11-29-2020 I say there is a

I say there is a
monster in my basement – can
you prove its not there

Completely and entirely ripped off from Carl Sagan’s essay, “The Dragon In My Garage” in Sagan’s book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

I changed garage to basement because I was thinking of the basement in the house where I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I changed dragon to monster because of the monster that lived in that basement.

The basement in this house was huge.

No other way to describe it.

It had five rooms.

It had a professional billiard parlor pool table in one room and a full size regulation shuffle board court in the linoleum floor of another room.

Do not ask me how I knew it was a regulation size shuffle board court as I have no idea what the regulations for shuffle board are but this was the full floor length deal.

We played more floor hockey in that room than shuffle board but I remember seeing those shuffle board poles and pucks among the clutter of the basement for most of my life in that house.

There was also a back stairs that went up and out to garage.

The door did not close super tight and there was a small space at one of the door.

This small space created the monster that lived in the basement.

With the lights off that basement was dark.

And I mean DARK.

Dark and scary just by the dark alone.

The space under the door let in just a dot of light.

You had to be down there in the dark for a bit and let your eyes adjust and suddenly the dot would appear.

It was the eye of the monster.

Or the eye of the ghost.

Or the scary eye.

We called it a lot of names.

Every once in a while I or one of my brothers or sisters would say, “let’s go see the ghost.”

For some reason, though we knew all about the mechanics of the setup AND we knew what would happen, a bunch of us would go down to the basement.

Someone would stand by the lights and the rest of us would huddle in the big room.

Then the lights would go off and that person would make their way over to the huddle.

Sometimes that person had a flashlight which was really cool.

We had a bad habit of taking my Dad’s flashlights and leaving them where we happened to be when we were done using them.

We also usually left the flashlights on.

But I digress.

Then it would all go dark.

Dark and silent.

Slowly and slowly and slowly our eyes would adjust to the dark.

Someone would catch sight of the dot and yell, “there it is!”

We would all scream.

We would grab at each other.

As I said, this was a linoleum floor and we were mostly always in stocking feet and we would slip and slide and fall and scream some more.

As an aside it was on this slippery floor on Thanksgiving Day in 1969 that I was running from my brother Timmy and slipped and fell as he dove on me and I hit the floor screaming with my mouth wide open.

The force of the impact was taken by my front tooth which snapped in half and I have had a gold front tooth ever since.

I must add I didn’t know a gold front tooth was a fashion statement until I moved to the south.

Anyway, we would slip and slide and fall and make our back to the lights switch and stairs and safety.

Our hearts would be pounding.

I am not sure of my brothers and sisters, but I was really scared.

I knew nothing was there in the dark that wasn’t there in the light.

I knew what was in the basement.

But in the back of my mind I was saying to myself maybe this time …

I do know that it was difficult if not downright impossible to be in that basement by myself even with the lights on.

I could be down there by myself and hear an odd basement noise.

The hair on my neck would stand up.

I would turn and in way not be able to stop myself and look up those back stairs and if I could make out that dot, and even if I couldn’t, I would get out of the basement and back upstairs as fast as I could.

I understood the use of the phrase, “he bolted from the room,” quite well.

Sometimes I would even claim that I knew there really WAS a monster in the basement.

My brothers and sisters were used to me making all sorts of ‘claims.’

But these were the same kids who told me that we had a big can of dehydrated water in the garage.

I would demand to see it and they just said its out there in the garage.

Just put some in a bucket and add water and you’ll have a bucket of water.

I would still demand to see the stuff.

Things like that, when I didn’t get it, drove me nuts.

So I was never entirely convinced there WASN’T a monster in the basement.

It was hard to prove to me there wasn’t.

Better safe than sorry I guess.

We would stand there for a second or two.

Then someone would say, “lets do it again.”

Here is Dr. Carl Sagan’s Essay:

The Dragon In My Garage

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself.

There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence.

What an opportunity!

“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint
cans, an old tricycle — but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.” And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so. The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You’d wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I’ve seriously underestimated human fallibility. Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don’t outright reject the notion that there’s a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you’re prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it’s unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative — merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of “not proved.”

Imagine that things had gone otherwise. The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch. Your infrared detector reads off-scale. The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you. No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons — to say nothing about invisible ones — you must now acknowledge that there’s something here, and that in a preliminary way it’s consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.

Now another scenario: Suppose it’s not just me. Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you’re pretty sure don’t know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages — but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive. All of us admit we’re disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence. None of us is a lunatic. We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on. I’d rather it not be true, I tell you. But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren’t myths at all.

Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they’re never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked. Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon’s fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such “evidence” — no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it — is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.

11.28.2020 – of facetiousness

of facetiousness
disguising as earnestness
control freakery

‘We cry at weddings and tell jokes at funerals,” says Garrison Keillor.

Reading the article, “the eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life” by Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian I was struck by his use of words in an early sentence.

Mr. Burkeman wrote about his writing, “Typically for me, back then, this was a case of facetiousness disguising earnestness.”

I was fairly sure I knew what he meant.

But I fed facetiousness into the google to make sure.

The online Merriam-Webster states that “Facetious is an adjective (“not serious,” “waggish”), while facetiousness is a noun (“the state or quality of being facetious”).”

The M-W also says , “It is not inherently insulting to say that someone is being facetious (although it may imply dubious or ill-timed attempts at wit or humor). The word comes from the Latin facetia, meaning “jest.”

As the writers write, this gave me pause.

If I had ever had any cornerstone advice for anyone it was, “when in doubt, go for the laugh.”

I have always tried to see, seek, find or force humor out of any situation.

I thought I was being clever.

Clever AND helpful to often release tension is a tense situation.

Then I read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.

It was then that I realized that I wasn’t always being clever so much as I was being flip.

As Mr. Lewis wrote on the different levels of humor AS A DESTRUCTIVE force, “Flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.

Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.

If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter.

It is a thousand miles away from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it.”

Talk about the literary brick through the front window.

When I first read that I had to put the book away for a time.

As I thought about it, I remember times when I had been referred to as ‘flip’.

I stopped giving my cornerstone piece of advice.

Interesting that all this came back in the sentence, “a case of facetiousness disguising earnestness.”

I realize that it applies better to this post if the sentence was “this was a case of facetiousness disguising as earnestness” so I added it for my Haiku.

That all being said, I found myself reading and agreeing with most of what Mr. Burkeman wrote in the article.

In bullet points, Mr. Burkeman wrote that:

There will always be too much to do – and this realisation is liberating.

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness.

The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower.

The advice you don’t want to hear is usually the advice you need.

The future will never provide the reassurance you seek from it.

The solution to imposter syndrome is to see that you are one.

Selflessness is overrated.

Know when to move on.

I am not sure any of this is new.

Often all I need to re-read what I feel expressed by someone else to remind or reaffirm myself that I know what I need to do.

Ending this by again by paraphrasing Mr. Keillor, “It is nothing special. We all know what needs to be done.”

And if asked for cornerstone advice, I also quote the Lake-Woebegone Man, “Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and books, raising kids — all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through. Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.”

11.27.2020 – pie for my breakfast

pie for my breakfast
guilty feasting continues
happy left overs

The classic American short story, The Devil and Daniel Webster by by Stephen Vincent Benét is another tale based on the Faust and selling your soul to the Devil.

The twist in this version is that the poor feller hires Daniel Webster as his lawyer to get him out of the bargain.

Mr. Webster was a speaker who; “They say he could call on the harps of the blessed when he chose”.

The court and jury was stacked against Mr. Webster and the Devil himself or “Mr. Scratch” stood for himself.

And as Mr. Benét writes, “we know who’s the King of Lawyers, as the Good Book tells us.

When it came for a closing argument, Mr. Webster stood up, frustrated by all efforts, ready to let the court and the jury and devil really have it.

And he realizes that is the game they want him to play.

He steps back from the brink and instead of a bell wringing oration, he talks quietly.

Mr. Webster “began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt—the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man.”

In the end, the jury stares down the devil and finds for the defendent.

Winning the case and the freedom of his client, Mr. Webster says, ” . . . it’s dry work talking all night. I hope there’s pie for breakfast.”

I read that story as a kid.

For some reason the concept of pie for breakfast stuck in my brain.

When I can get it, it is my favorite breakfast food.

Partly because of the story but partly because it IS good for breakfast.

Growing up in a huge family of 11 kids, left over pie was as rare as any leftover.

At some point I started substituting ice cream sandwiches for pie.

Somewhere along the line I made the point out loud to my family that my favorite breakfast was an ice cream sandwich.

This story got told around my family a lot and was repeated often.

More often than I knew.

One Christmas season years later several of my little nieces and nephews stayed overnight at my apartment.

As they were dropped off, one little guy says to me, “Uncle Mike, do we REALLY get to have ice cream sandwiches for breakfast?”

But to tell the truth it has really always been pie.

Thanksgiving may have been the one time of the year I could count on left over pie.

Such a feast yesterday and a fridge full of great food today and I have to feel a little bit guilty.

BUT be that as it may be …

It is a rare treat to have pie for breakfast.

And it even rarer treat to be able to PLAN on pie for breakfast.

I had pie for breakfast this morning.

I thought of the Devil and Daniel Webster.

I thought about Mr. Benét coming up with that line.

The pie was wonderful.

11.26.2020 – seems fit and proper

seems fit and proper
gratefully, one heart, one voice
in thanksgiving, praise

My wife asked me if any other election in United States History was so contentious as the one we just experienced in 2020.

I would point out the election in 1860 led to one third of the States trying to leave and start their own confederation of States.

But it wasn’t the same type of tension.

Sure there was an election.

An election that somehow Abraham Lincoln learned that he had been elected that night.

No computers or nothing and they had a tally that night.

Go figure.

Also the incumbent President, Mr. James Buchanan, who had a frozen neck and had to stand sideways to look you in the eye, could not wait to get out of office.

But history records that pretty much everyone knew Mr. Lincoln would win the night HE WAS NOMINATED.

The election was pretty much a formality.

Back then Blue State Voters outnumbered Red State Voters 2 to 1.

But half the Blue States were in the South.

When the Democratic Party nominated Stephen Douglas, a known compromiser on the election issue of the day, the Blue Staters in the South bolted the party and formed their own non-compromise party.

The non-compromisers nominated non-comprise candidate, John Breckinridge.

This is were is gets really weird.

Miss Mary Todd dated the young Stephen Douglas.

Miss Mary Todd’s cousin was John Breckinridge.

Miss Mary Todd married Abraham Lincoln.

That is just weird, but I digress.

When the Red States nominated Mr. Lincoln as their candidate for President, the math said it was all over.

Sixty percent of the voters were Blue Staters, true.

But thirty percent were for comprimise.

Thirty percent were for non-comprise.

And forty percent were for the Red State.

Stephen Douglas knew it was all over.

The guy he had debated and beaten in the 1858 Illinois Senate election would be elected President and the country was going to split in half.

What did Judge Douglas do about it?

He took his campaign and went . . . South.

He traveled around speaking on the dangers of splitting the country.

He pointed out what was going to happen if the Southern Blue States followed through and voted their non-compromise ticket.

He might as well have argued with the stump as stand on it to deliver his speeches.

Mr. Lincoln was elected.

As Mr. Lincoln said four years later, “Both parties deprecated war but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.”

And the war came.

Boy Howdy but that feller Lincoln had a way with words.

And what was the issue of the day?

Again as Mr. Lincoln put it. “One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves not distributed generally over the union but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen perpetuate and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.”

I have to say all the discussion, ink, paper, time and effort that goes into the question, “What caused the Civil War” kind of drives me batty as Mr. Lincoln it explained so very simply.

He said, ” … slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.”



Gee whiz.

Mr. Lincoln noted that, “In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.”

And why did all this happen?

Mr. Lincoln said, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. “

Where then?

Mr. Lincoln said, “They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

And because of this, Mr. Lincoln said “It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”

Mr. Lincoln then said, “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Which leads us to where we are today.

A Day of Thanks.

Mr. Lincoln asked that thanks be given, “. . . with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.”

Mr. Lincoln closed it all up and said, “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

Restore full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Alistair Cooke wrote about Mr. Lincoln, “Lincoln had a gangling gait, a disturbing fondness for rough stories, and a maddening habit of being, in kind of a tooth-sucking way, wiser and sharper than you, (To make matters worse, most of the time, he was.)”

I am thankful for Mr. Lincoln.

I am thankful for so much else as well.

I am perverse and disobedient.

And God forgives.

And for that, you can bet your life, LITERALLY, I am very thankful.

Here is the full text of President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

11.22.2020 – customs, old-fashioned

customs, old-fashioned
propriety remind us
of how things were once

In an article about the Obama Autobiography, David Olusoga writes in the Guardian that:

“After a presidency like no other, after a corrosively acrimonious election and in the midst of a transition still being obstructed by the incumbent, Obama seems almost like a time-travelling visitor from an earlier age, a man whose antiquated customs and old-fashioned sense of propriety remind us of how things were once done and how far we have wandered.

The Obama of 2020 speaks, at times, with a slight tone of controlled exasperation. He has the air of a disappointed parent surveying the damage wreaked by a raucous teenage party that took place while he was out of town.”

Good gosh, what more needs to said?

Let the after party clean up begin.

I am reminded of a time when my brother, beyond all real reason and counsel not too, took the job as ‘Interim High School Principal’ at the school where he taught.

I mean, who and I mean WHO would volunteer for such a job?

While he held the office there was some senior prank and kids got caught in the act.

My brother had to deal with the situation.

Part of the situation he had to deal with was angry parents who were angry that anyone thought that anyone would be angry over what their kids had done.

Come on.

Kids will be kids.

Senior prank.

Just get over it.

No one got hurt.

No one died.

As I remember it the conversations my brother had to endure went on far longer and caused more angst admittedly than any ‘penal process’ could hope to deliver in the way of penance.

But my brother stuck in his guns.

In the end the kids in question were told they would spend a Saturday scraping, sanding and painting the old bleaches that lined the school’s baseball field.

In a show of solidarity and maybe defiance, most of those kids parents came along and worked with their kids to show my brother up.

In the end the bleachers were painted.

The kids lost a Sautrday.

So did the parents.

Somehow, though maybe those parents didn’t agree, I felt justice was served.

(When I met Obama he voiced his belief in the ‘possibility of America’. But the reality is distressing by David Olusoga)

11.19.2020 – faustian bargain

faustian bargain
to commodify, lose your

Since I have been working in ‘online’ since 1995, the way to make money from ‘online’ has always been part of the assignment.

In an article about the new bloggin/social sharing media site named Substack, I was struck by the lanuage in the statement, “It’s a Faustian bargain to commodify your personality.”

Anytime anyone anywhere can work Faust into a contemporary essay is an essay worth reading.

Faust is acknowledged as one of the oldest common legends in print.

The original german story goes back to the late 1400’s.

In 1592 an English translation was published, The Historie of the Damnable Life, and Deserved Death of Doctor Iohn Faustus.

Christopher Marlowe used this work as the basis for his play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus around 1604.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The first part, which is the one more closely connected to the earlier legend, was published in 1808.

It is the story of selling you soul to the Devil tomorrow for short term human gain today.

It worked back then.

It works today.

The article says:

It’s a Faustian bargain to commodify your personality. You’re free from the limiting influences of institutions.

Yet, input from editors is inevitably just replaced with the pressure of analytics.

As teen YouTubers, who were the earliest to experiment with commodifying their personalities confess, the quantification of attention both positive and negative quickly influences our decisions.

There are some sides of ourselves our subscribers want to see, others people would prefer not to …

The author, Sean Monahan, closes with:

In a few years’ time, I predict we may look back at the chaotic information ecosystem of the 2010s as a sort of social media interregnum.

Seduced by the seemingly magical qualities of our new powerful technological tools, we deluded ourselves into believing clout and exposure could be a replacement for dollars and sense.

The fragmentary properties of the internet remain in place. Strong-willed media personalities now have the tools to set up shop and operate independently.

Legacy publications will worry less about trending in social media feeds and more about the conversion rate for subscribers.

Audiences will be less global and more curated.

And most important of all, the social media channels – chastened by the techlash – will return to what they were always meant to be: places for self-promotion, not self-publishing.

Techlash and Faust.

Have to applaud it!

(Why are public thinkers flocking to Substack? by Sean Monahan – The Guardian, 17 Nov 2020)

11.18.2020 – no sadder figure

no sadder figure
than that of the old man, blind
reason deprived

“All history presents no sadder figure than that of the old man, blind and deprived of reason, wandering through the rooms of his palace, addressing imaginary parliaments, reviewing fancied troops, holding ghostly courts …”

William Makepeace Thackeray speaking about George III.

According to Wikipedia; “

“In late 1810, at the height of his popularity, already virtually blind with cataracts and in pain from rheumatism, George became dangerously ill. In his view the malady had been triggered by stress over the death of his youngest and favourite daughter, Princess Amelia. The Princess’s nurse reported that “the scenes of distress and crying every day … were melancholy beyond description.” He accepted the need for the Regency Act 1811, and the Prince of Wales acted as Regent for the remainder of George III’s life. Despite signs of a recovery in May 1811, by the end of the year George had become permanently insane and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle until his death.

Meanwhile, George’s health deteriorated. He developed dementia, and became completely blind and increasingly deaf. He was incapable of knowing or understanding that he was declared King of Hanover in 1814, or that his wife died in 1818. At Christmas 1819, he spoke nonsense for 58 hours, and for the last few weeks of his life was unable to walk. He died at Windsor Castle at 8:38 pm on 29 January 1820, six days after the death of his fourth son Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn. His favourite son, Frederick, Duke of York, was with him. George III was buried on 16 February in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle..”

11/12/2020 – then when all else fails

then when all else fails
use meekness as a weapon
it worked on Mom …

Watching and waiting for this Presidential Election cycle to come to a merciful end and wondering if the President will ever figure out what has happened and what he needs to do, I was reminded of my 10th grade English teacher, oh wait, HONORS English teacher, Mr. David Throckmorton, at Grand Rapids Creston High School.

What was this guy doing teaching in a high school?

Mr. Throckmorton should have been teaching in one of those weird little New England colleges like Brown or Dartmouth or Amherst or someplace with a name that bespoke unspoken deep thoughts from unread deep books.

Instead it was Creston High School for Mr. Throckmorton.

The same high school he had graduated from.

Mr. Throckmorton famously spoke at a Creston High School Pep rally saying, “I have always been a big Creston High School athletic supporter.”

I don’t know.

Maybe it was penance.

I once told my chemistry professor at Grand Rapids Junior College that I would be coming back to teach at GRJC as a history instructor.

She said she couldn’t wait and would take my class for revenge.

Mr. Throckmorton taught the experience of language in english rather than ‘traditional’ subject-verb-object, I before E type of stuff.

Not that he ignored grammar and basic tools but the class was so much more than that.

But he was stuck on how to grade our level of progress as required by the Board of Education.

He settled on two things.

For the first half of the school year we had weekly spelling tests with a massive 200 word final at the end of the semester and the 2nd half of the school grade was based on a weekly vocabulary tests with a massive 200 word final.

This produced a grade for the class.

I got nothing against spelling.

I just can’t do it.

I cannot explain it but me and spelling just do not get along.

Today Spell check is my friend but I also have Mark Twain’s “It is a poor sort of person who can’t spell a word more than one way” branded into my brain.

It was worse in this class as I took it up as a cause that grading class room performance on just SPELLING was stoooooooopid and I wasn’t going to do it.

I was loud in my complaints on this system.

I refused to study.

I was to put it simply, a real jerk about it.

I also got D’s.

I also didn’t care much for Mr. Throckmorton though all and I mean ALL of my friends loved the guy.

Then the semester ended and we moved to the vocabulary tests which I could pass without any studying and my world and relationship with Mr. Throckmorton changed.

I loved the class.

I embraced the teaching.

I embraced the teacher.

We still had assignments for essays and short papers and such.

On one such assignment I did not have my work ready and I got an E written down in the grade book.

I made the effort to meet up with Mr. Throckmorton after school.

I explained why my paper was ‘late’ (I hadn’t written it yet) and my excuse took in the phases of the Moon, the Carter Presidency, the Gadsden purchase and anything else I could come up with.

I apologized and said I understand I was wrong to not have the paper done.

I apologized again and explained that I was aware of the assignment and the due date but I just messed up.

I apologized again and promised that if he could only give me a little break, I would have the paper on his desk first thing the next morning.

The morning after I wrote the missing assigned paper that had been due today but I didn’t say that part.

Mr. Throckmorton stared at me.

Just stared.

I think he nodded his head slowly a few times.

Did I mention that Mr. Throckmorton had an uncanny resemblance to Fidel Castro?

Mr. Throckmorton held me in his gaze as his curly hair and bushy beard slowly went up and down.

Without a word he turned back to his private closet and unlocked it.

He opened the door and dug through a stack of books until he found an old, very worn, anthology.

He looked at me.

Then he paged through the anthology until he came to a certain poem.

He handed me the open book and said “read.”

I read the indicated poem.

I read it again.

I looked back at Mr. Throckmorton and read it a third time.

I closed the book and handed it back.

I nodded and smiled with my lips tight together.

“Thanks,” I said.

And I left.

It is odd how often that poem comes back to me.

Maybe someone could read it to the President.

On Flunking a Nice Boy Out of School

I wish I could teach you how ugly
decency and humility can be when they are not
the election of a contained mind but only
the defenses of an incompetent. Were you taught
meekness as a weapon? Or did you discover,
by chance maybe, that it worked on mother
and was a good thing — at least when all else failed — to get you over the worst of what
was coming.
Is that why you bring these sheepfaces to Tuesday?
They won’t do.
It’s three months work I want, and I’d sooner have it
from the brassiest lumpkin in pimpledom, but have it,
than all these martyred repentances from you.

—John Ciardi, 1916-1986

11.11.2020 – wise and bitter, strong

wise and bitter, strong
burning my dreams, am rich in
all that I have lost

Adapted from the poem, Memory by World War One soldier poet, Siegfried Sassoon.

For Veterans Day, 2020.

When I was young my heart and head were light,
And I was gay and feckless as a colt
Out in the fields, with morning in the may,
Wind on the grass, wings in the orchard bloom.
O thrilling sweet, my joy, when life was free
And all the paths led on from hawthorn-time
Across the carolling meadows into June.

But now my heart is heavy-laden. I sit
Burning my dreams away beside the fire:
For death has made me wise and bitter and strong;
And I am rich in all that I have lost.
O starshine on the fields of long-ago,
Bring me the darkness and the nightingale;
Dim wealds of vanished summer, peace of home,
And silence; and the faces of my friends

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, CBE, MC (8 September 1886 – 1 September 1967) was an English poet, writer, and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon’s view, were responsible for a jingoism-fuelled war so says Wikipedia.

11.8.2020 – listen, silent sound

listen, silent sound
2 minutes of memories
will we remember?

By chance I was up this past Sunday morning with the radio station I like from London playing.

In Great Britain, today was Remembrance Day, the day the day honoring the end of World War 1 and those who died in the war.

At 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, the time when the armistice was signed in France, Britain comes to a halt for a two minutes silence.

A tradition started in 1919 with this statement from George V, the Grand Father of Elizabeth II.

To all my people,
     Tuesday next, 11 November, is the first anniversary of the armistice, which stayed the world-wide carnage of the four preceding years, and marked the victory of right and freedom.
     I believe that my people in every part of the Empire fervently wish to perpetuate the memory of that great deliverance and of those who laid down their lives to achieve it.
     To afford an opportunity for the universal expression of this feeling it is my desire and hope that at the hour when the Armistice came into force, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, there may be for the brief space of two minutes a complete suspension of all our normal activities.
     During that time, except in the rare cases where this may be impracticable, all work, all sound, and all locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.
     No elaborate organisation appears to be necessary.
     At a given signal, which could easily be arranged to suit the circumstances of each locality, I believe that we shall all gladly interrupt our business and pleasure, whatever it may be, and unite in this simple service of silence and remembrance.
           GEORGE R.I

This year by chance was the first time I had ever experienced the moment.

The presenter announced that it was time for the Two Minutes Silence and the radio station cut to a live microphone outside Westminster Abby .

The bell, Big Ben, tolled 11 times and the silence started.

It was two minutes of silent sound.

I am not sure what a silent sound sound likes.

Much like the color of water I guess.

But there is was on the radio for two minutes.

I am not sure how exactly this is observed through out the county but its a big deal for the Queen.

She wears her poppies.

Those pink paper flowers that everyone puts on in Britain during this week.

The poppies are also a remembrance of the World War 1 from the poem, In Flanders Fields, a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

The Queen wore her poppies and she observed they 2 minute silence and this year, she wore a mask.

She had flowers placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abby.

You remember that when her mother and father were married, her mother, Queen Elizabeth, left her wedding bouquet on the tomb as she left the Abby on the arm of her new husband.

I am sure when it was over the Queen said the expected words, “We will remember them.”

Not suckers.

Not losers.

We should remember them.

I hope we do.