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Category Archives: Culture

The arc of justice

U.S. marshals escort Ruby Bridges to school. New Orleans, Louisiana, November 1960. Source: Wikimedia Commons. “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by […]

Yes, someone still writes rags

I haven’t had a musical post for a while… If you do a YouTube survey of ragtime playing, I think you’ll find that, like country music, ragtime playing is an area in which a great many poorly trained musicians are in it a for a good time and wearing bowties and funny hats. I’m all […]

Two parts snobbery per eight parts coffee

An imaginary 1938 espresso machine, in Italy. Image created by DALL-E 3. I could not find an image of a classic espresso machine that was in the public domain. But if you search for something like “classic Bezzera” you can see what they look like. Given any good thing — wine, Scotch, or coffee — […]

Trains: Social glue we Americans will never have

When people ask me why I love Scotland, I have lots of answers. Most of them are nice, because there are so many nice things about Scotland. But I also have a snarky answer: “Scotland,” I say, “is what white people are like when they aren’t Americans.” We Americans are overexposed to wedge-issue social toxins […]

Try my French verb conjugator

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I made a valiant effort to learn French. For three semesters, I went to night classes at the University of California (Berkeley) extension in San Francisco. With that foundation, I started reading. I never claim to speak French, and my aural comprehension is terrible. But I did […]

Music soothes the skittish cat

Lily listens to Herbert Blomstedt conduct Richard Strauss’ “Metamorphoses.” The television doesn’t always terrify my cat, Lily. It depends on what’s on. Long ago I started using headphones when I watch television, to accommodate Lily. Loud blockbuster movies scare the living daylights out of her. But she likes music. Last week, after we watched the […]

The Name of the Rose

1986 While scouring for watchables, I recently came across the 1986 film version of The Name of the Rose, on Netflix. It’s truly a classic film and always worth watching again. Back in the 1990s, I read Umberto Eco’s novel on which the film is based. The novel, too, is worth reading again, now that […]

Orchestras hate it, too

Jörg Widmann thrashes to try to help the orchestra detect a beat. Why would anyone pay up to $90 a seat to listen to someone beat on the back, the sides, and the neck of a violin, tunelessly sawing and scraping the poor thing when not beating it? Lots of people won’t, which is why […]

Not a book for the squeamish

Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land. Jacob Mikanowski. Pantheon, July 2023. 378 pages. If some perverse god created the earth, then it’s almost as though that perverse god reserved Eastern Europe as a place dedicated to the relentless refinement of human misery. The book describes how life there has never been […]

Scapegoats 2, Republicans 0

The political death wish of the Republican Party is mind-boggling. Why do they go on fighting battles that they’ve already lost and that accelerate their slide toward permanent minority status and the contempt of history? — at least, in civilized places as opposed to places such as Florida, Texas, and Tennessee. Banning books, and threatening […]