Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Walking Dead gets humanized

March 15, 2016

I love this latest episode of The Walking Dead,” number 13, “The Same Boat.”  Instead of making the viewers cope with the loss of one or more beloved main characters, as the main dramatic device driving the plot so far, it allows the characters to survive, but raises the level of compassion and awareness of the sanctity of life as a way to deepen the drama.  In this way, we also are spared becoming less human, and in fact pushed in the direction of being more human, because we gain a new appreciation for the struggle our characters endure, and the contrast with the values they find in the people who inhabit the world around them and the way they are living their own lives as much as possible.

Maggie is having a baby.  This is unique to women, at least as an intimate experience, and the episode focuses on five main women involved, and how they are coping with survival in this world.  And ultimately the women who die are the ones who choose less than normal human values, or allow themselves to be pushed into that box by men, or just don’t have the vision to see that there is another choice.  Or perhaps they have been broken down such that it’s just not possible for them to make that leap at this point.  Maggie tells Paula she’s making a choice by having a baby.  Paula answers yeah, she’s making a choice, she’s dead.  Vision/no vision.  Inspiration/no inspiration.

Also when Maggie squares off with another captor who is supposed to be extracting information from her, she tells her she doesn’t plan to die that day.  The other woman says she doesn’t either, but one of them is wrong.  Maggie and Carol are trying to tell them if they deal with Rick and their group honestly and in good faith, they will live.  But they don’t see that, because they plan, or know their coworkers plan to kill Rick’s group if not killed first, trade or no trade.  In other words, the woman talking to Maggie can’t conceive of how they can both not die that day.  It’s just not in her psyche.

But Maggie, Carol and the other members of their group can see that happening, and are willing to at least take a calculated risk, and they survive.  This episode affirms the enduring power of doing what’s right, maybe backed up by might because of the evil one can confront in life, but still it’s those values that ultimately keep you alive.  Because you know in your heart you have done what’s right and you have to survive for the good of your people and the world as a whole.  You have a mission, and a vision, that is bigger than you.  These people and their struggles mirror our own because we are all kept safe by people who lay down their lives for us in conflicts.  History is filled with that heroism.  And with the endurance of societies that hold higher human experiences dear, and the reason for the fight.


Hilary’s surgeries

February 5, 2014

I was reminded of our three years of visits and as many surgeries in as many years by a friend’s blog post about her daughter who just had her spine fused to solve a problem she’s been having for quite awhile.  I don’t write about Hilary’s problems because she doesn’t want me to.  But I can talk about a few of my own.  For the big surgery, complete realignment of both jaws, I spent three days by her side, mostly in a small chair next to her bed that folded out into a longer, but still very narrow, chair/bed.  We had nice walks down the mural-covered halls of the children’s wing to the glass-walled visiting room on the 24th floor where we could see ten or 20 miles in 360 degrees around us.  We faced the airport, where planes landed and took off as we have occasionally done, Winthrop, where we go to Christmas parties with our family, close by the Science Museum and a little farther to the right the Aquarium, where Hilary has spent many happy hours ever since she was very small, the common and Back Bay, where Hilary took art lessons, behind us the hill on Rte. 2 that leads to Bedford, far off the South Shore, where we have some relatives, the waterfront, and the boats to the islands, and places in between.  The waiting room also has a huge aquarium, with brightly colored fish in it, and we would hang out there sometimes with our computers, or Hilary drawing.  We came to feel about MGH as if it were a second home, with the cafeteria and its array of food available all hours of the day and night, the nice valets at the entrance, the Whole Foods nearby to get a special treat.  Even the one conflict we had with a caregiver took on more of the quality of a family problem, with forgiveness as the resolution and lessons learned about our true natures.  Hilary became reacquainted with the simple pleasure of sipping soup through a straw, chewing food after two months of a liquid diet and properly for the first time, learned something about pain and the solving of it, and of human kindness.  I learned something about human nature, as I have throughout the 23 years she as her guide on this planet.

Apocalyptic Octopus

September 10, 2013

imageThe dark gold door creaked open, then closed, as I slid in and started the engine. Hilary sat next to me, her gym bag scrunched on the floor, in between the drive shaft and her feet. After glancing behind, I maneuvered the car in a small arc out of the slanted parking space, and faced a marsh that ended about 50 yards away in a wall of green overgrown bushes and trees behind them.
The beginning strains of “This is the End” by the Doors entered my head, and I imagined the line of foliage bursting into flame, as in Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Apocalypse Now.” We turned toward the road, our lives no less apocalyptic for having done so.

We drove to the newly redesigned Aquarium. A large curved shape extended down from an overhang of rock inside a tank.  It belonged to an octopus, which we only knew by reading the illuminated sign.
“He’s tricking us,” Hilary explained. “By looking like the rock.”
“Yes, he is,” I agreed.
She pointed to a coral colored, bumpy, shape with serrated edges stuck to the bottom of another promontory inside the tank and said, “That’s an animal too, also tricking us.”
I looked at the sign. “You’re right.  It’s a starfish.”
“I told you,” she countered. “The octopus is going to come over here.”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “He might not want us to see him.”
Two silver, four-inch dead fish lay inside, near the glass.
“Look, there’s his lunch,” I said.
“I know,” Hilary said.
Slowly, a tentacle uncoiled from behind the octopus’s head. He (or she) was on the move. The suction cups that lined its tentacles shone white in the light as the animal adhered to the glass.  Still in the shadows, its head hovered like a ghost’s. One curved tentacle framed the small, dark eye, and a line below it.
“Is that its mouth?” I asked.
“No, that’s in the middle,” Hilary assured me.
I followed the graceful, fluid flow of suction cups on the glass, and grip of the animal on it with Hilary next to me. After a few minutes, I looked down to where the tank floor met the sides. The fish were gone.
“He ate the fish!” I exclaimed.
“I know,” Hilary said.

Love and Lying in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and Sonnet 138

December 28, 2012

As You Like It

Audrey: “I do not know what poetical is.” (3.3.16)
Touchstone: “the truest poetry is the most feigning, and lovers
are given to poetry, and what they swear in poetry
may be said as lovers they do feign.” (3.3.18-20)

“When my love sweares that she is made of truth,
I do beleeue her though I know she lyes,
That she might thinke me fome vnturterd youth,
Vnlearned in the worlds false–subtilties.
Thus vainely thinking that she thinkes me young.
Although she knowes my dayes are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue,
On both sides thus is simple truth supprest:
But wherefore sayes she not she is vnjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O loues best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in loue, loues not t’haue yeares told.
Therefore I lye with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lyes we flattered be.”

(Copied as given to me by my professor.)

Shakespeare’s attitude toward the act of lying and the word “lye” in Sonnet 138 is that both are a composite of the two meanings contained within them and also comprise a whole which is more than either of these two meanings express.
The three times that the word lie is used in the Sonnet, in lines 2, 13 and 14, it can mean either love-making or deception. The pun in the last two lines brings this to our attention. In the chapter “The Poet as Fool and Priest” from his book Shakespearean Meanings, Sigurd Burckhardt points out that at the same time that the poet plays with words, he must preserve the integrity of each within the context of the work, or they become meaningless. We can therefore infer from this interchangeable use of the word lie that Shakespeare intends it to mean both.
This is borne out on the semantic level of the poem as well. The speaker tells us “When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her though I know she lyes.” Thus both are involved in a mutual lie, a mutual deception. The fifth line, by its grammatical construction, indicates that these separate acts of deception are also one and the same act. The ambiguity concerning the subject of the sentence indicates, in a sense, a mutual one, a mutual subject. “Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,” can mean that he vainly thinks she is young, or she vainly thinks he is “unlearned in the world’s false subtleties” and is, therefore, young. (Here we have the use of the word “young” with two possible meanings as well, but that is another topic of discussion.)
Thus both he and she are lying, in terms of deception and, the poem tells us, both are lying with each other in the physical sense of the word as well. The act of love and the state of love are often described as a dissolving of two distinct individuals into a whole. Thus the act of love and its more abstract emotional states are roughly analogous to the word lie and the various possible meanings that can be associated with it. Just as the word lie is the only possible concrete manifestation of its possible meanings, or the the channel through which they are expressed, so the act of love is the necessary channel for the expression of its more abstract emotional states.
Shakespeare intertwines the concepts of love and lying to the point where they are almost inseparable. In terms of the meaning of Sonnet 138 this is obvious, but in terms of his work as a poet it is true as well. The poet must write, out of love, though he commits a small lie by doing so; just by virtue of having put words to paper he becomes involved in, and responsible for, multiple meanings contained within them.
This is more subtly indicated by the use of the word “feign” in regard to poetry and love by Touchstone in As You Like It (3.3.18-20) and Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1.1.28-32). Feign means either to pretend, or lie, and to desire, or love. Touchstone’s assertion that “the truest poetry is the most feigning” indicates Shakespeare’s assertion of the necessity of both pretense and love in the creation of his art, just as by deceiving each other, and making love to each other, the lovers in Sonnet 138 transform the actual fault in which they are engaged into a means of enjoyment. It is the fact that they act out of love that frees the lover and the poet from reproach for the small deceptions which serve as a means to bring the transformation about.


(Topic: In this sonnet the poet uses the word “lie” to mean both acts of love-making and of deception. It could be argued that the entire poem depends on this crucial pun. What is the poet’s attitude toward the act and toward the crucial word?)

I love you

December 27, 2012

I love you I love you I love you

He said and I did not believe it

But I smiled anyway

Kept my affectionate/cool eyes on him as we stood

T-shirt to t-shirt

Next to the penguins at the Aquarium

Nature provides everything

so much more fantasically

than I can ever make.

Dave Brubeck

December 15, 2012


He was the “speaker” at our graduation from Bard College at Simon’s Rock in 1973 . May he rest in peace, and best wishes to his family.


December 15, 2012

Minuteman Bikeway

July 25, 2011

Lady in blue takes
short steps in small white sandals
toward the sun and wind

Mother’s Day Politiku

July 22, 2011

Published on Susanna Speier’s blog and in the Huffington Post:

“I chose Obama
From the start of the campaign,”
my Mom says proudly.

For an explanation of Politiku and link to more on Obama’s first 100 days:

When Obama won
The world held its breath–and now
Begins to exhale

Memorial Day Politiku

July 22, 2011

(link + post):
Includes a lovely poem about Decoration Day (original name of Memorial Day) left as a comment.  (First published 5.26.2009)

No sense to be made
Down on the grass by your grave
Green bug on my wrist