Yay for Phil Klay

IMG_4240So, suddenly, this is sort of a big deal. Phil Klay, US Marine Veteran, author of “Redeployment” and Dartmouth alumn, just won himself a National Book Award. Yay for him. I had the opportunity to try to get a decent picture of him at a panel discussion at Dartmouth last month with Benjamin Valentino, Steven Simon, and William Wohlforth.

I wasn’t particularly excited about the result — the light in that particular room is iffy (as is the case with most of Dartmouth’s auditoriums — or is that auditoriae?), the layout super awkward, and I was in a rush to get to another assignment.

But, as the kids say, whatever…

Dear Ballard Trail Terrorist… We Really Need to Talk

IMG_0026Not much can surprise in our increasingly dysfunctional community nowadays. This, after all, is where police cars are set on fire, determined attempts are made to ban dogs from public property, and anonymous complaints are raised over the Halloween decorations at the post office. Apparently some of us have nothing better to do than complain and throw tantrums.

Still, such pervasive kvetching does require a fresh outlet from time to time, so I was only mildly surprised to discover on a run earlier today that someone had gone to a lot of trouble to block the Ballard Trail about half way between the Norwich Pool and Schoolhouse Road. What at first glance appeared to be blowdown was instead a remarkably diligent effort at making the trail impassable by piling branches across it. With the help of a fellow runner I managed to clear most the debris, but as I finished my run on that wonderful public trail of ours I came to realize that this might well be the first awkward blow in yet another cringeworthy battle with some anonymous neighbor over yet another aspect of life in Norwich that I’ve foolishly been taking for granted.

But, dear misguided vigilante, save yourself further exertion in your futile attempt at undermining the public good. Instead, please consider this: if you’re unhappy with trails on public land in Norwich, their usage policies or their route, then bring the matter before the Norwich Trails Committee. That’s what it’s there for. If, on the other hand, the cause of your unhappiness is more existential, if it’s the healthy, considerate lifestyle of the majority of your fellow Norwitches that has gotten on your nerves (what with our quest for fitness and our continued commitment to communal space and shared resources), then perhaps you should consider moving. There are plenty of rigorously regulated gated communities to be found across the country; many of them would no doubt welcome a cantankerous malcontent with open arms.

It’s a trail. It’s public. Most of us like it that way. So get over it. Or go. Because given the choice between having someone with your attitude towards sharing and caring around, or keeping the Ballard Trail open to the community, I think most of us would be more than happy to help you pack. Heck, I’ll even drive you to the airport myself.



Election season always gets me depressed.

IMG_0058The hateful ignorance of the Republicans, their callous narcissism and greed masquerading as piety and mock compassion: “Well, I’ve got mine, so fuck you. It’s just manifest destiny that my rich friends have second homes while your kid’s surgery sent you into bankruptcy. Jesus clearly wanted it that way. Nyah nyah…”

The abject failure of the Democrats to actually stand for something, anything – even the most basic common sense and decency. Seriously, between Obama’s inability to actually deliver after eight years and the party’s inability to articulate a compelling platform with appeal to anybody outside the community of professional fundraisers it’s no wonder they can’t make headway on the matters they supposedly care about.

The eagerness with which a lethargic and indifferent electorate allows itself to be deceived by simplistic soundbites and irrelevant wedge issues; the willingness of the media to serve up the most irrelevant bullshit under the guise of “election coverage.” The outright lies. The obvious deceit. The false promises. The grandstanding. The backpedaling. The utter waste of FOUR BILLION DOLLARS on a torrent of obnoxious “Well, my opponent is a poopyhead, so vote for me!” radio and TV ads.

Thankfully, my Green Card status limits me to paying taxes to finance the follies of this collection of moral midgets and inept asshats; my ineligibility to vote is a blessing in disguise: I can loathe them all with impunity, blissfully spared the impossible challenge of picking one over the other on Tuesday.

But to those of you who feel compelled to take part in the dismal mockery of democracy that is American politics: my condolences, and good luck with all that.