Archive for category: Essays/Opinion

Welcome to Florida. Beware of gunmen standing their ground

25 Mar
March 25, 2012

Protesters demonstrate at a rally for slain teenager Trayvon Martin on March 22, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Sanford Police Department Chief Bill Lee announced this past week he would  temporarily step down amid fierce pressure from those who say his department botched the handling of the case.</p><br /><br /><br /><p>

The Miami Herald, March 25, 2012
Reprinted with permission.

Almost a quarter-century ago — in the halcyon days when human life was seen as more precious than property and people were regarded as something more than impoverished and non-influential corporations — I happened to be present at the tragic and needless shooting death of a black teenager.It was 1988 in Baltimore, Maryland and I was a journalist embedded in the city’s homicide unit, a bystander to a particular tragedy involving an elderly white homeowner and a black kid shot in the head while trying to steal a dirt bike.

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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by James Agee and Walker Evans

16 Apr
April 16, 2011

This came in response for a request to write on a book that was an essential influence. Thank you, Bob Benjamin, for stuffing it into my hand way back in 1982.
DS
FROM GENTLEMEN”S QUARTERLY
Reprinted with permission.
A suburban boy’s father marks up his English essays, explaining both the wit and weaknesses of leading sentences with gerunds. He tells stories of fierce heroes, word warriors: Broun, who loved the street parade, and Pegler, who sat next to him all those years, despising the common man; Bigart, selfless and understated, or Mencken, who believed in only Mencken. But all of them so gifted, so deft, so able to trick a phrase. Here, says the father, read this transition. Here, look what he does with the second graf…

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A forced move, actually

18 Jan
January 18, 2011

It had been three years since The Wire stopped airing on HBO, and in Baltimore, a certain settled tolerance for the drama had become the norm.  So I was surprised when the current police commissioner asked a question about The Wire at a public forum, vented openly.  This was a sleeping dog; let it lie, brother.  Instead, the commissioner insisted that we had smeared the city and that the slander would “take decades to overcome.”  He said those of us who worked on the drama owed Baltimore an apology.

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Introduction: Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb

16 Apr
April 16, 2010

I was honored to be asked to write an introduction to the Penguin Classic edition of a reissued “Paths of Glory,” one of the great literary legacies of the First World War and a novel that remains essential reading, I believe, in this new century.  I also had the chance to meet and shake the hand of Mr. Cobb’s lovely grand-daughter.  What follows is reprinted with the permission of Penguin’s editors. —DS

Humphrey Cobb gave us our last, failed century in a single, basic narrative. He told us of men devoured by the very institutions they served, without recourse, and for purposes petty, mechanical, and abstract. Indeed, given how little mankind truly learned from the charnel house that was the twentieth century, Cobb may have given us a blueprint for human suffering that will carry us through the next hundred years as well.

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“Treme” primer: Curtain-raiser, New Orleans Times-Picayune

11 Apr
April 11, 2010

From The Times-Picayune Sunday, April 11, 2010
Reprinted with permission.

In the first episode of “Treme,” to be broadcast tonight on HBO, a character will reach into her purse and produce an apple-flavored Hubig’s pie. She will do this in late November 2005. With the rest of her dessert menu no longer available, the character, a local chef, will then serve the local delicacy to a patron of her restaurant.

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