Category Archives: Uncategorized

Correction: My Personal Independence Day

Yes, it finally happened.

I’m free.

Dr. King spoke it best, but I can say it too:

And in the end, it was pretty easy:

– A quick search;

– The right turns in the Labyrinth of Settings.

– A single swipe;

– No money down, and

– Not even any “Accept” and “Agree” buttons to click.

Then, when I moved the little dot from “On” to “Off”

PRESTO! It was gone.

I had broken the shackles.

Sawed through the handcuffs.

Picked the lock on the thick cell door.

Yes, mark it on the calendar: September 19, 2021 is The Day I —

TURNED OFF “Auto Correct”!

Yes, much-maligned Google still had enough juice to point the way without putting me through several hours worth of self-playing ads.

And while the IOS geniuses of Apple had buried it several layers down, the switch was right where Google said it was supposed to be.

So now, I am finally liberated and able to feel at long last the thrill of—

Making my OWN stupid mistakes again.

Not some damned fiendishly inventively algorithm’s anymore. MINE.

I was late to the grim party of recording the old regime’s endless horrors: the slip of a pinkie on one letter that was used to turn a weighty colleague’s name into a rude insult; the recurrent demonstration that even after a serious brush with the Ivy League, I had no clue how “its” differed from “it’s”. Or with more at stake, the time  “Clopidogrel” (a blood thinner crucial to many heart patients) became “Cloud ogres” in an email to the Doc. Or when “Short link” turned into “chortling”; and “Bibles” morphed into “Orca inlets.” (Not making any of these up. Other sufferers will have their own lists of lasting humiliations.)

But those days should finally be past. Now the ball is back in my court, and the old gang of familiar typos and screwups can regather, where they’ll be, one hopes, more manageable, less monumentally dumb.

I mean, “Orca inlets”??

 

 

 

 

 

Another Sad Season for SAYMA

One plague this year wasn’t enough: Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting, gathering this week by Zoom, is facing another one: a fever of  panic and hysteria over charges of — wait for it — racism.

WWPCT: What Would Paul Cuffee Think? Read on.

First, though, the vector of SAYMA’s resurgent malady isn’t a lab or wet market in China. Rather, it’s a familiar figure, Sharon Smith, a self-appointed anti-racism “authority” and enforcer who has dogged, derailed and disrupted SAYMA sessions for several years. This blog reported extensively on her baleful record in the months leading up Covid’s appearance and spread. (A list of relevant posts is at the bottom of this report.)

Now that the virus is fading, Smith is re-emerging, seeming more determined after a time of enforced dormancy.

Smith has several targets in SAYMA for this week’s session, seemingly a kind of makeup list. To start with, she demanded that the YM Planning Committee dis-invite Harold Weaver, their keynote plenary speaker.  Weaver is a Black new England Friend,  who is on Smith’s very long list of Black Friends she has quarreled with and lumps together as a gaggle of “desperate and despicable” hacks. (Their main infraction: differing from her diktats.)

Fortunately, however, the SAYMA Committee stuck to its choice and Weaver spoke. Smith also blasted a Tuesday workshop; it regrouped and took place on schedule. Continue reading Another Sad Season for SAYMA

How Many More Kenyan Quakers Have Died of COVID?

Friend David Zarembka.

I  haven’t  forgotten the unexpected deaths of Friends David Zarembka & his wife Gladys Kamonya in Kenya, at the turn of March into April of 2021.

Now there’s a report that suggests that COVID deaths there are numerous, and the total is likely much higher than is suggested by the meager available statistics.

The New York Times on May 21, 2021 included this brief article: Continue reading How Many More Kenyan Quakers Have Died of COVID?

A Shocking Moment of Recognition

So.

I’m reading this Op-Ed by Peter Wehner, a conservative anti-45er, in The New York Times today.

He’s still reeling aghast at the GOP’s defenestration  of Liz Cheney. I’m empathetic to his view that it’s part of a grave threat to the republic.  But there’s nothing new about these sentiments . . . .

Wehner: I asked a Republican who spent time with Representative Liz Cheney last week what her thinking was in speaking out so forcefully, so unyieldingly, against Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen, despite knowing that this might cost the three-term congresswoman her political career.

“It’s pretty simple,” this person, who requested anonymity in order to speak openly, told me. “She decided she’s going to stay on the right side of her conscience.”

“She wasn’t going to lie to stay in leadership,” he added. “If telling the truth was intolerable, she knew she wasn’t going to keep her leadership position.”

Ms. Cheney was certainly right about that. Early on Wednesday, House Republicans ousted her from her position as the chairman of the House Republican conference, the No. 3 leadership slot, one her father held in the late 1980s.

The next priority of Mr. Trump and MAGA world? To defeat her in a primary in 2022. . . .

And that’s when it hits me:

— I can’t believe I’m writing this,

An image that’s been the stuff of nightmares since I learned what a “black site” was . . . .

A year from now, I might well be . . .

I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M WRITING THIS—

— Making out a check to . . .

I CAN’T BELIEVE  . . .

Liz Cheney’s re-election campaign.

Liz Cheney!

There, I said it. Wrote it.

Now I need to creep into a corner and ponder whether I truly believe I might actually do that.

Not that my pittance could save her bacon. But still.

To help save the republic —??

Might I? Could I? Really?  DO that?

. . . As of this morning, I’m beginning to think . . .

. . . I – I – I –
. . . Might. Even.

>> O. M. F. G.

[Would it feel better if I could send it in new Tubman $20s?]

[Probably not . ]

Garrison Keillor Goes Contemporary

My buddy Garrison — well, I did meet him once, and he even told me a couple of his secrets, which I blabbed here in 2016.

And we’re the same age; we always are, except for the sad months of September until early December. He gets older first.

And now he’s charging into the post-pandemic, and I’m glad to see it, and will let him tell much of his new story right here, as a guest post. Not least, because he starts out with a truth that applies to us both:

GK: I don’t need another career, but once a writer, always a writer–

Continue reading Garrison Keillor Goes Contemporary

The Big News That’s No News: U. S. Church Membership Falls Below 50%

How do we find “truth” about what’s going on in our confused & confusing society?

One source many often turn to for answers is public polls. If a big time pollster says something is happening, many of us still choose to believe it must be so.

A prime example of this phenomenon is the decline in U. S. Church attendance & membership. In case you hadn’t noticed, Gallup is just out with a report saying it’s happening, on a major scale. So if there’s a poll behind such an assertion, it must be true:

Gallup: “Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend.

In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.

U.S. church membership was 73% in 1937 when Gallup first measured it. It stayed near 70% through 2000 before beginning to decline, to 61% in 2010 and 47% in 2020.. . .”

Continue reading The Big News That’s No News: U. S. Church Membership Falls Below 50%

The Nice Guy and the Madman Prophet

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist

Nick Kristof is the New York Times’s  Certified Good-Guy columnist. While he’s an intrepid reporter, who has earned two Pulitzers, he’s best known for an uncanny ability to make even an unfolding tragedy like the one he recounts here feel like an upbeat family story.

Almost effortlessly he turns it into what could be the trailer for a newly-discovered Dick Van Dyke/Mary Tyler Moore movie, complete with cameos by Fred MacMurray and Mister Rogers, and a sunny happy togetherness ending. Guaranteed.

It’s only nattering nabobs of negativism, like me, who could think otherwise.

But I did. I read Kristof’s column, and my first thought was, “Oh, heck no: Papa Joyner wouldn’t shoot his own kids when his uprising starts. Of  course not. “ Continue reading The Nice Guy and the Madman Prophet

Excerpt of the Day: “Emergency Everywhere”

From the New York Review of Books, March 25 2021:

Regina Marler: Fire season in California ended in mid-December, but I can’t bring myself to unpack the boxes near the front door.

I threw them together overnight—family photos, backup drives, mementos, passports—in late September, when three wildfires merged, creating the Glass Fire, and burned west into rural Sonoma County, where I live. The Walbridge Fire, which came closer, had been contained only ten days earlier.

