Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Be It Resolved

If I were the govenment,
my New Year's resolution
would be to just stop bailing out
these failing institutions.

It's not that I like failure.
Really, I prefer success.
But I hate lending a helping wallet
under duress.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Defiant Appointment

We have a new Senator, sort of, from Illinois. Blago has chosen Roland Burris, an Illinois politician of African American background. 

The Senate Democratic Caucus claims they won't give Burris a seat. But by law they may be forced to seat him anyway.

Burris would actually be the 6th black U.S. Senator. The first 3 were Republicans. It's nice to see the Democrats finally catching up!

Still I doubt that busloads of tourists
will flock to see the birthplace of Burris.

Monday, December 29, 2008

More on the "Magic Negro" Story

I had forgotten that it was an L.A. Times opinion piece that started the characterization of Obama as a "Magic Negro."

But the piece was by an African American author, so use of the word "negro" was okay. I know of his racial identification because he spelled it out:
Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial "credentials" being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.
I dream of a day when we won't be so deferential
to racial credentials.

The Impending End Of Everything

My friend homeschools. In part, to protect her daughters from doomsayers of all stripes. But, homeschooled children actually get out and about quite a bit. So my friend still ends up having to comfort a frightened child.

The old way was to tell the kids that they would go to hell some day.

The new way is to tell the kids that global warming's here to stay,
and everyone will boil to death before the next few years are out.

They pour their fear in children's ears.  It makes me mad enough to shout.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Man Upstairs

How would you like to find out that you have an unknown someone secretly living in your house for several days, stealing your food and clothing?

It happened to a family in Pennsylvania.

If your food is disappearing in a pattern that's erratic,
check your attic.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not So Magical

One of the Republican Party's best-known operatives is under fire for distributing a CD containing the spoof song "Barack the Magic Negro" as part of a campaign to be elected chairman of the Republican National Committee.
It's sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon".

Wikipedia has a definition for "Magic Negro":
...a supporting, often mystical stock character in fiction who, by use of special insight or powers, helps the white protagonist get out of trouble.
Notice that the definition specifies a supporting character, which pretty much rules out Obama in advance, since he's clearly in a lead role!

Wikipedia goes on to note that the word "negro" is "now considered by many as archaic and offensive".

From English it's practically vanished,
but a word that's spelled the same persists in Spanish.

Without it, Spanish speakers would lack
their everyday word for the color black.

Obama Loses Power

Electric power, that is.
The island of Oahu lost power during heavy rain and lightning, blacking out the population of some 800,000 people and thousands of tourists including vacationing President-elect Barack Obama.
Hey, doesn't protocol require that you capitalize the "Elect" part of his title?

Also, are we already paying him a salary? Is this a paid vacation?

And why doesn't the Secret Service have generators on hand? Do they at least have flashlights?

And do they, or don't they, have a submacopter on hand to help him escape in case of another enemy attack on Oahu?

With a submacopter, 
with a nuclear power supply,
he could chill out underwater,
or be audacious and fly.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Love of Country

Joel Stein says:
I've come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn't love.
Still, he thinks the conservatives are just being tribalistic. But I'm guessing that he's trying to get a rise out of fellow liberals, because he ends like this:
I'm the type who always wonders if some other idea or place or system is better and I'm missing out. And, as I figured out shortly after meeting my wife, that is no way to love.
Will he get down on a knee, and sing,
"Oh say can you see", and offer a ring
to the land that he loves, and claim that his thing
for Sweden was merely a meaningless fling?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rather Too Paternal

Anurag Wadehra does a retrospective dissection of "Libertarian Paternalism":
The slippery concept they introduce is called "choice architecture" - which begs the question who controls the "architecture". The authors believe government should improve upon choices they offer, without questioning whether these should even be in government's hands in the first place.
Always reflect
before you select
an architect.

Especially one who will judge
when you are in need of a nudge
to do what's correct.

Wadehra observes:
By the year end, we have come far from the civil, nudging debate of the summer. Now, the government is moving aggressively to control the financial industry, bail out the auto industry and inject massive fiscal and monetary stimuli in the economy. Sadly, it is evident that the paper-thin concept of nudge is no defense against the do-gooders who are out to do good with a shove.
I dislike "brotherly love"
that arrives by way of a shove.

Try This At Home

"Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly."

As some of you may already know, she's doing it at home. That's what the AP article is about - homebrew genetic tinkerers.

With Meredith involved, 
I expect more problems solved.
Progress should be frenetic
in matters genetic.


Curious cat, for better or worse,
discovers door to alternate universe.

Christmas Reminiscing

I was in choir, and we would sing at Midnight Mass, which was always great fun because we got to sing carols as well as the normal parts of the mass like the "Kyrie." Then I would come home and help my mother put gifts under the tree for my younger brothers and sisters. Sometimes I would help my father do the "some assembly required" thing - which usually led to him cursing at the cryptic instructions.

I always liked the story of Christmas better than the story of Easter. Christmas is a story about being happy about a baby being born. Easter is a story of grisly death and mysterious resurrection. 

I found the baby thing easier to relate to.

New babies appear
with great regularity.

Resurrections, it's clear,
are more of a rarity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Think Journal Debuts

The debut issue of Think Journal is out. It's actually a small literary magazine, with poems, some fiction, and some articles. The founder is Christine Yurick, who seems full of energy. 

The journal doesn't seem to have much web presence yet, although it has a listing on this page.

I've got an article in it, "A Poem, To Be, Must Mean."

By titling this way I mean to disagree
with a famous work of poetry
which concludes "a poem should not mean, but be."
Here's an article claiming to present "Obama's Five Rules of Scandal Response."

Wow. It's good he's worked out rules so quickly. Because if cascading scandals appear, he's ready!

But I want to look at just the first one: "Be transparent, to an extent."

So, to an extent transparent, and to an extent... the opposite.

Is it half transparent,
or half opaque?

It's not apparent
what difference it makes.


Daughter's flight, which was due at seven
still wasn't here at half past eleven.

It finally got here at half past one,
but our waiting wasn't done.

Her baggage took an hour to appear.
Finally, now, at last, she's here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Maybe They Should Hire Me

The President Elect's staff has produced a report  [pdf] exonerating itself of unseemly involvement with the radioactive Blagojevich.

But - there is a typo in the report! On the first line of page 3, you will see "Valarie Jarrett."  Elsewhere it is correctly spelled "Valerie."

How could they mess up the spelling of Valerie?
Take away the editor's salary!

I don't know what their editor makes,
but I do catch most of my own misteaks.

Lot's Wife

I was re-admiring a poem by Anna Akhmatova today - "Lot's Wife". 

Lot's wife is the woman who was turned into stone for looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah.

I don't read Russian, so I cannot vouch for accuracy, but I like this version, which ends like this:
Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.
I wonder if this reflects a hesitation about the revolutionary impulse, which asks us all to disregard the past, disregard mere individuals, and keep eyes locked forward toward an imagined future.

They tell you "look ahead" -
that "nothing lasts".

But it's hard to forget
the beauties of one's past.

Monday, December 22, 2008


First Sarah Palin fielded a phone call from the President of France. Only it wasn't.

Then the New York Times ran a letter from the Mayor of Paris. Only it wasn't.

If they claim to be French, and sound officious,
be suspicious.

Speeding Camera Humor

Hey kids, here's a funny gag. Print fake license plates from your computer, and speed by some speeding-ticket cameras.

For extra fun, use the license numbers of people you know!

Of course it won't be funny,
when it happens to me
and the state demands its money
for "my" speeding spree.


We saw Cold on its closing night at Dream Theatre.

I'm hoping it will be one of those seasonal favorites that get remounted every year, because I'd be glad to see it again. It's a short play, just an actor and an actress. The part for the actress is wildly expressive - an extreme extrovert - and Courtney Arnett took the role at full speed with stunning energy. Jeremy Menekseoglu, the playwright, was also the actor. He plays an intense introvert, and was very funny in a bit where he realizes that she has taken him to a predominantly gay party.

Despite the show's title, it was a heartwarming show, a kind of comedy, even romantic. People left the play smiling. As one synopsis has it:
...two people who always spend Christmas alone manage to find each other...
Yes, there are reasons they always spend Christmas alone. Let's just say they are humorous, but very troubled individuals.

But somehow they seem well-suited
and overdue to get their lives rebooted.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chilly in Chicago

I suppose it's the longest day of the year somewhere else. Happy first day of summer to all you southern hemisphere people!

Well, the shortest day of the year
is a subzero one here.

For you international types, that's subzero F, which is rather cooler than subzero C.

I suppose there's no need to say
there never will be a subzero K.

Department of Duh

I've been a fan of Chicago's Dream Theatre Company for years, but I never really thought about their titular typography until today.

On their web page you will see that "DREAM" is spelled with a reversed R.

Today it dawned on me. The company was started in Moscow

The Russians have that letter, ya, that looks like a reversed R.

At last I have detected
what should have been suspected
but somehow got neglected.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Harvard researchers find that pain hurts more if you think someone meant to hurt you.

Banging your shin on the coffee table
somehow hurts less than a kick from Aunt Mabel.

We are born to apprehend
what others intend.

And our senses of pleasure and pain
get measured out by the brain.

Why the Wait?

Caroline is one of the anointed.
Now it's time to get her appointed
to the U.S. Senate.

She's our closest thing to royalty,
so let's show a little loyalty,
and send her there this minute!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not So Pacific

Yoichi Shimamoto, and his wife, are suing United Airlines for giving him too much to drink.

While traveling high above the Pacific, he got drunk and struck her 6 times. Leading to legal trouble. Leading to this lawsuit.
The Shimamotos want United to pick up the $100,000 tab for Yoichi Shimamoto's bail, and defense and Immigration attorneys' fees, as well as the costs they incurred to have his probationary sentence transferred to Florida, where his wife had a home. They also want the airline to pay for pain, suffering, loss of income and "any other relief that is just and proper."
I think bad-tempered boozers
should finish as legal losers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just To Be Clear

Bush explains:
"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system..."
Let's have a free market without the "free",
frozen in motion, static,
sealed with a government guarantee -
not practical, but... pragmatic.

Jobs For Spouses

AP is reporting that our governor purposely withheld a state job from the wife of Jesse Jackson Jr.:
Blagojevich went out of his way to say, 'You know I was considering your wife for the lottery job and the $25,000 you didn't give me? That's why she's not getting the job.'
Oh no, 
that sounds so 
quid pro quo!

"Quid pro quo" is just "this for that" in the dead language of a fallen empire. But it remains important! 

Because if you're governor and you just happen to give a job to a contributor's wife, that's one thing. 

But if you give her a job in return for her husband's campaign contributions, that's another.

It's all about intent.
Was the hiring meant
as reward for money sent?

No Inappropriate Contact

"Obama says review found staff had no ‘inappropriate' contact with Ill. governor"

They need to re-think the wording on that one. It's making me think of a certain South Park episode.

Words that are strangely abstract
stray from foundations in fact.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Black SUVs All In A Row

I got to look down on Obama's motorcade today. He drove by under my window. I spotted the "flipped-up rear window" SUV at the end of the line, where some heavily armed guys ride with their fingers near the triggers.

Eyes watch out the back
ready to counter-attack.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In The Plaintive Mode

He desired the joy
of being rich.

He devised a ploy,
but hit a hitch.

Someone in his employ
became a snitch.

Weep, Illinois,
for Blagojevich!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Apparently more Americans believe in the Devil than believe in Evolution.

Speaking off the level,
I believe the Devil
invented evolution
as an "evil contribution".

Also, he figured it would be a hellacious vexation
to all who believe in the 7 days of creation.

Deal Or No Deal?

Ah. So Obama said he was confident that his staff had done no "dealmaking" with Blagojevich.

But his chief of staff gave Blago a list of candidates who were "acceptable" to Obama.

It's on tape.
One source confirmed that communications between Emanuel and the Blagojevich administration were captured on court-approved wiretaps.
Blago went on to blast the man and bemoan
that Obama offered "appreciation" alone.

Meanwhile, our Illinois Attorney General went before the Illinois Supreme Court, trying to get the Gov declare "disabled." But it doesn't seem to have gone especially well.

One of the justices asked whether the Gov's problems really fit what the Illinois Constitution meant by "disabled." Our Attorney General answered:
I think the question you're getting at is, how is disability or is disability defined correct? And so yes, we did. It's addressed in our briefs. We would look to the fact that the term disability legally is very broad, that it is not simply isolated to a physical or mental disability. And you can read all about that in our pleadings. Yes.
I'm not sure what sort of disability is left after disposing of the "physical or mental". 

After disposing of body and mind,
there's not much Blago left to find.

Mandible Strike Speed Record

Researchers using high-speed cameras have found that:
The Panamanian termite's chomp-down is the fastest "mandible strike" recorded. The termites have to employ such a speedy strike to defend themselves, because their small size makes it harder to generate enough force to inflict damage on a foe.
But be careful about inviting them to your house for a demonstration.

Would they like a bite of wood?
Yes. They say the flavor's good!

Would they like a little more?
Oops, there goes your bedroom floor!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Arrested In New York

Ponzi schemes are a form of financial fraud
and are therefore outlawed.

But here's a guy who blew about 50 billion.
Now he's embarrassed - his face has turned vermillion.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


In the winter, in my basement,
there is whistling - vague and ghostly.

It drifts into my daydreams,
but when I listen closely
the tune dissolves like water
and wanders off morosely.

It's partly the brain seeking order.
But I blame the steam heat, mostly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blagojevich Who?

Boy, a lot of his old friends seem to have forgotten his name, as of today. Even though it's a hard name to forget!

Oh, I remember him, I mean
I really don't, nor have I seen
him - since the early Pleioscene.

Really, truly, my hands are clean!

The Schopenhauer Cure

At book club we discussed The Schopenhauer Cure, by Irvin Yalom, a well-known psychiatrist.

It's a tale of group therapy, alternating with a psycho-biography of the eccentric Schopenhauer. So it's part fiction, part history.

He's mixed two books into one!
But I'd rather that had been left undone.

The group therapy part includes a character who has been cured of sex addiction by his reading of Schopenhauer. But in place of his sex addiction he has acquired manners that are truly bizarre. Can group therapy shatter the hard shell he has created around his vulnerable self?

Yalom is the author of a textbook on group therapy, so I guess he should know how it works, but it didn't quite come alive for me, I guess because it sounded a little too pat - no one ever seemed to be struggling enough to admit to their deep inner secrets.

I know it's his dominion.
But that's my dour opinion.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


"Selling a Senate seat is one thing... But extorting sick children is low even by Illinois code"

I think that's right. Political offices are often the subject of wheeling and dealing. But our gov is also accused of extorting support from an executive at Children's Memorial Hospital, which is one of our flagship pediatric hospitals.
"So, Mr. Blagojevich, are you telling this court that those children who have cancer, who have disfiguring diseases, who have faced tremendous trauma, are you telling us you would withhold needed funds from them so that you could enrich your campaign and yourself?"
The real solution is to get the state out of medicine. Hospital executives shouldn't have to go to hat-in-hand to government officials. That just invites corruption.

Why should anyone's health
be hostage to an official's wealth?

On His Own Recognizance

Anyway, Gov. Rod B. posted bond, and he's sleeping in his own bed tonight. He's still governor, and he can still appoint the Obama-replacement senator. He can even appoint himself to that position. He's innocent till proven guilty!

I hope he appoints himself to the Senate
and goes to live in DC.

The Senate will suffer from having him in it,
but at least he'll be farther from me.

Bad Day For Blagojevich

The Feds showed up outside our governor's house today, then drove him away in handcuffs.

They've got him on tape saying a lot of crude illegal-sounding stuff. He even describes our president-elect with a long word that starts with mother. 

(PDF with Mamet-like quotes, here.)

Don't call the president names. That can only harden
the heart of the man you'll be begging for a pardon.

Monday, December 08, 2008

No Need To Stock Up

Obama says there is no need to stock up on guns.
"I believe in common-sense gun safety laws, and I believe in the second amendment," Obama said at a news conference. "Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear."
The ironic thing here is that the gun business is booming because of Obama. Why would he want to slow down the one part of the economy that is going great guns?

"Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear."

Interesting quote. The problem is that an owner could be lawful one day and criminal the next - if the law changed. That's what people are worried about.

Ah, the poor second amendment, so neglected.  Imagine if Obama had said:

"I believe in common-sense religious safety laws, and I believe in the first amendment. Lawful religions have nothing to fear."

Arrest those folks who play with the poisonous snakes.
They're just a bunch of law-breaking flakes.

Sad Situation

Here in Chicago, workers of a failed company are occupying its plant, demanding severance pay and vacation time.

The company was in trouble, lost its financing from Bank of America, and closed its doors on short notice.

Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, the governor of Illinois, and our remaining U.S. senator have all voiced their support for these workers. 

Our governor is demanding that Bank of America reopen its tax-dollar suffused credit line for the company. But... it's a window and door company. And construction in the U.S. has hit the brakes, with no green light in sight. Does this place sound like a good loan prospect?
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who also has been making appearances at the sit-in, said the workers under federal law are entitled to 60 days' pay in the event of a shutdown.
Of course, that 60 days of pay is supposed to come from the company. But if the company doesn't have any money...

I see a flaw
in that law -
when a company's truly in hock,
you can't squeeze blood from a rock.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Where There's Smoke

Tom Brokaw is on the case:
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama failed to give a straight answer when asked on a U.S. talkshow on Sunday whether he had managed to quit smoking.
Of course he's quit. More than once.
Ask a tough question and he... punts.

Election Over, Ayers Emerges

Bill Ayers tries, once again, to explain his past deeds in a favorable light:
Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response.
Actually, "screaming" is part of the "peaceful protest" repertoire.  What he issued was an explosive response.

According to his account,
all his bombings amount
to a very loud scream
on an anti-war theme.

Forget that "terrorist" handle!
Let's try: extreme vandal.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Making An Entrance

Friday at rehearsal the director says: there's something wrong with Father's big entrance scene.

I'm playing Father and I had been thinking there was something wrong. I'd been thinking my daughters weren't greeting me with enough excitement. (It's "Little Women.")

Then it occurred to me - DUH - that maybe it was my own fault. It was my entrance. I had most of the actual lines. Maybe MY excitement level was low. So we replayed the scene, and I was more energetic, and the director was happy.

Afterwards I asked myself WHY I had made such a mistake, and I realized I had fallen into the SICK trap.  My character is sick. And I have to convey that. But the temptation is to play sick by projecting less dramatic presence. Wrong!

Dramas low on excitement
deserve a bill of indictment.

Friday, December 05, 2008

OJ Sentenced

Do you get overconfident when you are found not guilty of a big crime - even though you left blood evidence behind?

you might argue away.
- The science is hard to follow.
But it's hard to escape
when you're caught on tape.
- All your denials ring hollow.

Mother Russia

The Russians aren't reproducing much. You may find that comforting. But the Kremlin finds it troubling. So they have organized a youth movement:
Nashi's annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness.

Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.
If you're a loyal Russian,
you don't need much discussion.

For the good of the state:
hurry up and procreate!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Choo Choo Through Chicago

Today emilya  arrived in Chicago via train from L.A.  She had a layover of several hours before she had to get on another train to continue her trip to NYC. So we got together with her!

Such a trip entails
3 days riding the rails.

What a massive pain.
I'm glad they invented the plane.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Seemingly Endless Swirl

Charlie Rangel is getting a lot of attention lately:
The Democratic chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee has been at the center of a seemingly endless swirl of questions about his activities. He came under fire this week after The New York Times reported that Rangel worked to protect a tax shelter for Nabors Industries, an oil company whose chief executive was pledging $1 million to a school bearing the congressman's name.
Rangel seems to be tangled in personal deals where he wangled options which were financially salubrious but ethically dubious.

But let's put his name on a school
where they teach how to work around rules

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Leasing the Meters

The City of Chicago has now agreed to a long term lease of its parking meters.
The deal with Chicago Parking Meter LLC, an infrastructure investment fund managed by Morgan Stanley, marks the first time a U.S. city has privatized its parking meter system. It adds to the list of infrastructure assets Chicago has cashed in on with leases of an airport, a toll road, and some downtown parking lots.
Mayor Richard M. Daley has been a leader at this variety of privatization.

I do wonder what will happen to the handicapped scam on downtown streets. Normally, if you have an official blue handicapped placard, you can park for free at meters. That's not the scam. The scam is when you have your handicapped mother's placard, but you're the only one in the car.

I've seen people park for free
who looked able-bodied to me.


Anurag Wahdera has three posts on the Mumbai attacks:

Mumbai Mayhem - The Heroics
For me, nowhere is the future of Indian capitalism, warts-and-all, as evident as in Mumbai. And for that reason, it must be defended from the medieval mindset and handiwork of the terrorists.
Mumbai Mayhem - The Inept
Here is cause enough for all Indians to hang their heads in regrettable shame or raise their voice in justifiable anger.
Mumbai Mayhem - The Tragic
Sadly, it was the calculus of the terrorists - to hit the foreigners and the rich at prominent, symbolic places - which assured that many of us in the Bay Area were touched by the tragedy.
Meanwhile, no posts from Ergo Sum since the attacks. He was in Mumbai, last I heard. I'm hoping he's all right. It's a huge city. Odds are he is. But, still...

To my Indian friends,
I can only extend
my sympathy, and the desire
to fight back
and return fire
against these senseless attacks.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Drat, the Lat!

In Latvia, the unit of currency is called the lat. 

If you live there,
you'd better beware,
of saying the lat is ker-splat.

You really don't want to that:
Hammered by economic woe, this former Soviet republic recently took a novel step to contain the crisis. Its counterespionage agency busted an economist for being too downbeat.
The spies keep their eyes 
on all who despise 
the so-meritorious
surely victorious
sheer flat-out glorious