Thursday, February 2, 2017


Not a word we hear all the time, but it's been in the air a bit lately. I know what it means in context, but I find it a bit hard to define. I would say that to be overweening is to be grasping for more than one is entitled to. I also have impressions of overbearing and and kind of leaning over or overshadowing others.

Let's what find out what it really means.

Okay. According to the Free Dictionary, it can mean either to be presumptuously arrogant or overbearing, or to be excessive or immoderate. Sound like anyone you know?

According to the Merriam Webster website, the word only dates back to the 14th century. "Over" we get, but what's the "ween" part about. The Middle English was overwening, the present participle of overwenen. "Ween" is derived from wenen, "to think or believe". There are records from earlier times showing that people sometimes used the word overween, meaning to have too high an opinion of oneself.

The image that I would most obviously post here is one that I think we are all already tired of looking at, but I bet you can figure it out.

(The first two images come from something called, but the final one comes from In case you're looking for more.)


Friday, January 20, 2017

And the water comes again...

In honor of the Women's March tomorrow. Loved this song back in the day, and I love it still.

You can't stop water and you can't stop women. Let it rain.


Just got back from a Lucinda Williams concert here in town. Here is the song she ended with (before the inevitable encores.)

(Found out this morning that my friend shared the concert version of the song, which you can find HERE)

All of this foolishness in my life
All of this foolishness in my life, don't need it
What I do in my own time
Is none of your business and all of mine
All of this foolishness
All of this foolishness in my life

All of you liars in my life
All of you liars in my life, don't need you
You can talk all the trash you want
But I know the truth even if you don't
None of you liars in my life
None of you liars in my life

None of your pie in the sky
None of your pie in the sky, don't need it
No matter how you go or where
I ain't gonna follow you anywhere
None of your pie in the sky
None of your pie in the sky

All of you fear-mongers in my life
All of you fear-mongers in my life
You can try to scare me down
But I know how to stand my ground
None of you fear-mongers in my life
None of you fear-mongers in my life

All of this foolishness in my life
All of this foolishness in my life
What I do in my own time
Is none of your business and all of mine

None of this foolishness in my life
None of this foolishness in my life

All of this foolishness
All of you liars
All you talk about is pie in the sky
All of you fear-mongers

I don't need you liars
I don't need your pie in the sky
I don't need you fear-mongers
Don't need your foolishness
All this foolishness

It's nothing but foolishness
It's nothing but foolishness
It's nothing but foolishness
It's nothing but foolishness
It's nothing but your foolishness
It's nothing but your foolishness

(Needless to say, on this particular night and in this particular place is was very well received.)



Thursday, January 12, 2017


(Apparently this got published somehow before I was actually finished with it yesterday. Apologies to anyone who read it and found it a bit abrupt and confusing.)

"Bathos" is one of those words that I kind of think I understand without really ever having checked to see if I do. It's a word that you can usually kind of fill in from context. Or think you can. Recently, I was in an exchange about whether something was bad writing or not. I wasn't sure, but the person I was having the conversation with said that, among other things, the writing was full of bathos. I must confess that the actual word almost immediately brings to mind the Three Musketeers--Bathos, Porthos and Aramis, right? (No, that's Athos, Porthos and Aramis.) I also think of it as being the name of  one of those theater masks, although there are really only two, one associated with tragedy and one with comedy. I always think of bathos as having something false about it, perhaps sentimental. But I really can't entirely define it. Here are a couple of examples from

With a great deal of bathos, Lenny went from proclaiming his innocence to confessing he'd eaten the last slice of pumpkin pie.

Bathos will change the play’s tone as soon as the audience realizes the corpse is nothing more than a big dog in a dress.

It was pure bathos onstage when the singer switched from singing a classic aria to crooning nursery rhymes.

It seems that bathos has something to do with an inappropriate mixture of tone, possibly that of descending from a more exalted or grave one to a more juvenile or comic one. So what is bathos?

You know the idea of "from the sublime to the ridiculous"? Well, that's bathos. It's the unintended movement from an exalted vision or language to the trite, trivial or silly. I liked this example from About Education:

"The director had clearly decided to confront us with the gruesome detail of the massacre, but the sight of artificial dismembered limbs, human torsos dangling in trees, and blood-stained cavalry men riding about brandishing human legs and heads, that all clearly had the weight of polystyrene, made his intentions ridiculous. The entire cinema burst out laughing as the film descended into bathos. We expected the gruesome and got the bizarre instead."

(John Wright, Why Is That So Funny? Limelight, 2007)

Alexander Pope--Michael Dahl, National Portrait Gallery

"Bathos" comes from the Greek and means depth but we owe its existence in English, at least in this sense, to a much more modern source. According to Wikipedia, In 1727, the British poet Alexander Pope published an essay called Peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking in Poetry. It was a parody of a work by the classical writer Longinus called Peri Hupsous or On the Sublime-- "hupsos" meaning height. Peri Bathous gives many examples of how to write bad verse, or to "sink" rather than to rise to the sublime. Here is an example from the essay that Wikipedia offers:

Many Painters who could never hit a Nose or an Eye, have with Felicity copied a Small-Pox, or been admirable at a Toad or a Red-Herring. And seldom are we without Genius's for Still Life, which they can work up and stiffen with incredible Accuracy. ("Peri Bathous" vi).

Sounds quite lively. In the end, bathos seems like it must be pretty much in the eye of the beholder. This is Hogarth's conception.

The Bathos--William Hogarth


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

Yes, just one more confession of ignorance before we slip out of the old year and into whatever the new one holds for us. And I realized as I woke up this morning that I had had something a little bit wrong for almost my entire life. And it just happens to be appropriate to the annual transition we are about to make.

You know the song 'Deck the Halls'? Fa la la la la and all that? Well, I was hearing the part that goes 'Fast away the old year passes' in my head and then started wondering about the next line. I had always thought it went something like 'Hail the new ye lads and lasses.' Meaning, to me, goodbye old year, let's welcome all the new people who are coming into this world in the coming year. But then I wondered 'What exactly are new ye lads and lasses?' I think I must have thought it meant something like 'the new year lads and lasses,' even though I knew the word was 'ye.' It was only in pondering it that I realized that it must be, 'Hail the new, ye lads ands lasses.' As in hail the new year, everyone. Looked it up just now and sure enough, there is a comma after new.

Frankly, I'm a little sad  that the song isn't about welcoming the next year's infants. But I'll get over it. Or forget it. One or the other.

I decided I would post a YouTube video of this but if you look closely, you'll see that they get it slightly wrong too. But you'll have to watch to see how.


Friday, December 23, 2016

By way of a Christmas card

I've already posted about this on my more book and story related blogs, so not to be tiresome, but I made a little chapbook this year out of a Christmas story I wrote some time ago. Mostly I'm just putting it up here by way of a Christmas card, but you can buy it if you want. Or if you don't want to buy it but still want to read it,  just email me and I'll send you a file. I'm not in it for the money. No obligation, believe me. I just wanted to show off the cover, because I made it (accidentally) and I like it.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"You will discover the truth in time."

I've had some unusually provocative fortunes in my fortune cookies lately, and this was the latest of them. Perhaps it doesn't seem so on the surface. But pity the poor English language learner with this one, eh? Talk about your multiple meanings. Although I think I normally would only have gravitated to two meanings, I now think there are at least four.

Here are the two more obvious ones:

"You will discover the truth in time." You will find out the truth before it's too late.

"You will discover the truth in time." You will find out the truth eventually.

But, perhaps, influenced by a recent viewing of the new movie Arrival, I also see a couple more slippery ones.

"You will discover the truth in time." The truth you are seeking is to be found in this strange thing (or non-thing) which we call time. Or, time itself holds the key.

"You will discover the truth in time." You will find out what is true about time itself. Or, you will discover what is true within our conception of time as opposed to what is untrue.

The concept of time seems to have been coming up for exploration a lot lately, and I don't think it's just me. In addition to the time aspect of Arrival, which I won't discuss further here for fear of spoilers, there is also a popular new television series called Timeless and a bestselling new book from James Gleick called Time Travel, which I'm quite eager to read.

And for me personally, it seems to be cropping up everywhere. Part of this makes me think that we may be more adept at time travel than we know. Here's an example from the beginning of Lene Kaaberol and Agnete Friis's book Invisible Murder (sorry, the beginning is as far as I've gotten so far.)

Tamas's mind was working at a fever pitch. It was as if he could suddenly see the future so clearly that everything that he would need to do fell neatly into place, almost as if he had already done it and was remembering it, rather than planning it. First we'll have to do this. And then this. And then if I ask...

And this is from a book I happened to read recently, David Morrell's Scavanger, which I picked up after seeing him as the guest of honor at the recent Bouchercon in New Orleans. This thriller turns out to have a lot to say about time capsules, and the peculiar human impulse to memorialize our particular historical moment for the future, and how hard that turns out to be. But in the midst of this, Morrell, who is a scholar as well as a thriller writer, throws in a quote from Kierkegaard, which resonated with me as describing the condition of many of us in the days and weeks after the recent presidential election, and perhaps was similar to a state that many felt after Brexit as well.

The most painful state of being is remembering the future, in particular one you can never have.

Here's hoping we all discover the truth in time in one of it's better meanings--sooner than later, but better late than never.