Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Olive Kitteridge (a book)

Life as we live it

By Moristotle

[In Wednesday’s post, “A curious case of apathy,” I mentioned a book club I had participated in. The book reviewed today was discussed in that club, and the review, “Life as we live it,” was originally published on August 14, 2012.]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Correspondence: Donny Trumpp plays Johnny Depp

By Moristotle

Donald Trump’s affectless reading of “his” anti-anti-Semitism statement brings to mind Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s droll,tongue-in-cheek “apology” to Australia for illegally bringing her two dogs into the country: “Trump denounces anti-Semitic threats as ‘horrible’ after facing criticism” [ABC News, February 21]:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A curious case of apathy

By Moristotle

Entering the offices of my cardiologist’s practice yesterday morning, I felt (or, rather, failed to feel) in a way that I could only think was apathy. Apathy in the basic sense of lack of enthusiasm, or impassivity, or ennui. Usually, whenever I approach a receptionist – whether in a doctor’s office, a Starbuck’s, Elliott’s Pet Spa, or wherever – I feel primed to banter, to joke, to say something I hope will sound witty.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Thunder Down Under: How do we choose to react to a joke?

By Vic Midyett

How do we choose to react to something we consider rude, politically incorrect, or demeaning to a situation or to ourselves? Do we first ask ourselves some questions? Or do we simply assume that what was said was intended to be demeaning? Was it said as a joke simply for a joke’s sake? Was it meant as a slam of “my kind” or of me in particular?
    I think that if we don’t know the answers to these questions, we are doing ourselves a disservice. As I have said before, OTHERS cannot MAKE US feel. We CHOOSE how we react to others and everything.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lost time reading Marcel Proust

Hawthorns in blossom

By Moristotle

As a direct result of visiting Paris last year with my wife, for our 50th wedding anniversary, I have finally been applying myself to reading Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu [In Search of Lost Time]), which I had been meaning to read ever since my wife read it over 35 years ago, in the C. K. Scott Moncrieff translation (1920’s), before we moved from California to North Carolina.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

West Coast Observer: An abhorrent admiration

Let’s not have a repeat

By William Silveira

I happened to view the PBS News Hour with Judy Woodruff on February 15, and I came away shocked and frightened for the future of our country and the world.
    I am sure that many of you have read about the glowing reports of the wonderful work Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party were doing in Germany in the 1930’s. Their false and fatuous view of what was going on helped cement Hitler’s grip on power in Germany during that era. Among the Americans who were taken in by Hitler and the Nazis were Charles Lindbergh and Joseph Kennedy. Now I see the same sort of line being taken by Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, and a consultant to the American oil industry.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A history not of God, but of the idea of God

By Moristotle

[Originally published on March 19, 2008]

Karen Armstrong’s 1993 book, subtitled “The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” has the misleading but catchier title A History of God. She herself refers in the Introduction to “this history of the idea and experience of [emphasis mine] God in the three monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam” [p. xix]. She admits that God might not really exist and that she wished, “when I was starting out in the religious life” [in the 1960’s], that she had been told to “deliberately create a sense of him for myself.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Blossoms in winter

Flowering apricot

By Moristotle

I took these photographs last month, in our yard (and inside our home), in Mebane, North Carolina.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

To Valentine’s Day

By Moristotle

[A reader commented yesterday on this poem’s original post, on Valentine’s Day 2015, reminding me I had even written it (and might have republished it yesterday).]

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happier Valentine’s Day than this!

By Moristotle

Unhappy Valentines: romantic holiday disasters” [various, Guardian, February 11]. Few things conjure up the idea of romance like an exotic trip with a partner, though the reality can be excruciatingly different, as these writers discovered....:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Correspondence: Resisting Trumpery

Edited by Moristotle

Thanks for occasionally sharing a live “Resistance Report” from Robert Reich, which have been very informative and inspirational during these depressing times.
    The reports seem to be a permanent archive on Professor Reich’s “Resistance Report” Facebook page, for anyone who would like to check them out.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Birthday

By Moristotle

Greetings to everyone whose birthday is today, particularly to my wife. We celebrated at home, where the weather was perfect for lunching on the back porch, with Siegfried, whose bowl we move to his (lower) table before we sit down to eat.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Poetry & Portraits: Odysseus (a poem)

By Eric Meub


His every sentence pitted mortal thought
against that ruthless, terminating dot,
as if annihilation might precede
a new Aeneid no one needs to read.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Boldt Words & Images: Ham on Nye (a poem)

By Bob Boldt

Bill (the Science Guy) Nye runs into his old nemesis,
Ken Ham, waiting for the Senior Buffet to open at a Delicatessen

in an alternative universe, or Miami Beach (whichever is closer).
Both miscreants are under 65 and not entitled to hog the “Seniors Only” lane.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Correspondence: Yet more Trumpery

Edited by Moristotle

“Trump Accuses Media of Not Reporting Voices He Hears in Head” [Andy Borowitz, New Yorker, February 7]. Excerpt:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why so much sestina?

Psychiatry session in sestina

By Moristotle

[This poem was originally published on June 12, 2013, in a time during which I fairly frequently wrote sestinas. As I don’t seem to have written another, the question might now be, “Why no more sestinas?” – a question I intend to answer soon, in my first sestina in three and a half years. I miss writing them!]

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Susan to the Moon

“Tree of Joe” (detail)
By Moristotle

Congratulations to our good friend Susan C. Price (see “Past Members of the Staff” in the sidebar), who has a painting on display in Women Painters West’s “Love in Deed” show, at Topanga Canyon Gallery, open now through February 19, with a reception this coming Sunday afternoon (February 12).

Monday, February 6, 2017

Correspondence: More Trumpery

Part of the “Evolution of Civilizations”
mural in the dome of the main reading room
at the Library of Congress
Edited by Moristotle

Good points by the outstanding NY Times conservative commentator David Brooks: “A Return to National Greatness” [February 3].
    We the People will have to “return to greatness” despite the Trumpestuous interference we are confronting. Excerpt:

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thunder Down Under: Labels

By Vic Midyett

My DNA heritage is Argentinean, German, French, English, and most proudly, Cherokee. I have predominantly olive skin and in the right circumstance could possibly pass as an Iranian or Middle-Eastern terrorist. What would my label be on sight? What would you call me? “Half-breed”? I have been called that, and so be it, even though it is biologically and mathematically impossible.
    I recall that when I was younger than ten, adults in my father’s home state of Tennessee referred to all African Americans as “niggers.” In my early teenage years I was part of the government’s mandate to desegregate the schools. Suddenly my friendship world grew. My learning, acceptance, tolerance, being better informed, and fun times grew with it. During that time I do not recall ever labeling any of my African American friends by anything other than their given names. The white “adults” in the community, however, still labeled them the same way they always had. This habit gradually diminished, and the label survived mostly as hush-hush and in “safe” circles.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

As the World Turns: Shit storm

By Ed Rogers

I keep waiting for the shit storm to settle down that was released the day Trump won the election. But it seems to get wilder each day – his team is even inventing words to explain the stink coming from the White House. How did Papa Bush— Or was it Reagan who called it a shining city upon a hill? We once knew it as the White House, but I believe it needs a new name now.
    I have been wondering about the people who think the new President is a genius. It’s hard to believe, but there are a lot of them – many more than I would have thought possible. What is bothering me is I’m trying to ascertain if they are crazy or could it be me? Crazy people don’t think they are crazy, so I guess it could be me. After all, he was elected President of the United States. In a way it is easier to believe I am insane and everything is going along just fine.
    If I lived on the West Coast, I could roll a fat one, turn on, and tune out – it worked for me during Nixon’s time in the White House. But now I live in the forward-thinking State of Mississippi. “Go Rebs!” “Hotty Totty!” (For those not in the know, those are cries of football fans at Old Miss.)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Boldt Words & Images: Dreaming a Hurricane (a poem)

By Bob Boldt

What was the name of that girl I stood up
way back then? Julie, June, Jackie?

What difference would it have made anyway?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Outside the Box: I hate digital technology

By Anonymous

[Editor’s Note: This article would have been an item of correspondence (anonymous, as is the custom in a “Correspondence” column) if it had stopped with the first email we received, but it kept growing...into a longer piece (but still anonymous) just right for “Outside the Box.”]

Correspondence: Trumpery

Edited by Moristotle

After Trump’s executive order , the author of this article visited an icon of welcome for immigrants: “Checking In on Lady Liberty” [Sam Hodgson, NY Times, January 31]. Excerpt:

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Outside the Box: Robotics and the jobs paradox

By Chuck Smythe

I’m afraid I only know about robotics what I read in the science magazines (which don’t pay enough attention to applied technology) and articles like “How to Make America’s Robots Great Again” [Farhad Manjoo, NY Times, January 25], from which I share this excerpt:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Correspondence: Cheek

Edited by Moristotle

Fortune inside Chinese restaurant cookie: “You find beauty in ordinary things. Appreciate this gift.”

