Sunday, January 29, 2023
Sunday, January 22, 2023
Sunday, January 1, 2023
Less digital. More analog.
More doing. Less reading.
More vegetables. Less vegging.
More walking and biking. Less driving.
More home-prepared meals. Less fast food.
More rewriting. Less posting sloppy first drafts.
More purging unused belongings. Less purchasing crap.
More local. Less national.
Saturday, December 31, 2022
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Saturday, November 26, 2022
Friday, November 25, 2022
Starting in 2018, Lynne Handy asked me to change her Facebook cover image once a month. She wanted to put a different poem, or portion of a poem, on the cover each month. I got the impression she spent a fair amount of time putting this together each year. On November 8, 2022 I received her poems for 2023 (She included one by our poet laureate of the Fox Valley, Frank Rutledge!). Unfortunately, she passed away on November 20, 2022.
I don't feel right logging on to her Facebook page and changing the covers anymore. It just seems wrong, but at the same time, I want to acknowledge her work, the effort she put into choosing which poems to display. Accordingly, I'm going to post the remaining poems here, all at once.
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
T.S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi”
That winter I had nothing to do
but tend the kettle in my shuttered room
on the top floor of a pensione near a cemetery…
“January in Paris,” Aimless Love, Billy Collins (1941- )
And the moral of my code
beauty is twice
and what is good is doubly
when it’s a matter of two
“Ode to My Socks,” Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)
Touch our bodies, wind.
Our bodies are separate, individual things.
Touch our bodies, wind,
But blow quickly through the red, white, yellow skins
Of our bodies
To the terrible snarl,
Not mine, not yours, not hers,
But all one snarl of souls.
“Wind,” Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, Langston Hughes (1901-1967)
I remember this woman who sat for years
In a wheelchair, looking straight ahead
Out the window at sycamore trees unleafing
And leafing at the far end of the lane.
“Field of Vision,” New Selected Poems 1988-2013, Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
Now has come the joyous month of May,
So gay, with such sweet delights,
As these orchards, hedges, and these woods,
All decked with leaves and blossoms,
And all things rejoice.
“The Joyous Month of May,” The Writings of Christine de Pizan, Christine de Pizan (1364-c 1430)
The sun should be a couple of million miles
Closer today. It wouldn’t hurt anything
And anyway, this cold rainy June is hard
On me and the nesting birds…
“Solstice Litany,” Dead Man’s Float, Jim Harrison (1937-2016)
But when the thistle blooms and on the tree
The loud cicada sits and pours his song
Shrill and continuous, beneath his wings,
Exhausting summertime has come…
“Works and Days,” Hesiod and Theognis, Hesiod (ca 750 BCE – Unknown)
I am a honey locust tree
with summer green intentions,
to be a Mourning Dove
“Two Places at Once,” Clothed in August Skin, Frank Rutledge (1962-2019)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run…
“To Autumn,” The Odes of John Keats, John Keats (1795-1821)
…Autumn and winter are in the dreams…the farmer goes
with his thrift,
The droves and crops increase...the barns are well-filled.
When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail…
The stars, the heavens, and the elements
contested, using all their arts and care,
to make that living light where Nature and
the sun are mirrored, nothing matches it.
“Sonnet 154,” The Poetry of Petrarch, Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Sunday, November 20, 2022
We submitted our story. We wrote a few, picked two that seemed worthy of editing and selected what we thought was the strongest and posted it in time. We won’t find out until January if we make it to the next round. There were 5,439 writers registered. The organizers set up 125 groups of 44 (though one group must contain 43 since it’s an odd number of writers) and they will select the top 10 out of each group to participate in the next round. If we’re lucky we get to do it all over again in January. There is a third round, in March. I can’t post the story we submitted until the contest is over.
I was involved with fewerthan500.com for a while. It seemed to me that writing a story that would make an impact in 500 words was really difficult. Now that I’ve tried to do the same thing in 250 words, 500 words feels like writing a novel! I think it’s good to try to write short; I’ve always thought most writers write too long. I’m glad I participated, whatever we find out in January.
Thank you for your kind words and support. I appreciate it.
Friday, November 18, 2022
Sunday, November 13, 2022
It is a cloudy, cold day here in Batavia. The Depot Pond is looking pretty bleak. It’s November and it is supposed to look like this.
I am so torn about social media. I permanently deleted my Twitter account a few weeks ago. I don’t miss it at all. I never did get much out of it. Now it looks like Musk is going to drive it into the ground faster than most thought.
I am still on Facebook and I’m torn. I like seeing what friends post. I like the groups I am part of. Occasionally some random post will show up that is politically ugly, but that should slow down dramatically now that the midterm elections are over.
But I cannot shake the feeling that social media is bad for both me individually and for society in general. It can be a huge time-waster. I catch myself scrolling for far too long, usually as I procrastinate about something.
I know I’m the product, not the consumer. Facebook has programmed the platform to hold our attention for as long as possible. They do this to give the ads as much exposure as possible. I watched 60 Minutes last week (11/6/2022) and one of the segments was an interview with Tristan Harris (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_Harris) . He’s a former Google employee. He told 60 Minutes that Facebook (all social media) intentionally promotes angry, mean and divisive posts because they tend to go viral much faster and garner more likes and shares than nice posts. Our anger means more money for Facebook.
Do I want to be part of that? Does my use of Facebook mean that I’m part of the problem? Am I at least condoning it by remaining on that platform?
I know that when I leave it’s not going to matter. No individual is going to make Facebook change its ways. But if enough of us leave, maybe they will take notice.
Isn’t Blogger also social media? It is not. There are a couple of reasons. First, there is no advertising. I could add advertising to my blog, but why do that? Even if my writing were compelling enough to attract lots of views, I don’t want to use my readers the same way Facebook and Twitter do. Secondly, and perhaps more important, there is no black-box algorithm putting my drivel in front of you. You have to go to my site on purpose. There are no psychology PHDs working on my behalf to get you to read these posts. There is no manipulation going on here. Either I write something that entertains or informs to get readers or no one shows up here to read.
I’ve deactivated my account many times over the past few years, but the next time I’m deleting my account – not to return. If you want to stay in touch, I’ll be posting stuff here occasionally or you can contact me at kevinm56 at gmail dot com.
Saturday, November 5, 2022
Faith in Institutions
At lunch last week we discussed the phenomena of TikTok “advertising” and its affect on book sales. I mentioned that I saw a magazine at my library that had an article about TikTok success stories. One of our lunch crew doubted the validity of the book sale data. I replied that the data was from Neilsen Bookscan. The discussion went off on a tangent, morphing into a discussion about statistics, monopolies and bank statements. It got a little off-track.
I trust some institutions. I trust that Neilsen Bookscan reports book sales as accurately as they possibly can. There are gaps – for example, Amazon does not report non-ISBN self-published data to Neilsen. But if a book has an ISBN and is sold in bookstores or online, odds are good your sales are being reported by Nielsen. I trust that my Morgan Stanley investment and bank statement are correct. I trust that when I go to a Dow Jones or Bloomberg website that the stock market information is accurate. I do not see how I could live life under the assumption that every institution is lying to me. I cannot function that way. I make choices about which organizations I trust and which I find questionable. I have to trust some of them or go crazy.
Statistics can be manipulated. Statistics can be interpreted. Anytime I encounter statistics I should be wary. Polls are a great example. I find them not only useless, but annoying. However, a statement – be it a bank statement or statement of a particular book’s sales numbers – is not a statistic. A statistic is a value calculated by a sample. A statement is a sample size of 1, so even if you were to consider that a stat, your statistics 101 class taught you that it would be invalid.
Trusting a news organization is a little trickier. I am more comfortable with numbers, but news reporting is slipperier. I subscribe to the Washington Post. I trust their reporting is accurate and fact checked. They tend to publish a lot of political articles, which interest me less and less. Plus, I get no local news at all. These are problems for me, and I should subscribe to a local paper to alleviate those issues.
Lastly, what about faith in churches? I was raised Catholic. It is difficult to be a Catholic now in my opinion. There are the pedophile incidents. I find the Catholic support for Trump befuddling. I am not part of any religion currently.
I am comfortable with the idea of a creator. I cannot fathom how everything got here, so that seems like a possible explanation. But I do not think the writers of the Bible (or the Koran or any religious scripture) had any more insight into the nature of the creator than I do. I do not believe the Bible’s authors channeled the word of the creator. I do not think the creator cares about us as individuals. We are on our own and most days I do not think we are doing a great job of managing things.
These are some of the things I believe. I might change my mind depending on what happens. I have changed my mind before; it is quite possible I will again.
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
We've had a string of sunny fall days with brilliant blue skies. But, this is also what an autumn day in Illinois looks like. We really need the rain, so it's all good.
We're 7 games into the football season and the Bears are not dead to me. Who would have guessed that the Bears and the Packers would have the same win-loss record this far into the season?
It's raining out and 52 degrees. This is a perfect day to spend inside a nice bar and pretend to get some writing done. Batavia has the perfect place: Sturdy Shelter Brewery. They brew beer on the premises. They have food brought in some days, but not every day. In any case, Abby the bartender told me I can bring food in with me and order a beer and have lunch! A Big Mac and fries plus a delicious small craft beer sounds wonderful. The music is on, but not so loud you can't hold a conversation without yelling. The lighting is perfect. They have 5 tables along the windows on Shumway and more window tables at the other end of the building overlooking the river.
I had a Robustacious Imperial Red and it was really good. I'll be going back.
Saturday, October 22, 2022