9/11 + 20

This Saturday marks the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. To that end, I thought I’d haul out some of the more edifying things I’ve written over the years about, or of relevance to, 9/11. In doing this, I’m to some extent plagiarizing at least the form of Chris Sciabarra’s most recent blog post at his blog, summarizing the twenty annual posts he’s written about 9/11. But plagiarism in this case is intended more as a tribute than as mere theft. If you read one thing about 9/11, you should read Chris’s Post of Posts.

The old World Trade Center site, April 2017.
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Albert Pelham, RIP

I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Albert Pelham, President of the Montclair, New Jersey chapter of the NAACP, and Executive Director of the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation. This article just below nicely summarizes his many achievements as a civil rights activist and “social justice warrior.”

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Robert Hollander, RIP

Robert Hollander passed away on April 20th of this year, but having just learned the news about a week ago, I wanted, however belatedly, to mark the event. From the official announcement by Princeton University’s Office of Communications:

Robert Hollander, professor of European literature, and French and Italian, emeritus, and renowned scholar of Dante, died peacefully of natural causes at his family’s home in Pau’uilo, Hawaii on April 20. He was 87.

Hollander joined Princeton’s faculty in 1962 and transferred to emeritus status in 2003. His teaching and research centered on medieval Italian literature, with a focus on the work of Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio.* 

I took the two-semester “Great Books” course in literature that Hollander co-taught at Princeton in the late 1980s, and it changed my life. The first semester covered Greek and Roman classics, plus the Bible; the second semester began with Dante’s Inferno and ended with Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I still own the very texts I bought for the course thirty years ago; every work retains its poignancy, and is still in some way indelibly imprinted on my mind.

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Barbara Gordon: A Life Lived in Song

This is a memorial essay for Barbara Gordon, written by my friend Yvonne Raley, formerly Associate Professor of Philosophy at Felician University.

The sound of your voice will always be with me, Barbara, my beloved and loyal friend, my teacher of song. I am so grateful to have been graced with your presence for 27 years of my life, and so torn apart by your untimely death.

I knew you as delicate and fragile in many ways, and yet you were mighty, a true force that would fill people’s hearts with music and joy. I will never forget how you grilled me before taking me on as your student, to make sure I had enough dedication, because you would accept nothing less. I finally won you over with our shared love for Debussy and my ability to speak French, and so in 1994 I became your tutee Friday mornings at NYU, and a couple of years later at your home where I became part of your extended family: I stood next to the piano and practiced as Josh graduated high school and Ellie graduated college, got married and had kids of her own. I met Josh’s cat Milo who loved your yard, and I shared a memorable Seder with you. Not only did you introduce me to Satie and Ravel, but also to your Chiropractor and to Whole Foods!

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Barbara Gordon (1947-2021), RIP

I just got news today, a week after the fact, of the untimely passing of my friend and colleague Barbara Gordon, Associate Professor of Music and Instructor in French at Felician University. Hired about a year before I was (2007), Barbara essentially built the university’s music department and program (including its choir) from the ground up, and was responsible for just about every major musical event–religious, classical, jazz–that took place on campus. She organized the Christmas concert as well as the musical parts of the convocation and commencement ceremonies, and virtually every concert and recital in between. Where there was high musical culture to be had at Felician–be it Adele, Bach, or Coltrane–Barbara was likely behind it.  

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Alison Bowles (1963-2021), RIP

I’ve revised the biographical blurb for Alison Bowles at PoT’s “About the Blog and Bloggers” page. I apologize to anyone learning belatedly of her tragic death in this fashion. I myself learned of her passing on the morning of March 10, but believe it took place a few days earlier. [I’ve since learned that it likely took place between March 2 and March 4.]

Alison in Alexandria, Virginia, February 2017

Alison Bowles (“ridiculous2017”) was, until her untimely death in March 2021, a licensed mental health counselor in private practice, with offices in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and New York City. On moving to Toronto in the summer of 2020, she became a frequent guest on Business Talk Radio, discussing various issues in the theory and practice of mental health counseling. Her first broadcast was on July 6, 2020 and her last was (I believe) on February 19, 2021. She maintained a personal blog housing some of her writing, and in her last days had created a Facebook page where her very last public thoughts may be found. Here’s an interview she did in 2019 on telemental health, and here is a brief biographical statement. (–IK, March 12, 2021).

(PS, July 22, 2021: I intend to write a proper memorial essay at some point in the near future.)

Carol Manigault, RIP

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing a few days ago of Carol Manigault, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Felician University. Carol was a dear friend, and one of the very few people I would see in Kirby Hall either “after hours” or on the weekend–there for the same reason as I was, out of a preference for working at the office rather than working at home. I sometimes wondered whether the explanation for that preference was the same in Carol’s case as in mine–a reluctance to go home from the sense that home was better avoided than inhabited. Continue reading

Goodbye, Neil Peart

[A guest post by my younger brother, Suleman Khawaja.]

I can still remember being six years old, sitting on the asphalt basketball court behind St. Joseph’s church, tagging along with my older brother and the other neighborhood 12-year olds, trying hard not to be so conspicuously small. A hushed anticipation fell over the churchyard. I can still hear the ephemeral bumps and clicks as the tape unspooled in the little boom box, the sonic artifacts of fingers pressing Record and Play on someone’s Dad’s hi-fi, the click of the needle touching down on vinyl. “This is it, man!” The LP-to-cassette knock-off of Moving Pictures cued to launch the opening burst of “Tom Sawyer” into the air of North Jersey suburbia.

1981. West Orange, New Jersey. That’s the first time I heard Rush. The first time I ever heard of Neil Peart. One story among so many others. But mine.

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Roger Scruton (1944-2020), RIP

It’s considered disrespectful to speak ill of the just-deceased, so I hope this post will be read in a spirit of candor rather than ill-will. But the truth is, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Roger Scruton, who’s just passed away. On the one hand, it was impossible not to admire the sheer breadth of his interests and learning, and impossible not to be awed or intimidated by his sheer output. He seemed in so many ways to embody the ideal of The Public Philosopher: clear, erudite, iconoclastic, occasionally brilliant, capable of technical sophistication, but also capable of writing for a wide audience. That said, I hated his politics and a lot of his cultural grandstanding, and often found myself wondering how a man as intelligent as Scruton could come up with views as dumb as the ones he sometimes put into print. Continue reading