Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Birds in Town

They're little yellow finches
With a height of just 2 inches.

I saw one hopping around
A lady was trying
To make it stay.
The bird kept flying
Ahead, away.

Perhaps she thought it would make a good pet.
Perhaps it would. But it's wild yet.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I don't know much about Katie Couric. I don't watch enough TV. But CBS's Photoshop Diet Plan was uncalled for.

She didn't need to lose those pounds.
What's wrong with being a little round?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Senator Santa

A lot of companies have a Secret Santa game. You get gifts and you're not even sure who gave them to you. Eventually, you do find out.

The U.S. has a Secret Senator game. Senators tuck little "earmark" gifts into spending bills, and it seems like it's pretty hard to find out who sponsored what. It almost looks like senators are doing favors for people and keeping it all hush-hush.

There's a bill in the Senate that would render this process more transparent. But it can't be voted on yet. Why? Because it's been put on hold at the request of a senator. Which one? No one knows! It's an official secret!

These secrecy rules
Play us for fools.

Monday, August 28, 2006

All right, now we know. John Karr is not just creepy. He's a big liar too.

They ran his DNA.
He didn't kill JonBenet.

Please, just send him away.
I'm tired of seeing his creepy face
Plastered all over the place!
I did the Chicago Triathlon today.

When swimming in open water, I have a tendency to veer to the right. Having veered one way, I had to veer back the other. Repeatedly.

By the time I'm done, I get the extra benefit of exercising even more than required!

Lake Michigan
Is poorly designed.
Its bottom contains
No clear black lines.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Book Nominations Requested

Tomorrow morning, quite early, I have to drive downtown and wheel my bicycle and stuff to an aluminum rack on the lakefront. Thousands will be doing the same. Then we all have to leave the heavily-guarded corral by around 6 a.m.

Three hours later, I get to jump in the lake and start my swim.

So the question is, what to I do with those three hours? A nap would be logical. But I fear pre-race jitters will make this difficult.

Perhaps I need a really boring book -
One that will knock me out with just one look.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Needle Nosed Fliers

Good news, amigos!
I'm banning mosquitos.

No longer are they allowed
To form in a bloodsucking cloud.

No more shall they prey upon millions
Of innocent, juicy, civilians.

Begone, I say.
Hey - they're flying my way!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Live from the Harold Washington Library

I work across the street from Chicago's central library, and most days I spend about half of my lunch hour there. It's a "love it or hate it" building, of striking appearance and odd internal organization that baffles the first-time visitor.

From the outside
This library looks scary.
Gargoyle owls
Stare down from their aerie.

When you step inside
You feel confused.
You wonder whether
The architect snoozed.

But once you find
Those lovely books
You grab a few
And settle in a nook.

Your thoughts can fly
On their airy ways.
Be careful, or you'll
Stay all day!

Thanks to Ergo and Stolie for inspiring this post!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Serious Prisoner Abuse

Many years ago I read a book about the Spanish conquest of Mexico by a man who was there - Bernal Diaz del Castillo. In the book he vividly describes the Aztec upper class as eating captured Spanish prisoners.

But some people always figured he was lying, exaggerating, and generally trying to justify the conquistadors' obliteration of Aztec culture.

Hard evidence was lacking, but has now turned up. The hard evidence consists of human bones with knife marks and teeth marks.
"It was a continuous sacrifice over six months. While the prisoners were listening to their companions being sacrificed, the next ones were being selected," Martinez said, standing in his lab amid boxes of bones, some of young children.
It helps explain why the Spanish
Wanted this culture to vanish.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Overwhelmed by the Noumenal Realm

I was glancing into Timothy Steele's book about modern poetry at the library today, and I was struck by this passage:
Here it should be noted that the Kantian division of phenomena from noumena has had the effect of leading many poets to a concern with expressing the inexpressible. Extreme examples of this concern may be seen in the "sound poetry" of the Dadaists... Composition of this type does not refer to the phenomenal world, but is devoted wholly to noumenal essence.
Poems about
the inexpressable

Even when shouted
at high decibels

Tend to come out

Monday, August 21, 2006

Business Class To Jail Cell

The case of JonBenet
Goes deeper into weird
Than even I had feared.

Perplexing Wanderers

Astronomers appear torn on what to do with the definition of "planet." The issue is raised by the discovery of a lot of little Pluto-like spheres in orbits past Pluto. It seems they must decide between:

a) all these little Pluto-like things are planets, including Pluto, naturally, but also including Pluto's moon, Charon. The number of planets jumps dramatically from 9 to lots more, with more to be discovered shortly.

b) they aren't exactly planets, they're dwarf planets, or "plutons" or something. The number of true planets drops from 9 to 8.

Either way, expect some major textbook revision!

Where shall they draw the line?
When it comes time to define
And everyone has voted
Will Pluto be demoted?

By the way, depending on how they decide, this guy is going to be either very busy, or very embarassed.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Busta Rhymes Arrested

Busta Rhymes, noted rapper, has been arrested on assault charges.

No real details are available yet.

But I think it's clear he musta
Decided it was time
To just let loose and busta
Face instead of a rhyme.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

On the Trail

I spent part of my afternoon on a funny bike trail that runs between parallel canals, one defunct, one still in use. What's more, a river also runs parallel to the 2 canals. You can see this odd arrangement here.

The bike path is on the old towpath - where mules once walked alongside the canal, pulling the barges by long ropes.

The little strip has a "land that time forgot" feeling, and you can almost imagine the mules digging their hooves into the ground to heave that barge forward.

A fan of industrial history,
I find it oddly cool
To pedal along a path
Designed for mules.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Andrew Young is a notable guy, civil rights leader, former mayor of Atlanta, former ambassador to the UN. WalMart hired him to burnish its image among American blacks.

But in the process of defending WalMart, he slammed mom-and-pop stores because:

"...those are the people who have been overcharging us selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."

WalMart hired Andrew Young
So its praises could be sung
To the black community.

His thoughts were out-of-tunity.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Belief Systems in Foxholes

You've heard it said that there are no atheists in foxholes. But according to a recent Newsweek article: increasingly vocal group of activists and soldiers—atheist soldiers—disagrees. "It's a denial of our contributions," says Master Sgt. Kathleen Johnson, who founded the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and who will be deployed to Iraq this fall. "A lot of people manage to serve without having to call on a higher power."

I found this part of the story strangely moving: atheist symbol, which resembles an atom, is among the dozens of "approved emblems of belief" that can appear on the headstones of fallen soldiers in military cemeteries.
With no belief in paradise,
They risk their lives with open eyes,
And do not waver.

Who is braver?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Nightcrawlers For Sale Once Again

A few days ago I blogged about the Connecticut boy who was selling nightcrawlers that he dug up in his back yard. The local planning and zoning commission had sent him a letter telling him to stop, since his back yard wasn't zoned for commercial use.

This story was just a curiosity here in Chicago, one of those news items that makes you shake your head as you click on the next story.

But it was big news in the local area in Connecticut - front page news. And today the news is good.
In a unanimous vote, the commission rescinded what some members said was an "unauthorized" July letter sent to Joey that told him to close down his night crawlers business - an action that triggered international outrage against the order and support for the young entrepreneur.

The backlash also prompted finger pointing among town officials who blamed each other for the black eye given the town's reputation.
A lot of angry people showed up at a special meeting Tuesday night. Sounds like New England style democracy at work.
"I'm excited," Joey said after the meeting. He headed home to put up the 18-by-18-inch sign, "NITE CRAWLERS," that drew town officials' attention to his worm business on Washington Road in the first place.
Worms turned.
Officials burned.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In The Name Of Humanity

Consider this quote from a politician in the news:

"I admit to being human and making that error."

What error did she make? Well, she is, er, was, the attorney general of New Jersey, and she reportedly pulled some strings to help out her boyfriend when he was caught driving on a suspended license.

Okay. Personal corruption is in evidence, but it's at least understandable, since it's her boyfriend.

But what is this nonsense about admitting to being human? Did somebody imagine she was something else? Isn't being human a prerequisite for holding office in New Jersey?

Then again,
Based on this report from WWN,
Some politicians may be from space
And members of an alien race.

Written On An Inspiron

Perhaps the plane blower-uppers would find it satisfactory
Just to get onboard with a Dell battery.

Mine, so far, has not
Gotten quite this hot.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Anna Evans' "Not A Sonnet"

Recently I read Anna Evans' chapbook of poems, Swimming. A lot of her poems are available online, but my favorite, "Not A Sonnet," was not.

It's set up as a dialog between the poet and her lover - a dialog about whether their conversation properly constitutes a sonnet.

Here's the 2nd quatrain. I've color coded the speakers' parts. His are blue, hers purple.

Aren't all sonnets meant to be about
love? you said. This isn't, so it's not
a sonnet. -You're in it, I pointed out,
and we're in love.
You said, Oh, I forgot.

In the 3rd quatrain she accuses him of being a philistine, suggesting, tongue in cheek, their love is doomed.

Then it twists home in the final couplet:

Well you're a geek, you said, but I would miss you.
And that is where I stopped the verse to kiss you.

I've seen sonnets before where the sonnet is about the process of writing a sonnet. Contemporary art loves self-contemplation. But this was a lot more interesting, particularly because of the dramatic tension between the two lovers.

A dialog in hot pursuit
Of sonnet form -
It's clever and cute
With hints of storm.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stone Comes In Third

Will Farrell's comedy, Talladega Nights, finished ahead of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center in weekend box office receipts.

As a matter of fact, the new Disney dance movie, Step Up, finished ahead of World Trade Center as well.

But don't feel bad for Stone. It was "the best weekend debut ever" for one of his movies.

I reason thus:
That most of us
Are getting enough
Terror stuff
Whenever we choose
To watch the news.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

American Yard

I've been reading American Yard, a book of poems by Dolores Hayden. I especially liked the poems about child-rearing. Consider the opening of Postpartum Pantoum:

We used the diapers up three days too soon.
She's wet five outfits and the bottom sheet.
I brushed my teeth at one this afternoon.
Our childbirth class was rather incomplete.

I really like that. It set me to wondering - how did anyone cope with babies before there were childbirth classes? For instance, how did my mother cope with me when I appeared fifty four years ago to the day?

I guess back then it was normal
For the teaching to be quite informal.

Zoned Out

The town of Cromwell, in Connecticut, has moved to stop a 13 year old boy from selling nightcrawlers from his yard - as bait.

You see, his yard isn't zoned for commercial enterprises.

The boy's dad is mad.
The worms are real glad.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bombers Busted

Scrappleface has a parody news story in which a panel is formed to ask "Why Do They Hate Airplanes?"

The joke, of course, is that it's not really about planes.

But I wonder if maybe they do hate planes, as well as us.

Vandals set their sights
On spectacular damage
To bring down the heights.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fashion Bashin'

The Devil wears Prada.
Sharp tongued and done up so smart.
In her heart, nada.

Or, is there? I'm not a bit Streep fan, but I enjoyed her performance. Her fashion-editor character is deeply flawed, but when she's on the screen the sparks fly.

Usually I have zero interest in fashion, but this movie made it look fun, in a high-stakes sort of way.

Warning: moral of movie is muddled!
I was a bit befuddled.

Office of the Independent Poet

The Office of the Independent Blogger (love that name) has finally added a poetry section. I haven't read them all, but I like the first one, The Owl, which reads more like song lyrics than a poem. Here's a few lines from it:

Deal with things like an owl would
Deal with things as an owl would
Take the rat by the tail
Take rats by their tail
And when they wail, just

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bashing Non-Attachment

You are attached to something; then it's lost.
You feel as if a part of you is gone,
And in your grief, you feel as if the cost
Was just too high; you grasp at the false dawn

Of letting go of everything you love -
Except a vague compassion felt for all.
You stick your hand inside a non-stick glove,
Wary of falling back into life's thrall.

You do good deeds, you meditate at length,
Reminding yourself that nothing really matters.
As time goes on, you feel you lack the strength
To concentrate - your mental focus scatters.

So are you are truly the enlightened one,
Or more like an unduly frightened one?

Ozick Kicks

Choriamb, the best source for poetry news in the universe, quotes this amusing opening from Cynthia Ozick, written in retaliation for a negative review:
Stuck-up prose gets up your nose
Edge is what the wise guy knows.
What’s new is true, the rest is quaint.
What Trilling was is what you ain’t.
Nice job, Cynthia.
Who could put it pithier?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Case of the Missing Train Track

Years ago I heard that our local commuter railroad used to take a different route. Recently I verified that story, and got a look at the map of the old route in this book. So I went on a bicycle ride, looking for traces of the old track route.

Among the few signs I could find:

1) A curve to the current track where the old route took a big turn.

2) Victorian houses - early builders - positioned near a long-gone train station.

The funny thing is, I had wondered about that curve, and wondered about that cluster of Victorians.

That track was erased
With barely a trace,
But the residue
Kept a few clues.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Reuters Photoshopping

A photographer who takes pictures for Reuters has been caught photoshopping - to make bigger smoke clouds over Beirut, and to add some damaged buildings. You can see the photo in "after and before" versions here.

The photographer, Adnan Hajj, has been suspended.

I hope, during this time off, he takes a class in Photoshop. He's not very good at it.

If you must fake it,
Please try to make
Your special effects
Hard to detect.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

South Shore Triathlon

I did a low mileage triathlon this morning. I need to remind myself to do that kind. Competitively I do better at those. My muscles must lean toward the fast-twitch side.

It was at the 63rd St. Beach. Gorgeous day. The water was tranquil - and warm by Lake Michigan standards, so I went without a wetsuit.

I place much better when a race is of certain sort:
Real short.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Laser Tag

Here's an article about how our infantry uses laser tag in training.

My favorite quote: "All this revolutionized infantry training, because now new troops quickly learned to take cover. Instructors with combat experience have always struggled to get this extremely important point across to their trainees."

I've heard before that your first few days of combat are among your most dangerous, for exactly this reason.

At first it's hard to keep in mind
That you need something to hide behind.


Use floss
Above and beneath.

Prevent the loss
Of teeth.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hard to Escape

I've put away my books on Muhammad and the Koran, and I'm back to reading a book of poetry - Belonging, by Dick Davis. It turns out that he's a professor of Persian literature at Ohio State.

My favorite of his poems, so far, is In the Restaurant. As it opens, it describes an older woman, a "queen in exile" who rules over an extended family at a lively restaurant meal. The poet says she seems to embody "all that's customary, tribal, stable."

Then he gives you the background:

'Who, seeing this plump matriarch, could guess

That thirty years ago she'd risked her life

To cross Beirut's bomb-cratered no man's land,

Defying anguished parents, to say "Yes"

And be an unbeliever's outcast wife,

Careless of who'd condemn or understand?'

I love that.

Amusingly, we are brought back to matters Islamic.

I meant to put it behind me,
But here is this poem to remind me.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Tonight I led a lively discussion of the Qur'an, and then caught the tail end of a lovely concert by Cristina Branco.

But I want to tell you about something I encountered while walking across the Loop, between the 2 events.

I encountered a bat, a brown one, flapping about on Madison St. It seemed to be flying along with me while I walked. This is not a typical downtown experience. I don't think I've ever been so close to a live, loose bat before. I began to wonder if it was sick.

It had rabies!
So, being a chicken
I let my pace quicken.
And that was the last
I saw of the bat.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Inhumane Society

50,000 dogs were recently clubbed to death in China, in one particular province.

It seems that 3 people had recently died of rabies, and most dogs aren't vaccinated for rabies, so the solution was simple:

"Dogs being walked were seized from their owners and beaten to death on the spot, the Shanghai Daily newspaper reported. Led by the county police chief, killing teams entered villages at night creating noise to get dogs barking, then beat the animals to death, the reports said."

Thus, man's best friend
Met an untimely end.