Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stan Hitchcock: Country Music "Musicologist"

Stan Hitchcock
(Image from Hitchcock Country)

On December 22nd, I posted an entry on David Lynn Jones -- the multitalented songwriter, singer, and musician who has become somewhat of a hermit in recent years -- and in that post, I linked to a video on You Tube that has David Lynn playing and singing his song "When Times Were Good, and You Were Mine," accompanied on guitar by Stan Hitchcock.

In that blog entry, I wrote:
Meanwhile, I found a video at You Tube of Jones playing a piece with country musician Stan Hitchcock in the latter 1980s, I think, for Stan Hitchcock's Heart to Heart show on Country Music Television.
Well, I was wrong about the date, for Stan Hitchcock himself visited my blog and courteously corrected my errant speculation in the course of saying several complimentary things about David Lynn Jones:
Jeff, I've been in music professionally for 50 years in 2009 and David Lynn Jones is the single most talented artists/songwriters I've ever had the pleasure to sit across a guitar with. David and I became friends back in the 80's when I was running CMT and I had a show called "Stan Hitchcock's Heart to Heart". The particular cut you are offering, from You Tube, is from a Heart to Heart that David and I did in Branson, MO in 1994 and one of my very favorites. He's got so much music in him that somehow we need to get more of it out for the world to enjoy. Thanks for offering this clip of "Stan Hitchcock's Heart to Heart" and may your gypsy wanderings be good. From one Ozark Mountain boy to another, Best Wishes on the New Year.
Flattered that my little blog should receive such attention, I replied:
Stan, it's an honor for me to welcome you here in your visit to my little Hillbilly-Gypsy blog.

I never would have expected this, but thank you for dropping in and clarifying the date of the video: 1994. I happened to see David Lynn that year, I believe, in my brother John's church in Viola.

A year later, I got married to my wife Sun-Ae in an old church not far from David Lynn's Bexar place, and we played his "Nightingale Waltz" on a cassette during the wedding feast there in the church.

On the way back to Salem, my hometown, we stopped at 'The Alamo' to speak with David Lynn, who was a bit embarrassed when we told him that we'd played his song at our wedding.

Anyway, a Happy New Year to you, too, and thanks again for the visit.
David Lynn's embarrassment, by the way, might stem from the fact that "Nightingale Waltz" is a song about a failed relationship and therefore not particularly auspicious for the occasion of a wedding. I would post the lyrics, but I don't have them perfectly in my memory, my brother John has the cassette with him back in our Ozark hometown, and I can't find the lyrics anywhere online. If any of my readers has the lyrics to "Nightingale Waltz" (from David Lynn's 1994 album, Play by Ear), then feel free to post them in a comment.

At any rate, Stan Hitchcock read my response to his comment and left a reply:
Good to visit with you. You have an interesting site and life. I was raised on a farm around Pleasant Hope, Missouri and moved to Nashville in 1962. Ozark blood runs true and always pulls you back home.
It certainly does exert that pull. Much of my blog has been devoted to Ozark memories, so much so that my non-hillbilly readers might find some of these blog entries difficult to identify with.

Similarly, some people might not appreciate country music. My high school math teacher, Mr. Jim Scott, who grew up in Chicago but fell in love with the Ozarks, married into an Ozark family, and made the Ozarks his home, doesn't care for country music. I once asked him -- since he'd been something of a cowboy in his younger days -- if he ever listened to country music. "Not if I can help it," he replied. And that's okay, nobody's forced to like it (though it seems that Jim's cowboy buddies may have forced him to listen to it).

However, if you like country music, or wonder what all the hollerin' is about, then try a visit to Stan Hitchcock's website, which informs us:
This is the official site for Stan Hitchcock, a country "musicologist" noted for his hit recordings in the 60's, his syndicated television shows in the 70's and his three cable television networks from the 80's to present: CMT, Americana Television Network and currently BlueHighways TV. Stan has been both a participant and an observer of this music industry over a fifty year span; traveling with the greats, singing at the top, making stars on television and discovering new paths for the music makers and their art.
The man also has his own blog there and demonstrates a quirky sense of humor:
Well, we been having a drought in Tennessee for the past couple of years so my pasture on our Deshea Creek farm is not what it should be. Denise tends her flowers, and they been doing allright, getting watered and all, but my pasture’s bout gone. Been having to buy hay for my horses pretty early. I feed good quality grass hay in big old round bales, fresh cut by one of our neighbors, Troy Patterson. Well I hauled the first couple of bales and set them out in the horse pasture and figured that ought to last my three horses for awhile. Dang, bout a week later they were going through that hay like a whole herd of hungry horses were at it. Few days later it was almost gone. I couldn't believe it. Yeah, my three horses are pretty fat, but no way they could go through hay that fast. Well, I went to pick up some more hay and sit it out in the field, this time with four big round bales. About ten that night, with a full moon shining, I went outside to kinda check things out. Real quiet I walked up to the rail fence and looked out where I had put the bales in the horse pasture. Yep, there was my three horses with their heads in the hay alright, but it was them twenty or so deer forming a semi circle around the hay that were having a field day with my hay. Them dern horses had been inviting every deer in the county to come over and chow down with them. Well, I don’t begrudge the horses having friends over for a social evening, after all they’re just being neighborly and that's a good thing.
That's right -- it is a good thing, so be neighborly and drop in on Stan sometime for music and stories.

UPDATE: Stan Hitchcock has the original of his Heart to Heart video with David Lynn Jones singing "When Times Were Good, and You Were Mine" on the Blue Highways website with better quality in its sound and its image.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Memories about James Horace Hodges: The Flora Farm

(Image from Google)

Okay, regular non-family readers, today's post is obviously yet-another blog entry oriented toward the Hodges clan, but for folks interested in old Ozark days, gather around whether kin or kith.

Cousin Bill sent a detailed family history around to several family members, asking for corrections, and of interest for me was the following passage based on information supplied in 2008 by Uncle Bill (Cousin Bill's father, William E. Hodges) concerning life on two tracts of land farmed by my namesake Grandpa Horace Hodges near the tiny Ozark Mountian communities of Mitchell, Arkansas and Flora, Arkansas, south and southwest, respectively, of the slightly larger town depicted on the map above, Viola, Arkansas (site of Grandpa Archie's near knife-fight):
Shortly after daughter Margarett's death, Horace, Nora and son William returned to Fulton County, living first in Elizabeth, then Mitchell, and from there to the Flora farm.
I'll interrupt only to note that I've seen "Margarett" spelled "Marguerite" -- by Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Cran, for example -- but I don't know which is correct. [Update: Cousin Sheila tells me that on the authority of Grandma Nora's family Bible, the correct spelling is "Marguerite."] Anyway, back to the history:
Horace worked both as a farmer and teacher. They bought forty acres near Mitchell, (south of Viola on Hwy 223), and built a small home. This house was built by Horace and brother-in-law Raymond Sanders. Several of Horace and Nora’s children were born at this Mitchell farm.

In the early 30's the farm (six miles S. W. of Viola near Flora) was purchased. It had a small log house (rented out at the time), so Horace and eldest son William (sometimes accompanied by second eldest son Paul) set up housekeeping in the barn loft, using the daylight hours to clear timber, brush and fence the farm. Nora and the other children moved to the farm's log house about two years after the purchase. This house had a combined kitchen, dining and living area and two bedrooms.

He farmed and taught the first and second grade at Cedar Park School, located close to the Wm. B. Hodges' house near Elizabeth. Horace also worked for the WPA, helping to construct the road between Viola and Mitchell (now Hwy 223). Sons William and Paul attended at least one term at Cedar Park when Horace was the teacher.
I'll interrupt, again, just to note that the WPA -- which officially stood for Works Progress Administration but unofficially for 'We Piddle Along' because workers had little incentive to work quickly -- was a New Deal employment project intended for some of the millions of men who lost their jobs during the Great Depression that started with the stock market crash of 1929, an event that might be on many minds these days. As a teenager, I worked on the WPA's equivalent for young people from poor families, a governmental program known as the Youth Corps. But readers will be more interested in the family history, so let's return:
Horace, Nora and children attended the Flora Baptist Church on Sunday morning and Sunday night, with Horace teaching Sunday school. Dad describes his father as being strict (required toeing the line) but having a good sense of humor. Dad said his father read the Bible a lot and enjoyed the Salem newspaper.

