Monday, March 31, 2008

Hope for Tasmanian Devils

Good news at last! The Telegraph reports:

Cedric is the first of his species found to have displayed immunity from the horrifically disfiguring cancer, known as devil facial tumour disease or DFTD.
...
If Cedric proves the researchers right, and remains resistant to the disease, then he will form the basis of a breeding programme to distribute disease-detecting genes to a new generation of devils.


and ABC.net.au says,

A Tasmanian devil by the name of Cedric may hold the key to future of his species.

He is an extraordinary devil, guinea pig and possible saviour, who is naturally resistant to the contagious facial tumours which have already killed half the devil population in Tasmania.


News.com.au:

The unlikely would-be saviour of the world's largest marsupial carnivore is an unassuming devil named Cedric. In a development described as "the most exciting" in the five-year quest to halt devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), Cedric has shown an immune response to the unique communicable cancer.


The Independent:

Australia's population of Tasmanian devils has been devastated by a mysterious disease that causes disfiguring and usually fatal muzzle tumours. Wildlife experts say the carnivorous marsupials face extinction in the wild within 10 to 20 years unless the spread of the disease can be halted.

Now Cedric has given scientists new hope. When he was injected with dead facial tumour cells he produced antibodies – the first devil to do so. That means other devils with his mix of genes may be resistant to the disease, or capable of responding to a vaccine.


4/1/2008:

BBC

War. What is it good for?

I heard this blast from the past on the radio this afternoon. When I looked for it at youtube I discovered that I'm not the only one to see a current application:

No Cussin' Here

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Around 0% of the pages on your website contain cussing.
This is 100% LESS than other websites who took this test.


HT: SundaySchoolThoughts

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who Loves the Chocolate?

Hollis Frampton

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1984 of film maker Hollis Frampton. Zorns Lemma (1970) can be viewed online here, where there is also some explication of the film. (nostalgia) (1971) is here, and Gloria (1979) is here.

He has a web site here.

Rainbows End

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge won the Locus and the Hugo awards in 2007. I've liked everything I've read by this author, and I was not disappointed here.

from the back of the book:

World-famous poet Robert Gu missed twenty years of progress while he nearly died from Alzheimer's. Now, when he awakens in San Diego, in the year 2025, with his mind and health restored, reality's a shock. Books are just about gone. Computers are old news, replaced by "smart" contact lenses that connect him to the Internet via his clothes and wireless nodes just about everywhere. Buildings look low-rent unless you're wearing. Then, they look like whatever you want. Even he is different. He's seventy-five, but his treatment has made him look almost like a teen. And that's the tip of the iceberg in the new Digital Age.

As Gu tries to catch up with his future, a mysterious stranger draws him and other innocents into a conspiracy that could have disastrous consequences. Before he knows it, he's in so deep that even his high-ranking military son and daughter-in-law are clueless. His only hope -the world's only hope- is that his thirteen-year-old granddaughter Miri and her secret friend, Mr. Rabbit, might be able to keep the worst from happening....


That last sentence does make me wonder if I read the same book as the person who wrote it. It seems a bit misleading to me, but my quarrel would be with that sentence and not with the book, which I enjoyed. I'm putting it on The Younger Son's tbr shelf, and I'll see what he thinks.

SFReviews likes it. Strange Horizons predicts a sequel, which seemed a no-brainer to me when I read the ending. SFSignal says it's not as good as Vinge's other works.

The book is online free here, but I don't read lengthy works online. It's a good way to sample, though. I treat free books online the way I treat books on the bookstore shelves: Read some, and, if I like it, buy it.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 16

1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;

3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.

4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.

5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.

8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

KJV

Friday, March 28, 2008

Stress Relief

Make sure your speakers are on, then click here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Stanisław Lem

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2006 of science fiction writer Stanisław Lem. I have read and enjoyed several of his many books. His novel Solaris has been filmed twice, and the earlier 1972 version is #67 on the Arts and Faith list of 100 Most Spiritually Significant Films. There is a study guide for the book here. This is a film short on him (Polish with English subtitles):

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is Science Fiction Antithetical to Religion?

SFSignal asks the question:

Is Science Fiction Antithetical to Religion?


No.

Next question?

P.S. The answers given at the link are much fuller and more interesting than mine.

Mike Resnick, for example, explains why

You can't generalize about this large a field.


Lou Anders is amazed, but says,

I would have to say that SF is not antithetical to religion. It is, however, analogous to religion in that both science and religion are attempts to grapple with the mysteries of existence and the wonders of the universe.


Ben Bova's view:

Is there an inescapable conflict between science and religion? If there is, I believe the basis for the conflict lies in this: The scientific attitude is to search for new knowledge, and to understand that all of our ideas and views are subject to change, based on new information. Science depends on testing, and measurement. Religion, on the other hand, usually takes the attitude that the believer knows all he or she needs to know, and that any challenge to reveal truth is dangerous and should be rejected.


But I have to wonder if he doesn't misunderstand religion, or at least religion as I experience it.

Gabriel McKee:

Of course not!


and Jay Lake:

Not at all.


Carl Vincent says,

I would have to say 'no'.


D.G.D. Davidson:

The answer is no.


John C. Wright offers both a really short and a really long answer:

Short Answer: No. Science fiction is not necessarily antithetical to religion.


which bear some similarity to my own answer, but they illuminate theirs.

Adam Roberts says,

Despite being godless myself I don't think the genre I love is atheist at all.


and goes into a discussion of what he sees as its Protestant roots.

Larry Niven comes down against generalizing:

Some science fiction writers lean away from religion. Some don't.


Andrew Wheeler:

SF isn't necessarily anti-religion...it's just anti-irrationalism. The more rational a religion is, the more likely it is to be treated positively in SF.


Michael Burstein:

Science fiction is only as antithetical to religion as science is.

In other words, science fiction is as antithetical to religion as its practitioners make it. And the range of practitioners means that science fiction is in no way antithetical to religion by its nature alone.


L. E. Modesitt, Jr. offers a kind of "no, but":

I don't see religion and science fiction as necessarily antithetical, but I do see science fiction being at least perceived as hostile to any form of blind belief that rejects demonstrated scientific findings on the basis of belief.


The long answers given at the site are fascinating.

3/27/2008:

There's a floow-up at SFGospel.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1827 of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Moonlight Sonata:


Appassionata:


Missa Solemnis:
Kyrie:


The rest of this can be found linked here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Readings in Ecology and Natural History

Abbey, Edward
Desert Solitaire

Ackerman, Diane
The Rarest of the Rare

Adamson, Joy
Born Free

Agassiz, Louis

Aristotle
The History of Animals
On the Gait of Animals
On the Motion of Animals
On the Parts of Animals

Attenborough, David
Life on Earth
The Living Planet

Austin, Mary
The Land of Little Rain

Bartram, William
Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws; containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together With Observations on the Manners of the Indians
Observations on the inhabitants, climate, soil, rivers, productions, animals, and other matters worthy of notice made by Mr. John Bartram, in his travels from Pensilvania [sic] to Onondago, Oswego and the Lake Ontario, in Canada

Bass, Rick
Winter Notes From Montana

Beebe, William
"12 Rules for Observing Wild Birds and Animals in the Forest"
The Book of Naturalists: An Anthology of the Best Natural History (ed. by Beebe)

Borland, Hal
Homeland From the Country
Our Natural World (ed. by Borland)

Bown, Stephen R.
The Naturalists: Scientific Travelers in the Golden Age of Natural History

Burroughs, John
Birds and Bees, Sharp Eyes, and Other Papers
Wake-Robin

Carson, Rachel
The Edge of the Sea
The Sea Around Us
Under the Sea Wind

Cooper, Susan Fenimore
Rural Hours

Corbett, Jim
Maneaters of Kumaon

Cousteau, Jacques-Yves and Phlippe Diole
Three Adventures: Galapagos-Titicaca-The Blue Holes
The Silent World

Darwin, Charles
Voyage of the Beagle
On the Origin of Species

Dillard, Annie
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Eiseley, Loren
The Immense Journey
The Star Thrower

Emerson, Ralph Waldo
"Nature"

Fabre, Jean Henri
Fabre's Book of Insects
Bramblebees and Others
The Life of the Caterpillar
The Life of the Fly
The Life of the Spider
The Mason-Bees
More Hunting Wasps
Story Book of Science
The Wonders of Instinct
More Books Online
More Books Online

Finch, Robert; and John Elder, eds.
The Norton Book of Nature Writing

Goodall, Jane
In the Shadow of Man

Gould, Stephen Jay
Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History
The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History
Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

Herriot, James
All Creatures Great and Small The Best of James Herriot

Hooke, Robert

Junger, Sebastian
The Perfect Storm

Krakauer, Jon
Into Thin Air

Kricher, John
A Neotropical Companion

Kurlansky, Mark
Cod

Leopold, Aldo
Excerpts from his writings
A Sand County Almanac

Lopez, Barry
"A Literature of Place"
"The Language of Animals"
Arctic Dreams

Lorenz, Konrad Z.
King Solomon's Ring

Lucretius
The Nature of the Universe
On the Nature of Things

Matthiessen, Peter
African Silences
Sand Rivers
The Snow Leopard
The Wind Birds

McPhee, John
Annals of the Former World
Coming Into the Country

Mill, John Stuart
"On Nature"

Muir, John
The Mountains of California
My First Summer in the Sierra
Our National Parks
Steep Trails
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth
A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf
Travels in Alaska
The Yosemite
"Snow Storm on Mount Shasta"
"Wild Wool"

Nash, Roderick
Wilderness and the American Mind

O'Brien, Dan
Equinox
The Rites of Autumn

O'Hanlon, Redmond
No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo

Olson, Sigurd F.
The Singing Wilderness

Ondaatje, Chrstopher
Journey to the Source of the Nile

Peterson, Roger Tory and James Fisher
Wild America

Pliny the Elder
Natural History

Ruskin, John
The True and the Beautiful

Scheffer, Victor B.
The Year of the Whale

Seton, Ernest Thompson
Wild Animals at Home

Sharp, Dallas
The Lay of the Land

Stouffer, Marty
Marty Stouffer's Wild America (book)

