Friday, January 28, 2011


I'm usually all words. So why not an image or two or more?

bananas and so much more

Tropical Race Four is the name of the fungus threatening the world's supply of bananas. I just read about it in The New Yorker.

Tropical Race Four.

Good name for a band.

Or a horse.

Banana is such a deliciously reduplicative word. Should I say that again?

Around here bananas are typically around 47 cents a pound. I / we take that for granted. What if bananas were $4.47 per pound? Or $47.47 per pound?

Would we eat them at those higher prices? I love bananas. I am sorry, bananas, if I've taken you for granted.

I have heard stories that foreign visitors walk into Wegmans and burst into tears, overcome by abundance. Bananas. And more!

Cavendish is the typical kind we eat. Used to be Gros Michel, I'm told (by The New Yorker).

I like them almost green. Almost.

A strong memory of my youth is my mother rapidly, very rapidly, slicing pieces of banana with the lip of a spoon, pieces falling onto cereal.

Oh, and I almost forgot: for a snack, we would often have bananas and cream (sometimes milk) in a bowl with lots of sugar.


Some bananas, The New Yorker article taught me, taste like strawberries.

I'm intrigued by this question: when was that aha! moment when humans, or one single human, discovered that you don't eat the skin but inside is the delicious fruit of the banana? Or did they just watch some monkeys?

But whom did the monkeys watch?

Speaking of zen koans, is there a better zen riddle than "yes, we have no bananas"?

Tropical Race Four.

One of Dante's circles of Hell?

A political strategy?

A code name for war games?

An espionage message?

And of course Woody Allen's "Bananas" was funny, at least back in those days.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Good word. Especially as a riposte.


"Mr. Boehner, your attempts at leadership so far are a nonversation, a nonstarter, a nominal nod to nihilism."

Thanks to Merriam-Webster for links like this demonstrating the dynamic and organic growth of English.

20 adverbs

A literary friend and colleague tells me her three-year-old granddaughter is lovingly, lately, [serial comma obeyed] and lushly taken with adverbs. She loves starting sentences with adverbs. In a nod and salute to her, here is a twenty-fold parade of adverbs:

1. laconically
2. Catonically
3. pianissimo
4. apodictically
5. voluptuously
6. asymptotically
7. munificently
8. coterminously
9. late
11.sotto voce


Speaking of "interrogastories," does my neologism interrogastory vaguely define a question asked while eating something delicious?

Just asking. Don't tell.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

honesty, examined

"I have tried to keep diaries before, but they didn't work out because of the necessity to be honest." -- John Steinbeck

Mr. Grapes of Wrath, what words would you wrought re blogging?

twenty interrogastories

  1. How would you like to die?
  2. What is it like to be alive?
  3. Where would you want to sing?
  4. Why do you want to know?
  5. Whom will you embrace as the sky is rent?
  6. Has the burnt sienna cooled yet?
  7. Do the words echo in your veins?
  8. Have you questioned having?
  9. Am I blue (a muted cobalt just south of Antwerp)?
  10. Would you if you could without getting caught or punished?
  11. With whom will you dive, sail, skim, [note serial comma] or float?
  12. Against what odds or flesh will you melt?
  13. Who remembers that nameless electric thrill?
  14. If not here and now, where and when?
  15. Should there be a law, any law?
  16. That being said, what is silence?
  17. Could the waves just stop?
  18. Which inaugural color will you wear, and what language will ban it?
  19. Is keeping score against the rules?
  20. In the end, can you call it a day or something else, i.e., some unit of time or space or imagination or pendulum-swinging suggestion or somnambulism?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the Big Hurt

Jack LaLanne, fitness guru, has died at 96.

He was in before fitness was in. I remember him pumping iron when I was a kid, back in the late Fifties or early Sixties.

He reportedly said, "The only way you can hurt the body is not use it."

I, um, will [seemingly] resist the temptation to make metaphorical extensions regarding using or not using body parts, brainpower, soul power, et cetera.

So there. Resisted. Barely. Sort of.

Thanks, Jack LaLanne, for making exercise fun before it was hip.

Nowhereland, just north of Somewhere

Steps in Syracuse snowswept

Say it slower now

(Why the freezing weeping?)

Twin tracks tundra

Bridged rusted aborted

West Fayette Street spanned spun spawned

To what end



Over there by Fowler

No trains a-comin'

No whistle blowin'

In the wind or sun or rain

Unless you listen

Have you seen it lived it

Off the map off the grid


Friday, January 21, 2011

enough to make you cry

Willie Mays. He played stickball with neighborhood kids.

No wonder he was my childhood hero.

Who shaped, opened, widened my views on race.

And why I stayed with the Giants even when they moved from New York to San Francisco.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

well regarded walking

Walked today from Tipp Hill to Carousel.

And back.

The angry cars snowbanks slush melted snow sidewalkless paths.

Footprints of the poor and young and old (me).

Not so much the human stain as cats and their piss making a mess of the once-pristine.

The army of cars zooms at you, if you're on the left, facing your threats head-on.

Drivers driven and grim. Some even seem to angle toward you, just for spite.

I got a loud "FUCK YOU!" angrily hurled at me from an open car window on Hiawatha Boulevard.

Now why is that?

What did I do?

"I'm walkin' heah" as Ratso Rizzo put it.

I concluded it's all perspective such as when you're in a car you come upon the pedestrian so fast then gone bang bang no time for reflection while the walker sees it in slow motion as it were.


A matter of regard, regard as in the French version or the America too, meaning:


So a walker is literally disregarded.

Not seen.

You are pretty much invisible.

And there's no time anyway.

Auto-mobile-ly speaking.

"He didn't notice that the lights had changed"

To sunset step by step regarding self

And Syracuse.

(I even played Sisyphus scurrying up an incline near Lord & Taylor like the claws of a scraggling crab.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

naturally wondering

Wendy's is introducing "natural-cut fries with sea salt." That's from the package of a small order of fries, bought today, I am at liberty to say, in Liberty, New York, not far from Route 17.


the package reads, also saying, "We slice up only whole Russet potatoes and leave the skin on to bring out their natural flavor." Also: "The result? Fries that are crispy, delicious, and totally irresistible." Hey! Maybe the serial comma is making a natural comeback! Love that serial comma after "delicious." Naturally. And meaningfully.

But here's the thing that has persnickety Pawlie scratching his grammarian's head: "natural-cut." It's that hyphenated adjectival construction that has me wondering.

  • In nature, do Russet potatoes, or any potatoes, undergo cutting?
  • How does natural cutting take place?
  • Who does it? The Grim Reaper?
  • What does it mean to be "naturally cut"?
  • Does it hurt?
  • Is it emo, even if naturally so?
  • What is the opposite of "natural-cut fries"? "Artificial-cut fries"?
  • How does one cut artificially? Through verbal ripostes?
Yass, yass, yass, as Jack Kerouac's Dean Moriarty would say, I think I know what Wendy's intends: natural taste, not processed, not doctored, not ruined by too much freezing, refreezing, microwaving, etc. Something like that. I get it. (Perhaps the copywriter could've called them "Natural, Cut Fries," but -- still -- what are "unnatural" fries? Picky. Picky. Picky. How about "Natural, Hand-Cut Fries"? Fine, but likely not literally true. Just thinking out loud, digitally, here.)

They're pretty good, the natural-cut fries from Wendy's. But I like Burger King's fries better; must be the peanut-oil taste. Arby's curly fries I like, too.

But hats off to Wendy's on its Apple Pecan Chicken Salad. Pretty good; reminds me of a Panera Bread salad.


And don't forget: the San Francisco Giants are still World Champs.

Still basking.

Friday, January 14, 2011

and when the cheering stopped

I watched President Barack Obama's eulogy for the victims, survivors, and heroes of the Tucson tragedy.

President Obama was passionate, moving, respectful, somber, eloquent, elegiac, fatherly, priestly, rhetorical, and transcendent. His words were a healing and a balm. His words were pastoral, in the sense of being like a pastor, or a shepherd.

I thank him.

I didn't quite get the crowd. I was shocked at the cheers. It sounded like a pep rally. Very odd, and disturbing, to me. Off-kilter, misplaced.

But Mr. Obama rose above all that and sternly but poetically exhorted us to be led by our better angels. He invoked scripture and patriotism to summon our better selves.

May it be so.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

moment of silence

On Monday, President Obama called for a moment of silence at 11 a.m. EST for the victims of the Tucson shooting rampage.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, observed this moment of silence.

(How long does a moment last, by the way?)

I almost forgot to observe it. I saw that my laptop clock announced "11:02," and then sat quietly in my office chair, eyes closed, silent, for about three minutes.

I got to thinking: why not have a moment of silence every day?

Really, why not? Are we honestly too busy?

Could we not spare even one minute?

This practice is neither secular nor sacred (take your pick), neither atheist nor religious (who cares). Or all of those. Or none.

Why could we not pause, collectively, even if just for one minute, at 11 a.m EST every day?

I am totally convinced it would bear fruit; that it would be a step toward peace.

