Showing posts from September, 2016

Voodoo River by Robert Crais: A review

Returning to my reading of Robert Crais's Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, I've reached entry number five, Voodoo River . I think it may be my favorite so far, although it's hard to say just why that is. It follows the by now familiar formula. Elvis, "The World's Greatest Detective," is hired by someone in trouble, usually a beautiful woman, to extricate her from that trouble. He noodles around doing his detecting thing until he more or less stumbles into a theory of what's going on and how to solve the problem, at which point his more deadly partner, Joe Pike, enters the game and the two of them clean up Dodge, usually with a lot of gunfire involved. I think perhaps my liking of this book may have something to do with its setting. Most of the action takes place in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, places that I have visited and have some familiarity with, so perhaps it was easier for me to enter into the action. Anyway, for whatever reason, it was an enterta

Succinctly stated

I find it quite ironic that the people who seem most offended by African-Americans protesting the unlawful killing of unarmed black men by trigger-happy police are some of the same people who proudly display their Confederate flags and who delight in posting on social media the most hateful racist rhetoric concerning our president and his family. And yet they will tell you that they are the patriots and anyone who protests by refusing to stand for the national anthem is unAmerican at best, and at worst should be stood up against a wall and shot. I thought Bors' cartoon expressed all of that pretty succinctly.

The would-be banners

They are still out there, even in 2016. They are the people who obsess over stopping the dissemination of ideas which they find offensive. Specifically, they try to stop books that contain such ideas from becoming widely available to the public. They are the would-be book banners. These are the people who challenge books available through libraries and schools and ask for them to be taken off the shelves. They would say that they are just trying to protect children, but it generally turns out that they are trying to keep children from reading about things which they find offensive, without regard to whether such knowledge is actually harmful to kids. Over the years, a dazzling variety of books have been challenged. For example, Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and, of course, Harry Potter have been the subjects of concerted campaigns to get them off the shelves. In 2014, even Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop came in for criticism and an attempt to ban it. The argument was that it pr

Wordless Wednesday: American Painted Lady


The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson: A review

The Gap of Time was the first entry, published last year, in the Hogarth Shakespeare series. This is the project that has modern writers reimagining the Bard's plays in modern settings. This book is a reimagining - or, in Winterson's own words, a cover - of Shakespeare's play, The Winter's Tale . It is one of his late plays, usually classified as a romance. It starts in tragedy and ends in comedy with everyone, but for two notable exceptions, living happily every after. The tragedy part of the play deals in some heavy psychological drama and the comedy part is replete with Shakespeare's famous misdirections and misunderstandings that are all cleared up in the end. At least this is what I gather from the Wiki information about the play, for, in truth, I have not read it nor have I ever seen a production of it. Neither have I ever read any of Winterson's work, so I come to the book as a complete virgin. The center of Shakespeare's tale is King Leont

The awards you've been waiting for

The Nobel prizes will be announced in early October, but stealing a march on their "competition," last week at a ceremony in Boston the Ig Nobel prizes were announced to general hilarity and profound amazement at the lengths that some scientists will go to in their quest for knowledge. The Ig Nobels are in their 26th year and every year at this time they honor some of the strangest research in all of science. The prize this year was Zimbabwean currency worth about forty cents in U.S. money and the prizes were given to the winners by some actual Nobel prize winning scientists. Proving that there are no bounds on the curiosity of scientists, these were some of the winners this year: Egyptian urologist Ahmed Shafik investigated the effect that wearing trousers would have on male rats. He made trousers for his subjects in different kinds of materials including 100% polyester, 50/50% polyester/cotton, all cotton and all wool. He found that rats wearing polyester had signi

Poetry Sunday: The Beautiful Changes

Autumn has arrived and, if we just peek over our windowsill, we can see October coming up our driveways. It is a time of change - changes in Nature and changes in ourselves as we enter this more contemplative season. Richard Wilbur's poem addresses the beautiful changes that take place in autumn as the forest and the meadow are touched back to wonder. If we look hard, maybe we can see the changes in ourselves as well.  The Beautiful Changes by Richard Wilbur One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides The Queen Anne's Lace lying like lilies On water; it glides So from the walker, it turns Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes. The beautiful changes as a forest is changed By a chameleon's tuning his skin to it: As a mantis, arranged On a green leaf, grows Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows. Your hands hold roses always in a way that says They are

This week in birds - #224

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Green-winged Teal *~*~*~* The winter finch forecast is out . This is the forecast published by Ron Pittaway every year that predicts the movements of finches from Canada and the upper northeastern United States into the southern parts of the continent during the winter months. In general, he says that some of the cone crops in Canada have been poor this year which may prompt the finches to move farther south in search of food. *~*~*~* The modern day version of the Sagebrush Rebellion advocates turning over federal public lands in the West to private ownership or to the states. One of many questions not addressed by such proposals is just how the new owners would deal with protecting communities from wildfires that occur with increasing frequency over the area. *~*~*~* For the past fifteen years, ultralight aircraft have led young captive-hatched Whooping Cranes from Wisconsin to Florida on their first fa


