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Posts from the ‘Commentary’ Category

28
Oct

On Writing Poetry… with a nod to Miss Edwards

I have always been a writer.  At age twelve, more or less, I wrote a novel.  Although I don’t recall any details of the plot, or characterization,  I do remember a name…Joyce Reena Phane.   That was to be my pen name, I believe.  To me that name was beautiful, and the very essence of sophistication.   I was quite proud of my novel, such as it was, and when my aunt asked to read it I was delighted.   Aunt Jada was a writer herself, and was working on a novel dealing with a group of Kent State students during the Vietnam War.  She loved my novel, and was impressed enough to talk with her sister, my mother, about it.

That was the end of that.    My mother was a very practical and down-to-earth woman, whose no-nonsense beliefs had no room for frivolous or non-productive pursuits.   As far as she was concerned no one made a living from writing books, especially if they had no college education–and the prospect of ME going to college was out of the question.   Besides, my writing was childish, the plot far-fetched and the characters unrealistic…and the pen name I had chosen so carefully was silly and unlike a name any real person would have.  The early….and only…draft of that novel consisted of several notebook paper pages, which no longer exist.

I did continue my creative writing, with encouragement from my seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Wilkinson.

I have some early poetry written in a brown notebook, one of those old dime-store notebooks  that were cheap and plentiful.  In addition to my own works of poetry, I have in those pages the complete Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven, copied in my neat and even cursive handwriting.   Also much of Macbeth, Shakespeare’s masterpiece which had also been immortalized as our high school play.  I was so enamored of that classic that I saw fit to enter much of the original play into my notebook.  There is also some poetry that I can still recite in part this many decades later…I was quite proud of my poems which also immortalized some of my early loves in my handwriting.   I used a fountain pen with real ink, and when I made an error I ripped out the notebook page entirely and started over.  I still think that the handwriting on those pages are perhaps the most endearing aspect of the whole brown notebook.  I wish I still loved my handwriting as well as I did then.

As for Shakespeare, my exposure to his works were in my Junior or Senior year of high school, when the truly marvelous reading by our English Literature teacher–who was also the school principal–sends shivers up my spine to this day.  I always stayed on Miss Edwards’ good side.  She was a small woman in stature, tough as any marine sergeant, and did not need any police personnel to maintain order over her classes–or her school.  One of the things I liked about Miss Edwards is that she liked my writing…she is definitely one of my mentors who had a positive effect on my life.

Ah well– I will never make it as a poet, but as long as I like my poetry and other bloggers occasionally say something nice about it as well–it is worth the oft-times lame verse that escapes my fountain pen….er, keyboard.

25
Oct

How Did We Live Without our Cell Phones?

I have five great-grandchildren, and they all have tablets and cell phones…albeit the cell phones are under supervision.  They range from 10 to 2 1/2, and the older four are proficient in computer skills (at least on a basic level, two of the kids are seven years old.)     The youngest, for obvious reasons does not have a tablet, or access to cell phone use.

Their parents are my grandchildren, all in their 30s.  I have a photo of the oldest, at five years, sitting at my good old KayPro II (my first computer) typing away.

No, this isn’t me bragging about my grandkids…it is a treatise on Children and Computers in general.   I’m not trying to say that ALL kids everywhere have their own tablets, or even access to them…not even at school.    The point I am trying to make is that although it is still the dawning (or maybe the sunrise) of the digital age– and certainly children in certain world societies and/or economic levels have greater exposure to technological break-throughs than others–kids do have access to computers and methods of learning and teaching have changed drastically since “WE” (whoever we are) were kids.

In fact, if I may state the obvious, there are areas in the world that still do not have running water, inside toilets, or electricity.  I won’t even go into the issues of politics, availability of education, nor launch into a discussion of poverty-vs-wealth.

There is much discussion about the extent to which children who are not exposed to technological gadgets are deprived.

I will be the first person to admit that the internet is…well, GREAT (to lack a more expansive superlative) and agree that everything anyone could ever possibly want to know is available online.   This is excellent.  Research possibilities for students of all ages are phenomenal…just enter a key word, and PRESTO! there is a wealth of information.  The downside to this is that although there are internet bibliographies, endless links to endless sites, one of the negative aspects is that there is no extraneous information to “discover” along the way of the search.

A good example is The Dictionary.  Remember the clunky old book we dragged around, and laboriously searched the pages for a certain vocabulary word.  Sure, the word was there (usually, if we had a clue about how to spell it,) but half the fun…or torture…of searching for our destination word, was the bonus appearance of other words popping up during the search.

Unfortunately, now that they have the internet dictionary…the paper dictionaries are becoming obsolete in some places.   Please excuse me for being an old-fashion English teacher–which I’m not, exactly….but I maintain that the old dictionaries, and other research tomes, and the endless reference books on the library shelves can’t be replaced with a quickie visit to a dictionary.com site.

But, having said that, I admit to being something of a luddite, (one of those guys that smashed up the new machines because they saw them as taking away jobs) and its quite possible that I don’t know everything about the subject. (Quite likely in fact.)

One more thing…sobering, and widely believed to be impossible, or at least improbable, is that an artificial storage method can fail…power sources can fail.  That’s a worst case scenario, of course, but we all know Murphy’s Law: that anything that can go wrong…will.   I think that it is risky to try to put all of human knowledge online, at the mercy of  cyberspace a la 2001 Space Odyssey.

At the risk of being annoying, I did not know how to spell Odyssey, and didn’t want to leave the post I’m writing and go to a dictionary site…so I used a Latin dictionary.   I’m not sure what the point of this paragraph is, except that it illustrates my insecurities about online-posting…it is too easy to lose a post when I leave to snoop around online.  That wouldn’t happen with a paper dictionary, except that I can’t find mine.

Sigh… the moral here is the old saw: “…don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

25
Oct

RE-BLOGGED: Should we try to Auto-Correct Humanity In This Strange And Lonely New World?

[This excellent post by Steve is so good, in my opinion, that I would like to take this opportunity to re-blog here on Sometimes, with an accompanying post of my own in a separate article, which will be published later today.]

19
Oct

How Stupid Can We Be? commentary on common sense

uh…what a loaded question is that!

In the past half hour, tops, I began to wonder anew…how stupid could Stupid Be?   I turned on CNN fully expecting to getting some clues to that question, and was not disappointed.  (No dig at CNN…the completion is much worse.)

One– American fighter pilots have been told to ignore “agressive” Russian pilots over in Syria.  Actuallly, I thought they had been instructed to avoid each other.   Just as an aside, has anyone else recently become of the opinion that Washington, the U.S. military…maybe even the Rrussians…and especially the news media led by internet news are almost giddy at the prospect of renewed Cold War hostilities?

I have seen Top Gun numerous times, its one of my favorites, and I saw those bad boys making obscene gestures to other fighter pilots…while flying upside down, no less!

Since the Iron Curtain lifted in 1990, an entire generation has missed out on the Cold War daily horror…may we say terror…heaped upon the American public.   I have written elsewhere about this era of watching anxiously for the world to explode.  http://mumbletymuse.com/2015/03/21/the-decade-194…my-life-part-3/      this post is written pertaining to my experiences as a child living in the shadow of Nuclear Bombs.

Two, the news is presenting shocking reports that hackers have invaded the files of the heads of the CIA and Homeland Security!   WHAT? is no one’s email or private secret records sacred? Furthermore, the alleged hacker has SPOKEN to CNN.  Good grief…  One would think that the secret service agencies could locate the hacker…maybe even recruit him to work for us.  Don’t they watch cable news?.

And Three… DRONES.   CNN reported that there are now a MILLION drones in use by the private sector.  Flying around in air traffic lanes, scaring military pilots who are minding their own business…and they have managed to approach critical facilities like…almost…the White House!    And—there is no regulation or registration, or anything.   Just go in, pick out yer drone, and send its on its merry way doing gosh-knows-what.  Law enforcement agenices like the police have been able to apprehend drones which have crashed or otherwise fallen into official hands–but they just have the DRONES, which remain anonymous.  If ya ask me, anything that resembles an electronic mosquito should be closely monitored by the Feds.

So that was it for the six o’clock news.   Rather amazing, I think.

11
Oct

Who said Girls are Not Good at Math?

One of the things I always wanted to understand is the wonders of Math.

My algebra teacher said “try, try again, if at first you fail.
An understatement…like trying to teach Math to a whale.

Here is a poem I’ve penned (so to speak) which conveys the point I am trying to make for no reason than thanks from those fortunate old lads and lasses that never had ME in their math classes.

Is it true what they said, that girls don’t know math?

There was an old lady named Madge,

who didn’t get Math as a girl

as hard as she tried, the more her brain fried.

I’ll get this, I will,

if its the last thing I do, she said as she studied

and figured

in spite of the glaze on her eyes.

Don’t confuse me with squares and axioms or paradigms

paradoxes, place holders, equations or boxes.

Then one day a bit of “New Math” gave her some clues

where a pencil and paper would only confuse

It was grey matter that made a much better board

for figures and signs and all sorts of

Math Tricks.

Finally!  Eureka!  a breakthrough, Madge said

as she solved two plus two

and started to realize what she could do.

One more life time should master Madge’s math disaster.

Beginning all over without being reminded that

 “Girls are NOT good at Math.”

8
Oct

Who you calling Imperfect?

[Writing 201, Poetry.  DAY 4: Imperfect, Limerick, Enjambment–which is a technique they must have taught when I was skipping English class in high school.]

           Who you calling imperfect?

There once was a boy named Donald

Who wanted to  be rich, and grow up to be President

ha ha! said the people as he started to

stump

but he knew what he was doing and had all the cards he needed to

trump,

and win the game

opponents screamed like angry cat matrons

and picked on his hair and his noisy patrons

but Donald just said they should “lump it!”

You haven’t a chance, you’re not one of us, they wailed

“is that so?” said Donald as he placed a standing order for tea and crumpets

to serve to his fans to keep them from starving on the campaign trail

His crowd of the faithful grew and grew

’til they filled the land

so they bought him a very big trumpet.

 

6
Oct

Do I have an opinion on OJ? Of course :-)

Today is the 20 year anniversary of the O.J. Simpson trial.   The newscasters were talking about it on CNN.   They were entertaining the question of OJ’s guilt or innocence, and interviewing each other and assorted “experts” on the subject.

So, you ask…what do you think?   Did he kill his wife?  Or not?

I have NO idea…no opinion.  I wasn’t paying much attention at the time of the trial, although I was tuned in when the verdict was read.  OJ was of course waiting breathlessly…after all, his future depended largely on the decision of the jury…the suspense was heavy and thick.

The foreman read the verdict: NOT GUILTY.

I can still see the look on Simpson’s face.  What were his emotions?  Shock, Relief, Surprise, Joy…the reactions of a man who had just gotten his life back.

Again, I have no idea if he was guilty or not guilty.  But the lasting impression that came away from the TV screen with me to this day was not one of justice or court room drama, pay-back, retribution, come-uppance, justice…but something at once related and unrelated.   The Simpson trial caused another major split in the American public…between those who think he was innocent all along, and those who assumed his guilt and lamented that the “s.o.b. got away with murder.”

The point is this.  The issue here is not the basketball great’s culpability in the death of his wife, his guilt or innocence, the big question of if justice was served or was a gross miscarriage.   The actual point is moot…the trial was held and a duly seated jury made a verdict, which the Judge upheld, and the case was closed.

What happened was that the entire procedure of the O.J. Simpson trial was what is called the Law of the Land, the exercise of the basic right of all Americans  to be guaranteed a Trial by a Jury of his or her Peers.   That jury heard the evidence and charges presented by the State, and by Simpson’s own attorneys–and made their decision.

The Jury acquitted O.J. Simpson of murder charges.

There has been outrage ever since.  Debate of the validity of the charges, if OJ had been favored because of his race, the partiality of the jurors…and the argument that he received special legal advantages because he was a famous (and popular, considered a good role-model,) sports figure.  )

None of that matters, really, because the fact remains that the Simpson trial was conducted by the Law of the Land…whatever we as individuals believe is immaterial, because the Jury verdict was reached according to the rules of the system.

The system exists as it is set up.  We can’t have it both ways–either the Rule of Law as it pertains to the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty prevails for all people–or it does not.  So since the Jury said “Not Guilty,” the defendant was freed as acquitted.  The only opinions that matter are those of the Jury.

11
Jul

Considering the TV News–Coincidence, or Convenience?

Sure, I believe as strongly in coincidence as anyone does.

Who among us would doubt that the New York Stock Exchange, United Airlines, and the Wall Street Journal, can… and did…suddenly have computer failures at the same time?

Wow–that is SOME “computer glitch!”

The FBI spokesman who was mentioning various possibilities that the FBI was investigating in its search to discover what had happened, and where responsibility may have laid, said something to the effect that it could have been someone…parties unknown…exploring their assumed hacker skills just to see if major infrastructure components could be manipulated–and what would happen.

As it was, despite the three-and-a-half hour pause in NYSE trading, and the concurrent grounding of all United Airline traffic, and interference with the Wall Street Journal publishing procedures–there has not yet been speculation beyond the mild and somewhat timid “computer glitch” explanation.

Then there is also the remarkable “coincidence” involved in the Charleston, South Carolina, church killings.   One question that gives me pause, is to wonder how the gunman, Dylann Roof, managed to choose a church that had a prominent reputation AND just happened to be headed by a United States Senator.    Question Two: what would have been the internet new coverage if the tragic event had played out in a backwater town someplace with the victims having been local church-goers, otherwise unremarkable in their anonymity.

Furthermore, how serendipitous is the existence of a series of photos of the shooter, Roof, who burst forth on the international stage literally wearing the Confederate Flag, and posing with a wicked looking gun  in what appears to be an ordinary-appearing bedroom.    This all begs the question: WHO took those photos, and if the shots are “selfies,” taken by the subject himself with an automatic shutter camera–WHY?    It seems that friends and acquaintances of Dylann Roof, who apparently never raised any red flags concerning his opinions or thoughts on race issues or otherwise, would have noticed some weird thinking on his part.

There’s more that appears to point to a really remarkable chain of events stemming from the terrible shootings in Charleston.  Almost immediately the emphasis turned to the events surrounding the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina state house… pole and all… within relatively short period of time.    One more point is that now the FBI has discovered that there was a “glitch” in the gun law, which should have prevented Roof from being able to purchase the gun.  The gun sales owner had the legal option to issue the permit to Roof without waiting for the permit approval from the FBI.   They are now reporting a paradox: that the permit never should have been issued–but the existing law was followed properly by the dealer.

All this cause-and-effect in the sequence of these news features is very convenient…they just happen to lead to detail fodder for building arguments for or against existing laws–both for and against gun control for example.

It is hard to believe this flow of news components to fit nicely into current campaign topics is pure coincidence.

3
Jul

They did WHAT to Bubblewrap?

DSC03047Some things just should never change.

Like bubblewrap, the impossibly satisfying packing material that is used to protect all sorts of products…from computer components to special delicacies like chocolates or fragile cookies…during shipping from factory to consumer.

For anyone who has been marooned on Mars for a couple of decades, bubblewrap is made of two sheets of clear (or colored) thin plastic, pressed similar to a waffle to trap air within small bubbles–which is what gives bubblewrap its strength, and its name.

It does sound sort of silly, but bubblewrap has proven to be effective in its capacity for protection of items during shipping.

Well, now they have decided to…take out the bubbles!

For bubblewrap’s successor, I envision some variation of that plastic-foam stuff, that may be as strong, cheaper to make, and possibly less complicated to make. Even so, the foam sheet is boring; it doesn’t make noise, reflect light, or offer any residual benefit to its original purpose.

Perhaps the best thing about bubblewrap is its inherent entertainment value. Bubbles are for popping…and for some reason the rapid staccato popping sound is a free-bonus to a recipient of something that comes wrapped in bubblewrap. Show me a person of any age that can resist squeezing the individual bubbles to hear the sound they make…not unlike fire-crackers.

Simple pleasures rarely last indefinitely. Pop pop pop…

11
May

Revenge: The Perfect TV Finale…according to Me

[Last night the ABC TV series Revenge ended its four-year run on Sunday nights. In my humble opinion, the Series Finale was perfect, which is high praise indeed. The entire series was great…but please, follow along and I will explain my rationale. Those readers who are still here, thanks, and please feel free to comment as to my artistic taste and sense of greatness in television.]

This is not intended to be a comprehensive re-cap of the show, or cast of characters.

Revenge is the first series that I watched from the very first episode through the finale. The pilot came across on my computer screen, and I watched it there. That show doubled as the first episode, which I watched again when it aired. This is noteworthy (for me) because of the on-line venue.

This show is packed with plot, characterization, and continuity. Situations are often “unlikely,” but usually plausible in a fairy-tale-soap-opera sort of way…once an equally convoluted back-story scenario has been placed. For example, it is perfectly logical that there was an Oriental guru of martial arts in Emily/Amanda’s past. That explains why she is proficient in skills such as fencing, underwater-breathing, and cat-burglar-type espionage tactics.

Emily/Amanda is bigger than life–this is true. She is the perfect heroine…strong, loveable, beautiful, ingenious, and resourceful. Also extremely rich. Her major adversary is Victoria, who is also rich, diabolical, a classic beauty, and a character we love to hate. (After all, she is vulnerable because of her terrible life experiences, and fans tend to cut her some slack. I do anyway.)

Emily/Amanda has important and influential friends–noteably Nolan Ross, who is a matrix-type computer genius who can hack any system, invent new techniques and has connections with all kinds of people in high places. Nolan had an affair with Victoria’s son Patrick, and married Louise–in order to protect her inheritance rights. Louise accidentally killed her brother, and Nolan covered for her, but most of Louise’s problems stemmed from her rotten mother.

She met her friend/adversary, Louise, in a mental hospital. This acquaintance was very influential for several reasons, and Louise contributed vital and numerous plot twists in which she befriended Victoria, married Nolan, killed her brother, and conspired in some really evil-deals with Margaux.

Margaux moved the plot along nicely through various scenarios: she had an affair with Jack, almost had a child with Daniel, was alternately BFF to Victoria and Louise. And did SHE have the interesting friends! Also very, very rich, Margaux had instant contact with an international assassin–who showed up and did her work at her bidding. She would have killed Nolan, who was mysteriously saved by a squad of heavily-aarmed-troops who played a bit-part in the production.

The major heart-throb in the show (for me anyway) was Daniel…Victoria’s son, Emily/Amanda’s husband, Margaux’s almost baby-daddy, and general international mogul.

The amazing thing (to me) about Revenge was the way in which every scenario was played out in the space of one or two episodes. Characters walked on and off the show as one-time guest-stars. Every one of these people served to move the plot forward, and when there specific role had been accomplished they were gone. No extraneous hangers-on.

I could go on and on (don’t worry, I won’t} as I have not done justice to any of the characters, scenarios, or plot-twists.

The young actress who played the child Emily/Amanda (Emily Alyn Lind) is a perfect choice.

Anyway….either you, the reader, 1) are already a fan of Revenge; 2) will watch it in re-runs; 3.) could not care less…in which case you won’t have read any of this post.

The absolutely PERFECT ending to Revenge is the wonderfully appropriate cliché Finale where Emily/Amanda and Jack–true lovers–are literally sailing off on Jack’s ship, into the sunset.