Monday, September 30, 2013

Fifth Monday Fiction

Excerpt from the novel Room to Fall

By Michael Hanson

[Solomon, 27, has just received news that provokes reflections on his high school years (a decade gone), during which he met his best friend, Kurt.]

I’d never even spoken to the guy—he was a junior, after all, and I a lowly (scared shitless) freshman—when he appeared at my locker one afternoon and said, Hey man, you got a sheet of paper? Removing a single sheet of loose-leaf paper from a spiral-bound notebook, I handed it to him only to watch him tear it into squared sections, turning fragments this way and that to be torn further while I watched apathetic and dubious, wondering what in the world he was doing and why was I being asked to bear witness to it? When the sheet was at last reduced to what I imagined were dozens of small torn scraps, he began to unfold it…opening the once-shredded but magically-restored sheet while my mouth dropped stupidly, awestruck—me damn near bowled over—and by the time he finished and handed me the fold-worn proof of this miracle and said, Take nothing for granted, he was by then bored with it, walking away casually as if he’d already done for me all that he could.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Review: The World's End

With both a bang and a whimper

By Jonathan Price

The World’s End (2013, directed by Edgar Wright) is really two films, a kind of British version of The Hangover (2009, with sequels in 2011 and 2013), and a remake of the already once-remade Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, remade in 1978). Put thus baldly, it hardly seems that those two combined could make a single film, but the film manages to hold it all together by having a single plot narrative that takes five aging British males back to their hometown to recreate the Golden Mile, a pub crawl (12 pubs, 12 pints) they never quite finished at the end of high school. The first part of the film, with its reconsideration of adulthood growth and loss, is the funnier and more interesting. Nevertheless, the filmmaker’s original idea incorporated the second strand—that of returning home to the strangeness of homogenized village England, where all the pubs are nearly identical—which became the template for the science fiction part of the film.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal

In imaginary circumstance

By James Knudsen

act-ing. noun—behaving/doing truthfully in the imaginary circumstance. –Sanford Meisner

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to NPR’s Radiolab. The topic was AI, Artificial Intelligence. Various forms were examined: Cleverbot, online dating programs, the Loebner Prize, Furby...yes, Furby, the furry, talking toy from the late ‘90’s. Cleverbot I found particularly interesting. It is a program that remembers every conversation it’s ever had. And when it begins a new conversation it pours over all of the stored data or “responses” and then calculates (I guess that’s what computers do) the best response for the current conversation it’s having. It does a pretty good job of holding up its end of a conversation. But it does have its limits. During the course of the show the host, with aid of a guest, tested Cleverbot. It went something like this:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

I am sitting here enjoying a beautiful rain and reflecting on Elizabeth Bishop's "Sestina," which I pull out every September on a rainy day. I was hoping it would rain this week, both for the cooling effect it brings, and so that I could experience reading the poem near the Equinox hearing the rain.
    I imagine this cold front will eventually make it to the Piedmont. Knowing how this was the sestina that partially inspired you to produce many sestinas of your own, I suggest you also read it anew on a rainy equinoctial day!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thor's Day: Prejudicial labels

Beware of one-issue religions

By Morris Dean

A recent post on the blog Functional Human Being resonated with something that has been on my mind lately: how extreme focus on a single issue can derange people and throw them out of balance.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

About a neighbor who leaves her garbage bin out overlong

By Susan C. Price

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

We live in a neighborhood where people are supposed to put their garbage bins back out of sight after collection, but the neighbor across the street sometimes leaves her bin out for two or three days. What should I do? Rolling her bin back up to beside her house hasn't worked. SHE JUST DOESN'T GET IT.
    The other morning early someone laid her garbage bin DOWN right behind her SUV, I suppose hoping that she would back into it and THAT would wake her up. But that seemed like playing dirty to me, so I stood it up and moved it to one side of the SUV. –Take the Fifth

Dear Take: Seriously? I know, I'm the one who whined about the disabled parking space created on my block...And I chose to do nothing but whine.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Voice: Moral Monday

It's a movement

By Madison Kimrey

I’d heard about Moral Monday in the North Carolina news and on social media. A few Mondays passed before I had a chance to go. When I got there and rounded the corner by the legislative building in Raleigh, I was shocked. There were thousands of people there. The theme of that Monday was women’s rights, but there were people there for all kinds of reasons. It was like a rock concert for ideas.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks: Heart of the city

Heart of the City, July 2013

By Susan C. Price

This painting started out as a simple translation of the view at night from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Room with the view of Columbus Circle. But it wasn't working, so i super-imposed an outline of a nude from a class some weeks later.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Review: The Butler

A docudrama of the American 60's

By William Silveira

While the movie The Butler has been criticized for attempting to meld history with biography, I disagree with that criticism. I believe the director, Lee Daniels, chose to portray the life of Cecil Gaines (played by Forest Whitaker) against the very realistic backdrop of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, because Gaines' s life and the very real challenges he faced were so much a part of that time and the period preceding it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Third Saturday Fiction

Chapter 10, The Culpeppers, from the novel The Return to Boystown

By Ed Rodgers

The view from the large plate glass window overlooked a valley of green rolling meadows. In the distance, the steeple of the First Baptist Church of Culpepper, Alabama rose out of the tree-lined hamlet. Here and there a stream of smoke rose in a lazy, curving motion, marking the coming of fall. In the sky, geese were already on the move South—sign of a cold winter ahead. The coal mines were closed and the jobs gone, but the Culpepper family held on. “Never quit and never say die.” The quote was on a brass plate below a portrait of Louis Culpepper that hung in the hall of the 4,000-square-foot lodge his son had built on the mountain side and called a gentlemen’s club.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

[1] These ducks were rescued from a hoarder's home; they had never seen a water pond:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thor's Day: Perceiving beauty

The little shadow in the shadow

By Morris Dean

I believe that we need not, like Hugues de Montalembert, become blind in order to "see those things that light makes invisible."
    However, we need to empty ourselves of preconceived notions and open ourselves up to the nature of things.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Madison Kimrey on being politically active (and other things)

Child of the Movement

Edited by Morris Dean

Madison Kimrey entered the news with a splash when her petition to meet with North Carolina Governor McCrory got so many signatures it couldn't be ignored. On August 31, she was even interviewed by Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC ("Meet Madison Kimrey, 12-year-old voting rights activist"). And most recently she has been invited to create a video for the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl. Home-schooled Madison also writes a blog, Functional Human Being.
    Moristotle & Co. is honored to be able to publish this interview with Madison. [Our questions are in italics.]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Voice: Little Bit

A little dog from France

By Ed Rogers

It seems so long ago now, that a little dog came all the way from France to Aberdeen, Mississippi and touched so many lives. It all started in a place called Chateauroux, France, in 1963.
    I was over there with my mother, sister, stepfather, and stepbrother and stepsister. My stepfather was stationed at Chateauroux Air Force Base, and I had a job working with Special Services, taking care of the ball fields and other sporting venues. The pay was not great, but the people I worked for made up for that shortcoming. There were not many jobs for Americans in France.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Third Monday Random

When is enough?

By motomynd

When is the time to stop learning, and instead start sharing the knowledge of a lifetime, no matter if lived well or not? At some point, cramming more information into a fading brain so you can take it to the great beyond, makes as little sense as buying countless diamonds so you can have them sprinkled in your casket and buried with you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Review: Who was Lyndon Johnson?—Part 2 (book review)

Master of the Senate

By Jonathan Price

[Sequel to The Passage to Power]

The events of The Passage to Power actually were momentous and compelling, and the legislation Johnson passed as President was momentous. But Master of the Senate, the preceding volume, is perhaps even more surprising and effective in what it reveals and in its techniques. After all, the major substance of this tome involves parliamentary strategy, the counting of votes, and recondite legislative maneuvers. The average reader or, e.g., high school student would consider this extremely boring. It’s the inside-baseball version of how a bill becomes law, although here it’s often about how it never gets to become law, especially in the case of Civil Rights legislation. Yet it’s the attention to this kind of detail that eventually made Johnson not only majority leader of the U.S. Senate, but ultimately President of the United States (with the caveat of the Kennedy assassination providing the most effective transition for a Southern Democrat).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Music under the Rila sky

By Morris Dean

Rila Music Exchange is a joint project of the Ardenza Foundation and the Municipality of Rila, in Bulgaria. The most recent Exchange took place August 31-Sept. 8, with workshops bringing young ethno-musicians of all nationalities to the Rila mountains of southwestern Bulgaria to learn and perform together with local amateur folk music ensembles, enlivening village squares in the region with celebrations of folk music from around the world.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

From this they could actually make a movie worth watching, let's hope they don't "Hollywood" and trash it: "There Is a Man Wandering around California with 3 Mules."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thor's Day: People are praying for you...

But you can't satisfy them all

By Morris Dean

Christopher Hitchens, dying, did as he did in living;
gathered his wits and understanding and wrote
publishable lines he hardly ever blotted, giving
us thoughts that I for one oft find apt to quote.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

About being occupied with celebrities

By Susan C. Price

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

Why do people have to be so occupied with celebrities? –Deborah

Yeah, funny, right? And a relatively recent phenomenon from my generational perspective.
    It just seems to be one of those things that happen in a culture...Connecting talented and totally untalented, but “famous” creatures with constant pictorial and internet-communicated coverage.
    I daresay the “tulip mania” of the 1600s was no more or less sane. If you are unfamiliar with this “fashion/passion,” please consult Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday Voice: A poem

