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

August 30, 2008

we’re celebrating Yu Chang’s 70th Birthday

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 2:36 pm

. . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY to YU! . . .

I count
my blessings

….. by Yu Chang – from Upstate Dim Sum (2003)

To the surprise of anyone familiar with his physical and mental vitality (and that cherubic face), Yu Chang is 70 years old today.  We couldn’t find a party room big enough for all his friends and admirers; and one weblog posting is not adequate to express the depth of our affection and breadth of our well-wishes for Yu.

just long enough
to leave an impression

….. by Yu Chang – Upstate Dim Sum

Yu Chang plays and lives many roles, including: husband, father of four, and grandfather; Union College professor of electrical and computer engineering; accomplished haiku poet and editor; skillful and enthusiastic photographer; avid chef and kayaker; tender of gardens (rock and floral); and — for especially lucky and undeserving ones like myself — generous, mischevous, and caring friend.  No matter how he enters your life, Yu leaves a positive, lasting impression, with his intelligence and talent, empathy, sense of humor, and humility.

Personal note: Many good things have come out of my discovery and love of haiku.  At the top of my haiku-related blessings is making the acquaintance and enjoying the friendship of my goombah and bocce-mate Yu Chang.  As told in the post introducing Yu here at f/k/a, “all poetics is local” (May 27, 2005), I admired his poetry for several years before realizing that Yu lives right down the road from me here in Schenectady.  He has become such an important part of my everyday life, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a few years since we met.

As poet-editor John Stevenson — Yu’s very good friend, frequent kayaking and dining companion, and Rt. 9 Haiku Club co-founder — wrote to me this morning:

My life has been immensely enriched by my friendship with Yu. I wish him a happy birthday and a happy day after. I suspect that he would prefer less fanfare for the occasion but he will be gracious about our effusions of affection today.

A couple days ago, I asked John and a few other haiku poet friends to contribute poems for Yu’s birthday celebration at f/k/a.  John sent back this revealing message:

“So many of my poems remind me of Yu or relate to him in ways that might not be clear to others. I could make a collection consisting entirely of poems I’ve written while kayaking with him and another of poems that reflect our summers in Maine. His editorial skill in producing our first sixteen issues of Upstate Dim Sum has added something special to many another poem, which forever carries additional resonance as a result of his juxtapositions with the work of Tom Clausen, Hilary Tann, or Yu himself.

Emblematic of Upstate Dim Sum (because it first appeared there), of my friendship with Yu, and of the present occasion, the following poem comes to mind:

marsh tide
turns around
a lily

Although not prone to produce on deadline (like so many other haiku poets I could name so often must do), John says:

In order to honor the occasion, I have attempted to produce a few overnight poems; something that Yu is known for accomplishing on a regular basis. It’s not my usual method, so I just hope that these are okay:

a few
fiercely red leaves

our two autumns
both of us

marsh explorers,
we bushwhack toward
the open water

…. by John Stevenson (written for Yu Chang’s 70th Birthday)

Ed. Note: They’re definitely more than “okay,” John.  As is the photo you took of Yu kayaking that we’re using with this posting. Many thanks.

Ed Markowski has long admired Yu Chang’s work and has heard about him and his personality from me over the past few years.  Ed wanted to join our party today, and wrote a few poems this morning for Yu’s birthday.

seven decades
the glow of a wind resistant
birthday candle

70 today
father’s soft voice
still stops us

the birthday boy lays rubber
with the lawn tractor

. . . by Ed Markowski (for Yu Chang’s 70th Birthday)

update (Aug. 31, 2008): Ed kept celebrating even after Yu went to bed last night:

70 today
his finger traces a trail
through the icing

another year older
sunflowers frame
father’s smile

Most of my closest friends will be turning sixty in 2008 or 2009.  And, frankly, some of us approach that number with a bit of anxiety over what all this aging might mean for our physical and mental capabilities.  Seeing Yu at 70 gives me — and probably many others — a lot more hope about the possibilities for continuing to thrive as the decades slip by.

Here’s what Tom Clausen, another member with Yu in the 4-poet Rt. 9 Haiku Club, wrote in response to my request for poems to honor Yu’s 70th birthday:

“I am honestly shocked by your message… I had heard Yu had a big birthday coming up and was not sure what age he is, but assumed he was turning 60… he is so incredibly young spirited, playfully wonderful a person that it hardly seems possible he could be 70, not that any age has to be thought of any particular way!”

From Tom’s cache of haiku and senryu, he sent along quite a few to help celebrate Yu’s special birthday:

in the attic
an old sleeping bag
rolled with childhood

moonlight bright-
a young woman there
stands in the swing

out my childhood window
tree silhouettes
grown up

droning plane fades out… 
how little difference it makes
what age I am

flats of seeds
meditation room

beach walking…
collecting pebbles
and letting them go

Milky Way-
a sprinkle of valley lights
way below

… by Tom Clausen and dedicated to his friend Yu Chang

Dagosan was up all night baking a virtual birthday cake, so he didn’t have much time to pen new poems.  These are offered with more than our usual humility:

71 candles
the smoke detector
sings along

photo after photo
he bends closer
to smell a rose

birthday party —
after dim sum
a little bocce

the stones chosen
the stones
not chosen

sharing the last
moon cake
autumn equinox

.. by dagosan (for Yu)

八 We all recently learned how lucky the number eight is in Chinese society. As Yu Chang begins his eighth decade, all of his friends, fans and loved ones wish him 8X8 luck and longevity, with gratitude for our good fortune in knowing this special man. Other haiku poets who want to join the party are invited to add greetings and/or poetry of their own (by email or in a Comment).

— Pass this Party to friends with this easy URL: http://tinyurl.com/YuChang70thBirthday

afterwords (Sept. 2, 2008): Yu’s friend and fellow Route-9er Hilary Tann was incommunicado while I was putting this post together, but just wrote in to send her greetings and good wishes to Yu.  Hilary offers this poem in tribute:

old friends –
sunlight plays
through the leaves

… by Hilary Tann – Upstate Dim Sum 6/II

Below the fold, Yu’s gift to us — a small sampler of his haiku and senryu. (Find many more by clicking the links on our Yu Chang Archive Page.

– Yu Chang – (Simply Haiku, Modern Haiga, Winter 2007) –


August 29, 2008

hydrant lowdown

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 2:06 pm

Our team of cracked reporters has gone to the far corner of our block to solve the riddle posed seven days ago, with photos and discussion, in the post “my hydrant obsession” (Aug. 22, 2008):  Has this fire hydrant outside Arthur’s Market always been smack in the middle of the sidewalk at this busy corner in the Schenectady Stockade?

The surprising answer (according to the people who should know) is: YES, INDEED, IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN RIGHT THERE.

Although “always been at that spot” was one of the options we posited last week, we were definitely leaning toward the alternative scenario — that the hydrant had to be moved away from the curb in order to install that cut-in ramp.  It seemed nearly impossible, having walked by often for two decades, that the hydrant could suddenly seem so out of place if it had not been moved.  Because it looked misplaced and in the way in a Very Schenectady sort of way, we believed it had in fact been moved.   We thought so, even though Artur and Joyce Wachala, who own the adjacent Arthur’s Public Market (at the SW corner of N. Ferry St. and Front St.) both told me it had always been there.

Here is the evidence that brought me to the Always-Been-Right-There conclusion:

  • This photo taken in 1962, which I found on Monday at the Schenectady County Historical Society’s Library, seemed to suggest that the hydrant had never been particularly close to either the curb or the telephone pole.
  • Deputy Chief Kurt Gerfin of the Schenectady Fire Department left me a phone message on Tuesday, responding to my call, saying he doubted it had been moved, because Schenectady hydrants are always placed directly over the water main and it is unlikely the main was moved when the sidewalk and curb were replaced.
  • Fire Captain Vincent Krawiecki echoed Chief Gerfin’s statement the next day, when we chatted about the hydrant’s location, and then referred me to the City of Schenectady’s Water Department, saying they would know if it had been moved.
  • Although the last week in August is prime vacation time for public servants, I was lucky enough to find Steven Caruso of the Water Department’s engineering unit in and amiable yesterday (Aug. 28). Mr. Caruso informed me that he had been on site when the sidewalk was poured and the hydrant was not moved during that project — in other words, it is in the same spot where it’s always been.  Steven was even nice enough to agree with me that the hydrant’s location is unusually far from the curb and in the way of foot traffic.  He/we could not, however, explain my — or my neighbors’ — failure to notice the odd location before the new sidewalk was installed.

As amazing as it may seem, I’ve been walking past that fireplug for twenty years without either stumbling over it or commenting on its unorthodox location.  It took the installation of a new sidewalk, and removal of the mailbox that had been nearby it and that telephone pole, to make that red hydrant stick out like a red herring and catch our attention. Just a tiny change in context or perspective can make a big difference in perception.  A lesson to keep in mind as my aging memory bank continues to deteriorate.  Another lesson (to which Arthur surely agrees): Joyce Wachala is always right.  For now, I’m trading in my reporter’s pad for a padded futon.

p.s. For the Still Incredulous: There is one more stone to turn over to get to the bottom of the hydrant moving issue.  A&K Slip Forming, Inc., of Cobleskill, NY, did the actual sidewalk and curb installation.  If that hydrant was in fact moved into the middle of the sidewalk — inadvertantly or intentionally — they know for sure.  If you get an answer from the folks at A&K, please let us know.

All this talk of hydrants, poor vision and bumping into things, sent me to the magic search box at David Lanoue’s The Haiku of Kobayashi Issa website (where you will find 9000 poems written by the Japanese haiku master and translated by Prof. Lanoue).  Here are a few of the many gems I found:

standing dead center
in the downpour…
a blind man

tripping over the dog
night of winter rain

the cats are courting

crossing a bridge
behind a blind man…

blindly following
the setting sun…
a frog

smack in the middle
of the Old Quarter…

barley husking–
in the middle of a highway
a tea kettle

watered by
the village dog…

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

afterwords (Sept. 1, 2008, Labor Day): If only Lawrence the Indian wasn’t so taciturn, he could sure help clear up our Hydrant Mystery. I discovered today that even Wall-e has been having hydrant troubles:

August 28, 2008

another reminder: August 31st is Love Litigating Lawyers Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Giacalone @ 10:42 am

Snoopy or Sharky?

snack room —
the litigator takes
a third of the donuts

………………….. by dagosan

When you think “lawyer,” which image comes to mind: Snoopy or Sharky? You don’t have to read the study Public Perceptions of Lawyers (ABA Section of Litigation, 2005), nor our Shakespeare on Lawyers, to know how most people react to the L-word. Therefore, although the f/k/a Gang prefers mediation to litigation (and have gathered many stinging quotes about litigation and trials), we’ve done our best the past few years to remind our readers and blogging colleagues that August 31st is Love Litigating Lawyers Day. It is no surprise, however, that LLL Day (which was created by Wellcat.com), like the similar April 8th celebration of Be Kind to Lawyers Day, just doesn’t seem to be catching on with either the public nor the Bar. Indeed, Wiley has noted this problem in several Non Sequitur cartoons, such as this one and that one.

It is not at all clear what we can do to make lawyers (not to mention litigation) more popular. Over at EdHelper.com, August 31st and Love Litigating Lawyers Day have been turned into a Career Day theme for Grades 7 to 12. However, I’m not too sure that the suggested Lesson Plan for the day — a vocabulary list — is going to lure many youngsters into the profession:

Vocabulary – challenging words: articulate, himself, lethargic, problem, anyhow, watcher, abreast, all-important, never-ending, glamorous, passionate, solution, ever-changing, ongoing, meaningful, position

This approach might work better:

tagging along
with an ice cream cone
the senior partner

… by Barry George

I’m not even sure that this lovely “Lawyers Do It In Front of a Jury of Their Peers” t-shirt (via George Lenard) will help improve the popularity of the legal profession, despite the prevalence of dirty old men in the general population and the Bar.

mid-argument –
opposing counsel crosses
her legs

. . . by dagosan

As you may recall, not even trial lawyers want to be call trial lawyers any more. But, we would have thought that Walter and Ted at Overlawyered.com would want to toast the profession that has made them famous in the blogisphere. The closest we could find to a celebration of litigators this week at their website is Walter Olson’s coverage of “Biden and the Trial Lawyers” (Aug. 23, 2008) — which tells of the Democratic nominee for Vice President’s close ties to the plaintiff’s bar, and recalls Joe Biden’s affectionate “bottom-feeders” line (via Point of Law):

“I’ll pay the bottom-feeders to go out and get these big fees to stop bad guys from doing bad things.”

dem donkey gray.

That reminded me, of course, that the Democratic National Committee should love litigating lawyers a lot. (See, e.g., CampaignMoney.com, which shows that Democrats have received 80% of of all political contribution by trial lawyers since 1999; and “Cash Bar – How trial lawyers bankroll the Democratic party,” National Review, August 20, 2001.) If they hurry, on the last day of their National Convention, perhaps the Dems can hold a quick, early celebration in honor of Love Litigating Lawyers Day.

If you need an even better reason — beyond the Sermon on the Mount — to love litigating lawyers, check out Carolyn Elephant’s post at Legal Blog Watch, “Litigation as Profit Center” (Aug. 26, 2008). Carolyn points to an article in The Columbus Business Journal, which ” describes the range of different revenue sources that have developed around the Franklin County Courthouse.” And, she concludes, “Ah, profiting off of litigation — isn’t that the American way?”

. . . . . . . . . . .

That’s all the time I’m going to spend convincing you to do a little something nice for a lawyer on August 31st (even the non-litigating ones). Try hard to curb your enthusiasm. You know how much the Bar treasures its image of dignity.

litigation bags –
the associate’s
half-closed eyes

… by dagosan

clear and cold
the snap
of her attorney’s briefcase

… by Ed Markowski

afterwords (Sept. 1, 2008): Thanks to Ed of Blawg Review, I discovered today at Peter Black’s Freedom to Differ weblog that August 31st has also been declared Blog Day, on which bloggers are encouraged to point to “5 new blogs that you find interesting.” Among his selections, Peter suggested a new-to-me blawg from Australia, SkepticLawyer.  Since we have been the proud home of SkepticalEsq (and Prof. Yabut) for more than 5 years, we send a big “Howdy, Mates” to the team at SkepticLawyer.  Now, the f/k/a Gang doesn’t want to sound toooo cynical, but we are well past the time when we felt we had the time to investigate five new weblogs — no matter how interesting and worth of persual they may be.  We’re pleased to have learned of just one interesting weblog.

August 27, 2008

did Harvard Law kill parody, satire & humor?

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:40 am

Four weeks ago, in an article called “Parody flunks out,” criminal and civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate blamed the politically-correct atmosphere at Harvard Law School for Barack Obama’s negative reaction to the New Yorker magazine cover of July 21, 2008. Silverglate, who lectured for many years at HLS (c.v.), says “At the very least, this atmosphere stifle[s students] from admitting (to anyone but their friends) that they even got a joke involving matters of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other hot-button issue at the center of the nation’s culture wars.” He insists:

[O]ne may not safely say in Harvard Yard what is constitutionally protected in Harvard Square. The same may be said for just about every campus where there once was a hallowed hall of learning.

The f/k/a Gang has indeed noticed that an awful lot of lawyers — especially those with degrees minted in the past twenty years — throw around the terms sexism and racism quite recklessly, and seem incredibly thin-skinned and humorless (e.g., see this prior post on sexism and this one). But, frankly, we don’t know if Harvey Silverglate is right. Despite the Harvard Law domain name in our URL, your Editor hasn’t spent more than a few minutes on that campus, or any law school campus, in a couple decades. So far, there has been very little reaction on legal weblogs to Harvey’s accusations. We hope this post will motivate some of those who have been around law schools recently — as professors or students — to share their experience with political correctness and Free Speech on campus. Input from one or more of the group blawgers at Concurring Opinions, The Volokh Conspiracy, and Feminist Law Profs would be much appreciated — and ditto for any other interested and knowledgeable blawger (or reader), such as Steve Bainbridge, Ann Althouse, and Richard Posner.

Harvey Silverglate’s indictment of Harvard Law was made in the Boston Phoenix article “Parody flunks out: Political humor is no longer welcome in Academia as administrators choke the life out of parody” (July 30, 2008). I heard about it when Bob Ambrogi did a post at Legal Blog Watch titled “The Death of Parody at Harvard Law” (Aug. 5, 2008), which also pointed to an interesting follow-up by Silverglate, posted August 4, 2008, at The Phoenix‘s group weblog “The Free for All.” In addition, Harvard Magazine posted the article “Silverglate on Obama, HLS, and that New Yorker Cover” (August 8, 2008), in its Harvard in the News online section.

Like the f/k/a Gang (see our July 15th post), Silverglate thought the New Yorker cover was obvious and effective parody of the bogus claims made by Obama’s opponents.

When the New Yorker cover controversy erupted, our Prof. Yabut bemoaned “the emoticonally-addicted, insight-challenged society’s inability to discern satire when they see it or hear it [and even added “winkie” emoticons to the f/k/a version of the cover, to help the parody-challenged]. We also decried the related, knee-jerk, low-EQ application of Political Correctness Bans (PCBs) to anything that might offend anybody (particularly on the Left).” In an open letter to Sen. Obama, we asked him to call off his PC Police, advising him that “You need to muzzle your staff. Whiners aren’t winners. For a real Mensch with a high EQ, taking a punch should include taking a Punch-like cartoon.”

Similarly, Silverglate says he “expected the swift and nauseatingly self-righteous condemnation it received from the TV personalities and politically correct pundits.” But, he was caught off guard by the Obama Campaign’s strong condemnation of the cover.

So, Harvey asked:

[H]ow can Obama, such a brilliant student of American law, politics, and culture, not get the joke — or at least not recognize that the joke was on his enemies?

And answered:

“But then I realized I had failed to account for what can be called the Harvard Factor. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee had, after all, been elected to the staff of the Harvard Law Review in the late 1980s and assumed the presidency of that august publication in 1990. By that time, the strictures of political correctness had seeped into all levels of American higher education and had utterly destroyed the sense of humor of so many college and university students.

“At the very least, this atmosphere stifled them from admitting (to anyone but their friends) that they even got a joke involving matters of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other hot-button issue at the center of the nation’s culture wars. And, as was predictable, the intellectual rot that began to infect the academy in the mid 1980s spread to the “real world” within a single generation. All of this displaced outrage, by Obama and many of his supporters, suddenly made sense.”

” . . . Interestingly, it was Harvard Law School, regarded by many as the apex of legal education (and located in the heart of liberal Cambridge) that early grappled with the appropriateness of punishing students for engaging in satire and parody. With the eyes of the higher-education elite watching, the fabled law school established, in the early ’90s, that a written parody poking fun at a female member of the academic community is no different than punishable ‘sexual harassment’.”

Bob Ambrogi explained at Legal Blog Watch that “Silverglate sees what happened at Harvard as symptomatic of a far more widespread trend to muzzle politically incorrect speech. It was a trend that began to emerge while Obama was still at Harvard and it is one, Silverglate believes, where Obama could help turn the course.” As Harvey puts it:

“If Obama wants to be the nation’s leader, he can start leading here. He needs to leave the atmosphere of censorship at the Harvard Law School and join the ranks of free men and women.”


August 26, 2008

our September 2008 haiga calendars

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 10:28 pm

dem donkey gray.

. . With a pause in the major action at the Democratic Convention, I thought I’d do some non-demanding administrative work this evening here at f/k/a, and tell you about the two haiga calendar pages we created for September 2008.

Below are sample-sized calendar pages for September from both of our free online 2008 haiga calendars — the “artsy” Giacalone Bros. Haiga Calendar 2008 (with photos taken by my brother Arthur) and the nostalgic fka Haiga Memories Calendar 2008 (with shots snapped in the 1950’s by Mama Giacalone). See our prior post from last December for descriptions and links to the full 12-month calendars. [FYI: Haiga are pictures (paintings, sketches, or photos) combined with a subtly-linked haiku or similar poem. The poetry is written by your Editor, “dagosan”.)

Just click on the sample calendar pages below to go to a printable full-size version. A link is also provided to a larger version of each of the original haiga used for the calendars.

– from the 2008 Giacalone Haiga Calendar

[full-sized for printing]

lull in the parade
small hands reach
for the same balloon

– poem: David Giacalone; photo: Arthur Giacalone

– orig. full-color haiga version pub., with earlier version of the poem, in the 45th WHA Haiga Contest (May 2007); photo by Arthur Giacalone; also posted at MagnaPoetsJF in b&w (July 27, 2007)

And, from the 2008 f/k/a Haiga Memories Calendar

full-sized for printing –

Sunday afternoon –
after braciole
a little bocce

Poem: David Giacalone

Photo: MAMA G (1951)

[original haiga, Magnapoets JF, April 7, 2007]

Bocce Bonus: This afternoon, I had the honor and pleasure to help Yu Chang “initialize” a new set of bocce balls across from his house, in Schenectady’s Central Park (the location of our first-ever Haijin Snow Bocce Festa in January 2006. We played with Paolo Seganti, Yu’s son-in-law and grandson Marcello (who let us old guys win).

Here are a few of dagosan‘s bocce haiku and senryu to celebrate.

night game –
bocce balls kissing
the harvest moon

pallino gets
the only kiss –
blind date bocce

greatgrandpa’s bocce balls – bocci
three generations
choose sides

backyard bocce –
tonight we’re
the noisy neighbors

girls against guys —
white (wine)
beats red (wine)

afterwords (Aug. 28, 2008): Thanks to a post at Above the Law, I learned this afternoon that the nearly-600-lawyer Venable LLP law firm in Washington, D.C., offers its attorneys the perk of “bocce on the roof” at its offices (575 7th St. NW, right near my old office at the FTC). Despite preferring lawn bocce, I think I could enjoy a roof-top game on a summer evening — especially if it were mosquito-free, and a few non-lawyers got to play, too.

August 24, 2008

UConnect Web: Chrysler helps kill more Americans

Filed under: viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:14 pm

San Jose University business professor Randall Stross raises an important warning in today’s New York Times, with a column titled “Caution: Driver May Be Surfing the Web” (Aug. 24, 2008). You see, Chrysler is about to make its 2009 model cars into internet hot-spots, capable of accessing the web while you enjoy your “living room on wheels” — with a feature it calls UConnect Web. We’ve been railing about the dangers of Driving While Phoning for years (most recently in June, over California’s phony new cellphone safety law). Stross points out the added danger of laptop surfing while driving:

The signals won’t be confined to the Nintendos in the rear seat; front-seat occupants will be able to stay online, too. Bad idea. As drivers, we have done poorly resisting the temptation to move our eyes away from the road to check e-mail or send text messages with our cellphones. Now add laptops.

Here’s how Chrysler described the new product in a Press Release last April (emphases added; via AutoBlog):

In-vehicle wireless Internet connectivity

Chrysler is diligently working on an advanced, in-vehicle wireless system to provide increased security and convenience far beyond anything available today. The system will provide high-speed data transfer and convenience, combining WiFi and 4G connectivity for a new level of wireless technology.

This system will transform the vehicle into a “hot spot” to deliver Internet and e-mail access, and movie and music download capability directly to the vehicle.

While Chrysler will offer this technology in future model-year vehicles, an aftermarket in-vehicle “hot-spot” wireless Internet capability is planned through Mopar® in 2008.

PCMag.com reports that “the hotspot range will extend approximately 50 feet from the vehicle in all directions, and will combine both WiFi and 3G cellular connectivity.” That means we can also expect tailgaters (and SideGaters?) cruising close to steal the WiFi signal from a moving Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle

According to Endgadget, UConnect Web will cost $499. Chrysler shows back-seat usage of UConnect Web, but check out this photo from Endgaget (Aug. 13, 2008):

Stross quotes Tom Vanderbilt, the author of “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)”:

“We’ve already seen fatalities from people looking at their laptops while driving. It seems absolutely surprising that Chrysler would open the door for a full-blown distraction like Internet access.”

After writing that book, Tom Vanderbilt shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that there is a market for this device and someone will make it and make a profit from it

Prof. Stross makes many additional points worth considering. Here are two:

  • As Mr. Vanderbilt says in his book, many people have been willing to accept curtailed civil liberties as a response to terrorist threats, but many of the same people “have routinely resisted traffic measures designed to reduce the annual death toll,” like curbing cellphone use while driving.
  • The decline in the total number of deaths [shown by official statistics] obscures a more complicated story. While we have made large gains curbing alcohol-impaired driving and instilling the habit of buckling up, we have wasted most of the gains by using cellphones while driving.

Stross ends his piece by asking:

“Which occupants in the car will most avidly use UConnect? Is it the children in the back with game consoles that provide plenty of self-contained entertainment without the Internet? Or is it the adults in the front seat, whose ability — never strong — to voluntarily remain unconnected is now disappearing?

