Sunday Afternoon Potpourri: What Long Weekend? Edition

As is my custom, I’m in my office this afternoon, listening to music and gearing up for another week of classes. While some schools (including Mrs. M’s) are off tomorrow, such is not the case here at Mondoville. Indeed, we have an extra three-hour professional development session tomorrow afternoon. Some of my students appear to have the idea that they get tomorrow off because of this, but if I have to drag in here, so do they.

***

Although this semester is barely started, we’re already starting to think about this fall’s classes. I’ve been asked to choose between teaching three sections of FroshComp or teaching two and a freshman-level inquiry course that I’d build from scratch. (Course #4 will likely be the standard period course on early English lit, the beginning of another rotation.) While there’s something to be said for teaching three FroshComps (less prep), it has its downside as well (it can get repetitive, and you receive larger piles of stuff to grade when it comes in.) I’m leaning toward teaching the inquiry course for the sake of variety, but I’m a little scarred from the last time I tried one of these.

I’ve mentioned before that the closest thing I have to a specialty is the Seven Deadly Sins; they were the topic of my dissertation, for example. Over my time here I’ve taught courses on the topic at the 400 and 200 levels, and a couple of years ago, I tried to use it as the topic for one of these inquiry courses. I was thoroughly dissatisfied with that go-round; it seemed to require more reading and background stuff than that particular group of freshpeeps could handle. So I’m kicking around some possible ideas, even though I’ll have to build it from zero. I have to pull the trigger one way or another by Friday. It’s not on the level of, say, deciding whether or not to start a land war in Asia, but it’s something to consider nonetheless.

***

Yesterday, Mrs. M and I made a run down to Real City for the afternoon. As these matters typically go, she dropped me off at the local used media emporium while she spent an hour or three looking for a variety of items for home, hearth, herself, or the Spawn, depending on our various needs. I wound up picking up Ian Rankin’s Dead Souls, the tenth of his Inspector Rebus series of Scots police procedurals. I’ve read quite a few of the series, though with little regard for the original order of publication. A lot of my reading works that way, driven chiefly by what I see on the shelf. I’ll read whatever I find first, and if I like it, then I’ll start thinking about dates of publication and reading orders. Even then, though, I’m not super picky about it — I’m still relying primarily on availability when I’m at the bookstore. Admittedly, online shopping allows me to be a bit more picky about these matters, but I’m still inclined toward browsing physical shelves and impulse buys. After all, I was shaped in my teens and twenties by going to used bookshops in strip malls. When that’s what you can afford, that’s what you get used to doing, and so I learned to love the luck of the draw.

[Side note: The rise of online shopping has reduced the thrill of the hunt, I think. When anything you can afford is a click or two away, you miss out on the random joy of running across something you’ve sought for a long time, or even better, something you didn’t know existed until you saw it. Serendipity relies on the unexpected, after all. Perfect access works against spontaneity. End of side note.]

Meanwhile, I got a blast from the past a couple of nights ago, re-reading L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall for the first time in many years. Basically the book is a Connecticut Yankee-style riff on Late Antiquity. Martin Padway, an archeologist, finds himself transported back about 1400 years, from 1938 to what should be the dawn of the Gothic War, as the Byzantines made an effort at Western expansion that devastated the Italian peninsula. Padway has other ideas, and complications ensue.

While as a medievalist I’m a little miffed by what feels to me like an anti-Middle Ages bias, the book is light and charming. While it’s been probably 40 years or so since I read it last, and 80 since the book’s publication, there’s a certain amiability to de Camp’s style that keeps it from feeling kludgy. As I read it, I could even feel myself traveling a bit in time, discarding my mortarboard and simply enjoying a good yarn. That seems creditable to me.

The book has also been rather influential, inspiring writers including Harry Turtledove (master of the alt-history novel), S.M. Stirling, and (I would argue) the 1632 series by Eric Flint and David Weber. But at the end of the day (or the end of a couple of nights ago), it’s just good fun. If you don’t have my dad’s old bookshelves, hunt down a copy for yourself.

***

The music world — and particularly the Canadian music scene — took a hard blow with the death of Dallas Good from a recently discovered heart ailment earlier this week. Along with his brother Travis, Dallas Good was the founder, lead guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of the Sadies, a group I’ve mentioned here on previous occasions. The brothers came from a musical family — their father is a member of Canadian country group the Good Brothers. The Sadies formed in 1994 as a surf band, but became part of the alt-country scene as the years went by, and were capable of playing everything from bluegrass and honky-tonk to surf and psychedelia, making them perhaps one of the finest examples of what the late Gram Parsons described as “Cosmic American Music.” They’ve put out albums as the Sadies since 1998, but have also worked as backup to a variety of artists from Andre Williams to Neil Young, Gord Downie, and perhaps most notably, with Neko Case. In this regard, the Sadies have frequently been compared to their countrymen in the Band, and seem to have been universally respected as one of the great live bands of our era.

In addition to his work with his home band, Dallas Good also was a member of supergroup The Unintended, and in recent years had played with surf revivalists/Kids in the Hall “house band” Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, replacing his late friend Reid Diamond, who died 21 years to the day earlier. Dallas Good was 48 years old.

To wrap things up today, I’ll share the latest single from the Sadies. “Message to Belial” was released a month ago yesterday. Goodbye, Mr. Good, and thanks for the music.

See you soon.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, Family, Literature, Medievalia, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

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