Wednesday, December 31, 2014

7 F at 7 AM

soon gone
with dawn.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hit and Run and Return

Today's church scandal features an Episcopalian bishop who ran down a cyclist.

'“Several news agencies have reported this as a ‘hit and run.’ Bishop Cook did leave the scene initially, but returned after about 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions,” Sutton wrote, according to the text of the email obtained by The Brew.'

Was it a hit and run?
She did come back twenty minutes after the damage was done.

Someone of the same name in the same general area has a history: "The Brew asked Tillman if Bishop Cook is the same Heather Elizabeth Cook, 4325 Cabin Creek Road, arrested on September 10, 2010 on drinking, driving and drug charges in Caroline County, according to this local media coverage and online court records."

It's always a shame
to take the blame
for somebody else who has the same name.

But it sounds like the address matches too,
which increases the likelihood that the identification is true.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vote the Name You Know

The pundits predict we'll get Clinton or Bush. 
I'll stand on a ledge if you'll give me a push. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Killing in Question

"Failure to frisk puts killing in question. Mother says pat-down would have prevented cops shooting son in ER."

That's the heading and subheading on a front-page story on today's paper edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Basically, a mom wishes the state troopers had frisked her son before an ambulance took him to the ER. Because after he got to the ER, her son pulled out a gun, and wouldn't put it down upon request, at which point the local suburban police shot him and killed him.

According to the legal experts quoted in the story, there's no duty to frisk, as such. Police have fairly broad powers to frisk if they feel threatened, apparently. But they don't have to frisk every time someone yells at them.

Actually, in a lot of place, residents complain about over-aggressive frisking from the police. It's one of the complaints you hear a lot. You particularly hear that young black men get frisked disproportionately. And, yes, this guy who got shot was a young black man.

The online headline is a bit more subdued: "Family asks why man shot by police in hospital wasn't frisked after crash"

That's fair. You might well ask. But I don't think it quite "puts the killing in question" as the paper headline put it.

If I were going to question the original killing, I guess I would ask rather why it's necessary to shoot someone who is refusing to put a gun down. The answer that I will hear, I think, is that the police feared for their own lives or those of others. And I can see being afraid when an angry guy is holding a gun. I guess I would be afraid too, particularly if he pointed it at me. It's very clear that everyone is afraid of this guy, since they scramble in fear away from him.

There's some video from a news station here, showing some surveillance footage that doesn't show you all that much. There's some other footage here.

A couple of the news stories mention that 9 shots were fired in less than 2 seconds. Yes, that's how the police shoot you nowadays, a lot of the time. They practically empty a semi-automatic pistol into you, and they can do it pretty fast. They don't shoot you once and wait to see if you drop. That's regarded, I believe, as an unreliable approach.

The police report said: "The officers fired until the immediate threat was over."

In the unfortunate circumstance that you get hit with 9 rounds,
you're probably "over" before you hit the ground.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Interview

We downloaded The Interview... a movie I wouldn't normally be in a hurry to see. It made me laugh, off and on. I thought the guy playing the dictator was good - he had some charisma, probably more than the real dictator of the same name.

It's not exactly that I highly recommend it,
but I didn't want some government to end it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Last Place You Look

I was playing Santa in a quiet house,
wrapping gifts for a certain spouse...

When I realized one present was missing. I really only stash Christmas gifts in one of 2 places, so I reexamined those places.


Had I had stashed the gift in some new, previously unused location?

But I couldn't think of where that would be.

Finally, I began to wonder if it was possible, just possible, that I had never removed that particular gift from the trunk of my car.

And sure enough, that was the place,
the big solution to my case.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Case of the Funnybone Faint

Once it happened to me,
I got knocked out through my knee...

It was in elementary school, maybe 4th grade. The teacher gave us a problem, I think a math problem, to solve. Anyway, it was some kind of speed contest, and the teacher instructed us to stand up as soon as we solved the problem.

I was good at this sort of thing, and I'm competitive, so I finished the problem and jumped up very quickly... and banged my knee into the underside of my desk. I got an immediate radiating sensation, like I'd hit my funnybone, except in my knee.

And then... I was waking up. I thought it was morning. I thought I was home. And then I heard my teacher saying: "John Enright, get up off of the floor this instant!"

Yes, she thought I was faking it. However, as Angela Gentile explains it:

"A vasovagal or vasodepressor response is a reflex the body goes through when a certain trigger is present. When the funny bone, or ulnar nerve is struck hard by a pointy object, a vasovagal response can occur. This can also happen when the peroneal nerve (just below the knee) is struck. The body responds by having a large amount of blood pool into the legs, which in effect pulls blood away from the major organs, like the brain and heart. The brain goes unconscious for a short time, until the blood gets pumped back into the brain and heart."

Why did my teacher think I goofing around?
Did she mistake me somehow for a class clown?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Merry Widow

Last night we enjoyed the local Light Opera Works production of Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow. It's a new translation/adaptation. Act III doesn't quite match either of the versions described in the linked Wikipedia article. But I liked it.

There's a joke in this version that got a lot of laughs. I'm guessing it wasn't in the original. So, spoiler alert on the joke.

*** recurring gag spoiler ***

The joke depends on the fact that the characters are all multi-lingual in European languages, but they all consistently regard English as "the language of love".

English, you see, is the modern language of science, of business, and so forth. But we tend to think the "Romance" languages have the edge on expressions of romance.

I think it's the tendency, in English speaking cultures, to emphasize speaking plainly, as opposed to high-flown hyperbole. English is seen as lacking in ornament, like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, kind of bare.

But, in fairness
to English's alleged bareness,
take a good look at a Shakespeare sonnet,
and whether or not you find ornament on it,
I hope you'll agree that it's lovely beyond compareness.

Cop Killer

So, after all the tormented examination of some killings by police officers, we get an unarguable revenge killing of 2 police officers.

The killings by police officers, were an odd mix of cases (Brown, Garner, Rice, Crawford), but all involved black men shot by cops in cases where the initial situation involved either very minor crime, or no crime at all. The Rice and Crawford cases involved toy guns that the police didn't know were toys. The Brown and Garner cases involved confrontations that escalated terribly.

But now we get this, a black man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, killing 2 cops in revenge, "putting wings on pigs" as he reportedly put it on Instagram.

NYC has a melting pot police force, and the 2 cops he killed were not "white" exactly, but not "black" either. Going by surnames and appearances, one looks to have been Hispanic, and the other East Asian. In other situations, if they were victims being lionized by the left, they would already be referred to as "people of color".

The perpetrator, though, is a black-looking man with a Muslim-looking first name, who may have considered himself as a Muslim, who shot 2 cops on anti-terrorism training duty.

Needless to say, the perpetrator, who also shot his own girlfriend, was probably all kinds of crazy. And I think he did us all a favor by offing himself.

Did I mention that NYC protesters were filmed calling for "dead cops"?

This reminds me of the 60s, when the revolutionaries would chant "Off the pigs!". The way it plays out, is renewed respect for the police.

People feel a need for organized protection. They would like that protection to be conducted in a reasonable, non-discriminatory manner. But they really don't like murderous jerks who set out to kill cops. The optics on this are terrible for the left. This is a big splashy case which will command a lot of national attention.

When you demonize the police,
you do not help the cause of peace.

Correction: They weren't on anti-terrorism duty. "In a related story, both were reassigned from an anti-terror beat to enhancing security at a public housing development in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood — the exact population the NYPD is accused of victimizing."

Bedford-Stuyvesant is a notoriously tough black neighborhood. You may have heard the old Billy Joel song:

I've been stranded in the combat zone
I walked through Bedford Stuy alone
Even rode my motorcycle in the rain
And you told me not to drive
But I made it home alive
So you said that only proves that I'm insane.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Welcome Mat

Sean Penn has concerns:

"This week, the distributors who wouldn't show The Interview and Sony have sent ISIS a commanding invitation. I believe ISIS will accept the invitation. Pandora's box is officially open."

You may believe that you're saving,
yourself from grief when you're caving.
But that sort of grief has a way,
of returning to stay the next day.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Instagram Ka-Blam

It's not easy being a celebrity. You need to keep your star shining. You're famous partly just for being famous.

And one way to prove your famousness is by having many followers... social media followers... let's say Instagram followers in particular... some of whom were recently eliminated as being fake accounts:

"On Thursday, we noticed about 1.3 million of Kim Kardashian’s vanished. Rihanna’s decreased by about 1.2 million. Katy Perry’s went down 300,000. Even Oprah lost 100,000."

You may think it's funny,
but I bet they paid good money,
to make their numbers surge.

Gone now, in a purge.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Kind of Luck

Usually captains of police are not on the front lines of shoot-outs, but earlier this year a Chicago police captain took 2 bullets. He lived, and has now returned to work.

'Next time, he joked, he'll know to duck a little better, "so I wouldn't get this big head shot again."'

That's rather cool and self-deprecatory, but the story makes clear that getting shot was a big emotional experience. I remember talking to a police officer once, shortly after he had been shot at. He was in no mood to make light of it at the time. He was still quite shaken by the experience. Well, I don't blame him. I've never been shot at, but I bet I wouldn't like it.

Struck in the head,
lucky not to be dead,
ducking next time instead.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Censored Rhyme

I came across a discussion of "censored rhyme", a.k.a. "mind rhyme", a technique I'm familiar with, although I don't think I had a name for it. Anyway, here's my news-of-the-day contribution.

I put all my money in rubles,
because I thought Putin was smart.
But now my big bubbly investment,
is starting to smell like a... foully aromatic raspberry tart.


Key event in American history:

"The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft."

Whether they were insane,
or whether they merely lied,
panic ran amain
and innocents died.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Some say it was a titan,
who long ago enlightened,
our cold and shivering kind.

But surely Prometheus,
was merely one of us,
with bold and questioning mind.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Theory of Everything

Spoiler alert.

Seriously, spoiler alert.

Okay, that's out of the way.

We saw this movie, characterized as a romantic drama, it's very much about the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his first wife.

I knew that they were both married to other people now, and I wondered how they were going to handle that. In particular I wondered it they would end the story before the marriage broke up.

But, no. And the culmination of the movie is really that they're still friends after the marriage ends. Curiously, it mentions that she remarried, but doesn't mention that he did, although we do see the budding of his relationship with his current wife, who perhaps comes across as a bit of a hussy. Well, the story is based on the first wife's memoir.

The acting, particularly the guy playing Hawking, and his physical deterioration, seemed spectacular.

I really expected the story to be terribly sad,
but somehow it wasn't. For that I am glad.

The Accused

"An Alabama educator is picking up the pieces of her life after a student wrongly accused her of sexual abuse."


She's got guilty eyes,
but to my surprise,
it seems like she's innocent.

She gave up her job,
moved back with her mom,
but avoided imprisonment.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Illinois Constitutional Conundrum

Our state comptroller just had a stroke, and died, after being reelected. She was just finishing one term, and about to start another.

And we just elected a Republican governor, to replace our Democratic governor. But the new guy hasn't taken office yet.

In Illinois, the guv gets to appoint a replacement comptroller. But which guv gets to do that? Old or new?

Our new guy's position is that they should split the difference. The old guv can appoint someone to fill out the current term, and the new guv can appoint someone to fill out the next term.

What I want to know is: why on earth is our constitution vague on this point? Who wrote this thing?

When your constitution is murky on questions of this sort,
it just makes more work for your state supreme court.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Morning frost reveals
Structure roof conceals. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Doing the Dew

There was an amusing article in the WSJ today about "The Athletes Who Train With Soda". It proceeded to document:

"...a surprising truth: Many high-level athletes not only drink the occasional soda, they use it strategically to fuel their performance. This persists amid the vilification of sugary soft drinks as a contributor to the nation’s high rate of obesity."

This is surprising? Really? Who do they think these people are? These are not people struggling with obesity. These are people struggling to shovel enough calories into their bodies.

Also, these are not people who are obsessed with their health, not exactly. Rather they are obsessed with their performance level.

As for me, although decidedly non-elite, I do sometimes drink the stuff. I often put a mix of half-soda, half-water in my bottles for long bike rides. Mostly because I really don't think that's much different that "sports drinks".

And towards the end of a marathon training run, I will sometimes stop in a 7-11 along the way, and buy a bottle of Mountain Dew sometimes. I know, the research tells us that it's too sugary to be absorbed efficiently by the average body. But my body tolerates it well. And sometimes I am very glad of that caffeine kick.

Was it supposed to be hush-hush
that athletes crave the sugar-rush
and sometimes chug down cans of Crush?

Hostile Witness

I can't quite follow what the point of this was.

'Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they will not call one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, before a jury hearing a multimillion-dollar grand-fraud case because of “baseless accusations” they say Whitaker leveled the day before.'

We have a stinky fraud trial here, a federal trial concerning money siphoned from our state treasury. Dr. Whitaker was apparently close to one of the accused perpetrators.

Federal prosecutors complained he wasn't cooperative enough, and asked the judge to declare Whitaker a "hostile witness" so they could question him more freely. The judge agreed to designate him as hostile, but now the prosecutors have declared they don't want him to testify after all!

They are nonetheless entering some stuff about him into the trial record.

I don't get it. I don't think the reporters get it, either. I suspect it's some tricky technical legal thing.

But, but, but...
I'm baffled as to what.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Credulity Rationalized

From a writer in The Guardian:

"I choose to believe Jackie. I lose nothing by doing so, even if I’m later proven wrong – but at least I will still be able to sleep at night for having stood by a young woman who may have been through an awful trauma."

Again, belief is here justified not on the basis of evidence, not as a matter of plausibility, but as an evaluation of cost. Not utilitarian social cost this time, just self cost: "I lose nothing by doing so."

Whether you know it or not, you pay a terrible cost.
Your tether to reality is lost.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Police Involved Shootings

I was slow to notice, but lately, at least here in Chicago, whenever a cop shoots someone it's called a "police involved shooting".

In the old days, I think we just would have called it a "police shooting".

What do we gain by adding that "involved"?
That mystery, I fear, will not be solved.

Friday, December 05, 2014


I worked as a reporter one summer for the City News Bureau, here in Chicago, way back in 1972. I would not call it glamorous, but it had its educational moments. On one of my very first days on the job, there was a story about 2 young women who claimed to have been raped and held overnight.

I thought it was a story to take seriously, but a lot of the older reporters were scornful, assuring me that this was a made-up story, an excuse concocted by the young women as a story to tell their parents about where they had been. As I recall, they turned out to be correct. The young women recanted.

I don't know how the older reporters knew better. Maybe friends on the police force had tipped them. Maybe there were unlikely details in the young women's stories. I don't recall. But I remember being shocked.

Tonight I went to call-backs for Arthur Miller's The Crucible, which is a play about a true event: young women accused other people of witchcraft, leading to the Salem witch trials. There were many unlikely details in the stories that the young women told. But they were believed. For a while. But a lot of people died before the town came to its senses.

It can be a harsh fruit to chew,
but it's something you have to do.
You're crazy if you deny
that people sometimes lie.

Also, today was the day that the Rolling Stone / UVA fraternity-rape story fell apart.

'“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” wrote managing editor Will Dana in “A Note to Our Readers” posted on the magazine’s Web site. (The magazine did not return calls for further comment.)'

