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

March 29, 2008

“toilet paper check” story ignored by blawgisphere

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 8:37 am

You may have seen a short blurb from the Associated Press or UPI about Ronald Borga’s attempt to use a check “neatly written on three squares of floral print, two-ply toilet paper” to pay his disputed water bill (see, e.g., Newsday, Forbes). You can read a full account about it from the city where it happened in “City man uses toilet-paper check to try to settle water-bill dispute” (Press & Sun-Bulletin, Greater Binghamton, NY, by John Hill, March 27, 2008). That’s Borga in the photo from the Binghamton newspaper (taken by Joseph Geronimo), along with Robert Behnke, the Broome County attorney, who refused to take the check.

Many non-lawyer weblogs pointed to the story yesterday (March 28, 2008), including Republican Storm and Free Money. But, as of 9 AM EDT this morning, you won’t find it yet in the blawgisphere — the thousands of weblogs written, edited or hosted by lawyers, law professors, and law students. I just tried searching for /”toilet paper” check/ at Google’s Blog Search, and not one of the listings was from a blawg. So, I checked Justia’s Blawg Search; then went to Legal Blog Watch; (the newly snazzy-looking) Overlawyered.com, and even Anne Reed’s Deliberations. Not a word on a blawg about this fun, intriguing story — one that could use a lawyer’s perspective to help educate the public.

toiletpaperG Heck, I’m retired and never liked or practiced Commercial law, so don’t look to the f/k/a Gang for an instant expert advice explanation of what constitutes a legitimate bill of exchange, negotiable instrument, or “bank draft,” that can be used as a check, or for advice on when a government entity can refuse a home-made check (or the “$2,000 in nickels and dimes” Borgna may be trying to scrounge up). But, maybe the WSJ law blog, or business law professor Stephen Bainbridge could tell us. Or, perhaps one of those smart guys at Prawfsblawg, or the Business Law Prof Blog. I’d settle for a law student who’s recently taken a course on the Uniform Commercial Code [UCC].

Until the experts weigh in, check out this discussion and definition of “check” from the ‘Lectric Law Library Lexicon.

update (11 AM): I’m interrupting a perfectly good Saturday shower to note my vague recollection that Vern Countryman told our class in Commercial Transactions 101, back in the mid-70s, something like: “you can write a check on anything — even toilet paper.” But, don’t quote Vern nor me on that, please. The real question here, of course, is whether a payee has to accept the check when it is proffered (especially when it customarily does accept personal checks, and as here is a government entity), not whether the bank has to honor it.

Meanwhile, you should know, as reported by the Press & Sun-Bulletin that:

An argument that ensued in the sixth-floor county law office grew testy but involved no physical confrontation. It ended with Borgna being peacefully escorted out of the building by a Broome Security officer.

Bill Ullmann, an attorney with the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, said the IRS has in the past accepted a check written on a T-shirt as payment for a tax bill. But, because toilet paper is easily destroyed, it may have been difficult to clear the check.

“I can understand why someone would be hesitant to accept a check written on toilet paper,” Ullmann said.

I’ve often heard what a great resource lawyer weblogs are for the public. But, I’m not a believer in that propaganda. Here’s a tale that needs a little legal expertise. Seems to me it’s a perfect time for the profession to show it has a sense of humor and a timely interest in educating the public on topics of interest to the average bloke — and even to cranky ex-lawyers like myself, who can’t quite recall his bar exam prep from three decades ago, and has not kept up on the law of commercial paper. I sure hope someone has written on this in time for George Wallace’s upcoming edition of Blawg Review# 153 — on Monday [update: which George has —arrggh!— dubbed Blarrgh Review! and imbued with a piratical theme].

the uneven edge
of a quahog shell

a spring wind
coins in the cup
of a sleeping beggar

……. by paul m.
“unemployed” – The Heron’s Nest Award (Sept. 2005)
“a spring wind” – The Heron’s Nest (June 2000)

my New Year’s resolution toiletpaperG
toilet paper

…… by David G. Lanoue – from Haiku Guy, a novel (Red Moon Press 2000)

borrowed mystery –

…. by dagosan

spring equinox –
the toilet paper roll

almost payday
the wind tugs at
my pocket

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . by Laryalee FraserSimply Haiku Autumn 2006, vol 4 no 3

March 27, 2008

reviewing book review jargon (and reviving “eschew”)

Filed under: Book Reviews,Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 3:36 pm

Seven Deadly Words of Book Reviewing. Last Monday, at the NYT weblog Paper Cuts [“a blog about books”], Bob Harris presented the “Seven Deadly Words of Book Reviewing” (March 25, 2008). Harris says:

“Like all professions book reviewing has a lingo. Out of laziness, haste or a misguided effort to sound ‘literary,’ reviewers use some words with startling predictability. Each of these seven entries is a perfectly good word (well, maybe not eschew), but they crop up in book reviews with wearying regularity.”

With a sensibility that sounds much like our perspective on writing haiku, Harris favorably quotes Wilson Follett’s admonition that “The best critics are those who use the plainest words and who make their taste rational by describing actions rather than by reporting or imputing feelings.”

In his Paper Cuts posting, Harris condemns the abuse and overuse of these seven words by book reviewers: poignant, compelling, intriguing, eschew, craft, muse, lyrical, and explains the appropriate use of each. He also gives a telling example, noting that “It’s possible to (mis)use all seven words in a one-sentence book report:”

“Mario Puzo’s intriguing novel eschews the lyrical as the author instead crafts a poignant tale of family life and muses on the compelling doings of the Mob.”

Harris suggests that readers might want to add their favorite overused reviewer lingo. As of this afternoon, he has received over 200 comments. Many of the words suggested by his commentors could have easily made Harris’ original list (e.g., nuanced and sublte). Perhaps, as the Vatican did recently, he should expand past seven.

Cranky old Prof. Yabut gleefully looked at the dozen postings in our own Book Review category for offending usage of Harris’ deadly words. I’m pleased to say that “lyrical” did not appear in any of our reviews (perhaps not so surprising, as I am not particularly fond of haiku that attempt to be lyrical, and don’t bother reviewing offended volumes). Also, the one appearance each of “poignant,” “compelling,” and “craft[ed],” all came in quotations from other reviewers. In addition, we did use “eschew” once in our mini-multi-review posting on Cyber Monday 2007, but it was not referring to any particular book, but instead to the choice of one type of book over another.

As to the word “muse,” we confess that the f/k/a review of Kevin Mednick’s “An Almost Life” includes the clause: “lawyer Samuels is bemused over the ‘party hacks’ (and sports heroes) who too often get to be judges around here.” But, we’re more than willing to argue at the Pearly Gates that it was only a venial sin.

avoiding the wildflowers
he squats…
sumo champion

the lover cat
licking his chops

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

I’m in agreement with most of Harris’ piece, but draw the line when he suggests that eschew might not be a “perfectly good word.” Harris states:

eschew: No one actually says this word in real life. It appears almost exclusively in writing when the perp is stretching for a flashy synonym for avoid or reject or shun.

We (to use a cliche) beg to differ (despite occasional doubts about a weblog being “real life”). As you might have noticed, the f/k/a Gang has never shunned the word “eschew.” See, e.g., “please eschew thoroughly” (Nov. 11, 2004). We even use it to make annoyingly bad puns — as in a recent post where I struggled to uphold our ban on political punditry:

Did we bite off more than we can eschew, when promising to end all commentary on politics and legal ethics at this weblog?

The Online Etymology Dictionary shows the perfectly fine history and source of the word:

.. eschew: 1340, from O.Fr. eschiver, from Frank. *skiuhan “dread, avoid, shun” (cf. O.H.G. sciuhen “make fearful”), from P.Gmc. *skeukhwaz. Related to shy (v.).

And, The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (2000), includes “eschew” among synonyms collected at the definition of “escape.” The discerning wordsmith surely can and should distinguish between the various verbs that “mean to get or stay away from persons or things.” For example, while “Shun refers to deliberately keeping clear of what is unwelcome or undesirable,” and “Escape can mean to get free or to remain untouched or unaffected by something unwanted,”

“Eschew involves staying clear of something because to do otherwise would be unwise or morally wrong: ‘Eschew evil, and do good’ (Book of Common Prayer).”

To be honest, I fear that most educated people who eschew using the fun-to-say word “eschew” very often suffer from an anti-social form of reverse snobbery. Don’t shun them, dear readers, but try to avoid or elude their debilitating malady.

the swallows, too ooh
avoid it this year…
patch of weeds

hey spear holder!
don’t let the spring

from the great bronze
Buddha’s nostrils
mist escapes

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

March 26, 2008

calling a spatula a spatula

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 6:02 pm

The family that comes together, ums together.

the octagenarian
fills in my blank ………….

………………. by dagosan

There’s something about visiting my older relatives over a holiday that gets me fretting about my aging Boomer brain and body, dementia, tip of the tongue syndrome, and similar concepts. (see, e.g., “pity the baby-boomer raconteur,” Nov. 23, 2007). As I confessed when I wrote about Michael Erard’s Um the Book last September, quite a few members of my family use that little pause-filler a lot.

the um in her voice
before offering me
the senior discount

….. by Carolyn Hall – A New Resonance 2; Frogpond XXIII:2

I got a lot of umming started in my Aunt Bella’s kitchen on Easter Sunday, in the Rochester suburb of Greece, NY. Someone was preparing the Easter ham and looking for a baster — as often happens with my female family members, it had to be just the “right” size — and I started to say how surprised I had been recently when a particular utensil (that I always assumed was made of some rubber product) shattered into pieces after falling off my counter at home. I paused and ummed and finally said in frustration:

What do you call that thing you use to flip stuff in a frying pan?

At the time I asked the question, at least two of my aunts were in the room. Now, I don’t want to sound too much like one of those self-aggrandizing small-firm lawyer ads, but we had over 200 years of flipper-use-experience in that kitchen among the three of us. Nonetheless, we could not conjure up the name of the item in question. Finally, Bella asked her 11-year-old grandson (who is normally monosyllabic with adults) what you call the food-flipper thing, and (yes, to my amazement) he immediately replied correctly, “a spatula.” Damn. It wasn’t even on the tip of my tongue.

april snow
a pat of butter
melts in the pan

tango music ~
a frying pan swings
on a hook

… by matt morden
“april snow” – Mayfly #27
“tango music” – Morden Haiku

don't forget Figuring I might as well get something useful out of the incident, I Googled a bit to find information on the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon, and on the word spatula, and then looked around our archives for more-or-less related haiku and senryu. If that sort of pastiche posting interests you, stick around and keep reading.

Spatula: Here’s an informative summary of the word spatula (and its regional usage, synonyms and etymology) from Wikipedia:

…. spatula

A spatula, also known as a fish slice in British English, is a kitchen utensil with a long handle and a broad flat edge, used for lifting fish and fried foods. Though the word spatula is used in British English, it refers solely to a mixing and spreading implement. In parts of Canada and the United States, spatulas are sometimes called flippers or turners. They are used both in the preparation of food, as a flipping implement, and in the serving of food. Often the plate scraper is referred to as a spatula.

