Friday, January 30, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Since William Rehnquist joined the Supreme Court, it has made several rulings that have knocked the U.S. Constitution out of whack. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who deliberated on most of those rulings, has written six amendments to fix the damage and tune up the Constitution.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thor's Day: Two options

Smoking or non-smoking?

By Anonymous

[Editor's Note: The image below was sent to us by one of our correspondents. You know how earnestly the question gets asked by people who believe they will consciously spend eternity somewhere.]

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ask Wednesday: What is "crape murder"?

Some do consider it 
a crime

By Morris Dean

"Crape," first of all, has the variant "crepe," and the full common name for Lagerstroemia is crape myrtle or crepe myrtle, "a genus of around 50 species of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs native to the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, northern Australia, and parts of Oceania, cultivated in warmer climates around the world. It is a member of the Lythraceae, which are also known as the loosestrife family. The genus is named after the Swedish merchant Magnus von Lagerström, who supplied Carolus Linnaeus with plants he collected. These flowering trees are beautifully colored and are often planted both privately and commercially. Popular cultivars used in modern landscaping include the bright red 'Dynamite,' the deep pink 'Pink Velour,' and the purple 'Twilight' crape myrtle, which also has a bark that changes colors." –Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Voice

The sixties

By Ed Rogers

[Originally published on April 2, 2013. At the time, Paul Clark, aka motomynd, said of it: "one of the best, most all-encompassing, 'insider' perspectives of the '60s that I have ever read."]

Reflecting back on my life, as most of us old farts do, I realized that most people only know about the sixties through history books, newspapers, or bullshit stories that people like me tell. I don’t claim to have been in the belly of the beast, but I had a hold of its tail.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks: Free the art!

Help, please help!

By Susan C. Price

My two drawers for paintings are full. My walls are full. The space under our bed where I've stuffed drawings is full. I keep making more art. Help... me free the art!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fourth Sunday from Jingle Jangle

Cousin Ray (excerpt from Chapter 1 of 
Jingle Jangle)

By Jim Rix

[Editor’s Note: Today we inaugurate a new monthly column featuring selections from the author's 2007 true crime book, Jingle Jangle: The Perfect Crime Turned Inside Out. We lead off with a blurb from the dust jacket: “A must for readers of true crime and anyone wondering why so many innocent people are convicted in America. The book satisfies from start to finish, from the opening of Ray Krone’s horror story, through the compelling analysis of what went wrong, and on to the startling conclusion....”
                –Sister Helen Prejean, author of
Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents]

I first learned of his predicament during a phone conversation with my mother. In her eighties, my mother was still one of the brightest people I knew and we often talked about current events. In this particular conversation I asked her if she had watched the TV program the night before about an innocent man released from Death Row. I don’t remember now which network magazine show it was or who was profiled. My mother replied that she hadn’t seen the show, then added casually, “You have a cousin on Death Row, and he’s innocent.”

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fourth Saturday’s Loneliest Liberal


By James Knudsen

All places have something that the locals talk about with a mixture of pride and begrudging respect. In the Lancaster/Palmdale region where I taught theatre at Antelope Valley College, it’s the wind. The locals will tell you that the Antlelope Valley Wind Festival runs January 1st thru December 31st. And I’d venture a guess that most tropic regions will insist they have rain like no other place on Earth. Okinawa could hurl down precipitation with the best of them during the monsoon season I spent there in 1985. But, I must give Chiang Mai, Thailand its due. There I saw the rain start the way it does in the movies; one second nothing and the next, as if someone had thrown a switch, a torrential downpour. I could go on – the cold of Russia, the streets of Paris, the crazies of New York, but I want to talk about my hometown, Tulare, California and what it does better than anywhere in the world. Fog.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

If there is danger in the human trajectory, it is not so much in the survival of our own species as in the fulfillment of the ultimate irony of organic evolution: that in the instant of achieving self-understanding through the mind of man, life has doomed its most beautiful creations. –E. O. Wilson, from The Diversity of Life (1992), quoted in the frontispiece of Elizabeth Kolbert's 2014 book, The Sixth Extinction

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thor's Day: Let's aspire

Before we expire

By Anonymous

[Editor's Note: the image was sent to us by one of our correspondents. We don't know who made the graphic, but it's a worthy thought, and a moral challenge.]

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Are there as many odd numbers as even?

No...but... yes...but....

By Morris Dean

[Originally published, under the title "More even than odd," on January 10, 2011.]

I was amazed one morning to discover a "proof" for something that is quite counter-intuitive. I mean, there are as many odd numbers as even numbers, right?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Growing up in America

Climbing rocks

By Rolf Dumke

Reading the NY Times article of the spectacular recent climb of Yosemite's El Capitan (“Pursuing the Impossible, and Coming Out on Top,” by John Branch, January 14, 2015), I felt certain college memories resurfacing.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Third Monday Musing

Only the dead know

By Ed Rogers

As a young man, I didn’t give much thought to death or dying. However, as you get older you begin to notice people who are younger than yourself passing away.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Review: Words and Pictures

Sometimes it's war

By Morris Dean

Words and Pictures (2013, directed by Fred Schepisi) is set in an upscale preparatory school in Maine that hires accomplished professionals as teachers of its advanced courses, including Jack Marcus, a writer who has taught English there for a number of years, and Dina Delsanto, an artist just joining the staff as an art teacher.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Third Saturday Fiction

Prologue & Chapter 1, Rainforest Day One, from the novel Far Stone

By Steve Glossin

[Editor’s Note: Begun over ten years ago, Far Stone remains so far unfinished. It features the character Big Bob Tilden, who has appeared on Moristotle & Co. before – most recently on August 26 last year, when Bob took a wild camel ride across a Saudi Arabian desert.]

By AD 900 the Classic period of the Maya was ending. Their major cities were being abandoned and the monumental architecture was slowly being claimed and hidden by the Jungle of the dense rainforest. The inhabitants of Masuul, located in the heart of Maya region between Calakmul to the south and Tikal to the north would stand vacant until it was rediscovered by the archaeologist Sylvanus Morley, on 3 May 1922.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just announced that a record-breaking number of endangered Florida panthers were killed in 2014.
    What little habitat remains for this endangered species is under constant siege from development, oil drilling and mining. The development on their habitat creates a profound threat to their survival and led to the death of 33 Florida panthers last year.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thor’s Day: The creation of the world

Based on a Yoruba myth

By Bob Boldt

Some years in the future, Obatala and his sidekick Oduduwa were reminiscing about how they created the world. Obatala, in his retirement, had resumed his drinking. The palm wine was flowing. As night fell, all gathered to hear about the first creation of the world and how the tribes of man were created. The fire grew stronger as the blue light of evening fell and a chill night blew all around.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ask Wednesday: How does your flowering jade plant look?

Happy and optimistic

By Morris Dean

The jade plant's taxonomic name is Crassula ovata. Some people apparently also know it as a friendship tree, a lucky plant, or a money tree. It is native to South Africa, and is common as a houseplant worldwide.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm

Winter reflections

By Bettina Sperry

In the cool mountain air, I bathed at my wishing well. At 9 o’clock on an August morning, my shower curtain was the green grass, vast pastures, mountains, and blue sky. The water was cold and clear. Almost as if seeing my farm for the first time, I recognized the abundance of water available to the life on this farm. A creek winds its way through the length of the property at the base of the hill. Another branch feeds into it near the house. A pond rests above the northern pasture. Farther beyond the farm, up the winding road a few miles, is a man-made lake. It is where the eagle soars.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Second Monday Music: Two reviews of Baroque performance

The Seicento Baroque Ensemble of Boulder, Colorado

By Chuck Smythe

The first Seicento Baroque Ensemble concert of the new, 2014-2015 concert season was titled “Dies Irae” (days of wrath). It was held on Halloween weekend, and featured some appropriate seasonal music: Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d (you know, the one in all the movies!), and the Witches’ scenes from Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas,” Act II, Scene 1. There were also motets by Cannicciari, Bertulosi, Byrd, and Kuhnau.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Review: Before the Rain

A tale of the unexpected

By Christopher-Joseph Ravnopolski-Dean

You have picked the wrong film if you expect a banal happy-ending fairy tale from Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain (1994, from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, titled Пред дождот [Pred ‘dojdot] in Macedonian Bulgarian). Indeed, in the beginning we are promised a “tale in three parts,” and when we see the mesmerizing Macedonian natural surroundings, we are more than willing to believe the promise is true. Yet, the ensuing events make it impossible for the film to fit such a conventional form. It is still a tale because of the love stories, the sense of magical reality, the illogical and fantastic events, the reminiscences of the middle ages, but its content and construction continuously reveal an unexpectedness unusual for fairy tales.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Second Saturday's Sonnet

Hetch Hetchy

By Eric Meub

[Originally published on January 11, 2014]

The grasses hissed beneath the oaks that mark
these fields. But now her swimming pool has spread
a net of light up into shadowed bark.
An over-irrigated oak falls dead.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fish for Friday

"I am Charlie," the signs say,
in solidarity with those killed in Paris
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

We are too. "Terrorists Strike Charlie Hebdo Newspaper in Paris, Leaving 12 Dead." Excerpt:
Officials said late Wednesday that the suspects in an assault on a satirical newspaper in Paris had been identified as two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, 32 and 34, and Hamyd Mourad, 18.
    A manhunt for the suspects continues across Paris after the brazen and methodical slaughter at the paper, Charlie Hebdo, left 12 people dead, including the top editor, prominent cartoonists and police officers. It was among the deadliest attacks in postwar France.
    The assault threatened to deepen the distrust of France’s large Muslim population, coming at a time when Islamic radicalism has become a central concern of security officials across Europe.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thor's Day: Jesus loves me so much

The Bible tells me so

By Anonymous

[Editor’s Note: The cartoon below bluntly but eloquently reveals the psychopathology of a contradiction sitting at the heart of Christian theology.]

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Should I take him back?

By Susan C. Price

[Questions are followed by answers and then, inevitably by DID expect that...didn’t you?]

I split up with the father of my kids nearly three years ago. We were together for five years before he moved back to Canada. But over the past month or so we have been getting very close again. He’s in an unhappy relationship and wants to move back to give our relationship another go. He cheated on me when we were together, but now I feel that I’m making him cheat on her with me. Am I a fool if I get back with him after all this time apart? I’m really confused about it all. –Cassie Mae

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Will you give this to my Daddy?

A terminal at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport
By Anonymous

[Editor's Note: Contributed by a correspondent, who didn't know who wrote it, or even whether it really happened. But it could have.]

Last week I was in Atlanta, Georgia attending a conference. While I was in the airport, returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer. I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.

Monday, January 5, 2015

First Monday with Characters

Edited by Morris Dean

Geoffrey Dean, visiting
After a birthday and pre-Christmas celebration on the 21st, I and my significant other flew to Minneapolis to spend Christmas with her family before heading to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit my sister and relatives on my mother’s side.
    I hadn’t been to California in about a decade, and it was especially interesting to see it at this traditionally chilly time of year. California cold is, well, warmer than in most other places. The dark green pine foliage and high palm trees give the western shore of the Bay Area a Rome-meets-the-tropics feel. I enjoyed Christa’s enthusiasm on seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time, and she called Sausalito “charming” rather than “touristy,” the preferred descriptive, I imagine, of the average Californian.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Review: Potpourri of year-end films

Interstellar, The Theory of Everything, Diplomacy, & St. Vincent

By Jonathan Price

In the last month and a half there have been a flurry of films worth seeing, though of varying degrees of excellence and certainly varied in genre and subject.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Thirst Satyrday for Eros (in fiction)

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
William the Conjuror (a short story)

By W.M. Dean

    I haven't written many letters to editors. Certainly none on the subject of this letter, a subject that I've never even talked about with anyone—strange as that will seem to your more sophisticated readers. But, truth is, I've been until very recently a modest, retiring fellow.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

"Cruise Ships Are Unregulated Trouble on the High Seas." Excerpt:
Cruise ships have become the symbol of all that’s gone haywire in the tourism industry.
    The largest of these floating hotels are the size of horizontal skyscrapers and carry as many as 6,000 passengers. They cross the seas polluting the water and air and overwhelming their ports of call....
    Every day the average cruise ship dumps 21,000 gallons of human waste, one ton of solid waste garbage, 170,000 gallons of wastewater and 8,500 plastic bottles in the ocean. That’s according to the Environmental Protection Agency – cruise ships are under no regulatory obligation to monitor or report what they release.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thor's Day: What’s Your Story? What’s Your Landscape?

By Bob Boldt

In Barry Lopez’s essay “Landscape and Narrative” from the collection Crossing Open Ground, he states that the purpose of storytelling is

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ask Wednesday: If the god of Abraham was a human invention, then what is blasphemy?

Stephen Fry's answer

By Morris Dean

Stephen Fry may be familiar to you as Bertie Wooster's butler Jeeves, from the BBC dramatizations of some stories by P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and Wooster, in which Bertie was played by none other than Hugh Laurie, perhaps most famous in the United States as Dr. Gregory House.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tuesday Voice: An introduction

Portrait painted by Jane B. Mudd
Glad to be here

By Bob Boldt

[Editor’s Note: We are delighted to welcome Contributing Editor Bob Boldt to our staff, and we thank him for introducing himself today and providing this week’s “Thor’s Day” column, two days from now. He has an entry in the sidebar.]

I was raised in a traditional Midwestern, nuclear family, strongly influenced by my mother’s love of books and my father’s iconoclastic creativity. Reaching majority during the Eisenhower years, I responded to their materialism and the booming post-war prosperity with a growing consciousness of its shallowness and a simultaneous sense of the inherent dissonance between appearance and reality.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Fifth Monday Fiction

Chapter 1. The Hit, from the novel Frank O’Hara – The Last PI

By D. Michael Pain

[Editor's Note: The novel is in preparation for print publication in 2015.]

The sound of the hammer striking the back of her head was not as loud as he thought it would be. More like a muffled thump. If it wasn't for the blood spatter hitting the lampshade and wall it might not have even been noticed. There was no scream. No word from her mouth. It was a silent kill. For reasons known only to him, he knew he hadn’t swung as hard as he could. But still, it was hard enough.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Review: Black Mirror (TV anthology)

Dark sides of technology

By Morris Dean

The British TV anthology Black Mirror (created by Charlie Booker, three episodes each in 2011 & 2013, plus a special this month) is so inventively different, it's difficult to categorize, especially because each episode has its own cast and is independent and unconnected narratively to any other episode. I've seen only three episodes so far, but their dramatic power assures me that I won't be leading anyone astray by recommending Black Mirror.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal: Understanding what we’re saying

And picking our battles

By James Knudsen

I like to think that, as an actor, I’ve gotten better. I’m no Laurence – Olivier or Joey – but I get the job done. It wasn’t always that way. I think about early productions and cringe. My performances were filled with the bush-league, amateur flaws that I see in many of the young actors I work with as a college professor of theatre. Chief among these flaws and the one that remains so prominent in my memory of my own work is that of comprehension. Me, them, the actor not comprehending or understanding what we’re saying or why we’re saying it. It’s one the most difficult concepts to communicate to my students. But it may be the most important. If the actor doesn’t understand what she is trying to convey to the audience or the other actor on stage, the meaning will be lost. Language without context is jibberish...or worse.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fish for Friday

In 2014, three huge Antarctic glaciers
showed "irreversible decline"
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

The great picture of the breaking ice field in the West Atlantic of the Antarctic is among those worth mentioning: "The 12 most important moments in science in 2014." One of my personal favorites:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thor’s Day: Redemption beneath the stars

A Christian reading of Shakespeare’s King Lear

By Kyle Garza

Upon a first reading, King Lear seems like yet another Shakespearean tragedy wherein foolish characters, hanging their faults on their sleeves, lament their undoing in an unjust and cruel world. The characters all seem to fall into two worldview camps: One thinks that cruel higher powers torment us merely for their own sport, and we must endure their harsh torture as petty toys; the other thinks that the majority of evil in the world is the result of human sins, and there is a higher arbiter who orchestrates justice in the natural world. The latter in the play not only capture Shakespeare’s thematic intent more accurately, but they also demonstrate the core elements of the Christian gospel throughout King Lear’s five acts. It is clear by the end of the play that the wicked receive their comeuppances in a world with orchestrated justice, that the wicked cannot justify their wickedness by the predetermination of the stars, and that the characters of Edgar and Cordelia serve as Christ-figures that anchor the play to the Christian gospel.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ask Wednesday: What does it mean to "meet Jesus"?

Someone has kicked the bucket
It passes for something else

By Morris Dean

To meet Jesus is most commonly a euphemism for dying. You'll hear people say, for example, "So-and-so has gone to meet Jesus." It's a way of avoiding saying that the person died. The more common saying, "So-and-so has passed [or passed away]," serves the same purpose.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Little Bit

A little dog from France

By Ed Rogers

[Originally published on September 17, 2013]

It seems so long ago now, that a little dog came all the way from France to Aberdeen, Mississippi and touched so many lives. It all started in a place called Chateauroux, France, in 1963.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Review: Happy Valley (TV serial)

Sarah Lancashire
as Sgt. Catherine Cawood
It isn't that happy

By Morris Dean

Happy Valley (BBC One, 2014, written by Sally Wainwright) is a police drama television series set in a small town in West Yorkshire. "Happy Valley" is what local police call the area because of its drug problem, although the action of the series centers on a kidnapping only indirectly connected to drugs.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Third Saturday Fiction

Reaching Out
(a short story), Part 2

By Steve Glossin

[In Part 1, which appeared on November 29, the body of a young man was discovered near the rubbish bin behind the M&P Furniture Emporium. Who killed Tim Riley?]

It was early the next morning when Sheriff Sloan pressed Ma Riley’s doorbell. The door opened a crack. “Ma, I hope I ain’t disturbing you this early in the morning.” Her gray hair looked as if it hadn’t seen a brush in a while and her blue housecoat was wrinkled and threadbare at the sleeves.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Tundra Swans, which winter on both U.S. coasts, are at serious risk from climate change, according to Audubon's report on birds and climate change.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thor's Day: Of a mystical bent

Rainer Maria Rilke
By Morris Dean

[Originally published on January 22, 2012.]

About three years ago, I included myself among “others of a mystical bent,” and I even quoted Rilke. Admitting to a mystical bent surprised me as much as quoting Rilke; I hadn’t meant to get into anything like that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Is this a boy I should get serious with?

By Susan C. Price

[Questions are followed by answers and then, inevitably by DID expect that...didn’t you?]

Two weeks ago I met this boy on a night out with friends. He’s 22 and I am 20. Before I gave him my number I made a point of saying that if he was looking for a casual fling, then I wasn’t the right girl for him.
    That night, after the bar closed, he came back to mine and we sat in the kitchen until 5 a.m. chatting, and it was lovely. Since then we have met up a few times.
    He’s said things to me like, “You make me smile,” and “Whenever I see a text from you, I feel happy.” He’s also mentioned that he’s not a “dick”!
    However, the first week we started seeing each other seriously, I found out he’d only recently come out of a long-term relationship, which set alarm bells ringing. I don’t want to be a rebound relationship, so I texted him and emphasized that I don’t want a “friends with benefits” type of arrangement.
    He said it was true he’d split up with his girlfriend a couple of months before, but he would never play with my emotions and that he would love to see what happens between us.
    What do you think? –Bernadine

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Voice: The angry river

By Chuck Smythe

[Originally published on December 11, 2012.]

In 1998, I became involved in a ragtag whitewater expedition to Southwestern China. Our goal was the first descent of the Nu Jaing, the “Angry River.” This is the river the Burmese call the Salween. We ran the roughly 200-mile stretch from the rim of the Tibetan Plateau, through an enormous canyon cut into the Himalayan foothills north of the Burma border, down to the lowland jungle.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Third Monday Musing

Que sera, sera

By Rolf Dumke

“That mysterious flow,” wrote Paul Davies about time in the February 2006 Scientific American. We all experience it as an unstoppable flow from a given past to a flighty present, onwards to an unknown future. But, he argues, for physicists this is a mere illusion: time does not fly or flow. It merely exists. See Davies’s book, About Time: Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution (1995, Simon & Schuster).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Review: My Life as a Turkey (TV)

Obligations of re-enactment

By Morris Dean

In My Life as a Turkey (2011, directed by David Allen), the possessive pronoun refers to Joe Hutto, a naturalist who made mother-turkey sounds over an incubating basket of wild-turkey eggs and so managed to be "imprinted" on the hatchlings, one-by-one, as they pecked their way out of the shells and looked upon his friendly, nurturing face. In doing that, Hutto took upon himself the moral obligation to spend all his days for over a year raising the young turkeys to adulthood and beyond, in a remote wilderness of northern Florida.