Part of a Conversation on Martin Scorsese’s The Departed — SPOILER ALERT

The movie won four Academy Awards. It’s dark, but it’s funny in the right places. It’s vulgar, violent and bitter. It’s not for viewers who like blatantly happy endings. Or even subtly happy endings. If you like rats, though, this is for you.

The following is an online chat about the movie. It has been edited for clarity. Skip the rest of this post to avoid spoilers.

person 1: you watch de-potted?
person 2: yiss
person 1: whatchoo fink?
person 2: he shooted him!
  they all shooted!
person 1: he shooted weo in da heed!
  did mawk wahboag and awick bodween meek you waff?
person 2: yiss
person 1: they funny–but they say the f wodes and the c wodes a lot
person 2: wots of bad wodes!
I don’t know why these people chat in baby talk. They seem pretty darn cute, though. And insufferably awesome.

Because Smartphone Apps Are More Important Than Nature’s Majesty

Wind and water. One wonders if the air really stays still, but hot air rises and cool air sinks, and sometimes these phenomena occur at the same time and air actually begins to circulate. Then humans, after millions of years, come to certain places on earth to observe that this air doesn’t always stop when it collides with rock; there’s actual friction, which causes actual erosion. The evidence speaks for itself.

And, it’s not just air that does this. It’s water. Rivers and rain penetrate and seep into rock. They carve and sculpt, and one cannot deny the artistry. Sheer cliffs, curved, sinewy surfaces, molded like pottery then baked in the sun as if fired in a kiln, only to show glazes in stripes, in chiaroscuric striations and slick-black facades. Against a blue sky, against a low, grey backdrop; at high noon, in front of a sunset, from one minute to the next, the art shifts and continually transforms. Crying, possibly, comes closest to expressing the inexpressible. Or perhaps holding one’s breath. Pictures of our hike in Southern Utah yesterday are coming soon.

Then there’s a smartphone photo application that can morph pictures of two different faces into one. Reilly’s brother downloaded it after dinner this evening while the family played Ticket to Ride. So he experimented with different couple combinations, and everyone was quite shocked at the hybridized photo of me and Reilly. The wave of laughter built in the order of those who saw it: first, his brother, then his nephew, then his sister, then he turned the smartphone display to us, then to his other brother and sister-in-law, then his parents.

Laughter is like happy mouth wind: the very action etches happiness at the eyes and the corners of the mouth. It makes the eyes shine, it tightens the face, it works the abs. When I saw the app-generated photo, I started to giggle, then the laugh turned silent as I could barely breathe and tears slid down my cheeks. I looked around to see that I wasn’t the only one crying. I loved it.

Notice the breathing and crying comparisons between the two experiences? Is there any comparison, really? Is it too much to mention it?

The pictures of the others are very funny, too – even cry-worthy, but I will only post Meilly Ray. Thanks to Gavin for forwarding this to us. Plus, posting it first preempts any possible blackmailing situations.

“Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”

We were maybe a little shy toward each other for a few minutes. But they looked at you and something touched your heart. Besides, they don’t really care if your French isn’t perfect.

At the Koranic school, the girls sat separate from the boys, and that one boy recited only some of the Koran but he had memorized the whole thing by the time he was 11 years old.

I looked around and wondered who to talk to, there were so many youth, and the room became very noisy quickly. I took a few pictures, smirking at the stark contrast between my fair-skinned classmates and the rich darkness of the young students. The smiles sparkled the same.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around. A group of young women looked at me. Their leader asked me my name. We talked about school and what they might do when they grow up. They all say they’re going to university, and a lot of them want to be teachers. A few girls ask me to take pictures with their cell phones.

They wanted to teach me a dance.

Every girl wanted to teach that dance to all the Toubabs. And they laughed every time we did it.

That first evening in the village near Saint-Louis, the kids were all dressed in traditional clothes and makeup. One of the teachers played a metal bowl as a drum, and little ones took turns dancing in front of the crowd. A few of us danced, too. A bunch of us watched a little boy wearing a green boubou with a white turban. His eyebrows were painted white. He fought sleep while we laughed at him.

A young woman made eye contact with me and we smiled at each other and exchanged names. I asked her about school and what she did during the day. She told me that she helped her mom make dinner and take care of the siblings. We took pictures and we look like friends.

All the village kids sang and clapped, and the rest of us clapped along.

One day in Saint-Louis, Natalie and I were on an errand to buy some bug repellent, because mosquitoes had attacked me the week before in Dakar and it was only a matter of time before malaria ravaged my body. We stopped by a pharmacy that told us to come back in an hour because they didn’t have any in stock at the time and were ordering some from another store. That was convenient because we wanted to go exploring that day. We crossed a bridge onto the fisherman’s island, photographing just about everything we saw. It was a bright, sunny day, like most of the days there. We walked to a less busy part of the island toward some houses along the beach. As we neared the coast a group of kids saw us and we started playing with them. A family invited us into their yard within a wall, where we got to look at their water well and talk about what we were studying. For the most part, I avoided the adult conversation and continued taking pictures of the children. There was a little boy wearing a yellow shirt with a puppy on it, and he made angry-looking, monkey-froggie faces and somehow immediately became one of my favorites.

One day at the village we got to teach the students. I sat at a table of 10-to-11-year olds, and their teacher instructed them to draw a cylinder with a length of 5cm and a radius of 2cm. So, that’s what I taught them. I used a can to demonstrate the height and to show them that they needed to double the radius. Reaching back into my basic geometry days was hard enough, and having to do it in French was an especially fun challenge. But I repeated myself three times, and when I asked them if they understood, they said yes. So I believed them.

Whenever I asked the girls if they were married, they always giggled. Then I asked how old they were and some of them were 13 or 14, and maybe I met a 15-year old. They can get married at 16, and it’s no more being a kid after that.

After class at the village we were standing in the courtyard and some of us were swinging the kids around. Two little girls were hanging off the arms of one of my classmates, and we couldn’t explain that they needed to take turns. One of them didn’t talk, but I took her and swung her around in a circle until I got dizzy and let her land gently in the sand. She let me spin her about five times until it was time for us to leave. It was cool knowing what she wanted without her having to tell me with words. She just took my hands, and I whirled her around.

There was another day of teaching the kids and there was the best recess I’ve ever had, with relay races and balancing water on one’s head and potato-sack races and wrestling. They taught us a few things about running in the sand, but I think they taught us more about how to be gracious losers and entertainers at the same time. They made us laugh, and through our follies and falls and spilt water and goofs, we returned the favor.

Then there was the evening our guys (and Britt) played soccer against the village team and while the village kids chanted and clapped in solidarity for their team, we bit our nails and winced and cheered whenever we got even a little bit close to scoring a goal. We lost 4-1, but we sang and danced together afterward and maybe I taught some boys how to wink.

The last night at the village we watched all the boys strip down to their underwear and tie their t-shirts around their loins like a sumo diaper so they could show us wrestle. It happened so suddenly and it shocked us, but it was all business to them.

It was during this last night that I noticed more kids had runny noses; I noticed their clammy hands and remembered a few kids with conjunctivitis. There was talk of bedbugs and lice, but it seemed that those were the least of the problems they were better off not knowing. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know about them.

I cried on the way back to the bus that evening. A young lady walked with me, and we talked about her family, that her dad was working in the Ivory Coast. She was 14, and she didn’t have to say she missed her father; that she even talked about it was enough of an indication. I asked if he visited often, and she said every month.  We hugged goodbye, and I told her to go to university and become anything she wanted. I told her I’d miss her, and I thanked her for being friends.

It was sad to go, not so much because I didn’t know if I was ever going to see them again, but I wondered how many of those children would live to see the next year. What’s so inspiring is that they weren’t even worried about that. They gave us hugs and showed us how disciplined they were and sang anthems with great pride. They searched our souls with sincere eyes and reached out to us. They trusted us when we weren’t so sure about ourselves. I was so concerned about their future, the conditions of their country, but they focused on their present circumstances. If they could smile and laugh and cheer, so could we. They lived in the moment, and we were blessed enough to have them share that moment with us.

Mind the E, So It’s Not “Happye Birthdaye” Anymore

I’ve cherished the good times and awesome memories we have shared so far.

You make me admire you lots; I can’t even help myself.

You’ve helped me find my mom. And I never get tired of your stories.

And I wike tawking wike a widdle kid wif you.

And I like your relationship with the NYPD.

And your friendship with me.

Here’s to your birth. On this day. On this earth.

Say, a prime number of years ago.

And an indefinite number of years ahead.

Happy Birthday, Brook.


Dr. Anderton,

I’m sorry for the delays on our part — and for not getting back to your queries yet. We simply have an atrocious backlog, but I know you’ve been waiting some time so I’ll make sure you get a review during our next round, which we’re doing now.

Almost all I ever wanted, all in the first two words of an email. It was a response to an inquiry about a manuscript I submitted to an academic journal. The managing editor and I have exchanged a few emails in the past eternity, and I understand the backlog situation, which certainly helps me not to be annoyed. Plus? Even if the manuscript ultimately gets rejected, the inadvertent title totally made my day.

Someday, as I prepare for world domination, all of you will call me “Dr. Anderton.” I imagine you’ll enjoy it. As long as I’m not mean.

My Brain Hurts Right Now

French homework takes way too much time. I was going to hike the Y today with the Frenchies, but 1)it’s too wet 2)it’s too cold for me and 3)I have way too much to do.

I like leading music, except sometimes I get impatient at the fermatas.

I made an effort to hang out with people yesterday. I’d forgotten about a dinner someone had invited me to after church. After my nap, I texted the person, and he said there were leftovers so I should come over anyway. I did, and a few people were still there just chatting. I ate dinner and talked a little with people. We watched a few news segments online, and I said something really funny, mostly because I can be really clever. After a half-hour or so, I had a little more social anxiety, plus the people who live there hinted at taking naps so I took my cue and said goodbye to people. I peeked into a bedroom where someone was playing the guitar. I asked if his apartment was going to do anything fun that evening, and he said they might play a game, and he said I should come play.

A few hours later, I went to Ward Prayer! and I stood aloof and watched people talk for a little while until someone asked me how I was doing. So she and I talked for a bit about what we were going to do for Presidents’ Day. Then I turned around and made a joke to the guy who invited me to play games and we laughed for a bit. He was talking to some of his guy friends who I didn’t know as well. Then someone came and invited these guys to listen to a song he composed on his keyboard, and I decided to tag along.

So probably eight guys or so and another girl and I filed into this apartment. We stood around for about 10 minutes. The recording wasn’t playing, so he said he’d fix it later. So we left this apartment and we started going our separate ways, but three other guys and I  stood outside for a few minutes and just talked about random things.  We laughed some more, mostly because we’re all pretty funny. After five minutes of hands in our pockets and shivering in the cold air, someone gets the bright idea to go inside and talk, so we end back up at the apartment where I went to dinner. So we watched some Olympics and ate leftover chips and seven-layer dip and made more jokes and watched bull-riding and never appreciated eight seconds more. At this point it’s just me and four guys, and it was pretty relaxing.

After a couple hours of hanging out, I went home. I had fun.

All without touching a single guy.

I’m sure the other blog is furious.

When It Feels Like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Except It’s the Hamptons, Not Montauk

Day out on the Long Island. This photo was taken at Tiana Beach. Hamptons. It didn’t rain, but the fog was thick and cloaked the sun all day. The whole day was like a dream, one of those dreams where you or someone in your body walks into or out of a thick, yet gossamer mist and you or your clone has a message to convey, and you or your doppelgänger could have come from down the beach or from the ocean, whose hypnagogic rhythm of the crashing waves enchant and entice, and you or your transcendental twin has no idea those selfish waters will never give you back to dry land, because you or your impostor is obedient, in a deep trance, and the magic is calling, faintly, alluringly. It has its own request. 


Really fun day. Laughed and ate and sang and laughed while screaming with glee until I nearly peed my pants and now all I want to do is sleep. My subconscious yearns for the ocean’s ether, to follow its hushed, iambic echoes, to sublimate and interfuse with the mist, to tread like a ghost.

More photos later.

A Little Seminary Story

I set my alarm for 6:30 this morning. When my alarm went off, I looked at the time, and I panicked. Why did I set my alarm for that time? I’m SO in trouble. Class is about to start. I need to call the other teacher. I still could show up late. Is it my turn to teach the lesson? The kids are going to hate me.

Then I remembered it’s Saturday.

Yesterday, we went over five Scripture Mastery references. The kids got to draw their representations for each of the scriptures.

We got down to the last scripture, and as I read it to the class, one of the students said, “I already drew this.” So I said, “Wait. The one before was about the resurrection. This one is about baptism for the dead.” I finished reading the scripture. The student said, “Didn’t we already do this one? Because I drew it.” And the class responded, “No.” I smiled. I went up to the board to write a short synopsis of the scripture, and the other teacher asked the questioning student, “Did you travel through time into the future?” Then, because I just finished A Wrinkle in Time, I said, “[The student] tesseracted.” Then the class echoed, “Tesseracted!” Then a short discussion followed about the book, and I felt all sorts of cool for mentioning a literary reference the students could relate to.

Class was quite fun yesterday. The students guessed at each other’s drawings, and it was awesome to see how the kids’ minds worked. We laughed a lot, and a couple of times, I laughed so hard it switched into silent laughter, and it was probably good for the kids to see me relatively relaxed instead of being more uptight and easily intimidated. The silent laughter didn’t turn into laughing tears, though. It didn’t quite get that bad. I was glad the kids were able to relax a little, too. Thems is some amazin’ chilluns, y’all.

Man, no wonder I felt bad for missing class this morning. Even if it is Saturday.