Showing posts from August, 2012

Happy faces

We're going into the Labor Day weekend after a week of hot air filled with blatant lies swirling around Tampa. Hurricane Isaac may have done a lot of damage in Mississippi and Louisiana, but Hurricane Romney/Ryan has certainly done more damage to our body politic. Not to mention the truth. Oh, well, let's forget all of that for the moment. We need something to make us smile. And here it is. If this doesn't make your edges of your lips twitch upward, there's probably no hope for you. Happy Labor Day weekend! Be safe.

The speechifiers

I haven't watched or listened to any of the Republican (Tea Party) National Convention this week. Frankly, you couldn't pay me to - it would just be too painful. But I have followed the convention, faithfully reading the reports in the news outlets that I follow daily and listening to summaries on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. My overall impression of the event is that I cannot remember any convention in my lifetime or any presidential campaign in my lifetime that has been so clearly and profoundly built on lies. The candidates themselves seem unable to open their mouths without uttering bald-faced lies. As for the speakers at the convention, they have been, to put it as kindly as I can, a bit irony-challenged. *~*~*~* Let's consider Ann Romney, for example. She spoke on "Women's Night," which is a totally ironic concept in itself for this anti-woman party. Her challenge was to make her listeners love Mitt Romney and to convince women that the

Wordless Wednesday: Green


Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen: A review

The famously cranky writer Jonathan Franzen, who once dissed Oprah and her book club, has published this book of essays which gives some insight into some of his crankiness, how his mind works, and how he thinks about writing - his own and that of others. It is an eclectic collection of essays ranging from such subjects as modern technology to birding and ecology to literary criticism. I found myself most often agreeing with him about the things that annoy him and I was very interested to read of the fellow writers whom he championed here, most of whom I had never read and of some of whom I had never heard. After reading this book, I'm adding several of them to my "to be read" list. I share with Franzen a passion for birds and birding and so the most interesting essays for me were the ones related to that subject, although, often, they are not  only  about that subject. The essay which gives the book its title, "Farther Away," concerns Franzen's trip t

The Lysistrata Strategem

Aristophanes wrote his play, Lysistrata, about a Greek woman who was so disgusted by the Peloponnesian War that she persuaded her fellow Greek women that they should withhold sexual relations from the men of Greece until they agreed to negotiate a peace. It was a comedy . It's not clear whether the men of Togo are laughing these days as women in that country have determined to use the Lysistrata strategy to try to effect political change t here. They are trying to force the president of the country to resign.  Moreover, their action is being supported by an opposition coalition of political parties, civic groups and movements in the west African nation. The family of  President Faure Gnassingbe has held power in the country for decades and a discontented populace believes it is time for him to go.  The Togolese women were inspired by a similar strike by Liberian women in 2003, who used it to campaign for peace in their war-torn country. Of course, the Lysistrata Stratagem is

Moon Man

I remember so well breathlessly watching on my parents' black-and-white television as this incredible event unfolded in July 1969. R.I.P. Moon Man - Neil Armstrong, hero of my youth.

Winterkill by C.J. Box: A review

C.J. Box is a good story-teller. He keeps it simple - good guys vs. bad guys. The only reliably good guy in his stories is Game Warden Joe Pickett. Most everyone else is venal and indifferent to the lives of others.  The worst of the bad guys are always federal employees, usually those who work for the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and occasionally, as in this book, the F.B.I. Those who believe that individual rights are paramount and must never be infringed upon by a government representing a larger society are always portrayed very sympathetically. In this story, for example, we have a group of survivalists who have arrived in the Bighorn Mountains from all over the country and are camping on federal lands. Many of these people are refugees from the firestorms of Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the Montana Freemen. They hate the federal government. When a local forest service supervisor is killed, suspicion falls in the direction of those who hate the government, bu

Phriday Photo

Giant Swallowtail butterfly on milkweed.

The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian: A review

This fourth entry in the Aubrey/Maturin naval historical series finds Jack Aubrey in the uncomfortable position of being stranded ashore. He has married his beloved Sophie and they have twin daughters, who absolutely flummox the captain. Also in the Maturin household is the mother-in-law and a young niece. So this man's man is stuck in a household of five women, not to mention the servants who are also women. He has never been so lost at sea or so miserable. Into this domestic scene comes his friend Stephen Maturin with secret orders for Aubrey. He is to take command of a frigate under a commodore's pennant and will sail around the Cape of Good Hope and mount a campaign against the French-held islands of Mauritius and La Reunion in the Indian Ocean. This part of the book is based on an actual campaign that occurred during the Napoleonic War. Patrick O'Brian's note says that he kept close to contemporary accounts including Admiralty records in telling the story, alth

