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A few months ago, an old friend and I went out for a night walk through my hometown. This city of 7,000 souls is perched over the Pacific Ocean, with redwood forest to the east and coastal plain to the north and south. A quiet town and generally peaceful, especially on a still June evening. We talked some and walked in companionable silence some, too.  As we walked across town and back, the half-dark streets kept revealing different hues of light, different shades, different scenes. Slowly, they cohered into a composite picture of this town, in this country, in this… Read More »Night/Light

An image of a raven soaring over Los Angeles

We Need A National Gun Violence Memorial

Two months ago, as I worked on this essay, I wrote the middle parts and left a simple placeholder—“[some kinda hook]”—where this introduction would go. It’s not unheard of to write the opening last, and unfortunately, in this case, I knew a hook would present itself in the news soon enough. When you write about gun violence in the United States of America, there’s always a next time. Right on cue, horror struck. On the New York City subway, a gunman started shooting his handgun and didn’t stop until 29 people were injured. Miraculously, no one died. Still, the event… Read More »We Need A National Gun Violence Memorial

The Old Weird Internet (Never Died)

Can a retro-looking blog platform help us express our feelings? As I start writing this essay, I’m sitting on the roof of the cabin I built in my twenties, watching the sun go down. Pastels—rose, peach, aqua, baby blue—blend in the sky, only visible through a scrim of threadlike gray clouds that twist and turn, forming shapes that could be letters in a fantastical alphabet, perhaps Martian or High Elvish. A songbird scree-scree-screes. The wind whispers through the trees and up the sleeves of my sweater. A snag stands silhouette against the gray-blue gloaming. Watching the sunset, in late winter,… Read More »The Old Weird Internet (Never Died)

Lightplay 017 – Taco Story

What drives us to cook the same foods over and over and over? When I was a kid, tacos were the consolation prize at the end of hour-and-a-half-long custody exchanges where Mom and Dad each drove to a carefully-determined midpoint and handed me and my brother off for the weekend. These handoffs were always a bit melancholy, especially on winter Fridays when the sun was already well down by the time we made it to dad’s house out in the middle of nowhere. We’d walk down the walkway to his house, a million stars spread over our heads, and feel… Read More »Lightplay 017 – Taco Story

Lightplay 016 – Music and Power

+++From iTunes to Spotify, software shapes our relationshipwith music. Is it time to wrest back control?+++ Let’s start with the positive. By the year 2022 computers have become so powerful, scripting libraries so extensive, cloud servers so cheap, and worldwide distribution so frictionless that there are tens of thousands of folks both with and without computer science degrees who are spending their lives making powerful, useful, and maybe best of all specific software for you and me. If you haven’t thought to notice the world of boutique software, I bet you use it nonetheless. So many apps on our phones… Read More »Lightplay 016 – Music and Power

Lightplay 015 – Espresso

Dear Reader — What does it mean to be a self? Where does the self end and the world of not-me begin? Is identity … an illusion? I imagine a three-panel comic, each frame zooming in on the face of a very confused man: me, Jasper, your loyal if intermittent correspondent, head-scratchily toiling over another installment of Lightplay, my newsletter about home cooking, the writing life, and—apparently—intractable philosophical questions. Welcome to your late summer Lightplay! Please stay; I promise not to get too worked up over eternal questions of life. — — — — — — — — — —… Read More »Lightplay 015 – Espresso

Lightplay 13 – Chronos, Nomads, Fruit

Dear Reader — Greetings on another Sunday in the interminable present from which 2020 is apparently fashioned. Will the year ever end? Will the final six weeks somehow outdo in chaos and pestilence the preceding forty-eight? This morning I received one of the golden tickets of 2020: another negative COVID test result. I hope you, too are staying COVID-safe and -lucky. Now is no time to get lax in our dodging of the virus. If you recall back to August’s Lightplay 09 – the Strangest Summer, guest epidemiologist Erin Graves Quansah warned that “as the pandemic goes on, those who… Read More »Lightplay 13 – Chronos, Nomads, Fruit

Lightplay 10 – American Trip

What follows is an installment of Lightplay, my email newsletter. To receive this in your email inbox, subscribe here. Dear Reader — What a Sunday to find myself back in your inboxes! The first of November, 2020. Two days from a true fulcrum of history. I hope that you are well, that you have been able to sleep, and that you and your families are safe. Welcome to the tenth edition of Lightplay. Four years ago, I gave my presidential endorsement in the the form of a series of Star Wars-themed collages. Although the election didn’t go the way I… Read More »Lightplay 10 – American Trip

Week 4: Beyond the Kitchen Window

. What follows is an installment of my Writer’s Diary, which for twelve weeks I am sending every Sunday. This current run has a central focus on food. To receive this in your email inbox, subscribe here. . Hello! And thank you for spending a moment—in this moment—with my words. The first thing to say is that I hope that you and your people are safe. This morning in L.A. was the first since 1992 that the National Guard has walked these streets. The last time before that was in 1968. Each time it has been for the same reason:… Read More »Week 4: Beyond the Kitchen Window