Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Good Dog

There’s something you need to know about me, in order for the following story to make sense:

I’m not a dog person.

My family, as I grew up, had a pet cat for quite a long time; but that wasn’t it. It was probably the three German shepherds (or equivalent) that lived in my neighborhood, as I grew up, which were always in very bad moods all the time. They looked at me like I was either (1) an affront to their existence, or (2) tasty-looking, potentially with ketchup. One of them actually drew blood — mine — when I was three or four years old. So.

I could go on with stories about those miserable ambassadors of the canine world, but the following story is not about them. It is, rather, about a dog much more deserving of admiration and praise.

I met this particular dog several years ago, while I was visiting her mom’s house. When I arrived at the front door, and rang the bell, her mom (a longtime friend from college) came to the door and said, “you thought you even needed to ring the bell? Come in!” Well, it’s polite. Also, I knew there was a dog in the house (and, for the record, at least a couple of cats), and I wanted to give it a nice wide berth, since we had not yet formally met.

As any good guard dog would, the basset hound barked firmly, thrice. “Hello you!” I called, very bravely and with a completely false air of enthusiasm. Since this was a dog belonging to this particular longtime friend of mine, I felt I should be very polite and appear very friendly; so against all my life’s conditioning, I held my hand out in the basset’s direction, and hoped for the best.

Sniff. Sniff. Slight lick. Nod. Little tiny bark, more of a “gruff”. The sound didn’t sound anything like the German shepherds of my childhood had sounded. It didn’t sound at all like the last sound I would ever hear.

We adjourned to the den, which contained snacks and a large television. Upon sitting down on the couch, I sensed a presence down and to the right. Looking down, I discovered that the basset hound had followed at a careful remove, then crept around the couch, stopping at my foot and looking up expectantly. I patted her head. She did not bite my patting hand clean off.

For the next couple of hours, I was conversing with my old college friend, and petting my new basset friend.

For the next several visits, my new basset friend met me at the door with a couple of requisite barks, and then it was as if I hadn’t left. “Oh, it’s that one,” she seemed to muse; and for the rest of each visit, I appeared to be perfectly acceptable to her, and I was pleased that I still appeared to be perfectly acceptable to her. Particularly since those visits were yearly at their most frequent; but she remembered.

I was also always pleased to watch this dog and her mom take care of each other in equal measure.

The basset’s name was Della.

After a lengthy illness, Della passed away this morning.

I haven’t known many dogs well enough to really miss them after they’ve gone to their reward. And I got to hang out with this one no more than a dozen times, probably.

But I’ll really miss Della. And I have no doubt that the reward she meets will very well deserved indeed.

Good dog.

August 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Or Am I Overthinking This?, part 1

Planets don’t just arrive in outer space with names attached. Someone has to get in there and name them.

Whether it’s a scientist looking through a telescope and saying, “Yep, fits all the criteria for being a planet, let’s name it after a mythological character,” or it’s an explorer setting foot on it and saying “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, let’s call it Sherman’s Planet,” and hopefully the explorer’s name is Sherman otherwise it’s just weird…

Or, in our vivid imaginations, when we get to that planet and think about naming it, someone or something had gotten there first and named it, possibly using consonants and vowels we’ve never heard of and which we really have trouble pronouncing with our human faces.

So I got thinking this morning. Specifically, I got thinking about the planet Naboo, and what a goofy name for a planet that was.

Alderaan, Ceti Alpha V, Sherman’s Planet … dignified.

Naboo … a nonsense word uttered by a six-month-old. Naboo. Jakku. Dooku. Roku. Tofu. Babboo. Goo Goo.

I mean, come on.

Unless … unless Naboo means something dignified in someone else’s language.

Which led to the inevitable Star Wars universe question, one which I’m sure occurred to you shortly after you began reading this …

Did the humans, Queen Amidala’s ancestors (I presume; I mean, they didn’t put any prosthetics on Natalie Portman, did they?), name the joint “Naboo”? Or did the underwater Gungans, the floppy goofy ancestors of Jar Jar Binks, come up with that one and the humans heard it and just kinda went along with it? Did the humans, in a move utterly out-of-character for standard humans, punt on the opportunity to say “no! We the humans are in charge here now that we have arrived, and we declare this planet to be New Haven because that’s what it is!”…?

To me, “Naboo” frankly sounds much more natural coming out of the explosively drooly mouth of Boss Nass, the Gungan ruler (and the closest thing there is to Jabba the Hutt on an extreme bender), than it does coming out of the British-Empire-inflected mouth of Senator Palpatine.

If the humans named it “Naboo”, one can only wonder in what condition the explorers found themselves, after what presumably was a harrowing or interminable journey across the stars. Or perhaps the five explorers in the landing spacecraft were named Nancy, Abe, Barbara, Oliver and Oscar. Less fanciful; more logical. I’ve gone through all the possible anagrams, and … nope. Not that, either.

Perhaps in the Gungan language, “Naboo means “bountiful harvest” or “lovely view” or “planet which, against all science, has a core full not of molten hot magma but instead of water, so it’s lucky we’re built for swimming”.

Or am I overthinking this?

August 24, 2016 Posted by | movies, science fiction | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gloves Comin’ Off

[Ed. Note: this was originally posted on my Facebook page.]


I try not to get forcefully political on the ol’ FB machine. I tend more toward Star Wars references and band jokes.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And, from here to November, I think I shall prepare to suffer whatever slings and arrows come my way. Fine. Political it shall be. S**t’s gettin’ real.

We talk about every single Presidential election as the most important election of our lifetimes. Bush vs. Kerry … Obama vs. McCain and the desperately unqualified Palin … Obama vs. Willard “47%” Romney … and the meme has threatened to become “boy who cried wolf” territory.

But … the next five months represent a stretch of time during which it will be required to convince as many people as possible that we stand at an absolutely pivotal moment in American history. Will it be oligarchy with a side order of authoritarian fascism? Or will it be an agonizingly slow but perceptible aircraft-carrier-speed turn back toward government representing the people and not the corporations?


With today’s Senate votes regarding gun legislation, let’s make sure that one thing is abundantly clear:

Permanently laid to rest is the idea that “both sides do it”. That “both sides are just as awful”. That “both sides are to blame”. Dead, buried, shovelfuls of dirt hitting its face, pax vobiscum.

From ThinkProgress.org: “On Monday, Republicans in the Senate proved, yet again, how strong the National Rifle Association’s grip is on the nation’s highest lawmaking body. Democrats’ efforts to pass legislation to prevent suspected terrorists from buying firearms and to expand background checks to all gun sales both failed in the Senate. Just 47 senators voted in favor of the first measure and 44 for the second.”

It may be over-the-top to write a headline like “Republicans Vote In Favor Of Continued Mayhem”. Or not, I don’t know. But at the very least, the headline should be “Republicans Vote To Keep The Gun Manufacturers Lobby From Primary-ing Their Backsides; ‘Follow the Money’ Meme Again Invoked”.

Meet the Press” and David Brooks and the whole DC pundit class won’t do it. Nor will they give up their farcical “both sides are equally bad” fetish, because the major mass-media news operations are overseen by their networks’ entertainment divisions now, which ought to tell you everything you need to know about modern journalism: it serves profit, not public service.


Howevah! … The Democratic senators’ filibuster last week accomplished this: it forced an actual vote on something — and the result of that vote is concrete proof toward which to point, as the general election approaches. If they play their cards right … AND IF WE VOTER TYPES GO AND VOTE IN NOVEMBER (that’s crucial) … and if the Short-Fingered Vulgarian continues his Presidential campaign all the way to Election Day and manages to drag down all the down-ticket candidates from the party of Lincoln … Democrats have a chance to take the Senate, close the gap in the House, take the White House, and ensure that the next Supreme Court nominee (or possibly the next two, with the rumored retirement plans of Clarence Thomas coming to light in the last day or so) be someone who might support the overturning of the Citizens United decision. Which would be merely a small beginning of an effort to get money (dark or otherwise) the hell out of politics; but it beats the alternative we’re living with right now.

Let’s not throw all the bastards out.

Just the right bastards.

Let’s make the pitched effort to identify, tag, and continually and repeatedly remind people of the identity of, every one of the bastards who value their political careers and the largesse that goes with them MORE than they value the lives of their constituents — be they LGBT, minority groups, or members of faith communities they can’t be bothered to understand.

Let’s be obnoxious in our desperate effort to keep reminding people who the honorable people are, and who the craven bastards are who love themselves and their money and their station in life far more than they love the health of their own nation.

So we know which ones deserve to be kicked out of DC for good.


Today’s roll calls represent opposition research — tailor-made and gift-wrapped for Democrats, and frankly any voter who can see past knee-jerk ideology and embrace the need to re-make our government into a group of people who want to take care of people instead of taking advantage of them.

I know. Mark Twain famously said, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” As steep climbs go, this has potential to be very steep. We (yeah, I’m a registered Dem) are famous for screwing things up, usually thanks to apathy or really bad planning.

But today’s votes ought to reverberate — ought to echo all the way to the election in November — in the form of a question that ought to be on the minds of voters everywhere (even in my intensely-blue Massachusetts):

Are you willing to let this go on any longer?

I’m not, damn it.

Because as has been demonstrated this week in Orlando … and this year in Flint … and three and a half years ago in Sandy Hook … and for the last (pick your time period — decade? Two decades? More?) in cities and towns all over these United States:

We’re talking about people’s lives here.


[Ed. Note: commenters will please note that this blog’s management has the sole right to approve comments for publication here. Which is to say, if you choose to violate standards of good taste or choose to try and pull an Internet-troll maneuver, the management cannot guarantee that you’ll be able to Scotch-tape clips of your work to your refrigerator. If you’re thinking of going that route, you may wish to save your valuable time and go elsewhere.]

June 21, 2016 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, journalism, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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