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A person who needs no introduction.


1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

draft: Livin' in Kakistocracy

Franklin told the men of old
"We're making you a nation."
Now we're screwed as we can be
Livin' in kakistocracy!

Love maladministration
There's no doubt they're making out
Livin' in kakistocracy!

 He panders to the racial fears
 And hatred of his base
 He's bringing back our basest years
 To shove them in our face

Eric, Junior, and Ivanka
All hate nepotism
But they profit handsomely
Livin' in kakistocacy!

Donald poses with his wife
Pretending there's no schism
She sure seems to loathe  her life
Livin' in kakistocracy

 He babbles like a weenie,
 And slurs his fourth-grade words
 He acts like Mussolini
 Heilin' Hitler for his herds

Donald talks in greasy squawks
That show no education
Flinging poo and fourth-rate woo
Livin' in kakistocracy

Folks he hires and often fires
Are temps, sans confirmation
Lacking all ability
Livin' in kakistocracy

 He says he loves the USA
 He works for free, we hear
 But adding up his golf trips, they
 Cost millions every year

Loves the Gang and speaks their slang
With violence his fixation
Worships jerks who rule by fear
Livin' in kakistocracy

This slimy blot has now been caught
We have the information.
Gops decree he'll get off free
Livin' in kakistocracy

Loves to tweet, on gilded seat,
His bile and indignation
Time to flush this slimy slush
And live in a democracy!

[ttto: Doin' What Comes Naturally, by Israel Baline]

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tales of Thrilling, Globe-Trotting Adventure!

Who among us does not enjoy a rip-roaring tale of adventure in the snowy Himalayas involving one or more purveyors of artificial limbs? WELL, DON'T ANSWER YET because this also has a... well, I'll not spoil it for you. No, I'll not. 

Penned (directly in ink, as is the fashion) by my pal Mike and me, with him doing panels 1, 3, and so on, and me evening it all up, here is Commander Rugglesby, field operative for the Cadmus Company, to tell the stirring tale! (Click the images to make bigger--my choices here were miniscule, teensy, small, this, and enormous.) From 1999:

Mike started in, and drew for a while. "I kind of blew the guy's arm," he said. 
"Don't worry!" I said confidently. "I'LL FIX IT!" And that's how an epic is born. 

Pay no attention to such minor details as whether "Junior Lefty (tm)" is a right or a left arm. It is irrelevant, and can only serve to breed pointless discontent. Previously printed in The New Pals Club Magazine. I don't even know why the paragraphing is so weird here. It's these little details that distinguish home-wrought craft from the mass-produced junk the major producers foist on us!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Spoilers for Shaw's "Saint Joan"

I don't mean I'm spoiling the historical facts, that Joan went to the stake, and the 7th Cavalry didn't ride in and save her or anything like that, but I'm spoiling a wonderful gimmick--a terrific piece of theatre--that Shaw came up with for an ending to his play.

It's years after the events of the story. One of the characters is old, dying in bed, and he has what may or may not be a dream, and the players in the tale walk again: Joan, her inquisitor, and so on. And there's a soldier, a rough and churlish fellow.

He wasn't a good man, this soldier, but for one night of the year, he walks as a saint. The rest of the days, he is in Hell, and he's actually happier there than he is being a saint, if we can believe his good-natured grousing, but we don't always get to choose, do we?

And his saintly act is, likely enough, the only good thing he ever did: He was at the burning of some witch, a young lass he wouldn't even recognize if he saw her again (spoiler: He's talking to her and doesn't know it.), but he heard her cry out as they were lighting her pyre.

She cried out for a cross, any cross, and this soldier, in a moment of reflexive compassion, held up two sticks in the shape of a cross, and this was her final succor, and it sufficed, and she died easily enough, under the circumstances.

So the soldier is a saint one night a year, and a denizen of Hell all the other nights. He played his part: You could say he was the final friend of the heroine of France. And I think about him and his one worthwhile deed.

I think of politicians, our politicians, who have in some cases done one decent thing that made all the difference. I think of appointees, elected officials, judges, who have chosen the wrong way over and over, and who yet may be our last hope--if they'll just do one good thing.

Maybe as we're watching the flames start to rise, some worthless lackey on the other side will do the one right thing that makes all the difference. Maybe it will be enough. Maybe not. Odds are, it won't even happen. We're not in a play.

Here's to all our hopes in 2020.

[edited and revised from a thread of tweets from January 1, 2020]

Sunday, November 24, 2019



The late genius Harvey Kurtzman presents an allegory for how we all for how other people I don't like deal with their mistakes.

Stupid other people!

Monday, October 07, 2019

guest haiku 2

These dumbass grass blades
Keep growing through the sidewalk.
Nature is stupid.

thanks and a tip of the hat to guest writer B.-H.

guest haiku 1

Spring is cold and sweet,
 Like the shelf in the icebox 
Where you kept your plums.

thanks, and a tip of the hat to guest writer "Bill"

Monday, July 01, 2019

Dad's Black Widow Story


In the late 60s, Dad’s back problems were making him toss and turn, so he relocated to a mummy bag in the living room so as not to bother Mom with it. At some point, he felt a burr stick him, groggily pulled it off and returned to sleep. A while later, he woke up with a burning pain in the burr spot, turned on the light, and saw a dead black widow where he remembered putting it. He showed Mom a growing red area surrounding what was now known to be a black widow bite. Mom got on the phone to the Emergency Room and to our family doctor’s answering service. The rest of the family started waking up.
My oldest sister put ice cubes in a bread bag and made him keep it there while calls went back and forth between our home and the ER. Our doctor was located, or he started answering, whatever. It was determined that Dad would be taken to the hospital where he’d be given an antidote shot which would make him sick but presumably keep him alive.
Around this time, someone (probably my oldest sister) noticed that the swelling and discoloration had subsided, having gone from hand-sized to coin-sized. Informed of this, the hospital decided he could stay home and avoid the sickmaking shot as long as he kept the ice on it and it continued to improve. So he did, it did, and the bear did.
Nobody really blamed the spider. Dad probably rolled over on it and it reacted. My sister had twice tried to keep a black widow (named Snarky) as a pet, but both died in captivity. The awful part of it all is that Dad was telling Bob and Ann about it afterward, concluding with the observation that though he still had the sacroiliac pain, the aftereffects of the spider encounter were nil, upon which Bob immediately turned to Ann and said “His back is worse than his bite.”
So we killed him.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

We Need a Sarcasm Font

People are saying we need a sarcasm font, and we do. But that’s not enough. We also need a hyperbole font, and an amphibole font, a just-kidding-around font, a totally sincere font (no, really!), a font for kidding on the square, a whimsical font, a font for pretending you believe something you really don’t, a font for a modest intro, and a font for the crushing conclusion. 

We need a reductio ad absurdum font, an ad hominem font, a begging-the-question font, and a straw-man font. We need a font for mild irony, and we need one for …heavy… irony. We need a patronizing font, a placating font, an impassioned font, an apathetic font. 

We need a font for knock-knock jokes, for I’m-the-Guys, and Little Willies. We need a font for quoting from Peanuts, the Simpsons, Monty Python, and They Might Be Giants. We need a font for quiet resignation, a font for defiance, and a font for feigned cluelessness.

We need a font for flat-out lying.

Some will say we should use words to convey these things, but the fact is we need all these fonts. We need them every bit as much as we need a sarcasm font.

edited from my twitter

Thursday, January 31, 2019

For National Gorilla Day 2019

Deck Yourself
Deck yourself in garb of primate
Ooga booga booga, ook! ook! ook!
Warm the blood in every climate
Ooga booga booga, ook! ook! ook!
Done we now our ape apparel
Booga boo, booga boo, ook ook ook!
Join us all in acting feral
Ooga booga booga, ook! ook! ook!
We Three Kongs
We three Kongs of simian mien
Peeling fruit of yellow and green
Crouching, feeding, on chests beating
Stars of the jungle scene!
Day of wonder, bright, acute
Day to wear gorilla suit!
Plantains cooking, backward looking
Day when evolution’s moot!
Jungle Bells*
Swinging through the trees
With a holly jolly ape.
Music’s on the breeze.
Native children gape!
Lights on green fronds cling
And shimmer in the heat.
Let’s dance and sing till tree frogs ring
With a festive jungle beat! Oh—

Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells,
Through rain forests green!
Carols hum on a wooden drum
From hands that can’t be seen, oh—
Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells,
Tinkle through the swamp:
Festive chimes that hang from vines
For a sultry devo romp!
I hope the purists will forgive me for omitting the traditional hymns, but on consideration, they all seemed a bit stuffy and contrary to what I regard as the true spirit of this joyous day. Ook!
* Adapted from the popular winter song that has already appeared in these pages.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Member Privileges

That's right, Reader! We have our own gol-darned shopping network! And we've had it since the 1980s. We hope to have the bugs out of it and get it all up and running SOON.

Oh, sure, everybody sells that stuff now! I was years ahead of my time, or anybody's!

I had to leave one of these behind in our old place, with like five left. I hear the new people never even looked closely at it.

There was also a line of artificial Christmas trees whose branches didn't begin till four feet up. A simple electric fence around the bottom does the rest!

Flange lip discourages opossums!

Friday, July 06, 2018

Great Poems Limericked

In 2015, there was a brief craze of converting great poems into limericks. Over at Making Light (any of the date links will take you to it), I joined in for a couple of hours one night, and then added a little bit more to the pile the next morning. I realized today that I should put those here on my own web-log, for reasons.

Tichborne's Elegy [Tichborne] [monosyllabic redrafting 20180706]

My prime of youth’s no thing but cares,
And my corn field is choked up with tares.
Found my death in my womb.
All the earth is a tomb,
And my life’s but false hopes and mean snares.

My Last Duchess [Browning]

See? my wife’s portrait painter was skilled,
And with telling detail the work’s filled.
But her temper was such
That she smiled far too much,
So that’s why I had the dame killed.

Ariel’s Farewell [Shakespeare]

Our revels are ended. The score,
The towers, and globe, are no more.
We’re naught but the shade
Out of which dreams are made
And we round our wee lives with a snore.

Lessons of the War [Reed]

Nature’s bounty calls out to our hearts
With the lure of lewd beckoning tarts,
The Japonica twines…
But the carbine’s clip shines
For today we have naming of parts

Spoon River Anthology [Masters]

We’re the dead folk asleep on the hill,
Of our life's substance freely we spill.
Some were victims, some kind,
Some were evil defined.
All are grist for the moralist’s mill.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam [FitzGerald]

As the sun's rays light turrets at dawn
We’re fresh vessels, fired up to go on.
Freshly crafted and fine,
Filled with promise and wine,
Yet by night, we’re all drunk, and then gone.

To His Coy Mistress [Marvell]

Had we more time and space at our call,
I’d not mind your reluctance at all,
But you might die a maid,
And I’ll never get laid!
Best we drop this demureness and ball.

The Listeners [de la Mare]

The Traveler called out at the door
That his promise he’d kept, as he’d swore,
Till unanswered, bereft,
He grew weary and left
Just our silence behind him, no more.

Fire and Ice [Sandburg]

So some say earth will finish in ice,
While some others say fire’s just as nice.
What I know of desire
Makes me lean toward the fire,
Or perhaps some atomic device.

Jerusalem [Blake]

There once was a man who said, "Hark!
Did Jesus set foot in this park?
Did he once tread green hills
Where are now mostly mills
That are British, satanic, and dark?"

Edward [Anonymous ballad]

“O Edward, my son, do you bleed?”
“No, I just killed my hawk. …No, my steed.
Well, in truth, I killed Dad.”
“O my son! Why so bad?”
“You should know! Your damned words did I heed!”

Green Eggs and Ham [Geisel, aka Seuss]

“I am Sam! Have some green eggs and ham!”
“For your foodstuff, I don’t give a clam!
I’d not eat them here, there,
On the sea, ground, or air…
…Hm, no: wait. These are great! Thank you, Sam!”

Spam [Python]

Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam
Spam, Spam, Spam Spam Spam, wonderful Spam:
Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam
Spam Spam Glorious Spam, 
Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam Spam!


Thursday, June 14, 2018

-.-. --- -. -.-. . .-. -. . -..

[A series of tweets]

Dad once bought a pair of code keys for us. They were wired to each other, and they could click, buzz, or light up little bulbs. I was pretty excited, though I didn't learn Morse Code well enough then, or ever. I could send some, but no way could I receive.

Dad and his little brother, my uncle, had had a set something like them back in their kid days, in the 1930s. Each was proficient at sending “___ IS A SISSY (fill in the other’s name)” and “POOEY TO YOU FROM ME.”

I would think of those when I saw ads in comic books for what was virtually the same toy. The picture shows a kid’s room. Outside, a car accident has occurred! Inside, the kid taps away, looking concerned.

And I’d think: Who’s he sending to? Is the key in his brother’s room even on? Did the batteries already juice up like ours did? Is he just lighting up the bulb on his own unit while the victims of this car wreck are bleeding out?

