Friday, July 30, 2010

Not-So-Living Buddha

Tokyo officials wanted to celebrate with the city's oldest man. The only trouble was, they discovered he had been dead a long time:
His granddaughter told investigators Kato holed up in his room about 30 years ago after declaring he wanted to be a living Buddha, police and Tokyo officials said. They believe Kato died soon after that.

Tokyo police were investigating possible crimes on suspicion Kato’s family received pension money of the man and his dead wife.
Unless his bank account has just been accumulating interest for 30 years, someone has been taking money out. For "expenses". For the old man. Yeah, that's the ticket!

So he wasn't really the oldest,
but his relatives were the boldest -
paying him formal respect,
while cashing his pension checks.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Today at lunch, an art book caught my eye - it was about the mythical Green Man.

Tonight I saw a very enjoyable play that featured a scary Green Man.

I'm worried about tomorrow morning.
Will a Green Man accost me without warning?

The play, Alligator, by Jeremy Menekseoglu, was a production of the Brikenbrak Theatre Project, and was directed charmingly by Paul Cosca.

The central character is a young woman with a problem - she's going nuts. She has a pretty good reason, as we eventually learn. Fortunately, she does have a brother and a boyfriend who actually want to help her - if they can just keep from killing each other. The relationships in this production really come alive.

Claire Kander is instantly sympathetic but believably delusional as Velvet. Michael Plummer is awkward and menacing but deeply affectionate as her new boyfriend.

Graham Collins Jenkins is focused and fanatical as her brother, who is an Olympic shooter. Jessica London Shields is incredibly high strung, but likable, as his Olympic gymnast girlfriend.
Finally, playing the Green Man, is Jim Hicks, who finally reveals the human side of the nightmare monster. It's not a good human side, but you recognize it as well within the human capacity for evil.

Can she stare down her monstrous past
and find abiding love at last?

Bisphenol A Alert

Something new to fret over:
Cash-register receipts from many fast-food outlets, groceries, pharmacies, big-box stores and U.S. post offices contain high levels of the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A.
When they give you the receipt,
rubber gloves would be discreet.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Recluse of Amherst

I had fun participating in a seminar discussion of a couple of Emily Dickinson poems today, with young people.

I forget how hard she is to understand. I developed a strange affection for her in high school. And I took a college course that was devoted to her poetry. So things look obvious to me... that just aren't.

Her style is rather elliptic
descending at times into cryptic.

I'm not actually in love with the cryptic aspect. I prefer clarity. But I do enjoy the shortness of her poems.

She's known for her brevity,
not for her levity.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sounding the Founders

I was auditing a seminar today. Bright young people were working hard to summarize arguments written by Jefferson and Madison.

I was struck by the way our grammar and word choice has changed, in 220 years, even though the words on the page are almost all still in use.

A friend on Facebook pointed out that this has relevance for constitutional interpretation, at least if you care about what that document was originally supposed to mean.

I have often heard, for example, that "regulation", for them, meant something like "establishing rules of the road" for driving.

Our contemporary meaning includes activist backseat driving, where the unwanted passenger periodically reaches up and fights you for the steering wheel.

He put the gear in neutral, and stomped down on the brake.
Get this economy rolling. How long can it take?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moby Gut Reaction

We discussed Moby Dick in our book club / study group. Some of my friends liked it. Liked the whole whale-of-a-tale thing. A lot.

My view is that it's a great short story novelette. Yeah, about 77 pages of greatness. The rest is 333 pages of over-rateness.

The man cribbed long essays and padded his book ferociously, marring the thing atrociously.

If you love the book, just as it is, I apologize. I'm being flip here. I'm serious about my basic point, but I'm being rather rude about it.

Flaws and all, the book does make for a great discussion topic. To deny that would be myopic.

The good news is that Melville
is gone and can't damn me to hellville.

Moby Spoiler

Captain Ahab set sail
In search of a whale
Who had chomped off his leg to his knee.

They found the great white
Who turned and gave fight
So the whole ship sank into the sea.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hard Drive Failure

This is for a friend, but does anyone know a good data recovery outfit?

His hard drive failed somehow. I haven't seen it, so I don't know if it's a head crash (worst case, I guess) or something else.

He took it to a place that gave him an estimate of 300 dollars, which sounded extremely reasonable to me.

Also, if you know a bad data recovery outfit to avoid, you can tell me that too!

It's stuff of personal value to him, that he created. He's quite upset. I quite understand.

Data is so damned fragile.
He needs a recovery service that's agile.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Think Journal Volume 3.1

I got the new issue of Think Journal in the mail today. Usually I get one copy, but today I got two - because I have something published in the magazine - a set of 3 sonnets, entitled "Cassandra".

As my bio in the back of the issue indicates, these sonnets were inspired the character of Cassandra in Jeremy Menekseoglu's play, Agamemnon.

Yes, you'd better believe it!
But since it contains something I wrote,
I am extra glad to receive it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Image Of Her

Twice now, someone has come into the house, looked at our big new painting- and thought that our daughter was the person in the painting.

Actually, the artist posed for it herself, as she does for many of her paintings.

So, did I *like* the painting because it subconsciously reminded me of my daughter? I certainly had no conscious idea along these lines. It never seems to have occurred to my wife, either.

On close examination, there's some resemblance, but not super strong.

My daughter thought it might be partly that she sometimes makes an expression which is a lot like the expression on the face of the woman in the painting.

At any rate, it's a peculiarity
that it took family friends to spot the similarity.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I did a lovely short triathlon today outside of Valparaiso, Indiana, which turns out to be less than an hour from my house, me being on the south side of Chicago and all.

I talked to a man who, at 70, was doing his first triathlon ever.

I saw one bike spill. Someone was dismounting at the bike finish, and over-dismounted, I guess.

The swim was only a quarter mile, which is a distance I can do without really practicing, which I know because that's what I did. My wife says my training is eccentric, which seems to be a polite word for nutty.

I'm fascinated by the way I'm faster when there's competition. So a race is always a more intense workout than an ordinary workout.

It's fun to push the throttle to see
how much speed's inside of me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Outsourcing Protests

What a great headline from the Wall St. Journal:
To Protest Hiring of Nonunion Help, Union Hires Nonunion Pickets
Jobless Recruits Get Minimum Wage 'To March Around and Sound Off'

"For a lot of our members, it's really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.
I'd really like to picket,
and chant as I march in line.

But my car might get a ticket,
so pay a kid to hold my sign!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Orestes at Dream Theatre

Orestes is a descent into hell, not a burning inferno, but a honeycomb of broken lives. Electra is searching for her slaughtered brother, and so great is her love that she will journey to Hades for him. She is told, unendingly, by characters who hate her for killing her mother, that her soul is full of violence. But what drives the play is her love for her brother, and her brother's love for her.

Anna Weiler is spectacular as Electra, determined, vulnerable, her every nerve stripped bare. Jeremy Menekseoglu brings back 2 of his roles from prior plays - Orestes and his father Agamemnon. It was good to see them again. They felt like old friends, even though Agamemnon himself is a righteous scoundrel. Cassandra arrives in the form of Alicia Reese, who plays her quite madly and gaily in her way - I thought she looked like the one person who was almost always having a ball on stage. Theresa Neef is regal and a bit nasty as Persephone, the princess who always winters in hell.

Bil Gaines and Giau Truong zestfully reprise their roles as Mermerus and Pheres, the murdered children of Medea, flashing between playfulness, rage, and fear. Rachel Martindale plays the empathetic Pandora, mother of all sorrows with a stage-grabbing air of naturalness, a sort of earth-mother quality. Annelise Lawson is the gossipy tavern keeper, with a cockney sort of accent, who starts us on our journey, and who entertained us with her lovely voice at intermission, singing "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" which perhaps was chosen because of this Cole Porter verse:
I used to fall
In love with all
Those boys who maul
Refind ladies.
But now I tell
Each young gazelle
To go to hell...
I mean, hades.
Dream Theatre relentlessly takes on the fourth wall in this play. The characters of the myths are aware that this night they have an audience - that Electra has an audience on this journey - and the characters wonder aloud what motivates the audience - is it sadism? is it empathy? It's a spookily intimate question, which you don't answer aloud, but which I suppose you do ask yourself.

I'd been to an unadorned reading of the play, some time ago, but tonight the play surprised me.

Months ago I had heard
every single word
but somehow I couldn't tell
that it would play so well
this journey into hell
this sorrowful land down under
flashing and roaring thunder
leaving me gasping in wonder.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It Will All Be An Accident

Good news for me -
I want to go on TV:
An occasional curse word or even Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" on prime-time TV shouldn't bring down the wrath of the Federal Communications Commission, a federal court ruled Tuesday.
I'll do a baggy pants dance,
which will lead to a wardrobe mischance,
and I'll mutter a very bad word
as I "notice" what has occurred.

Downsizing the Domicile

Guilt can lead to spectacular displays of conspicuous non-consumption:
Or your child may wonder why you have twice the home you need. Kevin Salwen and his wife were so taken by their daughter’s conviction in this particular matter that their family of four decided to sell their 6,500-square-foot home. They bought a new one less than half the size and are giving away about $850,000, more than the price difference between the homes.
What a great story this would make, told casually over an after-dinner brandy. "Oh, this place? Yes, we chose it because the other place was just too big. Felt we owed it to the planet to sell it off. Gave the profit to charity. It was the right thing to do."

Guilt is a thing that gnaws at your gut.
And there's no shortage. There's a glut.

Navel Power

In an odd scientific development, belly-button placement is being credited with sports success:
The navel is the center of gravity of the body, and given two runners or swimmers of the same height, one black and one white, "what matters is not total height but the position of the belly-button, or center of gravity," Duke University professor Andre Bejan, the lead author of the study, told AFP.
Who knew that navel-gazing could lead to sports science discoveries?

I suspect the reason that I'm so-so in a sprint
is simply excess belly button lint.

Orestes on Thursday

On Thursday I'm going to see the opening of Orestes at Dream Theatre. I'm being warned it's a depressing play, so if you're in town, come keep me company. We can do a mutual suicide-prevention watch.

The action involves Electra going to Hades to look for her brother, Orestes.

Trips to hell
rarely end well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cake Sonnet

She concentrates upon the layered cake
she ladles out with paints of pink and blue
sparkling in the air and mixed to make
a strange creation in a lavender hue.

The kitchen where she works is ordinary:
broad countertops and cabinets galore.
She is the one who brings the hint of faery.
She is the one who adds the something more.

Now who shall dare to eat this bright confection?
Will it transform you into something odd?
Should you stay away for your own protection?
Is it a meal fit only for a god?

You know you want to try it - take a taste.
Don't let your magic moment go to waste.

Yes, it's another reflection on "Cake", by Jennifer Cronin. [UPDATE: as much a flight of fancy as a reflection, I should say.]

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wheeling Through The Woods

At last, yesterday, I finished the first draft of the play I have been working on, tentatively entitled "Wild Flowers". Now I know how it ends!

I feel strangely lucky, because my play involves a Russian spy, and the news is suddenly full of Russian spies!

So today, newly freed from dramatic labor pains, I allowed myself a few hours of exercise in the warm weather.

I took a lovely bicycle ride;
the trail had wildflowers on the side.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

This Is John Aglialoro Speaking

At the conference, we saw a brief promo clip about the "indie" filming of Atlas Shrugged, part one.

Mostly we saw the talking head of John Aglialoro, the producer. He affirmed that this version is intended for release, not just an "ashcan copy" to maintain intellectual property rights. At 2 weeks into a 5 week shooting schedule, he said he was pleased about how things had gone so far.

I've seen him talk in person, and he seems like a straight shooter.

From the 5 second teaser of an actor talking about oil dependence, it looked like they might be doing a lot of green-screen technology for the backgrounds.

Well, we'll see.

Anyway, as for me,
I'm waiting for Atlas Shrugged 3D.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Hug A Planet Today

A philosopher ponders the question "got a minute for the environment?"
...I asked, “Which environment do you mean? Whose environment?” The question seemed to startle the person. “You know, the environment. Like, the Earth.”
He gets around to the human habit of taking things into our own hands:
In any environment that humans occupy today, disentangling the man-made from the natural would take the most complex investigation, if indeed it is possible at all.
Not that he's recommending that.

Living in the wild,
technology disentangled,
the nature-loving child
would probably end up mangled.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Plato on the Plane

Took a 4-lecture course, at the conferece, on Plato's Phaedo, which I read in college but not since. You know, I think I took a full Plato course, but it's been 37 years or so.

I was trying to read the work on the plane, coming home, but I fear post-conference fatigue was kicking in.

Even when fully awake,
the theory of forms is confusing;
My poor brain needed a break
So soon enough I was snoozing.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Jackson Didn't Take Action?

Latest Blago fallout:
The judge calls for a recess just as Rajinder Bedi is about to finish the story about his Oct. 28, 2008 meeting with Jesse Jackson Jr.

Without the jury present, Prosecutor Christopher Niewoehner explains that Jackson, fund-raiser Raghu Nayak and Rajinder Bedi met at the 312 Restaurant in Chicago.

And that's when Nayak discusses raising $1 million for Blagojevich for Jackson's appointment.

Just to be clear, Jesse Jackson Jr. is a congressman and is the son of the really famous Jesse Jackson.

Was Jackson entertaining the idea of a trade - his friend would raise 1 million for Blago, if Blago would give the senate seat to Jackson?

I gather that's what the prosecutor wanted to get before the jury. But, to be fair, entertaining an illegal plan is not the same as taking a concrete step to put such a plan into action.

It's the concrete step that bursts your bubble
and lands you in legal trouble.

Merely considering crime must fail
as a basis for jail.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The iBrain App

Someone said today that in the future, we might all have portable brain scanners feeding into our PDAs, so we could make real-time corrections when the wrong part of the brain was working.

If you could watch your brain
In color on your phone,
Would you really gain
Superior mental tone?

By staring at the locus
Of your neural action,
Will your power of focus
Pick up better traction?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

July 4

From the east to the west
And the south to the north
I'm wishing you all
A happy 4th!

And for non-USA persons everywhere,
I hope you have a great day, even though it's not a holiday there.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Rebellion was declared
by thoughtful men who dared.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Price Tags

If you've been following le Affaire Blago, you might have wondered why the Gov was so desperate for fresh moolah. Well, a government accountant ran some numbers:
Schindler reviewed the financial records of Blagojevich during his time as governor and said he and his wife spent more than $400,000 on clothes during that time frame, more than they spent on the mortgage for his North Side home.

Blagojevich dropped $205,706 alone with Oxxford, a tailor with a reputation for sewing high-end custom suits. On one day alone in December 2006, Blagojevich charged $20,000 with the suit maker, his credit card records showed.
Let's be fair. The "time frame" seems to be about 5 years. So, really, they were only spending $80,000 per year on clothes. Big deal!

He was always well dressed
and had fabulous hair.
Who would have guessed
he was not on the square?

With all his great gab
they should let him skate by!
Prison's too drab
for a sharp looking guy.