Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sounds that give you hope...

23 September 2017: "And I gotta say, you hear these recordings and you can't help but think, I think we're gonna be all right." --Jad, the host of Radiolab, talking about listening to people's reactions to August's eclipse.

Catching up on my podcasts this morning, I finally listened to this episode of Radiolab, which opens with listener-submitted audio of folks watching the eclipse. Just as I did on the day itself and its immediate aftermath, I found myself getting choked up just listening to these clips. They are so lovely, awe-struck, innocent, hopeful, and fun--people expressing pure and positive emotions together. What a gift this experience was, even for those of us who couldn't see the whole thing.

The whole episode is uplifting, including the re-run of this wonderful segment about Voyager I and II and the golden record on board. Give it a listen.

Friday, September 22, 2017

"The Amnesty"

22 September 2017: "I trust the world because I want to trust that it's good for her." --a student in my ENGL 301 class, talking about how she related to "The Amnesty," a lovely poem I taught today. The "her" the student was referencing is her little girl, so we were all pretty moved by her words.

This poem is sweet and amazing. Give it a read. One of the things I love about this poem is how the speaker just gives into love--the almost mad risk involved with loving someone so fully. I struggle sometimes to convey that to students, so hearing this student do it so memorably just pleased me so much.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Sorrow is Not My Name"

21 September 2017:

"there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah." --Ross Gay, "Sorrow is Not My Name"

Came across this poem today on a fantastic episode of "Poetry Off the Shelf." It's been a tough week for the country and the world: the hurricane, the earthquake, the insidious reemergence of efforts to kill the ACA. This poem, which reminds us of sweetness and joy, gives us a bit of strength to keep going.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Define that defense!

20 September 2017: "It's like when your roommate is working a really hard math problem and he can't do it, so he yells at you for being too loud." --a student in my ENGL 301 class today, providing an example of "displacement."

It can be so much fun to teach literary theory to these students, in part because they teach me new stuff and make me laugh at the same time. This student's example of this particular psychological defense (part of our discussion of psychoanalytic theory) is spot on--and way too specific to be purely imagined. Need more evidence? He was also ready with an example of "projection": "When your roommate doesn't do anything for the apartment and then makes that complaint about you." When we teased him about these examples, he said, "This chapter helped me work some stuff out." Ha!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Sinatra kind of day...

19 September 2017:

"Are the stars out tonight?
I don't know if it's cloudy or bright
'Cause I only have eyes for you, dear
The moon may be high
But I can't see a thing in the sky
'Cause I only have eyes for you."

Tuesdays and Thursdays (days I don't teach) when I don't have meetings on campus have the potential to be tough or strange days for me, stuck mostly with only myself and trying to stay on task. I can also get too much in my own head and get kind of down or whatever. Today, though, has been a pretty good day: lots of productivity, nice weather, great news about Shannon (she's home from the hospital!), and just some other nice feelings.

So, in that spirit, I am kind of digging Frank's up-tempo version of this standard. The Flamingos' version is my sentimental favorite, but today I am feeling his love-struck optimism and joy over the swoony-ness of the other version. This one really loves that feeling of being so swept up in someone else, which I can get behind.

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.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

One Mississippi

3 September 2017: "Hey, Bill: ever had tuberculosis?" --Tig to Bill, in the third episode of One Mississippi. 

Doing a re-watch of season one because A) nothing else is on, B) it's super-short (6 episodes), and C) season two drops next week. Just as during my first viewing, Tig's relationship with Bill, her stepfather, really stands out. He's such an interesting character: awkward, particular, and seemingly closed-off, but the show does a fine job creating these sweet and funny moments that show how he does care about Tig--and vice versa. And the writing does this without going too far or being saccharine.

Book Festival

2 September 2017: "I just hate seeing women give up on themselves, even when they aren't real." --Roxane Gay, at the Library of Congress Book Festival yesterday, discussing her frustration with women (both real and fictional) who give up too easily. And I am so with her on this one.

Folks: the Book Festival is a wonderful event--free and fantastic. And it was even better this year with four of my good friends.

Friday, September 1, 2017

"Foxtrot Fridays"

1 September 2017:

"Thank the stars there's a day
each week to tuck in

the grief, lift your pearls, and
stride brush stride

quick-quick with a
heel-ball-toe. Smooth

as Nat King Cole's
slow satin smile,

easy as taking
one day at a time:

one man and
one woman,

rib to rib,
with no heartbreak in sight–

just the sweep of Paradise
and the space of a song

to count all the wonders in it." --Rita Dove, "Foxtrot Fridays"

I heard this poem first thing this morning and it sort of gave me the feeling it would be a good day. She read it on a podcast episode of Ask Me Another (she was a delight!), but you can hear her reading it here, too.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

She is who she is...

31 August 2017: "That's probably just the way she is." --the veterinarian today, in response to me asking her if I should work to make Veronica more amenable to being petted or held.

It took me 20 minutes today to catch her and get her in the carrier. To be clear, I caught her at least five times; it was shoving her in the carrier that was the real problem. Tears and blood were shed (both mine). Once she was in the exam room, she tried to climb the wall twice, Spiderman-style, and got half-way up. It was a lot. But she calmed down enough eventually. She actually behaved better for her exam than Bing or Wes.

Long story short: I should just accept her as she is, which is fine with me. It was nice to hear it from an expert.

Here she is, post-visit, once again insisting on being seen.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

They make me laugh...a lot...

30 August 2017: "Blah, blah, blah...the earth is a turtle." --an excerpt from one of English 204 student's effort to paraphrase the Iroquois creation story for her classmates. Her entire summary was actually pretty darn impressive given how...strange this text is (particularly the version we use).

Today was a long day--I left my house before 8:00 a.m. and it was nearly 9:00 p.m. when I got home--but it was a pretty good day. Part of the reason I can say that is because my students were--across the board--delightful today. They did their work, had smart things to say, and made me laugh. What more can I ask for?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


29 August 2017:
"We tell the story every year—
how we peered from the windows, shades drawn—
though nothing really happened,
the charred grass now green again." --Natasha Trethewey, "Incident"

Audio here, including Trethewey introducing her poem, sadly timely once again.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Day one...

28 August 2017: "Ha. It's so good to be back!" --a student in my ENGL 312 class.

You see, we were discussing Wheatley's "On Being Brought from Africa to America" and she realized how clever the poet is in her use of "Cain," evoking its homophone ("cane") and thereby subtly calling to mind the slave economy. Like so many readers (myself included, way back when), she missed it on the first read-through and delighted in realizing it.

That laugh and that comment: pure English major. She missed this stuff and is thrilled to be back at it.

Me, too.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"The Glowing Orbs"

27 August 2017: “But he was a man comfortable with mysteries. He was a believer deep down. And he’d write that his experience in space and the glowing fireflies affirmed that faith. No one could see what he saw, he was sure, and not believe in God, not believe in miracles.” –Nate DiMeo, in "The Glowing Orbs" episode of The Memory Palace. 

This one is a rerun, but I loved hearing it again, kind of perfect in the aftermath of the eclipse, which made me feel a kind of similar sentiment to what DiMeo describes above. I felt a similar kind of quiet wonder today, watching my little niece walk (a trick she's picked up since I last saw her a couple of weeks ago) and become less of a baby and more of a little person. The wonder she finds in in the world is mirrored by my own wonder in watching her do so. And all of it makes me profoundly grateful and moved by the amazing ways the divine appears all around us.

Now there is a great joke of sorts in this story (the explanation of the glowing orbs), but it doesn't lessen the power of the piece. If anything, it makes it more poignant.

Here's a longer version, introducing the episode and providing a Portuguese reading that is pretty awesome even if you don't speak Portuguese. (I sure don't!) Previous posts on The Memory Palace here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Grace and Frankie

26 August 2017: "You are going to make new memories. Better memories. And you can re-use the frames!" --Grace, to Frankie, in episode 2 of Grace and Frankie

I started watching this show after hearing my friend Hannah praise it again and again. So far, I like it and I am encouraged by the reviews that say it gets better and better. And, given its focus on female friendship, it's a cool "listening" post for the day of Jane's 40th birthday party. Speaking of...I better get going!

Friday, August 25, 2017


25 August 2017: "There are 7.2 million people on the earth. Seven percent will go to college...Spend your time here like you won the lottery." --Sonya Evanisko, from Shepherd's Department of Art and Contemporary Theater, giving the keynote to our new students at today's opening convocation. (I might have gotten her exact wording wrong--didn't have a pen on me to write it down.)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Feeling Good"

24 August 2017:

"It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good" --a Shepherd student/Ram Band member, singing at this evening's preview performance of the band's halftime show.

As I sat here tonight trying to think of what to post for today's "listening" entry, I realized that the song that has been running through my head for the past few hours was the best choice. In fact, today was a pretty darn decent day and I am feeling pretty good. And yeah, it's a new day, too, with the first big group meetings to kick off the new semester.

Convocation, a department meeting, and a new student meet-and-greet tomorrow. Here we go!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jean and Jane

23 August 2017: "In 1982, a forty-something sex kitten was still pretty radical. Ultimately, Jane's reinvention as a fitness guru was absolutely a victory of commerce, but there was an art to it and it was nothing if not political. She was sending women the message that by taking control of their bodies, by becoming physically strong, by taking thirty minutes a day for themselves, they could take control of their lives. This is a kind of feminism. It might not have looked the same as Jane's 1970's feminism, but because it wasn't on its surface offensive to men, it afforded her more power." --Karina Longworth, discussing Jane Fonda's career in the 1980s, in the last episode of this season of You Must Remember This

The You Must Remember This podcast is one of my favorites, teaching me so much about Hollywood's history. I knew nothing about Jean Seberg, half of the focus of this season. I thought I knew something about Jane Fonda, the other half of the season's focus, but boy, was there a lot I didn't know (or understand). The insight Longworth shares above, a minor point in a compelling and tragic season, really made me think--just one example of how great her show is. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MLB Player Nicknames

22 August 2017: "This is a great thing for baseball because baseball is whimsical." --Mike Pesca, on Hang Up and Listen. 

Unfortunately, this discussion of the best nicknames that will appear on player's jerseys this weekend was part of the Slate Plus segment, which means you can't listen if you aren't a Slate Plus member. But this silly little segment made me smile and laugh and remember how much I love about baseball. You can read the list that inspired the segment here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

"I'll Take My Chances"

21 August 2017:

“Now some people say that you shouldn't tempt fate
And for them I cannot disagree.
But I never learned nothing from playing it safe.
I say fate should not tempt me.” –Mary Chapin Carpenter, “I’ll Take My Chances”

This, the day of the eclipse, has been a hard one for me. I can’t really say why, partly because I don’t want to be specific, but also because I don’t think that specificity would really explain anything. Now there were lovely touches of light and goodness—watching the eclipse with a couple dear friends, a message from another friend just when I needed it—but man, I spent most of the day just feeling…not great.

By 7:30 or so, I needed to do something. So, as I have done so many times before, I hopped in the car. I took a drive to Martinsburg to run an errand that could have waited. But driving makes me feel better. So that helped a bit.

And on the drive back, I found myself following a solitary big cloud, much taller than it was wide, giving off an amazing light show. It was in front of me, just off to the left, the entire twenty minute drive. That helped a bit, too.

As I drove home, I switched off the podcast I was listening to, hoping to hear *that* song (whatever it was)—the one that would make me feel even better or give me some insight. I keep changing the station, but it never came on. I mean, “Highway to the Danger Zone” was about as close as we got to topic-appropriate, but that isn’t the exact tone I was going for. Ha. When I got home, I sat out back, watching that cloud move further away, and hit shuffle on the iPod. It took a lot of clicking, but then we got there.

I’ve always liked “I’ll Take My Chances,” especially those amazing lines that I quoted above, full of sass and boldness, but for me, they are more aspirational than the motto by which I live my life. I am not a big risk taker. Not a bold one. Not a feather-ruffler. Old Prufrock and I have always had that in common, opting not to disturb the universe. And I don’t think that’s going to change in any substantial way any time soon.

But maybe, every once in a while, I will try. I have a time or two, after all, and it’s been okay. So maybe I will try that a bit more. And it will be okay.

So yeah…”I’ll Take My Chances.” That helped.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

WISH Reception

20 August 2017: "One woman, one gift, can change so much." --a speaker today at the WISH reception where this year's grant winners received their awards. A completely inspiring event!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Graduation Day

19 August 2017: "This is the fastest I've walked in four years...I walk like I used to walk." --Robert, who along with his dog Kansas, is part of the Guiding Eyes graduating class of August 2017. Luther is in that class and Amy is up there watching him graduate. I couldn't go, but I am watching the live-stream. It's amazing.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"I cannot live with you"

18 August 2017:

"So We must meet apart –
You there – I – here –
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer –
And that White Sustenance –
Despair – " --Emily Dickinson, "I cannot live with you"

I saw a image just now that reminded me of the last lines of this Dickinson poem. And then I felt like listening to a reading of it and found the one linked below. Sometimes just hearing someone else read a poem can open up new appreciation (for me).

I teach this one in my ENGL 312 class and point out how it's longer than a typical Dickinson poem. But beyond that surface observation, it always captivates me. The lines "And life is over there -- / Behind the shelf" come to mind frequently, too. And the juxtapositions! They culminate in that devastating rhyming pairing: the sustenance that come from "prayer" and "despair," the latter imagined as white, calling to mind manna from heaven. Despair sustains, prayer sustains, but here, at least, that's all they do. Such a complex examination of a love that can't be and can't not be at the same time.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Autism Screening Questionnaire — Speech and Language Delay"

17 August 2017: "Against the backdrop of the tree he looks so small." --Oliver De La Paz, "Autism Screening Questionnaire — Speech and Language Delay" (Audio here, too.)

Stumbled across this poem today--from a tweet of this other amazing line: "An insistence muscled and muscled again." It's beautiful and tender and heartbreaking. And it's a master class in what poetry can do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Listen to him...

16 August 2017: “Last night I couldn’t sleep at all because president Trump, our president, has literally betrayed the conscience of our country.” --Gianno Caldwell, a Republican policy analyst.

Watch this clip. He is openly weeping by the end. Tell me he's fake news or a snowflake or whatever. He's a black Republican and he's weeping over what the president has said. I find myself joining him every time I think about it. Again, that's all I can say.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

American Icons: Moby-Dick

15 August 2017: "Now that I've read a lot of Melville, I know that it's something he repeats over and over again: that it's better to make a terrible mistake, it's better to make an utter fool of yourself and to risk catastrophe than to be safe as an artist." --Tony Kushner, talking about Herman Melville and Moby-Dick in this episode of Studio 360: American Icons.

