David Bouchier


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.

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Summer reading is one of those traditional pleasures, like family fun, that exists largely in the realm of fantasy. About a quarter of all American adults claim not to have read even a single book in the past year. But that leaves 75 percent who have read at least one, even if it was only The Art of the Deal.

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Memorial Day carries a heavy load of expectations. We are expected to think about the dead of past wars, and presumably future wars too, which is a noble thing to do but which leads to depressing reflections about human nature. We are expected to join in the retail extravaganza of Memorial Day sales, which has much the same effect. And we are expected, whatever the weather, to get in the mood for the outdoor life of summer.

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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.