Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Ludwig von Mises
a wooden stake through the heart
laissez-faire freezes

market bubbles burst
the boiling pot overflows
the scalding soup cools

wall streeters jitter
investors toss to and fro
cats go back to sleep

the word bank dwindles
the bloated poem contracts
haiku is what's left

Monday, September 29, 2008

Eyes Steel Blue

He debuted
eyes steel blue,
with a silver chalice
tinging his lips.
After a rocky start
and a long, hot summer,
he was no left-handed kid anymore,
chasing the cat on a hot tin roof.
He made
an exodus to being
a hustler,
a heel,
a harper,
and an hombre.
Then through a torn curtain
he emerged cool-handed,
butch, but
with a winning smile.
Even the sting of age
did not take away
the verdict: steel blue is
the color of money.

Paul Newman (1925-2008) films include The Silver Chalice, Somebody Up There Likes Me (as Rocky Marciano), The Left Handed Gun, The Long, Hot Summer, Cat on a Hot Tine Roof, Exodus, The Hustler, Hud, Harper, Torn Curtain, Hombre, Cool Hand Luke, Winning, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The Verdict, The Color of Money.

Aug 12, 2010: revised and linked to from Poets United Think Tank #10, The Eyes

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend Wrap: 2008/09/28

Palin Back Lashes

The growing number of Palin gagglings1, and a growing number of conservatives wringing their hands2 at the humiliating performance of Sarah Palin in her interview with Katie Couric (maybe Sarah was just speaking in tongues?), could eventually evoke a sympathetic response, not only from former Palin-guffawers3, but from many independent female former-Palinistas. But the reaction would be one of retribution: Who should pay for putting this unprepared woman up to this ridicule? It would not be Barack Obama or the lefty media, it would be John McCain and his selfish, crass miscalculation. Now that would be poetic justice.

1. The Daily Dish: Palin Gag Of The Day, Truly Beyond Parody
2. The Daily Dish: Another One Gets Off The Bus
3. The Atlantic.com: Sarah, we are not that different, you and I

MoDo Sunday

The hit-and-miss1 Mother Dowd laments2 Barack Obama not fighting John McCain's fury with fury in Friday's debate:

Obama did a poor job of getting under McCain’s skin. Or maybe McCain did an exceptional job of not letting Obama get under his skin. McCain nattered about earmarks and Obama ran out of gas.

But this time she is wrong, I think, for two reasons:
(a) Obama walks a fine line between staying too cool and getting too angry. The angry-black-man image is what the McCain team would love to have around to show to older, blue-collar white voters3.
(b) Obama's steady politeness (giving Senator McCain "credit" for his stance on torture and pointing out several times where he agrees with his opponent) made McCain's grouchy petulance even more glaring than it already was.

1. The Nation: MoDo, Deconstructed
2. The New York Times: Sound, but No Fury
3. The New York Times: Union Leaders Confronted by Resistance to Obama

Best Line Of The Week

Frank Rich:

As recently as Tuesday [John McCain] had not yet even read the two-and-a-half-page bailout proposal first circulated by Hank Paulson last weekend. “I have not had a chance to see it in writing,” he explained. (Maybe he was waiting for it to arrive by Western Union instead of PDF.)1

1. The New York Times: McCain’s Suspension Bridge to Nowhere

Apocalypse now

I find it ironic that it is mainly those in the evangelical-religionist sect of the Republican Party who don't believe in the "apocalypse" prophesied by Paulson-Bernanke1 (if there is no government-backed financial rescue plan) but do believe in the Apocalypse of the Book of Revelation and the Left Behind franchise of LaHaye-Jenkins.

1. U.S. News & World Report: How Paulson Just Picked the 2012 GOP Nominee

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate #1: Barack Obama With John McCain

Financial crisis needs points one through four,

But wasteful earmarks – that's the cause of tears!

And remember who was minding the store.

Three million to study the genes of bears!

Iraq: ten billion a month down the drain;

Iraq is back in black thanks to our Surge!

While dissing the prime minister of Spain.

It's spending here at home that needs a Purge!

I face at my opponent man-to-man

And will refuse to look him in the eye!

And give McCain credit for what I can.

Obama's understanding's gone awry!

1. Double exposure (a form created by poet Greg Williamson): odd-numbered lines in bold type and right-justified, even-numbered lines in standard type and left-justified. (The poem can be read reading the bold-type lines, or the standard-type lines, or as a whole.)
2. First 2008 presidential debate: transcript

Friday, September 26, 2008


Some people in politics have a distinctive voice – a voice that makes you ask: "Where have I heard that before?" Typically, it is either a real-life character/actor in Hollywood or a cartoon character that you are trying to remember.