He was an avid hunter, especially in pursuit of fox. He and father-in-law Wm. Cranford Stephens, John Barber, and Cap Robbins loved to spend the night camped on an Ozark hill, drinking coffee brewed over a log fire, swapping stories and listening to the dogs run the foxes. Note, William (Dad) recalls his Grandpa Stephens never washed the coffee pot, believing a cleaning would ruin the coffee flavor.

Horace also loved to trap and fish. The hunting, trapping and fishing put food on the family table. Some trips were several days in length, especially if the destination was the White River. The family would take the wagon, stocked with food, and camp in and under it for the duration of the trip.

Life was hard, but good for the Hodges' family, with good neighbors (including William Loren DeWitt, living straight north across Big Creek about a mile) and the family and friends in and around Flora, Elizabeth, Mitchell, and Viola.

Family outings were to church, family get-togethers, weddings funerals and the necessary trips to town for needed groceries and supplies. These trips were made afoot, by horseback or by horse-pulled wagon.

Dad recalls that his father could make anything from wood and was a good carpenter.
As we all know well by now, this idyllic life came to a crashing end, and more difficult years ensued, prefigured by that cold, snowy January day and a grave waiting to be filled:
In early December of 1941, Horace was "skinning" [i.e., "skidding"] logs (on the Gilmore place, straight east of the Flora farm on the old road toward Mitchell) for later transportation to the saw mill, when a log broke loose from the chain, swung around, and crushed Horace's leg. He was able to unhook the team of horses, climb aboard one and seek help. He was transported to the V. A. Hospital in Fayetteville, and on to the V. A. Hospital in N. Little Rock. Horace died there on December 30, of a blood clot at the age of 48. Funeral services were conducted at the Elizabeth school, with burial at the Elizabeth Cemetery on a cold snowy January day.
Readers will recall that this last, sad paragraph appeared in a recent blog entry here on Gypsy Scholar, and the larger passage parallels part of Uncle Bill's report on yet-another blog entry, but one point is still unclear to me, namely, which one of Grandpa Horace's legs was injured in the accident?

In the larger passage, I learned a few new things, such as the curious fact that my "[Great-]Grandpa Stephens never washed the coffee pot used on fox hunts, believing a cleaning would ruin the coffee flavor." In his favor, I can well imagine that if lye soap were used in the cleaning, the flavor might well be ruined for future coffee-brewing.

I learned as well that I teach like my Grandpa Hodges did, for I'm also strict but with a good sense of humor.

No brag, just fact.

And if any students post comments disputing this unbragged fact, pay no attention to them. That'd be students just misbehaving, and I'll exact appropriate punishment upon the young whippersnappers myself.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Dangun Myth: Memory of Mixing?

Dangun Wanggeum

Some readers will recall a recent dispute about the meaning of Korea's Dangun legend in the comments to a blog entry on Gypsy Scholar. In that blog entry, "Priceless Pureblood," I referred to an earlier post:
Over two years ago, on April 24, 2006, I posted a blog entry on "The Very First Half-Korean," in which I noted some of the prejudice encountered here in Korea by my children -- who are half-Korean from their mother's side and various mixed-other-ethnicities-adding-up-to-half from my side.

In that same post, I noted that Koreans generally place great emphasis upon their being a "pure-blooded race" despite the irony of the very first Korean having reputedly been half-divine and half-bear-woman, and I asked, "So . . . what's the big deal about Korean purity of blood, anyway?"
One individual left a number of comments disputing my remark about "the very first Korean" as mixed, including this representative comment:
The story of Dangun has absolutely nothing to do with mixing -- you misunderstand / distort the main elements of the story. Just ask any Korean, they will explain it to you (without any kind of 'mixing'!).
In a response, I wrote (among other things):
I assume that you know the story of the god Hwanung's descent from heaven by way of Mt. Baekdu, the transformation of a female bear into the woman Ungnyeo, and the marriage of these two very different beings, resulting in the fruit [of] their union, Dangun.

Most Koreans, of course, do regard themselves as a "pure" race. That's precisely why I point out that the Dangun myth is, ironically, a myth of mixing.
But the anonymous commenter, in a further response to my points and those of my friend Charles La Shure, would have none of that:
I've never met a single Korean who considers himself mixed, go explain that!! The irony, therefore, is that you desperately distort the myth to make it fit your biased persepective! All Koreans are descendants of that union, according to the myth: therefore they see themselves as all belonging to the same race. So you can't say that Koreans are 'mixed'...
The anonymous commenter was abusively certain that all Koreans consider themselves 'pureblood' descendents of Dangun and that the original story was definitely not about mixing. I wouldn't be bringing this up again except for the appearance of Kang Shin-who's interesting article, "Is Korea Homogeneous Country?," in a recent issue of the Korea Times (12/22/2008). Among its intriguing points are the following remarks by two Koreans:
Some anthropology professors say the saying "pure Korean blood" doesn't make sense at all. "It is crazy to say Koreans are homogeneous people. You are mixed, so am I, all Koreans are mixed," said Chun Kyung-soo, professor of Seoul National University. "The term 'homogenous people' should disappear. It is a superficial term."

Han Kook-yeom, chairwoman of the Korean immigrant women center, also echoed professor Chun's views. "Originally, we were not homogeneous people. The [Dangun] myth of the foundation of Korea also shows that we are a mix of different people," she said.
Taken together, the remarks of this anthropology professor at SNU, Chun Kyung-soo, and this chairwoman for an immigrant center, Han Kook-yeom, tend to confirm something that I also wrote to the anonymous commenter:
From an anthropological perspective, the Dangun myth likely reflects an intermixing of two tribes -- an invading tribe, to which Dangun's father belongs, and a local tribe with the bear as totem animal, to which Dangun's mother belongs.
Perhaps the anonymous commenter will see today's blog entry, read the Korea Times article, and reconsider my point about the Dangun myth.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bonehead Milton

Bonehead Student
Or in PC-Speak, 'Cerebrally Challenged'
(Image from Free Dictionary)

In the latter 80s, I taught two years of freshman composition at UC Berkeley in a course called "Subject A" . . . but in the abusive usage known as 'Bonehead English'. Well, I learned so much by teaching that course -- for the first time, I came to understand what a thesis statement is -- that I was forced to conclude that I myself was a bit of a bonehead.

By certain 'standards', so was John Milton.

Bear with me a bit. Recently on the Milton List, one Milton acolyte declared that "no greater writer ever lived" than John Milton. Several of us took issue with that, not because we don't like Milton but because we also like other writers as well and don't believe that one can legitimately declare that some writer or other is the best of all writers (or, more moderately put, has no superior).

The discussion turned humorous, and Cristine Soliz -- who goes by "Cristina" -- joked that Milton wouldn't pass basic writing:
In today's academies of consumer-based politics, Milton might have gotten stuck in basic or developmental writing until he learned to have a clear thesis statement.
I responded:
Good point, Cristina! Johnny can't write! I mean, look at this tangled mess:
Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's Brook that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th' upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
And mad'st it pregnant: What in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great Argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justifie the wayes of God to men. (PL 1.1-26)
[Thomas H. Luxon, ed., The Milton Reading Room, December, 2008.]
Johnny, this just won't do as an introductory paragraph. Even ignoring the capitalization of common nouns (e.g., "Argument"?!), there are problems of punctuation. But more fundamentally still -- and likely the cause of punctuation problems -- the sentence is too long. Break it down into separate clauses and rework these as independent sentences. Build toward that 'Argument' that you mention. And stop talking about the writing process! Just write! The reader isn't interested in how difficult this assignment was -- and was it really harder than climbing (soaring?!) over a mountain? Get to the point more efficiently. You say that you have an 'Argument', so tell us what it is, exactly. I'm afraid the reader is going to be enormously frustrated with this introduction. Why not tell us at the beginning, in simple, thesis-statement form, precisely how you are going to "assert Eternal Providence, / And justifie the wayes of God to men"? I should warn you, however, that an argument of this sort is likely to be too broad. Don't undertake to explain God, the universe, and everything. It can't be done, not even if you were the greatest writer who ever lived!
You see, we're not always serious over at the Milton List.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Christmas Greeting for Jacques Sandulescu and Annie Gottlieb

Jacques Sandulescu and Annie Gottlieb

Some readers may recall that I've posted several times on the remarkable man Jacques Sandulescu, who was grabbed as a 16-year-old boy from a Romanian street as he headed for school on a winter's day in January 1945 and was taken to the Donbas region of the Ukraine to work as a slave laborer in a coal mine but managed to escape from that Stalinist labor camp despite terrible injuries to his legs from a coal-mine cave-in.

Eventually, he found himself in America, where he succeeded as a boxer, a martial arts expert, a restauranteur, a published author, and -- among other things -- even as an actor. He appears in a memorable scene in the film Moscow on the Hudson as a Russian truck driver eating in a deli who confronts the exiled and self-pitying Russian musician played by Robin Williams.

The image above comes from Sandulescu's visit to a high school in Eugene, Oregon to talk with high school kids who had read his book and had invited him to come and talk with them about his experiences. In the photos from that visit, he is already an old man but still strong and vibrant.

Everyone declines with age, however, and Sandulescu is no exception, even if he still looks remarkable at nearly 80 despite difficulty walking:

His wife, Annie Gottlieb, takes care of him in his old-age infirmities, but she sometimes could use a word of encouragement and is occasionally disappointed with old friends who no longer contact her husband, friends "who professed their devotion to J over the decades and now can't be bothered even to keep in touch with him -- whose 'friendship' has basically been reduced to the office of waiting for the news of his death, so they can wax sentimental over what an unforgettable character he was -- when he is still very much alive, isolated, disoriented, bored, and lonely, and can be brought to life for hours by a phone call that reconnects him to the mainland of his life."

I read those words by Annie Gottlieb and felt moved to write:
I only learned about Jacques and his story because of your blog, which motivated me to order the book.

Such a man deserves better friends than those who never even call . . . but in you, he has a woman wonderful enough to have made even his time in Donbas worth the ordeal since his escape led him, eventually, to you.

I'm paraphrasing his own words from a blog entry that you posted some months back after watching a television program about Hitler and WW2, so perhaps you'll recall.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever . . . Happy Holidays, at any rate.
She replied, "I'll take 'all of the above,' Gypsy Scholar! And Merry Christmas to you." I felt good to have provided words of encouragement, but I also felt that I ought to offer more than an easily posted comment, so I asked my wife if I could call them for Christmas. Sun-Ae agreed, and I wrote Annie asking for her number:
Since you don't get enough phone calls, I'll give you a call for Christmas. Just let me know your phone number (area code and all), and I'll give you a ring.

Not like the ring that I gave Sun-Ae, but this'll still ring in the season.
Annie provided her number, and I called them on their Christmas morning around 9:15. Although I had warned her that "I'm a terrible conversationalist, especially on the phone (which explains why I've never called you before)," Annie was so easy to talk to that I didn't find myself tongue-tied at all. She has a rich, warm and friendly voice and sounds as if she could be 35. I also got to talk to Jacques, whom I at first called "Mr. Sandulescu" until he said to call him "Jacques." His voice was hoarse but also warm, and even surprisingly gentle for such a tough man.

The three of us talked for only about thirty minutes, perhaps fewer, for the hour was past 11 in the evening of Christmas day, Seoul time, but we still spoke about a number of things -- for instance, Annie's current writing projects and Jacques' past acting career -- but especially his book on how he escaped from the labor camp. Apparently, the conversation had a good effect on Jacques, as Annie relates on her blog:
[H]e came all the way out of a groggy half-sleep to be lucid and grand, the old J, with someone who expressed appreciation for his story. I virtually smacked myself in the forehead ("I coulda had a V8!") -- I have a complete manuscript of his, the story of his immigration to the New World and his brief boxing career, on the computer, ready for editing, lovingly typed onto a disc almost three years ago by a Feldenkrais friend's son during a spell between employments. How is it that I haven't edited and published it?? Seeing how J comes to life when recognized as a storyteller and writer, I feel almost criminal for fatalistically sitting on that. Somehow, among all the things I have to do, I have to bring that one to the front. Kick me if I don't, will you?
I won't do any kicking because I might get kicked back, and Annie's a martial arts expert, but I did post a comment, referring to her as "Amba," her online persona:
Thanks, Amba. I really enjoyed the conversation even though I usually avoid the telephone. I did get a cellular phone about a year ago, though, and that has actually worked out rather well because no one ever calls me on it.

I'm still a hillbilly at heart, I reckon, a sort of natural-born, untheoretical Luddite.

With you and Jacques, however, I felt at ease despite the technology between us, so we'll have to do this again next Christmas.

Jacques mentioned some books other than Donbas, so maybe he and you are operating on the same wavelength and will together get those works published.
Let's hope that she and Jacques do manage to get more of their works into print. Meanwhile, if any good readers wish to visit Annie's blog and offer words of encouragement as a post-Christmas treat, feel free to do so.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Poetry Break: "Paradise Gainsaid"

Die Eva hat im Paradies wie wir alle wissen
Schonmal kräftig in einen Apfel reingebissen;
Irgendwann fand ein Hesse wohl heraus
Man presst die Äpfel besser aus,
Die Brühe vergärt wie ist das fein
so nach und nach zu Apfelwein.
(German Poem from BBC; Image from Wikipedia)
(Image by: "EvaK (Eva Kröcher) / evak_nospam (at)")

After my Christmas greeting to all, I wrote the poem below to give to my wife for an additional Yuletide present. Actually, it's intended as a poem from the fallen Adam to his postlapsarian Eve, written as a gift for their declining years:
Paradise Gainsaid
There is a garden in thy grace
Where trees of lively knowledge grow,
An earthy paradise to face
The harvest fruits of all our woe.
Here apples ferment, by and by,
Till tears of Apfelwein we cry,

If cry we must, when eyes disclose
That occidental sun aglow
Decline toward that which never shows
Its face though faced with that flambeaux.
Yet face it must we, by the bye,
Till tears of Apfelwein we cry.

Yet in this earthy garden still,
How statue-like I see thee stand
To counter time that comes to kill
All thou attempt with eye or hand,
From sacred apples' last good-bye
Till tears of Apfelwein we cry.
My wife liked these lines but observed, "It's a sad poem." I disagreed, in part, objecting that it's more stoical than sad. She considered this and nodded . . . though perhaps merely out of courtesy.

By the way, I allude to three other poems, at least, but leave to readers the task of identifying which three.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Illustration by Thomas Nast (1881)
(Image from Wikipedia)

Merry Christmas


Gypsy Scholar


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Miroslav Holub's Obscene Science and Literature?

Nude Mouse
For Science and Literature?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Pardon the nudity in the above photograph. While it may offend some community standards, it is not utterly without redeeming social value and therefore passes the 'Roth Test', first enunciated in Roth v. United States (1957) and elaborated in Memoirs v. Massachusetts (1966), which held that three elements must each be independently present for something to be considered obscene: (1) the dominant theme appeals to a prurient interest in sex, (2) the work affronts contemporary community standards on sexual matters, and (3) the work is utterly without redeeming social value.

