Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler
One man's squint at the metaphorical signposts, songbirds, soapboxes, street musicians, and hot dog stands of life. Criticism, lyricism, polemics, performance, and making change…all with mustard.

Guns: Be Like Australia

(I posted this in 2016. In the hideous aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, it demands reposting today.)

The following article, reposted in its entirety from the Sydney Morning Herald (June 16, 2016), was written by Aubrey Perry, a Melbourne-based writer and artist who is originally from the United States. 

Her words are heartfelt. I could not say it better…

 

Thank you, Australia. Thank you for making me feel safe when I walk out my front door.

Thank you for not making me wonder if some enraged lunatic is going to shoot up the post office while I wait in line to mail a package back home to the States.

Thank you for not making me worry that my daughter will be slaughtered in a bloody shooting-spree at school, or that my husband might be shot in a restaurant while he has lunch, or that my gay and lesbian friends will be mowed down by a madman with a machine gun at a nightclub.

About 700,000 guns were handed in to Australia's buyback nearly 20 years ago. Photo: Dean Sewell

About 700,000 guns were handed in to Australia’s buyback nearly 20 years ago. Photo: Dean Sewell

Thank you for honouring and protecting the good of the whole and not the selfishness of Read More »

Betting on the World Series

casino-roulette-wheelYou pays your money and you takes your chances, but the House always has an edge.

Did you ever wonder how big that edge is?

Among the simplest edges to compute is Las Vegas roulette.  If your chips are on one of the numbers from 1 to 36, and you win, you get paid 35-1. That means that if you put $1 on each of those 36 numbers, when the ball drops onto one of those numbers, you’ll get your winning bet back plus $35; you’ll break even. Those are fair odds.  But the House, as I said, always has an edge. Las Vegas wheels include two other numbers that also pay 35-1: 0 and 00. So to be sure you’ll win, you’d have to place 38 one-dollar bets, thus giving the House a $2 profit on every $38 you bet (a 5.26% margin). Read More »

HR 158: A Betrayal of Iranian Americans

img_photo_asmoudeh_190wThe following op ed, written by Kamran Azmoudeh, a local dentist, was printed in my daily paper, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, on January 8, 2016. It’s worth reading…and re-posting.

*     *     *     *     *

The war on terror and ISIS in particular has hit home in Santa Rosa. Its effects have shaken me and over a million Iranian Americans (and certainly other Muslim Americans) to the core. Not unlike Kristallnacht or the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942, those perceived as Muslim immigrants are becoming victims in this ill-fought war. The events that lead to Kristallnacht started with the same type of hateful ideology, except sadly this is happening today in the United States.

I have lived in this country for 38 years and managed to gain an education which has afforded me a good life. I have been married 24 years to my loving wife who happens to be a Catholic American of European heritage and have two beautiful American children and two American grandchildren. I have been a productive American citizen for decades and proudly hold an American passport, which enables me to travel freely with all the privileges afforded to Americans. Read More »

Where to Go in a Time Machine?

Joan_of_Arc_on_horsebackIt’s a paradoxical question. My oldest child, a clever and passionate woman, answered it this way:

I’d want to find out how Joan of Arc knew what she did. Because if anyone looks like a time traveler in history, she does.

starwarsI’d love to see the Beatles in 1963, the Grateful Dead in 1968, and Star Wars in 1977 (again). 

I’d want to hear Elizabeth’s rally to her troops just before the sinking of the Spanish Armada. 

catI think it would be fascinating to eavesdrop on Einstein explaining Schrödinger’s Cat after the academic elite missed the point.

But those are all selfish reasons to use a time machine. If I were to be a hero about it, I’d smother Stalin in his crib, figure out how to sabotage FoxNews before it got a toehold, bitch-slap St. Paul along the road to Damascus and tell him not to be such a misogynist, and creep into the Warsaw Ghetto on the last evening of the siege and assure them it was not all in vain.

Good choices.

A Posthumous Woman

Olin-620x348After nearly 20 years of non-involvement in filmmaking, last month I enthusiastically un-retired and worked (really worked!) on A Posthumous Woman, starring Lena Olin and Rosanna Arquette.

Written/directed by my son, Zachary, and his fiancée, Magdalena Zyzak, and filmed at a remote location in the mountains above Silicon Valley, it is  Read More »

Road Trip 2015: Sonoma County to Trinity Center

Blue HighwaysIn 1982, I read Blue Highways, a bestseller written by William Least Heat-Moon. It chronicled a journey by car taken entirely on the small roads—the mapmakers’ blue highways. An English instructor as a small Missouri college, Least Heat-Moon, disoriented by a fracturing marriage, chose to look for himself by choosing, as Paul Simon put it, to “look for America.”

Buoyed by Least Heat-Moon’s adventures and observations, I have, whenever practicable, chosen those blue highways for my travels: a two-laner and small towns versus hurtling through interchangeable Interstate spaces at 70 mph.

So, for our road trip to Ann’s high school reunion in Casper, WY, I planned to include back roads whenever possible.

Day #1 was to begin at our home in Sonoma County’s Wine Country and end  Read More »

Vetting the Candidates

donkey elephant“Has she been thoroughly vetted?” they ask. It’s an apt question. But do they know what the word actually means?

Read More »

Midnight Fantasy in Sevilla

map of SevillaIn the summer of 2002, on a vacation in Spain, Ann and I were in Sevilla, walking back to our lodging after a typically late dinner. It was midnight, but the twisty, cobbled lanes were not entirely deserted. As we entered a three-way street junction, lit only by a few faraway home lights, two young men on a motor scooter drove up behind Ann and snatched her purse. It was hooked over her shoulder, so the scooter’s acceleration yanked her off her feet before snapping the purse strap. I had been about 15 feet ahead and had not seen the approach, but I heard her cry out and saw her fall. Read More »

Prof. Joshua Whatmough — Linguistics 120

Joshua Whatmough (c. 1950)

—- Prof. Joshua Whatmough —- © 1955 G. Paul Bishop

This morning, rising with formless, benignant wonderings about my future and vague remembrances of my long-ago youth, I surprised myself with an abrupt focus on Prof. Joshua Whatmough (“WUTT-moe”).

I googled and found a perfect description of his terrifying and exhilarating classroom (in 1947) put up on a webpage by one of Whatmough’s former students, William Harris, Professor Emeritus, Middlebury College. Prof. Harris’ recollections lit up a room I hadn’t been in for many years. Read More »

Innumeracy and Chicanery

Nick Kristof in the Green RoomI am no fan of standardized testing, but New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof appears to be. And his 4/25 column (“Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?”), which uses such measuring tools to make a point, is distressingly misleading.

In order to demonstrate our country’s incompetence in mathematics, he presents three questions from a 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test administered worldwide to eighth graders.

The first question:

math_integersWhat is the sum of the three consecutive whole numbers with 2n as the middle number?

6n+3
6n
6n-1
6n-3

Only 37% of USA kids got it right (the correct answers are at the bottom of this post). Read More »