Sir Patrick


“What I liked about Paddy,” one of his Cretan blood-brothers said to me, “was he was such a good man, so morally good. He could throw his pistol 40 feet in the air like this, and catch it again by the handle.”

Saturday afternoon I was at Somerville’s Dilboy VFW Post for a birthday party. Gracious guest that I am, I set about inspecting the walls, and found a photo of the American ambassador to Greece presenting George Dilboy’s family with a replacement Medal of Honor. The original had been stolen* by German soldiers on Crete during the Second World War.

“I bet Patrick Leigh Fermor could have got it back,” I said to myself, with whom I mostly talk at parties. If you haven’t read a Patrick Leigh Fermor obituary (here’s one), then you may have a limited concept of how much living can occur from birth.

Also, he seems to have been a more entertaining partier than I:

“Paddy was a great performer of party turns: songs in Cretan dialect; The Walrus and the Carpenter recited backwards; Falling in Love Again sung in the same direction – but in German. When I was at his house in the Peloponnese, in Greece, he restricted himself, after a lunch that lasted several hours, to It’s a Long Way to Tipperary in Hindustani.”

*The theft of his medal was, alas, not the only indignity George Dilboy suffered.


(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Pete’s Love of Understanding*

“And you put the glass up to the wall, and you can hear through the wall a little bit more of the song – maybe just the middle bit this time… And so it goes on until eventually, after however long it can take – sometimes a few days, sometimes months – you piece the whole thing together.”

Nick Lowe says songwriting is like living next door to an apartment where “they’ve got a radio tuned constantly on – tuned to a really cool radio station.”

He adds: Continue reading “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Pete’s Love of Understanding*”

What I Talk About When I Talk About the Passed Made Present


I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first thought I could write a novel. It was around 1:30 in the afternoon of April 1, 1978. I was at Jingu Stadium that day, alone in the outfield drinking beer and watching the game.

-Haruki Murakami


This sounded well worth a shot, so I tried it myself. A couple summers ago I bought a bleacher ticket to watch a Mariners game. It was a reasonably sunny Seattle day, and I had a section of Safeco Field all to myself. I drank a Manny’s Pale Ale, but the only epiphany I had was that when clouds cover the sun, it can get a bit chilly.

Last May Day, though, serendipity visited me over a pint at a local pub where, in a copy of the Boston Globe, I found Adolphous Bullock’s obituary. This, I was certain, was a life worth sharing with my students. Then it occurred to me that there must be countless other lives worthy of introduction as well. And that’s how my obituary project got started.


Ooh La La


I’m sure Arne Duncan’s office is fine and all, but I bet it’s not lined with gold leaf. And in France the top education job is apparently “a prestigious position held by monumental figures,” too. Secretary Duncan may, alas, have better luck installing gold leaf in his office than commensurately elevating its status.

More happily, I like how Madame le (la?) ministre’s mom said, “Don’t worry, life has more imagination than you.” It’s the glass-half-full version of “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”


Aux Morts!


Singer on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars, co-founder of the American Basketball Association, knighted by Pope Paul VI for humanitarian work in Nigeria…

And that was before his campaign for president, or his talk show. This is one of the more intriguing obituaries I’ve ever read.

(Due to vocabulary and “alignment” issues, I won’t be sharing it in class.)


Are We Running Out of Band Names?


So asks this article. Apparently it’s a problem.


John Paul Jones noted it a few years back, too:

“Every other name is taken,” Mr. Jones explains. “Think of a great band name and Google it, and you’ll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page.”

Well, anyone who knows me knows that I am always ready to lend a helping hand, unless said loan would present the risk of even mild inconvenience to me. But it’s no trouble, really, to offer some band names I’ve come up with.

For, alas, I shall never use them. My dream of being the unassuming but overmuchly talented rhythm guitarist in an esteemed indie band, who on tour strolls cities anonymously by day, for he has none of the burdens of celebrity that befall the singer and lead guitarist, but who does have a devoted and distinctively female fanbase worldwide, who… uh, right, the names. Below.

Continue reading “Are We Running Out of Band Names?”

Bonfire of the Litotes

My sinology is not what it should be, so I found this Q&A with the excellently-named Roderick MacFarquhar very interesting. My close reading and litotes skills got a workout from this statement, though:

He’s not yet a figure that so terrifies his colleagues that they couldn’t dream of suggesting to a comrade, “Let’s ally against him,” because they don’t know that that comrade would not report him.


That four-bagger reminded me of one of my all-time favorite bits of writing, Aubrey Buffing’s speech in The Bonfire of the Vanities, which contains this extra base hit:

But one can scarcely help being aware of the marvelous friendship and hospitality of you and Inez, and thank goodness I don’t have to pretend for a moment to be otherwise.