Update to “We’re Going Digital!”

Our experiment is not working out too well. Not surprisingly, we haven’t been able to find an objective digital replacement to our daily paper. But the most significant objection is that we miss the kinesthetic property of our old routine: opening the door before breakfast, picking up the paper, dividing the sections, and holding the paper in our hands, turning the pages as we read. And of course, there is the difficulty that many of us who were not brought up with the internet have in reading online. We were frankly surprised at the strength of this objection.

Oil by Herb Knapp

Oil by Herb Knapp

Today we learn that the Wall Street Journal will be laying off employees in their bureaus in Asia and Europe—the second round of layoffs in three months. according to Bloomberg News. This newspaper is not alone in scaling back expenses as they try to sign up more online subscribers as advertising revenues continue to decline across the newspaper industry. Well, we won’t be one of them. Our newspaper will soon be back on our doorstep. There is a limit to how far we can go in adapting to the modern age.        mk   hk




Filed under Digital newspapers, Technology

It’s Our Anniversary!

Valentine heart-shaped baloons in a blue sky with clouds. Vector background

Sixty-two years. We are often asked, “What’s the secret?” Darned if we know. We do know that we’ve been incredibly lucky in so many ways. Whatever health problems have occurred have been fixable, and for that we are very grateful.

However, as we look back, there is one thing that has made the journey easier. In the early years of our marriage when the kids were tiny, we lived in a little house without air conditioning. During the summer, when our neighbor, Miss Harris, was in her garden, she could hear everything above a whisper that went on in our kitchen. One day she remarked to Mary, “You two sure do laugh a lot.”  We did and still do—at this crazy world and at ourselves. The walls of our pre-war New York City apartment building are thick; so far the neighbors haven’t complained.                                                         HK—MLK



As soon as we promised
for better or worse,
she put words in my mouth;
I did the reverse.

Then we could converse
without being heard
by a hidden bug
or a tattletale bird.

Since I can’t see
there’s anything to it,
I can’t tell you
how we do it.

We echo each other
like rhymes in a verse
that hold it together
for better or worse.

Herb Knapp     From the forthcoming Flying Backwards by Herb








Filed under Monuments and Memorials, Poetry

Lest We Forget—You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!


As I worked on my book on 19th century domestic life in New York City, I was constantly reminded how lucky I was to have been born in the 20th century!

 The Women’s March reminded me again. I couldn’t help but think not of how far we had to go, but of how far we have come

 Gender Equity? There was no such thing during the mid to late 19th century. The “doctrine of the spheres” was accepted by virtually everyone—men and women alike. Women’s place was in the private sphere of the home and men’s in the public arena. Women were expected to be conciliatory to their husbands, long-suffering if necessary. Divorce was a disgrace—and rare.

 Equal pay for equal work? No possibility of equal pay because there was no equal work. A woman who did not have the prospect of inherited wealth needed to find a husband who would support her, and the sooner the better. Lacking such support, there were few possibilities of supporting herself.  She could work at sewing in a garment factory or as a domestic — jobs men did not do.

 Reproductive rights?  Forget about it. No effective means of birth control was available. Women had on average four to seven children, though they were not always able to raise them to maturity since there were no antibiotics— not even an understanding of what caused disease. Childhood death was commonplace.

In 1913, women marched on the eve of Wilson's inauguration in support of women's suffrage.

In 1913, women marched on the eve of Wilson’s inauguration in support of women’s suffrage.

In 1848, the fight for women’s rights began in earnest with the Seneca Falls convention where Ellizabeth Cady Stanton outlined her grievances, among them the fact that women could not vote! Many years later, in 1913, women marched to demand that right, and since then there have been other women’s marches, most notably those in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.

In the sixties, ERA supporters marched for a very specific purpose.

Supporters of the ERA knew exactly what they wanted, and they wanted it now!

But cultural norms change slowly. It was seven long years after the suffragettes marched before women achieved the right to vote, and the effort to pass an Equal Rights Amendment eventually proved unsuccessful. The suffragettes and the supporters of ERA were serious and focused, and there is no doubt that these women’s marches moved the needle forward.  (Some day I will write about the condition of women in the 1950s when I was a young mother. We were certainly better off than our 19th century sisters, but we still had a long way to go.)

 Today, we are no longer expected to be domestic, submissive, pious, or pure, as the nineteenth century  “cult of domesticity” demanded. And it’s a good thing we can speak our minds freely. But looking at the recent Women’s March, I think sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

womens-march-2017Wearing pink pussy hats that reference women’s genitals is probably not the best way to show seriousness of  purpose. Hats with animal ears are cute on babies, but look ridiculous on grown women. In fact they just reinforce the stereotype of women as childish and silly. And I find it particularly ironic that women were “sticking to their knitting” in order to fashion a symbol of power. And then there is that “pink is for girls” thing. Weren’t we supposed to get over that? Or so I was told when I considered buying a blue blanket for my baby grandson.

 Actually  there was obviously no specific purpose to this march, no desire for any particular outcome. It was just a diffuse aggregation of gripes about every conceivable outrage that could be perpetrated against women, and a warning that  nobody better try to perpetrate them.

 As such it provided a protected venue for lots and lots of women to express their outrage and unhappiness and most particularly their hatred of Donald Trump and their extreme disappointment over the defeat of their sister candidate for president of the United States.

 They could scream whatever they wanted  as loudly as they wanted—and many did. Some, in fact, seemed to  have lost all semblance of self control. Is there anyone, really, who does not consider that berserk rant of Ashley Judd unhinged? And what about the crude and extreme vulgarity of some of the costumes and signs? I am surely not the only one who found it off-putting.

 In the end, will this Women’s March move the needle forward?  Will women achieve more respect as a result? Will it change atttitudes in a positive direction?  What do you think?



Filed under Role of Women

Remembering Another Inauguration



What follows is a poem Herb wrote about the inauguration and assassination of President Kennedy. The poet Robert Frost wasn’t able to read the poem he’d written for the inauguration because of the glare of the sunlight on the page. So he recited from memory “The Gift Outright,” a poem he had written about Americans who secured the land through “deeds of war.” There is a weird parallel here to the Vietnamese who would “secure their land” through “deeds of war.” And the parallel of the fates of the Kennedy and the Ngo brothers could have been the subject of a tragedy by Sophocles.


From Did You See This? Poems to Provoke the Politically Correct by Herbert Knapp



Heavily the low sky raining

Over tower’d Camelot.—Alfred Tennyson


 Any friend of liberty, he vowed,

he would support, and any foe, oppose.

“We will not count the cost,” he said, which showed,

that unlike his opponent, he had class.

The press was wowed.


Reporters clamored for a word or two

from him whom they imagined

could by glamor do

whatever they imagined.

He promised us he’d close the missile gap,

lower taxes, grow the GDP.

And then he promised us the moon.

Reporters turned to watch “the jumpers”

squeal and swoon.


He knew what he could do because his brother

had enlisted numerologists

to poke through piles of figures and discover

plans that the reporters all agreed

were certain to succeed.


At his inauguration

a picture perfect poet rose to read

a poem he’d been up for half the night

getting right.

But something there was that didn’t want it read.

The wind kept grabbing at his manuscript.

The cold turned all his fingers into thumbs.

The sunlight, weakly warm but winter-bright

smeared his page with glare.

So he decided to recite

a poem he had written long before

about colonials

who realized their land through deeds of war.

But poetry no longer spoke to us.


Our best and brightest all agreed

the president loved chivalry

and was a verray parfit gentil knyght,

unlike his predecessor who was clueless,

cultureless, and bland,

grammatically unsure, a dupe

of businessmen he’d let get out of hand.


The press corps strolled about

affecting courtly airs,

while Hollywood dolls and gangsters’ molls

paraded past them up the White House stairs.


Secretly the brothers had a bunch

of wisemen in for lunch

to talk about the war in South Vietnam.

The rulers there were brothers, too—

Diem and Nhu—

but not quite up to what they had to do.


So diplomats at dinner winked

at plotters who winked back and shot

the brothers after Mass

then dumped their bodies in a vacant lot

before the windows of our embassy,

where diplomats sat wishing,

wishing, wishing they had not.


“Nothing succeeds like successors,” quipped

a sniggerman in Washington,

where politicians sipped their scotch then rose

to dilate on dominoes.

They said the new man Fate

had brought up to the plate

was sure to homer with the help

of coaches from the Pentagon and State.

The President would see to it, they said.

“He can set the crooked straight,” they said.


But as we watched his motorcade

rolling through the streets of Dallas,

he was shot dead.

His killer, captured, was about to be

questioned by a magistrate when he

was shot dead, too.

The killer’s killer, captured, was asked why.

Enraptured by revenge was his reply.

But was this true?

Who knew?


People traded theories with friends.

Professors pointed solemnly to trends.

And lunatics in public institutions

appeared on television with solutions.


His successor promised to perform

Texas miracles: to win the war

in Asia, do away with poverty,

and build a Great Society

for us to glory in.

But scribes, abruptly old,

wrote only of what might have been.


His brother tried to take his brother’s place.

He promised, if elected, to restore

the nation to a state of grace

But then he, too, was shot and died.

“Why?” we asked his killer. “Why?”


“The Phantoms,” he replied.

“The Phantom jets he promised to the Jews.”

But later on he testified

that he could not recall

the incident at all.


Plot-intoxicated children

rocked and rolled, smoked pot, saw through

appearances, were born again, and studied

radical chic,

but nothing that was translated from Greek.


And as they danced and grew their hair,

soldiers sent to lend a helping hand

to brothers fighting brothers were misled

by testwise numerologists who said

their numbers showed

light at the end of the tunnel.


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Filed under Poetry

We’re Going Digital!

Oil by Herb Knapp

Oil by Herb Knapp

2016 was the year our television died—and not a moment too soon. We didn’t rush out to replace it, and before long, we realized there was no need because we didn’t miss it. Thus we were spared the demoralizing experience of watching frenzied talking heads spouting partisan talking points throughout the election cycle and beyond.

And now we are going to do what we would have found unthinkable a year ago: we are going to jettison the paper newspaper.

We are in the process of finding an online daily that will keep us informed of current events without too strong a partisan slant. We don’t expect to find an example of objective journalism like Mary used to teach (who, what, when, where, and why—and opinion confined to the editorial pages). That approach is dead. Yet we think we can do better than the papers that are available for delivery to our front door.

But there is something more. The internet is rich in resources that provide in-depth coverage of our special interests: art, books, theater, legislation affecting education, for instance. In comparison, a newspaper’s coverage of these subjects is limited and often uninteresting.

We aren’t the only ones letting go. Print newspaper circulation and advertising revenues are declining across the board. The New York Times has even vacated eight floors of its headquarters building in order to rent them out. The “Grey Lady” is taking in roomers!              mk, hk







Filed under Media, Technology

The Missing Amenity


Over the holidays we had occasion to spend a couple of nights in a hotel, something we hadn’t done for awhile.

Of course we were not at all surprised to find the huge TV, the little ihome clock radio, the microwave, the refrigerator, the coffee maker, the iron , the ironing board, the hair dryer, the illuminated magnifying mirror (I could have done without that), and various lotions, gels, soap, and shampoo. And a note left on the vanity informed us that the management would be happy to supply a toothbrush, or comb if we had forgotten to pack those items. The safe in the closet, I’ll admit, was a bit of a surprise.

I wondered if there might still be a Gideon Bible hidden somewhere. I opened the drawer of the night stand and sure enough! There it was. Since it was almost Christmas, I read the Christmas story as told by Matthew. That was nice.

However even with this superfluity of amenities, there was something missing—NO STATIONERY! And we know why, don’t we? Because nobody writes handwritten notes or letters any more.

 Or do they?

waldorf-stationeryI decided to ask Google about hotel stationery. (Google knows everything.) It seems that while many hotels have stopped offering it, some— mostly high end— hotels still do. In fact there is a luxury hotel in California where complimentary stationery is embossed with the guest’s name! Actually, I think that’s a bit much.

I realize that just because the hotel offers stationery does’t mean that guests use it. Nevertheless, the fact that high end hotels still provide it seems to support a notion I have had for awhile.  That is, that the handwritten note is becoming a status marker. High end parents who want their children to appear refined and well educated may see to it that their children write thank you notes by hand. They may even insist that the kids learn to write a cursive hand, even if they have to hire a tutor. Privileged children then may learn a skill that used to be taught to all children, thus increasing the social divide. This would not be progress. mlk


Filed under Education, Handwriting

You Never Know . . . .

png-fortune-tellerThe beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for predictions. But, as we have recently seen, predicting future events can be a risky business. The following poem speaks to the matter. It is a variation of “Da bienes Fortuna” by Luis Gongora, a Spanish contemporary of Shakespeare. I call it a version rather than a translation because I have brought it up to date. I write of boys stealing cars, for instance, where Gongora writes of boys stealing “egges” but the message is the same.



Life will never go

according to the epistles,

Expecting whistles, flutes,

Expecting flutes, it’s whistles.


There seems to be no plan

but merely new digressions.

The state awards a man

both honors and possessions.

So then he spouts confessions

and joins the destitute.

Expecting a flute, a whistle.

Expecting a whistle, a flute.


Sometimes the way it goes,

a guy begins to tell . . .

His wife breaks in and crows,

“I’m pregnant!” “Hey, that’s swell!”

They celebrate, what the hell,

Ignoring his dismissal.

Expecting a whistle, a flute.

Expecting a flute, a whistle.


You see kids go to jail

because they stole a ride,

while men who work wholesale

in fields like homicide

are feted far and wide

and wear expensive suits.

Expecting flutes, it’s whistles

Expecting whistles, flutes.


Since predictions are so unreliable, I offer instead a hope: May 2017 be a year of pleasant surprises.

 Poem from Did You See This? Poems to Provoke the Politically Correct by Herbert Knapp


Filed under Poetry