From Inside

From Inside

Where do political values come from? That question is more important than ever these days, given the level of polarization and intensity with which people hold views. The extremes to which they vent might be new, but not the depth of those commitments. In my case, those values came early and were deepened through a lot of conversation, engagement and travel. My grandparents all fled Europe – on my father’s side escaping the old shtetl world of rural East European Jewry that straddled what was then the Russian-German border. They left a small town in what is now easternmost Poland, a little dusty village called Orla, and arrived here in the U.S. by 1905. As a boy I sat in their stuffy, un-air conditioned Brooklyn apartment for hours and listened to their stories. My grandmother, Celia, spoke in Yiddish and was not one to relive the past much. My grandfather, Louis, was just the opposite. He talked endlessly. Years later I taped him for hours – cassette recordings I subsequently transcribed and have written up into more narrative form. Another book in waiting. I was mesmerized by his tales – of the Jewish characters in his town, of his family...Read more

Unzoom

Unzoom I miss giving talks to a roomful of people. For one thing, it had become a bit of a cottage industry, an interesting way to get out and travel, supplement my writing income and occasionally sell a few more books. I also enjoy the interaction and the opportunity to create a narrative based upon visual evidence where my own voice would ad lib the narrative. It also became my way of doing a version of stand-up comedy – a method of self-expression and creativity in which I took a subject that I happened to love and turned it into something instructive. Or at least that’s how I felt when standing up there talking and showing pretty pictures. Having spent years teaching in a standard university format of classroom/lecturer got me accustomed to addressing an audience. That was based on a syllabus of assigned readings and mainly consisted of exchanging words with students. When I got into golf writing and started taking 35 mm. slide images (remember those?) of golf courses I began to find a way to express what I loved about golf architecture and to explain it to various audiences – whether members of a club, or meetings...Read more
Future

Future

No society can exist without a sense of where it’s going. Not that everyone has to be on board with the same vision. But human beings need a sense of doing things for a reason. Without it we’re in a big stall. That’s how it feels right now. The immediate future is very unclear because of the adaptive nature of the coronavirus. It travels invisibly and silently through the air. To a lesser extent it adheres to surfaces and gets passed on through a touchpoint that goes unwashed. A refusal by a certain percentage of the populace to wear masks that would reduce the likelihood of passing it on is, in effect, a collective declaration of mass stupidity and willful ignorance of basic science. The result is that we are no closer now to resolving the pandemic than we were three months ago.  Back then it seemed like there was a purpose to the quarantining and the self-imposed isolation:  to flatten the curve, develop herd immunity and make it more likely that we could return to normal. Good luck with that. Turns out we don’t even know if this virus respects herd immunity. There is no conclusive evidence that prior...Read more