f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

January 18, 2007

thanks, art buchwald, you taught me a lot

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 6:29 pm

     Art Buchwald’s death today is a sad event. (Detroit Free Press/AP, “Pulitzer-winning political, social satirist Art Buchwald dies;” Washington Post, Newspaper Columnist Art Buchwald Dies at 81,” Jan. 18, 2007)  But the best way to honor him is surely to celebrate and emulate his life, and (when the time comes) his wise and witty way of dying (for example, his auto-obituary video on the New York Times website, “Hi, I’m Art Buchwald and I Just Died“; hat tip to Blawg Review‘s unnamed Editor) 

 Too Soon to Say Goodbye (Random House, Nov. 2006)  BuchwaldTooSoon

I’ve been an Art Buchwald fan for perhaps 45 years — as long as I’ve been observing the political life of our nation.   Indeed, Buchwald is probably more responsible than any pundit or newsman for my interest in the workings of our political system and the foibles of our leaders.  Few habits survived from my days as a newspaper carrier, through high school, college and law school, and into my working life.  But reading Art Buchwald’s columns was a steady ritual on those lucky two days a week when his newspaper pieces appeared.

ArtBuchwald As the Washington Post article today aptly put it, the “owlish, cigar-chomping extrovert zinged the high, mighty and humor-challenged.”   Edward Kennedy called him “the Mark Twain of our time.”  I’ve always appreciated Twain a lot, but Buchwald has always been more relevant for me, because he wrote about the issues of our time, as they happened.  Besides making me smile, Art Buchwald taught me many lessons, as I grew up in the 1960’s and ’70’s, and tried to keep growing/maturing into the ’80’s and ’90’s.  Here are a few of the most important:

that humor can contain much insight and wisdom, helping to clarify issues that might otherwise be avoided as too complicated, boring, or taboo — and making politics, political science, and citizen involvement enjoyable

that there is no person or institution in a democracy that should be spared a probing spotlight, as too sacrosanct or powerful 

that there is no shame, and much for others to gain, from talking publically about the travails of your own life (for Buchwald, a very sad childhood and adult battles with depression)

When I go, I hope it is with Buchwald’s grace and at least a bit of his humor.  He recently said, “I have no idea where I’m going but here’s the real question: What am I doing here in the first place?”  It would also be great to have a friend who feels like former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee does about Art Buchwald: “He was just a glorious friend to have.”  Bradlee said he had spoken to Buchwald every day for the past month, adding “He was comforting and funny and very thoughtful.”  

Here are a few of my favorite Art Buchwald quotes (which, with many more, can be found at ThinkExist.com):

“The best things in life aren’t things”   laughingManS 

“Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.”

“Tax reform is taking the taxes off things that have been taxed in the past and putting taxes on things that haven’t been taxed before.”

“People are broad-minded. They’ll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn’t drive, there’s something wrong with him.”

“I always wanted to get into politics, but I was never light enough to make the team.”


NoYabutsSN  Among haiku/senryu writers, George Swede is well known for using humor in the service of insight into the human condition.  George is, thankfully, still robust and productive (although recently retired from his psychology professor duties, and despite his dispiriting battle with a plagiarist).  He is the featured poet in the senryu section of the current edition of Simply Haiku journal.  The introduction to George’s poems in Simply Haiku quotes Cor van den Heuvel saying “I’m sure his senryu would be the envy of great comedy writers like Woody Allen or Mel Brooks if they were aware of them.”  Well, I’m sure Art Buchwald would also have been in that group of admirers — and loved sharing a Mexican meal with George, too.  Here are a selection of George Swede’s senryu, from Simply Haiku Winter 2006 (vol 4 no 4):


Thick fog lifts —
unfortunately, I am where
I thought I was

At the edge of the precipice    I become logical  

peering into   devilF   
the deep well, two boys
talk about girls

A sigh from her
then one from me —
two pages turn


in her large blue eyes I make a small impression  laughingManS

airport lounge
a Muslim man prays toward
the emergency exit


. . . by george swede



“Thick fog lifts” and “A sigh from her” from Frogpond XX/2
“At the edge” from A Snowman, Headless, Fiddlehead
“peering into” from The Heron¹s Nest
“in her large blue eyes” from Uguisu
“airport lounge” from Modern Haiku


  1. David, check this out…


    It has some of your honored guests and myself too!


    Comment by Jason — January 26, 2007 @ 9:14 pm

  2. Thank you, Jason, for pointing us to the results of the 10th Annual Mainichi Haiku Contest. Congratulations on winning a Second Prize. And, congratulations to three of our Honored Guests, each of who won Honorable Mention: George Swede, John Stevenson, and Gary Hotham.

    Comment by David Giacalone — January 26, 2007 @ 11:06 pm

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