I listened to this while mowing the lawn today and a terrific discussion of the book and its power.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A fallen hero...

14 August 2017: "It was important to her to speak up for people that she felt were not being heard, to speak up when injustices were happening." --Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, who died in the home-grown terrorist attack in Charlottesville on Saturday.

It's impossible to stop thinking about what happened in Charlottesville. That's really all I can say about it tonight without going on a sad rant.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Orphan Black finale

13 August 2017: “I survived you. We survived you. Me and my sisters, together. This is evolution." --Sarah to Westmorland, in the Orphan Black finale, a moment that made me cheer. Farewell to a great show. Can't wait to see what Tatiana Maslany does next...

Birthday baseball!

12 August 2017: "Play ball!" --A little-leaguer who got to say the iconic words at about 10:10 or so, after a long rain delay at last night's Nationals game. Eric arranged for Erin and I to go, getting these super-sweet Diamond Club tickets.

The game, even with the delay, capped off a great day and a wonderful couple of days of birthday celebrating.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pre-birthday celebration...

11 August 2017: "It is gah-luh or gay-luh?" --lots of us, gathered at my house last night, trying to decide on a correct pronunciation. We never arrived at a consensus.

I don't like making a big deal out of myself for my birthday, but as #40 approached, I thought it would be fun to have some of my favorite people over to eat pizza and just hang out a bit. And it was amazing. I said this to Jane after everyone else left last night: one of the great and almost miraculous facts of my life is that at every stage of it, I have met wonderful people who I have been fortunate enough to call my friends. Having a bunch of them in the same room--sitting there and listening to them talk and laugh--just made me so very grateful.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

An early hero of the resistance...

10 August 2017: "I don't feel like I would have been doing my job to have done anything other than that." --Sally Yates, explaining why she ordered the Justice Department not to defend the travel ban.

In the craziness of the months since Sally Yates emerged as a hero, so much has happened that might forget her actions. It seems like years ago, not months ago. But this little video was a nice reminder of who she is, what she did, and why it matters.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Between the Lines"

9 August 2017: “So I've learned to listen through silence.” –Sara Bareilles, “Between the Lines”

A quiet day here, one split between two very different sets of activities. The morning was more physical: a long walk and then yard work galore. The afternoon/evening: preparing PowerPoint presentations for my Bible as Literature class. Regardless, I have spent a lot of time in my own head space.

The line above, from yet another Sara Bareilles song (is she secretly one of my favorites of all time now, without me even realizing it?), stood out to me today because A) it fits my blog theme for the year and B) it is a kind of (not necessarily easy) answer to some big questions I have been wondering about. It’s almost a cliché, I know, but what you don’t hear speaks volumes. That’s good and probably quite healthy to remember, realize, and admit.

Now back to those thrilling PowerPoints I go…

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Answering Machine"

8 August 2017:
"Try and breathe some life into a letter.
Losing hope, we'll never be together.
My courage is at its peak.
You know what I mean.
How do you say you're okay
To an answering machine?
How do you say goodnight
To an answering machine?" --The Replacements, "Answering Machine"

I am studying for a very strange theme round for this week's trivia game and this song factors in. I kind of dig it: working your way up to saying something big (even writing it down first--that's a classic move I would make)...and then getting the machine? Awful.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Apples and a science lesson...

7 August 2017: "We're collecting hemolymph..." --Sneha, my friend Carol's research assistant, explaining what they were up to when I stopped by her lab today.

I was at the lab to pick up some home-grown apples that Carol brought in for me, but I stuck around a bit longer than I might have because I really wanted to get a sense of what they were up to. It is kind of amazing how segregated faculty can get into their own disciplines, not really knowing what our peers are up to. By the end of my brief visit, I had a layman's understanding of what they were doing: These little snails are all being raised with differing levels of exposure to a pesticide. Carol and her assistant periodically startle the snails into secreting the hemolymph and then analyze the secretions for hormone levels. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

"Rain on Tin"

6 August 2017:
"As I dream of the rain’s long body,
I will eliminate from mind all the qualities that rain deletes
and then I will be primed to study rain’s power,
the first drops lightly hallowing,
but now and again a great gallop of the horse of rain
or an explosion of orange-green light.
A simple radiance, it requires no discipline.
Before I knew women, I knew the lonely pleasures of rain.
The mist and then the clearing.
I will listen where the lightning thrills the rooster up a willow,
and my whole life flowing
until I have no choice, only the rain,
and I step into it." --from "Rain on Tin," by Rodney Jones (audio version here)

Just listened to this poem tonight, as a light rain falls, and as more rain is forecast for tomorrow. I love the descriptions here. Twice in the poem Jones compares his feelings for the rain for his feelings for women, which is interesting and a bit ridiculous--and I mean this in a good way. In fact, if you listen to the audio version where he reads it, he even calls the poem "idiotic," which made me laugh.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Big Time"

5 August 2017:
"I play guitar and I sing my songs in the sunshine.
Captain and Cokes and barroom jokes keep me feeling fine.
And there's always a stage and a beautiful babe to squeeze my lime.
In my simple way, guess you can say I'm living in the big time." --Big & Rich, "Big Time"

I loved this song when it came out back in 2005. Especially that summer after I finished my dissertation, I spent a lot of time driving around listening to it. That was a strange time for me--finishing up graduate school, being on the job market, and realizing that my life was about to change. And I didn't have all that much control over what (or, more accurately where) would come next.

I remember finding a kind of fun comfort in "Big Time," especially its chorus, which just happily asserts that things will be okay and that living in the "big time" is relative. They are singing about their music careers, of course, but the parallel seemed clear to me. I Because even then--when I was dreading being on my own again in new place and having to start all over again, when so many of my friends and peers had different kinds of lives at that point--I kind of always knew that I was okay not having lots of money or having a life that looked more traditional. If I could get a job--a big if, because the job market was and is terrible---I would always be okay because I would be doing what I loved.

Anyway, I don't think I had listened to this song in years before tonight, as I played it while driving home from a fundraiser for a local theater. I had just spent a few hours hanging out with friends and meeting some great new people. It was a lovely and cool summer night, not quite dark yet. The car windows were open and I sang along, just like I had done so many times twelve years ago. I don't "play guitar" or "sing my songs in the sunshine," and no one is squeezing my limes (ha!), but basically, it's pretty close. Living in the big time time, indeed.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Everything is Copy

4 August 2017: "I now believe that what my mother meant was this: When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's you're a laugh, so you become a hero rather than the victim of the joke. I think that's what she meant. On the other hand, she may merely have meant everything is copy." --Nora Ephron in Everything is Copy

Today has been kind of fantastic. My friend Hannah met me in the morning to accompany me to the eye doctor so that she could help me pick out new frames. (Her fashion sense is spot-on, while mine Then we had lunch and came back here to watch movies and just chill. Fabulous. In addition to Everything is Copy, a favorite of hers, we watched The Incredible Jessica James (such fun) and even some Parks and Rec. Lots of fabulous women being awesome. A nice way to spend the day during this week when I am trying to pull off the whole stay-cation vibe (though I am not a fan of that word).

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Overheard in the cat cafe...

3 August 2017: "We really need to work on those 'k' sounds." --exasperated mom at the cat cafe we visited today, embarrassed over her little boy's pronunciation.

There are lots of great things about the “Give Purrs a Chance” cat café in Berkeley Springs, chiefly a couple dozen super-friendly cats to pet and play with. But alas, unless you were there today when we were, you will not have the pleasure of hearing a small boy who pronounces his “k” sounds as “t” sounds. He was very enthusiastic about his love for “cats” and “kitties.” [Not what he actually said.] He proclaimed, “I live for kitties!” [Also not what he actually said.]

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Ho Hey"

2 August 2017:
"I belong with you, you belong with me
You're my sweetheart" --The Lumineers, "Ho Hey"

Heard this today and it just worked. Sometimes simple words say it best, after all.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


1 August 2017: “I don’t know how I’d do it without my faith.” –someone I was in a meeting with today, explaining how she was dealing with her daughter’s recent cancer diagnosis. This is someone who, in the past few years, has already lost her husband and her other daughter to cancer.

When you hear this kind of news—news that someone whose life has already been broken more than once by tragedy is facing even more heartache—all you can do is step back and wonder how they persist. And her statement—that her faith got her through—wasn’t delivered with a simple smile or as some sort of pat cliché. She said it with a kind of grim and resigned half-smile, the sign (to me) of faith at work in this often very nasty and cruel world. Faith doesn’t get you through a crisis (or a series of crises) unscathed or drama-free. It’s what you cling to…sometimes desperately, sometimes with exhaustion or even anger. What a model this woman is for us all.

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Beautiful Day"

31 July 2017:

"It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day" --U2, "Beautiful Day"

I was just sitting here feeling anxious about silly things and this song came on Pandora. About half-way through, I stopped and thought about the song itself. And then I had a memory...

My friend Bonnie, sitsin her apartment in Greensboro, hosting a bunch of us as we play some game (maybe Risk? it was Risk a lot!) after gathering for a grad-school potluck (translation: everybody brings something cheap, it probably isn't fancy, but it's still good).

Clear as day, I can see her in a kind of complete-image memory: she's shuffling cards and singing this chorus as it plays in the background. And we are all, in that moment, pretty happy. We are poor, always a bit (or a lot) stressed, but we have each other and we have our cheap potlucks and board games and laughter and music.

So much has changed since then, and Bonnie died at a cruelly early age, but that little memory reminds me to pause for a bit and stop stressing over little stuff. It's a beautiful day, after all.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Baby Shower

30 July 2017: "Everyone's here!" --my friend Cara, walking into her surprise baby shower today.

I haven't seen Cara, who used to be one of our lecturers, since her going-away party about two years ago. But she is back home (in PA) for an extended visit with her parents this summer and her family surprised her with this shower. She's a wonderful person so it as no surprise to learn that her family and friends are also wonderful.

Brenda (our department's amazing secretary), Cara, and I.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Baby Driver

29 July 2017: "He had an accident when he was a kid. Still has a hum in the drum. Plays music to drown it out. And that's what makes him the best." --Doc talking about Baby, in Baby Driver

I wasn't sure about seeing this movie, but Amy wanted to and I had heard enough about it to intrigue me. It is fun (if hyper violent, which isn't my favorite thing...) and weirdly charming. I also found myself wishing I could physically move through the world Baby does. Kid is smooth. And I love what the film does with the concept of always having (and, in fact, needing) music in your head.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Five Things Podcast

"That really had a profound impact on who I am in a big way because I constantly saw my mother doing social justice work as a lunch lady and I saw all of those cafeteria workers doing that because, you know, there was need in our community and there was injustice and things like that. And I saw those women right a lot of those wrongs. I saw my mother pay for children's lunches and I saw ladies slip them extra rolls or whatever, but doing it in a way that was never self-congratulatory or shaming or anything. So often, since then, in my own role in social justice movements, people have asked me 'What's the first act of social justice you ever saw?' and that was definitely in the lunch room." --Silas House, in a lovely interview on the Five Things podcast, talking about his mother's work as a lunch lady in his elementary school.

I met House back when he first visited Shepherd and kind of instantly fell for the guy. I mean, not in a romantic way, but in a "he is so amazing/wish he was my friend" kind of way. And this was after I had already fallen hard for his books.What he does in this interview encapsulates so much of what makes him compelling and admirable and makes his voice such an important one. Look at what he does there by linking lunch ladies with social justice: he takes working-class women and connects their basic decency and compassion--and their every day interaction with real people--with a term that the right-wing has vilified. Because what these women did was social justice. Because social justice is a good and (duh) just thing. 

This interview is so charming--the perfect companion for my morning walk. And what a cool concept for a podcast.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Foul Shots: A Clinic"

27 July 2017:

"...and the lovingly unlaunched
foul shots we’re talking about now—
the clinic having served to bring us
together—circle eccentrically
in a sky of stolid orbits
as unlike as you and I are
from the arcs those foul shots
leave behind when they go in." --William Matthews, "Foul Shots: A Clinic"

Kind of a quiet day here, one spent doing a lot of thinking about writing and not as much actual writing as I would have liked. But yes, that thinking is a part of the process. I know this. And I do feel on the verge of getting done what I want to get done by the end of the month (my continued, slightly irrational pursuit of a typed to-do list I made for the month of July). Anyway, this poem, which is a process piece that anyone who has worked at a skill can relate to, spoke to me today, so here it is, today's "listening" post.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"For Moses, After He Learned to Say the Letter S"

26 July 2017:
"You learned to pronounce the 's' in 'sky.'
The ky has gone out.
Never again will stars twinkle there like diamonds.
No longer will we gaze upon the ky in the dwindling night before bedtime.
It's all right.
Our time in the ky was short and miraculous.
Who knows what new wonders the full sky holds?" --John Darnielle, reading a poem he wrote for his son and shared on The Hilarious World of Depression

(And because I heard the poem and didn't see it, I am guessing, almost certainly incorrectly, about the line breaks.)

Listen to the whole poem, which starts at about the 7:45 mark of the episode. Lovely and moving.

And yes, I've already blogged about this podcast twice before.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Dover Beach," again...

25 July 2017:
"Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night." --Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach"

Just got done listening to a couple readings of "Dover Beach," because I felt a need to close my eyes and hear Arnold's words. I've blogged about this poem before, five years and five days ago, when the terrible shooting in Aurora, Colorado happened. Here I am again, finding Matthew Arnold's words running through my head, this time as I wrestle with two, very different tragedies.

The first is the disastrous and cruel vote on health care that happened just a few minutes ago. I found myself crying as the news broke. People will suffer and die. It's that simple. This pain, anger, frustration, and sadness over our current political situation sits right below my chest--I can feel it physically sometimes. What to do in the face of such cruelty and disregard for common decency, as more and more comes at us every day? Arnold's words come to mind..."Ah, love, let us be true /
To one another!"

The second tragedy is no doubt smaller in terms of scale, but it's been three years to the day since my brother died. I went into today determined to focus on the good memories. Most of the time that works just fine. But at least for the next few hours, I find myself drawn to the sadness of it all. I look back and feel all over again the sense of impotence and frustration. What could we have done differently? What would have made a difference? And that sadness and frustration is no doubt connected to a Senate that just voted to strip away health care from millions and a president who offends every value I hold true. And here's the thing: my brother had good health care. And he still died of an opioid overdose. My heart breaks for all of those who will die without access to health care, specifically for mental health and addiction. What to do? Again, Arnold's words come to mind..."Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!"

