Memorable Monday: Happy Labor Day [2021]!

Well, it’s another Labor Day here in the States, and I couldn’t be happier.  Last week was a slog, but a productive one—I managed to get caught up on all grading and even get a good bit of writing done, even though I was suffering from a gnarly head cold.  Hopefully by the time you read this I am on the mend.  I’ll have spent the weekend enjoying some rest and relaxation in Athens, Georgia, with my girlfriend and our dogs.

It being Labor Day, I’m going to observe the holiday in the spirit intended, and keep enjoying the rest.  That means some glorious reblogging today, looking back past Labor Day posts.

Labor Day has always been a pleasant holiday early in the academic year—the symbolic end of summer, and a chance to catch one’s breath before the mad dash to Thanksgiving.  It also seems to usher in the “spooky” season building up to Halloween.

As a child, we used to attend a massive Labor Day picnic my childhood church hosted every year at a campground in a rural portion of Aiken County.  I loved that picnic, especially the opportunity to explore the woods with a fried chicken leg in my hand.  It was a chance to play at being an adventurer, while still indulging in my beloved childhood obesity.

I’m not sure if there will be any picnicking today, but I can assure you I’ll be eating something decadent and unhealthy.  With that, here is “Memorable Monday IV: Happy Labor Day [2020]!“:

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Neverending Summer

Yesterday photog over at Orion’s Cold Fire wrote a piece, “The End of Summer,” in which he noted that 1 September marks a psychological shift in our perceptions of the seasons, and even though summer doesn’t officially end until later in the month—and the unofficial end is Labor Day—we tend to associate September broadly with the coming of autumn.

He also goes on to make a lot of important points about the return of political commentary, which historically wanes in the carefree summer months; the continued flight of the middle classes from lawless urban centers; and the general skepticism most Americans hold towards our institutions, which we can no longer trust.  They’re great points and worth considering, but I want to focus on summertime.

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TBT: Catching Up

It’s been a week for playing catch up after the long weekend of moving, and I’m driving to pick up Murphy today.  Since getting back to South Carolina Monday, it’s been a blur of teaching lessons, dog-proofing the house, and painting (I’ve finally stripped the old lady wallpaper and have put on a nice coat of a yellowish paint I picked up at Lowe’s from the discount rack for $9).  Thank goodness it’s summertime, so I have plenty of time in the mornings to take care of things around the house and run errands.

That’s what I will miss most about summer:  the work-life balance.  Teaching a few hours of music lessons two or three afternoons a week, with some Town Council work sprinkled in for good measure, has been glorious.  Instead of waking up at 6 AM and rushing through the same morning routine, I’m able to rise at a more stately 7:30 or 8 AM; take my coffee and breakfast; and leisurely settle into a morning of writing, gardening, cleaning, or the like.

I understand why people work so many years to retire:  not having to rush into work is amazing!  I’m blessed to have a gig where I can live like a retired person for two months out of the year.  That doesn’t mean I’ve just been sitting around the house in my underwear (uh, well, not too much); if anything, I’ve been even more productive, because I’m not constantly exhausted.

That said, I still have some catching up to do on this blog—and around the house!—and an old pup to pick up.  So with that, here’s 27 July 2020’s “Catching Up“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List

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.

It’s that time of year again:  summer!  That means we’re due for The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2021!

After publishing the list a bit later than usual last year, I’ve decided that the list should be a midsummer event—just in time for Independence Day.

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:

With that, here’s The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2021:

1.) Thomas Harris, Hannibal (1999) – I recently wrote a review of the novel Silence of the Lambs, the second book in a series containing the charismatic, devilish cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  I very much enjoyed the novel, but having seen the film, I already knew many of the plot points.  That did not diminish the quality of the novel—Thomas Harris is an exquisitely descriptive writer—but it did take away some of the thrill.  The point of a good thriller is to be constantly in a state of suspense; when one already knows the major plot points, that sense of suspenseful uncertainty is diminished.

As such, I was quite excited to read Hannibal, the third installment in what might be called Harris’s “Hannibal Cycle.”  I did not know any of this story going in, beyond some whispers about the outcome of the magnet relationship between Dr. Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling.  The book takes place seven years after the events of Silence of the Lambs, with Dr. Lecter on the loose and living secretly as an academic in Florence, Italy.

Meanwhile, one of Dr. Lecter’s former victims, pig tycoon and sadist Mason Verger, has put a hefty bounty on Dr. Lecter’s head, and employs a ruthless team of Sardinian kidnappers—and a corrupt, disgraced Italian cop—to hunt down the fugitive.

Tossed into the mix is Clarice Starling, who finds herself increasingly disillusioned with the bureaucracy and careerism present in the upper echelons of the FBI and the Department of Justice.  Her mentor, Jack Crawford, is creeping towards retirement, and is no longer the robust agent he once was.  Meanwhile, a lecherous deputy attorney general—working hand-in-glove with Verger—sets about destroying Starling’s reputation at the Bureau, both to undermine her search for Dr. Lecter, and because she rebuffed his sexual advances.