Why not?

How could it hurt?

(Yeah, yeah, there are legit exceptions: air traffic controllers, long-winded professors and politicians, emergency responders, panhandlers, doctors, radio blowhards, nurses, casino employees [ahem], and curmudgeons at coffee shops.)

But why not try it?

Give me 10 good reasons.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

gray matters

Gray matters, meaning all is not black and white, is it? Gray matters, as in all that stuff we associate with the brain and cognition (though neurologists tell us thinking and feeling really need each other and are not substantively different in a physiological terms). Gray matters, meaning the healthy person accepts, even embraces, doubt and ambiguity -- something that "originalists" and text-driven fundamentalists, literalists, have a hard time grasping.

So at lunch today my friend / mentor / brother /father /coach person handed me a small, well designed book, A Heart Full of Peace, by Joseph Goldstein, for Christmas 2010, with these words on page 91:

Love your crooked neighbor
with all your crooked heart.
-- W.H. Auden

Words that speak wisdom in today's climate of coarse discourse.

Poetry matters.


Grey, too.

And black on white.

inaugural 2011 haiku

last October's leaves

alabaster chilled veneer

lazy flurries fall

gunsights? or surveyor symbols?

You decide [click].

Or ask Pinocchio.

Monday, January 10, 2011

a picture is worth

a thousand words, as the saying goes.

So, I realize I've been light on images and heavy on words.

I'll image-ine things up a bit.

(Any guesses as to what this is? Or where?)

everybody's special

Quote from The New York Times of January 6, 2011:

" 'The dirty little secret is that the largest special interests are us -- the vast majority of U.S. taxpayers,' the report said. 'Virtually all of us benefit from certain exclusions from income, deductions from income or tax credits.' " [I wonder if the actual report had the serial comma before "or tax credits." You can check here if you have the time. Not surprisingly, it is not a concise report.]

The report referred to above is from the National Tax Advocate's office. Nina E. Olson is the I.R.S.'s national taxpayer advocate.

I did not even know Nina was our I.R.S. ombudsman, or ombudswoman. Did you?

Hi, Nina.

You saying we're all special?


Your point is well taken, Ms. Olson. I've said it before: everyone is all for reform until it affects him or her personally; then it is somebody else's problem, somebody else's profligate ways.

Friday, January 07, 2011

txtng txtng123


I have an ambivalent history and relationship with texting. First the brief history:

  • Until recently, our plan was such that each text was charged, something like thirty-five cents. This was because of the need to text primarily to Europe.
  • With so-called unlimited texting now as part of our plan (of course, texting is paid for, but in lump sum), I more readily send and receive texts.
  • I say "more readily," but I am not an agile texter, don't care to be, and my nearly obsolete phone does not facilitate rapid texting.
  • I accept and enjoy the simplicity of texting when I want a very brief exchange -- the same way that a screened message on an old-fashioned answering machine can be both convenient and diplomatic. And it saves time.
  • I recognize that texting is lousy at conveying tone.
  • Texting can also be a total waste of time.
  • K?
Now let's talk briefly about the diction and language of texting:
  • I am neither a scold nor one who is afraid of changes in the language. Language has always been dynamic, including its spelling conventions. English is enriched by slang and other revitalizing influences.
  • I have read that Japanese young women have written best-selling novels as texts.
  • WOW!
  • I have heard that text diction is becoming acceptable in student essays. My view? Not so good. Wrong context. There's a time to wear fancy clothes and a time for grunge. Same with language.
  • As a poet, I like the forced minimalism of texting. You are really driven to cut to the chase, to be telegraphically stark -- not just with wording but also with punctuation. In that sense, it can make you a better self-editor: "I did not need that many words. I certainly did not need such a highfalutin word."
  • But, alas, let us not forgot that just as simpler-than-Hemingway texting has its place so does serpentine and garrulous prose, with qualifiers and asides -- like this! -- as practiced by Proust, Joyce, [note serial comma] Kierkegaard or Faulkner, and that such florid and meandering prose -- which would be hard on one's thumbs -- paints more than thumbnail sketches: more like an intricate pointilism or a broad canvas of curvilinear strokes, dialogue, [note serial comma again] and nuanced depiction, fiction or not.

p.s. Although texting while driving will make you or others a post-factum postscript, many people persist in doing it, thinking, "I CN HNDLE IT."

Thursday, January 06, 2011

epigoni: word of the day

I choose "epigoni" as today's word. How? I randomly browsed through a recently given copy of The Lexicon by Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.

The word reminds me of Republicans reciting select portions (no unpleasant reminders of slavery, please) of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor today, an exercise in textual fundamentalism, puritan rigor, and showy self-righteousness.

