Category Odds & Ends

Iceland’s Awesome Volcano and “The Idea of the Holy”

When restaurants open fully up again and we can begin to enjoy all the familiar rituals such as our server exclaiming “Awesome choice!” when we order the chocolate truffle rather than crème brûlée off the dessert menu, I will suppress the urge, being the generally kind person I try to be in most every circumstance not involving Ted Cruz, to snag my phone out of my pocket and click onto the You Tube channel featuring the video footage I am going to show you below.

That will include refraining from even light-hearted but definitive commentary along the lines of, “Oh, you poor sheltered child, you don’t know from awesome! HERE is Awesome!!”

I am moved to share these sentiments after spending a good part of my morning marveling at the sheer, well, awesomeness of the volcanic eruption that began lighting up the mountains some 25 miles outside the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik on March 19...

Read More

Zombie Apocalypse Alert: Reviewing “The Social Dilemma”

Last night, at the end of my viewing “The Social Dilemma,” a documentary now streaming on Netflix that launches a howitzer at the purported addictive evils of modern social media manipulation and the technologies that enable it, up popped on my screen one of those “You might also like” blurbs that are attached to most every piece of media these days. They’re designed, of course, to keep us glued right where we are rather than take the dog for a walk or finish up the dinner dishes or read a bit of poetry from a paper book before turning off the bedside light.

“Hmmm,” I said to self, while warmly considering the walk down the hall to the bedroom—“I’ve never seen (the 2005 Bob Dylan documentary) ‘No Direction Home’…maybe I’ll just peek in on the first 10 minutes!”

Two hours later (it was now midnight), I paused it for a moment and saw on the screen that there was an hour and forty-eigh...

Read More

Saving the Caterpillars

I have taken to spotting the sudden August profusion of caterpillars making their way across the park path before the sun makes it over the trees. Danger is everywhere, a veritable Omaha Beach, but with unwitting enemies. A steady fusillade of pedestrians, drivers and cyclists go about their morning through the park, unknowingly poised to crush the hapless creatures in but one more episode of natural, deadly roulette. Deliberating hardly at all in my mission of mercy, I begin scooping up first one, then another and another caterpillar and depositing them on the grass three feet and an eternity away, abutting the forested hillside. Then I turn back to espy two more, just a few feet ahead as an SUV turns in from the street coming at us...

Read More

Batter Up! But What About Everyone Else?

“What Are People For?” asked the farmer-poet Wendell Berry in the title essay of his 1990 collection that largely bemoaned industrial agriculture, mechanization, and the forced migration of millions of rural residents to urban areas in the name of progress and efficiency. The question rings through broad swaths of modern life, and will no doubt occupy the best minds of future generations as they grapple with the continued evolution of robotics and computerization and their effect on human consciousness and self-identity.

The question occurred to me Thursday night in a different context, though: beholding the “Opening Day” of the severely truncated 2020 baseball season that was like no other, ever.

Yes, two teams gathered in their finest new uniforms to do battle in a major league ballpark, but that was about where any similarities to baseball as we know it ended.

Like the old Buddhist koan about whether a...

Read More

Social Distance Is None Too Social

A modest proposal: Can we stop calling the current, epidemiologically-sanctioned six-foot social distance “social?” I find it to be anything but social in the way that we know that word, unless “social” has been relegated exclusively to the adjective phrase, “socially conscious,” which a six-foot separation from other human beings indeed is in the context of protecting others and ourselves from the ravages of the coronavirus.

But “social distance” seems an almost cruel phrase in a time when all manner of sociability is, however justifiably, under siege, laid low, terrorized by a sub-microscopic virus that has ironically grown into a gigantic political football, bobbled back and forth between the left and right spheres of our political divide, both of whom are sounding decidedly anti-social notes of disdain as they watch, with mounting disapproval, the other side go about their lives.

Sigh…

It becomes obvio...

Read More