Yesterdays and the Long Goodbye

    On September 29, 2015, one day after her 68th birthday, my oldest sister died. She had had a stroke but that is not what killed her. She survived the stroke, not without some brain damage and paralysis. But when she was hospitalized for the stroke, it was revealed that she had terminal pancreatic […]

Miles Davis, Style Beyond Style

    Thirty years ago, on September 29, 1991, trumpeter Miles Davis died at the age of 65. His death may have been untimely in one sense as, by today’s standards, we do not consider him to have been of an especially advanced age. On the other hand, Davis had not been in good health […]

From Amorous Novelist to Buddhist Nun

    “Usually people who do bad things make good writers,” observes Jakuchō Setouchi. “I did a lot of bad things, which is why my novels are interesting.” Now ninety-nine, she became a Buddhist nun at fifty-one—and later joked that she took her vows too soon; she had not realized she would live so long. […]

Ted Williams Never Played Against Computers

    On September 28, the 1941 season ended with Boston Red Sox Outfielder Ted Williams as the last player to hit .400 in a season. It was the apostle Thomas who doubted the resurrection of Jesus. He had to touch the wounds of Jesus in order to believe. I never saw Ted Williams or […]

Your Emojis Do Not Mean What You Think They Do

    Umberto Eco warned us. Back in 1976, he asked readers to “face the problem of the so-called iconic signs.” After all, facial expressions create “easily recognizable semantic units.” Easily recognizable, maybe. But not easily interpreted. We now add little cartoons to our messages as though they are simple, only to be confounded by […]

An Ode to the Holy, Erotic, Maddening Fig Tree

      September is the tensest month. Now large enough to cover shame, fig leaves shade branches dotted with hard green fruit, and the summer sun has lost its fire. I check long-term forecasts, watch YouTube videos, demand that my husband pull up the irises that might be cooling the soil around my precious […]

Pray Me to Have Discipline

    Maybe you too have the 2005 edition of The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, illustrated by Maira Kalman. It is one of those books that seems to rise to the surface of piles of books and present its slim, red, hardcover binding when it knows it is needed. […]

Syncing Our Brains—to Each Other’s

    In the future, Svengoolie will command my complete attention. No more dozing and surfing. Not if I want a good marriage. For my husband, tv is pure escape. Nothing relaxes him more than a Friday night pizza and two hours of a bad Fifties horror flick, the kind that was stuck together with […]

The Sad Little Cloud Over Bob Ross’s Life

  Though I loved watching him paint, I found Bob Ross a wee bit smarmy—like a Mister Rogers for grownups, but less earnest. Only in recent years, when I started to see his face on mugs and socks, breath mints and boxer shorts and Chia Pets (everywhere, that smile! that ’fro!) did I pay him […]