Here’s a secret about Oklahoma City that I wonder if the New York Times and other national news outlets could ever pick up on while they cover the horrible aftermath of the May 20 tornado in Moore, Okla.: It’s a big place out there.
Oklahoma City encompasses more than 600 square miles in all, including the little burbs and towns that overlap and intersect with it. There are parts of town and sides of town — and with those descriptions come all the standard American psychic and actual boundaries of sentimentality, loyalty, school districts, train tracks, rivers, interstates, race, class, tax assessments. These distinctions fall completely away in times of need and disaster, especially tornadoes. People care and people help. But those boundaries are patched up and reconstructed when it’s over, like everything else.
I am the worst blogger in the world, I know.
But I return with some news and an exciting event to pimp, er, promote: I’ll be moderating a discussion with original MTV veejays Nina Blackwood and Mark Goodman at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday, May 18, at 2:15 p.m. Nina and Mark are promoting their new memoir (co-written with Alan Hunter and Martha Quinn), VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave. I will be peppering them with questions and opening it up to the audience for more.
Time for another Tonsil blog book giveaway. This one is a real jackpot — the first three responders will get a package of three new books written by friends o’ mine. You’re not competing for individual titles; winners will get all three. (You don’t want all three? Look, these aren’t lima beans I’m servin’ here. You’ll get three delicious books — and perhaps the pleasure of re-gifting one or two of them out to a wider, literate world.) See instructions below. To win, you must send an email, not leave a comment to this blog post.
Sorry to have made it seem that I once again abandoned this blog. After I left Montana, I was on the road for 37-38 days (depending on how you add it up), with a lot of stops along the way. I’m back in D.C. now.
While criss-crossing America, I also went back to my job as TV critic at The Washington Post, filing a heap of TV reviews from hither and yon, mostly yon.
Monica Hesse and Dan Zak’s 2013 edition of The Washington Post’s annual List is out, and it’s a good one.
This is the 35th year that the Style section has put out an “in/out” List, a tradition begun by Nina Hyde and Jura Koncius in 1978. It was my great pleasure (and huge headache) to pen The List in 2000 and then from 2003-2009. It is my greater pleasure that Dan and Monica are now in charge of doing it. Like anything worthwhile, it’s much harder than it looks.
My semester as the T. Anthony Pollner professor at the University of Montana’s School of Journalism has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. (Yes, ever.) Thank you students, faculty, Kaimin staff and especially Carol Van Valkenburg. And, miles away but often in our thoughts, Alice Thorpe, Ben Pollner and friends and family of Anthony Pollner.
I’m off. The shortest way back to D.C. is obviously west to Seattle then down to Oregon, then California, then New Mexico, then Kansas, then Texas. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.
Reading is the only way to learn how to write. I kept pushing this point all semester and I certainly assigned a lot of readings. This being college, and these being college students, we operate with this wonderful notion that everyone has the time and desire to read it all.
But anyone who ever went to college knows that’s not true. Although I “loved to read” as a teenager and college student, I didn’t truly get busy reading until after I left college. At about age 22 or 23, I suddenly wanted to read everything, especially longform feature writing, nonfiction books, cultural criticism and serious magazines and newspapers. I started reading not only for content, but to study the craftsmanship.
We were up before dawn on Thursday to meet one last time for a group critique of the final stories. The professor worked hard not to get verklempt, but that got exponentially more difficult when he was presented with this amazing poster (above), a gift from the class, designed by Carli Krueger.
I was prepared to just tell them what a real joy it’s been to be here in Montana and work with them, and, once that was done, let class out early — especially for those still sweating the 5 p.m. deadline for their final stories.
It turns out we had plenty to talk about for the whole 80 minutes.
But before I forget: