April is the Cruelest Month Thursday, Apr 29 2010 

APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

~ T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

If my life as a college administrator in the past month is any indication, Eliot knew what he was talking about! April has been the most exhausting month of my deanship thus far. Every time I think that things can’t possibly get any busier, my job proves me wrong!

But I should say up front that much of the headache involved in my job is the direct result of the fact that I love it so much. If I didn’t really care, then it wouldn’t be as much work and worry as it is. I definitely want to do right by my students and staff (and the university). I also want to succeed for my own sake. And being dean of the honors college combines all of the things that I most enjoy doing. So, a huge part of my exhaustion comes from my commitment to do excel as dean (or try as hard as I can to excel).

Now feels as good a time as any to think a little bit about how things are going. I’m exhausted all the time, but I love it! Some part of my job are going extremely well; other parts are more challenging. I think we’re headed in a good direction, but only time will tell if we can end up where we want to be.

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Pick U Up by Adam Lambert Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 

Adam Lambert’s “Pick U Up” has been in my head for the past two weeks. I love it! It sounds a quite a bit like All-American Rejects, although it was co-written by Rivers Cuomo.

It’s a great song, and Lambert’s voice is amazing, especially toward the end with the big note at the end of the line, “I need someone to be my lover.”

This is the third of Lambert’s tracks on For Your Entertainment that I’ve made my song of the week. It’s the kind of album that I like more and more the more I listen to it. It also reminds me just how personality-free this season’s American Idol is. People might have complained last year that Adam was too over the top, but I think everyone would have to admit that he brought a lot of drama to the season. No one’s doing that this year.

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Eyes Wide Open: A Review Monday, Apr 26 2010 

Yesterday PJ and I saw Eyes Wide Open (Einaym Pkuhot), an Israeli film by director Haim Tabakman. It stars Zohar Shtrauss as an Orthodox butcher with a wife and kids who suddenly finds himself attracted to his apprentice, Ezri, played by Ran Danker. The movie explores what this means for Aaron, his community, and his family (in roughly that order). Here’s the trailer:

Shtrauss is great as Aaron, a man obviously torn between everything he’s ever known and lived and his desire for Ezri. He plays Aaron as a very quiet, insular man who suddenly blossoms when he meets Ezri. At first his responses to the younger man are tentative and shy, and Shtrauss is excellent in this segment of the film.

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The Art of Being Straight: A Review Sunday, Apr 25 2010 

Last night PJ and I watched The Art of Being Straight a 2008 comedy/drama about a young twenty-something who moves to Los Angeles after breaking up with his girlfriend. He takes an entry-level job at an advertising agency, where he starts getting hit on by one of his bosses, a guy named Paul. His response to these come-ons opens up the possibility that he might not be as straight as he and his friends had always thought. I really liked this complex look at sexuality.

Here’s the trailer:

The Art of Being Straight was written and directed by Jesse Rosen, who also stars as the lead character, Jon. Jon has a reputation among his friends for being a ladies man, the kind of guy who, somewhat inexplicably, is able to hook up with any girl he wants. When Paul, played by Johnny Ray, starts hitting on him, Jon’s surprised to find himself attracted to this older man. Although he admits to Paul that he experimented with a friend in high school, he had never gone all the way with a guy before. Equally surprising is that, while he’s not ready to date a guy, he is interested in hooking up more than once.

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Money Changes Everything Thursday, Apr 15 2010 

Suddenly, I can’t get Cyndi Lauper’s “Money Changes Everything” out of my head:

I  love the original version, which is the one stuck in my head, but I also thought I would look around and see what other versions there are. I found this one from Lauper’s 2005 acoustic album, which rerecords some of her biggest hits in acoustic duets with other artists:

I’ve since downloaded this album, and I really like it. Lauper has a bit of raspiness to her voice in this version of “Money Changes Everything” that really appeals to me. This version feels like the point of view of a more mature woman rather than the carefree younger woman of the original version.

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Favorite Songs of 2009 Wednesday, Apr 14 2010 

The next to last of my annual favorites lists is my favorite songs of 2009. It’s weird to be catching up on a list of favorite songs from last year, since I’ve already started accumulating favorites for this year! But it’s been really busy at work, so better late than never.

1. My favorite song of 2009 was Bishop Allen’s “Dimmer.”

Unfortunately, this is just about the only song I love off of Bishop Allen’s 2009 album, Grrr. But I do love this song’s quirkiness and lyrics. It’s all about feeling like you’re invisible, less worthy than others. It’s a great song, and I started singing along at the top of my lungs whenever it comes on my iPod in my car. I love it!

2. A very close second is Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” another song I sing along loudly whenever I hear it.

Not only is it very singable, but “Bad Romance” reminds me of the contradictory impulses that go along with being human. We want opposite things at the same time. We want things that we shouldn’t because we know they’re bad for us.

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Visiting the Red Light District in Amsterdam Monday, Apr 12 2010 

While PJ and I were in Amsterdam last month, we walked around the Red Light District, mostly following the walking tour suggested by Rick Steves guide to Amsterdam. This walk was one of three aspects of Amsterdam that really reinforced that it is unlike any where else I’ve ever been: the legalized prostitution, the pot, and the canals definitely make this city unique!

This statue of a prostitute stands outside the Oude Kerk, which is surrounded by the Red Light District. It’s really bizarre to see bars, sex shops, and prostitutes standing in glass doorways in the buildings surrounding the church! Nothing like this exists anywhere in the U.S.

Two things impress me about this statue. First, it seems to try to capture a kind of dignity in its subject. This woman is standing tall with an almost haughty demeanor. She’s not a victim.

Second, and in contradiction to the first aspect, the dark material and the doorway framing the prostitute conveys a sense of imprisonment to me. There is a darker side to prostitution, this statue seems to say. [PJ notes the fact that she’s not bound by the frame and is emerging from it might also complicate this reading.]

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“All I” by Jill Scott Saturday, Apr 10 2010 

Today I drove up to Akron (3 hours) for a meeting and then drove back. It was a very successful meeting, so I’m glad I went. A couple of days ago I started listening to my iPod with the intent of listening to all 1300+ songs that I have on it. Six hours in the car seems barely to have made a dent!

While I was driving back home, Jill Scott’s “I Am” came on and I am now officially obsessed with it. It’s typical of Scott’s love songs: sexy, soulful, and genuine. I also love that it’s a song for adults. Here’s a YouTube video of the track from her 2007 album The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3:

Here’s a video of her singing it live:

I love that she weaves lyrics from her other songs into this live version. Someday I HAVE to see her in concert — she’s such an amazing live performer (I love her live album!).

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Visiting the Rijksmuseum Monday, Apr 5 2010 

While PJ and I were in Amsterdam last month, we visited the Rijksmuseum, one of the world’s great museums. The museum’s main building is being renovated, so only small portion of the collection is available for exhibition. What the museum has done, therefore, is put together many if its masterpieces and put them on display in the Philips Wing of the museum. While it would have been nice to see more, seeing these masterpieces were well worth the visit.

We arrived at the museum shortly after it opened, which meant that the line wasn’t too long. We probably only waited in line about 15 or 20 minutes to get our tickets. It was a chilly, wet day, so we were both glad that it didn’t take long to get out of the weather and into the museum.

As the picture above suggests, the most famous work in the Rijksmuseum is Johannes Vermeer’s “The Kitchen Maid,” which is an amazing painting. Here’s an image of the painting featured on the museum’s web site:

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The Safest Place by Sade Friday, Apr 2 2010 

When it came out in early February, I immediately downloaded Sade’s new album, Soldier of Love from iTunes. Lover’s Rock from 2000 is a great album that I still listen to from time to time, so I eagerly looked forward to this new one.

I’ve found the album a little difficult to get into, mostly because I just haven’t had time to really sit with it and just listen. The past two months have been incredibly busy — every time I think my “new” job couldn’t get busier, I’m proven wrong!

While I was working on my laptop recently, however, I had iTunes on shuffle and a track from the album came on, “The Safest Place”:

I really love this beautiful love song. It’s so typical of Sade’s love songs, slow, quiet, and not really very sweet. Instead, she sees love from the perspective of someone who’s seen it all and lived through heartache. Her take on love is always much more interesting than most pop music. This track has made me want to find some time to listen to the whole album and get acquainted with it.

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