Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ask Wednesday: If the god of Abraham was a human invention, then what is blasphemy?

Stephen Fry's answer

By Morris Dean

Stephen Fry may be familiar to you as Bertie Wooster's butler Jeeves, from the BBC dramatizations of some stories by P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and Wooster, in which Bertie was played by none other than Hugh Laurie, perhaps most famous in the United States as Dr. Gregory House.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tuesday Voice: An introduction

Portrait painted by Jane B. Mudd
Glad to be here

By Bob Boldt

[Editor’s Note: We are delighted to welcome Contributing Editor Bob Boldt to our staff, and we thank him for introducing himself today and providing this week’s “Thor’s Day” column, two days from now. He has an entry in the sidebar.]

I was raised in a traditional Midwestern, nuclear family, strongly influenced by my mother’s love of books and my father’s iconoclastic creativity. Reaching majority during the Eisenhower years, I responded to their materialism and the booming post-war prosperity with a growing consciousness of its shallowness and a simultaneous sense of the inherent dissonance between appearance and reality.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Fifth Monday Fiction

Chapter 1. The Hit, from the novel Frank O’Hara – The Last PI

By D. Michael Pain

[Editor's Note: The novel is in preparation for print publication in 2015.]

The sound of the hammer striking the back of her head was not as loud as he thought it would be. More like a muffled thump. If it wasn't for the blood spatter hitting the lampshade and wall it might not have even been noticed. There was no scream. No word from her mouth. It was a silent kill. For reasons known only to him, he knew he hadn’t swung as hard as he could. But still, it was hard enough.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Review: Black Mirror (TV anthology)

Dark sides of technology

By Morris Dean

The British TV anthology Black Mirror (created by Charlie Booker, three episodes each in 2011 & 2013, plus a special this month) is so inventively different, it's difficult to categorize, especially because each episode has its own cast and is independent and unconnected narratively to any other episode. I've seen only three episodes so far, but their dramatic power assures me that I won't be leading anyone astray by recommending Black Mirror.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fourth Saturday's Loneliest Liberal: Understanding what we’re saying

And picking our battles

By James Knudsen

I like to think that, as an actor, I’ve gotten better. I’m no Laurence – Olivier or Joey – but I get the job done. It wasn’t always that way. I think about early productions and cringe. My performances were filled with the bush-league, amateur flaws that I see in many of the young actors I work with as a college professor of theatre. Chief among these flaws and the one that remains so prominent in my memory of my own work is that of comprehension. Me, them, the actor not comprehending or understanding what we’re saying or why we’re saying it. It’s one the most difficult concepts to communicate to my students. But it may be the most important. If the actor doesn’t understand what she is trying to convey to the audience or the other actor on stage, the meaning will be lost. Language without context is jibberish...or worse.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fish for Friday

In 2014, three huge Antarctic glaciers
showed "irreversible decline"
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

The great picture of the breaking ice field in the West Atlantic of the Antarctic is among those worth mentioning: "The 12 most important moments in science in 2014." One of my personal favorites:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thor’s Day: Redemption beneath the stars

A Christian reading of Shakespeare’s King Lear

By Kyle Garza

Upon a first reading, King Lear seems like yet another Shakespearean tragedy wherein foolish characters, hanging their faults on their sleeves, lament their undoing in an unjust and cruel world. The characters all seem to fall into two worldview camps: One thinks that cruel higher powers torment us merely for their own sport, and we must endure their harsh torture as petty toys; the other thinks that the majority of evil in the world is the result of human sins, and there is a higher arbiter who orchestrates justice in the natural world. The latter in the play not only capture Shakespeare’s thematic intent more accurately, but they also demonstrate the core elements of the Christian gospel throughout King Lear’s five acts. It is clear by the end of the play that the wicked receive their comeuppances in a world with orchestrated justice, that the wicked cannot justify their wickedness by the predetermination of the stars, and that the characters of Edgar and Cordelia serve as Christ-figures that anchor the play to the Christian gospel.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ask Wednesday: What does it mean to "meet Jesus"?

Someone has kicked the bucket
It passes for something else

By Morris Dean

To meet Jesus is most commonly a euphemism for dying. You'll hear people say, for example, "So-and-so has gone to meet Jesus." It's a way of avoiding saying that the person died. The more common saying, "So-and-so has passed [or passed away]," serves the same purpose.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Little Bit

A little dog from France

By Ed Rogers

[Originally published on September 17, 2013]

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.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Review: Happy Valley (TV serial)

Sarah Lancashire
as Sgt. Catherine Cawood
It isn't that happy

By Morris Dean

Happy Valley (BBC One, 2014, written by Sally Wainwright) is a police drama television series set in a small town in West Yorkshire. "Happy Valley" is what local police call the area because of its drug problem, although the action of the series centers on a kidnapping only indirectly connected to drugs.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Third Saturday Fiction

Reaching Out
(a short story), Part 2

By Steve Glossin

[In Part 1, which appeared on November 29, the body of a young man was discovered near the rubbish bin behind the M&P Furniture Emporium. Who killed Tim Riley?]

It was early the next morning when Sheriff Sloan pressed Ma Riley’s doorbell. The door opened a crack. “Ma, I hope I ain’t disturbing you this early in the morning.” Her gray hair looked as if it hadn’t seen a brush in a while and her blue housecoat was wrinkled and threadbare at the sleeves.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Tundra Swans, which winter on both U.S. coasts, are at serious risk from climate change, according to Audubon's report on birds and climate change.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thor's Day: Of a mystical bent

Rainer Maria Rilke
By Morris Dean

[Originally published on January 22, 2012.]

About three years ago, I included myself among “others of a mystical bent,” and I even quoted Rilke. Admitting to a mystical bent surprised me as much as quoting Rilke; I hadn’t meant to get into anything like that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Is this a boy I should get serious with?

By Susan C. Price

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

Two weeks ago I met this boy on a night out with friends. He’s 22 and I am 20. Before I gave him my number I made a point of saying that if he was looking for a casual fling, then I wasn’t the right girl for him.
    That night, after the bar closed, he came back to mine and we sat in the kitchen until 5 a.m. chatting, and it was lovely. Since then we have met up a few times.
    He’s said things to me like, “You make me smile,” and “Whenever I see a text from you, I feel happy.” He’s also mentioned that he’s not a “dick”!
    However, the first week we started seeing each other seriously, I found out he’d only recently come out of a long-term relationship, which set alarm bells ringing. I don’t want to be a rebound relationship, so I texted him and emphasized that I don’t want a “friends with benefits” type of arrangement.
    He said it was true he’d split up with his girlfriend a couple of months before, but he would never play with my emotions and that he would love to see what happens between us.
    What do you think? –Bernadine

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Voice: The angry river

By Chuck Smythe

[Originally published on December 11, 2012.]

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 15, 2014

Third Monday Musing

Que sera, sera

By Rolf Dumke

“That mysterious flow,” wrote Paul Davies about time in the February 2006 Scientific American. We all experience it as an unstoppable flow from a given past to a flighty present, onwards to an unknown future. But, he argues, for physicists this is a mere illusion: time does not fly or flow. It merely exists. See Davies’s book, About Time: Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution (1995, Simon & Schuster).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Review: My Life as a Turkey (TV)

Obligations of re-enactment

By Morris Dean

In My Life as a Turkey (2011, directed by David Allen), the possessive pronoun refers to Joe Hutto, a naturalist who made mother-turkey sounds over an incubating basket of wild-turkey eggs and so managed to be "imprinted" on the hatchlings, one-by-one, as they pecked their way out of the shells and looked upon his friendly, nurturing face. In doing that, Hutto took upon himself the moral obligation to spend all his days for over a year raising the young turkeys to adulthood and beyond, in a remote wilderness of northern Florida.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Second Saturday's Sonnet


By Eric Meub

[Originally published on December 14, 2013]

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 12, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

An impossible road? Guoliang Tunnel Road, China, perhaps.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thor's Day: Doubts

Of belief & disbelief

By Morris Dean

Apprehensive atheists agonize:
What if what Christians say believing buys
    is true? I'd miss their salvation,
    suffer vexatious damnation,
and miss partying with believing guys.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ask Wednesday: When do you applaud a musical performance?

Let's chart it

By Anonymous

It depends on whether you know how the piece ends, what other people are doing, and how daring you are.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm

Our first calf

By Bettina Sperry

I slipped the band over the four prongs and went to work. Catching the little fella meant putting a collar around his neck, attaching a lead rope, and spending time letting him get to know me. He was receptive when I called him. He’d come running over, a sort of playful hop with his long hind legs, and sniffed me before returning to his mother.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Second Monday Music: A curious kind of signature

Bass (below) and treble clefs
Treble clef signs

By Anonymous Brian

[Editor's Note: A treble clef is the most common clef used in musical notation. It was historically used to mark a treble, or pre-pubescent, voice part.]

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday Review: My Dog the Champion


By Morris Dean

My Dog the Champion (2014, directed by Kevin & Robin Nations, produced in part by American Dog Rescue) is not the sort of film I watch – it's way too wholesome and predictable – but I love dogs, and the film's teenage heroine, Maddy [Dora Madison Burge was actually 22 when she played the part], is winsome in both body and character.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thirst Satyrday for Eros (in fiction)

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
The facts of life (a short story)

By W.M. Dean

At dinner Joey didn’t eat. He moved his peas around on his place with his fork and picked at the hamburger loaf. Mostly, he looked down at his plate, but now and then he glanced up at his parents, usually looking first at his mother for a few seconds, thinking how beautiful she was, then at his father, wondering why don’t they talk?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

You might want to rethink whether to reuse that 1987 Madonna calendar I gave you for 2015, or to keep it safe and in good condition instead, for look at what I just found on eBay:
$36.78. Buy It Now: Madonna : official danilo / boy toy calendar. Huge madonna collection for sale now. Rare 1987. Original. Very good / excellent condition.
    Either that or keep it after 2015 for reuse in 2026, 2037, 2043, and 2054, when who knows what it'll be selling for?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thor's Day: Holy Humor 8

Driving caution

By Anonymous

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How can I get over my husband's affair?

By Susan C. Price

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

My husband had an affair with another woman and although we worked it through I am still throwing it up to him if we argue. I am still so hurt and can’t seem to get it out of my head. He gets very agitated with me and although he keeps saying he is sorry I am afraid it will drive us apart for good. Please help me come to terms with it and close the door on it for good. –Bernice

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Reflections on Ferguson

Some problems

By Ed Rogers

I have been following the news from Ferguson, Missouri, as I’m sure a lot of you have, and while looking at what is happening today and what I have seen happen in the past, this is what I realized:

Monday, December 1, 2014

First Monday with Characters

Edited by Morris Dean

Kyle Garza, proposing
I proposed to my girlfriend of the last two blissful years, McKenzie, on November 16th, and she sobbingly said yes (tears of joy, to be sure).
    We went out on a casual Sunday after-church date to a monarch butterfly grove in Goleta, a verdant and picturesque spot flourishing with eucalyptus and ivy that most folks imagine is an enchanted forest when they see pictures. I had a handful of friends from church help me out with the proposal. They hid in bushes until a certain point in our walk along the park’s main trail: two musician friends who helped me serenade her with “our song” (All I Want Is You) and two others who worked photography and videography.
    Now we will start to endure the stresses of wedding planning and figuring out where to live together in the midst of a busy school year (since I teach and am working on my MA online and she is a full-time student working on her BS in Mechanical Engineering from CSU Northridge).
    If you know of anyone who knows a good So Cal wedding venue or realtor, please let us know!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Review: How We Got to Now (TV) & 700 Sundays (theatre on HBO)

Strange fruit

By Morris Dean

I don't think I would ever have paired Steven Johnson's How We Got to Now & Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays for a joint review, but for each work's striking invocation of a 1939 song by Billie Holiday, each describing it as perhaps America's first protest song – or racial protest song at any rate. Pairing the two works seemed imperative. Then I realized that the works also have in common that they are theatrical one-man shows, and both are explicitly stories about getting to now.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fifth Saturday Fiction

Reaching Out
(a short story), Part 1

By Steve Glossin

William ‘Bill’ Green placed his left mocha-brown penny loafer on the pavement of the M&P Furniture Emporium parking lot, then his right, and slid out of his maroon ’73 VW Beetle. He made clucking sounds with his tongue as he glanced around the vacant parking lot, then shook his head in disgust. The small islands of trash scattered over the recently painted lot were not there when he closed the previous evening.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Be careful how much nutmeg you use on your pumpkin pies tomorrow [yesterday now]: "A Warning on Nutmeg." Excerpt:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thor's Day: Thanksb’giving


By Morris Dean

A friend told me recently that he’s looking forward to Christmas, because he so much enjoys choosing the perfect gift to put under people’s trees – something that says “thank you” to each person in a way he or she can recognize and appreciate: giving as a way of saying thanks, or saying thanks by giving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ask Wednesday: What did Susan's column last week remind James T. Carney of?

Cigarette smoke was the only scent that bothered me

By James T. Carney

I thought that Susan’s suggestion to Angie that she have humorous signs alerting visitors to her office that she was allergic to perfumes made a lot of sense. The basic approach of appealing to people as opposed to ordering them is a more effective approach (despite the fact that having spent my career in US Steel, which was an organization to the right of the Prussian army, I had my own view of getting people moving).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Voice: Posthumously speaking 7

Detail from first painting below
Inspired by nature

By Mary Alice Condley (1925-2007)

[Editor's Note: The artist's son Tim and his wife Kerri own today's five paintings. Says Kerri, "Several years before Mary passed, Tim and I had moved into our new house on Woodpecker Drive in Oregon and we had no art or paintings for the walls. On a visit to California I mentioned this to Mary and she took me to the garage. I couldn't believe she had all those paintings in the freezer. I think I took every last one."
    A painting from the collection of the artist's granddaughter Dawn Stella Burke was shown on October 28. Twenty-two of Mary's paintings have now graced Moristotle & Co.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks

Personal grooming
in public

By Susan C. Price

Like PDA (personal display of affection), personal grooming in public (PGIP) is always fascinating to observe. Two recent examples.

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