Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm: Women farmers

I am but one

By Bettina Sperry

As a woman who owns her own thoroughbred racehorse farm and raises a few head of cattle, I am always wondering how I’m doing – individually as a business and comparatively across the board. Not short of a strongly competitive nature, I look for ways to grow the farm business. How are my finances? What are my earnings per acre? How do my statistics stack against other farms? I don’t mind asking the hard questions, which include examining the farm’s efficiency and finding ways to leverage greater growth and income without necessarily creating a lot more work or putting the business at risk.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Second Monday Music: A lyrical inspiration

When a man loves a woman

By Morris Dean

Percy Sledge’s 1966 song, “When a Man Loves a Woman” has had a hold on me for weeks. The melody* has run through my mind so much, I’m wondering whether it’s more than a coincidence that the song came out the same year I met and married the woman who has been my wife for going-on 50 years. I figured I had to write another lyric for it. This is it:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Review: British and American productions of Shakespeare

A problem

By Rolf Dumke

In “Shakespeare in Modern English?” [New York Times, October 7], James Shapiro rightly discusses a main problem in both British and American Shakespeare productions, “that even the best directors and actors...too frequently offer up Shakespeare’s plays without themselves having firm enough grasp of what his words mean.”

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Second Saturday's Sonnet


By Eric Meub

[Originally published on July 12, 2014]


It’s nearly bedtime, but I’m seeing shapes
Beyond the window, on a hill of grapes.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

“A New View of a Nebula Full of Newborn Stars.” [Sindya N. Bhanoo, NY Times] Excerpt:
A dazzling image of Messier 17, a reddish nebula 5,500 light-years from Earth, provides a detailed view of its newborn stars, gas clouds and dust. The gas in the nebula has a mass about 30,000 times that of the sun, astronomers estimate. The center of the nebula is home to more than 800 stars, and more are forming in the outer regions. The nebula is near the plane of the Milky Way, in the constellation Sagittarius, and is named after Charles Messier, who discovered it in 1764. The image was captured by a telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. [read more]

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thor’s Day: Let’s all just, like, love and be chill

By Morris Dean

I was stunned into recognition this week by an article in the New York Times about Ellen Page [“Ellen Page Goes Off-Script,” by Sam Anderson]. The following paragraphs are what did it. The article had just described an attempted conversation between Page, who is gay, and an evangelical Christian band called the Bontrager Family Singers — a family of 12 that had come to Des Moines to perform, that night, at [Ted] Cruz’s Rally for Religious Liberty:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Rachel Zamorski follow-up on selling real estate

It’s still about being of service

Interviewed by Morris Dean

We last spoke with Rachel Zamorski on May 8, 2013. Then a stay-at-home mom who found success selling residential real estate, Rachel’s outgoing personality and knowledge of the local market made her a favorite among area buyers and sellers. In August 2014 Rachel joined Keller Williams Realty and created the Rachel Z Team. Katie Burkholder, previously a top recruiter with a tech firm, joined her as a buyer’s agent, and in the last year production has increased 130%.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Liam's Wuff

Communicating with your dog

Edited by William A. Johnson

[Editor's Note: Liam is a 9-plus-year-old dog with three legs. In his interview on September 9, he answered questions posed by his dad, told us about his childhood, and provided some insights about life.
    Subsequently, he has received further inquiries about various important things. Today we share Liam’s views on the first topic.

Monday, October 5, 2015

First Monday with Characters

Edited by Morris Dean

William Silveira, by train and car
Marylin and I recently completed a 19-day trip into New Mexico and Arizona with a couple of friends. We spent some time in Santa Fe and Taos, and at Red River in New Mexico.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

First Saturday Bimonthly

Do I dare piss off the Pope and his supporters?

By Bob Boldt

Surely those who know me would never expect me to mindlessly go along with popular opinion, no matter how widespread or favored. Why then do I view the recent visit of Pope Francis with a somewhat jaundiced eye?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

U.S. President Barack Obama and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping agreed Friday to end the domestic commercial trade of ivory in their respective countries. This historic accord comes at a time when as many as 35,000 elephants are poached each year for their tusks to supply the world’s growing ivory demand. “We are seeing an important, public commitment from the world’s two largest economies to work together to bring an end to the elephant poaching crisis,” says Dr. Patrick Bergin, African Wildlife Foundation CEO and member of the White House Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. “President Obama and President Xi are sending a clear message that they intend to throw the weight of their countries behind the elephant crisis.” As part of this agreement, the two governments will cooperate in bringing additional training, technical expertise, information sharing and public awareness to the wildlife trafficking crisis.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thor’s Day: Pope Francis

Drawing our attention

By James Knudsen

With regard to last week’s “Fish for Friday” column, which led off with Pope Francis, I’ve always wondered whether “Fish for Friday” was a reference to the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays [it is]. Of course, by the time I arrived in the Johnson & Johnson & Johnson era, the practice had been relegated only to the forty days of Lent which would be…five Fridays? Vatican II must have made Charlie the Tuna cry.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ask Wednesday: If you were to protest something, what would it be?

