Saturday, December 31, 2011

Politics And The Common People



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In 1960 I became 21 years of age. Four days later my eldest son was born. And I registered to vote for the first time in my life. I voted for John F. Kennedy, mainly to piss off my dad who was a life-long fervent Republican. It worked. But that was the only time (so far) that I voted the Democratic ticket. In one presidential election, many years later, I voted for an Independent, Ross Perot.

(Yeah, yeah . . . I know)

_____

The basic problem of present-day governmental gridlock seems to be a stubborn resistance to change.

Why is there such unreasonable demand on the part of the intelligent Conservative leaders that abortion should not be legal, even though it is, and, (undeniably to thinking people) it should be?

And why will intelligent Liberal leaders refuse to concede that too much federal money is spent (wasted) on inflated entitlement programs?

It almost seems as if the politicians want to keep the voting citizens of each party at the throats of the other.

Right?

Ha!

Answered my own questions, didn't I?

They're politicians.


Politicians must bow to their constituents to be elected to power and to remain in power, and constituents are, for the most part, common everyday members of what is called the electorate, or members of the people.

Hey!

I wonder how many of these constituents know who Holland Taylor is.


Chelsea Charlie's girlfriend
(on TWO and a half MEN)


This is NOT Holland Taylor
This is Jennifer Taylor



THIS is Holland Taylor


Charlie's Mom
(on TWO and a half MEN)


What's my point?

Who knows?

Must everything have a point?

_____

One of these days I will be dead; the upside of which is that I will never again have to decide which candidate to vote for.

__________

Everybody talked about Freud when I lived in New Orleans, but I have never read him. Neither did Shakespeare. I doubt if Melville did either, and I'm sure Moby Dick didn't.
--William Faulkner

Friday, December 30, 2011

Story, Myth, Fable, Legend



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Last night while I watching a PBS segment of Nature about Bears of the Frozen North I was struck by the number of poetically descriptive allusions to nature's seemingly human characteristics, such as the punishing winds of cruel winter at the top of the world. We know, of course, that the cold winds are really not punishing the creatures it blows against. And we know that the winter is not consciously cruel. Nor is this windy winter's event happening at the top of the world.

The simile, the metaphor, and the analogy undeniably enhance the portrayal of what would otherwise be a dull and forgettable listing of meteorological data: temperature, wind speed, and specific latitudes for regions at the arctic circle.

Figures of speech and active imagination have their uses.

_____

Grammarphobia as I've mentioned before is a website of which I am a great fan and I check out its blog section almost daily. From its pages I have learned a great deal about the English language, about its roots and about correct grammar.

The authors are Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman who have written five books about the English language and have more than half a century of experience as writers and editors. Just recently I finally got around to reading Stewart Kellerman's interview with Raymond Carver in the New York Times -- just a few months before Mr. Carver died... link below:

For Raymond Carver, a Lifetime of Storytelling

_____

I read, and I read, and I read again, and again, and again. I write, and I write, and I write again, and again, and again. I read and I write, but never am I satisfied; never do I read enough, never do I write enough. There seems no end to that twin endeavor this side of my final eternal nothingness.

In the words of Richard Wright:

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.

Richard Wright


_____

(a brief diversion, if I may)

The Chosen People

What is the true meaning of The Chosen People? Were the Israelites chosen by YHWH or was YHWH chosen by the Israelites? And what does it matter, anyway?

Below is reportedly from a letter Albert Einstein wrote in January 1954 to philosopher Eric Gutkind.

"The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilized interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them."

I admit that the above paragraph was lifted from monricks. but only after I had considered the meaning of The Chosen People and began to do some research on the concept.

The Chosen People.

Absolutely ridiculous.

__________

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
--Sylvia Plath

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some Really Dumb Observations



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I don't feel much like writing (or thinking) this morning so I am just going to post a couple of humorous items I came across in other blogs.


President Obama


Intercontinental? Linking which continents?
Could he have meant. . . "Transcontinental?"


_____

Rick Perry


Juarez? Isn't that a city in Mexico?


__________

One more . . .

“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,”
--Rick Perry

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Happenings And New Resolutions



_____

Well . . . dad blame it! I am determined to accomplish two things -- and to begin doing so by the first day of the coming year. I will write better stuff. And I will get rid of ten, fifteen, or twenty pounds of excessive body fat by the end of 2012.

Yeah, yeah . . . I know.
_____

USA Today Headline

Cheetah the Chimp Dies

Cheetah, Boy, Tarzan, and Jane

Cheetah, who appeared in classic Tarzan movies in the early 1930s, has died of kidney failure at the age of 80.

Read more at USA Today
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Just for fun . . .

The Wizard of OZ has a name. Do you know what it is? According to Frank Baum, the wizard's full name is: Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs.

More real names here. for Barbie (the doll) -- Cap'n Crunch -- Bull (on Night Court) -- The Skipper and The Professor on Gilligan's Island -- and others.

_____

THE PEW Forum on Religion & Public Life reports:

"A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion. Christians are also geographically widespread -- so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity."

Wow!

Who would have believed that so many people on this Earth are poor innocent victims who have been so conditioned, so indoctrinated by schools and church -- so instilled with the irrational fear of eternal hellish punishment after earthly death that they allow themselves to be enslaved for life by purveyors of superstitious nonsense. Or are patently dishonest and greedy hucksters who only pretend to be true Christians so as to gain riches by beguiling (the milling herd?) their willing congregations.

Wow!
__________

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
--Henry Ford

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Never Too Old To Start



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While reading new (and even old) books I sometimes get ideas for weird science fiction stories I could write based on the factual information pouring forth from the pages into my eyes and is then shunted to some repository within my brain, where it is somehow mysteriously mixed about and only much later brought to my attention... often to then be edited, judged, and usually discarded.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan contains facts about foods of which I was completely unaware. It states that mushrooms are still a mystery to us and that we don't know the most basic things about them.

Now, that sparked a story idea... what if these mushrooms actually comprise a complex network of intelligent beings that co-exist with the Earth's familiar plant and animal life and are wholly necessary for the continuation of that familiar life... and one person discovers this fact and that the mushrooms are being threatened by some new human endeavor and so sets out to remedy the threat.

Below is a four-paragraph excerpt from the book:

"Part of the problem is simply that fungi are very difficult to observe. What we call a mushroom is only the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger and essentially invisible organism that lives most of its life underground. The mushroom is the 'fruiting body' of a subterranean network of microscopic hyphae, improbably long rootlike cells that thread themselves through the soil like neurons. Bunched like cables, the hyphae form webs of (still microscopic) mycelium. Mycologists can't dig up a mushroom like a plant to study its structure because its mycelium is too tiny and delicate to tease from the soil without disintegrating. ... To see the whole organism of which [the mushroom] is merely a component may simply be impossible. Fungi also lack the comprehensible syntax of plants, the orderly and visible chronology of seed and vegetative growth, flower, fruit, and seed again. The fungi surely have a syntax of their own, but we don't know all its rules, especially the ones that govern the creation of a mushroom, which can take three years or thirty, depending. On what? We don't really know.

"Fungi, lacking chlorophyll, differ from plants in that they can't manufacture food energy from the sun. Like animals, they feed on organic matter made by plants, or by plant eaters. Most of the fungi we eat obtain their energy by one of two means: saprophytically, by decomposing dead vegetable matter, and mycorrhizally [like chanterelles and morels], by associating with the roots of living plants. Among the saprophytes, many of which can be cultivated by inoculating a suitable mass of dead organic matter (logs, manure, grain) with their spores, are the common white button mushrooms, shiitakes, cremini, Portobellos, and oyster mushrooms. Most of the choicest wild mushrooms are impossible to cultivate, or nearly so, since they need living and often very old trees in order to grow, and can take several decades to fruit. The mycelium can grow more or less indefinitely, in some cases for centuries, without necessarily fruiting. A single fungus recently found in Michigan covers an area of forty acres underground and is thought to be a few centuries old. So inoculating old oaks or pines is no guarantee of harvesting future mushrooms, at least not on a human time scale. Presumably, these fungi live and die on an arboreal time scale.

"Mycorrhizal fungi have coevolved with trees, with whom they've worked out a mutually beneficial relationship in which they trade the products of their very different metabolisms. If the special genius of plants is photosynthesis, the ability of chlorophyll to transform sunlight and water and soil minerals into carbohydrates, the special genius of fungi is the ability to break down organic molecules and minerals into simple molecules and atoms through the action of their powerful enzymes. The hyphae surround or penetrate the plant's roots, providing them with a steady diet of elements in exchange for a drop of simple sugars that the plant synthesizes in its leaves. The network of hyphae vastly extends the effective reach and surface area of a plant's root system, and while trees can survive without their fungal associates, they seldom thrive. It is thought that the fungi may also protect their plant hosts from bacterial and fungal diseases.

"The talent of fungi for decomposing and recycling organic matter is what makes them indispensable, not only to trees but to all life on earth."



I first became aware of the above described book when I read about it at Delancey Place -- and the fictional story idea keeps hanging on. Will I write the story?

Maybe . . .

_____

I had planned to add another segment here, but instead found myself immersed in the pages of a new book.

__________

A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go
further then a great idea that inspires no one.

--Mary Kay Ash

Monday, December 26, 2011

One Person's Judgment



_____

No legacy is so rich as honesty.
--William Shakespeare

After considering the above statement for a goodly length of time I find that I have failed to grasp the intended meaning of the phrase to a sufficient degree that I am able to agree with it. But, in real life, dishonesty usually triumphs over honesty, and legacies often reflect severe distortions of what were actual truths within most lives.

Especially those of politicians.
_____

A while back I read an email message that contained the following: "We had 'are' Thanksgiving dinner around noon." -- and this made me think about how often I have heard, in conversations, the word 'our' pronounced as 'are' ('ahr') instead of 'hour' as I pronounce it. I recently heard Hillary Clinton, on TV, speak of "are" troops, instead of 'our' troops.

I have noticed various such mispronunciations often and judged that the speaker had merely heard a word but had never seen it written, such as 'et cetera' pronounced 'EX-Zedra' or 'EK-Setra.' One time I actually heard a woman say, "... farm animals, cows and pigs... excedrin, excedrin."

And that's the truth.

I often ask myself why I have grown to be so judgmental in my old age. Do others also acquire that habit of judging others as they age?

Or just me?
_____

I recently read a Paris Review interview with William Faulkner:

The Art of Fiction No. 12

The interview was published in The Paris Review, Spring 1956 (when I was sixteen years old) and I read it for the first time a few days ago at age 72.

Better late than never, I've been told.


September 25, 1897 - July 6, 1962
_____

Another one of those words I thought I knew the meaning of but actually did not is:

parapatetic
(adj.)
walking or traveling about; itinerant.
(noun)
a person who walks or travels about.

Now, if I can just permanently implant that meaning in memory...


Hitchling is a newly coined word meaning: a child born without religious indoctrination who is encouraged to read broadly and to seek the truth unapologetically.

_____

Cedric opening one of his gifts
(a manufactured bone)


Christmas Day 2011

__________

The writer doesn't need economic freedom.
All he needs is a pencil and some paper.

--William Faulkner

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

_____

Wishing all who read this a happy holiday!



_____

Again,

Wishing all who read this a happy holiday!


_____



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To Be Or Not To Be A Writer



_____

Writing a daily blog does not make one a writer. Or does it? Opinions vary, of course, but as Plato said: "Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance." So who can say, as a fact, exactly what does make a writer?

I don't know the answer to that. So I have been searching out some opinions on writing from selected well-known authors. Below are a few of the quotations and opinions I found. They do not necessarily point out what it is that makes a writer, but they interested me.
_____

My stories run up and bite me in the leg -- I respond by writing them down -- everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.
--Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

1920 --
_____

At the Daily Beast I recently read a short paragraph presented by Christopher Hitchens about the teaching and the learning of how to write:

"To my writing classes I used to open by saying that anybody who could talk could also write. Having cheered them up with this easy-to-grasp ladder, I then replaced it with a huge and loathsome snake: "How many people in this class, would you say, can talk? I mean really talk?" That had its duly woeful effect. I told them to read every composition aloud, preferably to a trusted friend. The rules are much the same: Avoid stock expressions (like the plague, as William Safire used to say) and repetitions. Don’t say that as a boy your grandmother used to read to you, unless at that stage of her life she really was a boy, in which case you have probably thrown away a better intro. If something is worth hearing or listening to, it’s very probably worth reading. So, this above all: Find your own voice."
_____

Easy on the Hooptedoodle is a short piece of advice on writing in The New York Times written by Elmore Leonard.

Opening paragraph:

These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

Elmore Leonard


Author of Hombre, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and many others
_____

As I said, opinions vary as to what exactly a writer is. But I suppose it really doesn't matter. My opinion? I believe the old basic premise: A writer writes. It seems to me that that's enough of a definition.

That's my opinion.

(Of course, I haven't been feeling well lately.)
__________

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.
--William Faulkner

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Good, The Bad, And . . .



_____

Last Sunday At Fry's

Outside Fry's Supermarket sitting on the loafers' bench. Rich tells me the story of the man who died in his arms just a few minutes before I arrived. The EMT truck and the Fire Truck were just leaving when I walked up to the bench. I remember feeling so irritated because the EMT siren was so loud (five feet away from me) that it hurt my ears. It was in the parking lot, Rich told me, that he came across the old guy lying on the asphalt. Foam was coming out of his mouth. He had no heartbeat and was not breathing. Rich said he tried to resuscitate the guy but couldn't. "And to make matters worse," Rich said, "I knew the guy. He was a friend of my mom's"

Rich seemed to be pretty shaken up so I didn't linger as I usually do, but walked away as he began to again relate the story to a Fry's cashier who had just arrived for her smoke break. I went inside the store and got my lottery tickets and talked to the friendly young Customer Service girl as I always do. Then I shopped for a while and finally bought some frozen fish, a box of saltines, and a jar of peanut butter.

When I came out of the store, Rich was again relating his story to yet another recent arrival so I waved and walked on by, beginning my mile long walk back to the apartment.

And it had begun to rain.

I decided to just walk on anyway instead of catching the Sun Tran city bus. A little rain never hurt anyone. And fifty-cents saved is fifty-cents saved. But a nice hot shower sure felt good when I got home. We old people, I have been told, are susceptible to pneumonia. Especially old fools who walk a mile in the rain in late December.

_____

LAUGH! And The World Says, "What's So Funny?"

Here is a short movie clip I thought was amusing:


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_____

Today's New Word

callipygous
(adj.)
having well-shaped buttocks
_____

So many writer wannabes complain that they are unpublished, and when they are asked, "Have you written a full length novel? Edited it? Revised it? Polished it until you are satisfied that it is the best you can make it, then sent it with payment to a competent professional editor? Again revised it incorporating the editor's suggestions? Polished it again? Sent it to every publisher and every agent you can find addresses for? While doing all that, have you written another novel? A better novel?"

"What? No?" And yet, still they whine about being unpublished.

__________

“Poor intricated soul! Riddling, perplexed, labyrinthical soul!”
--John Donne

Monday, December 19, 2011

We All Die . . .


WE All GOTTA GO SOMETIME




Ah Yes... Now That's A Poem.


Robert Wilson is the title of a poem written by Michael Collier that I read in The Writer's Almanac on December 17, 2011. In my mind there was no question about it... this was truly a poem. But, as so often happens in the solitude of my mind, I understood that it was not a poem merely because it was printed with line breaks that are not customarily found in unbroken prose, but was a poem because it was a poem and would be a poem even if it had no line breaks at all.

Only those who have followed the twistings and turnings of the various thoughts previously recorded in this blog will (or can) understand what a remarkable spark of insight this amounts to.

Now, it seems, I have at last grasped the difference between a poem and a work of prose, and it has nothing to do with where the lines of text are positioned, broken or unbroken, but whether or not the piece moves the reader emotionally. Therefore the answer to whether a printed piece is or is not a poem is a matter of how it moves (or does not move) each individual reader.

Now . . . the spoken word, a poem delivered to a listener by a poem reader's voice is another thing entirely. A reader reading aloud a supposed poem can unthinkingly or even intentionally affect how the listener is or is not emotionally moved and might therefore cloud the poem or prose issue drastically.

Below is a weak example of what I mean.

If I were to read the following line: John Wain once said “Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking” I would seriously consider it.

But if that same line were spoken to me aloud, I could mistakenly think the speaker had said: John Wayne once said “Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking”

And, to me, that would put a whole different light on the matter.

See what I mean?

Whether a specific composition is a piece of prose or a poem might be merely a matter of individual interpretation.

Yes.

__________

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
--Charles Baudelaire

Note: Of course, in his journal, Baudelaire also wrote: There is no form of rational and assured government save an aristocracy. A monarchy or a republic, based upon democracy, are equally absurd and feeble. The immense nausea of advertisements. There are but three beings worthy of respect: the priest, the warrior and the poet. To know, to kill and to create. The rest of mankind may be taxed and drudged, they are born for the stable, that is to say, to practise what they call professions.

Go figure.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Unidentified Flying Objects Revisited



_____

An ABC News headline reports: A UFO Hovers Over Russians Protesting Vladimir Putin.

Here is the link to the news report with its story, a photo, and a short video.

Such poppycock! But that's our network news for you.

On that same subject, but on a more serious note (I think) I came across a book about UFOs that can be read online. I have only just begun to read it, but I thought I would first reveal its existence for perusal by anyone interested in the subject of Unidentified Flying Objects. You know... in case I find myself growing weary of the subject or become skeptical after further reading in the book. I often do that.

The cover of the book reads:

Report On Unidentified Flying Objects by Edward J. Ruppelt former head of the United States Air Force Project Blue Book Investigating Flying Saucers




Throughout my long lifetime, from 1939 till the present day, I have three times seen a UFO, not necessarily objects of extraterrestrial origin, but certainly in the sense of each being an Unidentified Flying Object.



The first time I saw a UFO was while walking in the late afternoon along the banks of the Iroquois River in Rensselaer, Indiana with my father, my youngest brother, and my cousin Russell. One of those three (don't remember which one) called out, "Hey! Look up there!"

When I did so, I saw a brilliant object that looked about the size of a basketball or big balloon floating East to West along the river. It appeared to be roughly fifty feet in the air, just drifting lazily along with sparks shooting out from it and what seemed to be burning bits of fiery stuff (burning paper?) floating down from it.

Strangely enough, we never thought much of anything special about it. I don't remember ever mentioning it to anyone, nor do I remember any of the others ever speaking about it either.

But it most definitely was an Unidentified Flying Object.

The second time I spotted a UFO was in that same town, where I was employed at the time as an Electric Power Company midnight shift Plant Operator. During those long lonely nights, to get away from the incessant pounding roar of the Diesel Generators and the acrid fuel fumes, I would walk outside for a few moments and breathe in some fresh air in the dark silence of the night. The stars in the sky always drew my gaze upward.

One night while I was out viewing the vast panorama I saw an object that seemed to be about the size of the average star but was a lot brighter and was moving fast from West to East on a trajectory along the inside of the sky's star-filled dome.

I watched it travel along its path all the way across the sky until it reached the far end of its flight and seemed to disappear behind the trees and buildings that hid the far Eastern horizon.

That was in the late 1970s and forever after that I suspected that it had been one of the Earth's communication satellites shooting across the sky in its calculated orbit.

But I'll never know.

My third and last sighting (so far) was, again in Rensselaer, just after a violent thunderstorm. I was walking toward the downtown area when I saw above the flagpole atop the County Courthouse a huge round ball of bright light among the dark clouds. It seemed to be hovering high above the flagpole. Believe it or not, I had my camera with me and snapped a trio of pictures. And all three of them developed nicely.

Well... I took the pictures to the local daily newspaper, the Rensselaer Republican, and told the reporter my story. The next day one of the pictures and my story appeared on the front page. Of course, the caption under the picture was: "UFO sighted above courthouse? No, just a curious weather phenomenon generated by yesterday's storm."

Those are the stories of my three personal encounters with UFOs.

__________

"Of course it is possible that UFO's really do contain aliens as many people believe, and the Government is hushing it up."
--Professor Stephen Hawking

"We must insist upon full access to disks recovered. For instance, in the LA case the Army grabbed it and would not let us have it for cursory examination."
--J Edgar Hoover

"I don't laugh at people any more when they say they've seen UFOs. I've seen one myself!"
--President Jimmy Carter (1976)

"I looked out the window and saw this white light. It was zigzagging around. I went up to the pilot and said, Have you ever seen anything like that? He was shocked and he said, "Nope." And I said to him: "Let's follow it!" We followed it for several minutes. It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield, and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens. When I got off the plane I told Nancy all about it."
--President Ronald Reagen

"I'm not at liberty to discuss the governments knowledge of extraterrestrial UFOs at this time. I am still personally being briefed on the subject!"
--President Richard M. Nixon

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nit-Picking: Who? Me?



_____

As I have mentioned before, at the halfway point of my usual daily walk route to Fry's Supermarket and back, there is a pair of benches upon which one of them I sit for a short time with the other sitters, the store's employees on their cigarette breaks and a random sampling of unemployed drifters, spare-change cadgers, and curiosity seekers (loafers) like me.

At around noon the day before yesterday I was joined on the bench by a pair of strangers, a middle-aged (somewhat grizzled) unemployed truck driver and a 27 year old mentally defective (PTSD) ex-marine. The two engaged me in conversation by asking if I would like to go into the supermarket and buy fifty dollars worth of groceries for half price. They would sell me, on the spot, fifty dollars worth of Food Stamps for $25. Well... I assured them that this is an illegal activity and that I had absolutely no interest in participating in such a transaction.

What followed for the next hour or so was an interesting and informative conversation from which I stored in memory much material for future use in composing fiction stories... Both of the gentlemen assured me that they were devout Christians who had 'found Jesus' after years of living in sin. I am still processing the wealth of information I gained from this encounter.

Oh . . .by the way, a tall skinny black dude acting as middle man made a phone call to a broker who agreed to come and buy the Food Stamps from them for half their face value. The dude charged them the price of a pack of cigarettes for his finder-fee services.
_____

While watching the PBS News Hour I heard, in one of his speeches, President Obama say, "That's unexcusable." I had never heard the word unexcusable before... not that I can remember anyway. I'd always heard it pronounced inexcusable. Wondering which was correct, I hastily researched the two words online and found in several dictionaries:

inexcusable
adjective
meaning: incapable of being excused or justified.

and in only one dictionary:

unexcusable
adjective
meaning: inexcusable.

Well, that was not completely satisfactory but I felt that searching further would be a waste of time.


Later, while watching a rerun of The Big Bang Theory, I heard something almost impossible to believe, something I never thought I would ever hear; I listened in horror while Sheldon said, "Some of her insights were very unique."

Sheldon would never have made such a mistake, and if he heard someone else do so, he would have objected vociferously and would have instantly launched into a lecture in which he would point out that unique means one of a kind and so is not subject to degree... and that a thing can be either unique or not unique, never partly unique.

If it were not such a bother, I would attempt to inform the show's writers of this glaring error.

But it is . . .

A bother.
_____

Note:

Nitpicking is the act of removing nits (the eggs of lice, generally head lice) from the host's hair.

__________

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
--Mark Twain

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Last Of Life For Which The First Was Made



_____

According to a Social Security Administration announcement, Patty Duke turned 65 yesterday and applied for Social Security benefits online.



Don't know who Patty Duke is? You're too young? Wikipedia can fill you in.


_____


While walking West on Speedway Boulevard yesterday I noticed that some of the peaks of the Santa Catalina mountains had donned a new coat of snow overnight.

Below are two of the pictures I took at a little before noon.

Snow On The Mountains - 1


Tucson, AZ 12/14/2011


Snow On The Mountains- 2


Tucson AZ 12/14/2011

_____

I would like to add another thought here, but it is not yet clear in my mind. As of now, at this early hour, it is just the germ of an idea that is skating randomly around the perimeter of my consciousness.

Maybe later . . .

__________

“Poetry: the best words in the best order.”
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Upon Some Deep Reflection . . .



_____

Self-examination, according to one dictionary, is an introspective consideration of one's own thoughts or emotions, or scrutiny of one's own conduct, motives, desires, etc.

There must be a reason that I delete so many of the stories, poems, and supposedly factual essays I write. Could it be that I recognize the quality of my writing as being so inferior to the work of established published writers that I shudder at the thought of readers recognizing this inferiority? Perhaps I know (believe) my thoughts are not profound at all but are blatantly shallow and pedestrian, and that I cannot after all think original thoughts, but only think I can. And that this fact is easily perceived by the occasional intellectual reader of my (self-published) words.

After I once had written . . .

"Yes, even though consensus suggests mankind is a noble creation of an omnipotent and eternal being granted the title of God, the granter of this title might itself be nothing more than one of an instantaneous infestation of minuscule mites inhabiting a single momentary micro- grain of dust within another hurtling grain observed and recognized by a true God as being but an insignificant minor galaxy."

. . . I realized that I had written merely another pale and puny echo of that which was previously proposed by a better bard indeed.

Shakespeare had his Hamlet say:

"What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?"

See what I mean?

Anthropocentrism describes the tendency for human beings to regard themselves as the central and most significant entities in the universe, or the assessment of reality through an exclusively human perspective.

But Mark Twain wrote:

"If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno."

Again: See what I mean?

So, why then do I continue stringing words together into redundant sentences?

I have no answer.

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All good books have one thing in common--they are truer than if they had really happened.
--Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book, Stories, And The Like



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Well, I did not go out for my usual walk for the last two days. Wasn't feeling quite up to it. Instead, I indulged myself in the activity I have most enjoyed for the greater part of my life... reading.


Stayed inside, out of the cold rain, and read printed books of fiction and factual blog postings about fictioneers. No, I did not miss my TV watching of old reruns such as Two and a half Men and The Big Bang Theory. But mostly I just read, both online and from real books. At this moment I find myself about three-quarters through the long, long (dare I say 'tiresome?') 1074 page Stephen King novel Under The Dome -- which I passed over back when it first came out.

And I haven't even gone outside to the mail box to check my mail, from neither yesterday's delivery nor Saturday's. I, for one, suspect that I will not be sad over the elimination of a Saturday mail delivery if it comes.

__________

"I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon removing it."
--Gustave Flaubert

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are Naive And Innocent Always Synonyms?



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Overheard from a tyke in a supermarket:
"The teacher showed us a picture of a naked boy and girl... the boy has a penis down there but the girl ain't got nothin'."

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I do not remember from where I copied the image below but I liked it so much that I decided to post it here without permission. If the owner requests me to remove it, I will, of course, do so immediately.

"The Ballerina in Green" (2007)


Don't know what it as about that particular picture, but as I said, "I like it." And that's enough reason to post it.
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Isn't it curious that the image below if shown on Broadcast TV will appear with the upraised middle finger blurred out?


Ah, censorship.
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I have some notes about other subjects but prefer to save them for a time when I feel better.

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I wouldn't kid Our Lord if he was on the cross. But I would attempt a joke with him if I ran into him chasing the money changers out of the temple.
--Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This Curiously Mysterious Life



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A Thought To Contemplate

"Do not cut your bodies for the dead
or put tattoo marks on yourselves.
I am the LORD."
--Leviticus 19:28


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What Can One Believe?

West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder says he will accept a proposed reprimand from his city council for writing news stories for the Deseret News and KSL.com web site under a false name.


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Book Review in the New Yorker . . .

Sarmada: The Essential Novel of the Syrian Spring is a book written by Fadi Azzam, an author from Syria. It was supposed to be available from Amazon.com in November, 2011 but I'm not sure if that's true.

From the review (link above) I am tempted to purchase this book, but since I have so often been misled by puffed-up reviews in the past I have decided to wait until I hear from someone I know and trust before investing in it.

Here is a short excerpt from the review:

One morning, the man’s widow Farida has a mystical dream, and when she wakes up, she walks over to her mother-in-law and slits her breasts with a razor, pouring the spurting grief milk into several bottles. Later she uses it in sweets, and feeds them to the villagers, who are all suffering from a curse of melancholia after the death of the woman’s son. Upon eating the desserts, they writhe and cry for hours before experiencing catharsis and a sense of peace. Later, in some of the graphic sex scenes that caused Azzam’s first translator to pull out of the project, she feeds the sweets to teen-age boys in her home before taking their virginities.

The book might be just what I like to read. I'm not certain of that, though.

We'll see.


Movie Review in the New Yorker . . .

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
is a book trilogy written by Stieg Larsson and has been made into a movie opening December 21, 2011. I read all three of the books in the trilogy but probably will not see the movie, at least not until it comes out on DVD.
_____

I just recently read that Harrison For
d has been cast in the upcoming movie based on Orson Scott Card's novel, Ender's Game.

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You put in thousands of hours at the writing desk and the result is some refinement of your hundred-a-day microdecisions.
--George Saunders

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Lottery, Pascal's Wager, etc.



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The Lottery


Wow! Again this past week I was a lucky winner in the Arizona Mega Millions lottery. My ticket matched only 1 of the drawn numbers... but it was the Mega-Ball number, so I raked in a grand total of $2.

Better than nothing. Right?

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Moving on . . .

Pascal's Wager says that it is better to believe in god and be wrong, as you’ve lost nothing, than to not believe and be wrong, thereby going to hell.

I've heard some supposedly intelligent persons use that argument to justify their own official memberships in various denominations of recognized organized religion. Some of these faithful churchgoers (the ones I have known quite well for a long time) do not so much believe as pretend to believe. And when pressed, they even admit to this pretense. Now, surely an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God would be able, with no trouble at all, to recognize the difference between believing and pretending to believe.

Don't you think?

Pascal’s Wager -- Why It Doesn’t Work is the subject of a Martin S. Pribble blog entry that is probably the clearest explanation you will find anywhere.
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On YouTube, Aaron Evans from Milwaukee jumps over a car speeding at him at 30 mph. and it is awesome.

Note:
Something Surprising is Plasma Engineer's always interesting blog and is the first site, on December 7, 2011, at which I viewed the video.
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Two new words

First new word:

theodicy
An explanation of why a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permits evil.

and

Second new word:

etiolate
(verb tr.)
1. To make pale by preventing exposure to sunlight.
2. To make weak by stunting the growth of.
(verb intr.)
3. To become pale, weak, or stunted.
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What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stronger.

Oh yeah?

In a Vanity Fair article I read a few days ago, Christopher Hitchens presents some of his interesting and always insightful views that are well worth pondering. The piece stimulated me to consider what changes in personal beliefs and attitudes may come about when one's brain (mine) begins to weaken or to otherwise lose some powers of thought by perhaps some trauma or through some natural brain deterioration such as growing old, senile, or suffering in agonizing (wholly unnecessary) pain.

That is a frightening possibility . . . to me, anyway.

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My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.
--Michel de Montaigne

Friday, December 9, 2011

Stuff I Found Interesting



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"It is a solemn and terrible thing to write a novel."
--Willa Cather

I don't understand what she meant by that, which is not surprising since there is much in her writing that I suspect is deeply profound below the surface, but as of yet I have been unable to recognize it... if it's actually there, that is.

Willa Cather in 1936


I am currently reading Ms. Cather's novel, My Antonia. I purchased the Kindle edition from Amazon.com for the quite affordable price of $0.The name in the title, by the way, is pronounced AN-ton-ee-ah -- accent on the first syllable. Or so says Wikipedia...

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Thomas Sowell believes: "...the prevalence of black men in the NBA doesn't mean that the NBA is racist, it means that reality is racist. Yes, Barack Obama and congressional Democrats really do practice the same kind of ethnic politics that resulted in the Rwandan genocide and the Sri Lankan civil war, even if they do not practice them to the same extent. Yes, affirmative action is naked racism. No, rent-control laws don’t control rent. No, gun-control laws don’t control guns. No, standardized exams are not culturally biased--but, yes, life is culturally biased."

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"More than 99.99 percent of the species that have ever existed have become extinct." -- Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan in Microcosmos.

See brief book review HERE

I had never heard of Evolutionary Biology... but now I have.

Lynn Margulis who is well-known in the field of biology for Endosymbiotic theory died last month, November 22, 2011 at age 73
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As climate-change science moves in one direction, Republicans in Congress are moving in another. Why?

Heads In The Sand

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In a comment following the above mentioned article, I read this sentence: "From a far it is probably not obvious to you that the Republicans and the Democrats inhabit the same corporate pockets." -- That is the first time I ever saw: "... from a far" instead of from afar.

And that reminds me of the incorrect spelling (and conception) of the wrongly perceived word alot instead of the original phrase a lot which has been so often misspelled that it has now become acceptable.

Fascinating.


From March 2007 to December 2010, the Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming held 80 hearings and briefings exploring American energy resources, clean technologies, climate change and the risks associated with it.

Below is a link to the Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming website:

http://www.capitolhearings.org/

What are their conclusions and/or solutions... if any exist?

Not Going Away: America's Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges -- videos and transcripts.

More on Global Warming

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No one is more truly helpless, more completely a victim, than he who can neither choose nor change nor escape his protectors.
--John Holt

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hey Buddy . . . Wha'da'ya'say?



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Yesterday evening as I was reading through some newer websites, I spotted an error in one of the comments below the blog's text. In part, it said, "...that advices its readers to sell..." The error was the use of the non-word 'advices'. The word 'advice' is a noun, while 'to advise' is a verb... One can offer, give, or receive advice but one can only advise.

I used to see that mistake often but hadn't noticed it being committed for quite a while.

Another grammar error that I have mentioned many (many!) times is the use of the term, very unique -- the original meaning of unique is one of a kind and you cannot be very one of a kind. But I fear that this valuable word is doomed and will soon come to be synonymous with unusual or exceptional or the like.. Why? Well, it's probably because so many celebrities are themselves, in their lack of a truly proper education, so often casually saying very unique. On his show, America's favorite surgeon, Dr. Oz, speaks of many products that he says are "very unique." And Talk-Radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity also often say it. Not to mention some of the politicians and televangelists.

In Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses Mark Twain wrote: "Use the right word, not its second cousin."

A writer-buddy and Doctoral candidate once told me, regarding my proclivity to call attention to grammar errors, "Gene, if I tell someone something or publish something that is not strictly correct but my listener or reader understands what I meant, then it doesn't matter whether it was grammatically correct or not."

Really?

Perhaps he was right.

But I don't think so.

The death of a once superior language? Since I am now in my 70s I may not live to see this travesty come about, but I'm pretty well convinced that it eventually will.
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A news item I saw yesterday on ABC's The Early Show featured Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson who teaches a college course on rapper (and multimillionaire) Jay-Z amazed me. Dyson has taught the ‘Sociology of Hip-Hop: Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z,’ so why, I wonder, with college courses as valuable as that one, are American students so often branded as being under educated?

Read about that HERE.

A comment at the end of the above article from a concerned citizen states: "This class should be taught, but in a different context, students should learn how these thugs have contributed greatly to the 'dumbing down of America' and our moral decay. How this 'teacher' or professor can glorify these gangbangers is ridiculous. If it weren't for Rap/Hip Hop Jay-Z would be a Gang Banger or parking cars for a living."

Although I've been contemplating the above, I still have come to no definite conclusion about it. But, I did recently read an ancient Hebrew proverb that said: "Do not confine your children to your own learning for they were born in another time."

Hm... food for thought indeed.

And . . .

John Holt
once said: "We don't have to make human beings smart. They are born smart. All we have to do is stop doing things that make them stupid."

Again, Hm . . .

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Old age is compulsory, wisdom is optional.
--Anon

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor Day



Remember Pearl Harbor!
December 7, 1941
a date which will live in infamy







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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Do YOU Believe In?



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On TV's PBS News Hour they spoke of an online news organization with the name ProPublica and I spent some time looking it over. And I was impressed.

ProPublica was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. And that's only the beginning of the awards this organization has won.

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The newscasters are all agog at one of the latest reports from NASA, the one about the discovery of Kepler-22b, such as the believable headline at the online New York Daily News:

Newly discovered planet Kepler-22b is eerily similar to Earth, NASA finds.

Well, even though, on the surface of the average human mind, this seems to be an exciting discovery, I remain unexcited. Why? Because I am skeptical of the technology used to discern such a conclusion as Kepler being an Earth-like planet. I see this as being no more than an outright guess.


One must keep in mind that the image shown (here and in many other news pieces) is not an actual photo of Kepler-22b but is merely an artist's conception of what the planet might look like... an artist's artistic guess. That's all.

I wonder how many people think the image is an actual photo of the far away planet. After all, millions of people believe in ghosts. And millions believe that the placement of the solar system's planets and the stars as seen from Earth can foretell the future and the fortune of each individual observer. And millions of gullible people believe that nonsense.

Oh well.

Yes, I am, as always, a cranky old skeptical curmudgeon.

Believe what you wish to believe... you will anyway, with or without my permission.

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The Average Salary Of A Catholic Priest is the title of an article in eHow money. In it I read the following sentence: The Occupational Outlook Handbook notes that a Roman Catholic Priests' compensation package offers a lot more than cash compensation.

Being the inveterate amateur editor, I could not help noticing the placement of the apostrophe in a Catholic Priests'... -- It seemed to me that the apostrophe indicating possession should be placed between the letters t and s instead of after the s since a Catholic Priest denotes the singular. But I'm not sure how to go about finding out which of the two is grammatically correct.

My writers group should have at least one member who will know the answer. I've asked them the question and have received two opinions, so far. Hopefully, more will soon arrive via email.

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Putting the U.S. Postal Service back in the black? I have a few suggestions:

1. Cut mail delivery down to 5 days per week.
2. Cut out pensions; workers can draw Social Security.
3. Eliminate low postage rate for printed matter.
4. Raise crap-mail rates. Nobody wants it anyway.
5. Raise first class rate to one dollar per ounce.

While this list might appear to be radical, and will probably be greeted with various hoots and hollers, I believe that the suggestions comprise the only solution that will work... temporarily. Of course, I also believe that they will not be adopted.

__________

"Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is
good is not original, and the part that is original is not good."
--Samuel Johnson