Monday, February 28, 2005

Not Seeing Eye to Eye

"I can see right through you."

Oh, yeah?

"Yeah."

You're so blind.

"That so?"

You need me. Listen: if it wasn't for me you'd be totally lost; stumbling around; fallen in some ditch.

"I think I would've found my way."

Yeah, right.

"Well... I guess it's 20/20 hindsight."

Try 20/200.

"Well... I don't know. I had some good contacts."

Oh, yeah -- they didn't last too long.

"Well... it didn't work out."

And, you didn't shed many tears.

"Actually, I did. It was an issue."

Oh... poor bay-bee! You're killing me.

"Come on now -- you're just hurt."

Maybe I am. Not like I have no reason.... So what is it -- tell me --

"Well... look, you were beautiful in your day. You broadened my perspective."

I'm too big, right?

"Hey -- times change. Like they say, 'thin is in.'"

Oh, beautiful! I'm too fat.

"Okay, sure -- a little thinner, and a little more flexible. Just a different style."

I can't believe it! You're ditching me for some emaciated featherweight!

"Come on now...we had -- what -- eight or nine good years. Together every day. Had a lot of laughs. Saw a lot of sights. You left a real impression on me."

Oh, great. So, now, you're putting me away.

"Hey -- I'll still see you -- just not all the time. You'll be like -- like a spare -- you know."

Oh, great! That's just great. Beautiful. Wonderful. Why don't you just feed me to the lions?

"Come on baby -- get a grip -- your making a spectacle of yourself."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Slip and Fall

Drove by the skating rink yesterday. A shudder coursed through your humble driver's frame.

Twenty years ago, the rink was less elegant. No wrought iron fence, or postmodern sculpture, or ornate clubhouse. Fewer encircling trees and shrubs. Then, it was just a small, shallow, frozen pond with temporary, wooden walls marking out the bounds and a booth renting skates and selling hot chocolate. Remember it well.

Let's go skating! It was the future other Householder speaking. "Okay." But, really, it was not okay. What is it about a woman and love that makes a man do things he knows are not okay -- like hours of browsing at a craft fair or suffering a make-over as if he were a hollow, smiling mannequin. Oh, yes, your humble Contributor had succumbed to such prior feminine suggestions. And, when he stepped back on to tractile earth, he could be heard uttering prayers of thanksgiving. Ah, blessed bruises and mere sprains. Then, they could say of him, "He has broken none of his bones."

Here's the concept: take a slick, treacherous surface formed of water in it's solid state; affix to a blue plastic boot a steel edge, sharpened to enhance the treachery; step onto the slick surface with an eye to propelling one's body toward frigid collision.

Come on. It'll be fun. Dead of winter. The hand of the thermometric dial trying to decide between seven and eight degrees Fahrenheit. The probability -- nay, the certainty -- of some injury. "Okay."

Twenty minutes on the ice. Getting the hang of it how. Then, let go of the sides. Alright, letting go now. Twenty more minutes. Going, more or less, with the ovalesque flow -- skidding, stumbling, swaying -- like a degenerate Dorothy Hamill cast in a Samuel Beckett play. Ten more minutes. Gaining some confidence. Might try just a single axle. What! Hey, you! I'll catch you -- watch me fly. Wait! One blade's teeth are biting down hard and the other is gliding onward and the torso is twisting like a tort.

Here's the biomechanical problem: how much stress can the lowly distal fibula take before fracturing? No instruments on hand to measure the pounds per square inch with any precision: noted only a sound like a snapping breadstick, then the icy embrace of the face.

A rink guard comes to a frosty, sudden stop, and looks down upon the writhing, glacial victim. C'mon buddy. You're alright. Don't look like a wimp in front of your girlfriend. "Okay."

A hand up; a tentative shifting of weight; a paroxysm; a grasping of the swollen joint; a brief pirouette; a second, more graceful decline. Next thing, the boot's off; a large bag of ice is applied; a chill wind evokes a profound shiver. "Let's go skating. [Brrrr!] It'll be fun." Involuntary shaking and laughter from the future other Householder. A length of excruciated hops, skips, and jumps; a plaster of Paris; a bottle of controlled substances; a few extra pillows for the encased, distal appendage; a dazed affect with small amounts of drool about the corners of the mouth. "I feel funny. My ankle hurts." Just rest. "Okay."

Felt just a twinge dancing a waltz at the wedding.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The End

Gentle visitors, something of a brain-teaser this one. (Note: the title is important.)

"Could this really be the end?" As she watched him walking slowly into the setting sun Marilyn thought, "Could he really be leaving? "

"Au revoir, my love. You will see; all will be well."

"Philippe! Philippe!" she cried.

He backed away from her. "If you truly love me, then you must trust me, and let me go. I must go."

"No," she cried, "No!" She rushed to cling to him.

"If we are to be together forever, then I must go," he said, pushing her away.

"Oh, Philippe, we must never be parted." She flung herself into his manly arms.

"You and I, together until birth. La Jeune Vie. While others grow old together, we will grow younger. We sail against the current. Do you now see?" said Philippe, taking her hand and pressing it fervently to his lips.

Yes, she thought, I remember all the confusion between us at the beginning. She had thought it was just a language barrier: in truth, it was something more. The light began to dawn in her mind.

"Anyone who comes too close -- whose life becomes, how do you say, intertwined with mine -- is captured by the same curse. That," said Philippe, "Is what makes my secret so dark, so terrible!"

"I’ve seen none of this. But," she said, shaking her head, her golden locks falling around her sculpted neck, "How could that be. "

"For me, everything is in reverse. Sentences, thoughts, music, palindromes – life itself! It is my curse. " Philippe pressed the heels of his hands to his temples.

"I don’t understand. What are you talking about," she said, almost in tears.

"It is my dark secret, PND. Do you not see? Oui, oui, oui!" Philippe stared at her, his eyes smoldering in a mixture of passion and bitter disappointment.

"You, who saved my life, who taught me to live again, taught me to love again. No matter how dark or terrible it is, it could never separate us. Dark secret?" Marilyn repeated in astonishment.

"This is my one dark secret that I could never tell you." He covered his face. "I would sooner die than leave you – you might as well tear out my heart. Mon cher," said Philippe, tears glistening in his eyes. "It is PND – Profound Narrative Dyslexia."

"After all this," she found herself saying aloud, "How could you possibly leave me."

After all the love, after all the laughter, the danger, the adventure. After all we have been through, she thought. Philippe stood a few paces hence, staring at the ground, his broad shoulders sagging. Marilyn’s world was turned inside-out, upside-down. Philippe pulled away, and said, "I must go, and you must go back."

Yet, suddenly, everything changed. They embraced. Could it be that the forces that sought to keep them apart had been secretly defeated? The setting sun shone down on the pair, like a blessing, as they walked, hand in hand to the crest of the hill.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Grace Before Meals

On the metro, a nice-looking woman
In a red kerchief
Reads a pop weekly,
Intently (her mouth agape):
Seems a troubled performer
Finally got it together,
Found god in himself—
Looks as pale as ever.

On her lap, a vegetable platter:
Carrot and cucumber,
Broccoli, radish,
Ring a dill dressing.
The cover’s etched in lines,
And angles and stars,
Polygons, pentagrams—
Geomancy of food.
What's it for— a social occasion?
No— the dip's diminished.
Must be what's left over...
(The belly growls).
Bless us O Lord,
And these thy gifts—
And those invited to eat.
At the station, a cute little scholar,
In a plaid jumper
Sells sweets for her school —
Dig for a bill blessing.
Where do you go, honey?
Corpus Christi, she says.
Like a good-bar, sir?
Alright, I'll take one.
She thanks me, and I say mine.
For this I'm about to receive.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Me and Mr. Jones

After the delights of reading yesterday's most moving rhymes, I turned for further inspiration to the smiling face on a clipping I have on my bulletin board. It's a news story of Edward P. Jones, who won the Pulitzer Prize last year for his novel The Known World, a story about life under slavery in the ante-bellum U.S. The news article reported that he (and others) had each just won $500,000 MacArthur Grants that generally go to deserving and very bright folks.

While I still haven't read his novel, Jones' own story as a writer was so fascinating that I had to go hear him speak at a gathering after he had won the Pulitzer. Basically, after about 20 years of working in obscurity as an editor for a tax publication (can you think of anything worse, except perhaps . . . being a tax lawyer!), he was given a gentle heave-ho during his Christmas holiday--which, ironically, had been the first time off he had taken in years.

"Hello, Ed. Since you've worked so long and loyally for the company, I wanted to let you know in person, well, sort of in person . . . "

So after that, he had all this time to focus on writing his novel that has since entered the Pulitzer annals and given him further fame and glory--not to mention half-a-million bucks.

While at his talk, he seemed to get a little testy when a lady in the audience persisted in asking how much research he did to achieve to render the historical setting so real ("No, ma'am. I just made it all up. I really did.") he is amazingly unaffected by his reversal of fortune. So much so that he says he didn't own a car before, and he never will get one. In America, that's almost weird--and wonderful.

Continued best wishes, Mr. Jones! You are inspiration enough that it all doesn't have to end in a blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Packing Verse

Gentle visitors, our dear Palinurus is now engaged in a very moving task. Thus, we offer a brief packing verse, below, and invite any of our gentle visitors, so inclined, to contribute their own poetic or prosaic ruminations (preferably dark or cautionary) on moving.
A pox upon this empty box,
Which thrice have I rebuffed;
"Oh, fill me with thy vital stocks!"
"Oh, yeah?" says I, "Get stuffed!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

(Too) Early In The Morning

Unusual duties found your humble Contributor up and out the door too early for decent folk this morning. Arising in darkness, long before the promise of anything like the day.

It might have been worth it to see rose-fingered Dawn, stretching and throwing open the shutters; but, she slept or, at least, dozed in her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, sending, in her stead, her first cousin Pall. Gloom yielding to semi-gloom; black resolving to gray blending to the darker gray of the hibernal horizon. How hard to be a friendly hue this morn, with shades of slate governing the available light. "None knew the color of the sky." Aye, mate. The prospects look dim.

Only milkmen used to be up at the hour your humble Contributor arose. Creeping down alleyways in the dead of morning, delivering their clinking dairy dailies. Who knew then that these were little more than beverage atrocities: creamy loads of cholesterol and fat, funneling down the gullet, squeezing through the gut's fleshy portals, and, at length entering the blood stream: searching out some comfy nook along an arterial wall, gathering there in small colonies with like-minded globules. Today, one can only shake his head and gulp down the grayish liquid of what were once soybeans.

Yet, it was not so much the gloom, or the fatty fluids, or even the subjugation of the bovine masses, but the hour. Too early.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Model Presidential Farewell Address

Easy to think this is dated; but, it offers sound advice to a young nation.
Link

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Code Name "Arc" - Part 2

[continued from Part 1]

NO. 1: You know, doc, I'm just not sure. I mean... my kids love it. We have a set in the back yard, and they'll play for hours. But, for a project like this, it's just... goofy.

WELBY: To the uninitiated, perhaps. It's virtues are well documented; it's history is storied. We've just taken it one step further.

NO. 1: Well, I guess a lot of other techniques have failed at far greater costs. And, the risk is fairly minimal. It does seem like it's worth a try.

NO. 2: Ditto.

WELBY: Very good, gentlemen. I'll be at your disposal.

NO. 1: Thanks doc. You know, just curious: you're not a real physician are you?

WELBY: No, not really -- I just play one on TV -- part of my cover as actor "Robert Young".

NO. 1: Of course, I'm sorry: that was right here in my notes.

WELBY: By training, I'm a metaphysician. There's a small group of us really, but somewhat in the same line as you -- chasing down the Ultimate Cipher.

NO. 1: You're a smarter man than me, doc.

Alright, No. 2, let's get this thing going with some discretionary funds. And, once you get a stable platform, give Harris at MI-5 a buzz.

NO. 2: Uh, chief, everything that goes through MI-5 gets to Chameleon.

NO. 1: Yes, he is a wild card -- said to be an independent actor. Well, then, let's keep it quiet for now.

END TRANSCRIPT
*****************
COMM 6/4/77
FROM: NO. 1
TO: NO. 2
RE: "ARC"

Per POTUS [Carter], project suspended indefinitely.

{Sorry. I know this was your baby. Zbignew said that it may prove destabilizing & "Uncle Leonid" might get upset.}

**********************
COMM 7/11/82
FROM: NO. 1
TO: NO. 2
RE: "ARC"

Per POTUS [Reagan], project reactivated. Please give me restart report within 30 days.

{Word is Thatcher heard of this from some course [Chameleon?] and chatted up POTUS on recent trip. She is like goddess to him, so we're back on. Contact Welby -- I think he's doing only the occasional made-for-TV movie nowadays; otherwise at the Stanford Lab.}

**********************
RESTART REPORT 8/4/82
FROM: NO. 2
TO: NO. 1
RE: "ARC"

Think I've located operator for project. New recruit -- still green. But, seems perfect. Working on supply order through Spalding Sporting Goods.

**********************
PROGRESS REPORT 3/7/88
FROM: NO. 2
TO: NO. 1
RE: "ARC"

Our man reports first substantial breakthroughs.

[REDACTED] ...
**********************
END OF PROJECT FILE

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Code Name "Arc" - Part 1

Gentle visitors, our investigative team has been busy pouring over recently declassified documents at the National Archives, searching for the kind of cryptic history that you can only find hereunder. We offer the following gem, which we discovered.

DECLASSIFIED PER OID-DO 04-19265
12/14/04
************************************
PROJECT CODE NAMED "ARC"
CLASS: TS

**********
MEETING TRANSCRIPT
LANGLEY - OffPsyOps - 3/12/75
PRESENT: WELBY, M. NO. 1, NO. 2

[REDACTED] ...

WELBY: We just stumbled on this while doing research into the link between light deprivation and increased incidence of depression during winter months in the mid to higher latitudes of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

NO. 1: Are there any determined physical causes?

WELBY: We think so -- though, we haven't isolated them yet -- as well as metaphysical causes?

NO. 1: Pardon?

WELBY: Metaphysical. That would take some time to explain. Basically, it comes down to fiat lux. Pre- and post-creational issues: nothing as against being; "darkness" and the void as against "light" and fullness; a kind of pre-reflective, spiritual dread of the "nought" -- thought to be some kind of reverberation from the prior abyss, if you will, connected, in some way, to an early cataclysmic human incident, leading to mutational material and immaterial effects. Kierkegaard, among others, has touched upon it. As did, Aquinas, earlier on. But, again, that would take some time.

NO 1: Okay.

WELBY: Anyhow, as I mentioned, we set up several groups of human subjects and introduced a variety of techniques -- light boxes, increased physical activity, and the like. The group I described earlier showed, by far, the greatest benefit. In most cases, a complete cessation of depression indicators -- in some cases, sustained elation.

NO. 1: Hmmm. But, how do you think that would address our project?

WELBY: One word: freedom.

NO. 1: I'm lost.

NO. 2: Ditto.

WELBY: I'm sorry gentlemen. I keep forgetting that you're primarily concerned with temporary or localized mental manipulation through chemo-electrical applications or external stimuli. This goes much deeper.

We now know that much of matter and energy is governed, to put it simply, by the circle: revolutions and roundness. Astronomical movements and objects; circadian rhythms; seasonal cycles -- note the winter depression; a strange attraction in humans to round and spherical objects; right down to the cellular and even sub-atomic level. The circular shape seems to be constitutive of the entire universe, from the immense to the minute, and humans seems to be keyed to and comprised of the same pattern.

NO. 2: Revolution? Uh, doc, I think that's exactly what we trying to counter.

WELBY: Exactly my point. That's where they got it wrong: mistaking the material cause for the final cause. Everything tells us that the whole human project is teleological; whereas, they insist that it's cyclical, thereby encompassing and trapping the human subjects into an interminable series of revolutions. Paradoxically, however, we found that by introducing the sphere and the revolution in a simple, material, and physical way tends to release the subjects from the cycle of depression and dread.

NO. 1: Well, doc, you've evidently given this a lot thought. And..., you think that would work over there?

WELBY: Worth a try.

NO. 1: Hmm.

[to be continued]

Friday, February 18, 2005

Poor Relations: Himself's Near Death

Sure, Himself is down with the influenza.

Is that the way?

'Tis. He's been laying in bed half the week, sick as you like.

Ah, the creature!

Oh, now, don't be taking his part now, girl. Likely as not, it's mostly put on.

Oh, no.

See, now, he's got the whole lot of ya bamboozled. Sure, he's a great one for puttin it on, you know. There's the dishes waitin to be washed, and next thing he's got his feet up and cold cloth on his pate, swearing he's been struck with a fever. 'B'god' he says, 'this is it. I'm certain I'll die tonight. Run, now, and get the priest.'

And, I says, 'I'll not until you've got those plates scrubbed and put up.'

But, did he have a temperature?

Well, a course he did -- sure, we all do, don't we. His was a hundred three -- sure, just a few ticks above me own. And, him a man -- a sweaty and unruly man, at that -- sure, he's bound to be hotter.

But, no sooner had I taken the blessed termometer from his gob, he was up and sayin, 'Faith,' he says, 'Watch now, the merc'ry's ready to burst out an spill out on the floor an roll up in little balls. God save us.' With that, he fell back in the chair, as pale an brittle as me own mother's bone china.

But, sure, he must've been feverish?

Well, I don't know about that. Next thing he said he was chilled to the marrow, shakin and shiverin like a hindoo, and I says, 'Well, which is it? Hot or cold? Make up your mind. And, don't tink that first ting tomorrow, you won't be be up the roof tendin the hole ye made on Shrove Tuesday.' But, sure enough, that next mornin, I couldn't rouse him for nothin. So, I left him be.

Ah, the poor ting.

Not a bit of it. I'll have him up now scrubbing the floor in no time, and he'll be none the worse for it. I'm just after order'ing up his medications on the online apothecary.

Wonders never cease.

'Tis grand.

And, sure, he's still a fine figure of a man.

He is, at that.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Worth Doing Badly


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." -- G.K. Chesterton

I read with great appreciation last Friday's post, written by my good friend and skillful mainstay of this blog. I also noted with interest the perceptive posts of our thoughtful guests. It put me in mind of the following lines, written by Chesterton, almost presciently, in the years before the First World War, as though he could foresee the conflicts and the coming bloodshed of the world's bloodiest century.

The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gold,
Men may uproot where worlds begin,
Or read the name of the nameless sin;
But if he fail or if he win
To no good man is told.

The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark. . .

The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad lamps,
they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God shall die. . .

But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?


So the decision before us is to choose for which side to fight. We have no guarantee of success. There is no value in smug, phony rectitude. The promise, I suppose, is not in the winning, but in the fighting. As Mother Teresa said, "God does not ask us to be successful; God asks us to be faithful."

A Chesterton scholar spoke of the outline of a white horse, exposed long ago by the local folk, by plucking the turf from the white stone on an English hill. For many years, the people kept the White Horse visible by constant clearing, keeping the encroaching weeds and soil from covering the mythic figure.

"The Ballad of the White Horse" reminds us, she wrote:

"It is not the moral tradition that keeps us, it is we who keep (or do not keep) it.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The End of Satire

“You can’t make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you’re doing is recording it.” -- Art Buchwald


Tomorrow is the birthday of hotel heiress Paris Hilton.

Recently, Miss Hilton was arrested for suspicion of petty theft in West Hollywood, California. “There was an incident, and she is alleged to have taken something,” sheriff's Deputy Steve Suzuki said immediately following the arrest.

A video posted on website of the television show “Celebrity Justice” shows Miss Hilton buying several magazines at a newsstand. After she received her change, she grabbed a video from the counter and walked off with it -- without paying. The video was the tape of Miss Hilton's famous sex tape, "One Night in Paris", the one showing her and paramour Rick Saloman, well, in flagrante delicto, so to speak.

Miss Hilton, who in 1999 received her GED, the high school equivalence diploma usually earned by adults who, through diligence and persistence, finally receive in middle age the diploma denied them in their youth by circumstances and misfortune, identifies herself as model, jewelry designer, recording artist, and actress, apparently based on her role in the reality TV show, The Simple Life. At the ripe age of 23, she has released an autobiography. She even has her own calendar. Paris and her family are reportedly worth $3.8 billion.

Besides the aforementioned Mr. Saloman, Hilton has dated, been engaged to, or otherwise spent extensive amounts of time with, actors Jason Shaw, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Furlong, Jared Leto, Simon Rex, Brandon Davis, Jamie Kennedy, musicians Rob Mills, Deryck Whibley, Nick Carter, and tennis player Mark Philippoussis and boxer Oscar De La Hoya. Miss Hilton turns 24 tomorrow.

Following her recent arrest, the newsstand employee, Gerry Castro, said that Hilton became enraged after spotting the sex video on sale at the newsstand. “She threw her 80 cents change at me and took the video and said, ‘I'm taking this and I'm not buying it,’” Castro told reporters. Castro then called police. “Nobody steals on my shift,” Castro said.

According to Paris' sister, Nicky, Castro overreacted. “She did something anyone would have done in this situation,” Nicky Hilton said. “It's not a big deal. Whatever - she doesn't care. I think this guy is trying to make it into a big deal, to get some publicity for his newsstand.”

Charges against Hilton were recently dropped for lack of evidence.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sickness Unto Death

Your humble Contributor's current condition of health puts him in mind of that unusual philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, when he described the "sickness unto death".
To be sick unto death is, not to be able to die--yet not as though there were hope of life; no, the hopelessness in this case is that even the last hope, death, is not available.
How well he described the current condition: the mucus membranes as swollen and irritated as a disheveled post-carnivalian on Ash Wednesday morn; the various, unseen passages that keep otolaryngologists busy (and playing golf on Wednesdays on rather lush, exclusive courses) packed with a substance most nearly resembling mortar; nasal discharges expelled with the force of a runaway train, often referred to as "sneezing", which somehow does not capture the brief but frame-shaking and death-dealing events; expectorations drawing forth, apparently, from the fifth or sixth circle of the inferno; the head seemingly in the grip of an ever-tightening vise.

Strange that this viral peril begins with harmless waterfowl in China. But, when you consider that Donald Duck is now among them, the pieces begin to fit together.

Your humble Contributor speaks as one who has well-nigh mastered the vocal quackery of this slick caricature of a duck. In fact, fitted with the proper feathered suit and bill, he might pass himself off as the real thing -- waddling toward the unsuspecting visitors to the Magic Kingdom, charming them with his disarming presence, and embracing them, only to pick their pockets.

On your next pilgrimage to that site, be on your guard. Meanwhile, pass the tissues.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Feast of St. Valentine

Gentle visitors, it would appear that your humble Contributor has been bitten by some love bug, such that he is now posting from his sick bed, pining and wasting as the fabled lovers of old, and also sneezing, coughing, etc.

Nonetheless, ever mindful of the mournful undernourishment of the poetical glands in the general public, your humble Contributor offers, hereunder, suitable nutrition (even in the time of fasting) on the topic of St. Valentine, of whom there are different stories -- though, all certanly true. The first item is of the great, early English bard (in rough translation), and the second, somewhat after his fashion.


Amorous Complaint at Windsor (Geoffrey Chaucer: excerpt)

I, who am the sorrowfullest man
That in this world was ever yet living,
Who least recover himself can,
Thus begin my mortal complaining
Against her who to life or death me bring,
Who has on me no mercy and no pity
Who loves her best, and slays me for my fidelity.

Can I do or say naught that you may like?
No, surely, now, alas and alack, the while.
Your pleasure is to laugh when I sigh,
And thus you from all my bliss exile.
You have cast me on that pitiless isle
There never a man alive might depart.
This I have for loving you, sweet heart.

. . .

Ever have I been, and shall however I trend,
Either to live or to die, your's humble and true:
You've been my beginning and my end,
Most shining of stars, bright and clear of hue,
Always the same, to love you freshly new,
By God and my truth, is my intent
To live or die, I would it never repent.

This complaint on Saint Valentine's day,
When every fowl choosing shall his make,
To her whose I am wholly and shall always
This woeful song and this complaint make,
And yet would I evermore her serve,
And love her best, though she do me starve.


Ouch! Pour Geoff was truly smitten -- perhaps this might serve as a partial remedy. ***

The Doctor of Hearts

Saint Valentine, a doctor he,
Was said to have the perfect art
To diagnose the love-lorn soul
And mend the aching, breaking heart.

And Valentine, a Latin man,
He knew that only love is real,
And only love, that blessed salve,
Could bring the open wound to heal.

But Valentine, a Christian man,
He drew the wrath of Ancient Rome,
Which seized and took him by the arm
So far from health and hearth and home.

Yet from this lowly place on earth,
His damp and lonely prison cell,
He touched the hearts of stricken souls
And touching these he made them well.

Then Valentine, a martyr he,
Was killed in 2 and 67,
And, by the grace of God, was said
To make his way direct to heaven.

And still, from high above this earth,
He practices his healing arts,
By balming hurts and patching harms,
And mending aching, breaking hearts.

Link

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Subject Of The Sonnet

"Tris?"

Tris looked up from his desk. "Yes, dear."

Isolde appeared at the door, leaning against the jamb, her legs partly crossed, a lock of hair partly veiling her eye, looking as lovely as ever. She saw the basket filled with crumpled paper, and Tris with chestnut pen in hand, a few lines jotted on a fresh sheet. "Tris, what on earth are you up to?"

"Oh, I tell you, Iz," he said. "I'm trying to work on a new sonnet, you know. Not much luck with it, I should say. What is it?"

"Well, I thought we might pop out for a walk in the park -- such a nice day for winter. Actually, the crocus are in bloom, the daffodils are pushing up, and the gardens are showing other faint stirrings of life."

"Well, I suppose I should," Tris said. "Might help clear my head." Thereupon, he scratched, his head. "I've been struggling, really, with a subject for this. I seem to have run through the normal things: you know, northern clime horticulture, the evils of usury, and the labour movement -- that sort of thing. But, nothing seems to be catching on -- I suppose it's the season or the economy or something -- not that we can afford to be complacent about such things."

"Well," said Iz, her finger pressed to her lips in contemplation, "What about something different? Say, friendship?"

Tris leaned back in his chair and lit his meerschaum, it's bowl carved in the likeness of some forgotten poet. "Hmm," he said, puffing once or twice. "Fascinating. Well, that certainly would be a challenge. I mean, of course, I have my acquaintances -- good chaps, to a man -- but," he continued, straightening up and removing his pipe, "It's seems such a technical topic -- nothing like, say, the application of manure or caps on interest rates."

"Well," she said, moving closer, leaning now on the far corner of the desk, "I rather meant the notion of affection for someone."

Tris frowned. "Well, I mean, in the sense of an attribute, especially a contingent or alterable quality or property, a condition, a bodily state, such as figure or weight. Well, I hardly think that would be stuff of poetry -- hardly stand the test of time, do you think?"

"No," she said, brushing back her hair, "I mean in the sense of like, or more, for a person."

Tris again puffed. "You know, Iz, I just don't see it. Like, of course, is used in a simile -- a common sort of literary device -- but, it would hardly serve as a subject or theme."

Iz moved still closer, half-sitting on the desk, her hands gripping the edge. "Oh, dear," she said, "I'm afraid I haven't expressed myself clearly enough. I meant a deep and abiding closeness, a bond -- so to speak -- a present and pressing wish to be near another, to be next to another."

Tris looked puzzled, putting down his pen and stroking his chin for time, the Cavendish smoke curling upwards as a kind of incense. Then, his countenance changed slightly, and he wagged his finger very slowly. "You know," he said. "I think I've heard of such a thing.... Yes, I am certain that somewhere, sometime, I've heard that described, you know. But,... I'll be hanged if I know from where or whom, or what is was called."

While Tris spoke, Iz had picked up the chestnut quill and scratched out a few lines. "Here," she said, holding up the paper. "Listen to this."
Lo, doth man wander, through deserted parts,
O'er mountainous crags, through desperate vales,
Verily lost, confused, blinded by gales,
Ended only by guide of entwined hearts.


Tris took the sheet from her, and read it. "Well, Iz, I say -- this is wonderful start. Yes. It does begin to capture what you were saying -- a kind of marriage of elements -- though, I must say that I'm not sure about the emphasis on the initial letters of each line."

Suddenly, Iz leapt into his arms. "Oh, Tristan," she said, "Thy ignorance is so sweet to me." Then, closing her eyes and thrusting her lips to his, she said, not without emphasis, "Kiss me!"

Tristan, somewhat taken aback, said, "Well, old girl -- look, I've just had this jacket pressed and you seem to be crushing the lapel. But,... if you say...."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Rhetoric 101 - First Day

Good morning, class. I am Mistress Lysias. Welcome to Rhetoric 101.

I trust all of you had a good summer, visiting the Isles, splashing in the Aegean, or touring our beautiful city-states. Now, I also trust, you are ready to return to your studies.

I like to begin each new semester by getting to know a little about each student. So, starting here, from the front row, please tell us your name and a little about what you did this summer.

Zeugma: Mistress, I did dive into the sea, explore her coves, and lounge on her golden shore.

Scesis Onomaton: I not only splashed in the waves, but swam in the surf, stroked over the crests, and tread through the troughs.

Ana Phora: On Santorini, we climbed the craggy moutain; on Santorini, we peered into the vast crater; on Santorini, we looked out upon the wine dark sea.

Ana Diplosis: That's nothing. We saw the caves on Cephalonia -- the watery caves, the dark and secret caves.

Metaphor: We were gulls: flitting from isle to isle, beach to beach.

Epana Lepsis: The Games at Olympus -- we traveled there to watch them -- ah! the drama and the splendor of the Games.

Procata Lepsis: Some objected to girls attending the Games. But, I said, "You'll see: one day we'll be competing as well." Pythia, the Oracle, agreed.

Pleonasm: I am an adolescent male of the species Homo sapiens. I enjoy watching and participating in a variety of athletic and gymnastic contests, in both team and individual format, including, but not limited to, archery, discus-throwing, wrestling, ....

Chiasmus: I left my dear Thessolonica, thence to Athens I came.

Expletivo: I am, in fact, a son of Athens and would never think to leave it. Indeed, I would challenge any who says other.

Asyndeton: I spent my days among the vines, arbors, groves, orchards, plucking grapes, olives, dates, figs.

Apophasis: I prefer not to think of the summer -- the disastrous trip to Corinth, the cruelty of my siblings, the duplicity of the street vendors in Arcadia. No, I will talk of it. I am glad to be back in school.

Metanoia: My summer was taken in travel to the Adriatic; or, rather, I should say, travail.

Aporia: It's hard for me to say whether the summer went well or not: the sunshine and warmth were welcome; the relatives from Sicily were not.

Simile: The summer was like a gem in a year of dross.

Synecdoche: Summer. Well, I think these eyes have never seen finer moments.

Hyperbole: I had the best summer anyone has ever had. Ever. Anywhere.

Litotes: My vacation was not unwelcome; not without its moments of joy.

Hyperbaton: I had a holiday delightful.

Onomatopoeia: I enjoyed nothing more than the buzzing of the bees and chirping of the crickets.

Apostrophe: You cannot imagine, dear mistress, what fun I had.

Enthymeme: Well, the days were so long and hot, it must have been summer.

Oxymoron: My father was too busy with his work to travel. He is an honest lawyer.

Erotesis: Why must we always tell what we did during summer break?


Acknolwedgements to A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices. Kudos to my clever niece, Anonymous, and the bright pupils at The Lyceum.

Friday, February 11, 2005

ALERT: Differentiated Prose Generator Down

Gentle visitors, we are embarrassed to report that the Differentiated Prose Generator (DPG) is temporarily down. Our technicians are working diligently on this glitch, and we expect to have it up and running again soon, certainly by tomorrow. We apologize for this inconvenience.

In the mean time, we have been able to retrieve the post, below, from the dark corners of the archives of the Poetical Subsystems (PSS), with further apologies to ben Sirach.

This Is A Test

Do not be alarmed.
This is only a test.
Repeat.
Only a test.
Placed before you...

If this had been a real emergency,
You would have been instructed
Who you might have called,
What you might have done,
Where you might have sought
Shelter in a world
Of decaying, half-lives.
A blessing... a curse...

You would have tuned
Into your station,
And watched your life
Flicker before you;
The picture going fuzzy
In the midst of a frantic newscast;
And you would have been alone
In your living room.
A bowl of fire...

You would have understood
How this came to be,
And could not not be;
And you might have huddled
In your hollowed-out earth --
In the mother who abandoned you,
The vessel that has tried you --
Scanning the static waves,
Appalled by the raging absence,
By the fast-becoming-naught.

A bowl of water...

Or, you might have gathered your treasure,
Stepped out, into the white air,
And taken the draught.
Life or death...

But, this was not a real emergency.
This was only a test.
Repeat.
Only a test.

Stretch out your hand...

Choose.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Out of a Danish Closet

A most amazing film was re-released in its entirety after being lost (or left unwittingly) for 75 years in the closet of a Danish psychiatric hospital. "The Passion of Joan of Arc," directed by Denmark's Carl Theodor Dreyer and first released in 1927, was the big-budget French film of its time. I've forgotten exactly why the original version was lost, but some edited variations were still shown over the years but these never quite matched Dreyer's original cut. I saw it on DVD from the local rental place, and this is helpful, because you can watch it with or without the new score Voices of Light by Richard Einhorn. (Each viewing is powerful in its own way.) Most moving of all is the performance of Maria Falconetti, who plays the title role of Joan, somewhat teetering on the edge of despair but always grounded in her absolute faith. The closeup shots of the good, the bad, and the ugly characters--something for everyone!--and the cinematography in general are profoundly beautiful in their starkness.

(Hey, I ain't Pauline Kael, but I know what I'm talking about.)

In a museum once, I was viewing a series of paintings about St Joan of Arc with a scholarly friend, who mused that if it weren't for her military exploits, France would have fallen under the English and would be a very different place after Henry VIII's "troubles." ('Oh, Harry, what mischief you have visited upon your kingdom!') In any case, click on the following for more erudite links (than mine!) to Joan of Arc.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dust

"Remember, man, thou art dust."

The place is a mess.

Shifting the encircling chairs
From the dining table
To the corners of the room,
And attacking the hard wood
With a dust mop.
The particles fly....

Wielding the gathered feathers,
And scourging the oak, the cherry,
The hackberry.
The particles disperse
Through a shaft of light.

Seizing the upright by the throat
And chasing down the motes.
The particles pass into
The vacuum's backward belly.

We are gentiles, after all –
Coarse, fretful, forgetting:
Sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing
For the better part of the day
Leaving the house neat and
Unclean.

Dust curls beneath the bed
And chokes the ducts, the vents;
Mites crawl between the joints,
Behind the moulding;
Skin, nails, hair shed
And pass away.
The place is never clean.

Snapping from the laden rug
The dirt of many feet.
The particles fly
And settle on the ground.

Pouring oil atop the server,
Dripping down its face and legs,
Salving the finish.

Perhaps, we are jews after all—
Fine, fretting, forgetful –
Remembering mostly the dust –
Dispersing in the cindered air –
And that to which the dust
Returns.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Poor Relations: Shrove Tuesday

An', I s'pose you'll be beatin' up some pancakes.

Ah, well, a' course. A great stack of pancakes. I've asked Himself to put a hole in the roof t'accommodate 'em.

Is that the way?

'Tis. An' a great mass of rashers. Sure, more 'n the herd of two tousand swine the good Lord drove into the sea.

Boy! An' will you be havin' anyone over?

Well, I s'pose a few of the Poor Relations -- though some of them are so well to do, like, they may not travel down to the cottage -- not willin' ta muddy their boots, y'know -- an' I've asked the young curate from St. Tom's over.

Ah, he's a fine priest. Sure, they say he can still bat a ball a mile.

'Tis true. He was part of the team when St. Brigid trampled St. Meinrad, a few years back.

That's right. But, sure, after today, we're into Lent.

Oh, don't I know it -- just a cupan te and a dried crust, now and then. 'Tis murder -- but... we'll offer it up.

Sha. Well, sure, your already well on your way to heaven. But, what about Himself?

Ah, well, he carries on like a heathen -- drawing down porter on Saturday evening and the whole of Sunday. And, great billows of smoke from that pipe of his. Sure, he never goes down to the pub now that they put out the smokers -- an' half that crowd shows up at the door, hats in hand, asking for himself. Then, they're up 'til all hours in front of the fire.

God spare us. They'll be bannin' peat fires, next ting.

Well, now, I tink they will -- th'environment and all. But, I'd wager he'll have the poteen down tonight, as well.

But, does the curate take the drink?

Well, he says he'll have a drop or two, now and then, to keep his spirits up and his liver right, and maybe a furt'er drop to tide him over 'til Easter.

But,... now, I'll need to run -- Himself is ringing on the cell -- at the market asking about what to pick up. An' we'll see if he remember's th'anniversary.

Right, then, I'll need to log off, meself. Sure, even if he forgets, he's still a fine, handsome man.

He is, at that.

***

For more on Shrove Tuesday, see here.
Link

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Case of the Lost Balance

Young Chan sat listening to the honorable grasshopper chirping in some unseen corner of his office. His desk was clear, and his fingers were busy tapping on the smooth luan. No telling when something would happen; but, he would be ready.

Just then, the beautiful Madame Wu burst through the door. "Young Chan, come quick! Grandfather has lost his balance!" Young Chan leapt to his feet, bowing to Madam Wu, but she had already left. Madame Wu had not paid his bill for the last case; but, her beauty was unsurpassed, so he set out to follow her.

He walked quickly to catch up with Madame Wu, who, in addition to being lovely, was fleet of foot. He asked himself, "What did she mean, 'lost his balance'? Why did she summon me, when a doctor could discover the malady?" Then, he remembered his Uncle's saying, "Good detective never ask 'what' and 'why' until after he's seen."

When he arrived at the house, Madame Wu motioned him into her Grandfather's parlor. There sat the Grandfather, shaking his head, which he held with his hands, muttering to himself. To the side, stood Master Ji, his arms folded, his fu manchu trimmed to an edge, his face dark and impassive.

"Grandfather cried to me that he lost his balance," said Madame Wu. "So, I summoned Master Ji -- he has helped many people find their balance again for a modest fee. But, so far, Grandfather will not listen to him, and Master Ji can do nothing for him."

At this, Grandfather looked up and shook his head again. "No, No," he said. "Lose balance. No more zhong guo cha." Then, he hung his head in his hands again.

Master Ji moved slowly toward Grandfather and Young Chan, and said, "Old man need tai chi -- restore balance."

Young Chan said, "Honorable Grandfather, please stand on one leg." Grandfather immediately stood up on one leg, extending his arms and folding up his other leg, as if he were a crane. Young Chan turned to Master Ji and asked, "Why do you say he lost his balance?"

Master Ji shook his head. "Confucius has said, 'A wise man question himself, a fool others.' Young detective too green -- need to steep to become wise."

Then, the Master began moving around the parlor. "See. Too much clutter. Room out of balance -- bad qi flow. Make Grandfather out of balance. He need Feng Shui. Make too much wind, make not enough water." Grandfather looked slightly embarrassed.

Young Chan looked around the parlor, and it was, in fact, cluttered, though generally ordered. Grandfather had apparently collected many things over the years and parted with little. Then, Young Chan heard a little voice saying: Investigation best way to find answer. Just then, he made for the door, saying, "No, that is not the problem. I'll explain later."

Soon Young Chan returned with an unusual instrument that looked like a dust mop with a flat, round, metal bottom. Grandfather and Madame Wu looked surprised and curious; Master Ji frowned. Young Chan began sweeping just above the collected items in the parlor. Occasionally, the odd thing would emit a beep, and Young Chan would look closely. Finally, after several beeps, the young detective set down the instrument and lifted, from between two Ming vases, a small set of scales.

Grandfather clapped his hands, bowed to Young Chan, and took the scales. Then, he quickly measured tea leaves on the scale, placed them in he pot, poured in water that was already boiling on the small, pot-belly stove, and drew down cups for his guests.

"You see, Madame Wu," said Young Chan. "Grandfather did not need tai chi, he needed chai tea. And," he said, turning an accusing look at Master Ji, "This man is an imposter!"


Acknowledgements to Aphorisms of Charlie Chan.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Model Non-Sports Fan Non-Talking Points

Another in our series of model texts, this one actually might be used as an aid to avoid inappropriate verbal patter during the big game, for those whose sports career and interest ended at 11 years old after a terrible loss at badminton.
  • "Hooray! Did someone score?" {No. The game hasn't started. That is just the pre-game show. }
  • "My goodness, the game must be half over by now." {Actually, it still hasn't started: the pre-grame show is just wrapping up.}
  • "Oh, those poor cheerleaders must be freezing! They ought to cover up." {Well... hmmm... I....}
  • "Tsk. They ought to learn to play fair -- did you see how they knocked that man down." {Uh... well, let me explain how the game's played. }
  • "Now, tell me if I have right: the man throwing the ball is the pitcher, and..." {Let's start from the beginning.}
  • "Home run!" {...}
  • "Oooh! That man is having a seizure" {Well, no... he just scored.}
  • "Who's for some fish-stick twists and cream soda?" {Well, well.}
  • "He was one of 'the Beatles' you say -- ah, yes, I saw them on Ed Sullivan. They might have been such handsome young men had they cut their hair. Why, he's the spitting image of Mr. O'Malley in my Elder Aerobics class." {True.}
  • "Wait. Didn't we just see that play." {That's just a replay.}
  • "Look at that! They've run the same play again. {Well, no. That's just another replay from yet another angle.}
  • "Well, why don't they call the man who catches the ball 'the catcher'? {Good point, but...}
  • "Now, they call him 'safety', but he doesn't seem very safe at all." {No.}
  • "Why is that man sitting -- in that way -- on a copy machine?" {Uh... [stifled chuckle] that's a commercial for Xerox.}
  • "Oh, too bad. He missed the -- let's see if I have this right -- the 'field goal' this time." {Actually, he was just kicking off.}
  • "It's a wonder they don't trip over the little yellow line that keeps moving down the field." {Well, that's not really there. You see, it's....}
  • "... some sort of digital overlay?" {...well, yes, actually. How did you ...?}
  • "From Mr. Pikorsky, who's teaching us 'Cyberspace for Seniors'. We're working on an HTML project -- so much fun!" {Oh.}
  • "Dear! That poor man is drenched! I hope he brought a change of clothes." {I'd say so.}
  • "How about another fish-stick twist? Are you sure? You've barely eaten." {[pat stomach, waive hand}}

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Traffic Report, Friday, February 04, 2005

Increased traffic means something else altogether sitting on the highway, barely stirring, on a Friday evening. The saddest thing lies not in the fact of it, but in the fact that we get used to it. Waiting for the brake lights to dim briefly to move forward.

So, this morning, back on the highway. After ten miles, the last full stream of traffic veers off, and we continue another thirty miles into higher elevations. Turn off at the Dismal Hollow -- aptly named -- winding, back and forth, beneath the highway. Light upon a Happy Creek , the rail cars rolling alongside. Hard turn on the Shores Road, crossing the tracks -- the valley coming into view. In the distance, the old North knob of Tree Tops stands forth. Pass by the Nurturing Mother. She is larger than before; but a larger, younger brood of hers suckles.

Wind down the Shores until it turns to gravel and comes towards an end. And, there she is -- the Daughter of the Moon and the Stars -- moving gently onward to the Place To Which Tribute Is Brought, where Oswatomie Brown came to set the captives free. The Old Man and the Stonewall once ran up and down her banks. Today, small gaggles of geese tread against her flow.

Another poor relation is here, shoring and restoring a cabin on stilts at the Daughter's edge. She is quiet now, as in most days; but, they say that if She ever rises up in fury and fullness, and sweeps away this abode, then the grandfather clause will pass, and they can build no more. But, the pillars here are strong -- two by two cinder block with veins of poured concrete and steel rod, fifteen feet into mother earth -- and the locals say She has never risen above the pillars.

Inside is cedar and a pot-bellied stove that glows with heat. Still some floor to be shod and such. On the cedar hang photos of poor relations -- some passed on -- the Mother, the Brother, the Wise Aunt; a picture of the Blessed Mother -- expectant, just beginning to show, moon and stars; a painting done by the Wise Aunt of a old, gravel road far away -- coming into view, curving slightly upwards, then passing out of view. Not a hint of traffic.
Link

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Word On Our Commentators

We have had many inquiries of late concerning our commentators: Who are they? Where do they live? What do they look like? What are their backgrounds? What are their habits and predispositions? True, almost all of these inquiries came from law enforcement authorities. But, our other gentle visitors should not hastily conclude that these commentators are denizens of some seedy and seamy virtual underworld. Far from that.

As we have done with our other Contributors, we wish to dispel some myths surrounding this noble group of note.

  • Your commentators are all bought and paid for. Read our lips: our commentators have never been remunerated in any fashion for their comments on these pages. We have never given anything of value in exchange for a kind-hearted note (other than whatever trifling, incorporeal, and even immeasurable value these pages offer). In fact, they have pleaded with us that they be permitted to pay us for the privilege of commenting. But, we would have none of that: we may be poor -- in fact, so desperately poor that we can barely afford the private barista or the mobile stylist for our Pomeranians -- but, we are too proud to accept this charity.
  • Your commentators seems so distant and remote. A classically unfair charge. The very nature of the medium suggests that the commentary will be widespread and remotely offered. To be sure, they may concentrated among the American East Coast establishment; but, as you can see, we are graced by Heartlanders, Flatlanders, Panhandlers, and Ranchers -- not to mention our correspondents in Sao Paolo, Lagos, and Borneo. We have flung open our binary doors to the world -- near and far -- and, we could, thus, hardly complain about the character of wanderers and strangers who drift in to drink our coffee and admire our award-winning dogs.

But, do not take our word on it: see below, anon, for commentary on this latest outrage.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dog Daze

Full disclosure: With some guilt, I admit that I am not a dog lover. So the following has left me both musing and wary:

The president of our local civic association recently pointed out that the 2000 census had revealed that our neighborhood had the highest population of dogs in the county. This bit of information has emboldened dog owners to organize doggie gatherings via e-mail in the local park. (This in a community that has become known for its rabid fights over dog parks vs. people parks--green space is scarce here.) For example, the past Halloween, dog owners announced a doggie party in the park. Imagining hundreds of barking dogs tricked out in plastic masks and nylon costumes--is it a pit bull or is that just a mask?-- I declined the magnanimous invitation, recognizing it as a throw away gesture extended to local humans for the illusion of being “inclusive.”

The whole shaggy business brought to mind the time that I ran into a school acquaintance who had married her childhood sweetheart and was now pursuing a law degree. We met up unexpectedly at a diy copy machine in bookstore near the campus. “Yes, no children yet. But we have a dog,” she volunteered. Apparently a stratagem to staunch all further talk on the subject of progeny. I, being unmarried, only felt it a bit of a non sequitur, and we prattled on about mutually known family members.

Predictably, (she always was a smart gal) now she is a high-powered lawyer living in a mansion in a tiny hunt-country-like suburb 20 miles from her big city offices, and I hear they have at least one child. But what about the dog, I wonder?

I wasn’t sure, but smarter minds than mine have done a little extrapolation. P.D. James’ novel, The Children of Men tells the tale of how in the not-too-distant-future, the contraceptive mentality of the good people of England has reduced the dog-loving Brits to oohing and ahhing over Fido in a pram, all dolled (or dogged?) up in infant’s clothes. There are no more children being born in England! A Jamesian fantasy, you say? Read on about what’s happening over here.

In a certain office in a certain city, 20-something and 30-something marrieds and unmarrieds have recently succumbed to kind of dog buying frenzy. One newlywed couple, who had talked briefly about children in the early months, bought a little dog instead. A year later, they are divorced. He got the dog. Another young couple, bought a collie, and had to yank out the carpet of their brand new townhome when the dog developed a variety of allergies--all of them rather hard to pin down. Allergic to what was uncertain, but the vet at least is benefiting. Final outcome: time to buy an additional dog as a companion--one for him, one for her. Co-workers left and right, were becoming new dog owners and trading stories about the sleepless night with puppy, worried calls to the vet, and cooing over doggie pictures on screen saver and cubicle, as if the dogs were, well, human children.

What can a non-dog owner do, but smile and say “How cute!”? In an effort to get to the bottom of my dogged indifference, I made a quick list of nearly every dog that I have ever known, in the hope of arriving at some grand insight.

Charlie: A skinny, white short-haired dog with brown spots, that raced around the front yard. “Charlie! Charlie! Get back here!” yelled the Reilly children as the dog tore across their front yard. Mischievous Charlie never listened.

The Yapping Terrier: The ferocious guard dog one tricycled past very quickly. Unless you were Irene, who would walk up to the gate and give it a good shake to fully activate the dog.

The Dalmatian: A cool, taut dog with odd eyes. Even as a 7-year-old, I noted how the owner held on to its leash.

Max: A golden retriever of Aunt Helen--the first dog I liked.

Polar: The dog-next-door, later childhood. A Great Pyranees needing much combing and pooper scooping. Dogs demand responsibility.

Sergeant: A toy poodle. Very affectionate, but a little tongue goes a long way.

Sasha: An Akita. One smart dog, and big!

Bones: My sister’s dog, loving and sloppy.

Colby: Her next dog, a much beloved black lab.

Shadow: Her current dog, also black. Scared the dickens out of my four-year-old son--a dog lover in potentia.

Happy: No idea of the breed. Small and furry--and appropriately named. I learned that dogs must be walked--even at night.

The Chocolate Lab: A housemate was dog-sitting. This lab was a dog I could love!

In Peking: No dogs noted, except as ancient statuary. Apparently, Communism has no room for dogs.

On Hampstead Heath: Rather too many sleek whippets and other racing dogs. It’s
happening
, P.D.!

My own neighborhood: A dog in every house--except ours, it seems.

It’s a limited list, I admit--perhaps an indication of my rather circumscribed life. So I can only offer my limited insights.

To those who have persevered to the end of this account, I ask whether you can offer some stories of canine heroism or humor that might endear me to the animal race that I fear is on the ascendancy in my town.

When the re-education camps get set up, Dear Reader, I want to be ready!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Walking Into Things

Your humble Contributor, ever mindful of the safety and edification of our gentle visitors, has these brief thoughts to pass along.

Now, we are all familiar enough with doors. These days, more and more will simply open for one who approaches, provided that the generally attentive imp perched in his smokey, little glass case is alert and one's gait speed is within his range of tolerance. Then, the imp pulls whatever lever he must, and the machinery of the fine ingress or egress is engaged, and -- hooray! -- the portal to another internal world -- such as , say, Walmart -- is op'd. And, the vigilant imp turns his attention to the next entrant, cracking another tiny sunflower seed between his teeth.

But, most closed doors still require the turn of a knob to open. Your humble Contributor learned this anew today -- the marvelous engineering of a door -- a small, but complete twist of hand is all that is required. But, that much is definitely required. Oh, and, these doors are so solid and sound and still, especially the metal variety: wonderfully resistant to flesh and bone in motion. What an impression they leave.

So too, signposts, your Contributor has discovered. These spectacles, which fairly give him sight, still bar the faint mark left by such a post -- let's see, the head was turned to the side, distracted by some non-prescribed spectacle, as the head, including vision-correction gear, and most of the torso (along a vertical line) addressed the slightly rusted steel edge mid-stride. Something of a shock, yes: like bumping into a particularly hard, immovable stranger.

Hello! Oh, dear! Are you alright? I'd offer you a hand; but, well, as you see.... Yes, I maintain this same outpost -- I am a post, after all -- standing vigil over this special space reserved for the weak of limb; warning away the sleek and the strong, lest they suffer rebuke and penalty; never mind the weather or the hour. I am here -- and, of course, now, you have found me. Delighted.

Such chance meetings. And, as a consequence, the tiny screw on the glass frame ever seeks to loosen itself and free the old, slightly marred but still lucid lens, and the crease in the forehead shows forth most noticeably during expressions of surprise -- such in that millisecond before the face strikes the door.

Though, age does present it's problems. Clerks at three separate stores politely noted that no clip-on sunvisors are now available for these "dated" glasses; one graciously offered that she had not seen such since the last century. What a charming salesgirl.

But, there it is: a lesson in physics, engineering, fashion, and the serendipitous encounters with man-made objects. To some, we might suppose, these are pedestrian observations -- but, then, your Contributor was on foot.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On Legal Wronging

What torts there lie in the tortured scrib'lings
Of scriv'ners, scratching at their desks,
Who answer Law's attornal calling
By twisting terms to fine grotesques.

The humble layman pleads at reading
Th'unholy scribes pernicious scrawl:
"May God preserve this writ so witless,
As witness to creation's Fall."

Against the quills that ink infernal,
And laser lamps that, unquenched, burn,
Comes now my plaintiff list of errors:
Read on and, sadly, will you learn.

With referents littered herein, therein
(Aforesaid telling wheretogo),
We're led into the hereinafter,
Directly toward the place, below.

Redundabundance reigns, againly,
The repetitious legal mind:
For each and every word inflected,
Another follows to remind.

(Anticipations will be expected
For every risk that takes a chance,
And memories are recollected
Of each surrounding circumstance.)

The next of kin is Pleonasm,
That wordy verbosity of every term, phrase,
clause, sentence, and paragraph, including,
but not limited to, punctuation and case,
appearing on the face of, or comprising,
or causing to compromise our laws;
This, quite simply, due to the fact that
For most of us it's just "because".

Were English Law's most favored language,
We might have read in regnal Anglo;
But, per ipso jure, leges Angliae
Scriptae sunt in delicto lingo.

In church, the Roman tongue speaks lauds;
In court, res ipsa loquitur;
But too much Latin lexi causes
A sine qua non sequitur.

And French creeps in as l'enfant terrible
(Our cousin, Norman, owed a spanking);
For barristers, from en ventre sa mere,
Hope, one day, to go en bancing.

But forgive these few and scattered faults--
For ev'rything a seasoned place;
And, all these present points in time will
Become distant moments in space.

And, as there's too few gentle lawyers,
We should have known this all along,
Of legals and their lingual lapses:
At law, whene'er they write, they wrong.