Monthly Archives: April 2011

Memories of My Son, the Baseball Player

I hope I may be excused for revisiting a poem I have posted on before, along with some of my previous observations about it. It is a sports poem that brings to mind my oldest son, who died 11 years ago on this day. Dabney Stuart’s “Ties” is out of season—it’s about football—and Justin’s sport was baseball. Nevertheless I feel awash in sadness and sweet memory when I read it.

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American Hollywood Had Its Own Princess

I’m not a Royal Wedding enthusiast, but as a cultural historian I’m interested in it as a social phenomenon: why are so many Americans are fixated by British royalty? The Hollywood star system can be seen as an American version of the British monarchy. This gives me an excuse to talk about Aubrey Hepburn, whose signature film “Breakfast at Tiffany” celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

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Confessions of an Addicted Bloglodyte

Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of this blog’s website, which gives me an opportunity to reflect upon what I have been doing these past 24 months. I’ve also come up with a label for myself: I am a bloglodyte.“Troglodyte,” which etymologically means cave dweller, has come to describe those who live their lives in seclusion. This is not a bad way of describing bloggers, who spend much of their lives in the caves of their laptops.

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The Cosmic Meaning of Flushing Flies

I don’t know how deep my father’s qualms go about flushing a fly down a toilet bowl. At the very least, the prospect makes him think twice and look for a larger message, as he does in the following comic poem.

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Ayn Rand vs. America’s Social Safety Net

Normally I prefer to write on great literature, not on novels that make our lives worse. But given the outsized impact that novelist and social philosopher Ayn Rand is currently having on current American political discourse, literature blogs need to pay attention.

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Final Instructions from a Dying Teacher

Last Thursday we had our memorial service for my friend Alan Paskow, the philosophy colleague whom I have written about several times. In my own remarks I invoked Plato’s Crito. I said that, for the three-plus years that Alan lived with the diagnosis of a terminal illness, he was like Socrates after having drunk the hemlock He knew that he was dying but he used his illness as an opportunity to explore with others what it meant. Like Socrates, he was a teacher to the end.

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Rise, Heart, Thy Lord Is Risen

I write this the night before our sunrise Easter service where, as members of our church choir, Julia and I will arise before dawn to sing in the rising of the sun/son. No matter how early we get up, George Herbert’s “Easter” reassures us, the Lord is always there before us

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Before Michael There Was No GAME

By capturing a player as unpredictable as Michael Jordan within a verse form as rigidly formatted as a sestina, poet Jay Spoon makes it appear that “his airness” operated to the dictates of a higher law. Within the rigid confines of the boundaries of the court and working to deposit a round rubber ball within a small metal rim 12 feet above the floor, Jordan made magic happen.

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Faith in the Face of Terrorism

Today I recommend Of Gods and Men (2010), an extraordinary French film that I saw last month. It is about a small community of Cistercian monks in rural Algeria who must decide whether to stay or leave in face of rising terrorism. Good Friday is a good day to write about it since it deals with Lenten themes.

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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