We mustn’t call it poetry
Lest poets take offense
We dare not call it balladry
That simply makes no sense
We cannot call it lyric verse
That label, too, falls flat–
I’ve heard some call it doggerel

Well, I can live with that.

Ok, so I have a bit of an issue with Calvin Trillin. He is “The Nation‘s Deadline Poet”, drawing the inspiration for his verses from the headlines of the day. Dammit, I finally find my perfect job, and someone has it already. And there’s only one.

He even has a book out–“Deadline Poet,or, My Life As A Doggerelist“.

That’s right. He calls himself a doggerelist.

Check and mate, Mr. Trillin. You may call yourself a doggerelist. Other people call me a doggerelist. Yeah, that’s right. It’s a dictionary. I’m in a dictionary. Of sorts. Kinda. And I am example #2 of “doggerelist”.

So there.

Wait, really? “Doggerelist” isn’t a compliment?


I Am The Bishop (II)

I am the Bishop, the first in the line
When reviewing a case, the decision is mine;
If I choose, I will forward the case to the board—
Most often, I don’t do a thing (thank the Lord!)

I am the Bishop; the Board of Review
Are my people, who do what I tell them to do
In each of the cases my Board made a call
They decided the case had no substance at all

I am the Bishop, the man you can trust—
Well, can is inaccurate; really, you must
Just ask me your questions; I give you my word
To give every detail that I want to be heard

I am the Bishop; I see in the news
They are calling for new, independent reviews!
It’s simply outrageous, to treat us this way
And put private Church business on public display

I am the Bishop; I know what we did—
How much is now public; how much is still hid
There’s a chance you’ve been actively kept unaware—
But I am the Bishop. I really don’t care.

NPR is running a story entitled “How Priests Accused Of Abuse Can Go Undetected“. The title pretty much lets you know you’re not going to like what you read. While some of those interviewed see no evidence that the church intentionally protected priests who rape children, the system does appear to be stacked in their favor. The numbers agree, always rising when outside investigators look at the same cases church investigators have already found without merit.

To be fair, it looks like they are trying. And they are, after all, only human.

I’ll give them a break, then. Just as soon as they stop claiming they hold the moral high ground. If they want to be the moral authority, they are asking to be held to a much higher standard. And frankly, they don’t measure up.

(For those who remember, I’ve approached this topic before. Different city, similar story. My version is I Am The Bishop.)

The Talk On A Cereal Box

Who are you? And who am I?
Why are we here? Why ask why?
What are the biggest, toughest questions?
I want suggestions.

What is time? And what is space?
Do humans hold a special place?
Is conscious thought on just this planet?
And what began it?

What is beauty? What is truth?
Can wisdom coexist with youth?
Does everybody wear a mask?
Why do we ask?

Is justice just? Is kindness kind?
With eyes kept shut, what might we find?
Is there a job that pays to sit
And write this shit?

On NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos And Culture blog, an odd post, about asking questions:

What if one starts asking: Why are we here? Why am I here now? What does it mean to be human? What is our humanity? How did the universe and life come about? What really is the nature of reality? What is time? What is space? How do we really know? What is the nature of God? Why is there evil? What is the nature of consciousness?

Who is “I”? What is beauty? Are we under the control of a deterministic universe or do we have free-will? How can we choose, if we don’t really know what can happen? What is the next step in human evolution? The evolution of anything? Can we even say it? What are the goals of technology? Just because we can, should we? (Not that these are new questions, but rather, new questions to the one pondering the questions.)

There are more questions there, of course, from the sacred to the profane. The authors end with “Where in this day and age, does one go to ask the questions?” (ok, so there’s a little bit after that.)

I found the juxtaposition of questions interesting. The authors (and most of the commenters, as of this writing) made no distinction between empirical questions and questions that arise because of assumptions we have made along the way. “What is the nature of God?” is asked, as is “why do the redwing blackbirds come back each year?”

The process of scientific discovery has given us more answers in science’s relatively short life than philosophy has in its considerably longer one. Ok, probably not true; philosophy gives us all kinds of answers, including multiple contradictory ones to the same question. Lemme rephrase: science has given us more actual answers… But of course (as evidenced in the comments) some people like the mystery of not knowing. Asking questions about the nature of god will give you plenty of not knowing. I prefer knowing.

That Sunday Gathering…

Predictably, we see reports
Of godly, fundamental sorts
Complaining that we worship sports
Instead of god

It happens once or twice a year
When tournaments or playoffs near
And empty pews are cause to fear
The other squad

The Lord commands for all to see
To “have no gods ahead of me”
Which clearly makes idolatry
A mortal sin

Their future hanging by a thread,
They claim that fans have been misled
They know, if they went head to head
They wouldn’t win

It should not surprise anyone to find, on CNN’s Belief Blog, a report on christian churches coveting the fanaticism of… well, fans. Sports fans. Apparently, idolatrous worship of real, live athletes is getting in the way of worshipping imaginary beings.

“That’s … one of the major things I decry in my book,” said Tom Krattenmaker, author of “Onward Christian Athletes,” who’s based in Portland, Oregon. “The lack of that sort of prophetic distance from sports or the willingness to critique sports, the lack of setting priorities so that the worship of God is more important than this idolatrous relationship with sports.”

Sports worship, of course, predates christianity by centuries, but that doesn’t fit the narrative:

“There have been changes… in Christianity, particularly in evangelicalism over the years, and as sports has increased its popularity and increased its ways of invading our lives,” said Shirl James Hoffman, author of “Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sport.”

“Instead of exploring creative ways sport might serve true religious purposes such as spiritual growth and enrichment, the Christian community has seized on sport as a tool of status enhancement, advertising, and evangelism,” he says.

Maybe it’s because I have the Onion News Network on TV right now, but I’m tempted to think that this report recognizes the absurdity, and simply hangs it out there.

Sport is huge in human history. What an incredible achievement, to reach a point where we have comfortably met our immediate and future needs to an extent that allows us to compete with one another, not for food or shelter, but for sport! This, more than religion, is the marker of humanity. As Friedrich Schiller put it, “Man… is only completely a man when he plays.”

I know many people who find sports obsession to be silly. Perhaps. We can probably reach near 100% agreement that other people’s sports obsessions are silly. But in this particular war over weekend activities, I know which side gets my support.

W. S. Gilbert Meets Randall Monroe

There’s a marvel in the makeup of a mold
There is splendor in a cytoplasmic slime
And when scientists first noticed
This peculiar-looking protist
They agreed it was aesthetically sublime

Such a cheerful little fellow
In a brilliant shade of yellow
Yes I think it is aesthetically sublime!

There’s a multitude that live within a drop
They’re invisible until you use your lens
You can magnify the features
Of a myriad of creatures
Say hello to all your microscopic friends

If you grind it with precision
Then a lens can give you vision
So you notice all your microscopic friends!

If you agree
Sing derry down derry
It’s beautiful, very
And so much fun
Just look and see
Them verily vary
No magical fairy
To get things done

There is wonder in a parasitic wasp
In the horror she inflicts upon her foe
If a host should be infested,
From the inside she’s digested
In a process that’s as gruesome as it’s slow

What a wonder, but unnerving
I can think of none deserving
Such a process that’s as gruesome as it’s slow

There is beauty in a toxoplasmic spore
When it alters the behavior of a rat
With a tendency to pull it
Till it’s marching down the gullet
And residing in the stomach of a cat

Toxoplasma likes it best in-
Side a kitty-cat’s intestine
Which you get to through the stomach of a cat

If you agree
Sing derry down derry
It’s beautiful, very
And so much fun
Just look and see
Them verily vary
No magical fairy
To get things done

Inspired by The Mikado, of course, and by XKCD comic 877, “Beauty“.

The Battle Of The Bulb

Grab your pitchforks! Grab your torches!
Cos it’s time to join the fight!
Take up arms against Big Government;
They want to take your right
To illuminate your castle
With an incandescent light—
All-American—designed by Thomas Edison!

We should act as burning beacons
Blazing bravely through the night
Never hid beneath a bushel
But held proudly, shining bright!
So the world can see our power
And can tremble at our might—
It’s our duty to refuse to take our medicine!

So we’ll rally ‘round the bulb, then,
We’ll rally ‘round the bulb
The incandescent symbol of our freedom
Watt for watt, they’re not as bright;
They produce more heat than light
They’re just like us—and that is why we need ‘em!

It’s not just about a light bulb
No, it represents much more
It’s a symbol of our freedom
And it’s why we went to war!
Cos the right to use more energy
Is what we’re fighting for—
This is principled and righteous, not a rant

So we’ll hoard them while they’re legal
Yes, we’ll empty out the store
When electric rates start climbing
We can blame it on Al Gore
We’ll pretend this is an issue
That affects us to our core
But it’s mostly cos Obama says we can’t

So we’ll rally ‘round the bulb, then,
We’ll rally ‘round the bulb
We never will give up our incandescents!
Though it’s such a small demand
We’ll choose here to make our stand
The battle plan of whining adolescents!

Yes we’ll rally ‘round the bulb, then,
We’ll rally ‘round the bulb
The incandescent symbol of our freedom
Watt for watt, they’re not as bright;
They produce more heat than light
They’re just like us—and that is why we need ‘em!

I may actually be giving Michele Bachmann more credit for maturity than she deserves, comparing her “I want light bulb freedom!” stance to the whinging of an adolescent. Parents know well, that once a toddler has forgotten all about a toy, and hasn’t played with it for months, the surest way of making it a favorite again is by threatening to take it away.

Bachmann describes Edison as a true patriot, and describes the inventing of the light bulb as a patriotic act. Mind you, Bachmann may be the only one who does this, but fine. If Edison were alive and inventing today, you can be damned sure he’d be one of the people pushing the envelope of technology. After all, he did not actually invent the light bulb; what he did was to improve it, and to continue to improve it.

It’s strange. It used to be that the patriotic thing to do was that which helped your country, even if it meant a bit of belt-tightening on your own part. When did waste become patriotic? Bachmann is proudly, defiantly backward. But, as an inefficient waste of energy, generating heat rather than illuminating, this dim bulb has at least provided us with a bit of light entertainment.

Open Lab Is Now Available!

I don’t have the time to properly sing its praises at this time, but just take a look at the table of contents, and you’ll see that this is something worth having on your shelf.

While you’re at Lulu anyway, remember the Digital Cuttlefish Omnibus is also available.


We want to shrink the government
Just like we’ve always said
We want to make it small enough
To fit inside your bed

We’re cleaning up the IRS,
We’re getting out the broom
The tax code now cut down to size
To fit inside a womb


To Phrase A Coin

The motto is “In God We Trust”;
Display it everywhere, we must!
In doing so, recall, it’s just
A hollow little phrase.
It’s on our money, even though
It lost religion long ago—
Rote repetition made it so
It’s meaningless these days.

If you’re like me, you find it odd
That those who claim to love their god
Would fight to keep this cheap façade,
Especially on money!
But now, in congress, start the fight
To grow the phrase in public sight—
Replacing God with new “God lite”
You must admit, it’s funny

Remember Teddy Roosevelt
Opposed the motto, cos he felt
It sacrilege to put on gelt,
Insulting the creator
But that was then, and this is now;
We’ll push our god; we don’t care how,
With every method we allow.
And jobs? Well, maybe later.

According to CNN, the crazy season is upon us the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote this thursday, reaffirming “In God We Trust” as our national motto. The Supreme Court has held that ceremonial use of religious language does not constitute a violation of the establishment clause, in cases where rote repetition has rendered the language meaningless.

That is, the phrase is legal if it is meaningless. If lawmakers wish to argue that “In God We Trust” actually refers to their particular choice of god, their usage would apparently violate the First Amendment.

Of course, the real motivation is likely to be considerably more secular; the brilliant legal mind of Michele Bachmann, with the tenacity and quickness of a barnacle, has latched onto President Obama’s use of E Pluribus Unum as more representative of our nation. It is, of course, more inclusive, and less pandering toward any particular religious view. Which makes it utterly unacceptable to Bachmann.

Plus, of course, it’s much easier to score points with one’s constituents this way, than to tackle the important issues.


The New York Times is having a bit of fun; it notes that Monday is both World Poetry Day and the fifth anniversary of the very first Twitter tweet. To commemorate the day, they are asking for poetry within the 140-character Twitter constraint.

So, if you are a tweeting type, you can play along (or follow along) with the hashtag #poetweet. If you are a lover of poetry, you might want to stay away. Internet poetry is bad enough; inviting thousands (I have no idea what number to use there) of internet poets to write, using an arbitrary and unnatural 140-character hobble, is just asking for trouble.

Speaking of which, here was my first attempt:

Its a challenge;its really a feat/Im afraid tho its quite got me beat/this Ill leave 4 my bettrs/4 I need more lettrs/140s 2 few 2 #poetweet

There is one verse form that seems appropriate for Twitter, though:

The highway signs / you used to read / have been replaced / by Twitter feed. #burmashave #poetweet

Have fun!