Thursday, December 31, 2009

Proustian postscript for 2009

oh, and after reading Charles Simic's poems I spent several weeks reading Marcel Proust, the part about Albertine, the captive.

Some Proustian doses are good literary medicine.

hello goodbye hello

farewell, 2009

you tried to claim me, if not lame me

hello, 2010

(twenty ten)

if you please

or if you don't






year-end haiku III

toast and tea time steam

buttered toast, daily habit

slower taste blossoms

year-end haiku II

tick-tock countenance

measuring whatnot, this, that

another day turns

year-end haiku I

misty snowy night

ephemeral tiny drops

disappearing white

2009 Book List

Books that I read in 2009:
  1. Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
  2. Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
  3. John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman
  4. Rabbit Remembered by John Updike*
  5. Fool by Christopher Moore
  6. Take This Bread by Sara Miles
  7. The English Major by Jim Harrison
  8. Indignation by Philip Roth
  9. A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre
  10. Lush Life by Richard Price
  11. Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen
  12. Stone's Fall by Iain Pears
  13. The Underachiever's Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great by Ray Bennett, M.D.
  14. Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss
  15. Suites by Federico Garcia Lorca
  16. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
  17. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace
  18. Searches & Seizures: Three Novellas by Stanley Elkin
  19. Sixty Poems by Charles Simic
  20. Good Hearts by Reynolds Price
  21. Willie's Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend by John Klima
* you might say this is 3.5 because it is from John Updike's Licks of Love collection; wanted to reread portions

About half fiction and half non-fiction this year. Two poetry collections. Some irreverent stuff; some reverent. Some more than 800 pages; some very, very short.

I showed you mine; now show me yours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

best of the beast

By the count of, this is post number 666 on this blog, The Laughorist.

To some, the number 666 signifies the apocalyptic Beast, a designation of evil.

But here it's a "beast" of another kind; here it's more like the slang term meaning "one who excels or dominates," in a positive sense. As in, "She's a beast at cross-country." Or, referring to San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum: "Dude, he's a beast."

So, I hereby declare myself a beast of blogging.


They're something.

Or nothing.

Or some thing.

Or no thing.

(Disclaimer: Since my inaugural post on Bloomsday 2006, I've actually written and published more than 666 blog posts, but decorum and job-related issues and rare prudence have dictated that I delete some postulated posts every now and then. Eh?)

post-solstice haiku

darkest night shortest

day light whispering secrets

of summer orchids

Monday, December 28, 2009

why don't we do it in the road?

No, not that.

"It" here refers to walking in the road. I don't get it. A local columnist has written about snowswept, unshovelled sidewalks, as if that's the cause for kids walking in the road, or street. Well, snowy or icy sidewalks may indeed be a causative factor now and then, but how do you explain this practice in other seasons? Leaves? Litter? That's why the sidewalks go unused? What about when the sidewalks are as clear as a saint's conscience? How do you explain it when the nearby sidewalks are indeed shoveled?

I don't get it.

It is not uncommon for young adults -- not usually adults, but sometimes -- in Syracuse to walk in the road, especially in winter, when it is difficult for drivers to avoid pedestrians.

It sometimes seems to me to be a gesture of turf ownership or posturing or proprietary walking or challenge. I've tried to determine if such gestures fall along age, racial, or class lines but do not have enough data to make a sound conclusion. Maybe it is an ancient tradition; maybe it is a local Syracuse custom dating back more than 100 years. Maybe the pedestrians are under a druidic trance.

What do you think?

By the way, the term "anecdotal evidence" strikes me as mildly humorous, as if the scientist were saying, "A funny thing happened to me as I gathered data points" or some other anecdote, doting on truth or assumption.

snow what

lake effect with swirling wind followed by sunblast

much more preferable than december rain

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

a post about posting

I'm well behind last year's volume of posts and behind the number for 2007.

But there's still time.

But why should sheer number matter?

How ephemeral.

