Sunday, June 29, 2014

"I am Haunted by Humans" - Yet Another Review of THE BOOK THIEF

Mack Hall, HSG


“I am Haunted by Humans”


The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is quite a good book, but reading it is not a road to Damascus experience.


The clumsy attempts by the publisher to metastasize The Book Thief into a sort of eternally profitable Harry Potter-ish cultus with study guides, study groups, let’s-hug-each-other websites, and nihil obstats and imprimaturs by Very Famous People are more than a little annoying.  Such aggressive proselytizing will alienate the thoughtful people who are presumably the intended audience.


The Book Thief is good enough to deserve your thoughtful consideration, but it will not change your life, drop your jaw, shake your earth, make you cry for a week, reverberate your soul, crawl under your skin, steal your breath, blow your mind, bust your block, pop your eye, stop your heart, fly off your shelf, knock off your socks, jerk your tears, or shift your tectonic plates.  The book is good.  There is nothing wrong with good.  Reviewers seem no longer capable of approving of something or someone without drawing from a catalogue of hyperventilating, hyperbolic cliches’.


Besides, you might not like The Book Thief.  If you don’t like the book, and say so, you are an interesting and brave person, since all the reviews command you to like it, nay, love it, and sleep with it under your pillow, and make it your life-coach.


And really, The Book Thief shouldn’t work.  The spunky-girl-vs-the-Nazis has been done over and over, and rightly so, but civilization also needs a book about the-spunky-girl-vs-the-Soviets or the-spunky-girl-vs-the mullahs or the-spunky-girl-vs-MS13.  A girl can walk alone down a street in Munich wearing jeans and a tee while reading any book she wants, and no will much notice.  A girl who attempts any of those things in Teheran or Bagdad – and maybe New York or Calcutta - will quickly be reduced to a violated corpse in a ditch. 


Mr. Zusak has accomplished something marvelous in manipulating the convention of spunkiness – his protagonist, Liesel, is sometimes neither spunky nor likeable, which makes her more interesting, and the people in her life are similarly developed as flawed but well-meaning, as are real humans.  The fictional humans along Liesel’s street are seldom true believers but rather confused and bullied people who are surprised to have the government for which they voted. 


Liesel’s existence pushes the plot, and so she is not a detached observer, but Mr. Zusak develops Himmel Street, Liesel’s world, by surrounding her with people who each could have been the center of the story: Liesel’s foster parents Hans and Rosa, her friends Rudy and Max, teachers, shopkeepers, the mayor’s mysterious wife, schoolmates, a Hitler Youth leader who is a sort of satanic boy scout, and the requisite cloddish teacher.  The shortages of everything, including books but also clothing, safety, purpose, hope, and, especially, food, are made real to the reader on almost every page.


The hinge of The Book Thief is the community book burning.  This obscenity is also the setting for several encounters which awaken Liesel and Rudy to the adult horrors of their milieu: ethnocentrism, regimentation, conscription, betrayal of trust, a denial of any authority save that of the state, and a denial of history and culture. 


The books ordered burned are not technical manuals or math books but rather those which encourage any thought for self or others: religion, poetry, fiction, and philosophy.  A technical manual will teach a young person how to fabricate machine parts for an armed pilotless aircraft as well as for a factory that makes needful things; works of fiction, faith, poetry, or philosophy might lead the young person to consider on what occasions one may or may not, before God and secular law, contribute to the destruction of a fellow human being. 


The very existence of books threatens tyrants, and his is why Liesel steals books, to keep civilization alive within herself and for others.


The narrative voice is Death, and one at first imagines one of those tiresome, grainy Swedish films with Death as a boring man wearing a dark suit.  Mr. Zusak’s Death, a sort of Shakespearean Chorus, is far more interesting as he comments help us understand people and events in the story.  But in the end, not even Death understands humanity’s violence to itself.  After carrying away a great many souls of individuals we have come to know, Death’s final words, the final words of the book, are “I am haunted by humans.”



Animal Sanctuary

Lawrence Hall

Animal Sanctuary

An ordinary lawn, an old oak tree
Beneath it at dusk baby bunnies hop
An island of peace in a suburban sea
Blessed by Saint Francis of the Garden Shop

Sweet little birds pause at the feeder there
To gossip loudly over their breakfast seeds
This Eden where all creatures play free of care,
Well-tended, mown, and free of prickly weeds

A delicate deer has been known to browse
The grass at dawn, and creatures great and small
Know that the yard around our little house
Is a happy haven, safe for them all

But today we saw, in this pretty world,
Buzzards devouring the corpse of a squirrel

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cricket Choir Practice

Lawrence Hall

Cricket Choir Practice









Director: “Stop, stop, we’ve lost the pacing. Let’s take it again from, oh, ‘ratchet.’”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Theory and Practice of Summer

Lawrence Hall

The Theory and Practice of Summer

In theory, Summer is capitalized
As a sovereign kingdom of happiness
An unfallen world of sunlight and bare feet
Both dancing lightly across a new-mown lawn

In practice, summer is when the mower won’t start
While weeds grow high in a season so dry
That heat and allergens veto all joy
The damp crushes deodorants and hopes

In theory, summer is idle hours
Saved in a magic piggie from long ago:
Comic books and plastic water blasters
And lying in the night-grass, counting the stars

In practice, summer means driving to work
In a wheezy old car that runs on notes
And gasoline more precious than rubies
While the boss sets an ambush at the time clock

But see:

In theory and practice, a little boy
Slow-pedals his bicycle to the creek
His fishing rod in hand, his dog behind,
And he will live for us our summers past

Monday, June 23, 2014

War Correspondent

Lawrence Hall

War Correspondent

A helicopter skeetered bravely in
And pitched and yawed against the enemy fire
That wasn’t there.  The manliest of men
Descended unto us in flawless attire

His tailored khaki suit was starched and pressed
Its creases as sharp as a Ka-bar knife
Never was a reporter more perfectly dressed
For getting the news while risking his life

The C.O. sped him past our positions
And hustled him into the T.O.C.1
To ensure each noun and preposition
Would be written for the greater good, you see

Much ink and Scotch were undoubtedly spilled
In air-conditioned comfort, no heat or mud;
With scripted heroics his notebook was filled
No need to stain his suit with his precious blood

After an hour he was hustled back
To Saigon for an evening reception
After he wrote of a great attack
And wired New York his immaculate deception

A helicopter skeetered bravely out
And yawed and pitched against a sniper’s shot
That wasn’t there.  A great Communist rout?
There’s more than one kind of jungle rot


1Tactical Operations Center - command bunker, often air-conditioned.


Saint Anthony of Padua

Lawrence Hall

Saint Anthony of Padua

People are always losing things:
Their keys, their books, their socks, their souls;
But through the mist a soft bell rings:
“Home is this way,” it softly, sweetly tolls.

See Quebec by Helicopter

Mack Hall, HSG


See Quebec by Helicopter


Clever folks, those Quebecois – twice this spring prisoners in the province have escaped by helicopter. 


In March, Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau (hyphenated names are like, y’know, so sophisticated, and, like, stuff) and Danny Provencal, left off serving time in St. Jerome Prison near Montreal and took a helicopter tour.  They were quickly recaptured.  They said they were ready to die, but apparently they really weren’t.


When the police officer cried “I arrest you in the name of the Queen!” the prisoners replied “Oui, Monsieur Le Fascist Pig; I’m cool with that.”


No, really, they didn’t; I just made that up.


In early June, Yves Denis, Denis Lefebvre, and Serge Pomerleau also skipped recess by whirlybird, this time at Orsainville Detention Center.  According to the Daily Mail a judge permitted them extra time together in the yard together in order to help plan their trial defense on drug and murder charges.


The police are curious as to who might have helped the lads go up, up, and away.


Hey, Dudley Do-Right, you might want to talk to that judge, okay?


But Yves, Denis, and Serge too are back in the nick planning the future. They shouldn’t think of booking Air Canada for their next adventure, though; the service is awful and the cabin crew feature all the charm and helpfulness of “Knuckles” McGurk, “Stan the Shiv” Deadenov, and Barbie “I-Know-Where-the-Bodies-are-Buried” Kowalsky in the exercise yard.


So how big are prison yards in Quebec?  Do they often land aircraft like that?  Imagine being a prison guard, and a big ol’ helicopter lands on the prison grounds in front of you.  Wouldn’t you, like, y’know, notice it?


Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and his dog King never permitted their prisoners (who always seemed to be named Lucky Pierre or some such) to escape at all, either by helicopter or by dogsled. 


One supposes that now King would be a bionic transgender superhero rabbit or something.  King would take down the renegade helicopter with subhyperubersonic beams from his glowing green eyes.


And speaking of criminals in helicopters, do you wonder if anyone in D.C. knows where the Internal Revenue Service email messages are?  Did Lucky Pierre spirit them away to the Yukon and bury them under a rock in an abandoned gold mine near Dawson in a plan to betray Canada by selling them for filthy lucre to Vladimir “Snidely Whiplash” Putin?


King the wonder dog could leap and grab Grubstake Charlie by his arm to keep him from shooting Sergeant Preston, who discovered the secret map to the gold mine on the dead body (the map, not the gold mine, was on the body) of Lucky Pierre who had been shot by Grubstake Charlie in a fight over cards at the Malamute Saloon (now a Tim Horton’s) while Robert W. Service took careful notes.


“Grubstake Charlie, I arrest you in the name of the Crown!  And I’ll see to it that these unlawfully purloined records are returned to their rightful owners, the freedom-loving people and the democratically-elected government of the United States, that glorious and ever-vigilant republic south of the 49th parallel and Canada’s greatest friend in the tireless and ongoing fight against evil.  Right, King?”




“Well, King, this case is closed.”




“On, King!  On, you huskies!”



When Taliban Need a Feel-Good Moment

Mack Hall, HSG

When Taliban Need a Feel-Good Moment

In Qatar (pronounced “Gutter”) last week, a brash young reporter, Josh Rogin, went looking for the five Taliban given their freedom in exchange for an American sergeant ( Luckily for him, he didn’t find them.

Qatar is a small emirate on the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf. Its economy is all about the oil, manipulating other nations, and slavery…um, sorry, shouldn’t have said that…guest labor ( Qataris, the richest people in the world, don’t pay their taxes because you pay their taxes for them, at the gas pump. You also pay for a nifty little Anglo-Australian-American military establishment to protect them ( In gratitude to English, Australian, and American protection, the Qatari government buys much of its military hardware from France (

What Mr. Rogin did find in Qatar was a lot of tittle-tattle, including a bit of gossip about the Fab Five calling in masseurs.

Well, you know how it is, a busy day of planning mass murder and trying to find designer suicide vests for the kids can be trying, and a few minutes of having the muscles kneaded out is just the thing for a little relaxation before going home to the family.

So does Sergeant Bergdahl in San Antonio rate a masseur to help him work out his tensions? After all, he already receives much better medical care than other soldiers, and, unlike veterans, no waiting list for him. Might as well add a masseur to his health care plan. Nothing’s too good for our young men and women just back from the desert wars, right?

Mr. Rogin also discovered the Afghan Brothers Restaurant in the capital city, Doha, but The Five had not booked a table. Their telephone numbers are 974 481 7505 and 974 481 7478. You could ring them up and make a reservation. However, apparently no one who works there is Afghan, so it might not be the fully authentic Afghan dining experience which the more discerning gourmet has come to expect.

Qatar – trafficking in humans and oil under a corrupt ruling family in cahoots (I’m not sure what cahoots are, but people are often in them) with our military-industrial complex (don’t ask, don’t tell). Doesn’t that pretty much sound like the colonial period we’ve been told no longer exists?


Monday, June 16, 2014


(And one wants to like anything by W. H. Auden)

Yesterday I finished W. H. Auden’s For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, which, if intended for the ordinary (in a positive, Catholic sense) faithful, fails not because of its worthy intent – connecting the present (1942) with the time of the Birth – but in its T. S. Eliot-ish confusions.

When we read Chaucer, for example, the obscurity is not intentional; he writes the plain Thames Valley English of his time, and we need notes only because we are separated from his language by 500 years.

When we read a modern poet, though, there should be no obscurity or a need for more than a very few notes. Such turbidity as “Love knows of no somatic tyranny; / For homes are built for Love’s accommodation / By bodies from the void they occupy” (p. 45) annoys the reader instead of enlightening or delighting him.

There are moments when the narrative works, as in this Roman proclamation which surely echoes early war notices from the English government:


But this excellent mockery of governmentspeak is rare in its clarity. Consider this prose by Simeon, which begins well and then quickly lapses into fashionable 1930s cleverness: “Because in Him the Word is united to the Flesh without loss of perfection, Reason is redeemed from incestuous fixation on her own Logic, for the One and the Many are simultaneously revealed as real” (P. 52).

One imagines this being broadcast via the BBC Home Service at Christmas: “Mum, what’s ‘incestuous?’”

Every time the reader thinks Auden is about to pull himself together and speak sense to the audience, he traipses off to get lost in Four Quartets Lane.

The editing and the preface is by Baylor professor Alan Jacobs, who himself is the very model of clarity in explaining what Auden was trying to do, and gives Auden’s work more respect than perhaps it deserves.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An Abandoned Classroom

Lawrence Mack Hall

An Abandoned Classroom

Young dreams, now scattered fragments on the floor:
A little handle into a corner flung
The disc of sizes never again to fit
A number two pencil into place for a trim
Nor will the made-in-Chicago hopper
Ever again save for the classroom prankster
Sweet-smelling slitherings of cedar shavings
To fling about while Teacher’s at the board.

A new Ticonderoga thrust into
The spinning Scylla and Charybdis blades
Was tested by steel, the dross savaged away,
By turning the handle and grinding away,
And from this grim ordeal emerged The Point,
The perfect point, the adventurous lead…
“It’s not really lead, stupid, it’s graphite;
That’s what Teacher said. Don’t you know anything?”

Girls are stupid. They play with dolls and stuff.
I’ve got a real cap pistol. I’ll draw it.
You want to see? Look! No, wait, that’s not right;
It’s better this way…Ma’am? Uh…integers?
Arithmetic is stupid. Science is fun.
I’ve got most of the Audubon bird stamps
And I liked it when we cut up the frogs
Old people are so mean. I’ll never be old.

A leaking pipe drips the minutes away
Outside a broken window summer sings
Its songs of freedom as it always has
The desks are gone, the electricity is off
The air smells of education and decay
The classroom now is littered with the past:
A broken crayon, a construction-paper heart,
A silence longing for children’s voices.

One Happy Raindrop

Mack Hall, HSG

One Happy Raindrop

You’re working in the heat of a summer day
A little raindrop falling from far away
Ker-plinks you on the nose and laughs “Let’s play!”

At the Convenience Store

Mack Hall, HSG

At the Convenience Store

“Hi, sexy!” croaks a woman, her bourbon voice
Clinging desperately to a cigarette and the past,
Flirting from behind gas station sunshades
Speaking of adventures that we once shared
And of old friends in jail, in debt, in graves
And of her children – she calls them by name
And by divorce, marriage, and forlorn hopes
She catalogues her many illnesses
And says the doctor’s given her six months
But she’s going to lick this; what does he know.
She urges into gear her wheezing Ford
We should talk again soon about old times
And clatters away, seven cylinders to the wind.

Socially Engaged Poetry

Mack Hall, HSG

Socially Engaged Poetry

As an effective tool for advocacy
Creating partnerships and sharing skills
A voice to the voiceless, Split this Cliché
Empowerment to the empowermentless
Through bleats of provocation and witness
Copyrighted and stereotyped
In a World That is Forever 1968
Exploring and celebrating the many ways
We can score yet another guilt-grant
Asserting the centrality of the 501C3
Through bearing witness to diversity
As long as it behaves itself and thinks like us
Accessible and yet authentic
A n d l I k e d o s t u f f w I t h s p a c e l I k e u n o

cause spaces

are authentic, and,


Poetry as a living, breathing art form
If you listen, you can hear its respirations
Gasping in the long, dark night of group-think
Obedient to a mission statement
And the careful construction of resumes
Committee integrate complexity
Formula dampens the authentic voice
Perform this vital work imagining
Personal and social responsibility
Revolutionary transformation
Write and perform this vital work support
Of human social justice experience
Grounded in holistic spirituality
Flouting the patriarchal something-ness
An act that requires community
If you love freedom, you dare not disobey
And let all the people say “Cogent!”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Titanic was Sunk by a Bilderberg

Mack Hall, HSG

Shhhhh - Titanic was Sunk by a Bilderberg

Albino rabbis, the Illuminati,
Protocols of the Elders of Zion -
The evidence seemed a little spotty
‘Til a radio guy had us wonderin’ and sighin’

Fluoridation by the New World Order
Backed by the Trilateral Commission
A scheme to open our southern border
To crop circles – that’s his suspicion

Area 51, the Templar Knights
FEMA lurking in the Bohemian Grove
Perfidious Rothschilds through menace and fright
Guarding a Jewish-Viking treasure trove

Poor Newfoundland is Occupied by Commie rats
Who scheme in secret tunnels beneath St. John’s
Brewing magic potions in Macbethian vats
In Rodentian rituals from the Age of Bronze

The Priory of Sion, runes, swastikas, the Vril
Roswell and the Thule Society
No wonder the air is darkly chill:
We all live within a conspiracy!

Air Canada

Mack Hall, HSG

Air Canada

To the tune of “O Canada!”

Air Canada!
Your planes do not have cans!
Bladder control in all thy sons command.
With stressed-out sphincters we fly on thee,
True Northern continence, ooooh-eeeee!
From business class
Air Canada, we squirm in pain for thee
God keep our cans open and free!
Air Canada we squirm in pain for thee.
Air Canada we squirm in pain for thee!

A Summer Cold

Mack Hall, HSG

A Summer Cold

How tiresome is a summer cold:
A nose that drips like ill-kept drains
A catalogue of creaks and pains
That tell the sufferer “YOU are old!”

Anna Apples

Mack Hall, HSG

Anna Apples

Sweet Anna apples fall from trees in June
Like childhood summer days gliding to earth
From silvery-grey clouds through cobalt skies
Into the hands of youth in a golden time

Doctor Lazenby and His Errant DeSoto

Mack Hall, HSG

Doctor Lazenby and His Errant DeSoto

The first famous DeSoto, a fellow by the name of Hernando, got lost leading the boys through the swamps of the New World in the 16th Century and died of a fever somewhere along the Mississippi River in 1542.

Because DeSoto was in the past considered a hero (the cultural milieu skated around that genocidal maniac thing), Chrysler produced a series of cars under that name until 1960.

Doctor Lazenby, the ancient dentist who could have been a character in Andy Griffith’s fictional Mayberry, drove a turquoise-and-white DeSoto which was not unlike its namesake in blundering around the streets of my small town in the 1960s. His DeSoto was one of the last of that mark, a sort of land-bound HMS Ark Royal with high-sailing tailfins that menaced the town’s one blinking caution light.

Dr. Lazenby was known as a great dentist and a poor steersman – he lumbered his DeSoto along Main Street on whichever side seemed convenient.

The town raconteur more than once told of the events one high noon when Dr. Lazenby was driving on US96 slowly but erratically. The young chief of police – in those days the only police – turned on his bubble-gum machine and followed Dr. Lazenby for a long, long time. After a few musical bars from the siren, the officer finally coaxed Dr. Lazenby into docking his DeSoto along the shoulder.

“What do you want?” Dr. Lazenby is said to have asked, somewhat annoyed.

“Right now I want your driver’s license,” the officer replied.

Dr. Lazenby gave his license to the officer, who then walked back to the Shamu to radio a license check to the dispatcher at the county seat.

Dr. Lazenby decided that he would continue on home to lunch as planned.

Another lengthy, slow-speed pursuit ensued, and again Dr. Lazenby stopped the DeSoto at a time convenient for him.

When the officer, with the license (driving, not dental) still in hand approached the DeSoto again, Dr. Lazenby is said to have demanded, angrily, “Now what in the (Newark, New Jersey) do you want!?”

Let us all pause and savor the moment.

I never knew Dr. Lazenby very well; my parents took me to one of those young whipper-snapper dentists educated after the Spanish-American War. Thus, for me Dr. Lazenby was a sort of background character, a cheerful old codge, one of the many wonderful people whose genial eccentricity gives a small town a certain quiet joy.

Whether the story about old Dr. Lazenby and the young police officer is true, well, I don’t know, but if not, it ought to be.


This is the Army, Princess Jones

Mack Hall, HSG

This is the Army, Princess Jones

This is the Army, Princess Jones
No private rooms or telephones
You had your breakfast in bed before
But you won’t have it there anymore!

-Not Exactly as Written by Irving Berlin

A famous actress – and, in truth, a very good actress - who twits on the ‘Net and is hurt that other people on the ‘Net twit back very bad, horrible, no-good things about her, compared her hurt feelings to being in a war.

The implied directive is this: when an actress twits her Me-Me-Me-ness on the Twooter, the people who read her Twots are required to validate her feelings. If they don’t like her, the actress suffers just like a soldier wounded in battle.

Maybe someone should honor her with a costume medal from the wardrobe department. Then she can take a bus to a VA hospital and be ignored by the unionized staff and the latest high-dollar CEO.

The misuse of war metaphors by Americans who never made the first day of recruit training is ironic in itself. A strong America needs more boot camp metaphors by actors:

“The director asked me to read my lines over. That’s like being yelled at by a sergeant, right?”

“Dancercise was sooooooooooooooooooooo demanding today – it was worse than four hours of close-order drill in August at Fort Polk after ten hours of cleanup, inspection, classes, and PT!”

“My agent telephoned and woke me up at nine in the morning. What does he think this is, the Army?”

“My personal aide was out sick today, so I had to pack my makeup bag all by myself. Now I know what sixteen hours of KP duty are like.”

“When the studio sent the car and driver around they also picked up someone else – that’s just like riding in an Army truck with twenty other people.”

“The commissary is two blocks away? What is this, a twenty-mile night march at Camp Pendleton?”

“Don’t tell me about full pack and equipment – sometimes I have to carry my own smart phone.”

“Only two hours for lunch? Now I know what it’s like in the Navy.”

“The champagne in first-class was not chilled to my specifications. It was like the Air Force.”

“My yacht features only a small kitchen, one chef, and two dining room staff – just like the Coast Guard.”

“I telephoned room service to clean my bathroom – I felt like a private in the Army.”

“After spending all morning at the jewellers’ selecting a new Swiss watch, trying on watch after watch, I was sooooooooo exhausted. I now know what Marine boot camp is like. One of the staff was not obsequious enough, so I demanded that she be fired. That part was fun.”

“What? Pay my household staff a living wage? What do military recruits pay their staffs?”

“Make my own bed? I don’t care what an admiral said in a graduation address; I have to draw the line somewhere.”

And, really, here we can agree with Princess Jones – whoever heard of an admiral making his own bed? That would be a sea story.


Outlaw Operatics

Mack Hall, HSG

Outlaw Operatics

A recent music review assures the reader that a genre known as outlaw country is alive. Presumably someone else thought it was dead.

Outlaw music is an interesting concept – does the guitarist pull out a Colt Navy revolver and rob the audience in E-Flat?

The reviewer at one point mentions that the singer wore blue jeans. Now that’s a surprise, a country-and-western singer in blue jeans. Do you suppose it’ll catch on? That’s rather like observing that James Levine wears full evening dress (a dinner jacket would be so declasse’) while conducting Aida.

Now if James Levine were to conduct Aida in blue jeans and Lucinda Williams were to sing about country lovin’ while wearing white tie and tails, there would be something worth reporting. Since her specialty is outlaw, maybe she could steal the ensemble from James Levine: “Hands up! Gimme them dudey duds, ya varmint!”

Outlaw country – does that mean that the musicians don’t mind if the impresario robs them of their percentage?

Occasionally you see on a pickup a bumper sticker that reads “OUTLAW.” And then you notice that the tags and inspection sticker are up-to-date.

And squeaking of outlaw music, last Saturday night a man in Portland, Oregon sat down in front of the police station and played the violin. Naked. No, the violin wasn’t naked, the man was.

Maybe he lost his G-string.

The genre of the violin music scraped out wasn’t specified – perhaps the creative soul was channeling Charlie Daniels.

The police, trampling on this performance artist’s special need to express his authentic voice through the empowerment of his, like, y’know, specialness by privileging (“Privileging” as a verb – ya like that? I heard it on NPR the other day. Now I feel smart.) his authentic self through nudity, told him to put on his britches and stop acting the fool…um…existentialist.

The man refused, and the police carried him away. Perhaps to a penile colony.

Imagine the thoughts of the lucky officers detailed to cuff and stuff a naked gentleman. The pat-down would have been most interesting. Were there concealed-carry issues?

These officers can tell you what life is really like on the street then there’s a full moon out.

“There are eight million stories in the naked city…”

Sometimes, in a less savory wish-fulfillment moment, one imagines a touch – a mere soupcon - of inappropriate harshness. If Mr. Music doesn’t want to man up and trouser up, Officer Thibodeaux could make a point of reading to the naked perp both his rights and the instruction sheet that comes with an electric cattle prod. And then, one at a time, perhaps even counting them down, Officer Thibodeaux loads a series of batteries – “Three…two…one.…”

And if the free spirit still refuses, then spectators would be treated to the sound of a new invention, the electric violin.

“I dunno, maestro; that sounded a little high-pitched to me.”


“Y’know, officer, I’ve seen - and felt - the error of my ways. Would you be so kind as to hand me my dressing gown?”

The only real surprise here is that the exclusive-of-ornamentation street artist was a violinist. Generally, that’s the sort of thing you’d expect from trombonists and trumpeters, putting their brasses all out there.


How to Write a Book or Movie Review

Mack Hall, HSG

How to Write a Book or Movie Review

Filler language is that collection of words and phrases which clutter our lives through constant repetition and subtle shifts in meaning, a collection which eventually comes to mean nothing. I mean, like, you know, that’s what I’m talking about.

The reviewers of books and films employ filler language in order praise a book without saying anything. Consider the thicket of words printed on the back of a new book or a DVD, and observe that they do not tell you anything about the book or movie itself, but only about the filters and limited vocabulary of the reviewer. Formal reviews are seldom much better.

Ten common examples of reviewer language as background noise include:

1. Blockbuster – what block is being busted? Is the block a literal block, or is it a metaphorical block? Who breaks the block? Why?

2. A must-read – who says you must read the book? What if you don’t want to read it? What are the punishments for not reading it?

3. This book will change your life forever – no, it won’t.

4. Gripping – well, yes, one is always happy to meet a book with a firm grip.

5. From the heart – this weak excuse indicates a poorly-written book – often me, me, me free-verse prosetry - with few positive qualities. But, hey, this emo-drivel is from the heart, so you have to like it.

6. Page-turner – well, yes, when we read books we turn the pages from time to time.

7. In the tradition of J. R. R. Tolkien – this means there are elves and magic swords, and, like, stuff, and the totally awesome video game is coming out next month. Dude.

8. Voice of a generation – translation: this book is as outdated as polyester bell-bottoms.

9. A story of redemption – the problem here is that most good stories are about redemption: The Brothers Karamazov, Huckleberry Finn, Crime and Punishment, the Narnia stories, The Book Thief, and just about any episode of Little House on the Prairie. What would be useful is for a reviewer to point out the rare story that is not predicated on redemption.

10. Laugh-out-loud – anyone who in a public place laughs out loud while reading a book is as weird that that lonely little man who talks back to the metal cricket clamped to his ear.

In sum, all these words and phrases say nothing about the book or movie and are the same old filler language we have heard so many times. When a film is advertised on the Orwellian telescreen you can often predict exactly what the deep-breathing narrator is going to say next because we have heard the same gush before. We have come to expect filler language and are comforted by it because its failure to saying anything useful or aesthetically pleasing is non-threatening.

Comfortable noises do not constitute communication.


Why Did the Chicken Cross the Las Vegas Strip?

Mack Hall, HSG

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Las Vegas Strip?

Citizens in Las Vegas are as mad as wet settin’ hens to find, well, settin’ hens in their streets. Dead settin’ hens. Someone has been chopping off the heads of hens, roosters, and other species of birds and leaving the dead bodies, sometimes in piles, in the streets.

In Las Vegas a headless chicken is pretty much the ultimate topless experience.

Decapitated birds in the streets of Las Vegas might explain why old timers say The Flamingo isn’t what it used to be.

Naturally one wonders what happens to the heads. Do they appear as a featured dish in a famous casino buffet? For lunch the careful diner had better avoid the chicken soup and go with Viva Las Veggies.

Only a few months ago the piles of rotting, headless chickens in the streets would have been George Bush’s fault, but now folks are pretty sure that Vladimir Putin is lurking in wait for careless chickens walking back to their hotels after an evening of gambling at The Chicken Nugget.

Or maybe it’s a question on a Dartmouth College math test: “If Susie has five dead chickens and Bobby has seven dead chickens, why is the privileged male always empowered to have more dead chickens?”

Some have speculated that the piles of foul fowls decaying around the potholes are the result of certain religious rituals.

Duane Reece, who bills himself as a priest, told the local CBS station that animal sacrifices are simply the way a believer cleanses the body. He said nothing about why the streets should not also be clean. But he must be a real priest because he said he is, and his photograph shows a man with the requisite dress-code chin-fuzz and a pair of happening gas-station sunglasses.

The Las Vegas police have a crack squad of chicken inspectors on the job. They lurk in fashionable coffee shops and keep their ears open for any suspicious character who orders a cup of decap. Decap, get it? Decap?

The police have positioned brave and experienced officer Foghorn Leghorn as a decoy near a Kentucky Fried Chicken frequented by known Elvis impersonators, while Clara Cluck is in the witness protection program.

If the dead fowl are because of a gang war of chicken against chicken (it’s a chicken-ring-thing), processing any arrests could be a real problem for the police technician who takes the finger prints. He’s really going to have to be up to scratch.

Las Vegas could soon be known not as Sin City but as Hen City.

In Las Vegas the party never stops. The chickens do, of course.

Las Vegas – the city that never cheeps.

Las Vegas - where your dreams take wings, but the chickens don’t.

But, hey, we all know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And rots in the streets.

The terror might not be limited to Las Vegas. Please stay safe when you drive home tonight. You never know if there’s a Rhode Island Red out there with your name on it.