(show newest first)

from bleak

Man, all of the news seems so bad these days. The economy getting set for a long haul bout of fear and loathing, George W. pimping for a tax cut nobody really wants and a star wars plan nobody will really benefit from save for the military companies trying to build it, though it ticks off friend and foe alike to no end. Foot & Mouth in Europe, West Nile here. School shootings, a military dropping bombs on itself. More bad weather. The Red Sox getting creamed in the preseason-- and I don't even care that much about the Red Sox. Who woulda thought that the 2000s, such a beacon of promise for the future, would start out so damn bleak?

Ah well, at least I have my health, according to the Doctor yesterday. And Mo found new work. And I've come to terms with life in all its shortness and longness.

Poetry of the Moment

Why I Hate Snow

Because it moves in like a bad love affair
Drifting down in ardent white sighs
Smoothing over the entire world
Only to crust overnight
And turn to dirty slush
At the first sign of day

Because it brings unreasonable joy
To dogs and small children
And causes both to leap cutely
As if the rest of us were missing the point entirely
When, in fact, we still have to go to work

Because it brings out our worst human pettiness
Sparks brawls over parking spaces
Causes minor politicians to die stupidly
Collects in our cuffs
And leaps into our boots
And turns our toes to prunes

Because, finally, Snow becomes our disappointment
in God
What begins in ornate flakes
Inimitable, divine
Ends in wet socks and pratfalls
In human grumbling over why there is mud on the carpet
And who will shovel the walk

from pop pop pop

Guestbook Entry of the Moment
From observing your site, you appear to be very self-centered.
William Jones, 2001.06.20
Well duh! This is my homepage. (For less Kirk-centric work of mine, go see the love blender.) This is a 'blog of sorts after all, and as far as blogs go, it's barely about me at all, it's about other people's quotes, and links, with a little bit of doodling and rambling.

I admit the T-shirts thing is a bit much, but it's just something I've wanted to do. Man, it's a good thing I haven't yet started up the Kirklopedia I've been thinking of...now that's self-centered.

Information Toy of the Moment

This image is a shrunken screengrab from the site The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy. "Pop" in green, "Soda" in blue, "Coke" in red, other in pink. Although I've adopted the standard term "Soda" of my current region, I still think "Pop" is a better word. In a single syllable it captures the effervescence of the stuff, it's not as clinical as "Soda" and not as hillbilly as calling everything a "Coke".
(via Image of the Day at cellar.org)

Poetry of the Moment
It wasn't asphodel but mown grass
We practiced on each night after night prayers
When we lapped the college front lawn in bare feet,

Heel-bone and heart-thud, open-mouthed for summer.
The older I get, the quicker and the closer
I hear those laboring breaths and feel the coolth.
Seamus Heaney

from honeymoon filler day 3

Dialogue of Soul & Stone

I was talking to a rock
and I said, "Stone"-
I talk to them like that-I said,
"what makes people feel extraneous?"

To which the rock in its own idiom
replied, "Extraneous's ass!
You think you got it bad.
Try igneous extrusion.
Try a little freeze and thaw.
Try glaciation.
Stand out in the weather for ten thousand years.
We'll talk extraneous."

One thing about rocks:
they cut you half an inch of slack
but never. That's why guys like me
idealize them. I said, "Sage"-
I laid it on a little thick,
this rock I'm talking to,
it's not much bigger than a Chiclet,
but I don't want to give offense-
so I said, "Sage, what
should the human species do?"

To which the rock said nothing,
but he got that look. You know:
they're thinking to themselves,
"Drop dead."

from sweet and short

Poem of the Moment
Shortest poem according to "The Guinness Book of Records".
This article talks about it and some other ideas in art.

Toy Link of the Moment
Modern Living is one of the coolest Flash sites I've ever seen. Click on the man in the recliner, then select a set of animations, then click on an animation. The collection has a very interesting style and a twisted edge, a bit like interactive Plymptoons. The parent site, hoogerbrugge.com, has some other animations as well.

from torn

Images of the Moment
From New Jersey Online, some photos from beneath Ground Zero. Read the captions underneath to see what's going on. The first photo and #8 are the most interesting, I think.

Poem of the Moment
Try to Praise the Mutilated World
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.
Adam Zagajewski, Translation by Clare Cavanaugh.
I first saw this poem in an issue of The New Yorker that had a really striking cover, the silhouette of the Twin Towers, but they were only slightly darker than the surrounding darkness. It was really moving. (The cover got some publicity when it came out, but I missed it.)

from phillyclassic philler day 1

Don't knock a stone: don't say things like "stone dead."
A stone always knows what it's about.
It holds itself together better than you do,
better than I do. A stone is comfortable
with its battery of cunning smithereens
milling around, bouncing off one another
exactly right in their tight little compound.

Any old stone--you think it can't talk?
Dumb old stone? Ho! Every atom in it talks,
every part of every atom talks. Just listen.

Trust your eyes and ears to recognize your
grandmother. A stone doesn't need eyes and
ears to know what's coming down the pike.

A stone knows what it wants, and gets it,
pressing up tight against the fluffy surrounds,
all that space made of the same stuff as the stone stuff.
Don't knock a stone: it'll show you up,
put you down, cover you up, forget you.
Paul Lawson

from fragment from a future that never was

Link of a non-Moment
Amazing Mac/typewriter hybrid, straight outta the movie Brazil. Be sure to check out the mock-Ads made for it, trying to capture the spirit of the HP Lovecraft universe circa 1926. (via boingboing)

"The Pathology in the Politics"
George W. Bush as a "Dry Drunk". It sounded kind of corny, but after reading the article, I think is might explain nearly everything...it certainly seems to fit his patterns of speech and action. (On the other hand, doesn't some of his "speech" come from professional speechwriters? Do they make his catchphrases, or get them from him? ...And I guess you can't use this excuse for most of the rest of his administration...) But a lot of his mannerisms when he's trying to be serious and stately, they are a bit like a drunk guy trying to pretend he's not.

Random Observation of the Moment
The headphones that I use at work have a little volume control on the wire itself. Just today I noticed that there's a Mono/Stereo switch on it. I was curious to see if it meant the sound was balanced between the two speakers, or just came out of one (ok, kind of dumb.) But I learned that the default Windows 'bell' sound has an odd stereophonic back-and-forth to it that I had never noticed before (until, of course, I switched my headphones to 'mono' where it became a single simple sound.)

Now you know. Carry on.

Political Web Toy of the Moment
Ranjit passed on a link that Mo had sent me a while back, Make Your Own Bush Speech. A little limited because you can only use each phrase once, but still, you can make some amusing stuff.

