The groves of academe

Even before 2008’s economic collapse, the way in which academe treated adjunct faculty deserved a second look. When I explain to students who complain about how “badly” an associate or full professor teaches, I remind them that a professor’s primary responsibility is to conduct research; if a professor is an assistant on a tenure track, this responsibility becomes as necessary as breathing. A couple of horror stories:

“It can be a tremendous amount of work,” said Alex Kudera. Kudera started teaching in 1996 and is the author of a novel about adjunct professorship, “Fight For Your Long Day.” “When I was an adjunct, I didn’t have a social life. It’s basically just work all the time. You plan your weekend around the fact that you’re going to be doing work Saturday and Sunday — typically grading papers, which is emotionally exhausting. The grading can be tedious but at least it’s a private thing. It’s basically 5-10 hours a day for every day of the week.”

One professor from Indiana who spoke to Salon preferred to remain anonymous. “At some point early in my adjunct career, I broke down my pay hourly. I figured out that I was making under minimum wage and then I stopped thinking about it,” he said. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I essentially design my own courses. And sometimes I don’t find out how many courses I’m going to be teaching until maybe Thursday and they start Monday. … So I have to develop a course, and it’s been the case where one summer I taught English 102 where the course was literally dropped in my lap three days before it started and I had to develop it entirely from scratch. It didn’t even have a text book. That was three 16-hour days in a row developing a syllabus. … You’re expected to be in contact with students constantly. You have to be available to them all the time. You’re expected to respond to emails generally within 24 hours. I’m always on-call. And it’s one of my favorite parts of my job, I don’t regret it, but if you factored those on-call hours in, that’d be the end of it. I’d be making 50 cents an hour.”

These experiences match what I’ve heard colleagues share. I also know adjuncts who awaken, remind themselves what day of the week it is, and drive to one of the three or four institutions at which they teach. If they’re lucky, they teach three courses at three grand each. If they can command this price for a year that’s $27,000 a year to deal with emails, office hours, grading, and repetition.

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‘He thought that woman and drinking made a man’

He’s got his fans: people who revere his writerly sensibilities in 1984 backed up by a band that understands this reverence and not a note more. But in the same eighteen-month period in which Matthew Sweet triumphed with Girlfriend Cole used him as bassist and the same rotating batch of lower Manhattan musicians that had backed Sweet, Lou Reed, and Green Gartside to record an excellent 1990 eponymous album and 1991’s Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe, which, I gotta admit, has better songs than Girlfriend (on which Cole plays rhythm guitar). This is the single, Cole’s highest charting modern rock single, co-written with Robert Quine. I prefer it to “Evangeline.” Again, I may be alone.

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How to be an effective male critic

Single Jukeboxer Crystal Leww has advice for male critics:

For casual music writing and reading dudes, it’s important to look at your own biases, too:

– Is your group of music writing friends all dudes? Great, you’ve got a problem. Fix it.

– Are you primarily reading music writing done by white dudes? Okay, time to think of some new writers to follow. Read Rookie! Read The Toast! Read Hello Giggles! These should not be considered websites exclusively for girls or women. They should be required reading for everyone.

– Did a woman call something you wrote sexist? What’s her tone? Nope, trick question — it doesn’t matter; your initial instinct will to be defensive, but you should listen and take it to heart and be better next time.

It’s not the job of the woman to educate or inform. My friendships with women are very well documented online. Do the work and figure them out. And follow those women because they are brilliant, hilarious, thoughtful, fearless, and biting. You’ll find there are more of them than you think.

As a critic who’s made these mistakes myself, her counsel is sage. If you’re a man accused of writing sexist sentence, step away from the computer. Smoke a cigarette. Have a drink. Exercise. Then return to the computer to answer. Chances are, if a majority of women said you offended them, accept it and re-examine your approach in the next review.

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A dream, not a present: The Juan MacLean

