Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Light Night Photography

A few days before Christmas, we went on a little family excursion to Bellingrath Gardens, a lovely little place near Mobile Alabama which features some fantastic light displays around this time of year. And predictably, I brought along my camera to attempt some photos of the glowy goodness.

Photographing glowy things in the dark can be very fun and very challenging -- I've blogged before about my attempt to capture a glow-in-the-dark night parade, which you can read about here. This time around it was a little easier -- my subjects weren't moving along on a parade route, so it was possible to slow down and re-take shots if necessary.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is Shakespeare Overrated? Orwell vs. Tolstoy

Like many people, I suspect, my personal attitude toward Shakespeare has always been one of vague disinterest. I never really got into it when we read his plays in English classes, despite enjoying many of the other "classics" we studied. And in the years since, while I would occasionally feel like maybe I should try to peruse more Shakespeare for the sake of my own personal enlightenment, ultimately I could never bring myself to care enough to bother.

A while back, I became curious about how common this attitude was, especially among more educated people, and I ended up stumbling upon this essay by Leo Tolstoy entitled "A critical Essay on Shakespeare." Tolstoy's general opinion of Shakespeare becomes clear in the very beginning of the essay:

I remember the astonishment I felt when I first read Shakespeare. I expected to receive a powerful esthetic pleasure, but having read, one after the other, works regarded as his best: "King Lear," "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet" and "Macbeth," not only did I feel no delight, but I felt an irresistible repulsion and tedium... My consternation was increased by the fact that I always keenly felt the beauties of poetry in every form. Why should artistic works recognized by the whole world as those of a genius -- the works of Shakespeare -- not only fail to please me, but be disagreeable to me?

Tolstoy then selects King Lear as an example of Shakespeare's best work, providing examples of the glowing reviews it has received in order to justify this selection, and goes on to provide a detailed summary of this drama "as impartially as possible." Though he makes the occasional reference to such things as "characterless language" and "incessant, pompous raving," his summary seems to provide a fairly in-depth overview of the play. And then he goes on to provide a harsh critical analysis.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Evolution Is True

I find biology and evolution to be a very interesting topic, particularly as it relates to the epic Creation vs. Evolution debate. I've read enough about it over the past few years to consider myself pretty well-versed in the topic, almost to the point that I didn't expect to find many things in this book that I hadn't heard before.

But I turned out to be very wrong about that last part. In addition to laying out a start-to-finish argument for why evolution is true, drawing from numerous branches of science, what Jerry Coyne really provides in this book is detail. There are illustrations of fossils, various charts and diagrams -- and he manages to include all these while also creating an extremely readable, engaging work of nonfiction.