Jon Stewart has been making lots of fun recently pointing out that Joe Lieberman sounds like Droopy Dog1, and that Fred Thompson sounds like Foghorn Leghorn2. (Foghorn's voice has been identified with others in the past, notably Ernest Hollings and Howell Heflin.)

Barack Obama didn't immediately spur that question for me, but then I discovered that one impressionist3 found that The Rock4 helps him master the Obama voice. Barack and The Rock.

One the other hand, John McCain's (somewhat slurred and nasal) voice doesn't strongly evoke anything yet. Joe Biden, same thing.

But listening to clips of Sarah Palin5, I knew I'd heard that voice, nagging my brain, from somewhere. Then I got it: Debra Jo Rupp!

That's Eric's mom, Kitty, on That '70s Show6. Before that she played Jerry's ditsy booking agent, Katie, in a couple of episodes on Seinfeld. Actually, it was serendipitously rewatching one of those thirteen year old Seinfeld episodes that was the tip-off.

1. YouTube: Droopy Dog / Droopy's Double Trouble
2. YouTube: Foghorn Leghorn
3. Yahoo! Answers: Who does Barack Obama sound like?
4. YouTube: An Exclusive Conversation with The Rock
5. YouTube: Sarah Palin CBS Interview (Katie Couric)
6. YouTube: Debra Jo Rupp / That '70s Show - Best of Kitty (Season 6)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

what Clatydid

American Idol warbler
single celebrity father

gold-throated vocalist
platinum albumist

UNICEF charity
special-needs philanthropy

once-in-the-closet coy
gay People coverboy

     and that's what Clatydid
     sang the pink katydid

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Financial Instrument

              for Elizabeth Barrett Browning*

What is he doing, the great god Plutus,
   Down in the pit of the market?
Spreading greed and causing a ruckus,
While blinded overseers blunder,
And golden nest-eggs break asunder,
   With the trader down in the market.

He bids new paper, the great god Plutus,
   From the derivative stand of the market:
With unknown value and unknown status,
Promising riches to gamblers' eyes,
Whether it sinks or whether it flies,
   Ere he brings it out of the market.

Down in the pit sits the great god Plutus,
   While turbidly churns the market;
Hoping investors, like eaters-of-lotus,
Forget to look at their portfolio,
(If they did, they'd cry "Mamma mio!")
   Such are the ways of the market.

He sells it short, does the great god Plutus,
   How tall it stands in the market!
(For the underlying, it is like coitus!)
Steadily from the outside wall,
He watches the underlying fall
   In pieces, as he sits by the market.

“This is the way,” laughs the great god Plutus,
   (Laughs while he sits by market)
“The only way, since man took focus
To make sweet money, to at last succeed,
And realize dreams, fulfill their need."
   He blows more smoke in the market.

Bitter memories, O Plutus!
   (The fault is not in the market,
But in ourselves, dear Plutus!)
Can market again o'rcomes its shock
And in open stands the venders' stock
   Come back to sell in the market?

Yet half a beast is the great god Plutus,
   And laughs as he sits by the market,
Seeking new prospects to hocus—
But the wise know of times sad and gay
And know to keep beast Plutus at bay.
   And that is the tale of the market.

* an 'imitation' of A Musical Instrument

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jealous Jehovah!

Andrew Sullivan spars1 with Bill Maher on things religulous2. But citing the bit that "non-believers are far more superstitious than believers"3 only trots out another tired old horse4 of the religious right. It may indeed be true to some extent, but it is transparent subterfuge.

The picture of a sovereign paternal god, one who is jealous of the usual 'pretenders' – ghosts, Atlanteans, Loch Ness Monster, bigfoots (bigfeet?), fairies ... – is burned into the mind of the conservative Christian. So instead of possibly believing in a bunch of minor, disjointed, magical characters, they believe in the big One (or – like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove – One in Three Roles). It's a convenient trick—it's those new age-y, relativistic liberals who believe in strange beings!—to keep their fundamentalist phalanx firm, dress themselves in the cloak of faux-respectability, and promote the views from the religious right's playbook.

1. andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/09/the-palin-night.html
2. www.apple.com/trailers/lions_gate/religulous/
3. andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/09/magical-thinkin.html
4. online.wsj.com/article/SB122178219865054585.html

Monday, September 22, 2008

Prelude to an Elizabethan Autumn

As autumn augurs bode the short'ning day,
I long for crops on which my sust'nance leans
And which will keep my hunger's pangs at bay—
Not thriftless be and left with meager means.
But work ahead I doth procrastinate
To walk through field and morning meadow dew
By fruit and corn of my dear lord's estate
And bid summer's dwellers early adieu:
Philomel on southward journey will fly
To 'scape frost's grip and winter's gloomy plight;
Leaf once green will color, then fall and dry
For sun doth vex its face with waning light.
   To harvest moon I'll turn and pray my fates
   Vouchsafe my passage through winter's dire straits.

