Jap-bashing on the 7th Ave. local
First published in The Stranger, Jan 24–30, 1995 This is a true story, which is to say, it is as factual as I can make it. These events really happened. It is 1991, in Manhattan. I am standing on the Times Square subway platform, waiting to transfer to the uptown 1-train, which will take me to Columbia University, where I am studying to be a high school English teacher. A subway musician is playing “Amazing Grace” on a saxophone. After a few minutes wait, the train arrives and I get on. There’s a…Read more »
Heatwave in Japan In the summer of 2014, I visited Japan, the land of my ancestors. My wife, Joan, had lived in Japan for a year when she was in her 20s, but I had never been. Unfortunately, we arrived in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave. I had developed a nasty heat rash around both ankles and couldn't wear socks. When I tried wearing ankle socks, the brushing of the pant legs made my rash unbearably itchy. So, in ultra-fashionable "dress for success" Tokyo, I had to wear loose-fitting shorts and slippers…Read more »
COVID-19 in Seattle region schools
It's been a scary couple of weeks in the Seattle area. That's because Seattle is "ground zero" in the U.S. for the virus called COVID-19 (colloquially, coronavirus). Scores of cases have arisen in the Seattle area, 80 cases in Washington state [postscript: 120 cases. 3/8/2020]. The disease killed 10 elderly people in a nursing home in Kirkland, just east of Seattle. This region is in the national news every day now. At least three students that I know of (Everett SD, Seattle SD, Shoreline SD) have tested positive and are in quarantine as…Read more »
Climate change and the English teacher
I will probably not live to see the long-term apocalypse toward which our species is hurtling. My daughter will. But even today, the effects of climate change are obvious. The extreme weather phenomena we’ve seen in recent years—massive wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding—smack us in the face like a dead fish with evidence. The fact that some media outlets—I’m looking at you, Rupert Murdoch—continue to voice skepticism and even flat-out denial that carbon emissions are causing this and will continue to cause this, astonishes me. Climate deniers are a bunch of old men, my…Read more »
Impeachment: a sad and somber duty
As a public school teacher, I am rightly required to maintain the semblance of political neutrality. But as the creator of YouTube mistersato411 videos, and on my privately-owned website, I believe I am free to express my views. I try to exercise restraint when using my Twitter account since people of different political stripes use my videos and I am grateful to all of them. But Dirty Don’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” stink to high heaven and require comment. First, it irritates me that the GOP trivialized impeachment by impeaching Bill Clinton. The…Read more »
Don’t call me a Boomer (part 1 of 3)
They say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known. — Billy Joel, “Summer, Highland Falls,” 1976 I still remember an insult leveled at me in 1981. A writer in Newsweek magazine, doubtless a Baby Boomer, described the new generation of young people as “silent, selfish, and tractable.” I had to look up “tractable,” and when I did, I got mad. When I read that Newsweek article, I was 19 years old and beginning to take an interest in politics. Ronald Reagan had just taken…Read more »
Don’t call me a Boomer (part 2 of 3)
The Boomers’ disdain of my generation’s political involvement was a perfect analogue for what they thought about music in the late 70s and early 80s. They’d had the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, Dylan, Janice, the Who. They dismissed the music I listened to in high school as insubstantial pop fluff—disco and Top 40. OK, that’s fair. We didn’t have any equivalent to the Beatles. But the Beatles came ashore in very different circumstances than in the 70s. The top artists on mainstream radio prior to the Beatles’ arrival in 1964 included Bobby…Read more »
Don’t call me a Boomer (part 3 of 3)
We were the D.I.Y. Generation. While our elders were buying glossy copies of Vogue and Rolling Stone, we made our own ‘zines and printed them on the photocopiers at Kinko’s. We silk-screened our own shirts and made superstars out of grafitti artists like Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring. We released underground music on cassette tapes and 4-song EPs produced in garages and basements. Our subcultures grew sub-subcultures. We were never a unified cultural movement. Our generation generated an explosion of diversity that propelled the culture into a thousand fragmentary directions. And that’s where…Read more »
On the Middleton costume debacle
I've been watching the reaction to one group of teachers at Middleton Elementary School dressing up in red, white and blue (and one as the Statue of Liberty!) standing behind a cardboard "wall" that says Make America Great Again, and another group at the same school who dressed in cringeworthy stereotypical Mexican costumes. As a fellow teacher, I can't fully express my horror and disappointment at the behavior of these elementary school teachers. I hardly know where to start. For one thing, no teacher would do this if they thought they were going…Read more »
Freedom to make mistakes
When I was about 26, I played my first open mic. We spelled it “open mike” back then. I lived in Brooklyn and had a job selling futon furniture in Soho. A friend pretty much forced me to perform something at an open mike at Speak Easy, a small basement folk club on Macdougal St. in the village. She’d known me in Honolulu, where I had performed some spoken word stuff. But I could tell this was a music club, so I brought my guitar and sang a couple of songs I’d written.…Read more »
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