Friday, November 30, 2007

Juniper Tavern

The web files turned out great (thanks to Columbia Post-Production), and I'll upload them the next time I'm at the university, which should be Tuesday unless a threatening snow storm actually materializes. Just in time for Christmas! I feel good about having this two-hour ACE-award-winning television comedy (for adults) widely available like this.

Oregon Literary Review

Looking good. I'm uploading the current issue now; in an hour or so, we ought to be seamlessly available to the world as before.

The computer here won't read the DVD disk of the JT files, so I'll take care of them at home, then bring them here on the flash drive Tuesday.

A good piano class. Wish it was more often than once a week.

An afternoon plan

After my piano class, I'm going to my office and see if I can finish uploading OLR to its new host. Also, I'm picking up the Flash movie version of Juniper Tavern, which I plan to upload to the web as well. With all these large uploads, I definitely need the university's superfast connection.

3 students showed their short videos in class yesterday. Some good stuff. I thought more would take the filmmaking option, actually. Well, it's a start. We'll see how it goes in future terms.

I gave several students an extension on their term projects, which I seldom do. But they're otherwise good students having more than the usual problems with screenwriting. I want to give them as much time as possible.

Teddy Bears

It's remarkable, not to say damn scary, that cultures 700 years apart co-exist on the same planet at the same time. I don't know of any teddy bears named Jesus but there are quite a few ballplayers with the name without repercussions.

My teddy bear was named Bo-Bo. A family story has it that I ripped out its eyes one time so he wouldn't see me cry. There's a good traditional male upbringing for you.

What's going to happen when these crazies get nukes?
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Sudan protesters: Execute teacher

KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) -- Hundreds of protesters brandishing ceremonial swords and sticks gathered outside Khartoum's presidential palace Friday to vent their anger against a British teacher jailed for allowing children to name a teddy bear "Mohammed."

At least 600 Islamic demonstrators spilled out of mosques after prayers, chanting: "By soul, by blood, I will fight for the Prophet Mohammed."

Some of the protesters demanded the teacher's execution, according to The Associated Press. The agency reports that some chanted: "No tolerance: Execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

The number of demonstrators was estimated by witnesses to be closer to 1,000 people. Western journalists who attempted to talk to the protesters were ushered away by men in plain clothes.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Test drive the DNL reader for ebooks

Want to test drive a very neat ebook reader?
  • Download it, using the link at the bottom of the page. It's small.
  • Go to Frugal Fiction's General Fiction page and click on the cover of my novel Kerouac's Scroll. You can read the first 50 pages with the reader. Note the controls and features if you right-click a page, such as taking notes. I like this interface a lot.

Oregon Literary Review

I found a new host, which wants us bad enough to give us our first year practically free (with no longterm contract); I see no reason not to give it a try. So I have v1n1 up and running, making the huge transfers here at the office, and I'm working on v1n2 now and maybe I can get it all up by the end of next week. It's a better, easier to use interface as well, so I'm pleased. It's still a hassle, of course, but I like not having to spend a lot of money, just my time, to fix this. The earlier host are real assholes: offline themselves, no response or support, maybe somebody took the money and ran.

The last day of classes. Evaluations, watch student work. Collect their term scripts.

Broadway returns

One strike ends, the stagehands go back to work, and Broadway is back in business for the holidays.

But the WGA writers strike looks like it may be a long one. On NPR this morning, there was an interesting dissenting opinion from a sometimes Hollywood writer who had very mixed feelings about the strike. Read it here.

The writers' strike basically shapes up as a couple of third cousins at Thanksgiving dinner arguing over who gets a slightly larger slice of the billion dollar pumpkin pie: the writers who create the movies and shows, or the corporations who actually take all the financial risk that allows us Hollywood writers to write in Hollywood in the first place.


Yesterday was a strange, frustrating day. I sat down at the computer late in the morning with the intention of working on my splay but made the mistake of checking email first. Suddenly I had little fires to put out hither and yon, then editing chores to do, then the news that the review site was down, etc, and before I knew it, the day was done and I was exhausted and not a word got written on the screenplay.

