Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fleming's Casino Royale

Having shared the recent Casino Royale film with me, The Younger Son loaned me the James Bond book by Ian Fleming on which the movie was based. I like the movie better -unusual for me, but I find the book disturbing in how it treats women. They are mostly invisible except as objects to be used. Violence against women seems to be considered a matter of course not out of the ordinary. I think I'll stick with the films from now on. I'm glad I read it, though, as I'd never read one before but had a friend in high school who read and loved them all.

The Ian Fleming Centenary, which takes place this year, has a site. There's a major exhibition here.


Ian Fleming: A Centennial Tribute

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shelby County makes news at BoingBoing

and that ain't a good thing. This isn't the kind of attention I like:

The Sheriff's Office in Shelby County, Tennessee, is warning locals to turn in anyone who takes too many pictures of bridges or shopping malls, because they might be scouting for Al Qaeda, who are clearly slavering at the opportunity to make a gigantic media splash by getting up to some serious naughtiness on the "iconic Hernando DeSoto Bridge."

Catherine of Siena

Today is the feast day of Catherine of Siena, who died on this date in 1380. There is more information on her in the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Society of Archbishop Justus, the Catholic Information Network and nndb. The Dialog of Catherine of Siena can be read online here.

The picture above is by Tiepolo.

Alfred Hitchcock

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1980 of Alfred Hitchcock. I have seen many of his films, including The 39 Steps, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Secret Agent, Sabotage, The Lady Vanishes and Psycho.

I have not yet seen the 2 embedded below.

Number Seventeen (1932):

Jamaica Inn (1939):

We have many DVDs of his work.

Hitchcock also did lots of television.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jeremiah Wright

The Bill Moyers interview with Jeremiah Wright can be viewed here at the PBS site.

The photo above is from I didn't see copyright info there.

Alexander Scriabin

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1915 of Russian composer and pianist Alexander Scriabin.

Scriabin playing his Op. 8 No. 12 Patetico Etude in D# minor:

Evgeny Kissin plays the same piece:

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 66

1 Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:

2 Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.

3 Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.

4 All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.

5 Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.

6 He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.

7 He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.

8 O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard:

9 Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.

10 For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.

11 Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.

12 Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.

13 I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows,

14 Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.

15 I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah.

16 Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.

17 I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue.

18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

19 But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.


Saturday, April 26, 2008


The Elder Son loaned me Abarat by Clive Barker, thinking I might like it. I do. It is intended, I think, as a book for children or "young adults" (whatever that means), but I find it enjoyable on an adult level. There is a sequel, which The Elder Son has also loaned me. The book is extravagantly illustrated in color throughout, and the pictures of the creatures are wonderful.

from the inside dust jacket:

Once upon a world
where time is place
a journey beyond imagination
is about to unfold....

It begins in the most boring place in the world: Chickentown, U.S.A. Candy Quackenbush lives in Chickentown, her heart bursting for some clue as to what her future might hold.

When the answer comes, it's not one she expects. Out of nowhere comes a wave, and Candy, led by a man called John Mischief (whose brothers live on the horns on his head), leaps into the surging waters and is carried away.

Where? To the ABARAT: a vast archipelago where every island is a different hour of the day, from the Great Head that sits in the mysterious twilight waters of Eight in the Evening, to the sunlit wonders of Three in the Afternoon, where dragons roam, to the dark terrors of Gorgossium, the island of Midnight, ruled over by the Prince of Midnight himself, Christopher Carrion.

As Candy journeys from one amazing place to another, making fast friends and encountering treacherous foes -- mechanical bugs and giant moths, miraculous cats and men made of mud, a murderous wizard and his terrified slave-she begins to realize something. She has been here before.

Candy has a place in this extraordinary world: she is here to help save the Abarat from the dark forces that are stirring at its heart. Forces older than Time itself, and more evil than anything Candy has ever encountered.

She's a strange heroine, she knows. But this is a strange world.

And in the Abarat, all things are possible.

LibraryThing's Most Unread Books

Evolving Thoughts has a list of "the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users". Ones I've read are in bold print. Ones I own but have not yet read are in italics.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion -begun, not finished
Life of Pi: a novel -for a book club
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses -begun, not finished
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies -begun, not finished
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex -for a book club
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West -for a book club
The Canterbury tales
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum -I have it but have never started it
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible: a novel
Angels & Demons -I've never heard of this one
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay -for a book club
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time -for a book club
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes: a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present
Cryptonomicon -I started it but have never finished it
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth -another one I've never heard of
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Friday, April 25, 2008

Road to Morocco

Third in the Road to... series starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, Road to Morocco also stars Anthony Quinn.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sidney Peterson

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2000 at the age of 94 of American film maker Sidney Peterson. His 18-minute short film The Lead Shoes (1949) can be viewed online here at UbuWeb, where there is also an essay on the film.

from that essay:
In our daily lives, we think of the world around us with a definite space and a definite flow of time. The Lead Shoes prove that it is not so hard to throw us off-balance both in space and in time.
Peterson makes us aware that space and time are more complicated than we think they are and they should be experienced in a more open-minded way.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth is an Academy Award-winning documentary. /film reports a sequel is in the works.

St. George

Today is the feast day of Saint George of Merry England of Dragon fame. He is the patron saint of many groups, including lepers, Palestine and Palestinian Christians.

A Novena in honor of St. George:
Say once a day for 9 days, especially beginning on 14 April and ending on 22 April, the eve of the Feast of St. George.

Almighty and eternal God! With lively faith and reverently worshiping Thy divine Majesty, I prostrate myself before Thee and invoke with filial trust Thy supreme bounty and mercy. Illumine the darkness of my intellect with a ray of Thy heavenly light and inflame my heart with the fire of Thy divine love, that I may contemplate the great virtues and merits of the saint in whose honor I make this novena, and following his example imitate, like him, the life of Thy divine Son.

Moreover, I beseech Thee to grant graciously, through the merits and intercession of this powerful Helper, the petition which through him I humbly place before Thee, devoutly saving, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Vouchsafe graciously to hear it, if it redounds to Thy greater glory and to the salvation of my soul. Amen.

O God, who didst grant to Saint George strength and constancy in the various torments which he sustained for our holy faith; we beseech Thee to preserve, through his intercession, our faith from wavering and doubt, so that we may serve Thee with a sincere heart faithfully unto death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end.

My Lord and my God! I offer up to Thee my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever virgin, and of all the saints, particularly with those of the holy Helper in whose honor I make this novena.

Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Thy grace and Thy love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.

The picture at the top of the post is of Raphael's painting of St. George.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm a liberal

I took The World's Smallest Political Quiz. My results:


The political group that agrees with you most is...


LIBERALS usually embrace freedom of choice in personal matters, but tend to support significant government control of the economy. They generally support a government-funded "safety net" to help the disadvantaged, and advocate strict regulation of business. Liberals tend to favor environmental regulations, defend civil liberties and free expression, support government action to promote equality, and tolerate diverse lifestyles.

The RED DOT on the Chart shows where you fit on the political map.

Your PERSONAL issues Score is 100%.
Your ECONOMIC issues Score is 20%.

Yes She Can!

Hillary can too still win!

Here's how:

HT: LeftWingCracker

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Body in the Snowdrift

The Body in the Snowdrift by Katherine Hall Page won the 2005 Agatha Award. It's one in a series about a caterer named Faith Fairchild who is married to a priest with whom she has 2 children.

from the back of the book:

Caterer Faith Fairchild has a bad feeling about her father-in-law's decision to celebrate his seventieth birthday with a family reunion ski week at the Pine Slopes resort in Vermont - the Fairchilds' favorite getaway since Faith's husband, the Reverend Thomas Fairchild, was a toddler. At first her unease seems unfounded - until Faith comes across a corpse on one of the cross-country trails, the apparent victim of a heart attack.

Then one catastrophe follows another: the mysterious disappearance of the Pine Slopes' master chef, a malicious prank at the sports center, a break-in at the Fairchild condo, the sabotage of a chairlift. And when a fatal "accident" with the snow-making machines stains the slopes blood red, Faith realizes she'll have to work fast to solve a murderous puzzle - because suddenly not only are the reunion and the beloved resort's future in jeopardy ... but Faith's life is as well.

I don't like mysteries in which the main character keeps listing the suspects and their points of interest, and this book is definitely guilty of that. Culinary delights are described throughout the book with parenthetical page numbers where recipes can be found. Not really my thing. There are several pathetically immature marriages we get to know that don't contribute to the plot and far too many characters for me to easily keep straight.

This is not going on my list of favorites, and, although it was interesting enough to finish, it wasn't interesting enough to motivate me to read more in the series.

