A Mercifully Brief Post About Knowing Nothing.

Which, Let’s Face It, I Know a Fair Amount About.

Like most people, I’ve led an unusual life. For me, part of its unorthodoxy is my insistence on trying to make a living as a writer. Let’s just say, it’s been an uphill climb.

But occasionally I comfort myself with the knowledge that there are a million reasons why things either gain recognition or fail to. So, here are a few quick and hilarious examples.

In the 1950s, a book was rejected by several publishers, with withering comments such as, “very dull,” “a dreary record of family bickering,” and, “even if the work had come to light five years ago when World War II was timely, I don’t see any chance for it.” That book, however, did get published, and it has sold almost 40 million copies worldwide. Its title? The Diary of Anne Frank.

I point this out not to highlight the brutal lack of human empathy of these publishers (although, “a family bickering”? THAT was your take away from that story?), but to highlight the deathless wisdom of the great screenwriter William Goldman’s quote, “Nobody knows anything.”

See, I KNEW This Post Would Be Short!

Just one of a trillion examples (Harry Potter leaps to mind). My favorite is a tie between the rejection of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” because “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.” and Decca Records’ rejection of The Beatles in 1962 because “guitar bands are on their way out.”

Nobody. Knows. Anything.

That can either depress or inspire you. Your call.

Please Stop Assuring Me I’m Right

There’s a lot of hand-wringing in some precincts, or parishes if you’re in Louisiana, I guess, about Rachel Maddow semi-retiring from her weeknight show on MSNBC. Now, before I begin, I want to make clear I’m not criticizing her per se. Well, I’m not JUST doing that. I’m using her as a representative of prime time pundit cable shows.

I also concede science hasn’t yet devised an instrument that can measure how little a crap she or her millions of fans care about my views on anything, let alone her. Just so we’re. Lear, I’m Lear on how clearly uninterested any of these parties (and perhaps more than a few readers) clearly don’t care about my views.


Rather, I’m here to bemoan (I love a good bemoaning on occasion) the toxic conversion of news cable prime time to the pursuit of making you feel good about your opinions.

Ms. Maddow is exceptionally bright. And I almost always find my political views align with hers. That’s actually part of the problem. Someone posted recently her shows were the last of the great public squares for serious, high-minded debates. To which I say, exactly what is ever debated on her show? Or most others?

Her shows bring on virtually no one who isn’t eager to ratify whatever she’s saying. At least that’s the way it was for years. Maybe that’s changed. A few used to make a half-hearted attempts to do so, like having Rick Santorum on CNN, but they obviously decided the ratings were better without the tedium of interrupting of self-congratulation with other opinions.

I agree with Ms. Maddow 99.9% of the time, but I would like to hear on occasion from a countervailing argument. None of these shows do that. They educate you (perhaps) inasmuch as they give you facts that support the beliefs you (and I) started the show with.

Sometimes there IS no rational counter argument, especially these last few years, but like I said, the organizing principle for the pundit based programs isn’t so much to challenge our ideas as makes us feel good about the ones we have already and fees those little indignation pellets many of us (myself included) have become addicted to.

I don’t need humor in my shows, but I wish someone would have lovingly pulled aside Ms, Maddow aside and told her people aren’t tuning in for her snappy one-liners. There are few things more tiresome to me than people who are convinced they are funny and are wrong. She’s not within an affordable cab ride of funny.

Then there is her need to delay and delays and delay, occasionally peppering in a tangent or two before getting to the point. One times out of ten this is due to the need to fill time rather than provide relative context: “Let’s get into McConnell’s brazen misuse of power to stop Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, which means, to really understand what’s going on, we need to talk about the European powers’ control of the opium trade in 19th century China, The Whiskey Rebellion, and Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps.”


Most of all, pretty much all the CNN/MSNBC (I won’t even consider Fox, obviously) pundit shows are by definition corrosive. They make my blood boil by pointing out egregious wrongs (which, let’s not kid ourselves, is the raison d’etre of all of these shows) and they only have people to on who agree with them.

If you and others like her (and there are millions who do), I’ve no problems with that. I just find these shows – and indeed, that’s what they are, shows – dangerously eager to make you feel better about everything you already believed when you tuned in.

These shows are not a discourses. That’s nit their business model. And man oh man, it is a business.

They’re indignation dispensaries. And increasingly, most of us (me too) have become hooked.

Everyone Calm Down

This Is Going to Get Loud

Does Trump realize what an affidavit for a search warrant consists of? In this case, it’s a document sworn out by a DOJ official detailing all the reasons the DOJ has probable cause to justify the warrant. I mean, I feel most affidavits for search warrants aren’t filled with a lot of praise for the party involved.

This Hurts Me More Than It Does You. And That Pisses Me Off

Please advise, my lawyer friends: do affidavits for warrants frequently contain material that HELPS the party they’re trying to get the warrant for, as Trump seems to believe? Are the arguments ever presented along the lines of, “I dunno. We’re sort of just throwing darts at the wall here. There’s a very real chance we’re wrong about this, but why not take a look at the documents he feloniously took with him and then lied repeatedly about having – although again, we’re willing to bet there’s a totally justifiable reason for that – just to be totally sure. He’s a former president and this has never been done before, but to we see no reason for that give us pause before proceeding. Cos, you know, we’re the Deep State.”

Can’t Believe This Needs Pointing Out, But Here We Are

If the affidavit WERE exculpatory, it seems odd the judge would grant the warrant.

Trump wanting the affidavit released puts me in the odd position of wanting something he wants. But I also suspect the DOJ’s point, that releasing this may interfere with the investigation, has merit.

Do I think Trump is guilty of everything he’s being investigated for? Yes, and a whole lot more.

Love America? Prove It.

But he hasn’t been charged yet.

So the only responsible and, yes, goddammit, AMERICAN thing to do is to withhold definitive judgment – and certainly withhold judgment publicly – until all the facts play themselves out. So the Left should wait a while before they uncork the champagne. Or more realistically, before they unseal whatever mason jar their organic, locally-sourced, twee 19th century, eye-rollingly insufferable IPA they fermented at their local co-op’s basement.

And to the Right: shut the f#k up. Politicians, especially. Wait until the facts are out, you shameless boot-licking, amoral quislings. You’re LAWMAKERS for f#k’s sake. It’d be nice if you acted as if you understood, or God-forbid, respected the basic tenets of our justice system.

And for the right wing nuts not in office, I see your point. It makes TOTAL sense that the FBI is in the pockets of the “woke mob.” And hey: we’ve all seen hordes of the woke rampaging through our towns, turning everyone gay.

Not to mention historically the FBI is a notoriously SUPER lefty organization. You’re acting on principle. Kudos.
That’s why you were all pissed when they took Hillary’s server. I remember how upset with the FBI you all were then.

Oh Right. The Exact Opposite Thing Happened.

Also, if you could take down your Blue Lives Matter American flags (which violate actual laws about how the American flag is to be treated. But who cares about the American flag? You do, but those laws were probably written by transgender communists), that’d be great. Because if you can just set a aside 30 seconds to try to be honest, you only give a self-righteous f*#k about Blue Lives when they’re going after people you don’t like.

So, in summation, I think we should just see what happens. And some people should also f#k the f#k off.

The Pros and Cons of Sleeplessness

Or “Insomnia” for You Fancy Types

Until the last few years, I’d prided myself on my ability to sleep virtually anywhere, regardless of privacy, noise, or light levels. That this is what I prided myself on is a topic for another post.

Categories of Sleeplessness

There are two kinds of sleeplessness: the one in which your brain wakes you up and says, “I feel like we don’t spend much quality time, so I figure, we’ve got a couple of hours to kill. Let’s dish!” This type, coined by one expert as the “Sadistic Sleepover”* is inevitably irritating and can lead to nothing good, especially if done a few times in a row or over the course of a week. No one likes not sleeping, of course, but it wreaks havoc on my brain with an unusual intensity.

Science has proven that for most people, driving in a sleep-deprived state is the equivalent of driving while intoxicated. Once, while sleeping only 11 hours over the course of five days, I was arrested for attempting to make love to a moving city bus.** I was acquitted of the charge only when my attorney pointed out there was no specific law on the books prohibiting this. Also, several of the passengers testified to the fact it was in fact an attempt to make love to the bus, and not merely use it for my own auto-erotic*** needs.

