Thanks for your note today; your mom told me you’d be writing to me to get some advice about how to make your second year at college better than your first.
Let’s begin: The best way to get off to a good start with your professors is to call them “Professor,” and, if they’re women, not “Miss” or “Mrs.”; “Ms.” is preferable to either of those, but I’d stick with “Professor” since you know the person whose advice you’re asking happens to be one of those.
It’s also good to spell that person’s name correctly. You didn’t. Not even close despite the fact that you had the correct spelling right there in the email address.
If I mention these details early it’s only to begin our relationship the way I hope it will be built: I’m delighted to help you determine what’s best for you at UConn–and UConn has a great deal to offer–but I’m not going to coddle you or let you off…
11. “Have you ever wondered about the stupidity of the term ‘o’clock’? Americans have happily incorporated into our everyday speech a term that makes us sound like leprechauns.” Gene Weingarten, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Washington Post, from The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death.
12. Voice-mail prompt: “After the tone please leave your I.Q. or your blood pressure, whichever is higher.” Lewis Frumkes, author of How To Raise Your I.Q. by Eating Gifted Children.
13. On health foods: “To strengthen their argument [about eating unprocessed foods] they tell you that peasant boys in Cuba, those kids out in the fields, eat raw sugar cane and they have perfect teeth. What they don’t tell you is that they develop rickets. ‘Look at me, Ma! No cavities! But I can’t walk too straight.’…After you eat all this, you can wash it down with tiger’s milk. So help me…
George Carlin (HBO photo by Paul Schiraldi on New York Times site. Click to get to source page.)
1-3. “Regardless of what other people say, my tendency to overreact and lose all perspective makes me a theatrically interesting person”; “Because I unfairly demand too much of myself, today I will allow myself to act in distinctly untrustworthy and irresponsible ways”; “I take pride in the fact that my personal power comes from my innate sense of insecurity.”
–Ann Thornhill and Sarah Wells, from Today I Will Nourish My Inner Martyr: Affirmations for Cynics
4. “Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.” –George Carlin
5. Sideshow Bob has the following exchange with his brother: “You wanted…
On November 30th of 1984, I let a Macintosh computer into my life. Do you remember your very first computer? If you’re anywhere close to my age, I bet you do.
I was a graduate student living mostly on what I made from teaching two sections of basic comp at Queens College and on loans. But I was also working at the Development Office at Queens where, at six dollars an hour, I wrote most of what turned into a hugely successful grant for the place.
I received a small bonus from the boss–out of his own pocket, I’m pretty sure–but I decided it was all I needed to bring me to what we would now call “the tipping point”: it was the tip money I used to buy a computer. (Please don’t write in to correct me, okay? I’m kidding around.)
In an interview with The New York Times on Monday July 23, National Collegiate Athletic Association President Mark Emmert was asked, “So with the Freeh report coming out about 10 days ago, did you already have options on the table or did all this happen in a 10-day crunch?” to which Emmert answers, “It all happened in a 10-day time period.”
He didn’t pretend, he didn’t waffle, and he didn’t prevaricate. And he didn’t use the word “crunch.”
Mark Emmert took action swiftly, without apology, and authoritatively. He not only told truth to power: Emmert actually had the guts to take away power from those who misused it.
And he did it without spending 15 years arguing with rich people–donors or powerful alums–or dealing with the letters I’m sure he was getting from the lawyers of rich people about…
A conversation on Friday morning about the killings in Colorado by, allegedly, a 24-year-old “former honors student” went something like this:
Friend: “The shooter was a medical student? Don’t they still test for ability to handle stress? What happened to the rigorous standard for the mental health of those entering medical programs?”
G: “For this kid to get into medical school, he had to have recommendation letters saying he could work as part of a team. To find out who wrote those letters would be interesting. How would you feel if you said ‘This is one great kid who’ll be a boon to humanity and save lives?’”
Friend. “In the first year of medical school, this guy would have been surrounded by people driving him crazy but he wouldn’t have had time to go plan a highly-structured massacre. My nephew is in medical school now. He says doesn’t have time to shower.”
1. Only you can figure out how to manage your personal and emotional life; as advisers we can listen, challenge comfort, and offer guidance. The guidance we can offer most effectively is of the professional sort.
You must handle your domestic conflicts in the appropriate arena while keeping a check on how they affect your productivity. Please don’t ask us to assist you with anything apart from your work too often, too regularly, or with too much of an emphasis on the thought that we are somehow responsible for getting you into this in the first place (we didn’t get you “with doctorate” the way some fly-by-night lover might get a woman “with child”).
