Richard Powers’s “The Overstory”

Pointers to some info about Richard Powers’s new novel, The Overstory:

“What a tree can do to transform the atmosphere, to transform the soil, is absolutely part of the story of humans trying to give to these huge, ancient, incredibly diverse and incredibly supple creatures, the same kind of sanctity that we reserve exclusively for ourselves,”  Powers interviewed by Lynn Neary on NPR. 

Here’s to Unsuicide: An Interview with Richard Powers in the Los Angeles Times.

Barbara Kingsolver reviews The Overstory in the New York Times Book Review.

San Francisco Chronicle review.







For awhile now, I’ve had a couple of ongoing photography projects, completely for fun and acknowledging myself as an amateur only. These are meant to document the town I live in–Petaluma, the clouds we see everyday, flowers in our yard, and street musicians I have enjoyed listening to. I post these pictures on Facebook, and also, recently, have begun adding them to Flickr.



My life has taken a nice turn. I am back at the Benicia Public Library, where I started my professional librarian career back in 1990, this time as Director. It’s such a great library–good solid community support and very high usage, with a wonderful staff. I have been made to feel very welcome, and plan to settle in here for the remainder of my career. I arrived to find a handmade poster attached to my door in greeting.

Current musical focus

These days, I am having a great time playing music in a Grateful Dead tribute band here in Petaluma. We are calling ourselves Dead Again. 15542290_10155071741818287_5436100603566096165_n

Being inside the music in this way is literally a dream come true for me, as I have frequently dreamed my way into the band so many times over the years. All of us in the band have, in a sense, been practicing playing this music for decades, as we are all seasoned Deadheads.


I will keep people posted, if I can remember to do so here, about upcoming sbig-easy-groundhog-dayhows.

Next up, we’re playing on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 at the Big Easy in Petaluma. Free show, 7:30 to 10:30 pm, all ages welcome. The Big Easy is a wonderful nightclub located in downtown Petaluma, right on Helen Putnam Plaza. Good food is available, and good drinks as well. We welcome a guest vocalist, Jenna Mammina, who will sing with the band.


Public Intellectuals to Follow in These Times

On my Facebook feed, I recently asked my network of friends to chime in with recommendations of today’s public intellectuals–writers and thinkers whose work they follow as trusted and insightful commentators and activists during the times we are living through–the era of Trumpism.

I’ll compile the list here for ease of use and for continuous updating.

I may decide at some point to create categories within this listing, so as to separate out those who are really reporters, or politicians, or others whose role is not quite that of the classic “public intellectual.”

Many thanks to all who contributed!

Madeleine Albright
Gloria Allred
Carol Anderson
Dean Baker
W. Kamau Bell
Charles M. Blow
David Brooks
Brené Brown
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Noam Chomsky
Stephen Colbert
Juan Cole
Gene Demby
Kevin Drumm
Barbara Ehrenreich
David Fahrenthold
James Fallows
Bob Garfield
Roxane Gay
Masha Gessen
Henry A. Giroux
Brooke Gladstone
Amy Goodman
Chris Hayes
Christopher Hedges
Bell Hooks
Haro Kondabalu
Nicholas Kristof
Paul Krugman
George Lakoff
Bill McKibben
Rachel Maddow
Jeff Madrick
Bill Moyers
William Perry
Dan Rather
Robert Reich
David Remnick
Arundhati Roy
Jennifer Rubin
Bernie Sanders
Steve Silberman
Jay Smooth
Rebecca Solnit
Gloria Steinem
Joseph Stiglitz
Matt Taibbi
Krista Tippett
Rebecca Traister
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Elizabeth Warren
Naomi Wolf
Sheryl WuDunn

Just Read / Now Reading


museJust read: The Muse, by Jessie Burton; Amateurs, by Dylan Hicks.

Now reading: Speak, by Louisa Hall.

I’m into a run of good reading lately, after something of a dry spell. Dylan Hicks’s Amateurs was a delight from start to finish–amazing and razor-sharp prose. The Muse by Jessie Burton was a wonderful parallel-story historical puzzle novel, set alternately in 1960s London and 1930s Spain.

Ruminations on the Role of the Chorus in The Mikado

OK, I’ve been living with this work of light opera for a number of weeks now. Famously, actors are stereotypically known for asking, ”but what’s my motivation?” This is supposed to be an aid to carrying off their role in a convincing and emotionally connected way.

It’s hard for the person who sings an occasional line and dances an occasional step to really land emotionally in the part, or even, sometimes, to understand why we are singing the lines we’re singing.

But, as I said, I’ve been singing and thinking about the part for awhile now, and I’ve come to a disturbing conclusion: my role is that of a “good German,” one who goes along to get along, one who blithely endorses lies for his own safety and security, one who rejoices in the misfortunes and sorrow of others when it aligns with his own immediate self-interest.

Within the space a single song, for instance (the Finale of Act I), the chorus changes its allegiance at least three times: we begin in fear for our own lives; rejoice when a victim is found (Naki-Poo); accuse that victim of forswearing his bride-to-be, Katisha; tell his alternate bride (Yum-Yum) that she is sure to die for her seduction of Nanki-Poo; and then turn on Katisha, shouting her down when she tries to expose the truth of the situation—literally drowning her out; and, finally, rejoice in the impending, if doomed, marriage of Yum-Yum and Naki-Poo.

In another song, we cower and play toady to the Mikado himself when he happily sings and dances as he recounts his brutal plan to torture criminals in an appropriate manner suited to their “crimes.” We laugh along with him at the prospect of the grim fates that will befall minor criminals. Indeed, the entire premise of the play, that those who flirt should be condemned to die, seems perfectly reasonable to all of us.

One further example: we are complicit in the lie of Ko-Ko, Pitti-Sing, and Pooh-Bette when they construct their elaborate lie to the Mikado regarding the execution of Nanki-Poo, making us subject to the same fate they are threatened to share—execution for “compassing the death of the heir to the throne.”

The Mikado may be “light opera,” but its dark message is anything but. And the role of the chorus is a cautionary tale for all who live within the boundaries of any regime that relies on its citizens for complicit agreement with its policies and practices. We, the chorus in this play, are a pack of pampered cowards, enjoying our stay at this resort with no regard to actual virtue, nobility, dignity, or any of the other adjectives we incorporate into our songs. I’m not sure we convey that to our audience, but if they consider us at all, I think they would be forced to dislike us intensely.

(I’m sure these are not original thoughts, but they are my thoughts, having not read too extensively about G&S. Now I will go do some research to see if this has already been the subject of someone’s thesis or dissertation….)