Archive for May, 2006

Progressives

Shouldn't there be a bar-mitvah-type ceremony for becoming middle-aged? Well, unless there is, I'll have to make do with my new glasses. They're "progressives" -- bifocals (actually, tri-) with no visible seams between the different parts of the lens. This feels especially appropriate, as this year marks the 300th birthday of Ben Franklin, who invented bifocals when he was about my age. ...

It also marks the anniversary of the passing of my first boss, Jimmy Weinstein. As editor and publisher of the leftwing newspaper In These Times, Jimmy laid down a few inviolable copy-editing rules -- and as his copy editor, I was contractually bound to follow them. For one thing, Jimmy hated split infinitives more than he hated Republicans (and almost as much as he hated Stalinists). For another, he insisted that "not only" be followed by "but also" (the "also" being considered optional by less rigorous souls). And not only did he enforce those rules without exception, but he also refused to under any circumstances allow the use of the word "progressive" as a political noun. "No one's a 'progressive'!" he'd bark as he blue-penned the offending copy. "They're 'leftists.'"

Me, I didn't really feel the distinction. But it was Jimmy who signed all our checks, which counted for a lot (except on those all-too-frequent occasions when they bounced). Also, by making the only job offer I received during my senior year, he'd single-handedly rescued me from years of post-college aimlessness. Plus he introduced me to a rule that has proved indispensable, in writing as well as editing: "When in doubt, take it out." (To which, as a twenty-something wiseacre, I instantly added my own corollary: "It's a sin to leave it in.")

So Jimmy, as I squint at these words through progressively deteriorating eyes, I remember you with not only warmth but also gratitude and -- not to unduly belabor the point -- respect.

2 comments May 30th, 2006

Bronson Burner

Tonight's show (at 7:30; repeated on Friday night at 10:30) is a metaphysical revisitation of a program that first aired back in January. It features my conversation with the visceral Po Bronson, author of (most recently) Why Do I Love These People?: Honest and Amazing Stories of Real Families .

As a recovering copy editor, I had a little trouble with a title that follows a question mark with a colon -- but once I got over that, the book itself knocked me for a loop. It's intense, like Po; it's incredibly moving as well.

Speaking of Po: some people have told me he looks like a groovy '70s-era leading man -- an aesthetic judgment that I feel unqualified to assess, especially as I myself look like a mutant citizen from a future century. ...

May 22nd, 2006

Suit Myself

So this morning -- just a moment or two after the specialist told me I didn't need root-canal surgery, after all -- I suddenly realized that I need to dress formally for a couple of events coming up soon. Real soon -- this Saturday, and then the following Tuesday. And the thing is, I don't own any formalwear! My entire pants collection is made up of identical black jeans, and my shirts are all the extremely colorful creations of my wife. Not to mention that my footwear consists entirely of black sneakers and a pair of sandals (as required by Berkeley law).

So my question is, Does anyone out there know where I could get a decent outfit on short notice? ... I've seen the ads for the Men's Wearhouse, but I fear that they'd force me to wear that owner guy's toupee. ... As for Macy's, I have too many traumatic memories from my childhood, when my mom would take me on endless visits to "the world's largest store," where she'd try on -- and return -- every pantsuit known to woman while I dreamed of escaping to a better place (and I don't mean Gimbel's). ...

Is there some guy out there -- even a cadaver -- who's about 5-10, weighs 200 pounds, and sports the nobly squat frame of a genetic peasant? And has a nice dark suit to lend out for a few days? And maybe also a nice pair of shoes, size 12-and-a-half, super-wide? Oh, and a sensible tie? (And maybe a white shirt?) (And socks that aren't bright red?) ...

Ah, well -- I didn't think so. Still, a guy can dream, can't he?

See you at Goodwill!

2 comments May 17th, 2006

Like a Root Canal

I'm going in for a root canal today. My dentist says they're not so bad -- kind of like getting a new filling, except they go a bit deeper. At least he's easier to trust than my childhood dentist, Dr. Gluck, who had been my mom's childhood dentist, and whose hands shook a bit -- especially when he started going on about my parents' politics. (It's really hard to defend your mother against charges of Maoism when your mouth is full of gauze.) ...

Okay, this is working: now I'm getting more anxious about my childhood than about the root canal. ...

May 17th, 2006

Re-Newmark

Tonight's show (at 7:30; repeated on Friday night at 10:30) is a joyful rebroadcast of an earlier episode in which I had the pleasure of chatting with Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist. (He's a cool guy.) ... Also, I visit with Marcy Shaaf, a passionate rescuer of abandoned bunny rabbits: her SaveABunny organization makes humane use of craigslist. ...

3 comments May 15th, 2006

Tan Salon

This evening's episode (at 7:30; repeated on Friday night at 10:30) is eerily identical to one that aired previously, in which I chatted with the fabulous Amy Tan. The topic of discussion was her most recent novel, a contemporary ghost story titled Saving Fish from Drowning. (We also talked a bit about rock and roll, and whips.)

May 8th, 2006

Chen Again

Tonight's show (at 7:30; repeated on Friday night at 10:30) is the doppelganger of an earlier episode in which I interviewed actress and filmmaker Joan Chen. If you haven't seen her heartbreakingly lovely debut feature Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl, do yourself a favor and rent the video or DVD. ...

And Happy May Day, everyone!

1 comment May 1st, 2006


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