The F-bomb

f bomb jpeg

Boston was in celebration mode over the weekend, after the capture of marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. There’s been an outpouring of relief. At Saturday’s Red Sox game, there was this memorable moment:





In short: David Ortiz, “Big Papi,” spoke before the game, saying: “This is our f***ing city, and nobody gonna dictate us!”



Naturally the usual silliness broke out:



a)     Think of the children!

b)    Think of the television audience!

c)     Think of the FCC!



The head of the FCC almost immediately tweeted that he was fine with this. (He had nothing to lose; the FCC doesn’t regulate cable broadcasts.)



As for the children: if they haven’t already heard the word, they will hear it (and much worse) in due course.



Seriously: it’s so silly that people respond so violently to profanity, especially bathroom / anatomical / sexual profanity. I know it’s largely cultural, but the whole idea that the common name of a body part or a sexual function isn’t a “nice” word is just – amazing. I mean, look at me! I can’t even write “f***ing”!



Because I’m afraid I might shock or offend my readers.



I know enough about languages, however, to know that this is the way language works. Some languages (such as Tibetan) have a whole different range of vocabulary items which are used in higher-class situations.



Religious profanity is altogether a different thing. Casual swearing in Jesus’ name is common in most Catholic countries, but is often considered blasphemous in Protestant countries.



Arabic, of all the languages with which I’m familiar, is the best for swearing. Arabic-speakers combine bathroom words, sexuality, family insults, and religion in the most refreshingly creative ways.  Here’s one of the most creative (please note that I will try to translate in the least offensive way):



“May God condemn the religion of thy mother’s private parts.”



Compared to that, Big Papi seems tame, doesn’t he?




A childhood friend of Partner’s passed away recently. We went to the wake.



I’d met a lot of the people before, as a brother of the deceased had passed away some years ago, and we’d gone to that wake too. But I was amazed that everyone seemed to remember me. “Are you kidding?” Partner said later. “Of course they remembered you. We were the talk of the place the first time. We were the only gay couple there.”



The deceased was in his coffin, looking as if he’d just drowsed off. His daughter told us: “We made sure he was wearing his casual clothes. We wanted him to be comfortable.” Partner touched his arm as we knelt by the coffin, to say goodbye. A few weeks before, when we’d visited him, the deceased told Partner: “You were my first friend.” I thought that was an extraordinarily wonderful thing to say to someone.



The family (there were five living siblings, and some spouses, and children, and cousins) were all very warm, and glad to see Partner, and very nice to me. The funeral home was full of laughter: people reminiscing, people telling stories (about the deceased and about all kinds of other things), people reconnecting with one another.



“We never see each other except at funerals!” people say.



Ain’t it the truth.



Wakes and funerals always make me realize how important my friends are.



Have you said hello to your friends lately? Email, snail mail, Facebook, telephone?



Get on it.



Life is shorter than you think.


For Sunday: “St. James Infirmary,” sung by Cab Calloway

cab calloway

Cab Calloway was a great performer in the 1920s and 1930s. This is an animation of his performance of the great song “St. James Infirmary,” sung by Koko the Clown in a Betty Boop version of Snow White.



It’s terrific.







Goldendale, Washington


Goldendale is a town in Washington state, in Klickitat County not far north of the Columbia River. The sign at the city limits used to read like this (maybe it still does):







When we made our yearly visits to my my paternal grandmother, back in the 1960s and 1970s, Goldendale was the last real town we passed through before we arrived at her house. We usually stopped for a burger. I wish I could remember the name of the burger place, because it was excellent.



Partner and I have passed through Goldendale a few times over the past fifteen years. It’s bigger than I remember, but I see from Wikipedia that it has less than four thousand residents, so it’s still pretty small.



In June 1918, astronomers William Campbell and Heber Curtis came to Goldendale to view a solar eclipse. This was an especially important eclipse, because Einstein’s theories predicted that the light of stars close to the sun would be deflected slightly, and everyone wanted to see whether or not it was true.



The Goldendale data (which wasn’t terrific) did not confirm Einstein’s theories. Luckily, other viewings over the next few years confirmed that Einstein was correct.



But Goldendale turns out to be a great place to have an observatory. The air is clear, and the weather is mostly cloudless. There’s a permanent observatory there now, in its own state park.



And here’s the thing: my father (who was six years old at the time) was only a few miles away from Campbell and Curtis, on his parents’ ranch, as Campbell and Curtis performed their observations.



The world is a very small place after all.


Bears of the USA


Bears are back in New England!



A bear was sighted in North Kingstown, Rhode Island only a few days ago. And there have been bears sighted on Cape Cod too. (Which is interesting, because they’d either have to clamber over one of the two bridges to the Cape, or ride on top of a vehicle to get there. Or swim. Or ride a floating log across the Cape Cod Canal. Or commandeer someone’s Humvee. But nothing’s impossible.)



Well, it’s like the Middle Ages around here.  The bear here in Rhode Island knocked over a chicken coop and made off with one of the chickens!



Our stuffed polar bear, Carbuncle, has his own thoughts on the subject. (Carbuncle, you might recall, won the Financial Times crossword puzzle contest about a year ago. This is a picture of him wandering the neighborhood last winter):



carbuncle winter


First of all: Carbuncle is glad that the bears are back. He’s less lonely now.



Second: Carbuncle wonders what kind of bears are back. Polar bears? Probably not. Ah well. Less competition for those tasty seals:


bear and seal



Also: will this mean less pick-a-nick baskets for Carbuncle to steal from friends and neighbors?



I direct you to the following cartoon for more information:




For National Poetry Month: “Some Trees,” by John Ashbery

poem in your pocket

April is National Poetry Month. And today – April 18 – is “Poem In Your Pocket” day. Today’s the day to carry your favorite poem with you, and give it to people, and let people know.



I don’t have a single favorite poem. It depends on my mood, which is sometimes a little somber. But it’s April, so let’s have a brighter one today – a very early one by John Ashbery:




Some Trees

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Such comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
Placed in a puzzling light, and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents seem their own defense.

Gerard Butler

gerard butler

Partner and I saw “Olympus Has Fallen” last weekend when we were down on Cape Cod.

Oh dear. It’s dreadful. If you really want to see it, here’s what you do: queue up “Independence Day” and “Die Hard” and “Red Dawn” one after another, and hit yourself on the head very hard with a ball peen hammer while you’re watching them.

Here’s a quick plot summary, with spoilers: North Koreans make a (very unlikely) commando attack on the White House. The North Koreans have incredible space-age weapons, and evidently all we Americans have is handguns. The American President (Aaron Eckhart) is a charming weenie who gives the North Koreans two-thirds of the computer codes they want, because “they’ll never get the third part.” Naturally, they figure out the third part on their own.

But that’s okay: a superhuman Secret Service operative, played by Gerard Butler, kills all the North Koreans and saves the President (and, incidentally, the United States of America).

Which brings us to Gerard Butler.

You might remember Gerard as King Leonidas in “300,” gigantic and bearded and powerful and angry. Well, god bless him, that’s pretty much his schtick. He’s big and dark and nicely built, and has blue eyes which range from Warm to Stern to Threatening. He’s one of those men on whom stubble looks not only good, but natural.

He’s a co-producer of this movie, so you’d expect his character to be The Hero, and you’d be right. He’s a friend of the Weenie President, and a second (and much better) father to the Weenie President’s son.

Also, he’s an unstoppable killer.

A while back, I wrote about Victor Mature, and the uses of big handsome muscular men in the movies.

“Olympus Has Fallen” establishes that nothing has changed.

We love you, Gerard, the way audiences loved Victor in the 1950s.

Now: please make better movies.

Over and out!

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