All posts filed under: Random DJB Thoughts

This is where I put anything that is not easily categorized…

The American Equation

It was an easy call as to which Washington region July 4th celebration to attend in 2019. I’ve been writing about the July 4th parade in nearby Takoma Park for the past decade, and each year has featured a different spin on wackiness. In 2012, it was the precision grill team (with signs of cherry pie and the tag line: “You want a piece of this?!”) along with Mitt Romney’s poor dog Seamus, of the famous car top ride to Canada. Elvis made one of his frequent appearances in 2014, as did the Takoma Park Kinetic Sculpture Racing Team. Last  year was a well-received appearance by the Mad Dog PAC featuring their MAGA (Mobsters Are Governing America) float and stickers. Admittedly, it will be difficult to match the antics of the “Salute to America” — featuring “your favorite president, me!” — on the National Mall this afternoon, but in looking for the real spirit of America, I know I can find an important piece of it here in the region’s only nuclear free zone. We …

Honor Our Children

“Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them.” This Abraham Lincoln quote, from a letter he wrote prior to his election, was part of my Presidents Day post two years ago. It came back to me as I read today’s news reports about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in this country’s immigration detention centers. In those subhuman camps, degradation of our fellow travelers appears to be not only the result of our actions but the actual policy objective. If immigrating to the U.S. is seen as difficult, the thinking goes, perhaps fewer will attempt the journey. We may say, “We’re better than this.” But at the moment, this is what we are as a country. Our institutions are under attack, not only in spirit but at the very core of their existence. We have purported leaders who only want to elevate people who look, think, and act like themselves, conveniently forgetting the “self-evident truth” that “all men are created equal.” As they …

Hiroshima 1945 / 2019

Pearl Harbor. Normandy Beach. Hiroshima. Names, places, memories, and lessons we should never forget. Last week I was moved beyond words by time spent at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Garden and Museum in Japan. In fundamental ways the experience mirrored my reactions during visits in recent years to Pearl Harbor and Normandy Beach. The world at the time of those earlier visits seemed more stable than it does in 2019. Just a few years ago we didn’t have out-of-control individuals in positions of immense power in the United States; individuals threatening to use nuclear weapons against other nations and people just because the capability exists. Instead, we had leaders who sought, at least at some fundamental levels, to try and unite us as a people and as a world. There seemed to be adults in charge who had the memories to understand the horror to humankind of nuclear war. As John Hersey, the author of the landmark 1946 piece on Hiroshima in The New Yorker, once wrote: “What has kept the world safe from the …

I Hate to Say Goodbye, So I’ll Just Say So Long

NOTE: The following is adapted from a message I wrote to my staff at the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the Monday of my last week as the EVP and Chief Preservation Officer with the organization. In a typical three-point sermon from the Baptist church of my youth, the preachers would:  1) tell you what they were going to say (the introduction); 2) then say it (the sermon); then 3) tell you what they had just said (the conclusion).  To keep up the symmetry, the sermons themselves often had three points.  The last of my Monday morning emails will be my personal three-point sermon. The Introduction  I’m going to expand my audience beyond the Preservation Division and write to the full Trust staff along with a number of friends outside the organization.  In doing so, I’ll use the first part to explain a bit about these Monday emails.  Second, I want to say a few words about what the past twenty-two-plus-years at the National Trust have meant to me, both professionally and personally.  Finally, …

A Great Send-Off

Last Friday, my colleagues at work hosted a wonderful send-off party.  There was a “B” theme to evening, as we had barbecue (Rocklands, my local favorite); bourbon (with gifts of several very nice bottles of whiskey over the course of the week); and bluegrass (the latter supplied live by the By-and-By Band). The band was even kind enough to let me sit in with them on a spirited rendition of Sitting On Top of the World! Friends, former and current colleagues, and partners came in from as far away as Los Angeles to celebrate. I used the occasion to say a few words (no surprise there), beginning with the observation that I was finding that almost anything that was said in the office brought to mind something that happened 10, 20, or 30 years ago—what I’ve dubbed the Old War Stories part of my transition. I knew everyone would be thankful if I kept it short, so I brought notes.  On the occasion of my 60th birthday, I composed a post entitled 60 Lessons From …

Quest for the Best (Picture), Once Again

Has it really been seven years since we decided to try to catch the Best Picture nominees before the Academy Awards show?  Indeed it has. Truth be told, this has been an up-and-down process.  There are years when I’ll see 7 of the 8 or 9 films nominated.  Then, there are times such as last year when we took in four on one weekend…and that was it. This year was really different, in that I’ve seen all 8 of the films nominated, plus a few more that could have been in the running. 100 percent!  That’s a first. As in years past, I’ll provide the caveat that I’m no movie critic, so these are totally personal views without any understanding of the nuances of filmmaking. I’ll also list these in the order I ranked them, which is where I get the most comments. So, my best picture award would go to If Beale Street Could Talk.  Wait, you say, it wasn’t nominated!  Well, that’s not my fault; it should have been.  This was a beautiful …

Farewell 2018, Hello 2019

It is that time of year, dear readers, when I look back over the past twelve months, assess progress (or lack thereof) against my goals, and think ahead for 2019.  Careful readers know that for several years I have worked with a set of life rules (rather than annual resolutions) for living the next third of my life.  This review is just one small part of an exercise to have an honest conversation with myself, so I’ll be able to have real conversations with the larger world.  We don’t do enough looking at our uncertainties and vulnerabilities, sometimes choosing as an alternative getting angry at others—which hinders real understanding.  Steve Almond, in the book Bad Stories, asserts that’s true because we take our grievances seriously but not our vulnerabilities.  In the 2017 essay “Facing the Furies” (found in the collection Call Them by Their True Names:  American Crises and Essays), Rebecca Solnit frames it this way: “. . . more often, lashing out is a way to avoid looking inward. A 2001 study by Jennifer …