I would argue that the nudity in the above photograph also passes the more restrictive 'Miller Test', set forth in Miller v. California (1973), which alters Roth's point number 3, such that for a work to be obscene, it must, overall, be without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value, for -- as we shall see -- the nude mouse has serious scientific value.

A few days ago, I posted A.D. Hope's poem "Tiger," which cites an epigram by Miroslav Holub as its motto: "At noon the paper tigers roar." I haven't found the source for that, but I did find sources on Miroslav and mice. According to
Holub was born in the town of Pilsen in 1923, studied medicine at Charles University in Prague, earning his M.D. in 1953 and adding a Ph.D. in 1958. He worked as an immunologist at the Microbiological Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science. It was there that he bred a strain of laboratory mice that were hairless. They were called "nude mice."

Nude mice have two copies of the gene "nu" (for nude). They are not only hairless (and so are easy to spot in the lab) but, more importantly, they lack a thymus, the fleshy gland high up in the chest. Because nude mice have no thymus, they lack T cells. T cells are lymphocyes (white blood cells) that depend on the thymus for their development. (There are two main types of lymphocytes: B cells that mature primarily in the bone marrow and T cells that need the thymus to mature). Without the thymus, there can be no T cells.

It is the inherited (genetic) lack of T cells that makes the nude mouse an ideal research tool for scientists studying the immune system.
In this era of AIDS, one can easily see how a lack of T cells in a strain of mice would be useful for research on immuno-deficient diseases, so we are indebted to Holub for these admittedly nude mice, about which he even wrote a monograph, titled Immunology of Nude Mice, that I think should not be banned even by the restrictive 'Miller Test', given the work's obviously serious scientific value, a point implicitly acknowledged in the New York Times obituary for Holub, who died in 1998.

Before his death, and more controversially, Holub introduced mice -- possibly even nude mice -- into his literary works, e.g., a passage from an absurd trial depicted in the short, dramatic prose poem "Crucifix," from his book Intensive Care: Selected & New Poems, as we note here:
In his apartment he keeps -- as has been testified to by witnesses and proven -- he keeps, yes keeps, three cats, twenty-eight mice, five of them white, one iguana, and four, yes four, parakeets. He looks after them, feeds them, day and night. Yes, this . . . this . . . this individual, who has brought such affliction on his friends and neighbors, returns to his lair in order to let white and gray mice out of their cages and feed them on cheese, bacon, yes and bread and salt, in order to stroke, yes stroke with fingers soiled by so many machinations the warty skin of an iguana . . . (page 117)
If these mice are nude, then I confess that this passage might not pass either the Miller or the Roth test, for it neither possesses obviously serious literary value nor appears to have any seriously redeeming social value despite its probable ridicule of Communist show trials, for this little drama is too short to produce its possibly intended effect of sociopolitical critique. Perhaps "Crucifix" should be read in contrast with Korean author Jang Jung-il's longer work, "Pelican," which also features an absurd courtroom scene, Christ imagery, and even an explicitly sexual encounter (though not with nude mice) and yet clearly has obvious value for Korean literature and additional value as sociopolitical critique of the rightwing military dictatorships in recent Korean history.

One might also contrast Holub's use of possibly nude mice with the potentially nude mice in a passage from fellow Czech Bohumil Hrabal's book Too Loud a Solitude -- a passage from the tale of a man whose job in Communist Czechoslovakia entailed the pulping of books that the Communist authorities had ruled did not promote socialist values -- for these mice are both abused by being dunked into the watery mass of dissolving books and misused by carrying them obscurely into bars to frighten poor waitresses:
Today for the first time I noticed I'd stopped looking out for the mice, their nests, their families. When I throw in blind baby mice, the mother jumps in after them, sticks by them, and shares the fate of my classics and wastepaper. You wouldn't believe how many mice there are in a cellar like mine, two hundred, five hundred maybe, most of them friendly little creatures born half-blind, but there's one thing we have in common, namely, a vital need for literature with a marked preference for Goethe and Schiller in Morocco bindings. My cellar is constantly full of blinkings and gnawings: in their free time the mice are as playful as kittens, climbing up and down the sides of the press and pattering along the horizontal shaft. Then the green button sets the drum wall in motion and throws paper and mice into a high-stress situation, and the cheeping fades and the mice in other parts of the cellar suddenly turn serious and stand on their hind legs, prick up their ears, wondering what those new noises are, but since mice lose track of the moment as soon as the moment is over, they go right back to their games, to munching books, the older the paper the tastier it is, like a well-aged cheese or vintage wine. My life is so tightly bound up with these mice that even though I give all the paper a good evening hosing, which for the mice is like a daily dunking, they're always in a good mood and even look forward to their bath: they enjoy the aftermath, hours of licking and warming themselves in their paper retreats. Sometimes I lose control over my mice: I go out for a beer, lost in deep meditation, I dream as I wait at the bar, and when I open my coat to reach for my wallet, out jumps a mouse on the counter, or when I leave, out scurries a pair from a trouser leg, and the waitresses go wild, climb on chairs, stick their fingers in their ears, and scream bloody murder. And I just smile and wave a wet good-bye, full of plans for my next bale. (pages 15-16)
Yet even if these mice are denuded by being dunked into the dissolving, pulpy mass of paper -- and despite their being abused and misused -- they meet the exacting standards of high literary value and even perform a commendable social service by illustrating the absurd aesthetic tastes of Central European Communist authorities, who fail to share these rodents' "marked preference for Goethe and Schiller," so I would argue that this passage from Hrabal is not obscene even by the exacting 'Miller Test'.

I could go on in this vein, but at this point, I shall, mercifully, stop belaboring my point . . . whatever it is.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

William E. Hodges, Sr.: Further Memories...

Castle Broich in Mülheim
Far From the Ozarks
(Image from Wikipedia)

Cousin Bill has sent me the follow-up to the report by his father, William E. Hodges, Sr. -- whom I know as Uncle Bill -- on our Grandfather James Horace Hodges, and what follows will go on from that death to delve into family details that might not interest non-family, so be forewarned, my dear regular, non-family readers.

Cousin Bill begins with a few final remarks about the death of Grandpa Hodges, after which comes a polished report that obviously continues the report already noted, which I now assume was written for some official reason that Cousin Bill can perhaps specify in the comments section:
Today, Dec 21st, I visited Dad and asked a few questions regarding his father's accident and death. Following are Dad's words:
In early December of 1941, Dad [i.e., Grandpa James Horace Hodges] was 'skinning' logs (on the Gilmore place, straight east of the Flora farm on the old road toward Mitchell) for later transportation to the saw mill, when a log broke loose from the chain, swung around, and crushed Horace's leg. He was able to unhook the team of horses, climb aboard one and seek help. He was transported to the V. A. Hospital in Fayetteville, and on to the V.A. Hospital in N. Little Rock. Horace died there on December 30, of a blood clot at the age of 48. Funeral services were conducted at the Elizabeth school, with burial at the Elizabeth Cemetery on a cold snowy January day.
I guess that I should note here that I've heard three versions of this accident. The first was told to me by Grandpa and Grandma Perryman when I was a child. I was told that Grandpa Hodges had been felling trees and that a log had rolled over on his leg, crushing it, and that he had died of blood poisoning. I imagined the tree falling upon him as he felled it, but that was my own, speculative contribution to the story. From Uncle Cran, I received a different version, as reported earlier on this blog:
[T]o make extra money dad would haul logs from where they were being cut, dragging them to the sawmill. The sawmill owner told him it would save time if he would haul two logs at a time. On the first trip, as the team was dragging the two logs, one caught on a stump, the logs swung around, and ran over his leg, right where a large rock stuck out of the ground. It crushed his leg severely.
Uncle Cran's version is rather different from the one that I had always imagined and close to the one related in Uncle Bill's version. I'm not sure, therefore, if Grandpa Hodges was already dragging the logs or if he was still skinning them. Perhaps this can be clarified by Uncle Cran or Uncle Bill. [Update: I've since learned that "skinning" is a colloquialism for "skidding" and therefore means that the logs were being dragged by the horses mentioned above, so all is now clear, and the two uncles' stories match.] Also, which of Grandpa's legs was injured?

For now, though, let's return to Cousin Bill's report:
I'll continue with Dad's story following a paragraph from today's visit with Dad and Mom.

First, Dad said he never dated another girl. The Hodges and DeWitt farms were only a mile apart, so Dad and Mom became acquainted being both neighbors and knowing each other through church and school. Mom said Dad was always trying to get her attention, finally accomplishing same when he bought her chocolate pie at a Flora Baptist Church Pie Sale (unknown to Dad, that pie was made by Mom's mother). Anyway, they started dating -- no dances, no movies, etc., just being together at family gatherings, church and school functions.
Rather different from how I met my wife, Sun-Ae -- on a train through Germany -- but as we'll see, Uncle Bill made it to Germany, too, and long before my time. Back to Cousin Bill:
Dad's unedited story continues:
I started dating Hazle DeWitt after buying her chocolate pie at a pie supper at the Flora Baptist Church for less than a dollar. These pies were auctioned off to the highest bidder, then the monies were used to pay the expense of a music teacher who tried to teach us kids music for a couple of weeks during the summer months after the crops were laid by. The year was 1937. She and I dated during our high school days. I graduated from high school in 1943 [which would have been about two years after the death of Grandpa Hodges], and was drafted into the Army on February 3 that same year at Camp Robinson, Little Rock, AR. From there I was transferred to Camp Crowder, Neosho, MO for three months of basic training. When basic training was over I was transferred top Camp Forrest, Tullahoma, TN. I was there some ten days, long enough to be assigned jobs. Mine was cook since I didn’t know how to drive jeeps or trucks. We were sent out on maneuvers in East Central Tennessee for about ten months to season us for service over seas.

Hazle and I were married in Nashville, at the County Courthouse on September 7, 1943. She stayed nearby as much as she could so we could be together at nights and weekends.

After the maneuvers were over, our battalion was transferred to Camp Shelby, MS, so she came to Hattiesburg and I found a place for us to stay. All we had was one room, but we were together and that was all that mattered as far as we were concerned.

Our outfit received orders for England and left New York just before Christmas 1944 aboard the British Lines' Queen Elizabeth. After ninety days there, we received our orders to go to France, landing at Le Havre. Our outfit boarded trucks for Germany. We motored across the little countries of Belgium and Luxemburg, crossing the Rhine River at Cologne and drove through Aachen. Every town was in shambles caused by Allied bombings. Our battalion was stationed at Mülheim. We had pretty nice quarters, a German family home. The German Armies surrendered on May 7, 1945, and by August 3, 1945, our Army unit was on the way to Marseilles, the southern seaport on France's Mediterranean Sea. We boarded a troop transport ship for our long trip to the Pacific War Zone. We were fortunate we didn't have to go, because the Japs surrendered on August 10, and we were ordered to the states for our separation to various Army Camps for discharge.

I was ordered to Ft. Chaffee, AR, for my discharge. The Armed Services was discharging men on a point system, so many points for the amount of years in service, overseas duty, battle campaigns plus the fact I had a wife and a little baby boy born on March 2. 1945.

Bill, Jr. was born while I was in France, and was six months old before I had the privilege of meeting him. He and his Mom were staying with her parents, therefore, he and his Grandad were pretty close buddies. He and I had to get acquainted and it took awhile. I imagine he wondered who that new man was around there with his Mom.

After I was discharged from the Army, we lived with Hazle's folks for a couple of months, and then moved to Springfield, MO so I could go to Droughons Business College. I was in school for about nine months with $90.00 a month income to live on, buy groceries, pay rent, and buy our clothes. We didn’t have much, but we were happy.

The only place I could find for us to live was small one-room trailer on the far north side of the city. I walked about four blocks to a city bus stop, rode the bus back forth each morning and evening. The only heater we had for warmth was a small kerosene stove. The thing used a couple of gallons of kerosene everyday.

We grew tired of living so far out, so I started looking for another place to live closer to town. I finally found a large room over one of the downtown stores to live in. It wasn't the best in the world, but it was a roof over our heads for awhile. It was managed by an old lady who claimed we never told her we had a small child so she tried to pretend she was insane. She began screaming and beating on the walls to try to scare us into leaving. Finally, the lady’s stupidity got the best of Hazle, who was expecting another child.

We tried to find another place to live, but there just wasn't anything to rent. I finally found a small trailer house for sale. I had to go see my Mom and she helped me borrow $600.00 to buy it.

The man I purchased it from moved it to a lot next door to some friends. We thought everything was going along smoothly until somebody complained and we had to have it moved down the street to another location which was supposed to be a trailer court. There was no running water and we had to use a restroom in back of a real estate office.

We lived in this manner for about six months. We finally were fortunate to find a decent apartment above a tire shop.
Dad never completed the rest of this written story, so I’ll continue with Mom's writing of their life as told just prior to their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
We had dated several years and after Bill was drafted in February 1943, decided to get married, and on September 7, 1943 became husband and wife in the Davidson County Courthouse, Nashville, TN. Bill began his Army stint in Europe and I continued living with my parents in Viola, AR. While Bill was in Germany, our son Bill, Jr. was born on March 2, 1945.

Bill was discharged from the Army in November 1945 and we moved to Springfield to start our first home. There, our first beautiful daughter, Judy, was born November 15, 1946.

Bill surrendered to the ministry at High Street Baptist Church in 1947 and in August 1948 we moved to Ft. Worth, Texas, so Bill could attend Baptist Bible College.

These years were lean for a young student, wife and children, and in 1950 we returned to Viola in hopes of saving money to allow continuation of schooling at Baptist Bible College in Springfield. Bill worked at Bull Shoals Dam, as I prepared for the birth of our second beautiful daughter, Barbara, born February 15, 1951 in West Plains, MO.

A few months later we moved to Springfield and after Bill graduated in 1952, assumed his first pastorate at Erie, Kansas in January 1953. We again moved in 1955 to a church in Syracuse, KS, staying only a year before moving to California. We returned to Kansas City, KS in December 1957.

We both worked in Kansas City until 1960 when Bill accepted the pastorate of Bible Baptist Church in Osage City, KS.

Our second son, Scott, was born July 24, 1964 in Topeka and I began working at Hallmarks.

We watched our children graduate from Osage City High School, Bill in 1963, Judy in 1964, Barbara in 1969, and Scott in 1982.
At this point, Aunt Hazle's account begins to sound like one of those biblical genealogies with all those begats, so if you're still reading but aren't family, the next lines might be less than enthralling, but for family members like me, they are intensely fascinating:
On May 28, 1965, Judy married Gary Lane, Osage City, and they presented us with grandchildren Michelle, born September 25, 1968, Kevin, born July 7, 1972, and Kristi, born March 22, 1978. Our first grandson-in-law, David Fiedler, married Michelle on November 17, 1990.

Bill Jr. married Marie Nordmeyer, Yates Center, on March 17, 1968, however, we were saddened by Marie’s death in November, 1984. Bill Jr. married Cheryl Johnson Newland, Topeka, on August 21, 1985, once again bringing smiles into our lives.

Barbara married LeRoy Spicer, Osage City, on June 27, 1970 and presented us with grandchildren Bryan, born October 12, 1971 and Sherri, born April 7, 1974.

Scott married Janet Sigler, Lawrence, on June 28, 1986, shortly after college graduation and gave us grandchildren Isaac, born July 14, 1989, Evan, born March 16, 1993 and Morgan, born June 5, 1996.

During all these years we traveled on summer vacations across the United States and enjoyed our expanding family. Probably the highlight of our trips was one made to Israel in 1977 with Barbara and LeRoy.

Finally, in 1988, after 35 years of having children in school we had an empty nest. We decided it was time to retire and have traveled extensively in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

We are very proud of our children and spouses, grandchildren family and the many friends we have made over the years, each bringing a special joy to our lives.

Both of us are thankful that God smiled on and blessed our marriage and has given us these fifty years together.
I'm not sure if the following also continues Aunt Hazle's report or if it presents only Cousin Bill's additions, but I'll format it as being from Cousin Bill, for Aunt Hazle refers above to 50 years of marriage, whereas what follows refers to 65 years of married life. Whether cousin or aunt, it continues the biblical begats:
*Gary and Judy Lane's daughter Michelle and husband David Fiedler presented them with grandchildren:
Victoria Fiedler
Alexandria Fiedler
Garrison Fiedler
Isabella Fiedler
*Michelle and David divorced in 2007, and Michelle married Todd Henricks in September, 2008.

LeRoy and Barbara Spicer's daughter Sherri and husband Brian Hensyel presented them with grandchildren:
Collin Hensyel
Ethan Hensyel
Dad and Mom celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary on September 7th, 2008, with the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in attendance.

Kristi Lane (Gary and Judy's youngest daughter) married Drew Heintzelman on November 1, 2008.
Well, there it is, the story from the time of Grandpa Hodges through Uncle Bill to Cousin Bill and beyond into the future. Other relatives will undoubtedly have learned a lot if still too little, and non-family members may have learned far too much, but at least everybody will be unsatisfied with what they know or don't know and can therefore share their sense of dissatisfaction in common, which is a good thing in a world where we are too often divided by our differences.

Peace to all in this Christmas season.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

David Lynn Jones: "When Times Were Good and You Were Mine"

David Lynn Jones
Heart to Heart Classics
(Image from You Tube)

Yesterday, I received an email from a friend of David Lynn Jones back home in the Ozarks. He wanted to let me know that he might be working on some old Jones tapes, including the gospel music tape that I've previously written about on this blog. These tapes were made back in the early to mid-nineties and were thought to be mostly lost but seem to have been found, and a couple of Ozark folks are planning to make an attempt at digitalizing the recordings. Let's hope that this pans out.

Meanwhile, I found a video at You Tube of Jones playing a piece with country musician Stan Hitchcock in the latter 1980s, I think, for Stan Hitchcock's Heart to Heart show on Country Music Television.

The song is one that David Lynn Jones wrote, "When Times Were Good and You Were Mine," which I believe has been recorded by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
There's a place, I can go, in my memories,
Back to a life I chose to leave behind,
And sometimes I still need to remember
When times were good, and you were mine.

I'm still livin' with my reasons for leaving.
They must have seemed more important at the time,
'Cause now, I only dream about the two of us,
When times were good, and you were mine.

I've still got everything that came between us,
This old guitar and a weakness for the wine,
So tonight, I thought I'd write one for the memories
When times were good, and you were mine.

There's a Golden Eagle rollin out of Memphis
And a country singer still lost between the lines,
And I know the old road I'm on will never lead me
Where times were good, and you were mine.

I've still got everything that came between us,
This old guitar and this weakness for the wine,
So tonight, I thought I’d write one for the memories
When times were good, and you were mine.
If you missed the links above, then use this one here to access You Tube and watch David Lynn Jones play and sing "When Times Were Good and You Were Mine" before somebody yanks it off the internet.

I wish that there were more online.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tigers of Paper . . . and of Metaphysique

Nineteenth-Century Painting
(Image from Wikipedia)

I went hunting for more poems by A.D. Hope and returned from my hunt with a paper tiger . . . followed by a more authentic one in the same poem (and another scary one in a different poem shortly thereafter):
At noon the paper tigers roar
- Miroslav Holub

The paper tigers roar at noon;
The sun is hot, the sun is high.
They roar in chorus, not in tune,
Their plaintive, savage hunting cry.

O, when you hear them, stop your ears
And clench your lids and bite your tongue.
The harmless paper tiger bears
Strong fascination for the young.

His forest is the busy street;
His dens the forum and the mart;
He drinks no blood, he tastes no meat:
He riddles and corrupts the heart.

But when the dusk begins to creep
From tree to tree, from door to door,
The jungle tiger wakes from sleep
And utters his authentic roar.

It bursts the night and shakes the stars
Till one breaks blazing from the sky;
Then listen! If to meet it soars
Your heart's reverberating cry,

My child, then put aside your fear:
Unbar the door and walk outside!
The real tiger waits you there;
His golden eyes shall be your guide.

And, should he spare you in his wrath,
The world and all the worlds are yours;
And should he leap the jungle path
And clasp you with his bloody jaws,

Then say, as his divine embrace
Destroys the mortal parts of you:
I too am of that royal race
Who do what we are born to do.
One might think that "stars" does not rhyme with "soars," but in Australian, it does . . . just in case anyone was thinking to object.

According to Wikipedia, "paper tiger" is a literal translation of the Chinese zhǐ lǎohǔ (Chinese: 紙老虎), meaning something that seems as threatening as a tiger but is really harmless, but you knew that. A.D. Hope borrows Miroslav Holub's line "At noon the paper tigers roar," but I don't know from where he lifts it. Undoubtedly not from Holub's immunological works.

Hope's poem should probably be read in conjunction with William Blake's 1794 poem, "The Tyger":
The Tyger
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
In one of the English lessons that I gave to my daughter, we read this poem by Blake, and she loved it . . . in her innocence. Perhaps she should also read Hope's tiger poem to help her learn the difference between real and paper tigers.

I'm still working on that difference.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Katha Politt: "The Expulsion"

Poet, Essayist, Controversialist
(Image from Wikipedia)

Two days ago, I posted A.D. Hope's counterfactual account of the Fall; yesterday, I posted my own no-account account; and today, I am posting Katha Pollitt's somewhat-less-subjunctive interpretation.

My copy of this poem comes from a posting on the Milton List by Judith Herz, who teaches at Concordia University, in Montreal.
The Expulsion (2002)
Adam was happy -- now he had someone to blame
for everything -- shipwrecks, Troy,
the gray face in the mirror.

Eve was happy: now he would always need her.
She walked on boldly, swaying her beautiful hips.

The serpent admired his emerald coat,
the Angel burst into flames
(he'd never approved of them, and he was right).

Even God was secretly pleased: Let
History Begin!

The dog had no regrets, trotting by Adam's side
self-importantly, glad to be rid

of the lion, the toad, the basilisk, the white-footed mouse,
who were alse happy and forgot their names immediately.

Only the Tree of Knowledge stood forlorn,
its small hard bitter crab apples

glinting high up, in a twilight of black leaves:
how pleasant it had been, how unexpected

to have been, however briefly,
the center of attention
Crab apples? I could have sworn the fruit was peaches! Odd that we should have so little knowledge of the Tree of Knowledge. Perhaps our lapsarian birth was but a sleep and a forgetting. Yet if Katha Pollitt's report be the correct one, then I can readily accept the crab apple tree as Tree of Knowledge, for that would explain the crabby state into which we've fallen.

But only briefly the center of attention? We're still harping on about that tree today.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Break: "Paradise Hoped"

Adam and Eve
Franz von Stuck (1863-1928)
German Symbolist Painter
(Image from Uzi Dornai)

Yesterday, I promised to "post another poet's different interpretation of the expulsion" from the Garden of Eden that one reads in Milton's Paradise Lost. I suppose that today's poem keeps that promise . . . but not in the way that I'd anticipated.

In short, I'm posting my own poem, an aesthetic response that I composed yesterday to A.D. Hope's poem "Paradise Saved" -- which you'll need to read first to understand my poem:
Paradise Hoped
In minus four-oh-oh-and-four A.D.
Declinéd Man to eat with gracious Eve,
So beateth hope eternal to deceive
The Man for not partaking of that tree
From pride that goeth ever toward a fall
That cometh not in manly Paradise:
Adam and Eve were but a pair of dice
That came up snake eyes, even to appall.

Odd then that Eve receive a help to meet
Her all forlorn upon the dusty ground,
While Adam, wedded not to other Eve,
Forever hopeless hope-filled breast to beat
In loving dirge to love with mournful sound:
"Woman," whose woe he clove but could not cleave.
Such was my response to Hope's hopeless poem -- hopeless for Adam . . . and differently hopeless for Eve.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

A.D. Hope: "Paradise Saved"

A.D. Hope
Not Anno Domini Hope
(Image from

Australian poet Alec Derwent Hope (1907-2000), better known as A.D. Hope, is one of those well-known poets whom I'd never before heard of . . . never before Milton scholar John Rumrich posted on the Milton List a poem by Hope's that presents a version of the Fall other than the one Milton presents in Paradise Lost:
Paradise Saved
Adam, indignant, would not eat with Eve,
They say, and she was driven from his side.
Watching the gates close on her tears, his pride
Upheld him, though he could not help but grieve,
And climbed the wall, because his loneliness
Pined for her lonely figure in the dust:
Lo, there were two! God who is more than just
Sent her a helpmeet in that wilderness.

Day after day he watched them in the waste
Grow old breaking the harsh unfriendly ground,
Bearing their children, till at last they died.
While Adam, whose fellow God had not replaced,
Lived on immortal, young, with virtue crowned,
Sterile and impotent and justified.
I suppose that there are always consequences, but if -- as the poet says -- God is more than just, why would He leave Adam bereaved? Perhaps because of Adam's pride? Yet, pride is a sin -- the authentically original one -- so why would Adam remain in Paradise? Because he didn't break the sole command not to eat of that tree in Hope's counterfactual reconstruction? Therefore no punishment? Or was the penalty for his pride the punishment of remaining, unloved, in the Garden?

Tomorrow, I'll post another poet's different interpretation of the expulsion.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Raymond Ibrahim: Al-Qaeda's 'Contradictory' Statements?

Raymond Ibrahim
(Image from

Raymond Ibrahim, whom I've previously cited for his report on the Coptic priest Father Zakaria, is better known for his published book, The Al Qaeda Reader, but has also recently published an article for The Middle East Review of International Affairs, "An Analysis of Al-Qaeda's Worldview: Reciprocal Treatment or Religious Obligation?" (asp, pdf, in Volume 12, No. 3, September 2008), in which he compares the vastly different justifications made by Al-Qaeda to Westerners and to Muslims, respectively, for the 9/11 attacks.

Ibrahim calls the statements made to Westerners "propaganda" and the statements made to Muslims "theology," and he characterizes these as contradictory. I'm not sure that, strictly speaking, these two categories are contradictory, for both can express Al-Qaeda's motives, but we'd have to look closely at Ibrahim's article to judge for ourselves concerning contradictions in specific statements. Let's therefore look:
Al-Qa'ida has maintained that its hostilities to the West have absolutely nothing to do with the latter's freedoms. Speaking to the Americans, bin Ladin asserted, "From the start, I tell you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life; free men do not underestimate their security -- contrary to [President George W.] Bush's claim that we hate freedom. If so, let him explain to us why we have not attacked Sweden, for instance." [The Al Qa'ida Reader, 214].

Speaking to the Europeans, bin Ladin tries to define terrorism: "[W]e inform you that your description of us as 'terrorists' and our actions as 'terrorism' necessarily means that you and your actions must be defined likewise. Our actions are merely reactions to yours . . . ." (The Al Qa'ida Reader, 234)

Finally, bin Ladin makes it quite clear that terrorism is used only in reciprocity since al-Qa'ida has no other choice: "Shall a man be blamed for protecting his own? Self-defense and punishing the wicked in kind -- are these shameful [acts of] 'terrorism'? And even if it is, we have no other option." (The Al Qa'ida Reader, 216)

Taken together, all these messages assert that the terror al-Qa'ida inflicts upon the West has nothing to do with Western freedoms and everything to do with reciprocal treatment. Moreover, by stating "we have no other option" than to engage in acts of terrorism, bin Ladin clearly implies that terrorism is being relied upon as a last resort out of desperation. Thus al-Qa'ida maintains that there is no correlation between Western freedoms and Islamic terrorism -- that the latter is never used simply to suppress the former.

This is not the case when addressing the Saudis. After they wrote to the Americans saying that Islam does not allow coercion in matters of religion, bin Ladin . . . revealed his true beliefs and ultimate goals. The Saudi intellectuals had declared, "It is not permitted to coerce anyone regarding his religion. Allah Most High said: 'There is no compulsion in religion' [Koran 2:256]. Thus Islam itself does not comport with coercion." (The Al Qa'ida Reader, 40) After explaining that this verse has to do with matters of the heart and not Islam's destiny to rule the whole world, bin Ladin quotes the Hadith:
Whenever the Messenger of Allah appointed someone as leader of an army or detachment, he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and be good to the Muslims with him. Then he would say: "Attack in the name of Allah and in the path of Allah do battle with whoever rejects Allah. Attack! . . . If you happen upon your idolatrous enemies, call them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, accept it and stay yourself from them. [1] Call them to Islam: If they respond [i.e., convert], accept this and cease fighting them . . . . [2] If they refuse to accept Islam, demand of them the jizya: If they respond, accept it and cease fighting them. [3] But if they refuse, seek the aid of Allah and fight them." Thus our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue -- one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice -- and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword -- for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. [The Al Qa'ida Reader, 41-42]
On the evidence of these passages, Ibrahim would appear to be correct in claiming that Bin Ladin is expressing contradictory statements about Al-Qaeda's terrorism, justifying it to Westerners on the basis of "retaliation" and to Muslims on the basis of "jihad." I would bet, however, that Bin Ladin could reconcile the two justifications by arguing that since since infidels are in a state of rebellion against Allah, then every jihad is retaliation on Allah's behalf.

So -- to answer Bin Ladin's rhetorical question -- why hasn't Al-Qaeda attacked Sweden? Apparently, the time for that particular 'retaliation' hasn't yet arrived. But it will . . . unless the Swedes convert or pay the jizya. Either way, Bin Ladin would acknowledge, they will someday have to submit to Islam.

Incidentally, on some of my blog entries concerning Al-Qaeda's role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I've had occasional comments posted by individuals who claim that 9/11 was planned and carried out by the US government. To say that I am skeptical about such a claim would be a vast understatement. Some readers might wonder why I don't take such claims seriously, and I suppose that I could devote a blog entry to my reasons for skepticism . . . except that I suspect that I would be wasting my time. Fortunately, a website exists that poses questions to those who claim that the US government planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks, so anyone who wants to know the sort of blog entry that I would post if I had to post one can go read the article at

Sorry about today's late post, by the way, but I was too run-down from my on-going, day-long grading to get up early this morning.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ozark Memories from William E. Hodges, Sr. (born October 28, 1922)

Typical Dog Trot Log Cabin
Somewhere in the Ozarks
(Image from photoSIG)

Cousin Bill recently sent me a report on his father's memories of Grandpa Horace Hodges in the days prior to the farm near Flora. Here's what Bill wrote by way of prefatory remarks:
Just read the latest blog/comments regarding the older brother's memories of the accident and death of Grandpa Hodges. Unfortunately, I do not have additional from Dad at this time to send.

But thought the following might be of interest to you -- feel free to share same with anyone.

On the next visit with Dad, I'll get him to tell me a little more about Grandpa's accident and death, and will send to you. Also information about Dad and Grandpa Horace's clearing and fencing of the Flora farm prior to the rest of the family moving there from the Mitchell area.
I was planning to wait until Cousin Bill sent his father's details about the accident suffered by Grandpa Horace Hodges, but upon re-reading what his father has already written about childhood days, I came to realize that the report is complete as is . . . except for some apparently excised but undoubtedly exciting details about hunting foxy critters that I'm anxious to hear more about in a follow-up report.

