Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Williston-Northampton 2018 Reunion

Dear Headmaster Hill,

I can’t remember when I first began thinking of my 50th Reunion at Williston. Maybe June 7, 1968. I never expected this great event of 2018 to turn into such a big disappointment. Williston is in my blood. I was one of those rare 8th grade five-year students, one of two in the class of ‘68 to return as a faculty member, and am in continual contact with classmates.  I have always loved reuniting with classmates in Easthampton in June. Why was the reunion changed to May?

I am not adverse to change; heck we were the class of change in a decade of change. Girls were gradually merged into Williston Academy during our senior year. In 1968, the world was changing around us at a rapid rate with too many assassinations, a war, a divided nation, and drugs.  Williston had been our constant in an ever-changing world, our sanctuary as we were changing, too. Change is not the issue with the decision to have Alumni weekend held on a weekend in May instead of June; it is the decision, that’s the problem. Students will be on campus. It is Mother’s Day weekend. Other schools in the area will be celebrating graduations. That’s not Alumni Weekend. I am very disappointed in the decision. I don’t remember being asked about the change as an alumnus about Alumni weekend. Were alumni involved in this decision about changing the date?

In past reunions, we stayed in the dorms, we wandered the dorms, revisited rooms we lived in for a year, roamed the passages that began our journey in life. It was affordable housing, too. Now we can’t do this in our 50th year. The campus is not ours on Alumni weekend. Dorms will be off limits, as will other places to congregate or stay. Where will we gather if not the common rooms, classrooms, nooks and crannies of our old school on reunion weekend? Distant hotels? It’s called Alumni weekend for a reason. It is for the alumni to gather on a shared ground to reminisce and reunite; it is a reunion, a retreat.

Finally, what has the turnout been like for reunions since this decision was made? I’m curious if the numbers of returning alumni in May is lower than prior reunions that were held in June? I would suspect so and attribute the low turnout to this poor decision of moving our reunions from the tranquil quiet weekend in June to the hectic chaotic weekend in May.  I won’t be there. I won’t be contributing to the Alumni Fund. After all, this isn’t personal; it’s business. I hope the school reverses it’s ill-advised decision and reschedules reunions to June so I can return to my beloved Williston on Alumni weekend. I look forward to that.


Theodore D Nellen ’68 F ‘79

I will be posting this letter on my Blog. Classmates, this missive and/or blog address may be shared with other Willies and others in the W-N community as appropriate via email or Facebook.  I don’t have Facebook.


Friday, July 14, 2017

While in Maine

I did some carpentry work for my sweetie. I haven't done this kind of work in more than 40 years. I was working with an all metal 2 car garage and gave it a whole new wood face. The original doors were four metal doors that swung out. The two doors on the right were damaged and didn't open. The two on the left required some digging out to open. I had to use a cold chisel to break the bolts on the hinges to remove the doors. I replaced them with two large 8X8 batten doors, the right one was fixed while the left one was on a sliding rail. The triangle above the doors demanded plywood so I could shingle it and then I finished it with an 8" trim.
During breaks, I enjoyed kayaking on the lake, ate lobster and Pemaquid oysters, drank local beer, and enjoyed the cool of Maine with my sweetie pie.




