Song of the Day: Tom Petty, “Free Fallin'”

Dad loved this song. He never explained why, but this whole album really spoke to him. Tom Petty wasn’t one of my rock legends, not like Bowie who seems to have punctuated my life. But this song I will always remember fondly with Petty’s low, small range that he managed to make sound so much bigger.


HGTV Addictions

I’m not an HGTV addict; I’ve watched Rehab Addict (a DIY show, but same genre), mostly the first few seasons because they play well in the background while doing the marathon type of grading you do when you have large composition classes. (Long story to do with ADHE not understanding the appropriate size for a writing class.) At any rate, I’m also not a daytime television being on person either, so I really only watch TV at night.

But, there’s no way to miss how HGTV has permeated the atmosphere of the housing market. I see it every time I run the M-Streets in Dallas, and I would see it more in Kessler Park if not for the historical district status that prevents people from tearing down homes. Yet, I have definitive opinions about tiny house buyers–the houses and their crafters are ingenious; the buyers are obnoxious. (I feel about tiny house buyers the same way I feel about Ancient Aliens “scholars”–these are not real people.)

NYMag has a great article by Caitlin Flanagan placing the HGTV obsession within the context of the almost certain next housing bubble burst. (I see that coming too from my Dallas runs; there are a lot more houses on the market and for rent than there was six months ago.) Key point about the housing market:

 It’s true that bankers made loans to Americans wildly unqualified for them — but the notion that buyers on the lower end of credit distribution began to default in unprecedented numbers isn’t accurate. In fact, the rate of default in the subprime market throughout the bubble and the bust remained steady compared with before the crisis. It was buyers from the top and middle top who account for the skyrocketing rate of default — and it wasn’t that they were buying bigger family homes that they couldn’t afford. It was that they were buying additional houses to flip for a profit, and when holding on to them stopped making financial sense, and with no personal and emotional connection to them, they began walking away in huge numbers.

Flanagan also has a smart thread running through the article about the gendered and social conservative dynamics of HGTV’s offerings, with a schlubby husband doing the renovation work to please his more exacting wife’s design vision.

Commonplace: Anne Dillard, “Total Eclipse”

“From all the hills came screams. A piece of sky beside the crescent sun was detaching. It was a loosened circle of evening sky, suddenly lighted from the back. It was an abrupt black body out of nowhere; it was a flat disk; it was almost over the sun. That is when there were screams. At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid. The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place. There was no sound. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. There was no world. We were the world’s dead people rotating and orbiting around and around, embedded in the planet’s crust, while the Earth rolled down. Our minds were light-years distant, forgetful of almost everything. Only an extraordinary act of will could recall to us our former, living selves and our contexts in matter and time. We had, it seems, loved the planet and loved our lives, but could no longer remember the way of them. We got the light wrong. In the sky was something that should not be there. In the black sky was a ring of light. It was a thin ring, an old, thin silver wedding band, an old, worn ring. It was an old wedding band in the sky, or a morsel of bone. There were stars. It was all over.”

Annie Dillard, “Total Eclipse,” The Atlantic. Full essay here. Hat tip Natalie.

Commonplace: Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison, “Day 39” from Meditations from the Mat

“Long after all our other practices have fallen by the wayside, and no matter how much pain we are in or how self-destructive we have been, prayer is available to us. And prayer will find us the energy we need to come back from the brink. The message of the Buddha, of Christ, and of yoga is the possibility of resurrection, redemption, rebirth. Prayer is the locomotive that drives the resurrection train. […] Prayer is the means by which we formally surrender. Going to the mat is a form of surrender; abstaining from violence and being truthful are forms of surrender. Prayer is surrender.”

~ Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison, “Day 39” from Meditation from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga.

Head Gardner of Lambeth Palace

Fascinating excerpt from a new book about being the current head gardener of Lambeth Palace, where the Archbishop of Canterbury stays when he is in London. Key paragraph:

If you read anything about the Palace it mentions Cardinal Pole’s enormous fig tree, which was originally brought to the site in 1556 by the last Roman Catholic Archbishop. It’s an extraordinary plant to inherit. We get great crops, the figs are thin-skinned and taste like pure honey. I prune the plant every five years so you can see the great hall behind it, which is an amazing building. The first year we pruned the fig it was right out onto the tarmac and about thirty feet high…. We could see the vigour of the plant, so I pruned it back even harder. I probably left about 50 percent of growth and then they all gasped! But that was me getting my confidence, thinking, ‘OK, it’s not going to die’. And we saw it respond amazingly. I’ve learned to propagate the fig as well, which is a fairly tricky operation. We’ve sent them all around the world; the Pope was given one at the Vatican. He was presented with one of my cuttings.

Imagine eating figs from a tree planted in the 16th century.

Alias Grace Trailer

This is the Margaret Atwood adaptation that I’m looking forward to, especially since it’s adapted by Sarah Polley, whose directorial and screenwriting work I’ve enjoyed. She has the wry and dark sensibility to do an adaptation of Alias Grace.

Commonplace: Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch

"Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it's a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself. There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, or even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.

This kind of book becomes part of our own experience, and part of our own endurance. It might lead us back to the library in midlife, looking that eluded us before."

Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch