LASMAN: Poetry, not politics

April 17, 2012
I can’t read German, but it’s hard to imagine that Günter Grass’ “What Must Be Said” constitutes striking lyricism in any language. The poem, which criticizes Israel’s nuclear program and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkishness, sparked an international outcry that culminated in Israel’s Minister for the Interior banning the 84-year-old Grass from entering the »

LASMAN: Next year in space

April 3, 2012
This Friday, the world’s Jews begin Passover, the perennially relevant celebration of exodus from Egyptian bondage. Every year provides an array of potential connections, and this season of protests and immolations seems particularly rife with resonance. But rather than addressing these divisive concerns, I’m interested in the exodus itself — the search for promised land. »

LASMAN: Dangerous games

March 20, 2012
While civilians died in Syria and pundits raged over Iran, I was out walking in Rancho San Antonio, 4,000 acres of riparian woods and upland pasture in the hills over Los Altos, California. Rounding a bend, I came across three mule deer — scrappy, undersized specimens, hungry from the drought. I expected them to bound »

LASMAN: The age of historical ignorance

February 21, 2012
Yale so venerates written words and old stone that it’s hard to imagine a world that does not accord respect to such relics. Yet cathedral-shaped Sterling would have offered a tempting target to the most determined and destructive attackers Anglophone culture has ever seen. Between 1536 and 1541, religious vandals systematically destroyed the monasteries of »

LASMAN: Acting, nationally

February 7, 2012
Most of us support free speech and artistic expression. As enlightened, creative and (largely) liberal young people, we value the right of artists to produce whatever they want. Should this prove awful, objectionable, even offensive, we trust that wider cultural forces will react accordingly, contesting bad art and relegating it to obscurity or infamy. However, »

LASMAN: The real, complex Iran

January 24, 2012
Whenever I tell people that I’m studying Persian, the response is often some variation on the same question: Does studying Iran’s language and culture give you a different perspective on what’s happening there now? “What’s happening there now” is usually left vague, but I can assume it’s shorthand for everything that makes the Islamic Republic »

LASMAN: The Periwinkler’s Dilemma

January 10, 2012
Despite unseasonably warm weather, the water temperature in the Essex marshes was hovering just above freezing, and slivers of ice floated out with the tide. I had just finished Michael Pollan’s food-sourcing bible “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and had been inspired to go on a local foraging expedition of my own. After a few minutes of »

LASMAN: The social engineering network

November 11, 2011
Until recently, it was quite easy to declare your public endorsement of rape jokes. You had only to log onto Facebook, navigate to fan pages like “We’re gonna have sex tonight. Why? Because im stronger than you are,” and click “like.” Your risible lack of taste was then broadcast to your entire social network, and »

LASMAN: Revolutions and pacifism

October 28, 2011
What forms of protest are legitimate? And when does protest become terrorism? Suicide bombing falls firmly on the latter side; roadside picketing, on the former. For all the debate and opposition it has engendered, there’s little controversy on the legality of Occupy Wall Street. Many more Americans favor the protests than disapprove of them — »

LASMAN: Political guitar heroes

October 14, 2011
For many of us, the tag “socially conscious artist” conjures up images of guitar-strumming prophets, crusading documentary filmmakers, and courageous novelists. Yet semantically, that’s not quite accurate. These really are artists who attempt to make their audiences socially conscious. The label applies to their creations, certainly, but not necessarily to the creator. Often, their personal »

LASMAN: New Year’s narratives

September 30, 2011
The Jewish High Holidays, which began this week and will end in ten days after The Day of Atonement, have always fascinated me — they reverse the trite formula of the New Year’s Resolution, based on regret and recommitment. The standard Resolution is made as the looming January 1 casts doubt on a year’s worth »

9/11 Reflection: Sam Lasman

September 9, 2011
I am not qualified to write about the personal dimension of 9/11. I have visited Ground Zero and the Pentagon, read eyewitness accounts and the painful recollections of the bereaved. While the grief born of 9/11 and the importance for memorial are perhaps the first concerns for any remembrance, I can’t presume to add my »