e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


good rock and roll will save us all

Many have probably heard the NPR story this a.m. about Detroit's pop music scene and the failure of the city to "capitalize" on the Motown legacy, the city's role in birthing punk rock and techno, and so forth.

Story here. Well worth listening.

Of course pop music geeks tend to be highly suspicious of stories that use hype to tie music to a place. The "Liverpool sound" in the 60s. The "Seattle sound" in the 90s. Those narratives always over-simplify in order to craft a comforting, easy, or attractive narrative.

I guess that's why the angle of this NPR story is interesting. Martha Reeves et al make a compelling point about the city's failure to capitalize, although that narrative (or way of framing the narrative) is equally troubling...the drive to "capitalize" is why Black Bottom was destroyed, no? Still, the whole question about why "music tourism" (is that a thing?) can't be part of Detroit's fabric--like New Orleans--is an interesting one. Being able to access shows by the bands like The Dirtbombs was a part of me being excited to move back to Detroit.

Hyping arts and entertainment as panaceas for troubled economic areas is an old, old, old thing. It's a part of the rhetoric of both "de-industrialized" places I've called home--Youngstown and Detroit--where you get hype about a new sports stadium or some such thing as being the magic bullet. Rachel Nagy from the Detroit Cobras does a nice job of critiquing this in the NPR story, saying something to the effect of "they've been promising the re-birth of Detroit for years...but the music thrives in troubled environment. We can play as loud as we want." Amen, sister.


week # 16

I can't help but feel as if this week ends a proverbial era. Could be my last week teaching as an assistant professor. "Tenure year" comes to a close. Although I've never really bought into pre-tenure hype (the "probationary" years are sometimes alleged to be years of insecurity and constant worry), working toward tenure does give you a pretty clear objective.

Can't say I've always maintained that focus over the past seven years, but it's never been all that far from my thoughts. Not complaining. Because UMD and Miami are both good places to work, I haven't felt pressured to compromise or re-prioritize in ways inconsistent with my own goals. I like what I've written and published. I like the classes I've taught. If the Board of Regents smile on me next month, I don't think I'm going to experience some sea change in my day-to-day life.

Still, that singleness of purpose will slip away. Replaced by other purposes. Travel more. Get a Fulbright and teach abroad. Sustain the service learning relationships and take them to higher levels. Experience a sabbatical. Enjoy job security. Be thankful for job security. Say no to requests that don't bring joy. Say no to committee work. Go to Jersey for Yo La Tengo's annual Hanukkah celebration. Take more pictures. Eliminate more negativity.



Preface #1: I have much respect for Western medicine's innovations and miracles. Preface #2: I offer this rant with much thankfulness that I'm insured. I can think of few national sins as grievous and scarcely forgivable as the number of adults and kids in the U.S. who have no access or inadequate access to health care. We're rich and we needlessly let poor people die in this country. Let's not sugar-coat it; we suck. So thank God I can go to a doctor at all.

Anyway, my point today is that dealing with doctors--and medical issues in general--can be frustrating. I get fairly intense dizzy spells. Sometimes the dizzy spells are accompanied by a shortness of breath. Being that high blood pressure and numerous heart problems run in my family, the symptoms are worrisome. Unlike every male member of my family, my blood pressure is perfect. My dad and brother had both been on b.p. meds for years by the time they were my age. Mine? Perfect. Not trying to show off or anything, just saying. I exercise at least three-four times a week. I don't eat much meat. I've got mad-perfect b.p.

Anyway, I've been to my doc, to a cardiologist, and to an electrophysiologist. Too their collective credit, they've all been very, very pro-active, mainly because of my family history but also because of my symptoms. I've done stress tests, worn halter monitors, had EKGs and cardiac sonograms. Tissue wise, my heart's in great shape (thanks, exercise, you rock); my cardiologist actually told me that I've "trumped" family history. Electrically, not so much. Long story short: I have atrial irregularity. The little blips (sorry for the technical jargon) on my EKG results are sometimes inverted, which I guess signfies that the electrical activity doesn't always move through my heart the way it's supposed to. My heartbeats have a trajectory all their own.