Today I collect term projects, so the next week is pretty much dedicated to reading and grading. But in a week or slightly more, I should have my grades in -- and a full four weeks off before the winter term begins! I expect to finish the draft and a rewrite or two of the screenplay, plus get a start on the novel. A term break of writing! I may even shoot a short video I have in mind that wouldn't be too hard to do and require no one else.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NYT's Ten Best of Year

Use link below.
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The 10 Best Books of 2007
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I don't really need this

I noticed Oregon Literary Review went offline this morning. Some snooping around revealed that its ISP may be in trouble. This would mean finding another and moving everything there, a large chunk of grunt work. I'll give it a few days and decide but it doesn't look good.

DNL Reader

Frugal Fiction uses the DNL Reader for its interface, an ebook reader that is more attractive and friendly than any I've seen. This software is a couple years old but this is my first exposure to it. Must be tons of wonderful things out there I don't know about.

Big problem, small solution

In an interview I show my class, screenwriter James Brooks talks about struggling with Terms of Endearment. He was lost after 90 pages and couldn't find his way out for weeks. Then he thought of "the slightest change" -- and everything fell into place.

I think my second act entry-struggles are going the same way. I thought of a tweak in the back story and this new line of thinking has shown me the way in, I think. I'll work on it today.

Teen Shakespeare

Shakespeare in Trouble

On this day in 1582 William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway married, or perhaps just paid for the right to do so. As with most aspects of Shakespeare's life, the facts are scanty, but we do know that the couple obtained a bond from the local church authorities dated November 28, 1582 allowing them to marry immediately, avoiding the normal banns procedure. We also know that the bond was costly -- forty pounds, twice the yearly salary for the Stratford schoolmaster -- and that it was put up not by Shakespeare's parents but by two local farmers who were friends of the bride's late father. We also know that the groom was eighteen years old, the bride was twenty-six, and their first child, Susanna, was baptized six months later.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New ebook resource

I like what they're doing at Frugal Fiction. A good resource both for writers and readers. Check them out.

Last week rush

The last week of classes! Quite amazing. Harriet also believes the fall has just zipped by.

It's an easy week and a hard weekend. Tie loose ends and show videos today and Thursday. Today is a nice new documentary, "Dreams On Spec," following 3 writers in LA trying to make it as screenwriters. Very realistic.

This weekend I read and grade their final scripts. I have one student so good I already gave her an A and told her no revision necessary for a grade, spend your time on the final essay. She's taking advanced screenwriting next term, so I get to keep working with her. Students as good as she are a blessing.

Over the break, my goal is to finish the draft of my own splay in progress. I have a good first act, I think, but I haven't found the right one to get Act II going. Some new ideas on this. Onward.

The Age of Thersites

War and debauchery everywhere, says Shakespeare's Thersites, and the media today certainly makes the argument. But the media is not a mirror of reality. Indeed, there probably is no more debauchery in the world today than a century or several ago -- we just hear about it on a daily basis. Imagine life in the Oregon Territory when you didn't learn about the assassination of your President until weeks after it happened! It's the global village that brings all the world's atrocities to our daily attention. In fact, most of us are nicer than this.

Occupational hazard?

There are so many unhappy writers.
Raymond Chandler's Long Goodbye

On this day in 1953 Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye was published. Many say it is his best novel, and the biographers trace many connections to Chandler's personal life, none of them happy ones.

Chandler's last years without her were spent more or less in breakdown, the drunken suicide attempts of the months after Cissy's funeral turning to five, eventually fatal, years of alcoholism. In his last months he was having desperate, disinterested affairs and drinking gimlets again, now all too much like Marlowe in The Long Goodbye: "Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off." In this state he proposed to three different women -- one from Australia, one from England, and one sent to California by the one from England to check into what the one from Australia was up to.
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It's about time.

I need a high tech classroom, or at least it makes my job easier, and always request one and usually get one. But this term I didn't. So this means to show a video, I push a cart loaded with a DVD player, projector, speaker and various cables all the way across campus to my classroom, use the handicapped ramps to get to the basement elevator, up to my floor, to the other end of the building where the classroom is, where I assembly everything before class. The entire process takes about half an hour. A lot less convenient than walking in with a DVD player to hook to outlets on the wall, everything else already installed in the classroom.

I don't know what kind of classroom I've been assigned for winter term. I have my fingers crossed.