Of course, as I alluded to when I wrote about this poem in 2012, Arnold's poem comes in for some criticism for what might be read as a retreat to insular protectionism and almost nihilism. But I don't think that's the only way to read it. Because if we are true to each other and really love each other, we will do what's right. We'll take care of each other and fight back against those dark forces pushing against us. It's all we can do.

Monday, July 24, 2017


24 July 2017: "I used to wonder what on earth I was going to do with my 262 plots my mother left me. I didn't have to wonder long." --Ruth Coker Burks, in the short film you can watch here.

I first heard about Burks in this StoryCorps piece. She's a remarkable woman and a model for us all.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homecoming King

23 July 2017: “'Hasan, you gotta be brave...Your courage to do what’s right has to be greater than the fear of getting hurt.'” --Hasan Minhaj, quoting his father's advice to him.

Minhaj's entire special is well-worth watching: funny and touching.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

David Brooks Goes to Lunch...

22 July 2017: “Can I also just say that the sentence ‘Insensitively I led her into a gourmet sandwich ship' is possibly the funniest single sentence that has ever appeared in The New York Times?” --Dana Stevens on this week's Slate Culture Gabfest, discussing David Brooks' unintentionally hilarious recent column.

I got a lot done today: cleaned bathrooms, organized books in my office, finalized (!) my teaching materials/syllabi for the fall, and made lots of progress on my portfolio. This also means I spent a lot of time listening to good old podcasts. The Gabfest crew's discussion of Brooks' piece was a fun highlight.

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Shattering The Blue Velvet Chair"

21 July 2017: “Well, who else is gonna do it?...When I think back to those days I think of this ferment, this activity, in people’s kitchens and living rooms…[They were women who said] ‘We’re not gonna wait. We are going to recognize ourselves and each other.’” –Joan Larkin, in the latest episode of the Poetry Off the Shelf podcast. I blogged about a previous episode here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"

20 July 2017:

"Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say
Hey you've got to hide your love away." --John Lennon, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (though the version I heard today was the fantastic one by Eddie Vedder)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Everything is Wonderful

19 July 2017: "Forgiveness is the spine of life." --Esther to Miriam, in Everything is Wonderful, a CATF play I saw today. It's a really fine exploration of forgiveness, redemption, and community.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Double-check those figures?

18 July 2017: "Thousands." --my niece, Krista, telling me how many guests she was going to have for her birthday party in November, when she turns 5. Love that optimism!

Monday, July 17, 2017

"The Pool and the Stream"

17 July 2017: “Architecture and its details are in some way all part of biology. Perhaps they are, for instance, like some big salmon or trout. They are not born fully grown; they are not even born in the sea or water where they normally live. They are born hundreds of miles away from their home grounds, where the rivers narrow to tiny streams. Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallizes in our world of ideas.” --Alvar Aalto, quoted in this episode of 99% Invisible

I finished listening to this one this morning on my walk. It's a fun and charming episode, connecting modern architecture, swimming pools, and skate boarding. Give it a listen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Big Sick

16 July 2017: “I am completely overwhelmed by you." --Emily to Kumail, in The Big Sick.

Man, did I love this movie! And that line made me swoon a bit because that's what it's like when you are really into someone new, right? (And I am such a softy...) But seriously: see this movie!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jane Austen Tea Party

15 July 2017: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." --Darcy to Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice

Today my friend Carrie and I led a discussion of Jane Austen at a library fundraiser. The above passage--on lots of people's "favorites" list--came up during the discussion. To tell the truth, I was a bit nervous going into the event, not knowing what to expect. But I should have expected that the people of this cool little town would show up with their A games, and they sure did.

Friday, July 14, 2017

"If We Were Vampires"

14 July 2017:

"If we were vampires and death was a joke
We'd go out on the sidewalk and smoke
Laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn't feel the need to hold your hand
Maybe time running out is a gift
I'll work hard 'til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn't me who's left behind" --Jason Isbell, "If We Were Vampires"

Heard about this song on the latest episode of Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs (the episode is actually about Ben Folds' "The Luckiest") and the hosts' lovely personal reflections on it convinced me to have a listen. It's an absolutely sigh-worthy song even if it makes me a bit (or a lot) envious about relating to it only in an aspirational sense.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Catching up...

13 July 2017: "I gave a snake a bath." --my friend Bethany, talking about her adventures working at a pet store. That's a sentence I will never say.

Catching up with her tonight put a nice stamp on an otherwise quiet day.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"We are not scared..."

12 July 2017: "We are talking about our lives here. When the NRA issues a public call to their constituents inciting violence against people who are constitutionally fighting for their lives, we don’t take that lightly. We know that we are not safe. But we are not scared, either.” --Funmilola Fagbamila, BLM LA

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Like Castanets"

11 July 2017:

"Across the Mapocho
Santa Lucia
Barrio Bella vista
San Cristobal
Across the Mapocho
La Moneda
La Casa de Neruda

And on the cable car I climb
Up to the sacred virgin shrine
This city's smothered in the smog
The snippy-snap of wild dogs
Like Castanets" --Bishop Allen, "Like Castanets"

Two Bishop Allen songs in a week? I know...not a lot of variety, but as I find myself plugging away at my portfolio for promotion (to full professor--yikes!), I also found my feet doing some serious bopping and dancing (chair-dancing, of course) as this fun number played in the background--especially once the lyrics above start. It's a perfect little mellow summer song, I think--also perfect for doing sort of mindless yet important paperwork on a hot summer day.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

10 July 2017: "Can't you just be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?" --Tony Stark, to Peter Park, in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I don't normally go for super-hero movies, but I always enjoy Spider-Man films. I was talking with my friend about this today (after we saw the latest one) and I think it's because of who Spider-Man is--just a nerdy kid from Queens...just a "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man," as the cliche explains.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

20th Century Women

9 July 2017: "I thought we were doing just fine, though, just me and you." --Jamie, to Dorothea, his mother, in a very sweet moment in 20th Century Women.

Feeling that usual Sunday-evening malaise coming on, I decided to watch 20th Century Women, about which I had heard so many good things. It's a lovely movie--and yes, Annette Bening deserves so many awards.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"If you have to be a floor..."

8 July 2017: "If you be a room, be a room where people dance. If you have to be a floor, be a dance floor." --Nate DiMeo, in this lovely yet bittersweet episode of The Memory Palace.

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Butterfly Nets"

7 July 2017:

"Up & up you go
For to steal the secrets of the heavens
Will you share them with me
My bright & brilliant spy?

