Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Slow Creep

For those of you who are “okay” with the way things are going in America, (and I have to say, alarm klaxons are screaming in my head, more so each day) I would just ask you, while you complain that I’m being a histrionic Cassandra, to consider—just for a moment—what it would take for you to say “Now wait just one second! THIS (thing, whatever it is) IS NOT OKAY WITH ME!

What’s the tipping point for you, where you stand up and say, “This is not right. This is un-American. This will not stand.”

  • Government officials using private email servers?
  • Explicitly racist statements from the Administration or its members?
  • Relaxing penalties for bias/hate crimes?
  • Mass deportations?
  • Bombing a country and then telling its citizens that they cannot seek asylum here?
  • Singling out one religion or ethnicity for legal restrictions?
  • A mandatory National Identification Card and increased power of US Security forces' (military / police /Dep’t Home Sec.) ability to “check” that ID?
  •  Internment camps?
  • Removing rights of people who identify as LGBTQ?
  • Repealing the Marriage Equality Act?
  • Making it illegal to be gay?
  • Making it illegal to have gender-reassignment surgery?
  • Making divorce illegal?
  • Decreasing penalties for excessive force by police?
  • Sweeping increase of police license to use force?
  • Retail prices for many of the products you buy going up by 15%? What about 20%? Higher?
  • Your taxes increasing—10%? 20%? 30%? 40%?
  • Laws against purchasing products made abroad?
  • Extreme job loss? (One million jobs? Five? Ten?)
  • Dissolution of Labor Unions?
  • Relaxation of Occupational Safety and Health regulations?
  • Voter suppression?
  • Cancelling elections?
  • Privatization of schools?
  • Defunding of the Arts? Humanities?
  • Government determination of acceptable Art? (Fine Arts, Theater, Cinema)
  • Shutting out news media from the White House?
  • Creating an official State Channel for dissemination of information?
  • Government censorship of newspapers, radio, and television news?
  • Government censorship of Academics and results and conclusions from academic studies?
  • Abrogation of freedom of the press?
  • Warrantless collection of your personal information for a database?
  • Warrantless wiretapping and collection of your phone calls? Web browsing? Purchases?
  • Government control over or restrictions on your ability to browse the internet?
  • Making it illegal to criticize the government?
  • Making Celebrations of the State mandatory?
  • Criminalizing protest?
  • Restrictions of the civil rights of citizens? (This already started after 9/11 with USA PATRIOT, but, you know, extrapolate.)
  • Loyalty tests for citizens?
  • Repeal of the Second Amendment?
  • Selling off chunks of land from National Parks for private use such as oil or natural gas drilling, hydraulic fracturing, coal mining?
  • A pipeline leak or explosion with mass casualties?
  • Your own aquifer poisoned from fracking?
  • Defunding the FDA so that people routinely get sick?
  • An increase in maternal and infant mortality rates?
  • Environmental health problems, like smog or acid rain?
  • Personal health issues due to ease of environmental restrictions—what if you develop asthma or other health problems related to environmental issues?
  • Repeal of Roe v. Wade?
  • Criminalization of abortion?
  • Outlawing birth control?
  • Naked nepotism and/or corruption, cronyism?
  • Martial law in one or more cities?
  • Pulling out of N.A.T.O.?
  • Black site torture?
  • Beginning a new air- or ground-war with another country?
  • Long-term conflict or occupation of other countries?
  • Reinstitution of the Draft?
  • Using nuclear, chemical, or biological instead of conventional weapons against another country?

 Some of these things have already happened. Some are happening right now.

If not any of these things, then what? What would be your breaking point, what has to happen in order for you to stand up and say, “No more.”?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hike up Millbrook Mountain

 Southern Catskills
 My own cairn / rock balancing job
 panoramic of the Western view
   Talus Field
 At the summit
  • Distance 6.36 mi
  • Min. Altitude 829 ft
  • Max. Altitude 1529 ft
More details about the hike, including a map / satellite overlay here 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New ink!

So. I have been thinking about getting a new tattoo for a long while now, and finally decided to go ahead with it. Tattoos are an old, old artform, and nowadays they can be frivolous or meaningful--they can simply be aesthetically pleasing, or they can represent something deeper, marking transitions, commemorating life events, acting as talismans . . .

This tattoo, like my last one (ποίημα, "poiema," the Greek root word from which we derive the English word "poem," on my neck/between my shoulders) is a manifestation of my love for the English language and literature. It is also a way to honor my father, who passed away on 3.10.2013. His initials, "rs" are highlighted with a slight drop-shadow in red. It is convenient that they appear next to one another in the alphabet. My father was an engineer--he worked for LILCO (now LIPA, or Nat'l Grid, or whatever it is now) for many years. He was more of a "math guy"--not a man who cared deeply for literature. But he did care for me. And he read to me a great deal when I was young, and instilled in me a love for reading and writing.

My fianceé suggested the highlighting, and I thought it was a lovely idea. The subtlety is rather nice, I think.

The handwriting is my own, and it was deftly inked by Chris at Ritual Ink, in Highland, NY. It's a nice, clean shop, and the artist is talented, proficient, and professional.

Of course, now I'm thinking about what the next one is going to be . . .

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Where I (sometimes) work

This is a shot of my home office desk . . . inspiration to post it comes from a recent MetaFilter thread.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fabric-- poem and author commentary


Aglet. Frittle. Greeble. Lacuna.
Sheath. Depression. Projection. Void.
Words mean—naming is power.
En arche en ho logos: In the beginning was the Word.
We utter into order, declaring
what is and what is not.
But the universe is unspooling,
glittering stars spattered on
a fading tapestry, fraying.
Warp and weft widen,
the truth slips through,
fibers in outstretched fingers.

The threads trip us up.
Tangling tongues hang
on words like
femoroacetabular impingement
or neuropathy, etiology,
idiopathic (a way of saying
“we don’t know why”).
Cat’s cradles clot together,
knotted skeins, tripwires.
One spiderwebbed sentence
like cracks beneath our feet;
we are unstrung.

When I was little, I laid on the floor—
the sun streamed through the pane,
bent beams bleached boxes
on the dark carpet.
Backlit bits of dust
tumbled lazily above me.
I asked my mother what
they were; she said
sunbeams, but I heard
“sun-beans”—drifting motes
of a star made manifest.
Words mean.

Now, I carefully pick through
bolts and rolls of the
cloth of language,
hoping it will be a safety-
net and not a noose.
Burlap or taffeta?
Misunderstanding can be
When words fail me and
the world is torn,
I mend the rends
with sun-beans.

The sun will go dark, immense like
a monstrous balloon before it
You can’t unfray the framework
but you might patch it.
You can’t undo what is
but you can speak of it.
These words are my strands.
Help me to tighten these seams.


Author Commentary on “Fabric”

This poem was written in a few sittings in the Fall of 2010, with minor revisions over the following months. While I appreciate and value revision, many of my poems are only lightly revised. Sometimes, when the muse is particularly kind, she speaks quickly and clearly, and a poem springs forth, fully-formed from one’s head, as Athena from Zeus.
            I do welcome feedback from fellow poets. One particularly astute critic noted I did not capitalize “word” in the first stanza—seeing as I invoke the Gospel of John in the very same line, it seemed right to make that change.
            Another reader said “the whole poem is the third stanza—cut the rest.” Indeed, that is the “heart” of the poem, in terms of theme and architecture . . . but it only tells so much, and I wanted the poem to function on various levels. As an example, Dante, in his “Letter to Can Grande,” explains the filters through which the La Divina Commedia might be read: i.e. literal, metaphorical/ moral /anagogical.
 Poetry often compresses, but that compression is augmented by context. Here, a single moment in time is framed or book-ended by the birth and eventual death of the universe.
            In terms of prosody, the poem is clearly not a fixed form; but as T.S. Eliot notes in his 1917 essay “Reflections on Vers Libre,,” “No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job.” I take great care in the topography, sound-sense and metrics of my poems—I believe this is clear to the reader who scans or reads them aloud. Endstopping and enjambment make or change meanings, emphasize or deemphasize . . .
            The overall conceit in the poem is one of textiles; man-made objects serving as metaphors for larger ideas, and I tried to couple that with a theme of the importance of language and communication (which is, in my own philosophy, one of the markers of what it means to be human, defining humanity. Language is the vehicle for our pleasure and our pain, and it is the way in which we make sense of existence (we may hold emotional and spiritual convictions, but they cannot exist in a vacuum—they must be communicated in order to mean, and in fact we have these beliefs because they were somehow communicated to us—it is virtually a tautological relationship). This poem is a communication, and is about communication (and is obviously concerned with miscommunication). In Forster’s words, “Only connect” (Howard’s End, 1910).
So much more succinct, no?

Some other notes about language:
A “frittle” (line 1) is a temporary impression / depression left in the skin—think of the morning crease in one’s face from a bunched-up pillowcase. May be related to the Latin “Frittilus,” a dice-cup with an inlaid pattern.
A “greeble” (also line 1) is detailing added to a flat surface to break it up visually—picture Lego® blocks, or cinema spaceships, bristling with ray-guns and antennae.