Living in the shadow of violence

But first!

We got all the stuff I need for repairing our stoop and painting and finishing my office. I’m hoping to do the cement step repairs and the repointing later this week, as it’s fall break, and I’ll have some extra days off. We’ll see.

Anyway. On to less delightful things.

One of the central tensions of the Odyssey is the question of whether or not Odysseus will be able to survive the transition from warrior to citizen. While he was crying on the beaches of Ogygia, Ajax and Agamemnon were meeting their nasty ends, and Menelaus’ complicated homecoming was as good as it got; clearly success in war didn’t easily translate to success at home. As it turns out, Odysseus does succeed, of course – but only at the cost of what is essentially a bloody battle in his own house, the consequences of which are only smoothed over by a deus ex machina. How else do you solve the problem of mass murder impinging on civil society?

The attentive reader may have noticed that it was a decidedly unfair fight: Odysseus and his companions had retrieved weapons from the storage room and then locked it behind them, and the suitors wore no weapons, as they were at a feast, not in a war. And they were in a society that saw no need for having weapons at the feast, that sought to keep weapons hidden away except when needed for war, hunting, or ritual performances (I’m thinking about the Pyrrhic dance in particular, but there were any number of ritualized public displays of militaristic athleticism).

Thucydides remarks on this too, in his so-called archaeology: “The Athenians were the first to give up the habit of carrying weapons and to adopt a way of living that was more relaxed and luxurious” (1.6; trans. Rex Warner). In other words, other societies were compelled to continue the tradition of being always armed due to threats of aggression, primarily from pirates. We know from circumstantial evidence in other sources (Herodotus, certainly, perhaps Andocides?) that carrying weapons within the city was strictly regulated, and limited to specific state-sanctioned events such as the Panathenaia and other festivals; carrying a sword into the agora on a regular business day would have been perceived as bizarre and threatening.


On Thursday at 4PM, I was sitting in the hall of the central humanities building and idling the last 20 minutes before I could start setting up for my 4:30 class, and I glanced at facebook, and saw that a shooting had happened in Oregon, at Umpqua Community College. At that time, nothing was known of the shooter – and I haven’t looked him up, so I still know nothing about him; what is there to know? He brought a weapon into the civilized space of the public sphere, and caused senseless deaths.

On that same day, down in the Ancestral Homeland, the Texas legislature approved a bill that would allow concealed carry on the campuses of public colleges. I haven’t followed that bill closely, although I do have several friends who teach at public universities in Texas, so I also haven’t been completely unaware of it. I realize, too, that simply banning concealed weapons from a certain space in no way means that no one will bring a gun into that space; however, there is, I believe, some significance to the act of condoning the practice that changes the atmosphere. For instance, I will not apply to teach at a school that allows this. I cannot imagine running an open, honest classroom in such a context.

In a grotesque moment of irony, this bill will go into effect on August 1, 2016 – the fiftieth anniversary, to the day, of the Charles Whitman shooting, that first horrific example of what has become a familiar genre of violence in the public sphere. Whitman committed his murders from the central tower of the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, still one of the major landmarks of the Austin skyline.


This afternoon, at 2PM, I was making a list of supplies needed for repointing my stoop when my phone vibrated with a text message. It was my school’s public safety authority, alerting me to the fact that the FBI had released information about a credible threat to a Philadelphia-area college. On further investigation, it seems that the FBI knows of threats of gun violence scheduled to be perpetrated tomorrow at 1PM central, 2PM eastern.

(Which detail I include only because it seems such a strange banality: do we really need to note that 2PM eastern is 1PM central?)

I am not, in all honesty, especially worried or scared of this threat. For one thing, the authorities are clearly on top of it. For another, I wasn’t planning on going to campus tomorrow anyway. And finally, it’s probably some demented, lonely, hurting soul seeking attention, not a strategist announcing his plans. Regardless, that undercurrent of threat has been with me for years, ever since the Virginia Tech shootings. These American moments of mass murder are so often centered on schools.


This threat of violence is by no means limited to schools, of course; often when I am on the train and letting my mind wander, I wonder how many of the people around me have guns. Depending on where you are in the city, and what time of day it is, the numbers are probably disturbingly high. You don’t get a city with a shooting rate like Phila’s unless you have people with guns all over the place.

As the Onion has noted, America is unique in suffering from this disease. Such things don’t happen in France or Turkey or Russia or Japan like they happen here. Nor are we – in spite of the Onion’s obviously satirical final sentence – without recourse; plenty of other states have experienced such violence, and responded to it proactively, and effectively prevented further iterations of it. There was even a lovely quote – which I can’t find now – from an Australian who said that Americans were not, as a culture, mature enough to handle guns. That seems about right, frankly. We have continually proven incapable of acting to secure our public spaces for true civil society. Our obsessive cult of individuality stands in the way of the fundamental concern for the safety of our neighbors that makes room for gun control legislation.


A lot of these people who shut down any movement towards even discussion of gun violence in America are the same people who are fond of the molon labe symbolism. These are Greek imperatives that translate literally as ‘come, seize’ – a challenge, allegedly, to the Persians who demanded Sparta’s submission. It was almost certainly not actually a slogan of the Spartans in question, incidentally; our only source for it is Plutarch, writing centuries later, and prone to flights of fancy that make him an often delightful, if questionable, source.

Regardless of its origin, it was taken a central symbol of the Texas revolution (the revolution fought, may I remind you gently, for the sake of preserving the institution of slavery in the Republic of Texas), and serves now as a standard of the far-right conservatives and Tea Party types who fear that someone – Mexicans? Muslims? Obama himself? Persians? (Not joking: remember that Iranians are Persians; everything works in cycles, doesn’t it) – are threatening to aggress and claim what they see as theirs. And somehow, that defensiveness has become attached to this bizarre insistence on the need of civilians to carry weapons in the public sphere, in civil spaces that are not in the midst of war.


Pythagoras – or at any rate his school – is credited with putting law and public weaponry in explicit opposition: “Let the laws rule alone. When weapons rule, they kill the law.” Greco-Roman antiquity makes a terrible model for blind obeisance (for instance, according to the niceties of antiquity, my professional position would be anathema), but we do well always to heed the lessons of the past. And the fact is that this society to which we pay lip service so adamantly found the question of combining weapons with civic spaces a troubling one, and decided that public spaces in civilized societies deserve protection against weapons, which are tools that have nothing to do with social order, and everything to do with upending it.

As I said before, no amount of legislation is going to stop hateful, violent people from asserting themselves into our social orders. However, I think there is something to letting a larger social force – government, custom, tradition – draw a sharp line between public, civic, social space and the space of violence. Odysseus was Athena’s favorite, and even he barely managed to combine the two successfully – and then only because she stepped in for him and made amends as only a god can.

The rest of us are not so fortunate. No gods step up for us. And that is precisely why I wish my government would. My students and I – and all of us in America – are literally betting our lives on our safety for now.


Entirely unrelated, but simply because we’ve earned it:

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Filed under ancient greece, classical antiquity, culture, history, politics, teaching

Getting back to work and other long-term plans

I have done so little work since I got the new curriculum in late August and set to putting my class together. And then school started and I was too busy doing my job to do my work – which I am this weekend as well, as I have 3 assignments to look at for each of my 48 students, but that’s just going to have to happen over time, because I’m prioritizing shit.

(I’ll get comments on their first draft tomorrow and Monday, in time for Tuesday’s revision, but the other two assignments… probably just grades without comments. Faster. And that matters when it’s 144 assignments in three or four days. Especially since there’s a second draft due Monday, sigh.)

So yesterday between the meeting and the ballet class, at the library, I actually started working on my book again. You know, the one I haven’t worked on in… four months? Six months?

