Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Shit-hole countries

January 13, 2018
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
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BREAKING NEWS: Trump Shoots Woman on 5th Ave

January 13, 2018

(Associated Press) — President Donald Trump shot a woman on New York’s Fifth Avenue last night. The woman, whose name has not been released, was shot in the foot and is reportedly in stable condition in a nearby hospital.

The incident, captured on video, occurred shortly after 8 PM, as the President was being escorted by his Secret Service detail from Trump Tower to a waiting car. The woman, who was walking her dog nearby, screamed at the President, impugning his physical appearance, truthfulness, and mental condition. Mr. Trump looked in her direction and shouted back, “Lunatic!” whereupon the woman rejoined, “You’re the lunatic!”

The President then voiced an expletive and turned to Secret Service Agent Matthew Carnevale saying, “Give me your [expletive deleted] gun.” Agent Carnevale initially demurred, but when Mr. Trump said it was a direct order, Carnevale complied. The President then fired once at the dog walker, now standing about ten feet away, striking her foot. It is not clear where the President was aiming.

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy stated that Agent Carnevale has been suspended, pending an administrative review of the incident.

President Trump tweeted shortly afterwards, “Lying bitch insulted your President to-nite! Lock her up! Will be SUEING [sic] HER!! But there was no shootting [sic], none whatsoever, believe me. FAKE NEWS!!”

Early this morning, after it was reported that overnight polls showed no measurable drop in his favorability ratings, Mr. Trump tweeted, “Remember I said could shoot somebody on 5th Ave & lose no votes? Look at polls! I am a GENIUS!!”

Interesting

August 31, 2017
  1. Note the “Found in supposedly empty equipment” stamp. Apparently this situation happens enough that the Postal Service has a rubber stamp for it. (This package was mailed in February 2015; received August 28, 2017.)
  2. This ad was in my local paper. Always proofread.

July 4: The Twitter Hymn of the Republic

July 4, 2017

Mine eyes have seen vainglory in the president’s dumb tweets,
He is trampling out the vintage of the grapes of wrath he eats,
He hath loosed the feckless lightning of his idiotic bleats:
His lies are marching on.

Glory, glory, to the Donald!
Glory, glory, to the Donald!
Glory, glory, to the Donald!
His lies are marching on.

I have read his fiery gospel writ on tiny cellphone screens,
In a hundred forty characters, this crazy person preens;
He has no mind or heart, but he sure does have a spleen,
His garbage marches on.

(Chorus)

He has sounded forth a trumpet with each and every tweet;
He is savaging every critic, before his judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, he thinks, to insult them! Be jubilant my feet!
The Donald marches on.

(Chorus)

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
In contrast our president is disgraceful as can be.
The nightmare marches on.

(Chorus)

Coin collecting

April 22, 2017

Sartre called coin collecting a hobby for dull old men. Well, I started collecting as a dull young man 60 years ago. I’ve been selling coins too, for more than half that time. But Sartre was wrong. I can hardly calculate how much numismatics has enriched my life (and not just financially, though that’s important). To say that it enhances one’s sense of history hardly begins to explain. It has been a great window onto the vast pageant of the human enterprise. The connections involved, with other actual humans, are rewarding too.

And the quest, the chase, is challenging and fun. One never knows what will turn up. Many coins are not cut-and-dried, but can entail all sorts of intriguing nuances.

Many suppose that if a coin is old it must be valuable. Not so. Remember that past epochs didn’t have credit or debit cards, checks, Paypal, etc; even paper money is a relatively recent invention. Before then, all money was in the form of coins – so they needed a lot of them. And tons of those coins (many thousands of tons) have actually come down to us (especially since the advent of metal detectors).

What this huge supply means is that you can acquire historically fascinating coins for very little money. How little? Many thousand-year-old coins can be had for a buck or two; even ancient Roman coins if you’re not fussy about quality. However, quite nice ones can be gotten for only $10 or $20, too.

Quality is in fact where a lot of the spice of numismatics lies. A coin can be very common and cheap in crappy condition but very rare and desirable if well preserved. The true connoisseur relishes this difference. I am frankly much the condition snob when it comes to my own collection. Yet I’m also a bottom feeder about price. Those might seem incompatible, but for me there lies the sport of the thing: trying to find good quality at good prices. (This paid off spectacularly when my Chinese collection was sold in a 2011 Hong Kong auction. Good coins brought very good prices but excellent ones brought insane prices.)

