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Skeptical diginaut. I play with the paywall here but everything’s available at michael.cervieri.com/musings

Every so often I spend time going through old notebooks and files. I look at the the stories I’ve started, the ideas I’ve jotted down, the fragments I’ve saved because someday, yes, someday, I would craft them into something interesting.

And then I put them all away again thinking, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, maybe someday but probably never.

This isn’t meant to be depressing. There have been periods in my life where I was quite prolific and other stretches where… not so much. Maybe, now, looking at the scraps and growing comfortable that they won’t emerge into anything…


Lessons Boys, Moles, Foxes and Horses Can Teach Us

The world is loud.

Our media is loud. Our entertainment is loud. Our environment is loud. Our politics measure on a scale of one-to-Trump with rageclicks in between.

Think, then, of an escape that’s quiet like falling snow.

My daughter introduced me to a book like this. She’s two. Her daycare gave it to us when her sister was hospitalized. It’s a fairly big book with somewhat abstract line drawing and aphoristic writing. We put it on a shelf thinking she might be ready for it a few years down the road. But she found it and has me read…


My wife and I moved to Rhode Island this winter.

The move was more opportunistic than deliberate. As in, we’d talked a lot about leaving New York City, and for the last two plus years we’d been dividing our time between Los Angeles, New York and Rhode Island. But, we didn’t really have a plan save for the fact that we had one daughter with another on the way and we didn’t want to raise them in the city.

So, the extent of the plan — if plan is what we’re going to call it — was, let’s leave New…


My wife, daughter and I spent most of August in Rhode Island for our summer vacation. I grew up there, my parents still live there half the year and my siblings show up with their families each August. It’s become our annual reunion spot.

Some years ago I started collecting everyone’s photos and creating print albums. It’s a fun project. Tedious when dealing with so many images but worthwhile. It also gives me a chance to get out of my architecture and landscape comfort zone and shoot people which I usually don’t do.

I didn’t make a book last year…


Detail, Fables and Fairy Tales by Filip Zrnsević.

One of the earliest ponderables we’re asked to consider concerns issues of observation and perception. Does a tree falling in the woods make a sound when no one’s around?

A 21st century media variant runs like so: If an event takes place and no one shares it, did it really take place at all?

Consider China, where tensions between pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong and the Chinese government continue to rise. Just this week masked assailants attacked protestors and police fired rubber bullets at them.

That’s what we see and hear on the outside. Inside China, the story is different…


Video Still, National Geographic Hostile Planet

Perhaps it’s the new father in me. Perhaps it’s an instinct to anthropomorphize the natural world. Perhaps it’s simply the empathy of seeing another creature in a world of hurt.

Perhaps it’s because this is insane.

A new National Geographic nature series called Hostile Planet covers life and death in six concise episodes from around the world: mountains, oceans, deserts, jungles, grasslands, the poles. In one segment you have leopard seals hunting penguins. In another you have polar bears hunting seals. A good deal of the series is nature porn from murderers’ row.

Where there’s death, there’s also birth and…


Back in 2009, Michael Hirschorn, reflecting on the first decade of the 21st century for New York Magazine, wrote that we live “in a media age that lacks a central authority to referee reality” where there’s a “nagging sense that the agents of chaos are now so diffuse and powerful that no central authority can counteract them”.

Welcome to 2016 where the question isn’t whether we live in a fact free age but whether anyone can mediate truth from fiction.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace rejects the notion that it’s his responsibility to fact-check the candidates when he moderates one of…


A new study by the Council on Foreign Relations and National Geographic outlines how much American university students don’t know about the world around them. If we were grading, most of us would get a solid F (PDF).

Earlier this year, CFR and National Geographic commissioned a survey to gauge what young people educated in American colleges and universities know about geography, the environment, demographics, U.S. foreign policy, recent international events, and economics…

…On the knowledge questions asked, the average score was only 55 percent correct. Just 29 percent of respondents earned a minimal pass — 66 percent correct or…


I spent the last few days looking at flowers. It started with a trip to the New York Botanical Gardenand ended with photos on my phone.

I don’t know much about flowers save for what I learned in middle school biology class. Flowers are pervy with their stamens and pistils and carpels and pollen hanging out in the open.

Georgia O’Keeffe taught us as much.(1) Besides, I know no of nothing else that offloads the tumble of sex and reproduction, quite literally, to the birds and bees.(2)

At least, this is what I think as I stare at these images…


Ammon Bundy and other armed occupiers of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

What should we call an armed group that takes over federal property and makes political demands? “Armed group” is a start. So too “militants,” “insurgents” and “armed insurrectionists.” Some want even stronger language: “terrorists” or “domestic terrorists” is their choice.

The New York Times originally called the group behind the weekend takeover of a federal building in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon “armed activists,” while The Washington Post added a modifier (“armed anti-government activists”) before settling on “occupiers” in its initial reporting.

While newsrooms wrestle with the semantics, “militia” continues as a go-to term. (USA Today: Oregon militia takeover…

Michael Cervieri

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