Thursday, December 29, 2016

Good King Wenceslas and His Friends - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Good King Wenceslas and His Friends

There is far more to the days after Christmas Day than digestion and football, though I have friends and relatives who would stoutly argue the point. Certainly a lowering of expectations begins a great degree of tranquility in the last days of the old year. Shopping as a blood sport is over for another ten months. Lunch is a pleasant browse through leftovers. Obligatory merriment is off the calendar for a while.

In the Western calendar the 26th of December is St. Stephen’s Day, honoring the first Christian martyr and the patron of charities. St. Paul helped in the stoning by guarding the stoners’ coats. He later regretted that. In the USA this is usually get-back-to-work day; in other cultures this is a day of merriment following the religious observation of Christmas Day.

Good King Wenceslaus, later a martyr himself, “looked out” on the Feast of Saint Stephen and saw a poor man. Following St. Stephen’s example of charity, Wenceslaus and his page (who was not happy about it) journeyed six miles through winter’s ice and snow tracking the poor man to deliver food and wood to his humble abode.

The 28th of December commemorates the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, detailed in Saint Matthew 2:16. King Herod failed to understand the meaning of the Magi, and ordered the slaughter of children whom he perceived to be a threat to him. This is anticipated in Jeremiah 31:15: “…Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not.”

The 29th of December honors Saint Thomas Becket, martyred by King Henry II in 1170 for the freedom of the Church. The 1964 film Becket, adapted from Jean Anouilh’s play and directed by the great Hal Wallis (Casablanca, True Grit), artfully conflates and simplifies events for the sake of the movie’s length, but serves the topic very well. In 1535 Henry VIII finally accomplished the suppression of the Church (as always, in the name of freedom), and had the remains of Becket burned and the ashes scattered.

The first of January is the Solemnity of Mary, and the 6th of January is the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Kings visited the Holy Family.

And may the Three Kings visit all of us in our humble homes this happy new year of 2017.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Morning - Some Dissembling Required

Lawrence Hall

Christmas Morning – Some Dissembling Required

Does the quiet magic disappear at dawn?
The Star, the stable, shepherds, wise men three
And all the mysteries of Christmas Eve
Seem less than vapor on bright Christmas Day

Among the litter of expectations
Cast happily about, and on the floor
The wrappings and ribbons of little gifts
Received and given around the festive tree

But every noisy moment reminds us:
The quiet magic never goes away

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What Went ye into the Desert too See? - poem

What Went ye into the Desert to See?

What went ye into the desert to see?
A pale liturgist swaying in the wind?
A theologian dressed in soft clichés?
But what went ye to the desert to see?
Thyself, holier than anyone else?
A profit on your Catholic Me-‘blog?
But what ye went out there to see?

Go back.  Go back to the desert, and there
See the least grain of sand, larger than thee.

Lawrence Hall

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter Solstice - The Year's Compline - poem

Lawrence Hall

Winter Solstice – The Year’s Compline

The winter solstice is the year withdrawing
From all the busy-ness of being-ness,
And life in all its transfigurations
Seems lost beyond this cold, mist-haunted world

Time almost stops. Low-orbiting, the sun
Drifts dimly, drably through Orion’s realm
Morning becomes deep dusk; there is no noon
Four candles are the guardians of failing light

Until that Night when they too disappear
Beneath a Star, before a greater Light

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pilgrimage Along the A1 - Saint Michael's in Chesterton - poem

Pilgrimage Along the A1 - Saint Michael's in Chesterton

For all DeBeauvilles, Beauvilles, Bevilles, and Bevils Everywhere

From Peterborough drops a road
Across the Fens, into the past
(Where wary wraiths still wear the woad);
It comes to Chesterton at last.

And we will walk along that track,
Or hop a bus, perhaps; you know
How hard it is to sling a pack
When one is sixty-old, and slow.

That mapped blue line across our land
Follows along a Roman way
Where Hereward the Wake made stand
In mists where secret islands lay.

In Chesterton a Norman tower
Beside Saint Michael’s guards the fields;
Though clockless, still it counts slow hours
And centuries long hidden and sealed.

And there before a looted tomb,
Long bare of candles, flowers, and prayers,
We will in our poor Latin resume
Aves for old de Beauville’s cares.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Millennials at Work and War - poem

Lawrence Hall

Millennials at Work and War

Scorn not the snowflake who stands watch for us

Now thrown into the existential struggle
Surrendering their youth and taking up life
They muster in the fields and factories
And in their elders’ undeclared, shadowy wars
Uniformed in an unappreciated sense
Of duty and dignity while scorned by those
Who take their ease upon the couches of sloth
And fling cheap mockery at millennials
Who take up tools and work and love of life
Sometimes to die in deserts still unmapped
While generals dismiss their casualties as light
Despised as snowflakes by keyboard commandos
Who never got closer to any war
Than a John Wayne ketchup-bloody movie.
Some work long double shifts through university
In a sawmill, shop, or fast foodery
Only to be dismissed as slacker layabouts,
But expected to trust those who condemn them
For not being the greatest generation
As defined by those who never served at all
And while being criticized they will grab
A quick cup of coffee for the night shift
Staffing the hospitals and police patrols
That keep their sneering critics alive and safe
They drive the trucks, they man the ships, they work
They drill for oil, these useless millennials
While idlers lounge long in the coffee shops
And YooToob computered jokes about them
Millennials have no time for coloring books
Or comfort animals or revolution
For they are weary with study and work
The best of them make no demands, but, sure
A little respect, hard-earned, would be nice
If only the scripted singer-songwriters
Would pack up the tired old stereotypes
And see millennials as they truly are
But darkness falls – they must go back to work
On the eleven-seven, the graveyard shift
They do not burn draft cards or Medicare cards
Instead through work they illuminate this world
And build it up with continued sacrifice

Scorn not the snowflake who stands watch for us

The House of Winds - poem

Lawrence Hall

The House of Winds

The House of Winds can be accessed with this:
A work-order from Aeolus time-stamped
Printed in three official colors – pink
For the customer, blue for the tech

And yellow for the infallible file
Large locks must be unlocked, and chain-link gates
Forced open over institutional gravel
The House of Winds is a shipping container

Where Burgess’ Merry Little Breezes
Are now forbidden playtime or recess

Happy, Happy Christmas - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Happy, Happy Christmas

          Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can     
          recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler,
          thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!

- Charles Dickens

Every year the sort of people who are against just about everything do a downer on Christmas: “There really wasn’t a star; it was a blah, blah, blah,” “The stable was really a cave blah, blah, blah,” “Christmas trees are really pagan blah, blah, blah,” “Christmas wasn’t really in the winter because blah, blah, blah,” and a genuine lie, “Christmas is really an adaptation of the ancient Roman something or other because blah, blah.”

All of this is on the Intergossip, so it must be true.

The first Christmas logically came late in history, and since there are only 365 days in a solar year, the Nativity had to fall on one of them. And if it happens that on that day there was an older belief somewhere that a certain Sacred Lucky Rock had to be appeased with sacrificial offerings of sophomores for a good fishing season, what is that to us? If a man whose birthday is March 25th learns that the day is the Feast of the Annunciation he does not dismiss the holy day by sputtering “Impossible! That’s my birthday!”

Christmas falls at the time of the winter solstice, the darkest time of the year, the point at which the light – or Light – returns. Our pagan ancestors were skilled in astronomy and would have had their own ways of celebrating the return of the sun. This does not veto the Incarnation; it anticipates it.

The external observations and cultural celebrations of Christmas change. Christians in ancient Cyrene could hardly go dashing through the snow where there is no snow, and nomadic tribes at the extremes of the empire would not sing about Christmas time in the city when they had never seen a city. A boar’s head on the table was a big thing in the province of Britannia, but not in Jerusalem. What is any of that to us?

As with most holy days, Christmas is anticipated by a time of reflection and prayer. The day itself is a religious occasion, followed by a period of merriment. That we tend to mix these events out of sequence now does not invalidate any of them. The Twelve Days of Christmas, from Christmas Eve through the Feast of the Epiphany, are poorly served by the silly song. But what is any of that to us?

The Eastern Christian may fault the Western Christian for celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December, and the Western Christian may fault the Eastern Christian for celebrating Christmas on the 7th of January (Gregorian calendar), but neither will fault Christmas for being Christmas.

          This is the month, and this the happy morn,
          Wherein the Son of Heav'n's eternal King,
          Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,
          Our great redemption from above did bring;
          For so the holy sages once did sing,
          That he our deadly forfeit should release,
          And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.

- John Milton, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”


The Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, with Descants by Russian Spies - column

Mack Hall, HSG

The Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, with Descants by Russian Spies

The C.I.A. opines that Russian spies changed the results of the recent presidential election. Given the C.I.A.’s many, many accomplishments over the last fifty years, from the Bay of Pigs to Viet-Nam to that fellow holed up in the Peruvian embassy in London, well, who can doubt them?

I suppose I should have reported to somebody about Boris and Natasha hovering around me while I voted, offering me Rolls-Royce automobiles and villas in the south of France if only I would vote Vladimirista. As a loyalist I manfully refused to do so.

My next column will be posted from my private island in the Caribbean.

+ + +

The Oxford American, which is published in Conway, Arkansas, not in any Oxford anywhere, reports that Panama City, Florida is a center of ukulele music. Saint Andrews’ Church, for instance, is home to a ukulele orchestra of some 200 members.

One shudders at the horror. The ukulele might not be the Devil’s instrument, but I’m pretty sure that in Book 4 of John Milton’s Paradise Lost there is a mention (in iambic pentameter, the meter of the angels) of all ukuleles being cast down into (That Place).

+ + +

The Paris Review, which is published in New York, not in Paris, recently featured a first-person narrative which includes the sentence “Raul lives here in Tucson on an expired green card.”

That has to be a really big green card.

+ + +

Viola Desmond, a business woman, was jailed in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of a movie theatre. In Canada. The nation that jailed her is now honoring her by placing her picture on their ten-dollar bill.

+ + +

The Service of Nine Lessons and Carols dates to the nineteenth century and in its modern form owes much to an Anglican chaplain’s grim experiences in the First World War:

+ + +

Almost two hundred years ago Charles Dickens wrote in The Pickwick Papers, “Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness…”

Gaudete Sunday has passed, which means Christmas is close at hand for us too. May we indeed make it a season of open-heartedness.


Stern Notes, Banknotes, General Mattis, and Mrs. Trump - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Stern Notes, Banknotes, General Mattis, and Mrs. Trump

The Chinese government in Peking / Peiping / Beijing has issued a stern note to the United States government complaining that Mr. Trump is a bad boy for accepting a congratulatory telephone from another Chinese government in Taipei.

Mr. Trump is a bad boy, but as an American he is free, just as you and I are, to accept telephone calls from anyone he chooses. He could of course start by accepting telephone calls from former students at Trump University.

How does a young man or woman starting out in life secure a job sending and receiving stern notes? One always reads about nations sending stern notes to one another. What, exactly, are stern notes? What are the qualifications for sending and receiving stern notes? What does the stern notes gig pay?

+ + +

Someone named Tom Ford refuses to dress Melania Trump. I’m not sure why this is news; Mrs. Trump has been dressing herself since she was a small child. Besides, I don’t think Mr. Ford was asked to dress Mrs. Trump. Mrs. Trump would probably prefer that Mr. Ford stay out of her closet and remain in his.

+ + +

Mr. Trump has proposed retired general James Mattis – whose nicknames are “Mad Dog,” “Chaos,” and “The Warrior-Monk” – as Secretary of Defense, a post which was once more honestly titled Secretary of War.

The general is by repute the best of Marines, a scholar, and a man concerned with the welfare of the men and women in the military. Now that he is a civilian he is permitted to serve in a state office reserved for civilians. May he serve in the best traditions of the Republic.

General Mattis’ wisdom is demonstrated in many of his famous quotations, including: “Engage your brain before you engage your weapon” and “Power Point makes you stupid.”

Still, several questions obtain:

1. Why would a great war-leader choose to submit himself to the leadership of a person who, when freedom called, answered only to a heel spur?

2. Why would a great war-leader choose to submit himself to the leadership of a person who, until someone reminded him about his desire for votes, repeatedly expressed his contempt for the military, especially prisoners of war?

3. General Mattis’ personal library is said to contain about 6,000 books. Does General Mattis’ scholarship include familiarity with the foundation legal document of this nation, the Constitution, especially with regard to Article 1, Section 8? That topic has been ignored since June of 1942, when Congress declared war on Romania.

Still, you gotta respect a man who knows that Power Point makes you stupid.

+ + +

The United Kingdom’s new five-pound note (about $8, give or take the price of a cup of Twining’s or the economic value of the South Sandwich Islands) is being rejected by The Usual Suspects because it is said to contain traces of animal DNA. Eeek! I have a solution – let all good and true Englishvegans send me all of those contaminated five-pound banknotes. I’ll recycle them carefully.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December Through the Windshield - poem

Lawrence Hall

December Through the Windshield

The windshield wipers hiss-scratch-thunk, scratch-thunk
Scratch-thunk against the pre-dawn wind and rain
Thick sodden leaves protest against their fall
And cling forlornly until swept away

To disappear into the autumn night
Their loss unseen by two frail beams of light
Patrolling in advance, into the cold
Pgnoring the casualties left behind

December hastens to the year’s end while
The windshield wipers hiss-scratch-thunk, scratch-thunk

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent Rosary - poem

Lawrence Hall

Advent Rosary

Dark Advent is a silent waiting time
When autumn chills into pale, year-end days
And joy seems smothered by hard-frosting rime:
Cold is the debt that spring to winter pays

The seasons link to seasons in a chain,
The chain of being that links, also, our souls,
Seasons and souls, not always without pain:
Summer’s wild lightning falls and thunder rolls.

Linked to us too, rose by mystical rose,
This holy Advent is Our Lady’s Grace
To us who wait in exile sad; she knows
Where souls and seasons sing, the Night, the Place.

Seasons and souls, linked to days dreary-dim:
Follow them with roses to Bethlehem

Morning Mirror Face - poem

Lawrence Hall

Morning Mirror Face

The sleeve of your bathrobe brushes away
The steam – and there you are, your morning face
All washed and ready for a day of hope
And happy service to humanity

Look not upon a straying, graying hair
But make instead a funny face and laugh
And see again the eyes of dreaming youth
And tell yourself a joke you’ve never heard

The sleeve of your bathrobe brushes away
The unhappy remnants of yesterday

The Local Department Store's Last Christmas - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Local Department Store’s Last Christmas

The overly-arranged rat-packery
Of cool-cat Christmas songs from the fifties
Descends like stardust date-expired upon
The ghosts of Christmases that never were

The aisles are teeming only with those notes
Because unlike the music of the past
Old customers have not been stored on tapes
To be replayed among the China-made

White Christmas Drummer Boy Jingle-Bell Rocks
Only mechanical air wah-wah-wah

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Disoccidented - poem

Lawrence Hall


A piece of patrimony popped up today:
A scrap of Latin from the long ago
Misplaced from something, torn from something else
To mark a page of Babel new and raw

In a book of reclaimed Arianism
Embalmed in reclaimed paper, reclaimed ink
Aligned with the stars and computer bars
Composted in high definition noise

But these lines cry “Tolle lege! Lege!” as
Our patrimony, as eternal as dawn

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bleak Friday - column

Mack Hall, HSG

          Bleak Friday

Advent, now more often called “The Christmas Season,” has crossed the frontiers of our national conscience, and the forces of civilization are falling back under heavy fire. The casualty lists are incomplete as of this printing.

Advent as it should be is happier: no long lines to get into church on the First Sunday.

+ + +

And then there is the existential despair of Hallmark holiday movies.

+ + +

USA-ians considering emigrating to Canada should be aware of this important change promulgated by Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Every Canadian citizen is now required to write a teary-eyed memorial to Leonard Cohen. Candidates for immigration or refugee status also must complete a eulogy on Mr. Cohen en Francais or in English, and may choose from one of these topics:

How Leonard Cohen Changed my Life Forever
Leonard Cohen – Icon.
Leonard Cohen Defined a Generation.
Leonard Cohen – The Sound Track of my Youth.
Parliament Must Recognize the Sainthood of Leonard Cohen.
How Louis Riel Anticipates Leonard Cohen.
We Don’t Need No Stinking Byron, Shelley, or Keats, Eh (Residents of and temporary workers in Newfoundland omit the “eh” and append “I’s d’ B’ys”).

+ + +

A hero of the poor workers died in Cuba last week. Wonder who gets his Rolex.

+ + +

For pretexts that elude the thoughtful, all real Americans are commanded to boycott Famous Burnt Coffee because the CEO is said to be a Communist. All real Americans are also expected to boycott New Something Shoes because that CEO is said to be a Fascist.

Maybe all real Americans could please the teeth-gritted-fist-clenchers of both sides by visiting a Famous Burnt Coffee shop while wearing New Something Shoes.

If Ho Chi Minh had become a barista instead of a dictator, and if Mussolini had designed sneakers, the 20th century might have been happier. We can’t know. As for us, we are stuck with each other in the 21st century, and could try to get along better.


Supermoon - poem

Lawrence Hall


November’s moon is wonderfully bright tonight
A supermoon - as if she could ever be less
In her appointed spheres empyrean
And progress royal among her courtly stars

And she is not unlike that rarer friend
Whose orbits celebrate those gentle truths
Which fall as haloing silver light upon
The wistful, wakeful watchers of the hours

A dusting of mist shivers into frost -
November’s moon is wonderfully bright tonight

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Attest That I Am - poem

This week at work I received a Homeland Security form with a terse note that I had filled it out incorrectly - in 2003. But I had not filled it out at all; this new form (already out of date by its own testimony) was predicated on a Department of Justice form which I did complete correctly; it had simply expired.

Altho’ I obediently completed the form, I maintain that I am not really a good-enough American. Anyway, I rendered part of the form (page 7 of 9) into not-really-a-poem, in lines of ten syllables:

           I Attest That I Am

employment eligibility
verification department of home
land security u.s. citizen
ship and immigration services u
scis form i-9 omb
no. 1615-0047
expires 03/31/2016
start here. Read instructions carefully be
fore completing this form. The instructions
must be available during completion
of this form anti-discrimination
notice: it is illegal to discrim
inate against work-authorized indi
viduals. Employers cannot specify
which document(s) they will accept from an
employee. The refusal to hire an
individual because the docu
ment presented has a future expi
ration date may also constitute il
legal discrimination. Section 1.
Employee information and attest
ation (employees must complete and sign
section 1 of form i-9 no later than
the first day of employment, but not be
fore accepting a job offer). Last
name (family name) First name (given name) mid
dle initial other names used (if any)
address (street number and name) apt.
number city or town state zip code date
of birth (mm/dd/yyyy)
u.s. social security number
e-mail address telephone number I
am aware that federal law provides
for imprisonment and / or fines for false
statements or use of false documents in
connection with the completion of the
form. I attest, under penalty of
perjury, that I am (check one of the

I Attest That I Am

Sunday, November 13, 2016

This Discussion Has Been Closed - poetry

Lawrence Hall

This Discussion Has Been Closed

Poetry Foundation

Issues of gender race, identity
Sexuality myth identity
Trans-homophobic appropriation
Referencing contemporary culture

Weaving that old shop-soiled tapestry
Of an empowering voice accessing the keys
That unlock a shared experience of
A distinct existential voice of hope

About us visit us contact us through
A discussion closed before it ever opened

An Orderly Transfer of Pen and Telephone - column

Lawrence Hall

An Orderly Transfer of Pen and Telephone

One is saddened to hear of some few students at the University of Texas bleating “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Donald Trump has got to go!” They seem to disapprove of democracy and the freedom of an individual to come and go at will.

Is Mr. Trump in Austin? Why has he got to go? And where?

Given the narrow margin in the election, if all eligible U.T. students had voted for Secretary Clinton she might be the president-elect today, busily selecting furniture for the White House - perhaps some of the furniture that seems to have disappeared early in 2001.

Further, students at a great university should not mindlessly repeat middle-school chants in puerile attempts at rhyme. They should mindlessly repeat middle-school chants rendered into Latin:

     “Eia age! Eia age! Heu! Heu!
     Donald Peditum delendum est!”

     (Ee-ya ah-gay! Ee-yah ah-gay! Hey-oo! Hey-oo!
     Donald Pay-dee-tum d’lindum ehst!)

Those university students with no Latin should speak their disapproval of democracy in the plain, unpretentious English of educated men and women:

     “I disapprove of Donald Trump.”

A venerable and wise Latin consultant advises your humble scrivener that the scrivener’s poor attempt at that ancient and noble language is also mindless. That (Middle English) keeps (Middle English from Old English from Old High German) one (which could be from Old High German or from Latin) humble (Middle English from Old French from Latin).

The day after the election President Obama displayed appropriate good manners and wise leadership in inviting President-Elect Trump to the White House to begin arranging for a secure transfer of the powers of the Office for the well-being of the Republic. The two honorables seem to have enjoyed the visit, prolonging it much longer than the scheduled handshake and photograph.

Some have expressed surprised that President Obama and President-Elect Trump seem to get on so well, but in truth they have much in common: both are statists and golf-playing millionaires who appear never to have busted a sweat in honest work.

President Obama expressed gratitude to President Bush for extending him that same courtesy in their first visit eight years ago.

Because President Obama is a gentleman he did not allude to President Clinton’s crude behavior and the thefts from and vandalism of the White House by the Clinton staff in 2001 ( President and Mrs. Obama will not tolerate such foolishness from their staffs when they hand off the door keys this January.

President Obama once wore a white tie with a dinner jacket (sigh), and at least once worked some shorts in public (gentlemen, trousers, please). Other than those few slip-ups he has demonstrated good taste, and one hopes he will inspire Mr. Trump, who is neither a child nor a baseball player, to ditch the silly plastic cap.

Well, here we go, on the metaphorical road to January 20th. May God bless our wonderful, clunky, inefficient Republic.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Let's Go to the Pub and Get Bombed - poem

Lawrence Hall

Let’s Go to the Pub and Get Bombed

New York, 17 September 2016

Twenty-nine wounded, but nothing to fear
The mayor assures us there’s no terror here

Oh, Possum! - poem

Lawrence Hall

Oh, Possum!


Marsupials in the Mist


Didelphimorphia Park

Well, there you are, snarling behind the mesh
Of a steel humanitarian trap
For the crimes of digging under the fence
And encouraging the dogs to escape

Stop hissing, now, through rows of dragon-teeth
And listen to human words you won’t believe -
Late summer grapes have tempted you to this,
So absolution is granted; ajar is the door

Your executioner stands down: Go forth!
And be a better ‘possum forever more

A Roman Poet - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Roman Poet

He is not a Celt
He is a Roman, his lines
Formed in marching order

A Man, a Chair, a Book, a Dog - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Man, a Chair, a Book, a Dog

A man sitting in a comfortable old chair
Reading a book by the light of a lamp
And smoking a philosophical pipe
Has thus recused himself from the burdens of rule

Without his supervision the planet still dances
Its graceful pas seul around the sun
Rulers of the earth must lead without him
And bishops must teach without his counsel

A little dog dozes before the fire
A man – he reads his book and smokes his pipe

The Spirit of the Age, and Stuff - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Spirit of the Age, and Stuff

Republics are shabby in their bloody ends
And so too in their bloody beginnings
When altars, crowns, and thrones are stripped by mobs
And all the ancient unities denied

The consolations of philosophy1
Are shouted down in the execution cells
Confessions are dictated by the state
You only need to sign your sins, and die

As the caregiver takes another drag
And pushes the plunger on a health care choice


Central Standard Dachshund Time - poem

Lawrence Hall

Central Standard Dachshund Time

Turn back the clock, but not a dachshund’s tail
Since dog and tail will turn right back again.
And then around three times, and without fail
She’ll want outside, and then –
She’ll want back in

To spin, for that is what a dachshund does
A doggy dance, a prance, and all four paws
Buzz, and where she is isn’t where she was
In violation of space-time and Newton’s laws -

On Saturday night we turn back the clocks
But there’s no winding down a baby dox

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - poem

Lawrence Hall

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Don’t pop your pimples during the processional
Or chew your gum before the recessional

And in between, try not to stretch and yawn
Or take a peek at your not-so-smart ‘phone

Don’t fold or tear the paperback missal
For it contains both gospel and epistle

Don’t leave your snot-filled tissues on the floor
The cleaners will think you a clod and a bore

Oh, yes:

All this advice is not for callow youth -
It’s for the grownups, in very truth!

Monday, October 31, 2016

An American Legion Meeting - poem

Lawrence Hall

An American Legion Meeting

O let us sit, our coffee cups to hand
And discharge half-remembered boot camp yarns
As ragged volleys of camaraderie
Blasted through well-defended hearing aids

O let us not raise funds for this or that
Through weekend fish-fries in a parking lot
Or catalogue good deeds inflicted on


For whom our kindness is a border breached

O let us sit, our coffee cups to hand
And remember again the Vam Co Tay

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Blame the Russians - a column about Rod McKuen

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Blame the Russians

Your grandmother and I are the only two people who will admit that they like the music of Rod McKuen. Many other people enjoy the old beatnik’s sounds too, only they don’t know it. McKuen wrote the musical scores of numerous films and television shows, but unless you pay attention to the rapidly-scrolled and myopically-tiny credits you wouldn’t know it. Some – some - of his film and television scores include:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Scandalous John
A Boy Named Charlie Brown
Me, Natalie
The Unknown War (Russian documentary series)

Among McKuen’s many albums are:

The Earth
The Sea
The Sky
Frank Sinatra’s A Man Alone
Rod McKuen at Carnegie Hall

A very few of the hundreds of McKuen’s songs:

“Soldiers Who Want to Be Heroes”
“Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name”
“I’ll Catch the Sun”
“Love’s Been Good to Me”
“Kearny Street”
“Listen to the Warm”
“Seasons in the Sun”
“What a Wonderful World”
“Long, Long Time”
“If You Go Away’”
“I’ve Been to Town”

Orchestral Pieces:

Symphony No. 1 in 4 Movements
Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra: 5 Orchestral Pieces
Concerto for 4 Harpsichords: 4 Orchestral Pieces
Piano Variations: 6 Piano Sonatas
Concerto No. 3 for Piano & Orchestra
The Plains of My Country: Seascapes for Solo Piano
Concerto for Cello& Orchestra
Concerto for Balloon & Orchestra: 3 Overtures
The Ballad of Distances: Symphonic Suite, OP. 40
The City: I Hear America Singing
Written in the Stars (The Zodiac Suite)
Something Beyond: Suite For Orchestra

The complete Rod McKuen discography can be found at:

McKuen’s books of poems are of lesser stock. One might conclude that McKuen, a good businessman, culled from his notes and rejected lines and ideas the leftover words that, when, put together, could be called poems. The undisciplined, unorganized, and aesthetically void scribblings in what some are pleased to call free verse (if it’s free, it isn’t verse, okay?) were a fashion of the 1950s and 1960s that clings to a desperate half-life in the self-obsessed and incontinent gushings printed in little magazines and read by no one except the compositors. McKuen simply adapted to a transient literary fashion and made a nice profit: his thin verse sold very well, much better than a recent Secretary of State’s spook-written books, and will last far longer than any Trump tower.

Rod McKuen was never awarded that annual literary prize named for the inventor of high explosives, Mr. Nobel, who exceeded even Dr. Guillotine in the quantity of deaths due to his invention. Last week, however, a Nobel committee recognized another American songwriter for literature, maintaining that Mr. Dylan nee’ Zimmerman invented a new thing, “poetry for the ear.”

Any child who paid some attention in literature classes will scoff at a committee of European sophisticates who are unaware that, until the I, I, I, me, me, me prosetry of the well-dynamited 20th century, all poetry was for the ear: Sumerian religious chants, the Hebrew Bible, Homer, Beowulf, “The Seafarer,” sea chanties, work songs, Victorian parlour poetry – all are poetry for the ear. And yet the distinguished Nobel committee is unaware of 6,000 years of human civilization. They have ignored reality, and have from Sweden ruled that the oral tradition begins with a fellow who mumbles, does things with a harmonica, and is against stuff.

Frankly, I blame Russian hackers.


Edgar Allan Errol Flynn Poe - column

Mack Hall

Edgar Allan Errol Flynn Poe

Being part of the theatre department means being part of a family.
A really weird family.

-Numerous variations and attributions

Last week the Jasper High School Bulldog Theatre Company, directed by Mackenna Coffey, staged a pastiche of Edgar Allan Poe scenes culled from “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Why are we never presented with a Tell-Tale Pancreas?

Given the small production and cast, Director Coffey and co. chose to position the audience seating on the stage, making for an intimate performance space which almost draws the audience into the set. The skillful blocking included cast members beginning their performances among the audience. This is the sort of thing that could project as a bit precious, but the actors worked the technique smoothly and without artifice.

The one set was minimalist with, as the program says, “Gothic Victorian and Steam Punk design elements…to blur the lines of what is real and what is in Poe’s mind.” This was the first indication that there would be no car chases or sword fights. Sigh.

Part of the fun was being able to see the lights, pulleys, lifts, connectors, and all the other complexities and gadgetries that make a professional theatrical presentation work. Every light, connector, and mysterious glowing globe is labeled with arcane markings and codes that are a mystery to the casual viewer but are a lingua Franca to the stage manager, lighting crew, sound crew, and move-heavy-things-around crew.

This was a premiere performance for many of the cast, with most of the experienced members of the troupe serving as crew and mentors so that the new actors could develop their skill and self-confidence. Sometimes the nervousness showed, which is how it should be. You don’t get to be a State of Texas U.I.L. championship actor as a senior without having been the third left nervous ensemble place-filler as a freshman.

A special strength was Cheyanne Nerren, who played Edgar Allan Poe with a vigor worthy of Errol Flynn, leaping around and sometimes onto the furniture. You almost expected her to draw a sword and as Robin Hood send the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham to his doom. She was outstanding through her sheer physicality and her mastery of the alternating comic patter and existential despair flung through hundreds of lines.

Savanna Billingsley in her too-brief appearance as the eponymous Raven very nearly took attention away from the lead. Even a small human is much larger than a large raven, and costuming said human as a raven could easily have deteriorated into an unintended comic effect. However, with restrained makeup and a simple black cloak with a bit of feathering at the throat Billingsley almost slithered (if a raven can be said to slither), slowly, menacingly, like a snake cornering a fear-frozen mouse, or one of Shakespeare’s three witches brooding wickedly over her destruction of Macbeth. Brilliant!

Mrs. McKenna’s band of merry minstrels this year includes: Breanna Astorga, Savanna Billingsley, Savannah Brasher, Jaden Carter, Daiyonia Collier, Katy Ferguson, Erin Klay, Lyric McLemore, Danielle Miller, Cheyanne Nerren, Allan Pulliam, Isabel Torres, and Daniel Zavala.

We look forward to seeing all of our fine young actors breaking metaphorical legs in different roles in the months to come, both in Jasper High School and Jasper Community Theatre productions, and sometimes as the second shepherd downstage right in Christmas plays.

     Television is furniture.
     Cinema is art.
     Theatre is life.

-Numerous variations and attributions


Two Small and Legless Trunks of Electronic Devices - column

Mack Hall, HSG,

Two Small and Legless Trunks of Electronic Devices

This weekend my summer-new computer did the Aunt Pittypat thing – it suffered the vapors, and fainted. While waiting for the high priestess of electronmongery to perform an exorcism I am pitty-patting the keys on an arthritic older computer – about three years old, which in computer years is 120 – that I never got around to tossing…uh…recycling. If this fails, I’ll scout out the good ol’ Royal typewriter that I bought for $10 when a newspaper office long ago computerized itself.

The wise ants among us back up their files daily to an external drive. The frivolous grasshoppers defer that easy-enough chore with “Oh, I’ll let it pass; I backed up stuff only last week.” I am a grasshopper, playing the fiddle while Rome burns. Or something.

+ + +

A friend in the far north lost his MePhone in a river while catching a large salmon. That seems to be a good trade. The bad part was when the fishing party made camp in the chilling evening and my friend had to make a word by rubbing two typewriters together.

+ + +

Women read stupid stuff – bodice-ripper novels, magazines with recipes and gossip and pictures of Duchess Kate’s baby, and articles about diets.

Now we men, we real men, we read the really important stuff – the comparative merits of the Lancaster bomber and the B17, gunfights at the Something Corral, baseball, spies, and spaceships.

+ + +

October 7 is a good day to read G.K. Chesterton’s poem “Lepanto” and reflect on the solidity of history, which affects our transitory present and our not-yet-happened future.

+ + +

New Orleans is greeting the autumn with a merry set-to about the statue of Andrew Jackson (who really was a bad man), among other monuments. One group wants to censor history out of existence, and the other group, led by David Duke, who also seems to be a bad man, wants the statue to remain.

I submit that the proper response to a questionable monument is to add another monument telling the narrative from a different point-of-view. After all, the Custer National Battlefield Park wasn’t bulldozed; it was quite logically renamed the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The city bus on which Rosa Park refused a seat was not recycled as a dozen Toyotas but was restored and is now the center of a museum on the campus of Troy University in Montgomery. In both cases history was enhanced, not obliterated.

No one can learn from history if history is destroyed by cultural suicide.

And, after all, time and nature tend to reduce all our human vanities anyway. As Shelley wrote of “two vast and trunkless legs of stone”:

     “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
     Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
     Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
     Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
     The lone and level sands stretch far away.


The Adventures of Hibachi Fondue - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Adventures of Hibachi Fondue

Brushed aluminum, S & R Green Stamps
Tiki torches and instant Polaroids
George Jetson on the Sylvania TV
Elvis rockin’ away on Ed Sullivan

Chubby Checker twisting all over again
Like transistor sister did last summer
Eskimo Pies in the Kelvinator
But you can be sure if it’s Westinghouse

Keds, Schwinn, Salk vaccine, Captain Kangaroo
Randolph Scott, and President Eisenhower too!

Bourgeois Sentimentality - poem

Lawrence Hall

Bourgeois Sentimentality

A beagle puppy napping on the hearth
The morning offering whispered at dawn
Young lovers flirting on a garden bench
The chair in which Granddaddy used to sit

Cranky old men who feed the birds each day
Cool boy-band posters on a teenager’s wall
Red spider-lilies in the autumn sun
And children’s toys scattered all over the yard

“Bourgeois sentimentality!” some cry:
Well, yes, yes it is – by the Grace of God

Shepherding Winds - poem

Lawrence Hall

Shepherding Winds

“Once I lived all alone in an isolated hut near a Greek village,
‘shepherding winds’ as a Byzantine ascetic used to say.”

- Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

The optimism of spring passed long ago
Those darling buds of May1 need raking up
Fallen away from summer’s apogee
Onto this evening’s still-warm autumn earth

And as with leaves and wind, dreams fly about
Flittering and falling until they land
As litter upon a page, jumbled among
A merry confusion of iambs and lines

Playfully resisting organization -
The promises of spring are autumn’s now

1Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII

Indian Summer - poem

(Very happy to have the computer back from the mender!)

Lawrence Hall

Indian Summer

Late, errant honeybees still swarm about
The hummers’ feeder in the afternoons
While lingering sunlight warms October days
Like lovers reluctant to say goodbye

Our little apian friends in chorus sing
A fading summer-song, before the frost
Sends workers home among soft, leafy ways
Of air and mist, over stubbled fields at rest

In that quiet hour before the moon
Ascends to light the autumn safely home

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Che Guevara and His Darling Bonnet - poem

Lawrence Hall

Che Guevera and His Darling Bonnet

His beret’s ‘way cool, his reputation’s hot
All for having lots of innocents shot

Nach Canossa Gehen - poem

Lawrence Hall


Nach Canossa Gehen


Everyone stands in the snow at Canossa

Not all at the same time, but eventually,

Alone, barefoot and alone, in the snow

Knocking on a door, for three days or more


A bare-headed, self-shaming penitent

Cold, hungry, shrouded in an exile’s shift

And fearful, hopeful, desperate for admittance

To mercy undeserved, and love, and peace


The door will open eventually, but first

Each man must stand in the snow at Canossa

A Babbler of Mere Fancies

Lawrence Hall

A Babbler of Mere Fancies

A babbler of mere fancies and conceits
A distant figure lost in space and time
And speaking to an ever-present now
For whom there is no horizon or history

Indian Autumn - poem

Indian Autumn


Late, errant honeybees still swarm about

The hummers’ feeder in the afternoons

While lingering sunlight warms October days

Like lovers reluctant to say goodbye


Our little apian friends in chorus sing

A fading summer-song, before the frost

Send workers home among soft, leafy ways

Of air and mist, over stubbled fields at rest


In that quiet hour before the moon

Ascends, and lights the autumn safely home

Lawrence Hall

The Adventures of Hibachi Fondue - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Adventures of Hibachi Fondue

Brushed aluminum, S & R Green Stamps
Tiki torches and instant Polaroids
George Jetson on the Sylvania tv
Elvis rockin’ away on Ed Sullivan

Chubby Checker twisting all over again
Like transistor sister did last summer
Eskimo Pies in the Kelvinator
But you can be sure if it’s Westinghouse

Keds, Schwinn, Salk vaccine, Captain Kangaroo
Randolph Scott, and President Eisenhower too!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

9 October 2016 - Existential Computer Silence

I'm still waiting for my computer.  I'm still waiting to hear anything from the repairman.  And I'm not surprised. 

Forget the Clowns; Send in the Heroes - column, 10.9.2016

Mack Hall, HSG

Forget the Clowns; Send in the Heroes

Are there any clowns that aren’t creepy? The appeal of face paint and grotesque costumes – including the appearance of our presidential candidates and some of our popular entertainers – to otherwise stable individuals is inexplicable.

+ + +

Every filing cabinet in England is an Anglofile.

+ + +

Every telephone in France is a Francophone.

+ + +

If the Czech Republic were to free itself of the European octopus, that is, rule by Germany and Belgium, its new currency might be the Czechmark.

+ + +

Indecisive Flemings and Walloons are Belgian wafflers.

+ + +

Folks in Saint Petersburg are always in a hurry because they’re Russian.

+ + +

“Deteriorated” is a buzzy weather-word just now. You and I might say that the high winds are dangerous or that more flooding is expected, but the weather wardens chant that “Conditions are deteriorating.” Hurricane Matthew deteriorated all over the place for days. While millions suffered from the real storm, the wardens tossed together “deteriorated, “absolutely,” and “actually” every few minutes for their own word-storm of little content.

+ + +

Shortly before his scheduled graduation from Orangefield High School in 1945, Abner Simon went off to war. After his military service he earned a G.E.D. and then a college degree, and became a Baptist minister. At age 91 he is still serving his church.

The Orangefield ISD board and administration, all of whom were born long after World War II, heard of Mr. Simon and so invited him to his old school, fitted him into the traditional Orangefield graduation gown, mustered the Orangefield High School band, and presented him with his diploma as a 2017 graduate. When the rest of the Orangefield Class of 2017 catch up with Mr. Simon in the spring he will be their speaker.

Some old fussies will say that, by cracky, the kids need to listen to Mr. Simon. And one can only agree. But we must also agree that the President, too, needs to listen to Mr. Simon, and so do the presidential candidates, the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, and the high flyers at Wells Fargo. Every generation grows up to complain about the following generation, but the reality is that if every adult role model were more like Mr. Simon, the rising generation would do just fine.

That famous hat-tip to Channel 12 News and Orangefield ISD – and Mr. Simon! - for this happy story.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

2 October 2016, Computer Failure

My summer-new HP laptop failed after only four months, and I learned from this experience that Windows 10 does not permit a safe start for sneaking around an error and mending it.

As far as I know my computer still reposes undisturbed on a table in another town waiting for the person who said he would repair to repair it. Perhaps he is related to the authorized dealer who did nothing more than reduce my lawnmower to boxes of debris, or to the many people who, when called, said that they would definitely show up "tomorrow, maybe the next day" to bid on tree removal, and never did.

I have a century-old typewriter which is aesthetically pleasing and which works as smoothly as the reputation of a Swiss watch (the only Swiss watch I have ever owned is an Omega Constellation, which never kept good time). Alas that a typewriter will not post to the InterGossip, so until my own computer is repaired or replaced with another disposable piece of electronic debris, I will file content only infrequently.

Season of Mists and Bee-sy Fruitfulness - column, 2 October 2016

Mack Hall, HSG

Season of Mists and Bee-sy Fruitfulness

Prime Minister Trudeau, a well-known international authority on prolonging adolescent behavior into middle age, attempted to teach Prince George how to high-twerk (or something) during last week’s state visit of Prince William, Duchess Catherine, and their children to Canada. Prince George, three years old, refused to indulge the P.M.’s low-prole importunities, and in so doing gave an adult a lesson in adult behavior.

Perhaps Prince George will visit the United States and help our 70-year-old presidential candidates try to grow up.

+ + +

An eternal bottom-of-the-page filler for newspapers is California’s San Andreas Fault. The theme is that someday the fault will split and California will disappear into the sea in an Atlantis-ish (or Pacific-ish) disaster. My theory is that California will remain in place and the rest of North America will disappear into the sea.

Either way, the Deep Internetistas will insist that the earthquake was all a false-flag operation promoted by the Galactic Masonic Skull and Bones Vatican Klingon Illuminati Rosicrucian Templar Golden Dawn Bilderberg Opus Dei Priory of Sion Lizard People Bohemian Grove Continuum of Really Mean Evilness in a secret plot to…but I lost the plot of this narrative long ago.

+ + +

The Peerless Progressive People’s Excellent Bobdescanted Exploding Smartphone and Washing Machine Company has been falsely headlined for its purportedly exploding washing machines. PPPESES&WMC’s dumb-phones have been known to burn down American cars, but their washing machines don’t really explode; they merely wobble sometimes. Hey, duty laundry dude or dudette, just balance the load, okay? It’s not that difficult.

+ + +

One longs to see a bumper sticker or a letter jacket featuring a quotation from Habukkuk.

+ + +

New tenants have settled in nicely on my magnificent rural estate – several colonies of well-behaved and industrious honeybees who were raised in Buna. My north county apiarist consultant, Terry McFall, tells me that the work of honeybees is responsible for roughly a third of all food raised, so without the little fellows we would all be hungry. Further, although there are native wild bees in the Americas, Europeans imported honeybees in the 17th century for their greater honey production.

Alaska’s beekeepers must import honeybees each spring for their honey production and for the enhancement of agriculture. There have been some experiments in keeping bees alive over the winter, but the results are inadequate and the few survivors never manage to recover fully.

In these October days we may turn to Keats’ “Ode to Autumn” for a celebration of bees:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
…to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bourgeois Sentimentality - poem

Bourgeois Sentimentality

A beagle puppy napping on the hearth
The morning offering whispered at dawn
Young lovers flirting on a garden bench
The chair in which Granddaddy used to sit

Cranky old men who feed the birds each day
Cool boy-band posters on a teenager’s wall
Red spider-lilies in the autumn sun
And children’s toys scattered all over the yard

“Bourgeois sentimentality!” some cry:
Well, yes, yes it is – by the Grace of God

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

To Incorporate Institutional Effectiveness into Our Everyday Language - poem

To Incorporate Institutional Effectiveness into
Our Everyday Language

)/)/)/ is updating our assessment plan for
Instructional units beginning this fall
2016 semester. After
Visiting with /)/, our SACSCOC
Consultant and Dr. /) yesterday
About our assessment process, it was
Determined that it is in our best interest
To clarify, verify and hopefully
Simplify the current random selection
Assessment process. Therefore, in lieu of
The use of the random selection process,
The plan for this semester and moving forward
Is to assess all students in all sections
Of courses used in the assessment process
And to report data on all students,
NOT just assessing or reporting data
On a random sample. In order to provide
Appropriate artifacts, we will choose
Representative samples (examples
Of great, fair and low achievement artifacts)
To be included in the artifacts
Collection for SACSCOC reporting. However,
We do still need to collect all artifacts
So we have those in the event they are
Needed. This will give us a better picture
Of how our students are performing.

I know that we are changing directions
And I ask that you be patient as we
Navigate through this process and determine
How best to collect, assess, and use the data
We receive to make continuous improvements
For the good of the students and to
Incorporate institutional effectiveness
Into our everyday language.

Thank you for your willingness to assist
In this process and determining the best
Ways to help our students. Stay tuned as we
Look at and develop some additional
Templates or formats to report the data.
Please share this information with your faculty.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Stagecoach That Robbed Its Passengers - Column, 9.19.16

Mack Hall, HSG

The Stagecoach That Robbed Its Passengers

A common commercial reference in western movies is the stagecoach / banking / shipping group known as, well, let us call it Snork-Ponsonby. In a good old Saturday matinee’ shoot-‘em-up the outlaws rob the train for the Snork-Ponsonby gold shipment, the Snork-Ponsonby Express Office for the farmers’ and miners’ deposits in the Snork-Ponsonby safe, and, most thrillingly of all, the Snork-Ponsonby stagecoach for its Snork-Ponsonby strongbox – so strong that a single shot from a revolver blows it open.

“Hand down that strongbox, ya capitalist lackeys, or we’ll shoot ya down off that stagecoach like flea-bitten mangy varmints throwing up the acidic remnants of busthead whiskey and prairie dog stew in the streets of Lordsburg, New Mexico after a night of carousing at the Shortbranch Saloon and Garden of Earthly delights!”

Or words to that effect.

Despite tremendous growth and changes of ownership and associations since its founding over 150 years ago, Snork-Ponsonby retains a strong commercial and cultural identification. Credit-Suisse doesn’t feature a stagecoach in its advertising or on its letterhead. As for France, the Credit Agricole-Credit Agricole Group (yes, there are two credits, two agricoles, and one group in the name, for some reason) is so title-heavy that a sign painter would have trouble fitting all that lengthy title-ness onto a wagon-lit.

Snork-Ponsonby long ago sold off its stagecoaches in order to focus on banking, but still must deal with robbers. Curiously, if the news is to be believed (and there have been no arrests or indictments), Snort-Ponsonby now robs its depositors itself, thus saving the bother and expense of the old-fashioned third-party road bandit.

Like Doc Boone and Miss Dallas in John Ford’s Stagecoach, some 5,000 Snork-Ponsonby employees have been told to be on the next stage out of town. They are victims because somebody / somebodies in the banking system secretly added credit cards and false accounts to customer’ existing portfolios, thus padding the already hard-to-understand monthly statements with all sorts of clever little charges.

The wonderful Canadian actor Berton Churchill personified the stereotype of the stuffy but corrupt banker as Gatewood in Stagecoach. As with Chaucer’s “Marchant” (merchant / businessman), Gatewood is pompous and preachy and dressed very well, but no one knows that his bank is failing due to his greed and incompetence:

     His resons he spak ful solempnely,
     Sownynge always th’encrees of his wynnyng.
     Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle,
     This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette,
     There wiste no wight that he was in dette

The modern personification of a corrupt banker might be a woman, a Snork-Ponsonby executive who cost thousands of industrious low-level banklings their livelihoods while her fellow Gatewoods on some board paid her millions to go away and, oh, spend more time with her family.

As the sun sets over the dusty trail west of Deming, let us close with one of Banker Gatewood’s speeches from Stagecoach, spoken while, as IMDB notes, he clutches to his heart the valise full of money he has stolen from the poor farmers, ranchers, miners, and workers who trusted him:

I don't know what the government is coming to….(w)hy, they're even talking now about having bank examiners. As if we bankers don't know how to run our own banks! Why, at home I have a letter from a popinjay official saying they were going to inspect my books. I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in this country: America for the Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking. Over one billion dollars a year! What this country needs is a businessman for president!

Amos 8:47 says it all much better, only without a stagecoach chase.


Let's go to the Pub and get Bombed - poem

Let’s go to the Pub and get Bombed

New York, 17 September 2016

Twenty-nine wounded, but nothing to fear -
The mayor assures us there’s no terror here

Friday, September 16, 2016

Oh, Possum! - poem

Oh, Possum!


Marsupials in the Mist


Didelphimorphia Park

Well, there you are, snarling behind the mesh
Of a steel humanitarian trap
For the crimes of digging under the fence
And encouraging the dogs to escape

Stop hissing, now, through rows of dragon-teeth
And listen to human words you won’t believe -
Late summer grapes have tempted you to this,
So absolution is granted; ajar is the door

Your executioner stands down: Go forth!
And be a better ‘possum forever more

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Not Standing up to Honor a Bucket of Pokemons - column, 11 September 2016

Lawrence Hall

Not Standing up to Honor a Bucket of Pokemons

Not standing up for the flag has become the latest look-at-me fashion. Like selfies, hashtaggeries, unicycling across Texas to get money uh, “raise awareness,” the incessant “starting a conversation” thing, LiveStrong bracelets, and throwing a bucket of ice water over one’s head, it will go away, only to be replaced by next year’s newer-than-new look-at-me, me, me virtue-signaling.

Some have suggested that not standing for the flag constitutes treason, but probably not. At worst it is ill manners. After all, committing an act of treason requires some degree of critical thinking.

What might be more important is whether a young man stands up to greet his mother.

+ + +

An event known as The World Dog Show is scheduled to be held in China in 2019. The irony is that in China the dog is more than a domesticated little pal; in China the dog is lunch. Order a hot dog in China and that’s exactly what you get. Think of supper as a roasted beagle, maybe with an apple in its mouth.

+ + +

John Hinckley, who made his name and his fame sneaking up on unsuspecting people and shooting them, is now free to be (you and me?), driving around town, living with his mom next to the golf course in a gated community, working on his art and his singer-songwriter gig, and visiting psychiatrists and therapists who hold his hand and tell him how special he is.

While you are at work, perhaps Mr. Hinckley will inspire you to greater efforts by deigning to wave to you as he tootles by in Mumsy’s car on his way to his music lessons and his therapy.

+ + +

Last week your ‘umble scrivener visited an old but elegant little bakery / coffee shop on Calder in Beaumont. With the morning sun streaming across the four or so tables, newspapers lying about, fresh coffee and croissants, and a cast of diverse characters (one of them was reading a book!), the scene was so very 1950s beatnik, only without the berets, bongos, cigarettes, and manifestos.

A woman approached the waitress / barista apologetically to say “I am so sorry but my little girl spilled her goldfish [the crackers, not the critters] on the floor. Could I borrow a broom and dustpan?”

The barista replied cheerfully “Oh, no, honey, I’ll get that.”

The woman apologized again, and the barista cheerfully assured her that this was not a problem at all.

The happy little girl, perhaps two or so, learned from her mom and the barista about tidiness and about how real adults resolve life’s many little daily happenings without displaying any me-me-me-ness.

And all that was exactly as encounters should be, and so seldom are. Here and there, almost hidden at present, civilization still happens.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ode to Barnes & Noble - two poems

Lawrence Hall

Ode to Barnes & Noble

Patrick Leigh Fermor never roamed these aisles
Sir John Betjeman never rhymed these aisles
Graham Greene never despaired of these aisles
And Rod McKuen was never alone here

And anyway the two or three feet of poetry
Are hidden far away in the back behind
The puzzles, records, comics, and plastic toys
And solitaries plugged into their machines

But on a winter weekday a writer’s retreat -
A yellow pad, coffee, a window seat

Ode to Barnes & Noble - Variant

Patrick Leigh Fermor never roamed these aisles
Sir John Betjeman never rhymed these aisles
Graham Greene never despaired of these aisles
And Rod McKuen was never alone here

And anyway the two or three feet of poetry
Are hidden far away in the back behind
The puzzles, records, comics, and plastic toys
And solitaries plugged into their machines

But on a winter weekday a reader’s retreat -
A New in Fiction, coffee, a window seat

The Moon Would Be Alone - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Moon Would Be Alone

The moon veils her presence with mist and damp
Mortals are not wanted in attendance
On such a night, when rain rises as fog
And the singing of frogs is a menacing chant

The apples of summer, the frosts of autumn
The barefoot maidens dancing on the lawns
Or old men smoking through philosophy:
All are forbidden on a night like this

Above the trees swings a half-hidden lamp -
The moon veils her presence with mist and damp

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Kettle Calling the Pot Chartreuse - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Kettle Calling the Pot Chartreuse

It was only the ice of the tipberg
When the upset was applecarted and
A sand was drawn in the line, though better
To curse the candle than dark a lightness

Or judge a cover by its book shelving
Off the flies toothed to the arm calling a
Posthole auger a posthole auger
Which was cracked at the dawn of down and hurts

In chaining a yank on the side bed of
The wrong partial wax of ball went pancreas down

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Papa Ben - poem

Lawrence Hall

Papa Ben

In that old man, that frail old man, the power
Of God is manifest in gentle love
His whispered prayers are louder than the roarings
Of wicked dragons loosed upon the world

His every beaded Ave is a hymn
Taught by an Angel and sung in the Presence
Of Our Lady Fair, our crown’ed Queen
In praise of God, and for the blessing of all

In solitude he lives for God, for us -
For in that man, that frail old man, Christ lives

Monday, September 5, 2016

War Chariots at Dawn (and a Three-Hole Paper Punch) - poem

Lawrence Hall

War Chariots at Dawn
(and a Three-Hole Paper Punch)

A friend was given a dream in which there was:

Deep darkness and an infinite silence
And then a soft, soft, subtle tingling sound
On the horizon impossible blue
And then more light and then a jingling sound
A line of chariots in silhouette
And led by Three in ancient robes, afoot
And all advanced upon my friend who was
Three in himself, but not capitalized:
A boy afraid, and a middle-aged man
And an old man too, to complete the three
The uncapitalized three, in the darkness
The men then urged the reluctant boy forward
For he was fearful in the face of the Three
And of the chariots on the horizon -
And there the dream ended, all unresolved

And I was given a dream in which there was:

The three-hole paper punch gone missing from
The office (of old and unrequited dreams1)

1a play on The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Zavalla, Texas - poem

Lawrence Hall

Zavalla, Texas

In Zavalla, Texas, an old café

Beside the two-lane blacktop through the pines

Even the setting sun seems summer-tired

Aslant across an open page of Keats

The old men political over their coffee

Are silent suddenly, a surprise to all

The oldest shuffles over on his cane

And asks suspiciously “What are you?”

What are you? Each man asks that of himself

In Zavalla, or wherever he happens to be

Leafy Labor Day and Summer's Last Dragon - poem

Lawrence Hall

     Leafy Labor Day and Summer’s Last Dragon

In a happier world, children this day,
Barefoot children, running about in play
Would pause now at the end of summer time -
New school supplies from the old five-and-dime

Write those first smudgy lines with a new ink-pen
For tomorrow the new school year takes in
And count their cedar pencils, one, two, three
Then out again to the Robin Hood tree

A wooden sword, and a dragon to slay
In a happier world, children this day

     (Their Robin Hood wants to slay a dragon,
     and so a wrathful dragon slain shall be;
     Little children know best about these things)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

There are no Millenials - column, 1 September 2016

Lawrence Hall

There are no Millennials

After the Second World War the surviving soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guard, and Marines came home to their wives and girlfriends, and then they, well, you know, resulting in a high birth rate. Years later someone said this event was a “baby boom.” Thus, children born to World War II veterans were labelled “baby boomers” and then simply “Boomers,” usually as a pejorative. Everything that was wrong in the world was said to be the fault of Boomers, who were insolent, indolent, ungrateful, self-indulgent, disrespectful, and un-American – even those 2,000,000 Boomers who fought in South Viet-Nam, North Viet-Nam, Cambodia, and Laos, and the 60,000 Boomers who were killed there because the young officers of 1941-1945 forgot their lessons as they grew grey and decided that the casual disposal of young lives in undeclared wars would be a good idea.

Some sources define a Boomer as anyone born between 1946 and 1964. Accepting this definition, a baby born at 11:59 P.M. on the 31st of December 1945 is not an evil Boomer, but one born at 12:01 A.M. on the 1st of January in 1946 is. A child born just before midnight on the 31st of December 1964 is a bad, bad Boomer, and a child born just after midnight on the 1st of January 1965 is a God-fearin’ John Wayne American standing straight and tall.

You remember John Wayne – he played Yankee Doodle American police officers, fire fighters, pilots, soldiers, and sailors in the moving pictures, but never did any of those things for real.

Why isn’t there a movie about the life of Dorie Miller?

As with all forms of stereotyping, condemning people because of their dates of birth is illogical.

The new targets of chronological prejudice are Millennials, who of course aren’t Millennials at all, but individual children of God who happened to have been born on…wait…when?

In 1987 William Strauss and Neil Howe (both Boomers) wrote academic research about the identity group whom they were the first to label as Millennials, and for them this centered on the children who would graduate from high school in the year 2000. Thus, by the original meaning, the only millennials are those who happened to have walked across a stage in May or June of 2000.

William Strauss also wrote academic research about Viet-Nam veterans, though he was never in Viet-Nam himself. How cool is that.

Millennials in their turn are said to be insolent, indolent, ungrateful, self-indulgent, disrespectful, and un-American – even those killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and every other Whosedumbideawasthisistan because the young officers of 1964-1970 forgot their lessons as they grew grey and allowed civilians who missed that whole Indo-China thing to bully them into the casual disposal of more young lives in more undeclared wars.

Resume’ enhancement and medals for the desk commandos, body-bags for the desert fighters.

All the futile arcana of Boomer / Gen X / Gen Y / Millennial is no more relevant than conversational Klingon. Let it go. As C. S. Lewis says in Prince Caspian, we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, and that is glory enough and shame enough.

Anyway, when it comes to being narcissistic and self-centered, I stand alone. So to speak.

The background noise you hear comes from my fellow Boomers rattling their walkers, false teeth, and oxygen tanks in disapproval of Millennials – those lazy Millennials who are now our doctors, nurses, builders, police officers, oil drillers, fire fighters, pilots, chemists, engineers, attorneys, and on and on.

But I must go – there is a John Wayne movie on the telescreen. I can recite the dialogue in Rio Bravo from memory, but I don’t want to miss it anyway.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thick and Thin Malarial Smears - poem

Lawrence Hall

Thick and Thin Malarial Smears

An eye, a brain, a journey deep down a lens
Examining the secrets of the blood
Parasitic protozoans frozen in place
Artistic smudgings streaked across glass slides

Anopheles has wrought her evil work
Plasmodium slithers across the field
Unknown to the shivering nineteen-year-old
Who writhes in his government-issue cot

In the agonized mysteries of the dark
While rain, hot rain, rattles the freezing tent

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Disaster Preparedness Checklist - poem

Lawrence Hall

Disaster Preparedness Checklist

Double-A batteries, a map out of town
A tank full of gas, a mind full of plans
A flashlight, toilet paper, a radio
A can opener and cans to go, go, go

Leather gloves and duct tape, whistles
Waterproof matches, and match-proof water
Blankies and ponchos and a change of clothes
A medical kit and a pocket knife


No one ever lists a box of cigars,
And a Wodehouse for reading by lamplight

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Man Could Stand Up - column, 8.28.16

Lawrence Hall

A Man Could Stand Up

“A man could stand up.”
-Ford Madox Ford

Long ago and far away there was an isolated little island named Ioto. There were about a thousand residents, one primary school, one house of worship, and one police officer. The islanders lived by fishing, farming, and sulphur mining. A government mail boat visited once a month, and a freighter less often. The children probably complained that nothing ever happened on Ioto, and the adults were probably happy that this was so.

Things change.

In English the island is known as Iwo Jima.

The story of the battle in early 1945 is well-known, but lately there has been some unnecessary controversy about the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi: just who raised the flag?

At least two flags were raised over Iwo Jima at different times on the fourth day of the battle, 23 February, and several pictures were taken on both occasions, with different Marines and Navy Corpsmen in the frame. The most famous picture was a hasty, unposed grab shot by civilian AP photographer Joe Rosenthal. All of this was under fire. For the first time in 4,000 years a Japanese Home Island had been invaded, and the Japanese defense was fierce. No one had the leisure to take names as if the event were a class photograph, and most of the young men in the pictures were later killed in the battle, which continued for another month.

Less than a year before, in June of 1944, some of those young Marines and Navy Corpsmen had indeed posed for pictures, their high school graduation pictures, and the contract photographer with his Speed Graphic made sure he got the names right: “Haines…now is that spelled H-a-y-n-e-s or H-a-i-n-e-s or H-a-n-e-s…?”

Within a year those same young men as Marines atop Mount Suribachi were surrounded by angry, frightened Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen defending their island, and the Japanese were not taking names.

On the sea, ships of the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy (not often mentioned because American admirals, like French admirals, did not approve of the British, sometimes to the extent of forgetting who the real enemy was) shelled Japanese positions. Navy ground support aircraft made run after run. Most of the combatants on Iwo Jima were Marines, but there were also Navy Corpsmen, underwater demotion teams, chaplains, and Seabees, and Army airmen struggling to establish an air field, all of them constantly under fire, many of them killed, more of them wounded. Some of the landing craft never made the beach; they were destroyed by Japanese artillery, and their Navy crews and their Marines were killed without ever reaching the volcanic sand.

So who raised the flags over Iwo Jima?

We will probably never know the names of each man in the several pictures; the violence and confusion were that bad, and almost all those who survived 1945 have since been taken from us to join their comrades on another shore.

There should be no arguments in the matter of the flags, only quiet reflection. There should also be some kind remembrances for the Japanese defenders who, after all, were mostly teenaged conscripts misled by a bad government. That sort of thing has happened in many nations.

In a sense, every Marine on Iwo Jima, and every Navy Corpsman, Seabee, UDT, and Army Air Force soldier with the Marines, raised that flag, and in spirit the flag over Iwo Jima is still raised every day by every Marine and every Corpsman serving with the Marines.

“Eternal rest grant onto them, O Lord, and make perpetual Light to shine upon them.”


Friday, August 26, 2016

Examining Room - poem

Lawrence Hall

Examining Room

“The nurse will be with you presently, sir.”
And you are left alone in a fluorescent cube
A little desk, a screen, two plastic chairs,
A tray of quaint and curious1 instruments

And here all earthly vanities are shed
Presumptions and assumptions are laid flat
Upon a roll-sheet bed where no one dreams,
Where auguries are gently divined out

The comfort-book remains unread, time stalls -
“The nurse will be with you presently, sir.”

1Poe, of course

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Roganville! Roganville! Don't Forget Your Shoes and Grapes!" - poem

Lawrence Hall

The conductor calls out:

“Roganville! Roganville! Don’t Forget Your Shoes and Grapes!”

The Doodle Bug rattles on the Santa Fe
Through cut-over woods and hot sunset fields
From Kirbyille, where they have a traffic light
And a picture show, and they don’t milk cows

Oh, don’t forget your shoes and sack of grapes
A brand-new shirt from Mixson’s store, for church
The memory of a soda at City Drug
And city kids, who wear shoes all the time

I’m going to live in the city someday

But for now

The Doodle-Bug rattles on the Santa Fe

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Church Ladies and Chariots - column, 21 August 2016

Mack Hall, HSG

Church Ladies and Chariots

“School is just around the corner.” No it’s not; it’s a few miles down the road. Simply follow the big yellow bus on which the wheels go ‘round and ‘round, and be a grownup about the amber and red lights. Certain functionaries in the democratically-elected government of the State of Texas regard children as but medical waste, but we know better. Children are precious. Even when they’re making faces at you from the back window.

+ + +

Why do internet service providers and computer manufacturers seem to be universally dishonest? My latest famous-name-brand disposable computer and its shadowy operatives in Shanghai keep sending me exclamation-mark notices about important software updates which usually turn out to be camouflaged games. Settings / apps / uninstall.

+ + +

The International Olympic Committee is a shadowy organization composed of sinister, secretive, and powerful men operating from inconspicuous bases in Europe – perhaps the I.O.C. is really T.H.R.U.S.H. from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

+ + +

Remember when Bill and Hillary were the cool kids?

+ + +

The InterGossip reports that the latest version of Ben-Hur is not doing well at the cinemas. There is much discussion about possible inadequacies in plot, casting, or direction, but few consider two other possible explanations: cartooning and color.

In the previous movie adaptations of General Wallace’s novel crowd scenes really were crowd scenes. Thousands of folks were employed to fill the stadium at Cinecitta Studios in Rome in 1959 for the chariot race. Now, with electronic cartooning, the producers need only hire a few dozen extras and then manipulate the images into unreal thousands. There is nothing ethically or artistically wrong in this, but it just doesn’t feel right. One almost expects Bugs Bunny or Donald Duck to appear in the next chariot, with Elmer Fudd as the Emperor of Rome intoning “Wet the Wames Bewin.” Cartooning is perfect for Frozen, but wrong for live-action.

The Mediterranean world is reported by reliable sources to be in color. Modern movie-makers, however, seem to want to persuade viewers that Creation is mostly sepia-toned, with little sparkle to relieve the gloom. The previews of the new ‘n’ improved Ben-Hur indicate a continuance of this drab fashion. There are two artistic choices in imaging – sharp, crisp black-and-white is one. The other is color, glorious color, color flung energetically onto the screen, color that stands up and yells “Here I am!” and not the doughy, pasty pseudo-color that looks like a palette of date-expired buttermilk.

+ + +

On Sunday the beginning of the liturgy at Notre Dame de LaSalette was paused for about thirty seconds while the in-training Nonna / Abuela / Babushka / Oma / Meme’ / Church Lady adjusted the hoods of the habits – the albs, not the behaviors – of the young altar servers. God gives us church ladies because if some things were left to men they simply wouldn’t get done, and Sunday observances would collapse in an existentially bleak wilderness of askew hoods and flowerless altars. In the hierarchy a church lady is superior to a priest (just ask the church lady) but inferior to a bishop, and more knowledgeable than either about how matters of faith and practice ought to be accomplished.

In a world of uncertainties how thankful we should be for the constancy of church ladies and young people who volunteer to serve, and for the freedom of all of us to attend divine services without being shot for doing so.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

Death of a Country Gentlemouse - poem

Lawrence Hall

Death of a Country Gentlemouse

In a golden cloak and a white waistcoat
Reposes an elegant little field mouse
Neatly laid out for the visitation
Attended not by aunts now, but by ants

Luna-Dog, separated from her kill
Poses prayerfully at the back-door screen
Or predatorily, as it might be, before
With work-gloved hands the mouse is bade farewell

Tossed respectfully over the garden fence
In a golden cloak and a white waistcoat

Sunday, August 14, 2016

She Loves You, Cough, Cough, Cough - column, 8.14.2016

Mack Hall, HSG

She Loves You, Cough, Cough, Cough

A Hard Day’s Night was on Channel Siberia last week, and its charming innocence plays better now than it did in 1964. The plot, as in any musical, is but a weak thread for holding the songs together, and the Beatles could neither sing nor act, which, like an amateur musical in the parish hall, is part of the fun – all this was before they began taking themselves seriously.

The surprising strength of A Hard Day’s Night is its cinematography. The producers apparently could not afford color film, and so employed the then-unfashionable but excellent black-and-white stock which produced – and has maintained for over fifty years – crisp, clean, bright images which hit all the registers of light and dark. Except for the high-end technologies such as Technicolor, color film from the 1960s has since deteriorated, one might almost say soured, into fuzzy garish tones on the yellow end of the spectrum.

Many of the sequences are set outdoors, free of sets and CGI, and show post-war London, poor but tidy, with the ruins of bombed-out blocks still visible. The trains, busses, and taxis on screen were real, and are gone now, so the movie is a period piece about an era when people took the train to work and even the poorest man managed a much-cleaned and much-patched coat and tie for public wear instead of the current serf-livery of knee-pants and cartoon tees and plastic ball caps.

Most of the g-rated film is good-natured buffoonery, but the middle of the film changes mood for about fifteen quiet minutes of reflection as Ringo skips a rehearsal in order to take a solitary stroll along the streets and alongside a canal with his Pentax. He encounters all sort of people simply being themselves at work and play. There is little dialogue, and many of the images, as stills, would be works of art in themselves.

Because of the accidents of a low budget, monochrome, good humor, respect for the audience, a lack of artistic pretension, and an unselfconscious amateurishness in most of those in the picture, A Hard Day’s Night still has a youthful spring in its metaphorical step.

And let The People say “iconic.”

One of the recurring sub-themes in the film is the matter our lads fleeing hordes of screaming teenyboppers in beehive hairdos, reflecting the reality of the Beatles’ popularity in the 1960s. In contrast, there is a recent narrative of one of the surviving Beatles arriving at a post-awards show party for 2016’s cooler-than-cool, only to be turned away. Either no one knew who he was, or didn’t care.

1964’s A-list is still welcome at Luby’s Cafeteria.

And let The People sing “Yesterday.”