I see striking signifiers as I commute every day through Redmond: the quiet dignity (read annoyance) of a person waiting for a bus, or someone walking who, by their gait, I can tell is pushing through painful locomotion challenges.
Then there are the neon green Italian sports cars, the Teslas, the Smart cars, and the Northern European status triad–Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz–each jockeying for social pole position. In my rear view mirror today was a shiny black Mercedes sedan with a silver grille and silver medallion on the nose of the hood, as classy as you would expect of the marque, but precariously tacked onto the bumper, far right of center, was the license plate, at the same 45-degree angle as the bow on Hello Kitty. I think someone forgot to read their style guide.

Enjoying Music Again

I go through periods when I find all music irritating, either because there’s nothing new or of quality being played on the radio (I refuse to subscribe to a service), or because I’m a cranky old whatever. Fortunately, the mood passes, trends change, and I start finding tunes I like again. Last year, I rediscovered Ben Folds and worked through the bulk of his discography. The experience was fantastic! He’s such a talented, entertaining, dedicated musician!

In addition to the melodic ballads and pop rock of Folds, I enjoy crunchy, growly, roadhouse stompers. Check out Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats’ “S.O.B.,” Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s,” and The Black Keys. Another fun throwback to the Sun Records-Stax-Volt sounds of the ’60s may be found in JD McPherson’s work.

That’s a snapshot of my mood today. No doubt, in the near future I’ll re-read this entry and cringe. Happy listening!

Bought some time but I haven’t spent it

There’s an old Schopenhauer-attributed quote that notes that we buy books but can’t also buy the time to read them. Every December I wonder if I will ever make a dent in the inventory of books I have obtained (through purchase or gift) but have yet to read. The lot includes How to Swim with Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help. If I were a betting person, I’d lay odds on the latter better than the former.

I’m not ashamed of this situation. I think that cooking, cleaning, crafting, and The Nightly Show are more productive uses of my personal time than reading a used book I bought as mental broccoli, but the potential benefit of that brain bran nags at me.

How about you? Do you have a top three list of books you own but have yet to read? It could be print or e-book—doesn’t matter. It’s okay. You’re safe to share here.

Creative Assignments

I got on a song parody kick a couple of summers ago. I drafted four full-length songs, I believe—an astonishing number when I consider I hadn’t written more than a six-line parody of “Silver Bells” a decade before then. I showed one set of lyrics of personal relevance to a friendly colleague and he said, “Hey, this would be a great writing assignment!” Privately, I agreed, but with some trepidation. How would the students receive such a task? Would it be deemed inappropriate by any administrators? Would students struggle so much that they missed the fun of the enterprise?

I’m wondering now if he ever went through with such an assignment. (I haven’t had the chance to ask.) I’m also wondering if any of my English Department colleagues have ever assigned song parody, or any kind of parody, as an exercise in the last five years. I haven’t seen any or heard about any parodies brought into the Writing Lab in all that time.

If any instructors read this, please (!) let me know if you’ve ever given a parody exercise assignment, and tell me how it went.