Monday, July 25, 2016

Need a barf bag?

Let’s just get this over with.

Last week Fox News fired CEO Roger Ailes because he’s been sued for predatory sexual harassment, and about a dozen women (so far) have revealed that they were victims of his disgusting behavior over a long period of time.

Good for Fox News. Executives said, among other things, that Ailes’ “loutish” behavior would not be tolerated. They could have said “criminal loutish” behavior and I would have been happier, but let’s move on….

Pursuant to the terms of Ailes’ contract (it was due to expire in 2018), he’s going to get a $40 million payoff for cleaning off his desk and taking a hike.

The directors of Fox News screwed the shareholders and insulted almost every Fox News employee when they approved that contract.

Hand me a bag, quick….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hommage a la muse

A muse, me

"My muse" –

A dainty thing, to be sure, never comes at awkward moments,
always willing to let me take credit for the special energy, the rhyme, the revelation,
always ready to go again, always up on the edge of the board, always serving up the right word, 
always whispering my own thought.

Rodin's "The Muse"

Real or wraith? Shade? My self? Disembodied part of me?The mystery of "my muse" –
Mine alone? Within me or without me?
A nether experience? A channel? By chance or by choice?

I admit the conceit of assuming that "my muse" waits for me, comes to me, enriches my delight, reveals my truth, sweetens my joy….


Perhaps "my muse" is ultimately real; perhaps it is my better self, my inner self, an essence that energizes my brute form.

Perhaps "my muse" is simply me, in a beautiful dimension where absolutes prevail, where love is glorious, where no grand feeling is unexpressed, where just the right word is always on my lips.

Perhaps I am wholly "muse" stuff, spirit, a strand, and perhaps I cannot hold a pen,
       and so I infuse the brute "me" with life, whenever I feel the urge to write.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, July 22, 2016

…I digress

Language is so endlessly entertaining.

Noises that mean stuff. Sometimes even noises that sound good that mean stuff.

Sometimes slightly wacky noises that mean little stuff.

I know, you’re tapping your fingers and muttering, “Example, already”

Consider the "at-sign." 

In Denmark it’s called the “snabel-a”—the elephant’s trunk-a
In Holland it’s called “apenstaartje”—monkey’s tail
In Russia it’s “sobachka”—little dog
In Germany the word is “klammeraffe”—hanging monkey

Why do we call it the “at-sign” in the English-speaking world?

One story is that medieval monks devised this symbol to represent the word “at” in the days before printing presses, when all books were written and copied by hand. It was just a shortcut.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blame the men!

As you know, it wasn’t always true in the United States that women were “permitted” to vote.

In 1889, legislators in the Wyoming territory approved a constitution establishing the right of women to vote. Wyoming became the national pioneer in legalizing women’s suffrage in 1890 when it was admitted to the union as the 44th state. (As territories, Wyoming and a couple others allowed women to vote as early as 1869).

The Isle of Man in the Irish Sea gave women who owned property the right to vote in 1881. In 1893 New Zealand became the first country to establish national women’s suffrage.

In America, women were unable to vote in most eastern states until August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

So, when you’re thinking about U. S. history, keep in mind that men get all the credit—and all the blame—for the actions of the colonies and the national government for the first three hundred years or so.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The downside of being Cinderella

Imagine: for the rest of your life, there will be “…someone in every
room with a lute…”

I pass along this bit of candid whimsy from Ron Koertge:

Cinderella's Diary

I miss my stepmother. What a thing to say,
but it’s true. The prince is so boring: four
hours to dress and then the cheering throngs.
Again. The page who holds the door is cute
enough to eat. Where is he once Mr. Charming
kisses my forehead goodnight?

Every morning I gaze out a casement window
at the hunters, dark men with blood on their
boots who joke and mount, their black trousers
straining, rough beards, calloused hands, selfish,

Oh, dear diary—I am lost in ever after:
those insufferable birds, someone in every
room with a lute, the queen calling me to look
at another painting of her son, this time
holding the transparent slipper I wish
I’d never seen.

"Cinderella's Diary" by Ron Koertge from Vampire Planet. © Red Hen Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission on The Writer’s Almanac website, July 19, 2016,
see it here.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Secret voting wasn’t always the way

The voting booth with a curtain is not an early American icon.

In the earliest post-Revolutionary elections, it was fairly typical for the local sheriff to run the actual voting process: each voter showed up at the local courthouse (or shady tree in town, or whatever), walked up to the table and loudly announced his own name and the names of the candidates he wanted to vote for.

The candidates and their supporters would be standing nearby, cheering or jeering as the votes were declared. Each candidate might have a ready supply of rum and cookies to reward his supporters.
Nothing private about it. For almost 100 years, it was S.O.P. to vote in such a way that your friends and everyone else knew exactly what you were doing.

In the latter part of the 19th century, Australia became the first country to use a printed ballot that could be filled out silently and confidentially by the voter—you could vote without anyone knowing who you voted for.

There was scattered support for this novel election procedure in the United States before Massachusetts became the first state to adopt the so-called “Australian ballot method” in 1888. Most other states followed suit within a few years.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tennis balls are a no-no at the GOP convention…

…but guns are OK.


The Official Event Zone Permit Regulations for the Republican convention in Cleveland explicitly prohibit carrying tennis balls and cans of tuna fish (and lots of other stuff) into the 1.7-square-mile event zone.

Guns? Different story.

Illegal firearms are prohibited. Check.

Legal guns can be carried at will except in the actual convention arena controlled by the Secret Service. So, delegates and protestors will be allowed to pack heat in the areas where public confrontations are likely to occur.

An official of the Cleveland police union is publicly asking Gov. John Kasich to do an executive order to suspend Ohio’s “open carry” law in Cuyahoga County (including Cleveland) for the duration of the convention.

1968 Democratic Convention violence in Chicago

It’s the least thing Kasich should do.

Right now, we need to do everything to keep the Republican Convention from being a “gunfight at the O. K. corral” kind of thing. It’ll be bad enough without violence.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Music to Nikkal’s ears

It’s been about 3,500 years since anyone dusted off a lyre to play this Hurrian hymn (H6) dedicated to the Akkadian goddess Nikkal-wa-Ib, the goddess of orchards whose name means “Great Lady and Fruitful.”

Tablet with Hurrian hymn H6
The words and music were discovered about 60 years ago in the ruins of Ugarit, an ancient Syrian city. It took about 20 years to interpret the inscriptions on the cuneiform tablets.

Michael Levy, a musician/composer whose specialty is ancient musical instruments, has embedded the original melody (listen here) in this composition with several themes, performed on a replica of an ancient lyre.

It’s not “Lay Down Sally” and it’s not “White Christmas” and it’s not “Take Five.”

It is an intriguing offering of what the Akkadians might have listened to when they were in the groove, when they were celebrating the festival of Nikkal.

It’s so easy for this music of the Bronze Age to survive for centuries.

It’s so easy to listen.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The wisdom of Barbara Crafton

Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton is the spirit animating The Geranium Farm, an institute for the promotion of spiritual growth.

The time is right, right now, to share this guidance from her website (click here) of substantial offerings:

“…good people. Ordinary people…anything is possible…any goodness, and any evil. They can allow themselves to be led either way…they are the ones who raise up the leaders, and they are the ones who follow them…It is not enough to bemoan this evil age. I do not control this age. But I do control myself. Start there.”

Her insight was not prompted by the current frenzied political chaos, but it rings the bell.

If for no other reason than simple selfish preservation, get started.

In part, you exercise your control by engaging in the community that surrounds you and has nonstop effects on your life.

Put this on your TO DO list: vote on November 8.

Don’t pretend there’s no difference between Clinton and Trump.

Trump is a menace for America.

Don’t let everybody else decide.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The wisdom of Annie Dillard (part 2)

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

Annie Dillard (b1945)
American author

If Annie Dillard had written this aphorism and nothing else (like Pilgrim at Tinker Creek), I would count her as a wise and glorious writer.

If she had written “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives,” she would have squandered the power of her insight. Of course what she said is true, and of course we often lose sight of that truth, and of course we are surprised to confront it in this collection of ordinary words that has extraordinary importance.

The days of our lives are exactly that. “Seize the day” is easy guidance. It is sobering indeed to acknowledge the reminder that living is sowing and gathering, and the implicit harvest is a life. 
Julien Dupre, Peasant and Hay

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The times they are a-changin’….

The inexorable demographic transformation of America is part of the context for the current dangerous turmoil in our politics.

For instance, points out that less than half of Americans are now classified as white Christians. Less than 30% of the 18-29 age cohort identify themselves as white Christians.

Nevertheless, it’s true that almost three-quarters of all adults claim to be Christian (including Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and other non-Protestant Christian faiths). So, the minority status of white Christians is largely driven by the increasing proportion of persons of color in the U. S. population.

Increasing diversity of the American citizenry is inevitable. Increasingly, ballot boxes will reflect this trend.

I think these changes will make American society richer in so many ways.

I look forward to the election of more folks who will champion the kind of government an increasingly diverse population needs and wants.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

They said you're an INFJ?!?

Or maybe you think you’re an ESTJ?  or an ISFP? or an ENTP? 

Think again.

If those acronyms aren’t familiar, you probably never took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test.

A little news item on is a stunner:  the Myers-Briggs test seems to be a load of what the farmer takes away….

"There's just no evidence behind it," says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who's written about the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs previously. "The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you'll be in a situation, how you'll perform at your job, or how happy you'll be in your marriage."

I took the test once, way back, I forgot what type it said I was.

Something like two million people do the Myers-Briggs every year, usually in the workplace. On the management retreat, or in the professional development seminar, or whatever....the company that now owns the Myers-Briggs concept makes about $20 million a year from licensing the test.

It was launched in the 1940s, reports, and is based on “untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. . .the test is totally ineffective at predicting people's success in various jobs, and. . . about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.”

Here’s a tip: don’t put your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on your resume.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dead poets talking….

“O Captain! My Captain!...”

Remember the last time you watched “Dead Poets Society”?

It might be 27 years ago, if your only exposure to this Robin Williams starburst was when it was first released in June 1989.

I’ve seen it many times, for me it’s like “The Green Mile,” every time I watch it it’s a slightly different but familiarly compelling experience.

I’d like to have an avuncular chat with anyone who keenly sought a good education and doesn’t wish it pretty much resembled the main plot line of “Dead Poets”—you see, the intellectual awakening part and the overcoming personal challenges part ARE the fundamental good parts of the learning experience. 

“Dead Poets” puts the viewer in a ringside seat to see how it all could happen with the help of a completely decent and completely sympathetic prof who had the guts and the savvy and the human kindness to help make it happen. 

The part of me that strives to be a good teacher and a good person who awakens to the full prospect of being a good person is the part of me that wants to jump up on my desk and join the boys in declaring the very risky and ritualistic and reaffirming and rapturous farewell to a beloved mentor and friend.

“Thank you, boys,” said Mr. Keating.

Thank you, Mr. Keating.

Robin Williams (1951-2014), requiescat in pace

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Stretch goals

I started to ignore this little gem, but then I decided to be an advocate:

 Grownup TO DOs:

1. Going to bed early
2. Not leaving the house
3. Not going to that party

Those childhood punishments have become my grownup goals.

This is not bogus.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

This, too, shall pass….

One feels lost in the darkness of imperfect memory—
            the haggard mind struggles to eclipse the image,
            clinging defensively to the comfort, the contrast,
     the brilliant contrast that separates the nightmare from reality.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Book review: Waterloo

Book review: Waterloo
Bernard Cornwell, Waterloo, (New York: Penguin Books, c1987, 2001)
378 pages

This is my first read in Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series. It’s both brilliant and deadening. Waterloo is a celebrity battle for most people, including me before I started Waterloo, and I guess most folks know little more than the outcome: Wellington and the Prussian commander, Bl├╝cher, put an end to Napoleon’s final fantastic comeback in Europe. The Little Corporal died six years later in exile.

Waterloo casualty with musket ball in rib cage
Cornwell is an appealing storyteller and his exacting descriptions of characters, places and the battlefield milieu are almost a reward in themselves. It’s really impossible to feel detached from what’s going on. Ay, there’s the rub. I felt distress and then full-blown horror as the fighting wound up and then wound down—nearly 50,000 men were killed or wounded in frantically compressed combat that ended on June 18, 1815, in a small valley in Braine-l’Alleud near the Belgian town of Waterloo, which gave the epic battle its name.

Even the slightly Hollywood bravery of Richard Sharpe doesn’t soften the impact of reading about the butcher’s work done on all sides in that violent meeting of men and ambitions. The somewhat formulaic treatment of the lives and loves of key characters is a slight distraction, but it really doesn’t hinder the accelerating martial excitement of Waterloo.

Cornwell is a compelling storyteller. I was greatly moved by Waterloo, but I can’t say I’m glad I read it.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Elie Wiesel, R. I. P.

Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel (1928-2016)
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Elie Wiesel’s life is a powerful reminder that when good men do nothing, evil will triumph.

Wiesel survived three concentration camps during World War II, and spent his life fighting to sustain our memory of the Holocaust and to champion the causes of peace as he understood them. He was not inclined to be bashful about provoking strong feelings.

I saw and heard Wiesel in the mid-1960s when I was a college freshman at Lehigh University. At that time, early in his career, he was relentlessly taking the story of the Holocaust to venues all over the world. I recall that he said many German concentration camp guards were well educated, and my livid memory is his explanation that SS troopers who were intellectually committed to the Nazi cause were the most reliable instruments of the Final Solution.

Elie Wiesel, second row from bottom , seventh from left next to post
His 1996 film, “Elie Wiesel Goes Home,” is close to unbearably candid about the pathos of his life. The documentary follows his return to his birthplace in Sighet, Romania, and his conversations with other survivors about the fates of their families and friends when Germans sent all the Jews in the village to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1944.

Wiesel never stopped remembering the horror of the camps. He never stopped looking at the number “A-7713” tattooed on his left arm. He helped me to understand why it’s important that we never forget.

Elie Wiesel, requiescat in pace.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.