What follows for now are the earlier memories from Cousin Bill's father, whose full name is "William E. Hodges, Sr." (to keep things straight), but I'm going to refer to him as "Uncle Bill" since that's what I've called him since my childhood:
There are times I would love to go back and relive those days again, like going swimming in the creek, catching fish, tearing down wasp nests, drowning out yellow jackets who had nest in the ground and getting stung by them. I’d swell up like a poisoned pup and be sick for a day or two.

My parents were born in Fulton County, Dad near Viola, and Mom at Elizabeth. I was the eldest son and was born in DeWitt, Arkansas. I had a sister [named Marguerite] a year and a half older, who died when she was about two years old.

My Dad’s folks farmed, Mom’s were in the dry goods, saw milling and cotton ginning business until the Depression Days, when everything went bad for him (Cranford B. Stephens).

Dad served in the Army Medical Corps during WW1. He took his basic training at Ft. Polk, LA and served in France for 18 months. After discharge, he returned home and he and mom were married.

They moved to DeWitt, AR. Jobs were scarce then, but he went to work there on a farm operated by one of his Army buddy’s father.

Dad also had an uncle and aunt living there who were sharecropping. Mom (Nora) told me they were never settled too long in any place for a very long period of time.

About a year after my sister’s death and my birth in 1922, my parents, along with the Armstrong's, moved back to Elizabeth to rent his mother’s (Jenny Hodges) farm. We all came back on a train from DeWitt to Calico Rock. This was my first train ride. I was too young to remember, but how I bragged about it when I was older. I suppose they moved all their earthly possessions on that trip also.

The folks row cropped and raised livestock, hay and grain for our existence. I must have picked a million pounds of cotton during my time. We had to grow most of our food for the winter months. I remember having to shell corn on Friday nights to take and have ground for cornmeal to make our good cornbread.

My Grandma Hodges had an orchard that produced some of the best apples and peaches. We canned them for winter use. Mom would dry the smaller ones for apple and peach pies.

Dad would plant sorghum cane and in the fall, just before frost, we would strip off the leaves, cut the tall slender stalks, pile them in bundles and cut off the cane heads. These would be fed to the chickens and live stock. Afterwards, we would haul all those cane stalks on a horse drawn wagon to a juice press, as we called it. It was a three cylinder machine driven by large cog wheels attached to a long wooden tongue, and pulled by a mule that walked around in a circle. First, we would put the large end of the cane into the machine, and slowly the whole stalks would come out on the opposite side, flattened out minus all the sweet juice which was caught in a large wooden barrel. This juice was dipped out and carried in buckets to a large copper pan, about twelve feet long, and four feet wide and some eight inches high. This pan had dividers about six inches wide, each one opened at the opposite end so this liquid would travel from one end to the other. This copper pan was placed over a large homemade furnace, built of sandstone and cemented with clay mud to seal out the air. The furnace was fired with wood, just enough to keep the juice boiling.

At the back end, Dad had built a large smokestack so the smoke could escape and not choke you to death. When the molasses was cooked and the color clear like honey, it was drained off into gallon buckets for eating. Oh boy, what a treat, molasses, butter and hot biscuits for breakfast. Also, Mom would sometimes make molasses cookies, cakes and taffy.

In the fall, we had to harvest the corn, pick peas, beans and the biggest back-breaking job of picking cotton. We would pull the white fluffy locks by hand and put them into a sack attached to a strap over the shoulder. When the sack was as full as we could get it, the sack then weighed and emptied into the wagon. After the wagon was filled and packed in tight, Dad would take this to a cotton gin to be cleaned, the seeds removed and the cotton pressed into large banded bales, weighing about 400 pounds, to be taken later to market. This would buy our clothes, shoes, supplies for school and cash to pay the upkeep of a house full of kids.

My first school was a 14x20 one-room school house, probably twenty pupils at the most, taught by a lady teacher by the name of Lula Barker. She did a pretty good job of corralling the bunch of "young'uns" as she called them. I had to walk nearly two miles to school carrying books and my lunch pail, and by lunch time it was cold. In warm weather, we would eat out under the shade tree, along with ants and all the other little bugs. I never knew what it was like to have a hot lunch at school. Sometimes we would swap part of lunch with other kids. I used to envy one kid in particular. He was the only "young'un" in his family so his parents could afford to buy bakery bread, referred to as "light bread". He was the envy of the lunch hour. How I wished my folks could afford such luxury. We all thought he was a little brat.

The house we lived in on my Grandma’s farm was a three room log house. A dogtrot or porch divided the kitchen from the living room. Our bedroom was upstairs over the living room. It was cold as ice in the winter and hot as the "underworld" in the summer. Dad and Mom's bedroom was part of the living room. There was a large fireplace in the north end of the house for heat during the winter months. You would freeze on one side and roast on the other. Well, that was the way of life for us country folks.

The kitchen was located on the east end of the house separated by the dogtrot (open hallway). Sure was a cold walk to the kitchen to eat in the cold winter months. Mom cooked on a small wood stove. She baked biscuits, cornbread, cooked the meat, vegetables and anything edible to fill up the hungry kids. She also cooked fruit and vegetables for canning so we could eat during the winter months.

Dad would fatten a pig for our fresh pork in the cold winter time. We would eat a bit of wild game during the winter months. We'd have fried squirrel and rabbit, but no possum, which wasn't our dish. Mom also would stew some of them and make dumplings so we could have a variety of dishes. So, you can see we lived sort of like Daniel Boone.

Dad loved to hunt for game so he could have hides for sale. He also loved to go fox hunting with his father-in-law, my Granddad Stephens. Granddad Stephens was a large man, white headed and sporting a big mustache, just as white as his hair. He also chewed tobacco, so his mustache was always stained, but he was a barrel of fun. Dad also loved to go on fishing trips. Often the family would go for a whole week camp out and live it up by cooking out and eating fish they caught on trotlines. We would sleep in the old wagon bed filled with hay which had a tarp cover held up by staves to keep us dry in case of rain. Feature, if you will, the old prairie schooners the settlers used to travel in.

All of us kids were all the time coming face to face with minor accidents like stubbing toes or getting thorns in our feet because we went barefooted during the summer months. The only shoes we could afford were our shoes for dress on weekends, and of course, school in the winter time.

Mom did lots of sewing for us. Made us four older boys short pants for dress out of discarded wool suits that Aunt Cora Ashley gave Mom (that Cora’s husband would no longer wear). Can you imagine how hot and sticky wool was during the summer? I just hated them, but what else could you do, this was all we had to wear. We did have overalls to wear for school though.

When I grew older, I would take Dad's two fox hounds out in the woods to chase rabbits. They would chase them into hollow logs, I would then take an axe and chop open the log, catch the rabbit and then get it ready to take to town on Monday morning when I went to school. The bus driver would let the fellows and I off, and we would sell our game at one of the local stores for our spending money. We would buy paper, pencils and candy to give to a girl we were trying to impress. So our life wasn’t always dull. By the way, this hunting deal didn't go over with Dad. It wasn't good for his fox hounds to chase rabbits, so I had to give up this hobby and pursue something else, like girls for instance, which wasn't so bad, much more fun than catching rabbits.
Hmmm . . . this tale from Uncle Bill breaks off just when it was getting very interesting. Perhaps we'll hear more about Uncle Bill's pursuit of the ladies in a report soon to follow?

Unless Aunt Hazle hears about this . . .

Blogging is getting too easy for me these days. All I need do is check my email and post whatever one of the kinfolk has sent . . . so keep those emails dropping into my inbox, and I'll keep posting them.

I don't know what my other readers think of all these Ozark reports, but the kinfolk will be happy, and if all of my kin take to reading this blog, my readership will rise exponentially!

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