Tag: #Groupwriting

We See the Light!


The theme of my high school graduation was We See the Light. I suppose in 1977 it didn’t sound quite as lame as it strikes me today and I couldn’t tell you exactly what light we were looking at.

My friend Richard and I didn’t fit into the upper echelon categories – sports teams, cheerleading squad, top academics. We were pretty much relegated to the literary magazine club so all we had in the zero-sum struggle of the high school pecking order was to use our creativity to bring others down to a place slightly below us. We listened to Dr. Demento, the National Lampoon Radio Hour (joke in itself as it was only a half an hour), and the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. We used my cassette tape recorder to create “shows” making fun of teachers and popular students. The recordings are long gone now, of course, but I do remember making one called “We See the Light” where we mimicked the snotty valedictorian named Anita making a self-indulgent graduation speech.

Downstream, we used to make fun of Anthony who we considered dimwitted. I don’t think he was but, for some reason, he was the punchline to our jokes as if he was Agent 86 or Inspector Clouseau who no matter how hard he tried, always got it wrong. Our taunts were always behind his back, mind you, and quite honestly we never really got to know him.

October Surprise: Shocking Youth


I don’t know what else to call this. I’ve fudged the date a bit, but for argument’s sake, let’s say that today is the day. It’s close enough.

Today, my son is studying his butt off to maintain his competitive position at a nice private school. One that puts students into *good* colleges. He has a girlfriend and has for probably a couple of years by now. Hell, I never had a girlfriend when I was in high school. I mean, yeah, this and that, but no, not really. He’s tall and good-looking, which he gets from his mother’s side (well, he gets the height from me), and he’s sharp as a whip.

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Nobody was more surprised than I when I signed up to serve as a Party Representative for the Republican Party of Virginia in the upcoming (ongoing, since September!) 45-day fraudfest that is the special election, called for what reason I do not know. There’s something going on near you! Preview Open

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March Group Writing: Blowin’ Our Heritage


Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind (1962) captures a lot of what’s wrong with an entire generation (mine, mea culpa) and our dysfunctional ideological legacy.  Bob Dylan had a gift for faux profundity.  His work has been repeatedly explored by academics and even got him a Nobel Prize.  Not being profound myself, I have found a lot of his oeuvre to be contrived, banal and preachy.

Here is the artist in his own words at age 56:

Culinary Love Language: Homesickness and Pineapple Cakes


When leaves have started to litter the ground, days are growing ever shorter, and sweaters become inevitable, I begin to want pecans rolls from the Old Mill. They’re a Thanksgiving tradition in my family, and there’s nothing else I’ve found quite like them in the world. I won’t eat more than one or two over the course of the holiday (I can only handle so much in terms of sweets), but they taste like making up little turkey dinners for the cats, listening to the high school football game on the radio, and the beginning of real snow. Like home. Living so far from where I’m from, and having in general such a tenuous connection to ‘normal’ American food, little things like that are especially important to me. 

Thanksgiving this year put me in mind of this more than it usually would. Normally, my Taiwanese friend, A, and I would buy a turkey, order all of the fixings ahead of time from Whole Foods (they’re a blessing for Americans ex-pats at the holidays), make Korean food while we waited, and then eat our meal with sparkling apple cider and Clint Eastwood movies. This year, I went to Russian, and then home. Lockdown meant that we weren’t allowed to have anyone not in our bubble around, and having no one to celebrate with, I couldn’t manage much spirit for the holiday. My celebrations amounted to buying a baby mincemeat pie from Waitrose, and being forced to discuss the meaning of Thanksgiving in Russian with Natasha. 

Chef’s Surprise: What doesn’t kill you might teach you something


Years ago, I was a consultant doing industrial data collection and control systems and one of my clients was IBM (Pro Tip – If you are a consultant, make sure your client is within at least two orders of magnitude of your size). This was back when there was a tax break for the production of pharmaceuticals in Puerto Rico and as a result, many pharmaceutical companies had a research facility in the States (usually either Pennsylvania or New Jersey) and a production facility in Puerto Rico.

As a consequence, I traveled multiple times to Puerto Rico with different IBM teams. We would spend nights on the coast where the hotels were and then travel to the plants which were inland. The plants got your attention – we were told to park with the front of the car towards the exit – “In case something bad happens at the plant”. The wrought iron fences around the plant had been eaten away at the bottom by some sort of acidic atmosphere.

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(For anyone that hasn’t read this series before: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) Mr. David Edwards was, by all accounts, an excellent music teacher. I had been watching him since he began at the little grammar school in Bethnal Green nine months ago. Were he in Westminster, or the City, there would have […]

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Ты будешь моим другом?: Thanksgiving for Unlikely Musical Friends


The world of classical music, no matter the age, is not one that we think of as full of friendship. And with good reason; the tales of divas, rivalry, and compositional disputes are far more rife than any about peaceful partners and easily co-written sonatas. But when, once in a blue moon, a deep and abiding musical friendship occurs, then it almost always produces beauty that we can be thankful for. 

On the face of it, Mstislav Rostropovich and Benjamin Britten were unlikely candidates to be friends. There was a fourteen year age gap between the two men (Britten, born in 1913, was the elder), they came from entirely different, indeed opposing, societies, and knew nothing of each other up to the moment of meeting. In fact, right up until Dmitri Shostakovitch offered to set up a meeting, the Soviet cellist thought that Britten was centuries dead, a contemporary of Purcell. 

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Dear Professor Haim, Enclosed is the letter from The British Museum: Persian Manuscripts Collection Room A3, which you requested, and a standard translation. Please contact us if there is an issue with your manuscript duplicate, or you need further access to the collection outside of normal hours.  Preview Open

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The Bad Counsellor: A Story in Two Movements (One/”It Was a Dark…”)


It was a dark and stormy night, but that wasn’t too unusual for London in December. In fact, I think most tourists, and even residents, would have been disappointed with anything else. London without fog is like Russia without political dysfunction, simply unrecognizable. 

As I regarded the mottled Ionic columns that faced authoritatively onto Great Russell Street, I took a moment to consider my presence here. Ten years ago, I would have been part of the woodwork, now I was an unwelcome harbinger of uncomfortable questions. Though maybe that characterization wasn’t entirely fair. Uncomfortable questions were how I ended up in this spot in the first place. 

If I Were The Good Cat, I Would Make The Weird Human Stay Home


Dearest Weird Human, 

If I as the Good Cat could, I would make you come home more often. Just sitting on top of the suitcase when you’re packing doesn’t seem to do it. The other three humans are nice and all, they always have treats (and you’re stingy with those!), and pats, and call me by my real name, but it’s not quite the same. You let me lay next to you all day, even when I sit on the keyboard because I want more attention and make the laptop start flashing, and take me on walks with the leash so I can catch butterflies, and on visits to your friends. 

“Say goodnight, Blue Eyes”: George Burns on Best Friends (Quote of the Day)


“So there I was, married to a woman who knew she loved me because I made her cry, and best friends with a hack violin player who thought it was hysterical when I hung up the phone on him.”-George Burns (1896-1996), Gracie: A Love Story 

The morning after Christmas of 1974, the hack violin player died. Ten years earlier, the pixie-like Catholic girl cried for her Jewish husband who had died suddenly of a heart attack, and that same hack violinist had held his best friend’s arm through the long funeral service, stopping only to carry the girl’s coffin. It had been a long fifty-five years. 

Liege of the King, Son of the Revolutionary: The Marquis de La Fayette and Defining America


«La Fayette, nous voici!» – Charles E. Stanton, July 4th 1917 (Often mistakenly attributed to John J. Pershing)

Saturday was the 263rd birthday of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (excuse me while I take a breath). Often simply referred to as the Marquis de La Fayette, or Lafayette, the French nobleman who lived from 1757 to 1834 is a well-known and beloved figure in both France and the United States, which he fought to help establish. Most people know the story of the Marquis’ escape from France dressed as a woman to fight with George Washington’s army, his honorable service with and deep love for the General, and, on his return to Europe, his imprisonment and near escape from death during the French Revolution. All make for an interesting addition to the cast of characters of the American Revolution, especially when there were such colorful foreign actors as the Baron von Steuben.

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August is a wistful time. It’s still summer.But you can sense the joys of summer coming to an end. There was a time, as a youngster when Augusts were especially poignant… I have fond memories of trout fishing. As a kid in Pennsylvania, I’d start organizing my fishing gear almost as soon as the Christmas […]

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More than a couple tries were taken to get where I wanted to be with this group writing post. It began as an exploration of the filmography of Cab Calloway (yes, I have been watching too many Al Jolson movies), then became a review of/pitch for watching a Russian indie film, and finally manifested as […]

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