Cloister Commentary, Day 25: Glitter Up The Dark, Will Ya?

After sleeping on the couch again (it has to do with our dog’s mysterious ailment, which requires an Elizabethan collar and my nearby presence at night), Nicole surprised me with two hearty slices of avocado toast that would have powered me all day. I quickly forgot about the couch.

I was supposed to have a project, but I do not think vacuuming the carpeting counts. Mostly, I spent the day finishing Sasha Geffen’s Glitter Up The Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary (notice how I keep referring to it? it’s an old teaching trick…), a terrific book that I may require of my students next semester if one happens.

Meanwhile, Nicole created an altar / art installation in the basement closet of “The Kitten Room.” That is something to be proud of.


We decided to eat out again, and tried one of our long-time favorite spots, La Terraza. We love several different Mexican restaurants in town; they are each subtly different, and I prefer LT’s chili rellenos, while we both prefer their margaritas. “Curbside margaritas,” you say? “Indeed,” I answer: 32 ounce “travelers”! Those and the food went great with the tensest “Better Call Saul”(spoilers in link) I’ve ever seen.

La Terraza

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Continuing to mourn Hal Willner. Back when this was released, it helped push me off the high boards into the deep end of Monk’s pool of inimitable compositions. Willner’s guests range from Donald Fagen to John Zorn, from Dr. John and NRBQ to Shockabilly and Steve Lacy, and believe it or not, not only isn’t it uneven but it actually holds together. Dig it.

Cloister Commentary, Day 23: Sound and Vision

We, like you, have stumbled upon (or been forced to observe, rather) several habits in this sheltering that I think we’re going to keep when we are liberated. Nicole is a great cook, but she also works her butt off AND we both are tasteaholics who love supporting our many local restaurants, so we haven’t ever eaten in all that much. However, by my calculations, we’ve only gone out to pick up food once in the last 27 days. I’m here to tell you: homecooking is great. Yesterday, she sautéed some fresh asparagus, fried some new potatoes, and grilled some cheese sandwiches (with, instead of butter, Blue Plate Mayonnaise)–that was just lunch. Dinner was chickpea tikka masala with basmati rice! Now, I don’t just sit around like Henry VIII, fork and knife in fists that pound the tabletop! Our deal has always been that she can make as big a mess in the kitchen as she wants; I’ll clean up and put up everything. Feels about even, but I know I get the best of it–plus I’ve lost weight while never feeling unsatisfied. Ok, I’ll stop…

This was our first “flipped house” of the plague. That’s when the feline-o-phobe dog and I go downstairs and the cats come up. So it was “Music in the Man Cave” for me.

I loved“Fame,” “Golden Years,” and (especially) “Young Americans” (that song tortured me) as a teen, and“Let’s Dance”always kicked ass no matter HOW many times I heard it lifeguarding that summer in Monett, but I was never a massive Bowie fan at the time. However, reading’s always been a corrective to my waywardness, and after taking in David Bowie: A Life (by former Ziggy crumbsnatcher Dylan Jones), Rob Sheffield’s On Bowie, and Sasha Geffen’s Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary, I’m fully on board. Better late than never. I listened to his work alllll afternoon. And hit up Discogs for some CDs I surprisingly don’t have.

Speaking of music and habits, I recently hit my Apple Music limit of 100,000 songs in the ol’ iCloud library. So I just blew the whole thing up and started anew. I need to remember to only “Add” what I need, and that the entire contents of my external drive don’t have to be (can’t be) in my library, too. #nerdalert

Random facts of COVID-19 impact: 1) My garage door opener fixed itself on its own after I ignored it for two weeks. Word to the wise looking to save money. 2) We decided to cancel our lodging in Lawrence in late June for theFree State Fest(this year, John Waters and Boots Riley were among those scheduled). It ain’t gonna happen, we’re fairly sure. And if it does, we won’t be inclined to attend.

I’m not religious, but happy Easter anyway. He not busy being (re)born is busy dying.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Such sound and vision.

Cloister Commentary, Day 6: New Day Rising

Things change so quickly.

I’d just set up regular Tuesday Zoom meetings with my freshman comp students at Stephens, and emailed them an update (their last undertaking is a research paper). I signed off by acknowledging that none of us really knows what is going to happen past April 14, when we were slated (but I doubted we’d be able) to return to campus for in-person work. I came back upstairs after hitting “send” to learn that Stephens’ campus operations had just closed down for the semester, and graduation had been moved to August. What a surreal situation for students, and it’s certainly the first time I will not be able to say “So long!” to a class in person. I’ve seen quite a bit, having taught in each of the last four decades, but this truly is novel.

It’s really too late to try it now, but, though I was initially resistant to videoconferencing every day, I am fascinated by how a Socratic seminar might work in that mode. Some of the temptations that can untrack a discussion would seem to be eliminated. If I am assigned a class next semester (I always teach a music-focused comp class in the fall), I’ll have to assign my students an album to listen to and annotate (or let them pick one), and give a virtual Socratic a spin.

Also, I received a review copy of Sasha Geffen’s GLITTER UP THE DARK: HOW POP MUSIC BROKE THE BINARY from the University of Texas, and the introduction and chapter headings alone convince me it could be a great required text for my fall class. Geffen is smart and brave, and her style would be challenging but enjoyable for first-year students. Funny thing is, I was alerted to it by Hannah Ewens, whose great book FANGIRLS (along with her virtual guest appearance in both my ’19 fall classes) had convinced me I needed to use IT–I certainly can’t (or at least shouldn’t) assign both. Or maybe I could…

But who the hell knows what next semester is going to look like.

Is anyone else out there watching either LITTLE FIRES EVERYBODY or HIGH FIDELITY on Hulu? Nicole and I are, and I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Stimulus package: ’bout time, BUT keep your eye on the ball. Myself, I am afraid to look at it closely. Kleptocrats were involved.

Streaming for Shut-Ins: This full album speaks for itself.