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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ellie - 2 Dog Daze

 Ellie - A Crop

I was thinking about the iron curtain in our living room yesterday, wondering if it would ever be lifted, when a remarkable thing happened.

Amber the Kat, came in looking for a sip of white wine. She didn’t seem at all afraid of me. Some kats are like that, they’ll do anything for a drink, but you have to admire her courage. Of course the house woman was there as well, so there wasn’t a lot of risk . . . but still.

I kept an eye on her but didn’t say anything.

Ellie -  Amber 4 good-Crop
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Friday, November 28, 2014

Swedish For Immigrants - Week 14

Sometimes you get lucky.

Another Friday test today. I’m guessing (optimistically) I might have gotten 70% correct, but last week I scored 85%. A miracle. First good score I’ve had since I began.
After the test I stopped by the liquor store for some beer, but it had not opened yet, so I walked over to the library to kill some time. I ended up browsing in the “Free Used Books’ section and noticed this amazing title: Svenska för invandrare. Swedish for Immigrants? Incredible. I grabbed it and took it home for my wife to help me translate. Below is the first poem. It totally blew me away.

From: Swedish For Immigrants 

 Published by Immigrant Institute

ISBN 91-85242-08-X

Suddenly I am a Foreigner

Binnie Kristal-Anderson

Suddenly I am a foreigner
suddenly I am alone
in a foreign country
foreign eyes
staring at me.
I try to look friendly
I try to explain
with my quiet humble eyes
why I am here
in your country old lady
who sits beside me on the bus
and stares at me angrily.
Why do you look so angry?
I know that I don’t
look exactly
like the others
I know I cannot speak
your language
as well as you
but believe me, old lady
I want to love you
and your country
if you do not count me out
before I get
a chance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pirene's Fountain - Bushido Steel

My poem - Bushido Steel - has been published in this new issue.
Pirene's Fountain
Pirene’s Fountain’s tradition of excellence in writing and thought continues in this special double-feature edition. Features, interviews, reviews, and brilliant works of poetry are brought together to inspire and nurture the creative spirit. The voices in Pirene’s Fountain create a meaningful and lasting dialogue for all lovers of exceptional poetry and writing.

Lampião's Band

Lampião - A 
Lampiāos Band

They fought against and incredibly corrupt Brazilian government. His right-hand man was known as the Blond Devil, and his woman, Maria Bonitas (Maria the Beautiful).
The relationship of Maria Bonita and Lampião is firmly rooted in Brazilian folk history, much like the ‘romance and violence’ fame that Bonie & Clyde achieved in the USA. The story of Lampião and Maria Bonita, has been the subject of innumerable Brazilian folk stories, books, comic books, songs, movies, and TV shows, with all the elements of drama, passion, and violence typical of “Wild West” stories.
Lampiao -  C 
At the youtube site below Maria’s photo you can find the popular Brazilian song “Acorda Maria Bonita” celebrating the cangaceira (outlaws).


On July 28, 1938, Lampião’s band was betrayed by one of his supporters and ambushed in one of his hideouts by a police troop armed with machine guns. In a quick battle, Lampião, Maria Bonita and 9 of his troops were killed, though some 40 others escaped. The heads of the dead bandits were cut off and sent to Salvador, the capital of Bahia, for examination by specialists at the State Forensic Institute, and later, for public exhibition. In 1969 were the families of Lampião and Maria Bonita were finally able to reclaim the preserved heads to finally bury them.

Lampiao - B

Lampião’s Band
Bruce Louis Dodson

Who were the last that stood?
Lampião’s Band.
How would you die?
In bed?
Or with the Blond Devil and Maria Bonita
making your play on some hot hill
amidst the smell of cordite, oil, and old rifles
without fear of death.

Where does the battle end?
Not any time or place you dare to make a stand.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Swedish For Immigrants - Week 13

My ride on the emotional roller coaster continues. Lessons are fun most of the time, good teachers, and I enjoy my classmates. They continue to be friendly & helpful – watching out for the ‘old man’, but it remains difficult for me to understand most of what they are saying. Seems they all list English as a second language, but it’s an English totally unfamiliar to me. I don’t understand their Swedish more than very basic comments, and Enshala (incorrect spelling) is the only Arabic I know, (It is God’s will), a word I have started to use frequently.

My most frustrating problem continues to be understanding test questions (note photo above). The teachers give lengthy verbal explanations – in Swedish of course – and I can usually figure things out by looking at the test paper, but not always. I get blindsided once or twice a week.

This week we had a verbal test. We were divided into teams of three, two Somali girls and me. We were suppose to give a classroom talk on what people ate, what they did for exercise, and what they did to feel good. The girls understood each other, but were not clear on how to organize what each of us needed to do. I had a pretty good idea about how to get things in order, but understood less than half of what they were saying. It was a Chinese fire drill. Finally the teacher helped us. I took a rough draft home, typed it up, and had my Swedish wife make corrections. I went to class the next day with copies for the others on my team and felt good about it, confident. I had extra notes on my copy to help with pronunciation. We practiced our presentation for a half hour. One of my teammates had memorized her answer. I was so impressed. “I could never do that,” I told her, but doubt if she understood. The following day we stood in front of the class ready to do our thing. I was ready. This time I had the answers in my hand. All I had to do was read what I had written. Then the teacher said, in English, “No papers. You cannot read your work.”

So many times I feel like Charlie Brown holding to football. It was total humiliation. Sheesh. I felt so stupid. I had no idea we were supposed to memorize our answers. Our team had to stand down. I was able to memorize most of my part and did a sloppy recitation in for class two hours later. Went home feeling very down. I seem never to know what the hell is going on, and 60% is still the best I can do on tests. There are only two major tests left to do. After that, tallied scores will determine if students go on to ‘C’ level. There is no way I will pass, and have no idea what will happen. Maybe I will do the ‘B’ class again. I think what I really need is to go to ‘A’ class and get some kind of a running start at this language thing, but I have requested before and told I didn’t need class ‘A’.

Whatever. Sometimes I feel like I will be taking these classes for the rest of my life, and the time spent is taken from hours I would ordinarily spend writing. It’s hard to find time even for these blogs now. Yuk!

If we don’t change the direction we are headed we will end up where we are going. – Chinese proverb.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Contemplations 4 - Part 1

Politics, publishers & Money.


Has there ever been a time when it was different? The rich are always with us. Kings and queens, shaping the lives, and often deaths, of the working class. Royalty has always had advisers, experts, specialists and priests. Nothing has changed except the wardrobes. Last U.S. priest was Billy Graham – at times had almost total access the White House. “God has made this man our president,” he declared over three consecutive presidents. “God’s will,” he said, determined who would be elected. “God’s will.” I love that kind of talk . . . been said for ages. I remember Eric Berne, (Transactional Analysis, Games People Play). His description of jazz: “Sounds good, means nothing.”

Medieval royalty hired brutes for body guards, now we have lawyers, and still a few brutes as well I suppose. Our modern kings and queens have shed the weight of crowns, prefer to live in opulence behind the scenes, surrounded by those eager to encourage favor, lavishing gifts in hope of requests granted. But why bother gift shopping? Cash is better and more portable . . . checks delivered by lobbyists.

“So far only corporate lobbyists have had access to the negotiations: from Monsanto to Nestlé, corporations are all scuttling around Brussels to get their agenda into the treaties. European citizens have teamed up with more than 250 partner organizations across the European Union to form the self-organized, EU-wide citizens’ initiative against TTIP and CETA.”

Good luck with that. Don’t count on it.

They’ve privatized the railroads here. Yesterday the trains stopped running, again, in Sweden. This has happened two or three times since I’ve been here – a little over a year. Thousands stranded in Stockholm. People trying to get somewhere for the weekend. They’re also privatizing schools.

Contemplations - 4 Part 2

The literary royalty:

  Writing is work I think, not easy for most of us. But we can all self publish now, compete with big time publishers, the houses, agents, marketing . . . lands of submission. I stumbled on these words a couple weeks ago:

“As relatively modest as their salaries may be, people in publishing are still by birth and education and cultural assumptions members of the emerging American over class, self-replicating and increasingly isolated from the conditions of American life outside the big cities and campus enclaves. Working class people who pay the punishing financial price that going to college extracts these days are unlikely to be attracted to publishing, with those “relatively modest salaries” as their payoff All of which means that voices from and on behalf of the working class have that much harder a time getting read, understood, and published. Absent some unforeseen cultural shift, they are likely to remain unfashionable.”

“I know that sounds pretty bleak when it comes to what I’ve called literary democracy. And yet the vitality and toughness of working-class life has a way of producing voices that demand to be heard. Fiction, of all the arts, is the one that has the strongest allegiance to a realistic depiction of the world as it is, however advanced the formal means by which that representation is achieved. The strongest talents in American fiction, the ones that have the most impact and durable staying power, tend to be rooted in place and local culture and informed by human struggle.”

I’m not sure where I read this, or who said it, was probably something in Paris Review.

*       *       *

I listened to an interesting interview with Stephen King this week. He thinks we’re beginning to look like 1984, and worries we’re getting ourselves into a place where there is constant war. Back to the future again. Seems like it’s always been that way to me. When were there no wars? At the end of WWII we had the best army that ever walked the earth, best equipped, the best moral, best everything. Then we sent them to Korea and war that could not be won. When we finished there we sent them to Vietnam, another war that could not be won, and now the middle east and battles you can’t even imagine being won. Life on earth.

“World peace,” the beauty contestant’s mantra.

I saw a Facebook petition to sign if you are for world peace. Most of us want world peace. I’m not sure signing a petition advocating it will do much good. There should be a petition for getting rid of bad guys, the Hitlers, Stalins, Attila the huns, those crazy Isis bastards, and on down the line to thieves and murderers and cyber scams. What is it that creates these people? Something more than genetics.

A recent report from the Social Security Administration confirms what many other studies have shown over the last 40 years. The United States is experiencing the kind of obscene levels of wealth and income inequality found third world countries. Since 1999, the median income has gone down by nearly $5,000. Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. Half of all workers in the U.S. made less than $28,031. The wealthiest 110 workers received a $14.2 million increase in average pay.

Money itself is an interesting subject. It disappears into a fantasy of paperwork: promissory notes and bills of exchange, a fantasy world of secret deals between royalties, the Rothschild’s, Rockefellers, and Morgans – banksters. No legal case has ever been won against a banks. Corporations have been given the same rights as people.
I remember listening to Buckminster Fuller as a student at Southern Illinois University. He predicted a financial watershed, around the year 2000 he thought. A coming confrontation between the haves & have-nots was a popular discussion in the academic world of the late 50’s. Also worries about populating growth. We were three billion people on the earth back then, now we are six billion. Half or more of those six billion would be considered poor by most European and Americans standards. It’s interesting how much money some people have. What do they do with it, besides influence governments?
Some build houses. I just stumbled on to this one.


It’s owned by Mukesh Ambani. Six underground levels of parking, 600 staff to keep things running smoothly. Three helicopter pads. Value one billion U.S.D. One billion!
Guess where it is. Mambai, India. The mind boggles.

Enough. I am without solutions.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dog Days 4 - by Bucks

Bucks Revenge

You won’t believe what happened yesterday. I was minding my own business when I noticed the gate to the iron curtain was open. This is supposed to mean Nellie, or Ellie, or whatever her name is, is in jail or outside pooping somewhere. But she wasn’t and we met face to face. I stood my ground, as always, and she began to ramble on about herself. “I’m a poet,” she told me. “Would you like to see what I wrote yesterday?”

“Whatever,” I said. I’m always polite, even when I don’t want to be.
She handed me a chewed up piece of cardboard with some words written in doggerel. I looked it up on Google Translate, which was a bad idea. She called me a pussy, and you won’t believe the second line.

His fur was quite long and he looked somewhat fat.

Somewhat fat?! Today I learned the bitch has posted it on Facebook.
This is an obvious case of internet slander! I’ve been trying to contact my lawyer, a New York weasel, but he’s gone fishing.

Amber says I should forget about it. Easy for her to say.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dog Days 3 - by Ellie

Elllie - 1

Ha! The Bucks is taking a nap. He does a lot of those, so this is a good chance for me to introduce myself. My name is Ellie, the same as the Swedish Crown Princesses daughter. I was born in Sweden, but my great grandparents were Irish. My dad is a well known show dog, but I’m not interested in that sort of thing. I’m going to be a poet when I grow up. My new home is giving me lots of ideas and I’ve already started composing.

This is my first:

I once met a pussy called Buckminster cat
His fur was quite long and he looked somewhat fat
I’m the boss of this house, he told me one day
So what’s the big deal? I just want to play.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Amber Does Dog Days - 2

Amber Redux 

This note is just to tell you followers I’m still alive. Bucks and I have been staying high, which is always a good thing. The dog stays at ground level so we feel reasonably safe . . . but paranoid. I’ve been keeping an eye on things, always watching from a safe distance.

Amber Watching

An iron curtain has appeared. It separates the kitchen and living room from the rest of the house, and was put up on the same day as the Berlin Wall anniversary. Bucks thinks there’s some kind of symbolic meaning in that, and we have been arguing about it.
“It’s no coincidence,” he says.

Whatever. The hound’s name is Ellie. She gets put in jail every night about ten o’clock. We feel safer then and have free run of the house late at night, but there are dog smells everywhere. Bucks had an encounter with Ellie in the kitchen yesterday after someone left the gate open.

Iron Curtain - Crop

He puffed himself up so big he looked like a black & white watermelon. I’ve never seen him do that before. It was weird.

The servants are giving us lots of snacks lately, probably because they feel guilty, and they should. I mean, really! Bucks is meowing about the computer now. He probably wants to tell you about his meet up with Ellie, but it wasn’t a big deal, if you want my opinion.

I’ll be back.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dog Days 2 - By Bucks

Bucks & El-fix

I had a talk with the hound today. Things do not look good, but at least she didn’t bark or try to bite me. I think she’s got that ‘attention deficit’ thing. Can’t seem to hold still, and running around the house like a gerbil on crack. I tried to tell here who’s in charge here, but she doesn’t understand. She probably can’t speak Catonese, and I am sure as hell not going to learn Doggerel.

As the nun said, “This is not good.”

Monday, November 3, 2014

Amber Does Dog Days - 1

OMG! I can’t believe it. Sunday in Sweden and this animal appeared. A dog! Why would anyone bring a dog into the house? She’s already barked at me twice. Dogs are so rude! Thank god it can’t climb. I’ll be okay here on the top deck of this cat tree, but I worry about Bucks. He’s never been would one might define as emotionally stable, and now this.

Buks F
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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Swedish For Immigrants - Week 11


Nothing exciting this last week. Some progress maybe, and I know where my three classrooms are, plus Friday tests held in the Jussi auditorium. We had a Friday test this morning, doubt I passed it, but think I failed less than the last time. Some of us have started speaking Swedish to each other this last week. ‘How are you? Are you married? Do you have children?’ Scintillating conversations. But it’s nice. It’s good, and I’ve relaxed a bit, accepted how it is, this language thing and me. I can tell you my address on Foreningsghatan (fourteen letters!) and converse with a health care receptionist, or ‘emergency’ people over the phone. I’m sure anyone ending up on the other end of such calls will be able to speak English, but good to know, just in case.

I’ve learned how to use the coffee machine in the lounge, can say numbers up to the thousands, and tell you what time it is . . . in Swedish. Small steps, but progress. I have still not memorized the number of the cell phone that I never use, or my person number. Person numbers are about the same as one’s social security number in the States.

Teacher keeps telling us, “Stop speaking Arabic!” No problem for me, but we have five women in this class who like to chatter about things in the classroom lecture they don’t understand, or maybe something else entirely. We’ll never know. When more than two of them get going it’s a real cacophony. Their language seems incredibly fast, staccato. We are told to speak only Swedish while in school, and wherever possible. There’s no need to forbid English. No one is speaking English.

It would be great if could learn to talk in Swedish with classmates. I’m sure they have interesting stories, but so far our conversations tend to stall out while talking about family and cars.
“My dad had a Buick,” one tells me, and he had a car, also American. How the hell did these cars get to Syria? I don’t know much about Syria, except for the madness shown on TV news. Some kind of complicated civil war – 190,000 dead so far.

Syria War 
The Mind Boggles

I don’t have an image of people driving around in nice cars. Why has he come here? I wonder what happened? Some of my classmates have caromed off two or three other countries before ending in Sweden. One of the woman has just deep gotten her four-year-old daughter back from Italy. The child has been there for sometime, a year or more – reasons unknown. It must be completed, things like that.

She’s from the deep south and the wrong side, of Africa. Was part of a tribe. What was that like I wonder. In her late twenties now, been here for eighteen months. I’ve missed her this last week. Thought she’d dropped out, but saw her in the hall today, looking for one of our teachers. She’s been intent on learning Swedish, and been doing better at it than I am and speaks the best English of all my classmates. I don’t think she gets any money for attending classes – something to do with her status here, and getting her kid back. I hope she’s okay. She looks okay. Problems at home I guess.
I keep thinking about language as a thing in itself, beyond accents, countries, nationalities, and at the same time making things possible. The power of language . . . words. Is there thought without words?

“Language must be taken in a wider sense than speech, Jung says. “Speech is only the outward flow of thoughts formulated for communication. Were it otherwise the deaf mute would be extremely limited in his thinking capacity, which is not the case at all.”