And superficial.

If not surficial.


is here

winter of our content?

[as in table of contents? how does one set that table?]

or winter of our discontent?

so confusing isn't it?

because if it is the winter of our discontent then it is the nadir isn't it? the most naked cold and lowest point of our discontent, meaning we can only get warmer or brighter or sunnier or more springward from here on in; more content, in other words


holiday malaise, take 1

so the protagonist of the story or movie doesn't do any consumer stuff at all doesn't shop doesn't make macaroni art doesn't participate just drops out and on the morning of December 25 with all the others partaking of the unwrapping binge he or she just sits there in a bathrobe and takes it all in even lets them hurl the epithet solipsist! but does open presents given to him or her but there's no give in the give-and-take or is that take-and-not-give? well anyway just awkward silences or what what else happens how else to complete the story or what do they call it now text how to continue with the text?

meditation on silver-mining

I just learned the slang term "silver-mining" from an L.A. Times piece about people who live in tunnels under Las Vegas:

...they made their way into the blinding sun and hustled for dope and food -- usually, by "silver-mining." They hovered at casinos, hoping slot players left them credits to play or winnings to cash.

A variant term is "slot-walking."

I've silver-mined, sure

Taken from others' bounty

And walked on

Or left some currency to spare

For others on a dare

Walking the slot

The narrow verge

Between this and that

The infinite space between jackpot and bust

Faith and trust

Diamond and rust


Some call it

Gambling others scavenging

What about grace

Left dangling

Like a participle


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent haiku redux

December cold sun

still, wide eyes ears alert too

deer caught in the lights

Friday, December 18, 2009

handmade heartily

for my birthday today [yes, let's go for the deliberate low-keyness of lowercase] i received among other things hand-crafted notecards from Kozo Arts on union street in san francisco [if you start with lowercase, you must stick with it and while we are being appropriately minimalist let's start dispensing with punctuation marks at least some of the time] from our july august sweetly memorable visit the very last day cards that are so simple and stark in their beauty you want to feel them and touch them and yes meditate on them rest your head on them inhale them not use them it would almost seem to despoil them in their pristine reverence then again for very special occasions of birth or death or some things in between the occasion would rise up to meet these altars of stationery these stationary stationery inner sanctums the Kozo Arts product description insert itself handsome talks of "Chiyogami silk-screened papers from Japan [they uppercased], bark papers from Mexico, sewn papers from India" and it sounds like an exotic delicious menu even an erotic temple how about saffron robes and incense curling like prayerpoems to the heavens hosanna hosanna of thanks is my chant to my beloved family who bestowed these upon me and to the minds that designed these Kozo Arts sacred objets d'art as well of coarse no fine the hands that made them amen amen awomen too and anyone forever more who will receive these blank slates hungering for haiku or koan

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Sententious Sentences on Sentencing

"Jesus wept." It is said to be the shortest sentence in the Bible. I first heard it as an exclamation from my friend Jeannie, from Enid, Oklahoma. Since the expression has biblical origins, one can get away with it as a mild expletive. You can almost hear the sigh that accompanies it. But what else is there to say about sentences? And to whom do I say it? Well, for starters, you can very legitimately start a sentence with "but" or "and," despite what Mrs. Rivers told us in seventh grade at Burdick Junior High School in Stamford, Connecticut. You can also end a sentence with a preposition. It's something you can live with. You can also decide to boldly split an infinitive within your sentence -- and do so with grammatical impunity. The other point I want to make about sentences -- I know, "sentencing" in the heading lured students of criminal justice to this blog under false presentences -- is that, despite a muddy river of digressions, or appositive phrases, or recursively recurring and redundant recasting of words to the point of annoyance, a perfectly grammatical and "correct" sentence is not limited to the soulful brevity of a lachrymose redeemer, but may also include such meanderings as incarnated in this sentence. So, I have said it before and will proclaim it again, "A run-on sentence is not one that 'runs on and on and on' in the impatient reader's mind; a run-on sentence, also known as a comma splice or fused sentence, is a punctuation error -- an error that has nothing whatsoever to do with the number of words or syllables in the sentence, be they running, walking, trotting, sprinting, galloping, sauntering, crawling, or strolling words. I'm done.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Poppin' the Cork (Ireland)

Through the technological wizardry of analytics, I discovered that someone from Cork, Ireland, or thereabouts, came to this blog after searching the term "Advent haiku."