(We can’t all, and some of us don’t.)

Mostly I’m at the stage again of gathering bibliography around the various themes that structure my chapters, which is proving difficult, as quite a lot of it is outside my normal stomping grounds. I actually spent about 20 minutes with a research librarian just getting crash courses in effective use of some of the databases that I don’t use so often, because I’m very good at the two that I do use, but one of them is exclusively classics, so I definitely needed to broaden my search skills.

I’m excited again. And frustrated – fushtrated, as we say here in Phila, thanks to some kind of linguistic metathesis – because I know it will be impossibly slow slogging, but at least the dogs are mushing again (perhaps taking the metaphor too far in my attempt to avoid bizarre mixed metaphors).

The dream article is still on my radar – I made some good progress on it during those work sessions with the Spaniard in August, and, with the help of my advisor’s comments, know exactly what needs to be revised — I just haven’t exactly figured out how to execute it elegantly yet. Needs more work still, but I did pick out a journal, and am just now – right this moment! – making a goal to send it out before the end of this calendar year.

Pinky swear.

I won’t lie: it’s going to hurt like hell when that article is rejected, as it is likely to be, as the great majority of articles are. But my advisor called it ‘fascinating’, so I’m going to let that bolster my ego when the time comes.

Then there’s the hip-hop Greek tragedy article. Just for fun, let’s put that down for submission by the end of the spring semester. So my summer is wide open for book work, and these two lingering articles are out of my hands and off of my back.

(Also there’s that other article related to my diss that got rejected and that I still haven’t gone back to, so I guess I could go back to that, and I probably will… but maybe I’ll wait until I get another article or two accepted so my spirits are a bit more buoyed about the whole prospect.)

Confession: I had a brief moment of panic for a second there: I don’t have any other articles in the pipeline, once these three are done. I have two book ideas, granted, and I think both are viable and marketable, but no other obvious articles I want to write.

(There’s the ‘pending’ article under review, I suppose, but it will probably be six months at least before I hear back on that.) (Oh, also there’s the writing pedagogy article, but I’m waiting for feedback on that, too, so it’s lingering in limbo for now.) (Right: and that essay about early feminism and classicism, which I still think is promising and would love to return to, given some breathing room.)

But I still hear a thin voice in my head: what if I’m out of ideas?!!

It’s absurd, of course, but it does cross my mind. The truth is that other ideas will rise to the surface as I work on these, and new paths will open up, because they always do.

Plus, I’m not strictly speaking in a research-based job, so I’m not strictly speaking required to publish (although I’m sort of, maybe, kind of, required to publish, and the ambiguity bothers me), so if I did run out of ideas, it would sort of, maybe, kind of, be okay, and think how much time I’d have to read.

In other news, I’m now attached to the idea of getting Our Oscar a cat.

It was actually the husband who first suggested it, once we settled on moving Clio into her private apartment: Oscar is an extremely social cat, and would thrive with a good playmate. Having three cats seems like a lot, but it also seems more manageable when one is usually in a cage.

So now I’m quietly lobbying for that. Not pushing it, just mentioning it now and then.

And we’re nearly at the half hour, and I need to get to cleaning the sewing room: the husband and I devoted ourselves to house cleaning today – in particular to scrubbing the floors to get rid of the cat pee smell (we were mostly successful, thank god, although it is going to take a few more such days before all traces are gone) – but I left the sewing room out of it. And it is a mess, as it has become the room where stray things are put.

We’re forming new habits of tidiness. We’re nipping habits of clutter in the bud. We’re trying, anyway.

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I love our house so much.

But where does all this stuff come from?!


Filed under goals, identity, musings, writing


(lyrics, if you’re curious)

I was thinking earlier how maybe I wouldn’t post tonight, since I don’t have anything remotely insightful or fascinating or important to say, and doesn’t it just waste everyone’s time when I post about nothing?

