•6 September 2017 • Leave a Comment

All I ask from life, of which forty (to reach my biblically-allotted three score and ten), maybe fifty years are left to me, is to bear witness to the universe asking of it the many and more questions we pose. I’m content to be a doddering old man, anonymous and forgotten, if I can but get a further view into the cosmic ineffable. Ultimately, we are star dust and to star dust shall we return — I, for one, will be honored to burn until my death shakes the cosmos — and I’m pretty damn sanguine about that.

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On Getting Old (1/whatever number of posts I can muster before biochemistry catches up with me; I’m going to need more duct tape and Gorilla Glue© even to make it to 35.

•24 August 2017 • Leave a Comment

Help? When I was in the Green Room in LA, having had hair & makeup done, while the other two were chatting amicably (something I’m much better at when it’s via text rather than face-to-face — I will deign to take responsibility for this one; I have tried any number of reactive therapies) helped, really, but I’m putting this on severe depression/anxiety disorder) with the various staff, in preparation for our upcoming bout on Jeopardy!, I sat in a corner, iPod (remember those?) in hand, listening to “I Don’t Wanna Hear It” on repeat. Minor Threat  was raw, kick-you-in the balls-while-wearing-steel-toed-boots kind of shit. Hardcore at its pinnacle. 

Now I’m sitting here, working on an article about Kafka, Hegel, Kundera & the concept of historical cycles w a sleeping cat about a meter away, with a Taylor Swift track (“Shake It Off”, which is annoyingly catchy) stuck in my head. 

You’re Not Alone

•23 August 2017 • Leave a Comment

To those of you with whom I’ve had conversations lately in which you’ve shared feelings of doubt, despair, fear and loneliness, it’s okay. You’re not alone. I know that feeling all too well. In the last five years, I’ve had to come out three times: as a suicide attempt survivor who suffers from severe depression/anxiety disorder, as a man with a longstanding eating order and the obvious one — as gay. But you know what? I’m still here because of friends like you; I can’t repay that debt, but I am always here for you. If you need someone to talk with or just to listen, I’m here for you as are many, many others. You are not alone.

Red Ink

•6 June 2017 • Leave a Comment

I wield two red pens: the Red Pen of Sorrow and the Red Pen of Grace. Neither red pen is infallible, though the second is also the Red Pen of Things Hoped For but Unseen. The first red pen makes my eyeliner run, but my mascara is waterproof. It can be called the Red Pen of Things Unseen Yet Hoped For. 

Both rise with the Full Moon.

Why I Read the New York Times

•9 April 2017 • 2 Comments

One of my mantras and often-deployed Twitter hashtag is #ForeverPrint; it hasn’t really caught on, but the vagaries of social media outreach optimization are thankfully beyond me and will remain so. All of which to say is that when I read, which is often, I want a tangible text in front of me. I’ve written before about the personal importance of the aesthetic effects of the printed word, but that’s not quite the point. 

It’s no secret — nor would I even try to make it one — that politically, I’m firmly on the left. I tend to vote for Democrats, because in our undemocratic political system, pragmatism trumps (no pun intended, this time) ideology. Of the viable candidates (of whom, yes, is a triple divorcée and quadruple bankruptee who boasts about sexual assault and has the intellectual curiosity of a week-old cantaloupe and now holds the nuclear codes… but I digress), I supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and still proudly display a “Bernie 2016” sticker on the bumper of my battered Civic.

So now that we’ve gotten the ideological parts aside, the reason I read the Times is both tangible and ideological — though not, perhaps, in the way you might be thinking. The tangible part is easy — I love waking up around 05:00, starting my coffee brewing while waiting for the distinctive “thwack” of today’s Times hitting the cracked and often snow-dusted pathway of the driveway — that distinctively American staple attesting to home-ownership and a place in what’s left of the middle class. Or maybe, when I can’t afford it (which is often; the Times ain’t cheap), I read it at the college library, sifting through the Thursday Styles section with as much interest as the box elder bug making her/his daily sojourn across the wide window opening out unto an artificial brook dammed artificially. 

One might think that I read the Times because editorially, we’re on the same page (bad pun *not* explicitly intended); the truth, however, is far from it. I tend to skip over the editorial page, reading only krugman and kristof with any regularity, and anyone else depending on the topic at hand. Part of that is simple fatigue — there’s a lot of text between A1 and A30, or wherever the editorial page is located. Which brings me to my point; I don’t read The New York Times because I need editorial comforting close to my ideology; I read it because it’s one of the few newspapers left in the world with the resources and curiosity to investigate and report on stories that few news sources can. The Times also has the resources of a stable of journalists dying to see their byline in the “Grey Lady,” and — whatever it pays them — it’s not enough. I read The New York Times not because I’m a democratic socialist (I am), but because I want to learn about the politics in, say, Sierra Leone, religious sects in Laos, the human effects of drug trafficking in Bolivia. I’d love to have the time to read The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Le Monde, The Financial Times, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, but the Times, cover to cover (which is how I read it usually) takes 2 1/2-3h by itself. I go to it primarily because of the breadth and depth of its coverage, the quality of its journalists and the concomitant quality of its reportage on a consistent basis. 

