In Memoriam

roadside-memorialIf you live long enough in a place, people will start to die there, but the phenomenon of time’s passage is often framed more romantically. Consider the lines of the classic Beatles song (emphasis mine):

There are places I remember…
Some have gone and some remain
All these
places have their moments
with lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all.

I’m not immune to this tendency myself. I am a Southerner, after all, and a Mississippian, a member of the tribe for whom the phrase “a sense of place” is endlessly and (often) sententiously invoked.

A real joke: How many Southerners does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Three. One to call the yardman, one to mix the martinis, and one to talk about how lovely the old one was. [Read more...]

In Defense of Fruitcake

Runyan photoAt some point or another, every Christmas celebrant in America has to draw lines in the sand over the following doctrinal issues:

When is it acceptable to begin listening to Christmas music?
What are your thoughts on front yard inflatables?
Will you shop on Black Friday or boycott it and buy all the crap a couple weeks later?
To what lengths will you go to ensure that your tenth grader still believes in Santa?
What will be your game plan regarding the song “Christmas Shoes”?
How much fruitcake will you consume?

The first five questions have been known to tear families and friends asunder during this glorious time of year. But the one that unites enemies? Fruitcake. [Read more...]

A Cup of Kindness

teaI didn’t think I’d make it through that Tuesday. There I was, sitting in my car as the Fremont Bridge was opening to let a yacht pass through. This was not an occurrence I had planned on, as I’d never known the bridge to open on a winter morning in all the years I’d taught at Seattle Pacific University. And it meant I’d be late to class.

I hate being late, so much that it rarely ever happened. Still, the few times it had, I’d been able to keep my cool. This time, though, was different. I screamed and cursed at the bridge, pummeled my fists on the steering wheel, felt like crying.

I’d become a discombobulated mess.

[Read more...]

Elsa Blue and Frozen Power

ElsaFrozenFor Chad Thomas Johnston

Along with Kermit green, Barbie pink and—Lord have mercy—SpongeBob yellow, we can now officially add another color to the commercial childhood color spectrum:

Elsa blue.

Not the uninspiring medium light-blue of the golden-haired Disney Cinderella, the color of hard-sided Samsonite suitcases and redolent of 1950s animation, but a far more rarified shade, mixed with white and the tiniest drop of yellow-gold. A color that is just a step closer to Tiffany blue, and I bet you anything that this is not a coincidence.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, and have been preoccupied with your life of craft beers and reading Teodor Adorno, “Elsa blue” is the chief signifier and synecdoche of the 2014 animated film Frozen that recounts the story of two orphaned princesses in the Norwegian-inspired kingdom of Arendelle, the older of whom—the now-Queen Elsa—has the lethal and hidden power to create snow and ice.

[Read more...]

A Tradition without Tryptophan

pb210006November is always an interesting time for a family of vegetarians.

While my three children have never lifted turkey to their lips, they’ve come home from school with a multitude of smiling birds cut out in the shapes of their hands, illustrated plates labeled peas, potatoes, and turkey, and all manner of pilgrims and Indians sitting before bulbous, crayoned drumsticks.

My children have also studied the confusingly whimsical psychology of turkeys facing certain death, a standard subject in contemporary childhood cinema and song. In second grade, my oldest daughter, Lydia, participated in several morbid numbers at a school performance, including “Five Fat Turkeys”:

Five fat turkeys short and plump.
The first one hid way high upon a stump.
The second one said, “We should run, run, run.”
The third one said, “or we’ll be done.”
The fourth one said, “I don’t want to be dinner.”
The fifth one said, “I wish I were thinner!”

Her performance was not convincing.

[Read more...]


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