Off the Record

Enemy of the people; or, war is hell

If the press doesn’t like being called the enemy of the people, perhaps it shouldn’t be waging war against the president of the people — or at least the president of the 63 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump.

Dickinson: A famous poet’s faded photographs

“Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.”

— Emily Dickinson


Eyeball injections are fun. Really.

When my doctor told me two years ago that she was sending me to an eye specialist who might give me eyeball injections, I just smiled. There was about as much chance of my sitting still for eyeball injections as there was of Donald Trump’s being elected president that fall.

Two years later, Trump has been president for 18 months and I’ve had 20 eye injections. So much for complacency.

But it hasn’t been as bad as I thought (the injections, I mean. Trump, of course, has been worse).

Democrats make hay, but share the blame

President Trump’s signing of an executive order halting the temporary separation of illegal families at the border came too late to prevent his millions of adversaries from making political hay of the issue.

A visit to the Gray Lady

The New York Times recently held a reception at its Manhattan skyscraper for its “regulars” — a group of about 60 people whose letters it prints on a regular basis.

The Times receives 400 to 600 letters a day from every geographic location and partisan persuasion. Out of this flood it prints as many voices as it can, but the regulars get printed over and over, sometimes for decades.

Physical and intellectual harassment: drawing lines

Drafting rules to govern workplace harassment seems to be as difficult as monitoring free speech on college campuses. In both cases, subjectivity and politics keep getting in the way.

On campus, liberal students know they can claim that any conservative speaker or idea is harmful and their administrators will respond like Pavlovian dogs and coddle them.

Why men won’t ask for directions

Since women are always wondering why men will never ask for directions, it’s only fair to wonder why women always leave their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle.

The reason men won’t ask for directions is very simple. It’s because most people don’t know north from south – especially women – although I say that with great respect. But really, why can’t they move their carts over to the side so the next fellow can get by?

Christmas books in Dickens’ England

“Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.”

— Charles Dickens, “Bleak House,” 1851


Kids’ view of the Kennedy assassination

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, was one of those events, like Pearl Harbor and 9/11, that everyone who was old enough at the time will always remember. Even children were affected by it.

In our neighborhood, kids discussed the assassination in backyards. I was eight years old and got most of my information from the 10-year-old girl across the street. It was her considered opinion that F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover was behind it, along with Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

Mark Twain’s connection in Norfolk

A new book of Mark Twain’s letters provides some details of the famous author and humorist’s visits to Norfolk in the early 1900s. “The Letters of Mark Twain and Joseph Hopkins Twichell” publishes all the known correspondence between Twain and his close friend and pastor, with much background about their lives, families and careers.