Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Thin Man

The Thin Man is a 1934 comedy/detective film based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. In the film Nick and Nora Charles are played by Myrna Loy (Mr. Blandings Build His Dream House) and William Powell. Although there are no other books, this was the first of 6 films. This movie takes place during the Christmas holidays.

Roger Ebert describes it as "a murder mystery in which the murder and the mystery are insignificant compared to the personal styles of the actors".


The Husband chose this to watch during our chili supper tonight. He was aiming at a comedy with a happy ending, and everybody did think it was funny.

Only the Cinema has a review.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Interview Palin

Yes, you! Even though Sarah Palin is being shielded like a hothouse flower, you can get answers from her. Well, you can get answers that sound like they came from her, which is the best we can do right now.

Click here for a randomly generated question and the Palin-speak answer. Here's a sample:
Q: What is the role of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Afghanistan will lead to war and it doesn't have to keep. I do bring to this table, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership, and that's with the energy source that is needed to help us, diplomatic pressure. We need to have a good guy who is saying that. Now, one who would seek to protect the good guys in this, the leaders of Israel and her friends, her allies, including the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from God. What I think God's will has to be a multi-faceted solution that has much to do things better.

HT: Andrew Sullivan

7 Fascinating Literary Works for Bookworms

Bookstove has an interesting list of 7 books for bookworms:
One Hundred Years of Solitude (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
Midnight's Children (by Salman Rushdie)
Breathing Lessons (by Anne Tyler)
Rabbit Is Rich (by John Updike)
White Noise (by Don Delillo)
Catch 22 (by Joseph Heller)
Everything That Rises Must Converge (by Flannery O' Connor)

I've read all of them except for the Rabbit book. I really ought to read the Rabbit series. I've had good intentions along those lines but lousy follow-through.


Today is Michaelmas. I remember that on more than one occasion Michaelmas was the day we went to the Mid-South Fair. Michaelmas is the Feast of St. Michael and all Angels, and it is a fall festival close to the Autumnal Equinox. Lots of celebrations focus on the story of St. Michael fighting a dragon. Here's a recipe for Dragon Bread.

Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, wrote a booklet on Michaelmas.

The Michaelmas Daisy pictured above is from janerc's Flickr stream.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Earl Hurd

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1940 of cel animation patent-holder Earl Hurd. The Bobby Bumps cartoons were the first to be produced using the cel animation process.

Later he worked for Walt Disney and is credited as a writer for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and as a character designer on the Dance of the Hours segment of Fantasia.

Bobby Bumps Starts a Lodge (1916):

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina, holy reading, is a scripture-based form of prayer. That wikipedia article is odd in places, but it has links to some helpful sites. The Order of St. Benedict's site has helpful resources, as does the Carmelite Order. Thomas Keating of Contemplative Outreach has a short explanation and clear instructions.

An example of this practice within the Methodist tradition is at The Upper Room. Another specifically Methodist example is at this story from this year's meeting of the General Conference. It is used as part of this Methodist prayer service, it is recommended in this Methodist newsletter article, it's a part of this 5-week Methodist Bible study. I'm not sure why some Methodists are suspicious of the practice and claim it's "too Catholic", but it is consistent with Methodist practice and belief to participate in this form of prayer.

This site provides short, clear instructions for lectio divina in an easily accessible 1-page format, and this may be the best short explanation I've seen.

The photo at the top of the post is from knowhimonline's Flickr set.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 78
verses 1-4; 12-16

1 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
12 Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13 He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.

14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.

15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.

16 He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hakuho Wins Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament

The International Herald Tribune reports:
TOKYO: Mongolian grand champion Hakuho snatched his eighth championship title on Saturday after scoring 13 wins at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

The Daily Yomiuri Online says,
Yokozuna Hakuho sent out a warning to those who would deprive him of his eighth Emperor's Cup with a comprehensive defeat of ozeki Chiyotaikai in Thursday's final bout at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

from day 12:

The picture at the top of the post is from Wikipedia.