Some people are like that and it doesn't always result in trouble, but coupled with the symptoms, it's odd. Upping the oddness: my symptoms don't necessarily coincide with the irregularities. Sometimes I get dizzy when my heartbeat's normal. Sometimes I have no symptoms whatsoever when my heartbeat does its anomalous, weird thing. Soon I'm going to wear a monitor for a two-week period so the doctors can do a more thorough analysis of any trends. Right now, based on a 24-hour monitor, they don't see any trends at all. Random.

The frustration comes from the mystery, the randomness. All the knowledge in the room (the exam room, the laboratory, etc.), and no answer. The frustration comes from the sense that it's kind of like getting a cold. You know sometimes no matter what you ingest or how aggressive you get with cold symptoms, you're just plain old going to be miserable for a few days and then feel better. It's a bit frustrating to feel like strapping on some expensive piece of equipment is ineffectual, like taking some over-the-counter cold med. No matter what you do for that cold, you're going to sneeze for the next day or two. No matter what you do for that atrial whatever-you-call-it, the doctor's going to shrug and say I dunno.

a thought slightly too long for a facebook status update

Maybe it's a valid part of the job of administrators to try to squelch creativity and innovation. Maybe their resistance forces the rest of us to articulate better why we want to do what we do. Regardless it's not a job I want.


learned at the gym

I can't stand VH1 reality shows so I rarely watch the network these days, although I hear that "Behind the Music" is returning, which is great, great news. Curious thing about "Behind the Music" is that the quality and potential entertainment value of a given episode has little to no correlation with the quality of the musician. The music of Styx, for instance, does little for me. The Styx episode of Behind the Music, on the other hand...pure awesomeness. This curiosity is not true for episodes of E! True Hollywood Story. The "All in the Family" and "Three's Company" THS episodes--like the sitcoms they profile--endlessly entertaining. The Bad Girls of Reality TV episode? Unwatchable.

But I digress. So last night I'm on a treadmill (literally, not figuratively). I turn on VH1 and sweat to "100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders." Entertaining? Of course. Informative? Yes, that too. You probably know already that Men Without Hats had record covers with images of lines through guys wearing hats. Thereby taking literal interpretations of their band name to the point of absurdity. But did you also know they put out a comeback record called...wait for it..."No Hats Beyond this Point"? You might think this sustained series of self-referential practices signals a lack of imagination. No way. They stuck to that hatless vision--even during the futile comeback attempt.

I also learned that British celeb-reality tv shows have WAY cooler stars than their American counterparts. Well, I already knew that Johnny Rotten was on some show or another in Britian, so I guess this wasn't a wholly new insight. But last night I learned that Gary Numan--the guy who sang the vaguely Kraftwerk-ian hit "Cars"--was on a British reality show about car racing. Ha! Get it? Know who was on the same season? Brian Johnson of AC/DC. Wow, and we get the dude from Poison? What a rip.
One more tidbit. Thomas Dolby, as in "She Blinded Me With Science," invented the ringtone and the technology that enabled its ascendance. I'm not making this up. Maybe VH1 is though.



I'm about a month away from a final answer on my tenure case. After getting the thumbs-up from all the campus levels (department, dean, etc.), all that remains is the Michigan Board of Regents. In some odd way, the absurd length of the process (I submitted my file in March, 2008) actually alleviates some of the pressure. Not sure how that happens, but you sort of forget about the whole thing, despite the high stakes.

As I wait for the decision, I think about post-tenure life (God willing...) and the possibilities and options. I would like eventually to do some things abroad, which is a bit of a challenge in a field that in some ways is uniquely North American, though, of course, my own broad interests (class, civic engagement, rhetoric, the teaching of writing) have AT LEAST the potential to cut across national lines. I've started educating myself about the process of applying for Fulbrights and I'm wondering if Rhetoric and Composition has any kind of history of success winning such awards. I can't recall any colleagues or professors I've had over the years winning such a thing (though I think of other international research, like the work Nedra Reynolds did for her awesome book).

But I'm wondering if anybody out there knows of anybody in this discipline who has done a Fulbright. Leave me a comment. E-mail me (billdeg at umd dot umich dot edu). Yell loudly enough that I can hear you.


random friday

  • Nicole and I saw I Love You Man and both found the film very funny. Many well-written comedies these days, thanks in part to the whole Apatow universe. Interesting characters and stories that make use of sentiment in challenging ways elevate these films. "Man" approaches its premise (how do 30-something guys make friends?) with a spirit of inquiry. Our hero struggles because he can't do machismo. The funniest scenes let him flounder as he tries to do locker room talk or shots. As a guy who took a tupperware of fresh fruit on a fishing excursion, I connected. When the Paul Rudd character makes drinks for his finance and her friends and puts pirouette straws in each cup, the scene becomes more than a homophobic gag or a cheap laugh-at-the-metrosexual moment. It's a real act.
  • Speaking of homophobia and related matters, yay Iowa. Lots of buzz about the Iowa Supreme Court calling bans on same-sex marriage violations of equal protection. Kick ass. Reading the story's references to groups like the Iowa Familiy Policy Center, you just get the sense that such organizations are doing their last dinosaur act. Is there cause for that much optimism? Probably not, but I'll kid myself for a day or so before some hate crime steals headlines or Pope Benedict makes some backward proclimation rooted in absolutely nothing that Jesus ever said or did.
  • Looking forward to the weekend for so many reasons. Been working out every day and plan to continue doing so. Two parties with friends and colleagues who Nicole and I normally don't spend enough time with. Maybe connected to the working out...I've been feeling more energy regarding the research and writing I've dragged my feet on while waiting for the tenure decision (final answer forthcoming next month). Here's too sleeping later than 6:00.


Supino Pizzeria

I tend to obsess over things. A new band, new recipe, new coffeeshop. New obsession: Supino Pizzeria. Yesterday Metro Times gives the place a positive review. I've already eaten there and love it. The obsession has begun.

The review had me with its mention of a "slacker" vibe and an owner influenced by stories of the brick ovens his old-country relatives have in their backyards. My Grandpa used to talk about his mom baking bread everyday in her backyard oven. Allegedly, on days she delivered one of her dozen plus kids, she still baked bread. When her husband got home from the mill on those days, the story goes, she gave him bread, and then the new baby.

Supino Pizzeria is in Eastern Market, downtown, a stone's throw from the Final Four site, so I figured I'd find a crowd. Went anyway. Not at all crowded. I ordered my 'Red, White, & Green' and chatted with a guy eating a slice and killing time before Choir practice. We watched the owner stretching dough and talked about Lent and the second Godfather movie.

And speaking of Godfather II, Supino has a pizza called the 'San Gennaro.' As in the feast going on while Vito kills Don Fanucci in Little Italy. Also, the patron of Naples. Also, my family's namesake. I have to bug the owner about what inspired him to name a pie after my family, I mean after the Saint. He tells me that he took the most famous food item from the San Gennaro feast in NYC, the sauasage and pepper sandwich, and put all the ingredients on a pizza. I tell him my name and he pretends to be impressed. Cool guy.

And he makes a mean ass pizza too. I was going to take my pizza home, but decided to stay. The 'Red, White, & Green' has no sauce, just a very thin bit of mozarella, topped with roasted red peppers, spinach, fresh basil, and ricotta. Perfect thin crust. Not overpowered by too much cheese. Total A+ place. Next time, a slice of San Gennaro.

is this picture for real?

This looks like a promo shot for an early 1960s Christmas program. Are they talking about the financial crisis or promoting a very special Lawrence Welk episode?

"Merry Christmas from the G20 Summit. Coming up next, Myron Floren."