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

February 5, 2009

GAL’s alternative universe

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 1:57 pm

..  We hope it hasn’t been too noticeable in the quality and quantity of our posting, but the f/k/a Gang has had a resurgence of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms the past month or so.  To get better, your Editor needs to be less active physically and mentally, and especially to avoid stress.  Unfortunately, last week at his Greatest American Lawyer weblog “GAL” Enrico Schaefer — who is well-known as an advocate of alternative billing methods, including Value Billing — decided to put up a lengthy posting titled “In Response to David Giacalone’s Concerns about the Ethics of Value Billing” (January 26, 2009).  Even worse than merely disagreeing with me, the post is chock-full of mischaracterizations of my positions on value billing and alternative fees — presenting them as an array of “strawmen” targets that are easy to shoot down because they twist my arguments into absurdity. Most aggravating, entering an “alternative universe,” GAL depicts me as a defender of the legal status quo.  Despite my wanting to avoid controversy, a reply is surely called for. . . .

. . . Nonetheless, as I told Enrico in an email last week, it takes far too much energy and creates much too much stress and agita, to respond point-by-point to a flood of distortions.  Enrico offered to let me do a podcast interview in reply, but it is a poor medium in which to make less-than-simplistic arguments.  Instead, I decided to write a more general “apologia” that explains my basic position and tries to clarify where I’m coming from as an advocate for the consumer of legal services and reformer of the legal profession.

As I wrote to Enrico: “My fight — and it should be yours, too — is with the people who have taken the term ‘value billing’ and sold it to lawyers as a way to make premium fees higher than could be made doing the same work under the same conditions with hourly billing.”  To see what I have actually said about Value Pricing and Value Billing, start with my recent “value pricing by lawyers raises many ethical red flags” and follow the links.

Below the fold [click more], you will find the comment I tried to leave this afternoon at the GAL post.  For some reason, a message that the webserver “cannot accept the data” came up, but I’m fairly sure that Enrico will make it available there soon.

Responding to GAL’s mischaracterizations has reminded me to post a few more poems from the newest addition to the Red Moon Press best-haiku anthology series, white lies: Red Moon Anthology 2008 — which we introduced here.

cold morning
the saw’s song changes
in the heartwood

persimmon still hanging the extra day of the year

heat lightning and the dry burn of whiskey

……… by Jim Kacian – white lies: RMA 2008
“cold morning” – Haiku Poets of North California 2007 Contest
“persimmon” – Betty Drevniok Haiku Contest 2008 (Haiku Canada)
“heat lightning” – Frogpond XXXI:1

scattering cabbage whites
years later
I still think of her

…. by paul m – white lies: RMA 2008
orig. pub. – Modern Haiku 39:2

55th spring
the cardiologist inserts
a new balloon

… by ed markowski – white lies: RMA 2008
orig. pub.- Shiki Kukai (March 2008)

hard rain
a river rediscovers
the old ways

…. by Matt Morden – white lies: RMA 2008
orig. pub. – Presence 35

. . . Here’s the Comment that I tried to leave today at the GAL post


February 3, 2009

quickies and white lies

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 10:37 am

. . . No, this post isn’t about guys who break-up with you just before Valentine’s Day. It contains a few follow-ups and forecasts about Sex Offender laws, Schenectady’s felonious ex-police chief, the future of the legal blogiverse, and some of the best haiku of 2008

..  .. Moving Day for Kaz: Looking a lot less jaunty than he did for his plea hearing last December (see our prior post for details), former Schenectady police chief Greg Kaczmarek was sentenced yesterday to two years in State prison for drug possession.  See “Former Schenectady police chief heads to prison” (Schenectady Gazette, Feb. 3, 2009); “Two years for ex-chief” (Albany Times Union, Feb. 3, 2009).  At the sentencing, both prosecutor Michael Sharpe, of the state Attorney General’s Office, and Judge Karen Drago felt they needed to respond to complaints in the community and from Kaz’s co-conspirators that he got off easy, and that Kaz only pled to keep his wife out of prison (she got 6 months in the County jail).

According to the Gazette, prosecutor Sharpe told the court that Greg Kaczmarek had the opportunity to spare his wife at least some jail time last summer, but he chose not to.  Sharpe also make it clear that there was plenty of evidence that Kaz bought drugs, using some and selling some to others. The Gazette also states that:

“Both Sharpe and Drago attempted in court to respond to rampant criticism of the Kaczmareks’ sentences. The Kaczmareks were among two dozen indicted as players in the drug organization headed by Kirkem and Oscar Mora. . . .

” . . . The attorney for one of the accused organization managers last week even filed a formal motion comparing his client’s involvement with Lisa Kaczmarek’s. Brian Toal, attorney for co-defendant Hazel Nader, argued that the Kaczmareks got unfairly lighter sentences, calling them ’embarrassing’.”

The prosecutor and the judge agreed that the Kaczmareks were at the lower levels of the organization.  Sharpe noted that Kaz had used his law enforcement knowledge (gained from 27 years in law enforcement, six of those as Schenectady’s police chief) to advise the ringleader on avoiding the police.  The Gazette reports that Sharpe told the court:

“[T]hat allegation, and Greg Kaczmarek’s law enforcement background, warranted his two years in prison, over his wife’s six months. Greg Kaczmarek spent

However, Judge Drago disagreed about the significance of Kaz’s police background.

“While it is enormously disappointing that an individual who held a position of such esteem stands before the court convicted of a drug offense, the position as former chief of police in and of itself does not warrant a harsher sentence,” Drago said.

[Note: Your Editor leans toward giving harsher sentences to people who violate laws they used to enforce.]

Drago also said that the case is an example of how “drug addiction crosses all walks of life and how anyone can succumb to this.”

According to the Times Union,  Lisa Kaczmarek’s lawyer, Kevin Luibrand, called her behavior “aberrational.”  We’re pretty sure a fancy New York City criminal lawyer like Scott Greenfield would have used an actual word, perhaps “aberant.”

..  Sex Offender Law Web-cast:  If you hurry, you can still catch a live webcast that begins today, Feb. 3, at 10:45 AM EST, and is sponsored by the Editorial board of the Lower Hudson Journal.  It features Sarah Tofte, author of the 146-page Human Rights Watch Report “No Easy Answers: Sex offender Laws in the United Sates” (September 2007).  The forum (which will also be available for viewing after the event) should be an excellent follow-up to yesterday’s LoHud.com op/ed piece, “How far can  – or should – communities go to restrict sex offenders?” (LOHud.com, by Nancy Cutler, Feb. 2, 2009).  It asks:

What should communities do to protect children from convicted sex offenders? What strategies work and which ones don’t?

If you missed it, you could prepare for the Webcast (or otherwise bone-up on issues relevant to restricting where sex offenders can live) by reading yesterday’s f/k/a post “don’t let a bad idea go statewide” (Feb. 2, 2009).

.. .. The Turk’s Crystal Ball:  Eric Turkewitz wrote yesterday about “The Future of the Legal Blogosphere” (Feb. 2, 2009) at his New York Personal Injury Law weblog.  Eric says: “Having now trashed Twitter (Twitter and The Age of Information Overload) before using it and semi-trashed it again after using it (Twitter: A Review), and having concluded it is not the future, the question remains: What is the future of the legal blogosphere?”  Turk argues that the future will look like a combination of Listservs, a group weblog for and by lawyers and a social networking site.  More specifically:

  1. “First, what is missing from the legal blogosphere is a group blog for practicing lawyers. While Volokh or Co-Op are possible as templates for group blogs, I see something more akin to the splashier Huffington Post, except that it would be written by and for lawyers.”
  2. “Now mix in the social element, whether this is for swapping tips and links or engaging in political discussion away from one’s own practice area. It happens to some extent in comment areas, but this is limited. It also is happening in Twitter, but the format is anything but ideal. . . . .  A well-located and well-designed legal forum can be significantly superior to it.”

As an example of a model, Eric goes on to point to “Well designed discussion boards such as those operated by The Motley Fool financial site,” which could also incorporate profiles for those interested in social networking.  He then that such a site would “also have a reader base with some of the best advertising demographics in the nation. Advertising (cars, booze, travel, etc) would be an easy sell relative to other sites, as would law firm sponsorships.”  And,

“Thus, a savvy entrepreneur will one day blend the desires for blogging and the desires for a legal-social element into one web location, in an easy-to-use site.”

Eric is right.  Such a project needs to have content with substance and style, and it needs to offer value that exceeds the time spent perusing and using the site.  Turk predicts it will happen and brags that “you heard it first” at his weblog.  He forgot to say that Prof. Yabut and the entire f/k/a Gang would love to come out of retirement to put such a project together (and maybe show the Twittrepreneurs that we’re much more like phoenixes and eagles than pterodactyls ’round here).

.. White Lies? Well, only a little and temporary one.  As the day progresses, I’ll be adding poems by the f/k/a family of haiku poets from white lies: the Red Moon Anthology of English Language Haiku 2008 (see our prior post).   “white lies” contains some of the very best haiku-related poetry published in 2008. E.g., this trio from Tom Painting:

fall planting
the way my father
set them straight

peace vigil
one candle
lights them all

year’s end
the weight of the pennies
in the mason jar

…. by Tom Paintingwhite lies: Red Moon Anthology 2008
“fall planting” – Bottle Rockets 18
“peace vigil” – A Bomb Contest 2008
“year’s end” – Modern Haiku 39:2

spring at last 
letting the stallion out
into the pasture

razor wire
soldiers in the alley
tossing dice

… by Randy M. Brookswhite lies: Red Moon Anthology 2008
“spring at last” – acorn 20; “razor wire” – dandelion clocks (HSA 2008)

storm forecast__
the living room
in order

….. by Tom Clausen – white lies: RMA 2008
orig. pub. Wisteria 8

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

all the answers
in the back of the book–
summer solstice

a new light
on the dashboard
evening rain

…… by Alice Frampton – white lies: RMA 2008
“cherry blossom rain . . . ” – Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
“all the answers” – The Heron’s Nest X:3
“a new light” –  The Heron’s Nest X:2

behind our backs —
the sounds the ocean
covers up

…………………… by Gary Hotham –
orig. pub. The Heron’s Nest X:3

January 31, 2009

the (swift-sluggish-frozen-thawing-swollen-dammed) fickle river of time

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

Prof. Yabut is almost sixty years old.  By now, he should have resigned himself to the strange and subjective elasticity of time; or, at least ceased to be surprised by it.  Nonetheless, over the past few days, as January rushes/drags to a close, he’s been heard mumbling each of the following notions (and a few more that I can’t remember):

  • “the Holidays aren’t even a dim memory any more”
  • “no, I haven’t had time to get those Christmas cards written”
  • “the Inauguration seems likes months ago”
  • “Chinese New Year snuck up on me again”
  • “I thought that two-hour concert would never end”
  • “those 60 minutes on ‘24‘ zoom by much too quickly”
  • “weren’t you supposed to fill out those W-2’s this week?”
  • “it can’t possibly be February already?”

Speaking of time and its mysteries, Eric Turkewitz wrote this week about trying to use his time more wisely by avoiding “Twitter and the Age of Information Overload” (Jan. 25, 2009) Unlike our foray into the topic of Twitter, Eric has been able to voice his skepticism without being called a naive dinosaur, or worse, as has Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice.

On a related note, I clearly thought of Twitter and Info-Source-Glut when I saw the Trailer from “He’s just Not That Into You”. At 2:12 of the Trailer, Drew Barrymore’s character says:

“I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my Blackberry, and so I text it to his cell, and now you have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting.”

Before January deserts us, here are a few poems from

Snapshot Press Haiku Calendar 2009 .. ..

Colonel Mustard
in the library . . .
winter night

… by John Stevenson (winner, January)

oyster shells
a boy asks where
the wave began

…. by Peggy Willis Lyles (Hon. Men., January)

white wind the eyes of the dead seal missing

… by Carolyn Hall (winner. February)

ice floes
coming and going
the ides of March

… by David Giacalone (Hon. Men., March)

spring break —
the pale legs
of the motel spider

… by Roberta Beary (Hon. Men., April)

January 29, 2009

from sad to silly to sublime on a wintry thursday

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 10:53 am

.. .. No Room in the Shelter for Sex Offender:  Thomas Pauli, 52, of Grand Rapids, MI, was “at least the eighth person found dead in the cold between Jan. 17 and Monday [Jan. 26]” in the Metro Detroit area. [Detroit News, Jan. 29, 2009] Each of the hypothermia victims deserves to be mourned, but Pauli is rightfully getting the most attention.  A Grand Rapid Press headline describes his death, “Man found dead in cold was turned away from shelters in past because he was sex offender” (January 28, 2009), an columnist Tom Rademacher explains further this morning:

“He apparently froze to death because of a crime he committed nearly 20 years ago, and a niggling law that’s dogged him ever since his release from prison.

“In the days prior to the discovery of his body Monday morning at a recycling operation in the 600 block of South Division Avenue, he reportedly attempted to score a bed at either or both the Guiding Light Mission and Mel Trotter Ministries, just blocks away.

“But officials at both facilities reluctantly acknowledge they would have turned him away because registered sex offenders can’t reside for even one night within 1,000 feet of a school, in this case, Catholic Central High.”

Workers at both shelters noted that “their missions risk fines and loss of license if they admit sex offenders.”  We’ve complained often about the Scarlet Letter that our society has been branding on sex offenders.  Because they are treated as less-than-human bogeymen, politicians pander to unrealistic fears of sex offenders with restrictions that are unlikely to increase the safety of our children (and many experts argue will make matters worse) — and, they draft laws without including exceptions otherwise demanded by common sense and common decency.  I’d like to think that Thomas Pauli’s unnecessary death will help bring a touch of humanity and logic to the discussion of sex offender residency restrictions, but I am afraid that Rademacher is right when he says:

“I’ll bet that even before readers got to my fourth paragraph, some were thinking that Thomas Pierrie Pauli, who was born on Christmas Eve 52 years ago, got what he deserved. OK, so he spent time [11 yeras] in the joint. Big whup. A sex offender should pay forever.”

Given such consistent voices of fear, will the voices of compassion and reason be loud and long enough to affect needed changes?

.. .. Test-taking “Burgler” — Love or Money? Deandre Ellis was arrested for burglary yesterday here in Schenectady, for taking a New York State Regents exam on The Living Environment.  As the Gazette reports, in “Police: Regents taker an impostor” (January 29, 2009), Ellis “allegedly disguised himself as a girl to take a Regents exam for a current student.”  His skill as a disguise artist are somewhat lacking; it appears he wore a wig but other details of his make-over have not been released. Although he’s only 17 years old, Ellis is a former Schenectady High Student, so I’m not sure just how successful he has been in the past with taking Regents exams.  We’re not told whether he was taking this test out of romantic or entrepreneurial motives.  The unidentified “female student’s status — the real student — is under review, an official said.”

We are rather surprised that Deandre Ellis is charged with one felony count of third-degree burglary.  As the Gazette describes the rationale:

“Burglary is defined as knowingly entering a premises that you’re not supposed to be in with the intent to commit a crime, Police Department spokesman Sgt. Eric Clifford said.

“In Ellis’ case, he was not supposed to be at the school and he intended to commit the crime of forgery, Clifford said.”

Apparently, Sgt. Clifford told the Gazette they were using “a strict interpretation of the burglary statute.”  There are no criminal law experts in the f/k/a Gang, but it sounds more like a loose interpretation of the statute to us.

update (Feb. 19, 2009): The print version of the Daily Gazette has an article today on p. B3 titled “Imposter suspect in Regents exam faces lesser charge”.  It says District Attorney Robert Carney won’t be charging Ellis with burglary for entering a Schenectady school to take a Regents exam in disguise for another student.  Instead, Ellis is being charged with misdemeanor criminal impersonation, which he denied at his arraignment yesterday. DA Carney explains that “There has to be some sort of notice or communication to [a] person that ‘you’re not welcome’ to convert [entering a public building like a school] to a trespass,” on which to hang a burglary count.  According to Gazette reporter Steven Cook:

“But Carney likened the case to a shoplifter.  Anyone is allowed in a store, until they’re asked to leave. But a shoplifter isn’t charged with burglary, Carney said, even though they may have entered with the intent to steal.”

Tonsorial-forensic experts should note a mystery raised in the case:  Ellis wore a wig when posing as a female student in January.  As you can see above, he has short spiky hair in his mug shot.  But, three weeks later, he appeared in court with “long hair, past his shoulders.”  Neither Ellis nor his public defender were willing to comment on the issue.   Could it be Ellis will claim he always goes around in the long wig and therefore was not trying to impersonate the female student?

.. ..  Before & After Bellies: The human belly can be a most lovely sight.  Unfortunately, as we are all-too aware in modern America, it can also be a dreadful eyesore — and, one that the f/k/a Gang attempts to avoid as much as possible, whether be they dressed or undressed.  [Thus, you won’t find Prof. Yabut nor dagosan hanging out near the food courts of large shopping malls.]  We’re getting very tired, therefore, of being bombarded with all the internet ads lately for diet supplements and exercise machines that promise flat stomachs, and that somehow feel they have to depict bulging, pastey, toneless “before bellies“.

To Jacky and all the other hucksters of such products, we say “after bellies only, please”  (and, preferably, aspirational models who never really needed the products anyway).

You might not get the results promised in those Flat Stomach ads, but we try to keep our promises here at f/k/a.  So, here is another installment in our new project to present haiku and poetry from the back issues of the mostly-offline Modern Haiku journal.

The following haiku and senryu from our Honored Guest poets all appeared in ..  Modern Haiku XXVII:1 (Winter-Spring 1996; above cover image by John R. Reynolds):

the paisley lampshade
by the broken cabin window,
dusted with snow

shadowy barroom–
dirt in the wrinkles
of the saddlemaker’s hand

…. by Michael Dylan Welch

fast water–
our shadows cross
the melting snow

the doctor’s office still air–
my name written down
as I spell it

…. by Gary Hotham

a robin
on the oak’s bare branch . . .
cold morning sky

… by Peggy Willis Lyles

First light
the white moths on the screen
turning white

… by George Swede

new bed
a foster child’s
recurring dream

hugs everybody
never putting down
her drink

… by John Stevenson

back from vacation . . .
fiddling and fiddling with
the combination

minimal order–
the waiter looks out
the window

… by Tom Clausen

January 27, 2009

dead flowers and other messages

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 11:08 pm

..  Modern Haiku XXVII:1 (1996; cover by John R. Reynolds)

Last weekend, I brought home a box with back issues of the Modern Haiku journal, borrowed from my friend Yu ChangModern Haiku is not available online, except for a few sample poems from each issue that appear at its website. My plan was to start culling haiku and senryu written by our f/k/a Honored Guest Poets from the pages of Modern Haiku and share them here at f/k/a.

The first Honored Guest poem that I found as I opened the oldest volume in the box yesterday morning was this senryu by John Stevenson:

not dead roses
she corrects me
. . . dried

.. by John Stevenson – Modern Haiku XXVII:1 (1996

As always happens, I was soon distracted by an email and then a link on the f/k/a statistics page.  The next thing I knew, I was at Sui Generis, where blawger Niki Black pointed me to a posting at Stephen Bergstein’s Wait a Second! weblog. It was titled “Bouquet of dead flowers is free speech, not illegal death threat” (Jan. 21, 2009).  With simple serendipity, a posting theme was born.

After numerous additional, time-consuming distractions, I finally spent a couple hours at the end of yesterday afternoon putting together a “dead flowers” piece.  At about 6 PM, I moved my cursor to click “Publish,” but missed the button by an inch, and instead hit “Delete post.”  It was gone.  Gone.  And I was far too irked (at myself) and dispirited to start again last night.

a happy little horror 
the headless

…. by David G. Lanoue – Dewdrop World (2005; free download)

A full day later, I’m dragging out the dead flowers again, oblivious to any message my webserver might have been sending yesterday.

fresh grave
the bare earth covered
with cut flowers

… by Tom Painting  – The Heron’s Nest (Aug. 2003)

newspaper roll –
crushed crocuses just below
the headlines

… by Yu Chang – Frogpond 31:2 (Spring/Summer 2008)

At his civil rights weblog, Stephen Bergstein tells us why Mama Holley was being crass, not criminal, when she left dead flowers for the Orange County probation department:

“The case is Holley v. County of Orange, [S.D.N.Y.,] 06 Civ. 3984, decided on January 14. (The case is not yet reported). The plaintiff is a 69 year-old mother who was upset when the local court revoked her son’s probation and the probation officer laughed while leaving the courtroom.  So mom walked into the probation office undetected and left dead flowers on the receptionist’s desk with a message for the probation department reading, ‘Thinking of you, your ‘HELP’ will be long remembered.’ . . . Plaintiff’s follow-up email to a probation supervisor stated that she was sick and tired of the way that office had humiliated her family.  She also said the bouquet was ‘serving notice’ and that the ‘gift spoke for itself’.”

Apparently, the probation folk were very scared by the flowers and notes and, as Stephen explains, “Holley was arrested for menacing, which makes it illegal to intentionally place another person in imminent fear of physical injury or death.”  However, the federal trial judge looked at the situation and concluded Holley’s arrest violated the Fourth Amendment, because there was no probable cause that the flowers placed the “victims” in imminent fear of injury or death. In addition, while Holley’s gesture was “crude” and “offensive,” her arrest also violated her First Amendment right to free speech, because there was no “true threat” of violence. Instead, the court held that:

“[The bouquet and card] were neither unequivocal nor unconditional insofar as plaintiff expressed her dismay with the Department of Probation and asked for an apology.”

Moreover (and surely to Walter’s dismay), Ms. Holley is entitled to have a jury determine any damages caused by the denial of her civil rights.  Stephen concludes that “some criminal prosecutions are really First Amendment violations in disguise” and “irate citizens have the right to express profound dissatisfaction with official decision-making.”

Not unexpectedly, the Holley case reminded lawyer Bergstein of “a Rolling Stones classic from 1971” that he hadn’t heard in years.  It’s “Dead Flowers,” of course, which we discussed at f/k/a in 2005, after first reading John Stevenson’s “dead roses” poem, in his book Some of the Silence.  Indeed, we invited anyone sittin’ back in a rose pink Cadillac,

“to mail the f/k/a gang some dead flowers.  There’s no need to wait for a wedding or funeral.”

.. The Rolling Stones sang “Dead Flowers” on their 1971 Sticky Fingers album. [Click for the lyrics, and also for a 1972 performance by the Rolling Stones found on YouTube.]  Before he headed north in 1980 to NYC and  Cleary Gottlieb, my friend Martin Welling also sang “Dead Flowers” at night spots around Metro D.C. — often at my request.

after her death
composing roses
instead of words

.. by Pamela Miller Ness

Sending dead flowers without a more direct and deadly threat might not amount to menacing, but another cultural icon from the same era as the Stones’ song raises a similar legal issue.  In 1969, when recording began on “Dead Flowers,” Mario Puzo published his novel The Godfather.  In 1972, the movie version of The Godfather gave actor Lenny Montana’s face, voice and hulking presence to the Don’s loyal enforcer Luca Brasi, and gave us the immortal line “Luca Brasi dorme coi pesci.” Which leaves us with a question we can’t refuse to ask:

.. What about sending dead fish? Judging from this YouTube clip from The Godfather, young don Sonny Corleone was rather upset by that package with Luca Brasi’s vest wrapped around dead fish.  It’s clear message was that hit-man Brasi “sleeps with the fishes,” and it didn’t come from a 69-year-old miffed mother.  Please discuss among yourselves whether New York’s criminal menacing statute should have applied when Sonny got those unflappable fish.  We hope Scott Greenfield will share his vast criminal defense experience and NYC savvy to help answer this question.

first date–
the little pile
of anchovies

.…… by Roberta Beary – from The Unworn Necklace (Snapshots Press, 2007); Frogpond (Winter 2007), 1st Place, Haiku Society of America’s 2006 Gerald Brady Senryu Contest

first-date daisies
she never mentions
they’re wilting

.. by dagosan [Aug. 6, 2005]

No, I haven’t totally forgotten Modern Haiku XXVII:1 (1996).  It has a full bouquet of poetry from the f/k/a haijin family, and I’ll get back to them soon.  Until then, here are another pair in keeping with our floral theme.

in the rain
from the car to the house —
wide open chrysanthemums

… by Gary Hotham – Modern Haiku XXVII:1 (1996

a mist at dawn
moonflowers’ fragrance

…. by Peggy Willis Lyles – Modern Haiku XXVII:1 (1996

Flowers: once they’re picked, they’re all dead.

January 24, 2009

white lies: RMA 2008 is released

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu,Uncategorized — David Giacalone @ 2:17 pm

.. “white lies: Red Moon Anthology 2008” (by Jim Kacian and the Red Moon Press Editorial Staff, January 2009; ISBN: 1-978-893959-80-4; 182-pages, $17.00)

We’ve said it before: the publication of the annual Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku is a much anticipated event in the haijin community.  The annual “RMA” attempts to collect “the best English-language haiku and related writings from around the world” published in the prior calendar year, as selected by Red Moon Press owner Jim Kacian and a distinguished panel of editors.  Poets and readers of the genre love to see which poems and essays have been included.  Lately, there has even been some welcome controversy about the contents of RMA.

.. .. The f/k/a Gang was, therefore, very pleased to learn yesterday that the 13th volume in the RMA series is now available, “white lies: Red Moon Anthology 2008.”  It contains “133 poems, 18 linked pieces and five critical works which encapsulate the very best writing of the haiku world in English this year.”  Jim Kacian has held the line again on price, which is still $17.00.

Because we do not yet have a copy of RMA 2008 in hand, we can’t offer an overview nor yet present all of the works written by our Honored Guest Poets that were selected for inclusion in white lies.  I’m hoping that members of our f/k/a family of poets will let me know which of their poems have been chosen for this year’s RMA.  Here are the selected poems that I know about right now; I’ll add to this list as I learn of others.

to-do list done
the day softens
into dusk

…. by Billie WIlson
orig. pub. Upstate Dim Sum 2008/II

funeral dirge –
we bury the one
who could carry a tune

….. by  David Giacalone (in mem. Arthur P. Giacalone)
orig. pub. Frogpond – Spring 2008 (Vol. 31: 2)

the cool kids
walk arm-in-arm
. . . wild narcissus

hunger moon –
the words
i meant to say

winter dusk—
when dad
would phone

… by Roberta Beary
“the cool kids” – pub. credit: the heron’s nest 9:11
“hunger moon” – pub. credit: Haiku Ireland Kukai 10
“winter dusk” – pub. credit:  Anita Sadler Weiss Memorial Haiku Contest 2008

a cold cup
from a cold cupboard
morning moon

a new teacher
adjusts the globe

the smoothness
of a river stone
slow-moving clouds

….. by Peggy Willis Lyles
“a cold cup”– Acorn 20
“equinox” – Acorn 21
“the smoothness” – Valley Voices 8:1

— you’ll find more poems from white lies in our posts “quickies and white lies” (Feb. 3, 2009); “GAL’s alternative universe” (Feb. 5, 2009; “stein and hull and more white lies” (Feb. 9, 2009) —

January 22, 2009

a few new ku from Bottle Rockets #20

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 8:41 pm

haikuEsq has been nagging me to find more new poems by our f/k/a family of poets — particularly haiku not appearing elsewhere online.  Happily, Issue #20 of Bottle Rockets (Vol. 10, no. 1) landed in Ed Markowski‘s mail box last week, and he was thoughtful enough to dig out the haiku and senryu written by a few of our Honored Guest Poets.  There’s a trio by Tom Painting, and three from Ed, too.  Plus, a couple of our stalwarts contribute one each.  Enjoy!

Bottle Rockets #20 (Vol. 10, no. 1; subscription information) ..

community playhouse
turns out
i know the fool

family reunion
a new generation
of war stories

my neighbor’s garden
gone to seed

… by Tom PaintingBottle Rockets #20

rhododendron blossoms-
small boys brandish
their samurai swords

.. by Carolyn Hall – Bottle Rockets #20

Valentine’s Day 
we pass the lip balm
back & forth

reflecting pond
its purity renewed when
i raise my head

water street
her house looks just like
her house

.. by Ed MarkowskiBottle Rockets #20

medical report
i start to weed
my bookshelves

.. by George Swede – – Bottle Rockets #20

.. Bottle Rockets #20 (Vol. 10, no. 1; subscription information) ..

January 20, 2009

Obama dawning: sober words of hope and duty

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 7:27 pm


Inauguration Day dawned with high expectations.   The weather forecast for Schenectady called for partly cloudy skies this morning — the perfect setting for a glorious sunrise (pink-painted clouds in a crisp winter-blue sky) to celebrate the opening of the Obama Presidential Era (in contrast to yesterday’s Bush sunset). Therefore, the f/k/a Gang was up and about much earlier than usual, in order to be caffeinated, bundled up, and out in Riverside Park for the 7:15 sunrise, Canon PowerShot in hand.  Outside my front door, however, it became clear that a thick blanket of gray clouds covered our Eastern sky.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

.. Inauguration Day 2009, at sunrise, Riverside Park, Schenectady NY; photos by D. Giacalone ..

After a quick moment of disappointment, I thought: A stately, subdued sunrise is just fine.  We don’t need a flashy show, nor rockstar fireworks today.  No drama, just the real Obama.

And, Barack Obama did not let us down, after being sworn in as our 44th President.  He gave a speech that was sober, not splashy — the goals soared more than the rhetoric.  In his Inaugural Speech (text, video), President Obama chose to focus on responsibilities over rights, community over clannishness, public spirit over party spite.  He chose to be himself and ask us to be our best selves.

For too many decades, politicians have told Americans that we can demonstrate our freedom with selfishness and our liberty with callousness.  So, I want to thank President Barack Hussein Obama for asking us to join him in a “new era of responsibility.”  This line is surely being quoted around the world and the web:

“There is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

Imagine if “only” a few million of us discovered the truth in that sentence?  Then, imagine if the majority of us did?

Frankly, as one of the “nonbelievers” in the “patchwork heritage” of America, I thought there was a little bit too much of the obligatory “God talk” in the inaugural ceremonies.  That’s not because I begrudge others their beliefs (although, I do wish they had a bit more respect for my choice to base my moral code on the dignity of man, not the commands of a deity).  It’s because I know — as does Barack Obama — that it won’t be God doing “the work of remaking America.”  It will be each of us, alongside our leaders.  As Pres. Obama correctly noted:

“God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”

Barack Obama impressed and inspired me in his first national appearance, on July 27, 2004 (see our prior post, “Obama, O mama“).  He no longer needs to impress me to have my support and best wishes.  But, I hope he will continue to inspire all of us — to “put away childish things” and grow into a mature citizenship, within a national community ready to work, learn, and face our joint future together.



a pretty kite soars
a beggar’s shack

the war lord
forced off his horse…
cherry blossoms

a mountain cuckoo sings
“Don’t fall off
that horse!”

a war lord too
draws near our fire…
Oi River

… by Kobayashi Issa (19th Century, Japan), translated by David G. Lanoue

January 17, 2009

mortimer, morden, and miracles

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 1:25 pm

A few “quickies” that took too long to write this Saturday morning afternoon:

Thank you, John Mortimer, for creating Rumpole:  As today’s New York Times reports, “John Mortimer, Barrister and Writer Who Created Rumpole, Dies at 85” (Jan. 17, 2009).  The famous “champagne Socialist” will be much-praised and discussed in the media.  I want to thank him for creating, Horace Rumpole, who Bloomberg‘s appropriately describes as “the curmudgeonly London trial lawyer renowned for his roguish way with the law, his love of small cigars and cheap claret, and his fear of just one person, his wife Hilda, a.k.a. ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’.” No other fictitious character has given me so much enjoyment over the decades as Rumpole, on television and in novels.

As a lawyer and observer of the legal profession, I particularly appreciate Rumpole’s battles with the folks we call the Dignity Police.  As we said here three years ago, after listening to the audiobook of John Mortimer’s novel Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders:

Throughout this enjoyable memoir of Rumpole’s first big case, he is chided by Queen’s Inns and Equity Court versions of the bar’s dignity police – pompous Heads of Chamber, like Wynset and Ballard, worried more about their own perquisites and appearing in “the finest traditions of our great profession” than in working diligently to keep a client from the death sentence or in helping to nurture the career of a young “white wig” lawyer.

Rumpole, of course, refuses to see his role as being “a safe pair of hands” wearing the correct color of pants.   Yes, he never does become rich or famous, or even Head of Chambers, but he serves his clients and profession with his zeal and his soul intact.

As for Mortimer, I particularly enjoyed Clive Davis’ remembrance yesterday in The Spectator, which includes this passage from his autobiography “The Summer of a Dormouse” (which Davis calls a “beautiful, slender book about the tribulations – and occasional – rewards of old age”):

After this encounter with various religious beliefs, I remember that C.M. Bowra wrote, “A people gets the gods it deserves. The grinning, gloating ogress of the Aztecs mirrors a race brutalized by incessant war.” So the Greek gods are as louche, and often as charming, as their worshippers. The God of Israel is extremely nationalistic and frequently cross. The Scotch God is prim and meticulous and the American God, at any rate on the Networks, wishes to be taken literally, lacks a sense of irony and prefers large financial contributions to burnt offerings. When I was at school I was introduced, in the Chapel, to the Church of England God, a well-intentioned old gent who doesn’t care too much for religion.

A final thought from Prof. Yabut: If you’re thinking of giving me a lifetime achievement award, please don’t wait until I’m 85.  If I don’t deserve one before then, I don’t deserve one.  Googling about John Mortimer today, I discovered that the mystery magazine The Strand announced it was giving John Mortimer a Lifetime Achievement Award on January 14, 2009, two days before the author died.

Flight 1549’s Landing Was Not a Miracle:  As we wrote two days ago, the f/k/a Gang was grateful and impressed by the outcome of the collision of US Airways Flight 1549with a flock of geese.   But, in response to the verbal reaction of America’s politicians, press and public, we voice a hearty “no!” to the headline in Rex Huppke’s Chicago Tribune article “Have we set the bar too low for miracles?” (January 16, 2009).  Huppke notes:

“The safe Hudson River landing of US Airways Flight 1549 was remarkable enough to push passengers and public officials, headline writers and talking heads straight into the realm of the supernatural. . . .  It was a tragedy narrowly averted, but was it really a miracle?

“The pilot, we now know, is highly trained and has years of experience. From a pragmatic standpoint, with an expert at the helm, the result was just what it should have been.”

Using the word more precisely in a religious context, John C. Cavadini, chair of the theology department at the University of Notre Dame, told the Tribune: “Strictly speaking, the term ‘miracle’ would be reserved for an event for which there is no natural explanation.”   And, Loyola University theology professor Dennis Martin noted that the Latin root from which “miracle” is derived merely means “a marvelous thing.”  He adds:

“I think it comes down to whether you believe in God’s activity in the world or not. Those who do would say that even with the skill of the pilot, if just a little something goes the wrong way it could all turn out quite differently. When a person of faith says it was miraculous, really what he’s saying is, ‘I believe God was involved.’ “

In response, Ruppke asks a very logical question: “[W]hat of the Canada geese officials think flew into the jet’s engines, causing the plane to go down? If there were divine intervention in the safe landing, why were the geese there in the first place?” And, Prof. Martin replies:

“No mainstream theologian would say God either directed those geese into those engines or that God didn’t act to stop them. God permits this to happen. The birds did what they did. The pilots did what they did.”

The skeptics here at f/k/a do not believe in divine intervention in human affairs. (If we did, we would have quite a few bones to pick with a supposedly all-loving but demonstrably arbitrary and capricious Supreme Being.)  For us, the safe landing of Flight 1549 was a “miracle” using the meaning of “an unexpectedly marvelous thing”.  It was not the result of divine intervention — nor angelic assistance.  We’ll leave you with two points to ponder:

  • If a reasonable God were going to choose to grant a particular airliner a death-free crash, why in heavens would he choose one filled with employees of the Bank of America, just one day before BofA got a $20 billion bailout (and two weeks after it charged Your Editor a $39 fee for being a few hours late making an $18 minimum charge card payment)?
  • To those who always tell me God allows evil and unfair things to happen, because he gave humans free will and has to respect it, I ask: “Did he give the geese free will, too?”

update: Almost miraculousErik Turkewitz has been watching to see whether lawyers are complying with the New York ethics rule banning the solicitation of victims of a mass disaster within 30 days of the event. [DR 7-111 (22 NYCRR 1200.41-a)] So far, Turk has found only one lawyer looking for client with a Flight 1549 ad.  Only one!  Really.  Follow-update: Eric has done a great job explaining some of the problems that exist with the NY 30-day solicitation ban, in the post “New York’s Anti-Solicitation Rule Allows for Ethics Laundering and Must be Modified”  (January 22, 2009).

Marvelous but not unexpected: It’s only halfway through January, and Matt Morden has already posted more memorable poems and photos at his Morden Haiku weblog this year than I can fit in one post.  Here’s a sample:

lingering frost
i paint a wall
a new shade of white

.. [orig. Jan. 11, 2009]

winter breath
enough to obscure
the stars

all day in the ice
on fringes of the river
colour of the moon

down from the hills
a taste of mist
on my beard

… by Matt Morden at Morden Haiku

Matt’s year-end sunset inspired dagosan to dig up one of his own:

year-end sunset
we head East
into pinks and blues

……. by dagosan
(photo taken at Riverside Park, Schenectady, Dec. 28, 2009)

January 16, 2009

a few new haiku for a frigid January day

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 10:06 am

.. warm up with Snowdays haiku from 3LightsGallery .. ..

Liam Wilkinson at Three Lights Gallery felt deprived of school-free snow days when he was a wee lad.  In the near-universal lament of schoolboys, he felt all the deep snow came on weekends and holidays where he lived in the North of England.  Liam tells us:

“whilst I was sloping off to school in the light flurries of my northern winters, I couldn’t help but envy those who were staying home to enjoy the snow.”

As an adult with an “online haiku gallery,” Liam had a solution — ask your haijin friends to contribute a blizzard of snow and cold haiku and senryu.  He did:

“So, welcome to Snowdays – pour a cup of something hot, wrap up, sit back and enjoy the snow.”

You’ll find poems by over three dozen haiku poets, including Liam’s talented buddies Alan Summers and John Barlow. Two of our Honored Guests poets, Roberta Beary and Laryalee Fraser, appear in Snowdays.  Here are their offerings:

morning mail—
sunlight slides down
an icicle

the last rose
still attached…
four degrees of frost

… by Laryalee Fraser  – from Snowdays (3LightsGallery, January 2009)

my resume disappears
from the screen

frigid morning
under the covers
i enter your warmth

whirling snow
divorce papers fall
from a red folder

winter stars  without you  to name them

.. by Roberta Beary – from Snowdays (3LightsGallery, January 2009)

Here’s a wintry haiga from the Giacalone twins, who also never seemed to get enough school days off in snowy Rochester, New York:

morning shadows –
the gunslingers wait
for high noon

…….. photo by Arthur Giacalone, Esq; poem by David Giacalone, Legal Studies Forum (Vol. XXXII, No. 1. 2008). Click for a B&W version of the haiga (photo with poem) at HaigaOnline, Issue 7-2 (Autumn-Winter 2006).

phoenixes and beginner’s mind

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:50 am

reprise (from Dec. 13, 2007):
Marilou Awiakta says “I think most of what I learned about being a woman and a poet can be summed up in one poem”:

On Being a Female Phoenix

Not only do I rise
from my own ashes,
I have to carry them out!

by Marilou Awiakta, from Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom (Fulcrim Publishing, 1993)

.. Despite my allergy to Blawg Review themes, so many people have mentioned Susan Cartier Liebel‘s phoenix-themed version of Blawg Review #194, with its focus on innovation in the practice of law, that I had to head over there, even if belatedly.

Although there’s nothing new about the f/k/a Gang flying around from topic to topic, that’s what we’re gonna do in this post about fresh starts and fresh eyes.

January storm
last year’s snowbank
slowly whitens

………… by dagosan

Kinky’s Presidential Phoenix:  After Hurricane Katrina, former presidential candidate (and chronic comic, author, and canine rescuer) Kinky Friedman had a few words to say that I would like to recycle and edit slightly, as the GWBush Administration ends and Barrack Obama’s rises:

A Message from Kinky

I wish to express my sincerest sympathy to those who lost loved ones, homes, jobs or hope as a result of hurricane Katrina [8 years with George W. Bush as President]. We should keep in mind that from every tragedy emerges valuable knowledge for our future, allowing us to correct those things that didn’t work as well as they might have. There also arises a Phoenix-like renewal of faith in the human spirit, when people give of themselves and their resources to help.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

the uneven edge
of a quahog shell

a spring wind
coins in the cup
of a sleeping beggar

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

Chuck Newton on Clear Speech: Blawg Review #194 and some of its fans have mentioned third-waver Chuck Newton’s weblog posting “Clarity (Or The Lack Thereof),” as a plea for lawyer innovation based on the use of plain English.  Chuck says:

“What is wrong with some lawyers (many lawyer) (maybe most lawyers).  We are suppose to be the epitome of argument and persuasion, and we just lack clarity.   Argument is not the opposite of clarity.  Clarity should be the basis for any good argument.”

He then skewers a lawyer he calls Bob for his lack of clarity in a telephone conversation that related to a settlement negotiation, where “The Defendant had previously offered $2,000.00 to resolve the matter and I countered at $4,000.00.  The cuss never had the resolve to call or email me back as promised, so I called him.”  Here’s the core of the discussion:

Chuck: “Where do we stand on the settlement offer”.

Bob: “Presently, all I have authority for is $2,000.00”.

Chuck: “What does that mean, Bob?”

Bob: “What do I mean?  I do not know how I can be more clear”.

As an early proponent and practitioner of mediation, I agree with Chuck that gamesmanship is rarely good negotiation.  But, I’m not at all sure that the problem with Bob was lack of clarity.   Here’s my take:

  • This is not a “Plain English and Lawyers” issue. The Plain English in the Law movement is about “legal information without the legalese.”  See Adam Freedman’s Party of the First Part weblog.  When legalese is not the cause of the lack of clarity, we’re in the realm of everyday unclear, obtuse bad writing or speech.
  • Bob seems to me to have said exactly what he meant — and to use words that had the correct connotation and denotation for the context.  He told Chuck loud and clear that he could not go above $2000 at that time.  For Chuck, the problem was that he was not hearing what he wanted to hear, and the negotiation was not progressing, but that is different from blaming unclear speech.  Indeed, Bob really wasn’t using “argument” either — he wasn’t trying to explain his situation, and indeed did not want to explain.
  • Unclear on Purpose: Thirty years ago, in a minor management position at the Federal Trade Commission and as a supervising attorney, I reviewed the work of hundreds of lawyers — usually memos in which they were trying to persuade the Commission to sue somebody or pass a particular rule.  It very quickly became clear to me — even using my neophyte cross-examination skills — that lawyers writing ambiguous or otherwise unclear sentences were almost always hiding something.  They didn’t want to lie, but they were willing to fudge and obfuscate, in the hope that no one would notice that the facts or the law weren’t quite as strong as they were insisting.  Despite Bob’s answering Chuck’s direct question by saying he had so spoken with his client about the $2000 offer, I would not be the least bit surprised to hear that, in fact, he had not, and that was why he could not go higher than his client’s first offer.

Yes, we need more Plain English from lawyers (who need to remember their audience), and in our laws and regulations.  Yes, win-win negotiation is usually in the best interests of our clients (and our sanity), while zero-sum negotiations using gamesmanship is often counterproductive, and not (despite what some swaggering and blustering attorneys seem to believe) the sign of Lawyer Mastery.  But, gamesmanship is not necessarily an example of unclear use of the English language.  If you want to improve your Plain English skills and your general ability to write clearly, see Adam Freedman’s essay “Can I Write Plain English?“.

………………. Fresh Eyes and Beginner’s Mind:  Susan Cartier Liebel picked a winner when she included “Fresh Eyeglasses” (What About Clients, Jan. 7, 2009) in her list of recent posting worth noting, and she was clearly right when she said:

“Sometimes innovation comes from simply putting on ‘Fresh Eyeglasses‘.” In another wonderful post over at What About Clients, Dan Hull talks about his ideal:

“Few of us can have Albert Einstein’s talent for Western logic, or IQ. But Einstein’s advantage over other physicists may have been that he was a “new soul”; he looked at everything as if he were seeing it for the first time.

“Work. He approached it from a wellspring of joy. There are others like him in that respect. Those are the kind of people I want as friends to inspire me, and as co-workers to solve clients’ problems. I’ll take an IQ a lot lower than Einstein’s (for associates, though, Coif or Law Review would be nice). Reverence and a child’s awe. That’s the outlook I prize. Energy, intensity and creativity always seem to come with it.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

blind date
she never mentions
my stripes and plaids

… by dagosan

Despite my sitting on Einstein’s lap thirty years ago, and writing and sharing haiku for over 5 years, I surely haven’t yet figured out yet how to see the world every day with “fresh eyes,” nor how to bring joy to my work (much less to infect others with joyous wellbeing).

.. But, Dan Hull’s praise for fresh eyes and new souls reminded me of the related (and perhaps nearly identical) characteristic taught and lived by many zen teachers: Beginner’s Mind.  I know virtually nothing about zen, but I have known from the moment I heard about beginner’s mind that working toward it is a journey I need to take in my far-too-opinionated and judgmental life.  And, finally giving up weblog punditry — which, frankly, brings me little joy — is probably where I need to start.

The tagline of the Beginner’s Mind weblog is this quote:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Shunryo Suzuki-Roshi

Here’s a beautiful description of Beginner’s Mind, that I hope will whet your appetite (and re-kindle mine). It’s an excerpt from “A Lecture on Beginner’s Mind” by Abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman (emphases added), to a class of zen students:

“Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as-it-is.” I think of beginner’s mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. “I wonder what this is? I wonder what that is? I wonder what this means?” Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgement, just asking “what is it?

” . . . I don’t know about you, but when I started to sit [in zazen meditation] I really began to see how many fixed ideas and fixed views I had. How much judgment was ready right on the tip of my tongue. How much expectation, how much preconception I was carrying around with me all the time, and how much it got in the way of actually noticing what was happening. I don’t want to tell you that after thirty years I’m free of all that, but at least I notice it sooner and I sometimes don’t get caught in believing it.

” . . . In her poem “When Death Comes,” Mary Oliver has a few lines that say, “When it’s over, I want to say I have been a bride married to amazement, I’ve been a bridegroom taking the world into my arms.” This is beginner’s mind: “I’ve been a bride married to amazement.” Just how amazing the world is, how amazing our life is.  . . . This is our effort. This is our work. Just to be here, ready to meet whatever is next without expectation or prejudice or preconceptions. Just “What is it?” “What is this, I wonder?”

“So please, cultivate your beginner’s mind. Be willing to not be an expert. Be willing to not know. Not knowing is nearest. Not knowing is most intimate. . ..”

naughty child–
instead of his chores
a snow Buddha

“Gimme that moon!”
cries the crying

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

this summer night—
she lets the firefly glow
through the cage of her fingers

in both hands–
the water she carries
from the ocean

…. by Gary Hotham from breathmarks: haiku to read in the dark

Tonko Rises Again and the Gazette Reiterates:  Congratulations to Paul Tonko, (Dem.-NY. – 21st Distrist), my new Congressman.  After two dozen years in the NYS Assembly, Paul resigned in 2007 to become President and CEO of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).  At the time, I think he considered his days seeking and serving in elective office to be behind him.  But, the surprise retirement of Mike McNulty from Congress opened up a much-coveted seat, and brought Paul Tonko’s political career back to life in a new form.

I’ll be keeping tabs on Cong. Tonko’s new career, and I hope he manages to bring both his lifetime of experience and a beginner’s mind to Washington.  But, tonight (despite my having just written about cultivating non-judgmental Beginner’s Mind) I want to note a phenomenom related to his new job that I have never seen in a half century of reading newspapers: The Schenectady Daily Gazette apparently thought it so important that “Tonko snags House panel slots in science, education” (by Edward Munger, Jr.), it printed the 12-column-inch article in full on both page B2 and the facing page B3 in the January 15, 2009 printed edition.  Why, however, it simultaneously failed to post the article at its website, I cannot say.

after renting the house
moon-gazing there…

my world–
rice pounding echoes
over evening snow

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

January 15, 2009

flight 1549: fatalities — a big goose egg!

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 7:09 pm

US Airways Flight 1549:  It’s very cold here in Upstate New York, but I’m still taking off my hat to praise the pilot (Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, of Danville, Calif.), crew and passengers of US Airways Flight 1549, and all of the rescue workers (fire department, police department and Port authority police).  Together, they were able to bring today’s plane crash into the Hudson River to a remarkably happy ending — with all aboard surviving (most not even getting wet) and no apparent serious injuries. “All 155 survive plane crash in NYC’s Hudson River” (AP/Charlotte Observer, Jan. 15, 2009); “Jet Ditches in Hudson; All Are Said Safe” (New York Times, Jan. 15, 2009) [Click for “latest updates on the Hudson jet rescue” from the NYT City Room weblog.]

NY Gov. David Paterson got it right, when he said:

This is a potential tragedy that may have become one of the most magnificent days in the history of New York City agencies.”

Apparently, the plan encountered a flock of geese. We now know what a “double bird” means to airline and safety workers — a bird or several birds entering engines on both sides of the plane.  According to a side article in the Charlotte Observer, there were at least 6 bird-plane collisions in 2008 — geese, hawks, owls and more.

— we’re left with yet another perspective on flocks of geese —

update (Feb. 12, 2009): The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board reported today that experts at the Smithsonian Institution have determined it was indeed Canadian geese that brought down Flight 1549, after examining 25 samples of bird remains found in the plane’s engine.  See AP report on CTA.ca, and CNN.

Master Issa wrote hundreds of haiku about geese, in the 19th Century.  Here’s a sample (find many more here)

another year
they’re back for the massacre…
rice field geese

wind is blowing
and so the geese
are honking

settling back
to dead silence…
rice field geese

finalizing the divorce
leaving my house behind…
departing geese

the departing goose
drops an enormous

after many nights
telling me bedtime stories
the geese have left

straight out of a full moon
the geese depart

evening wind–
the geese turn around

after the geese depart
back to normal…
Sumida River

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

honking at my window –
geese above
cabbie below

… by dagosan

January 14, 2009

schenectady’s slow learners on thin ice again

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 12:30 pm

.. photo by Albany Times Union/Skip Dickstein (+ ENLARGE)

Sometimes, it’s just too easy to poke fun at the City of Schenectady and its hard-working civil servants, so we try to stick with more challenging fare.   But, we can’t always resist the temptation to share the news:

For the second time in less than a year, a City Parks Department plow has plunged through the ice of Iroquois Lake, a man-made pond in our beautiful Central Park, which is used for ice skating, fishing (largemouth bass, bluegill), and paddle-boating. The “Lake” is only 7.2 acres in size, with a mean depth of 4.3 feet.  [See “City truck falls through ice in Schenectady,” Daily Gazette, Jan. 14, 2009, with video of the retrieval; “Beware thin ice again,” Albany Times Union, Jan. 14, 2009]  The truck was clearing snow to prepare for ice skating at the pond, which has been delayed this winter because an early layer of snow slowed down ice formation.  According to the Gazette, “No one was injured in the morning accident, but the city’s pickup truck sustained significant damage as it ended up fully submerged [in 14 feet of water] at the bottom of the pond.”

The Gazette has a full account, including the explanation of Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen, who insists that precautions were taken.  The article explains:

“Workers drilled a grid of 25 test holes to determine the ice thickness. Each hole revealed ice between 8 and 10 inches thick, enough to support the plow truck’s weight, Olsen said.

“The truck was also directed to stay away from the concrete edges, where ice thickness is less predictable. But where the truck went through about 10 to 15 yards from the nearest test hole, the ice proved to be 4 to 5 inches thick, not enough to support a pickup and plow blade.”

Lesson learned (we cautiously hope):

“Olsen said he hopes to get a lighter, older vehicle for the express purpose of plowing the lake. For now, he said they would use a ‘glorified golf cart’ with a plow blade to finish the job. The truck that tanked Tuesday had a book value of about $16,000, Olsen said; insurance may cover repairs.”

Perhaps our blawging-buddy insurance defense expert George Wallace, our favorite RiskProf Martin Grace, and Kevin Sheerin at the NY Civil Service Employment Law weblog, will help f/k/a‘s readers understand some of the issues raised when a civil servant is asked to perform such duties, and has an accident like this under circumstances where an issue of reasonable prudence arises.  Is the City’s insurance claim on thin ice?  Should heads roll?  Are bonuses or pink slips due?

.. In an editorial today titled “Put this rite of Schenectady winter to rest” (Jan. 14, 2009), the editors of the Schenectady Gazette opine that “The genius whose truck fell through the ice at Schenectady’s Central Park yesterday might be forgiven if the exact same thing hadn’t happened a year ago. But it did, of course.”  They want someone with “supreme authority” like the mayor to say “in no uncertain, terms: No more trucks on the ice.”

The editorial points out:

“Yesterday’s incident not only endangered the life of the driver, but the handful of men engaged in the subsequent rescue operation. It took them, the truck and the front-end loader sent to rescue it away from a more important task — cleaning city streets after the weekend snowstorm. If the relatively new truck that went through the ice isn’t a total loss as a result of damage from water and the salvage operation, it will surely be out of commission for weeks. The cost, even after insurance, seems likely to be in the thousands.”

And, suggests: “The city should use snowblowers or perhaps solicit trusties from the county jail for shoveling duty. But, please, no more trucks on the ice!”

In a comment at the Gazette, however, Your Editor pointed out that falling through ice repeatedly is an very old Schenectady Tradition, which we should perhaps be most reluctant to abandon.  As we explained in a post back in 2005:

One of the first examples involved trying to bridge the Mohawk River between the Stockade and Scotia [right at the end of my block of Washington Avenue]. According to “Bridging the Mohawk River” by J. Gara and J. Garver: “Work began in the winter of 1794-95 to build a wooden cable on the ice and lift it onto piers before ice-out. Unfortunately, a thaw opened the river and destroyed the work. If successful, it would have been the first long bridge in the 13 colonies.

Whether it was courage or folly, they tried again a decade later, with similar results: Gara and Garver tell us: “In 1806, construction began on the Burr Bridge again only to have more setbacks due to ice. Again, workers took advantage of the frozen river only to have their pier scaffolding destroyed when the river ice opened up in mid-winter.”

We like tradition around this little old city.  But, the Gazette just might be right: Some rites of winter should indeed be put on ice.

new ice
on the lake
the mayor walks on water

.. by dagosan

coldest day of the year
the lone skater laps
his breath

………………… by George Swede from Almost Unseen

.. orig. haiga. (orig. uncropped photo by AJG) ..

round and round with you
on thin ice

Poem: by dagosan
Photo: by Arthur Giacalone (The Gates, Central Park, NYC, 2004)

p.s. Speaking of cliches, Scott Greenfield has proven again that the Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease.  Given his and my reputations for curmudgeonly crankiness, Scott complained yesterday that lawyer-author Mark Hermann did not send either of us a copy of his book “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law”, when it was unveiled in 2006, while several other clearly less-deserving blawgers (such as Turkewitz, Schaeffer and Skove) received the book for fawning review at the time.  Rather than using a statute of limitations or laches defense, as a true curmudgeon might have done, Mark wrote to Scott today, offering to send each of us remaindered copies of his book. Mark has apparently forgotten that f/k/a had pooh-poohed, in true curmudgeonly fashion, the hyperbolic promotional campaign for the book — calling it an “instant cult classic” — when it was launched.  A big, warm suitably begrudging thankyou to Mark Hermann who better not be expecting this napped-deprived Boomer to actually read and critique his Guide.

Easily bought-off Greenfield has already welcomed Mark into our Curmudgeon’s Club.  Prof. Yabut and I are, on the other hand, having second-thoughts, having never actually seen any examples of Mark Hermann being curmudgeonly.  Perhaps Mark or our readers will fill us in, should they have suitable examples.

And, getting back to folks skating on thin ice with promotional hyperbole (and you know who I mean, Kevin): I was pleased to see in Scott’s posting about Mark yesterday, that lawyer Hermann — who pens the Drug and Device Law weblog — has joined the club of straight-talking blawgers who have long warned that you can’t expect writing a weblog to bring you paying clients.

January 13, 2009

olfactory justice

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 9:39 pm

The Judge Nose Best: Can a judge dismiss an unsworn juror because “her strong body odor was negatively affecting the other jurors”?  Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Nancy Staffier-Holtz thought she could, but defendant Rakeen Young objected, arguing that the juror was of his race.  Noting that she indeed noticed the smell out in the lobby, Judge Staffier-Holtz stated:

“[G]iven the strength of the body odor, I’m satisfied that the other jurors would be put at a distinct disadvantage in their efforts to concentrate.”

When Young contested the point on appeal, the Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed with the trial court judge.  In Commonwealth vs. Rakeem Young (Dkt. 07-P-146, Jan. 9, 2009), the Appeals Court explained that the trial judge had the right to dismiss a juror “in the best interests of justice.”

“We hold that the judge’s dismissal of the juror was not an abuse of her discretion. Here, the jury had not yet been sworn, and therefore, the judge had no duty to hold a hearing or find an extreme hardship. See G. L. c. 234A, § 39. The judge made sufficient findings on the record regarding her concern that the juror’s body odor would affect the ability of the other jurors to concentrate. Accordingly, the defendant’s claim fails.”

As Bob Ambrogi said at Legal Blog Watch yesterday, “The moral of the case: Justice may be blind, but it retains a healthy sense of smell.” (“The Case of the Stinky Juror,” Jan. 12, 2009)

That’s more than enough punditry for me today.  Thanks goodness, Master Issa will help by putting in his two scents:

at the edge
of a stinking well…
plum blossoms

smelling like sake
smelling like piss

on honorable Buddha’s 
honorable nose
an icicle

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Had enough of the odious olfactory theme?  Four years ago today, we introduced our readers to the pleasantly aromatic haiku professor-publisher-poet Randy Brooks, with these poems:

hands on the rail . . .
the humpback whale
doesn’t resurface

funeral procession . . .
snowflakes blowing
into the headlights

two lines in the water . . .
not a word between
father and son

grandpa drags his daybed 
to the front porch. . .
mockingbird’s songs

missing in action
she dusts off his guitar
returns it to the shelf

… by Randy Brooks – from World Haiku Review, Vintage Haiku of Randy Brooks

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