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

October 16, 2008

Beary wins the Basho Haiku Challenge, challenges some haijin flaws

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 1:49 pm

Don Wentworth of the Lilliput Review and the weblog Issa’s Untidy Hut, has announced today (October 16, 2008) that our lawyer-poet friend Roberta Beary is the winner of the 1st Annual Basho Haiku Challenge, with this poem:

on the church steps
a mourning dove
with mother’s eyes

….. by Roberta Beary (1st Place, Basho Haiku Challenge 2008)

Don was so impressed with the quality of poems submitted for the contest that he has decided to make it an annual event, and will be “publishing a chapbook of the best 24 poems received sometime after the 1st of the year.  19 poets will be featured.”  Congratulations to our much-honored friend and Honored Guest Roberta Beary, and to Don, who honors f/k/a with his frequent visits and friendly comments.

Roberta has often touched us with poems involving “mother.”  For example:

mother’s day
a nurse unties
the restraints

mother’s visit
side by side we outline
our lips

from here
to there
mother’s silence

………………… by Roberta Beary
“mother’s day” – The Heron’s Nest VII:2; Big Sky: RMA 2006The Unworn Necklace (2007)
“mother’s visit” –  from an untitled haibun, Modern Haiku Vol. 37:1 (Spring 2006); “from here” –  The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 2007)

.. Ms. Beary is also on the minds of many of us in the haijin community this week, because the Revelations: Unedited section of the latest issue of Frogpond (Vol. 31: 3, Fall 2008; see our prior post) has her four-page op/ed piece “Five Musings on Matters Haiku.”  We can’t type up the entire Revelation for you, but will briefly touch upon each musing:

  • The Usual Suspects: Roberta notes “Of all the haiku conferences and meetings I’ve attended, I can’t think of one where he keynoe speaker was a woman,” and offers conference organizers a “gentle push” to invite haiku poets such as Penny Harter, Anita Virgil, Alexis Rotella, Marlene Mountain, and Alexis Rotella to give a keynote address at a major conference.
  • FOP Book Reviews: Roberta takes on rave book reviews written by Friends of the Poet.  She suggests editors should choose reviewers who are not haiku poets (and refuse to accept unsolicited reviews).  She also mentions similar sentiments voiced as a “sand flea” by George Swede in his Tracks in the Sand column for Simply Haiku journal, Spring 2007.

We checked out that column and found George bemoaning, “A long laudatory review that includes not even minor quibbles.” George suggests: “To foster more balanced, objective appraisals, we need critics who are devoted first to high standards of criticism and scholarship and only second, if at all, to careers as poets.”

  • Civility in Haiku USA:  Roberta notes that constructive criticism was enouraged among haijin in America in the 1990’s.  She believes “things have gotten much less civil lately,” with her email box “full of complaints about the mediocrity of haiku published in today’s journal.”  Roberta recommends, instead, the more “thoughtful approach” of using “a closely reasoned critique in a letter to the editor for publication.”  She also reminds editors that “each haiku submitted to editors should stand on its own, regardless of the name that appears below.”

Editor’s Note: The f/k/a Gang agrees with Roberta Beary that we need to think of constructive criticism as an important and encouraged part of our haiku community’s life and spirit.  It’s possible that Haiku Wars over definitional issues got so ugly in the 1990’s that haijin have sworn off confrontation and criticism.  But the result is whiny private email to our friends instead of public “criticism” in the sense of evaluation and analysis of a work of literature.  When someone [e.g., me] does go public with a serious critique, he or she can feel very lonely and out on a limb, with any support coming only in private messages and not in a public comment.

The self-censorship is such that even the courageous Ms. Beary has not named names.  Thus, in pieces here at f/k/a, yours truly has so far not talked about individual poems, poets or editors in my extensive criticism of the spread of “pysku.”  Once, when I publicly criticized an editor here at f/k/a for not living up to a journal’s published standards, I lost a friend.   On another occasion, at a group website, when I gingerly questioned whether a particular poem constituted either haiku or senryu, I was immediately told to lighten up.

If we are adults and consider haiku to be a “real” literary genre, we must accept, honor, encourage criticism.  Because print publications come out infrequently and have such limited space for criticism, I want to recommend that every publication have a website section — or a weblog (they’re free and easy to use) — with a Critics Corner that is moderated only to assure civility.

  • Serial Presenters: Roberta muses over the soporific benefits of having the same people give virtually the same presentation at more than one conference.
  • Book Blurbs by Dr. Who: Finally, Ms. B. chides folk who use the title “Dr.” to add weight to comment used in publicity blurbs for books.  She also notes that far too many books have only blurbs penned by males, even though “women make up a substantial part” of the book-buying public [not to mention, your editor notes, a substantial part of the most-respected and well-known haiku poets].

Please feel free to respond here to any of the points made by Roberta or myself.  For now, I’ll leave on a lighter Beary note:

first date —
the little pile
of anchovies

family picnic
the new wife’s rump
bigger than mine

ceremony over
the bride unveils
her tattoo

……………… by Roberta Beary
“first date” – 1st Place, HSA Gerald Brady Senryu Award 2006; The Unworn Necklace
“family picnic” – Modern Haiku (favorite senryu award, 2003) The Unworn Necklace
“ceremony over” – Simply Haiku (senryu, Winter 2005)

October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: today the focus is Poverty

Filed under: q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 8:27 am

Yesterday, we posted a day early for Blog Action Day 2008, asking Barack Obama to talk about the poor and poverty in America at the last Presidential Debate.  We’ll find out tonight whether either candidate or the moderator thinks poverty is important enough to be a debate issue.

By the way, if you’re in Chicago, you can join Obama supporters who are holding a “Blog Action Day & Debate Watch Party” this evening.

update (October 15, 2008; 11:30 PM):  Sigh. Not one word on the poor or poverty from Barack Obama in tonight’s debate — even when talking about the inadequacies of our education system.

Over ten thousand weblogs have pledged to participate today, focusing on Poverty.  For example:

For more weblogs participating in Blog Action Day 2008, go to:

afterwords: (October 16, 2008): One of our favorite blawgers, Anne Skove of court-o-rama, posted an insightful piece yesterday on Poverty and Addiction —
“Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty or How Low Can You Go?“.  It features excerpts from an article in the Cincinnati alternative newspaper Street Vibes by poet-storyteller Michael Henson.

Speaking of reprises, check out our story about the death of “Frenchie” Hamilton, and the rising tide of attacks on the homeless (September 8, 2008) by juveniles in the USA.


bus station hobo—
four plastic seats
and a tabloid pillow

on each dawn-frosted bench—
a full sleeping bag

a young cop rousts
the trestle couple—
cooing pigeons

in my pupils—
the mattress
in the storefront window

snores from the dumpster
at Executive Suites

dreaming of Dickens
on an empty belly—
one more vagabond

– “The Unmade Bed,” a rengay by David Giacalone (#1) & CarrieAnn Thunell (#2), in Lynx XXII:3 (October 2007)

Finally, Issa knew that the poor are often the richest in spirit:

at his house
though he’s dirt-poor…
plum blossoms

the world today!
umbrella-hatted princes and paupers
blossom viewing

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

October 14, 2008

Frogpond arrives for Fall 2008

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 7:58 pm

The latest issue of Frogpond, the thrice-yearly, hard-copy Journal of the Haiku Society of America, arrived today.  Naturally, the f/k/a Gang is hopping for joy — even Prof. Yabut, who enjoys both cooing and kvetsching.   As expected, Frogpond 31:3 (Fall 2008) has haiku and senryu, renku, rengay, tan renga and verse sequences, plus reviews, essays, Musings to the Editor (this time from haijin diva Roberta Beary), and more.

update (October 16, 2008):The new Frogpond Web Sampler, compiled by HSA webmaster Randy Brooks, is now available at the HSA website. The “online splashes” Sampler for Vol. 31:3 has a half dozen haiku and senryu you won’t find here at f/k/a. It also has:

  • an essay on  zen in haiku by Walter E. Harris III;
  • the haibun “Ghostly figures” by Ron Moss
  • the rengay “Bones of our Ancestors” by Carolyn Hall and Ebba Story
  • Michael Dylan Welch’s book review of “Wall Street Park: A Concrete Renku,” by Raffael de Gruttola & Carlos Colόn; and
  • a message from the editors, George Swede and Anita Krumins

.. Frogpond 31:3 (Fall 2008) has a new Cover Page Logo in color 

Since the Gang likes the tiny poems best, we’ve only concentrated so far on the haiku and senryu.  Twenty of the 130 poems in that section were written by f/k/a Honored Guest Poets. We’ll soon share selections with you from the other genre, but for now we’re proudly presenting — without commentary — the haiku and senryu penned by f/k/a‘s poet family from Frogpond 31:3 (Fall 2008).


moonbright night
the sundial reads
half-past my bedtime

crunch of frost
a flurry of chickadees
swings the feeder

….. by Carolyn Hall

scenic stop —
the shadows only a shadow
can touch

… by Gary Hotham

Intermittent birdsong
as maples scintillate —
the work shift changing

As geese arc, the fog
closing behind them . .
the poem’s false start

……. by Rebecca Lilly

pussy willows in a vase
my grandfather’s post-stroke

… by Andrew Riutta

..  ..

stop sign —
one last look
at my father’s house

Memorial Day
washing dead cells
off my body

… by Yu Chang, New York

Memorial Day
a man from Japan
steals second base

…. by David Giacalone

homesick tracing the stream to its source

distant thunder a crab hangs from the chicken neck

…. by w.f. owen

rambling phonecall
i count the drinks
in her voice


….. by Roberta Beary

Plaza de Tirso de Molina

the hiss of water
going nowhere
stone poet

… by David G. Lanoue

a few bees
left in the clover

….. by Peggy Willis Lyles

lunch hour
the wrecking ball

…… by Barry George

fortieth birthday
I used to think nothing
of taking off my socks

…… by Michael Dylan Welch

rolling thunder
the tension of chain
against sprocket

………… by Tom Painting

I tighten the belt
in my son’s car
Father’s Day

…. by John Stevenson

heat wave —
I catch my sleeve on the nail
where his picture hung

… by Alice Frampton

Did we say without editorial comment?  Well, cranky Prof. Yabut has an opinion on putting both haiku and senryu in the same section in Vol. 31:3, rather than separating the two genre, as has been the Frogpond custom since 1990.  While haiku relate nature to human nature, senryu is similar in structure to haiku, but focus directly on human nature.  Naturally, the two poetic forms can overlap. (go here for more on senryu)

The Frogpond editors (George Swede and Anita Krumins) say the new format allows “readers to decide for themselves which form is which.”  It must be the lawyer in him, but Yabut enjoys the ambiguities in the genre and the analysis and second-guessing that take place when deciding whether a poem fits in one category or the other, and imagining what might have brought the editors to place a particular poem in a particular category.  That is not going to happen very much, if at all, with the two genre lumped together.   Frankly, it seems like a cop out — perhaps a balm for those who are somehow insulted when a poem is called senryu rather than haiku — that blurs the forms and helps to water down the haiku concept. More and more opinion and intellectualizing about human nature will be called haiku (and considered worthy of selection for high-quality journals like Frogpond).  It’s a trend the f/k/a Gang deplores and will surely write about in more detail again soon — taking up Roberta Beary’s advice in her Musing on Civility in Haiku USA that we do more “closely reasoned critique” in the haijin community.

dear Barack: please talk about the poor on Blog Action Day

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — Tags: , , — David Giacalone @ 10:26 am

. . Oct. 15, 2008 . .

my hut–
the poverty-hiding snow
melts away

in a remote village
they’re used to poverty…
evening cool

… by Kobayashi Issa (circa 1815), translated by David G. Lanoue

update (October 15, 2008; 11:30 PM):  Sigh. Not one word on the poor or poverty from Barack Obama in tonight’s debate — even when talking about the inadequacies of our education system.

follow-up (Jan. 29, 2011):  In his New York Times column today, Charles M. Blow regrets that President Obama “did not include a single mention of poverty or the plight of the poor” in his State of the Union Speech this week. See “Hard-knock (hardly acknowledged) Life” (online Jan. 28, 2011).  A disappointing habit, Mr. President.

Dear Barack Obama:

I‘m writing my Blog Action Day 2008 posting a day early to give you a little time to work Poverty and The Poor into your answers at the Presidential Debate tomorrow.  The last debate focuses on domestic policy and coincidentally takes place on October 15, 2008, the day that 9 thousand weblogs have pledged to discuss poverty.  Because I’m an Obama supporter, I’ve heard from you and your campaign staff a couple times a day over the last few months, so I hope you won’t mind a little frank talk back at you.  To be honest, I’ve been disappointed that:

  • none of your email Campaign missives has mentioned your Poverty Plan or your continued commitment to fight poverty
  • even worse, you have not mentioned the poor or poverty in either of the first two Presidential Debates, instead repeating over and over a middle class mantra; and
  • unfortunately, the four-part economic rescue plan you unveiled Monday deals only with the Middle Class [see the New York Times article (Oct. 14, 2008); and the PBS ReportersBlog, Oct. 13, 2008]

Of course, I am well aware of your need to pamper, flatter and woo the Middle Class to win this election.  And, I know that the poorest Americans are not likely to vote for John McCain, and probably had no savings or stocks at risk in the current big fiscal crisis.  Nonetheless, the rapid rise of the price for food, gasoline and other necessities has made the constant crisis of poverty more intense than ever for America’s poor and near-poor, and they have no assets to dig into and no ability to obtain credit to tide them over.

At your website, you have an inspiring and practical Plan to Fight Poverty and Create a Bridge to the Middle Class — but it has been 14 months since your Speech on Urban Poverty, when you spoke about Bobby Kennedy, and 15 months since you uttered these words in Spartanburg, South Carolina (06/15/07):

”At the dawn of the 21st century we also have a collective responsibility to recommit ourselves to the dream; to strengthen that safety net, put the rungs back on that ladder to the middle-class, and give every family the chance that so many of our parents and grandparents had.  This responsibility is one that’s been missing from Washington for far too long – a responsibility I intend to take very seriously as president.”

Since the general election campaign started, that “bridge to the Middle Class” seems like another bridge to nowhere for the poor.  Therefore, besides talking again about our national responsibility to fight poverty, I urge you to have the courage to make the at least these two points taken from your Poverty Plan at the Debate tomorrow night:

Poverty Rising: There are over 37 million poor Americans [I bet there are even more today]. Most Americans living in poverty work, but still cannot afford to make ends meet.

Minimum Wage is Not Enough: Even when a parent works full-time earning minimum wage and EITC and food stamps are factored into their income, families are still $1,550 below the federal poverty line because of the flat-lined minimum wage.

It would also be nice to hear some specifics about raising the minimum wage and helping the working poor — perhaps a bit about Transitional Jobs, Career Pathways, Digital Inclusion, Transportation Access, and Connecting Youths to Growing Sectors.  Of course, I understand how little can be squeezed into 90 minutes, but I’ll be expecting to hear a pledge to talk more about poverty in America over the few days remaining in your campaign.  I know you can find the rhetoric to tie the fate of the poor to that of the middle class and the rejuvenation of our nation.

A Very Personal Note: Please, Barak, don’t think of me as merely another affluent Harvard Law liberal with a guilty conscience over the plight of America’s poor.  During the two decades that I practiced law (working primarily for consumers and children), I was comfortably middle class and happy to pay taxes to improve the prospects of the poor in America.

Due to a chronic health problem, however, I have been “prematurely retired” from my law and mediation practice for almost a dozen years — and have lived at the poverty level (income and assets) the entire time.  So, I know how hard it is to fill a tank or a cupboard these days, and how poverty limits options and can crush spirits.  I also know how difficult it seems to be for my middle class friends to relate to the daily travails and limited horizons of the poor.  We need a President — and a presidential candidate — who understands the predicament of the poor and includes them as full members of the American family.

So, Barack, I hope my Obama Finger Puppet isn’t the only Obama talking about poverty and the poor during the Presidential Debate on October 15.  I wish you courage and good luck as the election campaign comes to a close.

s/ David Giacalone at f/k/a

update (October 15, 2008): More Blog Action Day coverage by us, here.

There was no internet when Master Issa walked the roads of 19th Century Japan as an impoverished haiku poet.  If Issa had known about Blog Action Day 2008, and had a weblog, I bet he would have posted some of these poems, which have been translated by our Honored Guest Poet Prof. David Lanoue:

my poor dinner
in the palm of my hand…
falling sleet

for the poor
there’s not a spring
without blossoms!

autumn’s first geese
come first
to the poor town

this poor-soiled province
ain’t so bad…

all according to plan, yet
I’m cold!

my poor dinner
puffing steam…
first winter rain

oh great peony
don’t disdain
this poor neighborhood!

even the poor
workhorses of Edo sleep…
in mosquito nets!

back alley–
a poor sake bottle
for the God of Wealth

frosty night–
seven poor men
in a huddle

just for fun
chanting “Alms for the poor!”
clear fall weather

… by Kobayashi Issa (1763 – 1827), translated by David G. Lanoue

October 13, 2008

a melancholy spoof of Frank Duci’s will

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 3:03 pm

(source: Schenectady Gazette)

Frank Duci was the Republican mayor of Schenectady when I moved here 20 years ago and for 16 of the two dozen years spanning 1972 through 1996.  Often contentious and controversial, Duci was exactly the kind of politician that a plucky columnist like the Gazette‘s Carl Strock loves to cover.  When Strock heard that the 87-year-old Duci has lung cancer, he visited his old professional antagonist this week, and they were both at their mischievous best.

You see, Strock brought with him the above Last Will of Frank J. Duci, written on a Shopping List notepad, with “Carl Strock” as the sole beneficiary and sole witness.  And, Duci duly put his shaky “X” on the proffered will.  Carl (who often gets in trouble for his comments about religion, see e.g. here) left shortly after getting the “Will” signed, saying:

“Good Lord (if any), please let me keep my faculties as long as Your servant Frank has kept his.  I ask nothing more — except that the last will and testament I have in my pocket hold up in court.”

As Carl explained yesterday at his Strock Freestyle weblog in “Duci’s will,” and in the offline Sunday column “Frank Duci still fighting for ‘the people'” (Sunday Gazette, October. 12, 2008), the Will was “closely patterned after a will that [Duci] himself wrote for a friend a few years ago when that friend was just hours away from death.”

“[W]hen I learned about the lung cancer I figured I should waste no time, so I took it with me and asked him to put his X on it, just as he had gotten his friend to do (and let me say as a tribute to him that he was a perfectly good sport about it and made a shaky X, even though he well understood he was being lampooned).

. . . “I have tried over the years to dislike Frank Duci, but I have never succeeded, and this is a good example of the kind of hurdles I have faced.”

When the story of the original Deathbed Shopping List Will was reported a few years ago, I just shook my head, thinking “there Duci goes again.”  Until Carl Strock reminded me of it this weekend, I had not realized that Frank Duci had indeed inherited $450,000 on the basis of the will.  Here’s how Genealogue.com covered the story in 2006:

Saturday, April 29, 2006
Will a Shopping List Do?

A former mayor of Schenectady, New York, is embroiled in a legal dispute with an 86-year-old woman over the $680,970 estate of the woman’s late uncle.

Frank Duci says a will was dictated to him by Walter Sengenberger shortly before his death in 2003. It’s hard to understand why the authenticity of the document was ever doubted.

The attorney general’s office has raised questions about the validity of the will, which Duci wrote on a blank shopping list taken from his wife’s purse and then had Sengenberger sign with an “X” because the 84-year-old General Electric retiree was too weak to write his own name. [broken link to the Albany Times Union]

On August 9, 2006, based on a story from the Albany Times Union, Lawyers and Settlements.com reported that Katherine Louise Schoeffler Hansen and Frank Duci had reached a court settlement that “awarded Duci $450,000 and gave Hansen $200,000 of her uncle’s fortune.”  I’m somewhat relieved that the disposition is based on a settlement between the parties, and that no court found the Shopping List Will, witnessed only by the sole beneficiary and signed with an X, to be valid.  But, I’m also pleased that this tale has resurfaced in such a lighthearted manner.

estate auction–
can’t get my hand back out
of the cookie jar

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

Of course, the context of Frank Duci’s illness puts a large touch of melancholy on the story.  Carl notes that Frank attributes the lung cancer to “secondhand smoke” (from his first and second wives) and exposure to asbestos at the GE plant where he worked for many years as a metallurgical technician.  Duci’s doctors have suspended radiation and chemotherapy for the inoperable cancer, which as Strock notes:

“indicates to me the imminence of the unmentionable, but if that bothers him, he doesn’t shout it.  He is far more concerned about houses in Schenectady being taxed for new siding than he is aabout his own mortality.”

Our hat goes off to the feisty old pol from Schenectady.  Like Carl, we “admire him for his energy and for his lack of self-pity.”  And, we can all only hope to “keep our faculties” and our zest for the political fight as long as Frank Duci has.

afterwords (October 16, 2008): Thanks to Overlawyered.com‘s Walter Olson for linking to this post from his Twitter page; (a first for f/k/a and my own first visit to Twitter); and to wills and estate lawyer Patti Spencer, for pointing to us from her Pennsylvania Fiduciary Litigation weblog.

update (Nov. 23, 2008): For more on Frank Duci, scroll to the second story in this post, which discusses the TU article “An Electric City original still burns brightly: Frank J. Duci may lack official standing, but he’ll always be a mayor” (Albany Times Union, Nov. 20, 2008) and more.

update (October 17, 2009): Yesterday was declared Frank Duci Day in Schenectady, and Frank Duci Plaza was dedicated around the Avenue A home of the now 88-year-old former mayor.  See “After a long road, ex-mayor gets a street” (Albany Times Union, October 16, 2009).

his quiet funeral—
a man who did
most of the talking

……….. by barry george – frogpond XXVIII: 1

her estate
the children

…. by W.F. Owen – The Loose Thread; Modern Haiku XXXII:1

p.s.  My Favorite Frank Duci Story: Shortly after I moved here, then-Mayor Duci appointed his stepson to run the Schenectady Municipal Parking Authority.  As the guy was an unemployed apprentice tile-layer, folks asked why he was qualified for the position.  Duci responded something like “He likes people, and he has a 200 bowling average.  You can’t bowl that well without having good concentration.”  From then on, I confessed to whoever would listen that “I’ll never be able to get a job working for the City of Schenectady.  My IQ is too high and my bowling average too low.”  I sure wish I had a weblog back then (circa 1989), ’cause it would have been fun writing about our Il Duce.

a lovely day whatever it’s called: an Indian Summer haiku collection

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 10:31 am

Indian summer 
his name comes to me
then is gone again

… by w. f. owenflower of another country (HSA Anthology 2007)

  • No matter if this spate of sunny, dry, moderate weather is really Indian Summer

the f/k/a Gang hopes you have as lovely an October 13th as we’re having here in Schenectady (where we are at the peak of Leaf Peeper Season).

Columbus Day drive
red and yellow crayons
turn into stubs

………… by dagosan

If it’s a holiday for you, and you have some spare time, we suggest you read about the meaning and possible sources of the term Indian Summer.  “JUST WHAT IS INDIAN SUMMER AND DID INDIANS REALLY HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT?” (National Weather Service, by William R. Deedler, Fall, 1996)

Or, peruse one or more our earlier posts discussing the mysteries and controversies surrounding the man erroneously called Christopher Columbus. “who do you want Columbus to be?” (Oct. 12, 2004 ); “Columbus, Colombo, Colón: what’s in a name? (Octo. 6, 2007); “it’s hard to discover Columbus” (Oct. 10, 2005)

Columbus Day rain –
first cozy evening
since Spring

………… by dagosan

Before you do, why not bask in our collection of tributes to Indian Summer by f/k/a‘s Honored Guest Poets, led by Dr. Bill Owen, who is clearly becoming the haijin dean of Indian Summer.

Indian summer
a spent salmon
washes ashore

Indian summer
a fish slips through
the gill net

Indian summer
honey flows
into the tea

Indian summer
the cat
pregnant again

w. f. owen – from echoes 1 (Red Moon Press, 2007)
“Indian summer/salmon” – HSA Henderson Haiku Contest 2004, 1st Place
“Indian summer/gill” & “pregnat cat” – haiku notebook  Lulu.com, 2007)
“Indian summer/honey” – from frogpond XXVII: 1

Indian summer
chocolate kisses
on my cheek

………. by Yu Chang – from Upstate Dim Sum (Vol. 2008/1)

white jerseys
spread across the hockey field
Indian summer

… by Barry George – The Heron’s Nest (Winter 2005)

Indian summer   
algae floats

… Hilary Tann – Upstate Dim Sum 2007/II

she leaves
the gate open
Indian Summer

… by Alice Frampton – The Heron’s Nest (December 2007)

her kiss
on the cool side of tepid …
indian summer

… by ed markowski from Haiku Harvest (Fall/Winter 2005)

See a new spread on Ed at Norb Blei’s Poetry Dispatch, “Ed Markowski: a poem and a note (Dispatch 255, October 11, 2008)

Indian summer
the watercolorist paints
a leaf on the lake

… by Tom Painting from his chapbook “piano practice

Indian summer
fire ants swarming
over a rotted squash

… by Rebecca Lilly –  A New Resonance 2; Modern Haiku XXXI:1

Indian summer~
two tortoises stretch
toward shore

. . . by Pamela Miller Ness – Nisqually Delta Review (editor’s choice, winter/spring 2006)

indian summer
the sound of conker
on conker

indian summer
a dance class practice to
“I want to break free”

.. by Matt Morden
“indian summer/conker” – Morden Haiku (October 14, 2006)
“indian summer/dance” – Morden Haiku (October 6, 2007)

Indian summer
rust on our hands
from the swing

… by w.f. owen – from haiku notebook (2007)

Indian Summer –
a squirrel tips over
the bag of rock salt

… by David Giacalone – The Heron’s Nest VIII:I, March 2006

We all wish you several Indian Summers this Autumn of 2008. If your weather is not picture perfect for Columbus Day, we hope it isn’t at all like this October scene from a couple years ago near Buffalo, NY, which inspired a poem and a haiga:

a foot of snow
a month too soon
candles for nightlights

. . . photo haiga by Arthur Giacalone (photo) & David Giacalone (poem);
Simply Haiku Journal, Vol. 5 no. 1 (Spring 2007)

p.s. If you’re in search of some fine recent commentary from law-related weblogs, or you want to learn more about Conflict Resolution Day (the 3d Thursday of October), see Diane Levin’s presentation of Blawg Review #181, at her Mediation Channel weblog.

October 11, 2008

a haiku giant dies: William J. “Bill” Higginson

Filed under: haijin-haikai news — David Giacalone @ 10:00 pm

William J. “Bill” Higginson (1938 – 2008)

Bill Higginson, a man who helped bring haiku and linked-form Japanese poetry to the English-language world, and who was an admired friend and mentor to scores of “haijin”, died today. Bill was a Poet, Translator, Author, Workshop Leader, Editor, and Teacher, and a charter member and past president of the Haiku Society of America, but the sum of the person and his work was much more than the parts.  I was not fortunate enough to know Bill personally, but the affection and respect with which he is held by many of my haiku friends tells me how deeply he will be missed.

Holding the water,
held by it __
the dark mud

writing again
the tea water
boiled dry

from the sandy beach
I stumble into
path firefly

… by William J. Higginson
“Holding the water” — Haiku West 3/2; The Haiku Anthology (3rd Ed)
“writing again” – The Haiku Anthology (2nd, 3rd Eds.)
“from the sandy beach” – HIA

As Curtis Dunlap noted at his Tobacco Road weblog this evening, just about every serious haiku poet has a copy of The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (1985), which Bill wrote with his wife and collaborator, Penny Harter. It was my first introduction to the history and aesthetics of haiku.  Bill’s love of renku and his many contributions to the genre can be seen at his Renku Home website. You will find a brief literary and academic bio, here, and much more at Bill’s 2HWeb “gateway” site.

Those who know Bill well will surely have much more to say about the haiku legend, the friend and teacher.  His loving wife Penny sent a message to Curtis Dunlap today about Bill’s last day and plans for memorial services, which you can find at Tobacco Road.

Any of Bill’s friends, students, or admirers who would like to leave a message or a poem celebrating his life or mourning his death, is welcome to do so in our Comment section. [Because Comments are moderated, there may be a delay before yours is posted.] My most sincere condolences go out to Penny and the rest of Bill’s family, and to all of his friends.

— You can share this post with this Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/fkaBillHigginson

clouds encircle
an almost-full moon —
we follow his footsteps

…. by dagosan (in mem., Bill Higginson, October 11, 2008)

. . . . . . .

— sunset over the Mohawk River, Schenectady, NY, October 11, 2008; by dag —

afterwords: See Don Wentworth’s and Greg Schwartz’s tributes to Bill Higginson (Oct. 12, 2008); and tribute poems for Bill H. at The Australian Haiku Society (via Curtis);

big hint: words to use besides “battleground”

Filed under: q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:08 am

Dear Publisher, Pundit, Pub Patron & Political Junkie:

Trust us, the term “battleground state” can’t be found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.  But, you keep using it every chance you get (e.g., here, here and even there), to the exclusion of some very fine — and often more precise and interesting — words.

You’re probably way too busy to pick up a thesaurus during this last month before the election.  So, the f/k/a Gang has compiled for you a full buffet of words and phrases that might be substituted for the annoyingly ubiquitous presidential campaign b-word, in the various situations where neither of the major party candidates yet has an insurmountable lead in a particular state and they’re both fighting to win its electoral votes.

The words are presented in no particular order, to preserve and provoke your creative freedom (and save us the bother of categorization).  Please don’t thank us for the list; we thank you in advance for using it. Of course, we’d appreciate any additional family-friendly words left in our Comment section to describe states or voters formerly known as “battleground.”

s/ the f/k/a Gang

. . . . toss-up, close, even, hotly-contested, swing, purple, uncommitted, doubtful

last-ditch, contended, undecided, indecisive, seesaw, hot, unsafe, rainbow,
margin-of-error, tight race, unpredictable, iffy, in dubio, indeterminable

fickle, coy, available, obtainable, persuadable,  
unpersuaded, disputed, doubtful, coin-flip, balanced, even-odds, in play

combat zone, dogfight, open, unsettled, noncommittal, inscrutable
eleventh-hour, too-close-to-call, neck and neck, photo-finish, tug-of-war

front line, challenged, disputed, unsettled, closely-contested
winnable, attainable, achievable, potential, feasible, possible, within reach

locked in a staring contest
and a frog

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

p.s. Below the fold: A good summary of the concept of “battleground” or “swing” state from Wikipedia, plus a few haiku from Master Issa.


October 9, 2008

more scary Halloween laws against sex offenders

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 10:12 am

Both Halloween and Election Day are coming.  So, we’re not at all surprised that politicians across the nation are once again posing as Heroes in the fight against the Great Sex Offender Trick-or-Treat Bogeyman.  Under the banner of protecting children, they’re restricting the actions of all sex offenders on Halloween, and sending out hordes of probation officers to make sure they stay in their homes (and, in some states, target themselves by posting “No Candy Here” signs), while expecting sheriff and police officials to monitor sex offender compliance on an already especially busy night.

follow-up (October 18, 2010): See the informative weblog piece by David Hess, The New Urban Myth—The Danger of Registered Sex Offenders at Halloween.

update (Oct. 16, 2008): See our post “Maryland Halloween Sign Targets Sex Offenders.”

We’ve covered this topic before at length here at f/k/a.  See our 2005 piece “halloween tricks: pols vs. sex offenders,” and last year’s “hauntingly familiar,” pointing out that there has been no reported Halloween sex crime against trick-or-treaters in the United States (or Canada) since the infamous 1973 Fond du Lac Halloween Murder, when a person who had never been convicted of a sex crime victimized an unaccompanied 9-year-old girl. We’ve said it before:

Halloween Sex Bogeyman laws and restrictions have far too many costs, are far too likely to create a false sense of security among parents, and seem certain to have no real effects, other than giving grandstanding politicians a boost in the polls — and helping marauding bands of adolescent pranksters and more ominous vigilantes find unsympathetic targets.

So, it’s good to see that the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri is challenging a new Missouri law that, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says:

“convicted sex offenders must ‘avoid all Halloween-related contact with children’ by staying inside their homes from 5 to 10:30 p.m. ‘unless there is just cause to leave,’ such as a job or emergency.

“They also must keep outside lights off and post a sign that says ‘no candy or treats at this residence.

A violation of the law is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

update (October 30, 2008): As Michael B. told us in a comment this afternoon, and according to the Associated Press, “Missouri’s sex offender/Halloween law is again enforceable”  Ky3.com, Oct. 30, 2008): “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a one-sentence stay on Thursday, sought by Gov. Matt Blunt and Nixon.”  This means that, despite the injunction issued on Oct. 28th by the Federal District Court against two vague provisions in the law, registered sex offenders must remain inside their homes from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday unless they need to work or have a medical emergency, and may not participate in Halloween activities.

update (October 28, 2008): Yesterday, in the ACLU suit, U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the parts of the law that restrict the movement and behavior of registered sex offenders in three Missouri counties, because they are too vague and confusing to sex offenders and to those who would have to enforce the law. However, Judge Jackson would not block sections requiring sex offenders to leave their outdoor lighting off during evening hours and post a sign at their home stating “no candy or treats at this residence.” See “Judge: Parts of law restricting sex offenders on Halloween will not be enforced” (Southeast Missourian, Oct. 28, 2008); “Rules limiting sex offenders on Halloween blocked” (Associated Press, Oct. 28, 2008).  As the SEMissourian reported:

“The first two sections of the law, those barring any registered sex offender from having any Halloween-related contact with children and instructing them to remain inside their home from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Oct. 31, should not be enforced.

. . . ” ‘Halloween is a big deal for children — we all know that. It could be very hurtful for a parent to have to tell their own child, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t take you trick or treating, and we can’t even have a Halloween party at home,’ Jackson said.”

The State’s lawyer, Chris Quinn, who later said the ruling would be appealed, repeated the lie that “Sex offenders pose a risk of reoffending that’s higher than anyone else,” during the hearing.  I’m happy to see that the Eastern Missouri ACLU lawyer intends to keep pushing the broader arguments against the entire law, saying it is not only vague but unfair and unconstitutional additional punishment for people who have served their sentences. “Judge Blocks Rules Limiting Sex Offenders on Halloween” (New York Times, Oct. 28, 2008) I’m still wondering why there is no mention of this case on the ACLU of Eastern Missouri website.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, who added the two Halloween provisions to a broader sex offender bill, said he did it because a constituent suggested it.  Here’s how the law is defended by Missouri police, per KOAM TV:

Sgt. Mike Watson from the Missouri State Highway Patrol explains why this new piece of legislation gives parents and kids a better piece of mind when they’re out and about:

“Just like any other activity at night, you want to keep your children safe,” Sgt. Watson says.  “Now, obviously that means you want to keep your children close by knowing where they’re going and paying attention.

“I think part of the information – getting this out lets them know that if there’s a sign in the yard what that does mean.”

[Ed. note: We don’t know whether “giving piece of mind” is just an interesting homonym mistake, or a telling explanation for the law.  For an articulate argument against such laws see the Comment by Mrs. K, a survivor of childhood sex abuse, at the 7-KHQA website.  Meanwhile, a comment at the Sex Offender Issues blog wonders if we should restrict everyone with a DUI conviction to their homes on New Year’s Eve (St. Patrick’s Day, too).]

The ACLU lawsuit argues that the law is an arbitrary and overly-vague bit of ex-post-facto punishment.  The Post-Dispatch reports, in “Sex offenders challenge Mo. law banning them from Halloween activities” (Oct. 8, 2008 ):

The ACLU legal director, Tony Rothert, said offenders can’t be sure of their status even with their own children or grandchildren. He said the terms “Halloween-related contact” and “avoid” and “just cause” are not clear.

The law could even endanger sex offenders, Rothert said, by requiring them to post signs that could make them targets.

“There’s already pranks on Halloween,” Rothert said. “If someone wants to harass you and cause you problems that night, you can’t even turn your lights on.”

A spokeswoman for Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt lives up to his surname, with this illuminating reaction to the ACLU suit:

“We’re not surprised that they’re now suing the governor to make it easier to victimize children.”

Gosh darn, Gov. Blunt, you really are a hero!

.. . good and bad ways to target a house . ..

If you want to spend time and resources to target houses on Halloween, we suggest you support the efforts of Target House for kids with cancer, rather than joining the sex offender vigilantes or following Chubby on his merry rounds.  And, if you are a parent who takes your responsibilities seriously, we strongly urge you to go with your children as they trick-or-treat this year — and don’t leave them alone with mom’s creepy boyfriend or any weird uncles, who are far more likely to molest them than are convicted sex offenders.

afterwords (Oct. 11, 2008): A fifteen year old girl in Newark, OH faces being labelled a “sex offender”  — and therefore missing Halloween activities for years to come — for sending naked cellphone photos of herself (a minor) to other minors. See “Kids who photograph themselves naked are child pornographers and sex offenders in Ohio” (BoingBoing, October 10, 2008)

by the way: We’ve done a couple dozen posts about restrictions on where sex offenders may reside, starting with this post, which has a list of links to related pieces –

goblins at the door
in the darkness behind them
a cigarette flares

battery weakened
the low, slow laughter
of a demon

……………… by John Stevenson (who turns 60 today; see our post) from Some of the Silence

i only tell the priest
so much

………………… by ed markowski

happy 60th birthday to John Stevenson

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 12:01 am

John Stevenson turns 60 today, October 9, 2008.  You may recall that we made a very big deal over Yu Chang’s 70th birthday back in August.  However, living to sixty isn’t all that impressive in 21st Century America.  It’s not John Stevenson’s age we’re impressed with, but the way he’s lived his six decades and enhanced our lives.  We celebrate sixty years well-lived and anticipate and wish him many more — filled with much accomplishment, joy, and friendship.

John Stevenson made his first appearance at f/k/a in March 2005.  If necessary, you can learn a bit of the record of this much-acclaimed haiku poet and editor at that first post, and here.  Suffice to say, if the haikai community gave out Lifetime Achievement Awards he’d already have one on his shelf.

summit view
my friend
examines his shoes

… by Hilary TannThe Heron’s Nest IV #1

John’s love for the art and craft of haiku (and related literary forms, like renku) has enthused others and created deep bonds of friendship and admiration.   He’s fully present in all he does — as poet, actor, kayaker, parent, friend, movie-goer, dinner companion, and much more (including, over the past couple of years, bocce player).   It’s his being fully there that makes John’s friends want to be at his side.

I’ve already said more than I intended.  The poems in this post were chosen by a few of John’s close haiku friends because they spoke to the poet of John and his spirit.  Click to enlarge the sparkling photographs, which were taken by his inveterate kayaking companion, Yu Chang (who has a lot of pictures of John’s back).  Speaking for many others, Yu says:

John is not only a very good friend,
but also a source of my inspiration.

autumn colors
we paddle closer
to the mountain

another spring
the nameless shoot
still nameless

star gazing
he pulls another chair
on the floating dock

… by Yu Chang

autumn night
in the white beard
60 birthdays

autumn settles
dark frosting
on a white beard

autumn evening
in the white of his beard
another birthday

. . . . by Roberta Beary

staring down
into stamens
of a water lily

one paddle
above the reeds

……. by Hilary Tann, who says:

John —  thinking of our Upstate Dim Sum camaraderie at Tai Pan
or renku at Onawa … Happy Day! Hilary

a kayak
on the roof rack–
long way home

…. by Peggy Willis Lyles

even the mime
sings along –
the glow of sixty candles

cake crumbs
on index cards —
the editor’s chair

.. by dagosan

winding road –
under the influence
of a strawberry moon

…… by David Giacalone – The Heron’s Nest VII: 4

autumn colors-
his train
on time

… by Tom Clausen

Happy 60th Birthday, John!

—  find links to hundreds of his poems here – –

October 8, 2008

foggy, chilly, out of focus

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 9:58 am

.. . . . no, not last night’s soporific Presidential Debate (nor our simultaneous finger-puppet townhall meeting).

cloud and fog–
into my sleeves
they go

in the river fog
a boisterous noise…
tea-picking song

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

— photos by David Giacalone, Riverside Park, Schenectady NY, Oct. 8, 2008 —

We’re talking about the far more inspiring Mohawk River, as seen around 8:30 this morning at Riverside Park, along Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood.  While waiting for a load of laundry to dry, the f/k/a Gang headed out and snapped a few photos, which we’re sharing with our readers (click on each for larger versions), along with fog haiku and senryu from our Honored Guest Poets.  Enjoy.

in and out of fog
driving him
to the home

… by w.f. owen – Haiku Notebook (Lulu Press, 2007)

morning fog. . .
a mash of wild apples
on the road

……… by tom clausen from being there (Swamp Press, 2005)

pea soup fog
the sound of a map
unfolding beside me

winter fog
everyone crowds around
the mime

… by Ed Markowski –  Haiku Sun (Issue X, Jan. 2004)

through a hole
in the fog     billboard girl’s
radiant face

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

fog all day
the whiteness
in my ears

… by Alice Frampton –  Frogpond XXIV:2

fog on the bridge
this small truck
for all our belongings

soft leather
on an old baseball
spring fog

…. by paul m.
“fog on the bridge” – from called home (Red Moon Press, 2006)
“soft leather” –  A New Resonance 2: ; Frogpond XXII:2

waiting for you
another pair of headlights
through the fog

.. by Yu Chang from Upstate Dim Sum (2003/I)

morning fog
a midwife wipes the eyes
of a newborn

… by Andrew Riutta – Tinywords.com (Aug. 23, 2007)


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

… by George Swede –  Simply Haiku Winter 2006 (vol 4 no 4)

October 7, 2008

who are you calling “dearie”?

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

There’s an article in today’s New York Times that deserves our attention and contemplation.  It’s titled “In ‘Sweetie’ and ‘Dear,’ a Hurt for the Elderly” (October 7, 2008).  Reporter John Leland targets elderspeak —  “the sweetly belittling form of address that has always rankled older people” — and, in particular, people “who address any elderly person as ‘dear’.”

The article points out that many older persons very much resent being called “Sweetie” or “Dearie,” even when the speaker is trying to be nice or to sound caring.  With their implication that the elderly are somehow less than competent or capable, such terms of endearment (especially from strangers or service providers) are condescending.  Worse, according to the Times:

“Now studies are finding that the insults can have health consequences, especially if people mutely accept the attitudes behind them, said Becca Levy, an associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale University, who studies the health effects of such messages on elderly people.

“Those little insults can lead to more negative images of aging,” Dr. Levy said. “And those who have more negative images of aging have worse functional health over time, including lower rates of survival.”

“Despite such research, the worst offenders are often health care workers . . . “

The point is very well taken and should be kept in mind when talking with older persons.  Of course, I hope lawyers aren’t guilty of using elderspeak when practicing Elderlaw.

This article is a good opportunity to ask even our close relatives and friends whether they would prefer that we drop the Dears and Sweeties.   Surprisingly, our congenitally cranky Prof. Yabut agrees with the sentiment voiced in the NYT article by Oregonian Jan Rowell:

“Not all older people object to being called sweetie or dear, and some, like Jan Rowell, 61, of West Linn, Ore., say they appreciate the underlying warmth. ‘We’re all reaching across the chasm,’ Ms. Rowell said. ‘If someone calls us sweetie or honey, it’s not diminishing us; it’s just their way to connect, in a positive way.’

“She added, ‘What would reinforce negative stereotypes is the idea that old people are filled with pet peeves, taking offense at innocent attempts to be friendly’.”

senior discount day
an eighty year old man
packs my groceries

…. by ed markowski

.. Psst: Boomers don’t like it either .. ..

A couple of recent incidents from my own life made me very aware — at age 58 — that terms of address can come with irksome aging implications.  Last Spring, a 20-something stranger in my neighborhood park twice called me “Pops.”  It did not sound like a term of respect or endearment.  It was at least a decade premature and ran contrary to the youthful self-image that resides in my psyche.  Worse, the thought arose “it’s not going to get any better.”

the um in her voice
before offering me
the senior discount

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

Similarly, a couple weeks ago, in two separate incidents on the same morning, two young women I had never met called me “Dear” and deferred to me as I was entering a building — first at a supermarket, then at my doctor’s office.  Frankly, rightly or wrongly, my male ego felt diminished: they weren’t just saying I was a lot older than them, they were implying I was over the hill, non-threatening, genderless.

Discovery channel –
an older male vanquished
heads for the hills

… by Tom Clausen – Upstate Dim Sum (2003/II)

.. (1971) ..  in my mind I’m still 19 .. (2008) ..

In a related event, last month my lovely friend Sharon, who is 47 and looks 37, opined that many men well over forty “go around thinking they’re still 19.”  I confessed to her that I had in fact recently said to myself, “When I walk around, I feel just like I did at 19 — at least until my knee hurts or I catch my reflection in a window.”  To be honest, having been through quite a few ordeals the past few decades, it’s great that my spirit — unless reminded otherwise — still feels like it did when I was in college.  It would, of course, be wonderful not to be reminded otherwise any more often than absolutely necessary, when I deal with younger folk.

Nonetheless, I hope I’ll keep in mind the words of Warren Cassell, of Portland, Ore., in today’s NYT article:

“I’m irked by it, but I can’t think about it that much. There are too many more important things to think about.”

Well, this “quickie” post sure got long.  I’ll say “so long” with a few more one-breath poems from my friends.

the aging gourd
and I
cast our shadows

. . . . . . . . . . by Kobayashi Issa (David G. Lanoue, translator)

Valentine kisses –
trying it with and without

. . . . by dagosan

mother’s day
a nurse unties
the restraints

.. by Roberta Beary – The Unworn Necklace: Haiku and Senryu (Snapshot Press 2007)

warming up
over a cup of tea
my mother-in-law

………  by Tom Painting – Frogpond XXXI:1 (Winter 2008)

calling home–
the color of mother’s voice
before her words

………………… by Hilary Tann, in “dust of summers: RMA 2007”; orig. pub. The Heron’s Nest IX:4

visiting mother—
again she finds
my first grey hair

. . . . by Michael Dylan Welch – TAO

in the attic
grandpa searches
for his marbles

… by w.f. own – Haiku Notebook (2007)

clouded moon
an old man
ebbs away

.. by Matt Morden – Morden Haiku (January 31, 2007)

October 6, 2008

hang-ups over banning books

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:55 am

A planned quick mea culpa over forgetting to post about this year’s Banned Books Week — September 27 to October 4, 2008 — was complicated yesterday, when I saw an editorial in the Schenectady Sunday Gazette headlined “No good reason to pull library book in Galway” (October 5, 2008). (see our 2007 BBW post last year)

Referring to a story published October 3rd by the Gazette, the Editors explained that the trustees of the Galway Public Library (in the Saratoga County Town of Galway, New York, which has a population under 4000 and is located about 12 miles north of Schenectady), have at least temporarily pulled from its shelves the book Hang-Ups, Hook-Ups, and Holding Out: stuff you need to know about your body, sex, and dating” (Health Communications, by Melisa Holmes, M.D. and Trish Hutchison, M.D., 2008). Hang-Ups is part of the Girlology series of books aimed at pre-teen and teenage girls.  The Gazette editorial starts:

“Maybe Galway Public Library officials deserve some benefit of the doubt for agreeing to temporarily remove from their shelves a popular book on teen sexuality that a patron complained about, citing “factual errors, philosophy and perceived bias.” But not a whole lot, frankly — and none if they don’t hurry up and put the book back, where it belongs.

“It’s one thing to forbid your child to read a book you don’t like or agree with, or to bring it into your home; it’s entirely another to try to impose such a judgment or moral standard on the public — especially in a library, whose function is to make as much information, including opinion, on as many subjects as available as possible.”

The editorial makes other important points, including:

  • “Even if the book in question — “Hang-Ups, Hook-Ups, and Holding Out: Stuff You Need to Know About Your Body, Sex & Dating” — did contain factual errors, removing it from circulation hardly seems like the proper response. Lots of books, including many good ones, have mistakes in them.”
  • “Then there’s this: What constitutes a mistake can be a matter of opinion; who decides? And where does one draw the line as to which mistakes are tolerable and which are not?”

Like a large proportion of all books that targeted for removal from libraries and schools, Hang-Ups deals with teen sexuality.  The Gazette notes that “Teen sexuality, and how to teach about sex to one’s children, is a highly personal and — for some parents — ideological issue that shouldn’t be decided by one member of a community, or even a committee.”  The editorial correctly asserts that:

“If parents have reservations about the methods advocated by a particular author (in this case, two women doctors with teen children), they should instruct or even order their children to steer clear. But it shouldn’t be their decision to make for the rest of the community.”

The Gazette news article about the controversy in Galway reported:

“[Library Director Ashley] Poulin said a copy of the book was delivered to Dr. Anneke Pribis at the Galway Family Health clinic. ‘We’ve asked Dr. Pribis to read the book to see if it is medically accurate,’ Poulin said. ‘We haven’t heard back from Anneke yet’.”

Dr. Pribis, a family practitioner in Galway, has been asked to pass judgment on a book written by a two well-known experts on subjects related to juvenile gynecology and teenage sexuality (find more info on the authors here).  I haven’t been able to find information online about the complaining parent/patron, Patti Venditti, but I would not be surprised to learn that her concerns have more to do with its “philosophy and perceived bias” than with the inaccuracy of any medical information provided in Hang-Ups. (Ms. Venditti is invited to tell us more about her concerns by leaving a Comment below.)

My quick online research about Hang-Ups uncovered only positive reviews of the book.  For example, seven parents reviewed the book at The Parent Bloggers Network, and the post summarizing the reviews says:

“The consensus among the bloggers who reviewed Girlology: Hang-Ups, Hook-Ups, and Holding Out is that we all wish we’d had this book when we were growing up.

And this blogger summed it up beautifully:

“Is this book for you? If you’re a teenage girl? Yes. If you’re the mother, father, friend, teacher, or confidant of a teenage girl? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.“

Hang-Ups also got a rave positive review by a parent at the Scrutiny by the Masses weblog.

My concern is with the willingness of the Library trustees in Galway to pull the book pending their final determination. One trustee told the Gazette that this is the first time they’ve had such a complaint in the history of the Galway Public Library, which was founded in 1998.  It’s clear the trustees either have, or were aware of, no procedure for handling a request that a book be removed from the Library. This is the full treatment of Ms. Venditti’s complaint from the August 2008 Minutes of the Library Board of Directors (Aug. 6, 2008):

Public Comment:  Patti Venditti, a Galway library patron and mother, brought up concerns about a book in the library’s collection, Hang-Ups, Hook-Ups and Holding Out, due to factual errors, philosophy and perceived bias. Ashley [Poulin, Library Director] will provide Patti with a form to fill out for possible culling of the book.  Arlene [Rhodes] moved and Laura [Sakala] seconded that the book be removed from circulation pending determination.  The motion carried.  Patti will be taking the book home with her for use in completing the form.

Yes, that’s right: On the basis one person’s concerns, a popular and much-praised book was taken from the Galway Library shelves “for possible culling” (and handed over to the complainant to help her write up her complaints).  This seems a far cry from the American Library Association’s policy on Free Access to Libraries for Minors (June 30 1972), which the NYS Public Library Department recommends for adoption by all public libraries in this State.

good-news update (October 10, 2008): In an email to me this afternoon, Ashley Poulin, Director of the Galway Library informs me that “The review has been completed and the determination was made to keep [Hang-Ups] on the shelf.”

update (October 15, 2008): The Schenectady Gazette reports today that “Controversial teen book back on shelves at Galway library” (by Kathy Bowen, Oct. 15, 2008). Oddly, Joanna Lasher, President of the Library Board of Trustees, now says the book was never actually taken out of circulation. “It was not out of circulation; it was being reviewed and was still part of the collection,” Lasher said.  I just checked the Board’s August 2008 Minutes, and it still says “Arlene [Rhodes] moved and Laura [Sakala] seconded that the book be removed from circulation pending determination.  The motion carried.”  If the Board is a little squeamish about having over-reacted, that bodes well for the future.

Here are two pertinent excerpts from the ALA policy on access for minors:

  1. “Restrictions are often initiated under the assumption that certain materials are ‘harmful’ to minors, or in an effort to avoid controversy with parents who might think so. The librarian who would restrict the access of minors to materials and services because of actual or suspected parental objection should bear in mind that he is not in loco parentis in his position as librarian. Individual intellectual levels and family backgrounds are significant factors not accommodated by a uniform policy based upon age.”
  2. “The American Library Association holds that it is the parent-and only the parent-who may restrict his children and only his children-from access to library materials and services. The parent who would rather his child did not have access to certain materials should so advise the child.”

By the Way: The online catalog for our regional Library System shows that the Schenectady County Public Library has 3 copies of Girology’s Hang-Ups book; and that Galway Public Library’s single copy is “Out (due: 10/15/08).”

It’s difficult to image any valid reason for keeping Hang-Ups off the shelves at the Galway Public Library, or any other public or school library.  This incident a few miles down the road demonstrates the continued need to celebrate Banned Books Week — to educate the public and public servants about both the importance of free speech (and access to information) and the responsibility of parents to monitor what their children read (as opposed to asking their librarians to act in loco parentis).

At the Banned Books Week website, you’ll find information about books and authors have been most challenged in recent years, along with quite a few ideas about how you can help protect free speech and access (e.g., visiting the linked pro-censorship sites is an eye-opening experience).

The ALA and other sponsors of BBW want you to know that:

“More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state and in hundreds of communities. People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals. Their targets range from books that explore the latest problems to classic and beloved works of American literature.”

– some of the many acclaimed books targeted for banishment in the past two decades –

The Top Ten Challenged Authors from 1990 – 2004 were:

1. Alvin Schwartz  2. Judy Blume  3. Robert Cormier 4. J.K. Rowling 5. Michael Willhoite
6. Katherine Paterson 7. Stephen King 8. Maya Angelou 9. R.L. Stine 10. John Steinbeck

Please don’t let the passing of Banned Books Week keep you from getting involved.  The Galway Public Library expects to issue its judgment on Hang Ups in November, and similar decisions are made year-round in hundreds of communities, of all sizes, across the nation.

The f/k/a Gang has run out of time for posting today.  Rather than dig up new haiku and senryu, here are some of the poems we found for our post about BBW 2007, which featured the book “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” (Candlewick 2005), by Carolyn Mackler (which was high on the list of challenged books in 2006, due to its sexual content, offensive language, and purported purported anti-family message and age group unsuitability):

after school meeting
collage clouds turn
round and round

big enough
to pedal home on
winter moon

……………………… by Matt Morden – from Morden Haiku

family picnic
the new wife’s rump
bigger than mine

earth tremor
the teapot sings

…… by Roberta Beary – from The Unworn Necklace (Snapshots Press, 2007; order); “family picnic” – Modern Haiku (favorite senryu award, 2003)

p.s. Free speech is just as important auf Deutsch.  In this week’s Blawg Review #180 we’re reminded that the White House has declared today to be German-American Heritage DayLaw Pundit Andis Kaulis presents many interesting facts for those who only think of Bier und Oktober Fest this time of year, including the surprise (to many of us) that “German Americans make up the largest acknowledged ancestry group in America, even larger than the Irish and the English.”  Thanks to Andis for including our post on Ladies’ Nights in his list of notable recent blawg postings.

Speaking of libraries, laws, and access to information, check out Laura Orr’s important piece at Oregon Legal Research, “Let’s Kill All the Law Libraries” (Oct. 3, 2008)

October 4, 2008

lady judge says “ladies’ nights” are not unconstitutional

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 11:48 am

. . Roy Den Hollander vs. Ladies’ Night .. ..

peering into
the deep well, two boys
talk about girls

…… by George SwedeThe Heron’s Nest

Federal District Court Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum (who’ll be 80 years old next year) bounced avowed anti-feminist Roy Den Hollander from her Manhattan courtroom last Monday — rejecting his claim that bars and night clubs holding ladies’ nights (where women are offered free or reduced-price admission or drinks) are engaged in unconstitutional gender discrimination against males under the Equal Protection Clause.  See “Judge to anti-feminist: Ladies’ night is alright” (AP, Sept. 30, 2008; “Ladies Night OKd by judge” (New York Daily News, Sept. 30, 2008).

  • Click for Hollander’s Complaint in the lawsuit, which was brought as a class action on behalf of all similarly-situated males, and related Press Releases.

Judge Cedarbaum reminded Hollander that the 14th Amendment refers to state action not private action and that private clubs — such as defendants A.E.R., Lotus, Sol, China Club, and the Copacabana — can charge patrons whatever they wish.  Hollander had argued that bars with liquor licenses are so heavily-regulated their conduct should be deemed state action.  In response, as Bob Ambrogi notes at  Legal Blog Watch:

“Hollander dismissed the dismissal, calling the judge a feminist and describing her ruling as consistent with the anti-male discrimination embedded in many American institutions. ‘This lawsuit would have put an end to guys financially subsidizing girls to party at nightclubs,’ he told the New York Daily News.”

Of course, claims that Ladies’ Nights are unfair to male patrons are not new.  E.g., see the Baltimore Sun article, “New Jersey Division on Civil Rights Rules Ladies Night Promotions Are Unfair, Men Not Treated Equally,” June 17, 2004, which also tells of a 1995 finding of unfair treatment by the Maryland Commission on Human Relations. (via Consuming Interest blog) Walter Olson has covered the ladies’ night topic for years at Overlawyered.com, and succinctly states the crux of Hollander’s case at Overlawyered.com (Sept. 30, 2008):

“Although lawsuits against “Ladies’ Nights” discounts have prevailed in California and Colorado, . . . Hollander was advancing the relatively unusual argument that the discounts were unconstitutional, which failed when the judge declined to find that they constituted state action; earlier lawsuits against the discounts have generally been based on anti-discrimination statutes, and the case might have come out very differently had those theories been relied on.”

Observers have very different reactions to legal attacks on Ladies’ Nights.  The mates at Antimisandry.com strongly disagree with Judge Cedarbaum.  See “Feminist judge again sides with privileged princesses..” (October 1, 2008).  Meanwhile, Prof. Ann Bartow of the Feminist Law Professor weblog appears to like the Judge’s conclusion, but says the court decision “somewhat creepily notes: ‘The nightclubs said the prices charged to men aren’t so burdensome that they amount to denying them entry and male customers actually might benefit from ladies’ nights because so many women attend’.”  She then muses:

“For an uncomfortable thought exercise, decide how you feel about all this, and then contemplate how your views of this situation might (or might not) change if the admissions or drink price differential was linked to race rather than gender.”

AARP and parents with young children might also worry about Ladies’ Nights law suits.  As The Gothamist, reported in “It’s Ladies’ Night And There’s a Legal Fight” (Dec. 17, 2007):

Deborah Swindells Donovan, a lawyer for Lotus, filed papers arguing that the “frivolous” lawsuit is based on an “ill-conceived theory. [If it] is applied to restaurants, then ‘early bird’ specials for the elderly or promotions allowing children to eat free would be discriminatory on the basis of age.”

tavern’s square tank
fish swimming
in circles

…………… by George Swede – Frogpond XXXI:1 (Winter 2008)

early bird special
rubbing elbows
with a stranger

…… by Yu ChangUpstate Dim Sum (2004/II)

The professors at The Volokh Conspiracy weblog got a little more precise in their legal arguments when they heard about Hollanders’ suit in July 2007.  Illya Somin argued, presaging Judge Cedarbaum, that ladies’ nights are not unlawful gender discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  Prof. Somin — blending practicality and the law — also went into some depth explaining why Hollander’s suit would not be an appropriate class action on behalf of men. Under Rules 23 (A)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure the court is requred to ensure that the class representative “will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.”  Somin (correctly) argues:

“Hollander clearly fails to meet this requirement because many of the members of the class in question (“men charged more money or burdened by stricter time restraints than women” at the night clubs in question) actually benefit from these practices.

“At the risk of belaboring the obvious, a key purpose of ladies nights at night clubs is to benefit (heterosexual) men. Many night clubs and bars become relatively unappealing to men because the male-female ratio is too high, reducing male patrons’ chances of picking up a date. By attracting more women [Ed. Note: and helping to ensure they are highly inebriated], ladies’ nights improve the dating odds for male patrons. . . . Many, perhaps the vast majority, of the men in the class Hollender proposes to represent have interests diametrically opposed to the result he seeks to achieve. For that reason, the district court should refuse to certify his proposed class.”

getting drunk
on my arm
the tavern mosquitoes

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

A Steve Chapman piece two weeks ago at Reason.com rekindled the debate for many in the blogisphere. In “Ladies’ Nights and the ‘Cancer of Discrimination’” (September 18, 2008) Chapman opines that “When it comes to relations between the sexes, a little common sense goes a long way,” and therefore “it should not be sex discrimination to offer favors to one sex in order to benefit people of both sexes.”  On behalf of a lot of us regular guys, Chapman points out:

“Why, after all, would a bar offer discounts to women? Not because the owner harbors a deep-seated hostility toward men, perpetuating centuries of oppression. People who run such establishments understand that a lot of men patronize taverns partly to meet women, and that they will come more often and stay longer if women are abundant than if they are scarce.”

happy hour
the bartender cashes
my unemployment check

….. by Ed Markowski

In response to those who, like George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, consider Ladies’ Nights no more defensible than charging whites less than blacks [“Whities’ Nights”?], Chapman sensibly says:

“But context is crucial, and relations between the sexes are different from relations between the races. We don’t accept racially segregated restrooms, but we do accept sexually segregated restrooms. All-white colleges would be offensive, but all-female schools are not.

“Charging whites less than blacks would suggest a desire to drive away black customers because of racial animus. Charging women less than men suggests nothing comparable.”

The Reason.com article got Prof. Somin to take up the subject again, in “Should Ladies’ Nights in Bars Be Outlawed Because they Discriminate Against Men?” (Volokh Conspiracy, Sept. 18, 2008).  His new post generated some interesting comments on the law and policy, and Ilya reminds those who were wondering about using federal civil rights statutes that:

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only bans discrimination in places of public accommodation on “the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” It doesn’t forbid sex discrimination. Therefore, ladies nights in bars are perfectly legal, at least so far as Title II is concerned.”

RoyDenHollander .. Roy Den Hollander is single these days [fair warning: he tends “to be attracted to black and Latin chicks, and Asian chicks’] and goes to clubs.  However, an entertaining in-depth piece in The New Yorker, “Hey, LA-A-A-DIES!” (by Lauren Collins, August 6, 2007), notes:

“[Hollander] was unfazed by the notion that, as a hound dog, his fight to defeminize clubs was perhaps counter to his self-interest.”

Asked in 2007 what he pictured would happen should he win his case, Hollander told The New Yorker:

“What I think will happen,” he said, “is that clubs will reduce the price for guys and increase it for girls. Every guy will have ten or fifteen more dollars in his pocket, which the girls will then manipulate into getting more drinks out of him. If they drink more, they’ll have more fun, and so will us guys. And then when she wakes up in the morning she’ll be able to do what she always does: blame the man.”

closing time  –
her eyes linger
on the rusted fender

…………….. by dagosan

The f/k/a Gang admits that we’ve been out of the Date Bar Scene a long time.  [For example, we’ve never heard of (much less heard) any of the Top Ten Stripper Songs of the Moment, collected with videos at the Crossfade weblog (Sept. 30, 2008)]  So, we hope our younger or hipper readers, including the lawyer denizens of Above the Law, will let us know both how they feel about any ban on Ladies’ Nights (from a legal or policy perspective), and whether the current economics and demographics of the bar scene make Ladies’ Nights an effective tool for bar and club owners.

We’re certain of one thing, after decades of conversations in saloons, classrooms, bedrooms, lawyer lounges, and dining rooms, with  people inside or out of the legal profession: Drafting a law (statute, regulation, or constitutional provision) that puts into practice general principles against discrimination and unfair or unequal treatment is not as easy as many of my relatives and friends seem to think. Almost every attempt to capture the principle of Gender Equality will seem either over-inclusive or under-inclusive to some groups or individuals.

All forms of gender discrimination (treating one gender differently than the other) are not equal or equally insidious.  Some respect valid gender differences, and some — like Ladies’ Nights — represent either insignificant or easily-avoided “injury” to one gender or the other, or in fact benefit many members of both genders.

Turning such differential treatment into a lawsuit does little to help move our society toward gender fairness.  Rather than trying to stop Ladies’ Nights with a lawsuit, I hope disgruntled males (who either dislike “subsidizing” female patrons or simply do not care whether a bar has more females in it) will take their business to establishments not holding a Ladies’ Night.  Of course, if the club with gender-equal prices does very little business on nights when few woman come through the doors, drinks at those places might actually cost more than at the bars with the long Ladies’ Night lines.

Roy den Hollander has more of his gender equality cases pending and planned. Somehow, I’m betting that few of the guys who resent Ladies’ Nights are going to respond to this plea for contributions at his website:

“I’m sure a lot of you guys out there have done well yet have been raked over the coals by females and this culture.  If you want to do something about it, help finance these and future cases protecting your rights.”

mud-spattered pickup-
four dogs watch
the tavern door

. . . by Billie Wilson – The Heron’s Nest (February 2001)

twisting the cap
from another beer . . .
jimmy’s front teeth

….. by ed markowski

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