Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'll explain everything to the geeks.

This and that:

Nathan Spicer over at Paste Magazine just listed out his Top 25 songs by the band The National:

I was introduced to The National belatedly.  I missed all the best albums when they came out, but I'm good at playing fervent music catch-up.  The band just released a special edition of their latest album, High Violet.  That album contains two songs that should have made Spicer's list: "Vanderlyle Crybaby" and "Conversation 16" (both of which I've spent the better part of a year belting out in my car and others').

What else?  I'm furiously writing lectures.  

One year ago this week, Catherine Anderson and I were spending our last few precious days in Roma after hosteling across much of Italy.  My heart aches at the memory, because right now I'd pretty much drop everything if I could and go on another trip.  She's living the dream this July, when she departs for London to begin an epic pilgrimage from Canterbury to Roma...on foot.  With a tent in a backpack.  I love her.  I am jealous of her.  I wish I could go with her.  The link to her blog (which she'll be updating along the way) is listed in the column on the right and down a bit----->

Here's the movie that inspired me to start traveling internationally at all:

I remain in search of more opportunities to live the eternal Saturday (see the film and you'll get it).  Seriously, order it or Netflix it or go find it at your local video store.  

I continue to watch the coverage of the Joplin tornado and continue to feel a knot in my gut.  I've been urging friends and family to give anything, even a credit card donation of ten dollars if that's all they can handle.  Please do the same.

Lesley-Anne (top geek)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to give.

Blogs can prove useful for many things besides musings!

Here's a great link to a blog from Missouri that provides many options for giving to the tornado victims in Joplin, MO.

I'll keep my thought here short and simple:  This is a tragedy in our midst.  It could have happened anywhere, it could happen anywhere.  Give if you can.


Monday, May 23, 2011


My Austin May has proven more eventful, more joyful, and even more emotional that I'd imagined it could be.  It's as if the city itself knew that my final weeks as one of its official daughters needed to be...amazing.

I ended April on a bittersweet note to be sure.  On the second to last day of that month, I craned my neck under a starry sky at Stubbs to watch the Decemberists croon to me once again.  And then within moments fell off my own metaphorical pedestal and got...well, just shaken back down to earth.  

That's always good, ultimately.

A phone call on May 2nd shocked my system in a completely different way.  After two weeks of thinking that the funding had fallen through for a grant I desperately needed, my advisor stunned me with the news of a 180.  I was back in business.  The UGA grad school said so, and I said so.  That validation from an institution shouldn't be what I needed, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I did indeed.  This news means that I will walk in graduation one calendar year from now.  That revelation knocked my flip-flops off.

What followed has been a month well-divided between writing lectures, writing prose, and sharing moments with people I love, love, love.  Combine all of that with the encroaching summer sun, the days by the pool, the hope of things to come...and I am just bursting.

Here's the last few weeks in pictures:

This was a sushi feast of epic proportions @ Kona Grill, sponsored by the fine ladies of The Steeping Room (my place of part-time employment for the past nine months).  

 Finally some shots exist of Meredith and LA.  This lovely creature has been my rock as well as my sometimes-girlie partner in crime for all things cheesy and all things beer.  She's coming to visit Athens this summer, thank goodness.  I will miss her smile and our conversations.  Text lines will explode along the piney woods South corridor as we exchange updates.

Derek and Chelsea Bentley, two of my dearest friends from Athens, came in town for a stretch.  Chelsea's sister Jenna graduated this past weekend with a masters from UT (!), so the whole family descended upon Austin.  This is last Thursday during a Bloody-Mary-ed lunch at Juan in a Million.  Spending time with them has made me realize what a family of friends (oxymoronic on purpose, that turn of phrase) I have back in Georgia and how excited I am to exist alongside them again.  Cheers! 

My last day of food service...I hope ever.  Enough said.  My boss stuck this piece of masking tape on my shirt as I left.  She didn't realize quite how symbolic it was.  I loved the concept so much I put it on my steering wheel.

Clive Bar at about 1am.  Mini Athens reunion. 

 The munchkin outside in the sun.  She is growing and growing.  I suspect she senses that I'm leaving, because she's been lovingly clingy as of late.  Skype will be our friend this summer.  

I call these "coffee afternoons with the pops."  I know my dad is sad to see me headed back four states away.  We've been spending a lot of time together, mostly at coffee shops just chatting.  It's relaxing and comforting.  I'm going to miss seeing him all the time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer comes to multiply.

I stole that title from Bon Iver ("Babies," from the EP Blood Bank).  They've finally got a new and self-titled album out in June (, if you know how to get your hands on it and won't feel too guilty, wink wink).

This summer I return to my campus.  I've been off a college campus for one calendar year now.  After eight years ON them, that was a huge change.  I realize I belong on one.  Because it's truly the only place where it's always, always okay to be carrying tons of books, or drink five cups of coffee in one afternoon, or sit out on a lawn with your shoes off while you try to write.  There's a line from Vampire Weekend's debut album: "In the afternoon, you're out on the stone and grass.  And I'm sleeping on the balcony after class."  I guess I feel like that's been a big chunk of my life--lying on the stone and grass.

