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
The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
I’m of two minds on the curious habit of spitting. On the one hand, it’s essentially harmless. Spittle is biodegradable, unlike say, plastic bags, nuclear waste or Ann Coulter’s black heart. It may stain the sidewalk for a few seconds, but it’ll be gone by day’s end, unlike that empty bag of Utz potato chips lying 5 feet away from the garbage can.
On the other hand, spitting is the act of a person who says, “Cigarette smoke–you may stay. Arby’s barbeque beef–welcome to my stomach. $5 liquor from the corner store–have you met my liver? But you, accumulation of saliva, deserve no place in my body.”
Because, really, is spitting all that necessary? Continue reading
The Brazil World Cup is going to be a disaster, you’ve heard it explained. There will be chaos on the streets, the games will be in disarray and the country will bring shame to the world’s most popular sport. Sound familiar? That’s because we heard it four years ago when South Africa hosted. Although the details are correct, the subtext is more than just wrong—it’s offensive. Continue reading
Most people write too much. Remember the junior high school version of you who was told to write a minimum of three pages for an essay? You clawed and scratched and cajoled that word count higher. But guess what? You still weren’t concise. You took three pages to write something that could have been expressed in one. And when you turned it in, you hoped the teacher wouldn’t notice you were full of crap. Continue reading
So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism… Continue reading
I don’t often write poetry. I’m hard on my work and I worry that my poems can be cloying and sappy. Then again, I myself am attracted to a bit of sentimentality in others’ poetry. I pulled this old piece out of a journal a little while back. It was something I wrote in college when I was feeling nostalgic for my coming of age in small-town America. Reading over the poem, however, I discovered that it didn’t really make sense. (“Isn’t that the case with most poetry?” you ask.) Continue reading
For one March afternoon every year, the world stops. I stock up on food and water, turn off my cellphone, double-check my internet bandwidth and cut off all physical contact. I head into my room with a Nalgene bottle, Clif bars and a laptop (complete with backup power cords). While others build bunkers for an apocalypse that might never happen, I prepare myself for my life’s great constant: my fantasy baseball draft. Continue reading
Komorebi is a word I’ve been searching for all my life. It comes up often in the poems and stories I write–where I take a paragraph to describe something the Japanese have packed into a single gorgeous word. Continue reading
The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of the things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost, that they might never have existed in the first place.The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
It was time to get out of Kampala. During the week leading up to Easter, I asked a man who cut in front of me at the grocery store if he was stupid. When he assured me he was not, I proceeded to call him a series of words that would make an etymologist blush. On my walk home, I boldly asked passive starers on the roadway, “What the fuck are you looking at?” Walking through my front door, I yelled at the neighbors’ abandoned barking dog innumerable times to “shut the fuck up”. There were a lot of fucks in my life. Continue reading
The half-life of love is forever.This Is How You Lose Her
“These vegetables turned yellow,” the customer said, holding up a bag of unidentifiable produce.
I could hear her discussing the situation with a clerk as I strolled the aisles of Ubud’s premier organic vegetarian establishment, Down to Earth, peering over offerings of kombucha and cacao as I tried to choose between three varieties of hummus.
“Can I get a refund?”
“But they turned yellow,” the customer replied, her face clouded with confusion. I have no idea what the original color of the vegetables was, but I’m guessing something other than yellow.
The clerk remained unmoved. It was a standoff, the tension only broken by the arrival of a shipment of almond butter. Continue reading
As soon as a man and woman of almost any age are alone together within four walls it is assumed that anything may happen. Spontaneous combustion, instant fornication, triumph of the senses. What possibilities men and women must see in each other to infer such dangers. Or, believing in the dangers, how often they must think about the possibilities.Alice Munro
Runner Runner, the new film starring acting heavyweight Justin Timberlake (minus the dancing tofu costume), opens with a voiceover explaining that everything is a risk. You see, Richie Furst (Timberlake) was on the verge of having it made on Wall Street when everything collapsed due to bankers’ greed. Now, he’s just a gifted but broke Princeton grad student struggling to get his degree. Oh, you say, so this movie is going to detail the injustice of a legal code that outlaws casinos yet lets bankers make millions with your money? No. Keep reading.
This week, the US government stopped working. Not figuratively—that happened a long time ago. No, it literally stopped working. Suddenly, pre-planned high school field trips to our nation’s capital had to be rescheduled because monuments and museums were closed. Air traffic controllers had to take longer than usual coffee breaks. Congress had to forfeit its salary. Oh, sorry, I meant Congress had to forfeit other people’s salaries. My bad. Continue reading
So everything lets us down, including curiosity and honesty and what we love best. Yes, said the voice, but cheer up, it’s fun in the end.2666
The Believer, a 2001 film starring Ryan Gosling in a breakout role, is about a young Jewish man who is also (paradoxically) fiercely anti-Semitic. He falls in with a crowd of racist intellectuals, led by Theresa Russell and Billy Zane, who want to put a new face on white supremacy. They wear eyeglasses and sweaters with patches. They read hardcover books from mahogany shelves. They use terms like “antidisestablishmentarianism”. But really, they’re just bigots who stroke their beards as they reheat tired pseudo-intellectual theories about ethnic differentiation. Continue reading
I will not wait to love as best as I can. We thought we were young and that there would be time to love well sometime in the future. This is a terrible way to think. It is no way to live, to wait to love.What is the What
When I was still in high school, I went with my mother to see George Carlin do stand up in Las Vegas. It was a bad idea. I had known him as that kinda funny old dude who popped up in movies like Dogma. While I knew his reputation as the man who made “the seven words you can’t say on television” famous, I assumed that in retrospect his act would appear tame. Perhaps not Sinbad tame—more like watching Midnight Cowboy. I quickly discovered that although Carlin can tone it down to play grandpa in the movies, his act was not for the grandkids. I endured an hour and a half of not laughing at funny jokes, lest my mother see me. Continue reading
Elmore Leonard always seemed like one of those authors I should get around to reading. He was a popular writer, and in my mind I associated him with a Dennis Lehane or a James Ellroy. Not that I would know—I’ve never read them either. Like most voracious readers, my bookshelf is stocked with books I will never read by authors I’ve been told I will like.
“This might be the greatest movie ever,” my fiancée says, about 20 minutes in to Now You See Me, the 2013 film about four magicians who use their trickery to rob banks. Her comment comes on the heels of a scene in which the four—from a Las Vegas stage—appear to rob a bank in Paris, then shower the loot onto the audience. It is a scene that makes you pause to wonder whether these four magicians have figured out a way of bending the rules of space and time. Alas, the only force in this universe with more power to deceive than a magician is a film editor. There is another explanation to the trick; you just haven’t seen it yet. Continue reading
Everything is legal in Uganda. Want to snort coke off of a prostitute’s back as you club a baby elephant to death? Go right ahead. To be fair, this act is illegal (when done in combination) due to the obvious fire hazards. However, it magically becomes a legally-sanctioned activity for (and I’m absolutely just guessing here) $20. In Vegas, you have to spend at least 20 times that—and you don’t get to choose the elephant.
A story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side.Sputnik Sweetheart