Monday, August 31, 2015

Fifth Monday Fiction

Chapter 6, What’s a PI, from the novel Frank O’Hara – The Last PI

By D. Michael Pain

[In Chapter 5, published here on May 30, Frank O’Hara met with Kim Dawson in a restaurant and agreed to help investigate the death of her friend Brenda. They’ve just parted in the parking lot.
    Editor’s Note: As private investigator Mike Pain, the author is mentioned in various chapters of Jim Rix’s true-crime book
Jingle Jangle.]

Frank had been a private investigator for 30 years – often wondering what the hell he was doing in such a business. And he was wondering this more now than when he was new at this profession...if it could even be labeled such. It was true, they really couldn’t teach a class in private investigation...though sometimes on TV, a commercial would say they did.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Review: Harper Lee’s two novels

Some thoughts

By William Silveira

Publishing is a field of endeavor that is suffering from lack of readers. But HarperCollins Publishers has managed to pull profits not only from a book that was published 50 years ago, but also from another book, written by the same author (and initially rejected by publishers), that preceded the book published 50 years ago.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fifth Saturday Fiction

The first of many
(short story)

By Bob Boldt

Overhead, bullets whistled past me in the cold darkness and the falling drizzle. Some shells made a complaining, metallic clank as they struck the side of the overturned dumpster I had scrambled into. I was trying to dodge the first barrage that had made the street a sudden killing zone. In the process, I smashed my head on a large hook that protruded out of the side of the damned thing. Doing my best to ignore the stinging pain, I cautiously ran my hand up the side of my face, hoping for the best and dreading the worst. Moisture. Not the wet water of the falling rain, but a thicker substance. Blood? I licked my probing fingers and the warm, salty, iron taste on my tongue confirmed my fears. “Damn!” I quietly cursed to the darkness and the flying shells. My temporary home smelled like shit and sour urine. The holes in my crummy shoes began soaking up the dank water, causing my feet to become freezing cold. As my calves and thighs started shivering, I thought, This is a fine mess, if the bullets don’t kill me, the cold soon will.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fish for Friday

An iceberg in Greenland
Edited by
Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

With Arctic temperatures rising rapidly thanks to climate change, Greenland’s ice sheet is melting and raising sea levels. "While You Were on Vacation, a Chunk of Ice the Size of an Asteroid Fell Into the Ocean." [Emily J. Gertz, takepart] Excerpt:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thor's Day: Is some kind of real world lurking out there?

An invitation to read a recent NY Times article

By Morris Dean

Ordinarily I would have included this as a “fish” for tomorrow's column. But George Johnson’s August 24 NY Times article, “The Widening World of Hand-Picked Truths,” offers so insistent a caution about competing subjectivities that I couldn’t resist devoting today’s column to it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ask Wednesday: How can you balance your schedule to make better use of your time and energy?

By William A. Johnson

I was listening to Click & Clack on NPR one Saturday and they were talking about the finite number of RPMs in the life of an engine – and the finite number of beats in a heart. With each beat you get closer to the end. So, if there is a finite number of beats, how do you make the best use of them?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Voice: The robot’s challenge

A walk in the woods

By Chuck Smythe

Simply fascinating, the August 18 NY Times science article, “Atlas, a Humanoid Robot, Takes a Walk in the Woods,” by Katie Rogers. The best part of it is the set of videos near the end of the “DARPA Robotics Challenge 2015.” It’s about nine hours worth, much of it as lively as watching paint dry – but nevertheless extremely interesting as engineering, as drama, and as pop philosophy. I encourage readers to skip around and sample a few things to get the flavor.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fourth Sunday from Jingle Jangle

Chapters 7-9 of Jingle Jangle

By Jim Rix

[Editor's Note: Concluding paragraph of the review by Daniel L. Kaplan, Assistant Federal Public Defender in the District of Arizona, published in The Federal Lawyer, February 2009:
Other than being Ray Krone's cousin, Jim Rix has no personal investment in the justice system. He is not a lawyer but the co-owner of an Internet-based billing service for dentists. His book leaves us with powerful critiques but no recommendations. Fortunately, these issues are beginning to be addressed with some rigor, as the revolution in DNA technology has revealed the importance of understanding the phenomenon of wrongful convictions. Unfortunately, understanding our mental black holes does not make them go away. Our only remedy is to study these black holes closely enough to avoid them-a delicate process that requires constant self-examination and course correction. But it is a process that we must master, because we can always be certain of two things: law degrees and black robes will never free us from our natures, and there will never be enough Jim Rixes to go around.]

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fourth Saturday’s Loneliest Liberal: Call me Father James

Or email me

By James Knudsen

Last week on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, host John Oliver fixed his sights on the topic of televangelists. The 1980’s were, we thought, the zenith of flashy evangelical hucksters, preening, prating, and preying on the prayerful. Turns out this sector of the economy is alive and thriving. Mr. Oliver put particular attention on Reverends Robert Tilton, Creflo Dollar, and Kenneth Copeland and his wife Gloria. Apparently private corporate jets have become a “vital” part of spreading the good word. The humble parsonages of these men of the designer cloth were also featured.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by 
Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

For some, New Jersey is paved, industrial, and polluted, but for the red knot, New Jersey is life or death. Each year the red knot makes an awe-inspiring migration of 9,000 miles from the Arctic to the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego in South America and back again. Without New Jersey’s bayshores, the red knot would not survive. "Saving the Beach to Save the Red Knot." [Grant LaRouche, National Wildlife Federation]

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thor's Day: Passing it on

What goes around comes around: A fable

By Anonymous

Edited by Morris Dean

[Submitted by a correspondent who was unable to identify the author.]

Driving down a dimly lit road one evening, a man saw an old lady stranded on the side of the road. Even in the dim light he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ask Wednesday: How was your first day with hearing aids?

By Morris Dean

Yes, this week I started wearing "hearing instruments," as the manufacturer's user's guide calls hearing aids. An audiologist at the UNC Hearing and Communication Center fitted me with them on Monday afternoon, and I wore them continuously for about six hours, until I removed them, carefully wiped off any earwax from the receivers (I didn't see any), and parked them for the night to recharge their batteries and dry them out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Paintings at Ben's, by Shirley Deane/Midyett

"Sailboat on the Horizon"
(detail of painting at the bottom)
By Vic Midyett

A recent visit with our son Ben reminded me that we hadn't yet shared images of Shirley's paintings that hang in his house. Ben is a recreational diver and photographer, and his underwater photos inspired this painting of fish and coral:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Third Monday with Bob Boldt

This was the end – Chicago 1968

By Bob Boldt

The tear gas canister landed barely four feet from me. Its dark gray hull came hissing past like some small, badly piloted extraterrestrial craft spewing white toxic fumes. I watched as the lake breeze moved the alien cloud away. I remained seated, head bowed, pretending to pray, in deference to my Christian friends.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Third Saturday Fiction

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
Chapter 3. “The Muse’s Fee,” from The Unmaking of the President: A Bicentennial Entertainment (a novel)

By W.M. Dean

[The novel is set in the 1970s of Watergate. Chapter 2. “Making It Happen,” appeared last month.]

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fish for Friday

The Cliff Restaurant – Italy
[click to enlarge]
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

Albert Einstein: Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thor's Day: On whose authority?

Whom do you trust?

By Morris Dean

The column on "Reflections on Galileo's middle finger" didn't mention that science too can and does become an authority for people. I myself am not a scientist and haven't done the investigations and experiments that evolutionary biologists, for example, have done. Am I no better off than a Christian, say, who puts his faith in the Bible as the "word of God"?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

I dont think I want to be married anymore

By Susan C. Price

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

I just don’t know what to do about my marriage. I’ve been with my husband for 10 years and we have been married for five of those. I’m going to be 30 this year and we have a three-year-old child and six-month-old baby.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm

Stream waterfall (detail)
A quiet Sunday morning walk

By Bettina Sperry

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Second Monday Music: Stringed humor

Quartet #2

Edited by Morris Dean

First violin: “Haven’t I seen your face before?” a judge demanded, looking down at the defendant.
    “You have, Your Honor,” the man answered hopefully. “I gave your son violin lessons last winter.”
    “Ah, yes,” recalled the judge. “Twenty years!” []

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Review: Downfall

Hitler and the end of the Third Reich: A reflection on our condition

By Bob Boldt

The other night [some years ago] I decided to watch a couple of opening scenes from a rented video, Downfall [Der Untergang, 2004], before dropping off to sleep. Big mistake. The movie gripped me from the first frame and wouldn’t let me stop watching until it had run its last credit. I cannot imagine they actually, finally made a movie like that about Hitler. I’m sure that it took all these years’ distance from the real events to allow the perspective that permitted the portrayal of characters in all their humanity and not as the predictable cartoon cardboard cut-out monsters we have been fed ad nauseum.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Second Saturday's Sonnet


By Eric Meub

[Originally published on May 10, 2014]
Today I found the body of the deer
who used to eat my garden rose by rose.
I recognized her by the ragged ear
she flared once when I sprayed her with the hose.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fish for Friday

Colorful stairs at the School of Arts
in Saint Herblain, France
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thor's Day: Stately religious advertising

By Morris Dean

Elected officials have approved the use of private funds to display "In God We Trust" on Alamance County, North Carolina government buildings ["'In God We Trust' signs coming to county buildings in the Triad," Owen Covington, Alamance News].

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ask Wednesday: Where did "gung ho" come from?

Speaking of curious phrases

By Ed Rogers

Reading about the phrasein the belly of the beast” got me to thinking about the first time I heard the phrase “gung ho.” It was in boot camp at Fort Riley Kansas. I even remember the month: January. It was part of the cadence used to try to run us to death, and it became part of the language of military life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Revelations of talk

And what they suggest

By William A. Johnson

Long ago I realized that talking is more revealing than writing. We don't edit our talk as much as we do our writing. We let things emerge that we could hide if we were writing. Psychotherapists of course gain insights into a person from these revealing disclosures. Someone says that he "he would like to have done something," and the use of the future perfect tense is a tip-off that he is highly unlikely to actually do it.

Monday, August 3, 2015

First Monday with Characters

Edited by
Morris Dean

James Knudsen, from the 4th row
Among my many, hidden treasures – some hidden so well that I can’t find them, is a collection of old concert T-shirts from the 1980’s. As a teen-ager I made several trips to Fresno’s Selland Arena to see the headliners of the day; Cheap Trick, Van Halen, and The Scorpions were some of the acts I was lucky enough to see. And if my budget allowed, I would purchase a T-shirt that I would proudly wear to school the next day, and it would declare, “Yeah, I was there!”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday Review: The Crimson Field (TV serial)

Acting commendations

By Morris Dean

I dutifully watched UNC TV's June 21 – July 26 airing of The Crimson Field, BBC One's 2014 6-part drama about the lives of medics and patients at a World War I field hospital in France. More impressive to me than any of its story lines about the well-worked Great War are the commanding performances of three of the show's actors playing nurses. Creating memorable characters are: Oona Chaplin as Kitty Trevelyan, Alice St. Clair as Flora Marshall, and Kerry Fox as Sister Margaret Quayle.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

First Saturday Bimonthly: The yes tendency

Charles Dickens's Uriah Heep
symbolizes the internal yes-man
Confirmation bias

By Morris Dean

If you watch police procedurals on television, the chances are excellent that you've seen several in which the police are portrayed as quickly settling on one suspect and ignoring the rest.
    Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek information that validates your existing beliefs, or to interpret, favor, or recall information in a way that does so. The tendency is stronger for emotional issues and deeply held beliefs. It reenforces confidence in your existing beliefs and can even help you maintain them in the face of contrary evidence.