Region: Knoxville

A Death in the Family (1957)

I just found this intro to an essay I never wrote and thought the quotes were worth posting.

Ramshackle Knoxville

Reading Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree last year changed my relationship with Knoxville. There’s more poetry here now, and more grime and ash. Suttree’s one of the main reasons I no longer blink before calling Knoxville my home town, even though I’ve only lived here for just over a decade.

Rocky Top Rowdies

To carry this silly analogy a bit further — and to indulge for a second in my other current obsession, The Wire — I gotta say that University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl has got the best “package” right now.

Quite the View

We’re having some crazy weather here today. The wind started blowing just before noon, and the rains came around 2. Ever since, the sky has been yellow, which is apparently the perfect recipe for rainbows. I laughed like a six-year-old when I saw this through our bedroom window.

Saturday Night at Church

I was sitting so close I could never get all four performers — Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, and Shawn Colvin — in a single shot. I was sitting so close, in fact, that the only two people in the theater sitting closer to Emmylou were Patty and Buddy (sorry Shawn).

David Byrne Does K-Town

“At the Holiday Inn in Knoxville, I saw a sign for the historic town center. Thinking it might contain some character and restaurants, we head there in search of dinner. There’s no one on the streets — not metaphorically, but literally not a single soul is out and it’s not even 8 o’clock.”

Happy Thanksgiving

We had our annual Thanksgiving pot luck dinner last night. Along with the traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, and pumpkin pie, we had Polish mushroom rolls and potato salad, smoked salmon sushi, Mexican bread pudding, and two Taiwanese dishes: a sweet bean dessert and beef viscera.

Aimee Mann at the Bijou

I’d brought along Joanna’s bite-sized Sony Cyber-shot camera in hopes of getting some decent stills, but the light was too low (even from the third row) and, as a result, all of the photos were streaked by motion blurs. So, instead, I experimented with the video capture, and I’m really pleased with the results — especially with the sound.

Live Music

This post is about the years I spent as a broke-ass graduate student, unable to afford to see the shows that came through town.

So We Beat On . . .

I love how, despite his disgust and anger, Nick is still moved by the vision — how he is unable to ignore its beauty while also acknowledging the human misery that now populates the land. This one paragraph, in both tone and theme, is the entire novel in concentrated form. Amazing.

What Are We Talking About?

I got the sense that this guy was accustomed to being the most knowledgeable (or at least the loudest) guy in the room, so I was content to let him talk until he ran out of steam, hoping all the while that Joanna would wander back in our direction or that a meteor would destroy the apartment complex across the street. Anything that would give us an excuse to change the subject.

Notes on “Sonny’s Blues”

Like a soloist, Baldwin introduces an idea, a phrase, then he explores it, explodes it, develops it until he finds something new, something more precise or melodic. Baldwin accomplishes in his story what Sonny accomplishes in that jazz club. And, really, isn’t this just the most beautiful “vanishing evocation” (as the narrator describes music) of what art is capable of doing?

Some Kind of Perspective

And then one of my Mexican students reminded us of the 1968 Olympics that were held in Mexico City, where only ten days before the games opened 267 students were gunned down and more than 1,000 were wounded during a protest at the Plaza of Three Cultures. And then two of my South Korean students told us of their government’s secret decision to send troops to Vietnam despite the public’s protest against such a move. And then one of my Chinese students, a remarkable young woman who exudes joy like no one I’ve ever known, said, “Yes. The same in China. During the Cultural Revolution.”

Shut Up and Listen

So, imagine that Ira Kaplan invites you over to his apartment one night for some music and political debate.

Medium Rare

Jack Neely, everyone’s favorite chronicler of life in Knoxville, has a nice piece in this week’s issue of the Metro Pulse about his recent efforts to sell some old books. It’s a great glimpse into the lives of book lovers and the dealers who support their habits, with nary a mention of Borders or Barnes and Nobles in sight.

Talkin’ About Movies

Last night I delivered the following talk at the 2004 NEXUS Interdisciplinary Symposium: Reconstructing Theory and Value.

If You Build It

The Metro Pulse features a short article this week about the need for a new and much larger library in downtown Knoxville. The unfolding of this project should prove interesting, as it will essentially ask city and county taxpayers how much they “value” the library. The elected decision-makers are already eyeing the $60 million facility recently completed in Nashville, which is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

A Note from Knoxville

Newsday posted a fun article yesterday about the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Research Facility. Of course, the word “fun” is totally relative when you’re talking about a two-acre plot of land where donated bodies decompose under the close scrutiny of forensic anthropologists.

Ghosts, Goblins, etc.

Halloween is the highest of the holy days in Long Pauses land. My wife spends months planning her costume — this year she was Galadriel, I was Harold (from Harold and Maude).

Survival Saturday

College football is the only sport capable of raising my heart rate these days.

A Good Hard Rain

I first read Sam Shepard’s Buried Child five years ago in a graduate readings course in American drama. Last night I was finally able to experience it in performance, which, as is always the case with great drama, is a quite different thing.

Trying to Understand It All

I’ve become interested in Iran lately. For personal reasons. I have a new student in my ESL class who arrived recently in America by way of Switzerland and Tehran.

Speaking of Blogs

I spent Thursday afternoon with UT law professor, Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a. Instapundit), and thirty or so other faculty and staff in a discussion of blogging and its potential impact on academic life.

Shut Up, Already

Note to self: Stop whining about the dearth of cultural events in Knoxville. I was just flipping through this week’s issue of The Metro Pulse, and I noticed the following.

Fulfilling Contractual Obligations

As a Knoxville resident and UT employee/student, I’m required to make the following statement. (It’s actually a bylaw of the state constitution — listed right there under the mandatory regressive tax structure and last-in-the-nation per/pupil spending.) It’s football time in Tennessee!

Independence Day

I was startled by one woman’s face in particular. She looked, in a word, ecstatic. When the first Chinese song ended, she began another, sailing into one of those lilting melodic lines that so mesmerized Debussy a century ago.

Different Perspectives

Last night I gathered with my English as a Second Language students for our final class of the semester. Before digging into another dry reading comprehension exercise, we just sat and talked, which, to be honest, is the main reason that Thursday night is often the highlight of my week.

News from the Front

Tonight, I listened to Shane Claiborne tell stories about Baghdad. He’s taller than I expected (6′ 3″, maybe) and skinnier and younger. I mean, I knew he was young, but after reading his diaries for the last few weeks I somehow expected him to carry the weight of his experience in his skin.

And In University News . . .

It’s a small blogoshpere after all. Thanks to this week’s cover story in the Metro Pulse, I’ve discovered that Instapundit (a.k.a. Glenn Reynolds), one of the world’s pioneer and most heavily-trafficed bloggers, spends his days in an office just a few yards from my own.


I had planned to post a rambling personal narrative today, describing in minute detail my particular experiences in Saturday’s anti-war demonstrations. But when I sat down to it, the idea seemed a bit too self-indulgent, even by blog standards.