1.30.2021 – incomprehension

sun wasn’t, but who could have
imagined water

Adapted from the passage “Sitting there on the stump he was visited by a wave of incomprehension. The sun in the sky wasn’t problematical but who could have imagined water?” from the novella, The Summer He Didn’t Die, by Jim Harrison, Grove Press, 2005.

1.29.2022 – vivid picture to

vivid picture to
the imagination and was
worth thinking about

According to what I read and watch, a BOMB CYCLONE is heading for the East Coast of the United States.

Sounds awful.

Whenever bad weather is predicted I think of two things.

The first is that I am glad to be out of it.

That simple sentence, for me, has two meanings.

Living in the Low Country of South Carolina and yet to experience a hurricane, the weather here for the most part is what you might call salubrious (a wonderful word and I put it to you that if you can work it into your conversation today you will feel better) or favorable to or promoting health or well-being.

The proximity to an ocean that won’t go below 50 degrees helps keep most of any weather away that might include the word, “freezing.”

For the most part its warm or at least warmer here than where I grew in West Michigan.

Somewhere in my mind is a passage in a book of all old rich man, sitting in the kitchen of his mansion saying something like, “182 rooms and all I want is the warmest one.”

The other meaning to “glad to be out of it” for me, is that for 20 years I was in the news business and in the news business there is no business like the bad weather business.

After I was on the job about 6 months, creating and managing a website for a local TV station, I got a call that I needed to come up with a way to a list any school closings online.

This list also needed to be able to be updated by the schools themselves.

And if I could somehow figure out how to send out an email with the list of school closings to anyone who wanted it, that would be even better.

“When?”, was my response.

“Tomorrow”, was the answer.

Understand that just a little more than 20 years ago, none of this information was online.

There was no online.

The most fun of my job and creating an online news environment was that I never would say that something couldn’t be done because nothing HAD been done and we did not know what couldn’t be done so we did everything.

And somehow the next morning we had school closings online.

More recently I was involved with the online video streaming of news.

As EB White wrote on the News and weather, “radio [News] people, Nature is an oddity tinged with malevolence and worthy of note only in her more violent moments. The radio [News] either lets Nature alone or gives her the full treatment.

The full news treatment for News Online involved me a lot.

Weekends, after hours, all hours, I was up and online and making sure that the weather got the full treatment.

Now, I am glad to be out of it.

The other thing I think about is an essay, again by EB White.

In fact, it is the essay where that the earlier quote about Nature being an oddity tinged with malevolence comes from.

It is an essay of Mr. White’s that appeared in The New Yorker magazine on September 25, 1954 and is included in the book, The Essays of E.B. White, that you can read online at archive.org.

The title of the essay is, “The Eye of Edna” and it tells the story of Mr. White following Hurricane Edna as it came up the Atlantic Coast.

In 1954, hour by hour radio coverage of a hurricane was something new for Mr. White and the world at large.

I cannot read this essay without comparing the news coverage of 1954 with the news coverage of 2022.

What I think when I make such a comparison is that there is nothing new to the news here.

Mr. White tells how a reporter on the scene of the storm was asked about road conditions.

The hurricane rains and ocean storm surges had been predicted to wipe out local roads.

They were wet” reported the reporter, who, according to Mr. White, “seemed to be in a sulk.”

In the essay, Mr. White recounts his own efforts to prepare his home for the coming storm.

In the essay, there is this sentence, “The croquet set was brought in. (I was extremely skeptical about the chance of croquet balls coming in through the window, but it presented a vivid picture to the imagination and was worth thinking about.).

The oft-quoted-by-me writer Alain de Botton, used the phrase, I began word-painting.

Starting with the thought a hurricane and wind tossed trees and such.

Then add a croquet set.

Throw in windows, car windshields and maybe someone’s forehead.

Then thinking about how to paint scene this with words, I don’t think anyone could do better than “I was extremely skeptical about the chance of croquet balls coming in through the window, but it presented a vivid picture to the imagination and was worth thinking about.”

29 words and I can see it all in my mind’s eye.

I can see it in my mind and it never happened.

A vivid picture to the imagination.

Something worth thinking about.

1.28.2022 – meijer or meijers

meijer or meijers
canada suburb of detroit
vernors medicine

I recently came across a list of things that all people of Detroit know.

And by Detroit, I mean, anyone from Michigan.

One was that Meijer’s was better than Walmart.

Another was the Meijer’s was called Meijer’s because you add S’s to make every name possive.

You didn’t work for Ford.

You worked for Ford’s.

Therefore Meijer’s WAS Meijer’s not Meijer.

For us in West Michigan, it was Meijer’s because it was Fred’s store.

Another was your preference of Ford’s, GM or Chrysler’s depended on wear your grandpa worked.

People in Detroit know that Canada is not a country, it is a suburb of Detroit and to get to Canada from Detroit, you have to go south.

And if you are from Detroit, you know Vernor’s is medicine.

Dutch Alka Seltzer we called it.

It is the drink you got when you had the stomach flu or an upset tummy.

There was a famous commercial for Vernor’s and the entire commercial was of a man typing and thinking as he typed.

The man was Detroit novelist Elmore Leonard.

As he typed he thought out loud.

“They looked at each other.

The man opened a can and poured.

They drank.

It tasted like ….”

The writer paused.

And paused some more.

He could not come up with the words he needed to describe the taster the drink.

He gets a can of Vernor’s and opened and poured it into a glass.

He tastes the drink.

He looks back at the typewriter now prepared to describe it.

“It tasted like Vernor’s,” he wrote.

There are no other words.

As they commercial ends, the voice over says, “It what we drink around here.”

1.27.2022 – I saw a penny

I saw a penny
picked it up, all that day …
wondered about change

I saw a penny in the parking lot the other day.

Bright and shiny, I knew it had to be new.

I checked first to make sure it was face up.

You do not pick up any penny that is face down.

I guess like an upside down horseshoe, all the luck runs out.

This one was face up so I picked it up.

I looked at Abraham Lincoln.

He has been there on the penny a lot longer than I have been here.

Mr. Lincoln has been on the penny since 1909, the 100th anniversary of his birth.

That was the first time a US President’s likeness went on a coin.

I read somewhere that the likeness of Abraham Lincoln on a penny is supposed to be the most viewed representation of any work of art in the history of the world.

Back in 1976, Braniff Airlines commissioned Calder to design the color scheme of one of their Boeing Airliners for the Bicentennial.

This red white and blue flying work of art was unveiled at Dulles International Airport and then flown on a tour of United States airports that included Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Grand Rapids had always been a bit Calder nutz and the First Lady, Betty Ford, (this story is fun and you can read the documented high level government discussion) would be part of the ceremony in Washington so Grand Rapids was added to the list of cities for the debut flight and the plane was added to the Braniff fleet.

At some point after that, Braniff issued a press release that this painted plane was the single most viewed work of art in history.

I think the numbers included anyone and everyone who ever looked up and said, “The plane, The plane” whether they knew what they were seeing or not or even if they were aware of the plane was painted by Calder.

I mean fly it over New York City and you can count 8,000,000 views.

I think Braniff accounted for their paying customers the same way which is why you don’t hear about Braniff anymore.

But Mr. Lincoln tops the list over total views of any artistic likeness, counting all the times that likeness has been reproduced and viewed.

I looked at the penny for a second or two.

It was dated 2021.

It hit me that this was the first time I had seen a 2021 penny.

Maybe even the first time, that I remembered anyway, that I have seen a penny with a date in the 2020’s.

Is it really 2021?


How DID that happen?

When did that happen?

In 2020 there was a feeling that the month of March lasted about 12 weeks.

I feel like 2021 never really took place.

Wasn’t out of the house often.

Rarely had situations where I bought or paid for something other than gas or a meal.

And never ever did I use paper money.

As for coins.

You don’t see change much anymore and so much has changed.

And I do feel changed somehow.

Or at least disconnected from the time before Covid.

I also don’t much like to look at pennies.

It was the writer, Jim Harrison, who once wrote that you aren’t old as long as keep finding pennies that are older than you in your pocket.

I used to carry a 1959 penny just for insurance.

But I can’t find it.

I haven’t thought about it years.

And now that it is on my mind, I am going find a 1959 penny.

After all, since moving to Hilton Head, where the median age is 59, I became middle aged all over again.

PS – According to what you can learn online, when Braniff went bankrupt, the Calder planes were sold at auction and the paint was sand blasted off. One website where they keep track of such things, says that the specific Boeing 727 that had been painted Red White and Blue was used as a prop in the movie Bad Boys and the last time anyone sees that specific (without the Calder Art) plane is at the end of the movie when it is blown up.

1.26.2022 – I think … I am … does

I think … I am … does
not preclude us from morning
prayer of thank you

Last night was Robert Burns Night.

According to Wikipedia, Burn’s Night is when Scots eat a Burn’s Night Supper or the traditional meal of haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes).

Never had haggis.

Maybe never will.

Does anyone know if sheeps stomach tastes like bacon?

Haggis is just one of those things I doubt I will ever grasp.

I think the secret of eating haggis must lie in the what renowned Chef Paul Bocuse said in an interview you can watch on YouTube.

Chef Paul was asked when being a chef was the most fun.

“1946, 1947,” Chef Paul said, “People ate anything!”

The post World War 2 era in France and the over all lack of food and those French cooking dishes that were created helped me understand much about French post-war cooking.

That, I think, the amount of available food in Scotland, might explain Haggis.

As they used to say about Chicago, Hog Butcher for the World, “We use everything but the squeal.”

I, as I said, cannot grasp haggis and I also, truth be told, cannot grasp the poetry of Robert Burns.

Alistair Cooke, in his book/show, America, when writing about the word skills of Abraham Lincoln said, “We know that he steeped himself in the subtleties of Shakespeare, the cadences of the Bible, and the hard humanity of Robert Burns.”

Because of this line in the show which I watched when I was 12, I felt I needed to steep myself in the hard humanity of Robert Burns.

I just can’t get there.

Not sure why.

Wikipedia states, “Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire, the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide.

One of his poems starts out:

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I don’t see the roots of the Gettysburg Address here.

I remember reading about William Shirer (CBS Radio Commentator and author of “Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich“) that he could never, ever understand the attraction of James Joyce until he was at a bookshop in Dublin and happened to catch a reading of James Joyce BY James Joyce.

I may have the reverse affect here as whenever I try to read Robert Burns, I imagine the Michael Palin/Monty Python sketch of a scots poet send up of Burns and it is all over for me and Mr. Burns.

But listening to London Radio, I am made aware of Burn’s Night.

Which brings to mind the famous Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit

Which, in english, says:

Some have meat but cannot eat,
some have none that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thanked.

And the last line, And sae the Lord be thankit, got me to thinking about giving thanks.

And thinking about giving thanks got me to thinking about this clip from the movie, St. Vincent.

Cannot watch this clip or even think of this clip, that I do not feel better.

I like the IT Crowd.

I like Moone Boy.

Chris O’Dowd, in this 90 second moment, does his best work from the movie St. Vincent.

The way he rolls with the classroom and maintains control reminds me so much of the way so many of my teachers rolled with me in class and still kept control.

I take my hat off to them and thank God for their presence in my life at that time.

God, Thank You.

For those teachers.

And for so much more.

Neither here nor there, but Katherine Parkinson’s (IT Crowd) jaw dropping performance in the movie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society made my jaw drop.

Yes I know, O’Dowd is Irish.

1.25.2022 – impermanent than

impermanent than
eternal and the simple
rather than ornate

Adapted from the book, The Architecture of Happiness (2009, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton, and the passage:

. . . the Japanese sense of beauty has long sharply differed from its Western counterpart: it has been dominated by a love of irregularity rather than symmetry, the impermanent rather than the eternal and the simple rather than the ornate. The reason owes nothing to climate or genetics . . . but is the result of the actions of writers, painters and theorists, who have actively shaped the sense of beauty of their nation.

According the The New York Review of Books, this book, the The Architecture of Happiness is “A perceptive, thoughtful, original, and richly illustrated exercise in the dramatic personification of buildings of all sorts.”

What I find irrestible in reading Mr. de Botton is his use of language.

I get the feeling that if you made a spread sheet of all the words, adverbs and adjectives used by Mr. de Botton, you just might find that he used each word just once.

Neat trick in writing a book.

If I knew how to do that, I would.

1.24.2022 – pathological

narcissism when in office
petty in extreme

Adapted from the line “Once addicted, the pathologically narcissistic politician can become petty in the extreme, taking every slight as a deep personal insult.” in the article, “Where egos dare: Manchin and Sinema show how Senate spotlight corrupts” by Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, and professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

I liked the article as much for what it said as for the word play of the 1967 book, “Where Eagles Dare” by Alistair MacLean.

I have read that the book was supposed to be titled “Castle of Eagles” but that a Hollywood producer convinced MacLean to change the title to “Where Eagles Dare” from the line “The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch” from Act I, Scene III in William Shakespeare’s Richard III.

But I bet you a dollar that who ever came up with the title for Reich’s article, was thinking of the movie with the same title that starred Richard Burton and a very young Clint Eastwood.

But this is the trick to the question.

MacLean was contacted by this Hollywood Producer to write an original story directly for the screen.

In this case of chicken-egg, book-movie, it was the MOVIE that came first.

According to online sources [sic], the producer told MacLean that he wanted, “a team of five or six guys on a mission in the Second World War, facing enormous obstacles. I want a mystery. I want a sweaty, exciting adventure movie.’ That’s all I told him, just that.”

I am not sure if there is a specific word or genre’ for this type of book, but I have always regarded it with a bit of awe as it takes place in realtime.

What I mean by that is that the entire book takes place within the time of about 12 hours.

12 hours to land in Germany, get inside a heavily guarded German HQ that is located in a castle on top of mountain accessible only by cable car, free a captured allied spy, capture the top three German spies and get the spies to write out a list of all the German spies in Britain, un-mask the top traitor in the British high command and get away.

A grand case of the suspension of disbelief.

If you can watch the movie and accept that all the Germans speak English, its a small step to accept all the rest.

Also a grand example of my inability to stay on topic and to fall into a digression that has no bearing on the haiku.

Or does it?

The haiku is about narcissism in politics.

The article I link to writes in the voice of an insider who has seen many great efforts brought to unexpected ends because, “Again and again, I’ve watched worthy legislation sink because particular senators didn’t feel they were getting enough credit, or enough personal attention from a president, or insufficient press attention, or unwanted press attention, or that another senator (sometimes from the same party) was getting too much attention.”

I am reminded of a story told by then Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil.

The Speaker was elected to the House seat vacated by JFK in 1952 and was re-elected 12 times.

In politics, or at least in what I used to know as politics, running for Congress in Boston in the District that at one time was represented by John F. Kennedy, like Gerald R. Ford’s district in Michigan, was known as a ‘safe seat.’

Most likely you will be reelected.

Re-elected with very little effort.

My Dad told me how Gerald Ford would come back to West Michigan every couple of months, rent an RV and drive around the district and park in a lot and put up a sign that said “MEET YOUR CONGRESSMAN – NO WAITNG,” and then go back to Washington and forget about Grand Rapids.

The Speaker loved to tell this story about seeing some polling data from his district.

Mr. O’Neil noticed that a neighbor of his in his district, an older lady, someone who had voted the democratic ticket forever, someone that he knew, had indicated that in the last election she had NOT voted for the Speaker.

The next time he was in Boston, the Speaker sought her out and asked what happened?

Why had she not voted for him?

The lady looked at the Speaker and said in a very tired voice, a voice the Speaker never forgot, “Tip,” she said, “Sometimes folks just want to be asked.”

I bring this to up to ponder what if politicians, the House, the Senate, all of them together, somehow asked, on a regular basis, not just every two years, what we wanted.

Mr. Reich writes, “The Senate is not the world’s greatest deliberative body but it is the world’s greatest stew of egos battling for attention.

Every senator believes he or she has what it takes to be president.

Most believe they’re far more competent than whoever occupies the Oval Office.

Out of a 100 Senators, only a handful are chosen for interviews on the Sunday talk shows and very few get a realistic shot at the presidency.

The result is intense competition for attention.

I would like to see an intense competition for our attention.

To get there, all it takes is a grand suspension of disbelief.

Then I thought again about the line, The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch.

Written by Big Bill back in 1592.

Written by Big Bill back in 1592 about a King that had died in 1485.

A time when, The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch.

And again I realize, I guess, that this world and all that is going has been done before.

Like is says in scripture, “there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 KJV)

PS: Mr. Reich’s paragraph about Lindsey Graham made me laugh out loud. Especially now that Mr. Graham is ‘MY’ Senator.

Reich wrote:

Some senators get so whacky in the national spotlight that they can’t function without it. Trump had that effect on Republicans. Before Trump, Lindsey Graham was almost a normal human being. Then Trump directed a huge amp of national attention Graham’s way, transmogrifying the senator into a bizarro creature who’d say anything Trump wanted to keep the attention coming.

1.23.2022 – have to remember

have to remember
how different past was see
how much has changed

Adapted from the text in the article, Why are US rightwingers so angry? Because they know social change is coming, by Rebecca Solnit.

Ms Solnit writes, “What’s happening goes far beyond public monuments. The statues mark the rejection of old versions of who we are and what we value, but those versions and values matter most as they play out in everyday private and public life.

1.22.2022 – recover a sense

recover a sense
of the malleability
behind what is built

Adapted from the book, The Architecture of Happiness (2009, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton, and the passage:

We should recover a sense of the malleability behind what is built. There is no predetermined script guiding the direction of bulldozers or cranes. While mourning the number of missed opportunities, we have no reason to abandon a belief in the ever-present possibility of moulding circumstances for the better.

According the The New York Review of Books, this is “A perceptive, thoughtful, original, and richly illustrated exercise in the dramatic personification of buildings of all sorts.”

What I find irrestible in reading Mr. de Botton is his use of language.

I get the feeling that if you made a spread sheet of all the words, adverbs and adjectives used by Mr. de Botton, you just might find that he used each word just once.

Neat trick in writing a book.

If I knew how to do that, I would.