Jul 7, 2013

Adventures in Academia: The Conney Conference

A few posts ago, I scratched the surface of what kinds of shenanigans I had been involved with in my academic life.  To be perfectly honest: I don't discuss my academic life much here.  Things--meaningful things--seem to get lost in the process of explaining, for example, the importance of academic conferences and the publish or perish mantra that so colors my professional world.  Discussing weddings I've attended and food I've made seems like a safer, if not more mundane and acceptable option for blogging purposes, if only because these topics are less likely to inspire awkward silences and confusion that the act of telling you about my academic life seems to inspire.

That being said: the Conney Conference on Jewish Arts, at which I presented this past spring, has recently uploaded videos of all the presentations onto its website, and so I thought perhaps you might like to see first (second?)-hand part of what I do as an academic.  

Without further ado, a link to the video page.  My presentation link is the third from the top: http://conneyproject.wisc.edu/videos-2013/  

The Conney Conference is a project of the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. This conference was really awesome in so many ways--an interesting, yet balanced mix of artists and academics from visual, dramatic, performance, musical, and yes--even culinary/domestic!--arts presented on a wide array of topics.  Everyone there was really friendly, not to mention extremely engaged, and the overall synergy was amazing to experience.

I did not take very many photos at this conference.  For one thing, the entire thing was videotaped, and is now online.  Additionally, the weather--early April in the Midwest--was rather unpleasant.  It was either quite cold, rainy, windy, or all three for the duration of the conference.  However, I did enjoy walking around downtown Madison, an area that is extraordinarily logically laid out.  I also enjoyed some fried cheese curds on more than one occasion, which I am pretty sure is a requirement for anyone visiting America's Dairyland.

The final morning of the conference, everyone met at Gates of Heaven, which is this little (former) synagogue (shown at left) that is situated right on the shore of Lake Mendota.  The dancers in residence had put together a presentation for everyone to watch, and then at the end we sat around, ate bagels (because what else would one eat at a Jewish arts conference?) and talked about how awesome the week had been.


Jun 14, 2013

More Springtime Shenanigans

I know ... I know ... I just posted!   And here's another one!  You will probably enjoy this post more, since it has some awesome pictures and is less ... boring ... than reading about the ins and outs of academic life.

Memorial Day weekend, Nick and I attended the wedding of our friends JeanAnn and Eric.  They are both really awesome people, so we knew their wedding would be really awesome as well.  Little did we know, however, that this would actually end up being the most awesome wedding either of us have ever attended.  Actually, if facebook is any indication, a lot of people who were in attendance came away with a similar sentiment.  Furthermore, I like to think that this is almost exactly (minus the food trucks, maybe) the kind of wedding that Nick and I would plan for ourselves, if either of us was susceptible to the idea of getting married.  So you should definitely keep reading.

What made this wedding so awesome, you ask?

1. Location: The wedding and reception were both held in Brooklyn, at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk house.  As you can see, it's a gorgeous home, and the wedding was held outside in the spacious garden area.

2. Food: In the style of true New Yorkers, the dinner and dessert came from food trucks.


Each of us got these cute little menus with the dinner and dessert offerings.  Dinner was tacos/little sandwiches catered by Mexicue, with one's choice of yummy fillings.  The best part is that it was self serve--everyone enjoyed the experience of waiting on line at the taco truck, and then ordering exactly what they wanted.  Of course, once we were given our food, the challenge of consuming said deliciousness without spilling anything on our nice clothes ensued.

Dessert was ice cream sandwiches--again, self serve, and we got to pick not only what kind of cookie, but also what kind of ice cream.  Totally a win-win.

3.  Music: JeanAnn and Eric both have an affinity for New Orleans, JeanAnn having earned her bachelor's degree from Tulane University.  So they hired a Dixieland jazz band to play the reception.  Given that so many of the guests were theatrical/musical types, many of them also being Tulane alumni, the reception was a big hit, as everyone there really knew how to cut loose and have a good time.  (and surely the vast amounts of spirits that were consumed helped with this ...)

Also, those New Orleaners really know their jazz stuff--some of the guests talked the band into doing a second line.  A second line, by the way, originated from jazz parades/jazz funerals.  The personnel involved (musicians, family of the deceased, etc.) comprise the first line, and the second line is ... everyone else.  Minus a funeral or a parade, second lining consists of walking/dancing around in a line, waving handkerchiefs and parasols.  Some smart cookie was clearly planning ahead on this one, because no sooner did the band line up for the second line, than boxes of parasols were produced for those who did not come prepared.

Check out this picture taken (I think) by one of the guests.  This is the front of the second line, but as far as candid wedding photos go, this seems to be quite the epitome of very, very awesome.

4.  Last, though certainly not least, this wedding was covered by the NEW YORK TIMES and was actually just published (see link below).   I'm telling you, this wedding was all kinds of classy/awesome awesomeness.

It's no small feat to get the New York Times to cover one's wedding, and it's even harder to make the cut on a holiday weekend.  Among my small circle of friends, family, and acquaintances, May has a record number of birthdays and anniversaries, so for the Times to cover my friends' wedding over Memorial Day weekend ... that's one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The New York Times article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/fashion/weddings/a-rented-truck-was-the-stage-for-romantic-comedy.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Jun 12, 2013

Publish or Perish: Devo's Adventures in Academia

It's June ... another semester in the books, and it was kind of a doozy.

On the PhD front this semester, I passed one language exam, and am now just two classes, an additional language exam, and one massive comprehensive exam away from being ABD (all but dissertation).   The idea is that I will attain ABD status in early February.  In the meantime, I will try not to think about what an oversized undertaking the Fall 2013 semester will be by dwelling instead on some of the other happenings of this past semester.

The motto of everyone in academia is 'publish or perish.'  Perhaps to you (nonscholars) this seems a bit extreme, but to me this slogan has become par for the course.  Somehow, inexplicably, I really snapped into scholar mode about a year ago and have been sending out proposal after proposal to be vetted by my advisors before submitting them to be considered for academic conferences, fellowships, and grants.  I would like to say I have had really spectacular success in this endeavor.  Actually, my advisors would probably insist to all of you, as they have repeatedly to me, that I am, in fact, pretty successful considering I'm only two years in as a PhD student.  And as far as conference proposals, my success rate this year has been a whopping 100%.


As far as various funding sources, however, my success rate is only about 50%--half of the fellowship/grant proposals I've sent off this past year have been accepted, but the ones that were rejected were awards that totaled almost 3x as much as the ones I received.  There are always more things for which to apply, however, and so every time another call for proposals lands in my inbox, I pull out my abstracts and prepare to send them out once again ....  

Of course, the 'next step' in the academic process is getting published, a feat which has very much been on my mind of late.  This is somewhat easier than it sounds, given the number of scholarly periodicals that accept article submissions and the evident interest in my research as suggested by my conference proposal acceptance rate.  All in good time ...

Mar 3, 2013

[insert clever title here]

Hello again.

Well.  I finished the fall semester with no harm done, just in time to catch a plane to Durango, where Nick and I spent Christmas with Nick's mother.  It was snowy, cozy, and wonderful--just the thing after  all of the happenings of last fall.  We had a very quiet New Year's eve, and then Nick taught a condensed Music Appreciation course during the January break.

I swear I was going to post a month ago, telling you about our approach to food and some of the delicious dinners we enjoyed this winter .... that obviously didn't happen.  But we managed to turn the leftovers from a very nice New Year's eve dinner of creamed spinach, roasted lamb and squash, scalloped potatoes, and truffle cheese into lamb pot pies (lamb and squash leftovers), a spinach quiche (creamed spinach and truffle cheese), and stock (made from vegetable scraps and bits of fat from the lamb).   I tried a curried lentil recipe that yielded mixed results--Nick really liked it, and I really didn't.  We also experimented with various chili recipes.  Prior to this winter, my only direct experience with it was my mom's approach (ground beef + celery + condensed tomato soup).  Nick, who comes from chili country, having grown up much closer to Texas than I, found this politely amusing, and is a huge fan of the method we've developed over the past month, which includes bone-in chuck steak, dried beans, and crushed tomatoes.

