This blog is under (re)construction. Please be patient.


Imagine, if you will, that I’m the one working late in the evening on the other side of this window.  What I’d be doing is rebuilding this blog.

A few years ago, I wrote a lot here — daily, in fact.  And my posts received surprisingly many visits. Considering the kinds of non-current things I write about, it was nice to know that so many people kept visiting and still do.  Thanks!

Then I neglected the blog for a while and found out that even software deteriorates.  For example, Amazon changed the links to their pictures of the books that I talked about and so those pictures started showing up here as blank.  Many pages stopped looking as nice as I originally designed them to be.

Now I’d like to start posting again.  And also to repair the damage that’s occurred.  And also to change the format to a less compressed one that will allow me to post nice, wide pictures like the one above.

While I’m making these changes, things are going to be a mess.

Sorry!  I hope you’ll like the way it looks when I’m finished. I’ll continue the old series of posts.  (The indexes for them are now in the tabs at the top of each page.)  And I’ll post pictures.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Vertigo: 3-act structure


This post is part of the Background to the series
Learning from Alfred Hitchcock — for writers, movie makers, and viewers

Kim Novak in Alfred Hitchcock Vertigo

I think that Vertigo exemplifies all three of the kinds of structures I’ll eventually be discussing in this series of posts:

  • 3-act structure,
  • 2-act structure, and
  • chapter structure.

To begin with, it has the 3-act structure I’ve talked about in Star Wars, Lets check over the criteria and definitions I gave. 

There certainly is a protagonist: Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart).

According to Criterion 1, in the previous post, the first act should end when Scottie “makes a commitment that leads to the main action of the movie: Acts 2 and 3.”

He does this so many times that our only problem would be selecting the one that seems best. I have my own nomination, selected more because I have a gut feeling about it than because it fits any after-the-fact rationalizations.

After Madeleine (Kim Novak) jumps into San Francisco Bay and Scottie fishes her out and brings her to his apartment, they have what, for me, is one of the most unusual conversations ever filmed. I mean, here she wakes up nude in a strange man’s bed only to learn that she’s fallen into the bay and he’s rescued her. The two of them pretend they don’t know each other, yet they immediately begin speaking in a civilized, intimate tone — almost like colleagues, fellow conspirators in some plot they’re both eager to see succeed. He’s obviously in love with her, and perhaps she could be with him, but with no apparent effort he repeatedly, gracefully sidesteps the fact that their love might present a conflict of interest in his relationship with her husband, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), who’s in constant phone contact.

Some 7 1/2 minutes into that conversation, Madeleine says that it’s her first time jumping into the Bay. It’s the first time for Scottie, too. He offers her more coffee, reaches for her cup, and touches her hand instead. They have an instant of recognition — interrupted by the ringing of the phone.

Although Scottie has previously agreed to help Madeleine, and although he’s previously acted like he’s in love with her, I think this moment is the decisive one in which he first consciously knows that he loves her and that solving her problem and protecting her is the most important thing in his life. He commits — totally. Continue reading

Posted in Alfred Hitchcock, Screenwriting | Leave a comment

Laozi, Chapter 19

Daodejing — The Classic About Ways and Instances

Translated by William P. Coleman

If holiness disappears and wisdom is thrown away,
then people benefit a hundred ways.

If benevolence disappears and righteousness is thrown away,
then people return to filial gentleness.

If cleverness disappears and profit is thrown away,
then there are no thieves stealing.

But acting on these sayings is not enough to make one civilized.

For this reason, let there be a place where they can live:
Present yourself plainly;
embrace your nature;
lack selfishness;
have few desires.

Go to Daodejing Table of Contents.

Posted in Laozi, Tao | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Punishing politicians

Note: this was posted in 1997 to an early internet experiment.
For more, please see my page The Hyperforum on Sustainability.

<img src="" border="0" alt="a sustainable, global world -- the Earth" width="180" height="180" />

The ideas in the paper you link to are certainly interesting and deserve thought.

A note, though. You say, “Similarly, if voters know these consequences of actions, we expect them to punish politicians who ignore the future consequences of their actions.” We always say and think this, but it’s simply not, couldn’t be, true very often.

The problem is that that there are too many issues about which the voters are trying to punish the politicians. For example, Continue reading

Posted in Ethics, Healthy communities, Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Li Bai — Jade stairs complaint

Jade stairs complaint

Li Bai

701-762 CE
(translated by William P. Coleman)

The jade stairs give birth to clear dew;
in the late night it permeates gauze stockings.

Yet she lowers the crystal curtain;
jewel pendants tinkle, and she looks to the autumn moon.  

Continue reading

Posted in Chinese poetry, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Li Bai — Hearing a Flute on a Spring Night in Luoyang

Hearing a Flute on a Spring Night in Luoyang

Li Bai

701-762 CE
(translated by William P. Coleman)

In some house there’s a jade flute — sound flies into the dark.
Spring winds disperse it as they arrive, filling Luoyang City 

The night holds a tune — I can hear “Break a Willow Twig.”
Who wouldn’t be moved, remembering the garden at home? 

Continue reading

Posted in Chinese poetry, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Li Bai — Hearing the monk Jun from Shu play the qín

Hearing the monk Jun from Shu play the qín

Li Bai

701-762 CE
(translated by William P. Coleman)

The monk from Shu holds “Green Brocade,”
in the west, beneath E-mei Mountain. 

For me — his hand scatters once —
it’s like hearing pines in ten thousand valleys.

My heart is a traveler, washing in a flowing river,
echoing sound emitted by an ice-cold bell. 

Not awake to the mountain jade-green at sunset.
In the autumn dark, how many layers? 

Continue reading

Posted in Chinese poetry, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment