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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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POETS Day! Sylvia Plath

Photo by Megalit, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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

Welcome to POET’S Day of the second week in Ordinary Time. Today we try to make anguish take wing, be a light for those in the land of gloom, and bring abundant joy by encouraging you to usher in the weekend a few hours early. Why wait until Friday evening when a slight bending of the truth can get you out of work in the middle of the afternoon? It’s POET’S Day by God’s sake. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Dissemble, obfuscate, and gleefully trespass the norms that preserve our hopefully durable civilization, but be as pious about it as you can this time. Be humble and thankful at this opportunity to escape the sultry bonds of employment you’ve been given. Use the time wisely. Marvel at natures grandeur in a local park. Join in fellowship at a local watering hole before happy hour even has a chance to kick off. You deserve it. No matter how you end up spending your gotten free time (remember, stealing hours from work are only “ill gotten” if you fake being sick) maybe take a moment to enjoy a little verse.


This week’s POET’S Day poet is Sylvia Plath which makes banishing anguish, bringing light and abundant joy a thing of the weekend activity rather than the poem. Sorry about the bait and switch. I won’t go into her background because I want to do something different this time and break this week’s featured poem down stanza by stanza. Plath was mentally ill. She described her manic depression in a 1958 journal “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative—whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” In January of 1963 she told her doctor that she had been deeply depressed for six or seven months. In February of that year she put her head in a gas oven and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the months before her death she wrote poems that would be posthumously collected along with a few of her previously published but uncollected works and titled Ariel, released in 1965. In the introduction, poet Robert Lowell wrote that these were composed at a furious pace, “often rushed out at the rate of two or three a day.” She and Lowell were among those known as “The Confessional Poets” with Elizabeth Bishop and John Berryman among others. None of them were fond of the moniker. In The Wounded Surgeon, Adam Kirsch writes that “Plath scorned the notion of poetry as ‘some kind of therapeutic public purge or excretion.’” Not that it mattered. They all were heavily autobiographical. In Ariel Plath writes of her past suicide attempts, resentments towards her father and husband, and carbon monoxide poisoning should there be any doubts that her suicide wasn’t considered long before it’s execution.

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POETS Day! Philip Larkin

The copyright on this image is owned by Bernard Sharp Edit this at Structured Data on Commons and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

The copyright on this image is owned by Bernard Sharp and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

[Ed. Note: This piece was originally posted at ordinary-times.com on 9/16/22 which was, in fact, a Friday. You can look it up.]

Happy P.O.E.T.S. Day! It’s been over a month since I posted one of these. Sorry, but life interrupts its own course sometimes. Unexplained absence due to a slack work ethic, galivanting across the countryside, or fitful bouts of Netflix bingeing aside, it’s that day again, so let’s let bygone days be bygone days and embrace the ethos of the moment to Piss off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, and having left work behind begin the weekend early with zeal and vigor and all sorts of other things we might feel when we find ourselves freed prematurely from the surly bonds of work.

I came across this week’s poet after doing one of my occasional listings of books that I feel like I should have read at some point in my life but never got around to. From my most recent reckoning I picked out Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim. Everything I knew about it should have beckoned me earlier. The book is supposed to be hilarious and nasty (in the cruel rather that the Debbie Does Dallas sense.) I love hilarious and nasty (both senses.)

I started it last night and can attest to the nastiness. It’s like a sardonic P.G. Wodehouse tired of an “Oh Gosh!” Bertie Wooster trying to avoid an accidental engagement to be married and recreated him as Jim Dixon, a social climbing would-be lecher, given the right number of bitters, and let him loose on the unsuspecting English gentry. Imagine Wooster as Michael Knight and Jim as Garthe. I’ve only read the first eighty pages so that’s all I can attest to though I can only imagine he’ll get worse as I read on.

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How Do We Repay a Good Deed?

My wife was at the Apple Store, a vile place that is kryptonite to upstanding Android/PC devotees such as myself, where they have those out the door lines. I suspect they make you take your shoes off to pass the threshold like when you were ten and went over to that kid’s house whose mom was a retired marine. The lady in line behind her heard my wife tell the clerk, who likely has a much more outlandish title than clerk, that she was there to replace her Apple Pencil (not ipencil because of “I, Pencil” I assume) as it had ceased. The woman behind her, untitled as far as we know, said that she was there to upgrade her something or another and that her Apple Pencil wouldn’t be compatible with the new set up. She gave my wife her old one.

That was really nice of her. It saved us a hundred and twenty buck or so, bolstered my rosey faith in humanity, and may have set her up for an adversarial interaction with the clerk (technology-duala or whatever) depending on whether iclerks work on icommissions. That eavesdropping line lady is alright.

So how do repay her kindness? We are on the down on the ledger and manners requires at least a gesture of some sort. I can only assume that the electronic item she gave us was first altered to track our location and listen into our conversations. We could put on some sort of show for her.

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POETS Day! Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov Photo by Henry Kellner, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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

It’s POETS Day! Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday… yay…

Look. I’m trying to be enthused about sneaking out of work and starting the weekend early, but the college football season is done. Party’s Over, Endure The Sabbatical feels a better fit. August 26 is a long way off and I’m full of existential questions. “Are you really a Saturday if no one misses a holding call?” “How are you not just a secular Sunday?” Justify yourself, Saturday.

I guess all the non-football related fun stuff is still out there and once the pain of loss ebbs I’ll pick up and remember that weekends are still worth living for and shift hours are still damned tools of the oppressor but right now my heart just isn’t in it. Sure, you could dissemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization as per usual, but why? There’s no college football methadone out there. The rules are still the same though let’s face it. We’re just going through the motions here. All means are a-okay in service of the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park, go for a swim, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend, I guess. I’ll need a bit to mourn and acclimate. Thankfully, there’s still verse to pass the time.

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A Blog in Full

I’ve wanted to do more with the blog for a while or I’ve been wanting to do more with the blog for a while for precisely that reason. There has been a time over which I’ve wanted to do more with the blog so “I’ve been wanting” seems correct in that it conveys a continual desire over time, but it also seems clunky. “I’ve wanted” leaves it open as to whether I was occasionally hit by a passing fancy. I didn’t even attempt “I wanted.” That makes it sound like I considered and abandoned an attractive idea.

It’s a saw that you can break grammar rules when you know them and I’ve got personal experience that says the rules aren’t always the best way to precisely convey information. I bought a used copy of Warriner’s English Grammar as a refresher and we have a lot of writer on writing books at the house an a few snarky titles like The Deluxe Intransitive Vampire. I’ve wanted to do more with the blog because I think improved clarity will come as a byproduct of practice and grumbling at oddball constructions that either carry the right rhythm but also ambiguity or tell the reader exactly what I mean to say without the slightest hint of wit or character.

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