The Durham Chronicles– the Botanic Gardens (1)

When you are married to a biologist and botanist, botanical gardens become regular ports of call. We once took a trip to see a big one in St. Louis (and oh yes, to see James Taylor and Carol King as well). And so today, on our 36th wedding anniversary, I am beginning a series of three posts in Ann's honor on the botanic garden in Durham, which did not really exist when we lived there in the late 70s. See the entrance to the place above, which is way up on a hill, on the south side of … [Read more...]

The Durham Chronicles– A Major Find!

Some 35 years ago, during my first tour of duty in Durham, I was browsing through the Monk's Dormitory portion of the Cathedral where ancient manuscripts and books of various sorts have been kept for who knows how long. Here, I came across the famous J.B. Lightfoot's unpublished notebooks on the Acts of the Apostles. I alerted my mentor C.K. Barrett to their existence, but nothing happened. Then when Jimmy Dunn became Lightfoot Prof. of Divinity at Durham in the 80s, I alerted him, but he … [Read more...]

The Durham Chronicles– The New Buildings

Since I left Durham the first time, there have been some new buildings built, though surprisingly not that many in a period of 35 years. The ones that caused the most comments, both positive and negative have been the Palatine Centre and the Bill Bryson Library (yes that Bill Bryson if you are a reader of good books). Here first of all are some shots I took on a nice bright morning of the Palatine BuildingThe Palatine Centre has all sorts of administrative offices for job placement, … [Read more...]

The Rankin Files— The Black Book

When is a cold case a hot case? When the cold case involves a fire that burned a landmark hotel to the ground. Bad enough in itself, but in the ruins was an unrecognizable charred body... who did not die from the fire, but from being shot in the head. And of course this is precisely the sort of unresolved problem bound to drive an OCD detective like John Rebus nuts... until he solved the case, a case that involves a policeman's black book, a brewery owner's secret diary, a thug of monumental … [Read more...]

The Rankin Files—-Strip Jack

There are lies, darn lies, and politics..... Well that's my version of the old saying. And the fourth John Rebus tale is all about a popular, charismatic Scot named Gregor Jack is up to his kilt in you know what when his wife is found dead in a Scottish beck. This novel is different in various respects to the predecessors, not least because it involves those infernal Scots bloodhounds, known as the press. Ah the press and politicians... they deserve each other in John Rebus' book, but … [Read more...]

Star Trek–Slippin’ into Darkness

[Spoiler alert for those who haven't seen the film yet, skip paragraph three below]Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the whole Star Trek idea and series (for TV no less), was known for his cerebral plots, in an age before CG and endless shoot em up bang bang took over the film industry. He, was the proverbial hard act to follow, and so was the strong ensemble cast led by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Yet still the reboot of the Star Trek series with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto did a … [Read more...]

Johnny Hates Jazz— Magnetized

It's not an easy thing to make a comeback 25 years after you first began to make a name for yourself. It's especially not easy when the music landscape has changed almost entirely between 1988 when Turn Back the Clock produced a handful of mega-hits and now. Furthermore, it's doubly difficult when the two main members of a group did not talk to each other for 22 years... 22 years!! Yikes.And it takes guts to say 'this album is the sequel to 'Turn Back the Clock', and yes, it sounds like … [Read more...]

The Rankin Files—Hyde… and Seek

It's always a risk to attempt to 'sample' previous fictional literature and use one or more of it's premises to write a new story. The danger of course is comparison---to the detriment of the later writer's work, especially if he is 'sampling' a classic like Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'. But Ian Rankin is from Edinburgh, and he loves the literary past of the city, and in this case, the sampling is not botched or obsequious or a mistake. I would liken it to what the TV … [Read more...]

The Rankin Files— Knots and Crosses

The game of tic, tac, toe goes by a very different name in the U.K.--- Noughts (as in zeros) and crosses (as in cross or X it out). It's a game, that if one is an experienced player, can end in stalemate over and over and over again. And unfortunately, the pursuit of justice can be pretty much stalemated even by a small error here and there. There are no clerical errors in this novel to bung things up, but there are plenty of wrong turns. John Rebus, master detective looks more like Inspector … [Read more...]