Showing posts from 2011

Michele Bachmann, hunter

Michele Bachmann brags that she's a good shot with an AR-15 assault rifle and that it is her favorite weapon of choice for hunting. She told an interviewer on radio that she was going pheasant hunting with her fellow crazy, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, and left the impression that she was going to use an AR-15. Pheasant hunting with a semi-automatic assault rifle? Really, Michele? I freely admit that I don't know much about guns and I know less about hunting, but I did grow up among some very successful hunters. I don't remember them ever using assault rifles. Rifles, yes, or sometimes shotguns, but they didn't find the need to resort to semi-automatic weapons. Still, they were able to bag their prey. But in Republican politics, the bigger the gun you can claim to use the better, apparently. Whether it is actually the type of gun that is needed to kill your prey is irrelevant. I guess in Bachmann's case though her actual prey is the gullible voters of Iowa and she

Crazy neighbors

A few miles from where I live, a house burned last week. It was what the local newspaper called "a historic homestead" that had been in the family of the man who owned it since 1927. The house burned to the ground even though the fire department was on the scene. The firemen were unable to get near the house because it contained an estimated 100,000 rounds of ammunition ! As the fire spread, the ammunition started exploding and popping in all directions, making it dangerous for the firefighters to approach and so all they could do was stand and watch it burn. According to the newspaper, not only did the house contain all that ammunition, it also had 30 to 40 family guns inside! Thirty to forty " family" guns?  Were these people planning on starting their own army? The craziest thing about this story is that, in the gun-worshiping culture that is Texas, this is not even considered an aberration worthy of note. The headline in the paper said "Fire destroys

2011: It was a very good/bad year

2011 was such a downer of a year on so many fronts. The worldwide economy was in a mess. Self-serving politicians refused to do anything that might help the country for fear that it would also help the re-election prospects of a president whom they despise and revile. The dumbing of America aided by such "news" outlets as Fox News continued. Global warming continued on its inexorable path and extreme weather became the norm. Here in Texas, the exceptional year-long drought accompanied by the worst wildfires in the state's history made our lives a misery. Still, some optimistic folks are able to look back over the year and find reasons to celebrate. One of them was Michael Moran of who gave us his list of ten things to celebrate about this year. 1.   Osama bin Laden : Not merely his death, but an ignominious death at the hands of US soldiers that revealed once and for all the value of patience, Pakistan’s duplicity, President Obama’s mettle as commander-in-chie

Wordless Wednesday: Winter


Enlightenment is hard but worth the effort

This is the time of year when everyone and his dog make lists of the best and the worst of the year now ending. In several of the lists of the best television shows of the year, I'm happy to see that one of my personal favorites is being mentioned. Enlightened, the HBO series by Laura Dern and Mike White , which also stars Dern as the main character Amy Jellicoe, has not gotten the buzz that many of the year's series have had. All the talk this fall has been about Showtime's Homeland with critics falling all over themselves to praise it. Frankly, it left me a bit cold, but I loved Enlightened , although I sometimes wondered if anybody besides me were watching. Amy Jellicoe is a disturbed California woman who has an emotional breakdown on the job and goes away to a rehab center in Hawaii to try find herself. There, she finds more than herself; she finds "enlightenment" and she returns home to try to put her life back together and to make it and the world bett

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R.R. Martin: A review

This series just gets darker and darker. George R.R. Martin continues to show no compunction about killing off his characters. Of course, he's got about a million of them so there are plenty to spare!  The clash of the kings continues in this volume. The five contenders for power in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros wage their wars across the face of the land and no one is safe or secure.  Robb Stark still rules in the North and has not yet lost a battle.  The execrable Joffrey Lannister still sits on the Iron Throne most recently occupied by his putative father, Robert Baratheon.  Robert Baratheon's brother, Stannis, has been defeated and disgraced but still hangs on to his army and still plays the game of thrones. Meanwhile, Stannis' and Robert's other brother, Renly, is dead, possibly the victim of witchcraft.  And, across the sea, Daenerys of the House Targaryen, mistress of the only three dragons in the world, makes her way slowly westward, vowing to reclaim the Iron

Happy holidays

It's going to be a busy week with not much time for blogging but here's something from Simon's Cat to wish you happy holidays and maybe give you a chuckle. As for my own little angelic kittens, they would never climb the Christmas tree and send ornaments and needles crashing to the floor or play soccer up and down the hall with said ornaments or knock the shepherd in the Nativity scene to the floor, smashing him into a hundred pieces. Oh, no, they'd never do anything like that! In fact, butter wouldn't melt in their little mouths as they wait for their visit from Santa Claws. Happy holidays to all.

The death of an atheist and a true-believer

I thought it was a supreme irony that Christopher Hitchens should have died this week at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston just as the Iraqi war was ending. This, after all, was the war that he had championed and supported all through the last nine years and right up until his death. He had written endless justifications for that stupid and totally unnecessary war. He had been a cheerleader for the deaths of innocent Iraqis in the service of what he saw as a higher good - the West's battle against what he called "Islamofascism." As far as I know, he never acknowledged the fact that Iraq was not an Islamic state under Saddam Hussein. For ill or good, it was a secular state, and no, it didn't have weapons of mass destruction as Hitchens and the other chickenhawk neo-conservatives claimed. Since Hitchens' death, there have been countless fawning and glowing remembrances of him. He was, it cannot be denied, a brilliant man with a love of and impressive gift for the

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) by George R.R. Martin: A review

Incest, fratricide, alchemy, the dead rising to walk and kill, cold hearts and cold steel and, of course, dragons -  A Clash of Kings  has all that. It also has strong characters and a fully realized mythical world that seems as real and as current as today's newspaper.  The land of Westeros is in turmoil. Even more turmoil than in  A Game of Thrones . In fact,  A Game of Thrones  seems almost tame by comparison. Yes, George R. R. Martin has definitely kicked it up a notch with this book.  The king who sat on the Iron Throne, Robert Baratheon, is dead, killed by a boar and by the perfidy of his queen, Cersei. His friend and ally, Eddard (Ned) Stark, the Hand of the King, is dead, killed by the newly installed King Joffrey, a cruel and obnoxious 13-year-old boy, son of Cersei and putative son of Robert. Ned was killed, as the previous Hand had also been killed, because he had uncovered a terrible secret about Cersei and her son.  Now the Stark family, Lady Catelyn and her five

An unnecessary war ends

The government is today marking the official end of the Iraqi war. The unnecessary war. The war built on a lie and the swaggering hubris of a small group of small men who had never been to war and had no appreciation or understanding of its costs. In this case, the costs were thousands, perhaps more than a million, dead and many thousands more maimed. Lives ruined that can never be recalled or repaired. A country torn down to build up the egos of those small, swaggering men. And through it all, the men who fomented that war could never even give the country they were destroying the respect of calling it by its correct name. To them the country would always be "eye-rack." They taught a generation of young Americans to call the country - the correct name of which is "ear-rock" - by this spurious, insulting name. It's only one example but it bespeaks the attitude of these despicable chickenhawks, and gives an indication of why many people in that part of the worl

Thanks a lot Lowe's!

Thanks a lot Lowe's. You just made my bedroom redecoration project more time-consuming, expensive, and inconvenient. So that's how you repay my loyalty. You've probably heard and read of Lowe's stupid, cowardly, and totally tone-deaf move of pulling its ads from t he reality show on TLC that shows an ordinary Muslim family in Michigan going about its daily life. I admit I've never seen "All-American Muslim," not because the idea of the show offends me but because I don't watch reality shows. Period. But from what I've read, the family that is the center of the show is just a typical American family, not so different from my own. This was too much for the Muslim-haters. The series didn't show the jihadists, they screamed. It didn't show Muslims making bombs or planning to kill innocent Americans, and everybody knows that is how all Muslims spend most of their time. The Muslim-haters' insane complaints reached Lowe's corporate of

The debate that wasn't

So now Donald Trump has pulled out of his own debate! The Donald announced to his slavering public today that he would not, after all, be moderating a debate between Republican candidates for president later this month. The reason he gave was that he wants to keep his options open should he decide (in his infinite wisdom) that the eventual nominee of the Republican Party doesn't have the right stuff. If that is the case, the Donald wants to be able to jump in and run as an independent in order to save the country. The only Republicans who had consented to show up for Donald's debate were Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, but I'm sure that the lack of enthusiasm among the other candidates for appearing on the same stage with Donald Trump's hairpiece and ego had nothing to do with Trump's decision to call the whole thing off. No, Trump is motivated strictly by his deep patriotism and desire to be of service to his fellow Americans. What a guy!

Whacking "Boardwalk Empire"

The agonizing, confusing, infuriating second season of  HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" came to an end last night. Finally, I won't be wasting an hour of my life each Sunday night on a show which seemed to have no focus and no clear purpose. It was just kind of all over the place. Of course, no one was forcing me to watch it. But I had watched the first season last year so I had something invested in the characters and the story and I wanted to see where it all was headed. The answer seemed to change from week to week. It was as if the writers really had no clear idea of what they wanted to do with the characters. It felt like each week's story was created on the fly and didn't necessarily relate to the previous weeks or to the future. By the time this season was halfway through, I had frankly lost all interest. There were really no characters that I cared about except the poor little children and they were just ciphers, props for the adults. Still, I kept watchi

The stars of the southern hemisphere

The late autumn and winter nighttime sky is especially beautiful and interesting for those who enjoy looking into heaven, both the professional astronomers and the amateur backyard stargazers like myself. The clarity of the winter atmosphere makes all those heavenly bodies "pop" and seem even brighter and closer than they normally do. But things are popping on the opposite side of the equator as well. I recently ran across a marvelous time-lapse video by astro-photographer Stephane Guisard that shows that brilliant southern hemisphere spring/summer sky. The scene is the sky over the Atacama Desert in Chile. If you'll notice the rocks in the video, you can also see some of the ancient petroglyphs left by people who lived in that desert long ago. It is a fascinating video. Enjoy. "Hierbas Buenas" Valley Petroglyphs (Night Time Lapse Movie) from Stéphane Guisard on Vimeo . The Bad Astronomy blog in Discover magazine has a discussion of the film which exp

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin: A review

I have freely admitted that before the HBO series "Game of Thrones," I was not familiar with George R. R. Martin's work. Truly, sometimes my ignorance is just breathtaking.  Once the television series began, I was quickly hooked. It was a rich and fascinating story of families, betrayal, loyalty, human perfidy and cruelty, heroic deeds, all laid over with a mysterious threat to the civilization of the seven kingdoms of Martin's world. The acting was good and the production values outstanding. It was, in short, a very good series. What of the books from which the tale came? I had to find out for myself.  What I have found in reading the first book of the  Song of Ice and Fire  series is that the television series was very true to the book. All the characters and all the action that were part of the series are there in the book. It is an amazing read.  Martin has created a mythical land that seems as though it might have been real in some dim and distant past, per

Wordless Wednesday: Hint of winter in the mountains


A Russian spring?

It seems that the spirit of discontent with the status quo that fueled the Arab Spring and, later, the Occupy movement in this country and around the world is beginning to creep into Russia as well . Protests have sprung up in Moscow and people have taken to the streets over voting irregularities and, indeed, over many long-standing complaints. As one of the activists stated, "People's mentalities have changed. I can't stand being lied to anymore." That seems to be a succinct statement of what is bothering people in Moscow and in many places in the world. We just can't stand being lied to any more. People in government and in public life make up their own "convenient truths," to support whatever political doctrine they espouse. They relentlessly repeat these lies, never blinking any eye, until they enter the accepted dogma and people forget, if they ever knew, that the whole thing started out as a convenient lie told to make someone look good. The t

A dry and stormy future

The southwestern part of the country, from Texas right west to California, has had one of its driest years on record. Moreover, it has also been one of the hottest on record. It has been the all-time worst fire year in Texas and has seen the biggest and most damaging wildfires ever in Arizona and New Mexico. The summer just past was the hottest ever recorded in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico. In my part of Texas, we endured an August where every single day except one had high temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit - often well above 100. If you've enjoyed this year's weather, you are going to love the future here, because there is every indication that this year has been a harbinger of things to come. Drought, heat, wildfires and extreme storms may well be the norm for this region in the foreseeable future . We should no longer talk of climate change in futuristic terms. Climate change is not happening only in some distant future. Climate change HAS happened a

It's Caturday!

What is it with cats and boxes anyway?

Faulkner on HBO?

I saw an interesting article in the online magazine Slate today. It seems that David Milch of "NYPD Blue" and "Deadwood" fame has signed a deal with HBO to develop several of William Faulkner's works for television.  Since Milch does have a known - and successful - track record in television, Faulkner's works would appear to be in good hands. Moreover, HBO has a long lineage of doing quality series, so the addition of Faulkner to that lineage is something to look forward to. The story didn't specify which of Faulkner's many novels or short stories might be showing up on our home screens at some point in the future. Of course, several of his works have been adapted for the big screen in the past. Some have been successful adaptations, some not so successful, but Milch certainly should not be bound or influenced by any of that history. One hopes that instead he will look at the works with fresh eyes and with the thought of translating them for an

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton: A review

Kinsey Millhone just gets better with age. In  V is for Vengeance , she turns thirty-eight. The year is 1988 and Kinsey is in her prime as a private detective. She is tough and smart, a woman of her word who lives to see justice done. Even if it is sometimes a rough kind of justice.  In this entry in the long-running series, we find Kinsey shopping the lingerie department at a department store and there she witnesses a woman shoplifting several items. She reports the woman to a clerk who calls in the loss prevention people. The shoplifter is followed out of the store and then confronted about the unpaid-for items she's carrying. Ultimately, she is arrested and taken to jail. For Kinsey, it is a satisfying outcome, but then, a few days later, she learns that the woman is dead, an apparent suicide. But was it?  Her fiance' is disbelieving and hires Kinsey to get to the bottom of what he believes is murder. Little could Kinsey have anticipated where the trail from that one dea

Wordless Wednesday: The debt ceiling (From GQ magazine)


Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich: A review

You always know what you are going to get with a Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum novel. Stereotypical New Jersey mob references. A basically incompetent bounty hunter who couldn't catch a cold without major assistance from the big, strong, sexy men in her life. Kooky bail-jumpers who are generally of the comic book character variety and who will lead Stephanie and her "wingman" Lula a merry chase throughout the book. Stephanie's exploding cars or, as an alternative, stolen cars. Stephanie's crazy grandma who is hooked on "showings" at the local funeral home. Implied hot sex between Stephanie and two hot men - although not at the same time. Lula wearing skimpy outrageous clothes that barely cover her fat body and taking umbrage at anyone uses the word "fat" in her presence and constantly eating fried chicken and/or doughnuts and frequent references to her former career as a 'ho. Well, it's all there in this book, too. That being said -

Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen by Emily Brightwell: A review

The first of the Mrs. Jeffries Victorian mysteries series was published in 1997 and Emily Brightwell has churned one out every few months since then. Twenty-two of the books had preceded  Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen , (published 2007) the one that I just read, and there have been at least a half-dozen written since then! Yes, Ms. Brightwell is quite prolific. Not particularly original or interesting, but certainly prolific.  This is the first of the series that I have read, and, obviously, a lot of exposition and water have flowed under the bridge since the beginning. This entry somewhat supposes that the reader has a familiarity with the characters and is invested in their stories. I wasn't, and that made the book less enthralling than it might have been. It is the selection of my local Mystery Book Club for the month of December and that was my excuse for reading it.  Mrs. Jeffries is the housekeeper for Inspector Witherspoon of Scotland Yard. The unmarried inspect

The USNS Medgar Evers

I remember when Medgar Evers was murdered by a white supremacist in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. It was one of the saddest and most shameful days of many such days for that state during that period. His was also the first of a number of political assassinations of prominent champions of civil rights that occurred in the 1960s. The killings of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy were to follow and, for many, overshadowed Mr. Evers' death. That death, though, made an indelible impression on my youthful memory and I've never forgotten its impact. It was with a certain amount of wonder and real pride that I learned recently that the U.S. Navy had chosen to honor the memory of Mr. Evers by naming one of its newest ships after him .  The U.S. Navy Ship Medgar Evers was christened by his widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, in San Diego on November 12 and will begin serving as a supply ship for the Navy in early 2012. Thus the Navy honors an Army veteran who served

The Ionian Sanction by Gary Corby: A review

The Ionian Sanction is the second in Gary Corby's very interesting ancient Greek mysteries series. Thorion, the proxenos (agent) for Ephesus (a Hellenic city in the Persian Empire) in fifth-century Athens, is dead. Very dead. His body is hanging from the ceiling of his office in his Athens home, where he is found by Pericles. Pericles had received a note from Thorion which seemed to say that he had committed treason against Athens. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems at the death scene.  Pericles calls in the investigator Nicolaos, whom he had used once before, to look into the death. Nico quickly discovers that Thorion did not die hanging from the ceiling. He was already dead when he was put there. Who killed him? Why? Did it have something to do with Thorion's supposed treason? He was the agent for Ephesus. Did the cause of the murder emanate from there?  Pericles is nothing if not decisive and he decides on the spot to have Nico to investigate fu

Addams Family Values: Wednesday Addams explains Thanksgiving

Have a happy, violence-free Thanksgiving.

What'll they cheer this time?

There's another of the endless Republican "presidential" debates tonight and I can hardly wait to see what the slavering audience will cheer this time. So far the Republican debate audiences have gone wild to show their support for: The death penalty to be applied without restraint. Letting uninsured people die of treatable diseases. An electrified border fence to kill people who try to cross it. Furthermore, they have booed: Gay soldiers who choose to serve their country, even those who are in war zones. Letting children (who may themselves be citizens) of undocumented workers pay in-state tuition at Texas universities. Given that history, it's really not all that hard to predict what the crowd might get hot and excited about this time. I would guess that if Newt Gingrich mentions his plan to do away with child labor laws and put six-year-olds to work as janitors, the Republican crowd would love it. And if he goes even further and mentions his long-ago


It's the name of a big, new novel by Stephen King and, for my generation of Americans, it is a sad date forever etched in our memories. 11/22/63 - the date that our president was murdered. Each year since, as the fatal date draws near, there is always a flurry of news stories about it and a flurry of commentary, both positive and negative, about the president who died that day in Dallas. This year is no exception. In addition to King's book, we have the release by Caroline Kennedy of her mother Jacqueline's taped 1964 reminiscences with Arthur Schlesinger and Chris Matthews' biography of the man, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero .  Also, the weekend just past brought us a long article in New York Magazine by Frank Rich entitled "What Killed JFK?" Rich's answer to the question he poses is that it was the pervasive hatred of the times which created the atmosphere where a deranged loser could believe that it would be acceptable for him to assassinate a presiden

The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby: A review

Just over a week ago I first learned of this series of mysteries set in the ancient Athens of Pericles and Socrates and I couldn't wait to get started reading them. I requested the book on my Kindle and got right down to business. I was not disappointed.  This is Gary Corby's first Athenian mystery but he shows a sureness and sophistication in the plotting, and his characters are well-drawn. Many of the characters here, like Pericles, Socrates, and the first murder victim Ephialtes, were real people, but Corby's main character Nicolaos is his own invention. He is a particularly appealing and empathetic character.  Nicolaos is the son of a sculptor who hopes that his older son will follow in his footsteps. Nico has other ideas, but in ancient Athens he is bound to do what his father commands. He only becomes a free adult when his father dies.  We meet Nico just as he has returned from his two years of service in Athens' army. He is twenty years old and has an idea that h