A Malcontented Blogger Turns His Back on Aggression: Roman Empire/Super Bowl Edition

If ever an event exists that epitomizes Late Empire decadence, it’s the Super Bowl, the trashy teenage illegitimate daughter of Walt Disney and Joan Rivers.

First, there’s the obscenity of the salaries of these gladiators who essentially entertain us through ritualistic war, a string of overhyped “battles,” each becoming less memorable as the Roman numerals march on into Super Bowl oblivion.  Admittedly, it can be fun to watch these impressive specimens of predatory machismo smash into one another, sidestep tackles, propel perfect spirals, and make acrobatic diving fingertip grabs (though their inability to master the snap count can become tedious).[1] Nevertheless, you can’t help but wonder if the over-compensation for these essentially physical skills is indicative of some sort of skewed cultural atavism that harkens back to Spartacus.  Why, for example, does the secondary coach of the Baltimore Ravens, whoever he is, earn considerably more per annum than Pulitzer winning novelist Richard Ford?  Not to mention Deion Sanders[2] whose career earnings undoubtedly dwarf Cormac McCarthy’s, Toni Morrison’s, and Philip Roth’s combined?

Because our priorities are fucked-up perhaps?[3]

Can you guess which house belongs to Deion Sanders and which to Robert Frost?

Second, there’s the Roman circus of the halftime show, which began innocently enough in the late Sixties with marching bands, but now features antediluvian rockers like Steve Tyler and the Who or commercial hiphoppers like the Black-Eyed Peas.  These performances nearly always end up flat (Prince and Springsteen being exceptions) and occasionally can be painful to watch (Grandpa Jagger frenetically cavorting back and forth across the stage as if it were strewn with red hot coals).[4]  I’m far too lazy to research the cost of these extravaganzas, but I suspect we could coax the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn to meditate on the artificial turf at halftime for free, which would be more entertaining than 90% of the halftime shows I’ve suffered through.

Brittany Spears passing gas at the 2008 spectacle

What, may you ask, binds together all of these facets of this undeclared national holiday – the verbal jostling of the interminable lead-ins (Terry Bradshaw bickering with Howie Long) – the game itself, the outsized attempt at halftime entertainment, the pratfalls of the commercials?

Aggression, that’s what.  Aggression is what separates the winners from the losers, those who pay sticker price from those who browbeat the salesperson into surrender, those who claw their way to the top from those who rely on honor and integrity to guide their lives, those who bury their helmets into the runner’s chest from those who wanly attempt an arm tackle.

Aggression is what fuels capitalism, and sports is a wonderful training ground for aggression, from the bestial grunting of tennis players returning volleys to the narcissistic celebratory endzone fandangoes of wide receivers.  These gladiators are worshipped in their high schools and wooed by head coaches who during recruiting banter with mothers they would never actually associate with otherwise. No wonder most professional football players possess Caligula-sized egos. These mannish boys have clawed their way to fame and fortune (the latter thanks in part to their labor unions).  

Who can blame them for copping the Conan the Barbarian look?

Mike Roemer Photography Inc

[1] When I played junior varsity football for the mighty Summerville Green Wave, we were so collectively stupid that we could only go on “hut one.”

[2] I had the misfortune to share an elevator with Deion once, who exuded all of the warmth of a Secret Service agent as he avoided eye contact with the children asking for his autograph.

[3] Here’s a longish quote copped from Business Insider website that discusses one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire: 

The richest 1 percent of the Romans during the early Republic was only 10 to 20 times as wealthy as an average Roman citizen. Now compare that to the situation in Late Antiquity when an average Roman noble of senatorial class had property valued in the neighborhood of 20,000 Roman pounds of gold. There was no “middle class” comparable to the small landholders of the third century B.C.; the huge majority of the population was made up of landless peasants working land that belonged to nobles. These peasants had hardly any property at all, but if we estimate it (very generously) at one tenth of a pound of gold, the wealth differential would be 200,000! Inequality grew both as a result of the rich getting richer (late imperial senators were 100 times wealthier than their Republican predecessors) and those of the middling wealth becoming poor.”

[4] To be fair, I saw the Stones in 2019, and they were terrific. The Supper Bowl performance was an aberration.

From the Journal of Percival Reginal Ignatius Morehouse

[Editor’s note: Dr. Morehouse is the esteemed editor of Latinate Locutions for the Habitually Silent.]

Perhaps what occurred last Friday is the result of the moon’s and the sun’s elliptical longitudes differing by 180 degrees, for in the wee hours, having been prompted from my recumbent position in the arms of Morpheus by a corporal need for vesical relief, I noticed from the bathroom window that the lunar hemisphere facing me was completely sunlit, appearing as a circular disc illuminating the night sky.

You know, it’s possible that these geriatric spouses’ curtailed narratives possess smidgens of veracity. No, I didn’t bay at the full moon, nor did thick fur suddenly pullulate from my epidermis in a lupine metamorphosis; however, the synapses of my cerebral cortex did misfire – if that’s the word –  into a subversive ideation, a completely impractical plan of action, as if the Imp of the Perverse had commandeered my common sense. 

Or as Ovid might say, Habeo cilium barbam supra Fundamentum meum.

A few hours after Dawn had painted the eastern sky with her rosy digits, I descended the stairs to find my consort standing before a pile of dishes  an accumulation of platters in that domestic space where meals are prepared.

“Beloved,” I said, “how would you like to engage in an impractical odyssey that would have us motor from the Holy City to her sister city Savannah for lunch and then turn around and drive home in time to retrieve Haselden from the halls of academe?”

A smile of enchantment beamed from that face capable of launching a thousand ships, a face so beautiful it might prompt Mrs. Menelaus herself to google “plastic surgeons.”

Consort vis-a-vis Rossetti’s Helen (aka Mrs. Menelaus )

Still smiling, she queried, “But do we have time?”

“Yes, my darling,” I replied. “I have officiated a marriage of science and serendipity. If we depart in thirty minutes, we can arrive at Chive Seabar & Lounge on Broughton Street at eleven when it opens, enjoy a repast of an hour-and-a-half, and then drive home and arrive at Haselden’s educational institution by 2:30 post meridian.”

Savannah, Georgia

By nine, we were in transit, headed south on Highway 17S, motoring past the three Rs: the Red Top Community, Rantowles, and Ravenel, the last hamlet infamous for its severe enforcement of municipal strictures governing vehicular speed. On we progressed through Jacksonboro, past the quaint Edisto Motel, and that notorious naval launch site that has been christened with the unfortunate appellation of “Cuckold’s Landing.” 

After what NASCAR aficionados term a “pitstop”* (where I encountered the abomination below), we merged onto I-95, and in a mere hour found ourselves traversing the Savannah River and into the city itself.

*No, I do not suffer from a lisp.


Exactly at 10:55, our cellular amanuensis Siri informed us that “the destination is on your left,” and much to our astonishment, a parking space devoid of vehicle presented itself for the taking.

Even though what happened next might mislead the reader to consider the narrative a fictional account, just as my consort and I reached the door of Chive Seabar & Lounge, a masked woman of Asian heritage somersaulted the sign from closed to open, unsheathed the deadbolt and ushered us in to a corner table. 

Otherwise, the restaurant was devoid of customers.

We ordered mussels in a yellow curry festooned with onions and pickled cucumbers, skewered scallops, and a mushroom salad, which in honor of Mr. Biden’s election, we shared socialistically. 

Each dish was a savory culinary concoction of toothsomeness. And though castigated in verse for his winged acceleration, Time’s airborne Pegasus-propelled transport did not seem in a haste-post-haste mode, so the luncheon progressed in a comfortable sequence of leisurely elapsing.

By 12:30 PM, after the remuneration of the computation of the meal’s reckoning had transpired, we had exited, were ensconced in our automobile, and retracing the trip in reverse order.

The only glitch in an otherwise splendid sojourn was that we arrived at Haselden’s educational institution forty-five minutes early, although, truth be told, that miscalculation afforded us a premiere position in the vehicular parade known as – pardon the vulgarity – “the pick-up line,” but then again, our prolonged  idleness also presented me with the opportunity to chide the English Department Chairman for refusing my suggestion of adding Tristram Shandy to the 6th grade reading list.

At any rate, it was a full day, and I am now more than ready to close the leaves of this journal and retreat once again into Morpheus’s narcotic embrace.

8:45 PM, 29 January 2021.

Woody Guthrie, Chimney Sweeps, and Taxation

I’m not requiring Woody and Pete to wear masks because they’re dead

When Jennifer Lopez hit the first note of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” during the Inauguration,  I wondered if she would include those two stanzas my elementary school music teacher omitted when we sang it in the early 60s. It was during the folk revival, and for some odd reason Guthrie’s song had acquired a sort of Kumbaya campfire wholesomeness.[1]

J-Lo did leave out the stanzas, but then again “This Land” had been fused into a medley with “America the Beautiful,” and the negative omitted lyrics don’t mesh well with the latter song, essentially a paean celebrating America’s beauty and God’s bestowal of grace.

Here are the oft-omitted stanzas of Guthrie’s song.

In the fifth stanza, the wayfaring narrator –  presumably Guthrie himself – encounters

[. . .]  a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
This land was made for you and me.[2]

In addition, this verse didn’t make the cut:

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
This land was made for you and me.

The latter stanza brings to mind stanza from William Blake’s “London”:

How the Chimney-sweepers cry

Every blackning Church appalls, 

And the hapless Soldiers sigh

Runs in blood down Palace walls.[3]


(Allow me here a quick aside: note the difference between song lyrics and poetry, how the former lacks the evocative rhythm and the compression of the latter. So, no Bennington, you may not bring song lyrics instead of poem. With song lyrics all you’ll talk about meaning when I want you to demonstrate how rhythm, rhyme, imagery, symbolism, diction, etc. underscore the meaning).


Guthrie and Blake both, two centuries apart, complain about disparities of wealth and point out religion’s failure to redress wrongs.

And let’s face it.  Wealth in the US is not evenly distributed, and the disparity between rich and poor is widening.

For example, the wealthiest 1% possess ~ 40% of the nation’s wealth, the bottom 80% own ~ 7%.

I’m too lazy to perform computations to determine how much money Jeff Bezos rakes in a week compared to the total income I earned in 34 years of teaching nor the even deeper disparity between Jeff’s income and a minimum wage employee’s.

On the other hand, no one forced me to major in English or to drop out of graduate school. My meager gifts and temperament don’t calculate into untold riches. I don’t begrudge Bezos’s success. He is highly intelligent, hardworking, and ruthless when it comes to business – advantageous qualities for one seeking to amass billions. 

What gripes me (and should the rest of us 99%ers, even Confederate flag-waving militiamen) is that billionaires like Donald Trump can get away with paying $750 in income taxes in a given year. Don’t we have evidence enough that massive tax cuts for the super wealthy don’t result in a trickling down of their wealth but instead create massive budget deficits, deficits that Republicans don’t care about until the second they’re out of power?

Well, it’s a new day and all that jazz. The times, they may be a changing. However, given the narrow margins of Democratic control of Congress and the on-going gerrymandering of districts by Republican dominated state legislatures, I wouldn’t bet even one of my vintage folk LPs on any significant changes transpiring.

Speaking of capitalism, that fake painting produced by the author is for sale

But then again, if Trump breaks away from the GOP and starts a third party that recruits crazies like Laura Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene to run for House and Senate seats against establishment Republicans and Democrats, that could result in a more European-like US economy.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

I’ll leave you with this Guthrie ditty:

This song was written in New York City
Of rich men, preachers and slaves
Yes, if Jesus was to preach like he preached in Galillee,
They would lay Jesus Christ in his grave.

Hear that, Franklin Graham?


[1] Driving my stepdaughter to school this morning with Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” playing, I mentioned that it was a highly misunderstood song because people mistook the oft repeated line “Born in the USA” as jingoistic crowing rather than an indictment of the narrator’s mistreatment as a war veteran even though he had, not only been born in the US, but also fought for the US. 

“It doesn’t sound very positive to me,” she said. 

[2] Native Americans have taken issue with the inclusion of Guthrie’s song in the ceremonies because it ignores that “this land [that] belongs to you and me” was stolen from them, though I would give Guthrie a break here in that the lyrics suggest that the land belongs to everyone equally and somewhat calls into the legitimacy of  private ownership itself. After all, he was com-MU-nist.

[3] I’ve presented Blake’s stanza as it was published, i.e., with random capitals and missing apostrophes. Give me an S, give me an I, give me a C. 

Poolroom except from “Today, Oh Boy”

Here’s a very short excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Today, Oh Boy.[1]

An accident in the chemistry lab the period before lunch at Summerville High School on a Monday in October of 1970 has required that the entire student body be released early. Ollie Wyborn, a brainy, super rational, and dutiful transplant from the north who has yet become acclimated to the ways of the South, is on an errand to fetch poolroom hotdogs for three girls who have offered to give him a ride home. Ollie has a crush on one of the girls, Jill Birdsong. For weeks he’s been trying to summon the courage to ask to the homecoming dance, though he’s never been on a date and doesn’t know how to dance.


Like his parents, Ollie is a Doubting Thomas. To him, fire and brimstone are natural phenomena, not the elements of an infernal furnace. Yet when Ollie steps into the smoky gloom of the pool hall, he finds himself thinking of illustrations he’s seen of Hell. It smells weird in here, sour and sweet, body odor mixed with fryer grease, stale beer, and cigarette smoke.  Some of these people look damaged. Now he understands why girls won’t come inside.

There’s a cacophony of too-loud raucous voices with those strange vowel-rich inflections –  Whatyousaybo, a greeting sounding more like Swahili than English. An older man with sergeant stripes on his uniform talks to and rocks a pinball machine plastered with curvaceous cartoon women. Lights blink on and off – ding ding ding ding ding.  The metal ball rolls up the incline but now down again.  Flippers flip.  Up the incline and down again. Beneath the ding, ding ding ding dinging, the din of clacking pool balls, laughter, blended conversations. Recorded music blares from a jukebox, a familiar song spelling out a girl’s name: G-L-O-R-I-A. Someone hollers “Rack!,” and a young black boy around ten or so, scurries past Ollie with a wooden triangle in is hand.

About fifteen red swivel stools line a bar/lunch counter, every stool occupied by a male. There’s that old, grizzled character with a white cane and seeing-eye German shepherd, the Old Blind Man Ollie’s seen a couple of times at football games. Next to him in paint-splattered overalls sits a middle-aged fellow with a cigarette dangling from his mouth moving up and down as he talks. Others, all strangers, push their way between the stools to get a server’s attention.

Ollie might as well be in Mozambique as far as knowing the etiquette involved with ordering. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern. Only two people taking and cooking orders for twenty.  They should have a line where customers receive numbers like in a deli instead of this dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest. Ollie spots four guys wearing SHS shop overalls sitting adjacent to one another, so he decides to lean between two of them to place his order.

Who this is here sticking his head here?  Gotdamn round ol’ timey hippie glasses.

“Excuse me, excuse me.”

Ain’t his turn sumbitch. Gotdamn round ol’ timey hippie glasses.

Ollie tries to make eye contact with the older server.  Why the dimness?  Behind the bar a tin sign in fading red capital letters warns NO PROFANITY. There are carved coconut head monkey faces staring vacant-eyed from shelves next to a large jar of rubberized eggs suspended in a murky solution, also prints of dogs smoking cigarettes and playing poker.

“Well, X-cuse you,” a shop boy growls.

“Sorry, but it’s crowded in here.”

“Kiss my ass, Yankee.”

Circumspection.  Circum = around; spec = to look, as in spectacles.

Looking down the bar, Ollie sees a perhaps more convenient place to order, not as close to the door.

He thinks maybe he could dance to this song.  G-L-O-R- eye-eye-eye-eye A!

  J-I-Double L   B-I-R-D-S-O-N-G    

 Jukebox:     Knock on my door

                        Come in my room

                        Make me feel alright . . . 


[1] You can read other excerpts here and here.

A Truth of Blood

“Eurydice” by Alain Le Junter

A Truth of Blood

What harm? Men die — externally —
It is a truth — of Blood —
But we — are dying in Drama —
And Drama — is never dead —
Emily Dickinson

The dream done, my eyes open,
it hurt to be awake.

Outside my bedroom window
faint predawn light seeping
through the dark fabric of the sky.

My late wife had been alive just now,
in the dream her death merely a dream.

I had held her in my arms,
explaining to her that I had dreamed she’d died,
but she hadn’t, no, she was smiling,
warm, lying next to me in bed,

so lifelike, so palpable,
I thought as I lay there afterwards
that her spirit had come to me.

I closed my eyes and fell asleep again,
and, as if in a new episode of the ongoing series of my sleep,
she reappeared, sitting in a chair in an unfamiliar room.

Not smiling now, possessing the wisdom of the dead,
she explained in her soft Georgia accent
that we were out of synch,
that our ages no longer matched,
and it was true, she was young again,
in her twenties, but I was old and stiff.

[poof]

I rose from bed,
and looked down upon sleeping Caroline,
lying there beautiful, a breathing angel,
her hair luxuriant, disheveled, cascading
over the pillow that she embraced,
like a lover in a Leonard Cohen song.

The light strong now,
the sky outside the window bright blue,
my dead wife, like Eurydice,
tumbled back into black oblivion.

I struggled into my corduroys,
puddled on the floor next to the bed,
and tiptoed out, quietly opening
and closing the bedroom door.

Descending the stairs,
I shook my head, waved my arms,
to buck myself back
into the land of the living.

Time to brew a pot of coffee
and retrieve the morning paper,
which lay where flung,
next to a clump of lantana,
the newspaper sheathed in plastic,
protected from the dew,
which had evaporated, had disappeared
into the seeming emptiness of air.

A Tale of Two Cars and of Two Moons

The first car I learned to drive was a bottom-of-the-line four-cylinder 1964 Ford Falcon station wagon that lacked seatbelts and a radio and instead of carpet was equipped with some sort of plasticine flooring reminiscent of linoleum. Of course, given my parents’ frugality, it had a standard transmission, three gears and reverse on the steering column, the antithesis of sporty.

1964 Ford Falcon Stationwagon

In fact, I was responsible for this car’s demise. One afternoon, my friend Gordon Wilson, desperate to see his West Ashley girlfriend, cajoled me to ask my parents for the car on a school night, and, alas, they consented, Gordon was in a king-hell hurry, so I, not wanting to get a speeding ticket, handed him the keys. In a ridiculous short period of time, we made it to his girlfriend’s house, where I made myself scarce, and it was dark by the time we headed home on Highway 61, the so-called River Road that ran from my hometown Summerville, South Carolina, to Charleston past Middleton and Magnolia plantations and Drayton Hall.

Gordon also drove on the way back, and as we sped around a turn on 61, Gordon suddenly cursed, slammed on breaks, and I looked up to see something dark looming in the middle of the road.  We skidded, an awful whoomph ensued, followed by the nauseating sound of crunching metal and shattering glass.

When I came to – I don’t know how long I was out  – I saw radiator steam rising from the crumpled hood and realized that the roof had caved in on Gordon’s side. He was bleeding but essentially okay. When we got out of the car, we discovered a mule lying on its side, still breathing but with labored, wheezy respiration. Weeping, Gordon stood over the doomed animal saying over and over, “You poor thing. You poor thing. You poor thing.” 

I, on the other hand, was lamenting, not so much the plight of the mule, but the death of my car. I dreaded relaying the news to my parents, who would chastise me for letting Gordon drive, a fear that came to be a reality.

As it turned out, however, the mule had escaped from the stables of Middleton Plantation and was not, as I had feared, the property of some impoverished farmer. Of course, Middleton was at fault – the mule wasn’t equipped with reflectors – but my parents, not being litigious, merely received insurance money equal to the Falcon’s worth, which wasn’t much.

Nevertheless, in a rash act perhaps prompted by a midlife crisis, my father replaced our family car with a brand-new chocolate brown 1971 Triumph Spitfire with four-on-the-floor and a radio, not exactly the most practical vehicle for a family of six.[1]

1917 Triumph Spitfire

This was a great boon for me, whose previous car, the now deceased Falcon, had been the butt of unkind ridicule from friends whose more prosperous parents tooled around in Buicks and Oldsmobiles. 

Fastforward a couple of months to May. Gordon and I and two friends I’ll call Tom and Ron were participating in school sponsored parties celebrating the Class of ‘71’s graduation from Summerville High. The four of us were on the way to Givhans State Park for a party, the top of my Spitfire was down, and Tom and Ron were sitting up in the back compartment a la beauty queens or mayors in a parade.[2]

We passed a school bus, and either Tom or Ron said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we mooned that bus.” I was so naïve I didn’t know what mooning meant, and before I realized what was happening, they had lowered their pants were displaying their skinny white butts to the bus behind us.

We thought better of going to Givhans, ending up at the poolroom the way we almost always did. I went home, took a nap, awoke, and started listening to records in my bedroom. 

Around five or so, my brother David came in – maybe with my neighbor Paul Yost – besides themselves.

“Did you hear what happened?” 

“No what?”

“Ron Roe and Tom Doe got arrested for indecent exposure!”

I thought to myself, “Wow, it must be addictive, twice in the same day,” not realizing that the arrest was the consequence of the earlier incident in which I had played a part. Although innocent – I hadn’t spurred them to expose themselves or even condoned it – I was terrified that I too would be arrested. 

As it turned out, neither Gordon nor I were, though virtually everyone but my parents eventually learned we had been involved.

Rumors ran rampant – one woman asked me if I was the boy driving the car that had run the school bus off the road. Now that I think of it, I’m really amazed my mother never found out  because she eventually heard of the incident and asked me if Tom and Ron were, as she put it, “homosexuals.”

I can’t recall how their legal liability played out, but both went on to enjoy prosperous careers, so the misadventure did not do them any lasting harm – though I can’t speak to what mental damage the children on the bus may have suffered.


[1] Going to church, my mother might drive with my brother David and I next to one another in the passenger seat and with my younger brother Fleming and sister Sue Ellen crammed in the back compartment. Believe it or not, we drove all the way to Holden Beach, North Carolina in this configuration, including luggage and a surfboard.

2] In fact, Glenn Farrar and I, armed with peashooters, drove Julie Simmons, a candidate for Homecoming Queen, in the Homecoming parade. Whenever miscreants pelting us with peas from their shooters, which was a parade tradition, Glenn and I returned fire, much to Julie’s chagrin.

Beware of Baphoons: an Extended Definition

painting by Olayinks Taylor-Lewis

More and more I see the bare feet of passengers in SUVs  propped up on dashboards in the posture of the baboon pictured above.

Hurtling along I-81 doing 70-plus, the footloose lefty below fills in her lottery ticket trusting the laws-of-average when it comes to trips per-auto-collision while discounting them when it comes to the odds she’ll claim the Powerball jackpot and spend the rest of her days flying in private jets to luxury boxes to sip mint juleps as she watches the horses run at Pimlico.

Let’s call her foolish.  Certainly, despite her simian posture, baboonish is way too inappropriately pejorative.

The man below, a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, claims that volcano eruptions, not industrial pollution, are depleting the ozone layer and that “Columbus saved the Indians from themselves.” 

Here’s Rush via on personal responsibility concerning drug abuse: 

If there’s a line of cocaine here, I have to make the choice to go down and sniff it [. . .]. If there were a gun here, it wouldn’t fire itself. I’ve got to reach for it and pull the trigger [. . .] We are rationalizing all this responsibility and all the choices people are making and we’re blaming not them, but society for it. All these Hollywood celebrities say the reason they’re weird and bizarre is because they were abused by their parents. So we’re going to pay for that kind of rehab, too, and we shouldn’t. It’s not our responsibility.

From  the LA Times’:

Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was booked on drug charges in Florida on Friday, and his lawyer said Limbaugh had agreed to a deal enabling him to avoid prosecution in the prescription case if he continued treatment for addiction problems and avoided any other run-ins with the law.

Let’s call him a buffoon.  Although crude in his intellectual machinations and often grotesque in his bodily incarnations, Rush is too slick to be called a baboon.


Once, in the picturesque Irish village of Roundstone,  Judy Birdsong, JT Crow, and I had what would have been a delightful noontime meal if a shirtless hirsute man and his morbidly obese wife had not plopped themselves next to us at the luncheon counter. Alas, in this case, no-shirt received service. Although he hadn’t shaved any Arabic numerals in his dorsal fur, he did resemble the fellow below.

I don’t think baboonish is too severe a descriptor.


Once a student of mine mistyped baphoon for baboon, and I thought too myself, “What a great word,”  a cross between a buffoon and a baboon.  It sounds just like what it means. Here’s my definition: a baphoon is a humanoid whose buffoonery crosses crudely into the ass-displaying, territorially aggressive subhuman behavior, a combination of buffoonery and boorishness characterized by passionate overreaction. (Note, baboons don’t possess Second Amendment rights, but baphoons do).  

This illustration should go in the dictionary next to the definition:

Of course, most of us only encounter baboons in zoos, and generally we can avoid buffoons if we avoid certain venues; however, baphoons tend to aggressively invade our territory, so they’re a different matter all together. Whatever you do, don’t try to reason with them.

An Orgy of Ennui Gives Way to the Roaring’ Twenties Revisited

The publishers of the vocabulary series Wordly Wise seem obsessive in their campaign to promote the word ennui. It appears in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade workbooks, and I can’t think of any other word that appears in multiple editions.[1] Here are pages 76 and 77 from Book 6, which we used for our 9th grade students.


