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Pix o’ the Day

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

Poems That Don’t Suck

Put Something In

By Shel Silverstein

Sheldon Allan Silverstein (1930-1999)

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.

———

Harriet Tubman

By Eloise Greenfield

Eloise Little Greenfield (1929-2021)

Harriet Tubman didn’t take no stuff
Wasn’t scared of nothing neither
Didn’t come in this world to be no slave
And wasn’t going to stay one either

“Farewell!” she sang to her friends one night
She was mighty sad to leave ’em
But she ran away that dark, hot night
Ran looking for her freedom
She ran to the woods and she ran through the woods
With the slave catchers right behind her
And she kept on going till she got to the North
Where those mean men couldn’t find her

Nineteen times she went back South
To get three hundred others
She ran for her freedom nineteen times
To save Black sisters and brothers
Harriet Tubman didn’t take no stuff
Wasn’t scared of nothing neither
Didn’t come in this world to be no slave
And didn’t stay one either

And didn’t stay one either

———

When Earth’s Last Picture is Painted

By Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

When Earth’s last picture is painted
and the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded,
and the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it —
lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of All Good Workmen
Shall put us to work anew.

And those that were good shall be happy:
they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas
with brushes of comet’s hair.
They shall find real saints to draw from —
Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
They shall work for an age at a sitting
and never be tired at all!

And only the Master shall praise us,
and only the Master shall blame;
And no one will work for the money,
and no one will work for the fame,
But each for the joy of the working,
and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It
for the God of Things as They are!

———

Remember

By Christina Rossetti

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

———

Try Again

By W. E. Hickson

William Edward Hickson (1803-1870)

‘T is a lesson you should heed,
Try, try again;
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again;
Then your courage should appear,
For, if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear;
Try, try again.

Once or twice though you should fail,
Try, try again;
If you would at last prevail,
Try, try again;
If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we do not win the race;
What should you do in the case?
Try, try again.

If you find your task is hard,
Try, try again;
Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again.
All that other folks can do,
Why, with patience, should not you?
Only keep this rule in view:
Try, try again.

If a Genie Appeared

If a genie appeared and offered me one wish, and I were a better man, I would ask for world peace, or to end hunger and poverty, or for all Republicans to be raptured into the sky, never to be heard from again.

But no, I would ask to be 22 years old again, tall and handsome, financially secure, and with an IQ of, say, 200.

If the genie offered me a second wish, I would ask to be able to converse with my dog Jake.

I suppose it would have to be telepathic, since dogs haven’t evolved to speak. I’m fine with telepathic.

As it is, I talk to Jake constantly. But he only comprehends my tone and certain key words. I would want the genie to allow genuine two-way communication.

Jake and I understand each other pretty well, despite not being able to have conversations. As roommates of long standing, we know the other’s likes, dislikes, and boundaries. We have our routines and rituals, most of which occur smoothly.

But there is so much more I wish we could share.

I wish I could tell him, “Jake, we can’t go for a walk this morning because I have a haircut appointment. We’ll go walking after lunch, okay?”

And “I’m sorry, buddy, I can’t share these cookies with you. Chocolate is harmful to dogs. I got you some Alpo treats instead.”

And “Dude, I’m going on a road trip, and you’d be cooped up in the car all day. I’ll leave you at the kennel so you can play with the other pooches. I’ll be back before you know it, I promise.”

And “I know the thunder is scary, but it’s only noise. And it’s a long way off. It won’t hurt you, honest.”

And “Look, pal, when I sneeze, I’m not mad and yelling. It’s an involuntary reaction to a tickle in my nose. You sneeze, too, right?”

Jake also has information to share.

Such as “Rocky! We need to go out to the front yard, right now! A cat is out there! I saw it through the window!”

Or “Okay, this isn’t complicated. Leave the toilet seats up.”

Or “Look, you don’t have to keep me on a leash at the city pond. I know I get excited around the ducks, but would I chase one down and hurt it? Don’t be silly.”

Or “Uh… I ate some stuff outside, and I don’t fell so good. I think I’m gonna be sick.”

Anyway, I’ve given this considerable thought. I would be ready, if a genie appeared.

Tune o’ the Day

Blue Moon” was written in 1934 by the high-powered composing team of Rogers and Hart for a movie that was quickly forgotten. But the song became hugely popular and has been recorded by dozens of artists over the years.

As intended, most versions of the tune have been gentle and slow. But in 1961, the doo-wop group The Marcels took “Blue Moon” to a wild and glorious new level. They turbocharged the tempo and, while faithful to the Rodgers and Hart lyrics, bookended them with a manic new stanza that is better heard than described.

Alone at home, I’ve been known to belt out a pretty good version of the “bom baba bom” stanza myself.

Blue Moon

By The Marcels, 1961
Written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

Bom baba bom,
Ba bom ba bom bom,
Bom baba bom,
Ba bom ba bom bom,
Danga dang dang,
Dinga dong ding,
Blue Moon.
Moon, Blue Moon.
Dip di-dip di-dip,
Moon, moon, moon, Blue Moon.
Dip di-dip di-dip,
Moon, moon, moon, Blue Moon.
Dip di-dip di-dip,
Bom baba bom,
Ba bom ba bom bom,
Bom baba bom,
Ba bom ba bom bom,
Danga dang dang,
Dinga dong ding,

[Opening stanza repeats at reduced volume in background.]

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart.
Without a love of my own.

Blue Moon, you knew just what I was there for.
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for.

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold.
I heard somebody whisper, “Please adore me.”
And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold.

Blue Moon, now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart.
Without a love of my own.

Bom baba bom,
Ba bom ba bom bom,
Bom baba bom,
Ba bom ba bom bom,
Danga dang dang,
Dinga dong ding,
Blue Moon.
Moon, Blue Moon.
Dip di-dip di-dip,
Moon, moon, moon, Blue Moon.
Dip di-dip di-dip,
Moon, moon, moon, Blue Moon.
Dip di-dip di-dip,
Bom baba bom,
Ba bom ba bom bom,
Bom baba bom,
Ba bom ba bom bom,
Danga dang dang,
Dinga dong ding…

Blue Moon.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2022/10/blue-moon.mp3

Corvids

One special memory of my raft trips down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon is the behavior of the ravens living along the river. When we camped each night, their goal was to steal food, and they often worked in pairs to do it. Several times, I saw a raven dance and squawk to draw attention while another bird snatched unguarded food.

Ravens are members of the corvidae family, as are crows, rooks, jays, and magpies. Most experts consider corvids, especially crows and ravens, to be the most intelligent of all birds.

Scientists say that, despite having a brain the size of a pecan, they possess the reasoning ability of a seven-year-old human. True, one’s reasoning ability at age seven is a work in progress, but that’s still impressive.

In several experiments, crows quickly learned to drop stones into containers of water to raise the water level, either to get a drink or to bring food into reach.

They also regularly use twigs or sticks as tools, and they will drop nuts onto a highway so passing vehicles will crack the shells.

A family of crows usually consists of about a dozen birds. They are highly social and use a variety of caws and clicks to communicate. They use separate calls to tell their fellows that a threat is from a person, cat, hawk, or whatever.

Crows not only can recognize individual human faces, but also have the capacity to inform later generations about known threats.

In 2011, a team at the University of Washington trapped a dozen crows while wearing “caveman” masks. The crows were tagged and released and thereafter left alone.

For the next five years, researchers walked a designated route near the trapping site, some wearing the caveman masks and some not.

Initially, the team noted that the crows showed alarm and scolded people wearing the caveman mask 26 percent of the time. After 15 months, the figure was up to 30 percent. After three years, it rose to 66 percent. The researchers concluded that the crows were informing their peers and offspring that caveman humans are dangerous.