My Julia Domna sestertius

I have written before about collecting ancient Roman coins in particular. Recently I got a really nice quality sestertius (large bronze coin) of Julia Domna (wife of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, 193-211 AD). From a Swiss auction, it cost me about $550. I was very happy with it, replacing a not-so-great one in my collection, and I liked the price. I liked it even more when I researched it online and found that the same coin had been in a different Swiss sale just a year earlier, where it sold for $4,086! Evaluating ancient coins in particular can be very subjective, and such price variances make the game pretty darn interesting.

Ancient coins in more typical condition

Pricing is, of course, governed by the law of supply and demand. The vast majority of old coins are cheap because there are so many of them. What makes a coin rare is that there are few of them (duh), and if many collectors seek one, that drives prices up.

But the demand factor is not the same across the board, for all kinds of coins. This blog post was in fact prompted by my seeing, in a Dutch (Schulman) auction catalog, a 1697 Holland Leeuwandaalder (“Lion dollar”). These coins were issued in great numbers by numerous Dutch provinces for a long period, so in general they are quite inexpensive for large old silver coins, available for $100 or less. But this 1697 is the only one known from the province of Holland with that date.

1697 Lion Dollar

So how much is it worth? A comparable U.S. coin – suppose only one 1797 Dollar existed – would be worth millions, because many people collect U.S. Dollars by date. But how many collect Lion Dollars by date? Those people are almost as rare as that 1697 coin. It carried an auction estimate of just 500 Euros. That struck me as quite inexpensive for such a rarity. So did I put in a bid? No; because I doubted I could find a buyer.*

Yet still that’s a very exciting coin, and things like this are also part of what makes numismatics so much fun. It’s full of piquant byways. The longer I’m at it, the richer grows the experience.

* It wound up selling for 750 – with added fees, just about $1000.

My Valentine’s Day poem

February 14, 2017

Microsoft Word - LOVE POEMS cover copy.docxMy wife being a poet, I’ve been writing poems for her for occasions like Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc. (I published a little book of them.) When she was learning Spanish, I wrote some in Spanish, which I’d studied in high school. Lately she’s been learning German, so I thought I should write her Valentine’s Day poem in that language. The only problem was that I never studied it.

However, my mother was born in Germany, and I got some familial German exposure – mainly hearing her daily two-hour telephone debates with her mother (always on the same subject, “whether Lotte has been a good daughter”). Also, I’m a coin dealer, and buy a lot from big German auctions, whose catalogs of course use the language.

imagesSo I decided to try writing a poem, with my very limited vocabulary. Actually, it almost wrote itself – with just a bit of help from Google Translate (very handy; you can use it to translate my poem). One word I made up (Germans like long combination words):

Ein Valentinstaggedicht

In unserer welt
Von sturm und drang,
Mit einem weissen haus
Wo wohnt ein
Stinkendenscheissestück,
Du bist mein fels
Mein leuchtendes licht,
imagesMeine wunderbare frau;
Ich liebe dich
Bigly.

 

O my America

November 9, 2016

unknown

 

 

unknown-1

Green-Weak: poems by Therese L. Broderick

November 1, 2016

13613373_10154473211057176_4122053389679591205_oI like the idea of being married to a poet. She takes it seriously; went back to school in her forties to get a master’s degree. When our daughter left, I’d feared some empty nest syndrome, but my wife’s poetry involvement keeps her well occupied and fulfilled.

But she didn’t like showing me her work, tending not to agree with my “constructive criticism.” Not that I’m any poetry expert; though that didn’t stop me from having opinions. However, she finally did share with me an ensemble of poems she’d been working very hard on. And this time my response was an enthusiastic “Bravo!” Expert or not, I could see she’d really raised her game.

rwj-green-weak-1-coverThis poetry collection is titled “Green-Weak,” referring to the type of color-blindness her artist father had. The central theme is her relationship with him and his illness; he died of a lung ailment when she was 21. The poems are also a meditation on the color green.

The book has now been published by Red Wolf Journal, at their website (click here) – with an extremely laudatory introduction by their editor! (Printed copies will become available at some future time.)

The turd artist: David Foster Wallace revisited

October 27, 2016
Wallace

Wallace

“But it’s s**t.”

So begins The Suffering Channel. Its author, David Foster Wallace (who committed suicide in 2008), is an epic American literary figure. I previously reviewed his huge masterwork, Infinite Jest – I found it unreadable and gave up after about 100 pages.

My wife must have remembered that, because for my birthday she (slyly smiling) gave me The David Foster Wallace Reader, another fat doorstop of a book.

sufferI’m glad she did. There’s some amazing stuff here. Forget Infinite Jest; read this instead.

It includes The Suffering Channel, a novella, whose title refers to a (fictional) TV channel showing exactly that: photos and videos of people suffering, in every conceivable way. Ewww.

But the novella is actually mainly about something else: the tribulations and machinations among staffers at a slick (fictional) magazine, Styles, over how to handle one particular story, about an artist.

images-1It’s set in July, 2001; looking toward the publication’s September 10 issue. Its offices are at New York’s World Trade Center. So there’s a dark cloud hanging over the whole narrative. To which Wallace never explicitly alludes, except once. Near the end, after a lengthy sequence focusing on one young character, he appends the spare words, “She had ten weeks to live.”

The magazine’s culture, and the dynamics among its staffers, are portrayed with an incisive dead-on realism. So far, so serious. (Though there is a weird, quasi-comedic sexual thing going on between the runty chief reporter on the story and the artist’s super-plus-sized wife.)

images-2But all the novella’s seriousness is anchored upon a premise that’s utterly silly. The “artist” works in excrement. Now, admittedly, we’ve had some art contretemps involving excreta – Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” and Ofili’s painting incorporating dung – however, Wallace goes one better. His “artist,” Brint Moltke, produces small sculptures replicating iconic images (like the Winged Victory of Samothrace). By “produces” I mean he sits on the toilet and they come out. And Moltke is a non-intellect who probably doesn’t actually know the Winged Victory of Samothrace from Rodin’s Thinker (just to make the premise all the more preposterous).

unknown-1Yet Wallace depicts how a slick magazine would wrestle with all the issues that this subject matter would entail, and the concerns of the people who work there (one of whom speaks the quoted opening line). How will its readers react? How should the story be presented – if at all? And the implications regarding the pecking order and careerist jockeying among the staffers.

Call this “magical realism?” Perhaps Wallace was giving us a send-up of that genre: marrying uber-realistic portrayal with uber-ridiculous magicalism. The result is wickedly delicious.

Gertrude Stein and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

September 3, 2016
Therese performing poetry

Therese performing poetry

My poet wife Therese Broderick started a Meetup group to discuss poets and poetry. Every month she’d sally forth to the appointed venue, and upon returning I’d ask her how many showed up. “One,” she’d cheerily reply. Meaning herself.

But, undaunted, she gamely kept at it, and by and by, others did begin to come; and now it’s a nice little thing.

One fellow proposed as a topic Gertrude Stein. Therese obligingly scheduled it; the fellow didn’t attend; but I did.

Picasso's portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an American writer, but spent most of her life in Paris and is actually remembered less for her writing than for all the artists and writers who hung out with her; she was the eye of an aesthetic hurricane.

The discussion about her inspired me to read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Toklas (1877-1967) was Stein’s longtime companion and (apparently?) lover. Now this is a somewhat peculiar “autobiography.” It tells very little about Toklas, but a great deal about Gertrude Stein (always called, in full, “Gertrude Stein”), and her relationships with all those belle artes luminaries. It’s immensely flattering to Gertrude Stein. At the start, Alice says “only three times in my life have I met a genius and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken.” Of course one was Gertrude Stein.

And seemingly Toklas had a grandiose idea not just of Gertrude Stein’s merits but of her literary importance. We find statements like this, concerning one Gertrude Stein publication: “So for the first time a piece of the monumental work which was the beginning, really the beginning of modern writing, was printed . . . .”

Toklas

Toklas

Perhaps the author really imagined that writers thenceforward would write like Gertrude Stein. I must say I’m glad they don’t. She was an innovator, and I suppose someone needed to do what she did. Her poems (if they be poems, often a matter for debate) are at least not just strings of random words, they do have some structure (e.g., the definite article before nouns), but while “word play” is not exactly it, she does play with the structure of language. Reading these poems suggested Gertrude Stein was trying to do with words just what modernist painters do with shapes and colors. Her prose often eschews commas and goes like conversational speech does, in really the most literal way, which might be fine when spoken but is affectation on the page.

The book ends with Gertrude Stein refusing to write her own autobiography, but encouraging Alice to write one. However Alice, having so much else to do, can’t get down to it. So finally, “Gertrude Stein said, it does not look to me as if you were ever going to write that autobiography. You know what I am going to do. I am going to write it for you . . . . And she has, and this is it.”