1.22.2023 – prodigious number

prodigious number
people hanged by no means bad
time for criminals

Inspired by:

In spite of the prodigious number of people who managed to get hanged, the fifteenth century was by no means a bad time for criminals.

A great confusion of parties and great dust of fighting favoured the escape of private housebreakers and quiet fellows who stole ducks in Paris Moat.

Prisons were leaky; and as we shall see, a man with a few crowns in his pocket and perhaps some acquaintance among the officials, could easily slip out and become once more a free marauder.

As it appears in the 1926 title, The Book of The Rogue by Joseph Lewis French.

According to the Wikipedia, Joseph Lewis French. (1858–1936) was a novelist, editor, poet and newspaper man. The New York Times noted in 1925 that he may be “the most industrious anthologist of his time.”[2] He is known for his popular themed collections, and published more than twenty-five books between 1918 and his death in 1936. He initiated two magazines, The New West (c. 1887) and The Wave (c. 1890). Afterward he worked for newspapers “across the country” contributing poetry and articles. He struggled financially, and during 1927 the New York Graphic, a daily tabloid, published an autobiographical article they convinced him to write, entitled “I’m Starving – Yet I’m in Who’s Who as the Author of 27 Famous Books.”

The New York Times reports in his obit that Mr. French “insisted that the actual rewards of authorship were few.”

I have reproduced his obit here.

In his book of collected stories on pirates, Great Pirate Stories, Mr. French wrote:

It was a bold hardy world—this of ours—up to the advent of our giant-servant, Steam,—every foot of which was won by fierce conquest of one sort or another.

Out of this past the pirate emerges as a romantic, even at times heroic, figure.

This final niche, despite his crimes, cannot altogether be denied him.

A hero he is and will remain so long as tales of the sea are told.

So, have at him, in these pages!

A hero he is and will remain so long as tales of the sea are told

1.19.2023 – extremely online

extremely online
insulted as efficiently
as is possible

Extremely Online.

A condition where social media compels us to read thinly, strip out all context and get to the part where we can be insulted as efficiently as possible.

So writes New York Times Opinion Columnist, Tressie McMillan Cottom, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, in her piece, The Enduring, Invisible Power of Blond.

The line in question reads, “I knew a lot of the anger had to do with my critics being Extremely Online, a condition where social media compels us to read thinly, strip out all context and get to the part where we can be insulted as efficiently as possible.

The ability, no, the desire of some folks to read thinly and strip out all context and get to the part where we can be insulted as efficiently as possible.

I come back to that old saying, why going looking for trouble.

Besides, if you go looking for trouble, trouble will find you.

Which in a way I think is really funny when I try to put that into context with news and social media and trouble.

Back in the news business we had endless discussions that folks no longer had to seek out news, they did not have watch TV news, listen to radio news or buy a newspaper.

With social media, the news someone wanted to hear, the paradigm went, now found them.

News, like trouble, finds you.

And the part of the news that interest us the most is the part that we are insulted.

And being extremely online compels us to read thinly, strip out all context and get to the part where we can be insulted as efficiently as possible

OH the wonderful power of social media,

1.15.2023 – how did dare expect

how did dare expect
so much of life and how could
act so stupidly

I was in the library the other day and as I do in libraries, I walked down the H aisle of fiction to see how many Jim Harrison books were on the shelf.

I was pleased to see 8.

I looked them over and the book titled, “The Summer He Didn’t Die“, caught my eye.

I knew it was on the shelf at home among the remaining titles in my hard cover library and I also knew I hadn’t opened it in years.

To sidestep into the discussion of EBooks, EReaders and printed books, I am 100% in agreement with those who say there is something to the printed page and holding a book in your lap.

But I also say, move several times and your thoughts on a personal multi volume library will change.

I still say I love print, but am very THANKFUL for electronic versions of any and all books.

But I digress.

When I got home, I took The Summer He Didn’t Die off the shelf and sat in my rocking chair and opened it.

There are, as usual with Mr. Harrison, three long short stories in the book.

The first one was the title short story, The Summer He Didn’t Die, and it is part of the Brown Dog oeuvre.

If you never read anything else going forward, I ask you to find a copy of Brown Dog (what you don’t a free archive.org account?) which has all 6 of the Brown Dog stories anthologized in one volume, and enjoy the trip to world you never considered.

It’s the same world we live in, but it’s not the same world we live in at the same.

You won’t be in Kansas anymore.

The 2nd long short story is titled, “Republican Wives.”

I am sure I read the story when I got the book but I did not have any memory of it.

This was fabulous.

It was new ground or, at least, forgotten old ground, one of the few benefits of getting older.

Reading the long short story, on the 2nd page I hit this line:

How did I dare expect so much of life. And by contrast, how could I have acted so stupidly?

And I stopped reading.

30 minutes later I was still looking at that page.

In the book, The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk wrote about the hero, young Willie Keith, after a near death experience, sat back with a cigar and thought.

Wouk writes:

With the smoke of the dead sailor’s cigar wreathing around him, Willie passed to thinking about death and life and luck and God.

Philosophers are at home with such thoughts, perhaps, but for other people it is actual torture when these concepts – not the words, the realities – break through the crust of daily occurrences and grip the soul.

A half hour of such racking meditation can change the ways of a lifetime

How did I dare expect so much of life.

And by contrast, how could I have acted so stupidly?

More than saying, But for the Grace of God, go I.

Thank God, and I mean THANK GOD, for grace.

But daring to expect so much of life?

Deep in my soul I think of Prospero in the Tempest.

We are such stuff, as dreams are made on.

Dreams?

Expectations?

Dare to dream.

Dare to expect much.

But, don’t act so stupidly, can’tcha?

Gee Whiz.

1.14.2023 – people want to think

people want to think
everything’s back to normal but
going take longer

There is always something lately seems to be the new way to look at things.

Orange is the new black was the thing to say for a while.

Not following fashion too much, I have a 5 pairs of pants, khaki khaki’s, black khaki’s and 3 pairs of blue jeans, I am not much sure about what the old black was.

Black, maybe?

And trying to nail down the origin of the phrase, the closest I could find on the Google (after .6 seconds of searching) was that it showed up in the late-’70s, when the New York Times stated: “Colors are the new neutrals.”

Back in the day, when I lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the hoi-polloi said they lived in EAST Grand Rapids, folks who couldn’t get property in EGR started saying Rockford was the new EGR.

(For fun just say hoi-polloi of Grand Rapids, Michigan out loud.)

I went around saying, that Sparta, it’s the new Rockford, just to watch Rockfordians get upset.

Its a Grand Rapids thing so don’t worry if you don’t get it.

In an article about New York Theater, ‘It’s a hard time’: why are so many Broadway shows closing early?, Mr. David Smith writes:

“People just got used to staying home and getting people back out and remembering how amazing live theatre is is taking time. Also people are still suffering and dealing with the trauma of the last few years. People want to think everything’s back to normal but it’s going to take longer for all people to feel normal after two and a half years of tragedy.”

I have to agree.

People want to think everything’s back to normal!

And I agree that it’s going to take longer for all people to feel normal after two and a half years of tragedy.

Normal.

It’s the new normal.

Tempora mutantur.

Times change and we change with the times.

And as Mr. Churchill said, or was reported as saying, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

If Mr. Churchill was correct, and in saying that it is important to keep in mind that FDR said ‘Winston has 100 ideas everyday but only one is good. That’s okay as he will have another 100 ideas tomorrow, but as I was saying, if Mr. Churchill was correct, with all the change we have experienced in the last 2 and half years, we must be coming close to perfection.

There is that definition of perfection to worry about though.

1.13.2023 – old cowgirl, she seemed

old cowgirl, she seemed
like someone who had earned the
right to give advice

Seems like there is a story where young Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr. went to see Ralph Waldo Emerson to seek advice.

As I remember the account stated that Emerson respected individuals too much to ever give advice.

The story in my mind also recorded that Holmes gave Emerson an article he had written to review and while Mr. Emerson did not make any specific comments he did say that he sensed Holmes direction and that if he, Young Holmes, fired off enough buckshot, something was bound to come close to the target.

To me, this explained the writing of most Harvard academics and graduates.

There is a lot of good in there, somewhere, in all that chaff.

Maybe.

And I always liked Mr. Justice Holmes.

Any Justice who sat on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States with 5 gunshot wounds in their body from fighting in the American Civil War was for me, someone who had earned the right to sit on that bench.

Holmes, according to the legend, is the Union Officer who figured out that by standing with a bunch of short Union Officers in blue uniforms, Abraham Lincoln, dressed in black and a tall stove pipe hat, kind of stood out as an attractive target for rebel sharpshooters.

Once he figured it out, as men started dropping left and right, Holmes grabbed the President and pulled him down behind a wall with a shout of “Get down you damn fool!

I often muse how many people would love to have the opportunity to yell that at any President.

