Showing posts from May, 2013


Look out, cats. Your days as king of the internet may be numbered. There is an animal which affords you some major internet cuteness competition. Sloths. Sloths are very, very big on the Internet just now. And they got there by doing practically nothing and doing it verrry slowly. Unfortunately, their cuteness does not protect them from threats in the wild. The main threat to their existence, as with so many animals, is habitat destruction. But there are people devoted to their rescue. One of them is Monique Pool, a sloth rescuer and founder of the Green Heritage Fund Suriname . She recently rescued more than 200 sloths from 16 acres of forest that were being cleared for a cattle farm.  She harbors the animals for a few days before releasing them back into the wild, usually caring for one or two at a time. But the recent rash of deforestation led Pool to rescue many mothers and babies that will need to be cared for for months before they can be released. She also took in ho

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James: A review

Whenever one sees a list of "Great American Novels," Henry James'  The Portrait of a Lady  almost invariably appears on it. Indeed, one can find proponents of the idea among the literary  cognoscenti  that it is THE Great American Novel. And so, it was necessary that, in furtherance of my woefully lacking literary education, I should read it and decide if I agreed. The first thing that I learned is that reading Henry James is not for the faint-hearted. This book, which is considered to be his masterpiece, was published in 1881 and it was written at a time when verbose, dense novels were in vogue. It certainly fits into that tradition.  James writes sentences that go on for half a page or more. He never uses a one-syllable word when a three-syllable word is available. His paragraphs go on for pages without a break. The conversations of his characters are maddeningly oblique. They seem to be speaking in some kind of code to which I do not possess the key.  Moreover, none

Don't let the door hit you on the backside!

So... we won't have Michele Bachmann to kick around anymore . No more crazy histrionics from the crazy lady from Minnesota to sigh and shake our heads about.  Well, never mind. We'll still have Louie Gohmert and Virginia Foxx and too many others like them so there'll still be plenty of silliness in Congress. But, once her current term is up, no more Bachmannisms like these: If you look at FDR, LBJ, and Barack Obama, this is really the final leap to socialism [...] they’re trying to consolidate power, so we need to do everything we can to thwart them at every turn to make sure that they aren’t able to, for all time, secure a power base that for all time can never be defeated. ( link ) The news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would, I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they are pro-America or anti-America. ( link ) The real concerns is that there are provisions for

Wordless Wednesday: Summertime = Sunflowers and Butterflies


The American Meadow Garden by John Greenlee, photography by Saxon Holt: A review

( Cross-posted from Gardening With Nature . ) As the earth heats up and droughts become more prevalent across the country, American gardeners are learning, in many cases to their chagrin, that the broad expanses of green lawn that have long been a staple of the American landscape may no longer be sustainable. These lawns are water-guzzlers and, as water becomes more dear, it is more and more obvious that the traditional lawn has to go. Moreover, that traditional lawn as it has evolved over a century and a half has become a time-consuming, synthetic chemical-sucking monster. It is not good for the environment and it is not good for the humans who must spend an inordinate amount of time grooming it. Although it may appear an inviting place for kids and pets to play, its dependence on chemicals which remain in the ecosystem can make it a dangerous place for even those activities. John Greenlee, a nurseryman and garden designer with decades of experience behind him, thinks that h

Memorial Day

Memorial Day. It's not just a day off from work. It is a day to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. Let us honor that service and that sacrifice today and every day.

Poetry Sunday: The Weavers

The Weavers BY  LINDA GREGERSON As sometimes, in the gentler months, the sun will return                           before the rain has altogether                                                       stopped and through this lightest of curtains the curve of it shines with a thousand                             inclinations and so close                                                         is the one to the one adjacent that you cannot tell where magenta for instance begins                            and where the all-but-magenta                                                       has ended and yet you’d never mistake the blues for red, so these two, the girl and the                           goddess, with their earth-bred, grass-                                                       fed, kettle-dyed wools, devised on their looms transitions so subtle no                            hand could trace nor eye discern                        


It's been a while since we checked in with Maru, the famous Japanese cat who is an Internet sensation, so let's see what he's up to. Maru has a new toy. It is a pink cardboard car. To Maru, it probably just looks like another cardboard box and we know how he feels about boxes. Boxes are meant to be gotten inside of one way or another, no matter how long it takes! Cats and boxes - some things never change.

Forever Young

Seventy-two years ago today Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in Duluth, Minnesota. Yes, the musical icon of  my generation, Bob Dylan, is 72 years old today. Back in the '60s when we both were young, 72 seemed far, far away and ancient. Today, it gets closer every year and seems quite young actually. Maybe 70 is the new 50. Anyway, over the years, Bob has said it all in song. His songs are the background music of my life. And one of his songs that I have always loved seems particularly appropriate today. He wrote it for his children but it has meaning for all of us. Here he is in a performance of "Forever Young," backed up by his friend Bruce Springsteen. Thanks for all the music, Bob, and happy birthday. May your song always be sung.

The World's Rarest Birds by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash, and Robert Still: A review

(Cross-posted from Backyard Birder .) The most striking thing about this fascinating book is the wonderful photographs of birds. Many of the photographs were obtained through the method of organizing and running an international photo competition. More than 300 photographers from around the world submitted over 3,500 photographs. The winning images along with 800 others appear in the book. Yes, this is a very photo-rich volume!  There are some 650 birds that are considered Endangered or Critically Endangered by conservation groups which monitor the status of birds in the wild. There are a number of those species that have never been photographed. They may, in fact, be extinct, but at the very least they have rarely been seen and no usable photographs exist. This category includes some 76 species and these were illustrated for the book by Polish artist Tomasz Cofta. But for the rest of the birds included here, photographs were obtained. The book begins with several introductory

Wordless Wednesday: Summertime...


The Golden Rule and hard hearts

When the Congress was debating the bill to provide relief to victims of the Super Storm Sandy that hit the East Coast last year, Rep. Tom Cole from Moore, Oklahoma remarked that his state was only one tornado away from needing such federal relief itself. He voted for the bill with no strings attached. Cole's words were prophetic and, unfortunately for Oklahomans, his prophecy came true in a big way yesterday with the massive tornado that hit his home town. Now, Oklahoma will need major help from the rest of the country to recover and rebuild. But that's what we are here for. After all, we here in Southeast Texas are only one major hurricane away from needing help ourselves. Christians - true Christians - know it as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's not a bad rule to live by, whether you are a Christian or not. In the debate on Sandy relief in the Senate, neither of Oklahoma's senators followed that rule . In fact, quite the o

This must drive Darrell Issa crazy!

The trifecta of so-called scandals currently being hyped by the inside the beltway press corps in Washington seem to have had the perverse effect of elevating President Obama's popularity with the great mass of Americans who live outside the beltway, outside the bubble. The results of the first polls  since the stories broke show that his approval ratings have actually increased. His approval now stands at 53 percent. I'm sure this has left Republicans scratching their heads, trying to understand why the American people are not responding to their faux outrage over Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP. The public, at first glance, seem to have sussed out just what that "outrage" is: A political attempt to damage and weaken a popular president. We've all been down this road before, not so many years ago. We remember the Clinton era and Gingrich et al's attempt at impeachment. Now Republicans are tossing around the word impeachment once again. It seems almost certa

Poetry Sunday: Ozymandias

    The Kate Atkinson book that I read this week referred to Shelley's iconic poem Ozymandias. It served as a plot device related to one of her main characters and I was reminded that I had not read the poem in quite a while. So, I looked it up and read it and decided to feature it for this Poetry Sunday. Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal, these words appear: My name is  Ozymandias , King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands st

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson: A review

Kate Atkinson's mysteries read like literary fiction. Very, very good literary fiction. She manipulates her multiple story lines to construct a tight and intricately woven tale that is fast-paced and keeps the reader turning those pages. She writes with wit and humor, but also manages to convey the melancholy, loneliness, and regret of her characters without ever being maudlin. In other words, she is able to present a full portrait of their humanity.  Moreover, in  One Good Turn , she delivers a delicious and particularly satisfying twist at the end. I loved it! In this book, we again meet Jackson Brodie, the ex-army, ex-police, and now ex-private detective. At the end of  Case Histories , Jackson had inherited two million pounds from a grateful client and had sold his private detective agency and gone to live in France.  He had started an affair with one of his former clients from that first book, Julia the actress. Now, Julia has taken a part in a production to be presented at

Need a laugh? Here are a few.

It's been a frustrating, irritating and generally maddening week as we have been treated to the obsessing of the Washington press corps over so-called "scandals" that proved to actually be not all that scandalous in my view. But these "journalists" like Jonathan Karl of ABC News are so used to accepting without question the Republican outrage of the day and parroting it that they are the real scandal. Meantime, they can't be bothered to investigate and cover the outrageous story of the pervasive culture of ignoring sexual assault in the military and the true scandal of how the House of Representatives wasted the country's time and money by holding the 37th - 37th!!! - vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act this week. Well, let's forget all of that for a few moments. The best sitcom on television, The Big Bang Theory , wrapped up its sixth season this week and as Ken Tucker of The Daily Beast wrote today, it just keeps getting better. So, as

Girls hate Game of Thrones? Really???

Apparently, girls are not supposed to like Game of Thrones , but don't tell my daughters - or me. I love Game of Thrones . Loved the books. Wish George R.R. Martin would get on with pushing that sixth one out. Love the HBO series. Plan my Sunday nights around it, in fact. It's the series that it is being assumed by some writers that girls don't like. There's all that gross stuff - incest, torture, dirt, guys getting hands or nipples or balls cut off. All those naked women - although they've tried to balance it with a few naked men this season. At least their butts. Unlike with the women, we don't get full frontal nudity. Plus, it's a complicated story that diverges in about seven different directions - just too much for our simple little girly brains, I guess. But the fact is that I and many other women and girls agree with Alyssa Rosenberg of that it is "one of the most outrageously enjoyable shows on television right now." And a bi

4,099 and counting

Since the massacre of school children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut shocked the consciences of Americans on December 14, 2012, at least 4,099 more people have been killed in gun violence in the United States. Many of them have also been children and often it is a case of children killing children. Like the five-year-old boy in Kentucky who  recently shot and killed his two-year-old sister with a rifle that his parents had given him as a gift. Think about that for a moment. A five-year-old with a working firearm. That had been given to him by his parents! What kind of parents allow a five-year-old to have a gun? Now, they and he have to live with their decision for the rest of their lives. But there'll be no legal consequences for them, because that is just an accepted way of life in their society. As far as the community is concerned, there are no lessons to be learned here. Just bury the girl and forget her. There have been many

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny: A review

The monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups is hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec. It is home to two dozen cloistered monks who live lives of contemplation and prayer, locked away from the world. They tend their gardens and their chickens and make chocolate-covered blueberries for sale or exchange with other monasteries and they sing. They sing plainchant, Gregorian chants. This music over the centuries has become known as the "beautiful mystery" because of its profound and almost magical effect on both singer and listener. Even though the community of Saint Gilbert have taken a vow of silence, they raise their voices in these chants and a recording of them singing has been sent out into the world where it became a sensation. People love the music. Unfortunately, within the community the recording causes sensation also. And dissension. The community divides along the lines of those who want to make more recordings to raise money to support the repairs that need to b