out of place self portrait

The longer story

I was raised by two public school teachers and grew up outside Frederick, Maryland—then a more rural place than it is now. I studied philosophy, art history, and history at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. 

During my freshman year at Wesleyan, there was a series of unfortunate events… racial discord, vitriolic protests, the firebombing of the college president’s office, and, finally, the murder of a student activist.  Twenty years later, those experiences still linger in my mind.  I researched and started writing a book on the subject, but had to set it aside because of work demands. I may yet return to that story.

Fortunately, the rest of my college experience was mild and enlightening.  After graduating, I moved to Boston where I apprenticed in the book world as a research assistant on a project covering fifty years of African-American history and social progress.

I went on to work for many years in the overlapping worlds of think tanks, book publishing, journalism, and public policy. I spent several years at the Manhattan Institute in New York, eventually becoming the director of the Institute’s book program. I worked with authors, agents, publicists, reviewers, and both trade and academic publishers. In my own time, I published some freelance book reviews in the Wall Street Journal and some more obscure places.  I also ran an online literary magazine—called “The Occasional”—from 1999 until I became a government bureaucrat in 2002.
For seven years, I served on the senior staff of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  A small federal agency, NEH rarely gets the praise it deserves for supporting scholarship, education, preservation, and public programs in history, philosophy, archeology, art history, and all the disciplines of the humanities.  While at the NEH I was very fortunate to spend so much time immersed in these subjects.  It really was a graduate education for me (nearly as educational as the Johns Hopkins program I’m enrolled in now).

You could say I’ve learned a little bit about many things. I'm a rock star ninja generalist


ven as a generalist, there are some books and topics to which I’m especially drawn: history, architecture and art history, literary criticism, film, and music. I’m usually reading several books at a time, but one of them always deals with the history and culture of India—a nation of strong personal and intellectual interest to me.  Seven years working in D.C. cudgeled away a once-avid interest in politics, but I remain deeply interested in the competing ideas and values that drive political trends.  I’m also making slow, slow progress on a lifetime reading list of classics and a 500+ Netflix queue of films of varying quality. We are cord-cutters, so I’ve grown accustomed to streaming films and tv shows.

After I emerged from the government cocoon, I reacquainted myself with online publishing and explored the wild new media frontiers.  I have worked as a writer/researcher on the NewsTrust Baltimore project and, for about a year and a half, was producer of the TummelVision podcast. 

My greatest joy is spending time with my wife Geetanjali and our young daughter.