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

February 29, 2008

it’s Leap Day: ladies, make me an offer

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 11:30 am

froglegs It’s February 29, 2008. What does this “Leap Day” mean to you? For conservationists and amphibian-lovers, it’s the launch date for the Year of the Frog, a reminder that, since 1980, “at least 120 species of frogs, toads, salamanders and other amphibians have gone extinct; as many as half of the 6,000 remaining species may soon vanish unless immediate action is taken. ” (see “Leap Day: Doomesday Vault for Frogs“)

Leap Day —
the space where
a frog was

……………. by laryalee fraser
– borrowed, as amended, from this haiga

  • For loophole-loving lawyers over the centuries, it’s “not a real day and had no status in English law” (Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 28, 2004) — fertile ground indeed for the creative defense lawyer or crafty draftsman.
  • For math and astronomy wonks, it’s an opportunity to explain again ad nauseum that “our solar year is 365.24219 days,” with all the resultant need for intercalary machinations and refinements.

frogpondF More to the point, for lonely ladies (or their impatient fathers) tired of waiting on that prince or other “fellas-ta-come-a-courtin,” and for their selective-but-traditionalist sisters impatient for Mr. Right to do the asking, “Leap Day is for (unconventional) lovers” — the one day when a woman could with society’s blessing propose to any man of her choosing. (see The Daily Green, Feb. 26, 2008) As the folks at Time & Date.com explain about February 29th:

Tradition, Folklore and Superstition

A tradition was introduced many centuries ago to allow women to propose to men during a leap year. This privilege of proposing was restricted to leap day in some areas. Leap day was sometimes known as “Bachelors’ Day”. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage offer from a woman.

The tradition’s origin stemmed from an old Irish tale referring to St Bridget striking a deal with St Patrick . . .

right past me —
ms. sadie hawkins

………. by dagosan

For more particulars, see Wikipedia‘s discussion of Leap Year traditions, and check out Denis Kitchen’s description of Sadie Hawkins’ Day, on which all unmarried women could chase down Dogpatch bachelors and hogtie them into marriage. Although Al Capp always held the Sadie Hawkins Race in early November, in his Li’l Abner comic strip, it is now celebrated on (or confused with) February 29th by many Americans. Al Capp is gone, but unmarried women needing a little incentive, might want to check our the article “Hotels offer Leap Day proposal specials“(The Indy Star, Feb. 10, 2008).

Be careful, Clara, that’s a fine Specimen.” (Leap Year postcard, 1908)

one gray moth
above the candle –
Leap Day ends

……. by dagosan

leap year day
she goes down
on one knee

………………. by roberta beary

froglegsFNaturally, the Leap Day tradition is also a boon or slight beacon of hope (and often a disappointment) for bashful bachelors, and those suffering chronically unrequited love (like this one, whose still in search of an Attractive Nuisance co-blogger). Of course, many such single guys have always been just too darn choosey, and I’m sure they’ve been lining up excuses just in case they need to say no to a Leap Day proposal. As noted above, any such rejection is subject to penalties. According to Wikipedia:

“Supposedly, a 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland (then age five and living in Norway), required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man; compensation ranged from a kiss to £1 to a silk gown, in order to soften the blow.”

Let’s hope the fines will not be needed, and Leap Day brings happiness to members of both genders. Our ever-optimistic haikuEsq wrote rather late last night to a number of female haijin, pleading for them to submit a haiku or senryu to share here today in honor of Leap Day. You’ll find poems sprinkled throughout this post from a number of those fair ladies, along with a few plaintive ones by our sadsack dagosan. Many thanks to Alice, Roberta, and Laryalee.

As we receive (or conceive of) more Leap Day Ku, we’ll add them to this posting. Meanwhile, you single folk shouldn’t let Leap Day slip by without letting the (unmarried) object of your affections know your feelings.

together . . . frogpond
first light
of the extra day

…………. by alice frampton

the frog
and the lady –
eyeing that mosquito

………. by dagosan

leaping into
the sound of no —
frog prince

………………….. by laryalee fraser

froglegshe tells her
he’s already married
…leap year day

………………. by roberta beary

almost March 1st
the Leap Day Bachelor
re-checks his email

…………. by dagosan

afterglow (4 PM):

the short month
a leap day longer–
he says yes

lunch date
I dare him to mention
Sadie Hawkins’ Day

……………………. by peggy willis lyles

aftermath (March 1, 2008):

leap day
the peach tones
of her nakedness

………… by Ed Markowski

March 1st snow —
the old horny toad
wakes alone

…………….. by dagosan

much more than an afterthought (March 3, 2008):

Leap Day –
an old friend
takes off her glasses

……….. by Yu Chang – photo haiga orig. posted at Magnapoets JF (March 2, 2008)

update (March 3, 2008): Thanks to our friend David Fischer at Antitrust Review for including this posting in Blawg Review #149, which contains an extensive compilation of the best recent antitrust-&-competition-related materials, as well as everything else of merit, to be found in the blawgiverse. We are pleased that our open rivalry with Antitrust Review for top Google ratings relating to “antitrust humor and sexiness” did not prevent David from pointing to our Leap Day presentation. We’re a little concerned, though, that he placed this very serious piece of sociology and advocacy in the category “The Lighter Side”.

February 27, 2008

An Almost Life — p/i lawyer Kevin Mednick’s fine first novel

Filed under: Book Reviews,lawyer news or ethics,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 6:59 pm

An Almost Life” by Kevin Mednick (The Permanent Press, December 2007; 240 pp; ISBN-13: 978-1579621575; interview with the author; cover image)

Mini-Review: This first novel by lawyer Mednick is fully satisfying and genuinely successful. Its protagonist is a frank, witty, self-deprecating personal injury attorney in a small upstate New York city, who is going through midlife and mid-career crises. If you enjoy novels about (realistic) lawyers and lawyering, or you’re looking to be entertained by characters you care about, while learning a bit about the human predicament and the workings of an important (and often misunderstood) social institution, you should read An Almost Life. Despite having the “rather-be-napping” winter blahs all last week, I finished this book (which has no murderous socio-paths or life-and-death escapes driving the narrative) in two days, reading well past midnight, and wishing it were longer. (scroll down for the full review)

new novel
the sun sets
without me

… by dagosan/ david giacalone, The Heron’s Nest (March 2005)

Kevin Mednick is a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer in the small Schenectady-NY-based firm of Bendall & Mednick, which has three attorneys and a branch office in Atlanta. His publisher says Kevin’s “legal career includes stints as an Assistant District Attorney, house counsel for an insurance company, associate counsel for a large personal injury defense firm, and law clerk for a County Court Judge.”

Mednick has been with B&M for 15 years. They call themselves “Real Lawyers for Real People” in low-key tv ads and at their informative and purposefully unflashy website. Among lawyers in the New York Capital Region, Bendall & Mednick is known for doing high-quality work in complicated p/i and medical malpractice cases. When I’m asked for the name of a p/i firm by friends or acquaintances, I always suggest B&M. Nonetheless, although Kevin is only a few years younger than myself, and I pass the lovely old house that serves as his office on my way to the supermarket each week, I’ve never met him, nor spoken on the phone with Kevin, and the only internet/email correspondence we’ve had consisted of my request for a copy of his book to review here at f/k/a, and his short reply saying he had no copies but would have one sent. (I did meet the firm’s founder, James W. Bendall, once around 1990.)

In fact, I only heard about Kevin’s novel during a chance meeting with a local judge I admire, in a line at the Post Office mailing Valentine parcels, about two weeks ago. When I did a Google Blog Search later that day and found no review of the book, and no mention of it on any blawg, I decided I owed it to our town and profession to check out this novel.

What I’m trying to say, of course, is that — despite our geographic proximity and this rave review — I did not pick up this book out of devotion or friendship for Kevin or his law firm, and I doubt that he even knew my name when I contacted his firm about An Almost Life (unless I’m infamous among his p/i colleagues for my stance on standard contingency fees, or lionized for my defense of lawyer advertising and battles against the Bar’s Dignity Police).

I first heard Kevin Mednick’s voice when he was doing his weekly Real Law segment, on Thursday, February 14, 2008, on the very popular Don Weeks morning radio show on 810 WGY-AM at 7:50 AM. That segment focused on baseball steroids and Slip and Fall accidents (hear it here), and I paid particular attention because I recently experienced a slip-n-fall of my own on a neighbor’s icy sidewalk. Kevin made good sense on that topic (as does the brief description of the issues involved in S-n-F cases on the B&M website). This morning, I heard Kevin again in this interview about his practice and his novel, at B&M’s under-used weblog (which is hosted by the firm’s youngest member, Atlanta lawyer and comedy-club owner, Jamie Bendall). Frankly, though, neither exposure to Kevin — the sensible, competent p/i lawyer — made me want to brave a Schenectady winter, with its mid-February crop of potholes and slippery roads, to head down Union St. to make his acquaintance and shake his hand. However, reading An Almost Life definitely did. The author who gave the character Mike Samuels his voice is clearly worth meeting.

An Almost Life” makes it easy to answer my two basic questions when reviewing a book: 1) Was my time spent reading the book a good investment? and 2) Who (if anyone) is likely to benefit from (or enjoy) reading it?

Time Well Spent? As simple “pleasure reading,” AAL was a constant treat. The main character, Mike Samuels (who surely has a lot of Kevin Mednick in him, even if they might have had different reactions when that exotic dancer wanted to show Samuels her breast-surgery scars in his office) is recognizable, insightful, likable and entertaining. Whether he’s trying to figure out just when most of himself “stopped bothering” and started to leave for places unknown, or how his secretary can always be in such a good mood and so often save him from himself, or how to feel about the ex-wife who left him for a Bigger-Better-Deal, Samuels charms, entertains, and endears himself to the reader. Ditto when he describes his relationships with a teenage son and daughter, or with an anti-anxiety medication that somehow causes both drowsiness and insomnia, while really taking “the edge off.”

As a novel about lawyers and lawyering, An Almost Life was even more rewarding for me. As Publishers Weekly reports, when Samuels “accepts the case of Evelyn Walker, who is suing her former employer over a debilitating job-related injury, Mike is forced to shake off his ennui and get focused to defend his client.” What we are allowed to see is not the tacky tort lawyer who assaults us in tv and radio ads, nor — thankfully — the self-aggrandizing martyr-champion of the downtrodden, the whiny victim of the nasty tort-reformers, the happy-face (or chest-beating) warrior who appears so often online, or the death-defying, miracle-working hero of blockbuster books and movies. Instead, a good lawyer and good man gives us a peek at his fears and insecurities, while pointing out the foibles of others, and painlessly explaining the psychology and strategy that goes into making a personal injury negligence case and bringing it to trial.

The review in The Independent got it right:

“Despite Medrick s narrative skill in keeping readers curious about the outcome of Evelyn s case, which will be tried in a small town in upstate NY, the book s most compelling and incisively funny – sections have to do with Mike s commentary and asides on lawyers, judges, justice and contemporary culture, including the inanity of golf, the psychology of the working-class in rural America, the pathetic comedy of small-claims night court, and the fear of jurors who want to run home and barricade their doors and remove themselves from a world that’s too complicated, too confusing and too dangerous.

Four authors are quoted on the dust-jacket of An Almost Life, and have spot-on remarks. Andrew Neiderman, who wrote The Devil’s Advocate, says “Kevin Mednick’s depiction of an attorney’s stream of conscious and his capture of a distinct narrative voice enables the reader truly to appreciate the American justice system. An Almost Life is a witty, entertaining novel and a great effort by a budding new talent.” Three lawyer-novelists add their thoughts, with which I concur:

  • Bruce Ducker, author of Bloodlines, deposes and says, “Kevin Mednick’s novel is that rare combination — a great read told in spot-on prose. The staccato dialogue, the sure sense of place, and the parade of quirky characters give the reader a telling insight into the life of a small-town courthourse lawyer.”
  • John Keegan, author of A Good Divorce, opines: “Mike Samuels breaks all the old lawyer cliches — he’s self-conscious, he’s tentative, and he’s almost human. It’s as if he’s just kicking a dented beer can down the street. Mednick has a gift for self-deprecating, intelligent humor. His book is a deft exploration of the schism between who we are and what we do for a living. An Almost Life sneaks up on you and won’t let you go.” And,
  • Peter Friedman, author of Ideal Marriage, swears to tell the whole truth: “I felt myself in the hands of not only a fine story teller, but also a lawyer with a wonderful grasp of the battles that rage over every case. I don’t recall ever reading such an engaging illumination of how a trial lawyer actually makes — or doesn’t make his money. I finished An Almost Life almost regretfully, as it reads so well.”

Speaking of the dust-jacket, it is the only thing about An Almost Life that I would change. Mike Samuels might have felt as if he were invisible, but no book should be stuck with a cover image that makes the novel nearly invisible in a store display. The cover photo was taken by Kevin’s senior partner, Jim Bendall, but the kindness of that gesture does not make up for its ho-hum effect. Let’s hope the second printing, or paperback edition, has more pizazz.

A Novel for Just About Everybody. So, who do I think would benefit from An Almost Life? Just about every adult with a sense or humor and justice, and five or six hours to devote to the pleasures of a fine first novel. Read it for the sheer entertainment; for its insights into middle-aging, or finding yourself, your mate, or your place in the world; or (whether you’re a non-lawyer or an attorney looking in from another part of the profession) to get a realistic impression of the job and the role of a personal injury lawyer who is in it for more than the money and glory. I’m glad I got to meet Mike Samuels and — since he works right down the road — hope to meet his creator, before Kevin Mednick flees to that lovely land where successful lawyer-novelists dwell.

snack room —
the litigator takes
one-third of the donuts

…………………………………….. dagosan
– looking for more lawyer-related haiku? well, click that link —

p.s. I must admit that the local setting (even if masked with fictitious characters and place names) made parts of Mike Samuels’ musing even more amusing and enjoyable for me. For example, like myself, lawyer Samuels is bemused over the “party hacks” (and sports heroes) who too often get to be judges around here, despite having virtually no experience in trying or negotiating a case. [We have elected judges, but I soon found out after arriving in Schenectady that county party chairmen at times select themselves for important judgeships, and the parties often cross-endorse each other’s chosen candidates.] Don’t fear, though, the book won’t leave you disenchanted with all judges, and your living outside of upstate New York won’t reduce the experience of reading An Almost Life.

– Below the fold, you’ll find a few great quotes from An Almost Life. –


February 26, 2008

snowman (r)evolution – Part III: snobesity

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 6:41 pm

. . . As demonstrated on our lawns, and in cartoons, comic strips, and movies, Americans have long imbued their snowmen with the same frailties, foibles and fate as humans.

a little dizzy
after chemo — replacing
the snowman’s head

………………… by dagosan

Through our snowmen, in addition to the shenanigans perpetrated by Calvin & Hobbes, we have depicted:

Our fear of death (which is quite unlike the acceptance of impermanence symbolized by snow buddhas), as demonstrated by

Linus‘ poignant mourning in Peanuts over his melted snowman (which was reprised just this month in the Schenectady Daily Gazette), and the search for immortality depicted in Charles Addams

Snowman in Freezer. [See more of his work in a series of holiday cards from from Pomegranate.com.]

snow turns to rain –
our Buddha’s visit
cut short

………………….. by dagosan

Our evil side – as seen

[“Thaw!”] – in the mundane mendacity of John Callahan’s fleeing, frosty bank-robber, who will surely spend a stretch in the cooler, even if defended by Calvin & Hobbes fan, and criminal defense lawyer, Scott Greenfield. (You can find “Thaw!” in the classic Callahan collection, “Do Not Disturb Any Further,” Harper/Quill 1990). [By the way, the cover of Do Not Disturb Any Further has graced my kitchen wall (and an occasional doorknob) for almost two decades.]

sudden blast of wind –
she borrows the snowman’s
hat and gloves

…………………….. by dagosan

He’s Road Chill” – or, the long-simmering, soul-numbing vengeance evidenced on January 11, 2008, in Crankshaft‘s chilling vehicular (snow)manslaughter scene.

– and, the all-consuming malevolent presence in the upcoming movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (via Bob at Today’s Snowman)

Our Towering Tackiness:

Everywhere you look across our land, we are now confronted by the very-American (and sadly, also –British), plague of inflatable snowmen. They loom over our lawns and in our public spaces. As Bob Eckstein, author of ”The History of the Snowman,” told USA Weekend (“5 things you need to know about Snowmen,” Dec. 16, 2007):

Every 8-foot-high blow-up snowman is a lost opportunity of a God-given gift we all have: artistic expression.”

Boxing Day drizzle
the inflatable snowman
keeps smiling

…………… by dagosan

Their/Our Obesity

What is, however, particularly worrisome for me, is the fact that Americans have — over the past few decades and ever-increasingly — actually started to make thinner snowpersons, while taking on the most obvious characteristic of their traditional snowmen icons: We’ve turned into a nation of apple- and pear-shaped fatties. Sadly, though, when exposed to a little sun, we seem not to shrink but to expand further, double-scoop ice-cream or sno-cone in hand.

This snobesity affects not just our men, but also our women and children, who’d rather let little motors inflate their snowmen, while packing on pounds that shorten their own breaths and lifespans. (For a very scary consequence, see, “Study: Stroke Risk Triples for Women Ages 35 to 54,” All Things Considered, February 21, 2008, interview of Dr. Amy Towfighi — The risk is now greater for women than men in that age group, with the apparent cause being excess weight, shown by an increase in waist size of more than two inches since a similar study only a decade ago. My earlier concern for Baby-Boomer daddies constructing snowmen must now, therefore, extend to even younger mommies.)

a sparrow chirping
in his lap…
snow Buddha

………. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Denial/Delusion: The USA Weekend article on snowmen (“5 things you need to know,” Dec. 16, 2007) demonstrated another troublesome all-American habit (including, Italo-American, if my female relatives are any indication): the delusional belief that you can somehow work-off snowman-size appetites with exercise. Thus, the article says:

4. Constructing one can be a good workout. Calories burned per hour in building a snowman: 238.

Sorry, friends, but it is really hard to work off the effects of any particular snack or dessert with activity — especially in a world where a single cookie often constitutes a few hundred calories (and a mere 200 extra calories a day will add 20 pounds to your body in a year). That’s true because the activity has to burn more calories than you would have otherwise burned (create a net calorie deficit), in order to counter the effects of a particular splurge.

snack break —
no hot cocoa
for the half-built snowman

…………. by dagosan

Let me give you an example from a recent sordid, eating-disorder episode of my own: About a week ago, despite my frequently deriding the fact that our local convenience chain, Stewart’s Shops, markets its 1200-calorie pints of ice cream as “Spooners” meant to be an individual snack, I brought home not a Spooner but a full, 64-oz. half-gallon container of their Peanut Butter Pandemonium ice cream. And, then, I spent about a half hour eating it all by myself.

Yes, I’m appalled (and a little ashamed), too. For your information, Stewart’s Pandemonium is a lot like Perry’s Light Panda Paws (except it has the full complement of milk fat) — as Stewart’s explains: “This vanilla ice cream is loaded with peanut butter cups, peanut butter and fudge swirls.” I had always assumed that Pandemonium was meant to grab fans of Panda Paws, but Stewart’s originally called it Peter Butter Pan, when introduced in December 2005, in conjunction with the road-show production of “Peter Pan” at Proctor’s, Schenectady’s wonderful refurbished theater. But, I indeed digress.

A half-gallon of Peanut Butter Pandemonium contains 16 so-called “individual servings” of ice cream, at 210 calories per serving, for a total of 3360 calories. If I wanted to counteract that many calories, I’d have to do a lot of snowman-making. The 238-calories per hour suggested in USA Weekend comes to 14 hours of snowmen creation. That number is daunting enough but, as indicated above, we really need to count net or additional calories burned.

As “Calories Burned During activity and exercise,” from the Community Health department of Tooele County, Utah, reminds us: “Everything you do burns calories from sleeping to breathing to flipping on a light switch.” Just sleeping burns 60 calories an hour for the average person; watching TV burns 75, and an hour of “mall-type shopping” burns 110 calories. Indeed, although an hour of vigorously playing squash uses 650 calories, just “Impatiently (nervously) standing in line (body twitching, stamping feet)” burns – 140 per hour.

Brain Work; study, desk job, accounting, computer work, heavy concentrating, some moving around” – burns 110 calories per hour.

For numbers that correspond with your size, see “Calories Burned During Exercise,” from NutriStrategy, which gives information for persons weighing 130, 155 and 190 pounds, and indicates that a 190-pounder burns about 50% more than 130-pounder. A 155-pounder like myself burns 211 calories in an hour of cooking/food preparation.

Therefore, if I’m going to work off that half-gallon of Pandemonium, the above numbers and analysis suggest that I’m going to need to substitute 27 hours of snowman-making for a similar amount of time that I would have spent here at my computer working on this weblog. Of course, if Mama G. or a pretty neighbor offers me a cup of hot cocoa to warm up my freezing old body, I’ll need to add another hour sculpting Frosty.

Yep, this three-part series on Snowmen (which started here, and then went there) has just about worn me out. As I sit here, Schenectady and most of eastern New York State is getting a wonderful new blanket of snow. If I’m lucky, my neighbors will treat me to a party-full of new snowmen in the morning, and I’ll get to adopt one or two to keep in hats, and eyes and noses, as February wanes. May you create or espy, and totally enjoy, a few of your own.

he’s holding one
the Buddha

……………… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

first snow…
the children’s hangers
clatter in the closet

……………… by Michael Dylan Welch – from The Open Window (click for orig. photo-poem)

p.s. Wallace Stevens is the most famous poet-lawyer. But, I have to admit: his poem The Snow Man is way over my head and underscores my preference for really short poems.

February 24, 2008

snowman (r)evolution – Part II

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 3:56 pm

The History of the Snowman(2007; cover detail)

My promise (in Part I) to continue the snowman concept this weekend here at f/k/a, is smacking up uncomfortably with my general promise to stop spending so much time working online and on weblogs. Like some of our chronic little wintry-mix storms this winter, I think I’ll slip in a quickie posting now, messing up my personal traffic flow, and threaten to come back later this evening after everyone is safe on their sofa or futon of choice (perhaps with the Oscar ceremony on as background noise; click here for Part III).

warm spell —
their Christmas puppy laps up
our snow buddha

……. by dagosan

Since I posted on Friday evening, I made the “mistake” of discovering the recently-released book called “The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market,” by Bob Eckstein (Simon & Schuster, 2007); along with its official website, the Today’s Snowman weblog; and the enjoyable chapter-by-chapter pictorial YouTube Preview of the book. That cover detail at the top of the post should be excuse enough for the resulting expansion of my Snowman Evolution theme. If you’re at all intrigued by these primitive, frosty folk-statuary, Eckstein’s book and website offer much information (often witty) and distraction for a wintry day (and probably also for a summer day while slurping a snow-cone). In addition to some great photos of snow-person art (for example):

– Swiss Alp Couple, see larger at Today’s Snowman.

and the ability to vote on your favorite snowman in a (sometimes raucously rivalrous and mud-slinging) monthly contest, you’ll find Sidebar features such as Ask the Snowman Expert. To my amazement, I had to go to Today’s Snowman to discover The Great Rotterdam Snowman, which exists in all its glory only a few miles away from me as I type, in the Schenectady suburb of Rotterdam, is purportedly built by a lawyer (identity unknown as yet to me; update: it’s Jeff Older, who apparently is not a lawyer, but does work with an Albany law firm), and 12 feet tall (if not 14):

The Great Rotterdam [NY] Snowman, via Today’s Snowman weblog

update (March 5, 2008):  The Great Rotterdam Snowman won the February 2008 Snowman Contest at Today’s Snowman; see our report  and analysis. An article in the Schenectady Gazette helped boost GRS to victory.

Perhaps more amazing for this lover of snowpersons and resident of the Schenectady Historic Stockade District, the site of the 1690 Schenectady Massacre, I was not aware of the role played by snowmen in that pivotal piece of local history, until referred to it by Today’s Snowman. The Schenectady Massacre was an attack against the tiny village of Schenectady, in the Dutch colony of New York on February 8, 1690. It was carried out by a party of over 200 French and Sault and Algonquin Indian raiders. As explained at Wikipedia:

“Late on February 8, when a scouting party reported that no one was guarding the stockade at Schenectady, a decision was made to attack at once, despite the bitter cold. The original target was Fort Orange (present day Albany), but when Schenectady was discovered to be defenseless the raiding party decided to attack here instead.

“The local legend is that Schenectady and Albany had somewhat of a rivalry. Albany tended to gloat about its size over the smaller settlement of Schenectady. Therefore, when Albany sent a warning to the settlement about an approaching raiding party, Schenectady decided to show it wouldn’t be fooled by their ‘fake’ words of warning. Schenectady’s children built a snowman as the guard, which greeted the French and Algonquin raiding party the night of February 8th.”

[larger] Eckstein displays a fine sketch of the feckless SnowGuards in a posting at his site, and retells the tale in Chapter 12 of The History of the Snowman (pp. 110 – 112). In the book, author Eckstein asks”Was the first snowman in America made in Schenectady, New York, on the eve of one of the bloodiest days in early American history?” He concludes: “We may never know whether this was the first American snowman, but the Schenectady Snowman is definitely the earliest reference to one.”

update (Nov. 29, 2008): I just declared Schenectady “SnowmanCity, NY“, since Bob is coming to make a presentation at our Library and a Book Signing at the Open Door Bookstore, on Sunday, December 7, 2008.

a neighborhood
with no front yards –
not a snowman in sight

………. by dagosan

The story of the snowman and the Massacre that occurred down the block makes my plaintive poem above seem even sadder than when I wrote it two years ago. But, it gives me a great excuse for finally thanking Owen McLaughlin and Jennifer Murray for building this Snow Dude right outside my window, at the corner of Cucumber Alley and Washington Avenue, last year (see Stockade Spy, April 2007):

Rare sighting: a Stockade Snowman

Owen and Jennifer made their snowman especially magical by changing his hat and glasses frequently during his short stay. I do not know who built another rare Stockade snowperson down the block in January 2008, but I was entranced by a lovely model of the Statue of Liberty, and saddened that her predictably short life was shortened considerably by a dreadful spell of 50-degree weather last month.

January thaw
Snow Liberty leaves
a salad in the mud

…… by dagosan (haiga photo by Mama G, 1953)

sunrise —
nothing on the snowman
stops the drip

……. by Gary Hotham

Easter rain
you can tell
it was a snowman

……………….. by John Stevenson – Pilgrimage, 2006

Enough for now. I must salvage some daylight and perhaps scout for more snowmen. First, though I want to thank those who organized yesterday’s Winter Festival in Schenectady’s Central Park (see the Sunday Gazette, Feb. 24, 2008). I must say, however, that I was disappointed to find neither a Snow Bocce event (despite our example), nor a snowman-making contest or exhibit, despite a few inches of packable snow on Friday.

Try back late this evening (or, maybe tomorrow) for a little more snowman musing. [It took a couple days, but the last of this series, Part III, went up on Feb. 26, 2008; called “snobesity,” it depicts how “Americans have long imbued their snowmen with the same frailties, foibles and fate as human” — including our broadening butts.]

after snowfall
a Buddha on the lawn
with coal eyes

……………. by Jim Kacian- from Presents of Mind

February 22, 2008

my snowman (r)evolution

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 9:47 pm

– click to see the entire  Snow Shark cartoon and the snowman oeuvre of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes.

No, we haven’t resumed our legal-ethics or political punditry. Indeed, more than ever, I’m resolved to only post items that I enjoy compiling, creating, sharing. And, right now, that means having fun with the snowman theme.

one smirking snowman
and one
hatless scarecrow

…………… by dagosan

in the howling wind
under the full moon
the snowman, headless

…….. by George Swede from Almost Unseen

over 50 winters of Giacalone snowmen

Snowmen have always delighted me (especially after being reminded, as an adult, by both Calvin & Hobbes and Snow Buddha of the layers of symbolism and mischief to be found in these homemade, temporary statuary). The photos above were taken half a century apart. One features Your Editor (a/k/a dagosan) with his siblings proudly displaying snowmen largely constructed by Mama G (larger here). The other is my niece, Elisabeth, which she built with her dad.

naughty child–
instead of his chores
a snow Buddha

….. by Kobayashi Issa – translated by David G. Lanoue

A few months ago, my brother Arthur, who lives in the Buffalo Snow Belt region, was bemoaning his fate as a Baby Boomer, who came late to parenthood and has two children in grammar school who still need major assistance constructing their snowmen. He pointed out how much work — bending, rolling, lugging, lifting — is involved in making two snowmen at a time. [In fact, according to USA Weekend, “5 Things You Need to Know about Snowmen,” Dec. 14, 2007), it takes 10 billion snowflakes to build the average snowman. That’s heavy, man.]

Last Thanksgiving, I mentioned Arthur’s complaint to Mama G. She scoffed, pointing out that she always had to make three snowmen at a time. Being my mother’s son, and despite a lifetime not defending my older-twin brother, I immediately reminded her that Arthur and his knees are three decades older than she was the last time she made three snowmen. Then, weary just thinking of all that labor, the defense rested, point made and taken.

small sad face
in the puddle —
last weekend’s snowman

…………….. by david giacalone – Simply Haiku V4N3; a procession of ripples anthology (p. 18)

– from dagosan’s haiku diary: poems that include the words: “snowman;” or “snowman’s“, or “snow buddha.”

winter fog
i stub my toe
on the snowman

below zero…
sparrows peck
the snowman’s nose

………… by ed markowski
“below zero” – Simply Haiku (Summer 2006, vol. 4 no. 2)

Coming later this Weekend: More Snowmen Tales and Haiku –

This theme proved too expansive to be contained in our posting.   Please see “snowman (r)evolution (Part ii).”

February 20, 2008

two wonderous freebies

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 6:55 pm

free, rare & pretty darn cool! 

It’s not just another internet rumor. At the popular Concurring Opinions weblog, Prof. Daniel J. Solove just proclaimed a phenomenon as rare and as welcome as a total lunar eclipse: His recently-published, timely and critically-acclaimed book The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (2007) is now available for free download. (see our review from Nov. 8, 2007) They’ve even provided Questions for Discussion for academic classes or book-reading groups.

As Daniel explains:

Of course, I’d love it if you bought a copy, but if I can’t convince you to buy it, then I hope you’ll at least read it for free online.

I think that it is great that Yale University Press is allowing me to do this. I hope more publishers decide to let their authors do this in the future — especially academic presses, whose mission is not just to make a profit but to help spread ideas.

The book is licensed under a Creative Commons license — it can be used for non-commercial uses.

first glass of wine
Google keeps asking
“Did you mean . . . . ?”

…………………………………. by dagosan

We may have no control over celestial events, but the free-viewing of important academic books is within the control of publishers and authors, and I hope Solove’s example is widely-followed. Thanks to Dan Solove for choosing access over potential profits.

he critiques
the eclipse

……………… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

[larger image, by Lloyd Overcash] Hunter's Moon sm:

Meanwhile, also at Concurring Opinions, Prof. Devan Desai reminds us today that there will be a total eclipse of the moon this evening — between 10 and 11 PM, EST.

See: NASA Eclipse Home Page for details about tonight and lunar eclipses in general. And check out Mr. Eclipse.com, for a guide to photographing eclipses by Fred Espenak.

lunar eclipse umpireS
i fall for
the hidden ball trick

…………………. by ed markowskitinywords (Aug. 29, 2007)

You may recall that the f/k/a Gang was inspired by the last full lunar eclipse, in October 2004, which coincided with the then-rare World Series appearance of the Boston Red Sox. We hope to practice taking some digital photos tonight — if the clouds and wind-chill cooperate. And might produce a new one-breath poem or two, under the influence of a breath-taking lunar event. Let us know your eclipse experiences tonight.

Blood Moon
so orange!
tawny, she corrects

…………………. by dagosan

February 18, 2008

we like Lawyer Lincoln

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 11:37 am

topHatAbe We are still avoiding new lawyer-themed punditry here at f/k/a. But, this is Presidents’ Day, and our admiration for that lanky lawyer from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, makes the Gang want to remind you of prior posting we’ve done about him and his attitudes toward lawyering, litigation, life, etc. So please take a look at:

the great lord
forced off his horse…
cherry blossoms

. . ………. by Kobyashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

If you’re looking for new content here at f/k/a, how about some Sports senryu by a pair of our Honored Guest Poets, from this newest issue of Simply Haiku (Vol. 6 no. 1, Spring 2008):

AM radio dial — baseballG
lights up with the roar
of a ball game

on seventeen he
hits the sand he hits the sand
he hits he hits hits….

………………… by Barry George
“on seventeen” from Modern Haiku 36:3

last second field goal…
for the fifth straight week
my bookie wins

up from Pawtucket
his error in slow-mo
on the centerfield scoreboard

after confession baseballG
father shows us
how to throw a spitter

…………………… by Ed Markowski

February 17, 2008

spring comes early at Simply Haiku (along with a little haiga controversy)

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:17 pm

Gray on gray is the predominant color scheme in Upstate New York this time of year. My friend Yu Chang lives here in Schenectady (teaching electrical engineering at Union College and bringing the haiku spirit to all he does), so he knows that fact all too well. Nonetheless, if you stopped at the website of Simply Haiku Journal this weekend, you would have found a colorful reminder of the promise of Spring (beginning with the cover photo by Carol Raisfeld). Indeed, the Spring 2008 issue of Simply Haiku (Vol. 6:1) includes a portfolio of modern photo-haiga by Yu, which are guaranteed to overcome any light-deprivation-sadd-ness you might be suffering during the ides of February. [Haiga is a haiku-related genre that combines a painting, photo or other graphic image with a “linked” poem.]

If you’re more than a bit tired of grayscale, just click the link next to these b&w thumbnails from two of the haiga by Yu, to feel the magic of Spring:

[orig. haiga]

spring —
pink robe
at her ankles


[orig. haiga]

May morning
a window

…………………. by Yu Chang, from Modern Haiga in Simply Haiku Journal (Spring 2008, Vol. 6:1)

In addition to four other pictures by Yu Chang, you’ll find many more antitdotes to wintry grays and whites in the new issue of Simply Haiku — including haiga images from Pris Campbell and Collin Barber, as well as Carol Raisfeld and Ashe. And, for some forward-looking commentary, check out George Swede’s last “Tracks in the Sand” column, where he talks about his new duties as editor of Frogpond.

a bumblebee
stumbles in clover

………………………………….. by Matt Morden – Stumbles in Clover (2007)

Despite trying to avoid stressful online arguments lately, I don’t feel that I can in good conscience refer you to the Modern Haiga at Simply Haiku without raising an important issue concerning the essence of haiga excellence. Beyond my chronic complaint over the use of far too many “tell-em”/”psyku” poems (which tell you rather than “showing” you what is on the poet’s mind), I’ve been seeing far too many haiga that incorporate what I call “label-ku” — poems that describe what is happening in the accompanying graphic image, rather than being “subtly linked” to that image; the haiku appears to be a caption or title describing the image.

My introduction to modern haiga came through the intervention and inspiration of my friend Aurora Antonovic, who is the Haiga Editor at Simply Haiku (and much more). She encouraged me to try my hand at creating photo haiga (resulting, e.g., in this portfolio at SH). From the start, Aurora made it clear to me: quality haiga have subtly-linked poems. As she says in her Introduction to Modern Haiga at Simply Haiku:

Haiga, of course, is poem-art, but it is so much more than a three or five-line poem accompanying an image. The poem must not merely describe the image, nor is it to be confused as a slogan, but rather as an integral part of the whole. . . .

Work must possess simplicity, modesty, minimalism, beauty, and truth. Both image and haiku must be strong enough to stand alone, but together, form a completely new and enhancing artistic expression that would not have been possible otherwise.

The haiku and image need not be overtly associated with the other. In fact, the subtlest and gentlest associations often work best.

Here’s a haiga that fits Aurora’s description, from Simply Haiku (Spring 2008):

[orig. haiga]

village common
showers of snow melt
on someone’s cobs

……………. by Matt Morden

Because I’ve taken Aurora’s words to heart, I have been rather disheartened by some of the haiga selected for inclusion in Simply Haiku and other well-known haiga forums over the past year — journals that set the standard and teach by example. There have been far too many “label-ku-haiga.” As I suggested with tell-ems, I believe that haiga editors should be sending promising haiga that include label-ku back for a re-write, rather than putting them into top-tier publications — no matter how respected the haijin might be who submitted the piece.

Rather than point here to the work of a haijin who I do not know well and do not admire, I’m going to link to the new SH portfolio by one of our f/k/a family favorites, Matt Morden [see our rave review of his recent haiku collection Stumbles in Clover, from Snapshot Press]. At his weblog, Morden Haiku, Matt habitually illustrates his fine haiku with intriguing, often gorgeous, photography. Or, we might say, he uses intriguing haiku and senryu to help describe or explain his fine pictures.

Nowhere at Morden Haiku does Matt call his work haiga. I have always assumed that Matt did not use that term, because he does not consider the mere combination of a picture (no matter how artistically successful) with a poem that describes it (again, no matter how artistically successful) to be sufficent to create a haiga (at least not journal-worthy haiga that lives up to the Morden name for haikai excellence). Therefore, when I saw Matt’s name included in the Modern Haiga section of the new Simply Haiku, I was thrilled — anticipating great haiga that would fuse his fantastic photography and haiku-writing skills, and show us neophytes (as well as haiga veterans) how to create the “new and enhancing artistic expression” that is the goal of haiga, through the subtle linkage between words and image.

Sadly — and I truly hate to say this, because I have long admired his poetry (and photography) and Matt has so often said encouraging and generous things about my own — I was disappointed when I clicked through his new haiga portfolio. Except for the one haiga shown above, the selections simply failed to offer “subtle or gentle” associations between the words and often striking images. Because of the source — created by Matt Morden and selected by Aurora Antonovic for Simply Haiku — I am afraid that publishing such haiga gives the wrong signals, or gravely confusing ones, about what makes great haiga.

Sure, it’s possible that I’m too simple-minded, new to the genre, or definition-bound, to understand the subtleties in the concept of “subtle linkage.” If so, I humbly seek more instruction and explanation. It cannot simply be that “label-ku” [called “captional style” haiga by some experts] are acceptable if the picture or the words are each individually superb, or somehow offer many layers of interpretation and meaning. Every first-rate photo and first-rate poem is packed with myriad layers — or the potential to evoke them from the reader/audience. For me, the subtle link is at the core of the best haiga. Without it, we have illustrated haiku, not publication-worthy haiga.

I can find beautiful photos and excellent haiku in many places. When I go to the best haiga journals (which receive untold numbers of haiga from which to choose for publication), I expect much more than label-ku. To my haijin friends, Matt and Aurora, I apologize for raising this issue and giving us all more agita; I know you are both more than capable of withstanding the bite of this little gadfly. I will listen with an open, “beginner’s mind” to your responses, and to those of other haiga lovers, creators, and editors.

update (Feb. 19, 2008): With his usual class, Matt Morden has pointed his readers to this posting, saying: “Those of you who worry that an ingratiating culture of mutual congratulation may eventually lead to English-langauge haiku eating itself, will enjoy the folks at f/k/a‘s critique of my own attempts at something that may resemble haiga.” Of course, I’m still hoping he’ll weigh in on the questions I’ve raised about the essence of quality haiga and using captional-style haiku with photographs.

[orig. haiga]

metropolitan museum
i join the line
to mesopotopia

………… by Yu Chang, Simply Haiku (Spring 2008)

Afterthoughts (Feb. 19, 2008): Unlike myself, the folks at HaigaOnline have given a lot of thought to the theory of image-poem linkage in haiga. For example, see “HAI + GA: Exercises in Linking Test and Image,” written by its editor Linda Papanicolaou, for the journal’s current edition (Issue 8-2, autumn/winter 2007). You are hereby encouraged to peruse and muse over Linda’s Haiga Workshop essay and associated display of photos and haiku. It begins:

“Modern haiga encompasses a wide range of approaches and styles, but every artist works towards the same goal—an art that’s more than the sum of its parts. The secret is in the link: how the text and the image relate to one another. In good haiga, both haiku and image should be able to stand on their own aesthetically, yet in juxtaposition with each other find new, deeper or richer resonance. The haiku does not simply describe the image—there’s a shift that creates openness in their relationship. This allows readers to engage and complete the meaning through their own experience.”

Linda is very reluctant to have “shoulds” and “musts” — believing it is better to show than to tell about haiga linkage theory and practice. As she says, “However one chooses to name the various modes of linking, the only real way to learn how they apply to haiga would be to choose a photo and haiku it in as many ways as possible.” Therefore, using four pictures taken by photographer-poet Ray Rasmussen, the Workshop — with nine participating authors experienced in haikai linkage — has “assembled the haiga in flash slideshows that give each text its turn with the image,” and includes a comparison chart to use as you click on the thumbnails and page through the workshop results. It’s an intriguing and helpful exercise.

Linda tells us:

“In the end, indeed, we found that the poetry of haiga depends on an open relationship between text and image. As one participant said, ‘I like the idea of the haiku capturing the mood of the haiga without repeating exactly what’s in the photo.”

February 16, 2008

magnapoets journal: congratulations A to Z

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 11:23 am

The premiere print edition of the Magnapoets Journal (January 2008) arrived yesterday, courtesy of its Editor-in-Chief and publisher (our friend) Aurora Antonovic, who is “a Canadian writer, editor and visual artist” acclaimed for her work in many poetic and literary forms. Along with Nick Zegarac, who is also a writer/editor, graphics artist and weblogger, Aurora launched the online MagnaPoets cluster of weblogs in early 2007, “covering every literary category” and presenting “some of the best modern poets.” With this print edition of Magnapoets, Antonovic and Zegarac continue their mission of “taking over the world one poem at a time,” and deserve thanks and congratulations for their efforts.

The first print issue of MagnaPoets has a gorgeous, glossy cover photograph of Mont Blanc by Milorad Pavic. The semiannual journal is magazine-sized, (8.5″ x 11″), with over 30 pages, and features “all forms of poetry, short stories, interviews, and essays.” Its $5 price per issue in Canada and U.S.A. — that’s $10 for a one-year subscription, and not the memorable typo [$120] shown on the last page (which I enjoyed too much not to mention here) — seems like a very good deal for readers interested in quality modern poetry and other short literary forms.  Word from MP Central is that Volume One has been selling out rapidly in college bookstores and other locations throughout North America.  You can find subscription information here.

In this issue, you’ll find “poetry from Joseph Armstead, an’ya, Kirsty Karkow, Peggy Willis Lyles, Margarita Engle, Taylor Graham, Gilda Kreuter, and more. Featuring an interview with former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.”

The 15 haiku and senryu included in the premiere issue (edited by Matt Morden), include this pair by f/k/a‘s Peggy Lyles:

cemetery road
the pines almost ready
to harvest again

bath water
resurrects the daisises__
solstice moon

………………………… by Peggy Willis Lyles, MagnaPoets Journal (Vol. I:1, Jan. 2008)

February 15, 2008

lawrence and the flamingos – a Stockade Valentine mystery

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 5:32 pm

[Daily Gazette, Marc Schultz, larger photo]

Valentine stroll
neither lover mentions
the pink flamingos

…………. by dagosan

Did you get flocked on Valentine’s Day? If you live in The Stockade, a tiny historic district in Schenectady, New York, it’s really hard not to get flocked by a flamboyance of pink flamingos on February 14 — and (virtually) no one knows who’s doing the flocking. As described in today’s Schenectady Daily Gazette, fourteen pink flamingos appeared overnight within the small traffic circle monument to Lawrence the Indian, and were gone when the sun set. See “Pink flamingos make annual appearance: Stockade residents have grown fond of Valentine’s Day tradition” (February 15, 2008). Reporter Kathleen Moore explains:

“Welcome to the Stockade’s Valentine’s Day mystery.

“For nearly a decade, someone has decorated Lawrence the Indian with pink flamingos on Feb. 14. Most have no idea who does it or why the day of love is being celebrated with one of the tackiest decorations available in stores today.”

At the Gazette Online website, you’ll find more details and some humorous speculation, but you will not learn the identity of the impish Mohawk-flockers. The only clue is cryptic: “The covert decorators are actually two middle-aged men, who asked for anonymity since they’ve kept their identities a secret for so long.” [Indeed, although he was recently sighted lurking in and around the Stockade with another middle-aged gent, and he has demonstrated a rather warped attitude about Valentine’s Day at his weblog, the mysteriously anonymous Editor of Blawg Review denies planting the pink plastic fowl, but wishes he had thought of it first.] As to their motives, one of the aging delinquent flamingo herders says:

“The goal was to show residents that change could be good,” . . . .

And, his cohort in crime said, “It was sort of a hoot.”

Currently, you can find quite a few additional pictures of the 2008 Stockade flamingo episode at the homepage of the Stockade Neighborhood Association.

follow-up-dates (February 13, 2009): See our post “Valentine flamingos return to the Stockade,” which has many new photos; and see more coverage, with lots of photos, of the 2011 Stockade Flamingos and the 2010 Stockade Flamingos, at our sister weblog “suns along the Mohawk.”

Why make Valentine’s Day into Flamingo Day? We get no satisfactory explanation in the Gazette. However, as a dateless denizen of the Stockade, I can appreciate the reaction of two interviewed Stockadians, when asked by the Gazette reporter:

Newcomer Katy Nestor, who came upon the flamingos on her way to Arthur’s Market, said the birds could be the last resort for the dateless. “If you can, you spend Valentine’s with the ones you love … if you have nobody, come be with the flamingos,” she said. “It’s great. They’re cute.”

Joyce Wachala, co-owner of Arthur’s Market, said the flamingos are particularly welcomed by single residents. “A lot of people down here are single. Valentine’s Day is so hard for people — and this is so nice,” she said. “I think it’s adorable.”

winter sunset
in the shrimp boat’s wake
pink pelicans

spring rain the cat’s pink nipples

……. by Carolyn Hall –
“spring rain” – 2003 Henderson Haiku Competition, Hon. Men.; Frogpond XXVII: 1
“winter sunset” – The Heron’s Nest (II:5, May 2000)

follow-up-date (February 13, 2009): See our post “Valentine flamingos return to the Stockade,” which has many new photos.

With the subject-matter vacuum left at f/k/a by our no-politics and no-legal-ethics pledge, Your Editor decided to dig deeper into the whole flamingo and pink theme. It seems that getting flocked by pink flamingos is not merely a Schenectady activity, although it has not apparently been associated with Valentine’s Day nor reached the level of “tradition” elsewhere. The folks at Get Flocked.com explain:

“Flocks of Flamingos are a great way to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. Flamingo Flocking is a great way to raise funds for your church, group, or organization. By the pair or by the flock… Flamingos are just fun.”

Of course, Get Flocked only sells the Genuine “Don Featherstone” design pink flamingo. Much like my own Valentine date situation, this demand for classic quality has caused a large availability problem. You see, the Union Products Co., which produced Featherstone’s pink plastic icons for almost half a century, closed in 2006. (See “RIP: Pink Flamingo, 1957-2006” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, October 20, 2006; listen to NPR coverage, Oct. 31, 2006) As a result, they’re even Out of Stock at Get Flocked (but you can settle for a substitute at eBay).

Nevertheless, do not despair. The f/k/a Gang has some suggestions for anyone still hoping to get flocked by pink flamingos in the afterglow of Valentine’s Day.

at the tip of her swizzle stick
pink flamingo

visit home
the pink flamingo’s
cracked wing

……………………………. by Roberta Bearyspecially commissioned by f/k/a

  • (Feb. 16, 2008 update/insert): Our Honored Guest and friend Ed Markowski swooped in overnight with his own flock of flamingo poems for our Lawrence Flamingo Celebration. Here are a trio; check our Comments section below for more:

mobile home park
apple blossoms settle
on a pink flamingo

[Ed. Note: one poem temporarily removed.]

two pink flamingos
& a waitress named Sally…
summer begins

  • If money is no object, we sighted a pair of genuine Featherstone flamingos (along with a warning against fake signature versions from China), at Amazon.com for over $100; but another pair of knockoffs for $12.

For the more intellectual and history-oriented flamingo buffs, we suggest the book “The Original Pink Flamingos: Splendor on the Grass” (Schiffer Publishing, 1999, 98 pp., Paperback), which is co-authored by Don Featherstone, the designer of the most famous lawn ornament of our times (with apologies to the Virgin in a Bathtub). The book’s description notes:

“In 1957, Don Featherstone sculptured the first three-dimensional pink plastic flamingo, thereby making affordable bad taste accessible to the American public” –from Pink Flamingos. This is the tale of a wonderful bird, named by his creator phoenicopteris ruber plasticus; a new avian species, now known to all as “Pink Plastic Flamingo.”

“. . . If you’re a believer, or even a skeptic, take a look, see for yourself. This book is one of a kind, the documentation of American genius, homage to an icon, or, perhaps, a rare opportunity to observe a culturally tolerated symbol of taste gone awry. It’s great fun!”

Kitsch collectors should click this link for Pink Flamingos Gift Set (Running Press Mini Kits), for a pair of desktop mini flamingos with their own patch of lawn, and “a book celebrating America’s beloved bauble of bad taste as a symbol of kitschy fun in the sun.”

Also, from Get Flocked get a cap, t-shirt or other apparel.

pink mitten
at the curb –
warming one small red hand

historic district —
an old sidewalk trips up
the blossom gazer

another year
without learning their names –
trees with pink blossoms

………………………….. by dagosan

Or, perhaps this pair in flamingo pink [formerly] at Target is more up your alley (or, another flamingo bikini beauty from SwimHut).

parting her pink robe

……………… by Yu Chang, from A New Resonance (1999).

And, last but — certainly around here — not least, enjoy a flock of poems by our Honored Guest Poets, and dagosan, bathed in the hue of pink:

new lover
pink light sleeps
Amsterdam awakens

….. by pamela miller ness – from pink light, sleeping (chapbook, 24 p, Small Poetry Press, Concord, CA, 1998)

new pink sneakers –
grandma’s porch step
still creaks

………… by Laryalee Fraser – clouds peak #2

pink clouds
between the boulders

…….. by Yu Chang – from Upstate Dim Sum

pink begonias
the grey fall

…………………….. by Barry George at simply haiku

country stop sign–
the pink glow of sunset
through .22 holes

…………. by Lee Gurga from Fresh Scent (Brooks Books, 1998)

st. patrick’s day
the foreman hands out
pink slips

………….. by ed markowski

in the pink dusk
with pimples

…….. by David G. Lanoue from Dewdrop World (2005)

trespassing –
three pink tulips
in an unkempt yard

pink clouds in the crotch
of the bare oak
the street-walker stares

white to pink–
clouds repainted
while we sip our wine

………………………. by dagosan

breathing space—
the deepening pink
of alpenglow

sunny morning —
pink tulips in bloom
on the preschool’s walls

……………………… by Billie Wilson – The Haiku Society of America Newsletter XIX:1 (2004)

easter brunch sunglassesR
his daughter’s hair
a new shade of pink

……………………… by Roberta Beary, The Unworn Necklace (2007)

a present, a present
a New Year’s present!
her pink cheeks

…………….. by Kobayashi Issa,
translated by David G. Lanoue

it’s pink! it’s purple!
sunset inspires
more bickering

……………….. by david giacalone, Frogpond Vol. XXVIII, #2 (2005)
[haiga photo: Arthur Giacalone; see the haiga here]

faint pink lips
where someone kissed
the window

…………….. by David G. Lanoue from Haiku Guy: a novel


February 13, 2008

giacalone haiga at MagnaPoets Japanese Form

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun — David Giacalone @ 9:26 pm

My contributions to the now-defunct MagnaPoets Japanese Form group weblog (under the proprietorship of the enviably multi-talented Aurora Antonovic, editor of the MagnaPoets Journal) were too numerous and too enjoyable to risk losing them as the Journal goes through changes.    So, I’ve decided to collect many of them here at f/k/a for future reference.  Most of the posts were haiga, but there were also many single haiku and senryu, along with an occasional sequence of poems.  Included are dozens of “Nostalgia Haiga” incorporating photos taken by my mother (Mama G.) over half a century ago.  [update: I did not finish this project, but am glad to have salvaged quite a few of the haiga.]

The photos in the haiga below were taken by my lawyer brother Art Giacalone, or by my mother Connie M. Giacalone, a/k/a Mama G (plus one by Yu Chang and one by myself). They are presented in reverse-chronological order.

February 11, 2008:

a broken heart carved
on the frozen pond —
fish bucket empty

photo & poem: David Giacalone; poem published at Simply Haiku (Haiku Section, vol. 6 no. 3, Fall 2008)

January 30, 2008

sunset stroll –
searching snowbanks
for butterflies

photo: Yu Chang; poem: David Giacalone (in mem Arthur P. Giacalone, see post)

June 27, 2007

lull in the parade
small hands reach
for the same balloon

– orig. version of poem in a haiga, 45th WHA Haiga Contest (May 2007)
– above haiga, with poem slightly revised (thanks AA), at MagnaPoetsJF (June 1, 2007)

May 25, 20007

Memorial Day


and fireflies


– Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY

May 22, 2007


May 17, 2007

orig. pub. in different form
Roadrunner Journal V:4

May 16, 2007


May 13, 2007

[Mama G. and the boys, 1950]


May 10, 2007


May 9, 2007

PHOTO: MAMA G (1952)

May 6, 2007


May 4, 2007

LETCHWORTH STATE PARK, NY [”Grand Canyon of the East”]


May 2, 2007


the lawn crunches
Spring’s first bocce match



ORIG. PUB. Simply Haiku 5:1 (Spring 2007)

May 1, 2007


alone at dusk
footsteps approach
from behind


ORIG. pub. in color WHA Haiga Contest #44 (April 2007)

April 28, 2007


grandma’s roses
still standing
bocce balls back in their sack

photo: MAMA G.

(contrast with prior sunday afternoon haiga)

April 26, 2007


lipstick on his
coffee mug –
steam rising


April 25, 2007


light show
behind eyelids –
free admission


April 24, 2007


the lifeboat
suddenly too small –
his guilty face

poem: David Giacalone
photo: Mama G.

April 22, 2007


round and round with you
on thin ice

poem: David Giacalone (discussion)
photo: Arthur Giacalone (orig.photo)

April 20, 2007


horeseless carriage
we doff our hats

photo: MAMA G.

April 18, 2007


first date
sneaking a peek
at the full moon


April 15, 2007


tax deadline
we count dependents
and contributions

photo: MAMA G.

April 12, 2007

boundary issues?

photo: MAMA. G.

April 11, 2007


April 7, 2007


sunday afternoon –
after braciole
a little bocce

photo: MAMA G.

April 4, 2007


easter snow
the egg hunt
lasts a little longer

poem: david giacalone
photo: arthur giacalone

April 2, 2007

Weddingruined3grain on
my bald spot –
recalling dry-scalp Aprils

. . . . . david giacalone

photo: MAMA G.(1970)

April 1, 2007


you cut and
i’ll choose

photo: MAMA G.

March 31, 2007


spring in the air . . .
santa brings grandpa’a
last baseball glove

photo: MAMA G.

– see/hear npr on Baseball Haiku

March 30, 2007


Spring arrives –
peeps melting
on the dashboard

poem: DAVID GIACALONE, orig. pub Simply Haiku (Winter 2005)
photo: MAMA G.

March 29, 2007


Palm Sunday
we polish off
the Easter candy

poem: David Giacalone
photo: Mama G.

not really in a valentine mood

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 1:03 pm

update/lowdown (Feb. 15, 2008):

Feb. 15
he buys himself
a half-priced heart

………………… by dagosan

Afterthought (9 PM; Feb. 13): An article in today’s New York Times has helped me understand that there are far worse things in life than dining alone on Valentine’s Day. See “I Love You, but You Love Meat” (by Kate Murphy, Feb. 13, 2008). This excerpt may or may not whet your appetite and open your heart to the Diety of Dietary Differences:

“Sharing meals has always been an important courtship ritual and a metaphor for love. But in an age when many people define themselves by what they will eat and what they won’t, dietary differences can put a strain on a romantic relationship. The culinary camps have become so balkanized that some factions consider interdietary dating taboo.

“No-holds-barred carnivores, for example, may share the view of Anthony Bourdain, who wrote in his book “Kitchen Confidential” that “vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”

“Returning the compliment, many vegetarians say they cannot date anyone who eats meat. Vegans, who avoid eating not just animals but animal-derived products, take it further, shivering at the thought of kissing someone who has even sipped honey-sweetened tea.”

a single
– hold the toast

………………. by dagosan

2HeartsV Another ya-ya-less Valentine’s Day. Sigh. Regular readers of this weblog will recall our love-hate relationship with the holiday made for lovers. See

Valentine’s Day –
I forget to get
the garbage out

…………..……. by Tom ClausenUpstate Dim Sum (2005/II)

Heimliched out of me
pink candy heart
wordless now

…………… by Randy Brooks from School’s Out

At our postings linked above, we’ve presented an assortment of Valentine-related haiku and senryu, and you will surely find something to fit almost every V-Day perspective. Of course, when it comes to mixed feelings about love and romance, nobody says it better than lawyer-poet Roberta Beary. Sometimes referred to as “Cheery Beary” by her habitually-romantic husband Frank Stella, Roberta came through for Valentine’s Day 2008, with this little haibun [short prose with a linked poem] from the brand new edition of Modern Haiku (Vol. 39:1, Winter 2008):

What I Mean Is heartarrowV

everyone knows everything old people know only the good die young and kids know parents don’t know it all and teachers know students wait until the day before the project is due and you and i both know that love doesn’t conquer anything in fact it doesn’t even come close

as if it mattered
i pocket
a red leaf

………………………………… by Roberta Beary, Modern Haiku 39:1 (2008)

This might be a good time to remind husbands of Joshua Foer’s 2006 Valentine op/ed piece, “A kiss isn’t just a kiss,” in the International Herald Tribune (Feb. 13, 2006), where he points out:

“A study conducted during the 1980’s found that men who kiss their wives before leaving for work live longer, get into fewer car accidents and have a higher income than married men who don’t.

“So put down this newspaper and pucker up. It does a body good.”

valentine’s day
we do nothing

valentine’s day
the sensous curves
of a snow drift

…………. by ed markowski mail neg

Valentine’s Day —
the new sign says
“Thin Ice”

February 14
a handful of cards
from relatives

alone at home –
the hermit counts
his Valentine savings

………………………… by dagosan

As I said in 2005, George Swede’s quiet moments of romance are more my style (even when I am home alone on Valentine’s Day):

at the height
of the argument the old couple
pour each other tea

almost unseen embraceGS
among the tangled driftwood
naked lovers

on the face
that last night called me names
morning sunbeam

I forget my side
of the argument

…………………… by George Swede from Almost Unseen: Selected Haiku of George Swede

p.s. On the other hand, an article in today’s New York Times makes me glad I’m no longer representing children in custody disputes in family and divorce court. See “Religion Joins Custody Cases, to Judges’ Unease” (NYT, Feb. 13, 2008)

custody hearing
seeing his arms cross
i uncross mine

…………………………………. by roberta bearypocket change; and New Resonance 2

update (Feb. 14, 2008): It’s shocking for regular folks, but — as I learned in law school and Family Court — some lawyers can’t distinguish between “unfun” and “unfair.”

lingering at the frosty frogpond

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 9:27 am

Last week, we posted almost a dozen senryu by our Honored Guest Poets that appeared in the newest issue of Frogpond (Vol. XXXI:1), and promised to share their haiku from the Winter 2008 edition before Valentine’s Day. Keeping promises is just as important in weblogging as it is in romance. So, with the help of a looming deadline, we present:

Haiku from Frogpond XXXI:1 (Winter 2008)

old morning shadows–
the first old month
on the calendar

the wind changes
my plan to sit still

………………….. by gary hotham

careful not to step
on daffodil sprouts . . .

……………….. by paul m.

first summer day
a child’s bucket brims
with seashells

……………….. by George Swede

  heat lightning and the dry burn of whiskey

………… by Jim Kacian

acorn caps —
somebody’s wallet
on a park bench

military crackdown – crows flip
a cloud of starlings
shrouds the sun

……………. by carolyn hall

holiday reunion
the turkey meat
falls off the bone

……………………. by Alice Frampton

a blue tongue
and a red mustache —
we trade snow cones

…………………….. by David Giacalone

[see a full-sized haiga using this poem; photo by Arthur Giacalone]

February 12, 2008

Schenectady barbers want Mondays off

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 8:08 pm

CautionBadHairN As Carolyn Elefant has been saying for years (and argues in her acclaimed new book Solo by Choice), one of the great advantages of owning your own small business as a sole proprietor is having greater control over “quality of life” issues, such as which days and hours you will work. Of course, most solo lawyers don’t have perfect control of their time — court schedules, client emergencies and deadlines, and tasks that take much longer than expected to handle diligently, can at times make it quite difficult for a solo lawyer to keep to a rigid schedule.

[image from BarberPole.com]

The same cannot be said, however, for barbers. If you own a barbershop, you can pretty much call the shots when it comes to when you’re open for business. A customer’s bad hair day or important social engagement poses no big social expectation or ethical obligation to provide your services during designated off-hours. You post a sign and expect your patrons to abide by it. If you want to make an exception for a loyal client, you do. Sure, there will be marketplace forces that tempt you to increase your hours to attract or keep some customers, but each barbershop owner has to decide for himself or herself which values are most important, and whether work-life balance wins out over financial needs or desires.

With those assumptions in mind, along with my usual pro-consumer and pro-competition biases as a former antitrust lawyer, I was rather bemused seeing the lead business-section article in the Schenectady Sunday Gazette, with the headline “Clash of barbers: Should shops be closed on Mondays?: Unionized barber waging battle to keep traditional day off” (February 10, 2008). As reporter James Schlett explains, Richard DiCristofaro, owner of Wedgeway Barber Shop in Schenectady, considers it a “cardinal sin” that a barber in neighboring Rotterdam was open on the Monday before Christmas, and decries the “greed” of those who violate the 60-year agreement of local barbers not to work on Mondays, which allows them to all have a five-day workweek. The article explains:

“At least in Schenectady, Mondays are turning into the latest front in unions’ battle against the global and corporate forces that are trimming away the benefits organized workers fought for during much of the 20th century. At his 96-year-old shop on Erie Boulevard, [Richard] DiCristofaro is mounting a spring campaign designed to turn union supporters against barbers who offer haircuts on Mondays.

“For the past few weeks, DiCristofaro — the former president of the Schenectady Barbers’ Union Local 176 — has become more vocal about the Monday issue. He has run advertisements criticizing the practice in The Daily Gazette and sought support from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1.

“ ‘They’ve always done as they please, which is fine. What we want to do is make people aware that they’re not union,’ DiCristofaro said.”

BadHairDayG Perhaps the legal experts at Antitrust Review or the Employment Blawg will let me know if my analysis is off, but here’s my reaction to Mr. DiCristofaro (which I also made in a comment to the online Gazette article):

  • No matter what they call themselves, this group of barbershop owners is not a union — they’re small businessmen and, most important, competing sellers of a service, acting together in a trade association.

By agreeing not to open on Mondays, and by trying to force other shops to close on Mondays, the “union” of barbers is really a cartel engaging in collective action that appears to violate the antitrust law.

  • Antitrust law considers joint action by competing sellers — aimed at either other sellers or their customers — to dictate the terms of service (such as hours of business) to be unlawful boycotts. It doesn’t matter if the competitors are “little guys” or even “goodfellas.”
  • Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Federal Trade Commission in 1990 that a group of solo practice lawyers, who served as assigned counsel for indigent defendants, were competitors and could not engage in a boycott to get better terms of service, even if they were acting to protect constitutional rights. [see FTC v. Sup. Ct. Trial Lawyers Ass’n, 493 U.S. 411 (1990); and our posting about the Mass. Bar Advocates].
  • More important, in the late 1980’s, the Supreme Court confirmed the FTC’s conclusion that Detroit Area Auto Dealers could not agree to be closed on Saturdays, even if they did so to keep their employees happy, or to achieve other social benefits. [see “Car Dealers Lose Ruling” (AP/New York Times, March 3, 1989); “More dealers open Saturdays” (Detroit News, March 9, 2005); and continuing FTC action in Detroit Auto Dealers Association, Inc, Docket No. 9189]
  • Barbers are independent business owners, who have every right to close on whatever day they want to close or to allow employees to have two days off a week, in order to seek life balance goals. But, they cannot act together to deprive consumers of the choice of getting a haircut on a Monday, or to coerce competitors to limit operations to five days a week. Loyal clients will fit their haircut requirements into their barber’s schedule — or, as they have every right to do (and if that loyalty has not been earned), find a shop that accommodates their needs or convenience.

For me, calling themselves a union does a disservice to real unions (composed solely of employees) and the “unionized” barbers should not be pressuring members of genuine employee unions to help coerce competing barbers to close on Mondays. Over the decades (like auto dealers in Detroit), barbers have put bricks through the windows of many shops that stayed open on the “wrong” days. (I remember hearing about such efforts in my hometown, Rochester, NY, in the 1960’s, where barbers tried to enforce competitors to close on Wednesdays.) Let’s hope Schenectady’s disgruntled barbers have the courage to act individually on their convictions (even if it loses them customers), rather than behaving in ways that might get them convicted.

again, the bald barber
cuts my hair
too short

as the professor speaks
only his bald spot
is illuminated

BadHairDayG ……… by George Swede from Almost Unseen

holiday rush
the barber speaks wistfully
of the sixties

late day showers…
my hair gel

…………………. by ed markowski

disinfectant jar –
there must be 14 or 15
barber’s combs

……………………… by Michael Dylan Welch
Shiki Haikusphere 10th Anniversary Anthology (2007)

barber’s sweepings
a touch of grey splits
man and boy

letting go…
cherry blossom drifts
into cut hair

. . . ………………… by matt morden at Morden Haiku

my childhood barber shop–
only the mirror
has changed

………………… by dagosan

p.s. The Wedgeway Barber Shop is located in the same building as The Grog Shoppe, the last place where “Ed,” the infamously anonymous Editor of Blawg Review, was sighted in Schenectady last week. (read Ed’s account here)

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