It’s imperative that you learn to find out what works for you and this is the time to learn it. This is the…
Let me clarify that: my husband’s book–Poetry, An Introduction (fifth edition), published by Bedford/St. Martins–appears briefly but decidedly in the scene where Spider-Man first shows up at her bedroom window. As the good high school student Stone plays, she has a couple of books displayed prominently on the bedspread and TA-DA! Michael’s is one of them.
I was delighted by the prospect of seeing this shot the moment a friend from marketing told us about it; I dragged us both to an early show. I believe we were the only adults there unaccompanied by a teen-aged boy, but that was fine: I was on a mission.
We were going to see the book.
The other time we’d seen Michael’s book proudly displayed on camera was on a television screen, where Michael’s biggest edition of the book–the full-fledged Bedford Introduction to Literature, coming in at around 2,000 pages–was right there…
Your letter about how amazing it was to talk with your graduate student–the one who really GOT what you were saying and changed the direction of her plans–and then asked me why I recognized earlier in life the pleasures that teaching provides made me incredibly happy.
I’m not saying that only because it’s incredibly generous to me. You’ve always been that. But I’m saying it because you helped to remind me why teaching–good teaching– matters.
Coming to the profession as someone who has accomplished much in her own field and so was asked to teach it at the graduate level, you’re seeing clearly what makes teaching worth all the rest of the trouble. I needed the reminder and I’m grateful for it.
When you teach well, you know you’ve been useful. When you’re teaching really well, you know you’re doing something nobody else could have done as well as you did.
1. “I have never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education.” Mark Twain
2. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Mark Twain
3. “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” Gilda Radner
4. . “Why are they called illegal immigrants? They’re undocumented workers. If someone broke into my house and vacuumed my rug, I might be puzzled. But mad?” Wanda Sykes
5. “Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.” Erma Bombeck
6. “’Deep’ is a word like ‘theory’ or ‘semantic’ — it implies all sorts of marvelous things. It’s one thing to be able to say ‘I’ve got theory’ quite another to say ‘I’ve got a semantic theory,’ but, ah, those who can claim ‘I’ve got a deep semantic theory,’ they are truly blessed.” Randy Davis
Grown men with teddy bears? A new movie with Mark Wahlberg? The 1981 Granada series with Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons? A heartbreaking poem about a teddy bear– mentioning Adler, Jung and Freud in its final stanza?
Okay, so my first thought, when faced with grown men and furry toys, is of the terribly well-groomed Aloysuis belonging to Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited.”
Then I think immediately of Archie, a.k.a. Archibald Ormsby-Gore, the strict Baptist teddy bear belonging to John Betjeman, upon whom Aloysuis was based.
Only after these furry figures do I think of adorable Mark Wahlberg and the trailers I’m seeing everywhere about the new movie, Ted, in which Wahlberg stars with a stuffed bear of his own.
I love Wahlberg (and Matt Damon, with whom I will sometimes confuse him, even in print) and I am a big Family Guy and…
Dragon sculpture photo via Flickr/CC. JJ loved dragons.
I just returned from a week in the west. It was, as always, beautiful.
And it reminded me, as it always does, of a friend from my days as a student in England who, after getting her M.D. and Ph.D. in pharmacology at Cambridge, moved to a place she loved in the western U.S. only to die of cancer in her early thirties.
JJ was a remarkable woman and I think of her in the way you inevitably think of a friend who dies before her time; she still occupies space in my imagination. I’ve decided to print a letter of hers as a testimony to her, and as the most poignant reminder I can offer for why it is important to cherish and use each day.
And, while I’m offering reminders, I’ll use this as a nudge to those of us who need reminding why it’s…
I picture this boy taking my hand
and then pulling me towards him, of his hands in my hair,
of his mouth hot against mine.
I think of nights when I was seventeen in the long backseats of cars
with one-night-stand boys, never going below the waist dictated by morality and a need not to have to bother: who needed to be that busy on those July evenings?
I remember hands on my breasts and kisses that went on for hours and the deep hunger for tongues and sweat and breaths that
were as shallow and as far-reaching
as a stone skipped across a pond.
Remember Harris Mackim from Catcher in the Rye? You probably don’t remember his name. I didn’t either and I spent years of my adolescence reading and re-reading Salinger.
But if you read the book even once, you probably remember Mackim as ”very intelligent and all, but … one of the biggest bores I ever met. He had one of these very raspy voices, and he never stopped talking, practically. He never stopped talking, and what was awful was, he never said anything you wanted to hear in the first place.”
