No matter how I struggle and strive. #PlagueSongs, no. 11

Given that I’ve played all of these on an acoustic guitar, you’d think I’d have covered a country song by now. But this song, co-written by Hank Williams and Fred Rose, is the first. Williams recorded “I’ll Never Get out of This World Alive” in June 1952, the single was released in November 1952, and…

It’s later than you think. #PlagueSongs, no. 4

This week’s #PlagueSong is a cover of Prince Buster’s “Enjoy yourself” (1963). But I first heard the Specials’ cover version (1980). That said, Prince Buster’s version is itself an adaptation of Guy Lombardo’s 1949 version, which reached #10 on the US pop charts in 1950. Prince Buster retains the chorus of the 1949 song (music…

The Bright Side. #PlagueSongs, no. 3

This week’s #PlagueSong is dedicated to my mother, Gloria Hardman. This is her favorite song, her motto, and very good advice. The song is funnier when sung as Eric Idle’s “Mr. Cheeky” character (as it is in The Life of Brian). I suspect the song’s mixture of irony and sincerity is one reason it resonates…

Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat

I’m borrowing the title of Charles Mingus’ tribute to Lester Young because my uncle Terry Webb liked Young, Mingus, and this song. To the best of my knowledge, Terry did not wear pork pie hats. Earlier in his career, Terry wore bowler hats. Later, he wore a Tyrolean hat. Or no hat — as in the…

Terry Webb (1934-2019)

Terrence Dudley Webb passed away on 12 April 2019, just over two weeks after learning that he had lung cancer. He was 85. Born March 23, 1934 in Pretoria, South Africa, Terry was the first child of Leslie Ralph Webb and Mona Beatrice Webb (née Schwegmann). Leslie was a mechanic, fixing adding machines, calculators, and…

Just a Shot Away (in Inside Higher Ed)

When the state legislature decides to weaponize our classrooms, how do we respond? What should we do when the phrase “killing higher education” ceases being a metaphor and becomes state policy? I tackle these questions in “Just a Shot Away,” published today in Inside Higher Ed.  Here’s the opening:         Shortly after the Virginia Tech massacre, a mentally disturbed…

Why Campus Carry Threatens Higher Education

Today, I’m joining other members of K-SAFE (K-Staters Against Fatal Encounters) and the KCGFC (Kansas Coalition for a Gun-Free Campus) at the statehouse, in Topeka.  There, we’ll hand out flyers that — we hope — will show our legislators the grave danger the “Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act.” Yes, this is really the name of the…

Running Out of Time

Following a December blog-conversation about Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal (occasioned in part by her own chemo), my friend Alison Piepmeier asked me to send her a contribution to her blog, Every Little Thing. It appeared there on Monday. I’m reposting it here now. In case you’re wondering, I got permission from the close relative (named below) to quote…

When will I be shot dead?

As we read the news of yet another shooting at a school (the 17th on a college campus this year, the 45th school shooting shooting this year*), I cannot help but wonder: when will I be among those murdered?  Earlier this year, a roving gunman had the campus of Kansas State University (where I teach) on lockdown. Fortunately,…

Legend, Gentleman, Friend: George Nicholson (1937-2015)

George Nicholson died yesterday. He was 77 years old. He was a legend in children’s publishing. George was in the children’s literature business for over 50 years. In the 1960s, he introduced paperbacks to the children’s book industry. That’s something we take for granted now, but we owe it to George. As an agent (at…