Archive for Books

The Way of the Dodo?

Here’s what’s happening in the world – natural and unnatural. 

  • Planet earth is losing flora and fauna species at an alarming rate. Extinction is a phenomenon that occurs naturally, but the main cause of the current extinctions is the destruction of natural habitats by human activities, such as cutting down forests and converting land into fields for farming.
  • Scientists estimate we are currently losing species 1,000-10,000 times faster than normal attrition, which means that literally tens of species are vanishing from the face of the Earth every day. (worldanimalfoundation.com)
  • Across Africa, the U.N. estimates that 23.6 million people are facing food shortages due to the worst locust infestation in 70 years followed by torrential rains. (WSJ, Jan 31, 2020)
  • Australia is, after a month of wildfires that burned 12.35 million acres and killed as many as one billion animals, experiencing unprecedented rains and floods – 15.4” in 4 days. (AP)
  • Worldwide, 65.6 million individuals have been forcibly displaced because of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations, per the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR 2017).
  • Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melting at an astonishing rate. On June 13, 2019 Greenland lost more than two billion tons of ice in one day. (nationalgeographic.com)
  • In Brazil, between 15 and 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been lost, and if the amount of cleared forest land reaches 25 percent, there won’t be enough trees cycling moisture through the rainforest. (vox.com)

Why? Well, it’s complicated…but at its root it’s because we, as humans, haven’t been good stewards of each other’s welfare or the planet’s. It’s clear now; we have hard evidence that if we are to survive – if the planet is to survive – we need to make an urgent course correction. Instead, America has gone tribal, ignoring the evidence and doubling down on fossil fuels, extractive industries, unsustainable agribusiness, military industrial power, and isolationism. read more

Why We Needed Donald Trump…

When confronting difficult or unusual situations we are often advised to “think outside the box.” Jasper Johns, the iconic American painter, was thinking outside the box when he broke with tradition and painted these versions of the American flag.

Johns shook up the art world by challenging it to think differently. He was a disrupter. Sometimes art imitates life and sometimes, it seems, life imitates art. Like Jasper Johns, Donald Trump is a disrupter, the Disrupter in Chief, and the ways he has disrupted our government challenges us to think differently about it. My friends may disagree with me, but as contrarian as it sounds, Mr. Trump may be just what we needed to wake us up. From his descent on the escalator at Trump Tower and his remarks about Mexican rapists he has challenged us, begged us, to say “no more.” His presence alone is a provocation. read more

Our Existential Moment…

As a college undergraduate I was enamored of Existentialism, that most romantic and nihilistic of French philosophies. I wore black turtleneck sweaters, smoked Lucky Strikes, and channeled Albert Camus, but my senior thesis, a derivative sophomoric critique of Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus, drew a disappointing response from Louise Gould, my tiny, intense, chain-smoking, comparative literature advisor.

Professor Gould was absolutely right, and I still blush when I think of it. She was simply pointing out that quoting established critics is not the same as rigorous analysis based on personal research. My thesis did not reflect the critical thinking skills required and expected of a college senior. read more

Admiration and Hope…

As the year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly of the previous twelve months. So much of our public discourse has been devoted to the ugly that I decided to end the year by shining a light on a few friends whose accomplishments and attitudes I find especially admirable. As I reflected, I was reminded of the serendipity of life – that random events and minor differences can alter the course of a life. Where you were born, when you were born, whether you inherit good genes or bad, are lucky or unlucky all play a part and remind us to focus and live in the present. read more

Advice to Self…

Screen Time

Remember when “parental control” was a euphemism for discipline. We invoked it when we thought the kids were watching too much television. Now parental controls are built in to their devices. A much better idea – no nagging – way to manage their “screen time.” That’s great for parenting but we parents need to limit our own screen time. We’re are drowning in TMI, too much information. We need self-discipline to control the deluge.

John Lennon told us, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy.” And it isn’t. Look around. Watch people on the bus. Nobody’s talking. Everybody’s staring at their phones. They’re consumed. TMI. Look at all the morbidly obese people the next time you go to Starbucks. Too many Frappuccino’s. TMF. I probably shouldn’t wade in these waters, but too much political news is just as bad for your health as too many Frappuccino’s.   read more