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Category: Essay

On Making Black and Other Lives Materially Matter (newsletter)

Celebrating Black History Month reminds one that, like Dr. Martin Luther King, too many African Americans enter history before their time, felled by those sworn to serve and protect them. Their murders have fueled civil rights uprisings such as swept the country in June 2020, after police blithely took the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black martyrs. The Black Lives Matter movement these events crystallized may be changing things, but how much it has impacted communities across America is tough to assess, at least for me. I guess you have to be there to know.

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Remembering Forgotten Lore

As the year inexorably winds down to the orgies of consumption I sometimes call the holydaze, I find myself unaccountably nostalgic for the “old daze,” when my parents, grandparents, and perhaps an aunt, cousin or guest gathered around the table at my childhood home in Connecticut. Along with my parents and theirs, five of my twelve first cousins have since departed to their final destinations. Of the survivors, one of us lives close at hand and she’ll be with us on Thanksgiving, hopefully with stories. Her mom was a fabulous cook who threw large dinner parties I well remember that I’ll never upstage, even with Peking Duck as our main course. (Don’t ask why. It just happened that way.)

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“The freedom and exhilaration of moral insensibility” (Newsletter)

This is a difficult subject, but recently it’s been bothering me a lot and it’s all Steve Bannon’s fault.

Let’s say you hate something—anything from water pollution to child trafficking—with a passion. Maybe a kid you know got poisoned by PCBs or disappeared. You loathe it so much, you feel, that if you ever captured a trafficker or a polluter you would gladly torture him. Better yet, get someone else to do it and enjoy their suffering vicariously.

Maybe you wouldn’t get off on that, but mightn’t you titter at someone slipping on a banana peel? That’s a mild form of schadenfreude, and we’ve all felt it at some point in our lives. We’re talking about human

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The “Beautiful Madness” that is Exarcheia (newsletter)

Street map of Exarchia Neighborhood in Central Athens from openstreetmap.org
Street map of Exarcheia neighborhood in Central Athens from openstreetmap.org
“The walls here are like a daily newspaper, trying to make us get off the couch and roam the streets demanding all that is written on the walls.” — Níkos Tρavvós
Breathlessly stumble down the western flank of the Athenian tourist destination Mount Lycabettus and soon you’ll find yourself slack-jawed, taking in a part of the city that looks and feels a whole lot different from the tourist haunts just blocks away. You’ve entered the twilight zone, a compact triangular enclave called Exarcheia, home to artists, poets, intellectuals, immigrants, communists and anarchists, a creative churn of radical visions, defying authority, making its own rules, perpetually decolonizing itself. Wikipedia tells us that in Exarcheia:
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Bringing Home the Bacon (newsletter)

Uncooked meaty bacon, courtesy of Science Meets Food blog

Dear Friends,
Before I get going, let me update you on last month’s used car quest. Craigslist came to the rescue with an ad for a Forest Green 2010 Toyota Corolla EX sedan without frills but in great condition with new exhaust system and tires. Turns out it was traded in by a local couple at 115,000 miles and our seller took it off the dealer’s hands. He’s a Ugandan dude who drives around in a flatbed tow truck, which is how he delivered the Corolla. The next week he returned to make off with our old Honda, which he bought for himself as an extra car. Interesting fellow; at about 130 pounds, he’s thin as a rail and dark as night with handsome chiseled features and likes to share his carefully construed life philosophy. And I when wanted the car checked out, he trucked to my auto mechanic who, it turned out, had known him for years.

When she came down from Vermont to exchange cars, our daughter was delighted with it. I love it when things groove like that. In case you’re wondering, after the exchange of cars we were out around $5K, though sale tax, title fee, and registration bumped that up ten percent. We’re all happy with the deal and I’m particularly happy to be done responding to car ads by shady guys named Bob or Tony.

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It’s Only Money (newsletter)

Dear Friends,

How’s your summer panning out so far, dear reader? Mine already feels booked up, what with cataract surgery for both eyes (now half-completed but fully enjoyable), a big anniversary, and at least one major purchase that’s been taking a lot of my time. That would be a used car for our collegiate daughter, who drives a Honda Civic that’s old enough to vote and has started acting its age.

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