Category Archives: Stirring World Events

All In All

I was home for Easter last week; I’ve got a valid excuse for not writing. Celebrating the Risen Lord can certainly take the stuffing out of you.

Instead of attending Mass on Easter morning, my family and I went to the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening, which features, among many fine attributes:

-Seven different Old Testament readings, registering at varying degrees of grimness on the Old Testament Grim O’Meter™

 My brothers went out to obtain pizza to snack on pre-Vigil, during the Butler/Michigan State game. When they returned, and we began eating silly things at a very great rate–things like pepperoni-stuffed breadsticks–my mother said:

MY MOTHER: Boys, why did you get TWO large pizzas?
MY BROTHER BEN: The tomb is empty, Mom.


The next evening, “The Sound of Music” was on the T.V, and I am obliged to watch “The Sound of Music” if it is playing within sight or sound of my person. My mother joined me, and after a time, my father. Neither of them–to my very great astonishment–had ever seen the movie. They had only seen “The Sound of Music” on the stage, when my high school performed it my freshman year, and I played the Reverend Mother. Hahahahahahahahaha!

Anywho, I hadn’t seen the movie in some time, and my mother and I giggled over the Baroness Schräder’s dramatic and thinly-veiled ill will, Maria-ward. She was forever giving Captain Von Trapp or Maria the eyeball for being secretly in love with each other and stuff.


Then there was the scene with the puppetry.

MY MOTHER: This is weird.



On Sunday, my roommate and I decided to go to St. Hyacinth’s Basilica, which is basically the lodestone for Catholic Polish Chicagoans, and light a candle for Poland, and for everyone who died, and their families, and so on, and so forth.

It is a beautiful church.

We arrived right after a Mass had ended, and people were flooding out onto the sidewalk; everyone was dressed as though they had just attended a funeral.  The men wore suits and smoked. Later I would see a woman dressed all in red, with a white jacket, for Poland.

We made our way inside. The church has several side alcoves. In one of them, a baby was being baptized, in Polish.

When we finally seated ourselves in a front pew, and after we prayed, we looked around. People sat in the pews, talking softly, and so did we. We decided that we did not know what we would feel, were we the people of Poland. The closest I can imagine is how I felt after 9/11, the hot-edged this is the most terrible; but that is different.

In front of us, an elderly gentleman hung matted drawings of John Paul II on the wall. This is true.

Outside, news crews were filming. People were singing, but I don’t know what. The Polish national anthem?

The Polish national anthem, for the record, is entitled: “Poland Is Not Yet Lost”.


Around the block from the church is a Polish bar. They had the door propped open, and many voices floated out onto the street. “Dancing Queen” was playing.

JESSICA AND I: Everyone grieves differently!


We decided that JPII was waiting for the Polish delegation to arrive at the gates of heaven.

JPII: Comrades! Come and drink a cup of grog with me!

J/K, he would never call them comrades! He defeated Communism!


So! Science, right?

1. They’ve gone and discovered a new element! It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s being called “ununseptium” until they do, which is, quoth the NYT, “a very unwhimsical Latinate placeholder that refers to the element’s atomic number, 117.”

ME: You’re nothing but an unwhimsical Latinate placeholder.
YOU: Boohoohhohhoohoo!

They discovered it by smashing calcium isotopes and the element berkelium together.


2. Need I say it?

The Large Hadron Collider is finally, sort of officially and at half-speed, up and running.


This week has been a real whopper already. A whirl-i-gig. A fiddle-stick.

YOU: A whoop-te-doozle?
ME: No.



Fountains, for instance,
have a periphery
at some distance
from the spray.
On nice days
idle people circle
all the way around
the central spout.
They do not get wet.
They do not get hot.

Kay Ryan


Filed under Kay Ryan, Math and Science: General, My Parents, My Roommate, Poetry, Stirring World Events

An Ear-and-Eye Full




I have learned that the tears which we produce due to strong emotions are comprised of different chemical compounds* than the tears which are produced when–say–we smell an onion, or wander into a sandstorm in the middle of the Kalahari Desert [why are you doing that, anyway? Don’t do that]. Or–to be more precise–these particular tears contain more of certain “protein-based hormones”, the best-named of which is adrenocorticotropic hormone. Woot!

How far we have come, with our scientific understanding! When our ancestors, the cavepersons, wept in sorrow–no doubt due to a peckish saber-toothed tiger–they had no idea that there were protein-based hormones swimming around in their eyeball-tears! They didn’t even know what a retina is. We do, right?


*[Ugh, that sounds like a robot, doesn’t it? The tears which we produce due to strong emotions. “I do not compute the tears which you produce due to strong emotions, human,” said the Uldof Bot 5000, and swung its shiny robot arms! Robots: They do not have a care in the world.]


I didn’t even know that there was anything in the way of protein-based hormones in tears, though, to be honest. Salt? I thought there might be some salt. Hold on, I will go and look.




Also, there is a song called “The Salt in My Tears”.

The lyrics are a real downer, however, so we needn’t share them here. This little snippet should tell you anything you need to know:

“I realized after all these years/That you ain’t worth the salt in my tears.”



[Tears: Haiti. Haiti, and everyone everywhere helping with Haiti, and doing good and their part. That is all I have to say.]


I’m flying out to New York the last weekend of this month. I haven’t been there in three whole years. Circumstances have stood ever in the way; not this time. I am excited. The last time I was there, it was my birthday. We all went to dinner that night, but I don’t remember where. I remember being very tired all over, body and soul, but staying out late anyway.  For some reason I always remember having a conversation that night, in a cab, about the fact that people can haunt you.

I was trying to recall the last time I even set foot on an airplane. I initially mis-remembered–it’s been about a year, but before that it was a flight to L.A, around this time two years ago. Visiting L.A was consumingly strange, for me; I loved it, immediately, head-over-heels, face-plant into the ground infatuated. Pre-visit, I was all, “L.A, blecccch.” When I came back to Chicago, I got on Craigslist and looked at apartments. In L.A. This is what I am saying.

I started looking through old pictures, from that trip; oh, goodness!




After the Elements

You and I, we are too far
from fire now: the chimney-pots
have driven out their smoke,
and stood alert for its return,
but flames are rare, or else
they are disaster; our rooms in brick and board
have insulated from the wind
our blood and voices,
so that neither moves inside the wilder air–
those bands of warm and cold, force
and impetus or null
that comes when two great streams oppose
and cancel out; we are
too far from water now, both you and I,
the green of dissolution kissing
wrack to wrack, sun
crisping to the glitter
of the stars; for in the water,
night comes soon, and in the water, there are bands
of cold and warm, and in the one
you die, and in the other live
but briefly, you and I;
we are too far from earth,
and when we lie down on the grass,
the palm a star, a shadow-bed,
we’ll never know if under us
there creep the fossils of a youth
who died and slumped beneath the earth,
and earth has moved across
his thorax and his thigh; until the air
we are too far from, though within
its stale caress had brushed the last
of sandstone from his eyes,
and took from bones
the oxygen they kept,
that entered time as expiration,
and enters us as breath.

Judith Bishop


Filed under Indianapolis Colts, Judith Bishop, Math and Science: General, Poetry, Stirring World Events

The Passage of Time

My mother sent myself and some brothers and sisters a few pictures from home two weeks ago, e-mail-ily. She wrote:

“For those who haven’t seen the house this fall. These are both from the back deck…Today most of the leaves are biting the dust–windy and rainy.”




These pictures look like the house is in a goshdurn woodland glen, untouched by the hand of manfolk!

It is on a quiet neighborhood street, however. There are people.

We also have  ourselves a woodpile back there.


Here is a story involving the woodpile. A few years ago, a raccoon got into the chimney atop my parents’ home, and skittered down inside, landing on a small ledge within. For the duration of this story–a story which I re-verified with my parents, via telephone–I would like for you to disabuse yourself of the idea that what you see below was the sort of raccoon my Pa would be tangling with over the ensuing 48 hour period:


Rather, keep the following in your mind’s eye:


Ha ha ha! J/K. I think. Dad?

