There are fewer and fewer of us who actually remember the first scandal with a name endeding in “gate,” thus inspiring every other controversy to adopt a similar suffix, whether somewhat comparable (“BridgeGate,” about Chris Christie and the GW Bridge closure), unwieldy (the Mark Sanford “AppalachianTrailGate” sex scandal) or downright silly (criticism of the President’s summer wardrobe became “TanSuitGate”). But part of why the “-gate” naming continues to this day is that the original Watergate scandal was a huge historic moment. Read More ElevatorGate

Career Goals For The Real World

For generations, we’ve illustrated ‘the American Dream’ as being a place “where anyone can grow up to be president.” But these days, one look at President Obama’s weary face & gray hair, not to mention the merciless way people can attack any public figure anonymously, is enough to scare off impressionable kids. (Can you imagine the field day internet trolls would have had with William Howard Taft breaking the White House bathtub because he was too heavy for it?) Read More Career Goals For The Real World

Stand By Your Man, 2.0

The phenomenon of political spouses standing by their scandal-plagued husbands has become such a cliché, it’s even inspired a TV show, The Good Wife. We’ve seen women forgive men for infidelity, patronizing prostitutes, embezzling funds, and sending cringe-worthy texts, among other misbehaviors. Read More Stand By Your Man, 2.0

Summertime Blues

Labor Day has traditionally marked the start of the fall season, when we say goodbye to “those lazy hazy crazy days of summer,” return to school (or work), and put away our white shoes until Memorial Day. Of course, most of those traditions have evaporated; style expert Tim Gunn says white is appropriate all year round, very few working adults get much time off in the summer, and many schools start mid-August or earlier.  But we still usually think of summer as a more carefree time, when things are a little easier and workplaces are more casual. (I, for one, thoroughly appreciated the break from waking my son up for four years of zero period marching band — getting a sleep-deprived teenager out the door at 6:30 a.m., and living to tell the tale, has earned me at least some good karma!) Read More Summertime Blues

From Whence Cometh Creativity

As I approach the 2-year anniversary of my weekly song project, it’s fascinating to look back on how my writing process has developed, and to see what lessons I’ve learned. So here are a few tips to share with any readers who are either contemplating a creative venture (or who would enjoy a vicarious peek at something they’d rather not experience first-hand). Read More From Whence Cometh Creativity

Truth Is Weirder Than Children’s Fiction

One of my favorite college classes examined children’s literature through the lens of cultural attitudes towards childhood. For example, the Brothers Grimm wrote all those dark, scary tales of witches & evil forests because in their day (early 19th century), childhood was just a smaller version of an awful adulthood. Poorer kids had to work on farms or in factories, even wealthier kids succumbed to disease, and stories had to prepare them for the general dangers of the world. In the Victorian era (later 19th century), children were viewed as pure and angelic, so their books were supposed to help enhance their innocence. And by the 20th century, childhood really evolved into a separate phase of life, where books could enhance kids’ imagination or teach them valuable lessons. (And reading all these stories was a welcome change from typical academic fare — I loved sitting in the library, where my classmates were absorbed in Advanced Principles Of Molecular Biology or The Sociolinguistics of Anthropology, and they’d look over to see me enjoying The Little Engine That Could.  But I digress…) Read More Truth Is Weirder Than Children’s Fiction

Everything Old Is New Again

The 1960s are retro cool these days, thanks to hit shows like Mad Men and Masters of Sex (not to mention all the Austin Powers movies). And while we admire the cool fashions (skinny ties! pillbox hats!), it’s all too convenient to dismiss the less-admirable aspects of the era (segregation, no effective birth control — not to mention how women were treated in general, childhood diseases like polio & measles).  But many of those phenomena are returning along with the fashions — setbacks in voting rights, civil rights, and reproductive rights, not to mention the anti-vaccine movement which is causing a return of diseases we thought were eradicated. Read More Everything Old Is New Again

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses – 2014 Version

People often use “the melting pot” as a metaphor to describe immigrants from all over the world coming together to make America a great and diverse country. Although when I was growing up, I had a creative teacher come up with “fruit salad,” which implied that immigrants retained some elements of their native culture and blended together in a tasty mixture; unfortunately, California also became known as the “granola state,” full of flakes & nuts, but I digress. Read More Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses – 2014 Version