This Propertius Condemned

In comments to my "500th post" post, below, I have been rightly taken to task for fudging my compliance with Robert's Rules of Double Dactylery.  Yes, it's true, I did omit to incorporate a proper name into the poem, preferably in the second line.  Since the poem was All About Me, I thought I might get away with it.  (The critics have kindly foregone pointing out my egregious misuse of the word "quinquecentennial," which itself is not even the preferred form of The Long Word Meaning Five Hundred Years.  "Quincentennial" is favored, although "quinquecentennial" seems to have been applied pretty consistently to the 500th birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus back in 1973.  But I digress.)

Chastened, I crafted this new one in my head whilst toiling on a cross-training machine last night.  It is unrelated to my 500th post -- that's so several days ago -- but it duly incorporates a proper name to fill out a line of dactylic dimeter.

PropertiusPiners of Rome

Elegant elegist
Sextus Propertius,
Cynthia’s synthesist's
Gone to the ground;

Modernist Ezra sez,
Honing his Homage, “Once
In for a pen, he’s now
In for a Pound.”

Continue reading "This Propertius Condemned" »

Quintessence of Folly

Boschstone_3But Who's Counting?

Ladies and gentlemen!
Children of all ages!
Friends! If you will, hoist a
Toast with your host:

Foolishness! Forestry!
This double dactyl’s my
Five Hundredth Post!

Many many thanks to each and all of the few, the proud, the perhaps profoundly misguided readers of, commenters upon, and linkers to this weblog, and wishes to one and all for a Happy Thanksgiving and beyond.  Now, onward to Post #1000.  Excelsior!

I Sing the Body Electoral

Let us all send up a prayer and a hope that by this time tomorrow we will have a clear notion of who will next serve as President of the United States. My ballot is cast. This is not a big-time political weblog, so I won't disclose my own choice or try to influence you in yours other than to urge you to make one and to express it. To which end, I submit this bit of double-dactyl electoral doggerel dedicated to swingin' too-close-to-call undecided independent battlegrounds everywhere:

Polls Apart

Citizens, citizens:
Hie to your precincts for
Kerry and Edwards or
Cheney and Bush.

Leave no chad dangling, no
Franchise unexercised.
Vote! For today is when
Shove comes to push.

Hey Ho, the Wind and the Rain

When Florida suffered under the blows of hurricanes from every direction, some unfortunate souls took two or more hits in rapid succession. (The essence of real estate: location, location, location!) Because each hurricane is a separate event, most insurance policies will apply a separate deductible to each loss, much to the chagrin of suffering homeowners and the occasional opportunistic politician. Martin Grace has taken up the subject, more or less seriously, here and also here. At the far low end of seriousness, another regular reader dropped me an e-mail and asked that I "please bridge the gap between your two weblogs with a double-deductible double dactyl." I try to be obliging, I really do, and after fretting over the problem for a couple of weeks, this is the best I've been able to cobble together:

Hurricane Season: A Double De-dactyl

Dire déjà vu for some
Soggy Floridians:
Charley then Frances then
Ivan then Jeanne.

Struck more than once, they’ll pay
Double deductibles,
Wishing perhaps they had
Stayed in Racine.

Perced to the Roote

glassywinged_sharpshooter Here is one sharpshooter you want nowhere near your grassy knoll, your backyard or your vineyard.

To your left: the glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca coagulata, an insect fast making itself the bane of California's wine industry. Much as mosquitos spread malaria as they feed, so the sharpshooter serves as the principal transport and delivery system for Pierce's disease (Xylella fastidiosa), a bacterial infection that turns the water-bearing tissues in a plant into black sludge, ultimately starving the plant to death. While the bacterium is harmful to an array of plants, its chief victim is the grape vine.

Pierce's disease is widely blamed for the near-destruction of wine grapes as a viable crop in much of southern California. A thriving wine industry existed in this part of the state through the 19th century, but the disease destroyed tens of thousands of acres of vineyard by 1895. After an extended absence, the current resurgence of Pierce's disease made itself known in the industry's last major southern bastion, Temecula, in 1997. It has now begun to make its presence felt in northern California wine-growing counties, such as Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino.

If this discussion of glassy wings hasn't yet left you glassy-eyed, more details are available at places such as the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter News and Information Service of the California Farm Bureau Federation, and the University of California, Riverside. And if you don't already have reason to dislike these creatures, consider this ahead of your next al fresco social affair:

The threat to the urban environment is real. Heavy infestations of the sharpshooter produce copious amounts of "leafhopper rain," rendering backyard barbecues and other outdoor activities downright unenjoyable. A shady spot in the backyard is a nice retreat on a hot summer day but it could be a nuisance because of the sharpshooter. Sharpshooters excrete water droplets when they feed on plants. These droplets eventually wet people, cars, backyard play equipment, pools, cars and sidewalks. Sharpshooters filter out minerals and amino acids from the liquid sucked from plants. They filter so much water to get adequate nutrition that it excretes a sizeable droplet of water about every three seconds.

What to do, what to do? Given the problematic relationship between Californians and pesticides -- featuring prominently in this Harper's Magazine article by William Hamilton (yes, the cartoonist and chronicler of wine-bibbing preppy sorts) from May, 2001 -- the state is currently letting its anti-sharpshooter hopes ride on the backs of small parasitic wasps, which lay their own eggs among sharpshooter eggs, the latter serving as a ready smorgasboard for the wasp's emerging young. In tribute to these winged warriors, a new somewhat gothic double dactyl:

Vector victorious?
Glassy-winged sharpshooters
Spread vile bacteria,
Sicken our grapes.

Fly, waspish rescuers!
Fly! Let your young drive their
Stakes through the hearts of these
Vampires sans capes!