Their reporter had failed to check out both sides of the story.

There's an old joke among journalists about the need for verification: "If your mother says she loves, you check it out." Sometimes the joke includes an admonition to come back with at least two other sources establishing the claim of maternal affection.

It may be hoary advice,
but check your story twice.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


You might wonder why the sale of loose cigarettes is a crime. The FDA specifically bans the practice:

"Do NOT sell single cigarettes, also called 'loosies'."

Apparently it's to protect the children! African American children in particular:

'In many urban areas, the widespread availability of single cigarettes known as "loosies" poses a significant threat to anti-smoking initiatives—and may be contributing to the high percentage of young adult African Americans who smoke, according to a Bloomberg School study published in August's American Journal of Public Health.'

This can lead to people accidentally dying while being forcibly arrested.

It may seem like a gentle nudge
but if one refuses to budge
in comes a swarm
of men in uniform.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Auditioning: The Crucible

Tonight I auditioned for a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. It's my favorite of his, although I haven't seen or read them all.

Back when I was a kid, everyone thought Death Of A Salesman was his masterwork, but I have the impression that Crucible gets more attention nowadays.

In the scene I read, I played Danforth, a deputy governor of Massachusetts, one of the officials running the Salem witch trials.

He's a scary dude in the scene I played.

He's making a witness sweat
while controlling his own inner panic
trying to deal with the threat
of secrets dark and Satanic.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Time is Money

The NY Times picks up a press release about a deteriorating situation:

"The vast majority of students at American public colleges do not graduate on time, according to a new report from Complete College America, a nonprofit group based in Indianapolis."

Some bachelors of arts
take more years to come to fruition.

The only bad part
is you have to keep paying tuition.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Also She Missed Her Plane

A scary headline at the Sun-Times:

"Security line at Midway Airport Sunday morning was reportedly a mile long"

Connoisseurs of the editorial arts will have noticed that "reportedly" disclaimer, which is kind of amusing, because I don't think they'd use that if one of their own reporters was vouching for the measurement. But in this case, it seems to have originated with an out-of-town TV reporter who tweeted she had measured the line at 1.2 miles.

It's hard to keep your Thanksgiving smile
when security stretches over a mile.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hotel Aphrodite

We saw a farce at Prop Thtr called Hotel Aphrodite.

"The Chateau Amantius is an erotic therapeutic retreat run by famed sex therapist Linda Knudson (Allison Cain), catering to every possible need an adventurous couple may have."

So here's the odd thing, which you might already have noticed. The play's name is Hotel Aphrodite, but the name of the hotel is actually Chateau Amantius.

So I just have to shout:
what was that about?

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Some say iambic is the normal beat, 

Of English speakers - underneath it's lurking! 

And making sure that each line has five feet, 

Is not so hard - just keep your fingers working,

And count it out while speaking. It's a knack,

But with some practice, it begins to seem

Not so much of a verbal heart attack,

But more a calm and smoothly flowing stream.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Toy Gun Panic

I see where some cop in Cleveland killed a 12 year old black kid who was waving around a toy plastic-pellet gun.

And earlier this year, also in Ohio, cops killed a 22 year old black man who was walking around a WalMart with a toy gun.

I don't remember this sort of story from my youth - my youth when most of us boys were running around outside playing cops and robbers with toy guns. Of course, when toy guns were more common - extremely common - maybe the real cops were less likely to assume that toy guns are real.

Both cases involved someone making a 911 call. In both cases the responding officers were given incomplete or incorrect information. Did you ever play that "telephone game" where people whisper in each other's ears, passing a message along, and the message gets completely scrambled? I wonder if we would be better off letting the responding officers hear a recording of the actual 911 call.

Drop that replica gun
or your days are done!

Sound Advice

Tracinski advises the media on how not to screw up the next Ferguson, because they certainly misreported this one.

He covers 5 main points:

1. It’s not a story until there are facts (and claims aren’t facts).
2. Forensics is a science.
3. People are individuals, not symbols.
4. Legal procedures and privileges exist for a reason.
5. You are not the story.

Perhaps because I work in a technical field, I was especially struck by his comments on point 2:

"These days everybody loves talking about how they love science. Actually loving science is quite another thing... [T]he real, hard, verifiable facts about a shooting begin with the forensics. They begin with the ballistics, the autopsy, and the physical evidence from the scene... If the media had waited for these actual, verifiable facts to come out, they might have dropped the whole story before it became a national sensation. Because science."

The reporting proceeded in defiance
of science.

Time Flies

Somehow it's hard to believe,
but now it's officially Black Friday's Eve!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I have watched the outcomes since the sixties, and it has become clear to me:

Burning down local stores
because you're mad about race
is cutting off your nose
to spite your face.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Behavioral Political Economy

The "Grumpy Economist" remarks:

"I have long been puzzled at the high correlation between behavioral economics and interventionism."

He goes on in some detail. I think there's a lot to what he says.

If people are predictably dumb,
do not expect a solution to come,
from other people we've put in charge;
their errors tend to be just as large.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Phlebotomy Followup

I got an email today saying my pint of blood, which I donated on Veteran's Day, had headed off to the hospital. What was my blood doing in the mean time? Getting tested, and just chilling, I suppose. They never emailed me about this before. I found I liked it. I wonder if they're going to tell me when someone gets it? Probably not. What would it be like to know exactly where my blood would go and in whose veins it now might flow?

I For One Welcome Our Silicon Overlords

The Wall St. Journal has a feature story:

Automation Makes Us Dumb

It's the end of the world as we used to know it.
(This post generated by Automated Poet.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Backward Facing Dog

I went to yoga with my pants on backwards.
I would say more, but by some chance I lack words.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Only 1 in 10

I'm not sure what to think:

"...about 29 percent of the population meets the definition for excessive drinking, but 90 percent of them do not meet the definition of alcoholism."

It's the kind of study I take with a grain of salt or a shot of whiskey. "Excessive drinking" and "alcohol dependence" both strike me as concepts that are fuzzy around the edges.

This may require revision,
but 85.7 percent of statistics are stated with misleading precision.

I do like this official slogan, mostly because it rhymes:

“Stop drinking while you’re still thinking.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I'm in favor of some kind of legalization of these illegals who came to live here peaceably. But putting that aside, I don't think unilateral executive action is the way to implement that. Didn't he previously say he couldn't do that, because he wasn't king or something?

Putting that aside too, I'm not sure what to make of this:

"The White House is exasperated with the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS and NBC -- for skipping out on President Barack Obama’s Thursday primetime address on his executive actions on immigration."

Are they trying to protect their ratings?
Do people now find him too grating?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Really, I would have preferred
warming to what has occurred.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Woman of the Year

In this morning's Tribune, there's a splashy story about some "Woman of the Year" gala put on by Glamour magazine. The first fresh face pictured is Chelsea Clinton.

Here's an NY Times story about it: Chelsea Clinton and Lupita Nyong’o Honored at the Glamour Women of the Year Gala. I do not intend to read this story.

My first thought was that it was part of the Hillary Clinton campaign for the presidency. But she wasn't Glamourous enough or something. Or including Hillary herself would have been too openly political, but including Chelsea was just political enough?

Here's a conservative guy over at National Review complaining about it: Now Chelsea Clinton is in the public spotlight and we’re being instructed to think of her as extraordinary, without any good answers about what she’s done, or what she would have done, without her father’s name or her mother’s influence.

Well, she's got a lot of power and money behind her. What's not clear to me is whether she's really got any personal drive in the political realm, or whether she's just being pushed along at this point.

This article in Glamour
looks like artificial clamor
based on media loyalty
to something less than royalty.

Friday, November 14, 2014


When you are uber,
as uber as Gruber,
you sometimes can make
the trifling mistake
of speaking too clearly
and then you pay dearly.

He may be vaguely hateful,
but I for one am grateful
that he has decided to teach
with intemperate speech.

Why I Didn't Post Yesterday

Because Thursday
turned into blursday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Night Alive

Tonight I went to see The Night Alive, by Conor MacPherson, at the Steppenwolf. MacPherson is a contemporary Irish playwright with an American following.

I had a very enjoyable time, because I liked the Dublin characters, and the lively dialogue, and the strong dramatic situations. But the plot's a bit meandering and ends with a sort of mystical ambiguity, and the characters are sympathetic but not particularly admirable, so be forewarned!

A friend, who recommended the play to me, said that the playwright's voice reminded him of my own. So I feel flattered.

The story's about a middle-aged guy who rescues a young lady from a beating from her ex-boyfriend.

My favorite performance was that sociopathic ex-boyfriend. Great sense of menace when we finally meet him. Which makes his receiving of his just deserts all the more satisfying.

Who will contrive
to make it it through
the night alive?

Seven Interviews, by Mark Dunn

I read Seven Interviews, by Mark Dunn, which is really a set of 7 short plays, all with the same desk and chairs, intended to be an evening's entertainment. And all you need to produce it, aside from desk and chairs, is 2 women and 1 man to play all the parts.

The plays vary from funny to serious. The one I liked best, set on Christmas Eve, had a fair amount of both funny and serious, but I know I missed the punch line somehow.

It's hard to go home on Christmas Eve
when you're caught as a thief
and they won't let you leave.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Submission, by Jeff Talbott

Went to see a play about a gay white playwright who writes a good play about black people. He's worried that it will be rejected because it's "inauthentic", so he hires a black actress to play the part of playwright.

Anyway, his play gets accepted at the prestigious Humana Festival, and predictable racial tension and heartache occurs. But it's quite clever and mostly moves along very quickly.

I really liked the black actress, who played the black actress, who played the playwright, for the playwright.

Yep, this play
is meta that way.

Baby Talk

My mother used to use a word which I have long suspected was Yiddish. It sounded to me like PUSH-mook, where mook rhymes with look. She would say "let me wash your push-mook" to a child, and would proceed to wash the area around the child's mouth. Children do have a way of getting that area messy while eating.

My mom wasn't Jewish, but she grew up with a lot of Jewish friends.

Today I saw that "pisk" can mean "mouth" in Yiddish, particularly in the sense of animal mouth or maw. In a slangy way, it is used for human mouths.

It must be said, my recollection of the pronunciation word is untrustworthy. And I suppose Yiddish sounds don't correspond exactly with English sounds anyway.

My attempts to figure this out are not helped by the fact that Yiddish is usually written using the Hebrew alphabet, which I do not know.

Mother, my mother dear,
I'd ask if you were still here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Advice To The Players

I just read a short play, Advice To The Players, which I very much enjoyed, in an angry sort of way.

It's based on a real incident, back in the day when people around the world were boycotting South Africa. The situation is that a couple of black South African actors are scheduled to perform Waiting For Godot, and an American political group is sending protesters to stop the performance. The paradox, of course, is that the 2 actors are further oppressed by the boycott itself.

So, first it's 2 black South Africans being pushed around with progressive doublespeak by a white lawyer from the boycott group. Then, as the plot unfolds, a woman from the South African revolutionary organization shows up to push them around some more, this time with revolutionary doublespeak and a more serious level of threat.

The play's sympathies seem on the side of the actors, the individuals who are the real losers here, pawns in the hands of the progressives and revolutionaries who only care about the big collective chessboard.

The trouble with being a pawn,
is that you are so frequently gone.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

25th Anniversary

Sub-headline from the other day:

"To the outside world, the fall of the Berlin Wall was the culmination of courageous acts of ordinary people. But within the East German regime, the wall’s final hours were closer to a comedy of errors."

The East German government built a great wall.
Amid great confusion, it had a great fall.
All the red soldiers and grey Stasi men
Could not put that grim wall together again.


I enjoyed the film, but I think it's extremely uneven. I have a high tolerance for this sort of thing. In my youth I watched 2001, at the theater, many times.

Also, pet peeve, apparently the title should be Intergalactic. But in these movies, when someone mentions going to another galaxy, I never get the sense they have any appreciation for just how far away that is.

Let's go to a galaxy far, far away,
(exactly how far, let's not bother to say)
but since we've got a space-time hole
it won't take long to reach our goal,
just watch out for relativistic clocks
that lose it with their ticks and tocks.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Twisting The Night Away

I was kind of amused by this inscrutable exchange between a college student reporter and Robert Downey Jr.:

“Scarlett Johansson has never had her own superhero movie. Would you call yourself a feminist?”

“You bastard. Yeah, that’s all make believe, son.”

This is being relayed as "He said feminism is make believe."

This was from a session in which a reporter also asked him about the size of his manhood.

Remember: words only exist
so you can creatively twist
them into a form that offends
you and your friends.

Another Illinois Scandal

This is interesting, from the Chicago Sun-Times:

"Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends, has refused to answer federal prosecutors’ questions about whether he had a “sexual relationship” with a former aide who pleaded guilty to stealing $400,000 in taxpayers’ money in a scheme that began when Whitaker was her boss at the Illinois Department of Public Health, court records show."

Perhaps he found the question too complex.
People mean so many things by "sex".

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Purple Illinois

We have a new governor, here in Illinois, a Republican, a very successful businessman who hasn't held office before. I'm not sure what his motivation is in seeking office. He doesn't need it for the money. Is he simply public-spirited? Would he enjoy the power? The glory of actually turning the state around?

The state could use some turning around. Our finances, our public pension plans in particular, are in perilous shape. And compared to neighboring states, our economy is not doing well.

I'm not sure what a Republican governor can do with a strongly Democratic state house & senate. Yeah, it's the reverse of the national situation.

It would certainly be great
to improve the state of the state.

But it won't be much of a shock
if it turns to solid grid lock.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


Always vote for the losing name.
That way you get none of the blame.

And none will question your right to complain,
if the guy who wins proves insane.

Monday, November 03, 2014


I really enjoyed an article in WaPo about an American physician, Lewis Rubinson, who was in Africa treating Ebola patients - when he accidentally stuck himself with a possibly-contaminated needle. It's an inside take, not really political, more just human, on what it's like to fight the disease in Africa, and then what it's like to be held in an isolation unit in America... while waiting to see if you have the disease, and watching TV:

"The TV experts reiterated that U.S. hospitals were prepared to care for patients with Ebola. How could they be? Rubinson thought. All 6,000 or so hospitals? ...He didn’t think that people were reassured by oversimplified messages."

I fear that "TV expert"
is a contradiction in terms.

And oversimplification
always gives me the squirms.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Steel Cable News

A famous tight rope walker came here, and tonight walked across a steel cable between 2 skyscrapers, traversing the river in the process.

It's a risky family tradition:

"Thirty-six years ago, Wallenda’s 73-year-old great-grandfather Karl Wallenda fell to his death attempting a wire walk between two hotel towers on a windy day in Puerto Rico."

I didn't watch it.
But I'm glad he didn't botch it.

Friday, October 31, 2014


I was reading a rant by Sarah Hoyt, a rant that's hard to summarize because when she gets going she really gets going, but I came across this:

'...look, “respect” is almost exclusively a liberal word. Usually used in the sense of “respect the office” or “respect me because I have this credential.” When speaking to a blogger or a writer, a conservative/libertarian is more likely to use “I’ve always admired” you.'

I sat upright, puzzling over this, unsure why this might be so, but thinking "Yes, I'm far more likely to write 'admired,' not 'respected,' in that sort of sentence."

So I googled for discussions on the difference shades of meaning, and came across this:

You would have respect for a person in authority- like a policeman, a military officer with a rank above your own, or a teacher, but you may not like that person so you might not admire them.

Isn't there a tendency to respect your adversaries but admire your friends?

There's something rather fussy about a lot of contemporary liberalism, an i-dotting, t-crossing concern with following protocol. You don't really admire someone for being good at following protocol, do you? But you can respect their ability to do so.

And now I will stop attempting to dissect
the difference between admire and respect.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Maher vs. Students

Some students at Berkeley are trying to stop Bill Maher from speaking at the Berkeley commencement this year. He has made some pointed statements about what most Muslims believe, statements that have aroused these students' ire.

So far, Berkeley has not rescinded its invitation.

Patrick Popehat writes, perhaps with a trollish spirit:

"If you want to shut down Bill Maher’s hate speech against Muslims, why not invite him to a post-address debate, against your best and brightest? You’re well educated young men and women."

Please. I would pay to watch that.

But hopefully I could see
the whole thing on YouTube for free.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mann and Kaufmann

I'm reading Thomas Mann's long novel, The Magic Mountain, for our reconstituted book club. I got to wondering what my favorite German-American writer, Walter Kaufmann, might have said about Mann.

Kaufmann wrote a lot of appreciation and criticism for 20th century German literature.

But for the life of me I haven't found anything substantial.

Mann did supply a glowing blurb for Kaufmann's book on Nietzsche. And I think they may both have been living in Princeton, New Jersey at one point. It looks like Princeton U. has some of Mann's papers and most of Kaufmann's.

With a bond of culture and speech,
I wonder if they were friends.
But for now I fear I have reached
a research dead end.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Train Meets Truck

Not far from here, today, in Northwest Indiana, a Chicago-bound Amtrak train hit a tractor-trailer rig carrying cement powder.

Great pictures of the truck ripped in two, and the train covered in powder, at the link. Nobody was seriously injured.

The truck driver "told authorities he saw the oncoming train but pulled into its path anyway because he thought he had time to clear the tracks."

If you misjudge the speed of a train,
You may have a lot you need to explain.

Monday, October 27, 2014

No Costume Needed

If you want to be even scarier
this Halloween
tell people you're a carrier
escaped from quarantine.

It might work better yet
if you first work up a sweat.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reflections on Gifts

They said Mozart's talents were merely inherited,
Unfairly come by, and not strictly merited.
They let out an envious wail and bemoaned it.
But Mozart just practiced his gift like he owned it.

Corruption In The Social Sciences

Charles Murray, reflecting after 20 years on the reception accorded to the book he co-wrote about intelligence:

'I’m also thinking of all the other social scientists who have come up to me over the years and told me what a wonderful book “The Bell Curve” is. But they never said it publicly. So corruption is one thing that ails the social sciences. Cowardice is another.'

I've never read the whole book. I've read chunks of it at the library. As he says in this interview, the book doesn't take a strong position on the nature/nurture debate. But he clearly expects that some part of what's going on is biological inheritance. And saying that there's anything on the nature side at all, is hazardous.

I'm not really a big fan of the man. He says: "None of us has earned our IQ." This is said by way of rolling around to justifying redistribution.

None of us has earned our eye color, either. It's not the sort of thing you earn. It's more like a gift. And here's the thing about gifts. You may not have earned them, but once you receive them, you do rightly own them.

What talents you have, do not hide them.
Even if others deride them.

The Mysterious Creation of Jobs

Hillary Clinton, the other day:

"Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs."

So who creates jobs, in point of fact?
Should we say: The Invisible Hand?
Or something abstract
Like Supply and Demand?

No, it's herself:

"I voted to raise the minimum wage and guess what, millions of jobs were created or paid better and more families were secure."

No one's too sure where those millions of jobs are that she created. They're not in the employment statistics.

Somewhere there's gobs
Of shiny new jobs.
But that isn't here
Or anywhere near.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

R J Hollingdale on Thomas Mann

Today I was reading Hollingdale's book on Thomas Mann, and realized I had no idea what Hollingdale had looked like, or who he was exactly.

Well, here he is:


To summarize from Wikipedia, he left school at 16 (in 1946 or so) to become a journalist, learned German in private lessons, and became an influential scholar of modern German thought. Without a degree.


Hollingdale sees Mann as caught up in God-is-dead nihilism.

"The whole world of Thomas Mann's fiction is erected on this basis of no values. It is because this world has no values that the major novels are so long (no principle of selection); it is because it has no values that its ideological tendency is so uncertain (no instinctive moral judgment); it is because it has no values that its most valuable inhabitant, the artist, is inverted into a decadent and criminal (the identity of the best and the worst); it is because it has no values that it is seen ironically (self-defence against the meaningless); it is because it has no values that it resorts to mythology (an attempt to create value);it is because it has no values that its only reality is physical reality and its only causes physical causes, and when it tries to account for the fact that it has no values it seeks the explanation in physiology. But because the world which this fictional world seeks to mirror really has no values, this fictional world is a true mirror and the image it reflects a true image. The aesthetic faults we have discovered in it, which are true faults, are thus in the long run faults in the subject which it reflects. Or, as the mirror replied to the monster: 'There is nothing wrong with me, it is you who are distorted'."

Rather sweeping, but makes more sense
than lots of what I've seen dispensed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

50 Shades of Worry

I haven't read 50 Shades Of Grey.

I did make a reference to it in a play.

Anyway, I saw gossip today about the movie, which is reportedly due out in 4 months. They're reshooting some of the love scenes.

"A source who works on the set told Us Magazine the original shots weren't passionate and the directors were disappointed by the stars' lack of chemistry.'"

Funny thing about chemistry. You can suspend disbelief about all kinds of practical things. But in a love story you really need to sense some mutual attraction.

If you can't feel the sizzle,
the film is bound to fizzle.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Appearance Alteration

As the Daily Mail asks:

What HAS Renee Zellweger done to her face? Bridget actress looks utterly unrecognisable as she steps out with her boyfriend in LA

Rather striking pictures at the link. You can see it's her, more from the side than from the front.

Maybe she's going into Witness Protection,
but it must be strange to stare at your own reflection,
and see a face beyond your recollection.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Quatrain on Haiku

Haiku - they're from the Japanese
whose poets used to strive
to write in lines of snappy threes
composed of 5-7-5.

Illness Paradox

I have a cold. It's better now. I had it really bad over the weekend, yet my Sunday was very productive, writing-wise. I finished the first act of my new play and gave it a new title: All Mixed Up.

I've noticed, over the years, that certain types of "feeling miserable" are highly compatible with getting work done, particularly creative-thinking type work, whether it's writing a story or writing a computer program. What seems paradoxical is that I feel very low energy, feel very unmotivated, feel like my concentration is limited... but then I get a lot done in an intense state of focus.

I wonder if part of it is that I'm so much less distractable, so I stay focused and the problem becomes more tractable.

This would include less distraction by the meta-level, the perfectionistic sort of questioning that distracts by constant asking: but is that right?

Instead I plod along
not worrying if I'm wrong.

I guess the difficult trick
is being the right degree of sick.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Left to Right

Back when I was in high school a friend told me that the ancient Greeks, at one point, had written both left to right AND right to left, alternately. You can see where this would be efficient for speed reading. Scholars call it "boustrophedon", which means "ox-turning", as when you plow a field with an ox, and you turn and go back the other way, still plowing.

The individual characters are mirrored, like Leonardo Da Vinci's famous "code". I actually taught myself to do this, also in high school. Maybe I had too much time on my hands in high school!

Recently I read that it was boustrophedon that accounts for the transition from Right-to-Left to Left-to-Right writing! The Semitic languages (such as Hebrew, Arabic, Phoenician) are all Right-to-Left. The Greeks took their alphabet from the Phoenicians.

'Greek was originally written predominantly from right to left, just like Phoenician, but scribes could freely alternate between directions. For a time, a writing style with alternating right-to-left and left-to-right lines (called boustrophedon, literally "ox-turning", after the manner of an ox ploughing a field) was common, until in the classical period the left-to-right writing direction became the norm.'

But... while that explains the ability to shift readily,
it doesn't explain why they chose Left-to-Right steadily.

I think
it was commanded
because Left-to-Right is better when working with ink,
at least for the right-handed.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lone Star State of Anxiety

Guess where my wife is this weekend:

"Jenkins said this is a critical weekend for Dallas. Statistically speaking, this weekend is the weekend people would start showing symptoms if they had contracted the virus, he said."

The story mentions that a Dallas bus and train station was briefly closed today on a false alarm. The story says county officials are getting "several calls an hour". May they all prove unfounded.

Come back, my dear,
from the land of fear,
and enjoy
Illinois -
no cases here!

Friday, October 17, 2014


There is nothing like a czar
to bring me peace of mind.
Whatever my worries are,
they all get left behind,

knowing that concentration
of power has taken place,
knowing that this great nation
can look to a single face.

His noble words will inspire us,
no matter how sick we may be.
Who better to fight a virus
than a man with a law degree?

Don't Cry About Us, Venezuela

It's a sad situation in the people's paradise:

"Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday blamed Washington for the slump in global oil prices."

As far as I can tell, Washington had precious little to do with us "flooding the market". The action was in the states and in private enterprise.

Your oil profits are lacking?
Frightfully sorry for fracking!

Thursday, October 16, 2014


At this point you're more likely to get hit by a thunderbolt
than to catch that disease that's so frightening.

But there's zero chance of incompetence causing
a national outbreak of lightning.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Praise of Intransigience

I was looking at a new book, In Praise of Intransigience: the perils of flexibility, by Richard H. Weisberg.

First off, let me say, ethical and legal intransigience, which is what he is talking about, is certainly deserving of some praise. Flexibility cannot be an infinite virtue, since at some point it falls prey to some mind-bending recursive questions, such as:

Aren't you being rather inflexible in your idealization of flexibility? Wouldn't true flexibility allow for intransigience, too?

It's an oddly structured book. Much time is spent on the epistles of Paul, the gospel of John, and the Nazi-appeasing governments of Vichy France and the occupied Channel Islands.

He traces flexibility-idealization back to early Christianity and the rhetorical strategies adopted in its divorce from Judaism. This strikes me as novel and misguided, but I haven't taken the time to study his thesis.

Of course, he has a pressing interest in the question: how did the Europeans go along, so flexibly, with the horror of murderous Nazi antisemitism? So you can see where he might be tempted to take this issue back to the early split between the 2 religions.

What house will stand
when built upon sand?


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Emotional Support Animals

The New Yorker has a great story by a reporter who pretended that various animals were her emotional support animals. She showed up with a turtle, a pig, and an alpaca at various institutions - always with a letter saying the animal was an emotional support animal (E.S.A.).

She and her borrowed turtle got into the Frick Museum.

She and a small pig got on a Jet Blue flight.

The pic at the link shows here with an alpaca in a drug store.

Why didn’t anybody do the sensible thing, and tell me and my turtle to get lost? The Americans with Disabilities Act allows you to ask someone with a service animal only two questions: Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? Specific questions about a person’s disability are off limits, and, as I mentioned, people are baffled by the distinction between service animals and emotional-support animals.

Take your pig on a plane,
take your turtle among the Vermeers,
just claim it's an E.S.A.,
and you're in the clear, it appears.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chicago Marathon Today

I ran the Chicago Marathon today. My time was 5:01. Here I am in Chinatown, where my brother Mark snapped a shot:


There I am, a happy fellow,
with a cap, canary yellow.

I bought the cap on Friday on the theory its unusual Tweety-Bird color would make it easier for my relatives to spot me during the race. As it happens, I knew where to look for them, and I think I spotted my brother, and my son and son-in-law, before they spotted me.

One of my other brothers, Mike, was in the race, but I didn't see him until afterward. There's 40,000 people or so running, so meet-ups can be kind of hit or miss.

It's a race that features crowds. Fantastic crowd support cheering you on, which I loved, and crowds of runners who break into three-abreast walking so that you have to run around them.

My scheduled start was 45 minutes after the elite start. So, when I first got downtown, rather than going to the start area, I had enough time, due to quirks in the course design, to walk over to near the 2 mile mark, and catch a view of the elite East African runners zipping by. These guys are running sub-5 minute miles, so I still had half an hour to get to the start.

The Kenyans are speedy,

Friday, October 10, 2014

Miss Julie, Directed by Liv Ullmann

I was invited, through the graciousness of a friend, to the opening night of the Chicago International Film Festival. We saw Miss Julie, a new film adaptation of Strindberg's classic play, directed by Liv Ullmann, and starring Colin Farrell. Ullman and Farrell were both there, up on stage, to introduce the film at its U.S. debut.

They were both very charming. I've read a couple of reviews which were rather critical of the film. Here and here if you care.

My personal theory is that what really hurt the movie was a lack of chemistry between the stars. Both the stars seemed passionate, acting up a storm, but I rarely got the vibe that they were passionate for each other.

Maybe it just needed different background music?

Sometimes music in the background makes you feel
that poorly acted passion is real.

Life in the City

We had a strange shooting, midday yesterday, downtown. As a matter of fact, a co-worker of mine happened to encounter people fleeing from this incident:

"Police said Jones used an assault rifle to fire five shots at a moving CTA train as it pulled into the station in the 100-block of West Congress Parkway around 11:20 a.m. Thursday."

He didn't hit any people. Just the train.

I believe that "assault rifle", as used by journalists, is a vague term. But there's a picture at the link, of an officer holding what's supposed to be the weapon. I'm guessing it's some military-looking semi-auto rifle.

Our police commissioner reported that the stock had been cut off the rifle.

The mystery remains
what does he have against trains?

Thursday, October 09, 2014


Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn/Fall. Only the fourth has two names, which makes no sense at all.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ebola in Europe

NY Times:

"Now, with Europe grappling with the first case of Ebola transmitted on its soil after news on Monday that a nurse in Madrid had been infected, European leaders are scrambling to coordinate and ramp up their response to the lethal disease."

Better late than never.

Here in the USA we don't yet have a confirmed case of in-country contagion. But I am not inspired to great confidence by how our Dallas case was handled.

If at first you don't succeed,
try again as you may need
to stop the bug that makes you bleed.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

African Runners And Me

Somehow the Chicago Marathon people are being headlined as saying they are "ready for the Ebola threat".

Not that there's an actual threat
as of yet.

"Champas said runners represent all 50 states and 132 countries but none hail from West Africa, where the most severe outbreak of Ebola has occurred. He said some runners are coming from East Africa."

"Some" runners from East Africa? That's a very offhanded way to refer to the guys who will be out in front of everybody else.

The Kenyans will lead the pack.
I'll be toward the back,
cutting myself some slack.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Great Chicago Fire Festival

We actually drove by this event, in its early stages on Saturday night, before full fizzle had set in. The plan was to set fire to some old-house replicas on barges in the Chicago River, downtown.

It rained most of Saturday, and somehow, the house replicas failed to ignite properly.

A lot of money was poured into the show. A lot of people showed up to see it.

The houses were not ignited.
The crowd was not excited.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Bad Software, Bad!

Inflammatory headline:

The Ebola Patient Was Sent Home Because of Bad Software
The Dallas hospital's debacle highlights the atrociousness of many electronic health records.

Actually, the hospital made an initial claim:

"Protocols were followed by both the physician and the nurses. However, we have identified a flaw in the way the physician and nursing portions of our electronic health records (EHR) interacted in this specific case."

But then, the hospital seemed to take it back:

“We would like to clarify a point made in the statement released earlier in the week. As a standard part of the nursing process, the patient’s travel history was documented and available to the full care team in the electronic health record, including within the physician’s workflow,” the statement said. “There was no flaw in the EHR in the way the physician and nursing portions interacted related to this event.”

There's a lot of careful wording there, as if people were afraid of lawsuits for some reason.

I think the key word here is "available", as in the travel history was "available" to the physician. Probably (wild guess) that means the doc could have clicked a button that he didn't click. Probably in retrospect it would have been nice if the first thing he saw when he brought up the patient's info was a big blinking red banner that said "African! Feverish!".

It turns out that making that happen is one of those things in you configure in the software package:

"As a result of this discovery, Texas Health Dallas has relocated the travel history documentation to a portion of the EHR that is part of both workflows. It also has been modified to specifically reference Ebola-endemic regions in Africa. We have made this change to increase the visibility and documentation of the travel question in order to alert all providers. We feel that this change will improve the early identification of patients who may be at risk for communicable diseases, including Ebola."

You see, the software didn't fail. It just needed to be configured differently.

I'm sure the software did its best.
Calling it "bad" just makes it feel stressed.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Bikini Madness

A personable young man came up to me in the building lobby and asked me if I knew what Tinder is. I said I did. He asked if I'd used it. I said I hadn't.

It's some app where you hook up with people for quick, um, romance.

Then he said he had a young lady's profile up on Tinder, and was trying to figure out what to say to her. I suggested he tell her he liked her look. That's look, singular, not looks.

He said, well, her photo is of her in a bikini. And he showed me such a photo, on his phone, of a shapely young lady in a bikini. And he asked what he could say to her to set himself apart, since every guy would obviously be thinking she looked good.

I have no idea, I said. I've been married too long.

Actually, regardless of how long I've been married, how do you set yourself apart in an environment where all you know about someone is that they look good in a swimsuit?

He pressed me, but you must have a pickup line?

I smiled, sorry, no.

So... What was really going on in this exchange? It felt very stagey, but I still have my wallet, and he never pressed for anything but answers to his silly question. Was it a psychology or sociology experiment? Why on earth would a young man be asking ME for advice on how to use Tinder? Especially because the building lobby was loaded with college-age young men.

They might have a clue
as to how you pursue
the opposite sex
with some minimal text
sufficiently clever
that she won't say: Never!

Thursday, October 02, 2014


While her man
was off to sea
for such a span
of years,

played cunningly
without a show
of tears,

weaving and unweaving
her artful tapestry.

without knowing,
that the object of her yearning
would return.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Countdown Continues

It's a week and a half to the Chicago Marathon. I'm signed up.

I'm better prepared than in some recent years
And thus less afflicted with various fears
But still at odd moments I'll feel my gut grab
With a sudden, panicky stab.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


As I periodically do, I'm fiddling with translating a poem. This time it's a poem I'm not really crazy about, but was struck by, by Federico Garcia Lorca. Here's the Spanish. Here's one English translation. I haven't found an English translation that makes much attempt to catch the music of the Spanish, so that is what I'm fiddling with. Of course, "Poetry is what gets lost in translation".

Anyway, here's the first draft. The full poem in Spanish is a sonnet, 14 lines, rhymed abba abba cdc dcd. Whereas this is abab cdcd efe fef. And there are things in this that are not in the original:

Night rose above us both, a full moon shining.
I began to cry. Your fond disdain
Burst into godly laughter. All my whining
Was doves and moments wrapped into a chain.

Night fell below us both. Crystal of sadness,
You wept for depths from some forgotten land.
My sorrow was a wash of hurtful madness,
Over your weak but beating heart of sand.

Dawn's light united us upon the bed,
Our mouths joined numbly on the frozen stream
Of blood which neverendingly is shed.

The sun sneaked through the balcony, a beam,
A branch of coral stretched out to redeem
My shrouded heart, my bowed and sullen head.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Love must lurk in both nostril and heart,
for indeed you can feel the pulse start,
when the person about whom you care,
leaves a trace of their scent in the air.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

No Escape

Ann Althouse relays a T.S. Eliot quote:

"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things."

I have a love-hate relationship with Eliot.

If he thinks he didn't express his personality in his poetry, he's crazy. Yes, when you write a poem you create an object which has some separateness from you. It never reflects your whole personality. But it definitely reflects some.

As for "let emotion loose vs. escape from emotion", it's a classic false alternative. It's obvious that poetry is typically an integration of thought and feeling. That's why it expresses personality so well, perhaps even more thoroughly than the other arts.

What is sought
is a merger of feeling and thought
crafted for the ear.

But it doesn't make the poet disappear.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


I went to a pet store,
to buy a pet peeve.
How very annoying -
they asked me to leave!

I hate that darn pet store.
I'm nursing a grudge.
Don't try to console me.
My grudge will not budge.

Upon some reflection,
I found what I sought.
I have a pet peeve now,
though nothing was bought.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Black Bear Attack

A black bear killed a Rutgers student in New Jersey the other day. So the Washington Post helpfully ran an article on how to survive such an attack. Point 5 of the 5 point plan:

5. Put up a good fight

Punching and kicking are mentioned. Firearms are not. I wonder why.

Rather than boot it,
I'd rather shoot it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Waldron on Sunstein

I have previously voiced my misgivings about Cass Sunstein's "Nudge" agenda, but I was quite impressed by an article by philosopher Jeremy Waldron.

'More reassuring, I think, would be a candid assessment of what might go wrong with nudging. One of Sunstein’s many books (from before his time in the White House) is entitled Worst-Case Scenarios. Could we please have something like that as a companion to Nudge?'


'Eventually what we are told by Sunstein is that autonomy is just a surrogate for welfare—what people ultimately want is the promotion of their own well-being and it doesn’t really matter how that comes about. At best autonomy is a heuristic: “People speak in terms of autonomy, but what they are doing is making a rapid, intuitive judgment about welfare.” I must say that I find all of this remarkably tone-deaf to concerns about autonomy.'

I haven't read Waldron, much.
But maybe I need to stay in touch.

2nd Time Around

Guy came up to me on the street today at lunch. He was talking on his phone, a Blackberry I think. Looked to be my age, dressed like a businessman. Made eye contact and asked me if I'm from Chicago. Yes, I say. He says to the phone "I'll call you right back," and then he turns his eyes to mine.

"Don't laugh at me," he began.

And then it flashed back.

"I'm sorry," I said. "But we've met before."

"Oh," he said, looking concerned, and he turned away.

It's a scam. There's not really anyone he's talking to on that phone of his. It's a prop. He has a story about how his wallet was stolen and he needs money to get home to wherever. And I dealt with him once before.

Probably I gave him 5 bucks before, and realized afterward that it was a scam. I do get suckered. But not by the same guy twice.

And... this is at least my second repeat-scam experience. There's another guy who scammed me once. His story is that he needs cash to buy gas in a bad neighborhood. Yeah, I gave him money the first time. Not the second.

Fooling me once
wasn't so nice.
But I'm no dunce -
don't try it twice!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I was reminded today, that we may be missing a play by William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Won.

There is reason to think it was the sequel to Love's Labour's Lost.

Won has not been found.
Apparently it was tossed.

The play that's still around,
of course is Lost.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Equality of Dark and Day

I wish you all
a Happy Fall.