Poetry of the Moment
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.
from Courage, by Anne Sexton
From a collection of poetry selected by Garrison Keillor titled Good Poems that lives up to its name.

from monday mourning

Huh, without my Palm I might not have realized today was the 30th anniversary of my folk's wedding. My dad passed away in 1988--sometimes it frustrates me that that was when I was still a boring and graceless adolescent.

Shifting the Sun
When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses. May you inherit
his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join the club you vowed you woudn't.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shines forever.
And you walk in his light.
Diana Der-Hovanessian

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
An interesting article from one of the writers for Dr. Strangelove...includes description of the semi-legendary cut piefight scene. Too bad the actors let themselves slip out of character for it, and also that it took so long for the studios to recognize what a great movie it was. But mostly I just wanted an excuse to showoff this old pixeltime work I made.

Footage of the Moment
On March 31, 1984 (my tenth birthday...) a guy swooped through the 'legs' of the Eiffel Tower. I think the resulting footage and photo would seem even cooler if 9/11 wasn't tainting it with a slight air of menace.

Cartoons of the Moment
Ah, the power of Insomnia...and a Red Meatish take on a similar situation.

from pudding is not a beverage

(1 comment)
Quote of the Moment
Pudding can't fill the emptiness inside me... but it'll help!
Capt. Hank Murphy, Sealab 2021

Poem of the Moment
Loveliest of trees, the maple now
Is turning yellow on the bough.
It stands aong the trees of green,
All dressed up for Halloween.
Now of my three score years and ten,
Sixty will not come again.
Subtract from seventy, three score.
It means I don't have many more.
And since to look at things sublime,
Ten years is not a lot of time.
It's rather sobering for a fellow
To see the maples turning yellow.
What's funny is I remembered the original as being set in Winter, not spring...

from me by the sea

Lyrics of the Moment
I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
I'm glad no one's here to mess it up for me
I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
But man, I wish I had a hand to hold

I saw an orange starfish on the side of a rock
I poked on his back & tried to pull him off
A crab scared me away he ran close to my toes
And man, I wish I had a hand to hold

The moon is nowhere almost time for the sun
The voice of the waves sound anciently young
I'm a prisoner of freedom ten toes in the sand
And man, I wish I had a hand to hold

I'm in the habit of being alone
I try hard to break it I can't on my own

I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
I'm glad no one's here to mess it up for me
I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
But man, I wish I had a hand to hold
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.
I've always dug these lines. I think Edie Brickell is a little underrated.

News Article of the Moment
Science proves that Classic Video Games are good for you and your memory. Well, for 25-45 year old guys.

Link of the Moment
15 Trends Taking Shape in Logo Design. I've always liked logos. Glad they're finally getting away from all those stpid double spiral things.

from boo

(1 comment)
Sorry for yesterday's entry, it was a bit content-lite and self-indulgent. (I know, completely unprecedented for this site.)

Somehow that sign I took the photo of went away...I've got to call the Real Estate folks, I know they were sending someone to put it more firmly in place, maybe something went wrong...

Here's one thing I was working on, a little teaching program for 2600 Cookbook called "milquetoast the ghost". I think he's one of the cutest 8x8 monochrome sprites I've ever seen, especially when you press the button to make him go boo...

Political Quote and Article of the Moment
And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important
Bush Jr...
in Trust, Don't Verify William Saletan cuts him a little slack for his frequent misuse of "incredible" ("illiterate, is harmless", as when paired with "credibility") but then rips into him for the contradictions inherent in his outlook. Did you hear that clip of Bush stammering when asked if he's made any mistakes? Not being able to admit mistakes, even in the "mistakes were made" dodging-sense, is a huge character flaw.

Poem of the Moment
And then there's the one you write
that makes even you laugh.
You never want to see her again.
You don't want to see her handwriting
on a letter. You don't want to come home
and see the little yellow light
flashing messages of regret.
You don't want to pick up the phone
and hear how much she's been missing you.
Couldn't you meet for a drink?
Not any more. Maybe in a year or two.
All you want to do now
is draw a line under your life
and get on with the past.
Do you make yourself perfectly clear?
You sign with just your name,
a businesslike touch
which makes even you laugh.
Hugo Williams, "All That".
Modulo gender and technology choices, I'm thinking that's about what Mo's feeling now.

Link of the Moment
I was going to post this around Valentine's Day, but it was down, maybe it got swamped with traffic...The Kiss "is a place to talk about kisses. Specifically, it's a place to talk about those kisses that mattered - the kiss that made an impression that stuck with you long after the kiss itself was over, the kiss that you still remember all the details of, the kiss that you still think about sometimes." Cool reading.

Q+A of the Moment
Brooke followed my instructions and has answered some question trios of her own, including ones I asked. I know the "copy this into your journal" instruction works better on LJ, since everyone there has their own journal, but did any other kisrael.com question askers follow suit somewhere?

from am i blue

Image of the Moment

--More fun with yesterday's Scale2Xd filter. I have to get some new base images to play with, I use this one way too much...and now it's even worse, because I'm less inclined to use some of the nice shots of Mo I have. I'm not sure why I like this one so much...I guess having my eyes covered make it easier to mess with, plus it has some bold colors and an interesting pose.

Hmmm. Thinking about this now, I guess I'm kind of like some photoshop n00b just discovering filters...the fact that I have to do some semi-clever steps (reduce in size, tweak the palette reduction, saving as a .PNG, then running a command line program for the atual filtering) doesn't really change that...

Poem of the Moment
I phoned from time to time, to see if she's
changed the music on her answerphone.
'Tell me in two words,' goes the recording,
'what you were going to tell in a thousand.'

I peer into that thought, like peering out
to sea at night, hearing the sound of
waves breaking on the rocks, knowing she
is there, listening, waiting for me to

Once in a while she'll pick up the phone
and her voice sings to me out of the past.
The hair on the back of my neck stands up
as I catch her smell for a second.

"Siren Song", Hugo Williams.
I adore the line "tell me in two words what you were going to tell in a thousand".

(2019 UPDATE: this poem really hits me as an example of how even our relationships are changed by the technology of the day. There's nothing quite like this with today's cellphones - and most people would prefer you'd text anyway...)

News of the Moment
Texas...what a bunch of Yahoos. They want to deny the Unitarians tax-exempt status because it "does not have one system of belief". Jimminy frickin' crickets. Heaven forbid people be able to admit something besides blind "I just KNOW this is right" faith.

from snowstormyweather

So, anyone got any cool holiday stories?

Ugh...in retrospect, that's a pretty inane comment, given those horrendous tsunamis in Indonesia...

Game of the Moment
Excellent adicting and challenging flash game...Moebius Syndrome...just click to rotate straight pieces and corner pieces to form loops before the board fills up too much. Good learning curve in this game, at least for the first games (which honestly is as far as I got.)

Poetry of the Moment
I have been Roland, Beowulf, Achilles, Gilgamesh.
I have been called a hundred names and will be called a
thousand more before the world goes dim and cold.
I am hero. She has been nameless since our birth,
a constant adversary caring for nothing but my ruin,
a sword drenched in my blood forever, my greatest and
only love. She is the dark. O Lethe, enemy and lover, without
whom my very existence would be pathetic and vulgar!
Our relationship is complex and perhaps eternal.
We met once in the garden at the beginning of the world
and, unaware of our twin destinies, we matched stares
across a dry fountain. And I recall her smiling at me before
she devoured the lawn and trees with a translucent blue flame
and tore flagstones from the path and hurled them into the
sky, screaming my sins. I powder a granite monument in a
soundless flash, showering the grass with molten drops of
its gold inlay, sending smoking chips of stone
skipping into the fog. She splinters an ancient oak
with a force that takes my breath and hurls me to the ground.
Slashdot had an article on the 10th Anniversary of Marathon, a game that is the ancestor of Halo on the Xbox. I missed out on what is considered a terrific and deeper-than-DOOM adventure because I've never been much of a Mac user. Anyway, that article linked to this page covering connections between Halo and Marathon, which in turn led to this page on a message on a computer terminal in the game...though in the game, there are no spaces or punctuation, so this is the easy-reading version.

from adam and billy, bibliophiles

Brainteaser of the Moment
Two boys, Adam and Billy, go to a bookstore. Adam is 41 cents short of the price of a certain book. Billy is one cent short. They decide to combine their money to buy the book but they realize they still don't have enough. How much does the book cost?

Answer: (highlight with mouse to read -- but seriously, try to work this one out. Give it at least a half hour if the answer isn't obvious to you.)

41 cents, i.e. Adam has no money.

I got this last night after an embarrasingly long time of writing out simultaneous equations and not getting anywhere. And then I only got the answer by looking for obvious "gimmick" answers and seeing if one worked. And I realized last night that I probably didn't really get it because I was still thinking maybe there was a second answer. This morning I finally realized how to think about it properly...Bill is only ONE CENT shy of the price of the book...add ANY positive integer value to that, and he should have enough...so there's no other amount other than zero for Adam's money.
Let me know if you get it or not!

Poem of the Moment
You want a social life, with friends.
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What's true
Is of these three you may have two
And two can pay you dividends
But never may have three.

There isn't time enough, my friends--
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends--
To find the time to have love, work, and friends.
Michelangelo had feeling
For Vittoria and the Ceiling
But did he go to parties at day's end?

Homer nightly went to banquets
Wrote all day but had no lockets
Bright with pictures of his Girl.
I know one who loves and parties
And has done so since his thirties
But writes hardly anything at all.
Kenneth Koch.
Grabbed from this page which also has a great play on that old William Carlos Williams poem. (via Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life)

Passing of the Moment
Death of a Playwright. (But hey...at least he got to do Marilyn Monroe...)

from glug!

Article of the Moment
CNN reports that people are easily fooled by how much more a wider glass holds...I've noticed this myself, a full to the brim "short glass" fills the majority of one of the much taller glasses. No wonder kids are so readily duped by that "Law of Conservation" experiment. (Which is easier than I thought, for some reason I thought the kid had to guess which actually held more, which really would be tough.) (thanks FoSO...she has a better feel than most for what seems like a "Kirk Article")

Poem of the Moment
Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.
from a Stanislaw Lem "Cyberiad" story, as translated by Michael Kandel.
In story, the poem is by Trurl's mechanical poet, after Klapaucius challenges him to compose "a poem about a haircut! But lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter s!!."

from (or say a thousand billion)

(1 comment)
Poetry of the Moment
When I behold the charm
of evening skies, their lulling endurance;
the patterns of stars with names
of bears and dogs, a swan, a virgin;
other planets that the Voyager showed
were like and so unlike our own,
with all their diverse moons,
bright discs, weird rings, and cratered faces;
comets with their streaming tails
bent by pressure from our sun;
the skyscape of our Milky Way
holding in its shimmering disc
an infinity of suns
(or say a thousand billion);
knowing there are holes of darkness
gulping mass and even light,
knowing that this galaxy of ours
is one of multitudes
in what we call the heavens,
it troubles me. It troubles me.
Jimmy Carter, "Considering the Void".
This site has a video of him as well. I think this poem is kind of interesting response to what was started when the Heliocentric model of the solar system began to take hold.

from death is no different whined at than withstood

Cyclones in Burma! Volcanoes in South America! Tornadoes in Oklahoma! Earthquakes in China!

I guess I should let all that help get a perspective on my own problems and pile of stress that leaped on me as of late (Laid off friends who could use resume help! Deadlines at work! Former mentors who need side projects done! Investments gone bad! Apartment moves that need to be established!)

Probably some of the stage for the current AAAAAAHH!!! was also set by Bill the Splut's link to our planet's maybe-already-too-late need for CO2 350, tickling my old nuclear war/Y2K-ish anxieties that are generally well-coated by existential bravado but might be still lurking underneath.

So lets cheer myself up with some poetry!

Poem of the Moment
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
-- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused -- nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel
, not seeing
That this is what we fear -- no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin, Aubade

sigh. so disillusioning when you work to crank up your work ethic and it's not as big a difference as you expected.
so, advil is like a blood thinner, right? so is a headache, like, 'jeez the blood in my head is too thick'?
why does it feel easier to take the 77 from harvard than the 79 from alewife?

from this is still the world and you are still in it

Poem of the Moment
It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you'd be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week--
Three fine houses sold to deserving families--
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you'd have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you're living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don't want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day's disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You'd have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you're used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You're spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven't written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you've witnessed,
A few months ago the mantra "THIS IS THE WORLD AND YOU ARE IN IT" was in my head. I think it was kind of a refutation to the kind of thinking that this poem explores... there is no other Universe. The past is set. The future doesn't exist. Is playing a game of "what if" and "if only" good for us? The Buddhists say no. We may long for It to be otherwise, but whatever is, is.

The reality or fictitious nature of free will is another issue. We don't act, we react. We respond to stimuli before our sense of self has any idea what's going, but that sense of self hurries up and adds the component of conscious decision making that was never quite there in the sense we assume. Such is the nature of Strange Loops, the self-observing systems that Hofstadter has convinced me we are. But this strange system builds itself, we build our brains, responsible for our quick, "unconscious" response as well as our slow thoughtful musing, instinctively in much the same way a spider builds its web without "knowing" what it's doing.

Local News Bummer of the Moment
Harvard Square's iconic Out of Town News may be on its way out. And some of it might have been due to the recent construction, besides the obvious challenges of being in an area where more and more information is discovered online.

pentomino Oh great, now you've *loudly* done it. (don't sweat it!)
Found my Aunt's "Wireless" catalog--haven't seen one for decades (is it NPR or PBS affiliated?) but it's still "Lillian Vernon for yuppies"
The difference between what is / And what could have been will remain alive for him / Even after you cease existing
Y'day's work paranoia is a new found, hush-hush team of very hip coders. You can tell by the transformers T and expensive Vans sneakers.
Facebook's UI is kind of bad. I want to reply specifically to a "Wall" comment by XYZ-- click on "Wall-to-Wall" or "Write on XYZ's Wall"??

from poem of the moment

Life is not land we own.
O no, it is only lent.
In the end we are left alone
When the last light is spent.
So live that you may say,
Lord, I have no regret.
Thank you for these sunny days
And for the last sunset.
Garrison Keillor, embedded in his novel "Pontoon".
(One of the other characters disparages it a bit.) It reminds me a bit of Avatar's "all energy is only borrowed, and one day you have to give it back."
I'd like to see an honest Cocoa Puffs commercial where the announcer says "It's adjacent to this complete breakfast!"

CSS geekery... now I think any complex layout that depends heavily on float:left is doomed to be unportable and fragile, a hothouse flower.

from otherwise by jane kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.
--Jane Kenyon

from October 16, 2013


The hour from night to day.
The hour from side to side.
The hour for those past thirty.

The hour swept clean to the crowing of cocks.
The hour when earth betrays us.
The hour when wind blows from extinguished stars.
The hour of and-what-if-nothing-remains-after-us.

The hollow hour.
Blank, empty.
The very pit of all other hours.

No one feels good at four in the morning.
If ants feel good at four in the morning
--three cheers for the ants. And let five o'clock come
if we're to go on living.
Wislawa Szymborska

Looks like the placeholder at alleyoop.com ain't there no more.
Much to my delight, "Rhubarb and Custard" appears to be a bit of a thing for candy in the UK.

from September 28, 2014

My weight since 1999:

I made a new diet graph tool and put it online at kirk.is/diet, in part because I was sick of always hunting for the raw data when it was time to update it. I crudely made it a continuous curve - I like the look of it, though of course if read literally it implies my weight sometimes goes back in time. (Generally, time periods I don't have much data for get a little wonky, but I'm ok that graph visually reflects that uncertainty)

(I used to laugh when the marketing guys would use the catchphrase "up, and to the right" for what they wanted to see on their number charts, but now I get it!)
Applaud your neighbor; admire his style
That grates upon you like a sawtooth file.
His trespasses resemble yours in kind;
He too is being crowded from behind.
Don't kill; or if you must, while killing, grieve.
Doubt not; that is, until you can't believe.
Don't covet Mrs. X; or if you do,
Make sure, before you leap, she covets you.
John Updike, from "V. Conclusion"

Next giant need for Siri: a sophisticated way to correct the speech-to-text mistranscriptions, but also via voice. Getting her to understand the word "rum" is nuts. Rama? Rob? Walmart? such an infuriating almost-there technology.

from requiem for an umbrella plant

So, my mom informed that the "Kirk Tree", an umbrella plant that was planted when I was born, is no longer with us. Here we are in 2008...

It had been struggling lately, with only a few leaves at the top.

I admit I'm bummed, even though I had foisted care and feeding of it onto my mom lo these many years, it was a cool thing to know was around. It's not like it was my picture of Dorian Gray or my horcrux or anything, but as a bit of a plant sibling of mine, I feel its loss.

Poem of the Moment
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring and Fall (To a Young Child)"

Overheard at Alewife just now: "There's a Dunkins - We're saved!"

from from Leonard Richardson's "Constellation Games":

Crying isn't sadness; it happens because an emotion is too big for your body.
Bai had gone into the kitchen with a six-pack and now he came back into the living room holding one beer. It was like the opposite of a miracle.
'There are no refunds. That's the point of the game.' I should have bought two.
(The game in question has half-dead aliens wanting refunds from the gatekeeper to the afterlife... "Should have bought two" is an alien expression that kind of combines "buyer beware" and "have your cake and eat it too")
Don't be a guy who feels bad. Nobody ever knows what to do. Our life-task is to decide what to do.
A static document is a fossil of thought.
I dropped a leaf into a hole
And you dropped me in turn. I found
That gravity reversed its pull
And through the sky was solid ground.
We drop, are dropped, and each to each
It's what we do, it's not profound.
And if a hole is out of reach
We take a longer way around.
We fall in all directions. Some
Find lucky landings, higher ground.
I wait, instead, for help to come
And some of us are never found.

I left a message in the ice:
The time, the distance and the price.
Advertising copy for the Ip Shkoy computer game The Long Way Around poss. written by Af be Hui Translated into English verse by Dr. Linda Blum and Dr. Tetsuo Milk
(The game in question is about a stranded astronaut trying to return home.)
It wouldn't be the first time the power of love was responsible for a whole lot of bullshit.
Those were some passages I really liked on rereading Leonard Richardson's "Constellation Games". Man, I wish I knew how to get this book the attention "Ready Player One" gets... it's orders of magnitude superior.

from July 16, 2016

A while back James Harvey posted a link to Prince on the piano riffing on "So High" - at 18 minutes it's longer than I'd put in my music collection, but it's good.
Accept the things you cannot change:
the bleating clock,
the nightly go
--dog leash in tow--
around the block,

neural chemistry,
patchy hair,
a longing stare
and X-ray eye,

and the niggling fact
that things will stay
roughly this way,
to be exact.

Forgive the things you cannot have:
the supple bod,
taut undergrads,
a nicer pad,
long chats with God,

an older name,
your peers' respect,
the oll korrect,
unbridled fame,

a sense of ease
in your own skin,
a lighter burden
by degrees.

The life you'd swap for on the train
(sight unseen)
is much like yours
though it appears
more green.

So, why this pain
that shorts the breath
and spoils your health?
You grow serene--

not yet, but after
your will resigns
a few more times
with heavy laughter.

LOL Trump. Why is public radio playing his VP like its news not propaganda? Also I love how he says he's going back over the years to look at the Middle East, starting with Clinton, and some how skips 2000-2008? LOLOLOL, Republicans.
Pokemon Go is also terrific if you enjoy having your workday constantly interrupted by imaginary bats, like Hunter S. Thompson.
Washington Post

So I've been noticing more music missing from iTunes :-( Luckily I have both some old archives and even the mojo to parse out what old stuff might be missing, but it's a super-pain. My devblog: parsing itunes Library.xml into json

from November 4, 2016

Wheels sigh with longing for the horizon.
Hunger moans in the spoon's hollow belly.
Tools recount the needs from which they arose
and so comprise a history of human desire.

The match recalls fear in the fireless night,
the saw's oiled teeth plead for perfect order,
the pen cannot imagine life without ink.

Even that technology employed by the soul
in its perilous escape from the prison of the body
is exhibited here, in these letters, in words.


Odd Dream bit, Richard Feynman was a band leader at some kind of street festival. He was showing off some topological principle by a surprisingly sparse net that was keeping a bunch of foam balls around his body. (Not unlike one of the Fruit of the Loom "grapes" guy, not that that had much to do with the dream) The soloist was Kurt Vonnegut on Clarinet. (I think my subconscious may have been oddly merging Woody Allen's side instrument with R. Crumb's musical look and feel.)
Don't take life so serious, son, it ain't nohow permanent.
Walt Kelly's "Pogo"
Not to underplay the importance of presidential election, especially viz a viz the supreme court and also the message about, well, anyone who ain't a straight white male, but I think people are forgetting our ability to muddle through. (That said, I'm finding a weird comfort in having ordered "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction"... )

from January 1, 2017

One Second Everyday for all of 2016.

1. Man, it was a long year! The stuff at the beginning of the year seems so long ago. (Seems kind of weird I've only been going out with Melissa for a year and half or so.)
2. Arguably, there's too much band stuff :-D I mean it's important to me, and photo/audiogenic, but maybe I should start favoring less repetitive stuff...
3. I think I might start posting these seasonally rather than monthly. I'm wondering if 30 seconds is too short but 6 minutes is too long - 1:30 seems like a decent time, and I tend to think of the year in seasons anyway (meteorological not astronomical - fall being Sept Oct Nov, Winter being Dec Jan Feb, etc, not based on solstice / equinox etc)
"These Dunkin Donuts drink carry trays seems like they should be useful for something - I think there's a lifehack for them? Like you put in seedlings in them?"
"Yeah, that sounds like such a lifehack thing. You know what's another lifehack? Don't spend your precious time and energy making seedlings."
Melissa and Me

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I've shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I'll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that's a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
Maggie Smith, "Good Bones"

from March 2, 2017

Experimenting with posting every season / 3 months vs every month...
Is it just me or does the concept of judges running for election feel really weird? Straightup Democracy for everything seems kind of odd. (Albeit, better than the neither-fish-nor-fowl (tho a bit foul) electoral college...)
Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up. Come any hour
Of night. Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look. Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before, and show me.
See that I see. Talk to me till
I'm half as wide awake as you
And start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all.
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I'm not too hard persuaded.
Robert Francis, "Summons".
The final line was rattling around my head this morning.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Boredom is the Father. Laziness is the shifty uncle. Laziness might be the illegitimate father; as in one day Necessity was bored of Boredom and noticed Laziness was much more fun.
S. Chan

from affirmation

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
"Affirmation", by Donald Hall. I love those final 3 lines... it reminds me a bit of "Dulce et Decorum Est".

from February 2, 2018

On his blog and podcast, John Gruber is delighted by this Steve Jobs anecdote by Bethany Bongiorno:
At one point Steve wanted to turn UIKit elements orange. Not just any orange, he wanted a particular orange from the button on a certain old Sony remote. We got a bunch of remotes from Sony with orange buttons to try and find the right one. In the end, Steve hated it.
Gruber describes it as one of the greatest concise Steve Jobs stories and how there's this philosophy of "Strong opinions loosely held."

I have a hard time with that, that there can be so little correlation between how strongly you feel about something and your tenacity in keeping to that belief. It's difficult for me to think of an opinion as "just" a subjective opinion, and not "one's best guess as to what is objectively best or true".

I guess I can allow myself...preferences, more so than opinions?

It's Groundhog Day. Again.
The shirt touches his neck
and smooths over his back.
It slides down his sides.
It even goes down below his belt--
down into his pants.
Lucky shirt.
Jane Kenyon, "The Shirt"

from June 21, 2018

What's on the Voyager Probe Golden Record?
"Is depression funny?"
"Oh, I think it's hilarious. I really think it's funny. I am not interested in well-adjusted people because they just don't know they're depressed yet. I'm a snob about depression, I think we are superior. I honestly do. I think our brains are more developed and it's... and it's a burden."
Funny hearing about her being panicked by low flying aircraft in the 80s, like I was, assuming they were the harbinger of nuclear doom. (I got over the fear on my own years before my buddy Mike pointed hey, ICBMs travel MUCH faster than the speed of sound, you'd never hear 'em comin'.)
¡7 Trombones for niños y niñas! is a fundraiser I started on FB...

Had a lovely gig playing for Make Music Boston which JP Honk, which I think is always on the solstice. Knowing it was the longest day of the year, and thinking about how June has kind of slipped by, reminded me of this poem:
Before long the end
Of the beginning
Begins to bend
To the beginning
Of the end you live
With some misgivings
About what you did.
Samuel Menashe

from December 30, 2018

There was no message,
just a photo of his face in the mailbox.
It was delivered in a plain envelope, so
I guessed he had brought it himself.
Stuck to the fridge with a bumblebee magnet,
I lived with it, dry eyed,
for several weeks before
I thought to check the back and saw:
"$25,000 in unmarked bills. Tomorrow. Corner of
Sunset and Hope."
And I thought to myself:
"this must be that time in my life when everything
goes wrong. For instance, I don't even know
what unmarked bills are."
Pippin Barr, "Unmarked Bills", 28 May 2010

from October 24, 2019

Give me something
to bite my teeth into,
like your wool socks,
gray and soft,
best when worn without shoes,
displayed, kicked up
on the coffee table.
Better yet...
your jeans; five pockets,
rivets, amber thread stitching,
with a zipper fly.
Again and again they thump
and tumble
with mine in the dryer.
Never offering resistance
to its heat.
I admit to being frightened
at the thought
of such a hunger.
Tery J. England (in Spare Change News in 1999)

A piece on the background of that old brilliant VW ad featuring Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" (Heh, along with Saints Go Marching In... what is it about apocalyptic music?)

Never has an ad filled me with longing for a car before, and never since. The article mentions capturing the transcendence of driving in a convertible at night, and I can feel that, even though I don't think I've experienced it. Plus all the incidental shots, the guy in the back seat sneaking glances at the gal as she gazes at the night sky overhead...

Found that article while grooming old blog entries, specifically this one where I post 2 other absolutely brilliant ads from VW around the same time - ("Da Da Da" was good too but didn't quite make the cut)

from grandma + grandpa, a long time ago...

Taking a quick minibreak with my Mom and Aunt in NJ (thanks, use-it-or-lose-it vacation policy :-D ) ... I'm raiding my mom's photo collection a bit, so for the next few days I'll be posting some of the highlights of what I liked in her collection.

The Garbers were farm people...this is my grandmother Mary as a young'un.

John + Mary!

