“White History Month”

Two years ago, during my first year of teaching at Wabash College, I was invited to give a "Chapel Talk," a weekly lecture on the speaker's choice. Since I have a natural aversion to controversy, I wrote and delivered the following talk on a bland and safe topic: Black History Month and the notion of race.Since it's February again, I share it here in video and text. I have not done much more work in the philosophy of race since writing this talk, but I do hope to return to it sooner than … [Read more...]

Space, and not being smart in an e-mail.

Sorry, readers. The end of the month is usually the time when I'm trying to meet all the end of the month deadlines that I should've started to work on a month or more ago. I'm swamped. In the meantime, here's an e-mail I just sent to my Foundations of Educational Thought class. You might find it interesting.Some context: I often assign an infamous first paper where students must describe the word 'word' in one page. The better way to put the prompt is like this. Describe the following shape: … [Read more...]

Guns AND Religion?

During Obama's first go-round in 2008, there was a big flare-up surrounding his comment about rural voters bitterly clinging to guns or religion. It was the equivalent of Romney's inelegant 47% remark from this past fiasco election.I've already gone on the record about guns here: "Those Immune to Violence Arm and Disarm." I hope I made myself clear. I am not impressed or persuaded by either side of the Newtown-fueled gun aftermath. I wrote, "I don’t have any solutions because I remain u … [Read more...]

A Tale of Three Cubicles (full length)

Part OneI was first assigned to the beam-cutting station, but I asked to be reassigned. I wanted to weld. It seemed honorable and I wanted to be somebody. But I guess no ones asks to be a welder once they get to the cutting stations. I was given the materials: gloves, sleeves, apron, mask. I needed boots. No tennis shoes. I don't recall the details or the exact time, but I passed an initial inspection of some kind. I was first assigned to be a go-fer, which sucked. I took naps and wasted a … [Read more...]

A Tale of Three Cubicles, Epilogue

Part I Part II Part IIII was destined for the collar. Everyone seemed to see that, and believe it, too. Fr. O'Malley, the priest who converted my father and baptized me, would take me out for a steak dinner sometimes. He'd always say, "When you're a priest, you can eat steak everyday." That stuck. I love to eat. I felt obligated to say that I wanted to be a priest when I grew up. Not sure why, but I knew there was no firefighting in my future. I was a devout and precise altar server until I … [Read more...]

Les Miz Sux: In Defense of Lisa Hendey’s Mom

Lisa Hendey's mother is exactly right: the latest film adaptation of Les Misérables is terribly depressing.It is a depressingly cheap and sterile substitute for a classic, beautiful story. It's opportunistic, cast in serviceable plastic celebrities, and overwrought to compensate for the vividly clear failures of the cast. It surely wins every time for its literary content, obviously, but it fails miserably on its many demerits as visual and performance art.Again: the depressing parts about Le … [Read more...]

Abortion or Religion? A Quandary

When I taught at Wabash College, there was a Protestant non-demoninational congregation down the road that had a strong presence on campus and was well-known for its anti-Catholicism. Rock Point Church. They were especially prominent among athletes---I personally know of two (former) Catholics whom they convinced to leave the Church. I didn't mind the evangelical side. We do that too. It was their toxic pulpit, ringing with an aggressive, Jack Chick-style of  rhetoric, replete with the usual … [Read more...]

“One Pop Harem,” a bedtime story by Sam and Sam

Another "former student and present friend" (I've been blessed with several of them) and I wrote a book of poetry together last year, entirely by accident, in a dialogue written on paper plates, serenaded by the music of Spencer Ellliott.We transcribed the poems and interviews, edited them, and self-published the collection as a chapbook: Poems by Sam and Sam. I consider it the best thing of mine in print to date.We're going to co-author another, much longer book this spring: Distance and … [Read more...]

In Praise of Cigarettes

I begin with a generous pinch of finely cut tobacco, cradled inside a creased, rectangular sheet of paper, with a thin stripe of glue affixed to the outer edge that faces me. A tiny tobacco envelope. I massage back-and-forth between thumbs and forefingers until the tobacco shrinks into a tight cylindrical bundle. Roll, pinch, roll some more. Stop. Lick and press to seal; shape and trim; flame and light. Inhale, ingest, exhale."But cigarettes are disgusting!""Don't you know cigarettes are bad … [Read more...]

A Tale of Three Cubicles, Part III

Part I Part IIThe opening details are mostly unimportant. The hiring process was convoluted and indirect. I quit my job at Target to work closer to where we lived, working on an IT project for Medtronic Corporation, as a consultant for another middle-man corporation. I had to get hired by both of them. Still an hourly employee, but making ten dollars more per hour. My official title, which I only learned after a week or two on the job, was something along the lines of a "coordinator." Most of … [Read more...]