Passages records the books I'm reading, the live music I'm hearing, and the movies I'm seeing. Every now and then I'll throw in a passage from a book I read a while back or a trailer from a old favorite movie. Occasionally, there is something that simply caught my eye. But most of it is what I'm reading and hearing and watching in real time.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Possible Life

She loved him, but he was not there. His absence was a wound that never ceased to seep and throb. It was absurd, she told herself. What mattered was the love they felt; whether or not they were in the same room was of no significance. It would not be long before, as physical mass, they were both decomposing underground; so what did it matter if meanwhile their bodies were in different places? How could that possibly be important?

So much did she rely on her rational brain to guide her life that she was angry when it failed her now, when no process of reason could stop her wound from aching?

Sebastian Faulks, A Possible Life (2012)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Grant-Lee Phillips: Mona Lisa

Jammin' Java, Vienna VA, 11/8/14


Yet more proof, as if you needed it, that the world would be a better place if every-damn-body didn't feel some need to reproduce. But God in his infinite wisdom had apparently thought it was an entertaining idea for us to always be wanting to get up in one another.

Also, the children were here, and what was Luce to do? You try your best to love the world despite obvious flaws in design and execution. And you take care of whatever needy things present themselves during your passage through it. Otherwise you're worthless.

Charles Frazier, Nightwoods (2011)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Take Your Eye Off The Ball

A fan should recognize that there are really four quadrants of a football field -- a team's goal line out to the 25-five yard line, from the 25-yard line to midfield, midfield to its opponent's 25-yard line, and from the 25-yard line to its opponent's goal line -- and coaches approach their play-calling differently depending on where they are on the field.

Pat Kirwan, Take Your Eye Off The Ball (2010)


D: Dan Gilroy. Jake Gylenhaal, Rene Russo (2014)

Kill The Messenger

D: Michael Cuesta. Jeremy Renner, Rosemary Dewitt (2014)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Half Has Never Been Told

One word, "stole," came to be a history -- an interpretation of the past and how it shaped the present -- from Maryland to South Carolina to Texas and everywhere in between. Enslaved people recognized that the slavery they were experiencing was shaped by the ability of whites to move African Americans' bodies wherever they wanted. Forced migration created markets that allowed whites to extract profit from human beings. It brought about a kind of isolation that permitted enslavers to use torture to extract new kinds of labor. It led to disease, hunger, and other kinds of deadly privations. So as these vernacular historians tried to make a sense of their own battered lives, the word "stole" became the core of a story that explained. It revealed what feet had to undergo, and the way the violence of separation ripped hearts open and turned hands against body and soul, these were all ultimately produced by the way enslavers were able to use property claims in order to deploy people as commodities at the entrepreneurial edge of the modern world economy.

In this critique, slaveholders were not innocent heirs of history, which is what Jefferson had made them out to be. Instead, slavery's expansion was consciously chosen, a crime with intent. Years after slavery ended, former slave Charles Grandy reflected reflected on the motives of the enslavers who had shipped him from from Virginia to New Orleans for sale. After a lifetime, he had made it back to Norfolk. Now he asked his interviewer if the young man knew the significance of the statue of the Confederate soldier that loomed on a high pillar down by the harbor. Grandy himself had once passed the statue's eventual site in the hold of a slave ship. "Know what it mean?" But the question mark was rhetorical, he already had an answer ready: it meant, he told the interviewer, "Carry the nigger down south if you want to rule him."

Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism (2014)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Zone One

The city could be restored. When they were finished it could be something of what it had been. They would force a resemblance upon it, these new citizens come to fire up the metropolis. Their new lights pricking the blackness here and there in increments until it was the old skyline again, indigenous and defiant. The new lights seeping through the black veil like beads of blood pushing through gauze until it was suffused.

Yes, he'd always wanted to live in New York.

Colson Whitehead, Zone One (2011)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rod Picott: Getting To Me

Ashland Coffee & Tea, Ashland VA, 9/10/14:

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

A false dilemma is an argument that presents a limited set of two possible categories and assumes that everything in the scope of the discussion must be an element of that set. Thus, by rejecting one category, you are forced to accept the other. For example, "In the war on fanaticism, there are no sidelines; you are either with us or with the fanatics." In reality, there is a third option, one could very well be neutral; and a fourth option, one may be against both; and even a fifth option, one may empathize with elements of both.

Ali Almossawi, An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments: Learn the Lost Art of Making Sense (2013)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Deep Song

Deep song sings like a nightingale without eyes. It sings blind, for both its words of passion and its ancient tunes are best set in the night, the blue night of our countryside. It knows neither morning nor evening, mountains nor plains. It has only the night, a wide night steeped in stars. It is song without landscape, withdrawn into itself and terrible in the dark. Deep song shoots its arrows of gold right into our heart. In the dark it is a terrifying blue archer whose quiver is never empty.

Federico Garcia Lorca, Deep Song (1929)

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I know this path by magic not by sight.

Behind me on the hillside the cottage light

is like a star that’s gone astray. The moon

is waning fast, each blade of grass a rune

inscribed by hoarfrost. This path’s well worn.

I lug a bucket by bramble and blossoming blackthorn.

I know this path by magic not by sight.

Next morning when I come home quite unkempt

I cannot tell what happened at the well.

You spurn my explanation of a sex spell

cast by the spirit who guards the source

that boils deep in the belly of the earth,

even when I show you what lies strewn

in my bucket — a golden waning moon,

seven silver stars, our own porch light,

your face at the window staring into the dark.

Paula Meehan (1996)

Paula Meehan explains and reads "Well" here.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Thrill Of It All

Pious readers will know of the Stations of the Cross, a series of representations, sculptural or pictorial, depicting fourteen important moments during the last earthly hours of Our Saviour. I'm sorry to say that the student body had sacrilegiously appropriated the terminology of the Stations into the euphemisms of its erotic slang. 'The First Station' meant holding hands while French-kissing. Arrival at the Fifth involved manual stimulation through underwear (preferably someone else's). Six was unzipping or de-knickering. Seven I don't wish to go into. Gaining the Eighth meant you'd persuaded your co-conspirator of the time-honored biblical injunction that it was better to give than to receive. Fortunate to progress beyond Nine, your gratitude to the heavens was deep. Not that I myself had ever forged so far along the road. On this pilgrimage, I was a Four, if that. The only person I'd ever gone to bed with was myself. I suspected that myself and I would be better just as friends. But we were finding it hard to split up.

Joseph O'Connor, The Thrill Of It All (2014)

Lera Lynn

Lera Lynn at Ashland Coffee & Tea (8/9/14)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


It was the best race he had ever seen. He had never seen old Jake go that fast, and nobody had ever known Tomey's Turl to go faster than his natural walk, even riding a mule. Uncle Buck whooped once from the woods, running on sight, Black John came out of the trees, driving, soupled out flat and level as a hawk, with Uncle Buck right up behind his ears now and yelling so that they looked exactly like a single black hawk with a sparrow riding it, across the field and over the ditch and across the next field, and he was running too; the mare went out before he even knew she was ready, and he was yelling too.

William Faulkner, "Was," the first story in Go Down, Moses (1942)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Signature Of Things: A Novel

"I believe that we are all transient,' she began. She thought for a while and added, "I believe that we are half-blind and full of errors. I believe that we understand very little, and what we do understand is mostly wrong. I believe that life cannot be survived -- that is evident! -- but if one is lucky, life can be endured for quite a long while. If one is both lucky and stubborn, life can sometimes even be enjoyed."

Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature Of All Things: A Novel (2013)

A Place At The Table

Third Person

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jackass In A Hailstorm

Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but stand there and take it.

Lyndon Johnson

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Singapore Grip

When he turned over to swim to the side he could no longer hear her voice, but she was still there, kneeling in tears of rage at the side of the pool, hammering at it with a piece of broken wood. As he gripped the rounded lip of the pool and heaved himself out of the water he glanced at her, musing on the wonder of a beautiful woman with a disagreeable personality. Such a woman, he mused, was like a lovely schooner with a mad captain. The custodian of this lovely body was a hardhearted bitch. It was altogether astonishing.

