Cloister Commentary, Day 253: Fabulous Finds

Nicole and I made some fabulous finds yesterday. In the world of pages, Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds is a quirky and surprisingly enlightening delight; she writes like she seems to be, and so far she earns George Saunders’ blurb. She is a fine humorist, but more is going on than that in her work.

We had been eagerly waiting for an opening to begin Steve McQueen’s perfectly-titled limited series Small Axe, and yesterday one presented itself. If the remaining episodes are as great as “Mangrove,” it will be a landmark that stands the test of time. Stories of black resistance to systematic British racism have been rarely told on the screen, and in this case one is told with pure fire. Can’t wait for “Lover’s Rock.”

Nicole tried her hand at vegetarian moussaka out of the Moosewood Cookbook, which has been a culinary presence during our entire time together. She’d made it before, but this time she nailed it. I had thirds if you count me scraping sauce and mushrooms out of the pan before she put it up.

We are happy to report that our Russian blue feline Smoky, who is a bit of a basement recluse, has been gingerly extending her perimeter into the upstairs. She is fearful for no reason, but she’s struck up a sunbathing friendship with her elder, Miss Cleo.

Cleo can’t wait.

Streaming for Strivers:

One of the great strivers in political music, whose work I fully expect to appear in Small Axe.

Cloister Commentary, Day 83: What Time Is It?

Former high school students of mine may recall my frustration with not having enough time to get it all in–that wasn’t bad planning, that was the collision between just loving what I was doing and everything being connected. I remember when “bell-to-bell instruction” emerged as a “faculty agreement” one year, and I was like “Someone’s having to agree to that?” When I moved on to the college campus, I quickly noticed that when instructors were done, they were done, and would sometimes release their charges a bit early, as they would stream past my classroom door. I said to myself, “Well, maybe I should do that occasionally, too, if I reach the natural end of a class quickly.” Every time–every time!–I would say, “I’ll probably cut you loose a bit early to get down to it,” a student would have to point out to me that we’d reached the usual end time. There are no clocks on Stephens’ classroom walls. Once, I was so locked in that I got confused and taught an extra 15 minutes before someone stopped me (that was a great, and kind, group of students). I came to believe it was just a sign that I get into this job, and it’s reflective of life, too: you have to work to squeeze it all in before the big hand hits that hash mark. Yesterday, for the first time, I told my virtual students, who hail from all over the country, from the California – Mexico border to Mississippi to Pennsylvania, “I’m going to cut you loose a shade early after we talk about revision to actually start revising.”

Guess what happened? I guess I’m even loving virtuality.

Other highlights: Nicole’s fresh moussaka, Bess Frissell’s “Communion calculation” (based on a 150-pound Jesus), Art Tatum flying around the keyboard and out the house speakers, three powerful new books, and a nice neighborhood walk. One sad note: watching my patiently, sincerely, warmly, and painstakingly constructed set of responses to a (former, and fragile) Facebook friend’s query regarding why I had to post about black beauty get wiped–I need to abjure “Reply” in the future in such matters. It was not I who clicked “unfriend,” by the way. But, perhaps, “better down the road / without that load.”

Streaming for Strivers: