Friday, February 27, 2009


         Whirlwinds race


         children cower.


         The Voices

         shake the foundation
                                                of life.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Night Falls

Sapphire skies bid the day adieu
As Robin Redbreast settles in
A cozy harbor in the hedge;
He’s safe from wind and rain and cats.

And from their den, the bunnies watch
Sapphire skies bid the day adieu.
The silver stars all twinkle bright
Their message: Sleep well lil’ cottontails.

The creatures of the day all know
The nighttime beasts start stirring once
Sapphire skies bid the day adieu,
So don’t be caught afield past dark.

The yellow eyes and mournful cries
Send shivers through the darkened yards,
But Fluffy won’t appear until
Sapphire skies bid the day adieu.

Another quatern, this one is new, fresh off the presses.
Is there such a thing as sarcastic childrens poetry?

Warning! This is a Rant

Part 1

The award season ended, more or less, last night with the Oscars. It is a sad truth that the most watched portion of the whole show is the red carpet. America cares more about who looks good or is it who made a fashion faux pas than who won the awards? Elegance is tauted, and overdressed is blasted to the roof. Did you see the dress that Marisa Tomei had on? Me either, but according to some it was the biggest fashion mistake of the night. What was the quote I read? “One too many napkins.” Wow, talk about shallow.

Mickey Rourke, now that he has been through rehab, made a movie, done the talk show circuit and lost one of his beloved dogs (one of the ones he thanked at the Golden Globes), showed up in what ever was in the closet. The critics had a heyday, I guess that is the price one pays for playing them self on the red carpet.

And I love the term Hollywood Royalty. Who decides? Is it based on box office, longevity or this week’s media darling?

I would like to think that watching the Oscars is a nice little escape from life’s current realities for most, but I fear too many people actually care what Anne Hathaway is going to wear or if Brangelina will show up.

Part 2

Death wins again. How good were they? Over the decades of movie making there have been rising stars whose lives were cut short. Some of them have faded into the history books, but others have become immortal. One has to wonder if they were destined for lifetime achievement awards or were they a star of the moment that never had to suffer the collapse of their career?

This year one such star was honored, over and over again. Heath Ledger was nominated for and won more awards posthumously than he did when he was alive. He has made some amazing movies, and his performance in the Dark Knight made the movie, but was it really the best performance of the year? What about Philip Seymour Hoffman in “doubt”?

What frightens me is glorifying a man who died of, as the medical examiner deemed it, “an accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications." He took too many pills. He had six different controlled substances in his body. The media has placed more value on his life than he did. One has to wonder if that is what killed him in the first place.

Sometimes it is hard to live up to ones own press. Is it possible the paparazzi are just as responsible for his death as that of Lady Di?

Here ends my Oscar rant.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


This is an old poem. The form is called a quatern and one I played with a good deal a few years back. The very first line repeats in each stanza, moving down one place so that in the fourth stanza it becomes the concluding line. There is line length and rhyme to consider as well.
For a diagram and description look here.


Sister’s staring out the window
seeing none of the passing sights.
Her destiny chosen for her
a life of simple piety.

The train rolling further afield
Sister’s staring out the window.
She doffs her cap in defiance
setting free hair, too long confined.

The whistle blows, another town,
a platform beckons trav’lers home.
Sister’s staring out the window
past the present to brighter days.

A mother spies this lonely face
A single tear rolls down her cheek.
Not her daughter, but so alike,
Sister’s staring out the window.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Way Out

Soon he’ll break through these walls no one sees
and step out of his box. Until then he gropes
silently seeking escape.

A phone rings. You can’t see it?

The news is good!

He bends down and feels his way
through a narrow passage out.

He is free!

The small crowd applauds the jubilant mime.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We are the Soldiers!

It seems Tuesdays are a big deal in my world. This Tuesday was no exception. School was school, nothing too extravagant happened, but after school two great things.

I went to a used bookstore and stumbled across a copy of O Pioneers by Willa Cather. It is one of my favorite books and I have been looking to add it to the school library. I own it in hardback, but the one I got is soft cover. I am not sure I will be able to get many people excited about reading her stuff, but I can always hope.

Then, I went back to school to watch the kids play sports. We have a girl’s volleyball team and a boy’s basketball team, both of which are very young. They have heart and they have determination, but they have a ways to go as well.

The girls lost three straight, but in the third game they made a bit of a showing. They had some good volleys, but overall they were out gunned. The school we played has a varsity and JV squad. We have 9 girls total from 7th – 12th grade. I think next year, when some of them have a little more experience we could do better. This was the number one team in our little league.

Now the boys! This is what basketball should be all about! We have a star. He is 6 foot 4 inches and he is good. He was not there. But! We still had enough players; as a matter of fact, we had six players. Let me fill out the roster for you:

Jake is a senior (12th grade) and has been playing since he could hold a ball.
Daniel is a junior (11th grade) and until this season had been more the soccer kind of athlete.
Cameron is a freshman (9th grade) and, though he has scrapped around before, this is only his second year playing on a team.
Vlad is in 7th grade, yes I said 7th, and he had never played basketball until this year. This kid does not have the greatest ball skills, but he can play defense like the big boys. Did I mention he is maybe 5 ft tall?
Our final started is Isaac. I am not even going to mention his age, let’s just say he is younger than Vlad. He is Jake’s little brother and has been playing ball his whole life as well.
We have one bench warmer, a young man who would rather play volleyball, but that’s a “girl” sport. He saw about 2 minutes of game time when Daniel got a cramp in his leg and had to walk it off.

Do you have a picture? Now our opponent: First off there were nine of them and they were all at least 5’6”, which isn’t necessarily tall in the basketball world, but look back at the size of the home team!

The game started slow for us. The Cougars had six points before we ever got a shot off. It did not look promising. Coach called a time out and gave them a shot in the arm. And we the crowd started doing some cheers. A few passes later we were on the board! The first quarter we were behind the whole way. The second quarter…same thing. With one minute and thirty seconds left things started happening.

The Soldiers were down by 8 and had possession. Jacob brought the ball down the court and the play was in motion. The goal: get the ball to Vlad in his favorite spot so he could try for 3 and everybody rebound! A few passes back and forth and BAM! Vlad is open. Jacob gets the ball to Vlad, he turn, shoots and SCORES!!! Soldiers are down by 5 with less than a minute to go.

The pressure is on, the defensive pressure that is. The Soldiers execute a full court press and it works! They steal the ball and quick as lightening Vlad is standing on his mark. They pass the ball down court and again he turns, shoots and SCORES!!! We are down by two and the clock is running.

One more time, the Cougars try to take the ball down court. They pass the ball across the center court line and Daniel snags it. Quick as a lick he is headed for the hoop and a fast lay-up. Just as he shoots a defender catches him and tries to block the shot, but no way! The shot is in and Daniel is fouled! There are seven seconds left, the score is tied and Daniel is headed for the free throw line for one shot and the lead. The Soldiers were ready for the rebound; no way the Cougars were going to get the ball and a chance to score at this point!

Daniel shoots and SCORES!!! Soldiers were now up by one. Full court press, the Cougars get the ball in bounds and try a Hail Mary at the buzzer, it doesn’t even get to the backboard. The Soldiers went into halftime one point up.

They led the rest of the game. There were a few nail biting moments. With about five minutes left in the game Daniel got that cramp I mentioned and our little bench warmer had to play for about a minute thirty. It was a looooong time. The Cougars scored three times and we finally called a time out to get Daniel back in the game.

The Soldiers won! Talk about teamwork! Talk about fun!

I woke up the next morning with no voice, but some things are just worth it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Are You Original? Or Is Anyone?

Guest Post Written by Michael Toalster

This question (or rather, the question "Can anyone be original?") has been considered by many deep thinkers, ranging back to the Ancient Greeks (and maybe beyond). Even though we admire the results of many people's thinking (Herman Melville's "Moby Dick", Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" or Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"), did they really invent new ideas? Or were they just assembling old thoughts and creating their own (admittedly, admirable) works, as a kind of patchwork from existing material?

Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers in ancient times, argued that we humans study the world, learn to understand it, and change it, as we go along. So, in his world, "Moby Dick" is, indeed, a new creation, produced by Melville, and without him it would never have been written.

This seems most logical, and few people would argue that anyone but Melville could have written the story of Captain Ahab and the white whale, but does this novel really capture the whole dilemma of a man in war with the world around him?

Plato (another great philosopher in Ancient Greece, and the teacher of Aristotle) might have said that the basic idea behind "Moby Dick", of a man fighting the world, because he blames his misfortune on it, cannot be invented (by, say, Melville, or Shylock in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"), but that these ideas are all around us, and they exist in a separate "sphere" which we can explore, but neither add to nor subtract from.

According to Plato, all ideas, and all ways of treating them already exist in an ideal "store of thoughts". All mathematical theorems lie there, together with all human problems, those we have already encountered (war, jealousy, hunger) and those we cannot even imagine yet. And all poems already exist in Plato's heavenly sphere, together with all paintings and films, both the ones already made and also the ones that may ever be made. Plus an infinity of works that never will be produced.

Plato's "heavenly sphere of ideals" is a wonderful thought, but his student Aristotle was a more worldly man. In Plato's world, we can only discover what is already present (and in his world, every idea already exists, even if we don't know it). Aristotle, however, said that Plato's "sphere of ideas" was empty at one point, and that just by thinking thoughts we add to it.

So, as I write this, I could be merely discovering something that has always existed in the Platonic collection of all possible writings, or I might be creating something completely new, that no one before me has ever considered, and I'd join Aristotle's point of view.

