current blog

Week of Sept 19

In a couple of days, fall will happen. Ah, fall–a time of brightly colored leaves on the trees, the smell of pumpkin spice lattes in the air, the crisp tang of frost tickling noses, and the retrieval of sweaters and scarves from the attic. All this right on September 22! A glorious fall season!

The truth patrol would like to apologize for this egregious fantastical tale spinning. With any luck, some of these things may happen by Christmas, except for the pumpkin spice lattes, which appeared in August. All we can think is that the author is still annoyed he didn't get to play any April Fool's Day pranks and is trying to slip some in now, unaware that the Pranking Window of Opportunity closed on April 3.

Word of the week.

inelegant

I'm trying to decide if the word is self-contradictory. If it is, it's all because of the in. It clanks on the ear.


Missed another one.

One of the benefits of not having grandkids is not having to deal with commercially-inspired indignities like Grandparent's Day. Fortunately, it's already in the rear-view mirror for this year.

Symbolically, it's nice that it was placed in late summer. Much better than late fall or winter. Of course, the cynical me points out that in mid-September, there aren't a lot of gift-giving events.


Actually, missed two.

The Met Gala came and went (since it's part of fashion week, we may have missed 2.5 events): this past week. The Red Carpet event had the usual fashion excess-ories, but generally looks fell into three categories:

  • hetero guys in black tuxes
  • why bother? (women in barely there outfits)
  • the enforcing social distancing look as practiced by Whoopi, Rhianna, Kim Kardashian and Lil' Nas X

Reportedly, Simone Biles' outfit weighed 88 pounds. I didn't know Simone weighed 88 pounds.


Speaking of Sports.

On 9-11 Twentieth Anniversaryweekend, none of the U.S. Open finalists were American.


E-book update.

I'm in a state of paradox (state bird: toucan). I love books (that's not the paradox). Holding them, turning pages, reading, and yes, sniffing them (but not in that creepy way so often depicted when someone who doesn't like books or booklovers wants to make some kind of meaningless, derogatory point). But recently, with the pandemic, the library closed, and with less venturing out and fewer bookstores nearby, I've been turning to e-books. Mostly, I get reference books that I would never buy (Enchidiron, The Harvard Classics), computer reference books that change a lot, mind candy (Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore), and poetry. Most of the books are also priced at what was called un prix jolie when I was in Canada.

Anyway, the benefits of e-books are availability and small storage requirements. With e-books, I don't have to worry about that stack of books to read tumbling over and crushing the cat (or me, now that I see how much the stack has grown). And I have to admit that it's a lot easier to capture quotations for use electronically later. And don't forget the ability to make the text bigger. Of course, on the down side there are glare issues, device waterphobia, and the distraction factor, but overall acceptable.

But there is another feature that I discovered only yesterday: updates. Now, this makes perfect sense for manuals that require changes to explain new features in devices and apps. It makes less sense for a book of poems whose author died in 1994.

Unless (cue Conspiracy Theorist theme music) the poet is speaking to us from the beyond! (yeah, some poets are like that) or he's not really dead!


Lucky dog?

From Vanity Fair: IN LAST ACT AS GOVERNOR, ANDREW CUOMO APPEARS TO ABANDON DOG AT ALBANY MANSION.

1) Why are you yelling at me, Vanity Fair?

2) How does this make any difference to anything or anyone, as in, who gives a rodent's behind (except maybe the dog), and I'm sorry I can't do anything, and the dog doesn't read Vanity Fair anyway?

3) The key word in the above headline is appears, as in, what is the favorite word of gotcha journalists? The lawyers make them say that, 'cuz otherwise they might have to do some work.


Different approaches to life.

So I was sitting out on the deck writing poetry. I finished my poem about Bob Ross (class assignment–don't ask), and decided it might be a good time to actually look at a cloud. So I did, and one inspired this poem, Man Riding A Seahorse.

Clouds never look like

A Man Riding a Seahorse

Unless you look up

At just the right moment.

Stare as long as you can–

The man will slowly dissipate,

Never to appear again

(Except in memory),

Followed by the seahorse.

Clouds do not exist

To provide a canvas

For imagination.

But isn’t it nice

That they do?

Well, I decided to tell my wife about it, and she asked, Was it a large seahorse or a tiny man? She may have been kidding around, but I didn't think so at the time.

And apologies for the number of poems that have been appearing on the left side of the page. Some of them just don't know their place.


Nobody expects the coronal mass ejection.

According to ArsTechnica, A bad solar storm could cause an 'Internet apocalypse.' Undersea cables would be hit especially hard by a coronal mass ejection.

You know, it might almost be worth it to see, like, you know, the internet blowing up and then, like, you know, people actually, like, talking to each other without use of like, emoji or emoticons.


Contemporary evolution.

Popular Mechanics: Humans Could Develop a Sixth Sense, Scientists Say.

Unless it's a heavy duty social media B.S. detector, I'm not interested.

And a note to the editors of Popular Mechanics: Remember back in the 50s and 60s and you kept promising that we would all have personal flying cars? Well, I'm still waiting.


Very helpful, he said sardonically.

The first sentence of the Wikipedia entry on prehistoric religion reads Prehistoric religion is the religious practice of prehistoric cultures.

Do you think? (which is both a sarcastic and sincere question at the same time.)


And sort of related, between prehistory and history you have protohistory, which is where literate cultures report on non-literate cultures, or where writing has developed but historians aren't writing. Apparently oral tradition gets in the way of history collection, at least according to the historians. Even though they're lifting oral tradition stories fourteen ways from Tuesday.

According to this definition, the life of Jesus was protohistory, even if you accept the Evangelists as historians.

Missing from the whole discussion are runes and stone carvings (like the Newgrange Entry Stone. Is it art? Is it a form of writing we can't translate? Or is it simply a sign saying something like Entry Fee 4 pence (2 pence for seniors and children)?


newgrange entry

For all the 'd' and 'sed' people.

Politico had trouble with breakage–

Headline on the article: CDC formally recommends third vaccine dose for immunocompromise–d people, and Article teaser: CDC formally recommends third vaccine dose for immunocompromi–sed people.

I'm tempted to make immunocompromi the word of the week sometime.


Random curious factoid.

In the early 1800s, cattle drives in Ohio often included large numbers of swine (pigs). Their ultimate destination was Philadelphia, the meat processing center of the day.

Somehow, it's hard to picture Rowdy and Wishbone pushing a thousand head of Tamworths and Red Wattles up a trail toward a railhead or wharf, or getting them up the 'Rocky' steps, past the statue, and into the museum.

pigs

Things you never think about existing, but then when they are pointed out, are obviously real things but still seem kind of weird.

5 Breastfeeding Injuries & How To Avoid Them (courtesy of romper).


And that's not all!

We may have to reshape our notions of how the world works. The Sept. 12 2021 New York Times reports Greenland braces for up to four feet of snow as tropical storm approaches.


Like I always said, sorta.

Fast Company: Columbia University researchers say gray hair is caused by stress–and it can be reversed.

I've always said gray hair is hereditary–you get it from your kids. I think it's pretty easy to draw a fat straight line from kids to stress. And the regrow dark hair makes sense, too. At some point, kids grow up and leave the house.


Good Art

Ends Friday!

Taylor Show

Fred the Flower

fred the flower

Click on cartoon for more Fred


The Man Waves Good Morning

He is new–at least

I have never seen him before.

He stands just in from the corner,

Waving at, wishing Good morning to

Each and every passing car.

His cheerful voice calls out to each driver

As they hurry to work, to drop the kids at school,

Wherever.

He is tall, neither well nor poorly dressed, pleasant,

And otherwise unremarkable

Except for calling out to brighten the day.

I want a window into the head of the drivers,

To find out if they

See him

Know what he's doing?

Think he's crazy?

Consider rolling up the window?

Or maybe, just maybe, do they greet someone

At their destination a little more cheerfully?

Do they like their day a little bit more?

I can only hope.

I know the man does not care.

He is answering his call,

Enough for any man for any day.


Apt 123

Apt 123

Click the cartoon for more Apt 123


quotation

I ask for so little... and boy do I get it.

Dilbert


rear view mirror

September 12

On September 18, we celebrate Software Freedom Day (or, more accurately, somebody somewhere is celebrating it). I wonder if software has more freedom than most people.

The 20th anniversary of 9-11 has come and gone. Many sad stories, tales of heroism. One unique thing was the number of interviews with people who were children at the time–either of those killed or who were in proximity to the towers. If I was being cynical, I would say that newscasters and stations were trying to grab younger viewers who were not around and might be less engaged than people who were present for the event, but they wouldn't be that callous themselves, would they?

Antidote.

Well, it's been a heck of a year. So many things going wrong. I'd be the first to offer a Year in Review, but no, I'm just not. interested. That's not an honor I'm interested in.

Instead, I'd like to offer up what is quickly becoming my favorite poem. I'm especially heartened by 'mere' in the fourth line.

The Second Coming W.B Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Meanwhile, in the Lone Star State.

The Houston Chronicle: Embattled Texas AG Ken Paxton releases anonymous internal investigation clearing himself.

Texas politicians: the gift that keeps on giving.


Broken lines of communication.

The Guardian: Venomous sea snakes may attack divers during mating season, study suggests.

Divers need better signage to let the snakes know what's going on. Maybe a different color wet suit so the snakes don't confuse divers with other snakes. Or divers finding out when mating season is, and staying away.


Alas.

Dwight the morning DJ was playing something that reminded me of Holst's The Planets (but wasn't). My semi-attached thought was Well, at least Pluto wasn't kicked out of the Suite like it was the Solar System. Rebellion is alive! Musicians fighting back against the Man!

I thought I'd better check. Alas, Pluto was never included in The Planets. But then, neither was Earth, so there is that (which is one of those phrases that I have no idea what it means).

Semi-interesting factoid: most people are familiar with the Mars and maybe Venus sections and are awake of the War and Love part,, each planet presented in the Suite has a subtitle:. Mars, the Bringer of War; Venus, the Bringer of Love; Mercury, the Winged Messenger; Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity; Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age; Uranus, the Magician; and Neptune, the Mystic.

While the first three correspond to their roles in the Roman pantheon of gods, the final four are flights of fancy or minor characteristics. Wine festivals were held to honor Zeus, so that may be the source of jollity. The others seem to owe as much to astrology as to mythology.

Still pretty good music, all told.

Planning lapse?

The best known, loved and most enthusiastic part of The Planets is Mars, the Bringer of War, the first section. Everything else, while quality material, is anti-climactic.

Which is the question: who starts at the top and goes downhill? Maybe John Williams with the opening credits sequence in Stars Wars: the Original Movie, but then he's got George Lucas and some visuals to fall back on to keep the audience engaged.


And another unfair thing.

All artistic types have and rely upon muses. But it wasn't until I mentioned something about musicians above that I realized musicians have unfair access to the muse, what with mus being built in to both names.


PSA.

The average American enjoys 18.1 years of retirement. What are you going to do with that time? Some choices:

  • move to Florida and do wheelies in golf carts
  • talk/complain about your health issues
  • use it driving to, from and sitting in doctor's waiting offices
  • watch Bonanza reruns
  • complain about youngsters, particularly your own
  • retirement? I can't afford retirement!
  • take up a hobby
  • as little as possible
  • move to a state that has legalized marijuana and spend the golden years in a golden haze
  • fight it every inch of the way
  • enthusiastically embrace that whole second childhood thing and re-learn about the world the way that kids do

As if floods and fires weren't enough.

Fox News reports: Cow attacks prompt beach closures at popular tourist destination.

The only dangers on the beaches in this area are rip tides. No glamour in that.

Reportedly, the cows are in negotiations with Pamplona to headline the next Running festival

Let's keep pushing for sexual equality!


Evolution.

Caught in the dark mists of time (when I was a kid) there was a time when things had one name, like 'guitar' and 'automobile.' Then electricity was added, and suddenly we had 'electric guitar' and 'electric automobile.' Not content with simplicity, the first guitars began to be called 'acoustic guitars' (personally, I would have preferred 'original guitar' or 'o.g.' for short, but nobody ever asks me about these things. I would have preferred almost anything to 'blog,' including 'pile of manure,' but again, they don't ask). They haven't quite gotten around yet to double-naming non-electric automobiles, unless you count 'gas guzzler,' which I guess is a double name (that preceded the electric, an interesting reversal).

All this by way of introduction to a headline I saw this morning, that started Tesla, the man, sparks..., now needing to distinguish between man and (electric) automobile.

At least this time the pun is not my fault. Plus, 'Tesla, the man' just sounds really cool.

Thought you should know.


Dreamin'.

I dream–I just don't remember them. Mostly I have/had dreams involving being late to an event or having two events, and people were actively trying to keep me from the next thing.

Last night's dream took a nasty turn. In the dream, I started to tell a joke, but then forgot the joke halfway through.

Now, i don't even remember what joke I was trying to tell.

Not a good sign.


September 5

So, back to school. Normally, a stabilizing moment, a return to steadiness, but no more. Although maybe it's a return to an even older normal, where fights were about segregated schools, prayer in schools (I remember an old joke: As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools) school funding, sex education and a whole host of other issues. Now we've got masks, where/how school should be conducted, what should be taught, and a whole host of other political questions that someone decided should be fought in the schools. Ain't got nuthin' to do with readin', ritin', and 'rithmatik. Glad I can ignore it.

If it's school, it's also Labor Day, the most neglected holiday on the calendar. It's really to celebrate the union movement, which is competing with COVID-19 patients for access to life support systems. Although the reason for the holiday is gone, the day off lives on.

Tuesday is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is the time of year I've always celebrated new year, since for teachers it is the start of the calendar. Old habits die hard.

Random question.

They may not really be good old days, but lots of the time, they end up looking good compared to what's going on now.

So here's the question: if you could live the rest of your life in a particular time/place, what would that be?

And here's another one, courtesy of George the Poet: Leadership or Companionship?


Trebek's replacement.

Unless Sony is working on a host bot, the answer might be Who is Nobody?

sony host bot?

Iconography.

Certain events have pictures associated with them. Hurricane Ida has this one.

hurricane ida

Dreams, paths, and cultural impositions.

Some of the most common advice given is follow your dream (or for the Campbellites it's Follow Your Bliss). You also see 'passion' thrown in there sometimes.

Some people prefer the path model. That implies a destination, and more of a direction.

I prefer the path. 'Dream' to me conjures up hazy, fuzzy, drifting around kinds of images, without direction. That kind of thinking does not lead to realization. 'Path,' on the other hand, at least implies some kind of destination, and definite boundaries. It also offers side paths, which may be temptations, but may also be the direction you're supposed to be heading–options, if you will.

It might be time to mention my one-size-fits-all literary reference: The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy has a dream–to get back home. She is set on a path by a mentor, where she acquires sidekicks and faces challenges. Finally, she overcomes the last major challenges (the witch and the wizard) and realizes her dream.

But none of the models require that you have to make money at it. Bliss, paths, dreams, missions, vocation, avocations do not mean going pro. But we've all seen or heard stories where people like making cakes, and someone says, These are really good! You should sell them! Only after monetizarion is the dream realized.

You may be passionate about your family but you're not going to sell them. But in a way, that's the point. There may be times you want to sell them, but they're still your passion. And there will be times that monetizing a passion will sour, too, sometimes to the point of souring the passion itself.

I've often wondered what happens to the other 50 Miss America candidates after a new queen is crowned. They are still as talented, pretty, and articulate as they were the morning of the final competition, but they did not reach their goal, the realization of their dream. Maybe for most, the contest is a means to an end, or being Miss Wyoming is the real goal. More power to those who survive.

I have a friend Mike who is an awesome painter. I'm told he is an excellent teacher. He recently had a show at a local gallery. The walls were full of gorgeous art, of many different sumi-e styles. Prices were low, he announced, because he was running out of places to put his paintings, even to store them, and also hoped that anyone who liked one would be able to take it home.

I talked to Mike, and it was obvious he was excited, even passionate, about his art, even if he never made a dime on it, and money wasn't the point.

A good role model.

So, let's say you want to follow a dream, passion, or path. What do you do? Throw yourself into it. Develop your gift. Devote as much time to it as it needs, not as much time/effort/resources as you can. I'm always amazed at people who say they are passionate about writing, or painting, or whatever, but such-and-such gets in the way, and they never write or paint. Some dream. Some passion.

Some other tips. Cultivate your muse. Get a mentor/teacher. Get a fan club or cheerleader. Get a sidekick. Don't be afraid to be bad. Don't give a damn what other people think. Be a mentor/teacher, a cheerleader, a sidekick, or general booster. Accept criticism, but don't let it derail you. In fact, if the criticism is mean-spirited or misguided, you may use it as inspiration in an I'll show them kind of way, as Penny Oleksiak, 2020 Olympic swimming multi-medalist, did: I want to thank that teacher in high school who told me to stop swimming to focus on school bc swimming wouldn’t get me anywhere. This is what dreams are made of.


Speaking of dreams.

As I was lying awake in bed at 5:30 the other morning, this thought wandered through, with absolutely no context:

God says, 'Break all the dishes.'

I think my muse is messing with me again.

It's too bad I don't have a therapist. This is the kind of thing I imagine would mess them up, too. Or pay for that month-long vacation to the Bahamas they've been meaning to take.


Something for the children.

The Los Angeles Times notes: As California burns, some ecologists say it’s time to rethink forest management.

I'll ignore the obvious duh! moment to issue a (tacky alert.) The good news is that we've got lots of time to think. It's going to take a generation for all those millions of acres burned in the past couple of years to grow back. Just another problem to leave for the kids. To say nothing of a great opportunity for university forestry programs.


So what did Yeats ever do to you?

The Poetry Foundation has an excellent collection of poets and their works (O.K., they don't have poets, they have information about poets. Happy?). Sometimes I browse. Sometimes it's focused–I'm looking for a particular artist.

So it was the other day when I was looking up W.B. Yeats. The website is set up so there's a biography and a sidebar of poems, including an entry for 'all poems,' which I click on and browse. This day, I noticed another list called 'Related Content,' which included categories like 'anti-love poems,' 'poems of uncertainty and anxiety,' 'common core state standards text examples,' 'summer poems,' and 'Christmas poems,' not the things I necessarily think of when thinking of Yeats.


Follow that link!

So I tapped on a link in the related articles section, to read this question from David Orr: Can a bad man write good poetry?

He didn't ask two related questions:

–can a good man write bad poetry?

–if a good man writes bad poetry and insists that other people read it, is he still a good man?


More thinking!

In this age of political correctness, there are just so many ways to be a bad person. In fact, you don't have work at it, or even know you're being bad. Passive badness is not nearly as much fun, although it's a lot less work. There's always someone who will find fault with what you're doing and take offense.


Fortnightly T-shirt

T-shirts money can't buy.

TomatoPlanet!! is a random collection of writing, cartoons, and things that skew absurd. It's funny, or at least I think so. © 2003-2021, John McCarthy

 Top      Home      Poems     CarToons     Stories     Miscellany     Privacy Policy     E-mail