It seems like a perfect metaphor for something. Probably for my online activity. Oh no! Bad thing has happened! I’d better start clicking the code key!

(Alas, the only thing I know how to send is “POOEY TO YOU FROM ME” anyway.)

Oh, well. Back to clicking, I guess.

-....- ...-- ----- -....-

Thursday, June 07, 2018

An Unforgettable Concert

A local orchestra in western Massachusetts had an enticing program of Gershwin—Rhapsody in Blue, the Concerto in F, and the string orchestra version of Lullaby (not the biggest draw in that guise, but not enough to keep me away). 

First up was the Lullaby, and I got a bad feeling. They were pioneering new intervals, the Major Unison and the Minor Unison. The First Viola was quite good, playing competently in tune. If I could have applauded just for him, I surely would have. The Concerto began. I should have left after the Lullaby, but was curious about the soloist. Well, he was no First Viola. He would start each section confidently, get in trouble halfway through, and hurriedly limp to its conclusion, confident that things would work out in the next. (Narrator voice: They didn't.) A couple of minutes from the end, orchestra and soloist were so far from one another that the conductor stopped the music. Unfortunately, he started it again, and I guess they were on the same page when they finished, so thank heaven for small favors. There was a standing ovation from what I presume was an audience of family members. I neither stood nor unlimbered my hands, which remained tucked under the opposite elbows. I slipped out and listened to a good performance of the concerto on my way home.

I skimmed the Springfield Republican with interest the next couple of days, looking for a review, and was rewarded with a brief account of the triumph of the musicians, which did, however, wag its finger briefly at Mr. Gershwin for certain infelicities of orchestration which, in the opinion of the writer, made the piece unnecessarily difficult for performers. Well. That settles that, eh? Everything was just fine, and it's the composer's fault it wasn't.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

to the memory of an angel

Back in the 80s, I worked with Mike, who had strong opinions on classical music. He complained whenever Boccherini came on the radio: “The epitome of empty note spinning!” When a Tchaikovsky piece went into a long final inning, he’d yell at the radio, “Oh, finish it already!” He stood for high standards. He didn’t think Ravel would make it into the long-term classical canon, or Prokofiev, or Rachmaninoff, or Gershwin, or even Stravinsky (who he loved). I asked him, what 20th century piece would make it? He thought a moment.

And he told me about the Berg Violin Concerto.

Alban Berg (1885–1935), Viennese, fathered an illegitimate child in his teens as part of his first big romance, with a married woman named Marie, whose nickname was Mizzi. He attempted suicide, failed, then settled down after meeting the woman he would marry. A student of Schönberg, he wrote atonal and 12-tone music, including two operas (one unfinished). Unlike Schönberg, he wrote melodic music with a wide palette of emotional affect. The Nazis went after him as part of their “Degenerate Music” [Entartete Musik] pogrom, probably because of his association with Schönberg. 

In January of 1935, the Russian-American violinist Louis Krasner met Berg and asked him to write a violin concerto for him. Berg, who didn’t want to be bothered with a showpiece, resisted, but Krasner persisted, arguing that he could write a piece with beauty, “demolishing the antagonism of the ‘cerebral, no emotion’ cliché.” Berg finally agreed, though he went on working on his second opera, Lulu, paying little attention to his commission.

In April of 1935, Manon Gropius, daughter of Walter Gropius and Alma Mahler Gropius (and who was much loved by the artists and musicians who surrounded Alma) died of polio at the age of 18. Berg asked Alma if he could dedicate the piece “to the memory of an angel” (the score’s subtitle), and began composing in earnest, putting his opera aside.

He had finished the skeleton of the piece on July 15, and on August 12 had finished its orchestration. “I never worked harder in my life,” he said, having basically written this concerto in six weeks. 

A 12-tone piece, using a system based on Schönberg’s work in which the twelve notes of the chromatic scale are put into a specific order that forms the basis for thematic material as well as harmonic organization, the concerto is based upon a tone row that Berg created:

The twelve notes can be taken as four groups of three, and each group is made up of a major or minor triad. These are G minor, D major, A minor, and E major—G, D, A, and E are the open strings of a violin. The last four notes in the tone row make up the first four notes of a whole-tone scale. Berg uses all of this in his piece.

After a one-measure intro, the concerto opens with ‘open string’ arpeggios from the solo violin.

