Six More Little Poems

Note: As with the prior “Six Little Poems” post, these pieces were all written in 2004, and are copyright JES. And again, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine what themes they might have in common and why I am sharing them today.

I. Lines

We live, like sailors, hauling in our lines:
the strength of many hands makes lighter work.
The older help the younger, many times,
we laud the strong and censure those who shirk.
And as we pull the lines that shape our lives,
we suffer searing shock when someone falls,
recoiling cables cut through flesh like knives,
we feel as though our sails are tugged by squalls.
In time, we right ourselves to stay the course,
we cry for those we’ve lost to give us strength,
which flows out as a primal, inner force,
and lets us pull our lines another length.
Unbroken and determined all the same,
with fewer hands we tug upon our chain.

II. Not As I Say

i.
that misguided amateur effort at
persuasion just points to destruction

ii.
an ethical reverence in practice plots
a path toward peaceful perfection

III. Preacher

His finest virtue is natural and simple:
good faith in the face of the fates set before him.
But deep in their fever of strife and disturbance,
the viciously spirited opt to ignore him.

IV. A Measured Response

i.
“Bang, bang,” he said
and smacked me upside the head.
So I played dead.

ii.
“Kaboom,” I say
and torch his dad’s Chevrolet.
He runs away.

V. Move on the Fields

Fly down, call me, a lost nation is moving.
One fistful of shells sparked a kindling star.
Pains great, pains small, be damned,
and distilled into tepid pale jelly. (Sleep, brother).
Once I am dead, would that I may speak,
and afterward, move on the fields.

VI. Hand Grenade

Careful with that hand grenade, son,
you just might go and hurt someone.
And once you do, it’ll be too late
to apologize and set things straight.
After you toss that hand grenade,
you’ll have to live with the mess you’ve made.
So unless you want to bring vengeance on,
be careful where you throw it, son.

There’s a William Blake painting for everything . . .

 

Bulk Content

This is my 62nd website post of 2020, with five months down and seven yet to go. If I keep up the current pace, that will produce about 150 posts by the time December 31, 2020 rolls around.

While that’s still a drop in the bucket for a lot of high-volume daily or near-daily bloggers, it does represent a bump in production for me. In 2019, I wrote 57 posts in twelve months, and considered it to be a productive year. The last time I went higher than 62 in an entire year was 2010 (101 posts), and my personal best was achieved way back in 2004 (432 posts, largely driven by my “Poem a Day” project, the fruits of which have since been removed from the public site).

I knew I would be writing more in 2020, though this is neither how nor what nor where I had expected that to play out. Having retired from my prior full-time job in November, I had intended to focus more on creative and commercial writing this year, and on re-building networks that had atrophied since I stopped regular freelance writing some years ago due to time and mental demands associated with my full-time work. The blog became less of a personal marketing instrument and more of a place where I wrote “for me” over those years. I could scribble here without worrying about commercialization or fundraising or whether my words would alienate or activate supporters or how well I was communicating important technical concepts. My professional writing was the complete opposite of that in many ways, and 2020 was the year I planned to knit those disparate threads back together, for fun and for profit, ideally.

As did so many other things for so many other people, that all changed a few months back. I had been registered for a pair of writing workshops that I saw as important steps in re-building those lapsed professional networks, and they’re both gone. I was graciously accorded this opportunity to focus on a key project, but that’s gone too. All the travel writing that I normally do? No longer possible due to multiple trip cancellations. The volume and quality of freelance opportunities available have also declined (and anecdotally, I’d say average hourly compensation has followed suit), even as a glut of formerly-employed creative folks are now in the fray to secure the jobs that do remain or emerge. Supply and demand curves in full effect, this is not a great time to be making a pivot in this professional sector, though that may change in the future as the world itself changes.

I’m certainly most very fortunate at this stage in my life to not need that planned writing work to meet my basic financial needs, though there’s still a certain sense of opportunity lost. I could, of course, be productively using all of my unexpected free time to hunker down and crank out the Great American Novel or develop a brilliant business plan or some other ostensibly “useful” writing-related activity. But I’m not, and I think that’s because given the psychologically stressful aspects of life during lockdown, I find it more important and comforting to write what I want to write, and not to focus so much on writing what I should write. It’s a pleasurable diversion and distraction to clatter away here, and its a nice bonus when some of the things that I put up on my public blackboard resonate with others in some way(s).

So as a result of that sense and those feelings, you’re getting content in bulk here these days, and probably will for the foreseeable future. I know from the wide variety of websites I follow, along with the number of recommendations I’m receiving from WordPress announcing newly-established blogs in areas of interest to me, that I’m not alone in seeing my unproductive public productivity increasing. As a result, I have expanded the number of sites that I formally follow over the past couple of months, and I’ve seen increases in the number of readers who formally follow me here as well. (Neither of those numbers are large, just for the record). Then there are the “guest” readers who surf around my site without leaving any marks and signs beyond ticks on the visit counter, which is spinning at a rate that will probably make my final 2020 visit and visitor numbers as high as they’ve been since the early 2000s, when the blog world was a very different place, and I was one of few, not one of many, paddling about in a high-profile fashion within that newly-formed creative pond.

A lot of the increased writing volume I see and read around the web is explicitly dedicated or related to COVID-19 in one way or another. How it impacts us. How we feel about it. What we are doing with ourselves as the world shuts down. How we feel about it again. And then again. And again. Lots of feels being shared, for sure. While I certainly reference COVID-19 in a variety of posts on the site, this one included, I have made a conscious decision to not write more explicitly or frequently about it here, in large part because the number of trenchant “hot takes” out there about it is exhausting, and I don’t have or offer any unique perspective that I feel warrants extensive public exposition.

In the early days of lockdown, I’d saved a draft blog post called “Post-Pandemic Pipe Dreams,” and occasionally I’ve added items to it on ways that I’d personally like to see the world change as a result of our current travails. Looking at that list today, lots of those ideas and reflections have been considered and covered at length in a wide variety of other online outlets, so it’s hard for me to want to elaborate on any of them, and I am guessing it would be hard for you to want to read them if I did, since they’d be so obviously agreeable to everyone.

We’d all like more space in restaurants and on airplanes, right? Duh. And everyone would like to see TicketMaster, FOX News, and a variety of other predatory-to-destructive businesses go under, yeah? Of course we would. Having watched the character of my hometown be completely destroyed by AirBnB operators hoovering up any available rentable properties downtown, and countless unique cultural destinations destroyed by the arrival of cookie-cutter cruise ship culture, I’d be happy to see those business models bite the dust too. Oh, and of course nobody should ever again spend $200+ million on turning a freakin’ comic book into a bloated soulless movie, especially if said comic book has already been expensively rebooted half-a-dozen times over the past few decades. If the studios would knock that nonsense off, then going to the theater could return to being an affordable and enjoyable enterprise, assuming people learn to put their cell phones away and stop talking during the movie. That one may be impossible, I know. Influencers? Gone. I am certain we all agree there. Also, no giant dogs allowed in apartment buildings. It’s cruel to the dogs and their neighbors. Stop it. And stop giving money to endowments without considering your favorite nonprofits’ operating needs too. There’s going to be loads of them that collapse because people put permanent restrictions on gifts in exchange for naming rights and other non-charitable incentives, while the “keep the lights on and do the mission” part of the enterprise is ignored. Everyone would like to see that stop, right?

Well, okay, so maybe some of my post-pandemic pipe-dreams aren’t quite in keeping the zeitgeist or popular public opinion, but still, I don’t see elaborating on them further as a productive or enjoyable process for anybody. Suffice to say I dream of and long for changes in how our country and culture function, some more needed and serious than others. And also note that I’ll work to support those who can bring such positive prospects to pass from out of such a negative time period, even if I don’t write in bulk about such activities here, preferring to produce my usual piffle and tripe instead.

For better or worse, that’s the niche I’ve established after 25+ years of having a public online presence, and dancing with the one what brung ya’ is always a sound play. Fortunately, I do quite enjoy cluttering and redecorating my verdant little wall grotto in the global garden of blogs, and when all is said and done, the little things that give us joy are important, perhaps now more so than ever. Here’s hoping that approach works for you too, both in your experience of visiting here, and in your experience of managing your own little joys in the face of the countless dislocations tearing at the fabric of our society today.

Don’t mind the overgrowth. The flowers are fragrant if you can find them.

Categorically

In keeping with generally accepted best blog practices, I use “category” functions to create a structural architecture for the materials here, both for my own convenience and (ostensibly) for that of my readers. If you’ve been following along here for any amount of time, it’s probably not a surprise as to how the top ten most common categories for my public output stack up. They are, in declining order:

  1. Music
  2. Writing
  3. Travel
  4. Work
  5. Science
  6. Home and Family
  7. Art
  8. Food
  9. Books
  10. Film and TV

That “Music” category is particularly well-used, with about 45% of all posts here bearing that label, about three times more than the closely-ranked second and third place “Writing” and “Travel” categories. Makes my primary creative and critical obsessions over the past quarter century pretty clear and obvious, I guess.

While I’m fond of the Hemingway Rewritten Theme that I use here on the blog, my one small annoyance with it is that post categories aren’t very prominent in the public view of the site. If you’re reading this article on the front-page of the website, for example, you won’t see them. But if you click on this or any other specific post, then scroll down to its bottom, you’ll see the assigned categories there, linked to their similarly labeled fellows. While that’s not necessarily meaningful in any way for some obvious and widely-used things like “Music,” it does mean that some of the more topic-specific items here that might lend themselves to cross-platform exploration by readers are not as intuitive as I wish they were.

So as a small Life During Quarantine Time Public Service for bored readers looking to explore the more arcane corners of this long-running blog, I cite some of my less frequently used categories below, with links and explanations to assist you in content trawling. Click any of them, and you’ll get all the articles so categorized in reverse chronological order, so you can keep scrolling and clicking that “Older Posts” button at the bottom of the page to your heart’s content. Assuming your heart beats to some of the same weird rhythms as mine does, anyway.

Best Albums: Loads and loads of lists, documenting best disc picks over time.

Best of the Archives: A 2020 dig into the first 15 years of the blog.

Concerts: An archive of live music reviews and experiences.

Credidero: A 2019 philosophical treatise.

Des Mean: Relics of a satire site I ran during our first stint in Iowa

Five By Five Books: An ongoing review series of my favorite novels.

Five Songs You Need to Hear: An ongoing peak at my current favorite obscurities.

Hidden in Suburbia: An archive of urban exploration adventures.

In Memorium: Obituaries for folks who moved me.

Interviews: An archive of conversations with musicians both famous and obscure.

Upstate Wasted: Relics of a scabrous group satire site where I once wrote tons.

Please do not return articles to the stacks yourself. I like to make my own messes.

1,000 (Again)

WordPress tells me that this is the 1,000th post here on Ye Olde Blog. Which is nice, but this is probably the fifth time or so that WordPress has informed me of this milestone, and I’d guess the first time I hit it was back around 2005 or so. I would estimate that the total number of items ever posted here is actually somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000.

Whenever the number of posts creeps much above that nice round thousand, though, The Destroyer tends to erupt from his pit of infinite darkness to balance my creative instinct with its opposite. That’s a key part of my process, such as it is. I write a lot. And I delete a lot. And when I delete, I delete for good. Well, as much as “for good” can exist on the Internet, where the Wayback Machine or other resources exist if I ever decided that I desperately wanted or needed an article that I’d already blown to pieces here. But that rarely happens. I’m happy to obliterate things.

I’ve also been invoking The Destroyer over at my one remaining social networking account: LinkedIn. I registered there about 12 years ago. I’ve held three full-time jobs in three different parts of the country since then, so in each case, there were loads of new connections to made in my new professional networks, such that I ended up being linked to about 2,000 people or so by early 2020.

But, honestly, I can’t quite tell you why or what good that ever did for me. My feed is typically filled with loads and loads of things that don’t interest me enough to click through, and I’ve never leveraged a LinkedIn connection for any personal or professional gain, since if I know someone well enough to deploy such leverage, I just do it in real life, not there. I have cross-posted things here with real-time alerts there, but the volume of return traffic that has generated over the years is barely meaningful against my total website traffic. So with this post, I’m going to turn that off. This article can stand as my LinkedIn social media epitaph.

LinkedIn remains an okay place to hang a public resume, I guess, and a fair number of job applications or freelance proposals I’ve written over the years request/require a link to a LinkedIn profile, so I don’t see destroying that, for now. I have started culling my unwieldy roster of LinkedIn connections though. The list included loads of folks who I didn’t actually know, but who had asked to link with me for one reason or another at some point or another, and I had rarely seen any reason to say “no” without feeling churlish about doing so. My list of connections is down to about 150 now, and may continue to shrink. Maybe down to zero, if that’s allowed, in keeping with my “I hate social networks” paradigm. We’ll see.

