Thursday, December 31, 2015

The year in pictures….

It’s time for the ever popular “Year In Review” in pictures.

Let’s try words, instead.

The Sunday New York Times offered “Year In Pictures” in its December 27 Sunday Review section.

All of 17 pages invested in 41 full-color photos of the stuff that happened around the globe in the momentous (every year is momentous) year that ends today.

Here’s the thing that bites: 34 of those pictures depicted people who were dead or dying or starving or in danger, people who were desperately fleeing their homelands to avoid danger, discrimination, starvation or death, children who were crying, afraid, lost, in pain, dead….

It’s hard to remember what the other seven pictures were….

2015 is going into the history books.

These words already are ashes on my lips.

Here’s hoping for a happier New Year.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

“Simplify” the tax code?

It’s more or less criminally deceptive for our elected representatives in Washington to keep dissing the federal tax code as “too long, too complicated, too burdensome.”

Here’s the latest:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said recently “First of all, we’ve got to take a look at the code itself. You’re talking about 70,000 pages and we got to skinny that down to where people can understand it.


The tax code is bloated with exceptions, deductions, givebacks, exemptions, waivers and special language favoring specific industries and even specific companies—all designed to reduce the tax liability of big companies, small companies and individuals. A hundred years ago the entire tax code was 400 pages.

Let’s start “simplifying” the federal tax code by getting rid of all that stuff, and then see where we stand.

I think most people could understand that.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Let’s all sing “Purple Haze”

Let’s all think about singing “Purple Haze,” or not, as the case may be.

I think you can’t forget the first time you heard Jimi sing it.

If you have lost track of that memory, you might as well stop reading here because the rest of this little homage isn’t going to make much sense to you.

Hendrix wrote it before he was popular in the United States, on December 26, 1966, in his dressing room backstage at the Uppercut Club in London.

After trying to become a solo artist for two unremarkable years in New York, Hendrix was discovered by a British producer and he moved to England, where he formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience and had a UK hit in the form of “Hey Joe.” A few days after it was released, he wrote “Purple Haze” and you know the story after that.

The PH lyrics really don’t set my mind on fire, but that’s not important because Jimi was burning every time he sang it. Here’s an early version in 1967 and here’s his Woodstock rendition in 1969.

Try to read all the way to the end of the lyrics, and keep in mind that Rolling Stone kissed “Purple Haze” with a No. 17 ranking on its 2004 listing of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Yeah, I know, me too, “…blowing my mind…”....

Purple Haze

Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don't seem the same
Actin' funny, but I don't know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky
Purple haze, all around
Don't know if I'm comin' up or down
Am I happy or in misery?
What ever it is, that girl put a spell on me
Help me
Help me baby
Oh no, Oh no
Ooo, ahhh
Ooo, ahhh
Ooo, ahhh
Ooo, ahhh, yeah!
Purple haze all in my eyes
Don't know if it's day or night
You got me blowin', blowin' my mind
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?
Help me
Ahh, yea-yeah, purple haze
Oh, no, oh
Oh, help me
Tell me, tell me, purple haze
I can't go on like this
Purple haze
You're makin' me blow my mind
Purple haze, n-no, nooo

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, December 28, 2015

“…juice of toads.”

Toad juice. Gag and spit. May I never say words that will taste like toad juice when someone else says them.

Some people say these words.

Perhaps you have heard some of them.

For example:
The speaker singled out members of a particular religious faith, comparing them to dogs, serpents, dragons and vipers.
He wanted to see them banned, exiled, imprisoned, whipped….he proclaimed they are a “leprous” people, their doctrines as despicable as the “juice of toads.”

Who was the speaker and which religion did he condemn?

Persecuted Quakers

Want a hint?

Think late 17th century.
Think Cotton Mather, the celebrated Puritan minister.
Think Quakers, who were widely stigmatized by our strangely intolerant Puritan forebears.

Religious prejudice has deep roots in American history.

In every history, of course.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Say again?!

Their are things in the Untied States we should know more about, and for sure we should spell them write….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dark side of Barbie

Did you know that every Barbie doll has a real name?

It’s Barbara Millicent Roberts.

That’s the good news about Barbie.

Statisticians say just about one woman in a 100,000 is “genetically capable” of achieving the “Barbie doll” body: 5’9”, about 110 pounds, measurements 36-16-33. Oh yeah, and a Body Mass Index of about 16.24, mostly anorexic, with a squashed liver only half normal size and mere inches of intestine, which of course makes weight management a snap. In fact, you don’t want to look like Barbie. A real person who looked like Barbie very possibly would be on life support.

The average American girl ages 3-10 owns eight Barbie dolls. Only about 1 out of a 100 of these young ladies in this age group doesn’t own a Barbie.

Too many folks think they wish they looked like Barbie, but it ain’t gonna happen.

Mannequins of "average" American bodies

The U.S. fashion industry still says size 8 is “standard,” translated to a 35-27-37.5 body.

Among women ages 36-45 in America, the average white woman is 41-34-43, the average black woman is 43-37-46 and the average Hispanic woman is 42.5-36-44.

Strictly speaking, Barbie looks weird.

Footnote: Barbie is a $billion-plus revenue machine for Mattel.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Big Oil spins the $1.1 trillion spending/tax deal

Many Republicans and a few Democrats are whooping it up because part of the deal-making for the recent $1.1 trillion spending/tax package was tossing out the 40-year-old ban on U. S. exports of crude oil.

Let’s dig into this one.

This move to open the gates for American companies to export oil doesn’t help America. It doesn’t improve our energy independence. This isn’t a bold step to mitigate ongoing global climate change.

It’s good for the companies that own crude in America. Now they’re going to get a chance to sell it overseas where they can get a better price for it.

Joe and Jane America aren’t getting any piece of that action.

That’s it, folks.

End of story.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Nearly everybody didn’t watch the debates

Watching the political debates so far this campaign season has been a lot more fun than watching submarine races.

That’s the positive spin on the whole mess.

Let’s drill down here:

About 10 percent of American adults watched the first Republican debate back in early August. The audience numbers declined steadily for the seven debates that followed. The last Republican extravaganza on December 15 drew about 18.2 million viewers, roughly 7.5 percent of adults in the U.S. Last Saturday night’s Democratic mash-up attracted only about 6.7 million, less than 3 percent.

I think it’s a depressing commentary on the quality of the candidates and Americans’ destructive lack of interest in the politics of the presidential campaign.

As a freebie, I’ll throw in my sincere disappointment that the news media have covered the debates so minimally. Why haven’t the major networks and cable news channels actually demanded that the debates be broadcast live simultaneously on all major channels? Why has the “analysis” and followup coverage been more or less all Trump, all the time when it isn’t all “gotcha” stuff, all the time?

Let’s call it what it is: most Americans don’t care much about the process of selecting major party candidates for the presidency.

Shame on us.

Woe is us.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hear the sea....

Please go to my new website:

and sign up for daily email alerts so you can
keep getting a daily reminder about my poetry, book reviews
and other blog posts. Thanks!

The sea….just listen….

My poem about the silence of the sea

This post has been moved to my new website:

Friday, December 18, 2015

First flight—unbelievable

For many people around the world, it was literally unbelievable.

On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright cranked up the biplane that he and his brother had built in the back room of their Ohio bike shop, and did what no man had done before: he traveled through the air, perched on a machine.

One short flight for man

The first flight wasn't much to write home about: 120 feet, lasting 12 seconds. Orville and Wilbur flew four times that day, and Wilbur handled the last, spectacular feat: he traveled 852 feet in 59 seconds.

A lot of folks thought it was impossible, or at least impossible for two Dayton bicycle mechanics to pull it off.

The Wright brothers were deliberate in their efforts to develop and patent their airplane, so they didn’t talk it up much. The world-wide press was not largely impressed in the early years. Five years after the first flight, Orville and Wilbur went to France and did the first highly publicized demonstrations of their heavier-than-air craft.  The world went nuts.

da Vinci's flying machine

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452-1519) had the idea for a flying machine back in the 16th century, but he couldn’t get the thing to work.

Link to the David McCullough book on the Wright brothers

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A good step

Almost 200 nations agreed in Paris to actually do real things to start remediating the dangers of ongoing global climate change. It’s a good step forward. That’s all it is.

This agreement doesn’t “solve” global climate change and the ongoing global warming that is going to cause fantastically expensive environmental and commercial and infrastructure damage in the coming decades.

It’s a good step forward because it’s the first time essentially all of the world’s nations have signed on. The United States and China—the world’s two worst polluters—are leading the way.

This agreement is the work of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. This should open your eyes to the frame of reference for this work: it was the 21st annual session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

One could argue it’s not much to show for more than 20 years of work.

I’m taking a positive view.

It’s a good step forward.

Dealing with climate change is going to cost the nations of the world more money and grief than anyone can currently imagine.

No time like the present to get started.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Can 13 words be a palace?

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer makes some beautiful music with words in her poetry creations at

When I read a piece that knocks me out, sometimes I try to do my own riff on what the poet has said so well.

The first of Rosemerry’s "Four Encounters," posted on December 10, was another beauty. I think she answered the question: "Can 13 words be a palace?"

I wrote this haiku in homage to her offering:

Beseeching your heart,

my eyes, two trembling pilgrims,

have slipped off their shoes

Usually I don't bother with all the hodgepodge inventions of formulaic formats for poetry, but the traditional 5-7-5 haiku structure intrigues me, a constraint done all in velvet.

It’s my pleasure to find just the right words to express exactly my understanding of what’s in my mind.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Our Constitution: the people did not speak

The U. S. Constitution is the primary legal and political document in our history, our heritage, our political organization and our culture.

It was written largely by wealthy white men (about two-thirds of them were lawyers), and about 4% of the population voted for the delegates who ratified it.

Vox populi had nothing to do with it, just saying.

“We the People…” is a bit of an exaggeration.

How we got the Constitution is not a well-known story

I guess some folks may imagine that it was originally written on tablets by those mythical great men, The Founding Fathers.

To make a very long story short, the Constitution is a grotesquely politicized document that was conceived more or less on the sly by colonial delegates whose mandate merely was to fix up the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union (ratified 1781).

The Articles of Confederation permitted little centralized power in the brand new republic, and they proved close to useless in the initial efforts to effectively govern the independent colonies, defend their sovereignty and manage their internal trade and civil affairs.

On February 21, 1787, the Congress convened state delegates in Philadelphia for the “sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation" and to “render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union."

Generally, the delegates were the same elite group of men—wealthy and politically connected—who dominated the state legislatures after the Revolutionary War.

They went hog wild and cooked up the Constitution with centralized “federal” powers that were feared by many political and commercial interests. They did back room bargaining and political horse trading in Philadelphia and among the states to ultimately engineer ratification of the Constitution by state legislatures or specially convened assemblies in 11 states in late 1788. North Carolina and Rhode Island finally joined the crowd in 1790.

By the way, there was no popular vote on the Constitution. In fact, only about 150,000 white men voted for the delegates to state conventions that ratified the document. In 1787, the total white population of the 13 former colonies was about 3,671,000.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wave goodbye to the “middle class”

“Middle class” means a lot of things in America, in social, economic and political terms.

A strange thing is that lots of people think of themselves as “middle class” even though their financial circumstances place them outside that politically-charged category.

It’s not so strange to take note of this new report from the Pew Research Center that says, simply, the “middle class” no longer includes a majority of Americans.

About 45 years ago the “middle class” constituted 61% of adults, and now their share is a bit less than 50%.
Middle class house, 45 years ago
The “upper class” has become a lot richer in that time, and trickle-down poverty has put a lot more folks in the “lower class” group.

The “uppers” are 21% of the adult population and they collect almost 50% of all household income. The ‘middles” are 49.9% of the population, with about 43% of income, and the “lowers” are 29% of adults with only 7% of all income.

You think you’re “middle class”?

If you live in a three-person household and your family income is at least $41,900, you’re in. If your family income is at least $125,600, you can claim “upper class” status.

If you live alone, the numbers are $24,200 and $72,500. For two people, $34,200 and $102,600.

Umm, that’s before taxes.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Why the sky is blue

Catherine, 5, was single-mindedly wrassling the crayons around with the coloring books. She lifted her head and posed this one to Auntie Jan:

“Why is the sky blue?”

Never tell a lie to a kid. Auntie Jan replied, “I don’t know.”

Catherine to the rescue: “It’s because all the other colors were taken.”

Thanks to my trusted personal advisor for this anecdote—she also noted that an essential definition of imagination is knowing just enough real fact to make up the rest of it to suit the moment, and then to re-invent the same thing in a new moment.

O frabjous day!

I imagine the surround-sound thrill of saying the next thing that comes into my head without any suspicion that I might be wrong…..

p.s. NASA says the sky is blue because:
“Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth's atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. This is why we see a blue sky most of the time.”

Catherine can tackle that alternative reality when she gets a bit older….

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

“The Singing Nun,” remember?

My barely scientific guess is that 10-20 million Americans remember “The Singing Nun.”

If you were old enough to be interested in popular music in 1963, you know what I’m talking about.

A few years earlier, a young Belgian woman named Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers (1933-1985) had entered the order of the Missionary Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Fichermont. As Sister Luc-Gabrielle, she played her guitar, sang songs, and wrote and recorded “Dominique” in 1961. It was a smash hit in Belgium.

The single “Dominique”—sung in French—crossed the Atlantic and was No. 1 on the American charts in December 1963. Sister Luc-Gabrielle, as “Soeur Sourire” (Smiling Nun) quickly became "The Singing Nun" in America and ritually crossed over to stardom by appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in January 1964.

For the purist discophile, I’ll mention that “Dominique” was at the top of the charts for four weeks, and it blocked "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen from getting to No. 1.

I’ll also throw in this one, because it popped up next on YouTube after I checked out that Kingsmen classic:

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The art of Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

“…the secrets of being sharp…”

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
American poet

I’m a writer, and I keep re-learning the delight of saying “I wish I’d said that.”

Rosemerry posts her work on A Hundred Falling Veils every day, and she regularly takes a deft turn into the inner poem.

This one is an archetype:

Cut deep

Picking up broken glass
with bare hands,
of course I was cut,
but something in me
was curious to learn
the secrets of being sharp.
Something in me
wanted another reason
to be tender
with everyone I meet.

Posted December 7, 2015, read it here

This is a masterful, imperative alignment of the commonplace and humanism, she touches and teaches yearning for something better than what we have too much of now.

I was thrilled again as I read it again.

Btw, here is Rosemerry's website, she’s a busy lady.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The wisdom of Sam Levenson (part 3)

“One of the virtues of being very young is
          that you don't let the facts
                    get in the way of your imagination.” 

Sam Levenson    1911-1980
American humorist, writer, teacher, TV celeb and journalist  

I am an insufferable fan of the facts.

Imagination also gets my vote, and sometimes the twain need not interfere with each other.

I have a grandfatherly perspective on this. I love to hear my kids spinning a tale or making up a song on the fly. It’s a wonderment to hear their freelance explanations of Santa Claus and rain and why flowers die and how the astronauts can survive in space.

Their cautionary tales about animal parents taking care of their young are sophisticated in their concern, and carefree in their attribution of human values and familial love….sometimes I feel like I’m on a mission to soak up enough free-range delight and fanciful understanding to keep my brain and my heart from getting older, at least for an hour or two….

I never tell the kids a lie.

Sometimes I collaborate in keeping the dried-up facts in the back pocket for a while.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Productivity: a late-blooming concept in human society

Before the invention of at least conceptually accurate clocks (mid-13th century in Europe) and the subsequent advent of modern timekeeping, the notion of productivity in terms of work per unit of time was mostly unknown.

David Landes, in Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World, points out that in the late medieval period, “the great virtue was busyness—unremitting diligence in one’s tasks.”

In today’s workplace, “keeping busy” is most definitely not the acceptable definition of doing good work and being productive. As anyone who’s read “Dilbert” recently knows, it’s possible to stay busy without actually doing anything.

Medieval clock tower

When workers and bosses could accurately keep track of time, they created an inescapable transformation of workplace culture. If Hans made six shoes while Jakob made five shoes and Gretel (with six hungry kids) made four shoes, and Hans could do this repeatedly during measured time periods that everyone acknowledged, then it was obvious who was doing more work and thus who was more productive.

That is to say, it was obvious if each of them had the same training, and each of them had the same access to raw materials and similar tools, and each of them had the same working conditions, and if…..

David Landes, Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1983), 25 and passim.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

“Music in my own house? Wow!”

OK, turn off the iPod and just listen to this for a minute.

1920s crystal radio

Scientific American went out on a limb 95 years ago and told its readers:
"It has been well known for some years that by placing a form of telephone transmitter in a concert hall or at any point where music is being played the sound may be carried over telephone wires to an ordinary telephone receiver at a distant point, but it is only recently that a method of transmitting music by radio has been found possible."

Crikey, mate. Music through the air!?

Soon after World War I ended, scientists in the United States, Britain and elsewhere were actively experimenting with ways to improve radio technology that would enable its practical transformation into a full-blown communications and entertainment medium.

1920s radio station

A laboratory of the National Bureau of Standards in Washington— it owned station WWV—relied on help from amateur radio operators to explore the technical details of radio transmissions. It had some successes as early as 1919.

Scientific American was ponderously enthusiastic:
"Music can be performed at any place, radiated into the air through an ordinary radio transmitting set and received at any other place, even though hundreds of miles away…the music received can be made as loud as desired by suitable operation of the receiving apparatus…The possibilities of such centralized radio concerts are great and extremely interesting."

Until the 1920s, the only way to hear live music was to go to the concert hall. The only way to hear whatever music you chose, any time you chose, was to own the record and a phonograph machine.

Let’s not even get started on television.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Make a new life….

"I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together."

Dr. Oliver Wolf Sacks (1933-2015)

I continue to feel the energy of this quote from Sacks' piece, "The Joy of Old Age," in the New York Times on July 6, 2013, read it here

Sacks was about 80 when he wrote that, and of course was aware that his life was almost over, and he didn’t shrink from acknowledging the physical and health realities that alter life as we get older.

I am drawn to his outlook because it elevates one’s willingness to make a life, even make a new life, at whatever age.

Sacks offers one recipe for giving full voice to “the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime.”

I think Walt Whitman heard the same drummer:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself . . .”

A propos, I wrote this haiku reflection:

….yes, yes, I will make
   a new life….and live two lives
      as my old life fades.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.