Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thor's Day: Reflections on Galileo's middle finger

Authority versus independent thinking

By Morris Dean

My wife often tells me about the books she is reading. Which means that she's telling me about a new book roughly every week. But she most recently spoke more often and more excitedly than usual about Alice Dreger's book, Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, and she devoured it in fewer days than usual, giving me too plenty of time to read it before the library wants it back.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Have you had a visitation of frogs?

Up against the garage door
In joy and sorrow

By Morris Dean

All of a sudden, about three weeks ago, we started to see a huge number (dozens? hundreds?) of tiny, dark frogs in our yard, right around the house, both front and back. When I say tiny, I mean on the order of half an inch long, nose to tail in squatting position.
    There's a drainage pound out back of our house, but frogs have commonly taken up residence in our yard, even in the gutters, although I can't tell you how they got up there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Posthumously speaking 9

Hand tools

By Mary Alice Condley (1925-2007)

[Correction: The artist's granddaughter has informed us that her father doesn't think Mary did the shovel painting. (May 27)]

[Editor's Note: The artist's granddaughter Suzanne Dawn Condley recently brought to my attention that her father, my nephew Jeffrey Condley, Mary's second of two sons, has a number of his mother's paintings, several of which were done on hand tools – the first such paintings of hers that I was aware of.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks

Portraits of two youths abuilding

By Susan C. Price

The two paintings I'm speaking through today are from the Mirror, Mirror Project in Los Angeles, where artists meet and make portraits of young persons who are participating in a program called YouthBuild, in which they finish high school and learn the construction trade.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fourth Sunday from Jingle Jangle

A Shady Person (Chapter 4 of Jingle Jangle)

By Jim Rix

[Editor’s Note: Blurb from the dust jacket: “Jim Rix has written an astonishing memoir about his cousin Ray Krone’s wrongful conviction for a 1991 Arizona murder. Rix meticulously details every aspect of police corruption, prosecutorial misconduct, defense incompetence, expert witness tampering and jury shenanigans that led to Ray’s decade-long nightmare. But Rix doesn’t stop there. He dissects each problem, then with careful research explains how it is not an isolated incident but part of a larger pattern of problems in the criminal justice system. Rix’s wry humor and occasional sarcasm reveal the depths of his despair at realizing that the justice system, which he once trusted, is so deeply flawed. Scariest about this true story is that if Ray Krone, an honest, law-abiding person, could end up on Death Row, it could happen to anyone.”
        –Rachel King, author of
Don’t Kill in Our Names and
Capital Consequences, teaches legal writing
        at Howard University School of Law

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal

Shakespeare says

By James Knudsen

Another semester has ended. The lightest of teaching loads, one class, one night a week. Drama 1, an overview of theatre, was all the public system of higher education could find for me this spring. I filled in at the local community college I attended decades earlier, but had never been employed at. The syllabus I taught from was the same one used department wide and different from what I normally teach at my usual gig at Fresno City College. And I’ll confess that I prefer to spend a bit more time on Shakespeare than we did in my recently ended section at the College of the Sequoias, Tulare Campus.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Have you ever wondered...what dogs do when they drink water?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thor's Day: What's nihilistic about nihilism?

The meanings of our lives

By Morris Dean

When my views were labeled "nihilistic" by a Christian last year, I couldn't think at the time how to respond. I'd never thought much about "nihilism," and I didn't really know what the label meant, or was supposed to imply.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Should I break up with my fiancé to be with the man I have butterflies for?

By Susan C. Price

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

I fell in love with someone but when he asked for my hand in marriage, my parents refused because he’s not educated like I am. He’s from a family my parents don’t get along with. I wanted to please them so I broke up with him, thinking I’d done the right thing.
    Then on a work trip, I met someone else and he seemed the sweetest guy on earth. He surprised me by coming to my home town and proposing. My parents liked him, and the way he asked me was so romantic it was hard to say no.
    Now, though, I can’t help thinking of the first guy. I talked to him on the phone and got butterflies when I heard his voice. I’ve never felt like this for my fiancé. Should I break up with him?
    One more thing. I come from a culture that forbids sex before marriage, and I’ve been intimate with my fiancé, which makes my decision even harder. –What Now?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Voice: In 4" × 4"

Sunrise detail
By Shirley Deane/Midyett

[Husband Vic Midyett's Note: Jake did both of these 4" × 4" paintings in about 10 minutes each, on May 5. You should recognize them from recent photos on the estuary: April 21; May 4.]

