“And Then It Was Over”: A Song of Transience, Clinging and Flux

“Everything flows and nothing stays,” said Heraclitus some 2,500 years ago, with those words and many thousands more that followed putting his stamp on the cosmic ledger as the “Philosopher of Flux.” He added a pleasing image by proclaiming we can never step into the same river twice, the waters displaced by that step already having worked their way downstream, so good luck finding those drops now.

Rivers may not always run deep, but Heraclitus most certainly did.

Bill noting the trajectory of their blooms’ fleeting life cycle by deadpanning: ‘And then it was over.’

“There really is no tomorrow, because when tomorrow comes, it’s today!” That was Mrs. Anderson, my kindly third grade teacher who seemed to my 8-year-old eyes to have been born in the age of Heraclitus, maybe even his wife, waxing philosophic with a mischievous smile on her face at the front of the class.

It sounded slightly...

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Doris Day: Queen of Eternal Sunshine

The trouble with Doris Day—besides the wreck of her marital life that left her at various times by various husbands abused physically, emotionally and financially—was that she never stopped sounding and looking and being, at least outwardly, so darn nice. Still is, actually, as evidenced by a nice, if characteristically formulaic, written interview she gave to “The Hollywood Reporter” on her 97th birthday three days ago.

That niceness of the midwestern, sunnyblonde film star who wore a relentless effervescent smile was a problem for Day chiefly because it tended to obscure just what a fabulous singer she was.

No one mistakes, say, Nina Simone, as anything but a kickass singing talent, all that smoldering, sometimes volcanic expulsion of words and emotion cementing her place in history as a singer of extraordinary passion and skill.

Day, however, exuded such an overt “America’s sweetheart” ki...

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The Socialist Plot to Destroy American Freedom

Let’s start with this: the progressive income tax is “socialist,” pure and simple. It allows the government to take more— far more, barring sleazy or outright illegal accounting practices—from the wealthy than it does the lower classes. That’s the baseline truth, the distilled fact about the matter. One can argue from there about its benefits or folly, but not about the equation itself:

Progressive Income Tax = Socialism.

Ben Carson said as much in a 2015 Republican presidential debate, and it was one of the few things he uttered throughout the campaign that actually made sense. (Although his full statement on the matter did devolve into a simplistic argument against progressive taxation):

“It’s all about America. You know, the people who say, ‘The guy who paid a billion dollars because he had 10, he’s still got $9 billion left? That’s not fair...

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Getting Its Sea Legs: On Restaking the Maple Tree

Coming to the tail-end of its first winter in my front yard rather than in the pot where it had spent its infancy at the nursery, the red maple “October Glory” was tightly bound to its single stake. No wiggle room, unmoved and unbreakable by the wind.

Secure.

Its skinny stalk of a trunk suggests an egret’s leg, compared to the elephant leg of the stately catalpa tree it replaced on the day the catalpa met its end in December. It is not unworthy of note that the catalpa, despite its trunk’s several feet of circumference, was also subject to felling by the wind on that day it yielded its place to the maple, its trunk having hollowed with age, its sprawling root system no longer the fierce, proud bulwark against the incursions of winter storms.

The catalpa in its dotage, porous and wobbly with age, its replacement young maple wobbly with not enough of it.

But three months on and with spring winds ahead,...

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The Allure of Autocracy: Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America”

“France has been defeated, and despite the propaganda and confusion of recent months, it is now obvious that England is losing the war. (Audience cheers loudly.) I have been forced to the conclusion that we cannot win this war for England regardless of how much assistance we send. That is why the America First Committee has been formed.”

That’s from a speech in Manhattan by American aviation hero Charles Lindbergh in 1940, arguing passionately against American intervention in World War II. Lindbergh’s staunch isolationism was hardly an aberration in American life at the time. Much of the country was torn about how to respond to Hitler’s German war machine that was devouring much of Europe, the massive oceans on either side of our continent making gauzy dreams of remaining above the fray more inviting than almost any other country could afford to be.

In his 2004 novel “The Plot Against America,”

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