Monday, September 18, 2017

“From Prison Inmate to Lawyer & Scholar”

18 September 2017: "Every great re-entry story that I've seen involved a community." --Shon Hopwood, speaking at a Common Reading event today, talking about what helps released prisons find success after their incarceration.

This was a great lecture and discussion. My list of possible sound bites for today's post is a long one, but the comment posted above, which came up towards the end of the discussion, is standing out to me most as I reflect on what I heard. Communities (of all kinds) need to play a role in helping these people. In doing so, we are helping ourselves, too. Seems so simple...

Sunday, September 17, 2017


17 September 2017: "It's never enough." --"Him," in mother!

Saw this crazy film this evening and man...what a ride. I wish I could remember what he said right after that line, but it was something like "that's why we create." Very smart. Very crazy. What a movie.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Introverts and leadership...

16 September 2017: "You have to hold him accountable or there could be a fracture in the foundation of the group." --a student participating in the session Amy and I led at today's Student Leadership Conference at Shepherd.

We've done this presentation before a couple of times and we've got it more or less down pat. Our subject is "How Introverts Can Be Leaders." We start out with an unscientific quiz that helps students (unscientifically) figure out if they are introverts, extroverts, or somewhere in between. Then Amy leads them through some information about introverts, dispelling myths and explaining how introverts can be great leaders. Finally, we put them in groups and have them discuss certain hypothetical scenarios in which the groups they are part of have issues to work out where they need to put what they have just learned into action.

So, like I said, we've done it before and we've got it pretty down pat. But we haven't done in at least a year. A lot has changed since then in the world--even if we haven't updated our scenarios. Here's scenario #1, the one that the student above was responding to: "Jim, a member of your organization with extrovert characteristics, recently upset some members when he made an off-the-cuff racially-insensitive comment. Based on what you’ve heard from other members, most people don’t think Jim realized that he offended people—or that he is a bad guy. You agree. However, a few members of the group (who are also more introverted) seem to be pulling away from the organization in the aftermath of the comment. How would you work to address this issue?"

The student's response (a response echoed by his peers) stood out to me because the previous times we've done this presentation, students weren't so insistent on making Jim be accountable and apologize. They were more focused on how to facilitate some honest conversation and healing. This group talked about that too, but they also seem to have realized something important in the wake of Charlottesville: while we should be careful not to cut off people who make mistakes or make monsters out of them, we should insist on accountability, even if it makes us uncomfortable. To hear a room full of introverts insist on this--even in the context of a hypothetical situation--gave me some hope.

Of course, these are Shepherd students, and they do tend to rock...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reassuring, I think?

15 September 2017: "Oh no. It's too late. It's like a tattoo." --a student in my ENGL 301 class, reassuring me when I thought he was about to tell me he was changing his major and leaving English.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

You know it's true...

14 September 2017: Today’s listening post is this entire exchange from Extra Hot Great. 

Tara: “It’s called Tong Wars…”

[Sound of click, click, click]

Tara (to Dave): “Did you bring tongs in just to do that?”

Dave: “Whenever you grab a pair of tongs, you always have to click ‘em three times. It’s like a universal thing. Nobody said that, but it’s something everybody does.”

Sarah: “It’s true. You are not a crackpot.”

Oh EHG, never stop making me laugh out loud while I am agreeing so enthusiastically. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A laugh when I needed it...

13 September 2017: "I mean, it had to get old after awhile?" --a student in my Bible as Literature class, half-heartedly making the argument that Jacob (in Genesis) might have grown tired of his two wives and their two servants demanding to sleep with him all the time.

If you haven't read Genesis in a while, you should. Lots of crazy stuff happens, stuff that they don't focus too much in Sunday School. We've have fun talking about it in class and this student's comment today cracked me up.

I feel like I post all the time about how my students and how being in the classroom makes me happy even on the worst day. I am a bit like a broken record, I suppose. But it is just true. And today, while my mind was on my friend, this bit of laughter was especially appreciated.

By the way, now that she has made the news public, I can stop being sort of coded about it all: my dear friend Shannon has lung cancer. It's awful, terrible, shocking, devastating news. But she is strong and fighting. She's amazing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"River Waltz"

12 September 2017:

"All that I know to be true
Is the touch of your hand on my skin.
One look from you can so easily soothe
All this turmoil within.
As we dance cheek to cheek
With our feet so completely
Locked in a time all our own.
I stop to speak
But you gently keep me
Moving in time to the song.
And in a voice that is sloppy with gin
You say, 'let the world spin.'" --Cowboy Junkies, "River Waltz"

This has been one of my favorite songs for years now. I love it so much, I was a bit surprised to see that I hadn't blogged about it before. Maybe it's because I love it so much? I hold it and my love for it close to me, almost like a secret treasure, especially that swoon-inducing passage quoted above.

The thing is, though, I am not doing a great job holding it together today. I am really worried about my sick friend and just can't concentrate. Jane, who is always wonderful, just texted me that I should take a walk or listen to some music to distract myself a bit. Well, I've already taken a really long walk, but I figured I would give the music thing a try. So, for the second time this week, the "listening" post comes from the random beauty of the iPod in shuffle mode.

The lyrics here don't line up perfectly with my life today, but that "let the world spin" line, with its quiet confidence that things will be okay (even when they aren't) if you've got some folks to love, is doing a lot of heavy lifting for me.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Another helpful student analogy

11 September 2017: "It's like a really tough fitness program. It weeds people out in the beginning." --a student in my ENGL 312 class on the opening chapter in Walden.

If you haven't read it in a while (or ever), it might surprise you to remember/learn that Walden opens not with deep reveries about nature, but with roughly 50 pages of economic advice, including monetary tallies. It is, for lots of people, a real barrier to entry. And I always ask students to think about why Thoreau does this. The answer my student gave above is a pretty smart one--only part of the answer, but an interesting part nonetheless.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"If There Was No You"

10 September 2017:

"Out on your way, the darkest night, the longest day,
I know what to say to make you laugh.
And nothing you could do
Could make me turn my back on you.
When you're looking for a fight, I'm your man.
When you need a friend, you got my hand." --Brandi Carlile, "If There Was No You"

Put the iPod on shuffle this evening as I went out for my walk, just kind of searching for a song that spoke to me. This little gem, which assures the listener that the singer is sweetly, happily, and completely devoted, works on lots of levels.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

"The Age of the Algorithm"

9 September 2017: "These algorithms, they don't show up randomly. They show up when there's a really difficult conversation that people want to avoid." --Mathematician Cathy O’Neil on the latest episode of 99% Invisible.

This piece was so interesting, especially the point O'Neil is making above. Give it a listen.

Friday, September 8, 2017

"If I Needed You"

8 September 2017:

"Well the night's forlorn
And the morning's born
And the morning shines
With the lights of love
And you'll miss sunrise
If you close your eyes
And that would break
My heart in two" --Emmylou Harris, "If I Needed You," a duet with Don Williams

I heard the news earlier this evening about Don William's passing away and it automatically made me think of this song, which I've loved since I was a kid. It always makes me feel so peaceful, a welcome feeling today, even as we mourn William's death.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Mars vs. Mars"

7 September 2017: "Nothing. This time I just want you to know what I know." --Veronica to Abel Koontz, in response to his taunting question of what she wanted this time.

I alluded in my last post to having some stuff on my mind that I can't talk too much about (short version: a very good friend is very sick) and this afternoon I really found myself needing a distraction. So I am re-watching a batch of my favorite season one Veronica Mars episodes.

The scene I quoted from above--which comes at the end of "Mars vs. Mars," a great episode with Adam Scott playing a pervert (!)--is terrific because Veronica confronts Koontz for the first time since he threatened to turn her world upside down with his insinuation about her paternity. That confrontation ended with him basking in menacing triumph (he is so creepy) while she dissolved into tears. But here she reveals that she has the upper hand (thanks to her investigation) and it is glorious. I don't want to over-read the symbolism here, but I like the lesson.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

More wisdom from students...

6 September 2017: "Better $8 sushi than $3 sushi." --a student in my ENGL 312 class.

These have been some tough days, for reasons I can't be too specific about. But my students, once again, have so many ways of making me smile. The above example is just one. We were discussing Ben Franklin and his financial advice. I used the example of students who say they have no money and then buy $8 sushi in the student center. (A stupid example, by the way...) My student's A+ response made me laugh...a lot. Just one example of how they get me through some tough days.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Good advice...

5 September 2017: "You don't preach to the choir, but the choir needs to practice." --my friend/colleague Richie, at a Civility Response Team meeting today. Richie was quoting someone else, but I hadn't heard this clever line before and it got me thinking about how to best be a kind and engaged advocate for others.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Logan Lucky

4 September 2017: "They gonna know what we want them to know." --Jimmy to Clyde, in Logan Lucky. 

What a fun and smart movie this is! Soderbergh has a way of making movies about something "fun" (like a heist) stay fun while making larger comments about bigger questions of class. This one is no exception.