Not sure when I learned about the Enneagram, but almost immediately after I did I knew I was a Five. However flawed and subjective it is, I’ve found it to be a good model for understanding human nature as an individual and in relationship with others. Plus it’s easier to remember than the Myers-Briggs.
Discovering the Enneagram podcast Typology reignited my interest in it. (I’ve liked the episodes with Rob Bell, Shauna & Aaron Niequist, and the panel of Fives especially.)
It was through the podcast I learned Ryan O’Neal of the band Sleeping At Last is writing a song about every Enneagram number, as part of his ambitious Atlas project. He’s done One and Two thus far, and they are exceptionally beautiful.
I didn’t realize I had a reputation. At a wedding recently, the bride and groom told me one of the things they were looking forward to the most was my air drumming. They had seen it in action at a previous wedding and had enjoyed it so much that they decided they would make time at their own wedding reception to watch me perform and even participate themselves.
Humbled though I was, I didn’t set out to be a beloved wedding reception air drummer. Out on those shiny faux wooden dance floors, air music is all I can do. Because I can’t really dance—aside from the slow-dance swaying that hasn’t improved much since middle school—my strategy for participating in reception dancing is to pretend to play the music well enough to appear united with the exuberant, sweaty throng of guests who are actually dancing.
This doesn’t happen at every reception. The right combination of people I know, complete strangers, and alcohol have to be in place for this very particular set of skills to be unleashed.
- people I know, I wouldn’t have the comfort of a supportive home base in which to air-boogie;
- complete strangers I know I’ll never see again, I wouldn’t be OK with making a fool of myself;
- and alcohol and the liquid courage it provides, I wouldn’t be dancing in front of strangers and people I know at all.
Until I learn one day how to go beyond the simple side-to-side two-stepping many tall, lanky, self-conscious white dudes like myself resort to under dance duress, air drumming will have to do.
And you know what? I enjoy it. I’m good at it. Though I tend to stick to drumming because I was a drummer before anything else, my air talents aren’t limited to the percussive arts. I’ll thrown down a mean air rhythm guitar, string, horn, or bass line too, and make it look good. Any palooka can flail around pretending to play “Don’t Stop Believin'”; it takes a true air instrument craftsman to accurately mime the crunchy guitars in “Party in the USA” or the synth solo in “Shut Up and Dance”.
There are at least two weddings on the docket for me next summer, so I have a few months to get back into air shape. Once I am, you’ll find me out there again, planted in my air power stance—knees bent, left foot forward, leaning back slightly, and doing my part to keep the party going.
About a year ago I got into the habit of listening to new episodes of the 99% Invisible podcast on Tuesday nights, on my way home from my late night at work. Most episodes are about the length of my drive home. Cruising through dark and empty streets, weary from the day, I revel in the soft baritone of Roman Mars’ narration and delightful diversity of stories—“Dollhouses of St. Louis” and “Oyster-tecture” being recent gems. It’s a ritual I didn’t intentionally create but has nevertheless become an indispensable part of my week.
What about you? Do you have any accidental routines you’d suffer without?
“What is truth?” — Pontius Pilate
“Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.” — Thomas Jefferson
“Truth is Difficult. Difficult to attain, and difficult to deliver. Truth is difficult to attain because the world is complicated; the further you go, the weirder it gets. Unwillful untruth is just ignorance and is to be overcome, like a river in one’s path or a sore muscle. Willful untruth is the telling of lies; it should be fought with passion and without mercy, ripped flesh from bones and left to rot in the cold light of day.” — Tim Bray
“All wisdom ends in paradox.” — Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides
This is my alarm clock. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
As I was adjusting it last night for daylight saving time, it dawned on me that I’ve been using it for at least fifteen years. Most people probably use their smartphone alarm, but I don’t unless I’m away from home. I don’t even keep it in my room.
This alarm clock is one of many objects I’ve had for a long time and have kept using despite the availability of more modern options. There’s also my orange jacket, acquired at a Salvation Army in Missouri about fifteen years ago as well, which if you’ve seen me in the fall or winter you have most likely seen.
These objects started as mere tools, but they are good and simple enough to go on dependably doing their jobs, so they gradually became the architecture of my life. They are nearly invisible to me, assumed and expected, until a dead battery or a frayed stitch alert me anew to their existence and need for care.
Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up asks us to thank our stuff before we dispose of it. I don’t want to wait until my alarm clock dies or my jacket disintegrates or gets lost to appreciate their small but abiding roles in what is now half of my life.
So thanks, jacket. Thanks, alarm clock. There are many like you, but you two are mine.
Spotted this sign on a run through a lakeshore park. “Dogs” and “litter” came after, but feel free to fill in the blank with better words.
Or just leave it as is and use it as a maxim for life.
Who’s ready for a grammatical crusade of pedantic proportions?! Get in on this: It’s time to standardize English comparative and superlative adjectives.
Those are used when you are comparing one or more things. For example, a banana can be big, bigger, or biggest. The -er and -est progression is common and used for most adjectives. The ones that don’t use -er and -est typically use more ___ and most ___, as in more beautiful and most beautiful. But why?
Beautifuller and beautifullest actually have a nice flow and even become accidental portmanteaus, combining beautiful and fullest. Even longer adjectives can work: extraordinarier is quite fun to say, and comfortablest sneaks in the archaic spelling of blessed.
In a previous post, I wanted to write about something that was the next level up from vibrant. The “correct” version would be more vibrant, but is vibranter any worse? (Or badder?) It may look and sound odd, but only because the brain has been trained to expect more vibrant. There’s no reason why vibranter can’t be acceptable, especially in a language as flexible as English.
I’m fully aware that English is a strange and stubbornly idiosyncratic language. I love it for that. (You should see the list of interesting words I keep just for fun.) But it’s also an amenable language, subject to evolution over a long time or by brute force.
So let’s make it happen: no more more, avoid most to the utmost, and let those -ers and -ests fly!
“Take care and keep in touch.” My grandma Helen would close every letter she sent to me with that phrase. They were also the final words I said to her on Sunday, before she died yesterday at the age of 92.
After slowly declining for years, she took a turn for the worse this weekend. Jenny and I had already made plans to visit Madison for other reasons, but suddenly there was only one. Hospice was called, other family flew in. She was breathing but unresponsive, opening her eyes only rarely and smiling at whoever was there—that’s Helen for you—but then quickly fading again. We kept watch over her and made sure she was comfortable as we reminisced and discussed what to do with all of her things when the time came. She had moved thrice since leaving Texas after her husband of 63 years died, each time winnowing more and more things.
It was in her first Madison apartment where I began recording my conversations with her. These interviews, which I transcribed along with interviews of her family and friends, became a family oral history of her life. I compiled it into a book and gave her a printed copy for Christmas 2013. She never stopped thanking me for it. She also kept telling people that I wrote it, but I couldn’t get her to realize that I didn’t write it at all. It was her life—and such a life—as told by the people she loved and who loved her.
“Take care and keep in touch.” I could barely speak the words to her as I held her hand for the final time. She meant those words, because she lived them. She made a long life out of caring for people and staying in touch: birthday cards, phone calls about the latest family happenings, letters of encouragement and descriptions of the weather (always the weather).
Jenny and I made dobbins last night in honor of her. If you’ve ever had a Dobbin (or mound bars as she called them), you know Helen. They are her recipe and trademark within the family. Like her, they are sweet but powerful, and you can’t get enough of them. They are also the theme of one of the last emails she sent to me:
I love you too.
Some fun stuff I’ve been enjoying lately:
“This Machine Kills Fascists” Pencils
From Frog & Toad Press in Rhode Island, which has several other colorfully messaged pencils and other goodies available.
Library Extension for Chrome
Not sure where I found out about this, but I’ve been digging it thus far not only with my personal browsing but for work as well. The wizards behind this extension, which will show you if a book you’re browsing on Goodreads or Amazon is in your local library catalog, were very quick to fix an error I pointed out, and seem to be fast overall with adding new libraries by request. I asked them if functionality with CDs and DVDs could be added, and they said it’s possible in a future release.
Library Life sticker pack for iPhone Messages (via TILT)
I mean, when isn’t it appropriate to use emojis like these?