Wednesday, January 20, 2021

About Dogs

And here's to dogs:

Dogs, Dogs

Dogs are obsequious creatures.
They live life on bended knee
and servilely serve their betters
and secretly water each tree.

But they love us in spite of their flaws,
and those faults are not really so bad.
And they'll openly flout the small laws
and provide us the best times we've had.

Small laws like "Keep Off the Grass!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Re-composition of the Cat Poem

My son Jaeuk liked the poem but also suggested a slight emendation. He wanted me to delete "of the" in line seven, resulting in this: "And they hear the wild call." I preferred to keep my original version of the line, for various reasons, but my son did motivate me to consider other changes, and here is my slightly edited re-composition:

Kitty, Kitty

Cats are mysterious creatures.
They look like they're made of fluff
and finely feathered features
that furnish their inner stuff.

But they're red in truth and all
of the vicious carnivore arts.
And they hear the wild of the call
in the nature that makes up their parts.

Rewriting took longer than the original writing. Here are the originals. Verse 3: "and tiny feathered features". Verse 8: "of the nature that makes up their parts". Is the result worth the changes from these?

Monday, January 18, 2021

You Can't Trust A Cat!

My elder son, Jaeuk, was seated near our younger cat, Scat, when the creature reached out a paw and with un-retracted claws scratched Jaeuk in the face. Not a bad scratch, but entirely unprovoked. I therefore composed this poem for my son:

Kitty, Kitty

Cats are mysterious creatures.
They look like they're made of fluff
and tiny feathered features
that furnish their inner stuff.

But they're red in truth and all
of the vicious carnivore arts.
And they hear the wild of the call
of the nature that makes up their parts.

I wrote it in half an hour, approximately.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

That's Hymenoptera, Not Hymenopera!

Bee Thy Self

Since they sting
with that thing,
what sex scene
to be queen!

And entomology, not etymology!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Pandemic Changed My Life!

Got into heavy drinking because of the lockdown. The huge quantities of alcohol I started imbibing immediately blocked my research and writing. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't remember what I'd just read. I couldn't come up with new ideas. I couldn't write a single word.

I knew I couldn't go on that way. More drinking would mean no more thinking. I therefore focused my faculties and settled on the decision that has made me the man I am today.

I succeeded in no more thinking.

Friday, January 15, 2021

When Folks Say . . .

. . . "I struck an errant key," they speak as if the key moved! But the key wasn't going anywhere. It's stuck in one place. Those folks just can't type.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Being the life of the party can be the death of you . . .

As a light anecdote by Gabriel Byrne on how he happened to reach a significant decision that changed his life for the better, he tells of awakening one morning in an unfamiliar bed beside an unfamiliar woman in an unfamiliar room with one eye swollen shut, a tooth missing, and no recollection of anything that could explain the unfamiliar circumstances in which he found himself.

He decided to stop drinking.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

An Errant Key?

According to Sarah Lyall, writing for the NYT (January 7, 2021), as Gabriel Byrne "was putting the final touches on his memoir, . . . he struck an errant key on his laptop":

Poof! The screen went blank. 

Byrne was devastated. Nobody knew how to retrieve the document. Nobody. Apparently.

But really nobody?

Hey, I'm computer illiterate, but even I know that I need only press "Control Z" on my keyboard to get everything back.

Could Byrne's problem still be a problem these days?

Perhaps he really did strike an errant key.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Just because I don't understand "just because" clauses doesn't mean I don't understand how to use "just because" clauses!

I've been thinking about "just because" clauses recently. Why? Just because, that's why. No, don't get up and leave. I'll tell you why. Just because I don't know much about "just because" clauses doesn't mean that I don't think they're important. I do think they're important. I want to know how to explain them so that I can tell my two children how to use them.

Among other reasons . . .

Monday, January 11, 2021

Rise and Shine!

What did the rooster say when it stumbled into the chamber pot one dark early morning? 


(My own joke, but I'm surely not the first to think of it.)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Surprised by the Arkansas Ozarks

For the weekend hard copy of the January 9th through 10th international edition, NYT readers chose 52 places to love in the world, and Arkansas is one of those places, specifically, Northern Arkansas. Here's what Bentonville resident Shaye Anderson had to say about the region:

Northern Arkansas

"There's everything you imagine when you think of an untouched paradise."

There's this little place tucked away in Northern Arkansas called Ponca. Really, it's the whole region around the Buffalo River that has been my Eden and my escape during the pandemic. Untouched, rolling mountains. The foliage is so lush and densely packed that my family has nicknamed it "the broccoli." Even in winter, there's still so much green.

The Buffalo River is less than two hours from Bentonville, and I can't believe I didn’t know about it until recently. I'm sad that I missed out on the opportunity to share it with my father, who died two years ago. He loved the outdoors, and I feel like I'm in the right place -- and at the right time -- when I'm there. It's a place that has allowed me to strengthen my connection to him.

Shaye Anderson is the director of content strategy at a creative agency. She lives in Bentonville, Arkansas.

I want to comment on a couple of things. Ms. Anderson describes the Ozarks as rolling mountains. Actually, they are the eroded remnants of a large plateau. The rock strata are flat and level, so the mountains don't generally roll. They drop at the edges. Also, the mountains are not untouched. The whole Ozarks have been logged over the past 200 years, and one finds no old growth forests. That's why the foliage is thick as broccoli. But give the region a hundred years of no logging, and we'll get back to old growth forests without so much foliage. There isn't much pollution, and the many streams are therefore pure. The Buffalo River watershed is pristine because the land is a protected, National River area.

Incidentally, the river flows west to east and empties into the White River about thirty miles south of my hometown, Salem, Arkansas.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Query on an obscure word

Can anyone identify for me the place "Champmedy" in the third from last line of Stephen Vincent Benét's poem American Names, namely (so to speak), "You may bury my tongue at Champmedy"?

Friday, January 08, 2021

Alexander Hamilton reports on the myths Europeans used to believe about America's climate

"Men admired as profound [European] philosophers . . . have gravely asserted that all animals, and with them the human species, degenerate in America -- that even dogs cease to bark after having breathed a while in our atmosphere."

Thank God for climate change, eh?

“The Federalist No. 11, [24 November 1787],” Founders Online, National Archives.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Benet in The Oxford Book of American Poetry (206)

Since my most recent post on Benet, I've become aware of a  poetry anthology, in the same series, but with the word "Verse" changed to "Poetry":

The Oxford Book of American Poetry

The poems were chosen and edited by David Lehman, assisted by Associate Editor John Brehm for Oxford University Press (2006 Lehman). Lehman tells us that he has restored seven poets:

who were in the Matthiessen canon in 1950 but fell out in 1976: Phelps Putnam, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Elinor Wylie, Stephen Vincent Benet, Karl Shapiro, Amy Lowell, and W.  H. Auden. [xiv]

On page 419, we learn of Benet's life: Stephen Vincent Benet (1898-1943)

Stephen Vincent Benet was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the son of an Army colonel and the grandson of a brigadier general. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice and chose, as judge of the Yale Younger Poets Series, the first books by James Agee and Muriel Rukeyser. (His brother William Rose Benet, who married Elinor Wylie, also won a Pulitzer.) Stephen Vincent Benet remains best known perhaps for his story "The Devil and Daniel Webster." When World War II began, he wrote radio scripts — They Burned the Books, Your Army, Dear Adolf— to further the U.S. war effort.

But Lehman offers only one poem on pages 419-420 as representative of Benet's work:

American Names

I have fallen in love with American names,

The sharp names that never get fat,

The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,

The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,

Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.


Seine and Piave are silver spoons,

But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn,

There are English counties like hunting-tunes

Played on the keys of a postboy's horn,

But I will remember where I was born.


I will remember Carquinez Straits,

Little French Lick and Lundy's Lane,

The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates

And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.

I will remember Skunktown Plain.


I will fall in love with a Salem tree

And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz,

I will get me a bottle of Boston sea

And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues.

I am tired of loving a foreign muse.


Rue des Martyrs and Bleeding-Heart-Yard,

Senlis, Pisa, and Blindman's Oast,

It is a magic ghost you guard

But I am sick for a newer ghost,

Harrisburg, Spartanburg, Painted Post.


Henry and John were never so

And Henry and John were always right?