Lincoln later spoke of finding himself under enemy fire and said that it was a disagreeable experience.

According to history this was the only time an American President came under enemy fire while in office.

Justice Holmes would go on to be on a member of the Supreme Court for 30 years until he was 92.

AND SO what if at the end of his years of service he fell asleep on the bench from time to time.

A little nudge brought him back to the court.

Often with a waking shout of “Jesus Christ, where the Hell am I?

Just give the guy a break.

But I digress.

But who else can give advice?

Who else should give advice?

And who ever listens to advice anyway.

Still this line, “He got the advice from a 100-year-old cowgirl interviewed in the pages of a newspaper and soon adopted it as his own. She seemed like someone who had earned the right to give advice.” from the article, I’ve never forgotten the advice of a 100-year-old cowgirl: ‘Always check your own girth strap’ by Gabrielle Chan caught me eye.

Ms. Chan wrote:

… I was slightly relieved when I moved to a farm that my husband didn’t have much advice for me. He is a sink or swim type of person.

One of the only scraps he offered was “always check your own girth strap”.

The Farmer, as he is known, underlined early on in my unspectacular horse riding career that I should always check my own girth strap.

A girth strap, for non-horsey people, is the belt that holds the saddle to the horse.

In people, it might hold your trousers up, or separate the bottom and the top half of you, depending on what you need it for.

The Farmer, as he is known, underlined early on in my unspectacular horse riding career that I should always check my own girth strap.

He got the advice from a 100-year-old cowgirl interviewed in the pages of a newspaper and soon adopted it as his own.

She seemed like someone who had earned the right to give advice.

It is a great piece of sound advice that even sounds great to say out loud.

When I get tomorrow I am going to say to myself, “always check your own girth strap!”

I’ll remember to say as I have painted it on my bedroom wall.

Right under, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”

Another piece of sound advice.

1.11.2023 – break any these rules

break any these rules
sooner than say anything
outright barbarous

I came across this the other day in my reading attributed to one Eric Arthur Blair.

Mr. Blair wrote some rules on writing.

He said:

But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English.

I love that last line.

One could keep all of them and still write bad English.

BTW, Eric Arthur Blair was much better known under the name of George Orwell.

1.9.2023 – instagrammable

instagrammable
moments lacking are listed
don’t we need to pee?

Ginia Bellafante, writing in the New York Times (Must We Gentrify the Rest Stop?) about the changes at rest stops on the New York State Thruway stated:

Five years ago, the New York State Thruway Authority conducted a survey of more than 2,600 drivers to take measure of the customer experience at the service areas lining the 570 miles of road that make up one of the largest toll highways in the country, stretching from the edge of the Bronx up past Buffalo. Whether participants were traveling for work or for pleasure, they had needs that apparently were going unfulfilled.

The resulting report listed as chief takeaways that leisure travelers complained about unappealing interiors and the lack of “Instagrammable moments.”

Instagrammable moments?

Instagrammable moments!

When I was studying history back in college, I was taught over and over, in lectures, in statements, in LOUD RED LETTERS WRITTEN on term papers, to AVOID A SENSE OF PRESENT MINDEDNESS.

What was an instagrammable moment 10 years ago?

What will be an instagrammable moment be ten years from now.

Since the beginning of time people traveling from point A to point B have hoped for a clean, well lighted place to answer a call to nature.

And if it wasn’t too much trouble, maybe a decent cup of coffee and a bun or a biscuit or a doughnut maybe.

Why do these two things do not figure in as the chief takeaway on a survey of customer experience of service areas?

As Ms. Bellafante writes: In a society so casually stratified that major airlines now offer five classes of service and airport security lines can be bypassed for an annual fee, rest stops remain one of the few spaces in modern life that can be generally counted on to level us. 

As my Dad would have put it, “Everybody has to pee.”

That won’t change but if it comes it to that, spare me anything instagrammable that captures that moment.

12.31.2022 – Ahhhh freudenfreude!

Ahhhh freudenfreude!
that bliss that you will feel when
someone else succeeds

I am not much on bucket lists or New Year’s resolutions.

I have to say there is nothing on my ‘list’ that I need to do or just would like to do before I die that would make my life complete.

I am a sinner saved by grace and while I know I need to work out my Salvation with fear and trembling, I also KNOW that when I do die, bold will I approach the throne, confident and wrapped in the gift of that grace.

Not much I can do or see here on earth to improve on that in my back pocket.

As for resolutions, I guess if its worth doing, it worth doing now rather than the an arbitrary state-by-date set by a calendar devised by people a long time ago.

