(reblog), haiku, seasons, tanka

Migrating Monarchs

After reblogging a post with a haiku about the autumn migration of monarch butterflies, I continue the story with another haiku and a tanka.
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A recent post by Christy Draper on Dancing Echoes honors the start of the epic autumn migration of monarch butterflies with a photo and a haiku, both beautiful.  After effectively reblogging that post below, I continue the story with another haiku and a tanka.

When I worked in a building with a glass wall overlooking a broad lawn, I sometimes drew strength from the sight of migrating monarchs trudging thru the air with steady wing beats.  They were doing what they had to do, and I returned to doing what I had to do.

Originally posted as Autumn Monarchs | Dancing Echoes:

enlight1

Migrating Monarchs
Tumble from atop the trees
Black and orange leaves

• • •

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Monarch butterflies
migrating to Mexico:
orange wings of will.
~ ~ ~ ~
Tiring as I trudge
toward an unseen distant goal,
I see the monarchs.
Mexico is far away,
but they will get there someday.

(reblog), haiga, haiku

Five Haiku Poems: Balance

Better late than never, I realized that I should reblog the result of my first (and very pleasant!) collaboration with Poet Rummager on my own blog.  As usual, I copy/paste/tweak HTML to get more control than the perfunctory [Reblog] button provides.  My wheels turn slowly, but they do turn and do give me a nice ride.
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From
Five Haiku Poems: Balance | Poet Rummager:

Five Haiku Poems: Balance

Image by Jiang Daohua | Dreamstime.com

untitled

Nobody who is
always gloomy can stay sane.
Set your laughter free.

Allow happiness
to handspring into your grin –
spreading joy within.

Nobody who is
always happy can be sane.
Let your tears flow, too.

Allow the sadness
to somersault down your face.
Tumbling tears you’ll taste.

Staying on the beam
is a challenge, unless you’re
a world class gymnast.

Haiku poetry by Mellow Curmudgeon and Poet Rummager

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(reblog), humor, politics

Xmas in Trumpistan

Tho 12-25 has come and gone, the traditional 12 days of Xmas run to 01-06.  So it is not too late to post an illustrated topical parody of a classic Xmas carol.  With more control than just clicking the [Reblog] button would provide, this post is what amounts to a reblog of a recent collaboration.
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I cannot draw my way out of a paper bag, but Poet Rummager can draw.  She is also a fine creative writer (with an impish and sometimes dark sense of humor) and a fun collaborator.

Originally posted on Slasher Monster:

moneydemons

Hark, the snake oil angels sing!

Russia’s tsar rides on our king.

Bullshit here and beefcake there –

bovine voters everywhere.

Joyful greedheads make stocks rise –

Rust Belt workers fall for lies.

Hark, the snake oil angels sing!

Russia’s tsar rides on our king.

trumppig


Illustrations by Poet Rummager

Poem written by Mellow Curmudgeon

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(reblog), politics

An open letter to the Aetna CEO

Typing just [Enter] key into the Search box makes it easy to browse WordPress blogs like this one.   Here, the [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.
 

The post reblogged here is a welcome reminder that there are still some thoughtful and pragmatic people in the US. Tho seriously flawed in many ways, the ACA is an improvement over what came before. The flaws can be fixed if the pols will stop posturing for a while.

musingsofanoldfart

Dear Mark T. Bertolini, Chairman and CEO, Aetna,

As a former actuary, benefits consultant, benefits manager, and a business and personal client of Aetna, I recognize fully the complexity of healthcare delivery and insurance in the US. I understand the meaning of claims loss ratios and the need for Aetna to earn a profit for its shareholders.

With this context, I ask that you please reconsider pulling Aetna out of the Healthcare exchanges in North Carolina and other states. I became an Aetna customer again when Aetna purchased the business of Coventry and integrated the two companies into the Aetna network. On the whole, our service has been good and we appreciate your negotiated discounts with Carolinas Medical Center and its doctor network. Many insureds do not realize the value of these discounts that must be paid by uninsureds.

The Affordable Care Act is still in its early childhood, but…

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(reblog), history, humor, politics

Tough Lessons

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Learning from history is tough, even for those who remember it.   Parallels are never exact.  The importance of each difference between then and now is a judgement call.   Consider a darkly hilarious cartoon by Jen Sorensen:

Mandatory Birthing Center

Yes, the resemblance of the armed guard to a Nazi storm trooper is as subtle as a sledge hammer.   Fine by me.   Maybe it will overcome the American propensity for historical amnesia and wishful thinking.

Much to my dismay, Hillary Clinton is the only Trump opponent who might conceivably be elected.   The progressive purists who disdain supporting Clinton are confident that something like what happened in Germany in 1932 and 1933 could not happen here and now, with a Trump victory.   Yes, our traditions of liberal democracy are stronger than those of the Weimar Republic.   The pertinent question is not whether our traditions are stronger but whether they are still strong enough, after years of relentless assault from the pseudoconservative coalition of bigots and plutocrats that controls staggering amounts of dark money and has already taken over the GOP.   Dammit, the answer is not obvious.

(reblog), history, politics

Loyalty

The failure of Congress to renew the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program endangers people who served as translators for US troops in Afghanistan.   Enduring the same dangers and hardships as the troops, the translators sometimes fought alongside them.   Links to details will follow shortly.

This is not about whether the war in Afghanistan (or any war) was justified.   This is about doing right by good people who put their lives on the line but are being abandoned by lazy pols.

As a thoughtful video (under 3 minutes) produced by No One Left Behind points out, this is one of those extremely rare situations where it would be fairly easy to act both honorably and in our own self-interest, if only Congress would listen to a few combat veterans in its own ranks.

The rest of this post is excerpted from e-mail about the visa crisis that I received 2016-09-19 from No One Left Behind.   There are plenty of links to details in the excerpt.

˙ ˙ ˙

Congress left Washington, DC at the end of last week having failed to hold a vote on the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program.   As a result of their unconscionable inaction, the State Department will run out of visas on 1 October 2016 (the start of the new fiscal year).   The current backlog of visas is roughly 10,000 applicants (when one includes family, we estimate the true number of applicants is 35,000+).  Thanks to Congress, our country will now break its promise to our Afghan translators and other wartime allies – who will continue to wait in limbo, in hiding, afraid that any moment might be the one where the Taliban or ISIS’s death squads finally find them.  How many will die before Congress does their job (votes to renew the program and authorize and issue more visas to the State Department) and honors our nation’s promise?

To help highlight the national security implications of this issue and the importance of protecting the honor of the American military, veterans, and credibility, we organized a Letter to Congress, which we delivered on 6 September 2016.   Hundreds of thousands of veterans, representing every branch of service in every American conflict dating back to World War II joined Medal of Honor recipients from Vietnam to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, former Chairmen and members of the Joint Chiefs, numerous wartime commanders, and other general and flag officers in adding their signatures to the letter.

˙ ˙ ˙ This past weekend, the [Wall Street] Journal joined the New York Times and the Washington Post in urging the Congress to renew and properly fund the program – the nation’s three leading newspapers are rarely this unified on matters of policy.

This is the 11th hour.  The State Department will run out of visas in 11 days.  Unless we build a movement and demand Congress renew the program immediately, it will likely die an unceremonious death, lost as an obscure program that got drowned out by the intense rhetoric of the 2016 election.

Help us prevent this tragedy by doing two things:

˙ ˙ ˙
© No One Left Behind
P.O. Box 3641, Merrifield, VA 22116
Tax ID: 47-125-1659http://nooneleft.org/  |  info@nooneleft.org

Update [2016-09-20]

If U have not already done so, please contact your Senators and Representatives.

I dislike phones and try to be much less scathing when communicating to pols rather than about them, so I used the e-mail links on my legislators’ web pages to send the following message.

General topic:  Immigration | National Security

Specific topic:  Afghan Special Immigrant Visas

Message text:

The failure of Congress to renew the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program endangers people who served as translators for US troops in Afghanistan.   Enduring the same dangers and hardships as the troops, the translators sometimes fought alongside them.  This is one of those extremely rare situations where it would be fairly easy to act both honorably and in our own self-interest, if only Congress would listen to a few combat veterans in its own ranks and do right by good people who put their lives on the line but are being abandoned.

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(reblog), haiku

Fragment & Phrase in Haiku

This haiku in fragment/phrase style honors the memory of Jane Reichold in several ways.
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Many of the haiku I like have 2 contrasting parts (called fragment and phrase by Jane Reichold) in a juxtaposition that may seem incongruous at first.  (Much of the fun comes from realizing that the juxtaposition does make sense, perhaps because one part clarifies the other.)  After quoting from Jane’s essay Fragment & Phrase Theory, Kristjaan Panneman asks readers of Carpe Diem Theme Week (6) 5 “Ask Jane …” to honor her memory with a haiku in this style.  My attempt is a haiku with

  • the clearest fragment/phrase boundary of any haiku that I have written, plus
  • a celebration of her essay’s emphasis on pluralism and pragmatism, with
    • a line adapted from her essay in my phrase part;
    • a few departures from common practice that work well here.

Ad honorem: Jane Reichold, 1937-2016
|It is as she said:
|rules should not be carved in stone.
|Bamboo bends with wind.

bamboo-wind

The image used in this post has been resized from the original by Skip Allen; U can see the original in full glory by clicking on the link in item #1 below.  The original post using the image is gratefully reblogged (in effect) by item #2.

  1. Bamboo (bending with wind)
  2. Bamboo on Silk
(reblog), enlightenment, haibun, haiku

Invictus in 5-7-5

As there is already more than enough grimness in the real world, I usually dislike grim art.  The haiku by Poet Rummager that is effectively reblogged below is one that I admire despite its grimness.

An Escape | Poet Rummager

At her throat, he pressed
The knife and told her to strip
She leaned on the blade

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In response to Carpe Diem Utabukuro #12, I admire Poet Rummager’s haiku for 3 reasons.

  1.  It is so well-crafted.
  2.  It pushes the envelope of haiku subject matter.
  3.  It honors an unflinching spirit, as in William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus.

Whether #1 also applies to my own grim haiku is for others to say; I do have #2 and #3.

Edge of Enlightenment
|Behold the abyss
|without flinching.  If you can,
|then you are at peace.

UrbanAbyss_512845-800x600

© Lucas Surtin

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(reblog), Buddhism, haiku, humor, oversimplify, photography

Wine Making, then Buddhism

Fleeting moments in nature are good haiku subjects.  But there are others.  Among them are wine making and Buddhism.  A haiku can be a zingy summary of a discussion or attitude.
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The haiku by Dancing Echoes that is effectively reblogged below is one that I admire because it deals so well with big concerns.  While I do appreciate haiku about particular fleeting moments in nature, I also like to try summarizing a general discussion or attitude very briefly, with a haiku.

Vintage | Dancing Echoes

Blue in Green

Both art and science
Plus a little bit of luck
Makes a good vintage

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I will complete my response to Carpe Diem Utabukuro #12 with my own new haiku shortly, but first I want to admit that a zingy summary may be a serious oversimplification if taken too literally.  With an understanding about wiggle room, a forthright oversimplification is sometimes better than an attempt to dot every i and cross every t.

My haiku is not quite so extremely oversimplified as it may seem.  I am considering Buddhism only as the attitude toward life that I take to underlie the organized religion.  Peel away the legends and rituals.  Peel away the historical adaptations to local circumstances.  What do I find after much peeling?  I find green tea, the sound of one hand clapping, and a haiku.

Buddhism in 6 Words
|Shit happens.
|Keep calm;
|be compassionate.

(reblog)

The Present

This splendid short film has a surprise ending.

Jusd

After a very successful festival circuit, running on over 180 film festivals and winning more than 50 awards, we’ve decided that it’s finally time to share “The Present” with the rest of the world.

“The Present” is based on a great little comic strip by the very talented Fabio Coala.
Make sure to check out his page: mentirinhas.com.br

“The Present” is a graduation short from the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg, Germany.
We really hope you enjoy the result of our hard work. Thanks to everyone who help creating this film and everyone who supported us during the festivals. Thanks a lot for making this such an incredible journey.

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(reblog), humor, language, STEM

Narrative Starkness and Word of the Year

Kurt Brindley advocates “narrative starkness” that omits extraneous details about the characters in his fiction.  Apart from applauding Kurt’s starkness (and his ability to write humorous introductions for serious issues), the purpose of this post is to remark on a major difficulty with starkness and how the Word of the Year for 2015 may help.
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For reasons explained in the post excerpted below, Kurt Brindley advocates “narrative starkness” that omits extraneous details about the characters in his fiction.  Unless a character’s appearance (or gender or sexual orientation or …) matters to the plot, readers can imagine whatever they like.  Readers may later get a jolt if some details become relevant later and are different from their imaginings.  Maybe such a jolt will loosen the grip of a stereotype.

Apart from applauding Kurt’s starkness (and his ability to write humorous introductions for serious issues), the purpose of this post is to remark on a major difficulty with starkness and how the Word of the Year for 2015 may help.


My Uncolorful* Character(s)
Originally posted on
Kurt Brindley:

I don’t know about you, but as for me – unless it is absolutely critical to the movement of a story – I don’t need to always know every item in each room, or the style and brand of every shoe in the protagonist’s closet.

So it should come as no surprise then when I tell all you other reader dudes*** that I try to write my stories in the way that I prefer to read them: with limited and only absolutely necessary descriptive telling.

While I am very happy that DADT was finally axed and homosexuals are now allowed serve without any restrictions to their being, it was all of that nasty DADT stuff that became the impetus for me writing my novel.

And my goal in writing it was to force the reader to have to apply his or her own values, via perceptions and stereotypes, upon the characters in and events of the story.  Consequently, it was important for me as a writer to not tell the reader what I wanted them to think by way of character description, but to allow them to draw their own conclusions.

This equality stuff sure is a difficult nut to crack – witness the all-white Oscar nominees for this year’s Best and Supporting Actors/Actresses – and I’m not about to attempt to try and crack it here.

Except to say that screenwriters can certainly have a hand in keeping an open playing field for actors of all races and ethnicity by – you guessed it – laying off the descriptive details in their screenplays and leaving it up to the director to cast the best actor for the role based on the story’s content and need and not on the screenwriter’s biases.

*Yeah, I know “uncolorful” is not a real word, whatever a real word may be, but I it sounds less negative to me than “colorless” so, for what it’s worth, I’m going with it.

**gender specific

***non-gender specific

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Yes, “uncolorful” is awkward.  The aesthetic that urges omission of extraneous detail is well-established in STEM (as in “abstract algebra” or “Occam’s Razor”), but I cannot think of a good word or short phrase for wider advocacy of specifying only what really matters.  An “abstract” character is no more appealing than an “uncolorful” one.

It gets worse.  Writing smoothly and vividly but abstractly is tough.  George Orwell’s forever relevant 1946 essay Politics and the English Language includes a hilarious comparison between a memorable Bible passage and a translation into flabby blather that tries to make the general point w/o the concrete examples:

… the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, …; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

becomes

… success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but … the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

In one way, a recent event may make narrative starkness a little easier.  The American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year award for 2015 went to “they” when used as a 3rd person singular pronoun that is gender-neutral.  I hope this usage sticks.

Suppose I want to write a story whose characters include a Navy sailor and a PhD scientist.  I could call them “Ensign Wood” and “Doctor Stone” to give them names that leave their genders unspecified.  But the old he-she-it gang gives me no appropriate pronoun to use.  Tho adequate in nonfiction writing, the clunky alternatives “he/she” or “(s)he” are hopeless in speech.  For my story, those pronouns may be making a misplaced fuss about being gender-neutral.  I can use “they” instead.  The ADS will have my back if grammar prigs attack.

It is nice to see that a humble pronoun has gotten the WOTY honor and may even help those who are fighting the good fight.  I have no appropriate haiku to end this post, but a limerick I read long ago does come to mind.

The function that’s nowhere defined
is an orange with only a rind.
But it turns up the hero
(like the null set and zero)
in many a proof you will find.

(reblog), love

Holding On

Poet Rummager has written a splendid tribute to fallen soldiers, with a simplicity and directness reminiscent of Hemingway’s 6-word short story.

Am I the only one who was initially bewildered, having read “while” literally at first? The leave-taking and the funeral need not have been simultaneous. Time passed slowly while there was still hope that the soldier could return home on the scheduled date, relatively unhurt and relatively unhaunted. Then, suddenly, it felt as if he had left moments ago.

Poet Rummager

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

His wife was crying

He held her hand while his son

Saluted his tomb

(Photo from Definitivamente)

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(reblog), haiku, humor, photography

A Falling Sound

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The photo by Dancing Echoes reblogged below has inspired another haiku.

         A flipped coin may land
         on edge. Erect, her dropped shoe
         mimics his penis.

 
At my age, on the other hand, those high heels and narrow toes scream “Bunion City!”

Dancing Echoes

image

Shoes dropping to floor
Quickened anticipation
Clothes fly in frenzy

In response to CARPE DEIM HAIKU KAI: On The Trail With Basho Encore 5 a falling sound

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(reblog), language, mundane miracle, photography

The Transition to Created Light

The [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.  Typing just the [Enter] key into the Search box is a way to browse WordPress blogs.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, said the Big Bad Bard.  That is a good approximation; one striking exception is a photo by Elusive Trope that is effectively reblogged below.   (I say “effectively” because there were technical reasons to avoid the [Reblog] button in this case.)  A really good title can enhance work that is already good.  (Giving a nice name or title to junk may help sell it but will not dejunkify it.)  When Mark Twain likened the difference between “the right word” and a merely adequate word to the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug, he was stretching the point.  In the case of Elusive Trope’s photo, however, he nailed it.

Originally posted on Elusive Trope:

IMG_2459_picmonkeyed

The Transition to Created Light

View original (if link can be restored)

We look at the photo and see an austerely beautiful composition with strong colors.  One possible title (inspired by the actual title of Whistler’s famous painting of his mother) would be accurate but rather clunky and stuffy:

        Composition in Blue, Black, and Yellow: Light Fixture

Maybe we should use the time of day.  Saying just “Dusk” or “Twilight” would be accurate and mercifully brief, but those words have a sad or ominous connotation.  Our distant ancestors had good reason to fear nocturnal predators.  There is nothing sad or ominous in the light fixture’s defiance of the coming darkness.

Maybe we should be more specific about what is happening at dusk, with something close to the actual title:

        The Transition to Artificial Light

Adequate? Yes, but still not quite right.  The phrase “artificial light” has a milder version of the connotation of “artificial color” or “artificial flavor” as something to be confessed, not proclaimed.  Changing one word leads to the actual title used by Elusive Trope:

        The Transition to Created Light

Now the title reconnects us to the creativity of distant ancestors who invented campfires that discouraged their nocturnal predators.  Then there is the creativity of more recent ancestors who invented candles and lamps that let them mend their nets or write their thoughts during long dark evenings at high latitudes.  Still more recently, the creativity of people like Edison and Tesla made it so easy to light the darkness that nowadays we do it too much and appreciate it too little.  (The failing is ours, not theirs.)  Elusive Trope found the right word; we thrill to the lightning; Mark Twain’s ghost says “Told ya!” between puffs on his cigar.