The word spatula, known in English since 1525, is a diminutive form of the Latin term spatha, which means a broad sword (as in spatharius) or a flat piece of wood and is also the origin of the words spade (digging tool) and spathe.

river restaurant
halfway through the fried frog legs
the croaking begins

………… by W.F. Owen – World Haiku Ass’n bio; Haiku Headlines (June 2000)

Speaking of spatulas and memory, do you remember Weird Al Yankovic’s Spatula City? It’s the spatula outlet store in the movie UHF. As its fictional owner Sy Greenblum says, “I liked their spatulas so much, I bought the company.”

unofficial start
of spring –
parkas huddled ’round the grill

[click for Dave Coverly’s TOT cartoon]

the pretty one?
not even
on the tip of my tongue

……………………… by dagosan

Tip of the Tongue: We Baby Boomers will really be in bad shape if we ever forget the source of this famous tongue logo. Wikipedia has a good summary of the Tip of the Tongue phenonemon, including its history in literature (such as Anton Chekhov’s short story “A Horsey Name“), and studies regarding various age groups. Here are a few excerpts from the Wikipedia TOT entry:

tip of the tongue

The tip of the tongue (TOT) phenomenon is an instance of knowing something that cannot immediately be recalled. TOT is a near-universal experience with memory recollection involving difficulty retrieving a well-known word or familiar name. When experiencing TOT, people feel that the blocked word is on the verge of being recovered. Despite failure in finding the word, people have the feeling that the blocked word is figuratively “on the tip of the tongue.” Inaccessibility and the sense of imminence are two key features of an operational definition of TOTs (A.S. Brown, 1991).

History of Tip of the Tongue

The experience of TOT appeared in non-academic literature as early as 1885. . . .

In 1966, Harvard psychologists Roger Brown and David McNeill reported the first empirical investigation of the tip-of-the-tongue state. . . . They also found that TOT is a fairly universal phenomenon, TOTs occur about once a week and increase as you age, and they’re often caused by proper names. . . .

TOT across the lifespan

TOT research in children has mainly focused on when they begin to experience TOTs and what the experience is like for them (Brown, 1991). . . . TOTs occur more often in third graders (ages 6-7) than they do in kindergarteners and first graders.

More research has been done with TOTs in older adults. In terms of subjective estimates, research has found that older adults report experiencing TOTs about as often as younger adults (Brown, 1991). However, . . . young adults were found to experience significantly fewer TOTs than older adults. Other TOT literature has found that older adults remember less information about the target word and bring up fewer related words during the TOT experience and are less active in resolving the TOT experience (Brown, 1991).

even for the tongue-tied
crow of the east…
spring’s first dawn


stuttering about
the olden days…
a cuckoo


today’s last voice
is raised . . .
summer cicada

…… Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

You can find more about the Tip of the Tongue Experience at the About Memory website. I was happy to see that

  • “In general, this increase in TOTs with age is seen in poorer recall of names (proper names and names of things). Abstract words do not become harder to recall with age.”

But, I am not as optimistic as they are about avoiding this annoying part of the aging process — and am certainly not adding “keeping an active weblog” to their list:

  • Keeping your experience of language diverse (e.g., playing scrabble, doing crosswords) may help reduce TOTs.

the mime
in our mittens

early Alzheimer’s
she says she’ll have . . .
the usual

……………………………… by John StevensonQuiet Enough (2004)

mute button –
the unexpected sound
of raindrops

…………………. Laryalee Frasertinywords

hard rain
the sizzle of summer peppers
in the skillet

…………. by Alice Frampton – The Heron’s Nest Vol. VIII

the senior partner
has a senior minute

a third helping
of Thanksgiving politics
I bite my tongue

………………………….. by dagosan

he’s utterly given up

are a waste of time…

your name escapes me
old friend…
blossoming mountain

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue don't forget

March 25, 2008

getting his musty money back

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 9:19 am

past due There may finally be a legal resolution to the case of Casadei v. Skoog, which we first covered here at f/k/a in December of 2004, but which began in a musty basement of a historic house in Schenectady in October of 2003, with a handyman’s discovery of a Hefty bag that purportedly contained over $200,000 in cash. We dubbed it the Musty Money Mob caper, and have long been intrigued by the twisted and twisting tale of consumer folly, financial intrigue, greed, law enforcement incompetence, and lawyer over-reaching. Indeed, we called it “a ready-made, multi-subject law exam question for students, professors or lawyers wanting to show off their issue-spotting skills,” and added, “It’s a tale that leads one to ask: Is there intelligent life in this once prosperous home of Thomas Edison, GE, and legal giants?”

Interesting follow-up (Dec. 15, 2009): The Albany Times Union reports today, in an article headlined “Bank fraud counts filed: Owner of appraisal company allegedly had role in mortgage fraud” (Dec. 15, 2009, by Paul Nelson) that:

The owner of a Capital Region appraisal company facing federal bank fraud charges for his alleged role in a mortgage fraud and property-flipping scheme that authorities say reaped more than $200,000 over a three-year period says the accusations against him are a “mystery.”

The defendant in that indictment is said to be “Michael Cassadei.”  Every indication is that he is the same person as the Michael Casadei discussed in this posting.  (For example, when suing the County for return of his money, he spelled his named “Cassadei.”  The AAA Allstate Appraisal firm is listed in an online directory as being  located at 241 Union Street, the site of the Musty Money Caper. Also, both “Michael F. Casadei” and “Michael F. Cassadei” are listed as being from Schenectady and Saratoga County, and 53 years of age, by the online people-search firm Intellus.)  The U.S. Attorney alleges that “the illegal business dealings lasted from December 1998 to January 2001.  The money stashed in the wall of Casadei’s Stockade house was over $200k and went missing in 2004. (Also see the Schenectady Gazette article “Businessman indicted on fraud charges,” by Kathy Bowen, Dec. 15, 2009.)

By the way, in our research we found more Cassadei perfidy:  See the 2005 decision of New York’s 3rd Dept. Appellate Division captioned Cassadei v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance (decided August 11, 2005, Dkt. 97628).  In 1987, acting as “attorney in fact” for his mother, Cassadei signed over to himself a deed for his parents’ home on 4th St in Schenectady.   That same year, his mother gave a deed to his sister for the property.  A court later found Cassadei’s deed to himself to be a nullity (as the result of improper self-dealing) and declared his sister the owner.  That did not stop Cassadei from filing and continuing a claim for water damage to the vacant house in 2000.  The detailed and interesting 3rd Department appellate decision rejects Cassadei’s insurance claim with a lot more restraint than I would have mustered on that appeal panel.

Bank Fraud follow-up:  According to the Schenectady Gazette,”Pair admit Capital Region mortgage scheme” (Feb. 18, 2010; subscription req’d), “Cassadei, 54, of Galway, and McIndoo, 53, of Watervliet, both pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in U.S. District Court. Though both could face up to 30 years in jail, prosecutors are asking for Cassedei to receive a four-year sentence and McIndoo a three-year sentence.”  Cassadei also faces a million dollar fine.  The article explains how the complicated scheme worked.

In addition, Cassadei is at the center of a zoning board permit controversy at his place on Galway Lake.  See the Albany Times Union article, “In Galway, politics and zoning collide; part-time building inspector fired” (Oct. 14, 2010).

Mortgage Scam Update:  Mr. Cassadei/Casadei was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010.  The judge used the sentencing guidelines in place at the time of the crime, not the current, harsher guidelines for white-collar crimes.  Casadei’s lawyer,  Donald Kinsella, argued that he has turned his life around with a home-heating fuel coop that helps people, and should merely get house arrest.  See “Prison in mortgage scam,” Albany Times Union, Dec. 29, 2010).  According to the Schenectady Gazette, on the courthouse steps his ex-girlfriend opined “He has no morals and he has no regrets.” (“Galway man gains fed term for bank scam,” Dec. 30, 2010).

[back to the original posting]

While listening to the 9 A.M. news on WAMC, my local npr station, I learned from their Roundtable newscaster — as amplified in today’s Albany Times Union — that:

sleuth “State Supreme Court Justice Vincent J. Reilly Jr. ruled in a written decision dated March 17 that the $177,700 in question does belong to Michael Casadei, owner of the home at 241 Union St. That’s where handyman Kevin Skoog says he found the money while doing work installing a security system in October 2003.”

See “Owner gets back hidden cash stash: Judge rules money found in home by handyman needs to be returned to resident” (by Lauren Stanforth, Albany Times Union, March 25, 2008); and “Judge: Money handyman took from basement belongs to homeowner” (Newsday, march 25, 2008).

The Schenectady Gazette reports: “Reilly noted Casadei testimony that he placed the cash there and Skoog did not have permission to remove it. “Under the circumstances, the cash cannot be considered lost or abandoned property which may be subject to the rights of the finders,’ Reilly wrote.” See “Owner wins cellar cash stash” (March 25, 2008) Skoog’s lawyer Paul Callahan is quoted saying he will ask Judge Reilly to reconsider the decision. Callahan asserts that the judge never considered his written argument.

Actually, even if Judge Reilly’s decision is not appealed, this may not be the final resolution, because Casadei — who has never quite explained where the money came from and why he did not initially contact the Schenectady Police Department over the theft — says there was as much as $210,000 in the bag, $48,500 of which Skoog had quickly spent, and another $32,300 is unaccounted for, but which he wants back from the ex-con handyman.

By the way, my first job after moving to Schenectady in 1988 was a temporary stint as law clerk to Judge Reilly, in Family Court. I’ve never discussed the case with the Judge, but never had much doubt that Mr. Skoog had no right to that money. Also, in my opinion, there is no chance that Judge Reilly failed to consider any pleading filed by Skoog’s lawyer.

The Roundtable‘s Joe Donahue asked the question that still bothers me this morning: Why would anyone hide $200,000 in hundred dollar bills in a basement (but leave it in a place where it could be found by a mysterious roving handyman)? Under the fold, I have reprinted our original 2004 posting about the Musty Money Mob, and I guarantee (your money back, of course) you’ll find it an interesting and fun story.

small talk
in the cellar
spring rain

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


March 23, 2008

thinking easter and family (and baseball haiku)

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 7:11 am

momEaster54s – The f/k/a Gang is going to spend Easter Sunday in Rochester, NY, with our haiga collaborators Mama and Arthur G., and other beloved relatives. (Find some Easter memories and haiku here.) Of course, when we think of Rochester and family, we also think of Tom and Sarah Painting [see painting & painting: mount hope haiku], who — like the Calabash, NC , branch of our family — are also surely contemplating Opening Day and the new baseball season. I’ve got to hit the road, so I’ll just leave you with a few haiku and best wishes for Easter, Spring and all the new seasons.

all day rain infielderG
on the playing field
a stray dog

the toddler
runs to third base

bases loaded
a full moon clears
the right field fence

at bat neg …………………………. by Tom Painting
“the toddler”, “bases loaded” & “all day rain” – from the chapbook piano practice; and Baseball Haiku (2007)

summer evening girlSliding
a hot dog smell

on the breeze

……………………………. by sarah painting

BaseballHaikuCover Can’t wait for opening day? Check out the f/k/a baseball haiku page, and our posts featuring the book Baseball Haiku (Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura, eds., W.W. Norton Press, April 2007) — such as here, there, here; and told you all about the book back in January, here.

Speaking of baseball, family and the coming of spring, here’s a treat from Ed Markowski:

snowflakes tumble & curve baseballdiamond
the baseball season
begins today

April rain
my grandson practices
his infield chatter

April snow
the home team falls
7 games back

EdMarkowski …………………………….. by Ed Markowski

March 22, 2008

invoking the Big Kingmaker in the Sky

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,Schenectady Synecdoche,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:25 pm

This year’s Blog Against Theocracy — a project encouraging weblogs to post over Easter weekend in support of Freedom of Religion and the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution (see our prior post) — serendipitously came up on my radar screen right after I had listened to the swearing in of New York’s new Governor, David A. Paterson, last Monday, March 18th. Indeed, after shaking my head over remarks made in the preliminary invocations, I was feeling grateful for our new Governor’s low-keyed reference to the Divinity in his inaugural speech. BAT08 provides a good excuse for trying to explain my discomfort hearing the religious invocations that preceded Paterson’s swearing-in.

Gov. Paterson taking the oath of office.

The ceremony last Monday was opened with two religious invocations — offered by the Rev. Msgr. Wallace Harris, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Paterson’s home community of Harlem, and by Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz of Agudath Israel of America, Brooklyn. You can read the text of Rabbi Lefkowitz’s Invocation for Governor David Paterson at the Yeshiva World website. I have tried repeatedly, but have not been able to find the text of Msgr. Harris’ invocation; that is unfortunate, as his words were the more troubling, and I would like to be able to quote him directly (and invoke perhaps in readers the same squeamishness that I felt).

[larger, or in color; SE Corner, Church & State Sts., Schenectady, NY. photo by David Giacalone 2008]

There’s no way that I can (or want to) get into the legal issues raised by having official public, governmental meetings open with a prayer. Despite believing they are inappropriate in a pluralistic society with an Establishment Clause in its Constitution (and a passel of deists among its Founding Fathers), I cannot envision our having a Supreme Court any time soon that would ban them. See the many postings on invocation issues and lawsuits, at Prof. Howard M. Friedman’s Religious Clause weblog; and this recent article by Michigan News on prayer practices before public meetings in Michigan, for proof there is plenty of discussion and disagreement over the opening of public governmental meetings with prayer or other forms of religious invocation.

Out of respect for the belief of others, I’m willing to sit politely through a short prayer at the start of a special public event without complaining (but probably not without rolling my eyes). However, both of the Paterson inaugural invocations went a bit too far in a nation that came along long after the Divine Right of Kings was put to rest, and that was never into the Mandate of Heaven notion. [pause for a related smile] Each invocation seemed especially quaint to me, as I do not believe in a divine being that intervenes in human affairs — much less in one working behind the scenes to bring chosen people into high political office.


March 21, 2008

have a Happy Easter

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 11:46 am

EggColoring However and wherever you’re celebrating Easter or the arrival of Spring this weekend, the f/k/a Gang wishes you good times and a basketful of joys. [More pix and poems here.]

. . . . . . . . . .

4 A.M., Easter —
father and son share
chocolate mustaches


…… by dagosan

her chocolate breath
mingles with mine –
easter sunset

– david giacalone – Simply Haiku (Winter 2005) EggColoring

Easter morning
the lawn strewn
with pastel condoms

. . . . . . by pamela miller nessBottle Rockets #16

he toddler stumbles upon
his first temptation
good friday

good friday
the scarecrow gets
a new straw hat

……….. by ed markowski

easter snow
a piece of egg shell
in the sandwich

………. by DeVar Dahl – from A Piece of Egg Shell (Magpie Haiku Press, 2004)

March 20, 2008

vernal equinox: reprise again

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 12:01 am

raindropSF raindropSF One thing about the seasons, we can count on them returning. As strange as it seems to have already Sprung Forward into daylight savings time, spring (the vernal equinox) arrives around 1:48 EDT this morning. Noting that we have thunderstorms, along with a mix of rain and snow due overnight here in Schenectady, and in the spirit of saving energy, here is a reprise of a very satisfying posting from March 20, 2007, which welcomes spring with haiku and senryu. May you be renewed and blossom in the new season. [Note: no snowmen were injured in the production of this weblog post.]

[full size]

the lawn crunches
Spring’s first bocce match

………… Haiga: poem by david giacalone/ dagosan; photo by Arthur Giacalone – Simply Haiku haiga (Vol. 5: 1, 2007)

equinoxically yours [first posted March 20, 2007]

Despite the forecast for record low temperatures tonight — or, maybe because of it — the f/k/a Gang needs to celebrate the Spring (Vernal) Equinox with a few haiku from some of our Honored Guest friends.

expecting a night
of spring…
night frost

to one side
of my paper lantern…
spring’s first dawn

half of it
is flitting snow…
spring rain

………..…… by Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue (500 more on spring)

umbrella vert

spring equinox
moonshadow deepens
the creek

spring-like day
the cat grapples
with a catnip bird

spring longing
the man
in the three-quarter moon

…… by carolyn hall “spring-like day” – The Heron’s Nest (2004)
“spring equinox” – The Heron’s Nest (2000)
“spring longing” – frogpond XXVIII: 1


March 19, 2008

Easter weekend: blogging for religious freedom

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 10:46 am

BAT08Blog Against Theocracy 2008 – is taking place this upcoming Easter weekend, March 21 – 23, 2008 across the blogisphere. Among its organizers are BlueGal and Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors, who designed the logo. (via the greenbelt) They remind us:

The theme [of the blogswarm], like always, is the Separation of Church and State — we are for it. But the variations on the theme are many. . . . This is not a bashing of religion – peeps can believe what they choose, however they choose — but it is a reminder that the Government should keep out of religion, and Religion should keep out of the government.

Over at First Freedom First, you’ll find a Petition asking elected and appointed government officials to make a commitment to the separation of church and state and Freedom of Religion. The f/k/a Gang hopes that many law-related weblogs will participate — especially Constitutional Law heavyweights like Eugene and his posse at The Volokh Conspiracy, the gang at the ACLU Blog, and Howard M. Friedman at Religion Clause, but also the rest of us, who remember just enough about the Constitution to be dangerous, and who know the Religion Clause won’t be preserved by faith alone.

chocolate bunnies —
the hollow ones
eaten last

………………… by dagosan

[SW corner, Schenectady, NY; photo by D. A. Giacalone; original with Bus Station]

Here in Schenectady, we actually have an intersection of Church & State (with a monumental icon of that fickle deity GE looming in the background), and I’m hoping it will inspire me to produce a worthy piece for BAT 2008.  update: See our BAT08 posting, “invoking the Big Kingmaker in the Sky” (March 22, 2008).

The last Religion Clause controversy that I can recall here in Schenectady related to a Muslim Iman giving the prayer invocation at a City Council meeting just before Memorial Day 2005 (scroll down to the “tolerant in Schenectady?” blurb); earlier that year, we also had a crisis related to goat-slaughtering by recent immigrants.

  • Yes, our no-political-punditry promise is still in effect. Nonetheless, and consistent therewith we believe, we want to thank Barak Obama for taking the national discourse about race a fews steps higher yesterday with his speech on race. (click that link for a full transcript and video). See See “Mr. Obama’s Profile in Courage” and “Black, White & Gray” in today’s New York Times (March 19, 2008). Update (March 20, 2008): I usually agree with Schenectady Gazette columnist Carl Strock, but dissented in a lengthy Comment to his posting “Obama transcends nothing” at his Strock Freestyle weblog today.
  • And, thanks to the new governor of New York, David A. Paterson, for doing the right thing by discussing his prior extramarital affairs. At his press conference yesterday, Gov. Paterson said he wanted to avoid being blackmailed: “I didn’t want to be compromised, I didn’t want to be blackmailed, I didn’t want to hesitate taking an action because the person on the other end might hurt me or my family.” “New Governor and Wife Talk of Past Affairs” (New York Times, March 19, 2008). As we said in our posting on Spitzer last week, sexual misbehavior while in office is especially irresponsible, because it gives “people who are unstable, immature (e.g.,. Monica Lewinski), unsavory or unscrupulous (e.g., organized crime members) the ability to blackmail you for money or political favors.”


Spring arrives –
peeps melting
on the dashboard

…………………… by dagosan – poem at Simply Haiku (Vol. 3, No. 4, Winter 2005); haiga photo-poem at MagnaPoets Japanese Form; 1953 photo by Mama G.

  • Thanks to Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice for spreading the word and urging participation in BAT08. (And, yes, it was fun seeing one of my photos gracing another weblog. I recently came into possession of a digital camera and have been playing with it around my neighborhood, and posting a few images here at f/k/a — for example here and here. The intersection of Church & State Streets is about 3 blocks from my home.)

March 17, 2008

sportswise, this is about as mad as i get in march

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 5:20 pm

GUJackMugG . . . . . Jackadoggi & Giacalone . . . . . . . . .

Yep, that’s Jack the Bulldog, the sports mascot of my college alma mater Georgetown University. And, his human doppelganger is the editor of this weblog, in my one and only “baseball cap,” which just happens to depict Jack alongside the Georgetown Hoyas logo. Donning that cap (and looking only mildly skeptical) is about as much March Madness as I am willing (or likely) to ever show — even if the Hoyas make it to the Elite Eight, the Final Four or the Last Dance/Championship Game. As I confessed this time last year: “Frankly, I’m not much of a sports fan (except for good basketball and baseball haiku).” So, you better go to Wikipedia, if you want an explanation of brackets or berths, seeds or rounds, and any other aspects of the NCAA collegiate basketball championship, which has been dubbed — and which inspires so much — March Madness.

one on one…
she dares me to show her
my vertical leap

…….. by ed markowski bballGuys

march madness
he tells me his fantasy

march madness
he fits me in

sunglassesG . . by roberta beary

As the Washington Post reports today, the “Hoyas Are Ready, and Open for Business: Experienced Georgetown, No. 2 Seed in the Midwest, Will Get Started Against No. 15 UMBC” (March 17, 2008). Should the Hoyas make it to the regional final or beyond, I’ll surely watch the last few minutes of their games, and report about their victories here at f/k/a. However, barring a hot date with a serious college basketball fan (I knew a couple of women lawyers who were big Hoya fans, and a few Tarheel fanatics, when I was an FTC staffer in DC), you won’t catch me on a sofa or bar stool with my eyes glued for hours to a large screen filled with baskeball jerseys. Nor will I be filling out a Brackets Sheet. If you desire more info about Georgetown basketball, I suggest clicking HoyaSaxa.com.

Although we don’t suffer from March Madness here at f/k/a, our bench-warmer dogosan is not immune from related Senryu Silliness:

cheering for
his blind date’s team –
arch cadness

march sadness:
nana wants
her soap operas back

BBallGuysN my nephew lets me
beat him to H-O-R-S-E –
march gladness

again she hides
his brackets sheet —
spouse badness

two hours alone
with his teenage son –
march dadness

branch managers
play bookie –
march madness ends

………………………. dogosan .. GUJackMugG

Want some real march madness senryu? Here’s more from the all-star team of Markowski and Beary:

march madness
his team slam dunks
our date

march madness bballGuys
he enters my bedroom
to check the score

. ……………………….. by Roberta Beary BearyRoberta

calligraphy class
the point guard
pens a nike swoosh

city moon ballHoopF
my basketball flattened
by a shard of glass

game winning shot
the big man
palms my head

long rebound
crossing mid-court
she crosses my mind

……………………….. by ed markowski BBallGuysN

afterthought: don’t miss Ed’s new poems in this comment

not another st. patrick’s day!?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 8:47 am

It may be March 17th, but a wee nap sounds a lot better this morning than a wee nip or a wee new posting to the f/k/a Gang. It’s a good thing we were much more into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit in past years. See:

St. Paddy’s parade –
at the curb
green and yellow snow

…. by dagosan [March 12, 2005]

shamrocksSN Over in Dublin, Lex Ferenda (“daithí mac sithigh’s blog on cyberlaw and more”) is hosting Blawg Review #151, which has lots of timely pointers to the best o’ the blawgers — including a reminder that Anne Reed, our favorite redheaded blawger, has been in Japan talking about juries, and offers insights and reflections at her Deliberations weblog. Meanwhile, although he continues to insist on anonymity (and to mask his nationality), the mysterious Editor of Blawg Review is claiming Irish blood, and has been celebrating the St. Patrick’s Festival for several days (with a very nice YouTube parade clip).

drawing the
designated driver straw –
st. patrick’s day

…….. by dagosan [March 17, 2006]



In case you are planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in customary American style, please keep in mind this timely message from the anti-liberal brain of Jenn of the Jungle (via Texas Hold-’em Blogger):


Enough for now from us (except to wish the Luck o’ the Irish to David Paterson, who becomes governor of New York State today, as a blessed consequence of the Spitzer sex scandal; see NYT editorial; and a Schenectady Gazette article; watch the inauguration at 1 PM EDST, by clicking here).

St. Patrick’s Day
a traffic cop directs

…….. by Pamela Miller Ness from “The Can Collector’s Red Socks” (2003), a haiku sequence

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

st. patrick’s day
an old pot filled with
losing lotto slips

…………… by ed markowski

p.s. Hungry for more Irish lore from f/k/a? Check out Paul Quirk’s photo of the Classic St. Patrick’s Day Feast. Learn the meaning of “erin go bra!” by scrolling down our post about a famous paralegal. And, don’t forget our Big Dance post from March 16, 2006, featuring the adorable Irish Setter Puppy from Metroland (”The [NY] Capital Region’s Alternative Weekly Newspaper”):

. . . . . . Irish Setter Stew PuppyStew . . . . . .

– “made from tender young Irish Setter puppies!
– Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!

– see the Irish Setter Stew ad enlarged here

March 15, 2008

of palms and cherry blossoms

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 9:22 pm

Among the items on the crowded mid-March f/k/a To Do List this weekend I find both palms and cherry blossoms.

There are lots of places to find news about Palm Sunday events, or commentary about the religious meaning of Palm Sunday (e.g., discussion for kids, and adults, or a coloring page), and there are many webpages devoted to the beauty and botany of the cherry blossom. I figure you’ve come to us for some related haiku and senryu, and that’s what you’re gonna get.

Saturday night
a priest crosses the road
with an armful of palms

Palm Sunday
following the plow
to church

Palm Sunday
young rabbits
in the pet store

………….. by john stevenson – “Saturday Night” – Some of the Silence (1999):
“Palm Sunday” – Quiet Enough; “Easter rain” – Pilgrimage, 2006

palm sunday
the gospel choir
hypnotically swaying

…………………… by ed markowski –

the boys giggle
when the priest says “ass” –
Palm Sunday

……. by dagosan

Palm Sunday
we polish off
the Easter candy

…………. haiga poem by dagosan; photo by Mama G.
(original at MagnaPoets JF, March 29, 2007)

update (March 17, 2008):

palm sunday
picking a chit off
a seed potato

… by Matt Morden at Morden Haiku (March 16, 2008)

We wrote about the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival this time last year — click for our 2007 post (which included information about the Washington DC festival, too, along with a bit of cherry blossom philosophy). In addition to gorgeous trees in bloom, the folks in Vancouver have an invitational haiku contest every year. See their 2007 Haiku Contest winners, and their 2006 Haiku winners.

In 2006, seven of f/k/a’s Honored Guest Poets had haiku selected by the VCBF judges for special recognition; in 2007, five members of the f/k/a Honorable Guest family had winning haiku. Each of their selected poems can be found in last year’s post. Here are a few from 2006:


grizzled poet—
a sprig of cherry blossoms
in his knapsack

. . . . . . by Laryalee Fraser

cherry blossoms
a street vendor hums
the Ode to Joy

. . . . . . . . . . by peggy willis lyles blossomBranchF

cherry blossoms
the one that falls
on mother’s headstone

. . . . . . . . by ed markowski

VancouverTreePoole And, here are the 2008 poems by our Honored Guests chosen for special recognition by the VCBF judges:

– Alice Frampton, Gary Hotham and Peggy Lyles were 2008 Sakura Award winners:

cherry blossom rain . . .
I take the convertible
back to the showroom

……….. by Alice Frampton

the rest of the day—
cherry blossoms
to spare

….. by Gary Hotham

on a leafless bough—
the evening star

….. by Peggy Lyles

And five more of our f/k/a friends won honorable mention: canjapSBC

shaking off
cherry blossoms
the deaf dog

….. by Roberta Beary

evening breezes
stir the cherry blossoms—
a newborn’s sweet breath

…… by DeVar Dahl

a blanket
under the cherry blossoms—
two freckled faces

……. by Laryalee Fraser blossomBranchF

patio breeze
leaving the blossoms

……. by jim kacian

VCBFLogo cherry trees in bloom . . .
the cracked sidewalk
of the science museum

……. by paul m

idles of march

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:13 am

The f/k/a Gang would prefer to be idle today, Saturday March 15, 2008. However, we’ve noticed that the term “Ides of March” is still being used in the media as “a metaphor for impending doom.” We can, of course, blame William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar for popularizing this slur of an otherwise perfectly fine day. Sure, the much-idolized emperor was attacked and stabbed on the Ides of March by a group of Roman Senators (including his good friend Brutus, who called themselves the Liberators and feared Caesar might become a tyrant). But that’s not a very good reason to dread the day 2052 years later.

To help demystify and word “ides,” we’ve been using it regularly around this weblog in accord with its mundane meaning from the Roman calendar — the middle of the month: the 15th of March or May or July or October or the 13th of any other month.

Since we are the home of “one-breath poetry” [haiku and senryu short enough to be said with one breath] and are trying to conserve our breath on this lazy weekend morning, we’d like to again suggest a better way to commemorate Caesar’s death: Forget the doom and dread; stay calm, and “take a deep breath” that unites you with Caesar and every other human who ever exhaled and inhaled on this planet [including Echkart Tolle and his webcast buddy Oprah].

As Robert Krulwich reminded us on NPR in 2006, chemistry teachers have long used Caesar’s last breath — consisting perhaps of “10 to the 23rd” power of molecules — as a teaching tool:

“Over the years, a number of scholars have tried to figure out what typically would happen to all those molecules. They figured some were absorbed by plants, some by animals, some by water — and a large portion would float free and spread themselves all around the globe in a pattern so predictable that (this is the fun part) if you take a deep breath right now, at least one of the molecules entering your lungs literally came from Caesar’s last breath.”

Yes, a lot of fairly unsavory folks also contributed to that lungful of molecules, but who’s counting? Not us, it’s just another mid-month Saturday — and we’re glad to still be breathing.

on my sleeve
catching his breath…
worn-out firefly

off to one side
they’re breath-taking…
blossom viewing

in scattering blossoms
holding their breath…
sea gulls

leaving the town
breathing easier…

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

Ides of March? ooh
she yawns and hands me
the butter knife

………. by dagosan

the cattails
lose their heads
march wind

…. by Tom Painting from the haiku chapbook piano practice

March 14, 2008

kvelling and melting in march

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 4:52 pm

High-brow Snowmen? Last night, f/k/a was honored to be the first featured site in a new series at Bob Eckstein’s Today’s Snowman weblog — see “High-brow Snowman; The Series Part I.” Many thanks to Bob for honoring us with a bouncy description of our weblog, links to a couple of our recent snowman postings, and a pair of related haiku. (Part II focuses on “prolific poet Darryl Price.”)

Speaking of high-brow: Eckstein is studying whether snow-buddhas were being sculpted as far back as the 7th Century A.D. in China. (You can find more on the topic in his book The History of the Snowman.)

snow turns to rain –
Buddha’s visit
cut short

………………….. by dagosan

As for buddha-like impermanence: the once-mighty 9′-Aspen, Colorado snowman now stands alone, melting away.

March ice storm —
a starter snowman melts
in the freezer

…….. by dagosan

It may be March, but Bob is continuing his monthly Snowman Today snowman contest. I sure hope Southern Hemisphere webloggers will help spread the word, and nominate local snow creatures for future months, as we in the North America, Europe and Asia head into spring.

stiff march wind
the sound
of an airball

……………………….. by ed markowski

Ready for March Madness? This photo by my brother Arthur Giacalone (turned into a haiga here), reminds me we’re in that in-between season of lambs and lions, thaws and freezes, snowmelt and snowstorms. This morning, I awoke to 810WGY’s morning talk host Don Weeks noting that Monday March 17 will be both St. Patrick’s Day and Brackets Day. Don mused over how much more difficult it might be to decide on your NCAA basketball brackets picks when filled with green beer. That coaxed a smile out of Prof. Yabut, but didn’t keep the rest of the f/k/a Gang from bemoaning just how quickly mid-March has descended on us (not to mention the new, unnaturally-premature Daylight Savings Time).

mid-March thaw –
et tu,
snow buddha?

………………… by dagosan

It prompts questions like: BBallGuysN

We’re gonna have to nap on these a few times this weekend. Meanwhile, just in case we don’t get around to it, or you simply can’t wait for us to post them, click here for a bracket-full of basketball haiku and senryu by our Honored Guests.

boy shooting baskets– bballGuys
deep snow piled
all around him


……. by lee gurga from Fresh Scent

game over
men turn to leave
the tv department

………………….. by John Stevenson – Upstate Dim Sum (2004/I)

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