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Weekend Wonk

The Fab Four and Other Musical Reflections

No, not that Fab Four. Be patient. Hush.

The Sheas just got back from a typically wonderful week on Cape Cod, with a weekend family reunion on Great East Lake in Maine thrown in. Wish you all could have joined us. On the Cape we went to the Barnstable County Fair. More rides than last year, but short on animal stuff (cattle judging, draft horse pulling, etc.) and the entertainment wasn’t ready for prime time. But the Italian sausage sandwiches and curly fries and funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos were delectable. Fairs are for walking around while pigging out, after all.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

A while back I wrote about metaphor (Metaphors Be With You) and its poor relation, simile. Now it is time to talk about metonymy and synecdoche. Especially metonymy, which I am determined to pin down once and for all. (Free wrestling metaphor, wonkees!)

And it should be so simple.

High Culture and Pop Culture

All the while that I was wrestling with issues reflective of Steve Goodman, Francis Thompson, and Joyce Kilmer, to name three—those people who are known mostly for just one work, be it good (Goodman, Thompson) or not so good (Kilmer)—I was having a running discussion with my friend Joe Kolupke, another professor emeritus and my go-to polymath. I thought I had another couple of really good examples in Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.

More One-off Poets

So you say you never heard of "The Hound of Heaven"? Fair enough. In this go-round we get a bit more modern. Well, one of our poets is early 19th century, but the other two are early 20th century. The first poem and poet some of you might not recognize, but another I can guarantee you know, and the third—at least the poem—is also a good bet.


Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who loves to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I'm weary, say I’m sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;

One-off Poets

"One-off Poets" is the best title I can come up with, because—see Steve Goodman—I am still reluctant to denigrate them with the term "one-hit wonders." This week I want to return to Ernest Dowson and Francis Thompson, two Victorians who glimmered for a moment and were gone. Next week I want to look at three others who are perhaps more well known today, but, again, for only one work.

Steve Goodman

I was going to title this wonk "One-Hit Wonders," but to my mind there is something chintzy about the phrase, something slightly disrespectful, and Steve Goodman deserves a lot better than that. We’ll get to the late Steve Goodman in a minute, which will give you time to try to place the name.

Swamp Cooler

If you are reading this wonk in my neck of the woods, the American Southwest, you can stop right now and go back to Facebook. In fact, wherever the climate is very hot and very dry you, too, can probably skip it, at least if the term “swamp cooler” or “evaporative cooler” is familiar to you. But a swamp cooler was new to me when I came here many years ago* and it underscored the fact that I wasn’t in Kansas (well, Pennsylvania) anymore, Toto.

L’envoi, EMD

Maybe I'm just a wuss after all. After all, I survived EMD as did so many others who were not physically crippled or emotionally scarred by the experience. And it wasn't the physical labor, the "hoppin' like a bunny," that made the pre-load such hell. In fact, I regret now that I didn't take up serious running until ten years later. With the legs that EMD gave me, I'll bet I could have run a marathon in under three hours! When I got home in the small hours, my legs used to tingle wonderfully and I weighed 130 pounds, tops.

Hoppin’ Like a Bunny

One problem that I had with the job at EMD—or, rather, that the job had with me—was that, at 33, I was about ten years older than the other guys. Troublemaker. Malcontent. I was bad news in the same way that a 33-year-old draftee would be bad news in the army even if he was as fit as a twenty-something. A twenty-year-old is gung-ho and malleable; a thirty-year-old is just a tad cynical, a pain in the ass. That was me.

Easy Money

I have had the usual run of jobs to support my real life. I have driven tractors, forklifts, and trucks—dump trucks, delivery trucks, garbage trucks. I have done farm work and construction work and warehouse work. I’m not averse to physical labor, but when my grown-up job, teaching, finally became my career, I welcomed that development. What I’m writing about here is the worst job I ever had, the job from hell.

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