Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday Voice

What do Christmas and the New Year hold for those in the news?

By Jonathan Price

It seems now to be a tradition in the media to fill the airwaves and the newsprint with gifts to the rich and (in)famous and those who have been in the news over the last year, with odd or amusing tokens that comment on their performance or reward their perfidy, and take up space or time without expending a great deal of effort. Here are some further suggestions:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Fifth Monday Fiction

Excerpt from the novel This Sweet Intercourse: Raymond in 4th grade

By Michael Hanson

[Editor's note: The prologue from the same novel appeared on August 17.]

The chemistry set came in a boxed metal container much like a small suitcase, hinges on one edge and a latch on the other. On one side of the case were ten small blue plastic bottles in which were kept the chemicals he’d use to conduct his experiments, and on the other were the tools he would need: four test tubes with an accompanying rack in which to stand them, along with a bristly brush for cleaning; a metal tonglike instrument used for gripping the test tubes; and even a small “Bunsen burner,” which was fun primarily because it legitimized his using matches.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Review: The Place beyond the Pines

Where is that?

By Morris Dean

The phrase "the place beyond the pines" is the translation of the Iroquois term for Schenectady, NY, the locale for the 2012 movie The Place beyond the Pines (directed by Derek Cianfrance). The theme of the movie is compelling, and important: sons generally need to connect with their fathers. The movie tells the story of such a son in a poignant, memorable way...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal: Successful time-management

It's a matter of how you define success

By James Knudsen

Saturday, December 21, 2013, at around 9:11 in the morning here on the West Coast, the earth began to rock back toward vertical on its way to the summer solstice six months from now. My time has begun. The time when the days get longer with every tick of the clock. Short days are for ants and I'm not an ant. I'm a grasshopper, I need the warm days of summer to properly fiddle away the time.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

There has been an epidemic of jacklighting near our house. We had several deer shot at night from early October through early December, but the shootings and gunfire in the dark suddenly stopped two weeks ago. It seems this may be because the jacklighter shot a deer too close to a house a couple of weeks ago, and was attacked by a local homeowner while he was dragging a deer to his truck. The jacklighter was apparently somewhat defenseless because he had left his gun in his truck and had his hands full dragging a small buck by its antlers. Except for a deer killing a jacklighter, how much more ironic can you get than that?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thor's Day: Spirits

By Morris Dean

It's thrilling to suppose spirits alive
    and circling us in rocks and stars and trees.
Poets have fancied clouds could not but thrive
    to see daffodils dancing in the breeze,

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How do I get my neighbors to fix their wreck of a house?

By Susan C. Price

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

I live in a neighborhood of old craftsman homes. My next door neighbor’s house is a wreck, one side of the house doesn’t have siding or windows—only black paper shower curtains stapled over the window openings. They are a super sweet couple. My friend says I should call the city—but I don’t want to create trouble. Your thoughts? –Claire

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday Voice: Jake

By Vic Midyett

During Prohibition in the United States, whisky was often called "jake," which was a slang term for Jamaica Ginger extract, often used for flavoring. A related term was "jake leg," referring to a paralysis caused by drinking improperly distilled or contaminated liquor.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks: Pammie Story #4

The End

By Susan C. Price

[Sequel to “Sex,” published on November 25]

I think of Nick’s final leaving of Pam in New York as the “tipping point,” where Pam’s brain’s capacity for somewhat healthy reinvention began to dissolve. She was furious, and her calls increased, but she seemed sort of like her usual self. Then she began seeking and taking on increasing strange-for-her jobs for which she was ill-equipped, perhaps in her haste born of her terror at not having enough income for the lifestyle she expected. “NEVER touch the Principal!!!” she repeated as her mantra, though she had inherited about 1/2 million at her parents’ death, and she eventually had both a small state pension and Social Security.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Review: Tolkien's books and Jackson's movies

Conflicts within and between them

By James T. Carney

I read Eric Meub’s excellent essay on Tom Bombadil [“Third Monday Musing: Remembering Tom Bombadil”] with great interest. I have never been that enthused about the Peter Jackson movies. I have no great problem with the fact that they drop out parts of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, because cuts are inevitable given the nature of movies, and particularly inevitable in the case of a three-volume work that is the first great epic since John Milton’s works.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Third Saturday Fiction

Slip Sliding Away (a short story)

By Steve Glossin

[The previous Farley story, "Walking the Dog," was published in October.]

Farley in his new maroon sweatpants glanced up at the avocado green neon sign above the weathered yellow door. Moe’s Irish Pub, between two large flashing shamrocks. Three weeks ago it was Moe’s Tex-Mex, with a couple of pulsating cactuses, and next month it would probably be a rice and noodle dive. Farley liked Big Moe’s philosophy, give’em what they want and if they don’t like it...give’em something else. A good thing Moe’s brother-in-law was in the neon sign business.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Another creator doing something special: "You've Never Seen Native America Like This." Excerpt:
[Photographer Matika Wilbur] is en route to the Southwest–stopping in Arizona and New Mexico–as part of a three-year project to photograph indigenous peoples from every federally recognized tribe in the United States."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thor's Day: A little skirmish over "the War on Christmas"

By Morris Dean

I hadn't thought much about "the War on Christmas" until I watched the Dec. 3 Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on which he had his usual infectious fun with..."the War on Christmas."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How does a family deal with dementia in a parent?

By Susan C. Price

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

My father remarried a family friend after the death of my mother. They moved nearby a few years ago to be nearer some of their children (three of Dad's one of Stepmom's). My stepmother is showing increasing signs of memory and dementia issues and has been seeing a physician for these problems. They are in their 80s and the toll on my father is showing in his physical health. How do I get my stepsister to take a more active role in caring for her mother to relieve my dad of some of the pressure? –Maggie

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Voice: The one-tennial of their first flight

The "Flyer" lifted off level ground near
Big Kill Devil Hill at 10:35 a.m., Dec.
17, 1903 and flew 120 ft. in 12 secs.
East Carolina 1903

By André Duvall

Cushions of sand buffer
    trials of error and success
Open roads of wind propel
    tries at a new way to cruise

Monday, December 16, 2013

Third Monday Musing

Remembering Tom Bombadil

By Eric Meub

A recent weekend witnessed the opening of the second installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy: The Desolation of Smaug. While millions of us will watch the director continue to indulge his limitless thirst for vertigo, this is also an excellent time to muse upon those fragments of the J.R.R. Tolkien opus that have escaped such cinematic spectacle.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Review: The East

A moral thriller

By Morris Dean

The East (2013, directed by Zal Batmanglij) has confirmed my sense that writer-actor Brit Marling is a person of interest. She not only co-wrote this film with the director, but also stars in it as Sarah, who joins a private "intelligence firm" and takes on the assignment to find and infiltrate an extreme activist group that seems intent on terrorizing certain corporations that are responsible for killing people and stripping the earth.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Second Saturday's Sonnet


By Eric Meub



She closed no doors at home. Sometimes they’d shout
at her, slammed by the wind: a single clap
of violent conclusion, like a trap
to seal her in a room. Or keep her out.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fish for Friday (Tank #1)

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Whether the weather be fine,
or whether the weather be not,
whether the weather be cold
or whether the weather be hot,
we'll weather the weather
whatever the weather,
whether we like it or not.

Fish for Friday (Tank # 2)

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Limerick #2 of the Week:
So many fish this week! What can we do?
How would it like to go down with you
    if we broke them out
    into bass and trout
and presented them in Tanks 1 and 2?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thor's Day: What counts as evidence…

…for the resurrection of Jesus?

By Kyle Garza

Have you heard of the massive Olympic-class ship that sank in 1898? It was the largest vessel in the ocean at the time, described as virtually unsinkable. Unfortunately, it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean in the middle of April, and more than 1,500 of its passengers and crew lost their lives at sea.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How can I get a friend to repay money I lent him?

