Peter Topolewski

A Case for Empathy

I recently read an essay by Namwali Serpell, author of a new and widely acclaimed novel The Old Drift, called The Banality of Empathy. Her main issue: art doesn’t promote empathy. And even if it did, why would that be good? Serpell asks this because to her empathy means to “be” or “inhabit” or “consume”…

Will Vigilance Matter?

I’m a little late to the hit sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem. I’d heard of it years ago, but before I recently started reading the book I didn’t realize Barrack Obama had given it a thumbs up, or that Amazon had planned to spend a fortune to bring what has become a trilogy to the…

Tech Buys Into Tune Out

It’s the “attention economy” someone somewhere told us. Silicon Valley sure got the message. But more and more the major technology mavericks-turned-behemoths are buying into and growing the “distraction economy”. Google is the latest. On Tuesday this week the company that once preached “Don’t be evil” embraced “Just chill” when it revealed its gaming platform…

2+2 Now = Everything

This is not about fake news. That’s a separate realm. It’s where truth dies when the size and effort of the lie is enough to give it credence. This isn’t about relativism, though that’s very much alive. It’s thriving in Canada, where the governing party is tying itself in knots talking about my truth, his…

Free Solo is Genius on Film

Free Solo is the name of the National Geographic documentary about Alex Honnold’s years long effort to climb El Capitan without any ropes. It’s an ironic name because the endeavor came at a steep emotional cost to both Honnold’s relationships and film crew. And, since El Capitan is 3,000 feet high, Honnold ran the risk…

Love! Nature – the Book Review

I recently finished Love! Nature by conservation biologist Dr. Reese Halter. Here’s my review: read it. Love! Nature is a collection of more than 75 essays that provide a tour of the natural world. Reese’s eye and interest moves from oceans to mountaintops, desserts to rain forests, and covers the environments, bio-mechanics, evolution, habits, and…

That Didn’t Take Long

So, right after scientists got their hands on the gene editing tool called CRISPR-cas9 in 2015, the moral gymnastics began. Scientists faced the challenge of how to use — or more importantly how not to use — a new, powerful, and (ethically speaking) little understood technology. Well, some faced it. Others ignored it, as we knew…

The Stupidest Thing Uttered by a Smart Man

I don’t know Jeff Bezos. Never met him. Nevertheless, not long after his darling Amazon reached at $1 trillion valuation, I’m nominating one of his remarks for The Stupidest Thing Uttered by a Smart Guy. The list of candidates for this title is both endless and growing. But context helps Jeff’s case. Real earnings are…

image by Jennifer Adomeit

Our Home and Native Land

I came across, I don’t remember how, an interesting interactive map quite a few months ago. I didn’t fiddle with it much, but its premise has sort of been lingering in the rearward reaches of my consciousness ever since. After recently writing about our “convenient realities“, the map demanded attention. When it comes to Western…

This Is Why You Keep Practicing Piano!

I’ve loved The Doors so long it never occurred to me that some people don’t. I was mesmerized by the opening sounds of The End as it played in Apocalypse Now when I first saw it as a ten-year old. (I was too young to “get” a lot of the movie, but not too young…

Our Lazy Relationship with Reality

This week Roy Scranton — combat veteran, author, and Notre Dame professor — published what is in essence a manifesto explaining why, in the face of nearly-assured ecological doom, he chose life. It reminded me of Samuel Beckett’s closing to The Unnamable: “…where am I, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you…

Death and Dying, Life and Living

I have no clue how typical my Twitter feed is. It pulls in tweets from a swath of viewpoints, some famous and some social-media famous. Last week it filled up with tweets about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain: mourning their deaths, praising their talents, thanking them for their contributions, praising them for their grace during…