Archive for January, 2007

Molly Ivins, RIP

Dear God,

Molly Ivins is dead. I imagine you’ll be hearing from her. Just wanted to give you a heads up. I bet she’ll be raising hell with you over a few things. I’m sure you’ll understand why.

Your faithful servant,


Update: Her editor at Creators Syndicate has a lovely tribute to her.

But there was more to Molly Ivins than insightful political commentary packaged in an aw-shucks Southern charm. In the coming days, much will be made of Molly’s contributions to the liberal cause, how important she was as an authentic female voice on opinion pages across the country, her passionate and eloquent defense of the poorest and the weakest among us against the corruption of the most powerful, and the joy she took in celebrating the uniqueness of American culture — and all of this is true. But more than that, Molly Ivins was a woman who loved and cared deeply for the world around her. And her warm and generous spirit was apparent in all her words and deeds.

Molly’s work was truly her passion.
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She would regularly turn down lucrative speaking engagements to give rally-the-troops speeches at liberalism’s loneliest outposts. And when she did rub elbows with the highfalutin’ well-to-do, the encounter would invariably end up as comedic grist in future columns.

Update 2: A don’t miss tribute from The Texas Observer.

One Fourth of July, as we drank beer around a picnic table, Molly interrupted our serenity by producing a copy of the Declaration of Independence, which she read aloud, from top to bottom. “The United States of America,” she reminded us at the conclusion of her reading, “is still run by its citizens. The government works for us.”


I’m a big believer that as a tax payer, I have the right to know how my money is being spent. Certainly some of those areas of expenditure can justifiably be kept secret on national security grounds, but this administration has acted with a disregard for the fact that, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, the president and vice president are simply the highest of public servants. As public servants, they are supposed to work for me.

In the New York Sun’s story on the Washington Post dropping a lawsuit to require the White House to turn over the log showing the visitors to Vice President Dick Cheney (the vice president obviously wants to coverup his meetings with lobbyists who helped draft national policy to help the rich get richer and keep the rest of us poorer, a topic worthy of its own post at another time) is this:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, Lea Anne McBride, told The New York Sun that the government did not veer from its position that releasing the logs would violate the Constitution by interfering with the vice president’s ability to seek candid advice. “That has not changed,” she said yesterday.

“Disclosure of the records at issue could reveal an ever-expanding mosaic that would allow observers to chart the course of Vice Presidential contacts and deliberations in unprecedented fashion,” government attorneys wrote during the legal maneuvering last fall. “Such an unwarranted intrusion into the most sensitive deliberations of the Vice Presidency cannot be countenanced.”

Cannot be countenanced? Who died and made him king?

There is a side of Republicanism (actually many sides, but I’ll focus on just this one), that I’ve never understood as an American: their willingness to elevate President Bush and Vice President Cheney to a similar status once held by monarchs. When Bush and Cheney operate outside of the law (even committing a traitorous act by revealing a covert agent’s name for political reasons in violation of national security laws). As an American, I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I am the equal of every other man and woman in this nation and the world. I bow to no one unless I wish as a matter of courtesy. I’ve always taken a bit of jingoistic pride that in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games that the United States flag is not lowered briefly as all other flags are when passing in review before the leader of the host nation. And with the regard that other nations once held for the United States’ role in the world, I always had the sense that other nations did not mind this bit of symbolic U.S. exclusionism.

But the tone and deeds of this administration isn’t that of public servants. It isn’t that of equals among other equals.

It is that of monarchs.

Our American ancestors fought to throw off the yokes of monarchies, to not be bound by the blind whims of willful kings.

Yet time and again, we see from conservative commentators and politicians like Bill Kristol and John McCain tell us that we should yield to such whims, that it is not the place of the people or our elected representatives to even question the administration.

I am an American. I was endowed by my Creator with certain inalienable rights. I am their equal. And as public servants, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney work for me. I demand the release of public records — my records to show what they have done while working for me.

If they must keep such meetings secret, it can only mean they must be afraid of revealing their work to me and the other American people who are their bosses.

But King George and King Dick have placed crowns on their heads when their heads should be bowed in shame.

Note, as I wrote this and searched for links to go with this post, I discovered another West Virginia blogger, Christy Hardin Smith, has had similar thoughts. I love when I’m on the same wave-length as someone whose work I so admire.

Update: Chalmers Johnson writes in a similar vein from a global perspective.

Stonehenge discovery

The world is a mysterious place when a site as explored as the area around Stonehenge still  yields secrets.

The Times of London:

New excavations near Stonehenge could finally explain its reason for existence: as one half of a much larger temple built to celebrate the living and the dead.



A dig less than two miles away has revealed the largest neolithic village in Britain. The similar dates and designs of the sites have convinced archaeologists that they were elements of a single religious complex.

Stonehenge was designed as a permanent monument to the dead and constructed of rock to symbolise their enduring presence, the research suggests.

The nearby settlement at Durrington Walls was a shrine to the transience of life. Its houses were made of wood, as was a timber circle mirroring the design of Stonehenge.

L.A. Times:

Archeologists working near Stonehenge in England have discovered an ancient religious complex containing a treasure trove of artifacts that may finally illuminate the lives and religious practices of the people who built the mysterious monument 4,600 years ago, British archeologists said Tuesday.

The circle of massive stone blocks on England’s Salisbury Plain, southwest of London, is one of the best known archeological sites in the world, but researchers know surprisingly little about the people who built it and who lived in the region.

The new finds, reported at a teleconference organized by the National Geographic Society, vastly increase our knowledge of these early Britons, said archeologist Mary Ann Owoc, of Mercyhurst College in Erie, Penn., who was not involved in the research.

“To see the everyday lives of these people, to see people living in their houses, is filling in really important gaps in the record,” she said. “We had some evidence, but this is so much richer.”

New York Times:

New excavations near Stonehenge have uncovered hearths, timbers and other remains of what archaeologists say was probably the village of workers who erected the brooding monoliths on Salisbury Plain in England.

The archaeologists announced today that the 4,600-year-old ruins appear to form the largest Neolithic village ever found in Britain. The houses at the site known as Durrington Walls were constructed in the same period that Stonehenge, less than two miles away, was built as a religious center presumably for worshippers of the Sun and their ancestors.

Mike Parker Pearson, a leader of the excavations from Sheffield University, said the discoveries last summer supported the emerging recognition that the ring of standing stones and earthworks at Stonehenge was part of a much larger religious complex.

In a teleconference conducted by the National Geographic Society, Dr. Parker Pearson said a circle of ditches and earthen banks at Durrington Walls enclosed concentric rings of huge timber posts — “basically a wooden version of Stonehenge,” he said.

More here.

Sherlock Holmes lectures on crime

Middle Tennessee State University is hosting a lecture series on crime, none of which would be complete without Sherlock Holmes:

On the following Monday, Bob Glenn, vice president for Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment Management, will speak on the literary figure Sherlock Holmes with his lecture “Sherlock Holmes: The First CSI.”

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the first authors to write about a character in a series,” Glenn said. “A lot of authors imitate some of the techniques he used in those stories today.”

Love your monsters

An interesting piece by Lilith Saintcrow, written from the perspective of a writer writing for other writers, but still – I think there’s food for thought in here for the horror reader as well:

So, my fellow writers, here is the point I’ve been wending toward. Love your monsters. It is impossible to write them without love in your heart. It is understanding the monster that makes us able to create; the monster inside ourselves is otherwise known as the Muse, and s/he is that thing that recognizes no law but the story. A story without a monster is like a car without an engine, it will not go anywhere. For it takes the monster to give the equilibrium of the world a whack, and in the settling of that equilibrium is the motion necessary to make the story run.

In part, she’s riffing off this interview with Guillermo del Toro on NPR as well as her feelings about del Toro’s latest, Pan’s Labyrinth which is sounding tastier and tastier the more I hear about it.

(Ms. Saintcrow’s personal site is here; a hat-tip to Doug of Balls and Walnuts for having a fun blogroll.)

‘My name is Daniel Pearl’

A beautiful life celebrated with music.

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Ghost photo?

The story behind the famous “Brown Lady of Raynham Hall” photo is featured at Fortean Times.

Chilling news on warming

Via an email from blog mate cookie jill, news of a bleak assessment on global warming is being released from the United Nations:

The United Nations is poised to release a report on climate change so grim and so vast in scope that scientists involved in the six-year study say it will end the debate on global warming.

The report will say that global warming caused by human activity is no longer a theory. It is a fact.


The report is likely to build political support in Congress for legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions and other action expected to address concerns about warming.

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.), a physicist who has long followed the issue, said he is anxious to move on it.

“The debate over the existence of global warming is over, and science has won,” Holt said. “The question now is whether we will take the steps necessary to reverse the damage that has been done. We must support clean and sustainable energy technologies, cap greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve. Failure to do so risks our economy, our environment and our children’s future.”

They are mistaken if they think this will be the final word because too many people have invested too much in deceiving the public on the issue. There will still be naysayers, either paid for by industry or out of a reluctance to admit they were very wrong.

Blood and Chocolate

Stephanie Zacharek of Salon liked Blood and Chocolate:

Katja von Garnier’s “Blood and Chocolate” offers the kind of B-movie pleasures — albeit elegant B-movie pleasures — that are hard to come by these days. This is the story of a werewolf girl, Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), who falls in love with a human boy, Aiden (Hugh Dancy) — a potential disaster not only because Vivian is the top candidate to become the mate of werewolf Prince Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), but also because her attraction to a human is a betrayal of her tribe, an ancient line of troubled, mysterious and not wholly unprincipled wolf creatures who wish mankind would just leave them alone.

The IMDb boards are buzzing with people who have read the young-adult novel (by Annette Curtis Klause) on which the movie is based, decrying the numerous liberties co-writers Ehren Kruger (“Skeleton Key”) and Christopher Landon have taken with the story. That’s always an issue when beloved books — or even just OK ones — are turned into movies. But never having read the book, I found “Blood and Chocolate” to be a lovely surprise, an imaginative and visually lush picture firmly rooted in the tradition of gothic romance and elegiac horror films about misunderstood monsters.The picture was filmed entirely on location in Romania — Vivian is an American, but her parents were killed when she was small, prompting her to move abroad to live with her were-aunt, Asrid (played by German actress Katja Riemann). The setting helps make the movie: Cinematographer Brendan Galvin shoots Bucharest, a city of dusty-velvet luxury and faded stone, as a bastion of noble pride and centuries-old grandeur, the only place, really, for werewolves with superb taste. As Gabriel explains, his “people” have been driven from America, from France and from England: Only Romania will have them, and they support themselves by making and selling that mysterious and romantic brew known as absinthe, which they process in a cavernous old factory. And Vivian works in a candy store, an old-world chocolatier with a deep-red facade, which sells exquisite bonbons. It’s a place catering more to refined tastes than to lusty appetites, a haven for a werewolf girl straddling two worlds.

This seems like the kind of movie I would have taken a risk on at the cheapie theater before it burned down. Anyone seen it?

Stone reliefs of Roman gladiators discovered

From the Associated Press:

ROME — Italian police have recovered ancient Roman marble reliefs depicting stunningly lifelike gladiators locked in mortal combat after unearthing the hidden cache of grave robbers, officials said Wednesday.

The 12 panels were found buried in the garden of a private home near Fiano Romano, about 25 miles north of Rome, and officials hailed the find as a major archaeological discovery and a blow to the illegal antiquities market.
The reliefs date to the late first century B.C. and are believed to have decorated a tomb, yet to be located, in the Roman settlement of Lucus Feroniae, said Anna Maria Moretti, the superintendent for antiquities in the area north of Rome.

Hat tip to Kat.

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