Living a Poor Life Richly

If you don’t read anything else today, read this.

Natalie in Senegal

The moment I first spoke of starting a community garden is still crystal clear in my head. I was sitting on a bench with my neighbor Awa underneath her mango tree. We were watching the village boys play soccer, and I told her I thought it would be great if the women in our neighborhood could have a garden in the land behind where they were playing. She brought to my attention right away that there is no well there – i.e. no water source; however, just around there corner there is a well owned by the husband of a nearby family.

I immediately knew I needed to seek out this well owner’s wife to present the idea to her. At that stage of my time spent in Latmingue, I had learned that if I wanted anything to happen it always started with tracking down the right person, and tracking…

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Synecdoche, New York

It’s hard to recommend Synecdoche, New York, the newest film from Charlie Kaufman. Although I deeply admire Kaufman’s work, and, it should be said, I deeply admire this work, it’s not a kind of movie that leaves you with the sense of wanting to rush to the putative water cooler and go, Wow, you have to see this, as with, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Being John Malkovich. Rather, it’s the kind of movie that you, on one hand, (or least I) cannot help feeling as though you just endured Charlie Kaufman’s two-hour nightmare. For its nonlinearity, for its elisions, for its chronological shifts, for its tenuous but nonetheless sensible (sort of) logic, it has all the trappings of a dream/nightmare.

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David Foster Wallace

A while back, I had a conversation with some young women who will for the purposes of this remain anonymous. They were convinced that one of the great evils facing the United States was illegal immigration. I asked them to try to imagine some situation in their own lives in which they would consider their own lives so dire and miserable that they would leave everything behind in the hopes of something better. What would drive them, their own personal selves, I wanted to know, to feel that they had to risk everything to get to the other side of the border.

I don’t pretend to understand the clinical depression that David Foster Wallace must’ve experienced that drove him to take his own life. I’m not sure that anyone can who hasn’t experienced it. But in a way, that’s the only metaphor I can really think of — illegal immigration — to come to terms with the decision he made to end his life. Continue reading

Why Haven’t the Networks Caught up with John Stewart?

In a recent New York Times story, Michiko Kakutani wrote, “When Americans were asked in a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press to name the journalist they most admired, Mr. [John] Stewart, the fake news anchor, came in at No. 4, tied with the real news anchors Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw of NBC, Dan Rather of CBS and Anderson Cooper of CNN.”

If you happened to watch any of the conventional convention coverage over the last two weeks, you probably got a whole lot of bloviating and not a whole lot of useful information. And so it was useful to tune to The Daily Show to get Continue reading


So I’ve had the new 3G iPhone for a bit more than a week, now, and aside from the abysmal battery life, it is a truly awesome device. (I bought a Griffin Duo set up, which gave me a second charger for work and one for the car, because I had heard about the battery life.) I was frankly scared to have one, given the cost and my general hatred of cell phone contracts.

I am convinced that this is way more than a putative cell phone, because while there are plenty of phones out there with similar capabilities, none of them is as purely capable as the iPhone. The day after I bought it, I went fishing with my son, and–surely this will sound idiotic–I took a picture of him on the dock and sent it to his mother right then. Yes, I could have done that with my old phone, but it would have been a crappy photo, and it would have been way more difficult than it was.
And while we were driving, he was endlessly entertained, YouTube being his favorite channel. He also got a big kick out of the GPS tracking us along the highway. Of course, he now wants one (he’s not getting one) as does everyone in my household, saving my wife, the one of us who does not succumb to technolust.

July 27th, 2008 |

Apple, the Money-Milking Machine

Yesterday, my 50th birthday, I spent something like three and a half hours in line outside the Apple Store at Tyson’s Corner and came away with a new iPhone. Standing in a line like that, without benefit of distraction, like a good book, a person of a certain bent gets the chance to contemplate the river of money that is pouring into that company.

July 18th, 2008 |Update: 

It’s been about six months, and about $600 in cell phone bills later, I do have to say it does everything I want a personal informational, palmtop computerish gizmo to do. Now, if someone can do the same thing (Apple? Other carriers?) for half the price, you’ve got my business now.