Monthly Archives June 2021

The Literary and Cinematic Triumph of “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”

A well-dressed and carefully coiffed man is poised on a plank in the middle of a bridge, surrounded by Union officers, all of them silent and stoic, mostly staring straight ahead. We hear birds chirping and water flowing in the river below, along with the clomp of soldiers’ boots and the rustling of ropes and ties as they move into position to bind the man hand and foot and neck in preparation for his hanging.

The atmosphere is solemn and silent, with but four words spoken (“First squad, stand fast!”).

The man casts his eyes about, fidgety, looking around himself and down to the water. He notes a piece of driftwood floating by and lingers with it for a moment. He tugs at the rope binding his hands behind him, gauging its give. Tears form in the corners of his eyes.

Nearly six minutes pass with this careful, excruciating preparation for an execution...

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Ninth Annual Songs of Summer

After last year’s annual edition of this summatime summatime summatime ritual, it was brought to my attention by astute readers that the previous eight years’ worth of selections had yet to include a single song by either Jimmy Buffett or the Beach Boys, who, if they didn’t first propagate the idea of summer and its languid pleasures, at least had a major hand in refining them for the modern age.

Shocked, I vowed to set things aright in 2021, both to give honor where honor is due, and pleasure where pleasure is desired.

So on this first day of summer, the summer after the summer that kind of wasn’t because nothing quite was during Pandemipalooza 2020, we are going to hear from both Mr. Buffett and Messrs. Wilson, Love, et al, along with the first repeat appearance in this series. That honor goes to Martha Reeves and her Vandellas, who will unfortunately not be “Dancin’ in the Streets” as they did in the...

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Brilliant Songs #22: Greg Brown’s “Rexroth’s Daughter”

One of the things I love about Greg Brown’s “Rexroth’s Daughter” is Brown’s refusal to offer any kind of explanation or backdrop to the somewhat mysterious title, which is encompassed in the only line he repeats in the song’s 72 lines: “I’m lookin’ for Rexroth’s daughter.”

This is consonant with a certain strain of creative artist who simply wants to have his or her work stand on its own, meaning what it means to anyone who comes across it, without shaping a viewer’s/reader’s/listener’s response via either explanation or the creator’s biography.

That said, we can surmise easily enough that the reference is to the great poet Kenneth Rexroth, often called the “father” of the so-called “Beat Generation” literary movement that grew up around him in 1950s San Francisco, and which included the poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among many others.

Rexroth was a self-taught intellectual ...

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At Seventy: Notes From the Zipline

If I believed in an afterlife, I would state without hesitation that I’m gonna miss this planet when I’m gone and heading off somewhere else. This feeling grows all the more acute with age, given that with the passage of time and the abundance of good fortune I have enjoyed through a now long-in-the-tooth 70 years, life truly does get more precious and appreciated every day.

Reveled in, actually.

This could all change on a dime, of course, if my luck were to turn and I was struck by severe illness or debilitation. When life becomes merely bearable for the duration or unbearably wracked with suffering, then a final closing of the lids and fadeout loom as a most welcome attraction.

But after a birthday weekend of multiple events that included hosting a large gathering of folks for whom it represented the first substantial social occasion following the pandemic, it looks like this day will not be a fadeou...

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