I think the impact of superheroes on popular culture is both tremendously embarrassing and not a little worrying. While these characters were originally perfectly suited to stimulating the imaginations of their twelve or thirteen year-old audience, today's franchised übermenschen, aimed at a supposedly adult audience, seem to be serving some kind of different function, and fulfilling different needs. Primarily, mass-market superhero movies seem to be abetting an audience who do not wish to relinquish their grip on (a) their relatively reassuring childhoods, or (b) the relatively reassuring 20th century. The continuing popularity of these movies to me suggests some kind of deliberate, self-imposed state of emotional arrest, combined with an numbing condition of cultural stasis that can be witnessed in comics, movies, popular music and, indeed, right across the cultural spectrum. [...] I would also remark that save for a smattering of non-white characters (and non-white creators) these books and these iconic characters are still very much white supremacist dreams of the master race. In fact, I think that a good argument can be made for D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation as the first American superhero movie, and the point of origin for all those capes and masks.

a small purple artichoke
in its own bittered
and darkening
grows tender,
grows tender and sweet

patience, I think,
my species

keep testing the spiny leaves

the spiny heart
Jane Hirshfield, "My Species"

from Punch and Judy to Their Audience


Our puppets strings are hard to see,
So we perceive ourselves as free,
Convinced that no mere objects could
Behave in terms of bad and good.

To you, we mannequins seem less
than live, because our consciousness
is that of dummies, made to sit
on laps of gods and mouth their wit;

Are you, our transcendental gods,
likewise dangled from your rods,
and need, to show spontaneous charm,
some higher god's inserted arm?

We seem to form a nested set,
With each the next one's marionette,
Who, if you asked him, would insist,
that he's the last ventriloquist.

Theodore Melnechuk
(via Marvin Minsky's "The Society of Mind")

from See. See?


See where the frog
under the grass bank sits--
Where I would sit
if I were afraid.

I came down to the lake
this morning, to get away
from the dish/spoon clash
of familiar, familial

loving. Frog sits
rocking on the round
chest of his breathing.
I've seen his black-and-green

eye, I've seen the light
make a wet spot in it.
And there's the tight gold
line of his underjaw,

there's his small large body.
The question: *Why don't you
want to catch him?* A new
answer: *Because he's scared.*

Out in the wet cool air, this
frog's cheeks shudder
like gills out of water.
And I am not yet perfect,

either. I am not yet
adult and whole.
I didn't keep myself from moving.
Too green. He had to leap.

Elizabeth Macklin
I have been trying to find this poem for ages - all my googling was for naught even though my memory of a number of the ending line turns out to be accurate. I just found it in a web-based snapshot I had constructed of everything I had on my PalmPilot...
I like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" a lot because "if they don't win it's a shame!" is the maximum healthy amount to care about any sport.

from February 14, 2020

i do not want to have you
i do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
i want to be full on my own
i want to be so complete
i could light a whole city
and then
i want to have you
cause the two of us combined
could set it on fire
Rupi Kaur, from "milk and honey"

from The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
Found this via a Poetry Unbound podcast on another fine poem, Joy Harjo’s “Praise the Rain”

from March 28, 2020

"After I Turn Sixty-Nine"

I don't imagine that a chariot is hurrying near but that a sleek car is speeding up
I have started a list of the costumes I want to be buried in, beginning with horny centaur
I try to put aside obituaries but I am unable to do so for very long (maybe ten minutes)
I eat the same meal every night while reading recipes of dishes I have never tasted
I shudder nearly every time I read the phrase "Lifetime Guarantee or Your Money Back."
I no longer find it necessary to stop and look at what is going on at a construction site
I decide I won't tell people to stop sending me books even if I will never read them
I stop and watch ambulances trying to get past cars that don't want to move aside
I begin thinking about different methods I might use to remove myself from the story
I know what my friend meant when he said his dog would take his place on the couch
I think about the cities I will never return to, including Cadaqués and Caracas
I wonder when I will no longer begin a sentence with the words "if" and "when"
I dream that my ashes will be scattered in a remote spot in Ireland that no one visits
I admit that shrinking into myself is not as unpleasant as I once thought
John Yau
It reminds me a little bit of the conclusion of Anne Sexton's "Courage"

from (I measure time by how a body sways)

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).
Theodore Roethke, "I Knew a Woman"

We are all livestreamers now.
Speaking of livestreaming - my old JoustPong got twitch'd (around 1:20 in). I definitely see some things I should have done differently in the game.

from September 16, 2020

Recently I heard someone who said the admonition to "be a human being, not a human doing" was a great reminder for them.

As it is it doesn't land for me. I guess I find worth and value doesn't reside in individuals, it's either an emergent property that arises in group contexts, or maybe it's an objective property of the universe that can only be confidently realized by getting enough viewpoints on it.

Looking back, I think that was the concept I expressed without full understanding in this poem I wrote in highschool:
A rock sat in the woods, thinking,
for many years, of many things.
Realized God and His plan
How to perfect life for plant and man
but it was a rock, and rocks can't speak
so it had to keep it to itself
My feeling is, any self-contained pure knowledge without action or expression is kind of worthless. The noun of things don't matter except as a container for the verbs that are possible, so being a "human doing" is critical, and the "human being" aspect is just a path to that.

But I think other people take something useful and important from "be a human being not a human doing"... can anyone in that group try and express how it works for them?

from October 2, 2020

If I could have it back
All the time that we wasted
I'd only waste it again
If I could have it back
You know I would love to waste it again
Waste it again and again and again
Well, I've got to ask
Arcade Fire, "The Suburbs (Continued)"

Atari Games that never were (via)

Me sowing: Haha fuck yeah!!! Yes!!

Me reaping: Well this fucking sucks. What the fuck.

its okay to have a bad week guys. its okay if you dont achieve anything for a month or three. it's okay if a few years are just a total write-off. it's okay to have a bad life . its okay to go to hell and squirm forever in the flames like a little rat

from Chris Abani, "The New Religion"

The body is a nation I have not known.
The pure joy of air: the moment between leaping
from a cliff into the wall of blue below. Like that.
Or to feel the rub of tired lungs against skin-
covered bone, like a hand against the rough of bark.
Like that. 'The body is a savage,' I said.
For years I said that: the body is a savage.
As if this safety of the mind were virtue
not cowardice. For years I have snubbed
the dark rub of it, said, 'I am better, Lord,
I am better,' but sometimes, in an unguarded
moment of sun, I remember the cowdung-scent
of my childhood skin thick with dirt and sweat
and the screaming grass.
But this distance I keep is not divine,
for what was Christ if not God's desire
to smell his own armpit? And when I
see him, I know he will smile,
fingers glued to his nose, and say, 'Next time
I will send you down as a dog
to taste this pure hunger.'
Chris Abani, "The New Religion"
Via the Poetry Unbound podast. This one really spoke to me; I conflate the body with the subconscious part of the brain; the mind/heart split can be so pronounced that the mind can challenge the legitimacy of the heart; almost its existence. But what a thought: "For years I said that: the body is a savage. / As if this safety of the mind were virtue / not cowardice. For years I have snubbed / the dark rub of it, said, ‘I am better, Lord, I am better'" For someone like me, who as a child gulped drank from two vials, one "I am super smart" and the other "I have to control myself or I am going to spend eternity in Hell"... pointing out the dialog of virtue and cowardice that represents is a crucial reminder.
Just thought of the old Arabica Coffeehouse in Cleveland (at least in the late-80s and still there by the looks of it.) They were generally pronounced "air-uh-BEE-kuh", not like the coffe bean. But I remember someone mentioning nicknames for a few of them - Freak-abica for the bohemian neighborhood in Coventry, Geek-abica for the one near Case Western Reserve University, Chic-abica for one in an upscale neighborhood, and then there was some other coffee place the coffee cognizati called "Wanna-bica".

from October 21, 2020

America can be counted on to take any good idea, or any bad idea, and absolutely run it into the ground.
George Carlin

O, laugh, laughers!
O, laugh out, laughers!
You who laugh with laughs, you who laugh it up laughishly
O, laugh out laugheringly
O, belaughable laughterhood - the laughter of laughering laughers!
O, unlaugh it outlaughingly, belaughering laughists!
Laughily, laughily,
Uplaugh, enlaugh, laughlings, laughlings
Laughlets, laughlets.
O, laugh, laughers!
O, laugh out, laughers!
Velimir Khlebnikov

Animator Chuck Jones once quantified the exact margin of error on one of his most famous jokes: Wile E. Coyote, when falling off a cliff, had to hit bottom exactly fourteen frames after he disappeared from sight. "It seemed to me that thirteen frames didn't work in terms of humor, and neither did fifteen frames. Fourteen frames got a laugh."
Ken Jennings, "Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture"

The ancient Greeks believed that the diaphragm muscle was the seat of humor appreciation, which is why the nearby armpits are the most ticklish part of the body.
Ken Jennings, "Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture"

Because a brief moment of happiness is pretty good. I also think that just focusing on making money and buying stupid things is a good way of life. I believe materialism gets a bad rap. It's not about the amount of money. Nothing's better than a Bic pen, a VW Beetle, or a pair of regular Levi's. If your things don't make you happy, you're not getting the right things.
The rest of the speech is even more bitterly sardonic.
'Every little bit helps,' as the old woman said when she pissed in the sea.

Certainly it's true that a little ironic distancing can work wonders as a coping device. At Groucho Marx's separation from his first wife, Ruth, for example, he told a joke. After many unhappy years, they had agreed to a divorce, and so she packed up the car and was leaving the house for the last time. Groucho put out his hand and said, "Well, it was nice knowing you . . . and if you're ever in the neighborhood again, drop in." Ruth laughed, and the tension was broken.
Ken Jennings, "Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture"

Finally, humor has the distinct advantage of overcoming power asymmetries: if protesters can drag a debate into the level of the ridiculous, the powers that be have much more to lose than they do. In his book Blueprint for Revolution, Serbian activist Srdja Popovic lists examples of what he calls "laughtivism": deflating authority in ways that are hard to retaliate against, because they provoke laughter instead of anger or violence: As the Italian situationists warned oppressive governments, "a laugh will bury you!" This line of protest seemed especially promising when it came to the thin-skinned Donald Trump. The marchers with funny signs may not have wounded him, but TV and Internet jokers realized that the president's massive ego, his own deluded mystique of mastery, was his greatest weakness. Jokes about the unimpressive crowds at his inauguration immediately produced defiant tweets and defensive press conferences. Jokes referring to White House aide Steve Bannon as "President Bannon" led to Bannon's swift demotion from the National Security Council, the New York Times reported. The leader of the free world could be manipulated into changing policy by pointing and laughing at him; this was either hopeful or horrifying, depending on your point of view.
Ken Jennings, "Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture"

But satire and comedy haven't had a great track record against totalitarianism. Popovic's student movement in Serbia did actually help to topple the government of Slobodan Milošević, who ended up dead in a Dutch prison cell while on trial for war crimes. But there's not a long list of powerful people brought low by jokes. Putin and Assad have so far managed to survive the Ping-Pong balls and Lego sets strewn on sidewalks by their unhappier citizens. "There are those who thought that we could laugh Hitler and Mussolini out of court," remembered theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, "but laughter alone never destroys a great seat of power and authority in history." This raises the possibility that subversive jokes might actually be counterproductive. What if they're just a convenient escape valve, a way for unhappy people to let off steam and feel better about their lot without actually fighting back against oppression?
Ken Jennings, "Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture"

Jokes are thermometers, not thermostats.
Christie Davies
(Ken Jennings references this while explaining how sardonic Russian jokes caused Lithuanian emigre and political science Alexander Shtromas to predict the fall of the Soviet Union as early as the 1970s, but that the jokes didn't actually bring down the party.
Cold night in Fenway...
John Smoltz during game 1 of 2020 World Series, in an inning where Mookie Betts stole 2nd alone and then 3rd as part of a double steal, and got home because of his amazing reflexes and speed...

from November 10, 2020

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.
Billy Collins, "Litany"

Movies with Mikey is always so good, and while I knew most of the bits and pieces here, he covered the rise of Mario and Nintendo really well, his stuff is always so insightful AND full of emotional strength - SPOILER: Nobody Knows What They're Doing is a message of hope.

from November 21, 2020

Sometimes when I think about death
I remember to cherish each breath.
But most of the time
I forget and then I'm...
Willing to pretend it won't happen*

* very few English words rhyme with death
Derrick Te Paske
He's a local artist who ran a session of the Unitarian Universalist Science + Spirituality group I run, we talked about his work making Reliquaries, and the history of those, Ossiaries, and our mind's (in)ability to think of its death.

from May 10, 2021


How Delicious to Say It,

to allow it like hibiscus to wend over the tongue
where it opens at the gate, lending its red, unknowable
taste. What wonder the palate may embrace – in a flick
behind the teeth: loquacious, Liebchen, Schätzchen.
Let us praise the labium that shapes such syllables, and
parlay of their attendant assumptions like a shuttlecock
struck back and forth over its simple backyard net.
Let us not neglect, but laud the mature mouth ready
for more than a dollop, the spoonful of lip, loon,
April, billow, or some simple pronoun. No. It wants jouissance,
Dostoevsky, provocations heating the exchange, say
chipotles in the chocolate. Consider the uvular awakenings
of the day, the throat stretched to signify its pleasure and release.
Your name spun through the reel, wound up from the bass
of me. How I want to say it, and hear my own, again.

for Matthew

--Vievee Francis
via the poetry unbound podcast. What a sensual poem!

from January 30, 2022

Roses are Red
Violets are "Blue"
so I Guess that these Rhymes
at Best are Half true

(Spinach is Green
And So is a Lime
How we bend Truth
To Finish the Rhyme)

from February 4, 2022

Henry was my pet rat, and he died
last night in my hands. He was three
years old, which is way longer than

an albino rat is supposed to live. To be
honest, he wasn't a very smart animal,
but he was so sweet that now I wonder

if intelligence has anything to do
with leading a good life. He had been sick
for a few months, and every twelve hours

I had to apply antiseptic and lotion
to both his back feet. By the end
they didn't really work anymore,

so he would just drag his feet behind him in a way
so cute and sad that I started calling him my little
sea lion. When he died it was, somehow,

a surprise: you would think that when your rat
is older than older than dirt and has been sick for months
you'd be sort of prepared: after I had laid out the towel

and mixed the solution, I picked him
up and noticed his breathing
was s slow. I lay down with him

on the towel, the towel where we'd spent
the last few months, where I think we
finally, really, completely loved each other,

not like humans do: humans always want
something from you and he and I
would rather just be together than apart,

and I pulled him toward me, and he chittered in that way
that always meant he was wind coming in after a rain,
his head fell forward, and there was so much less

light in the room. The lamp was so far away,
like the light of a house to which there is no
road. I know, he was just a rat. So many

just like him, all white, red eyes,
die every day and only one or two people
in white coats are even there to see it.

He was all in white, he was always there
to see me. When I would wake from a nightmare,
so many nightmares, I would turn on the light

and there he was, holding on, a constant companion
to a prisoner, the prison being the apartment,
the world being inside his cage. Once I was crying

in bed because of who knows why, and he sat beside
my face and licked my tears away. I had a rat
once, named Henry. Named Buddy. Named Mr. Big

Mouse. Named proof that something could need me
and still love me. Named please
can I have some of your apple? Or I know

you're sad but I'm hungry. Don't go; if you go
I won't survive: a child reaches for her father;
a couple, buried in ash, dies holding each other;

a man and a woman in an office, crying slightly,
sign sheets of paper; sparrows fall out of the sky together.
Some day I'm going to have a child. She's going to have

eyes like mine and such small hands. Just like
she'll need me alive then, she needs me alive
now; I can't say goodbye before I've had a chance

to say hello. I don't stare off bridges anymore.
I don't count out little blue exit signs and even today,
with Henry buried under a tree, a tree somewhere so far away

it feels like someone else buried him using my body,
today I came home and only wanted to sleep
for twenty minutes instead of always. Something needed

me once, and I know something will need me
again. One day I'm going to have a daughter.
She's going to sleep through the night

sometimes. She is a light on a rock
at the edge of a lonely see. You see that light
out there? That's where I'm headed. That's home."
Neil Hilborn, "For Henry, Who Has Just Died", The Future

from March 20, 2022

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgiveable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.
Raymond Carver, "Rain"

from thoughts on feelings, feelings on thoughts

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
Rumi, "The Guest House"

from from "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

So my plan on reading every Vonnegut novel is paying off... I really loved this languid poem, and then there were some really good framings of thoughts about socialism and capitalism.
I'm a painter in my dreams, you know,
Or maybe you didn't know. And a sculptor.
Long time no see.
And a kick to me
Is the interplay of materials
And these hands of mine.
And some of the things I would do to you
Might surprise you.
For instance, if I were there with you as you read this,
And you were lying down,
I might ask you to bare your belly
In order that I might take my left thumbnail
And draw a straight line five inches long
Above your pubic hair.
And then I might take the index finger
Of my right hand,
And insinuate it just over the rim of the right side
Of your famous belly button,
And leave it there, motionless, for maybe half an hour.
You bet.
Unsent poem by Eliot Rosewater to his estranged Sylvia, in Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

from three poems on rocks and stones

A rock sat in the woods, thinking,
for many years, of many things.
Realized God and His plan
How to perfect life for plant and man
but it was a rock, and rocks can't speak
so it had to keep it to itself
Kirk Israel (A poem I wrote in high school)
Although I put it sophomorically, I think this really reflects a conflict I felt then (and still feel to this day) where we live in our own objective heads, but only shared reality matters. (The awareness of that tension may have sprung from my sometimes frantic youthful concern of keeping myself right in the God's Eye View of things, lest I end up burning in hell.)

Later in life I ran into this poem:
Don't knock a stone: don't say things like "stone dead."
A stone always knows what it's about.
It holds itself together better than you do,
better than I do. A stone is comfortable
with its battery of cunning smithereens
milling around, bouncing off one another
exactly right in their tight little compound.

Any old stone--you think it can't talk?
Dumb old stone? Ho! Every atom in it talks,
every part of every atom talks. Just listen.

Trust your eyes and ears to recognize your
grandmother. A stone doesn't need eyes and
ears to know what's coming down the pike.

A stone knows what it wants, and gets it,
pressing up tight against the fluffy surrounds,
all that space made of the same stuff as the stone stuff.
Don't knock a stone: it'll show you up,
put you down, cover you up, forget you.
Paul Lawson, "Any Old Stone"
I think that is an interesting partial refutation to what I wrote in high school. And kind of splitting the difference is a poem I found in between:
I was talking to a rock
and I said, "Stone"-
I talk to them like that-I said,
"what makes people feel extraneous?"

To which the rock in its own idiom
replied, "Extraneous's ass!
You think you got it bad.
Try igneous extrusion.
Try a little freeze and thaw.
Try glaciation.
Stand out in the weather for ten thousand years.
We'll talk extraneous."

One thing about rocks:
they cut you half an inch of slack
but never. That's why guys like me
idealize them. I said, "Sage"-
I laid it on a little thick,
this rock I'm talking to,
it's not much bigger than a Chiclet,
but I don't want to give offense-
so I said, "Sage, what
should the human species do?"

To which the rock said nothing,
but he got that look. You know:
they're thinking to themselves,
"Drop dead."
Brooks Haxton, "Dialogue of Soul & Stone"

from April 27, 2024

You're in a car with a beautiful boy, and he won't tell you that he loves you, but he loves you. And you feel like you've done something terrible, like robbed a liquor store, or swallowed pills, or shoveled yourself a grave in the dirt, and you're tired. You're in a car with a beautiful boy, and you're trying not to tell him that you love him, and you're trying to choke down the feeling, and you're trembling, but he reaches over and he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist, and you feel your heart taking root in your body, like you've discovered something you didn't even have a name for.
richard siken

from April 28, 2024

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.