Berg seems to be calling attention to the instrument itself, but the piece doesn’t remain abstract for long. There are a number of developments, including a waltz and the quotation of a Carinthian folk song with the line “I would have overslept in Mizzi’s bed…”, making the piece partly autobiographical, in addition to being about Manon Gropius. The piece also seems autobiographical in the turbulence that develops, along with warlike drumbeats, as the world, especially Austria, went mad around Berg. About nineteen minutes into the piece, the clouds are dispelled and the music calms itself. Then comes a sort of miracle.

I remember Mike telling me: “Berg quotes a Bach chorale, and it fits right into his tone row.” The last four notes of the row, the whole-tone scale, are the first four notes of this almost unearthly (because of the four whole tones together) chorale melody by Bach. “Es ist genug. Herr, wenn es dir gefällt, so spanne mich doch aus.” “It is enough. Lord, when it pleases thee, then grant me release.” I stood before my classmates, presenting the artwork I based on this piece, trying not to choke up as I said these words.

The violin quotes the opening line, and wind instruments take up more of the chorale. The concerto goes on to finish with tranquil resignation, acceptance of fate and loss, and recaps the ‘open string’ figures from the start, with rising transpositions of the tone row, from bass to cello to viola to horn, and finally as the last statement from the solo violin, ending with a long, soft, high G that floats over the last notes of the orchestra like the first star of evening.

Berg died in December, 1935, without hearing his concerto performed. His opera, Lulu, had been finished in piano-vocal score, and he had orchestrated two of the three acts. On April 19, 1936, the concerto was premiered in Paris with Krasner as soloist. Viennese composer Anton Webern had been scheduled to conduct, but at the last minute, he was too emotionally distraught to go through with it. On the 18th, organizers of the concert prevailed upon conductor Hermann Scherchen, who was there for the event, to step in. He was given the score at 11:00 the night before, and had thirty minutes the next day to go over the piece with the musicians. 

On May 1, 1936, Anton Webern and Louis Krasner played the British premiere of the piece with the BBC orchestra. A recording of the piece can be found at YouTube. I'm not sure why embedding doesn't work today, but the sound is very good, and this is as close to a definitive recording as I could imagine.

part 1

part 2

part 3

part 4

For my final project in my fourth and last semester of music theory with John Reef at Nazareth College, I chose to make a stained-glass window (in Photoshop) based upon this piece. The above sections are based on the presentation I made before the class to lead (not a pun) up to it. The colors came from stained glass photos on the web. I lettered the scroll by hand on a graphics tablet with a will of its own. I should rework that sun, as the detail has vanished from it. Tried to make it plausible as a piece of glass-and-lead craftsmanship, though the roots strain credulity—they'd have to be painted on, I guess, like the in-ground and in-flower detail is intended to suggest. I roughened the texture on purpose, if you're wondering.

kw Stained Glass Concerto

“Es ist genug. Herr, wenn es dir gefällt, so spanne mich doch aus.” 
“It is enough. Lord, when it pleases thee, then grant me release.”

An asteroid discovered in 1983 is now named Asteroid 4258 Berg, in honor of the composer.

The star in the wind


There’s a Star in the wind, and the wind winds high,
Blowing alight thru fog, thru night.
Thru cold, thru cold and the bitter alone…
There high in the wind rides a Star, my own…
And the Star is a word…of white, of white…
And the star in the wind is a Word.

Porkypine 1953

Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo and all it contained, married for the second time in 1951, to Stephanie Waggony, and on October 31 of 1952, they had their first child, Kathryn Barbara Kelly, who died shortly after. No date is known, but Kelly refers to her in the December 8, 1952 daily strip, and he worked about three weeks ahead of publication:

And again in the December 25, 1952 strip, as Porkypine shares that slice of cake with a sad Pogo:

I don’t have the reprints for the dailies (and Kelly tended to leave these strips out of the collections), but one of my sources says he returned every Halloween to the bug with the cake, looking for a child trying to have a birthday.

A commenter at one of the blogs where I found these strips quoted from the October 31, 1955 strip, where the cake bug says,

"I'se lookin' for somebody what tryin' hard to be a year old... Not everybody makes it. I got a cake here for he who do."

UPDATE: A kind soul sent me five more strips, bringing us to 1957, after which I believe he said the references stop.






(End Update. Back to original post.)

Anyway, it's Mother's Day, and that put me in mind of the poem, first spoken in the strip by Porkypine in 1953, and which stands as the dedication to UNCLE POGO'S SO-SO STORIES (1953). Till today, I didn't know about the annual cake strips.
Hug somebody.

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