Should you be blown back
Know that i will always run to greet you
Still surprised to catch you
Every time
Still surprised to catch you
By & by & by & by --" --Bishop Allen, "Butterfly Nets"

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story"

6 July 2017:

"—And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a Wednesday and a Saturday, 
And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday— 
When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed, 
Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping afternoon 
Looking off down the long street 
To nowhere, 
Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation 
And nothing-I-have-to-do and I’m-happy-why? 
And if-Monday-never-had-to-come— 
When you have forgotten that, I say, 
And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell, 
And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang; 
And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner, 
That is to say, went across the front room floor to the ink-spotted table in the southwest corner 
To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles 
Or chicken and rice 
And salad and rye bread and tea 
And chocolate chip cookies— 
I say, when you have forgotten that, 
When you have forgotten my little presentiment 
That the war would be over before they got to you; 
And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed into bed, 
And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end 
Bright bedclothes, 
Then gently folded into each other— 
When you have, I say, forgotten all that, 
Then you may tell, 
Then I may believe 
You have forgotten me well." --Gwendolyn Brooks, "when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story"

I heard this poem first thing this morning, listening to this audio version, and kind of took my breath away. You see the ending coming--the title gives it away--but it builds and builds through accretion of detail as this feeling of inevitable loss competes with a sense of hope. The speaker is holding onto the idea that her beloved will not forget these Sundays--she can't imagine that he would--but she's also imagining just that. And the fact that it's a war poem adds more layers of complexity. Stunning.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


“These are the words that Amanda used. But even at the time none seemed to fully capture the feeling Amanda has about her child and her child’s death. Those feelings were larger than the concepts could contain. They floated in and around her, a great indistinct mass of pleasant and painful sensations.” –Alix Spiegel in the first episode of the latest season of Invisibilia.

This bit comes towards the end of the episode—a fascinating discussion of rethinking the entire idea of emotions—as Alix reflects on a grieving mother’s complex emotions years after the loss of her little child. It also serves as a lovely reminder of what makes language both exciting and limiting. In fact, though I have just started the season today, I think it might be quite interesting to someone interested in deconstruction—the way language creates thought and meaning, etc. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Master of None

4 July 2017: "I don't even know if it's about her. I just--I miss that feeling. When we were together doing all that stuff...I felt really connected to somebody. And it felt good. Now I just feel fucking alone." --Dev to Arnold, in the last episode of Master of None.

Oh man, this season of Master of None was just amazing. I can't say enough about it. Tonight, I finished it up watching the last two episodes, those focusing on Dev's relationship with Francesca. They are sweet, funny, stunningly romantic and heartbreaking. What a great example of art that is so very specific yet, through that specificity, taps into something universal. The way the tension builds and builds in the penultimate episode but doesn't resolve...that's life, isn't it? And Dev making lists in the finale to help him get over her? Well, as a compulsive list-maker, let's just say I could relate.

Apparently, Aziz says they might be done with this series. If they are, I get it. I am just grateful for the 20 episodes we got, especially these last ten.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Firefly therapy...

3 July 2017:

"When I saw you standing there on the street
I found myself by your side
I started wanting you again
There's just no way to hide from that old
Loving You feeling again
It's really got me reeling again
It only seems to stop to start all over again with you." --Roy Orbison and Emmylou Harris, "That Lovin' You Feeling Again"

Feeling a bit out of sorts tonight, so I sat outside as it cooled down, watching fireflies, listening to my iPod, and just thinking. Emmylou's music, particularly her duets, kind of hit the spot.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"It is so beautifully written, it sings itself"

2 July 2017:

"The song opens with the line 'I may not always love you.'

Forget for a moment the audacity of beginning a love song with that phrase. Consider what it means when hitched to what follows:

I may not always love you,
But long as there are stars above you,
You’ll never need to doubt it.
I’ll make you so sure about it.

We see two people here, together, at this moment and what they have is profound, and as long as the universe exists, whether or not they remain together, she will know the depth and strength of his love.

Why? Because he needs her...

'God Only Knows' is, at the same time, a mature proclamation of love and another desperate plea. And it’s a distillation of what much of Pet Sounds is about: the sense that if we surrender to an all-consuming love, we will never be able to live without it. And, though we’re uncertain that the reward is worth the risk, we yearn to surrender."

Today's entry is a combo listening/reading post, I guess. I was feeling Sunday-afternoon-serious-and-contemplative and stumbled across this perfect close reading of one of my favorite songs. I remember as a kid, the first time I actually thought about that first line and went "huh?" And then I listened more closely and admired the turn it takes, even if (as a kid) I didn't quite get it. I think the piece's writer has got it here: it seems so foolish to hope for/in love, but we kind of can't help ourselves and just want to risk it and beat those odds.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Blueberry picking...

1 July 2017: "This is fun." --my friend's daughter, while we were blueberry picking earlier today. It is really nice to have some kids around every once in awhile, especially cool kids like my friend's. They help you see things anew, you know?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Took me a second...

30 June 2017: "My grand re-debut to Mikey was like Simone Biles trying to ride a roller coaster after the park closed. Too little, too late." --Titus in the final episode of the latest season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Took me a second to get it, but when I did, I burst out laughing. Now it's onto the latest season of Master of None, which I have been saving as a treat. Since I finished everything on my "May/June To-Do List" a week early, thank you very much, I think I have earned it. (Don't ask me why I waited until today to reward myself...)

Thursday, June 29, 2017


29 June 2017: "That night, he had lain down next to her, and in the dark had told her that this was love, if love there was—having the courage to abandon the present for a future that one could only imagine. He had assured her that her husband loved her." --Edwidge Danticat, "Seven"

Finally let myself listen to this episode of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, Junot Diaz reading Danticat's story. I had read it before--back when I read The Dew Breaker for the first time--but it felt even more resonant today, hearing it again as the evil travel ban goes into effect and this video is making the rounds.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"New Slang"

28 June 2017:

"And if you took to me like
A gull takes to the wind
I'd've jumped from my tree
And I'd've danced like the king of the eyesores
And the rest of our lives would've fared well" --The Shins, "New Slang"

Heard this one today after not hearing it in a while. Just digging how smart the lyrics are.

[Two song postings in a row...sorry...]

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


27 June 2017:

"Set me free, leave me be
I don't want to fall another moment into your gravity
Here I am, and I stand
So tall, just the way I'm supposed to be
But you're on to me and all over me" --Sara Bareilles, "Gravity"

A good day overall, but man, this song gets to me and makes me feel stuff. And Pandora seems to think that I need to hear it all the time, so I guess it can work for today's "listening" entry.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"What I Have"

26 June 2017:

"At lunchtime a woman famous for her ability
to praise the ineffable
                      says she can’t believe anyone returns
to where they came from.
            But of course they do. In fact
some do nothing else. & what is it they leave behind?
            Perhaps not the meaning of time,
but the time of meaning, & the fact that whatever
happens, tomorrow
                      will change it." --Seth Abramson, from "What I Have" (audio here)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Isla's Baptism

25 June 2017: " Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." --Matthew 10: 29-31

Little Isla was baptized today and I had the honor of standing up as her godmother. This line from the Gospel reading stood out to me, especially in the context of the entire chapter, where Jesus sends the disciples out. He is telling them that their work will be hard and even dangerous, but that they will be okay, even if they lose their lives. Very powerful words and big, deep thoughts on the day I stood up and promised to help this child live a Christian life.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Desire Paths...

24 June 2017: "As the name suggests, desire paths are these unplanned paths that people really wanna take and they are shaped by repeated use." --Kurt Kohlstedt talking to Roman Mars on this episode of 99% Invisible.

I never knew these things had a name, so I was thrilled to hear that they do--and that it is such an awesome name. Stick around for the hosts' discussion ow what desire paths can teach us about design.

By the way, I blogged about a desire path way back in 2011.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Playing House is back!

