The Aggression of Technologies

    Some technologies seem to be more aggressive than others in changing their times. Automatic transmissions, for instance, are ubiquitous but fairly inconsequential; they did not significantly change the experience of driving, and I can still choose to drive a stick if I really want. The rise of synthetic fabrics meant little to me […]


      A blank page has a terrible glow, its unearthly grayish white pulsing at you, waiting. I used to sit there staring back, mesmerized, paralyzed. One day a coworker shoved me aside—we were collaborating on a newsletter—and just. started. typing. Words clattered from his fingers, made whole sentences, then paragraphs, and he moved […]

A Bookstore Like Going Home

    Yesterday was national Independent Bookstore Day, which the Boston Globe says was first “put on by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association” in 2014. I did not know there was such a promotional event until it was over, but anything that helps preserve our national reserve of independent bookstores and saves us from […]

The End of Elegance

      A few weeks ago, I watched Nicole Kidman in Grace of Monaco. At the outset, Grace Kelly, so cool on screen, was hot with misery and insecure in her new role. The audience has the fun of watching her transformation, as she summons the sort of elegance one expects from a princess. […]

People Who Eat People

      Back in the eighties, I read Peter Singer and vowed to stop eating animals. The artist Rick Gibson read Peter Singer and decided it was okay to start eating humans. The hosts of the Hi-Phi Nation podcast interviewed him just recently, because news like this does not get old. He explained that […]

Hunting for the Right Perfume

    I was young, out of town at my first work conference, feeling shy and unschooled in what were clearly rituals of the occasion—the swag room where people tried to sell you their stuff, the schmoozy continental breakfast, the politics, the hookups…. On the first long break, I nipped into a nearby store and […]

Did Shakespeare Have Insomnia?

    Guilty insomnia drives Macbeth near mad. Tossing and turning, his brain afire with guilt and torment, he craves “sleep, that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care.” The irony is rich, as he killed King Duncan while he slept. “Macbeth does murder sleep,” a voice reminds him in the night. He has ruptured […]

Homicidal Pigs, Perverted Roosters, and a Hapless She-Ass

      In the European Middle Ages, people thought animals were perfectly capable of committing crimes. Pigs, horses, cows, and other domestic animals were arrested, charged with a lively array of offenses, jailed, tried, and convicted (or exonerated, if their assigned public defender managed to persuade a judge of their innocence). Creatures had to […]

On the Sunny Shores of Peppermint Bay: Remembering Shirley Temple

    April 23 will mark the birthday of Shirley Temple (1928-2014). Anniversaries of the birth or death of stars are frequently relegated to the category of minutiae—internet trivia quizzes, daily calendar notations, the online “on this day in history” reminder. We may find a few seconds or even minutes for this reminder, but how […]