Sunday, December 09, 2018

Poetry Sunday

Tomorrow we will celebrate the birthday of American poet Emily Dickinson. Although it's not a great choice of poem for the holiday season, this short piece by Emily Dickinson has always been one of my favorites for its oddly compelling imagery ...

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)
by Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading - treading - till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through -

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum -
Kept beating - beating - till I thought
My mind was going numb -

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space - began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here -

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down -
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing - then -

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again ...

That is eerie, yet compelling imagery, worth thinking about.

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, December 08, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

And awaaaaaay we go ...

Donald Trump has nominated singularly unqualified (except for her Fox News pedigree and TV good looks) State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as the US ambassador to the United Nations; Republicans in Wisconsin have redefined the expression "power grab" by passing legislation to limit the power and authority of Democrats to whom they lost in the November elections; Meng Wangzhou, the CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder, was arrested by Canadian authorities acting on a US extradition request; according to court filings submitted on Friday, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen broke election laws at the specific direction of Donald Trump; and in North Carolina, the relentless GOP drumbeat about the dangers of vote fraud appear to have been borne out ... by evidence of fraud conducted by Republican operatives.

Since the GOP has as little interest in scientific reality as it does in voting rights, I thought it might be appropriate this week to share some cartoons about scientists and their work ...

It's the only kind of science some people understand ...

Every scientist needs an assistant ..,

It's uncertain ...

Well, that makes sense ...

Well, that's pretty clear ...

Tomato, tomahto ...

Looks like a near miss would count ...

Continuing with rocket scientists ...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

At the intersection of music and science ...

And there you go ... a lighthearted look at science and scientists for the second Cartoon Saturday of December. 

It's going to be a very cold weekend here in NoVa, but at least it looks as if we'll miss the latest snowstorm that we'd worried about earlier in the week. It's good to have to worry only about the snow jobs coming out of the White House.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, on Poetry Sunday. See you then.


Friday, December 07, 2018

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for December, 2018

We're coming down to the wire for Ass Clown awards for 2018 - just one more opportunity remains after today to shower opprobrium on deserving dirtbags for the current year. And so it is that I hold my nose and use my remaining fingers to type the citation for

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for December 2018

And the award goes to

Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo

In an administration as full of clowns as a circus Volkswagen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has carved out a special place as the very image of a smug and pompous ass clown. His behavior as the Secretary of State - the top diplomatic representative of the United States - has been one of slavish adherence to the policies and pronouncements of a president with no interest in history and no appreciation for the US role in international leadership. A real, principled Secretary of State would be encouraging his (or her) president to act responsibly and embrace the American role as leader of the Free World, rather than cementing our nation's new role a laughingstock on the international stage.

Mr Pompeo's smug and condescending dismissal of the overwhelming evidence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's responsibility for the murder of journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi is the clearest example of his worthiness for this award.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is named as the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for December, 2018.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday, when we will feature cartoons about science and scientists ... we'll take them every bit as seriously as the GOP does.

More thoughts then.


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Reading Recommendation

I'm now reading a very interesting book which ought to appeal to American history buffs and to those who look for historical parallels to current events - Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants, by H.W. Brands.

I was particularly anxious to read this book because of its focus on two of my favorite historical figures: Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

I've always admired Henry Clay for his skill at negotiation and compromise - indeed, he was known as "The Great Compromiser" for his ability to bring parties together in agreements that neither side loved, but both sides could live with. Compromise, of course, is a lost art in today's "my way or the highway" style of scorched-earth negotiation in which yielding the least inch in debate is considered a craven act of selling out one's principles.

And as a person who loves a good speech and enjoys public speaking, I have also always admired Daniel Webster*, one of the greatest orators our country has ever produced. At a time when we have a president who can barely utter a coherent sentence, we could use a Daniel Webster.

Heirs of the Founders is well-researched and briskly written, and looks at the early formative years of the United States through the lives of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun. We see the roles each of the three men played in beating the drum for and - especially in Calhoun's case - evading responsibility for the needless War of 1812, how they reflected the tensions between those who supported the rights of the individual states and those who continued to advocate for a powerful central government, and how the nation slid gradually toward the cataclysm of the Civil War. If it has a fault, it is that a single book can scarcely do justice to the lives of three such towering figures.

I strongly recommend Heirs of the Founders, engaging and important history and a sad reminder of the kind of giants America once produced, but could never be elected today.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* Daniel Webster was the hero of the classic short story by Steven Vincent Benet, "The Devil and Daniel Webster," one of my favorites.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Musical Sunday

This past Monday we celebrated the 79th birthday of singer Tina Turner, who has been called (with good reason) the sexiest grandmother in rock. I thought it would be appropriate for this week's Musical Sunday to revisit one of my favorite Tina Turner songs ...

"Steamy windows, zero visibility
Steamy windows, comin' from the body heat."

Go, Tina! Even at age 79, you can steam my windows any day.

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, December 01, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

Welcome to December ... which, we all hope, will be an improvement over November, even with Donald Trump still in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A Chinese scientist claimed to have produced the first human baby with an edited genetic structure, although not all observers believe it; after the release of a devastating government report on the subject, Donald Trump and his GOP allies doubled down on their belief that climate change is a hoax; a huge earthquake measuring magnitude 7.0 caused widespread damage in Alaska on Friday, and continuing aftershocks have continued to hamper rescue and recovery efforts; former president George H. W. Bush passed away at the age of 94; and the Marriott Corporation announced a data breach that exposed the personal data of some 500 million guests to hackers.

Today is the birthday of one of my oldest and closest friends, who happens to be from Egypt. I wonder if he'll find these themed cartoons as funny as I did ...

Egyptian billiards? ...

It may take a while to pitch that tent ...

I wonder if it was an attempt to evade the repayment of college loans ...

Funerals have always been expensive ...

I think they need a bigger tree ...

Now, that's a pyramid scheme ...

Good guess ...

Cats got all the press, but dogs were there, too ...

D'ya think? ...

Outsourcing has always been controversial ...

And that's it for our Egyptian-themed Cartoon Saturday. No, I'm not getting see-nile, I just thought I'd pyramid my collected cartoons and pick a few good ones. If you don't like it, Suez me.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Musical Sunday returns. Be here!