DAD: There are caps you can put on top of your chimney, but we didn’t have one.

Anyway, they discovered the advent of the squirrel the morning after his arrival, because they went into the living room and discovered that the curtains had been ripped apart, “and other things”, quoth my mother. This is because the raccoon, like any raccoon worth its salt, had weighed the odds mathematically, and tried to launch itself  directly through the plate-glass windows in a bid for escape to the lawn below. Raccoons: Perhaps they are more the creative type?

My dad looked up the chimney, but he couldn’t glimpse the raccoon. However, my dad is a gambling man [“The Gambler” we call him, and also “Papa John Sunday”, a bizarre nickname whose antecedents I am long since unable to recall] and so he climbed atop the roof–he is sort of up there a lot anyway, to put up our annual Christmas wreath, which measures the width of the Baltic Sea–and looked DOWN the chimney, whereupon he saw this:



What to do? The raccoon appeared to be comfortably ensconced inside the chimney for life. Enter my brother Benjamin, who–according to my father–was “either 10 or 8” at the time of this story.

BENJAMIN, WHO WAS EITHER 10 OR 8: Why don’t we smoke him out?

Now, before you jump to the conclusion that my father immediately built a roaring bonfire in order to procure the makings of a salade du raton laveur  [“raccoon salad”] for his kitchen, understand that my father did not want the raccoon to die;  he wanted to take pains in order to ensure that the raccoon would not, in fact, die, but would dislike the ticklish position of a smoky chimbley, and see himself out of the roof end without further unpleasantness for all parties concerned. Are we clear? I’m so glad!

A fire was accordingly built. My father climbed back out onto the roof–again, to ensure that the raccoon was, in fact, heaving-ho himself, and not dead. The raccoon poked its head out from the chimney-top, but wavered about making a run for it.

The neighbors gathered to watch from the driveway and lawn.

The raccoon wavered. Waverer!

And then!


The raccoon clambered out of the chimney, ran across the roof and onto a tree branch, and made good his escape.

Below, everyone cheered.


MY DAD: That day, or the next day, I put that cap on the chimney.


Something else. The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, of course.


Hoorah, I say. I SAY HOORAH.


Learning to Read

She stepped from her deck to the strand
of beach to stand
where she could read
the sky. The lead

pelican dropping like a brick.
The ocean thick
with living things.
A chevron’s wings

rigid on easy thermals in
the heat. The din
of gulls. Their loud
lament a shroud.

Pheve Davidson

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In Which I Discover That There Is A Great Big World Out There

I spent this past weekend in Milwaukee. I had forgotten–or perhaps I never knew this, and am pretending to myself that I had internalized this knowledge, somewhere along the line, as a scientist does–that autumnal leaf color alters on a sort of “north to south” trajectory. The trees there were a riot of color, comparatively-speaking. There are all sorts of  other reasons for autumnal leaf color changes–the weather, the type of tree [“birch”, “oak”], other stuff. [I know what you’re saying. “Gee, thanks, professor,” you’re saying. Then you are falling asleep with your head down on your math homework.]

Back in Chicago, the leaves are still sludge-colored, in the main. Not fair, I say. That is what I say.


So you know how Google helpfully suggests search items for you? So helpful, that Mr. Googlepants. Sometimes the search items it suggests are uniquely embarrassing–

ME: No, I did not want to do a search for “The Limited Too“.

I started to type in “autumn”, and there, on the bottom of a list of potential search items, it read:

autumn in my heart

ME: To say that I am “intrigued” seems too mild a term!

I don’t know what I thought I was about to uncover; some sort of God-and-man-forsaken song? “It’s autumn in my heart/My tears are falling/like the leaves from the trees” [SERIOUSLY I MADE THAT UP JUST NOW!] Anyway, that’s sure not what I located! Instead, I located this:


It’s part one of a South Korean tv movie saga called “Endless Love”!


Apparently, the other three parts are entitled:

Winter Sonata
Summer Scent
Spring Waltz

I bet there is a love triangle!


There’s been a tremendous amount to talk about, in the past several weeks; where does one begin? There is and isn’t a tremendous amount to talk about, because if you’re me, certain things seem pretty clear-cut; clear-cut as a diamond cut with a straight-up diamond drill-bit. Or whatever.



He raped a thirteen year-old girl. Next?

No, seriously, next? ‘Cause this just doesn’t even REQUIRE discussion!

Must read piece on Roman Polanski. Read it.

Must watch video on Roman Polanski. Watch it.


What? Also, thank you for shackling this to him for the rest of his presidency, as he attempts to navigate the already treacherous waters of our foreign policy agenda!


I don’t mean to sound so crabby and fractious. And I should practically never even think about people, directors and actors and the like, signing a petition demanding Roman Polanksi’s release which states, among other things: “It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary film-makers, is used by police to apprehend him”, as if the fact that he was on his way to receive an award at a film festival, or that he is “one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers”, negates what he did 🙂 !  This is just one of the many things my simple mind doesn’t comprehend, Polanski-ward.  I just don’t get things, sometimes. Sometimes people have to explain them to me.

ME: No, I still don’t understand.




Oh, artist’s renderings!

Apparently, a “plume” did not arise from the depths of the crater, which made everyone–all of the earth-watchers–very, very sad, as a plume would have most thoroughly indicated hundreds of tons of moon blasting away from its surface.

SCIENTIST: Boo hoo hoo!

Nonetheless, the satellite(s) hit that sucker, and soon we may know if there is water on the moon, and if you or I might one day be living in a moon condo on the shores of the Sea of Rains [Mare Imbrium]! Eeeeeeee!


You know what I would totes not want to live near? The Sea of Crises. Uh?


Red alert! Ha ha! Sorry, sorry.

 I think I would like to live by the Sea of Nectar, perhaps.


To be honest, I don’t think I’d want to live moonside. In the stories, it never ends well. It’s never like, “And then they fell in love on the shores of the Sea of Nectar!” It’s always like, “And then they went mad from the moon-sickness and heaved crater-debris at their food robot and then there was no more food.”

You know.



The Chapter of the Rending in Sunder

And then I began my habit
of walking at night
to get rid of the strings,
witherings. The Lord revealed to me
that I am full of birds
turned smoke and hookèd strings.
I say to the Lord, Lord take
a string. I have named it
mesas ringed with beeswax wicks,
footsteps sowing up my stairs,
tambourines in trees.
Then a  tedious, gruesome
miracle unfolds, for the Lord takes
the string and what attends it.
Walking over a grate
there is the sound of the grate.
Margarita Mondays mean exactly
that. I say, how could I eat?
I ate. And how can I sleep? I shake.
The Lord says, look at the branches,
how they braid over graves.
And the Lord says, look at the HandiMart,
a bright, ordered box.
They have their grief, the people there.
Now the tableaus mass color, now the tableaus
fall down. I say wet pavement keep on
holding me up. Wet pavement hold me
up. Now the fetishes crumble,
now the meteors cup. The Lord says,
I meant of it a blessing. And I say,
I made of it a curse.
The Lord says, sound of roots,
sound of shoots, sound of
asphalt, sound of cars.
I say, I am walked into
deeps. Here are the jewelthreads
and throbbings that I need
to leave. The Lord says, chomp
and be chewed, alleluia.  Sever
and stitch, alleluia. Exceedingly, 
the Lord says, bar, barr, barrr.
I say snowfield? Snowfield?
Piñon roasting? Chaparral?
The Lord says, is what you want
the terrible free? And I say
to the Lord, Lord speak.
And the Lord says, sound of earth in orbit,
its muffled, its four-chambered beat.

Mia Nussbaum


Filed under Math and Science: General, Mia Nussbaum, Poetry, Stirring World Events


What? I can’t call you “dearest”? Dearest dearest dearest. 


Finally saw “Star Trek” on Saturday. The sequence of events which opens the movie…I mean…


I glanced over at Bridgid, somewhere in there; we were both in tears. I mean…I mean. J.J Abrams played our heartstrings like a fiddle, he did. Like a plaintive outer space fiddle. Carved from an alien tree. Probably from some planet named Angblub XV. A purple tree, I bet. It’s outer space, after all.

I mean, I’m granting that I openly weep at a lot of things. Like this commerical. 

I mean WHY don’t you just PULL my HEART out of my CHEST.


Speaking of things which make me cry:





Headlines of selected op-eds relating to the Iranian election:

NEW YORK TIMES: “Neither Real Nor Free”

WASHINGTON POST: “Neither Fair Nor Free”


USA TODAY: “Iran’s fishy election results”

Iran’s fishy election results.

Sheeeeeer poetry!

Auuuuugh, USA Today! Auugh! 

I was trying to think of another way to say “Way to appeal to your eejit concept of the ‘Joe Lunchbucket’ contingency, USA Today!”

I came up with “Jimmy Dinnerpail”.



Nobody needs you to dumb this down for them.  Don’t you get me wrong. I think everyone understands that Ahmadinejad has muscacholi pasta where his brains and heart should be? Overcooked muscacholi pasta, that is, and mixed with tarantulas. Don’t eat it, Iran!

Unless you voted for him, in which case…well. My support of the pseudo-democratic process prohibits from me from accusing you of having muscacholi pasta for brains, even if you do, which you do.


My brother is getting married on Friday! It’s terribly exciting. I’ll report back, I promise.


When I was on the train this weekend, I saw an adolescent boy. He wore white athletic socks pulled all the way up his legs; his physique suggested that he could put away three piglets on a slow day, and gain nary a pound. 

His t-shirt said [this is real; I surreptitiously scribbled the beginning of the formula down on a scrap of paper]:

“What Part Of


Don’t You Understand?”

Sweet boy!


The Aqueduct

Lie down someone said and I fell asleep
under the only tree around for miles:
a scrawny thing but sprawling–purple
wood, low to the ground, more bramble
than branches. There were houses hidden
in the canyons, I’d dreamed many times
of a white one with green shutters sunk
into a sandy dune along the San Andreas.
Under the tree I dreamed you were living
there in one of the upstairs rooms; you knew
I was waiting but wouldn’t come out, and I
awoke, then, covered in seeds. Had they fallen
from the tree? It looked a long time gone
to be giving up seeds. What would they let
loose on my desert? What kind of unfamiliar,
thorny thing? The word murderous came
straight to mind: for all I knew, and all I had
yet to imagine.

Jennifer L. Knox

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I’m Taxed, And I Mean That Literally And Figuratively

I just got done filing my taxes; pardon me while I bury my heart in yonder godforsaken patch of stony earth,  where nothing will ever grow again. [Too much?] To quote “Raising Arizona”: “Gov’ment sure do take a bite, don’t she?” 

I would say “Bite me, government,” except that I am a lady.

I’m going to join a militia. Taxes-shmaxes. Banana-fana-fo-faxes.

MILITIA PERSONAGE: Who be you, up here in the north woods, young whippersnapper?
ME: Just call me “Treasury’s Bane”.


Did you know that you can get a tax break for “river edge re-development”?

Hot dog!


So! How about those pirates, huh? CBS cut in with a Special News Report during the Masters on Sunday afternoon [the Masters, which I was watching with my family, and yes: I was completely emotionally invested in the outcome of the Masters after watching for approximately five minutes]. The juxtaposition between golf and drama on the high seas was nearly too much for us to collectively handle. And can we talk about how often we all got to see the phrase high seas this past week? You could practically see newsanchorpersons smacking their lips with joy as they reported on the story:


That night, on the news, we watched as a Captain of some sort admiringly discussed the “three clean shots to the head” performed by the snipers. He ended his interview with: “Happy Easter!”

Oh, how we laughed!


I just found out that an artichoke is a flower. Holy cats! Did everybody else know this?


Is it just me, or does this look like a plant that…eats people?

I’m sorry that this blog is super short and weird.

It’s just that I’ve been really tired for about six months now.

Sheer Columns

How do we know it’s not matter that matters
but matter’s absence, elegies of matter

like air between the columns of these trees:
not lines of wood but lines of air between

the trunks’ sticks, the thin spaces that aren’t wood,
clear stalks grown up beside the sold lines,

those breezy hollows filled with non-existence?
I’ve seen what happens to a body’s absence:

grief fills up an arid space that grows
bleak, empty channels reaching for the light

then fading to a watery, sheer background
like the space between these trees night’s

flimsy winds tilt slightly. –Lines of air.
Maybe the real trees shouldn’t matter

more than their surrounding stalks of air.
Let’s see both trees and space for what they are:

a grove of roseate fading, dusky columns
showing us how wooden trunks defer

to lines of gray-pink, dimmed, dividing light
clear emptiness curves over. Who’s to say

the mingled light and shadow stalks that grow
between trees as trees waver out of view

at dusk, aren’t the best evidence of trees?
If things are always outlined by the space

around them, isn’t absence what they are?
Shouldn’t we treasure those sheer columns more?

Lisa Williams

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E-mail from my mother:

“Our Dunkin Donuts is now open. Dad and I were the 4th and 5th customers, garnering a free copy of the Daily Journal and 2 DD coffee mugs. I think that is embarrassing, but your dad was thrilled. It opened on Tuesday at 5 am, and we were just leaving chapel, so there you go.”

She goes on to say:

“As we pulled in a cop car pulled out, and as we left there was a cop car in the drive up, and one on 31, presumably getting ready to pull in. We laughed until we cried.”


Good God: Dunkin’ Donuts is delicious.


I love the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel:


She’s all “Mich lieben, mein Mutterland lieben*” and I’m all “Ja, ja!**” and also “Wurde do mögen einige Dunkin’ Donuts?***”

Excitingly, the G20 has provided me with A LOT of opportunities to say: “Squeal, Angela Merkel!!!!!!!!” Don’t get me wrong: I know I’m supposed to be paying attention to Michelle Obama’s wardrobe wrasslin’ match with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, but Angela is my “homegrrl”.

[Let’s just re-visit the wardrobe wrasslin’ match, anyway–]



We’re talking shower curtain material, here.

*”Love me, love my motherland”
** “Yes, yes!”
*** “Would you like some Dunkin’ Donuts?”


I can’t decide what I think the summit accomplished. Nothing? Let’s just throw a trillion dollars into the global economy like so much Monopoly money!

Then there’s this picture:



I have a real, real love/hate relationship with protests and protesters.

LOVE: The freedom to protest! The sign of an open society!
HATE: Protesters who set things on fire, break windows, throw metal barricades at police officers, are “idiots”

You know, like this:


Or like this:



And I mean NO.



 I mean, if you just feel like protestin’ of an afternoon, even when your message is totally muddled and incoherent, and you think that dressing like a pink Star Wars stormtrooper will adequately relay your astute economic analysis of the evils of capitalism to the world–be my guest.  Just don’t break faces/windows.


I’m a jerk, aren’t I? I’m being a jerk.



While reading about the poet Dan Bellm today, I came across this poem.

Then I laid my head down.

Then I set all my wordly possessions on fire, because I did not need them anymore.

Then I bought instant Abuelita at the Jewel-Osco.


Every seventh year you shall practice remission of debts.
Deuteronomy 15:1

How simple it ought to be, to practice compassion
on someone gone, even love him, long as he’s not
right there in front of me, for I turned to address him,
as I do, and saw that no one’s lived in that spot
for quite some time. O turner-away of prayer–
not much of a God, but he was never meant to be.
For the seventh time I light him a candle; an entire
evening and morning it burns; not a light to see
by, more a reminder of light, a remainder, in a glass
with a prayer on the label and a bar code from the store.
How can he go on? He can’t. Then let him pass
away; he gave what light he could. What more
will I claim, what debt of grace he doesn’t owe?
If I forgive him, he is free to go.

Re’eh Deuteronomy 11:16-16:17

Dan Bellm

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