About Durrell Bowman

Musicologist (Ph.D.) and Information (IT Certificate, MLIS)

Is It Time for a Guaranteed Annual Income?

With millions of people applying for government support and millions more (like me) still earning non-living wages to provide “essential” services, it is time for Canada to have a guaranteed annual income. Give every adult $2000 a month from now on. Make it taxable, so people who already earn a lot don’t get to keep much of it. Cut the red tape. Cut the bureaucracy. Easily cover the cost by cutting the costs of having to run so many different government programs (EI, CPP, OAS, GIS, CERB, CESB, provincial welfare and disability systems, etc.).

Academic Work for Free: It’s Indefensible and Exploitative, but We Continue to Do It

A professor at a major university wants me to contribute a chapter on critical theory to a new, academic-press book about progressive rock. That sounds great, right?! However, are you aware that I would be paid absolutely nothing for what would probably end up being several hundred hours of research and writing? [Update, March 16: The editor of a scholarly journal, who is a professor at another university, similarly wants me to do numerous hours of additional research work and writing to update my article about parody and intertextuality in the music of The Simpsons. I already researched and wrote that article and did numerous hours of revisions to satisfy the relevant journal issue’s editor and peer reviewers. That journal article would also pay me absolutely nothing.] You read that correctly: academia frequently does not pay anything for substantial work that is done.

My progressive rock colleague says it’s “somewhat defensible” that people with academic positions write for free. However, that work is actually considered essential to their full-time positions and to their salaries that are around three to five times more than mine as a full-time, computer technology, e-commerce, order support specialist. I earn $15 Canadian per hour, which works out to about $11 U.S. per hour. If I had my Ph.D. in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math), there’d be other places to use my knowledge and abilities in a well-paying, full-time job–other than just in universities. I don’t, and there aren’t.

Scholars with academic jobs seem to think it’s reasonable for scholars without them to do the exact same level of work for free, because it might increase interest in their earlier work–such as my published books on the music of Rush and of Peter Gabriel. If it’s already merely “somewhat defensible” for full-time academics to do work for “free,” it seems indefensible–possibly even exploitative–to expect scholars without academic positions to do the same. In fact, in the sciences it is now usually the case that for-profit, largely-paywalled publishers expect scholars to pay hundreds–sometimes even thousands–of dollars upfront for each and every article they publish. However, doing hundreds of hours of work for free is arguably at least as bad as that, especially if you have no income related to it.

Book publishers, as well as the organizations and societies that run conferences and publish scholarly journals, should find ways to pay those authors who don’t have academic positions. It doesn’t make any difference if I would enjoy writing a new book chapter or journal article, or another conference paper or book or two, for that matter. I would, but I shouldn’t have to do it for free, just like musicians, artists, and student interns shouldn’t have to do work for free just to get their names out there. No-one went to graduate school for up to a decade to end up not getting paid for the work they do.

[Update, March 18: I have agreed to research and write the book chapter and to revise the journal article further. I have most of a year to do the former and about a month to do the latter. I still think it’s indefensible and exploitative to expect anyone without an academic job to do this type of work for free.]

Replacing Phoenix

I’m glad that the Canadian government is finally replacing the Phoenix pay system. On my eight-month Master of Library & Information Science co-op placement at the Parks Canada National Library in 2017, it seriously messed up my pay. They’re replacing it with something from Germany-based company SAP. However, as someone who now uses SAP’s incredibly complex main product every day at work, I have to wonder if they can really build a system that will make sense. Part of the problem with Phoenix is that the necessary training by IBM to use it correctly was simply never done. Hopefully, SAP can build something that won’t require much training and that will just work.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/phoenix-pay-system-replacement-sap-1.5488435

Meta Plow

Hilariously, these several plow-dudes plowed their way to work this morning in their snow-plow-fitted pickup trucks and then switched over to their industrial-strength snow plows.

“Meta Plow, that’s their name; that name again is Meta Plow.”

Neil Peart, RIP

I always sort of hoped that Rush’s drummer-lyricist Neil Peart and I would cross paths at some point and have an interesting conversation. We both first lived on family farms in Ontario, our fathers both worked at International Harvester dealerships, we both wrote multiple books (much of my work being about Rush’s music), we are both Canadians who lived in Los Angeles for a time, he was nicknamed “The Professor,” and I actually once was a Visiting Assistant Professor. Rush’s music is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the complexity (definitely present in the drumming), the constant stream of influences (lyrical and musical), and the work ethic were remarkable. Please consider giving a monetary gift in his memory to a cancer charity of your choice. RIP, Neil.

Flight 752

One or more individuals at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and/or Iranian Civil Aviation Organization have committed criminal acts by shooting down (and/or allowing to be shot down) a civilian, commercial airplane full of 176 Iranians, Iranian-Canadians, and others with surface-to-air missiles. Was it done intentionally, or was it somehow a horrible mistake?

A rescue worker shows pictures of a girl that were recovered from the crash site southwest of Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. The crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 killed all 176 people on board. (Ebrahim Noroozi/The Associated Press)

“Be Sharp: ‘The Simpsons’ and Music”

My book chapter, “Be Sharp: ‘The Simpsons’ and Music,” appears in: The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield: Essays on the TV Series and Town That Are Part of Us All (McFarland, 2019)

Employment vs. Work

I’m now employed full-time as an Order Support Specialist on behalf of a major computer technology company. So, as an Unaffiliated Scholar (Ph.D. in Musicology, MLIS, etc.), I’m finding it difficult to continue giving up hundreds of hours of academic work for no pay. The book chapter that was published in 2019 and the journal article coming out in 2020 (both are about parody and intertextuality in the music of “The Simpsons”), as well as my academic library internship of 2016 and 2018 (music, etc.), will probably be my last work for free.

The White Album

TheWhiteAlbumOn the 50th anniversary of The Beatles (a.k.a., The White Album, 1968), I’ve just listened to the whole album for the first time in years. My first thought is that it’s inconsistent and far too eclectic. It sometimes tries to one-up earlier Beatles’ songs but never really succeeds at that. For example, “Glass Onion” and “Honey Pie” both try way too hard. Similarly, the album is so long and sprawling that it even quotes itself several times, but never in a good, thematically-unifying way. The album also wants to help establish the potential of the individual Beatles’ solo careers, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Don’t Pass Me By” do that pretty well for George Harrison and Ringo Starr. However, even with “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Blackbird,” “Julia,” and “Helter Skelter,” John Lennon and Paul McCartney both still arguably have better material elsewhere. Half of the double album could have been (and probably should have been) B-sides. However, they decided not to release any singles from the album (let alone B-sides), in favour of releasing a single of the same period’s “Hey Jude” and the faster, more pop-oriented version of “Revolution”–neither or which is on the more than 93-minute album. It’s hard to imagine that the 50th Anniversary, “Super Deluxe,” special edition of the album comprises up to seven discs of material. Very few people are going to need to hear a “bright new mix,” obscure demos, abandoned versions, and an eventual guitar solo hummed by Paul McCartney. Besides, Revolver (1966) and Abbey Road (1969) are much better albums.