Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Good Weekend

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good Reads

Hello world. A soggy morning in Medford. Reminds me a bit of being out near Seward, Alaska where the air stuck heavy with fog. Here are a few articles to get your day started.

>>A Death in Texas. Tom Barry gives a compelling portrait of America's immigration policies focusing on the detention of illegals, privately run prisons, and the declining towns of West Texas.

>>The Loin in Winter. I'd never really considered Hugh Hefner's contributions to American culture, but, in his twilight years, he seems to be giving his legacy some consideration. Can't blame the man for wanting to be known for something more than bunny ears.

>>United Needs a Win. DC United's fighting for their playoff lives tonight. I can't watch the game, but send happy thoughts their way. And curses to Toronto, New England, and Dallas. Also, everyone's favorite soccer writer Steve Goff is off this weekend attending his son's Bar Mitzvah. Mazel Tov!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How Terrible Love Can Be

It didn’t make much sense to me then, what Gnut was going through, but after Pila and me had our little twins, and we put a family together, I got an understanding of how terrible love can be. You wish you hated those people, your wife and children, because you know the things the world will do to them, because you have done some of those things yourself. It’s crazy-making, yet you cling to them with everything and close your eyes against the rest of it. But still you wake up late at night and lie there listening for the creak and splash of oars, the clank of steel, the sounds of men rowing toward your home.

I saw Where The Wild Things Are last night. It's not that the movie disappointed me in any way; I enjoyed it. But I'm didn't leave me with the optimistic feeling I'd expected it would. Being a kids' movie, I thought it would be tempered with melancholy, but, ultimately, one of those renew your faith in humanity kind of flicks.

And this is not to say that the ending isn't positive. We should feel hopeful seeing Max return home to his mother, supper on the table, his last tantrum forgiven. But I couldn't shake the Wild Things themselves from my head. In the film, the Wild Things function as your standard dysfunctional family. They have good times and bad. They love each other, they fight each other, and, occasionally, they do things so horrifying we wonder why people cause so much pain for the people they love.

The whole film reminded me of Wells Tower's fantastic short story, "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned," quoted above. It got me thinking about how we can do such terrible things to people we love. To our friends, to our families, and, even, to people we don't know.

In the story, Harald, the narrator, is right. It is crazy-making, trying to be good in a world where so many things go bad. A world where we do the worst things of all to the people we love the best. And like him, I didn't sleep well last night. The scariest thing about it is that I don't have to fear hordes of marauding vikings or clawed Wild Things.

(image via

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

DC: The New Paris?

I took this photo on a gorgeous, early April day in Paris last spring. In it, you see the Seine straddling Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame Cathedral, some trees just beginning to show their colors, others still barren after a cold winter.

Now, take a look at these proposed plans to remake Washington, D.C. with Paris and the Seine as a model. What a brilliant idea! Most of Washington is concentrated on the north bank of the Anacostia. Poplar Point, that undeveloped patch of grassland on the south bank, remains ripe for development and what better way to bridge the two sides of the city than by narrowing the river itself and constructing numerous bridges across (and maybe a DC United stadium to boot).

For my money, there's no better way to link the two sides of the Anacostia so often divided by race, class, and income than by shifting the focal point of the city south towards the river.

(design plans via Greater Greater Washington)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Welcome to Tufts, Michelle

An open letter to Tufts University's most renowned graduate student, Michelle Kwan.

Welcome to Tufts, Michelle! We are so happy to have you on campus. When I first heard that you would be skating circles up and down Packard Avenue at our very own Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy this semester, I thought: a) you are way cooler than Emma Watson, and b) you have totally raised Fletcher’s already high admissions standards to ludicrous heights with those two Olympic medals dangling from your neck. All those Peace Corps kids don’t stand a chance anymore.

Just a friendly joke there (and no disrespect to any involved in the Peace Corps), but this being a slightly serious column, I thought it might be nice to give our newfound friend Ms. Kwan an abbreviated history of select public figures who have enrolled at Tufts over the years. Think of this column like Aesop’s Fables for minor celebrities in Medford, but we will throw out the tortoise and the hare and go with Jessica Biel and the dude who wears the big glasses from The Office.

