Category Archives: Thoughts @ Large

Shots @ Large

• If you’re bothered by the number of mentally-disturbed people in America contemplating mass violence at this moment, think of the vaster number of politicians letting it happen.

• It is time for liberals to make a stand for repealing the Second Amendment.  If liberals stand for anything, they have to let go of even feigned respect for its ambiguous phrasing and the Supreme Court’s irresponsible interpretation of what bearing arms means in America.  Liberals need to make it clear that every mass shooting from this day forward is on the dogmatists and obstructionists to answer for and do something about.

• I love to hear criminal justice officials lament how mass shooters who exhibited violent tendencies in the past “fell through the cracks.”  When it comes to guns in America, it’s all cracks and they know it.

• In “Anthem” Leonard Cohen wrote:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Very poetic, graceful and full of promise, but my posthumous question for you, Mr. Cohen: Does taking the long view really make the short view palatable?

That’s OK, no one expects the dead to answer.

• Clouds, especially storm clouds, appear to have a lot of substance but are basically fog.  People, especially stormy people, share many attributes with clouds.

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Thoughts @ Large: 79

•  War crimes in Ukraine?  The war itself is a crime.

•  In 1984, the company named Apple introduced a personal computer named Macintosh which is the only variety of apple that Apple ever used as a product name.  Apple missed a golden (delicious) opportunity to call their AirTag tracking device Northern Spy.

•  I read very few novels, no doubt an adharma I will be asked to atone for in my next life.  With most novels, I tend to suffer from LCI, or Low Character IdentificationFor instance, in the last novel I read (Freedom by Jonathan Franzen), I felt no empathy for any of the characters, major or minor.  Their motives were pathetic: most were carnal, and each was more-or-less an exploitation of the people and opportunities that presented themselves.  This post-modern view of human motivation is apparently the new rule, not just in novels but in serial dramas (Breaking Bad) and films (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).  Can a skillful writer no longer imagine a realistically decent, thoughtful, semi-heroic character without imbuing him/her with a host of dark qualities?  Has Batman killed Tom Hanks?

•  Nature Nugget No. 1:  Cardinals usually mate for life.  Nature Nugget No. 2:  On average, cardinals only live for three years.  Hmm.

•  It was the summer of 1969.  My years-long best friend Bill — of whom I’ve always meant to write an essay — and I were attending summer school at our Pennsylvania high school.  This was our school district’s one-and-only means of advanced placement: if you wanted to take, say, pre-calculus in 12th grade, you had to take trigonometry in the summer after 11th grade.

In any event, it was summer (as I said) and one day Bill decided to wear a preppy-looking v-neck knit shirt to school.  His teacher objected and Bill was sent back home to change, because of the v-neck collar.  It was summer, dammit.  And 1969, not 1869, though in our hometown it was often hard to tell.

•  On a recent stop in West Virginia, I heard for the first time someone use the possessive form of y’all (it was your’all).  Now I’m going to be on the lookout (hearout?) for our’all and their’all.

•  On this day in 46 B.C., Roman Emperor Julius Caesar looked into his mirror and thought, “Have they invented these yet?”

•  Speaking of ancient days, it’s hard to believe that it was once common for restaurants to prepare Caesar salads tableside.  My spouse and I recall them — especially the one that we watched our server (also our back-door neighbor) prepare with his bandaged finger.

•  Here’s one from the “been thought of already” chronicles.  I came up with the phrase “Armed and Beautiful” and thought it might be a good title for a NRA-type country song.  Well, it turns out that this was in fact the title of a 2006 hip-hop EP by Roger Robinson.  Before that, it was the title of a 2005 photograph by Sandie Yi.  Before that, well, nothing.  Here, I figured the phrase “armed and dangerous” would have inspired all sorts of “armed and…” variations in popular culture.  For example, if I had a gun fetish, I could have titled this column Armed and Thoughtful.  Which, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been used.

•  Onions spoil every dish they are in, except onion rings.

•  I’m torn on what to title a future essay.  Would it be better to say, The New York Times Should Not or Does Not Define American Liberalism?


