Sunday, December 09, 2018

Poetry Sunday

Tomorrow we will celebrate the birthday of American poet Emily Dickinson. Although it's not a great choice of poem for the holiday season, this short piece by Emily Dickinson has always been one of my favorites for its oddly compelling imagery ...

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)
by Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading - treading - till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through -

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum -
Kept beating - beating - till I thought
My mind was going numb -

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space - began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here -

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down -
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing - then -

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again ...

That is eerie, yet compelling imagery, worth thinking about.

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, December 08, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

And awaaaaaay we go ...

Donald Trump has nominated singularly unqualified (except for her Fox News pedigree and TV good looks) State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as the US ambassador to the United Nations; Republicans in Wisconsin have redefined the expression "power grab" by passing legislation to limit the power and authority of Democrats to whom they lost in the November elections; Meng Wangzhou, the CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder, was arrested by Canadian authorities acting on a US extradition request; according to court filings submitted on Friday, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen broke election laws at the specific direction of Donald Trump; and in North Carolina, the relentless GOP drumbeat about the dangers of vote fraud appear to have been borne out ... by evidence of fraud conducted by Republican operatives.

Since the GOP has as little interest in scientific reality as it does in voting rights, I thought it might be appropriate this week to share some cartoons about scientists and their work ...

It's the only kind of science some people understand ...

Every scientist needs an assistant ..,

It's uncertain ...

Well, that makes sense ...

Well, that's pretty clear ...

Tomato, tomahto ...

Looks like a near miss would count ...

Continuing with rocket scientists ...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

At the intersection of music and science ...

And there you go ... a lighthearted look at science and scientists for the second Cartoon Saturday of December. 

It's going to be a very cold weekend here in NoVa, but at least it looks as if we'll miss the latest snowstorm that we'd worried about earlier in the week. It's good to have to worry only about the snow jobs coming out of the White House.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, on Poetry Sunday. See you then.


Friday, December 07, 2018

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for December, 2018

We're coming down to the wire for Ass Clown awards for 2018 - just one more opportunity remains after today to shower opprobrium on deserving dirtbags for the current year. And so it is that I hold my nose and use my remaining fingers to type the citation for

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for December 2018

And the award goes to

Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo

In an administration as full of clowns as a circus Volkswagen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has carved out a special place as the very image of a smug and pompous ass clown. His behavior as the Secretary of State - the top diplomatic representative of the United States - has been one of slavish adherence to the policies and pronouncements of a president with no interest in history and no appreciation for the US role in international leadership. A real, principled Secretary of State would be encouraging his (or her) president to act responsibly and embrace the American role as leader of the Free World, rather than cementing our nation's new role a laughingstock on the international stage.

Mr Pompeo's smug and condescending dismissal of the overwhelming evidence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's responsibility for the murder of journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi is the clearest example of his worthiness for this award.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is named as the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for December, 2018.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday, when we will feature cartoons about science and scientists ... we'll take them every bit as seriously as the GOP does.

More thoughts then.


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Reading Recommendation

I'm now reading a very interesting book which ought to appeal to American history buffs and to those who look for historical parallels to current events - Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants, by H.W. Brands.

I was particularly anxious to read this book because of its focus on two of my favorite historical figures: Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

I've always admired Henry Clay for his skill at negotiation and compromise - indeed, he was known as "The Great Compromiser" for his ability to bring parties together in agreements that neither side loved, but both sides could live with. Compromise, of course, is a lost art in today's "my way or the highway" style of scorched-earth negotiation in which yielding the least inch in debate is considered a craven act of selling out one's principles.

And as a person who loves a good speech and enjoys public speaking, I have also always admired Daniel Webster*, one of the greatest orators our country has ever produced. At a time when we have a president who can barely utter a coherent sentence, we could use a Daniel Webster.

Heirs of the Founders is well-researched and briskly written, and looks at the early formative years of the United States through the lives of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun. We see the roles each of the three men played in beating the drum for and - especially in Calhoun's case - evading responsibility for the needless War of 1812, how they reflected the tensions between those who supported the rights of the individual states and those who continued to advocate for a powerful central government, and how the nation slid gradually toward the cataclysm of the Civil War. If it has a fault, it is that a single book can scarcely do justice to the lives of three such towering figures.

I strongly recommend Heirs of the Founders, engaging and important history and a sad reminder of the kind of giants America once produced, but could never be elected today.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* Daniel Webster was the hero of the classic short story by Steven Vincent Benet, "The Devil and Daniel Webster," one of my favorites.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Musical Sunday

This past Monday we celebrated the 79th birthday of singer Tina Turner, who has been called (with good reason) the sexiest grandmother in rock. I thought it would be appropriate for this week's Musical Sunday to revisit one of my favorite Tina Turner songs ...

"Steamy windows, zero visibility
Steamy windows, comin' from the body heat."

Go, Tina! Even at age 79, you can steam my windows any day.

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, December 01, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

Welcome to December ... which, we all hope, will be an improvement over November, even with Donald Trump still in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A Chinese scientist claimed to have produced the first human baby with an edited genetic structure, although not all observers believe it; after the release of a devastating government report on the subject, Donald Trump and his GOP allies doubled down on their belief that climate change is a hoax; a huge earthquake measuring magnitude 7.0 caused widespread damage in Alaska on Friday, and continuing aftershocks have continued to hamper rescue and recovery efforts; former president George H. W. Bush passed away at the age of 94; and the Marriott Corporation announced a data breach that exposed the personal data of some 500 million guests to hackers.

Today is the birthday of one of my oldest and closest friends, who happens to be from Egypt. I wonder if he'll find these themed cartoons as funny as I did ...

Egyptian billiards? ...

It may take a while to pitch that tent ...

I wonder if it was an attempt to evade the repayment of college loans ...

Funerals have always been expensive ...

I think they need a bigger tree ...

Now, that's a pyramid scheme ...

Good guess ...

Cats got all the press, but dogs were there, too ...

D'ya think? ...

Outsourcing has always been controversial ...

And that's it for our Egyptian-themed Cartoon Saturday. No, I'm not getting see-nile, I just thought I'd pyramid my collected cartoons and pick a few good ones. If you don't like it, Suez me.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Musical Sunday returns. Be here!


Friday, November 30, 2018

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Let's send November out with a good collection ...

I guess it would save time and paperwork ...

I appreciate the truth in advertising, but I'll pass on the carrot cake anyway ...

I'd love to know the story behind this Fresno city ordinance ...

He's probably not running very fast ...

And if that flasher doesn't run away fast enough ...

At that price, get two. Of whatever ...

And with good reason ...

Free duck! Supply your own orange sauce ...

It's that time of year again ...

Specialized catering ...

And so we say goodbye to November, 2018. At least we know who can cater the party.

Come back tomorrow for the first Cartoon Saturday of December ... you know you need it. More thoughts then.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Poetry Sunday

As we leave the Thanksgiving holiday and head into Christmas, I think about all the Thanksgivings past and the changes that come over our families and our loved ones with time ...

First Thanksgiving
by Sharon Olds

When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object,
like a soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, after him, fresh
from the other world—which lay, from within him,
within me, Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing—whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn't need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she's fast asleep, I'll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing, then tossed them back
into the air—I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

We are in Dayton, Ohio, celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with our extended family. Thus, the usual bad news summary won't appear this week ... but don't despair - there's still plenty of bad news to go around, whether I report it or not. Let's get on with the cartoons, this week featuring - of course - Thanksgiving ...

Happily, it doesn't apply in our family ...

Yes ...

Sometimes, the fortuneteller calls it right ...

A useful thing to have, if you're a turkey ...

Oh, oh ...

Understandable ...

Sometimes, the other side wins ...

The dramatic television version of Thanksgiving ...

It's looking bad for the turkeys, especially with the GOP push to get as many deeply conservative judges seated as possible ...

Oh, dear ...

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the holiday weekend in your turkey-induced comas. Come back tomorrow for the final Poetry Sunday of November ... more thoughts then.


Friday, November 23, 2018

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for November, 2018

It seems somehow wrong to select an Ass Clown awardee in the same week in which we celebrate the things for which we can give thanks, but that's just the sad reality of this year's November calendar.

I gave serious thought this time to revoking Donald Trump's lifetime achievement award so that I could recognize his relentless undermining of our national institutions and international relationships, but I decided that other ass clowns need recognition, too. With this in mind, I have thought long and hard and decided to present the award for

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for November, 2018


White House Press Secretary
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
(Third Award)

It is not easy to put a rational public face on an administration as far off the rails as the current one, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders did her best for a long time before gulping the Trumpian Kool Aid and becoming the condescending and dismissive face of a White House utterly uninterested in truth and accuracy. Uninterested in upholding the First Amendment rights of the press and willing to spout the most ludicrous explanations for otherwise indefensible administration actions, Ms Sanders has turned the important position of White House Press Secretary into a useless generator of white noise*.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, Sarah Huckabee Sanders receives her third Ass Clown award, as our Left-Cheek awardee for the month of November, 2018.

Well deserved, indeed.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when Cartoon Saturday looks back at Thanksgiving.


* Defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "a constant background noise; especially, one that drowns out other sounds."

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've been writing this blog for more than 12 years, and some of you - masochists that you are - have been reading it for almost all of that time. You've learned many things about me over the years, one of which is that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. In a crazy world in which we too often focus on fear and negativity* and the material things in life, it's good to have a day on which to sit back and reflect on the things for which we can be truly thankful.

We’re living in a time when it’s easy to be distracted from things for which we can be thankful, because there is so much going on that is awful. For me, this year the awful things included:

A presidential administration and its unquestioning partisan supporters that continues to ruin America's standing in the world, coarsen our political discourse, and undermine the health, safety, and security of the American people;

The horror of realizing that many Americans accept routine mass murder as an acceptable price to pay for the unrestricted right to own and carry firearms; and

An administration that relentlessly works to undermine our legal system, our voting rights, and our fundamental institutions of government.

On the whole, though, it’s been a pretty good year. Although there have been negatives, I have to consider myself a lucky man for a lot of reasons … such as:

The love of a beautiful and endlessly talented wife;

Three loving and successful children of whom I am proud beyond all measure;

Six adorable, intelligent, talented, and loving grandchildren;

A large and loving extended family;

A comfortable retirement**;

A roof over my head***;

Good health;

Good friends;

The good fortune to be able to live in the United States of America - a country which, for all its faults, gives me the opportunity to enjoy all of the above;

The ability to write what I wish in this space without worrying about government censorship††; and,

The ability to enjoy the good things of the world that would be denied by those whose harsh and intolerant worship of a jealous and angry God ignores the beauty and possibilities of the present in favor of rigid belief in an imagined paradise in an unknowable future.

I have many things to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day, and it's only proper that I should take a few minutes to acknowledge that I am, as ever, most richly blessed.

I wish all of you, Dear Readers, Friends, the very happiest and safest of holidays.

Have a good day. Give thanks for the good things you have and the bad things you don't. And stay out of the stores tomorrow ... you'll thank me.

More thoughts tomorrow, when we name the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for the month.


* Yes, Mr Trump and the GOP, I'm talking to you.

** So far, anyhow.

*** As long as we keep up the payments.

† Until the GOP succeeds in gutting Medicare, anyway.

†† Yet. Given Mr Trump's attitude toward the First Amendment, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Musical Sunday

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, and so it seems appropriate that today we should feature one of his biggest hits on Musical Sunday ...

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts later.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

Oy, vey ...

CNN prevailed in court over the Trump administration in an initial decision over whether or not the president can pick and choose which reporters he wants to allow to cover his administration from the White House; the Department of Justice has pushed back against criticism of Donald Trump's appointment of Matt Whitaker as Acting Attorney General, arguing that the appointment is, indeed, Constitutional; A Norwegian warship remains half sunk after a collision with an oil tanker and a botched recovery effort; House Republicans have selected Representative Kevin McCarthy to replace Paul Ryan as their minority leader in the next Congress; and no one has yet stepped forward to claim the $1.5 billion Mega Millions lottery jackpot announced on October 23rd.

This week, as the horrifying caravan of deadly foreigners draws ever closer to our wall-less borders, we offer cartoons about ... aliens ...

What's the alien version of Yelp? ...

We're number glorblax!! ...

Even in UFOs, form follows function ...

Do you suppose aliens have conspiracy theories, too? ...

Looks to me like he came from a zip code with a lot more than five digits ...

Well, given the cost of health care, that would have been my first worry ...

Yes, do your reconnaissance carefully ...

It's an understandable mistake ...

True! ...

I think that would be the more appropriate way to ask the question nowadays ...

And that's it for this week's out-of-this-world collection of cartoons. Be sure to come back tomorrow, when Musical Sunday honors Gordon Lightfoot, whose birthday we are celebrating today. More thoughts then.