The new tax plan

Of course, it’s a nightmare.  No need to go into that–but here’s a refreshing take on it from our wonderful accountant, Glen Thomas, a fine man and an excellent accountant:

“This is absolutely the best time for CPAs in my 35 year working career. I was in my 4th year when the 1986 tax act was passed. It presented many less opportunities – mostly due to a thoughtful, bi-partisan, nearly 13 month effort that ultimately passed 93-6 in the senate. Continue reading “The new tax plan”

Two quotes

In case you didn’t happen to use Google today, they are honoring Gertrude Jekyll, famous British gardener of the late 19th, early 20th century.  She is very quotable; here’s an example:

‘There is a lovable quality about the actual tools. One feels so kindly to the thing that enables the hand to obey the brain. Moreover, one feels a good deal of respect for it; without it the brain and the hand would be helpless. ”

On a less earthy path to enlightenment, I have been reading Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish religious leader born in Germany, who famously met and marched with Martin Luther King. This quote seems particularly apposite today: Continue reading “Two quotes”

Post election

Casa-del-MarWe’ve been in Baja all week; it was supposed to be a rest and celebration. Of course, it hasn’t been that. While it’s been weird to be in a tropical non-USA paradise, the indifferent, perfect ocean has been some consolation.

And Larry, ever that man for black humor in a bleak hour, this morning came up with: “I hope I haven’t gotten too tan to get back into the United States.”

That will have to do for now. Though I did sign a petition to revoke the electoral college.

Hiding the brush strokes

 

mad menA friend forwarded an article from Matthew Weiner  (the creator of the TV series Mad Men)  on writing. He makes the point that writers often pretend there’s little work involved in creating their final piece, but that the process is slow, full of visions and revisions, false starts, painful changes.

Anyone who has ever sat down to write is faced with the gap between what they feel is good writing and what is happening on the page at that moment. I occasionally look back at old drafts of my best poems, sometimes 12 or 19 of them, which I shove in a folder called “Prev.” I am almost always shocked by how truly awful they are. One’s taste evolves, and one’s work rarely can keep pace.

The article is worth a read, but here is my favorite quote: Continue reading “Hiding the brush strokes”

Busy, busy, busy

cat's cradle3Did you ever read Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle? It’s one I read in my early twenties, and certain phrases and coinages have entered my personal lexicon: your karass is basically your tribe–the people that you are destined to meet. A duprass is a karass of two very tightly bound people, and a granfalloon is a false karass, people who identify with something essentially trivial and meaningless. I think he uses the example “Hoosiers.” In the book, there is a religion, called Bokononism–you’ll have to read the book to get the full description. But “Busy, busy, busy” is what a Bokononist says when confronted with the mysterious, unfathomably complicated workings of life. Continue reading “Busy, busy, busy”

Who are these Trump supporters?

I’ve really been wondering, and this article in the New Yorker provides at least a partial answer:

rally“The Trump supporters I spoke with were friendly, generous with their time, flattered to be asked their opinion, willing to give it, even when they knew I was a liberal writer likely to throw them under the bus. They loved their country, seemed genuinely panicked at its perceived demise, felt urgently that we were, right now, in the process of losing something precious. They were, generally, in favor of order and had a propensity toward the broadly normative, a certain squareness. They leaned toward skepticism (they’d believe it when they saw it, “it” being anything feelings-based, gauzy, liberal, or European; i.e., “socialist”). Some (far from all) had been touched by financial hardship—a layoff was common in many stories—and (paradoxically, given their feelings about socialism) felt that, while in that vulnerable state, they’d been let down by their government. They were anti-regulation, pro small business, pro Second Amendment, suspicious of people on welfare, sensitive (in a “Don’t tread on me” way) about any infringement whatsoever on their freedom. Alert to charges of racism, they would pre-counter these by pointing out that they had friends of all colors. They were adamantly for law enforcement and veterans’ rights, in a manner that presupposed that the rest of us were adamantly against these things. It seemed self-evident to them that a businessman could and should lead the country. “You run your family like a business, don’t you?” I was asked more than once, although, of course, I don’t, and none of us do. Continue reading “Who are these Trump supporters?”

You can take the girl out of New York…

imagebut even though I’ve now lived about two-thirds of my life in California, I still relate to the world through a New Yorker’s lens, always searching for the fastest route, the shortest line, the way to keep moving, even when I’m not in a rush and have plenty of time. I also love malicious commentary (when it’s witty and apposite), black humor, and thoughtful analysis.

So I still read the New Yorker, even though mostly months late. And as I haven’t been writing lately, I especially appreciated this little paragraph by Adam Gopnik, writing about Paul McCartney: Continue reading “You can take the girl out of New York…”

A miscellany

tin manI realized that this is close to the five year anniversary of this blog. Despite typos, sloth, and various technical difficulties, I’ve managed to publish something at least once a week for this period. These last two weeks have been particularly busy, so I thought I’d include a few things from various categories, starting with a Monday poem one day late. Larry and I were talking about our friend Paul Tulley the other day–how strange it is that he’s been gone for almost 20 years. Larry mentioned that Paul once sent him an obituary for Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, with a post-it attached that said: “RUST IN PEACE.”

Poem for Paul

Lately, crows have been invading poems,
those hoi polloi birds, irascible and unashamed.
An eye for the mystic ordinary, Paul
knew the difference between crow
and raven—Most poem crows are ravens,
he might tell you, pointing out their size,
their heavy bill, their solitary strut.

While others scanned for kestrel
or for heron, Paul wondered about gulls,
their range and variations, their coziness
with all things human and the limitless,
inhuman sea. An underrated bird,
he might say.

For years in one small bedroom
where the sea could just be heard,
Paul held ongoing court for grownup
children, his beery Buddha’s smile
traveling with them,
Moscow, Moose Jaw, Lhasa,
back with an unusual rock or plastic wind-up
toy for Paul to slowly take in hand,
consider, and comment on.
His comment the reward
for the journey.

He wrote his poems on scraps
dropped in a coffee can
or sent on a card to a friend,
no copy kept, or lost
in the drifts layered
around his bed.
One of the rare ones
who knew that the writing
was everything.
What happens after
doesn’t matter. Continue reading “A miscellany”

Two points of view

blackwhiteThis week, I have read two passages with very opposing points of view. The first from a book by Claudia Rankine, called Citizen. Here’s a fairly typical excerpt:

“You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.

You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.

Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.

As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens 
and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.”

The second is from After the Parade, by Lori Ostlund: Continue reading “Two points of view”

Books that change your life

lowellI’ve been reading some essays by C.K. Williams (who wrote last week’s poem). In one essay he talks about reading a book by Robert Lowell, Imitations, which broke open a new way of thinking about poetry.

Imitations was influential and controversial. Lowell took poems in other languages and rather than translate them, he created his own poems in English inspired by them. Many deplored this technique, finding it arrogant and disrespectful. But it definitely gave poets something to think about. For Williams, it “released something in me I hadn’t grasped had been keeping me from moving ahead in my own work.”

How amazing it is that books can crack you open, can shed light into your own struggles and world view. Continue reading “Books that change your life”

Some thoughts on racism

mcwhorterI came up against my unacknowledged biases twice in the last month, first in the audience at an LGBT event. Seeing how everyone else was dressed–a kind of kinky extreme fashion–and how I was dressed–skirt, sweater, sandals–I felt slightly out of place. It made me realize how awkward it must feel to be differently attired in a “normal,” straight audience.

Second, at storytime at the Albany Library with my toddler grandson, we were in a very small minority–almost everyone else was Asian, mostly Chinese, and mostly speaking cheerfully to each other, as friends will, in Chinese. Both these experiences reminded me how the world around me is changing, how the new order challenges my unquestioned assumptions about normal, and how important it is to be open to these changes. Much better than any diversity training I might attend!

Then this morning I read John McWhorter’s excellent exposition of the current attitudes towards racism on campus.  You can read the entire article here, or a few excerpts below:

“The problem is that the university campus is already one of the most exquisitely racially sensitized contexts a human being will ever encounter in America–a place where, for example, comedians such as Chris Rock have stopped performing because audiences are so PC…

“For example, current ideological fashions call for telling whites to “acknowledge” their “privilege.” This paradigm has no place in a university environment. It assumes a truth at the outset and allows no room for genuine exploration. (“It’s Not About You!” is a common mantra.) Another central part of the New Indoctrination is the battle against “microaggressions.” Continue reading “Some thoughts on racism”