One of my favorite results of the chili experiments has been baked eggs, which uses chili as the 'base' of the dish.

In other news, we have some new household acquisitions.  As many of you know, we have been saving up for a new bed since September, and finally had the time and patience to do our research and shopping in January.  We ended up buying a bigger bed (full -->queen), which also meant purchasing a new box spring.  After a lot of comparison and research, we took a leap of faith and bought a memory foam mattress from Amazon, and a new bed frame (with head- and footboard) from Overstock.  I felt sorry for our UPS guy, who delivered these heavy/unwieldy packages over the span of only two days.  And then of course, we had to put everything together, which was its own adventure.  But our new bed is amazing, and Nick and I are both surprised at how much better we feel in general than we did a couple of months ago.

Our other new item is a fridge.  Well ... new to us anyway.  When we first signed the lease on our current apartment, we expressed some concern over the state of the fridge.  The prior tenants were not terribly tidy people, it seems, on top of which, the fridge had been unplugged but not properly defrosted in the process of the painting/renovations that were just being finished when we moved in.  The freezer had some pretty gross mold as a result, and I'll let you guess which of us (me, Nick, or the landlord) ended up with the task of cleaning it.   ..... ANYWAY, we weren't sure whether the funky mold smell and stains would ever fully go away, and then in the course of using the fridge, it turns out that the freezer just didn't work very well.  Finally, after weeks of back-and-forth with the landlord, it turned out that the building super had a used, fully functional brand-name fridge sitting in the basement.  Said super not only brought this fridge up to our apartment, but also returned to remove  the old one.  Our 'new' fridge has kind of a loud motor and a funky door layout, but is consistently cold and lacks the funky smell/ potentially lurking mold/questionable past of the other one.  Plus it has door handles ... who could ask for anything more?

Although Nick and I are keeping plenty busy with teaching, classes, gigs, etc., we have managed to get out and do a few fun things since the beginning of the year.  At the top of our to-do list has been visiting the NYPL main branch, which has in its permanent collection the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals.  Some of Nick's favorite books as a child were the stories of Pooh and friends, and so spending some time in the Children's Library, where they are displayed, made for a very sweet afternoon.

Also high on our list of things to see was the MTA Transit Museum.  Nick had actually visited with his parents as a child, but the Museum has expanded significantly since then, and so we both saw a lot of new subway and bus things.  My favorite part was seeing all of the awesome ads in the subway cars, like this one for Schmulka Bernstein's cold cuts.  But there were others: Etti-Cat reminders for proper behavior during one's commute, a bazillion ads for various kinds of booze, and the Miss Subway competition/winner announcements.  Last weekend I took a trip to my favorite ice cream shop, Ample Hills Creamery, located in my old neighborhood.  For a few days before the Oscars, they offer the most amazing flavor of ice cream ever, called "Oscar nite": large chunks of red velvet cake generously smooshed into sweet cream ice cream.  Unlike cake shakes and other cake ice creams, the red velvet cake used here (which also had a ton of frosting, by the way) seemed to have been specially formulated for the purpose of using in ice cream (quite simply, it was dry enough that the cake didn't get soggy until the third or fourth day after purchase).   Last year, the first year they made it, I missed out on the amazingness, but this year I was determined to give "Oscar nite" a try, and purchased an entire pint for good measure.  And given the variety of responses to the awards ceremony itself, I think that "Oscar nite" beat "Oscar night" hands down.

Monday night Nick and I both attended a screening of Future Perfect, our good friend-and-vacation-buddy Liam's Master's thesis film, which was sponsored by his alma mater's alumni association (the screening, not the film). We enjoyed some free food and wine, and a nice chat with our other Cape vacay buddies Kevin and Vanessa.  And the screening!  The film was a rough cut, which meant that it's still in the editing phase of production, and shots and sounds may differ from the final version.  Nick will be doing sound editing for this film, so his attendance was required.  After the screening, Liam, Nick, and other crew members participated in a Q&A session with members of the audience.  Overall it was a nice evening, and everyone (around here) is looking forward to seeing the final cut of the film later this spring.