Friday, May 29, 2015

selfies, belfies, and soulfies

One of the great virtues of American English is that it has served as a lovely, anarchic breeding ground for new words, for all sorts of coinages and neologisms. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of slang. We're not like the French, waiting for an academy to grant approval to our local, handcrafted, artisanal, non-GMO, and ferociously democratic wordsmithing.

"Selfie" is but one example, illustrating the modern solipsistic passion for pictures of one's self, or of one's orbit of selfdom. By extension, the New York Times tells us this week, "belfies" are self-administered photos of one's behind. Posterior selfies. Who knew? (Not me.)

Which gets me thinking. Try these on for size. And feel free to chime in with your own inventions.

soulfies -- Snapshots of the current state of your soul.

barfies -- Instagrams of pub crawling. Can be used for calling in sick the next day.

aarfies -- Adorable dog images.

rolfies -- Photos of successful holistic soft-tissue release. (Cf. rolfing. Replaces old-fashioned smiley-face emoji.)

nullfies -- Blanks. Nothing. Zilch. Nothing on the screen, but takes up memory anyway. (A sly comment on nihilism. Then again, maybe not.)

oughties -- The pictures you really should have displayed, instead of the ones you regrettably did display.

Your turn, dear reader.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

a tree, a nest, and a pool

In an ancient rite of excommunication, a bell, a book, and a candle were employed. A 1958 movie starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs, borrows those words for the title, "Bell, Book and Candle." (I wish they had used the serial comma.) Today, on Tipperary Hill, I saw a Christmas tree with needles the color of copper (a hue not unlike my dog's hair) by the sidewalk (yikes! keeping a tree till Pentecost?!), a tiny bird's nest (sans bird's eggs) on the sidewalk a block away from the discarded Yule tree, and the swimming pool in Burnet Park filled with unnameable swimming-pool-azure water but absent of swimmers.

What, if anything, are we to make of these signs?

I do not know.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

not a cloud in the sky

Wind has scrubbed the sky clear of all those cirrus, cirrocumulus, altocumulus, cumulonimbus, and cumulus clouds floating by this morning. At least from what I can see, they've gone elsewhere. Or disappeared. (Which is it?). And my vantage point is limited. (Isn't everyone's vantage point limited?) I am sitting at Cafe Kubal in downtown Syracuse, facing Jefferson Street, with South Salina Street to my left. The only sky afforded my perusing is above buildings, not that we have skyscrapers like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, or Moscow, Idaho. One or two structures as high as, say, twenty stories. (I am choosing not to spell "storeys.") "Not a cloud in the sky." Here. Now. And as discerned in my angle of vision. Make of that what you will, you metaphoreans.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

bumps in the road

Have you seen it? A car swerves to avoid a slightly raised manhole or a pothole or a bump in the road. Actually, it is not typically a bump but rather a depression, a recess, an emptiness where asphalt or concrete should be and once was. More accurately, the car does not swerve by itself. The driver swerves it to avoid the offending disturbance. I've done it. Haven't you? Why do we do this? To save wear and tear on our tires? To achieve a less-rocky ride, avoiding In-Vehicle Beverage Spillage (IVBS) or CD skippage? Do we perform this evasive driving maneuver to keep the driver from losing his or her train of thought? (Maybe it should be "car of thought" in this case.)

Can you as a reader apply any metaphorical value to this phenomenon? 

Comments invited.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

the address of happiness

I am paraphrasing Thich Nhat Hanh here, who is paraphrasing the Buddha:

The address of happiness, the address of life, is -- wait for it --


No postage required, no return address needed, no addressee needed either, for that matter.

Pretty simple, eh?

So, see you at the corner of Here and Now Streets.

Monday, May 11, 2015


The day after Mother's Day, as I was driving, I spotted a sign outside a church. The sign declared:



Being a sometime editor, I quickly perceived what I thought was an error of diction and wanted to rejigger the movable letters to say:


thinking, "Wow, that's a pretty progressive church, going all New Age on us with gods or goddesses." And then I read the next line and realized the misperception that the missing apostrophe in "GODS" had wrought in one reader. See, punctuation matters. In heaven and on earth.

Incidentally, theologically speaking, I don't get all Thomas Kinkade-warm-and-gauzy over that angel thing. Back in the Sixties, in high school, Father Giuliani used to say we've got to be human before anything else. We're humans. No disrespect to angelic entities, wherever they may be, if anywhere, but we humans need not aspire to that ontological leap. (Is it even a leap, Kierkegaardian or otherwise? Now don't go ruffling your gossamers.)

