Sunday, January 31, 2010
Let me go backwards and begin by noting that there was nearly a personal link there. When I was in grad school, perhaps my second year, I was reviewing the possible courses I could take for the upcoming term, and I saw that Louis Auchincloss (1917-2010), the extremely prolific chronicler, in prose fiction, of America's northeastern bluebloods, was teaching a class. I thought I might have misread this, as I'm known to do--why on earth was he teaching and how did he have the time, and if I was just imagining it, why him? The man was still practicing law part-time and had also managed to write many dozens of books (I think he was up to about 50 at the time)--so I asked around and was told that yes, he really was teaching an evening class. I'd only read his most famous novel, The Rector of Justin (1964), so I went and looked him up, and when I saw how much he'd published and who he was, I seriously considered trying to slot the class into my schedule. As it turned out, I couldn't and had to pass, but I always wondered what that experience might have been like, given the unlikely pedagogue. Auchincloss briefly mentioned his teaching in the larger stream of this 1997 interview with The Atlantic's Ryan Nally, which gives some sense of his literary accomplishments, and his abiding interest in larger moral questions among his class and milieu, which, as the last 8 years suggest, have gone the way of the dodo bird. Adieu.
As for J. D. Salinger, I tweeted almost instantly after I'd learned of his death about how important The Catcher in the Rye (1951), and the stories in Franny and Zooey (1961) were to me as an adolescent; didn't half the people on Twitter do the same thing? It was instantly a cliché. (I did not tweet, however, about my immediate feeling after finishing the book for class--that's where I first read it--that were I to have tried anything along the lines of Holden's behavior, my parents' response, and those of my much wealthier private school classmates' parents, would have been swift and corrective.) But I hadn't touched his work for decades until last academic year, when my literature honors student, Harris S., decided to write his thesis on Salinger and David Eggers. I plunged back into Catcher, and found myself impressed by its narrative tautness and control. Holden's voice no longer beguiled as it once had, but his author's skill in creating it did, as did Salinger's ability to both encapsulate the particular moment when the story took place and simultaneously write through that moment to create a story that still resonates vividly today with young people and adults. The spectacle of Salinger's public withdrawal equaled a novel itself; perhaps he wrote it down and we'll see his take in the future, though perhaps Arts & Letters Daily has published a mammoth list of links of various writers' and critics' encomia to Salinger, and so I'll reproduce that list here: ... Charles McGrath ... AP ... Stephen Miller ... Elaine Woo ... London Times ... Bart Barnes ... FT ... Telegraph ... Mark Krupnick ... Richard Lacayo ... Tom Leonard ... Martin Levin ... Rick Moody ... Richard Lea ... Malcolm Jones ... Morgan Meis ... Chris Wilson ... Robert Fulford ... Ian Shapira ... Michael Ruse ... Christopher Reynolds ... David Usborne ... Joe Gross ... Stephen King ... John Walsh ... Henry Allen ... Mark Feeney ... Ron Rosenbaum (1997) ... John Timpane ... Alex Beam ... Verlyn Klinkenborg ... Tom McGlaughlin ... David Ulin ... his neighbors ... Mark Medley ... Stephen Metcalf and Slate staff ... John Wenke ... Jeff Simon ... Tom Leonard ... Andrea Sachs ... David Lodge ... Christopher Hitchens ... Lionel Shriver ... Barbara Kay ... Nathanial Rich ... Holden’s heirs ... Lillian Ross ... Adam Gopnik ... John Seabrook ... Dave Eggers ... new photos ... Mark Bauerlein et al. in NYT ... Adam Kirsch ... Colby Cosh ... A.M. Homes ... Martin Amis et al. ... Robert McCrum ... Julian Barnes et al. ... Joan Smith ... Adam Golub ... Jonathan Yardley on “Salinger’s execrable prose and Caulfield’s jejune narcissism” (2004).
Howard Zinn (1922-2010) leaves us as one of the best known and most progressive living American historians. A professor for several decades at Boston University, an outspoken activist, a World War II veteran, and a prolific writer in many genres, Zinn published in 1980 what has become one of the most frequently read books of American history, A People's History of the United States. This thick, polemical volume overturned some longstanding assumptions and approaches in American historical writing, while also aiming directly for an audience outside academe, which it eventually found. It was like and fitting that Zinn produced such a book; before entering academe, he had worked as a pipefitter and ditchdigger, and his first academic job was at historically Black women's college Spelman, in Atlanta, where his students included Marian Wright Edelman and Alice Walker. Zinn was a pillar of courage; for joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNIC) and openly opposed racial desegregation, which led to his firing from Spelman. When he went to Boston University, as this account on the Common Dreams website by his friend and former student William Holtzman, makes clear, nothing dampened his outspokenness and his advocacy of "people power." Here's a video of Zinn on Bill Moyers' Journal that's appeared on a lot of blogs, but I think it gives a great sense of who Zinn was, right up to the end.
Let me also say goodbye to drummer Ed Thigpen (1930-2010), whose syncopation with the Oscar Peterson Trio and many other performers I've often grooved to.
On a different tip, congratulations to the one and only Lucille Clifton, who was awarded the Centennial (1910-2010) Frost Medal, one of the American poetry world's most august awards, by the Poetry Society of America on January 25 of this year. Recent recipients of this award, given for distinguished lifetime achievement, have included X. J. Kennedy (2009), Michael S. Harper (2008), Maxine Kumin (2006), Marie Ponsot (2005), Richard Howard (2004), and Sonia Sanchez (2001). In reading through the PSA site, I missed the Poetry Society's concurrent exhibit, "Portraits of Poets, 1910-2010," at the National Arts Club, which ran through January 15. Did any Jstheater readers catch it? How was it?
People around us, like my sister's farm, got 5" and more. We were so blessed this time not to lose our power although Stan has us a generator. He had it ready with some gas. We would have a little power, water, hot water, our gas logs and gas heater in the bedroom. So we would get along OK. Anyway, Stan wanted to drive our new 4WD truck in the snow so I snapped some pictures while we were out.
Here is my Uncle Glenn's new Krispy Kreme. The old one, the one I worked at when I was a kid and a teenager (it was my grandfather's then) is just across the street. He keeps it maintained.
5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups chive-flavored cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Place potatoes in a large pot of water and boil until tender when pierced with a fork.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13-inch casserole dish.
In a large mixing bowl, combine potatoes, onion, cottage cheese, and sour cream. Transfer mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Top with Cheddar cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes.
If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn
I highly recommend this book to anyone. I don't remember a time in my life that I wasn't a believer in Jesus Christ, Son of God, virgin born and resurrected after death. I was raised in a Christian family and going to church. In high school I began to have questions and didn't live like a Christian but I re-dedicated my life at 17 and haven't looked back since. I'm still a sinner but a sinner saved by grace and the Holy Spirit dwells in me to help me to grow spiritually.
Unbelievers like to act so superior to true Christians. They trot out all these philosophical questions that are suppose to put us in our place. AS if they think so much more deeply and we are just in denial. I can assure these smug unbelievers that most, if not all, true Christians have asked themselves these same questions. Guess what! There are answers. Maybe not the answers we like or understand but there are answers.
If there is a God, why does He allow evil?
How do you explain suffering if God is suppose to be so good?
If God is so powerful, why doesn't He just make everyone good and save everyone?
Why does God send natural disasters?
Why doesn't God stop all the evil and suffering?
Where is the justice?
Why do good people die?
Why does anybody die?
Why is there pain and suffering?
What's the point?
If you have these questions, believer or non-believer, then read this book. It's a long book at nearly 500 pages but it's easy to read. Alcorn does not talk above your head.
"Suffering and evil excert a force that either pushes us away from God or pulls us toward Him." Have you come across things in your life that leaves you devastated and you lose your faith in God? Or, it's cemented your trust and love in God? Those who are true believers have faith that God is in control and uses all things to our good and the good of others. It's faith in God whether we understand what's going on or not. Not that we don't have questions and some doubts at times, but, on the whole, we decide to trust God. "Nominal Christians" will drop all faith in God when they encounter the hard things in life. They may find out that their faith was in a pastor or television evangelist, in a church, in a denomination, in tradition, in family, in a job, in their savings account, etc. But when it's knocked out from under them, they sink because their faith was not in Christ. Many are what I call, "Cultural Christians". Their family visited protestant or catholic churches at times and, whenever asked, they say they are Christians. But they haven't had a life-changing experience of salvation. They are not born-again and haven't accepted Christ's offer of forgiveness and salvation. They prefer not to think about spiritual stuff and if they attend church it's marginal or it's like a club member going to club meetings. They pay their club dues (tithes) and are baptized (initiation in order to join the club) and enjoy the fellowship with other club members with the benefit that this club is for the whole family and their children are safely entertained. It has the added benefit of making you feel good about yourself. "I go to church" meaning, "God will make sure I get into heaven because I attended church."
