During the Deluge Blues









During the Deluge Blues



Got the stranded, sodden, ennui blues, baby.

Sick and tired of this here deluge, baby.

Rains day and night, no end in sight.

We talking federal emergency blight.


Done run out of booze, way low on beer,

Water in the road up over my ear,

Sharks feasting on feral cats —

even I-and-I ain’t going out in that.


So come here, mama, let’s hunker on down.

It ain’t like we gonna literally drown.

We can play us some Fats Domino

On that thousand dollar stereo

And get our thrill on Blueberry Hill.


Got the stranded, sodden, ennui blues, baby.

Sick and tired of this here deluge, baby.

Rains all day and night, no end in sight.

But Fats gots us feeling all right, baby.













Do Me a Favor and Ditch the Thesaurus

bookworm_thumbnail_cropActually, I’m probably one of the few English teachers who discourage students from mining Thesauruses for synonyms.[1]  Too often, I’ve found, students select unfamiliar words that don’t quite work in context.

He whimsically set the rodent trap with refrigerated smores.

I suggest students only resort to a Thesaurus if they know the perfect synonym – if it’s on the tip of a neuron connected to the tip of their tongues. In other words, if after racking your brain, you can’t quite conjure that perfect word, give in to the Thesaurus, but if you don’t find it there, only choose an alternative from your speaking vocabulary.

Oh, but for a writer, finding the perfect word is a nice an exquisite problem to have in the expansive, supple, exalted, vulgar language of English, a hybrid/mixed breed of German, Norse, and French.

[If you click here, you can watch I-and-I deliver a  3 minute, 56 second lecture on the history of English at the famous Folly Beach dive Chico Feo.]

In other words, English is a mutt – or to use an alternative French-based locution, the product of miscegenation – and that’s propitious/a good thing because it provides a wealth of diversity.

Of course, when it comes to selecting the right word, context is everything. French words tend to soften situations, words of Anglo-Saxon to tell it like it is.

Pity the serfs sweating blood in the moor; envy the bon vivants perspiring champagne at the Belgian spa.

It’s just a class thing – the French aristocrats perspired and urinated, the Anglo-Saxon peasants sweated and pissed. Back in the days of testosterone, my mother once overheard me saying “pissed off” and chastised/yelled at me for my use of vulgar language, and I told her that I’d bring in a jar of piss and one of urine and that if she could distinguish one from the other, I’d quit pissing altogether.

Piss is onomatopoetic – like whiz, tinkle – playful. Urine, not so much.

And then, you throw American English in the mix – and the choices become even more complicated as you try to determine/figure out if lonely or lonesome is the word that best fits the situation you’re attempting to capture/nail.

NOT: After the debacle in the park, Miss Brill felt for the first time the enormity of her lonesomeness.

BUT: The coyote’s howl deepened the lonesomeness of the desolate prairie.

So, if your hateful, bile-ridden uncle’s from London, he might be a misanthrope, if he’s from Boston, a curmudgeon, but if he’s from my home town Summerville, he’s nothing but a mean ol’ cuss.

You get to decide, but stick to the words you know, and when in doubt, aim low.

Class over. I have to go powder my nose.


[1] Forgive the quaint “mining Thesauruses,” but “clicking on a Thesaurus website” lacks that pedagogical, pretentious patina of dust.

Casting the Republican Primary Farce

corey van dyke hamletYears ago, circa The Hog Breeders’ Gazette, back in his Mozart spinning DJ days at SC Public Radio, Robert Fowler and I cast an entire production of Hamlet using comedy stars from early television — Dick Van Dyke as the Prince, Professor Irwin Corey as Polonius, Bill Dana as the grave digging clown, etc.

Let me assure you, if you had been there (and had spent the earlier part of the day as we had), you would have found our casting howlingly hilarious. We even considered creating a Play Bill like poster, an artsy mixed media something or other that could showcase the shtick, but back then, to create art, you had to be able to draw, to know how to develop photos in darkrooms. Now, praise Huxley, if you can afford an Apple laptop and a Photoshop license, art is much more egalitarian, its modes of production not so tilted in favor of talent and technique.

Yes, happily for me, the days of talent have faded like those old photos developed in dark rooms, and hacks like I-and-I can manifest multimedia fairly easily, spit out poems, songs, digital art, manifestos, or homemade Mother’s Day cards.

This morning, for example, after reading a sardonic email from a friend mocking Jeb’s musings on multiculturalism, it occurred to me that if I were casting a farcical movie mocking the Republican presidential campaign, I’d want Peter Sellers to play Jeb (the smart) Bush.

Imagine Sellers in the role, hunching his shoulders, assuming Bush’s ursine posture. Imagine with his genius for mimicry, his ability to make incarnate misstatement via misstep, Sellers’ executing a low energy pratfall.

Well, one thing led to another, and I started thinking about the other candidates. Fiorina, Cruz, Paul, Trump. What comic would best be able to portray them in this screwball comedy?

Who should play whom?

The problem we face at this early stage is that we don’t know who the protagonist will be. Nevertheless, we know Trump will play a leading role, so let’s cast him first.

Donald Trump

I’d go with Jerry Van Dyke, Dick’s venerable brother.

Van Dyke/Trump

Van Dyke/Trump

Let’s face it, we don’t need an Olivier to play the Donald.  We’re talking Borscht Belt slapstick skit television shit.  If he were’t dead  84, Jerry could desitively handle it. Anyone who has seen even one episode of My Mother the Car can vouch for that. All the director would need to do is to get the appropriate wig from wardrobe, have Jerry learn how to pinch his mouth into an anus-like circle, and bluster.


Carly Fiorina




Who better than Bea Arthur to play Carly Fiorina?  When you think about it, both have a lot in common — two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two husbands.  The former a champion for civil rights for women, the latter a campion for civil rights for herself.




Marco Rubio




If the lights are bright enough and he starts sweating, Wayne Newton looks a helluva lot like Marco Rubio.  Or vice versa.  Come to think of it, Rubio might think about approximating Wayne’s coif, Richie Valens-meets-Ronald Reagan.



Ted Cruz

Al Lewis/Cruz

Al Lewis/Cruz


I’ve said this before — and now it’s become a sort of internet meme – but damn, Ted Cruz is a dead ringer for Grandpa Munster.  If only Ted could muster a little of bit of Grandpa’s charisma, he might have a chance.



Chris Christie

christie /fleason



If he could have put on, say, a hundred pounds or so, Jackie Gleason would have made a killer Christie.




Rand Paul







Who better to capture that hard-to-pin-down-elfin quality that Paul exudes than Danny Kaye?





Scott Walker






And finally, the great Red Skeleton as the late lamented Scott Walker.  As they say, two pictures are worth two thousand words.

If college’s so scary, why not join the army?

brave-new-world-bookHow did Orwell and Huxley not predict this dystopian commonplace of Late Empire America – a generation of highly gifted, hypersensitive students in higher education who jolt into Viet Nam vet flashback mode at the mere mirroring in fiction of a situation that once traumatized them? We’re talking situations as insignificant as garden variety bullying, students who police speech the way the KGB policed Solzhenitsyn.

It’s gotten so bad Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld won’t play college campuses anymore.

It only takes two generations. The progeny of grandparents who heaved across the Pacific in malodorous, un-air-conditioned steerage take grand mal umbrage if you assume they’re good at math. According to Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, “a student group at UCLA staged a sit-in” during a class of an education professor and “read a letter aloud ‘expressing their concerns about the campus’s hostility toward students of color’” because the professor “had noted that a student had wrongly capitalized the first letter of the word indigenous” and “[l]owercasing the capital I was an insult to the student and her ideology.”

140206_dx_wellesleynudestatue-crop-promo-mediumlarge-2I wrote about one instance of this hypersensitivity last February [The Delicate, Censorious Damsels of Wellesley] after reading that outraged students had gotten up a petition to remove a statue that they found offensive (a pasty, slightly overweight bald man sleepwalking in his briefs) because of its “triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many[1] members of our campus community.” The key word here is triggering – you see the statue, it flips on a memory of a sexual assault you suffered, so your personal trauma demands that public artwork be censored.

Nagasaki c. 1946

Nagasaki c. 1946

Okay, I’ll go ahead and admit my prejudice. My old man was a tough guy. He was stationed at Nagasaki right after the bomb blast when he was 17. He didn’t talk about it at all, but he did tell me one story when I was in college and he was drunk [trigger warning: depravity] involving a prostitute, a chest of drawers, and a baby’s corpse. I suspect this incident didn’t contribute to the mental health of a seventeen year old, but it didn’t prevent him from watching WW2 movies nor did he demand the world make accommodations for that mischance.

On the other hand, I don’t disagree with Kate Manne’s contention in her Times’ editorial that a voluntary “heads-up” to students on potentially shocking content makes sense — it seems like good manners to me. On the other hand, mandatory warnings on novels like The Great Gatsby are worthy of Swiftean scorn. The reactionary Scots-Irish-English mongrel me says, “If college’s so scary, why not join the army?”

Wallace Steven wrote in “A High-Toned All Christian Woman,” “This will make widows wince. But fictive things/Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.”[2]

Nowadays, it’s the most elite of the younger generation doing the wincing. Doesn’t bode well. A wave of fresh immigrants just might do us a world of good.


[1] 7, 15, 38, 161, 323?

[2] By “this” he means highly imaginative art

Poets on Pain

Expressing physical pain in words is next to impossible.

Here’s a short poem by Trumbull Stickney (1874-1904), who died of a brain tumor:

Sir, say no more.

Within me ’tis as if

The green and climbing eyesight of a cat

Crawled near my mind’s poor birds.

Certainly, if any one would know about pain, the Empress of Calvary would.

Pain has an element of blank;

It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there were

A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself,

Its infinite realms contain

Its past, enlightened to perceive

New periods of pain.

But no one, I mean no one, can top poor John Keats when it comes to embodying illness in words :

Ode to a Nightingale

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,

That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,

In some melodious plot

Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been

Cool’d a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,

Tasting of Flora and the country-green,

Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!

O for a beaker full of the warm South!

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

And purple-stainèd mouth;

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

What thou among the leaves hast never known,

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs;

Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,

Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,

But on the viewless wings of Poesy,

Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:

Already with thee! tender is the night,

And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,

Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays

But here there is no light,

Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown

Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,

Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,

But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet

Wherewith the seasonable month endows

The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;

White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;

Fast-fading violets cover’d up in leaves;

And mid-May’s eldest child,

The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,

The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time

I have been half in love with easeful Death,

Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,

To take into the air my quiet breath;

Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad

In such an ecstasy!

Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—

To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

No hungry generations tread thee down;

The voice I hear this passing night was heard

In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

The same that ofttimes hath

Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam

Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades

Past the near meadows, over the still stream,

Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep

In the next valley-glades:

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?

Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?

After reading that, my scratchy throat and lethargy seem almost heavenly. O for a draught of John Jameson!


Happy Holidays from The Moores – It’s Been a Great 2002!

With all of my students gone on field trips, I sat around today deleting antiquated files and ran across this blast from the past, our annual “corporate” “Holiday letter” from 2002:

Oh my, how the years do fly. It seems just yesterday that our boys were in the Lower School waiting patiently in line at their prestigious prep school to have their hair checked for head lice, and suddenly, in a blink of an eye, here they are each old enough to have wrecked one of our late model Volvos. And, yes, we realize it’s been five years since we’ve shared our great good fortune with you, but building a beautiful new riverfront house, searching for a college prestigious enough for our first born, and traveling back and forth to Ireland have been time consuming endeavors. Nevertheless, we can no longer ignore the clamorous heartfelt supplications to allow you to at least peek into our rich, meaningful lives. So back, by popular demand, here is the Moore Family Christmas Letter, v. 2002.

Ned is a junior at Porter-Gaud School (founded 1867, tuition $11,432 per annum) and has been active in several extracurricular activities such as the Friday Detention Club and the Salvation Army Shopping Society. There is, of course, a lot of peer pressure at Porter-Gaud, especially to make high grades. So many students there spend an inordinate amount of time paying attention in class and studying for tests. Ned, blessed with artistic genius, refuses to run with the herd. You won’t find Van Gogh, Einstein, or Faulkner’s names on any faculty lists or honor rolls either.   We expect great things from Ned, and we’ll keep you posted of any future awards he garners.

According to both emails we’ve gotten from Harrison, he’s flourishing at Georgetown University (founded 1789, tuition $39,500 per annum). Given Harrison’s lifelong dream of working for the South Carolina Democratic Party, Georgetown seems an apt choice given its impressive Center for Cervantes Studies.   Plus, Harrison will be right there in Washington learning the ropes from master politicians such as Trent Lott and Walter Mondale. We couldn’t be prouder of him. Walter Mondale, that is.

Judy’s broken a personal record for consecutive years at the same school: 2.   Admittedly, she sometimes gets frustrated with the Napoleonic administrators and Kafkaesque bureaucracy she deals with unrelentingly on a daily basis, but just last night she told me that working for Charleston County Schools was like being a character in a Beckett play that just won’t end. In other words, she’s leading an award-winning dramatic working life. You go, girl!

Unfortunately, Wesley is having trouble finding a publisher for his latest manuscript, The Lighter Side of 9/11; nevertheless, he’s already at work on a new project, a coffee table book he plans to self-publish entitled The Picturesque Bars of Folly Beach, South Carolina. Of course, researching the project takes him away from home and into the field nightly, but Ned and Judy seem to be weathering his absences remarkably well. In fact, they encourage him to be as gone as long as needed. Sometimes, it’s almost as if they’ve forgotten that he’s not there, because it’s not unusual for them absentmindedly to lock him out of the house.

We’d like to close by assuring the petit bourgeois who apologize for cataloging their mundane triumphs in impersonal solstice letters such as this one that it’s okay. Hey, it’s not your fault that you have a somewhat of a life and can’t find the time to “hand craft” messages to personal friends. We understand.

All that we ask is that you never drop in without calling first.

Wishing you the Happiest of Holidays,

The Moores

Xmas 2002 - seems like yesterday [sob]

Xmas 2002 – seems like yesterday [sob]

The Second Republican Debate: Mourning in America


Is it just I-and-I, or does it seem as if the first Republican Debate took place months ago?

don_ricklesYou may remember that spectacle, the game show set, Meghan Kelly grilling the Donald, who hammed his way through the night’s entertainment like Don Rickles at a celebrity roast.

Horse-race-wise, much has happened since early August with Jeb Bush and Scott Walker falling back and Carly Florina and Ben Carson advancing in pursuit of a frontrunner who has put some distance between himself and the rest of the pack.

In fact, three-term Texas governor Rick Perry has pulled up lame, and to put a merciful end to this old nag of a metaphor, it’s hard to imagine donors ponying up much more money for the likes of Graham, Pataki, and Santorum.

If I were a Republican – and praise Darwin I’m not — I’d be hoping to shed a few more of the side show performers because, as we saw last night, eleven is about six or seven too many.

Last Night’s Debate

The stage is set at the Reagan Presidential Library on September 13, 2015, for the CNN Republican Presidential Candidate Debate. CNN's Jake Tapper will be the moderator for the debate from the Library on the 16th.

The good news: the set seemed less like Family Feud; the bad news: even though Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One provided an appropriately phallic backdrop for a debate featuring foreign policy, it was not the Gipper but Richard Nixon who came to mind as sweat beaded on the debaters’ upper lips and brows.

iwus3It reminded me of those old movies when cops/bad guys shove a detainee “on the hot seat.” Sweating makes people look uncomfortable, as if they’re lying.

Kudos, though, to whoever runs maintenance at the Reagan Library for saving energy in beleaguered California by keeping the thermostat at a planet-saving 78 F.

Jerry Brown, no doubt, approved.

Did Debate 2 Derail the Donald?

This race has befuddled the pundits, made them gun shy. Conventional wisdom says Trump should have faded by now a la Michelle Bachman or Herman Cain last time around.  However, because Trump has thrived after tarring POW war hero senator John McCain, smearing Megan Kelly, etc.,  pundits are equivocating when gauging Trump’s performance last night, speculating that “maybe the air’s coming out of Trump’s balloon” but then quickly adding “you never know.”

One thing’s for certain, however. The candidates have embraced the Trump meme that America is in decline and that each of them is the man or woman who can restore us to greatness.

Oh, for the halcyon days of the second Bush Administration when the economy was in free-fall, financial institutions failing, and ISIS was in utero!

Mourning in America.