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living poetry

The Sea Monster (Durer)

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sea monster


Each moon the damned gray sea monster abducts our wives,
Then releases them to us as speechless as fish.
Not one has revealed what happens beneath the waves;
So we wonder, do they endure terrors or bliss?
He has antlers and a merman’s scales, and a shield
Of tortuga shell, and eyes that say, “Ye shall yield.”
Only Annalee, my perfect wife, fought the beast,
Calling to me as I stood helpless on the beach.
After she slapped his bearded face and yanked his mane,
He ripped off her dress and drowned her in shame.
Of all the women taken, only she has not returned,
Those taken since scoff at the possibility
(Each petulant and stiff, like a woman scorned)
That Annalee’s alive, with him, beneath the sea.

Note: This is one of more than 120 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

that's what he said, by Frank Wilson

To see like a child

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My wife and I live in a two-story row house in South Philadelphia’s Italian Market district, about 200 feet from Ninth Street, which is where the market is.

That happens to be only a few miles due south of where I spent the first eight years of my life, when my family lived in North Philadelphia, in a two-story row house at the corner of Sixth Street and Sedgley Avenue.

Across the street from that house was a scrap yard, and behind that the railroad (one of the less tony stretches of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s vaunted main line). It was a neighborhood of row houses and corner stores, factories, warehouses, and vacant lots. Our house boasted a tiny garden, and I can still remember helping my mother plant flowers there when I was about four. The flowers, I learned later on, were French marigolds and blue ageratum, and I always plant some in the tiny city garden I now have.

Sometimes my family would take the trolley that ran down Sixth Street to the very market I now live near, and recently I wondered just what trolley line that might have been.

Today, of course, it’s a bus route. When I looked it up, I found that it was the 47, the very bus that runs up Ninth Street now. Only that, to be precise, is the 47M, a supplement to the real Route 47, which still comes down Eighth and goes up Seventh, coming down Sixth on its way back, right past where our house in North Philadelphia still stands.

Silly as it must sound, I find it fascinating that the house I am likely to end my days in is just a block from the same public transportation route that the house I started life in was. [Read more →]

technologyThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that YouTube commenters must be eliminated

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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. 559944: The Emperor has thought long and hard about ways to raise the average intelligence quotient of the general populace. He has has had several ideas, ranging from sending the Air Force to attack pop concerts to having the Imperial assassins stationed on rooftops pick-off people who make particular wardrobe choices. While each of these solutions would certainly be effective, they might not be, strictly-speaking, ethical. But, if those who were eliminated were, without question, deserving of elimination, who could complain? Therefore, having concluded that the lowest form of human beings are, without question, YouTube commenters, the Emperor will target them. The world should no longer be forced to endure “dude – your [sic] a retard” or pseudo-intellectual intonations of “clearly, you know nothing about music if you think that so-and-so is a bad guitarist.” The trigger comment for the Emperor’s new decree was this one: “Dude, you’re 30m away and the camera is shaking like you’re in the middle of the battle. I’d make a better video with my dick.” (This was in response to a video of Anthony Kiedis in a scuffle with security guards at Philadelphia’s “Four Seasons” hotel [which, by the way, most of the commenters referred to as a “motel.”]) This is absurd. Everyone knows male genetalia can neither record nor store video data. (Though, admittedly, it would be cool. But I  imagine there would be a whole different dynamic to family videos. “Dad! What the hell are you doing? — oh, I forgot. Haaaaiii! Merry Christmas!!!”)

The Punishment: Just click the mouse to submit a YouTube comment and you will find out.

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 is on vacation

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Hey there everyone. Greetings from Walt Disney World in sunny Orlando, where the humidity is oppressive but the happiness wins anyway. I am here with my family, and time has kept me from completing my column for this week. I had great designs on having everything written in advance, which would have allowed me to post even after a couple of very long weekend days, but it was not to be. I will return next week with a column that will contain two week’s worth of brilliance and insight, I promise.

If you are desperate for some Bad Sports, Google Aaron Hernandez, Serena Williams (re: Steubenvile), or Allen Simonsen. For some Good Sports, Abby Wambach, Will Venable, and Joe Torre’s daughter would be some good starting spots.

Have a great week.

Bad Sports, Good Sports appears every Monday


art & entertainmentBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten “Whatever Happened To…?”s

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10. Mason Reese

9. Balloon Boy

8. Roberto Benigni

7. Kato Kaelin

6. Yahoo Serious

5. Yakov Smirnoff

4. Pia Zadora

3. Manti Te’o’s girlfriend

2. Baby Jane

1. Due process

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

living poetry

Magic Mirror (Escher)

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this moment this moment this moment this moment

Dragons on graph paper and images of beasts
March to assembly, an army at war within.
A propped mirror is the instant when time is rent,
What’s done from what’s about to be released,
That instant we neither recall nor contemplate a sin,
(The mirror internally, eternally lit),
Since we’re in the act of committing it.
We are those silver, faceless, and unmoving orbs,
Who, before and after, our reflection absorbs,
While the dragons, a danger, but oblivious,
Circle us endlessly, meshing, silent terrors,
The jailers of the placid, dim, and unconscious.

the mirror mirrors the moment this moment mirrors

Note: This is one of more than 120 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

religion & philosophy

Turns out life IS fair

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Supposedly, nobody ever said life was fair. Well, I’m saying it right now. Maybe I’m a nobody so the adage still works but I’ve come to believe that life is absolutely fair. Yes, there are selfish jerks who seem to be rewarded while truly good, hardworking, selfless people seem to be punished. There are people who’ve lived like there’s no tomorrow that live long, healthy lives while people who ate healthy, exercised and did everything right have died young. There are innocent children who suffer with terminal illness while evil dictators enjoy the good life. So how is it that I can possibly believe that life is fair? Because most people only see life on a superficial level, but it’s time that we dig a little deeper. [Read more →]

educationvirtual children by Scott Warnock

Parents of college-bound kids, do you know what a MOOC is?

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No matter how plain-speaking we think we are, we all have our own form of professional jargon. I guess because I’m a word person, I find it interesting when I unwittingly fall into the jargon of my world and realize outsiders have no idea what I’m talking about. For instance, everywhere I go lately in my world of writing and technology, I encounter MOOCs. I say “MOOC” all the time, and I get about 10 stories/news items a week in my In Box about them. Yet, when I utter “MOOC” outside of work, people look at me strangely. [Read more →]

books & writingtravel & foreign lands

Kim Jong-un declares admiration for Hitler: what could possibly go wrong?

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The bookstore is that way.”

The North Korean dissident website New Focus International carried an interesting story on Monday. According to insiders, Kim Jong-un is getting into Hitler. In fact, the tubby tyrant digs the Nazi dictator so much that he’s started gifting copies of “Mein Kampf” to his inner circle. Having emulated Stalin for decades, it’s time for the regime to embrace a new villain.

At first glance, this is perplexing. What is there in “Mein Kampf” that has any relevance for the people of the “Hermit Kingdom”? Undoubtedly, Der Führer would have viewed the decidedly non-Aryan Kim as [Read more →]
bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Johnny Manziel, Twitter, and the invasive world of college sports

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I am torn. I am a big fan of college sports, with football being my clear number one and basketball coming in second, but I enjoy other sports at that level as well. The reason for my mixed feelings is how much like professional sports the big two have become. At the Division 1 level, especially in the big conferences, there is very little to back up the premise that these are amateur sports, aside from the fact that the players do not (generally) get paid. Any time I start to think that the whole setup stinks and needs to be changed, I realize that the sports I love could be dramatically altered if that happened, and that’s a hard reality to face. Still, it’s hard to follow these players and not see the problems that come from the big business of college sports. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingreligion & philosophy

Top ten ways Pope Benedict XVI is spending his retirement

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10. Watching Celebrity Bingo and Taxicab Confessions

9. Standing in a phone booth and pretending he’s still in the Popemobile

8. Resisting the temptation to write a tell-all book

7. Having second thoughts about this whole ‘celibacy’ thing

6. Sweatin’ to the oldies

5. Spending more time with the wife and kids

4. Going to nightclubs and throwing holy water on demon girls with short skirts

3. Swooning over Justin Bieber

2. Sorting his hats by height

1. Trying to buy things online, to see if he still has PayPal Infallibility


Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

living poetry

In The Magic Mirror (Klee)

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The wan shock, not that rare, when the face
Is strange to us, the look of a mirror race,
Lasts only a moment and then dissolves;
Not memory, but confusion soon resolves.
We know the mask of lips and framing hair,
The skin stretched tight from ear to ear.
What startles is that persistent stare
We cannot blink away, but do not fear.
We feel foolish and fooled when it’s over,
Both slightly empty and totally alone,
As though the soul has flown its cover,
Uncertain it will ever find another one.
Even that passes. We’re ourselves again.
A mirror is mere glass with silver stain.

Note: This is one of more than 120 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

ends & oddphotography

Glimpses of Syria 2009

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In the fall of 2009 I traveled to Jordan and Syria with a group organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war, which to date has killed some 93,000 people, I’ve often thought back to the peaceful country I visited just a year and a half earlier.  I found a  landscape of green hills, desert and sea that in some ways resembles Oregon, cities full of friendly people and intriguing souks, and everywhere wonderful smells of fruit, spices, and flowers.  I think back on those scents and they return to me as an emblem of Syria’s beauty and a prayer for peace.  Here are a few photographs of my trip.

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politics & governmentThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that all politicians must wear the Emperor’s new clothes

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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. NSA1: The Emperor has allowed this Obama fellow to oversee things in America, so far. He has allowed this because it pleases him to do so. Alas, the Emperor is now becoming vexed. “Why is the Great One vexed,” you ask? It is because, for some reason, Mr. Obama and his fellow officials are starting to act like Emperors. There is only one Emperor; only one divinely-appointed Overlord who wields the right to pry into your tiny little personal lives; to search through your phone calls without probable cause; to arrest you in the middle of the night on a whim; to kiss your sister at will. It is I. He. It is he. (It’s hard to keep pronouns straight when one is always talking in the third person. When he is always talking in the third person. We? Ah, bugger it.) However, the Emperor is willing to allow this governmental snooping to continue, so long as the petty rulers in America submit to the punishment below.

