(archives & links below)


improbable-looking limestone karsts in Guilin

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The New Ozymandias

I met a farer from a far-off strand
Who said, “Two giant feet of bronze, gone green,
In water sit, bedecked with broken chains
That show their maker well did understand
That bonds of former slavery, still seen,
Convey defeated servitude’s remains.

Near by, a broken torch lies, dead and dark
In grimy water’s tide that, fitful, passes,
And on the base, these words my eyes did mark:
‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses
Yearning to breathe free—’ Here ends the poem,
The rest is swallowed in the rising water.
Along the shore, starved, feral humans roam
Whose brandished weapons offer naught but slaughter.”

KW 20180310

Sunday, February 18, 2018

New Phases and Unrelated Matters

1 New Phase

I'm into a new phase. Where I had been reading at the gym during the hour I'm on the Futile Cycle and the Trudgemaster, I am now listening at the gym. The new storage card on my audio player is so darn big, I loaded hundreds of hours of radio shows (Gunsmoke, Marlowe, Johnny Dollar, Shep, ISIRTA, Hitchhiker, Lux, Lampoon, and anything by Welles seem to make up a lot of it). 

I've enjoyed my recent reading of screenplays, Doc Savage books, and whatever else I could find, but I haven't enjoyed the days when the scale showed me gaining weight back that I'd been keeping off since they sawed out my gallbladder, and I noticed after a couple of days of audio narrative that I seem to be able to keep the heart rate higher and cover more phony miles when I'm not taking info in through my eyeballs.

It took a couple of days to get used to not reading. It helps to not turn my tablet on at all, obviously, but then I start looking at the screens at the front of the gym. Closing my eyes works for that, at least often enough to break the spell. Even with that, I ended up comprehending the last half of some drama about agents (FBI, I guess) getting the last laugh on a mad bomber who killed six redshirts under our hero's command in the backstory. I almost looked at the guide to see what series it was when I got home, but then realized it just didn't matter and never would, so I did other things.

2 An Unrelated Matter

In an unrelated matter, I got some help with ignoring the voices in my head from a surprising source: the voices. Most of the time, they're no problem—they're entertaining, and a rich source of crazy ideas A, B12, and D3. When I'm playing or practicing piano, though, it gets to be a bit much. As I explained once, it's a little bit like practicing while Robin Williams stands just off to the side, quietly but audibly free associating the whole time. 

I've long been aware that something has been acting as a wall that I regularly would hit while trying to execute some piece of music. I'd be doing fine, then bammo! Mr. Fuckup strikes again! Well. One day I was playing along, and the second internal track was doing its usual distracting thing, and a voice on that track actually said something very much like, "You know, these voices are probably part of what's keeping you from playing better." BINGO.

Having a brain that thinks it can multitask isn't always a bad thing. A while back, I made a big improvement in my playing one day when I noticed that I was mentally sending a directive to one of my hands along the lines of: "Okay, if Right Hand doesn't peg the melody in the part, just outline it in the thumb line." In other words, I was designating imagined entities for specific tasks. So I created an invisible henchman (I should give him a name—he's earned it) and tasked him with always knowing where I should be looking in the score. Looey (there you go) stepped up to his job admirably, and my playing was noticeably better.

So I had this resource, and I needed to figure out how to make it work for me, given that even if I pay close attention to a measure and get it just right, my subsequent thoughts (Got that just right! Oh, if only X was listening right now! It would go a little… like… THIS:…) would take me right off the rails again. 

I ended up with something like the bit in my 1970s Transcendental Meditation™ training where the instructor (Jeff Peckham) said, "From time to time, your mind will want to wander. This is okay. Just gently put it back on the track and resume your meditation." (I dropped Jeff's name up there because I saw a news story a mere handful of years ago about how he was being a gentle thorn in the side of some local movers and shakers, and that made me proud to have briefly been his pupil.) What I decided to do was to put a question foremost in my mind that I would return to again and again, like the protagonist in MEMENTO reading his tattoos in the mirror. That question is "What do I have to be doing RIGHT NOW?" It became my new mantra for practicing. Heck, maybe I should use it for everything, along with my philsophy of life, "Left foot. Right foot. If not there yet, repeat." 

So I use it, and I think it helps that I've been playing with the Irish group now for about three years, and that I'm in my fourth semester of music theory and aural skills. The answer to that question is always a combination of words ("Next comes a chord with A at the bottom and a C# under your middle finger"), and the look of the notes, and the feel under my fingers of how the correct combination will be. It's a description that should include every note to be played (though if one hand knows its part well enough, I can expend most of the energy on the weak one). 

So far, so good. It's like I'd been around 65% of where I felt I should be, and have now gotten up to 80%–85%. When I'm playing something I know intimately, even if I haven't done justice to it in execution, the figure feels even higher.

Thanks, voice. That was useful! I haven't shut you out of my head, because you've been useful to me more than twice, and you're entertaining when I'm mowing the lawn or washing dishes. Also, I probably can't. You're still there when I'm sequentially depressing those keys, but you're not the boss of me, and you're way less distracting. So far, so good.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Remorse! for I, within the dead of Night,
Have eaten Plums you’d saved for your Delight.
 And Lo! away I slink, and leave this note:
So cold were they, so sweet, so right.

Pacing the Kitchen as you slept in Bed
I paused: a Voice within my Stomach said
 “Refresh, my hungry one, and fill me up
Before Life’s Ways leave you too long unfed!”

And, as my Pangs grew, the Voice within me cried,
And yea, it shouted— “Ope thy Fridge Door wide!
 You know which Shelf holds Dish of Tupperware,
And what Delights your tongue shall meet inside.”

Come, fill ye up, then in thy Rapture sweet
A post-Meal Garment of Repentance meet:
 The Owl of Opportunity has but inches
To go—and Lo! rises already to its Feet.

There with a Dish of Plums beside the Stove,
A Glass of Beer, a Magazine—ah, Love!
 By your quiet snoring in the other Room—
The Kitchen was as Heaven far above.

O! my Beloved, fill your Heart with Tears
TO-DAY of my Regrets and guilty Fears—
 TO-MORROW?— Why, To-morrow may not come
And I’d regret those Plums not eaten all my Years.

Ah, drain the Dish:—it foots not to repeat
The Provenance of this or that cool Treat:
 Unpicked LAST WEEK, gone off TO-MORROW,
Why sweat it, if TO-DAY be sweet!

In Vision, by the Westinghouse struck dumb,
Beheld I—in the Dusk a Shape did come,
 Bearing a dish in Angel’s Hands; and
He urged me sample it; and ’twas—a Plum!

The Munching Jawbone chews; and having chawed,
Gulps down: nor all thy Remorse, nor God,
 Shall lure it back to undo half a Bite,
Nor all my Tears wash back a morsel of the wad.

Ah, Light of open’d Door who shine’st e’er bright,
Past Jugs of Milk, they meet my Sight:
 How oft hereafter, rising shall you look

Through this same Fridge for Plums and find—no Bite!

Friday, December 01, 2017

Some plum verses


Last night, as I wandered weary
Bored of teevee chatting cheery,
Eyelids gummy, optics bleary,
Drearily with rigid stare,
Forth my mind went glumly, dumbly,
To a small container, plumbly
Full of purple fruit, so comely
Lurking in the Frigidaire

Dare I eat them? Would it matter?
Could they make my figure fatter?
Eat I must, or be a hatter,
Madder than a marching hare!
Grabbed I they, did fairly huff them,
Cooked them I did not, nor duff them
Merely did I seek to stuff them,
Stuff them in my face, just there.

Only then my conscience teased me,
Though the stolen bounty pleased me,
Pangs of guilt straight after seized me,
Feazed me in the frigid air.
Thus, this note of explanation
Begging for some expiation
Of my sin of annexation
Of those sweet, cold fruits, so fair.

By this note, I full do blame me.
Stoop ye not to mock or shame me
Promise you will not defame me
For this midnight treat so rare!
For I suffered in that second,
Racked with purple pash unreckoned,
At those plums that lewdly beckoned,
Wishing I could grow a pear!

Your bag of fruit is but a pile of pits,
My feast of joy is but a pang of guilt
My still small voice is in a plague of fits,
The sweet blue juice pooled on the plate is spilt.
My snack is past, and to the trash heap comes,
And now you know that I have et your plums.
Waste not your time, nor hunt in vain pursuit
Peruse, instead, this humble witness mute,
That I, regardless of your own intents
Did raid the fridge for sweet and purple fruit.
O Thou, who sought, both cleverly and wise,
To save your plums and hide them from my eyes—
Know that I—I did consume them all—
And taste them still, as I apologize.
Little boy hides in the pantry alone.
Fingers and mouth of a purple-y tone.
Hush! Hush! Silence your gums!
Christopher Robin is eating your plums.
Blah blah blah plums, blah blah fridge,
Blah blah blah blah sweet blah cold.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

His Dinosaurs

(Unaware that someone had gone with something similar, though different enough that I don't feel guilty now, I wrote this filk song to the tune of a radio hit by the Irish Rovers, and written by the great Shel Silverstein. It's been going through my mind, so I'm posting it here, where it will be safe from the view of all humanity. I tinkered with the words in small ways just now, because there's this thing called "scansion.")

Six thousand years back, as King James portrays,
The Lord of all created earth, in just seven days.
Made stars and trees and moons and men and animals galore,
And the biggest of them all was the dinosaur.

  There was mean Allosaurus, and small Dilong,
  The eagle-eyed Raptor and Pteranadon,
  The horny head Triceratops; a whole lot more:
  Almost 2k genera of dinosaur.

The Lord said to Noah, "I have to confess,
I'm going to wipe the world out, since it's turned out such a mess.
But if you'll make a boat before it rains for days two score,
You can save Man and Animal and Dinosaur."


The Lord told Noah to build a barge
To hold a lot of animals, some small and some large,
Said He, bring lots of kibble and build in some big doors
Tall enough and wide enough for dinosaurs...


So Noah cornered all the world's gopherwood
And studied God's plans and started building real good:
A boat three hundred cubits long of sturdy four-by-fours
Praying he could fit all those dinosaurs.


Then Noah looked and looked, and found the oddest thing
The dinosaurs were marching off in time with "Rite of Spring"
The rain commenced to falling with a mighty roar
And he just couldn't wait for no dinosaur.

[last chorus]
  So now there's mammals aplenty, and reptiles too
  Amphibians and fish and even me and you
  But if you don't include the birds that over us do soar
  You're never ever gonna see a dinosaur.

ttto: The Unicorn (Shel Silverstein)
new lyrics (c) 2007 by me

Thursday, June 08, 2017

For Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gotta type fast before this is old news and forgotten by the fickle public. 

Something detected,
Something infected,
Something for everyone:
A Comey day, tonight!

Fakers and ringers,
One with short fingers,
Something for everyone:
A Comey day, tonight!

Nothing with class, nothing with sense,
Bring down the braggart, dirty and dense!

Old situations,
New explanations
Words lose all meaning with the Right!
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comey Day tonight!

Frenzied and bitter
Bleating on Twitter,
Soaked in emoluments:
A Comey day, tonight!

Bleakly depressing
Info suppressing,
Something for columnists
A Comey day tonight!

Nothing makes sense
Nothing feels fair
Short-sighted lies pour out of his hair.
Facts leaked from trials!
Fact-free denials!
Agents from Russia in plain sight!

Bullies and whiners!
Intel and diners!
Oilmen and huskies!
Wingers and Russkies!
Sleeping dogs!
Alt-right frogs!
Bad winners!


[by Kip Williams, after Stephen Sondheim]

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Toon River Anthology, part 17


You look like someone who could use a friend!
But never mind. If there’s one thing I’ve learned,
It’s not to go down that road. The only times
I thought it was going to work, I still got the shaft.
They went to Heaven. Yeah, Heaven! And I’m still here.
How long has it been? A century? A millennium?
So pardon me if I'm just a little bit down today.
It’ll pass. It always passes. I’ll be cheerful again. 
I’ll be a real Pollyanna, and I’ll have adventures.
As to that stone and what it implies, all I can say is:


Born a devil, lived a devil, died a devil.
No, not one of those tall devils, or the fat ones—
Just a little one. Cute, harmless. An imp, really.
Sometimes unexpectedly good, never evil.
Mild pranks, hijinks, tomfoolery, a hot foot or two.
I used to think I’d grow up and get big,
I’d be a regular Mephistopheles!
But no.
If anything, my belly got rounder,
And my head got cuter. Just don’t pat it, Bub,
You’ll burn your hand! (That’s devil humor.)
There was my life: It was OK. I hung with my friends,
Swiped an apple or two.
Not too good, not too bad:
Born To Raise Heck.

Friday, January 27, 2017

another filk

From a few years back…


You only live once, that’s how it goes.
One life and you’re gone, most evidence shows.

You live for your years, you turn your wheel
Some say you get more years; that’s not the deal 

Your life is the least the world puts on your plate
Be fast to the feast, or be late for your fate!

One life all your own, and you’re the price.
One more would be nice, but you don’t live twice

(ttto: You Only Live Twice, DUH)

[slightly revised, 2017]

a swinging holiday

There's a blackboard in one of my classrooms—actually both, since I take both classes in the same room on different days—with some writing on it about snowmen and whatnot. Down near the bottom, in mixed-case cursive, it says "Jungle Bells," like someone was doing the "i" and made two peaks instead of one. In a situation like that, I could (1) just ignore it, (2), fix it, or (3) do something else. I chose (3). Today, as the rest of the class was filing in, I was scribbling away:


Swinging through the trees
With a holly jolly ape.
Music's on the breeze.
Native children gape!
Lights on green fronds cling
And shimmer in the heat.
Let's dance and sing till tree frogs ring
With a yuletide jungle beat! Oh—

Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells,
Through rain forests green!
Carols hum on a wooden drum
From hands that can't be seen, oh—
Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells,
Tinkle through the swamp:
Festive chimes that hang from vines
For a sultry Christmas romp!

So have a happy. The time is out of joint anyway.

Monday, January 23, 2017

way down upon Toon River

Freckles Friendly

A lot of people, when they talk about their life,
Say, “Sure, I did what I did. I had no choice.”
I’m not judging them, but that describes me:
The poor friend of the richest kid on earth!
What else can you do when one family
Owns everything in the county, in the state,
And the pampered heir decides that he
Has to cultivate the poorest of the poor
To show that he has the common touch?
You going to put your foot down, show your pride
And listen to your kid brother cough all night
In the leaky room you share with your folks?
So you listen to his golly-gee platitudes
And you thank him for everything you get,
No matter how trivial or useless it is.
And try your damnedest to save a little,
Shopping at the company store: lotsa luck!
And one day, maybe, you survive it all
And you escape him and go to another state,
Start your own business, and tell folks
That your last name has always been Welloff.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

we need a new label

I've written a reel. Wrote it on January 11, 2017, and on the 16th, I took it to my regular Monday Irish jam group, who liked it and played it. Now I must write more, and now I have a new label for such items.

Look Away (by me)

It's copyrighted. I was going to go with Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA), but Wikipedia seemed to say that these could lead to a legal thicket, which seems like a lot to put on a poor little reel.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Toon River Anthology Excavates Comic Books (continued)


Names are destiny. You have to choose carefully.
Dad and Mom loved to dance. They were the Polkas!
They thought I’d be a dancer too, but I wasn’t like them.
My aunts thought it would be cute to dress me in dots,
Like my name! I was surrounded by dots as a baby.
I couldn’t get over them. They became my life.
Dots here, Dots there. It drove Dad to distraction,
And Mom eventually left us, crying. She still loved us,
But she couldn't cope with it, and she fled the state.
I hardly noticed when she left. She wasn’t a dot!
Partnerless, Dad soldiered on. When I was fifteen, I had an accident,
Fell off my polka-dot bike, hit my head. I was okay. 
But when I realized that I could see spots, beautiful spots, 
Any time, anywhere, just by hitting myself on the head,
My doom was sealed.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Toon River Returns

It's been a while, but the epitaphs keep on coming:


I had wealthy friends, but I preferred the poor kids—
Bedraggled ragamuffins with bad hair and no fashion sense. 
How they gaped at my opulence! How they thanked me
For any little crumb of generosity that trickled down.
“Kissing up,” some called it. I learned the term
From our second Cadbury, on his way out: Bitter!
They could have had an easy life if they’d kept to it,
But when their voices changed, so did their tune.
They still thanked me, but there was some edge to it
That I couldn’t abide. They thought they were entitled!
It wasn’t enough that I let them ride my golden wagon
Down a hill of gold coins and jewels any more. No,
They betrayed my trust. Small gems “accidentally” stuck 
In a shoe or a ragged pants cuff. Dishonest!
I might have even let that go unpunished, if it hadn’t been
For their miserable attitudes. Oh, we’re so poor. We’re so cold.
Our mom is so sick. Our dad got laid off at your plant.
Can’t you do something? You were our friend!
What do you mean “were,” you ingrates?
I sent them away. No sense of respect. Sad!
Who needs them? I have this huge mausoleum now:
A solid gold statue of myself by the best artist,
And my personal police force to keep out the riff-raff.

Oi! Post number 100. Some people get to 100 in a month. It took me about nine years. We'll see how long it takes to get to 100 comments—presently at 59, and half those are me answering back.

