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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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