Quick Takes.

Facing It.

Sometimes words fail me. When that happens I turn to the words of others. They can provide peace, thoughtful reflection, or a window into the experiences of people who are unlike me. That’s why, following recent events, I’ve been rereading some of the poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa.

We are from very different backgrounds. I’m a white guy who was brought up in and have spent my entire life living in some level of middle class suburbs. Other than college in Indiana and a brief study overseas I’ve spent my time in Tennessee.

He’s an African American man born to a poor family in the deep South—Bogalusa, Louisiana. He’s from an earlier generation and served in the Army in Vietnam. His birth name is James William Brown. He changed his name to that of his Trinidadian grandfather. He writes about a wide range of subjects, including race.

I didn’t start reading his poetry because we come from different backgrounds. I started reading his poetry because a friend who’d read some poems of mine said, “You write like him.” And when I read his poem Blackberries I felt that way too. With a dog of my own I’d been in those places he describes. But then our experiences diverge. He describes feelings I’ve felt but in a situation I’ve never experienced—a situation he might have experienced several times.

No single person represents an entire group. No matter how we join together, or join others together, we’re still individuals. But a single person can articulate the feelings and experiences of a group.

With that in mind I re-read Facing It. History can alter context, and recent events have left me feeling that this is more than a poem about a veteran’s feelings as he stands before the Vietnam Memorial. An African American man standing before a black wall, seeing his own reflection as he reads names of those who lost their lives—this speaks to me of something I haven’t yet experienced but something I too have to face.

Facing It

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way–the stone lets me go.
I turn that way–I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.

Audio of Yusef Komunyakaa reading Facing It:

Katie Bar The Door.

So Shakespeare walks into a bar and the bartender says, “You can’t come in here! You’re Bard!”

That’s from my ever-growing collection of “walks into a bar” jokes and something I thought of when I saw this list for the Half Moon Pub in London which has creative names for some of its patrons.

barredSource: Twitter user @djsantero

Oh yeah, I also thought about the time I was barred from a nearby bar. That prompted me to walk to another one roughly half a mile farther away which was fine because the people were nicer, the pizza was better, and I needed the exercise.

The only part of the experience that has left me bitter is that I didn’t get a creative nickname. So how you do think you’d be described if you got barred?

These Keep Coming Up.

mangeFrom Great Moments in Culinary History:

Paris, 1923: Chef Marmot de Mange created a tremendous sensation with the introduction of zucchini bread (pain de courgette). A simple recipe it was nevertheless praised by gourmands and the general public. Prior to its debut the humble zucchini had merely been a primary ingredient in ratatouille and a common filler for smoothies. De Mange had, less than two years earlier, been almost as successful with his invention of banana bread, helping to extend the popularity and shelf life of the already popular new fruit, also a primary ingredient in ratatouille.

Sadly the chef’s fortunes would take a turn when the public, expecting newer and greater things from him, rejected his subsequent offerings of aubergine and asparagus breads, his experiments with cabbage bread, and his efforts to get people to at least try kohlrabi.

Banana bread and zucchini bread continued to be served in passe patisseries throughout World War II. American GIs brought home the recipes and in 1949 zucchini bread appeared in Annie Potter’s Cook Happy, alongside her hot dog and pineapple gelatin salad.

Today both breads are more popular than ever. It’s estimated that either a whole or partial loaf of banana or zucchini bread is placed in an office breakroom every 44.1 seconds.

Password Isn’t Just A ’70’s Game Show Anymore.

Enter password

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Now I’m getting suspicious, but give it another shot.

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Okay, buddy, you’ve got one more chance.

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Close, but no cigar. I’m about to release the hounds.

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passwords

Let Sleeping Faces Lie.

rbfEven though Susan Harlan’s Alternatives to Resting Bitch Face made me laugh something about it still bothered me. And then I realized it’s that term and I remembered that one of my favorite things about going to dog shows is hearing little old ladies say, “Look at that bitch go” and “Who does that bitch think she is?” but that’s another story.

And I felt like the list was still putting the responsibility in the wrong place. Maybe that was the point and I not only missed the joke and am unnecessarily white knighting here–it wouldn’t be the first time. I’m still trying to figure out why guys think it’s appropriate to ask women to smile and I’m amazed by the catalog of creepiness at Endearingly Wacko (part 1 and part 2)  I’d like to offer up some alternatives to the alternatives.

I’m Projecting My Feelings Onto You Brain

You’re Out Of My League So I’m Going To Insult You Brain

I Have No Self-Awareness Brain

I Expect Something In Return For Behaving Like A Decent Human Being Brain

I’m Unaware Of This Male Privilege You Speak Of Brain

I Really Believe Women’s Experiences Are Just Like Men’s Brain

I Don’t Get Why You Aren’t Flattered By Attention From Strangers Brain

I’ll Decide Whether I’m Your Type Brain

I Was Raised By Coyotes Brain

I’ve Mistaken You For Someone Who Gives A Shit Brain

 

 

It’s All About Convenience.

automatedInstructions for using the library’s automated self-checkout system

  1. Swipe card through the scanner on the right.
  2. Now turn your card around and swipe it the right way.
  3. No, like it shows you on the screen, with the magnetic strip going through the slot.
  4. Type in your library PIN.
  5. That’s not it.
  6. You wrote it down and keep it on a little slip of paper in your purse or wallet? What’s wrong with you? Has it occurred to you that if somebody gets it they could check out books in your name?
  7. Type your real library PIN. And try to remember it this time.
  8. Confirm your identity, unless you’re checking out books using someone else’s card in which case shame on you.
  9. Hold book, barcode up, under the laser scanner. Don’t worry. The laser scanner only burns if you keep your hand under it for more than four and a half minutes.
  10. I said barcode up.
  11. Keep the book under the scanner for five minutes.
  12. When the machine makes a fart sound press “REDO”.
  13. Your book is now checked out. Slide it spine down through the demagnetizer to avoid setting off the alarm when you leave.
  14. Proceed to exit.
  15. Turn around and go to the circulation desk because you’ve set off the alarm.
  16. Sheepishly hand the copy of What To Expect From Your Colonoscopy to the oldest person at the circulation desk. You know the one–that gray-haired woman in the pink sweater with her glasses on a chain around her neck.
  17. Look up at the ceiling when she has to call over four other people because she doesn’t know how to use the new system.
  18. Wonder why you didn’t just buy the book. It wasn’t that expensive and you could have had it delivered right to your house. But then you remember the “Customers who bought this also bought…” and it was bad enough just having that in your search history. And what would you do with it once the procedure is over? You don’t want to leave it lying around the house where one of your friends or, worse, your mother is bound to find it. But you can’t bring yourself to throw a book away either.
  19. Take your checked-out book and exit the library.
  20. On the drive home remember that you left the printed receipt with your name and the title of your book at the automated checkout station.

We hope you enjoy the ease and convenience of the library’s automated self-checkout system.

Well-Seasoned.

The other night I was watching the weather and the reporter said we would be experiencing “seasonably cold” weather. It has been unseasonably warm and “unseasonably” is a term I hear people use, but “seasonably”…well, you know how you sometimes hear a person described as “ruthless” but you never hear about anyone having “a lot of ruth”?

The only person I’ve ever heard say “seasonably” is me, and I only used it as a joke in this short video I made years ago. I’m pleased it’s made its way into the lexicon. I’m not going to start aggressively demanding credit for it, though. I have too much ruth for that.

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