Paul Mellon by William Orpen (1924). Currently in the Paul Mellon Collection of the Yale Center for British Art. Rights: public domain.

If you’re like me, your shoes have gathered dust in the closet. Your thoughts about garb have tended toward consideration of comfort rather than who you’re seeing during the day or what activities you’ll knock off after quitting time. Because, after all, you weren’t seeing anyone, except maybe from the shoulders up.

Changes we underwent in 2020 continue to send signals in dress even as the pandemic begins to recede. For men, neckties have stayed in the closet, if they hadn’t already gathered dust there. For women, painful shoes perch on the shoe rack. Through most of 2020 and into…

“Pumpkin Jack” and the author think about manure and its equivalents. A still from a class video.

Though maybe it’s early to judge, the manure-filled classrooms that the pandemic gave us do have a pony or two hidden somewhere. We can use what we learned to be better teachers and better learners.

In fall semester 2020, I taught a first-year undergraduate course called “From Siri to Skynet: Our Complex Relationships with Technology” at Duke. It was a remote course delivered via Zoom and other online tools. That in itself was rather ironic, since my original and somewhat curmudgeon plans called for a “no-laptops” seminar, where students closed computer displays and switched phones to mute so that we could all talk. But, along with many teachers, I discovered the technologies that allowed us to hold the seminar at all pointed to new strengths of technology and new complexities. The change in my seminar…

Alice In Wonderland vibes move an old chair from castaway to usable. A reflection on restoration and renewal by a guy who’s going through both.

My father claimed that wood putty “hides a multitude of sins.”

Ernst Bloch, a twentieth-century German philosopher primarily remembered for his work on the “principle of hope,” wrote a series of small stories — vignettes, actually — that were collected and published as Spuren in 1969. He had composed the work between 1910 and 1929 as a young academic. It was translated into English and published as Traces in 2006, nearly a century after he began writing it. One of the stories early in the book is called “Lamp and Closet,” in which Bloch recounts a story of “fixing up my room”:

I’d bought old furniture, but when I finished, I…

Kick-off of the 2019 Almost Annual Seersucker Seminar at Duke University

Memorial Day signaled the beginning of summer, and thousands — maybe millions — heeded the call of sun and air, often with an abandon that felt rich and new after being socially distanced for months. It also is a traditional day for seersucker-loving men and women, signaling when men can again look like Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird and women can feel carefree-fresh in summer’s heat. For the past few years, a few of the seersucker crowd at Duke University have gathered to share a meal, talk some shop, and preen in seersucker a little. …

Two baskets of the hoard. The rest chilling in the fridge.

“heres the deal,” I texted, “1 dozen for 1 roll. make sure its whole.”

A dozen eggs for a roll of toilet paper: a fair exchange in these times, I thought.

“delivr is prob,” came the reply. Yes, it is, I agreed.

I had imagined a furtive exchange at an isolated location, with the actors peering at each other from afar to keep up the social distancing. Maybe we’d crouch behind a bush or tree and catch a glimpse through binoculars — small spy-gear ones, like opera glasses. …

Before the race, two young men give final instructions to a race car driver through the door window.
Before the race, two young men give final instructions to a race car driver through the door window.
Last checks before the start. Faces are still fresh and voices loud enough to rise over the roar.

Even in North Carolina’s sweltering August, bridges over Hyco Lake let you run through mist in the morning. The morning was cool enough that white mist swirled as we drove the 45-minute trek to Virginia International Raceway — also known as VIR. The acronym always harkened the classicist in me, vir being Latin for “man,” especially since car racing is still very much a guy thing. For good reason, my daughter calls these events “sausage fests.” My wife and I were heading to a ChumpCar 24-hour race, starting midday Saturday and ending Sunday.

We arrived after preparations were underway, begun…

Mark DeLong

Mark DeLong writes, researches, and teaches at Duke University. He is currently writing a book on the automobile and the power of art in America.

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