Conversely, crows will be nice to you if you’re nice to them. Instances have been recorded of crows bringing gifts — pebbles, sticks, etc. — to people who feed them.

Some 40 species of crow exist around the world. The one you’re familiar with probably is the American crow, although the fish crow and Tamaulipas crow also live in North America.

Thanks to their brain power and adaptability, crows are doing quite well as a species. Experts say their numbers over the last 40 years grew about 20 percent per decade. Their estimated breeding population now stands at some 27 million.

Impressive and interesting animals. And certainly not birdbrains.

Quotes o’ the Day

Animals are such agreeable friends. They ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.

George Eliot

###

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.

Herman Melville

###

Well done is better than well said.

Benjamin Franklin

###

I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends.

Walt Whitman

Eliot

Whitman

Your MAGA Overlords

The November 8 mid-term elections will be hugely consequential. The Republicans are perfectly willing to trade democracy for fascism, if it helps them retain power. That lunacy needs to be stopped.

The right wing already controls the Supreme Court, many lower courts, and most statehouses. If the GOP takes over the House and Senate, America won’t be America anymore. And that isn’t hyperbole.

The rest of us need to rise up and vote against every Republican, in every race, at every level of government. They aren’t worthy of a single vote.

Since the Reagan era, conservatives have been veering steadily to the right, becoming more and more a grotesque caricature of themselves. The right-wing extremists — the homophobes, racists, misogynists, bigots, fascists, white supremacists, autocrat-lovers — have gravitated to the Republican Party.

The GOP has been thoroughly unsavory for some time, but it got worse when Trump came along. With his willingness to lie like a rug and to violate any democratic norm, Donald Trump emboldened and enabled the wackos. He turned the GOP into a rancid cesspool.

Today, Republicans come in two varieties. One is the above-described extremist nutjobs. The other is the people who side with the crazies, or remain silent because of tribalism; they blindly identify as Republicans and want their team to win.

Let’s be real. The Republican Party is a collection of damaged people united by vile beliefs and determined to win by any means. They don’t believe in democracy. They believe in lying and cheating to get their way. Which tells you all you need to know about their character and integrity.

The occasional Democrat who gets in trouble — Al Franken, Anthony Weiner — always pays the price, but GOP politicians do not. And only the Republican Party would field candidates like Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz.

The current GOP is beyond redemption. It is the party of MAGA thugs storming the Capitol to sabotage an election. It is the party of armed goons intimidating voters at ballot drop-boxes. It is the party of people evil enough to crack the skull of an old man with a hammer, while Fox News and GOP politicians vilify the old man.

We can’t reason with people like that or change their minds. But we can overwhelm them — vote them out of office, replace them with rational people, and drive the MAGA crowd underground again.

It’s a sad fact that two-thirds of eligible voters don’t vote. If enough non-voters don’t wake up and get themselves to the ballot box, this democracy may damn well be over.

And your MAGA overlords will be teaching our children to goose step.

A Way With Words

As I noted a while back in this post, I’m not a fan of the works of William Shakespeare. I put it this way:

Most of us, especially we writers, have an ingrained tendency to be precise and literal when we communicate. We try to speak and write in ways that best convey our intended meaning to others. That would seem to be the point: to express thoughts clearly and precisely.

Shakespeare saw it differently. He was among the poets and authors to whom clarity and precision are optional. Their goal, apparently, was to perform and entertain.

Well, I prefer clarity and precision. So I tune out the likes of Shakespeare in favor of, oh, Robert Frost and Sarah Teasdale and Dorothy Parker and Poe and Kipling.

Shakespeare himself, of course, was a genius. His mastery of the English language was astounding. And he created hundreds of new words and phrases, as well as found new ways to use existing ones.

His phrases “break the ice,” “melted into thin air,” and “the lady doth protest too much” are wonderfully, brilliantly descriptive.

