Category Odds & Ends

Joys, Sufferings, Creation: Beethoven’s “Heiligenstadt Testament”

You’re arguably the greatest musical force in history, and something inside you knows this, feels the weight and the call of it. You seem to have been born hearing the music of the spheres, with the strong determination to transcribe and share it with your fellow humans.

Like most all artists, you suffer various torments related to the struggle of creating something from nothing, to become as a god in wrestling ultimate beauty, harmony, wisdom from the unformed dust of creation.

This noble purpose clashes with the all-too-human vagaries of your personality, some endowed at birth, others formed by a miserable childhood under a highly abusive alcoholic father. He as much as beats music into you, but rather than recoil, you forge music into your own answer, a kind of transcendent revenge in which you explore and expand upon the very depths of disconsolation and tragedy, beauty and triumph.

Widely acclaimed bu...

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American Distemper: On Not Letting Our Daubers Down

Roger Craig was an avuncular figure in the sometimes rough-and-tumble, sometimes over-sentimentalized world of major league baseball. He was a better-than-his-record starting pitcher mid-20th century, enjoying a 12-year career and four World Series appearances before staying in the game first as a scout and coach and then through a successful decade-long run as a manager.

It was during his eight-season run (1985-92) managing the San Francisco Giants in that cosmopolitan city that the slightly drawling Durham, North Carolina native became known and celebrated for a down-home phrase to keep his players’ spirits up, especially when they were leaving the clubhouse after a tough loss, or worse, several losses in a row.

“Don’t let your daubers down,” he would tell them, employing that delightful, if somewhat mysterious-origin word “daubers” to here mean their spirits, confidence and passion for the game.

One ne...

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On Simone Biles and the Triumph of Women

Let’s face it, guys: the women have won. And though it was a long time coming, their victory was inevitable. They just had to push long enough, through a protracted labor, and wait us guys out, allowing our emotional deficits enough time to send us crashing into walls, dazed and confused and shouting ourselves hoarse all the way.

And as it turns out, their victory is ours too, though it has been a grudging one, and we have not yielded all that gently (who does, about what?). And there is still a long way to go.

But that is to get ahead of ourselves a little bit, and how we got here and what it means is worth a word or two.

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Many millennia after women began to strain against the bounds of the metaphorical straitjackets males had kept them cloaked in since our hunter-gatherer days in caves, it has become abundantly clear that all else being equal, the world would be in a hella better place if women had ru...

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Weeding As a Way of Life

Last fall we teamed up with our neighbors with whom we share a driveway that crosses our respective property lines and hired a guy named Max to bring his excavator out, level the driveways, then smooth out a nice load of gravel (“Gravel #67” from the Stone Center of North Carolina) to give it a uniform look.

Part and parcel of the effort was to bury or otherwise obliterate the veritable weed farm that had grown industriously through the mashup of crummy soil and lifeless little stones over the years.

Max told us that his scraping and sizable overlay of chunky new stone would keep the weeds to a minimum so we shouldn’t have to worry much about an invasion for a good long while. Which is when I should have followed up to ask for a more quantitatively specific definition of “good long while.” But I didn’t.

I came to find out in short enough order, though: about six months.

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That’s when spr...

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About Those Swimming Moroccan Migrants

I’ve been trying to picture plunging into the ocean off the Moroccan coast and swimming to Spain in search of a job and a new country. What would you wear? A bathing suit? Bermuda shorts? Long pants with a belt and some proper underwear? A long-sleeve shirt, a T-shirt, no shirt? Barefoot, I assume? Or maybe old tennis shoes or some kind of water shoe?

What else, if anything, would you try to take with you?

Would you maybe tie a small hiker’s belt to your waist, into which you place…what? What extra does one think to take along when swimming to a new world?

A spare shirt? Some prized family jewelry you hope to sell for a few euros once you wash ashore and evade the waiting soldiers?

Some sealed nuts or candy? A good-luck amulet? A toothbrush?

What would you take, besides the shirt on your back, assuming you are wearing one?

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In its annual migration report of January, 2020, the World Economic Forum ...

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