The Thing From Bloggy Swamp

"Music is real--the rest is scenery." Fats Waller

This week many Americans will drop sons and daughters off for their freshman year of college.  The partings will be emotional; tearful mothers and fathers, sons and daughters fighting back outward signs of impatience as they whine inwardly “When are they ever going… Read full post »

Fairs–that is, open-air public festivals at which entertainment is provided for a price–are both a current phenomenon and a tradition dating to ancient Rome. Fairs tend to be held in rural areas–there is already sufficient amusement in cities–and they serve as occasions for th… Read full post »

BOSTON. It’s Saturday, but an unused jury room in the Old Courthouse here is filled with young men, behaving as adolescent males have when forced to endure instruction since time immemorial; cutting up, cracking wise, and slinging spit balls at each other as they await the arrival of an elderl… Read full post »

AUGUST 23, 2014 11:42AM

Don Byas, Master of the Sexophone

Don Byas, the tenor who forms the bridge that links the swing and bebop eras, used to say “I don’t play the saxophone–I play the sexophone.

You can understand his transliteration if you believe that the greater part of that basic human function is gentle seduction, and not just rock… Read full post »

AUGUST 22, 2014 9:35PM

At the Pink Ladies Taxi Stand

Pink taxis with female drivers that serve only women customers are catching on in cities from Moscow to Dubai.… Read full post »

GREEN RIDGE, Mo.  Sam Jones has been a grain buyer in this small town for nearly four decades, but he wears an expression of concern as he watches farmers arrive at the local grain elevator to sell their crops.  “If I had the money right now, which I don’t,&r… Read full post »

NATICK, Mass.  The start time for one of the Boston area’s many charitable walks is fast approaching, but while other fund-raisers are stretching and filling water bottles, one couple remains in their car, the distaff side with her head in her hands.

“Why did you have to say tha… Read full post »

As I stuff a load of glasses into the dishwasher I try to make enough noise so that people begin to get the message; they don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay here. It’s last call, and I don’t need the City of Boston Licensing Board coming down on… Read full post »

There are maybe five conservative American poets, not one of whom can safely show his face at a writing conference for fear of being angrily doused with herbal tea.

David Orr,Read full post »

GLZORP, Freedonia.  By day, Ksiusha Milda is a housewife with a one year-old daughter.  By night, she is something completely different; a blues singer of sorts, a practitioner of this country’s traditional folk song, kalek.

Lithuanian woman - Julia
Ksiusha Milda:  “It is not enou
Read full post »

RIPON, Wisconsin. The National Forensic League, the organization that regulates high school debate in the U.S., has selected a musical topic for this year’s tournaments, catching coaches and participants by surprise.

Ready to rumble!

“Generally, the subject is either international… Read full post »

Today, with the signing of a lease and payment of first and last month’s rent, security deposit, key charges, broker’s commission and the short-term national debt of Finland, my younger son became a man. For there is no step that so clearly marks the crossing of the threshold from childho… Read full post »

AUGUST 19, 2014 8:06AM

The Gertrude Stein Look-Alike Contest

We’re getting up in years, we few forthright men who revealed to each other that we wanted to write back in our youth.  It takes a lot for a guy to open himself up that way to another man.


Is it Ed, or Gertrude?


There’s the odor of the… Read full post »

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.  Lyle Carroll is the starting left fielder for the Cape Girardeau River Rats, a AA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, but opponents’ scouting reports paint a pessimistic picture of his chances of reaching the big leagues.  “Can’t hit curve ball,”… Read full post »

AUGUST 17, 2014 11:09AM

Our Hypoallergenic Night Out

End of summer means it’s a lot easier to get a reservation in a hot new restaurant in the Boston area, so last night found us with our friends Ted and Sally at Nourriture, which is French for “food.” Tres simple! as we used to say in Madame Clooney’s 10th… Read full post »

SOMERVILLE, Mass. When Evan Winslow earned his bachelor’s degree in film from New York University last spring he had visions of being the next John Huston, or at least Peter Bogdanovich. “You spend four years in college exposed to nothing but works of genius,” he recalls a bit ruefu… Read full post »

NATICK, Mass. Emily Adams is a twelve-year-old who will be entering sixth grade at Mosi Tatupu Middle School in this western suburb of Boston next month, and today finds her with her mother taking advantage of a sales tax holiday as they shop for back-to-school needs.

“Let’s see&ndRead full post »

AUGUST 15, 2014 8:11AM

Whither Butter Sculpture?

It has been several years since Norma Lyon, the pre-eminent practitioner of a uniquely American art form–butter sculpture–died, and the deep impact of her passing becomes more clear with each passing day.

“I can’t believe it’s not Jesus and the 12 Apostles!&rRead full post »

AMARILLO, Texas. Joe Don Mergen has just two weeks of freedom left before he begins the school year as a sophomore at Darrell Royal High School here, but he says he’s looking forward to Labor Day even though it will mean a return to school books and an end to summer… Read full post »

AUGUST 14, 2014 1:24PM

I Am the Poetic Kiss of Death

In the six years since I began writing poetry seriously–and comically–I have persuaded editors to publish eight of my poems.  If I’ve got the math right, that’s an average of 1.33 a year, just slightly more frequently than I have birthdays.  I&rsq… Read full post »

BOSTON.  Massachusetts is known for its tight-fisted ways when it comes to charity, regularly ranking far behind more religious areas of the country in terms of per capita giving, but one local bank is trying to change that.  “At First New England we’re part of the communit… Read full post »

It was a steamy summer three decades ago. I was working for the federal government at a scandal-plagued agency alongside a veteran bureaucrat named Fred. Fred wasn’t going any higher on the org chart, but on the other hand–because of Civil Service regulations–he was never going to b… Read full post »

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.  This city has been home to a thriving folk music scene since the 60s, when Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, among others, performed regularly at Club 47 (now Passim) and other hole-in-the-wall venues where fans listened attentively to both traditional ballads and thoughtful o… Read full post »

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah.  The Osmonds, the wholesome musical group known for its family-friendly fare, takes to the state fair circuit this week with a new repertoire that will come as a shock to long-time fans; an entire set devoted to the music of Jimi Hendrix, the acid-rock guitarist who ha… Read full post »

WASHINGTON, D.C.  It is, say public finance experts, a looming crisis whose significance has been overshadowed by the so-called “fiscal cliff” the nation fell off of in 2012, spraining its ankle; a trillion-dollar liability that would kick in if publishers, magazines and literar… Read full post »