Sleeplessness Type II, Sometimes Known as the “Dutchman’s Revenge”*****

Then there’s the second type of sleeplessness: the one in which your brain is excited to show you the three hour powerpoint presentation it’s made about every bad choice you’ve ever made, followed by a montage of your failures scored with the Benny Hill theme song. Maybe it varies a bit person to person.

I’m making these glib little jokes because I’m trying to use semi-clever glibness to blunt the impact of what really swims endless laps in my mind during these bouts of sleeplessness. Let’s face it, no one ever wakes up at 3:00 a.m. to dwell on their good qualities. In the grips of this sleeplessness, I perform close readings of the whole canon of my inadequacies with what can only be described as a Talmudic intensity. I lament, I pity myself, I pity others whom I wronged, or that one woman in September of 2000 who took what I meant to be a benign comment as a deeply hurtful insult and didn’t seem to buy my increasingly shrill and needy apologies.

It’s Going to Get a Little Dark for a Bit. But the Good News Is It’s Also Pretentious.

I’ve raged at things and people, and I’m not proud to say I’ve also felt true hate (always tempered come morning, but still). It’s unpleasant to know I’m capable of that. And before you think I’m splitting semantic hairs distinguishing between rage and hate, you have a valid point in terms of potential actions and consequences. And spend too much time in either’s company, and it the effect will be the same: you’ll rot from the inside out. But in terms of experience, my sleepless self contends you are very wrong. I know you’re wrong**** because I studied this idea deeply during a recent sleepless night.

I’d argue many hate groups and crimes are really expressions of rage. Rage is often scattershot and feeds on ignorance, stereotypes, racial, economic, sexual, political, etc. Hate is always as sharp and exact as a needle. Rather than feeding on ignorance, it tends to subsist on a particular knowledge. Rage is often a source of pride, albeit often terribly misplaced. Rage can be communal and binding. Hate, I think, is to feel, among other things, isolation in its most punishing and undiluted state.

They’re both awful and destructive, but rage can offer a cruel exhilaration, whereas hate, if you’re doing it right, always feel like acid on opened flesh. Rage is a drug; hate is a disease.

I Did Warn You

You see what I mean? This is the sort of reductive, septic sophistry that happens in the second kind of sleeplessness. As awkward as that may have been to read, trust me when I assure you it could have been worse. I could have shared my lengthy nocturnal meditations on, for example, why The Simpsons, for roughly its first ten years, was among the greatest, smartest comedies in TV history and then precipitously sank into the realm of the unwatchable. Or how there can be a symbol for Anarchy.

Worst of all, it can throw you off for days in both palpably physical and psychological terms. And I’ve tried everything in the book. The worst is that I often don’t just get up and do something for a while (sometimes effective) because I’m convinced I’m thiiiisss close to sleeping. Many’s the night my psyche’s thrown good money after bad this way.

Ironic This Is All About Sleeplessness, But SOme Might Argue It’s Been a Little Sleep-Inducing at Times

I’ll close with among the better closing lines in a play I’ve ever heard. It’s not actually the last line, but it’s pretty close. And I won’t tell you the play and ruin that play for you because I’m not a sociopath. A younger character, troubled by the play’s events, confides in an older character, “I don’t sleep well anymore.” To which the older character says, “Maybe we’re not supposed to sleep well.”

I don’t think that’s always true. But I feel there are times when it may well be. Sometimes I can understand such times, and sometimes they pounce on me out of left field. Those are the worst. They’re reminders that my mind is always trying to work something through, and that at times those things are insoluble, but it doesn’t stop my inner workings from plugging away regardless. And it reminds me that, sometimes, perhaps, the point isn’t to solve the issue, it’s to accept that the issue cannot be solved.



*Reader, it was me. It’s also the title of my latest work of Nancy Drew Mystery fan fiction. DM me for details.

**I have no direct memory of this. Or even the trial, come to think of it. But my college dorm roommate swears it happened and when I point out how that isn’t even believable, he counters reasonably with, “How would you know? You were sleep-deprived.” And he’d have no motive for lying. Nor for telling that saga to every girl I dated in college, right? Or at my wedding in lieu of the traditional Best Man speech.

** *I know, I know. All I can do is apologize and promise you that as disappointed/disgusted as you likely are with me for inflicting that on you, I feel it ten times more. Also, it’s likely to be a slide on the next powerpoint my subconscious cooks up.

**** I’m mostly kidding? What do I know? I also studied for my Chem final with great intensity and believe me, I was still wrong for a lot of it.

***** No it isn’t. I just made that up. But I think I may have heard that phrase at some point. Most likely as either a tropical drink or a venereal disease.

How Can I Live With Myself? Let’s See!

I moved into a new house in March and for the first time in my life, I am the only human living with myself. I find, almost five months in, that I’m generally OK to live with, albeit a little moody and quiet sometimes. I usually keep the same hours I like to keep, which is helpful. I’m good, for the most part, at taking out the recycling. I’d give myself a solid B+ on that. I’d like it if I were a little more on top of the dishes, but even with that, it’s been better than I thought it would be when I agreed to move in with me. I’m also on top of the vacuuming and laundry, which is really nice to come home to, so props to me for that.

My taste in music aligns really closely with my own, thank gosh, and better still, I inevitably play it exactly when I’m in the mood for it. I find I’m more polite than I’d assumed I was. So much so, I’ve apologized on several occasions to inanimate objects, like when I said “Oh, I’m sorry” to the fridge (its full name is refrigerator, but I like to think we have that kind of relationship) when I closed the door too hard. Or when I freely admitted, “My bad!” aloud to my washing machine for not pressing the “start” button.

Both of these events, and several more like them, actually happened.

This Isn’t a Bad Thing, Per Se. It’s Not a Thing at All, Really.

I also realize that most of my new neighbors would likely describe me the way neighbors of serial killers inevitably describe them: “Nice guy, friendly, generally kept to himself.” I try not to worry about that too much, because I think overall I share very few other traits normally associated with serial killers. Almost none, just about. I’ll just say this: I don’t for one second think I’m living with one, and I’m in a good position to know.

OK, now we’re all starting to think maybe I’m sounding a little defensive about not being a serial killer. Like I seem a little too eager to assert that I’m not. Although, I’m absolutely convinced I am not.

Let’s Move On

I’ve learned I apparently enjoy growing flowers more than I’d thought I would. I wouldn’t have pegged me as that kind of guy. But hey, you never really know someone until you live with them.

Things to Work On

It’s not perfect, mind you. I am constantly unable to find where I’ve put the tv remote, and when I ask where I might have left it, inevitably I can’t seem to remember. Moreover, I sound a little annoyed at the question. That’s annoying.

Also, I have too many plates and drinking glasses. Like, to the point where it’s inconvenient to store them all. Yet, despite telling myself I need to get rid of some, and even agreeing many of them aren’t even especially nice, I never seem to get around to it. That’s going to eventually become a thing if I don’t shape up. Ditto my annoying habit of eating the last of something I’ve been saving for later. I do that a lot, and I don’t get why I can’t get how disrespectful.

I recently have developed a disconcerting habit of thinking I need to assert I’m not a serial killer. I mean, why would I even feel like I’d need to establish that?

I’ve also learned that any kitchen is an eat-in kitchen if you’re willing to stand, although that’s more a general observation than being about me. And although it’s not an especially funny observation, I chuckled politely when I made it, because it’s little gestures like that which help grease the gears of domestic life.

Overall Conclusion Five Months In:

I’ve also found myself quite lonely at times, and living alone really drives home the basic existential dilemma of being with oneself from cradle to grave. But I’ve also found that loneliness is sometimes a good teacher, and that I sometimes, although not as often I aspire to be, am decent student. Still, I haven’t given up on the idea I can improve on that.

Now, if I could just get me to do something about organizing my basement. Just for normal stuff, of course. Nothing nefarious.

Art: It’s Just Not That Into Me (Or a Lot of Us)

I talk a good game about writing because you want to and to make your peace as early as possible with the fact all you have control over is your own willingness to work and work as hard and honestly as you can at whatever you’re trying to create, and your doggedness in trying to get your work seen/heard/produced, etc (if you even want that).

I still believe in that. And I still believe if you’re expecting the Art Gods to act is if they have any interest in fairness, let alone thinking that all of your toil and hours you’ve sacrificed somehow obligates them in any way to give you a helping hand, you haven’t been paying attention.

And yet, I am less than a perfect adherent of my own maxims. I’ve reached a unique moment in my life as a writer. I’ve had moments of utter despair, shattering almosts and nearlys that have made me want to take my ball and go home. That they’ve increased over the last few years makes sense; between 2007-2013, I had a four full length plays produced about seven times regionally, and two of them had very well-received runs Off-Broadway. I had a fifth play optioned play optioned and set to open on Broadway the falling October. If this sounds like distasteful bragging to you, the next paragraph will make you feel a lot better.

Between 2014-and July 11th, EDT, 2022, I have failed to land another agent, which may have something to do the fact that in that eight year-stretch I had my option dropped, and have had a total of two new plays produced once each.

It’s Hard to Follow My Advice Because I’ve Seen Myself Attempt Things Like Try to Set Up a Universal Remote or Be Overly Liberal on the Five Second Rule Re: Dropped Food

If my career were a pet, it likely would have been euthanized.

Eight Years Isn’t a Slump, It’s a Brand

The thing is, it’s not like I wrote only two plays in that period. I’ve written well..a lot of stuff. Tons. Something like eight full length plays, a web series, two screenplays, and two one act plays, in addition to two complete seasons of tv series. I believe firmly, and people whom I respect tend to concur, it is some of the best writing I’ve done. So based on my philosophy, I should take solace in that.

But to my embarrassment, these days I find can’t. Not even a quantum of solace*, which is a phrase I’m shoehorning into this sentence because it was actually the name of a James Bond film (which I still can’t fully accept this somehow got green-lighted) and maybe the the most absurd and stupid three words ever strung together. Anyway.

Don’t misunderstand me: it’s not that I’m feeling discouraged. For the first time ever, the thought of writing, among the few things that has always allowed me sniff out some sense of who I am, fills me with physical and metaphysical revulsion.

All I seem to feel when I think of rolling a fresh sheet of paper in to start a new work is humiliating foolishness. Partly because I don’t have a typewriter, and I keep forgetting laptops don’t need paper. But mostly because I am living out the famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result.

Obligatory Rhetorical Question
If a play is performed in a forest – or a theater – or a forest/theater and no one comes to see it, does it exist?

And it’s not like it’s been read by bunch of professionals and deemed unworthy. That would be disappointing and frustrating, but something I’d have to be willing to hear. I can’t get anyone (in a position to produce it) to read it. Not in theater or tv. And it’s not just my bank account and ego who feels this sting of rejection, although sure, that’s in there. It’s that it starts to feel like a delusional act. It stops being nourishing and gratifying and starts to seem a little embarrassing to myself.

Many Believe the Universe is Indifferent to Our Lives. Perhaps. But I Know for a Fact Art Is.

This when to remember Art has made it quite clear it isn’t obliged to you in the least. Art doesn’t owe me (or anyone) any favors. It didn’t sell on becoming an artist like it was talking you into a time share. Art says, “You want to be an artist? Great. Best of luck,” and then it walks away, probably on its way to a gallery opening in the West Village, and leaves you to do the rest.

I’m not arguing what I’m feeling is right from an aesthetic, philosophical, or emotional stand point. If a friend approached me with the same dilemma, I know just what I’d say. I’d be encouraging and mean it.

I admit chasing fame and fortune are poor goals for an artist. I’m not (I wouldn’t turn it down, of course, but I’m not chasing it. The fact that I’m a playwright sort of proves that. If I’d hoped to achieve fame and future as a playwright in America, it’d a little like moving to Kenya hoping to achieve adulation as a figure skater.

Usually, I somehow just trudge forward, not out of some heroic dedication but because I’ve unlearned how not to. And who knows? Scarlett O’Hara famously said, “After all, tomorrow is another day!” Thing is, she’s not the fictional character you’d look to for solid life advice.

So, What Now?
Will I try to write again? Sigh. Probably. Did writing that jut now depress me? Very much so. Will the fact few if any may ever see it or care gnaw at me a lot more than it used to? It seems to be trending in that direction. Certainly more than I’d hoped from myself.

Art owes artists nothing.

And you could argue that no one put a gun to my head, forcing to become an “artist” (I’m a bit self-conscious about this term. I worry it’s too self-regarding). But if you feel this is something people can just walk away from or stop emotionally attaching to once they’ve realized how disappointing it can be, I have to tell, this in’t like the last season of Game if Thrones. Sure, you likely got pissed at the lazy writing and oddly unsatisfactory ending, but then you started binging something else. God, what bliss it would be to simply stop caring like that.

Let’s Open Up the Floor

How do you deal with these feelings as actors, writers, artists, etc.?

I’m curious about how others have dealt with such moments: please let me know your experiences and philosophies.

*It’s hard not to believe that title wasn’t the result of some drunken party at the producer’s home, in which hundreds of words were clipped out of magazines by interns, placed in a hat, and then picked at random. And when the guests dared the producer to name a film that, he (“he” is accurate here, because a woman wouldn’t be this idiotically obstinate), fueled on drunken bravado, shouted, “You bet your ass I’m gonna use this title!” and the next day, hungover, when he tries to back peddle, his buddies won’t let him off the hook. I’m pretty sure that’s how Hollywood works. Or at least, how it worked HERE.

June 24th, 2022

In Jewish law, a fetus attains the status of a full person only at birth. Sources in the Talmud indicate that prior to 40 days of gestation, the fetus has an even more limited legal status, with one Talmudic authority (Yevamot 69b) asserting that prior to 40 days the fetus is “mere water.” Elsewhere, the Talmud indicates that the ancient rabbis regarded a fetus as part of its mother throughout the pregnancy, dependent fully on her for its life — a view that echoes the position that women should be free to make decisions concerning their own bodies.

The belief that abortion is “murder” is generally not one shared by scientists. So I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the opposition to abortion springs predominantly from a religious (read: Christian) perspective. Given this, how do we square today’s decision with the views of one of the chief authors of the Constitution, James Madison, whose belief that religion had no role in law or government was so absolute that he was appalled at the idea of Congress having a Chaplin? How does it align with the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote there would always be a “wall” between Church and State?

More crucially, how does this not violate the First Amendment? If a tenet of one faith at odds with that of another is codified into law, it is hard to make a sincere argument that there is true freedom of religion.

Before the Constitution, religiously based laws were commonplace. You could not hold a political office in New York if you were Catholic. In Maryland, you HAD to be Catholic to hold political office. One of the driving forces behind the Constitution was to eliminate the divisiveness of religion in public life once and for all. Today’s decision is clearly at odds with that aim. Ironically, the justices who overturned this precept view themselves as strict constructionists.

Happy Bloomsday!!

It’s June 16th!! Happy Bloomsday!

For those who may not know, and also for those who do, June 16th is the day we follow Leopold Bloom, the protagonist from James Joyce’s super-dense but super-rewarding novel Ulysses. Insufferable types like myself refer to it as “Bloomsday,” because, as I established in this sentence’s first clause, we are insufferable.

It’s probably the supreme example of stream-of-consciousness: we follow Bloom, along with his wife, Molly, and Stephen Dedalus (this is his literary side hustle in addition to his regular gig as the protagonist of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”) throughout the whole day, morning to noon to night, and we hear their every thought.

That sounds exhausting.

And to be fair, at times it is. But it’s far less so when you catch on to what Joyce is doing: he’s capturing the way all of our minds work: an endless stream of tangential thoughts as we try to make our way through the day and make sense of what we encounter. Before him, most literature tidied up its characters’ thoughts, but Joyce had little patience for neatness (but plenty of time for precision).

Anyway, that idea made it easier for me. I tried reading it my senior year of high school, and man was I ever outgunned by the text. Tried it a few years later, and was still beaten black and blue, but got through it and knew that it was a great novel and also knew that most of it was way over my head.

