Jun 20, 2010

In Transit

Well, how'do!

I saw most (all?) of you a month ago, while visiting Iowa, although time has sort of gotten away from me since my return to Brooklyn. A lot has happened since I've been back.

On the academic front, my professors kindly allowed me to submit the Rumshinsky project for both classes, which helped reduce my stress level a teeny tiny bit. However, due to travel delays, and my poor planning, I arrived back at my apartment literally minutes before my paper was due. Although I accomplished a great deal while waiting at the airport in Kansas City, I still had about an hours' worth of finishing touches to do; one of many nice things about being a graduate student/legitimate scholar is that professors don't care much if you submit big projects a few hours past the official deadline. I ended up doing *very* well in both classes, and am quite relieved to be finished with all that work and have an opportunity to give my brain a bit of a rest.

On the home front, we commenced apartment-hunting the day after I got back to New York, and signed a lease on the first apartment we saw. This may seem hasty to you, but good apartments get snapped up around here at near light speed, and considering our somewhat unusual requirements (5 bedrooms or 4 bedrooms/2 living spaces), we didn't want to take the risk of passing the place up and ending up on the streets when our lease was up.

It's a pretty nice apartment, located about four blocks from the current place. And, it's on the first floor/basement with exclusive back yard access, which will be a refreshing change from living on the fourth floor of a walk-up! The bedrooms are all slightly bigger, which means that I can actually fit my bedroom furniture in my room! In fact, just this morning it was moved from my storage unit to the new apartment, which completed phase 1 of the moving process.

The only drawback is that the kitchen is TINY. The stove is about 2/3 the size of a normal stove, which is a bit worrisome given how much cooking we do. I'm seizing the opportunity to further downsize our stuff, and am consulting the Better Homes and Gardens Homemaking book for ideas on maximizing space and minimizing clutter and chaos.

On a side note, a lot of the things in the BHG homemaking book seem self-evident. Why wouldn't you clean your home regularly, and develop a daily/weekly/monthly cleaning schedule? Why wouldn't you utilize over the door hooks, storage drawers, and more to streamline your storage? Perhaps this comes from a combination of growing up with my mom and also living in New York apartments, which have inadequate to non-existent storage capabilities at best. Anyway: the book isn't mine, Nick found it in a stray box that was under our bed. Still, I continue to peruse it in hopes of stumbling across something of which I have not yet thought.

Moving day is Thursday, and we will be very glad when this whole process is over.

Apr 23, 2010

Update + Kitsch

In honor of Riva's new blog post, I shall update mine as well.*

Life is kind of bordering on chaotic at the moment. I chose two equally ambitious topics for my final research projects in my classes, and though I have been dutifully chipping away at them, my deadline to have everything finished and handed in is in one month. That doesn't include required drafts and presentations, which all happen in the next two weeks. I am trying not to panic too badly about all of this, but am having scant success.

This week I did a few things that are completely out of the ordinary for me, though hopefully not for long. I spent Wednesay, my non-Starbucks day of work, at the New York Public Library's main branch in Midtown. Therein lies the Dorot Jewish Studies division, an archival collection of ... Jewish studies. And they had some literature and sheet music on my New York Yiddish theater project (Rumshinsky research, as I call it). I spent five straight hours sitting in the most opulent reading room of any library ever, poring through elusive books and sheet music, and more or less oblivious to the passing of time and tourists. I had also been in touch with a music archivist from the Center for Jewish History, a conglomeration of five private Jewish foundations, about my research topic. As it turned out, she was available to meet with me yesterday, as I was already at work, so at the last minute, I found myself hastening the five blocks to CJS to do some research. Fortunately I had my materials from the previous day on hand, so I wasn't at a complete loss.

The music archivist turned out to be an older Jewish woman, and I felt a bit badass as she led me (slowly) out of the reading room through a staff door, down a very long hallway, up a short flight of stairs, and through a locked door to the YIVO offices and archives. We sat and discussed my research. She had already looked up a bit of information on Rumshinsky before our meeting, and showed me what she had found. YIVO, you see, has a sheet music collection over seven feet long which, if you think about how little space sheet music occupies, is a pretty substantial collection indeed. As I sat at a table in the middle of the office, poring through the catalog of the sheet music holdings, I couldn't help but be slightly envious of the lucky archivist who got to compile the catalog in the first place.

