Graduate School and Alternative Career Paths

I find it amazing that academia abandons tens of thousands of people every year and that some fields have almost no contexts for other types of career paths. I wish I had pursued an alternative career path as much as twenty years ago. In addition, if I had never pursued graduate school at all, I could have started working as a Customer Service Representative for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, an Order Support Agent for a call centre, or a Rural & Suburban Mail Carrier for Canada Post in my twenties and been approaching early retirement by now. I also wish I had continued composing music to a much greater extent after my twenties. I’m 56, have a Ph.D., and have accomplished a great deal, but I have never had any kind of continuing full-time job that pays a living wage.

Alternative-academic and non-academic career paths—and ways to collaborate both with other scholars and with those outside academia—should be discussed and enabled. Those considerations should begin during the time-frame when doctoral candidates have traditionally worked on remarkably narrow concerns in their doctoral seminars, research and teaching assistantships, exams, and dissertations. Fewer people should complete doctorates and attempt to become professors. Post-secondary education usefully establishes and consolidates one’s interests, as well as the ability for critical thinking. However, pursuing it beyond a bachelor’s or master’s degree is unnecessary. I wish I had realized that a long time ago.

Academic Work for Free

Spending hundreds of hours every year doing academic work on book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers when I don’t even have an academic job — and am thus doing it all for free — is highly exploitative. So, after my current projects wrap up in the next couple of months, I’m not going to do these things anymore. I want to do more academic research and writing, but the system is not set up to pay anyone directly. That needs to change.

“Cut Every Corner: Intertextuality and Parody in the Music of The Simpsons” (journal article)

My journal article, “Cut Every Corner: Intertextuality and Parody in the Music of The Simpsons,” appears in the 2020 “Parody: Intertextuality and Music” issue of MUSICultures.

https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/MC/article/view/31402

“Shary Bobbins”
“Cut Every Corner”
MUSICultures, Vol. 47 (2020)

Abstract

This article reworks ideas about parody, postmodernism, and television from such critical and cultural theorists as Linda Hutcheon, Jason Mittell, and Jonathan Gray to contextualize the wide variety of parody and intertextuality in the music of the animated TV show The Simpsons. It explores several categories of the show’s music, such as: variations of cartoon themes, songs, instrumental underscoring, and guest musicians. This article particularly uses specific episodes of The Simpsons to highlight parodies of the show’s own theme, movie music, themes from other TV shows, and so on. The show’s music thus functions as a kind of court jester or king’s fool.

Academic Research and Writing

Of the eighteen people contributing to the forthcoming Cambridge University Press book on progressive rock, sixteen are university-affiliated academics (so it would be reasonable for them to expect to do such things as a part of their employment), one is VP of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and one is a computer technology order support specialist making the equivalent of about $11 U.S. per hour. Guess which one resents doing academic research and writing for free, given that it has nothing to do with his employment?

The Piranha Scholar

[With all due apologies to Monty Python!:]

Denied the opportunity to use his talents in the paid service of his profession, the unaffiliated musicologist began to operate what he called ‘The Operation’… He would select a book or journal editor and then threaten not to send in his chapter or article if they paid him. Four months later, he started another operation, which he called ‘The Other Operation.’ In this racket, he selected another victim and threatened to send in his work if they didn’t pay him. One month later, he hit upon ‘The Other Other Operation’. In this, the victim was threatened that if they didn’t pay him, he wouldn’t send in his work. This, for the unaffiliated musicologist, was the turning point.

The Piranha Brothers (Monty Python, 1970)
The Piranha Brothers (“Ethel the Frog,” Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 1970)

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

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.

“Deep Digital” Writing & Reading

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/skim-reading-new-normal-maryanne-wolf?CMP=fb_gu

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?

Simpsons book bio

Here’s my bio for a forthcoming book about The Simpsons (McFarland, 2018, edit: actually 2019), in which I have a chapter called “Be Sharp: The Simpsons & Music.” [I also have a semi-related journal article coming out in MUSICultures in 2020.]

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.”

Library Super Conference

I attended the Ontario Library Association’s 2018 Super Conference in Toronto late last week. It was my first conference as a newly-minted MLIS, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d know what to do or whether I’d fit in. The event has hundreds of sessions and hosts about 4500 delegates, but I’m not very good at schmoozing. However, I did meet and talk with some people, including a fellow author (mainly of children’s books about hockey), a colleague of an old friend, and a career centre counsellor. I also ran into lots of people associated with the MLIS program at Western University (London, ON)–and even a few I knew from elsewhere. In addition, I collected up the names of certain people to contact later.

I learned about things at some of the sessions (including poster sessions), such as newer aspects of RDA cataloguing, useful interactive/online learning tools, and a major linked data project. Other sessions,  though, covered things I already knew about, such Gold Open Access, universities walking away from publisher “big deals,” basic document accessibility principles, and early career advice. I mainly attended sessions having to do with academic libraries.

The keynote talks I attended by Jesse Wente and Naomi Klein involved more general, library-adjacent, thought-provoking cultural issues of storytelling and community-building. An artist created large posters of those talks as they took place!

20180202_164711[1]

20180202_163151[1]My main takeaway re the OLA Super Conference is that I should try to volunteer next year, present something, or at least register in advance. It’s an expensive conference to attend at the last minute, but I did at least have somewhere to stay for free. On the other hand, it’s difficult to plan to attend it ahead of time, because most people with jobs (especially new jobs) would find it awkward to attend something that mainly takes place on weekdays.