Friday, May 08, 2015


After she fell on the field, after the collision, the body-check or whatever they call it, she was down on the artificial turf. It wasn't right. She wasn't right. Something was off. Then, as if from another dimension, from the back recesses of some other region, not on this planet, a sound emerged. Or was it there immediately? Perhaps a few beats afterward, the way characters who are shot, in the movies (I've never witnessed a shooting in 3-D life), do not react until they see the blood pouring out of the wound. A keening was heard. Everyone in the stadium heard this siren, this scream of pure pain, hoarse and insistent and demanding and unkenneled. From my daughter. Her mother and I ran to her, the coach and medics already calming her, containing this eruption of hurt. Torn ACL. Broken tibia. Who knows what else. (Thank God, not a head or spinal injury.) She is recovering. Yes, others have been similarly injured in sports or dance or life. No monopoly here. But I'll tell you what: my ears and heart have never heard anguish quite like that. Nor do I ever want to hear it again. But I'm grateful that we were there for her. All of us. Everyone was there for her.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


The ad read: "CONCEALED CARRY CLASS Permit Honored in 34+ States."

Inevitably, I have some questions:

  1. If you carry yourself with class, why conceal it? (That's a bit of humor intended for English majors, editors, journalists, and punctuation geeks.)
  2. Why 34+ states? Do they mean 35? Or 49 or 50 or a specific number between 35 and 50? What about Guam?
  3. Is an EXPOSED-CARRY CLASS offered?
  4. What elements of CONCEAL does the class address (clothing, self-induced injury, shape, protuberance, obfuscation, syntax, diction, angle, lighting, smell, subterfuge, camouflage, foreign languages, winking, vernacular, twitches, tics)?
  5. What aspects of CLASS does the class address (wealth, culture, race, diction, syntax, carriage, manners, mien, gait, accent, clothing, squareness of jaw)?

Sunday, May 03, 2015

if you can read this...

You've probably seen the bumpersticker that says "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THANK A TEACHER," or a variation on that. True enough. But also thank your parent(s) or step-parents or guardians; other relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters; your peers; your culture; your heritage; your physical and mental capacities; your neighbors and friends; your place of worship; local and school libraries and librarians; literacy volunteers; local businesses; government agencies and people with them; nonprofits; teaching assistants; reading specialists; mentors; civic leaders; educational researchers and leaders; legislators; and on and on. Did I forget anyone? Perhaps. Not intended. The point is: it takes (and took) legions of people, close and far away, to make you a reader. As you were READING this, you might have taken for granted that you can read. You might also have taken for granted the silent and complex and sophisticated array of people, forces, and factors that culminated in your ability to read this word, the next word, and all that came before and will follow. And to do so with ease and enjoyment, as if it were second nature!

We have a literacy crisis.

We need to wake up.

It takes a whole community.


Tomorrow is too late.

Friday, May 01, 2015

blind person area

Yesterday while driving I saw a sign consisting of black letters declaring BLIND PERSON AREA set on a yellow background, in the village of Baldwinsville, New York. (Those of you inclined to be persnickety, like me, are urged to not get your knickers in a knot over the missing hyphen between the first and second of the three words. Nor should you be concerned with the legit split infinitive in the preceding sentence.) I am not blind. I have known some blind people in my life. For three summers out of college, I worked with blind college students who were orienting to college life in the summer before their freshman year. My point in citing those bona fides, if you will, is to forthrightly state (split infinitive again) that this post is neither disrespectful of blind people nor insenstive to that aspect of their lives. 

Seeing the sign triggered some silent questions to clank around in my discursive head, or wherever thoughts neurologically reside:

  1. Upon seeing a sign like that have you as a driver ever encountered a blind person in the designated area? I have not, to my recollection. I'm not questioning the veracity or sincerity of the municipal sign posters; I'm just sharing my limited experience.
  2. Where does the area begin and end? In other words, what are the borders of the BLIND PERSON AREA?
  3. Granted, the sign is urging drivers to be more vigilant or cautious, but in the absence of such a sign do drivers have license to proceed with an iota of comparatively less vigilance or caution?
  4. Since the sign was not also in braille (well, maybe it was, but I do not think so) and assuming blind people are unaware of the sign (and I could be wrong on this aspect, too), is it possible that some blind persons actually take offense at the sign, owing to their independence and mobility, in many instances?
Today, with the interior knowledge that I'd be composing this post, I happened to see a sign (at a different locale) that read DEAF CHILD AREA. So, I ask you: 
  1. Do the same questions as listed above apply?
  2. Or do radically different questions apply?
  3. What if both of these signs coexist in the same not-precisely-designated area?
  4. What questions arise?
  5. And what answers?