Author: Jason Tougaw

  • Top Ten Family Deaths—Real, Near, Imagined

    10. 1959. Thirty years into his career as a notoriously reckless jockey, my grandpa, Ralph Neves, survives a severe brain injury, his life saved by surgery and a metal plate where a portion of his skull used to be. This is his third near-death experience. 9. 1922. Nanny—Midge to her friends—was born Jessie Magdalena MacDonnell, in Nova…

  • My Grandpa Was a Tiny Party, and the Photos Prove It

    At twelve, Ralph is a tiny party writhing under the heavy hands of frustrated nuns. St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Francisco doesn’t suit him. Most of these boys got here through a petty crime, their own or their parents. For others it was a parent’s suicide or murder. For Ralph, it was his…

  • Everything

    “This is everything.” That’s the first thing I heard her say, as I passed the couple near the corner of 14th Street and Avenue A in Manhattan. “It’s all of it. Everything.” She was crying, in the strained, frustrated way small children sometimes cry when they feel helpless. She had long straight sandy blonde hair;…

  • Support vs. Safety in the Classroom

    Recently, I had an experience teaching–on Zoom–that troubled me. I don’t think I did a good job facilitating the dynamic of the group. Students made it clear that they didn’t all experience the class as a safe space. Safety is not my primary goal for my students. I want them to take risks, and doing…

  • What Is Somatics?

    Over on my Psychology Today column–The Elusive Brain–I promised a follow-up on my column about somatics and trauma. Readers had lots of questions. This is Part 1 of my interview with somatics practitioner Sumitra Rajkumar. You can find Part 2 here. As a practitioner, how do you describe somatics to somebody who’s curious and doesn’t know…

  • John Cameron Mitchell’s ‘Anthem Homunuculus’

    You will find spoilers here. And some chaos. Depending on your preferences, you might not want to read this until you’ve finished Anthem Homunculus, John Cameron Mitchell’s musical dystopian drama full of heart, delivered via podcast, like an old radio play.   I interviewed Mitchell for a piece in Psychology Today, about brain stuff at…

  • Lou’s Records

    There is no cooler place than Lou’s Records in 1983, 84, 85. Not anywhere. We could flip through these records until infinity. I like a slow flip, so I can really feel the soft tap of the thick plastic Lou’s puts on every record. I’m looking for David Sylvian records, and I know the real…

  • Nanny, Who Was Midge, Who Was Jessie Magdelene

    Jessie Magdalene MacDonnellApril 13, 1922 – October 1998 The MacDonnell house is average in size for Nova Scotia. Its two stories are chopped into six tiny bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, and sitting room—a tight fit for Daniel, Bridget, and their thirteen children. Even the cliff on which the house teeters and the jagged cove below…

  • Bowie’s Duet with Himself

    I made my first infographic. Or a stab at one. My students are making some, so I thought I should try it too. My students didn’t know Bowie’s “A Space Oddity.” I tried to hide my shock. But now they know a lot about it. Bowie recorded “A Space Oddity”  in 1968. It was his…

  • The Trouble with Reality

    Some days I wish Oprah could be President for a few weeks, just so she could lead a national book club, stealthily getting the entire population to read the same book at the same time. Today, I hope she’d begin with Brook Gladstone’s The Trouble with Reality. It’s an easy read, short and full of…