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Friday, June 23, 2017

Poem: Double Dig

This is my second published work. It first appeared in the Spring-Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library (https://wordfountain.net/) Some thoughts and background follow the poem.

UPDATE, 7/5/2017: You can hear me read this poem on the Word Fountain site here.


Double Dig

Break the surface with the pitchfork
shave off the sod with the spade
Five feet wide, fifteen feet long

Dig out the first row
one foot down, one foot long
put it in the wheelbarrow

Add compost to the trench
loosen the soil with the fork
try not to think about you

Dig out the second row
toss it into the first trench
incorporate air into the bed
increase porosity, improve drainage
think about the work

and not about all those years
all those "I love you"s
work the soil
the roots will dig even deeper
the weeds will pull out easier
focus on the work

not on all those hours, all those nights
the long drives, the moving van
study sessions and open mics
the sun is hot, halfway done
keep the rows even or the last one will be too big

Keep digging. Keep moving.
There will be rest after the work is done
after the soil from the wheelbarrow is tipped into the last trench
after the excess air is squeezed out with the digging board

I remember every word of every story
every line of every poem

Tomorrow the seedlings will go in
the seeds will be planted
but now, dig the soil
double dig, two layers down

Dig the garden, and forget about you
there will be time for remembering later


*********************************

This was, in a sense, a poem that wrote itself.

I've long wanted to do a piece on the subject of gardening as violence. Gardening is an extremely violent act. To start a garden you must first kill whatever is already growing in the place you want to garden: cut down trees, tear out vines, rip up or smother sod. Then you break the soil and work it into a condition ready for planting. Sometimes this just involves digging or doing a double-dig, as described in the poem, a back-breaking but ultimately rewarding technique. Many times this is interrupted by the need to hack away at roots or pry out boulders. In addition to breaking the soil, you should also amend it by adding compost - dead and rotted once-living things. Once the garden is dug, the rest is fairly easy - for a vegetable garden, anyway. Whoever wrote "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden" must never have tried their hand at rose gardening, which involves all of the above plus flesh (and clothing) -ripping thorns.

I already had posted a poem of decomposition and decay making compost ("Coffee for Roses," here), so that was not eligible for submission. I decided to focus instead on the act of digging the garden. But then what? Would I use it as a metaphor for digging into the past to bring forth the future? Maybe a meditation on memories of past gardens conjured up? My grandmother's garden, or my first garden in Newark, Delaware? The garden I was digging as the siege at Waco was taking place? Or the one I was working on during the Oklahoma City Bombing?

I decided to do a poem about the things you think about when you are digging a garden. OK, fine, what are those? It was still too early to dig a garden, so I would have to imagine. I put myself in a meditative state and imagined all the actions needed to dig the garden: gather the tools, get the digging board., roll out the wheelbarrow, loosen the soil, begin the digging. The repetitive motions, always kept to a minimum to reduce exertion. Dig out the first row, move the soil to a wheelbarrow, loosen the second layer down, work in the compost. What am I thinking of?

Thoughts of past gardens, green beans in my grandmother's garden, a compound in flames, a building pancaking down on top of a nursery, her...

Wait, what?

Her. I was thinking of her.

Not mine. Never mine. But she was my muse. I loved her intensely, even though she never gave a damn about me, except for how she could use me, what I could do for her. Very nearly an imaginary creature from the first time I came across her personal ad online to the time that I met her in person, almost entirely by accident, a year later. She disappeared a year after that, and I brought her back a year later, and began two years of doing things together, of being there for her, until I outlived my usefulness.

No.

I had already written so much about her. For her. Inspired by her. Even inspired by the way she cut me off in the end. Couldn't I just write something that wasn't about her?

I tried to put her out of my mind. Refocus. What else would I be thinking about?

No good. Now I wasn't just thinking about her, I was thinking about not thinking about her, which was the same as thinking about thinking about her. The more I tried not to think about her, the more she intruded on my thoughts. Our entire history rolled past me, over and over again: that first glimpse of her in-between presentations on fiction and non-fiction writing, the study sessions at Starbucks, the open mics, driving a moving truck for her, hours spent shopping or just driving her around, holding her hand because someone had made her feel miserable, hours spent at the hospital as her mother lay dying, the way she ended it all, the way there had never really been anything to end all along.

So was the poem ruined? Was it a lost cause?

No. If she was the thing I was thinking about when I tried to imagine what I'd think about while gardening, then that's where the poem would go, too.

I wrote down the lines as quickly as I could, trying not to let the sense of intrusion on my thoughts slip away like a bad dream. I polished it and edited it, then submitted it for consideration. A few weeks later I learned it had been accepted.

Will this be the last poem about her, or inspired by her, or influenced by her? We'll see.

I really doubt it, though. 



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cherries, 2017

First cherry fruits begin to ripen: June 1

All cherries stripped from tree by birds: Sometime after 10:35 AM, June 14

For the record, they were delicious.

NOTE FOR NEXT YEAR: Do not put out bird seed in second week of June, or toss out anything that will attract birds. Rather than satisfying the birds, such things only attract hordes of hungry birds.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blaze Roses and Lily of the Valley

As of May 24, the Blaze roses on the south side of the house are blooming. And for the first time in fifteen years, I have blossoms on my Lily of the Valley!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Thirteen years (and three days) a blogger

Just got a "Your Memories" post on Facebook from 2009(!) about how I had been a blogger for five years. My actual Blogiversary is May 14, so I'm a little late. Thirteen years since I heard a report on NPR's Morning Edition about how Google had bought Blogger and was hoping to increase the number of people with blogs by providing a simple, user-friendly platform. I had been following several blogs at that point and had been thinking about starting one myself. This is technically my second post - my first one just had the words "Coming soon!" and existed from the time I put it up before work that day to the time I came back and replaced it with my "official" first post.

It's really been quite a thirteen year stretch - much of it documented right here on my blog. Here's to another thirteen years!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lilacs in bloom, rhododendrons still on deck

I assumed that I had missed the lilacs this year, but they are in fact just coming into bloom on May 10.

Rhododendron blossoms are swollen, and some are already opening.

Azaleas are nearly spent.

Roses are mostly leafed out, and some buds are swelling.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Azaleas blossoming, rhododendrons on deck

No photos, just a garden note: I noticed azaleas in full bloom on the way home today. Ours are just starting to blossom, but will likely be in full bloom in a day or two.

Rhododendron blossoms are swelling, but no blooms yet.

Monday, May 01, 2017

NEPA BlogFest returns!

After a two year hiatus, BlogFest is back! This is an informal gathering of bloggers and politicians from throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania and beyond. The Spring 2017 edition will be held at Ole Tyme Charley's Restaurant & Pub, 31 South River Street in Plains on Saturday, May 6, 2017. The event will coincide with the running of the Kentucky Derby, so if you want to see a bunch of people get very interested in horse racing for about two minutes, that's the place to be!

You can read more about BlogFest here.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

National Poetry Month: Writing Groups, Part 2

When I first joined the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective in the Fall of 2011, it was with the intention of improving my skills as a short story writer. But several of the members of the group were primarily poets. I had actually first encountered the group at one of their Open Mic nights, which immediately followed an event I was participating in at the Vintage Theater, and most of what I heard that night was poetry.

I presented one of my stories at that first meeting, and it was critiqued and discussed, with suggestions for improvement being made by several of the members. But then someone else presented some poetry. How, I wondered, could the group critique a poem? A poem, to me, consisted of a coherent whole, and it seemed that any suggestion from an outsider to change this or tweak that might cause the entire poem to unravel.

Several members of the group presented suggestions: consider changing this image , this is distracting, this is redundant, this is irrelevant to the image being presented; consider switching these lines around, move this bit to here, and try it again, see how it flows.

The poet re-read the piece, incorporating the changes. It worked. The poem was greatly improved.

Writing groups can be a mixed bag. If established writers can share their experience and knowledge with aspiring writers, that's a wonderful thing. But it doesn't always work like that. Writers can be capricious and other-than-altruistic, jut like anyone else Sometimes the advice given is to the detriment of the work. Sometimes the advice given basically removes the voice of the poet from the poem, and replaces it with the voice of the person offering the advice. At those times it is important for the poet to have the strength and confidence to reject the advice being given. If nothing else, a writing group can give its members experience in deciding when to accept advice and when to dismiss it.

On top of that a writing group allows every member to be exposed to many different poets and writers and their work. This exposure is extremely valuable, as is the network of relationships formed with other poets and writers, relationships which may long outlast the writing group itself.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

National Poetry Month: Writing Groups, Part 1

I attended the Spring 2017 edition of The Writer's Showcase at the Olde Brick Theatre in Scranton tonight, and ran into several fellow members of my old writing group. We reminisced a bit about old times and talked about the current state of open mics in the area.

Some - but not all -of the members of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective at the last meeting at the Vintage Theater on Penn Avenue in Scranton, May 26, 2012, shortly before the site closed. The group would continue to meet at the Northern Light coffee shop in Scranton and then return to the new location of the Vintage on Spruce Street, where it would remain until the final closure of the site in August 2014. The group would not long outlive the venue that had become its home. 
When I first joined the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective, it was with a mind to improving my skills as a short story writer, not as a poet. Frankly, taking up poetry again after a hiatus of over two decades was not something I had in mind. Besides, how could a writing group help a poet? Wouldn't changing a poem fundamentally change the work into something different from the poet's original intent?

I soon learned how a writing group could help with poetry, and some of the hazards involved in such a thing. More on that tomorrow.

Friday, April 28, 2017

National Poetry Month: Who gets to write poetry?

Who gets to write poetry?

For a lot of people, poetry is something written by "the other." Professional poets, stuffy ivory-tower academics with glasses pulled down low on their noses and patches on the elbows of their suit coats. Women who have locked themselves in their parents' attics. Mopey teenagers sulking late at night. But the truth is, anyone can write poetry - even if maybe some people shouldn't.

The first rule of poetry is: there are no rules. Of course, the second through billionth rules of poetry contradict this rule, simultaneously proving it to be false and true. There is no agreed-upon definition of what poetry is, but there are very specific and rigid rules regarding meter, rhyme scheme, and structure for specific forms of poetry.

Blank verse is very popular, a poetry style without rhyme or structure. Some people take this as license to throw down anything and call it a poem. One writer I knew would read shopping lists and call them poetry. Other poets accepted that. I could see their point. Even Billy Collins, a poet I greatly admire, wrote a poem about waiting for a friend at a train station. The whole poem consisted of a series of lines saying "Not (name of friend).", followed by a single line with the friend's name.

At the other extreme is the unloved child of modern poetry: poems that rhyme. Once the standard of what constitutes a "poem," poems that rhyme are relatively rare these days. To me this is a welcome change; I find most rhymed couplets childish and tediously inane. Still, like all rules, the demand for a rhyme scheme creates an opportunity for creativity in constraint.

On the other hand one poet - a terrible, and now deceased, poet - once told me that his technique for writing poetry was to find a bunch of words that rhyme, and then fill in the blanks.

There are objectively terrible poets, poets who are universally recognized as bad poets and refuse to do anything to improve their work. More common are subjectively terrible poets. Almost every poet will be hated by someone else, or several someone elses. Sometimes these people are poets. This can be born of jealousy, or a desire to suppress what is perceived as competition for listeners' ears. It can also be born of a judgement based on a sense of what is good for poetry and what is bad for poetry. Some poets aren't just bad poets, they actually threaten the perception of poetry written by other poets, effectively filling their listeners with disgust going forward.

One poet I  know writes pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-hip poetry, poems that sound cool and meaningful but ultimately aren't just meaningless, but also mock the listeners for having listened in the first place, for trying to extract meaning from something that was ultimately devoid of meaning. At the same time, he also actively works to silence other poets, to discourage them from writing and reading poems. Why does he do it? Is he trying to suppress bad poets from reading and writing bad poetry? Is he trying to silence all other voices in the area, to make himself the last poet standing? I don't know. I gave up trying to understand why he does what he does long ago.

So who gets to write poetry? Anyone. Anyone who is willing to take the time and put in the effort, anyone who is willing to take the chance to get up in front of friends and strangers and say "Here's something I wrote..." Will you be good? Maybe. But if you're willing to work at it, maybe you can get better. And maybe you will someday be called a "poet" by someone else.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

National Poetry Month: Writing

And so I didn't get a post together for Thursday because I was writing poetry.

I finally put together a submission for Poetry in Transit, which was harder than I expected. While trying to get there, I hacked out some lines about the car I'm about to junk. More on that later.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Poetry Month: Planned posts

Spent the evening at an open mic in Scranton, followed up with some shopping, mostly for cat food. I'm tired now, and a little down because of the looming prospect of having to dispose of my broken-down twenty-one year old car. So, no post today.

One thing this National Poetry Month exercise has made me realize is how very few poets I'm actually familiar with. I need to remedy that.

I have two non-poem posts planned before the end of the month: one about the value of a writing group to a poet, and another titled "Who gets to write poetry?" But those are for other nights.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

National poetry Month: Francesco Marciuliano, I Could Pee On This

I know quite a few poets. Many I've met in person, a few I just know online. Only one has had his book of poems on a New York Times bestsellers list.



Francesco Marciuliano has been the writer for the comic strip Sally Forth since 1999, and has more recently taken over writing duties for Judge Parker. I first met him online when he left an encouraging comment on a post on my blog back in July of 2007 when I observed that Ted Forth and I had lost our jobs at the same time. In early 2011, he did a series of blog posts that paired up quotes from Charlie Sheen with pictures of mischievous cats, and this evolved into a series of poems by cats, which developed into a book of poems where each poem was paired up with a cat photo - I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats.

I have often joked that Francesco's success with this volume and its sequels (I Could Chew on This and Other Poems by Dogs and I Knead My Mommy and Other Poems by Kittens) has resulted in him getting a death mark from the Union of Professional Poets. But I do wonder how much "serious" poets resent the success of his work. Frankly, I hope they take his success as an inspiration and an encouragement.  His book struck a chord with the book-buying public, appealed to the cat-loving public, and also was a perfect gift. May many other poets have the same sort of success that he has!

Monday, April 24, 2017

National Poetry Month: Emily Dickinson, Before I got my eye put out –


A poem for the Spring. One I have never seen before tonight.

Before I got my eye put out –
by Emily Dickinson

Before I got my eye put out – 
I liked as well to see 
As other creatures, that have eyes – 
And know no other way – 

But were it told to me, Today, 
That I might have the Sky 
For mine, I tell you that my Heart 
Would split, for size of me – 

The Meadows – mine – 
The Mountains – mine – 
All Forests – Stintless stars – 
As much of noon, as I could take – 
Between my finite eyes – 

The Motions of the Dipping Birds – 
The Morning’s Amber Road – 
For mine – to look at when I liked, 
The news would strike me dead – 

So safer – guess – with just my soul 
Opon the window pane 
Where other creatures put their eyes – 
Incautious – of the Sun –

Lliacs and lawnmowing

Just some quick notes:

First lilac blossoms noted: April 21
First lawn mowing: April 23

Tulips are in full bloom

Daffodils and Irises are apparently past bloom

Sunday, April 23, 2017

National Poetry Month: Poets in their own words

I was first exposed to Langston Hughes in Fourth Grade, when I was eleven ten or so. I didn't know what he sounded like, but for some reason I did know what the famous actor Paul Robeson sounded like. Having very little personal experience - that is to say, none - with people outside of my lily-white Polish community, I assumed that Paul Robeson's booming, rolling bass tones were typical of all men of his racial persuasion. So I imagined Langston Hughes' words being spoken in Paul Robeson's voice. I carried this assumption with me until just a few years ago when I heard a recording of Hughes for the first time.



I was taken aback by his soft, lilting voice. That isn't how he's supposed to sound, I thought. That isn't how this poem is supposed to sound.

How should a poem sound? The written word is a funny thing. Some people experience it visually. Others experience it audibly. Some experience both simultaneously. Is our audible experience of a poem as valid as the poet's intended phrasing?

Poet Sara Holbrook wrote about why she will not explain her intended meaning of a poem to students. Once a poem is released into the wild, the right of interpretation passes to the reader. Inflicting a single "correct" interpretation of the meaning on all readers is to take away the experience of discovering the resonances and relatability of the poem for the individual reader.

So too with the sound of the poem. What rhythm the poet intended to be present in the poem should be encoded into the poem itself, waiting for the reader to discover it. Finding out that the poet had read the poem completely differently than the reader has been hearing it can be a bit of a shock - but it is one that should not detract from the experience of the poem, nor does it invalidate the reader's interpretation.

Here, for example, is T.S. Eliot reading The Waste Land," a poem many encountered in high school. Does this differ from how you had heard it in you head?



There is a video with a clip of William Butler Yeats reading "The Second Coming," but it makes use of a visual gimmick so bizarre and disturbing I will not include it here. Surprisingly, his recitation is very close to how I imagined the poem to sound the first time I read it.

Here is another recording of Yeats where he tells an anecdote about another poet's reaction to hearing his own poetry read by someone else. He also recites several of his own poems, as he intended them to be heard.



There is value in hearing poems read in the poet's own voice. I have books that contain poems that I have heard read aloud by their authors, and it is fun to read them in the voices of the poets who wrote them. But the voice in which you hear the poem as you read it is just as valid. Perhaps more so. The poem as read by the poet involves just the poet and the words. But the poem as you hear it involves an interaction between poet, the poem, and the reader.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

National Poetry Month: Walt Whitman, When I Heard the Learn'd Astonomer


A decade and a half or so ago, I worked at a DVD Compression / Encoding / Authoring facility. We would get the various bits and pieces that would go onto a DVD as raw video and audio assets, subtitle files, image files to be transformed into menus, and so forth. We would process them - compressing video, encoding audio - and then "author" them into a finished, assembled DVD project to be sent on to the next stage of production . (I was the guy who calculated how the video would be compressed, and then figured out how all the pieces would have to fit together onto the finite space of a DVD.) One Fall day in 1999 or 2000, I was getting ready to head home. We had some large windows that looked west, over the rooftops of our neighbors in Olyphant, and gave a great view of the setting sun. The sunset that day was spectacular, magnificent, a symphony of colors and textures, layer after layer of clouds in gold, red, orange, and yellow. (My synesthesia kicked in and I was also hearing the sunset, a Wagnerian orchestra playing sweeping crescendos and booming fanfares.)

I stopped dead in my tracks. Two of my co-workers saw me looking out the window and stopped to see what was going on. I pulled out my cell phone and called my mom, thirty-five miles away, to tell her to look out her window and see if she was seeing the same thing.

I have a degree in Physics, with a second major in Philosophy. I have studied the physics of rainbows and sunsets. One of my favorite books is Light and Color in the Outdoors by Marcel Minnaert, in which amazing optical phenomena of the natural world are discussed and analyzed in loving detail. As I looked at the sunset I was awash in the physics of it all: photons generated by the sun through thermonuclear fusion, traveling tens of millions of miles to Earth's atmosphere, being refracted just so, the red and yellow and orange and yellow being bent down, down into the layers of clouds, great masses of water vapor floating in the air, drifting gently in the currents, buoyed up by temperature and pressure differences, and...

"How can anyone look at this and doubt the hand of God?", one of my co-workers said.

I was knocked out of my reverie. Yes, of course. God. Why is the sunset so beautiful? God wants it that way. Why does it rain? God. Why does the wind blow? God. Why do the birds sing? God. God. God is the answer to everything. Forget science, that's for the nonbelievers. God. End of discussion.

I've never been a big fan of Whitman. I hear he's good. Bram Stoker was impressed enough by him to model Dracula on him. I haven't read much by him, but one thing that stuck with me was a poem I read in high school. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer, 
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, 
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, 
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, 
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, 
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, 
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, 
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.


Was Whitman expressing his contempt for science? Was he just saying "Math is hard"? It seems to me that he got it exactly wrong. Or maybe Whitman was in desperate need of an interlocutor, someone who could bridge the gap between the learn'd astronomer and the not-so-learn'd layman audience member. Maybe he needed a Carl Sagan or a Stephen Hawking, a Bill Nye, a Richard Feynman, a Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a Marcel Minnaert, someone to let him know how amazing and wonderful and beautiful science is, and how much more deeply an understanding of science would have allowed him to appreciate the wonders of the world, and the universe.

Check out "A Glorious Dawn," the first video from "Symphony of Science" - a project that turns the words of scientists into music, and scientists into rock stars.



Epilogue: I had a bit of a crisis at the March 29, 2017 Be Daring Open Mic at Adezzo in Scranton. The International Space Station was scheduled to pass over the area that night, and I wanted to see it, but I didn't want to miss the open mic. My set ended just a little before the flyover time, so I stepped outside as the next act set up. Adezzo is located in the middle of a block, at the intersection of two alleys, and the buildings surrounding it are surprisingly tall. But thanks to the predicted timings and location from Heavens Above, I was able to watch the ISS pass over, almost as bright as it could get, its solar panels reflecting the Sun which was now well beneath the local horizon. Thanks to a bunch of learn'd and dedicated astronomers, I was able to see this glorious phenomenon - and then step back into the open mic to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Not much opportunity to observe the ISS as it passes over - unless you know just where to look.

Friday, April 21, 2017

National Poetry Month: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

When I was a kid in the early 1970's, we had these things called "encyclopedias," a sort of printed version of Wikipedia, only with fewer entries. These entries were written (in theory) by people with special knowledge of specific topics. Every family of means had a set, especially those with children, and some people made a decent living as door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen. Supermarkets would often hold promotions where during one week for this amount of money you could get Volume 1 of an encyclopedia, next week you could get Volume 2, and then after that you could buy the rest as a set. These would sometimes be specialized encyclopedias geared towards children, covering science or animals or the world in general. My parents bought a set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias - my mom still gets their annual supplemental yearbooks, after more than fifty years - but my sister, my brother, and I managed to convince them to get us volumes 1 and 2 of a lot of specialized sets.

One of those was the International Wildlife Encyclopedia. I ate those up. I learned all about axolotls and aye-ayes, anemones and acorn worms, anoles and aphids. The pictures were especially appealing, photographs and paintings and even microscopic images for "amoeba" (or possibly "ameba.") One illustration in particular stuck in my head, an ink sketch (actually a Gustave Dore woodcut) of a bedraggled man, a huge dead bird hanging around his neck. This was in the entry for "albatross."


The image had a bit of text beneath it:

And I had done a hellish thing, 
And it would work 'em woe: 
For all averred, I had killed the bird 
That made the breeze to blow. 

OK, that was weird. What the hell did it mean? I read further and I learned that the lines were from a poem called "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I filed that away.

I wouldn't encounter the poem itself until high school. It is long, brutally long, but it is filled with enough images of death and horror and misery to catch a teenager's attention. It is, as they say, totally metal. Iron Maiden thought so when they abridged and adapted it into a song on their album Powerslave in 1984.



Clocking in at over 13 minutes in length, the song is epic, and includes a central interlude that features a direct recitation of a passage. Iron Maiden's version is a faithful adaptation of Coleridge's work, to the point that, when we began to cover this in my senior year English class, several metalheads perked up and said "Hey!! I know this one!" and paid attention for the first time all year.

So, thanks to Iron Maiden, a lot of people are familiar with "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" who might otherwise have paid no attention to it.

(Because of the immense length of the poem, I have put it beyond the cut. You can also find it here.)


Thursday, April 20, 2017

National Poetry Month: Ogden Nash, Everybody Tells Me Everything


Everybody Tells Me Everything
by Ogden Nash 

I find it very difficult to enthuse 
Over the current news. 
Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens, 
And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.