  #45: word fishing*

The 2008 Fall Equinox (09/22 15:44:18 UTC) occurred during the making of this poem.

* based on the five words that "jumped out at" me from Shakespeare's Sonnets:

Thriftless 2
Vouchsafe 32
Vex 92
Philomel 102
Augurs 107

(Why "Philomel" and "Thriftless" jumped out is obvious. "Vex" is like "Sex".)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Role Reversal

Central casting of mainstream media continues to present John McCain as "experienced, steady-at-the-helm": a "known" quantity. Barack Obama is the "callow, untested" one: wet behind those perky ears. McCain is "familiar"; Obama, "exotic". This typecasting has been burnt into malleable minds of the U.S. public at large, as recent polls have shown.

But with this week's financial meltdown, beginning with the demise of investment bank Lehman Brothers—it's only just the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history1—a dramatic and ironic role reversal was on display.

McCain convincingly played the role of the petulant, temperamental child, senselessly blaming the greedy green Wall Street monster for causing the mess2. This is from someone who writes this month in Contingencies, the magazine of the actuarial profession:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.3

(In a later tantrum, McCain lashes out at the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which he mixed up with the Federal Election Commission4.)

In contrast to McCain, Obama played the role of the patient, steady grownup:

... given the gravity of this situation, and based on conversations I have had with both Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke, I will refrain from presenting a more detailed blue-print of how an immediate plan might be structured until I can fully review the details of the plan proposed by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. It is critical at this point that the markets and the public have confidence that their work will be unimpeded by partisan wrangling, and that leaders in both parties work in concert to solve the problem at hand.5

But is the public willing to see them play against their media studio typecasting? The final box office numbers have yet to be seen.


2008/09/22: As Andrew Sullivan notes in Daily Dish, even 'Goldwater-conservative' George Will sees McCain's juvenile side:

I suppose the McCain campaign's hope is that when there's a big crisis, people will go for age and experience. The question is, who in this crisis looked more presidential, calm and un-flustered? It wasn't John McCain who, as usual, substituting vehemence for coherence, said 'let's fire somebody.' And picked one of the most experienced and conservative people in the administration, Chris Cox, and for no apparent reason... It was un-presidential behavior by a presidential candidate ... John McCain showed his personality this week and it made some of us fearful.

One can't help but think of the fact that as many men (and it seems to affect men more than women) grow elderly, they seem to revert more to childlike behaviors.

1. MarketWatch: Lehman folds with record $613 billion debt
2. YouTube: McCain: Greed Created Wall Street's Problems
3. Paul Krugman: McCain on banking and health
4. YouTube: McCain confuses FEC with SEC
5. YouTube: Obama Statement on Economic Crisis [full text]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wringing out

How much can I wring out of my
toothpaste tube
         before, accordion-like, it collapses?
shaving cream can
         before aerosol is all there is?
soap bar
         before nothing but lather remains?
paper towel
         before it soils rather than cleans?
         before there're too many holes in their soles?
         before all those washings have taken their tolls?
         before it begins to lose its sleeves?
         before there's no time left for reprieves?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

To a Northwestern Land

O beautiful, disowned prince of Fatherland Russia, America's pristine booty,

Of you I sing!

Studded with the jewels of glaciered mountains and sparkling streams, still youthful and untamed,

You excite the lusty passions of maverick men, and wild beasts freely roam your hunters' paradise.

But still my heart grieves:

Greedy men want only to drill you, grab your sweet nectar and leave you bare; a false-Christ's fanatics seek to govern you.

Stay free, O prince, and sing of me!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rubbery Feet

                  for William Carlos Williams
                  (September 17 1883 - March 4 1963)

My eye scanned something passing by
                        with rubbery feet,
                                                   looking like
a poem, swimming like
                        a poem, quacking like
                                                   a poem.
It was.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Leave Sarah Alone!

(a John McCain ringtone*)

Do not vet a gal named Sa-re-ah
If you drag down that name
You'll never be the same
To me
Don't mess with a mom named Sa-re-ah
Now suddenly I've found
How muffle-ing a sound
Can be
Sa-re-ha   Sa-re-ah   Sa-re-ah
Say it loud and you're a sexist preying
Say it soft and you're like children playing
Don't start mistreating

(apologies to Stephen Sondheim)

* samples of other songs

Monday, September 15, 2008

Elegy for Fallen Leaves

I remember the leaves,
Once vibrant and green,
That once filled banks of trees
With green-spanned branches now stripped desolately clean.