Banned Books Week

Today is the beginning of a week-long celebration of the freedom to read. There's even a current political link as there are reports Gov. Palin may have been interested in removing books she found objectionable from the public library of Wasilla when she was mayor there, so she has a connection to the subject.

Many books that have been banned or which have been subjected to attempts at censorship can be read online. A list of such books is here, with links to the books.

There is a Facebook page and a Wikipedia article. The USA branch of Amnesty International tells stories of individuals who are in prison or suffering persecution because of their writings.

The American Library Association has information, including links to lists of banned books. Their list of Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century (2000-2005):
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier
3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck
5. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
6. "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers
7. "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. "Forever" by Judy Blume

Their list of Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century:
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Ulysses, James Joyce
Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
1984, George Orwell
Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Their Eyes were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Native Son, Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild, Jack London
Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin
All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley's Lover, DH Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
Women in Love, DH Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run, John Updike

Ones I've read are in bold print. To celebrate this week I'm going to see which of these book I already own but have not yet read, and I'll read one of them.

Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon is the first one I saw on the shelf, so I'll start it today.

R.I.P. Paul Newman

Paul Newman died of lung cancer yesterday at the age of 83.

Obits and notices:
Obscure Classics (with more here)
Sun Herald
Guardian (film clips)
Westport Now
Washington Post
People Magazine
Edward Copeland on Film
Roger Ebert
Huffington Post here, here, here, here
Culture Kitchen
Entertainment Tonight Online
Green Daily
The Nation
Famous Dead DB
Cinema Styles
Arbogast on Film
Reason Magazine
Bible Films Blog
Strange Culture
Self-Styled Siren

Sylvia Pankhurst

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1960 of British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. There is a short biographical sketch here at the main Sylvia Pankhurst site, and the BBC has a couple of paragraphs as part of a women's history timeline. There is a list of resources, mainly books, here.

excerpt from lyrics to the Sister Suffragette song, celebrating Emmeline Pankhurst (Sylvia's mother's) suffrage work, from Mary Poppins:
"From Kensington to Billingsgate
One hears the restless cries!
From every corner of the land:
"Womankind, arise!"
Political equality and equal rights with men!
Take heart! For Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!
No more the meek and mild subservients we!
We're fighting for our rights, militantly!
Never you fear!""

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate Re-enactment

Stage your own debate re-enactment with these fun finger puppets.

HT: BoingBoing

The Boy With Green Hair

I discovered this movie when the kids were little. I liked it, but they never did. I'm not sure why it struck me so while it didn't impress them at all. It's possible I was so touched by the plight of the boy that I didn't see the lack of any real child-appeal. I found it by coming across it on television and was able to videotape it. I'm pleased to see it's readily available online now. [Well, not so readily, as the Internet Archive has removed theirs, but youtube has it online divided into small sections.]

part 1:

The other parts are linked from here.

The Boy With Green Hair is a 1948 film starring Pat O'Brien, Barbara Hale and Dean Stockwell, TCM devotes some space to it. Coffee Coffee and More Coffee has a review. The New York Times review opens with
A novel and noble endeavor to say something withering against war on behalf of the world's unnumbered children who are the most piteous victims thereof is made in the RKO picture, "The Boy With Green Hair," a fantasy-drama in color, which opened at the Palace yesterday. But the fact that the effort is earnest is no surety of its success. For all its proper intentions, the gesture falls short of its aim.

August Mobius

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1868 of August Mobius, who figured out the Mobius Strip. This can keep a simple mind like mine happily occupied for hours. Try it. Entertain your friends. It's a cheap form of entertainment, something we'll be needing more of once the government takes all our money and gives it to all those rich, powerful Wall Street guys.

The picture is from Wikipedia.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lewis Milestone

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1980 of film director Lewis Milestone, probably best known for his 1930 All Quiet on the Western Front, which can be viewed online at that link. Interestingly, Erich Maria Remarque, who wrote the book on which that film is based, died on this date in 1970.

FilmReference.com has an article on Milestone that sums up with
Milestone has yet to receive the critical reassessment that he undoubtedly deserves. Films as diverse as A Walk in the Sun and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers indicate that his later films contain moments of high achievement comparable to his two great early efforts. They also suggest a greater correlation between his technical innovations and his sensitively handled theme of men in groups than many scholars give him credit for.

He also directed The Front Page (1931):

The NYTimes has a review here.

He directed Joan Crawford in Rain (1932):

The NYTimes and Alternative Film Guide have reviews.

Dana Andrews and Lloyd Bridges in A Walk in the Sun (1945):

The NYTimes has a review, and TCM has comments.

and Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas (in his debut film) in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946):

TCM has some information.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Sky Is Falling

Maybe the sky is falling, but I feel less like I'm in the middle of Chicken Little and more like I'm in the middle of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

First there was the Iraq War, which we had to go do right now, by Jove, or civilization as we know it would come to an end because of all those weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda. So we panicked and agreed and sent our young people to die, and why was that exactly?

Then there was the Patriot Act, which we had to do right now, by Jove, or civilization as we know it would come to an end because of all those spies and terrorists. So we panicked and agreed and gave up our Constitutional rights, and why was that exactly?

And now there's a 700 billion dollar bailout, which we have to do right now, by Jove, or civilization as we know it will come to an end because of the impending financial meltdown.

So we are panicking again. It's just that I don't believe them. After all, aren't these the same people who have been saying that the fundamentals of our economy are sound and that everything is fine, just fine? I get the distinct impression that they are making all this up as they go along.

And how exactly will it help for McCain to suspend his campaign and rush back to Washington? If he's that indispensable in the Senate maybe we should draft someone else to run for President. I also don't see the sense in "postponing" the debates. Now of all times, with less than 6 weeks until the election, I need to hear them debate each other.


Dr. Seuss

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1991 of Dr. Seuss. Just hearing the name brings back fond memories...

Bartholomew and the Oobleck:
Shuffle, duffle, muzzle, muff.
Fista, wista, mista-cuff.
We are men of groans and howls!
Mystic men, who eat boiled owls!

Green Eggs and Ham:
Would you like them
in a house?
Would you like them
with a mouse?

I do not like them
in a house.
I do not like them
with a mouse.
I do not like them
here or there.
I do not like them
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

The Sneetches and Other Stories is filled with treasures. "The Sneetches" opens with
Now, the Star-Bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.

"The Zax" had those two stubborn Zax in each other's way "not budging". I could always identify with those Zax.

"Too Many Daves" begins this way:
Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
and the names suggested as better than "Dave" are wonderful:
And often she wishes that, when they were born,
She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn
And one of them Hoos-Foos. And one of them Snimm.
And one of them Hot-Shot. And one Sunny Jim.
Many more are named, and we had the whole list memorized. We had this whole book memorized.

"What Was I Scared Of?" scared us with those pale green pants with nobody inside them. Definitely creepy!

And a perennial favorite even now is How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which The Elder Son could recite from memory when he was no more than 2, like Cindy Lou Who.

There is a Dr. Seuss Memorial Garden in Massachusetts.

The American Library Association gives the Geisel Award annually
to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. The winner(s), recognized for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading, receives a bronze medal. Honor Book authors and illustrators receive certificates, which are presented at the ALA Annual Conference. The award was established in 2004 and first presented in 2006.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I would never have picked this up, but The Elder Son passed it along to me saying I might enjoy it for a bit of "mindless fun". Well, it's about a cockroach, so I'm not sure why he thought I would find that appealing. On the other hand it's truly weird, so that might explain his reasoning.

Kockroach, the first novel by Tyler Knox, is a backwards and lesser Metamorphosis, taking the cockroach-cum-human through his ambitious, hungry experiences in society. It felt predictable from the beginning, and I thought I knew exactly where it was headed. In a way I was right, because the story ends up right where I thought it would. The plot, though, has some moves that surprised me, and I'm glad I read it. The characters are clearly drawn, described in a way that brings everything to life in my mind. I think the character descriptions are the strongest part of the book.

from the back of the book:
It is the mid-1950s, and Kockroach, perfectly content with his life infesting a fleabag hotel off Times Square, awakens to discover that somehow he's been transformed into, of all things, a human. A tragic turn of events, yes, but cockroaches are awesome coping machines, so Kockroach copes. Step by step, he learns the ways of man—how to walk, how to talk, and how to wear a jaunty brown fedora. Led by his primitive desires and insectile amorality, he navigates through the bizarre human realms of crime, business, politics, and sex. Will he find success or be squashed flat from above? Will he change humanity, or will humanity change him?

There is a Reading Group guide.

The NYTimes
The Seattle Times

Who's the elitist?

Watch Michael Moore's "Slacker Uprising" Online Free

Watch it, download it, share it.... Michael Moore is giving Slacker Uprising away here.

from Wikipedia:
Slacker Uprising is a movie of Michael Moore’s tour of colleges in battleground states during the 2004 election, with a goal to encourage 18-29 year olds to vote, and the response it received.

There is a Facebook group.

David Langford's Top 20

This is a top 20 list that excludes books written after 1989:
20) Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards! (1989)
19) Frederik Pohl: Gateway (1977)
18) Iain M. Banks, Consider Phlebas (1987)
17) C.J. Cherryh, Cyteen (1988)
16) Barry Hughart: Bridge of Birds (1984)
15) Christopher Priest, The Affirmation (1981)
14) Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light (1967)
13) Philip K. Dick, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)
12) Alan Garner, The Owl Service (1967)
11) Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination (1956, alias Tiger! Tiger!)
10) Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
9) Greg Bear, Blood Music (1985)
8) Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)
7) Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast (1946-59)
6) Ursula Le Guin: Earthsea (1968-72)
5) Keith Roberts, Pavane (1968)
4) J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings (1954-55)
3) Arthur C. Clarke: The City and the Stars (1956)
2) John Crowley: Little, Big (1981)
1) Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)

Ones I've read are in bold print. The list is annotated on this page with explanations and descriptions.

He also has a list of "Good Stuff Since 1990":
1990: Dan Simmons, Hyperion Cantos
1991: Pat Cadigan, Synners
1992: Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars
1993: Michael Swanwick, The Iron Dragon's Daughter
1994: Greg Egan, Permutation City
1995: Stephen Baxter, The Time Ships
1996: Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
1997: Tim Powers, Earthquake Weather
1998: Avram Davidson and Grania Davis, The Boss in the Wall
1999: Vernor Vinge, A Deepness In the Sky
2000: China Miéville, Perdido Street Station

Again, ones I've read are in bold print.

There are several books from both of these lists that I have been on the look-out for at my favorite used book store, but I may have to give that up and try another source. I think some of them are out of print.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Boy and His Dog

A Boy and His Dog is a 1975 post apocalyptic film based on a Harlan Ellison short story by the same name.

The movie is in the public domain and is available at the Internet Archive:

Roger Ebert calls it, "a weird, offbeat sci-fi movie about one of the genre's favorite subjects: the survivors of a nuclear holocaust."

Marcel Marceau

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2007 of Marcel Marceau. I actually got to see him in concert once when I was in college.

This Salon article is from 1999. There is a Marcel Marceau Foundation. He did a lot of live performances over many years, and GoogleVideo is a treasure trove of his work.

The picture is from HeyValera's Flickr set.

One Web Day

Today is One Web Day,
a day when users of the World Wide Web are encouraged to show how the Internet affects their lives.... The purpose of the event is to globally celebrate online life.
There is a Facebook event page.