Monday, January 30, 2017

Thunder Down Under: Action and reaction

Which is more powerful, positive, and future-building?

By Vic Midyett

Political correctness – why does any government think this is its mandate?
    Political correctness has become completely ridiculous in society, stifling discussion and even pushing truth aside. It serves my purpose to quote a definition that some anonymous person wrote: “Political correctness is a doctrine, recently fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and promoted by a sick mainstream media, that holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end.”

Sunday, January 29, 2017

You say you want a revolution?

Notes on the Women’s March on Denver

By Chuck Smythe

Fifty years ago, there was Nixon. The people took to the streets. Watching, I decided that was accomplishing nothing, so I didn’t participate. Years later, I learned that protests had in fact eventually made it impossible to continue Vietnam, and furthermore fueled the paranoia with which Nixon eventually destroyed himself. I resolved that I would show up next time. The time has come, and as a first baby step I attended the Women’s March on Denver a week ago yesterday.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Loneliest Liberal: New sobriquet acomin’

By James Knudsen

From the sidebar:
The Loneliest Liberal. Despite voting for Barack Obama twice, being a registered Democrat, actor, educator, yada yada yada—there are things that put him on the fringe. He’s a US Marine (current Commandant General Amos sent out a memo: Can’t say “former”) and a gun-owner. He likes to watch NASCAR but hates the hillbilly patriotism. “So what’s a fella to do?”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Correspondence: Reading

Edited by Moristotle

I’m at last into Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past [the C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin translation, Random House, 1981]. The three sentences beginning with “The plot began to unfold,” from p. 45 of “Swann’s Way,” are now among my favorite passages from literature:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Correspondence: Facts

Daily Tar Heel, January 23, by Emily Yue
Edited by Moristotle

I am sending this only to my smart friends. I couldn’t figure it out. My first thought was wrong and I had to look at the answer. See if you can figure out what these seven words all have in common.
  1. Banana
  2. Dresser
  3. Grammar
  4. Potato
  5. Revive
  6. Uneven
  7. Assess

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Boldt Words & Images: Awakening

By Bob Boldt

[From a sermonette to be delivered tomorrow at the author’s local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in Jefferson, Missouri.]

Have you ever readThe Lost Boy” by Thomas Wolfe? It concerns the dawning awareness of Grover, a young lad of twelve when he comes fully into an awareness of himself as a conscious, moral agent in the world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


By Moristotle

A couple of days ago, I lost it. The anger and upset I have felt over the U.S. Presidential election surged up in a wave that broke on the rock of a Facebook-Messenger interchange I was having with someone (whom I have “met” only electronically) who had posted that he was “sick and tired of the whining of Hillary supporters.” The crash dashed me into my summarily blocking and “unfriending” him – a curious term, given that we could hardly have been thought friends, although he is local to me and had even approached me via Messenger and offered to pay me for some editing – hence our being “friends” on Facebook.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Poetry & Portraits: Gabriel (a poem)

By Eric Meub


A mouth that’s raised on thirst must yearn
     for lips kept coiled around the sea’s
green seed, unfolding like a fern
     to spread her lace upon the breeze.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hurry – before you lose your mind

Detail of Catiline, Cesare Maccari’s
fresco, Palazzo Madama
Doesn’t Catiline look as though
he’s losing his mind?
By Moristotle

If I don’t write about losing my mind now – before I’ve completely lost it – how is it going to be written?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Seventy-four (74)

“They say it’s your birthday!”

By Moristotle

It was about three months before his 75th birthday when my father died. The fact that he died when he was the age I am today has been giving me pause for some months.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Correspondence: Skin off our noses

Edited by Moristotle

Saying something “is no skin off my nose” generally means that something isn’t much of a risk. The phrase is believed to have a boxing origin, presumably because boxers’ noses are the body part most prone to damage. [–]

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sustainable agriculture through imitating Nature

By Christopher-Joseph Ravnopolski-Dean

[Editor’s Note: On September 25, 2016, we published Christopher’s article, “Sustainable Agriculture in Native America.” A day later I came across the September 23 NY Times article, “Why Industrial Farms Are Good for the Environment,” by Jayson Lusk, whose title alone raised my suspicions, leading me to wonder whether the author might be in the pocket of factory farming.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New year’s exercise

By Moristotle

After doing 150 reps on the strength machines at my local fitness center this morning, I noticed an MMA (mixed martial arts) poster on the wall next to the chalkboard extolling us to honor our exercise habits. Allen Crowder, whom we interviewed on October 31, 2012, has a fight coming up later this month. The interview was long before he turned professional and became a leading poster boy, and he frequently checked in with us for our old First Monday with Characters column.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My best excuse ever

