Bizarre story out of England. Worth reading for the last line.
...including the possibility that the nephew of opposition leader Mousavi was killed. I wish someone could smuggle satellite phones into Iran that could instantly upload videos to the world. The more the Iranian government cracks down, the more they become part of the losing side of history, I believe. It may take years, and Khamenei may die before it happens, but I believe the Iranians will one day secure their freedom.
...from the perspective of an immigrant. It reminds me of the title of Craig Ferguson's book, American on Purpose. It is a good reminder that people still come here inspired by the ideals America espouses. We've been battered and divided by this decade, and it is good to be realize that those ideals still exist and that we can continue striving to make those ideals real.
Just got an email from Ex Libris, a major player in the library automation field, that says instead of sending printed Christmas cards to their customers, they are donating that money to a hunger-relief charity. Kudos to them!
I love Frank Rich's column. He undertakes so often to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. This week, he names Tiger Woods the person of the year, representing a decade in which we have been bamboozleed by leaders in politcs, business, sports, etc.
Today's Schott's Vocab column in the New York Times has a bunch of puns sent in by readers. Example:
“I went out on my deck and I thought I saw an Eskimo delivering the Weekend Competition posting. I was wrong. It was an optical Aleutian.” Stan
Happy Solstice/Yule to all of you who celebtate it. May the season of light bring belssings to all. If you don't celebrate Solstice, have a merry holiday of whatever form you celebrate. New Year's counts.
Iran's leading dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, has died. Along with alleg with allegtions that three students were beaten to death in jail in the summer, if offers more chances for protest movements. there seems to be a widening fissure between the hard liners and those who would like to treat the protests more moderately, and Khamanei, the power figure in Iran, seems to waber between the two groups.
|Title||Long past stopping : a memoir|
|Tags||memoirs, autobiography, addiction, heroin, drugs|
|Oran Canfield's memoirs of his childhood and drug addiction are difficult to read. His life story is so bizarre and chaotic it makes me realize just how sheltered a life I've led.It begins with his father, Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the soul fame, abandoning him and his mother when he was a year old and she was pregnant with his brother Kyle. He was often abandoned in his childhood, as there were plenty of periods his mother couldn't take care of him. He was left with anyone who could take him for a while, and it was mostly a pretty bizarre collection of situations. He and Kyle were left for a while at a school that believed in letting the children decide what to do with no imposed structure. Mostly they seemed to jump on a trampoline.Oran was so shy it was beyond painful and into terrifying. He learned to juggle in large part because it gave him something to focus on so he didn't have to talk to anyone. He was part of a circus for a while, but it was mostly an unpleasant experience of endless physical work and pain.The book alternates chapters between stoires from his childhood and the story of his addiction to heroin and other drugs. Given the life he had led, and his severe levels of anxiety and self-loathing, drug addiction seems an unavoidable part of his life. He went to rahab several times, but it never took. It is not until the very end of the book that he tries an experimental drug that works to end his addiction.Am I glad I read this book? I think so. I have my own addiction issues that his help illustrate. It certainly shows me a life very different from my own in outward from, though. Usually I welcome that, but Oran's life is just so painful it does not make for a pleasant read, at least not until the very end.Disclaimer: I received this book free from Amazon Vine in return for a review.|
|Publication||New York, NY : HarperCollins, c2009.|
|ISBN||9780061450754 / 0061450758|
Statements by each group side-by-side in visual form. Readable by the lay person. Mentions ClimateGate briefly. Nicely done!
I am not a Christian, I am a Pagan. But I grew up Christian, Presbyterian flavor, and still retain a lot of interest in the dominant form of religion in the U.S. Naturally I'm not terribly interested in the orthodox form of Christianity. My views of the religion have been most shaped by John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal bishop, and Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar. Both have written numerous books and I've read several by each of them. Spong remains a Christian, but does not believe in a lot of what is generally considered to define Christianity. Ehrman has become an agnostic because of the question of human suffering.
Spong has an email newsletter in which he answers questions from readers. In the following Q and A, he gives in brief his view of God, humanity, and Jesus, and what they mean in a post-Darwin world. IF I were to be Christian, it would be something along these lines:
Tom Weller of Panama City, Florida, writes:
In your recent response about Darwin (in which you suggested the atonement theology will no longer be an adequate way to interpret the Jesus story) you said, "The traditional meaning of the Eucharist will have to be revised." Looking at the Eucharistic prayers of various denominations, including the United Church of Christ, I find them all focused on sacrificial death and atonement, all including the "words of institution." Is there a Eucharistic prayer that is not so focused that you are aware of or that you like? Or, perhaps, have you drafted a proposal of your own that we could see?
I have run into many Eucharistic prayers that are almost a denial of sacrificial thinking; the Church is certainly moving in that direction. I have never tried to write one, since liturgy has never been my talent. I do believe that Darwin's thinking will finally force the Christian Church to alter the way it talks about God, Jesus, salvation and human life. When that insight finally dawns on the Christian consciousness, the result will be a reformation so total that it will put the Reformation of the 16th century into the category of an afternoon tea party.
We will have to recognize first that we cannot define God; we can only experience the sense of transcendence, wonder and awe. When we talk about God, we are not talking about an external being, we are talking about a human perception and, as such, God is ever changing. When we talk about human life, we are not talking about a fallen sinner, but about an incompletely evolved creature that cracked the boundary into self-consciousness and needs to be empowered to become whole, something more than a survival-oriented creature. When we talk about Jesus, we are not talking about an external savior who came to rescue us, but a life in whom and through whom transcendence has broken into history. Jesus does not save us from a fall that never happened or restore us to a status that we have never had. He empowers us to be more deeply and fully human and to enter higher and higher levels of consciousness where we finally discover that we live in God and God lives in us. The Eucharist then becomes a celebration of who we are and a call to walk more deeply into the meaning of humanity.
It was my work trying to understand life after death that drew me in this direction. I think we are headed for the most exciting century in Christian history. I anticipate that most of what we call religion today will die in the next century. Rigor mortis has already set in. Out of that death, however, will come a new beginning. I am glad that I have lived to see the birth pangs. Hard labor is ahead but a new creation is being born and in that new creation God will be newly experienced and newly discovered — not as a Being who lives above the sky, but as the presence that is revealed in the heart of the human.
Take these thoughts to your next Eucharist.
|Tags||fiction, movies, film making, hollywood, history, fatty arbuckle, greta garbo, scarlett o'hara, marilyn monroe|
|Garson Kanin was involved in Hollywood for many years, knew many of the greats in film making in its golden years. In this novel he makes use of his inside knowledge.The story centers on the fictional Ben Farber of Farber Films. He is in negotiations to sell his company, and he tells Guy Barrerre, the narrator and negotiator, the story of his life. And what a life! He gets into the film business almost from the beginning, working for Mack Sennett and D. W. Griffith in New York and moving with them to Hollywood. He thought Mabel Normand was grand, and tells the story of her bizarre relationship with Sennett. Later chapters tell the horrible story of the nightmare that happened to Fatty Arbuckle, acquitted of a crime he did not commit but unable to get work afterwards. Then comes the poignant story of Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, after that the amusing story of the search for an actress to play Scarlett O'Hara, and the sad story of Marilyn Monroe. It is a terrific tale of the movie industry from its beginnings through the golden age. Great book for Hollywood buffs.|
|Publication||New York : Simon and Schuster, c1979.|
|ISBN||0671248227 / 9780671248222|
Deb Price lists the legal advances made for gay couples in the first decade of this millineum...and also lists some failures.
Ok, I really don't like Sarah Palin, but this is too funny not to share... a segment from Conan O'Brian where first William Shatner reads from Palin's autobiography and then she comes out and reads from his.
This Wall Street Journal article focuses on the Fisker automotive company which plans to build small hybrid cars and was persuaded to assemble them in a closed GM plant here in the U.S.
...Annise Parker. She has always been open about her sexual orientation, and I believe she was elected becasue the voters saw her as the most qualified candidate, and enough of them didn't care that she is gay. Of course, the city and state in which she resides don't offer same sex marriage or even domestic partner benefits. Still, what a huge step for the fourth largest city in the U.S.
|Title||City of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense|
|Tags||mystery, stand alone, berlin, anastasia, nazis, hitler|
|A colleague introduced me to Ariana Franklin's work, and I've been grateful ever since. She is an astounding writer. Each of her books in the Mistress of the Art of Death series has been excellent, so when I found she has a standalone mystery it was inevitable that I would read it.City of Shadows is set in Berlin. The first part is set in 1923, the second part in 1932-33, ending on the day that Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.In 1923 Berlin is suffering hyperinflation. People are starving, unable to find work. Esther Solomonoa, a Jew who has suffered through a pogrom in Russia, is glad to have a job as secretary to a Russian man who claims to be a prince and owns several nightclubs among other rather shady businesses. Nick hears of a woman in an insane asylum claiming to be Grand Duchess Anastasia. He rescues her from the asylum, and sets her and Esther up in an apartment with another girl, Natalya, who had worked for the czar and can train Anna to become Anastasia. Nick expects to earn a share of Anastasia's inheritance. Anna is afraid, saying the Russian secret service is out to assassinate her, and when Natalya is murdered Esther begins to fear she is right. A Berlin police investigator, Seigfried Schmidt, becomes convinced as well, but is unable to convince his superiors. He is assigned to other cases, and there things lie until 9 years later, when he is re-assigned to Berlin and gets back together with Esther at the news that Nick has been murdered.The book starts out slowly, but builds into something magnificent. The plot has a number of twists that all work brilliantly, and the final major twist is quite a surprise. There are a few too many coincidences scattered through the plot, but the power of whats being unfurled is too enthralling for the reader to care. The characters of Esther and Schmidt are excellent. But what makes the book so outstanding is the picture of Berlin during two periods of great historical significance, and how the author uses the history to build a story and uses the story to make the history alive.Whenever Ariana Franklin publishes a book, I'll rush out and buy it. She is an amazing talent.|
|Publication||Harper Paperbacks (2007), Paperback, 422 pages|
|ISBN||0060817275 / 9780060817275|
|Title||Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice (Screen Classics)|
|David J. Skal|
|Tags||claude rains, non-fiction, biography, actors|
I've adored Claude Rains in movies as long as I can remember, so was excited to find out there's a biography of him.Rains came from a very poor background in England. His father acted, among other things, and Claude was apprenticed to the theater by age 12 to help bring in money. He worked his way up in the theatre, becoming a stage manager and acting in occasional small parts. He stuttered, and did not have a strong voice, but it improved through time, and, ironically, through being gassed during his military service in WWI. He went back to acting and got better and better parts. A bitter divorce (he was married a total of six times) led him to emigrate to the U.S. where he was successful on the stage and then turned to acting in film. From there he did almost no more stage work. Skal gives brief portraits of his films, Rain's roles, and the impact of the movie.The author was lucky enough to have tapes that Rains made when another author was interested in doing a biography, but both that author and Rains died before it was done. Skal also talked extensively to Rain's daughter Jessica. The book has an excellent appendix detailing Rain's theatre and film work, and a good bibliography and index. It is a workmanlike book, but fairly pedestrian... it never sings.
Other Author – Rains, Jessica
|Publication||The University Press of Kentucky (2008), Edition: 2nd, Hardcover, 304 pages|
|ISBN||0813124328 / 9780813124322|
The Animal Rescue site (please click on button on site, give food to animals in shelters!) has very brief rescue stories in its daily emails and on the site. The story in the email today is of the rescue of a Chinese Shar-Pei, a breed that has very wrinkled skin. The rescuers named him Wrink Lee.
Another ACLU blog post on the delays in seating members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which is, among other things, looking at the Todd Willingham case. Perry's part in all of it is appalling.
According to the ACLU, Congress is finally taking a critical look at problems with the death penalty. It is about time, since it is fraught with so many problems, but most importantly the difficulty that those who are innocent have in getting heard. For example, Troy Davis in Georgia. I don't know he's innocent, but he was convicted with no forensic evidence, and 7 of 9 eyewitnesses have recanted, and one of the other two is considered a prime suspect in the case. Then there is the appalling case of Todd Willingham.
Great picture and interesting story from the Beeb. Mentions the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) which will be launched in 2014 as a successor to Hubble. Hubble has done some amazing work.
This article links to a video of Rachel Maddow interviewing Richard Cohen, who was gay and claims now to be straight. She points out that his work is being used by those who support the death penalty for gays in Uganda. Cohen is given the chance to talk and says strongly he does not support the Uganda bill. His work, he says, is to help those with unwanted attractions to the same sex.
This is a complicated issue. I believe that some people may have changed from homosexual to heterosexual behavior, but I believe this is possible because they are bisexual. I do believe there are people who are unchangeably monosexual, either homosexual or heterosexual. And I do believe that the work of people like Cohen, who, as Maddow points out, is not a licensed therapist, does damage to LGBT folk by encouraging those who think if one person changes, every homosexual can change,, and uses that to justify discrimination against gays. Given that, if someone who has same sex desires truly wants to not have those desires anymore, they should be free to explore options to change themselves. But they need to be aware that (1) it may not be possible for them; and (2) their desires for change may be motivated by feelings that being LGBT is wrong, and that a more effective "cure" would be to accept that it is all right to be gay, that they can be self-affirming and life-affirming and be proud and healthy as a gay person and have healthy same sex relationships.
A friend of mine sends me articles by Wayne Beson, a gay activist, from time to time and they are always good. This article is about Focus on the Family's denunciation of a play in which Santa Claus comes out. I don't agree with the whole article. The vital point, to m, in it is the following:
"Solomon is correct to say that Focus on the Family is choosing to sexualize a non-sexual comedy in order to rile up its batty base. What the group means when it says parents have "God-given rights to protect their (childrens') innocence," is that fundamentalist Christians are superior to the rest of us. That they have the unique "right" to censor and silence people who disagree with their "Valuless Traditions" disguised as "Traditional Values".
Sorry, but in America GLBT families are a positive reality and they will not just disappear or hide because hate groups are opposed to their very existence. Indeed, it is poor parenting to instill prejudice in young people and preach intolerance in the name of religious belief. America's youth should be taught to respect all people and be presented with a realistic view of our nation's diverse families. To do otherwise is irresponsible and a failure to prepare a child to succeed in the world."
|Tags||mystery, stand alone, tennessee, cumberland plateau, journalists|
|Wright's John Ray Horne series is outstanding, so I read this stand alone out of desperation at not having any more John Ray Hornes to read.Randall Wilkes has just ended his career as a Chicago journalist in disgrace. He comes back to his childhood home of Pilgrim's Rest, Tennessee, to write a biography of his childhood friend and former Tennessee governor Sonny McMahan. He is staying in Sonny's house when he finds the bodies of Sonny's mother and her young caregiver.I didn't like this as well as the John Ray Horne series, but it was a good read. The characterizations were good, but some reactions didn't feel real to me. I think so many unnatural deaths in a small town would have created stronger reactions in the townspeople, and for one would have thought that the returning stranger would have been under more suspicion.|
|Publication||Minotaur Books (2008), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 352 pages|
|ISBN||0312380011 / 9780312380014|
I love stories like this, where innovation leads to lower cost improvements for the poorest among us. It is still expensive for a poor individual, but cheap enough so that governments and philanthropists should be able to fund a lot of them.
He argues that James Hansen is wrong in insisting that a carbon tax is more effective than a cap and trade program, and that cap and trade may be able to pass while a carbon tax will not.
... may soon pass. It criminilizes gay sexual acts, and for homosexual acts with a minor or disabled person, the penalty is death. It will also be against the law to not turn in people having gay relationships. The article I linked to says the homophobia started with Christian missionaries. What is less known is that religiously conservative leaders in the U.S., including The Family and Rick Warren, have had a lot of influence on the people supporting this legislation.
This is evil made real.
Collection of the things Bart Simpson writes on the blackboard in the intro. to the Simpsons. All good stuff...example: "The first amendment does not cover burping". Or "I do not have power of attorney over first graders".
|Title||Lucky Jim (Penguin Classics)|
|Tags||fiction, humor, academia, england, 1950s|
|My bookclub read this Kingsley Amis book after hearing it referred to as a modern classic and very funny. The consensus opinion in the bookclub meeting was, eh, not so much. Only two people had finished it, though. I was not one of them. I did finish it that night, and liked it better after finishing it. And I noticed that although none of us found it that funny, we did laught a lot talking about it.The book is the story of Jim Dixon, who has his first college teaching job in one of the less prestigious British universities. He doesn't like the job, or most of the people. He is in something, not quite a relationship. wth Margaret, who recently swallowed too many pills over despair over another man. He meets another woman, Christine, who is dating the son of his chairman. It is a recipe for disaster, but it all turns out right in the end.|
Introduction – Lodge, David
|Publication||Penguin Classics (1993), Paperback, 272 pages|
|ISBN||0140186301 / 9780140186307|
|Title||What Just Happened?: Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line|
|Tags||hollywood, movies, producers, actors|
|Stories from a movie producer. Things in Hollywood get weird fast. Linson shows, for one thing, how hard it is to estimate if a movie will be successful. Putting together the right combination of writers, directors, actors, etc. is an art, and art and business don't mix well, which is why the whole business is enough to drive a nice producer to drink or worse. A book in which we find out that Alec Baldwin doesn't like to shave his beard when worried he's too heavy and Robert De Niro likes to do readings.|
|Publication||Grove Press (2008), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 224 pages|
|ISBN||0802143385 / 9780802143389|
|Title||My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times|
|Tags||england, newspapers, sunday times, random house|
|Really excellent book by Harold Evans, who grew up in a working class family in northern England. Class lines were much harsher then, and it was rare for someone of his class to have much opportunity to get ahead. He began working on newspapers in his teens, and managed to get into college in Durham and get his degree. From there his rise in newspapers was steady until becoming editor of the Sunday Times for 14 years. He left due to disagreements with Rupert Murdoch who bought the Times papers. He and his second wife, Tina Brown, who has been editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, came to the US where he worked for U.S News and World Report, Conde Nast Traveler, and Random House.He's led an interesting life. Truly, though, the pleasure in this book is hearing from an intelligent, knowledgeable man who has always been passionate about his work, and clear-eyed about the difficulties in getting the best news to the world. He discusses in some depth certain stories he was involved with that illustrate the glories and problems in the newspaper business. For example, he followed for years the cases of the thalidomide babies in Britain, and he pushed hard to keep the story covered and see that the government didn't simply ignore their needs. For intrigue, he shows how his team followed the story of the traitor Kim Philby and revealed as much as they could about it.As a native of the U.S. South it was interesting to hear his experience of the South during his first trip to the U.S. in 1956. He saw the horrors of the racism, and found it hard to reconcile with how nice white Southerners were to him even while expressing Neanderthalic opinions on race.Excellent book.|
|Publication||Little, Brown and Company (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 592 pages|
|ISBN||0316031429 / 9780316031424|
|Title||I'd Rather We Got Casinos: And Other Black Thoughts|
|Tags||essays, humor, black, chocolate|
|I've really enjoyed Larry Wilmore in his appearances on The Daily Show. This book is a collection of short essays on things black, including occasional "Random black thoughts". The funniest to me was the one on Sudoku - he said he had no black thoughts on Sudoku.I enjoyed the book a great deal. Some of the jokes went on a bit long, as in having four letters to the NAACP trying to persuade them to use the word "chocolate" for blacks.Fun fast read.|
|Publication||Hyperion (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 288 pages|
|Title||The Red Door: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery|
|Tags||mystery, series, ian rutledge, england, post ww1|
|Charles Todd is the writing name of a mother and son team that produces extraordinary work. All but one of their books have been in the series about Ian Rutledge, a police detective in England. He is literally haunted by his experiences in World War I - a soldier he had to execute for refusing to fight now is a constant voice in his head.He manages to carry on, however. This is the twelth book of the series. A man named Walter Teller disappears for several days. He comes back on his own, but about the same time a Mrs. Peter Teller is murdered in a distant village. Walter has a brother named Peter, but he is married to another woman. The family claims no connection, but that seems unlikely.The book upholds the high standards of this excellent series. The tone of all the books is somber, as befits the tales of people who have lived through the horrors of the Great War. Charles Todd is excellent at plotting and characterization, and at recreating a world that has passed.Excellent book, excellent series.Disclaimer: I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program in return for reviewing it. I picked it, though, as a fan of Todd's work.|
|Publication||William Morrow (2010), Hardcover, 352 pages|
|ISBN||0061726168 / 9780061726163|