You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

May 14, 2008

what brings you to a joint like this?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 4:20 pm

. . . . five years and holding . . .

Time flies (and flees) for the f/k/a Gang, even when we’re not having fun. At the end of this month, this weblog will stumble upon its 5th anniversary. As seems to happen this time every year, all my alter egos — from Prof. Yabut to haikuEsq — are debating the future of this site:

Do we want to continue? And, if so, how often will we be posting and what will the content be (especially now that the Editor says he’s sworn off producing judgmental material in the realms of lawyer ethics and politics)?

Genuine haiku will always be a part of this weblog but, frankly, haiku alone is not enough to keep my interest — I need to be thinking and writing about matters of substance that have value as entertainment or commentary for myself and others.

So, as we “celebrate” producing thousands of substantive posts over five years, I urge our regular readers (and those who might become regulars) to let us know what we’ve been doing — or could be doing — that will keep them coming.

the mime
in our mittens

early Alzheimer’s
she says she’ll have . . .
the usual

……………………………… by John StevensonQuiet Enough (2004)

Meanwhile, the amount of traffic f/k/a gets from Google and Yahoo searches (a couple thousand visits a day) continues to amaze me. It’s good to know that a topic that seems important or interesting (or just enjoyable) to the Editor is liable to be stumbled upon by folks far outside this joint’s circle of denizens, long after the pixels were originally posted. As much as we enjoy the searcher who arrives at f/k/a inadvertently, the purposeful search engine arrival is especially appreciated. They make our frequently laborious attention to detail worth the effort — and, indeed, help explain why we so often include links to our prior (and subsequent) pieces in our posting: to make research and follow-up easier for our valued SEVs (Search Engine Visitors), especially those who might have disagreed with our analysis and conclusions when they first arrived but are willing to dig deeper.

Why am I not surprised? Our April 27th posting “at least they’re upscale nudists” — a tongue-in-cheek response to an NYT article about the new trend in so-called “nakations” — has caused a constant spike of two to three hundred added visitors a day. Our Google placement when “nudists” is searched is amazing and inexplicable. No wonder there is so much sexual innuendo and content during Sweeps Weeks in our media.

Some of our old posts are read virtually every day thanks to pointers from Messrs. Google, Yahoo and Jeeves, and some are read many times a day month after month. The fact that so many people are continually searching a particular topic surely tells us something interesting about what is on/in the mind of the American or global public. But, I’m going to let you draw your own conclusions about the significance of the most frequent search engine queries.

half a glass of wine —
Google keeps asking
“did you mean . . . . .?”

………. dagosan

In no particular order, here are some of the queries that bring SEVs to f/k/a every single day of the year. Those related to “culture” (or Americana) are listed first, and then lawyer-oriented searches. Classic haiku poet Kobayashi Issa, and his translator Prof. David G. Lanoue, assist our presentation.

The meaning of gumbah/goombah. ScaliaGesture

This question has lured SEVs to us again and again since we referred to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as a “tasteless gumbah” (after his crude chin-flip gesture in March 2006) and Evan Schaeffer asked just what a goombah is. Our response “goomba-goombah-gumba-gumbah” keeps ’em coming, as does a follow-up relating goombas to gossips. So, whether they’ve just been called one, wonder how to spell it, or are still exploring Soprano lore, goombah seekers end up here, with our post being Google’s first result, and Yahoo!’s, too.

making a face
he turns down the pufferfish soup…
teaching the children

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

And, don’t forget the “agita.” Whether they’re looking for the song by the fictional Nick Apollo Forte (from Broadway Danny Rose), or the definition of the Italiante term, our “what is agita?” has been soothing the tummies and curiosity of Google querists several times a day for the past two years. You can blame Ed at Blawg Review for instigating our lengthy discourse on literal and metaphoric acid indigestion.

in winter wind
a churning, churning
in my belly

lying belly-up
yet still singing…
autumn cicada

walking off
a bellyful of rice cakes…
a cold night

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Gossip is also on the minds of many Googlers. Questions like “Is gossip good or bad” or “why is gossip bad?” bring SEVs here day and night — with search engines pointing to our posting “good gossip, bad gossip” (Nov. 7, 2007). The post delves into the amazing history of the word gossip. [Psst: It’s another topic where f/k/a comes in 1st with both Google and Yahoo! out of millions and millions of results.]

is someone gossiping about me?
spring journey

…………… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Prof. Lanoue tells us: “Shinji Ogawa explains that there is a belief in Japan that when a person sneezes, this indicates that someone is talking about him or her.”

the gossip
her yard fills
with leaves

………. from Tom Painting’s chapbook piano practice

ChurchillMug Brain-Heart-Over-30: A constant favorite at f/k/a is our posting “did Churchill coin that over-30 maxim?” (June 21, 2005). Are conservatives looking to diss liberals, or liberals wondering who started the slur?

a chestnut hit
an old man…
so the legend says

fool cat–
putting his whole body
into his yowl

leisure class– brainG
“Mosquitoes have come!”
they say

………………. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

We don’t know their motives, but we’re happy to set the SEV’s straight, while also offering our up-dated, pictoral 21st Century Version in “political maturation after age 30” (June 22, 2005):

over 50 + heartG + brainG + eyesGL thoughtful liberal

my nights of pleasure
are ancient history…
new summer robe

harvest moon–
when my heart’s had its fill
it’s dawn

I’m the scarecrow’s

…………… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

. . . Parking Tickets and their avoidance are apparently troubling many Americans. Some are wondering (or complaining) about, and find their way to our 2004 posta better fix than” In addition, those irked by parking meters can soak up the information in our post “Parking Meters 101.”

steady rain
a pickle
in the parking lot

……. by Tom Clausen

Blue Code: Many Americans are interested in the /blue code of silence/ that often keeps police from reporting the transgressions of fellow officers. Google sends them to our “good cops and the blue code of silence” (Dec. 3, 2007). Are they muck-raking journalists, discouraged civilians, or potential whistleblowers?

the samurai street
perfectly silent
spring’s first dawn

…. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

winter fog
everyone crowds around
the mime

……….. by ed markowski

scarpimp Scarlet Pimpernels: People looking for the words “they seek him here, they seek him there” — which is a verse from the movie The Scarlet Pimpernel — are also stopping by f/k/a every day, as our 2005 posting “they seek him there” is often the #1 Google result for that query. I’m sure at least some of the seekers are surprised at finding the inspiration for their quest.

playing hide-and-seek
in the grass…

seeking sanctuary
with a sigh of relief?
first firefly

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

skaterSignN Treading on thin ice? A lot of folks apparently are, and the #1 result for an MSN, Google or Yahoo! search for /if we’re treading on thin ice/ is our posting “dancin’ on thin ice” (April 22, 2007), where we try to pin down the source of the notion that dancing makes sense, if you’re walking on thin ice. My introduction to the concept was the 1972 song “Do It” by Jesse Winchester, from the LP album “Third Down, 110 to Go.” The line inspired the following haiga (which, in color, adorns the December page of our 2008 Giacalone Haiga Calendar):

round and round with you
on thin ice

…. haiga (full size in full color): poem by David Giacalone
photo by Arthur Giacalone (Central Park, NYC, ice rink, “The Gates”, March, 2005)

55 limit n Speed and Fuel Efficiency: Sometimes, it is very rewarding to see a topic hit the news or prick or national consciousness. We’re especially glad to see how often the issue of fuel efficiency and driving speed is being Googled recently, and that so many SEVs are on clicking on our recent viewpoint positng “speed limits and efficient driving.” Let’s hope opinion leaders and responsible politicians are among those who want to learn more about this topic.

Earth Day –
recycled bottles
in a three-car garage

… by dagosan [April 24, 2005]

toiletpaperG Toilet Paper Checks is another relatively recent but popular topic here at f/k/a, thanks to excellent search engine placement (viz., the 1st result in a Yahoo! search, and second with Google). Granted, this is not our most weighty issue, but our posting on the “toilet paper check story” was a timely and much-needed effort to make up for the blawgisphere’s failure to deal with a topic that is clearly on a lot of minds.

spring equinox –
the toilet paper roll

. . . . . . . . . . . . . by Laryalee FraserSimply Haiku Autumn 2006, vol 4 no 3

BaseballHaikuCover Baseball Haiku are sought every day by fans of baseball and of haiku. Thanks to our f/k/a baseball haiku page, and our frequent discussion and sharing of the book Baseball Haiku (Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura, eds., W.W. Norton Press, April 2007), many of the searchers end up at this website — and, we must confess, find much to enjoy.

the toddler
runs to third base

bases loaded
a full moon clears
the right field fence

. . . by Tom Painting from his chapbook Piano Practice

Sex offender residency issues bring many SEVs to this weblog everyday, making our efforts — we’ve written over 20 posts on the topic — seem worthwhile. That’s especially true because many members of the public and their “leaders” are looking to run SOs out of town on a rail, or ban them from even entering, and we’re happy to give them a little food for thought before they do.

Ill-conceived sex-offender laws make a good transition to the law-and-lawyer-related posts that are most popular with SEVs. Because so much of our analysis of lawyer ethics and professional responsibility issues (especially concerning fees) falls on deaf ears within the legal community, we’re pleased to be here to offer guidance and opinion (or maybe a little hope) for general members of the public interested in related topics — and to an occasional open-minded law student or member of the bar. As we recently noted in another context, Upton Sinclair helps explain much of the deafness of the Bar when it comes to issues of legal ethics:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job [or income] depends on not understanding it.” . . . Upton Sinclair, US novelist, investigative journalist & socialist politician (1878 – 1968)

unaware of the thief’s
eyes, melons
cooling in water

the thief
is just as he is…
hazy moon

…….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Capoccia1999 [Lawyer-felon] Andrew J. Capoccia: brings a lot of attention to f/k/a, after we gave a lot of attention to him. I don’t know whether our SEVs are seeking debt-reduction relief or were victims of Capoccia’s fraud and avarice, but people querying “Andrew Capoccia” bring a lot of hits to our posting “blame bar counsel for the Capoccia Scandal” (March 8, 2005), and related pieces.

a reed thrush–
chasing the incompetent

those have turned pale blue…
cherry blossoms

…….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Killing All the Lawyers is on the mind of a lot of people with internet access. Whether they are literary scholars or irked clients, the f/k/a Gang is happy to help them understand Shakespeare’s famous quote from King Henry VI, Part II — with our piece “Shakespeare and Lawyers” — especially since the organized bar has been going out of its way for over a decade now to spread misinformation about what Shakespeare meant (with their delusional propaganda insisting that Shakespeare felt lawyers were the great bulwark against anarchy and revolution).

killing a chicken–
the willow at the gate
so green

it’s a man-killing
mushroom, true…
but pretty!

…….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Lucky Issa: Apparently he never ran across any lawyers in his lifetime of travel in 18th Century Japan. David Lanoue has translated over 8000 of Issa’s poems at his Issa website, and not one of them — we searched! — mentions a lawyer.

By the way: Looking for an image to use with this blurb, I stumbled upon the novel “Kill All the Lawyers: a Solomon vs. Lord Novel” (Bantam, 2006), from a best-selling mystery series by ex-lawyer Paul Levine. It has great reviews for wit and suspense, and for the gender battles between the two main characters, who are partners in both law and love. Two days later, I saw the book at our public Library’s 3-for-a-dollar used paperback sale and knew I was fated to read it. So far, I’m only a couple dozen pages into the book, but have a feeling that I will become a Solomon & Lord fan. For instance, you gotta like a book that, on page 3, has a 12-year-old telling the lawyer protagonist: “You’re confusing irony and coincidence, Uncle Steve.”

SuaveSN Which reminds me: people Googling /ironic vs. coincidental/ come to f/k/a almost every day, being brought to our irony posse discussion. It’s good to see that this issue isn’t just Prof. Yabut’s pet peeve.

Hourly Billing has been much-maligned in the legal profession during this millennium, and alternatives to it much-praised. Because much of the complaints about hourly billing is undeserved (and self-serving), and takes attention away from the general greed that would cause excessive lawyer fees under any billing system, it is rewarding to see how often SEVs are checking out our posting “broadening the houly-billing debate,” along with our many frank assessments of the value-billing and premium-pricing bandwagons.

cherry blossoms–
residents of this world
a short time

going out to fart
about ten times…
a long night

the bill collector
with shoes on steps inside
to the hearth

……………. by Kobayshi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

The ethics of Contingency Fees and Lawyer Fiduciaries are also topics that are too-often ignored by lawyers, but thankfully not search engines. We are thrilled, therefore, that SEVs arrive on our shores daily to read our condemnation of the standard contingency fee — e.g., “contingency fees (part 4 of 4): ethical duties” (April 7, 2006) — and our exhortation to act as fiduciaries when setting fees. E.g, here and there.

for the fat green frog
crouched on the log
time is flies

……………………………….. by George Swede – from Almost Unseen

Bankruptcy and Bar Admission is Googled surprisingly often, and brings visitors to this weblog to read- “Bankruptcy and Bar Admission – a proposal” (Feb. 2, 2004). Let the client (and bar examiner) beware.

