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My Relatively Non-Dysfunctional Family

A picture from1962: My parents, myself
(the really cute baby in my mom’s arms),
and my three sibs---Robert, Ren and Toni.

My father was a Professor of Industrial Psychology at UCLA. He apparently did some ground-breaking work in organizational development, although I really don’t know much about it. If you’re interested, you can check out a book he wrote on that subject here. He died when I was only two, and thus I was raised by my mother, who was a wonderful mom and the source of great wisdom and love, as well as more than a patina of neurosis. Yes, she ended up raising four children by herself (ages 2-10 when she found herself alone), but as far as I know, none of us has ever been jailed. When I look around and see how overwhelmed my coupled friends are with one or two kids, I have trouble figuring out how she was able to do what she did.

My oldest brother Lawrence is a writer for The New Yorker Magazine. He writes extensively on art and politics, and has penned many fascinating portraits of people in those fields. I think his political writing is often excellent, though when he writes about modern art, I usually don’t know what the fuck he is talking about. In any case, you can look into some of his books below:

Boggs: A Comedy of Values (1999)

Calamities of Exile : Three Nonfiction Novellas (1998)

A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces (1998)

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder; Pronged Ants,
Horned Humans, Mice on Toast and Other Marvels...

A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts With Torturers (1992)

The Passion of Poland : From Solidarity Through the State of War (1985)

Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees:
A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin

My brother Robert has lived in Tokyo, Japan for the last 20 years, and is currently teaching American Studies at Kyoritsu University. He is fluent in Japanese, but is only a dubiously talented softball player. Life is tradeoffs. In any case, he has written many articles on language teaching issues, including this one.

My sister Toni lives in Seattle, and as also mentioned previously in this site, is one of the world’s greatest authorities on the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). You can read more about the book I wrote with her on that very subject by returning to Fertile Achievements, or you can go directly to the book by clicking here. You can also go to her own really cool web site, which will be here, as soon as she gets her act together and gets it up and running (But hey, no pressure on my part).

Ren, Robert, Toni and myself, sometime in the 1990s.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning my Grandfather, the noted Austrian-Jewish composer Ernst Toch, who among other things, won a Pulitzer Prize for his Third Symphony, and wrote a lot of weird atonal music that I find really, really unpleasant. Nevertheless, in certain circles, Toch is considered a towering figure, and in fact his classic text "The Shaping Forces of Music" is required reading for many unsuspecting music majors to this very day!

If you’d like to find out more about my much beloved Grandpapa, I suggest you check out the Ernst Toch Archive at UCLA, or browse through some of his recordings that are now available on the web. You can also read an interesting article that my brother wrote about him for The Atlantic Monthly, or, finally, you can peruse a letter that Toch himself wrote to a fledgling young composer in 1949, which, alas, probably drove this poor man into another career. It seems that good ’ol gramps had a bit to learn when it came to sensitivity, humility or tact….