Whereas Silence of the Lambs portrayed the FBI glowingly as a competent, professional organization with the means and tenacity to track down the slipperiest serial killers, Hannibal resonates much more with the modern reality of the FBI—a venal, corrupt organization that, rather than solving actual crimes, uses its power to oppress and harass law-abiding citizens.  The corruption on display, with highly-placed government officials attempting to advance their professional and political careers by working with wealthy scumbags, rings true.  In the eleven years between writing Silence and Hannibal, it appears Harris had a real change of heart.

Overall, I can highly recommend Hannibal.  Be warned that it is a long read, with 103 chapters and around 560 pages, but it’s rarely a slog and always a chilling pleasure.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Adventures in Gardening: Building a Frog Pond

With the unlimited free time of summer, I can finally get some work done in the yard.  I’ve finally transplanted my potted tomatoes and peppers into my flower beds—probably way too late—after getting up weeds this weekend.  I need to get out with the weed trimmer soon to get the edges of the house and around the grapevines and fig tree, but the beds are looking good, if a bit bare.

While pulling weeds Saturday, my girlfriend’s dog started nosing at a little frog—possibly a toad—hopping around in one of the rocky beds along the side of the house (I thought it might be a gopher frog, but now I think it’s more likely a Southern toad; if anyone can tell from the video, please leave a comment):

I get quite a few of our amphibian friends around the house, often hiding out in planters and shady spots in the yard.  After the Spooktacular in October, I found quite a few hunkering down inside of the ceramic and red clay Jack O’Lanterns and votives I had on the porch.

Indeed, one morning I found one chilling on my toilet seat!  I sucked him into my vacuum’s canister and emptied him safely outside.

I have always loved frogs (just not when they’re hanging out in my bathroom), and I’m delighted that so many of them live around my house.  In doing some research on frogs and toads in South Carolina, I stumbled upon a WikiHow article entitled “How to Make a Frog Home in a Garden.”

Given my free time and desire to spruce up the yard, I jumped at the opportunity to put together a small frog pond of my own, which I installed Wednesday.

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Lazy Sunday CXIX: Summer Camps

Well, my two summer camps for the season are all wrapped up, so the rest of summer vacation is a combination of private music lessons, blogging, gardening, and loafing around the house.  I’ll also get in some family time, and will help schlep my girlfriend’s stuff to Athens.  I hope to get a little fiction writing done in there, too.

With my camps done for the summer, I thought I’d dedicate this Sunday to looking back at some posts about my various summertime endeavors:

That’s it for this Lazy Sunday!  Take a moment to leave a comment about your favorite summer camp.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Summertime Schedule Begins

After a long school year and a whirlwind trip to Universal Studios, I am finally settling into my summertime schedule.  My History of Conservative Thought course did not “make” this summer, as I only had one student enroll (the course really needs a minimum of three students to work well), but my dance card is full enough with lessons and other obligations and engagements.

Next week I’ll be running my first ever “Rock and Roll Camp” at my little school.  It will essentially be a condensed version of the Music Ensemble class I run throughout the school year, squeezed into four three-hour days.  The plan is to end the final day with a short concert.  I’m waiting to hear back on who is enrolled and what kind of instrumentation we have, as that will determine the song selections, but I think it will should be a fun camp.

After that it’s the return of Minecraft Camp, a perennial favorite.  At last count I have either ten or eleven campers signed up for that camp, which is quite good.  Minecraft Camp is the most lucrative camp of the summer, and accounts for a good chunk of my supplemental income this time of year.  I missed out on it last year, as I was very sick, so here’s hoping I’m good to go this summer.

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Back to Universal Studios Again; Summer Vacation Updates

I’m back in Orlando, Florida, for another trip to Universal Studios.  Tomorrow’s SubscribeStar Saturday will likely be late again, but Lazy Sunday should be good to go.  I’ll post in a bit more detail about our adventures down here later on.

Next week I’ll be making up last week’s SubscribeStar Saturday and tomorrow’s in great detail.  Apologies to subscribers for the delays.  Even though it’s now summer vacation, those final teacher workdays were doozies, with a flurry of end-of-the-year items to complete, not least of all accurate report card grades and comments.

It looks like this summer’s run of History of Conservative Thought will be cancelled, unfortunately, due to low enrollment (one student signed up—d’oh!).  It actually works out, though, as I’m hitting a whopping ten students for private music lessons over the summer.  If everyone continues into the next academic year, I’ll have twelve students in total during the school year—the highest ever.

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Gig Day V: TJC Spring Jam

After seven long months, it’s time for another front porch concert!  Following the success of Spooktacular II, I decided I should try the format twice a year:  the classic Halloween event, and a springtime one.  Thus, the TJC Spring Jam is born!

Halloween is easy, because it comes packaged with all sorts of fun activities:  Halloween songs, costume contests, spooky décor, etc.  A generic springtime theme is a bit more vague, and with it already feeling like summer here in South Carolina, the theme presented some initial problems.

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