Fifth Annual Songs of Summer

When I decided to celebrate the summer solstice of 2013 with a salute to “Songs of Summer,” I had a warm, portentous feeling—“Hey, I could do this again next year and maybe even annually!”—and a tiny concern: “Might I run out of summer songs someday?”

The warm feeling has come to pass with three subsequent editions of this Rite of Summer, the whole previous lot available for viewing and listening here, while the concern has proven to be slightly ridiculous, given how many songs—of  the pop-rock genres  in particular—incorporate summer themes. Seems the warmer days get us out more, and the longer nights keep us out there doing the things people do in the sweet, sweet summertime. Here’s to yours!

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Leave it to The Kinks to record this iconic song on a frozen and snowy winter day...

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The Old Dead Shit of a Late Spring Garden

I know I’m not the first person to realize that gardening is the world’s most ubiquitous and consistent metaphor factory. Prepare the soil, plant a bulb, weed and water a patch of dirt, then have at it on matters regarding one’s place in the world and desire to do right by it.

Where else this side of church is one allowed to stand naked (metaphor there, too…) before the creation while pondering its meaning and relevance to one’s life?

So on yesterday’s late, late spring day, a certain correspondent of yours found himself deep into mounds of decaying poppies and grasses in his backyard, exclaiming to no one in particular: “Gosh, there’s a lot of old dead shit in there!”

And fall was nowhere in sight, smell or sound.

It turns out this is one of gardening’s boundless number of secrets: that death, and the need to move its remnants out of the way, is pretty much a four-season proposition...

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12 Enduring Takeaways From J.M. Barrie’s “Courage”

We are fresh off graduation season and its urgent exhortations for young men and women to sally forth and boldly make their mark in the world. Just over ninety-five years ago, the writer J.M. Barrie, yet to produce his enduring masterpiece “Peter Pan,” sounded some of the same notes but went most all of today’s grad speakers quite a bit better in his inaugural address upon being named rector at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland.

As a speech, “Courage” clocked in at a longish (for these days) one hour-plus, but by virtue of its text being shared and then bound into book form, it has been provided to us as a quickie half-hour or so read, available free here on the Internet. Among its many virtues is this, I will surmise: Once you read it, I doubt you will ever think about courage in quite the same light again.

He states his reason for reflecting on it forthrightly enough:

“You must excuse me ...

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Infected by Trump Derangement Syndrome

If only we would all just get off his back and let him govern, we are told. The poor man is besieged on every side, the jackals of the press circling and sniping, relentless in their bare-teethed aggression. Behind them, 68 million aggrieved and unyielding Clinton voters, unwilling to accept the verdict of the electoral college, criticizing his every breath and utterance.

Unfair and unprecedented, we are told, the president himself shaping the narrative of his terrible victimization.

Poor fellow! Why won’t we just give him a chance?

Well!

I wish I could. But I’m a victim myself, suffering the ravages of an awful disease.

I’m Andrew, and I have Trump Derangement Syndrome.

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It’s hardly just liberals who have despaired of Trump ever being other than an undisciplined, unprin...

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On Losing Stuff. And Loss. And Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”

How much time might you have spent in the past, oh, month, looking for items you misplaced?

The keys, the glasses, the purse, the shirt, the notes, the credit card you removed from the wallet to make a purchase, online or in the store, suddenly gone. (Lucky for you if the checker or bagger chased you out to the parking lot, smiling, bless their heart, your card held aloft in their hands in the kindest possible reproach.)

With your misplacements at home, you begin flipping over the dish towels, the junk mail, the pillows and post-its and papers and gadgets.

Minutes of wandering and purse-lipped memory-searching pass, and you begin muttering, the plaintive question emerging almost involuntarily, rhetorically, in increasing desperation, “Where could it be? Where the hell could it be?”

You resolve to stay calm.

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Studies of such matters (who resolves to study such matters anyway? bless them, too!) re...

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