Monthly Archives June 2016

Fourth Annual “Songs of Summer”

Today’s summer solstice accompanied by tonight’s full moon: yes, our cup may just be in danger of overflowing. Whether this confluence signals the beginning or end of some kind of SuperDuperNatural Age of Aquarius or some other magic moment in time, I do not know. What I do know is that I’m happy, at this age, to be offering a “Fourth Annual” anything, and hopeful we can all be upright and ready to boogie again for a few more “annual” this-or-thats still to come.

And so: the envelopes, please, for this ritual of the season, which this year blends wistfulness and nostalgia, pop fun and insouciance, rock spectacle, camp and more. And in case you’re wondering why your own fave summer-themed song isn’t here,  you might check the three previous compilations, to any of which you are invited to sing along while taking a few twirls around your kitchen. I bet you’d look just grand doing so with the full moon.


Read More

Memories of Early Jobs

 So my daughter is searching for a summer job, which, provided she lands one, will be her first job of any consequence, save for the very occasional child care gig or house-tending for vacationing neighbors. As a recent high school graduate, she’s a little late to be entering the job world—that’s right, a child of privilege, ’nuff said—but her quest has put me in mind of my own early jobs and the deep memories and images they have left me with most of a lifetime later.

My first sort-of-real job was as understudy for my brother’s paper route. He was three years older, and once he landed the job, he appointed himself CEO. Then he hired me, his 9-year-old younger brother, to get up with him twice a week at 5 a.m. I’d deliver the Eagle Rock Sentinel up one side of the street while he did the other. We did this over a whole bunch of streets.

For this, he paid me the princely sum of $1 each day, $...

Read More

Smackdown: Ken Burns Sounds the Donald Trump Alarm At Stanford Commencement

The documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has carved out an impressive career excavating, chronicling, mourning, and celebrating the great currents of American history, all with a kind of studied, non-partisan neutrality that avoids the axe-grinding and advocacy that is so common to the documentary form.

With his youthful good looks and tender, redemptive approach to the challenges and foibles of our people and their stories, Burns has largely managed to stay above the partisan political fray, forsaking the trenches of temporal combat in favor of personal narratives and anecdote that reveal ultimately larger truths of our shared humanity.

But that was then—before June 12, 2016, and his address to the Stanford University graduating class, which I was privileged to attend this morning in celebration of my goddaughter.

This morning, Ken Burns took the gloves off and did his damndest, most urgent best to deliver...

Read More

John Steinbeck’s Muddled View of Sunsets

Of course I was moved by The Grapes of Wrath, though I think East of Eden was a superior novel.

And Of Mice and Men? Who wasn’t reduced to blubbering at Lenny’s sorry fate? I sure was!

So this post is not to impugn the renowned and honorable John Steinbeck, champion of the dispossessed and travel companion of a dog named Charlie, among other estimable virtues.

It is only to hold up the fact, in graphic detail pertaining to one short sentence of Steinbeck’s prose, that writers don’t always get it right, that they most always benefit from conscientious editing, and that sometimes, even writers as gifted as Steinbeck, rewarded for their talents and toil by being assigned accomplished and decently paid editors, can fail and then be failed by those editors as well.

To such a degree, as a matter of fact, that the following kind of sentence can occasionally sneak past the sentries guarding against ambigui...

Read More