Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Awwwww no

Davy Jones
Davy Jones has died.

Oh, man, I loved him back in the day...

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2 Comments:

At 8:44 PM, February 29, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Please, PLEASE, if anyone reading this -- or someone you know -- is suffering from shortness of breath, get them to the ER before this can happen. Shortness of breath, which Davy Jones was experiencing a day or so beforehand, can be a warning sign of impending fatal heart attack or pulmonary embolism. I lost an uncle and a sorority sister to PE, and nearly lost my husband to it (he got to the ER in time).

 
At 8:44 AM, March 01, 2012 Anonymous Mark had this to say...

This is one of those times when I start feeling old because no one around me knows who he was.

 

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Yes, what?

Nice. Over at The Conscience of a Liberal Krugman asks:
I see, however, that some commenters are declaring that it’s all OK because of the voodoo “dynamic” effects of tax cuts for the wealthy. I guess my question is, what on earth would make anyone believe in that old nonsense at this point?

I mean, we’ve had two fairly clear-cut tests in recent decades: the Clinton tax hike, which all the usual suspects said would produce disaster, and the Bush cuts, which would supposedly produce a wonderful boom. How did those turn out?

Also, the Romers have some careful new research looking at older data — the drastic tax swings of the interwar years — and find only small effects.

So let me rephrase my question: what conceivable evidence would convince people that supply-side magic doesn’t work?


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At 9:38 PM, February 29, 2012 Blogger Bonnie had this to say...

Sadly, there is no conceivable evidence -- because many people are so attached to the "magic" that nothing will get through to them.

 

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Huh.

You do learn something every day. Alex just pronounced "affianced" with a long I (like finance, not fiance), where I would have said it with a continental I (ee). But the MW online says he's right, and I'm not.

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Happy Leap Year!

Happy Leap Year!

Frog 'Happy Leap Year' 366 days

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Paul

KrugmanPaul Krugman was born today in 1953. He's a recent Nobel Laureate in economics, and you can find his blog, the Conscience of a Liberal, right here. (And you should read it.)

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Adam

Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb
Today in 1962 Adam Baldwin was born. The Whedonverse is certainly richer for it (not only Jayne Cobb, his masterwork, but also Marcus Hamilton) which means we all are, but he's also great in My Bodyguard and (though I don't like the show) Chuck. Many happy returns of the day, Adam!

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Week in Entertainment

DVD: Sherlock, Season 2. They do the biggies (Irene Adler, the Hound, the Reichenbach Falls) and they do them well. Your heart will ache for John in the last one... The Alec Guiness Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Interesting how logistics changes things. In the novel, Jim is in Czechoslovakia and Rickie is in Hong Kong. In this, Rickie is in Lisbon. In the recent movie, Jim was in Hungary and Rickie in Istanbul... I wonder if the absolute necessity for The Honourable Schoolboy to be in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia is why it's never been filmed. I'm not certain that seeing the interview in Delhi with Karla instead of hearing it (Gary Oldman killed in that scene in the movie) was wise, but I did get a kick out of seeing Patrick Stewart play Karla. The Sarah Jane Adventures season 4. I will miss this show... I do miss Sarah Jane. But it was great to see Jo Grant again, and hear a bit about old companions (Tegan fighting for aboriginal rights, and Ian and Barbara professors at Cambridge (never aged since the 60s!)). Smiley's People - odd; they got the same guy to play Lacon, and of course Guiness again - and the same type for Connie, anyway. But Guillam was played by a guy who didn't look anything at all like the original. It was disconcerting at first; they should have (imo, anyway) written a new character in; it's not like Smiley wouldn't have had other allies. Otherwise, quite good.

TV: Once Upon a Time - nice reference to "Space Paranoids"! But what the heck happened to Catherine? I suppose we'll find out... Downton Abbey, too bad about Nigel Havers being a cad. And seriously, how many obstacles are they going to throw in the way of Anna and Bates? It's ridiculous. A rather nice animated Hellboy - with Perlman, del Toro, et al. The Middle was cute and Modern Family absolutely cracked me up.

Read: Another short by Scalzi, "An Election", which was very enjoyable. Before the Poison by Peter Robinson, atypical but interesting enough. I wasn't really caught by the main character, but the puzzle was good.

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At 10:57 AM, February 28, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

You skipped "The Mentalist"? Patrick has another encounter with Malcolm McDowell's character, the cult leader, with a surprising twist.

 
At 7:15 PM, February 28, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Damn. I thought that was going to be on this week; my DVR didn't record it! (I can't stay up that late on weeknights...)

I'll have to track it down on line. I hope I can find it, since CBS is ... annoying about it. They don't have it on their site, they don't do On Demand ... (and this is why some people steal video, guys).

 
At 12:59 PM, February 29, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Don't worry, it'll be rerun at least(!) once between now and next season. And it'll be all the more welcome during that fallow period of TV viewing.

 
At 9:28 PM, March 03, 2012 Anonymous Adrian Morgan had this to say...

I missed the 2nd episode of Sherlock, but enjoyed #1 and #3.

The reason I missed Sherlock #2 (the Hound episode) is that I was in Canberra for a few days. Did lots of things, details on the blog. (Hope you approve of the parrot photos from the walk-in avery.)

The Mentalist has not been screened on Australian TV for ages. (Since the end of last season? I can't remember.)

 
At 9:24 PM, March 23, 2012 Anonymous buddy2blogger had this to say...

Thanks for the post about Season 2 of BBC Sherlock. I am yet to watch it and have to wait till May :(

Still, your post has raised my expectations for the series!

Cheers!

 

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The kids are all right

Rick Santorum famously declared that President Obama's desire to send more young people to college is part of an evil plot to make them lose their religion.

There's a slight problem with his solution, though. The study that most closely matches his claim (“62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.”) also says that even more of those who don't go to college lose their faith.:
A study published 2007 in the journal Social Forces — which PBS reports that Santorum’s claim is based on, although his spokesman didn’t respond to TPM’s request for confirmation — finds that Americans who don’t go to college experience a steeper decline in their religiosity than those who do.

“Contrary to our own and others’ expectations, however, young adults who never enrolled in college are presently the least religious young Americans,” the journal concluded, noting that “64 percent of those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institution have curbed their attendance habits. Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.”

The problem, I think, is one that some other religious people - like Fred Clark at Slackivist point out with some regularity.

People like Santorum have tied two or three factors to "Christianity" so closely that if you don't agree with them, you aren't really Christian, according to them. You have to be against civil (or any) rights for gays, against abortion, and - for Santorum, at any rate - against birth control. If you aren't, they shun and abominate you. By their definition you have lost your faith, whatever you may believe about Jesus, or charity, or love, or heaven.

Their real problem is that the younger generation is in total disagreement with them about several issues. But they're the ones labeling that "loss of faith".

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Happy Christening, Kit!

Kit Marlowe
We don't know what day Christopher Marlowe was born - but he was christened on this day in 1564, in Canterbury, England. A poet, dramatist, and spy, Marlowe is well-known today, eclipsed by that other author born that year, that William Shakespeare fellow. He died at 29, stabbed through the eye in what might have been a bar-room brawl or might have been a hired killing...

Izaak Walton, in The Compleat Angler mentioned "that smooth song which was made by Kit Marlow, now at least fifty years ago" and Shakespeare quoted it in "The Merry Wives of Windsor":

Come live with me, and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy-buds,
With coral clasps and amber-studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The shepherd-swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

Find all Marlowe on line at the Perseus Project.

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Happy Birthday, Johnny

Johnny CashBorn today in 1932, one of the greatest American musicians of the 20th century, the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. Grammys crowned his career in its twilight and they were well earned. I've said this before but it bears repeating: if you haven't listened to these albums, you must. They're an astounding collection of songs from gospel to rock to Nine Inch Nails, and they're all Cash. They're all great. Some of them will make you laugh, and some will break your heart.

And the sixth one, even though it was released so much later, is more than just an attempt to cash in - it's good stuff. Good stuff.
cash american icash american ii
cash american iiicash american iv
cash american vcahs ameriacn vi

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eagle Nest Cam

Live streaming feed from a bald eagle's nest. Gorgeous! (more bird cams in the sidebar)

eagle on her nest

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At 8:18 AM, July 25, 2012 Anonymous Zodiac Solution had this to say...

Hi, very nice post, keep posting.

 

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Sic! .... Wait, what?

edit: see comments!

In this week's World Wide Words newsletter, the Sic! column has these two items:
John Eliot Spofford tells us that the Boston Globe reported on 18 February: "A woman in her early 50s who was struck and killed by a tow truck while crossing a street in Brighton Thursday night has died, Boston police said."

From an obituary in the Wiltshire Times of 17 February, submitted by Alan Jones: "Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died at the age of five he was sent to a Dr Barnado's [sic] home".
I have to admit, I don't see anything to object to. The first is a bit wordy and might, had it not been the lead in a newspaper story, have better been two sentences, but there is absolutely nothing grammatically or syntactically incorrect with it. I suppose it's possible to believe that "while crossing a street" modifies the tow truck, but it's not the first syntactic choice, is it? "She was struck by a brick while crossing the street" - nobody would argue that "while..." had to be modifying brick. Perhaps "she was struck while crossing a street in Brighton Thursday night by a tow truck" is absolutely less ambiguous, but it violates the principle of Early Immediate Constituents by shifting the "short" tow truck to the end of the clause. At any rate, does this merit a "Sic!"? I don't think so.

structural tree of the sentence
As for the other one - there isn't any other way to say that, except for the wordy "sent to the home of a Dr. Barnado", and that's no better. Perhaps Mr. Jones is objecting to the article's being present at all? That's a simple matter of stylistics. Clearly, as read, the sentence means "one, a certain" Dr. Barnado. Perhaps Mr. Jones would have preferred either of those:
Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died at the age of five he was sent to one Dr Barnado's home.

Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died at the age of five he was sent to a certain Dr Barnado's home.
And if Dr. Barnado has been previously identified, you wouldn't want any qualifier there. But unless that's so, there's nothing wrong with this one as it stands. Absolutely not Sic!-worthy.

edit: Oh, haha. Joke's on me. "Dr. Barnado's Homes" were a institution, intended to house, clothe, and educate waifs and strays. But you know what? That means "a Dr. Barnado's home" is impeccable. (Though a capital H wouldn't be amiss, that's not what Mr. Jones sic'd, is it?)

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At 11:04 AM, February 25, 2012 Anonymous Armado had this to say...

The problem with the first is the redundancy. Since she was struck and killed it seems unnecessary to say, later, that she died. The problem with the second is his mother dying at the age of five.

 
At 11:07 AM, February 25, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Okay, you're right about "killed" being redundant.

And the second one, while you could be right - okay you are - that wasn't what was marked as wrong.

 
At 4:36 PM, February 25, 2012 Anonymous Picky had this to say...

On the second the joke is as Armado states. The sic is that it is not Barnado but Barnardo.

 
At 5:21 PM, February 25, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

The problem with the second instance is that either: a) a comma needs to be inserted (still hardly graceful); or, b) else it needs to be rewritten -- because as it stands, it's saying that the mother died at age 5, thus making medical history! Instead:

"Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died, at the age of five he was..."
OR
"Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but at the age of 5, when his mother died, he was..."
OR
"Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died he was, at the age of five,..."

 
At 5:35 PM, February 25, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Yes, I should send this post down the memory hole! But I'll keep it around to remind me to think about something other than syntax!

 

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Grammar checker serves up a new one

Microsoft's bizarrely judgmental grammar check objects to this sentence:
The embarrassed look returned to his eyes.
It has a problem with the word "embarrassed." Here's their explanation:
The marked word can be used correctly only after a noun. However, in some cases, the form of the word may be changed, leaving the word in its original place.
And they illustrate it with "the asleep child" and "the sunk boat".*

So, per Microsoft, you can't put "embarrassed" in the attributive position. "They sat in embarrassed silence," says the MacMillan dictionary. Wrong! Oxford Learner's say "Her remark was followed by an embarrassed silence." Also wrong, according to Microsoft. Wrong, too, are all the people who write things like: "how to help an embarrassed child" or "many thanks to the embarrassed man who couldn't get his kite to fly!" or "late night hosts Thursday roasted the embarrassed politician like he was going out of style" or "embarrassed dog walks away in shame"...

Seriously, I have never heard this before. Have you?

* note: all the a- forms (alone, asleep, away**, afar, afloat, alive, afraid) must be used predicatively, because they began life as phrases and English doesn't like prepositional phrases in attributive position. No the alone man, the asleep dog, the afar ranges, the afraid child ... just as no the across the river bridge or the on top of the table book. Note that you can in fact use these postpositionally: one man alone could never do it, a dog asleep should be left to sleep... Neither "embarrassed" nor "sunk" fits this category, so I'm guessing Microsoft shoehorned two rules together (and even though they say "only after a noun, I don't think they really mean to accept "the look embarrassed returned" - even though they do! Seriously, Microsoft?)

"Sunk" and "sunken" are another interesting paradigm; here the participle has split in two, one form for verbal/predicative use and one for attributive. A sunken boat, but the boat has sunk. A number of these exist - some regular where the -ed retains its status as a separate syllable (the learnéd judge as opposed to I have learned; the wingéd horse as opposed to the birds have winged their way south) but a few, like this, are irregular (a stricken look but I have struck him; wrought iron but (for most people) he had worked with metals for years).

** Yes, you can have "an away game", but that's about the extent of it. No "away home" or "away journey"...

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At 10:41 AM, February 25, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Do you have any idea whether many folks actually use the grammar checkers on their computers? I don't know anyone who does (or at least who would admit to it).

I long ago had to turn off my (English-language) spelling checker, because it would practically suffer a nervous breakdown whenever I typed in Portuguese! (Yes, I suppose there must be a Portuguese spell-check available, but then I'd have to toggle back and forth between the two -- plus no small portion of my writing and emails are bilingual anyway). It's better just to proofread anything important oneself (not claiming I never err, however).

 
At 10:57 AM, February 25, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Quite a few of my students do - that's the only reason it's ever on in a document I'm working on.

 

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Mayan Calendar

Mayan sculptureBest. 2012 Mayan quote. Ever.
I’m actually looking forward to the Mayan calendar rolling over. I’ve been getting kinda sick of the picture of the guy with his tongue sticking out – maybe the new one will have a pyramid or a covered bridge or sumpthin’.
(from cheech wizard at Comics Curmudgeon)

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Yay Maryland!

My adopted state has passed Marriage Equality - and our governor is going to sign it.

I'm ecstatic.

Yay Maryland!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wondering indeed

Nice one. Andrew Rosenthal has a puzzlement:
Mitt Romney said Mr. Obama has carried out the worst “attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance” in the history of the country. That statement was so ridiculous that I was left wondering, as I often am, whether there are any limits to Mr. Romney’s blind need to seem like the nuttiest right-wing nut on the stage. Among other things, what does he think about the murder and persecution of Mormons under the Missouri governor’s 1838 “extermination order.” (The executive order wasn’t formally rescinded until 1976).

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Happy Birthday, W.E.B.

WEB DuBois
Born today in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1868, W.E.B. DuBois. He went to Fisk University in Nashville and then to Harvard, where he was the first African-American to get a Ph.D. He taught sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and he carried out the first serious sociological study of African-Americans, which showed that poverty and crime in black communities were a result of racial barriers in education and employment. In 1909, he founded NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression."

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Happy Birthday, Sam

PepysToday in 1633 Samuel Pepys (pronounced "peeps") was born. Well known for his diary, Pepys was a Londoner to the bone, rarely leaving the city, and a civil servant who helped shape England's navy. His diary, covering only six years of his life, was abandoned by him when he began to fear the loss of his sight - the work of keeping it up threatened blindness, and so he stopped and gave it to his college - Magdalen at Cambridge, where it remains to this day (and where I got to see it a couple of years ago!). As the College says,

Pepys's diary is not so much a record of events as a re-creation of them. Not all the passages are as picturesque as the famous set pieces in which he describes Charles II's coronation or the Great Fire of London, but there is no entry which does not, in some degree, display the same power of summoning back to life the events it relates.

Pepys's skill lay in his close observation and total recall of detail. It is the small touches that achieve the effect. Another is the freshness and flexibility of the language. Pepys writes quickly in shorthand and for himself alone. The words, often piled on top of each other without much respect for formal grammar, exactly reflect the impressions of the moment. Yet the most important explanation is, perhaps, that throughout the diary Pepys writes mainly as an observer of people. It is this that makes him the most human and accessible of diarists, and that gives the diary its special quality as a historical record.
Here's a sample (his first tweet for today):
I took them to Westminster Abbey, and there did show them all the tombs very finely, there being other company this day to see the tombs.
And here's the entry for 22 Feb in the "current" year of the diary (a hypertext, annotated version is here) (note on the date - if you follow the link you'll see it says 1668/1669 - this is because until 1752 the new year began on March 25 in England, slow to adopt the new calendar, so for Sam himself it was still 1668):
Up, and betimes to White Hall; but there the Duke of York is gone abroad a-hunting, and therefore after a little stay there I into London, with Sir H. Cholmly, talking all the way of Tangier matters, wherein I find him troubled from some reports lately from Norwood (who is his great enemy and I doubt an ill man), of some decay of the Mole, and a breach made therein by the sea to a great value. He set me down at the end of Leadenhall Street, and so I home, and after dinner, with my wife, in her morning-gown, and the two girls dressed, to Unthanke’s, where my wife dresses herself, having her gown this day laced, and a new petticoat; and so is indeed very fine. And in the evening I do carry them to White Hall, and there did without much trouble get into the playhouse, there in a good place among the Ladies of Honour, and myself also sat in the pit; and there by and by come the King and Queen, and they begun “Bartholomew Fayre.” But I like no play here so well as at the common playhouse; besides that, my eyes being very ill since last Sunday and this day se’nnight, with the light of the candles, I was in mighty pain to defend myself now from the light of the candles. After the play done, we met with W. Batelier and W. Hewer and Talbot Pepys, and they follow us in a hackney-coach: and we all stopped at Hercules’ Pillars; and there I did give them the best supper I could, and pretty merry; and so home between eleven and twelve at night, and so to bed, mightily well pleased with this day’s work.

Find the whole of Pepys' diary, day by day with hyperlinked annotations here, and in plain text here at Project Gutenberg (also downloadable, and in Kindle format, too).

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Vincent

Vincent MillayIn 1911 a slim, red-headed 19-year-old Maine girl got up and read her contest-winning poem, Renasence (find it here), in Camden, Maine. She couldn't afford college, but the poem inspired a woman in the audience to pay her way to Vassar. That girl was Edna St Vincent Millay, born this day in 1892. An icon of the Jazz Age and a rock-star poet, Vincent (as she preferred to be called, hating the name 'Edna' - she was named for the hospital where her uncle escaped death just before her birth) lived in Greenwich Village and Paris, and revelled in the Bohemian life style (perhaps you could say she truly was a Mainiac). After her marriage she lived in Austerlitz, New York, until her death in 1950; the farm, Steepletop, is now a writers colony. She was the first woman to win a Pulitzer, and the second to win the Frost prize.

Probably her best known poem is "First Fig", not least because it's short enough to memorize easily:
    My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
    It gives a lovely light!

And here are a few more:

Love is not all

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power
I might be driven to sell your love for peace
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.


Three Songs of Shattering

I

THE first rose on my rose-tree
Budded, bloomed, and shattered,
During sad days when to me
Nothing mattered.

Grief of grief has drained me clean;
Still it seems a pity
No one saw, -- it must have been
Very pretty.

II

Let the little birds sing;
Let the little lambs play;
Spring is here; and so 'tis spring; --
But not in the old way!

I recall a place
Where a plum-tree grew;
There you lifted up your face,
And blossoms covered you.

If the little birds sing,
And the little lambs play,
Spring is here; and so 'tis spring --
But not in the old way!

III

All the dog-wood blossoms are underneath the tree!
Ere spring was going -- ah, spring is gone!
And there comes no summer to the like of you and me, --
Blossom time is early, but no fruit sets on.

All the dog-wood blossoms are underneath the tree,
Browned at the edges, turned in a day;
And I would with all my heart they trimmed a mound for me,
And weeds were tall on all the paths that led that way!

More Millay here

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The ontological proof that God does not exist...

From a commenter at The Comics Curmudgeon, a masterful takedown of St Anselm's ontological argument. Amusing - and useful if you ever run into someone who still buys it.

1. God is by definition the best of all beings.
2. A being that exists is better than a being that doesn’t exist.
3. Therefore, God, by definition, MUST exist. QED, part one. So far so good, now:
4. Frank with enough money to pay the rent, is better than Frank without enough rent money.
5. A God who created a universe where Frank could pay the rent would be better than a God who did not.
6. Thus, because of (1) above, Frank must be able to pay his rent.
7. Therefore, Socrates is mortal. QED (part two).

(The kicker of course is that Frank cannot.)

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Happy Birthday, Edward

Sophia fleeing school
Born today in 1925, in Chicago, Edward Gorey, master of the disturbingly macabre illustration and story.
I definitely recommend you read his three Amphigorey collections.



books. cats. life is sweet.The "life is sweet" sweatshirt gets a lot of grins and compliments.

Here's a fan animation of the Ghastlycrumb Tinies.


And by all means, take this quiz: Which Horrible (Edward) Gorey Death will you die?

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At 9:08 AM, February 22, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Arguably, Gorey's most widely known work is the animation for the opening of "Mystery" on PBS.

 

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"They will know..."

Over at Slactivist, Fred has a little story linking to an article about the Holy Sepulchre - or, more specifically, about the two Muslim families who caretake and preserve the place:
Which is why they’re the only ones who can be trusted with keys to the place. That’s how it’s been for at least the past 800 years or so.

Because keeping the keys out of Christian hands has been the only way to keep us from killing each other over control of the shrine. (This makes it not only the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb, but also the final resting place of the meaning of Jesus’ death.)
One of his commenters said this, which is sad and funny simultaneously:
"They will know you are my disciples by how much you need the Muslims to keep you from killing each other."

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Jolted out

Peter Robinson is one of my favorite writers. His detective novels transcend the genre to become studies of humanity. In A Dry Season is a masterpiece.

I've just begun his latest, Before the Poison. I'm in Chapter 2, and this morning on the bus I was twice jolted out of the story - to be fair, the second one was less than a page after the first and I might not have noticed his narrator complaining about people in "cinemas" "texting on their mobiles". But the narrator has lived in the US for 35 years and while there are probably people who call movie theaters "cinemas" over here, I really think anybody who'd been living in the US since 1975 without once leaving (as I've read on I see he has visited London and Paris - but only visited so I think the point stands) would say "cell phone" instead of "mobile". After all, cell phones weren't even invented till the early '70s.

The other was his description of a dream in which his (late) wife was playing Monopoly with her brother and "laughing over who was buying Madison Avenue". There is no Madison Avenue in Monopoly (unless they were playing some customized version, and if so it better pay off ... Chekov's board game!). I know this may seem trivial, but you always notice things you know are wrong. And enough of them, even tiny ones, can lead to a general failure of an otherwise excellent book (not that I know this is excellent, but I still do trust Robinson).

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At 12:10 PM, February 21, 2012 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

I say both "cinema" and "mobile", but, then, I'm an oddity. Yes, that's a decidedly British way to say it. (The Germans call it a "Handy", which I rather like. Maybe I'll switch to that.)

 

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Happy Birthday, Wystan

Born today in York, England, in 1907, W.H. Auden. Here is one of his poems - most are too long for posting here.

In Memory of W.B. Yeats

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.



III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.


Find more Auden at Poetry.org

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Jumanji Park

Yes, Diane Sawyer (or her writers) just confused Jurassic Park - with the cloning from ancient DNA - with Jumanji.
"As we said, this is in effect Jurassic Plant. You remember the man-eating plant in Jumanji that the scientists revived? The one that ate people? Well, scientists in Russia have done something similar."
It's a cool story, growing a plant from a seed thousands of years old, but ...

There were no scientists in Jumanji. There was a man-eating plant, but it came out of a magical and/or cursed board game. The funny thing? There was actually a reference in Jurassic Park to recreating ancient plants. Of course, they didn't eat anybody... Laura Dern sitting in a Jeep staring at a leaf isn't as visual as Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, and Robin Williams playing tug-of-war with a plant, using Bradley Pierce as the rope...


the man-eating plant from Jumanji

the fictional Cretacean plant from Jurassic Park

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At 10:41 AM, February 21, 2012 Anonymous Anonymous had this to say...

How about Audrey II in "Little Shop of Horrors" -- the "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space"? ;-)

 
At 11:41 PM, February 21, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Oops! That was mine (as you might've guessed). Obviously I was a bit distracted at the time.

 

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Nothing goes away

Politico, welcome to the Internet.

No, really.

Last week, Politico's Donovan Slack wrote a story about President Obama's visit to Wisconsin. She started it like this:
MILWAUKEE -- It's very clear what side President Obama is on here in Wisconsin.

Behind the stage where he will speak today are two flags: an American one, as usual, and right alongside it -- and (sic) a flag for the local Obama at Masterlock plant under US and Wisconsin flags union, Wisconsin 1848.

Just one problem. Here's the photo Politico ran. Can you see what the problem is?

Yeah.

That's the state flag of Wisconsin.

It's bizarre enough that Politico actually thinks Obama is rabidly pro-union. But Slack couldn't recognize the flag? She didn't bother to ask anybody just what union that was - pipefitters? teamsters? public school teachers? firefighters and sailors? - most union emblems do say that.

If you go to Politico now, you won't find that story (amusingly, it's still (as Politico 'most popular posts' showing Union Flag'of today) in their Most Popular Posts sidebar, though the link just goes to the front page). They've decided not to apologize for it, or correct it. They're just pretending that it never happened. But this is the Internet. Nothing actually goes away. Nothing goes away.

This isn't just funny, or mildly embarrassing, or a hint that a little research helps. As In These Times' Mike Elk writes,

All jokes aside, though, there is a fundamental problem Politico's screw-up exposes: workers not being quoted in stories pertaining to issues that affect them. As a Pew Study recently showed, union members were only quoted in 2 percent of all stories about economic matters in 2009.

...

In his new book Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, John Nichols writes about how The New York Times got a key story wrong in the earlier stages of the battle. ... Nichols writes, “The reason that the New York Times enabled Walker is the same reason that so many media outlets get so many stories about the organized and unorganized struggles of working Americans wrong. They haven’t bothered to cover low-income and working-class Americans seriously for years, choosing instead to tailor their reporting to attract the elite upper-income readers and viewers who advertisers want to reach.”


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Happy Presidents' Day!

Presidents' Day posterHere in the US, today's holiday is commonly referred to as Presidents Day. Or is it President's Day? Or maybe Presidents' Day? AP says don't use the apostrophe in constructions like this, unless it's an irregular noun where the plural doesn't end in S (so they approve of International Women's Day, or at least the spelling), but the Chicago Manual of Style says
Although terms such as employees’ cafeteria sometimes appear without an apostrophe, Chicago dispenses with the apostrophe only in proper names (often corporate names) that do not use one or where there is clearly no possessive meaning.
Of course, the official holiday is Washington's Birthday, so there's no ruling from the government as to the official name. So, since I think it's crazy to do things differently for a noun just because it's regular, I'm using the apostrophe. Sue me.

It's a day best known for auto sales and no mail, but maybe we should take a break from the dancing Abes and Georges and think about why we're honoring them.

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"Bringing back American manufacturing"

Robert Reich points out a truth:

But American manufacturing won’t be coming back. Although 404,000 manufacturing jobs have been added since January 2010, that still leaves us with 5.5 million fewer factory jobs today than in July 2000 – and 12 million fewer than in 1990. The long-term trend is fewer and fewer factory jobs.

Even if we didn’t have to compete with lower-wage workers overseas, we’d still have fewer factory jobs because the old assembly line has been replaced by numerically-controlled machine tools and robotics. Manufacturing is going high-tech.

And a corollary:

The fact is, American corporations – both manufacturing and services – are doing wonderfully well. Their third quarter profits (the latest data available) totaled $2 trillion. That’s 19 percent higher than the pre-recession peak five years ago.

But American workers aren’t sharing in this bounty. Although jobs are slowly returning, wages continue to drop, adjusted for inflation. Of every dollar of income earned in the United States in the third quarter, just 44 cents went to workers’ wages and salaries — the smallest share since the government began keeping track in 1947.

The fundamental problem isn’t the decline of American manufacturing, and reviving manufacturing won’t solve it. The problem is the declining power of American workers to share in the gains of the American economy.

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Happy Birthday, Ansel

Ansel Adams was born today in San Francisco in 1902. This photograph, The Tetons and the Snake River, is one of the 116 images recorded on the Voyager Golden Record aboard the Voyager spacecraft. These images were selected to convey information about humans, plants and animals, and geological features of the Earth to a possible alien civilization.

The Tetons and the Snake River

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Week in Entertainment

DVD: Season 5 (sadly, the last) of The Sarah Jane Adventures. I particularly liked the one where Clive finds himself homeless. All the extras for Doctor Who's season 6, including six short pieces apparently shown on tv to keep audiences primed, and The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe with that lovely ending.

TV: The last episode of Downton Abbey, which decided to kill off Lavinia with Spanish flu, since she wasn't anything but a plot contrivance anyway, and also miraculously restore Matthew's spinal cord while still idiotically keeping him and Lady Mary apart. I will probably watch the Christmas special (on DVR tomorrow) just to see Nigel Havers, and if they decide to put Bates in jail (I doubt it), but season 3? Might, might not; it'll depend on how much else there is to watch. Once Upon a Time - is this going to be the redemption of Rumplestiltkin? That could be cool. Grimm, creepy ending. The Mentalist, with an ending I saw coming. The Middle, Bieber Fever! Loved them rejoicing over Brick being angry and humiliated: finally, appropriate emotions! (And I really identify with Frankie not being able to read the capchas...) And Modern Family's cautionary tale about mixing drinking and sentiment. I loved Claire and Mitchell under the table. Also The Hound of the Baskervilles, 2002 (here), and Once Upon a Honeymoon, which I'd never seen all of before. Cute.

Read: Death Comes to Pemberley, which isn't so much a "mystery" - Darcy & Elizabeth don't go running around solving crimes - as a continuation of the story, wrapping up a few loose ends here and there. PD James is a good writer and the book works. The World We Found, by Thrity Umrigar, a novel about four Indian women and the way their lives diverged after college in India's tumultuous '70s. The Lions of Little Rock, a rather brilliant YA about the year after the Little Rock 7, when Little Rock closed its high schools rather than integrate. I remember the bitterness in my father's voice when he talked about Montgomery and its zoo and parks, how "they'd rather shut them down and have nothing, than share." (Wikipedia says, coyly, "The Montgomery Zoo was established in 1935 at Oak Park as Oak Park Zoo. It grew and thrived there until the 1960s. In 1974, the Zoo was re-established and moved to its current located in north Montgomery.") And a hard-to-characterize novel called Taft 2012 which is about, well, current politics, but examined via President Taft's sudden reappearance in the White House grounds in 2011...

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Whitewashing Baskerville

Watching a 2002 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, with Richard Roxburgh and Ian Hart. For some reason, they decided to alter the legend of the hound - instead of the ancient baronet kidnapping and raping a young village girl, who perished fleeing from him across the moor, now he falsely accused his wife of adultery and was killed by her faithful hound after she perished fleeing from him etc. They also decided that Selden the convict was spared because he was 16, and have Stapleton murder his wife, shoot Watson in the shoulder when he comes to avenge her, escape across the moor being chased by Holmes, taunt Holmes when he falls into the mire, and be shot by Watson, who then has to rescue Holmes...

I always wonder why the heck they make such changes, especially the minor ones, like to the legend.

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WWII Pledge of Allegiance

Dekker and Rogers saying the Pledge of Allegiance in 'Once Upon a Honeymoon' 19421942, Once Upon a Honeymoon, Ginger Rogers is talked into spying on her Austrian husband (who, unbeknownst to her, is a Nazi). The agent who recruits her (played by Albert Dekker) gets her to recite the pledge of allegiance with him -
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Yeah. No 'under God'... And yet, somehow, the Republic stood. Even triumphed.

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At 11:43 AM, March 04, 2012 Blogger Daniel Ruth Exposed had this to say...

How bizarre. The Pledge of Allegiance was the origin of the Nazi salute and of Nazi behavior in the USA. See the discoveries of the historian Dr. Rex Curry. That film was made apparently at the time when people in the USA were trying to cover-up the pledge as the origin of the nazi salute and nazi behavior, and people were dropping the pledge's early nazi salute. The Pledge of Allegiance is Hitlarious.

 

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Happy Birthday, Amy

Amy Tan
Today is Amy Tan's birthday; she was born in 1952 in Oakland. She's written several books, all good - The Kitchen God's Wife is one of my favorite novels.

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Happy Birthday, Nicolaus

Copernicus by Matejko
Born today in 1473, the originator of the theory which bears his name - the Copernican, or heliocentric, system, which challenged and then (for most people) replaced the geocentric system, which held that the earth was the center and everything revolves around it. Nicolaus Copernicus was a brilliant polymath who merely dabbled in astronomy, and yet he removed the geocentered (and anthrocentered) universe from the realm of science.

He died in 1543, apparently, of a stroke, and legend has it that he regained consciousness in time for the first printed copy of his, if you'll pardon the pun, revolutionary work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) to be placed into his hands, allowing him to see his life's work before he died. It's only a legend, but it's a nice one, isn't it?

(painting by Jan Matejko, displayed in the Nicholaus Copernicus Museum in Frombork)

teach the controversyAnd let's not forget to teach the controversy! Ha

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Younger than the Happy Meal"

Fred Clark puts something in perspective:
In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal.

Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.

He goes on - and it's an interesting read.

Here's a longer taste:
That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author of The Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even their readers — fired from almost any evangelical institution. For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website. If you applied for a job in 2012 with Christianity Today or Dallas Theological Seminary and they found out that you had written something like that, ever, you would not be hired.

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Happy Birthday, Audre

Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde was born today in New York City in 1924. She worked in a series of low-paying jobs between high-school and her eventual attendance at college, earning a BA in literature and philosophy from Hunter in 1959 and an MLS from Columbia University in 1960. Being gay, she was unable to find a home in the Harlem Writers Guild - being gay and black and a woman, she was an outsider in many ways, and her collection of essays "Sister Outsider" is widely acclaimed and taught. Here is one of her poems.

Coal
I
Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame
How a sound comes into a word, coloured
By who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open
Like a diamond on glass windows
Singing out within the crash of passing sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
And come whatever wills all chances
The stub remains
An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
Breeding like adders. Others know sun
Seeking like gypsies over my tongue
To explode through my lips
Like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
Bedevil me.

Love is a word another kind of open—
As a diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am black because I come from the earth's inside
Take my word for jewel in your open light.

(more poems and info on Audre Lorde here)

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Maryland, on the right track!

I just got (for some reason) a whiny press release from two Maryland Republicans bitching about the House of Delegates passing the same-sex marriage bill. Never got one from them before, they're not even my delegates (fortunately). It was certainly an odd way to get the good news, though. Nonetheless: What great news it is! Now for the State Senate to do the right thing.

After New Jersey, Washington, and the court ruling on California's Prop 8 ... great news indeed.

O'Malley stands up for all citizens

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Happy Birthday, Alice Mary (or Andre)

Andre NortonAnd one more birthday: Alice Mary Norton, who wrote as Andre Norton and also Andrew North, was born today in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1912. Norton wrote more than 130 novels (and I think I've read them all) in her 70 years as a writer, as well as nearly a hundred short stories. She was the first woman to receive the Grand Master Award from the World Science Fiction Society. A month before her death in March 2005 at age 93, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America created the Andre Norton Award for an outstanding work of science fiction or fantasy for young adults. Her books were among the first science fiction I ever read as child, and I still like them - especially the Solar Queen novels and the Beast Master books (no real relation to the movies no matter what they say). Her books were the first ones I remember featuring non-white and non-male protagonists, too.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bros and Sisses

New Jersey's state senator Gerald Cardinale, an (of course) Republican, is, to put it kindly, a lying idiot. He says, of New Jersey's to-be-vetoed same-sex marriage bill:
The bill would "create discrimination against many other co-habiting couples," such as siblings who have decided to live as a household, he said.

"If we open marriage to some same-sex couples, in the name of anti-discrimination, why not to all couples?" Cardinale said.
So, in New Jersey opposite-sex siblings can get married? Why not? Doesn't "opening marriage to some opposite-sex couples" mean you have to open it to all?

What a jerk. What a lying, weaselly jerk.

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A note re Dennis

Reposting this email without the fundraising elements, which the Hatch Act forbids me to include. (It won't be hard to find them should you want to.)
I am writing to urge your support for the re-election campaign of Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who has been our nation’s most consistent voice for peace, economic and social justice. Months ago, Congressman Kucinich’s district was dramatically altered by the Republican state legislature and the primary election is in only 19 days with mail-in balloting well underway. As a result, he is facing a highly competitive primary with a majority of new territory.

Dennis Kucinich was a voice of sanity after 9/11, cautioning against lashing out at the world. He led the effort in Congress opposing George Bush’s Iraq War. His October 2002 analysis of the call for war against Iraq stands today as a statement of clarity of vision and courage which, if heeded, would have spared the lives of US soldiers and Iraqi citizens alike. His was a relentless challenge to the rationale for the war and a call for accountability for those who lied to drag us into the war. You may remember that it was Kucinich who led the effort to try to impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney for their fabrications, prevarications, and other misstatements. When others were promising ‘permanent war for permanent peace’ Kucinich was the one who pointed out the idiocy and the hypocrisy.

In the past decade, Kucinich opposed not only the war in Iraq, he voted against every single funding bill for war, whether Iraq or Afghanistan. It was Kucinich who again rose up to create a rare bipartisan coalition to thwart the war against Libya for a time. As the fundamentalists now take hold there, once again the question arises, why did we go into Libya? What was that really about?

Today, the neocons again are attempting to rush America into a war against Iran. It was Kucinich who took to the floor of the House in debate to knock down again and again the false claims that were being made to try to justify sanctions which could lead to still another war.

This champion of peace obviously cannot rely on war profiteers for funds necessary to gain re-election. He must rely on those of us who are peace profiteers, our friends and family, to be his support and his voice as he has been ours over the past decade and more.

We must protect Congress’ most consistent, most courageous voice for peace and for civil liberties which peace protects. Please help preserve his voice, his vote in the United States Congress.

Thank you,

Gore Vidal

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3 Comments:

At 3:38 PM, February 16, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Without casting aspersions on either candidate, I seem to recall that Kucinich's district was redrawn following the 2010 US Census so as to place him in competition with a neighboring Democratic Congresswoman. To me that's the real outrage of this race; they BOTH ought to be reelected, on general principle.

 
At 6:34 PM, February 16, 2012 Anonymous Anonymous had this to say...

Had to look up the 'Hatch' Act... (I'm in Aus)seems rather totalitarian to me, I'd have thought that US society would be sophisticated enough to differentiate between one's private activites, & those as an employee. I suppose it does come from a less sophisticated time though... a historical hangover?
Pete McK

 
At 7:09 PM, February 16, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

It is old; it was actually instituted to protect employees from pressure, remove political patronage, and block office holders from misusing their position for partisan ends. In the last couple of years it's been tightened up to take electronic media into account.

 

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iFactories

Now there are more than esthetic or compatibility reasons not to use Apple products. Here's an article by Robert Scheer worth your while - a taste:
In reality the multinational corporations prefer China’s state-sponsored model of capitalism, which assures them an endless supply of docile workers unprotected by those pesky unions and restrictive government regulations. As Steve Jobs told President Obama last year, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” The reason that Jobs supplied in his 2011 approved biography is that the Chinese government is so wonderfully acquiescent to the development plans of foreign corporations. Not as in the U.S., where, Jobs claimed, “regulations and unnecessary costs” make it difficult for companies to operate. That the result of China’s deregulation is poisoned air, worker suicide and a massive waste of resources is deemed to be beside the point.

Oddly enough, Jobs, who succeeded in business without attending more than part of a single college semester, also blamed a U.S. educational system “crippled by union work rules” for what he proclaimed to be the sorry state of our domestic labor force. One of the basic human rights being violated by the Chinese government is that of workers to organize unions responsive to their needs; rather, they are at the mercy of phony organizations tolerated by the Communist government. It is sad, and not encouraging, that Jobs endorsed a blatantly anti-union position by claiming that until the teachers’ unions were broken, there would be almost no hope for education reform.

Considering the workforce employed by Apple, one has to question what sort of properly trained graduates Jobs had in mind. If the habits required of Apple’s workforce in China are to be emulated, the U.S. military, or perhaps our outsized prison system, should become the essential schooling system for American workers to better compete with the properly disciplined assemblers of iPhones in China

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count

Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend!

Great Backyard Bird Count logoTake as little as 15 minutes and help Cornell Lab and Audubon keep track of where birds are now. Will the trend of February robins farther north than usual continue? Will you see a Snowy Owl? Are there really fewer blue jays around than before? Are birds like phoebes or redwings starting their migrations early? Which will be the most common bird in the country? Your state or county?

Watch, report (on line, it's easy), and check the results when it's over.

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Happy Birthday, Banjo

Today Andrew Barton Paterson, known as Banjo to his readers, was born in Narrambla, New South Wales, 1864. I expect most Americans only know "The Man from Snowy River", and that from the movie, but he also wrote the words to "Waltzing Matilda". For a time this prolific poet was one of the most popular in the English-speaking world. And look - the Australians even put him on their money! Many of his works are here, and here's a nice one to go on with:

Australian Scenery



The Mountains
A land of sombre, silent hills, where mountain cattle go
By twisted tracks, on sidelings deep, where giant gum trees grow
And the wind replies, in the river oaks, to the song of the stream below.
A land where the hills keep watch and ward, silent and wide awake
As those who sit by a dead campfire, and wait for the dawn to break,
Or those who watched by the Holy Cross for the dead Redeemer's sake.

A land where silence lies so deep that sound itself is dead
And a gaunt grey bird, like a homeless soul, drifts, noiseless, overhead
And the world's great story is left untold, and the message is left unsaid.


The Plains
A land as far as the eye can see, where the waving grasses grow
Or the plains are blackened and burnt and bare, where the false mirages go
Like shifting symbols of hope deferred — land where you never know.
Land of plenty or land of want, where the grey Companions dance,
Feast or famine, or hope or fear, and in all things land of chance,
Where Nature pampers or Nature slays, in her ruthless, red, romance.

And we catch a sound of a fairy's song, as the wind goes whipping by,
Or a scent like incense drifts along from the herbage ripe and dry
— Or the dust storms dance on their ballroom floor, where the bones of the cattle lie.

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Happy Birthday, Susan

Susan B AnthonySusan B. Anthony was born today in Adams, Massachusetts in 1820.
This speech was given by Anthony after her arrest for casting an illegal vote in the presidential election of 1872. She was tried and then fined $100 but refused to pay.


Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.

The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:
"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, 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."

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people - women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government - the ballot.

For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity.

To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household - which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.

Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.

The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

South Pacific?

Ummm, Monica, Brunei is not a South Pacific anything.

I don't expect you to know that Tonga is the kingdom whose court jester ripped off the country for $26 million - I didn't - but guessing Brunei?

(And okay, yes, it's on Borneo. But that's not the South Pacific.)

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I ♥ my readers

Darwin with hearts, captioned 'I select you. Naturally!


(from here. Spread sciency love for Valentines Day.)

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At 4:05 AM, February 15, 2012 Anonymous fazryx had this to say...

hello, nice

 

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You can't do this

Actions before Columbine attack being investigated - Authorities were investigating a 14-year-old girl's actions before they say she attacked two students with a hammer at Columbine High School in the first assault with a weapon since the deadly shootings there in 1999.Media: NO NO NO NO NO.

You cannot use "Columbine" or "Columbine attack" like this. Those words do not mean a 14-yr-old hitting another student with a hammer and mildly injuring him. They. Do. Not.


If you can't see the image, the hed reads: Actions before Columbine attack being investigated

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Week in Entertainment

Live: At the Folger, The Gaming Table, a play first produced in 1705, hilariously funny and very well acted. a delightful evening.

DVD: Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye), with SRK, Abishek Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta, and Amitabh Bachchan. This one's about two unhappily married couples, the cross-couple attractions, and the anguish that comes from either trying to "fix" a broken marriage, or not trying to. It has a very untraditional message in the end ... pretty good movie. Dil To Pagal Hai (The Heart is Crazy), also SRK, with Karisma Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit and Akshay Kumar in an extended cameo. This one's more traditional, an A loves B who loves C who loves D (or does she?) tangle that's quite delightful. And also Jab We Met (When We Met), with Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor (no relation, as Babs and Buster Bunny used to say), although Kareena is Karisma's younger sister). This one's meet-cute fun all the way.

TV: The Middle was kind of cute; Brick's paper was a bit much for a 10-year-old, but I loved Axl's stealing it. Downton Abbey continues to zip through the war (it's over now), and Ethel's baby remains oddly the same age. Could that have been Patrick? Will Matthew walk again? If so, will it be after Mary marries her jerk fiancee (although it was a bit OTT the way everybody hated that he was buying a house. C'mon, seriously, people?)? And I gather that there's a Christmas special (which I hope we get over here) dealing with Bates's trial for murdering his wife. If he did. Which I'm sure he didn't. Modern Family was funny, as always (Cam and Gloria: "I fixed your kitchen." "I didn't know my kitchen was broken." "I fixed her hair." "I didn't know her hair was broken.") and I almost died over Haley writing her name as "Mrs. Haley Jonas Brothers". Grimm still interesting, especially as Nick tries to integrate his two lives with the two Portlands... The Mentalist: Cho is in trouble, I think - Summer and pills? Oh, my. The Preacher's Wife. Denzel wonderful as always, and I have to admit that at least the preacher had more serious troubles than the bishop did! And Whitney Houston ... what a shame. What a sad, sorry shame.

Read: A Double Death on the Black Isle, a sequel - and much better book - to A Small Death in the Great Glen. Then another mystery, Wicked Autumn, featuring an ex-MI5-agent-turned-priest as the sleuth. A bit uneven, but interesting enough to finish, though to be frank, I found all the moralizing over the murderers at the end a bit much. I bought several Scalzi shorts while he was giving his royalties to PP, and they were all, as usual, very entertaining. Two link to the Old Man's War universe (The Sagan Diary, Questions for a Soldier), and the other is one of his humorous shorts (How I Proposed to My Wife, subtitled An Alien Sex Story), which is funny, very funny.

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At 2:43 PM, February 13, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Did you hear this AM's piece on NPR "Morning Edition" re linguistic anachronisms in "Downton Abbey"? There've been several I've wondered about (including last night's "Suck up to [someone]" -- the report cites "I'm just sayin'," "Sorry to keep you waiting, but we're going to have to step on it,"
and "When push comes to shove, I'd rather do it myself." It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one who's been noticing:
http://www.npr.org/2012/02/13/146652747/im-just-sayin-there-are-anachronisms-in-downton

Nonetheless, I enjoy the series (what the Post's Lisa "Pookie" De Moraes categorizes as a "crunchy gravel" drama).

 
At 5:55 AM, February 14, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

I did. But I tend to think of things like that as translation - would we even understand genuine pre-WWI slang? Would it be funny (in the wrong way) or too obscure? Would we even recognize the emotions a particular phrase (like "I'm just saying") was meant to convey?

If we don't demand the actors in Spartacus speak Latin and/or Greek, why should we get upset with modern English in a period piece like this? Is it because it's too close to our own (unlike, say, The Lion in Winter (though they'd probably have been speaking French... sort of) or Robin Hood)?

As long as they don't start talking about faxing things, I'm okay with it.

 
At 9:32 AM, February 14, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Agreed that obscure pre-WW I slang might be incomprehensible to viewers (especially us Yanks) -- albeit a bit less so if couched in appropriate context. A little of that could have been rather fun, actually :-)

Also, as you propose, the "Downton" era is close enough to our own for the speech to make a difference (as compared to programs set centuries or millennia ago). After all, we viewers of (*cough*) a certain age still remember relatives and neighbors of that earlier generation, who spoke in the style of their own generation(s).

My memory may be slightly fuzzy on this final point, but didn't the characters in "Upstairs, Downstairs" speak in a manner more authentic to the period? I think that with greater care, Julian Fellowes could have done a better job on "Downton's" weak spots, had he made the effort.

We shall see what Season 3 brings...

 

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MEK, its supporters, and its sponsor...

Two very interesting reads at Glenn Greenwald's. A taste of the first:
those who are politically and financially well-connected are free to commit even the most egregious crimes; for that reason, the very idea of prosecuting Giuliani, Rendell, Ridge, Townsend, Dean and friends for their paid labor on behalf of a Terrorist group is unthinkable, a suggestion not fit for decent company, even though powerless Muslims have been viciously prosecuted for far less egregious connections to such groups. But this incident also underscores the specific point that the term Terrorism is so completely meaningless, manipulated and mischievous: it’s just a cynical term designed to delegitimize violence and even political acts undertaken by America’s enemies while shielding from criticism the actual Terrorism undertaken by itself and its allies. The spectacle whereby a designated Terrorist group can pay top American politicians to advocate for them even as they engage in violent Terrorist acts, all while being trained, funded and aided by America’s top client state, should forever end the controversy over that glaringly obvious proposition.
The second is more depressing and infuriating:
What made that sentence so amazing was that it basically amounts to a report that the U.S. first kills people with drones, then fires on the rescuers and others who arrive at the scene where the new corpses and injured victims lie. ... As I indicated, there have been scattered, mostly buried indications in the American media that drones have been targeting and killing rescuers. As the Bureau put it: “Between May 2009 and June 2011, at least fifteen attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media, including the New York Times, CNN,Associated Press, ABC News and Al Jazeera.” Killing civilians attending the funerals of drone victims is also well-documented by the Bureau’s new report ... When describing Hamas, Homeland Security even christened such attacks with a name: “the double tap.” Whatever else is true, this conduct is something the FBI, DHS, the DOJ and federal courts have all formally denounced as Terrorism.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Obama to Bishops: Now Shut Up

I have to admit that when I heard that Obama was going to announce "a compromise" to accommodate the Catholic Bishops in the 22 states where they aren't, yet, following the laws put in place a while back, I was ... upset. Had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, in fact. Great, Obama walks backwards again, accommodating his enemies (who in this case are definitely my enemies, given that I'm a (gasp!) woman).

But no. While still catering to their fragile worldview, one that requires them to redefine their faith as hatred of (gays and) women - as Fred put it
What the bishops demand is a universal law applying to everyone everywhere. They demand a sectarian establishment of sectarian belief that would apply not just to Catholic institutions but even to Taco Bell. They demand a world in which health insurance does not cover contraception for any woman anywhere.
After all, here's the list of things they didn't want to cover:
Well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing, STD counseling, HIV testing and counseling, breastfeeding support and supplies, contraception, and screening and counseling for domestic violence.
Sure, they say it's all about the birth control, but (like Komen deciding to let poor women get breast cancer) it's never that simple. The churches weren't going to have to preach that contraception was okay (just like they aren't going to be forced to perform gay marriages); they weren't going to be forced to force women to use contraception; they were just going to have to let their employees out in the bigger world - hospitals, universities, and the like - have coverage if they wanted it.

Ummm... I seem to have gotten lost in my subordinate clause, don't I? Let's see, where was I? ... Right.

While still catering to their self-proclaimed need not to pay for the evil evils of women's health care, Obama made it crystal clear that every woman who works for them will still have that health care provided, at no extra charge. Finally, a compromise that gets the job done.

There's a lot about this president I don't like. I'm glad I don't have to add another item to the list.

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Happy Birthday, Abraham

LincolnToday is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Here are some of his words:

This passage comes from a letter he wrote before his death:
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.

The money power preys on the nation in times of peace, and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces, as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes.
And this, from his days in the Illinois legislature:
The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.
Not a perfect man, not a perfect president, but perhaps the best we could have had at such a time, and better than we have often had in such times - or any times.

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Happy Birthday, Charles

Charles Darwin was born 203 years ago today. Of course, a couple of years ago was the big celebration all over the web, including the terrific stuff linked at blog for Darwin and what the Digital Cuttlefish came up with.

This year's not a big round number, so there's less. But the man is still worth celebrating. Why? Not because he was perfect, infallible, or laid down a sacred text. No. Because he opened our eyes to understanding out place in nature; because nothing in biology makes sense without his insight; and because his work was so good that 150 (oops, 152) years later, it still stands up. So here's to you, Charles Darwin! And here's a bit from Verlyn Klinkenborg's essay last year in the New York Times - it's still good, especially that last paragraph.
His central idea — evolution by means of natural selection — was in some sense the product of his time, as Darwin well knew. He was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin, who grasped that there was something wrong with the conventional notion of fixed species. And his theory was hastened into print and into joint presentation by the independent discoveries of Alfred Russel Wallace half a world away.

But Darwin’s theory was the product of years of patient observation. We love to believe in science by epiphany, but the work of real scientists is to rigorously test their epiphanies after they have been boiled down to working hypotheses. Most of Darwin’s life was devoted to gathering evidence for just such tests. He writes with an air of incompleteness because he was aware that it would take the work of many scientists to confirm his theory in detail.

I doubt that much in the subsequent history of Darwin’s idea would have surprised him. The most important discoveries — Mendel’s genetics and the structure of DNA — would almost certainly have gratified him because they reveal the physical basis for the variation underlying evolution. It would have gratified him to see his ideas so thoroughly tested and to see so many of them confirmed. He could hardly have expected to be right so often.

....Darwin recedes, but his idea does not. It is absorbed, with adaptations, into the foundation of the biological sciences. In a very real sense, it is the cornerstone of what we know about life on earth.
Update: Here's a video a friend of mine sent me:

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Boris

Today is the birthday of Boris Pasternak (Борис Леонидович Пастернак), who was born in Moscow in 1890. Although he had begun as a supporter of the Revolution, he later - after colliding with reality - became a quiet dissident. He ceased writing original work but supported himself as a translator. But towards the end of WWII he began to work in secret on his masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago. It took him approximately a decade, and when he was done he smuggled it out of the Soviet Union to a publisher in Italy. The novel came out in 1957. It was immediately banned in the Soviet Union, but it became an international best-seller, selling 7 million copies worldwide. The next year, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he was forced to refuse it. (The Academy announced: "This refusal, of course, in no way alters the validity of the award. There remains only for the Academy, however, to announce with regret that the presentation of the Prize cannot take place.") He died, in 1960, without ever having seen his novel in print (it was only published in the USSR in 1988) - but he felt it was worth it.

What most Americans don't know is that he was a poet - quite celebrated in Russia, especially for his influential first collection, My Sister Life, written in 1917 and published in 1921. He wrote two other collections of poetry before his pen became secret, and then silent. I just recently read a novel about Mandelstam, one of Pasternak's friends - The Stalin Epigram. It covers that crucial point in Stalin's Russia when the arrests began to spiral out of control. Pasternak is a character in it, and I highly recommend it.

Here are a couple of his shorter ones. (They're an interesting look at translating poetry, too, if you read Russian):

Ветер

Я кончился, а ты жива.
И ветер, жалуясь и плача,
Раскачивает лес и дачу.
Не каждую сосну отдельно,
А полностью все дерева
Со всею далью беспредельной,
Как парусников кузова
На глади бухты корабельной.
И это не из удальства
Или из ярости бесцельной,
А чтоб в тоске найти слова
Тебе для песни колыбельной.

Wind

I am no more but you live on,
And the wind, whining and complaining,
Is shaking house and forest, straining
Not single fir trees one by one
But the whole wood, all trees together,
With all the distance far and wide,
Like sail-less yachts in stormy weather
When moored within a bay they lie.
And this not out of wanton pride
Or fury bent on aimless wronging,
But to provide a lullaby
For you with words of grief and longing,

1953

Зимняя ночь

Мело, мело по всей земле
Во все пределы.
Свеча горела на столе,
Свеча горела.

Как летом роем мошкара
Летит на пламя,
Слетались хлопья со двора
К оконной раме.

Метель лепила на стекле
Кружки и стрелы.
Свеча горела на столе,
Свеча горела.

На озаренный потолок
Ложились тени,
Скрещенья рук, скрещенья ног,
Судьбы скрещенья.

И падали два башмачка
Со стуком на пол,
И воск слезами с ночника
На платье капал.

И все терялось в снежной мгле,
Седой и белой.
Свеча горела на столе,
Свеча горела.

На свечку дуло из угла,
И жар соблазна
Вздымал, как ангел, два крыла
Крестообразно.

Мело весь месяц в феврале,
И то и дело
Свеча горела на столе,
Свеча горела.


Winter Night

It swept, it swept on all the earth,
At every turning,
A candle on the table flared,
A candle, burning.

Like swarms of midges to a flame
In summer weather,
Snowflakes flew up towards the pane
In flocks together.

Snow moulded arrows, rings and stars
The pane adorning.
A candle on the table shone
A candle, burning.

Entangled shadows spread across
The flickering ceiling,
Entangled arms, entangled legs,
And doom, and feeling.

And with a thud against the floor
Two shoes came falling,
And drops of molten candle wax
Like tears were rolling.

And all was lost in snowy mist,
Grey-white and blurring.
A candle on the table stood,
A candle, burning.

The flame was trembling in the draught;
Heat of temptation,
It lifted up two crossing wings
As of an angel.

All February the snow-storm swept,
Each time returning.
A candle on the table wept,
A candle, burning.

1946


Translated by Lydia Pasternak Slater

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At 5:46 PM, February 10, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Since I don't know Russian at all, could you please tell me how closely the English translations you've reproduced mirror their Russian originals? I find that with Portuguese, rhymed translations diverge sometimes greatly in meaning. I don't even try to rhyme, just go for eloquence in the closest possible meaning (i.e, blank verse).

 
At 9:46 AM, February 11, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Here are some very literal translations:

Wind

I have died (ended), while you are alive.
And the wind, complaining and crying,
Shakes the woods and the dacha.
Not each pine-tree separately,
But all the trees as a whole
With the whole limitless distance,
As (it does) the hulls of sailing ships
On the smooth surface of a harbor (a bay for ships).
And this is not from bravado
Or from fury with no goal,
But rather in grief * to find words
For you in a lullaby (cradle song).

* This word can mean yearning or care; I might have read it "a yearning to find words for you" but Lydia (his sister, by the way) clearly didn't.

A wintry (winter's) night

It swept, it swep over all the earth
Into every corner (end, limit, bound).
The candle burned on the table,
The candle burned.

As in summer in a swarm the midges
Fly at the flame,
The white flakes flew upward from the yard
To the window frame.

The snowstorm shaped on the pane
Circles and arrows.
The candle burned on the table,
The candle burned.

On the illumined ceiling
Lay shadows,
Tanglings of arms, tangling of legs,
And tanglings of fates.

And two slippers fell
With a thud onto the floor,
And wax like tears from the night-light
Dropped onto the dress.

And everything was lost in the snowy mist,
Gey and white.
The candle burned on the table,
The candle burned.

It blew on the candle from the corner,
And the fire of temptation
Raised up, like an angel, two wings
Crosslike in shape.

It blew for the whole month of February,
And again and again
The candle burned on the table,
The candle burned.

 

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

The collapse of society

Hmmmm. Traditional values - ie, marriage - is declining in "the lower classes". Dreadful, right?

Except while right-wingers are complaining loudly about the end of values without being willing to admit that economic stress and joblessness are contributing to men's unwillingness to marry, they aren't admitting that teen pregnancy and crime and also way down. As Krugman says,
maybe traditional social values are eroding in the white working class — but maybe those traditional social values aren’t as essential to a good society as conservatives like to imagine.
And as one of his commenters says,
The collapse of society is seen in the number of people rejecting white Christian orthodoxy. The paradox is that rejection is good for society as a whole in that it encourages the full participation of groups excluded by white Christian orthodoxy.

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Mudpuppy

mudpuppyDrew! You're from Knoxville! How can you not know what a mudpuppy is? Even if you didn't recognize the picture, that "bark is worse than its bite" joke should have pointed you in the right direction. (Actually, even though they have holding teeth, not tearing teeth, their bite is worse than their "bark", once you aren't startled by a salamander barking...)

Uh-oh! Contradictory statements on the Internet! I went looking for a picture, and found that Wikipedia says they don't bark, but Nat Geo says they do! Okay, well, NatGeo says they make a "dog-like barking" that they later qualify as a mere "squeaky vocalization". It's true: it's not a bark but for a salamander it's pretty startling. Especially a salamander that's well over a foot long. Both sites say "they spend their entire life underwater" but I'm here to tell you that this only means they basically live in water; they do in fact walk on land sometimes - fairly often, in fact, though always close to water.

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