Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 highlights of Moristotle & Co.

Looking back at my year

By Morris Dean

Yesterday I went through the blog's 2012 archive [accessible through the bottom section of the sidebar]. The blog began the year as "Moristotle: A sometimes ironic celebration of life on Earth"—or was it still "An ironic celebration of life, love, laughter, and learning" or "...of evolving life and learning on Earth"? However exactly it started out the year, you can see by the masthead how we think of it now.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Review: People Like Us

Why not to review a movie
By Morris Dean

Oh, why not? When I was keeping up my list of movies most recently watched, I listed "unwatchably bad or otherwise offputting" movies with the UBOO rating. Why not review an UBOO movie?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sonnet at the end of another year

By Morris Dean

Late December turns us round in time,
To review ghostly remnants of the past,
Years long in living, vivid during prime,
Now brief pale images that will not last.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fish for Friday

When you hear Fox, or the Repugs (there's a difference?), blathering about "European style socialism," this is one of the many things they're trying to distract us from: "Why Do Americans Have Less Vacation Time than Anyone Else?," by Steven Mazie,, December 23. [personal communication; excerpt:]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thor's Day: Unbelieving humor

By Atheist Designs Ltd.
By Morris Dean

Atheists in the South have to work to be sunny,
Because a church on every corner isn't very funny.
    Among the good news
    Dissolving their blues
Is how much their bumper sticker's making in money.
Copyright © 2012 by Morris Dean

Please comment

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ask Wednesday: Homicide detective on a case

Blog-related murder in sestina

By Morris Dean

You knew it would happen sooner or later. We'd not have an interview back in time from any or our prospective interviewees.
    I knew it would happen too. Fortunately, I had thought of an idea for a sestina that I wanted to try. And here it is [questions in italics]:

Tells us first, what was the crime, detective?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday Voice

Today's voice belongs to
Guest Columnist
William Silveira
Other reasons than cardiovascular for not eating meat, including moral ones

I read Jim Rix's November 20 post, "What is the cause of Heart Disease," and the comments readers made on it. To the whole discussion about avoiding meat and dairy products for reasons of health, I would add that there are other reasons, as well, to forgo mass-produced meat products.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sonnet to the Salvation Army man

By Morris Dean

I don't know his name, the man with the bell.
He rings it while looking me in the eye
And flinging "Merry Christmas" to compel
Me to put money in, and not pass by.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Review: Le hérisson [The Hedgehog]

Accepting the goldfish

By Morris Dean

In the course of preparing to kill herself on her twelfth birthday in the 2009 French film, Le hérisson [The Hedgehog] (directed by Mona Achache), Paloma Josse (Garance Le Guillermic) dissolves one of her mother's anti-depressant tablets that she's collecting for an overdose in her sister's goldfish bowl, and the fish shortly goes belly-up and is last seen being flushed down the toilet by Paloma.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal: Gun owners have to own this one

By James Knudsen

In the weeks to come, we will learn more about the shooter responsible for the Sandy Hook massacre than we ever wanted to know. Here’s what I know—the shooter and I were peers because he shot guns and I shoot guns.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fish for Friday

Preamble to today's Fish for Friday

We’re all going to die!!

By motomynd

Today’s the big day. The end. As in THE END. The Mayan calendar runs out tonight and the world ends. Tomorrow does not come. It is sort of like Groundhog Day the movie, except you don’t keep waking up in the same place every morning. Instead, you don’t wake up. Ever.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

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

By Morris Dean

The following science story came to my attention this morning:
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, December 19, 2012

Ask Wednesday: Jenny Morris on dental hygiene

Jenny Morris is the able and pleasant dental hygienist we visited this month for our regular preventive check-up. Our conversation was so informative that we asked her whether she would share some information with our readers about dental hygiene and visiting the dentist. We're glad she agreed. We've had regular preventive check-ups for many years, but were surprised to learn that far from everyone has regular dental check-ups.
    A native North Carolinian, Jenny is a registered dental hygienist, holding an Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene from Guilford Technical Community College (2006). [Our questions are in italics.]

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday Voice

Today's voice belongs to
Contributing Editor
Ken Marks
A tale of two Christmases

Excuse me. May I interrupt your shopping for just a minute? I’m wondering if you’re aware that there are actually two Christmases, not one. No, I’m not joking. One Christmas is what I call the Baby Jesus Christmas, or Christmas 1. It’s all about the adoring Magi, the Star of Wonder, the awestruck shepherds and their flocks, the humble manger scene, the tender and mild infant, myrrh and frankincense, the appearance of the angel, and tidings of comfort and joy. The other is the Santa Claus Christmas, or Christmas 2.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Could you pass a US citizenship exam?

Could you pass a US citizenship exam, do you think? From a set of 96 questions, you'd be asked 10 questions orally and would have to answer 6 of them correctly to pass (60%). 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Review: Return of the Secaucus 7

Not a sequel, but a look backward

By Jonathan Price

It opens with the unclogging of a toilet and ends with a young man furiously chopping wood. Two seemingly quotidian chores that try to express more, and are yet appealing, understandable, resonant. The Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980, directed by John Sayles) suggests a sequel to a film we’ve never seen, but is actually best understand as a poor man’s answer to The Big Chill (1983, directed by Lawrence Kasdan).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Enough is enough!

By Ken Marks

Moristotle readers, my ear is close to my computer. Please take a breath and say in a loud, clear voice, "Enough is enough!" Louder, please! Or would you prefer to continue turning on your TV once a month and hearing the breaking news of another school shooting, movie theater shooting, shopping mall shooting, fast-food store shooting, or political assassination? No, I thought not.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fish for Friday

President Obama
with his daughters
Let's hear it for us "religiously unaffiliated": "Add This Group To Obama's Winning Coalition: 'Religiously Unaffiliated,'" by Liz Halloran, NPR, December 9. [personal communication; excerpts]

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thor's Day: Whose word?

Dear Editor of Burlington, North Carolina's Times-News:
    Tuesday's letter in your print edition from Ricky Clark of your city, which appeared under the title, "God’s Word isn’t influenced by popular culture," is typical of the several such letters you see fit to publish every week [full text shown in footnote]. They all base their criticisms of society, culture, morals, politics, government—and of other letter writers—on their particular interpretation of the Bible, which they generally refer to as "the Word of God."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ask Wednesday: James Knudsen on writing for Moristotle

We recently approached James Knudsen about writing a guest article for Moristotle, even possibly doing a regular feature for us. James is a stage actor well-versed in Shakespeare and a teacher of theater craft. Last year at our own high school reunion, which he and his sister attended with their father, who was a teacher of ours and is now an honorary member of our class, James mesmerized us by reciting as his parting gift Hamlet's uncle Claudius’s attempt to assuage his guilt [Hamlet III, iii].

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday with Another Voice

Today's voice belongs to
Guest Columnist
Chuck Smythe
The angry river

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Moristotle needs your help

The editors of Moristotle are always thinking of ways to expand our readership and encourage readers to add their comments. We've had many ideas. For example, featuring regular columns that we think will attract readers, and sharing post links on Facebook and Google+.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Always on Sunday: Life of Pi

Hidden Tiger, Crouching Theology

By Jonathan Price

Go see Life of Pi. That’s the short version. Unfortunately, though I am a fan of movies and movie reviews I am caught in a conundrum or an oxymoron or some kind of Rubik’s Cube of intellectual difficulty in that: I love seeing movies, I love knowing about them, I love the series of surprises that a great or even mediocre moviemaker throws at me, I love sitting through the 4-10 previews or, as a friend of mine so anachronistically called them, “trailers” that precede virtually every movie I see.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Flowers: The 2012 collection

"Melange of Marigolds"
By Ken Marks

Marc Chagall once said, "Art is the increasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers—and never succeeding." Well put. To me, flowers are nature's ultimate synthesis of form, function, and color. On an evolutionary timeline, they are latecomers. They appear in succession after mosses, ferns, and conifers. In their power to attract, they stand on an evolutionary pinnacle.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fish for Friday