The Cameraman

By Ed Rogers

The sun: its light filtered by the cloud of war. You: seeking the reason for the contamination, raise your camera. The camera’s eye captures the visualization of life and death as the beams of light slide in and out of the smoke and dirt. Each click of the camera highlights the destruction; each turn captures new horror.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Second Monday Music: Life’s third pleasure

Rock ’n Roll

By Jim Rix

Nature dictates the first two pleasures of life. These primal pleasures are the same not only for us humans but for all living creatures. The hunger drive is necessary to provide the energy for life to procreate. That’s right—from the perspective of survival, life is all about food and sex. That’s why they’re so much fun. We humans with our superior intelligence (I use this term loosely) are able to satisfy these two primal pleasures with relative ease, and we are therefore left with significant free time. It’s this free time that allows us to engage in individual third pleasures. Some enjoy reading, writing and editing. Some enjoy riding motorcycles. Some enjoy traveling. For me it’s Rock ’n Roll.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Review: Who was Lyndon Johnson?—Part 1 (book review)

The Passage of Power

By Jonathan Price

Lyndon Baines Johnson was our 36th President and held office for five years—from the assassination of John Kennedy in November 1963 until 1969 and the inauguration of Richard Nixon. Those of us who, like the writer of this review, lived through that period, do not on the whole, I think, remember Johnson fondly, for he was so intimately associated with the continuation of the Vietnam war and the apparent intransigence with which he pursued its policies and managed to alienate previous supporters and allies, including many of our international allies.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

First Saturday Green 101: The liquid yellow eyes...

...of a predator

By motomynd

As the plane taxied toward the terminal I turned on my phone. A text message immediately lit the screen: “Be careful when you go home. I drove by a few minutes ago and there were cops and animal control trucks all over the place.”

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Big Moments in Small Lives. Thanks to all of you, I got to talk to Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC on Saturday. I had the honor of being her Foot Soldier of the Week. You can read my full interview and watch my interview here: "Meet Madison Kimrey, 12-year-old voting rights activist."
    I'm still knocking on Pat McCrory's door. I'm also working on the goal of trying to get the ability for teens to pre-register to vote back before I turn 16. I realize I'm knocking on a very big door and my goal is a very big goal. This is why I'm so thankful for all your help.
    We are going to make a difference here in North Carolina and for our country no matter what. Forward together, not one step back.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thor's Day: Animal spirits

A sheep's head and a pig

By Morris Dean

Chapter 21 of Hugues de Montalembert's 1985 book, Eclipse: A Nightmare, opens:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

About a difference between men and women

By Susan C. Price

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

Why can so many men eat the same as their wives but not gain weight? Is it their metabolism? Women’s hormones? –Kathleen

First, this is absolutely a fact, and it sucks. And the answer to both of the following sub-questions is also, yup.
    I am not qualified, nor inclined to give you lots of science. So, we’ll stick with the simple stuff, and a few gross generalizations.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday Voice: A day after...

Moral Monday

By Jim Sadler

The editor asked me to write a reflection on Moral Mondays, presumably with some reference to a recent comment on Friday’s “Fish” column:
Since you mentioned Moral Mondays: How about asking someone from that group to write a Moristotle post article explaining what that was all about? While many of us applaud their willingness to carry “ridiculous signs,” as writer Allan Gurganus put it, we would like to know if there was ever a plan to actually accomplish something? Was this protest with a purpose, or just performance art?

Monday, September 2, 2013

First Monday with Characters

Edited by Morris Dean

The Neumanns, at anchor
The Pineapple people have had a very busy month, what with the football preseason, a trip to Sonoma County to see Yo Yo Ma on his "Goat Rodeo" tour and a little bit of boating thrown in. We haven't taken the big boat out all month and hope to make up for that in September, starting with being anchored out for the four-day weekend ending today. This is our three-year anniversary of owning Pineapple Girl II, and what a great three years it has been. We are really looking forward to relaxing and sure feel like we need it after the hectic summer we've had.

For Labor Day 2013

When there were unions

By Ed Rogers

My father was in the military. Therefore, growing up, I had no idea what a union was. The rest of my family were from Mississippi and so afraid a black man would take their job if the unions ever came to the south, they voted to make Mississippi a right-to-work state.
    The first time I can remember hearing about unions was on a vacation back to Aberdeen, Mississippi. This was in the early fifties. It was some time after my family and I came back from Alaska in 1950.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday Review: Blue Jasmine

Why does Jasmine have the blues?

By Jonathan Price

Woody Allen’s new film, Blue Jasmine, is his best in the last decade, perhaps a return to the heights of emotionally and intellectually challenging films like Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Its title is both name and comment on its central character, played powerfully yet subtly by Cate Blanchett: a character whose given name was Jeanette Francis, but who changed it, like Allen himself changed his, to alter her sense of herself, to create a new identity.