Zombie

I read an article in The Atlantic recently that talked about the preponderance of zombie movies in Western popular culture.  It likened our fixation with the unstoppable, plodding undead with the slow, inexorable permeation of technology into our lives.  Answer all your emails?  Here’s ten more.  You can’t kill them.  Read the news already today?  Here’s another dozen articles that are just like it, but contain maybe one more piece of information.  We’ve become victims of our own technology; it’s slow, shambling, coming for us, and we can’t kill it. Vampires, the sexy (and sometimes sparkly) ones, get a lot of attention early on, but it turns out that zombies have some sort of staying power.  Maybe it’s that they just keep coming; no personality, no vengeance, it’s just what they do.  So, while the sexy vampires sit on the sidelines, we get overtaken by zombie movies and references. Not to beat a dead horse, or un-dead horse for that matter, my dissertation project has seemed a lot like a zombie movie.  I submitted it to the grad school today.  Each step of the way has seemed fraught with uncertainty and danger, and the minute I think I’m done with something, it stands back up and lurches toward me.  I don’t dare rest, because something that was finished yesterday just won’t die. For instance, the title of my dissertation has gained or shed a colon in the middle a number of times.  I’m not sure what a colon has to do with anything, but it’s been expressed to me in absolutes several times that my title must or must...

Doctor Love

I’m applying for jobs.  I’ve been applying for jobs basically since I quit my job in MI.  But my applications have increased in frequency and skill as I get closer to graduation, and the net I’m casting has broadened significantly as well.  By sheer force of repetition and introspection I’ve gotten good at writing cover letters and reading between the lines on job postings.  I’ve also started to think about what completing my graduate work means for my job prospects. I will graduate with my “Doctor of Musical Arts” degree in May.  At least that’s the plan.  And when that happens, I need to go get a jobby job.  I’ll take most anything.  I’m emotionally constipated about that part, even though I shouldn’t really be.  I’ll find something to do, whether it’s in arts, education, software, or motorcycle repair.  Something will happen. But in between my struggles to get my page numbers right (4 hours of fighting yesterday afternoon) and get my opening chapter to read like it was written by a human being, I’ve had some conversations with friends and mentors.  I mentioned the idea a few times of removing my doctorate from my resume for any non-academic job application.  Some people (students) can’t understand why, but most professionals immediately nod their heads.  With that doctorate on there, I’m “overqualified.”  Whatever that means. I jokingly said to a friend that after I graduate I’ll make everyone call me Doctor for a week, including my roommates.  And then take the DMA off the resume and go back to just plain old Dan.  But for that week, I’ll wear my...

On Conferences

Like many college students, I was told when I was young that conferences were a great place to network, to learn what is going on in my field, and to stay abreast of the newest, coolest things coming out.  Away from school, away from our professional environment and peers, we jokingly said that conferences were really just an excuse to get out of town and go drinking with old friends.  But still I went. Over the following years I have performed, judged, competed, attended, and crashed conferences.  I’d like to think that I have an open and inquisitive mind, but so many of those conferences only had one or two presentations I wanted to see.  Not that I didn’t want to learn new things, but so many of the presentations looked like fluff, or had nothing to do with me.  Recently, I have found myself disappointed in the offerings, and not attending any of the presentations.  I go, shake hands, see a performance (if it’s a music conference), and explore the town. I did my undergraduate degree in music; I initially wanted to be a high school band director, but somewhere along the way decided I’d rather not do that, but couldn’t bear the idea of not making music.  I switched to a degree in performance, and hit the practice room, mentally set to win an audition.  I was all about professionalism, all about getting prepared for the “real world,” and all about running on the tread mill faster than anyone around me. One of the things I see happening in the conference world has me concerned. It’s the...

Sojourner’s Lament

I’m almost done with my doctorate.  I’m simultaneously happy and sad.  I read in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where the author talks about the re-orientation he goes through when he arrives at a place.  The journey is one mind set, and it’s almost better than arriving.  Maybe not almost.  For me, the journey is better than the arrival. I was talking on the phone to my mom a week or so ago, and she commented that she was so impressed at how I had “beaten” procrastination.  It makes me think of the photo of the fat guy wearing a t-shirt that says “I beat anorexia.” I don’t think I so much beat it as didn’t think a thing about it.  I didn’t know I was procrastinating when I was young, and I don’t really think about being “responsible” now that I’m a professional.  I didn’t really worry about arriving at “grown up,” or exactly how things would be. But I have to admit, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I died when I was 18, and the doctorate was on that list.  Near the top in fact.  Yeah, I’m that nerd.  The strange thing about that list; as much as it’s a focal point, my light on the horizon, it’s not who I am.  And more to the point, except for one thing on that list, “arriving” at those successes is always more hollow than the journey. One of the things I put on that list was to play in a professional symphony orchestra.  I won my first principal tuba gig...

Thinking in Narrative

There are many styles of writing.  I’m good at some of them, not so good at others.  Haiku, Limerick, first-person narrative, etc.  I get it.  But my dissertation is in that infamous third-person impersonal context that I’ve never been able to wrap my head around.  And it’s obvious upon reading my document that I’m not quite there. I had my dissertation defense this morning.  I passed, pending changes.  It’s about as I figured.  But the discussion I had with my committee was enlightening.  They got what I was saying, but stressed that I wasn’t saying it very well.  And for someone who journals, writes, reads, edits, as much as I do, to not communicate with the written word seems odd.  I got compliments about the clarity of my study, the quality of the project, but not the writing, not the message. Part of the problem, I think, is that my greatest strength is story-telling.  Give me a good narrative line, and let me go.  But academic writing is specifically non-narrative.  I keep mashing my head against the brick wall of action.  In an academic paper, it is common for things to be found, be determined, be discussed.  But no one is doing the discussing.  No one owns the action.  And though I understand how that sort of writing is supposed to work, at least in my head, I can’t seem to shoehorn my storytelling into that non-active, impersonal style. But as it turns out, I have two weeks to figure it out.  The final draft of the document is due March...