23 June 2017: "Hotel spaghetti in a white blazer? This woman is fearless!" --Emma in the second episode of the new season of Playing House.

This show, which celebrates female friendships, is so great. More people need to watch it and appreciate its hilarious brilliance.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Keep talking about it...

22 June 2017: “I told him [my son], ‘Your uncle had a brain disease…and it killed him,” because I wanted to protect my five-year-old, but I also wanted to tell the truth…And I thought, ‘People need to talk about this,’ and I’ve been trying to talk about it in any venue I could find since.” –John Moe, in this episode of The Hilarious World of Depression, a discussion with Ana Marie Cox.

I've already blogged about this podcast before, but until this episode, I didn't realize that the host also lost a brother to addiction, mental illness, and suicide. It is (almost) always strangely comforting when hear someone else say these things, especially about the need to keep talking about it.

Bonus "listening" thing: the first segment of this episode of Nancy (though the second segment is fun and also worth listening to). In it, a classroom of third graders reach out to Gavin Grimm, sending him their love and support. It had me tearing up as I took my walk today, filled with hope for our future if these kids are even a bit representative of their generation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Grading: DONE!

21 June 2017:

"It just takes some time
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right" --Jimmy Eat World, "The Middle"

Just clicked submit on those final grades! Always feels good and the fact that this silly but fun little song came on made me smile as I commenced some chair-dancing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Why do we do this?"

20 June 2017:

“These books are so stupid.”

“Is that just dawning on you? This whole process is stupid! Why are we sat in the dark? What’s happening?”

“Why do we do this? It’s so weird, isn’t it?”

“It’s such a waste of everyone’s potential! Think what we could be doing!”

“It’s like normalized behavior now. It’s just what we do. Why can’t you just come around for dinner like a normal friend?”

–Jamie, Alice, and James, in perhaps my favorite exchange from this week’s episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno. These three just kill me every week, but I especially loved this exchange because they are having so much fun laughing about the whole endeavor and you get such a sense of their friendship.

I spend a large part of my day laughing with folks I consider friends. Any day you can say that is a good day.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Parent sessions...

19 June 2017: "It's hard...I tell her, 'You have to go. You are ready.'" --the mom of one of our incoming students, during the parent session of today's Advising and Registration activities.

I always tell parents in these sessions that I can't imagine what it's like to send your kids to college. You spend 17 or 18 years making sure that kid has what he or she needs and then you have to let go in a kind of major way. I mean, even the most hands-off parent must feel strange about it, whether their kid is super-excited to go or not. (Same goes for the parents' levels of excitement...or if they've had other kids go to college already. It must always feel significant.)

But if your child is shy or scared or has some special needs, it must be...a lot for you. So I always try to give voice to those emotions, admitting that I can't understand it completely, not having kids myself. But I do know what to do to help their kids succeed and I do my best to help them help me do it.

This group--Session C (the third of four)--is a small one for me: only three students, one in Communications, one in Spanish, and one in English. But they seem great: focused, smart, and friendly. Tomorrow (the day we build schedules) should go well.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day...

18 June 2017: "I'm just sitting here with Sug, reading the paper." --my dad's update on his afternoon.

Happy Father's Day to my dad, a pretty great guy who absolutely deserves to spend some time in the AC, reading and hanging out with the dog. In some of the best ways, he's a simple guy and I'd like to think that I inherited a few of those traits. (You know, organized and a bit fastidious, more introspective than not, careful with my money, having my stuff arranged just so, fond of reading and black raspberry ice-cream and running errands for the satisfaction of getting them off the list of things to do...and some other stuff, too.)

As I check in on Facebook today, I see lots of people posting tributes to their dads and their children's fathers. But I also see a couple of friends posting on this first Father's Day without their dads. I know how lucky I am to still have mine and to get to hear his quiet little updates about his day.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's still got it...

17 June 2017: "Welcome to the Litchfield Community Library..." --Brooke to some of the other prisoners, showing them her tribute to to Poussey, in season 5, episode 7 of Orange is the New Black.

Okay: so this line was designed to make people like me get emotional and it worked, but overall, 7 episodes into this season, I am really loving it. ("Enjoying" isn't always the right word, since some of it is pretty dark...)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wynonna Earp

16 June 2017: "That's wonderful...Can you teach me how to use voicemail?" --Doc, to Jeremy, on this week's episode of Wynonna Earp. This fun and silly show has been nice surprise, with Buffy-like plots and laughs--and some really attractive people. It's fluffy and kind of stupid (in a good way) and a nice way to spend an hour on an otherwise quiet Friday night.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Real Fine Place"

15 June 2017:

"Somethin' is goin' on
I can't explain but sure can touch.
It's callin' both of us,
Stronger than any fear or doubt,
It's changin' everything I see,
It's changin' you, it's changin' me." --Sara Evans, "Real Fine Place"

I hadn't heard this song in years, I think, until I heard it again today while driving. (It's such a great driving song!) It hit me right in the middle of a pretty good day, so I thought it was worth being the subject of today's "listening" post. It's that good kind of nostalgic for me, especially since it's embedded in a hopeful and fun song about looking towards the future.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Interpreter of Maladies"

14 June 2017: "Mine is probably 'Interpreter of Maladies,' because that guy was so ridiculous..." --a student in my class today, in response to my asking which of the stories in Lahiri's collection was her favorite.

I loved this response because, though it doesn't make much sense out of context, it speaks to what makes this story--and the entire collection--so strong. The characters are frustrating, fallible, and so completely real and recognizable. Think about it: to say that a story with a "ridiculous" main character is your favorite means that you understand that ridiculousness--that it is familiar and memorable.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Birthday boy...

13 June 2017: "It feels like 1996." --my brother Christian today, as we talked on the phone today about the amazing season the Yankees are having, particularly the young talent who are just amazing the heck out of us.

Today's "listening" post incorporates two of my favorite things: baseball and my brother, who celebrated his birthday today.

Monday, June 12, 2017

"Everything Changed..."

12 June 2017: "It was like a different form of family. It was like a chosen family." --a patron of the Pulse Nightclub, being interviewed for this episode of Nancy, describing what made that place so special to him and so many others. It's been a year since the shooting...seems like less time, in some ways. But this comment just got to me: this was a place where people felt at home, comfortable, maybe even safe. And then it was shattered. We should keep listening to these stories...the stories of these lives forever changed that day.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Now she tells me...

11 June 2017: "Yeah. And I am afraid of heights." --my friend Amy, about 8 feet in the air on a precarious ladder, helping me clean a bird's nest out of my dryer vent. This encapsulates pretty darn well what kind of person she is: waiting until she's up there to admit that she wishes she weren't. She's just so's astounding.

But it also reminds me that I need to ask more questions and listen a bit better for clues before my friends go out of their way to help me. After all, I am so very blessed to have amazing friends and I ought to be mindful not to take them or their generosity for granted.

We did get the nest out (not much a nest--made mostly out of dryer lint, we think and no eggs or baby birds) and get the vent cover back on, though the bird keeps coming back and trying to get through the duct tape we used to seal it the edges. (I voted for efficiency over aesthetics, at least for now.) But for most of the rest of our work, I tried to be the one on the ladder.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Orphan Black Season 5

10 June 2017: "Is that the emergency loon call?" --Donnie, on Orphan Black.

Orphan Black's final season premiered tonight and it's so nice to have it back. I still have a hard time keeping track of the mythology sometimes, but Tatiana Maslany is just a goddess. And Donnie, married to the best clone, always makes me laugh.

