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Black Lamb


Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.


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Archive for the 'Ross' Category

The sexiness of spring & summer explained

April 1st, 2011


Women think men don’t talk to one another — or that they talk only about sports — but it’s not true! We talk. Talk all the time. Talk about this, talk about that. Even talk about panty hose.

horsehead.pngNot too often, but the subject does come up. And when it does, there isn’t a man jack of us who has a single good thing to say about ’em. At least I’ve never met one who didn’t prefer an old-fangled pair of stockings to panty hose, or, for that matter, who didn’t prefer bare legs to stockings.

Panty hose! Why, back when I was a boy, this loathsome article of clothing didn’t exist. Show me a man who isn’t nostalgic for those days of regular, old-fashioned stockings — the ones that stopped, deliciously, somewhere along the thigh, the ones that were held up by garter belts and those little rubber and metal contraptions — I say, show me a man who doesn’t wish those wonderful sheer leggings had never been replaced by the despicable one-piece nylon chastity belt, and I’ll show you a court eunuch.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Women Issue, Ross | Link to this Entry

The All-Men Issue

Four lessons for boys who want to become men

February 1st, 2011


Today I am a
man. On Monday I return
to the seventh grade.

— Jewish bar mitzvah haiku

For this All-Men Issue of Black Lamb, I received a typically various bunch of essays from our columnists. In our page 2 feature, Beren deMotier admits — no, affirms — how much more she began liking men once she had stopped dating them. On page 3 John M. Daniel narrates a young man’s rite of passage, a failed attempt to savor the masculine world of a would-be Jack Kerouac out On the Road. Dean Suess (p. 4) remembers his penitentiary days and the bizarre attempt of one fellow inmate to get in touch with his true manhood. On the same page, Benjamin Feliciano paints a partial yet affecting portrait of contemporary young men. Ed Goldberg (p. 5) reflects on the differences, real and imagined, between men and women, as does Toby Tompkins in his essay entitled What is a man? (p. 7). Elizabeth Fournier (p. 6) takes a page or two from her book on blind dating to describe some of the sorry slobs she encountered in her quest for true love. Greg Roberts urges men to get out and be hunters — literally or figuratively — if they hope to win fair maidens. A passage from Lorentz Lossius’s Turkey diaries (p. 6) shows us men of a culture different from ours in the West, and Dan Peterson recalls an Italian man among men.

All of these essays, with the exception of John’s and Ben’s, are, in a way, almost as much about women as about men. (We’ll have an All-Women Issue in April.) They consider men, and men’s abilities and responsibilities, in relation to women. Which makes perfect sense. But in my own essay below, speaking as man, I’ve chosen to focus on a few things that in the past fifty or sixty years, at least in America, have pertained chiefly to males, young and old.

Lesson No. 1: You’ve Gotta Be Tough.

Physically tough. Tough enough to take a jab in the nose or a whack on the ear and not cry. Tough enough to mix it up, lick the blood off your lip, and punch someone in the face. Tough enough to endure pain in order to administer pain. To make that crunching tackle on the football field, to use your elbows on the basketball court. To hold your place in line when people try to cut in. To hang onto your stuff when others want to take it.

Skinny and underweight? Tough titty. Suck it up, kid. I remember being a skinny and underweight boy and being in more or less perpetual low-level fear of bullies. In my fantasy world, I was a tough boxer; I used to lie on my bed manipulating toy soldiers and cowboys in extended punch-outs. But on the street and in school, it was a different story.

And it didn’t change very much once I got into high school, either. There, the sadistic physical education teachers seemed to get a kick out of trying to toughen up the boys, like me, who didn’t like sports where you’re always bumping into people: football and wrestling, especially. It wasn’t until I was out of high school that the daily anxiety disappeared, but even then there was always the background hum of violence: tough guys looking for trouble, angry people spoiling for a fight. As a male, you were expected to be able to hold your own, to want to hold your own.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Men Issue, Ross | Link to this Entry

American dreamer

The secret life of Louis Roslafsky

August 1st, 2010


I didn’t know my Grandpa Louie… really know him. My brothers and sister didn’t know him, either. I’m not sure his own son, my father, knew him.

roslafskylouiscolor.pngLouis Ross (born Roslafsky) mingled in our lives as a kind of forgotten man, an old widower with broken English (despite fifty years in America) and a whistling hearing aid. A retired baker when he moved from Buffalo, N.Y. to be near us in northern California in 1961, he drove first a ’53 Buick my father found for him, a spiffy straight-eight which he used to ferry old ladies to shul, only the tops of their gray heads visible. When the Buick finally died, he drove a ’67 Chevy sedan; a 1972 registration card was among the sparse effects he left behind when he died, in 1974, aged eighty, in a nursing home.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ross | Link to this Entry

A regrettable decision

April 1st, 2010


This is the saddest story I have ever heard.

A couple of years ago a close friend of mine, who was moving from one state to another, did a very strange thing. For reasons that I’ve never understood, he decided to get rid of most of stineshelfofbooksorderly.pnghis books, a library of around 1,700 volumes, almost entirely “literary” and carefully collected over a forty-year period. He said it would make the moving easier. In about a month, he parted with more than 1,200 books. He has regretted it ever since.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ross | Link to this Entry

Do inquiring minds want to know?

What one curious person discovered about global warming

February 1st, 2010


When I was in my early teens I used to read — devour, really — the magazine Scientific American. There was no doubt in my mind that I would one day become a scientist. Along with four or five like-minded classmates, I even got to be on a TV panel show discussing science with a science teacher. No one saw the show except our families, because it was on the educational station, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

churchofglobalwarming.pngNone of the kids who were on that show became scientists. Somewhere along the line I shifted my allegiance to the humanities and let science make its way without me, but over the past few years I’ve re-subscribed to Scientific American, and each month I dutifully try to plow through the articles. Cosmology always attracts me, even when I bump up against my mind’s inability to imagine, for example, a curved universe. I can follow some of the medical stuff, and I do my best with everything else.

This is all by way of prelude to my saying that if I’m not a scientist in any sense of the word, I am still interested in things scientific. Which has led me recently to the subject of global warming. I’ve done my best to read up on the subject, in hopes of discovering whether the predictions of virtually imminent catastrophe are something I should be worrying about, and I’ve made a few discoveries.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ross | Link to this Entry

California dreaming

Cultures clash in the land of plenty.

May 1st, 2007

hearstcastle-copy.jpgBY TERRY ROSS

Even when you’ve made up your mind to relax and take your mind off the workaday world, when you want nothing more challenging than a nice view, good meals, and no alarm clock — in short, when you go on vacation — the world and its issues have a way of insinuating themselves.

The road trip to Los Angeles that Cervine and I made just after Christmas seemed like it would be about as weighty as an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. On our itinerary were stops at Hearst Castle, sightseeing in Santa Barbara and Ojai, meanderings in Hollywood, a visit to the Huntington complex in Pasadena with a tour of the (Procter &) Gamble house, as well as a detour south to see the Queen Mary and, finally, a ramble round J. Paul Getty’s villa in Malibu.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ross | Link to this Entry

The All Marriage Issue

Including a modest proposal

April 1st, 2007


This issue of Black Lamb, among all the so-called “themed” issues that we’ve published — All Movies, All Mother, All Father, etc. — has inspired the most heartfelt reaction among this magazine’s writers. As editor, I expected the subject of marriage to give everyone, whether they had been married or not, something to write about. But I couldn’t have predicted the variety and depth of what came in.

When I sat down, however, to write something about marriage, a subject I’d never tackled before, I understood. To write about marriage, whatever one’s opinion of it as an institution, is to write about love. And to write about one’s own marriage(s), as many of the Black Lamb writers did, is to write about one’s own need for love, one’s ability to love, or one’s failure to understand love. It’s a damned touchy and perilous undertaking, which I suppose explains my own reluctance to have taken it on before I blithely declared it the topic for this month’s issue.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Ross | Link to this Entry

The All-Smoking & Drinking Issue

Including a plea to remember the pleasure of our vices

November 1st, 2006


rosssmokinganddrinking.jpgUnlike Black Lamb contributor Dan Peterson (p. 5), I am not one of the least qualified people on the planet to talk about smoking and drinking. Nor am I as overqualified as Ed Goldberg (p. 3), who began smoking and drinking at a tender age, or as Dan Ferrandino (p. 6), whose drinking got the better of him until he gave it up.

By the same token, I am perhaps better qualified than some of the writers in this All-Smoking & Drinking Issue. Unlike, for example, Gillian Wilce (p. 4), I have smoked to excess, and although I gave up cigarettes some time ago, I still enjoy an occasional pipe or cigar. Unlike Cervine Kauffman (p. 11), I have in my time drunk to excess, and I look forward to occasionally doing so in the future.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Smoking & Drinking Issue, Ross | Link to this Entry

The All-Television Issue

Was there (is there) a Golden Age for the Tube?

March 1st, 2006


A few months ago, in late autumn, when I passed along to the Black Lamb contributors the subjects for the special themed issues of 2006, I received not a few queries, from both writers and subscribers, as to how these themes are chosen. The universal supposition seemed to be that I, as editor, selected the topics based entirely on my own interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

television.jpgIn fact, the process of choosing the subject of, for example, this All-Television Issue, as well as all the other themed issues, is complex and communal. With a long list compiled from the suggestions of Black Lamb staff members and readers, a group of us sit around a table in the conference room at Black Lamb Towers, fortified by snacks and strong beverages, and thrash out the annual schedule of six subject-oriented issues. My own preferences play a small part in the decision-making, as do those of our Managing Editor, Owen Alexander, whose suggestions are often dismissed outright, for inscrutable reasons. Otherwise, Black Lamb readers could look forward to an All-Mineral Issue, an All-Insurance Issue, an All-Real Estate Issue, and an All-Socialism Issue. Similarly rejected, for several years running, although strongly espoused by contributors Greg Roberts and Bud Gardner, has been an All-Fly Fishing Issue. Interior Decorating, Vegetarianism, Social Work, The Stock Market, and Rock Music have met the same fate, despite their adherents. In the end, we come up with subjects that a majority of Black Lamb’s contributors might reasonably be expected to have something to say about.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Television Issue, Ross | Link to this Entry

The All Christmas Issue

... including one Christmas at the railroad

December 1st, 2004

railroad.jpgBY TERRY ROSS

For this special end-of-the-year issue, the Black Lamb writers were asked to write on the subject of Christmas, and they responded eagerly. Everyone, it seems, has a Christmas story to tell, even those who don’t celebrate it.

Not all the stories are happy ones, but taken together they give a pretty rounded (and vivid) picture of the meaning of this holiday. You’ll find Christmas in prison (Dean Seuss), Christmas in Norway (Lorentz Lossius), Christmas for Jews (Michele Gendelman, Ed Goldberg, and Joel Hess), Christmas in a monastery (Fr. Jeremy Driscoll), Christmas overseas in the military (Alan Albright), and many another nostaligic, hilarious, or woeful tale of Christmases past and present. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

My own Christmas story comes from an incident that occurred thirty-seven years ago:
Christmas Day, 1967.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Christmas Issue, Ross | Link to this Entry

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