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Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day and other stuff

- Pericles

It's Memorial Day, the holiday for remembering the people who died serving in the armed forces. I don't have any relatives or friends who have done that, but this day makes me think of Pericles' funeral speech (we read the History of the Peloponnesian War in college) ...

It was an established Athenian practice by the late 5th century to hold a public funeral in honor of all those who had died in war. The remains of the dead were left out for three days in a tent, where offerings could be made for the dead. Then a funeral procession was held, with ten cypress coffins carrying the remains, one for each of the Athenian tribes, and another for the remains that could not be identified. The procession led to a public grave (at the Kerameikos), where they were buried. The last part of the ceremony was a speech delivered by a prominent Athenian citizen .....

American Civil War scholars Louis Warren and Garry Wills have addressed the parallels of Pericles' funeral oration to Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address. Lincoln's speech, like Pericles', begins with an acknowledgment of revered predecessors: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent..."; Lincoln, like Pericles, then praises the uniqueness of the State's commitment to democracy: "..a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...government of the people, by the people, and for the people..."; Lincoln, like Pericles, addresses the difficulties faced by a speaker on such an occasion, "...we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground"; Lincoln, like Pericles, exhorts the survivors to emulate the deeds of the dead, "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the great task remaining before us"; and finally, Lincoln, like Pericles, contrasts the efficacy of words and deeds, "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract...The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." It is uncertain to what degree Lincoln was directly influenced by Pericles' Funeral Oration. Wills never claims that Lincoln drew on it as a source, though Edward Everett, who delivered a lengthy oration at the same ceremony at Gettysburg, began by describing the "Athenian example"

You can read Pericles' speech here at Fordham

Meanwhile, here's some of what I've been reading ...

- I Am Your Father: Star Wars is an eternal tale of paternal love and redemption—for both George Lucas and Anakin Skywalker.

- How Clergy Set the Standard for Abortion Care

- Women Are Leaving Church, And the Reason Seems Clear

- Eric Holder Makes A Small Crack In The Wall Of Official Hostility Towards Edward Snowden

- And :) ...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Music on a train

What's in common? George :) ....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Happy birthday, Dylan

It's Bob Dylan's birthday ... Forever Young: Rock Poet Bob Dylan Turns 75.

I must admit that I never liked his voice, but here are three of his songs performed by others that I do especially like ....

- Joan Baez does Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word ...

- Roger McGuinn did Ballad of Easy Rider but it was at least partly written by Dylan ...

- Dylan's My Back Pages performed by an ensemble: Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Dylan himself, and George Harrison :) ...

Samantha Bee on the wrongness of Bernie

Feel The Turn ...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Photos from my yard today

Saturday, May 21, 2016


This week's movie check-out from the public library was Solaris ...

a 2002 American science fiction drama film written and directed by Steven Soderbergh, produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, and starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. It is based on the 1961 science fiction novel of the same name by Polish writer Stanisław Lem.

Reflecting on Andrei Tarkovsky's critically acclaimed 1972 film Solaris (which was itself preceded by a 1968 Russian TV film), Soderbergh promised to be closer in spirit to Lem's novel.

The film is a meditative psychodrama set almost entirely on a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, adding flashbacks to the previous experiences of its main characters on Earth. Clooney's character struggles with the questions of Solaris' motivation, his beliefs and memories, and reconciling what was lost with an opportunity for a second chance.

Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4. Here's the beginning of his review ...

Solaris tells the story of a planet that reads minds, and obliges its visitors by devising and providing people they have lost, and miss. The Catch-22 is that the planet knows no more than its visitors know about these absent people. As the film opens, two astronauts have died in a space station circling the planet, and the survivors have sent back alarming messages. A psychiatrist named Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) is sent to the station, and when he awakens after his first night on board, his wife, Rheya (Natascha McElhone), is in bed with him. Some time earlier on earth, she had committed suicide.

She's not human," Kelvin is warned by Dr. Helen Gordon (Viola Davis), one of the surviving crew members. Kelvin knows this materialization cannot be his wife, yet is confronted with a person who seems palpably real, shares memories with him and is flesh and blood. The other survivor, the goofy Snow (Jeremy Davies), asks, "I wonder if they can get pregnant?" This story originated with a Polish novel by Stanislaw Lem that is considered one of the major adornments of science fiction. It was made into a 1972 movie of the same name by the Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky. Now Steven Soderbergh has retold it in the kind of smart film that has people arguing about it on their way out of the theater.

The movie needs science fiction to supply the planet and the space station, which furnish the premise and concentrate the action, but it is essentially a psychological drama. When Kelvin arrives on the space station, he finds the survivors seriously spooked. Soderbergh directs Jeremy Davies to escalate his usual style of tics and stutters, to the point where a word can hardly be uttered without his hands waving to evoke it from the air.

Even scarier is Gordon, the scientist played by Viola Davis, who has seen whatever catastrophe overtook the station and does not consider Kelvin part of the solution. In his gullibility will he believe his wife has somehow really been resurrected? And ... what does the planet want? Why does it do this? As a favor, or as a way of luring us into accepting manifestations of its own ego and need? Will the human race eventually be replaced by the Solaris version? Clooney has successfully survived being named People magazine's sexiest man alive by deliberately choosing projects that ignore that image. His alliance with Soderbergh, both as an actor and co-producer, shows a taste for challenge. Here, as Kelvin, he is intelligent, withdrawn, sad, puzzled. Certain this seems to be his wife, and although he knows intellectually that she is not, still--to destroy her would be ... inhuman. The screenplay develops a painful paradox out of that reality ....

I read the novel when I was a teen and I remember it being hard to understand and having a much less happy ending, so I found the movie more simpatico, Still, the movie is kind of grim, not so much because people died but because it shows how wrenching relationships can be.

Here's a trailer ...

Friday, May 20, 2016


- The Count of American Zika Cases Just Got Bigger: The CDC is now reporting that nearly 300 women in the U.S. and its territories have the virus. ... Researchers have established a causal link between Zika and microcephaly, as well as a link with the autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré; they know it can be transmitted sexually; and there have been reports of brain and spinal-cord infections related to Zika.

- (UPDATE: Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Charge Abortion Doctors) Oklahoma’s Bill to Make Abortion a Felony Is a Stupid Gambit the State Can’t Afford .... Republican Governor Mary Fallin hasn’t commented on whether she will sign S.B. 1552, under which any doctor caught performing an abortion would be stripped of his or her medical license, disqualified from applying for a new one in the state, and sentenced to up to three years in prison. The bill would only make exceptions when a pregnancy endangered a woman’s life; abortions in cases of rape and incest, or to protect a woman’s health in non-life-threatening situations, would all be illegal. Fallin also has a second abortion-related bill on her desk: H.B. 3128, which would ban women from seeking abortions for reasons of fetal anomaly.

- From The Boston Globe: Face it, Bernie. It’s over ... I’ve had it with Bernie Sanders. I’ve had with it his moral preening. I’ve had it with his simplistic, one-dimensional view of American politics. I’ve had it with his labeling anyone who supports his opponent as fundamentally corrupt and a handmaiden of the 1 percent. I’ve had it with his never-ending list of excuses for why he’s not doing better. I’ve had it with the exaggerations he tells his supporters about his chances of winning. I’ve had it with his refusal to demonstrate any leadership as these same supporters crudely attack Sanders’ political opponents.

- From The Week: Bernie Sanders' campaign isn't about ideas anymore. It's about him. ... Bernie Sanders made a huge mistake this week. It's one that, if not soon corrected, could squander the sizeable influence he has over his party's platform, and, more indelibly, create for the eventual Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a schism in the party that she does not have the means to reconcile.

- Whew! I need to lighten the mood! Here's something for my fellow science fiction fans :) ...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The idealism is breathtaking

I've been reading some of the messages state to Democratic Chairwoman Roberta Lange by Bernie Sanders' supporters after the convention in Nevada. I've seen no posts about this at America Magazine or dotCommonweal yet, though in the past they've both had a number of positive posts on Bernie and his so very idealistic supporters. The messages sent to Lange are full of misogyny, hatred, threats to the life of Lange and even to her children and grandchild. Oh, and though you can't see them at the link, she also received photos of dead animals. The idealism is breathtaking.

You might say this is an isolated event, just the work of a few nuts and not representative of Bernie supporters, but Lange has received more than 1,000 calls since Saturday night and as many as three text messages per minute. And this isn't an isolated incident ... Clinton Superdelegates Say Angry Sanders Supporters Are Harassing Them ... and ... Some Democrats accuse Sanders supporters of harassing convention delegates

When Trump's rallies got violent and his supporters got abusive, we all wanted to hold him accountable - we should do the same for Bernie.

More reading ...

- From PolitiFact: Allegations of fraud and misconduct at Nevada Democratic convention unfounded

- From Mother Jones: The Sad Decline and Fall of Bernie Sanders

- From TIME: Felt the Bern But the Bros Are Extinguishing the Flames

- From The Washington Post's editorial board: After tensions explode in Nevada, it’s time for Sanders to be honest with his supporters

- From TPM: It Comes From the Very Top

For months I'd thought and written that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver was the key driver of toxicity in the the Democratic primary race. Weaver has been highly visible on television, far more than campaign managers tend to be. He's also been the one constantly upping the tension, pressing the acrimony and unrealism of the campaign as Sanders actual chances of winning dwindled.

But now I realize I had that wrong.

Actually, I didn't realize it. People who know told me.

Over the last several weeks I've had a series of conversations with multiple highly knowledgable, highly placed people. Perhaps it's coming from Weaver too. The two guys have been together for decades. But the 'burn it down' attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in that statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.

This should have been obvious to me. The tone and tenor of a campaign always come from the top. It wasn't obvious to me until now.

This might be because he's temperamentally like that. There's some evidence for that. It may also be that, like many other presidential contenders, once you get close it is simply impossible to let go. I don't know which it is. That would only be my speculation. But this is coming from Bernie Sanders. It's not Weaver. It's not driven by people around him. It's right from him. And what I understand from knowledgable sources is that in the last few weeks anyone who was trying to rein it in has basically stopped trying and just decided to let Bernie be Bernie ...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


- From Kaya Oakes: Female Deacons: Pope Francis Walks It Back, Women Clergy Weigh In

- So, while Pope Francis can't stomach the idea of women deacons or priests, he's fine with snuggling up to the schismatic, misogynistic, Holocaust-denying SSPX ... Pope Francis speaks: "The Society of St. Pius X are Catholics on the path to full communion." ... and ... SSPX’s Bishop Fellay: Little By Little Rome Is Giving Us All We Need for Reconciliation

- There’s No Such Thing as Free Will: But we’re better off believing in it anyway

- Republicans Really Need to Stop Withholding Zika Funding

- I think this is a really good article from Newsweek, and it sums up how I feel. It's long but it's worth a read. Here's the beginning ...

Get Control, Senator Sanders, Or Get Out

Violence. Death threats. Vile, misogynistic names screamed at women. Rage. Hatred. Menacing, anonymous phone calls to homes and offices. Public officials whisked offstage by security agents frightened of the growing mob. None of this has any place in a political campaign. And the candidate who has been tolerating this obscene behavior among his supporters is showing himself to be unfit for office.

So, Senator Sanders, either get control of what is becoming your increasingly unhinged cult or get out of the race. Whatever respect sane liberals had for you is rapidly dwindling, and the damage being inflicted on your reputation may be unfixable. If you can’t even manage the vicious thugs who act in your name, you can’t be trusted to run a convenience store, much less the country.

When Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign, he seemed to be the kind of candidate who would inspire voters from the liberal blocs of the Democratic Party, push the party leftward and influence the future direction of politics—either as the nominee or as a force for change. But Sanders has increasingly signaled that he is in this race for Sanders, and day after day shows himself to be a whining crybaby with little interest in a broader movement. His vicious—and often ridiculous—attacks on the party whenever he doesn’t win a contest have inspired a level of ignorant fanaticism among a large swath of his supporters that is becoming more akin to what might be seen at an out-of-control rally for Donald Trump. Signs are emerging that the Sanders campaign is transmogrifying into the type of movement through which tyrants are born.

The ugly was on display at the recent state convention of the Nevada Democratic Party, where Hillary Clinton won more delegates than Sanders. Now, this should hardly have been a surprise to anyone except the Sandernistas, whose certainty in their righteousness has overwhelmed any commitment they may have ever had to democracy. Sanders lost the Nevada caucuses in February by more than 5%. A rational person who cared about the will of the people would presume that Clinton would emerge from the state with the most delegates. But Sanders supporters were outraged—outraged!—that the person with the largest number of votes ended up with the largest share of delegates ....

Monday, May 16, 2016

King Arthur and Captain Hook

In tonight's episode of Once Upon a Time at Hulu, these two dead men team up in the Underworld to defeat Hades :) .....

Women deacons: see, it's not just me

I had a post a few days ago about the possibility of women becoming deacons in the Catholic church. I opined that it would never happen under this pope. Apparently,I'm not alone in my take on the situation ...

Pope Francis is a master at playing to the crowd. But we won't get female deacons

[...] Initial, breathless media reports that suggested the pope was on the verge of allowing women to be ordained as deacons: “Francis’ openness to studying the possibility of women serving as deacons could represent an historic shift for the global Catholic church, which does not ordain women as clergy.”

As much as I would like to believe it, that’s not going to happen.

Francis is the master of being all things to all people, using “off the cuff” remarks to sound progressive but changing nothing when it comes to actual church rules.

Remember Francis’ comment in 2013 about homosexual people: “who am I to judge?” Francis’ teaching on the family released last month did not remove the church’s judgement that homosexual people are disordered.

In this case, the pope isn’t just playing to the crowd; he’s setting them up for disappointment. The pope says the role of ordained women deaconesses is unclear and he will ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to study it.

Great! I’m guessing they’ll start with their 2002 report, From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles. Its conclusion? Deaconesses in the early church “were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons.”

Then the CDF will likely move on to the book Priesthood and Diaconate, written by its head, Cardinal Gerhardt Mueller. It also determines that there is no equivalence between deaconesses and male deacons in the early church.

The point? There is zero chance that this study, by this congregation headed by this cardinal, is going to find some theological basis that women can be ordained permanent deacons today.

More likely we are going to hear the usual “feminine genius” and “complementarity of the sexes” claptrap. You know: women deacons played a particular role. They were a minor deaconate. They were not equivalent to men. They were only ordained in the early church to minister to women (eg, baptise them by full immersion when it would have been improper for men to see a woman naked). There is no need for such a ministry now. Their ordination did not equal “holy orders.” Blah, blah, blah.

I hope I’m wrong. Forty years of being a Catholic feminist tells me I’m not going to be.

I’m not alone ......

Susan Sarandon speaks out on Woody Allen

Most of Hollywood Still Has Woody Allen’s Back—but Susan Sarandon Does Not

[...] On Sunday, actress Susan Sarandon criticized Allen, and she left no doubt about what she meant. During a panel discussion at Cannes with Geena Davis, Sarandon’s co-star in the groundbreaking 1991 movie Thelma & Louise, Sarandon was asked what she thought about Allen’s recent comment that he hasn’t made a movie about a younger man falling in love with an older woman because “I just don’t have any material.” Reporters in the room chuckled in response to the question, but Sarandon dryly responded, “I have nothing good to say about Woody Allen, so I don’t think we should go there.” After the reporter prodded for elaboration, Sarandon added, “I think he sexually assaulted a child, and I don’t think that’s right.” The chuckling immediately stopped; but, it's worth noting, the consummately professional Davis didn’t even flinch at Sarandon’s no-nonsense answer.

Sarandon has previously spoken out against Allen, notably in a 2014 interview with the Daily Beast in which she said, “I think he really tore that family apart in a way that was horrible, and hasn’t really dealt with the aftermath.” Her willingness now to state the allegation against Allen very plainly, instead of couching them in euphemisms or glossing them over, is refreshing—and, as Ronan Farrow mentioned in his recent essay, very rare in Hollywood, where actors “continue to line up to star in his movies.” ......

Good on her.

You can read more about the issue here ... On Woody Allen and his fans’ and moviegoers’ continuing moral conundrum ... in an article that asks if it's moral to watch Allen's movies if you think he's a child sex abuser. Speaking for myself, I haven't seen one of his movies in decades.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


I've been trying to decide what I have that's of any resale value at Amazon. After looking around there and here, I've come up with a possibility ... my old Apple computer bits. I don't know if anyone is actually buying this stuff, but the keyboards and mice are listed there for modest prices used.

It brings back memories to see the oldest mouse and keyboard (top black keyboard and second mouse from the L). They are from the first computer I ever owned, bought used for $600 in the late 90s, the Macintosh TV ...

My next computer, the iMac G3 was a gift from my mom around 2000 and goes with the strawberry hockey puck mouse that's third from the L in the photo and the other black keyboard.

After my mom died, I bought my own first time new computer with some of the money she left - an eMac - which goes with the ugly white mouse and white keyboard in the photo above.

I still have the computers too and they mostly still work, so maybe they are worth a few bucks as well. Right now I'm using a loaner from my sister, an iMac, which is very nice ...

The very first computer I ever used was also a loaner from my sis, the Macintosh Classic, and I still remember playing games on it :) ....

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The 'women deacons' thing

Some are agog at the new possibility of women being deacons in the Catholic church ... Francis to create commission to study female deacons in Catholic church. But before we get giddy, let's consider a couple of things ...

1) The Pope said he would create a commission to study the idea of women being deacons, but it was an off-the-cuff answer to a question at a meeting of women religious, not an official announcement,. And come on ... the creating of a commission to study something appears to be Francis' way of burying issues .... look at his sex abuse commission.

2) This isn't a new idea:

In February of 2013, Cardinal Kasper said that maybe women could be deacons ...

Cardinal Walter Kasper suggested a new “diaconal” office for women at the recent spring assembly of the German bishops’ conference, German media are reporting. His proposal is for a “community deaconess” who would carry out pastoral, charitable, catechetic, and specific liturgical roles. This would be distinct from the office of male deacons, to be commissioned by a blessing rather than sacramental ordination ...

Yep, "decon-esses" ... sigh :(

And a few months later there was an update on the issue from The Tablet ...

The president of Germany's bishops' conference has called for the creation of a new, specific office for women deacons .... But a spokesman for Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, whom Pope Francis has appointed cardinal-adviser for Europe, said ordaining women deacons was "not on the agenda". And Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg said the office of deacon was inseparably bound to that of priest and bishop and the sacrament of ordination, and the "tradition that only men can be ordained is based on the Bible".

So, women *might* get to be deacons someday (or not) but if they do get to, they won't be deacons in the normal sense of the word, they won't be the kind of deacons that men are (ordained).

Nothing more was said of women deacons until October of 2015, during the synod of the family, when Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher made a suggestion that women could be deacons ...

"I think we should really start looking seriously at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate in the church's tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry."

What was the response to his limited suggestion? The idea went nowhere, of course, and this comment was made at the press briefing for Day 8 of the synod by Vatican Radio (audio version) ...

On the question of the ordination of women to the deaconate, Abbot Schröder said that it was a single proposal by an isolated voice that did not seem to be important in the room.

There has been nothing since, certainly nothing from the pope who could have taken it up anytime if he had the will. And meanwhile, the walk-back has already begun ... Vatican's Lombardi: Pope Did Not OK Women Deacons.

I think the pope's 'women deacons' comment was a effort by him to give the impression that the church is willing to make progress towards equality for women in the church. But I think that disingenuous - the pope doesn't want women to be priests and even the tiny and limited advancement of women as deacons won't be allowed by him. I don't doubt, however, that the blame will fall on Vatican insiders as forcing 'cool pope' to give up on his latest hope for reform - sigh. In the meantime, Francis will permanently shelve the idea of women deacons in one of his many commissions ....

More links

- Another reason (aside from liver and kidney damage) to not take Tylenol ... Study: Acetaminophen dulls your pain -- but also your empathy

- It makes my skin crawl how actors and the press are willing to ignore sexual abuse by powerful people in the movie industry, like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, in order to further their careers ... Ronan Farrow Pens Damning Essay About the Media’s Coverage of Woody Allen’s Alleged Abuse ... and ... Ronan Farrow Is an Example for Siblings of Potential Victims ... and more about the very accomplished Ronan Farrow

- Memo to religious conservatives ... New Study: Anti-Abortion Laws Don’t Reduce Abortion Rates. Contraception Does ... and ... A World of Difference in Abortion Rates

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hillary, Bernie, and coal

Bernie is jazzed because he won in West Virginia, but I don't think he has to be proud of. Hillary lost there in coal country because she's perceived as anti-coal ... you know, she actually cares about clean energy and the environment. Bernie, not so much. Here's the beginning of an article I saw on this ...

Hillary Clinton, Coal, and the West Virginia Primary

As Hillary Clinton tries to pivot toward the General Election she continues to compete with Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary. The next contest for Democrats is West Virginia, where Clinton lags in the polls and remains dogged by comments she made about renewable energy and coal that were seen as disrespectful to coal miners. Clinton has responded, saying that she is worried about the hit that Appalachian coal has taken and the losses to communities.

The outrage over this ‘gaffe’ takes Clinton’s comments entirely out of context. The full quote from Clinton was:

*** I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim?

And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on. ***

The biggest culprit behind the loss of jobs in coal country has not been some nefarious government ‘War on Coal,’ it has been the advent of cheaper, more efficient, and cleaner natural gas. Competition has displaced coal at the same time that coal country’s reserves have run increasingly dry and as greater mechanization has been substituted in place of workers. Coal as an industry is going through its own reorganization as companies move to exploit other reserves and incorporate increasing technological advances while market forces shift the landscape in unexpected ways. The industry may not be dying, but gone are the bygone days of Appalachia mining towns.

We shouldn’t mourn the loss of coal, it is one of dirtiest forms of energy available and has exerted a terrible toll in pollution across the world. One need only look at pictures of smoggy Beijing as a cautionary tale of what our major metropolises might look like had we not begun to transition to alternative sources of energy long ago. And while coal mining has provided well-paying jobs for over a century, it has not been an industry many would want to see their children in. The horrors of mining accidents abound, even today, and even in the safest of conditions coal contributes to a host of serious health disorders. The infamous ‘miner’s lung’ got its name for a reason.

What we should mourn is the loss of employment and business that formed a backbone of so many communities, and this gets to the larger part of Clinton’s quote -the part that went mostly ignored. The coal jobs are not coming back to these Appalachia communities, and rather than pandering and lying that our politicians can somehow ‘save’ or ‘bring back’ those jobs we should acknowledge harsh reality and work to empower and revitalize these formerly coal-dependent communities. That is why Clinton has made rebuilding and revitalizing coal communities a central plank of her energy policy.