By Moristotle

[Originally published May 5, 2007]

It was a blizzardy January in North Carolina, in 1996, during my thirtieth (and final) year with IBM. While leaving the house after dinner to take our dog Ruffy out for his evening walk, I slipped on the icy back step and fell heavily onto my butt, not knowing at the time that I had a brain tumor and that the impact had caused it to start bleeding.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

West Coast Observer: Country-club new year

Musings on December 31

By William Silveira

Since the election, my brain has reeled in attempting to organize into one cohesive package a conclusion as to what happened to us as a country. Perhaps the readers of these words will find them too bleak or too far off the mark. If so, I hope those readers are right. What has transpired, and my view of what may transpire, have drained me of a great deal of optimism about this country’s future.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

In Your Dreams: A bedtime serenade – The Bach Arioso

By Geoffrey Dean

A few months ago, roughly coinciding with our daughter Vera’s arrival, I put together a playlist of classical pieces that I considered suitably sleep-inducing. After mining my own memory for appropriate selections, I enriched our nighttime listening repertoire with a few “readymade” albums, such as “More Bedtime Serenades.” This compilation came up as I searched for one of my favorite pieces by J. S. Bach, the “Arioso,” which is perhaps best-known and most widely performed today as a cello solo with piano accompaniment. This is the version heard on More Bedtime Serenades, in an interpretation by Janos Starker that to me brings home the sense of Arioso as “almost an aria” – a piece striving towards full-fledged aria status, and almost getting there. Starker’s is a lyrical interpretation that still retains a hint of the spoken quality that was also an important element of Baroque music and the “rhetoric” behind it.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Correspondence: Trashed

Edited by Moristotle

Could this really be the species that imagined the Old & New Testaments, the Enlightenment, the U.S. Constitution…? “Christmas Revelers Leave 16 Tons of Trash on Australian Beach” [Brett Cole, NY Times, December 28]. Excerpt:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thunder Down Under: Four little paintings for Christmas (#4)

Painting by Shirley Deane/Midyett

Text by Vic Midyett

The fourth painting was actually for a post-Christmas gift, but we include it among our Christmas paintings to Moristotle & Co. Greetings to all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thunder Down Under: Four little paintings for Christmas (#3)

Painting by Shirley Deane/Midyett

Text by Vic Midyett

Here is the third of four little paintings Shirley created as gifts for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Thunder Down Under: Four little paintings for Christmas (#2)

Painting by Shirley Deane/Midyett

Text by Vic Midyett

Here is the second of four little paintings Shirley created as gifts for Christmas.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Thunder Down Under: Four little paintings for Christmas (#1)

Painting by Shirley Deane/Midyett

Text by Vic Midyett

Shirley created four little paintings as gifts for Christmas. Here’s the first one.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Correspondence: Round about Christmas

Edited by Moristotle

Nice Christmas picture: “‘Everyone was stunned’: Snow falls in Sahara desert town for first time in 37 years” [Jason Samenow, Washington Post, December 21]. Excerpt:

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Loneliest Liberal: Reasons for the season

By James Knudsen

Desperate as I usually am for something to base my monthly column on, I thought to spend a few words on Christmas. The winter holiday has, for some time now, been part of the social discourse in ways it never was. “The War on Christmas,” nativity scenes banned from the public square, stockings filled incorrectly because Santa ate one too many pot-laced cookies – this 2,000-year-old holiday is being asked to deal with issues it was never meant to tackle.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Thunder Down Under: Merry Christmas!

By Vic Midyett

Aussies don’t know how to make a decent pecan pie. A lot of the time when you find it available in a cafe it’s made with molasses. That’s just not right.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

A stillness at the center

By Jonathan Price

Manchester by the Sea, starring Casey Affleck, Ben’s younger brother, is a superb film, the best I’ve seen all year and, in fact, in some time. And that’s as far as you should read here if you haven’t already seen (and want to see) it, because the rest of what you’ll find here will tell you a great many things about what happens and what’s key in the film.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Correspondence: The dying of the light

Edited by Moristotle

Personal note from the editor: It has been a week since I’ve posted anything. Only this morning did I think I begin to understand why: I’ve been paralyzed in the inaction of waiting to hear the news of Donald Trump’s death.
    Not sure why I suddenly became un-paralyzed. Maybe it was driving through a bright patch of sunlight this morning and being reminded of the feeling I experienced as a child when I “saw the light” and believed that I had just been saved by Jesus. One gives up hope after a while.