Monday, July 23, 2018

the unbearable lightness of fame

Did town criers really say "hear ye, hear ye"?

And did they ever weep, or did "cry" always refer to voice volume?

As for me?

Read all about it; or rather read all of it.

My latest book.

My ninth: Journey to the End of Love: In Search of Leonard Cohen -- and My Self.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

how embarrassing

How embarrassing?

Good question.

This embarrassing.

I am embarrassed. I have become embarrassed. I am embarrassing. Switch pronouns. We are embarrassed. We have become embarrassed. We are embarrassing. We are being embarrassed. We are an embarrassment. "We" here stands for the Disunited States of America. The good ol' DSA. What is it to be embarrassed? Embarrass: "to perplex, throw into doubt." The estimable Online Etymology Dictionary tells us "embarrass" comes to us from the French, meaning "to block," which came to us from the Italian "to bar," which came from Latin. Embarrass came to mean "to hamper, hinder," and then later "make (someone) feel awkward." Other meanings over the centuries have even included "mental state of unease." With this FACTUAL word history in mind, no matter where you perch on today's razored fence of political discourse, you cannot deny the reality of embarrassment. Whether you lament it or celebrate, it is here. The Age of Embarrassment. Whether you are on the barricades or hiding from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [Embarrassment] (ICE), welcome to Embarrassmentville. "Welcome" is hereby spelled e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s-s by edict of Embarrassing Executive Order No. 001. So, get used to it, boys and girls -- and anyone in-between or off the charts. Get used to a state of being perplexed, doubtful, blocked, barred, hampered, or hindered. Get used to feeling awkward and ill at ease. Get used to being embarrassed or making others feel embarrassed. Show your Embarrassment Visa upon demand.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

fissure fracture tensile tendril chasm

Since I started this blog, several years ago, with an inaugural column about excess and consumption, haven't we as a society become ever more fractured and fissured, with the tensile tendrils of chaos causing more chasms?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Icelandic dreams

Iceland. The thought during a balmy winter beckons me. Go north, and then north of there. Go to the planet's true north, its northernmost capital. While others go to the Cayman Islands (as I once did) or Belize or Puerto Rico or Mexico, you name it, to a warmer clime, I am fantasizing doing deeper, going into the cold, mine and Nature's. solo. And why not. Just the name of the country invites stoic challenge, though geothermal springs dispel those notions, as do stories of all-night revellers and Nordic, guilt-free abandon. Why not. Having flown to Ireland and Germany and seen the in-flight map of Transatlantic flight progress displayed on the screen on the back of the seat in front of me, and in those instances flying over Iceland, and thinking, wow, we are almost there, in Europe (though not quite; is Iceland in Europe?), I am thinking, Let's skip the continental Europe part and see what Iceland offers, even if no ice is there, literally or metaphorically.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Commonweal. No, not commonwealth. Forget the wealth part of it. Remember the common element. Have we lost a sense of commonweal? The common well-being, the body politic. A shared welfare (another word whose shades of meaning are often shrouded).


A Secular Prayer

Would that we could summon, or have someone, or something, summon unto us, for our own behalf, the solidarity of community, not riven by solipsism or divided by dissonance. Would that we could respect and honor our very own commonweal, even if by not trashing the land we traverse, or by unlittering the litter strewn before our averted or blinded eyes. Amen.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

albatross of euphemism

Here's a good clue as to where something fits in the moral labyrinth (or firmament): is it called by what it is? or do its users use a euphemism?

"Enhanced interrogation techniques" is torture. We can debate whether torture is moral or permissible or odiously necessary or an evil choice among other evils in wartime (or peacetime), blah blah, and so forth, but it is still torture.

If you have to resort to a euphemism, what is that telling us?

I salute commentary at the blog Orange Crate Art in this regard.

Of course, the military has a long history of employing euphemisms, as do governments.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

worth asking

Last night, having viewed the movie "The Railway Man" I encountered a "fearful symmetry" a day or so after the Senate released a report five years in the making (which I have not read) on "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture.

Don't people (a nation, a community) (don't I, don't you) have both a right and an obligation to ask:

What are we? What do we espouse? What do we stand for? What defines us?

I do not pretend these are simple questions evoking simple answers. Nor do I pretend to speak with authority, as I type this in a comfortable chair in a public cafe in a free society. (Allow a digression: are you "free" if you are cajoled, motivated, nudged, coerced every day by forces you do not recognize or acknowledge? I'm not talking conspiracy or paranoiac whisperings. I am referring to the relentless onslaught of consumerist stimulation that tickles our fancies and enslaves our wallets.)

I propose the asking (and potentially answering) of these and like-minded difficult but profound questions as part of our civic discourse  -- beyond pieties, cliches, jingoism, chauvinism, and bromides.

As G.K. Chesteron said, " 'My country, right or wrong' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.' "