Nirvana, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other middle-aged rock bands

I’ve noticed a bit of a convergence of events lately in the rock-n-roll of my increasingly distant past.  I heard/read a story about 20th anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind (not this story, but this one will do) almost on the same day that I heard that R.E.M. had called it quits after 30 or so years.  And even though they’re not quite like the other, I mention the Red Hot Chili Peppers here because our friend Rachel mentioned their new album on the book o’ face.

Actually, I take that back:  for me, Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are kind of in the same camp in that I am/was a fan of both, though I discovered both bands when I was just old enough (and broke enough and preoccupied enough with my MFA program) to not really be following either band with the fanaticism of a slightly younger person.  I stumbled across this thoughtful post on the blog biblioklept about Nirvana and all the various albums/bands that were coming out with stuff at about the same time as Nirvana, including the excellent Blood Sugar Sex Magik, not to mention other middle-aged rock bands like U2.

I think Nirvana was an “important” band (if there is such a thing) and I like what Dave Grohl has done with Foo Fighters.  But so much of Nirvana is wrapped up in the cult of Cobain, and I have a feeling that if he hadn’t killed himself but just faded away like a lot of other rock musicians, we wouldn’t be paying a whole lot of attention.

As for how the Red Hot Chili Peppers fit into all this:  it’s a stretch I admit, but they too were a band I discovered after I was just a little too old to care that much about following them and going to shows and such, but they’ve stuck with me in part because of our family trip to Italy (and points beyond) in 2007.   When Annette and Will and I were in Florence and watching television back at our room, pretty much the only thing in English was an ongoing interview and series of music videos featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers who had just release a new album and were on tour.  I don’t know, but that made me more of a fan of them now than I was 20 some odd years ago.

Now R.E.M., that’s a different story.  I don’t think it would be possible for me to have been as big of a fan as my friend and colleague Joe Csicsila and I think local blogger/man about town Mark Maynard kind of summed it up for me in a way with this post on his blog.  Sort of; I’m no musician and not really a fanatic about anything, but there was a time where R.E.M. was a big deal for me.  I first heard them on a high school trip– in Georgia, of all places.  I went to see them for the first time when they were on tour supporting Life’s Rich Pageant at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City (a place that was 2500 seats or so), and then again in Davenport for Document, and for that Davenport show, I recall abandoning our crappy seats to stand on folding chairs almost within reach of the stage.

Good times.  But while I kept buying (many, not all) of the albums and I would have gone to see them again if I could have, the joy faded, pretty much around Green. I still have lots and lots of R.E.M. on the iTunes, but listening to it now makes less sense to me now than it does to listen to music I associate with my much older self:  Lyle Lovett, KD Lang, Neko Case (haven’t seen her yet, but I want to), and even some of the much younger acts that have come around lately.  I suppose that makes me typical.  And what does it say that the last live performance I saw was Tony Bennett?

Well, I ain’t ever going to see Nirvana and I seriously doubt R.E.M. will be trotting out a reunion tour anytime soon.  I guess my only hope to revive some earlier life bands will be Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Or, if a bunch of money falls into my lap, maybe U2.

The Office, the new season

Things have been quiet around the ol’ blog lately because the new fall term is upon us with a vengeance, mostly because of the move back into the the remodeled but not completely done/sorted out yet Pray-Harrold.  Heck, it’s taken me a couple weeks just to write this little post!

If you were one of the three people who attended the panel I was on about “Pray-Harrold in Exile” in Atlanta at the CCCCs (or if you are one of the 100 or so people who saw this video on YouTube), or if you have read some of the posts and comments on about this, then you are aware that my department (and many others) were temporarily uprooted out of our previous office and teaching space, Pray-Harrold Hall, deposited in dorms and other odd places for about 16 months, and now reassembled in slightly different order back in our previous building.

It’s mostly good, with some bad and some frustrations thrown into the mix.  The old building features a lot of new fixtures:  new bathrooms; new flooring, walls, ceilings, lighting, windows, doors, and the like; new technology in the regular classrooms; and much better infrastructure in terms of the “guts” of the building, HVAC and electrical and the like.  The bad part of it all is it’s still the same old and huge building, and a compelling argument could be made that we should have torn this thing down and started over.  And there have been a ton of frustrations regarding little things like keys and pretty big things like not very good at all tech support and other problems.

But I don’t want to dwell on that.  I just want to contemplate the office.

Office View #3

On the floor that hosts (most) of the Department of English Language and Literature, there are “interior” offices that are small-ish (10 X 12 or so, maybe a little less) and that lack a window, and “exterior” offices that are close to twice as big and that have a window.  Now, in the pre-remodeling configuration of things, if as a faculty person in the department you wanted your own office, you got an interior one;  if you were willing to share (usually with a part-timer or lecturer), you got an exterior one.  This represented a certain balance in that there were obvious pros and cons to each choice.

Office view #2

For institutional/insider reasons not worth going into, this has changed.  Now exterior offices go to faculty based on being a program coordinator (which was the case before as well) and based on seniority, interior offices go to less senior faculty and full-time lecturers, and part-time instructors are in a different building entirely.  So, as the program coordinator for written communication, I get one of the larger and windowed exterior offices (the one pictured here) all to myself instead of my previous smaller and windowless office.

This has had the effect of both upsetting the previous pro/con, yin/yang balance of one’s office, and it has also meant that some folks have come out much better, a few (almost) exactly the same, and a few much worse.  If I weren’t the program coordinator right now, I would have had an interior office because I’m not quite there seniority-wise.  If enough people retire before I am finished being coordinator and nothing else changes, I’ll get to keep this larger, windowed office.  Maybe.
Office View #3There’s been some grumbling about this arrangement.  I have to say I have a certain amount of what I can only describe as “survivor guilt” about all this because I have definitely come out ahead in the office shuffle, while others have either come out about the same or even a little behind.  And there probably is a more robust way to decide who is in what office.  I know of at least one senior colleague in an exterior office who is never there, for example.  It seems a bit of a waste that this person gets one of the nicer, bigger offices, doesn’t it?

My own way of dealing with this is I am trying to make much more use of my office and I have once again shifted my scholarly/professional “stuff” into that space.  When I first came to EMU back in 1998, I had almost all of my stuff in my school office because we lived an apartment that wasn’t that big.  Then when we bought our house, Annette and I both set up offices in our basement, and over the next eight or so years, my stuff migrated back home and to different places in the house.  In fact, by the time I had to pack up for the move out of Pray-Harrold into Hoyt for our year in exile, there was really nothing in my office anymore I really needed.

So now, I’m circling back to the point where I started at EMU and have shifted everything back into Pray-Harrold.  I even bought some extra shelving.  I tell myself that I am trying to make a clearer division between “life” and “work,” with the work stuff staying up in Pray-Harrold; though I still have a home office and desk space too, and I am sure I will continue to do plenty of work here too.  But at this point in my career, I suspect I won’t be shelping all this stuff back home until I am completely done and retired.

Obligatory 9/11 anniversary post

In no particular order:

  • I remember that on the morning of 9/11/01, I had mowed the lawn and had some kind of cold or allergies or something.  Then I came in and turned on the TV just by chance and saw what was going on.  My son remembers nothing.  Of course, he would have been 4 at the time.
  • Media-wise, I don’t think I ever watched as much TV as I did then, and that’s saying something since I watch a lot of TV.
  • I think the attacks were both a senseless act of violence against innocent and decent people and the result of long festering and ugly policies the U.S. has had against other people in the world, notably the middle east.  Thus the “why do they hate us” articles and essays that have followed.
  • I heard a commentator on the radio talking about an article he has (or will have?) in The New Yorker in which he argues that the things that have changed since 9/11 are fairly small– getting on a plane, getting through security at some buildings, etc.– and it didn’t do anything to change the sense of decline in America.  The widening of the rich-poor gap that began in the 70s-80s is getting wider; the extreme partisanship that really started to ramp up in the 90s is still with us; etc.
  • I often wonder what would have been different had Gore won.  Maybe nothing, who knows?
  • Will and I went to a Tigers baseball game today and when baseball combines with 9/11 memorializing, what you get is patriotism on steroids.  Many MANY police, fire fighters, military, and other general first responders on the field and much standing and applauding.  And again, I embrace the contradiction of finding it all a bit much and I’m proud of my country.  And I don’t think the political right has a lock on “being a good American,” either.
  • The people who are really getting the short end of the stick here are the first responders who have been dealing with all this all these years.

My submission(s) and examples for the WIDE-EMU

We’re all a little behind in WIDE-EMU -land right now– a new semester, a new building, new classes, etc., etc.  But in an effort to power through my “to do” list and to encourage the folks who have proposed things, I offer two very modest examples of the same (more or less) submission:

  • This Google Doc text of what I’m thinking in the whole “Learning Not Teaching” thing.
  • Here’s a link to a slideshow that is more or less related to the text– though it isn’t necessarily the same thing.

I tried to put together a couple of things that are pretty simple because we don’t want to make this a whole lot more complicated than necessary for folks who have proposed things.  We just want folks throw something against the wall that might stick, and then we’ll link to it for others to admire.