Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

Category Archives: Obits

Prof. Joshua Whatmough — Linguistics 120

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, […]

Dog Gone

My daughter recently put her 13-year-old cat down. Her post about it was heartfelt and touching. Today Lee Geiger, a chum from my Wall Street days, wrote about saying farewell to his dog. I reprint his goodbye below. * * * * * This is not a good day. The Fat Guy is driving me […]

Kvetcher in the Rye

I began writing an obituary of J. D. Salinger, but given his reclusiveness and academia’s already exhaustive shelves of critical essaying, it morphed into a personal reflection on how Catcher in the Rye affected me and my 60’s world. But Greg Palast did it better (and faster), so I reprint his February 1, 2010, reflection […]

Irving R. Levine (1922-2009)

America fawns absurdly over singers and actors and expects under-educated athletes to be our role models. National and international news in my local newspaper, the Santa Rosa, CA, Press Democrat (owned by The New York Times), almost always comprises fewer column inches than the sports section. The Stupidification of America continues unabated. Irving R. Levine […]

Darwin and Lincoln: 200 Years Today (or are they?)

Born 200 years ago, February 12, 1809: Charles Darwin, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in the bios, and Abraham Lincoln, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in society. – *    *    * But perhaps these two Great Men were not born on the same day. Darwin’s […]

Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “February Traces”

wild turkey tracks This short piece, from the Opinion page of The New York Times (2/2/09), is unpretentious, evocative writing. Read it aloud…slowly. Up here in the country, the world gets a used-up look a day or two after a February snowfall. Dust drifts over the fields from the dry roads, the corn stubble begins […]


When Richard Feynman came back to Ojai’s Summer Science Program in 1960 for a second, unscheduled visit, his topic was what he called “smallness.” Today that field, in which he was a visionary, is called nanotechnology. Having been mesmerized by Feynman’s brilliance and wit during his talk on Relativity a couple of weeks earlier, we […]

At the Feet of Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman at Summer Science Program In 1960, I sat on the floor, leaning against the wall, my feet thrust out, listening to Caltech’s Richard Feynman explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Einstein, dead for only five years, was an icon and a Nobel Laureate. I was too young and unread then to know that Feynman, […]

The Vanishing Point

My mother died ten years ago this week, and I am brought to think of the vanishing point, that not-so-distant past beyond which none of us can know the fathers and mothers who brought us here. My parents were flesh to me, as were both grandmothers. I never knew either grandfather, but they are romance […]

Liberator of Bulgaria

What actually happens is not always in the history books. I grew up in California in the 50’s, graduating from high school in 1961, only 16 years after World War II ended. So how was it possible that in all my classes there was not one mention of the internment of Americans of Japanese descent? […]