On the whole, I think I'd prefer to be an Aristotelian.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Am I Original?

After seeing, and writing about that quote on reading a few days ago, I started thinking about various words of wisdom we live by, and some of those quotable snippets you see at the beginning of a book or hear in a big speech. Why is it, if someone wise or famous once said something it is quoted for all eternity? Are we no longer able to think for ourselves? to come up with our own eternal truths?

Then I really started pondering, are the words I live by my own or did they come from someone else? I have heard it said no one could have a truly original thought. It may be new in that moment, but it was born from other knowledge and it is in fact just an evolution of ideas. So, does that mean every story has already been told and every poem already written? Will there ever be another truly new song or are they just updated versions of something that was sung a couple hundred years ago?

Many cultures believe we are born with innate knowledge; we already have the wisdom of our ancestors in our blood. I guess if birds can migrate to places they have never been and monarch butterflies can return to a place three generations later then it is possible we are born with some innate knowledge beyond how to breath and gain sustenance. Maybe, if we were not so culturally driven, we would be aware of this innate knowledge, but it is hard to know in the world today what we “know” and what we are taught.

I do know this, when I write, be it a story or poem or even a blog entry such as this, the combination of thoughts is new to me even if they are culled from the deep recesses of my mind or other sources.

So, as I ponder all of this and wonder “Why do I write if it is not original?” I realize it is not necessary to have new ideas, just as it is not necessary to know if my abilities are learned or innate, it is good to share what I know with those who might be inclined to listen (or read) and to keep learning. In the end, I realize that there are some worthwhile quotes out there, maybe even one or two appropriate for moments such as this.

Let me close with one I found yesterday:
“A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.” unknown

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I read this on another blog and saved it and then I moved along and cannot recall what blog I snagged it from. Fortunately, it was not original to that blogger so I do not feel too bad.

"I do not read to think.
I do not read to learn.
I do not read to search for truth
I know the truth, the truth is hardly what I need.
I read to dream.
I read to live. In other people's lives.
I read about the joys the world
dispenses to the fortunate,
And listen for the echoes.
I read to live,
To get away from life!"

Taken from one of the more tragic figures of the American stage, Fosca, in Passion.

At first, I thought this was a really cool quote, and then I really started thinking. Wow this is arrogant! I wish I “knew the truth” well enough that I no longer had a need to learn. Though I could not imagine how dull my existence would be if I did not continue to learn and grow and discover deeper and greater truths.

How can I know if my truth is The Truth if I do not listen to your truth or the next guys? I will allow that in the above they do not capitalize Truth so maybe they are not implying that they can prove 42 is the answer.

I read for all of the above reasons, and others as well.

I read to think – when I find something that stretches my brain, I feel good. Learn something new everyday, which should be the world’s motto.
I read to learn – there are times I will pick up something simply for the purpose of educating myself.
I read to search for truth – I am not sure what this means. There is a spiritual truth and then there is the truth under any topic you encounter. If reading to find the truth means reading more than one viewpoint, then I am there.
I read to dream – every Conde Nast or Sunset magazine I pick up is all about dreaming. When I browse through travel guides or even the Sunday Travel section it is to dream.
I read to live – I think my Bible fits this category the best. I read it for all of the above, but I read it for direction in my life.
As for the concluding portion of the above quote – I read for the pleasure of reading. I read to get lost in someone else’s story, real or fiction. I read to get away from today, but I like to come back to reality as well

Monday, February 9, 2009

165 words, 55 at a time

What gastronomic genius created this classic?
No Catholic June Cleaver could have survived without it.
Family dinners were reborn and meatless Fridays reformed
the day some culinary queen combined egg noodles,
condensed cream-of-mushroom soup and the main ingredient,
sprinkled it with bread crumbs and baked up what is now an
American tradition: Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Some people (my parents) should never name their children.
I was born in sixty-nine, the summer of love, to two Berkley
grad students.
My best friends had hippy names (Zephyr and Cosmo.) My wife,
born in seventy-one, is named Wendy. I was not so fortunate.
I, Claudius Horatio Smith, despise classic literature to this day.

Mildred’s Common Courtesy CafĂ© is a pleasant place.
She has two cross-stitched wall plaques that say “Electronics Free Zone”
and “Friendly Family Friendly.”
Ignore her signs and you’ll be handed your bill and shown the door.
If you are a vocal projector she will get to the point, “Pipe down honey,
you’re hogging the airspace!”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Life took an amazing turn the evening Meg decided to go skating.
As she neared the rink there were lights but no music and people but they were not skating.
Perplexed, she gazed about from the ice’s edge.
His eyes found hers and instantly she was swept away by the captain of the curling team.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Step by agonizing step he proceeds on an unerringly straight path.
Over bumps and dips across the aging asphalt. His steady gaze
never falters, though it is hard to know what he sees.

A double yellow line grows gradually larger, the half way point.
One more step, and suddenly…




…his journey ends.