Tuesday, March 31, 2015

asleep at the wheel

He was slouched all the way back, the driver, in a seat tilted about as far back as it could go. Eyes closed. During the red light. I mean, he seemed out. He appeared to be sleeping, dozing. I was driving the opposite way. He was on my left. Would he wake up when the light had changed? Or would he live out the words sung by John Lennon in "A Day in the Life": "He didn't notice that the lights had changed." If his eyes really were closed or if he really were asleep at the wheel, how would he know when the light did change? Perhaps he was awaiting and expecting a beep of the horn of the cars in back of him to arouse him from his stupor, assuming he was in a stupor. Maybe he was merely taking a meditative pause. Or performing as a performance artist. Or he is an urban narcoleptic. Better yet, the driver was posing for me, for this very blog post. Yeah, that's it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

seeing the signs

Seeing the Signs.

That's the title of my latest book, available at Amazon.com.

It is almost entirely a compilation of stuff written here over several years.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, J.S. Bach

Lots of famous, infamous, and ordinary stuff have happened on March 21. Thanks be to God for the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach, in 1685 (though there's a little Julian and Gregorian calendar confusion). Sleepers, awake!

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Since the time I followed baseball box scores, at the age of six, I've been a news hound. I devoured something we called "the news." My older brother and I would hungrily await the afternoon delivery of The (Stamford) Advocate, hand it to our father, just home from work at the factory, and then respectfully wait for him to drop the sports section (or any other section, for that matter) after he finished reading it. "Current Events," another name for news, was always my best subject in school all the years before high school, and I was the best in that subject, long before trivia games that featured "current events" became popular. Lately? Not so much. As John Lennon lamented in song, "I read the news today, oh boy." Oh boy is right. What does the Gospel of Matthew say, "wars and rumors of war"? Oh, we've gone beyond wars, rumors of wars, all right. Beheadings, slaughter, burnings, torture, suicide bombings, and myriad forms of mayhem and carnage. Yes, these woes are not new to the human form except in the particulars. But lately I want to avert my eyes . . . and ears and so forth. It does not mean I want to be oblivious to the suffering and travails of the human condition. Though when I was younger, it used to be that this knowledge, these informations, somehow led to more empathy on my part, whether I was moved to action or thought. Was that so? Me, a news nut. Driving around in the car, always sure to catch the NPR news on the hour, if I'm listening to the radio, and not a music CD. Not so much. Not today. Burying my head in the sand, you say? Sounds like the latest atrocity.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Returning from the bathroom at 3:08 a.m., you check the iPad by your bed, more out of daytime habit than need or expectation. No emails, no notifications. Same with your pre-smartphone "device." No messages or calls silently announced (because you purposely dictate silence in the night hours, though that carries a risk of not learning of a dire need or catastrophe, personal or global). Arousing from a slumber, late, just before 8:30, you check again while lounging in bed, warmly enveloped under layers of flannel sheet, comforter, and thin quilt. Again, nothing. No white numeral embedded in the red alert circle in the upper right of the tablet's mail app; no announcement bars of missed calls or messages on the outdated unsmartphone that people mistakenly think is a Blackberry. You have your standard breakfast: Heidelberg Cracked Wheat toasted; three slices, all with Earth Balance Original spread, one with Welch's grape jelly; Simply Balanced organic black tea; a dash of whole milk; grapes. As is your custom, while you eat you partake of a digital fast, ignoring blips or pops or other notifications, which you make aurally available now that you are mobile and inching toward awakeness. After breakfast, you check again. Nothing. No emails, alerts, notifications. You attribute this to a legion of logical explanations (others' busyness, server issues, expirations, wifi seizures, unpaid subscriber services, spam, memory lapse, lack of directness or clarity toward the outside world), but after only the third day of this white space, this barren digital plain -- three infinitely long days, mind you! -- you begin to wonder who you were, or are, as you take a tissue and wipe the Richard-Nixon-like sweat that has begun to bead on your upper lip.

Friday, March 13, 2015

managing oldness

After my previous post, on managing newness, I figured it begged for this: managing oldness. You could make a strong argument that I should reissue the "managing newness" post virtually unchanged, and just view it as intended for "oldness"?

What difference would it make?

But that's merely postmodern cleverness, or a simulacrum of it.

Managing oldness.

That would refer to accepting life's limitations, such as memory lapses or confusion, and alterations in physical strength and endurance, and reduced motivation blah blah blah, and accepting that life itself is limited, as opposed to the invincible and robust notions of never-ending youth.

But I'm not even sure of that. To quote Bob Dylan, in "My Back Pages":

 "Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

My best and most prolific work came after I was 50.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

managing newness

In a profile in The New Yorker on Apple's design maestro Sir Jonny Ive, Ian Parker declares, "Ive manages newness." Managing newness. It's a daunting challenge, I am sure. And when you are in front of the forefront of the avant garde, as Apple is, it is even more of a task. But when you come right down to it, isn't that the daily challenge for you and for me? Newness unfolds in every moment. Nothing is permanent. The world is being created anew as I type this and as you read it. Newness abounds, physically and metaphysically. How do we manage it? With what tools or resources? With wild abandon or strict discipline? Toward what end? Managing newness. As it is written, "Behold, I make all things new."

DST, boo

The more I think about it, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is nonsense with little data to support its benefits. Many myths about it persist. (No, it was NOT instituted for the farmers; they vigorously opposed it.) And extending DST, as happened with legislation in 2005, brings no provable benefits that I can see. This is a topic that surely and easily should unite liberals, conservatives, rationalists, naysayers, soothsayers, and others.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

the snow, the ice, and other things

Even I, who champions the seasons and Upstate New York and the arduous climate as building character, must say, "Enough already." But to whom would I say it? And what would it change? So, along with all who endure this long winter, I must merely accept it. And store it as a memory of coolness in the blazing dog days of summer. I remain grateful for having the chance to be part of it all.