We should expect our politicians and elected official to tell the truth, not to pander and lie for votes ....

Kylo Ren

I'm still thinking about the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. My favorite new character in the franchise is Kylo Ren ...

Kylo Ren is the nom de guerre of Ben, the son of original Star Wars trilogy characters Han Solo and Leia Organa. Though trained by his uncle Luke Skywalker as a Jedi, he has been seduced to the dark side of the Force by Supreme Leader Snoke, and aspires to be as powerful as his grandfather, Darth Vader. Kylo Ren is the master of the Knights of Ren, and a commander for the First Order, an organization spawned from the fallen Galactic Empire.

You can watch a scene from the movie in which he interrogates Rey, someone abandoned by hr parents, a scavenger, but who seems to have a burgeoning ability with the Force ...

Suffice it to say, he's a badass. That's why I liked this scenario about him from Saturday Night Live ...


Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I'm always one week behind in watching Once Upon a Time episodes since I see them at Hulu for free. Last night's episode shows Emma unable to save the deceased Killian (Captain Hook) from the Underworld and leaving without him :( ...

Monday, May 09, 2016


- Captain America’s a douchey libertarian now: Why did Marvel have to ruin Steve Rogers?

- The Secret Life of Sadiq Khan, London’s First Muslim Mayor

- Ewan McGregor Says It Was ‘Daunting’ To Play Jesus

- Hillary Clinton is going to be exonerated on the email controversy. It won’t matter. ... and ... 'I've been silent': Harvard's Clinton backers face life on a pro-Bernie campus

- The pontificate might be stuck in the mud

Thursday, May 05, 2016


- I finally saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I was prepared to dislike it but it was actually pretty fun :) Will write more about it in a day or two.

- It's over for Bernie Sanders - he needs to stop attacking Hillary Clinton before he helps Donald Trump become president

- Georgetown University Sheds Light on Slaveholding Past

- The Pope says nice things about women, but bizarrely, he's totally oblivious to his own unequal treatment of women in the church - it makes me believe he's insincere.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

National Teacher Appreciation Day

I see that Teusday is National Teacher Appreciation Day. I've had many good teachers but today I was thinking about a teacher I once had who wasn't a college teacher but a martial arts teacher - Tri Thong Dang (traditionally, Dang Thong Tri, or Mr. Tri, as we called him).

After college I decided to try a martial arts class because I was terribly shy and I thought it would help me be more comfortable with people. Also my sister and I were fans of Kurosawa movies like Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Yojimbo. There was a school just down the road from my college and I talked my mom into going with me to take a tai chi class. Eventually I ended up taking all three of the classes Mr. Tri taught - tai chi, aikido, and kung fu - but I was only any good at tail chi and my mom was better ;) I was there for about five years, made many friends and also met my (now ex) husband there. Here are a couple of pics of me at the dojo ...

Mr. Tri was from Vietnam and had also spent a lot of time in France before coming to the US. It's kind of hard to describe him - he was formally friendly, sometimes very stiff (and yet confided he liked BB :) ), but other times he would invite some of us students out to a restaurant or to his home for a snack, and he came to my wedding. He was very adept at martial arts - here's one of his books: Beginning T'ai Chi ...

What made me think of Mr. Tri today was a mention of Vietnam on a blog I visit. I had mostly put away thoughts of him and the school and martial arts for many years. I had gotten married while at the school to another student and within a couple of years we were getting a divorce. I tried to stay at the school despite the discomfort of seeing the ex all the time, but eventually I gave up, moved on, and tried to forget about it all. But I've realized that it's ok now to remember what an interesting time that was and what a good teacher Mr. Tri was. You can read more about him here.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Daniel Berrigan: RIP

Anti-war activist and poet Daniel Berrigan has died.

Fellow peace activist Fr. John Dear writes about his friend: The Life and Death of Daniel Berrigan