Monday, May 31, 2010

Ridge Run 2010

I do this neighborhood 10k, the Ridge Run, every Memorial Day, since 1983.

Last year my time was 53 minutes, even. This year my time was 58 minutes and 20 seconds.

So I took almost one extra minute per mile.

But look at it this way:

Last year I was 22nd out of 61 males aged 55-59. This year I was 20th out of 61 males aged 55-59.

So I moved up 2 places.

The difference, I think, was the weather. Last year it was 60F. This year it was 80F and very humid.

So I ask you, in a verse:
Was I better? Was I worse?

Day of Remembrance

I watched our neighborhood Memorial Day parade today.

On the military side, there were some vets, and a high school ROTC unit. The ROTC group looked very disciplined. The vets looked like ordinary guys.

We also had the local pro-peace group, with the "Support our troops - bring them home" message. I think the Quakers were involved. The pro-peace people have a characteristic look. To me it looks like a mix of moral righteousness and fear. I've seen this look at most antiwar protests I have observed.

I always wonder about the fear I perceive. I suspect it may be that the acceptance of pacifism, as an outlook, is actually fear-inducing.

Does announcing that you will never rebuff a violent attack
leave you worried that someone might just take a whack?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beach Fun

Showed some young boys how to:

1) dig a hand-sized tunnel between two holes in the sand.

2) dig to the water table - which is lake level.

It's crucial that beach building techniques are passed on to the next generation!

Wet sand sets
and is best for building castles.

Dry sand flies
in your eyes and gives you hassles.

Spill Defies Kill

Top flop:
In a demoralizing setback, BP engineers said Saturday that the "top kill" effort to stem the flow of oil gushing from a well a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico had failed and that after consultation with government officials they had decided to move on to another strategy.
As environmental disasters go, it's titanic.
Even though the oil is all natural and organic.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What a Catch

This four-year old risks his neck
when he chooses to misbehave,
but before he hits the deck,
a shopkeeper makes the save.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elderly Or Not, He Took His Shot

Here in Chicago, an 80 year-old army vet shot and killed a burglar this morning. It sounds like the vet had a pistol, in defiance of our handgun ban.

And it sounds like he will NOT be prosecuted for the offense, which would be a misdemeanor anyway. That's usually how these cases are handled.

The vet's son spoke out against our current ban:
"That's an open door for people like this suspect to enter people's homes, especially [the] elderly. They can prey on them," said Butch Gant.
The victim had a gun.
The burglar's days are done.

Robert W. Service

In the comments to a recent post, brought up Robert Service, who wrote some very popular poems, many set in the icy wastes of the Yukon.

He is not trendy among scholars. He died in 1958.

I was looking at his Wikipedia entry, and came across this:
Service is also noted for his use of ethnonyms that would normally be considered offensive "slurs", but with no insult apparently intended. Words used in Service's poetry include jerries (Germans), dago (Italian), pickaninny (in reference to a Mozambican infant), cheechako (newcomer to the Yukon and Alaska gold fields, usually from the U.S.), nigger (African-American), squaw (Aboriginal woman), and Jap (Japanese).
In other words, he sometimes writes like Clint Eastwood talks in Gran Torino.

Which now that I think about it, is probably part of the reason he is not trendy among scholars.

The Cremation of Sam McGee is probably his greatest hit. He uses an interesting rhyme form. Here are the first 2 "regular" lines:
Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, God only knows.
At first it just looks like a rhyming couplet, but if you read it aloud you immediately realize that each line has 2 internal rhymes as well. Complicated. But he made it sound easy.

Robert Service could tell a story so well, and move it so smoothly along,
that when it turned odd, you didn't shout "God! This narrative's truly gone wrong."

Instead you just listened about ice that glistened and someone who laughed in the flame,
and when it was done, you thought "That was fun," and saw why he has lasting fame.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Cottony seeds
caught in the wind
glowed as if gold
under the street light.

They sweep over cars
hovering boldly
hoping for haven
deep in the night.

Role Reversal

I saw Alicia Reese doing Electra tonight, while Anna Weiler played Angry Chorus Girl.

The actresses switched their roles.
The characters carried new souls.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Electra Variatons

I read this in a beautiful review of Dream Theatre's Electra:
On top of which, Menekseoglu pulls in elements from all three tragedians—Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides—both to develop this retelling’s fullest dramatic impact and to create the most feminist Electra ever. The women of his Electra are dangerous daughters and granddaughters of Leda and Zeus. Even when they look their meekest, they should never be underestimated.

Somehow, I hadn't realized, or didn't remember, that we had versions of the Electra story from all 3 of these classic Greek tragedy-writers.

I must admit, I've read of all of Aristophanes, the classic Greek comedy-writer. But I'm weak on the tragic Greeks.

So I've now read Sophocles' Electra and Euripides' Electra. And I'm in the middle of re-reading Aeschylus' The Libation Bearers, which tells the same basic story.

And I asked myself, why hasn't anyone put the 3 plays together in one book? Oops. Someone has.

How easy, then, to study
the changes in this bloody
drama as each man
reworks it to his plan.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Heil in Style

The 18ft high posters of the Nazi leader advertise a line of clothing for young people and adorn street corners and bus stops in Palermo, Sicily's biggest city.

The ads show the Fuhrer in a lurid pink uniform, with his swastika armband replaced with one bearing a bright red heart, above the slogan "Change Style – Don't Follow Your Leader".
As you might guess, this ad has upset many.

Even in pink,
he still has a stink.

15 CM = 6 INCHES

From the bizarre death department:
A young mother died after doctors failed to spot a 15cm-long toilet brush handle embedded in her buttock.
She was drunk and fell on the toilet brush which somehow impaled her butt. And doctors - from 2 hospitals - took 2 years to figure it out.

And when they did figure it out, she died when they tried to remove it.

Did she have health insurance? Yes, national health insurance. In England.

Her husband says:
I think it was probably down to the hospitals trying to save money and doing things as cheaply as possible.
Lives can be lost
controlling cost.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Still Standing

I'm not content with the famous version of this quote any longer:
What does not kill us... maims us or makes us stronger.

Electa by Sophocles

I finished reading Electra by Sophocles. Liked it. Very moving in places.

I find myself liking Sophocles best of the 3 extant ancient Greek tragedy writers.
He is also said to have commented on his peers. He remarked that Aeschylus did the right thing in drama without knowing what he was doing, and, comparing himself to Euripides, he commented, "I portray men as they ought to be, Euripides as they are."
The tension between the real and ideal
shows as opposing streaks in the Greeks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Simon Says

Roger L. Simon writes about Chicago:
Someone named Daley has been the city’s mayor since somewhere in the Early Paleolithic Age. Chairman Mao didn’t last as long.
We had a Mayor Daley when I was a kid. And we have one now. They are father and son. That much is true.

But in between we elected our first woman mayor, Jane Byrne, and our first black mayor, Harold Washington. What are they, chopped liver?

No matter what you hear
about our imperfections
I want to make one thing clear:
we do in fact have elections.

Bipartisan Scandal Round-Up


After non-abstinent action
with Ms. Jackson,
Congressman Souder
is suddenly taking a powder.


Also, as you may have heard,
Mr. Blumenthal "misplaced" words.
Now he's gone from war time hero,
to someone whose time in 'Nam was zero.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


From Louisville, KY:
Rand Paul defeated Republican establishment favorite Trey Grayson in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, a closely watched race that was a key test of the tea party movement's strength.
After starting as the underdog, Paul won with 65% of the vote.

It's interesting that his win was so big, since he's a very libertarian Republican, very far from being a social conservative in many respects.

I admit I haven't followed the race, I'm not up on the nuances, and I'm weak on Kentucky politics. I have no idea how he'll do in November.

But it's nice to see the GOP
run a candidate
who wants to go on a chopping spree
against the creeping state.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Obama's Aunt Gets Asylum

Obama's aunt, who was ordered to be deported by a judge in 2004, has finally won asylum.
"The asylum process is confidential and she wants to keep it that way," her attorney Scott Bratton told the Associated Press today. "She doesn't want people to feel sorry for her."
So don't expect to find out too much about the decision. We do know that she beat the odds:
Of the 343 applications from Kenya in 2008, only 60 were granted asylum.
The case does show how spottily we enforce our immigration laws. She was ordered out by a judge.

Instead she simply stayed.
Now that choice has paid.

It's not that we don't deport anyone. We do. One government estimate I see for 2008 is 234,000 deportees. Of course, some of those return. I'm not sure how the government handles the counting of the repeat customers.

I imagine Obama's aunt had better legal help this time around. Obama says he didn't help her. But I bet someone somewhere decided that she was deserving of support.

High profile cases
win benefactors' graces.


My wife's younger brother, who is deaf, got married yesterday, to a woman from France, in our house, in a Native American ceremony.

My wife organized most of it, so she was focused on getting everything right. After the ceremony was over, she realized that she had never turned off our telephones. Fortunately, no one called!

Other than the very normal feature of the bride and groom being slightly late,
it all went great.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Cronin Show

I dropped by The Elephant Room Gallery today, to get a look at Jennifer Cronin's show of new paintings, which has been garnering positive critical attention.

The new paintings all feature the artist, at home, painted realistically, but with non-realistic paint added. Here's an example:

Some, like this one, seem anxiety-inducing. I feel the paint is sneaking up on her unawares.

I wonder if she feels that way because she feels her life being overtaken by her art. My wife tells me that 50% of my brain has been taken over by a rhyming engine. Maybe it's something like that.

My favorite of the show is called "Cake," and it shows the artist in control of her paint. She is in the kitchen, making a cake, but she's doing it with brightly colored paint that she ladles on. I haven't found a good picture online, but you can see some of it the background in this photo from the well-attended opening:

I also had a substantial conversation with the gallery's proprietor, Kimberly Atwood, who besides being a curator is a professional photographer. I expect to be back.

Can love of paint
begin to taint
your soul?

Do you ever feel it start
to slip out of control?

A life in art
is not for the faint
of heart.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I'm sick of the blame game,
so I'm polishing my glare.

I'm going to name and shame
finger pointers everywhere.


I made some joke about the stage play, Electra, being "Electra-fying". And some friends thought it was a horrible pun. Which it was. But the 2 words are actually related, long lost cousins of a sort, and I simply re-uniting them.

Both the name "Electra' and our word "electricity" derive from the Ancient Greek word for "amber".

You can see why you would name a girl after a precious stone. Even in English, we name girls Amber.

But what, you may wonder, does amber have to do with electricity?
Ancient Greeks discovered that amber behaved oddly - like attracting feathers - when rubbed by fur or other objects. They didn't know what it was that caused this phenomenon. But the Greeks had discovered one of the first examples of static electricity.
This created a charge, albeit weak.
Such were the limits of antique Greek technique.


The Zeaster Bunny
doesn't think your lack of belief is funny.


Anna Weiler as Electra.

I saw Electra, by Jeremy Menekseoglu, at Dream Theatre tonight.

Electra, a woman of powerful determination, and noble heritage, thirsts for revenge. Against her mother. For killing her father. She lives in a world of the sword and the ax, a world in which women cannot engage directly in mortal combat. A woman must enlist a fighting man as a champion, to do her bloody work.

Into her life walks Orestes, her long-lost brother. The recognition scene is clever, touching, restrained. She has found her champion.

This version of Electra explores the ways in which praise can go to your head, the ways women can manipulate men into doing their bidding, and the bitter taste of family revenge.

It's a bustling, busy play, with an honest-to-gods 5-woman chorus plus 6 regular (or perhaps irregular) characters. Anna Weiler, as Electra, is the center of the play, around whom the whirlwind swirls. She is a no-nonsense, hard-edged, get-things-done kind of woman, who is tired of being exiled to a swamp, and who jumps at her chance to really leave a mark in the world. Weiler brings fearsome, unyielding intensity to the role.

Menekseoglu plays Orestes, her lovable, malleable, but still deadly brother. He is genuinely likeable, but very scary when the time comes.

Bil Gaines plays Pamphilos, Electra's much-put-upon husband, who loves her, and desires her, but who is not allowed to touch her or see her bare. Gaines brings a down-to-earth sense of humor to his role as he tries to get along with the impossible woman he loves.

Rachel Martindale is regal as Electra's mother, flashing smoothly through pride, supplication, anger and fear. A master manipulator, she tells Electra some truths which Electra does not want to hear.

Giau Truong is Electra's mother's new husband, the usurper king. Giau deftly shows us his bluster, and the cowardice inside the bluster.

Danielle Gennaoui turns in a wonderfully annoying performance as a precious princess, daughter of Electra's mother with the new usurper husband. Her worshipful attitude toward her mother is played exquisitely.

Finally, there is the chorus, played by Alicia Reese, Molly Gray, Theresa Neef, Alison Faraj, and Annelise Lawson. They were hypnotically insane, less than human, but divinely inspired, and they even sang a song in harmony - in praise of motherhood, of all things.

The play moves along briskly, taut with suspense, with brief lyrical breaks, tender moments, and scary mayhem. I liked it. A lot. It's one of those plays that gives you plenty to think about.

At the heart of the Greek tragedies is troubled family life,
in complicated clans, replete with bloody strife,
as strong willed men and women defy all legal censure
and go to places most of us would never dare to venture.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Affair

We read The Affair for our book study group.

Not that kind of affair. The "Dreyfus Affair" was a cause célèbre in France at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th.

Basically, a French Jewish army officer was falsely accused of espionage and convicted, on thin evidence. He was sent off to Devil's Island.

At first, it may have been a too-hasty mistaken judgment. But then the evidence started looking like they had the wrong man. And important generals decided to cover up the problem to avoid embarrassment.

This dragged on through multiple court hearings and trials, much stonewalling and manufacturing of evidence on the part of the army.

After a long battle, which polarized French society, he was declared innocent - and he rejoined the army and served through World War I.

After long years
of being imprisoned and smeared,
he was freed and cleared.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Golden Years

Early retirement is no longer the goal of most workers. Even retirement at age 65 now seems unattainable to many people. The majority of Americans now expect to work until age 65 or later.
The value in your I.R.A.
has flown away?

Just work till you croak.
and you'll never be broke.

Doctored Story

We have a bizarre story developing here:
A University of Iowa medical professor was ordered held in lieu of $25,000 bail today for allegedly lying to Chicago police officers, telling them he was stabbed while jogging on the Riverwalk when he actually knifed himself and fabricated the incident, authorities said.
He reportedly went to the hospital in critical condition after stabbing himself. You would think a medical professor would know how to stab himself so that he wasn't injured too badly.

Just to add to the bizarreness, the professor was already on leave from the U of Iowa pending some kind of investigation at the school.

The deceptive "rob & stab" story was notable partly because it happened in an unlikely area - a nice, shiny, touristy area.

If you want to meet a robber,
and then get stabbed or clobbered,
I'll gladly give you directions
to some of our rougher sections.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dollars Per Barrel Vs. Dollars Per Ounce

People like to describe oil as immensely valuable, as if it were "black gold".

But if there were gold coins floating in the Gulf of Mexico, you can bet they wouldn't be there for long.

There'd be a flotilla
the size of Godzilla
the young and the old
scooping up gold.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Run Down

Philip Pagano was run down by a train today. 

In his pocket was the official procedure which train crews are supposed to follow in case of a suicide.

You see, he was the head of the commuter train system in the Chicago area. And he was being investigated for financial irregularities, including giving himself an unauthorized bonus.

He was under a lot of strain,
probably eating away at his brain,
so he stepped in front of a train.

It's a rude thing to do,
traumatizing the crew,
delaying the passengers too.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Stars and Stripes for Sometimes

Cinco de Mayo fashion faux pas:
Five students at a California high school were forced to leave school and then face disciplinary action yesterday for the crime of wearing clothing printed with American flag designs.
It reminds me of this case from a few years ago, where a kid got in trouble for wearing a shirt that said "Bong Hits 4 Jesus":
A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that schools can punish a student -- without violating his First Amendment rights -- when he promotes illegal drug use at a school event.
After all, isn't patriotism addictive? Sure, you start with an occasional item of clothing. Before you know it, you're wearing a flag pin every day. You even start to contemplate getting a tattoo of Old Glory on some body part.

All I can say is: check the calendar before decking yourself out in red, white, and blue!

Whether printed on your shirt,
or inked upon your knee,
speech that might hurt
should not be free.

(Important alert:
that was irony.)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Stephen Hicks notes:
The modern West is hybrid civilization, drawing upon competing ethical traditions from Greco-Roman culture and Judeo-Christian religion.
This put me in mind of an idea from biology, "hybrid vigor":
The term heterosis, also known as hybrid vigor or outbreeding enhancement, describes the increased strength of different characteristics in hybrids; the possibility to obtain a genetically superior individual by combining the virtues of its parents.
Greco-Roman culture was itself a kind of hybrid, between the Greeks and the Romans, obviously.

Christianity itself sprung to life in an interaction between Judaic culture and Greco-Roman culture. Jesus spoke a Semitic language, Aramaic, but the New Testament survived in Greek.

And there's a case to be made that the Judeo-Christian tradition includes elements absorbed from both Egyptian beliefs (you will be judged in the afterlife) and Zoroastrian beliefs (the world embodies a cosmic struggle between good and evil).

Here in America, just to complicate things, we now seem to be in the middle of an attempt to come to terms with some Eastern belief systems.

With logic from the Greeks
we sort through diverse convictions.

The mind painstakingly seeks
belief without contradictions.

Note to Self

When pursued by the FBI
you can blow the whole game
if you try to fly
under your own name.

Monday, May 03, 2010

What Counts As Conspiracy

The judge has ordered the Hutaree "militia" members free on bond, and she seems doubtful about the evidence presented to her:
"Discussions about killing local law enforcement officers -- and even discussions about killing members of the judicial branch of government -- do not translate to conspiring to overthrow, or levy war against, the United States government," Roberts said in her order.
I knew a lot of people who discussed killing Bush. None of them were charged. And the reason is precisely that they didn't take steps toward action.

You can't keep creeps in jail
just for their idle chat.

The judge has granted bail,
and the case looks strangely flat.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

And Now It's A Remake

Mary Catelli linked to a humorous essay, How 'The Karate Kid' Ruined The Modern World:
You know what I'm talking about; the main character is very bad at something, then there is a sequence in the middle of the film set to upbeat music that shows him practicing. When it's done, he's an expert.
His thesis is that rather than just being a transparent storytelling device, this sort of sequence is seriously misleading to people, who then get disappointed when they find out that achievement generally requires lots of effort.

When you seem to be lacking in speed
sometimes patience is all you need.

What A Joker

The North Star, madly delirious,
asked the Dog Star, "Why so Sirius?"


As the oil slick spread last weekend, Obama took a vacation weekend in North Carolina.

Some people, like the NY Times, are now complaining that he has not done enough fast enough.

But I say the blame must be shared with other world leaders. This was BRITISH Petroleum, in the Gulf of MEXICO.

Who cares that Obama left town?
I blame Gordon Brown!

And I call upon all undocumented speakers of Spanish,
to help us make the oil slick vanish.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Running On Empty

A mystery of the East:
Indian doctors are studying an 83-year-old holy man who claims to have spent the last seven decades without food and water.
I guess he could be lying. Or... a friend suggested this syndrome as an explanation:
Nocturnal eating syndrome is often associated with somnambulism. People get up and eat, or even prepare meals, while asleep.
Do you wake from your sleep
to find crumbs getting deep
near the head
of your bed?

That's one of the clues
that you dine while you snooze.