Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Walter Sullivan

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2006 at 4:44 PM

Walter Sullivan is dead. For more than 50 years he taught American literature and creative writing at Vanderbilt and became in the fullness of his time one of the great story-tellers of Vanderbilt's past. Legions of students who passed through his modern novels course will remember him reading the final passage from The Great Gatsby—"commensurate to his capacity for wonder"—setting the book down and saying, "Isn't that marvelous?" And when he said it, you believed it. He said that about a lot of things, actually, for he loved Conrad and Faulkner (of course) and O'Connor and Taylor, and all the rest.

He was a mild mannered and a very kind man, though he would sometimes ruffle the feathers of the great and the would-be great. He wrote an excellent biography of Allen Tate, for example, which did not endear him to that acerbic old man.

Perhaps his most interesting book, his last, is Nothing Gold Can Stay in which many of the great characters who passed through the Vanderbilt English Department get their stories told in Sullivan's wry and perceptive voice. Who else could have written humorously but kindly about having to haul the drunken James Dickey out of a bar so that he could trudge over to Underwood Auditorium and give a reading? Walter made Dickey sound like a champion.

Walter was also devoted to the old Episcopal liturgy, in which religious conviction and fine literature were so closely bound. He would say—and he was right—that the "old" prayer book was the language of Shakespeare and had a power, like Bach's, to raise religious feeling beyond itself. Sullivan fought tirelessly against the new "Green Book" with which the liturgy was changed into more modern dress in the 1970s. When it appeared that the old rite was passing, Walter and several other saddened Christ Episcopal parishoners left to form an Anglican communion where they felt their spiritual needs were better served. And who's to say they were wrong.

All of what I've just said comes from today's immediate memories, and it's certainly incomplete and perhaps inaccurate, but at the end of his life Walter would probably say, as he did at the close of so many of his classes, "Well, there you are."

fish on a popemobile!

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2006 at 11:39 AM

Somebody should make a movie about some sort of vicious creature attacking people aboard a method of mass transportation. Until that happy day, we'll have the Blanks on a Blank contest, sponsored by Austin's awesome Alamo Drafthouse. Competing teams of filmmakers drew randomly generated creatures and wheeled conveyances, then made their own terrifying high-concept thriller. Behold the terror of "Tarantulas on a Hovercraft" and "Sloths on a Tank!"

Many thanks to Freddy Tiffany for the tip.


Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2006 at 10:52 AM

Can you make it look like you're really, really busy working at your terminal? Hey, that was pretty convincing! Now you can safely spend the rest of the day with one of the summer's coolest time-wasters: Professor Julius Kelp's Endless Summer Chemistry Test, the sharpest movie quiz ever named for the Jerry Lewis character in The Nutty Professor.

Actually, it's less a quiz than a surprisingly thought-provoking questionnaire. "What movie have you encouraged more people to see than any other? Is it possible to know with any certainty if you could like or love someone based partially on their taste in movies? If so, what film might be a potential relationship deal-breaker for you, or the one that might just seal that deal?" Then there's also this no-brainer: "George Clooney or Matt Damon?"

I found this via The ScreenGrab, the excellent blog Bilge Ebiri runs over at Without Bilge's tip, I'd never have found the site hosting the Summer Chemistry Test: Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, which would make a great title someday for Randy Horick's autobiography.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Caring for Grandma

Posted By on Tue, Aug 15, 2006 at 2:29 PM

The City Paper reports today that the executive director of the Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board, Rod Wolfe, has resigned his postition. The resignation comes on the heels of revelations of severe neglect and abuse at the veterans nursing homes in Murfreesboro and Humboldt. Which raises the question once again: How bad are Tennessee's other nursing homes, and is anybody minding the store? After all, 70% of the cost of care in private Tennessee nursing homes is paid for with taxpayer dollars through financially strapped TennCare.

Coincidentally, Consumers Union released a report last month on the quality of nursing home care in Tennessee. Two Nashville homes are on its "avoid" list for a variety of health reasons. The homes are the HQM of Nashville facility on McCampbell Road and the Belcourt Terrace Nursing Home at 1710 Belcourt Avenue. The full list can be found on the CU website.

These deficient homes are not aberrations. The Tennessee Department of Health reports that approximately 15% of Tennessee nursing homes provide care which is "sub-standard" or which places residents in "immediate jeopardy."

Not surprisingly, the Department of Health declined to answer Consumers Union's questions.

Pursed Lips

Posted By on Tue, Aug 15, 2006 at 2:03 PM

Mary Winkler, accused of murdering her minister husband, is out of jail.

I'm not sure if it's a quote pulled out of context or just a weird thing to say, but her attorney, according to the article, said: "She will have to get used to carrying a purse again. She mentioned that today."

Monday, August 14, 2006


Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2006 at 5:27 PM

As reported in today's New York Times, some fundamentalist Christian groups are getting downright turned on about the bloodshed between Israel and Hezbollah. For reasons only they can understand, "the rapture" is near, and they're ready.

Try or one of the representative blogs and you'll find stuff like: "I have been having rapture dreams and I can't believe that this is really it!" Otherwise you'll find the usual stuff about the evils of Islam: "The evil-tolerant, liberal-minded, turban-hugging people in this country have been blinded by Satan himself...."

A Clothed Trent is the Best Trent

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2006 at 1:54 PM

Mr. Wylie beat me to it, but for those of you who haven't stopped by Nashville Files in the last little bit, he reports that the city's most endearing ink-stained degenerate is going the way of Brad Schmitt—leaving The Tennessean for WKRN-Channel 2. That would be political writer Trent Seibert, notorious for his nudist colony piece in Denver, when he was photographed with nothing but his teensy weensy pad. Seibert, who's got contract in hand, has been tapped to become the station's top investigative reporter. Hand it to Channel 2 GM Mike Sechrist for casting the net and trying some things. (Note to Seibert's bosses: you didn't think he wore that tie and dark suit last week to interview Frank Buck, did you?)

"I Sent You The Link"

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2006 at 8:21 AM

Yes, it's a song about blogging:

Sprites - I Started A Blog Nobody Read

It may hit a little close to home.

(Via Catbirdseat).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Fragile Selves

Posted By on Sun, Aug 13, 2006 at 8:40 PM

The following was written by an anonymous mental patient as part of a hospital poetry/therapy program.

Whenever I See Children

Whenever I see children,
Inclining their mild faces,
Enchanted at their play,

Floating in the dappled
Light along the tangled
Garden wall, I tremble

For their futures and wonder
At the fates which, even
Now, corrupt and bruise

Their fragile selves. We know
We cannot warn them. But might
They understand it even

Now? Might they sense
Already the tangled growth
Around them and play in an

Insistent dread: their lives
Are not their own?
Blessing be upon them

For wisdom and for courage
To face their fated futures
And the darkness still to come.

Friday, August 11, 2006

We Endorse Neither Vandalism Nor Self-Loathing

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2006 at 11:37 AM


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