Time to Replace the 1812 on the Fourth

Backyard barbecues, beach parties, fireworks, and concerts featuring the 1812 Overture – all traditional parts of the holiday celebrating the independence of our nation.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Why, the 1812 Overture, of course. This marquee finale by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and many of us look forward to …

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Summer reading, pt. 3 – a book much more than “a hill of beans”

Hill of Beans, the newest novel by Les Epstein, for 36 years head of the Boston University Creative Writing Program and author of 11 books, including King of the Jews, San Remo Drive, and Pandaemonium,  is another of this writer’s novels about life in Hollywood, this time about the impact of World War II and …

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Summer reading, pt. 2 of 3 – non-fiction

Persist by Massachusetts Senator and failed Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is the kind of memoir that breathes life into a policy tract.  Warren’s campaign mantra was that for each of society’s problems, she had a plan.  She still does, and this memoir of her political career is laced with synopses of her most significant …

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Summertime reading, pt. 1 of 3: fiction choices

Instructions for a Heatwave  is another intriguing narrative about a dysfunctional family by Northern Irish novelist Maggie O’Farrell. Set in a 1976 heatwave in the U.K., the novel focuses on the family of Gretta Riordan, an Irish grandmother, conservative socially and religiously, a woman with clear-cut ideas about right and wrong that she has worked …

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What’s the new normal, mine and the country’s?

Just as I was reveling in the loosening of Covid rules and celebrating the new normalcy - going around with a smile on my face and a spring in my step, getting together with fully vaccinated friends, happily hugging them and relatives at our first reunions in more than 15 months, not taking any of …

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Paul Levy is running for Newton School Committee. Why?

Paul Levy was the much-admired executive director of the Mass Water Resources Authority, who, from 1988-1992, led the stunningly successful cleanup of Boston Harbor.  He had previously chaired the Mass. Department of Public Utilities (1983-1987) and followed that with several years as an adjunct professor at M.I.T. After a series of noteworthy accomplishments in the …

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Can’t end the filibuster? Then modify it, now!

statepress.com After the failure of last week's Senate vote on creating an independent commission to review the events of January 6th, attention has increased on the need to do something to end or modify the filibuster. Sadly, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Democrats' crucial 50th vote in the Senate, still isn't yet …

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Democrats struggle with knotty filibuster problem

In what rational universe could a democratic institution have 54 votes to advance an idea and 35 votes against, and the proposition fails? It would also have failed if there were 59 votes for it and just one against it. Sound crazy? Yes, but that's how the United States Senate operates because of its self-imposed …

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Gun stores in Newton: ban v. regulate not an either/or proposition

Signs opposing a gun store proposed for this largely residential Boston suburb are sprouting like daffodils across the lawns in Newton, Massachusetts. The store in question would be just spitting distance from a marijuana dispensary! No wonder so many in my hometown are, pardon the expression, up at arms. Nor is it surprising, perhaps, that …

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Book ideas for spring, pt 2 – fiction

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips is a first novel set in the isolated Russian peninsular community of KamChatka, after the demise of the Soviet Union.  It’s hard-scrabble living even in its principal city of Petropavlovsk.  The story grabs you from the outset with the kidnapping of two little girls, ages eight and five.  The novel …

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