So, why "epigoni," which means disciples, or in Buckley's phrasing: "Close followers, given to imitating, or being bound by, the star they become the creatures of"?

I see these aforementioned crusading moralists as the epigoni of the so-called Tea Party movement, or perhaps would-be epigoni of the Tea Party -- until such stance is not politically beneficial or not sufficiently subservient to the high priests of conservative orthodoxy.

The irony (fully intended) is that Buckley's example in his book lampoons the left, of course.

The singular of the word is epigonus.

According to Merriam-Webster, the pronunciation of both epigoni and epigonus puts the stress on "pig." (No comment.)

The trusty Online Etymology Dictionary sheds more light:

epigon, “undistinguished scions of mighty ancestors,” (sometimes in Latin plural form epigoni), from Gk. epigonoi, in classical use with reference to the sons of the Seven who warred against Thebes; plural of epigonos “born afterward” from epi (see epi-) + -gonos, from root of “to be born” related to gignesthaigenos "race, birth, descent"

Back to our regularly unscheduled blather.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

thinking and doing

Zen calendar quote today: "We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it." I disagree. I get the Zen point, but in practical terms, isn't it precisely the opposite? I understand getting lost in the full reality of something. Well, I don't "understand" that, but I admit the validity of the viewpoint, the total immersion of lived experience. And yet, think of ballet classes, batting coaches, pitching coaches, mechanics, tutors, writing teachers, et cetera ad infinitum. speaking of Latin, here's where "age quod agis" comes into play: "do what you are doing."

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

I blogged.

Happy 12th day of Christmas, 2010.

And tonight is Twelfth Night, of Shakespearean renown.


The snow is back in Syracuse.

Which almost sounds something like 'The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain."

Incidentally, our deposed and de-ornamentalized Christmas reclines snow-adorned near the curb.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


I enjoy -- yes, enjoy -- the word "swatch." I like its sound and meaning.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1510s, "the countercheck of a tally" (Northumberland dialect), later "a tally attached to cloth sent to be dyed" (1610s, in Yorkshire), of unknown origin. Meaning "a sample piece of cloth" is from 1640s.

As James Joyce or Edmund Lear might say:

"You better swatch out; you better not spout..."

Instead of Marketingspeak saying, "Our suite of services includes..." or "Our portfolio consists of Ex Why and Zee," I'm all for swapping out tired old "suite" and portly and lazy "portfolio" with "swatch." I hereby declare 2011 as The Year of Swatch! In fact, let's make it the year of swagger and swatch!

"Click on the tab to experience a swatch of our products."

"Swatch here to feel the texture of our designs." [Why not morph "swatch" into a verb?]

"Swatch me with your proposal by COB."

"We'll be sending you a swatch of our candidate's qualifications."

"Obama offered a swatch of this year's agenda."


It all started here.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy Ninth Day of Christmas

Back to work tomorrow.


First of the new year.

Quotidian quandaries.


Dishes. And dishing.

Up and at 'em.

The month of two-faced Janus.

Sleeves rolled up.

Even though it is not yet Epiphany, we have broken tradition and tossed our tree out unceremoniously to the curb. It was always a bit too lopsided and crooked, even for our lopsided and crooked tastes.

Happy Ninth Day of Christmas, worldwide readers.

My Annual Book List

According to his Confessions, which I confess I really have not read, Saint Augustine was converted upon hearing these words chanted: "Tolle lege," or "Take up and read." Of course, the book he picked up and read was the Bible (he randomly read a passage in Romans).

Not so dramatically, in an annual tradition, here are the books I read for 2010:

  1. The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner
  2. The Humbling, by Philip Roth
  3. Scroogenomics, by Joel Waldfogel
  4. Halloween Through Twenty Centuries, by Ralph and Adelin Linton
  5. The Vanished Hands, by Robert Wilson
  6. The Body Artist, by Don DeLillo
  7. The Farmer's Daughter, by Jim Harrison
  8. Point Omega, by Don DeLillo
  9. Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend, by James S. Hirsch
  10. Bone Fire, by Mark Spragg
  11. The Pregnant Widow, by Martin Amis
  12. Homer & Langley, by E.L. Doctorow
  13. The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris
  14. Words for Empty and Words for Full, by Bob Hicok
  15. Fame, by Daniel Kehlmann
  16. Letting Go of the Words: writing web content that works, by Janice (Ginny) Redish
  17. Ralph McGill: Reporter, by Harold H. Martin
  18. Our Kind of Traitor, by John le Carre