Weekend Potpourri

The first week of year 14 is in the books, and week two begins tomorrow, so here’s a little of this and that.


The beginning of term is of course a time of first impressions, as I meet my classes and vice versa. At a school like Mondoville, I do a fair amount of repeat business, but even in a class of some familiar faces, the class will take on its own unique personality. Having spent a couple of meetings with each of my three classes, I’m optimistic. The freshpeeps seem more energetic than I’m used to in an 8 a.m. class, and while some of the kids in my 7 Deadlies class (also an 8 a.m.) class may be a little logy, I can already tell I have some live ones. My other class is a majors-only capstone course, so the passion for what we do is guaranteed.

My only concern at this point is that the 7 Deadlies class may be a touch overpopulated, with 24 kids. However, they’re reading Aquinas on the Virtues this weekend, so the herd may have thinned a bit by Tuesday. We shall see. Still, my first impression is that this could be a fun semester. We’ll see if that survives the term’s first faculty meeting tomorrow afternoon.


I continue walking, having logged another 20-mile week this past week. I had been maintaining a steady 3.7-mph pace for the past several weeks, but for the heck of it, I finally decided to see if I could pick it up to 4 mph, the reputed pace of the Roman legions. I’m pleased to report that I managed to do that for the full week, even exceeding it for a few minutes each hour. Bring on the Ostrogoths — if they’re at the other end of the treadmill, and no more than an hour away.

I also spent $25 in entry fees for the Mondoville “Run with the Wolves” 5K run/walk (I’m in the “Walk” category, thanks), which will take place on 15 October. So I guess I’m committed to that, now. And tomorrow starts another week.


One of Mondoville’s rituals is the convocation that marks the beginning of the academic year, and this year’s version took place on Friday. The freshpeeps are welcomed by the administration and a few local dignitaries (the mayor, for example), and they recite a pledge to be good members of the College community. The whole business takes place in the chapel, and it’s a nice tonesetter.

I got a little extra kick out of this year’s ceremony, however, as the Spawn is serving as one of the Student Marshals this year. The Marshals lead processions, escort the dignitaries to the platform — that sort of thing — and they are selected by virtue of their GPAs. She is listed as one of two Marshals from the junior class (although this is only her second year of college, she has accumulated enough hours from stuff like the classes she took in high school to count as a junior. However, she has no plans to graduate before her “traditional” date of 2019. While the Registrar lists her as a junior, she considers herself to be sophomoric, and who am I to disagree?), and helped lead the faculty processional and recessional. I have to admit it pleased me to see her standing by my pew in the faculty section as I moved to take my seat. I’m already looking forward to the Founders’ Day convocation as the term draws to a close — which may be the first time that sentence has ever been uttered.


The Spawn is proving to be quite the hit, actually. She has decided to add a second major (in History), and the good people in our Honors program have agreed to let her double up on some classes to allow her to participate in the 2019 cohort of the program. Numerous members of the faculty have told me she’s a terrific kid. I knew that already, of course, but it’s nice to get independent verification.

In a few minutes, she’ll be heading to some sort of pre-recruitment function for her sorority. She said yesterday how glad she is to be at Mondoville. I’m glad she’s here as well.


Evidence that our little town is growing up: The college hosted the opening of a Chick-Fil-A unit in the student center snack bar, and it was reportedly the busiest opening for a college location in the chain’s history. I don’t go there, but that’s because they cook with peanut oil, and while the Spawn’s allergist says it’s probably not a threat, I choose to err on the side of conservatism.

In other fast food news, preparations have begun for the construction of a Taco Bell on Main Street. When this was announced at the convocation, it was greeted with a spontaneous burst of applause. Mondoville’s previous Taco Bell shut down six years ago, and I’ve long said that a town that can’t support a Taco Bell is destined to be a Duckburg. Even Mrs. M’s hometown of Wide-Spot-in-the-Road, KY has a Taco Bell, for Pete’s sake. And soon, so will we. Again.


And to wrap things up, here’s a bit of music.

The Model Rockets are (or were — I don’t know if they’re still a going concern) a nifty little powerpop outfit from Seattle. Maybe it’s the Mellotronic flutes, or maybe it’s the lyrics, but I’ve always liked the sound of this tune. From 2002, this is “The Dress Up Girls.”

See you soon!

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In Which the Prof Overcommits

As you know if you’ve been reading me for a while, one of my goals when I started this walking stuff back in May was to enter (notice I didn’t say “compete in”) a 5K walk/run event the college does at Homecoming. This year, the event takes place on Saturday, 15 October. In fact, I guess I’ll go ahead and register this week (although they aren’t supplying T-shirts in my size, alas.) So far, so good, right?

However, this afternoon as I was getting my treadmill time in (4 miles in 59:47, allowing me an extra 13 seconds of gratuitous striding), I got a message from the booker at one of our habitual venues, asking if we would be available for a show with a band that strikes me as a nice fit. The show is about an hour’s drive from here (as are many things, really), and it’s Friday night. If things go as they typically do, I’ll likely get home somewhere in the 2-2:30 a.m. range. The walk/run takes place at 8 a.m., so I’m guessing I may be at something like peak rest and alertness when I reach the starting line.

But a show is a show, and a goal is a goal. And to top things off, Justin the bass player will be at the walk/run as well, and he’ll be working (as part of his job at the college.) If he can drag in there, I reckon I can too. So I’ll do both. All the same, you might not expect my traditional gig report quite as quickly as usual. Just sayin’.

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Thanks for the Earworm, Heather!

Friend of the Berries and Mondoville English alumnus Heather is seriously ailurophilic. I don’t recall precisely how many cats she has in her current menagerie, but it’s enough for me to call it a menagerie, so there you go. (Despite having numerous cats, majoring in English, and studying for a degree in library science, Heather is in fact quite social, and will be getting married fairly soon. Stereotypes: Debunked.)

Alas, she was down a member of the household for the last week, as one of the cats made a break for it, as they will sometimes do. She and I chatted about it a bit over the weekend, and while neither of us were especially hopeful, I said the usual things one says in an effort to be comforting. Still, she lives in a rather busy suburb of Real City, and the cat in question was lacking in outdoor experience, so the fact that it hadn’t turned up at a shelter or anywhere didn’t bode well.

But sometimes, things work out. When I accessed Facebook this morning, I was greeted by a picture of Heather and the cat that had been posted in the wee hours, with the caption, “Sausage is home!” (The cat’s name is Magick Sausage — did I mention Heather is colorful?)

So that’s good news, and a happy story for the first day of fall term is always welcome. But the flip side is that I’ve had this song — indeed, this version of this song — running through my head all morning, even as I was setting up my classroom and meeting my students. Because I’m cruel, I share it with you. From 1965, these are The Sting Rays.

And like the cat, I just can’t seem to stay away either.

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“Best Wishes in Your New Location”

The house where I spent my teens in Kentucky was next to a cemetery. About half of it (the graveyard, not my house) was occupied while I lived there, and the neighborhood kids and I would play football in a vacant, tree-lined quadrant by the access road during the autumn. I’d go for walks there on afternoons sometimes, sitting and thinking, sometimes writing poems.

Occasionally, people would ask us if it was creepy living there, but that was never the case. As my dad told me when I was young, and as time taught me further, the dead are harmless — it’s the living we must fear. So instead we made the usual jokes about people dying to get into the neighborhood and such, and we had a running joke about being stuffed into a Hefty bag and tossed over the back fence onto consecrated ground when the time came. Occasionally, we’d see the funeral home canopies go up and comment that we were getting new neighbors.

But of course, there was the serious aspect of it as well. At least two of my high school classmates are buried there now, and there may have been more since my folks died. I also know that at least once, my dad helped a neighbor dig a grave for his own son, who had died in a farming accident — for some reason, the regular groundskeepers were unavailable or too expensive. There was a certain aspect of memento mori to the landscape.

In any case, the population will be rising, as the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that a cemetery in a different part of the city is being turned into a housing development, and the remains will be relocated to the graveyard behind my old house. The funny part to me is that they start the story by talking about the cemetery behind my house — not the one that’s being relocated.

Is that what they mean by burying the lede?

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Godspeed to the Hip

As part of my love affair with the city of Toronto (which dates back to my childhood), I’ve spent a significant amount of time listening to Canadian radio, and because of their CanCon rules, that means I’ve likely heard more Canadian rock music than most Americans. One of the consequences of that is that I’ve picked up a certain familiarity with a band that is a national institution north of the 49th (and in Buffalo), but whose mention will typically result in blank stares down here: The Tragically Hip.

These guys started as a bar band in Kingston, ON, but over the course of a 16-album career became an integral part of Canadian pop culture. Part of this is because they’re a very solid band, but the bigger part is that their songs draw deeply upon Canadiana and the Canadian identity. This actually worked against them in the larger rock marketplace — one American industry type listened to the Hip’s “Fifty Mission Cap” (one of their more important songs, dealing in part with former Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko) and said the song would require subtitles and footnotes for a U.S. audience.

But the band (and in particular, lyricist/singer Gord Downie) never compromised on these matters, which isolated the band from larger markets, but endeared them to their countryfolk.

Unfortunately, it has become necessary to speak of the band in the past tense, as they performed their final show in their hometown of Kingston last night. In May, Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, but the band elected to do one final cross-country tour. Shows sold out in seconds to minutes, and the tour was both a farewell and a celebration of the band’s place in Canadian music and culture.

I’m going to close with one of my favorite Tragically Hip songs, the hook of which gets stuck in my head with remarkable frequency. Godspeed to Mr. Downie and his bandmates, and thanks for the music — some of us even noticed it down here.

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Kinda Free, Kinda Wow — Potpourri

(Title source video here.)

I’ll be bopping down to Real City later today to pick up a jumbo container of animal crackers for Mrs. M’s first-graders, and to get my pre-semester haircut and beard trim. In the meantime, here’s the Saturday potpourri.


Finished reading Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me a couple of days ago. It’s an interesting example, I think, of what some folks have taken to calling “domestic suspense.” Set in the world of elite women’s gymnastics, the book examines the family of an Olympic hopeful in a time of multiple crises, some of which involve crime. However, the crises are themselves primarily lenses through which Ms. Abbott considers the stresses in a prodigy’s family. It’s a very literary feeling book, elegantly written and finely crafted. Indeed, if I have a complaint, it’s that it may be a bit too elegant for my tastes — I occasionally found myself distanced from the story by the stylistic choices, such as the use of third-person limited p.o.v. throughout (the book is told from the perspective of the gymnast’s mother.)  Once I got settled in, however, the story moved along nicely, accelerating toward an ending that leaves the reader suspended in space like a gymnast in mid-vault.

While I don’t think You Will Know Me will be my favorite of Megan’s novels — that pick would likely be Dare Me — it’s a fine book, and I have no qualms about recommending it. Megan Abbott has been the Next Big Thing for several years, and I think it’s time to drop the temporal qualifier. She’s a Big Thing now (literarily speaking — she remains tiny as ever from my hulking brute’s perspective), and deservedly so. Good book.


And speaking of my hulking brutality and my efforts to diminish same, I did  5Ks Thursday and yesterday, putting me slightly over an IKEA half-marathon for the week. I also made a point of walking to campus on several occasions, despite the heat and humidity. The term starts on Tuesday, so I’ll have to switch from doing my walks first thing in the morning to doing them at lunchtime or in the afternoon, but one does what one must, I guess.


Sometimes, what one must do is correct foul-ups he made in putting a syllabus together. I put together the syllabi for my three classes last weekend, only to discover on Wednesday morning that a class I had planned for a Tuesday/Thursday schedule in fact will meet on an MWF basis. An evening of scrambling ensued, but it ended well, I think, and I even found a way to shoehorn a few extra stories into the term. Still, I felt like a schmuck.

In other academic news, the Spawn met with her adviser yesterday, and has decided to add a history major to her already active English major. Oh, the humanities! It’s funny — her adviser actually told her she was on a pace to graduate a year early, to which the Spawn’s reaction was “Why would I want to do that?” Part of that, of course, comes from the fact that she’s getting through this with little-to-no debt by going to Mondoville, but I was also reminded of what my folks said when it was suggested that the six-year-old me get turned into one of those hothoused Doogie Howser kids (apparently, someone at Vandy had shown some interest in doing that with me.) My mom said, “He’ll have his whole life to be smart — he’s only going to be a kid once.” The Spawn is wise enough to know there’s not a hurry, and I’m fine with that.


Speaking of the Spawn, she received her first paycheck yesterday, and chose to celebrate it by treating her old man to a sno-cone. Pretty cool — in every sense.


In other news, today is the birthday of two of my dear friends. Occasional commenter (and my friend for more than 40 years) Michael Dearing turns 52 today, and the lovely Mad Doc turns a number lower than that. Many happy returns to you both.


The Berries took the week off, but it looks like we have a show scheduled at a new (for us) venue in late September, and we’re working on some newer material as well. Updates as required.


And what would Saturday potpourri be without music? Well, shorter, I suppose, but I think I’d find it incomplete as well. Today’s song is from Steve Vai’s early EP, FlexAble [sic], and it’s really remarkable that I haven’t posted it before. The Spawn has always been fascinated by the paranormal, from cryptozoology to UFOs, and when this song popped up on my iPod as I walked yesterday, it struck me as the kind of thing she might like. This is “Little Green Men.”

See you soon!



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In Which the Prof is a Corrupting Influence

Back in the pleistocene when I was doing my Masters, one of my officemates (for about 4 years of my two-year M.A. studies) was a guy named Chris McGinley. He’s originally from Boston, and as you might guess from that and his name, a touch Irish. He was more on the punky/alt-rock side, while I was in my metal years, which would culminate in Broken Glass Waltzes. But we still managed to click, and we hung around a fair amount beyond the academic buildings as well, watching pay-per-view boxing matches, visiting watering holes (he was present one of the two times I ever had too much to drink) — that sort of thing. After I finished my degree and moved to Cincinnati, we lost touch, as tended to happen back then. However, thanks to the miracle of social media, we re-established contact. He’s now teaching at a private middle school in Lexington (KY, not MA), and seems to be perking right along.

In any case, Chris and I were communicating recently, and he asked me a bit about crime fiction. I told him about a couple of places where I had landed stories, and I’m happy to report that Chris’s story “Drama Queen” can be found at Out of the Gutter Online. It’s nicely old school — as one commenter said, “I read this in black and white.” You should do that as well.

So welcome to the club, Mr. McGinley, and remember the motto of the Mystery Writers of America: “Crime does not pay. . . enough!”

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