I enjoy the internet. I love my newsreader and the RSS feeds that help keep me informed. I appreciate the folks I've met online and everything I've learned from them. I'm amazed at how much easier I find keeping in touch with people since I got online -I'm a failure at keeping in touch by phone and snail mail. And I find blogging to be great fun. It's odd, because I've never been good at keeping a diary or a journal, but the ability to put together a bit with links and photos from other people, to collate information from diverse sources, works for me.

Celebrate Online Life!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

St. Matthew

Today is the feast day of St. Matthew the Apostle. Appropriately for the times we find ourselves in, St. Matthew is the only patron saint of accountants, stockbrokers, tax collectors, money managers and financial officers and is one of the patron saints of bankers. Here's a suitable request:
Dear publican become a Saint, after once gathering taxes and tolls how wonderful was your conversion by grace when discarding your earthly possessions you followed the Poor Man of Nazareth. The Mammon of Money is still worshiped. Inspire bankers with kindness and with the desire to help where they can; for what is done to the least, to the poor, is done to Jesus, the Son of Man. Amen.

St. Matthew is traditionally held to be the author of the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, which can be read online in numerous English translations.

The story of the calling of Matthew by Christ is in the book of Matthew, chapter 9, verses 9-13:
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (NIV)

The Golden Legend includes the story of St. Matthew, including an episode with dragons. There is a biographical sketch at this Anglican site.

The picture at the top of the post is Rembrandt's Matthew and the Angel, sometimes called The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by an Angel. There are three works depicting St. Matthew by Caravaggio in the San Luigi dei Francesi church in Rome: The Calling of St. Matthew, The Inspiration of St. Matthew, and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew.

Bach's St. Matthew Passion sets part of Matthew's gospel to music:
part 1

more here

The Gospel According to St. Matthew is an award-winning 1964 Italian film directed by Pasolini. It is #4 on the Arts and Faith list of Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films. Here is a 3-minute clip:

There is another, more recent and less artistic, film based on Matthew's Gospel:
part 1 of 29 [gone as of 2/17/2010]

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 119
verses 1-40

1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.

2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.

3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.

5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!

6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.

8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.

9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.

11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

12 Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.

13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.

14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.

16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

17 Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.

18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

19 I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me.

20 My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.

21 Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.

22 Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies.

23 Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.

24 Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.

25 My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.

26 I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.

27 Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.

28 My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.

29 Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.

30 I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.

31 I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.

32 I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

35 Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

36 Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.

37 Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

38 Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.

39 Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good.

40 Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

20 Essential Science Fiction Books of the Past 20 Years

Cheryl Morgan's list from 2008 Worldcon in Denver:

* The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson (1995)
* The Flower Cities series (Queen City Jazz; Mississippi Blues; Crescent City Rhapsody; Light Music) Kathleen Ann Goonan (1994 - 2002)
* Perdido Street Station, China Mièville (2000)
* The Holdfast Chronicles (The Furies; Conqueror’s Child; the earlier two volumes are out of period) – Suzy McKee Charnas (1994 - 1999)
* Revelation Space, Al Reynolds (2000)
* The Fall Revolution Series (The Star Fraction; The Stone Canal; The Cassini Division; The Sky Road), Ken MacLeod (1995 - 1999)
* River of Gods, Ian McDonald (2004)
* Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
* Air or Have, Not Have, Geoff Ryman (2004)
* The Course of the Heart, M. John Harrison (1990)
* Soldier of Arete, Gene Wolfe (1989)
* The Aleutian Trilogy (White Queen; North Wind; Phoenix Café), Gwyneth Jones (1991 - 1997)
* Waking the Moon, Elizabeth Hand (1994)
* Synners, Pat Cadigan (1991)
* Rats & Gargoyles, Mary Gentle (1990)
* The Arabesk Trilogy (Pashazade; Effendi; Felaheen) Jon Courtenay Grimwood (2001 - 2003)
* Hyperion, Dan Simmons (1989)
* Sandman: Dream Country, Neil Gaiman with Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran and Malcolm Jones III (1991)
* Grass, Sheri Tepper (1989)
* The Fortune Fall, Raphael Carter (1996)

Ones I've read are in bold print. I didn't do so well on this list. I'll have to get better acquainted with these.

She gives lists from others who participated in the discussion.

I still miss Emerald City.

Star Trek Comics Online

WOWIO has Star Trek comics online. SFSignal has the individual links. #1: The Planet of No Return is here. There is a Memory Alpha article on this comic, which is where the picture above came from.

from the WOWIO site:

WOWIO is today the only source where readers can legally access high-quality copyrighted ebooks from leading publishers for free. Readers have access to a wide range of offerings, including works of classic literature, college textbooks, comic books, and popular fiction and non-fiction titles.

WOWIO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Platinum Studios, Inc., with headquarters in Houston, Texas.

You can subscribe to a news feed here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Matrix Revolutions

The Matrix Revolutions is the last film in the Matrix trilogy. The loss of Gloria Foster as The Oracle is keenly felt. The Husband struggled with the more violent aspects of the film.

There is no subtlety here, no gray. They assume we are idiots and must have every little bit explained in excruciating detail. "Yes," I say to the tv screen, "we know Neo is a Christ figure. You don't have to hit us over the head with it in every scene." It's overblown and heavy-handed. Given all that, it's a fun film and a fun series taken as a whole.

Rolling Stone says, "At the risk of understatement, The Matrix Revolutions sucks." The New York Times seems to be in general agreement: "The appropriate response is somewhere between "About time" ... and "So what?"" EW joins the chorus with, "So here's a mystery for the faithful: Why does resurrection and salvation -- the ''Matrix'' payoff -- here feel more like a religious obligation than a triumphant revelation?" The BBC is even stronger: "Multiple meanie Agent Smith does, however, echo the sentiments of desperate, disappointed audience members when he asks, "Is it over?""

The quotes above sound bad, but most of the reviewers praise the special effects and action sequences, it's just the self-importance and the dragging drama that gets panned.

HollywoodJesus, on the other hand, actually seems to like the blatant, rub-your-nose-in-it lack of nuance:
Why are the reviews bad?

1. Blatant Christ-like imagery (to borrow a phrase from Gandalf). It’s SO obvious that this film is pointing toward the direction of Christ. All the enemy can do is try to turn the hearts of the people away from this message.

Ebert liked it: "Still, in a basic and undeniable sense, this is a good movie". A video review by Ebert & Roeper can be viewed online.


Local Gas Shortages

I remember the gas shortages of the '70's, so it's eerie that 85% of stations in Nashville are out of gas. When The Husband went out today to fill up the cars the first station he went to was out of everything except premium, although the news reports I'm seeing say Memphis in general isn't experiencing shortages. Maybe we won't if folks don't panic and all run to the gas station.

The Racists Are Coming

Flotsam and Jetsam has the news that the racists are coming, the racists are coming. It says there that "The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center is organizing to oppose the White Supremacists," but I see nothing about any protests at the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center site.

I did a bit of searching, and it seems the conference will be held in early November but may not actually be in Memphis but nearby. Mississippi, maybe?

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ahoy there, matey! Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day! There's a lot of information here, and Wikipedia's article also has information and links.

You can get your very own pirate name here. Here's mine:
Iron Prudentilla Bonney
A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Don't know how to talk like a pirate? Avast, me hearty, there's hope! There is an instructional wiki, or here's an instructional video that can help you get into the spirit of the day:

Another way to get into the proper spirit is to read books with pirates in them. Treasure Island is online, as are Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates and The Pirates Own Book by Charles Ellms.

AllRecipes.com has pirate recipes. Wired has directions for making a pirate map from a paper sack.

Or you could watch the Mary Martin "Peter Pan":
part 1

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14, part 15

There is a Facebook event page and several groups. This link is to the largest of the Facebook groups. There is a Facebook application that counts down the days until the next Talk Like a Pirate Day.

For Pastafarians this is an important holiday, especially this year since Talk Like a Pirate Day is on a Friday.

Remember George Harrison? He could talk like a pirate before there was ever a holiday to celebrate it:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

George MacDonald

This is an edited version of last year's post on George MacDonald:

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1905 of Scottish preacher, poet and fantasy writer George MacDonald. He was a powerful influence on G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and recently deceased Madeleine L'Engle.

Phantastes, his first work of fiction, was written in 1858. It can be read online here, among other places. VictorianWeb has a section of their site devoted to the work.

The Light Princess, published in 1864, is one of MacDonald's most popular works. It can be read online here and on a single page here. Other links, including audio versions are linked here. It was well-loved by my children.

The Golden Key (1867) was one we read some when the kids were little. You can read this fairy tale on one page here or here.

The kids didn't like At the Back of the North Wind (1871) nearly as much. It is here, here and other links and an audio version are here. An illustrated version is here.

The Princess and the Goblin (online here) and The Princess and Curdie were read-alouds for us when the kids were little, but, again, these weren't the favorite repeat reads that some other books were. The first of these two was made into a film, which we have not seen, in 1993. Here's part 1 of the movie, with the other parts linked from here:

My favorite of his books is Lilith, maybe because I discovered the legend of Lilith as Adam's first wife about the same time I discovered this book. It is online here.


by George MacDonald

I missed him when the sun began to bend;
I found him not when I had lost his rim;
With many tears I went in search of him,
Climbing high mountains which did still ascend,
And gave me echoes when I called my friend;
Through cities vast and charnel-houses grim,
And high cathedrals where the light was dim,
Through books and arts and works without an end,
But found him not--the friend whom I had lost.
And yet I found him--as I found the lark,
A sound in fields I heard but could not mark;
I found him nearest when I missed him most;
I found him in my heart, a life in frost,
A light I knew not till my soul was dark.

More information about George MacDonald can be found here, here at VictorianWeb and here. His son Greville wrote a biography in 1924 which is in print. The Columbia Encyclopedia entry is available at Bartleby.com. A short biography, links to related sites and links to online editions of his works are here.

George MacDonald has a Facebook page

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Dead of Jericho

The Dead of Jericho is a book in the Inspector Morse mystery series by Colin Dexter. I have seen the tv series, but this is the only one of the books I've read. I am pleased at how well the tv series got the tone of the book.

from the back of the book:
What does a neighbor see?
The rain wash?
A key tell?
Anne Scott hangs from her kitchen ceiling, an apparent suicide. A troubling case for Chief Inspector Morse, taxing even his prodigious powers of deduction, tangling his own emotions and loyalties. A drug overdose, blackmail, marital infidelity, adolescent lust and brotherly love - all behind the walls of the tranquil village of Jericho.

Chief Inspector Morse, Homicide Division, Oxford: A lonely middle-aged bachelor with a taste for Mozart and T.S. Eliot, pints of bitter - and an obsession with attractive women. As coarse as he is cunning, at times insufferable, relentlessly inquisitive.

This is the first 3 minutes of the tv episode based on this book:

It can't be called a strictly faithful adaptation.

Puffin Wallpaper

National Geographic's Wallpaper of the Month for October is a colorful, flying Puffin.

Constitution Day

The preamble to the Constitution:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Today is Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of our Constitution in 1787. The United States Constitution can be read online here and here. Images are here. Primary documents are archived online here. There are lesson plans for learning about the Constitution here. There are other educational resources here. There is a Facebook event page.

Dennis Kucinich says, "Don't leave home without it."

