Category Personal Reflections

Why I Quit Watching “The Sopranos”

When my daughter was four or five years old, we took her to a highly touted “children’s movie” animation having to do with the escapades of a pony finding its way through fraught circumstances. I remember neither the title nor anything else to do with the plot save this: at one point, the pony was tied to a stake and thrashing helplessly as foreboding music swelled and some evil force prepared to descend upon it.

The movie ended for us right then because my daughter began to sob uncontrollably, fear and sorrow etched full upon her face. After a few murmured soothings from her mother and me proved completely fruitless, we exited the theater.

I thought back to that episode recently when finally catching up to “The Sopranos,” the multi-award-winning television series that had critics of the time swooning, but which I completely missed during its 1999-2007 run...

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Oh, Bah, Humbug on All That Bah, Humbug!

You know what really makes me tired and stressed this time of year? Hearing all about how tired and stressed people are this time of year. Enough already, out out outta here with your abject tales of how rough you have it from Thanksgiving through the New Year! This is what you want to spend even two cents of your emotional capital on?

I know, I know, families can be complicated (religion even more so), rampant consumerism carries a lot of baggage (and too damn much crazy packaging!) and the cost of a Christmas tree seems to have gone as far north as the North Pole.

But still.

In the sum total of such things, we celebrate so very little in this life of toil and loss and worry that our team will yet again miss out on the World Series next year.

And if your vote is to cancel five or six weeks of this darkest time of year, when basically all of your ancestors stretching back to the Caveman Boulevard days some...

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Answering Alzheimer’s: Amy Bloom’s “In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss”

Amy Bloom gets right down to it in her 2022 memoir, “In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss.” The city of Zurich and the fact of her husband Brian’s Alzheimer’s disease comes up in the first paragraph as the couple boards a plane headed to that Swiss city. Their purpose for the trip is revealed in the fourth paragraph, which begins with these two stout declarative sentences:

“Dignitas’s office is in Zurich, and that’s where we’re headed. Dignitas is a Swiss nonprofit organization offering accompanied suicide.”

Through the subsequent 200+ pages, the multi-talented, much-honored Bloom (novels, short stories, non-fiction, journalism, children’s books, screenplays, television scripts, college professorships, longtime clinical social worker) takes us along with her on that journey whose end she telegraphs to us in the book’s opening lines.

She does so by skillfully moving back and forth in time in short chapters th...

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Notes on a Runner’s High

One of the paradoxes of our scientific age is that laypersons often take what scientists tell us as gospel, whereas scientists themselves mostly flee in horror from any such supposition.

In reality, science is only partly about a method to accrue verifiable knowledge, because, as every scientist knows and every educated layperson should appreciate, it is also a process that clearly implies flux, that remains tentative and contingent through open-ended phases of hypothesis, testing, collating results, questioning, challenging, retesting and reverifying results again.

None of which stands as the final word.

Instead, every piece of scientific literature includes an implicit, open invitation for other scientists to conduct their own research to disprove what previous science has held to be the latest knowledge in any given field.

Movement tends to beget continued movement, the familiar refrain of “Use it or lo...

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My War With Wisteria

Make no mistake: It’s war out there. Arduous, protracted war, in which prisoners are endured only if necessary, but their execution is preferred. In this witless zero sum game, sun and soil and water are the prizes, and brutal, single-minded purpose is the cost of pursuing them.

My name is Wisteria, and my goal is to cover every square inch of Earth.

Mind if I sidle in here underneath you for a spell?


Thankfully, wisteria won’t likely achieve its goal, but it will not be for lack of trying. To its no-doubt chagrin, it hasn’t (yet?) figured out how to survive and thrive in oceans or on tall chilly peaks, about which it remains ignorant. But here in the southeast, it knows all too much about surviving and thriving, having long since mastered the art of absorbing essential nutrients in great abundance after its major varieties were introduced as ornamental flowering vines from Asia in the early 1800s.


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