Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Accidental Haiku

Rodney King passed away on June 17, 2012. Most people know the first part of the story, only some people know the second part. Rodney was the accidental spark of the Los Angeles Riots that began after the police officers who were photographed beating him were acquited. The second part of the story is one that is well known to some of the people in Los Angeles although many other people in Los Angeles deny that the situation is real.

That story is that the Los Angeles Police have a long history of illegal violence against blacks in this city, which has always been condoned and covered up. So much so, that there was a joke that they could catch a black man being beaten by police on video, put that video on television, and still nothing would be done to stop the violence. When that exact thing happened, a beating was captured on video, and the police were of course released, that is when the riots began.

A Haiku is a form of formal japanese poetry that various Westerners love to write and read, and which really can not be translated into English, even though we pretend not to know that. There are a variety of formal structures, but the major ones are three line poems with 5, 7 and 5 syllables for each line. But there are variations on this theme, including the variation used below of 7, 9, 5 syllables. There are many other characteristics of a Haiku, again with variations, which include such things as a single syllable at the end of one of the three lines which is what is called "a cutting word", it may divide the Haiku into two distinct emotions, or it may give the Haiku a distinguished ending.

The biggest problem about writing a Haiku in English, and why it really doesn't work, is because in Japanese a syllable generally has less information than in English. So 17 (or 21) syllables can express one set of idea or ideas in Japanese, but a different set in English.

The following was written by accident in four emails with a friend, Bob Lambert, when he was Sr. VP of New Technology at Disney. When the email exchange was over, I happened to notice that it fit the 7 - 9 - 5 structure, and I think it works pretty well as a Haiku so here it is.

          Can't we all just get along?
          Where is that Rodney fellow these days?
          In jail, I think. Oh.


  1. Friendly advice: hopefully you got Bob's approval to use his name. If not, I kindly recommend removing his name until you do. :)

    Nothing wrong or bad has been said here but great controversy and volatility are just next door to these topics.


  2. Dear Anonymous

    Indeed I did get his permission in advance. Otherwise, I leave things ... well... anonymous. In this case the reason for mentioning him is, of course, that he my "co author".

    Funny that you would think I would use someone's name and publish the contents of emails without asking.

    But dont worry, its all handled !

  3. However, now that you mention it, I should probably mention that while the Haiku is "ours", e.g. co-written with Bob, everything else here is my opinion and not his. Do not know what he thinks about any of these issues, only that he did not mind me publishing our little accidental poem.