By Susan C. Price

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

I lent a friend that I have known since Kindergarden $7,000 and he said he would pay me back within 6 months. I see him quite often and although he never offers anything towards the debt, he always acknowledges he owes me. Imagine my surprise and anger to hear that he has got engaged with a huge rock for his fiancée, plus he is buying a condo!!
    I don’t want to go down the legal route if I can avoid it. I am fairly well off, but it’s a question of principle. How can I approach him without causing conflict, especially of the physical kind? –Penny

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday Voice: Tadpole in winter

By Ed Rogers

[Sequel to “Tadpole Creek” and “The Mule Ride.”]

For Christmas I received a brand new B.F. Goodrich bicycle. It was red with white strips and the prettiest thing I had ever seen. I couldn’t wait to get it to my grandparents’ farm for Herbert and Willie to see. Nobody had plans to go out to the farm until that weekend. However, I became such a pain in the butt, my Aunt Thelma decided the farm would be good for her peace of mind. I loaded the bike in the trunk and off we went.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Second Monday Music: Absolute pitch

Not absolutely necessary!

By André Duvall

Absolute pitch is a person’s ability to identify a musical tone sounded to them without hearing a reference tone. There are various manifestations of absolute pitch (also commonly referred to as “perfect pitch”). It can be considered the ability of a person to sing a particular tone “pulled out of thin air,” without any prior sound given to them. Some who possess this trait can identify multiple tones sounded at once, in addition to single tones; I have met others who cannot identify isolated tones, but they can identify the key of a musical piece when hearing multiple tones in harmony and in succession. What advantages or disadvantages are there for a musician to have absolute pitch?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Review: Movie 43

Do the ends justify it?

By Morris Dean

Its focus on scatological humor will prevent some viewers from watching some (or much, or maybe all) of Movie 43 (2013, numerous directors, most of whom seem to appear in the story they wrote). But it is FU-U-U-NNY!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

First Saturday as the World Turns

The Southern voter

By Ed Rogers

[The first of Ed Rogers's new monthly column appeared on November 2.]

Let’s face it, I’m a Democrat. My mother, father, and grandparents were Democrats. All the way back to the New Deal, the South was Democrat. It was the New Deal—or government if you will—that brought the South indoor plumbing so people no longer needed to rush across their yard to the outhouse. Because of the New Deal, or government, the South got electric lights and telephones.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Rumi is always good. But he was clearly a "day person"—unless he'd been drinking all night when he wrote it?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thor's Day: A parishioner's sense of humor


By Anonymous

Edited by Morris Dean

[Editor's Note: You know that intolerable sermons have touched a sore spot when parishioners take such pains as this—even if in fantasy—to ridicule the ministers who perpetrate them.]

A rich man had an irresistible proposal for his minister: "I want you and your wife to take a three-month trip to the Holy Land at my expense. When you come back, I'll have a surprise for you".

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Should I confess my secret?

By Susan C. Price

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

I have been with my partner for the last eight years. Three years ago, I lost both parents in a car crash. Soon after, I had two one-night stands. This was completely out of character and I have never done anything like it since. My partner makes me very happy, and I am eaten up with guilt. It is the only secret between us. Should I confess? –Nigel

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesday Voice: Tadpole Creek

By Ed Rogers

[Editor's Apology: We have already inadvertently published the story that should have followed today's. If you wish to read the two stories in their intended order, there's a link to the second story at the bottom.]

To a young boy, Tadpole Creek could become a world unto itself—full of adventure from early morning until late at night. The creek ran through my grandparents’ farm and through my young life.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Review: Arthur Newman


By Morris Dean

The movie Arthur Newman (2012, released theatrically in 2013, directed by Dante Ariola) isn't about Arthur Newman, except in the negative sense that the character it is about—failed professional golfer, father, and divorced husband Wallace Avery (played by Colin Firth)—can't be golf pro Arthur Newman.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fifth Saturday Fiction

Prologue [“The President”] of the novel The Board

By Ed Rogers

[Editor's note: The novel rests on the premise that a Republican was elected in the 2008 presidential election.]

John Cahill stepped from the shelter of the hotel and was greeted by a splash of rain water from the street. It was cold in Washington that first January morning he visited the Capitol. The rain had not been anticipated, the weathermen had called for light snow. John was dressed for warmth, not wet. He pulled his collar up in an attempt to keep the rain off his neck. The cold wind was waking the giant—the city was shuddering and shaking, trying to forsake the night and prepare to do battle with the new day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

You said that you and your wife were trying to decide whether to participate in a trial program from Duke Energy whereby you might be able to reduce your energy costs by lowering the amount you use during peak demand periods, but you were having trouble figuring out whether it would be to your advantage. Perhaps you need to have a clearer understanding of the difference between kilowatts and kilowatt hours: "kW and kWh Explained." Their simple explanation is easy to understand. Most basically, "kWh is a measure of energy, whilst kW is a measure of power...."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thor's Day: In case of emergency

By Anonymous

Edited by Morris Dean

[Editor's Note: Denominations may matter when it comes to purchasing the right bra, but when it comes to practical emergencies, dogmatic responses rarely address the real problem.]

During an ecumenical assembly, a secretary rushed in shouting, “The building is on fire!”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Should I not go to my daughter's wedding?

By Susan C. Price

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

My daughter, who is 26, is getting married next year and has just informed me that she wants her father to be there plus his partner whom he left me for! I’m not happy about this because I know she will expect me NOT to speak to them or sit near them, meaning I may not be on the table with the main wedding guests! I’m so upset I’m thinking of either not going or, if I do, not trying to contain my emotions! Her siblings have already told her they don’t wish to go to the wedding at all.
    I looked after our three children from the time they were 4, 6, and this daughter 8. Their father never paid any money towards them or saw them until this daughter got in touch with him several years ago. I’m heart-broken because it’s as if she is throwing in my face everything I did for her and all the sacrifices I made to put her through college, etc. I’ve tried speaking to her and explaining that I don’t think it’s a good idea for her father and his new partner to be there, but she just tells me that I’m an adult and need to deal with it! Her fiancé just shrugs and says it’s up to her. Please help! –Rosalind

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Voice: Missionary Kid

Beejooly and Dad

By Vic Midyett

My parents arrived in India in 1950 as missionaries. I was born on the kitchen table soon after they arrived, and my sister, Anita, was born four years later. There were no paved roads where we were—only four-wheel-drive access.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks: Pammie Story #3


By Susan C. Price

[Sequel to “Setting the stage: Family life and quirks,” published on October 28]

Pam was always trying to connect with men, usually in the basest way possible. She would not have said, “I met a man and we had a fascinating argument about opera.” It would be, “I met a man and we had a fascinating argument about opera, then I gave him head. He said I was quite good at it. Well, I KNEW that!”

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Review: Pete Seeger in His Own Words (book review)

From the archive

By Tom Lowe

I saw Pete Seeger in concert once, over thirty years ago. If you’ve been to his concerts or seen him on TV, you’ve gotten the sense that Pete is a graceful, articulate communicator who respects his audience and seeks to expand their horizons. Coming from a family of folklorists and academic music teachers, he set out early in his performing career to educate as well as entertain. Most of his writing has been in song books and a column for Sing Out! Magazine, which gave a sense of his thinking, but didn’t reach the depth I wished for. Then I found a book to satisfy my desires.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal: Fifty years later

JJK remembers JFK

By James [Jerome] Knudsen

For the past week this nation has been remembering, reliving, and rehashing the assassination of John F. Kennedy. We’ve heard from the usual suspects; people who were there in Dallas, or at the inauguration, or in the situation room during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The cable television world has been awash in docu-dramas and biography pieces, the latest conspiracy theories along with the old ones. I’m not interested in critiquing them, I don’t want to discuss the “what ifs” or shine a light on the dark, musty corners of castle Camelot. And with good reason, I wasn’t around back then. On that fateful day in Dallas that saw the end of the JFK era, the JJK era was still 474 days away. My perspective is that of one who has no memories of his own, only the memories of other people’s memories.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The first words I heard about JFK's death were "I'm glad they shot him"

By Paul Clark

It is Friday, November 22, and the radio crackles with stories about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy exactly 50 years ago today. Many stations are encouraging listeners to call in with their memories about where they were when they heard JFK was dead, and what they remember about the day and the era. Most remembrances are positive, thank goodness for that. I grew up in Southwest Virginia, at a time JFK was forcing public schools to finally desegregate. My first remembrances of JFK's death are unfortunately not positive ones.

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Memorial Limerick:
In fifty years I've forgotten a lot,
but one thing I've forgotten is not
    where I was when I heard
    the spirit-crushing word:
"No, no, no, no! The President's been shot!"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thor's Day: Rest for the weary

David Hayward goes by "the naked pastor"
Wake up! This isn't church!

By Anonymous

Edited by Morris Dean

[Editor's Note: Sleeping during sermons must be a common occurrence, it's the subject of many jokes involving church. But a good proportion of church-goers are sleep-deprived people who'd do better to just sleep in on Sundays.]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

About why people reject global warming

By Susan C. Price

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

Why can’t more people believe in global warming, when it is so obvious to anyone with any intelligence? –Deborah

Truly a puzzlement (as the King says in “The King and I”). Fast thoughts:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Voice: The selling of America

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Ed Rogers

For too long the American people have gotten the short end of the stick. We have stood by as factory after factory closed their doors. We have watched as gas prices climb for no good reason. We have allowed corporations to run roughshod over our rights as citizens. They take the land for their benefit and when they have finished with it, they walk away. Left behind is a toxic wasteland. Few lawsuits have succeeded in the full cleanup of the toxicants. On the beaches along the Gulf Coast, tar balls still wash ashore. On the floor of the Gulf, there is a river of oil, which the oil companies tell us a micro-organism is supposed to be eating?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Third Monday Musing

Interior journeys: Reading stream of consciousness

By Eric Meub

[This is the first of Eric Meub's new monthly column.]

Why is Great Modern Literature at times so difficult to read? The challenges can range from elevated diction and obscure references to, occasionally, the total absence of a plot. My hardest struggle with the modern masterpieces, though, involved a narrative tool that’s known as interior monologue or stream of consciousness. This literary device locks the reader inside a character’s head: truly inside, with less of the “he thought…” or “it occurred to him…” of more conventional writing. In interior monologue, the reader listens to thoughts that play out in a fictional character’s consciousness in the order they occur. It’s sloppier than mind-reading and far more invasive. But the power of such a literary experience transcends our concepts of “a good read.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Review: The Silence

Lonely people

By Morris Dean

Fifteen minutes from the end of the 2010 German thriller, Das letzte Schweigen [The Silence], directed by Baran bo Odar, I asked my wife, "Do you think they might end up not solving this case? The retired police chief was right about the new chief—he's a dimwit."
    The film opens graphically with the rape and murder, 23 years ago, of an 11-year-old girl in a field not far from her home. She has been followed by two men in a red car—or, rather, followed by the driver, his passenger inertly going along for the ride, witnessing the crimes, and saying nothing. Who are these guys, what gives?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Third Saturday Fiction

Chapter 2. A High Price to Pay, from the novel The Killer

By Jackie Sims

[Sequel to “A killer is born”]

The thing about taking out a high-profile target on your first kill is you now have a reputation to uphold. Each kill has to be equal or higher. Sarah’s services were in demand and she and Afshan lived up to the rep they had started. Unfortunately, most of her targets had been middle-management types—the ones who carried out the orders. However, with her fourteen clean kills, she had earned the respect of the rebel commanders.
    That was why she was happy to take on the job of killing a cabinet minister.
    They were the ones who pass the orders down but never get their hands dirty. Those orders had taken a heavy toll on the rebel forces and she was being paid $5,000 to put a stop to at least one of them.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fish for Friday

Floral tile
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Reluctantly beginning to do my holiday gift shopping, I was relieved to read at the end of Susan Price's column this week that she has a virtual store. [Permanent links in sidebar; see "Blog Department Store."]

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thor's Day: Don't blow my cover

Mr. Bean at church (Rowan Atkinson)
Notes from a church closet

By Anonymous

Edited by Morris Dean

[Editor's Note: After the previous column on overlooked opportunities afforded by boring sermons, someone sent me the jokes below who refused to identify him (or her) self, "because I don't want my family to find out I'm not a believer. They would disown me."]