J G Farrell, The Singapore Grip (1978)


Mipso, at Ashland Coffee & Tea (7/17/14):

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Thing About December

Sometimes you didn't know how you would feel about doing a thing until you went and did it. And then it's too late; you can never undo it.

Donal Ryan, The Thing About December (2013)

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I went down and ate macaroons and then two men came to the door selling lines for a raffle whose proceeds, they said, would go towards putting a new roof on the school.

'Of course,' Kinsella said.

'We didn't really think--'

'Come on in,' Kinsella said. 'Just 'cos I've got none of my own doesn't mean I'd see the roof falling in on anyone else's.'

Claire Keegan, Foster (2008)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Temporary Gentleman

1922. There she was, the first time I ever saw her, sailing along in her loose black skirts, her lovely face above a long-boned frame, on the cinder path of the university, hidden by tree trunks and then revealed, so that she whirred in my eyes like a film reel, a shadow half-ruined by sunlight under the famous plane trees. Her blouse so white, with the soft bosom moving plainly within, that it was a bright shield in the underwood. And myself still very young, when the brain seemed to brook no real thought of the past or the future -- the movement of time and the world stilled. I watched her from under the dark arch of the entrance to the quadrangle. It was still my first year in the university, in the time of the civil war.

Sebastian Barry, The Temporary Gentleman (2014)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Suddenly you're in this enclosure, a green room, and the wave has broken completely over you. If you want, you can yodel or yell and the noise bounces off the side of the walls. You go on like this for a while, then you go flying out of the other end of this tube into daylight.

Bob Simmons

The wave threw a sheet of water over my head and engulfed me. Then for a split second the whole scene froze forever in my mind. There I was, in that liquid green room...

Greg Noll

Some West Covina barney dropped in on me and I was like, "Meet on the beach, kook!"


Quoted in Surfing: A Year in Pictures Day by Day, (Jim Heimann, 2014)


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Bloody Spring

And so Grant came to momentous realization that in order to triumph, individual victories and defeats must necessarily matter less to him than they had to his predecessors. One defeat had been enough for each of them to abandon his strategy and withdraw to safety.

Grant was neither shrewder, nor more perceptive, than they, but he was readier to take risks and he possessed a quality that they did not -- perseverance, forged in the failures and misfortunes of his civilian life.

He might be just what the unlucky Army of the Potomac needed. Win or lose, Grant would go ahead. The romantic chivalry with which the war had begun had vanished in the red gore of Gettysburg and Chickamauga, replaced by simple mathematics: the ruthless application of greater numbers, firepower, and logistics to slowly destroy the Confederate army while moving inexorably southward -- described by Grant's aide, Lieutenant Colonel Horace Porter, as "a moving siege."

Joseph Wheelan, The Bloody Spring: Forty Days That Sealed The Confederacy's Fate (2014)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Great Gatsby

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes -- a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

No Ordinary Men

They remained steadfast and named no names - ever. Yet there was the desolation of being utterly at the mercy of their jailers, the deranging uncertainty of their situation. For Hans there was the wrenching pain of the almost unendurable separation from Christine, whom he most needed, most missed, most loved, and his anguish about Dietrich, for whom he felt responsible and whom he loved. He brooded on why he had thought he had the right to put the family in jeopardy, to sacrifice everything that was good in the private realm so as to combat evil in the public realm. And there was the ever-present fear: Would he, would the others, withstand torture?

Elisabeth Sifton and Fritz Stern, No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler In Church And State (2013)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hollywood and Hitler

True to industry form, a decisive factor in the sensibility turnabout was commercial. The considerations that had constrained Hollywood since 1933 -- the profits from the German market and the hope that relations might return to normal in a post-Hitler Germany -- had become moot. Hollywood made anti-Nazi films because, after September 1939, there was no good reason not to.

Thomas Doherty, Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 (2013)


The Immigrant

Friday, May 30, 2014

Enough Said

Slave Narratives: Virginia

There was a auction block, I saw right here in Petersburg on the corner of Sycamore street and Bank street. Slaves were auctioned off to de highest bidder. Some refused to be sold. By dat I mean, cried "Lord! Lord!" I done seen dem young'uns fought and kick like crazy folks; child it wuz pitiful to see 'em. Den dey would handcuff an' beat 'em unmerciful. I don' like to talk 'bout back dar. It brun' a sad feelin' up me. If slaves 'belled, I done seed dem whip 'em wid a strop cal' "cat nine tails." Honey, dis strop wuz 'bout broad as yo' hand, from thum' to little finger, an' 'twas cut in strips up. Yo' done seen dese whips dat they whip horses wid? Well dey was used too.

Charles Crawley, Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers Project 1936-1938: Virginia (2006)


Mary Gauthier performs a new song written at a Songwriting: With Soldiers workshop.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Giraffe's Neck

Expressions of disbelief. Probably thought she was making up fairy stories. But that was the truth. We all had to pass through those. Even before birth, even in our mothers' bodies, we had to live through it all, three point seven million years, the whole exhausting evolution of man in nine months. All the ballast stored in our bones. We were a patchwork, the sum of all previous parts, a stopgap that worked more or less, full of superfluous characteristics. We dragged the past around with us. It made us what we were, and we had to deal with it. Life wasn't a struggle, it was a burden. You had to bear it. As best you could. A task to perform from the first drawn breath. As a human being you were always at work. You never died of an illness, only ever of the past. A past that had not prepared us for this present.

Judith Schalansky, The Giraffe's Neck, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Austin Side

Shonna Tucker at Ashland Coffee & Tea, Ashland VA (5/6/14):

Adventures In The Screen Trade

As a writer I believe that all basic human truths are known. And what we try to do as best we can is come at those truths from our own unique angle, to reilluminate those truths in a hopefully different way.

William Goldman, Adventures In The Screen Trade (1982)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bottom Of The World

Alejandro Escovedo at the Capital Ale House, Richmond VA, 4/27/14:

Strange Birds

Amy Cook at the Capital Ale House, Richmond VA, 4/27/13:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Don Quixote

Let's all live and eat in friendship, because when God sends the dawn, it's dawn for everybody.

Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote (1615)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Calling On Angels

Bonnie Bishop, Sound of Music studio in Richmond, Virginia.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


The Wild Ponies, Ashland Coffee & Tea, Ashland, Virginia.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Somebody Tell Me

Big Sandy & His Fli-Rite Boys, Ashland Coffee & Tea, Ashland, Virginia.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cry One More Time

Sarah Borges at Ashland Coffee & Tea (Ashland, Virginia)

Moanin' The Blues

Girls Guns & Glory at Ashland Coffee & Tea (Ashland, Virginia).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Don Quixote

... although poetry is less useful than pleasurable, it is not one of those that dishonors the one who knows it. Poetry, Señor, in my opinion, is like an innocent young maiden who is extremely beautiful, and whom many other maidens, who are the other fields of knowledge, are careful to enrich, polish, and adorn, and she must be served by all of them, and all of them must encourage her, but this maiden does not wish to be pawed or dragged through the streets or proclaimed at the corners of the squares or in the corners of the palaces. Her alchemy is such that the person who knows how to treat her will turn her into purest gold of inestimable value; the man who has her must keep her within bounds and not allow her to turn to indecent satires or cruel sonnets; she should never be in the marketplace except in heroic poems, heartfelt tragedies, or joyful, witty comedies; she should not be allowed in the company of scoundrels or the ignorant mob incapable of knowing or appreciating the treasures that lie within her. And do not think, Señor, that when I say mob I mean only humble, plebeian people; for anyone who is ignorant, even a lord and prince, can and should be counted as one of the mob. And so the man who uses and treats poetry in the requisite ways that I that I have mentioned will be famous, and his name esteemed, in all the civilized nations of the world.

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (1615)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Pope and Mussolini

For decades, the Vatican had demonized those it saw as the beneficiaries of the much-vilified Enlightenment: liberals, Masons, Jews, and Protestants. It cast all as doing the devil's work, seeking to undermine people's faith in the one true religion. Throughout Italy, the Catholic press stoked this fear. Pius XI largely shared in this world view. In his 1928 encyclical, Mortalium animos, he forbade Catholics to take part in groups that encouraged interfaith dialogue.

David I. Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism (2014)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pafko At The Wall

He says, "The Giants win the pennant."

Yes, the voice is excessive with a little tickle of hysteria in the upper register. But it is mainly wham and whomp. He sees Thomson capering around first. The hat of the first-base coach -- the first-base coach has flung his hat straight up. He went for a chin-high pitch and coldcocked it good. The ball started up high and then sank, missing the façade of the upper deck and dipping into the seats below -- pulled in, swallowed up -- and the Dodger players stand looking, already separated from the event, staring flat into the shadows between the decks.

He says, "The Giants win the pennant."

Dom DeLillo, Pafko At The Wall (1992)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Place In Time

Several slaves, five or six of them, both men and women, were cutting and shocking corn by moonlight out on Bird's Branch Road, not far from the church. In her vision she saw them plainly, working steadily along to the rhythm that their corn knives hacked into the rustling of the dry corn. They were singing. They were singing, "Freedom! Oh, freedom!" That was all the song, but they sang it back and forth among themselves. Sometimes they would fall silent, and then the song continued unsung to the beat of the knives. And then a solitary voice would lift into the moonlight, "Oh, freedom!" and then they would all sing "Freedom! Oh, freedom!" a cry that was old and creaturely and human. Later she would imagine that there had rarely been a time, and in Port William after slavery perhaps never again a time, when the word "freedom" had been so understandingly sounded. As the singers sang, they worked. As they worked, the rows of standing corn slowly became fewer and the rows of shocks increased. Over the striking of the knives and the steady rustling of the corn and the singing, the moonlight fell as if a greater silence were thus made visible.

Wendell Berry, A Place In Time (2012)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ecstatic Nation

But now, as it had been during the nullification crisis of 1832, the underlying issue was the North's increasing power. And that power endangered slavery. Secessionists worried that if slavery did not expand into the territories, the black population would stay where it was, bottled up and likely to explode. Fear motivated them. That is to say, racial anxiety was as pervasive as economic anxiety when it came to secession, though it was hard to separate the two, for they were threaded together with the rope that bound secessionists and many Southerners to their land, their way of life, their mint juleps, and their pride of race.

Lincoln's election was thus not so much the cause of secession as its excuse: institutional restraints (read: the federal government) had insulted Southerners, imperiled their way of life, and held them in thrall to Northern financiers who had forced planters to buy goods in a protected market. "It's a revolution!" Judah Benjamin cried -- a "prairie fire," unstoppable, unquenchable.

As if in reply, a disconsolate Alexander Stephens observed, "Revolutions are much easier started than controlled."

Brenda Wineapple, Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877 (2013)

Sunday, January 26, 2014


This, she reflected, as she crossed the rainy yard, and strode out to the necessary house, and slopped the pot's contents down the hole, this was her duty, and she could find no satisfaction in it, and found it strange that anyone might think a person could. She rinsed the pot out at the pump and left it to freshen in the rain. If this was her duty, then she wanted someone else's.

Jo Baker, Longbourn (2013)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

When the white man governs himself that is self-government. But when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government -- that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that 'all men are created equal;' and that there can be be no moral right in connection with one man's making a slave of another.

Abraham Lincoln, 1854

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The River Where America Began

By the mid-1670s, a new aristocracy was taking hold in Virginia, especially along the coveted James River waterfront reaches that wedded fertile farmland to a ready stream of ship-laden commerce and communications linking the Old World to the new. Over the next decade alone, a dozen well-placed planters secured royal patents to tracts ranging in size from ten thousand to fifty thousand acres. The rich got richer, moreover, often through insider schemes that manipulated, or outright defrauded the systems of head rights, taxation, custom duties, and land use in the young English foothold in America.

Bob Deans, The River Where America Began: A Journey Along The James

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

L. A. Noir

From the perspective of law enforcement,assaults on police officers were unacceptable, no matter what the circumstances. So the police went back to look for the assailants. Most were picked up immediately and taken to Central Division for booking. Police kicked in the door of the last drinker involved in the brawl, Danny Rodela, at about 4 a.m. They dragged him out of bed, away from his screaming, pregnant wife, all while hitting him with a blackjack. Unfortunately, the men who were now in custody weren't the only people who'd been out drinking. So had a great many police officers of the city of Los Angeles.

John Buntin, L. A. Noir (2009)