November, November, November

Errata” by Kevin Young.

Baby, give me just
one more hiss

We must lake it fast

I want to cold you
in my harms

November” by Maggie Dietz.

The days throw up a closed sign around four.
The hapless customer who’d wanted something
Arrives to find lights out, a bolted door.

On the resurrection roots of the word “remixed.”

Even when produced with the most meticulous scholarship, our dictionaries ought to remind us that words exceed our best efforts at definition and classification, and that careful reading often ends not in perfect certainty but humility.

Life in Evanston (briefly)

Greetings from you know where! So good to visit. In the fall, Northwestern looks great even on the cloudiest of days.

Remembering to look for oneself

In a new Commonweal story about Flannery O’Connor:

HUMAN VISION, FOR O’Connor, is unlike mechanical vision in several ways. First, it necessarily involves interpretation. As a Catholic, O’Connor believed that the physical, perceptible, photo-graphable world is always pointing toward a larger and more enduring metaphysical reality. … Human vision thus requires time and effort, in order to connect the physical act of seeing with the analogical imagination. Mechanical vision, by contrast, is instantaneous, needing only the click of a shutter, or whatever it is that happens with a digital camera.

Mechanical vision is also disembodied and homogenized vision. Human beings encounter the world through a particular body at a particular moment in space and time. As a result, human vision is frequently an experience of limitation—as when one is stuck sitting behind a support beam, say, or in the front row at a movie theater. Part of the appeal of mechanical vision is that it frequently seems to transcend limits. You can see above or below, near or far—sometimes quite near or quite far, into a cell or a distant galaxy, even, if desired. But one catch to this seeming transcendence is that mechanical vision flattens the individual idiosyncrasies of embodied human vision. Think of a football game. Spectators at a stadium will each have different vantage points, while fans watching on TV will see—or not see—the same things from the same highly mediated point of view. Much would be lost, O’Connor suggests in another manuscript, if we were to succumb entirely to this kind of “canned vision.”

Less chess but also less murder

In our apartment, we have a large cabinet that when I was growing up was in my family’s living room. I’ve told various people the same cabinet once appeared on The Wire. What a claim to fame, right? Anyway, upon going to prove it today, I found I was wrong. But close! The show was The Sopranos — in a scene starring a lead actor from The Wire. The door handles aren’t the same, and the wood is a bit different. But I think my claim stands up pretty well. RIP Jackie Junior.

The Cooper cabinet:


The Sopranos, just before the end of Jackie Junior:


A defense of elevator talk

I love it. From a recent New Yorker article on Esperanto:

People are apt to make fun of other people’s habit of talking about the weather to their neighbors in the elevator. They shouldn’t make fun. By invoking the one thing that we know we have in common with others, we throw a rope across the divide, asserting that, whatever our differences, we do share something: when it rains on one of us, it’s going to rain on the other one, too.

Song of the week

Queen, We Will Rock You (Fast Version). A studio outtake that friend Casey found and declared even better than the original — and since you’ve heard the original one billion times, he’s right. It’s for the club, not the stadium, and it rips.

Why this song? This week, though not particularly great, felt particularly fast. Between election prep and work deadlines, and maybe the encroaching darkness as well, the end of the day comes quickly, and I am toast. Need to find a better pace for life with work. But in the meantime…

Life in Pittsburgh (briefly)

I regret not capturing Pittsburgh this week when I first arrived for the public-radio conference (general managers this time around, as opposed to program directors last month in Phoenix).

When you come into town from the airport, you take a tunnel through a mountain, and a sunny-day exit from the tunnel is dramatic.  The famous rivers, the underrated green valleys framing them, the amount of glass now amid the steel in the city. I was so taken by the whole thing — the taxi driver had encouraged me in the tunnel to keep eyes on it — I forgot to take a single picture.

The next day, the fog was fierce. But still attractive.


Best food? Sourdough, sauerkraut, kielbasa, pierogi sandwich.


Best session? How Lego innovated near-death, then survival.


Best-timed slide? Delivered at 8:45 in the morning.


Quick trip. Three days, two nights. But after so many quick trips this fall, it was nice to be on the good side of the plane coming down the Potomac. Looking forward to going back to Pittsburgh for some weekend vacation in the future, especially in a sunny time of year.


Drive-By Truckers at the Tiny Desk

Most of the artists who come to the Tiny Desk Concerts (just across the floor from my team at NPR), I don’t know. But every once in a great while the Tiny Desk’s choices align with my own… and it’s a shame if I’m out of the office when that happens. Such was the case with the Drive-By Truckers’ recent visit, promoting an album I’ve been listening to on repeat.

Rife with guns, race, national troubles, difficult historical forces, and an amazing balance of lyrical complexity and tunefulness, the songs are straight fire from vagabond perspectives. Sad to miss the show but glad to work at a place that creates and records moments. Colleague Lars has more about the songs here.