David Bouchier

Commentator

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost twenty years. After coming to the United States in 1986 he continued to teach and to publish a regular humor column in The New York Times regional edition.  He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996. His latest book of essays, Peripheral Vision, was published in 2011. His other books include A Few Well Chosen Words, The Song of Suburbia, The Cats and the Water Bottles, The Accidental Immigrant and Writer at Work. He lives in Stony Brook, New York, with his wife who is a professor at Stony Brook University, and two un-musical cats.

Courtesy of Pixabay

Our old television set faded away and died. Its replacement was lighter, sleeker, and even cheaper, but that was the end of the good news. The back panel presented us with a baffling array of about ten different connections with incomprehensible labels. The so-called instruction book consisted of half a dozen pages of flimsy paper, almost entirely safety warnings, with a couple of Zen-like mystical diagrams that could have been anything. The sketchy website instructions were obviously composed by a man of few words, very few of them English.

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Once again it’s Commencement season, bringing relief to thousands of parents and perhaps a certain feeling of anxiety to all those young graduates. What next? Suddenly the future is wide open. That’s what commencement means, the beginning of financial responsibility, real work, and all the other horrors of grown up life. It's a scary time for the graduates, comparable to going over the top in the trench warfare of World War I, and facing live enemy fire for the first time. That's why the graduate schools are full. It makes sense to put off the dangerous moment as long as possible.

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This happens every spring. Our quiet life in the suburbs becomes a total audio-visual experience. From my window I can see the signals that nature thoughtfully provides for anyone without a calendar. The daffodils are almost done, the trees are leafing out nicely, and the bird feeders are busy. But the background music is not bird song but the roar of machinery.

Courtesy of Pixabay

How could we live without our pharmacies? At any given moment of the year they tell us what we should be suffering from now, and what we should be worrying about next. So the modern pharmacy is quite a poignant metaphor of the human condition, surrounded as we are by invisible threats. Here, in a single boxlike structure, we find everything we want and everything we fear: good health and bad habits, religion and paganism; the promise of youth and beauty and the certainty of old age. As the cliché has it, all human life is there, and all human weaknesses too.

The Chinese leaders have been studying George Orwell again. They have devised a new plan for what they call “social credit,” which will be a kind of ranking by good or bad behavior. Citizens with good social credit will receive privileges like better jobs, access to travel visas, and cheaper insurance. Those with bad social credit will get a much less agreeable experience. How will the Chinese government know who’s naughty and who’s nice? By monitoring their internet use.

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