Tuesday, January 21, 2003
The Blog Defined
posted by boyhowdy |
11:37 PM |
The nominees for the Third Annual Weblog Awards, a.k.a. the Bloggies, have been announced. In doing so, Nicolai Nolan, the coordinator and benevolent dictator of the bloggies by sheer virtue of having run with the ball when he realized he had it, makes an interesting stipulative definition:
For this contest, a "weblog" is a page with dated entries that has a purpose (in whole or in part) of linking to other sites. For instance, sites that are intended to be just personal journals or site news pages are not eligible.
By these narrow standards, this site clings to its blogginess only tenuously. Much of my links are internal; perhaps what we have here is more hybrid, as are most of the more literate blogs, like brokentype or William Gibson's blog.
I note that Nolan defines two categories, one by its intention (subject matter), the other by its approach or implementation (has a purpose in linking to other sites); it is certainly possible to imagine a personal journal which has a purpose in linking to other sites, I think; the two are not mutually exclusive, but complimentary. But it nonetheless makes sense to me that in order to recognize the best of something, that something has to be defined. How can you decide which is the better blog if you don't have a clear sense of what you mean by blog in the first place?
Rethinking Media Literacy: A Rant
posted by boyhowdy |
8:47 PM |
For starters, it's not what you think.
Most people think of media literacy as one of two entirely incorrect and limiting things:
a) a critical viewing study, biased heavily towards an assumption that "the media", by which is most often meant mass media but today vaguely references the more corporate major service providers of the Internet as well, is out to get you, and you need to be able to see how and condemn them for it, or
b) a slightly more complex study that suggests that a combination of critical analyitic skills and applied knowledge and experience leads to empowerment, most often to enable one to "stand up" to the media.
The former is most fatally flawed for that it disempowers students through its reliance on an analytic dialectic that is far too small, and far too contradictory. It begs questions, such as: Why are the authors of written texts inherently celebrated for their use of their medium while the authors of web texts are ignored, the authors of TV and movie texts reviled, and the authors of popular music/musicvideo texts ridiculed? In other words, why show the worst of media and the best of writing? Shouldn't students see the ideal potential in all communication if they are to be steeped in a culture which depends upon facile and deliberate use?
The second option is what is commonly practiced in middle-school "Tech Ed" requirements around the country. Usually positioned in a rotation with arts and home economics, the Tech Ed class at its best allows students to have hands-on lab experience with relatively new technologies, and to construct realities with them. These courses are almost entirely creative, in fact; they are where students build web pages and PowerPoint slide shows and make video documentaries of their shaky talking-head friends leaning against their lockers.
Note that both are oppositional models. We approach these perfectly neutral, powerful, ubiquitous communications tools, all of which our students will be expected to have some mastery of, in a way so far unlike the healthy celebratory approach we give to writing, speech, and other media, and the end result is, I suggest, to preclude students' empowerment as participants in their increasingly mediated culture. Modern media's second-class treatment by the pedagogical institution stunts student's development of the ability to actively create and share knowledge, and that's a darn shame.
Neither model, though, is truly Media Literacy in its ideal form as part of the framework for lifelong process, as consistent with the English curriculum's delivery as a way of teaching thought construction and expression through reading and writing and writing some more. The mature Media Literacy curriculum is one which as wholly prepares the student for the world of multiple and fast-changing digital and mediated communication tools as the English curriculum wholly prepares the student for the world of the language which those tools still rely on, although in different ways in different tools, for, after all, the medium, you know, is the message.
I was teaching this, and they are taking it away from the students, so they are taking it away from me. I've been asked to spearhead an effort to integrate this curriculum more broadly throughout the school, through my work with teachers and departments, and it works in theory, in my head, on my best days.
But I'm not sure it will work. The deep study, like the English class itself in relation to the "writing across the curriculum" movement, is a vital part of this curriculum; its absence will keep those who I teach from seeing the big picture -- they'll learn skills more than understanding, and without understanding, they can't teach themselves new skills later in life, if you know what I mean. And those students that took the class, and the teachers that I talked with about the class as the curriculum progressed, spread those ideas like prophets through the hallways, and the world changed for the better, if just for a moment. I worry that we're sacrificing the very foundation of our mission to create life-long learners, and are willing to settle for life-long HTML coders and PowerPoint users -- not inherently a bad thing but worse if that is all they can do -- without realizing that those are the stakes.
And these are not all my best days. I'll miss the class, and miss more the knowledge that the class could have made masters of the universe, and now cannot.
Give And Take
posted by boyhowdy |
3:52 PM |
My Media Literacy course has fallen to the budget-crisis-without-a-rubric; I am teaching it to a full load of kids next term and then, sadly, it will not be taught again. I am too mad to say more about that, and I use the term mad deliberately, as angry would have been the right word until yesterday I began to go insane thinking about it.
Instead, sick of bureaucra-speak and institutional politics, sickened by the pretense of pedagogic soundness which clearly does not after all underlie the attack on my course, frustrated by the lack of honesty which seeps like root/rot/rat poison through this community and its members, I've been thinking about Shel Silverstein's classic The Giving Tree. There's an ongoing debate about the text, nicely represented by, of all things, reader's reviews of the book at amazon.com, but at the risk of alienating my scant readership (yes, you), I hereby present my own take on the text, one which I suspect Silverstein, always the wry cynic, intended as a kind of reverse object lesson:
Give and give and give and give, selflessly and with no return, until you are a stump.
Then, at the end of your lifetime, after about 50 years of loneliness and misery, when you have nothing left to give, you will be appreciated. Maybe.
Of course, you'll still be a stump.
Goddam stumps. At least they're good for sitting on. Smiling and pretending that it's wonderful that you'll still have a job after all might work for some, but what no one here realizes is that I'd be happy to leave if I wasn't going to be happy to be here. Is it so unusual to be willing to be broke rather than do a job you don't want to do? It shouldn't be, and it is, and that makes me sadder and madder than ever.
Frost Heaves, Music Blares
posted by boyhowdy |
12:45 AM |
Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me
Chilly out there tonight. Even the moon is shrinking. The clock in the car said 12:19 7 -- more time than temperature -- on the way back from the radio show tonight. Stuck my hand out the window for a second to feel the wind and felt the oils on my hands crystalizing. Almost got frostbit, and watch that windchill, 'cause the weather channel has a severe cold warning out. Supposed to feel like 25 below. It does.
The students must be restless; we got five calls tonight. Darcie and Virginia's other sister Alicia called from Connecticut pretending to be a student requesting a Pink Floyd song. Andy called to correctly identify tonight's mystery song as The Flight Of The Bumblebee; Nora gave us a ring just afterwards to make sure someone got the question right. Zack called to let me know he was going to burn a CD for me so I could play some songs on the radio, which is very cool of him; Molly called and asked us to play The Ocean; I had forgotten what a wonderful song that is, and never realized that John Prine sings backup vocals on the final verse, which makes the song that much cooler. Zack and Molly are, of course, involved, which makes that entire sequence about as cool as it gets. And cute. Student dating is so serious, but they make it look easy.
Talking to Molly reminded me that I hadn't taken care of her prize for winning last week's contest. To win, she correctly identified my age as 30; like everyone who wins our weekly contests on Tributary, I promised her a week's worth of free coffee at the school snack bar of her choice. Note to self: remember to stop by the snack bar on the Northfield campus and set up those free coffee accounts for contest winners Andy and Molly.
Tonight's bedtime stories (on the hour anf the half hour) were old children's favorites: Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are, Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, and Carle's almost-popup book Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me. Music was alternately wild and mellow with a 25 minute set of what can only be called Geek Music to get things started. As always, tonight's playlist follows.
Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (Tributary theme song)
Moxy Fruvous -- Horseshoes
Sarah Harmer -- Basement Apartment
Guster -- Window (off a copy of their first CD so old the band was still called Gus)
Eddie From Ohio -- Monotony
Barenaked Ladies -- If I Had 1,000,000 Dollars ($651,254 American, according to this)
The Bobs -- Mr. Duality (for Nora, a.k.a missduality)
Cake -- Manah Manah
Timbuk 3 -- Cynical
Fred Snyder -- Coconut (why, yes, he is the guy from the B-52s)
Suzanne Vega -- Blood Makes Noise
Peter Siegel -- Malthus
Ani Difranco -- As Is
Kasey Chambers -- A Little Bit Lonesome
String Cheese Incident -- Take Five (live)
Lyle Lovett -- Friend Of The Devil
Shawn Colvin -- Say A Little Prayer
Marc Cohn -- At The Station
Yo Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin -- Flight Of The Bumblebee
PJ Shapiro -- Complexity (a song written and recorded for our wedding. Awww...)
Alison Krauss -- Forget About It
Cheryl Wheeler -- Arrow
Deb Talan -- Two Points
John Gorka -- Shape Of The World
Dar Williams -- The Ocean
St. Germain -- Rose Rouge
Susan Werner -- Courting The Muse
Sunday, January 19, 2003
There Must Be A Word For That
posted by boyhowdy |
7:40 PM |
Thursday night's blogentry seemed to cue the subconscious: I must have realized that how I chose to envision a phrase, as blog-starter or poem kernel, was a choice to be made at the moment of inception. Or something like that. Anyway, I wrote a poem, the first in almost six months, and I'd like to share it with you.
Impotent, I Control The Moon
Or The Teacher Drives Home Alone After A Late Night Grading Essays
I wish I were a hundred things
But this. Sure, I can spin
The meta, the postmodern gaze;
But that I have sown of myself
A hundred hundred selves
By spending my capital unawares,
Deep in the lump that is belly
I covet their lives like sand dollars.
Impotent, I control the moon
Driving it left behind the trees
With a turn of the wheel,
Dribbling it like a basketball
On the hills above the bridge
Until, burning off the clouds,
Pulling away from the earth,
Fire fading, it purifies the sky.
Please let me know what you think. Or not. And there's always more at Watermelon Pickle Poems.
Monkey See, Monkey Robot Do
posted by boyhowdy |
2:56 PM |
More people should read The New Yorker; this week's issue includes the following from Reading Minds, Ian Parker's excellent essay on developments in Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) systems:
A monkey first learned to use a joystick to play a video game, while his keepers similarly build up a key -- a code book -- linking neuronal activitiy with various actions. Then the joystick was disconnected from the computer. The monkey continued to play the game using only his brain.
The technology is being developed and funded primarily to assist the handicapped, most especially to communicatively empower those who are locked in their own bodies, unable even to blink. But more general use is a worthy thought experiment: what can we do with this, really? Imagine the end of the keyboard, the neural net and the Internet collapsed, the mind controlling the body and the cyberbody in tandem with no localized personal/physical mediation. Imagine.
posted by boyhowdy |
1:33 PM |
Some bloggers blog about technology; for these folks, a blogentry about recent tweakings of the blog is not only useful, but topically consistent. If Safari is your game, then webraw/blog offers a spitcup for your drool; if geekiness makes you horny, then you already know about slashdot, so even providing a link would be redundant.
However, this blog is not about technology. I'm a media and educational technology teacher, a cybersociologist and theorist, not a technology geek; I have nothing against geeks, I'm just not one by nature. I'm more interested in content, and context only to the extent that it supports that content. And I prefer to leave work at work, and bring literature to the blogging form.
But to talk about the ramifications of technology -- for example, what it means, socially and behaviorally, to design and code in a specific way -- it is sometimes necessary to be specific about that technology, if for no other reason than to help the reader see what you see. Eric J at webraw understands this, and seems to balance what reads like an innate attraction to new tools and toys which I do not have with excellent discourse on how and what these tools mean to the culture of the blog.
Thus: if you, dear reader, find yourself wandering through the blog and come across an entry titled Technote, feel free to skip it, or not; the label is there deliberately, a cue for those who are interested and those who are not, a signpost to assist you in your travels.
posted by boyhowdy |
10:58 AM |
For those who care, some blogging notes about this blog. Commentary welcome.
Webrings. I've just joined three of 'em, each specifically for blogs of one sort or another: The New England Webring, Blogging Mommies (also for Daddies!), and edublog, a blog for educators exploring ways of using blogs in the classroom. It seems that blog webrings (blogrings?) are still in their infancy, as all three rings have far less than 100 members. Heck, with the addition of lil' ol' me, edublog has 13. It is nonetheless wonderful to find kindred souls; check 'em out if you want to see the fine folks who share my interests.
Tech notes in general. Frequent visitors to the site will have noticed slight changes to the links and linkstructure on the right of this page; I've taken the liberty of adding subheads to the link categories, mostly to lessen the semiotic noise a bit. I continue to toy with a total redraft of the about section, making it more a short link-heavy sentence or two, bringing it to the top of the list, adding a photo of me, maybe like this one, but I'm not convinced it's for me. Is this something people want, or does it disrupt the "read it to find out" literate premise which I've been working with thus far? I note that I've seen both strategies in use throughout the bloggiverse, but note as well that an "about me" section in conversational tone tends to accompany a blog more about the person than their thoughts.
Readers. Dad reads my blog. My wife reads my blog. Someone from Seattle reads my blog. You read my blog. Plant your flower in the guestmap to leave your mark, if you're a reader, if you're interested in sharing your location and thoughts, if you dream of expressing yourself in forget-me-nots and daisies.
Templates. Live with it. I've toyed with movable type, but until I have many oodles of time to rethink and replot, I like this template, even if it's all over the web. Of course, total redesigns of my site for no pay but plenty of bankable brownie points are welcome, but if you have that much time to devote to someone else's site, you really should get out more.
posted by boyhowdy |
1:03 AM |
Northampton today with Willow and Darcie to meet up with my parents and brother for a slightly belated family 30th birthday dinner at East Side Grill, not to be confused with East Coast Grill in Cambridge's Inman Square, where I spent my 21st family birthday dinner. Both restaurants serve a variant on basic cajun/southern cooking: the East Coast Grill serves mostly barbecue, so the birthday dinner nine years ago was surely something like pulled pork with beans and coleslaw and vinegar pickles and a slice of watermelon, like it should be, from their open kichen; the East Side Grill runs more towards the gourmet South, specializing in a lobster and corn soup, which I did not order but recommended successfully to my brother, and the popcorn shrimp and artichoke-and-mushroom-smothered tenderloin with fried leeks and garlic mashed potatoes I myself enjoyed. At the East Coast Grill I forgot my ID, and had to have my mom vouch for me in order to purchase my first legal drink, which came with a blue plastic dolphin stirrer I keep in the top drawer of my rolltop bedside table. Today, I had a Tanqueray and tonic, the baby whined through the second half of the meal, and I got a J Crew burgundy mock turtleneck and Ken Burns's Jazz: The Story of American Music 5 CD box set from my parents and three Mystery Science Theatre 3000 videos from my brother. I don't remember what I got for my 21st birthday.
I was born thirty years and four days ago at 11:30 in the morning, a half hour before that year's Superbowl kickoff, in Dekalb County Hospital, outside of Atlanta, Georgia, if my parents and birth certificate are to believed (I'm told I was there, but I don't remember much from that part of my life). Being southerner by technicality allows me mostly to justify a love for good southern cooking, from barbecue ribs to catfish to jumbalaya, and a tendency to use the ever-useful contraction y'all instead of the genderist Yankee convention guys when speaking in second person plural. But I certainly don't remember the place; we moved to Massachusetts when I was nine months old, the same week Nixon left office. I'm more and more each year a native New Englander, even as I drift chameleon-like through the stereotypes as time passes, from northern suburbanite to small liberal arts collegian to rural intellectual. I didn't even mind the cold today in Northampton, even though it's 5 below (in Farenheit!) outside now, cold enough you can feel the ice crystals forming in your nostrils and moustache as you step out the door, even colder in the outdoor hottub darcie and I treated ourselves to at East Heaven Hot Tubs because, well, my parents were eager to babysit and we can't resist the soak.
I've been all around the world: Mexico, Holland, Denmark, Ireland, Russia and Estonia back when they were part of the USSR, Finland, Israel, Egypt. I love coming back here, and knowing that we have here to come back to. I love the winter permasnow and the crisp air and the pine tree forests; I love new coats and the reward of spring after the long dark months and snowbright days. The world is nice to visit; I wouldn't want to live there. But if there's a word for it in Creole, or you can cook it best in a half a metal trash can, bring it on. Y'all come back now, y'hear?
Saturday, January 18, 2003
New Coat, Old Hat
posted by boyhowdy |
12:20 AM |
...and this shirt still creased from the shelf.
At the Holyoke Mall yesterday for the first time in almost a year, as Darcie needed some make-your-own picture framing supplies for a student-led Creative Crafts activity, and I tagged along to help with Willow and justify my birthday by buying clothes. When I was a kid, clothing stores were vast and diverse, and you could buy essentially identical jeans in any of a dozen stores, for example, or Timberland boots, or just plain old white sweatsocks. But these days only Filene's Basement and JC Penney's carry plain white socks, buried low behind wall-sized displays of argyle after argyle, paisley after checks. These days walking into a store like Eddie Bauer (relaxed fit stonewashed jeans at $29) or the Gap (light blue patterned button-down and a pair of unpleated khakis, both on sale and a steal at $27 for the set) or Banana Republic (corduroys under ten bucks on the outside racks, but I don't like the way corduroy crushes after being folded in your drawer for too long, so I's never wear 'em) or Old Navy (nothing for me, but a sweatsuit and pajamas for the baby) is a masquerade; the shops sell a certain style, a certain ideal, one so focused that, for example, all the jeans in the Gap -- all of them -- are cut and worn thin in patches in exactly the same way. Even Baby Gap (another three outfits, a suede hat with velcro flaps and a winter baby snuggli) is filled with parent-types and wannabes, pawing through cute little outfits with matching stuffed bears, whose personalities as parents or parents-to-be crystalize under the hyperreal, hypercommercial influence of a constant stream of perfect babies flashing on the wall monitors.
The mall has always held a somewhat illicit attraction for me. Not only is it an ADHD playgound of Chuck E Cheese proportion, it gives me a rush like a drug to wander through stores playing dress-up in my mind. And not just for clothes: there's a pet store where you can imagine what life would have been like with a German Shephard; espresso bars on each floor, the ubiquitous food court, Brookstones. Darcie took me to Men's Wearhouse, much smaller than the name suggests, to try on charcoal grey suits, a necessity now that the sympathy weight I gained during the pregnancy has sized me out of my old suitcoat from my college days; I looked fine indeed, but we're still thinking about it.
My best purchase was a new coat in some eurotrash store, a sort of double-breasted cotton insulated peacoat with wide flat collars, but cut almost waspishly in a charcoal grey corduroy and on sale for 27 bucks. It's about to lose a button already, but it looks great with my brown-mauve christmas scarf, even if the pockets turned out to be fake. And it comes with a whole new me: Now, when I look down at myself all day, I think of myself as the kind of guy who would wear this particular charcoal grey corduroy style-over-substance coat...
Friday, January 17, 2003
I Never Promised You A Prose Garden
posted by boyhowdy |
12:05 AM |
It's not like I presented them any other way, you know. Love 'em or hate 'em, the poems of the week on this site are all yours-truly originals.
But all have been scavenged, mined from a history of sporadic poetic output rather than created fresh for the intelligent and discriminating blogger about town -- not because I have writer's block, or because I am picky, but because I am an exceptionally lazy person.
See, every once in a while, these great poetic phrases pop whole in my head. At that moment, I have a choice. I can try desperately to distract myself with frenetic activity, blocking the phrase out of my mind so it cannot haunt me, imperfect and half-remembered, late into the unproductive night. Or, I can repeat the phrase endlessly, which for some reason results in the phrase beginning to build at the edges, finding its context, growing from phrase to sentence to stanza like a kind of snowball phrase-magnet for other words and phrases...and then run frenetically to the computer to try to recover the collected mental works before it invariably begins to crumble into a pile of disassociated, almost meaningless iambs and triplets. As you can see, only the former of the two choices offers instant gratification (although it admittedly also creates a kind of vaguely-frustrated-artist melancholy in the long term); most of the time, now that I only sleep four hours a night and am having trouble functioning, I choose the former my sanity's sake.
This all started my senior year in high school, during Project Month. Commonwealth doesn't offer a sping break off so much as it requires a spring break on; underclassmen spend a week volunteering for a local hospital or learning a new language or taking a school-sponsored trip abroad to Ireland and return to school the next week rejuvenated for the remainder of the year, while Seniors took an entire month off, doing a much more substantive project of their own choosing. My Junior year I went to Ireland with a group of six other students, a trip most memorable for the night Dan and I accidentally snuck back into the wrong room after an illicit night signing Twist And Shout with a host of drunken Australians at Durty Nelly's pub down the road and woke up our chaperone's wife. I'd like to say we woke her up by landing on her bed, but the truth is, we were laughing so hard as we frantically snuck back out the window, she would have had to be dead or as dead drunk as her husband in the next bed over to have managed to sleep through it.
My senior year I had a great idea -- to stay solo in the woods for a week -- but the school vetoed it, concerned for my safety, and I proposed a safer solo: a trip to Florida to visit my grandparents, bum around the beaches, and write a sonnet every day. I had been reading Kerouac and Wolfe, and I was sure that the sonnet series I produced would be a travelogue of sorts as I discovered my roots and rediscovered the retiree way of life as a pace to emulate. [I just realized, incidentally, that I have no idea where all these poems are. I know I wrote 'em...huh. Anyway.]
What I didn't count on the was the dreams.
I sat on the porch in my grandmothers house proudly comparing the windfallen cacti on the smoothpebbled porch to the Scarecrow of Oz pointing both directions at once at the crossroads of my life, and after a few days, the sonnet form was a natural thing, like breathing. But there was no off switch, no apnea. A few days into the project I found myself dreaming in iambic pentameter.
I've begun to blog that way, by the way; not in iambic pentameter or in dreams, but in the way whole phrases readi-made for the blog pop into my head as a response to the profundities of the banal. In other words, I seem to have habituated myself to this medium; I find the phrases which appear in my head more conducive to the blog than the poem. But although I continue to maintain that blogging is literature, it seems lower stakes, somehow, than poetry. The form is looser, less defined; the breadth of possibilities for "proper" blogging has yet to coalesce into distinct genres, although certainly there are many overlapping focii emerging in the bloggiverse as we, so to speak, speak. And I miss poetry, and I miss my dreams.
Because the entry is so long today, the poem of the week should be comparatively short. Because it features sonnets, the poem should be a sonnet. Because we're talking about writing poetry, let's have a poem about writing poetry. So:
To beat the light down the mountain
rush into the first grey of evening
as if through a tinted windshield.
Write poems downhill in your head,
or, if you must, in jittery script
over the top of the steering wheel.
Think of her calves under the table
through the glass slit of the door,
the ankle's curve into alabaster foot.
Lean into the blurring landscape
like a weight tied under the stomach
pulling down, squeezing inwards:
A constriction you associate with tears,
or the moment before tears; and with leaving.
As always, check out Watermelon Pickle Poems for more boyhowdy originals. WPP is hosted at Marlboro College, my other alma mater, and although periodic upgrades of their server structure eventually resulted in a loss of FTP access, the site nevertheless represent almost the entirety of my current body of finished work. Except those few poems I’ve written in the last year. And those sonnets I wrote way back in March of 1991 for a school project, the end product of a once-fevered mind in perfect iambic pentameter, now lost to the ages, or in that cardboard box in the storage room, I forget which.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Where Are They Now?
posted by boyhowdy |
12:39 AM |
I came to Commonwealth, a prep school in a single Boston brownstone four blocks from the Public Gardens, kicking and screaming. I'd been pulled out of public school the preceeding Spring due to failing grades, in turn due to an increasing tendency to prefer McDonalds road trips to math class and, more generally, flagged interest in the facelessness that is public school in rural Massachusetts. But this tiny school -- my class of 33 students was at that time the largest class to graduate -- became home quickly, and it remained that way until I left for Bard in '91. I found first love in Commonwealth's dark wood hallways, learned the value of small and fierce and independent education in its classrooms, flew to Florida to bask in the sun and write a sonnet a day for an entire month for credit, and participated in marathon overnight readings of Joyce's Ulysses at its biannual week-long retreat to Hancock Farm. The school was too small to sustain true cliques, but as in any group of a reasonably small size, the connections one made were true and plentiful.
This morning out of the thin blue ether of cyberspace swam an email from Sam:
Hey Commonwealth Friends!
A close look at the To field revealed a mailing list of fifteen, a vertiable who's who of friends and friends-of-friends, some recognizable from their email addresses, some mysterious, tantalizingly familiar but too partial to decode into late-adolescent bodies and faces. And, predictably, over the course of the day, the messages started trickling in.
The recent alumni newsletter (in which I read about Josh Farber's current exploits among others) and last week's dinner (in which I saw Deborah and Jess for the time in close to a decade) has inspired me to write as many of my old friends as I could find (I searched the database on commschool.org) and say hi and give a little update of where things are for me now and hope to get back in touch with some or all of you! : )...
...I'll write more later, but I wanted to say to everyone that I'm alive and well in Seattle, WA....
And my own, which included a link to the blog; here's how I introduce myself to those long-absent:
...Indeed - I was thrilled when I saw Mark's mail. It's great to hear from you all! OK, me. I got my BA in Philosophy...
...So what's happened to me? Well, let's see. I invented a form of underwater squid dancing which was a huge hit in Bali...
Dear Lord. What a wonderful blast from the past. Hello all!
Lets see...after three years as a teaching fellow at the Boston Museum of Science, two years as an undergrad at Marlboro College to finish a BA in the social sciences of cyberspace, and a Masters of Arts in Teaching with Web Technologies, I'm in my fifth year at Northfield Mount Hermon school, the biggest residential prep school in New England, in Northfield, MA (at the intersection of MA, NH, and VT on a map), where I am dorm parent / media and communications faculty / ed tech specialist and chair the school's Professional Development Committee. Married to Darcie (who I met in college) for five years (she coordinates weekend events and yearbook), our first child Willow just turned 6 months and cut her first two teeth on the same day. Other than a quick Jess Potts sighting at Newton Wellsley Hospital last Spring, I have been far out of touch for a while, but if anyone is interested in hearing and seeing more, my blog is at http://mediakit.blogspot.com.
The potential here is interesting to me professionally. If conversation continues, the insta-listserv phenomenon/scenario it creates is a new one to me, worthy of footnote for a media teacher always on the spy for memes and materials. If this current exchange turns out to be a primarily one-shot yawp from the far reaches of the 'net, however, we might say that the media, when used in just the right combination of elements, merely spurts forth a grassroots alumni mag with no warning or precedence.
While I wait in line to host the 2003 Blog A Day Tour, yet another wish-I-thought-of-it-first idea, this time from out-of-work Texan Lawrence Smith of the oft-permalinked Amish Tech Support, my email has been filling up with fragments of my history, pouring the past into the present. I am grateful for the peek into the parallel lives of friends once had; if it lasts only for a moment, it will be enough.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
My Hero, Eric J
posted by boyhowdy |
2:08 AM |
Found Organizing your writing for the web at webraw/form and am very, very impressed. It's a perfect beginning primer for writing in and on the web, and an equally perfect resource to use for my teaching. Better yet, it practices what it preaches, modelling its thesis in its structure. Wish I had written it, or that I had loose enough morals and big enough balls to steal it and present it as my own.
Pronouncements and Observations, Part 1
posted by boyhowdy |
12:30 AM |
Bob Dylan's voice is so unmelodic it hurts. I recognize his genius through other people's music.
If the oversensitive aftermath of this Sunday's campus meeting on gender and media indicates anything, it is that Mr. Garrison is right. Most people, especially in education, have completely missed the vast difference between tolerance and acceptance, and acceptance and approval. The new PC sucks, and it is my life's mission to do something about it, one student at a time.
Light pollution at my parents house in Newton makes the clouds overhead glow brightly pink-orange late into the night. This is all the more noticible here, in overly rural Northfield, MA, now that the cold has pulled all the humidity out of the air over the past few days, leaving it clear and thin, and you can see a thousand stars.
Alf hawks cheap collect calls while Grimace chats with Donald Trump. Would it be so much of a surprise to learn that Mr. T and Carrottop were Muppets? How about Don Knotts? Don Rickles? That big guy on Everybody Loves Raymond? How many "celebrities" are really Jim Henson experiments gone horribly awry?
Balloons are impossible to put away well. They're fun and all, but where do you put them after the party's over?
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
If You're Only As Young As You Feel...
posted by boyhowdy |
11:13 PM |
Happy Birthday To Me
No work today. It was my thirtieth birthday, and I needed a nap.
I slept in instead, and accompanied Darcie and Willow to the baby's six-month doctor's appointment for weigh-in and shots. The baby loved wrapping herself in the paper they put down on the exam table; her reaction to the shots was predictably horrifying. Lunch afterwards at Bogies in downtown Greenfield; Bogie is a short skinny bearded man whose sandwiches are basic and only two-star at best, but how can I stay away from a place where one can get breakfast all day, homemade corned beef hash and a vanilla latte with double shots and whipped cream?
We returned to find the power out and the emergency generator burning propane outside our bedroom window like an annoying neighbor's riding lawnmower. In addition to running emergency lights and smoke detectors in the dorm during power outages, the generator is set to turn on once a week; for most of our time here it woke us up at 10 a.m. every Sunday morning; this year we got smart and asked the school's electricians to reset the timer for a more civilized hour, and since then it runs on Thursdays at 1 when we are meeting with our advisees.
I did manage to nap restlessly for an hour or so on the futon in the baby's room, dreaming of electric bee swarms and waking half-aware of the grinding of the emergency generator in the backyard. At this rate, I'll finally be able to catch up on sleep once Willow goes to college.
Woke up at four thirty to the alarm and, after an appropriate period of grogginess, stepped outside into the growing chill darkness to climb the hill to the dining hall to chair this week's Professional Development Committee meeting. The Dean of Faculty surprised me with an excellent cake (Vanilla layers, raspberry jam filling) from the school bakery, a plastic lei (morbid black), balloons (30 Years: Over The Hill) and a committee-signed card; we ate cake and discussed how to prefect the sabbatical process for next year in the context of the economic woes currently sweeping the prep school community. Home afterwards to another cake, this time a rather dry but good-with-milk chocolate with buttercream frosting from the Greenfield Coop, with cards and a promise of an impending gift-in-the-mail from Darcie's parents, String Cheese Incident's live double-CD Carnival 99 from Virginia, and messages on the answering machine wishing me happy happy happy from Josh and Clay, who couldn't make it.
When she called from the car on the way back from the airport this evening to sing the Happy Birthday song -- the 'rents were on their way back from a trip to Florida to see Lil and dad's parents -- my mother reminded me that my father has always taken his birthday off, too. She didn't mention it, might not remember it, but he used to take my birthday off from work back when I was in elementary school, and, later, my bother and sister's birthdays off, too. Dad would take us anywhere we wanted for our special day; having no sense of driving time or distance at that young age, we usually spent weeks overestimating what was humanly possible and preparing an impossibility, a week's itinerary worth of places and pleasure, but I have fond memories of racing through the suburbs of Boston, full of dim sum, on our way to the Boston Children's Museum or the local arcade. Just Dad and me. Gotta remember to put that on the list of things to do with Willow.
How cool that it's up to me to imitate and thus establish the pattern; how empowering to think that when the baby gets old enough we, too, can skip work/school and spend the day doing whatever she wants. Doing with Willow what my father did with me will let us celebrate our childhoods together. Giving the gift of time to oneself and one's offspring is now officially a family tradition, courtesy of dad and me.
Ah, there it is -- now I don't feel so old anymore. Thanks, Dad. Happy birthday to me...
Over The River, Through The Woods
posted by boyhowdy |
12:19 AM |
First you have to be able to see the squat stone pillars at the gate, the long winding drive through the snow-covered trees bent low, the campus opening up before you slowly, houses emerging from the woods, then, suddenly, the tennis courts. You have to be able to understand the way the lights of the campus on the hill glisten through the windowpane air as you drive across the bridge, over the Connecticut, to a fast jazz sax on the radio playing, say, A Night In Tunisia. You have to feel the dark as a tangible thing broken only by lights in the distance and your own cone of headlamp glow and the twin red eyes of Virginia's red Saab's taillights.
I turn thirty tomorrow -- technically today, as it's after midnight. The weight of years grows heavy, and lends a desperate cast to the radio show tonight. We played songs with bounce and groove to stave off melancholy. Interestingly, two of the songs we played this evening were written and performed by people who went to my own prep school, Commonwealth. Evan Dando of Lemonheads fame went there, too, but I don't have any Lemonheads CDs in my collection. I'll give a $10 amazon.com gift certificate to anyone who can guess which two performers or bands fall into this category off of tonight's Tributary playlist:
Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (our theme song)
They Might Be Giants -- No!
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Julianna Hatfield -- Hang Down From Heaven
Nirvana -- Polly
Matchbox 20 -- If You're Gone
Phish -- Farmhouse
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks -- My Cello
Cassandra Wilson -- Drunk As Cooter Brown
The Biscuit Boys -- Coming Into LA
Nickel Creek -- The Fox Went Out
John Gorka -- People My Age
Patty Griffin -- You Never Get What You Want
The Story -- The Perfect Crime
Robbie Fulks -- Never Could
Ani Difranco -- The Poet Game
Iris Dement -- The Train Carrying Jimmy Rogers Home
Keller Williams -- Kidney In A Cooler
Moxy Fruvous -- My Baby Loves A Bunch Of Authors
Billy Bragg and Wilco -- My Flying Saucer
Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore
a DJ Harry remix of String Cheese Incident -- Search
Acoustic Syndicate -- Rainbow Rollercoaster
Nikki Boyer -- Brain Damage
Barenaked Ladies -- Great Provider
Suzanne Vega -- Stay Awake
Keller Williams -- Anyhow Anyway
I read selected poems from Poet Laureate Billy Collins' most recent collection Nine Horses on the hour and the half hour; I wasn't sure about his work when my parents gave me the collection for Channukah, but like the new shiny grey hairs starting to pepper my beard, they grow on you.
My father started giving me books of poetry several years ago, after I started showing him my own work, long after I exhausted the poetic professorial resources of Bard College (at that time, avant-garde John Ashbery, American Buddhist Robert Kelly, and experimentalists Joan Retallack and Charles Stein) and Darcie and I dropped out together. For a while, he carried one of my poems in his briefcase; for a while after that, things went sour and I wrote poems I would never show him. He never struck me as the poetry type, but he's made some excellent selections of the years. Several years ago he gave me a Phillip Levine collection and two smuggled cuban cigars for, I think, my birthday. It's hard to picture him in his bathrobe at 3 a.m. reading poems, but somehow easier to see when the poets are Levine and Collins and Pinsky, an unfortunately dying breed of middle-aged white men, the inheritors of a tradition of Anglo-Saxon silences.
From Collins' Consolation:
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car
as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.
Monday, January 13, 2003
Nothing Cold Can Stay
posted by boyhowdy |
12:14 AM |
For a week it's been below freezing. The cold makes it dry. A sharp nasal inhale becomes a painful act, like snorting liquid nitrogen; mouthbreathers suffer sore tonsils and ragged coughs.
It has snowed a little every night, less than an inch each night added to the raised platform that has become the world, three feet above the paved people pathways, and the lack of humidity in the air makes for the dryest snowflakes. They are like the air through which they fall: light on the chill wind, easily picked up again from the packed-ice path to our door. Misleading towers of snow topple when brushed by an errant pantleg to reveal their true selves, swollen with air and not much else. It's the sort of snow that's squeaky when you walk on it, loud enough that one assumes naturally that one's movements can be heard from a long way off.
But the snow dampens sound, muffles footsteps, covers branches from the whip of the wind. Winter's quiet comes with the first snow that stays, and lasts until Spring thaw. It comes from living beings huddled in buildings and nests and undergroung waiting for warmer days; it comes from the lack of places to go. Until then, the world is silent.
Except when walking through it breaks its silence.
Saturday, January 11, 2003
Fine. Be That Way.
posted by boyhowdy |
10:30 PM |
I Feel Dirrty, and Flirty, and Briiiiight
I have watched the same two Miller Light commercials over 20 times in the last 24 hours: the same two boyfriends imagining the same two models catfighting; the same rockclimbing guy about to fall off the side of a mountain and his same rockclimbing friend who ridicules his terror in a bar visited subsequently. And the same two minutes of music video coverage: Puffy Coombs and a bunch of bimbos in bikinis and mink coats, Janet Jackson and her entourage, Willa Ford and her skintight short-shorts, Christina Aguilera and her Dirrty red panties. My head swims with crotch shots, I found myself humming songs in the car on the way home I wouldn't be caught dead listening to on the radio, and I can't get the Dirrty backbeat out of my head. And I haven't enjoyed a moment of it.
I spent all day in the media center making copies of the video footage for tomorrow's All School Meeting on Gender and Media. Many, many copies, each different. So we can decide at the last minute which sequence and selection of media texts best serves the planned student panel discussion. Because my pedagogy includes the belief that we can't afford not to teach students how to be literate about their own culture without using the artifacts which they most recognize and identify as of that culture. While the school Chaplain...feels differently.
The challenges of teaching-as-vocation includes the bald fact that your own moral and ethical upbringing, necessarily a factor of your own acculturation and socialization, can never be that of your students. If you want to teach well, without students seeing you as out of touch with their own times and lives, you need to be willing to embrace your own discomfort with what they see as a norm. I think the vast majority of teachers never truly understand why, when they were students, they, too, never felt like their teachers really understood them.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
To get dirrty, dirrty Aguilera out of my head, I scoured the CD collection for something, anything, with banjo or mandolin, but ended up listening to Mano Chao instead. And to calm myself down, I'm actually going to take a page from a site I myself dissed before I found myself unable to do more than blather on and on blog-wise. You want the trivia of daily life? Here, this is what's happening within 18 inches of me right now:
I type on a two year old Compaq Armada E500, provided for me by the school; the screen is about to fall off as the hinges are faulty. The screen glass is quite dirty, as I am prone to eat when working; during the first half of today's entry I consumed a ham and cheese croissant from the local natural foods supermarket, about an inch of leftover egg drop soup, a Pepsi. Above and behind the screen at eye level on the wall beind the bookshelftop on which the laptop rests is a painting of a monkey on its back on a palette staring up at a photograph of an old lady's feet; the monkey's arms are pinned by his sides under his cerulean blanket, and at his waist is a jar of ink. Next to the laptop by my left pinkie finger is a slinky and a thumb piano; by my right hand the Fuji Finepix 601Z, the PalmIII cradle, and the Iomega Zip Drive wait their turn for the USB umbillical cord. I am chewing nicotene gum, and yes I know you're supposed to tuck it between your cheek and gum like chewing tobacco but that doesn't serve the oral fixation. There is a golf pencil which I snagged from the media center this afternoon hidden in my ponytailed redblond hair. I erased this sentence twice before writing it this way. I am wondering, now, what to write next, and squinching up my forehead; when I'm done, there will be a red mark between my eyes from where my flesh knits when I concentrate.
Blogging minutia, as recommended by The Pepys Dcomentation Project folks: It's kind of like having a song stuck in your head.
Friday, January 10, 2003
Gibson's Famous Blog
posted by boyhowdy |
4:50 PM |
William Gibson has a blog. Yes, that William Gibson. He started it four days ago, and it's already the talk of the bloggiverse.
Today's entry offers two tidbits: a discussion of panic after the dog eats chocolate, which I can relate to, and some thoughts on fame under the title what to do if you meet me, which I wish I could relate to. At least I'm famous in my own mind.
Scary how the speed at which the news has spread only proves Gibson ever-more-right.
Thursday, January 09, 2003
It's Pronounced peeps
posted by boyhowdy |
8:27 PM |
The big thing right now is Samuel Pepys' journal, but I've read pieces of it as it comes online, and I'm not finding it anywhere near as exciting as the hype might suggest. Is it just me, or are a quarter of the blogs I read more interesting than this? Am I missing something? Is this merely a large-scale case of the "it's old, so it must be good" phenomenon?
The folks who run The Pepys Dcomentation Project, a.k.a how to write a blog they'll read in 100 years, think this is a model for immortality. But I think they're using too narrow a set of assumptions in trying to determine what qualities and approaches would make for a blog which will rise above the chaff and remain relevant, a sterling detailed piece of history, for years to come. The authors of the site suggest, among other things, that it was Pepys' attention to detail about the plague, the great fire of london, and the aftermath of the English Civil War as well as the triviality of daily life in another time and place that makes the difference. But for a counter-example, look at Gilgamesh: so old we hardly have any of it left; it is mythos, not trivia-laden fact, yet it's still relevant, read commonly in required freshman college seminars as a way to understand one of the most ancient cultures we know.
Style is, indeed, relevant; good literature needs important silences as much as it needs important words (if not more), and good literature will survive regardless of how concrete it can be about the trivial. And no, this isn't irrelevant; I submit that public writing, most especially the blog, is literature by definition. Even the bad stuff -- it's just bad literature. After Surrealism and Dadism and Post-Modernism, laundry lists can be art as well as artifact. The Cobain Diaries are selling like hotcakes. Reportedly, they're lurid, but hardly oriented towards the detail which the Pepys Dcomentation Project suggests is inherent in immortality. You can't tell me that specificity and timeliness of content is the x-factor which determines immortality or future readership relevance. In fact, I'd suggest that the vast majority of what makes a text historically relevant is cultural, not personal, and thus entirely out of the hands of the author.
Hmph. Need I be such a contrarian all the time? And what the heck does Dcomentation mean?
Do The Mauve Tea Roses Go With The Yellow Ones?
posted by boyhowdy |
7:50 PM |
Stopped at the flower and garden shop on the way home today. Roses are expensive in the winter, but Darcie's eminently worth it. She takes care of us; she is my best friend, and I love her very much. And she's learning how to cook the perfect steak. Here's us, newly wed, in warmer and childless days.
The mauve tea roses, by the way, are the strongest-smelling roses I've encountered. Darcie loves 'em. I told her they were from Willow.
posted by boyhowdy |
12:03 PM |
There's no such thing as a typical morning. But once a month (or so) a day comes where I'm not teaching my own class, have no meetings and no students scheduled to stop by for assistance with their video or media and cultural studies project, have no teachers to partner with or teach how to scan or burn CDs, have been asked to give no in-class lectures about PowerPoint or web projects or, nowadays, blogging. That rare day is, frankly, boring, but perhaps a closer look provides a foundation for, um, something. For what it's worth:
Arrive at 9:00; Patty, the paraprofessional who runs the center while I traipse around the school's 3700 acres to meetings and classrooms for teacher partnerships, has been in since 8:00, helping teachers find the videos they need for the day's class and setting them up in theatres and viewing rooms if they want that out-of-classroom experience. We get coffee and stand facing each other across the octagonal countertop islands, catching up on which teacher is working on which project and how we are supporting that work, what's working and what's broken, what's coming up and how to plan for it, and more general chitchat about parenting and pedagogy, until about 9:45. Outside, the day is warming up, softening last night's snowfall; snow avalanches fall from the rooftops, past the windows, and land with wet thumps.
During the break between blocks -- Northfield Mount Hermon is on a block schedule, so students take only two classes each day -- faculty and students are a constant stream, cheerful and chilly. Most come through on their way from mailroom to library, but a few need assistance: students want access to the video catalog for research or to recover content from a missed class, teachers want to book or take out those videos or reserve a slot in the theatre for next week. Student passing time lasts until 10:30, with e-mail and deskwork to follow; it's nice, after all, to have a day once in a while where one can plan ahead and clear the desk in anticipation of another two weeks of whirlwind-on-the-go.
Tomorrow I'm back on the move, in David's Issues of the 21st Century class all morning to continue our work on a term-long non-linear research project, teaching my own Mass Media Messages class in the later afternoon. Now, though, the pace is gentle, a rarity here at NMH. Patty's reviewing new collections possibilities while I take a few moments to blog with an ear out for the boss; she just came in to let me know that there's a video out called Pregnancy For Dummies, and we make fun of it for an appropriate moment. 20 minutes more, and I can go home for lunch with the baby. Advising and a campus meeting on gender issues to follow.
Poem of the Week
posted by boyhowdy |
12:43 AM |
The dog is chasing the cat around the ottoman, but I think the cat started it. Poor kitty: he lost his man-of-the-house status when the puppy arrived three years ago, and now that there's a baby around he's been bumped down to third-class, way out over the engines in the crummy seats at the back of the plane. Most of the time he gamely tolerates change with an aloof dignity, though it's obvious he's miffed. He gets short-fused and clingy, a dangerous combination; the claws will surely come out any moment now, and we'll have to rescue the dog from under the bed.
A cat poem, then. One written five years ago, when it was just the three of us and a deep longing for a child we could not conceive. A long one, tonight, using an obscure and hideously complicated form called a canzone. See if you can figure out the pattern in the form by watching the way the last words repeat.
Canzone: Cat, Child
I've been learning to hold the Buddha baby
Fen, a child named for a copse where faeries watch
their own children, maybe dangle a winged baby
on a slender knee; learning, but at the laundromat the baby
vibrates over the spin cycle in his laundry basket, leaves
me exhausted. My wife can make holding baby
look so easy, but her hips and breasts are built for baby-
carrying; you can see when she holds the cat
and rubs his scent on her shoulder: Cat
whirrs and chews at her hair and is her baby.
But not mine: when I come back he sniffs the Snow
detergent liquid and goes back to watching the snow
out the window. I've tried introducing cat to snow;
he just looks at me and whines helplessness, playing baby
until I help him work bits of frozen snow
from between his claws. He should know snow,
even though most of the time he just gets to watch
it from his armrest perch, speckled like dirty snow
in the sunbeams of late afternoon, but the snow
is my fault, always. In the fall he yowls for the leaves,
scratching at the door; and, sauntering, leaves
between anyone's legs; sniff-checks for snow
and then becomes a tiger blur: The cat
heads for the hills, and we must give chase. Cat-
footed in panic, we track pawed indentations the cat
hinted to his whereabouts with; find him under a snow
covered root, sniffing the faint stink of fisher cat.
