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

Friday, March 29, 2013

The John Lenon Letters Part II

I am now continuing with The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies from where I left off and the entrance of Yoko into John’s life.
John met Yoko in 1966 and moved in with her in 1968. Much was happening at this time with the Beatles, too. John’s correspondence deals with establishing his and Yoko’s credentials as artists promoting world peace via the acorn project, which involved the mailing of a pair of acorns to world leaders to plant in an east-west axis in the name of peace. This may be where John begins his rest of life quest to promote world peace. The letters that do exist show some tension and are few and torn in some cases. Perhaps the letters are symbolic of John’s life at this time.  They include nude drawings of him and Yoko.
John’s whimsy is continually seen in the surveys he fills out and in the misspellings in postcards and letters. Post Beatles is spent introducing Yoko to family and traveling by air and car, which isn’t advisable for John, as he seems to be a bad driver.  Primal Scream becomes a part of his separation and release from the Beatles and past life. He uses the Scream to segue to his next stage and shares this with family and friends via mail and music. I find Maynard Ferguson’s version of Primal Scream more palpable albeit later.  A lot of legal stuff ends Beatles and puts distance between him and Paul. Not pretty.  Much time and mail spent on promoting Yoko and her work as well as re defending himself at times as author of some music and resurrecting statements about Jesus. Also more time spent in America, as they slowly become New Yorkers. He and Yoko are living downtown as he burns the bridges at home and continues his battles with Paul. Better the combatants use words (lyrics) rather than bullets. It seems as if John is tying lots of loose ends before breaking away from his motherland for NYC.
The whole bit with Paul is interesting as it is Linda doing the writing for Paul to John and John doing his own writing. Her involvement, especially with the Eastman lawyers at the end of Beatles caused lots more trouble than Yoko did.
The next and last review will be his NYC days.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Should we see Lennon's glasses?

John Lennon's glasses December 8, 1980

Yoko posted this image on her 44th wedding anniversary with John on March 22. Fair or Foul?
We see stats on killings since Newtown and yet little or nothing has really happened. Talk Talk. Seeing these glasses is painful and it should be. Mathew Brady brought the war into the homes of US citizens during the Civil War. Television brought the Vietnam War into our homes. Pictures of the dead from The Mid East wars have been banned for what reason? Why don't we see the dead anymore? Would it make us stand up and say no more!

Seeing numbers is one thing but seeing the bodies of the dead that those numbers represent might and I think would make us change things. We have warnings on movies about violence and yet we do not show the real and actual violence done by Man on Man.

I'm not happy to see these glasses, but I'm even more unhappy about the continued deaths without any move to resolve this growing problem of gun violence. John is a symbol of Peace and his death was horrendous and so unnecessary. Perhaps we should now see the dead body of violent death reported on the news. It would change things, I'm very sure. Seeing the dead during the Civil War, during Vietnam had a positive effect on stopping those wars. That we don't see those returning to Dover AFB is hiding something from the people.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ghana Must Go

Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (Gone, Going, Go) is riveting.
The first part is titled “Gone.” It opens with a man dying and a question is where are his slippers. Slippers become an important metaphor is this liltingly written novel. Our feet, our children. Our love of feet and love of children could be the same word. The story is about Kweku Sai. Selasi meanders between here and then as she majestically spins this tale. Birth and death intermingle here as they do in life. A curious character is the cameraman, that thing we all have and is always present for Kweku as he lives and then dies. We are experiencing that moment when a life passes in front of his eyes before death. It is not chronological.
The second part titled “Going” reflects on the children’s reaction to their father’s death. They are all estranged from the father after he walked out on them after being fired from his job as a doctor in Boston. He has moved to Ghana and they are going to Ghana for his funeral. The father did the heavy lifting of establishing the family so that the children could enjoy a first class education at schools like Milton Academy, Yale, Harvard, Columbia.  I’m reminded of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty as I read this second part.
The third and final part, “Go” finds all the children and Ling, Olu’s wife in Ghana at Fola’s house. Why she is in Ghana, since she is Nigerian, is the overarching question. They have gathered for Kweku’s funeral. Musical beds, details about family, and a general rebonding of family happens in this part. 
Selasi has a very haiku like or staccato type of writing style. At times we are assaulted with pages of this barrage of words, not sentences. Then she settles into soothing sentences and even dialogue. The tension of the family is reflected in the tension of the language. It is a draining book and well worth the energy it saps from the reader.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Lawgiver

Herman Wouk is still writing at ninety-seven. His latest novel, The Lawgiver, is about Moses a story he has wanted to tell since before he wrote The Caine Mutiny. Now he is finally getting to it and the yellowing notes he has had since those early days.

Letters, notes, email, texts, Skype, to name a few are the format of this novel. HW is working secretly o his novel about Moses when a recent Academy Award winning Director to ask him to do a movie on Moses hounds him. Coincidence? No.
Think about Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty and you have a hint at the fast paced, hilarious novel by Herman Wouk. He attacks unrelenting all aspects of Jewish life that includes the father daughter falling out and reunification, the three women and their men, men and their women, food, and love and sex. It includes lawyers, movie moguls, and warriors. Wouk is masterful as he goes from one media to the next without worrying about mixing his media. It is brilliant and laughs out loud funny. And he is always deferring to his bride of 60 years although she always concludes he will do as he wants as always which is what she wants. The Lawgiver is biblical.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The John Lennon Letters

John Lennon wrote letters and postcards in a time before email and its spawn. He included his unique line drawings in many of these missives. They are beautifully presented by Hunter Davies in The John Lennon Letters.

In 2004 Ringo put together Postcards from the Boys, which provides good insight into the humor of John and his quirky drawings.

In Lennon’s early teens what strikes me, as real telling are his self-made newspapers, “The Daily Howl.”  They are funny, jocular, witty, and illustrated. He had aspirations to be a journalist, not a musician. Later there are hints of his amorous ways in his early letters to Cynthia and a Lindy Ness, a Norwegian fan. Unfortunately not much seems to have survived from these early pre-Beatles days since Cynthia destroyed many of his letters and others just faded away. His letters to Cyn are pure love whereas to Lindy more poetic, “BUT for you sad Lindy, I scrape this metal tipped plastic finger (Pen) because of you.” Lindy seems to be a muse, perhaps his first. Cyn is his Liverpool squeeze and Lindy is his road squeeze. There is a slight flirting in John’s letters to the fans until he finally announces he is married and has a son. This was a well-kept secret for a while.

Once Brian Epstein takes over as the Beatles Manager, the letters to fans are more formal and probably dictated. We do see the Lennon cheekiness emerging occasionally when he writes to George Martin, Victor Spinetti, or a national music newspaper, New Musical Express. He has fun with inscriptions to those who buy his poetry, In His Own Write requesting that they make him rich. Being rich is a common theme seen in John’s writing.

Once the Beatles stop touring John is looking for more privacy. As he writes to old schoolmates or fans, he is oftentimes reminding them to remember this is between them and the press need not hear too. What little remains of letters to Cynthia are heart wrenching, filled with self-loathing, and pitiful at times. Then he gets reacquainted with his dad, Freddie. He takes him at 52 in to his home with his 19-year-old girlfriend. John supports the two, helps them with their marriage I Scotland and sets them up in Brighton. John is very generous with his money to help friends and family. I find it astonishing that so many of the letters we are reading were auctioned off by their recipients.

We learn his time in India was very productive for him and Paul. They wrote songs for The White Album and Abbey Road.  His letter writing was also productive. His letters long and filled with gentle substance and explanation of what he was doing, discovering, and becoming. I’m suspecting some of these letters he wrote were in response to criticism of what he was doing and perhaps in response to Christians questioning him especially after the Jesus fiasco in USA. “Christ it ain’t easy…”

Enter Yoko.

I’ll continue my reflections in another post. I want it to resonate, steep, and marinate a wee bit. Ta ta.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Across Atlantic Ice

The debate about how the Americas were first settled or more succinctly the origin of the Clovis Culture has heated up with Across Atlantic Ice by Dennis J Stanford & Bruce A Bradley. I always believed the traditional theory that the Americas were peopled by Asians who trekked across an Alaskan-Bering Sea land. That theory hung in the air for a long time as scientists tried to find artifacts to support this theory. The problem became obvious when they couldn’t substantiate the land bridge theory. Artifacts were first discovered in Clovis, New Mexico that dated back 13,000 years ago and in Venezuela, but nothing in Canada, Alaska, Russia, or China. So where did the Clovis Culture originate? Clovis experts turned their attention to the east coast, a site near Richmond, Virginia which dates back 16,000 years.  Another of those remarkable coincidences as I also read about ME Kay Scarpetto of Richmond in Pamela Cornwell’s mystery series.

The carbon dates for Clovis, New Mexico give 13,000 years ago. Carbon dates for the Richmond site find 16,000 years ago. And to further complicate the old theory, scientists discovered Clovis artifacts dating from 18,000 to 25,000 years ago in southern France and Northern Spain. This theory has been labeled the Solutrean Hypothesis after the French culture in Solutré, France. So if the Clovis culture originated in The Pyrenees, how did they get to the Americas? 
We know ice extended throughout Northwestern Europe to the Americas and created what we now call the Grand Banks. Inuits live on these ices very comfortably. The discovery of the Kennnewick Man, who has European ancestry, not Asian, in the Columbia River Basin dates him to 9500 years ago. Cultures are known to be sea dwellers as far back as 30,000 years ago and as far back as 130,000 years ago in the Mediterranean cultures.
Stanford and Bradley have compiled a rip-roaring mystery, and I do love mysteries. The origin of the people of America has two major theories the Beringian Land Bridge theory and the Solutrean Hypothesis. Of course they could both be possible. We have seen throughout history the simultaneous discovery or invention of things attributed to one culture, nation, or person; when in fact many could be attributed. People move either because they need more than what is currently available in their current location and because the grass is always greener on the other side. It is called the push-pull theory. 1492 and 1620 are perfect examples of this in more modern times in the continued discovery of America.
As with any culture, it is always about the technology. The technology archaeologists follow are the stone tools and flakes. They each have distinct formation and creation patterns unique to each culture. With carbon dating, times are more precisely determined. Geological and environmental data can be helpful, but in the end it is always about the technology and in rare occasions the art. Thus the search always begins in the bones of killed animals. That was how Clovis, New Mexico was discovered.
The authors provide a primer in flints and the process of creating them called “knapping.” The basic tools were the flake, blade, inset blade, and biface blade. By studying and identifying these various tools found at various sites the archaeologists are able to determine culture and time. Knapping varied from culture to culture. Studying the technology is how the European connection was made to the Clovis, NM site.
Searching out the Clovis people, the consensus is that it moved east to west. The evidence shows larger settlements in the east and smaller more temporary ones in the west. In addition the evidence of caches, places where they left flint blades, probably in case they couldn’t find suitable resources could be returned to, show flintss of more eastern and southern origins. In addition, the more western sites show use of more crystal and bone with more ornamental creations. Further evidence shows that the peopling of Alaska was east to west as later Clovis technology begins to appear in Alaska. Little evidence appears for the west to east migration since the environment was just not suited for this traveling from Asia. In addition, archaeological digs that show any west to east migration are later than the earlier Clovis findings. In short, the west to east migration and theories associated with it are without substance, so far. The name “Clovis” is associated with where the ‘first’ artifacts were discovered, Clovis, NM. However, as further discoveries have shown the artifacts found on the eastern coast show similar and earlier tool and flint artifacts to make the authors conclude that Clovis is eastern in origin, not western or Asian. So now they must search out the missing links in this mystery.
Systematically and scientifically the authors do a compare and contrast of the two hypothesis examining each culture in detail. The long and short is that the Clovis culture probably originated in Europe and not Asia based on so many common aspects. Not conclusive like a Poirot or a Perry Mason, but very convincing and just as entertaining.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hit Me

Lawrence Block’s Hit Me is the fifth in the Keller series. It has been five years since our last installment of Keller. Keller is a hit man and this is one of my favorite characters. There is a Tarantino quality about Keller. Start with his name, Keller, a killer. He is inventive as we see in his style of murder. He is thorough. He is a thinker. He is a stamp collector. Matt Scudder is fine, even Bernie Rhodenbarr can be funny in the face of murder, but Keller is a killer character.
So here is Keller pulling all sorts of tools from his clothes to measure stamps and their perforations and sizes before he buys. He has determined that he wants to buy these rare and exotic stamps, but he has to kill someone to afford them. Keller is back!
Not so fast. He is in New Orleans with a family, a wife, Julia, and a daughter, Jenny. Dot is in Arizona. Everything changed five years ago. He met Julia in Central Park, five years ago. He saved her life by killing the rapist/murder who was assaulting her. Dot, his handler, has approached him about a job and after he takes and executes the job in Dallas, Keller tells Julia what he does. It was a great relief to her, because she thought he was involved with another woman. What he does turns her on. We learn more about the world through his hobby, stamp collecting. Just as my grandfather used to regale me with history lessons as we worked on his stamp collection, Keller shares his knowledge with Jenny. We are learning more about Keller the father, husband, and philatelist, than about Keller the killer.
Julia is hilarious. Dot is too. Julia gets mildly involved in one of the jobs, but once is enough they both agree. What I like about this installment is Keller is more of a complete man. He spends so much more time with the stamps and we learn lots. He is interacting with people more and better. We know Keller from before and recognize how he will accomplish his hits with style and without any celebrated panache. Businesslike, simple, direct, and clean without any traces to him and make it look as it should so he gets paid with a possible bonus when available. It’s good to have Keller back and better as Nicholas Edwards with a wife and daughter. So much better as we know in the end he will figure something unique and appropriate to solve his final problem and insure the preservation of a young stamp collector and fulfill his obligation. A very satisfying story.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Body of Evidence

Patricia Cornwell’s Body of Evidence begins with a couple of letters Beryl Madison is writing to ‘M’ from Key West and mentions a couple of familiar bars. I love Key West and this reminds I need to return to Key West. It is March, a time I was considering for the trip. However, Beryl is there hiding and isn’t happy she has to return to Richmond. Beryl is an author and it is this very book she is writing that is about to cause the deaths of many people.

Beryl’s brutal murder back in her Richmond home the night she returns from Key West has baffled our heroine, ME Kay Scarpetto. ‘Why did she let him in?’ is her constant refrain. Why indeed would anyone invite her own killer in? Kay will come to understand that mistake. Beryl is an author who writes under pseudonyms and has reconnected Kay to an old flame, Mark, who is a lawyer somehow connected to Beryl and her legal troubles or is he. But who is Mark we wonder. Then without warning we have another author murdered, Beryl’s mentor Cary Harper. Authors are dying savagely; it is getting critical.

Next we get two suicides. Four deaths, two vicious and two suicides. All of these deaths happen for a book that might not exist. I’m also I’m wondering how Kay always ends up on the short list for assaults and possible murder. She’s just an ME. The killer is crafty, the story is hair-raising, and Cornwell isn’t having a sophomore jinx.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dakota Meyer

The school guidance counselor, Ann, was a friend of our family who had known me all my life. When I needed social coaching or some tips on talking to girls without getting stabbed, I'd troop into Ann's office and sprawl on a chair while she explained the basics: be honest and upfront, care about what others are doing and what they care about, don't tease, listen, listen, listen, and take people's emotions and worries seriously. Special reminder: do not make fun of people in public. Write that on your hand.

page 23, Into the Fire

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Post-Mortem by Patricia Daniels Cornwell introduces Dr Kay Scarpetta. She’s already in the middle of a case featuring a Mr Nobody, who has strangled four female victims, and we see her tangling with Pete Marino, a male colleague not politically correct about women in the workplace. She and Marino slowly form an unholy bond, she the female interloper and he the outside former NYC cop new to the Richmond force. That is their commonality. Office intrigue abounds in this city police force as a major leak is trying t be found and plugged as all indications point to Kay’s computer. During the night she and Marino cruise the four crime scenes they somehow link in a weird way. The explorations of ‘What ifs’ abound and make us consider our own ‘What ifs’ of our own lives. The ‘What ifs’ concern death, horrible strangulations, whereas ours are simple, complex, or tragic choices we have made in life.
On a personal level, Kay, a single woman is tending to her ten-year-old niece, Lucy. Kay’s divorce sister is not a good mother and Kay’s mom is sad that the pure blood name stops with her daughters. Kay’s niece is left with a very warm and loving housekeeper while Kay works. Lucy is a handful. Kay is also sort of involved with a co-worker, Bill Boltz. In short everything is chaotic and Kay has to figure out how to get it all organized and straight again.
Suddenly, phone calls, cars driving by her house, computer hacking and evidence SNAFUs plague Kay as these cases seem to come closer to home and workplace. The ‘What ifs’ have come home to roost.  The difficulties women faced in the 1990’s, when this book was published are still with today. It’s a good topic to begin a series of mysteries.
The fifth victim is the ace news reporter Abby Turnbull’s little sister. Abby has been a thorn in Kay’s side. Abby’s confused, Kay is confused and Abby tellingly says, “I don’t know who’s us or them anymore.” It’s apt that the first Kay Scarpetta mystery is all about the female victims: the dead women, the ME, Dorothy, Lucy, and Abby, the news reporter. The male characters play their roles, too. This book is more than just a suspenseful mystery it is also a social commentary about women in our society.
It always comes down to politics and that is the case here, too. Kay spends some time with an old friend and mentor, Dr Spiro Fortosis at UVA. The politics of course is Kay is a woman in a man’s world.  
“I knew what the answer was, and I voiced it out loud. ‘I can’t help but think I'm an easy mark because I’m a woman.’
‘You’re a woman in a man’s world,’ Fortosis replied. “You’ll always be considered an easy mark until the ole boys discover you have teeth. And you do have teeth.’ He smiled. “Make sure they know it.’” Page 221
It all about the voice.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cold Quiet Country

When I saw Clayton Lindemuth’s Cold Quiet Country on the new books shelf, I was reminded of a favorite book of mine, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. I don’t know why, just was so I grabbed it. I’m glad I did it is a wonderful debut for Lindemuth. Right from the start in rural Wyoming, we see male predators and female victims at the rawest level.  Lindemuth explores the tough topic of incest and sexual brutality.  Incest is a scourge as we too often read in too any articles. A book and television show, Deadly Silence reported a real story in 1989. The mother’s role is one of the silent reasons this horrible act continues generation after generation, which is one strand Lindemuth is writing about.   “There was no way every soul in that house couldn’t hear them. No way they couldn’t smell what was going on under their noses. But Cal and Jordan (her brothers) didn’t care; Fay (her mother) lacked the courage; and Guinevere suffered.” (page 132). We may suspect Fay was a victim herself and Gwen’s best friend Lizzie, too, is a victim who also gave birth to a child that was given to an orphanage. This certainly is a cold, quiet county in this country indeed run and controlled by the biggest bastard of them al, the sheriff. A hero emerges in Gale G’Wain, an orphan and an outsider, as in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight of King Arthur’s round table.
This is a tale told in a day, the last day on the job for Sheriff Bittersmith, which happens to be the name of the town, Bittersmith, WY, 1971. The town was named after his grandpappy. There isn’t a redeeming quality about the Sheriff. The more we see him the more we dislike him and wonder how much of his personality fosters the evilness and ugliness of the town, perhaps aptly named Bittersmith. Lindemuth also captures many of the quaint euphemisms of country living and talk: “So skinny he had to stand up twice to make a shadow, and tall enough to hunt geese with a rake.” Or “She was younger than I thought at first, and pretty as a three-eyed potato.” The longer we stay in Bittersmith, no more we realize we need to escape this dead-end town. Passing through ain’t safe.
This is not a simple tale of revenge; it is complex tale of righteousness engulfed in fire and ice and blood. An exhausting and fulfilling debut Mr Lindemuth.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Blackwater NWR 13th Anual Eagle Festival

Colbert eat your heart out. This place rocks!! 

The eagle prowl took place all day on Saturday March 9, 2013 at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, MD. It was fabulous. I will be going back many times. Next time I want to take my bike so I can go slower and more easily. I want to go between Dec 1 and Feb 1 next year because that is mating season and the best time to see them clasp talons in the spiral fall. Saw two talon clasps yesterday, but not amorous nor for long. On one occasion it was definitely hostile over fishing rights. I saw an eagle swoop down and grab a fish from the water and get chased by another one into the forest. I saw lots of eagles, lots of nests, which are huge, blue herons, white pelicans, hawks, and a variety of injured rapters displayed by the Blackwater staff. After the crazy weather we have been having of rain and 40+mph winds up to Friday, Saturday was cloudless, windless, and crisp. 

 Great Horned Owl

 White Pelican

 Red Tailed Hawk

 Elf Owl

 Swainson's Hawk

 The majestic Bald Eagle

 It doesn't get any better.

 Peregrine Falcon

 Bare tree on right with mistletoe

 Eagle's Nest dead center

Eagle's Nest

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dead Anyway

Once or twice I had fantasized about just disappearing, getting off the grid. Perhaps like the Gene Hackman character in Enemy of the State. Not dying, but disappearing and living off the land or just wandering. Of course the complications of life, family, and money snap me out of this delusional thinking. Lighting out for the territory, moving away from some place you have resided for years, or maybe changing your name are more real possibilities. I’ve sort of gone with the first two options. When I was perusing the new books shelf at the library, I saw a familiar name, Chris Knopf attached to a new title, Dead Anyway and read the dust jacket and the first couple of paragraphs of Chapter One and was hooked. I was wowed by the end of Chapter One and found the great desire to continue to read how Arthur Cathcart was going to solve his own murder.
I found Arthur’s experience with the Connecticut DMV totally unbelievable. When I moved to Maryland and applied for a Maryland license I experienced a week from HELL as they dredged up a ticket that was paid by me from another state from 1968, forty-four years ago. Why it took a week was that the ticket was still buried in microfiche and it took the clerk in that other state that long to find it. They discovered it had been paid and the flag was unnecessary. But for the plot of the book, Knopf couldn’t be completely accurate, though I do have to say he did make a quick reference to the exasperation many do experience when they have to do business with the DMV of any state.
The bravado Arthur displays as he wheels and deals with the underbelly of society and the others is entertaining and his use of technology is stunning. Again that Gene Hackman character keeps popping up as well as some others like Jason Bourne and Lawrence Block’s Keller. The technological ingenuity of Arthur and his unlimited resources make him an intriguing dead guy.
It amazes me how items in one book connect to another book. I have been noticing this phenomenon occurring with curious regularity recently. In this book one of the characters is studying Munchausen syndrome by proxy in her college course. It was the very obscure disease a mother in another book I recently read had.
For a stay at home researcher, Arthur is showing some great skills, obviously learned from his research and being a natural. It’s a treat and very entertaining.  The many personas of Arthur keep you on your toes and I’m not sure this one has a sequel, to accompany Sam and Jackie, though the door is open following the chilly ending.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Body Farm

I read about Patricia Cornwell in The New Yorker and decided to read some of the Kay Scarpetta series. The earliest book in the series I could find at the library was The Body Farm. I feel as if I were coming in the middle of things. Obviously there have been some connections made earlier and I must backtrack to catch up.
Scarpetta gets right into the mix with the boys at the FBI Academy where a group is exploring the recent killing of a young girl by a demented killer named Gault. Kay has a brief encounter with her niece who is at UVA and interning at the FBI Academy, who has her own story to tell. This is interrupted when Kay has to fly off to a crime scene in Ashville, NC of a NC State Bureau of Investigation agent she didn’t have a good encounter with at the FBI training grounds The initial murder and then the even more bizarre death/murder gets us right into the middle of weirdness and Scarpetta’s life even as she treats a wounded colleague in more ways than one.
The first half is filled with tensions in all relationships and then we go into a great detailed FBI forensics report about the facts. Great stuff. The different actions slowly interweave and as each separate case becomes more clear, what were different cases become one. And all personal stuff, all the stuff of life between sisters, failed marriages, lovers, co-workers, friends and mothers are deftly handled and real. It’s amazing the domino effect that one action can cause especially when it starts with the horrendous murder of a little girl.
Cornwell creates fu characters, great drama, and does it well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

He keeps the trains running on time

When I hear this phrase "He keeps the trains running on time" I can't help but think of that fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
In 1936 the American journalist George Seldes complained that when his fellow-countrymen returned home from holidays in Italy they seemed to cry in unison: 'Great is the Duce; the trains now run on time]' And no matter how often they were told about Fascist oppression, injustice and cruelty, they always said the same thing: 'But the trains run on time.' From "Rear Window: Making Italy Work: Did Mussolini really get the trains running on time" in The Independent
When I read the following on page 36 from "The House of Pain" in the March 4, 2103 issue of The New Yorker I was stunned:
"He's (Cantor) a fantastic Majority Leader," Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a close friend, said. "Eric keeps the trains running on time very efficiently."   
I had to laugh out loud at the stupidity of Ryan and how it reiterates that he and his ilk, the Republican Party just don't get it. Who in their right mind would use this reference in a positive way? At the very white Republican retreat at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va in mid-January Republicans were meeting to reorganize and to set a new path. They have a lot of work to do if their former VP candidate uses an allusion like this to speak of someone they consider one of their leaders. It is damning.

