Do We Need More Therapy Or Fiction?

One of my college besties is a psychotherapist in the city of Angels. I sent him this George Saunders essay, “Could I understand the people who rushed into the Capital?” and then asked him whether we need more therapy or fiction. Of course, the answer is both.

TL/DR. . . yes, Saunders could. And so can anyone who dares follow his lead.

Teaching My Ass Off

Just because I’m oldy and moldy, some might think I should call it a career. But the passion for the classroom still burns bright. I woke up at 2:30a.m. with these thoughts rattling around. Don’t call it a lecture, that’s demeaning. It was more of a homily/sermon.

  • all we’re doing is practicing “thoughtful inquiry”and learning to have “true fun” with ideas— playfulness, connection, flow
  • the cutting and pasting of ideas/approaches to life from other especially thoughtful people
  • social infrastructure . . . we are products of our environments, you are the company you keep
  • how closely have you read the key content, how closely have you listened to your classmates’ ideas, how much time/energy have you invested in examining your inner life?
  • epiphany—a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

How closely has the student-writer read the key content?

  • there are no references to any of the author’s key concepts . . . the paper could’ve been written completely independent of the reading—35%
  • the student-writer briefly touches upon the author’s key concepts—55%
  • there are repeated, thoughtful references to the author’s main idea(s), the student-writer’s thinking is changed— a little or a lot—as a result of their careful consideration of the author’s main ideas; the student-writer’s ideas are nuanced and demonstrate an appreciation for complexity—10%

Friday Required Reading

Maggie Haberman, New York Times political correspondent and author of “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America” is controversial. As Kara Swisher says in this interview with Haberman, many on the right and left loathe her. I follow Haberman on Twitter and have been intrigued by the lefty vitriol directed at her. Intrigued to the point of not knowing what to make of it.

But after listening to Swisher’s interview with Haberman, I’m much more sympathetic to her. I found Haberman’s explanations for why she withheld some information from her regular reporting in the Times—the overarching lefty critique—convincing enough to give her a pass.

After reading this excellent review of Confidence Man by Laura Miller in Slate I’m even more inclined to give Haberman a pass.

Miller’s review is so clear and insightful, I’m requiring it. If you start now, you’ll finish before the Mariner game begins.

A Very Good Sentence

Mark Leibovich on Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham in a funny, insightful, and important essay, “The Most Pathetic Men in America”.

“They had long been among the most supplicant super-careerists ever to play in a city known for the breed, and proved themselves to be essential lapdogs in Trump’s kennel.”

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?

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.

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.

A Writer Threads The Needle

As a writer, there are some impossible assignments. Where the degree of difficulty is just too great to put pen to paper.

You can’t write anything sympathetic to Republicanism in The New York Times, just as you can’t write anything sympathetic to the Left in The Washington Times.

If you identify as male, you can’t write about the “female experience”. If you are rich, you can’t write about the poor. If you’ve never had kids, you can’t write about parenting.

I mean, you can, there’s a First Amendment after all, but good luck to you.

And if you’re on “the tenure track”, or a tenured professor, you can’t complain about anything higher education-related without understandably unleashing the growing army of adjuncts who struggle to feed themselves and make rent. They. Aren’t. Having. It.

Unless you were an adjunct before you landed your tenure-track position? And you acknowledge your good fortune. More than once. Then, just maybe, you can pull off the rarest of feats.*

Cue Sarah Emanuel’s essay, “The Deflating Reality Of Life On The Tenure Track” with the provocative subtitle—”Walking dogs helps me make rent.”

Props to Emanuel for her hustle and her risk taking as a writer. And her good humor.

Historical footnote. The Good Wife and I started our journey in a one-bedroom Venice apartment.

*I haven’t read the comments yet. Kinda afraid to.

Sometimes I Can Only Muster The Strength To . . .

. . . read headlines. Recently, I’ve been diagnosed with “CEFS” or Current Events Fatigue Syndrome.

Some recent headlines are funny enough that I don’t even have to read the article. My spirit is already lifted.

I Became Extremely Hot In The Pandemic. My Husband Did Not.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t read it because I was afraid the Good Wife wrote it.

Some recent headlines are so cringe-worthy I can’t bring myself to read the article. This is CEFS in action. In increasing order of cringe:

Misinformation Is A Pandemic That Doesn’t Have A Headline

Tie for First. . .

Election Offices And School Board Meetings Could Become Weapons-free Zones In Washington

Report: World’s 10 Richest Men Doubled Their Wealth During COVID Pandemic

And sometimes since I know how the story is going to turn out, it’s unnecessary to read on.

Help! My Husband Throws Away My Things Without Asking In The Name of “Minimalism.”

Dude’s wife divorces him. He moves into an apartment a few steps below the one he lived in during college. Can’t afford any real furniture to speak of, any art, anything. Shortly thereafter, dies from loneliness in his minimalist “paradise”.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t read that because I was afraid the Gal Pal may have authored it as well.