Thursday, July 31, 2008


OWE, v. To have (and to hold) a debt. The word formerly signified not indebtedness, but possession; it meant "own," and in the minds of debtors there is still a good deal of confusion between assets and liabilities.

2008 Update: To delay negotiation.  To pre-pay a vacation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Fable (for children)

Once upon a time in Alaska, a troll met three gruff billy goats, crossing a bridge. The first two billy goats tricked him into waiting on the third who was large and feisty. Just when the troll was about to set on this last billy goat, the last billy goat set on him and poked out his eyes and crushed his spine and burst his ear drums and ate his heart. Finally, the billy goat tossed the troll over the side into the deep, dark chasm below. As the troll fell he yelled "I need a new bridge..." and the billy goat, who was on his way to Washington to make himself fat, called after him "Then run for the Senate, Mr. Stevens!"

Moral:  It is a lonesome bridge that crosses no line.

INFRASTRUCTURE, n.  The network of public goods serving private interests at the behest of secret associations.  A structure the edifice of which fills the horizon and the purpose for which fits in a desk drawer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


ORPHAN, n. A living person whom death has deprived of the power of filial ingratitude — a privation appealing with a particular eloquence to all that is sympathetic in human nature. When young the orphan is commonly sent to an asylum, where by careful cultivation of its rudimentary sense of locality it is taught to know its place. It is then instructed in the arts of dependence and servitude and eventually turned loose to prey upon the world as a bootblack or scullery maid.

2008 Update: The elect child in office.

Monday, July 28, 2008


OATH, n.  In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury.

2008  Update:  A promise of future betrayal.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Unionville Chronicles

Eighteenth Canto

This week's reading is by my sister, Jenna, who's visiting this weekend.  Thanks, 'Na.  To hear the story click on the dying gaul.

To read the story click on the medicine bundle.

Friday, July 25, 2008


LIMB, n. The branch of a tree or the leg of an American woman.
'Twas a pair of boots that the lady bought,
And the salesman laced them tight
To a very remarkable height —
Higher, indeed, than I think he ought —
Higher than can be right.
For the Bible declares — but never mind:
It is hardly fit
To censure freely and fault to find
With others for sins that I'm not inclined
Myself to commit.
Each has his weakness, and though my own
Is freedom from every sin,
It still were unfair to pitch in,
Discharging the first censorious stone.
Besides, the truth compels me to say,
The boots in question were made that way.
As he drew the lace she made a grimace,
And blushingly said to him:
"This boot, I'm sure, is too high to endure,
It hurts my — hurts my — limb."
The salesman smiled in a manner mild,
Like an artless, undesigning child;
Then, checking himself, to his face he gave
A look as sorrowful as the grave,
Though he didn't care two figs
For her paints and throes,
As he stroked her toes,
Remarking with speech and manner just
Befitting his calling: "Madam, I trust
That it doesn't hurt your twigs."
—B. Percival Dike
2008 Update: A branch correctly attached to the torso of a beast or the neck of a reformer.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


ZIGZAG, v.t. To move forward uncertainly, from side to side, as one carrying the white man's burden. (From zed, z, and jag, an Icelandic word of unknown meaning.)

He zedjagged so uncomen wyde
Thet non coude pas on eyder syde;
So, to com saufly thruh, I been
Constreynet for to doodge betwene.

2008 Update: To make real progress, rhetorically.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Two Roads

Two parties diverged in a forest,
And I wondered which would fare the poorest
Both seemed to be lost, enrutted and wounded,
Largely unready and probably spoon-fed,
Dressed for another clime with different weather,
In green felt, top hats, white gloves and leather.

As the two parties departed the other's company
And I wondered which would first reach their destination, if any
Tired, perhaps, indifferent, most likely,
Meandering confused, outspoken and hikely,
Certain of evil, puzzled by good,
Unsure of the trees and lost to the wood.

But as the parties grew further apart,
And I wondered what beacon shone on each group's heart,
It seemed the further they treaded
The nearer they headed
To the same dark part of the groveland,
Never separated, but for their hooves which were cloven.