Autumn tiptoed through our doorways this morning, glancing fearfully over its shoulder in case summer was about to tackle it and pull it back. And it should well have been nervous. Temperatures have still been in the 90s this week and the high today is supposed to be 90 degrees F.  Maybe that doesn't sound too bad, but the humidity makes that feel like it is 97 degrees. To step outside, as I just did for about thirty minutes, is to quickly realize that autumn has not exactly taken hold yet. Still, the calendar says it's here and there are some autumnal signs in the land. Some of the leaves are beginning to turn.  Now, we don't get a lot of fall color in our leaves here, but a few trees, like the sycamore pictured above, will give us a bit of the feeling of fall. ( Full disclosure: That picture was actually taken a couple of years ago and it was in late October when most of our fall colors, if we get any, make their appearance. )  Crape myrtles, too, offer some red

Wishbones by Carolyn Haines: A review

Needing some light reading as a palate cleanser, I turned to Carolyn Haines. It doesn't come any lighter and fluffier than her Southern belle private eye series featuring Sarah Booth Delaney (hereafter referred to as SB). It turned out this one didn't so much cleanse my reading palate as poison it, or at least curdle it. Let me not mince words: This is not a good book. In this entry, we have SB heading to Hollywood, on the basis of one turn as a star in a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in Zinnia, Mississippi, to star in a remake of Body Heat, with her in the Kathleen Turner role and her lover, Graf Milieu (that name - really???), in the William Hurt role. So, we have two complete unknowns starring in the millions of dollars remake of this major motion picture. Oh, yes, and Ashton Kutcher is in a supporting role. In Hollywood, SB and Graf seem to spend most of their time making sweet, sweet love and very little time working. They roll onto the movie set around midd

Wordless Wednesday: Black swallowtail


The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr: A review

Matthew Carr has written several nonfiction books on historical subjects, including the Inquisition and the purging of Muslims from Spain in the 16th century. Now he has written his first novel, also dealing with that subject. The Devils of Cardona refer to the Moriscos who were Moors who were forced to convert to Christianity. But, as the book makes clear, they were not devils; they were just human beings trying to survive in the world and raise their families in peace. Peace, however, was in very short supply in the Spain of the 16th century. It was the time of the Spanish Inquisition, which nobody expected. ( Sorry, Monty Python fans. I couldn't resist. ) The Inquisition saw heresy and conspiracies everywhere and the Moriscos were easy scapegoats. They were persecuted unmercifully. The story here begins in 1584 when a priest in Aragon is murdered in his church. The church itself is desecrated with the walls defaced with Arabic words written in the priest'

Poetry Sunday: September Tomatoes

The end of the spring/summer vegetable garden is fast approaching as we anticipate the autumnal equinox a few days hence. It's a bittersweet time for the gardener, pulling out all those plants that she had so assiduously cultivated for months. But they are spent. They have fulfilled their purpose and now it is time for them to go.  "The whiskey stink of rot" that pervades the garden confirms that this is so. And so, even though "it feels cruel," the good gardener steels herself and pulls up the plants and tosses them on the compost in a ritual as old as our great-grandmothers and even older. A ritual that may even be so powerful that it can "turn the weather."  As we swelter under the late summer sun, we can only hope.   September Tomatoes by Karina Borowicz The whiskey stink of rot has settled in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises when I touch the dying tomato plants. Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms flai

This week in birds - #223

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : White Ibises photographed at Brazos Bend State Park earlier this year. *~*~*~* President Obama this week created the first national monument in the Atlantic , thus prohibiting commercial fishing and other types of extraction in a series of deep canyons and extinct undersea volcanoes that lie more than 150 miles off southern New England, along and beyond the continental shelf. The protected area includes part of the wintering range of the Atlantic Puffin . *~*~*~* By a vote of 95-3 on Thursday, the Senate passed a $10 billion water resources bill that includes funds for the Central Everglades Planning Project which will redirect water to undernourished Florida wetlands affected by human development. *~*~*~* Purple Martins are birds that, throughout most of their range, depend almost entirely on human-provided nesting structures . Joe Smith suggest that maybe we need to rename them People Martins! *~*~

Another Clinton "scandal"?

Political cartoonists can get across their points very succinctly. A few frames of a good cartoon can be more effective than thousands of words. Here's a case in point: Jen Sorensen explaining how even the most innocuous action Hillary Clinton takes becomes - in the minds of her haters, at least - a "scandal."

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2016

Oops! I almost forgot about Bloom Day this month. The day slipped up on me. Can it really be the middle of September? Fortunately, Carol of May Dreams Gardens never forgets and she hosts this meme every month. Thank you, Carol. Now let's see what, if anything, I can find blooming in my zone 9a garden this month. The coral vine is beginning its bloom right on schedule. The white Texas Star (swamp) hibiscus is still putting out a few blooms. The butterfly ginger blooms just outside the window of the room where I do my daily pedaling on my recumbent bike, so I'm able to watch the hummingbirds jostle over the blooms as entertainment while I do my boring exercise. The tall pink (and invasive) ruellia called 'Chi-Chi' is in full bloom. And so is its compact and non-invasive cousin, 'Katie.' The buttonbush is still sporting its weird little blossoms. White cat's whiskers. Turk's Cap - the old dependable. The br