Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Beans and Izzy drove across country

My doggy friends Beans and Izzy left Cambridge, Massachusetts earlier this summer and drove to Palo Alto, California with their two owners DiDi and Spencer.

This is what they saw ...

Beans in Badlands, South Dakota

Beans at Niagara Falls, New York

Beans in Half Moon Bay, California

Beans and Izzy in Oregon

Izzy at Crater Lake, Oregon

Beans and Izzy and bison in Yellowstone, Wyoming

Izzy at Grizzly Bear rescue, Montana

Izzy and Beans at Grand Tetons, Wyoming

[all photos courtesy of DiDi and Spencer]

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hezekiah Usher on the Common

On Monday, I received this email from a woman named Dawn regarding the above photo ...

I am a descendent of Robert Usher, Hezekiah’s brother.  I couldn’t tell why you had posted the image, so I thought I would just ping you and ask if you are a descendent and, if so, did you help with installing the plaque?

So I wrote her back ...

I am not related to the Ushers at all. I just thought it was such a Boston thing — among the many historic markers in this town, here was also the first publisher. And he is commemorated by a small plaque on the Boston Common. It was very touching memorial to person most of us have never heard of, who lived hundreds of years ago.
Also, the name Hezekiah Usher is pretty wonderful all on its own.
In addition, in this time of constant assault on freedom of the press, one of the most fundamental bedrocks of our liberty, it’s nice to remember a man who did so much to make sure that this country had a free press, by first making sure we had a printing press! Who knew that a little old printer could be so important?!!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

“I forgive you.” An antidote for our times.

When Brandt Jean forgave ex-Dallas cop Amber Guyger for murdering his brother, he provided the world with an extreme example of human grace, a true antidote for our times. While our politicians always succeed in bringing us to the underbelly of our souls these days, Brandt Jean’s three simple words and his accompanying thoughts caught on video from a Texas courtroom and shared around the world will always be a high point in this otherwise very low year — a exceptional counterexample to the pettiness and mendacity of our utterly broken public morality. It is a shame that such a good person had to suffer so much to offer us all such a profound lesson in humanity.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Mr. Trump's Fix-It Man

Donald Trump has always needed someone to do extra curricular work for him.

That's why he kept Michael Cohen around for so long. Cohen wasn't a lawyer. He was a Fix-It Man, always trying to clean up the nasty, dirty places Trump found himself in.

When Trump became president, the Cohen relationship soured ... too much dirty work. Too many people watching. Too many consequences.

Many people assume that Rudy Giuliani stepped into that role for the commander in chief, but they are wrong.

None other than our attorney general William Barr has become Donald Trump's dirty lawyer, his ultimate Fix-It Man.

In America, they say you get what you pay for. We all will be paying for this for a very long time.

Monday, August 26, 2019

"I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

A recent trip to Bennington, Vermont brought me to the Old Bennington Cemetery 

and Robert Frost's grave.

On it are inscribed the words, "I had a lover's quarrel with the world," from his poem "A Lesson for Today."

I prefer to think of him by his poem "Out, Out --," where he describes "And from there those that lifted eyes could count / Five mountain ranges one behind the other / Under the sunset far into Vermont."

It's very much the sense you get when you're near the Old Bennington Cemetery, though it is very hard not to lift one's eyes.

‘Out, Out—’

The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside him in her apron
To tell them ‘Supper.’ At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was, 
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart— 
He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it. 
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Dayton in 30 seconds

One obvious conclusion from the Dayton shooting -- and I'm not the first to call this out -- is that the thesis saying, "all we need to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," has been utterly and completely disproven.

It took police -- armed, trained police -- 30 seconds to "neutralize" the Ohio assailant from the moment he fired his first shot to the time he stopped shooting. That's no time at all.

Nevertheless, he still was able to kill 9 people. 

That is not the description of a system working as it should. That is the description of a society gone insane. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Pollen is my friend!

It turns out, I'm an expert on pollen ...

The Boston Globe says so.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Words at the Cambridge Holocaust Commemoration

On May 2, I was invited to introduce the poem "Bashert" at the Cambridge Holocaust Commemoration ceremony. Here are the introductory words I gave ...


Every year we gather here to commemorate the Holocaust. We do so not just to remember the many victims of that horrific crime. But also to reassert a faith: a faith in humanity, a faith in other people, a faith in ourselves.

One need not look very far today to remember just how important our evening is tonight. Remembering and grieving the past is only part of what we do. Joining and committing to fight against many claws of bigotry, demonization and indifference that allow hatred to flourish and inhumanity to gain the upper hand, we do that too.

As part of our commemoration, we read the poem Bashert, through the many voices that make up our one community. 

Bashert  is written by Irena Klepfisz and it means something like “destiny” in Yiddish. The poem expresses the randomness of death and survival within the context of systematic, deliberate genocide of the Nazi regime. 

Klepfisz tells us about nameless people, and their fate, people whom she undoubtedly knew. We know these people too. They exist in our memories and they exist in our lives and they exist in ourselves. We are inextricably connected to one another.

This poem — and this evening — spurs us to remember all communities that faced or face repression, persecution, and genocide, wherever they may find themselves and whoever they may be. 

It spurs us to renew our commitment to confronting intolerance and inhumanity wherever it exists. It spurs to act against violence and to speak out against the willingness to do violence whenever it emerges.

And it spurs us to honor the grandest part of the human spirit … its resistance and resilience … and its unfathomable capacity for kindness.

This is a responsive reading, and we ask the audience you join us in saying “These words are dedicated to all those who died,” which can be found starting on Page 8 of your program.