And there is one of all these distinctions between cat
and Fen the Rainbow Child, or any baby,
I suppose, that's raised by the community: Where the cat
after running, with mouth open, pants his cat
wheeze of disdain, no matter how hard you watch
the baby is more interested in gears, in your pocket-watch,
than escape. There are so many ways in which cat
is in fact not the same; the cat, for example, leaves
housebreaking to the biological urge, and always leaves,
while baby doesn't run away (although later leaves
the nest, in universal teenage black-as-a-bad-luck-cat).
Fen can only walk when suspended anyway; dad leaves
him on the bed precariously for aching minutes; Jenn leaves
him in a blanket, in a cardboard box, for the snow
and her husband's rolled American Spirit: leaves
of willow and tobacco; a burdock; crushed spearmint leaves
and scraps of otherwise teas. Will the baby
fall off the bed? He's hardy; a display unit baby
that people can attend while his mother leaves
the water running for the bath and diapers. And you watch
helplessly, and nod, while the tub runs like a watch;
ticking into the basin. It's hard, too, not to watch,
with the genital nub so open like that -- it leaves
its sheath under vigorous scrubbing conditions -- or watch
when his mother's shirt is peeled up and you watch
for the nursing breast under the suckling cat.
Meaning, of course, baby. Is it hard to watch
the polarity collapse; the drift between the way I watch
the cat, the way the cat gawks at snow
in the windowsill, the way the baby's laughter is like snow?
How white eyes, wide like a cat's eyes, watch
the cat, but the cat weighs options: Pouncing on the baby
or ignorance feigned, or kindness? So the cat is not a baby;
it is surrogate, feeding the need for a baby,
or so I cannot help but think when I watch
my wife hold cat or baby. And when she leaves
she is silent while I drive us home to feed the cat;
and the radio louder than the thin fall of snow.
Wednesday, January 08, 2003
posted by boyhowdy |
1:49 AM |
The hit counter's been driven up recently by my appearance in this fine blog, whose author has a good sociologist's eye for the bloggiverse and isn't afraid to use it. Thanks, Eric, for providing a fine read...and for the free plug, of course.
Am rereading -- out of order -- the four novellas that together comprise The Bachman Books. Is it just me, or is this Stephen King's best work?
If I don't start getting more than five hours of sleep a night, I will continue to need a nap by Wednesday afternoon.
So far I've had no problem living up to my only New Year's resolution: to not accidentally write the year as 2001 on my checks.
Speaking of New Years: is it wrong to want to participate in this noble experiment?
I miss The Onion when it goes on holiday hiatus, but I miss The Onion AV Club more. Thank god for Dan Savage. And for Pathetic Geek Stories.
Now that the baby has cut her first two teeth and can stand against the ottoman, it's time to start thinking of childproofing the house. Although it would be so much easier to houseproof the child.
The lady behind the pharmacy counter better get a clue: of course nicotene gum is addictive. No need to lecture me about it, just hand over the damn bag. Sheesh.
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Ever since I became a daddy I cry when people die on tv
posted by boyhowdy |
11:24 PM |
Even though, as a media and cultural studies teacher, it counts (semi-legitimately) as professional development, I don't watch much television anymore. Not since the baby arrived in July, anyway; I'm just too busy, and too tired, and ER hasn't been any good since Dr. Mark Greene died of brain cancer.
But although she's no fanatic -- she's always been admirably levelheaded about such things, the calm to my storm, able to take or leave almost anything -- Darcie's got her shows, and I found myself sucked in to NYPD Blue this evening merely because it was on in the corner while I sat fussing with email across the room. It's a show I watch seldomly, and then only in fits and starts, but tonight's episode, showing the tendrilous aftermath of a carjacking gone horribly awry, seemed especially noteworthy, both for its excellent narrative contruction, in that it showed three intertwined plot threads played out so seamlessly close that each new development fed at least two of the crimes, and for its personal emotional resonance.
Things take on relevance long after they pass, sometimes; what was small and unworthy of notice when it happened may unlock doors long after; I know I am not alone in missing the significance of events to myself when they happen; I know I am not alone. A few days after we came back from Boston, Darcie and I smelled acrid smoke in the dormitory hallway; Darcie went to check on the smell while I watched the baby. Later, she told me that the smoke was only Lewis, our dormitory's House Director, burning old student papers and curriculum planners in the dorm lounge fireplace. But it was her second-hand recitation of a stray comment made before the fire made by Lewis' wife Cal, whose mother passed away on New Year's Eve after a long bout with cancer, which I remember most strongly. According to Darcie, Cal mentioned that with the death of a close and loved family member, her first death, she had trouble watching the news, because all those people who die are suddenly real people.
Tonight, when the show ended, I shuffled cautiously around strewn clothes and still-unpacked vacation luggage to kneel at the side of the queen-sized family bed we three share. Poor night vision runs in my family; in the dark, I can barely make out Willow's features. My brain is filled with an audio/visual roaring like static on the television; I listen to the buzz and think nothing, but she is there; she is alive; she is helpless, her arms raised over her head in sleep as if in triumph. For Cal, it took death to make the universe real, if only for a short breath before memory brings her kind gloss to death as she does with all her precious gemstones. For me, in becoming a parent, all those people who die, fact or fiction, have become real. From now on, the baby whose drug-addled mother drowns her and leaves her on the roof to die, the carjacker who dies struggling with the accidental drugrunner's brother-with-a-record; the precinct captain's heroin-addicted ex-wife who ODs: they are all my daughter, and I cry for us all.
Free To Be...Tributary
posted by boyhowdy |
12:54 AM |
so that's why I'm a feminist...
It's Gender Issues Week here at Northfield Mount Hermon, which means questionable questionaires to go over with my advisees (True or False: a man/woman who has been raped should always be believed.), same-gender workshops which teach girls to be strong and boys to be guilty and sheepishly so, and a general flavor of opposite-sex discomfort in the dry snowy air. It's not that I have anything against positive gender-identity development; quite the contrary, although I think we do this kind of stuff better than most schools, I'm frustrated by the way schools tend to oversimplify such messages, presenting a charcoal-drawing world filled with grey areas as if it were instead a linoleum print, heavy black lines on pure white idealism.
Pedagogically, I'm an optimist; I believe students are always smarter than we give them credit for, and that we lose them when we dumb things down rather than challenging them to rise to the complex occasion. Luckily, as a specialist in media studies, it's my job to develop some of the content for such programs; I've been asked to introduce, and then moderate, a student panel discussion of gender images in mass media in the school chapel Sunday night, so I've a chance to try and mitigate the dichotomous dredge of the rest of the week. Developing the program has meant working closely with both the Chaplaincy and the Office of Community Development (doublespeak if I ever heard it, as the primary role of the two women who run the latter office is to oversee students-of-color groups and organize schoolwide forums for discussion of tolerance issues), which really meant helping the director of each of the two departments and their respective interns parse and then select ads from television and Vogue and taped-off-MTV hip-hop videos. Today a student walked into the chapel office to find us circled around the television watching a Busta Rhymes video, reviewing some of the final possibilities. I can only imagine what was going through his head. Must have thought he had walked into the Twilight Zone.
Radio show tonight went well as always; Virginia, whose job is primarily to keep track of what we've played and to recite the station phone number on the air when I point to her, joined me late, about a half-hour into the swing of things. Being back in the studio and, of course, back in the rhythms of my beloved vocation after two weeks put me in a cheerful mood, which in turn made for a set of predominantly short silly songs. In honor of Gender Issues Week, tonight's readings were from the fully nuanced and timeless classic Free To Be...You And Me, about as far from a black-and-white vision of cultural relativism as one can get; Kurt Vonnegut's afterword alone is worth the price of the book. As always, tonight's Tributary set list follows; there's lots of covers, so, as always, extra special bonus points and a free cup of coffee for anyone who can identify the original artists of six or more of the songs:
Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (Tributary theme song)
Keller Williams -- Brunette
**Nikki Boyer -- Brain Damage
NRBQ -- Whistle While You Work
*Guster -- I've Got To Be Clean
Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
*Glen Phillips -- Have A Little Fun With Me
Kasey Chambers -- A Little Bit Lonesome
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Blood Red Sky (my brother was in this now-sadly-defunct band; this cut, which got lots of airplay on MTV Brazil, is off their second album, Ripe)
Phish -- Cavern
*Cake -- Manah Manah
**Kris McKay -- Wish You Were Here
Be Good Tanyas -- Rain and Snow
Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem -- Let's Pretend There's a Moon
Keb' Mo' -- Tell Everybody I Know
Beck -- Lost Cause
Gillian Welch -- Summer Evening
*Darius Rucker -- It's All Right To Cry
Nancy Griffith -- Boots Of Spanish Leather
**Leslie King -- Money
Norah Jones -- Come Away With Me
Marc Cohn -- 29 Ways
Slaid Cleaves -- This Morning I Was Born Again
*Sarah McLachlan -- The Rainbow Connection
Sheryl Crow -- Strong Enough
Shawn Colvin -- This Must Be The Place
*Dan Zanes -- Wonderwheel
The Persuasions -- Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Lucy Kaplansky -- Ten Year Night
**Patricia Maertens -- Comfortably Numb
* from For The Kids
** from Echoes of Pink: Tribute to Pink Floyd
Sunday, January 05, 2003
posted by boyhowdy |
5:23 PM |
The Very Bloggy Caterpillar
Buckle up, kiddies, 'cause like Shawn Colvin says, it's gonna be another long one tonight. I'm back after three overwhelming days, and as chronology seems like the most conducive way to get at things, let me begin by taking you back to the morning of December 2nd...
Woke and packed and left for Boston by about 1:00 -- later than we expected, packing being a serious and high-stakes activity when one travels with an infant. Stuck behind too many eighteen wheelers on old one-lane sections of Rt. 2, we took our usual short cut through Walden Pond (yes, that Walden Pond). Arrived in Newton by about 3:00 to find the usual chaos of cleaning women and three-people-going-in-three-directions-at-once at my parents house. Mom, Dad, and Sarah played with the baby until my brother Jesse arrived a bit after five.
In keeping with a family tradition that says that choice of restaurant is yours for your birthday (a tradition, by the way, which has been around so long that I think I made everyone take me to McDonalds once) we left in two cars for Somerville to celebrate Jesse's birthday dinner at Redbones. Redbones has been around forever, I think; it's famous for authentic downhome blues and barbecue, and serves its lemonade in mason jars with a spoon in true southern style. Jesse is a pescaterian, meaning fish-but-no-red-meat, and Redbones has the best catfish above the Mason-Dixon line. Sarah and Darcie and I had ribs of various types. Mom had salmon. Willow had mashed bananas again.
Back at the house we were joined by Darcie's brother Josh, who lives in Newton too, for tiramisu cake and birthday and late-Channukah present exchange around the otherwise-unused hardwood dining room table. Jesse liked his fingerpuppet set of great artists from the Unemployed Philosopher's Guild very much; I also recommend their set of Hamlet fingerpuppets. For Channukah, the festival of lights, Jesse made everyone these crazy abstract cut and spraypainted foamboard lamps; they're gorgeous and hard to describe, so the award for most succinct description goes to Sarah, who remarked I keep expecting the Lorax to jump out of the lamp.
Borrowed cash from Dad to take Jesse and Josh out for a beer afterwards; because it was his birthday, we let Jesse pick the bar and the beer. We drove through the cold streets to the Model Club, a dark smoky hole-in-the-wall filled with greasy-haired young urbanites in black lace and leather and dyed black hair which Jesse used to haunt when he was a professional Ska musician living in Allston in a house with his ten bandmates, and proceeded to drink too much Miller High Life, a beer I had never tried but which I enjoyed very much. Nice and light and crisp. I usually enjoy a good pale ale or microbrew, but once in a while the cheap beers make a nice change like water makes a nice change from milk. Miller High Life bills itself as the Champagne of Beers, which is why Jesse chose it, but to me, the name kind of begs ridicule: What, I wonder, is the beer of Champagnes? The Whiskey of Beers? The Jaegermeister of Schnaps?
Home late and drunk. Crash.
Reb Moshe Waldoks
Up late again, this time with a hangover, by 11:00; the house was beginning to stir as we all prepared for a visit to Grandpa Jerry in the nursing home. Jerry, my mother's father, has late-stage Parkinsons and has probably had at least one stroke as well; before his wife, my grandmother, died of a stroke this summer, she was taking care of him out of their apartment in a nearby home for the aged, but he's too far gone for home-care without her in the house. Now, some days are better than others, and although he seemed like he had gained some weight since the last time we saw him, he didn't speak during the visit. Parkinson's affects facial mobility, too, but he did manage a wistful smile of sorts when we held Willow to his face so she could reach out and stroke his scratchy cheek, soft silk under stubble, just like I used to do when I was little. I had to go out in the hall and cry for a minute to recover.
After home and a short unrestful nap for the baby, who was cutting her first tooth (yay!), we left Willow with my mother and sister and drove Darcie out to her massage appointment at Waddington's, a local upscale parlor. Massage is expensive, so it's a nice gift from my mother to make and pay for the service; I went once last year on their dollar, too, but my body is so messed up that although I felt better that evening I was in pain for the next three days while my muscles realigned themselves back to my bone structure. This time I dropped Darcie off and went to browse the newest bookstore in town, Newtonville Books, an experience worth going out of one's way for. Stopped off at the house to find Willow blotchy and puffy but calming down already as Mom showed her a pop-up book about a dog named Spot; it's hard to cry when you're trying to eat a book. I only stayed a few minutes; reportedly Willow fell asleep moments after I left to pick Darcie up again.
Back at the house we dressed and then, after seeing the way my parents were dressed, took the tie off and dressed again for casual friday night temple services at Temple Beth Zion, the new congregation my parents have joined. Beth Zion is a revitalized, new-agey congregation overseen by Reb Moshe Waldoks, an egoist who used to teach Jewish Intellectual History at Brandeis and edit collections of Jewish humor until he joined the rabbinate just about a decade ago. At first glance, it is clear that although their hearts are in the right place, theyre's still some fine-tuning happening with the orthodoxy in there. The congregation claims to be something called post-denominational, as distinct from the more usual non-denominational; this plays out primarily through elements like Reb Waldoks' Hassidic-themed chants, his humorous commentary throughout the service, and the congregation member's use of drums as a rhythmic counterpart to the prayer chants. I can see how this makes spiritual practice more owned by the celebrants, I suppose, but down-home moments like asking everyone who was new to the congregation to stand at the end and introduce themselves made the place seem more like an AA meeting than the personal, intimate group that is, surely, the goal. Having grown up practicing Conservative Judaism, we recognized none of the melodies but all of the service, which made it easy to follow but hard to participate.
Jesse left from there to go on to meet some friends in Providence; we went on to a decent dinner in Nonantum, Newton's Little Italy. When I was growing up, Nonantum might have well have been Mars; although its adolescents attended the same high school as my own neighbors, the difference between us was evident. The village of Nonantum -- Newton has 14 villages in all -- is literally on the other side of the Mass Turnpike from a more affluent, larger section of Newton, a town known for having the highest number of therapists and shrinks per capita than any other township in the world; because of the commuter train which runs alongside the 'pike, Nonantum was, literally, the other side of the tracks. The fire hydrants are painted orange, green, and white in Nonantum, after the Italian flag; across the street from the restaurant was a small park crammed with christmas lights and the biggest goddam glowing plastic Santa I've ever seen. This is not your father's Newton.
After a stop back at the house Willow and Darcie went to bed and I, ever the night owl, drove off to Medford to visit PJ, an old friend from high school who grew up down the street from me in that more affluent Newton. PJ is a lawyer and an excellent singer-songwriter , but not neccesarily in that order; our conversation tends towards friendly-but-mildly-competitive intellectualism; our visit was spent parsing blogs and blogging, among other things. I miss friends like PJ out here in the boondocks. We used to just hang out and sing; we used to just sit and watch TV; in our earliest days, in junior high together just blocks from the Italian neighborhoods, we used to get combo meals of greasy chinese food late at night to escape our ultra-suburban lives. Now every visit is scarce, our conversation touched by the impending separation.
By midnight what had been rain had turned to fat-flake heavy snow, and the change in weather was giving me a headache; by 12:30 I gave into the pain and decided to brave what was suddenly a growing storm, dangerous and slick. Driving back through the slush was precarious and slow; I saw no one but snowplows and cabs on the long drive; it took me an hour, twice as long as usual, to get around the city, and then I almost didn't make it up the last hill back to my parent's house. Dad gave me an aspirin, Sarah and I watched TV for a bit until it kicked in and I wandered off to join Darcie and Willow in the darkness, on the pull-out couch in the therapist's office that was once my old bedroom.
From the moment Darcie and Willow called me into consciousness it was a rushing-around morning. For a fast half hour, Darcie packed, Mom and Dad and Sarah entertained the baby, and I staggered around trying to be awake enough (and clothed enough) to begin the trek home. Mom usually stands in the doorway and waves us out of sight when we go; this time, she was crying at the door, Sarah pulling her away, so I went back for an extra hug. I think we're all feeling a bit overwhelmed by things these days. In the past year, she's lost her mother unexpectedly, become a grandmother, and her children have finally begun to leave the nest, a perfect emotional trifecta.
From Newton we drove under Rt. 93 and along the McGrath highway several times on our verylost way to a whirlwind visit with Bob and Tom and Lorian and Daisy at their lovely two-family home in Revere. They loved the baby, of course, and we sat and chatted for a while about our lives, just catching-up stuff, while the dog sniffed at her as we changed her on the floor. See this earlier blogentry for more about Bob; his landscape business, I Dig A Garden, seems to be going well, Tom is now a regional manager for his bistro chain, and the dog is very sweet. And Lorian is still...Lorian, the vinyl-loving mother hen of a now-dispersed clan of young gay bohemians. I miss 'em all.
The drive home to Northfield and points west wasn't bad, although there was still a bit of residual snow falling, backlash from the previous night's storm. We stopped at a McDonalds somewhere before Gardner and Harvard (the township, not the college, although there is an entertaining Entering Harvard sign as you pass the town line on the highway) and ate Mcnuggets and greasy fries as we watched the snowbanks by the side of the road rise and rise and rise as we headed away from the city. By the time we pulled into our driveway it was almost dark, but it was easy to make out the 3 foot snowbanks lining the road; while Boston had a couple of slushy inches, we had been slammed. The dog, emerging from the house into a snowfall towering above her head, was nonetheless ecstatic to see us, wiggling on the stoop, showing her belly like the slut for affection she is.
Jesse had left a message on our answering machine saying he'd not be in from Providence until 8, and Matt and Alicia, staying across town at the guesthouse on the other campus while up for a skiing holiday with friends, decided they were too tired to stop by, so we had a few hours to ourself until Jesse arrived and he and I went out to pick up sushi and chinese appetizers at China Gourmet. We chatted on the way about his work and school, mostly; Jesse is an artist, in a grad program at Rutgers art school and teaching undergrad classes, looking forward to grant writing and gallery showings and the pressure of outside demands to produce, and confident about his excellent work. He slept in the baby's room on the futon; she sleeps between us in our bed anyway, and wait a minute, how come she has her own room but she gets to clutter up ours?
You Make My Heart Sing
Darcie went to breakfast with Willow while I slumbered on; we had been up late the night before watching a video tape of short pieces, mostly educational films with titles like Keeping Clean and a Union Pacific training documentary on safety on the job called The Days Of Our Years, from the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 collection. Ah, those were the days, when, if instructional films are to be believed, apparently kids grew up hearing the voice of authority speak to them in voice-over, an entire generation of schizophrenics in black and white. And remember, kids, if you're not neat and clean, everyone will hate you, and your life won't amount to a hill of beans.
After Darcie came back, I emerged to find Jesse already awake and reading Harvey's The Condition of Postmodernity, a book I recommend as a definitive critique of the traditional view of postmodernism as a catalyst for true cultural and political-economic sea-change, on the living-room loveseat. After determining that there was no coffee, he and I hopped into his car and found our way to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, which recently opened down in Amherst on a patch of land purchased from Hampshire College. The museum was a great sunny place, with excellent exhibits of original art by Maurice Sendak and Eric Carle himself and a studio room where children can learn about shape and line and color and try some projects of their very own. Darcie went, too, with the baby and her parents in her parents car.
As we browsed the giftshop Eric Carle himself came in, very quietly, and without fanfare sat by himself in the auditorium watching the movie of the museum's construction and founding; we snuck in the back to watch him watch himself on the screen. Afterwards, he came over to us to ask how we liked the museum he had built; it felt like having the President come out of the Oval Office to say hi during the presidential tour, but, due to the almost-silent museum and the absence of others around us, much more private somehow. Neil asked very nicely while the rest of us just said hi in awe, and Carle, a short shy man in a neat green sportcoat with an unidentifiable soft-spoken accent and a white beard, consented to autograph a board-book copy of his very first book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? As long as we can keep Willow from gnawing it to death, we'll treasure it always.
Lunch in Northampton afterwards at the Vermont Country Deli: mocha lattes and crunchy spinach and roast beef sandwiches and, for my pescetarian brother, a tuna fish sandwich and some black bean soup. Willow threw her toys on the ground and entertained herself watching us stoop over to pick them up until we bundled her up, said goodbye to my brother standing on the street, and went home, back to the three of us.
And now Darcie naps with Willow whilst I blog; in the background, over the evening, the thumps in the hallway slowly gather strength. Either there's a wumpus in the hallway, or the kids are coming back from holiday break, banging snow off their boots and slamming their doors. I'm betting on the latter.
Saturday, January 04, 2003
posted by boyhowdy |
6:31 PM |
*ring [click] whirrrrrrr*
Hello, you've reached Not All Who Wander Are Lost; this is your host boyhowdy. I've just returned from visiting parents siblings and old friends in Boston with the wife and baby, but my brother is about to arrive for one last vacationesque weekend before life returns to the-way-things-are so blogging will not resume until late tonight or tomorrow at the earliest. Watch this space over the next 24 for many elephantine life-changes and observations, reported in my usual scintillating self-referentiality; many things blogworthy occured in the last 48, so expect both quality and quantity soon. Until then, enjoy your remaining holiday break!
Thursday, January 02, 2003
This Is Not A Pipe
posted by boyhowdy |
2:36 AM |
More originally-from-Playboy Shel Silverstein stuff ; see also Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book:
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
Once Upon A Time We Lived Under A Willow Tree
posted by boyhowdy |
10:49 PM |
...and I was "the lightning guy" for a living.
In 1994 I was working on an Education and Programs fellowship at the Boston Museum of Science , while Darcie worked as assistant manager for a travel book store in an upscale mall downtown. Things had gotten out of hand in our dirty apartment on the Allston-Brighton line; after a few fights I had ended up living next door with a raver chick and her wiccan friend for a few months until we had decided to move the hell away from there, as it was unhealthy, and take some time off from each other.
I ended up in a wood-paneled, run-down house share in Kendall Square with two strangers, one a professional English as a Second language teacher who slept on a matress on a bare floor with one of his students, an overwhelmed girl who barely spoke English, the other a classically-trained porn afficionado who temped as a librarian at Symphony Hall while he pursued his real love, writing letters and stories for Penthouse and Oui. The primary benefit to this living arrangement was its proximity to work, a three-block bike ride through a back lot and to the edge of the Charles River. The drawbacks included the roommates, both of whose girlfriends eventually moved in with them, the fact that I was sleeping on a futon in a tiny room with thin faux-wood paneling, and the fact that Darcie wasn't there.
Meanwhile, after living on the Fenway across from a drug-dealer's park and the Museum of Fine Arts with baby pigeons hatching on the windowsill for a few months, Darcie had answered an ad in the paper and moved into a room on the second floor of Val and Bob's Somerville walk-up. The house was a block down and behind the Somerville Theater in Davis Square, easily accessible by Boston's public transport, the T; this was back when Davis Square as yet had no McDonalds, but was a fun funky neighborhood with good bars and music halls, Redbones cajun restaurant and a real diner, and a Store 24 and a dollar store, useful when you're mostly broke or up regularly at 2:00 a.m needing cigarettes.
Katherine, a nun in the Church of Euthenasia, lived downstairs; to visit Darcie, I'd wave my way past Katherine smoking on the steps outside her back door, climb up the rickety back stairs, and open the wondowless neverlocked back door into the warm kitchen with its woodstained walls and a fridge painted like a Holstein, where there tended to be a half dozen random people, our roommates and their very cool friends, to greet us. It was an odd layout. The kitchen was the communal gathering place; off it was a small bathroom, Val's room, and a phone nook in a hallway which in turn led to an outside door. The bedrooms all opened up into each other linearly; to get to our own room on the corner of the house we either had to walk through Val's room or, stranger still, walk out of the apartment into the hall, past the stairs of the invisible men who lived upstairs, unlock the door with your key and walk back into the apartment, or, more specifically, Bob's room, and then into ours. Our best guess was that Bob's room had once been a waiting room for a therapist's office; that would explain the two ways into our own room, once -- in this scenario -- the office itself.
When, after a few months, I was living there in praxis, we decided I should sign on for rent and live there in theory, too. I got to know Val and Bob pretty well; mostly, we didn't have much to do except sit around all day and drank cheap beer and smoke cigarettes at the kitchen table while Darcie worked.
Val was a big earthy woman with a skinny boyfriend who was the guitarist in her band; her only form of income seemed to be a yearly yard sale, for which she scoured the streets on trash day all year, filling our house and garage with knickknacks and paddywhacks and shelves of scalloped bone. After she moved out and was replaced by Chirs, the taciturn alcoholic sound man for the Boston House of Blues, we discovered a cache of sealed jugs of tapwater hidden in the floorboards and behind the sink, over 60 of them. Our best guess is that Val, ever the crystal and feather spiritualist, was preparing for the apocalypse.
It was Bob we really took to. Bob's life was in a holding pattern, although he was so settled it wasn't really noticable when seen head-on. He was drinking far too heavily, working a little as a receptionist in a small hospital, dating a guy who he loved but wasn't good for him. We spent hours in that little kitchen, smoking and drinking and laughing and singing; Bob I had joined old schoolmate-and-friend PJ Shapiro in a band, Not Earthshaking, which played a gig at the Hard Rock Cafe surrounded by the original bricks of the first place the Beatles played in Liverpool and then disbanded --, When it got warm again, on the porch, we sat late into the evening looking out on the marvelous garden he was building at the base of the willow tree in the backyard and talking about anything and everything.
Ah, the willow tree. Bigger than a three-apartment home, it towered over the neighborhood, jutting out even over the fenced-in half acre of garden we cultivated at our house on the corner. Branches rubbed up against the bedroom windows, providing just enough shade in the summer and just enough beauty in the fall to fall asleep to; they beat in the wind against the cardboard box Darcie kept in the window as a kind of poor-man's refrigerator to keep food, mostly orange juice, cool.
The tree owned us more than we owned it, but somehow (it was never clear to me how, with three apartments in the house), the yard had become ours, and Val and Bob took it over. Val grew wildflowers and tomatoes and placed garden Gnomes and bits of bark; Bob build a barbecue patio in the shape of a guitar around the trunk of the tree, We left the house in late '94, I guess, when I went to live in the dorms at Marlboro College and Darcie went to live with her parents ten miles down the hill, and I miss the firends and the sense of cozy comfort of each darkened room, but I miss Bob, and the garden, most of all, and I know Darcie does too. We'd never trade it for what we have now, but we love it, and the people we were when we lived there, all the same.
Things come in threes, y'know:
Bob called tonight, we're going to try to get to his house out in the real suburbs, in Revere, where he's got a new gardening business and is going on six years with Tom, they have a Lhasa Apso and they're talking about a ceremony of some sort in the next year or so.
Also, my brother asked for a dinner out at Redbones for his birthday dinner tomorrow in Boston, a family tradition, because you just can't get good catfish in New Jersey.
Also, of course, we named the baby Willow.