The New Normal, or Is That a Summer Hiatus Coming On?

For those readers not accustomed to the ways of academic blogs (which is mostly academic only by virtue of its association with its author), there is a tradition called the “summer hiatus.” People spend less time on the internet reading blogs and writers take time away. I tend not to announce such things but since my last post was more than 10 days ago, it appears I am at the very least slipping into at least a summer slowdown. Today I leave for Brazil and while I sometimes think it would be cool to blog while away, that rarely if ever happens. When I get back, it’s a 20 day sprint through social events, defences and various wrappings-up to the 31st, when we again board a plane (this time with a bag-full-of-cat in hand) and fly to California to begin our sabbaticals.

I can assure you there will be a “special California edition” of superbon once we’re settled but August does not look promising.

The headlines:

I have no idea what the “new normal” is but even though I expect my body to continue to change over the next year, I appear to be feeling it. I still have some side effects but most of the time I forget about them, apart from my “new” voice, which I notice every day. I sleep a regular amount (I do tire out if I’m in loud spaces for too long without the voice amp), and I am effectively “back to work,” though “normal at work” is also hard to fathom since I was last not an administrator more than five years ago in June 2005. I have been spending my days doing scholarly things: writing, getting books together for a reader (which the help of an RA, of course) and reading people’s work. Sort of what my summers are supposed to be like. Evenings have been very social, which has also been great but not conducive to blogging.

The voice:

As I said above, the voice still isn’t where it “should” be in my mind. Part of it is probably me going out too much and talking too much. The more rest it has, the better. I practiced my keynote Saturday and talking for 45 minutes straight with long sentences is hard. I am really glad I have a year off from teaching the big class. The best analogy I can think of is a musician relearning an instrument. My old style of performance just doesn’t work and I haven’t quite figured out my new one yet. And speaking like that takes enough out of me that I can’t simply practice it over and over. So I will wing it. At least the ideas are very cooked.

Work:

I’ve cleared a couple essays off my desk, finally begun revisions on the mp3 manuscript, and am making penultimate decisions for the Sound Studies Reader while I still have access to my library. It is really nice to be able to think again and to be lucid. I also have a bunch of defences in August as students try to wrap things up before I go, or so they can move on to new things like postdocs.

Music:

The lo-boy CD cover has been designed and the whole thing will get shipping to the pressing plant in August, for a September “release” (watch this space). My new band (now a year old), tentatively named In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing (aka, two guys who make mostly instrumental rock and electronica), is finishing up a 5-song EP which should be done but not out as of September. Again, watch this space. And I have another “art” project based on the cancer experience in the work that will get finished this fall.

Entertainment:

Summer blockbusters are totally disappointing, except for Inception, which is like The Matrix with a script. I was going to write a comparative blog post about bad action movies versus the spectacle of circus, as we saw three shows in July (in part because of the local circus festival). Let’s just say this year the circus won, by far. Of course, it’s not Ringling Brothers stuff. It’s much more avant-garde than that, and there are no animals other than people involved. The best show was definitely put on by les sept doigts de la main (literally, the “seven fingers of the hand”). If you like live spectacle (if I say “acrobatics, contortion, juggling and music” it doesn’t quite have the same impact), I can’t recommend them highly enough. They do tour.

We also went to our 2nd live Canadian Football League game, and I could see that becoming a regular thing. I am not as fond of it as NFL when it comes to TV, but live you are much closer to the field, and the vibe is just, well, different. We sat in the end zone which means that we couldn’t really tell what was happening when it got close to the goal line on the other end of the field, but the rest of it was just outstanding, and when it was close to our goal line it was line you could touch the players. Carrie says it’s more like a college football atmosphere, which makes sense since the Montreal Alouettes play on McGill’s campus. It helped that it was a beautiful, temperate night. I was smart enough to bring the voice amp for that (occasionally having to hold the speaker up to my neighbor’s ear so I could be heard) and I half hoped that the “dork-o-phone” would appear on national TV. It’ll get a shot at appearing on Monday Night Football later in September when we see the New Orleans Saints play the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco.

Tech news:

I got an iPad. For music-making and as an e-reader, it’s amazing. I can lay my hands on my music software now, because it can act as a controller for my main computer. Awesome. The productivity apps are a revision or two away from being very good though I managed to get my talk for Brazil onto it and projected correctly onto a screen. It’s not quite a full laptop replacement, yet, though it’s good enough already for travel, and much lighter than my laptop. I wouldn’t try editing an essay on it, but then I rarely do that kind of writing on the road. It’s a great reader but not a proper newspaper replacement because who wants to spill coffee (metaphorically speaking; I drink tea) on their electronics? My rating: extremely useful for your digital recording studio, a fun reader and tech toy. But academics could wait six months or a year for the productivity software to catch up to reality and not miss much. Also, one wonders about the competition when it comes out. . . .

Brazil:

What’s there to say? it’s winter there and the weather appears to be exactly the same as here, except the days are shorter. And we are very overdue for an adventure.