Here's to a burned-up-hot Georgia summer, going flipflop-less on campus, and the many, many esoteric conversations to be had over whiskey or sushi or various brunch items (all at different times, of course).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I have a like button.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

trimming the fat, pulling teeth

Or I could call this post: How to make history exciting for college kids.

I don't know when I started calling them "kids."  Maybe when I'd spent enough time in front of a classroom feeling the generational gap between myself and eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds widen like an old man's waist.  You'd think that six, eight years wouldn't be long enough for a complete disconnection.  I'm in my twenties, I'm young, I like to think I'd rather...hip.  Okay, that made me sound old.

The thing is, I exited high school on the cusp of the world we live in now.  I didn't have a cell phone until my freshman year of college, when my father finally succumbed to my begging as well as my (excellent) reasoning that he'd worry less about me away at school if I had a phone on me at all times.  The students I'll be teaching this summer, they got cell phones when they hit high school (if not before, sadly).  I didn't buy a laptop until my second year of grad school, just four years ago.  Before then, I made do with a desktop that would seem clunky now.  Believe it or not, I had a dial-up connection at my downtown apartment in Athens in 2007.  My little generation, those of us that are in our mid and late twenties now, we saw the future coming.  But it was expensive and cumbersome.  We did and still prefer buying regular books.  We were taught that the library held all our answers, not the internet.  Our attention spans are a bit longer.  We had to GO gather information for book reports and research papers.  Etc.

Over the last couple of months, I've been brainstorming how to make my course--The History of the American South--streamlined in such a way that makes it palatable for my students but also chocked full of surprise and easily accessible depth.  Here are a few tactics I've come up with:

-I'm starting off the semester by juxtaposing "the boring" history with a more modern take on it all.  The first day of class, I will present my students with my "ultimate southern history music playlist"--something I concocted and posted on here last summer.  It spans the whole twentieth century, highlighting popular songs that, either on purpose or accidentally, shed light on the southern experience or how the South is perceived in broader culture.  We'll watch youtube clips if we have to that day.  I want these kids to know that the ideas about where they come from, whether their own or someone else's, color their world and invade their mind every day.  What is heritage, exactly?  What is the southern mind?  Is it mint juleps and seersucker (which some of these Georgia undergrads own for their frat party wardrobes), or is it chicken-fried steak, boiled cabbage, and bare feet?  Obviously it's both.  I'll hit them with this trendier approach, looking at songs like Neil Young's "Alabama" and Outkast's "Rosa Parks," and then two days later ask them to sink their eye-teeth into a heavy article by historian Mart Stewart about life in colonial Savannah (published in 1991).  They've got to learn to mix the two mediums more.  That's what we all need more of again--less New York Times on demand in blurbs, more time sitting down with pages on a table.

-I'm going to show them the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?" and ask them to explain it to me.

-I'm going to take them on a mini-field trip around Athens, a scavenger hunt of sorts, and demand they identify the historic places in their own town that hold deeper meaning.  Athens is small, but it's old.  The mansions in Cobbham, the buildings on Main Campus, the strips downtown that used to house primarily black-owned's all there in close quarters for them to re-look at.

If I have one goal for the summer, it's to trim the fat off the history they think they know (in other words, forget spending a whole day talking about the battle of Gettysburg, instead we'll talk about how the Civil War is represented in modern culture and whether public history has gotten it right) and get them away from their ipads for a few minutes at a time.

PS (And I'm sure this will warrant a dedicated blog post once I have time to fully process it.)  Don't even get me started on Mike Huckabee's new "history" website for kids (  The first "lesson"?  "The Reagan Revolution" DVD for $9.99.  Worst moment?  When a black man wearing a t-shirt with the word "disco" on it tries to mug a kiddie time traveler--because, you know, it's 1977 and the country has got to pot solely because of disco-dancing, knife-wielding youths.

May I vomit?  This man must be stopped.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Austin, Texas, I feel like writing you a love letter. Our time has passed too quickly, like those lightning bugs I chased down a hill in Florence a year ago. Sighs all around. But it's not too sad, really, because I'll be back soon and a lot. And who knows, maybe UT will act smart and post a job search next year...for a history professor well-versed in all things southern and revolutionary.

Right now I'm back in nomad-mode, prepping for another epic roadtrip across the South. This means:

-finally tossing these dusty boxes full of random paperwork and forgotten items I will probably never miss.

-getting better gas mileage because, revelation, they've been hanging out in the trunk of my Highlander for a year.

-spending as much time as possible with Miss Eleanor. She's getting tall. And she's talking. And she's starting to play house and hold my hand when we walk and snicker with real irony in her little eyes. I will miss her so much.

-on the topic of mileage...getting as much out of my last few weeks here as I possibly can. I've got a metaphorical last tank left for now, and I need it to last and be great. Every day I continue to meet people here who amaze me. Just when I think I've set a new standard for great people in my life...boom, it gets shattered and one-upped again. Austin is like that.

More to come as I move back Georgia-way, renew my deep-South roots, and continue to battle my rounds with twenty-something angst.