Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Collies vs. Gulls

And I bet the collies are having a jolly time of it:
A report on Illinois beaches released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council suggests that the use of border collies to harass gulls has helped reduce water contamination levels at area beaches.
Letting boys harass gulls for free
would be subject to prosecution.

But paying for dogs to harass them
is a natural solution.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ulysses and Penelope

Ulysses came ashore unrecognized
In Ithaca, the land where he was king.
The wear and tear that age and weather bring
Had left him gray and grim, as if disguised.
His cunning had not faded, and he mounted
An archery attack upon the men
Who filled his house, surprising them, and then
Cutting them down. Their bodies fell uncounted.
When he was done, he turned to greet his wife
With bloody hands. She stared into his face.
“You come home and you nearly wreck the place,
After you've been wandering half my life.”
He felt her hurt, and wondered where to start.
“Your voice,” he said, “is music to my heart."

This brings us to the conclusion of our trio of sonnets based on the Odyssey. We will now return to our regular programming!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Penelope and the Suitors

Beset by suitors who refused to leave,
Penelope spun plots to stall them all.
"I must complete this hanging for the wall.
And then I'll choose. Both day and night I'll weave."
But while they snoozed at night, she pulled the thread,
undoing all the work from that same day.
Drinking to kill the time, they missed the way
that they were being stealthily misled.
"Where has that bastard gone?" she sometimes thought,
especially at night, when without joy
she pulled the thread. "I know he sailed from Troy
long years ago. If he's alive he ought
to send some word. And if he's drowned at sea,
his body should wash up to set me free."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ulysses and the Sirens

The song pulled at his sinews and he strained
to burst the ropes that held him to the mast.
"Untie me or this day will be your last!"
he shouted at his men, but they remained
fixed on the task of steering clear of shocks,
deaf to his orders, beeswax in each ear,
purposely put so only he would hear
the voices of the women on the rocks.
"Noble Ulysses, we have eyes for you.
We long to feel your kisses on our lips.
Here in our arms, you'll have no need of ships.
Fully possess us, nothing else will do."
Speechless for once, he gasped at their appeal,
no power left except the power to feel.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Guess I Need A Time Machine To An Alternate Universe

In ancient Roman yoga
did the teacher wear a toga?

And lacking a rubber mat,
did downward dog slide flat?

Change of Schedule

We decided to reset our opening night to July 7th, to give everybody 5 more days to open the play. It basically goes back to the fact that our original director suddenly became unavailable, which caused some calendar chaos.

It's still a fevered pace,
but things are falling into place.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Liberty "Barber" Dime

On my walk home from work, my eye was caught by a round spot in the dirt - this 1909 dime, as it turned out.

I'm told the silver value is about $2.10. As a coin, it's a little higher.

But how long had it been there? Had erosion revealed it after a decades-long burial?

How odd, after all this time
to find this liberty dime
lying inert
in the dirt.

Holding Out

Illinois is about to become the only state that does not allow its citizens to carry concealed guns.

So second amendment fans are turning their attention to the land of Lincoln.
“This battle will be waged relentlessly at the polls and in the courts,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. “We expect a favorable outcome in the courts, but if these actions fail, it just means that more actions will follow. We will fight until we win, no matter how long it takes.”
Illinois' dominant politicians are still big gun-control advocates, but they now face the expense of lawsuits that they'll probably lose, at a time when the state is practically broke.

The city of Chicago, which is also fairly broke, is being forced to pay attorney's fees in the big gun-control case they lost: McDonald vs. Chicago.

I also think the evidentiary tide has turned on this issue. States that allow concealed carry have not suffered any big increase in shootings. And Illinois has not become a murder-free paradise.

In retrospect, hampering self-defense
looks sort of dense.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's In It

Government help:
President Barack Obama's health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed.
Basically it means retired 62 year olds are eligible for Medicaid until they turn 65, at which point they're eligible for Medicare.

Up till now, Medicaid was just for poor people.

Hey! I'll be 62 in about 3 years...

Early retirees get free Medicaid?
Well played!
The working 62 year olds can see that my bills get paid.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't Try This At Home

Bail has been set
for a self-appointed vet
who tried surgery on his pet:
Gibbs told the officers he had been using a butcher knife to remove a cyst from under the dog’s ear, and had turned on the water in the bathtub to clean up the dog, according to police and prosecutors.
He was caught because water from the bathtub spilled to the apartment below his.

He was found naked and drunk, covered in blood. He told the cops he was a cardiologist. But it sounds like he's actually a hospital administrator.