I would protest defunding Planned Parenthood

By Olivia Condley

Last week, the Senate blocked the bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood. Even though I am reassured by this small victory in women’s rights, I still feel an unshakeable tension, knowing that this attempt at taking away women’s rights will not be the last.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Portrait of Belle, by Shirley Deane/Midyett

“Belle” (detail)
For Patsy

By Vic Midyett

As you may recall, Shirley paints pet portraits. Of course, when you announce something like that, you receive inquiries. And when you report it on an international blog, the inquiries are likely to come from far away...and quickly. One such came three days later:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks

not yet titled a (detail)
Two paintings and a drawing

By Susan C. Price

the two paintings may not be finished yet...wish i could decide...folks can say, “yeah, too much grey” or whatever...ah well...later....

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fourth Sunday from Jingle Jangle

The Perfect Witness (Chapter 10 of Jingle Jangle)

By Jim Rix

[Editor's Note: Opening paragraphs from the current review by Joe Kilgore in The US Review of Books:
“When confused by contradictory technical testimony, all that conscientious but bewildered jurors seem to be able to do is to give the Academy Award to the song and dance man they think gave the best performance.”
    It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction. That is frequently the case when it comes to recounting real crimes that have been committed, judgments that have been handed down, and sentences that have been carried out. For quite some time writers have sought literary gold by mining this nonfiction vein of abhorrent behavior and its consequences. A few have actually found it in such excellent tomes as Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, and Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field. The search for justice never seems to lose its particular allure. An allure that is alive and well in Jim Rix’s Jingle Jangle.]

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fourth Saturday’s Loneliest Liberal

On getting on

By James Knudsen

I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” It just happened to me. I was sitting around wishing for a topic to write about and then I looked in the mirror.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

“A Pope for All Species.” [Nicholas Kristof, NY Times] Excerpt:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thor's Day: A fable about perspective

The black dot

By Anonymous

Edited by Morris Dean

[Submitted by a correspondent who could not identify the author. It’s not well written, but they say it’s the thought that counts. And Thor’s taking the day off again.]

A professor entered his classroom and asked his students to spend a few minutes preparing for a surprise exam. Surprise exams weren’t unusual, but the students nevertheless waited anxiously for this one to begin.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Why am I substituting this for what appeared here for a few hours earlier?

Portrait of the author by Susan C. Price
By Morris Dean

For a few hours this morning, a piece of writing appeared here with the title, “Why do Americans seem better disposed toward [x] than [y]?”
    Only reading the piece “in print” enabled me to see that it should never have appeared. “Americans,” after all, include people from both groups mentioned. It even includes people who suffer lapses in judgment, like me. I am sorry, and I apologize.

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday Voice: From the mouth of the Swan River

By Vic Midyett

At least once a week Shirley and I like going to the mouth of the Swan River, in Fremantle (it also flows through Perth, as does the Canning River; read about where you can go in the Riverpark). Something is always happening.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Third Monday with Bob Boldt

Le Morte d’Arthur

By Bob Boldt

Having lost all the color of life, the white, blue, and green tinted naked body lies so very flat on the cold stainless steel table. The silence of the room is rendered even more desolate by the faint hum of the refrigeration unit laboring to keep the others preserved in the morgue across the hall.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Third Saturday Fiction

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
Chapter 4. “The Game Plan,” from The Unmaking of the President: A Bicentennial Entertainment (a novel)

By W.M. Dean

[The novel is set in the 1970s of Watergate. Chapter 3. “The Muse’s Fee,” appeared last month.]

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fish for Friday

Oliver Wolf Sacks (July 9, 1933 – August 30, 2015)
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Filter Fish.” [Oliver Sacks, New Yorker] Excerpt:
Gefilte fish is not an everyday dish; it is to be eaten mainly on the Jewish Sabbath in Orthodox households, when cooking is not allowed. When I was growing up, my mother would take off from her surgical duties early on Friday afternoon and devote her time, before the coming of Shabbat, to preparing gefilte fish and other Sabbath dishes....

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thor's Day to reflect on experiencing Jesus

Thor would like to learn more

Thor was going to take the day off, thinking that if people either believe in a god or not – and that’s an end to it – then what’s a god to do but take the day off?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ask Wednesday: How about novelist Michael Hanson's new website?

Michael Hanson reading from
This Sweet Intercourse
Yes, indeed!

Interviewed by Morris Dean

We learned only this week that Chapel Hill, North Carolina novelist Michael Hanson, several of whose writings we have excerpted, recently launched his new website. We liked its clean, understated layout, and its art! We followed up by asking Michael a few questions [in italics]:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday Voice: The plantation of the mind

It rots more than 
the soul of the South

By Ed Rogers

I was taught in school that a plantation was a very large farm that was owned by one person or one family, and they were normally white. Because of the magnitude of the farm it required a sizable workforce. This workforce came in the form of slaves. Not all slaves were black, as we have begun to think of slaves. In fact, before Africans were imported to the Americas, the slaves came from the prisons of Europe. However, unlike the black slaves that followed, these men and women could work off their sentence within a prescribed number of years – usually seven or fourteen – and become free.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Review: Run All Night

And clap, clap, clap!

By Morris Dean

I was still awake this evening after my wife and I watched the conclusion of "Blue Lightning" from BBC Scotland's 2014 TV serial Shetland, so I said, "Want to start to watch this thriller with Liam Neeson?"

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Second Saturday's Sonnet


By Eric Meub

[Originally published on June 14, 2014]
The king gave me protection, and the god
the body of an ad for underwear,
but on the docks of Troezen in a fraud
of both I tempted every sailor there.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fish for Friday

London-based Peter Bellerby
taught himself how to make globes
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

I love the human touch! And the skill! "Meet One of the Last Studios on Earth Making Exquisite Globes by Hand." [Kristin Hohenadel, Slate] Excerpt:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thor's Day: Experiencing Jesus

Is that experiment necessary?

By Morris Dean

[Republished with corrections.]

We’re not ready yet to sign up volunteers for the experiment we proposed last week (“Experiencing Jesus: Could we do a scientific experiment?”). But I can tell anyone thinking of volunteering that we weren’t envisioning attaching you to any machines.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Liam Johnson on various things canine

Interviewed by William A. Johnson

[Liam is a 9+year-old lab-shepherd mix with three legs. In spite of his disability, Liam is just like other dogs in that he plays, runs, barks, begs for his food, and sleeps. He has experienced a lot in his lifetime and has agreed to talk about some of his experiences and lend us his insights. My questions are in italics.]

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm

Distress signal

By Bettina Sperry

Waking up to the peace of this farm each morning has been one of the blessings of luxury afforded to me. With a gorgeous farmhouse front porch, complete with rocking chairs, it would seem that I’d land there to await the morning sun with coffee in hand. Instead, my usual first hour of the day is spent stepping out the back door, walking the yard behind my house, and taking in the beauty of the farm. On many mornings I’ll take a camera with me, especially when the sun is peering over the mountain from the east.

Monday, September 7, 2015

First Monday with Characters

What long legs Envious has!
Edited by 
Morris Dean

Bettina Sperry, off to the races
While work on the farm had been settling down during the hot days of August, focus on my racehorse heated up significantly. There is so much more to horseracing than appears. Horses themselves can pose problems and race unpredictably, as has been the case with my boy. Horseracing is arguably hard on the people involved, for myriad reasons, though from the outside this can be conceivably difficult to understand. It is a world of constant problem solving, competition, and working towards improvement in racing – at the slow pace of one race at a time.
    I am also enjoying Franklin Hill's new thoroughbred foal [see photo]. Her name is Envious. At just a few months of age, she is gorgeous. She's a rough and tumble foal, and is mean spirited. She has been biting and kicking since day one on the farm. She recently left for her new home where she will be managed professionally during the months ahead. She is clearly a racehorse in the making.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Review: Life of Crime

Elmore Leonard would have loved this movie

By Morris Dean

Life of Crime isn't the title of anything Elmore Leonard wrote, but the movie (2013, directed and written for the screen by Daniel Schechter) sure has some Elmore Leonard characteristics: sardonic humor, true-to-life dimwits, bad luck, plans gone awry, cozy inevitability. And Schechter's screenplay seems to embody something Elmore Leonard wrote in his essay, "Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing":

Saturday, September 5, 2015

First Saturday Growing Up in America

Chippewa on the Lake

By Rolf Dumke

[Sequel to “Into America's interior,” July 28]

It felt as if a magic wand had whisked us to this beautiful place, a small white New England cottage with a porch on its right side, surrounded by a white picket fence, and with a curving walk through a lawn up to the front door. The house was located in a small resort town placed on the slopes of a woody hill, gently rising from the lake. A small road and a strip of grass with trees separated us from the lake and its few piers that jutted into the lake. It was very quiet. Often the only sound came from a breeze from across the lake whistling through the trees and from the murmuring water and splash of waves landing on our beach. (See Wikipedia: “Chippewa Lake, Ohio.”)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by
Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Over 60% of Americans think owning a gun will make their lives safer. But are they sure? [3:27]

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thor's Day: Experiencing Jesus

Could we do a scientific experiment?