So, without further preface, we start with Ms. Biel herself. We all remember her as the young Mary Camden from our favorite family friendly teen drama 7th Heaven, but after appearing in a racy photo shoot and having her role on the show reduced, Biel decided to take a few years out of the spotlight and come to our quiet corner of suburban Boston. And what a great idea it was. After honing her craft in the Drama Department for several semesters, movie offers started piling and Biel went back to Hollywood and, well, turned into a huge movie star and is now dating Justin Timberlake. Not too shabby. She should thank us more. Maybe a contribution to the Beyond Boundaries Campaign, Jess? Show the History Department a little love for me.

Our next story follows Rainn Wilson, another Tufts drop out who has now made a name for himself in show business. After dropping out of Tufts and struggling for years in the New York acting scene, Wilson’s stock skyrocketed when he landed the role of Dwight K. Schrute, a beet farming paper salesman on NBC’s The Office. He was just in a movie about musician that I didn’t see, but, hey, it’s still a movie.

So…if these stories provide any didactic wisdom it would be to dropout after a couple of semesters. Seriously. The dude who founded American Apparel dropped out of Tufts, too. Now he supplies the hipsters of the world with gold lamé leotards, uber-tight T-shirts, and ironically large sunglasses. Well done.

But if you are looking for a less notorious role model, maybe check out Pierre Omidyar. After graduating with a degree in computer science, Omidyar founded eBay at 24 and got super rich letting people sell their old stuff to other people they don’t know on the Internet. Quite an accomplishment, but like any true active citizen he didn’t stop there. After selling the company for buckets of cash, Omidyar founded the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment organization dedicated to social change. Bravo!

And I shouldn’t discount the countless Tufts and Fletcher grads that are involved in public service, business, and academia around the world.

So Michelle, I hope this little lesson has been informative. Though I’m sure the really cool looking room in Ginn Library will be extra crowded this year with folks trying to see you, we are all super excited that you are here and want our home to be your home for the next two years! Good luck to you and we all hope to see you around campus, especially if they put out that little faux ice skating rink on Fletcher Field at Winter Carnival. I want to see a triple axel.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Oh Say Can You See

Tomorrow night, the U.S Men's National Team can qualify for the 2010 World Cup with a win against Honduras in San Pedro Sula. With so much political turmoil boiling in the Honduran capital, the tension surrounding the already important match has reached a fever pitch.

Check out this video and watch all the security and media following the Yanks around the city. It'll be a difficult match for so many reasons and I hope you all can check it out. As Shawn Francis wrote on The Offside Rules: "Judging by the amount of guns and journalists around it's not another country, it's another world; no matter how much you follow the American game, sometimes you forget what the game is like in the rest of the world."

Unfortunately, a Central American company bought the US television rights and will only be showing it at certain bars on a closed-circuit...but I'm sure pirated streams will be available online.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Restoration

So I took it upon myself to reread some of my older blog posts this afternoon. The whole endeavor made me Paris nostalgic, longing for those days when I could walk down the streets anonymously and I could pretend that I wouldn't be graduating in a year. Paris proved useful at avoiding all anxieties vis-à-vis the future. That may be one reason it is so popular. It's a place where you can lose sight of a lot of things that you once though important. And that's neither good nor bad. That is Paris.

Either way, I can't really avoid the future any longer since it will soon be smacking in the face. College -- that wonderful four year blip -- has more or less come and gone. And so, I went to the Career Fair today, looking for a career. I didn't find one.

But after the Fair, after handing out resumes and shaking hands and having an embarassing coughing fit in front of the lady from the Peace Corps, I read an old Washington Post magazine article, "The Restoration," by Wells Tower (I wrote about him in March) from 2005. If you've read his debut book of short stories, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, you can find some links between his fiction and this essay about his father's decaying house in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (the essay is really quite good and if you want to read it and don't have access to it via LexisNexis I can email it to you).

Well, in this article, Tower, as an adult, returns home to rebuild and restore this house his father has let decay beyond imagination. And I'm not quite sure what to make of it. For Tower, this was what he had to do. To not follow the general post-grad path. He just went home and decided it was time to hack away at the wisteria and kudzu that had overrun the yard. He cleaned out the garage full of copperheads and ants and rusted firearms and grills. He used his brother's carriage-welded class-four trailer hitch (the same hitch used in the story "Retreat" for those paying close attention) to haul down a stubborn cherry tree.

And now, in a place where I'm sure Tower was several years ago, I feel a lot of pressure to make the right decision. To find the right job. But this guy didn't need a career fair. Or a resume critique week. Or round robin networking. He attacked stubborn roots with a lawn mower until vines tangled around the steel blade and the motor seized.

I'm not sure if I have a point to make here. In my search for answers, I keep coming up with more questions.