Wordless Wednesday: A beauty break


He's not an outlier; he's the mainstream

But for crying out loud, what the hell is happening to our country? We now have a party with elected leaders who  think child labor laws are unconstitutional   (Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah), who  would repeal the Civil Rights Act  (Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky), who  think climate change  is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” (Republican Sen. James Inhofe).    - Sally Kohn, writing in today  Some wag once said that a political gaffe is when a politician says what he really thinks. By that definition, Todd Akin's statement about the female reproductive system having some kind of magical barrier that keeps it from getting pregnant when it is "legitimately raped" certainly qualifies as a gaffe, because there is not a single iota of doubt that this is what the man really thinks. Moreover, it is not just Akin that thinks this way. He's right in line with the base of his party, probably the majority of his party. He is

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell: A review

This is a very hard book to categorize. It is part thriller, part paranormal romance, part survivalist family saga, but mostly it is a coming-of-age story. The three Bigtree children, Kiwi, Osceola, and Ava, come of age in various ways in the pages of the book. The Bigtree children and their parents live on an island in the Florida swamps which the patriarch of the family, the children's grandfather, named Swamplandia. They have a kind of theme park there to entice the tourists and they are hanging on to solvency by a thread. Their shtick is wrestling alligators and the star of their show and their family is the mother of the family.  We meet them as tragedy strikes. Their star, the anchor of the family, falls ill from ovarian cancer and dies. The Bigtrees are bereft and at a loss as to how to cope. The theme park flounders under the loss of its star and competition from a rival park called The World of Darkness. It is what Ava calls "the beginning of the end." Th

Where are the editors?

I'm reading Swamplandia! , last year's acclaimed first novel by Karen Russell that was one of the finalists for the Pulitzer Prize which ultimately was not awarded to any of the year's many fine books . I had just started the book and I was reading along, enjoying the language and the descriptions when I come across this sentence: "But one night, the eve of their tenth wedding anniversary, she woke my sister and I and made us come out to the museum." "Nooooo!" I screamed. That sentence hit me right in the solar plexus. It represents what is easily my pet peeve among grammatical sins - the use of subjective pronouns as objects. It's something that one hears all the time on television now and sees more and more in print, even in print that should know better like this book published by Vintage Books, a division of Random House. Would any writer worth his/her salt or any halfway reputable punditizer on TV or even a writer of an inane television s

Saturday is for the birds!

Here are just a dozen of the feathered visitors to my yard this week. Blue Jay Carolina Chickadee Downy Woodpecker (female) Ruby-throated Hummingbird (male) White-winged Doves Red-bellied Woodpecker (male) Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female) Northern Cardinal (male) Rufous Hummingbird (female) Red-headed Woodpecker (juvenile - yes, that head will be red when he's grown!) Mourning Dove Rufous Hummingbird (male) I hope that you will make at least part of your weekend "for the birds" in your yard or neighborhood. Even the most common species are endlessly fascinating. 

Buried Bones by Carolyn Haines: A review

Seventy-six-year-old Lawrence Ambrose, a chip off the Truman Capote block, was once a celebrated name in the Southern literary world, but his heyday is long gone and he is mostly forgotten and ignored. All that may change though when his "biography" - actually an autobiography - comes out. He is writing the book but an ex super-star model's name will appear as the author and the word is out that the book will blow the lid off of several well-kept secrets of Ambrose's friends and running mates. As the year draws to a close, Ambrose invites all his friends and acquaintances, including one Sarah Booth Delaney, to a holiday dinner party where the tension among the guests is thick enough to be sliced by a knife. As it turns out though, it is the host who gets sliced. Sarah Booth finds him stone cold dead in a pool of blood the morning after the party. Moreover, it seems that the much-dreaded manuscript for Ambrose's tell-all book is missing. Soon, the woman w

It's good to be the Honey Badger

Any woman who goes into politics, regardless of her political party or philosophical leanings, must know, unless she's a total idiot, that she's going to be a victim of the double standard. The media and quite often the voters as well will look at her and the first questions that come to mind will be about her appearance. Is she pretty? Who does her hair? Where does she buy her clothes and what designers does she use? Is she maybe just a little bit pudgy? Not to put too fine a point on it, is her butt too big? Does she have wrinkles in her face? Does she ever appear to be tired? After all that, if there's any time left, they may consider what her stands are on "women's issues." Heaven forbid that she should have any opinions on the larger issues that face the country and the world! I can only imagine how very frustrating that must be for a serious woman with serious and informed opinions and well-reasoned views about the world. A woman like - o

88 books that made us who we are

The Library of Congress has a new exhibit called "Books That Shaped America" and to celebrate and publicize it they have issued a list of eighty-eight of those books . These are all books that were written by Americans. They date from 1776 up until 2002, and they are a very mixed bag. There are fiction and nonfiction books, poetry and prose, cookbooks, biographies, philosophy, books for adults and books for children. A quick perusal of the list will convince you that the books were not necessarily selected for their literary quality, although some of them certainly are of highest quality. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, said in his press release,  "This list of ‘Books That Shaped America’ is a starting point. It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books -- although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on th