Saturday, August 27, 2016



The direct stimulus:

(((Queer Xopher)))@Halftongue 4h4 hours ago 
Today's dream retrieval: "Those feet are covered in intergalactic spit! They can't be allowed to touch Earth!"
Nothing beside remains.
The result (originally parceled out in tweets, and now slightly amended and collected):


And shall those feet, in future times
Moisten our planet's precious soil?
And will the spawn of Ab'rop'od
Spit upon our blood & toil?

Bring me my belt of blazing jet!
Bring me my telescope of light!
Bring me my plans—unfurl them here.
Bring me microbes with hungering bite!

I will not shirk the cosmic fight,
Not drop this phaser from my hand
Till we have shed this eldritch blight
And scoured the Martian from our land!

(ttto: Jerusalem, words by Blake, tune by Parry)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


A wasted figure sits at his computer, laboriously entering characters one by one, using his eye movements to guide the cursor. He is used to this time-consuming work. His body doesn’t  move at all, though his lip seems to twitch every now and then. Time passes, and the file he is working on grows to completion.

Jack entered the transport booth with some misgiving. He knew that when he stepped out, in Rio, it would feel a lot like being hit by a bus. This, in spite of the padding and flex support that aimed to minimize the jarring. Damn Niven, thought Jack. This used to be effortless. You step in, you step out, you’re someplace else. Then Mister Smarty Pants has to pop up with his little wheeze about physics. You move that far, he said, and the differential of the Earth’s movement hits you in the ass. And so it did. Thank you all to hell, Mister Niven.

It was like that with a lot of things, thanks to the naysayers. Smarmy little teacher’s pets, with their hands waving in the air to call out the inconvenient facts we would as soon have ignored. It wasn’t fair! We used to have so much. We had faster-than-light travel, until Clarke had to show us all how smart he was. We used to have aliens here, hundreds of races, so different from ours, dropping in and out all the time.

Now, without FTL, all you saw in spaceports was humans, on their way out, sleeping away the centuries before they had any prospect of meeting anyone who didn’t look just like them. He moderated his gloomy monolog for a moment, to give thanks for the enticing prospect of aliens that still dangled before him, some day, maybe. Thanks for that anyway, Carl...

An impatient cough behind him brought Jack back to the present. A small line was waiting for his booth. No more temporizing; he inserted his card, touched his destination, and waited for the jolt. Ugh! He pulled his card from the slot and staggered back into the couch that was placed for the purpose, and waited for his stomach to quiet down.

Rio looked about like Brooklyn had, except for the climate. Jack sat back and looked at the sky, once a giddy riot of anti-grav cars and flitters. Now it held a couple of traffic helicopters, buzzing around for bad news to feed on. He started to curse the genius who had killed anti-grav, but no name came to mind. Well, damn Whoever!

By now his stomach had stopped complaining about the ride, and began to complain about the lack of food. This always made him so damn hungry. Well, there’d be food at the Institute.

At the thought of the Institute, Jack smiled for the first time. At least the bastards hadn’t taken time travel away. And Jack had a plan. He would go back, back to a time when none of these skeptics had ruined things with their miserable, stupid little laws of physics.

Jack hailed a rickshaw cab and gave the address, and spent a few minutes checking his supplies to be sure he’d thought of everything. Remembering the supply of historically correct currency he was bringing along, he thoughtfully gave the surprised cabbie every bill in his wallet, and took a last look around while he walked the dozen steps to the street door of the Institute.

Pausing only to get a couple of things from his desk, Jack swung through the commissary for a sandwich. He ate quickly, impatiently. After about two thirds of it, he scooped up the rest, grabbed his briefcase and headed for his lab, input his security code and entered.

There it was; the gleaming chrome and glass booth. Jack’s ticket out! He seemed to taste freedom through the last bite of corned beef. He keyed in his destination and an amber light glowed next to a button. Jack swallowed and pressed the button. There was an unfamiliar momentary jolt,

The painfully thin man aims his eyes at a spot on the screen, sending the file to the printer. He wishes for a second that he was an able bodied typist, so he could zzzzip the paper out. A very satisfying and final gesture, that. But this is reality, and wishful thinking doesn’t work here; so instead he rolls tamely into the kitchen for a snack. Glowing on the screen is the title of his latest paper, “A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME TRAVEL IN SCIENCE FICTION: Why It Wouldn’t Work.”
To the memory of Bud Webster, who approved of this story.