Friday, July 18, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

The lead paragraph of the following story states that Raju's rescue is giving the world something to smile about: "Raju the Elephant Cries Tears of Joy While Being Rescued From 50 Years of Captivity." While I am glad, I'm more inclined to weep with Raju for the life he was forced to endure. Excerpt:
Raju was enslaved and used by a drug dealer for 50 years of his life. Piercing metal spikes penetrated his elephant flesh and shackled him for those 50 years....
    Raju never had a normal life. As reported in The Independent, Raju’s life consisted of frequent beatings and intentional starvation to control him. The poor elephant often had to resort to consuming paper and plastic to fill up his large belly.
    He was plucked from the wild by poachers as a baby....

More from Robert Reich: "The Rise of the Nonworking Rich." Excerpt:
In a new Pew poll, more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.”
    In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.
    The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing.
    In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.

So you think American politics has hit an all-time low and things can't get any worse? Well, here is what the future holds...the immediate future: "Millennials' Political Views Don't Make Any Sense." Excerpt:
Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They're for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they've heard of. They'd like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn't run anything.
And we thought, or at least hoped, no group could be more screwed up than the Baby Boomers.

With "friends" like Mexico ["Should Marine be in Mexican prison?", "Remains Thought to Be Those of American Missing in Mexico," and "Mexican Drug War"] so close at hand, why does the U.S. government still invest so much in finding enemies to battle around the world?

"States With Fracking See Surge In Earthquake Activity"? On the bright side, if earthquakes caused by fracking force people to move out of the area, the chemicals the process adds to the aquifer, and the wells it damages, won't matter – because no one will be there to drink the water.

The same people who were surprised to find out baseball players were using steroids and Lance Armstrong was cheating can now be shocked by this bit of news: "35 Disney Employees Arrested On Child Sex Charges In Less Than 10 Years." So sexual predators who preyed on children were focusing on a place that attracted LOTS of children, who would have thought it?

After you finish the beer:

Reading "Germany May Counter U.S. Spying With Typewriters" and thinking of the hands and wrists I had when I used to write more than 100 articles a year on manual typewriters, and wondering how many millions of today's keypunchers would be felled by carpal tunnel syndrome within a week if they had to try it. Now if they will only start making today's "photographers" use 20-pound view cameras like we had back when, I might actually consider going back to photography as a career. Riding a mountain bike with a view camera attached to your that was real action photography!

Well, this brings quite the potential twist to your Thor's Day column: "Marvel's Thor is now a woman, comics studio announces on 'The View'." I wonder if those who consider ancient Vikingdom a religion will react as violently to this as some Islamists did to cartoonists planting a bomb under Muhammad's turban?

The heart of a blue whale is so big, a human can swim through the arteries.

    An octopus has three hearts.
    For every human on Earth there are approximately 1.6 million ants. The total weight of all those ants is approximately the same as the total weight of all the humans on Earth.
    Armadillos nearly always give birth to identical quadruplets.
    A strawberry isn’t a berry but a banana is.
    So are avocados and watermelon.
    Peanuts are not nuts. They grow in the ground, so they are legumes.
    Humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas.

My wife swears by the mostly 30s-era spy novels of Alan Furst, so I'm reading his latest, Midnight in Europe, about the Spanish Civil War. I was arrested by this passage, provoked by the lawyer Christian Ferrar's just having met the eyes of an attractive Parisian woman across the restaurant where he's having dinner:
The French had a very sensible theory that the office and the dinner table should be kept separate, but Ferrar could not stop himself from going back over his meeting with Molina. He had seemed congenial and forthcoming, but he was a diplomat and it was his job to stem so. What was the old joke? Ferrar had to reconstruct the logic but soon enough he had it right. "When a lady says 'no' she means 'maybe.' When a lady says 'maybe' she means 'yes.' But if a lady says 'yes' she's no lady. When a diplomat says 'yes' he means 'maybe.' When a diplomat says 'maybe' he means 'no.' But if a diplomat says 'no' he's no diplomat."
"Extinct sea scorpion gets a Yale eye exam, with surprising results." Excerpt:
“We thought it was this large, swimming predator that dominated Paleozoic seas,” said Ross Anderson, a Yale graduate student and lead author of the paper. “But one thing it would need is to be able to find the prey, to see it."....
    But research by Richard Laub of the Buffalo Museum of Science cast doubt on the ability of pterygotids’ claws to penetrate armored prey. Yale’s eye study further confirms the idea that pterygotids were not top predators.
    “Our analysis shows that they could not see as well as other eurypterids and may have lived in dark or cloudy water. If their claws could not penetrate the armor of contemporary fish, the shells of cephalopods, or possibly even the cuticle of other eurypterids, they may have preyed on soft-bodied, slower-moving prey,” said Derek Briggs, the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology & Geophysics at Yale and curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Briggs co-authored the paper.
By the wife's and my personal favorite of your sister Mary's paintings ["Posthumously speaking"] is the snow scene, followed by the two kids and foliage in the first one.
    LOVED THEM!! Keep your sister alive!

Thank you. I'll wait hopefully for next Friday's offering.

Limerick of the Week: Three weeks ago I asked a friend who also writes verse what he thought of my limericks. I told him I felt that I'd been writing some goods ones lately, "but I may just be suffering the delusion of the author."
    My fellow versifier responded that he wondered about the rules or conventions of the limerick. He said he had noticed "lots of clever partial rhyming and variation of line lengths" in my limericks, and he wondered, traditionally, how strictly limericks are supposed to stay within certain bounds.
    He remembered that the limericks he heard in elementary school seemed to adhere to the "number-of-syllables-per-line pattern of: 8 8 6 6 8 (creating sort of a rollicking sway when spoken)." For example, this winner of an Irish "Listowel Writers Week" prize in 1998, according to Wikipedia, rollicks most agreeably :

Writing a Limerick's absurd,
Line one and line five rhyme in word,
    And just as you've reckoned
    They rhyme with the second;
The fourth line must rhyme with the third.
    I told my friend that I hadn't thought much about the rules, except that I always adhere to the AABBA rhyme scheme and make the third and fourth lines shorter than the first, second, and fifth). I've let the longer lines grow to as many as fourteen syllables and the shorter ones contract to as few as four. Have these verses thereby ceased to be limericks?
    I told him that although the standard metric foot for a limerick is anapest (ta-ta-TUM), I naturally gravitate to iambic (ta-TUM). Have my verses without noticeable ta-ta-TUM feet thereby ceased to be limericks? I acknowledge the challenge to have more ta-ta-TUMs in my verses, and not just to satisfy a rule, but to train my ear to be more flexible.
    Another traditional attribute of limericks is that they be obscene, or at least humorous. I have quite intentionally written verses that I never intended to be funny. Have these verses thereby ceased to be limericks?
    I'm sure that some people – and not just purists – have dismissed many of my verses that I've labeled "limericks" as not, strictly speaking, being limericks at all. And I think that is fair. Maybe I should have titled this section of "Fish for Friday" "Verse Inspired by the Limerick"...or perhaps:

Glimmerick of the Week:
There was a knowing marksman went by Annie Onymous,
at other times he'd simply sign himself Anonymous;
    he would snipe, he would snark,
    he would gripe, he would mark;
he might for truth of course have gone by Ken E. Ponymous.
Copyright © 2014 by Morris Dean


  1. Thanks to everyone whose correspondence I selected for fish: Raju's terrible ordeal, nonworking rich people, Christian nation, empathy, priorities, nothing for nothing, God's best friend, America's friends, fracking bright, where the kids are, setting type, Thora, who means maybe, keeping Mary alive, glimmer of a limerick....

  2. The concluding verse was true to its label: a glimmer of a limerick.

  3. Definitions are never as clean as we'd like them to be. They often have fuzzy boundaries, and so we can dispute, for example, whether a certain plant is a tree or a shrub. Fortunately, the day is often saved by a concept known as a "defining characteristic"; that is, a characteristic that is essential if we are to classify something as an X or Y. In the case of "limerick," there are two defining characteristics: an AABBA rhyme scheme and a predominantly anapestic meter. Take one away, and you don't have a limerick. Now, you can quibble about "predominantly," but if your ear is good, you know instantly whether the anapests have been routed by other metric invaders.

    Do the line lengths of limericks matter? No, they're not defining, although the third and fourth lines must be shorter. Does a limerick have to be raunchy or funny? It's traditional, but I don't think it's defining. A limerick can be instructive or informative, as is the one that won the Irish competition.