Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stop the world, I want to get off!

And now, another unanswerable question from a very confused guy who's just trying to make sense of it all from his perch up in the cheap seats. 

Is there anything on the tube that's more fully detached from the real world than what we lamely refer to as reality television? The people on these shows bear no resemblance to anyone I've ever met. Their behavior is puerile at best and frightening at worst. A sizable proportion of the cast clearly suffers from some form of mental illness. And everyone looks like a CGI experiment gone horribly bad. These shows are so astonishingly unreal they make Petticoat Junction and Hogan's Heroes look like documentaries. So why the moniker?

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Mike Luckovich

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on July 22, 1864


The Civil War, 1861-1865
July 22, 1864



Confederate Gen. John B. Hood initiates the Battle of Atlanta with a failed assault on Union lines, but the Union's casualties include the popular and capable Gen. James B. McPherson.


Information from the Civil War Almanac, by John C. Fredriksen (Checkmark Books) 
Illustration: detail from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston honoring the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Tom Toles

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on July 20, 1864


The Civil War, 1861-1865
July 20, 1864



Confederate Gen. John B. Hood fails to break Union lines three miles north of Atlanta, Georgia, at the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

The Union Army of the Tennessee closes in on Atlanta, Georgia, from the east.


Information from the Civil War Almanac, by John C. Fredriksen (Checkmark Books) 
Illustration: detail from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston honoring the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment 

Book Review: "The Seven Wonders," Steven Saylor



Find reviews of over 2,700 books, including this one, at The Walrus Said blog.  
 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Hen Chronicles . . . . . The sky is falling, the sky is falling!


On April 21, 2012, my wife Liz and I - chicken neophytes - bought three laying hens, who set up shop in a coop in the backyard of our city lot here in Maine. The makeup of our small flock has changed since then, but not our love of chickens. The Hen Chronicles explore life with our tenants. 

To say that chickens can be skittish is like saying Donald Trump can be cocky, or Gov. Chris Christie could stand to lose a few pounds. The statement is accurate as far as it goes, but it’s far too understated to capture the reality of the situation.

I learned early on that it’s unwise to make sudden moves around hens, or to subject them to loud noises. They do startle easily, but I tend to forget that because I’ve learned to move calmly in their neighborhood, and to talk to them in a soothing tone of voice. As a result, our hens rarely get riled up when I’m around.

Still, the panic button in a chicken's brain is a tricky device. Although it's easy to identify -- and avoid -- some of the stimuli that will set off the alarm, others are less predictable. That's why I was momentarily taken aback by what happened when I fed “the girls” at dawn on Thursday.

Before I  place their feed bowl in the pen, I usually grab a handful of pellets from the bowl and scatter them, so the hens can peck, as they love to do. But I forgot to do that Thursday morning. By the time I remembered, Snow, Nellie and Hope were gathered round the bowl, chowing down.

That's when I tried to set things right . . . by unwittingly doing the wrong thing.

Opening the lid on top of the pen, I reached in and gently lifted the bowl while the chickens were still eating, so I could toss some pellets onto the ground.

Big mistake.

You'd think a skulk of foxes had invaded the pen. All hell broke loose. Feathers flew, literally, as the chickens ran around, squawking and hopping and flapping their wings and raising an unholy ruckus in classic “sky is falling!” mode. Folks probably could hear the kerfuffle two towns over, or so it seemed to me at the time.

Within seconds, the riot ended as quickly as it had begun. The hens returned to their breakfast, as if nothing untoward had happened. But evidence of the “crisis” lingered. Two Rhode Island Red feathers that flew out of the pen during the melee had come to rest atop the chicken wire.

Chicken Little may be the stuff of folk tales, but even a fictional chick who overreacts to an acorn falling on her head can easily find like-minded cousins in the real world.
 

There are eight million stories in the naked henhouse. This has been one of them.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Jeff Danziger

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on July 18, 1864


The Civil War, 1861-1865
July 18, 1864



President Abraham Lincoln renews his call for 500,000 volunteers and draftees, an unpopular move that threatens his reelection chances.

With the Union army nearing the gates of Atlanta, the City Council there convenes for the last time, thereby ending municipal government.

John B. Hood is promoted to lieutenant general, C.S.A, the last such officer to be appointed.


Information from the Civil War Almanac, by John C. Fredriksen (Checkmark Books) 
Illustration: detail from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston honoring the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment