A Son’s Goodbye

August 31, 2009

Regardless of your opinion of Ted Kennedy, this eulogy by his oldest son is something you won’t soon forget. I heard it today, on my father’s 81st birthday, while driving home from Seattle. Hard to see the road through tears.


Existential Question

August 21, 2009

Leave it to a child to ask an existential question that reverberates louder than the Pacific surf:

Will there still be waves if everybody’s dead?

Atticus, in the midst of his first beach vacation, received a truthful answer — and a question. Why did you wonder such a thing? Silence, except the sound of waves arriving and retreating.

Atticus at blow hole


Obama the Timid

August 20, 2009

It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.

Paul Krugman nails what many of us have sensed with growing unease. For a guy absurdly and obscenely referred to as Hitler by no-nothing enemies, Obama is a softie. He needs to become Lyndon Johnson-ish in pursuing health-care and other reforms. Ruthlessness in pursuit of what’s right and just can be a virtue.


Nature of Man

August 19, 2009

Our son Atticus, now 4, watched part of Finding Nemo tonight. The story’s setting was relevant given the roaring surf outside our rented vacation house on the Oregon coast. Judging from his reaction to the dramatic scenes (shielding his eyes with a blanket and whimpering occasionally), we’ve overly sheltered him from TV and other insidious forms of pop culture. Read More


Beyond the void

August 13, 2009

Thinking about the universe is like staring at the sun. One has to quickly turn away from the incomprehensible vastness; the combined sensations of insignificance and loneliness are too much to bear. Oddly, this video graphically illustrating the vastness makes it less painful to contemplate. But the 3-D effect of drifting past uncountable galaxies is beyond humbling, especially considering that all are moving farther from Earth at stunning speed. And the video raises the inevitable questions that contemplating the universe brings: how is it possible, and why are we here? Watching the video should be required of those among us who are perpetually puffed up with self-importance.



Propaganda puppets

August 12, 2009

There was a time in this country when journalists lived to expose politicians’ lies. Today, however, some let politicians trample the truth unchallenged just when the public most needs the straight story. I’m speaking of the ludicrous claims that health-care reform proposals would establish “death panels” and give the federal government access to peoples’ bank accounts. Those who utter such naked lies merely for political gain — Sarah Palin and Michael Steele come to mind — deserve contempt. The journalists — a misnomer to be sure — deserve worse.


In Praise of Praise

August 6, 2009

Fame for a day, judging from this review of the book I co-authored. Observing reaction to Pendleton Round-Up at 100: Oregon’s Legendary Rodeo has been gratifying. Readers and reviewers like it so far, including those on Amazon, where I’ve cajoled no one to plant praise. Granted the book’s approach doesn’t invite criticism. While not rah-rah, the tenor is certainly exuberant in its broad exploration of an event with remarkable staying power. Of course the Round-Up isn’t just a rodeo, which is key to its century of success. Few communities can boast of an annual happening so integrated into the lives of their residents from one generation to the next.


Employees of the Heart

August 4, 2009

I saw my heart beating today from behind its walls. In darkened chambers easily mistaken for underground rooms, a handful of workers labored without pause. The workers are valve gates, flanges of flesh regulating blood flow with relentless precision. It’s easy to see why one day they might quit from fatigue or boredom. But one can hope they’re in quest of a gold medal for length of service.


“When do we start a serious dialogue about the Birther movement being a proxy for racism that is unacceptable to articulate in more direct terms?”

So asks Glen Thrush at Politico about a new poll on whether President Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen. The poll shows 58 percent of Republicans believe Obama isn’t a citizen or aren’t sure. By a wide margin this sentiment is strongest in the South. In fact, among Southerners of all political stripes, 53 percent are in the no or unsure he-isn’t-a-citizen camps.

Forget that Hawaii’s Republican governor has verified the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate and that journalists and others have inspected it. Forget that two Hawaiian newspapers printed birth announcements when Obama was born in 1961. What’s worth remembering is that hatred in politics kills rational thinking. It creates a false reality where wrongs feel righted and vindication can be summoned at a whim.

Read More


Why of War Fades

July 25, 2009

The last European survivor of World War I has died at age 111. Harry Patch’s late-life interviews are cautionary. Reading this story, I’m struck by a glaring hole: unmentioned is why nations sent millions to be slaughtered. A close friend of Patch said the veteran stressed two messages: “Remember with gratitude and respect those who served on all sides, (and) settle disputes by discussion, not war.”


Meaning of Life

July 16, 2009

I hope Roger Cohen of the New York Times wins a Pulitzer Prize for his remarkable commentary from the streets of Tehran. (He discusses the coverage here.) But world-stage politics aren’t his only topic. Yesterday’s gem, “The Meaning of Life,” uses a study of monkeys’ caloric intake to explore universal themes. And his image of baboons in a zoo greeting his father is as poignant as you’ll find in a newspaper column. Newspapers may be in trouble, but the journalism that Cohen practices will always have an audience.


Tonsorial Tale

July 13, 2009

Over the years I’ve learned to let silence invite candor. So people sometimes tell me more than they should, or more than I want to hear. Today, the guy cutting my hair mentioned how fast my eyebrows grow. Then he volunteered that his eyebrows have always been too sparse. Except for two adjacent hairs off to the side, like an island. His word, not mine. He said the hairs grew abnormally long. Read More


Attack of the Aphids

July 11, 2009

For two weeks the broccoli heads stood like princes of the garden, waiting for a kitchen coronation. The wait was too long.

Hordes of aphids stormed the cedar-plank box from which the broccoli grew and blanketed anything green. The heads looked cloaked in a lumpy white soot. Ruined. Read More