Cloister Commentary, Day 332: Lundi Gras Workout

Ahhhh, intense, sustained physical activity! I’d truly missed it. Despite the possibility that I would feel crippled in the aftermath from 99% muscular atrophy, I shoveled a long, two-car driveway, accompanying sidewalk, and a bit of curb yesterday. And survived! I’m not even that sore as I thumb this out. One of three highlights of the day.

Second highlight: Nicole, Mom and I got caught up with David Letterman’s Netflix interview show by checking out his powerful conversations with Dave Chappelle (that dude is inspiringly thoughtful and eloquent offstage!) and Ellen DeGeneres (her journey’s been even more inspiring than I knew). We also dug DeGeneres’ recent Netflix special.

Third highlight: my good friend from NOLA, Clifford Ocheltree, called me on the phone–on the phone!!!–to wish me a happy birthday (it’s still pretty early, but also still welcome). He brought me up to speed on his mayor’s struggles with Mardi Gras and COVID, his continued genealogical deep-dive, which connects to Columbia, and the fascinating historical humans John Hay and Claude King. He packed all that in to about 30 minutes.

Streaming for Strivers:

It’s Mardi Gras–do what you wanna, to a point?

Cloister Commentary, Day 320: Burgers

A quiet day, but that was good. Mom and I got Sonic cheeseburgers for lunch–my first burger in a long time–and though it and the tater tots were delicious, I can still feel that sucker sitting in my guts.

I continued dawdling my way through the great Charles Portis’ wild satire Masters of Atlantis. One critic called it what Twain would have been doing had he been alive in the latter half of the 20th century, and that’s spot on. I’d also call it “L. Ron Hubbard filtered through The Three Stooges.”

We were visited by Jim and Melissa Hague, who brought us pizza and mini-bundt cakes. Jim talked voluminously about his stock and advisory ventures and we mostly listened (truthfully, I asked him about GameStop and learned much from his answer).

After they left, we watched the Netflix documentary Crip Camp–you should, too. It was my second viewing and I was inspired even more powerfully this time around.

Tomorrow night: sleep study at Boone Hospital.

Streaming for Strivers:

You can hear much Black history in this album’s grooves.

Cloister Commentary, Day 222: The Second Time, He Did It On His Own

Vote. The last day to absentee vote in person in Boone County is Monday, November 2. I read a short story by Octavia Butler yesterday in which God gives the protagonist (Martha) the chance, in his stead, to do one thing for humanity. This morning, if that were me, I would make voting easier for all U. S. citizens. It astounds me, though that’s just my naïveté, that large numbers of elected are striving to make voting more difficult.

The great Corsicana, Texas, songwriter Billy Joe Shaver passed away yesterday. Long a favorite of ours, his music was a presence as we left Nicole’s mom Lynda Jo Evers at her final resting place. We were able to see him live as well, and I gave Dad his memoir for Father’s Day a few years back–he was Dad’s kind of guy: a little rough-hewn, no-nonsense, common-sensical, old-school, witty. He’s even been one of the keys in keeping me in touch with one of my all-time favorite students, one who became a teacher himself, Mr. Ryan Smith.

I suspect Billy Joe will always be a presence in our lives, and if you’re unfamiliar with his work, I direct you to two stellar recordings: Live at Smith’s Old Bar, where he lays down terrific versions of many of his greatest songs backed by his late son Eddy on fire-guitar, and The Earth Rolls On, which demonstrated he could still write tough, smart batches of songs.

Hey–need a new series to stream? Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is an exciting limited series about a chess prodigy (that’s right), who’s played by the talented young actress Anya Taylor Joy, recently splendid as the title character in the reboot of Jane Austen’s Emma and as a Puritan teen who chooses to live deliciously in The Witch. I overheard Nicole watching it on her own and quickly got drawn in (I will be catching up today).

Streaming for Strivers:

For those in need of whoops and hollers.

Cloister Commentary, Day 22: Grasshopper

As I mentioned yesterday, I videoconferenced with the two Mizzou teacher interns I am supervising this year. Their student teaching journey was abruptly truncated by COVID-19–they are still assisting their as they are able with grading and virtual lessons–so we discussed the possibilities they’d encounter next fall: content challenges and limitations, stressed students with fragile economic support, explaining what is happening right now in the context of their instruction, isolation (if teachers can’t yet work in person in the fall). The potential environment is daunting, and I do not envy them. I usually let them do the talking, but I did offer them each these words of advice: try to find a crusty old veteran who still has ahold of their joy and sidle into a “grasshopper” role. Nothing helped me get my footing better; it’s not that I avoided my fellow greenhorns, but “the older guys know what it’s all about,” as someone once sang. They helped me dodge several potholes–right, Bob Bilyeu?

Nicole and I started some new shows: HBO’s adaptation of Richard Russo’s novel Empire Falls, which I just finished reading; Netflix’s The Stranger, recommended by our go-to Anglo-American TV critic Susan McDermott-Griggs; and another Netflix item, Self-Made, an impressive limited series tracing the life of Madame CJ Walker, who’s played by the always-great Octavia Spencer. It’s got fire, spunk, wit, and a surprising style and soundtrack–plus Tiffany Haddish, who threatens to steal every scene she’s in.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Sample an early ’80s album by Nina Simone that was just reissued and might even surprise big fans if they haven’t heard it.

And: if you want to sample Self-Made‘s soundtrack?