Sunday, May 31, 2015

Break a Leg

Actors are known to tell each other "break a leg" before performances, as a paradoxical form of well-wishing. But out head diplomat has done it for real:

"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry broke his leg in a bicycle crash Sunday, apparently after hitting a curb, and scrapped the rest of a four-nation trip that included an international conference on combating the Islamic State group."

They tell you that biking is something to do
That's physically healthy and good for you,
But if you crash at touring speed,
Don't be too shocked if you break or bleed.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Steve Jobs and Philosophy

Last night we went to hear Shawn Klein talk about a new book he edited, Steve Jobs and Philosophy.

'In Steve Jobs and Philosophy 16 philosophers examine the inspiring yet often baffling world of Steve Jobs. What can we learn about business ethics from his example? What are the major virtues of a creative innovator? How could Jobs defy conventional business practices? How did he combine values and attitudes previously believed to be unmixable? What does it really mean to “think different”?'

We picked up a copy to take home, and I've already read some of it, including the essays on Jobs & Buddhism and Jobs & Existentialism, both of which seemed like solid contributions. I already knew a lot about the 2 isms, but I garnered some new thoughts about Jobs' relation to them.

There are some very funny editorial touches. For example, the index, instead of appearing with the heading "Index", appears with the heading: "There's a page for that!"

What did the existence of Steve Jobs mean?
The man poured his soul into the machine.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hastert in Hot Water

Hard to believe, but another Illinois politician is in legal trouble. Here's the Chicago Tribune lead:

Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance, then lied to the FBI when asked about suspicious cash withdrawals from several banks, federal prosecutors alleged Thursday.

It's unclear what the hush money is about. But the Sun-Times has this tidbit from the indictment:

'...they say “Individual A” lived in Yorkville, where Hastert was a wrestling coach and high school teacher for years, and knew Hastert for “most of Individual A’s life.”'

Reading between the lines there... well, never mind. I suppose this will all come out, whatever it is.

At first Hastert was withdrawing 50 thousand bucks at a time. But after one bank questioned such a big withdrawal, he started withdrawing just under 10 thousand, in order to fly under some mandatory reporting requirements, where banks are legally bound to report large cash withdrawals to our friends, the Feds.

But purposely trying to fly under this limit is yet another crime, called "structuring"! He is charged with one count of that.

When shuffling large sums of cash,
don't assume you have the luxury
of avoiding a federal splash
by getting all structury.

From the Department of Redundancy Department

Here's a headline on an article I haven't actually read:

"Why Americans secretly love the idea of imperialist empires"

"Imperialist empires"
sounds very nice,
but like "fiery fires",
it's the same word twice.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ridge Run 2015

That's me finishing a 10k/5k combo.
Afterwards I felt like a zombie or maybe a zombo.

It's a race in my neighborhood that they've held every Memorial Day for decades, and I've been running almost every year since 1983.

In the 5k, I just barely beat a 9 year old acquaintance this year. Next year, I expect him to beat me.

The 5k is full of kids - elementary school children. They are fun to run with, but they are little jackrabbits, with the ability to start, stop, and turn on a dime. At the water stops they will suddenly cut in front of you, stop, splash themselves, and bolt off, blissfully unaware of the danger of tripping their elders - namely, people like me.

I envy them their energy
And laugh to see their joysome glee.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What Doesn't Kill You

Wikipedia has this translation of Nietzsche's original line:

"From life's school of war: what does not kill me makes me stronger."

Today it was in the news because it showed up in an email of Hillary Clinton's:

"Well, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger (as I have rationalized for years), so just survive and you’ll have triumphed!"

The linked article describes her as quoting Kelly Clarkson's pop song version of Nietzsche's aphorism.

I'm inclined to question generalizations, and so whenever I hear this one I think that it's not always true.

Some harms may leave you weaker,
Leave your life a little bleaker.

And, I wonder if that's what she was thinking when she added that she had "rationalized", which I take to be a self-deprecating remark about her own mental practices.

In her own life, she seems to have done a lot more than "just surviving". She's rich, famous, powerful.

On the other hand, she is not universally loved. She is the steady recipient of scorn and ridicule from her many enemies. And even her friends speak delicately of her relationship to truth-telling.

Of course, truth-telling is not a typical stand-out trait of politicians or diplomats, who tend to use words pragmatically, as slippery tools to score points.

Politicians often feel
A tenuous grasp to what is real,
Especially if, to reach their goal,
They've auctioned off their youthful soul.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Try Try Again

There was a local story today about a guy who got caught when he robbed a bank for the third time. 

Sometimes persistence
Encounters resistance.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Here's a product I don't think I'll be ordering, but maybe YOU would like one:

"WiFi Body Scale Will Auto Tweet Your Weight Each Morning"

Keep all the world up to date,
with daily tweets about your weight!

Isn't the 21st century great?

But actually I feel this scale
is heading for a market fail.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Asked My Wife What They Were Called

File beneath
"Bridal Wreath".

Well, soon
It will be June.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Coldblooded Vertebrate Crossing

Local traffic advisory:

"DuPage Forest District officials ask drivers to watch for turtles"

As your auto hurtles
along the roads,
watch out for turtles
and unhurried toads.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Not So Pediatric

After a hard drinking night
Grown ups go for Pedialyte.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


For what I'm sure is a variety of factors, I always enjoy the society of actors.

Friday, May 15, 2015


We call it Friday when we speak
Because at the end of an average week
Many have testified
That their brains are totally fried. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Welcoming Our LOLCat Overlords

Ana Marie Cox asks why cats rule the internet. Part of her answer:

"On the internet, where everything is suspect, cats—while sneaky—are above suspicion. The internet is virtual. Cats are real. The internet is about debate. Cats are undebatable."

Cats are undebateable? Well, there's no debating with them, that's for sure.

But I have my own answer:

Why is it that cats rule the net?
Dogs are our best buddies yet!
But felines just take better pics
And gobble up all the mouse clicks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


An owl calls "who" in the midnight air
And I wonder just how to answer that call.
A name is so short. It sits, barely there.
A life is so long. How to capture it all?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Junk Bonds

Moody's has dropped Chicago bonds to junk status.

Basically, the city has unfunded pension trouble. Past politicians put off funding the generous pension plans they offered to employees. Moody's does have a solution:

'Balanced against the city’s many credit challenges are several attributes, the greatest of which is the city’s broad legal authority to tap into its large and diverse tax base for increased revenue,” Moody’s wrote.'

Of course, the trouble with raising taxes, is that you can kill off growth, lose population, and go the way of Detroit.

I hope we muddle through.
How? I haven't a clue.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Pump Question

What is it with the price of gas?
It jumps way up and down so fast.
Is this normal for a commodity?
Or is this just a product oddity?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

British Polls

The Conservatives (Tories) just won a big election in the UK. The surprise was that the pollsters were predicting a close race, but it wasn't close. Strangely enough, the gamblers predicted the big win.

I think it's rather funny
that people betting money
beat the scientific polling.

I don't suppose the pollsters find this consoling.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Would You Like Some Guilt With Your Flowers?

In the Washington Post, timed to rain on your parade:

"Flowers may be nice for Mom, but they’re terrible for Mother Earth"

But Mother Earth is made of dirt
and cannot have her feelings hurt.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Hate Group List

There are reports that the "Southern Poverty Law Center" is going to add a cartoonist, who won that "draw the prophet" contest, to its hate group list.

ISIS doesn't seem to be on the list, however.

I'd say that as a source of hate,
they're really great.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Freedom of Speech

Eugene Volokh spells it out for those who were mistaught Constitutional Law:

"Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas. One is as free to condemn Islam — or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens — as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialism or Democrats or Republicans."

I was put in mind of a famous quote of Jefferson's. It appears on the dome of his Memorial:

"I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

All that hostility,
sounds like hate speech to me,
but somehow it's still free.

You can't ban speech
just because you regard it as hateful,
it escapes the government's reach,
and for that we should all be grateful.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Advice to the Young

Don't let your quarter-life crisis
Lead you to join up with ISIS.

Your life may end up shorter,
And what you thought was a quarter,
May turn out to be your life entire,
Cut off abruptly by enemy fire.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Carlyle on Heroes

At book club tonight we discussed Thomas Carlyle's book on Heroes & Hero Worship & the Heroic in History, based on some lectures he gave in 1840. The book itself I found an unreliable guide to the announced topic, full of preachy fulminations in the 19th century style. I remember finding it unreadable when I was in college.

The theory of historically relativistic truth is incidentally championed. Of course in a literal sense, something can be "true then but not true now". For instance, "Virginia is a British colony" was true once, but no longer. But to say that Dante's beliefs were true once, and no longer, is a deeply problematic form of discourse, if it is to be taken seriously. 

Embracing contradiction
Brings on mental friction. 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Russ Tutterow

I was saddened to see that Russ Tutterow has died. He was the person in charge at Chicago Dramatists for a long time. Years ago I took 4 play-writing classes there, including a class he gave on the business side of play-writing, which was frank and helpful.

As with the other arts,
there's money at the top,
but few songs make the charts,
and lots of plays go flop.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

End of First Weekend

Devilish Children is one quarter done. 
I'm onstage quite briefly, but it's always fun. 

Devilishly Sweet Review

Well, when you're in a play, it's always nice to see a line like this:

"4 out of 4 stars"

We opened Friday, the audience seemed to enjoy it both Friday and Saturday, and now we see that at least one critic, John Glines, liked it a lot.

"Each story, and each character, is unique and humorous, and the Devilish Children whom Little Karl encounters rhyme throughout. Each actor’s German accent was spot on, and their characters all had their own mannerisms and dispositions which really brought them to life. The sound design was especially beautiful; there was a lot of word painting going on with the music, as the music reflected the current mood of the play."

Four stars out of four!
I know it's the maximum score,
but couldn't he give us more?

(We always strive
for five.)