I tell people I don’t like poetry. That’s not exactly true. I do like poetry. I like funny poems, I like poems that remind me of things that were important but have faded in memory. I don’t like my own poetry, even though when I was a teenager, I wrote a lot of it. I have to admit to a youthful passion for Ferlinghetti and ee cummings. Also, T.S. Eliot and occasionally, Ezra Pound, especially when they weren’t taking themselves too seriously.
And because he was so very much New England’s own poet, Robert Frost. We even have an Eisenstadt (original) photograph of him in the house. Garry interviewed him during his last years. He understood this strange part of the world and the crazy people who live here. He understood the woods and the rocks and the roots and the snow.
Today, however, I am treating you to a T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” which opens with a line to which at long last, we can all relate: April is the cruellest month.
It has been a cruel month and sadly, although we have slid into May, the cruelty has not finished with us. When T.S. Eliot wasn’t writing about cats, he was not an easy read.
April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers. Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade, And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
Last night I said to Garry “Aha! He is hoisted upon his own petard!” And Nat Helms wrote a piece about Trump hoisted on his own petard. But really, how many of us have the slightest idea what a petard is or was? I didn’t know until … (gasp) … I looked it up.
“What,” I asked Garry, “Is a petard?”
“I have no idea,” said my husband. This is when I realized I’ve been using this expression my whole life and didn’t know what it meant. Petard sounds French, but what is it? I grabbed my laptop and typed “hoist on his … ” into Google. Before I got to petard … up it came. Don’t you just love it when that happens?
Voila! Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the rest of the story.
A petardwas a bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. Castles. Walled cities. That sort of thing. The word was originally (duh) French and dates to the sixteenth century.
Typically, a petard was metal (bronze or iron), shaped like a cone or box. Filled with two or three kilos (5 or 6 pounds) of gunpowder and using a slow match for a fuse, the petard was a primitive, powerful and unstable explosive device.
After being filled with gunpowder, it would be attached to a wooden base and fastened to a wall, on or under a gate. The fuse was lit. If all went as planned, the explosion would blow a hole big enough to let assault troops through.
Thus the phrase “hoist on his/her own petard” came to mean “harmed by one’s own plan to harm someone else.” It suggests you could be lifted — hoisted — by your own bomb.
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I’ve been following this series through other blogs. It pops up pretty often. I think you are doing just fine. I don’t want to put ideas in your head because I think your ideas are good and your own creativity will find the right way.
Blogging isn’t just something we do because we have nothing more interesting to do. And we each have our own reasons, often many different reasons. It’s a hobby, an avocation, a dedication, an art form, a post-occupation-occupation — all at the same time.
That’s probably why we like to ask each other about blogging and why you do it which makes me think about why I do it. For those of us who are retired, it has become our new occupation after giving up whatever it is we used to do. Since before this, I was a writer, I am now truly enjoying this busman’s holiday.
I started out doing this because I had a ton of pictures and no one ever saw them because they were all on my computer. I figured what the heck, I might as well publish them where others might enjoy them. It became a good reason for spending way too much money on cameras and lenses and the urge for better and better cameras and lenses and processing software never ends.
In this age of Trump and the crushing of everything I believed in, not to mention the eruption of our very own plague, I’ve felt that I need to not just post pretty pictures, but talk about the world. Climate change. Oppression. Racism. The hatred that seems to bind us tighter than love ever could.
I keep hearing that all we need is love, but that’s a song lyric, not a meaningful way of life. We need a lot more than love. We certainly can love people who aren’t our personal family or friends a lot more than we do, but that’s not going to fix the ozone layer or bring back the dying creatures our “development” of the wild places have killed. I fear that in the end, this world will be entirely paved over with roads running from an empty mall to another empty mall.
And if that isn’t scary enough, we need to get serious about figuring out how we can support all these PEOPLE. We are so over-populated, it’s terrifying. You know when you crowd the rats this much, they start to try to kill each other. Periodically Garry and I congratulate each other on having the sense to get OUT of Boston. With all the limitations of living in the middle of nowhere, it’s a whole lot easier on the nervous system than any city anywhere.
Today I write as much because I think there are important issues that need to be talked about. It’s not just about trashing the president. He’ll be gone soon enough. But clearly, we need to hate less and care more. The world has become ugly and greedy. For there to be subsequent generations of humans, we need to be a lot less ugly and massively less greedy. So I figure I have a small, but living bully pulpit and I might as well use it. And I can still post pretty pictures. I wouldn’t want to stress everyone out.
So for me, what’s next is to do the best I can do. Write, create pictures, count the flying squirrels, and hope I can keep affording food for the creatures of the woods.
Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
The indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts
Despair at me doth throw!
Oh, make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.
Sir Philip Sidney
– – –
Note: If you are reading this sonnet out loud, “press” in Elizabethan English was pronounced “preese” to rhyme with release. Or anyway, that’s what my perfesser at collitch said.
Note 2: If your dogs bark all night, one day you will be so tired, you’ll sleep through it. That’s a promise!
It’s another grey, cold day. I’m not yearning for flowers as a dedicated gardener. I just long for color. It has been gray and often very dark gray almost all the time since last December. No snow all winter. A little in late autumn and very early December, then nothing until … April?
I cannot entirely blame climate change for our messy, cold, wet spring because spring is an awful season in New England. Everyone used to call it “Mud Season.” First, you’d get snow that lasted from Thanksgiving until late March or mid-April, then it would melt, often accompanied by torrential rains and a wet basement.
I also comforted myself by pointing out to me that at least we weren’t going to run out of water. Because from May or June through August, there was little or no rain at all.
We went one year with not a single rainy day in May to one of two in June, so by August everything was tinder-dry. We were lucky to not have any fires. We did have a pretty big one last month, but they got it put out fast. Afterward, it rained heavily for a few days, which really put the sodden finishing touches on it.
We had a ridiculously warm winter with the kind of torrential rain and wind we normally reserve for our so-to-speak spring. Then, it turned cold. Most of the winter was in the fifties and sixties and periodically, the 70s.
Two years ago pink fuchsia
As soon as it became “technically” spring, the temperature at night dropped into the 30s and occasionally even colder and even in the middle of the day, it was only in the low 40s. This can be bearable if the sun would shine. I don’t need sun every day, but once in a while would be nice, especially if we got two days in a row without a storm!
Since our flowers are more than a little pathetic, I thought I’d find flowers of the past. Maybe I’ll feel warmer. You think?
How stupid are we? This post in its various permutations has gotten nearly 5,000 hits. Not recently, but in the first few years of posting.
For several years, whenever I got more than 1000 hits in about half an hour, I knew that they must be rebroadcasting the eighth season’s first episode of Criminal Minds. I’ve written more than 10,500 posts, but this one always got the most hits.
So, it must be the perfect time to re-post this piece. The question is whether or not the plot used in the premier show of season 8 of “Criminal Minds” is based on a song by a group named Blitzen Trapper, whose lead singer/lyricist is Eric Earley. This comes up each time the show airs, which is how come I get all these hits on that post.
To settle the issue, one of my correspondents was a producer on Criminal Minds. He assured me the group is being compensated and nothing underhanded is going on. I’m grateful to discover things are not as bad as they seem. It’s rare. Usually, whatever is going on is worse than I imagined.
I’ve gotten a bunch of emails from people who seem otherwise intelligent yet against all reason think conglomerates would never take advantage of we “little people,” and certainly would never commit (gasp) plagiarism.
What makes this belief bizarre is that the corporations under discussion are run for and by people in show business. Unless my correspondents are living on a different planet than me, why would they think this? Have these people displayed such high moral character that they are incapable of illegal or immoral behavior? Could anyone be that naïve? Remember Harvey Weinstein? Or for that matter, Jack Warner? And lord knows how many casting directors for television and movies.
Apparently yes, they really are that stupid.
Big corporations spend millions of dollars on public relations and advertising campaigns designed to convince us they have our best interests at heart. They are entitled to give it their best shot, but why would anyone believe them? In what way has any corporation ever shown itself to be on any side but its own?