Granted, but when it was time to go

And the tea and the laurels had stood all night,

Did they never watch for Nantucket Light?


I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.

I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.

You may bury my body in Sussex grass,

You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.

I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.


 Page 1088 shows Lehman following copyright law in citing as follows:

Stephen Vincent Benet, "American Names" from Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benet (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1955). Copyright 1927 by Stephen Vincent Benet, renewed © 1955 by Rosemary Carr Benet. Reprinted with the permission of Brandt and Hochman Literary Agents, Inc.

Lehman's choice of "American Names" is somewhat peculiar, for it's not Benet's best shorter poem, but there it is.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Attitude is the most effective ingredient.

My wife gave me a small packet of what we used to call cough drops. These are menthol, and they self-identify as a cough suppressant slash oral anesthetic. That slash worries me a little. I'd rather not rely too heavily on medicine that employs a slash. Where there's a slash, there's a slasher! Probably slashing away at a microbiological level, doing as much damage as good.

In addition to its medicinal effect, each one of these drops contains a pep talk, actually, several pep talks per drop. Here in alphabetical order are one-liner pep talks that I noticed and collected from a number of individual wrappings as I unwrapped several drops:

Be unstoppable.
Conquer today.
Don't wait to get started.
Dust off and get up.
Elicit a few "wows" today.
Get back in the game.
Get through it.
Go for it.
Go get it!
Hi-five yourself.
Inspire envy.
It's yours for the taking.
Keep your chin up.
Push on!
Put your game face on.
Seize the day.
You can do it and you know it.

Who is being addressed by these  so-called "pep talks"? Adolescents? Teenagers?

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

America's "literary declaration of independence"

Writing for the Washington Post about 43 years ago, Joseph McLellan said:

It was only 140 years ago, half a century after the drafting of the Constitution, that America made its literary declaration of independence in Ralph Waldo Emerson's statement: "We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe." And for the rest of that century, only the greatest writers, chiefly Whitman and Dickinson, managed consistently to make significant statements in a poetic style that was distinctively American.

Joseph McLellan (Assistant Editor of Book World), "Escaping Europe's Courtly Muses," Washington Post (April 17, 1977).

McLellan was a man of many talents. He was music critic for the Washington Post for more than thirty years. He wrote a column on chess and covered world chess matches. He wrote book reviews, as the above quote might imply. He attended White House parties and other society events and covered these in the Post's Style section.

Nota bene: McLellan observes that Stephen Vincent Benét had been justifiably dropped from a recent anthology of American literature. This of course refers to Richard Ellmann's edition, The New Oxford Book of American Verse (Oxford University Press, January 1, 1977) Compared to the older Oxford Book of American Verse (ed. Francis Otto Matthiessen, 1950), Ellmann reduces the space given to Whitman and increases that given to Emily Dickinson. Rightly dropped from the new volume, says McLellan, are Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Lowell, Elinor Wylie, Stephen Vincent Benét, and Karl Shapiro. No reasons are given by McLellan.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Emerson speaks again . . .

Emerson made the following call to revolt against Europe's cultural domination:

"We have listened too long to the Courtly muses of Europe."

In this revolt is included a call to create a distinctly American literature. I'll have more to say about this, perhaps, but you can look ahead by going to the link, which is here: "The American Scholar: An Oration Delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge" (August 31, 1837).

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Among hobgoblins to avoid . . .

Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us in Self-Reliance that:

 A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.--'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.'--Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Emerson implies that the above-mentioned hobgoblin is a big problem . . . only for small minds. But inconsistency is really no bad thing? Because being misunderstood is no bad thing? Well, included among the misunderstood are Socrates and Jesus, and recall what happened to them!

By the way, this Self-Reliance essay just goes on and on . . .

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Life with and without masks

Some readers will recall that I asked my students to write a brief piece on themselves and what they want to achieve in life. I actually asked students both last semester and the current semester to do this since I hadn't gotten to know any of them personally during either semester. Interestingly, students last semester responded more fully. Nearly every student wrote an essay last semester, but only seven out of about seventy students wrote to me this time. I think people are just exhausted. One student openly wished for the Corona crisis to end and for life without masks to come back. She will learn that life is never without masks, but we all know what she's saying because we're saying it, too.

