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living poetry

The Flammarion engraving (artist unknown)

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The Milky Way is stone and silent fire,
Flying ice and dust, and expanding gas,
But what we find within the heliosphere
Suggests a whilom laboratory
Where the essential elements were cast
And the residues made preparatory
For the distillation that’s planet Earth:
Europa’s water, Io’s sulfur,
Gases from Saturn and Jupiter,
Engineered for the terrestrial birth.
The traveler sees, beyond a starry veil,
Cosmic clockwork, eternal music.
Kneeling, he lifts a hand as if to hail
His Maker, the tinkering mechanic.

Note: This sonnet is one from a sequence of poems after paintings or images called “Brushstrokes.” The entire sequence can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

advicefamily & parenting

Lessons of the heart from a secret policeman

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Iron Felix: a tender soul

When I lived in Moscow I regularly frequented an antique shop on Malaya Nikitskaya Street that had a small selection of English books. A lot of the stuff was awful, but they had a good selection of volumes from “Progress”, the USSR’s foreign language publishing house. Progress specialized in works by soviet authors and bad translations of the Russian classics. My favorite Progress book however (which I found in the shop) was Words from the Wise, a selection of Russian and Soviet quotations.

Some of the words within are wise, others are banal while many are flat-out lies. My favorite quotes however come from Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Polish Bolshevik who founded the Cheka, embraced Lenin’s policy of terror and established Russia’s first concentration camps. A bad man? Certainly. But he knew the human heart.

I discovered this while searching for quotes from Stalin on love. Nothing doing, but Felix, he had a lot to say. For instance:

“Love is the maker of all that is kind, exalted, strong, warm, and bright.” [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiran

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I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately, which is always a good time to catch up on my audiobooks. I’ve got a stack of great audiobooks that the good folks at Macmillan Audio sent me, and I’ve been putting them to good use.

I finished this novel sitting at home, warm and cozy with a cup of coffee — a great way to listen to a book about a blizzard. Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron is the story of Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. He’s been sent into exile, Down East, a remote outpost on the Canadian border. He’s lonely, frustrated, and not making friends. Game wardens aren’t popular with the hunters in the area, making it a very tough assignment.

Having dinner with the local veterinarian (what passes for his social life, these days), Bowditch is called to the cabin of a local couple. In a raging blizzard, a half-frozen man has appeared at their door, raving about another person, lost in the swirling snow. After a long, cold search they find the body — but it’s not the storm that did him in. [Read more →]

sportsThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees a (possible) end to professional sports

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. XLVII: He does not know it yet; he might not want the position, but he has no choice, because we are, after all, the Emperor of the World. The Emperor is appointing Alan Spoll, author of WFTC’s  “Good Sports, Bad Sports,” to be the Imperial Grand Master of Sport. (The Emperor likes that European “sport” thing, instead of “sports.” It’s real classy.) Grand Master Spoll, alone, through his diligent assessment of the weekly goings-on in sports, will help the Emperor (who is rapidly becoming more and more disgusted with professional sports, but who loves sports, in general) decide if they should be allowed to continue. After the Ray Lewis bit in Alan’s column — with which His Imperial Perfectness completely agrees — the Emperor has decided that, if over the course of the next six months, the “good sports” don’t outweigh the “bad sports” in Alan’s column by at least 75%, professional sports will be banned from Earthly civilization. Professional sports have become an incubator of crime (let me count the ways), dishonesty (yeah, you, Lance), vanity (insert picture of…hell, a thousand guys here), greed (duh!) and even sadism (the Emperor does not forgive Michael Vick). Overwhelmingly, some of our lowest humans have become cast as heroes and even the ones who never went so far as to stab anyone in the eye or to set innocent animals on fire are simply models of flagrant self-aggrandizement who teach our impressionable children that confidence requires arrogant showboating and that achievement is attached to end-zone dances and to conceited statements through which the achievers pathetically beg the general public to shower them with praise. It makes the Emperor royally retch.

The Punishment: The Emperor gives Grand Master Spoll six months in which to change the Imperial Mind. After that, sports go back to the sandlots and tree-lined parks, where (let’s face it) they really belong.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: The Ray Lewis love-fest makes me sick

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I am not going to recap the Super Bowl for you. Everyone watched it, right? OK. Good. I am a sports fan, so I obviously watched as well. I am an Eagles fan, so I had no real skin in the game. I actively rooted for the 49ers, though, and there are two words that explain why: Ray Lewis. In case you had somehow missed it, the celebrated middle linebacker from the Ravens was playing his final NFL game. Lewis represents everything that is wrong in professional sports, in my opinion, and the incessant focus on him made the days leading up to this game somewhat unbearable. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingsports

Top ten San Francisco 49ers’ excuses

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10. “For some reason, we never received our pregame ‘care package’ from Lance Armstrong.”

9. “We’re confused. Since when is it not best out of seven?”

8. “Too much pre-game gumbo.”

7. “After halftime, instead of the game, all we could talk about was whether or not Beyoncé was lip-synching.”

6. “We used to get all our carbs from Twinkies.”

5. “Nobody warned us that the Ravens would keep pushing and shoving us like that.”

4. “It’s hard to concentrate when you’re worried about the debt ceiling.”

3. “In the second half, we were all still grossed out by that hot chick making out with that pudgy nerd.”

2. “Our quarterback just got dumped by his imaginary girlfriend.”

1. “We kept getting our plays from the wrong Harbaugh brother.” 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

living poetry

Reptiles (Escher)

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“I do not sense that I have lived this life before.”
“Don’t you ever wonder if there’s something more
Than crawling endlessly from book to cup to floor?”
“Our lives are an endless and parabolic bore.”
“I’m happy to sacrifice to enlightenment,
Would our creator boast of being heaven lent.”
“I’d know what it all means if I knew what I meant,
Allowing myself to vanish into parchment.”
“I’m damn tired of looking at your tail, that I know,
And can’t wait to reach the polyhedron to blow!”
“Yes, we all feel it’s an extravagant show.”
“I can’t not climb the set square set there long ago.”
“Speak for yourselves!” exclaims the reptile in the cup,
“I’ll climb down now. I will never again climb up!”

Note: This sonnet is one from a sequence of poems after paintings or images called “Brushstrokes.” The entire sequence can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

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