Of course, annoying as the sharpshooters are in themselves, the problem here is not so much the insects as it is that the disease they spread remains incurable. The Pierce's pathogen might be among those for which a genetic solution could be found, but any research to develop resistant stock must overcome a different sort of force of nature: the Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Henry Miller of the Hoover Institution writes:

There are several ways to introduce or enhance the resistance to Pierce's disease in new variants, or varieties, of grapevines. One logical approach is to transfer genes that confer resistance into California's grapes from distantly related, non-commercial grapes that possess natural immunity. But conventional grape breeding is a notoriously slow and uncertain process, and attempts to use the more sophisticated and efficient gene-splicing techniques have run afoul of EPA and local regulatory policies. So does the approach of University of Florida researchers who have patented a group of resistance genes that are a synthetic version of those found in a variety of organisms. (And so also does another gene-splicing trick that could permit new vines to bear fruit years earlier than usual.)

The EPA discriminates against gene-spliced varieties, by regulating even more stringently than chemical pesticides any plant that has been modified with gene-splicing techniques to enhance its pest- or disease-resistance. This policy, which has been attacked repeatedly by the scientific community as unscientific and irrational, has badly damaged agricultural research and development. It flouts the widespread scientific consensus that gene-splicing is more precise, circumscribed and predictable than other techniques. New gene-spliced varieties can not only increase yields, make better use of existing farmland and conserve water, but -- especially for grains and nuts -- are a potential boon to public health, because the harvest will have lower levels of contamination with toxic fungi and insect parts than conventional varieties. Moreover, by reducing the need for spraying crops with chemical pesticides, they are environmentally and occupationally friendly.

The link to Dr. Miller's article comes via Iain Murray writing at The Commons Blog, where he adds:

If we want to save the California wine industry, rescinding those EPA regulations would be a good start. It'd be easier than trying to change the weather.

At least the weather gives us something to talk about as we shelter indoors with our guests, fast-disappearing Chardonnay in hand, to evade the leafhopper rain.

Continue reading "Perced to the Roote" »

Non-Stop Topless Towers

Fig. 1 -- A lovely Mycenaean stirrup jarNo doubt inspired by the opportunity to coattail on the upcoming Brad Pitt epic, last week saw the long-awaited DVD release of the marvelous 1985 BBC documentary series In Search of the Trojan War, hosted by Michael Wood.

Over the course of six episodes, Wood provides insights on the Wild West exploits of the notorious Heinrich Schliemann (who destroyed as much as he uncovered and was not above Making Things Up) and other, more reputable searchers after the site of Troy and similar Homeric hot spots, with side jaunts into the bardic tradition and everything you ever wanted to know about Mycenaean stirrup jars (fig. 1). I am also regularly reminded by my Lady Wife that Mr. Wood looks very nice as he strides across Greece and the Levant in his tight historian's jeans. I maintain that this is about as good as history-television gets.

After years of making do with fuzzy VHS copies taped off the air when PBS last broadcast it, I am looking forward to seeing this series again in proper pristine form. Wood's book to accompany the series, also entitled (surprise!) In Search of the Trojan War, was updated in 1998 and is recommended for all you armchair archeologists and mythographers.

And now, with that as an excuse, it's time for a freshly composed double dactyl:

Excerpts From the Anachronistiad I

Ilium! Ilium!
Mighty Achilles quotes
Dylan to Hector: “So
How does it feeel?

That’s for Patroclus, pal!
Now, where’s my chariot . . . ?”
Hector’s penultimate
Thought? “What a heel.”

Update: By timely coincidence, Greg Perry voices some doubts concerning the Pitt version at g r a p e z. Hunkiness is next to godlessness, eh?

Here Come the King Bats!*

Checking into an incoming visit from the Periodic Table of Blogs, I discovered that this Fool has been relocated out of the Obscuroid sequence and into the lower left corner of the Cultural columns. And looking into the related weblog at that same site, I discovered that its baseball-loving proprietor Score Bard has produced a double dactyl in tribute to the starting lineup of the 2004 Detroit Tigers.**

* cf. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure (The 'Good Parts' Version), in which the king bats play a significant role in the childhood of the Turkish giant, Fezzik. Said bats do not figure in the popular film adaptation.

** I am a Detroiter by extraction, myself, though I have lived in southern California for over three decades now. I have fond memories of the 1968 Detroit-St. Louis World Series, featuring the sterling pitching of Mickey Lolich.

Alas, Even This Title Is Not By Me

Sure as the sun rises in some east-like direction, you are probably tired of my complaints of the state of my principal office computer. The poor machine is due for its second complete-reformatting-and-reinstall-of-this-thing-called-Windows-within-a-72-hour-period-or-thereabouts, and I can hear it whimpering. Or is that me? Whatever the case, I need to post on some other topic and today that topic is: a hodge podge of light verse by others.

I have been reading over Russell Baker's Norton Book of Light Verse and came upon this relevant commentary from Alexander Pope:

The Fool and the Poet

Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool,
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.

Next, for lack of a fresh double dactyl of my own, here is a favorite from George Starbuck, in a painterly vein:

El Greco, View of Toledo - Click to Enlarge!

High Renaissance

“Nomine Domini
None of these prelates can
Manage your name.

Change it. Appeal to their
Sign it ‘El Greco.’ I’ll
Slap on a frame.”

And by way of freely associating fro that painting, consider this chorus from “Toledo,” one of the better songs on the altogether fine Elvis Costello-Burt Bacharach collaboration, Painted From Memory:

And do people living in Toledo
Know that their name hasn’t traveled very well?
And does anybody in Ohio
Dream of that Spanish citadel?