It's a small world, owing to a semi-creepy sort of reverse virtual voyeurism.

But I don't know any more than that general data, which is all for the better.

Welcome, dear visitor from Cork. [Image from]

I loved visiting your breath-takingly lovely isle in 2006, mostly the northwest.

Hope to get to Cork next time.

Oh, and just for you, whoever you are, a brand-new Advent haiku:

snow-dusted evening
skeletal branches wind-whipped
I looked up -- and in

I fear you shall never return to The Laughorist, victim to the ephemeral whims of cyberworld.

p.s. Is based in Ireland?

Lake Effect Meditation

Windswept snow, coming from where or when we can only guess, just past the verge of light, on the other side of arid; the effect of the lake is fluff, moisture to moisture, lashes to lashes, spindrift spun, moody madness, baleful blizzard. Cause and effect, lake and effect, noun and noun, verve to verb, rippling through raptures of featherweight white affecting those who are showered by Ontario's halo by a lacustrine lustre. Lake effect: dust upon dust upon swirl upon silent upon crystal upon flake upon land upon hill and plain and dale and upon Onondaga upon stutter of wind and warp and weave. Lake effect.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December Haiku Triptych

nightsnow crunch footsteps
silent flakes falling freely
white upon silver

pawprints on parade
alabaster carpet walk
canine stain, mine too

soft wind in the pines
garlands lighting Burnet Park
festival of bright

Monday, December 14, 2009


Syracuse does not get much in winter


I need it

crave it

yearn for it


not artificial light

the ameliorating effects of light from "Here Comes the Sun" type of light

even on frigid days

the squint-inducing sometimes-blinding

like Saul off his horse


that kind

someone, send it


Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Night's One-Sentence Meditation

Call it a day on the verge [as Merriam-Webster puts it online: Etymology: Middle English, rod, measuring rod, margin, from Anglo-French, rod, area of jurisdiction, from Latin virga twig, rod, line Date: 15th century 1 a (1) : a rod or staff carried as an emblem of authority or symbol of office (2) obsolete : a stick or wand held by a person being admitted to tenancy while he swears fealty b : the spindle of a watch balance; especially : a spindle with pallets in an old vertical escapement c : the male copulatory organ of any of various invertebrates 2 a : something that borders, limits, or bounds: as (1) : an outer margin of an object or structural part (2) : the edge of roof covering (as tiling) projecting over the gable of a roof (3) British : a paved or planted strip of land at the edge of a road : shoulder b : brink, threshold] between rain and ice, inundation and danger, gray and black, leading into this vespers of frank thanks that, well, it is almost over, and I still draw breath, which sounds like mere survival but rather celebrates a prevailing, as in prevailing winds, billowing pulse and possibility.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December Night's Walk One-Sentence Meditation

On a still, snow-crunching night with bright Orion's Belt (Three Kings or Three Sisters or Three Nothings or Three Anythings, take your pick) guiding us, the dog and I walked Burnet Park and its islands of nightshade green, its light show dotting the Happy Holidays (Unnamed) landscape of snow and ice and memories of June, both of us delighting in the jingly-jangly clip-clop clop-clip symphony of horse hooves, children's voices, and five ladies with Slavic accents in a cigarette-smoke-wreathed circle bidding us good evening.

Advent haiku 2

dishwater gray sky

hollow blank slate yearning cold

silent seed stirring

listening John Fahey's "The New Possibility..." CD. 12-string guitar.

Not many better Christmas albums.

Advent haiku

Sarum blue vestments
flickering wreath candles' flame
waiting for pink, still

Friday, December 11, 2009

holiday malaise?

Is it creeping in, my annual malaise, which may be more a healthy and spiritual sanctuary than a depression? It may be. Is it not sensible to retreat from that which is senseless? Or am I merely escaping responsibility? If Wordsworth said, "The world is too much with us, late and soon;/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers," what would he say of rampant consumerism masquerading as religiosity?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

addition by substraction

I had a tooth pulled (i.e., extracted) today.

The pain of yesteryear called TMJ was likely the hairline fracture in the removed tooth.

Call it addition (improvement) by subtraction (extraction).

Went smoothly enough.

Versed, a brand name for the anesthetic midazolam, works wonders. At least for me.

I do not take the success of this "procedure" (the all-purpose medical euphemism) for granted.

Oh no.

I really don't.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

St. Nick

Today, on the actual Feast of Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra, I played his part in church, with a bishop's miter on my head.

I gave out Hannukah geldt to kids, wide-eyed.

It was fun. I hammed it up without saying a word.

Tell me, how did this feast honoring someone who helped the poor become what it has become?


Saturday, December 05, 2009

O, Christmas Tree

We always go to a Christmas tree farm and cut our tree. "Always" being for all or nearly all the years of this marriage (1995), best I can recall. And it has definitely been an annual ritual since our daughter was born in 1997. Upstate New York has an abundance of these places, not far to drive.

About five years ago, I was having a hard time, huffing and puffing, with my daughter beside me, trying to saw down a tree. My wife, a nurse, was at work. I was lying on my side, almost on my back, in the snow. The blade almost got caught in the trunk. This was becoming strenuous, frustrating, and nerve-wracking. A guy walked by with a little electric saw. "Hey, um, can you help me out?" "No, my family's waiting for me." As if that were a reason. Gee, thanks! Merry Christmas to you, too. I persisted. The tree came down. Eventually. A few minutes later, when the guy with the electric saw came by again with two daughters and a felled tree, I saw he was accompanied by a woman from work. Gulp! Merry Christmas to you, too! No, I don't work there any more. The woman eventually married The Man With the Electric Saw. (Um, how's that working out? There's a case where you don't want to invoke the overused "cutting-edge" phrase.)

I once heard my former wife tell a Christmas tree story that may've been apocryphal, but it makes for a funny tale. Some friends of hers decided they wanted a Christmas tree from the woods, presumably from a tree farm. They didn't have a saw, but they had a shotgun. They allegedly managed to shoot down their Christmas tree that year. Yup, they bagged one.

This year there was no snow on the ground. None. Can't recall many, if any, years like that. We liked the first tree we spotted as we got off the tractor-pulled wagon. "You can't just cut down the first tree you see," my wife rightly said. Then we said how 'bout this one or that? too scrawny, too tall, too fat, too many gaps. I'd put my Tipperary Hill hat on a tree as a place-holder. Finally, we picked a Canaan. Had never heard of that before. Sweet smell, very soft needles. $25. totally fresh. Romagnoli's Christmas Tree Farm at Oneida Valley Acres [nice pix!].

Can't beat that.

It's up. I took a nap and let the girls do it.

It's a tad short but really perfect*. Full and splendid.


* Of course, it's not perfect perfect. That's the beauty of nature.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Twenty Adjectives

You know how the preacher shouts, "Can I get a witness?" Well, can I get an adjective?

You know how the gym teacher says, "Drop and give me twenty [push-ups]"?

Here's 20 adjectives:

  1. avuncular
  2. solipsistic
  3. psychagogic
  4. demagogic
  5. unctuous
  6. hoary
  7. wizened
  8. teleological
  9. epistemological
  10. tetchy
  11. querulous
  12. ambient
  13. stochastic
  14. sarcastic
  15. calm
  16. prosaic
  17. stingy
  18. generous
  19. riddled
  20. saucy

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Twenty Names

Sure, you're beginning to think of me as a Twenty Something HAHAHAHAHAHAAHA.

Today, let's try Twenty Names. I'm a bit of a name dropper (more than a bit; and does it not give evidence of a certain character flaw, an obsequiousness built on flimsy moorings?).

I will be linear this time and limit myself to those I have met or have seen in person, even en passant, say, on a Manhattan street, or in an elevator, or have somehow corresponded with. (I have tried not to include those I saw or heard merely as an audience member.)

Joseph Heller, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Willie Mays, John Updike, Telly Savalas, Hans Conried, Victor Borge, Bert Parks, Mona Simpson, Madeleine L'Engle, Suzanne Farrell, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jerry Garcia, Regis Philbin, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Suzanne Vega, William F. Buckley Jr., Woody Allen, Sara Miles (the author), J. Walter Kennedy, Marc Brown, Henry Roth, Richard Ford, David Grambs, Bob Hicok, Peter DeVries, Ed Bradley, Meryl Streep, Andre the Giant, Tom Wolfe, William Maxwell, Peter Ustinov, Isaac Asimov, Beverly Cleary, Bob Mitchell, Dan Valenti, Jonathan Miles, Gordon Lish, Elliott Gould, Bobby Murcer.

Yeah, I know, it's more than Twenty Names. I got carried away.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Twenty Questions

. . . but not the usual, of course.

  1. Why do square bullets introduce each question even though a number shows up on my screen as I create each interrogatory?
  2. Why twenty, anyway -- is it related to 10 fingers and 10 toes?
  3. Why the sloppiness of style, not paying a copyeditor's (or copy editor's) attention to consistency regarding words versus numerals?
  4. Huh?
  5. Would you make it "healthcare" or "health care" as a noun?
  6. Does it bother you that the majority of Americans could not diagram a sentence on the blackboard or whiteboard or greenboard?
  7. When?
  8. What is my fixation with Soren Kierkegaard?
  9. When was the first time?
  10. When was the last time?
  11. Why do many readers immediately assume that questions 9 and 10 are latently associated with sex?
  12. Why is twelve, or 12, so rich in connotation, ranging from Apostles to months to inches to Steps to lists?
  13. When was your last act of not only random but anonymous kindness?
  14. Or mine?
  15. Why is it so hard to pronounce "anonymous"?
  16. What is 20 times 20 times 20, which would be 20 cubed, or does the cube melt in the dog days of August?
  17. Why don't they teach Latin in public schools?
  18. Who is "they"?
  19. Isn't it truly difficult to change ingrained habits?
  20. Are you relieved this is over?

Twenty Answers

Why stop with verbs? We started with the notion of Twenty Questions. Why not Twenty Answers?

  1. 1948
  2. 1970
  3. three
  4. 10,559, give or take
  5. goatee
  6. English, French, Latin
  7. grapefruit
  8. The Lay of the Land
  9. Freedom of Espresso
  10. "Between God and me there is no 'between.' "
  11. Turner to Cezanne
  12. solipsism
  13. Soren Kierkegaard
  14. Willie Mays
  15. Tipperary Hill
  16. 17 syllables, but not necessarily
  17. approximately six years
  18. the silk or satin borders of my childhood blanket, especially the notches formed where the sewing was done
  19. Marcel Proust
  20. Slovak and Polish

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Twenty Verbs, Redux Again

let's try the infinitive forms of verbs today
  1. to snow
  2. to freeze
  3. to shine
  4. to shiver
  5. to leap
  6. to skip
  7. to cry
  8. to surprise
  9. to cleave
  10. to cling
  11. to divitiate
  12. to surbate
  13. to aberuncate
  14. to venditate
  15. to surrender
  16. to melt
  17. to warm
  18. to inosculate
  19. to flob
  20. to indagate