Bill Clinton Endorses Obama?

in 2004:

HT: O'DonnellWeb

Michael Moore Endorses Obama

excerpts from his statement at

...over the past two months, the actions and words of Hillary Clinton have gone from being merely disappointing to downright disgusting. I guess the debate last week was the final straw. I've watched Senator Clinton and her husband play this game of appealing to the worst side of white people, but last Wednesday, when she hurled the name "Farrakhan" out of nowhere, well that's when the silly season came to an early end for me. She said the "F" word to scare white people, pure and simple. Of course, Obama has no connection to Farrakhan. But, according to Senator Clinton, Obama's pastor does -- AND the "church bulletin" once included a Los Angeles Times op-ed from some guy with Hamas! No, not the church bulletin!

This sleazy attempt to smear Obama was brilliantly explained the following night by Stephen Colbert. He pointed out that if Obama is supported by Ted Kennedy, who is Catholic, and the Catholic Church is led by a Pope who was in the Hitler Youth, that can mean only one thing: OBAMA LOVES HITLER!

Yes, Senator Clinton, that's how you sounded. Like you were nuts. Like you were a bigot stoking the fires of stupidity. How sad that I would ever have to write those words about you. You have devoted your life to good causes and good deeds. And now to throw it all away for an office you can't win unless you smear the black man so much that the superdelegates cry "Uncle (Tom)" and give it all to you.

But that can't happen. You cast your die when you voted to start this bloody war. When you did that you were like Moses who lost it for a moment and, because of that, was prohibited from entering the Promised Land.


Finally, I want to say a word about the basic decency I have seen in Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton continues to throw the Rev. Wright up in his face as part of her mission to keep stoking the fears of White America. Every time she does this I shout at the TV, "Say it, Obama! Say that when she and her husband were having marital difficulties regarding Monica Lewinsky, who did she and Bill bring to the White House for 'spiritual counseling?' THE REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT!"

But no, Obama won't throw that at her. It wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be decent. She's been through enough hurt. And so he remains silent and takes the mud she throws in his face.

That's why the crowds who come to see him are so large. That's why he'll take us down a more decent path. ...

HT: The Huffington Post

Top 25 Creationist Fallacies

A Primer to Creationist Fallacies, Blunders and Tactical Trickery:

My favorite, of course, is the false dichotomy which sets up belief in God and acceptance of the theory of evolution as mutually exclusive.

I suppose it might be reason enough to watched Ben Stein's new Expelled video -to look for these logical fallacies and make a count of how many of them are used.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Mirrormask is a film The Younger Son and I loved when we saw it about a year ago. The Daughter had never seen it, so we showed it to her tonight. She liked it, too!

Here's what I wrote last year:

I'd been wanting to watch this movie since before it was released, but it was just too expensive. And then I found it used for $1.99. Nice!

Mirrormask is a Jim Henson Company film written by Neal Gaiman. The visual imagery is the real star of the show, but the movie itself was delightful, too, and easily viewable again.

Here's the trailer:

Here's the scene with the giants:

Roger Ebert says,
"MirrorMask" must have been a labor of love to make. Watching it is also a labor of love.

Locus Online's review concludes:
What you have here is a visually breathtaking and original film with a mostly second-hand plot. It's worth your six or seven bucks for the visuals alone. It also has the best use ever of a Carpenter's song. Trust us.

Cinematical's review opens with these words:
Anyone expecting Labyrinth 2: Back In Hot Water from the dark, Henson-produced fantasy MirrorMask will be disappointed, though creator/comic book god Neil Gaiman's many fans will thrill to finally see the writer's imagination so undiluted on the screen.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 31

1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.

2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.

3 For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.

4 Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.

5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.

6 I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD.

7 I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;

8 And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.

9 Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.

10 For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.

11 I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me.

12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.

13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.

14 But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God.

15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

16 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies' sake.

17 Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.

18 Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

19 Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!

20 Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the LORD: for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city.

22 For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.

23 O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.

24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Coffee Prevents Dementia

Well, maybe, but it's worth a try....

The picture is from RefractedMoments Flickr page.

How old are you

on Mercury? Or Pluto?

Check here and see.

The picture is from NASA.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Casino Royale

The Younger Son assured me I would like Daniel Craig as Blond, James Blond, even though I've always preferred Sean Connery as 007. I must admit he was right. I do like the humor with which Connery plays the part, but this new Bond really is perfect.

Casino Royale (2006) trailer:

Thor Heyerdahl

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2002 of writer adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. I remember reading his book about the Kon-Tiki expedition and finding it fascinating. I read it several times while I was a teenager.

There is a page here that has information, photos and links. Go Norway has information in their Famous Norwegians section. The Bradshaw Foundation has excerpts from his lectures. The Kon-Tiki Museum has a web presence here.

The picture above is from Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Power and the Glory

I've read several books by Graham Greene, but it's been a while since my last one.

from the back of the book:

The last priest is on the run. During an anti-clerical purge in one of the southern states of Mexico, he is hunted like a hare. Too human for heroism, too humble for martyrdom, the little worldly ´whisky priest´ is nevertheless impelled towards his squalid Calvary as much by his own compassion for humanity as by the efforts of his pursuers. A baleful vulture of doom hovers over this modern crucifixion story, but above the vulture soars an eagle - the inevitability of the Church´s triumph.

The Power and the Glory is one of Time's top 100 novels. Greene's comments on the book are here.

This is a powerful book -depressing and uplifting at the same time- and ultimately about redemption.

William Hope Hodgson

Today is the anniversary of the death at Ypres in WWI in 1918 of sff/horror author William Hope Hodgson. His most famous work is the novel The House on the Borderland, published in 1908 and available online here and here. Links to some of his other works online are here. H.P. Lovecraft's essay on Supernatural Horror in Literature says,

Mr. Hodgson is perhaps second only to Algernon Blackwood in his serious treatment of unreality. Few can equal him in adumbrating the nearness of nameless forces and monstrous besieging entities through casual hints and insignificant details, or in conveying feelings of the spectral and the abnormal in connection with regions or buildings.

Hodgson was also a noted body builder and ran a school of "physical culture" when a young man. He appeared on stage with Houdini in response to Houdini's challenge to anyone who could bind him so he couldn't escape. PBS reports the event as part of their Houdini timeline at their American Experience site. Hodgson succeeded in the task but angered Houdini in the process.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Biosphere

Written instructions and a list of "ingredients" can be found in this pdf file.

I remember there used to be a nature store at the mall that sold globes that were like this, something like Edmund Scientific sells here:

I always thought that they were cool but never really trusted that they would last.

Bruce Springsteen Endorses Barack Obama


Dear Friends and Fans:

Like most of you, I've been following the campaign and I have now seen and heard enough to know where I stand. Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest.

He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where "...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone."

At the moment, critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships. While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision, so well described in his excellent book, Dreams From My Father, often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues: war and peace, the fight for economic and racial justice, reaffirming our Constitution, and the protection and enhancement of our environment.

After the terrible damage done over the past eight years, a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken. I believe that Senator Obama is the best candidate to lead that project and to lead us into the 21st Century with a renewed sense of moral purpose and of ourselves as Americans.

Over here on E Street, we're proud to support Obama for President.


HT: Queer Notes

Pope Trivia Test

Here's the test.

I got 80%.

HT: Faith Central

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Debt We Trust

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

part 4:

part 5:

part 6:

part 7:

part 8:

part 9:

Father Damien

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1889 of Father Damien, whose cause for canonization is ongoing.

I have seen one movie based on his life. There are some photos of the island and the church here. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a short biography, as do the National Park Service and EWTN.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I've been seeing all the broo ha ha about this film, and I thought I'd start a list of link sites relating to it. The only way I'll ever see the movie is if it gets uploaded to youtube.

Expelled Exposed is a National Center for Science Education resource site. Lots of great links.

There's a great list of links at Greg Laden's blog.

My favorite story so far is the priceless tale of PZ Myers getting Expelled from Expelled while Richard Dawkins went unrecognized and got to experience the film unhindered.

update 4/17/2008:
There's been a flap about the film containing images for which they had no permissions for use. Now it seems they used music without permission, including John Lennon's "Imagine" owned now by Yoko Ono. She is apparently not a happy camper. I saw the news at Panda's Thumb. They are claiming fair use rights since the clip is less than 25 seconds long. I'm a big advocate of Fair Use but don't know if this particular use qualifies.

There's also a wonderful report that "they" from PZ Myers to Ben Stein are in cahoots to bring down Creationism/ID. I love conspiracy theories.

Threads From Henry's Web, the blog of a Methodist author, has a post which says in part,
The problem I have is that Expelled! is also squeezing some folks out, and they are making Christianity Today a co-conspirator in that process. The ones squeezed out? All those Christians, even evangelical Christians who would like much of what Christianity Today publishes, but who accept the theory of evolution.

This is one of the many problems with this movie. It frames the controversy as one between theists and atheists, between moral people and immoral people, and thus leaves out Christian evolutionists, moral atheists, and many people who are not particularly religious or anti-religious, but are simply out there doing the best science they can. As one of those Christian evolutionists, I find this implication appalling. According to this movie and its promoters, I’m a co-conspirator with a bunch of Nazis to persecute Christians.

There've been so many articles on Expelled I didn't add them here, but now that it's been released I thought I'd add some links to comments I've seen.

Evolving Thoughts thinks the Creationism/ID folks should be given the press because it leads to more people learning about science.

Quintessence of Dust wants to expose up to the alternative Stork Theory.

Reasons to Believe sees the movie as harmful to the cause, explaining,
In Reasons To Believe's interaction with professional scientists, scientific institutions, universities, and publishers of scientific journals we have encountered no significant evidence of censorship, blackballing, or disrespect.

Exploring Our Matrix pointed me to the AAAS statement. They also have links to a few interesting blog posts and reviews.

The Panda's Thumb has the numbers on the film's opening week-end. They also report the numbers from RottenTomatoes, comment on a review from Waco, Texas, a link to the NYT review, a link to Scientific American's report on Ben Stein's quote mining, a link to the Ayn Rand Institute's press release and much more. A great place to keep up with reporting on the "documentary".

Dispatches From the Culture Wars says it flopped.

Exploring the Matrix has a couple more links here and here.

Reviews by Higgaion and EvolutionBlog.

Pharyngula has links to a thorough review of the official Expelled study guide.

The Questionable Authority is one of many bloggers discussing the attempt to spin the opening of Expelled as an unmitigated success.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars has more links.

Alternet has a review, which closes with this:
Mencken's remarks that we have the right to hold controversial and even stupid beliefs is not without merit. It's a beautiful idea, and a wonderfully American notion -- this innate sense of democratic principles that we all have a say in how things should be.

Expelled takes this idea and perverts it, arguing that truth and evidence is irrelevant. All sides should be treated as equal.

But as Mencken said, free speech does not give one the right to demand that these ideas be treated as sacred.

Scroll down to see the review at the blog The Evolution of a Creationist, which closes with this:
So what is making me angry? Honestly, it's the fact that one year ago I would have fallen for Stein's presentation—hook, line, and sinker. I'm also angry at how easily Christians fall for half-truths and outright lies. I'm angry at how often we Christians check our brains at the door and are perfectly willing to serve as messenger boys for the most outrageous urban legends, folk sciences, doctrines, and just plain idiotic belief systems. I'm angry at Christianity's penchant for dismissing the claims of biological and astronomical science despite the voluminous amount of evidence in favor of evolution.

NationalReviewOnline voices this opinion of the basic problem with ID as evidenced in Expelled:

They overhauled creationism as “intelligent design,” roped in a handful of eccentric non-Christian cranks keen for a well-funded vehicle to help them push their own flat-earth theories, and set about presenting themselves to the public as “alternative science" engaged in a “controversy” with a closed-minded, reactionary “science establishment” fearful of new ideas. (Ignoring the fact that without a constant supply of new ideas, there would be nothing for scientists to do.) Nothing to do with religion at all!

I think this willful act of deception has corrupted creationism irredeemably. The old Biblical creationists were, in my opinion, wrong-headed, but they were mostly honest people. The “intelligent design” crowd lean more in the other direction.

GetReligion says, "The film, starring Ben Stein, argues that Intelligent Design should not be systematically excluded from academia. It doesn’t argue for Intelligent Design or against Darwinism so much as for academic freedom" and argues that the documentary should be taken more seriously and given more press by mainstream media. This response surprised me. It's my understanding that the film is filled with "facts" that aren't and the worst sort of propaganda. The fact that it did reasonably well at the box office does not make me expect the mainstream film reviewers and news reporters to think it deserving of press. I see a definite difference between Expelled and the Gore and Michael Moore movies, which are at least based on verifiable facts.

Boston Globe's review sees the film as a sure sign that Science is in trouble and closes with this:
"Expelled" is a shoddy piece of propaganda that props up the failures of Intelligent Design by playing the victim card. It deceives its audiences, slanders the scientific community, and contributes mightily to a climate of hostility to science itself. Stein is doing nothing less than helping turn a generation of American youth away from science. If we actually come to believe that science leads to murder, then we deserve to lose world leadership in science. In that sense, the word "expelled" may have a different and more tragic connotation for our country than Stein intended.

Panda's Thum continues to post links to reviews and articles as they are published.


Thomas Robb (HT: Dispatches from the Culture Wars) says that the Jewish Ben Stein has made this movie in order to promote race mixing in the Christian community. Amazing. Why didn't I see that coming. Hobb says,
The message of the movie is not about creationism but to trap Christians into accepting, tolerating, promoting and engaging in interracial relationships and marriage. After all as Christians we don’t want to promote the evils of Darwin - do we? The trap has been set - don't get caught!

You can't make this stuff up.


The United Methodist Reporter has a review which focuses on the appeal to emotion in the film but gives the factual errors a pass.

Rachel Carson

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1964 of Rachel Carson. I remember discovering her book Silent Spring while I was in high school, and it impressed me to the point where I was a real pain around the house, mentioning its relevant points whenever the opportunity arose. I remember when DDT was banned here partly in response to that book. It didn't take me long to discover some of her other works: Under the Sea Wind, The Sea Around Us and The Edge of the Sea.

Her birthplace has a website. She has a website here. Time named her one of the 100 most influential people of the century. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services site has a page devoted to her which includes many helpful links. Bill Moyers looks at her life and legacy. She is a charter inductee of Ecotopia's Ecology Hall of Fame.

This is a 2-minute intro to her work:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Margaret of Castello

I used to have a book about Blessed Margaret of Castello (she was called Margaret of Metola in the book), and it may still be around here somewhere. Today is the anniversary of her death in 1320. She is the one who was born a blind, deformed, hunchback midget and whose parents locked her up so no one would see her until she was 14 years old, at which time they took her to a shrine to pray for a cure. When no cure came they abandoned her there.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


The picture above is Jean-Francois Millet's Return of the Flock.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Prayer Hours

Click here to see the form for prayer suitable for the current date/hour.

The photo is from bhsher's Flickr page.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Freeware Games

This is a list of top 10 freeware games from 2007.

What does it say about me that I've never even heard of any of them? Maybe you'd best not answer that.

The Prestige

The Prestige is a 2006 film based on a Christopher Priest novel I haven't read. It stars Michael Caine, which is always a good sign, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and has David Bowie as Nikola Tesla.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

This is a one-hour lecture by Elizabeth Warren, who was interviewed in Maxed Out and Secret History of the Credit Card. She has authored books, but I have not read them.

This is an illuminating video. She compares the inflation-adjusted income and expenses for a 2-parent/2-child household from the early 1970's with that of a similar family from the early 2000's -the space of one generation. It's an everything-you-know-is-wrong moment and an important situation to give serious attention to. She fears we're moving from a 3-class society (in which there are a few rich and a few poor with a large majority of people firmly in a stable middle class) to a 2-class society (in which a slightly larger group of rich people is at the top and everybody else falls into a group of folks at high risk who can never hope to achieve firm financial footing).

I wish the Q&A had been included.

HT: Economist's View

Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Secret Mission

Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Secret Mission is the 2nd in this series by Michael Bond and the 3rd one I've read. I read one back in June and another one this past February. This is my least favorite so far, but it is still a fun read.

from the back of the book:

Monsieur Pamplemousse has been summoned by the director of Le Guide, the prestigious culinary magazine for which Pamplemousse writes restaurant reviews, on a matter of utmost secrecy. The director is in a pickle: his wife's aunt, whose restaurant perpetrates some of the worst food in France, is demanding inclusion in the next issue of Le Guide.

The Hotel du Paradis, home of Aunt Louise's restaurant, is a place of little comfort, and neither Pamplemousse nor his trusty dog Pommes Frites can sleep after their first dinner. But the problem is not merely indigestion. Some items served to Pamplemousse-and slipped under the table to the eager Pommes Frites-contained an aphrodisiac of undeniable potency.

So Pamplemousse must solve not only the director's problem but also the perplexing question of who is spiking this awful food-and why. Along the way he encounters a baguette of bizarre proportions and an all-girl marching band with amour on their minds. Add a soupcon of danger and intrigue-voila!-pure delight!

Singin' Star Trek Actors

Well, we've seen Shatner do it to Shakespeare, Rocketman and Taxi, and we've seen Nimoy do it to Bilbo. Watch George Takei do it to country music:

He practices, critiqued by the ST:TOS crew:

HT: The Husband

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Smelly Tassie

According to Environmental Grafitti the Tasmanian Devil is one of the 7 smelliest creatures in the world:

According to some who have encountered it in the wild its stench can never be forgotten. It’s said to reek of death which, along with its ghastly cries and vicious feeding behavior, may have given it its reputation as a fearsome creature. In reality, the devil is shy and solitary and doesn’t generally go around stinking up the joint. They aren’t even particularly prolific hunters, preferring to get together and chow down on carrion. It’s only when the devil is agitated that it starts to produce its horrible smell.

The photo above is taken from the wikipedia site.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Spin by Robert Charles Wilson won the Hugo in 2006. I was drawn into this one. It's not a straight chronological narrative. Although it all happens from one character's perspective the time shifts back and forth so you get hints of some future events long before they occur.

There were mentions of several science fiction books, which I found intriguing since I had read all of them. There were mentions of jazz musicians scattered through the book, and there was a self-comparison of one of the characters to Gloria Swanson's part in Sunset Boulevard. The thread in the novel having to do with the red calf in Biblical prophecy was interesting to me since I've known people who interpreted the Bible in the same way as some of the people in the book.

from the back of the book:

The time is the day after tomorrow, and three adolescents-Diane and Jason Lawton, twins, and their best friend, Tyler Dupree-are out stargazing. Thus they witness the erection of a planet-spanning shield around the globe, blocking out the universe. Spin chronicles the next 30-odd years in the lives of the trio, during which 300 billion years will pass outside the shield, thanks to an engineered time discontinuity. Jason, a genius, will invest his celibate life in unraveling cosmological mysteries. Tyler will become a doctor and act as our narrator and as Jason's confidante, while nursing his unrequited love for Diane, who in turn plunges into religious fanaticism. Along the way human-descended Martians will appear, bringing a drug that can elevate humans to the Fourth State, ‘an adulthood beyond adulthood.’ But will even this miracle be enough to save Earth?

Scifidimensions reviews it here. SFSignal has a review here. covers it here.

SFReviews describes it this way:

Narrative techniques that from other writers might seem gimmicky or formulaic are handled with great finesse. Spin has a flashback structure, but its utilized sparingly, in a way that enhances your involvement. You really want to find out how our heroes got from there to here, and it's immensely satisfying to see how loose threads are carefully tied together, one by one. Wilson also isn't above the time-honored tradition of ending chapters on surprise reveals and cliffhangers, but compare how skilfully he does it

SFSite says,

What there is is a novel which, by grounding itself in real characters with real emotions, is all the more successful in its evocation of the sense of wonder that we expect from SF. Wilson has hit upon one of those basic dilemmas of human existence: How do you maintain a sense of hope and purpose in a universe where, the more you learn about it, the more it seems to have little or no room for either? Spin addresses the issue with style and substance, an approach that makes for one of the best science fiction novels of this or any year.

Homeschooler Public Relations

It's great to see the 51-page booklet THE HOMESCHOOLING IMAGE: Public Relations Basics free here. It assumes a willingness to actively participate in media events, interact with reporters and develop a public "face". Given those desires, this resource is invaluable.


Laura Nyro

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1997 of singer/songwriter/pianist Laura Nyro. I had several of her LPs/cassettes but have none of her CDs. There's a Facebook group here. Her official homepage marks the date:
The saddest part is that there are no new memories to be made. The gladdest part is that Laura's music is alive, vital, and accessible. Both her genius and her persona can still fill the room through her sound, and that's a wonderful, ongoing gift.

Save the Country:

I had another post on her last year.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bob Dylan has won a Pulitzer Prize

A Special Citation to Bob Dylan for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.


Blowin' in the Wind (1963):

The Times They Are A'Changin' (1964):

Like a Rolling Stone (1965):

Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965):

Tangled Up in Blue (1975):

All 5 of these embedded songs are on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Dowsing of the Torch

China ain't winnin' the public relations race in the pre-Olympics festivities, that's for sure. There have been effective protests in Greece (when the torch was lit), in London, in France -BBC report here- (where police had assured all that security would be impenetrable) and now California (where the torch has yet to arrive).

The Housing Panic blog has some pictures, a video and an interesting suggestion. BoingBoing has had some posts on the ongoing news.


Pew Forum reports:
A federal religious freedom watchdog panel has urged President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics unless "there is substantial improvement" in China's treatment of Tibet.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said China must open "direct and concrete talks" with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibetan Buddhism, before Bush attends the opening ceremonies.

If those talks do not occur, the nine-member commission called on Bush to first visit the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, and urged Bush to request a meeting with Chinese political prisoners or dissidents during his visit.

Yahoo sports reports:
No person with even a modicum of sense could have believed the Olympics would cause China to reverse course on human rights, democracy, freedom and the environment. To believe it overnight would turn into Switzerland is not gambling, it's insanity.

Nor would anyone think that freedom seekers in Tibet, their cries mostly ignored for the last 50 years, would decide to just stand down as world attention finally turns to them just because they didn't want to embarrass the very government they believe persecutes them.
The Olympic torch makes its lone appearance in the United States Wednesday when it will be run along the waterfront in San Francisco. Crowds of protestors are expected to jeer its every flicker, if not try to extinguish it. This comes after disruptions in Greece, England and France as regular citizens do what little they can to rage against Chinese oppression and IOC corruption.

The Perfect Library

The Telegraph has a list! A wonderful list! I love these kinds of things, 'cause I'm always looking for more suggestions for books to buy. Heaven knows that's what I need -More Books!

They have annotations at the site, but here are the classics suggestions:

The Illiad and The Odyssey

The Barchester Chronicles
Anthony Trollope

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen

Gulliver's Travels
Jonathan Swift

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë

War and Peace

David Copperfield
Charles Dickens

Vanity Fair
William Makepeace Thackeray

Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert

George Eliot

I've got this covered, except I can't find Vanity Fair. I had a copy in high school, and I don't remember getting rid of it, but it's disappeared at some point during the many intervening years.

Their literary fiction choices:

The Portrait of a Lady
Henry James

A la recherche du temps perdu

James Joyce

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway

Sword of Honour trilogy
Evelyn Waugh

The Ballad of Peckham Rye
Muriel Spark

Rabbit series
John Updike

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez

Toni Morrison

The Human Stain
Philip Roth

I have the ones in bold print.

They also have lists for crime novels, children's books, poetry, romantic fiction, sci fi, books that changed the world, books that changed your world, history and lives. This list is well worth considering, but I'm glad I have space enough to have lots more books than they suggest.

HT: SFSignal, where they pull out the SFF suggestions.

"Trekkie" Test

1. Yes
2. No, but I'm not into the whole weapons "thing". You can have your very own for just $69.99, though, and it'd look cool on the right wall. Not my wall, mind, but the right wall.
3. Yes

But "trekkie"? Trekkie???

Please. I'm insulted.

More about the bat'leth here at Memory Alpha.

HT: Locusts & Honey

Tom Waits' Road to Peace

Tom Waits is a Methodist.

HT: The Elder Son

Sunday, April 06, 2008

American Imperialism

Empire or Humanity? What the Classroom Didn't Teach Me about the American Empire
by Howard Zinn
Narrated by Viggo Mortensen

This is a video by the author of a popular American history textbbok. His book A People's History Of The United States is available online here.

HT for the video: Monkeyfister

R.I.P. Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston has died. I first saw the news at SyFyPortal, but the news is everywhere:

Arbogast on Film
Edward Copeland




There aren't many true "Hollywood legends" still with us, and now another one is gone, as Charlton Heston died Saturday at his Beverly Hills home after a six-year battle with Alzheimer's. CNN reports that his wife, Lydia -- to whom he had been married for an astonishing 64 years -- was at his side.

The timing of his death was oddly appropriate in several ways. Given that some of his most famous roles were religious in nature -- Moses, John the Baptist, Judah Ben-Hur -- it seems fitting that he should die exactly between the Easter and Passover holidays. His death also occurred one day after the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, and Heston was an ardent supporter of King's. He marched with King, and stood on the platform with him when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

NPR calls him a "conservative activist" and details some of those causes but makes no note at all of his civil rights connection.



Self-Styled Siren
Another Old Movie Blog:
For a man with such varied film and stage experience, who also wrote about his career, who collected memorabilia from his films, one wonders at the irony that at the time of life when memories of his career should have been his comfort, he was likely stripped of most of them due to a wasting disease. When he announced his Alzheimer’s a few years ago, he rejected pity. How can one not pity?

God's Politics
Obit Magazine


Huffington Post reports the funeral.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 116

1 I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.

4 Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.

8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:

11 I said in my haste, All men are liars.

12 What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?

13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.

14 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

16 O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.

17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

18 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

19 In the courts of the LORD's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.