Commentaries

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Ways to Connect

A mobile phone on a sandy beach.
TheHilaryClark / Creative Commons

At the risk of violating technology's prime directive -- "Thou shalt not look backwards" -- I found a way, if only briefly, to get my mobile phone to just stay put.

A view of State House Square in Hartford, Connecticut.
Heather Brandon / NEPR

When I talk to people about Hartford's ongoing redesign, I often hear disbelief and dismissiveness. Not from residents who live in Hartford, especially young people invested in the fabric of the city, but from the ones on the periphery -- people in the city's inner-ring suburbs. 

Andrew Lam.
Todd Lavoie / Courtesy Andrew Lam

It’s becoming clear that Asian-Americans have been significantly disadvantaged in elite college admissions for decades.

Mattes / Creative Commons

When I was a girl, for some inexplicable reason, my brothers and I always had to sit in birth order in the back seat of the Pontiac. That meant that on hot days, I was uncomfortably sandwiched between my two brothers.  

Cat with rodent.
David Merrigan / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/daveograve

When I first met my future husband, he asked me to go for a walk.

"Sure," I said.

"I’ll go get the kittens," he said.

'We're All In Lockdown': Lessons From Northampton, Mass.

Jun 15, 2018
Anabel Rosero, left, walks with her daughter Anaisha Feliciano, 12, after Anaisha had been released from a lockdown at JFK Middle School in Northampton, Thursday.
Carol Lollis / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

When a man with two guns was spotted on a Northampton, Massachusetts, middle school campus, the police responded perfectly. No one was hurt. Best-case scenario, right?

What Philip Roth Has To Tell Us About Anti-Semitism

Jun 13, 2018
South Carolina passed a law to counter anti-Semitism on college campuses, following a violent white supremacist rally last year in Charlottesville. Pictured, rally participants prepare to enter Emancipation Park on August 12, 2017.
Anthony Crider / Creative Commons / flickr.com/people/16086041@N00

I know it might seem confusing. Why wouldn’t Jews support a law that combats anti-Semitism? Wouldn’t that be like gay people opposing a law against homophobia, or people of color rejecting a law against racism?

Oakland Raiders teammates kneel during the national anthem before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 24, 2017 in Landover, Maryland.
Keith Allison / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/keithallison

Add “being seen to have an opinion” to the things black people are no longer entitled to do.

Which Kanye Is It That Thinks Slavery Was A Choice?

May 23, 2018
Kanye West performing in 2011.
Rodrigo Ferrari / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/rodrigoferrari

“That’s just Kanye being Kanye.”

That’s what we said when he ran up on stage to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech to say Beyoncé deserved it.

Jamil Ragland tutors writing at Capitol Community College in Hartford.
Chion Wolf / WNPR

I was helping a student recently with a paper she was writing. It was on the poem "Ballad of Birmingham," about the 1963 church bombing. 

Tools for repair.
falconp4 / Creative Commons

I recently retired, and have done what many new old fogeys do: I finished a long-term project, renewed my gym membership and — yes — cleaned closets. I also did something I never expected. I reached out to an estranged friend.

Susan Johnson in Camden,  Maine on top of Mt. Megunticook.
Thomas Thompson / Courtesy of Susan Johnson

I began hiking regularly with a friend and her chubby dog eight years ago. The friend worked a 9-to-5 job, so neither she nor her dog got much exercise. But on Saturday afternoons we would hike.

An app transforms the unsmiling face of Robert Chipkin into several other images, including a forced smile.
Upper left: Josh Sowalsky / Courtesy Robert Chipkin / FaceApp

"Why does he look so constipated? Everyone else looks so happy except for Mr. Constipated," my family invariably asked when looking at pictures of me in family albums.

Confessions Of A Reticent Abortionist

Apr 5, 2018
Graffiti.
Edson Chilundo / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/edson_ac

Most mornings, there's an elderly man in front of my office holding a sign that says: "Thou shall not murder."

In an episode of "Star Trek: Discovery," from left, Lieutenant Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), and First Officer Saru (Doug Jones).
CBS

Frustratingly, I’ve not yet watched "Star Trek: Discovery," because to do so, unlike with the older series, I'd have to shell out $6 a month to CBS.

Children's books on display at a library.
Kalamazoo Public Library / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/kalamazoopubliclibrary

A couple of months ago, I decided that I would take my five-year-old daughter with me to the local Women’s March. Since my explanations were not as clear as I wanted, I searched for a children’s book to help me explain the 2016 Women’s March to her. 

Breakfast at a Parisian cafe
Lian Chang / Flikr https://www.flickr.com/photos/diametrik/2628099742

What better way to escape winter in New England than to experience winter in Paris? Last month, I spent a week in the city of light -- well in January, make that "twilight."

Samuel Bowles was a dynamo, known for his wit, intelligence, and dashing good looks.
unknown / Bowles-Hoar Family Papers, Archives and Special Collections,Amherst College

Samuel Bowles was the editor of The Springfield Republican. As a young man in the 1850s, he transformed the Republican into one of New England’s most admired newspapers.

In the woods.
Pxhere / Creative Commons

"You should have a cell phone," my mother-in-law says.

In 2003, Greenfield, Massachusetts, adopted a mayoral form of government, technically changing from town to city, according to state regulations. But Greenfield kept calling itself a town for 14 more years.
Andrew Varnon / NEPR

In official state documents, we used to be referred to as “The City known as the Town of Greenfield.” Kind of embarrassing.

This Cat Lover's Claws Are Out

Jan 17, 2018
A cat.
Krysten Merriman / Creative Commons

An open letter to Robert Chipkin, researchers at Vanderbilt University, and all dog triumphalists, ever, for the end of time: Your dog may be smarter than my cat. This is not a great feat. My cat’s brain is about the size of a walnut.  

Coming In From The Cold In Springfield

Jan 16, 2018
Springfield's Paramount Theater.
Ray Kelly / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

If you've ever experienced the transition from a frigid wind beating on your face to the embrace of a warm indoor space, you'll know how wonderful coming inside can be. 

A golden retriever.
Jonathan Meyer / Creative Commons

Lately, I’ve noticed a growing cottage industry. Human scientists are making a pretty good living spending years doing experiments the results of which any dog could have predicted if only someone had asked.

I often talk about how books are windows and mirrors. They show readers things they’ve never seen before, as well as reflections of themselves.

An Inherited, And Now Embraced, Christmas Tradition

Dec 19, 2017
Julia Cafritz's mother had strong feelings about where Glitter Santa needed to be placed on their Christmas tree.
Julia Cafritz / Courtesy of Julia Cafritz

At my house, Christmas trees didn't exist to be decorated; they existed to be conquered.

Cosmic Visitors Whose Paths Just Missed Each Other

Dec 14, 2017
At left, Martin Baron Tisdale George in a selfie. At right, Julia Pistell with Vega, three weeks old, at an NEPR studio.
Martin Baron Tisdale George / Greg Ludovici / Courtesy Julia Pistell / NEPR

I'd already taken dictation from my grandmother on the facts of Grandpa Baron's life. For a person I'd spent so much time with, there was so much I didn't know. 

 Susan Campbell was a victim of sexual abuse from age 7 to 13.
Chion Wolf / WNPR

I was 7 when the sexual abuse started, 13 when it stopped.  My perpetrator was my stepfather, a man unfit to raise chickens, much less children.

An ultrasound image of a 20-week-old fetus.
Michael Fürstenberg flickr.com/photos/biophon / Creative Commons

Many years ago, when I was pregnant and gender identity was not in the news, I struggled with ideas about my baby’s biological sex. 

Erin Valentino.
Joyce Skowyra / NEPR

I was having lunch with friends when one of them asked me if I was healthy. I didn’t know how to answer.

Jamil Ragland lives in Hartford's north end.
Chion Wolf / WNPR


My 10-year-old son Gabriel loves baseball. When I received free tickets to a game at Dunkin' Donuts stadium this May, I pushed aside my feelings of hypocrisy and took him out to the old ball game.

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