Classrooms scheduled for tech upgrades in 2008

New projectors, high-tech podiums to be installed in more than 100 classrooms

Portland State's Instruction Technology Services Department is updating more than 110 classrooms with new technology services, such as projectors and electronic podiums, in an effort to standardize a high level of technology in both classrooms and departmental offices.
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Monday, November 26, 2007

An unusual screenwriting contest

Several things make the Kairos Prize screenwriting competition different. Although its entry fee is $75, its prizes are higher than those in the vast majority of contests:

Grand Prize: $25,000
1st Runner Up: $15,000
2nd Runner Up: $10,000

The guidelines also reflect how different this competition is:

Primary purpose of the prize is to further the influence of moral
and spiritual values within the film and television industries. (Details below: click to enlarge.)

Man, these kind of scripts are really hard to write without getting didactic and dramatically boring. The winners will earn their rewards.

More information.

Looking for Cinderella

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Wyoming Cowgirls ranked for first time in school history; Tennessee still unanimous top choice

Wyoming is in The Associated Press women's basketball poll for the first
time in school history, entering at No. 25 on Monday.

The Cowgirls have won their first four games, including a 67-66 overtime
victory at Wisconsin on Tuesday in a rematch of last season's WNIT finals.
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The new laptop

I hope they do this, keeping the new inexpensive laptop available to the general public on this buy-one-give-one model. I wouldn't mind having one myself.

Imagine the inexpensive technology that could be produced with proper motivation. You already see this in the software arena, things like the Open Office suite. There's a hardware equivalent to this attitude.
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PC World

Keep Selling the Cheap Laptop, Supporter Urges

As commercial sales of One Laptop Per Child's XO laptop close Monday, a user tracking the nonprofit effort said continued commercial availability of the laptop could benefit OLPC's nonprofit effort, the XO manufacturer and children using it as a learning tool.

Gabriel Morales, a technology enthusiast in Miami, feels so passionately about distributing the laptop commercially that he has set up a Web site,, to drum up public support for continued commercialization.

Using a handcrank, pedal or pull-string, the laptop doesn't rely on an electrical outlet to run, making it useful for situations where power is unreliable or unavailable. The laptop also runs longer than a traditional unit-- up to 21 hours-- thanks to its custom-designed, efficient power-saving features implemented at the hardware and software level, Morales said.

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The Army-Navy game is this Saturday, 9 a.m., a major ritual in my life. I root for Navy, the triumph of being a Navy brat over actual service in the Army. I make black-eyed peas. I've never seen one live but, despite the long odds, would love to.

What's so special about this game? Some highlights from Wikipedia:

Despite the fact that Army and Navy are no longer nationally competitive on a regular basis, the tradition of the game has ensured that it remains nationally televised to this day. Arguably, one of the great appeals of this game to many fans is that since few, if any, of the participants will ever play in the NFL, they're playing solely for the love of the game.

The game is especially emotional for the seniors, called "first classmen" by both academies, since it is typically the last competitive football game they will ever play. (The 1996 game was an aberration, as both Army and Navy went to bowl games afterwards, and Navy has played in a bowl game in each season since 2003.) During wartime the game is even more emotional because some seniors will not return once they are deployed. For instance, in the 2004 game, at least one senior from the class of 2003 who was killed in Iraq, Navy's J.P. Blecksmith, was remembered. The players placed their comrade's pads and jerseys on chairs on the sidelines. Much of the sentiment of the game goes out to those who share the uniform and who are overseas.

At the end of the game the alma maters of the losing team and then the winning team are played and sung. The winning team stands alongside the losing team and faces the losing academy students; then the losing team accompanies the winning team, facing their students. This is done in a show of mutual respect and solidarity.

With so much hype and arrogance in sports today, Army-Navy is a refreshing return to the sports climate I remember from my youth.

Army-Navy Football Website.

Army-Navy Scores, 1890-2006. Navy 51 wins, Army 49 wins, 7 ties.

Army-Navy and black-eyed peas!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mental collapse

I've never seen a team collapse over the loss of one player like Oregon has after losing its star quarterback. It suggests a mental problem, not just the loss of talent, a lack of preparation for this possibility -- and, in the final analysis, a failure of coaching. The hot shots in their designer uniforms suddenly aren't so hot. In fact, with mental toughness, they had a hell of a lot they could have accomplished, still. The coaching staff failed to prepare the team for real adversity.
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UCLA knocks Oregon from Rose Bowl race (AP)

When Dennis Dixon went out, the explosive Oregon offense became average, at best. When his backup at quarterback was injured as well, the Ducks had no chance. So now, unlikely as it might seem, the once-reeling UCLA Bruins have a shot at playing in the Rose Bowl game.
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Above politics?

I know people who have broken friendships over political differences. I know people who think twice about a new friend upon learning s/he is a Republican.

How refreshing, then, to watch the Matalin-Carville show, the odd couple of politics, she a Republican strategist, he Democratic, married and apparently happily so. See them if you get a chance.
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Sex, Humor, and Partisan Politics: Mary Matalin and James Carville

Before a crowd of 1100,
Matalin, Republican campaign manager for Bush, and Carville, Democratic campaign manager for Clinton, sparred with
good humor about each other's politics. Amid the jokes and wit, each had a serious partisan commentary on the
current political crisis.

Carville introduced Matalin with obvious pride. Matalin took her turn first, beginning with generous admiration
of her husband's optimism, his brilliant political consulting, and his devotion to their extended family. Inspite of
her Republican loyalties, Matalin said that she can find the positive in what she and Carville agreed to call "the
current unpleasantness" in Washington.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

A little gem

Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Pearls

On this day in 1947 John Steinbeck's The Pearl was published, to coincide with the release of the film version. Steinbeck developed his "parable" from a traditional Mexican folk tale, and in such a way as to guarantee it a permanent position on the high school curriculum, but some biographers interpret it in a more personal way. Kino, the poor-but-happy fisherman who finds "the Pearl of the World," is Steinbeck finding international wealth and fame with his previous book, The Grapes of Wrath; the ensuing confusion over values and lifestyle is reflected by Steinbeck's marriage and alcohol problems; Kino's loss of his son and his self-image are paralleled by Steinbeck's problems with his sons and his persistent feeling that he had squandered his talent.
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Looks like a good read

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Mitford Sisters' Letters Collected in New Book

Weekend Edition Saturday, November 24, 2007 · The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, looks at 80 years worth of letters written by the Mitford sisters, who were born into British aristrocracy.

The sisters' lives were bound up with the many of the great upheaval and leaders of the 20th century. Two of the sisters were close friends of Adolf Hitler, another was an ardent communist and another was a famous novelist.

The book is a collection of letters from sisters Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah Mitford.

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Why not here?

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Finnish town has culture on the go with mobiles

HELSINKI (Reuters) -
Fancy a dose of culture in the Finnish
city of Oulu? All you need is a mobile phone.

Get theatre tickets digitally, download a smart video
trailer of how the play was directed, order and pay for snacks
for the interval and, after a culture-packed night, order a
taxi home -- all by just swiping a cellphone over smart tags
placed on the menus or around the foyer of the theatre.

The Oulu City Theatre in northern Finland, 600 kilometers
(373 miles) north of Helsinki, says it is the world's first
cultural institution to use the hippest handset technology,
expected to turn mobile phones into wallets.
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Friday, November 23, 2007

Who Killed JFK? - An Interview With Lamar Waldron

By Paul Comstock, Editor, California Literary Review, April 3rd, 2007.

Lamar Waldron is the author (with Thom Hartmann) of Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK. I highly recommend this meticulously researched and fully documented book.

"But no future historian of that tormented period in American history will be able to ignore their very convincing presentation, even if a lay reader may feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the evidence." Publishers Weekly

So much has been written about JFK’s assassination–what in your book is new?

A tremendous amount. With the help of almost two dozen people who worked with John and Robert Kennedy–backed up by thousands of documents in the National Archives–we discovered that JFK and his brother had a never-before-revealed plan to stage a coup against Castro on December 1, 1963. The CIA’s code-name for their part of the plan–AMWORLD–has never appeared in print before, and was withheld from the Warren Commission and later Congressional investigating committees. As part of the coup plan, in the days and weeks before Dallas, Robert Kennedy even had a top secret committee making plans for dealing with the possible “assassination of American officials,” in case Castro found out about the coup plan and tried to retaliate.However, the Kennedy’s coup plan was infiltrated by three powerful Mafia bosses being targeted by Attorney General Robert Kennedy: Johnny Rosselli of the Chicago Mafia, Tampa godfather Santo Trafficante, and Carlos Marcello (godfather of Louisiana and east Texas). The Mafia dons used parts of the secret coup plan to try and assassinate JFK first in Chicago (on 11-2-63), then in Tampa (on 11-18-63, an attempt never revealed before), and finally in Dallas. By planting evidence implicating Castro, the mob bosses prevented Robert Kennedy and other key officials from conducting a thorough investigation, in order to protect the coup plan and prevent nuclear confrontation with the Russians.

While it’s been known since the early 1990s that Robert Kennedy eventually told close associates the Mafia was behind his brother’s death, the book finally explains how the Mafia did it, presenting a huge amount of new information.

Read complete interview

Ultimate Sacrifice website.

A great college football season

Another #1 bites the dust. Glad to see it.

At this point, the championship game might be between Kansas and West Virginia, and this matchup would be wonderful. Keep the usual football giants out of it. Not as good as Yale--Harvard but closer than Ohio State--USC, say. But lots can still happen in the final two weeks.
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Arkansas 50, (1) LSU 48, 3OT

LSU had already clinched the SEC West Division and will move on to the
conference title game in Atlanta on Dec. 1, but will do so feeling a little
hollow after letting a chance at a national title slip away. Winning the SEC
title will put LSU in New Orleans in January, but for the Sugar Bowl, not the
BCS Championship game they wanted to be in a week later.

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What's in a name?

Plenty. This has been a comedy of errors.

Guess what? You can oppose changing the name of Interstate, the old 99W highway that runs between Oregon and Washington, a street with historic significance, and not be a racist. You can't convince the supporters of such a name change of this, but there you are. From the beginning, this affair was mishandled, largely by the mayor, who avoided hearing from those who actually live in the area affected by the change. And when belated meetings finally were held, all hell broke lose.

So the council looks for a compromise but forgets that the street in question runs through Chinatown, where a street named for a Latino hero didn't make sense. This is when it got pretty funny.

Of course, not many people were laughing. They were too busy calling the other side names.

And we're "the city that works"?

Portland gives street-naming issue a rest

The Portland City Council voted unanimously this week to overturn an earlier move to rename the downtown street for César Chávez. The council also voted 3-2 to reject renaming Interstate Avenue, the choice of Mayor Tom Potter and Latino leaders.

Months of debate over renaming a street for the labor leader revealed deep divisions in the city, and the council finally decided it needed a breather.

The renaming process began in September when the council voted unanimously to support a proposal by a group of Chávez supporters to rename Interstate, sending the idea to a pair of community meetings.

When those meetings revealed fierce neighborhood opposition, commissioners began looking for compromises. But the supporters, solidly backed by the mayor, rejected anything but changing Interstate, and no alternative could muster a council majority.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thanksgiving scene

From my story The Epistemological Uncle, which first appeared in the May 1994 issue of Whirlwind. (The story was over ten years old when it got published, something I'd found in a drawer and recirculated.)

IN THE CAREFREE IDYLL of my youth, when Appletons twenty strong gathered at my grandparents' house each Thanksgiving Day, Uncle Buck always drank too much and never failed to do something that would embarrass Aunt Betty. He would return from the bathroom with his fly open, or belch during grace, or tell a very dirty story, or dribble giblet gravy on the tie he wore only on holidays, before grumbling, "I knew the goddamn thing was good for something. Kept the shirt clean, didn't it?"

Aunt Betty, who was my mother's sister, would begin the process of coaxing him home then, and she usually succeeded before the pumpkin and mincemeat and apple and pecan pies were passed around the table.

A bit later, after grandfather began to fidget prior to suggesting that the men retire to the basement, where whiskey and cigars awaited them, the loud backfiring of Uncle Buck's ancient pickup could be heard outside and soon thereafter the slamming of the pickup door in the driveway and then the idiosyncratic howling that was my uncle's habit whenever he had too much to drink, which was often:

"Do you really knoooooooooow?," he howled.

Everyone knew that Uncle Buck was back.

After shooting a stern glance at me and my cousins, daring us to laugh out loud (though cousin Judy, Buck's daughter, always looked close to tears), grandfather would ask grandmother if there were clean sheets in the guest room, knowing full well that she never let anyone in the front door unless there were fresh sheets in all the bedrooms and fresh towels in all the bathrooms.

As Uncle Buck continued to howl outside, grandfather would make the habitual suggestion to retire, and so the men would rise in unison to head for the stairs to the basement, where they would let Uncle Buck in through the outside entrance.

Before long Uncle Buck wouldn't be the only intoxicated relative in the house, nor the only one howling.

This routine was so attached to Thanksgiving that I looked forward to it and was disappointed to learn, the holiday of my freshman year in high school, that Uncle Buck had stopped drinking.

The uncle was modeled after a relative of my best friend, an ex-logger, who indeed would howl "Do you really knoooooooooow?" whenever he got drunk, which was daily.

Dick, my friend, appreciated the story and after that "the epistemological uncle" became a kind of codeword between us whenever arguments we'd overhear would deteriorate into matters of semantics, as almost all arguments do. Either of us saying this, or "do you really knooooooooooooow?," could crack us up. To observers, we often were cracking up without any apparent reason, the advantage of knowing one another so well and being so often on the same wave length. We laughed one hell of a lot when no one else was.


We ended up at the end of a long line at Old Country Buffet. It actually wasn't too bad. A hell of a lot of folks showed up at the same place, that's for sure. Not everyone feels like cooking or has another place to go.

In the 80s, there were some nice Thanksgiving open house dinners at Nobby's. I'd always bring shrimp aspic and oyster dressing.

Lately, though, for me the highlights of November and December aren't holidays but sporting events.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ho hum

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DUBLIN, Ireland - Heather Mills McCartney, who is reportedly seeking millions of dollars in her breakup with Paul McCartney, denounced the world's rich as misers and snobs Wednesday.

Paul McCartney's personal wealth is estimated at $1.6 billion. British press reports have speculated that McCartney has offered his wife around $50 million, while she is seeking at least double that amount.

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The Ballad of JFK

I wrote this 44 years ago, a few days after the assassination, to the tune of Woody Guthrie's "Dust Storm Disaster":

On November 22nd of 1963
There struck in Dallas, Texas, a great calamity

It shocked our mighty nation and all beneath the sun
When U.S. President Kennedy was downed by a sniper’s gun

It happened on the Dallas streets as he rode in a car
And the streets were lined with people and some had traveled far

Yes, some had come from Waco, and some had come from Kent
And some had come from Fort Worth to see the President

Most of the crowd were happy, they cheered as the car drove by
But some were filled with hatred and held their banners high

One banner read as follows, “We hold you in contempt!
Because of your socialist policies, we hold you in contempt!”

The President ignored them, he let the car drive by
For he knew that they were sick in heart and in the minority

The car continued slowly, “They like you,” the governor’s wife said
When above that crowd of people, three shots rang overhead

The President slumped in his seat, the Governor he fell too
And the wives stared at their husbands in shock of what to do

The car rushed to the hospital and doctors to his side
But one shot had been fatal, and the President he died

They caught Lee Harvey Oswald and charged him with the crime
Of assassinating the President, the calamity of our time

Since Oswald had been to Russia, some said, “We told you so!
We gotta kill off all the Commies cause look what they will do!”

These were the same who held the signs against the President
Though their weapons weren’t as fatal, their hatred was as great

For hatred lurks in hearts that fear the unity of Man
Who fear the ultimate brotherhood of white man, black and tan

The President he knew this, he pledged Universal Law
Was a bullet took our leader, was Hatred was the cause

--Charles Deemer

Today I belong in the Mafia assassination camp regarding this historic event, persuaded by the comprehensive book Ultimate Sacrifice.

Maybe not this time

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Review: Amazon reader needs more juice

NEW YORK - Making a successful reader for electronic books is one of the toughest tasks in consumer electronics. Many have tried and all have failed, defeated by something that's thousands of years old — the book.

This week, Inc. released the Kindle, the best attempt yet at toppling the book. It's in some ways an amazing device, but it's severely undercut by its poor battery life, making it hard to see it as a game-changer.

This is all a big pity, because the Kindle does so much else right.

The real reason I can't recommend the Kindle is the battery issue. It's quite possible that Amazon could apply some simple fix, like a software upgrade, because the battery life is much shorter than its components seem to warrant.

If not, we'll have to wait for the next attempt at making a great e-book reader. Like a great white whale of the electronics world, it seems ever elusive.

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Good manners

This is definitely an area where I've witnessed change in the last half-century-plus, a decline in good manners. Example. I recently gave a gift to a number of libraries. Only a minority took the trouble to say, Thanks! I've experienced the same thing with people, alas. My wife has noticed this decline as well. R.I.P.

Watch what you throw away

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Painting found in trash sells for $1M

NEW YORK - A masterpiece by a Mexican artist that was found in the trash by a woman who knew little about modern art has been sold for more than $1 million.

The painting "Tres Personajes," by Rufino Tamayo, was discovered in 2003 by Elizabeth Gibson, who spotted it on her morning walk on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She said she took it home because "even though I didn't understand it, I knew it had power."
The brightly colored abstract work was purchased for $1,049,000 by an unidentified private American collector bidding by phone at Sotheby's Latin American Art sale on Tuesday night.
Gibson spent four years trying to find out about the painting, finally discovering on the "Antiques Roadshow" Web site that it had been featured on the popular PBS program and described as a missing masterpiece stolen in 1989.

Gibson has received a $15,000 reward for turning in "Tres Personajes" and also will get a percentage of the sale price.

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...make strange bedfellows.
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Saudis defend punishment for rape victim

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - The Saudi judiciary on Tuesday defended a court verdict that sentenced a 19-year-old victim of a gang rape to six months in jail and 200 lashes because she was with an unrelated male when they were attacked.

But the Ministry of Justice stood by the verdict Tuesday, saying that "charges were proven" against the woman for having been in a car with a man who was not her relative.

The ministry implied the victim's sentence was increased because she spoke out to the press. "For whoever has an objection on verdicts issued, the system allows an appeal without resorting to the media," said the statement, which was carried on the official Saudi Press Agency.

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Giving thanks

Many things to be thankful for:
  • Great parents. Luck of the draw. They just left too soon.
  • Born before WWII. Can remember it. Not raised on TV.
  • Survived several wild decades. Not sure why.
  • Several great teachers. Linus Pauling. Bob Trevor. Dean Regenos.
  • Harriet. I don't want to outlive her.
  • Still a survivor. Must be genetics, certainly not a history of good decisions. Astoundingly good health, knock on my wooden head. Flip side, outlived my closest friends.

The world's greatest satire?

Actually I think I prefer Swift.

Voltaire, Candide

Chief target is the philosophy of status quo optimism advocated in the 18th century by, among others, Leibnitz. He is personified as Doctor Pangloss in the novel, one whose "metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology" allows him to smile stupidly on an endless, intercontinental catalogue of horrors -- rape and slaughter, crime and punishment, earthquake and shipwreck. In Chapter 1, as the good Doctor tutors the young Candide and his love, Cunegonde, "that there is no effect without a cause" and that "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds,"

    Mademoiselle Cunegonde had a great inclination for science and watched breathlessly the reiterated experiments she witnessed; she observed clearly the Doctor's sufficient reason, the effects and the causes, and returned home very much excited, pensive, filled with the desire of learning, reflecting that she might be the sufficient reason of young Candide and that he might be hers.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sign of the times

clipped from

Decline of the Tenure Track Raises Concerns
DEARBORN, Mich. — Professors with tenure or who are on a tenure track are now a distinct minority on the country’s campuses, as the ranks of part-time instructors and professors hired on a contract have swelled, according to federal figures analyzed by the American Association of University Professors.

Three decades ago, adjuncts — both part-timers and full-timers not on a tenure track — represented only 43 percent of professors, according to the professors association, which has studied data reported to the federal Education Department. Currently, the association says, they account for nearly 70 percent of professors at colleges and universities, both public and private.

Many state university presidents say tight budgets have made it inevitable that they turn to adjuncts to save money.

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