This Isn’t a Post About Anything. I Was Just in the Mood to Type.

Seriously. The title isn’t a clever trap to trick an unsuspecting reader into complacency and then reveal some grand truth at the end. No knowing rhetorical questions will be posed and no semi-nude pictures will be shown below the “— Read More —” break. I’m just whiling so feel free to make the most of your reading time and go read The Spare by The No Longer Tabloid Cover Corner Dweller Formerly Known as Prince Harry and then summarize it for me.

I read someone on Twitter comment that people who say they don’t like the royal family sure do know a lot about them. I didn’t think he meant Cromwell. I don’t really care about the royal family but I’m not going to back away from paying attention to what is turning out to be an extraordinarily well publicized train wreck just because I’m worried people might think I’m a fan. It’s not like a Venn diagram of people who’ve seem The Kardashians and people who’ve seen Kim Kardashian naked would be a circle. People can tell when something trashy on their peripheral is trashy enough to note. I just want to know what’s up with Harry and Megan without having to read anything longer than an eight inch blurb about what’s up with Harry and Megan and I’m certainly not going to interrupt my busy current Italian soccer/Monk/Impractical Joker’s highbrow T.V. (television) viewing with something so base as their Netflix series. A Reader’s Digest gossip post is out there and I’m going to find it and get someone to summarize it for me.

I was just sitting in front of a keyboard and typing. Should that be “I am just sitting in front of a keyboard and typing.”? Usually, I would say yes but the previous plus one paragraph demonstrates foreknowledge about what is not at the end of this post so it seems awkward to write about now when I know about later. I’m making an executive decision and announcing that I am in the here and now no matter how prescient I may seem, and boy am I going to seem prescient seven paragraphs from now.

Continue reading

POETS Day! George Gordon, Lord Byron

Photo by Lord Byron in solitary isolation by David Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

The wheel keeps on turning and turning and turning ‘round. Life’s disturbingly predictable if you let it continue unmolested. Shake things up. Break the expected routine. It’s POETS Day again (that “again” in no way indicates that POETS Day is included in the bourgeois and repetitive pattern of events alluded to in the metaphor of “the wheel” whose crushing lack of spontaneity are anathema to fun and apple pie just because weeks are cyclical and POETS Day arrives with weekly regularity) and that means it’s your time to be a disruptor. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Get out of that Hellespont you call a workplace before you drown. Your work is a vampire. It’s your weekend and you shouldn’t have to explain your motivation for leaving the job early to get a jump on the only time when the proper director (you) is on set. Dissemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint for a happy hour priced beverage and a mid-major game, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park and people watch, or, God forbid, go for a light jog. Do what you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.

***

“He may have been mad, bad, and dangerous to know but Mary Shelley shut herself away for a weekend and wrote Frankenstein to avoid spending time with him. ‘I’m just going to go invent the whole genre of modern science fiction rather than have a conversation with that tedious jackass womanizer.’”
– My wife

That may not be the most factual accounting.

Continue reading

Spicy Pineapple Collard Greens and The Great Vowel Shift

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

I wasn’t a very good vegetable eater as a kid. My sister was. She was evil about it. I’d be midway through the go-to opening pea deployment – a spread with a rise towards the plate edge, a scooped out crater in the middle, and a spread of green dots like a monochrome Pollock painting whisping along the curvature cunningly contrived to make it appear as there were less peas than before – as that little shrew was asking for seconds she didn’t really want. She didn’t just want to be Mom and Dad’s good little eater. She wanted to highlight that I wasn’t. A stray dog bit her once when we were playing in the woods and she had to endure a painful series of injections “just in case.” The rabies shots and the venal display she put on mugging for vegetable praise are probably unrelated. Contrary to popular usage, karma doesn’t act within the same incarnation so she won’t get hers until the next life. But she will get hers.

My oldest son claims to love veggies, but he’s got a narrow definition of them that includes French fries, pickles, and corn on the cob and excludes everything else. His younger brother will eat his brother’s list plus anything we’ve grown in the garden. It doesn’t have to be from our garden, it just has to be a variety of edible plant he’s seen come out of our garden at some point or a bell pepper, which isn’t really a vegetable but gets lumped in with them like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and a lot of the things I immediately think of when I think of vegetables but aren’t. Both turn their noses up at the bulk of our dinner sides.

Continue reading

poets day: the e.e. cummings edition

[Ed. Note: This piece was originally posted at ordinary-times.com on 4/14/22 which was a Friday, Good Friday as a matter of fact. You can look it up.]

It’s not just P.O.E.T.S. Day, it’s Good P.O.E.T.S. day. A holy day but nonetheless a day to enjoy some clever verse and in the great Scots’ (probably) tradition connive your way out of work, find a convivial barstool before the clock strikes three, and enjoy the happy hour prices in the full glory of a Spring day.

