You May Have Noticed

That I pressed pause two weeks ago. It wasn’t a planned break. I always try to be observant and to listen before “speaking”. Recently, I just haven’t felt any need to speak. I am fine, just contentedly observing and listening.

And against all odds, the humble blog’s regular readers continue to flourish.

Tokyo’s Manuscript Writing Cafe

Only allows writers on a deadline, and won’t let them leave until finished.

Quite the niche. What’s next, a tax filing cafe, where you can’t leave until your taxes are filed? They would do the bulk of their annual business in late March/early April.

Tangental thought. What about not letting our 535 legislators leave the Capitol Building until they GREATLY simplify our tax code?

A Curriculum To Curb Sexual Violence

Designed for 14-15 year old boys.

Consisting of two parts. Part one, a 2019 Netflix film, “Unbelievable”. Part two, this lengthy essay by Tom Junod and Paula LaVigne that went live on ESPN’s website Monday morning. In ESPN’s words it is “the untold story of the most dangerous player in college football history”.

The film will stay with you. The essay is similarly unforgettable. The essay is the most difficult and disturbing piece of work I have ever recommended to you. And among the most important, especially for adolescent males. Not that it was their motivation, but Junod and LaVigne will win many awards for it.

This curriculum doesn’t assume that 14-15 year old boys will commit acts of sexual violence. It’s intended to sensitize them to the experience of female victims of sexual violence. To the point that they hold their male friends and acquaintances accountable for any acts of sexual violence and become allies with their female friends and acquaintances in myriad, related ways.

Some may protest it’s not the role of schools to do “character education”. Fine. Provide proof that you’ve watched the film and read the essay with your son(s) and discussed their reactions to both and you can be excused from the school-based version for students whose parents can’t or won’t teach the curriculum.

This curriculum will not eliminate sexual violence, but it has the potential to reduce it.

We’re All Fools

If I was stuck on a deserted island, and could only have one person’s writing to keep me company, Richard Russo would get serious consideration.

Russo introduces his beautiful essay, “My Father, The Fool” by writing, “I’d run out of sympathy for COVID skeptics. Then I remembered my father’s stiff neck.”

Highly recommended.

More Franzen Flexing

Page 103. Clem’s academic performance is plummeting thanks to his middle of college sexual awakening. Which, of course, was Sharon’s fault.

“He’d return to school with a strict plan for himself. He would see Sharon only two evenings a week, and not stay over at her house at all, and he would study ten hours every day and try to ace every one of his finals and term papers. If he ran the table with A-pluses, he could still keep his GPA above 3.5—the figure which, though basically arbitrary, was his last plausible defense against the action he would otherwise be called upon to take.*

His plan was sensible but not, it turned out, achievable. When he stopped by Sharon’s house, it was as if they’d been apart for five months, not five days. He had a thousand things to tell her, and as soon as he took down her corduroys it seemed mean and silly to have worried about their height difference. Not until he returned to his room, the following afternoon, did he lament his lack of willpower. He recalibrated his plan, assigning himself eleven hours of daily study, and stuck to this schedule until Friday, when he treated himself to another evening with Sharon. By the time he left her, on Sunday afternoon, he would have had to study fifteen hours a day to make the numbers work.”

*enlist and go fight in Vietnam

Sentences To Ponder

Jonathan Freaking Franzen in Crossroads. Here, on page 126 of 580 we begin to get know Marion, a character some critics argue is one of Franzen’s all-time greatest.

“Disgusted with herself, the overweight person who was Marion fled the parsonage. For breakfast she’d eaten one hard-boiled egg and one piece of toast very slowly, in tiny bites, per the advice of a writer for Redbook who claimed to have shed forty pounds in ten months, and whom Redbook had photographed in a Barbarella sort of jumpsuit, showing off her futuristically insectile waistline, and who had also advised pouring oneself a can of a nationally advertised weight-loss drink in lieu of lunch, engaging in three hours of vigorous exercise each week, repeating mantras such as A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the on the hips, and buying and wrapping a small present for oneself to open whenever one succeeded in losing x number of pounds.”

We Deserve Medals

Me for blogging longevity. You for motivating me to keep on keeping on.

Most blogs are like shooting stars, short-lived flashes of varying brilliance. In contrast, despite its utter lack of “brilliance”, the Humble Blog continues year after year. TBH, I think of pulling the plug on occasion, but that is the extent of it, sporadic periods of flagging enthusiasm.

Most of the time I still dig it for two reasons. Firstly, because many of the people whom I care the most about—family, close friends, and fave former students—STILL read it regularly. And also because many people from abroad read it. Take today as an example, despite the still small readership, there have been readers from India, the U.K., Azerbiajan, Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kenya.

I’ve been very fortunate to have either visited or worked/lived in Mexico, East/West/and Southern Africa, Europe, Scandinavia, and East Asia. And much closer to home, I love me some Canada. Which is to say, I am a global citizen who embraces cultural diversity.

Sometimes when writing a (dis)United States specific post, I think about my international readers, hoping they aren’t too bored. But maybe that’s what they’re most interested in, one (dis)United States citizen’s perspective on things that their press may not cover well or at all.

I wish I knew more about the “Internationals”. What percentage are expatriates? What does or doesn’t keep them coming back? Do they pick up on my sarcasm? How can I connect even better with more readers like them?

I never write for them specifically, but maybe I should on occasion. I think I’ll experiment with my next post which I’ll write with them front and center in my mind.

Anyways, all that’s to say thank you for reading. I haven’t said that for a long time. Send me your address and then look for your medal in the mail.