The Here and Now

Week of January 17

In the Catholic Church, there are major saints, minor saints, and all the rest, whose existence, presence, and motivation in our lives we recognize on November 1st–All Saints Day, which is a holy day of obligation.

I'm going to treat Martin Luther King Day as an All Saints Day. In addition to King, I will also be thinking of all the people who have worked towards equality, up to and including giving their lives in the pursuit of justice and freedom (even though they may not have been aware that's what they were doing), as well as as well as the people who worked diligently for the cause. We should remember all these people as we honor the memory of Dr. King on January 18.

So Says Carl Sandburg.

I'm sure it was just a coincidence (even though we all know there is no such thing as coincidence) that I've been reading Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems, and came upon two that seem relevant in the current times: I Am The People, The Mob and Government. Carl could be a little cynical at times, although some think of him as a realist in the tradition of Edward Hopper and Theodore Dreiser.


Another Sandburg poem, Gypsy contains these parade-stopping lines:

Snatch off the gag from thy mouth, child, / And be free to keep silence.

Funny how we forget that freedom of speech has a corollary: freedom to remain silent. Not explicitly protected by the Bill of Rights, but I'm sure strongly encouraged by the Founding Fathers.

Followed by these: Tell no man anything for no man listens, / Yet hold thy lips ready to speak.


Not only was Jeremiah a bullfrog, he was a good friend of mine.


My primary reading this week has been a Christmas gift from my wife, Grammar for a Full Life by Lawrence Weinstein, whose primary thesis is awareness of and modifying language and structures can serve a means to modify life and our approach to it. He uses examples from his own life, including one from his grammar school principal, which influenced his whole approach to life, one that pretty much boxed out creative or spontaneous activity.

So the question is: What one comment made by a parent, teacher, relative, or other authority figure, set you (consciously or unconsciously) on the way you approach life? It's not so much a you should be a [insert specific career], but along the lines of Johnny is very detail-oriented, or Jenny is very artistic, so Johnny becomes an actuary, accountant, research scientist or engineer and Jenny becomes a designer, teacher, or singer.

I'm enjoying the book, not only because I enjoy reading about words and language, but also because the author is so passionate about the subject, and posits that the way a person speaks and writes says something about personality and approach to life.

Chapter 2 (where I am now. I'm reading slowly). discusses active and passive voice, with discussion of transitive and intransitive verbs. Weinstein has a chapter on imperatives, which reminded me of my favorite paragraph in a writing textbook. It comes from Donald Murray's Write to Learn, 2nd ed. It starts Chapter 5. In its entirety: Wait. Don't write yet. So many rules broken. A one word sentence. Two imperative sentences. A four word paragraph. And the very idea that a teacher would write a sentence that tells students to not write, well, breathtaking.

Speaking of rules, how many did I break in that last paragraph?

Which also reminds me of a section from Joseph Williams' Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. (1st ed.). He makes a distinction between RULES, Rules, and rules. A RULE is nonstandard English, never broken by a native speaker, unless the speaker/writer wants to look stupid. An example would be a double subject, like These rules they be good for you, A Rule (also called an optional rule, is something that complements the RULES. Think of a sentence that starts with a conjunction, splits the infinite, and ends with a preposition. All optional, all ignored, but the source of much angst amongst the grammatically prudish. A rule is a convenient convention that isn't a rule at all They're sort of like what we used to call Sister Says Theology in Catholic school. Williams also refers to them as folklore, RULES broken: 0. Grammar mavens irked: all of them.

More from About Grammar as it inspires me.

Quelle Surprise!

Vanity Fair lets us know, in its own inimitable way, that Ivanka Trump reportedly won't attend Biden's Inaugural &340;after maybe not being invited in the first place?) I can hear the discussions at the Inaugural Committee now. Did you invite her? Of course not. Maybe she's coming as somebody's plus one. No, Hunter's already told us who his plus one is, and she ain't it. Do you think she got a gag invitation, like from one of those places that will put your face on a Time Magazine Man of the Year cover? (chuckles all around).

Actually, invitations have nothing to do with it. I'm betting Daddy changed her curfew time. Maybe Mike Pence's, too, but Mike's being rebellious.

Transportation Update.

Unnamed female (hereinafter referred to as she) will no longer be coming 'round the mountain. She will instead be availing herself of regularly scheduled flights into local airports, and consequently going over the mountain.

The six white horses have been placed in a rescue facility with lovely pastures and paddocks, and are being well cared for.

Sometimes it's as much fun with the picture off.

My wife was watching The Great British Baking Show in the other room. One of the contestants was running out of time in a particular challenge, and one of the hosts (Mel Giedroyc) noted she was over-multitasking, trying to commit blending, stirring, measuring and baking at the same time.

It was then that I realized that there are different levels of activity in participles. You can be baking, but in reality you're doing nothing to further the process. Baking is a sort of umbrella term, under which you perform a lot of other things. Baking, i the narrow sense of in the oven is not as taxing as stirring, or example.

Funny language, English. Especially when you hear it spoken on TGBBS.

Staying in touch.

Frankly, I'm not. I just found out I'm cisgender. All this time, I thought I was a guy, and If you want to get technical, heterosexual.

Next, I'll probably find out that I'm heterodox.

And I also just found out, listening to the latest episode of Where's all the vaccine? that I'm also in Group 1b because I'm over 64 and comorbid. Here all this time I thought I was very cheerful and upbeat.

Did you know?

Princes kept the view all along the watchtower. This was right after the joker told the thief that there must be a way out.

I'm sure the joker was kidding. After all, the princes were keeping the view, and probably watching, too. All avenues of escape were cut off. But then, that's the joker's job, isn't it?


More Prose and Stories-->

Fred the Flower

fred the flower

Click on cartoon for more Fred


Saturday Morning Poem 48

This morning,

This moment

Is perfect,

Makes living a joy.


Vivaldi murmuring,

Perfect temperature,

The cat at a respectful distance,

Thoughts worth thinking,

No worries on the horizon.

In a bit,

I will get out of bed


Make coffee

Feed the cat.

Even if this

Is the high point

of the day,

I still have

This moment.

Hope realized.

What Lewis Knew

John Lewis knew

one simple truth

you have to march

every day of you life."

in your twenties




and all the days between

you march

where you are

in your home

on a Selma bridge

in lecture halls and classrooms

in jail

in books and magazines

in the halls of Congress

on the streets

you march


or with others

with your feet

your voice

your pen

your breath

everything you have

everything you are

you march every day

for what you believe

to protect your humanity

from those who nibble away

who you are

with scorn and derision and laws and guns

thinking that fear will make you stop

the march.

John Lewis knew

Gandhi knew

Tutu knew

the simple truth

that fear and fatigue are powerless

against determination, strength, purpose,

and marching



Click here for more Poetry.

Apt 123

Apt 123

Click the cartoon for more Apt 123

They Said It

opening of Symphony No. 5

Ludwig Von Beethoven

Rear View Mirror

January 10

Well, that was an interesting week. The weatherpersons spent the entire week telling us how it was going to snow on Friday and/or Saturday morning. Large blocks of wasted time. See the Saturday morning Poem, below, for a longer reaction. And There was the gafuffle in Washington. I'm still trying to figure out what the goals were. There would be no overthrow, no Trump continuation., not even an extended discussion. Based on the way some of the people were dressed, it looked like either street theater or a bus going to a Renaissance Festival lost its way.

The Wall Street Journal confuses Right Now with Not in my lifetime.

The headline: Why radicchio is the ingredient we need right now.

Uh, they didn't score as many points?

Headline in Fansided: The real reason [the Chicago Bears] lost to the Green Bay Packers.

Beer: Australians' solution to everything.

From an article in The Guardian about a fugitive found in a tree in a swamp in Western Australia: Faust said he stripped to his underwear and handed Voskresensky his shorts and a beer as the trio made their way back to Darwin. 'He looked like he needed a beer, although he was in a bad way,' Faust said.

New Year Monday.

We have the usual kinds of noise in our neighborhood. Lawn mowers. Trucks. Minor construction. Recently, though, it seems to have been pretty quiet, enough so we can hear birds and things. Today is different. In the middle distance, we can hear chain saws, generators, and all sorts of mechanical devices. I don't know if I'm drawing an unreal line, or if somebody said, it's the new year. Let's get back to work.

2021: the year of sick but tidy.


More proof that time is going fast.

It's the fifth anniversary of David Bowie's death. Speaking of, I saw a couple of the year in dead people tributes. Maybe it's just me, but a lot of famous (and semi-famous) people, especially Hollywood types and musicians shuffled off their mortal coils in 2020.

The Conspiracy Theorist.

The Conspiracy Theorist saw a headline from People magazine: Ivanka Trump Mistakenly Tags Meat Loaf in Photo of Her Dad.

No mistake about it at all, the Conspiracy Theorist believes. He posits that the mistakes made in tweets and other messages by the Trump family and other officials are actually code for other activities. MeatLoaf instructed the faithful to march to the Capitol after Dad's speech and try to gain entry. Covfefe was a notice to international hackers to start working to infiltrate U.S. Government financial institutions, like the Department of Commerce.


Vanity Fair: More Hillsong pastors resign as Justin Bieber confirms he's left the church.

I don't know if the headline writer is implying a false causality, but if true, we may be witnessing either the end times or the second coming.

Or it's just Vanity Fair's known penchant for name-dropping and claiming celebrities are responsible for everything.


O.K., I said I wasn't going to do New Year's resolutions. This is a resolution that coincides with a new year. Also, it will stay in effect only so long as it seems useful.

To wit: I will no longer pay attention to the forest. I am going to pay attention to a few trees–a sapling or two and a mature tree, and make sure they're doing well.

Other resolutions, short and sweet.

  • Think more.
  • <;i>Thank more.
  • Compliment more.
  • Complement more.
  • Ignore/avoid anything that uses the phrase clever hack (or synonyms like clever, ingenious, brilliant, or genius). Don't read about or do hacks.

Not a New Year's Resolution.

I thought about it for about two seconds, but I am not going to swear like an Englishman. Too much research.


Reading is like fertilizer for my life.

Random Thoughts: Pottery.

I was getting coffee this morning, and reached to get my favorite Sunday mug. My sister gave it to me back in 1984 or so. It's handmade, got a peasant shape, and a nice color combination, As I started to pour coffee, I also thought about the other mug that she gave me at the same time, but which broke less than a year after she sent it (an encounter with a one-year-old). This is an old mug, I thought,

But then, I realized that, as pottery goes, well, it's not really all that old. Archeologists are finding much older pottery all the time. They get really excited when they dig up pottery, even if it's only shards. They can tell, just by shape, decoration, type of clay used and the amount of pottery, how old it is, what it was used for, where it was made and how big the site was, to piece together a story of the people who lived there.

Then I realized that potters are really story-tellers, and history makers. Some other remarkable things about pottery are that archeologists find it almost everywhere. Very few civilizations didn't make pottery (Eskimo and hunter-gatherer civilizations come to mind).

Another thought: Broken pottery is as useful to archeologists as a complete piece. So the mug I tossed over 35 years ago is as useful to them as the mug I was holding (unless, of course, they're planning on drinking coffee.

A final, totally random thought. When archeologists excavate, they mostly find things of the earth–pottery, glass, metal, and stone. They don't find as much wood, paper, skins, animal parts or other organic materials (this conclusion is based on totally random watching of shows about archeological digs)

Mother Earth takes care of her own, it seems.

Also, I have to start pouring and drinking coffee faster. That's a lot of thought for so early in the morning.

no apology.

I may be wrong about doing this, but I have not been practicing social distancing with my invisible friend.

At least, I don't think I have.

Another contest.

I've used the name TomatoPlanet!! for this collection for probably 15 years, and I've been mulling changing the name, which I do when I get bored. A few possible candidates, but with problems. First candidate: Short, descriptive, accurate. Problem: it's already taken. Candidate number two: Pros: Available, quirky. Problems: I already have a quirky website name. Half this stuff couldn't be done with a typewriter, and none of it is. We'll leave it to Tom Hanks, who already has the strangely obsessive relationship with typewriters market sewn up. The third entry: Problems: Steve Martin's flotilla of highly paid legal beagles won't look kindly at unapproved use of Steve Martin's name. And really, who is going to take the time to type It looks like the name of a friggin' Welsh town. Upside: Accurate, unless you believe there is no way Steve Martin could sink to this level of dreck, even after a full frontal lobotomy.

TomatoPlanet!! it is, then.

January 3

Detritus 2020.

At the end of December, McDonald's began advertising the McRib sandwich as the most important sandwich of the year. And that, my friends, is the grand finale for 2020. First, that it would have an important sandwich. Second, that it would be the McRib.

Good News to Start 2021.

It's been a long time since I've had a destination, must watch TV show. On January 3 (AKA today), BBC America will begin a six-part series based on Terry Pratchett's wildly popular Discworld series. I've read maybe 30 of the 41 novels (OK, I can hear you asking, if these are so popular and so good, why haven't you read them all? Two reasons: a)since the pandemic killed the libraries, and maimed in-person retail, my sources have dried up. 2) frankly, I've sort of lost track of which books I haven't read). and so I'm looking forward to this series, which will be featuring one of my favorite characters.

However, as always, I have one worry. I have a mental picture of the characters that inhabit this world. What if these people are nothing like the people who live in my head?

Credit Where Credit and All That.

I've been posting a lot (it seems) of call-response pieces. Call out a headline, don't read the article, make a supposedly humorous comment. It's cheap, easy and I don't have to leave the house.

I should probably give credit to my literary progenitors. There are many, but credit should definitely be given to the folks behind Texas Monthly's Bum Steer Awards. Fun for all, heartier laughs if you've done time in Texas.


Hallmark Movies in search of: a)small European countries with a photogenic castle and handsome, unmarried prince who speaks impeccable English. Ideal candidates should be unknown to American audiences and not used as a setting for a Hallmark movie before. b) small to medium sized towns with charming central cores that have not had their Christmas festival/show )chorale already organized to perfection by hot-shot career-driven designer who came home for the holidays. Will consider local bakery/bookstore owner sin place of designer. Prefer town with Black mayor. c)Condo/Resort developer looking for quaint, charming town as site for a project that will destroy the charm of the town. Prefer company with tough, no-nonsense CEO with a soft heart.

Just a reminder: all Hallmark movies are some variation of The Wizard of Oz or a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland film.

Defying Physics.

The Food Network suggests 3 Things You Need to Make in Your Instant Pot First.

Scam Likely

My iPhone has started identifying suspicious calls as scam likely. I think that would be a great name for a character in a story. I just don't know if it would be a hero, a villain, or a sidekick. For some reason, I think genre fiction would work best, either science fiction or a western.

Test Admin would be a good name, too.

Speaking of...

We upgraded phones, and so the hunt is on for the on-off switch, which moves from model to model and device to device. Great fun.

Three Theological Virtues

I haven't thought about these in a long time. I do now because I suspect that this end-of-year into new year we'll be hearing a lot of I hope this year things are better/get back to normal kind of thing, said in a way that indicates hope is bestowed by some sort of power out there somewhere.

It's not. Believing, hoping and loving are all susceptible to modification, or more simply, you have it in your power to alter faith, hope and love. They're active verbs. Someplace along the way, for example, non-believers made a conscious decision to not believe, if not in God, then something, like the Buffalo Bills winning the Super Bowl. But then people began to believe, and some of the believers worked to get the right coaches and players.

So faith, hope and love all work together, but more importantly, it's in our power to bring them to life.

Might be a good thing to remember in the new year.


Famous (or semi-famous) people can't just die anymore. Their death has to be connected to some life marker, usually something in the relatively near future. So-and-so died three days before her 53rd birthday. Yeah, so? Yeah, Bob was nominated for more Higgldy-Piggeldy awards than anybody else, but he died 363 days before his 93rd birthday, with no explanation of whether this future event was important to Bob or whomever. What did they do, and even more importantly, what were they planning on doing/accomplishing and now won't that might have been important to them–or us? That's what I want to know. There's always something that you can draw a line to. Make the line something significant.

Speaking of the Bills

I lived in Houston in the mid-seventies, when the Houston Oilers were truly bad. They had some good players, but something was perpetually going wrong. It was always easy to get tickets for Oilers games. Then I moved away, and the Oilers got better, to the point where they were arguably the second-best team in the NFL.

Unfortunately, the best team was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were in the same conference as the Oilers and blocked the way to the Super Bowl. Great rivalry, great football, but the Oilers never made it to the Super Bowl.

I sincerely hope (there's that word again) the same thing doesn't happen to the Bills with the Kansas City Chiefs.

New Year's Greetings.

Happy New Year!

Yeah! Same to you. You can't imagine how happy I am to put 2020 in the rear view mirror. (Looks around.) Does anything seem different to you?

(Looks around.) No, not really. Wait. All the leaves finally fell off that tree.

That happened last year. In November, I think.

Oh. It seems colder than at this time last year.

A little, maybe.

(A pause.)

Make any New Year's resolutions?

The usual–diet, exercise, talk to myself less, or if I keep talking, listen less. You?

(chuckles.) Sounds about right. No, no resolutions. Woulda broken them by now anyway, so I don't even try anymore.

(A pause.) Well, I guess I'll be heading back inside. The mask is beginning to itch.

Yep, mine too. Good talking to you. Happy New Year!


There's a bird somewhere nearby screaming You're pretty, You're pretty over end over. It may be one of those things like on the TV ghost shows where the investigators claim the grating sound they heard is the purported ghost saying Be sure to drink your Ovaltine, and I'm just reading into it. Also, I have to remember that many people are hearing this. Plus the over and over and over aspect is beginning to get on my nerves, and do I want to accept compliments from an annoying creature?

Ah, heck. It's been a bad year. I'll take it. Thank you, bird.

Message to the Messenger

(Courtesy of Gil Scott-Heron.)

Four letter words or four syllable words won't make you a poet/It will only magnify how shallow you are and let everybody know it.

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

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