Feeding trees' fibrous bast,
Their veins etched out faces
Of U.S. leaders past,
Like the Virgin's visage found in the oddest places.

In the end they turned brown
And, in this time of woe,
Expired and tumbled down,
Forgotten, onto the once-bustling walled street below.

But this refrain we sing,
While these leaves we still mourn:
There will be a new spring,
And tree banks will be refilled with new leaves reborn.

  #44: rememberances and eligies

Sunday, September 14, 2008


pity = (−i, −u)
(i feel bad for u)
mourn with those who mourn1

envy = (−i, +u)
(i wish i were u)
but ... envy slays the simple2   

mudita = (+i, +u)
(i am glad for u)
rejoice with those who rejoice1

schadenfreude = (+i, −u)
(i'm glad i'm not u)
but ... whoever gloats over calamity    
   will not go unpunished

like earth's magnetics
polarity shift happens
and life recycles

... pity ... envy ... mudita ... schadenfreude ...

  #43: rubberneckers

1. Romans 12:15     2. Job 5:2     3. Proverbs 17:5

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Scientia, Dogma, and Data

   Scientia and Dogma crossed the Way,
Pilgrims who passed in directions diverse.
The odd couple stilled with nothing to say.
But before they were about to disperse
A sentinel bringing blessing or curse
Appearing from nowhere brandishing lance
Met the duo with a challenging stance.

"Pilgrims, where go ye, as two or as one?"
"Two," Scientia said. "My quest unknown.
I don't know if ever my journey's done."
"My travel takes me to the Holy Stone,"
Dogma replied in reverential tone,
"A destination sure, my faith tells me."
Scientia wonders, "And who are thee?"

"My name is 'Data', harbinger of fact,
The slayer of theories, certainty's bane."
She patiently waited to see them react.
Dogma, unmoved: "My Holy Stone will explain
Secrets of all when He removes death's chain."
Scientia, troubled: "What have I missed?
Can my theory withstand this fateful twist?"

Data smiled and released them from arrest.
Scientia took her number-filled book,
Pondering if current theory be stressed.
Dogma continued on without a look
Back to the path that Scientia took.
Scientia and Dogma rode along the Way,
To each other still with nothing to say.

a-b-a-b-b-c-c / rhyme royal stanza (Chaucer)
e.g. The Student's Tale

Friday, September 12, 2008

When µWorlds Collide

It's said, behind ev'ry Higgs field of dreams
There lies a Higgs boson shooting from beams
Of colliding hadrons seen only in streams
Of data awaited
Patiently by international teams
With hopes inflated.

What is gravity? What is dark matter?
Can answers be found in Hadron's scatter?
Or will it all be just so much chatter?
Who then has a clue
If Standard Models begin to shatter?
Or at least unglue?

2. Hawking bets CERN mega-machine won't find 'God's Particle'
3. poetic form: Burns stanzas (aaabab ...)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

nine eleven, age seven

the yet still callow
nine eleven, age seven
yearning to grow up

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Voter

Voter! Voter! turning right
To embrace the lure of fright,
Who dost trick you with a lie,
And cause thy strange dichotomy?

What new spin will they devise?
What dread tale? what new disguise?
What new foe will they require,
To set thy rage of hate afire?

Dost thine own stakes thy depart,
For culture wars against the arts—
Elite subverters to defeat—
Or dost thou fall for their deceit?

What just-like-you facade they feign?
And when they go against thy grain
And sever hope from thine own grasp,
Dost thou turn to Bible's clasp?

Or can thou be released from fears
And join together with thy peers,
At last defeat the stormy sea,
To bind to those who hear thy plea?

Voter! Voter! turning right
To embrace the lure of fright,
Who dare trick you with a lie,
And cause thy strange dichotomy?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

pax de deux

tea flows into cup
(of thee not, will shakespeare knew)
to the brim—steaming

tea, cup holding fast
partners, dancing pax de deux
they're now one: teacup

Tea was not imported into Britain until some fifty years after Shakespeare's death.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Driving My Audie

To drive my Audie (my speedster's nickname)
Is sweet dessert that tops off a dull day.
I take my Audie for a spin. My heart's aflame.
"Keep me well-lubed," his manual would say.
His rounded rear bumper up to his fore,
His sleek and smooth exterior kept buff,
Eagerly greets me opening his door:
"Please, drive me hard until you've had enough."
His engine revs up; I'm ready to roll.
I lay rubber, stick-shifting low to high.
Exhilarating speed: food for the soul.
Going fast, going slow, 'til end draws nigh.
I spurt to the finish, my head is spun.
To a stop, Audie sputters—one last gasp.
His engine cools down, piston-action done.
I release his shift stick from my firm clasp.
    "Adios," he says, "my driver most fond."
    "Vaya con Speedos, amor," I respond.

