Monday, November 20, 2017

Positrons Aplenty

I studied dialectical materialism in school, but I got low Marx.

Actually, today I was reading an article headlined: "Earth Is Getting Hit by Too Much Anti-Matter, And Nobody Knows Why"

That's what got me thinking about Mr. Marx's theory.

What does dialectical materialism
Say about anti-matter?
It’s a breach of catechism
That could make a theory shatter.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

DIY

Somebody got in trouble for this:



Police commented:

Here's a little advice to those aspiring to make their own license plates...
1. Don't.
2. But if you do, make sure not to use cardboard from a pizza box and magic markers.

Point number two points to a marketing opportunity:

There should be a program online
To print a convincing design.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Jelly Wants

I've been mentioning Emily Dickinson, and the other night I heart an indirect Dickinson joke on the sci-fi comedy-drama TV show, The Orville.

There's a green translucent blob character on the show, sort of a big slithering mint jelly with a mouth. And he's in love with the human doctor on the spaceship. She has been refusing his advances.

So, the other night he declares to her, "The jelly wants what the jelly wants." Someone already made a meme of it:



Now, the direct reference is to a Selena Gomez song, "The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants," with lyrics that include these lines:

“There’s a million reasons why I should give you up
But the heart wants what it wants.”

And that's what gets us to Dickinson, to a letter, actually, not a poem:

"The Heart wants what it wants - or else it does not care -"

I'm not sure when this became a famous Dickinson quote. I took a college course once on Dickinson, and I don't recall discussing it. Of course, that was at the dawn of time.

Way back before the dawn of time,
I struggled to decode
A message wrapped in gentle rhyme,
But ready to explode.

Feline Mystery

Why do witches favor cats?
Is it to fight off vampire bats?
Is there in fact a running feud
Between them and that Dracula dude?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Belle of Amherst and a Local Review

Well, here's a Chicago Tribune theater review as summarized in one sub-headline:

"Kate Fry is a perfect Emily Dickinson in creaking 'Belle of Amherst'"

He heaps praise upon the actress. I saw her performance, and thought she was excellent.

But then he goes after the play itself, which is interesting. He thinks it's out of date in various ways.

"The piece lacks the deconstructionist complexity (and the recent academic contextualization) that audiences tend to seek out today."

But... how much do audiences really seek out academic contextualization? I imagine there's an audience for that, but that it's not really a big audience.

The play does put forth a certain interpretation of Dickinson. You can say the interpretation's out of date, but I'm not sure. She's one of those poets about whom we really don't know all that much. She remains veiled in mystery. A lot of academic interpretation is itself trendy, and is not really something new that we know.

I say, if you want academic contextualization of Emily Dickinson, go read some academic studies on the topic. But if you just want an enjoyable introduction, this play remains solid. It does a particularly good job of working her poetry right into the script.

I mean, really, she is a difficult poet for most people to get into. The fact that you can sit there and be comfortably introduced - while enjoying yourself - is remarkable.

Both the Trib reviewer, and another local reviewer, suggested that the theater company should have found a newer play about Dickinson.

But as for me,
I was glad to see
An old play well-performed,
That left my heart fully warmed.

Monday, November 13, 2017

No Baby Steps?

I just read a thoughtful piece about why it's hard to revitalize a lot of neighborhoods until they totally hit bottom.

The author pins the blame on all the rules and regulations that are often involved in fixing a place up:

'There’s no in-between. You either get permanent stagnation or massive redevelopment. Baby steps are essentially illegal. “Hold, wait, and do nothing” works for the little guy.'

I really appreciated this comment, pertaining to people who acquire a building and then abandon their initial project, once they find out how expensive it will be to do all the mandated extras:

'I’ve heard many officials and professionals get very derisive in their assessment of such efforts. “Oh, they were idiots. They didn’t do their homework before they started their project. What? They thought they could just do whatever they want with the place? There are rules you know.” These are precisely the same individuals who butter their bread each day with impact fees and billable hours. They have no skin in the game.'

When a neighborhood erodes
Examine the building codes.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Space Cat Graduation Chicago

Today's festival performance had a good sized audience laughing uproariously, which made me a happy camper indeed.

With drama, you want to the hushed silence of the audience hanging on every word.

With comedy, you want to hear some yukking.



The silly saga of kitties in space
Marches willy-nilly apace!

Spartan

I rewatched Spartan last night. It's an old thriller, starring Val Kilmer, written and directed by David Mamet. The story involves what we used to call white slavery - the abduction and selling of young women for sexual purposes. In this case, it involved kidnapping a young woman in Boston for the purpose of selling her in Dubai.

I've always wondered about the popularity of these story lines, because my impression is that there's a lot less of this sort of thing in real life than there is in the movies. In one way, that's not unusual. Movie crime rates do not reflect real life crime rates. Movies are full of criminal geniuses. Real life is full of criminal idiots. Criminal geniuses make for more interesting stories - partly because the idea of a criminal genius scares us. If there were a lot of criminal geniuses, would we every catch them? What if there ARE a lot of criminal geniuses, but in real life they just DON'T GET CAUGHT?

So, back to sex slaves, it occurred to me while watching that maybe Hollywood is attracted to this story line because there's so much "sexual exploitation" in real life in Hollywood. I put it in quotes because it's one of those phrases that can mean almost anything, but the daily accusations rolling out of Tinsel Town lately are anything but pretty. Maybe it's a way of dramatizing a situation the script writers know all too well - beautiful young people being lured into a world of dashed dreams.

By the way, the movie is mostly not about that. Retrieving the kidnapped girl is the "McGuffin", but it's more of a movie about tough guy maleness in the face of political betrayal.

The name of the movie seems to arise from this exchange between our hero and the young woman:

Scott: "One riot, one Ranger." You ever heard that?
Laura: Leonidas, King of Sparta... when a neighboring state would plead for military aid, would send one man.
Scott: Well, there you go.
Laura: You ever hear that?
Scott: No. I think we went to different schools.

The hero's kind of a working class snob
Who's very good at his job.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Unlikely

I cannot remember the words, but I was reading an old paperback detective novel set in Chicago, and the Obamas came up as witnesses of some kind. I found it hard to believe and tried to reread the sentence.

I was dreaming. A non-lucid dream, as usual. The closest thing to lucidity was when I found it hard to believe. I do find that the "jarring thing I found hard to understand" is what I often remember about a dream. Maybe it's just that my dreams are chock full of such jarring things.

Maybe, in my dreams,
I'm constantly wondering how surprising
Everything seems
While rarely recognizing
That I am deep
Asleep.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

After a Workout

My back
Is out of whack.
Now I’m a grouch!
Ouch, ouch.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Tall Tale

I’m sure a giraffe
Enjoys a good laugh.
No joke, so it’s said,
Goes over his head.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Fall Back

I'm hearing a lot of complaining,
But today we are regaining
The hour stolen by DST.
This calls for triumphant glee!

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Play News

1) My Puppies In Space is cancelled for now. It was supposed to be in a festival next weekend, but something went wrong in terms of organizing a cast.

2) My Space Cat Graduation, Chicago Edition, is still on. That's Saturday at 12:25 in the afternoon, in a block of short plays presented as part of the Paragon Science Fiction play festival.

3) I saw a preview performance of The Belle Of Amherst at Court Theatre. It's a classic one-woman play about Emily Dickinson, based on her letters, and including a lot of her poems. It's considered wrong to write a critical review of a preview performance, but I don't have anything critical to say. The actress, Kate Fry, who played Emily, was marvelous. I thought the whole thing was very effective. My wife liked it too, and she's not quite the Dickinson fan that I am.

Her life was like a cryptic note,
That hints but does not say.
Confused by all that stuff she wrote?
Just come and see this play.

Friday, November 03, 2017

That Was Close

I may have mentioned that in last Saturday's 50k run, I was pretty sure I had finished just under 7 hours. Well, "just under" turned out to be right. My time was 6:59:50. That made me the last person to have an official finishing time. People who finished after me just get listed as having finished:



It was very close, but...
I made the cut.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The El Train

The el train and the traffic lights transport me
To when I was in high school. I flash back.
Vague memories of yesteryear escort me
As I walk briskly underneath the track,
And contemplate the metalwork that seems
So antiquated, yet still bears the weight
Of bright young riders full of rising dreams.
I do not know, I cannot simply state
The reason why some quality of light
At dusk, downtown, with people all about,
Reminds me so how everything that’s right
Requires stepping forward into doubt.
The world is full of promise. See it glisten.
A song is in the air if you will listen.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Space Cat Appearances on Veterans Day Weekend

I have a ten-minute play being performed soon, about a couple of sentient but catnip-addicted felines. Here are the details.

SPACE CAT GRADUATION. Saturday, November 11, at 12:25 in the afternoon.
The Public House Theatre 3914 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613
This is a single performance of a play that ran for 4 weeks in Normal, IL in June 2017. Audiences laughed a lot. I was interviewed about the play here.

The ticket to my show includes a viewing of 3 other short shows, running in their entirety from 12:25 to 1:45 pm.

This show is part of the Otherworld Paragon Festival, which runs 40 science fiction plays in 2 days.
Ticket info is here.

So if you happen to live nearby
Please feel free to just say hi.

UPDATE: Sad to say, another 10-minute show I had scheduled, Puppies In Space, has been cancelled for now. It was in another festival. I'm told the director they chose was unable to get a cast together in time.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sometimes Silence Is Golden

You can fib a fair amount of the time
Without it being considered a crime
But do not lie
To the FBI.
You tell them a story that sounds sort of hokey
And next thing you know, you’re locked in the pokey.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What You Will

I had a million monkeys hitting keys.
One of them typed “Two bees or not two bees.”
I fired him for being such a tease.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

50k Report

I ran the Chicago Lakefront 50k yesterday. I've run it before, several times, but never on its Northside route.

It's a no-frills, low-budget, low-cost race. 50k is 31 miles, and here's how they layout the course: They mark a 5 1/6 mile stretch along the lakefront. You run out-and-back once, you've run 10 1/3 miles. You run out-and-back two more times, you've run 31 miles. Simplicity itself, right? You get a 31 mile course from a 5 mile stretch of path. And you only need 3 aid stations - 1 at each end, and 1 in the middle.

It was a chilly day, and I was running in the wrong shoes. I had accidentally left my Hokas at home on the dining room floor, so I ran in my Altras, which I used to run in back in 2016. So I have various excuses for running the course slowly. But I think I came in just under 7 hours, and that was my goal.

At one point, I looked over to the lake and there was a retriever dog swimming in the water, an orange toy in its mouth. It was playing fetch with its owner.

I thought I had a cold hard slog,
But I was glad I wasn't that dog.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Maybe Marlowe?

Who, if anyone, wrote Shakespeare’s plays?
I may just ponder this question for days!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Marathon Mistakes

From Wisconsin:

For the second year in a row, the distance for the PNC Milwaukee Marathon has been wrong. Last year, the marathon course was measured too long... This year, the marathon course fell short.

Best of all, both years they used the same guys to measure the course. Third time's the charm!

The measurement mistake is a small thing, but it can mess up the life of those who are trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Now for a bigger thing, from Italy:

"Italian Runner Wins Venice Marathon After All The Favorites Take A Wrong Turn"

The favorites - a bunch of Kenyans who were leading the race - took a wrong turn because they were following a guide motorcycle - who took a wrong turn. So this Eritrean-born Italian stays on course and wins.

If I had a suspicious mind, having watched too many Godfather movies, I might begin to wonder how that motorbike went astray.

Why did the Italian win?
Could it be the fix was in?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ugh

There's a piece in today's WSJ (behind-a-paywall) puzzling over how to solve the problem of violent protesters showing up when someone like Richard Spencer (a quasi-Nazi) comes to talk at a public university.

The problem, from the author's point of view, is the expense.

But... what if we just started expelling violent protesters? Or, better yet, arresting them and trying them? I bet it would cut down on the expense.

Quasi-Nazis are a despicable crew,
But communist mobs are detestable too.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Universal Sole Trail Race

Ran a trail 5k in the woods west of my house today. Gorgeous weather. We've had a lot of Indigenous Summer this Autumn, and today was more of the same. It was a dog-welcoming race:



Doberman believes
She’d’ve won the 5K,
If not for the leash
That hindered her way.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Autumn Sunset

It’s earlier than I prefer it to sink,
But such a lovely swirl of pink!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cult Alert

The NY Times has a story about a twisted version of a self-help cult:

'To gain admission, they were required to give their recruiter — or “master,” as she was called — naked photographs or other compromising material and were warned that such “collateral” might be publicly released if the group’s existence were disclosed.'

That's bad enough, but the headline is the part where women voluntarily submitted to being branded with some symbol based on the founder's initials.

There can be strength in the psychological maneuver known as "surrendering to a higher power" - if that higher power is worthy. As in, for example, exiting Denial and surrendering to the Truth.

But if the higher power is more demonic than divine, then what comes next will be a disaster.

Look your ideal in the eye
And decide
Does it truly deserve
To be held up high?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Low Overhead

Poetry’s the cheapest art.
A pen, a paper, and a heart
Are common things, it’s true.
And if your memory.’s good enough,
You don’t need any writing stuff;
The heart alone will do.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Induction

So now I know why in Hollywood movies it's so frequently the corporate executive who is the hypocritical villain.

Because, in the world that the writers know
It seems to be frequently so.

Don’t Take a Spill

I was reading about an annual race, in Buenos Aires, for people who wait tables. You race-walk holding a tray with a couple of bottles, trying to get to the finish first - without dropping anything.

Waiters who cannot wait
To deliver their trays with bottles,
Walk at a blistering rate,
Sliding open their throttles.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Numbers

I read today there were 1,500 portapotties at the Chicago Marathon. Lots of those were at the start/finish.

And there were about 40,000 runners.

Somehow, it seemed like there was always a line, particularly during the race. So my strategy from the beginning was not to over-hydrate.

Because I had a goal time and I had no certainty of making it!

When your goal is four fifty-nine
And all the minutes count,
Three people ahead in a line
Seems like a big amount.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Organized

So, where was the Screen Actors Guild
During all this stink?
I take it they're not as strong a union
As you might think.

Exposure

Complicit hypocrites preaching
The higher moral sense
Is a form of overreaching
As old as recorded events.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Proof of LIfe

Bureaucracy has trouble admitting to mistakes:

"Spanish woman wants to open up grave to prove she's alive"

Why open a grave? I really would hope,
No matter what the computer said,
You could prove she's alive with a good stethoscope.
"Yep, your heart's beating. I guess you're not dead."

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

It Happened Just Now

When an ambulance goes by, wailing,
It's mostly never-failing:
My lab lifts up her jowls
And lets out ghostly howls.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Dog Home Again

So that big dog I corralled on Saturday, turns out to be a Canary Mastiff, also known as a Perro de Presa Canario. He lives about 3 blocks away from me. He is back with his family.

A number of people thought he was a mixed breed, but he turns out to be a rare breed.

I liked that massive dog, so I am delighted,
That mastiff and master now are reunited.

Running Chicago

I ran the Chicago Marathon yesterday and I made my time goal of breaking the five hour barrier. I finished in 4:56.

My watch, a GPS device made by Garmin, seemed confused. It thinks I ran 27 miles yesterday and I heard the same from other GPS watch users. It kept adding distance throughout the race.

It's a good device, within its limitations, but I wished I had my regular running watch on my other wrist. As it was, I had to do math in my head to make sure I was running at the right pace. Unfortunately it gets harder and harder to do math as a marathon wears on.

Anyway, it all worked out. And now I'm headed to work.

I'm feeling great, even if
My gait is admittedly stiff.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Today's Dog Adventure



This dog, a big brindle bullmastiff mix sort of dog, weighing at least 100 pounds, resided at my house for a few hours today. He had a collar, but no tags, and was wandering loose outside my house.

He seemed friendly to all the people he met. And my lab liked him. They ran around our yard together.

But I decided I couldn't keep him overnight. There were logistical challenges, and unknowns. Eventually I took him to the Animal Welfare League shelter in the nearby suburb of Chicago Ridge.

If you want something big to scare burglars away,
This guy can do it all day.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Who Am I Now?

If only I could hack
I'd get my identity back.
Right now it's lonely and sad
On a laptop in Volgograd.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Herbal

My wife had noticed lately... strange cats in our yard. Not strange peculiar, just strange "I don't know whose cat that is".

She was trying to figure that out, when she remembered, "Oh, yeah, I've got catnip growing in the yard."

Other people's kitties slip
Into our yard to have a nip.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Almost the Same Weather?

I ran a marathon 2 and a half weeks go, and I'm scheduled to run another in a few days, and I really hoped that this Sunday would be notably cooler than that Sunday 2 and a half weeks ago, but it's shaping up to be just a teeny bit cooler. Well, every little bit helps

The course will also be a slightly flatter.
But what if I've gotten slightly fatter?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Funny Page Coincidence

Today it was babysitting.

Everyday I read the Chicago Tribune funny pages - that is, 2 full pages of cartoon strips. And I am amazed by how often there is a strange coincidence of cartoon topics. Today the word "babysit" came up in 2 different cartoons.

Having noted that, I looked for other odd similarities, and I noticed that "dog" came up in a whole bunch of comic strips - from Dilbert to Blondie to Peanuts... and about 3 more. But maybe that's just the prevalence of dogs in our culture. I'm not inclined to be struck much by all those dogs. But the two references to babysitting surprised me.

I don't think there's a cartoonist conspiracy
So I think this is mostly me.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Tonight

Show is going well.
This audience is swell.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Naturalism

Heard in real life, about real furniture:
Q: "Is that table stable?"
A: "It's strong as a bong."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Baffled

How did genuflection
Take on a protest direction?
To the Catholic in me
It's a mystery.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bradley House



Visited this really spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright house in Kankakee, Illinois. The house is on a big lot which is on the Kankakee River.

Then we took an electric boat tour of a nice stretch of the river.

Right upon the Kankakee,
Things were looking Wright to me.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

In A Hole

I will probably have a claustrophobic nightmare after reading this:

"IU student survives 3 days locked in cave after group forgets him, forced to lick moisture from cave wall"

Spelunker
had to hunker
in the cave
till he was saved
after his club
realized their flub.

That IU as in Indiana University. Is there any chance this is a hoax? The student's name is Lukas Cavar, which seems a little too perfect.

"Somehow" he got separated from his group. "Somehow" they forgot him. He was "rescued" by the cave club - not by authorities.

But big establishment media are reporting the story as true!
So what's a mere blogger to do?
I will report it, too.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

September Warmer Than August

It's not quite Indian Summer yet,
Because it's not quite Fall,
But if the forecast is correct,
It's coming after all.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

He Don't Get No Respect

What does Kim think about this Rocket Man thing?

Did he expect respect
From the guy we chose to elect?
I guess that plan is wrecked.

Sounds

The bugs are chirping in the night
While overhead a plane in flight
Generates a distant roar.
It flies away, is heard no more.
A siren howls and is gone.
But the chirping carries on.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

How The Marathon Went Today

Today's marathon adventure: well, it was warm. Started at about 70 F and ended up somewhere in the 80s. At the water stations, I would drink a cup of Gatorade cup and pour a cup of water on my head. I'm sure I look a bit comical when I do that, but it feels so good.

Otherwise, the amazingly good thing, was that my legs never cramped. I know I moaned in prior years about my quad-cramping issues. I decided to take a less lackadaisical approach to training this year, with particular emphasis on my quads. So I bicycled more - that hits the quads in particular. I did the "international distance" triathlon that involves the full 25 mile bike ride. And I kept doing treadmill sprints, even while doing distance training. Oh, and I did squats with dumbbells, approximately weekly. And I switched to different shoes. So either some element in there, or maybe all of them combined, somehow prevented the cramping.

Due to the lack of cramping, this "training marathon" actually had a better time than last year's "main marathon". Well, in 3 weeks we'll find out how I do on my main marathon for the year, the Chicago Marathon. It's a flatter course. I hope the weather will be cooler! We'll see if 3 weeks is enough time to recover. I think I took it kind of easy today.

You know,
As marathons go.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Training Marathon

Tomorrow I'm doing a training marathon. By which I mean, I was already signed up for the Chicago Marathon, which is in three weeks. And in my distance training, I've already run 20 miles. Which means that this weekend I should be doing a 22 or 23 mile run, in theory, I think.

So I signed up for the Fox Valley marathon, which also has a 20-miles-only option, specifically designed for people training for a later autumn marathon. But, what the heck, I want 23 miles, not 20, for my training, right? I can always walk the 3 extra miles.

So, I plan to cover twenty-six miles
Tomorrow.
Will I be all smiles?
Or will I be trudging in sorrow?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Zzz

I feel like one big sleepy head.
But will I trundle off to bed?
Or maybe walk the dog instead?

I think in fact I have to roll.
I owe that dog a healthy stroll.
And then a snooze will be my goal.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Dictionary Entry Deletion Request

I saw someone use the word, but it's long past time to jettison
"Netizen".

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Faux Emily

Because I could not stop my Thought -
I let it "dash" headlong -
Not using commas - as one ought -
When sculpting Word to Song.

I dumped the contents of my brain
Upon the Ground for all
To contemplate with puzzled pain
In God's great Study Hall.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Irksome Inconsistency

Lyrics from a song by Bruce Springsteen, The River:

"Then I got Mary pregnant
And man that was all she wrote
And for my nineteenth birthday
I got a union card and a wedding coat.
We went down to the courthouse
And the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle
No flowers, no wedding dress."

...So why on earth did HE get a wedding coat, but SHE didn't get a wedding dress? It doesn't seem fair. This has been bugging me for years.

I must admit the lyrics
Tend to get me depressed,
But this is an injustice
That needs to be redressed.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Irma

When I was driving to the airport in Fort Lauderdale yesterday, I could see there were lines at gas stations along the way. I have a friend who lives outside of Naples, out in the sticks, and he says the stations are now running out of gas. And this is for a storm that may not hit Florida at all, and not for a few days yet.

Well, at least there has been plenty of warning.

I hope it's all a false alarm,
And Florida feels no harm.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Convolutions

Uber driver introduced me to not one, but two
New conspiracy theories. Well, not really new,
But new to me. Or maybe not. 
Maybe I'd heard them before and merely forgot.
You may think this sounds a little dense,
But I like to forget what doesn't make any sense.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Irma Threatens

Here in Florida, people buying supplies
In case Irma hits this week.
But I plan to flee to the friendly skies
Before any weather turns bleak.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Swim Report

I had a nice long swim today in Naples, Florida, in calm Gulf waters. It was raining, a little, while I swam.

Compared to Lake Michigan, where I swam last week, the water was so warm, and so salty.

Also, this time, I wasn't in a race
And so I leisurely set my own pace.


Saturday, September 02, 2017

Rainbows in the Everglades


Search for pot of gold
Never gets old. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Should I Do The Triple?

When I was attending the mandatory course talk for the Chicago Triathlon, the speaker asked for a show of hands of those who had already done the Chicago Triathlon 10 times. I raised my hand.

No one doubted me. Let's face it, I look old enough!

But I wondered whether I actually was sure of that number. So I went back to my race log and counted. Yep, well over 10. And, as I thought, I had raced all 3 of the distances: International, Sprint, and Supersprint. Also, from my notes, I raced a couple of times where the course was shortened. I had forgotten, but I remember that one year the swim conditions were terrible, and they shortened the swim course drastically.

Anyway, they now have an event called the Triple Challenge, which involves doing all 3 distances in one weekend. I have to admit, I'm tempted. It's actually less distance than a half-Ironman. Well, to be technical, the swim is longer, but the other pieces are shorter. And... it's broken up into 3 piece over 2 days. So you can kind of catch your breath between the races.

The real reason I'm attracted to it is that you are in the very first batch of people to start at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. No waiting around! I waited around till 8 a.m., old person that I am, because they wanted to let the fast young people go first. But just by signing up for the Triple, I would get into the first wave or so for the International. They have to do that, so that you can be finished with the International in time to join the last wave or so of the Sprint race.

Hopefully I will talk myself out of this.
It would be a strange way of pursuing my bliss.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Like Auntie Fa?

People are uncertain how antifa should be pronounced.
I'm worried if I say it wrong I'll end up getting trounced.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Not News

I find That overly slanted news
Is boring. It makes me snooze.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fiery Art

'Someone set fire to the large "REAL FAKE" sculpture that sits near Chicago's Trump Tower on Friday afternoon, forcing firefighters to come out and wash it down.'

From past reports, this sculpture wasn't created with Trump in mind, but it may well have been placed with Trump in mind.

Even when art
Fails to inspire,
Please do not
Set it on fire.

Of course, political art vandalism is becoming a thing in the USA. Mostly people are tearing them down or writing messages on them. But in Chicago, fire seems to be spreading. This is from last week:

"Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) on Thursday accused President Donald Trump of emboldening vandals to set fire to a bust of Abraham Lincoln that has stood as a symbol of freedom in West Englewood for nearly a century."

With anonymous vandals, it's actually hard to be sure of motivations. There have been plenty of "real fake" hate crimes in recent years, although those seem more common at colleges.

Arson on art
Is a local trend.
I'm worried about
Where it might end.

Mrs. O'Leary
Had a bad cow.
But our fire department
Is better now.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Wish List for Sunday

For the Chicago Triathlon,
It would be great
If they could paint lines underwater
To help me swim straight.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Overcrowded Museum

I've seen people, all northerners I think, proposing that all the statues of Civil War generals be put in a museum. I think they imagine that all these works are artistically significant, and that there's a big variety of statues. But I rather fear there are a lot of statues of just a few people: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis. With here and there some generalized "confederate soldier" statues. We've got a confederate soldier statue here in Chicago, at a mass grave of confederate soldiers who died in the big POW camp here in Chicago, Camp Douglas, which is sometimes called the north's Andersonville. Prison conditions, by most accounts, were frequently deadly.

They lie beneath the Illinois loam.
These men who didn't go marching home.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Oh My Ears

Free speech is at its best
When I'm the one doing the talking.
But it's an unpleasant test
When my opponents are squawking.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Cool Event

Some kind people let me borrow
Their special specs
For solar effects
So my eyes will still work tomorrow.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Toeing the Line

Cut a hole in my shoes
To make room for my toes.
No more black toenail blues?
Well, we'll see how it goes.

Here's how it looks:


I was actually following internet advice on this. You see, I really like this new pair of Hoka shoes, and they seem to be great for distance running. But...

Well, 2 weeks ago I ran 16 miles, in these expensive Hoka shoes, and felt unusually good, except for my a few of my toes, which felt unusually bad. They were bruised under the nail. Now you might think that the right thing to do is to just buy bigger shoes. But these shoes were sized correctly in most respects.

So, yesterday, I made this radical modification, and ran for 20 miles, and it went really well, and my toenails seem fine. Really, it's was like running in cushioned open-toed sandals.

I thought of one more benefit - yes -
Now my shoes weigh even less.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Safety First

If everyone in the country tried
To see the eclipse, would we tip to one side?
As for me,
I'm going to watch it streaming on TV.

Solar Lunacy

The moon has a lot of nerve,
Proposing to block the sun.
It really ought to swerve
And leave the eclipse undone.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

In Fact They May Find It Annoying

I have found that a lot of white people enjoy talking about their racial guilt trips, but that African Americans rarely find much of value in these travelogues.

No matter what you heard
In your class on sociology
People aren't sitting around
Waiting for your apology.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trying to Understand

There was violence on both sides. True.

There was only deadly violence on one side, from one person.

Who was marching on that "Unite the Right" side? Were there decent people on that side? Trump apparently said there were. I mean, I'm sure there are people who would like to preserve the statue of Lee for various reasons which are not, in fact, racist. Were there a lot of such people at the rally? Or were they avoiding the rally because it looked to be led by a bunch of neo-Nazi pro-Confederacy types? I can't tell, and it doesn't seem like any reporters are working the angle of exactly who was at this mess.

There's a group that is described as alt-right or far right, called Proud Boys. I want to quote from their website:

'I hope they all enjoyed the little “street performance” with their KKK pals. THANK GOD THE PROUD BOYS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT.' (Lots of NSFW swear words at the link.)

If you're thinking of marching with Nazis,
I really suggest you don't.
You may believe it will work out well,
But history says it won't.

Dogged Determination

How to lick the last bit out?
Just stick in your furry snout!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Feathers vs. Fur

I'm listening to an owl, just after midnight. It's a barred owl, judging by its call. I hear my yellow lab barking back at it. She finds the hooting disturbing, I'm not sure why.

The hooting from the owl
Incites my dog to howl.
Oh, you silly pup,
It's time to shut up!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sword of Damocles

I saw where David Brooks, the NY Times columnist, was calling for the CEO of Google to resign.

I do find this turn amusing.
I suppose he will be refusing.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Someday

Susan Rice, late of the former administration, writes in the NY Times:

"First, though we can never legitimize North Korea as a nuclear power, we know it is highly unlikely to relinquish its sizable arsenal because Mr. Kim deems the weapons essential to his regime’s survival."

So, we won't legitimize, but we expect North Korea to remain a nuclear power. We will accept, but not approve. I suppose that matters a little, but I wish it mattered more.

A lot of us imagine the current world order proceeding more or less as it is now. But I do wonder what would happen if North Korea dropped even one nuclear bomb on an American city. It could change a lot of things very quickly. I think it would make our reaction to 9/11 look like a minor eruption of force and fury. I don't know what would happen. I don't imagine anyone really does.

I wish the missile defense systems
Worked better than they do.
Maybe then I wouldn't be sharing
These worrisome thoughts with you

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Cumulus



Up there in the sky -
What is all that stuff?
Well, to my eye,
It's a mountain of fluff.

Rebranding

There was a story in the news today that a certain chain had a plan to shorten its name.

The company plans to go nuts
And drop the alliterative "donuts"
To rebrand just as Dunkin'?
Man, I call that flunkin'!

Monday, August 07, 2017

Formican Melody

What music does an ant hum?
I hope he drones an anthem!
And if he won't, just plant him
Beneath the spiky Xanthium.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Drawback

One thing about autumn marathons is a bummer:
You have to start training in the summer.
Maybe it's me, but I'd rather not
Run run run when it's hot hot hot.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Unpretty Situation

Wacky local story:

"Escort wasn’t the ‘brains’ behind spending of $5.8 million with exec’s credit card, lawyer says"

They blew an awful lot of money that wasn't theirs to blow. Now it looks like they might be trying to blame each other. But I can't see pinning either as a mastermind, under the circumstances.

Who was the 'brains' of this spending spree?
They both seem sort of short-sighted to me.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Rumors

There are a rumors that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is considering an entry into politics.

Billionaire considers second job.
Pay is so-so. Hope he's not a snob!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Smoke

I was driving home mid-day Sunday, and I encountered a big white cloud of smoke the length of my city block. I stopped twice to make sure I could see through it safely while driving. It smelled a bit acrid, like burning rubber or something. I thought it must be from a malfunctioning vehicle that had driven ahead of me. But I never saw what vehicle that might have been.

A little while later, a fire truck came down my block, and proceeded to drive around the area a bit. I think someone had made a 911 call about the smoke. But the firefighters couldn't seem to find the source.

Where's there's smoke,
Fire is expected.
But this time
It couldn't be detected.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Puzzled

I've puzzled over agonized progressives who proclaim their need to re-understand the world they live in. It seems sincere, despite the fact that all that happened was they lost a close election between two unpopular candidates.

But their belief that they are on the side of history did take a hit. The mystical embrace of the forward march of history is a common progressive belief. It's why they call themselves progressives - because they have allied with the winning side which is the inevitable future. All this goes back at least to Marx.

When history takes an unexpected turn
It must mean you have something new to learn.

To Unfold

The power to unfold much like a flower,
Unpeeling and revealing what's within,
Is not attained by all, for many cower
Afraid that what they hold untold is sin.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dunkirk

I haven't seen the movie yet. But I'm thinking about the actual event, after reading this review.

It was spectacularly successfully retreat,
Which set the Nazis up for defeat.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Return to Manteno

The way I so often win first -
Both best for my group and the worst!
When there's no one your age to compete,
The trick is just to complete.



The swim for this triathlon takes place in Lake Manteno, starting from the Manteno Sportmen's Club, in beautiful Manteno, Illinois. Years ago, in the late 90's, I did a triathlon here a couple of times, although the course layout was different - and longer.

That old triathlon seemed to get discontinued, but... At some point, they seem to have restarted as a triathlon venue - without my knowledge somehow! Anyway, it's only about 40 minutes from my house, and it's a convenient, friendly triathlon. So I'll be back. Maybe next time there will be someone else in my age group.

If there's someone else my age in the race,
I may have to settle for second place.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Contest

Who is the richest dude in tech?
It's Gates and Bezos, neck and neck!
I'll ask the winner to write me a check.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ancestry Again

Hanging around on comparative family tree sites, I have a lot of visible overlap with a few people who arrived in the 1700s in Virginia from the British Isles. It's fun to read their names and dates and ponder the vast chain of ancestry.

Nowadays the family tree fans are trying to verify the branches with DNA data. Most official family trees, over time, will bury some family secrets concerning true parentage. This seems to be less often the case than many skeptics had expected, as it turns out.

In my case, for example, people with whom I share a family tree branch are also popping up as DNA relatives on 23andMe.

But some people pop as distant DNA relative - third to fifth cousins - and neither of us have ANY idea of how that came to be.

Allegedly, I have a Native American ancestor, on my mother's side apparently. What tribe, I don't know.

I'm hoping that its Pottawatamie,
Because that word sounds cool to me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Geography

For what it's worth
I'm told the earth
Is not really flat
Like a big welcome mat.
But in the Midwest
It's what I'd've guessed.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Bizarre Sentence Of The Day

"I mean, look, I don’t mean to be rude, but most of the reason I went gay is so I didn’t have to deal with nutty broads." It's from an old "Milo" article on Breitbart about the future of "sexbots".

I hate to try to think about a statement like this. But, he's got me doing it.

"I don't mean to be rude"... actually, of course, it's hard to imagine how a careful writer can refer to "nutty broads" without "meaning to be rude". There might be good reasons to be rude, but, let's face it, "nutty broads" is a tilt to the rude side of the force. It's a little ruder than "crazy females" and a lot ruder than "emotionally disturbed women".

Next... he "went gay". Well, from where? Maybe from "bisexual" or from some custom category like: "I think of myself as straight, and I find women attractive, but I also find men attractive".

As an aside, I have the impression that women who date gay guys often do experience emotional distress.

Finally I ask
What man will want to bask
In the admiring glance
Of a robot without pants?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ancestral Voices

23andMe now claims
I have Sardinian genes.
I must admit, I cannot say
Exactly what this means.
But tell me please, might it explain
Why I like sardines?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Unending Fascination With Placebos Continues

Usually when we think of placebos, we think of pills, but sham surgery has actually been studied a fair amount - it is used to create a control group for studies that try to determine how well real surgery works. That is, you are able to answer the question: does a sham version of this surgery work as well as a real version?

"A pill can provoke a placebo effect, but an injection produces an even stronger one. Cutting into someone appears to be more powerful still."

As for me, I'm hopin'
Not to get cut open.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reviews of All Mixed Up NYC

We received a simply lovely review from Rachel Rocano at Drama Queens Reviews: Fresh Fruit Fest births “All Mixed Up”

"The script was both funny and poignant with messages evident and for the coffee shop discussion later."

"Ensemble cast was superb"
Ah, what a lovely blurb!
"Really enjoyable piece"
Please, go on, do not cease!

We also received a very thoughtful and enthusiastic review from Walter Donway:

"Romantic comedies are not tragedies, which this situation seemed to be becoming; they are entanglements of frustration, rage, maddening personalities, and even danger from which the characters somehow emerge and find love or some reconciliation with life. John Enright's brilliance is that the audience hardly could ever believe that this contemporary ambush of innocence in the equivalent of a PC firefight would end well."

On Facebook, my wife posted a photo of me with my hands clasped together in front of me, at a restaurant table, as if in prayer. It was taken on Sunday afternoon, before our last performance. Someone asked if I was saying grace, but I replied that I was praying to Dionysus for big audiences and good reviews.

For what I have received,
I would not dare complain,
God of theater.

I wrote with spirit cleaved,
But prizes after pain
Taste much sweeter.

T-rex Specs

Some scientists are now saying that T-rex couldn't really run fast. They're saying that the average human could outrun one of them - if only humans had coexisted with the mighty dinosaur carnivore.

Of course, it's all speculation. What we need is genetic reincarnation, along the lines of Jurassic Park.

Once we bring them back
We can bring them to the track.
I have to admit, just seeing that face
Would motivate my feet to race.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Jayden K. Smith

A Facebook friend sent me an urgent warning about Jayden K. Smith, a hacker who, if you let him become your Facebook friend, will take over your computer.

I'm not sure how that's supposed t work. And some apparently responsible reporters are saying that the warning is itself a hoax:

"There is no evidence of any account with the name Jayden K Smith going on sprees of adding users, and even if there were, they would not be able to hack into an account just by becoming a friend."

But I prefer to believe my friend.

Jayden K. Smith!
Not sure who he's with,
But all the best hackers
Have government backers.
I blame a cabal
From out of Nepal.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Closing Time

After three days of genial madness,
The show has closed. We had fun.
It all went well, but still some sadness
Comes when the fun is done.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

We Opened

We had a good New York premiere
And one of the major factors
Which you can glimpse right here
Is a gaggle of gifted actors.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Program Panic

I had an adventure getting the theater programs designed on Fiverr.com. I wanted bi-fold 8.5 x 11, to slip inside the general "festival program".

I had 2 different people work on it. And both did something odd about the paper.

One designed it for 11 x 17. And the other designed for the right paper size but designed it to fold the long way, not the short way, even though the example of "how we did it last time" clearly folded the short way.

I'm sure I could have been more specific, blah, blah.

Anyway, got a working version, much better than I could have done, took it to a local printer, and the programs look great.

When time is so tight
Trial and error
Gives me a fright,
A slight touch of terror.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Plus Or Minus

Negative thinking
Can be powerful too
But it's not the kind
You hope comes true.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tick Tock

My time machine,
Even at full power,
Only moves forward
At sixty minutes per hour.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Porcine Terpsichorean

If a pig
Had a gig
To dance a fine jig,
Would he snort
And cavort
In ecstatic transport?

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Visit

Our grandson came to stay with us
But now he has gone back.
He made us chase around too much,
But now we feel his lack.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Scientists Investigate Why Monkeys Refuse To Talk

The Washington Post reports on scientific efforts to figure out why monkeys and apes don't make noises that sound like human speech. "Scientists figured there were two likely sticking points. Either the brain was not wired for speech in nonhuman primates, or their windpipes were shaped the wrong way."

Quick-skim spoiler alert: Seems like it's more of a brain issue.

Why can't monkeys generate speech?
Somehow the stuff stays out of their reach.

Parrots, of course, at least make the sounds,
But full understanding is out of bounds.

Problematic Pragmatic Truths

This "Russia hacked the election" meme seems to be dying down, since apparently they didn't, and since Trump doesn't seem to be leaning especially pro-Russian.

People just seemed to leap at this meme, which never had a lot of evidence. It recalls the pragmatic theory of truth, which is that truth is that which works, often understood to mean that truth is whatever works right now, tomorrow be damned.

The trouble is,
Tomorrow will come,
And made-up truths
Will look kind of dumb.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

GOP

They promised to repeal and replace,
But never said with what.
They never thought they'd win that race!
Now egg goes splatter on the face.
They stutter: but, but, but...

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Interview

Charming actors have things to say
About the New York production of my play.


Monday, July 03, 2017

Virtual Travels

The New Yorker has an article: An Agoraphobic Photographer’s Virtual Travels, on Google Street View

That's one way to enjoy the view.
And it's a whole lot cheaper, too.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Orwell Your Orwell

I heard David Ramsay Steele talking about his new book, Orwell Your Orwell: A Worldview on the Slab. I bought a copy, too, but have just read the preface so far.

This was a real labor of love for Ramsay Steele, who has been working on this book, off and on, for twenty years. It sounds like it's the most careful delineation of what Orwell actually thought and believed. Of course, his political views changed over time. At least once, in the case of whether it was a good idea to go to war with the NAZIs, they changed overnight.

Ramsay Steele thinks that Orwell ws never really controversial, as such, in the sense that Orwell's views generally mapped to views that were held by a large part of the British Left, at any given time. He's not saying that Orwell always followed the majority views of the British Left, but that his views were at least in line, at any given time, with some substantial minority.

He thinks Orwell's lasting legacy is his attack on totalitarianism, which had a real impact over time.

Orwell, himself, remained a socialist, but an anti-totalitarian. He thought the government should own everything, but that there should be freedom throughout the land. I know, somehow that never seems to work out compatibly.

Ramsay Steele aims to dissect
Orwell's worldly views
Which did indeed change to reflect
Evolving world news.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Celebrity Pinnacle

His tweets are immature,
But I fear they will endure.
It's part of his routine,
To act like Mr. Mean.
After all, why would he stop?
This role has got him to the top.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Russian Philosophy

I finished Russian Philosophy by Copleston.

I sort of have 2 reasons for reading it.

My first reason is that I'm aiming to plow through Copleston's complete history of philosophy, of which this is one of the volumes, but one of the volumes which isn't included in the big monster-set I have of it. I think because it came later. Wikipedia lists the component volumes like this:

Volume 1: Greece and Rome
Volume 2: Augustine to Scotus
Volume 3: Ockham to Suarez
Volume 4: Descartes to Leibniz
Volume 5: Hobbes to Hume
Volume 6: Wolff to Kant
Volume 7: Fichte to Nietzsche
Volume 8: Bentham to Russell
Volume 9: Maine de Biran to Sartre
Volume 10: Russian Philosophy
Volume 11: Logical Positivism and Existentialism

In this scheme, I've only done 1 & 10.

But, hey,
That's two elevenths out of the way!

My second reason is that I'm planning to re-read Sciabarra's book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. And I figured I should actually do a little homework so I had some context when Sciabarra starts talking about the philosophical traditions Rand would have been exposed to most in her formative years.

So that's why, having finished volume 1, I jumped ahead to 10. I have to admit, that I know enough of this stuff so that the Copleston material is mostly not really fresh to me. He's a good writer, so it's not actually boring, but it's a fairly fast read as philosophy goes. Thank goodness he writes so clearly!

Philosophical history
Doesn't need to be a mystery.

Lullaby

I sang the babe a silly sort of song,
A tune to soothe his agitated breast,
With syllables serene. It wasn't long
Before he shut his eyes in easeful rest.

An infant listens steadily to streams
Of language that he cannot comprehend.
It is a strange procedure, but it seems
To overcome the challenge in the end.

The human ear seeks out the human voice.
We dream it when in fact it is not there.
In solitude the hermit will rejoice
At whispering winds that visit his lone lair.

In silence we can hear our beating hearts.
But soon our craving for some lyrics starts.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sort Of

It's a question that's
Always being debated:
Are domestic cats
Truly domesticated?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Words

Free speech may lead you to curse,
But censorship turns out worse.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

More Than Anyone Wants To Know

Old notes I came across today, oddly tying in with yesterday's post about my father's birthday party:

I don't expect that many people will be interested in my development, particularly my early development, as a poet. But it interests me, so I am writing it down because I am curious about it myself, and believe I might get a better grip on it by committing it to words.

I grew up in a household where one of my role models periodically wrote humorous, clever, well-rhymed verse. This was my father. I would listen at the dinner table, reciting and sometimes discussing the technical mechanics of verse making. As I recall the form of the Limerick came under particular discussion. I listened closely.

My great Aunt Vera, on my mother's side, was also a writer of verses. As I recall hers ranged more toward the heartfelt and sentimental. So I thought of poetry writing as a noteworthy activity that some normal people engaged in.

I mentioned that I listened closely to my father's thoughts on versification, so perhaps this is a good place to insert some mention of the fact that I had trouble talking as a young child, a trouble that was rooted, at least in part, in having trouble distinguishing some routine English phonemes. I can remember not being able, for instance, to distinguish the sound of This from Dis. This was not because everyone around me said "dis" although perhaps some did. Here's another, different example of my problem. I could not pronounce the word YES properly. I had some problem with the Y and some problem with the S as well. I remember it as extremely frustrating and embarrassing. As the years wore on, I mastered these phonemes, but at a self conscious level that involved really listening to how people spoke.

I think this made me more focused on the sound of words at a conscious level than most kids usually are. In later grade school I was actually better at phonetic analysis than my peers. I imagine it was a form of overcompensation for whatever was "off" in my original linguistic capabilities. I suspect that this overcompensation is one of the factors that drove me to writing and to poetry in particular.

The first poems I remember writing was a fourth grade school assignment. Our teacher wrote a single line on the blackboard: Do you like the sun?

We were supposed to take that as a starting line and write a poem.

Do you like the sun
And the stars that it passes?
....
And its fiery hot gases?

That's all I remember - 3 lines from the first quatrain. It went on for several quatrains more, exploring various facets of the solar system.

Two of us were chose for special acclaim by the teacher. The other student had taken a totally different approach.

Do you like the sun
Or do you like the moon?

He went on to compare the virtues of day and night.

This contrast of approaches - equally valid interpretations of the first line - struck me profoundly. I began to glimpse how a simple line of poetry can go off in very different directions. It's hard to say why this was experienced as such an epiphany, but it was.

The next poem I remember is one I wrote in my freshman year of high school. It was written to make fun of our elderly theology teacher, Father Lauer. It was written for the amusement of my classmates and included a lot of in-joke references to some of the peculiarities of his teachings. I recall the first quatrain.

God is syllogism.
Religion's diagrams.
Support the Lauer schism.
Pray in traffic jams.

I also remember the last 2 lines;

Just cheat, cheat, cheat,cheat, cheat
And you will get an A.

I wouldn't expect that to mean anything to anyone now, but it was wildly popular with my classmates, one of whom reproduced the poem and spread it around. It did fall into the hands of at least one other teacher who gave us a talking to, and who learned in the process that I was the satirist.

That same year, my freshman year in high school, I began looking seriously at modern, free verse poetry for the first time and puzzling over what it was about, and in particular puzzling over what made it different than prose. Were they really poems at all? I asked. One poem baffled me even more, Grasshopper by e.e. cummings, which just seemed to involve the letters of the word GRASSHOPPER arranged around the page in unpronounceable configurations that visually suggested a grasshopper hopping around. Our English teacher told us something like it was really a poem but we weren't ready to understand it. This bothered me no end.

I recall being puzzled also by our high school literary magazine, which was loaded with free-verse stream-of-consciousness stuff.

I studied the content of these poems, and wrote a poem on their model. It was a poem about drifting of to sleep, and I wrote it in a breathless style of successive drifting thoughts. It was not accepted for publication, but I heard later that the editors had wondered whether it was a parody. I suppose, in retrospect, they might have thought my "falling asleep" theme was a commentary on my level of interest in their poetry.

I think it was that summer that I read the book that really got me interested in poetic analysis. This book was The Design Of Poetry, which I found at the public library. I found the book riveting. The author did line by line analysis of a variety of poems. Specifically, I recall Because I Could Not Stop For Death, by Emily Dickinson, Ozymandias, by Shelley, and that poem about eating plums by William Carlos Williams.

The author was lined up, more or less, with the New Criticism school of interpretation, so he was quite keen on finding ironies and ambiguities in the text. I was quite taken with the analysis, particularly with the very close reading and very close analysis of metaphor and simile. It really was one of those books that changed my life.

The author had a theory about what made something poetry, something like writing designed for no purpose but its own contemplation. This easily included free verse. Later I decided it was an inadequate, over-inclusive definition, but for now it sufficed. I also started reading more poetry as an independent habit. I recall being most struck by 2 poets: Emily Dickinson, and Kenneth Patchen. Among moderns, I was partial to the Beat poets: Patchen, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Corso. As an individual poet, I was impressed with Lenore Kandel, who published a single book of poems. Among classics, aside from Dickinson, I liked Blake for his short lyrics.

The Beats appealed to me in part because their meaning was manifest and strongly emotional.

I began writing free verse poems, continued writing rhymed poems, and also wrote some poems that combined the 2 modes.

By my Junior year, I was on the high school literary magazine, which had a new faculty advisor, a young Jesuit who was a big fan of Dylan Thomas. He did not care for free verse, said it didn't sound like anything in particular. I argued the other side of this case, but didn't feel I had that great a case, and wondered if I was wrong.

This brings me, roughly, to the development of my interest in Ayn Rand's philosophy. This had an immediate effect on my poetry writing in several ways.

Stylistically, the element of her thought that had the biggest effect was her withering analysis of the modernist revolution in art. She actually had only a few passing remarks about poetry. But I began to think that maybe free verse was in a class with non-representational painting and plotless novels. So I channeled my efforts into verse with more form to it.

A second stylistic impact came from her emphasis on clarity. I had been taught that good poetry was ambiguous. Now I was working with the idea that good poetry should be clear.

Shortly before getting really interested in Rand, I had been started on a study of William Butler Yeats. I was very impressed and he came to be another influential favorite for me.

----------------

This brings us to the start of my high school senior year.
It's already too much stuff, I fear,
But fortunately, it does end here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ninety

My father turned 90 yesterday. We had a big party today. His cake had just one candle. I read this poem. At his law firm, when there was a ceremonial event calling for the writing of humorous verse, they always asked him to write a "limerick" for the occasion. Yes, that's how this talent came to me.

In the firm where he once practiced law
It is clear that his partners all saw
That this man could coerce
English words into verse
With a humor that left them in awe.

I learned lots of things while in school
But none quite so well as the rule
That the third and fourth line
In a limerick's design
Must be short, or you sound like a fool.

He supported us all with his earning
And tried to pass on his vast learning,
So let's give a cheer
To this great dad, right here
Today while his candle is burning.

Art of Acting

It is a magic moment. Actors speak,
And what were merely words upon a page,
Bare characters that lay there, listless, weak,
Leap forth with sudden strength upon the stage.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Front Yard



Mama and baby bunny
Under the cherry tree.
When I got closer - it's funny -
They ran away from me.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NYC

Flew into NYC around 4pm, got to a 5pm meet-and-greet read-through of my play, All Mixed Up, which is playing at the Fresh Fruit Festival July 14-16th. I'm currently booked on 2 delayed flights out of LaGuardia and I'm taking whichever leaves first.

Despite the rigors of travel
I have not yet begun to unravel.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Portrait in Yellow



Patiently waiting for a walk.
She'd tell me so if she could talk.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Format Follies

I've been puzzling over an invoice I got in an email, with an invoice date of 3/6/2017 and a due date of 10/6/2017.

Why, in June, would a company send me an invoice dated March, that isn't owed until October?

Figured it out today, when I got an overdue notice. It's obvious if you don't live in the U.S., I suppose. Those are June dates - it's that foreign date format!

I was taken in, I fear
by the dreaded day/month/year!

Old Phrase

Why does the Department of the Interior
Mostly deal with stuff that's out of doors?
I ponder but my brain is growing wearier.
It's a mystery that the media ignores!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Parodying T. S. Eliot

I shall wear red and white striped trousers
And walk along the beach.
I have heard the journalists calling each to each:
"Comey scanned his browsers
And has enough to impeach!"
But after testimony,
That promise seems to be phony.
The story ends with a whimper, not a screech.

- from the Trump Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Translation

One dog word for humans
Means "wise monkey"
But another one translates
As "poop pick up flunky".

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The McKinley Mansion, As We Called It

My father's house is empty. He has moved into a retirement village place, and is selling the house. Family members took a lot of stuff from the house, a big 3-story Victorian. Then we had an estate sale. Then we had people fill up a dumpster. And a second dumpster is on order. But, right now, the house is empty. All the furniture, all the stuff, gone. It reminds me, very much, of the first time I saw the house, when we were moving in, in 1966.

My father's house is empty - vacant halls
Echoing with my mother's vanished calls

Monday, June 05, 2017

Back to New York

My play, All Mixed Up, which ran in Fall 2016 in Chicago, is set to be included in the Fresh Fruit Festival in NYC in July 2017.

It's still a bit in flux, but I signed and mailed the contract today.
So I guess once again I'm on my way
To Gotham to put on a play.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Playwright Reception

This charming theater festival in Heartland had a playwright reception, which gave the six attending playwrights a chance to interact a bit with the evening's audience. That was new for me. Playwrights, as a group, aren't the most sociable people. Writers tend to be introverts - extroverts aren't so interested in sitting alone and making up stuff in their heads.

A frequent audience question is where do you get your ideas?

I wish I knew
The how and where
But some arrive
From thin air.

That can't be true
But how in fact
They really do...
Is inexact.

Escape from New York

I attended a play festival in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois last night, basically because I had a ten-minute play in the festival.

I was struck by the high percentage of people there who had lived in Queens.

Me, of course. I lived in Kew Gardens for a while in the seventies. An audience member near me, the mother of another playwright, was originally from Jackson Heights, although she now lives in the North Carolina. And Vicky Snyder, an actress in my play, was originally from Jackson Heights, although she now lives in the Bloomington-Normal area.

So, basically, just overhearing things, I found 2 other former Queens residents. Is it just a quirky coincidence?

It occurred to me that New York is a very strong theater town, and that early habits die hard, so that maybe you can expect to find ex-New Yorkers in disproportionate concentrations in the world of American small-city theater.

It occurred to me that people flee New York. People swarm in there, people swarm out there - there's a lot of churn.

Lots of people from Queens.
I'm not sure what it means.
You can give my theories a glance
But probably it's just chance.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Spooky Sound

My Labrador lets out a howl
Whenever a siren goes by.
It's one long continuous vowel,
Sung out with the throat lifted high.

128 Miles

Drove to Normal, Illinois.
Are you a fan of flat?
I'll tell you, boy oh boy,
We've got a lot of that.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Sign of the Times


Apparently the sign painters did half the job, and took a break. Reportedly they played this same prank 20 years ago.

Really, it's pointless fuss,
But next time start with SUSS.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Ridge Run Results

Well, today's 10k + 5k local extravaganza hasn't posted official online results yet, and I know I got thoroughly beat because there were a lot of fast people there. It was a "CARA Circuit" race, which attracts the city's speedy set. But I had a good time, and good times, for me.

After the an earlier forecast of off-and-o rain, we got nothing but sunshine for a beautiful day in the neighborhood. When I was done running, I actually joined the Memorial Day Parade down Longwood Drive, stepping in with the contingent from Council Oak Montessori, an institution dear to my heart.

There were speakers at the park, emphasizing the historical meaning of the day - honoring the war dead. I've noticed a drift away from remembering that - even though the holiday's name means remembering.

Fighters who died for the USA,
I bow my head for you today.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Cutting Branches

The funny thing about using the chainsaw is that I am always reluctant to start, because the thing scares me, but once I start I enjoy the activity. It does keep me very focused.

A quote from Donald Hamilton kept floating through my mind: "Don't monkey with the buzz saw when it's busy cutting wood."

Now that I've googled it, I see that it's some kind of old saying, at least the first clause is.

Think before you stick your paw
Anywhere near a buzzing saw.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The One And The Many

I'm almost done with the first volume in Copleston's History of Philosophy, the one on Greece and Rome. Copleston pauses, before the index appears, to look back at the world of ancient philosophy, and he mentions the issue of "the one and the many" as a key theme.

In the middle ages it became the "problem of universals".

The problem, the issue, is that we deal in particulars, but we perceive generalities. How can that be? You can say that we are pattern-recognizing beings. As are lots of animals. But we carry it to extremes. And we've even gotten to the point where we can build machines that mimic, in some ways, our ability to pick out patterns.

So we recognize them, but why are they there to be recognized? Why is reality such that patterns always emerge when you look for them? Granted, it's hard to imagine an unpatterned reality - a reality without rules, without regularity, a reality consisting of nothing but chaos.

In a reality without rules
The wisest would be fools.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ridge Run at Forty

There's a local 10k that's celebrating its 40th anniversary. I've been running it since 1983. I missed it one year since then. It's the first road race I ever did, so I kind of keep time by it - it's a fixture in my life, a ceremonial start of summer since it occurs on Memorial Day. Doing the math, I see that I have run this race 32 times so far - half the years of my life.

All those miles
Under my feet,
Sometimes bitter
Often sweet.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

States of Direction

The Carolinas are South and North.
What's more, the Dakotas are much the same.
Why must the Virginias sally forth
With just one direction attached to their name?

Let's call one East Virginia - we ought!
Pattern it after the one we call West,
Which now sounds too much like an afterthought.
Balance in naming would be for the best.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Indoor Tri Report

I had fun doing the indoor triathlon this morning at the West Loop Athletic Club. I was BY FAR the oldest participant. It was mostly club members in the club's triathlon training program, I think.

I checked my personal race log afterward, and it looks like the last time I did an indoor tri was in 1996.

Well, that was a while back.
I need to pick up the slack!

Why They Are Called Sea Lions

There's some very vivid video of this at the link, scary but with a happy ending.

Some people were throwing food to a sea lion from a pier.

"But when the girl sits at the edge of the harbor to get an even closer look, the animal springs up grabs a hold of her dress and forcefully yanks her backward into the water as onlookers scream in horror."

A man jumped in immediately and lifted her out of the water.

Girl was scared but fine.
Think twice before you cross the line
Of enticing critters with food.
Predators can be rude.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Indoor Tri Signup

I'm signed up for an indoor triathlon tomorrow. We will be competing to see who can go the farthest, while, really, we're mostly exercising in place.

You see, we will swim laps for 10 minutes in a pool, spin pedals for 15 minutes on stationary bikes, and then gallop 15 minutes on treadmills.

The winner is whoever goes the farthest, measured in miles I think, trusting the electronics on the bikes and treadmills to give you virtual miles, and adding in the actual distance covered in the lap swimming.

But your whole time exercising is limited to 40 minutes, which is why I recommend this to anyone who wants to try triathlon but who is worried that they will simply not be able to complete one of the three legs. Most often it's the swim they're worried about. The beauty of this format is that you are practically guaranteed to finish. So you slow down on the swim - so you stop and stand up in the pool to catch your breath - so what? You're still going to finish in just 10 minutes total time, just like everybody else.

Also - there are no temptations to spend big bucks in this format. Expensive wetsuit? Not allowed! Expensive bicycle? Nope. Use the same stationary bike everyone else does!

And the weather? No worries about thunderstorms or heat!

Triathlons always involve some stress,
The indoor format involves much less.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Dogs File A Report

We saw no raccoons
Tonight on our walk.
Smell them, we did,
And did eagerly stalk
Their traces across
The grass of the lawn
Their stealthy claws
Had crept upon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Psychopath Not Taken

Fairly interesting article entitled "When Your Child Is a Psychopath" from the Atlantic.

This doesn't do the article justice, but here is what came to me by way of partial summarization:

If your kid was born this way
Punishment won't work
To train the murderous jerk -
At least that's what these experts say.
Reward, they claim, works fine,
At getting the heartless to toe the line.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Not Affected So Far This Time

I do not care
For ransom ware.
It makes me want
To rant and swear.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

What Else Is New?

I fear that many puritans
Have a hypocritical streak.
They're good at preaching sermons,
But they find their flesh is weak.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

OPEC Problem

CNN Money headline: OPEC to U.S.: Please don't pump so much oil!

I would say that my heart bleeds for them, but would sound snarky, wouldn't it?

When a big producer
Won't join a cartel
The price-fixing doesn't
Function so well.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Stand Up Guy

They fired my homie,
Director Comey!
(Everyone wanted to end him,
So I decided to friend him.)

Monday, May 08, 2017

Cis-Het Et Cetera

Cis-het is contemporary academic slang for cisgender heterosexual, and cisgender itself is contemporary academic usage for non-transgender.

In Latin, I'm told, the opposite of trans is cis. Well, in some contexts, anyway.

When I was in college, the polite term was transsexual. But that's rude or worse now.

For some reason, most people turn out cis-het.
They'll continue to do so. At least that's my bet.

I do expect these terms to change again.
I guess it's safe to use them until then.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Against Translation

I'm working on a theory that translation
Promotes cultural appropriation
And is therefore as problematic
As an old hula doll in your grandma's attic.

It may be that translation is protected by some amendment, possibly the first,
But of all forms of appropriation, cultural is the worst,
So I propose to discourage it, by keeping each and every foreign word
Away from American children- let no bon mots be heard!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Trek for Tech 5k

I ran a 5k this morning, one that was put on by a Catholic parish school, The Infant Jesus of Prague, in Flossmoor, Illinois. Very nice people. It's a small 5k. I had looked up results from some prior year, and I had seen that NO ONE had run in the 60-69 male age bracket. So I figured I would be alone in my bracket. But when I got there I noticed another white haired guy, and he took off ahead of me, and stayed ahead of me, even though I was actually running pretty well. Basically, I was running nines, and he was running eights. So I thought I had probably taken second place, and thought I would get a medal for that.

Well, it's a small race, and they were only giving medals out for first place in these age bands that could span 20 years. But then it turned out that the other white haired guy was in the 40-59 age band.

So I did take first place in the male sixties group. I thought to myself, well, you were the only guy in the group, you were number one in a group of one. But later I got the online results, and I was number one in a group of five, two of whom were pretty close behind me. The second place guy was running at a pace I often race at. But I was a bit faster than usual today, and so I just stayed ahead of him, without even knowing it, without making any particular effort to beat him.

I did lots of wrongful assuming.
Luckily, I was zooming.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Another Shot




Another shot from Tuesday's opening show.
You've four more chances, if you want to go.

Once again, that's Whitney Pipes and Kate Moss, playing a couple of police detectives with a lot to talk about. The conversation only goes on for ten minutes, but it doesn't work out so well for one of them.

I know there's a more famous Kate Moss, who's a model or something, but this is Kate Moss the ACTRESS, from Chicago.

If and when she becomes an international star,
I hope they don't change her name to something bizarre.

Photos from Fellow Officers















Fellow Officers discuss a cold case,
In a lock-up, face to face.