Archive for the ‘Divertissement’ category

Death Of A Friend

October 28, 2016

Memory is mutable. It fades. Grows fuzzy. Plays tricks. Disappears. Writing is one way to hold on to meaning. Sometimes for dear life. I wrote this remembrance of David Medaris in a red heat after learning of his death.  I could close my eyes and see and hear David. As if he was there. I’m glad I got it down. The piece begins:

Isthmus has always been a collection of odd and compelling characters. None more so than David Medaris, who began writing for the paper as a West High student and who spent almost three decades as the listings editor and then a staff writer.

I was editor. David was David, which is to say he cut his own path. As the arbiter of listings, he functioned like a human algorithm. He precisely sorted and summarized hundreds of disparate and often recondite events that poured into the paper each week. No monk in a priory had a more exacting system of categorization.

David lived and breathed by his rules. Yet, paradoxically, he was also an exuberant, free-range thinker. He spied life’s complicated facets like a jeweler with a headlamp. Here was the reporter who would ponder endless questions for a story. David had to know. He had to understand. He was immensely curious about life and people. There was a sense of wonder and pleasure in comprehending both the mundane and the profound.

He also had a little sign on his desk: “Just tell the story.”

That was David: Painstakingly diligent, yet the faraway flutter of a butterfly in the Amazon might set him off on an intellectual ramble in the Isthmus lunchroom. He took delight in it.

His death Oct. 18 at age 57 after many years of beating back brain cancer was like a kick in the guts to his friends. His love affair with his wife, Michana Buchman, Isthmusassociate editor, was something any of us would want in this life. He always spoke of her with a tone of awe and respect. If only all of us could be so considerate of our partners. Now he’s gone.

To read more, please go here. The layout includes a marvelous portrait of David by the great photographic team J. Shimon & J. Lindemann.

Advertisements

Neil deGrasse Tyson Would Dig This

March 8, 2014

The tech world’s hard split between information technology  and biotechnology is perplexing.  Despite their kindred values, these really smart people seem to live in parallel universes.  I found myself puzzling over this last year while attending the International Bioethics Forum sponsored by Promega’s  educational institute. Despite a stirling assemblage of speakers on the nature of creativity, none of those brainy ITers seemed to be present.

Perhaps this year’s topic at the forum will draw some venturesome folks from the software world. Here’s how Promega founder Bill Linton describes this year’s convocation:

When we recently talked, Linton explained that the annual forum always picked topics — What is the nature of life? What is the nature of death? — in which the answers weren’t settled. “Sometimes people would leave with more questions than they came in with,” he says with a laugh.

This year’s forum — “3.8 Billion Years of Wisdom: Exploring the Genius of Nature” — promises more of the same. Nothing conventional, but an examination of the “many beautiful examples of life forms accessing information that we simply cannot explain, but call ‘instinct,'” as the promo material says. It runs May 1-2 on the Promega campus.

This is the fifth year the forum has burrowed into consciousness. “There are different points of view of consciousness in nature and taking it a step further — not just of consciousness, but also of intelligence. Does the very embodiment of matter, particularly as expressed in life forms, exhibit a form of intelligence that doesn’t quite fit the human definition of IQ?” Linton asks.

“Nature seems to have evolved with the ability to combine intricate, amazing complexity in ways that are astounding and that we don’t understand,” he adds. The great controversy, he continues, is whether evolution is a blind, random process that sometimes produces advantageous mutations. “Or is there something else happening that is not totally blind randomness?”

This question certainly stopped me in my tracks.

Linton points to the statistical unlikelihood of a light-sensitive organ like the eye evolving in nature eight or nine times from completely different origins. “The fact is, it seems like nature wants to enhance its ability to take in sensory information, and then do things with that information. Some people say that the nature of the universe is trying to find a way to ask the questions: Who are we? What’s out there? Why do we exist?

“In a way, when we ask those questions, it’s nature [expressing] itself, because we are a product of this natural process. That’s pretty amazing for nature to have brought in this element of consciousness.”

The forum runs May 1-2 on the Promega campus in Fitchburg. To read more, please go here.

Now For Something Entirely Different

June 29, 2013

……lily_0703 2

If I lived an alternative life in journalism, garden writer could be it. This piece in Madison Magazine concerns one of my favorite flowers. It begins:

 I have a penchant for advocating lost causes: Miles Davis’s electric period, Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, horseradish Havarti cheese. But none more disdained than ditch lilies.

These are the orange daylilies—formally called Hemerocallis fulva but also known as tiger, roadside or tawny lilies—that you see happily blooming in mid-July in just about every yard in Madison’s older neighborhoods. The experts snicker.

Oh, you might as well wear white shoes after Labor Day or extol the virtues of two-buck chuck wine as grow ditch lilies. They are the Rodney Dangerfield of landscaping: They get no respect. You can’t buy them at garden centers. Glorious Olbrich Gardens doesn’t even display them. Worse, they’re branded with the plague label.

Invasive species!

To read more, please go here: 

I’ll Have What She’s Having

July 24, 2011

Here’s something different–a story about the most delicious peach in the world. It begins:

When approaching a ripe donut peach, one must temper lust with mindful restraint. First, assume a wide stance, slightly flexing your knees to maintain balance. Then gently grasp the saucer-shaped fruit with your thumb and middle finger, careful not to squeeze too tightly. Thrust your head forward, eyes closed, chin out, mouth open and prepare to swoon.

That first bite will release a wave of sugary goodness slobbering down your chin and, you hope, not on your Tommy Bahama camp shirt or Eileen Fisher cami. Spritzing is always a danger. Envious friends and family who have leaned in to take a close look may get a sudden jet of peach juice to the face.

They too may fall to the ground, writhing in pleasure.

“It’s a fruit you would have expected in the Garden of Eden,” says a close friend who shall remain nameless to protect her professional  reputation. “It’s fleshy and practically obscene with sticky sweet, dripping juices. If I were Eve, I would have tempted Adam with a donut peach.”

Psst. I can get you some….

Tempted?  To read more, go here.  Among other things, you’ll learn  that, according to Daoist mythology,  a single bite of a donut peach can bring immortality.

I’ll Drink To That

March 19, 2011

This Madison Magazine piece was fun to write–an encomium to Restaurant Magnus mixed with New Urbanist reflections on the making of  great urban spaces. The story begins:

Apparently I’ve lived too long. I’ve outlasted another bar, and at my age that’s trouble. Like true love, a good bar calls for a lifelong relationship. But Restaurant Magnus, after a thirteen-year run on East Wilson Street, has died and left me befuddled like some widowed geezer. Me, date again?The always comfortable Harmony covers my east-side needs. But I’m in search of a new downtown hangout. Will it be Johnny Delmonico’s? Capitol Chophouse? Sardine? Genna’s? The soon-to-be-open Tempest Oyster Bar? Or Natt Spil? I don’t know, I just don’t know.

What I do know is this: As a freelance writer I need a Magnus-like place to meet sources. I spend most of the day in sweatpants, torn T-shirts and bunny slippers staring at a computer screen and working the phone in my daughter’s old bedroom (my office!).

To read more about drinking, hanging out and journalism, please go here.

Something old and different

March 31, 2010

Since I posted my Madison Magazine story on twists, I should dig out my 2006 story on the best bars in Madison for bourbon and scotch. The piece ran in the Isthmus Dining magazine. For whatever reason, it was never posted at TheDailyPage.com. Here’s the story minus the outdated sidebars: Bourbon-Scotch 2006

Something different

March 23, 2010

Ah, yes, I like a well-prepared drink. Here’s my Madison Magazine piece on the art of the twist, including some cocktail history from the marvelous mixology chronicler David Wondrich.


%d bloggers like this: