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

February 26, 2009

rivers, sunset, metaphors galore

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 9:07 pm

February thaw
a new patch of orange
on the river

… by dagosan

Catching another sunset or two in photos before we “archivize” this weblog on Saturday seemed like a good idea, as the afternoon waned today. [click “more” below to see some of the photographs]  Naturally, I managed to dawdle so long at this keyboard that I only caught the last few moments before the sun dipped behind nearby hills.  My timing was a metaphor of sorts for much that has happened (and not) lately in my life.  Of course, the sunset itself was a too-obvious symbol (along with the promised sunrise after a long dark night) for the ending of an important era in my life. (more…)

February 19, 2009

officer johnson’s undercover operation [updated]

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 11:57 am

.. The tired old fogies at f/k/a want to thank the energetic Scott Greenfield for covering the latest Schenectady cop scandal at his Simple Justice weblog, so we won’t have to think too hard this morning.  See “Even Cops Need Some Sleep” (Feb. 19, 2009)

  • Teaser: Schenectady Police Officer Dwayne Johnson made three times his base pay last year, while averaging 75 hours a week on the clock (making him, at $168,000, the highest paid employee in Schenectady’s history).  However, after several late-night stakeouts, Schenectady Gazette reporter Kathleen Moore reported yesterday that Officer Johnson has been parking his car outside a local apartment that is not his home for a few hours every Tuesday night since November, during his patrol shift.   Despite being tracked by a GPS monitor in his unit, no supervisor caught the apparent dereliction of duty.  See “Chief: Cop ‘stealing time’: Johnson, tops in pay, out of car during shift”  (by Kathleen Moore, Feb. 18, 2009).

Responding to the question from Schenectady Police Chief Mark Chaires, “how dumb can you get?”, Scott points out that “neither Chief Chaires nor anybody else on the force thinks that somebody ought to take the occasional gander at their top earner, the big money man, to make sure they are getting their money’s worth?” Scott then muses: “How dumb? Not as dumb as you, Chief.”

Follow-ups today (Feb. 19, 2009): “Cop case probed for collusion: Chief wants to know why supervisors didn’t notice AWOL officer’s absences” (Daily Gazette , Feb. 19, 2009); “Editorial: In Sch’dy, Car 10, where are you?” (Daily Gazette, Feb. 19, 2009; “He deserves to be fired, and anybody but a union officer or lawyer, or perhaps arbitrator, would agree.”); “High-paid cop accused of slacking off” (WNYT/CH.13, Feb. 18, 2009, with video); “Did Schenectady’s $168G cop spend hours away? Schenectady probes whether highest-paid officer was at apartment while on duty” (Albany Times Union, February 19, 2009); “Tarnishing the badge: A decade of trouble for Schenectady police” (Times Union, by Paul Nelson, Feb. 19, 2009)

update (Feb. 20, 2009): The Gazette tells us this morning that Officer Johnson was “suspended without pay Thursday while the department investigates the extent of his absences during his overnight patrols.”  He apparently will have to be paid if kept on suspension longer than 30 days. “Absent officer out for month: Bennett begins cop AWOL probe; union issues cited” (Feb. 20, 2009).  I’m surprised that Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett believes “it will take well over a month to finish the investigation into Johnson’s absences. Also under review are the supervisors who did not notice them and the officers who may have tipped him off when internal affairs attempted to catch him in the act early last Tuesday.”  I’m not surprised that he expects the police union to argue napping has become a “past practice,” approved regularly by lower-level supervisors, that cannot be changed without union approval.

The Gazette notes that “Some officers, who spoke anonymously, say everyone who works long shifts takes naps, beginning at lunchtime. They argued that an unspoken rule in the department allows napping to continue after lunch as long as police get up as soon as they get a call.”  Bennett says: “If someone had the absolute and unmitigated gall to call [napping] a past practice, well, supervisors do not have that kind of authority to authorize that.”

In his update this morning at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield trumpets “The new frontier for police contracts: Napping Clauses.”

Officer Johnson is 49 years old and apparently considers a double shift to be his regular work day.  The f/k/a Gang understands the need to nap (although, altogether, we alter egos aren’t working 75 hours a week), but we agree with the Gazette that if the conduct is proven, Officer Johnson should be fired.  At the very least, some major auditing of his time records is needed, plus more scrutiny of his so-called supervisors.

Undercover? Lawyer Greenfield concludes: “But don’t fear that Johnson will go unpunished. My bet is that his wife will have a few questions about what he was doing in that apartment every Tuesday morning.”

We don’t get paid overtime (nor anytime) here at f/k/a, but we’re always workin’ hard trying to bring you some of the best haiku around.  As promised yesterday, here are poems written by a few of our Honored Guest Poets that were selected for the newest issue of Frogpond [Vol. 32:1, Winter 2009].  We’ll have another batch later this week.

turning back on a dead end street —
one odor changes

… by Gary Hotham – Frogpond Vol. 32:1 (Winter 2009)

heat lightning the crooked split in the watermelon

… by w.f. owen – Frogpond Vol. 32:1 (Winter 2009)

second honeymoon
a flock of turnstones
skirt the shore

dry spell
a field sparrow flashes
burnt umber

… by Tom Painting – Frogpond Vol. 32:1 (Winter 2009)

full moon–
I finally share the secret
with my cat

….. by Alice Frampton – Frogpond Vol. 32:1 (Winter 2009)

fallen leaves
the small fir

the barren windbreak sifting a rainy fog

…. by Tom Clausen – Frogpond Vol. 32:1 (Winter 2009)

winter night
the heat comes on
between us

a retinal sun
wanders through
the observation car

… by John Stevenson – Frogpond Vol. 32:1 (Winter 2009)

our long bathtub soak — 
a ring around
the moon

…. by David Giacalone – Frogpond Vol. 32:1 (Winter 2009)

p.s. Speaking of criminal justice in Schenectady, the print version of the Daily Gazette has an article on p. B3 titled “Imposter [sic] suspect in Regents exam faces lesser charge” (Feb. 19, 2009).  In it we learn that District Attorney Robert Carney won’t be charging Deandre M. Ellis with burglary [illegally entering a building intending to commit another crime] for entering a Schenectady school to take a Regents exam in disguise for another student.  We were doubtful of the arresting officers’ legal reasoning in a post on Jan. 29, 2009 (scroll to second story).  Instead, Ellis is being charged with misdemeanor criminal impersonation, which he denied at his arraignment yesterday. DA Carney explains that “There has to be some sort of notice or communication to [a] person that ‘you’re not welcome’ to convert [entering a public building like a school] to a trespass,” on which to hang a burglary count.  According to the Gazette:

“But Carney likened the case to a shoplifter.  Anyone is allowed in a store, until they’re asked to leave. But a shoplifter isn’t charged with burglary, Carney said, even though they may have entered with the intent to steal.”

Tonsorial-forensic experts should note a mystery raised in the case:  Ellis wore a wig when posing as a female student in January.  As you can see above, he has short spiky hair in his mug shot.  But, three weeks later, he appeared in court with “long hair, past his shoulders.”  Neither Ellis nor his public defender were willing to comment on the issue.   Could it be Ellis will claim he always goes around in the long wig and therefore was not trying to impersonate the female student?

..  two good ideas from Schenectady County . .

February 13, 2009

Valentine flamingos return to the Stockade [updated]

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 7:27 pm

.. they’re back: Lawrence’s Valentine Flamingos, 2009  ..

As we reported in detail this time last year in “Lawrence and the Flamingos – a Stockade Valentine mystery,” a flock of pink flamingos (genus “phoenicopteris ruber plasticus ) has been returning each Valentine’s Day to the traffic circle home of Lawrence the Indian, at the intersection of Front, Ferry and Green Streets, in Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood.  The f/k/a Gang planned to be up at sunrise on Saturday, February 14th, to see whether our Valentine Flamingo miracle would continue in 2009, and to snap some pictures, if it did.

To our surprise, while strolling the neighborhood at sunset tonight, February 13, the “flamboyance” of fourteen flamingos had already landed at the feet of Lawrence.  We don’t know if the blustery winds blowing the past two days across the Northeast accounts for their premature arrival, but Valentine romantics will have even more time to enjoy this Stockade Valentine tradition.

.. . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

.. sunset, Feb. 13, 2009, photos by D.A. Giacalone ..

.. ..

The light wasn’t great for this amateur photographer to capture the event this evening, but the photos above surely hint at the joy the big pink birds bring to Valentine lovers and Stockade residents each year (thanks to two flamingo shepherds who want to remain anonymous).  We promise to take more photos tomorrow in full daylight and add them below, along with a flock of flamingo haiku and senryu. [follow-up: the tradition continues; see suns along the Mohawk, Flamingo Visitation 2011.]

To whet your appetite, here are two haiku written specifically for this year’s Stockade Flamingo event by Roberta Beary, our lawyer friend and much-honored haiku poet:

peeking out
of his daughter’s blouse
flamingo tattoo

sober now
dad uprights
the flamingo

… by Roberta Beary for f/k/a‘s Flamingo Flamboyance 2009

[Click to read the Schenectady Gazette‘s coverage of the 2008 arrival of the flamingos.]

Valentine stroll
neither lover mentions
the pink flamingos

…………. by dagosan

first warm day
she plants
the pink flamingo

.. by ed markowski – Modern Haiku (2008)

. . . . continued (Saturday morning, February 14, 2009):

.. ..

two pink flamingos
& a waitress named Sally…
summer begins

… by ed markowski

.. ..

frost on
the flamingo’s beak –
Valentine breakfast alone

… by dagosan

Snapping photos with near-frozen fingers around 8 AM this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of Valentine empathy for poor old Lawrence, standing there like a prop among the flamboyantly romantic flamingos, and gazing longingly again today at the lovely clientele of Arthur’s Market.  You may recall that our Lawrence statue was originally a carving done by wood carver Samuel Anderson Robb, about 1860, for cigar-store-Indian vendor William Demuth.  In DeMuth’s 1872 catalog, Lawrence is listed as “No. 53 Indian Chief.”  Like the shy and proud Kaw-Lija (lyrics) Lawrence “never got a kiss.”  As Hank Williams sung in 1952:

Kaw-Lija, was a lonely Indian never went nowhere
His heart was set on the Indian maiden with the coal black hair
Kaw-Lija-A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

Click for a YouTube clip of  “Kaw-Lija” (performed by Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Jr. at the Grand Olde Opry).  Please, don’t be an “ol’ wooden head” like Kaw-Lija and Lawrence — take a risk and let her know you care.  Maybe next Valentine will be a little less lonely, and you’ll be viewing the Stockade Flamingos hand-in-hand.

signs of summer
on the pink flamingo
an empty beer can

.. by ed markowski

visit home
the pink flamingo’s
cracked wing

………… by Roberta Beary

parting her pink robe

…………… by Yu Chang, from A New Resonance (1999)

— hurry: you’ve only got ’til sunset to catch the Valentine flamingos —

pink envelope
Valentine hugs and kisses
from Mom

……. by dagosan

update (Feb. 15, 2009):  The Sunday Albany Times Union has an entertaining article about the Valentine Flamingos.  See “Pink flamingos back in Stockade.”  Reporter Paul Grondahl says:

“Nobody has claimed credit for spawning this quirky urban mystery. Of course, nobody’s trying too hard to crack the case and spoil the suspension of disbelief.

“The sheer audacity and cockeyed romanticism of this random act of oddity inspired the first sing-along in front of the flamingos.”

No one told the f/k/a Gang to show up to participate or snap a few shots. Nevertheless, you can click to see a YouTube Stockade 2009 Valentine video, with photos by Mabel Leon and Beverly Elander (produced by Jennifer Wells).  Due to a technical malfunction, you won’t hear zany Stockadians singing Rogers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” but will have to settle for a performance by Carly Simon and Frank Sinatra.

Another long-legged-avian Valentine tradition: The Heron’s Nest Readers’ Choice Awards (f/k/a Valentine Awards):  Managing Editor John Stevenson announced this morning (Feb. 14, 2009) the winners of the Ninth Annual Readers’ Choice Awards, for the best haiku in The Heron’s Nest of 2008 (Vol. X, which is also available in a paper edition).  Congratulations to all the winners.

Poem of the Year: Fay Aoyagi had the Poem of the Year, which can be seen here.  Runners-up honors for best poem went to Burnell Lippy, Christopher Herold, and Harriot West.

Grand Prize, Poet of the Year, went to Burnell Lippy for his consistently fine haiku. Runners-up honors went to Carolyn Hall, Christopher Herold and Gary Hotham.    Carolyn and Gary are, of course, f/k/a Honored Guest poets.  Carolyn is a perennial winner of haijin awards, and Gary seems to be more active again writing his much-admired poetry for leading haiku journals.   For a little Valentine reflection, here are a pair by each of them from The Heron’s Nest Vol. X:

enough sunrise —
a small window
in an old hotel

playground swings —
a strong wind replaces
the children

…. by Gary HothamThe Heron’s Nest X (2008)

an eagle sighting —
the frailty
in my father’s hug

needles of rain
the talk show guest
addresses my problem

…. by Carolyn HallThe Heron’s Nest X (2008)

.. ..

February 1, 2009

out on the town with “Ed Post”

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 9:58 am

.. illusive Blawg Review Editor returns to Schenectady . . ..

It’s been 51 weeks since our famously anonymous friend “Ed Post” first arrived at the train station in Schenectady, New York, after attending LegalTech 2008 (see our prior post).  Yesterday, returning for a quick visit on his way to LegalTech 2009, the Editor of Blawg Review was speechless to discover he didn’t yet appear on a display of famous guys who’ve made railroad “whistle-stops” in Schenectady.  The customarily self-effacing Editor was not mollified by my explanation that Lincoln, Edison, Roosevelt, etc., had arrived sans pseudonyms, and actually allowed their faces to be photographed (or sketched) for the press and public to see.

I’m glad Ed didn’t notice this nearby sign, proudly announcing Thomas Edison’s arrival in Schenectady in 1886, to found his machine works, which became General Electric Corp.  My “we need a photo” argument would not have persuaded the canny Editor.

After an enjoyable $20.09 Schenectady Bicentennial dinner at the Stockade Inn, Ed could not resist the temptation to let his tech-crazy followers know he had entered the den of the blawgisphere’s infamous techagnostic. See his Tweet from Schenectady (Jan. 31, 2009).  Despite Ed‘s eloquence and practical arguments, he couldn’t get Prof. Yabut to jump on the Twitter bandwagon.  He’ll surely try again over lunch today.

Monday morning, Ed hops back on Amtrak, tooting and tweeting his way south to New York City, where he’ll be schmoozing with some of the luminaries of the world of legal weblogs.  Schenectady will miss him, and we might even be working on a plaque to greet his next arrival in town.

afterwords (Feb. 2, 2009): Speaking of LegalTech 2009, this week’s Blawg Review is #197, and its theme is LegalTech.  Legal Blog Watch teamed up with “Ed” to produce and host Blawg Review #197.  In fact, “Ed” labored away on it from his room in the Schenectady Holiday Inn, while watching Super Bowl XLIII.

After ingesting far too much food and one very large glass of Merlot, last night, the f/k/a Gang seems unable this morning to sustain any new haiku moments.  If you came for haiku today, here’s a reprise of poems from Kobayashi Issa, celebrating Chinese/Japanese New Year:

on New Year’s day
a cute little pilgrim
at the gate

the kettle’s lid
rattle, rattle…
New Year’s herbs

bedtime sake–
whether the new year comes
or not

the cat steals
a New Year’s nap…
sitting room

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

related: read about Ed’s first visit to Schenectady

p.s. Click to see a post card of Schenectady’s Union Station, which was demolished in the 1970’s prior to Prof. Yabut himself arriving in Schenectady. Its successor Amtrak Station is not quite as classy.

January 14, 2009

schenectady’s slow learners on thin ice again

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 12:30 pm

.. photo by Albany Times Union/Skip Dickstein (+ ENLARGE)

Sometimes, it’s just too easy to poke fun at the City of Schenectady and its hard-working civil servants, so we try to stick with more challenging fare.   But, we can’t always resist the temptation to share the news:

For the second time in less than a year, a City Parks Department plow has plunged through the ice of Iroquois Lake, a man-made pond in our beautiful Central Park, which is used for ice skating, fishing (largemouth bass, bluegill), and paddle-boating. The “Lake” is only 7.2 acres in size, with a mean depth of 4.3 feet.  [See “City truck falls through ice in Schenectady,” Daily Gazette, Jan. 14, 2009, with video of the retrieval; “Beware thin ice again,” Albany Times Union, Jan. 14, 2009]  The truck was clearing snow to prepare for ice skating at the pond, which has been delayed this winter because an early layer of snow slowed down ice formation.  According to the Gazette, “No one was injured in the morning accident, but the city’s pickup truck sustained significant damage as it ended up fully submerged [in 14 feet of water] at the bottom of the pond.”

The Gazette has a full account, including the explanation of Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen, who insists that precautions were taken.  The article explains:

“Workers drilled a grid of 25 test holes to determine the ice thickness. Each hole revealed ice between 8 and 10 inches thick, enough to support the plow truck’s weight, Olsen said.

“The truck was also directed to stay away from the concrete edges, where ice thickness is less predictable. But where the truck went through about 10 to 15 yards from the nearest test hole, the ice proved to be 4 to 5 inches thick, not enough to support a pickup and plow blade.”

Lesson learned (we cautiously hope):

“Olsen said he hopes to get a lighter, older vehicle for the express purpose of plowing the lake. For now, he said they would use a ‘glorified golf cart’ with a plow blade to finish the job. The truck that tanked Tuesday had a book value of about $16,000, Olsen said; insurance may cover repairs.”

Perhaps our blawging-buddy insurance defense expert George Wallace, our favorite RiskProf Martin Grace, and Kevin Sheerin at the NY Civil Service Employment Law weblog, will help f/k/a‘s readers understand some of the issues raised when a civil servant is asked to perform such duties, and has an accident like this under circumstances where an issue of reasonable prudence arises.  Is the City’s insurance claim on thin ice?  Should heads roll?  Are bonuses or pink slips due?

.. In an editorial today titled “Put this rite of Schenectady winter to rest” (Jan. 14, 2009), the editors of the Schenectady Gazette opine that “The genius whose truck fell through the ice at Schenectady’s Central Park yesterday might be forgiven if the exact same thing hadn’t happened a year ago. But it did, of course.”  They want someone with “supreme authority” like the mayor to say “in no uncertain, terms: No more trucks on the ice.”

The editorial points out:

“Yesterday’s incident not only endangered the life of the driver, but the handful of men engaged in the subsequent rescue operation. It took them, the truck and the front-end loader sent to rescue it away from a more important task — cleaning city streets after the weekend snowstorm. If the relatively new truck that went through the ice isn’t a total loss as a result of damage from water and the salvage operation, it will surely be out of commission for weeks. The cost, even after insurance, seems likely to be in the thousands.”

And, suggests: “The city should use snowblowers or perhaps solicit trusties from the county jail for shoveling duty. But, please, no more trucks on the ice!”

In a comment at the Gazette, however, Your Editor pointed out that falling through ice repeatedly is an very old Schenectady Tradition, which we should perhaps be most reluctant to abandon.  As we explained in a post back in 2005:

One of the first examples involved trying to bridge the Mohawk River between the Stockade and Scotia [right at the end of my block of Washington Avenue]. According to “Bridging the Mohawk River” by J. Gara and J. Garver: “Work began in the winter of 1794-95 to build a wooden cable on the ice and lift it onto piers before ice-out. Unfortunately, a thaw opened the river and destroyed the work. If successful, it would have been the first long bridge in the 13 colonies.

Whether it was courage or folly, they tried again a decade later, with similar results: Gara and Garver tell us: “In 1806, construction began on the Burr Bridge again only to have more setbacks due to ice. Again, workers took advantage of the frozen river only to have their pier scaffolding destroyed when the river ice opened up in mid-winter.”

We like tradition around this little old city.  But, the Gazette just might be right: Some rites of winter should indeed be put on ice.

new ice
on the lake
the mayor walks on water

.. by dagosan

coldest day of the year
the lone skater laps
his breath

………………… by George Swede from Almost Unseen

.. orig. haiga. (orig. uncropped photo by AJG) ..

round and round with you
on thin ice

Poem: by dagosan
Photo: by Arthur Giacalone (The Gates, Central Park, NYC, 2004)

p.s. Speaking of cliches, Scott Greenfield has proven again that the Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease.  Given his and my reputations for curmudgeonly crankiness, Scott complained yesterday that lawyer-author Mark Hermann did not send either of us a copy of his book “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law”, when it was unveiled in 2006, while several other clearly less-deserving blawgers (such as Turkewitz, Schaeffer and Skove) received the book for fawning review at the time.  Rather than using a statute of limitations or laches defense, as a true curmudgeon might have done, Mark wrote to Scott today, offering to send each of us remaindered copies of his book. Mark has apparently forgotten that f/k/a had pooh-poohed, in true curmudgeonly fashion, the hyperbolic promotional campaign for the book — calling it an “instant cult classic” — when it was launched.  A big, warm suitably begrudging thankyou to Mark Hermann who better not be expecting this napped-deprived Boomer to actually read and critique his Guide.

Easily bought-off Greenfield has already welcomed Mark into our Curmudgeon’s Club.  Prof. Yabut and I are, on the other hand, having second-thoughts, having never actually seen any examples of Mark Hermann being curmudgeonly.  Perhaps Mark or our readers will fill us in, should they have suitable examples.

And, getting back to folks skating on thin ice with promotional hyperbole (and you know who I mean, Kevin): I was pleased to see in Scott’s posting about Mark yesterday, that lawyer Hermann — who pens the Drug and Device Law weblog — has joined the club of straight-talking blawgers who have long warned that you can’t expect writing a weblog to bring you paying clients.

December 21, 2008

let’s move Christmas to May

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 11:41 am


Christmas Eve
in an airport lounge
grandpa paces

poem: by dagosan; photo by Arthur Giacalone

This kind of headline is never really news at Christmas Time in America:

Fierce Northwest storm adds to nation’s numerous weather worries as holiday approaches” (Associated Press, December 21, 2008)

As is all too much a part of our nation’s holiday tradition, tens of millions of Americans are facing harsh and dangerous weather conditions this week, while rushing to create joyous Christmas celebrations and reunions for their families and loved ones.  We never know when or how the weather will turn our plans upside down, nor who will spend Christmas Eve in an airport lounge or roadside ditch.

We noted this time last year, in our post “Christmas and Winter Don’t Mix“, that:

It looks like a Winter Wonderland, but it has me wondering yet again why we jeopardize our physical and psychic health every year trying to perform an already-stressfully-long list of holiday chores — and accomplish the related travel — in the time of year that is most likely to have the most inhospitable weather.

It’s quite clear that the historical figure Jesus of Nazareth was not born at this time of year (see our prior post).  Christmas was placed around the Winter Solstice (click for related haiku and discussion) to make Christianity more popular by piggy-backing on the traditional pagan solstice celebration.  That’s simply not a good enough reason for subjecting the nation (and all its grandmas) to the vagaries and worries of winter in North America.

where I sat as a child
I wait out the storm

……….. by Hilary Tann, in Holiday Haiku from Schenectady; orig. pub. in Upstate Dim Sum (2004/I)

Prof. Yabut opined last year:

We need to get over [the childish desire to have snow on the ground for Christmas] — if only to help assure that as many of our loved ones as possible can travel in safety and with some assurance that they will arrive and depart when planned. As a bonus, we wouldn’t have to dig our cars out, before heading (in bulky, hot clothing unsuitable for indoor shopping), on treacherous roads with ineffective defrosters, to mall parking lots cluttered with space-stealing snow banks, in order to buy and return Christmas presents.

In this season of hope, as we usher in a political era of hope and practicality, the f/k/a Gang implores President-elect Barack Obama to get behind a campaign to move Christmas to a more reasonable time of year.

The Saturday before Mother’s Day might be a good substitute, since we already focus on motherhood and familial love and sacrifice (rather than gifts and greed) that weekend.

The new date might just allow us to put the loving spirit-of-Christ back into Christmas, and to shake off the commercial excess symbolized by Santa Claus.

Given our current economic woes, this might be a particularly good year to celebrate Christmas in the Spring.  It will bring a well-needed economic stimulus early in 2009, while leaving the option open for another buying spree in December around the optional old-timey feast of Giftmas.

snow emergency
santa’s running
a little late

poem: by dagosan; photo by Arthur Giacalone

Meanwhile, we wish all of our readers, kith and kin, safe travels and smooth itineraries, as they work to re-unite with their families in the face of Mother Nature’s whims.

If you’re sitting home waiting for delayed and waylaid guests to arrive, a photo display in today’s Schenectady Sunday Gazette might help to bolster your holiday mood.  It’s “Grand Entrances” (Dec. 21, 2008), which features thirty Stockade doors decorated with wreaths and garland for the holidays.  They are all located in my neighborhood, the Stockade Historic Distric.  The Gazette display inspired me to bundle up and walk up the block with my Canon PowerShot 5, to 32 Washington Avenue, the home of the Schenectady County Historical Society, which somehow did not make it into the Gazette display.  Here it is for your enjoyment:


.. Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Dec. 21, 2008..

Christmas snow
my father’s footsteps
bigger than mine

………………….. by yu chang

December 13, 2008

ice storm interruptus

Filed under: q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 11:34 am

We got lucky on my block yesterday.  Lots of my neighbors in the Schenectady Stockade have no power due to the ice storm we had on Thursday and Friday, and 160,000 homes still have no power across the Capital Region of New York State. Giant, healthy century-old trees, plus a lot of limbs, were brought down by the ice, disrupting power lines and causing lots of mischief.  See “Storm leaves region in the dark” (Schenectady Gazette, Dec. 13, 2008)

Besides keeping me off the road yesterday, it has kept me offline.  Roadrunner is out of commission (including the modem that lets you use their dial-up services). So, I am here at the Schenectady County Public Library’s central branch, using their WiFi.  This is going to be a quick, punditry-less post, as weblogging from the Library has far too many drawbacks (for cranky, spoiled curmudgeons) — like no coffee or food, no futon for naps, and a really smelly Men’s Room.

My stroll yesterday morning taking ice-storm photos was not very successful — possibly due to a lack of sunlight to make the branches and fences, etc., glisten.  I did have to step lightly around a couple of sparking, downed power lines. When I got back home, a little bit of blue sky was opening, and I caught this sight from my backyard along the Mohawk:

– backyard on the Mohawk (across from Scotia), Dec. 12, 2008, by David Giacalone –

No telling when I will post again.  I hope all my friends out there in the blogiverse are safe and warm and having a lovely mid-December weekend.  If I weren’t so lazy, and it wasn’t so cold today, I’d be looking for a strong, artistic woman to help make a snowman or a snow buddha, or two.

afterwords: Here’s another photo from the December 12th snowstorm:

.. .. Riverside Park esplanade . .

a sparrow chirping
in his lap…
snow Buddha

he’s holding one
the Buddha

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

– click here for two dozen snow/buddha haiku by Issa

wintry mix
the minister’s kids make
a snow buddha

surprisingly warm out
a puppy laps up
our snow buddha

snow turns to rain –
our Buddha’s visit
cut short

………………….. by dagosan

December 11, 2008

lawyers per capita: NY numbers

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,Procrastination Punditry,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 12:28 pm

It has often been suggested there are too many lawyers here in New York State.  There is, in fact, 1 lawyer for every 390 people in NYS, as compared to 1 lawyer for every 2272 residents of North Dakota.  It’s hard to say whether it should make us feel any better to know, on the other hand, that Washington, D.C. has 13.5 times as many lawyers per capita as New York State — with one lawyer for every 36 residents of D.C.. (See the Avery Index of Lawyers per Capita by State.)

We learned this morning, via Simple Justice, that

The New York Lawyer has provided a chart to show the distribution of lawyers throughout the various counties of the State of New York.  The chart shows the ratio of lawyers to human beings.

Scott Greenfield says “It explains a lot” and — comparing it to Manhattan — extolls the virtues of living in Queens (where you’ll find an empty diner seat whenever you want one).

The f/k/a Gang has to head out to see our primary medical provider, so you can decide for yourself (and let us know) what these numbers mean:

Lawyers per capita in Capital Region Counties of NYS:


Albany County        4317               69/1
Columbia                 220               283/1
Montgomery              85               573/1
Saratoga                   594              363/1
Schenectady             456              331/1
Schoharie                  59               543/1
Warren                     252              262/1
Washington                71              884/1

Most lawyers per capita in New York State by County:

New York            77,952               21/1
Albany County       4317               69/1
Westchester          9,890               96/1
Nassau                13,259               99/1

Fewest lawyers per capita in NYS by County

Allegheny                   46            1,079/1
Lewis                          22            1,203/1
Orleans                       29            1,461/1

Counties with the most lawyers:

New York                    77,952
Nassau                        13,259
Westchester                    9890
Suffolk                            6684
Kings [Brooklyn]              6050
Queens                           5534
Erie  [Buffalo]                 4809
Albany County                4317
Monroe [Rochester]         3320
Bronx                              2461
Onondaga [Syracuse]       2374

Counties with the fewest lawyers:

Hamilton                     14
Schuyler                      21
Lewis                           22
Orleans                        29

p.s. Rural Japan has a shortage of lawyers, with many towns with 100,000 residents still totally lawyer-less.  Depending on who you count as being the equivalent of a lawyer, Japan has either one-third or one-twentieth the number of lawyers that we have in the USA.

December 8, 2008

judge tosses out charges based on cops’ failure to fill out excessive force forms

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 6:36 pm

You may recall our post on September 6th, taking the union rep and the defense counsel for three Schenectady police offers to task for their hyperbolic comments on the courthouse steps.  The officers [Eric Reyell, 29, Gregory Hafensteiner, 30, and Andrew Karaskiewicz, 38] had been accused originally of beating Donald Randolph during an arrest for DWI (those charges were later dropped because the arresting officer never did sobriety tests and never saw Randolph driving).  In September, due to lack of evidence of an assault, the officers were merely charged with the misdemeanor offense of Official Misconduct, for their failure to fill out the required Use of Force forms relating to the incident.

follow-up (May 14, 2010): After an arbitrator recommended his termination from the police force, Gregory Hafensteiner has resigned from the Department.  See “Cops career likely over” (Times Union, May 10, 2010).  Today’s Schenectady Gazette tells of a police in-car video showing Hafensteiner kicking Donald Randolph.  See”Schenectady police-abuse video shows kicking incident” (by Kathleen Moore, May 14, 2010, p. A-1; available online by subscription).  Last Tuesday, the Gazette reported that “City police Officer Gregory Hafensteiner, who resigned on Sunday, used excessive force without provocation in the alleged beating of DWI suspect Donald Randolph, the mayor said Monday.” (“Schenectady city officials: Office kicked suspect“, May 11, 2010)

Well, the Schenectady Gazette reported this morning that “Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago has dismissed all charges against three Schenectady police officers.”  According to Gazette reporter Steven Cook:

“Drago based her decision on an 18-year-old modification to the state official misconduct statute. The modification, she wrote in her decision, was intended to prevent prosecutors from charging official misconduct when their original intent was to seek assault charges. . . .

The crux of the prosecutor’s grand jury case, she wrote, was an alleged assault. The case was also peppered with testimony regarding department policy.

“The court was left with an impression that when it became clear that there was insufficient proof to indict for assault charges, the people then focused their efforts to indict for official misconduct,” Drago wrote.

Judge Drago concluded, citing the 1990 statute, that their failure to comply with administrative regulations does not rise to a crime.  Due to a conflict of interest, our local district attorney did not prosecute the case, which was instead handled by the New York Attorney General’s Office.  As of this evening, the AG has not decided whether it will appeal or otherwise proceed with the investigation.  The three officers remain on paid leave pending the results of an internal investigation.

update (Dec. 9, 2008): In an article this morning with some additional information, the Schenectady Gazette reports that “Meanwhile, a spokesman for the state attorney general said Monday the state intends to appeal Drago’s decision.” And, “Through police department spokesman Officer Kevin Green, public safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett declined to comment on the developments Monday, other than to say the internal investigation would now be expedited.”  The Albany Times Union covers the story here.

Here’s the only section of the New York State penal code that appears to be related to the Official Misconduct charge:

§ 195.00 Official Misconduct.
A public servant is guilty of official misconduct when, with intent to
obtain a benefit or deprive another person of a benefit:
1.  He  commits  an  act  relating  to  his office but constituting an
unauthorized exercise of his official functions, knowing that  such  act
is unauthorized; or
2.  He knowingly refrains from performing a duty which is imposed upon
him by law or is clearly inherent in the nature of his office.

If any of our readers who are criminal law experts are aware of the content of the 1990 amendment, I hope they’ll let us all know.

It appears Judge Drago did not believe the internal requirement of filling out a Use of Force form after force is used constitutes “a duty . . . clearly inherent in the nature of [a police officer’s] office.”  Without knowing more about the caselaw and statutory intent, I can’t offer an opinion as to the likelihood of an appellate court upholding Judge Drago’s decision.

Hafensteiner’s attorney, Michael McDermott told the media today that the legislative intent was not to prosecute crimes for failing to follow administrative policies.

“We always felt that it was overreaching to fit these facts into a criminal prosecution.  We’re glad the judge agreed.”

If the AG picked a statute that was not meant to cover the facts of this case, I’m pleased that the charges were dropped against the three officers.  I’m still, however, sticking to my guns: The show on the courthouse steps after the indictment amounted to intentional and excessive obfuscation, by defense counsel and the union leader — more Red Herring and Blue Code statements meant to mislead the public.

As we described in detail in our earlier post, for example,

  • Schenectady PBA President Bob Hamilton insisted he could not see how the officers could have benefited from failing to fill out the Use of Force forms.
  • Karaskiewicz’s lawyer Steve Coffey asserted that the sky was falling:

“You’re going to start telling the police in this community, including the State Police and everybody else that because you don’t fill out a form that adds nothing to the case, that you’re going to be indicted?  Is this what you’re telling the police in this community?”

  • And defense counsel Cheryl Coleman cried wolf, saying “I don’t know what’s next, failure to sharpen a pencil? “ and “God, not everything that you do wrong at your job is a crime.”

It’s clear to me that failure to fill our a Use of Force form after the incident in question, and to turn on a squad car video camera during the incident, are clearly relevant to the original charge of beating a suspect during an arrest. (The Gazette and Times Union editors agree.) They might have been the primary reason why there was insufficient evidence to bring assault charges. These indictments never meant that every failure to fill out a form was official misconduct.  Of course, Hamilton, Coffey and Coleman knew that.  For some reason, though, they felt they needed to exaggerate and obfuscate in order to do their jobs.  As a lawyer and a citizen, I continue to disagree.

December 7, 2008

snowman historian blows into schenectady

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 7:28 pm

. . Bob Eckstein’s Book Presentation and Signing, Schenectady, NY . .

schenectady snowman —
bob’s book balanced
on his belly

… by dagosan (Dec. 7, 2008, for Bob Eckstein)

As we predicted last week in our post “SnowmanCity, NY“, Bob Eckstein spent a windy Sunday afternoon n Schenectady, today, for a presentation of his book “The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market” (2007), at our Central Library and a book signing at The Open Door Bookstore.   There was just a tiny crowd at the Library — only seven people other than myself, Laura Lee Linder (who helped Bob research the tale of snowmen who witnessed the 1690 Schenectady Massacre), and a representative from the Open Door.  But, we enjoyed a thirty-minute display of rare photos and historic images of snowmen — including a surprising array of magazine covers (from children’s weeklies to Playboy).  As a good author would, however, Bob failed to answer his mystery question of Who Made the First Snowman, leaving that for those who read the book.

Bob did, however, help us understand how ubiquitous snowmen have been across cultures and centuries.  In Part III of f/k/a‘s series on snowmen, we stated: “As demonstrated on our lawns, and in cartoons, comic strips, and movies, Americans have long imbued their snowmen with the same frailties, foibles and fate as humans.” Bob’s book shows that virtually every culture with snow (and perhaps a few in the tropics), have done the same thing.

The presentation inspired audience members to brave strong winds for the two-block walk from the Library to The Open Door bookstore, to purchase The History of the Snowman and have Bob autograph the book (and schmooze a bit).  They were joined by a constant stream of autograph-seekers, including the Open Door staff, who are big fans of the book.

I’m sitting here sipping coffee from my “fun and attractive” History of the Snowman Mug (thanks, Bob!), which is also available from his website, Today’s Snowman, the only online magazine devoted solely to Snowman News.

small sad face
in the puddle –
last weekend’s snowman

…………….. by david giacalone – Simply Haiku V4N3; a procession of ripples anthology (p. 18)

a little dizzy
after chemo — replacing
the snowman’s head

………………… by dagosan

You find more commentary from the f/k/a Gang and more snowmen haiku and senryu, in Part I “snowman (r)evolution”, Part II, and Part III “snobesity”, of our series on snowmen.  If you need more encouragement to seek out Bob’s book for yourself or for holiday presents, see a sneek peek and a chapter-by-chapter pictorial YouTube Preview.

winter fog
i stub my toe
on the snowman

below zero…
sparrows peck
the snowman’s nose

………… by ed markowski

“below zero” – Simply Haiku (Summer 2006, vol. 4 no. 2)

December 6, 2008

encore: holiday haiku from Schenectady

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 4:46 pm

a holiday haiku stocking-stuffer from Schenectady . . .

Stockade Christmas Tree at Lawrence Circle - Dec2009

– 2009 Schenectady Stockade Christmas Tree –

Schenectady, NY, a haiku hotbed? It surprised me, too, when I first realized that two highly-respected haiku poets –- Hilary Tann and Yu Chang — were professors at Union College, right down the street from my home in Schenectady’s Stockade Historic District. We each came to Schenectady years ago from distance places — Yu from Taiwan, Hilary from South Wales and myself from an exotic place called Washington, D.C.

Hilary and Yu readily said yes, when I asked them a year ago to help me compile a holiday collection of “real” haiku and senryu as our Holiday Gift to f/k/a‘s readers and our “neighbors” in Schenectady and around the world.

The result was “Holiday Haiku from Schenectady” (pdf.) which has two dozen poems by the three of us, and which is formatted to be printed on two sides of a letter-size sheet and made into a tri-fold brochure.

Here are the poems for those who would rather scroll than click.  No matter which holidays you celebrate during this month of special days, may they be joyous for you and all your loved ones.

.. ..

wintry mix
we make a snow buddha
for Santa

– dag

[orig. haiga]

December rain
a starlet
sheds her tears

parting clouds
she checks the Christmas lights
one by one

red envelopes
the sound
of children’s laughter

three generations
peering down a gopher hole
winter solstice

Christmas snow
my father’s footsteps
bigger than mine

………… by Yu Chang

red bows decorate
the ‘Closed for the Season’

Christmas Eve
we share the same
wrapping paper

the paperweight –
another snowstorm

Christmas service
the old carols
with no back-beat

where I sat as a child
I wait out the storm

Christmas lights
my eye is drawn
to the house with none

………………. by Hilary Tann

2009 Stockade Christmas Tree with Lawrence the Indian - Schenectady NY

setting up the creche –
the Baby’s name
uttered over and over

married a decade
she hides
the mistletoe

Nana serves
Grandma’s recipes –
Christmas Eve calamari

warm yule
the ice-fishing hole
mostly hole

empty cookie tin —
letting out last year’s
santa suit

to curb —
pine needles and tinsel

……………………….. by David Giacalone

New Year’s eve
a balloon
tied to an empty chair

new year’s day
a squirrel emerges
from the dumpster

……………………….. yc

twelfth night
a trail of pine needles
down the garden path


Boxing Day drizzle —
the inflatable snowman
keeps smiling

gray sky
all the way home
from grandma’s house

New Year’s Eve
sleet and snow–
the old man takes baby steps

……………. dag

…. from the brochure “Holiday Haiku from Schenectady

– click for more Christmas Season Haiku by f/k/a‘s Honored Guest Poets –

– find Schenectady holiday spirit in the Gazette gallery of Stockade Doors

December 5, 2008

Chief Kaz: cheap apology, cheesy chivalry

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 8:40 am

Schenectady’s Lesson for Civic Leaders: If a cop has the nickname “Sgt. Snow,” or even “Lt. Noriega,” don’t make him Chief of Police.

unseen eyes —
an apology made
behind dark shades

…. by dagosan

.. After years of tarnishing the reputation of the chronically-troubled Schenectady Police Department, its former police chief, Gregory Kaczmarek pled guilty on Tuesday to third degree criminal possession of cocaine (with intent to sell).  Six years after he retired his position under a cloud, he’s heading for two years in prison, with his stepson looking at three years (and his stepdaughter already doing 6 years for another drug bust), while his wife will spend six months in the County jail.  See,  “Ex-chief heading to prison: Schenectady’s Gregory Kaczmarek admits to drug charge” (Albany Times Union, Dec. 3, 2008); and “Kaz Family Plan” (Carl Strock’s Freestyle Blog, Dec. 2, 2008)

The story is well-known here in Schenectady, but I thought I’d give it some space here at f/k/a, as a civics lesson (or a shot of schadenfreude) for our readers, and because a little venting might help get the bad taste of Kaz’s career out of my mouth.  The convictions are part of a larger drug case that has already sent almost two dozen participants to prison.  Greg and Lisa Kaczmarek, who operated a pizza shop they called Capo di Pizza for a few years after he retired in 2002, were minor dealers and users.

Here are excerpts from the Schenectady Gazette’s Kaczmarek Timeline: that should give you a good idea of the odorific tale of Chief Kaz (and see “Kaczmarek: ‘I sincerely apologize’” (Schenectady Gazette, December 2, 2008) [words in brackets are my filler explanations]:


November 29, 2008

SnowmanCity, NY

Filed under: Procrastination Punditry,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 8:02 pm

It was serendipity (not synecdoche) that brought me this afternoon to the counter of my favorite book and gift shop, The Open Door Bookstore, on the Jay Street pedestrian mall in downtown Schenectady.  I had just left our Central Public Library, two blocks away, and thought I’d stop in quickly at the Open Door for my only shopping of this post-Thanksgiving weekend.   While waiting for the woman ahead of me to wrangle a discount on a couple of children’s books, I was pleasantly surprised to see — prominently displayed on the main counter — a book written by freelance illustrator and cartoonist Bob Eckstein, which we had fondly discussed last February here at f/k/a (and which would make a great Holiday-Christmas gift for anybody with a sense of playfulness, love of history, or attraction to conversation-starting coffee-table books with lots of interesting pictures):

The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market” (2007)

Immediately thereafter, I was even more surprised by a flier in a display behind the book, showing a smiling Bob and announcing a related book signing event:

The Open Door Bookstore, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008 1 pm

Book Presentation and Signing

Bob Eckstein signs, The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market. This fascinating holiday book includes a section on the Stockade. Mr Eckstein will give an illustrated  talk at the Schenectady County Public Library. From 1:45-3:15, there will be a book signing at the store.

Then, however, as I gazed at that slight smirk on Bob’s face, a little voice in my head whined: “Hey, I’ve plugged the book; I got the Schenectady Public Library to purchase a couple copies of it; and I’ve linked several times to Bob’s Today’s Snowman weblog.  So, why hasn’t he given me a heads-up (viz., a personal private invitation) for the library presentation and book signing?”

My next thought: “Well, I’ll show him.  I’ll write all about the events at my weblog, and show up next Sunday at both the Library and the store.”  Thus, was this posting inspired — at a time when I was really intending to write a much more serious piece about lawyers (proving that the holiday season has not dulled my procrastination skills).

Naturally, I shot over to Today’s Snowman to see what was happening in the world of flakey frozen aqueous sculpture. Now that we’re back to cold weather, Bob has started his monthly Snowman Contest up again (with “possible prizes” relating to his book and its marketing).  He continues to have Snowperson Personal Ads, while also answering Questions For the Snowman Expert.  And, of course, you’ll find regular posting about interesting snow-creature-related news and endless promotion of The Book (including links to a sneek peek and a chapter-by-chapter pictorial YouTube Preview).

Although Bob promised back in October to put his book tour schedule and itinerary up at his weblog, I couldn’t find it.  Maybe he doesn’t know he’s supposed to be in Schenectady on December 7th.

Could I have been unfair to Bob by fretting over the Snowman Snubbing of his biggest fan in Schenectady? (Even bigger, we’re sure, than the Older Family, who live in a nearby suburb and constructed The Great Rotterdam Snowman, which won the February 2008 Snowman Contest at Today’s Snowman; see our report and analysis.)

Since my Invitation might just be delayed in the mail, I’m going to throw in another marketing plug for Bob and the book:

..  .. History of the Snowman Mugs are now available from the website, and can be purchased at his book tour events for $10.

If you live near Schenectady, come and join my combination peaceful protest and fan club outing, next Sunday, December 7, 2008, at 11 PM, at 99 Clinton Street, in downtown Schenectady. [Our friends at the Rotterdam Internet Community are especially invited.] If you need another local tie-in, check our prior post, where we discuss at length the role purportedly played by snowmen in a pivotal piece of local history — the 1690 Schenectady Massacre. Until I read about it at Today’s Snowman, I had not known about those brave (if feckless) snowmen, who some say stood guard just a couple blocks from my home here in the historic Schenectady Stockade. [Learn more at Wikipedia.]

larger . . Eckstein displays a fine sketch from the book of the Stockade Snow Guards in a posting at his site, and retells the tale in Chapter 12 of The History of the Snowman, titled Early American Snowmen, 17th Century New World, Fresh Snow (at pp. 110 – 112, which can be read in full by scrolling down this preview of the book).  In The History of the Snowman, Bob asks: “Was the first snowman in America made in Schenectady, New York, on the eve of one of the bloodiest days in early American history?” He concludes: “We may never know whether this was the first American snowman, but the Schenectady Snowman is definitely the earliest reference to one

Well, I’ve procrastinated long enough to make it virtually impossible to finish my originally-intended posting this evening without a lot of sturm und drang.  What more could I ask of Bob Eckstein on a chilly, lonely Saturday night?  Thanks, Bob, and see you next Sunday!

p.s. I just this minute learned at Bob’s website that: “Bob is going to be on the radio talking about snowmen on 810AM Sunday at 9:15am (News Talk Radio WGY) in the upstate New York area (I kid you not).”  That’s The Joe Gallagher Show, which I usually wake up to on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

update (Nov. 30, 2008): We might have to adjust our motto that Whining Doesn’t Work, because Bob Eckstein put a post up late last night at his Freelancer’s Lament weblog, that could melt even a crusty old snowmudgeon’s heart:

“I hope to see many friends I’ve made online through the book, many who helped me on the book. I want to thank David Giacalone and Laura Lee Linder in particular for making me feel welcome to return to Schenectady in a few days. (Laura was helpful in the actual research of my book, The History of the Snowman and is very involved with The Schenectady County Historical Society and First Reformed Church of Schenectady. She is finishing a DVD on historical Schenectady. Further info on David just posted a generous write-up of my upcoming event and has a very cool website which is a unusual combination of haiku, law stuff and snowman interests. Right, you have to see it to believe it. I was just enjoying a piece about a sexy lawyers calendar!)”

In the Sidebar of Freelancer’s Lament, you will find the impressive (and growing) itinerary for Bob’s History of the Snowman tour, including radio interviews (such as one on Martha Stewart Radio, Dec. 5th at 7:15 AM).

update (Dec. 7, 2008): See “snowman historian blows into Schenectady.”

in the howling wind
under the full moon
the snowman, headless

…….. by George Swede from Almost Unseen

(photo by Mama G., 1953)

the smirking snowman
a hatless scarecrow

…………… by dagosan

naughty child–
instead of his chores
a snow Buddha

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

November 23, 2008

more Frenchie, Duci, Morden and Rapp

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 7:29 pm

. . . spending a chilly Sunday with some old acquaintances . . .

Frenchie’s Family Sketches His Life:  A lot of people were touched and angered by the story of Wilford “Frenchie” Hamilton, the affable homeless artist who was beaten to death at age 61 by two or three juveniles on the streets of Pontiac, Michigan, back in August. See our prior post and links.  An interview with his sister-in-law Laura Hamilton provides more details to the story of Frenchie, in the article “Family: Man’s death ends haunting past” (The Oakland Press, November 10, 2008; click to see his self-portrait with an inset photo).  I’m glad to know more about the man — his closeness to two siblings, six-figure job in NYC, cancelled marriage, battle with alcoholism, love for painting and for a niece and nephew, and several family tragedies before his dreadful death.  (hat tip to Ed Markowski)

  • We shouldn’t need a reminder, but we sometimes do, that street-people are full-dimensional human beings.  Here’s another reminder: To start doing something about the increasing assault against the homeless, see the web page “Stop Hate-Motivated Violence Against Homeless People” from the Coalition.

christmas eve
homeless men crouch
at the back of the manger

………… by Ed Markowski

Frank Duci On His Feet Again: A lot of people have seen our post from October about the spoofing of Frank Duci’s will.  At the time, the 87-year-old former mayor of Schenectady was bed-ridden, suffering from lung cancer. His old journalistic antagonist, columnist Carl Strock visited Mayor Duci, and mischievously got him to sign a will on a shopping list that was very much like a real one Duci had witnessed on the deathbed of a friend, with Duci as the sole beneficiary. (see Strock’s account in “Duci’s will”)

.. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see a feature story in the Albany Times Union, describing Frank Duci’s return this week to a regular little coffee-klatsch at Burger King with a few of his old pals from the neighborhood.  In “An Electric City original still burns brightly: Frank J. Duci may lack official standing, but he’ll always be a mayor” (Nov. 20, 2008), we’re reminded:

“It’s going to take more than a diagnosis of lung cancer and three months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments to silence the four-term populist mayor and 87-year-old gadfly, who refuses to let his passion for politics and the Electric City dim.”

. . click for a 1-minute VIDEO: Frank Duci reminisces ..

And, Frank Duci doesn’t just talk and walk, he’s still writing his legislators and newspaper editors on behalf of “hard-pressed taxpayers.”  In this morning’s Schenectady Sunday Gazette, you’ll find his Letter to the Editor, “Use Metroplex to offset local property taxes” (Nov. 23, 2008, scroll to 5th letter).  Frank writes:

“Please, local legislators, your bosses are local taxpayers; voters must not be put into a serious financial debt payback. Legislative action must be taken to prevent [our economic development agency] Metroplex from borrowing up to $75 million at the expense of local, hard-pressed taxpayers.”

We can only repeat what we said five weeks: “we can all only hope to ‘keep our faculties’ and our zest for the political fight as long as Frank Duci has.” Let’s hope — and bet — it will be a very long time before we get to run this senryu regarding Frank J. Duci:

his quiet funeral—
a man who did
most of the talking

……….. by barry george – frogpond XXVIII: 1

update (October 17, 2009): Yesterday was declared Frank Duci Day in Schenectady, and Frank Duci Plaza was dedicated around the Avenue A home of the now 88-year-old former mayor.  See “After a long road, ex-mayor gets a street” (Albany Times Union, October 16, 2009).

Rapp Raps Political Pundit Campaign Cliches: The f/k/a Gang is often on the same wave length as Albany entertainment and copyright lawyer (and adjunct professor) Paul C. Rapp. (E.g., his position against policing lawyer ads to preserve the dignity of the profession, and his attack on big-media’s Broadcast Flag ploy.)  We found ourselves nodding vigorously in agreement with another of his Metroland columns again this week, titled “Reclaim the Language” (Rapp On This, Nov. 20, 2008). Even though he forgot our favorite campaign bug-a-boo word (battleground), we agree with Paul’s hopeful demand that “a number of grammatical terms disappear from the lexicon of the pundit class,“because they lead to “unimaginative discourse, a swarmy and almost childish sameness to what is supposed to be enlightened, independent insight. Which it never is.”

The phrases Paul wants “to see banished henceforth and forever from our political commentary” are:

  • flip-flop, close the deal, thrown under the bus, blame game, maverick, and comeback kid

Check out his reasoning to see whether you agree, and whether he missed some cliches you’d like added to the list.

.. Matt Morden (and many more) in Wing Beats:  When I told you about the book “Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku” last August, I’d only seen a selection of the poems and the cover photo.  Thanks to its co-editor/publisher John Barlow, I now have a copy and have browsed through the wonderful illustrations by Sean Gary, while skimming the poems. too.  I must say I am impressed with the beauty and gravitas of the publication.  It feels good in the hand and it is a treat for the eye.  The 320-page volume features 323 experiential haiku (most written by Barlow and his co-editor Matthew Paul, but joined by 30 other poets) and 131 species of British birds.

If you know a haiku lover, or a bird lover, consider making them a holiday gift of Wing Beats from Snapshot Press, 2008 (ISBN 978-1-903543-24-5; to order); the USA price is $40 (including P&P).

Seven of the poems are by haiku friend and Honored Guest Matt Morden.  Here are a few for your enjoyment:

mountain wind
the stillness of a lamb
gathering crows

winter solstice
the flock of starlings
takes a new shape

osprey talons
a twist of silver
catches the sun

… by Matt Morden – “Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku” (Snapshot Press, 2008); from Stumbles in Clover (Snapshot Press, 2007)

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