And then I thought: but I love when my blog friends post, period, even if it is about nothing. I like how the simple and uneventful posts give me a picture of their idea of ordinary – which is sometimes so different from my idea of ordinary. And I think there’s something important about us seeing what other ‘ordinaries’ look like – introducing us to different ways of being in the world, challenging our assumptions and prejudices, keeping the world new.

So this is a post about today’s ordinariness.

It rained and rained all day today, dawn to now with hardly a break.

By the time I got to campus for the meeting, my feet were wet, which made me enraged, because I was wearing my winter boots, and they were usually waterproof! But I guess that’s in snow, which is a little more manageable than straight-up puddles when it comes to keeping feet dry.

I have a number of pairs of boots: black high heeled leather lace-ups that are gorgeous but so nice I’m always scared to wear them; my green Timberlands which I adore, and which got me through last winter very well, but which have 2.5″ heels, and I just wasn’t feeling that today; my burgundy vintage shearling-lined boots, but they aren’t that comfortable, so I don’t like to wear them on ballet class days; the Columbia snow shoes a friend gave me, which are truly designed for snow and would have looked absurd on this fall day; and my functional but not especially attractive waterproof snow boots, which is what I went with.

And my feet were wet.

Reader, I bought new boots.

Another pair of Timberlands, since the last pair was so great. Also waterproof, brown instead of green, and no heel to speak of. They won’t arrive until Tuesday or so, but it’s fine: I plan to not leave the house tomorrow, and Sunday Hurricane Joaquin is supposed to be mostly spent.

And we’ll have a week at least of respite – warmish, true fall – before I’ll need waterproof boots again. And probably a while before I’ll need them like I did today – the city trashcans were overflowing with broken umbrellas today, as the gusting wind made a joke out of our flimsy attempts at protection while we struggled to and from work.

The meeting, incidentally, was touchier than most. I don’t know why, but tempers were definitely up. Maybe everybody else’s feet were wet too.

My feet were dry, however, by the time I had my first pointe class! It was fun, and far more manageable than I anticipated. I mean, we basically just stayed at the barre and practiced going up and down at various speeds and in various positions, but that’s important: I definitely don’t yet grasp how you just go from not on pointe to balanced on pointe in the right spot. I still have to go up and then roll around a little before I find my way to fully on top of the flat square that is supposed to take the weight.

This is one of the major differences between my new teacher and my old: my old teacher insisted that students be true to their bodies, and never force anything or stretch their extension to make their turnout look better than it was. She was all about going to your side, not just straight out to the true side of your body, since most people don’t have 90° turnout. My new teacher is much more comfortable with letting students ‘fake’ things a bit more if it ends up looking more like the balletic ideal. That shit can be hard on your knees, though, so I’m trying to walk a middle ground.

I’ve lost track of time – mesmerized by the incessant rain falling outside, maybe – but I’m sure we’re close enough for horseshoes or hand grenades—

Our Oscar nearly always keeps a little crook in his tail, even when he's fast asleep

Our Oscar nearly always keeps a little crook in his tail, even when he’s fast asleep


Filed under around Phila, ballet, dance, nature, varia


Have you noticed that ‘donkey’ and ‘monkey’ don’t rhyme, even though they should?

The etymology of both words, coincidentally, is quite obscure: the English ‘monkey’, first attested around the 15th c., is likely of German origin but may have roots in a number of other languages, and ‘donkey’ is a word that showed up only in the late 19th century and has no obvious ancestors. The least absurd explanation is that it came from the word ‘dun’, but even that isn’t very compelling.

In any case, originally, they did rhyme. Which is probably part of why the ‘dun’ origin story is appealing – although that begs the question of the suffix ‘-key’, which isn’t exactly a common or productive English root elsewhere.


Our Oscar has gone through a number of pet names that are secret between him and me (and now you): he was a Pookie for a while, and then a Pookie-bear, and then a Monkey, and that morphed into a Monkey-bear, which may make no sense, but has been making me happy for the last six or eight months. Just a week or two ago, though, I noticed that I was calling him Donkey. I have no idea why.

The origins remain obscure coming and going.


The husband finally expressed to me the root of his deep sadness of late, and it was based, in large part, in a misinterpretation of something I said a week or two ago when I was angry with him, and he had basically concluded that I had taken my heart out of our relationship, permanently. It’s frustrating to me, sometimes, that he has such a fragile trust in my commitment, but in any case now that’s cleared up, so I hope that he’ll start being in a better mood. The last week or two has been quite trying – in spite of the fact that my independent life has been fairly pleasant.


Sometimes I am scared of working in a college. Sometimes I look out the little window on my classroom doors and imagine seeing a gunman coming up to it like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Sometimes I think about how I would protect my students and myself at once.

My heart is with Umpqua Community College.


Scroll down. Sometimes no one does truth quite as hard as The Onion.


My ballet class tonight was wonderful for some reason. I can’t quite put my thumb on it. I think I may have leveled up on balance, in some ways, or perhaps on pirouettes – Thursdays are the beginning class (although this teacher has a very loose, very generous idea of ‘beginning’), so we were doing quarter turn pirouettes, and I was finding that I could catch and control them pretty well.

And it helps, I expect, that in the beginning class I tend to be one of the more experienced dancers, so I am usually appointed to lead the barre, which is kind of a confidence-boost. And then when we were doing across the floor combos in small groups, someone in my group asked me to go in front, which is nice.

Also, the woman I thought seemed kind of snotty but who is a beautiful – and clearly very experienced – dancer and who has lovely and flattering and interesting leotards? I think she might actually be nice and normal, because she was a little bit friendly with me tonight, which made me happy.

I am, as you may know, eternally devoted to my first ballet teacher for making me feel graceful and strong and competent, but I’m glad I switched teachers. This woman has a very different – but equally supportive, while still having very high standards – style, but I think the changeover is proving very good for me, both physically and mentally.

The new teacher doesn’t have as many pithy sayings – or at any rate, if she does, I haven’t picked up on them yet – but she did have one that caught my attention last week, and has been sitting with me: we end at the origin. Which just meant: flip back around to the original side and finish in fifth position, but is also kind of philosophically deep and interesting.


Our work meeting tomorrow – the usual monthly meeting – is being held in person. There is a lot of drama going on right now with the new curriculum, and the boss occasionally overreacting to colleagues’ attempts to explain or assist students. The boss is very committed to celebrating this whole endeavor as completely collaborative, but it always remains her program, and however much she might say about our having leeway to shape the class according to our strengths and interests…

Yeah, it doesn’t usually play well in prime time, is all.


On the plus side, tomorrow is also my first pointe class! My teacher said we won’t even be putting the shoes on, probably, but I’m still excited. I assume we’ll be learning strengthening exercises and what-not, which is cool.

I’m feeling a tiny bit naughty that I’ve been playing in my shoes all week, and nervous that my teacher might notice that fact because the… I don’t know the name, but that flat squarish bit where you balance: those are a little bit dirty.


I have acquired a number of new words already in this pointe adventure, which pleases me. The vamp, for instance, is about how far past your toes and onto your foot the stiff bits go, more or less. And the shank is something to do with the stiffness of the sole part.


And we’re about at the half hour, so there it is. It’s been a challenging week, and promises to be a long weekend – the students are all submitting the first draft of their first real piece of writing tonight, so I’ll have to read and comment on all 48 of those in the next few days. And I’m really not sure precisely what the expectations for this assignment are, which complicates things.

Ideally the meeting tomorrow will clear that up.

This afternoon I mentioned the faculty meeting to a motivated and proactive student who was meeting with me to review his progress, and he said, wouldn’t it have been better to have held that meeting before the assignment was due so all the faculty could be on the same page? My response was politic, and the timing has to do primarily with the usual meeting schedule, but still: from the mouths of babes.

We’re almost halfway through the semester, though. Can you believe it?!

But I’m due a hot bath and some Oliver Twist after this difficult week and tonight’s ballet class.

I’ll leave you, because I love you, with this weirdly disturbing imagining of goat ballet:





Filed under ballet, dance, education, identity, politics, teaching, tragedy, varia

Some moments

News of the MacArthur Fellowships was released last night. Why does this matter to me?

Oh, only because I hang out with geniuses:

He’s a friend of mine from grad school! He was a few years ahead of me, but always very supportive and friendly and mellow and delightful, and I enjoy catching up with him at the conference every year. And I knew he was smart, but it turns out he’s a certified genius!

Also, thehashtagclassicistsrepresent!

This is actually the second genius I’ve got connections to: 2010 winner Jason Moran was a high school classmate of mine —

So fine, I’m not winning any awards or doing amazing things personally, but I’m hanging out with the right people at least. Some of that brilliance might rub off on me, insha’allah.


Today in Late Night: I’m sure you’ve noticed that the current late night line-up features several Jon Stewart protegees in John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore, and now Trevor Noah. I watched the first new Daily Show earlier today, and I think Noah’s off to a good start. The husband and I kind of got off watching Wilmore’s Nightly Show, but I think we should get back on it – he’s funny and sharp. I don’t yet love Colbert’s version of Letterman (I have no idea what the show is actually called – the Late Show? For me, it’s always just been Letterman) – I think being on network forces him to be too bland. But we’re only a month in. He might yet shine.

(Probably will. I don’t know that the MacArthur Foundation has okayed it, but he’s basically a genius too.)

John Oliver I adore. My only complaint about him having a weekly show is that he’s no longer doing his old podcast, the Bugle, with Andy Zaltzman, and I’m mad about that. I loved that show: it balanced out my week (Proopsie on Monday, Harmontown on Wednesday, Oliver and Zaltzman on Friday!). I couldn’t be happier in particular with how he’s spending HBO’s money – from getting into Twitter wars with the president of Ecuador to creating a cigarette mascot, and most recently to hiring soap opera stars to perform a scene explicitly for a specific young Syrian refugee with cerebral palsy who loved that particular soap (I don’t even remember which), and learned English by watching it. (More here.)

And now she’s featured in a quasi-spoof of her favorite show, in a scene with her favorite characters!

HBO has never spent its money better.

i<3jo4ever [eggplant] [ponies]


A delighted h/t to ravensmarch, who let us know that apparently a goat got up to some hijinks in Saskatoon up in America’s hat (I keed, Canada, I keed…), and it was predictably adorable and hilarious:

Mounties + goats in one story, and featuring Mounties making memes about goats.



And finally, I’m happy to report that Clio’s transition to the jail private apartment is actually going very well: she doesn’t seem to mind it at all, and actually may be a little relieved that she has some respite from Our Oscar’s attentions. She comes out every evening for several hours, but sometimes stays in the cage long after the door is open, and sometimes goes back into the cage on her own, before we prod her about it, so I think she’s genuinely comfortable in there. I mean, it will continue to be important for her to have at least a few hours a day to walk and stretch and move around in a larger space, but it looks like this might be a workable compromise, which is a huge relief.


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Filed under pop culture, varia

In which we reflect on our brother-in-law

I am, as you know, not especially confident in my abilities to connect with other people. My shyness and autistic traits tend to make people assume I’m cold and distant and snotty. Small talk makes me panic. And I’ve never mastered the art of graciousness – graciously taking a compliment, graciously apologizing for wrongs done, graciously asking for what I’m due.

This is particularly on my mind right now as the husband continues to be — I don’t know the word, almost depressed? Like, clinically, except that I don’t think he’s really clinically depressed. He’s remarkably good at handling anger and confrontation very well, but he’s never been great at dealing with feelings of loneliness or sadness, and that’s where he’s at right now, and that’s why he’s a bit of a mess.

