It’s been a busy week, and I was pretty worn out after last weekend’s Killer Nashville, but now it’s a 3-day weekend, and I’ve got time to catch up with everyone. So let’s get to it, shall we?
I had my first meetings with my upper level classes this week, and I’m finding myself pretty jazzed about both. My theodicy in lit class is starting with C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, and we had a nice, lively exploration of the first few chapters. There are some lively minds in there — I heard a couple of students in the hallway talking about some issues connected to the class afterwards, and it kept going. I stepped out of the classroom and told them these were the kind of talks I had with my friends back when the earth was cooling and I was an undergrad. I’m glad it still happens, and I’m pleased to have had whatever small part I do in the process.
My other upper level is History of the English Language (HotEL for short), which I haven’t taught in a few years. While the course usually defaults to a department’s medievalist, the state actually requires that English Ed majors take the course, and my colleague who advises the ed majors taught the course in recent years. (This was not a loss, by the way — my colleague is an excellent teacher. . . and [at my suggestion] the Spawn’s advisor.) In any case, I have it this term, and we walked through some Old English poetry this week — specifically Caedmon’s Hymn and “The Seafarer.” Again, the kids seem to be tracking well. So this may be a fun semester.
Of course, the start of the school year also means the start of college sports. Here in Mondoville, most of our students play varsity sports, and I watched our volleyballers win a match last night. In the fall, we also have soccer, field hockey, cross country, and of course, football, with basketball (men’s and women’s) and wrestling getting rolling later in the term. Spring will bring tennis, golf, baseball, softball, lacrosse (where we’ve added a men’s team — the women have been in action for a few seasons now), and track (another new addition). We also have competitive cheer and dance squads — all of this at a college with a student population of about 1100. But this is the South, and football — particularly college football — remains king. We open the season tonight in Charleston against the Citadel, an opponent from a higher echelon of the sport. My beloved Kentucky Wildcats face the U of Southern Mississippi this afternoon, and my Ph.D. institution’s team sticks its collective head into the lion’s mouth at Illinois.
But it’s that head thing that is bothering me this morning, even as I plan to follow the games into the evening. Of course, I’m talking about the cumulative brain damage that seems to be attendant to the sport at the higher levels.
I stopped playing football as a schoolboy, and I was tall enough that I was literally head and shoulders above my competitors, so I never got concussed. But every term, I get reports of students (from lots of sports) who will be missing my class because they’re recovering from brain injury. And because of the violence of the sport, a lot of those kids are football players. And while I’ll likely watch some games on TV today, and while I’ll go to our home games to support our kids, I don’t think I’ll enjoy it as much as I used to.
In other news, the echoes of the Big Noise remain. A little over a week ago, I received a phone call from the producer of a true-crime show, asking if I’d be interested in participating in an episode about my family. I told her that I had actually dreaded such a call for years, and that my inclination was not to take part. But I try to be a decent person, and I asked her to e-mail with some details, which I would consider before making my final decision. I received her e-mail at the beginning of this week. It appeared that they would handle the story with respect, but as I thought about it, it just didn’t feel right to me.
I realize it’s odd for me to feel this way. I write here on the blog about my family and what happened to them from time to time, but I’ve never really discussed how I feel about the case with the larger media. I don’t have any intention of doing that in the future, although those events are part of the emotional tinnitus I carry with me all the time. But I think perhaps I feel a connection with my readers (many of whom, after all, are my friends and associates in the real world) that I wouldn’t feel with a television audience. This blog gives me a somewhat illusory sense of privacy, I guess, but it’s one I value, one that keeps me from feeling like those things are being exploited. I don’t feel like I’m sharing with strangers for prurient purposes, in a way that I think is inherent to mass media and to true-crime shows in particular. Furthermore, I imagined that a TV episode would lead to the rebirth of the case as a news story (because the beast of the 24-hour news cycle must be fed), and I don’t think my parents would have wanted something like that either. Pillory me as a hypocrite if you must, but I think my folks would understand, and that fact makes it a charge with which I can live. And I respect the families whose choices differ from my own — they have their reasons, just as I have mine, and we all deal with our Big Noises in the ways that make sense to us. This is the way that makes sense to me.
In any case, I wrote back to the producers, asking them to scuttle the idea of doing the episode. I wasn’t especially hopeful, having a certain cynicism about the enterprise — it’s no coincidence that one of my favorite movies is Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole. I had even reached out to some of the other significant figures in the case, asking them not to participate if the show reached out to them. But I heard back from the producer a day or so later, and they said that absent my cooperation, they would move to a different story. I thanked them for their consideration, and while this may not be the only time I find myself in this situation, for now, I’m pleased and relieved.
On the music front, I regret to announce that the Berries are at the very least entering what appears to be a long-term hiatus. This will not be the end of my semi-pro musical career, but it may well be taking a significantly different shape in the future. As ever, I’ll keep you posted.
But since I’m talking about music, one of the more interesting bands of the past 45 years has been Sparks, the group led by twins Ron and Russell Mael. They have explored a wide range of musical styles, from glam to new wave, power pop, and even progressive rock, and have developed a cult following for their smart, quirky music. This track is from their 2002 album Lil’ Beethoven, a strange, clever album. Either you’ll get it or you won’t, but I think I do, and I thought I’d share it with you.
Talk to you soon!