Here are other common expressions Shakespeare is credibly thought to have originated:

All that glitters is not gold
All the livelong day
As luck would have it
Be-all and end-all
Brave new world
Breathe one’s last
Brevity is the soul of wit
Clothes make the man
Down the primrose path
Eat me out of house and home
Fancy-free
Fit for the gods
Foregone conclusion
Forever and a day
The game is afoot
Give the devil his due
Good riddance
Greek to me
Have not slept one wink
Heart of gold
In my heart of hearts
Kill with kindness
Knock, knock. Who’s there?
Lie low
Love is blind
Made of sterner stuff
Method in one’s madness
Mind’s eye
My own flesh and blood
Naked truth
Neither rhyme nor reason
Off with his head
One fell swoop
Pitched battle
Pure as the driven snow
Seen better days
Something wicked this way comes
Smells to high heaven
Star-crossed lovers
Strange bedfellows
To each his own
Too much of a good thing
Tower of strength
Wear my heart upon my sleeve
What’s done is done
Wild goose chase
The world is my oyster

As for the individual words he created, most were legitimate and useful, rarely designed for dramatic one-time use, as in Lewis Carroll’s “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves…”

Many were existing words he cleverly combined, such as cruel-hearted and never-ending.Or words whose usage he changed — converting verbs to adjectives, nouns to verbs, etc., such as converting the noun elbow to a verb to describe the act of elbowing.

Below is a list — abbreviated, mind you — of words attributed to Shakespeare.

Admirable
Arch-villain
Barefaced
Baseless
Belongings
Birthplace
Bloodstained
Bloodsucking
Catlike
Cold-blooded
Cold-hearted
Countless
Dauntless
Disgraceful
Distasteful
Distrustful
Eventful
Excitement
Eyeball
Fairyland
Fanged
Fashionable
Featureless
Fitful
Foul-mouthed
Fretful
Gallantry
Go-between
Homely
Hot-blooded
Ill-tempered
Indistinguishable
Lackluster
Majestic
Malignancy
Meditate
Mimic
Money’s worth
Monumental
Mortifying
Motionless
Nimble-footed
Overblown
Pageantry
Premeditated
Pious
Priceless
Profitless
Quarrelsome
Rawboned
Reclusive
Remorseless
Resolve
Restraint
Savagery
Shipwrecked
Soft-hearted
Spectacled
Swagger
Time-honored
To blanket
To castigate
To champion
To dishearten
To dislocate
To enmesh
To impede
To muddy
To overpower
To perplex
To petition
To rant
To reword
To secure
To sire
To squabble
To sully
To undervalue
To undress
Tranquil
Transcendence
Unappeased
Unchanging
Uneducated
Unquestioned
Unrivaled
Unscratched
Unsolicited
Unsullied
Unswayed
Unvarnished
Unwillingness
Useful
Vulnerable
Well-behaved
Well-bred
Well-educated
Well-read

To sum up, I give the devil his due. I applaud Shakespeare as a wunderkind, a virtuoso of the English language. In that regard, he is unrivaled.

But in my heart of hearts, writing like this turns me off:

Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all
Wherein I should your great deserts repay,
Forgot upon your dearest love to call,
Whereto all bonds do tie me day by day;
That I have frequent been with unknown minds,
And giv’n to time your own dear purchased right;
That I have hoisted sail to all the winds
Which should transport me farthest from your sight.

All I can say is, to each his own.

The Questions…

1. What is the world’s oldest continuously-inhabited city?

2. In the art world, what is bricolage?

3. What was the first country to give women the right to vote?

4. No major league baseball team uses the number 24 to honor what legendary player?

5. What does BMW stand for?

The Answers…

1. Probably Damascus, Syria. Evidence of habitation there dates back 11,000 years.

2. Bricolage is art created from non-standard material — junk, metal parts, etc. — or mixed media. A collage of photos, for example. The word bricolage comes from the French verb bricoler, which means “to tinker.”

3. New Zealand, 1893.

4. Jackie Robinson.

5. In English, Bavarian Motor Works. In German, Bayerische Motoren Werke.