That’s still true, though maybe (?) a little less each time I dive in. I’m now at the point where rather than being angry for reading something a little above my pay grade as a reader, I’m grateful for it (most of the time). Also, it’s easier to relate to one of its central points as we get older: as we move forward with our days, we constantly – sometimes without realizing – cast glances into our pasts, or as F.Scott Fitzgerald put it a few years later, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

In fact, Fitzgerald would not have been possible if not for Joyce, and Ulysses especially. Well, HE would’ve been possible, obviously, just not much of his best writing.

Anyway, why am I writing when you could be reading Joyce! Here are some bite sized gems from Ulysses, some are profound, some are funny, and some just drenched in a palpable love of language, beauty, and for all of its daily indignities, annoyances, and boredom, life.

So, here’s a few of its most famous bits:

“History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake”

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

“We can’t change the world, but we can change the subject”

“From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step”

“The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.” (Man, has there ever been a better description of a beautiful night sky in summer? That’s rhetorical. The answer is no.)

“Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes… Shut your eyes and see.” (That’s as transcendent, metaphysical, and flat out psychedelic as anything the hippies ever produced. Joyce would’ve loved the 60s)

This one’s for the Catholics:

“They believe in rod, the scourger almighty, creator of hell upon earth and in Jacky Tar, the son of a gun, who was conceived of unholy boast, born of the fighting navy, suffered under rump and dozen, was scarified, flayed and curried, yelled like bloody hell, the third day he arose again from the bed, steered into haven, sitteth on his beamend till further orders whence he shall come to drudge for a living and be paid.” (Joyce, like most Catholics, harbored a lot of, let’s just say, feelings about that condition)

“Who made those allegations? says Alf.

I, says Joe. I’m the alligator.”

And the famous closing paragraph, or at least a small part of it, among the more famous closings ever: it’s long and unpunctuated (but for a good reason, as opposed to being pretentious, like it would in the hands of almost anyone else):

“And Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Has anything better captured the memory of one’s happiest moments of young love/lust? Of the memory of being richly, swooningly aware and alive in the way only youth can? Or more to the point: the FEELING of that memory?

Joyce thereby manages to leave everyone who’s braved the whole day with Leapold, Molly, and Stephen the best possible reward: the simple message of “Yes.” Not bad for a novel that continually wrestles with regret. At the end of the novel, at the end of it all, with all of his unique mountainous genius for English, he opts to end the novel, and it all, with “Yes,” and implicitly urges us to do likewise.

All of this is to say, have a Happy Bloomsday!

Judging Judgment (Ugh, What A Self-Consciously Cutsey Title. This Isn’t a Great Start)

In The Great Gatsby, its narrator asserts in the opening paragraphs that he makes a point of not judging people. He then goes on, roughly one paragraph later, to start judging and barely a page goes by in which he fails to not only judge people, but do so in a delightfully dry and at times super-catty, mean teenage girl sort of way (I’m also convinced Nick is clearly in denial about some clearly homoerotic feelings. If he’s not at least bi-curious, try to make sense, for example, of the end of the second chapter. Go on. I’ll wait. Did you read it? See?). I’m surprised how little scholarship on the novel has been devoted to this.

But that’s not the point of this post, if it can be said to have a point. As of now, it’s an open question. I hope it turns out to have one. Those are usually the best kind of posts. Fingers crossed!

I’m writing this to confess I’m very judgmental. I try not to be. I try really hard not to be. And a good 95% of my judgments are never voiced. But despite my efforts not to judge, I have fallen well-short of the mark, in my judgment. Of course, like almost anything, judgment of others can be both good or bad. In fact, I want to say judging others can be a positive. Is this the point? Maybe. Let’s find out.

We judge other people when we make friends. We judge other people when we fall in love, or decide this person selling me a time-share isn’t telling me everything. So, my point is that judging is not only necessary in life, but also a source of some of life’s greatest experiences.

Great. I had a point in this post. Shortish for me, but that’s good, too.

However, (crap; maybe that isn’t the point of this post. Could this post have two points? That feels awfully ambitious for the likes of me) when people get all judgy about being judgmental, it’s the other kind they’re talking about. And damned if I don’t do that dozens of times a day. Today’s notable one was when I glimpsed a man going by wearing his hair in a man-bun, I think it’s called. Now, this look is very dignified, assuming you’re a samurai in feudal Japan. But I’m willing to bet almost anything this man was not a feudal-age samurai. He was alive, for one thing, and also, he just didn’t present in an overtly samurian way.

But A) Who am I to judge someone else’s grooming/fashion choices? My daughter reliably informs me I have little insight into fashion. And I’m awfully judgmental for someone who temporarily blinded himself last week by vigorously shaking a bottle of salad dressing with the cap off.

For the record, that actually happened.

Second, why would I have an opinion about something so superficial? The fact I have a pejorative opinion about his hair says a lot more about me than Evan (that’s probably not his real name, but it’s more likely to be “Evan” than “Man Bun Guy”). And what it has to say isn’t pretty.

And you see what happened back there? I not only arbitrarily subjected Jeff (on reflection, he looked more like a “Jeff” than an “Evan”) to my scorn, but myself as well. I find randomly and unfairly passing negative judgment on others tends to boomerang back to me. Judge me if you must, but your judgment of me is nothing compared to the judgment I routinely judge of myself. Moreover, my judgment, in my judgment, would likely be in agreement with your judgment, assuming it’s an unflattering judgment.

Yes, judgment like that never helps anyone, least of all the judge, but it’s also sort of baked into the way the human mind works. It’s a pretty important survival tool, after all. So maybe cut yourself – and me, while you’re at it – a little slack. We’ve all heard the quote, or a variation of the quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Some people attribute this to Plato, but it almost certainly wasn’t him. In fact, no one actually knows who said it (or something like it) first. Which is a shame, because as quotes go, it’s pretty damned pithy.

So, just for the purposes of bookkeeping* and clarity, I’ve chosen to attribute it to the only surviving member of the Monkees, Mickey Dolenz. Because why not? He’s been around the block. No doubt he has some wisdom to share. Also, “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” ** are highly underrated songs.

Anyway, this quote, first uttered by Mickey Dolenz, is always worth remembering, at least for me. And if I can get myself to remember that more often, both as it applies to others and myself, then I’m willing to bet life will go a lot better for both me and those around me. Even for Brandon. Yes, he looked more like a “Jeff” than an “Evan,” but he really, when I think about it, looked like a quintessential Brandon to me. And that is said without any judgment.

*This is only word in the English language with three consecutive pairs of matching letters. And yes, there’s also “bookkeeper,” but you get the point.***

*** God, Jack, please shut off your rambling mind for just five minutes.

** Fun fact, although “fun” is all relative: this song was written by the great hit-making husband and wife duo of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Also, Neil Diamond wrote the theme song for the show. And I think we’ve reached the point in which I’d argue you’d be justified in judging me, and none too favorably, either.

Memorial Day

So my great uncle was, I think, 19 (let’s say 19) and stationed in England as a private in the US Army on the eve of the Normandy invasion. And he was scared out of his wits. So much so, he placed a call to his oldest brother, my grandfather, and confessed he was thinking of going AWOL.

Well, as he must’ve known, my grandfather did everything he could to talk him out of it. He must’ve pointed out the practical problems it would create. He must’ve pointed out how, if he flinched now, he would be haunted by it for the rest of his life.

Whatever he said, it worked. My great Uncle John returned to his unit and prepared to go to war. My grandfather wrote him an encouraging letter (which we still have) and promised he’d be home soon. But what my grandfather didn’t know is that my uncle was already dead, killed by a German shell in Normandy.

Two months later, my father was born, and my grandfather gave him his late little brother’s name. It’s now also the name I have. I can’t imagine the guilt my grandfather must have felt, nor the courage my uncle must’ve had to face his fears and go headlong into danger and death anyway.

I post a lot about politics, perhaps too much, but if there’s ANYTHING that everyone in America can still agree on, it’s that such sacrifice is worthy of remembering, and worthy of honoring.