Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fourth Sunday through Tom's Looking Glass

In appreciation of Tom Lowe

By Susan Werner

[Editor’s Note: The author submitted today's article under these words:
I am writing with appreciation of Tom Lowe, and his contributions to illustrating our activism for human rights at St. Mary’s Center in Oakland, California, a non-profit community of hope, healing, and justice serving extremely low-income preschoolers and seniors, with comprehensive services for seniors who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal: About the Panhard

Dad's kind of car

By James Knudsen

“All that remains is the Panhard. But not for long. That is a story for next time...”
    Last month I ended my column with a sort of a cliff-hanger. I’d written about growing up in an ordinary town with unordinary cars, owned by an extraordinary father. I had planned to write about the final disposition of that vehicle, because it’s a good story. But the story became more complex and more completed. It recent days I’ve heard much, from many, about just how extraordinary he was. But first, let’s review that Panhard.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Today I awoke to the news of the death of Morris Knudsen (July 13, 1927 – November 13, 2014), educator, father, grandfather, and all-around conspicuous character from my home town.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thor's Day: Riding the graces

Not in this world

By Ralph Earle

No one who has gone there has complained.
It is simple and obvious. No one denies it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How can I protect myself from scents in an office environment?

By Susan C. Price

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

I have bad allergy problems. Some distinct scents (some sprays and some perfumes) can really cause trouble for me.
    Sometimes, some of the people who stop by my office are wearing a strong scent that makes me cough and have headaches.
    I like people and love them to stop by, but I may not be able to tolerate the perfume they wear. How should I shorten the conversation and let them know the problem (my problem) without hurting their feelings? –Angie

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Growing up in America

Two years at Shaw High

By Rolf Dumke

I often reflect on my first years in the United States after my family immigrated from bombed-out Germany in the early 50s. There were those wonderful first years in a middle-class neighborhood and school, after living in the rough Hugh District of Cleveland until the late 50s. Instead of returning to Germany, my parents used their hard-earned savings to buy a suburban house in East Cleveland, which allowed me two good years at Shaw High School.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Third Monday Musing

Speaking out

By Ed Rogers

I guess that seeing the world in a totally different light than the talking heads, and most people from my home state, I’m expected to keep quiet. However, I’m tired of hearing the same old crap and saying nothing.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Review: Fading Gigolo, Her, & Autumn Sonata

Love therapy

By Geoffrey Dean

Three films that I chose randomly at the local library for home viewing turned out to have several things in common. Each was written by its director, each features a small nucleus of interacting characters, and each treats a different form of what I would call “love therapy.” I’ll discuss them in the order I watched them:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Third Saturday Fiction

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
It doesn’t hurt to ask (a short story)

By W.M. Dean

The letter said they’d shipped it to her three weeks ago. Their records showed it had been delivered. Had she checked with her neighbors? UPS would leave an item next door if you weren’t home.
    She went to the Collinses next door on the left. Young Mrs. Collins worked in an office, but she was home now on maternity leave. It would be her first. She’d learn soon enough what it was like.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

My Gosh, this chalk artist is totally awesome and his talent is beyond anything that we see here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thor's Day: Holy Humor 7

One establishment's recipe

By Anonymous

[Editor's Note: This photo of a church parking lot board was sent to us by one of our correspondents.]

Copyright © 2014 by Morris Dean

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ask Wednesday: What are your favorite passages from The Moral Landscape?

A few of many

By Morris Dean

The Moral Landscape is one of my favorite books, by one of my favorite authors – Sam Harris. He's been mentioned once or twice already on Moristotle & Co.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm

Meant to be

By Bettina Sperry

[Editor's Note: Today's article inaugurates a new monthly column by the latest addition to our staff, and we're lucky to have her.]

When I was a child, I had a large playroom. The room was filled with toys, dolls, and stuffed animals. I’d put my stuffed animals in chairs around my little table where I would serve them an imaginary lunch and tea. Foretelling, perhaps.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Second Monday Music: Something special

U.S. cover
Beethoven's Archduke Trio

By Morris Dean

In Colm Tóibín's latest novel, Nora Webster, the title character pulls a new life together during the three years immediately following the death of her husband [Maurice] of twenty years. The perhaps most significant strand of her new life is her deeper discovery of music, beautifully told narratively as a series of accidents and benevolent interventions of friends and others who care about her, or take pity on a widow with children.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Review: Bears

Darn, those cubs are cute

By Morris Dean

Disneynature's most recent documentary film, Bears (April 2014, directed by Alastair Fothergill & Keith Scholey), seems to me marred by a cutesy narrative (supplied by the voice of John C. Reilly) that oohs and ahs over the antics of grizzly bear cubs Amber & Scout as though Reilly were their uncle competing with some other uncle. There's no doubt, though, that the cubs are cute. I can quote my unsentimental wife on that point; she meant it admiringly, and she doesn't like cutesy any more than I do.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Second Saturday's Sonnet


By Eric Meub

[Originally published on November 9, 2013]

The altercation takes her by surprise:
same boy, same busy street, same tug-of-war
about authority. Today her eyes,
all by themselves it seems, have shut a door.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

The Union of Concerned Scientists is teaming with the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a special national briefing for UCS supporters about efforts to tackle climate change and increase our country's use of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar.
    Briefing from the White House and EPA on Efforts to Address Climate Change
    Date: Monday, November 17
    Time: 5:15 p.m. EST

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thor's Day: Night's open door

And why not?

By Ralph Earle

On the edge of sleep
again the door opens, that door
through which light pours.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How can I deal with the stress of an annoying co-worker?

By Susan C. Price

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

I am a 42-year-old woman, who, until six months ago, was out of work for two years. For the past six months, I have been working in an office where I really enjoy my job and am getting on well.
    The problem is the co-worker I share an office with. She is in her 20s, is very loud, and, in my opinion, wears inappropriate clothes to the office – for example, shorts and T-shirts with no bra! Also, she wears very strong perfume that lingers everywhere! She has been here nearly two years, and my other colleagues have told me they too find her irritating and off-putting, which is why she had been in an office of her own until I arrived. The supervisor (male) just shrugs or laughs when we say anything.
    What can I do to ease the stress this situation is causing me! I really need this job and can’t risk being fired if I were to lose it with this office-mate. –Office Worker

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Missionary Kid

My Schooling

By Vic Midyett

As I was born in India, the first language I spoke was Bengali, one of over 800 different languages and dialects in India. When it came time for me to start school, Mom and Dad taught me to speak English.
    My first three years of scholastic learning (kindergarten, first and second grades) was via the Calvert Correspondence System mailed to us from America. I was totally in love with Jill from “Jack and Jill” and adored “See Spot Run.”

Monday, November 3, 2014

First Monday with Characters

Edited by
Morris Dean

Rolf Dumke, greeting trick-or-treaters
On Halloween night, a couple dozen normal-looking neighborhood kids aged between four to fourteen rang our doorbell trick-or-treating. They were dressed nicely as devils and witches, with gargoyles’ faces or with store-bought plastic monster visages, some as cowboys or with other costume party uniforms that were handy, but out of place for Halloween.
    It shows that Halloween in Bavaria is still stuck in a quandary: is it a kind of costume party like carneval, or what?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday Review: My Old Lady

Adultery, viager, and their discontents

By Jonathan Price

The French are reputed to say, perhaps thinking of Madame Bovary, that “without adultery there is no novel.” And of course adultery, both practical and literary, is not limited to the French. But there is a French setting for this film My Old Lady (2014) about, among other things, adultery. Israel Horowitz, after 18 years, has made a filmed version of his play, and taken it from its apartment confines and entrances and exits out onto the streets of Paris. And his work’s take on adultery is neither romantic nor particularly sympathetic and, in that way, is refreshing without quite being puritanical.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Thirst Satyrday for Eros: Erotic complications of a polygamous household

A product of Wasatch Brewery
A view from Salt Lake City

By Morris Dean

[Like Wednesday's column about Salt Lake City's street nomenclature and yesterday's limerick, playing off "Deseret," today's column was conceived in Salt Lake City, during our visit to Temple Square and admiring the two principal houses lived in by Brigham Young (1801-1877).]

My father-in-law told my wife when she was young (and years before I met her) that in a hard-scrabble economy such as he had experienced in Indiana and Missouri during the Depression, a family needed lots of children to work on the farm.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fish for Friday

In memoriam

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

We dedicate today's column to our dear friend and colleague Contributing Editor Tom Lowe, who died a week ago today, early morning in hospital in Berkeley, California. He will be sorely missed. He is greatly missed already.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thor's Day: Holy Humor 6

By Anonymous

Edited by Morris Dean

[The following story is a favorite of Paul Clark, aka motomynd.]

An elderly man entered a Catholic church on a quiet Monday afternoon, looked around furtively, and made his way to the confessional booth. After some gentle prodding from the priest hidden on the other side, he told his tale:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ask Wednesday: How long does it take to become fluent in Salt Lake City's street nomenclature?

It depends on who's trying

By Morris Dean

We were in Salt Lake City, Utah, for four days recently, and though we depended on GPS to get from here to there, a particular fascination of the place was trying to master the street nomenclature. It should be very easy. The original streets were laid out by the compass, the center of town being Temple Square, the seat of church-state government and Brigham Young's homestead and many-wives household. The concept was that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' prophet, Joseph Smith. In 1831 he envisioned the "City of Zion" laid out that way. His plat called for "all streets to be 132 feet wide. These created square blocks of 10 acres measuring 660 feet on each side." [Urban Planning Library, Cornell University]

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Posthumously speaking 6

"The Lighthouse," detail
From the lighthouse

By Mary Alice Condley (1925-2007)

[Editor's Note: Today's painting is the 17th we've shown by the artist. It belongs to the artist's niece Dawn Stella Burke, who says of her aunt, "She always did such sweet things for everyone. I have so many wonderful memories of her and Uncle Eb. She was a special one to all of us." Dawn is the daughter of Mary's sister Flo Elowee Story.
    Four paintings in the collection of the artist's sister Patsy Ruth Garza were shown on October 14.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fourth Sunday through Tom's Looking Glass

Reflecting emotion and action

By Tom Lowe

The year 2007 found me working with St. Mary’s Senior Center, Alameda County Community Food Bank, and the ASSETS Senior Employment Opportunities program. The latter is a federally funded retraining project, part of LBJ’s Great Society initiatives of 1964, administered by the City of Oakland. I was spending quite a bit of time around Frank Ogawa Plaza, where Oakland’s City Hall is situated, and the photos of that year reflect that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal: Cars

The ones my dad had me grow up with

By James Knudsen

I'm sure everyone has a tale to tell of how they were embarrassed by their parents. It was rarely deliberate. Parents are usually too harried with the tasks associated with being parents to have the time necessary to formulate a plan to make their children want to crawl in a hole and disappear from the sight of every teen/pre-teen peer they know or wish they knew. More often it is the case of an adult being who they are. Recent events have caused me to consider my dad and the way he went about being who he is.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

In the same week American sports fans were understandably agog about Peyton Manning setting the record for career touchdown passes, by throwing 509 TDs in 56 fewer games than it took former record holder Brett Favre, the world barely noticed that another exclusive milestone was reached. Suni, one of only two breeding male northern white rhinos left in the world, died at age 34 in a preserve in Kenya: "One Of 7 Northern White Rhinos Left In The World Dies In Kenya." Excerpt:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thor's Day: Dancing

Not irreligious

By Anonymous

A Mormon missionary dance-off with a Michael Jackson imitator has been caught on camera:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Who visited your fountain recently?

Uncropped so you can see the arc of
the field scope lens [click to enlarge]
Look at my photos

By Morris Dean

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Busselton, Western Australia

Where you will find the longest wooden pier in the southern hemisphere

By Vic Midyett

The beautiful little town of Busselton (population about 22,000) is just over 30 miles south of where we're now living, in Bunbury.
    Some excerpts from Wikipedia's generous article:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Third Monday Musing: On an irony of the creation of something from nothing

Its paradoxical aesthetic asymmetry

By Rolf Dumke

What fun to read your philosophical-historical query on why is there something rather than nothing!
    Modern physicists have indeed analyzed why there is something. According to the latest theories, the initial Big Bang should have created exactly the same amount of matter and anti-matter – i.e., in symmetry – at the first moment of explosion. And these should have immediately combined to eliminate each other, eliminating everything that had been created in the first tenzillionth squared of a second.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Review: How Jesus Became God (book)

It all started with his supposed resurrection

By Morris Dean

The Nicene creed includes the affirmation that
I one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all in Being with the Father.
That is, Jesus is believed to have always been God. There is some irony, then, in the title of Bart D. Ehrman's 2014 book, How Jesus Became God, which refers not to the fact of Jesus's being God, but to the belief. How did that belief come about?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Third Saturday Fiction

Chapter 23. Fort Carson, from the novel Boystown

By Ed Rogers

[Feeling the Colombian drug cartel's heat, James Hamilton has enlisted to get as far away from them as possible. Previous excerpt, "The High Country," published here on August 30.]

The NCO at the recruiting station promised me the moon and first shot at his daughter if I signed up right then. I got the feeling that even in the poor part of town, kids weren’t eager to fight in a war. The fact that I had dodged the draft and could trace all my troubles back to that decision hadn’t eluded my attention. I was fully prepared to go to jail for my beliefs, but that wasn’t what the Colombians had in mind. I explained to the Sergeant that I had been living outside of the U.S. and didn’t have a draft card. I told him I hadn’t been home in a few years and never received a letter from any draft board.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Paul Krugman's surprise: "In Defense of Obama," Rolling Stone. Excerpt:
Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically. Furthermore, he came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain; we were saved from significant cuts to Social Security and a rise in the Medicare age only by Republican greed, the GOP's unwillingness to make even token concessions.
    But now the shoe is on the other foot: Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn't deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it's working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it's much more effective than you'd think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thor's Day: Holy humor 5

By Anonymous

Edited by Morris Dean

We keep the Holy Cow in the barn and the Holy Mackerel in the lake...I guess I don't have to tell you what we keep in....

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ask Wednesday: What else did you see or do at Neubeuern besides visit the millstone quarry?

Hardly enough

By Morris Dean

[Sequel to "What of great interest didn't you report from Bavaria?," October 1]

When we went to Rosenheim, a few miles southeast of Munich, to visit Rolf & Susan Dumke, we had never heard of the little town of Neubeuern. And I don't think we ever would have except that the millstone quarry was near there. Rolf & Susan took us into the town's historic district, which we entered through one of the district's old city gates before parking in the town square, very near the parish Church of the Immaculate Conception:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Posthumously speaking 5

"Flowers in a Blue Vase" (detail)
Paintings domestic and wild

By Mary Alice Condley (1925-2007)

[Editor's Note: Today's four paintings belong to the artist's sister Patsy Ruth Garza.
    Three paintings in the collection of the artist's daughter were shown on September 30.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Second Monday Music: Interpretative layers

Young Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Of the music of Antonín Dvořák

By Geoffrey Dean

The Czech romantic composer Antonín Dvořák gained international popularity in the late 1870s, when his first set of Slavonic Dances was published at the recommendation of Johannes Brahms. Like so many other works by Dvořák, the Slavonic Dances use characteristic folk rhythms coupled with catchy folk-like tunes that were invented by Dvořák rather than being quoted from existing music. Dvořák used a similar combination of borrowing and invention when he came to the United States in 1892 and set out to show American composers how they might create an American-sounding classical music – a national school of composition similar to the ones that had emerged in Russia and Dvořák’s own Bohemia.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Review: Four quick takes

A movie, two documentaries, and a TV series

By Morris Dean

Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley (aka "Moms Mabley: I Got Somethin' to Tell You," 2013)
    My wife remembered Moms Mabley (1894-1975) as I did, as a bawdy, toothless old black comedian you couldn't dislike for being completely spellbound by her. (She also reminded me of my mother, who didn't have any teeth either.) We didn't know anything else about Moms. She was performing in the twenties, so when we saw her on television in the fifties or sixties (we don't remember when precisely), she was around 60-70. We didn't know she had been raped (more than once). We didn't know that off-stage, she was "Mr. Mom."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Second Saturday's Sonnet


By Eric Meub

[Originally published on October 12, 2013]

Of course you’ll dine on anything: Good Dog.
What is the world to you but meat and grog?
According to philosophy you chew
because you’re finite: that’s what finite systems do.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fish for Friday

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
(1825-1911), abolitionist,
poet, and author
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

History is bunk? "Why the GOP hates U.S. history: Inconvenient truths that freak out American conservatives." The right is losing its mind over new testing standards that aren't "patriotic" enough. Time for a history lesson! Opening paragraphs:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thor's Day: Natural selection

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
A scientific myth

By Kyle Garza

The qualities of a good mythological tale are easily recognizable to anyone. Personified powers or forces like gods of war or love vie for power or control in a great cosmic hierarchy. Some rise and some fall, but progress is always being made. Today, we assume that in the sophisticated, intellectual culture of the 21st century, with our scientific advancement and progress, we have left these archaic beliefs in the superstitious dust where they belong.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Which boyfriend should I go with?

By Susan C. Price

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

My live-in boyfriend of six years and I have a child together. The child wasn't planned but he stood by me. However, a few months ago I found I was pregnant again and he insisted this time that I have an abortion. He gave valid reasons: money, apartment too small, etc., so reluctantly I went along with it.
    But since the day of the procedure he has not been supportive at all, even though I've told him how against it I was and how upset and guilty I feel. His brother, whom I've known longer than him, went through something similar last year, and he has been very understanding and my rock these last few months...and I've fallen in love with him.
    When I told him, he said he feels the same and wants us to take my child [by his brother] and run away together to start a new life. What am I to do? I know he'll look after us better than his brother did, and he also wants his own children with me. But I still love my live-in boyfriend! –Ms. Live In

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Missionary Kid

Book in preparation

By Vic Midyett

As you know from previous "Missionary Kid" stories, I grew up in India to American missionary parents.

Monday, October 6, 2014

First Monday with Characters

Edited by Morris Dean

Tom Lowe, in remembrance
Fella by the name of Clemens complained years ago, “The coldest Winter I ever spent was a Summer in San Francisco”....He left too soon. From the middle of September to around Thanksgiving the Bay Area experiences the warmest part of its year. That’s where we are right now, with afternoon temperatures in the mid-eighties some days, and foggy mornings. A good season to get some work done, I’m hoping. Finishing my “Spring cleaning” would be a start.