but someone said to me, 'You like Pink Floyd, right?' This kind of took me by surprise, not because I particularly hate Pink Floyd, but because I don't really identify with people from that musical culture. The music I listen to, predominantly punk rock, is what I am most aurally infatuated with for a reason: I very much identify with that musical culture. I see myself as a punk rock chick who is forced by the constraints of society to dress more conservatively and less artistically than I would want. Anyway, I reacted negatively to this assessment and said, 'No, I don't listen to Pink Floyd!' a bit more emphatically that I would have liked. I now feel guilty about this, because I don't want to influence my students opinions about music. Conversely, I *do* want them to stretch themselves and learn to love new musics and all that the very rich musical world has to offer.

Music has a huge influence on who we are as people, and I think that finding the right kind of music that resonates with your soul tends to help shape you as a person, especially if you have a preponderance to musicality in the first place. Before punk rock, I was just Sammee. After punk rock, I am SAMMEE. I'm a new person. I want the same for my students... but I don't mean to diss their music or ANY music. Yet I am not perfect. I really struggle with appreciating lots of music, esp. R&B and rap. I really can't help it, and I've made a concerted effort.

Students, if you're out there, appreciate your Pink Floyd. But don't forget the rest of your musical palette.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Request for Interview Sheet Feedback for Disability Studies

If any of you musicologists lurking out there are actually reading my blog, would you mind proofreading the interview sheet I've put together for my scholars with disabilities study? Comment with your contact info and I'll send it over to you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Foray into a New Academic Field

Posted to both the AMS and SMT Listservs:

"Dear List,

I am conducting a study of scholars and graduate students with disabilities, and am focusing particularly on scholars with auto-immune diseases and what are commonly called "invisible illnesses" (this includes mental health illnesses). I hope to interview scholars and graduate students and discuss how they have been successful in academia and how they have coped with disabilities that are not always evident to their colleagues and students. This information will be analyzed and combined with a document I am creating to both assist university educators and administrators in their dealings with scholars and students with chronic invisible illnesses, and educate students and scholars with invisible illnesses on the procedures they should take to ensure that they receive the support and representation that they should receive from their academic institutions under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hopefully, the findings will be presented to a future meeting of the Society for Music Theory Special Interest Group on Music and Disability.

If you are a scholar with such a disability or know someone who is that would be willing to participate in my study, please reply to samanthaebp@gmail.com , and I will send you an interview sheet. Your responses will be kept confidential, unless otherwise stated."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Musicological Blogging and the Obligatory Post

I've just been alerted to the new blog "Musicology / Matters" by my friend Rebecca from Musically Miscellaneous Mayhem. It turns out that these bloggers knew about my blog already, probably because the instigators of "Musicology / Matters" have their own musicological blogs that I've heretofore perused. The title of my blog illustrates my desire for this blog to be not necessarily academic, but as a way that I can intellectually pursue not necessarily musicological interests and make general musings about life, religion, love, etc. However, I would like to keep up with the general musicological blogging, and of course I have musicological interests that warrant exploration beyond my dissertation.

HENCE... this obligatory musicological post on music and guilty pleasures and my new musicological interests.

Recently on Rebecca's and the Musicology/Matters blogs, there have been discussions about the guilty musical pleasures of the musicologist. I have often felt guilty about my great love for popular music, esp. that of the punk rock variety. Most musicologists would consider it to be near treason to listen to as much punk rock as I do, since it is viewed as being so 'simplistic' musically. Obviously, if you are a formalist or an organicist, punk rock must not quite cut it (at least on the surface). One of my professors got very incensed during a seminar when the topic of popular music study was broached. "But HOW can it compare to classical music in any way, shape or form?! To Beethoven, to Brahms, to Schubert?! It just doesn't!" Never mind that he only quoted three composers from a specific section of the canon (19thC German Romantic)... and left out a whole slew of music that is considered by the majority as canonical. However, during a discussion with another musicologist on "what is HOT, and what's not" in our discipline, my friend tried to convince me that popular music is now where it's at and what everyone is studying. I honestly surprised and unconvinced: if that is so, then why are popular music studies still marginalized in the general AMS meeting? The popular music sessions were held during the 2pm Thursday session (when most people hadn't arrived yet) and the Sunday AM session (when most people had already left or were too knackered to attend more papers), while the majority of the other sessions were full of either mainstream or fairly acceptable studies of canonic repertoire. Cultural studies are clearly in the more mainstream, judging by the traditional fare in JAMS and other journals and at AMS, but clearly studying music of other cultures and that of the more mainstream American culture is not. We all experience these feelings of guilt. Why is that? We are forward-thinking, liberal academics. Why should we feel guilty about appreciating other musics?

Yet we all feel it. We all have our own niches of music that we won't touch and disregard as rubbish or beneath us. I feel this way about most rap music, R&B, top 40 and popular country music written after 1980. How can I call myself a free-thinking academic open to cultural studies of all musics if I can't bring myself to tolerate even a microsecond of Shania Twain or Britney Spears? That so many people listen to Britney Spears and are obsessed with all of the details of her life tells us something about our culture, even if it is something that we dislike or don't want to know. It seems unethical as academics to ignore that which makes us uncomfortable that which we do not understand or does not interest us just because there are musics or cultures out there who are more interesting. It seems that we are ignoring an important part of humanity to discount any cultural artifact as unworthy of inspection.

I know that I'm going to make more of an effort to find what is worthwhile in every music I can, even though I might not write my dissertation on it. In the end, we need to study what interests us, or else we won't have the motivation to finish it. Even if Britney Spears or Madonna aren’t your cup of tea as a musicologist, there is no point in shooting a sister or brother musicologist in the foot for her or his interest in it. We all have our pieces of cake and sometimes we’ve got to eat them too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Spiritual Journey and Coming Out as a Liberal Christian

Today I made my first initial steps towards becoming confirmed in the Anglican (Episcopalian) community. I met with the rector of the local Episcopal church, who talked with me about my background and gave me three chapters from two different books to read. One is called The Good Book by Peter J. Gomes (chaplain of Harvard University and minister of The Memorial Church at Harvard). Gomes is also a gay, Republican American Baptist minister. I just started reading the first chapter of the book, but I can comment when I've completed more if anyone is interested.

It's been very interesting to navigate the waters of my newfound liberal Christianness with my friends and family. Last weekend (the 7th) was my 25th birthday, and it was the first time I mixed my liberal New Yorker/academic friends with my conservative sister and one conservative friend from Pennsylvania. I honestly feel like I am coming out of the closet. I suppose for my family and conservative friends, it's better for them that I come out of the closet as a Episcopalian Quaker than a gay person, but you never know. There was an arguement about whether or not the gay pride weekend is good for all gay persons, since some prefer not to be associated with 'flaming' homosexuals. I am really getting weary of the homosexuality issue and beginning to think people should just chill out and stop making it political. Sexuality should not be political. I am a straight, heterosexual female that identifies with her born gender, and I wouldn't want that to affect how people react towards me. Gee whiz.

This past Saturday I was blessed to spend my day with very interesting, wonderful, loving and open-minded people of various religious and sexual persuasions. Do I realize that living in New York is special and that most people aren't as accepting and wonderful? Yes. Does that scare me? Yes. Very much so.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Music Videos

Mostly, I hate music videos. I think they are hokey and uncomfortable, also usually uncreative and cliche. However, I've been watching things on YouTube lately, and here are some music videos I actually enjoy:

Silversun Pickups, "Well Thought Out Twinkles"



Joy Division, "She's Lost Control"

Silence on Blogger, but not in my flat

I know, I've not been posting lately. Basically, that's because I've been super busy declining Latin nouns and adjectives and conjugating Latin verbs. Oh, and also reading great books and downloading amazing music! My computer is up and running properly again (after crashing three times during the spring semester), which means that I am again able to download and listen to music every day! Woo-hoo. :) I went to PA last weekend for my sister's birthday party, and while there I pumped my sister's boyfriend for the names of his new favourite indie acts. Here's what's currently on my playlist:

1. Silversun Pickups -- an Indie band from LA; they're a mixture of EMO and punk, with really creative lyrics. Check them out on MySpace.

2. Elliott Smith -- I think everyone who reads my blog already loves Eliott. I was late in the game with him; I thought the track they played in The Royal Tennenbaums was excellent, but when I first listened to him I wasn't very impressed. He's grown on me now, though, and I've been playing the album 'XO' constantly.

