Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The wisdom of William Wordsworth


“...that best portion of a good man's life: 
      his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”

English Romantic poet





How will you be unremembered?











Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Keystone pipeline votes, GOP pants on fire….


They’re doing it right out in public. Shame on the Republicans in Washington.

Last week the Senate voted on two Democrat-sponsored amendments to the “green light for Keystone pipeline” bill, and killed both of them.

Gee whiz, the Republicans are off message already, and their two-year span of control has barely started.

Most of the GOP senators voted against Sen. Markey’s (D-MA) proposal to prohibit exportation of petroleum products to be transported in the pipeline. Aren’t the Keystone advocates claiming that the pipeline will boost America’s energy resources? (The pipeline will carry Canadian tar sands stuff to the Gulf coast in Texas….you think the refiners there are thinking about selling to international customers who send their tankers to Texas?)


Most of the GOP senators voted against Sen. Franken’s (D-MN) proposal to require that the pipeline must be built with American steel. Aren’t the Keystone advocates claiming that the pipeline project is going to spew new jobs all over the mid-West? (Double whammy here: the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline has already bought the steel for the project—from India—and the realistic estimate is that the pipeline will create a few thousand temporary jobs and a couple dozen permanent jobs).

Republican senators aren’t dumb.

I guess their real agenda is to shove the Keystone pipeline up President Obama’s nose.

Meanwhile, the Republican-dominated Congress isn’t doing any governing that would benefit you and me and most Americans.










Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book review: An Empire on the Edge


Book review: An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014
429 pages

Here is the short version of Nick Bunker’s thesis: King George and his government let the North American colonies slip from their grasp.

A newcomer to the history of the American Revolution might think that this book is a cockeyed way to learn about the “shot heard ‘round the world” and the consequences of the actions at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.

An informed student of the Revolutionary War probably will find much new material in Bunker’s relentlessly detailed An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America.


On our side of the pond, we don’t have much opportunity to consider the war or the revolution from the British point of view.

Bunker offers devastating detail about the ill-informed, patronizing, self-serving, doctrinaire and sometimes feckless actions of Lord North and the British government in the years that led to the sanguinary clash of British regulars and American farmers-militiamen on the road from Concord, through Lexington, to Boston on “that famous day and year.”

An Empire on the Edge offers an extensively documented case that the British leaders were largely ignorant of the scope and depth of colonial antipathy toward the various punitive measures that Britain sought to impose in North America, as early as 1765 (the Stamp Act) and continuing to the final, ill-fated steps to chastise the city of Boston after the notorious Tea Party in late 1773.


Further, Bunker describes the half-cocked military moves by Lord North and his ministers, in the years leading up to the disastrous outing to Lexington-Concord. The king and his government were not prepared to wage war successfully in North America, partly because they waited too long to believe that the colonists actually would fight, and partly because they disdained the colonials’ fighting capacity, and partly because they put higher priority on their Caribbean sugar colonies, and partly because they were pre-occupied with the military threat posed by France and various European intrigues.

Bunker does not speculate on a question that occurs to me: after that first shot was fired at Lexington, did the British really commit themselves to winning the war?

The king and his government made the commitment to fight. They did not, however, at any time before or during the war, commit all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to the military campaign to regain dominion in North America. At the commencement of fighting, a British victory was not immediately feasible. Perhaps it did not become feasible.

Bunker’s analysis of the planning and wrangling in Lord North’s war room suggests that the British wanted to win, but didn’t push the right buttons to bring victory within their grasp.








Book review: The Comanche Empire

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Hulk, Green Lantern, Obadiah Oldbuck….


Comic books are a staple of American literature. Haven’t you wished, at least once, that your cherished comic books of yore had been saved….?

As a matter of fact, kids (and parents) have been carelessly discarding those cherished comic books for almost 200 years.

OpenCulture.com provides the evidence, see it here.


Rudolphe Topffer of Switzerland is credited with publishing the first comic book (in Europe) in 1827—his masterpiece, The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, was published in the U.S. in 1837.


Now, this one would not pass muster as a Marvel comic. In the early 19th century, such as Obadiah and his shenanigans were considered to be targeted to children and “the lower classes.” This marginally droll story may have been a hoot in 1837, but it seems a bit dry for modern taste. Also, no super powers.





Read The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck here.

Spoiler alert: Obadiah tries to kill himself a half dozen times, but he’s not good at it….









Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The art of Rainer Maria Rilke (part 4)


“…There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
                 and, from crumbling stones, a new music…”

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
Bohemian-Austrian poet

Rilke’s poetry and his thought—his mind, working—are appealing to me.


His imagery is expansive, he invites full attention, he offers a deeply emotional reward….

Read Rilke....one never thinks twice about sitting a bit longer, reflecting on new aspects of feeling and intuition, taking another quiet moment with a vital insight, absorbed, jealous, delighted….verily, one clings to words that come near the unsayable….

The excerpt is from Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to Orpheus) Part 2, No. 10, published in 1922.
Translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, as published in In Praise of Mortality (Riverhead, 2005)
Offered on this website: A Year Of Being Here
  
I was surprised when I read this alternative translation of the lines quoted above:
“…Words even now go forth with tenderness into the inexpressible ...
And music, ever renewed, from the most tremulous of stones…”

It’s not to my taste. It seems to introduce deadening ambiguity that is profoundly absent in the Barrows-Macy translation.






Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Stay tuned for Senate vote on sunrise….


Highly placed sources who would not speak on the record are predicting that the U. S. Senate will soon vote on an amendment stating that sunrise over the eastern horizon “is real and not a hoax.”


One savvy Senate staffer even claimed that senators might vote to approve gravity (“things fall down”) at some point in the near future.

On Jan. 21 the Senate voted 98-1 to affirm that climate change “is real and not a hoax.” The same day, 49 senators, including all but five Republicans, voted against an amendment stating that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.”

Self-proclaimed climate change deniers like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) voted for the “not a hoax” amendment but immediately put a quick spin on their votes—Inhofe declared “there’s biblical evidence” of climate change, but “Man can’t change climate.”


In other news from Washington, neither the Senate nor the House is doing anything that could remotely be described as governing the country.

Sources speaking on a deep background basis say the impending vote on the sun rising in the east is expected to precipitate a fierce party-line policy debate on time zones. Stay tuned.










Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

“Liberty”?....what do you mean?


What did American colonists mean when they spoke of “liberty” and “independence”?

There are many dimensions of those words. In the context of today’s hyper, indulgent claims about the thoughts and opinions of the so-called “Founding Fathers,” I think it’s important to note that our current understanding of those two words is remarkably different from the way typical late 18th century colonists understood them.

For example:
“In the pre-revolutionary world of Washington and Lafayette, the notion of equality was almost literally unthinkable. Lafayette’s early opposition to slavery was as prescient as it was commendable, but neither he nor Washington considered slaves or Native Americans (or most other people) as even remotely their equals, whatever their stated principles. Distinctions of rank were implicit in the unspoken language of everyday life, imbedded too deep to be much remarked on even when they were pointedly felt, as they often were. Freedom, too, was a strange concept. In both the colonies and in France, the word ‘liberty’ usually referred to a traditional or newly granted privilege, such as an exemption from tax. Among the French aristocracy’s greatest complaints against Louis was the loss of such special considerations, or ‘liberties.’ The model of ‘independence’ that Washington held before him was that of the Virginia gentleman, whose property and wealth liberated him from the need to be dependent on anyone, even powerful friends. To declare one’s independence was to declare oneself an aristocrat.”


Neither “liberty” nor “independence” carried what we think of as familiar connotations within the modern liberal-conservative political spectrum. Indeed, in several respects, neither of those words was associated in colonial times with the ideologies, functions or practices of government.

The quote is from For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette and Their Revolutions, by James R. Gaines (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 12-13).







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A poor kid has to work harder….


A poor kid has to work harder….

….to be a good student.

More than half of public school students in America live in poverty.


That’s a repugnant reality.

Is this a reality that we can tolerate in America?

Here’s a wish list item for you:

Let’s ask our members of Congress to make a commitment to create opportunities for the parents of 
those kids to raise themselves out of poverty….





….so the kids can have a decent shot at starting their lives on the right track.










Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The wisdom of Marcus Aurelius


"A man should be upright, not kept upright."

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (121-180)
Stoic philosopher, last of the five so-called “Good Emperors” in Rome

This may seem to qualify more as a truism than as “words to live by.”

Yet, I am drawn to the initial phrase, the full scope of the meaning of “upright”….

For me, the insight here is the urgency of doing the right thing, of keeping to the right path, of making the virtuous choice first, of doing good in the broadest context….




We could benefit, I think, by asking ourselves, rather frequently,
“in this act, can I deem myself upright?”

p.s. thanks to my trusted personal advisor for this wisdom of Marcus Aurelius










"En toute chose..."

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Technically, he was elected….


At last, in the mid-1770s, the American colonists actually rebelled against their king and mother country. One of the reasons for the Revolution was most Americans’ persistent belief that they were Englishmen, entitled to all the historical rights of the king’s subjects.

Among these historical, sacred and hard-won rights was the right to vote for men who would represent them in Parliament. You know, “no taxation without representation,” and so on.

It’s too easy to forget that only a select class of men were entitled to vote. Ladies, forget it. Poor and landless folks, in general, forget it.




Case in point: in 1788-89, only 43,782 gents voted in the election that put George Washington in the office of president of the newly independent American colonies. In other words, less than 2% of the non-slave population of the colonies (roughly 2.4 million free, 600,000 slave) went to the polls.




Another case in point: in 1774, the man who led Britain into war with the North American colonies was re-elected to Parliament by 18 men in the town of Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford, was King George’s prime minister. Lord North’s Tory government decided to call an early parliamentary election in the summer of 1774, to catch their political opponents off guard—a regular election would have been required in spring of 1775.

North had undisputed control of his Banbury bailiwick, the site of his venerable family estate. Only 18 Banbury men had the bloodlines and legal standing to vote. The prime minister’s agent “assembled them for supper, with wine and cheese and a bowl of punch, and they duly elected Lord North.”(1)

Sometimes the same old story peeks from the pages of the history books….


(1) Nick Bunker, An Empire on the Edge (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), 322.







The Declaration was a re-write

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

“I am too being carful….”


Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

It never hurts to make you got everything right.


p.s. thanks to my trusted personal advisor this one








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

It’s official (again), Earth is getting hotter


Last year was the hottest year on Earth since official record-keeping started in 1880.

All of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1997.

It was true yesterday, and it’s true today: human beings, burning fossil fuels, are cooking the planet and we’re going to pay for it even if serious efforts to slow down global warming would start tomorrow.

Let’s be blunt: our children and our grandchildren are going to pay for it.


We need a carbon tax.

We need to eliminate all government tax breaks for companies that produce and use fossil fuels.

We need more private and government work to develop alternative sources of energy.








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

That old black magic….


“The emperor has no clothes!”

Somebody’s got to say it. Why aren’t lots of people saying it?

Here’s the story: The Charity Defense Council of Cambridge, MA, is strongly pushing a siren call for non-profit organizations to think more like for-profit organizations, and spend whatever they think they need for marketing and salaries in order to have “big impact.”

The Council wants non-profits and their leaders—and you and me—to forget that nasty old-think about non-profits keeping “overhead” to a minimum so the maximum amount of contributed dollars 
go to charitable purposes.

Here’s the Council's website, judge for yourself.   

The Boston Globe recently reported that Dan Pallotta, who heads the Charity Defense Council, has “insisted for years that nonprofits should adopt a more corporate model of doing business. That includes spending more on themselves, an expense traditionally viewed by donors and watchdog groups as wasteful.”

I don’t buy it. For one thing, the corporate model for doing business has turned out really crappy results for America and Americans in the past several years. Think about it. Think about all the big companies and corporate leaders that you look up to. Think about the ones who have done things that turned out to be good for you.

Here’s another thing: I believe that as soon as any organization’s leaders and directors start to think it’s open season on paying themselves bigger (and, eventually, truly big) bucks, many of them are going to start doing it. You are welcome to cherish your own opinion on this point.


Finally, I just want to aim at the current, very public billboard advertising campaign of Mr. Pallotta and the Charity Defense Council:

Billboard space (worth about $66,000) has been donated by Clear Channel Outdoor—Clear Channel owns lots of billboards, and I guess Clear Channel would love to sell more billboard space to lots of non-profits who might be tempted to increase their marketing budgets.

Pallotta’s own company, Advertising for Humanity, did pro bono design work for the Council’s billboards. Advertising for Humanity, according to its website, is a “full-service brand and inspiration agency for the humanitarian sector,” that is, it sells planning, marketing and advertising services to non-profit organizations. Pallotta is president and “Chief Humanity Officer” of his company.

I presume he’s a heck of a salesman, but I’m not buying.








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Inequality that grabs ya….


Why aren’t 99% of Americans complaining about this?

Why aren’t more folks turning out on election day to do something about it?

In every state, the poorest Americans are paying more state and local taxes than the richest 1% of our fellow citizens.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently issued its 5th annual report on this hugely unequal tax burden, read it here.

It’s a stark reality: the poorest folks (bottom quintile) are paying 10.9% of their income in state and local taxes of all kinds, including income, sales and excise taxes. The richest taxpayers (top percentile) are kicking in only 5.4% of their incomes.


In terms of the actual pocketbook impact, poor folks are paying twice as much as rich folks.

Why aren’t 99% of Americans complaining about this?

Why aren’t more folks turning out on election day to do something about it?







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Speculators drive oil prices, not “the market”


Sure, the plunging price for crude petroleum is getting lots of headlines, but one simple fact isn’t getting any play in the media or with the talking heads on cable TV news.

The worldwide price of oil has dropped about 60% since mid-summer 2013, but not because of “supply and demand,” that is, not because of textbook economic “market forces” at work.

Speculators and powerful investors with lots of bucks drove the price of oil up in the past couple years, and they’re driving it down now. Last summer crude was priced at about $115 a barrel, and right now it's going for about $46 a barrel….a mind-bending change.

5 Year Crude Oil Prices - Crude Oil Price Chart

These are crude metrics and they’re also rough metrics, but there’s another crude truth here.

The supply of oil and gas worldwide hasn’t changed much in the past six months. If anything, it’s up a bit.

Demand has dropped in some parts of the world, and increased in other parts—the real net economic demand hasn’t changed enough, not by a long shot, to force the price down 60%.

The commentators and the talking heads should be sounding off about the obvious: the folks who buy and sell oil and oil futures—not the folks who pump it and refine it and burn it—are controlling the price.

Just like they were last year, and the year before….

Let’s just ignore any blather about “the free market determines the price,” and understand that classical supply-and-demand isn’t the only factor that’s driving our commerce and our finance and the cost of living.

People who are trying to make lots of money by twiddling with the price of oil futures are mostly in control of the price you’re going to pay at the pump next time you fill ‘er up.

They’re not doing it because they want to help you out.

And of course, remember that the twiddling works both ways.







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Aspen doctors….trailer trash?


Here’s a flash from Aspen, Colorado: most people who work there can't afford to live there.


Too many really wealthy folks own houses and land in Aspen, and many of them don’t live there and many of them use their properties only for a brief period of each year.

The cleaning crews and the lawn crews and the plumbers and the gas station attendants and the 7-11 clerks, and even doctors and lawyers, can’t afford to rent or buy a house in Aspen.

These unfortunates live 10 or 20 or 30 miles away on cheaper land, in less expensive homes, or trailer parks, or apartments they can afford.

And of course they need a car to get to work, and they pay for the gas, and so on….

Now, to tell the whole story, Aspen has a 40-year-old program of imposing a 1.5 percent surcharge on real estate transactions, and that money helps to pay for some affordable housing that must be included in new development projects. However, this program puts a roof over the heads of only about half of the folks who actually work in the resort town.

Heck, the Aspen realtors’ association had to move out of town because it couldn’t afford the rent any more.

Aspen is part of America, and we believe that folks should be able to use their money legally as they wish—but this doesn’t make any sense.

  





Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Olympics?....I’ll pass….


The United States Olympic Committee has picked Boston to make the American bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.


Frankly, the Olympic games long ago lost their appeal for me, except for maybe some of the track events….and I say that always hoping there won’t be any doping, y’know?

Seriously, just think for a minute about the thrill of watching superbly conditioned human beings doing their athletic best to excel on the field and in the pool and so on, it’s just not there for me anymore, there’s too much commercialism, too much deadening media coverage (“Heidi, were you disappointed when you only won the silver medal?”) and really too much stuff that isn’t Olympic caliber, I mean, beach volleyball, trampolinists, come on….


The other thing is that the Olympics sucks up money. It does not provide any net economic benefit to the country/city that hosts the games….financially, it’s a red ink kind of thing. Sure, it’s a big deal. It costs a whole lot of money to be the venue for that big deal.

The committee that pushed Boston as the prospective U.S. site was completely privately sponsored. In effect, the city of Boston didn’t ask for this. I’m guessing most Bostonians don’t want their tax dollars to be spent for the Olympics in 2024.

If the Boston bid goes forward, the private sponsors should pay for everything. They should own any newly constructed facilities. The mayor and the new Massachusetts governor should get out in front on this: no tax breaks for new construction, no eminent domain proceedings, no free police and emergency services.

Let the Olympics fans and the private sponsors pay for the whole shebang.
  





Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The wisdom of Helen Hayes


“Age is not important unless you're a cheese.”





Helen Hayes (1900-1993)
"First Lady of the American Theater"

You know Helen Hayes, she played the English nurse, Catherine Barkley, in “A Farewell to Arms” in 1932 with Gary Cooper. Watch it on Amazon Prime.




By the way, Hayes was a prodigy. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1931 for her role in “The Sin of Madelon Claudet,” her first “talkie” movie.

There are about 500,000 quotes on the topic of getting old—this one from Hayes is a keeper for me, it’s lighthearted, it’s spunky, and I think it has just about exactly the right tone of disdain regarding the subject….

C’mon, you know, getting old is no big deal, anybody can do it.






Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The wisdom of Jonathan Swift (part 2)


"Party is the madness of many, for the gain of the few."
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Swift wrote this in 1727, long before the incarnation of modern political parties.


No surprise—it doesn’t seem like parties have changed much since Swift took a dislike to them.

Personally, I recently abandoned a lifelong willingness to identify with a particular party (Republican when I was younger, more recently the Democratic variety), and declared myself “Unenrolled” in the stuffy language of my political bailiwick.

I’ve never pulled the party lever on election day, or anything like that, I’ve voted for folks from both parties….


I just couldn’t see myself anymore as a “loyal” member of a party that doesn’t stand potently for a lot of the things I believe.

I didn’t change my political stripe. I clarified my position and my commitment.

I’m not a Democrat any more. I’m a progressive liberal, in search of a future that’s better than the 
present.

I’m opposed to the “madness of many.”


Note: Alexander Pope (1688-1744) expressed the same sentiment in a 1714 letter: “…hoping a total end of all the unhappy divisions of mankind by party-spirit, which at best is but the madness of many for the gain of a few.”







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

The tragedy of the commons


It never gets prettier, it only gets uglier…

There were plenty of codfish in the Gulf of Maine when George Washington was president.

Your children might not be able to eat cod when they grow up.

It’s possible that, roughly speaking, there won’t be any codfish to eat.

NYTimes.com ran a piece a few days ago that asked “Where have all the cod gone?”

Here’s a quote from the reporting of W. Jeffrey Bolster:
“Overfishing has been the norm for a very long time, but the market has masked the mess in two fundamental ways. At every step fishermen confronting declining catches developed gear that fished more intensively, taking a larger percentage of the fewer fish that remained. Such a strategy was clearly not sustainable. Meanwhile, fishermen continued to earn enough to make fishing worthwhile, even if many encouraged their sons to pursue other careers because there would be little future in fishing. The Gulf of Maine cod stocks today are probably only a fraction of 1 percent of what they were during George Washington’s presidency.”



If there were only one fisherman, most likely she wouldn’t be dumb enough to overfish to the extent that there weren’t enough breeding cod left to replenish the stock.

Sadly, humans in groups generally are dumb enough to do just that.

The tragedy of the commons is a dangerous element of real life.










Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fortune cookie wisdom (part 2)


“No one grows old by living, only by losing interest in living.”

Fortune cookie wisdom from China Rose


Always intriguing to learn a slightly new twist on this hoary aphorism….

I’m committed to doing the things at the top of my list….

….there isn’t any boring stuff at the top of my list….








Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

“College costs too much”….let’s move on


Right, college costs too much. Let’s move on.

Imagine the unimaginable. Suppose a Hyundai Sonata cost $115,000 instead of $21,450. Suppose a Chevy Cruze cost $79,000 instead of $16,700. That is, imagine that a typical high school graduate or the typical graduate’s family couldn’t afford to buy a regular car.

Do you think anyone in a leadership position—government, private, academic—would be calling for increased federal aid programs and more private charitable giving, to funnel money to “poor” or “disadvantaged” or “middle class” persons so they could afford car ownership?

Imagine the imaginable. Suppose we abandon the idea that a four-year, traditional liberal arts college degree is what most people need to get a good start on life.

Let’s redefine “a college education” and make it meaningful, make it an affordable, productive, career-building asset for most folks. If we have to go so far as to forget about the bachelor’s degree part, let’s do it.

Let’s acknowledge that the classical four-year, liberal arts degree is the right choice for some people, and let them pay for it….and, of course, let’s use whatever charitable funding is available to pay the four-year tuition of committed and intellectually apt students who want to walk across the stage, and get the sheepskin, and do the stuff that liberal arts scholars do.


For example, let’s stop giving Pell grants, and use the money to build career training centers for high school graduates.

Let’s just redefine the “college costs too much” problem.













Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

No surprise here....

The Congress that’s going to open up for business today is 80 percent male.

Yup, both the Senate and the House comprise just about exactly 80 percent men and 20 percent women.


When the first congress was elected in 1788, only men were seated. Congress remained an all-male refuge until 1916, when Sen. Jeannette Rankin was elected to represent Montana. The Big Sky state gave women the vote six years before the 19th Amendment in 1920 made it official for all of the states.

So, we’ve come a long way in 100 years, but not nearly far enough.

There’s an awfully big reservoir of talent in this country that isn’t being tapped for elective office.

I’m quite leery of saying “anything would be better than the feckless crew of (mostly) men we have in Washington right now,” but I’m quite willing to suspect that there are lots of women who are willing to serve, and I guess plenty of ‘em would be an improvement over the ding-dong politicians who are representing their districts now.







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

The art of Bruce Dethlefsen

The art of Bruce Dethlefsen (b.1948)

“the children of the street
must see themselves
in the greasy puddles of the forenoon
in the sundown storefront windows
in the luster of the shoes they shine

“must see themselves
in the reflection of a customer’s sunglasses
in the tears of the old women
in the shadow of the bus



“the children of the street
must see themselves
flying purple kites on sunny beaches
dining with the family after church
riding white stallions


“the children of the street
must see themselves”







“White Stallions” by Bruce Dethlefsen, as posted December 28, 2014, on this website






Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015

That “good old days” thing….


I think it’s a good idea to reflect, every so often, on what life was really like in the past, especially the even slightly distant past that we may carelessly characterize as “the good old days.”

For instance, let’s talk about carbon monoxide, eternally spewing from the tailpipes of those infernal machines with internal combustion engines, and the accelerating destruction of our atmosphere, and global climate change and global warming and stuff….

Yeah, we can yearn for an earlier time when we weren’t cooking the planet.

Like 1900, before cars and trucks and airplanes were ubiquitous….


….when horses were everywhere, it was superfluous to use the words “horse-drawn” when mentioning a carriage or wagon or trolley….

….when approximately 3 million horses were the transportation motive power in American cities….

….when all those horses were dropping 20-25 pounds of manure—each—every day….

….when the 15,000 nags in Rochester, NY, produced enough equine hockey pucks in a year to cover 
an acre of ground with a mountain of manure 175 feet deep….

….when everyone just stepped around or over the mounds of horse stuff, and nobody sued anybody about environmental impact statements and stuff….

Y’know, honestly, they just piled it up somewhere, that’s the way they took care of it.

‘Course, that’s the way we take care of a lot of our problems today.

Surprising as it may seem, most of the horses disappeared, but the horseshit is still with us.

See Jeff Jacoby's column in The Boston Sunday Globe, December 28, 2014

Check out this 1974 book by Otto Bettmann, The Good Old Days—They Were Terrible!







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sheesh! It’s just a piano….


Some people have too much money.


One of the two pianos used in Bogie’s “Casablanca” masterpiece went under the auctioneer's gavel recently—for $3.4 million.

For that kind of dough, you have to figure the new owner is thrilled beyond all human understanding to know that there is an authentic wad of mummified chewing gum stuck to the bottom of the keyboard….maybe Bogie put it there….


It’s a nice looking upright piano and all.

I gladly assume the buyer accumulated his/her obvious wealth in completely legal ways, so he/she absolutely has the right to spend it any which way.

I’m just saying that, f’rinstance, $3.4 million would buy about 425,000 books for poor kids who don’t have even one book in their homes.

Just saying.


…and here’s another thought: suppose it wasn’t Bogie, suppose Dooley Wilson (“Sam” the piano player) stuck that gum there? Is the piano really worth $3.4 mil?







Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015