I hope the dog is okay.

Surgical techniques cannot be mastered
when plastered.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saving Face, Revisited


Here's a new building in progress. In the front of it, to the viewer's left, way at the bottom, is a preserved facade from a small old building. (Yes, if you're wondering, that's Sullivan's Auditorium to the viewer's right.)

Here's a pic, from earlier in the construction process, of the facade from another angle, held up only by a temporary steel framework.

Preserving facades is a trend I don't especially like. I like old buildings. I live in an older house. But sticking an old facade on a new building detracts from a pleasing sense of unity in the new building's design.

But there are tax credits for Historic Facade Easements!

It's my considered guess
that any aesthetic trend
backed by the IRS
will not soon come to an end.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Think Journal Symposium Issue

I received the latest Think Journal in the mail. No poetry this time, just a sustained round-table discussion of the idea that writing poetry is somehow deeply mathematical.

As usual with poetry, it's hard to get the experts to agree on using the same terms for the same things.

I haven't finished the issue yet, but it splashes open with an essay by David J. Rothman, who maintains that the poet must count while she works.

Counting her words, tuh-dum, tuh-dum,
hearing them mount to a rhythmic sum,
dancing along on delicate feet,
computing her way till the song is complete.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sauce for the Goose

I approve of the first part of this plan:
New York City plans to capture pesky geese that threaten planes departing area airports and send them to Pennsylvania to be cooked for meals for the poor, city officials said.
But isn't New York broke? Why don't they give these meals to their own poor? Or why don't they just sell them to help deal with their budget deficit?

I'm hoping this idea comes to Chicago. Maybe they could sell them right at the food stands in the airports - with appropriate sauces, of course.

I prefer a ginger glaze
with just a hint of jet fuel haze.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Their Feet

The actors got up on their feet today, moving with the play instead of just reading. It tends to to be a liberating but awkward transition. I think that's partly because you, as an actor, have some incorrect assumptions about what the other actors are going to be doing physically.

It's always a surprise
and more than a little distracting
to see the other guys
acting out their acting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Drug Shortages

Alex Tabarrok has a nice piece explaining how government regulations are causing shortages of crucially needed drugs in the U.S.:
Currently there are about 246 drugs that are in short supply, a record high. These shortages are not just a result of accident, error or unusual circumstance, the number of drugs in short supply has risen steadily since 2006. The shortages arise from a combination of systematic factors, among them the policies of the FDA. The FDA has inadvertently caused drugs long-used in the United States to be withdrawn from the market and its “Good Manufacturing Practice” rules have gummed up the drug production process and raised costs.
If you make the safety rules strict enough
and make the price controls tight enough
then the makers will not make enough

Fool's Gould

The popular writings of Stephen Jay Gould were never very popular with me. I'm sure he knew more biology than I'll ever dream about, but I often got the sense he was hand-waving in his more contentious arguments. And now the NY Times reveals that he went beyond hand-waving. He simply dreamed up his evidence for a charge of racism:
In a 1981 book, “The Mismeasure of Man,” the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould asserted that Morton, believing that brain size was a measure of intelligence, had subconsciously manipulated the brain volumes of European, Asian and African skulls to favor his bias that Europeans had larger brains and Africans smaller ones.

But now physical anthropologists at the University of Pennsylvania, which owns Morton’s collection, have remeasured the skulls, and in an article that does little to burnish Dr. Gould’s reputation as a scholar, they conclude that almost every detail of his analysis is wrong.
A Wisconsin paleontologist offers this opinion:
Some of Gould's mistakes are outrageous, with others it is hard for me to believe that the misstatements were not deliberate misrepresentations.
Gould is gone, but Wikipedia has this to say about his politics:
In describing his own political views, he has said they "tend to the left of center." According to Gould the most influential political books he read were C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite and the political writings of Noam Chomsky.
People who stare at the evolutionary process, often start thinking that some individuals of a species may be more "fit" than others. This is the sort of thing that stirs doubts in the hearts of contemporary egalitarians. I always had the sense that Gould was struggling to suppress such dangerous thoughts, in others and in himself.

Unjustified charges of bias by race
are vicious and base.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Guest Rhyme

My father wrote this one:

That Facebooking flasher named Weiner,
Says,"I find myself getting obscener,"
"So I'll hop in a cab,"
"And dash off to rehab,"
" 'Til my act is perceptibly cleaner."

Saturday, June 11, 2011


The sun sets over the decommissioned golf course.

The end of a day
with no golfers at play.

Operation Bunny

We have a couple of grated basement window wells. A little bit like this:

Except ours are rectangular and have more room for a little animal to fall through.

Yes, this cute baby bunny got stuck. By the time Marsha noticed him, he wasn't looking too lively, but I got him free and put him in the yard and he seemed to perk up.

She found a rabbit
and had me grab it.

I put it out
to hop about.

Friday, June 10, 2011


People keep asking why a congressman would email pictures like that to women. The implication being that women wouldn't actually be receptive to such an approach. But, apparently, some were. At least, they played along with his game. And that's all it takes - some minimal level of positive feedback - to convince a guy that he's got great charm and technique.

I still claim
that it's his name
that really set this scandal aflame.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Boot

Car "boots" are annoying devices that clamp over your car wheel, making it impossible to drive the vehicle.

Well, that was the idea. But here in Illinois we have people who are up to the challenge!
Carina Rios, 19, and Alejandro Alvarez, 22, both of Zion, were both charged with theft for allegedly trying to drive away with the boot on their car, said Gurnee Police Cmdr. Jay Patrick. They didn’t get very far, and damaged the boot, Patrick said.
I think I should prepare,
and so I want to know where
you buy the key
to set you free
when your wheel is caught in this snare.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Evening in the Park

The day was hot, but the evening cooled, and for rehearsal we spent a couple of pleasant hours in a city park, the actors and the director and me.

The standard advice, for a new play, is that it's smart and helpful for the playwright to attend rehearsals. But the playwright has to be careful to let the director be the one who directs. We're trying to put together a racehorse here, not Dr. Doolittle's 2-headed pushmi-pullyu:

I don't mind hearing what the actors or directors have to say about the play or the characters. But being sensitive people, they often worry about offending me. I think it takes them a little while to get used to me being there.

They usually find some things about their characters puzzling - things I may not have found puzzling at all. I may even think, in the moment, that I have an answer for them. But a lot of the actor's art is actually taking place at precisely this step - where the actor tries to get a grip on the character.
While they develop their grip
I mostly zip my lip.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Story Finally Becomes Unignorable

Representative Weiner has confessed to what he denied -
emailing something it would have been best to hide.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Play Status Update

I'm now very happy to have a talented cast:

Jordan Leigh Wakefield will play Maggie.
Hasket Morris will play Jason.
Matthew Chapman will play Trent.
Denise Smolarek will play Yuliana.

And I have not one but two directors.

Giau Truong will direct, and Anna Menekseoglu will do character direction.

We did a first reading together, and the actors were already trying out their roles like new sets of clothes.

Characters in dramas
get tried out like pajamas.

You want them to feel just right
since you're going to wear them all night.

Net Neutrality Or Not?

I guess it's good news that this story came out:
Documents made public yesterday by Judicial Watch describe extensive collusion by Federal Communications Commission officials with a left-wing advocacy group in a campaign to expand government regulation of the Internet.
Why is net neutrality
so partisan in reality?

The "left-wing advocacy group" has a name which sounds benign enough: Free Press Institute. They describe themselves as nonpartisan. But then ALL 501-3C groups describe themselves as nonpartisan. They have to, to get the tax break.

So what kind of nonpartisan are they? Their website has a lot of attacks on giant corporations, so you would think they were populists of some kind.

But a friend sent me these quotations from Robert McChesney, the founder of the Institute:
"They've got to be held accountable; our broadcasting system has to be made accountable; and unless it is, it's going to be very hard to change anything else for the better in this country."

"There is no real answer, but to remove, brick by brick, the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles."
Of course, that's just the founder. But it does worry me.

I fear he wants to neuter
the view from my computer.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Caddyshack, the Remake

Ann Althouse alerted me to a varmint-hunting case in Wisconsin. Skunks and raccoons, hunting for grubs, have been digging up the lawns at the Edelweiss Golf Course. So the manager hired some people to hunt the varmints. They took a golf cart and headed out to do some shooting, but somehow ended up arrested.
"We tried to use live traps, but the raccoons just turned the traps over to get at the food," Ellingson said.
Raccoons - are they welcome guests,
much too cute
to shoot?

Or would it be best
if these parasite-infested pests
were all laid to rest?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Unassisted Suicide

Some guy committed suicide the other day by wading slowly into cold water in the San Francisco Bay Area. After a while, he died - while people watched.
First responders and about 75 people watched the incident on Monday from a beach in Alameda, a city of about 75,000 people across from San Francisco.
The "first responders" did not respond, except to watch.

If they're not allowed to respond, I doubt
it was worthwhile to even send them out.