The rings inside this weathered tree
mark every cloud passed over me

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  We’re back!  It’s Love Month.  So much more romantic than Save Your Tooth Month, Refrigerator Month, Quilting Month, American Cheese Month or Anti-Boredom Month.  Lots of love from this writer to all you readers.  This month, anyway.

  I love the software that helps me create songs out of thin air.  I love the press-to-open, press-to-close trunk lid on my SUV.  I love the warmth and comfort that my gas furnace provides in the winter, not to mention the days when it just feels a little cold in the house and I bump it up a degree.  I love Santa Rosa plums, on the rare occasion I can find them.  I love typing two spaces after a period even though modern style guides insist I must only use one.  I love my mom’s recipe for beef chili with macaroni which my spouse (whom I dearly love) lovingly and patiently agrees to re-create for me.  I love being helpful.  I love being acknowledged as if what I do matters.

  I also love fresh berries on my cereal.  My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and their idea of what was and wasn’t affordable determined what fruit topped my cereal. In other words, sliced bananas — I don’t think blueberries, raspberries or blackberries  ever made one appearance in our house.  Strawberries were a once-a-year thing, always reserved for strawberry shortcake, too special to put on cereal.  As for cherries — I know, not a berry — let’s just say I was good friends with the Thank You brand of glop-in-a-can.  So in retirement, I’m doing my best to compensate for all my young berry-less years.

Buncombe County Omicron Wave Graph  I’m not really retired — my full-time job these days is avoiding covid.  I’ve had this job nearly two years, with no vacation time,  and the pay has not been that great either: $3200 in total, or 28 cents per waking hour.  Hey, I’d like to quit this job, like everyone else in the Great Resignation, but I’m afraid the next job I get might really suck.

  Just because those close to you accept you the way you are and show appreciation for things you do doesn’t mean you have a free pass from doing more and better.  The Land of Missed Opportunities is the vastest, least-explored expanse on Planet Humanity.

  Studies show that people who eat vegetarian chili live, on average, 140 days longer than those who eat meat-based chili.  Other studies find that those who eat chicken/turkey chili live 19 days longer than we Neanderthals who plunge our hairy hands into the real thing, i.e., beef chili.  If nothing else, beef chili people will die happy knowing we will have more attendees at our funerals than those of alt-chili persuasions.  So do us beefy-types a favor, look beyond our taste in chili and pick us out some nice flowers.

  Eulogy at my funeral:  “He was, by some accounts, a fine man.  Yes, he ate beef chili and relished it.  But how shall we judge this man?  By how he ate or how he orated?

  I have been spending hours upon hours the past few months date-sorting and scanning our old family snapshots from the 1970s to the early 2000s.  It has been impossible for me not to notice, in these micro-captures of our lives, how the subjects always seem to be beaming, if not downright vivacious.  Which brought to mind the current-day criticisms of sites like Facebook and Instagram, namely, how shared images unrealistically over-depict good times and good looks and so generate feelings of envy and inadequacy in viewers.  The fact is, Americans have been curating their lives (we called them “Kodak Moments” back then) long before Instagram arrived and we still do.  Snapshooters, myself included, create selectively-good, real yet unrealistic, memories the instant we press the button.

  Among the 20th-century traditions I miss, and they are many, is how your average-to-nice restaurant would offer you a treat as you left the establishment. My favorite such confection was the Ice Cube, a refreshing mint-chocolate morsel.  I can’t recall the last time I saw an Ice Cube, but I do remember the creamy mouth sensations I would enjoy the first few minutes on the car ride home.  Ice Cubes were not just treats but post-dinner memory-implanters.

  Democratic politicians are being criticized in the media for not listening and responding to the needs and desires of “ordinary” Americans.  The narrative is that Democrats unduly focus on minorities and the disadvantaged — as if they are not also “ordinary” Americans.  What Big-D Democrats have been reluctant to accept, and so have struggled to respond to, is the fact that most “ordinary” Americans are on-the-whole more concerned about what is in their wallets than what is in their hearts.

  Forgiveness.  Such a familiar word, yet one with many and diverse opinions about what it means.  Operationally, I think it’s pretty simple: forgiveness is one’s declared promise to the Other that the Other’s hurtful act will no longer be a factor between them.  Ironic then, how the burden of forgiveness falls upon the Wronged.  Funny how that works.

Funny how love is.

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