An Impeachment Week Lamentation

WOW. I’m tempted to end it there, maybe with a dozen more of them, followed by a few paragraphs of exclamation points as our country, at least those of us watching and absorbing the awful spectacle unfolding in front of our eyes and ears, takes its collective breath and returns, yet again, to the awful question facing us: Can the sordidness and corruption coursing through every vein of Donald Trump’s misbegotten presidency possibly get any worse, and possibly offer any more clear and compelling evidence for why he is so manifestly, perfectly unfit to be the kind of leader we need and deserve?

As clearly devoted and decent as Deputy Secretary George Kent and Ambassador William Taylor showed themselves to be on Wednesday in exposing the multiple ways President Trump has undermined American interests in pursuing Ukrainian assistance in bringing down Joe Biden, it remained for Taylor’s predecessor, the deposed...

Read More

Two Guys in a Lighthouse: What Could Go Wrong?

The sum total of what I knew before walking into the theater to see “The Lighthouse” last night: “Two guys in a lighthouse, and things go south.” Wasn’t hard to foresee a taut psychological thriller, full of insight into the difficulty of human relations set amidst the extreme conditions of solitude that residing in a lighthouse would bring. Count me in!

What I wasn’t ready for—and quickly had to steel my defenses against—was an unrelenting 109 minutes (felt like 109 hours…) of human misery, wretchedness, crudity, homoerotic violence, loud clanging noises from the lighthouse, loud farting noises from an ancient mariner’s lower orifice, flashbacks, hallucinations, guilt, desperate masturbation, mermaid sex, hostile seagulls, even more hostile seas, and having to look at Willem Dafoe’s artfully rotted teeth, which showed prominently behind the beard that often seemed to contain outsized shards o...

Read More

Brilliant Songs #10: Tom Waits’s “Take It With Me”

Tom Waits

Last week, a plumber digging a trench by which we will be running electricity and water to a backyard shed-glorifed-into-a-library was backing his truck up the incline of our driveway, the back weighed down by the trailing ditch witch behind him and rather severely scraping the gravel, producing a sound that reminded no one of, say, Judy Collins. Nor, indeed, of any singer in the known universe this side of…Tom Waits.

Upon reflection, I could almost see Waits in the driver’s seat, his slightly askew pork pie hat protruding from the window, backing that baby up while low-growling in accompaniment, relishing the fingernail-dirtying work awaiting him on a cloudy fall morning. Not for him the refined beauty of a choir voice, the easy swing of Sinatra, the pretty balladry of Paul Simon.

Waits never flirted with pretty, the ditch witch and its excavated mud far more his metier than is a glorious floral arrang...

Read More

The Fires and Kindness This Time

We live on the edge of catastrophe. This is always the case, always has been. Born vulnerable and utterly helpless, we become, in the best of circumstances, less vulnerable only by degrees if we are fortunate enough to avoid early death.

Accident, illness and natural disaster perch on our shoulder, the uninvited intruder who never leaves but is mostly ignored through all our days.

This ignorance, this denial, is fundamental and necessary to our growth and flourishing as we move through life. Cowering in fear or wearing a permanent furrow on our brow is of no use whatsoever to our survival or our flourishing as conscious creatures with nearly limitless capacity for joy and fraternity.

We get up every morning expecting to see the night, with the next morning mostly the same.

Most of the time for a long time, we are lucky to be right. And sometimes, our luck runs out.

Worry, concern, even perfectly justified ...

Read More

Fire, Rage and Hope 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
                                                —Rudyard Kipling 

We live in a time when meaningful commentary about the affairs of the day faces the challenge of being overrun by ever more head-shaking events—and by the 24-hour news cycle that barely has time to chronicle those events before a new one crashes in commanding our attention.

It’s like one of those diabolical amusement park rides that no sooner dumps you out from a screeching, white knuckle series of turns than it drops you and your stomach down a precipitous descent far speedier than gravity would seem to allow.

And then the speed and lurch build up much too quickly again and you find yourself praying for the end of the r...

Read More