He’s not helped by my awkwardness. Even as I interact with him, I see how my literal and concrete way of being in the world isn’t giving him what he needs, but I don’t know how to be otherwise. I am a very good listener, for the most part, but he doesn’t want to talk. He wants me to comfort him in some way, but he won’t tell me how, and I don’t know how. So I’m trying to be gentle with him and make myself available, but I know I’m not doing it right.

(Nor am I being down on myself here, incidentally. I mean, I am disappointed in myself that I can’t be what he needs at this moment, but I’m comfortable with my strengths and weaknesses, and confident that I’m doing my best with what tools I have. And I’m confident we’ll get through this rough patch, even though I don’t yet understand how we got here or what’s going on.)

Anyway, all this has me thinking about the people who are naturally gracious. People who genuinely understand and effortlessly enjoy their fellow humans (and no, I can’t say that of myself; can you? I think you’re lucky if you can).

My brother-in-law is one of these people. Or rather, as he would have it, my ‘bonus brother’. He goes through the world with an incredible openness, and takes it as it comes. Good and bad. He loves to watch people, and loves to talk to them. Anytime you’re out with him, you can be sure that, at some point, you’ll turn around and find that he’s wandered off and become engaged in an intense and honest conversation with some strangers about something huge and serious and meaningful.

Which is not to say he’s somber or dour – quite the opposite. He just loves people, and is centered in some almost Buddhist way. He’s actually got a very sneaky and sharp sense of humor. He’s a professional photographer in one incarnation (he’s also a teacher of photography and digital image manipulation), and one of his particular talents is capturing unscripted moments of joy. And, I suppose, cultivating joy in those around him.

He’s really a delightful human, is what I’m saying. A good partner for my sister, who is prone to drama and oversharing and oversensitivity. Together, they are raising thoughtful, gentle children who laugh a lot. Really laugh a lot. My grandmother never stops marveling at how they laugh and laugh so joyfully.

I don’t feel I know him especially well, which is maybe ironic, given this high praise. But I trust him implicitly, and wish I could be a little more like him in many ways.

He is on my mind today because someone I don’t know posted something to his facebook wall that I found quite shocking. For background, you should know that he and that whole family are deeply involved in local liberal politics – the Occupy movement, the Black Lives Matter movement (which I can never think of without wryly musing that they probably know all four black people in Boulder, and then I feel bad for being snarky), anti-fracking, pro-real-food, and so on. So politics is a regular feature of his facebook wall (particularly since he doesn’t really use facebook much – but when he does, it tends to be political).

So this woman I don’t know posted what amounts to a screed, basically, on his wall today, telling him how hurt she was that she wasn’t being allowed to help my niece in some way (the details are unclear to me), and kind of accusing him of leaving her in the lurch emotionally. I was a bit shocked when I saw it, and wondered how he would respond.

Graciously, as it turns out: he said, [friend’s name], I see your pain, and it pains me to acknowledge there’s nothing I can offer you.

Simple as that: no defensiveness, no excuses, no objections. Just witnessing the other person’s struggle, and clearly reiterating his own boundaries. I found it to be so gracious and honest.

Things are more complicated, obviously, when you’re talking about the kind of intimate partnerships like the one the husband and I are engaged in navigating, but I think the basic tenet stands: hear the other person, take them seriously, and then lay out what you can or can’t offer.

And we’re right at the half hour, so we’ll let that little meditation stand. I can imagine that my bonus brother, were he to read this, would simply shrug and grin and laugh a little, and say, I mean, it’s just the right thing to do.

I wish it were so easy —


Filed under family, identity, learning, musings


I noticed when I did laundry tonight that the husband has actually begun packing for Estonia, but when I asked him tonight if he was going tomorrow, he again hemmed and hawed and got down on himself, and spent the rest of his evening (not much, fortunately) in a funk.

I don’t know why this is so hard, or why it weighs so heavily. As I’ve said before, his identity is somehow wrapped up in it, so it’s all quite fraught.

I believe I haven’t mentioned that I am a little envious, incidentally – unfairly, because he would have taken us both this summer, and I could have myself taken that ferry from Finland to Estonia across the Baltic Sea. But I had so much work. And I don’t regret not going, although I’m sure it would have been wonderful.


And now I’m sitting out on the deck with Oscar (in his harness, naturally) trying to see the lunar eclipse, but there’s a low, dense layer of clouds that’s been hanging over Phila all day long, and it shows no inclination for dispersing. It’s almost like a San Francisco fog in its density and persistence. Periodically it parts enough that I catch a glimpse of the shrinking moon, and I’ve tried to get pictures now and then.


Apropos of nothing:

The husband and I watched Rocky last week. It’s actually a pretty good movie. I mean, I have some major gripes, but it holds up well to close analysis, and actually has a good arc, and real complexity.

Rocky himself, for instance, is a fundamentally sympathetic character (with flaws, yes, but we’ll get to that): he’s an animal lover, and a generous soul, and is protective by nature of those he perceives as weak. He’s never greedy – if anything, he’s so accustomed to losing even what little he manages to scrape together that he first rejects the trainer’s offer. And his loneliness is so painful for him: one of the ironies of the movie is that such a gentle-hearted man can be such a good boxer.

(Although he doesn’t actually win that fight, he doesn’t beat Apollo Creed – but at that point in any case he only cares for finding Adrian.)

So it’s bears watching, even 35 years later or whatever.

And yes, of course: part of the pleasure is seeing Phila, especially in the training montages – he runs through the Italian Market, at one point, and it looks much the same, although nearly everything else has changed.

My beef with the movie is, I acknowledge, partially unfair, as I’m holding it to standards that are entirely anachronistic, but even granting that I think my complaints stand.

In short: Adrian, as soon as Rocky kisses her, loses her mousey glasses and starts to be a person in the world! He saved her!

Also later in the movie Pauly tries to shame her by telling Rocky that she’s not a virgin (although Rocky is so noble that he doesn’t care and continues to love her in spite of that). And somewhere in the middle Rocky himself tries to ‘save’ a neighborhood girl by pulling away from the ‘fast’ kids so she doesn’t get a reputation and end up as used goods that no good man will want. So it definitely espouses a paternalistic morality that I can’t get on board with.

But let that go, and it’s a pretty good movie that finds that delicate middle ground between tragedy and hero’s journey – like Saturday Night Fever, in some ways, although it’s far less dark. And Rocky is an interesting and realistic character.

I haven’t seen the sequels, though, and will probably not bother seeking them out.

self-portrait by lunar eclipse

self-portrait by lunar eclipse

Anyway, tonight’s poem – as so often lately, since I’ve not made enough time for poetry, and end up throwing these in as afterthoughts! But a bit of poetry is better than none at all – is one of the recent poems of the day from, and its relevance is obvious. Karen Anhwei Lee is a Chinese-American poet and professor of English… and that is all I know of her. Text hence (although I’m inserting it as a screenshot because I don’t feel like messing with capturing that formatting…).

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.15.11 PM

Based on what the moon looked like when last I saw it, and how long it’s been, I suspect it’s all dark now – our little spinning planet is perfectly positioned between moon and sun, right now.

Although! I just caught a glimpse of a near-full moon, though the eclipse is only half over – I did see something about the earth’s penumbra versus the actual earth. Maybe this is where the blood part is supposed to show up.

I was going to go back inside, but maybe I’ll just dash downstairs and pour some wine, and come back out to watch for peeks of the moon between the shifting fog of clouds —

look towards the upper right side - you can just make out the moon about to make her comeback

look towards the upper right side – you can just make out the moon about to make her comeback


Filed under around Phila, culture, nature, varia