As for show business folks? These are not people famous for moral turpitude. They are sexual predators, so plagiarism is nothing to them. I don’t know a writer with hopes of breaking into “the business” who hasn’t had a piece of work stolen. Here’s how it works.
You go for an interview. You bring your story idea, your script, manuscript, lyrics, arrangement, proposal, whatever. You present it to the person to whom you hope to sell it. You make your pitch, praying this is the big score you’ve been waiting for. Alas, it is another rejection. You’re used to rejection. It comes with the territory.
A few months later, a new television series is introduced that has an identical storyline to the one you were trying to sell to that very production studio. A few relatively minor details have been altered, but you recognize it and so do all your friends.
What shall you do, eh? You’re going to sue the studio? Take the network to court? Bring suit against the record label? You have that kind of money and clout? If you were pitching your material, you are probably broke. They’ve got armies of lawyers. You’ve got your paycheck and tips from waiting on tables while you try to get into the business. Only in the Bible does David win. In the big wide world, Goliath always wins.
There is a great deal of plagiarism in television and movies, so much that the relevant lawsuits rarely make the news anymore.
In the software world, accusations of intellectual property theft have reached the point where, after endless legal battles between Microsoft and Apple, every major manufacturer is suing every other manufacturer for copyright infringement. Who wins? Since everyone steals from everyone else and everyone is guilty to some extent, the winner is the company with the best lawyers or the most political influence. And of course, who paid off who.
Oh no, that doesn’t happen, you cry! Our legal system can’t be bought and sold. Right. And the tooth fairy left you a buck under your pillow last night. No really, she did. Honest! My congressman told me, so it must be true.
Public servants are as honest as the day is long. Corporations care about you and me. Hollywood and television executives are persons of the highest moral character. The moon is made of green cheese. Tomorrow I’m going to sprout wings and fly.
Just when I think maybe we aren’t as dumb as corporations think we are, I get letters from readers proving that too many people really are that dumb, or at least that naïve. I find this scary. These people are allowed to vote!
My signature line on email uses the following quote:
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
– Robert Hanlon
In this case, for this show, I may have attributed to malice that which was in fact adequately explained by stupidity. That’s their excuse, but what excuse do you have for believing propaganda paid for by people who would squash you like a bug without a second thought?
I don’t get it. Maybe someone can explain it to me,
I always wanted to be a writer though before I got the idea of writing, I wanted to be The Lone Ranger and be a horseback-riding crime fighter in the Old West. Briefly, I though may a ballet dancer, but an utter lack of talent ended that in a hurry. Once I got a camera in my hands, I knew I would be a photographer … but always I wanted to be a writer, musician, and artist. Photography became my art and I played the piano reasonably well. Mostly though, I knew I would be a writer. I didn’t know what kind of writer. Maybe a great author? Nope. My forte was not novels, but non-fiction.
I was a professional writer for all my professional life. Sometimes I was an editor and frequently, I did both at the same time. Photography was my hobby and remains so. For many years, I was also a pretty good pianist. I was not a professional-grade, but I was good at Scott Joplin and always ready to bang out carols at Christmas parties.
Now? I’m retired.
These days, staying alive is my primary goal. I write for this blog and take a lot of pictures. Top of the list? Birds and flowers.
I no longer play an instrument. Arthritis in my hands has made performing impossible and painful, but that isn’t especially unusual for a pianist. Playing piano is hard on hands. I started playing when I was only four, so my hands took a beating through the years. Add to that typing and eventually, the computer, my hands have lasted longer than I expected. If I’m careful, I can still use them.
Funny how retirement makes future plans and ambition pointless. My plans are no more than five years long. I don’t know if I’ll be around that long, but I live in hope. I’m pretty happy where I am, except for the government (they make me grind my teeth) and the roaming virus that would like to kill me.
So effectively, other than music, my life has been what I wanted it to be and probably will continue more or less — assuming I stay alive — the same. I’m satisfied. I did what I wanted to do and did it well enough to be proud of my work.
I didn’t become a great author, but that’s okay. I was good at what I did and I think I’m even better now.
April 8, 2020
What did you want to be when you grew up vs. what you are today?
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The biggest lie we tell all the time is that when we check the box at the bottom we are agreeing to an interminable list of conditions that basically say whatever they say. What we know is if we do not sign, we can’t use the product.
It’s not a choice. It’s a mandate. So we pretend we read the legal shmaltz because we need to use the application or product and there’s no other way to do it.
But we don’t read it. No one reads it. Why bother? Check the box. You have to check it anyway.
I think once I made an effort to read the small print, but it was years ago when I thought there was a choice.
Now? I just check the box, like everyone else. Have you read those terms and conditions? Ever?
I was out in Arizona talking to a Blue Corn Navajo lady who made jewelry. She had carefully given me her tribal affiliations and all I had to say was “Eastern European Jewish,” which lacked panache. I don’t seem to have much of an ability to show a lot of dash in casual conversation. Whatever talent I have, it’s more introverted.
Nonetheless, it was a good conversation. I casually said I was ” … waiting for my ship to come in and hoped it had a fortune on board for me.”
She asked me, seriously, whether I’d been out on the docks looking for my ship. Looking for my ship? She said “Yes, you have to watch for them. Otherwise, they can pass you by and you’ll never know you missed it.”
I’m sure I forget for years at a time to go look for my ship. It’s probably come and gone and I’ll never see it, even in the foggy distance.
It’s like looking for your writer’s voice. Recently, a lot of people have claimed to be looking for it. Or grumpily asserted they can’t figure out what it is and thus will never find it.
Your writer’s voice is you. Written. It is how you feel, what you mean. In words. Written down. That’s it. The beginning and the end of it. Anyone can find it, but you have to be looking for it. Most people are not looking. They are afraid to find it.
They think they are looking, though. They think your “writer’s voice” as a kind of style or form. Not true.
Your “voice” IS you. You are your voice. Once upon a time — more than 40 years ago –someone told me I wrote like I was afraid my mother would read it. I realized she was right. I was afraid my mother would read it. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I could not find my voice until after she died because I was afraid of what I might say.
The voice was there. I just wasn’t ready to use it where anyone might hear me.
If you are looking for your voice, stop reading books about it. A college course isn’t going to help you. Write how you speak and write what you say … the way you really say it. You should go back to your writing and read it aloud. It should sound like natural speech. More to the point, it should sound like your natural speech. If it doesn’t, rewrite it. If it sounds stilted and phony, it is.
Not everyone needs to find their voice. If what you want to do is write about what’s going on in the world, you only need to write well. Your voice need not come into it.
I want to add a bit here on style and form. Style and form (or format) are not your voice. They are formulas and relate to whatever type of writing you choose as your specialty. In other words, your audience or readership. If you are writing for children (for example), there is a rather rigid formula (with which I almost entirely disagree), especially if you want schools to use your work. Really great kid’s writers have ignored the formalities of the genre and written what they wanted to read when they were young.
I was planning to be the next great “author” although I was never sure what kind of great author. Everyone tells you to “write like yourself.” Except when you are young, you aren’t sure who “yourself” is. Maturity is terribly time-consuming. It can take most of your life.
Finding your voice means letting go of the writers you admired and not trying to sound like them. It means hanging loose. It doesn’t matter what you are writing about, whether it’s for kids, technicians, news-readers, or lovers of magic.
Many of us are unready to find our voice because we’re afraid our mother, father, pastor, brother, or husband will hear us. Worse, they might understand us and then, maybe, they won’t like it. Or us.
As for my ship? I’m not hanging out by the dock, watching for it. For all I know, it’s already on its way back to wherever it came from.
IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Eric Larson
It’s not a new book, but it is nonetheless a relevant book. I have rarely been more conflicted about a book than I was about this one. It was gripping, sometimes mesmerizing. Simultaneously appalling and annoying.
William Dodd was made ambassador to Hitler’s Germany because no one else wanted the job and because they didn’t want to put a “real” ambassador in what they considered a lose-lose position.
From the outset, it was the intention of Dodd’s bosses that he should fail. The U.S. government never had any intention of supporting him, of stopping the rise of the Nazi party or to curtail the personal power of Adolph Hitler.
You need to understand this in order for the rest of the story to make sense if indeed it could be said to make sense. It didn’t make sense to me, but maybe it will make sense to you. Given the way our current government is behaving, maybe it makes more sense only because I am finally aware that it doesn’t have to make sense.
The indifference and callously entrenched antisemitism of US State Department officials and their resulting tolerance for the atrocities of the Nazi government is hard to stomach. This is not an image of our government that would make anyone proud to be an American. And amazingly, we are doing it again. This time, the people who are doing it lack the polish and education of their forbears, but the hideous results are similar.
The failure of all western nations to do anything to stop Hitler while they could have done so easily is difficult to fathom. Their choice of Dodd, who was considered an amateur and not “one of the club” was an incredibly cynical move by the U.S.
Most of the people in the book are dreadful people in one way or another. Dodd, the ambassador, ultimately grows to become, in his own way, heroic. He saw what was happening and tried — within the very limited power of his position — to do what he could. That no one listened to him is part of the tragedy. Dodd’s daughter, on the other hand, is a feather-headed self-absorbed brat. She reminds me of a case of hives. The more you scratch, the more you itch.
Everyone acts in bad faith to one degree or another. Even more hard to bear are those who failed to act, failed to respond to Dodd’s repeated pleas for help. Usually, it wasn’t because they didn’t believe him (although some didn’t), but because the majority of them were hardened anti-Semites who thought Hitler could rid Europe of the menace of Communism while wiping out the Jews. They thought wiping out the Jews was a terrific idea.
Hitler didn’t get rid of Communism, but he did a pretty thorough job of wiping out European Jewry. Historically, I guess that would make the glass half full.
How revolting is it for me to learn this? I always rejected my mother’s suspicions on this score as paranoia. I refused to believe my government could allow — encourage — the genocide of an entire people. Sometimes, discovering mom was right is not heartwarming. This is one of those times.
To put the cherry on this dessert, the State Department’s little plot to allow Hitler enough latitude to “take care of the Jews” also led us into the bloodiest war in human history, a conflict in which more than 30 million people — military and civilians — died. The banality of evil has never been more terrifying. Read it and weep for the past and weep for the present.
Evil intentions never produce good results. This book offers the ultimate cautionary tale. It is as relevant now as ever.
We were watching a rerun of NCIS, an episode from a few years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others and her country’s secrets.
“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.
“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.”
Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived cancer and heart problems and a lot of other life-threatening ailments. As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all of that and have a pleasant, uneventful life. For excitement, there’s always a trip to an amusement park where you can get a huge dose of adrenaline without being in actual danger — and it (usually) doesn’t require years of recovery and rehab.
I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship still alive but hardly deserving a medal. You don’t get medals for staying alive. Survival isn’t bravery or valor. A mosquito will do its best to survive. So will a slug.
Saving your own life (and occasionally, dragging others with you to safety) is natural. Staying alive is hard-wired into life’s DNA. Otherwise, life on earth would have long since vanished. It may yet.
My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You have to make a willing, conscious choice to put yourself in peril for the sake of others. There must be a choice involved. Taking risks for fun, to make money, to get your adrenaline rushing through your blood vessels, or because you’re going to die anyway isn’t courage. It’s survival. Some of us are better survivors than others, but that doesn’t change anything.
If you do it for fun, it’s entertainment. If you’re doing it for profit, it’s shrewd business practice. If it’s choosing to live rather than die? It’s survival.
I have never done anything I would define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining, and fascinating stuff. I’ve gotten myself into tight corners — almost always by accident — and lived to tell the tale. I’ve occasionally put others ahead of me to help when I could. But never have I put me in harm’s way to save another’s life.
The most I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it was not the easiest choice. I won’t get a medal for that, either.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.