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Review: Before I Go to Sleep

You need to lose it before you watch this movie*

By Morris Dean

During lunch yesterday, I said to my wife, "I think I'll review that movie we watched last night."
    "What movie was that? I can't remember it."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Third Saturday Fiction

Excerpt from
The Suicide Diary,
a novel

By Michael Hanson

[Editor’s Note: The narrator is a 27-year-old novelist whose girlfriend, Karla, has recently left him. He has decided he is going to commit suicide but will keep a diary of all that transpires prior to the precipitous act, identifying it as his new novel and leaving it for his editor to find.]

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Legendary dance choreographer Bill T. Jones and TED Fellows Joshua Roman and Somi didn't know exactly what was going to happen when they took the stage at TED2015. They just knew they wanted to offer the audience an opportunity to witness creative collaboration in action. The result: An improvised piece they call "The Red Circle and the Blue Curtain," so extraordinary it had to be shared [6:26]:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thor's Day: Glimpses of Jesus in Salt Lake City

The Beehive House, 67 E South Temple St
Why the tour was free

By Morris Dean

My wife and I returned to Salt Lake City on April 30, hoping this time to have no problems with that city's street nomenclature. I had its coordinate system securely installed in my head this time, the x-axis being South Temple and the y-axis Main, and my mind was clear this time that South Temple (and all streets named South or North) run east-west, not north-south, which I had been confused about last October and was forever spinning my head over ["How long does it take to become fluent in Salt Lake City's street nomenclature?," October 29, 2014].

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How do we all be good neighbors?

By Susan C. Price

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

I have a question regarding etiquette. I put a basketball goal up for my son in front of my house. Now my neighbor (who has lived here less than a month) has a son who is ALWAYS using it (when my children are not). He has never asked, nor his parents. Today, they are having a get together with about 10 people, and are outside in front of my house and their own. I had to wait for them to get from in front of my driveway to get in and they didn’t even bother speaking! How would you handle this? Am I being “unneighborly”? –Neighbor

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm


Bettina Sperry

It sets in when foaling and calving season is over. It is arguably one of the most restful and peaceful times of the year for me. Spending time watching the new babies grow consumes much of my attention.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Second Monday Music: Who is Storm Large?

Photo by John Rudoff (2014-02-14)
She's big

By Morris Dean

I had never heard of Storm Large until a friend in Oregon wrote me that she and her husband were going to a Storm Large concert for their wedding anniversary last week. It was performed with the Oregon Symphony in Portland on Friday, May 1, and was, my friend reported, heavily attended by people of all ages:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Review: The Drop

They never saw him coming

By Morris Dean

The Drop (2014, directed by Michaël R. Roska) takes place in Brooklyn, and the title refers to the practice of organized criminals of depositing illegal takings in a designated bar for later pickup. The designated bar in this case is "Cousin Marv's," which used to actually belong to Marv (played by James Gandolfini in his last feature film). It belonged to him, that is, until some Chechen mobsters muscled him out. He just works there now, and Bob (played by Tom Hardy) is a bartender.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Second Saturday's Sonnet


By Eric Meub

[Originally published on February 8, 2014]


An unexpected gust puffs flames into
the candles, blowing suns across the glow
of water. Flashes let the waves slip through
like fabric over muscles in the flow.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

For the first time, the USDA has asked Americans to think about the environmental impact of the food we eat. Unsurprisingly, the cattle industry doesn't like it one bit.
    A diet heavy in red meat is unsustainable – and raising cows produces five times more greenhouse gasses than other animals raised for meat....

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thor's Day: Love your enemies

Saint Victor Catholic Church, West Hollywood, CA
By Morris Dean

[Originally published November 29, 2012]

According to the Gospel of Matthew (5:44, King James Version), Jesus said:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How can I fix my on-off relationship with this girl?

By Susan C. Price

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

I’ve had an on-off relationship with a girl for nearly three years. There’s been a lot of back and forth awkwardness and drama during this time, but last month things finally seemed sorted out. We actually settled on being together and we confessed all of our feelings for one another.
    When I left the country for a few weeks, we missed each other terribly, so I surprised her by coming home a little early, which she seemed happy about.
    Now, however, she appears less interested. Maybe I’m making too much of it, but she doesn’t talk to me like she used to and doesn’t text me as often and so on. I’ve asked her if there’s anything wrong and she insists there isn’t and that she loves me.
    I was thinking of not texting her for a while to give her some space. I’ve thought about this relationship every day for as long as I can remember knowing her. How do I fix this and keep her happy? –On-Off

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Heavenly

Detail from "Sunset"
Paintings by Shirley Deane/Midyett

By Vic Midyett

Shirley has completed two new paintings, both commissioned.

Monday, May 4, 2015

First Monday with Characters

Edited by Morris Dean

James Knudsen, ready for AARP
Entering the second half-century of one's life means certain things happen. You become eligible to join AARP, certain manufactured home parks are now open to you, and your doctor recommends that you get your baseline colonoscopy done. Guess which one I did on April 30, 2015. I'll give you a hint: I ate bologna sandwiches on white bread for two days. No, I did not move into a trailer park, and I have yet to receive an AARP discount because I'm not yet a member.
    One of the world's great mysteries is why, when the medical professionals want to start looking around the last place I would consider looking for...ANYTHING, why do they insist that you eat the stuff you should not eat in order to remain healthy. Why?
    From the instructions I was given by the VA:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Review: Calvary

A flawed, personal review

By Bob Boldt

[Author’s Note: This review is a further exploration of the subject of Morris Dean’s detailed examination of the 2014 film Calvary, starring Brendan Gleeson. A reading of his review will help readers who have seen the film remember salient details. I hope that my review will encourage a continuing conversation about this important artistic work.
    I also hope that people who have not seen the film will excuse me for a spoiler or two included in this review. I don’t think people should read reviews of movies before seeing them and I don’t really write movie reviews for people who have not already seen the film.]

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Thirst Satyrday for Eros: Personals

Hot water

By Bob Boldt

Date: 2010-8-05,7:04 PM CDT—Hetero Couple Seeking Hetero Couple—We believe there is no trouble that cannot be dissolved in the sweet, steaming waters of Lethe. New Age 30-something couple seeks like-minded other couple or single pleasure seekers to help fill our hot tub—Posting ID: 199103525.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fish for Friday

Andrea Rutigliano in Emptying the Skies
Edited by
Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

I'm forwarding you the link to a NY Times review of a new documentary, "‘Emptying the Skies’ Follows the Rescue of Songbirds at Most Any Cost" [Neil Genzlinger], because it's based on an essay I just read in Jonathan Franzen's book Farther Away: Excerpt:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thor's Day: Two ways of looking at the chicken in the egg

By Morris Dean

[Originally published December 20, 2012]

The following science story came to my attention [the day I originally wrote this]:
It was for quite some time thought that when chickens hatched and immediately began pecking the ground for food, this behavior must have been instinctive. In the 1920s, a Chinese researcher named Zing-Yang Kuo made a remarkable set of observations on the developing chick egg that overturned this idea – and many similar ones.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How can I protect my sons from their father?

By Susan C. Price

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

I’m currently going through a divorce and my youngest child, who’s 12, has gone to live with his dad without my consent. Our family home is soon to be sold and I can’t afford to live in the immediate area due to the high cost of renting properties.
    At the moment my son is only five minutes away, but I’m too scared to knock on my ex’s door to see him. My ex is a bully and I know my son is scared to see me because of how his dad might react. I used to contact my son via Facebook, but now he doesn’t read my messages, let alone reply. And he never visits, despite the fact he has to pass my door many times and I work from home. I’m terrified that I will lose him forever and don’t know what to do.
    I also have an older boy who’s 18 and he’s scared of his dad too. –Ruth

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday Voice: A great privilege

Dick Gregory as pictured in announcement
of January 2015 talk at Lincoln University
To have covered 
Dick Gregory

By Bob Boldt

Shortly before Thanksgiving 1967, I filmed comedian and peace activist Dick Gregory's announcement in Chicago of a fast to oppose the Vietnam War. The Chicago Tribune announced on November 23, 1967:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks

What can I say?

By Susan C. Price

A friend told me recently that he has "just been overwhelmed capacity to deal with the really usual stuff has diminished." I asked him whether he was okay, what was up. He said:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fourth Sunday from Jingle Jangle

The Videotape (Chapter 3 of Jingle Jangle)

By Jim Rix

[Editor’s Note: Blurb from the dust jacket: “An amazing story of the uphill battle required in the fight for truth. For those readers with no experience in the criminal justice system, the measures taken in the name of ‘justice’ will be shocking. The story of Ray Krone offers all readers important lessons – never give up hope, never stop believing in yourself and never stop fighting for what is right. Jim Rix paints a powerful picture of hope, frustration and perseverence. Jingle Jangle shows why we must never stop fighting for those whom the legal system has failed.”
                – Caroline M. Elliot, law school student and 2006-07
                President of the UNC Law Innocence Project
                and the UNC Law Death Penalty Project

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal


By James Knudsen

This month's column ventures, yet again, into areas I am not qualified to comment on. Perhaps I should consider politics.
    A good biologist is always wary of anthropomorphizing, attributing human characteristics, emotions, thoughts, musical tastes, onto members of the animal kingdom. Anyone who has owned a pet understands this tendency. Anyone who owns a cat – your cat is felinepomorhizing.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

"Some Good, Clean Green News." [EarthJustice] Excerpt:
[T]hree cheers for Maryland for passing two bills that will help increase statewide access to clean energy. These bills, if signed by Governor Larry Hogan, will make Maryland the 11th state to allow for the creation of community solar projects. These types of projects expand access to renewable energy by allowing multiple people to invest in or subscribe to one solar energy project and offset a portion of their electric bill through a credit from the energy created.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thor's Day: A poem from the heart


By Felicia Zapata Finnegan

They claim that I'm just a ball of blood
without any shape or form
they called me by the name of fetus
cause I'm not yet a human formed

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ask Wednesday: How can we mark this Earth Day?

Some practical suggestions

By Paul Clark, aka motomynd

[Editor's Note: Originally published on April 15, 2013 as "Mark the day," in the motomynd's monthly column, "Third Monday Random."]

Today is the 45th Earth Day. Do you remember the first one—how old does that make you feel? More importantly, do you remember the idealism of that first Earth Day, and all the things you resolved to do to help save the planet? So how have you done—does your resume make you an eco warrior, or just another backslider?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday Voice: On the estuary

The Black Swan is the state bird of Western Australia.
[Detail from concluding photo below]
Back to close comforts

By Vic Midyett

As I reported recently, Shirley and I were missing the “close comforts,” so we moved back into our van and into a tourist park about a mile away from the house we had been residing most of the time since we returned to Bunbury.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Third Monday with Bob Boldt

The art of painting (verse)

By Bob Boldt

The heavy drape is rumpled loosely back.
We are invited to view creation.
Here an empty chair has been provided
for an observer, patron, or voyeur.
We draw back farther the heavy curtain
and willingly leave our modern time
for what we think is Vermeer’s stable life.
Why such passion in this our modern age
to enter and to rest our eyes a while,
serene within this ordered universe
of softlit rooms, amid the brick-a-brack,
virginals, maps, and portraits of his town?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Review: Woman in Gold

The past revisited and restored?

By Jonathan Price

The 2015 film Woman in Gold (directed by Simon Curtis) is based on a true story and retells it with some detail, intelligence, and passion. At the center of the story is an actual portrait by an Austrian painter of the early twentieth century, Gustav Klimt, of a friend and patron, Adele Bloch-Bauer, surrounded by ornamentation in shimmering gold.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Third Saturday Fiction

Chapters 2 & 3 from the novel Frank O’Hara – The Last PI

By D. Michael Pain

[Editor's Note: Chapter 1, published here on December 29, described the contract killing of an unidentified woman. In today’s excerpt we learn a bit about her and meet the novel’s eponymous hero.]

Chapter 2. Where’s Brenda? When Brenda failed to show for work the following morning her co-workers were a bit alarmed – it was not like her. She was never late and never missed work. After three hours, her close friend Kim tried calling her. First her home, and then her cell. No answer. She left messages. “Hey best friend, where are you?”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

You know of the very serious drought that California is experiencing. It's in its 4th year. There's finger pointing all around and impending conservation rules on city dwellers that are even stricter than last year's. I don't expect this to accomplish much because most of the water used is by agriculture (80% of the consumption). Starting with my grandfather in 1903, my family has farmed in Tulare County, and I grew up on a farm. Water consumption in Tulare County occurs by drawing on the vast underground water table, which has been dropping at an alarming rate. Every western state but California has long since had laws in place regulating the practice of endlessly pumping from underground aquifers. Big Ag in California managed to shove aside even discussing the necessity to regulate.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thor’s Day: Autonomy and altruism

Valuing autonomy for the least of these

By Kyle Garza

The self-made man is the American hero, an icon of personal autonomy that overcomes every obstacle in his way and flourishes despite opposition. Thomas Edison was frowned upon by his teachers due to his wandering mind, Walt Disney was told he lacked creativity, Elvis was told he couldn’t sing, and Michael Jordan was once cut by his high school basketball team. Yet all were still given the opportunity to strive to make something of themselves: truly, the American dream fully realized.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ask Wednesday: What are you doing for your 49th wedding anniversary?

Photo taken by either Morris's best man, Jim Rix, or
Carolyn's matron of honor, Carole Sue Rix, Jim's wife
– it was a very small, elopement wedding
Thanks for asking

By Morris Dean

If your question was actually a subtle reminder to ensure that I remembered our anniversary, thanks. But I did remember, and my wife agreed to my suggestion that we go to the North Carolina Zoo. If we really go today – the weather forecast calls for rain – I'll update this post later to let you know how it was.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm

A wonderful thing

By Bettina Sperry

The young man from the farm next door came over recently to ask me if I had a trail riding horse for his wife. I am sure at that moment I fell in love with the idea, too. Both he and his wife are nature-loving farmers, raised life-long on farms and in rural settings. I later convinced him that he needed two horses – one for his beautiful wife and one for him, so he can ride alongside her.
    I have a lot of love and appreciation for my Tennessee Walkers. They are healthy, well behaved, listen well, and are very affectionate souls. They are gentle and giving creatures. They would be moving to the farm next door, gifted to wonderful parents. And it took no time for the Walkers to fall in love with their new family.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Second Monday Music: Geology lesson

Courtesy a quick googling of the web
Edited by Morris Dean

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Review: Going Clear

An exposé

By Morris Dean

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015 documentary directed by Alex Gibney) aired on HBO on March 29, and my wife and I watched our recording of it this week. Wow was my reaction – and I'm not alone: according to Wikipedia, when the film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, the audience gave it a standing ovation ("unusual for a Sundance presentation").

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Second Saturday's Sonnet

Vern Oliver Morris Knudsen
(July 12, 1927 - November 13, 2014)
Out of rich memory

By Morris Dean


Time was, this Morris touched and changed us all,
he listened and loved us, always handy,
he seemed to hold our fledgling souls in thrall,
he exposed us to writers in flagrante1,

he aroused our wits to the language game,
he'd laud our Capricorn, Familias,
or something else we didn't know its fame.
Morris fathered well: our four friends2 and us.

And very often now we think of him:
Casa Knudsen open for cheese and wine,
everyone bright and eager, in the trim,
"No leftovers!" And now, here at this shrine,

all's left us of our friend and mentor Mo:
many memories of riches he bestowed.

Until I saw this photo or Morris in James Knudsen's
memorial montage, I didn't know that Jude Law looks 
a lot like Morris looked in his youth. Jude is lucky.

  1. The first book Morris brought to my attention (in Latin I or II) was Nabokov's Lolita.
  2. Most of us whom Morris touched and changed know and are friends not only with Morris's two children but also with his two step-children. See James Knudsen's column "Mo...m," February 28.
Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Victory: ruling protects whales, dolphins from Navy's war games. Whales, dolphins and other marine mammals in the Pacific just caught an important break: A Hawaii district court judge has ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service wrongly approved U.S. Navy testing and training activities that posed serious harm to sea animals.
    The Navy's use of explosives and sonar, along with vessel strikes, could result in thousands of animals suffering death or injuries over a five-year period -- potentially causing an estimated 9.6 million instances of harm.