Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Emotional Vaccination

Now that Pfizer has gotten their two jabs of flesh,
(Or was it Moderna's two pinpricks at rest?),
After the Oxford AstraZeneca two step potion
Comes the Johnson & Johnson one stop concoction

Sputnik flies again, the one from Gamaleya Research in Russia
And what of the Sinovac, the CoronaVac from China?
My parents in Ghana recently benefited from the Covax facility
But, while overjoyed, never mentioned the brand equity

A relief, but this lack of detail is causing me to wonder
For, if it was a two dose variant, say the Covaxin from India,
Whether there will be enough supply of vaccine for Ghana
Since this pandemic has seen a surge in those epicenters

The mosquito principle, while deceptively simple, points to a few limitations
The most obvious is that mitigating a global disease requires global solutions
In political philosophy, the problem is described as collective action
Social living is only the start of the journey to emotional vaccination

papua new guinea stamp defence force

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: May 2, 2021

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Ritual Tributes

Apropos public grief, herewith a sampling of tributes to Yuri Andropov by African leaders after his death, as reported in Talking Drums magazine (February 20, 1984)...

The public expression of grief can be confounding especially when rituals combine with politics and the performance of power. At such times, perception is all.

The institutions that have staying power in human history are well practised at the spectacle of ritual tributes. The Catholic Church, and as we are currently seeing, the British monarchy, are experts in this realm, putting on a finely-tuned display with the pomp and pageantry of a well oiled machine.

Africans understand well the importance of funeral ceremonies, death being our close companion. Effusive outpourings are to be expected, furrowed brows and florid rhetoric - albeit with a sober countenance, in celebration of the departed. During our lost decades, even the rogues who were busy feeding on the carcasses of our body politic, and who, in the main, weren't the most gifted of wordsmiths, could be counted on to give a felicitous toast and ritual tribute. Solidarity matters and we were treated to the keen expression of shock and sorrow.

Their counterparts of today may be more sensible but are equally eloquent and performative, it goes with the territory. Observe well the statements of condolences - and acts, upon the death of the good Queen Elizabeth II.

The Soviet Union didn't last a century and their leadership transitions were sometimes fraught affairs but the Communist Party well understood the necessity of ritual tributes. Their populace and their clients duly performed. Shock and sorrow was expected, shock and sorrow was delivered.

Tributes to Andropov by African Leaders

Talking Drums, February 20, 1984

News of the death of President Yuri Andropov was received in Africa with shock and sorrow as expressed in the various measures taken by African leaders in memory of the Soviet leader.

In Nigeria a delegation led by the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, and including the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Ibrahim Alfa and the Minister of External Affairs, Dr Ibrahim Gambari, were in Moscow to attend the funeral.

Ghana: Three days of national mourning were declared during which Flt-Lt. J.J. Rawlings, Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council signed the book of condolence at the Soviet Embassy.

Earlier during a visit to Upper Volta, Flt-Lt. Rawlings had sent a message of condolence to the Soviet leadership noting that "the frailty of individual destinies should provide the world with fraternal solidarity that goes beyond ideological inclinations"

Benin: An extraordinary meeting of the Political Bureau of the sole party was convened followed by a declaration of three days national mourning. President Kerekou then sent a message of condolence to the Soviet leadership describing Andropov as "a worthy pursuer of Lenin's works."

Ethiopia: Addis Ababa radio reported Mengistu Haile Mariam's departure for Moscow and announced that flags would be flown at half mast in Ethiopia for three days.

Zimbabwe: Harare radio reported that Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was at the airport to see off President Canaan Banana and the Foreign Minister, Witness Mangwende to Moscow. Two days of national mourning were also declared as a further mark of the solidarity.

Guinea: The Prime Minister, Lansana Beavogui, delivered to the Soviet Ambassador a message of condolence from the people, party and President of Guinea describing Andropov as a man of peace. The Prime Minister was also in Moscow for the funeral.

Liberia: The Liberian leader General Doe sent a message of condolence describing Andropov as a staunch fighter for world peace

Congo: A statement issued by the Party's central committee declared two days of national mourning. President Sassou-Nguesso sent a message of condolence to the Soviet leadership describing the USSR as the rampart of peace, harmony, world co-operation and the progress of humanity."

Mozambique: President Machel was in Moscow to attend the funeral Earlier in his message of condolence to the Soviet leaders broadcast by Maputo Radio, Machel said Andropov had "wisely used his intelligence and serenity at a time when the aggressiveness of imperialism increasingly showed itself as a permanent menace against humanity's liberation."

Angola: Luanda radio reported the signing by President dos Santos of the book of condolence at the Soviet embassy and his description of Andropov as "a statesman and distinguished leader of the CPSU and a staunch fighter for peace, liberty and socialism."

Upper Volta: According to Ouagadougou Radio, there was a message from the Upper Volta leader, Capt. Sankara, saying that the loss of "this illustrious freedom fighter should further strengthen our revolutionary faith and vigilance."


coffin for head of state - fela graffiti contra Trump

(On election day 2020, this was the graffiti we came across on our walk. On the same trail we saw "Trump is the virus" and other unprintables by the same artist. I guess it was cathartic for them).

Soundtrack for this note

An ironic ritual tribute in Afrobeat. ...

I would normally be moved to a poem, the language in the above passage is tempting; the music to be found in the homilies of strongmen and the men in khaki. Also, as a time capsule of cold war perceptions from the south, much could be drawn out. Still, one is conflicted. Circa 1984 the Soviet Union and General Secretary Andropov were not supporting the apartheid regime as Reagan and Thatcher were, indeed they were actively on the side of many African liberation movements. Still it's hard to resist commenting on the expressions of grief from say Comrade Mengistu, who was then Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), or the erstwhile Master Sergent (and then Doctor and General) Doe, the blood altogether blinds me.

Bread and circuses are not merely confined to monarchies. But this is a time of worldwide mourning and sober reflection, let's not pursue the thread...


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See also: The Laws of Grief

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Writing log: September 16, 2022

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Incalculable Loss

A year of incalculable loss
In part from predictable forces
And fragile economies

A suggestion of disarray
Warning residents to brace for
An alarming turn for the worse

The grim daily tallies
Another thorny challenge
Threatening the progress made

Damage, well beyond its borders,
Tears through the social fabric
The worst two weeks of our lives

After Covid Takes a Frightful Turn in South America
(New York Times, April 30, 2021)

urban decay

Soundtrack for this note

Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) by Prince

See previously:

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: May 1, 2021

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 5 Short Sale)

A closing ceremony of deceit... Part 5 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

V. Short Sale

It was the moment of truth, Ananse rose to make his contribution
After all the earlier haggling he'd gone through with distinction
He'd had to dispense largesse to all and sundry, mostly through the back channel
And still, he wasn't sure if these inconstant folk would join him in battle

This, then, is my proposal, if you take up collection, I hope you understand
For a small fee, I will guarantee your community, and provide soul insurance
If some no good rascal gets up, as advertised, to no good, before the gods object
My agency will be able, in a matter of hours, to act: the no fault clause will protect

Nay, even beyond the immediate benefits of the guaranteed trouble deflection
You can also invest part of your coverage, and thereby increase your savings
The tax efficiency of this arrangement is indubitably delicious
Making hay contra Caesar's tax collector is, no doubt, serendipitous

There's no need to agonize any further, he went on to rhapsodize
Indeed, with my firm at the helm, your returns will be maximized
Ananse had taken lessons from Mami Wata, not so long ago, on how to mesmerize
So eloquent was his patter that the audience he beheld was quite hypnotized

Look into the crystal ball, my organization is a going concern
Just sign on the dotted line, I'm sure we can come to terms
He hadn't even mentioned the price, with that he ceded the floor
It hardly needed to be said, the whole place was in uproar

The fabric of life

The chief linguist, for one, was immediately brought on board
But in matters of propriety, there was the question of form
Thus there was some back and forth and minor haggling
But the conclusion was foregone after the initial horse trading

The matter was taken to the scribe to ratify what the linguist had assessed
He took his time, but even he allowed that all protocols had been observed
And for those who continued to view the spider with some disdain, he advanced,
"The contract looks ironclad", due diligence could be waived in this instance

There was a pause before the signing note at the closing ceremony
This is the moment when tradition imposed reflection as was customary
The Okyeame then stepped up, as was his wont, to add the wisdom of the chiefs
Remarking that this novel instrument, soul insurance would bring some relief

To be able to insure souls would prove to be a veritable bonanza
Indeed, strategic reserves would be drawn up to finance the coffers

It was all Ananse could do to keep from salivating,
The bill of goods he'd sold
He was already counting his chickens,
He could just about taste the black gold

He held his breath when the Okyeame finally brought paper to pen
He wondered if they would notice the clause about blood and sin
But his bribery paid off, at the appointed time Fifi caused a commotion
The elders hushed the young man, the ensuing fracas was a welcome diversion

And he was quite proud of the way he had structured the transaction
The Tantalus derivatives, first and foremost, were a great distraction
What with the escape clauses about the quantum definition of time
The minimization of liability for matters in the land of concern

The crowning achievement, Ananse would assert, was the Bahamian Thyme Leaf diversion
Just a few ostensibly innocuous sentences, they were a relatively recent concoction
He had first been introduced to the new formula by a grifter during a cooking session
Specialized in tax shelters, it was lauded as the most concise of obfuscations

What with the Balkanization amendment and all that it implies
Starting with the Babel discernment and the Chicken Bone compromise
He'd seen it happen before, they would get so caught up in the Magdalene Propositions
Their intricacies would beguile so much that they would get caught up in abstractions

No, the contract had so many ways in which he was bound to recoup
It was altogether worthy of the Principal Financial Group
That outfit who were renowned for always collecting
But who were never known, in their history, for paying

Ananse was skilled in the ways of evasion, his was a symphony of deceit
Bless his cheating heart, little did they know that he was a deadbeat
That before they could turn for payment that their defeat was complete
The bottom line they should have heeded: never make a deal with a cheat

It's your day by Glen

Short Sale, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note, buyer beware (spotify version)

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities

This folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Excessive Liabilities

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Writing log: Part 5 March 25, 2021

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


Her sweatshirt read "Have more empathy"
That was the detail that struck you so vividly
As you bent and swerved to dodge the incoming blow
Perhaps, you thought, what you reap is what you sow

Next was her earlier comment, "Some of us have got principles".
It was fascinating to be in the presence of this feral dynamo
Who in England would, no doubt, be subject to an ASBO.
Fury might have been her middle name, hers was formidable.



She was carrying an umbrella although it wasn't raining,
Nor, indeed, was it sunny. Mask and anorak even in the hot weather.
Shifty, she made to hide behind the tree as you were approaching
Swerving as she did, she twirled her umbrella.
The Wife moved automatically to the other side, the other trail
She could tell that something was awry with the woman. She looked frail.

You were undaunted and continued walking towards her.
Eventually - there were a few false starts here and there,
She peeked out from beyond the tree and started walking.
You gave her a head nod as you passed - acknowledging.
She raised the umbrella then asked in a loud voice,
"Did you get your check?", clear even over the background noise

Hmmm. Was she really worried about Uncle Joe's stimulus check?
Actually no, you had too much income to qualify for it.
"No", you muttered. Yours was a privileged situation
"I didn't either." She took it as confirmation
That those of our skin tone were being duly denied
A seat at the table, leaving much to be decried.

You decided not to explain your good fortune
For who knew how she would take it in her agitation,
You moved on, quickly grabbing The Seven Year Old, tightly held
You told him "Always be respectful of the strays of the world."

strays by kukua

Strays, a playlist

A soundtrack to this note (spotify version) See previously: The Old Man Who Lives in the Park

Illustrations: Kukua Akumanyi

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: April 30, 2021

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Up Close and Personal

I recall a roadside nail salon, I saw them grooming in the streets
Now stuck at home, many learned what you could do without in extremis
This global pause, borne of a disease and planetary emergency,
Has caused many a reconsideration of one's identity
For you could go without many strictures that society used to impose
All the way from haircuts, to fancy nails, and even working clothes
What they termed domestic cozy escaped from being a passing fad
To become a universal pose, a way of life lived in your sweatpants

Not for nothing that the first ones to mandate a return to the office
Were J.P. Morgan, the investment bankers, factotums of the monopolists
It's hard to justify the chores of the masters of the universe
At a remove from boiler rooms, alpha males lack people to coerce
The burden of their capitalism demanded that labour return to the fold
I'm minded that The Grind Date was not just an album recorded by De La Soul
The loudest cries to reopen the economy came from, well, call them vultures
Equipped with perverse incentives galore, a shame aversion subculture
But the virus sets the timeline, we are yet to reach herd immunity
And even with vaccine nationalism, a global disease requires global solidarity

nail salon on the median

nail salon

Up Close and Personal, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version)

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: April 30, 2021

Tuesday, August 16, 2022


The little glass fondleslabs
Were not the first to rob us of the interstices
But they were, truth be told,
Leaps and bounds, the most effective

While you waited in line, it was all too tempting
To whip it out of your pocket and, into its warm glow, plunge in
Better, during the commute, to plug in the headphones and listen
To scan the headlines or pursue whatever was the latest distraction

Versatile too, the mobile package, if charged,
Could supply essentially unlimited attractions
But this was not new, a thick broadsheet unfolded carefully
Could divert you to yesterday's news just as easily

But the convenience was the difference,
Oh so unobtrusive and frictionless,
Deployed in a single motion from one's pocket,
One handed operation supported
One click and you were transported

A paradox of modernity, no more idle chat while you wait for the bus
It's enough to make you wonder, what paradise have we lost?
And so I, for one, bemoan the loss of friction
The interstitial is on the brink of extinction

bored teenagers

Interstitial, a playlist

As is my custom, a soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)

See previously

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: May 1, 2021

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Putting up a Structure

A mantra she often repeated in her time as education minister
Was about the great importance of putting up a structure
For there was a poverty in our development that had to be fought
And so she made the rounds of the donors for the funds we sought

It was hardly conducive to have classes gather under the sun, a roof of clear sky
Exposed to the vicissitudes of the elements, where it was hard to keep dry
With dust everywhere, tropical rainstorms, and other misfortunes
And the dissonance of so many learning in those outdoor classrooms

She would contrast with the comparatively well-appointed chambers
She beheld in her time at Volta Hall at the University at Legon
Let alone the high tables at Wolfson College in Cambridge
When she would drink port after dining with the dons

Yet this covidious affliction has caused quite the turnaround
Causing upheaval everywhere and making the once sound unsound
Ventilation is the order of the day if you want to avoid viral strife
Classes, as a best practice, would do well to gather outdoors, under trees of life

True, an elephant which is lean is still fatter than a cow
But it turns out going al fresco is all the rage everywhere now
I read of many western universities pondering outdoor tents
This upheaval is a rather bewildering turn of events

Still, it wasn't a wasted effort to construct those schools, indeed it's a miracle
There's always more to do, but I altogether think that we've come full circle
That in our village we now have not just a primary but even a secondary school
And the girls have dorms. The trees in the village commons keep things cool

A cast of high flyers who believed they were nigh invincible
Now have to abide, as it were, with the mosquito principle
Brought back to the ground to gather under trees of life
As ever, irony is the key register of African life

abutia tree in village commons

abutia secondary school girls dorm 2

mum inspects polytecnic

Putting up a Structure, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: April 29, 2021

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 4 Pity the Mink)

Of red herrings and intermediate hosts... Part 4 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

IV. Pity the Mink

It was quite unexpected, the b-movie playing on the mammy wagon screen
Was a romantic comedy with Doris Day and Cary Grant, A Touch of Mink
Normally the claims adjuster would have preferred something out of Bollywood
But this escapist fare, even if dated, was a worthy offering from Hollywood

Even with no song and dance, there was what he liked, a lot of back and forth
Will she or won't she, much demure posturing, yet it confronted the real sport
But the title gave him an idea about how to write humanity's next chapter
By the time he was done with them, they'd all be caught up in the rapture

As the mammy wagon entered the gleaming environs of the Wan settlements
The claims adjuster beheld the history of a people once known to be reticent
In days of yore, their traditional attire was the very rich silk brocade
But they had since forsaken those rituals for the easy profits of the fur trade

Subjugated all their erstwhile beguiling craft for what they called capitalism
Production was all, their society was all about eminent domain and its enthrallment
No time for the small things, a distorted economics of whimsy was their prime belief
Well, before he was through with them, they'd be sure to relearn anew the laws of grief

Nyame's claims adjuster sculpture

As he started to gather a few tools of the trade, he started to consider the praxis
The subtle distinction between his kind of adjudication and angels dispensing justice
In his view, the angels had no autonomy and behaved, quite frankly, like rote zombies
Shock and awe was all, there was no skill, so to speak, to their angelic practice

It had to be said, angels were long reputed for bringing delight and wonder
On that basis, the tribes forgot the downside of when they were torn asunder
For they also alternately delivered affliction, a panoply of cluster headaches
Claims adjusters always gave humanity agency, and the chance to correct their mistakes

The bureau stressed that adjusting was a search for truth and dignity
True, a byproduct of the process was being able to determine liability
All training materials in the adjustment manual emphasized proper procedures
People, processes and things was the mantra of the social software teachers

In his guise as an agent, the claims adjuster was rather conventional
But depending on the audience, he could feign the angelic or become feral
Thus it was that he made to approach the leaders of the Wan, the inscrutables
Those party apparatchiks untethered from reality who thought their operations were noble

He gave them the three standard warnings, emphasizing the gravity of the situation
But they wanted proof (from the gods! really!), he thought he'd heard every prevarication
In this business, you heard all manner of excuses, but, here, there was no denial
Rather, they were going with the kind of argument that would be tossed at a trial

This adjudication was going to be quite a bit easier than he expected
If all the tribes would behave in the same fashion, as he rather suspected
The local dignitaries of Wan tribe were coming upon their Lunar New Year
Oh well, those thousand household banquets would be the start of the trail of tears

Hubris, it was as if they assumed they could treat him like a common lawyer
Rather than with the due respect of the gods' representative, the claims adjuster
It was fascinating to behold the huhudious machinations of these human schemers
Who forgot that, as the proverb went, the okro plant never gets taller than the farmer

In the wet market, he spotted something that could be of use as a red herring
A local trader was displaying his wares, touting the virtues of eating pangolin
But right next to that stall was what he was looking for, "This will do, I think"
The beast looked quite wretched, but all's fair in love and war, pity the mink

claims adjuster

Pity the Mink, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify)

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale

This folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Short Sale

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Writing log: Part 4 March 24, 2021

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Force Majeure

I like to think of good King Solomon as a claims adjuster
Whose renown came from the application of force majeure clauses
For the essence of his intervention in the famed custody dispute was none other
Than that how one reacts to sudden adversity determines whether we should get applause

It was Ananse the Spider who clean absconded with the pot of wisdom
When the tale of the lost stories became part of humanity's curriculum
Solomon's later strategic insight lay in the soul insurance he dispensed:
When the snake is in the house, there's no need to discuss the matter at length

Later, one can satisfy those with delicate sensibilities
Who would rudely cite due process, chapter and verse
But in the heat of the moment, borne of necessity
None can argue, decisive measures are of the essence

It is no wonder that a central banker,
In extremis, acts first to protect the rich
Ignore the cover story that the world was falling,
And all that business about systemic risk

Like a mother who instinctively gathers her brood
Hastening to escape a fire or avalanche
There's no time for observing the rules
Forget regulations, this is soul insurance

If I recall, it was the Sage of Omaha,
Warren Buffett, who once said
"Only when the tide goes out do you discover
Who's been swimming naked"

And Walter Bagehot in Lombard Street, it was that noted,
"Every great crisis reveals the excessive speculations
Of many houses which no one before suspected",
An altogether astute observation

We saw during the Great Recession,
Rules set aside, as if they were no longer in vogue
The haste with which the political system
Rushed to indemnify so many financial rogues

Scoundrels whose vulture capitalist behavior
Fomented wholesale casino Ponzi misdeeds
Not for nothing, many still made shocking profits,
Not the least of which the great vampire squid

Disasters, not least the covidious,
Reveal what societies are wont to value
They lay bare the fig leaves of consensus,
It's not what we say but what we do

Call it sharpening the contradictions
As the actions are often shown to be crude
These fugitive glimpses of the real world
And of those who were swimming in the nude

Oh the celebration at the outset, of the hordes, the brave essential workers
Yet some others formed betting pools on who would survive of their number
It was made fairly clear that if you worked in a meatpacking plant
You were an afterthought, for they only made to protect the banks

But back to our song of Solomon
And our erstwhile soul insurance agent
Who negotiated the terms and conditions
The policies and society's cost payments

Without shame we'll never reach herd immunity
Nay, for this policy there's no buyer's remorse
This pandemic is a signal moment of clarity
It's time to invoke the force majeure clause

Aburi mask

Force Majeure, a playlist

soundtrack for this note. See previously: Soul Insurance

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: April 29, 2021

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Quality of Life (Redux)

The volunteers carried litter sticks and plastic bags
They were out in force and seemed in rude health
One of them climbed down into the creek to pick up the trash
I thanked them, for I'd thought of cleaning the trail up myself
But always forgot, on our weekend walks, to bring a bag
To spend one's Saturday afternoon doing garbage collection
Is quite the antidote to our ongoing social isolation

And what do you know, just two weeks later
We passed, on the bridge, a couple of teenagers
With fishing poles at the ready dangling over the bridge
Lines dipping into this selfsame creek in search of fish
We thought back to those altruistic weekend warriors
Who tended the fabric of our commons in quiet sacrifice
I daresay, social living is the best. Quality of life.


rocks on creek bank


Perhaps it was the pandemic, and the phobia it elicited,
That caused me to stop frequenting places I normally visited
I succumbed somewhat to the caution of hygiene theater
The fear of fomites, the call for action of the gospel of germs
Like everyone, I wiped things religiously citing public health
A little overkill, wouldn't you think, for an airborne disease?
What it meant was that I'd stopped taking up those park seats

Turns out that there was also the small matter of comfort
For it's not very appealing when you lack lumbar support
Everything came into place when I noticed the new wooden slat
That added an extra cushion for when the weary traveler sat
Parks and Recs had budget, it seems; they fixed the bench, it was nice
Even without the green paint, it made all the difference. Quality of life.

quality of life


Don't call it a love letter, for it was merely appreciative
And kind, of this unknown neighbor to take the initiative
To pen, with loops and hearts adorning her I's, this grace note
"Hello Friend, I love your flowers!" was what she wrote
"You take very good care of the plants you share space with,
They look very happy!" Must be an expert on these things but who knows?
The letter concluded, "I wish that your love and care for each other grows"

Like the old man who lives in the park, she likes seeing me on my hands and knees
Slowly weeding and making a living home out front for the honeybees
The monarch butterflies and even hummingbird moths are all well served
Now that, with my seed infusion, I appear to have created a nature preserve
Surely, dear wife, you can't be jealous of such gracious folk?
Knowing full well this pandemic garden got its start for want of a bolt
You do know there's no alienation of affection, we can't have marital strife
The flower garden is a covidious dividend, isn't it? Quality of life.

hello friend I love your flowers

I'm Too Much, a playlist

A playlist is in order See previously: Quality of Life

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: April 28, 2021

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Faint Praise

Occasionally lyrical, and always whimsical, he writes with the verve of the modern traveler
Her aesthetic choices are always daring, as if to strike a nerve, the tension is unbearable
He raises new vistas in his work, pushing towards the outer edges of the craft
A remarkable debut, her striking voice emerges fully formed, prismatic and thoughtful

Finely written, his book grapples with the liminal interstices of tradition and modernity
She captures something of the languor of the immigrant's condition and its tragedy
Thus it was a surprise to behold the new directions he is pursuing, a testament to his ambitions
Now she has turned her keen lens on western idées fixes, she sites her work at an unquiet juncture

Favoring the edgy, the argument becomes a touch unrefined, it betrays his purpose
The pose of the insider has served her well, less incisive are her wrought portrayals
A close reading reveals the shortcomings of his troubling and combative approach
What are we to make, on the page, of her more experimental departures?

Tellingly, the initial promise and aplomb appear to have gone awry on this well worn terrain
It is when she strays into Austenite stylings that she loses the edge to her oft-biting satire
By pursuing the phantom thread of dislocation, he risks raising the tired tropes of mulatto identity
The Forster inclination doesn't serve her well, her gimlet quill ought to be reserved for life's incongruities

The subtext is clear, sure you can write, but next time stay in your lane
What the academy bestows freely, it also reserves the right to reframe
As flavor of the month, play the game wisely or you may come up short
The funk song was a fiction: All the critics love you in New York

bearing gifts

Faint Praise, a playlist

A soundtrack for this cautionary tale.

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See previously: Flavor of the Month

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Writing log: April 28, 2021

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 3 An Audience with the Linguist)

In which we behold the elevator pitch... Part 3 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

III. An Audience with the Linguist

Fifi was a little put out that he was the one chosen to take Ananse to the linguist
He had other business on his agenda, namely the big mango tree was bearing fruit
Also he'd spotted some yor-yee by the way and his yearning was quite acute
The taste of black velvet tamarind is a delight that is so distinguished

Instead, he'd have to cede ground to the other children and give his delicacies up
Also, now that he had a closer look, the spider didn't seem entirely on the up-and-up
He oozed the aura of a traveling salesman, jaded in affect, hardboiled even
A consummate purveyor of any product, it didn't matter what he was selling

Earlier the scribe had ordered him to use the back way to convey the visitor
Thus he had ample time en route to assess Ananse and chat with this smooth operator
In the event, Ananse immediately started to put the wheels of his shell game in motion
"Young man, draw near, you look like you have a promising future. I have a proposition..."

I need not trouble you with the details, Dear Reader, suffice to call them delinquent
Fifi was immediately taken in, it didn't take much to succumb to wishful thinking
For it was written in the good books that those who embraced the paradise of a mango
Would no doubt recognize that verity: it takes two to do the corruption tango

Ananse had them stop at a chop bar, he had a taste for guinea fowl and some roast duck
This was no diversion, he always sealed his foul deals with the pleasures of a full stomach
At length, they came upon the main complex, home of the Kingsway skyscrapers
The seat of power, the linguist's ministries lay in those six looming towers

by his grace

As it happened, the chief linguist was right there on the cusp of entering the building
Fifi, after collecting his honorarium, promptly made the introduction, it was fitting
But, very quickly, it appeared that there would be no time for pleasantries
The linguist had his game face on, stern, as if he was about to face adversaries

"You do realize that I'm a busy man, Mister Ananse, is it?", said the chief linguist
"Walk with me up the elevator, I can certainly give you a few minutes of my time if you insist
I'm sure a well practiced operator like yourself, Mister Ananse, can make a pitch
Your reputation precedes you, I certainly hope you do not plan to sell us a bridge"

Ananse didn't blink any of his eight eyes, but he had to think quick
He wouldn't be able to use his powerpoint slides and synchronized music
This was a case that clearly called for speaking with forked tongue
Not his usual fare but, by hook or crook, this deal had to be swung

Still he didn't take the linguist's bravado at face value, but with a grain of salt
He doubted that these Ushers would have reprogrammed the sensors from the defaults
He had noticed as they'd stepped into the elevator lobby that Otis was the manufacturer
There would be an extra minute of waiting. He marveled at the small things he remembered

In the event, he didn't need the extra time, it was a sellers market
The linguist was easily bamboozled, like a rube in a frothy stock market
The standard spiel: I'm not here to sell you a novel product and confusion
Rather, think of me, Ananse, as simply offering access to a proven solution

You've heard of life insurance, whole life, term life, and that jazz
It only pays out when you are beyond the grave, it doesn't last
Soul insurance is what I have to offer, a balm, a soothing remedy
The blows will be coming but, with it, you'll dodge any adversity

The linguist was entirely entranced, as if he'd seen stolen loot in a museum
Soul insurance, the mere concept glittered, that way lay the road to freedom
Once uttered, it was disruptive, look at the possibilities, a new paradigm for humanity
A surefire approach, the ancients would, no doubt, approve for the avoidance of uncertainty

Although he wouldn't begrudge a middleman and market maker their dues
Quibbling a la carte, all societies needed these originals and their muse
Still, he started to give thought to how to cut out the spider from the transaction
He bade the young man call up a cab, his favorite, the one branded with Determination

determination crop 2

Elevator Pitch, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. Always be closing. (spotify version)
fairy garden 8

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale

This folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Pity the Mink

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Writing log: Part 3 March 23, 2021