Friday, June 9, 2017

"When To Break Up With Culture And Advice With Mallory Ortberg"

9 June 2017: "When you watch soap operas, it will make you forgive decline and shark-jumping... Soap operas basically come in on a shark." --Audie Cornish, on Pop Culture Happy Hour, discussing sticking with a piece of entertainment versus quitting.

Though it doesn't follow the usual episode format, this episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour is pretty darn terrific, featuring both the wonderful Audie Cornish and the amazing Mallory Ortberg. Give it a listen.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Off it goes!

8 June 2017: "All done." --my friend Amy today, as she hit the button submitting the final version of our article, accepted for publication in Feminist Teacher.

Always a sweet moment to hit "send" on that final version of a publication, but this one--in a great journal, on a topic I really love, written with a fantastic colleague and friend--is a different flavor of sweet. And working with someone else like this--when writing is so often a solitary activity for me--involved so much listening, so today's post really hits this year's theme.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bing in quarantine!

7 June 2017: "Anytime there's a cat bite, I prescribe antibiotics, even without this redness." --the doctor I saw today at urgent care.

So remember yesterday's "happy" post, which had a throw-away comment about Bing biting me? Well, that bite got kind of nasty looking over the past 24 hours and some friends convinced me to go to urgent care. This launched a whole series of consequences, including a visit from animal control and Bing under (home) quarantine for the next ten days. But the good thing is that I got some medicine and I learned (again) to be a bit aggressive with these things. And my hand is all wrapped up, which sometimes looks bad-ass to me--until I remember that it's from a silly cat bite.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


6 June 2017:

"I think the universe is on my side
Heaven and Earth have finally aligned
Days are good and that's they way it should be" --Echosmith, "Bright"

A couple of good days around here, I think: an accepted publication, a successful advising and registration session, and just some other stuff that makes me happy. And this song, which just came on, had actually been running through my head, so it will work just fine for today's entry.

My good mood is even pushing me through a literally painful experience I just finished...Bing misbehaved quite a bit at the vet, including biting the heck out of my hand, something he's never done before. I don't think the vet tech realized how bad it was because I played it tough. Ha. But he got his shots and all still seems pretty healthy. (There was an attempt to do blood work, but they gave up, so let's just hope it's all okay...)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

5 June 2017: "I just don't understand what we're supposed to do with they all fit together..." --a student in my ENGL 355 class today, opening up our last day of discussing Randall Kenan's Let the Dead Bury Their Dead.

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead might be the most difficult text we read in ENGL 355. It's dark and disturbing at times, full of different voices and styles. And these interconnected stories of the fictional town Kenan creates operate one way individually, but other ways in conversation with one another. But how they connect and what we are supposed to do with those connections...I always have a hard time articulating it. So I was glad that this student made explicit what is so difficult about this work. It led us to keep working on coming up with answers during class...I think we got somewhere, but even if we didn't, the attempts were fun and rewarding.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bangka Island Massacre

4 June 2017: "Chin up girls. I'm proud of you and I love you all." --Matron Irene Drummond, to the 21 nurses she supervised, right before all were killed in the Bangka Island Massacre.

I had never heard of this event, or of Vivian Bullwinkle, the surviving nurse, subject of one of the recent "Six Impossible Episodes" of Stuff You Missed in History Class, but I sure am glad to have heard of her and Drummond. You really should listen to the episode and the way that the host's voice pauses with emotion as she shares Drummond's words (about 18 1/2 minutes in). And what amazing words they were--words of love and encouragement and support to these women as they walked to their deaths. It's one of those stories that gives you hope even as it devastates you.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman

3 June 2017: "You should be honored!" --Wonder Woman, the first time she has ice cream, to the vendor who sells it.

What a fun movie this was--and I don't usually go for these sorts of films. But this silly line quoted above actually captures some of what I liked about it: the gorgeous and captivating Gal Godot kicked some serious butt, but also played "newcomer to this world" scenes in such sweet ways. Even the romance had me swooning a bit. Fun stuff.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Happy hour with crayons...

2 June 2017: "Ummm...we prefer 'gay-liens,' thank you!" --my friend Jonathan, joking about what to call the gay aliens we added to a picture we were drawing at a local bar tonight. Other highlights included an orange cat roasting a marshmallow, a squirrel drinking wine, an escaping handmaid, and a Ghost of Shepherdstown. Trust me: they all make sense.

Our friends Mark and Erin are moving (sad!), so we were saying good-bye to them. Erin suggested using the crayons to make them a drawing for their new refrigerator and we were happy to comply. Yes, I realize this all sounds ridiculous and silly, but it sure was fun.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

More on The Handmaid's Tale

1 June 2017: “If this is a story I’m telling, I must be telling it to someone. There’s always someone, even when there’s no one.” --June, in episode 8 of The Handmaid's Tale.

Though some episodes are better than others, this show continues to give me so much to think about. Right now I keep thinking over this interesting comment on storytelling and audience--who June imagines herself talking to and why...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

More on Cover Stories

31 May 2017: "The Pearl Jam performance of 'Again Today,' it's just got such an urgency to it. It says that complacency will catch up with us. There's a new urgency to it because they did it in the style of The Ramones. It was like a power ballad before, when I did it, and now it's so fast and such a call to arms. That's a potent performance that reminds me of why we made the record in this way." --Brandi Carlile talking about one of my favorite tracks on this terrific album.

Listen to the whole interview with Brandi here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"The Human Voice"

30 May 2017: "So I say 'Sir or Madam' to the baby, 'What is your opinion of the human species?' Well what does a baby do? Baby starts giggling! I say, 'Thank God for the sound of a human voice!'" --Studs Terkel in a StoryCorps interview.

Monday, May 29, 2017

It's back!

29 May 2017: "So yeah: the world is in turmoil. I think we can all safely say that's true. But one shining light is Belinda." --Jamie, one of the wonderful hosts of My Dad Wrote a Porno, opening up the new season.

One of my absolute favorite podcasts is back, as hilarious and filthy as ever. And as silly as it sounds, Jamie is right: this brilliant little show always raises my spirits.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

28 May 2017: "Girl, get you a gun!" --my friend Hannah, giving me advice as we played a new game, Good Cop, Bad Cop.

Another day, another fun get-together, this time at Tim's house. We were there basically all day long and could have stayed even longer, if not for a long-ish drive home.

Saturday night cook-out...

27 May 2017: "My ants tasted like chocolate..." --my friend Adam, participating in a strange and hilarious conversation about eating bugs (both accidentally and on purpose).

On Saturday night, I hosted a get-together for some former students/current friends, some of whom I haven't seen in quite a while. Though the weather didn't cooperate completely, it a nice night and a lovely reminder of how lucky I've been to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Friday, May 26, 2017

"Just Breathe"

26 May 2017:
"Yes I understand that every life must end, uh-huh
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh
Oh I'm a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah others they've got none
Stay with me...
Let's just breathe..." --Pearl Jam, "Just Breathe"

A quiet day so far, more or less: running errands, doing laundry, doing some writing (that part going a bit more slowly than I might like...), and just doing a lot of thinking. This song works.