That being said, I admit I enjoyed reading 6 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationships in 2023, By Catherine Pearson.

In the spirit of the New Year and looking ahead (maybe not forward) to the 2023, I pass along Ms. Pearson’s 6 Tips.

  1. Assume people like you.
  2. Don’t underestimate small acts of kindness.
  3. Embrace the power of the casual check-in.
  4. ‘Turn toward’ your partner throughout the day.
  5. Acknowledge the ‘normal marital hatred,’ too.
  6. Cultivate ‘freudenfreude.’

That’s it.

The article does give some background on each tip, but just by themselves, if read introspectively, has just enough words to make the point.

And it’s is that last that really caught my eye.

Cultivate ‘freudenfreude’.

Ms. Pearson writes;

Unlike schadenfreude, when we take pleasure in others’ misfortunes, “freudenfreude” describes the bliss we feel when someone else succeeds — even if it doesn’t involve us.

There are benefits to sharing in someone else’s joy.

It can foster resilience and improve life satisfaction.

Freudenfreude.

I was not aware of the word but maybe I was aware of the feeling.

My sister Mary once wrote of our Mother something like, that our Mom had the gift to enjoy and be proud of other people’s good fortune without being or appearing to be envious.

Freudenfreude.

I think of my Mom at Church.

I remember how people would seek out my Mom to tell her things.

They got a job.

They finished school.

Their child was getting married.

It didn’t matter what.

But what ever it was, my Mom was excited and happy for the news and excited and happy in such a way that whoever was talking to her was pleased that she was excited and happy for them.

I remember a Sunday sermon where the Pastor was preaching on spiritual gifts.

He mentioned the gifts in the Bible like the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy.

Then he mentioned everyday things.

The gifts of song.

Some people can just sing, he said.

The gifts of teaching.

Some people can just teach, he said.

Then he said some people being happy, so happy they can just make you feel good.

Some people, if you just sit next to them, make you feel good.

Then he paused.

Then the Pastor pointed over to the left at my Mom.

“Go sit next to Mrs. Hoffman.”

“FIND OUT HOW SHE DOES THAT!”

Freudenfreude.

At my Mom’s funeral, we all got a chance to say something about our Mom.

My brother Tim demonstrated calling my Mom with good news.

He took out a cell phone and showed how you would punch in her number and say hello when Mom answered and then tell her the good news.

He immediately took the phone from his ear and held it arms length.

And we all laughed.

Because, no matter the good news, Mom would SCREAM OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH and if you didn’t hold the phone away from your ear, you stood a good chance of losing an ear drum.

My Mom felt bliss expressed when someone else succeeded.

Freudenfreude.

My Mom and my 4 youngest kids Lexi, Ellie Dasia and Jack

Seems like there hasn’t been a lot of freudenfreude going around lately.

A lot of schadenfreude in today’s world.

A lot of just plain meanness.

A lot of just plain ugliness.

A of lot of watching other people dealing with meanness and ugliness.

A little Freudenfreude …

The bliss we feel when someone else succeeds — even if it doesn’t involve us.

Ms. Pearson closes with this paragraph.

One easy way to experience more freudenfreude is to check in with your friends and loved ones about their small victories or the bright spots in their day.

Doing so turns you into a “joy spectator” — and gives you an opportunity to see the people around you at their best.

Going into 2023 I plan to engage freudenfreude.

Going into 2023 I want to take advantage of any opportunity to see the people around me at their best.

It can foster resilience and improve life satisfaction.

For both of us.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh freudenfreude!

Happy New Year.

12.29.2022 – a reasonably

a reasonably
accurate and coherent
auto biography

one important thing!
don’t have a real story you
don’t have a real self

Two stanzas a six syllable word in the wrong spot.

Oh well, my blog, my rules.

Taken from the passage:

A reasonably accurate and coherent autobiographical narrative is one of the most important things a person can have. If you don’t have a real story, you don’t have a real self.

As it was written in the opinion piece, The Sad Tales of George Santos, by David Brooks, in the Dec 28, 2023 New York Times.

Mr. Brook’s comments:

America has always had impostors and people who reinvented their pasts.

(If he were real, Jay Gatsby might have lived — estimations of the precise locations of the fictional East and West Egg vary — in what is now Santos’s district.)

This feels different.

I wonder if the era of the short-attention spans and the online avatars is creating a new character type: the person who doesn’t experience life as an accumulation over decades, but just as a series of disjointed performances in the here and now, with an echo of hollowness inside.