Why Opposing Gorsuch is Bad Strategy

•26 March 2017 • Leave a Comment

Look, I dislike Supreme Court Justice Nominee Hon. Neil Gorsuch as much as anyone who considers themselves on the political left. That is to say, I really dislike Judge Gorsuch and oppose his judicial philosophy on almost any issue, given his statements and previous rulings. I think his assumption of the late Justice Scalia’s seat on the bench would open the door to disastrous 5-4 rulings on everything from a woman’s right to her own body, the use of torture and so-called “black sites,” LGBT equality, separation of church and state, separation of powers, environmental regulation — basically, well, everything of contemporary judicial consequence, and that could cause far-reaching disasters for decades to come.

Of course, this should be Merrick Garland’s seat, but that discussion can go on ad infinitum and won’t change the fact that Republicans are dicks and we’re stuck with a Trump nominee. Now here’s why opposing Gorsuch is the wrong move right now; Trump — even as the one-term president (if even) he’s working really hard to be — likely will have at least, and I can’t emphasize that enough — at least — one more Supreme Court pick. Statistically speaking, the Justices whose seats Trump would get to fill are those of Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg [84y, 0m — and happy belated birthday! (15 March)] and Justice Anthony Kennedy (80y, 8m and the longest-tenured member of the Court at 29y, 1m); Justice Stephen Breyer turns 80 next year.

Gorsuch would be replacing Scalia, and all the pundits have issued the talking point that, in terms of jurisprudence, Gorsuch’s philosophy most resembles that of Justice Scalia. This is obvious, but you’d be trading one conservative for another; the Court’s ideological balance would revert to the status quo ante. Beyond that, Gorsuch, in his hearings, at least (which I watched far more of than I thought possible), and in the few opinions of his I’ve read seems to possess a very agile and knowledgeable legal mind. His prose doesn’t dazzle or bite like Scalia’s, but whose does? Of course, you’ll also hear that his colleagues and even opposing counsels hold him in very high esteem, etc. None of this diminishes from the wrongheadedness of his judicial philosophy, as if a 230-year old document written by white men could anticipate many of the issues on which the Court must rule, but that’s its own discussion, on which oil tankers’ worth of ink has already been spilled, and on which I’m not qualified to pronounce judgment.

To get to the point finally, Gorsuch is at least a competent and seemingly thoughtful jurist. Despite the major victory in derailing Republicans’ attempt to destroy America’s healthcare system (such as it is), Democrats would be wise to keep their powder dry on the Gorsuch nomination. Even with a filibuster, he’s highly likely to end up being confirmed; plus filibustering raises the prospect of Sen. McConnell using the so-called nuclear option, giving Trump essentially carte blanche for any future nominee. Let Gorsuch replace Scalia; save the fight for the next round, when it won’t be the Court’s most conservative Justice being replaced by another conservative, but potentially a “liberal” Justice being replaced by a conservative; and, given Trump’s propensity for nepotism, one who may be grossly unqualified unlike Gorsuch.

It really pains me to write this, but to take a pragmatic long-term view, there’s more to be lost than gained in an ultimately quixotic attempt to block Gorsuch.

(Caveat: I am neither a lawyer nor a law student; any legal analysis is predicated only on what I’ve read and researched independently)

The Public Good and Obamacare

•7 March 2017 • Leave a Comment

It’s not just the sprawling, unwieldy and imperfect Affordable Care Act (which, despite its flaws, has managed to save countless lives — mine among them) that Trump, Ryan and Republicans in general oppose, and it’s not just the very concept of “public health” that they oppose. No, it’s the very notion of a public good in general to which they are so vehemently opposed. This in spite of overwhelming evidence that the provision of a good that impacts an individual directly can positively impact others who may not benefit directly. Vaccination is the exemple parfait here. Republicans cringe in affected horror any time the public good as such comes under consideration, braying about “socialism” (which very few understand) and inveighing against the “unworthy” others who might benefit; the reality, of course, is that when it comes to health, everyone benefits if everyone else is healthier. The same holds for clean air and water, combating the effects of climate change, research and development, expanded access to communication, affordable quality education; the list goes on. No man is an island, John Donne famously wrote, yet the concept of isolated Promethean man seems to be the wet dream of much of the contemporary right. 

 
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