“Will we notice if our living room on wheels, fully loaded with every amenity, sails off the road?”

I’m tired of having irresponsible, tech-happy drivers — and greedy manufacturers — who make the roads of America even more dangerous than they have to be. And, I’m even more tired of cowardly politicians who won’t help rid our roads of these devices. It seems clear that we cannot rely on either common sense or civic duty. As things get worse, we only have ourselves to blame for not demanding laws to control undisciplined, selfish drivers, who — like Chrysler — simply don’t care about the risks they take with all of our lives.

afterwords (Aug. 25, 2008): Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice — the only notable blawger willing to speak out against techno-insanity — has posted “Begging for a crash,” in sympathy with this post. Among other Scott-ish insights, he notes that “People can’t drive worth a lick now” and wonders why groups like MADD “will do nothing about a novelty like this that will impact far more people than drunk drivers.”

John Barlow: not only for the birds

Filed under: Book Reviews,haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 8:44 pm

With the QE2 going into retirement later this year, the UK needs a grand new symbol of British culture and craft, and of its ties to far-flung shores. Snapshot Press may have found the answer, with the launching, on September 18, 2008, of the monumental Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (ISBN 978-1-903543-24-5; to order). The 320-page volume features 323 experiential haiku and 131 species of British birds. It is written and compiled by John Barlow and Matthew Paul (with haiku by 30 additional poets, such as f/k/a’s Guest Matt Morden), and has photographic-watercolor illustrations by Sean Gray, plus a foreword by BBC’s naturalist Stephen Moss.

Wing Beats, with its extensive texts that “explore both British avifauna and the history and intricacies of haiku poetry, considering the relationships between these in a global context,” might do for birding and haiku what Cor van den Heuvel’s Baseball Haiku did last year to link the American past-time with the poetic genre — by demonstrating their natural affinity, turn haiku fans into lovers of birds and birders into lovers of haiku.

In the Forward, the Stephen Moss says, ‘The poems in this volume are worthy heirs to three great traditions: the British love of nature, especially birds; the poetic approach of John Clare, rooted in observation and reality but taking the reader to a higher plane; and finally, of course, the long and venerable tradition of haiku. Similarly, haiku poet, editor and author William J. Higginson says:


August 22, 2008

my hydrant obsession (updated)

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 3:47 pm

A leisurely sunset walk around my Stockade neighborhood two days ago left me in one of my really-gotta-know moods. To wit: Who moved that fire hydrant? It happened right alongside Arthur’s Public Market, at the SW corner of N. Ferry St. and Front St. — the intersection where you’ll find the small traffic circle monument to Lawrence the Indian. Strolling up toward Lawrence, on the Front St. side of Arthur’s, I ran across — well, almost walked into — this fire hydrant:

There’s been a fire hydrant at that corner for as long as I’ve lived in the Stockade, along with a mail box and a telephone pole — but I just don’t remember that fireplug being almost dead center in the walkway at that busy Stockade corner (which is at the crossroads of neighborhood life). A sidewalk improvement project — which needlessly took down all of the mature shade trees on both sides of the N. Ferry St. block — recently replaced very old, cracked, uneven slabs on both sides of the Market with new ones, including a new curb, with a wheelchair-friendly curb-cut (causing the mail box to be moved).

Joyce and Artur Wachala, the proprietors of Arthur’s, each told me that the hydrant has always been where it is now. On the other hand, a Schenectady Police office on bicycle patrol through the neighborhood, says he thinks the hydrant must have been moved to make room for the cut-in. I’m left wanting to know whether our fair city has chosen a rather strange new placement for the hydrant, or whether it is in fact exactly where it always was, but I’ve simply got a different perspective after the installation of the new sidewalk.

red hydrant My urgent need to know has left me searching for a photographic record of what the corner looked like prior to the new sidewalk and curb arrangement. So far, all I can find are pictures like these, which give no clue of the hydrant’s pre-improvement location:

. . . . . .

This very recent photo, found at the Arthur’s Public Market website, is similarly (and frustratingly) unhelpful:

from the Market\'s website

Now, some observers (of my obsession) have suggested that the hydrant was most likely always there in that spot, and I probably just stayed on the old sidewalk and never paid attention to it — perhaps because the mailbox dominated the little tableau next to the unmoved telephone pole. My never having acquired a bruised shin from bumping into the hydrant over the past two decades suggests otherwise.






However, this photo taken by me yesterday, at the same time as the first photo above, does show how perspectives can be easily altered:

Of course, I’m making too much of this (that’s why I call it an obsession). This could be merely a procrastination ploy preventing the completion of a serious piece on parody and academic freedom. Whatever it is, it’s driving me nuts. I’ll do some more snooping to try to figure out Who Moved That Hydrant? — or, whether it was moved at all. If you have any useful information, please let me know. Come back to this post for updates, as I learn more.

red hydrant update (Aug. 25, 2008): Thanks to the Schenectady County Historical Society, especially Librarian Katherine Chansky and the staff at its Grems-Doolittle Library, I’ve located two views of the Arthur’s Market Hydrant, taken in 1962:

– photos taken 1962, Courtesy of the Schenectady County Historical Society –

The angles don’t allow me to make a definitive judgment about whether the hydrant has been moved (and my camera was malfunctioning today and wouldn’t let me take current pictures from comparable angles). Nonetheless, I must admit that the hydrant was located farther from the telephone pole and the curb in the 1962 photographs than I had expected. Here’s a side-by-side of the 2008 photo above, and the more revealing 1962 picture:

. . . .

I’m going to keep looking (and soliciting) more recent photos that would help settle the Great 2008 Hydrant Placement Question.

afterwords: See our conclusion in the post “hydrant lowdown” (Aug. 29, 2008)

As long as I have hydrants on my mind, I might as well post one of my favorite personal haiga:

. . . HydrantSnowHaiga . .

Here’s another fireplug haiku, from my past:

drift-covered hydrant –
the dog puts a halo
on my snow angel

…………………….. by dagosan

And, a reminder of why we have a sidewalk improvement program in the Stockade:

historic district –
an old sidewalk trips
the blossom gazer

. . . dagosan

Meanwhile, that sunset walk ended along the Mohawk River, at the end of my block on Washington, Avenue, where I saw this scene — which made me momentarily forget all about fire hydrants:

Washington Ave. Dead End - Stockade, Schenectady

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

.. by David Giacalone – Frogpond Vol. XXVIII, #2 (2005) – click to see a subsequent haiga incorporating this poem

August 20, 2008

smacking our foreheads again

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:43 pm


After five years of blogging (and a lifetime of dealing with deadlines and project estimates), you’d think I would know better than to think I could throw an interesting and informative posting together quickly enough to be able to enjoy most of our “best ever August weather” here in Schenectady. Instead, I’m smacking my head over having my butt stuck in my desk chair for the second day in a row without yet posting a darn thing. It’s time to cut bait so I can figuratively go fishing. Here are a few ONEsies that might get you smacking your foreheads, too:

RealtorG If you hired a real estate agent without haggling over the fee, Smack Yourself: We’ve been telling you for years (as has the FTC) that those 6 or 7% realtor commissions are not prescribed by law or etched in stone. A survey featured in the most recent issue of Consumer Reports proves it. See “Buying, selling, remodeling: How to protect yourself in today’s rocky real-estate market” (September 2008; see the summary “What the Survey Found“); also “Home sellers can haggle over commissions” (MSNBC.com, Aug. 4, 2008);

According to a CR Press Release:

“Forty-six percent of sellers CR surveyed attempted to negotiate a lower commission rate. Roughly 71 percent succeeded. The survey also found that sellers who paid commission rates 3 percent or lower were just as satisfied with their brokers’ performance as those who paid 6 percent or more, suggesting that haggling can’t hurt.

“Respondents who paid extra, in fact, were more likely to say they had regrets about the selling process. Nearly one-third said they should have been more assertive in negotiating their agent’s fee.”

Another Smacker: The CR survey found that those who did not use a broker at all got closer to their asking price than did those with a broker. (To understand why, see American Antitrust Institute Symposium on Competition in the Residential Real Estate Brokerage Industry (2005); and the NYT article from June 8, 2007, “One City’s Home Sellers Do Better on Their Own.”) [See the Nolo.com article Do You Need a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your House?]

river flood
a “For Sale” sign
on a cottage roof

.. by George Swede – from Almost Unseen (Brooks Books, 2000)

spring rain–
in the window they haggle
over fish

.. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue house for sale

moving day
the other men
in her life

.. by John Stevenson – Quiet Enough (Red Moon Press, 2004)

autumn haze
a farmer dusts off
the “for sale” sign

. . . by Laryalee Fraser, Clouds Peak (#2, Oct. 2006)

If You Forgot to Plant a St. Joseph Statue in Your Yard (and your house never sold), Smack Your Insufficiently Superstitious Head (and bow it in prayer): Here at f/k/a, we know St. Joseph of Nazareth as the Patron Saint of the Involuntarily Celibate, but over at the Consumer Reports Blog, readers learned a couple weeks ago that St. Joe also helps sell houses. The posting “A saintly appeal to help sell homes” (Aug. 5, 2008) tells us:

“In a sluggish housing market, . . . some sellers bury a statue of St. Joseph in their yard to try to help close the deal. As noted on Snopes.com, people have been relying on the heavenly help for years.

Indeed: “Mary Ann Giacobbe, a real-estate agent in New Rochelle, New York, a suburb north of New York City, says she usually has a bag of statues on hand for clients who want one. ‘I don’t care what religion you are, homeowners are doing it,’ says Giacobbe.”

If you want more information on this topic (or want to purchase a St. Joe Real Estate packet), check out the Amazon.com page for “St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent: Patron Saint of Home Life and Home Selling” (Mass Market Paperback) by Stephen J. Binz. Of course, the non-believers at f/k/a do not warrant the efficacy of the St. Joseph statue (nor the Backyard Virgin in a Tub phenomenon).

. . If You Believe Unsubstantiated Health Claims, Smack Your Forehead (and grab a hankie) : See “Makers of Airborne Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Advertising; Agreement Brings Total Settlement Funds to $30 Million; Consumers Have Until September 15 to Apply for Refunds” (Federal Trade Commission, Press Release, Aug. 14, 2008; FTC v. Airborne Health, Inc. et al., FTC File No. 0723183, Complaint and Final Order); “Airborne Coughs Up Millions to Settle Suit” (Washington Post, Aug. 14, 2008) (via Stephen Gardner at the CLPBlog, who also explains here, why the FTC’s Airborne settlement is notable)

To learn how to get your refund from the private class action case, go to www.airbornehealthsettlement.com.

In his interesting Dissenting Statement, FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch complained that the settlement did not go far enough because:

  • it allows the defendants to deplete their existing inventory of paper cartons and display trays until October 31, 2008, which will continue to perpetuate misperceptions about the products’ ability to prevent or reduce colds, sickness or infection; to protect against or help fight germs; and to protect against colds, sickness, or infection in crowded places such as airplanes, offices, or schools.
  • it fails to address claims on the current packaging that assert that the product has “immune-boosting” qualities. [Ed. Note: the current Airborne box makes the squishy claim that it “helps support your immune system.”]
  • it does not require that Finally, and most importantly, it is my opinion that Airborne Health Products engage in corrective advertising, to erase lingering misperceptions.

Airborne Health, Inc., offers a Letter to Our Users, responding to the private settlement and making the valid point that no one has questioned the safety of its product’s “unique, proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals and herbs.” There is no doubt at all (see the WaPo article) that tens of thousands of users swear that Airborne helps them avoid colds and flu.

spooning up soup
and bringing forth
the moon

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

flu season
she refuses
my hand

… by Yu Chang – from Upstate Dim Sum (2004/1)

I lean
into the soup’s steam…
snow flurries

… by Gary Hotham from breathmarks (Canon Press, 1999)

back home
with Christmas memories –
and mom’s flu

… by dagosan

Aging Prisoners: More Skewed Choices Due to a Lack of National Health Care: Smack yourself twice, if you don’t think our failure to ensure health care for all Americans ends up skewing choices and policies facing our government, taxpayers, and families. It affects the jobs we seek or keep, whether we marry or divorce, if many will eat or go bankrupt, and — for another example — check out “Missouri uses special unit to cope with growing numbers of geriatric inmates” (The Kansas City Star, Aug. 20, 2008; via Gideon at A Public Defender); “Aging Behind Bars: Prison strains to accomodate older inmates” (California Lawyer, by Sarah Amquist, May 2008); and Aging Prisoners: Crisis in American Corrections, by Ronald H. Aday (2003).

the temple guard
sick from the crowds…
cherry blossoms

while sick
I wear it on my head…
winter quilt

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Smack Myself for Surfing Over to Simple Justice with Important Deadlines to Meet: We never learn. Despite wanting to get outside ASAP today, we headed to Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice weblog, and were soon immersed in several interesting postings, and the Comments thereto. If you’re stuck at work and need some useful diversion, you might want to check out the following pieces (but don’t be surprised if you end up with a smack mark on your forehead come COB):

  • The Professional Business of Law” (Aug. 17, 2008) – do we need more professionalism in the practice of law? Obvious answer: Yes. But Scott explores why.
  • Does ‘Presumed Innocent’ Mean Less Than ‘Innocent’?” (Aug. 19, 2008) Scott dances on the head of this rhetorical and legal pin.
  • Tainted by Google Forever” (Aug. 18, 2008) Should a newspaper with its archives online have to remove a story tarring a person’s reputation when charges are never proven, but Google will haunt him forever? Scott points out that there are easy ways to update the story without removing it, so there’s no excuse to let the taint remain perpetually. (These issues are raised by Dan Solove’s “The Future of Reputation,” which we reviewed here)

firefly season
ends —
our freshman packs her car

… by dagosan

sick in bed –
my son pelts the window
with snowballs

… by Tom Clausen – from Homework (Snapshot Press 2000)

August 18, 2008

what do “free choice” and “bipartisan” mean?

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 4:52 pm

It’s not designated HR 1984, but the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (HR 800, S. 1041, 110th Congress) sure does have an aura of Orwellian rhetoric about it.

In his “The View from Here” column for the Schenectady Sunday Gazette, yesterday, Word Watcher and Hypocrisy Hound Carl Strock says he likes the name given to HR 800, because it “is almost exactly the opposite of the true purpose of the bill.” (“Employee fee choice? Not exactly,” Aug. 17, 2008). Although his columns are not available at the Gazette‘s free website, Carl often summarizes them at his Strock Freestyle weblog, and he did just that in a posting called “Employee Free Choice?.” In the post, Carl asks:

. . StrockCarl . . If you’re a labor union and you lose 40 percent of the elections in which workers vote whether or not to have you represent them. And further, if you find it relatively easy to get unorganized workers to sign cards saying they want you to represent them, especially when you stand right over them and watch them sign what do you do?

He replies: “The answer is obvious: You promote a federal law to forbid elections and to accept signed cards instead.” Then, Carl wonders “And what do you name the proposed law?”:

That’s easy too. You don’t name it the “Election Suppression Act,” or, the “Strong-Arm Sign-Up Act.” You name it the “Employee Free Choice Act,” as any student of George Orwell could tell you.”

The bill has passed in the House, but seems stalled now in the Senate. When you see that all sorts of Democratic good-guys, including Barack Obama, are supporting EFCA, you might think that Carl Strock has surely gotten it wrong. However, here’s how Thomas at The Library of Congress summarizes HR 800:

“Amends the National Labor Relations Act to require the National Labor Relations Board to certify a bargaining representative without directing an election if a majority of the bargaining unit employees have authorized designation of the representative (card-check) and there is no other individual or labor organization currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit.”

. . . The AFL/CIO is the primary proponent — and probably named — EFCA, and it argues that The Employee Free Choice Act would “level the playing field for workers and employers and help rebuild America’s middle class.” Indeed, the Labor Council says:

“It would restore workers’ freedom to choose a union by:

* Establishing stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.
* Providing mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.
* Allowing employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.”

To be honest, the first two provisions above do seem like fairly benign ways to achieve the goal of giving workers Freedom to Choose. But, Carl Strock is absolutely correct when he says in his column that “you don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to see what the result will be,” when you permit “signing a card handed to you by a possibly pushy or intimidating organizer” to count just as much as a secret ballot. As an example, Strock tells of a local experience back in 2001, when a union seeking to organize the warehouse workers at the regional Price Chopper grocery chain:

“readily got the approximately 225 signatures required to force an election, but by secret ballot only some 130 workers voted in favor of unionizing.”

What the unions don’t tell you, according to Strock, is that they already win about 60 percent of their organizing elections. Taking away the secret ballot in the hot-house atmosphere of an organizing campaign seems like a very un-American way to ensure Free Choice, although it surely will increase the win-loss stats of Big Labor. Indeed, when asked if he would “be outraged” if the situation were reversed and employers could defeat a union organizing drive by getting workers to sign no-union cards, Frank Natalie (President of Schenectady’s AFL-CIO affiliate), admitted, “Yes, I would.”

dem donkey gray . . . .. bipartisan? . . . rep elephant gray

It’s no secret that Big Labor is an important part of the base of the Democratic Party. But, the AFL-CIO boasts that EFCA is “supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress.” Being a curious guy, I clicked through to see their lists of the bill’s co-sponsors. There are over 200 co-sponsors in the House, but going down the alphabetical list, I didn’t hit a Republican name until I got to #72. Fossella, Vito (R-NY-13), and the handful of additional GOP sponsors were clustered in a few Blue states with strong unions. On the list of 47 Senate co-sponsors, there were no Republicans, with the only non-Democratic sponsors being the two “Independents,” Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders.

The abuse of the word “bipartisan” had long been a pet peeve of mine. For me — and for Merriam-Webster, and Wordsmyth, and OneLook Dictionary — the adjective “bipartisan” means

  • supported by both sides, and
  • more specifically, “composed of, representing, or supported by two parties or factions, esp. two political parties.”

Sure, as the American Heritage Dictionary states, bipartisan means “supported by members of two parties,” but a true “bipartisan solution” requires actual support by both major parties, not overwhelming support by one, with a couple of the other party’s outliers somehow persuaded to go along.

Clearly, the Employee Free Choice Act is not bipartisan in any meaningful (honest) sense of the word. It is a creature of the Democratic Party, doing obeisance to Big Labor in an election season. Unless somehow persuaded that Strock’s analysis and my own are wrong, it is exactly the kind of wrong-headed issue that I would love to see Barack Obama oppose as a matter of principle — perhaps while supporting the bill’s other provisions. Of course, neither Carl nor I just dropped out of the clouds yesterday, so we’re not holding our breath. Nor, I bet, is George Orwell.

my chrysanthemum
faces the direction
she chooses

a hard choice–
round charcoal, nuggets
or white

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue




August 16, 2008

Browne v. McCain

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:41 am

Jackson Browne v. John McCain et al.

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe

Running on – running on empty
Running on – running blind
Running on – running into the sun
But I’m running behind

.. lyrics from “Running on Empty” (1977) by Jackson Browne

Whether you read the Main Stream Media, law blawgs, or celebrity rags, you surely know by this morning that liberal-activist singer-songwriter Jackson Browne — who wants a world with “More light, more love, more truth, more innovation” — is suing Republican presidential candidate John McCain for using Browne’s song “Running on Empty” without permission in an ad mocking Barack Obama for suggesting proper tire inflation could do more to solve our gasoline crisis than drilling offshore. According to the WSJ Law Blog and the L.A. Times Top of the Ticket blog:

  • On Thursday, Browne filed a copyright infringement suit against both McCain and the Republican National Committee in U.S. District Court in L.A. seeking a permanent injunction as well as damages. The suit claims that use of “Running on Empty” violates the Lanham Act by falsely implying that Browne is associated with or endorses the McCain candidacy. The suit also claims the commercial violates Browne’s right of publicity under California law.
  • Browne’s lawyer Lawrence Y. Iser says the McCain campaign has a track record of using music without permission.

“They used a John Mellencamp song until he made them stop and he used an ABBA song and a Frankie Valli song — it’s ridiculous and it’s setting a terrible example,” Iser said. “It’s shocking that they don’t even attempt to get permission. There’s no copyright difference between using a song to sell cars or by people running for president. The music industry continues to suffer due to lack of respect for intellectual property rights, and a candidate for president has a duty to lead by example and ensuring their campaign does as well. The copyright protections are derived from the Constitution itself.”

It’s a lovely summer Saturday, so there’s no chance of getting any legal insights out of Prof. Yabut or the rest of the f/k/a Gang about this lawsuit. And, all the media and web stories point out the obvious ironies. As we mentioned in a post on Valentine’s Day 2004,

Browne’s 1977 anthem Running on Empty, appeared during my first year practicing law, and captured the out-of-control fatigue of the anxious neophyte in a high-powered, government job.

One does have to wonder why a candidate fighting a too-old-guy image, and running against an inspiring young man giving us “a reason to believe,” would choose this particular song.

  By the way: As we noted in one of our posts on efficient driving, the Federal Trade Commission consumer alert “Saving Money at the Gas Pump: A Bumper-to-Bumper Guide” (2006) says: “When it comes to stretching your gas budget, how you drive can be almost as important as how far you drive.“ And: “Keeping your tires properly inflated and aligned can increase gas mileage up to three percent.”

Naturally, RonE also has a bit of resonance for an aging Baby Boomer (yes, that is redundant) who’s dealing daily with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. So, the story was a great excuse for finding a YouTube presentation of “Running on Empty” from a live concert in 1979, and listening to it this morning.

We hope fellow Obama supporter Jackson Browne won’t mind our including the YouTube clip here for your entertainment and education:

Having used up our alloted time for posting and finding content today, you’re stuck with a few more poems by dagosan from the brand new edition of Simply Haiku:

first warm day
i reach for her
gloveless hand

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

summer solstice:
no shade on either
side of the street

… by David Giacalone – Simply Haiku (vol. 6 no. 3, Fall 2008)

And, here’s a reduced version of a Giacalone photo-haiga that somehow seems to fit today:

naked scarecrow
birds of prey
circle above

– from Simply Haiku (vol. 6 no. 3, Fall 2008)

Photo: Arthur Giacalone
Poem: David Giacalone
Simply Haiku

By the way: Nice timing for this controversy and publicity: Next month, Jackson Browne will issue his first studio album in six years, titled Time the Conquerer.


p.s. Need more to chew over while hammock-swinging this weekend? Check out the Lawyer2Lawyer Interview of Gerry Spence, by J. Craig Williams and Bob Ambrogi (via LegalBlogWatch; and see our discussion of this lawyer legend and neophyte blawger) Even Prof. Yabut is going to listen to find out why Spence — like the f/k/a Gang — says “Lawyers disappoint me.” (Update/Disclaimer: See Scott Greenfield’s comment and my response below.)

August 15, 2008

one breath and one boomer at a time

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 2:54 pm

Here are some quickies in the continuing spirit of one-breath punditry. Although they all involve Baby Boomers, we refuse to wheeze to show our age.

my father’s grave,
on vacations
and holiday weekends

…. by John Stevenson – Simply Haiku (senryu page) Fall 2008; orig. pub. Upstate Dim Sum

it can’t be helped
my old man
is rotting away

… by Roberta Beary – Simply Haiku (senryu page) Fall 2008;

The new edition of Simply Haiku (vol. 6, no. 3, Fall 2008) went online this morning, and it may leave you breathless. As you probably already know, Simply Haiku is your online “Showcase for Japanese Short Form poetry” — haiku, senryu, tanka, haibun, linked forms, haiga, interviews, book reviews, and much more.

The two poems above appeared in the Senryu Section of SH for Fall 2008, which has some parody versions of well-know haiku, and others dealing with the Dark Side and Death. Senryu editor Al Pizzarelli also included among his selections the following poems by members of f/k/a‘s Honored Guest Poet family:

cedar shadows
her whisper guides me
to the squirrel

… by Laryalee Fraser – orig. pub. Simply Haiku – winter 2007

werewolf movie
at the commercial
letting the dog out

…. by w.f. owen – orig. pub. Frogpond

. . There’s much more below from the new Simply Haiku. . .

day of the obit
inside his wallet
me at eleven

…. by Roberta Beary – orig. pub. Moonset 4:1

funeral procession
the last car
picks up a hitchhiker

… by Ed Markowski – orig. pub. raw nervz X:3,

ExitSignArrow Bravo to Tom Armstrong: As you can read in the AP article “Crusading ex-Pa. lawmaker takes in sex offenders” (Associated Press, Aug. 14, 2008), Tom Armstrong has angered his neighbors in Marietta, PA, by choosing to follow his religious belief in forgiveness and opening his home to three sex offenders. The AP story begins:

“A former tough-on-crime Pennsylvania lawmaker has adopted a new and unpopular cause, taking into his home three sex offenders who couldn’t find a place to live — a stand that has angered neighbors, drawn pickets and touched off a zoning dispute.”

Last week, the town Zoning Board concluded that “Armstrong’s housing the men in his large Victorian home violated a borough ordinance prohibiting more than four unrelated people to live in a common residence in historic residential zones.” See “Marietta ousts sex offenders: Tom Armstrong loses appeal to house men” (Lancaster Online, Aug. 7, 2008). ABCNews interviewed Armstrong, and you can watch the video segment by clicking on that link.

WrongWayN More we shall not say, but links to our many posts on Sex Offender Residency Laws can be found at the foot of this prior posting about Schenectady’s ill-conceived SORR laws.

summer contrails —
the distance
to the rainbow

pressed violets
in grandma’s diary…
winter chill

… by Laryalee FraserSimply Haiku (vol. 6, no. 3, Fall 2008)

More Bad News for Motorcycle Riders: Last April, we mentioned seeing too many articles reporting that “older riders are adding to motorcycle fatalities” and “rusty baby boomers on bikes” are getting into a lot of accidents. Sadly, the trend continues, as is told today in “Motorcyclists Deaths Rise by More Than 6 Percent” (New York Times, Aug. 15, 2008). Indeed,

Although deaths by people in cars and trucks, on bicycles or on foot, declined last year, “death of motorcyclists surged 6.6 percent, to 5,5154,” with 2007 being the 10th straight year of increase for such deaths.

country road
the Nam vet
revs his Harley

…… by Tom Painting Acorn No. 20, Spring 2008

Among the points made in today’s NYT piece:

  • “And, safety officials say, many of the riders are middle-age or older men who rode when they were young, gave it up as they raised children and have recently gone back to the bike. ‘They think they still have the same reflexes,’ said James Port, the safety agency’s deputy administrator.”
    • Yet ridership has probably become more dangerous mile for mile. One reason is a decline in the number of states requiring the use of helmets.

    ” . . . . At the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which is financed by the manufacturers, Tim Buche, the president, said a person killed on a motorcycle was 2.5 times more likely to be under the influence of alcohol than a person killed in a car and three times more likely not to have a proper license.”

Prof. Yabut points out: If you’ve already produced offspring before engaging in foolishly reckless activities, you’re not technically culling the herd.

Simply Tanka: Two of our f/k/a poets who are much more likely to be found writing verse than doing wheelies are Tom Clausen and Michael Dylan Welch. Each of them has a page of tanka in the Fall 2008 edition of Simply Haiku. Here are two out of ten by Tom, and two more out of eight by Michael:

the house
according to her
has again become a mess,
why oh why can’t we
just accept it

scattering salt
on the icy steps
I step back
with a rare sense of doing
something useful

by Tom ClausenSimply Haiku – tanka (vol. 6. no. 3, Fall 2008)

wobbly bicycle tracks–
melted ice cream
wets the pavement
here and there
along the pier

my kids now inspire
many poems,
to the point of sentimentality–
I long for adult distractions,
for the point of a kiss

… by Michael Dylan WelchSimply Haiku – tanka (vol. 6. no. 3, Fall 2008)

Very, very good to me: Although they rejected my moody-artist mug shot, the folks at Simply Haiku were also very good to the Giacalone family in its new edition. Here are two of the five poems by f/k/a‘s proprietor in Simply Haiku (vol. 6 no. 3, Fall 2008):

windy day
more blossoms at the curb
than on the tree

harvest moon —
our windshield fogging
as we argue

.. by David Giacalone Simply Haiku (vol. 6 no. 3, Fall 2008)

If you like your haiku linked to photographs, head over to the Giacalone Brothers Modern Haiga collection in the Fall 2008 issue of Simply Haiku. Here’s a smaller version of one of the haiga:

the insomniac
waits for dawn

– Modern Haiga from Simply Haiku (Fall 2008)
photo: Arthur Giacalone
poem: David Giacalone

August 14, 2008

got ONEsies?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 2:31 pm

My alter egos all agree: We need to post more ONEsies [Odds-N-Ends] here at f/k/a — short, simple blurbs that succinctly point to, quote from, or opine upon stories or topics of interest. For one thing, they would cut a lot less into our (and your) nap time than the Editor’s customary prolix punditry. Denizens of this website know we’ve tried “one-breath punditry” before and (despite our poetic preference for tiny poems) have found it very difficult to be persistently pithy. Nonetheless, being curmudgeons, we’re all secret-optimists at heart, so here we go again — taking a deep breath and trying to keep it short, with a lotta help from Kobayashi Issa and his talented translator Professor David G. Lanoue.

the plowman
shows me a shortcut…

.. ..

Click to see a MySpace video of Caloon Saloon performing “Odds & Ends” by Bob Dylan with Antoine Gratton.

on my sleeve
catching his breath…
worn-out firefly

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

Speaking of Onesies: We’re still waiting for follow-up news on the Got Milk? vs Got Breastmilk? controversy that burst into the news a few weeks ago. See our “got jugs?” post from July 30th. So far, Paul Bratton, the Alaska Backwoods Lawyer who represents the artist who made the controversial Got Breastmilk? Onesies and t-shirts has not offered any updates. If you have information on the latest stage of this trademark battle, please let us know.

a baby boy
cries for milk…
glorious blossoms

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

.. Hillary Hijacking the Convention: Yes, we’ve pledged to avoid writing political commentary at this weblog and have tried hard to stifle the urge, but (thankfully) Maureen Dowd surely hasn’t. In yesterday’s NYT column, “Yes, She Can” (New York Times, Aug. 13, 2008), Dowd tells how “In just a couple of weeks, Bill and Hill were able to drag No Drama Obama into a swamp of Clinton drama,” making the up-coming Democratic Presidential Convention “all about them.” I was annoyed to see that:

“Obama also allowed Hillary supporters to insert an absurd statement into the platform suggesting that media sexism spurred her loss and that ‘demeaning portrayals of women … dampen the dreams of our daughters’.”

But, I’m pleased to quote Dowd’s response:

It would have been better to put this language in the platform: “A woman who wildly mismanages and bankrupts a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar campaign operation, and then blames sexism in society, will dampen the dreams of our daughters.”

his detested wife’s
all have bloomed

pretending not to see
his wife’s face…
defeated wrestler

… by Issa and Lanoue

.. Trolleys and Train Tunnels: On the same day that the New York Times has a big spread about the hopeful future of streetcars in our nation’s cities, the Schenectady Daily Gazette, its Upstate minor-league cousin, reports on the discovery — about a block from where I live — of what appears to be the first-ever railway tunnel in the nation.

  • In “Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future” (New York Times, Aug. 14, 2008) we learn that: “At least 40 cities are exploring streetcar plans to spur economic development, ease traffic congestion and draw young professionals and empty-nest baby boomers back from the suburbs, according to the Community Streetcar Coalition, which includes city officials, transit authorities and engineers who advocate streetcar construction.”

Your editor misses the streetcars that still ran in Georgetown, when he was a college kid in DC, and has fond memories of those that are still operating in the Boston area. If you’re interesting in trolleys and streetcars, go to the APTA (American Public Transportation Association) Streetcar and Heritage Trolley Site, where you’ll find an illustrated overview of urban heritage trolley or modern streetcar systems currently operating in the United States and Canada, with a background description, photos and maps of each system.

cold sky
a trolley headlight
cresting the hill

… by paul m. – The Heron’s Nest (2000)

  • Sorry, Cleveland: According to Schenectady City Historian Don Rittner, he uncovered yesterday “the country’s first rudimentary railroad tunnel, buried in the center of the historic Stockade district.” See “Find may be the first railway tunnel” (Daily Gazette, by Kathleen Moore, Aug. 14, 2008):

. . . . “The 15-foot-deep tunnel snakes its way across what are now a dozen or more private backyards. But in 1832, that land was a major thoroughfare — the foundation of the city’s prosperity and growth for the next century. . . . Hundreds of business owners and daring families rode through the tunnel on trains so experimental that they were considered too dangerous [due to speed and sparks] to be allowed on city streets.”

Cleveland already displays what it claims to be the first railroad tunnel. However, Rittner says Cleveland’s was built two years after Schenectady’s — whose entrance was also the first junction of two railroad companies, according to Rittner. He’s hoping to convince the McDonald family, which owns The Stockade Inn, to let him dig up a portion of the tunnel nearby and display it forever under a see-through cover.

a big snow–
the exit tunnel
is my lucky direction

.. by Issa and Lanoue

tunnel of love
she props the stuffed frog
between us

Ed Markowski

subway blues
strummin’ light
through the tunnel

.. by Pamela Miller Ness from pink light, sleeping
(Small Poetry Press, 1998)

Psst, Meester, Wanna Buy a Beeg Car?: If you’ve been shopping for a small, fuel-efficient car — whether new or used — you know they’ve spiked up in price over the past few months. The flip-side of that phenomenon, of course, is the rapid decrease in value of S.U.V.’s and pickup trucks. Yesterday’s New York Times describes “An S.U.V. traffic jam” (Aug. 13, 2008), saying “The market for sport utility vehicles is starting to look a lot like the housing market, spreading pain to consumers, automakers and dealers.” For many families, switching now from an SUV to a small car means “selling low and buying high,” but they are doing just that, even though crunching the numbers would suggest they hold onto that dinosaur a bit longer (and instead try to drive a lot less). The NYT article explores the logic, the psychological dissonance, and the stark reality for manufacturers, dealers and consumers, in response to high gas prices.

MeNeFrego Despite our long loathing of unnecessarily large vehicles, the f/k/a Gang is successfully avoiding the congenital urge to say “We told you so.” So far, EQ and empathy are winning over schadenfreude — but, we’re only human.

world of suffering–
when the gods travel, too
a storm

… by Issa and Lanoue

This time Scalia’s Right (about Legal Writing): We often disagree with the often-disagreeable Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (see our post “wordless Italian with Nino“). But, he made a couple of very good points last Saturday in a speech to “the Scribes” — the American Society of Legal Writers. See “Scalia: Legal Writing Doesn’t Exist” (ABAJournalNews, Aug. 9, 2008). In accepting a lifetime achievement award, the Crusty Justice to the Scribes “I do not believe that legal writing exists.” Scalia went on the explain:

“That is to say, I do not believe it exists as a separate genre of writing. Rather, I think legal writing belongs to that large, undifferentiated, unglamorous category of writing known as nonfiction prose. Someone who is a good legal writer would, but for the need to master a different substantive subject, be an equivalently good writer of history, economics or, indeed, theology.”

While teaching legal writing, a young Antonin Scalia correctly came to understand, “I as I think it must become to clear to anyone who is burdened with the job of teaching legal writing, that what these students lacked was not the skill of legal writing, but the skill of writing at all. To tell the truth, at as late a stage as law school, I doubt this skill can be taught.” The only hope to remedy that problem, according to Scalia, is the realization of two prerequisites for self-improvement in writing:

  1. “the realization—and it occurred to my students as an astounding revelation – that there is an immense difference between writing and good writing.” And
  2. “that it takes time and sweat to convert the former into the later.”

helping the child’s hand
write it…
the “Star Poem

walking on alone
I write on a wall…
autumn dusk

.. by Issa and Lanoue

computer weary Naturally, you knew . . .: Our perceptive readers surely figured it out long before the f/k/a Gang did: Writing a whole bunch of ONEsies, with poetry and images, saved us absolutely no time. We’ve frittered away almost an entire afternoon, on a rather balmy summer day. No nap or hammock time achieved yet today. None on the horizon. It’s back to the drawing board for a new strategy or Mission Statement for f/k/a.

weary cormorant–
no festival holiday
for you

so weary–
cool tree shade makes me
double back

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

August 13, 2008

13th of August again

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 5:31 pm

napperPark On a slow summer afternoon, the f/k/a Gang is often in a “year ago today” kind of mood — having learned long agao that rummaging in our archives can be a cheap, easy way to fill up a weblog posting. It’s been extra-sleepy around here all day, and with the evening approaching and nothing prepared to post, we’ve quickly checked out what was happening at f/k/a on the 13th of August in other years. We hope you’ll enjoy our reminiscence.

In 2008, as in 2007, August 12th and 13th bring the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Click here for some great photos from 2007. And check your skies tonight for a heavenly show.

long after
the fireworks
a shooting star

…. by George Swede from Almost Unseen

trail dust settles—
a shooting star bobs
over a spider’s turret

… by Michael Dylan Welch – from Thornewood Poems

August 13, 2007 — Was a Monday, and we were praising “inspired solo” Sheryl Sisk Shelin for presenting Blawg Review #121 without the artifice of an awkward theme. See our post “having no inspiration can be inspiring.”

On a substantive note, we wrote about Our Uninspired Health Care System:, with a discussion of a New York Times editorial “World’s Best Medical Care?” (Aug. 12, 2007). We opined that it was easy to agree with NYT that:

With health care emerging as a major issue in the presidential campaign and in Congress, it will be important to get beyond empty boasts that this country has “the best health care system in the world” and turn instead to fixing its very real defects. The main goal should be to reduce the huge number of uninsured, who are a major reason for our poor standing globally. . . . The world’s most powerful economy should be able to provide a health care system that really is the best.

The New York Times has coincidentally published another eye-opening piece about the American health care system today. In “Health Benefits Inspire Rush to Marry, or Divorce” (Aug. 13, 2008, by Kevin Sack), we learn that “it is not uncommon for couples to marry, or even to divorce, at least partly so one spouse can obtain or maintain health coverage.” For example:

“In a poll conducted this spring by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research group, 7 percent of adults said someone in their household had married in the past year to gain access to insurance. The foundation cautions that the number should not be taken literally, but rather as an intriguing indicator that some Americans ‘are making major life decisions on the basis of health care concerns’.”

I’ve got to say it again: I’m ashamed to live in such a such a wealthy nation, which constantly lectures other peoples about “human rights,” but whose people are apparently too greedy and selfish — or its leaders too much in the sway of powerful lobbies and bogus ideologies — to grant every American the basic right to universal health care. The number of lives that have been lost, families that have been bankrupted, and decisions (from careers to marriages) that have been skewed, because we lack universal health care coverage is shameful. [For more on how our (non-)system of medical care compares to those in other industrialized democracies, see our prior post “please watch and discuss ‘Sick Around the World’” (April 16, 2008).]

yinyang For haiku inspiration, a year ago today, we posted the following poems that were selected for the Shiki Haikusphere 10th Anniversary Anthology (2007) (full cover image)

Valentine’s Day –
pulling a thorn
from my palm

blue heron
all paddles
at rest

melting snow
headlines of war
fall apart

…………….. by Yu Chang

he’s gone
and gone too
the hydrangea

early spring walk
the roughness of the scarf
that was mother’s

first cold night
my fingers snug
in mother’s old gloves

…………… by Roberta Beary

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

clouding sky
my finger
on the bear track

broken tennis racket –
my aging father says
he won’t replace it

………………………… by Michael Dylan Welch

Two more from Yu Chang from Upstate Dim Sum 2007/I

just in time
to pick blueberries
August evening

lingering heat
the pale color
of green beans

August 13, 2005 — We posted “first kisses and brain freezes“, which was a quickie, featuring the following haiku and senryu:

first kiss
deep in the woods
sunbeams filter down

… by Randy Brooks from School’s Out (Press Here, 1999)

lemon-ice stand –
the lawyer-dad looks for
a Brain Freeze Warning

… by dagosan

napHammock August 13, 2004 – Was a “rainy Friday the 13th” and found the f/k/a Gang with eyes closed, in a virtual hammock, listening to the delightful Rumpole Rests His Case (2002), narrated by Tony Britton. We opened our collective eyes long enough to share a handful of one-breath poems:

rain stopped
her silk blouse
on the chair

.. by paul m., from A New Resonance 2: Emerging Voices (Jim Kacian, Dee Evetts, eds., Red Moon Press, 2001); orig. pub.: Modern Haiku XXIV:2

the far edge
of the sea is lost
misty rain

…. by jim kacian, from Chincoteagu (Red Moon Press, 2000) taxi small

sudden lightning–
the street mime

… by michael dylan welch, from snow on the water: The Red Moon Anthology 1998 (Jim Kacian, et al, Eds.).

baker’s dozen of
bagels — we eschew

the garbage bag lands –
squirrel and I
startle eachother

… by dagosan

August 13, 2006 — We were in the midst of a posting hiatus — and probably spent the day on a comfy futon, parked in front of a fan or two. Hmmm. Sounds like a great idea. See you in our dreams.

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