Note that the words “yokel,” “ennui,” “transient,” and “orgy” appear in the same lesson and how quaint yokel’s definition comes off: a “gullible country fellow” and how orgy’s definition – “wild, abandoned merrymaking” – sidesteps its sexual content altogether. I learned early in my career that having students write sentences using unfamiliar words was a waste of time, for the same reason I discouraged them from consulting thesauruses: they more often than not misuse the word because they don’t know its connotations. (Here’s a great example of thesaurus misuse from an earlier post).

If they are unfamiliar with the words, students tend to come up with sentences like this:

The landscape company sent over some yokels to dig our koi garden.

We had an orgy at the pep rally with lots of loud cheering.

Or let’s see if we can use both words in one sentence.

The yokels had a veritable orgy of tobacco juice ejaculations as they dug a koi pond in our back yard.

Anyway, back to ennui.  Certainly, ennui transcends mere boredom. It’s more like a malaise, a world weariness, an existence where even orgies seem like a drag. When I taught the word, I also taught John Berryman’s “Dream Song 14.”

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.   
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,   
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy   
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored   
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no   
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,   
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes   
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.   
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag   
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving            
behind: me, wag.

Now that’s ennui!

Well, having endured a year of a pandemic, we all may be suffering to some degree of ennui, despite Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, and TikTock. For most people, simple human contact is a need, whether it be at a sold-out concert or merely in the simple act of shaking hands with a just-introduced barroom companion.

But, hey, it’s the 20s, and the end of Covid (our Spanish flu) in sight. With the Trump Administration (not exactly the equivalent of WWI but pretty damn gruesome) over, and with the legalization of cannabis (our Prohibition) sweeping across the land, we just might set the decade a-roarin’.

In fact, my beloved and I are getting a head start by going full tilt Gatsby (while keeping a sharp eye out for roadside yokels) as we celebrate what we hope to be a new era of love and prosperity).

Happy New Year!


[1] In my 34-year career at Porter-Gaud School, I taught 7th, 8th, 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades, including AP Literature and Composition, so I’m very familiar with the Wordly Wise series. 

Live Reading of “Loose Cadences for Loose Cannons” (a Horatian satire inspired by Alexander Pope)

“chaos of thought and passion all confused” – Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”

Here’s me reading my satirical poem on the Capitol Insurrection at Chico Feo’s Singer/Songwriter Soapbox 18 January 2021.


Here’s the text of the poem:

Loose Cadences for Loose Cannons: A Capitol Insurgent Doggerel Taxonomic Commode Ode

The fever swamps of the radical right
Teem with an abundance of exotic wildlife,

A vast array of various species
Thriving on a regimen of bovine feces.

Look! A QAnon Shaman, bare-chested, toting a spear,
Sporting a smile instead of a sneer,

Stomping around the Capitol wreaking havoc
Fueled by a diet that’s 100% organic.

Then there’s the less colorful Klete Keller,
Who looks to be a regular sort of fellow,

Tall, wholesome-looking, clean-cut, strong of jaw,
A gold-medal winner on the wrong side of the law.

Off duty cops, insurance agents, adjunct professors
Among the herd of headweak aggressors,

A motley crew: CEOs, politicians, welders, sailors,
Some dwelling in mansions, others in trailers,

And militia men galore, bearded, cosplaying Rambo,
Their lingua franca crazy batshit mumbo jumbo,

All exhibiting a disdain for natural selection,
Maskless as they swarm to overthrow the election,

Recording their crimes with selfies and live streams
Taking self-incrimination to ridiculous extremes.

Yet when the FBI arrives to initiate their torment,
They whine and say, “I was just caught up in the moment.”

Like I said, the fever swamps of the radical right
Teem with an abundance of exotic wildlife.

The S.A.D. Roundel Rag Revisited

Charles E Burchfield Winter Sun

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

roundel: an eleven-line poem consisting of three stanzas – a quatrain, tercet, quatrain. The opening line becomes a refrain of the fourth and 11th lines. It is an English variation of the roundeau introduced by Algernon Charles Swinburne.*

Rhyme scheme: abaa bab abaa


The S.A.D. Roundel Rag

Snide winter suns don’t heat
on their blustery ride;
flashily indiscrete,
snide winter suns don’t heat.

Winter suns glide,
bold but effete,
expansive as they slide

over the edge into the deep.
No matter how you search for the bright side,
that lackluster light spells defeat –
snide winter suns don’t heat.


*When in his thirty-eighth year, William Butler Yeats’s sister informed him that Swinburne had died, Yeats declared, “Now I am king of the cats.”