Monday, July 3, 2017

Headlong by Michael Frayn

Headlong by Michael Frayn is about scholarship. “If I have any pretentions to be a scholar, then I have an obligation to put my findings on record, so that my colleagues and successors, now and down the years, can evaluate them.” Frayn has opened with my definition of scholarship: “publish, engage in peer review, and pass it on.” It was my pretention when I set out to create CyberEnglish. Was it the right thing to do or was it wrong? I, too, was in a quandary as I used my scholars’ published work to move CyberEnglish forward. As with our scholar hero in Headlong, only hindsight will give us the answer. For me with the emergence of both Facebook and Twitter, I feel justified in doing what I did with CyberEnglish, as it is a model for scholarship, unlike the rogue apps Facebook and Twitter, which are the opposite of scholarly as defined by both me and Frayn. CyberEnglish moves us away from the ideas espoused in 1984, whereas, Facebook and Twitter move us closer to the tenets of 1984.
This is an Ekphrastic novel. Brueghel or Bruegel, the Elder is the subject of this fanciful novel. Martin and Kate Clay have left London for the country with their newborn child, Tilda. Their neighbors, Tony and Laura Churt have artwork. The Clays are in the art world. The Churt’s invite them to dinner to get their advice on the value of the art. This is the first plot line. The other plot line is a study in Peter Brueghel the Elder. “They’re all iconographers. What this problem needs is an iconologist.” Martin thinks he has discovered a long lost Brueghel from The Twelve Months series. Martin wants the painting. Ekphrastic work is neither new nor unique. Usually it involves poetry and one famous example involves Brueghel’s Fall of Icarus in Auden’s poem, Museé des Beaux Arts.
The confidence game that Martin schemes eventually includes Kate. The foundation is built on scholarship; the knowledge of Brueghel in his time and that requires a great deal of research by Martin, so much research that the novel becomes historical in nature. We become art students studying the times of Brueghel so as to better understand him and to be able to determine if the painting that Tony owns is the missing Brueghel. The history lesson is comprehensive and interesting to the point I sometimes forget this is a novel with a plot and other characters and this part of it is just background to help the plot and the con carry on. As Martin learns more, he knows he wants the painting he only seen once even if it not real, he is obsessed, blinded by his desire, fueled by the history of it all. I do wish they had included prints in the book so I wouldn’t have to depend on the Internet to see the paintings as I read. I love the exhaustive research Martin is doing and it reminds me of my own days of pursuing scholarship. “I should be the man who’d finally solved the mystery of Bruegel. I should have lifted the veil, revealed the hidden figure behind the canvas. I should have found the thunder.” And as in all pursuits of scholarship, the mundane and everyday is lost and this causes problems in the real world. Research is the non-real world, we must remember, but Martin forgets. “I remember that I still haven’t looked up the Giordano. But by this time, the exact figures involved in the stupendous deal I’m about to do seem to me of remarkably little importance.” Is Martin dementing or just way ahead of himself? He went to town to find the price of the Giordano, but instead followed the rabbit down the rabbit hole in pursuit of Bruegel.
The human plot is filled with intrigue and twists and turns expertly executed by Frayn, but it is the study of Brueghel that captures my fancy as I jump from text to the Internet to examine and explore the paintings in question. The history lesson is also fascinating. The art and history plots upstage the human story of the Clays and the Churts.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Muse in the Museum

As a boy, I had always thought
The medieval knights at the Met,
The most awesome sight
I had seen in any museum.
Then I went to the d’Orsay.
Another corner turned,
Instead of knights on horse,
It was The Origin of the World.
Embarrassed and shocked,
In awe and wonder and delight,
Unable to avert my gaze
Drawn in closer and closer.
I could taste her, smell her,
Feel the softness of her skin.
Pinching her nipple, I long
To bury my face in her nest.
I was tingling all over.
Memories of the women
I’ve had in this position,
Dreams of those I will.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is filled with many conundrums.  First how is the man’s name pronounced? Is it Ove as in “love” and “dove”? Or is it Ove as in “stove” and “drove”? Or is it Ove as in the Yiddish “Oy Vey”? The Yiddish is closest for me since the character in this book is the Yiddish definition, “expressing dismay or exasperation.” Ove exasperates everyone with his ways. When others encounter Ove, they become dismayed with him. He dismays and exasperates himself throughout the novel as he fails to commit suicide on many occasions.
Secondly, this is a Swedish novel and follows closely a Swedish tone of dismay and exasperation. Consider the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander and we have Ove. Ruminate over the Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman’s work. Even little brother Norway produced The Scream. This novel fits in well with these three; they are cut from the same cloth.
The final conundrum is the man himself and his actions. “Instead they had parked here and walked all around the block looking for the café. Because Ove, as Parvaneh had soon realized, was the sort of man who, when he was not quite certain where he was going, just carried on walking straight ahead, convinced that the road would eventually fall into line. And now when they find that the café is directly opposite the spot where they parked, Ove looked as if this was his plan all along.” Ove is a man of principles. He will not pay an extra krona when he doesn’t believe he should and will forgo something or make his life harder. He never ever breaks the law or social more. As we watch all of his interactions with others, our only reaction is “Oy Vey.”
The man called Ove is a curmudgeon. The irony of his life is that he has a big heart, both literally and figuratively. His wife, Sonja, shows him this, much to his own dismay. Even his new neighbor, Parvaneh, provides reasons for Ove to display his big heart in the face of his persistence to be the curmudgeon. He is a man who wants to die and can’t take his own life because he has things to do for others.
This is a very satisfying and reflective read.