Monday/Memeday: In Honor of Justice Scalia

Antonin Scalia memes are overrunning the Internet…


I can’t help but think the guy would be pleased by the attention, but disappointed with what thus far seems to be a somewhat lackluster effort. Still, I found a few good ones.






And, finally, in perhaps the greatest compliment, even the Most Interesting Man in the World speaks up. We should all be so honored.



Justice Antonin Scalia Dies

So, Antonin Scalia died in his sleep yesterday–otherwise engaged, I remained blissfully unaware of this admittedly monumental development until this morning, when the news hit my ears (my eyes, to be precise) with a monumental “plop” not unlike a turd splashing into the hygienic blue-tinged water in the lavender scented bathroom of Aunt Mathilde’s scrupulously maintained cottage. I am a terrible person, because my very first thought was: “Good.”

But I’m not irredeemable. I stepped back. Scalia was a human being, I’m relatively certain, however inhumane he often seemed to me, as the angry, stubborn voice of pretty much everything I despise about the modern, contemptuous, obstructionist, and highly partisan incarnation of conservatism. Odds are, if Scalia had an opinion, I opposed it.  Right now, writers are falling all over themselves in efforts to grab page hits, struggling to reinvent the justice as, as one called it, “a tireless defender of the constitution.”  Well, I’m here to say that no Justice in recent history has gone further in interpreting said constitution through the warped, narrow, insidious filter fashioned by melding hyper-conservatism with Catholic extremism.  A hypocrite in every sense of the word.

I backed away from the initial, positive response to his death out of respect for his friends and family who probably, for the most part, loved him and now mourn his passing. But rest easy–his particular brand of one-sided objectivity will be remembered: already, his surviving Republican allies are already gathering to obstruct any attempts to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court, until a new President takes office nearly a year from now. Yes, Justice Scalia, you will not be forgotten.

And, by the way, my antagonistic view of the guy should not imply that I don’t find him fascinating and deeply nuanced–he clearly had a mind I would have enjoyed getting to know, and was a fellow contrarian to boot.  Here’s a link to a fanstastic and illuminating interview with him. I highly recommend it for reading.

Photo I Like Uncategorized

‘Til Death Do Us Part

I’ve long been fixated on the idea of ending up in a coffee can somewhere–if I don’t succumb to dementia, in which case I’ve instructed some reliable folks just which corner of the Grand Staircase I’d like to be left in, to dry up and fade away.  Ashes, or dessicated skin cured dark and stretched over bone, or sustenance for beasts, all seem like good enough finishes– but I have to admit, this might be just be tempting enough to the silly romantic inside of me to consider an as earthy alternative….


Photo nabbed from Pinterest, via twitter, via a couple of other pages but it seems to it’s a shot from a cemetery in Nong Khai in Northeast Thailand, orginated by Peter Kelly Studios.

Quote Uncategorized

Extra Words of Wisdom: John Scalzi

John ScalziBecause waiting until next Wednesday would be too late….

“If you’re having trouble understanding the grief over Leonard Nimoy’s passing, here it is: every geek just lost their favorite grandparent.”–John Scalzi



Illogical–A World Without Nimoy

color_nimoy_headshotSo, if you haven’t heard–and I hadn’t, until just this moment, Leonard Nimoy has died. He was famous for many things–acting, directing, producing, the old Hollywood trifecta–but for all his accomplishments we all know him for one thing above all: Spock. Yep, Spock is dead, and there’s no reason to write a grand summary of his accomplishments when perfectly adequate obituary-type articles are available here, here, and here.  As the hours and days pass, there will be others–dozens, hundreds.  Blogs will explode, all of us wanting to say something about this man who, for me, has been a constant media presence in my life since my earliest recollection, despite that fact that the show that made his career, Star Trek, went off the air right around the time I was born.

Nimoy made a great effort to distance himself from the character, and it must have put limits on his career as time passed and, inexplicably, Spock grew from science fiction sidekick to cultural icon, but in the spirit of Shakespeare, which was repeatedly Spock614echoed in that show, I think Mr. Nimoy’s protests were a little bit contrived, his ambivalence a little too pragmatic.  In American cinema, there are maybe a dozen characters that transcend the screen along with their actors: Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Han Solo, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry,  Arnold Schwarzenhegger, Stallone, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, but he is the only one who arguably wasn’t the leading man.  In the new incarnation, it can be argued that the Kirk/Spock pairing is a buddy movie, but the original show was cut out to be The Captain Kirk Show.

Spock, as it turned out, couldn’t be kept down.  Ironically, it was Nimoy’s layered performance of the supposedly emotionless alien who became the heart of the show, and that struggle against his emotions the core of what set Star Trek apart from so many other shows.  As Kirk said, eulogizing Spock, “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most–human.”  That’s the core of it, right there.  Nimoy as Spock became a mirror against which not only the other characters, but any man, was reflected. And if Nimoy didn’t understand that, he died today without truly realizing how great an accomplishment his career represents.



Eli Wallach 1915-2014


One of the greatest character actors of all time, Emmy and Tony Award winner Eli Wallach is best remembered as Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez, or “The Ugly” in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western masterpiece, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. Close attention to the credits of a tremendous number (sometimes it seems like all) of movies made over the past sixty years–he played hundreds of roles during that time, on stage, in films and on television–reveals a wide range of characters, from Genghis Khan to Mr. Freeze.



Garden Enemies

DeerDamageAs a gardener, I have a lot of enemies to which you likely give little attention.  At the top of the list, of course, is the diabolical eating machine known as Whitetail Deer.  You know him as Bambi.  He ought to be in a freezer, but you’ll find him–or, more likely, her in my yard at some point in the night, gnawing roses down to the quick, taking single bites out of each of a dozen cantaloupe. The squishy sappy non-gardening emotionensia (as opposed to the intelligentsia) blithely tell us to “simply plant enough for all,” but the deer don’t seem to understand–they won’t take one of two, but a just enough of each to render what remains useless.

Bunnies come next on the list–more sloppy eaters which gleefully destroy what they can’t consume, and the breeding is not to be underestimated.  Nine years ago I spared a bunny nest with 7 tiny, squinting, squirming babies in it because my own children burst into tears when I went to find a bucket of cold water, you know, for drowning…?  It took three years to get the population back under control via cat and bb gun.  The gun is no match for our resident ground hog, who we’ve taken to name Morpheus not just because he lives in the “underworld” (under the road, in an old culvert) but because he can seemingly contort himself to avoid incoming projectiles.  I’ve cornered him twice, and missed at point blank range both times–I raise the gun, press the trigger, the gun goes pffft! and Morpheus flinches, yet remains intact.  I am certain, were I to possess slow-motion technology, that flinch would be revealed as lightning-fast gymnastics of Matrix-y caliber, like Neo but with better acting.

This year has been better–the cats did a nice job finding and cleaning out a rabbit den early on: nothing like the shrill shriek of baby bunnies in the morning.  It sounds like…victory.  Or, at least, salad.  My wife saved one of them and delivered it to a kind lady named Ayn Van Dyke who runs Kritter Kamp, an animal rehab facility in our county.   The others were delivered to our back porch in pieces.

The deer still ate the roses, alas.


Poetry Uncategorized

National Poetry Month: Robert Pinsky


I received the following facebook message last night, from the gallery of distant rogues: “Poesy Month, eh? Where’s the fucking Pinksy (sic), Chuck?”

Point taken.

An Explanation of America: A Love of Death by Robert Pinsky

Imagine a child from Virginia or New Hampshire
Alone on the prairie eighty years ago
Or more, one afternoon—the shaggy pelt
Of grasses, for the first time in that child’s life,
Flowing for miles. Imagine the moving shadow
Of a cloud far off across that shadeless ocean,
The obliterating strangeness like a tide
That pulls or empties the bubble of the child’s
Imaginary heart. No hills, no trees.

The child’s heart lightens, tending like a bubble
Towards the currents of the grass and sky,
The pure potential of the clear blank spaces.

Or, imagine the child in a draw that holds a garden
Cupped from the limitless motion of the prairie,
Head resting against a pumpkin, in evening sun.
Ground-cherry bushes grow along the furrows,
The fruit red under its papery, moth-shaped sheath.
Grasshoppers tumble among the vines, as large
As dragons in the crumbs of pale dry earth.
The ground is warm to the child’s cheek, and the wind
Is a humming sound in the grass above the draw,
Rippling the shadows of the red-green blades.
The bubble of the child’s heart melts a little,
Because the quiet of that air and earth
Is like the shadow of a peaceful death—
Limitless and potential; a kind of space
Where one dissolves to become a part of something
Entire … whether of sun and air, or goodness
And knowledge, it does not matter to the child.
Dissolved among the particles of the garden
Or into the motion of the grass and air,
Imagine the child happy to be a thing.

Imagine, then, that on that same wide prairie
Some people are threshing in the terrible heat
With horses and machines, cutting bands
And shoveling amid the clatter of the threshers,
The chaff in prickly clouds and the naked sun
Burning as if it could set the chaff on fire.
Imagine that the people are Swedes or Germans,
Some of them resting pressed against the strawstacks,
Trying to get the meager shade.
A man,
A tramp, comes laboring across the stubble
Like a mirage against that blank horizon,
Laboring in his torn shoes toward the tall
Mirage-like images of the tilted threshers
Clattering in the heat. Because the Swedes
Or Germans have no beer, or else because
They cannot speak his language properly,
Or for some reason one cannot imagine,
The man climbs up on a thresher and cuts bands
A minute or two, then waves to one of the people,
A young girl or a child, and jumps head-first
Into the sucking mouth of the machine,
Where he is wedged and beat and cut to pieces—
While the people shout and run in the clouds of chaff,
Like lost mirages on the pelt of prairie.

The obliterating strangeness and the spaces
Are as hard to imagine as the love of death …
Which is the love of an entire strangeness,
The contagious blankness of a quiet plain.
Imagine that a man, who had seen a prairie,
Should write a poem about a Dark or Shadow
That seemed to be both his, and the prairie’s—as if
The shadow proved that he was not a man,
But something that lived in quiet, like the grass.
Imagine that the man who writes that poem,
Stunned by the loneliness of that wide pelt,
Should prove to himself that he was like a shadow
Or like an animal living in the dark.
In the dark proof he finds in his poem, the man
Might come to think of himself as the very prairie,
The sod itself, not lonely, and immune to death.

None of this happens precisely as I try
To imagine that it does, in the empty plains,
And yet it happens in the imagination
Of part of the country: not in any place
More than another, on the map, but rather
Like a place, where you and I have never been
And need to try to imagine—place like a prairie
Where immigrants, in the obliterating strangeness,
Thirst for the wide contagion of the shadow
Or prairie—where you and I, with our other ways,
More like the cities or the hills or trees,
Less like the clear blank spaces with their potential,
Are like strangers in a place we must imagine.


War Poems: Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charge of The Light Brigade

The Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.


Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

Copied from Poems of Alfred Tennyson,
J. E. Tilton and Company, Boston, 1870


War Poems: Randall Jarrell, Death of The Ball Turret Gunner

I’m going to stick with the war theme for a few more days, while I celebrate National Poetry Month–seems appropriate.  This one is undoubtedly familiar to anyone who studied poetry or literature beyond a cursory look.  I’ve included some images for those of you who may not know what a ball turret is–to make it a little easier to let Jarrell’s imagery work for you.  My grandfather was a flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator in Africa beginning in 1942.

military - the death of the ball turret gunner

          The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell

From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.


lower-ball-turret  b17