3. Rufus Wainwright -- I'm listening to 'Want Two' and the new album on MySpace. I really like the song 'Going to a Town' from the new album.

4. Elvis Costello -- Don't even get me started. Costello has been such a huge influence on so many bands, especially Weezer and MxPx, and he writes the best love songs. He's adorably geeky, too.

5. Imogen Heap -- The track 'Hide and Seek' from her new album 'Speak for Yourself' is just incredible. The lyrics are so interesting and introspective, and the music is very creative. Pretty much the only dance music I'd really enjoy.

6. Teddybears -- This Norwegian act ('experimental pop') has a new video called 'Punkrocker' that features Iggy Pop! It's terrific. Check it out on YouTube.

7. The Magnetic Fields -- I love the lead singer's voice; it's very sultry and passionate. The track 'I Can't Love You Anymore' (on MySpace) is brilliant.

8. Interpol -- Their recent album 'Antics' is full of passionate, introspective lyrics and interesting sounds, and they have a new one coming up! Woo-hoo!

I've also been reading for fun -- an absolute must for a happy Sammee. So far, I've finished The Conservative Soul by Andrew Sullivan and Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. The former was incredibly thought-provoking and revealing to me; the latter was incredibly funny and made me feel better about being a pendant for grammatical faithfulness. I am glad that there is someone else alive who loves the semicolon enough to talk about what a lovely punctuation mark it is. Now, I'm back to the Robber Bride; my friend informed me that it's worth the wait.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Eye Opener

Have you ever had one of those 'ah-ha' moments when everything makes sense and the rose-coloured glasses fall off? I had one of those moments today when reading Andrew Sullivan's The Conservative Soul: How We Lost it, How to Get it Back. Here's the passage:

"The founder of the country, George Washington, was particularly concerned about the impact on civil life of religious and doctrinal disputes. He wrote in a letter: 'Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.' Tell that to the architects of Republican hegemony, Karl Rove and Tom Delay."
In this chapter, Sullivan also discusses the deistic foundations of America, and the Founding Father's emphasis on the separation of church and state:

"In 1797 the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Treaty of Tripoli, an attempt to deal with Muslim privacy and terrorism in the Mediterranean. One of its clauses reads: 'As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shalt ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.' It is hard to think of a leading contemporary Republican insisting that American government 'is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.' In the early republic not a single senator dissented."
Wow. I'm speechless. Of course, no one has ever before shared this information with me. Incredible the false consciousness (a la Adorno) I have been under until recently.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yoga Spirituality

My yoga teacher read the following prayer by the Catholic St. Therese of Lisieux at the end of our session tonight, and it really spoke to me. Whether you are of a faith or no faith, perhaps it will give you serenity you as well.

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.


Pan Blog #1: Religious Experience

I am borrowing the following from thecrazydreamer and whatyoudream, who picked up this pan-blog from their friend Sweet Jane. I am blessed to have others on my blogroll who are interested in a good, clean existential fun about questions of faith and religion and the like.

Describe your most formative religious experience. I am assuming that most of us are, or have been, some form of a Christian (probably born-again), so what I have in mind is that sort of testimonial-type of event in your past that led you to, or closer to, God. If you are no longer a Christian, describe how you feel about that experience now.

My first religious experience occurred when I was four (at least, this is the first I remember). I later explained it to my parents at the age of five and six and even later as when I became 'born again'. I think my parents were a bit sceptical of how a four-year-old could experience Christ's presence and claim to be 'born again', but even at a young age I seemed to have an early connexion with the divine or the spiritual or whatever you want to call it. Anyway, what I remember is playing with toys alone in my room, and feeling God's presence. That's even how I described it to my family years later when asked about my conversion experience. I felt Christ telling me to pray and talk to him and ask him 'into my heart'. I don't know how accurate this memory is, but I remember being very sure of it at one point. A year later, during our very first day of homeschool, my mother led us in a Bible lesson that described heaven and hell. My mother told me that she would be in heaven with my father, and I needed to accept Christ to be with them, or else I'd burn in hell. I don't remember being terribly scarred by how she said it, so she probably was nice about it, but thinking about that now makes me cringe. It was definitely a fire insurance conversion, and I'm not sure if later I projected back into my past that first experience with Christ to compensate for the second less-authentic conversion. The first one seemed very real, so I guess it all depends on your definition of reality.

Another important religious experience in my life (and these all occurred when I still described myself as Evangelical) happened at the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination's youth conference in Salt Lake City, UT. I was newly sixteen years old, and at the time pretty much obsessed with whether or not I was following God's will for my life. I had a very defined idea of what *I* wanted, but I was also convinced that it couldn't be that God and I wanted the same things. I had been wrestling with this for years, since as a young girl I felt God 'calling me' to full-time ministry in the Evangelical church as a missionary. My plans included being a neurosurgeon and 'helping people'. At any rate, it was during a service at the conference when I started to doubt my fire insurance conversion and my committment to the Christian life. I figured I mustn't be very committed, since I was constantly wrestling with giving over to God my dreams of being a doctor. During one service, I was overcome with what I saw as my own selfishness and told God that I would follow Him (I characterized God as a male entity, which isn't surprising) and not be a doctor if He wanted. That moment drastically changed my future plans and led me to study music, to be perfectly honest. I went home from that conference and re-vamped my academic plans for junior year, adding music study and telling my piano teacher that I planned to be a piano major. There was something about the speaker and what I felt was God's presence that caused me to change my life. To be honest, I'm extremely glad I never became a doctor. I would have been awful at it; all that memorizing of facts and details without original thought -- it would have bored me to tears. It would have been a lot of heavy science and math, too, and these are subjects thatt were not in my comfort zone. I guess you could say that a Christian fundamentalist religious experience eventually led me to academia, musicology, and postmodern Christianity! For that, I am glad to have had the experience.

Since slowly giving up Evangelicalism since ca. 2002, I can't remember having any more similar religious experiences or what many Evangelicals call 'mountain top experiences with God'. I can think of times when I attempted to create them. However, that doesn't mean that I don't feel God speaking to me. It's just that now she has become more rational, as I have become more rational. She does not overcome me and force me to listen, but quietly whispers suggestions and ideas and convictions into my ear. My conscience has become a more important vehicle for my newfound culturally-sensitive brand of Christianity, rather than a strict, blind adherence to a literal Truth outlined by the Bible or a religious zealot. In a way, I feel closer to God. Rather than needing an excessive emotional experience, I can experience her quietly and in my everyday life. I don't need a shouting Evangelical preacher or even a beautiful Anglican choir to experience God. She's right here, with me right now, and I can feel her love.

Latin for Mental Health and Punk Rock Clothing for Sammee's Soul

I think we all have these times in graduate school when we feel pushed to our limit and like we're not sure how to cope with it all. Last week, I kind of had one of those moments. Strangely enough, I think it was brought on by the lack of requirements at the end of the semester. I worked so hard to finish everything, and after it was all turned in, I had no idea what to do with myself, which was complicated by the fact that I new I did have things to do for more long-term goals and requirements.This year was so emotionally and physically draining; all the physical difficulties really sucked the life out of me, and I think it did a bit of damage to my mental well-being, too. At any rate, I felt much better today. I think the fact that my intensive Latin transliterature course began simultaneously is not a coincidence. Now, I can put energy into studying Latin and I don't have to sit around and twiddle my thumbs and wonder what on earth to do with myself.

Today, I feel better. I went to Latin class, which is filled with an interesting bunch of language geeks and medievalists, but also modernists who are stuck in it because they couldn't get into the other transliterature courses. There seem to be quite a few Trekkies or at least people who love Captain Picard, and I've generated more interest for my yet-to-happen Star Trek party I've been planning. We did a TREMENDOUS amount of Latin grammar, and I had a disagreement with the instructor over the differences between pronunciation of ecclesiastical vs. classical Latin. I much prefer to pronounce words like 'amavi' (first person singular of the present perfect active for 'to walk'; and I write that out to constantly remind myself of the order our teacher wants us to give the verb forms, not because I don't realise that much of my flist already reads Latin to some extent) with the '-v' sound, rather than the '-w' sound used in classical Latin. I also prefer to pronounce the '-g' more like the modern Italian pronunciation. These preferences are partially because of my study of ecclesiastical Latin (William Byrd's Latin-texted motets!), and partially because these pronunciations are better for singing and listening during long melismas.

The work for the Latin class is appropriate to its 'intensive' description. In 2 days, we have reviewed the 3 simple tenses for the first two verb conjugations, the three perfect tenses (1st 2 conjugations), and two subjunctive tenses (1st 2 conjugations). We also reviewed the cases for first declension nouns. I am writing this partially to bore you, partially because I am a GRAMMAR WHORE (I just love learning the grammar of new languages. I find writing out lists of verb conjugations to be RIDICULOUSLY EXCITING), and partially because I want to get straight in my head what's been flung at it. It's all very satisfying. Now I just have to resuscitate my old high school Latin from 1997 and 1998 and put myself back into classroom mode so I don't continue to stumble over my words when called upon for drills. So perhaps I should go do that now.

Oh wait, there's more I wanted to say. I also made myself feel better by stopping by my favourite boutique in New Brunswick and most favourite clothing store ever ... POP TRASH! I feel like this boutique was CREATED FOR ME! I bought a new mini jean skirt in honour of losing seven pounds by pure accident, even though I was eating copious amounts of ice cream and chocolates. I think it's the whole gluten-free thing -- no longer able to eat 2 bowls of Reeses Peanut Butter Puffs for breakfast. Somehow, eggs with veggies is not an equal substitute. Anyway, I also bought a pink sweater with a skull logo, which I'd been pining for since Christmas -- and I got it for half price (YES!) -- a new studded punk belt, and a pink, black and white argyle tube top with a skull on it. Yeah, okay, so when I'm feeling really expressive and really myself, I wear a lot of black and pink punk rock grrl clothing with skulls on it, topped off with fishnets. That's me to a T. :)

When I first stumbled upon Pop Trash in December 2006, the boutique had recently opened and hadn't even yet put up their web site. Since then, you can read about the boutique and their punk rock style on their web site (see link above), on MySpace, and in an article by Pulse Online. The article touches on two important reasons why true punks need a place like Pop Trash to provide their clothing. First of all, clothing and personal style is an important expression of the punk rock ethos. It is an obvious outward symbol of rebellion from social norms or from the established order. Secondly, purchasing clothing from mainstream clothing chains like Hot Topic is horrifically establishment and a contradiction to the punk rock ethos. As the writer of the article states, chain stores like Hot Topic "exis[t] to turn a profit, and [are] merely ... capitalizing on a growing trend among today's youth. In my opinion, that is not punk rock." YES. Supporting small businesses enable one to support people and benefit society, rather than merely turning over a profit. (I understand that turning over a profit also benefits society, but not in the immediate way that shopping at a small business does. Plus, you can avoid the nasty ethical complications, like with Wal-Mart.) Pop Trash is a store that perfectly satisfies the woman looking to express her devotion to rock-n-roll and esp. punk ideals, and also enables her to give back to the community by dumping her $$ in quality clothing that supports a grass roots business. And that makes me happy. :)

x-posted to Livejournal

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Barack Obama: Religion and Mental Health

I did a search on Technorati.com for 'political blogs', as I am using my small amount of extra summer free time to become more politically savvy and to think about Important Issues like What I Really Think about politics, religion, culture, etc., especially since already there has been a frenzy of campaign activity for the 2008 presidental election. I found a political web site called American Polity, which gave a link to an article on Barack Obama's advocation of improved mental health care for U.S. troops. When Obama first came on the presidental scene, I was very supportive of him. I liked the excerpts from his book reproduced in Time magazine, where he talked about his liberal Christianity and respect for people of different faiths. I respect his stand on abortion, which is similar to Hillary Rodham Clinton's, that they should be safe and rare. I respected how he interacted with Evangelical America, and thought he would have a better chance of beating a Republican candidate than Rodham Clinton, since so many Republicans dislike her so much. I like the idea of having a non-White male person as president. Generally, I just felt that he seemed to have the best chance of beating a Republican (even if he is less experienced), and I really think America could stand to have a non-Republican running it for a change. However, I became concerned when I read the reports about his pastor's strong liberation theology tendencies (there is a New York Times article), including his motto as 'Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian'. As the New York Times author writes,

'Mr. Wright's assertions of widespread white racism and his scorching remarks about American government have drawn criticism, and prompted the senator to cancel his delivery of the invocation when he formally announced his candidacy in February. Mr. Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate who says he was only shielding his pastor from the spotlight, said he respected Mr. Wright's work for the poor and his fight against injustice. ... It is hard to imagine, though, how Mr. Obama can truly distance himself from Mr. Wright. The Christianity that Mr. Obama adopted at Trinity has infused not only his life, but also his campaign. He began his presidential announcement with the phrase "Giving all praise and honor to God", a salutation common in the black church. He titled his second book, "The Audacity of Hope," after one of Mr. Wright's sermons, and often talks about biblical underdogs, the mutual interests of religious and secular America, and the centrality of faith in public life.'

