I’m having one of those great moments where I just very sweetly and sincerely love my job and my students. Last year in my huge crazy art appreciation class I assigned one of my TAs to come up with “a creative assignment that teaches them close listening skills.” He spent weeks on it and invented something that I think is so brilliant, and that manages to be creative in a kindergarteny way while also being really difficult, AND, it’s even kind of grade-able. I love my TAs. They do such a goddamn good job. There is no way in hell I would have ever had the time or mental space to come up with this assignment–I’m too paper-focused, anyway, which is why I gave it to him to design. A lot of my TAs are angling for careers teaching music in elementary or middle schools, and they often have such a good eye for how to engage super-musically-illiterate people in challenging and useful ways. I have no training whatsoever in doing this, so this class ends up being collaborative in a way I think is great. I am learning a lot, and my TAs are helping me. It’s the hardest TAship in the department and they are amazing.
Anyway I love grading this assignment. I am just grinning like a dipshit in the coffee shop. Even the students who sort of half-assed the assignment still clearly had a lot of the realizations I wanted them to have while doing it. IT IS SO FUN to make students do something and then see them get out of it the exact thing you wanted them to get out of it. Ha ha ha ha!!!!!! THEY ARE LEARNING! Omg
I had this same kind of moment last week while grading my music majors’ quizzes. It just suddenly struck me as hilarious and wonderful that they are actually learning things. That you can, like, quantifiably see it happening. Here they are, after only 7 weeks, confidently hearing the difference between 15th and 16th century mass movements, or knowing that an opera is a reform opera, or knowing that even though this is written in Latin it’s probably English. In class I was like “isn’t it crazy that you guys can do this now? Are you proud?” and they were like “YES!”
It is also funny that I now also know the difference between 15th and 16th century mass movements. I mean, what even is that. What the fuck am I doing, how did my life turn out this way. Who am I
It is very funny to be teaching music history to grad students and then to also be teaching it to gen-ed students. With the grad students it’s like “how might we understand this stylistic change through a political lens” and with the gen-ed students it’s like “WHICH SONG IS LOUDER, THIS ONE OR THIS ONE”
Both are really fun
I have a student who asked me to send her a list of music that “sounds like” the clip of Music for 18 Musicians I played in class. I sent her a bunch of Reich, Riley, Michael Gordon, etc. A week later she came up to me SO EXCITED, and said my playlist enabled her to run 7.2 miles, which she’s never done before. She said she was running past a forest while “Music for Pieces of Wood” was playing and it blew her mind, because the music matched what she was looking at. I could not be more delighted that a clearly high-performing college athlete has had her mind blown by Music for fucking Pieces of Wood. I mean really. I don’t know if anything has ever pleased me more than this interaction with this amazing girl.
I have 250 students and one moment like this is enough to make it all worth it. If I get 20 grade-grubbing emails or a plagiarist or if I have 20 students who think my class is bullshit and I am an idiot, this one interaction with this girl erases all the bad stuff. This is why I love my job and am able to do it in spite of the heart-breaking bullshit it also necessitates. The awful Kafkaesque nonsense of the job, the necessity of speaking in neoliberal gibberish when advocating for what you do, the weird sexism it’s hard to document (all the emotional labor you do with students that your male colleagues don’t do, and it’s no one’s fault, it’s just society,e.g.), the admin taking away your TAs but then demanding that you enroll just as many students in the class, the lip service paid to “serving student needs” when really what’s going on is selling out to corporations, the chipping away at tenure, the adjunctification of higher ed, the immoral skyrocketing of student tuition and fees, the fact that all my students have full-time jobs and are also tens of thousands of dollars in debt, the horrible building that should be condemned, the never-ending stack of grading, the physical toll taken by never having a day off, all the labor you do that no one ever acknowledges, etc. etc. etc. etc. but these moments where even just one student is excited in class make it ALL COMPLETELY WORTH IT, in such a naive and Polyanna-esque way. Part of me knows that is stupid and naive but part of me also doesn’t care. If one student hears Music for Pieces of Wood and realizes that they love it then I am happy. If one business major has one thought about art that is interesting then I am happy. I hope that I can keep feeling this way as the years go by. If I stopped feeling this way I would truly have an existential crisis. I don’t know how anyone could do this job if they didn’t feel this way.
I can never tell if I am an optimist or not. I feel absolutely certain humanity is going extinct and there is no point to anything, but I also am 100% delighted by some random kid enjoying Steve Reich. We truly are mysteries to ourselves.
last night we went out and got drunk at our local bar we love. The bartender said that he lives across the street from us and sees us walking the snoopy. He kept calling us “neighbor” and giving us little tastes of weird beers. At one point I asked him “which beer is this?” and he grabbed my glass and took a big swig of it. Later I said I wanted more beer but if I had a whole one I’d get sick, so he gave me more beer in this little like child-sized water glass. He put on Springsteen and we were all singing along loudly. He asked me if it was okay if he put on Black Sabbath and I said “that seems cool” and you know what? IT WAS COOL. This is a bar where dogs come in and hang out. Also last night a lady at the bar asked “who is that painting of?” and we all turned to look and it was just the absolutely standard, classic painting of Jesus, like, it literally could not have been anything else, and no one in America could possibly have looked at it and not instantly known it was Jesus. The bartender goes “uh….Jesus?” and everyone started laughing and laughing and laughing, even the lady
Also at the coffee shop they know my order!
My lifelong dream of “being a regular” is starting to come true. All I had to do was move to a small town in New England. On Tuesday when we went to vote, every candidate was standing in the parking lot waving. We also have traditional small town neighbors who do things like come over to tell us our basement screen door is unlatched. We have also befriended a small child named Dylan who lives down the street.
Although also, the other day my old man was walking home and some children were playing in the street. “SHOW US YOUR LICENSE” they yelled at him, pointing guns at him. He said “what are you guys doing, playing ‘checkpoint’?” After a pause, one of the kids pointed his gun at my old man’s face and pulled the trigger and made a shooting sound with his mouth.
So, America is cool and chill and being alive is fine
We also saw The Martian and it was so shitty we could not stop laughing. “It was the first time I have ever disliked Matt Damon,” said my old man, “I mean, as a person”
Ridley Scott! What a weirdo. He made Thelma and Louise! What on earth
It really completes the amazing “Shitty Mars” trilogy begun in the year 2000 with the nearly simultaneous release of “Red Planet,” starring Val Kilmer as a stranded astronaut whose main climactic move is to give the entire planet of Mars double middle fingers and say “fuck this planet” before blasting into space, and “Mission to Mars,” starring Don Cheadle as a stranded astronaut who meets a cartoon alien named “Darren” who shows him heaven.
I saw Red Planet with Jona and we laughed so hard. I saw Mission to Mars with Steve and we laughed so hard. Now, 15 years later, I have seen The Martian with my husband and we laughed so hard. I now feel that a huge cycle in my life has been completed, and now I can move on to other things.
The Martian made Interstellar look like Southland Tales
I truly am the King of references
I am in the best mood and there is basically no reason I should be. I will try to go home and not do anything or speak to anyone for as long as I can to try to make it last.
Yesterday I did yoga for the first time in 6 weeks. I did 10 minutes of stretching then immediately fell asleep on my mat. I woke up feeling insanely relaxed and ate a huge bag of popcorn. So it all worked out.