Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An Unscheduled Existential Stop - poem

Lawrence Hall

An Unscheduled Existential Stop

Worn-out old khakis, old shirt, and old shoes
Coffee maker singing its matins and lauds
Sunlight falling through the air like a yawn
A book left open from the night before

The cat posing prettily in the window
Pretending to be wholly unimpressed
By tasty hummingbirds beyond the glass
This Saturday of no expectations

When the best clothes for this holiday are
Worn-out old khakis, old shirt, and old shoes

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Mysterious Closed Maybe and Unclosed Maybe Interstate - a three-dot column

Mack Hall, HSG

The Mysterious Closed Maybe and Unclosed Maybe Interstate

This was all on the ‘net, and so must be true:

In Glen Rose, Texas a young mother stuffed her two-year-old into an oven and began cooking the infant.

Well, hey, it’s all about family, right?

But then the evil State intruded, and trampled all over the mother’s parental rights by saving the baby’s life.


The leader of the Cuban protest group Ladies in White, Berta Soler, was invited to meet with President Obama. She was arrested hours before his plane landed, and so won’t be available for a chat.

“We’re filling out the forms now. We haven’t decided if [she] suffered a heart attack or died while trying to escape.” – not exactly Casablanca


At a campaign rally a famous radio guy called a small boy to him and told the audience that the boy had been fasting one day a week for a correct outcome to the election.

Really? Parents are allowing a child to fast? Give that kid a sandwich and then a bumper sticker for his tricycle.

Fasting is an optional religious discipline for healthy adults. A healthy adult’s duty is to see that his child takes good nutrition every day.


The Washington Examiner reports that Google has been involved in trying to overthrow the government of Syria. William Randolph Hearst, thou should be living at this hour.


China is buying American companies, one after another. Maybe including Google. Well, that’s all right, as a nation of inspirational singer-songwriter-webinators we don’t need jobs, right?


There’s a fellow in New York who, for a thousand dollars, will raise you from the dead. And, yes, he is his own church, with a 501C and everything.

Okay, how do you arrange for your resurrection with this guy? Do you pay in advance, or do you make a really long, long distance call after you’ve gone to your temporary reward? Is there time to pop down to the nearest ATM?


Much praise of and gratitude to local first responders, local churches, and local individuals who quietly gave much in time and money to help the flood victims. They didn’t ask for praise or gratitude, but then they are not into me, me, me-ness.

As for that multi-national that was given so much radio time – nah.


And, finally, a local ghost story, or perhaps one of those Unsolved Mysteries moments: Is Interstate 10 at the Texas / Louisiana border open? Is it closed? Is one lane open? Are two lanes open? In which direction? Says who? By what authority? How can anyone know?

Maybe New York’s tax-exempt resurrection guy can tell us. For a thousand bucks. Around a crystal ball: “Late at night, when the moon is full, on lonely roads along the Sabine River you might see a ghostly white Texas Department of Transportation pickup truck being pursued by dim, flickering lights…”


Not-So-Wildflowers - poem

Lawrence Hall


Wildflowers are not really wild, you know
They are not forward like catalogue blooms
Demanding the best seats in the garden
And the most delicate of drinks and soils

Wildflowers smile softly, sweetly at the sun
Shy fairy-folk of forest, field, and fen
Dancing through the warm mid-year months and then
Withdrawing quietly at summer’s end

Like children yawning, and wanting their beds -
Wildflowers are not really wild, you know

Monday, March 14, 2016

Should Chocolate Candy Boss You Around? - a frivolity

Mack Hall, HSG

Should Chocolate Candy Boss You Around?

In life there are many occasions when individuals are subject to instruction: parents and teachers help guide children in their growing up, the State of Texas regulates traffic for the greater good (although one notes that the drivers of those big Texas Department of Transportation pickup trucks often seem to exhibit a cavalier attitude about speed, turn signals, and lane choices), and ministers lead the faithful in observance of religious teachings. The mature adult accepts all this.

Except TXDOT. What is it with them?

However, being lectured by a bit of foil-wrapped chocolate is too much.

For years now some living rooms have been decorated with directives instead of attractive pictures, nanny-ish signs reading “Love God and Do What Thou Wilt,” “Live, Love, and be Happy,” “Dance as if No One Were Watching,” and other Mary Poppins-esque precepts.

Now we’re being nagged by chocolates through theological and philosophical treatises printed inside the wrappers.

Here are some recent examples, with appropriate human responses:

V. Revive the art of conversation.
R. At a Donald Trump rally?

V. Give someone a compliment.
R. After verifying with an attorney that said compliment is not sexist, racist, LGBT-ist, or culturally insensitive.

V. Watch more cartoons.
R. Chuck Jones as John Keats?

V. Why not?
R. You first – why?

V. Treat Tuesday as Friday.
R. Participate in the Stations of the Cross, have a fishburger, and then attend a football game?

V. Keep them guessing.
R. Keep whom guessing? About what? Why?

V. Be more loquacious. Start with learning the word loquacious.
R. Just what we need, a smart-mouthed chocolate with a dictionary.

V. Kiss and tell.
R. No gentleman tells.

V. Solve arguments with a dance off.
R. Imagine Rommel and Montgomery doing the tango. In bikinis.

V. Stay up until the sunrise.
R. Folks on the night shift always stay up until the sunrise and later. What’s your point?

V. Lend an ear and a chocolate.
R. I come to bury Caesar, not to fatten him.

V. Get dressed up with no place to go.
R. You wear a cartoon tee to church. What do you call dressed up?

V. Choose less ordinary.
R. Given the loopiness of our times, the ordinary is probably a better choice.

V. Give them something to talk about.
R. Why? Adults choose their own topics of conversation. You’re not it.

So what are all these sugar-sodden orders-of-the-day about? Has Hershey re-defined itself as a church? Is Nestle channeling the Dalai Lama? Are the Dove people receiving telepathic commands from Obi Wan Kenobi? Will Cadbury’s do counseling, hypno-therapy, and weddings?

Many people complain that certain government agencies have become unconstitutionally authoritarian. Evidence suggests, however, that is seasonal candies who have gotten a bit too pushy. Maybe it’s time we put those pushy treats in their place: “Get ‘em out! Yeah, that Baby Ruth. And the Mars Bar. That’s right, get ‘em out! Gettttt ‘em out…!”

But all the humans should be nicer to each other. TXDOT, especially, needs a hug.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Baton, but no Orchestra - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Baton, but no Orchestra

Majestic in their yellow-painted shields
Imperious trumping traffic lights command
Through glares of green and red, and garish orange
Obedience in all the traffic below

How sad - there is no traffic to command
Though once there was, before the lordly lights
Were lifted up: a little town was here
With pharmacies, feed stores, hardware, and cafes

And a movin’-picture show. All gone now.
And then the state put up the traffic lights

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Frost on the Windshield - poem

Lawrence Hall

Frost on the Windshield

Poor Kirbyville is mostly closed this morning
The cinder-block bakery is empty
And the only fast-foodery’s not yet open
Its neon tubes still dark against the stars

But the stop ‘n’ rob is busy enough
The gas pumps serving as anchorages
For trucks and boats, some headed to the lake
After taking on coffee and gasoline

And sausage-biscuits greased and slammed, and wrapped
In yellow paper of such painful sadness

Monday, March 7, 2016

No Barbaric Yawps, Please - poem

Lawrence Hall

No Barbaric Yawps, Please

Nobody writes poetry anymore
With patience gentling iambs into place
As if they were jewels set into a crown
Or Aves whispered through the Rosary

Nobody writes poetry anymore
Crafting images with a workman’s skill
(or bashing them through ‘prentice clumsiness!)
And shyly dreaming them into the world

Common nobility common to all -
Nobody writes poetry anymore

Attack of the Killer Cocktail Sombreros - op-ed

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Attack of the Killer Cocktail Sombreros

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is one of the most admirable people in history. As a 34-year-old professor at Maine’s Bowdoin College he was beyond military age in 1862 but decided to enlist in the 20th Maine Infantry because of his profound belief in freedom for all.

Chamberlain is best known for his leadership in the Battle of Gettysburg. Surrounded and almost defeated by the 15th Alabama during a fierce battle among rocks and trees, with few remaining men still able to fight and out of ammunition, Chamberlain did something quite illogical – he ordered a bayonet charge, which saved the Union position. Unlike Viet-Nam era generals, who led from radios in air-conditioned bunkers, or modern generals, armed with pearl-handled resumes’, who lead from luxurious executive jets, Chamberlain led from the front.

In an era of theatrical facial hair sculpturing, Chamberlain adorned himself with a death-or-glory moustache that Asterix the Gaul might find a bit too much. General Chamberlain’s ‘stache all by itself could have frightened some of the Confederates on Round Top into surrendering.

Chamberlain fought in numerous battles, and was awarded the Medal of Honor, small compensation for the pain, infections, and operations he suffered all his life from multiple wounds.

After the war, Chamberlain served as governor of Maine and then as president of Bowdoin College. Chamberlain was not a backslapping fund-raiser; he also taught, at different times, every subject in the curriculum except science and mathematics.

In 1880, as commander of the militia, Chamberlain was called upon to resolve violence in the state capital of Augusta due to a contested election. He and his men ejected armed occupiers from the capitol and kept the peace for twelve days until the Maine supreme court made a ruling. On one occasion during this near-rebellion he faced down a mob that was determined to reoccupy the state house and kill him. He turned down bribes offered by both sides, being a man of honor instead of a deal-maker, and that was the end of his political career.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain died in 1914, honored for his courage, gallantry, and love of freedom.

Bowdoin College, another of Chamberlain’s great loves, does not at present appear to love freedom as much as he did. Students are being punished, and might be expelled, over sombreros.


The putative objects of cultural appropriation and hurt-feelingness are not even real sombreros, but rather 2-3” party decorations, surely made in China, which a couple of giddy lads balanced on top of their heads after an encounter with a few glasses of merriment several weeks ago.

Perhaps the decorations should have been little homburgs, derbys, top hats, Prussian picklehauben, berets, trilbys, busbys, fedoras, fezes, kepis, kippahs, tams, tarbooshes, turbans, Mao caps, hoodies, cowboy hats, Irish walking hats, or workers’ hard hats. But wait – possibly neither the administration nor the students at progressive Bowdoin have any familiarity with workers’ hard hats.

Bowdoin’s administration collapsed tearfully into full Aunt Pittypat smelling-salts mode while accusations of cultural bias and the We Want Answers thing flew through the clean Maine air like General Pendleton’s cannon fire over the wheat fields at Gettysburg.

Yet the college did not cancel its annual Cold War party (that Stalin – what a fun guy) the same night of the attack of the cocktail sombreros, nor did the cafeteria modify its Mexican day menu the same week.

As a teenager applying to Bowdoin, Chamberlain needed help in prepping his knowledge of Greek and Latin, since the mastery of both was required for admission. Now, one supposes, young Chamberlain would have to demonstrate proficiency

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Not a Good Comrade - poem

Lawrence Hall

Not a Good Comrade

No man is free if he gives up himself
And disappears into sad howlingness
Subsumed in sinking, shrieking subservience
Thrall-teed in the overseer’s livery

A label on a shabby baseball cap
A programmed pixel smeared across a screen
A rusty caltrop cast into the road
A shifted pea under a shuffled thimble

As crowd, as mass, as demographic noise -
No man is free if he yields up himself

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Eye of Sauron is Upon Us - op-ed

Mack Hall, HSG

The Eye of Sauron is Upon Us

There are frightened little men who in their feverish brains see conspiracies in everything: your license plate number is a secret code imposed by the Masonic-Vatican-IRS Continuum so that unmarked Canadian helicopters can track you, Queen Elizabeth is a diabolic lizard warrior in disguise, fluoride is a Communist mind-control drug, traffic signals beam your image and DNA to the Martian outpost on the dark side of the moon, and algebra is the language of Satan.

Well, okay, that bit about algebra being satanic is true.

But that Solomon’s Temple was a cleverly disguised alien spaceship, well, no. Sorry.

After Justice Scalia died several weeks ago, the mansies who live in their allotted gigabytes cluttered the planet’s microwave signals with fantasies about Justice Scalia being a member of a golly-gee-super-secret-girl-haters-blood-cult called The International Order of Saint Hubert.

Well, the International Order of Saint Hubert really exists, and it is so secret that it has a web site: http://www.iosh-usa.com/.

Justice Scalia was not a member of the International Order of Saint Hubert, which is no more significant than the fact that he was not a member of the Rotary Club and did not have a Barnes & Noble discount card.

The IOSH is indeed a hunting fraternity, one with a long and remarkable history, including the fact that its Grand Whatever was murdered by the Nazis because he wouldn’t let Hermann Goering join.

Here are the conspiracies carried out by the Order of Saint Hubert:

To promote sportsmanlike conduct in hunting and fishing

To foster good fellowship among sportsmen from all over the world

To teach and preserve sound traditional hunting and fishing customs

To encourage wildlife conservation and to help protect endangered species from extinction

To promote the concept of hunting and fishing as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity

To endeavor to ensure that the economic benefits derived from sports hunting and fishing support the regions where these activities are carried out

To strive to enhance respect for responsible hunters and fishermen

Wow. Scary stuff, huh?

The values of the International Order of Saint Hubert are not at all different from Justice Scalia’s equally exclusive club to which many of us belong, the Hunting Brotherhood of Grandpa’s Old J.C. Higgins Shotgun.

There is a Saint Hubert, whose conversion story is worth reading. He is the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, opticians, and metalworkers.

Not a bad fellowship, that.

And, after all, mathematicians are in special need of our prayers.