Welcome to Eclectic

sumter county Alabama Foster DicksonContinuously published since 2010, Foster’s blog Welcome to Eclectic has published everything from opinion pieces and short essays to news about events and publications. Originally called Pack Mule for the New School, the title was changed in 2018 to more accurately reflect writing that is, as the subtitle puts it, “Deep Southern, Diversified & Re-Imagined.” Its focus has remained basically the same: to provide a Generation-X perspective on the modern multicultural South, education, and social justice, as well as books, literature, reading, and movies.

To read a sampling of posts from the last ten years of Welcome to Eclectic, click on the links below:

The End of an Era: Leaving BTW Magnet
published June 2022
“Over the last year or so, there have been many polls and news articles about how and why teachers are quitting the profession. (I’ve even shared a few of those myself.) For me, the pandemic and its effects are only one aspect of the equation, and moreover, I’m not leaving the teaching profession. I still enjoy teaching and value education, and I always will. For me, this choice is more personal than sociological.” (726 words)

The Great Watchlist Purge of 2022
published May 2022
“And since most modern movies disappoint me, I have tended to reach back further into the archives to satiate my appetite for viewing. I couldn’t care less who plays Spiderman or Batman these days, I don’t care what back-story from Star Wars they’re developing, I get tired of Hollywood throwing remakes at us, and I’m not going to spend time watching the latest diversity-initiative cartoon musical. No, I pride myself on a love of movies, not on a set of prescribed consumption habits.” (3,885 words)

From Judas Priest to the Dalai Lama
published October 2021
“For an MTV-generation kid, many of those images came from hyper-masculine, uber-angsty heavy metal. Coming from a working-class Southern family, the emphasis on toughness was there, but for kids like me who weren’t athletic or outdoorsy, this hardened image was an alternative.” (1,330 words)

The Great Watchlist Purge of 2021
published January 2021
“Watching movies, particularly independent films and old classics, is one of my longtime hobbies.” (2,817 words)

Revisiting Mr. Rice
published July 2020 
“The House of Crosses would have remained, for me, a mystery had we not opted one night to walk up WC Rice’s driveway and knock on his front door.” (1,149 words)

When Reading Meant Everything
published August 2019
“I was tethered to a life I didn’t want to lead in a place I didn’t want to be, and books (and music and movies, too) were my gateway to something greater than what I saw around me.” (1,150 words)

That Golden Deliciousness
published August 2019
“There are people who say, ‘I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like.’ That’s kind of how I am about beer. I’ve got a working-man’s understanding of this nectar of the gods, and much of that understanding is rooted in my taste buds.” (1,295 words)

When a Tug-of-War Yields a Log-Jam 
published May 2019
“I, too, believe that our country is on the wrong track. I, too, am dissatisfied. But not for the reasons that one might assume.” (1,149 words)

“Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote”
published April 2019
“National Poetry Month is our annual reminder that poetry isn’t dead, as some cultural critics have proposed in recent decades.” (1,322 words)

The Winding Back Roads of Southern History
published August 2018
“Beyond the Alabamians who don’t know their own history, outsiders have even more trouble seeing how Alabama can be “the Beautiful” when their all-interstate, urban-centered treks carry them to site after site of violence upon violence: slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement— ugly, ugly, and more ugly.” (1,123 words)

Field Trips to Nowhere
published April 2018
“The young lady had set me up perfectly: they were seeing precisely what I wanted them to see, learning precisely what I wanted to learn about this isolated locale. To gain a sense of place, they needed to experience firsthand what was here— by their standards, nothing.” (2,022 words)

The Three-Legged Stool
published March 2018 
“Year after year, at back-to-school nights, open houses, parent involvement days, and school events, I preach, or at least allude to, the same sermon: the teacher, the student, and the parent must work together to properly educate a child. It takes teamwork.” (842 words)

The Boxes in the Attic: A Love Story
published January 2018
“They’re these low, wide boxes that the Paperback Book Club used to send shipments of four or five books at a time. They’re sturdy and durable, and they hold tabloid newspapers and 13″ x 18″ posters laying flat. They’re perfect.” (876 words)

On the Edgy Edge of Edginess
published May 2017
“It’d be nice to be the cool old dude, but one must be careful not to veer too far and end up like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty or worse, like Dennis Hopper in River’s Edge. ” (561 words)

published February 2017
“Having things isn’t so bad, but I’ve also gotten to see what becomes of all those things.” (2,116 words)

published December 2016
“As we looked over her list of activities, I asked if I could have a few minutes to talk with them about Southern history, and she replied, a little surprised, ‘Oh, you want to teach?'” (1,409 words)

Where did twenty years go? 
published December 2016
“I graduated from college twenty years ago this month. I’d like to say that, back then, I was fresh-faced and optimistic, ready to take on the world, but that’s not true. I was twenty-two, heavy-bearded, skinny, generally pale, and still lived with my mother.” (1,606 words)

Adia Victoria @ Saturn Birmingham
published September 2016
“Though her one-hour set only consisted of the tracks on her album, plus a spooky off-kilter cover of Robert Johnson’s ‘Me and the Devil Blues,’ Adia Victoria ripped it up live in a way that her album doesn’t.” (1,053 words)

Apoplectic, or I am more than a number. 
published June 2016

“When I would hand back papers, essays, stories, or poems that I had read multiple times, marked thoroughly and diligently, and scored as conscientiously as I could, I would see some of them look only at the final score and try to hand it back to me; others, usually fewer, would do what I hope they will all do: genuinely read my comments, and even ask for clarification on them.” (1,606 words)

The Old Agrarian-ness of a New Ethos
published May 2016
“However, to write off pro-Southern, anti-industrial ideals as nothing more than paranoid, backward-looking, overly poetic mythmaking is to miss the basis of some important ideas that are buried within all of those heavily dated pronouncements.” (1,962 words)

published January 2016

“Though I certainly don’t eschew enjoyment or joy or fun or leisure, I seldom consider whether I’m happy.” (1,004 words)

The Juncture of Verisimilitude and Me
published November 2014
“Writers shoot for verisimilitude, each in their own ways. It’s why we write: to convince people to climb aboard our trains of thought and come along on our journey.” (3,555 words)

Before Their Eyes Adjust to the Light
published October 2014
“Working with teenagers, I regularly get to hear expressions of ideas that I too once held: adults want to ruin all fun because they are dead inside; learning is pointless when the subject matter has no direct connection to one’s life; and life will always be like it is right now.” (993 words)

How Cool It Was— Back Then 
published January 2013
“There was nothing any of us wanted more than a black Trans Am with T-tops.” (1,638 words)

No Lonelier Place on Earth
published September 2012
“As perhaps the most pitifully lonely and isolated character in Carson McCullers’ 1940 novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, the socialist-revolutionary-turned-carnival-worker Jake Blount’s most notable acts are ranting and raving for workers’ rights, often when he is drunk, sometimes violently.” (1,541 words)

A Terrible Fisherman’s Summers at the Lake
published August 2012
“Standing on the floating dock and looking down through about eight feet of water at the bottom where they’re swimming, I am sure that the catfish are laughing at me.” (1,056 words)

The Spirit of Booker T.
published April 2012
“Yet, for all of the back-and-forth politicized banter that I hear these days, I suggest reading Up from Slavery, one of the great books of the South, to get a sense of what a person can accomplish if dignity and determination are truly held paramount.” (1,777 words)  

Southern Movies   •   Chasing Ghosts  •  Alabamiana