By using this allusion are we to compare Cantor to Mussolini? I hope not. But this certainly  confirms just how out of touch the Republican Party is. There are better allusions, Paul. Yikes!! The allusion to trains running on time is a lie, is a reference to a Fascist dictator, and is a horrible image to use as a compliment. The reference implies that in spite of everything being bad, at least he has the trains running on time. We know what happened to Italy and Mussolini. Is this how the Republican Party sees its future? Well, maybe they don't but many of us do. The problem is the Republican Party just doesn't get it, still.

BTW, Mussolini didn't get the trains to run on time. That was a lie that many believed as a truth. 

The Republican Party is a 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sailor Twain

or The Mermaid in the Hudson

I haven’t read a graphic novel in years. I loved Spiegelman’s Maus I & II as well as Satrapi’s Persepolis. I had a collection of graphic novels on my classroom bookshelves that I perused. When I saw a familiar title, Sailor Twain on the library’s new shelf list, I reached for and discovered it to be a graphic novel by Mark Siegel. The alternate title, The Mermaid in the Hudson intrigued me more. Twain is one of my favorite authors and I believe he wrote the quintessential American Novel Huckleberry Finn. Another of my favorite novels of his is Life on the Mississippi and this one reminded me of it when I opened to the front piece to see a charcoal rendering of the Brooklyn Bridge and a cartoon caption exclaiming, “Don’t call me captain.” It looks like a Most Excellent Adventure, Ted.

It all begins in great mystery at the Ferryman’s Tavern probably at the foot of Fulton St on the Manhattan side of the east River just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, a place I lived near for 26 years.  I know the area well and know it is seeped in history and folklore. We are left with “When you found who?” as we probe Twain’s secret.

I’m loving the irony of these two little ne’er-do-wells reading Huckleberry Finn and being at bookstores and being discouraged while they exclaim that “You people buy books but we actually read them.” Book reading was the latest technology of those days replacing the previous one of speechifying.

This is two books in one, sort of, hence the double title. They aren’t separate books, but interwoven ones, split in two. The story is about being whole and about the heart. The story is beautiful and the drawings stunning and even erotic in the right way and places. This is a fun book, a quick read, and filled with great literary allusions.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Most of What You Think You Know About Grammar Is Wrong

Click image for interesting article on Origins of English Grammar

Friday, March 1, 2013


André Brink’s Philida was on the2012 Man Booker Longlist. It is 1832 in South Africa, a year before slaves are freed in 1834. It took America until 1865 and Mississippi until just the other day, February 21, 2013. This story has many narrators, but mostly, Philida, a slave woman. She is subject to the lustful ways of her owners son, Frans. She has four children of his over time.  Two survive. Shoes are the symbol of freedom and her feet are a symbol of his love for her. Freed slaves wear shoes, slaves go barefoot. Philida goes to the courts to complain about the broken promise Frans had made to free her. He lies and that changes everything as far as he is concerned, but not for her as she comes to really realize her life as a slave. Philida is a willful person and a proud woman. She knows that there is better out there and she is taking risks to wait for her freedom and to find a better place with her two children.
I truly identify with Philida. I worked for many years and was told what to do and what I couldn’t do. Then I retired and was set free just as Philida is set free. With this kind of freedom come risks and choices. As she slowly begins to understand her freedom, “But saying, I know, is always easier than doing.” She is a doer. There are those around her who are not doers. She learns about time, not rushing, weighing choices, and the biggest of all, “I.”
I found it serendipitous that “DJango, Unchained” is playing now and helps me with the visualization.
This is a great story about something we take for granted, FREEDOM.