I’ve been watching Season 1 of The Crown, Netflix’s series about Queen Elizabeth II. I’m intrigued by how small the stakes are — rarely life or death, the conflicts instead revolve around incremental gains or losses to status, respect and privacy. One episode deals with the queen breaking with tradition to make her husband, the prince, the head of her coronation committee. The duke who inherited the role is miffed.
It’s riveting television. Continue reading
I’ve seen the argument that guns are merely a tool like a car and that we don’t ban cars because some people drive drunk and kill innocent people. This argument is misguided for at least three reasons. Continue reading
We’ve been told, by some, that we shouldn’t politicize mass shootings. That it’s in poor taste to point out that guns kill people — or to mention that when we fail to properly regulate tools of destruction, people die. Yet Florida governor Rick Scott, then Donald Trump, quickly leveraged the latest mass shooting to serve their own political ends: the delegitimization of the FBI. Continue reading
It’s plausible that a different Republican administration would still have produced a travel ban like the one that went into effect last week. During the Republican primaries, Ben Carson called for an investigation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for links to terrorist organizations. The evidence: unprovided. Around the same time, Jeb Bush stated that Syrian refugees should be able to come to the US, provided they were Christian. The reasoning for such discrimination: unclear. And Donald Trump—well, we all know what Donald Trump thought. His polemics against America’s assorted others (including, somehow, the 51% of women who urinate, menstruate and/or breastfeed) entertained and captivated the nation through the election cycle. It was mean, ugly, nasty shit. And with Trump’s election, it found purchase in the mainstream of modern politics. Continue reading
Photo by Spyros Papaspyropoulos
Last week in GOP-land, the Republicans had their come-to-Jesus moment and embraced Donald Trump as their nominee. “Sure, he’s a lunatic,” some suggested, “but look at the alternative.” They shuddered at the thought of Hillary Clinton, who, in addition to (or perhaps because of) her political leanings, was seen as corrupt, untrustworthy and prone to poor judgement. (Yes, all of these things have also been said of Trump, but I digress.) This left those of us on the Left scratching our heads: “How can anyone support Trump just because he’s from the same party as them? He’s done X, Y and Z! Hell, he’s invented his own letters and done those, too. If you vote for him, you’re embracing fascism.”
Ah, how I miss last week. It was a simpler time, before we had to go and have the same conversation within the Democratic Party about whether we liked our nominee. Continue reading
It’s #FollowFriday on Twitter. And it’s Friday in real life, meaning that by 4:15 this afternoon you’ll be looking for a diversion to close out the workweek. Here are three websites and social media feeds I recommend. This week’s theme: health. Continue reading
“Bernie Sanders, you just won the Michigan primary. When are you going to drop out?” – Various media members
Photo by Phil Roeder
For years, we have been told that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. The adjectives in front of that title have included “eventual,” “inevitable,” and “presumptive” (presumptive being correct). All other comers, the thinking has gone, can come run for fun in the early states, but then they should back off and bow down.
Though I’m generally loath to partake in mainstream media bashing, this thinking has been abetted by many pundits and commentators. Indeed, immediately after Sanders’ impromptu press conference on Tuesday night thanking the people of Michigan for turning out to vote, a CBS News anchor—with a straight face—asked a correspondent if Sanders was going to step aside so Clinton could start focusing on the general election. Sanders, it seemed, had reached #PeakBernie. He’d win some pats on the back for getting his message out there—bravo, good chap—but now he and the people he represents should retreat back into the shadows. But there are plenty of reasons why Bernie should throw shade at any suggestion he quit the race. Continue reading
This past year, The Big Short, a movie about Wall Street greed and myopia, channelled middle class anger at the one percent. After laughing for a few hours, most people emerged from the theater both nauseated and confused, wondering how supposedly smart people could be so stupid as to nearly bring down the global economy. Ironically, the film’s heroes—renegades within the financial industry who made big money betting against conventional wisdom—were the people who made out like bandits as pretty much everyone else suffered. But they weren’t crooks. They made a straight bet to short the market based on what they saw happening.
Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia, on the other hand, is about the crooks. And if The Big Short made you upset, Griftopia will make you want to scream like a hungover stockbroker berating a barista for forgetting the third espresso shot. Continue reading
Photo: Bruce Fingerhood
After my short assignment to scour the best cupcake shops and cocktail bars in Midtown Reno for Via Magazine, I was given another piece of work. This time, I was to provide travelers a reason to stop in Tonopah, Nevada, a dusty outpost in between Reno and Vegas. Haven’t heard of Tonopah? That’s why you should read the article. AAA members in the Western region of the country can find it under the “Detour” section in the print magazine. If not, here’s a link for people who can supply a West Coast zip code.
There’s nothing like a brush with mortality to push someone toward achieving a goal. While I plan on remaining healthy, if something were to change, I wouldn’t want to look back and say, “I had a second chance to fulfill my dream, but I didn’t.” So, after five years of toying around with a novel, I will publish it this year.
In the coming months, I will be reaching out to some of you to serve as readers and provide me with feedback as I edit the novel. If you’re interested in being a part of this process, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, although the final product will no doubt change between now and publication, without further ado, here is a draft of the first chapter of my first novel, The Secret of Falling: Continue reading
Last year, back when I was a cultured patron of the arts, I put out a list of 14 things from 2014 I loved. I’ve been a bit busier this year. Between having a child and sidestepping a stem cell transplant, my wife and I have subsisted on a pop culture diet of Netflix material that can be digested in 10 minute increments (in between baby cries). Several of the gems I did find were from before 2015. So instead of recommending The Wire to fellow late adopters, I’ll limit this year’s selections to one 2015 release from each of the following categories: television, film, music, books and podcasts.
Two weeks ago, just in time for Thanksgiving, I received the results of my bone marrow biopsy. The news was good. “Congratulations,” said my oncologist, “your bone marrow is normal.” And just today my bone marrow transplant doctor in Tucson called to say I was no longer a transplant candidate—news that I had been expecting but that was nonetheless good to hear. However, I didn’t write about the good news straight away. That’s because just a few days after hearing that I could return to my normal life, I found out that a friend had died. Continue reading
Tomorrow is the day. Just over four months ago, with my blood work coming back funkier than Sly and the Family Stone, I had a bone marrow biopsy. For the uninitiated, this is when a doctor takes a thick needle and jams it into your pelvic bone to collect some marrow within. Imagine what it feels like to be the cork on a wine bottle. Now imagine that the cork is solid bone underneath your skin. Continue reading
I found out two weeks ago that I have six donor matches. Six, in the stem cell transplant world, is a lot. Many people are happy for just one, and some have to settle for partial matches. Essentially, my doctors can choose the fittest of the six, and the determinations are not much different from those made during a high school dodgeball game. Candace and Simone are smoking in the corner, so they’re out. Besides, they’re girls, and so is Nikki, so they’re not getting picked first. Obviously. (No, seriously. Male donors are preferred because if female donors have ever been pregnant, their babies can expose them to foreign genetic material—their partner’s—which complicates the grafting process.) Johnny is on the fast track for liver cirrhosis, so he’s not the best choice. That leaves Flynn, the tortured artist, or Ryan, the Olympic swimmer. We’ll go with Ryan, thank you.
So, with six good matches, you would think I’d be packing my bags for a Tucson winter with all the other snowbirds. You’d be wrong. Because…a funny thing happened on the way to the transplant. Continue reading
The human heart is like a nightbird. Silently waiting for something, and when the time comes, it flies straight toward it.
– Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Photo by Vincent Anderlucci
Every few months, I dream that everyone I love is dead. Continue reading
In the halcyon days before diaper changes and insurance copays, I received an assignment from Via Magazine to write a short article highlighting five places that travelers should eat/see/go in Midtown Reno. My wife and I took the assignment very seriously, leaving no cheese shop or artisanal cupcakery untested. Somehow, after much deliberation—and dessert—we narrowed the list down to five and I submitted my article to Via.
So the day became one of waiting, which was, he knew, a sin: moments were to be experienced; waiting was a sin against both the time that was still to come and the moments one was currently disregarding. Still, he was waiting.
– Neverwhere Continue reading
When I went to Tucson for my consultation a week and a half ago, the transplant doctor explained how he would look for a bone marrow match. It boils down to this: The lab would test my blood for 10 different protein markers in an effort to find a donor whose 10 protein markers match up with mine. Through years of transplant research, scientists have discovered that the best results (i.e., fewest complications and highest long-term survival rates) come from a sibling who is a 10 out of 10 match. Second best is an unrelated donor who is a 10/10 match. Third best is a sibling who is a 9 out of 10. After that, it gets a bit murky, but those are the top three. Yesterday, I found out that my brother is not a 10/10. As his older brother, I could’ve told them that—he’s more like a 6, maybe a 7 on a good day. Continue reading
After initially being told that UC Davis was the nearest medical center for a stem cell transplant, the plan changed 10 days ago to UCLA. Early last week, however, my insurance company told me that UCLA was not one of its “centers of excellence” and that therefore my benefits would not cover me to go there for treatment. Rather, the insurance company had approved it as a place to go for a second opinion. I asked them if they were requiring me to get a second opinion; they said no. My wife and I talked with our doctor about whether it was still a good idea to go to UCLA and get evaluated. “Not if you’re not going to get treated there,” she replied. This is because, wherever I get treated I will be getting evaluated and, in essence, receiving a second opinion. “Going to UCLA will just waste time.” Continue reading
Photo by Micke Wazowski
Six weeks ago, my beautiful daughter Indra was born. Two weeks later, I got a sore throat. I connected these events. One doesn’t get a lot of sleep with a newborn, nor is there a chance for exercise or healthy eating. I went to urgent care and was treated for strep. The sore throat didn’t get better. And I developed weird symptoms. My heart would pound with the smallest effort. I started waking up with my pupils dilated; everything would look like it was zigzagging around, and it would take an hour for my vision to improve. Writing became difficult because everything was just so bright. Plus, I was just so worn out all the time.
Before I moved to Sudan in 2008, I imagined that I would survive on daily infusions of bottled water. My roommate in Sudan, Andy, quickly pointed out the economic shortcomings of my plan. As the average person should drink 8 glasses of water each day to remain adequately hydrated, and the average person in a desert climate needs double that, I was looking at eight 16oz bottles of water per day. Each bottle cost 1 Sudanese pound (roughly 50 cents American). Seems cheap, right? But it adds up to a serious latte factor. At 8 pounds a day, I would be spending 240 pounds a month just on water–nearly half of my volunteer stipend for stuff that was probably from the backyard hose. Continue reading
Photo by Fahim Fadz
“What’s a flat white?” I asked the Balinese barista. Her response involved microfoam, various types of espresso shots and calculus. Having already asked too much to back out, I ordered one. It blew my world wide open. Continue reading
Every year, critics come out with top-10 lists and best-of-year reviews, yet almost every one of them tries to beg out of the process. “How can you say X was better than Y?” they ask. “Why does it have to be just 10?” I can appreciate their thinking, but I still love lists. And if Buzzfeed is any indication, readers do too. So here are 14 things from 2014 that I loved: Continue reading
In Uganda, you can see them every Saturday night at Bubbles Irish Pub—a group paler than the living dead, more opinionated on race relations than Donald Sterling, and drunker than Dudley Moore at Peter O’Toole’s stag party. They are, of course, the lifelong expatriates. Continue reading
A month ago, I lost my job. At 5pm on a Thursday, I received a mass email along with hundreds of my colleagues: Continue reading
Last month, I wrote that a powerful incentive for writers to write less is that readers don’t want to read very much. Specifically, I said that less is better because:
- Most people don’t read—they skim.
- Most people don’t pay attention for very long.
- Writers are competing for readers’ attentions.
One of the strategies websites use to overcome their readers’ short attention spans and increase page views is to deliver articles in list format. Cracked.com, Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog all excel at getting people perusing Facebook and Twitter to click on links like “The 10 Types of People You Meet in Prison”. As it turns out, even featuring articles with such titillating titles as “6 Bizarre Uses for Mouthwash” doesn’t guarantee readers will get all the way to #6. Hootsuite performed an experiment, in which it took a post called “5 Content Marketing Tips We Learned From Our Best-Performing Content” and surreptitiously added a sixth “lesson” that explicitly asked readers not to share the post on social media.
Guess what happened. (Or you could just read about it…)
The largest ever outbreak of Ebola continues to spread in West Africa, affecting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. While some might be content to thank their lucky stars that Ebola is just “one of those horrible African diseases”, the more empathetic among us will reel in horror that anyone be subjected to, essentially, the worst death imaginable. Continue reading