Some Housekeeping

I just realized that I haven’t posted any links to the stuff I’ve written over at Splice Today. It’s a cool eclectic site that you’ll likely get a kick out of if you have a moment or so. Check them out. Nice people.

Thanksgiving Leftovers for POETS Day – Reheated Christina Rossetti

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

There’s not much to Piss Off Early from, despite Tomorrow being Saturday. I’m probably wrong about this but to me “seizing” implies taking from. Most people are off work the day after Thasnksgiving so…can you seize the beginning to a weekend if it’s uncontested? Unless you are mid-melee in an epic struggle with a fellow Walmart shopper vying for the last Play Station 5.2 I don’t see much seizing going on today at all. There’s no boss pressing you with a deadline and the threat of late Friday hours. You haven’t hit any stir-crazy milestones because it’s bound to have been a light week. There’s nothing of the standard annoyance to escape from.

Normally I suggest using your reclaimed time in a carpe diem way – hit the bars early, enjoy the park, etc. None of those things hold as much Friday afternoon appeal when they are permitted. I’m going to watch the US play England in the World Cup and do some laundry. My kids are going to the movies but I’m not joining them. I hate theaters now that they all sell nachos; might as well hand everybody a set of maracas. Also, they won’t pause when I have to go to the bathroom and the drinks are really expensive and big so I have to go to the bathroom at a wine bar like dollar to urination ratio. I have a pretty good mystery novel I’m midway through and I see that There Will Be Blood is available streaming on Paramount Plus and I’ve never seen that. It’s ho-hum, but I’ll be okay.

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How To Deal with That Family Member at Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

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

Thanksgiving dinner is intended to be a convivial affair. Much is made of the idea that we should stop and consider our blessings, note the good that others have done for us, count the times that we have feared but not lost, and the recognize than when we have lost the sadness felt was in proportion to the joy we were lucky enough to share in. I’ll not object to such exercizes. We should enumerate and recognize the things that make our lives better and give thanks for them each and separately. I don’t think I’ve ever done that, but we should. To me, and I assume many others, the wonder of Thanksgiving comes from less the mental tabulations – again, worthy activities – than time set aside to spend in communion with those we love; the feelings of thanks flowing effortlessly from and through the fellowship and unbidden forming yet another entry on the grand ledger for which we give even further thanks. Properly set, the Thanksgiving dinner table is a familial perpetual emotion machine. At least, it should be. We do our best. That’s why I’m so loathe to bring this up.

We all have that relative who is going to disrupt the Thanksgiving dinner harmony this year. It’ll likely be a man. I don’t want to be sexist, but it will. Your brother, uncle, brother in-law, father, grandfather, or cousin is going to say something controversial. Ideally, I’d sit on my hands and hope his inane thoughts get ignored and he moves on to other subjects, but these days there are devoted cable stations, web sites, and all manner of social media clamour feeding the bubble he lives in and god knows how many circular bias reinforcing bar conversations he’s a veteran of. He’s been marinating in this fantasy and has enough ammunition to blather on from soup to nuts. In addition to annoyed eye rolling adults, there’s the matter of any children present at the table. Should you sit by while a supposed authority figure fills their minds with this? You have to weigh his intrusion on their formative mind against the risk of upsetting your host and having it out with the offending presence right then and there (in which case I believe your host and probably all of the other guests will be secretly relieved and thank you later.) I say have it out. If you are cutting and decisive you may have him vanquished and silent before anyone sits at the table because when he sees Detroit playing Buffalo on TV he won’t be able to help but smugly inject some variation on “Flip channels so we can watch some real football. Brazil and Serbia, man! World Cup!” Properly armed you can end this now.

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A Quick Note on the Rossetti POETS Day Post

I mentioned the parallel between the sisters Laura and Lizzie in “The Goblin Market” and the sisters Lilian and Lilias in “An Apple Gathering” in my earlier post. I didn’t make clear my beliefs on why Rossetti didn’t use the names of the first set of sisters twice rather than give the second original names meant to call the first to mind.

This is probably something apparent to many, but I had an “Oh… of course.” moment when thinking about it so I figure it deserves mention if for no other reason to show that what you may consider obvious I may consider cryptic and secreted away. We know that in “The Goblin Market” it’s Laura that gives in to temptation and that Lizzie resists in the face (literally) of an onslaught of enticement. We know who was strong and who was weak. That is not the case with Lilian and Lilias. They are meant to be counterparts to the first but not individually. One of the two has sinned, but we don’t know which. We assume the heroine of “An Apple Gathering” knows which of the two needed forgiveness, but to the reader, so complete was the power of redemption that, Lilian is indistinguishable Lilias and vice versa. We’re not supposed to be able to tell the difference.

I thought that was a deft little move on Chrissie’s part.  

POETS Day! Christina Georgina Rossetti

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

POETS Day will sneak up on you if you let it. That doesn’t absolve you of your duties, of course. You still have to meet your obligations and do the day’s thing: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Just know that there are those of us who understand that sometimes a mid-afternoon escape from work will not benefit from a well thought out plan. You have to summon inspiration and work with the tools you find laying about. Thankfully those who intend to weasel out of the office before official release is granted probably mastered the art of the faked illness as a kid in order to get out of school, so they’ve seen a lot of mid-morning I Love Lucy reruns. That rascally redhead taught them three very important things. First, if you want something there is no limit to the amount of humiliation you are willing to endure to get it. Second, the only thing keeping you from a career in showbusiness is that smooth-talking, spotlight-hogging husband of yours. Third, whatever the consequences of your actions, they will not be so dire as to deter you from trying something as equally ill-advised seven days later, assuming the advertisers are still on board. Focus on the benefits of risking your source of income by lying to your boss and leaving your co-workers in the lurch for a few Friday afternoon hours. Ignore your conscience. Consciences are problematic. They keep people from doing great things like sticking with their mentor to rule the galaxy side by side just because he’s mean to their kid.

Fake temporary aphasia, cake oatmeal on your arm and claim leprosy, freak out saying “How?… No… I can’t move again…” when the UPS guy or a customer you’ve never seen before comes into the office and make sure and tell anyone who will listen that you are definitely not in the witness relocation program while safely cowering under your desk. Do whatever you must to kickstart your weekend and get out of there. Roll with the bon temps. But first, take in a little verse to stir your impulsive creativity.

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POETS Day! George Mackay Brown

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

Welcome once again to the POETS Day prefab intro paragraph, that wonderous paragraph that heralds the day where we do our best to usher in the weekend, Henry Ford’s greatest creation, a few hours ahead of schedule by embracing the ethos of the day: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Disassemble, 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 into a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, confound the universe by spending your reclaimed afternoon in church confessing your trespasses, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park wishing you had a BB gun to knock that smug squirrel of his branch, go to a hardware store to buy a measuring tape and measure stuff, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. 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.

George Mackay Brown was born in the town of Stromness in the Orkney Islands, and he liked it so much he decided to stay. There was a brief while when he went to study in Edinburgh but after that it was back to the islands for him and the rest of his seventy-four years. He admired the simple ways of his home and wrote often of its history, interweaving the ancient with the modern.

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POETS Day! John Donne

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

Welcome to POETS Day! The John Donne Edition, so prepare to Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. By the time this post is published you still won’t have voted yet so feel free to make your workplace a haven for free speech. Who will end up holding the reins of power is on quite a few minds. People say that it’s impolite to talk about politics or religion in public, but people love to talk about politics and religion. Once they get going it’s Katie bar the door. Indulge their desires by giving the people what they want and don’t hold back. If people are reticent to speak up start assigning positions like a debating coach. “Sally, you defend congressional stock trades. Bill. Abortion. I’ve got you down for anti. Tommy, pretend to be above it all and keep saying that there’s no real difference between the parties.” Have fun with it. Maybe designate a supply closet as the penalty box. I’ll give it thirty minutes before everyone is at each other’s throats and forty-five before the walk outs begin. Follow suit. You aren’t going to get any work done in this environment. Hit the bars, grab a matinee, surf PornHub for the articles, take a walk along a creek, or otherwise indulge yourself. It’s the weekend and it comes early to those willing to seize it. But first, some metaphysical stuff.

Samuel Johnson had some harsh words for the metaphysical poets. He thought they were showoffs always trying to impress on the reader how learned they were. He’s probably right about that. He also had issues with their devotional poetry. He felt that any communication with God was by de facto divine and attempts to improve the experience by framing it poetically were attempts wasted. The divine exists above poetry. I’m not a Johnson aficionado so I have no idea whether or not he had similar issues with devotional poetry by non-metaphysical poets, but I have read a few lines of his explaining why it was okay when Milton did it. I just skimmed his Milton excuses, but it seemed to me like he was protesting too much.

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Amble On

Today I imagined my neighborhood differently. It was during our early evening walk where my wife and I discuss the lighter parts of the day: the children’s preoccupations of the moment, oddities we saw or heard about, a bit of gossip, or what we’ve been reading or watching. Sometimes our conversations verge on free association riffing off each other as we stroll. Sometimes we walk in quiet. My mind wanders when we do that.

In my head the streets are filled with other people walking, more than the usual dog walkers and joggers by a large margin. These new people, make believe neighbors all, were social; waving to each other and asking about this or wishing well about that. The houses were still one story two- or three-bedroom constructs, but they were also shops. One was a florist, another a bookstore. There was a grocer and a wine shop(pe), and aside from the architecture the streets looked every bit as if they belonged in a British country village where tranquility threatens to be shattered by first one murder and then another. Unfortunately, the nosy vicar or widowed librarian figures out who the murderer is, but only after the cad strikes his third and final victim (the police detective being otherwise indisposed at the Covington Estate, investigating the connections between a land developer and the murdered local dowager’s playboy nephew who just yesterday returned from the south of France only to find his aunt gasping her last almond-scented breath.)

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POETS Day! Cecil Day Lewis

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

I’d love to wish you a joyous POETS Day, but I don’t see my wishes making any difference. You’re still encouraged to embrace the POETS Day ethos, Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, but this time your motivation is not an early happy-hour beer and tolerably spicy chicken wings. It’s not a refreshing walk in the park with that fetching he or she that has caught your eye. It’s not even to declare independence and lay claim to time that should rightfully be yours to waste. It’s Halloween weekend, and though the actual holiday may not be until Monday, do you think those bratty little trick or treaters, hiding behind their oh-so-cute Davey Crocket, Nancy Drew, or misnamed Frankenstein costume, are going to innocently while away the time until the clock green lights their mischief? I’m telling you they won’t. They have a whole weekend, and they know that school ends at three and most homeowners don’t get to leave work until sometimes after five, giving them a free Friday reign of terror through neighborhoods unprotected by adults. Not even the cover of darkness will so embolden them. So lie, cheat, fake, disgrace yourself in front of your co-workers – whatever it takes to get out of work early to protect the homestead lest the Kinderly Ones get there first and egg your house, roll your trees with toilet paper, or sacrifice your cat at one of their Johnson’s Baby black masses.

Today I chose a selection from Cecil Day-Lewis, British Poet Laureate from 1968 – 1972, one time very active but eventually reformed Communist, friend and devotee of Auden, popular mystery writer (under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake) and father of four – among them Academy Award-winner Daniel Day-Lewis. His relation to the actor means he comes with a ghost story, which fits in nicely considering it’s the Halloween weekend.

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POETS Day! William Wordsworth

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

Welcome to POETS Day! Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, and you’ll surely want to oblige the acronym as this week is the special Slipped Into Curmudgeonlyness edition so get audibly frustrated with an underling’s inability to help you sign into your email, blow your top over the sadistically icy 68° thermostat setting, cough a menacing “I’m sick and I’m going to bring you all down with me” cough, call at least two people Bill even though they are not named Bill, leave a tip for the guy from the mail room but no more than a nickel; in general, be so annoying that when you declare that your patience with the people around you has reached its limit and storm out no one will follow.

Now feel free to move about the weekend, your normally kind and ebullient self, having been momentarily overtaken by a cantankerous pensioner, once more assertive and dominant. Think happy thoughts and enjoy happy hour.

William Wordsworth lived to the ripe age of eighty, but at the age of thirty-two he couldn’t have known that. The life expectancy in England’s cities then was only between twenty-five and thirty years old. Out in the county where he spent most of his years the average time from womb to tomb increased significantly to forty-one. Still, at thirty-two he wouldn’t be faulted if he felt he was getting’ up there, so he had an old man’s “Get Off of My Wafting with Natures Glory Lawn!” moment.

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