Saturday, August 16, 2008

John Basinger's Paradise Lost Performance: Preliminary Remarks

John Basinger
"Paradise Lost Performance"

Nearly three years ago, a new semester had begun, and I was teaching a graduate course on Paradise Lost at Korea University but lamenting my students' lack of enthusiasm for reading the entire, long, complex, slow-moving epic, so I searched for innovative approaches and came across John Basinger's website, which reassured me that students would find the results worth their time, and I wrote:
The good new is that Milton takes his time because he's got a great story to tell.

Actor John Basinger knows this and has taken the effort not just to read the poem but to memorize and perform it.In December 2001, he gave a 3-day, one-man performance of all twelve books at Three Rivers Community College. He plans to give another performance of all twelve books on December 9, 2008, the 400th anniversary of Milton's birth. Meanwhile, anyone interested in tapes or discs of his 2001 performance can contact him by email:

I would bet that his performance justifies the effort.
Recently, that performance from 2001 was made available on DVD, so I ordered it and began listening. Unfortunately, technical flaws in the third disk interrupted my viewing pleasure, so I couldn't watch Basinger's performance of books 10 through 12.

I reported the problem and have since received a replacement, and I intend to blog about the entire performance once I've had the opportunity to finish watching it. That might not happen for a couple of weeks, for the Olympics are on this week -- taking up my television time as Sun-Ae and the kids watch South Korea's athletic efforts -- and we take a short vacation next week.

Meanwhile, Mr. Basinger has discovered my blog entry, and he sent me an email:
Dear Jeffery,

I just found your Sep 7, 2005 reference to my PL efforts. I hope your kind hopes have been born out by your viewing.


J. Basinger
At first, I wasn't sure if he meant my blog . . . or if he were referring to having just discovered the email that I'd sent three years ago when I made my original inquiry about his project and had asked him about possible tapes or disks, so I inquired:
Dear John,

Are you referring to one of my Gypsy Scholar blog entries? Or -- more likely -- to an email that I sent earlier?

Either way, the answer is yes, I am quite happy with what I've seen so far. The replacement for the flawed third DVD has arrived, so I should be able to view Books 10 through 12 soon.

It's an impressive achievement -- not just the commitment to memory but also the performance. I hope that you're getting the attention that you deserve this four-hundred-year anniversary of Milton's birth. Do you have something big planned for the actual birthday?

Anyway, I intend to blog on the DVDs after I've seen the entire performance.

Best Regards,

Jeffery Hodges
Mr. Basinger replied:
Dear Jeffery,

To a Gypsy Scholar blog. Sep 7, '05. My first visit to a great site. While aware of your specialty, I love the breadth of your interests. I have a good friend who washed up here in Middletown, CT a decade or so ago who also qualifies as a polymath, Roy Lisker. He would repay a google glance. His main web-effort is his magazine, Ferment. I hope the new DVD works okay.

One other tangential point of interest. My wife and her two sisters were born in Arkansas, in a very little town called Ravenden. The family removed to Brookings, SD when she was 5. But whenever the sisters get together, the years fall away and the accent delightfully reasserts itself.

You see, there's always an Arkansas connection! I've been through Ravenden countless times, for it's situated in the Ozarks on the highway between Hardy and Black Rock (and I even attended church camp at the nearby Ravenden Springs). In fact, my brother drove me and my family through Ravenden on our way to Memphis last February at the end of our Ozark vacation.

As for Roy Lisker and his Ferment Magazine, I've taken a look, and Dr. Lisker certainly does appear to qualify as a polymath . . . unlike me, despite Mr. Basinger's impression.

Anyway, take the time to vist Mr. Basinger's website, Paradise Lost Performances, where you can get a foretaste of the entire Paradise Lost feast.

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At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ozarkian Arkansas has produced a polymath! Im am so very thankful that geographically speaking, I have actually had dinner with an honest to God polymath.

Now I am certain to really impress the girls at the Senior Citizens' Center. However I do hope this won't entail my taking more than my hillbilly dictated regimen of Saturday baths only. The "wrinkly effect" seems to be exacerbated.

Professor Polymath? Suggestions?


At 6:36 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Polymath? Me? Hardly.

I was always second-rate at math. Bruce Cochran, Robert Adler, and Deva Hupaylo were much better.

As second-rate, of course, I tried harder...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeffery, your once offered blogspot diploma to your 'favorite' uncle has never arrived. I was going to send some coins to cover it, but Linda Gay discovered my penny collection and cashed them at the bank. I may never be able to save up the $2.50 fee again. My unimath skills are also fading, and so are my hopes.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran:

"Until that coin in the platter clinks,

Your diploma down in to Hades sinks."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being confined in the place of departed spirits, rather than flung into the abyss (not to be opened until Revelation 9:1,2), hope still springs eternal for the diploma's recovery.
As I recall E=MC2 (or 3)?; Pi R Round and CaKe R square, and PI-R square and minus 10 are rooted only when.....that's about the limit of my math, so make it in historical fiction, which I have been exhibiting recently.

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Polygons, polynomials, polymers, and polysyllables are all beyond me, Uncle Cran, so I don't know what you're talking about.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neither do I, just a little something to obfuscate the initiated, plus a phrase from a song by Harry Belafonte: "The Woman Is Smarter."
Sorry you don't comprehend the "math."
Since my true stories are doubted by some, I have labeled them "historical fiction," for the benefit of unbelievers.

At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse Me!
Read instead, "To obfuscate the uninitiated."

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Initiated, uninitiated -- I'm neither. Merely nitiated.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to a 'high, bulging forehead,' and other issues, now my {favorite} nephew labels himself as second my fuzzy "poor math" estimation, you will always be first rate.

At 3:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Uncle Cran, but I don't seem to be first rate in anything specific. Sometimes my various disabilities join in a synergistic way to produce something that appears first rate, so I've probably fooled people at times.

Jeffery Hodges

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