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Category Archives: Musings

The Political Dorothy Parker

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How many people, I wonder, know that when she died Dorothy Parker left her small estate to Martin Luther King Jr.? Those who hung in and read the rolling post-scripts at the end of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle may remember; otherwise you might be forgiven for thinking all she ever cared about was booze, men who broke her heart, and honing her sarcasm.

In fact, Parker became a political activist in 1927, protesting the Sacco and Vanzetti executions in Boston, for which she was arrested, and she remained poltiically active until she died 40 years later.

She reported on the Loyalist cause in Spain.  She was chair of the Joint Anti-Fascist Resuce Committee, organized transport of Loyalist vets to Mexico, and headed the Spanish Children’s Relief Project. During WWII she founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, which grew to 4000 members and which the FBI suspected of being Communist. She spoke out on segregation and supported the civil rights movement.

In addition to short stories, reportage, and poetry, Parker wrote Hollywood scripts, including the iconic Judy Garland vehicle A Star is Born. Naturally, she landed on Hoover’s Hollywood blacklist and was knocked out of the movie business for a number of years.

Despite her constant drinking, she outlived almost all the members of her famous Algonquin Round Table: she was 73 when she died of a heart attack. I can’t help thinking what an asset she’d be today, writing caustic poetry about the goings-on in Washington.

Going Forward

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It’s time for one of my tirades against tropes, in which I go apoplectic over abuse of the English language, including terms like trope, first-ever and the turning of nouns into verbs, of which my all-time most hated example is journaling. To loosely define this kind of abuse, I’d say they are words or phrases employed primarily to impress others with one’s up-to-the-second hipness factor, in the same class of behavior as name-dropping.

The process seems to be speeding up lately, leading me to wonder if it’s one of the many by-products of living in a world where alternative facts are accepted by one-third of the population. In any case, there are several phrases currently grating on my nerves and my ears, including unpack as in analyze or study; “pushback,” as in to object or protest, and starting every answer to a question with the word So. But the phrase driving me the craziest, today’s winner of most redundant, unnecessary and obnoxious terminology is “going forward.”

Going forward : a totally ridiculous phrase that’s now constantly employed by otherwise respectable news reporters. I haven’t yet seen it in print, but surely it won’t be long. The redundant first-ever made it into newspapers eventually, in place of the perfectly serviceable first and I predict it will one day be scrunched into one word, like many we now take for granted (anytime, anywhere, someday, etc., were each considered two words a hundred plus years ago. It’s the news industry’s mania for saving column inches that’s debased English in this particular way.)  But I digress.

Going forward is commonly used thusly: “What do you predict will happen to the Internet without net neutrality going forward?” Can anyone seriously claim those words add anything to the sentence, or have any meaning whatsoever? “What will the presidency be like as we go forward in the Trump Era?” The term means absolutely nothing. It is totally redundant and meaningless.


I’ve given myself heartburn, so I must abruptly bring this tirade to a close. I am going forward now to unpack the meaning of today’s news with all of its tropes. I know readers are bound to give me pushback with the argument that language is a living breathing entity and must continually change. Unfortunately, most of today’s changes are cosmetic, silly, and sometimes offensive; they’re like the constant updates on software programs, designed to make us all crazy. I suppose they figure if they keep us distracted with this bullshit we won’t be pushing back going forward.



Baseball Then and Now

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Last night my son and I watched a video of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, in which the Mets won a sweeping victory over the Baltimore Orioles. For me, the game was interesting more from a sociological perspective than as baseball history. Following are the social changes I noticed between then and now.

(1) The players on both teams were primarily, possibly exclusively, black and white, i.e., none that I noticed were Hispanic, as opposed to comprising nearly 30% of all major league players today.

(2) Tom Seaver pitched a full ten innings, having pitched, the announcer said, just two days ago. These days starting pitchers get four or five days’ rest, and rarely go beyond seven innings.images

(3) The game was played in full sunlight. There hasn’t been a World Series day game since 1987.

(4) The fans were, to my eye, 95% male adults; these days as many women and kids attend games.

(5) The fans were mostly dressed in suits and ties, which brings me to…

(6) These days when the camera pulls back for a view of the fans, we see a virtual ocean of the home team’s color; in the case of the Mets, it’s blue, because fans are wearing Mets caps, shirts, jackets, etc. That a wide shot of the stadium in 1969 showed no such continuity indicates that fan gear wasn’t the big business it is today.

(6) Finally, fans were avidly smoking in their seats. No comment.Pap Smear


Mornings in Santa Cruz (Failed Haiku)

Early risers catch the moon
before daylight or birds
before clouds return.

Before clouds fill blue sky
I watch full moon
sink slowly.

Full moon sinks slowly
light fading. Birds chase
her, singing madly, joyful.

Singing madly joyful birds
chase morning moon
as she sinks.

Sleepers miss lessons
of morning moon:
loss will come again and soon.



He Left His Scarf in My Car

Having just learned that musician Billy Faier died this past year, I’m posting a poem that he inspired many years ago. 

He left his scarf in my car.
Sleepily I fingered the hand-woven wool
that had embraced his neck
on countless winter sojourns.

Then I saw my empty finger:
my ring was on his piano
or perhaps on his hand now
playing Bach.

roadAs I drove into the morning sun
a million ghosts of one-night stands
faded into history:
my ring was on his piano
and his scarf was in my car.