Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fifth Saturday Fiction

The huge annual gala was planned months before 9/11,
but when Greg saw the sign he had to wonder
if the date was a coincidence, or if the locals
knew something long before the U.S. did
The Melon Gambit, from Poacher, a work in progress

By motomynd

The Toyota Land Cruiser crawled up the last low escarpment before the drop toward Kenya, braked hard, and slid to a halt in the rocky roadbed. Jolted from the stupor that comes with riding rough roads for hours under the African sun, Greg’s right hand instinctively reached for the rifle in its scabbard on the dash. He glanced left at his driver, Muwinga, who was wide eyed and gripping the wheel, then looked up the hill to see what the problem might be.
    “Not good,” Muwinga hissed, as the Land Rover an eighth of a mile ahead reversed from the ridgeline and backed down toward them.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

A real-fish fish. Hey, with reference to James Knudsen's most recent "Loneliest Liberal" column—about his August 1975 trip to the Sierra Nevadas with his father and another father and son that involved fishing—we found that other fish photo referred to in some of the comments:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thor's Day: The sense of life...

Hugues de Montalembert life

By Morris Dean

Struck as I have been by Hugues de Montalembert, whose book Invisible: A Memoir I reviewed Sunday (and from which I shared a quotation in last week's "Thor's Day" column), I have continued to meditate on his writings and try to learn more about him.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

About men and women and math

By Susan C. Price

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

Why are men better at math than women? –Penny

They are not. Who told you that? (I was always good at math and on the math team in high school, and most recently, worked as a bookkeeper.)
    Most young girls are better at reading than boys, and maybe the boys focus on the numbers to even the playing field? Ok, I acknowledge that some women do not feel comfortable with math, and I really don’t know why. Found some intriguing and confusing answers regarding this topic on the Internet (biological basis and truth about gender).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday Voice

I’m in love

By James T. Carney

I’m in love with my one-year-old granddaughter. She is known as Squiggles—aka Francesca, an Italian name that I disregard along with all other names from nationality groups beginning with “I.”
    Now, I want to set the record straight. I hate children. The best that can be said for them is that they are adults in training, although I would prefer that they be sent away to boot camp for some twenty years to get trained before I have to deal with them.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks

This artist's approach

By Susan C. Price

Speaking of this artist's approach to a painting (as our dear editor suggested i do), well, uh, model sits, poses for 5 or 7 or 10 minutes, i assess my interest in the possibilities of the pose and my "in my hand" media....
    this usually happens in a painting workshop to which i go each thursday evening, where they have a model...
    I used to get friends to model for me...but they usually expected conversation at the same time...and i found i cant do that. They also tended to expect the result to be their view of their best selves....and that's not what i am trying to do. Art is personal.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Review: Invisible: A Memoir (book)

Living on one's own terms

By Morris Dean

The French painter and photographer Hugues de Montalembert's second book, Invisible: A Memoir (2010), could serve as a meditation reader. It quiets you with numerous arresting insights purchased with great pain and effort by the author over the thirty years that had followed the loss of his eyesight (and his very eyes) in an attack by burglars in his New York City apartment in 1978.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal

Reflections on the sources of fear

By James Knudsen

As a native son of California I’m quick to extol the state’s many virtues. Our topography: we are home to the highest and lowest points in the lower-48. Our 840 miles of coastline is second only to Florida, but that coastline has the disadvantage of being in Florida. And then of course there’s our myriad of habitats—scorching deserts, rainforests, beaches, rolling hills, glacier carved valleys, snow-capped peaks towering over alpine meadows...alpine meadows. I’ve been to a few of those.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fish for Friday

Madison Kimrey of Burlington
has attended three
Moral Monday protests
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Plucky young woman: "McCrory spurns young activist's request."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thor's Day: A blind man on seeing

Hugues de Montalembert
Seeing beyond

By Morris Dean

Sometimes, or maybe most of the time, I hardly see anything at all.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

About women's attitudes toward how they look

By Susan C. Price

[Questions are followed by answers and then, inevitably by DID expect that...didn’t you? Today we have two questions, from Kathleen and Deborah.]

Do women ever get to an age where they don’t worry about their looks or weight? I know women in their 80’s who are still concerned, and it is discouraging as I would love to get to the place where vanity is not such a “big thing” in my life. –Kathleen

Excellent place to aspire to. This pre-occupation is boring and silly. (Uh, so we thought we’d always look as we did in our...20s??? Really? Lack of simple, observable logic, helllooo.)
    Why would this topic still demand our attention? Well, we spent most of our formative years convinced, via this society and its commercialism, that our looks were a critical part of our identity and “success.” Your looks defined who you were by high school, and there are data to suggest that your looks defined which jobs you got, and certainly, who wanted to date/mate with you. (And women’s looks have always been more crucial, and narrowly defined, than men’s.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday Voice

In memoriam
"Anita's Boat Painting," by Shirley Deane/Midyett (2009)

By Vic Midyett

My wife, Shirley, painted this picture from a photograph she took of that boat leaning against the Paper Bark tree during her daily walk along the Collie River. The river runs along behind my sister Anita's house in a community called Australind in Western Australia. The boat drew her to start the painting.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Third Monday Random

Cleverness of the coyote

By motomynd

In Native American legend, and in real life, the coyote is known as a creature of crafty intelligence and humor. I’ve been around them enough in various parts of the country to give them great credit for above average intelligence and awareness, but I’ve dismissed much of their vaunted standing as hype.
    Now I’m not so sure. Case in point: I have no photos to contribute with this post, and I should.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Review: The Informant! and Behind the Candelabra

Matt Damon in two by Steven Soderbergh

By Morris Dean

In the last ten days, we've watched four films directed by Steven Soderbergh: the 2011 medical thriller disaster film, Contagion; the 2013 psychological thriller Side Effects, with Jude Law, Rooney Mara, and Catherine Zeta-Jones; Behind the Candelabra (2013); and The Informant! (2009).
    Matt Damon stars in three of these (all but Side Effects) and has appeared prominently in at least three other Soderbergh films—his Ocean's Trilogy of caper comedies: Ocean's Thirteen (2007), and Ocean's Twelve (2004), and Ocean's Eleven (2001), which was a remake of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack's 1960 Ocean's Eleven. We remember the caper comedies as diversions and barely remember that Matt Damon was in them at all—of course, he had lots of competition for the camera—George Clooney, Andy García, Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould, and Carl Reiner were in all of them, Julia Roberts in two, and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ellen Barken in one each.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Third Saturday Fiction

Prologue from the novel This Sweet Intercourse

By Michael Hanson

I’ve never been here before. The building is steeped in cold, dimly-lighted and with few windows, all tinted. Corridors starfish in every direction like a labyrinth inward, seeking a center that isn’t there: the biggest building in the world. Given instructions I take the next right and find myself in a culdesac where three rooms cluster next to two nurses’ stations, one on either side of the hallway. I nod hello to the woman in white seated there skimming a magazine, then walk into the stuffy airless room where my father lies sleeping. Dying.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

When it comes to science, Muslims had a good run in the Middle Ages, but haven't accomplished much since—but it apparently isn't a great idea to point out the obvious: "Backlash after Dawkins's Muslim jibe." Excerpt: "He responded to the barrage of ensuing criticism by telling his followers: 'A statement of simple fact is not bigotry. And science by Muslims was great in the distant past.' In a further posting he wrote: 'Where would we be without alchemy? Dark Age achievements undoubted. But since then?'"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thor's Day

“Did Zeus Exist?”

By Chuck Smythe

I stumbled on to the above headline in the New York Times Opinionator. Thinking it a natural for “Thor’s Day,” I sent it on to Morris. He asked me to write about it, so after some foot-dragging, here goes.
    The article is by Gary Gutting, Notre Dame Philosopher. He argues that we have no evidence that the Classical Greeks did not have supernatural experiences denied to most of us. Maybe we’ve forgotten how. Maybe different Gods were active then, in different ways. Maybe almost anything. In any case, a high civilization believed in Zeus with no apparent dissent for centuries. Gutting argues, therefore, that atheism regarding Zeus cannot be defended, and only agnosticism is justified.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Susan's simple answers

By Susan C. Price

Ok, we’ve expanded this column to include pieces in which readers ask questions and one of us answers them. Susan, daydreaming of herself as “wise” (perhaps due to advanced age), thought this would be splendid. (“What the heck! Dear Abby is gone…clearly there is a gap!”) She envisioned questions about...oh, relationships, personal finance or organization, modern manners, being kind...why some of us cannot grow tomatoes to save our lives...etc.
    Maybe next time. Our chief editor suggested that Susan answer the same question he was asked last week—in her style…“to illustrate the point that answers depend on of WHOM a question is asked.”
    We really would like some FUN QUESTIONS to answer, though, so send ’em in….

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday Voice: To There and Back Again: Part 3


By James T. Carney

[Sequel to "Budapest"]

We were met at the train station in Košice by Hack Boscovich, who was Merrill’s successor as the minder for the Americans in Košice, and by one of the fellows who worked for Hack (and had worked for Merrill before). They took us to a night club next to our hotel where we stayed until about 1:00 a.m. watching the Slovaks dance to American music. The Slovaks love dancing and will dance till all hours of the night. One of the mildly depressing things about this trip to Europe was to realize the extent to which all of Europe has become Americanized—seeing all volumes of Harry Potter translated into Slovak and CDs with parental warnings (in English) on them because they are made by rappers may manifest the supremacy of American “culture” but it is not a development that I particularly welcome.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Second Monday Music

Tom Hulce in a scene from the 1984 movie Amadeus
Mozart’s Orphic genius

By Geoffrey Dean

[Adapted from “Orphic Artistry”]

We idolize Mozart. We may not be sure what constitutes musical genius, but we know Mozart had all the necessary qualities, including a talent that emerged at a prodigiously young age, incredible improvisational skill, and the ability to compose—as he put it—“as if in a dream.” We also know what he looked like, what he acted like, about his racy jokes and tittering laughter, his awkward frankness when it came to assessing the inferior ability of lesser composers such as Salieri, who in spite of persistent rumors to the contrary did not poison Mozart. But in recalling these “facts,” are we describing Mozart himself, or his reinvention in the 1984 Milos Forman movie Amadeus, based on Peter Schaffer’s play and starring Tom Hulce?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Review: Shakespeare Uncovered (TV)

The Man even before he was the King's

By Morris Dean

After the inspiration of James Shapiro's Shakespeare—The King's Man [my review], I turned to the 2012 BBC/PBS TV Series, Shakespeare Uncovered, a 2-DVD set I borrowed from my local public library. (Hear, hear for the Alamance County Libraries! May you have a similarly accessible public library near you.)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The gringo who stole the cat

By Ed Rogers

Some of you may remember some time back I told of a cat that had moved into our house. She showed up one morning as I came out onto the porch to have my coffee and read the blog. She jumped in my lap and went to sleep.
    We thought she might be a stray, but then again she could belong to someone. Knowing how hard it is to become unattached to an animal, we made the choice to keep somewhat of a distance, but each morning when I opened the door there would be the cat. I have what was at one time a bodega out back and she had been sleeping there.
    After two weeks and no one asking about a missing cat, we began to let her into the house and our lives. After a month went by and we had taken the cat to the vet, had her fixed, and got her shots. Then I hear there is a story being passed around by the kids that, I’m the gringo who stole Juan’s cat.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fish for Friday

The sunset of life
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

"Walk with me as I age" is a beautiful poem about growing older. I will quote it for you now, hoping that it will have the same effect on you as it had on me—if so, then my making this effort will have been worth it.
    ...Shit, I forgot the words.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thor's Day: Couples who stay together

Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Bennett in the 1995 BBC TV series
The true philosopher, Mr. Bennet

By Morris Dean

It is said that couples who pray together...stay together. In the case of the parents of the five Bennet daughters in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, their staying together derives from another source:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ask Wednesday: How can I know what day it is?

Use a memory device

By Morris Dean

Today's Q & A follows up on previous columns about calendar patterns. On May 15, for example, we explained in verse why we need only fourteen calendars.
    Thanks to the anonymous person who provided today's questions. [His or her questions are set in italics.]

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday Voice: To There and Back Again: Part 2


By James T. Carney

[Sequel to "Ljublijana"]

The next morning we walked around Ljublijana a little more, going off to view remnants of the old Roman wall that surrounded the original Roman encampment. Then we took the train to Budapest without even having lunch—something that we lived to regret since there was neither food nor drink during our eight-and-a-half-hour journey. (European trains are not very fast—or weren’t in 2004.) For the first two hours of the trip, we shared a railroad car with a young woman who was completing a degree in chemical engineering at Maribod, which is the second largest city in Slovenia, in the eastern part of the country.) She spoke excellent English and we learned a good deal about Slovenia.

Monday, August 5, 2013

First Monday with Characters

Edited by Morris Dean

Jim Rix, on bad-hair day
The purpose of a hat used to be to protect the head from sun in the summer and cold in the winter. Now it's to turn this

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Review: Four films...

Jim Broadbent and Cillian Murphy
Perrier's Bounty
From the last four years

By Morris Dean

On four consecutive days recently, my wife and I watched four films from the immediately preceding four consecutive years, all deserving to be recommended here. I had read no reviews and had little to go on besides what I indicate about each below. You—I hope you'll benefit from the following:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Translate feature added

Pick your language in the sidebar

By Morris Dean

Here's an example in German:

Copyright © 2013 by Morris Dean

Please comment

First Saturday Green 101: And so they went to the big cat preserve

By motomynd

It was a quiet holiday weekend in Central North Carolina. With her daughter away at an anime convention, and both looking for something—anything—to get her son away from his computer game addiction, husband and wife talked strategy.
    “How about a movie?” she asked. His look must have said more than he realized. She answered her own question: “Right. Neither of you could sit through that.”
    “How about a hike?” he asked. Her look must have said more than she realized. He immediately followed with, “Yeah, he’ll be whining the whole time.”

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

A bit of elegant writing: "Bending with the Twists of Life’s River."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thor's Day: Do you have blind faith in Him?

By Jim Rix

I had thought of doing a sequel to my article “What is the Cause of Heart Disease?” changing “Heart Disease” to “Diabetes.” It would be easy to present real evidence that supports the fact that Diabetes, like Heart Disease, is a consequence of diet. But, in my efforts over the years to promote the health benefits of a plant-based diet, I have observed that most people would rather be put in solitary confinement with an insurance salesman than hear about food’s relation to health.
    There are many reasons for this lack of interest in the subject. However, from what I’ve observed, the most significant reason people find it difficult to consider whether a plant-based diet is healthier than eating animal products is that He is silent on the issue. For example, if you come to Him with a chronic disease, He will not tell you that your diet is the cause; rather, He will lead you to believe that your “heredity” is.