Captain Kirk insists the words mean something:

"Liberty and freedom have to be more than just words."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Peter Gomes is new to me,

but I like him. I saw the Stephen Colbert interview and was impressed by his humor and his handling of the give-and-take in that setting:

Then I saw the Charlie Rose interview. I generally like Charlie Rose except that I think he sometimes talks too much. This interview was about 22 minutes long and was a more in-depth conversation than the Colbert segment:

NPR has an excerpt from the Scandalous Gospel book and an audio of Rev. Gomes reading from it.

Here is a 1-hour presentation by Gomes on the misuse and potential misuse of power by religious authority:

""What did Jesus preach?" asks Harvard pastor Peter J. Gomes, who believes that excessive focus on the Bible and doctrines about Jesus have led the Christian church astray":

Rev. Peter J. Gomes has a wikipedia entry and a short biography at The Memorial Church at Harvard University.

How long could you survive chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor?

I could survive for 32 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

HT: Locusts & Honey

Monday, September 15, 2008

Something Wicked

The only really fun thing about Something Wicked by Carolyn Hart is the constant mention of mystery writers and mystery books and characters. That's fun as long as I recognize the reference but not so much when I don't. This book won the 1988 Agatha Award for best novel.

from the back of the book:
Everyone - including mystery bookstore owner Annie Laurance - loves Arsenic and Old Lace. But something wicked is poisoned a local summer stock production as cast members stab each other in the back and props are sabotaged. Worst of all, the star, aging Hollywood beach-blanket hunk Shane Petree, butchers his lines - while getting top billing in bed with wives and teenage daughters around town. No wonder somebody wants to draw his final curtain. With a little help from Miss Marple, Poirot, and Agatha the Bookstore Cat, a pompous prosecutor tries to pin a murder on Max, Annie's own leading man. Unless Annie can prove her darling's innocence, their wedding date's off! Invoking the tried-and-true methods of her favorite literary sleuths, Annie snoops around the greasepaint and glitter of the Arsenic cast's backstage life. She'll be next to star in a knock-'em-dead showstopper scene if she doesn't watch it, because theatrical murderers never play fair.

Dead Man's Island is the only other book by this author that I remember reading, and I didn't like it much either.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dante Alighieri

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1321 of Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy. That masterpiece can be read online in English translation here (James Finn Cotter), here (Longfellow and/or Mandelbaum) and here (Henry F. Cary). Botticelli did illustrations of the Inferno, the Paradiso and the Purgatorio; Gustave Dore's illustrations are here; John Flaxman's can be viewed here; William Blake's are here; Salvadore Dali also did striking illustrations: Inferno, Paradiso and Purgatorio. An audio edition of the Longfellow translation is here. The Princeton Dante Project has some interesting resources. The World of Dante is "a multi-media research tool intended to facilitate the study of the Divine Comedy". The Dartmouth Dante Project is a searchable data base with extensive commentaries.

L'Inferno is a silent Italian film from 1911 that is based on Dante's work:

Franz Liszt wrote A Symphony to Dante's Divine Commedia:
Inferno part 1 of 3:

part 2, part 3

Purgatorio part 1 of 3:

part 2, part 3

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 103

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

19 The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

20 Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

21 Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

22 Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I Stumbled Upon this marvelous comic this afternoon. A new comic by David Malki ! is posted here every Tuesday and Thursday. Wondermark has a Facebook group with almost 1,000 members. They have a news feed so new comics can come to you.

Hue Discrimination

Doing it quickly I scored a 42. Take the test here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Question Authority

Bad Astronomy has excellent advice:
Question authority. Be skeptical of claims. Ask for evidence. Apply good logic. Avoid bad logic. Analyze the results. Look for bias.

And doubt. Doubt doubt doubt. It’s one of the greatest strengths of the human mind, and perhaps the least used of all.

The presidential election season seems a particularly suitable time for this reminder.

The picture above is from Wurz's Flickr page.