But he was the boring guy who could do one thing well; he could whistle:
“The sonuvabitch could whistle better than anybody I ever heard. He’d be making his bed, or hanging up stuff in the closet–he was always hanging up stuff in the closet–it drove me crazy–and he’d be whistling while he did it, if he wasn’t talking in this raspy voice. He could even whistle classical…
Pride, say the sin scholars, led to our being expelled from Eden; Eve was flattered and ate.
Adam didn’t want to bother making his own meal and since there was no fast food in Paradise, he ate, too. It was downhill from there, leading to depravity, mortality, and Popeye’s-to-go.
Pride made Lucifer into the bad guy. Declaring in Milton’s version that he’d rather rule in hell than serve in heaven, Lucifer went from being merely head chef in paradise to owning the first barbecue franchise. As much as history has sycophantically worshiped at the altar of success, it also delights in the downfall of the great, the boastful, and the powerful.
Act a little too cocky, a little too arrogant and the dogs of ruin begin yapping at your heels, led by someone just slightly less cocky and arrogant than you. Act a little too sanctimonious, and not only will the mob eventually rise up against…
Why is gluttony a sin? Because we associate gluttony with incontinence and rapacity. Anything that blurs the clearly delineated boundaries between self-indulgence (giving in to your own desire) and self-denial (giving up on ever getting your desire) is frightening to us as a culture.
We view self-indulgence with contempt and often confuse self-denial with discipline. “Look at how it’s presented to us: Fat is bad and skinny is good; spending is bad and saving is good; crying is bad and holding back the tears is good,” says my husband as he takes another forkful of the lasagna I just took out of the oven and, with it, has another sip of Chianti. “This is the machinery of Puritanism that is stalled at the heart of America,” he argues before asking, “Is there cake?…
Today I am angry about everything. I started off the day by getting mad at myself. I forgot to put gas in the car yesterday, which meant that I need to go to the service station, which meant I’d be late for my first meeting.
I’m mad at the foolish woman I was yesterday who didn’t plan for the efficient and considerate woman that I woke up as today. I’d like to go back and yell at me. (When this wish to tell myself off in different voices becomes too frequent, I’m going to book into the Sybil School of Behavioral and Chemical Therapy).
I’m mad at my husband. I come home after getting a $50 haircut that, I was assured, makes me look glamorous, thin, sophisticated and adorable. My husband greets me not with adoration, but with the less than glamorous and…
I owe a great deal to envy. The first piece I ever sent out for publication I wrote only because a girl I went to college with had two poems printed in a small literary journal that I happened to come across in a tiny bookstore on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan’s East Village.
There I was, flipping through these thin pages after cranking out another paper for graduate school, and there was her name in print. It tripped some internal alarm signal, her name in print, and all my sirens were immediately set off. I had to do better. For God’s sake, I had to do at least as well.
Buying the magazine, I took it home hidden under my jacket as if it were some controlled substance, and I smuggled it up to my typewriter where I read the guidelines for submission as though they …
My students are prudes as well as innocents. Science has convinced them, against their better judgement, that they haven’t actually invented sex. But they continue to believe they are the only people to have ever experienced lust.
Isn’t that just adorable?
Every generation thinks it invents lust, but that’s as cute and as false as every generation’s thinking its elders sat around carving wheels out of stone as the earth’s crust cooled.
As long as people have been creating music, telling stories, or making pictures, lust has been a primary player. Operas are about lust at least as much as they’re about love (consider Carmen); literature is shot through with lust (Chaucer’s Wife of Bath is certainly a handful, and that’s just for starters); the greatest art…
I’m terrified of sloth. More than any other of the cozier and more familiar sins, I regard sloth as my natural enemy and the embodiment of my biggest fear.
I’m not kidding now. I’d take a festive feast with gluttony, a steamy night with lust, a stuffed purse from greed, a shouting match with anger, a bragging contest with pride, and a beauty contest with envy without worrying about my immortal soul. Maybe I’m overconfident (do I feel a breeze created by heads nodding in unison?), but I still have a feeling that we’ll all be waiting in a really long line at the Pearly Gates only to hear the shouts of celebration when somebody yells from the front of the queue, “Hey! Good news! Sex doesn’t count!”
But what will count, I think, are sins of omission, and I’m afraid these will count big time.
We’ll have to account not so much for all the sins we’ve committed because we’re weak or…