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.
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.
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.
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?
[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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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!
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.
The Government of Canada’s Phoenix pay system has affected the financial stability of tens of thousands of public employees, including thousands of students and other temporary contract employees. The previous, Conservative government decided to introduce an automated payroll system that would supposedly pay for itself after several years by letting go of 700 compensation advisors in order save $70 million per year. However, insiders insisted that the system was not ready to launch in early 2016, and a combination of technical issues and a lack of training have led to hundreds of thousands of incorrect transactions. The current, Liberal government should have ended Phoenix, because it has had to spend $402 million fixing something that had already cost $310 million in the first place.
I presently work full-time as a Library Technician and Cataloguer on an eight-month co-op placement with the Parks Canada National Library in Cornwall, Ontario. I normally live in Kitchener-Waterloo and do not have a car. The work term is part of my studies towards a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS; “Plan C”) at Western University. At some point in April 2017, an error was introduced into Phoenix that caused my biweekly pay rate to be only 10% of what it should be, thus causing massive recalculations over my entire period of employment back to early January. On May 3rd, I received pay for a single day (instead of for two weeks), and on May 17th I started receiving no pay at all.
The government now owes me $5300, from $3800 in incorrectly assessed pay and more than $1500 in taxes incorrectly withheld even before the pay-rate error. My efforts to address the errors have not gotten me very far. I have contacted my manager, another manager, a staffing advisor, a finance and administration officer, an additional administrative officer, the Phoenix feedback process, and the Pay Centre, both by phone and by email. Everyone claims that the matter is out of their hands and that almost no-one has access to the necessary pay files.
Towards the end of May, the Government of Canada gave me an “emergency salary advance” covering 60% of what I’m owed for April. It is thus neither my salary–in fact, it is approximately minimum wage–nor an advance–as it is about a month late. Also, I once again did not get paid on May 31st, this time for the period from May 4-17. Meanwhile, Western University happily continues to post government co-op jobs, when it knows full well that these types of problems have been affecting student employees, especially at Parks Canada, for over a year.
My plan for the student co-op placement was that I would be able to save just enough money to pay my fees and tuition for the 2017 winter, summer, and fall terms and to complete my program by December. However, I did not have enough money at the end of May to pay the fees for my summer co-op placement and two courses. So, I had to drop one of the courses I started at the beginning of May. Also, given that I have no credit card or savings, I had to borrow $600 just to make it through to the end of June. I have no idea how I will cover my rent and groceries (and everything else) after the end of June.
I have my Ph.D. in Musicology (UCLA, 2003; “Plan A”) and recently researched and wrote Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion (2014) and Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion (2016). From 1999 to 2008, I taught dozens of music history courses as a part-time or visiting instructor at seven universities. I then studied Information Technology in 2009-10 (“Plan B”) and worked a little in website and web content development. Incredibly, $706 a month on welfare or an actual minimum-wage job are looking like pretty good options at this point!
See also Luisa D’Amato’s column in the Waterloo Region Record about how the Government of Canada’s terrible Phoenix payroll system has negatively affected me.