This paragraph made me cringe. The last thing I want for my country is to have another person blinded by religious convinction as the president. G.W. Bush has had various Evangelical leaders whispering into his ear for the last eight years, and the thought of a close-minded, anti-white, reactionist liberation theologian whispering in the new president's ear is almost enough to make me want to change my vote. What American needs is someone who can remain as objective and uninfluenced by any one religious ideology as possible.

And yet ... there are so many things I like about Barack Obama (even moreso than Rodham Clinton, and let me tell you, I would love a female president in the White House!). I like his progressive stances on abortion, gay marriage, global warming and universal health care. Where Rodham Clinton seems more resistant (she has not been as progressive as Obama about health care or environmental concerns), Obama is not afraid to push it to the next progressive level. I really like that he seems very progressive about mental health care and advocates making mental health care more available for U.S. troops. My father served in Vietnam and I know he would have very much benefited from free therapy (that is, if he would have agreed to it). But is all of this enough if he is going to be so intimiately tied to a reactionary form of Christianity? I'm unsure.

x-posted to Livejournal

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cultural Sensitivist

After an online conversation with another liberal friend from Oxford, I've decided that my worldview can best be described as 'culturally sensitive', or, I am a Cultural Sensitivist. I recognize the dangers of too much moral relativism and too much moral absolutism, and I maintain that being culturally and morally sensitive is the best way to navigate between the two extremes. I'll post more about this later, after a good think.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Christian Philosophizing and Conservatives for Gay Marriage

As I was perusing through my blogroll today, I came across the following thought-provoking post by my friend Lauren, a former evangelical and self-avowed agnostic, who also has a terrific writing style and a very interesting blog. In her most recent entry, Lauren wonders whether or not it is possible for a Christian to properly philosophize, because of her or his assurance of having all the answers to life's questions. We began an interesting debate on her blog, during which she mentioned some arguments postulated by Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. Lauren sent me a link to a blog debate by Harris and Andrew Sullivan, which fleshes out many of Harris's key arguments against religiosity and faith in America. I was intrigued by Sullivan's responses, and did some research to figure out more about this character and his book, The Conservative Soul. I found some very interesting articles, including one that presents a conservative (I guess it would be Sullivan's brand of 'neo-Conservativism) argument for gay marriage: Here Comes the Groom: A Conservative Case for Gay Marriage. Anyone who is at my university, I claim this book first and am checking it out ASAP! Sullivan is a writer for the Alantic Monthly, and maintains a blog that I'll be adding to my blogroll. He also wrote a very insightful article for the Times, entitled 'When Seeing is Not Believing'. Has anyone else come across Sullivan that could offer some ideas or responses about or to his work?

Addendum to my previous post

You might still be wondering why I called my previous post 'musicological fiction'. Well, this is because I have always wanted to write a novel, and recently I've been thinking that the only way I'll be able to write one is if it is about one of my musicological interests. I was thinking William Byrd's life would be very fascinating as a novel -- so much political and religious intrigue!!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Musicological Fiction

I have always wanted to write a novel, or at least a collection of short stories. This is because I am pretty much a HUGE reader; have always loved reading novels and pretty much anything else, as long as it was of good enough quality to keep me entertained and to captivate my intellect. I always make huge summer reading lists each May, and since beginning grad school, have never managed to finish any of them. Last summer I got through The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and that was it. I read most of Baudolino by Umberto Eco, but still haven't finished it. I spent most of the summer busy with academic pursuits and cramming in as much of a social and exercise life as I could muster.

I am making this post to ask for suggestions for my summer reading list. I think I will aim to read one 'fun' book a month, which shouldn't distract too much from my studies and still provide the necessary leisure time I require for my sanity. Here is my current list for May, June, July, August and September. If I am successful, perhaps this can continue through the academic year.

May: The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies (almost finished); The Robber Bride (Margaret Atwood -- I am reading this book because another musicologist recommended it and I bought it from the music library for 10 cents).

