1. Writers not writing in LA

     
  2. Well, if you’re gonna offer me bourbon with my beer while I write a paper, what am I supposed to do (at Fraunces Tavern Restaurant)

     
  3. More found footage from last night, or, “this is what happens when you hand a two-year-old your phone”

     
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  5. We had both these out. Try both, Tom says - which do you like better? Turns out they taste EXACTLY the same. Like I’ve never tasted two more similar beers that were not in fact the same beer. And we’re watching X-Files. Coincidence?

     
  6. Our coffee mugs this fine Sunday morning. L-R, his and hers

     

  7. Publishing Update

    A few things!

    I’ve got a lot of papers and conferences in the next month, so I may disappear from the Internet for a bit. But who knows.

     
  8. Subway poetry: being wildly apt since, well, forever

     
  9. It’s the most wonderful time of the year

     

  10. Happy Birthday, Dad (A Repost)


    I’m thinking about my father tonight, because tomorrow (Tuesday, March 18) would have been his 55th birthday. He died when he was 47, but I think he would have laughed at turning 55 and told me he was an old man now and demanded I buy him a walker or something.

    Anyhow, I’m weary lately and I don’t think I’m up to a post about Dad, or grief, or any of those things, but a few years ago I posted something on the fifth anniversary of the day he died, and it seemed like maybe a good time to repost it, because it’s all still true. And I still want to call him (well I think we’d probably text these days) and tell him about things that happen that he’d find funny or interesting or absurd, all the time.

    Still miss you, Dad. All the time.


    (Originally posted here in 2011.)

    Today, it has been five years since my father passed awaysuddenly, from a fast relapse into an aggressive leukemia that took him at age 47. Next week Tom and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, so even if you didn’t know me then, you can sense how difficult this week was, five years ago. And how it’s still tough five years later, and will be in five more, and fifty more.

    Last night I was thinking about this anniversary, of sorts, and wishing I went to the kind of church that lit candles in remembrance of our dead. He is my only “dead”I have all four grandparents, still, and all other relatives.

    What I can do now, five years later, with less pain, is remember all of the things that I can see that I inherited from him. I didn’t inherit anything material from my father. He didn’t have much, and he didn’t live long enough to acquire much in the way of heirlooms, and the things of value he hadhis guitars, mostlywent to my little brother, and I’m glad for that, because he plays guitar like a rockstar.

    So when I think about my inheritance from my father, I think about the things I learned from him, the things that shaped me into who I am. Most of them weren’t things he said to me: they were things he embodied, things he lived and practiced in front of me.

    From Dad, I learned that fathers are good. Last year at the Glen Workshop, I workshopped a long essay about this very week. Several of the participants said they’d read the first two pages and thought, Oh no. Another story about a horrible father. And then they were surprised to discover it was about a wonderful father. Our culture is saturated with stories of bad fathers, and not for naught: there are many, and they have destroyed many lives. But my father was good, and he was good despite growing up in a home without a father. He struggled and didn’t know how to do it right a lot of the time, but he tried his best, and from him, I learned that our past does not dictate our future, and that calling God my Father would be something I could do and be glad about.

    I learned to delight in creation and culture. Creation, in the real “nature” sense: Dad loved thunderstorms. He’d pop popcorn and sit on the back porch, like it was God’s cinema. This week, as the hurricane blew by and I realized with gratitude that at least for us, the effects would be minimal, I allowed myself to think about how excited he would have been to sit and watch the lightning and the wind and the rain. And culture, in the real “human” sense: Though Dad never put words to it, I first learned about common grace by sitting in his van as he drove me to some choir practice or another, listening to Prairie Home Companion or Nickel Creek or talking about a movie we’d seen.

    I learned to love the church. And not some idealized version of the church, either, but the real thing, the kind made up of broken people who love one another. Dad’s life was the church, though he never worked in traditional full-time ministry. But there was nothing he cared about more, outside his family, than the people in the church. You could barely get him out the door before everyone was gone; the pastor’s kids would have gone home before we did. And he stuck it out at a very specific local church through some really bad times, and really good times, and from him I learned what it was to commit.

    I learned to love learning. Dad only took a few college classes and I don’t think he was at school much in high school, either. He drove long, long hours for work and didn’t have much time for reading. But he checked books on tape out of the library and learned everything from basic Russian to Civil War history, and he knew the strangest random facts about everything from science and math to history and literature. I remember studying for the GRE and being staggered at his vocabulary. He never stopped learning and loving new information. So I learned, too, that learning doesn’t stop after graduation. (Or in my case, graduation, and graduation, and graduation … )

    I learned to love coffee. Which probably means I owe every one of my accomplishments to him.

    I knew, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that he was proud of me. They say when you lose someone, it’s a little like losing a limb: you keep going to scratch it and it takes a long time for the itch to finally disappear. Well, I no longer expect to see him when I go home, but I will say this: every time I write something and it’s published, every time I get asked to do something exciting to me, every time I’ve started some new pursuit and done well at it, my first impulse, still, is to call him. (The same holds for every time I discover a new band I think he’d like.)

    It’s no small thing for a girl to have a father who knows her and loves her unconditionally, and makes that fact known to her. It’s the rarest of gifts, and it’s the sort of gift that gives a girl confidence to go out and chase down a dream.

    It’s the sort of gift that makes a girl have high standards for the other men in her life.

    It’s the sort of gift for which I am grateful, every year, on August 30, and every other day, too.

     

  11. Other People Say Useful Things About Pop Culture Coverage

    Two people who had good things to say about the importance of culture coverage over the last few days. Alyssa Rosenberg moved over to the Washington Post as their pop culture blogger, and wrote a great summary of why it’s important in her opening post:

    Mass culture often does a better job of reflecting the complexity and contradictions of the way we live now more vividly than polling data or election results. Culture can live in those contradictions, rather than trying to force them into a coherent picture that will predict the next election or explain the outcome of the next big policy fight. And it can help us escape the constraints of our politics entirely, giving us dreams about what our lives might be like hundreds of years in the future or thousands of mile from earth, or without the constraints of our existing gender roles, racial divides, or resource distribution. To put it another way: it’s significant that the best case for public service these days comes less from federal officials in Washington than from “Parks and Recreation,” a low-rated, obsessively friendly sitcom that has stayed alive for six seasons by sheer force of pluck and determination.

    And she pointed to something Ross Douthat said on Friday at the New York Times when asked by a reader about cultural criticism and conservatism:

    So conservative commentary on pop culture tends to fall into a dispiriting cycle. First we rail against Hollywood liberalism, then we write thumb-sucker pieces (I’ve written my share) about how we’re spending too much time thinking about politics and not enough thinking about culture, then we think about culture, get depressed about how comprehensively liberal the culture industry seems to be, and rail against Hollywood liberalism… and so it goes.

    With that depressing pattern in mind, I try to keep my pop culture writing as free of ideological police-work as possible  – and when ideology does come in, it’s usually because I’m trying to highlight places where a conservative or even reactionary sensibility unexpectedly bubbles up amid the liberal froth. (I’d much rather write a post about Lena Dunham, crypto-reactionary, than a post about how “True Detective” is deeply unfair to the school voucher movement.) Obviously my underlying worldview always shapes my dabbles in criticism, but ideally in a way that makes the criticism distinctive rather than predictable – in the same way that non-liberal ideas, overt or unacknowledged (think the libertarianism of “Ghostbusters,” or the social conservatism of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), can help make movies and TV shows stand out from the entertainment-industry norm.

     
  12. And now ensconced in a corner table at my usual watering hole. This place has gotten to be a third (fourth?) home, or maybe second office. (at Fraunces Tavern)

     
  13. Not my best time, but not my worst either. In any case, I finished and ran solidly the whole way. #nyhalf

     

  14. A week and a half of publishing

    Hey, I’ve been busy:

     
  15. Poor Totoro has a black eye