Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Brass Knuckles

Ann Althouse has an interesting post up about this:

Which is a poster I saw last night at the movie theater.

In her own comments, someone takes her to task for the gender asymmetry issue. ""Domestic battery is funny as long as the right person gets battered?"

She replies:

"It's hard to write and perform comedy, so it couldn't possibly ever be that X is funny as long as Y. The post is talking about ways something that's not funny in real life can be funny."

Puts me in mind of the legendary last words of Edmund Kean: "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."

So maybe you can milk some chuckles
out of a ring with brass knuckles.
More likely it will fall flat.
Like this... kersplat!

Getting a Bad Rap

Yesterday I heard a hip hop / rap song on the radio. I could tell a certain word was edited out by the rhyming scheme. The song is "Gold Digger" by Kanye West and Jaime Foxx.

There's a video here.

You can hear Kanye singing/speaking:

Now I'm not saying she's a gold-digger,
but she ain't messing with no broke

The fairly profane lyrics are here, and here is the uncensored recording of the song.

It put me in mind of the recent prank Bill Maher played during his show. He read a quote from Paul Ryan, and let a couple of panelists criticize it roundly. Then he read another quote from Ryan, of similar import, about how lazy young people who want to be rappers. He then immediately revealed the second quote was actually from Michelle Obama. The revelation was met, as Maher himself declared, with "hushed silence".

Of course, criticizing your own group usually is safer than criticizing somebody else's group.

When you compose a song,
remember where you belong,
and who you can burn
without being burned in return.

Who Pays

In Urinetown the Musical, a drought somehow leads to a situation in which city dwellers cannot pee for free.

However, in some part of Japan's history, you could demand a fee for your pee:

"Urine — the less prized waste — was still a marketable commodity. Because of its lower value, tenants, who owned the rights to their urine, sold it to a group of merchants who were not part of the fecal waste guild."

I guess I'll just relax
and pay my sewer tax.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Poll That Matters

Earlier today, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times both featured stories trumpeting the results of polls about Obamacare's popularity.

"Public is gradually warming to Obamacare as sign-ups grow, polls show"

"Poll: Obama health law fails to gain support"

Color me confused, but... I guess the next poll that really matters is the one on election day.

Its supporters are lukewarm,
its detractors are ready to storm,
and absolutely everyone believes it needs reform.

Everyday Reading

The other day, I was reading: Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular culture in Modern America.

"Everyday Reading is the first full-length critical study of the culture surrounding American popular and commercial poetry in the twentieth century. Exploring poetry scrapbooks, old-time radio show recordings, advertising verse, corporate archives, and Hallmark greeting cards, among other unconventional sources, Mike Chasar casts American poetry as an everyday phenomenon consumed and created by a vast range of readers in different and complex ways."

It was telling me a lot of stuff I already knew. But I don't think it's been written about much before.

He refers to the "poetry wars" of the 1930s. This was the period in which the high-brow free-verse modernists seized the word "poetry" for their own, and relegated the low-brow rhymers to the lesser order of "verse".

Just the other night, my father was talking about his own verse-writing. Yes, it's inherited apparently. Anyway, he said he was always careful to describe his writing as verse, not poetry. He was born in 1927, so he grew up in the heat of the poetry wars.

The high-brow / low-brow distinction, so arduously put forward in the modernist period, has taken a beating in more recent times. Post-modernist criticism, which is fascinated with popular culture, has not been kind to the the snooty.

But, still, modernism remains ascendant, conceptually, in the parts of the arts that are called serious. And, still, it sells to a small audience, the high-brows, who have read up on the theory of what they are consuming, and the would-be high-brows, who are trying to absorb some culture and thereby raise their brow status.

As for me, I persist, like a child,
singing what I want and running wild.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Characteristic Parrish

Maxfield Parrish loved to pose
women on rocks in wispy clothes.

(If you're interested, it's a painting called Solitude, and here's an article about where it is.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014


I'm fascinated watching our choreographer for Urinetown. It's an alien art to me, so I like to watch her mind work, at least as it shows on her face, and in her body language, as she feels out a dance she's designing.

Tonight I did pretty good learning the dance. Probably because it's simple or something!

I'm the sort of person who has trouble learning tricky physical actions. I can do it, but I take longer than other people. I've always been that way. I barely passed my typing class in high school. Years later, I was a very fast typist. Apparently I just needed more practice than other people to get good.

I do hear the beat,
but with two left feet,
I think simple is sweet.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Medicaid Expansion Mess

Illinois elected to participate in the great Medicaid Expansion implemented by the health care reform law. It is not going well.

"Unprecedented demand for the taxpayer-funded coverage caught the state flat-footed."

A family of four with an income of 31k or so was suddenly eligible for Medicaid. (And in fact would be routed to Medicaid by the website.) Of course there was "unprecedented demand". It was an unprecedented law. People dropped the private plans they had been paying for, and piled into Medicaid.

Anyway, Illinois is failing to get all these people properly registered. They expected 20,000 new enrollees but have 40,000 trying so far, and there's no "open enrollment" cutoff date for Medicaid so people can just keep signing up, if qualified. Well, they can sign up if the state could only handle the volume.

Well, at least it's not a private company mishandling this process in order to profit from the misfortunes of others!

Public choice theory predicts that the state
hides motives that aren't all that great.


We went to see Divergent, the movie version of the young-adult SF novel. It's set in a dystopic Chicago - a future one.

My wife had a host of criticisms; she felt the characterization was thin and the plot was weak and the pacing was slow.

I couldn't argue with her, but I liked it anyway. I liked the theme. I liked the visuals.

Wikipedia explains the title, which has to do with a not-strictly-hereditary caste system: "When the time comes for Beatrice to take her aptitude test, the results are inconclusive: instead of fitting neatly into any one faction, she shows equal aptitude for three: Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. This makes her "Divergent" and she is warned never to share this information with anyone for fear of her life."

In the show, some divergents
emerge as insurgents.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Living in a Vehicle Down by the Sea

I don't understand: "A couple who collected food stamps and other public assistance from Minnesota while living on a yacht in Florida were being sought on fraud charges, prosecutors said on Friday."

I think this story is all in the wording. Suppose we substitute "living in a vehicle" for "living on a yacht." They'd sound a lot more sympathetic, wouldn't they?

A yacht,
is it not,
a vehicle for the sea,
a water-going RV?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fitbit Force

My Fitbit Force
wants a divorce!

I've enjoyed it - it was a great Christmas gift from my son - but 17 out of a 1000 users are complaining about developing a skin rash from it. So they're recalling it.

It looks like they officially issued the recall a month ago, but I just got my notice today. Maybe they had trouble tracking me down because I was a gift recipient, not an actual purchaser. But I'm a registered user, so they finally got to me.

Yesterday there was news of a possible class action lawsuit. "After thousands of users report skin irritation from using the health tracker bracelet, some are itching for a lawsuit."

I'm a bit hesitant. I hadn't had any rash problems. On the other hand, I have sensitive skin, and a number of annoying allergies, so I may be just the sort of person to eventually develop a rash. So maybe I should turn it in.

I don't mean to be rash,
and I don't want to bash,
but I think that maybe I'll take the cash.


I suppose I should write some sprightly lines about Spring,
but I'm not quite ready to sing.

Coloring Outside The Lines

Is it time to buy a new one of these? This one did last a pretty long time.


The bear awakes
and give the globe a shake.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Branding Problem

I think I've posted before about the other John Enright who's an author, who published a couple of novels after I published mine, but just listed himself as John Enright, as I had.

When I first published,  I did I check to make sure there were no other novelists going by the name.

Well, now I'm told my novel has picked up some negative Amazon reviews because fans of his read my novel and were disappointed that it wasn't like his other novels.

I'm not that guy.

So, now I have to figure out how to disentangle the authorial branding. Maybe by making a point of using my middle name. On Facebook I use John Joseph Enright, so I'm used to that at least!

No Quarter

I got these 2 coins in my change today at Barnes & Noble. That's a British 10 Pence coin with their queen's portrait on the left.

By what pretense
does ten pence
pass for twenty five cents?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Harriet Jacobs, a Play

I just finished reading "Harriet Jacobs: A Play", by Lydia Diamond.

Some years ago I took a "dialog workshop" led by the author. I was writing my first full-length play at the time, and using the class to test out material as I wrote. I was very productive for me, and she was an insightful and supportive teacher.

The play is based on Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, which was written by Harriet Jacobs. This account seems to stand out, historically, because it contains an eye-witness woman's account of the sexual side of plantation life, a deeply taboo topic of the time, much whispered about, but not much written about in real detail.

The play's cast list includes the following, to me rather odd, stipulation: "It is imperative that all cast members are Black." It goes on to say that White characters are to be played by Black ensemble characters.

Well, that's an interesting way to present the play, but is it really imperative? No explanation is offered. Was it something learned in workshopping the play? Was it felt to be too inflammatory if people played characters of their own races?

What is it about the narrative
that makes this so imperative?
Is it a way to keep from inciting rage,
so that insight can take the stage?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014


NSA hijacks hackers' botnets -
I only hope they have not yet
taken over my PC
because I want to charge a fee.

(Joke stolen from Glenn Reynolds.)


Where, oh where, has my car key gone?
I hope it's not under the snow on the lawn.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ms. Winter

I walked outside with no hat on my head
and felt the warmth of the day.
I feared very much that Ms. Winter had fled,
her wedding gown melted away.

But now she returns, with big heavy flakes
caressing the roof of my hovel.
I'm willing to bet that by morning she makes
several inches to shovel.

I'm so glad!

(I'm lying, of course.
As for Ms. Winter, I want a divorce.)

Monday, March 10, 2014


On the outskirts of Chicagoland:

57-year-old John Basile took a young Siberian tiger for a stroll through downtown Lockport and then stopped in a bar.

Yes, he has a license for the tiger, but not to walk it around. So he got arrested.

Tiger, tiger, causing fright,
licks its paws and sips Bud Light.
What unthinking owner brought
you to a bar and then got caught?

Sunday, March 09, 2014


A federal jury awarded this murderer about half a million bucks because a Cook County jail guard smashed his face.

The guy is in prison, for a long time.

About half of the money is owed by the guard himself. I question whether he actually has the ability to pay any of it. The rest is owed by Cook County.

So whatever money actually gets paid, after the appeals process is through, does the murderer get the money?

Not necessarily. The Illinois Department of Corrections wants some of the money. For providing this guy with expensive-but-miserable room and board. And it's likely that the families of the 7 victims will get some of the money.

Smashing a murderer's face
made for a messy case.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Easier Said Than Done

Some weeks back I read a column - linked by a Facebook friend - full of recommendations on how to get more people to attend live theater.

Among the standout recommendations: stop doing Shakespeare and start serving alcohol.

As for Shakespeare, I suspect he still attracts people to the theater. I've attended a bunch of his plays, and he usually has a decent audience. That's impressive considering his obscure vocabulary.

As for alcohol, the columnist realized that there are serious legal obstacles to serving it, but he waved his hand and said something like, "Do what you have to do. Violate the law. Whatever."

Easier said than done. I know someone who runs a small theater space who just "got busted" for serving alcohol without a license. It's a shoestring operation. I don't imagine they have the resources needed to acquire a license to serve wine or beer here in the city.

Trying to adhere to: "Break the law - Whatever!"
Can interfere with your endeavor.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

What a Deal

Seems like a pretty nice tax incentive from the state of Illinois:

"A bill making its way through the state House would allow Russian steel company Evraz Group to keep its employees' state taxes."

Apparently the state promises the company a tax break. But then, for one reason or another, the company doesn't really owe any state income tax for the year. Maybe they had a loss for the year. So then the company, which has withheld state income tax for its employees, wants to keep that money instead.

It's not a new practice here, but it remains controversial: "So far, nine companies have been allowed to keep their employees' taxes, including Sears Holdings, Motorola Mobility and Chrysler Group."

When it comes to smaller shops,
the state is less attentive.
I don't think mom-and-pops
get much tax incentive.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Auditioning for Urinetown

I auditioned for a local production of Urinetown tonight. I was really hesitant, it being a musical and all, and me being very uncertain of my singing ability. The audition was singing 2 pages from "Don't Be The Bunny". They handed 4 of us guys the sheet music for the song. I can't really read music. I mean, I know a quarter note from a whole note, and higher notes from lower notes, but I cannot actually make out the tune just from the sheet music.

So, while I was sitting and waiting, I brought up the song on YouTube and started listening to it over and over on my earphones, so I could learn the melody. Then I threw myself into the song for audition and got a couple of laughs.

They cast me in a part. I haven't figured out anything about the part yet, because I haven't read or seen the show yet.  But tonight we learned the choral parts for a song called "Privilege to Pee".

When it comes to music, I'm not a whiz
and so I say
it really is
a privilege to play.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


That's a photo from Amherst, Mass., taken from this site, and those lifesize silhouettes represent Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Their lifespans overlapped a little, and they both did live in Amherst, but never at the same time.

They never really met. That's their ghosts talking, I guess. Anyway, it reminds me of these verses of Dickinson, about a grave conversation:

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

I'm also put in mind of a song from Simon & Garfunkel that linked them prettily:

And you read your Emily Dickinson
And I my Robert Frost
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we've lost.

Anyway, after quoting such serious sentiments...

Masters of metaphor,
sultans of simile,
launchers of lines that soar,
Robert and Emily.

Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow is not a big hit on MSNBC. That's almost redundant at this point, given MSNBC's ratings. But when they hired him, and put him on the air, they apparently hoped for more young viewers.

He's 26, but for some reason appeals to older people. Not me, as it turns out, but that's the demographic he reportedly does best with, 50 and up.

At the following link, if you view the video, he says: "I grew up watching the greats of TV news - Murrow, Cronkite, Colbert..."

I guess that's just a joke. Murrow died, and Cronkite retired, before Farrow was born.

I don't know why,
but to me this guy
comes across as tame
and kind of lame.


Maybe he needs different writers. I mean, Ellen DeGeneres can be funny with the right material, but I thought she fell pretty flat on Sunday night.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Illinois bills itself as the Land of Lincoln, and Lincoln's birthday (my half birthday) is a state holiday, although most businesses are open.

And today is our other distinctive state holiday. 

Happy Pulaski Day!
If you have to ask, what can I say?

I, however, am currently in Boston, Mass.,
Where they give Pulaski Day a pass.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Welcome to Crimea!

Spetsnaz takes vacation in Ukraine. 
Idiots who predicted it were treated with disdain.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Emily Dickinson Museum

We toured the Emily Dickinson Museum, which consists of two old houses.

When asked if there were ghosts, our guide
Denied the place was haunted,
And gave the firm impression that
The question was unwanted.