These people are seriously decieved by satan. He loves to make them so comfortable that they never see the need for salvation and being born-again. But God is at work. Sometimes He uses suffering and pain to get their attention. Hard times can force someone to look up to God and beg His help. And He is always there, waiting for you to ask.
For believers, God can use suffering and pain to further refine us. Many times we can get stuck in patterns of sin. While we are comfortable in it, we may never give it up. And sometimes it has nothing to do with us, but is being done for the good of others in our sphere of influence. For instance a cancer patient being a godly witness to a nurse in a hospital and the nurse gets saved.
Alcorn takes his time to go into all these questions and helps us have a larger view of what is going on. We will never understand it all because God is the only one who is all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present and can keep all things flowing and in control. But we can have some understanding so that we trust in God and His ways. This book helps prepare us for those hard times that come in life. It helps us to have some answers for people when they begin asking those same questions. It's a good tool to have on hand. When hard times come, get out your Bible, get on your knees and pull out Alcorn's If God Is Good!
The current unemployment rate in California is hovering somewhere around 12.3% and the state is also expected to be running a deficit which is somewhere right around $15 billion. (Yep, billion. With a B.) And that's "deficit". As in "not enough money". So with that knowledge, what has the California Senate decided to do? Well, according to the SF Gate they "...passed a measure to create a state-run, single-payer health system." Wait. They what now?
Now, this might not sound like such a big deal. I mean, after all, a state-run, single-payer health system sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? Sure it does. And when you get back from Xanadu, let me know how it works there because it certainly isn't a viable option in this utopia that the Senators appear to be trying to create.
But here's the kicker: This utopian health care plan "All state residents would be provided health care and people could buy private health care to cover services not offered through the state plan." Um....what?
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Where does the phrase, "Cut through the red tape" come from? Well, in a time before file folders, file cabinets and the easy access to paper, legal documents were kept by rolling or folding them up and tying them with a red cloth ribbon.
Thick legal documents were bound or tied with red cloth tape so when someone spoke of cutting through the red tape, they meant it in a very literal sense.
Kings would have important documents signed and wrapped up with red ribbon and red wax dripped on it to seal it. The king would press his seal ring into the soft wax. The recipient would then know if the document had been tampered with if the ribbon was cut or the seal broken.
Henry VIII besieged Pope Clement VII with around eighty or so petitions for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Guess what those petitions were wrapped and sealed with? Red tape.
Today we mean excessive regulations, rigid adherence to pointless bureaucratic regulations and procedures; unnecessary and time consuming paperwork; obstacles that delay results. We want to cut through the red tape and get to the core of the matter and act straight away.
My Aunt Eloise died this week. She was married to my Dad's brother, Lee Huneycutt. We have many wonderful memories of her. She was the kindest woman who always had a laugh. She was such a lady. She worked a fulltime job but still kept their home spotless. After they retired, she and Uncle Lee travelled with their nice RV. They saw a lot of the country doing that. She was very active in her Baptist church. I know, one day, I will see her again in heaven.
Mary Eloise Coggins Huneycutt (2/13/1928-1/27/2010) married to Lee Wilson Huneycutt (7/15/1928- ) on 3/12/1949. They had been married a little over 50 years.
What we have stirring up some fake controversy (yep, another fakeroversy) is an ad that was paid for by the Christian conservative group Focus on the Family. Conservative. Family. Yep. You guessed it. They're "pro-life", also known as anti-abortion. This ad is going to convey the meaning behind the theme of "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." It is also going to contain a one Tim Tebow (apparently a really good collegiate quarterback for Florida) and a one Pam Tebow, the mother of the aforementioned Tim.
According to the huffy folks over there at the Huffington Post the ad will be "...chronicling Pam Tebow's 1987 pregnancy. After getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child and gave birth to Tim." Um, OK. But can I just say something here? I want my freaking Clydesdales back!!
Look, do I personally care if this group wants to buy this ad time? No, not really. I'm not offended by it. It doesn't particularly bother me because of the subject matter. However, lately it has come to light that abortion has been illegal in the Philippines since the 1930s and it would have been odd for the doctors there to recommend such a procedure. See, that does bother me. You want to send your anti-abortion message to a bazillion people watching a football game? I guess if you have the money for that, you can do so. But I'd really rather that you didn't. And here's why:
I like the commercials during the Super Bowl. I find them to be interesting and hilarious. (And in the case of the GoDaddy commercials, I find them to be interesting and...uh....um...what? Oh. Sorry. I was just envisioning GoDaddy commercials of the past and got distracted. GoDaddy isn't so much pro-life or pro-choice as much as it is pro-breasts.) I want to see interesting and hilarious commercials during the Super Bowl. I especially want to see interesting and hilarious commercials during the Super Bowl if I am watching said game at a venue with other people, some of which may or may not have imbibed just a little bit too much of any sort of alcoholic beverage furnished for said viewing.
You're never going to come to a nationwide consensus on whether or not abortion is OK or not. And from what I can tell, people have some really strong opinions about the whole matter. Don't believe me? Just ask that dude down in Kansas who blew away the abortion doc whilst he was sitting in church. I'm thinking that if your opinion is so strong that it leads you to justify blowing other people away with a gun while they're in church that you're not going to be swayed very easily to see the other side's point of view, you know what I'm saying?
And the last thing I want is a room full of people who may or may not have been drinking and who may or may not have extremely strong opinions about this whole abortion matter. That right there could turn the Super Bowl into the Super Brawl. It's supposed to be fun! Why do are we being subjected to commercials about abortions?!
Can you imagine if this sort of thing catches on? What if next year, instead of having all of the cute little dogs and horses unite in their ways to pull some sort of decrepit wagon into Small Town, USA so that all of the residents can have icy cold beer (some with a minimal amount of calories), we were instead subjected to political ads? And abortion ads? And gay marriage ads? And grandparent visitation rights ads? Oh, my God, I'd hang myself.
We could find ourselves in the not so distant future, sitting down for the big game with our family and friends with some youngsters, hopefully belonging to said family and friends. We could find ourselves saying to said youngsters, "You know, Billy...it wasn't that long ago that the commercials during the Super Bowl were really funny! Yes! Funny! There used to be these horses...Clydesdales, they were called...furry hooves, boy were they a hoot! But now, we've just got these political commercials all the time and...my God! How many of these with President Hillary are we going to have to sit through?!" That would be rough. Really. Rough.
It's not a controversy that CBS sold a commercial spot for an ad that is going to be anti-abortion. It's not. It's a fakeroversy. If there's such a problem with it, what say you pro-abortion folks roll out your own ad and get your message out there as well. And actually, I wish that they would. I'd find that very interesting, because I'm not all that aware of many pro-abortion advertising mediums of late. It's a tricky thing to advocate without sounding like a villain, I get that. But maybe try the Clydesdales! People really enjoy those!
Really, what are people worried about? That the ad is going to sway people into what? Not having abortions? I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think that anyone out there that is contemplating an abortion is going to change her mind simply because of the possibility that their child could grow up to be a college football quarterback. I don't think the reason that they're considering the abortion in the first place is because they're worried that the youngster won't be good at sports. I think that has next to nothing to do with the decision. Besides, the only people that one would have to be concerned with being swayed by something like this would be the Supreme Court. And from what I can tell, they're about as anxious to have anything to do with the subject as I am, that is to say, they don't want to touch it with a ten foot pole. Nor do I think that they're the sort of bunch that's going to be swayed by a freaking ad airing during the Super Bowl.
By the way, below is a Bud Light ad which was rejected as a Super Bowl ad a couple of years ago. Apparently, its subject matter was not suitable for the big game. Suitable or not, its freaking hilarious. And I'd rather watch that than I would watch a commercial having anything to do with abortion.
Wait! It's just come to my attention that the actors in the above disallowed Bud Light commercial have an encore commercial. Please, please, please let it make it to the Super Bowl this year. We can handle this can't we?
Friday, January 29, 2010
An Instance Of The Fingerpost by Iain Pears
The book is four distinct memoirs-seemingly written in about 1680-that recalls an event during 1663, the murder of Dr. Grove in Oxford, England. Four major characters give their views on what happened. You know the game of starting a whisper at one end of a line of people and then it's passed down the line until the last person speaks outloud what they hear. This game shows how people can get something twisted when information is passed through others. This book is somewhat like that. The same event happens (the murder) and yet it gets filtered by the 4 characters' experiences, biases and their circumstances.
Marco da Cola, a visiting Italian physician. Jack Prestcott, the son of a traitor who fled the country to avoid execution. Dr. John Wallis, a mathematician and cryptographer with a predilection for conspiracy theories. And, Anthony Wood, a mild-mannered Oxford antiquarian. "Instance of the fingerpost"' quote comes from the philosopher Bacon, who, while asserting that all evidence is ultimately fallible, allows for "one instance of a fingerpost that points in one direction only, and allows of no other possibility." A fingerpost is one of those tall road markers with narrow, arrow-like signs at the top pointing the way.
Set in 17th century England these events happened in Oxford shortly after the Restoration of Charles II to the monarchy in 1660. Dr. Grove is murdered by arsenic and clues point to Sarah Blundy, a servant girl who used to work for Dr. Grove. Sarah is found guilty and is hanged in public. She is the daughter of Ned and Ann Blundy. Ned Blundy was a part of the rebellion and was eventually captured and put to death. Ann Blundy had evidently been a firecracker when she was younger and they had raised Sarah to be much more independent and free than women were allowed to be back then. Ann and Sarah barely survive and were on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Being beautiful attracted men's attention and yet she wasn't interested in their attentions. Due to her low station, she knew they just wanted a play thing. In fact, during the entire book, she was never treated with respect by any men but was abused by them all, one way or another. She was raped by Jack Prescott who thought it was his right because he was in a superior position. Even Anthony Wood, who thought he was in love with her and carried on an affair with her, still felt that she was just a servant and could be nothing else. He hired her as a housekeeper so he could be near her. But he believed the worst when Prescott told him that she was prostituting herself with others and carrying on with her other employer, Dr. Grove. That really hurt her, especially after the rape (which he knew nothing of). Their relationship is a strange one. He treats her better than all the other men but still in a weird way.
Cola comes into town and meets up with Richard Lower and they begin to discuss and experiment with autopsies and blood transfusions. Ann Blundy has broken her leg and is dying. Sarah Blundy goes to ask for a physician who refuses to come but Cola overhears her. He offers to examine her mother. He says there is no hope for her unless they allow him to do an experimental procedure of blood transfusion. Sarah agrees and Lower helps him transfer blood from Sarah to Anne. They had no idea about blood compatibility. The mother and daughter had the same blood type and Anne seemed to get better. But, later, Cola did another blood transfusion using someone else who wasn't the same blood type and Anne died.
Jack Prescott's father was accused of being a traitor and had to run to the continent leaving his wife and son behind. Prescott was desperate to find evidence that his father wasn't a traitor and to have his good name and fortunes returned. Dr. Wallis, the cryptographer, becomes convinced that Cola is in England to assassinate the king for Spain. But he finally changed his mind and thought Cola was there to assassinate Lord Clarendon. He sees conspiracies every where.
This book is a long book. And it's pretty complex. I had a hard time remembering all the characters and I kept taking notes in the margins. I got tired of it halfway through and stopped for awhile and that didn't help me remember. It's one of those books that you have to keep slogging through...all the way through...or you lose the train of thought. There is definitely a Messianic complex which makes it quite blasphemous but you will have to find that out yourself. I'm ready to move on.
Don't get me wrong, it was well written and the memoir premise is a clever one. The stories are believable. But it was a little dense and I was ready for it to be over.
Most of us don't use clotheslines any more and therefore we don't use clothespins. But clothespins can be used in many ways. We just forget about this handy little tool because we don't use it everyday. I found some good ways to use the old wooden clothespin:
Using a wire tomato stake turned upside down and lined with clothespins made this lamp. What an idea, especially in a modern house!
Use clothespins to anchor something while it dries.
Using clothespin to fashion a curtain out of some string and vintage tableclothes
To cover a bowl that has no lid
For holding ribbon remnants