FAST Blast: Seeking hope in face of COVID — reflecting on unprecedented virus

01/31/2021

Posted — 31 January 2021

A year ago, when 2020 began, who could have predicted that a year later facemasks would be an ongoing medical fashion accessory in response to a global pandemic?

This blog post is a revised and updated version of an essay I first published in Today Magazine, the news vehicle I produce as publisher and editor-in-chief. Today Magazine covers the heart of Connecticut’s Farmington Valley and seeks to record the Valley’s underreported upside. — Bruce William Deckert

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UNPRECEDENTED — someone I know says he first heard this word utilized to describe the coronavirus crisis while volunteering in Hartford, Connecticut.

“It’s unprecedented,” said a newly unemployed man about the cancellation of the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament and the cessation of the NBA and NHL seasons — but of course the pandemic halted more than sports. Large public gatherings stopped. Simple courtesies like handshakes and in-person conversations were replaced by once-unfamiliar terms — social distancing and Zoom calls. Schools and businesses closed nationwide.

Medical experts and government officials saw these drastic measures as the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 … another unknown term until 2020.

In media reports and in emails from business and civic leaders, the word unprecedented was cited over and over again. The commerce shutdown led to record layoffs — so the above man has more company. Yet while the government’s response to this medical crisis has been unprecedented, the loss suffered by many families isn’t new.

Nearly 440,000 Americans have died of the virus, according to the New York Times, and 2.2 million worldwide. Such loss is a shared human reality — just ask someone who has endured 9/11 or the Vietnam War or the Holocaust … or the death of any loved one.

The world has likewise seen medical crises before: 50 million people worldwide died in the 1918-19 flu pandemic, per the CDC.

Earlier in the COVID shutdown, I took a neighborhood walk that revealed a time-honored antidote to such trauma, written in rainbow chalk that spanned a suburban Farmington Valley roadway: BE KIND. STAY POSITIVE. … Love each other.

From the chalk of children to God’s ears.

© Bruce William Deckert 2021

Today Magazine January Issue: Fame and the Forrest Gump Effect

FAST Sonnets in Cyberspace #13

12/20/2020

A Christmas Poem

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Ancient sages perceived emerging star,
Sought king they knew not, souls ablaze — yearning
For goal of heart’s wandering — babe from afar
Found, night’s mute sky-speech lending true learning.
Two thousand years, wisdom’s cry is the same:
Bright starfields and warm earth-haven reveal
Royal design and seal, speak sovereign name —
Such a King comes calling, all wise men kneel.
Flower, forest, rushing stream, surging sea,
Wide plain, high peak His unseen regal hand
Confirm — all marks of monarch’s artistry …
Refusing reason, fools alone dare stand.
Galaxy-King of boundless creation,
My folly confound — unto salvation.

© Bruce William Deckert 2020 — posted: 20 December 2020

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POETRY 411 NOTES
see below to vote on alternate closing lines

Brevity Beckons — In my book, the sonnet is the best poem for on-the-go and attention-challenged residents of the 21st century — forgoing lengthy free verse, the sonnet offers a short-and-sweet reading experience … thanks for stopping by.

Sonnet Synopsis — The above poem is an English or Shakespearean sonnet — a poem comprised of three four-line stanzas and a closing couplet, with this rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg. The English sonnet contains 10 syllables per line, typically employing iambic pentameter.

Noble Goal — This blog focuses on sports-and-faith topics, so each FAST Sonnet in Cyberspace has a sports connection — do you see the fleeting sports theme here? If you missed it, revisit the third line.

Vote For Last Line You Like Best — Here are three alternate last lines for this sonnet:

Alternate #1: My folly confound — to reclamation.
Alternate #2: My folly confound — to conservation.
Alternate #3: My folly confound — to preservation.

You can vote for the last line you like best:
Note — For a more informed vote, I’m recommending that you check the dictionary definitions of the various word choices — simply click each word above to see one dictionary’s take. I reviewed these definitions before deciding on the last line in the sonnet above, and I also consulted the time-honored dictionary known as the New Testament, specifically the usage of “salvation” in this NT dictionary entry (so to speak)

FAST Sonnets in Cyberspace #12

07/04/2020

A Sonnet in Honor of George Floyd
+ All Victims of Racial Injustice Across American History
+ Police of All Races Who Aim to Protect Citizens of All Races

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Does right-just rage burn and cleanse in the hearts
Of my black U.S. friends? Forebears beckoned
Here, captive cargo … see how hope departs
From Africa on spectral ships — reckoned
Three-fifths only by court’s supreme cruelty —
Torn live from safe home-haven like violets
From cradle-soil — no Lady Liberty
Greetings, just auction blocks of bondage — debts
Of freedom lost that cannot be repaid.
After emancipation, facing still
Heightened walls of hatred, racism’s sad
And bitter synergy … a history vile.
Who can save from state-prone race-choked lynch-lair?
True dark Slave-Son, oh prove untrue slavery’s dare.

© Bruce William Deckert 2020 — posted: 4 July 2020

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POETRY 411 NOTES

Brief Backstory — The horrific killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day makes the sentiments of these lines especially timely on this Fourth of July … and perhaps as relevant as ever. While I wrote most of this sonnet more than 25 years ago, I’ve shared it with virtually no one — but it appears the time has come to share it more widely. Given the timing, as noted above, this poem is posted in honor of George Floyd, plus all victims of racial injustice throughout American history, plus police of all races who aim to serve citizens of all races — and for all people who grieve such needless violence.

Vote For Couplet You Like Best — The above version of this sonnet reflects a few revisions from the one I originally wrote a quarter-century ago — including the closing couplet (the last two lines). Here’s an alternate closing couplet:

Who can save us from this nation’s lynch-lair?
One dark Slave-Son who stared down slavery’s dare.

You can vote for the closing couplet you like best:

Back To School — This is an English (Shakespearean) sonnet — a poem with three four-line stanzas and a closing couplet, and the following rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg. The English sonnet contains 10 syllables per line, often employing iambic pentameter — five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables. An iamb is one such pair.

All Runners Welcome — This blog focuses on sports-and-faith issues, so each sonnet posted here has at least one sports connection — in this case, it’s the potential multiple meaning of the term “race” in the last line.

Sonnet Plug — To me, the sonnet is the best poem for rushed and distracted residents of the 21st century — no lengthy free verse here … instead, 14 concise and cogent lines. Thanks for stopping by — I hope your time here has been worthwhile.

FAST Fiction: Fall Classic Dream State #11

03/31/2020

“I still have a dream … I have a dream today.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Here in my heart there’s a dream that’s unbroken
And it gets in my way, but it won’t be denied.
Oh, here in my heart, the door is still open
Waiting for you to walk into my life.
— Chicago • American rock band

Fall Classic Dream State:  Part 12345678910

Once upon a couch, I was home watching the pregame show before the decisive game of the 2000 World Series — the Mets-Yankees Subway Series — but I fell asleep just before the first pitch, and soon I began to dream…

This dream started as a wild, death-defying roller-coaster ride — a metaphorical coaster, but literally death-defying because I somehow survived a nosedive from the top of the Empire State Building by landing, dream-like, on a pole vaulter’s cushion. I wound up in New York City’s Canyon of Heroes, along Broadway, where NYC parades have honored champions and lionhearts from Amelia Earhart to Jesse Owens (in the 1930s) to French president Charles de Gaulle and the Apollo 11 astronauts (in the 1960s) to Nelson Mandela and the Yankees (in the 1990s) — three times for the Yanks that decade.

Wait … the Yankees get three parades, while Mandela gets one? Yes, this mystifies me — does it seem incongruous to you too? What he’s accomplished in overcoming apartheid warrants 30-plus parades compared to winning three World Series.

You might also be mystified by something else — I’m referring to “this dream” … but how can I speak about dreaming as if I know I’m dreaming, and still be dreaming?

Good question.

The answer is easily found — the same way answers to every possible question ever posed by humankind are found here in the new millennium: Google Search, of course. (Do you detect naiveté, irony or sarcasm in the preceding sentence? For now, you’re on your own — no spoilers at this juncture!)