At any rate, if you’re reading this and you notice that we’re not connected on LinkedIn anymore, it’s nothing personal. You’re still more than welcome to connect with and/or follow me via my website, always the best place to do so. (When you’re at the top of my front page, there’s a little button at bottom right that allows you to either put me in your WordPress Reader, or get email alerts when I update).  You could also write comments on any or all of these posts, send me an email, or give me a call. I’m happy to communicate, as always. I just don’t see any reason anymore to do it via LinkedIn after a dozen mostly useless years there. The Destroyer likes things tidy, and brooks no fluff.

That’s a big part of why 1,000 seems to be the maximum-ish number of posts that my psyche tolerates here at the website. Just by the serial and periodic nature of what I do here, stuff becomes dated, or stale, or is overcome by events, and must go. Or I find things that were very specific to professional things happening in my life at certain points, but not today, and I don’t wish to have the bots and spiders and crawlers out there still associating me with work I don’t do anymore. Or my itchy trigger finger just presses “delete” when I run across a forgotten piece, just because it must have been forgettable, by definition, since I forgot about it.

In theory, I guess this means that the quality of the site gets better with each purge, as it becomes more densely filled with keep-worthy stuff. But since my new stuff may also be of variable quality or have different degrees of lasting relevance, that’s not really likely to be true in practice, over the long run. I mean, I am sure at some point down the line, I will write a post called “1,000 (Still Yet Again)” whenever The Destroyer next arises here, and this post will be vaporized. Enjoy it while it lasts.

The 1,000 rubric also resonates with me as the 25th anniversary of my website approaches, I think in July, plus or minus a month. (The first two incarnations of my website were hosted on long defunct sites with long URLs that I cannot remember or recreate, so I can only accurately track posts and activities back to 1999). 1,000 posts over 25 years equals 40 per year, or three and a third per month. That seems like a healthy clip, neither too spaced out, nor too obsessively scribbly. WordPress also tells me that ~150 posts here have received at least one read over the past 30 days. Some are more popular than others, obviously, but if that general trend is typical of a random 30-day period, then most everything here will be read at least once in every six month-ish period. That seems just fine. I’ll take it.

That’s all an historical interpretation rewritten by selectively looking backward, of course, but then what historical account isn’t?

I’d love to see Grover Cleveland on currency again. An under-appreciated leader from an under-taught era.

A Note From the Back of the House

As I noted when I finished up my “Best of the Archives” series, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time working behind the scenes here at my website to keep it spry as it approaches its 25th anniversary. Most of that work is being done in my preferred role as The Destroyer, but I’m also doing some additive bits, and fiddling with some templates and settings. As I’m doing so, folks who follow here might have experienced a couple of glitchy things that I want to note and apologize for:

  1. WordPress can be a bit aggressive about notifications, so I think people who “follow all” here via email alerts might have gotten some emails that I didn’t actively intend to send out, and would have preferred not go out, e.g. some media material and photo pages. Sorry if that blew up your inbox with a bunch of old stuff.  I wouldn’t apologize for blowing up your inbox with fresh goodness!
  2. On the flip side, WordPress makes it really easy for people to sign up to follow posts and entire blogs, but that also makes it easy for spammers, bots and commercial blogs to follow a shit ton of stuff here, hoping that bloggers then click back to check them out, as WordPress suggests. I don’t normally follow that suggestion, unless I recognize someone following me, or see some obvious indication that these new followers are real people with some discernibly logical reason for their interest in my site. That means I’ve amassed a fair number of potentially dubious followers. To clean that up a bit, I unsubscribed a bunch of what I think were bogus followers today. I looked at them all one by one, and think I was pretty accurate in my culling . . . but it’s possible that you might have been getting email alerts when I post out of legitimate interest, and now you’re not. If that’s the case, sorry about that as well, and please do feel free to resubscribe.

Here’s hoping all of you readers, who I dearly appreciate, are having a safe and healthy Easter Sunday, making the best of these crazy times however you are inclined and able.

We’ll have this back shed all cleaned up soon, promise.

Life During Quarantine Time

I finally found a calendar that properly reflects the ways in which the days are passing as we get deeper into Life During Quarantine Time. You can have one too. Just click on the image below to enlarge it, print out however many copies you want, and staple them together. Now, hang the whole packet near the chair where you most frequently slump, or where your toilet paper used to be, or on top of those Disney World tickets you bought for a Spring Break trip with the kids. Whenever the spirit moves you, go ahead and tear off a page. Or even two pages. It’s all good. It’s all the same. TGID!!