The Juan Maclean – In a Dream

Responses to the dance act’s third album will depend on tolerance for Nancy Whang, whose pipes can sound too workaday for John MacLean’s post-house arrangements. On 2008’s “Happy House” she kept up with the thundering keyboards, creating the impression that she was another woman lost in music, caught in a trance; the “you” who is “so excellent” could be MacLean himself, creator of one of the new century’s most exuberant singles. In a Dream‘s reliance on midtempo stuff like “Running Back to You” test Whang’s empathetic powers; trying to sound lovelorn she instead sounds diffident, which might’ve worked if the swirling arrangements foiled her. On the other hand she gets an entrance halfway through “A Place Called Space” worthy of a star. That track, anchored by a sequencers, thrusts of MacLean guitar, and whooshes and beeps, summons the menergy of Patrick Cowley. The DFA way, in other words: treating decades like vinyl crates, searching for the correct interstices of punk and disco. With LCD Soundystem on alleged hiatus and Holy Ghost! still figuring out how the hell Bernard Sumner got away with winsome in 1989, and with all due respect to Classixx (for whose “All You’re Waiting For” Whang cut a vocal), The Juan MacLean are the only ones still using 2002 as a DeLorean. From the dawn of the Reagan era they shimmy into a Bush I dance floor for “Here I Am,” whose keyboard colors summon 808 State’s “Ooops.” Whenever Maclean cedes the track to himself the party stops: in “Love Stops Here” he sounds like Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kapan murmuring pretty maxims over syncopated shimmers. Although In a Dream is solid, and the likes of “A Simple Design” need no defense just sweat, nothing feels at stake; it doesn’t even bother flirting with transgression, a decision embodied in Whang and MacLean’s self-containment. To summon the past for listeners born too late for house is defensible, but set beside Hercules & Love Affair’s The Feast of the Broken Heart the album honors its title. A few months ago I was skeptical of The Feast‘s own nostalgic mirror moves. Now I understand more clearly the precision and ruthlessness with which it channels shared memories into an angry present. The problems from which we fled onto the dance floor in 1992 are still with us.

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Talking dissonance with Owen Pallett

I haven’t discussed On a Path enough. Owen Pallett’s album uses narrative, strings, and dissonance in such unexpected ways that I understand why a few people to whom I’ve recommended it have treated at me as if I had leprosy sores (my May review). It’s one of the year’s best. It was a pleasure to read Chris Randle’s interview and get answers explaining how form expresses content:

Chris: Sequencing feels like a musical element that people don’t consider nearly often enough despite how integral it is, so I’m happy to see you go into so much detail. Having gone through that intentionally absurd exercise with the musicological analyses of various pop singles you’ve been doing for Slate, did you find yourself thinking differently about In Conflict at all?

Owen: A little bit, yes. A lot of ‘70s Motown and ‘80s indie (R.E.M., The Smiths) buries its complexity in the guitarness of it. The timbre of guitars naturally obscures the harmonic complexity; you wouldn’t realize how complicated those songs are until you sat down to play them. The academic-ness of those bands’ songs feels natural and graceful. I compare that to my own writing, and I think sometimes I get too deliberate—“Song for Five and Six” is itself a punny title, referring to both the double deceptive V-to-VI cadences in the chord progression, and that the breakdown is a 5/16 riff over a 6/4 loop. Also, the song is about soccer, five players on defence and six on offence—and in the album sequence, it’s track four, so you get the pun “Song four, five and six”—alluding to the denseness of the track—followed by “The secret seven.

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Cocktails at Denny’s: ‘the nadir’ of NYC’s ‘suburbanization’

On one hand I applaud the return to a time in American culture when asking for the “adult drink” menu made one a laughing stock and one didn’t compete with children over who ordered the bigger Coke, but on the other hand Denny’s. You too can order an aperol spritz with your Moons Over My Hammy at this tony Manhattan location. Troy Patterson sighs:

Many press reports about this Denny’s have fixated on its signature stunt item, the Grand Cru Slam, and why not? The meal—breakfast for two and a bottle of Dom Perignon, yours for $300—captures the mood of New York’s defilement in one concise gesture, indicating both the apotheosis of late-phase nihilistic capitalism and the latest nadir of the city’s suburbanization.

I thought Applebee’s existed for those craving a Manhattan to wash down the Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp. I do miss smoking sections.

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Singles 9/19

I could’ve mentioned Tinashe in my piece about female R&B, but she’s doing alright, collaborating with Schoolboy Q and shit. What’s amazing is how well the Calvin Harris ethos still sells singles in England and, god help us, America. Maroon 5 still sell records even though they exist to give Adam Levine the illusion that he has mates instead of hired hands.

Also: Fall Out Boy and Aphex Twin make nondescript comebacks.

Click on links for full reviews.

Tinashe ft. A$AP Rocky – Pretend (7)
Aphex Twin – minipops 67 [120.2] (6)
Duke Dumont – Won’t Look Back (5)
Gabylonia – Tirano (5)
Gerard Way – No Shows (5)
Amy Lee – Push the Button (4)
Mike Jay – Birthday Suit (4)
BJ the Chicago Kid – Perfect (4)
Fall Out Boy – Centuries (3)
Maroon 5 – It Was Always You (3)
Calvin Harris ft. John Newman – Blame (2)
3LAU ft. Bright Lights – How You Love Me (2)
Bebe Rexha – I Can’t Stop Drinking About You (1)

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