Archive for October, 2007

The Truth About ALL NEW

Used to be when “All in the Family” episodes, “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Rifleman” starring Chuck Conners were not ALL NEW. Back in those days before Nixon and Regan and ketchup was called a vegetable (was #43 working as a national nutritionist back then? Just wondering.) miyyons (as illegal river swimmers might say) of televisione viewers were happy enough with “new.” We didn’t ask for “all new.” We didn’t know what we were missing. We didn’t even know we could ask for all new. It wasn’t something “The Donna Reed Show” fans even imagined we could have, like civil talk radio on a Springfield station. It was like text messaging and cooking a baked potato in only 12 minutes in something called a microwave oven. We never imagined either could be done, so we didn’t ask for it. Dreams aside, in recent years, the United Snakes of America showed the world just how advanced a nation — which had not been to the moon in decades, who thought Junior Samples (“The numba agin is BR fav fore nan”) was the funniest star of “Heeeeee Haaaaaw” — could be. They gave us ALL NEW.

It happened about the time the same dedicated word crafters gave us “New and IMPROVED” forgetting that if something had been merely improved, it sure as bejeebers was not “new.”

My barber told me how every cell on and in our bodies dies and is replaced about every seven years. This means that if my friend John falls asleep dyring a typical “Illinois Stories,” awakens in seven years and says, “Gee, I feel like a new man!” he probably is. In fact I will go further than that. (I KNOW you can hear this coming. . . . )


Something else he probably feels. He probaly feels one hundred and ten percent.

The truth is that no one feels 110%. The tops is always 100%

Except when it’s a picture or a space shuttle rocket motor.

Graphics designer persons primates consider a picture for a poster and reproduce the 10 inch tall picture at 110% so it measures 11 inches tall. If the picture is desired at 50%, it will be five inches tall. When sooming into orbit, the pilot of the Rockwell Space Shuttle initially throttles the entgines at 108%, say. In other words the engine produces eight percent more thrust than it is designted to produce during the rest of its life during the mission. The max power output engaged except during takeoff is considered 100% because that is the top operating parameter during 99% of the flight.. . . . but not during 100% , or 124% of the flight

Six years ago I bought a terrific Sony Mavica digital camera. I love it. I swear by it. People think I;m a terrific photograher, and the Sony does most of the work. Every time I initialize a new mini CD used to hold the pictures, I want to strangle the fellow who wrote the cautionary warning, “AVOID ALL VIBRATION” which appears on the small camera back screen. . He’s probably (or she is probably — almost forgot) is the same perssson who invented ALL NEW! I wondered, when I first saw the warning, what the difference is between  AVOID VIBRATION and AVOID ALL VIBRATION. . . . . . . . . . a moment of simulated wondering . . . . . . . . . . . and as I matured,  during that simulated wondering, into a wiseacre old philosopher, I have concluded there is no difference. When I avoid vibration, I am doing more than avoiding vibration…..

I am avoiding ALL VIBRATION.

It’s enough to make a writer bable like a baby . .. . . .

as I have for the posting you’ve been kind enough to read.

Thank you truly for reading it. More than that, thank you 110%!

Write long . . . . . and proper.


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A New Word for You

Can you imagine how aeronautical engineers felt when helicopters were invented? A bunch of them likely wanted to call them airplanes, pure and simple. They flew. They carried people. They had motors inside. If the motor quit, there was only one direction to go: down. So these early conservatives no doubt felt they had a strong case for calling those things with the rotating wings AIRPLANES, don’t you think? Consider poetry now.

Flashback to Monday. I’m substitute teaching in a language arts class at a major midwestern middle school and it’s lunch time. And I don’t have a bleeping dime to my name. So I sit alone at the desk in the class room reading the September issue of Poetry — super magazine, though I’m sure they wish I’d call it a “periodical.” It seems so much more relevant that way, don’t you suppose yah? Particularly rewarding is “sorrows” by Lucille Clifton. Powerful poem!
I am bothered enough by my surfeit of incapacities as a hungry hummin’ bean to invient a new word, which I will share after I explain its genesis.

We have a word for regulary metered rhyming poems. We call them verse. Verse which shows no siginficant originality and coats of cliches over cliches, we call doggerel. We have a word for irregularly metered poems which do not rhyme. We call them blank verse. Finally, we have a word for blank verse with synthetically contrived or random-length lines. We call it poetry. We should not. We should call it something else.

We know what prose is on sight. At least some of us who don’t “buy” prosesody do. We also know verse on sight. We do not know irregularly metered blank verse on sight, and there’s “the rub.” Beginning to read a blank verse “poem” only to discover eight to 15 lines into it that there is not even one part of rythm per million frusttrates me. I have only so many hours left on my life’s “meter,” and I don’t want to spend time to discover the inviting poem I thought was an apple was instead the residence of a half-consumed, squirming former inhabitant. We need another word for that kind of verbal creation: something to identify words that aren’t prose and aren’t poetry. I call my new word

POE seh

Halfway between prose (one syllable) and poetry (three syllables) poese is a new artistic medium for creative writers. Furthermore, until people start publishing entire books of poeses, each poese title should have an asterisk preceding it so that readers don’t bite several lines into one only to realize it is not what it was assumed to be.

“*Brim of Piquant Cucumber Wine Goblet”

“*Dust Gently the Jagged Avuncular”

or whatever poese titles you care to write. Just don’t call it poetry.

Why? For the same reason those in the know don’t call a helicopter an airplane.

Non-poets will be more inclined to consider poetry after poese takes its rightful place in the lexicon. They won’t be confused by the appearance of Carole Lombard only to discover it’s actually Imo Phillips in drag. Those who prefer poetry won’t waste our time with what is not.

It is time to introduce poese to our language.

Live long . . . . and properly.

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A Dazende Life Po Purree

Yes, I know about the mis spelling. I just finished proof reading the next American Aviation Historical Society Newsletter so I’m compensating.

CHEESES wotta week!

No substitute teaching last week, second week in a row. Sunday I made my mind up. If the sub teacher line didn’t call by Monday morning, I would boogie — the victim of the booger, I’m told — over to the state unemployment orifice and look for knocking opportunities there. And I meant it, yesidid.

Lady luq intended differently. A call came at 7:10 and by 7:45 I was ensconced in a middle school language arts room. Lesson plans were superbly written, and the day went okay. Some of the students recognized me from previous encounters . . . . . but they came to class anyway. The only real bummer of the day came when I decided to “reward” the exceptionally well-behaved third block with news about Vachel Lindsay’s birthday party coming up November 10, 11 – 4 at the Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site and recite a Vachel poem or two. That’s when the class went to hades in a hand basket. They had misunderstood me. They apparently thought I had said “For the next 10 minutes I am going to pull out your fingernails with a rusty pliers my Labradors peed on all weekend.” and that made them forget I was reciting a poem to them. Actually, through the din of their inconsiderate yammering, I assaulted them with “The Little Turtle,” “The Broncho that Would Not Be Broken,” and “The Sun Says His Prayers.” As a result I didn’t write the report about the class I had intended to write. Of course I had persevered through the reciting, despite their noise. They were not going to “break me of reciting,” and the three girls who did pay attention — at least provided eye contact — were worth my effort. Bummer, man! Just a frikking bummer. It actually seemed to bother some of them that I wrote the birthday party info on the blackboard in the front of the room. They could not interrupt or OUT-JABBER talc on black; maybe it was green; I don’t remember.

I learned that the new “moment of silence” installed by the Christianist jehadist Illinois Generl Ass Embly comes to students during morning announcements when a pearl of philsophical wisdom is shared, the way a humiliated coach might recall a lesson taught by his doddering grandfather, during a throwaway game half-time break. We had less than thirty seconds to ponder that thought. During the Pledge of Undying Servitude (until they kill you) no one in the office, riding the PA microphone led the pledge! That was a first. In the past, I’ve never initiated the pledge when the broadcast image of a flag fills the television screen. We’ve all waited for the announcer to say it aloud, and by the fourth or fifth word, the rest of us have joined in. By the time I realized no one was GOING to lead us aloud, the image of the flag disappeared — after nearly eternal seconds of student murmuring — and the rest of the day began.

Something else that’s new: Bully Forms which students can request from a teacher when they feel another peer student has been a bully. This is how we avoid Columbine 186, I guess. I was amazed. No need to describe them; your intuition is as good as the black & white of the document. I’m not against the form; I just wish sub teachers had something similar to use. Of course we do. They are called student referrals, and we can write up anyone who’s REALLY a problem and dismiss him or her from the class room. Sometimes, though, I just wish I could pull out some fingernails with pliers my Labradors had peed on all weekend —- JUST KIDDING. If you must quote the first part of the sentence, you dang well better quote the second part too; aye?

I’m back to the one a day nutrition plan. I don’t mean vitamins; I mean meals. I mean Ramen noodles at 7:00 p. Thank God I still have some candy left. I’ve been savoring one piece after “meal” for the past four days and have enogh candy and noodles to get me to :rent check arrives time.” It ain’t easy, but it’s better than it could be.

I stopped by the District 186 office and asked about full-time employment possibilities while handing out my Vachel Pages business card to the two fine women who talked to me about my “plight of the living dead.” I learned during our pleasant conversation that it’s been a slow few weeks for sub teachers. Very few have been engaged. The ladies gave me the District web site address and told me where to look for job vacancy postings. I’ve visited, looked and bookmarked the jobs page. They need mostly LPNs, a Clerk IV, substitute clerical help for $10 an hour and no benefits . . . . . . not a single listing for a resident poet/folksinger notaONE! Yes, I did say I’d be interested in doing almost anything for District 186, that they could not ask for a better cheer leader for the system, even though I absolutely refuse to wear those short short dresses. — Just kidding! I will if they’ll hire me.

Live long-skirted . . . . and proper.

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Pictured above: Chilean classical guitarist Carlos Perez played in concert Saturday night, October 27. Photo by Job Conger.

This season of classical guitar concerts brought to Springfield, Illinois by Springfield Classical Guitar Society is the 10th and perhaps best, if the first of the season is an indicator of what’s coming. Carlos Perez had arrived by train from a concert in Chicago the day before. He’s on a tour of the states. I can’t imagine traveling solo by train with a guitar and a suitcase in a foreign country, and I can tell you there is a story about such talented musicians waiting to be written by somebody for somebody.

I have been “with” the Society as a fan since 2003 when, on my own initiative, I came with camera to a terrific performance by Julie Goldberg. I’ve photographed every concert but one since. The exception was a few years ago when I took a date to the SCGS concert and after, swore off taking dates to guitar concerts, even if, in an incredibly fortuitous turn of buena fortuna, I could GET one. As with air shows, I don’t think I could enjoy a concert without a camera against my good eye for a healthy part of the event.

I also launched, and serve as webmaster for the SCGS web site – http://www.civag.com/classical6images.htm Pictures taken at these concerts have been made available to all our concert performers and featured at some of their web sites.

What do I get out of it? The privilege of soaking in some unforgettable performances by masters of this form of musical art. Every performer has donated review copies of their current CDs, and I have reviewed them at a related web site linked from Classical 6 Images. “Best of” pictures from concerts dating back to 2003 are also posted at C6I. You may click and copy the snapshot size images, no charge. My treat.

For the first time, I an supporting SCGS with a paid advertisement which tells readers about my Folk Salad folk singing performances. Before the Saturday concert began, a woman introduced herself to me; said she had attended my performance at the Lincoln Home Visitor Center trick or treat night, the night before, and had really enjoyed it. If I had ever doubted my ability to play and sing some things good people would enjoy — a rhetorical quandry. Yes, I had, but not obesessively or darkly so — those doubts disappeared with that brief conversation.

The concert’s co-sponsor, Russel Brazzel (classical guitarist extraordinaire in his own right — and superb classical guitar instructor — explained to the audience how the SCGS is looking for concert sponsor underwriters for future concerts. The cost of bringing performers known throughout the civilized world for their music too often exceeds the revenues generated from ticket sales. Several SCGS members have made up the difference with support from their personal bank accounts. We can do better than that, folks. If you would like to lend a hand, vist the SCGS web site linked above.

The concert! Carlos Perez, star of the show! How was he? He was the best musician I have witnessed in concert since I began attending the SCGS events, pure and simple. Most of these artists dress as classical musicians, not as Jackson Pollack or Emmet Kelly. Just looking at them is like gazing at a Rolls Royce parked at the A&W Root Beer Drive-In. They rather raise the “aesthetics of the night” pole, and the audience becomes more special in their light because they have helped turn on that light with their ticket and CD purchases. Carlos spoke very little and played very much. He’s not a stand-up comedian mazquerading as a stellar musician, and that works great. Everything he played was understandable to midwestern; nothing excessively abstract. Some had haunting harmonies I have not heard in the same music played by other guitarists. The range of intensity and fluidity of technique would have flattened every tire on a semi-trailer truck if it had been measured by the pound. There were times when I could not believe he was using only ten fingers to play the music that I was hearing.

I don’t know if the mastery in live concert matches the mastery on the CDs acquired for review. Sometimes the artist is inspired by living hummin’ beans in the audience, and not by studio sterility. I’ll get back to you later about that.

In the meantime, KUDOS and THANKS to Carlos Perez and Springfield Classical Guitar Society for the best event of its kind I have shared since 2003. The rest of the season looks just as promising. Visit the web site for more info.

A new sign off to add to the growing list of sign offs . . . . . .

What I cannot be to anyone,
I will be to you.
— Job

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Chickens (a Waltz)

What will you say, America,
When the chickens come home to roost?
For your president’s crimes
When the tolling bell chimes
What will be your alibi
To the Head In The Sky?

What will you say, America,
When those chickens come home to roost?
Will the innocent dead
And the thousands who bled
For vendetta’s crusade
Touch the dreams you have made?

(refrain) Will the price of a frudu-
Lent premise reveal
Just a hint of gross shame?
Will it change how you feel?

What will you say, America,
When the chickens come home roost?
Whose debauch will you curse?
Will you eat crow . . . . or worse?
When the chickens come home to roost?

— by Job Conger
written 9:12 a.m. in Washington Park
published in Bear’ sKin, by the author
available exclusively from Prairie Archives, Springfield, Illinois
or where the author sings and recites

The penultimate two lines in the published version are different from those shared here. Originally I said,
. . . What resolve will you make?
Will you eat crow or cake? . . . .
but I after publication I grew unhappy with the originals. I slightly re-wrote for this posting and subsequent publishing because NO ONE is going to “eat cake” when the legal citizens of the United States of America pay the price for what I call “The #43 Sashay War.” What a shame.

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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For keeping my body alive, nothing tops the 60th birthday gift of three bags of groceries left at my doorstep anonymously by MR and TC the evening of September 5. During September, I ate better than I have all year, and I won’t have to by Charmin until next July, thanks to their unsolicited and over-the-top kindness. As far as keeping my heart alive, I extpect nothing this year to approach the infusion of joy and affirmation I reaped at the Lincoln Home Visitor Center when I shared songs and poetry with a passing parade of smiling young people, parents and National Park Service employees.

It started with a phone call on the 19th from site administrator Kathy D, asking me if I would “perform” ont he 26th as I had at the Center in 2004. Of COURSE I would. I really like the venue (Theater #1, and the first time there was a delightful hoot, culminating in a terrific letter to the SJ-R editor by attendee and friend Joe Coffee, who has attended and liked what he encountered. They wtill talk about that letter at the Visitor Center.

She said she would bill me as a storyteller, and I agreed. I decided most of my poems and songs would tell stories. And besides, as I later confessed to the audiences, “If I has asked Kathy to call me a poet, you probably would not have come into this fine theater to share what I’m going to present to you.” Everyone chuckled, sharing the intended gentle humor.

I knew from the start, I would add a new Vachel Lindsay poem to my repertoire, a “story” entitled “The Potatoes Dance” which I had memorized probably two years ago but had not performed in public. Monday I printed a large-type list of what I would recite and sing. Included on the list were two titles I decided, later in the week, not to perform . “Puff the Magic Dragon” was replaced by “I’m Just a Damnyankee” (a modern ballad of the Civil War, better meshing with Abe’s age, and Vachel Lindsay’s “Simon Legree.” I love the poem. It’s one of about 20 I leep in the “back pocket of my mind,” ready to recite it to anyone at the drop of a hint. I concluded, however,  it was too scary for the young trick or treat crowd which would occupy seats in T.#1. In its place were two other Vachel poems.: “On the Building of Springfield” made ths list because I knew most of the audience would be from Springfield, there is a line “We must have many Lincoln-hearted men…” and I believe in what the poem says, as relevantly to the collective consciousness of this town today as in 1908 when Vachel wrote it. I also knew it would probably be the only time 99% of the audience hears the poem recited in what I hope will be their long and happy lives. “The Sun Says,,,” is a short poem with a wonderful point.

You should memorize it; eight simple lines for goodness’ sake! So that would kill you already? Forgive me; I digressed.

Other Vachel poems selected included “When Gassy Thompson Struck it Rich,” What Mister Moon Said,” “The Little Turble,” and “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight.” In addition to the Damnyankee song, I shared Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” From my own pen I sang “Vachel Was Preacher,” and “Don’t You Take the Mashed Potatoes.” Friday afternoon, I made some crude drawings illustrating a potato with eyes, a coal bin and a “coal been” (you had to be there) and a dreadnought, to share before reciting “The Potatoes Dance,” and “Ave at Midnight.” I also demonstrated what a wood match stick is AND what a burned match stick is, depositing each burned match into a cup of water which I had brought for the occasion.

As people drifted in and out of the theater, I welcomed them, told them to come and go as they liked . . . . .  and for about two and a half hours, I  had the time of my life (with my socks on) as a delightful parade of witches, ghosts, pumpkins, puppy dogs, skeletons, fairies and other enchanting creatures and their parents came and went.