The answer that I’ve found easily on the internet is this: I’m apparently experiencing what sleep specialists call a lucid dream — “defined as a dream during which dreamers, while dreaming, are aware they are dreaming … it is unclear how many people actually experience lucid dreaming … it seems that this phenomenon may be quite common” (according to the Medical News Today website).

Yes, I’m able to access Google via the World Wide Web on my iMac — while I’m dreaming. Amazing, or perhaps bizarre … but I digress.

Since enduring that near-fatal fall from the landmark Empire State skyscraper in Manhattan — while Game 5 of the World Series is transpiring at Shea Stadium in Queens — I’ve been watching a strange parade. The first parade float carried a simple light-colored placard with what appeared to be six headlines. In dark block lettering, these headlines appear to forecast events after the current year 2000.

The first headline — 2001: Terrorist attack rocks NYC, reduces Twin Towers to rubble

In a stunning moment, after witnessing the inconceivable occur — the haunting collapse of the iconic Towers, followed by the harrowing crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania — I’ve somehow been transported back to New York’s Canyon of Heroes along Broadway … and I can see the second parade float, despite the soot-dark setting of this peculiar nighttime spectacle.

The headline of this second float reads — 2004: Red Sox rout Yankees in Game 7, finish historic comeback

Suddenly, I hear the faint strains of a song wafting in the night … it sounds familiar but I can’t quite make it out … yet now the organ accompaniment is unmistakable … wait, of course: Take Me Out To The Ballgame.

After starting this dream at the 2000 World Series, it looks like I’m going back to the baseball diamond — but this time either at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park.

To be continued

© Bruce William Deckert 2020

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All-Name Teams #30

02/29/2020

Featuring names from across the world of sports

IN HONOR OF LEAP YEAR 2020

February 29th: A birthday so awesome that the world can only handle it once every four years!
— Internet meme

The seasons change their manners, as the year
Had found some months asleep, and leapt them over.
— William Shakespeare • Henry IV

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
— Neil Armstrong

All-Time Team 2
Early Doucet — football
Brenden Morrow — hockey
K.J. Noons — mixed martial arts
Boo Weekley — golf
Rickie Weeks — baseball

All-Day Team
Oday Aboushi — football
Kevin Cheveldayoff — hockey
Dayan Diaz — baseball
Ron Hornaday — auto racing
Adrian “All Day” Peterson — football

Procedural Note — If you’re wondering why there are five people per team, it’s simple: Basketball was my favorite sport as I grew up, and since the rules of basketball (last time I checked) allow five players per team on the court, I’m going with five-person All-Name Teams.

— Bruce William Deckert

 

FAST Sonnets in Cyberspace #11

01/05/2020

THE SONNET might be the best poem for time-challenged 21st century readers — forgoing lengthy free verse, the sonnet aims to concisely convey its subject in 14 power-packed lines.

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Come winter Your canvas is bare and gray —
But for pine and hemlock splotches, wood’s scene
Speaks silence, waits for April rain to play.
Each spring You sing the lifeless canvas green,
Add kaleidoscope of color — deep pink,
Gold, purple — impressionist paradise.
When summer’s palette appears, You rethink
Hue and soon rearrange designs, now thrice
Changed. Then lawn-and-leaf luster is replaced
By fall’s consuming fire — forest-clad hill
Ablaze with passion’s brush, painfully traced —
Until tree-glory yields to winter’s will.
    Oh Artist True — Your masterpiece, such art!
    Let Your beauty draw me to Your true heart.

© Bruce William Deckert 2020

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POETRY 411 NOTES

• Here’s an alternate closing couplet — i.e., the last two lines:

    Oh Artist True, You paint each season’s art —
    Let Your canvas draw me to Your true heart.

You can vote here for the closing couplet you prefer.

• Since this blog focuses on sports-and-faith issues, each sonnet I’m posting has at least one sports connection — in this case, it’s the fleeting reference to “play” in the third line … and “play” is about as sports-related as it gets!

• This is a Shakespearean (or English) sonnet — a poem comprised of three four-line stanzas and a closing couplet, with the following rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg. The Shakespearean sonnet has 10 syllables per line, often employing iambic pentameter — five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables (an iamb is one pair).

• Thanks for stopping by — I hope your time here has been worthwhile.

All-Name Teams #29

12/15/2019

Featuring names from across the world of sports

• All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means “God with us.”

• Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
— From the Gospel of Matthew

All-Christmas Team 5
Emmanuel Ekpo — soccer
Brenda Frese — basketball
Richie Incognito — football
Omar Infante — baseball
Patrick Towles — football

All-Star Team 2
Starlin Castro — baseball
Brady Morningstar — basketball
Gary Nova — football
Anastasia Rodionova — tennis
Kate Starbird — basketball

Procedural Note — If you’re wondering why there are five people per team, it’s simple: Basketball was my favorite sport as I grew up, and since the rules of basketball (last time I checked) allow five players per team on the court, I’m going with five-person All-Name Teams.

— Bruce William Deckert

All-Name Teams #28

11/07/2019

Featuring names from across the world of sports

Let us learn to appreciate there will be times when the trees will be bare, and look forward to the time when we may pick the fruit.
— Anton Chekhov

All-Fruit Team
Jayne Appel — basketball
Edner Cherry — boxing
Craig McIntosh — football
Amber Orrange— basketball
Darryl Strawberry — baseball

All-Tree Team
Barkevious Mingo — football
Saudia Roundtree — basketball
Warren Sapp — football
Nicole Sappingfield — softball
Tiger Woods — golf

Procedural Note — If you’re wondering why there are five people per team, it’s simple … basketball was my favorite sport as I grew up, and since the rules of basketball (last time I checked) allow five players per team on the court, I’m going with five-person All-Name Teams.

— Bruce William Deckert

Non Sequiturs + Other Quasi-Funny Stuff #14

08/31/2019

UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR from the journalism realm — actual excerpts from stories published professionally on the Internet are in bold, along with brief commentary from me in non-bold … except for the items that seem self-explanatory.

ALL FIVE ITEMS BELOW ARE FROM …
THE DEPARTMENT OF REDUNDANCY DEPARTMENT

1 — The Cowboys are coming off a very impressive home win over the St. Louis Rams, where they out-rushed the Rams 193-35 on the ground.

If you’re not a football fan, perhaps you’d like some help identifying the redundancy here. If so, here’s the spoiler — rushing the ball always takes place “on the ground” … so you can surmise correctly that there’s no need to refer to both “out-rushed” and “on the ground” in the above sentence.

2 — The reality is that the Dodgers have needed the left-hander to step up because of need.

3 — After a 10th-round knockout loss … he talked about retirement but elected to fight on and won his next four fights in a row before announcing that he was done.

Wondering where the redundancy is here? Look at the phrase “his next four fights in a row” and then ask yourself — isn’t “in a row” unnecessarily repetitive after “his next four fights”? If you’ve answered yes, I agree.

4 — A final last word for the Thunder was coming later that afternoon.

5 — The Broncos’ defense cashed in during a must-win that all the players said they had to have.

Hmm, a “must-win” that players said “they had to have” — a classic case of … yes, redundancy!

Until next time, remember to protect the football when you’re rushing on the ground.

— Bruce William Deckert 

All-Name Teams #27

06/30/2019

Featuring names from across the world of sports

What is a farm but a mute gospel?
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

All-Farm Team 2
Mitch Barnhart — athletic director
Jordan Farmar — basketball
Nirra Fields — basketball
Charles Tillman — football
Markus Wheaton — football

All-Flower Team 2
Jasmine Camp — basketball
Lily Feldman — soccer
Danielle Flowers — roller derby
Derrick Rose — basketball
Dave Rozema — baseball

Note — Why are there five per team, you ask? Basketball was my favorite sport as I grew up, and since the rules of basketball (last time I checked) call for five players per team on the court, I’m going with five-person All-Name Teams.

— Bruce William Deckert