PARTY, n. A silo for the fermentation of folly and fratricide.

Happy birthday to Mo'a, I think.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


ZENITH, n. The point in the heavens directly overhead to a man standing or a growing cabbage. A man in bed or a cabbage in the pot is not considered as having a zenith, though from this view of the matter there was once a considerable dissent among the learned, some holding that the posture of the body was immaterial. These were called Horizontalists, their opponents, Verticalists. The Horizontalist heresy was finally extinguished by Xanobus, the philosopher-king of Abara, a zealous Verticalist. Entering an assembly of philosophers who were debating the matter, he cast a severed human head at the feet of his opponents and asked them to determine its zenith, explaining that its body was hanging by the heels outside. Observing that it was the head of their leader, the Horizontalists hastened to profess themselves converted to whatever opinion the Crown might be pleased to hold, and Horizontalism took its place among fides defuncti.

2008 Update: The point of relative maximal ascendance, for example, the vice-presidency.

Monday, July 21, 2008


ZANZIBARI, n. An inhabitant of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, off the eastern coast of Africa. The Zanzibaris, a warlike people, are best known in this country through a threatening diplomatic incident that occurred a few years ago. The American consul at the capital occupied a dwelling that faced the sea, with a sandy beach between. Greatly to the scandal of this official's family, and against repeated remonstrances of the official himself, the people of the city persisted in using the beach for bathing. One day a woman came down to the edge of the water and was stooping to remove her attire (a pair of sandals) when the consul, incensed beyond restraint, fired a charge of bird-shot into the most conspicuous part of her person. Unfortunately for the existing entente cordiale between two great nations, she was the Sultana.

2008 Update:  The purest variant of Swahili as determined by the English linguists who first studied the language on the island of Zanzibar.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Unionville Chronicles

Seventeenth Canto

This week's reading is by recent birthday girl, Minka.  Click on the mass to listen.  Thank you, Minka.  Happy birthday to Pia.

If you want to read the story, share with the mare.

Sunday, happy birthday to the DDDragon twins.

Friday, July 18, 2008


TIGHTS, n. An habiliment of the stage designed to reinforce the general acclamation of the press agent with a particular publicity. Public attention was once somewhat diverted from this garment to Miss Lillian Russell's refusal to wear it, and many were the conjectures as to her motive, the guess of Miss Pauline Hall showing a high order of ingenuity and sustained reflection. It was Miss Hall's belief that nature had not endowed Miss Russell with beautiful legs. This theory was impossible of acceptance by the male understanding, but the conception of a faulty female leg was of so prodigious originality as to rank among the most brilliant feats of philosophical speculation! It is strange that in all the controversy regarding Miss Russell's aversion to tights no one seems to have thought to ascribe it to what was known among the ancients as "modesty." The nature of that sentiment is now imperfectly understood, and possibly incapable of exposition with the vocabulary that remains to us. The study of lost arts has, however, been recently revived and some of the arts themselves recovered. This is an epoch of renaissances, and there is ground for hope that the primitive "blush" may be dragged from its hiding-place amongst the tombs of antiquity and hissed on to the stage.

2008 Update:  A professional informality incorporated into the uniform of dancers, "consultants," spouses and pharmaceutical representatives after hours.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


TORTOISE, n. A creature thoughtfully created to supply occasion for the following lines by the illustrious Ambat Delaso:


My friend, you are not graceful — not at all;
Your gait's between a stagger and a sprawl.

Nor are you beautiful: your head's a snake's
To look at, and I do not doubt it aches.

As to your feet, they'd make an angel weep.
'Tis true you take them in whene'er you sleep.

No, you're not pretty, but you have, I own,
A certain firmness — mostly your backbone.

Firmness and strength (you have a giant's thews)
Are virtues that the great know how to use —

I wish that they did not; yet, on the whole,
You lack — excuse my mentioning it — Soul.

So, to be candid, unreserved and true,
I'd rather you were I than I were you.

Perhaps, however, in a time to be,
When Man's extinct, a better world may see

Your progeny in power and control,
Due to the genesis and growth of Soul.

So I salute you as a reptile grand
Predestined to regenerate the land.

Father of Possibilities, O deign
To accept the homage of a dying reign!

In the far region of the unforeknown
I dream a tortoise upon every throne.

I see an Emperor his head withdraw
Into his carapace for fear of Law;

A King who carries something else than fat,
Howe'er acceptably he carries that;

A President not strenuously bent
On punishment of audible dissent —

Who never shot (it were a vain attack)
An armed or unarmed tortoise in the back;

Subject and citizens that feel no need
To make the March of Mind a wild stampede;

All progress slow, contemplative, sedate,
And "Take your time" the word, in Church and State.

O Tortoise, 'tis a happy, happy dream,
My glorious testudinous regime!

I wish in Eden you'd brought this about
By slouching in and chasing Adam out.

2008 Update:  A thievish stone.

Happy birthday to Minka.  Verloren aber nie vergessen.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


The hope of men is soft and loyal,
Unfed, unsheltered, neglected.
By master's side, come fire or boil,
Though heaven itself be rejected.

The hope of men would give up its belly,
And its heart to its master's affection,
Though the cupboard be bare and the wardrobe be smelly,
With no sign of shelter in any direction.

But the aspiration of women is a voracious critter
That eats its own kin to survive,
Unsated by all that's sweet, salty or bitter,
It digests its prey while alive.

That men and women are like xylem and phloem,
With differences high, wide and deep,
Can never be doubted by any who know them
And take note of the diverse ambitions they keep.

HOPE, n.  What a man discovers on every plate and a woman hides in both sleeves.

Yeah, yeah, Mireille.  I know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


TREE, n. A tall vegetable intended by nature to serve as a penal apparatus, though through a miscarriage of justice most trees bear only a negligible fruit, or none at all. When naturally fruited, the tree is a beneficient agency of civilization and an important factor in public morals. In the stern West and the sensitive South its fruit (white and black respectively) though not eaten, is agreeable to the public taste and, though not exported, profitable to the general welfare. That the legitimate relation of the tree to justice was no discovery of Judge Lynch (who, indeed, conceded it no primacy over the lamp-post and the bridge-girder) is made plain by the following passage from Morryster, who antedated him by two centuries:
While in yt londe I was carried to see ye Ghogo tree, whereof I had hearde moch talk; but sayynge yt I saw naught remarkabyll in it, ye hed manne of ye villayge where it grewe made answer as followeth:

"Ye tree is not nowe in fruite, but in his seasonne you shall see dependynge fr. his braunches all soch as have affroynted ye King his Majesty."

And I was furder tolde yt ye worde "Ghogo" sygnifyeth in yr tong ye same as "rapscal" in our owne.
—Trauvells in ye Easte
2008 Update:  A tall bush that may bear fruit or nuts and to which these return.  Southern trees have been shown to bear strange fruit while Californian trees frequently bear actresses.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
Nor have I found a campaign solution
That inhales air pollution.
Nor a bumper sticker of Chief Seattle
That I can climb to hide from battle
Neither an environmental slogan
I might chop down to build a hogan.
And no fervent social movement
Counts on maps for an improvement
But if I edit over time
At least a good quatrain can rhyme.
--Grouse Kilmer

Monday, July 14, 2008


TRIAL, n. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors. In order to effect this purpose it is necessary to supply a contrast in the person of one who is called the defendant, the prisoner, or the accused. If the contrast is made sufficiently clear this person is made to undergo such an affliction as will give the virtuous gentlemen a comfortable sense of their immunity, added to that of their worth. In our day the accused is usually a human being, or a socialist, but in mediaeval times, animals, fishes, reptiles and insects were brought to trial. A beast that had taken human life, or practiced sorcery, was duly arrested, tried and, if condemned, put to death by the public executioner. Insects ravaging grain fields, orchards or vineyards were cited to appeal by counsel before a civil tribunal, and after testimony, argument and condemnation, if they continued in contumaciam the matter was taken to a high ecclesiastical court, where they were solemnly excommunicated and anathematized. In a street of Toledo, some pigs that had wickedly run between the viceroy's legs, upsetting him, were arrested on a warrant, tried and punished. In Naples an ass was condemned to be burned at the stake, but the sentence appears not to have been executed. D'Addosio relates from the court records many trials of pigs, bulls, horses, cocks, dogs, goats, etc., greatly, it is believed, to the betterment of their conduct and morals. In 1451 a suit was brought against the leeches infesting some ponds about Berne, and the Bishop of Lausanne, instructed by the faculty of Heidelberg University, directed that some of "the aquatic worms" be brought before the local magistracy. This was done and the leeches, both present and absent, were ordered to leave the places that they had infested within three days on pain of incurring "the malediction of God." In the voluminous records of this cause celebre nothing is found to show whether the offenders braved the punishment, or departed forthwith out of that inhospitable jurisdiction.

2008 Update: A justicial congress convened to select the cleverer attorney of two, who compete for the approval of a judge by publicly reforming a fourth criminal in view of twelve others.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Unionville Chronicles

Sixteenth Canto

This week's reading is by a drunken hobo.

If you want to read the story in Winnemucca, tell them the High Sherifff says its ok.

Friday, July 11, 2008


BEG, v. To ask for something with an earnestness proportioned to the belief that it will not be given.
Who is that, father?

A mendicant, child,
Haggard, morose, and unaffable — wild!
See how he glares through the bars of his cell!
With Citizen Mendicant all is not well.

Why did they put him there, father?

Obeying his belly he struck at the laws.

His belly?

Oh, well, he was starving, my boy —
A state in which, doubtless, there's little of joy.
No bite had he eaten for days, and his cry
Was "Bread!" ever "Bread!"

What's the matter with pie?

With little to wear, he had nothing to sell;
To beg was unlawful — improper as well.

Why didn't he work?

He would even have done that,
But men said: "Get out!" and the State remarked: "Scat!"
I mention these incidents merely to show
That the vengeance he took was uncommonly low.
Revenge, at the best, is the act of a Siou,
But for trifles —

Pray what did bad Mendicant do?

Stole two loaves of bread to replenish his lack
And tuck out the belly that clung to his back.

Is that all father dear?

There's little to tell:
They sent him to jail, and they'll send him to — well,
The company's better than here we can boast,
And there's —

Bread for the needy, dear father?

Um — toast.
—Atka Mip
2008 Update: To acquire by second-hand anxiety.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


BOTTLE, n.  An oracle consulted by Panurge as to whether he should marry.  By the ancient Crapuli the bottle was worshipped as a deity, but since the great reformation the Amphoristic religion has prevailed among their descendants- that is to say, the worship of the Little Brown Jug, who, under the name of Juggernaut, is revered also by the Hindoos.

2008 Update:  A subsidiary prosthesis for the liver and tongue.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Open letter to the cowards, idiots and reprobates in the U.S. Congress

Honorable madames and dearest sirs;
Something in e'ry loyal heart stirs
At the thought that you will soon pass a new FISA,
Thinking none of us will be the wiser.
For freedom's sake, challenge liberty
Assuming that no one can see,
And set aside the only courts
That judge a scoundrel's last resorts.

The assumptions under which we labor,
That domestic spying is best left to our neighbor,
That privacy's too precious to be bought
Surely needed a second thought.
And so you took initiative,
Little enough to offer but much to give,
And provided us with your new thinking,
Muddled some, I reckon, by your drinking.

Enlightened now, I find the need,
For sympathy with your misdeed,
For I, myself, wish I could wiretap
The minds behind your flapping traps.
Let the government now listen in
To the words we speak within the din.
But, of what you hear, take care what's true
Because some of us have learned from you.

WOLFPACK, n. Change we can believe in.

Thanks, Cooper for the inspiration.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


BOUNTY, n.  The liberality of one who has much, in permitting one who has nothing to get all he can.  
A single swallow, it is said, devours ten millions of insects every year.  The supplying of these insects I take to be a signal instance of the Creator's bounty in providing for the lives of His creatures.
Henry Ward Beecher
2008 Update:  The plumage a judge paints on a decoy.

Happy birthday to bountiful G.

Monday, July 07, 2008


BAROMETER, n.  An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.

2008 Update:  A device for determining the weighed consensus of local air regarding its future activities.  A mechanical focus group.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Unionville Chronicles

Fifteenth Canto

This week the reading is by my mother and Enrique. ¡Muchas gracias, antiguos!  Click on the cowboy to hear a surprisingly concise story.

To read, click on the Station of The Cross.

Friday, July 04, 2008


IMPORTER, n.  One of a class of miscreants whose business received from tariff legislation "the protection which vultures give to lambs."

2008 Update: A sanctioned thief who despicably extracts profit from the appetites of his countrymen and the avarice of foreign laborers.  Also, a patriot who gleans the labor from the immigrant at the border. 

To my naturalized, unnaturalized or unnatural American friends, happy Independence Day.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


INTELLIGENT, adj.  In politics, having a vote-in journalism, taking the paper; holding the same opinion  as oneself; rich; veneered by the Chatauqua Society.
Sourissa was intelligent-
She worshipped only brain
Dudeus was so swell a gent
He looked with high disdain
On intellect.  He said: "If you
Were nicely stupid I would woo."

Sourissa, contumelius,
Induced him with a kick
To revolute cartwheelious
Until the man was sick.
Contemplative of his gyrade,
"nobody asked you." she sayd.
2008 Update: Able to distinguish among lying, treason and fair trade.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Last Refuge (Some patriotic Noyes for TLP)

The wind was a stream of fervor among the townsfolk July Four,
The fields were a broad and fertile national metaphor,
The fireworks were dazzling dahlias in a garden of black sky
And a patriot started whining-
. Whining-whining-
A patriot started whining while his wife ate a moon pie.

He'd a Northrup King hat on his forehead, a Hank, Junior beard on his chin,
A silver cross across his chest over the tattoo "Born To Sin,"
His shirt ended halfway down his belly, his rubber boots were wide and tall
And he held forth on immigration,
. Foreign immigration,
Wages lost to immigration, and how we ought to build a wall.

As the night of Independence Day continued gayly on
The patriot kept on grieving over good days that had gone;
On the grass nearby, his neighbors celebrated freedom, filled with awe,
As he deplored the NAFTA treaty,
. The cursed NAFTA treaty
He cursed the NAFTA treaty and vowed "there ought to be a law."

When the band had cased their instruments and the pyrotechnics had gone still,
The patriot picked up the empty cooler and set it by his cooling grill.
As the parking lot emptied out under a sky now filled with smoke,
The patriot could be heard at last
. His voice louder than the drums, at last;
In a voice as loud as a drum blast, the man told a stupid joke.

"How many arabs does it take to change a light?" he asked.
"None, they just break wind on termite hills, 'til the hill fills up with gas.
"Can you believe it costs me twenty bucks to drive to work each day?"
Then climbed up into his pick-up truck,
. His bumper-stickered pick-up truck
He cranked his one-ton pick-up truck and hammered it away.

And still every July Fourth, they say, when the wind is freedom's ghost,
The fireworks are dazzling dahlias, and the similes grow in rows,
And the band plays God Bless America, but for some years when there's rain,
You can hear a patriot in debt,
. A patriot owing on his tv set
You can hear a patriot rise to bless the troops at war and then complain.

HIGHWAYMAN, n. Yesterday's good Samaritan.

Oh, a programming note: The rest of this week I'll be in Indiana with honest people and questionable internet connections. Apologies in advance for late posts, unanswered comments, unvisited blogs, good moods, etc.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ignis Fatuus


2008 Update: The illusion of a fiery spirit caused by the ignition of methane gas over bogs in Ireland or the desert of the U.S. borderland. SEE: WILL-O-THE-WISP, GHOST LIGHT, FOXFIRE, POPULISM, ELVIS.


And happy Canada Day to my friends in the suburban U.S.