I could tell you more details, but you should know that there are some aspects to  performing that warm performers and performers only. It’s the same kind of secret nuances airplane pilots experience, that only airplane pilots experience, and they won’t share those nuances with non-pilots because they are of another “world,” and non-pilots (performers) won’t understand, and that’s okay. It’s alomost like getting to know a lover so well, even if you have major arguments later and break up and go your separate ways, there are secrets you won’t share because they are yours and yours alone. I can tell you this: as Vachel noted in “Gassy Thompson,” it was “a sunflower time.”

The dinner after the event was as nice for different reasons. It was a pleasure to encounter the director of the Museum of Funneral Customes who had been giving “embalming demonstrations” elsewhere on the Lincoln Home grounds. It took all of ten seconds for us to start talking about arranging a future appearance and presentation by moi at his excellent museum in connection with a visit to the Lindsay family gravesite. Look for more about this event as we get it together, probably next spring. I also shared three Vachel poems at the table — no, I didn’t stand up; that would have been too silly, even for me — and in doing so, I believe I laid a foundation for future cooperative projects. Early into the dinner, I had engageed similarly but more briefly, the same with the director of The Academy ofLifelong Learning at Lincoln Land Community College. Who would have imagined that on the second floor of the Conference Center in the Lincoln Home Site, one would hear excerpts from Vachel’s “The Congo” recited as I stood bent over next to her and punched the words out, almost in a whisper, to a numbstruck table of innocent bystanders? I believe something will happen with the Academy.

I departed with one bowl of chilli in a styro bowl, several cookies wrapped in a large napkin and my sportcoat pockets full of Halloween candy. At home, I ate all the candy I wanted (I had “cherry picked” Resse’s Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joys, Mounds, Hershey chocolate and Snickers) and iced tea and watached an incredible Bill Moyers’ Journal and McLaughlin group. Charlie Rose had movie people on, so I came into the office workshop and worked on model airplanes. Later, I returned to the living room, ate the saved bowl of chili, still sitting covered on the table.I realized that there wasn’t enough in the bowl to reheat later, so I should complete the perfect evening with the last of the chili. I did save some candy and cookies for later this weekend. Since all I have left in the kitchen is Ramen noodles and lunch meat, the sweets will be encore delicious.

As I hit the hay about 2:30 a, I reflected how the evening had come about as close to Christmas as I expect to get this year. There is a lot of unwelcome and unhappy circumstances ahead, to be shared in detail here as the month of November unfolds. But this day had been my Christmas, and having experienced it, my heart will be a little brighter in the weeks to come.

THANK YOU Lincoln Visitor Center, Kathy D. and the hundreds of visitors!

Live long . . . . . and proper!

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Boycott W M A Y


Because they continue to broadcast commercials for “personal warming lubricants” and “tingling jelly” on mid-day A.M. radio. I know this because I listened to one a little after 2 pm Friday, October 26, shortly after Josie left the studio early, leaving Johnny Molson to talk to a fellow about ghosts. (These folks is nothing if not timely.) For a company that calls itself Midwest Family Broadcasting to air these commercials between 6 am and midnight is a fart into the face of family values. It should be stopped. Don’t bet that it will be stopped. I’ve written a letter to management sharing my disappointment with their airing this and a similar commercial for the same company: the fine patriot family folks at KY, and I don’t mean Kentucky; you figure it out. I didn’t imagine my little old e-mail would lead them to change their minds, but I hoped letters from good people who don’t know earnest Honey & Quinine blogger from jaguar scat (if you look close enough, you can tell there’s a difference) would also write and complain and urge the company to discontinue broadcasting the offensive ads. It hasn’t happened.

It should happen. I am boycotting WMAY and WMAY advertisers. Here’s how: when I hear a jelly or rubber prophylactic advertisement, I will switch to WUIS radio, even if Karl Scroggin is on the air. I will not return to WaMAY (as Jim McKinney used to say) until the next day. And as far as Head West Sub Shop, The Mortgage Man, Easterday Plumbing and Tip Top Insurance (redefining idiocy anew with their current lame wheezings), and their other advertisers are concerned,  faGET it.

What’s wrong with a tingling jelly commercial? Like a gun, a rubber toy, or a Coke bottle. Nothing is wrong with any of these; but people can do wriong things and things wrong with them. That’s what it’s all about, Hosney.

As Don Imus fans will tell you, it’s not the offensive broadcaster who gets to draw the line when speaking; it’s the offended listener. The line has been crossed by WMAY.

BOYCOTT Springfield, Illinois radio station WMAY.

Working for the calm ‘n’ good.
— Job out

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