Anyway. After finding the correct numbers, I had to go back down to the reading room (a truly impressive library) in order to request to see the sheet music. Which I obviously did. Best part, though, is that the YIVO archivist on duty let me go back up to the offices to photocopy things myself! Again, I felt pretty badass.

My other research project is turning out to be not nearly as glamorous: tracing the spread of tango from Argentina to Europe and America. Finland has a pretty impressive tango tradition, and it has been interesting to ponder the global appeal of tango and how Finnish tango developed in concurrence with, and diverged from, Argentine tango.

Next weekend I am participating in a musicological discussion for a conference happening at the Graduate Center: Graduate Studies in Music Symposium, GSIMS for short. The abstract I had sent to them was not accepted to the conference proper, but along with a handful of other graduate students, I was invited to take place in a morning discussion. I accepted, of course. Doing so means several hours' worth of reading and listening to required books and scores in preparation, as if I didn't have enough to keep me busy already. Still, it's something for the resume.

To keep from going crazy, I've been doing a bit of stitching. The other night I finished this tea towel for Nick's dad. I made it entirely myself, from buying the fabric, to cutting and squaring and hemming it, to stamping that awesomely anthropomorphic pattern, to sewing it, to painstakingly adding the rick rack at the bottom. And it's easily the kitschiest thing I've made thusfar in my crafting endeavors, although now that Mamamia has sent me my sewing machine, that might change altogether.

 In other, non-academic/crafty news, I booked a ticket back to Iowa for the end of next month. It's going to be kind of a short trip, but I am looking forward to seeing everyone!

Mar 25, 2010

Because the sky is blue

I fear I have somehow, unknowingly angered the gods that govern my success/failure in life. The rift between my academic undertakings and my job has never seemed more wretchedly pronounced than in the past few weeks, especially in light of all of Nick's recent successes.

Contrary to what some of you may think, I don't really enjoy my job at Starbucks. I've stayed there in an effort to prove to everyone (namely myself) that I am nothing like -----, but maybe that's already obvious to those of you who know whose name I have omitted. I actually have been sending out resumes when time/energy permits, but nothing has turned up so far. In the meantime, I become increasingly resentful at having to expend time and energy towards a job in which I am smarter than both customers and coworkers, and more competent (some would say) than my boss. I suppose that's why they want to promote me again (yes, really), but as you might imagine, I am something less than thrilled at the prospect of having to spend more time and more energy in an environment whose expectations I so greatly surpass.

On the other hand, not having a job is not an option, much as I would like to actually have time to devote to my research and crafts. I have debated setting up an Etsy shop, but I'd have to sell a LOT of stuff to even bring in half of what I make at Starbucks each month. So Etsy, for now, isn't really an option, either.

By contrast, my academic life is going stunningly well, all things considered. My Piazzolla proposal was accepted by neither the Yale Graduate Symposium or the Graduate Center, but I have been invited to the GSIMs conference as a non-presenting participant, and I get to participate in the morning large-group discussion, so that's something. Yesterday, without quite meaning to, I caused about half of my opera class to erupt into chaotic yelling over how the Israel/Palestine conflict is (inaccurately) presented to many American Jews. On the other hand, the class has never been louder or more sincere than yesterday in discussing why Adams' Death of Klinghoffer incites such a passionate response. And I pulled my academic self together enough today to hand in an adequate outline on my final Ethnomusicology project, concerning tango. Not only that, I gave an excitingly relevant presentation in class this evening on Matisyahu and "Orthodox" reggae. Despite the fact that I have largely dis-engaged from being an Orthodox Jew, I am nevertheless genuinely, compulsively interested in Jewish studies as they relate to music. Hopefully after this week people will still take me seriously when I talk about non-Jewish topics in class! So that's a couple more somethings.

I realize that many of you who read my blog don't quite understand why I remain in school, trying to attain an academic life. What if I told you that my writing is every bit as good as some of my professors, only their work has been published and mine hasn't? What if I told you that, minus some background reading I should probably do at some point, I am as smart as they, and equally as capable (though not as experienced) at teaching college classes? I was lucky enough as an undergraduate to take a few philosophy classes, the nature (not content) of which completely changed my approach to academia and how I engaged with it. In some ways, I suppose I view my academic mission as passing on what I learned as an undergraduate, hoping that I'll have another opportunity to teach college class, and beyond that, with any kind of luck at all, that I'll inspire other students to embrace and engage with their intelligence.

Feb 26, 2010

Make Do and Sew: How Devo Kept Busy During the Blizzard

Last night I was reading a craft blog. This isn't a terribly unusual occurrence, as I follow several, but the following was a bit out of the ordinary: a comment about 'crafting' one's way out of emergencies. While needle and thread, or even paper and glue, won't fix a flat tire in rush hour, needle and thread can transform a stubborn futon mattress into a docile couch cushion.

And that is how I spent my afternoon. See, the contents of my apartment are a hodge-podge assortment of things abandoned by former tenants, things randomly found, and things the three of us have brought in. One such item, a combination of something found and something brought in, is our couch. It isn't really a couch. It's half of a queen bed with a queen size futon mattress sort of folded atop. It isn't a very comfortable or graceful seating situation, but we'd all been kind of politely tolerating it.

We live on the fourth floor of a walkup building, so buying and transporting a new/used couch is what you might call a non-option until we move this summer. Pending the discovery of the home upholstery section of the fabric store, I had been idly considering buying some couch seat cushions and upholstering them myself. But then today an idea struck, unlike any I'd ever had before, and because I had the time (it was my day off from both school and work, plus it is blizzarding outside), I set about making it happen.

The problem with the futon mattress is that it was unevenly bulky when folded in half. But because of its heft, we couldn't simply fold part of it, for the thing would promptly unfold. However, if I sewed the outer edges of the fold together, .... folks, I ran down our uber-long hallway to the kitchen, snatched the first needle and spool of thread I could find, and raced back to the couch to see if such a simple plan would actually work.

*dramatic pause*

It did. The mattress fold is being kept in place by a zigzagging hot pink thread (doubled for strength), and our 'couch' is considerably more comfortable and startlingly less bulky than I can ever remember it being.

And that is how I learned the true meaning of the phrase, 'make do and sew.'

Feb 20, 2010

A pithy update

Life has been interesting of late.

Tuesday, following Nick's interview last weekend, brought the news that Nick was admitted to the CUNY Graduate Center's doctoral program in music composition. Also, he may very well be funded through adjunct lecturing and/or a fellowship, which would be really awesome.

Class resumed the last week in January. I am taking an Ethnomusicology survey class (studying various non-Western musics of the world) and another American history seminar, Opera and Culture Since 1900, led by my academic advisor. Both classes are considerably work-intensive, although both subject areas are quite interesting.

New York had a small blizzard last week, which sort of shut down the city for several hours and resulted in the cancellation of Wednesday class. Snow day! It also gave me the smallest of hints as to what spending the winter in Iowa might be like this year. :)

I've been doing a lot of sewing lately, pending the discovery over winter break that New York not only has a Michael's, but also like a bazillion places to buy fabric and sewing notions. My shop of choice is on the Lower East Side, several blocks downtown from Canal Street. Not only do they sell DMC floss for relatively cheap, they also have piles of yarn and an entire wall of sewing notions-simple things like tailor's chalk, hem gages, buttons, zippers, and thread. Not to mention the fabric. There is a LOT of fabric-the basement is devoted to upholstery fabric and cushions. The main floor has ... well, everything else. Cotton flannels, silks, polyester, cotton, calico, muslin, ginghams, linen .... and so much more. In short, my stash of fabric exceeds my ideas for what the heck to do with it.

So I'm trying some things. I've been reading up on hand applique, and am attempting it as we speak, on a stuffed Valentine bear project. Making potholders is something I've been meaning to try for a year or two. After finding a square flapper embroidery pattern online several weeks ago, the inspiration struck, and so two small squares of olive green Fiesta cotton are being put to use for this purpose.

Not to mention the tea towels. By now most of you have received at least one embroidered tea towel from me. I had been using the flour sack towels from Target: they were relatively cheap, and of good quality. Then the brand changed and so did the towels- the weave is pretty awful now, which means I had been casting about for another (cheap) solution. My first trip in to the fabric store solved it: they had a 2-1/2 yard remnant of this yellow cotton that was PERFECT for towels. So I bought it. And washed it, and cut it and squared it. The result is six nice lengths of fabric which, once I hem them, will make some excellent towels.

Uh-anyway. I got a bit carried away with all that craft stuff. Sorry about that.

Hope you all are well, and surviving the winter weather!