For public-relations conscious football, it is, to say the least, a bad situation: three players knocked out of a game in the first quarter with concussions and two more out later from vicious hits, alleged bounties paid to players for knocking out the other team's stars, an entire coaching staff suspended for the rest of the season and all of next year.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thor's Day: Indebted to Chrismas

For a "religious" holiday, Christmas
Is for sales: Each year we borrow to spend
More than other years—mister or missus.
Symbol that our debt to God is not pretend?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ask Wednesday: Ed Rogers on emigrating to Costa Rica

Ed and Janie Rogers emigrated to Costa Rica in the summer, where they are living “the life of Pura Vida” and Ed is at work on a novel. In their late sixties, the Rogers were concerned about the way things were going in the United States and began to explore their options several years ago. They figured it was now or never.
    [Our questions are in italics.]

Monday, December 3, 2012

Family deaths in churning sestina

It was a damp, overcast day when Fran
Went with the Kuljians for a walk. Howard
Kuljian and the dog played along the surf
While the others tagged along: Gregory,
His sixteen-year-old son, his wife Mary,
Their eighteen-year-old daughter, Olivia.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Always on Sunday: Forks over Knives

"Parental guidance suggested: Nasty diseases and scary statistics."
    That's the cute but accurate way Lee Fulkerson's 2011 documentary Forks over Knives was rated for audiences by Jeannette Catsoulis in her May 5, 2011 review, "Soul Food, Vegan Style," in the May 5, 2011 The New York Times.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Saturday Green 101: What is winging your way on the winter wind?

Eurasian golden plover,
photographed by the author
in Thingvellir, Iceland
By motomynd

In North Carolina the lawns are put away for the season, the leaves are mostly dealt with, and the next big seasonal news is the coming of winter. For far too many people this a time to abandon outdoors activities, hunker down inside, and wait for spring. If that is your strategy, not only will you grow soft and lethargic over the next few months, you will also miss the opportunity to spot unusual and rare birds you will see in no other season.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fish for Friday

My favorite cartoonist is a genius named Dan Piraro. He draws a one-square strip named "Bizarro." Don is a vegetarian and often writes gags with a vegetarian theme. I saw this one today and thought of Jim Rix, whose article "What is the cause of Heart Disease?" was published on Moristotle on November 20. [personal communication]

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thor's Day: Love your enemies deciphered in quartina

Click to enlarge
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, November 28, 2012

Ask Wednesday: Ralph Earle on poetry in Sufism

Ralph Earle is a poet with a particular interest in Sufism. Sufism is a contemplative branch of Islam, with a rich tradition of poetry in several eastern languages (Persian, Arabic, Urdu...), much of which has been translated into English.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday with Another Voice

Today's voice belongs to
Contributing Editor
Tom Lowe
I'm so bored with politics today

My father was a lifelong Republican. He learned his political values in the Progressive Era of the reformist Governor of California Hiram Johnson, and reflected that shade of Republicanism throughout his life. His letters to his college roommate, who was a member of the California Assembly, a New Deal Democrat, reflect the McCloud Lumber Company-owned, Northern California town’s establishment’s view of the New Deal programs—mildly critical but not hostile.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Trestina for end of year's persimmon season

Year's season for persimmons has ended

October-November was their season.
We had a wonderful harvest this year
Of eighty-one delicious persimmons.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Always on Sunday: Henning Mankell's Wallander (Swedish TV)

Another week in which TV programs proved better than my sampling of feature movies, which included the following losers:
  • The Hunger Games (2012), a dystopian post-apocalyptic fantasy whose derivation from a young-adult novel might explain its appeal to teenagers,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fall photos

"Overlooking the Columbia in the Rain"
By Ken Marks

Every year my wife and I take a trip to photograph the fall foliage somewhere in the U.S. This year I didn't have the energy for a flight to the East Coast—we live in California—so we decided on a car tour of Oregon.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fish for Friday

When I read Walter Isaacson's book on Steve Jobs, the quote below struck me as a credo. It was written by Jobs as text for an ad in the "Think Different" campaign that never ran (his agency at the time didn't like it). I've attached the rough video that Jobs had made to demonstrate how it should look.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thor's Day: Let's talk turkey

By Tom Lowe

Turkey Day was how I thought of Thanksgiving when I was young. The odor of the bird roasting, helping prepare the homemade dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and yams. Our family was spread out over most of the West, so the scene is just my parents and myself. It was the next day that I really waited for—turkey sandwiches, really pretty simple: bread, mayonnaise, and meat.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ask Wednesday: Whitman Reardon, MD on medical doctoring

When we last saw (or were seen by) our primary care physician, we asked her if we could interview her. We wanted to provide our readers a  medical doctor's first-person account, so we were ecstatic when she agreed!
    Whitman Reardon, MD, is an internist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she practices office-based medicine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday with Another Voice

Today's voice belongs to
Guest Columnist
Jim Rix
What is the cause of Heart Disease?

First let’s be clear on just what “Heart Disease” is, because some people confuse it with its consequences (heart attack, stroke, etc.) and/or its risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Whatta, whatta

What a weekend, what a day. Besides having to do more chores than usual while my wife is convalescing from knee surgery, I had to tend to Siegfried's special needs this weekend and today. He threw up on the parlor rug after breakfast on Saturday, then again an hour later on the guest bed, and I spent about three hours driving over to Chapel Hill to have him examined by a veterinarian, who asked me whether he had ingested anything "unusual."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Always on Sunday: Upstairs Downstairs (TV)

It's over forty-one years now that Upstairs[,] Downstairs has been a part of our television lives. We began watching it when Upstairs, Downstairs was first aired in 1971, with all of its 68 episodes hosted by fatherly Alistair Cooke.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Trestina with Another Voice

Editor's Note: In a comment the other day on "Persimmons in sestina," I gently cajoled my contributing editors for their lack of enthusiasm for the trestina form of verse. I told Neophyte that until his kind comment came along—"You all have crafted a fine poem, a minimalistic tour de force"—I was amazed at the extent to which my efforts had fallen with a thud on Moristotle's readers and on the other members of its editorial staff.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fish for Friday

Click to enlarge
The last word? I was thinking the graphic's conclusion myself. [personal communication]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thor's Day: The Virgin Mary's great trauma

Half-listening to the radio as I was driving my wife to her first doctor's appointment after knee surgery, I heard a headline on National Public Radio something about how Mary, the mother of Jesus, had suffered great trauma in her life.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ask Wednesday: Dr. Jean Ramses Rouchon on his life in public health (so far)

We are honored to interview Dr. Jean Ramses Rouchon, a naturalized citizen of the United States who has in the course of his varied educational and work experiences become a skilled practitioner in public health. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1992.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday with Another Voice

Today's voice belongs to
Contributing Editor
Ken Marks
Reviewing the landscape

Now that the election is behind us, it's a good time to review the landscape, take a fresh look at what ails us, and decide what the remedies might be. To facilitate this task, I'd like to propose a question that never fails to arouse contention: "What is the main problem facing America today?" My hope is to arrive at a satisfying answer by offering up a number of popular answers and evaluating each one, according to my perceptions and biases.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Trestina to say thanks to our daughter

Rams 24, 49ers 24, OT
Thanks to our daughter for coming to help

My wife and I are glad that our daughter
Could come and be with us for a week. Our thanks
To her for solid, patient, cheerful help.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Always on Sunday: Call the Midwife (TV)

We didn't watch a feature film this week. In fact, my wife hardly watched anything other than what she could catch by looking up from a hospital bed after surgery on Monday, and back home since Thursday she is not supposed to have her left knee in a 90° position for more than thirty minutes at a time. Not that either of us has had energy left over from our altered routines to concentrate on a good movie—or TV program either.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Trestina for wife home from hospital

Wife home from surgery in hospital

On Thursday this week we welcomed her home
—To daughter and dog, mama, to me, wife—
From surgery Monday in hospital.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fish for Friday

click to enlarge
This is too funny. Especially the RAF response. [personal communication; see item to right, which you can click to enlarge]