Tout bien ou rien

Et si tu le fais bien et vite, tu comprends francais.


Has Oz mentioned that his grandmother was French? Oh, there is so little we know of each other, but then, very little we know of ourselves.


“Tout bien ou rien.”

I think I got this from John Muir in his dedication of the book On National Parks, 1901. He got it elsewhere, though where, I don’t know. The sentiment is surely an old one.

I translate it as all is well or nothing. That is literal. Somewhat like the English, All or nothing, but not quite.

Some translations give it as, Do your best or not at all. That works too. If that is the case it is like the Flemish, Als Ik Kan, literally, as I can, and figuratively, to the best of my abilities.

The French phrase, tout bien ou rien, contains opposites, all or nothing, polar extremes, it is good or it is not. Shakespeare likde this form of “simplespeak”. It is ambiguous and clear, depending on the intended purpose of the speaker. One is afraid to argue for seeming the fool.

Ambiguity is a fact of life. It puts one in trouble and keeps us out of trouble. Just ask any politician, who has to explain contrary positions to opposing sides.

Tout bien ou rien, c’est bien fait, c’est tout.

Now, quick, try this – Vite fait bien fait.



Butterfly Jokes


Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Ludwig Wittgenstein.

I cannot fly

but I can see

I  cannot be a butterfly,

But if I eat

a caterpillar, or two, or three

Will I, can I, would I

have butterflies in my stomach?

Would I feel light, would it be right

Would I be airy, like a fairy

Or just sick to my stomach?

One of the first jokes I learned as child goes like this:

Q: Why did the little boy go to the kitchen window and throw the butter out?

A: He wanted to see the butter fly.

Wittengenstein  speaks to the nonsensical attempt to understand purely mental concepts like color.  Green, blue, red, and yellow are purely mental constructs. We cannot represent them as absolutes, but rather as categories that only can be understood over a broad range. Or not at all  if one is blind.

Humor is our acknowledgement of the futility of imposing absolutes to any word. Paradoxes are punny and puns are paradoxical. We see both, understand that both cannot be true and yet they are.

Two more butterfly jokes:

Q: Why wouldn’t the butterfly go to the dance? A: It was a moth ball.

Q: Who is the king of the insects? A: The Monarch!

Ruff words

Oh, to listen, to hear, I think it queer I speak and no one hears. It is no better than to talk to my dog, but at least he’ll sit and stay, even if he knows not why. Then again, he must think me strange, that I cannot talk as he. To me, his growl seems quite rough, his language quite complex, yet quite simple, if only I would take the time to listen and hear.


Just like us, dogs talk through body signals and barks and emotion rises or falls with pitch or volume. Like us, love is expressed best in a look, a lick, a nuzzle when we need it most.

Bring in the wine

Oz had a glass of wine, which got him thinking about the Oscars, translation, understanding, and Chinese poetry.

Go figure.

Lost in Translation, one of my favorite movies, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Insert Oscar shout out here for female writer-directors. The 2003 Indie movie stars Bill Murray as an aging actor Bob Harris, who befriends college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a Tokyo hotel. The romantic comedy-drama plays out on many levels while the couple film a Japanese whiskey commercial.

Bring in the Wine, eighth century Chinese poet, Cen Can (aka Cen Shen and Cen Jiuzhou) commiseration about getting old and getting drunk with old friends. The Chinese characters are 將進酒 Jiāng Jìn Jiǔ, which must have been a mouthful if one was already drunk. Kind of like saying, “rubber baby buggy bumpers,” which makes no sense, but it is still fun to say.

You know, we are not so different, Japanese, American, Chinese, then and now… A little whiskey, some wine makes it easier to get along. And the hell with getting lost.

You can check out my translation here.


Ineluctable vs inevitable

When it comes to word comparisons, it is inevitable that I come to this ineluctable conclusion, sometimes something is superfluously said.

adjective: ineluctable

unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable.
“the ineluctable facts of history”

adjective: inevitable

certain to happen; unavoidable.
“war was inevitable”
synonyms: unavoidable, inescapable, inexorable, ineluctable;
More: assured, certain, sure, fixed;
fated, destined, predestined, predetermined, unpreventable;

“at this point, war is inevitable”

so frequently experienced or seen that it is completely predictable.
“the inevitable letter from the bank”

noun: inevitable

a situation that is unavoidable.

Why leave?

Why leave at all?

After all, as Dorothy Gale said, “There is no place like home.” But that was only after she “left” home to save Toto from mean Miss Almira Gulch. And along the way, she met some wonderful friends, had great adventures, learned a lesson or two, and discovered a little more about her self and the ones she loved.

Be careful. As I have learned, it can be rough out there, and a little lonely, but it beats staying at home, doesn’t it?



Are you curious?

My one-day-to-be-famous TV reporter daughter sent me a link to Oprah Winfrey’s conversation with Brian Grazer.

The most important piece of advice Brian Grazer gave in his interview with Oprah Winfrey came when he retold about meeting Lew Wasserman, legendary talent agent and studio executive.

“Kid,” Wasserman told the annoyingly brash and young Brian Grazer, “you know nothing now.” Then, he said, “Get a legal pad,” which Grazer did. Wasserman gave Grazer a number 2 pencil.

“Now, put pencil to paper.” And with that Wasserman left.

An uncomprehending Grazer stood there perplexed until he remembered what his tiny Jewish grandmother told him as a child.

“Brian, you are curious. You will figure it out.”

Did you?

pencil and paper


Green is Good

Green, in all is manifestations: green in the turnips that grow in spring, in the spinach and kale of summer, and even the green of cabbage and onions in fall and winter, they are good; yes, money too, but money can not nourish the body; green, for want of a better word, has marked the upward progression of man from hunter-gatherer to urban dweller, from cold wet cave to a nice home with a family with a two-car garage, and everything one could want to become complaisant, unaware of the sad fact that we eat too little green, that we have again become hunter-gatherers happy to munch on meat an endless and ready supply off Big Mac’s and starches from supersized French-fries, ordered by those too lazy to get out of their cars, in response to faceless aggressors who ask, “Can I help you today?” Beware, my friends of these mechanical incantations. Green, mark my words, can prevent heart disease and stroke, it can be the salvation of this once great land called the USA. Thank you very much. This will be your only wake-up kale. Spud Knox: Sun-tzu: Between enemy and friend, let-tuce choose kale.

Inspired by an article on NPR and, of course, Gordon Gekko.

Not yet

It is not yet
And so
The turtle is still submerged
The snake has not stuck out his head
The birds still fret and know
It is not time to make a nest
It is not spring
And yet
One notices
The days are getting longer
The wind is from the south
The cat is at the window
The squirrels begin to play
Along the fence as if to say
Begone you winter day
And though
The trees are brown and bare
I know it in my bones and heart
I know it as
I walk by my closet
And leave my coat inside