Regina Marler

For weeks I kept the gas tank full and wore a respirator mask on my trips out for groceries and bottled water. (The electricity had been cut, and without it the well doesn’t work.) Mostly I stayed in with the windows shut, watching birds materialize through the smoke to land on the feeder. Blackened, blistered bay leaves spattered the driveway.

At night, I woke hourly to scan the surrounding woods for an orange glow. What if no warning came? Like almost everyone in the Bay Area, I have friends who’ve fled fires at night, driven through flames. I ran my risk assessment daily. You could say the fire had already gotten me.

Climate fiction is a genre of necessity—a new, rapidly expanding chorus of alarm. It’s beginning to seem strange not to mention climate change in realistic fiction, and not only because it’s an existential threat.

As Bill McKibben wrote in these pages, “we are entering a period when physical forces, and our reaction to them, will drive the drama on planet Earth.”

The term “climate fiction” itself came into use around the turn of this century. (Its catchy abbreviation, “cli-fi,” was coined by a blogger and environmentalist, Dan Bloom, in 2007.)

While environmental disasters have been a staple of dystopian science fiction since the late nineteenth century, writers before the mid-1960s rarely envisioned anthropogenic climate change. Terrible things just happened, like the hurricane that sweeps humanity off the planet in J.G. Ballard’s first novel, The Wind from Nowhere (1961).

But more recent climate fiction tends to assign blame. The reproductive toxins that render most women infertile in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), for example, derive from leaking nuclear plants and discarded chemical weapon stockpiles—very much humanity’s doing. Almost all climate fiction is political now. It wants to kick the reader’s chair. . . .

In The Inland Sea, an artful debut novel by , the effects of climate change have become inescapable and relentless. The book opens during the record-setting Australian heat wave of 2013—until 2019, Australia’s hottest year on record:

Ambulance crews raced towards Circular Quay and Parramatta to tend to the elderly, the pregnant, and the very young. In the western suburbs dogs and babies were discovered comatose after five minutes left inside locked cars…. At Taronga Zoo, the lions were given milk-flavored ice blocks. Carrot-flavored ice was fed to the zebras.

Dozens of fires break out along the south coast, and flash floods follow the fires: “The ocean bled into the land. Salt water seeped into the crops. Rivers not rivers. Homes not homes.”

The narrator, who is unnamed, is adrift after dropping out of a one-year postgraduate honors program. She moves to a semi-seedy part of Sydney and takes a full-time job at an emergency call center, a temporary stopgap, she thinks. She knows the work might be stressful, but

the script we were taught on our first day was meant to shield us from distress. If all went as planned, the person calling didn’t tell us about the fire raging down their cliff or the body they’d discovered at the bottom of a gully. We waited to hear the caller engage with the paramedic or the firefighter and then quietly hung up before hearing the details. We were not meant to hear the problem. We were not meant to hear the woman howl for the baby turning blue in her arms.

[But] at work, she finds that others’ emergencies are “leaking through the borders” of her own life.

Madeleine Watts

Riveted by the calls that come into Triple Zero—Australia’s emergency call number—she jots down details in a notebook. When more than 135 fires are burning across New South Wales, a woman calls to let the fire service know that she has “chosen to go instead of stay. I lived through the fires of ’94, she told me. It’s like a war zone. Smoke everywhere. I’m not going through that again.”

The narrator thinks, but does not say, that she also remembers driving through those fires with her mother, “remember[s] the smoke and the heat and the roads blocked off and no way home.” She connects the caller to the fire brigade and writes “like a war zone” in her notebook. . . .

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Poet, playwright, publisher, andactivist Lawrence Ferlinghetti died of interstitial lung disease on February 22, 2021.

(This post compiled from various online sources.)

He was born Lawrence Monsanto Ferling on March 24, 1919 in Yonkers, New York. His father, an Italian immigrant, had shortened the family name upon arrival in America.

When Ferlinghetti discovered the lengthier name as an adult, he took it as his own. He had a tumultuous youth, parts of which were spent in France, an orphanage in Chappaqua, New York, and in the mansion of the wealthy Bisland family in Bronxville, New York. He attended Riverdale Country Day School, Mount Hermon, a preparatory academy in Massachusetts, and the University of North Carolina, where he majored in journalism.