The Punishment: All politicians will, henceforth, serve out their terms in loin cloths. (The women in American government may add seashell brassieres, if they are inclined toward modesty.) This should serve a reminder to them, on a daily basis, of what it means to feel “exposed,” as do the citizens of America, to ever-increasing degrees. Even ground. That’s what it’s all about. Equality. (Except for us. Me. We. You know what I mean. The Emperor.)

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: Cary Williams wakes up the echoes of Ricky Watters

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In 1995, running back Ricky Watters signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after starting his career with the San Francisco 49ers. In his first game with the team, he was running a crossing pattern and made a feeble attempt at catching a pass because he was shying away from the contact that was coming at him. When asked about “short-arming” this pass after the game, Watters famously wondered aloud why he would have even considered doing otherwise, asking “For who? For what?” Although he went on to have a very good career with the Eagles, the notoriously tough Philadelphia fans never let him forget the selfish questions with which they were introduced to him. This week, another new Eagle, Cary Williams, went down a similar road when asked about some recent Organized Team Activities that he had skipped. Uh-oh.

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Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingpolitics & government

Top ten new Obama scandals as reported by Fox News

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10. That, at one state dinner, Obama strongly implied that the defrosted ham was actually fresh!

9. The scandal of Obama hiding something about his heritage: he’s mostly Irish

8. The disgrace of Obama once meeting heads of state wearing a clip-on

7. The fact that Obama really really wanted to call his first daughter Clinique

6. That Obama recently sanctioned killer computer worms able to zap any computer user who dare read this Top Ten list

5. Obama sinking so low as to make the ridiculous accusation that Fox News is screaming ‘scandal’ ‘scandal’ ‘scandal’ ‘scandal’ infinity-times-infinity times just in the hopes that, eventually, something might stick

4. The Smell-Of-Cigarette-Smoke-After-Midnight Scandal!

3. That, when Obama was three, he once advertently stared up a grass skirt

2. That Obama smoked so much dope in Hawaii, it has undoubtedly kept him from even greater things – than being the most powerful man on the face of the earth

1. White-After-Labor-Day-Gate

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

living poetry

The Poor Fisherman (Pierre Puvis De Chavannes)

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The man’s greatest weapon is patience.
He can stand and wait, perfectly still,
As long as the elements don’t interfere.
He doesn’t believe in anything but chance.
Though he cannot eat what he cannot kill,
An empty net is not his deepest fear.
The boy is still healthy, but he worries Aimee
Has become pale and her milk is gone.
She gathers useless flowers and sings,
“They are not for me, but for my family.”
He thinks the same of the sea and sun.
At times, when the bay is full of nothing,
Exhausted by his empty regrets,
He dreams himself diving into the net.

Note: This is one of more than 120 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

art & entertainmenttravel & foreign lands

The curious Russian afterlife of Steven Seagal

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Judo expert and morbidly obese Hollywood Z-lister open martial arts center in Moscow

Long, long ago – for about 15 minutes – Steven Seagal was a big deal in Hollywood. His movie “Under Siege” made a lot of money. But that was pretty much it. Next came a string of big-budget flops followed by a lengthy and ongoing twilight spent in straight-to-video purgatory.

As for me, I don’t think I’ve ever made it all the way through a Seagal film. His stiff, tubby frame, extreme humorlessness and mystic posturing make it impossible for me to suspend disbelief. Here in the US he serves as a punch line, part of the flotsam and jetsam of trash culture. Steven Seagal – that’s the washed up ‘90s action movie guy who peddles an aftershave lotion named [Read more →]
virtual children by Scott Warnock

Tattoos I woulda had

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Everywhere you roam nowadays in our great land, you see tattooed folk. I wonder if the runaway U.S. tattooing craze of the past decade or so is connected to the rise in American shortsightedness (e.g., “What do you mean overextended? I’m buying that house!). More importantly, when I see how young some of the inked are, I often can’t help but feel they are traveling the road to regret. [Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Ohio State president embarrasses himself and his school

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In the world of academics, I would bet that university presidents are popular individuals. The successful ones are highly visible on campus, raise tons of money for their schools, and are often given at least some credit for the success of their institutions. From a college athletics standpoint, though, I am starting to really despise these guys. People like E. Gordon Gee of Ohio State just don’t seem to live in the real world, and yet they get paid large (sometimes huge) sums of money to be the faces of their universities. This week, Gee came under a great deal of scrutiny after a recording of one of Ohio State’s athletic council meetings surfaced during which he made offensive remarks about a number of different targets, including Catholics, the SEC, and a couple of Kentucky schools. [Read more →]

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