Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 6, 2011 11:02AM

Do We Reason? Do We Have Free Will? Does It Matter?

I’ve been reading lately a good bit of the social psychology and neuroscience literature devoted to human decision-making, especially as it applies to making moral judgments.  It has been a humbling experience but not, I think, a necessarily disheartening one.

 

By and large, these stu… Read full post »

JANUARY 1, 2011 10:58AM

For the New Year: The Art of the Insult

It’s a new year, and, at some point during it, inevitably, you’ll want to insult someone.  Hurling an insult feels so good; it’s such an explosion of catharsis, such a rapturous rupture of annoyingly ossified social discourse, such a tuft of crabgrass in the Zen garden of civil/… Read full post »

DECEMBER 29, 2010 9:41AM

Celebrating the Hardy Boys

I do not remember myself ever not reading.  I do remember, though, the first books I read with an intentionality budded by sheer breath-held interest, books that I requested as birthday and Christmas presents, books that I embraced and which embraced me back, books that bridled my imagination an/… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 22, 2010 9:31AM

My MRI Experience

Yesterday morning I had an MRI, an experience that, were I a Calvinist, would have convinced me of that faith’s two fundamental propositions: that I had, in some way unknown to me but blindingly apparent to omniscient Providence, sinned grievously; and that no affliction is unaccompanied by the… Read full post »

DECEMBER 19, 2010 11:22AM

The Best Gifts

I am shockingly ungifted with the gift of giving gifts.  A backward glance at the history of my gift-giving reveals a mosaic of singular ineptitude, a frieze of nincompoopery, arrested moments of unrivalled duncitude.  If my gift-giving were a sonnet, it would have 13 lines; were it Romeo aRead full post »

DECEMBER 12, 2010 10:22AM

The Past Is Not Past

With some frequency lately, shards of bygone times and elsewhere places, unbidden and unannounced, have arrived at my mental doorway, edged their way into the foyer, and then, with a cheek kiss and shoulder clap, stride boldly into the living room.  They map the  coordinates, the longitude/… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 30, 2010 10:29AM

Student Lives

Reading student essays this semester, I was reminded of something I have always known but too often forget: students are not biographically invisible.  They are not simply, only, generically, students.

 

One of my students, a young man from Puerto Rico, described studying, during his freshma… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 23, 2010 10:22AM

A Change of Season

The squirrels have been unusually active in recent weeks, scampering down the elm and maple trunks, venturing out across the backyard to scrounge out and secure whatever edible nuggets they can find, then scampering up again and across the skywalk of limbs to stock the larder of their nests.  Th/… Read full post »

OCTOBER 18, 2010 1:58PM

My Friend's Suicide

In Edwin Arlington Robinson’s much-anthologized poem “Richard Cory,” the title character, a man blessed with wealth,  a man admired and respected, “ schooled in every grace,” and “always human when he talked,” goes home “one calm summer night&rdquo/… Read full post »

OCTOBER 8, 2010 12:14PM

Stop and Smell the Roses

In a recent conversation with a colleague, I was given a piece of advice in the form of a cliché.  Now, as a writing teacher I don’t just warn students to avoid clichés; I scorn them most unmercifully.  I execrate them, I inveigh against them: unlovely lumps of language,/… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 18, 2010 1:43PM

I Am Not a Man of Fashion

Whenever someone compliments me on something I’m wearing on or carrying with me—a belt, a pair of shoes or pants or gloves, a shirt or sweater, a watch, my backpack, my wallet, even my cellphone—I am forced to make an embarrassing admission:  “Thanks, my wife Kathy bought/… Read full post »

I am often diverted from my oatmeal breakfast watching squirrels make their way across the tops of the towering elms and maples that line my backyard.  There is drama as one gingerly edges toward the end of an impossibly thin twig of a branch of a limb, eyes the span of/… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 2, 2010 10:51AM

Golf, The Amish, and The Catholic Sensibility

On a sunny Sunday morning several years back, before I gave up playing golf—before, that is, I fully realized that “golf” spelled backwards precisely names the applied masochism the game entails—three horse-drawn buggies containing three Amish families on their way to Sunday s… Read full post »

AUGUST 27, 2010 11:29AM

The Mickey Mouse Episode

At my house, the Mickey Mouse Episode has assumed iconic stature. 

 

To understand, you need to know two things about me.

 

First, I am reluctant, quite reluctant, to part with T-shirts.  I’d rather spend a week factoring polynomials than part with a T-shirt.  I’d/… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 23, 2010 9:19AM

Battling Mom's Alzheimer's

My brother Dennis called to warn me.

 

Mom’s forgetfulness.  I had noticed it while visiting the previous summer.  He was calling to say that it was worse, that she had, in fact, been diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer’s Disease, that I shouldn’t be surprised if she ca/… Read full post »

AUGUST 16, 2010 10:11AM

Mysteries

I have long been attracted to lonely roads, the ones “less travelled by,” but I have not ventured down any.  The attraction is enough.  I have long been enticed by abandoned farm houses, but I have not entered any.  The enticement is enough.  I have long been beguiled/… Read full post »

AUGUST 9, 2010 11:30AM

Tracked and Profiled

My small southern Iowa hometown boasts a recreational train that stretches 2.2 miles from the east side of town to the freeway and, on the west side, 2.5 miles to Liberty Hall, a restored Victorian home and museum.  The east trail follows the long-abandoned CB&Q railroad track.  To ente/… Read full post »

AUGUST 2, 2010 10:42AM

Palimpsests

Until quite recently, I did not know what I was, exactly.  I knew I was something, and I was assured that that something was special.  The culture told me, insistently, relentlessly, that I was unique, an irreducible genre of one.  Advertising proclaimed that it is Me O’Clock or/… Read full post »

JULY 26, 2010 10:32AM

Not Knowing

I am astounded by what I do not know.  What I do not know would fill the Mariana Trench.  Cataloguing what I do not know would be “heaping infinite upon infinite and multiplying infinite by infinite.”  The Puritan minister Jonathan Edwards used those words to express his in/… Read full post »

JULY 20, 2010 12:59PM

No Deposit, No Return

Most mornings, at dawn, I walk.  I like being present when dawn dawns.  In my zanier moments, I imagine myself the monitor of dawning, tasked with inspecting the process, making sure it all goes well.  And most mornings I encounter the “can man.”  We exchange a brief g/… Read full post »

JULY 15, 2010 1:21PM

Seeking Solitude

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.  To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.  I love to be alone.  I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

Henry David Thoreau  Walden 

Even though I am… Read full post »

JULY 10, 2010 11:41AM

Dad Danced When He Mowed

Dad danced when he mowed.   No, he didn’t foxtrot or cha-cha, or waltz.  Rather, his body fell insensibly into a rhythm that, in its deft agility, its expressive rhetoric of physical movement, went beyond utilitarian movement to achieve a kind of embodied harmony.  He danced/… Read full post »

JULY 5, 2010 6:46PM

Grandma Jay's Rolling Pin

When Grandma Jay made the long bus trip from Ohio to visit us in Wisconsin, she spent much of her time making ravioli, hundreds of ravioli that we put in the freezer out in the garage and broke out for special occasions.  We were perhaps one of the few families in/… Read full post »

JULY 3, 2010 12:28PM

What Books Are For

I built the bookshelves upon which my books stand, soldierly, at attention, spine out, though in places they break ranks in a jumbled stack.  In my twenties I used boards laid across cinder blocks for bookshelves, and idea I plagiarized from my best friend Jim, who seemed on constant hailing fre/… Read full post »

JUNE 27, 2010 3:50PM

Poetry Rules. Part 2

Rule 2:  A poem must provide what T. S. Eliot called a “shudder;” that is, it must provoke a visceral response. 

Somehow, in whole or in part, a poem must embody itself in me, must stimulate shock or surprise, must conjure a sense of dread or reverence, must enchant me withRead full post »