Monday, April 30, 2012

Mr. Smith Goes To Court

Derrick Smith, a legislator in the Illinois General Assembly, was running in the Democratic primary - when he got indicted for bribery.

He won the Democratic primary anyway.
"I think the majority of people who voted in this election were machine voters. They are very loyal to the machine. They always vote for the machine candidates and would vote for Atilla the Hun and his brothers," Dick Simpson, UIC political science professor, said.
Today Smith pleaded not guilty in federal court, and indicated he had no intention of resigning.
“The people in my district elected me on March 20, 2012, even after the government charged me with wrongdoing,” he said. “And that’s because they believed in me.”
Technically, he was not elected on March 20. He just won the Democratic primary on that day. But he is running unopposed in the general election!

It's not the voters he has to worry about.
It's the FBI that wants him out.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kangaroo Mondegreen

I always liked the Beatles song, "Across The Universe," but I always wondered about what "kangaroo deva" could possibly mean.

So today I finally looked it up, and it's not about a kangaroo at all. It's  "Jai guru deva om", which is a Sanskrit fragment, which might mean something like "glory to the shining remover of darkness".

I'm disappointed, even kind of bitter.
I'd visualized that cute Australian critter
making its way, without a stop,
across the sky in just one hop.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


The NATO conference is still coming to Chicago, and the Milwaukee Red Cross is prepared:
CBS 2 News has obtained a copy of a Red Cross e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area.

It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”
An evacuation of Chicago? I don't think that's happened since the Fire.

On the bright side, Milwaukee has a nice domed stadium where the Brewers play. Maybe they can put us up in there. I assume there will be plenty of beer and brats to go around.

But, within the city limits, we have 2.8 million people. It will take a while to move us all.

I'm worried the roads will start clogging,
so I plan to escape by jogging.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wildlife Encounter II

I got home from work and went for a bicycle ride into the woods. Thank you, daylight savings time.

On the bike path, on the way back, a reddish-brown and white bird swooped across my path, pretty darn close.

And I thought to myself, that is a really huge pigeon!

Then I turned my head to gawk
at what really was a hawk.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wildlife Encounter

He saw it before I did. It was only 10 feet away, but sitting very still. I would have walked right by it.

First thing I knew, the leash was yanking my shoulder. Instinctively, I held on and yanked back. The dog weighs 80 pounds, and has 4 feet on the ground, but I do weigh more.

And the big fat possum was able to escape the jaws of Labrador doom.

He ambled away, fluffy and white,
into the night.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Supposed to Be

James Lovelock, a big-name warming-warner, is walking back his claims:
The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now.
When they told us the climate was sick,
why didn't they mention it might be a trick?

We gave the climate our trust,
but the frying is now just a bust!

Bang Bang

Not a great plan:
A Virginia teacher has been charged with 12 felony counts after allegedly pulling a blank firing gun on his students and firing several times.
Perhaps he thought the kids would give thanks
to him for only firing blanks.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Singing Sondheim

The musical director assures me that the Sondheim songs are hard to learn, which I find reassuring, because I find them hard to learn.

I wish I could read music better. But I do have the DVD of the Broadway show.

So I follow along
the way they do the song.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bounce Back and the Lack Thereof

Obama & Romney both have polygamists in their recent family tree, and Obama's polygamous ancestors are actually more recent.

So it was silly when the governor of Montana said:
I am not alleging by any stretch that Romney is a polygamist and approves of [the] polygamy lifestyle, but his father was born into [a] polygamy commune in Mexico.
He goes on to make the point that most women don't approve of polygamy, which is no doubt true. Well it's the "but" in his quote that gives his intention away. "I'm not saying he's a polygamist, but..."

The Democrats keep running into backfire problems this year. Romney drove with a dog in a kennel on his car roof. But Obama ate dog meat. Romney is a Mormon. But Obama went to Jeremiah Wright's church.

The personal attacks
keep bouncing back.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The economy was supposed to be booming by now, roaring back from the great recession, with the Democrats surfing the waves of good economic news. I think they placed too much faith in "raw animal spirits" bouncing back, and gave too little thought to the effects of their own legislation and regulation on the economy.

Oh, the American economy is a mighty pack animal. It can carry a lot of governmental burdens.

But there's such a thing as a weight
that's too great.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Into The Political Woods

So I was looking at my copy of Into The Woods, and there's this blurb on the back from Time magazine:
It is that joyous rarity, a work of sophisticated artistic ambition and deep political purpose that affords nonstop pleasure.
And I stared at it and thought, really? It must be pretty darned deep. So I was gratified when I came across these remarks by Stephen Sondheim:
Back in 1987, I got a lot of letters from people saying, 'Oh, I see, the giant is supposed to represent AIDS.' I said no, the giant represents a giant, that's all. James and I were not trying to make a subliminal point about anything, from AIDS to politics...
An artist can be surprised to find
what a reviewer sees in his mind.

Sources, Schmources!

I need my daily outrage.
I go to the net to get it.
And if it's juicy enough,
I don't even bother to vet it.

The European Civil War

You, like me, may never have heard of the European Civil War - until now! It turns out it's a rebranding of some bloodletting that you know under other nomenclature:
The European Civil War is a term that is used to characterise both World War I and World War II and the inter-war period as a protracted civil war taking place in Europe. It is used in referring to the repeated confrontations that occurred during the first-half of the 20th century.
You may think this is a crazy term, since a civil war is a war within a nation, but the two world wars were wars among nations. That's what I think, too.

Of course, if you vaguely imagine that the European Union was a nascent nation as of 1900, then you can kind of see the point of this. As long as you don't think too much about the United States and Japan and China and Canada and so on, who also seemed to be involved in these sprawling troubles.

The Wikipedia article, quoted above, is written very strangely, I think by non-native speakers of English, or else by professors of international studies.

I only learned about the Euro Civil Dustup because Richard Fernandez was complaining about the new European History Museum:
The whole problem of explaining the present is so nettlesome that the European Union’s “House of European History” museum decided to omit the mention of World War 2 altogether by the simple expedient of declaring 1946 the Year Zero for European history.
But of the unpleasantness of 1939-1945 it will only say that there was an event called the “European Civil War”, which presumably was fixed by the European Union
The public relations of the EU often seems to depend upon papering over disagreements, trying to forget, in order to forgive and get along.

But I understand this is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
So let me just say,
some things are sufficiently rotten
they should never be forgotten.

It's Rrruff Out There

Candidates and canines! In the news and in the blogs! This election's showing signs of going to the dogs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unsecret Service

If you need to keep things quiet, don't start a media riot over cost disputes with prostitutes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clock Wise

We spent about 3 hours on choreography last night. I'm a slow learner in this department.

One younger guy, a fast learner, nevertheless was confused about which direction to circle.

It turned out the choreographer was saying "clockwise," and he was a little bit uncertain about that.

"I have a digital clock," he said.

I understood better - because I was old!

When you live in the age of the digital clock,
the catchphrase "clockwise" comes as a shock.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Swan Pond

What an odd way to die.

Canadian geese have become pests here, especially in ponds. But there's a company that will rent you a swan, to keep in your pond, to keep the geese away.

Mind you, you can't just kill the geese. They're protected. But you can let other animals, like dogs or swans, chase them away. Welcome to the wacky world of wildlife law.

Saturday, a guy who works for this company, was kayaking in such a pond, checking on the swan, and somehow got attacked by the swan.

His kayak capsized. He drowned.

Before you kayak near a swan
be sure to have your life vest on.

Hamming It Up

My father reported his computer's printer was no longer working, and he needed it to work to print an attachment he'd written for his income tax return, so I headed over to his house. His printer had a message up saying it was out of blue ink. Well, "cyan".

My father didn't think this could be causing his printer to malfunction, since he only wanted to print with black ink. Which is logical enough, but I still suspected the printer was on strike until it got new ink. So I headed out to my car.

But when I went out to the street, I had occasion to meet a lady from the U.S. Postal Service, who was very glad to see me, because she had a package to deliver that was too heavy for her to carry - addressed to my father. I signed for it, noted it was wet at the bottom, put it in my father's  house, and went out again to buy ink.

Upon my return, the ink proved to be, in fact, what the printer was waiting for. Once I replaced all three color cartridges, the printer was then happy to print using its black ink. Go figure.

At last attention returned to the mystery heavy wet package, which was from one of our relatives. We opened it, and it proved to be a fresh ham - a big uncured hunk of pig flesh. A lot like this, but sealed, or perhaps not-quite-sealed, in plastic:

I suggested to my father that we dig a fire pit in his side yard, and roast it there. He said no, that he would figure out some other way to cook it.

When will I get to stick my fork
into that giant hunk of pork?

Friday, April 13, 2012

In A Musical

I have no solos, I just take part in "whole ensemble" singing. This is good, because I haven't sung a solo on stage since eighth grade. I was the mayor of Hamlin town, in The Pied Piper, and at that time I was still singing soprano.

I've never really practiced singing with my adult male voice. Well, I've got about a month.

I guess I can hide in the crowd
and not sing too loud!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Weakening Credibility

My mother worked up to a point. She was working as a commercial artist when she got pregnant with me. Then she gave birth to 10 kids over 14 years, and she never drew a paycheck again in her life.

After the kids were grown, she thought about going back to work, but my father's law career was going great guns at that point, and her contribution to the family income would have been marginal, especially given marginal income tax rates. So she took up art again, this time for her own pleasure, rather than for pay.

Nonetheless, she was a bright woman, a University of Chicago drop-out, but an art-school graduate, who read the newspapers and read books and formed her own opinions about world affairs. I would say she was entitled to her opinions, and I figure Ann Romney is entitled to her opinions too.

I'm not sure I've ever heard Ann Romney speak, but people say she's warm and personable, and a big influence on her husband, so evidently some Democrats perceive her as a political threat. I can see where they would want to weaken her credibility, especially since she has a credible persona.

But the way to weaken her credibility is not like this:
Said Rosen: “What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country, saying, 'Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.' Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”
Well, this isn't completely coherent on its own terms. Even if she hasn't drawn a paycheck, she might have talked to enough "regular" women on the campaign trail to get a pretty good impression of what's on "regular" women's minds.

But what really backfired, I imagine, was the sneering tone toward a woman who had, after all, raised five children, which strikes most people as being work of an important sort.

Do not appear
to sneer
at motherhood.

It rarely does your cause much good.

You'll have better luck if you try
attacking apple pie!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Daughters Galore

I played Father in Little Women, where I was the father of 4 girls. I played Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, where I was the father of 4 5 girls.

And now I am playing Cinderella's Father in Into The Woods, where I am the father of 3 girls.

Or perhaps I am the biological father of one and merely the stepfather of the 2 evil stepsisters. I haven't read the whole script yet. I just stepped in today, when someone else had to step out of the role.

In real life, I have a son.
But on stage, not one.

UPDATE: A big thank you to Shannon for correcting my memory as to the number of daughters I had in Pride and Prejudice.  What a bad father I am for letting Mary slip from my mind, however briefly!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ruth Sings The Blues

Keats, in his Ode to a Nightingale, wrote of the bird's song:
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the selfsame song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
Tonight, for some reason, while at a performance of Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto, I was haunted by that last phrase, and tried a different direction.

Amid the alien corn,
uncomforted, forlorn,
she lifted her eyes to the moon
and felt a silent tune
screaming to be born.

Allowing her lips to part,
she heard... and unburdened her heart.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Tracked by Satellite

It's getting harder to make crime pay:
Authorities in Chicago said a suspect in a $17,000 Radio Shack robbery was tracked down through a GPS device that was part of the loot.
He was arrested about 2 hours after the theft.

Advice to robbers: do not steal
devices which will soon reveal
to the coppers where you are,
whether at home or in your car.

Hunger Games

I saw Hunger Games tonight. I haven't read the book. I didn't find it wildly original, but it had a nice edge to it, and I liked the young woman playing the heroine.

I left hungry for a sequel.

Some people think there's a libertarian subtext. Well... at least it's a story which preaches a right to rebel against a truly oppressive government.

Against a corrupt, tyrannical state,
she has a right to shoot straight.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

True Story

My father claimed to have a plan to kill the Easter Bunny,
and make a tasty stew of him. We didn't think it was funny.

Moving to Kindle

I'm going to make Unholy Quest available as a Kindle book. I should probably do it with my poetry books, too. And some of my older, unpublished novels. I do think the future of reading is mostly electronic, even though I retain a deep attachment to the printed page.

I was uploading tonight, but found a bug in the table of contents, where if you clicked on chapter 16, you got the cover. All the other chapter links worked fine.

When books were printed in ink,
you didn't have to test the links.

Friday, April 06, 2012


I just got back from an art show, "Embody", at the Black Cloud Gallery, featuring Jennifer Cronin, Ian Mitchell Wallace, and Matt Maniscalco. All the paintings involve human figures, usually with some element of fantasy or surrealism.

I'm a big Cronin fan, as I've no doubt mentioned before. The show includes this one, which I especially like for some reason:

The actual painting is about six feet tall. And the photo doesn't quite capture the sharpness of the contrast between the brightness of the pink cloud world and the darkness of the imagined dining room.

Ian Mitchell Wallace had a set of nudes with gold medallions or coins appearing in odd or suggestive places. Here's a detail from one I liked:

Matt Maniscalco had what looked like punk dance parties with inset paintings of other things in the center. I liked this one best:

These pictures are all from the artists' websites, which I linked to on their names, above.

By the way, one great thing about gallery shows, as opposed to museum shows, is that they're free!

But if you drive home with a painting in your car,
the gallery shows cost more, by far.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Descent Of Politics

Social Darwinism is in the news, because Obama accused his opponents of supporting it.

So, if Social Darwinism is bad, does that mean Antisocial Darwinism is good?

I believe the average election
is evidence for Unnatural Selection.

Real Masks

Althouse, a constitutional law prof herself, writes an open note to the president:
I think you alternate between these 2 personas, and I sense that you've done it for so long that it feels normal and comfortable to you, but I want to urge you to pack up Radical Lefty Obama and stow him away with the rest of your Harvard Law School memorabilia. I know you — the Moderate Obama — have impressed some very useful people over the years by parading about as Radical Lefty Obama.
Perhaps when he's rattled
and feeling embattled
he throws all his heft
to the left.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Great Books and the Turing Test

I have a family history of engagement with the Great Books method of education. My father was at U. of Chicago when it was all the rage there. He didn't care for it. I enrolled at Columbia U. in part because of their participation in that tradition. I didn't like what they did with it. And my daughter went to St. John's College in Maryland, where they adhere to it rather strictly. She loved it.

One of the stated goals of the method is to get the student to engage directly with dead thinkers who left important books behind. But what does engage mean in this context? It does not mean just reading them to know what they thought, in the sense of knowing what positions they took on this and that. The goal is supposed to be something more like grasping how they thought.

It strikes me that this is a bit like an ideological Turing Test. The original Turing Test was proposed for artificial intelligence, and the idea was that a computer would really be intelligent when you could engage in a computerized chat where you were unable to detect that you were talking to an artificial intelligence.

Ideological Turing Tests are similar. The idea is that you really understand liberalism, for example, when you can engage in a chat, pretending to be a liberal, and no one will be able to detect that you are not one.

Lately, for example, it has been reported that conservatives are better at impersonating liberals than liberals are at impersonating conservatives.

Similarly, it seems to me, one goal of engagement with Aristotle or Plato is to move toward the ability to answer the question: what would they say about X, where X is something they didn't really address. It's the sort of question that needs to be approached with some care. It's not about mind-reading. It's about grasping their habits of mind, which is worthwhile because they were great thinkers who were each, in their own way, great at thinking.

But the great books can also be approached as a pigeon holing exercise, memorizing and categorizing positions, in some sort of pre-set schema. The presuppositions of Marxism are particularly hazardous, because in dialectical materialism it's not really people who are doing the thinking, it's the means of production and historical situation that are determining their thoughts, so the theory pushes you away from grasping how they really did think.

Was this post,
whatever it may mean,
created by a ghost
in a machine?

Green Eggs and Hamlet

I do not like you, evil king!
I'll catch you soon - the play's the thing!