Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part II: “The Personality Cult”

Today’s short story selection, Michael Noonan‘s “The Personality Cult,” comes from Terror House Magazine, an alternative online literary journal that publishes some excellent works from newer authors (although, it should be cautioned, they publish anything, including pieces that are borderline smut; browse with care).  Indeed, two of my Inspector Gerard stories will appear there later this month.  I’ve been reading Terror House Magazine for a couple of years now, and have been impressed with the gems they publish.  “The Personality Cult” is one such precious stone.

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part I: “Black Tancrède”

It’s another glorious Spring Break for yours portly, which means it’s time to whip out some classic tales of ghostly spookiness.  This week I’m working my way through Chilling Ghost Stories, edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz, published in March 2020.  It’s a collection that was clearly compiled for the bargain section at Barnes & Nobles, with a list price of just $10 for 471 pages of medium-sized print chills (I picked it up for $8 plus tax thanks to my handy Educator’s Discount card).  The stories were written from 1893 to 1929, with today’s selection, Henry S. Whitehead‘s “Black Tancrède,” being the latest.

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Brief Monday Morning Update

Last week was an exceptionally busy one for yours portly, with a number of duties and responsibilities intersecting at once.  I’m sure many readers have noticed this phenomenon, but there is a decidedly cyclical nature to workflow; indeed, it’s almost tidal in the manner it ebbs and flows:  I can go for two or three weeks enjoying a fairly placid schedule, only to have a couple of weeks of intense activity.  Everything seems to come to a head at the same time.

That’s particularly true in education, a field that is structurally cyclical, with regular intervals of heightened activity baked into the calendar.  The third quarter ended Friday, marking the beginning of the end of the school year (fourth quarter—that last, mad dash to summer vacation—starts today).  That means last week was a flurry of finalizing grades and writing report card comments.

My school requires unique, individualized comments for every student, and though we teach (on average) fewer students than the typical public school teacher, we’re expected to go above and beyond.  Because my colleagues and I were scolded as a group for comments deemed inadequate (for the record, I always write exceptional comments), I decided to double-down and write even more ridiculously detailed comments.  Our registrar read through them Friday morning (after I worked furiously and late into the night Thursday to finish them before the weekend) and said, “I felt like I was reading a novella.”  Mission accomplished.

That’s all to say that I’m very tired, so I thought this Monday would be a good opportunity to offer some brief updates.

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TBT: The Boogie Woogie Flu

In looking back at posts from March 2020, it’s wild how many of my posts were about two plagues on humanity:  the Democratic Party primaries and The Virus.  What’s particularly interesting is how those posts—including the one below—still assumed that life would begin returning to normal after two weeks; after all, we were all promised “two weeks to flatten the curve,” and now we’re living under perpetual public health tyranny.

Amidst all of that plague talk, I penned a short post about the Strasbourg “Dancing Plague” of 1518.  After being told to vegetate indoors for a year, I’m beginning to think a mystery plague that causes hysterical dancing might be preferable to the foolishness we’re enduring at present.

But I’ll keep the preamble brief and let the post do the talking.  Here is 23 March 2020’s “The Boogie Woogie Flu“:

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Memorable Monday: Happy MLK Day 2019 – Suggested Reading

It’s another Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States, which means another day off for those of us in the cushier fields (in my case, education).  As I wrote in last year’s MLK Day post, it’s a holiday “that feels like an excuse to have a little taste of the recently-departed Christmas holiday.”  I went on in the post to contend that

Contra the whole “make it a day ON” virtue-signalers, [MLK Day] really is the perfect day to crank up the heat, brew some coffee, and enjoy reading with some fried eggs (over medium, please) and toast (and, for us Southerners, a hearty helping of grits).  It’s one of the last taste[s] of the hygge before the warm weather creeps back in (which occurs sometime in late February or early March here in South Carolina).

Here’s to the hygge, my friends.  In the spirit of wintry coziness and relaxation, I decided to look back to my first MLK Day post from 2019, which offered up some suggested reading.  Some of the suggestions I made are a bit dated, like the Conrad Black piece on Brexit, while others are solid perennially (such as photog’s reviews of The Twilight Zone).

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Here is January 2019’s very brief “Happy MLK Day 2019 – Suggested Reading“:

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, TPP readers!  I don’t have a full post today, just this quick message wishing you all a happy and safe day off (for those of you fortunate enough to be off).  Last Monday’s post about race would probably have been better saved for today, so feel free to go back and read it.

If you’re looking for some good reading on your day off, check out my list of favorite writers, or my old 2016 Summer Reading List.  In case you missed it, I’d also recommend this piece on Marxist infiltration in Great Britain.  And blogger photog at Orion’s Cold Fire is reviewing EVERY episode of The Twilight Zone, which is quite entertaining (read the first episode review).

Also in Great Britain/Brexit news:  Conrad Black has an optimistic piece about Brexit that I’ve yet to digest; stay tuned for analysis.

Finally, if you haven’t yet gotten around to it, check out Tucker Carlson’s 3 January 2019 monologue (a nice birthday present for yours truly).

We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled bloviating tomorrow.

agriculture barley field beautiful close up

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Phone it in Friday XV: Blogger Buddies

It’s been another crazy week, but the rhythms of the school year are beginning to fall into their familiar patterns.  That said, I’ve put in more hours working this week than any in a long time.

Regular readers know what that means:  another edition of Phone it in Friday, now reaching its fifteenth installment.

It’s been a week for shout-outs to other commentators and platforms, so I figured I’d continue with that theme and recommend some of my blogger buddies to you.  I have to give a big hat tip for this idea to one of my best blogger buddies, photog, over at Orion’s Cold Fire.  He wrote a post—“A Word of Thanks to Our Boosters“—highlighting some of those blogs that routinely link to his page or reference his writing, and yours portly made the list.  Thanks, photog!

So on this rainy, overcast Friday, here are some excellent blogs for your consideration:

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Passing of Bernard Bailyn

Last week, legendary historian of colonial America Bernard Bailyn passed away at the age of 97, making his own voyage into the next life.  Blogger buddy Gordon Sheaffer at Practically Historical wrote a brief but effective tribute to Bailyn earlier this week.

As Sheaffer wrote Monday:

No other scholar impacted the study of the American Revolution more than Bailyn. His masterwork, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, continues to challenge readers 50 years after it was published. Bailyn was able to express the unique qualities of American civilization without politicizing the history with talk of exceptionalism.

I have not read—to my great shame and discredit—The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, but I have read Bailyn’s The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction, a much shorter work that serves as an introduction to a larger study on the settlement of British North America.  The book is so good, and gives such a flavor for the various peoples that settled in the original thirteen colonies, I once assigned it as summer reading for my very first AP US History class back in 2011.  It’s an accessible book, but it was a bit much for rising high school sophomores.

That said, I’ve been searching for my copy this morning in my classroom, without any luck.  Hopefully it will turn up soon.  My dad and I were talking about Bailyn’s death, as there was a small bit about it in the newspaper, and he expressed interest in reading it.  I also wouldn’t mind rereading it, as I haven’t done so in nearly a decade.

Even so, bits of it stick out to me.  Near the end of the book, Bailyn briefly explores the odd religious sects, mostly German, that came to the colonies.  I distinctly recall him writing about a self-proclaimed prophet or sage living in a cave in Pennsylvania.  There were multiple sects and utopian movements and cults and denominations popping up in British North America during the First Great Awakening, which reached its peak sometime in the 1740s and greatly influenced the American Revolution.

In an age of toppling statues and lurid efforts to erase our national history and faith (to be replaced with… what?), Bailyn’s works take on increased importance.  Let us hope he isn’t summarily cancelled like everything else that is good, decent, and doesn’t inherently hate America.

Lazy Sunday LXX: Phone it in Fridays, Part IV

We’re rounding out the month of Phone it in Fridays this week with the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth editions.  I’ve intentionally avoided doing more PiiFs while going through them, although I’ll likely write more in the future (because they’re easy and quick), and there will likely a “Phone it in Fridays, Part V” at some point (because it’s easy and quick).

Like last week’s installment, The Virus cast a long, sickly shadow over these entries.  For a time, that’s pretty much all bloggers and the commentariat were discussing, to the point that it got boring and tiresome.  We also settled into our oppressive new normal like slowly boiling frogs, and now every trip to the grocery store looks like a Japanese subway station.

Here are Phone it in Fridays X, XI, and XII:

  • Phone it in Friday X: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part III: Working from Home” – One of the silver linings of The Age of The Virus was teaching from home.  At least, I quite enjoyed it—virtually all of my colleagues hated it.  I’m fortunate to teach in a field (History) that is easy to port to an online format, and I’ve been teaching online since 2015, so I have a good sense for the kind of feedback and communication necessary to make distance learning smoother for students (and myself).  This post had me musing about the future of work, and my hopes that we’d see more white-collar work done from home.
  • Phone it in Friday XI: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part IV: Liberty in the Age of The Virus” – One of the more astonishing aspects of the lockdowns, quarantines, shelter-in-place orders, mask ordinances, etc., was the ready compliance of most Americans to shutting down their lives.  I think everyone was copacetic to the “two weeks to flatten the curve” mantra, but that two weeks turned into “indefinite oppression because we said so.”  As cases have shot up in South Carolina, even our more conservative municipalities have put mask ordinances into place, albeit relatively mild, with tons of exemptions.  Had I won my that Town Council election on Tuesday, I would have voted against any such ordinances, on the grounds that a.) law enforcement doesn’t need to waste their time enforcing the unenforceable—and the non-criminal, and b.) mature adults and individual businesses in a free society can make their own best decisions about masks, etc.  Regardless, we all seemed to forget about the Constitution the minute a plague hit—unlike our plague-ridden ancestors.
  • Phone it in Friday XII: Good Reads” – The point of PiiF is to churn out some quick content on Fridays when I’m ready to relax for the weekend.  This PiiF ended up being one of the longest ones yet.  I read a ton of blogs every day, schedule-permitting, so I come across some good stuff from time to time.  This post shared great pieces from Rachel Fulton Brown, Z Man, and photog.

That’s it!  Twelve Fridays in one month of Sundays.  Lots of numbers divisible by 2 and 3 there.  I hope these PiiFs brought some joy to your life.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.  NEW TIER: $3 a month gets one edition of Sunday Doodles every month!

It’s that time of year again:  summer!  That means we’re due for The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020!

I’m actually a bit overdue for this list.  I typically publish it in early June, to give those of you blessed to enjoy summer vacation a chance to look them up.  But my long illness for the first couple of weeks of the month waylaid a number of plans, and last weekend I was occupied with family festivities, so the list is a few weeks later than I like.

But, like Sunday Doodles—a perk for $5 a month subscribers—my philosophy is “better late than never!”  And with the Independence Day holiday approaching, it’s a great time to do some reading.

For new readers, my criteria is pretty straightforward.  To quote myself from the 2016 list:

The books listed here are among some of my favorites.  I’m not necessarily reading them at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Pretty vague, I know.  Additionally, I usually feature three books, plus an “Honorable Mention” that’s usually worth a read, too.

For those interested, here are the prior two installments:

But that’s enough yackin’.  Here’s The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020:

1.) Richard Weaver, edited by George M. Curtis, III and James J. Thompson, Jr., The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver (1999) – Regular readers know I love Richard Weaver, and I featured his masterpiece Ideas Have Consequences on the 2016 list.  The Southern Essays feature a collection of Weaver’s writings on the South.

Weaver was a literary critic and English professor at the University of Chicago, but his roots were in Asheville, North Carolina.  He possessed a deep and abiding love of and respect for Dixie, particularly its writers.  Weaver’s background in literature and poetry is evident in these essays, in which he ruminates on the abundance of prolific Southern literary types.  He also brings some nuance to the question of the American Civil War and the South’s role therein.  I believe it was in this collection that I first learned of John Randolph of Roanoke, the great, ornery Virginian who resisted federal overreach in the early nineteenth century.

Weaver’s writing can be a bit dense, but once you get used to his mid-century style, his ideas are easy enough to absorb.  I highly, highly recommend you pick up this collection.

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