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Cognoscenti

Free-for-All: The students arrive in Boston

The sidewalk in my Brookline neighborhood is a free-for-all – literally. The students are coming and more to the point, the students are going and leaving behind mountains of stuff: cat-shredded couches, chairs missing legs or seats, and a million giant garbage bags stuffed with the flotsam of student life: clothes, pillows, half empty jars…

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Othello in the year of Black Panther

I drove home from Providence feeling shaken up and wide-awake after seeing Trinity Repertory’s production of Othello. Three days later, I saw BlackPantherand left the multiplex feeling like I’d been to church. And ever since, the Shakespearean tragedy and the superhero blockbuster have been circling each other inside my head. Black Panther’s release was a…

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How I learned to stop grumbling and love the winter

Watching the Olympic athletes in Korea contend with punishing winds and dangerous slopes, I marveled. Those hardy souls who rejoice in snow and ice are a race apart. Most of us are waiting out the winter, wishing it were over, or fleeing if we can. In January, the walls start to close in and by…

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Richard The Third and Donald The Trump

This essay was first published on WBUR’s Cognoscenti Shakespeare is always timely. Last fall, I sat in on rehearsals for Actor’s Shakespeare Project’s all-female production of “Julius Caesar,” which shone an Elizabethan light on the #MeToo movement. Nothing like a bunch of women wearing daggers to deliver the message that we will be heard. In…

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Power to the punchline: Samantha Bee and Robin Thede

This essay appeared previously on WBUR’s Cognoscenti with several great links. A few years back, the marquee late-night TV talk shows played a game of musical chairs, which ended with all five hosting seats taken, by a man, by men. HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” the latest entry in this elite club, also put a male member…

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Potty-mouth-in-chief

Is it one word or two? If two, does it need a hyphen? If you want to avoid using an obscenity but need to communicate the word in question, is it better to use ellipses? If so, is “sh…hole” better than “s-hole?” Should quotation marks be mandatory to indicate The Source in Chief? As the…

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Memories of my mother and the owls

My mother had lived in the one-bedroom apartment for 17 years, and when she died in October, my brother and I assumed that emptying it for the next tenant would be relatively easy—after all, there was no basement or attic to empty, and she had always been a hard core balleboste, Yiddish for “mistress of…

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Sister is Powerful vs. Sexual Misconduct

The daily dispatches about sexual harassment and abuse have unleashed a parade of celebrity perp walks, howls of denial, shame-faced confessions, moronic mewlings (“How am I supposed to know the line between flirting and harassment?”) and — we knew it was coming — “The War on Men!” Good people are shocked — shocked! — to…

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It is forbidden to despair

“It is forbidden to despair,” said Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, a 19th century Hasidic teacher who suffered from depression. I imagine him pounding his fist on a table in a dimly lit room, shouting those words to his demons. Fifty years ago, TV screens flickered with images of policemen unleashing dogs on peaceful civil rights…

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