In a December 2013 column I confessed to the ownership and operation of a ukulele. Since then a number of other furtive uke players have emailed to share their tales of four-stringed folly. Even so, I know deep-down that the ukulele is largely regarded as a novelty… something 1920s Ivy League guys played while hanging out of a Stutz Bearcat or heaven forbid, Tiny Tim’s instrument of choice.
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One of my favorite periodicals is Smithsonian magazine. Like the museums it represents, Smithsonian is a wonderful collection of art, culture, history, science and considered thought. More often than not, a flip through the pages (or the website www.smithsonian.com ) leaves me both entertained and informed. This month’s issue was no exception.
Most weeks I have a little trouble deciding what the topic for this column will be. This week it was decided for me. The dictates of morality and justice made the decision.
Each of us wants to believe we are a special snowflake, a unique shimmering reflection of the divine spark that made us. On a certain level we are all unique and special. On another, we are nauseatingly predictable and driven by the surrounding herd. The chasm between these realms is a matter of scale and perspective.
It’s a rare day when an artist’s genius is so profound that it changes an entire genre of creative endeavor, but that’s exactly what Harold Ramis’ beautiful silliness did.
As a criminologist, I have seen time and again that the process one is due and the justice one is accorded depend largely on one’s bank account. Nowhere is this point more clear than in a recent decision by a Texas judge to sentence a 16-year-old boy to 10 years of probation and mental health counseling after the young man killed four people by driving drunk.
This week I was made aware that a whole universe of wonderful things exists about which I had little knowledge. More correctly, I knew some of these things existed. I just didn’t know that you could get so many of them for free.
Only the truly devoted will recall Prof. Roy Hinkley, but legions remember “the Professor” from the 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island. The actor who brought the Professor to life, Russell Johnson, passed away earlier this week. He was 89.
My parents just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. In a world that coined the term “starter marriage,” such accomplishments are all-too rare. While I have an obvious bias, I believe they deserve a lot of praise for holding fast those five decades.
The Internet has been described as a kind of “great equalizer” in that it holds the power to give otherwise voiceless masses a platform for public opinion. I tend to regard this sentiment the same way I think about nuclear power plants: they’re a great way to make a lot of electricity, unless something goes wrong; and if it should go wrong, then it’s going to be very bad.
Pete, my best friend from college, used to teasingly call me “the man with a thousand hobbies.” Perhaps “a thousand” overstates it a bit, but I will admit to having a variety of interests. Most of these interests would likely be curious to the uninitiated.
In 1772, the famed English magistrate, William Murray, First Earl of Mansfield, presided over the case, Somerset v. Stewart . It was the first significant test of slavery as a legal institution.
When I was around 17 my father gave me a piece of advice. I didn’t know it at the time — sitting there waiting for the traffic signal to change at the intersection of the Martha Mitchell Expressway and Blake Street — but the brief admonishment would have profound consequences for my life. As Thanksgiving is the one day each year we’re almost legally obliged to ponder that for which we are thankful, this seems as good a time as any to share that advice.
As the holiday season creeps closer, I fall prey to the same rush and urges that many people experience in their drive to find just the right Christmas present. It’s all-too easy. I suppose I come by it honestly. I grew up in a household with very generous parents. They weren’t just generous to me, but also to nearly everybody they knew.
Ayn Rand, the controversial darling of the rightmost extremities in modern politics, once wrote, “Civilization is the progress of a society towards privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”
A few years ago I wrote a book chapter on the scandal surrounding silent film star, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. The research taught me many things. I learned that Arbuckle was perhaps the first real movie star. He was among the first — if not the very first — actor to write, direct and star in his own films. He was one of the original Keystone Kops. He was a mentor to Buster Keaton, and his million dollar studio contract even predated Charlie Chaplin’s.
This week The New York Times ran an article titled “Sparse Competition and Higher Premiums.” If ever five words could sum up every broken aspect of American health care, those do it perfectly.
Occasionally, I am able to pretend that such things don’t exist, but on a recent sojourn to Ohio, prejudice stared me square in the face.