As we read daily about climate change and its oh-so-painful rollout, as we contemplate a future where we will live in vertically oriented housing, as we begin to accept that somewhere down the road we might have to eat insects to get the protein we need, there is one thing that is too often left out of the discussion.

There are too many of us. Too many already, and too many more potentially on the way. Like some aggressive weed, humans have overgrown the planet, and our world increasingly suffers for it. It seems to me that any “solution” that doesn’t deal with this is doing nothing but applying a Band-Aid to set a broken arm. It won’t do what is necessary and will ultimately fail.

But what would “dealing” be like? Who in the entire world is so naive or foolish as to trust their government with an issue as emotionally loaded as “How many kids can we have, Mr. President?”

For some thoughtful people, voluntary limitation of family size is the only real hope for a sustainable future. And this means education, education, education. Back in 1968 an organization was formed named Zero Population Growth. Its aim was educational, tying to knit together many of the loose threads in our social and political lives into a working philosophy of action. Twenty years ago it renamed itself and is now known as Population Connection.

In 1970 a young Air Force physician (that I know very well) went with his wife to attend a ZPG meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. That night this couple learned two things.

  1. The problem was worse than they had thought, and was world-wide, urgent, deserving the immediate attention of every human on the planet
  2. They were the only people in that whole room who had children. Four children, to be exact.

At the end of the evening, they quickly and quietly left for home before they were discovered and exposed as the raging hypocrites they seemed to be. Even though everybody at the meeting seemed quite pleasant and progressive, there was always that nagging worry about tarring and feathering to be concerned with when you are dealing with true believers.

But the problem hasn’t gone away. And it is a faint hope that education will do the trick. In the meantime I’ll be looking for a nice high-rise where I can get a closet-sized apartment on the 184th floor. Someplace I can sit myself down every morning to a good nutritious breakfast of cockroach flakes.


From The New Yorker


Let me share something personal with you that you may find helpful. Especially if you live with a person who is given to long-windedness and self-righteousness. It is very effective.

There are times when I start out in a dialogue with Robin but along the way it turns into my monologue and something quite near to a lecture. At this point my spouse will simply turn to me, and in the sweetest possible way utter a single word: Pedant!

If this does not slow me down, one or two repetitions of the word (Pedant! Pedant!) will always do the trick, and I slink away chastened. I have not yet found an adequate comeback. My problem, of course, is that I am such a knowledgeable fellow and feel the obligation to share that knowledge with the world. Even when the world may be unwilling to listen.

It’s a conundrum.*

*Conundrum is a word commonly used by pedants, I am told


Sunday Robin and I drove up to Telluride to walk about on the third day of the famous film festival. We’ve been to previous festivals there on several occasions, always in the freeloader section of the attendees. It’s easy for us, we live only 75 minutes away from Telluride. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, you can crowd-watch and perhaps see a real live celebrity, or you could sit on the ground in Elks Park and listen to a panel discuss some aspects of the world of movie-making, or you could stay to watch a free film at an outdoor venue at twilight.

If you are feeling particularly well-heeled, you can buy a pass to get into a variety of movie screenings, parties, etc. They range in price from $390 to $4900.

But. Read on.

The Patron Pass ($4900) Includes a tax-deductible donation of $2,900
Admission to all events in all sites. Priority seating at all theatres. Guest of honor at the Guest/Patron Brunch on Friday morning. Access to the ‘Patron’s Preview’ of an important new film on Friday afternoon on a first-come, first-serve basis (seating not guaranteed).

Official Website of the Telluride Film Festival

So even with a five-grand ticket in your hand, there are still events that you may wait in line for and be denied seating. What fresh hell is this?, I say. If I’m plunking down that sort of cash, I not only want to be guaranteed my seat in the theater, but to be carried from event to event in a howdah.

On the day we visited, the noon outdoor panel-in-the-park contained no Hollywood-style movie stars, but three foreign directors and an actress from Iran. Bummer, we thought. No flesh to press that we might later brag about.

It was the best of all the panels we’d ever attended. These were passionate people with stories to tell and imaginations to inspire us. One director was from Chile, one from Iran, and another from Mexico. The actress had been Iran’s most popular daytime television star until a sex-tape of her and her boyfriend was made public. Now, the life of a woman in Iran is no picnic at best, but at that point hers rapidly became hell on earth until she was forced to leave the country.

What we heard was an hour of discussion of ideas by bright and interesting people. And that, my friends, doesn’t happen every day.

An aside. Like the character Deets in the television series Lonesome Dove, I am not one to quit on a garment just because it’s got a little age.”

The shirt I am wearing here on a Sunday at the festival is the shirt that I wore on my first date with Robin more than thirty years ago.

Until it rots and falls off the closet hanger of its own accord, I will continue to enjoy its company. It’s really only now just broken in.


From The New Yorker


One of the themes discussed at the noon seminar in Telluride was the very thorny business of identities, and its effects. Not just in film-making, but in everywhere in our lives. Right now there is a dustup surrounding a new television series dealing with the world of the Lord of the Ring legends. Actors of color are being used in the series, and some Tolkien purists are up in arms.

There were no black or brown elves in Tolkien’s stories, is their cry, and they are right. Everybody knows that elves are not only white, but the palest shade (reference: Orlando Bloom) in that colorless palette at that. That is right, isn’t it? I would ask an elf myself just to be clear on the subject, but I keep running into that proverbial brick wall because they are imaginary creatures. It is therefore exceedingly difficult to interview them.

But I do admit that there are stories where the person’s color or gender or nationality are essential parts of the drama unfolding, and it would be awkward to cast the roles otherwise. For instance, submarine crews in World War II were entirely males; the fight for women’s suffrage necessarily involves women in central roles, there were no white slaves on southern plantations, Custer’s command was not rubbed out by a tribe of Swedes, etc.

But we are talking about actors. They are paid to represent somebody other than themselves. That is what they do for a living. For me, personally, it will not be off-putting to see actors portraying elves of color. I can handle it. I am experienced in the art of suspending disbelief.

Way way back when recently deceased Anne Heche had just made the news as Ellen Degeneres’ partner, she starred in a movie along with Harrison Ford entitled Six Days and Seven Nights. When I went to the theater to see it, I remember thinking: “Well, how in the hell am I going to be able to believe in a romantic setup here? A straight guy and a gay woman on a desert isle?” Within minutes that problem ceased to exist, because the skill of the actors involved made the film’s characters come to life, and their actual lives were irrelevant.


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