By Morris Dean

We sometimes argue over whether a person can actually experience Jesus – as opposed to imagining experiencing Jesus. Well, maybe we can design an experiment to find out [i.e., decide the question]? I'll need your help to do this. Consider this an open letter asking for your assistance.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ask Wednesday: How do you manage your time?

By André Duvall

The “you” in today’s question is me. The editor had noticed that I seem to have found methods that work well for my own active schedule of teaching, practicing, performance, and other obligations and hobbies, so he asked me to discuss how I manage my time, or how I “approach time management.” I make no claims to be an expert on time management. However, the editor assumed that I must be doing something right, so I’ll share what I know.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday Voice: From a farmers market

By Vic Midyett

Aussies are big on local growers and fresh produce. Dotted throughout​ even the big cities​ are fresh farmers markets. The Beaconsfield market, the one closest to us in Fremantle, Western Australia, is about five blocks away in a big field attached to a school. It appears every Sunday.
    One stall sold coconut milk ice cream, another all manner of custom leather workings, all kinds of fruit and vegetables, jerky, honey, crafts, and a long row of multinational ready-to-eat​ hot​ food. There is always a busker playing his choice of instruments. [A busker is a person who entertains in a public place for donations.] The featured performer changes most ever week.

A farm-animal petting zoo for kids

Families bring blankets and make it a longer outing

The busker when Shirley and I were there
    And finally my favorite – the food row! J​u​st some of the options: roasts, soups, felafel's and crepes with various fillings, Egyptian cuisine,​ Chinese, South African,​ Korean and, of course, Indian. Heavens!!​ I also got some to bring home.​

Copyright © 2015 by Vic Midyett

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fifth Monday Fiction

Chapter 6, What’s a PI, from the novel Frank O’Hara – The Last PI

By D. Michael Pain

[In Chapter 5, published here on May 30, Frank O’Hara met with Kim Dawson in a restaurant and agreed to help investigate the death of her friend Brenda. They’ve just parted in the parking lot.
    Editor’s Note: As private investigator Mike Pain, the author is mentioned in various chapters of Jim Rix’s true-crime book
Jingle Jangle.]

Frank had been a private investigator for 30 years – often wondering what the hell he was doing in such a business. And he was wondering this more now than when he was new at this profession...if it could even be labeled such. It was true, they really couldn’t teach a class in private investigation...though sometimes on TV, a commercial would say they did.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Review: Harper Lee’s two novels

Some thoughts

By William Silveira

Publishing is a field of endeavor that is suffering from lack of readers. But HarperCollins Publishers has managed to pull profits not only from a book that was published 50 years ago, but also from another book, written by the same author (and initially rejected by publishers), that preceded the book published 50 years ago.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fifth Saturday Fiction

The first of many
(short story)

By Bob Boldt

Overhead, bullets whistled past me in the cold darkness and the falling drizzle. Some shells made a complaining, metallic clank as they struck the side of the overturned dumpster I had scrambled into. I was trying to dodge the first barrage that had made the street a sudden killing zone. In the process, I smashed my head on a large hook that protruded out of the side of the damned thing. Doing my best to ignore the stinging pain, I cautiously ran my hand up the side of my face, hoping for the best and dreading the worst. Moisture. Not the wet water of the falling rain, but a thicker substance. Blood? I licked my probing fingers and the warm, salty, iron taste on my tongue confirmed my fears. “Damn!” I quietly cursed to the darkness and the flying shells. My temporary home smelled like shit and sour urine. The holes in my crummy shoes began soaking up the dank water, causing my feet to become freezing cold. As my calves and thighs started shivering, I thought, This is a fine mess, if the bullets don’t kill me, the cold soon will.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fish for Friday

An iceberg in Greenland
Edited by
Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

With Arctic temperatures rising rapidly thanks to climate change, Greenland’s ice sheet is melting and raising sea levels. "While You Were on Vacation, a Chunk of Ice the Size of an Asteroid Fell Into the Ocean." [Emily J. Gertz, takepart] Excerpt: