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.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Victorian DNA

Has Jack the Ripper been found?
Maybe, but questions abound.

The provenance of the bloody shawl,
is not the best, no, not at all.

No Habla

Spanish pronunciation, I wish I could do it better. 
Sometimes I feel I cannot even say a single letter. 

Friday, September 05, 2014


Virginia Postrel thinks that we will soon be living in the style of reality-TV, with the cameras always rolling.

She writes in the past tense from her imagined fish-bowl future:

"Salvation or nightmare, continuous personal video had become an irresistible tool of accountability and self-defense."

I have my doubts. But already I am...
unsure when I might be on cam!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Minimum Job Creation

Our current governor is in a tough reelection campaign, and one of his key causes, at the moment, is raising our state minimum wage. He recently adopted the stunt of living on minimum wage for a week, and has gotten some publicity about the challenges he is finding in keeping himself fed.

'“Had a banana for breakfast, that’s three days in a row. You know, you have to watch your pennies,” Quinn said on Tuesday. “I’m living this week, all seven days, on a minimum wage budget, it’s hard … Yesterday, I went to a place and maybe I would’ve gotten an iced tea, but I got a water. You don’t go in and get a double cheeseburger, I got a junior cheeseburger.”'

A local finance guy says that you can actually eat pretty well if you're just one person on 79 bucks a week. And he worked out one way to do it which sounds quite plausible to me. Anyway, the ending of his blog post really struck me:

'Illinois is the worst state in the Midwest by when it comes to job creation. Every person wants a chance, but often times it’s some government law, regulation, crony, or bureaucrat that is in the way.'

I don't know whether the GOP challenger will be able to do better. A governor can sometimes redo regulations, but on his own he cannot change laws. As far as I can make out, it's expected that our legislature will remain in the hands that currently hold it. The GOP challenger formerly opposed minimum wage laws, but now favors them, perhaps after he took a lot of heat for his prior opposition. In Illinois, you see, most people thinks minimum wage laws are a good thing.

But minimum wage laws can't really be enjoyed
when you're simply unemployed.

Geckos, R.I.P.

NPR rhymes the first line, so I don't have to:

"Space is a dangerous place. That message resonated again on Monday, when the Russian Federal Space Agency — Roscosmos — announced that a team of experimental geckos tasked with copulating while in orbit did not survive their journey."

I'm not sure why the Russians wanted to do sex experiments with geckos. It sounds twisted.

On the bright side, they also sent some fruit flies in the same capsule, apparently with similar twisted intent.

Fruit flies have earned their fame
as champs at the reproduction game.

Not only did they survive,
they thrived.

And the capsule returned with more
than there had been before.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Weighty Orientation Research

Apparently, lesbians tend to be overweight, and gay men tend to be in great shape. Statistically. So says science! Federally funded science, now that you mention it:

"By now, you’re probably wondering why the government is funding a study that, so far, has largely reinforced stereotypes of gays and lesbians."

I wasn't completely up to date on the stereotypes, myself, so I wasn't actually wondering that.

Anyway, they don't seem to have a very good reason for either of these countervailing tendencies. But, to me, it looks like you could explain a lot by a different old stereotype - namely that men tend to be more attracted by visual features. This might result in those who are trying to attract men - namely straight women and gay men - working harder to achieve slenderness.

Of course, stereotypes abound,
and I'm not sure which ones are sound.

Monday, September 01, 2014


I never make
A single misteak. 

I make them in pairs
Caught unawheres.  

Mini Harvest

I shall never malign
tomatoes on the vine.