Getting out of work early is never easy but if you are a Christian with a blasphemous streak and a true believer in the power of the confessional or cleansing prayer1, Good Friday presents a unique option. In the morning start complaining about having to skip breakfast. As the day goes on mention that you feel a headache coming on as that’s a possible side effect of fasting. Later you need to feign lightheadedness. If someone suggests you eat a candy bar or just something small to keep you going don’t just say “No.” Snap at them with a “No! Dammit!” Mood changes and irritability are side effects too.

Every once in a while, sit with your elbows on your knees and rub your eyes. Step up the irritability with a touch of fatigue and eventually someone is going to suggest that you go home. Don’t blow it at the end by hopping in your car and driving off into the nowhere near sunset. Tell everyone you’re not up to driving and call an Uber.

Continue reading

I Read a Book! Kingsley Amis’s One Fat Englishman

The English Novel, 1740-1820

The open road winds down from Wilson’s farm
To neat lawns and a gilt-edged paradise
Where Pamela walks out on Darcy’s arm,
And Fanny Goodwill bobs to Fanny Price.

               – Kingsley Amis

Until last summer Kingsley Amis was an author I felt I should have read. Note the “should have.” I was never possessed by an urge to actually read anything of his. I just felt like knowledge of his works was something I should have in my quiver. Lucky Jim upset all the type of people I think should be regularly upset so I finally gave in and picked it up sometime in July. I’ve read two more of his novels since along with a collection of essays on science fiction, a decent amount of poetry, and thumbed through a roguish reference book on English usage. There’s another of his novels and his collected poems on my “to read” stack. I really should have gotten around to his stuff earlier.

The reviews of One Fat Englishman fall into one of two categories: those where the reviewer says that he thought the book was okay but not nearly up to the standard set by Amis in his other novels or those where the reviewer says that he thought the book was okay but not nearly up to the standard set by Amis in his other novels until for whatever reason the reviewer picked up the book for a second reading some years after the first and realized he badly misjudged this sardonically cutting and brilliant work. I’ve read it twice in the span of a month and enjoyed it thoroughly both times so I’m only a reliable judge of literary worth half of the time. Reader beware.

Continue reading

POETS Day! Elizabeth Bishop

At The Fishhouses painted by Elizabeth Bishop

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

It’s POETS Day once more, that welcome weekly wonder when we wrap ourselves in awed gratitude, warmed by thoughts of Henry Ford, visionary businessman, architect of the modern, and inventor of the weekend. Is it ingratitude towards Henry’s memory to want just a little bit more free time? Sure, the weekend is wonderful as he made it, but we all know that nothing really gets done those last few hours before the sanctioned release. People check out mentally before they clock out officially and since you’re not getting any actual work done there’s no reason for you to be there. Who’s it going to hurt if you leave at three instead of five or six? Two? Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Dissemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. It’s okay. If you didn’t do everything in your power to get out of that prison you draw a paycheck from you’d be a participant in the lie that you are going to do anything of value for the company in those Friday afternoon workish twighlight hours and lying is bad. If you think about it, being there and not working is kinda like stealing. Get out. Hit a bar and catch a mid-major basketball game at happy hour prices, stroll through the zoo and make faces at the lions, call your mom. When was the last time you called your mom? The weekend begins when you say it does, assuming your boss falls for whatever shenanigans you get up to in service of your premature but deserved escape. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.

***

Today’s featured poem is “The Map” by Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop is yet another poet who rankled mid-last-century at being included among those known as The Confessional Poets. It seems like they all objected to the name to various degrees claiming that poetic personae was separate from the poet’s and further claiming, often laughably, that obviously autobiographical narratives were some sort of ill-defined coincidence, but Bishop seems to have a point in her objection. I’ve seen her referred to as loosely associated with the Confessionals and even wrongly held up as one of them. She lost her father before she could know him. He died when she was eight months old. Her mother was institutionalized due to mental illness when she was five, and as a defacto orphan, she spent some of her childhood in Nova Scotia with her maternal grandparents, moved to Massachusetts to live with her paternal grandparents, and later to another part of Massachusetts to live with her mother’s sister and her family. An inheritance from her father left her well off. She travelled widely, moved around the U.S., and spent fifteen years in Brazil. Her homosexuality was an open secret. All of that made it into her writing at least obliquely, but who doesn’t reference their life at all? I should mention that I’ve read about twenty of her poems, of which she published only one hundred and one titles, but none of her prose, which I’ve read is more biographical than her verse. I’m not claiming to be an authority on her body of work, but from what I’ve read and what I’ve read about what I haven’t, she’s no exhibitionist and no more “confessional” than most widely-read poets of her time. She doesn’t seem to air her life out there for all to see. Certainly not enough to be grouped with John Berryman or Sylvia Plath.

She does invite you into her mind, though. It’s intimate.

Continue reading

Sad and Drunk Beats Sad and Cold, but I’ve Only Seen The Sad and Cold TV Show

I’m a fan of Ian Rankin’s detective novels, so much so that I named my dog Rebus after his Inspector John Rebus, so I have to fall into the Sad and Drunk camp although I really enjoyed Wallander with Kenneth Branaugh. I got the distinctive Wallander ring tone for my phone because I’m a geek. I can’t claim Wallander fandom on the same level as I do Rebus fandom because watching TV (television) doesn’t bring the same intimacy and understanding of a character as reading does. Shows have their own up-sides, but I connect better on a page. I own a Wallander book but as of now it’s stored unread on my kindle where it keeps getting bumped back on the “To Read” list by The New Great Thing. If the show is anything to go by, that is one Sad and Cold Scandinavian.

Continue reading

Walking and Thinking: The Divine Soda Jerk

“Notice, too, their idea of God ‘making religion simple’; as if ‘religion’ were something God invented, and not His statements to us of certain quite unalterable facts about His own nature.”
               – C.S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity

I was thinking about C.S. Lewis’s claim that God didn’t invent religion while I was walking today. I have to say that I can see where Lewis can make a semantic case but there is a substantive one to be made for the other side. For Lewis to be right, only the elemental can be from God. I don’t think that tracks. God created man who created the ice cream sundae. The ice cream sundae is still a part of God’s creation and so still created by God. If you make the argument that insubstantial things are of a separate creation then you run into trouble with physics and mathematics and other measures by which we see material creation bound. Did God create the rules of the dice game Einstein says he doesn’t play, so to speak?

One of the great pleasures of walk thoughts is that they wander. The sundae got me thinking about the details involved in creating a universe and what an early riser it must require. What are the machinations? What we may see as roundabout may be the most direct and perfect route. We look at the sundae as a minor result of a greater plan. What if it was the goal?

Continue reading

Piperade: A Spicy One Pan Breakfast for Whenever

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

I’m thinking sandwiches but that’s no answer. Big salads? Roasts? The question I’m mulling is whether there are foods we specifically identify with lunch or dinner. I can see an argument for sandwiches being of lunch in a way they aren’t of dinner, but internet argument about what qualifies as a sandwich aside, I eat things between bread at dinner often and I have a meat and two or three for lunch with the same frequency, not that I keep a log.

Restaurant menus should be a help and at first, they seem to be. Many places have an after-five menu where there’s a shift toward entrees at the expense of sandwiches in comparison to the before-five menu. The more refined a restaurant is, the more likely that the dinner menu features entrees exclusively. That seems to be an argument in favor of tying the sandwich to lunch and I think it would be a very good argument except we don’t speak French (Je comprends qu’il y en a qui parlent français mais je parle en général de la population américaine.) Unlike the Gauls we don’t have an Académie Française to dictate how much liberté we’re allowed linguistically. In English it’s messy democracy we have to deal with on that front and private enterprises like Merriam Webster and American Heritage can stand athwart yelling that x means y all they please. The fact of the matter is that if a preponderance of English speakers decide that x means z, it’ll be reflected in their next edition. In our language, dictionaries don’t tell us what words mean. They tell us what we tell them words have meant so far.

Continue reading

Notes from Reading Sylvia Plath for POETS Day

The Unexpectedness of the poppies
their gratuitous beauty in
her own frozen life
               – Unknown Annotator

I checked out Sylvia Plath’s collections The Colossus and other poems and Ariel from The Emmet O’Neal Library in Mountain Brook, Alabama a week or so ago. Rather, I checked out Sylvia Plath’s collections The Colossus and other poems and Ariel from O’Neal Library, formerly The Emmet O’Neal Library until Emmet’s views on segregation that no one knew or knows about were dug up and found to be too embarrassing to city council public relations people but not so embarrassing that the O’Neal family’s, gracious benefactors it seems, name suffer as well, in Mountain Brook, Alabama a week or so ago. Someone got to Ariel before I did. Actually, lots of people got to Ariel before I did. At least I assume so. The earliest stamped date in the book, copyrighted 1966, appears to be May 7, 1987. A lot of people likely signed their name from the card that used to be in the check out sleave adhered to the last page. It’s all computerized now, of course, so the card is no more. Some library books still have them and I like to see how many people read the book, or at least took it home, before me. Not Ariel. The card is gone. I know at least one person checked it out though, because she wrote all over the place. That’s the someone I’m focusing on, because that someone went from being a someone to being someone.

Continue reading