“Railways are irresistible bazaars, stalking along perfectly level no matter what the landscape, improving your mood with speed….if a train is large and comfortable you don’t even need a destination.” Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar

***

I boarded Amtrak’s California Zephyr in Emeryville, California a week before Christmas with a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and guilt. Thirty-five hours of train travel to spirit me home for the holidays.

Thomas the Tank Engine initiated me into the world of trains. As a boy, I spent endless days constructing wooden train tracks in the basement with my brother. Leaning over the…


Marina Abramovic, ‘The Artist is Present’.

Marina Abramovic sat in the Museum of Modern Art and stared at people. She remained quiet and still while museum visitors cycled through the chair across from her to lock eyes. Abramovic did this for 7 hours a day, six days a week for two and a half months. A marathon of performance art.

Some sat with her for minutes. Others for hours. People cried. And many more watched mesmerized from a distance. All while Abramovic sat intently passive.

She titled the exhibit The Artist is Present when she performed it 10 years ago. The work is only more powerful…


Source: Noah Berger, Associated Press.

Under siege from lightning, California is facing one of its worst fire seasons on record. And there are not enough firefighters. This stark reality creates trade-offs for CalFire, the agency tasked with fighting these fires. What should be saved and what can burn? Obviously a tough question to answer when peoples’ homes and historic state parks fall into the “let it burn” category.

But why are these trade-offs so stark? Is a state prone to wildfires not prepared to fight them? Especially a state as large and resource-rich as California. …


There are an infinite number of things to learn and a finite amount of time in which to learn them. Instead of despair, I feel encouraged by this fact.

If I could only learn one thing in the next year, what would it be? This question is bouncing around my head this week. The lack of physical freedom of movement means more time to sit and think. Which means time to sit and learn. For a lot of this, this has manifested in “what hobby do I want to pick up?” But, I think there is a lot more here…


I need a hobby. Between work, sleep, eating, exercising (or not), I don’t find time for other structured activities. I don’t know what it should be. Piano, learning Japanese, drawing, baking, puzzles. I don’t count 30 days of writing, because these last few posts haven’t been much in terms of writing. Open to ideas.


An article in The Atlantic earlier this year makes a forceful case for the parasitic privilege of political hobbyism. It aptly describes how I and most of my friends engage politically — from the grandstands with a bag of popcorn. Engagement from a place of privilege.

The arena of politics is fascinating to observe, yet it is not an appealing place to enter daintily. “Making an impact” is not easy work from the couch and requires more than discussing broad, theoretical topics at home.

Or at least it wasn’t until a month or two ago. Now the couch is exactly…


I learned this evening that “v” in Spanish makes the “b” sound. Wow.

Spanish is not a language I am good at, but I did “study” it in elementary, middle, and high school. I even took a couple of courses in college. No, my grasp of the language ever approached fluency, but to admit that I did not even know basic sounds? Now that is embarrassing.

But more than embarrassment, was this something I knew when taking these classes and have since forgotten? Or did I never receive this nugget of enunciation, to begin with? I cannot pick which outcome…


It’s car window painting season. A time of year marked by distracting other motorists with the driver’s most pressing thoughts. Usually, this messaging accompanies high school graduation. However, the typical messages of “Seniors 2020, H.A.G.S., see you never!” are being replaced with “Death to tyrants!”

So, it’s a bit of a different message this year.

And for obvious reasons. In the midst of a global pandemic, the federal government and many states mandated that citizens shelter in place in order to flatten the curve. The narrative is well-known at this point and people’s reactions are understandably strong and mixed.

Social…


Beneath it quietly lies,
Hidden by a disguise,
One who constantly tries.
Yet, cracks widen in size.

Worry, as time flies.
You say it’s unwise.
I counter,
It’s my compromise.

Instead, my own demise.
Ignoring internal cries
Sanity can only surmise:
I can’t escape cloudy skies,
Numb to my own lies.

***


Hat tip to Kevin for today’s writing topic. I doubt I can answer the actual question, but when does that ever get in the way of pontificating needlessly?

The prompt: Median ticket prices are $100. How much would you pay to see your favorite band play at your favorite venue in 10 years? How much would you pay to see your favorite band from 10 years ago play today?

I graduated high ten years ago. And while I was (more?) musically naive then than I am now — at least I am ten years longer in the tooth now —…

Russ Wilson

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