June: The History of Love: A Novel (Nicole Krauss)

July:
Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (Donald Miller)

August: The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova)

September:
Orlando: A Biography (Virginia Woolf)

Comments? Suggestions?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

End of the Academic Year Blues

I never know what to do with myself at the end of the academic year, especially since beginning graduate school. When I was an undergraduate, I would always be excited and look forward to the summer, which was spent reading novels and taking trips to visit friends and generally recovering from the stress of being an over-achieving honours student. Of course, the summers that occur in-between being a PhD student are completely different.

The summer between my master's degree and the beginning of my PhD was pretty much non-existent, because my master's degree didn't end until July 19 and moving takes so much work and energy. The summer between the first and second years of the PhD was also pretty stressful, because I took an Italian language class and had a lot of comprehensive examination revision to commence. This summer will be spent doing a Latin language class and more revision, as well as fleshing out my dissertation topic. I am feeling depressed because it was a very stressful, tumultuous year for me health-wise and I can feel that my body, mind, spirit and brain really need a break. Oh well, c'est la vie.

So how do I recuperate so I can face the challenges?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Contemplating... Anti-Christian Readers?

I just realised that I may eventually pick up a few readers who might perhaps be turned off by my Christian-themed posted. As it turns out, I decided to use this journal to muse about thoughts unrelated to my specific academic career, although it will probably turn up now and again and because it's impossible to get out of my head completely.

As I think is common for people who study medieval and early modern music and culture, I am a liberal Christian (am currently dabbling in a mixture of Quakerism and Anglicanism) and have an affinity for religiosity (even though I am a punk rocker and like Jay Bakker's 'religion kills' movement at times, too). However, this does not mean that I don't respect other people's opinions, so pleased don't be scared away!!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Devotional Post; To Be Digested

Romans 8:28-39 (NRSV)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

_________________________

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.
- Psalm 116:15 (NRSV)
_________________________

Monday, April 30, 2007

Appropriate Words for the End of the Semester

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV) 1 Peter 5:7

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (Psalm 55:22 NIV)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Devotions -- The Upper Room

My devotion passage a few days ago, before I got sick, was from Matthew 23:23-8. Here is the ESV version. I love this passage, and often think of it when people complain about hypocrisy in Christianity. Well, Jesus hated hypocrites, too, and it shows a picture of Christ's love that includes mercy, justice, compassion, selfless, and understanding.


Here is the passage from Matthew, in the ESV and taken from Biblegateway.com:

23"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

25"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thoughts on my Devotions

Okay, so I meditated for a bit on what I read today and then I thought about it while I was doing work and going about my day. I thought it appropriate to pursue Quaker readings, as I am currently dog-sitting and house-sitting and cat-sitting for a Quaker family. I've always been curious about the Religious Society of Friends, especially more recently, since I've come face-to-face with a few again (I knew some in PA, of course). After the VT massacre last week, I read more about peace churches.

I am interested in how George Fox (the founder of Quakerism) links truth and oneness to being in peace, love and the power of God. Everything must be done in love in order to understand the "mystery of the gospel," and one must do things in love and not in strife to edify the church. This is so different from how I was raised, and these words were penned in the seventeenth century! As with the second comments about the equality of women from Margaret Fox, I am reminded that a teleological view of history and culture is often inaccurate. Although my family subjugates women against men and views violence as necessary, in seventeenth-century England and Pennsylvania, our ancestors upheld the opposite beliefs.

The VOtD from the Bible Gateway web site was also very edifying. I love the Gospel of John; it's such a mysterious and nerdy book of the Bible. In the verse just before, Jesus talks about his sheep, who know his voice (which I understand as the theology of the 'efficacious call'), and follow him, and to those who listen and respond he will give unconditional love and acceptance. See how tolerant and loving our Christ is?? Isn't it a stark contrast to how so many understand Christ and how they try to project Christ?

I am doing a topical study of love in the Bible, and specifically, the love of Christ and how it embodies God's love and how it is bestowed upon humanity. So, in this verse, I see very unconditional and accepting characteristics of Christ's love.

Christ's love is ...
* Unconditional
* All-encompassing
* Non-judgemental (Christ will love and accept forever anyone who responds)

P.S. If you want to sponsor me on the arthritis walk, please comment or send me an e-mail and I'll send you the necessary link.

