Sunday, July 31, 2011

* God and Clemens: Never the Twain Shall Meet

...a God who could make good children as easily a bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave is angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell--mouths mercy, and invented hell--mouths Golden Rules and foregiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!
No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger

Mark Twain -- Regarding Mark Twain's funeral, William Dean Howells said:

"I looked a moment at the face I knew so well; and it was patient with the patience I had so often seen in it: something of puzzle, a great silent dignity, an assent to what must be from the depths of a nature whose tragical seriousness broke in the laughter which the unwise took for the whole of him. Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes—I knew them all and all the rest of our sages, poets, seers, critics, humorists; they were like one another and like other literary men; but Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature."

Friday, July 29, 2011

* "Entertainment Tonight" with Harriet Beecher Stowe

The Countess Guiccioli with Lord Byron, as the Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy,  looks on.

International Gossip is Nothing New

There seems no analogy in modern times for Harriet Beecher Stowe, the most influential woman in the world of her day whose work, Uncle Tom's Cabin, is widely considered one of the five causes of the Civil War which ended slavery in America.  Perhaps Mother Teresa in our time might wield the influence and respect which HBS  wielded in her time, although HBS would be appalled at the Roman Catholic analogy.

Thus, when Harriet Beecher Stowe interceded to defend Lady Byron against accusations of having driven her husband out of the marriage bed and into the arms of  countless women and ultimately the Countess Guiccioli, with her cold demeanor, it would be analogous to Mother Teresa intervening to defend Jackie Kennedy of having driven John F. Kennedy into the arms of Marilyn Monroe. 

Although Lord Byron was not a king or president, his literary influence was worldwide --and the influence of the scandal of his life (accusations of incest with his half sister Augusta Leigh resulting in a daughter)-- is analogous to the Monroe/Kennedy scandal of our time in its intrigue and tragedy.

In her autobiography, Countess Guiccioli, Lord Byron's mistress, reveals all(or conceals all, depending on your faction),thirty years after his death.
 Mrs. Stowe refers to her as "this Guiccioli lady".

Mrs. Stowe reveals Lord Byron's incest decades after Lady Byron's death.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

* Why isn't "Lady Byron Vindicated" a PBS Documentary?

"Woman as a Human Being with Human Rights"


Lady Byron Vindicated 

[Had Lady Byron broken her silence it would have] been Mrs. Leigh’s utter ruin.[Augusta Leigh, sister to Lord Byron] The world may finally forgive the man of genius anything; but for a woman there is no mercy and no redemption. (510 kindle)

Lord Byron had the beauty, the wit, the genius, the dramatic talent, which have constituted the strength of some wonderfully fascinating women . . .Such an enchanter in man’s shape was Lord Byron. (575-9)

For Lady Byron, Moore had simply the respect that a commoner has for a lady of rank, and a good deal of the feeling that seems to underlie all English literature, --that it is no matter what becomes of the woman when the man’s story is to be told. (686)

Literature has never yet seen the instance of a person of Lady Byron’s rank in life, placed before the world in a position more humiliating to womanly dignity, or wounding to womanly delicacy.
The direct implication is, that she has no feelings to be hurt, no heart to be broken, and is not worthy even of the consideration which in ordinary life is to be accorded to a wisow who has received those awful tidings . . . (703+)

But, oh that a noble man should have no higher ideal of the love of a high-souled, heroic woman! [than a dog’s love for its cruel master] Oh that men should teach women that they owe no higher duties, and are capable of no higher tenderness, than this loving, unquestioning animal fidelity!  The do is ever-loving, ever forgiving, because God has given him no high range of moral faculties, no sense of justice, no consequent horror at impureness and vileness.
Much of the beautiful patience and forgiveness of women is made possible to them by that utter deadness to the sense of justice which the laws, literature and misunderstood religion of England have sough to induce in women as a special grace and virtue. ( 846)

If these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?  If the peeress as a wife has no rights, what is the state of the cotter’s wife? (853)

Thomas Campbell, the poet . . . It appears  he did not believe it a wife’s duty to burn herself on her husband’s funeral-pile . . . and held the singular idea, that a wife had some rights as a human being as well as a husband. (893)

. . .compelled her to defend the heads of her friends and her parents from being crushed under the tombstone of  Byron. (902)

This was not kicking the dead lion, but wounding the living lamb, who was already bleeding and shorn, even unto the quick (988)

There has always been in England, as John Stuart Mill says, a class of women who glory in the utter self-abnegation of the wife to the husband, as the special crown of womanhood. (1004)

Is it, then, only to slandered men that the privilege belongs of desiring to exculpate themselves and their families and their friends from unjust censure? (1013)

Reviewing this long history of the way in which the literary world had treated Lady Byron, we cannot wonder that her friends should have doubted whether there was left on earth any justice, or sense that anything is due to woman as a human being with human rights. (1188)

The mistress of Lord Byron could easily be stirred up and flattered to come before the world with a book which should reopen the whole controversy and she proved a facile tool  . . . The book was inartistic, and helplessly, childishly, stupid as to any literary merits, -- a mere mass of gossip and twaddle . . .( 1222+)

Men of America, and men of England, what do you think of this?
When Lady Byron was publicly branded with the names of the foulest ancient and foulest modern assassins, [Clytemnestra and the Marchioness of Brinvilliers] and Lord Byron’s mistress was publicly taken by the hand, and encouraged to go on and prosper in her slanders, by one of the oldest and most influential British reviews [Blackwood], what was said and what was done in England.

I have another word, as an American, to say about the contempt shown to our great people in thus suffering the materials of history to be falsified to subserve the temporary family purposes of family feeling in England . . . we Americans have been made accessories, after the fact, to every insult and injury that Lord Byron and the literary men of his day have heaped upon Lady Byron. (1416+)

I claim for my countrymen, and for women, our right to true history. (1430)

‘He was guilty of the charge of incest with his sister’ [Lady Byron to Harriet Beecher Stowe] (1684)

He set before her the Continental idea of liberty of marriage; it being a simple partnership of friendship and property, the parties to which were allowed by one another to pursue their own separate tastes. He told her, that, as he could not be expected to confine himself to her, neither should he expect or wish that she should confine herself to him; that she was young and pretty, and could have her lovers, and he should never object; and that she must allow him the same freedom. (1719+)

After a few short months of married life, -- months full of patient endurance of the strangest and most unaccountable treatment, --she comes to them [her parents], expelled from her husband’s house, an object of hatred and aversion to him, and having to settle for herself the awful question, whether he is a dangerous madman or a determined villain.

Such was this young wife’s situation. (2025)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

* A Century of Sorrow

"They will water the Tree of Liberty with our children's blood and treasure." 

from Freedom Fighters, a novel by  Norm Weissman, author of Snapshots USA

(Sometimes a single sentence captures a hundred years of sorrow and anguish.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

* The Saint of Slaves Violates Lady Byron's Confidence

"He is the absolute monarch of words and uses them as Bonaparte did lives, 
for conquest . . ."  

Lady Byron 

An impassioned defense of Lady Byron for having left her husband, this work helped stir up the posthumous controversy between the supporters of Lord Byron and those of his wife. The tempest between the two groups has continued almost to the present day. Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1870 book studied the famous Byron marriage controversy from its beginnings in 1816 right up to the time of publication of her book. A central feature of the book is the chapters on Lady Byron as Stowe knew her, and on Lady Byron's story of the attacks on her after separating from Byron as related to Stowe. This was a major indiscretion on the part of Mrs. Stowe, in whom Lady Byron had confided in confidence concerning Byron's relations with his half-sister (which were later fully acknowledged in Astarte). Amazon. com

Byron's Half-Sister

Lady Byron

Lord Byron on his deathbed at age 36.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

* Remedy

Yale Alumni Magazine
Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor, 

Regarding Nicole Allen's article Confusion and Silence in the July /August edition of YAM, the problem suffers from Ivory Tower syndrome.  When Ms. Allen records a female Yale student saying that "when she learned that an athlete she knew was telling his teammates. . . that he's seen her having sex on the floor of his common room, and that her ' vagina was a petri dish that was growing STD's from all the people I'd hooked up with,' " Ms. Allen is not recording an instance of a female student being sexually harassed; she is recording an instance of a female student being slandered. 

Slander does not need a university committee to ponder its intention. It has remedy in the courts: a lawsuit. 

Paul D. Keane
M. Div. '80

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

* The Glory and the Gory

Link to:    


Paul Keane

a review


The First Vermont Cavalry in the Civil War: A History

Sunday, July 17, 2011

* Droughtanol

Why can't we take away that Ethanol subsidy to corn farmers and send the corn (or subsidy) to Africa instead?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

* Mortality Managers

Would you give these mercantile eyes power of attorney over your mother's Living Will?

Dr. Jim Kim, President of Dartmouth College
David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times

Friday, July 15, 2011

* Controlling ( Female?) Sexuality from Paradise

Virgin Truth ?

I  read that the word "virgin" in the Bible when translated from original Old Testament sources actually means "young woman" not unimpregnated woman.

Similarly, I have read that the word "virgin" in the Koran when translated from original sources actually means "white raisins".

Both of these words are crucial to their respective religion's rewards in the Hereafter:  In Christianity, Christ promises eternal life and his authority comes from having been been a god born miraculously:  conceived of a woman only,  not the conceived  son of Joseph and Mary.

In the Koran, the promise of Paradise includes the reward of 72 virgins, unimpregnated women.

Regardless of the authenticity of these ignored sources, the effect of the use of the word "virgin"  by these two world religions is to perpetuate patriarchal control of women's sexuality. They implicitly make promiscuity taboo through the paradisical valorization of the ultimate opposite: virginity.

Does either religion seek to do the same for MALE sexuality?

Perhaps the Roman Catholic expression of Christianity  attempts this feat through the valorization of celibacy in its priests.

I have heard that recently that experiment has been unsuccessful to the tune of millions of dollars in court costs for child-abuse lawsuits.

* Sawing Budgets Not Bones: First, Do No Harm to the Budget

Sorry about your back injury.  We've exceeded our bottom line and we refuse to operate in the red (so to speak).

David Brooks tells  readers today  in his NY Times Op-Ed piece  Death and Budgets  that "a large  share of our health care spending is devoted to ill patients in the last phases of life. This sort of spending is growing fast. Americans spent $91 billion caring for Alzheimer’s patients in 2005. By 2015, according to Callahan and Nuland, the cost of Alzheimer’s will rise to $189 billion and by 2050 it is projected to rise to $1 trillion annually — double what Medicare costs right now."

Dartmouth President Jim Kim is quoted in today's Dartmouth as saying at a forum at the school yesterday that " the rates of back surgery across the country to illustrate the number of unnecessary medical procedures that occur each day in the United States. While certain hospitals perform about nine surgeries per 1,000 patients per year, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center only performs 2.3 because of more diligent screening. ‘If the entire country performed these surgeries at this rate, we’d save about $580 million a year in health care costs’ Kim said.”

Perhaps the New Hippocratic Oath should read: First, do no harm to the budget.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

* The Oedipal Moment in Hollywood History: Unseating a Celluloid God

Who's Stellar?

Marlon Brando's achievement  as Stanley Kowalski   in A Street Car Named Desire (above) is superseded decades later by Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now  who admits to performing his signature scene as  Capt. Benjamin L.  Willard, drunk, with an actual bleeding hand,  as a kind of exorcism; and performing it , as an awe-struck co- star with the then aging Brando as Kurtz, i.e. in the shadow of all that Brando's famous scream of "Stella!" had come to symbolize in the Hollywood pantheon of gods.

The Freudian question begged by this famous Oedipal Moment in Hollywood history, recorded for all the world to see when Martin Sheen was 36, is how can his now 46 year-old son, Charlie Sheen, the highest paid actor in television at 2 million dollars an episode of the series Two and a Half Men, supersede his own father's achievement, i.e., create his own Oedipal Moment?

Martin Sheen, a recovering alcoholic, clearly embraces the  illness / recovery language of Alcoholics Anonymous in the following clip:

Behold the following Oedipal Moment choreographed consciously or subconsciously by Charlie Sheen:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

* Vermont Rules

Not Giving a Hoot

I have become increasingly  proud of the State I chose to live in 25 years ago --- the Green State with mountains.
Vermont does what is right. It doesn't give a hoot about the rest of the country's opinion.
Vermont leads.
The only State in the Union to outlaw slavery in its Constitution (1779), Vermont (most of Vermont, that is) judges character, not clothing - - - INSIDE not OUTSIDE:  It elected the First Jewish woman Governor; First Socialist Mayor to become U.S. Congressman, then U.S. Senator;  it legislated  the First statewide ban on billboards; the First Civil Union law; and it will soon become the First (I believe) State in the Union to have the foresight and self-preservation to decommission a nuclear power plant (a decision it made prior to Japan's catastrophe and Germany's similar decision, subsequent to that catastrophe, to decommission  all of its power plants).  

Now, a fascinating article by Robert D. Rachlin, The Sedition Act of 1798 and the East-West Political Divide in Vermont  has given me two more reasons to be proud I'm a Vermonter :

  • Vermont defied the Fugitive Slave Act  with counter-legislation :   ". . . in 1850, the Vermont legislature excited a national uproar and general disapproval by its enactment of the Habeas Corpus Law, which, in defiance of the federal fugitive slave laws, imposed on state’s attorneys the duty to protect fugitive slaves. Vermont, the first state to outlaw slavery in its constitution, had a history of antislavery legislation predating 1850. The Vermont law was justly seen as an attempt to nullify the Compromise of 1850, signed by President Millard Fillmore, which greatly strengthened the existing fugitive slave laws."

    Vermont Congressman Lyon "settling"  a dispute with Connecticut Congressman Griswold on the floor of Congress, 1798

  • A Vermont Congressman was re-elected while incarcerated (for four months in 1798):  "Vermonter Matthew Lyon was the target of the very first prosecution under the Sedition Act. This initial foray against dissenters is the more remarkable in that its target was a sitting congressman  . .  .While in jail, he campaigned successfully for reelection to Congress, the only instance in U.S. history of a successful congressional candidacy conducted from behind bars. With the help of  friends his fine was paid,and he promptly returned on a journey to Congress, accompanied along his route by widespread popular adulation." (p. 139)

Note for the non-historian:  it is best to read the "Conclusion" first in Mr. Rachlin's article since the relevance to today's world shines through in those paragraphs.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

* Thornton Wilder's Defense of Marriage Act

In the Skin of Our Teeth, Act II, George Antrobus has just announced to Mrs. Antrobus that he is leaving her for Sabrina, their former maid in another incarnation of their 5000 year marriage, and that he wants a divorce.

Mrs. Antrobus :

Well, after living with you for 5000 years I guess I have a right to a word or two, don't i?
. . .
    Calmly, almost dreamily.

I didn't marry you because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. 
    She takes off her ring and looks at it.

That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage       . . . And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love, that protected them -- it was that promise."

Act II
The Skin of Our Teeth
(the lifelong bachelor)
Thornton Wilder

* " . . . What is it good for?" "Absolutely Nothin' "

"There are no dogs left in 


Mrs. Antrobus

The Skin of Our  Teeth
Thornton Wilder

(1942 production with Tallulah Bankhead as Sabrina)

Monday, July 4, 2011

* "Come out to the farm."

Uncle Walter, my mother's uncle by marriage: Family legend has it that he is part Native American.

Aunt Bertha (Auntie B ),my mother's aunt, by blood. 

Uncle Walter, 73, Aunt Bertha, 65, in 1951 in front of the main house  (which they lived in unheated, except for fireplaces,  in the summer) on their newly purchased  25 acre "farm", band leader Paul Whiteman's abandoned summer estate in Killingworth, Connecticut which had no electricity  or phone except for a generator which turned on to flush the toilet and listen to the radio for a few minutes.  Uncle  Walter  got up to stoke a wood stove four times every night. They lived by kerosene lamp until 1961, when he was 84 and she was 76. They had eight litters of doberman pinchers from Duke  (a black male) and Duchess (a red female) over the years.

My brother Chris (aka Kit) and me in 1951.

The former caretaker's house on "the farm" where  Aunt Bertha and Uncle Walter lived in the winter.

My mother's sister, June, and my cousin Philip, on  "the farm" in 1951.

Kid Stuff

I had a dream last night I was on their farm again.  They've been dead for 50 years, but I could hear their voices in my dream and feel their  grouchy, Yankee, warmth.  Aunt  Bertha always 'wanted children" my mother told me, but "couldn't have them."  It's tough being childless if you want them.

I never realized till forty years after they were dead that they bought that farm for my brother and me. They had no children, and their way of making money was to buy dilapidated property, live on it, fix it up, and sell it for a profit.

In 1951 at the ages most people would retire (73 and 65) Uncle Walter and Aunt Bertha bought the abandoned  25-acre summer estate of the King of Jazz (Rhapsody in Blue band leader Paul Whiteman) on Iron Works Road  (off Roast Meat Hill, so named for a barn-fire which killed all the cows) in Killingworth, Connecticut, an hour drive from my parents house outside of New Haven in Hamden.

What a place! No phone. No TV! No electricity except when you flushed the toilet thereby turning the generator on (also permitted for half an hour evening and morning to listen to radio).  kerosene lamps, wood stove.

What kind of crazy old Yankees would live there at retirement age? And why?  Were they trying to recapture the past?

They had bath tub, only a shower stall in the garage under the caretaker's house (where the wood stove was also located) and  no hot water! Aunt Bertha had to come in to town once or twice a year to our house  to "take a hot bath." Uncle Walter never did!

They lived there for ten years , and then sold it when I was 15, and bought three  dilapidated beach houses in Westbrook, Connecticut which they fixed up.  Uncle Walter even dug a full cellar by hand (wheelbarrow-by-wheelbarrow) when he was 85 years old. They lived there till they died, she at 78 he at 87.

When I was in sixth Grade, about to graduate to Junior High School,  I had an autograph book which I got all my classmates and relatives to sign.  My father wrote in his handsome architect-trained printing a philosophical sentence about "talents, like gold, become refined in proportion to the effort exerted to refine them."

I showed this  autograph book to Auntie B and Uncle Walter, when they came to our house, one of the two times a year they  dressed up and came to town---- for Thanksgiving  or Christmas dinner.

I nagged Uncle Walter to sign it after Auntie B did in the beautiful penmanship she was so proud of having acquired at the Framingham Business School . He kept refusing and my mother told me not to bother him further, but being a kid, I did.  I didn't realize that he hadn't written a anything beyond his own name for over 20 years (Aunt Bertha took care of all the business).

Finally he took the autograph book and with great labor forced his enormous, muscled hands  around a pen and wrote these words, the only words I ever saw him write: "Come out to the farm."

For ten years my mother, grandmother and brother and I had driven the hour to Ki8llingworth on a Sunday once a month to go "out to the farm." Once or twice i spent a week there alone with Auntie B and Uncle Walter.  It wasn't entirely roughing it: Aunt Bertha had a 1951 Oldsmobile '88.

I took it for granted. All the work he put into that place; fixing up and painting three houses, a dog kennels and a one room, sod-roofed log cabin (with a hole in the roof). he used a hand mower and a scythe to cut the grass, and an Abe Lincoln axe to chop wood.  If it snowed, he shoveled the quarter of a mile driveway up-hill by hand. It took two, some-times three, days.

"Come out to the farm" is as close as this tough, childless, old man could come to saying:  "It's your home too."

But, of course, I didn't realize that till forty years later.

What I would give to have that autograph book now.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

* Shakspear [sic] Period !

The world is going to hell, or rather, it is falling apart at the seams.  It's most basic glue, rules of punctuation and grammar, no longer sticks  ( the rules are no longer observed )------and no one bats an eyelash.  And I'm not just talking about text-messaging.

thisweek [sic]

Doesn't it look funny?  Shouldn't it read This Week since it is the title of an  abc [sic] Sunday morning talk-show?

At the end of that show there is a segment of obituaries called IN MEMORIAM.  The titles read something like this:

Lt John J  Jones
Cpl Sally A Adams
CPT Jean P Smith

[sic] [sic] [sic]

Shouldn't there be a period after the middle initial? After the abbreviated military title? And why would Cpt. be all capitals CPT [sic]?

These are small matters, although the period after the  "S" in Harry S Truman is a matter which receives great  attention  since he is a former President of the United States and he  had no middle name : The "S" is actually the letter "S" standing for a stalemate between his mother and father over family names beginning with "S" from either side of the family which neither parent could agree upon. (read links above)


THE world is not going to hell.  

MY  world is going to hell. 

Everything I learned as foundational to the rudiments of inscribing words on paper is now in a state of flux ---- including the very inscription itself: Cursive, once taught in Grades Three through Five is now only taught in Grade Three and may be abandoned entirely to keyboarding and hand printing.

Why should I care?  An old man's need to control the world he fatuously believes he once navigated  confidently?  

Even Shakespeare, whose only known handwriting is five signatures in his last will and testament and two other documents, spelled his name differently in those  few-pages of official documents. 

That's William Shakespeare, ( as in The Mt. Everest of the English Language !! ) and he could't take the care to spell his name correctly?

Sounds like a  lazy text-message teenager to me.