27 December 2010

My first academic citation

As I mentioned, I was recently on a The WorldScience podcast for a “Music in Science” segment. In doing the interview (which was much longer than the aired segment), I told another story about how music was relevant to me. Since it didn't make the interview there, I reckoned I would tell the story here.

It was music, not science, that got me my first academic citation.

In the early 1980s, we were still in the Cold War. And pop music picked up on the tension – as it does.

I was working on the student newspaper, The Meliorist, mostly writing entertainment pieces: movie and record reviews (yes, there were still mostly records then). Somewhere along the way, I got the idea of writing a feature article on protest songs.

I wrote it, did some cartoons for it. It was a two page center spread in the paper.

Later – I can’t remember how much later – two of my friends walked into my apartment, reading something from a book. It took a few minutes from me to untangle what they were saying, because they were fairly enthused. The book was The Emerging Generation by Reg Bibby. (The cover below is a reprint; I remember my copy as being mainly white and blue.)

Dr. Bibby had come to the newspaper office to give me a signed copy of the book, but I wasn't in.

The book was describing Canadian teenagers of the early 1980s: their values, attitudes, opinions, and so on. One chapter was on what made teenagers happy, and one of the most consistent answers was, "Music." My feature article on anti-war songs was given, not just a mention, but was the basis for a whole paragraph. It was used as an example of how teen music wasn't just, "I love you, yeah yeah yeah," but could have more substance.

It was a great plug, and showed that you never know how what you write is going to ripple out and have effects that you don't anticipate. Things you think are for the moment, to be forgotten in a week when the next paper comes out, sometimes have a longer shelf life.

I was never quite able to figure out how to add that to my CV, though.

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