Eragon and Arthritis and Devotions

First of all, I just realised that I was supposed to update on Eragon after I had read it, since it was written by a homeschooler. I read it over the Christmas break, so my memories of the book are less-than-perfect, but I will say a few things.

As far as fantasy goes, it was a pretty admirable effort, esp. considering he was fifteen when writing the book. The characters were fairly compelling, and the world he created was pretty interesting, esp. for a kid. My problem is that I am an avid Tolkien fan and therefore judge all subsequent fantasy against Tolkien's standard. The problem with the book was that I didn't find it compelling enough, not to the point where I wanted to read it all day long. I would find it compelling for an hour or so, but then need to do something else. It was a reasonable effort, and I might read the others, but it seemed to be striving for the kind of epic that Tolkien created and was constantly falling short.

Secondly, I wanted to announce on my blog that I am doing an arthritis walk on June 30th. I will be doing it to raise money for arthritis research and awareness. As you probably know, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was fifteen months old, followed by a diagnosis of fibromyalgia at the age of twelve and lupus just this past October. The walk will be in Philadelphia, and I am hoping to raise $100.

And now for my devotions.

Like many Christians, I have been struggling to find a comfortable format for daily devotions. I find reading the Bible on the regular basis to be an important discipline, both for my spiritual and mental health. I find it easy to be distracted by the outside world and have therefore found it difficult to be completely faithful with my devotional exercise. It is my hope that blogging will help this to be easier and also encouraging.

My current devotion format is to read one e-mail devotion a day, one full chapter of the Bible each day, and one excerpt from a writer of faith. I have been blessed by both Episcopal and Quaker writings in the recent past, and oftentimes I go through the Anglican Daily Office or read from George Fox's writings. Today, my e-mail devotion is from Psalm 40, and my Bible passage is John 10. I have also read a passage from George Fox's writings and a passage from Margaret Fox's writings.

From George Fox's letters, 291-315:
"
Therefore keep your meetings, and dwell in the power of truth, and know it in one another,
and be one in the light, that you may be kept in peace and love in the power of God,
that you may know the mystery of the gospel; and all that ever you do, do in love;
do nothing in strife, but in love, that edifies the body of Christ, which is the church."

From Margaret Fox's defense of women in the church:
"And first, when God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he them, male and female; and God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply: And God said, behold, I have given you of every herb, Gen 1:27-29. Here God joins them together in his own image, and makes no such distinctions and differences as men do; for though they be weak, he is strong; and as he said to the apostle, his grace is sufficient, and his strength is made manifest in weakness, 2 Cor 12:9. And such has the Lord chosen, even the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and things which are despised, has God chosen, to bring to nought things that are, 1 Cor:1-27-8. And God has put no such difference between the male and female, as men would make."

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. (NIV) Psalm 40:3

28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[a]; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one." (NIV) Jn 10:28-30

Figuring Things Out

As you may or may not know, my worldview has been evolving in the last three years. I was raised by a traditional, conservative, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Christian, Republican family in rural Pennsylvania. I was homeschooled, and while I was always the pensive type, I was too busy trying to excel in music and academia to question things much. I attended a small Christian college because it was easier than dealing with the big, bad world at a public university.

After living abroad in England, I began to re-evaluate my political and religious beliefs. I'm still figuring things out, but one thing I've realised is that I absolutely need to have a relationship with God. I'm just figuring out how I can be a dedicated Christian and also a dedicated Libertarian.

This is where this blog comes into play. I've been wanting to blog here because I have other cool friends on Blogger, but I couldn't really come up with a theme or a purpose. My new purpose will be to blog about my journey as a Libertarian Christian. I'm going to read devotionals and talk about faith and my newfound political and academic beliefs.

Feel free to join me. :)

Currently Listening...

  • Pearl and the Beard
  • The Dodos
  • Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha
  • Anna Ternheim
  • NOFX
  • Fairiborz Lachini
  • The Clash
  • Rufus Wainwright: Rufus Does Judy
  • Radiohead: In Rainbows

Currently Watching...

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Mad Men
  • South Park
  • Zach Galifinakis

Currently Reading...

  • Bill Bryson: A History of Nearly Everything
  • Gabriel Garcia-Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • The House of Leaves
  • Robertson Davies: The Rebel Angels

Favourite Videos

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