Friday, October 5, 2007

A Better Setting for an Academic Lecture

I went to my first academic lecture in LA last night with a trip all the way down Sunset Blvd to the Getty Villa in Malibu. One of the most prominent scholars in my field (Erich Gruen - who recently retired after more than 3-4 decades at UCBerk) delivered a talk in the Getty auditorium on cultural identity theft and appropriation in the ancient world. Dr. Gruen will be serving as the Villa Professor this year at the Getty in his first year of quasi-retirement. As a consequence, he will likely be brought to speak as a guest in my courses at UCLA - an added bonus. The environment and following reception were excellent and I started to make the necessary political rounds at the reception to lay the groundwork for future connections. Hopefully, I've learned how to play the game well enough over the years - sadly, it's more important than most people in academia realize. The collection of antiquities was of highest quality. I'll need to go back when I have more time to stroll the villa and examine the artifacts in more detail. All in all, one of the better lecture events I've been to.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Adapting to the Rigors of a New Life

After my first few classes, I am still adapting to a very different academic environment within my new department. There are many positive aspects and great opportunities associated with my new situation that are somewhat overwhelming for me at this stage. I am able to enroll in highly specialized seminars on a variety of topics that are actually filled to capacity with people approaching things from very divergent perspectives. The level of academic expectation at all levels is distinctly higher than any previous environments I have been in. It is simultaneously stimulating and daunting, but I have confidence I can prevail once I become comfortable with the new environment. The scholars I will be working with are of the highest quality, and most are extremely socially gifted in terms of pragmatically dealing with Graduate Student issues. The situation will immeasurably advance the quality of my work. The only down side to this situation will be effectively balancing the more stringent academic expectations with some degree of living standard in order to retain some semblance of sanity. In past situations, I have been able to navigate these waters while still preserving the necessary degree of mental decompression. This will be very challenging for the time being. On a good note, I was able to get my DMV situation dealt with at the Santa Monica office (much nicer). I even went down the street to Beverly Hills to get a better lay of the land. I'm starting to be able to find my way around a wider area a bit better - if I actually had time or money I could even hit the trendy spots. Alas, woe unto me! On a better note, on Thursday, I'll be going down to the Getty Villa in Malibu to hear a lecture on Roman society by a most prominent scholar and view all the collection of Greek and Roman artifacts at the villa with many of the historians in my field. I'm off to bed to read for a bit - Strength and Honor!