at his house
though he’s dirt-poor…
plum blossoms

..…………. by Kobayshi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Unhappy Lawyers and lawyer unhappiness ooh

People are constantly looking for Professor/Dean [now federal district] Judge Patrick J. Schiltz’s article,”On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession,” 52 Vand. L. Rev. 871 (81 pp pdf), and Google directs them first to our posting declaring it to be mandatory reading.

night work–
outside the mosquito net
she thinks of her child

…. by Kobayshi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

prayingHandsS Examination Prayers — are on the minds and lips of many a Googler. The quest send them morning and night to f/k/a, and our posting “wanted: a law school exam prayer” from December 2005. [Aside: my brief stint as an adjunct professor suggests that it might just be law professors in search of examination prayers.]

even the pigeon
says a prayer

…. by Kobayshi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Finally, in case you’re stuck, along with the f/k/a Gang, inside the “bad-memory century” — see results from Google and Yahoo! searches — we’d like to remind you that the whole Gang is hoping you’ll let us know whether we should retire from “blogging,” or what we might do that would keep you coming back to f/k/a.

Bonus: One thing I plan to do even more of here at f/k/a (if the weblog continues), is bringing you haiku by our Honored Guest poets that are not available online — poetry being published in “hard copy” journals, books and anthologies but not in cyberspace. I want to urge our poet family to continue to send me their off-line work, so we can make it available to a broader audience by posting it at f/k/a.

For example, here are haiku and senryu by Hilary Tann, from the Fall 2007 issue of Upstate Dim Sum, the bi-annual anthology from the Route 9 Haiku Group.

Oakland sojourn –
warm lemons
from the ground

living alone –
the unexpected familiarity of my voice
answering a call

cooking for my parents
I try to remember
what mother taught me

snowy sky –
the arched backs
of milkweed pods

steady rain
street numbers climb
to the 100s

leaving him –
she takes her pebbles
and pressed flowers

Indian summer
algae floats

summer haze
cottonwood dander
on the porch steps

………………………. Hilary Tann from Upstate Dim Sum 2007/II


  1. Wow, that’s quite an analysis!

    But I love reading our search queries, too. Aside from the number of hits and number of downloaded pages, it’s the only stat I’m addicted to (and it’s by far the most interesting). Some are obvious, some are funny but understandable, and a few are downright confounding (as in, “I never wrote that word or phrase, don’t know what it refers to, and have no idea what is going on in the head of the person who googled it!”) These keep me up nights.

    Comment by Anne — May 14, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

  2. Hi, Anne. “I never wrote those words” can leave me scratching my head, too. I guess you must be a raging SEO genius to attract SEVs without even writing the queried phrase. [Don’t get me started on those spam-happy, phony-commenting SEO creeps.]

    Actually, when I have an “I never wrote that””mystery, it often means that one of the queried words appeared in one posting and another somewhere else down a page that collects posts into months or categories, or possibly the word is in a Comment.

    Search-query monitoring can definitely be addictive.

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 14, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

  3. Happy birthday f.k.a.! How the time passes. I look forward to seeing where you go from here.

    Comment by John Stevenson — May 15, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  4. Many thanks, John, for your good wishes and all the good poems you have contributed to f/k/a over the years.

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 15, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

  5. happy birthday fka… please accept
    this gift…

    gutter ball…
    on the bowler’s table
    ten empty long necks

    field goal
    a cheerleader spins
    end over end

    deep winter
    a young boy stickhandles
    into a snow squall

    winter moon
    the hockey puck
    on a frozen pond

    Comment by ed markowski — May 15, 2008 @ 8:31 pm

  6. Many thanks, Ed. My cornucopia is overflowing. Guess you showed ’em you’re not a one-hit (baseball) wonder!

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 15, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

  7. David:

    Congrats on the 5th anniversary. I have four main reasons I visit regularly:

    1) Haiku

    2) Specifically, Daniel Lanoue’s Issa translations also brings me here. Eventhough I subscribe to his daily email Issa, I just love to see what you have selected from his archive.

    3)Your droll, generally spot-on pov on many a topic. As a librarian, your outrage (and it was outrageous) at the extended closing of the Schenectady library gave me hope … especially since they now seem to be backing down from their original intent.

    4) Your wonderful use of white space.

    Congrats and though I’d like to wish you 5 more years, whatever direction you go will, I’m sure, be good.

    Don @ Lilliput Review

    Comment by Don — May 16, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress