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Showing posts from August, 2010

Trite On

When writing, the trite, in the words of William Safire and others, is to be avoided like the plague. From the moment the would-be writer walks into a writing class or opens a book on the art of writing, he is reminded that the trite and banal will suck all life from his composition. The admonishments to shun the trite are repeated so often they almost become trite themselves. But if a writer wants the reader to think about what he has written, it is only fair that he give more than a little thought to how he writes it.This rule does not apply, however, to the talking heads and loudmouth yakkers of the electronic media, who are as comfortable slipping well-worn phrases into their broadcasts as they are slipping their feet into a pair of well-worn shoes. For them, all accidents are unforeseen accidents, all gifts are free gifts, all surprises are unexpected surprises, and nothing happens now, everything takes place at this point in time. TV and radio executives encourage the lackadaisi…

Monday morning

The days are getting shorter and the weather is improving. We had rain yesterday, and it rained hard for a while last night; the wind blew from time to time, but the lightning never flashed and the thunder never boomed. It looks like we will be getting more rain today; the temperature, however, is fit for human consumption - at least this human's consumption. A gander at the Weather Channel's website reveals that it will not get above eighty around here until a week from tomorrow. I'm not sure I believe that, but it is a nice thought.

Cuddles' predatory instincts came to the fore this morning. She was crouched on the table with every muscle taut while she stared intently at a crow that was poking around on Lincoln Dr., apparently hoping to find some road kill. She spent five minutes gazing at the alien avian, never taking her eyes off of it. She shifted her stance ever so slightly a few times, trying to get in the most advantageous position to launch herself through the…

I Didn't Mean It, Really

“(Former astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak) must stay away from the victim Colleen Shipman and has to write a “sincere” letter of apology to her within 10 days.”
Associated Press item in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 11, 2009

Dear Ms. Nowak:

All of us at ReallySincereExpressions were saddened to learn of your recent misfortune. ReallySincereExpressions specializes in composing sincere letters of apology, and we would like to assist you as you struggle through this traumatic situation.

You know and we know that when Ms. Shipman receives your letter of apology, she will mumble “Yeah, right” and toss it into the wastebasket. Before Ms. Shipman sees the letter, however, it will be scrutinized by an army of bureaucrats using the Sincere-o-Meter, which was developed by a team of psychiatrists, social workers, counselors and other assorted quacks. If your letter to Ms. Shipman fails to get a passing score on the Sincere-O-Meter, you will be subject to additional fines and possible incarceration.

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Out of the Blue One sunny spring morning when Bethany was four, she wondered around the yard, inspecting this and that while I cut the grass. She spotted something flopping about under the lilac bush. It was a young bird, a blue jay, apparently injured, and Bethany stooped down and picked it up. Holding the helpless creature against her breast, Bethany attempted to restore it to health with soothing, kind and loving words. But Bethany wasn’t the only one awash in maternal instincts that morning. The mother blue jay swooped down and pecked Bethany on the head. She dropped the fledgling and ran crying into the house. Debbie cleaned her wound, which wasn’t much of a wound, and called the doctor to ask if there were precautions we ought to take. Beth should be fine, he said, just keep an eye on it for a few days as you would any injury. Fifteen minutes later, Bethany was back at the lilac bush, but the young bird was gone and never seen again. Years later, after my nest had emptied…

A few hours at the Edgewood Diner

Tuesday evening I had dinner with thirteen or fourteen former Ash/Craft colleagues: all of them women, most of them retired and several of them in the process of preparing for their yearly migration to places where the winter weather has fewer character-building qualities. By coincidence, Mrs. Harris and her husband were having dinner at the restaurant. Mrs. Harris is the mother of Tom Harris, a municipal judge in Conneaut. A few years ago on St. Patrick's Day, Nancy and I went to a performance of Irish music. While we waited for the program to start, a voice behind me asked, "Aren't you Tom Harris?" "Yes, I am," I said. "I'm Tom Harris' mother," she said. So, in her role as Tom Harris' mother, she came over to me Tuesday and me told to be sure I behaved myself with all those women.

Maxine was there, too, with her wonderful Canadian accent and dry, self-deprecating wit. She wore a ball cap to hide the smattering of hair that has sproute…

Your Slip is Showing

A few months ago, Nancy and I inherited a year's worth of Reader's Digests. Now, I hate to bad-mouth the folks in Pleasantville - two of Russ' cartoons appeared in the issues we received - but judging from the sampling we have, this is certainly not my father's, or mother's or Uncle Jim's Reader's Digest. For one thing, the "Toward More Picturesque Speech" feature has been discontinued and is sorely missed. And while all the humor features and fillers are still there, there seems to be a greater reliance on stupid-people humor.

Now, I laugh at stupid people as much as the next guy, but there is always the danger when you point out the intellectual deficits of others that your own slip might be showing (another late, lamented Reader's Digest feature). So it is that page 25 of the November 2009 issue popped right out at me.

Under the headline "5 Tips to Make Life Easier," I discovered the following:

The first suggestion was to stay away f…
The assignment was to use the word "translucence" as part of a metaphor. What follows is notable in only one regard: it took me five hours to compose and then I spent several hours over several days tinkering with it. If the Founders had spent this much time writing the Constitution, they'd still be in that room in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

So, for no reason other than it took so long to write, here it is:

The Mist Use of WordsThe politician’s speech - a Hollywood shower scene, with a beautiful woman behind frosted glass in a bathroom clouded with steam, luxuriating suggestively while caressing herself with soap, that tempts the viewer to imagine transparency where there is only translucence and bawdy anatomical exactness where there is but a fuzzy silhouette – led the listener to fill the fog of artfully blurred oratory with pleasing and explicit details conceived in his dreams of life without taxes.

Summertime Blues

The unbearable heaviness of summer took the weekend off but returned to its post Monday. I am a little ashamed - and with good reason, some would say; although this has nothing to do with any other shameful facets of my life - to be whining about summer weather, since I spent all winter complaining about winter weather. Ah, but Grandma, who was on target with "It's hell growing old," also got it right when she said, "As a rule, man's a fool./ When it's hot, he wants it cool./ When its cool, he wants it hot./ Always wanting what is not."

I, however, have an excuse for my summertime crankiness. Apparently, it is a medical fact that people with multiple sclerosis do not do well in the heat. Hot-and-humid was never my favorite climatic condition, and a few years before I was diagnosed, I did notice the weather weighing me down more than in the past. So, when the medical professionals told me that the heat was hard on those with MS, I said, "Aha, I knew …

Just Wondering

Reading opens up a world of wonder. For instance, in the Plain Dealer this morning, I read that Bristol Palin has called off her engagement to Levi Johnson for the second time. Levi, it seems, told Bristol that he might have fathered a child with another girl. The name of the other girl hasn't been released, but a pregnant ex-girlfriend of Levi's has publicly denied that Levi is the father of her child. Then, Levi told Bristol he was going to Hollywood to see a hunting show, but the real purpose of the trip was to make a music video mocking the Palins.

So I'm wondering: If Grandma Sarah is elected president, will the White House be moved to the trailer park, or will the trailer park be moved to the White House lawn?

And, while I'm at it: Where is the other half of a semi-trailer?

In Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky writes of the various efforts made by the Chinese since ancient times to deal with the economic and social problems involved in or caused by the productio…