The whole kerfuffle about the University of Waterloo’s Nobel-Prize-winning physicist, Dr. Donna Strickland, being “only” an Associate Professor is ridiculous. She has tenure at a fairly major Canadian university, can do her work, and has pay equity. Lots of academics don’t attempt to advance to Full Professorship, because the amount of administrivia, committee work, etc. one then gets stuck with is prodigious. The university’s President basically implied that it would be a walk in the park for her to get that, but she still might not want it.
A much more important issue is that 80-82% of Ph.D.s (e.g., in the humanities, in which alternative career paths barely exist) end up outside of full-time, tenure-stream academia. For example, tens of thousands of adjunct instructors do the same work as faculty-member professors for less than half the pay, usually with no benefits or conference travel grants, generally without unionization, sometimes without even having an office (or, say, having to share a photocopier room with dozens of others as an “office,” as I once did), and they also often do the paid part of their work only on a part-time basis. Some of us basically have to give up after years of that kind of abuse. Now THAT is an actual problem.
This article begs the question as to what “skim writing” might entail. Academic research and writing seem like an awful lot of trouble, given that it takes a long time to produce with almost no-one encountering it after all that. Also, Malcolm Gladwell and others are just going to reorganize selected parts of it, anyhow. Why not skip the middle man? Why shouldn’t we try to get to “deep digital” parallels to writing and reading?
The Eagles’ 1976 album Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (with 38 million copies sold) has once again supplanted Michael Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller (with 33 million copies sold) as the top-selling album of all time, at least in the US. Who cares?
Amanda Petrusich, in her New Yorker article about the situation, accomplishes very little other than to reveal she finds that the Jackson album “provokes” (without once specifying how or why), whereas the Eagles’ greatest hits collection “placates” (though also somehow imbuing “dread” and/or a “swirling beige inertia”).
Given the existence of Hardcore Punk, Death Metal, New Age, Smooth Jazz, and various other musical genres not explored by Michael Jackson or by the Eagles, I find it extremely difficult to consider either of those artists to be particularly provocative or placating. Also, none of this takes into account the fact that both artists uniquely arrived at their mainstream pop successes by merging other styles. The Eagles combined singer-songwriter and country-rock approaches into a kind of rock super-group aesthetic (and certainly with rather less “major chord ubiquity” after 1975), whereas Jackson combined R&B, urban/dance pop, and rock elements into a compelling amalgam.
Do any of the details about music sales actually matter, though, when tens of millions of people now listen to most of the music they encounter–and frequently without buying anything–on such streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube? Probably not. Could music writers please get around to discussing music in more useful ways? Same answer, unfortunately.
Here’s my bio for a forthcoming book about The Simpsons (McFarland, 2018), in which I have a chapter called “Be Sharp: The Simpsons & Music.” (I may or may not still try and publish an entire book on the subject.)
Durrell Bowman has a Ph.D. in Musicology (UCLA, 2003), a Certificate in Computer Applications Development (2010), and a Master of Library and Information Science (2018). For about a decade, he developed and taught music history courses as an adjunct or visiting instructor at seven institutions all across North America. He has also worked as a semi-professional choral singer, built websites, and presented numerous conference papers, including several on music in The Simpsons. In addition, he has written books, book chapters, journal articles, media and book reviews, reference entries, and program notes. His books are: Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), and Rush and Philosophy: Heart and Mind United (co-editor and three chapters, Open Court Publishing, 2011). He hails from what Homer refers to as “America Junior” and agrees with Marge that “grad students just made a terrible life choice.”
Rob Bowman quoted me about Rush’s song “Cygnus X-1” in his liner notes for the 40th anniversary edition of the band’s 1977 album A Farewell to Kings. http://cygnus-x1.net/…/rush/albums-afarewelltokings-40th.php. Thanks, Rob!
As Durrell Bowman (no relation) has noted, the piece “features a substantial amount of electronically generated sounds and sound effects, frequent metrical complexities (28% in asymmetrical meters alone), a large number of tonal areas (eight), a high degree of unison playing (35%), and one of the smallest sung proportions on Rush’s first five studio albums (16%).”
It’s nice to know that someone got as far as page 130 of my 318-page dissertation! I say pretty much the same thing in Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion, but without such nerdy things as percentages and words like “asymmetrical.”