Teale, Edwin Way
North With the Spring
Journey Into Summer
Autumn Across America
Wandering Though Winter

Thomas, Lewis
The Lives of a Cell
The Medusa and the Snail

Thoreau, Henry David
"Walking"
Walden

Tinbergen, Niko
Curious Naturalists

Van Dover, Cindy Lee
The Octopus's Garden: Hydrothermal Vents and Other Mysteries of the Deep Sea

Warner, William W.
Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay

White, Gilbert
Natural History of Selborne

Williamson, Henry
The Illustrated Salar the Salmon

Yeoman, Guy
Africa's Mountains of the Moon: Journeys to the Snowy Sources of the Nile

John Burroughs Medal winners

Feast of the Annunciation


Today is the Feast of the Annunciation.


Luke 1:26-38 (RSV),
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

The picture above is of Fra Angelico's painting.

Claude Debussy

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1918 of Claude Debussy. (There are links at that wikipedia entry to free scores and audio presentations.)

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune:


La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair):


There is more information on Essentials of Music.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bag of Bones

I recently started reading Stephen King's Desperation and didn't get very far at all, but I had no trouble with his Bag of Bones. The back of the book describes it as "a haunted love story". That's an accurate description. It's basically a ghost story. There's love that doesn't die against a background of hate, violence and revenge. This book won the 1999 Locus Award for Horror/Dark Fantasy.

from the dust jacket:

Stephen King's most gripping and unforgettable novel, Bag of Bones, is a story of grief and a lost love's enduring bonds, of a new love haunted by the secrets of the past, of an innocent child caught in a terrible crossfire.

Set in the Maine territory King has made mythic, Bag of Bones recounts the plight of forty-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, who is unable to stop grieving even four years after the sudden death of his wife, Jo, and who can no longer bear to face the blank screen of his word processor.

Now his nights are plagued by vivid nightmares of the house by the lake. Despite these dreams, or perhaps because of them, Mike finally returns to Sara Laughs, the Noonans' isolated summer home.

He finds his beloved Yankee town familiar on its surface, but much changed underneath -- held in the grip of a powerful millionaire, Max Devore, who twists the very fabric of the community to his purpose: to take his three-year-old granddaughter away from her widowed young mother. As Mike is drawn into their struggle, as he falls in love with both of them, he is also drawn into the mystery of Sara Laughs, now the site of ghostly visitations, ever-escalating nightmares, and the sudden recovery of his writing ability. What are the forces that have been unleashed here -- and what do they want of Mike Noonan?

As vivid and enthralling as King's most enduring works, Bag of Bones resonates with what Amy Tan calls "the witty and obsessive voice of King's powerful imagination." It's no secret that King is our most mesmerizing storyteller. In Bag of Bones -described by Gloria Naylor as "a love story about the dark places within us all"- he proves to be one of our most moving.

Richard Halliburton


Richard Halliburton was presumed dead after this date in 1939, a tragic loss. The West Tennessee native, who grew up in Memphis, was an adventure traveler and author. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has a recent article on Halliburton. His travel narratives have been favorites of ours since we discovered them when the kids were quite young. Finding out how he died was traumatic.



The photo above is from Wikipedia and is used here to illustrate this remembrance.

Asashoryu Wins Sumo Tournament

Yomiyri Online reports:

Asashoryu's back, and it's like he was never away.

The fiery yokozuna beat Hakuho on Sunday to win the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, denying his fellow Mongolian a fourth-straight Emperor's Cup and tying Takanohana on the all-time list with 22 makuuchi division titles.


A fan of the winner has posted a video of highlights from the tournament:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sunshine Week


We are right in the middle of Sunshine Week, and the anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War seems a good time to mention it:

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.
...
Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.

Sunshine Week is a non-partisan initiative whose supporters are conservative, liberal and everything in between.

Battle of Algiers

Today is the anniversary of the end in 1962 of the Algerian War. The Battle of Algiers, a 1966 b/w Italian film on the war, is available for viewing online:


There is some current interest in this conflict as it is compared to the ongoing war in Iraq. The French lost Algeria.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke has died.

He offered these reflections this past December on the occasion of his 90th birthday:


There are notices at BoingBoing, Lou Anders' blog, /film, Cinematical, Bad Astronomy Blog, Evolving Thoughts blog, Pharyngula, Connexions and Slashdot.

SFScope has an article with links. SFSignal also has good links.

Obits:

NYT
MSNBC
BBC
Telegraph
PopSci.com
TimesOnline
Reuters
AP
Ars Technica
CNET
CNN
Salon.com
Wired
Bloomberg
UPI
ZDNet
Guardian
Obit Magazine
GreenCine

3/19/2008:

SFSignal has more links, including a link to the short story The Nine Billion Names of God and a link to an audio presentation of The Star, which were always two of my favorite stories.
LiveScience and here
#comments has made note of the news.
Art Ruch
more from Pharyngula
John Wright
Exploring Our Matrix
Bill Moyers interview from 1988

3/20/2008:

Alpha Patriot
BoingBoing has a link to his last interview.
SFSignal has updated links.

3/29/2008:

Obit Magazine

Ivan the Terrible


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1584 of Ivan IV of Russia, the first of the Tsars. There are many colorful biographies online. There is a 2-part film based on his life directed by Sergei Eisenstein, and it is embedded here. Russia: Land of the Tsars is a sweeping documentary which places Ivan the Terrible in historical context:

part 1:


part 2:


part 3:


part 4:


The picture at the top of the post is of Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan by Ilya Repin.

Monday, March 17, 2008

300

I remember watching The 300 Spartans a couple of times when the kids were younger. I knew the story, of course, and the kids were learning the story. That movie was inspiring and a good picture of sacrificial bravery and courage. It was a movie that inspired Frank Miller to write the graphic novel 300 on which this film 300 was based. When it was released it was criticized for lack of historical accuracy, but I'm just now watching it and wondering why the lack of historical faithfulness was worrisome when the spirit of the story is so alive in the movie.

trailer:


And just because I can't resist... It's Raining Men:

St. Patrick's Day

Wear green in honor of St. Patrick.

Prayer for the Faithful by Saint Patrick

May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
- Against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

Andre Norton

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2005 of author Andre Norton, one of the first real science fiction authors I ever read. The Zero Stone was a favorite of mine. Some of her works are available online here and here. There is an award named after her (winners and nominees listed here) for young adult science fiction and fantasy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Deadlock

Deadlock by Sara Paretsky is her second mystery featuring V. I. Warshawski, a private investigator.

from the back of the book:

When Chicago Black Hawks hockey legend Boom Boom Warshawski slips off a wharf and drowns in Lake Michigan, his private-eye cousin questions the accidental death report and rumors of suicide. Armed with a bottle of Black Label and a Smith & Wesson, V. I. follows a trail of violence and corruption to the center of the Windy City's powerful shipping industry. Dodging elaborate attempts on her life with characteristic grit and humor, the one-of-a-kind detective wends her way through a maze of grain elevators and thousand-ton freighters, ruthless businessmen and gorgeous ballerinas, to ferret out Boom Boom's killers before they phase her out of the picture - permanently.


This is another I liked but not enough to look for others in the series. It is on the list of 100 favorite mysteries of the century according to The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. There is a page of the book that discusses the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and I particularly noted that.

I think I'm just burned out on mysteries. I think I'll wait awhile before I read another one.

Death in Tibet

The death toll is rising.

Faith Central has some links, the BBC says, "At least 80 people have been killed in unrest following protests by Tibetans against Chinese rule, the Tibetan government in exile says. Indian-based officials said the figure was confirmed by several sources, even though China put the death toll at 10," the VOA reports that "Chinese authorities continued to level blame for the violence at what it calls "the Dalai clique," headed by Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who lives in northern India," and CNN, the Telegraph and others report that the Dalai Lama has called for UN investigations into the "cultural genocide" of the Tibetan people.

BoingBoing's update.

3/18/2008:

from the BBC:
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding the recent days of demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet's capital, Lhasa.

Mr Wen said the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's claim of "cultural genocide" was "nothing but lies".

The Dalai Lama denied he was behind the unrest and said he would resign from the government-in-exile if it worsened.

40 Days of Giving

Palm Sunday


Matthew 21


1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,

2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.

3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,

7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.

9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?

11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

KJV


The photo is from cobalt123's flickr set.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Falling Star

I have read the first book in this series by Patricia Moyes and this one comes much later. I enjoy the characters and the style of the writing. Falling Star is told from the point of view of someone in the story who is touched by the murder and who knows Chief Superintendent Henry Tibbet socially. Tibbett does not come into play until well along in the story line, and we don't see things from his perspective until we hear the story in his own words towards the end of the book. This was interesting. I'll be making an effort to pick up the rest of these.

from the back of the book:

It seemed an easy enough scene for Bob Meakin to play. The handsome but aging star was to jam the eyeglasses on his nose as he rushed down the subway stairs, then look around wildly for his girl. The producer of Northburn Films thought they might be able to shoot it in one take. But with the crew in position and the camera rolling, Meakin tripped on the stairs, and fell directly beneath the wheels of the incoming train. At first this appeared to be no more than an appalling accident, but subsequent events convince Inspector Henry Tibbett that murder was added to the script.

Henry Tibbett, Chief Superintendent of Scotland Yard, has for years delighted those who love a classic Brittish detective story. A modest self-effacing man, Tibbett possesses an almost uncanny "nose" for crime, and those who know him well realize that his gentlemanly demeanor masks a shrewd mind and a fearless spirit. When he teams up with his wife, Emmy, a cheerful but formidable woman, there isn't a criminal anywhere who can rest secure.

Beware

the Ides of March.

H. P. Lovecraft

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1937 of H. P. Lovecraft. I wrote a post on him last year, and it includes a link to a Jack Chick parody tract and a link to audio of The Dunwich Horror. The H. P. Lovecraft Archives are here. His complete works are online here, here and here. His works have been adapted for tv and film. There is an overview of Lovecraft here that includes a wonderful set of annotated links. Salon.com has an article. His Cthulhu Mythos has surges of popularity, including an ongoing campaign for President: "Cthulhu for President. Why vote for a lesser evil?"

Friday, March 14, 2008

Go West

I found Go West on a used Kino video at Spin Street. Also on this disk are The Scarecrow (1920) and The Paleface (1922). Buster Keaton directed and starred in silent and sound films, but these 3 are all silent.

Go West is at youtube broken up into a lot of parts. Part 1:

The other parts are linked from here.

The Scarecrow in 2 parts:
part 1:

part 2:


The Paleface:

Pi Day



Today -3:14- is Pi Day. 1:59 will be Pi Minute, making it 3.14159. Pi Second will be 3/14,1:59:26. We'll have a pizza pie tonight.


NPR has a story on it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fantastic Planet

Fantastic Planet (1973), a feature film directed by Rene Laloux, won the Grand Prix at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.

It is available online in 8 parts:
part 1:


part 2:


part 3:


part 4:


part 5:


part 6:


part 7:


part 8:


Senses of Cinema has an article on the film. SciFi.com reviews it here.

7/16/2009: FilmSquish has a review.
11/18/2009: Ferdy on Film has a review.

The Speed of Dark

What a wonderful book! I remember my first book by Elizabeth Moon -Remnant Population. I thought it was wonderful, too, and still remember it with joy. Then I read Trading in Danger. It was ok, but the further away from it I got the less willing I was to invest in the rest of the series.

The Speed of Dark won the 2003 Nebula, which is really the reason I bought it. I don't know what I expected given the 2 Moon books I had read, but this is a thought-provoking work.

from the back of the book:
Thoughtful, poignant, and unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping exploration into the world of Lou Arrendale, an autistic man who is offered a chance to try a brand-new experimental "cure" for his condition. Now Lou must decide if he should submit to a surgery that might completely change the way he views the world - and the very essence of who he is.

To top it off there is fencing. Lots of fencing.

from the InfinityPlus review:
Every now and then -- and it's extremely rare -- a book comes along that is so very, very good that one's actually slightly nervous of reviewing it, in case, crazily, the clumsiness of one's review will somehow mar the integrity of the novel itself.

The Speed of Dark is one such book.
...
The Speed of Dark is one of those exceptionally rare novels that has the power to alter one's entire worldview, and reading it is a profoundly rewarding and enriching experience. It is impossible to avoid superlatives when speaking of it

from the SFSite review:
It's taken me more than two months to write the review for Speed of Dark. It shouldn't take this long to write a review. It is not for lack of trying, I can assure you. But every time I set fingers to keyboard, something freezes up.

It's not that I don't have anything good to say about the novel -- far from it. Speed of Dark is easily the most powerful thing I've read this year.
...
It doesn't lend itself to easy categorization, defies snappy summation. It's challenging and accessible at the same time, and easily surpasses Moon's previous high water mark, the Hugo-nominated Remnant Population. At worst, Speed of Dark is a magnificent character study. At best, it's the most powerful book you'll read this year.

The SciFiDimensions reviewer says:
It's one of the most emotionally resonant and philosophically intriguing SF novels in recent years. I give it my highest recommendation.

from SciFi.com:
All in all this is a well-crafted, captivating novel that science-fiction lovers will enjoy and can then pass on to their mainstream-reading friends.

There is a reading group guide here and a blog here.

I wondered when China would attack

and it didn't take them long. The Tibetans began their peaceful march on Monday. As The Guardian reports:

"When we get to the border we will face the Chinese," he said without saying where or when they planned to cross it. Marchers, including Buddhist monks and nuns as well as young people born in exile who have never seen Tibet, said they were hoping to reinvigorate the Tibetan freedom movement. They set off on the 49th anniversary of a 1959 uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule, which was crushed by the People's Liberation Army, driving the Dalai Lama into exile. "With the Olympics in China, and the Chinese government using this platform to legitimise its illegal occupation of Tibet, we are demonstrating that Tibet belongs to Tibetans and we will never give up until Tibet is independent," Rigzin said.


BoingBoing has video and links on the story and reports of the new story that the Chinese have responded to the spreading protest with violence.

Times Online says:

Witnesses described helmeted soldiers firing teargas yesterday to try to disperse more than 600 monks as they attempted to march out of the Sera monastery on the edge of Lhasa. The monks were forced to halt virtually at the gates of the monastery, after police at a station just outside the main entrance called in the military.

The monks, shouting “Release our people”, demanded the return of 11 monks detained on Monday after staging an anti-Chinese protest in front of the Jokhang Temple — the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism — in the heart of the city. That protest coincided with demonstrations by about 500 monks from the sprawling Drepung monastery just outside Lhasa.


China's response includes a halt to Everest summits in the area they control, delaying all climbs. The Independent reports:

China is denying mountaineers permission to climb its side of Mount Everest this spring, a move that reflects government concerns that Tibet activists may try to disrupt plans to carry the Olympic torch up the world's tallest peak.
...
It comes as China's much-criticised rule of Tibet, which has long been an emotive issue, heats up and joins a slew of other issues pressure groups want the authorities to confront in the run-up to August's Beijing Olympics.



The Guardian had reported that

When the marchers stopped last night near the northern Indian city of Dharamsala in the Kangra district, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, the local police chief Atul Fulzele warned that they would not be allowed to leave the district, following a recommendation from the Indian government.

But Tenzin Tsundue, one of the march leaders, said this morning that the protesters would ignore the police order.


And now the original marchers have been arrested in India. from the NYTimes:

NEW DELHI — A group of Tibetan exiles in northern India who began a six-month march this week to protest China’s control of their homeland were arrested on Thursday, and went on a hunger strike they say will continue until they are released.

The marchers — more than 100 people, mostly monks and nuns — were arrested early Thursday in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, after the police seized a well-known activist in their group and the rest of the marchers linked arms and sat in the road in protest. The group started their trek from Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, on Monday, the anniversary of a failed uprising in Tibet in 1959. They planned to reach the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in August, as the Olympics Games open in Beijing.


The Voice of America explains:

New Delhi has given shelter to tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees, but it does not allow them to mount anti-Chinese public protests.

Rigzin, who is one of the organizers of the march, says it is a non-violent protest and should be allowed to go on.

"We have said it, all, along, that our march to Tibet is completely non-violent… We have not caused any problems to anyone along the way, whatsoever. We are just a bunch of peaceful monks and nuns, along with some lay people. We are just marching along the road and we are not committing any crime. So, the march should go on," Rigzin said.


It is interesting that India, the beneficiary of Gandhi's peaceful protests should prohibit peaceful protests within its borders.

3/14/2008 update:

from Bloomberg.com:

Chinese troops sealed off three of Lhasa's largest monasteries after Tibet's biggest protests in almost 20 years deteriorated into violence, with shops and police cars set ablaze.


and now the BBC reports people are dead:

An emergency official told AFP news agency that many people had been hurt and an unspecified number had died.


from AFP:

BEIJING (AFP) — The Tibetan capital Lhasa erupted in deadly violence Friday as security forces used gunfire to quell the biggest protests against Chinese rule in two decades, officials and rights groups said.

The protests, which spread outside Tibet into other areas of China, came amid a growing international campaign by Tibetans to challenge Beijing's rule of the Himalayan region ahead of the Olympic Games in August.

Several people lost their lives and many others were injured in Lhasa on Friday, an official at the city's medical emergency centre told AFP, with Radio Free Asia reporting at least two people had been killed by Chinese bullets.


BoingBoing has an update that includes this:

At a demonstration outside the United Nations in New York, Psurbu Tsering of the Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey said its members received phone calls from Tibet claiming 70 people had been killed and 1,000 arrested. The reports could not be verified.


There are many links at the BoingBoing site for more information.

3/15/2008:

The Tibetan government in exile has pleaded with the UN to intervene in the crisis as violence escalates. from the AFP:
Tibet's government-in-exile on Saturday demanded the United Nations intervene to end what it called "urgent human rights violations" by China in the region following deadly protests.

The exiled government in Dharamshala in northern India, home to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, also said it had received "unconfirmed reports that about 100 people had been killed and martial law imposed in Lhasa."

"The Tibetan parliament urges the UN to send representatives immediately and intervene and investigate the current urgent human rights violations in Tibet," the administration said in a statement.


BBC reports that, "The authorities in Tibet have given anti-Chinese demonstrators until Monday to surrender."

Rene Laloux

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2004 of French animator René Laloux. Animation World Magazine has a retrospective on his life and work here.

He made several short films, including the following:

The Monkey's Teeth (1960):


Les Escargots (The Snails) (1965):


The Prisoner (1988):


His most famous feature length film is Fantastic Planet (1973), which won the Grand Prix at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. There is a separate post on that film here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Death's Bright Angel

Death's Bright Angel by Janet Neel is the first book in a series featuring Inspector John McLeish and Francesca Wilson. It won the John Creasy Memorial Award in 1988. It is on the list of 100 favorite mysteries of the century according to The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. The further into the book I got the less interested I was.

from the back of the book:

Death's Bright Angel introduces two of the most compelling characters on the contemporary mystery scene: Detective Inspector John McLeish, a 6'4", ex-rugby playing Scot, and Francesca Wilson, sister of a rising pop star, civil servant, and divorcee, with a knack for getting into trouble.

It seemed like a typical London mugging when the purchasing manager for Britex Fabrics, an ailing Yorkshire textile mill, was found with his head smashed in on a seedy street, his wallet and wristwatch gone. But the savagery of the crime troubled McLeish. Why hadn't the thief stopped after the first, knock-out blow?

Investigating Britex's other officers, McLeish ran into beautiful Francesca Wilson, part of a government team considering a bail-out loan. Distracted by Francesca, who managed to be both terrifically bright and appealingly scatterbrained, McLeish failed to realize that she was walking straight into mortal danger...


There are charming characters aplenty, and irresistible Francesca has to beat the men off with a stick, only she doesn't do that as she's too busy tripping over things and needing to be helped. I'll pass on the rest in this series.

Charlie Parker

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1955 of jazz saxophone player and composer Charlie "Bird" Parker.

Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker (1-hour documentary):


His official site is here. PBS has part of their American Masters site devoted to him. The Charlie Parker Residence is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mackey Repeats Iditarod Win

Associated Press:

NOME, Alaska (AP) — Defending champion Lance Mackey has won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The 37-year-old throat cancer survivor from Fairbanks and 11 dogs crossed the finish line under Nome's burled arch at 2:45 a.m. ADT Wednesday.


SportsNetwork.com:

Mackey became the first back-to-back winner since Doug Swingley captured three straight from 1999-2001. The Mackey family has now won four Iditarod races


Reuters:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - With a sneaky move near the end of the 1,100-mile (1,770-km) route in Alaska, Lance Mackey burst past four-time champion Jeff King to win his second straight Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday.

...

The crucial move, he told reporters, was quietly departing Elim, an Inupiat Eskimo village and race checkpoint 123 miles from the finish line in Nome, while King snoozed.

...

The two had been running within minutes of each other since about the race's midway point, although King's dogs were faster and were getting more rest at checkpoints, Mackey said.

"I had to do something a little different," he said. "The move in Elim was old-school but it was so old-school that they forgot about it. And I needed to pull something out of the bag."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

F. W. Murnau

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1931 at the age of 42 of film maker F. W. Murnau. FilmReference.com has an article on him. He directed Nosferatu (1922) and Faust (1926), each of which can be seen online at those links.

The Last Laugh (1924):

Roger Ebert has a review of The Last Laugh here. Senses of Cinema has an article. Bloomberg has a piece on the restoration of the film. Images Journal has an article that discusses both The Last Laugh and Faust.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) is at youtube in 9 parts. It is #25 on the Arts and Faith list of 100 most spiritually significant films. The Web of Murnau has a review and links to other resources here. FilmReference.com has an article on this film. Roger Ebert's review is here.

Filmsquish reviews it here, saying:
Murnau's Sunrise makes inspirational waves, both in the way his dramatic plot takes us to extremes of emotion while still using well known devices such as irony to tell his hero's story. All to say it's no surprise that this film's made the list of the Top 250 on IMdb. This is classic storytelling, and though old, genuinely original.

part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tennessean Out of Iditarod

from KnoxNews.com:

Franklin, Tenn., native Rodney Whaley has scratched from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The Tennessee National Guardsman is the eighth musher to drop out of the field of 86 competitors. He stopped in Cripple, Alaska, with 13 dogs.


KTUU reports:

Musher Rodney Whaley from Franklin, Tennessee, also scratched Sunday. The 55-year-old musher also cited concerns over the health of his team.

No End in Sight

This is difficult to watch. I had to watch it in short segments.



from the official site:

The first film of its kind to chronicle the reasons behind Iraq’s descent into guerilla war, warlord rule, criminality and anarchy, NO END IN SIGHT is a jaw-dropping, insider’s tale of wholesale incompetence, recklessness and venality. Based on over 200 hours of footage, the film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad during the Spring of 2003), Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, and General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003) as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts. NO END IN SIGHT examines the manner in which the principal errors of U.S. policy – the use of insufficient troop levels, allowing the looting of Baghdad, the purging of professionals from the Iraqi government, and the disbanding of the Iraqi military – largely created the insurgency and chaos that engulf Iraq today. How did a group of men with little or no military experience, knowledge of the Arab world or personal experience in Iraq come to make such flagrantly debilitating decisions? NO END IN SIGHT dissects the people, issues and facts behind the Bush Administration’s decisions and their consequences on the ground to provide a powerful look into how arrogance and ignorance turned a military victory into a seemingly endless and deepening nightmare of a war.


from the wikipedia entry:

No End in Sight is a documentary film that focuses on alleged serious mistakes made by the Bush administration in the two year period following the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The film portrays these errors as the cause of ensuing problems in Iraq, such as the rise of the insurgency, a lack of security and basic utilities for many Iraqis, sectarian violence and, at one point, the risk of complete civil war.

To a large extent the film consists of interviews with the people who were involved in the initial Iraqi occupation authority and the ORHA (the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, later replaced by the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority). 35 people are interviewed, many of them former Bush loyalists who have since become disillusioned by what they experienced at the time. In particular, many of those interviewed claim that the inexperience of the core members of the Bush administration—and their refusal to seek, acknowledge or accept input from more experienced outsiders—was at the root of the disastrous occupation effort.


HT: Strange Culture

Yevgeny Zamyatin


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1937 of Russian science fiction writer Yevgeny Zamyatin. His dystopian novel We was influential on authors George Orwell, Ayn Rand and Kurt Vonnegut.

It can be read in English online here. I still have the paperback copy I read when I was in high school in the 70's. I remember how it impressed me.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Test of Wills

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd, a mother-son writing team, is the first in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series. I like this one well enough to seek out the others in the series, and I'll be interested in seeing how Rutledge develops. Most of the characters are well-developed (though the females do have a certain sameness about them), and I found the book a page-turner.

from the back of the book:

It's 1919, and the War to End All Wars has been won. But for Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge, recently returned from the battlefields of France, there is no peace. Suffering from shell shock, tormented by the mocking, ever-present voice of the young Scot he had executed for refusing to fight, Rutledge plunges into his work to save his sanity. But his first assignment is a case certain to spell disaster, personally and professionally.

In Warwickshire, a popular colonel has been murdered, and the main suspect is a decorated war hero and close friend of the Prince of Wales. The case is a political minefield, and no matter what the outcome, Rutledge may not escape with his career intact. But, win or lose, the cost could be even higher: the one witness who could break the case is himself a shell shock victim, teetering on the edge of reality. And in this war-ravaged man, Rutledge sees his own possible future, should he lose grip on his mind....


A Test of Wills is on the list of 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's online members.

Stan Brakhage

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2003 of American experimental film maker Stan Brakhage.

Mothlight (1963):


I...Dreaming (1988):


Black Ice (1994):


Senses of Cinema has an article here. There are numerous resources linked from this page. Criterion has articles here. UBUWEB has video and audio of Brakhage at their site. The Brooklyn Rail has an article.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 130

1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.

2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.

8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

KJV

40 Days of Prayer

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Havana Heat

Havana Heat is one of the Lupe Solano mysteries by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera.

from the back of the book:

Feisty, fiery Cuban-American p.i. Lupe Solana knows her way in and out of every tight corner of her tropical Miami home. But now things are about to get hotter for Lupe than they have ever gotten before.

A fabled art masterpiece allegedly left behind in Castro's Cuba has Lupe Solana intrigued — and contemplating an undercover excursion into the deadly heart of out-of-bounds Havana. But when the murder of a shady business contact is followed closely by another criminally assisted death, Lupe is suddenly searching for connections between the two local homicides and her covert art-rescue mission. Because it's beginning to look more and more as if Lupe's own life depends upon her making them...


The book held my attention and I found it interesting throughout, but I didn't feel the need to hear details of every meal she ate. The meals are described with much more thoroughness than I care about. It is annoying, and I find it intrudes in the story much more than it adds color to the story. This is yet another series where I like the first book well enough but not enough to read more.

Blanche on the Lam

Blanche on the Lam is the first in the Blanche White mystery series by Barbara Neely. I am not finishing this one. This book doesn't have enough going on to entice me to continue. It won the 1993 Macavity Award, the 1992 Agatha Award and the 1993 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, but I'm having trouble understanding what made this particular effort outstanding enough to win. Ah, well, I'm not finding it interesting enough to keep reading and discover its more hidden qualities.

from the back of the book:

It's hard enough making ends meet on the pittance Blanche White earns doing day work for the genteel Southern families of North Carolina. But when her fourth bad check lands her a jail sentence, Blanche goes on the lam.

Inadvertently, she finds work at the summer home of a wealthy family, the members of which have plenty of their own secrets. And when a dead body is discovered, Blanche finds herself the prime suspect. Using her wit and intelligence — not to mention the remarkably efficient old-girl network among domestic workers — she gets to work uncovering the real killer before she lands in more hot water.

A Great Deliverance

I don't know what I expected from Elizabeth George's A Great Deliverance, but I didn't expect this kind of grim, explicit deviance. I had hoped, as this is the first of the Inspector Lynley mysteries, that I would be at the beginning of an enjoyable series. I have instead, found a series to avoid.

from the back of the book:

To this day, the low, thin wail of an infant can be heard in Keldale's lush green valleys. Three hundred years ago, as legend goes, the freightened Yorkshire villagers smothered a crying babe in Keldale Abbey, where they'd hidden to escape the ravages of Cromwell's raiders.

Now, into this pastoral web of old houses and older secrets comes Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton. Along with the redoubtable Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, Lynley has been sent to solve a savage murder which has stunned the peaceful countryside. For fat, unlovely Roberta Teys has been found in her best dress, an axe in her lap, seated in the old stone barn beside her father's headless corpse. Her first and last words were: "I did it. I'm not sorry."

Yet as Lynley and Havers wind their way through Keldale's dark labyrinth of secret scandals, they uncover a shattering series of revelations that will reverberate through this tranquil English valley - and in their own lives as well.


There is lots of gore and graphic description of child sexual abuse and the long-term effects it has on individuals and families. Not my idea of an enjoyable reading experience.

A Great Deliverance is on the list of 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's online members.