1. "heroic" sonnet: abab cdcd efef ghgh ii
2. Audi TT speedster: http://www.caradvice.com.au/10559/audi-tt-speedster-cgi/
3. Audi A4: Best Car for the Gay Professional (2009)

linked to from Poets United for the prompt to write something "sultry" (July 31, 2010)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Wires from Earth

                           [from an unknown extraterrestrial journalist,
                            trans. Philip Thrift]

           I come from a binary star
           to a single sun's blue-hued orb.
           My morphing-suit puts me on par
           with its natives whom I record:

Bright lights and flame draw me today
to dancers and flags and parades.
These earthlings bring hope to my stay
with all lands, all shapes, and all shades.

A quarter moon cycle now spent
(their one moon is now in full light)
I'm witness to many ascend
to platforms wearing medals bright.

As the end of their games drew nigh
I wondered where next I would drift.
I noticed in a place mile-high,
another stage getting a lift.

This one, just like the one before,
was a mix of native color.
Again my expectations soar;
these earthlings now seem much taller.

The next moon-quarter set my gaze,
to a land of ten thousand lakes.
Another stage was being raised—
it's the last journey I would make.

A strange display has drawn to close
a meeting not like the others—
white-faced homogeneous rows,
mere semblance of diverse colors.

           I return to home pleased, but yet,
           while the first stops inspired a lot,
           the last stop has led me to fret
           on peacemaking coming to naught.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Celebrity in the Flesh

My body is the real celebrity.

He has ninety trillion more fans
(and hecklers)
than I
(or Paris or Britney)
ever will,
living within him:

     the starstruck micro-bes
     (bacteria, funguses, viruses all),
     witnesses to his rise and fall—

         the fluttering flesh of his youth
         the flickering flesh of his midlife
         the flacciding flesh of his old age.

They seem to come out of the woodwork
(maybe they do!),
nurturing him or
tearing him down.
But where would they be
without him?

sigh ...
But just who,
am I?

You Share Your Body with 90 Trillion Roommates

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Virtually the whole day

Today was a good day;
I took off and wandered.
A quiet walk I first took
to this cool babbling brook.
On a rock I then pondered
near to banks of blue clay.

A garden in full bloom:
my journey's next stop.
Look, the petals' soft hues;
what are their names?
—no clues.
But what a wonderful crop
flowering sweet perfume.

My morning respite done,
it was time for a munch
on some coffee shop foods.
There some crazy cute dudes
were the liveliest brunch
bunch around. It was fun.

My afternoon was free
so I went to the zoo.
The tour guide was zany
though doubtlessly brainy.
When the tour was through
I left with some glee.

It was time to get home
and get prepped for dinner
I was having with friends,
chatting up latest trends.
(One is a Berliner;
another is from Rome.)

I capped off the night
with a Symphony of Bach.
I returned to reflection
on life's odd direction—
I was back on that rock
in the brook's morning light.

You see, I've really been
at my MacBook's LCD
all day, virtually spent,
wondering where it went.
So after a nighttime tea,
I tucked my tired tush in.

Virtual stops:
     Babbling Brook     Tena's flower garden
     CK's Coffee Shop (1)     CK's Coffee Shop (2)
     Australia Zoo Tour     yahoo chat
     Dinner With Friends     Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

what mother wouldn't tell you

                           for Levi Johnson
                           and Bristol Palin

(wear a)
c c
o o
n n
d d
o o
\ \
_\ do \__
/not \be a\
( dumb\nut)

September 1, 2008 (CNN) – [2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate] Sarah Palin, who announced on Monday that her [unmarried] 17-year-old daughter [Bristol] is pregnant [(with the baby of Levi Johnson, 18)], indicated during her run for Alaska governor that she was a firm supporter of abstinence-only education in schools.

In a 2006 Eagle Forum questionnaire, Palin indicated that she supported funding abstinence-until-marriage education programs instead of teaching sex-education programs.

      "Explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support,"

Palin wrote in the conservative group’s questionnaire.

Monday, September 1, 2008

'cept timber mourning

planet erosion
flooding in motion

species' final gasp
sawing's grating rasp

C sequestration

climatic warming
growing —
           'cept timber mourning

C : chemical symbol for carbon