Friday, January 01, 2021

For every effusive friend and many an awful enemy:

Happy New Year 2021!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

I don't know, but beavers are 'gnawtier' little critters with a brand-spanking-new concept in tails and tail-use (if we're talking geological time), so I'd take a beaver over a woodchuck any old day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Witty Insight Attributed to Some Nineteenth-Century American Robber Baron

"How much money does a man need? Just a little bit more."

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Stash Away For a Rainy Day

. . . as though one does anything worth a stash on a rainy day.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Christmastide has been swept away by the crosscurrents of Postmodern diversity . . .

We're no longer encouraged these days to greet folks with a hearty "Merry Christmas" anymore. Indeed we're strongly discouraged from greeting others that way. Non-Christians might feel offended. I can understand that. But I can't quite understand "Happy Holidays" as a substitute. The word "holiday" means "holy day," and the non-religious might feel offended since they have no holy days. What about "Season's Greetings"? Well, what season would that happen to be? Winter. "Winter's Greetings!" But what does winter bring? Cold. Ice. Snow. What are we then wishing on people by extending to them some "Season's Greetings"? Aren't we dumping all the dangers of wintertime upon them? Aren't we really, even if inadvertently, saying, "Have a cold one! Slip on some snow and ice! Fall down! Break an arm or leg!" That sort of 'greeting' would offend everyone. But it's at least all-inclusive, and that's the important thing, these days.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

I want the virtue of patience, and I want it now!

Good things come to those who wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . and fricken wait, but I'm beginning to wonder . . .

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Against again!

"Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne."

I wonder why "agayne" is rendered "against" rather than "again" in modern English. The meaning is given as so: "Step on the tail of a worm, and it will turn against (you)."

But couldn't the meaning be as so:  "Step on the tail of a worm, and it will turn again (= twist and turn)."

Friday, December 25, 2020

Why play merry hell with Christmas happenings?

"Merrie Olde England says: Happy Christmas!"

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Aphorism for December 24, 2020

"Ear wax is good against bee stings." Great-Grandma Shell's advice, maybe not an aphorism.

But she didn't like for her little great-grandchildren to go pilfering among her old-folks stuff. If I picked up some tube of mystery and asked her, "What's in this?" she'd likely retort, "None of your beeswax." So, I'd say, "Oh, is it your ear wax against bees?"

Which got me banished from her room . . .

Actually, I don't think she ever used the term "beeswax," so this probably never happened.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

You can bank on it!

A penny saved ain't much better than a penny lost - that's my two cents on the matter, anyway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Uncle Woodrow's Passing

A few readers will recall a recent post on some childhood memories in which my Uncle Woodrow appeared:

Remember the time I got tongue-tied and called you "Uncle Pauline and Aunt Woodrow"? . . .And the time I shared some honey with the bees, and Uncle Woodrow knew it was me and one of my experiments (who would have known bees were so dilatory at sucking up free honey)? And the time I fell through the ceiling and got Uncle Woodrow in trouble for not having boarded up that ceiling for safety's sake?

Well, that Uncle Woodrow has passed on. I will post the official eulogy when it appears. Meanwhile, here stands posted my letter to the immediate family

Dear Family,

I received the sad news from Shan that Uncle Woodrow had passed.

I'm especially glad now that I sent to him and Aunt Pauline a letter of appreciation for the role that they have played in the lives of me and my four brothers. I seem to recall time spent on the farm with them every summer. We learned not only a bit about the farming life at those times, we also learned ethical lessons from two exemplary individuals.

Uncle Woodrow will be missed. I had hoped to see him again after my retirement in 2022, but he's been called home, and he was ready to go.

My heart goes out to Aunt Pauline and to cousins Velna and Martha. They have been to me like mother and sisters, respectively, and Uncle Woodrow was always like a father.

My family here in South Korea sends condolences. We will keep everyone in our thoughts, especially since we also now know that some have tested positive for the Corona virus.


Jeff, Sun-Ae, and Children

For those who don't know, the "Shan" mentioned in my letter is one of my brothers.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Aphorism for December 21, 2020

"A bad penny always turns up, to coin a phrase."