Upon graduating, he joined the US Navy. After his discharge, Ferlinghetti took advantage of the G.I. Bill to continue his education. He earned his MA from Columbia University in 1948, and completed his PhD at the University of Paris in 1951.

He then moved to San Francisco, California, where played a key role in sparking the San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1950s and was essential to the establishment of the subsequent Beat movement. In 1998, he was named the first poet laureate of San Francisco.

Ferlinghetti’s most famous collection, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), has sold well over one million copies in America and abroad. He was the author of over 30 other collections of poetry . . . . Ferlinghetti’s numerous awards and honors included the National Book Critics Circle’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Robert Frost Memorial Medal, and the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award, among others. He was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2003, and in 2007, he was named commandeur of the French Order of Arts and Letters.

Throughout his career, Ferlinghetti consistently challenged the status quo, asserting that art should be accessible to all people, not just a handful of highly educated intellectuals.

His poetry engages readers, defies popular political movements, and reflects the influence of American idiom and modern jazz. In Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Poet-at-Large, Larry Smith noted that the author “writes truly memorable poetry, poems that lodge themselves in the consciousness of the reader and generate awareness and change. And his writing sings, with the sad and comic music of the streets.”

Smith observed that, from his earliest poems onward, Ferlinghetti writes as “the contemporary man of the streets speaking out the truths of common experience, often to the reflective beat of the jazz musician.” Such sentiments found an appreciative audience among young people of the mid-20th century who were agonizing over the arms race and Cold War politics. New Pages contributor John Gill asserted that reading a work by Ferlinghetti “will make you feel good about poetry and about the world—no matter how mucked-up the world may be.”

In 1953, two years after his arrival in San Francisco, Ferlinghetti partnered with Peter D. Martin to publish a magazine, City Lights. In order to subsidize the publication, Martin and Ferlinghetti opened the City Lights Pocket Book Shop in a neighborhood on the edge of Chinatown. It became a popular gathering place for San Francisco’s avant-garde writers, poets, and painters.

The bookstore’s publishing arm, the City Lights Pocket Poets series, offered a forum for Beat writers like Allen GinsbergKenneth Patchen and Gregory Corso. Ferlinghetti’s slim volume Pictures of the Gone World (1955) was the first publication in the series.

By 1955, Ferlinghetti counted among his friends poets such as Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen, as well as the novelist Jack Kerouac.

Ferlinghetti was in the audience at the watershed 1955 poetry reading “Six Poets at the Six Gallery,” at which Ginsberg unveiled his poem “Howl.” Ferlinghetti immediately recognized it as a classic, and in 1956, he published the first edition of Howl and Other Poems in the Pocket Poets series.

The collection sold out quickly, and the second shipment of the book—seized by US customs, then released—occasioned the infamous Howl trial. The San Francisco Police Department arrested Ferlinghetti on charges of printing and selling lewd and indecent material.

Ferlinghetti engaged the American Civil Liberties Union for his defense and welcomed his court case as a test of freedom of speech. He won the suit on October 3, 1957. The publicity generated by the case energized the San Francisco renaissance and Beat cause, and was vital in establishing definite principles to the various movements’ often disparate aims.

Ferlinghetti aimed to redeem poetry from the ivory towers of academia and offer it as a shared experience with ordinary people.. . .

One reviewer suggested that . . .  Ferlinghetti “enlarged his stance and developed major themes of anarchy, mass corruption, engagement, and a belief in the surreality and wonder of life. …was a revolutionary art of dissent and contemporary application which jointly drew a lyric poetry into new realms of social—and self-expression. It sparkles, sings, goes flat, and generates anger or love out of that flatness as it follows a basic motive of getting down to reality and making of it what we can.”

Two other collections of Ferlinghetti’s poetry provide insight into the development of the writer’s overarching style and thematic approach: Endless Life: Selected Poems (1981) and These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems, 1955-1993. The poems in Endless Life reflect the influences of E.E. Cummings, Kenneth Rexroth, and Kenneth Patchen, and are concerned with contemporary themes, such as the antiwar and antinuclear movements. In Western American Literature, John Trimbur noted that Ferlinghetti writes a “public poetry to challenge the guardians of the political and social status quo for the souls of his fellow citizens.”

. . .Ashley Brown, who, in World Literature Today, called Ferlinghetti “the foremost chronicler of our times,” commented, “Ferlinghetti writes in a very accessible idiom; he draws on pop culture and sports as much as the modern poets whom he celebrates.”

Ferlinghetti also published acclaimed fiction. His last novel was Little Boy (2019), which Ron Charles described as “a volcanic explosion of personal memories, political rants, social commentary, environmental jeremiads and cultural analysis” in the Washington Post. Ferlinghetti’s widely celebrated novel Love in the Days of Rage (1988) takes place in Paris in 1968, during the student revolution; it chronicles a love affair between an expatriate American painter and a Portuguese banker and anarchist. . . .

Ferlinghetti’s often short, surrealistic plays have been performed in theaters in San Francisco, and he exhibited paintings and drawings in numerous galleries.

He died in early 2021, at the age of 101. He lived in San Francisco, where a street is named in his honor.

A poem & an excerpt . . .

Sometime During Eternity . . .

Sometime during eternity
                                                       some guys show up
and one of them
                      who shows up real late
                                                       is a kind of carpenter
      from some square-type place
                                              like Galilee
          and he starts wailing
                                          and claiming he is hip
            to who made heaven
                                       and earth
                                                      and that the cat
                   who really laid it on us
                                                 is his Dad
          And moreover
             he adds
                         It’s all writ down
                                              on some scroll-type parchments
          which some henchmen
                  leave lying around the Dead Sea somewheres
                a long time ago
                                       and which you won’t even find
         for a coupla thousand years or so
                                                 or at least for
      nineteen hundred and fortyseven
                                                      of them
                            to be exact
                                             and even then
         nobody really believes them
                                                   or me
                                                            for that matter
          You’re hot
                         they tell him
          And they cool him
          They stretch him on the Tree to cool
                         And everybody after that
                                                               is always making models
                                          of this Tree
                                                          with Him hung up
          and always crooning His name
                                     and calling Him to come down
                                 and sit in
                                                 on their combo
                           as if he is the king cat
                                                            who’s got to blow
                      or they can’t quite make it
                      Only he don’t come down
                                                         from His Tree
          Him just hang there
                                       on His Tree
          looking real Petered out
                                          and real cool
                                                             and also
                   according to a roundup
                                                    of late world news
             from the usual unreliable sources

                                                               real dead


An excerpt from his poem

Autobiography

I am leading a quiet life
in Mike’s Place every day
watching the champs
of the Dante Billiard Parlor
and the French pinball addicts.
I am leading a quiet life
on lower East Broadway.
I am an American.
I was an American boy.
I read the American Boy Magazine
and became a boy scout
in the suburbs.
I thought I was Tom Sawyer
catching crayfish in the Bronx River
and imagining the Mississippi.
I had a baseball mit
and an American Flyer bike.
I delivered the Woman’s Home Companion
at five in the afternoon
or the Herald Trib
at five in the morning.
I still can hear the paper thump
on lost porches.
I had an unhappy childhood.
I saw Lindbergh land.
I looked homeward
and saw no angel.
I got caught stealing pencils
from the Five and Ten Cent Store
the same month I made Eagle Scout.
I chopped trees for the CCC
and sat on them.
I landed in Normandy
in a rowboat that turned over.
I have seen the educated armies
on the beach at Dover.
I have seen Egyptian pilots in purple clouds
shopkeepers rolling up their blinds
at midday
potato salad and dandelions
at anarchist picnics.
I am reading ‘Lorna Doone’
and a life of John Most
terror of the industrialist
a bomb on his desk at all times.
I have seen the garbagemen parade
in the Columbus Day Parade
behind the glib
farting trumpeters.
I have not been out to the Cloisters
in a long time
nor to the Tuileries
but I still keep thinking
of going.
I have seen the garbagemen parade
when it was snowing.
I have eaten hotdogs in ballparks.
I have heard the Gettysburg Address
and the Ginsberg Address.
I like it here
and I won’t go back
where I came from. . . .