Folly of the Faithful Canine|
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|Saturday, January 30th, 2016|
|Building Good Lives
There’s a place I used to visit with my sister every week.
It was always fun, but now when I describe it, you may freak.
The people there were all the same in height and girth and weight.
There seemed to be no kids apart from us (it wasn’t late).
A lot of folks were mean; it’s just as well they had no youths.
Quite few of them had houses, and the houses had no roofs.
Don’t get me wrong; they often had construction going on,
But any day, an edifice might suddenly be gone.
There was neither much for plant life nor for paving of a street.
It was even hard to find a place with anything to eat.
But those facts rarely bothered us, because our time was grand
In the itty-bitty little place we knew as Legoland.(ADDENDUM: If the ending confuses you, understand that I'm not talking about the theme park, which didn't exist in my childhood. Ads at that time used the term "Legoland" to refer to pretty much any large personal collection of LEGO blocks, so my sister and I co-opted it as the name of a township of sorts.)
|Saturday, January 23rd, 2016|
|That Snow Fun
When I was but a babe in arms, I had no love for snow,
That cold stuff falling from the sky; I’m sure it scared me so.
Within my early childhood, my feelings turned around:
I felt more joy the deeper it became upon the ground.
In later years, I didn’t go for sleds or snowball fights,
But thicker snow at least meant peace and cleanly pretty sights.
Adulthood came, and then I reached my disenchanted age,
When snow would chiefly mean I had a shovel to engage.
My office doesn’t cancel work; it’s not like missing school.
I might just work from home until the power’s out (not cool).
But if the words of other folk are any indication,
The day may come when I return to snowfall admiration.
|Friday, January 22nd, 2016|
|Book Review: Good Omens
Had it really been more than two years since my last reading of Terry Pratchett
? And more than half a year since my first full Neil Gaiman novel
? Well, the time was ripe to continue my exposure, and I'm happy to say that this early collaboration of theirs (neither especially famous yet) shows signs of both their styles and strengths. They actually couldn't agree later who wrote what -- and suspect that the project developed a mind of its own.
Published in 1990, it seems to have a millenarian implication, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek. The forces of both heaven and hell are preparing for an 11-year-old Antichrist to launch a war between them. One catch: The Omen
-like hospital switcheroo got more complicated than the Satanists had planned, and only near Apocalypse time does the truth come out that they've focused on the wrong kid. Mind you, even without the intended upbringing, the Antichrist (Adam Young) can exercise extreme powers, so nobody's writing off an imminent Apocalypse yet.( Cut for lengthCollapse )
For the sake of a semi-rebuttal, I've started reading That Hideous Strength
by C.S. Lewis.
|Sunday, January 10th, 2016|
|Book Review: Silver Screen Fiend
Yes, I'd said I was reading Good Omens
and thus led you to expect that I would review it next. Alas, I injudiciously took it to a movie theater on Christmas and left it behind. You can't really go back and check there yourself. I left information at the lost-and-found, but to no avail. I settled for ordering a copy at the library. Fortunately, I had received the gift of this new book -- Patton Oswalt's memoir from last year -- to tide me over, somewhat appropriately.
I couldn't have told you from memory that Oswalt voiced Remy in Ratatouille
, let alone anything else he'd done. Now I'll remember, even if the book focuses primarily on his life in the second half of the '90s.( Cut for lengthCollapse )
I can't say I found it hilarious like the excerpted reviewers did, just fitfully funny. It is somewhat interesting to peer into the mind of a struggling entertainer and addict -- when he's not struggling to make the reader understand. But if I want an irreverent sense of humor, recondite references, and a strange method of organization, I'll keep reading Good Omens
. Which I will.
|Saturday, January 9th, 2016|
|Those Metal Monsters
When I think of what frightened me most as a kid,
I first think of things that make noise,
Like thunder and vacuums, but also I feared
Some things represented in toys,
Specifically heavy construction equipment
(I wasn't like most other boys).
I knew on some level they're neither alive
Nor robots with minds of their own,
But they hardly resemble what parents would drive
And they look fit to pulverize bone.
The bulldozers, steam shovels, forklifts and cranes—
I wouldn't go near them alone.
It sure didn't help that they "grumble" along,
And most of them come rather big.
I called them all monsters despite what they do:
Just move heavy objects and dig.
Yet these were the years when I totally dug
Learning dinosaur info; go fig.
|Friday, January 1st, 2016|
It's been a while since I last entered a contest in the Style Invitational of The Washington Post
, but Mom recently pointed me to one asking for songs rewritten with lyrics to or about cats. Unlike most of these contests, this one does not discourage collaboration. Entries aren't due until the 4th, so I thought I'd show you all my work in progress and allow you to offer suggestions for improvement.A man comes home from work;
He says, "Cat, you’re so soft on the outside.
I’m glad you’re soft on the outside;
The rest of my life is so hard.
I need a photo of you with me.
I want a shot at YouTube fame.
I want a vid to go viral,
One in which my cat’s starred.
Dogs out the window,
Far away from the pet door.
Mr. Lowbelly, Lowbelly,
Get your claws away from me!
I know you don’t find lasers amusing anymore.
"Since you’ve been my buddy, cat,
I will feed you dinner now.
I can call you Kitty,
And Kitty, when you call me,
You can call, 'Meow!'"
I realize that the original lyrics don't do much with rhyme or rhythm, but it was the first tune to spring to mind, thanks to my mishearing at an early age.
|Saturday, December 26th, 2015|
|'Tis the Season or Two or Three
Most "holidays," it seems to me, do last a single day.
A few will run a week or more; it's still the word we say.
But just how long is Christmas? Is it one day? Is it twelve?
The Catholic Church says longer, and I say the same myself,
But for a different reason: unofficial celebrations.
Sometimes it's not yet fall before I see the decorations.
OK, that's mostly stores in hopes of getting us to buy,
But after stores move on, some buyers keep their lights up high
For up to months on end (and then there’s Christmas in July).
In my opinion, spreading out the season wears it thin,
But everybody else decides the length that makes them grin.
|Sunday, December 20th, 2015|
|You'd Better Watch Out....
We’ve seen him many places, looking harmless as can be,
Always cheerful, friendly, elderly, obese, and maybe twee.
But have you ever noticed how he reaches every place
In a short amount of time—and with a slightly different face?
No mortal man could move that fast, much less when fat and old,
And he’s lived for several centuries despite the arctic cold!
He enters lots of dwellings by a hole he shouldn’t fit!
And just why’s he sneaking in at night? What crimes does he commit?
Most people past the age of six believe he’s just a myth,
But I fear that they don’t know exactly what they’re dealing with:
A speedy, ageless shifting shape that skulks our homes by night—
In other words, a demon that should have us all in fright!
|Saturday, December 19th, 2015|
|Book Review: She
Yup, one short and lame title, typically appended in other editions with "A History of Adventure." Why didn't I pass? Mainly because it's the first story in an H. Rider Haggard collection and I'd already seen a film version
of King Solomon's Mines
. The other story, Allan Quatermain
, is named for the protagonist of KSM, so I decided to hold off on it.( Cut for lengthCollapse )
Now up for something modern, I've picked up Good Omens
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It certainly smacks of their work.
|Sunday, December 13th, 2015|
The Internet Movie Database is called "IMDb,"
Like self-identification as an insect; do you see?
The Internet Broadway Database is called "IBDB,"
A very similar message, but the grammar's off to me.
|Saturday, December 5th, 2015|
|The Not-So-Perfect Game
The team that never reaches first
Considers it the very worst,
As do its fans, but what about
The boringness of striking out?
The winners’ fans should hate it too.
The basemen and the fielders do,
I bet, because they can’t display
Their own bravado for the day.
The pitchers must be quite alone
In wishing to rejoice, not groan.
In short, a baseball “perfect game”
Could really use another name.
EDIT: This poem is inaccurate. I had read that a perfect game was a "no-hitter," which I assumed meant that no batter ever hits the ball, but it turns out that "hits" officially must result in runs or stolen bases. If you ask me, that makes even more deceptive baseball terminology. But still not as stupid as "ball."
|Saturday, November 28th, 2015|
|Playing with My Cousin Once Removed
How do you play with a three-year-old boy?
(OK, so he’s three and a half.)
I probably can’t even tell him a joke
That he’d understand well ‘nough to laugh.
It turns out his father, my cousin-in-law,
Had told him that I’m a good choice
For helping to build things with small LEGO blocks
(Not the big ones for littler boys).
I gladly obliged and spent who knows how long
On assembling his racecars and carts
According to printed instructions, although
He no longer had all the right parts.
Despite his insistence I stick to the rules,
I did find the time to create
A miniature cart with a safety belt on it.
I’d say that he thought it was great.
If the boy had his way, then I wouldn’t have left,
Since he can grow overly fond.
I felt very tired on leaving that night,
But it sure was a nice way to bond.
|Sunday, November 22nd, 2015|
|Book Review: Oathbreakers
I said before that my next book would be Musicophilia
by Oliver Sacks. Alas, after about 100 pages, I decided I'd read enough. It sorely misses the variety of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
. So I picked up another high fantasy.( Cut for lengthCollapse )
In some ways, it's an improvement compared to Owlflight
. Ultimately, however, it doesn't whet my appetite for anything more from Lackey. Thanks anyway to whoever got me interested in the first place.
I have now started a more old-fashioned adventure novel: She
by H. Rider Haggard. The same binding includes King Solomon's Mines
, which I've enjoyed as a movie
|Saturday, November 21st, 2015|
|Feeling Driven...or Not
I’ve had a driver’s license since the age of seventeen,
Yet I haven’t driven anywhere in years.
My parents would’ve given me a car; I wasn’t keen,
Even with its automatic-shifting gears.
I never drove so well; I had to take the test full thrice,
And I think the final tester had a reason
To be generous, aside from little areas of ice:
He reminded me it was the Christmas season.
I can reach most destinations by the bus and/or the train,
And my family can help me reach the rest.
If I owned a car, I might forget some features to maintain,
And the local parking’s really not the best.
In addition, I need exercise, and so I like to walk,
Whether all the way or to and from the stations.
Thus my license serves as only an ID; now you may balk,
But I think it fits my common situations.
|Saturday, November 14th, 2015|
|I'm Going to Vietnam
Imagine the surprise I gave to both my dad and mom
When I announced to them, “Guess what? I’m going to Vietnam!”
It sure meant something different circa 1969,
But I’ll be just a tourist, not a soldier, so it’s fine.
…Okay, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
They speak a bit of English, maybe not for every service.
I’m studying some phrases in their language, and it’s tough,
With different tones and accents; will my efforts be enough?
At least it has our alphabet, much easier to read
Than Japanese or Chinese, but a phrasebook I will need.
Of all the foreign countries that I’ve visited before,
Not one was so impoverished, not even Ecuador.
I can’t be sure a socialist republic won’t feel strict,
And worst of all, the bugs and food could make me very sick.
So why’d I choose to go there? Well, I’ve learned to hate the cold.
I leave in February when the weather’s gotten old.
I could have picked a safer bet like Chile or Brazil,
But moving from my comfort zone may mean a greater thrill.
I’ll spend most days there touring with a younger singles group.
My first day is their new year’s day; now there’s a cause to whoop.
The journey won’t be easy, so I’m feeling trepidation;
But nearly three months’ waiting gives me time for preparation.
|Saturday, November 7th, 2015|
|A Nightmare of Conjugations
Down the country road we drove
Until we finally arrove
At an eerie cottage long forgotten.
Would this visit be regrotten?
With the tools that we had bought,
We then ensured the lock was prought.
Moving softly, no one spoke.
I pushed the door; it slightly croke.
Upon our tiptoes, in we crept
And into every corner pept.
Was this the place for what we sought?
We didn’t see when first we pought,
But soon we had a candle lit;
We looked around and were delit:
A treasure chest on which was written,
“For the poor”? We felt invitten!
Opening the chest, we found
A hundred coins that nearly blound
Us with a golden light that shone
Like no plain ore that’s ever mone!
We didn’t know how that was made
But didn’t care; our claims were stade—
Alas, for that was when we heard
A booming voice whose words we feard:
“You thieves who’ve broken in and stolen
From the poor will now be dolen
Harshly with before you’re slain.
I think I’ll have you scorched and flain.”
To put it mildly, we were shaken:
Such effects aren’t eas’ly faken.
Once the shock wore off, I ran
Outside, jumped in the truck and gan
The engine, but my friends had fallen
On the ground. I was appallen.
Suddenly, where they had lain,
The ground was vacant! Had they dain?
From the truck seat I had risen
(What I did is ill-advisen).
Could I help? No, I was caught!
My greatest nightmare had been maught!
…In fact, I had the whole thing dreamt,
And none of us was getting creamt.
I guess if there’s a lesson taught,
It’s that some loot must not be raught.
|Saturday, October 31st, 2015|
|Something to Stimulate the Braiiins
What’s the deal with zombies? Why do people fear ‘em?
They move so fricking slowly, I’d never get too near ‘em.
The vampire thing I understand; they’re powerful and smart
And rather hard to stop without a stake to the heart.
On second thought, they also have a weakness to the sun
And garlic, crosses, holy water…man, they’ve got a ton.
Besides, they can act civilized and sometimes pass for normal.
I’ve never seen a zombie acting anything like formal.
And what if you get bitten and face assimilation?
The zombies moan; the vampires seem to border on elation.
Okay, I see the scariness of all the walking dead.
And now I think I’d better buy some silver and some lead.
|Saturday, October 24th, 2015|
|To the Persistence of His Memory
Many people remember Dali
For The Persistence of Memory
And little else. It seems ironic;
His other work's deemed less iconic.
What a shame; it's all terrific,
Coming from a man prolific.
He could paint whatever he dreamed
With artistic skills to be esteemed,
Usually weird and sometimes gross
But never dreadfully morose.
"Take me; I am the drug; take me;
I am hallucinogenic," said he.
About as arrogant as bizarre,
He earned that arrogance as a star.
He may have been something of a jerk,
But I'm glad he lives on through his work.
|Thursday, October 22nd, 2015|
As of yesterday, it's been a year since I launched my Watched and Learned
blog. As with "Downscale
," I have little to show for it. Few posts get more than five views; fewer still receive comments, including on Facebook. Even without a deadline, it can feel more like a chore of questionable value than anything else. And movie reviews seem less of an exercise in artistry than webcomics are.
Nevertheless, I plan to keep writing in it. If nothing else, I enjoy looking back at my own work from time to time. (Artists may cringe at their early efforts, but this isn't that early.) Besides, I don't have as good a memory for movies as I used to, so I may like to jog it.
Does this sound silly to you?
|Saturday, October 17th, 2015|
|Just My Less than Two Cents
A penny for my thoughts, you say?
I wish the penny’d go away.
It costs ‘bout twice as much to make,
And cheaper metal might just break.
Show me any modern store
Where items cost a cent or four.
Many people won’t bend down
To pick a penny off the ground.
Most machines will not accept them.
Shoppers often wish you’d kept them
‘Stead of taking time to count
An overly precise amount.
Since other nations said goodbye
To their small coins, I must ask why
We cling to ours, espec’ly when we
Safely ditched the old half-penny
Back when it could buy more stuff
Than dimes today can. Had enough?
Thanks for hearing what I think,
But you can keep the penny (wink).
[Note: By semi-popular demand on Facebook, I have agreed to write a poem each week from now on.]