Unless... you're south of the equator,
where Fall comes 6 months later,
and now it's Spring,
so here's the thing,
your happiness should be greater.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rape vs. Reports Thereof

Megan McArdle has a substantial piece entitled: How Many Rape Reports Are False?

'The number of false accusations is what statisticians call a “dark number” -- that is, there is a true number, but it is unknown, and perhaps unknowable.'

I thought of saying that in the future, when every aspect of your life is recorded, this won't be such a problem.

But I have my doubts that we are actually going to live in that future.

The future may not be as advertised.
Privacy may still, in fact, be prized.

Drinking Songs

We went to hear the CSO do Beethoven's Ninth last night, and the program described Schiller's Ode To Joy as a glorified drinking song, or words to that effect. Well, it's a celebration of friendship, which is a common theme in drinking songs.

The Ninth, which ran under an hour and a half, was the only piece on the program, but the orchestra did play the Star Spangled Banner first. It's the bicentennial of its lyrics. But its tune is that of an older drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven".

We came home and watched an episode of: Turn: Washington's Spies, set during the American Revolution, and, oddly enough, there was a scene in which our hero - and some British officers - were singing "To Anacreon in Heaven".

So here's to songs
you sing while drinking,
voices raised
and glasses clinking.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cutoff Date

I'm distrustful of bioethicists, whose ethics frequently strike me as creepy.

I'm also distrustful of the designers of our latest round of health care reform, who misrepresented their "keep your doctor" product.

So here comes a guy who is both, Ezekiel Emanuel, saying it's best to die by 75:

"At age 75 we reach that unique, albeit somewhat arbitrarily chosen, moment when we have lived a rich and complete life, and have hopefully imparted the right memories to our children."

"Arbitrarily chosen". Interesting admission, that. Anyway, by sheer coincidence no doubt, we could save a lot of money on Social Security, and Medicare, if we could somehow institutionalize that particular arbitrarily chosen number.

If you're over 75,
and distressingly alive,
but feel it would be best,
to take a permanent rest,
just call up an end-of-life panel,
and turn on the Soylent Green Channel.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Still United?

Time reports:

"Results in Scotland’s independence referendum are distinctly leaning towards the No campaign, with declared local authority areas so far choosing by to stay within the U.K. by 21 to 4."

This probably affects me not at all,
but I'm hoping that the union doesn't fall
mostly because I rather strongly suspect
that the Scot's economy will get wrecked.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Gossipy insults
hurled at Wasserman Schwartz...

Politico has a long piece on how the Democrats are turning on DNC leader, Debbie Wasserman Schwartz, who many seem to feel has outstayed her welcome.

"One example that sources point to as particularly troubling: Wasserman Schultz repeatedly trying to get the DNC to cover the costs of her wardrobe."

Also, the boss in the White House reportedly doesn't care for her.

Shortly after becoming chairwoman, she pushed hard for a meeting with the president that she kicked off by complaining that she had been blocked from hiring the daughter of a donor — who’d been on staff in her congressional office — as a junior staffer to be the DNC’s Jewish community liaison.

Are they trying to portray her as pushy and greedy, while making a point of mentioning Jewishness? Are they pushing a subliminal stereotype here?

I've never been a real admirer,
but I'll feel bad if they fire her.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Heard Walking Home

Honking! Traffic jam?
Nope. It's geese on the lam,
fleeing in a swarm
to where it's warm.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Scot Free

On Thursday, residents of Scotland get to vote on whether it should be a separate country.

Wikipedia specifically says it's residents, not citizens, who get to vote.

Of course it's true
that technically there's not
a citizenship called "Scot"
until the divorce goes through.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Plus and Minus

I saw the last of the low-budget Atlas Shrugged trilogy movies last night.

On the plus side, Ayn Rand didn't live to see this trilogy. On the minus side, we don't get to hear her denounce it.

On the plus side, the philosophical statements in the trilogy are all Rand-compatible. On the minus side, her controversial views sometimes come across blandly.

I think of this last film as having 3 main sections: the valley, the speech, and the torture. Of these, by some reverse alchemy, the torture scene, which is tense and cinematic in the book, somehow became the least dramatic scene in the movie.

I do want to give a shout-out to Greg Germann who played Jim Taggart. As far as I'm concerned, he steals every scene he's in. He's a one-man drama machine of internal conflict.

I have to say, I actually enjoyed the film, but I went in with accurate expectations.

Here's the minus: the movie is not well done.
Here's the plus: it won't be seen by much of... anyone.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Killing Christians

Peggy Noonan has an article today in the WSJ that focuses on the ongoing effort to eradicate Christians in the Middle East. The WSJ hides a lot of stuff behind paywalls, but for now the whole article is here.

I'm glad to see someone talking about it. It has been going on a long time, for decades really, but it seems to be accelerating and seems to have finally come to public attention here.

"In roughly the past 18 months, all this has broken through in Christian communities, largely by way of Christian media, including Catholic news services and the Baptist press. The story has been all over social media. Pope Francis has denounced what is happening; the Vatican is talking about just-war theory."

The story has not really been covered by the establishment media. The genocide has not really been exposed by the foreign policy wonks or the U.N.

I originally grasped the scope of what was happening from reading a 1999 book by William Dalrymple: From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East. He visits monastery after monastery, and over and over the Christian population around the monasteries has dwindled significantly. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as "an evensong for a dying civilization". And why is that civilization dying? Dalrymple says it's due to resurgent Islamic fundamentalism.

I don't know that we can solve this problem. But we should at least begin by admitting that this is a great evil happening now.

Noonan is pretty good at reading the mood of the American people. I think she's correct that there's no current appetite for nation-building. But I think she's also correct that there's plenty of appetite for killing off a lot of these murderous Islamic State thugs, who are riding around in the open and waving flags and killing American journalists, and, generally, just begging to be killed.

Send in the drones.
Blast their bones.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Literacy vs. Numeracy

The Wall St. Journal had an article saying it's harder to learn math if you're an English speaker. Well, harder than if you're a Chinese speaker.

The argument, which I've seen before, is that the way we say the numbers from 11 to 19 is inconsistent with the rest of the system.

You know, instead of saying seventeen, we should say tenty-seven. Instead of saying twelve, we should say tenty-two. Or something like that. Apparently Chinese does something like that.

What I tentatively like about "tenty"
is that it rhymes with twenty.

Alas, who could have foreseen
that kids would be undone by "fourteen"?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Six Little Legs

I was on the computer, but felt like there was a bug on my bare foot. Repeatedly. Even after I moved the heel of my other foot to the spot... thinking that would either kill the bug, or prove it wasn't there.

So I broke my screen-focus and looked at my foot. Sure enough. A big black ant. I struck quickly.

Now the ant is dead
but everywhere I feel
a creepy crawly sensation.

I know it's in my head.
I know that it's not real.
But still I crave cessation!

Arachnid Living

Spider surfing the web,
waiting to devour,
any mosquitoes or flies
that drop by for the dinner hour.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Zero Tolerance

Ray Rice has been fired from Ravens.

He's the American football player who knocked out his fiancee (now his wife) with a left hook, judging from the newly released video. This seems accurate:

"The grainy video, released by TMZ Sports, shows Rice and Janay Palmer in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. Each hits the other before Rice knocks Palmer off her feet and into a railing."

From the video I saw, it started when he made a face at her and she gave him a little shove, before they even got on the elevator. But who knows what was going on before that? So I don't know really who "started" the fight.

Anyway, she was clearly ready to fight him, rushing at him physically, in a girly-fight sort of way... but how threatened did he feel, exactly?

Lately, people don't like to talk about the fact that a lot of domestic violence occurs in contexts where it is the couple's practice to fight. That's what this looks like to me.

Some people may like to fight,
but that doesn't make it right.