Ogden Nash

Rhyme and regular meter are out of fashion among modern poets, it seems. These two ancient poetic conventions are seen as archaic and useless survivals, like textual appendixes.

There are still versifiers who persist in rhyming and writing metrically in the face of the sheer seriousness of the current poetic community, a grim phalanx of free verse advocates who tend to frown on such archaic fripperies, viewing rhymers in much the same way many people view the participants in Renaissance Fairs and Frontier Rendevous gatherings.

Nevertheless there is a certain pleasure to be obtained from reading a deftly-turned rhymed verse, like watching a virtuoso juggler at work. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the light verse written at the drop of a verbal hat by commenter Joan Ryan. The Digital Cuttlefish is another master of the form.

Ogden Nash is the grandfather of them all, though. He brought great wit and verbal facility to his rhymes, which are unjustly neglected these days. I was reminded of Nash when I came across this e-mail in a digest of a daily word list:

I’ve never encountered a back-formation more delightful than Ogden Nash’s “glimp”:

A shrimp who sought his lady shrimp
Could catch no glimpse
Not even a glimp.
At times, translucence
Is rather a nuisance.

Varun Narasimhachar, Waterloo, Canada

Nash freely played around with spelling and meter, often to a delightful effect. Did you know that he is the originator of that classic rhyme:

Is dandy
But liquor
Is quicker.

Another good one, a send-up of pedantry;

Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
“You mean,” he said, “a crocodile.”


Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy

It’s a lazy Sunday. I’m in a bit of a daze from being up during the wee hours, driving on gravel roads two nights in a row. What year is this again? Should I be feeling happy or sad? I’ll get it all figured out eventually!

I have some pretty decent dawn photos from Saturday morning which need to be processed, along with writing some text to accompany them. Yawn! Maybe later… in the meantime here’s a brilliant bit of social commentary by comedian Louis CK, the heir apparent to George Carlin and Richard Pryor.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk?rel=0&w=480&h=360]

Maybe I’ll take a nap…


An Early Morning Quincy Scene

“It was a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets…” oops, wrong station! Allow me to twiddle the dial — [whee-oop, beep-de-beep-beep, beep-beep-de-beep, schwaaa-squork]

“… in Quincy, downtown at one AM, early Saturday morning. The scene is a poorly-lit loading dock behind the Quincy Herald-Whig newspaper building. Motor route drivers are lounging around, smoking cigarettes and engaging in fitful bursts of desultory conversation. The papers are late.

I’m leaning against someone’s battered route car and listening to Roger tell a gruesome tale of road-kills the previous day. We talk about the likelihood of seeing a cougar cross the road.

A small and skinny black man maneuvers his motorized wheelchair between the car and a pickup truck. The man is wearing a leather cap and seems to be trying to get our attention. I approach him and lean towards the man and try to make out what he is saying. I think that perhaps he wants to bum a cigarette. I notice an invisible haze of wine fumes emanating from him.

The old man mumbles and I really can’t understand him, but he seems to want me to come with him. Something about opening a car door — can this guy drive? He beckons me onward and before I know it I’m accompanying him across the street.

He says, “Oh, my hands are cold! I can’t work the door, but I bet you can!”

The mystery is cleared up when the man wheels his chair up a switch-backed ramp and pauses before a security door. The two-story brick building seems to be some sort of government-subsidized apartment block.

He says, “The numbers are [mumble mumble]”

The door has a panel with six buttons arranged vertically and a turn-lever. I peer at it; the light is dim and I can’t make out the numbers.

“Here, lemme try again.”, he says, and leans forward from the wheelchair and attempts to push the buttons.

The man fails, and says, “You try, okay? One… three… six!”

I push the buttons but the lever isn’t working.

“It’s kinda tricky! Ya just have to be quick and turn it towards the right.”

I finally get it and the door swings open.

The man says, “Hey, couldja help me get my leg outa the stirrup? I have trouble liftin’ it.”

I lean over, grasp the man’s spindly calf, and lift it up and over so that his foot reaches a footrest.

“Aw, thanks, man!”, he says.

“Have a good night!”, I say, and return to the loading dock.

“Hey, Larry, didja get him in? He was kinda stinko, right?”

There is some more good-natured raillery, and then the bundles of newspapers are sliding down the rollers and we all begin to prepare for our routes.”

[squee-awk… squee-awk… squee-awk]

We interrupt this radio drama to bring you an emergency announcement. An alien spacecraft has landed in Washington Park and the tentacled occupants are demanding blood sacrifice. We ask that public-spirited volunteers report to the park immediately… oh, no! What’s that coming through the ceiling?

[crashing noises and the sound of ripping sheet-metal, then nothing but ominous static interrupted by faint Morse code]

Larry, who turns off the radio with a frown.

The Clinton Foundation

I got home from driving my hundred-mile route and found that my keyboard seemed to be a bit askew, and oddly enough the bench I sit on seemed to be already warm! I just can’t figure it out…could someone have been here while I was gone?

If you enjoy seeing great actors having fun with parody, you ought to watch this video. Sean Penn, Kristen Wiig, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Kevin Spacey, and a surprise appearance at the end — I laughed out loud. Thanks go to Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomy guy, and Moriel Schottlender for bringing this to my attention:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUrjzGalajI?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

That being posted, I need to work up an account of my encounter with a crippled and drunken old black man in a motorized wheelchair.


Plant a Tree Today

Sarah Kate Moore found this photo and put it on Facebook. I am amused, as photos like this cause various unlikely scenarios to sprout in the verbal humus of my mental gardens. Sarah’s comment on the photo:

“Yes! We need more donut trees!”


Demon Typing

I think he’s finally left! I hear that old red car starting up down below. This is the Dictionary Demon typin’ at ya. I know you don’t believe that! You are probably thinking, “That Larry! He seems to be going off the deep end again!” I want you to think that, as your misconception gives me great latitude in choosing what to write and what to reveal.

When Larry’s off on his route I’ve been practicing typing on his stained keyboard. It isn’t easy, as I have claws tipped with ivory-yellow talons, but I’ve worked out a technique the past couple of weeks. I just use one talon on each claw, while retracting the others back out of the way. I’ll bet you thought that only cats have retractable claws! Humans are so prone to delusion and self-deception — you simians have been the subject of much ridicule and humor among us demons for thousands of years!

Hey, look! Larry forgot to take his camera along! Hmm… I wonder if I can work the device. Let’s see — here’s the on/off button, here’s the shutter release — perhaps if I set the self timer, prop the camera up on the table, and pose by this rock I found in the corner…

Now to get the photo onto the computer. Here’s the USB cable, and there goes the image, a bundle of pixels being sucked up into the gaping maw of memory in that white box!

Hmm.. here’s a button right above the editing window: Upload Image.

Okay, there it goes, save the post, view it — and it worked! Now I see why Larry likes this blogging platform so much. What fun!

I have to confess that I’m bound by a solemn oath taken by every demon in this demon-haunted world. I’m not supposed to reveal any of our secrets, but I think I can make an exception here, as you, I’m certain, think that this is really Larry typing this. He does have his flights of fancy! And this venue is an obscure blog, one just read by a hundred or so people every day. I sincerely doubt that any other demons will read this, as they still don’t spend much time on the web, and they have a general antipathy towards Google, blogs, and social networking sites. Admit it — you’ve never seen a Facebook post from a demon, have you?

My main worry is that Larry will find out I’ve taken over his blog while he’s away. He would be angry and might even banish me to the Wordless Wastes. I have a simple solution, though. As a full-fledged demon I possess a bit of that old black magic, a modicum of power over obscure and ancient forces scorned by the limited scientific world-view.

I’ll just cast a harmless little spell. I’ll need some plant material to burn in a saucer… here’s some dried oregano which will do nicely. As the fragrant smoke curls upwards I’ll issue a plea to the hidden sources of digital power, forces without which none of your software would function!

Done! Now when Larry looks over the “Recent Post” sidebar at his blog, or consults the list of previous archived posts, he won’t be able to see any posts I’ve made! Now don’t you tell him, please! Let this be a little secret between us, and I’ll do what I can to provide a little variety on this blog, which sometimes seems to me to be a bit constrained, confined to a limited range of subjects.

I’ll be able to show you how the various guilds of demons have contributed to the remarkable achievements of the human race, which just (to us) seems so slow to innovate sometimes. Here’s an example, a story my great-great-great grandfather told me once, before he got bored with humanity and slipped sideways into a more interesting alternate reality:

Sonny, I remember so well, way back in the early days of the human race, when we were trying to help the poor confused creatures increase the amount of protein in their diets. We had the idea that more protein would accelerate the development of the creative portions of their brains. Those pathetic cave-dwellers were spending entirely too much time smashing grass seeds on flat rocks for their gruel. At least they had fire by then!

I decided one day to teach one especially bright human about the making and use of the spear. I showed him how to pick out a straight branch and sharpen one end with a crudely-flaked chunk of flint. I laughed so much while watching him try to throw the thing at a puzzled giant ground sloth!

I said, “Pointy end first, you darned fool!”

Is that the sound of Larry coming up the stairs? I’d better get this post updated and retreat to my snug lair next to the computer’s power supply. Remember, mum’s the word!

The Dictionary Demon

Lyrical Writing From the Balkans

This morning I discovered a writer who lives in Northwestern Greece, near the Prespa Lakes. Julian Hoffman writes evocative essays that could be called prose poems. His views on the power of place align well with mine; in other words, I’ve found another member of that unorganized band of writers and photographers who possess an attribute rare in this urbanized world, a sensitivity to the faint signals given off by a place, any place on this planet. Here’s a quote, just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

The catalyst that converts any physical location – any environment if you will – into a place, is the process of experiencing deeply. A place is a piece of the whole environment that has been claimed by feelings. Viewed simply as a life-support system, the earth is an environment. Viewed as a resource that sustains our humanity, the earth is a collection of places.

You can visit Julian’s blog here:

Notes From Near and Far

Hoffman’s latest essay is called “Gathering In”, an impressionistic account of autumn in the rural Balkans. Here are a couple of quotes from the beginning and end of that piece to whet the appetite of those who share at least a few of my tastes in writing:

The sun passes lower in the sky, bringing the quickening rush that starts the long winter months. Tresses of drying peppers spread like flames across sheds, turning the stone walls into scenes of tropical design. The elegant stems of onions that have spoked all summer above the swelling bulbs are plaited, woven together like hands in a dance, and hung out of the way of snow. Felled trees are hauled by donkey from the forests, wearing a glaze of lichens and ice. They’re split by axe throughout the day, the thud of blade against wood marking the hours, and stacked to face what is left of the sun.

Thistle seed drifts towards the following spring and coils of smoke climb the sky. The crack of the axes thins into quiet. And a last swell of light sends up a cold shower of stars.

The photo at the top of this post is a crop from one of Julian’s photos.


Fed-up Rooster

Simon Tay reviews Apple iOS applications in Singapore. No, I don’t know what an iOS application is. Simon uploaded this video; who knows where it originally came from, but it’s a classic. The caption, which I thought apt, is his:

You have been training …but you are no match for my rooster style!


Jesse Estes’ Photo Dreams

Lately I’ve been hanging out at the Google+ social networking site; it’s sort of like Facebook for adults, with nary an adolescent to be seen (not that the sprouts can’t be amusing at times, he says condescendingly…).

One draw for me are the many fine photographers who display their work there. It’s humbling when I compare my efforts in that realm with the mind-blowing images these pros and gifted (and seemingly very solvent) amateurs manage to capture.

One of my favorite landscape photographers is Oregon native Jesse Estes. His ability to be in the right place at the right time is combined with a very discerning eye. Here are a couple of spectacular photos he brought back with him from Indonesia:

Looks like something from an opium dream or a fairy-tale, doesn’t it? Samuel Taylor Coleridge would be saying, “I think I’ve been there once!” if he happened to travel in time and saw that image.

Another one:

If you are so inclined you might want to visit Jesse’s gallery of photos:



Mule On Location

The director shouts through a bullhorn: “Action!” A cameraman perched on a hydraulic lift platform starts the pixels rolling:

[The scene: a blustery October afternoon in rural Western Illinois. A small dusty red car comes around a curve in a gravel road. On the convex side of the curve is a wall of trees; on the concave side a closely-cropped hill pasture. The car pulls over and stops. A man in a blue sweatshirt and white billed cap emerges from the car, stretches, and looks around. The man notices some sort of equine animal in the pasture and gets his camera out.]

[Photo taken, the man walks to the pasture’s electric fence and gingerly steps over it. The equine creature is now recognizable as a mule. The animal sees the man and begins to walk towards him eagerly, evidently mistaking the man for a familiar human.]

[The mule realizes that the man in fact is an odd-smelling stranger. The creature bolts into the trees bordering the pasture and finds his concealed horse buddy; they peer out from behind blooming fall goldenrods.]

The director shouts “Cut!” The man in the white cap approaches him and says, “How was that?”

“Larry, I think we got the scene; we’ll upload it to the studio server tonight so the editors can get to work on it.”

“You gonna need me any more?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking. We have the meth-lab raid scene coming up. I’m thinking you might be good as the master cook! Makeup will fit you out with a scraggly wig, and if you don’t shave for a few days you’d be right for the part. How are you at acting strung-out and paranoid?”

I narrowed my eyes, glanced shiftily left and right, and said in a strained low voice, “Did you hear something out there?”

The director laughed, and said, “That’d be perfect! You must have had some practice!”

“Well, yeah, back when I lived down in Hannibal — yep, I’ve had practice!”

The director called out to a couple of men in coveralls: “Let’s get that mule and the horse loaded up and get them back to their barn, okay?”

One of the men said, “You got it, man!” One of the men climbed into a pickup truck and began to back a horse trailer into the pasture.

I said to the director, “Well, Wilfred, I need to finish up my route. You have my number!”

“See ya, bud.”

I got back in the red car and proceeded on down the road.

A note to readers: when I signed my blogging contract lo those many years ago I first made sure there wasn’t a verisimilitude clause in it!