"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Music Tuesday: After Midnight by JJ Cale

I’m embarrassed to say that I had not heard of JJCale until he passed away toward the end of last week.  CBS News had a really fine obituary:

If musicians were measured not by the number of records they sold but by the number of peers they influenced, JJ Cale would have been a towering figure in 1970s rock `n' roll.

His best songs like "After Midnight," "Cocaine" and "Call Me the Breeze" were towering hits — for other artists. Eric Clapton took "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" and turned them into the kind of hard-party anthems that defined rock for a long period of time. And Lynyrd Skynyrd took the easy-shuffling "Breeze" and supercharged it with a three-guitar attack that made it a hit.

Cale, the singer-songwriter and producer known as the main architect of the Tulsa Sound, passed away Friday night at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. His manager, Mike Kappus, said Cale died of a heart attack. He was 74.

While his best known songs remain in heavy rotation on the radio nearly 40 years later, most folks wouldn't be able to name Cale as their author. That was a role he had no problem with.

"No, it doesn't bother me," Cale said with a laugh in an interview posted on his website. "What's really nice is when you get a check in the mail."

And the checks rolled in for decades. The list of artists who covered his music or cite him as a direct influence reads like a who's who of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — Clapton, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Mark Knopfler, The Allman Brothers, Carlos Santana, Captain Beefheart and Bryan Ferry among many others.

Young said in Jimmy McDonough's biography "Shakey" that Cale and Jimi Hendrix were the two best guitar players he had ever heard. And in his recent memoir "Waging Heavy Peace," Young said Cale's "Crazy Mama" — his biggest hit, rising to No. 22 on the Billboard singles chart — was one of the five songs that most influenced him as a songwriter: "The song is true, simple, and direct, and the delivery is very natural. JJ's guitar playing is a huge influence on me. His touch is unspeakable."

It was Clapton who forged the closest relationship with Cale. They were in sync musically and personally. Clapton also recorded Cale songs "Travelin' Light" and "I'll Make Love To You Anytime" and included the Cale composition "Angel" on his most recent album, "Old Sock." Other songs like "Layla" didn't involve Cale, but clearly owe him a debt. The two also collaborated together on "The Road to Escondido," which won the Grammy Award for best contemporary blues album in 2008.

Clapton once told Vanity Fair that Cale was the living person he most admired, and Cale weighed the impact Clapton had on his life in a 2006 interview with The Associated Press: "I'd probably be selling shoes today if it wasn't for Eric."

That quote was typical of the always humble Cale. But while Clapton was already a star when he began mining Cale's catalog, there's no doubt the music they shared cemented his "Clapton is God" status and defined the second half of his career.

I also came across this endorsement of his genius on Youtube:

Based on all that I went and bought his “TheDefinitive Collection.”  The one thing that stands out is just how humble he sounds.  His songs run contrary to the show business need to hit people over the head with its ego.  He really is a fine guitarist, and he seems like a really good soul.  Yeah, I’m enjoying it.  May he rest in peace.

Here he is on stage with Eric Clapton performing “After Midnight.” 


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Literature In The News: Jane Austen to be Placed on a Ten Pound Note

Here's a new feature for my blog, Literature In The News. There have been a couple of instances I've come across where a news article on something literary would make a good blog post but didn't write it. So here's the first.

First off, let me give a hat tip to Tom McDonald who blogs at God and the Machine for bringing this news bit to my attention. 

The first Lit in the News post will highlight Jane Austen replacing Charles Darwin on a British Ten Pound Note.  From The Guardian:   

Jane Austen has been confirmed as the next face of the £10 note in a victory for campaigners demanding female representation – aside from the Queen – on the country's cash.

Sir Mervyn King, the Bank's former governor, had let slip to MPs that the author of Pride and Prejudice was "waiting in the wings" as a potential candidate to feature on a banknote, and his successor, Mark Carney, confirmed on Wednesday that she would feature, probably from 2017.

"Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature," the new governor said.

He also announced that the Bank would carry out a review of the process for selecting the historical figures who appear on banknotes, to ensure that a diverse range of figures is represented.

"We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields. The Bank is committed to that objective, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity. That is why I am today announcing a review of the selection process for future banknote characters," Carney said. The review will be overseen by the chief cashier Chris Salmon, whose signature appears on banknotes.




I should say the feminists did agitate for a woman to make it onto the currency, and frankly they have a point.  If cultural figures make it onto the currency, then there is little reason women should not be represented.  I have to say I’m pleased they picked Jane Austen.   I love her work.  I’ve read three of her six novels, Pride and Prejudice, Emma,  and Persuasion.   I know Pride and Prejudice gets most of the notoriety, but I think Emma is her greatest work.  I guess I shouldn’t speak for the ones I haven’t read.  I do intend to read them, and it’s just about time for another.  I’ll have to put one on my 2014 list.  Any suggestions of the ones I haven’t read?

In that Guardian article the feminists admitted that Austen was not their personal choice, but they did ultimately try to put Austen in the best feminist light possible.  The truth is that Austen is not really a feminist by modern standards.  While her female characters are bright, energetic, and independent, they seek personal fulfillment in the context of traditional marriage and male/female roles.  And while her novels only tangentially address religion, religious and traditional morality color many of the decisions the characters make.  She was the daughter of an Anglican priest after all.  Despite the claims of some critics, there is nothing deconstructive or subversive about Austen.  I don’t see Austen in sympathy with modern day feminism at all.

Tom McDonald, who I gave the hat tip above, speculated what if we in the United States decided to put a writer on our money.  He suggested Washington Irving.  You can read through the comments, but it seems the most popular choice was Mark Twain.  I thought of Twain too, but ultimately I went with Walt Whitman.  I think Whitman is more universal American than Twain.  But that might be my opinion.  If you had to choose, which American author would you put on our twenty dollar bill?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: Lumen Fidei

To my current reading I’ve added the Papal Encyclical, Lumen Fidei, that was just published earlier this month and have been slowly going through it.  If you don’t know what an Encyclical is, the Wikipedia entry is informative.  This is the first encyclical (you can read it here)  I have ever read, and it’s remarkably easy reading and clear to the layman.  There is certainly theology in there, but it’s presented with such clarity and absence of specialized jargon that so baffles people who don’t have advanced degrees in Christian theology.  So far I have found it a fascinating read.  Lumen Fidei, or in English, Light of Faith, is intended to teach why faith is critical to lives, how it gives meaning to our lives, especially in our modern disconnected and secular world.  Jimmy Aiken, in his usual precise and efficient manner, gives a fine short summary of the encyclical in his blog, “14 things you need to know about PopeFrancis’s new encyclical”.

As I read it, I want to provide certain passages that catch my attention here for my Faith Filled Fridays.  Just to orient one who has not read the encyclical, it is divided into an introduction and four chapters.  The structure is the following, numbers in parentheses signify the encyclical’s paragraph numbers:

Introduction (1-7)

Chpt 1: We Have Believed In Love (8-22)

Chpt 2: Unless You Believe, You Will Not Understand (23-36)

Chpt 3: I Delivered To You What I Also Received (37-49)

Chpt 4: God Delivers A City For Them (50-60)

So far I have read through Chapter 1.  Today I’m going to give what I found to be the most interesting passage in the Introduction, paragraph number 4.  It provides the central rationale for the encyclical.


4. There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfilment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. On the one hand, it is a light coming from the past, the light of the foundational memory of the life of Jesus which revealed his perfectly trustworthy love, a love capable of triumphing over death. Yet since Christ has risen and draws us beyond death, faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion. We come to see that faith does not dwell in shadow and gloom; it is a light for our darkness. Dante, in the Divine Comedy, after professing his faith to Saint Peter, describes that light as a "spark, which then becomes a burning flame and like a heavenly star within me glimmers".[4] It is this light of faith that I would now like to consider, so that it can grow and enlighten the present, becoming a star to brighten the horizon of our journey at a time when mankind is particularly in need of light.


“A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source…from God.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Matthew Monday: Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

The family was sitting at dinner and mommy announced she was going to go visit her aunt right after dinner. I have no idea why but Matthew got one of his separation responses and started to cry that he didn’t want mommy to go.  He wanted her to put him to bed.  Mommy said no; she had promised her aunt.  Matthew was inconsolable.  Finally I said we’ll go play upstairs.  Finally he said OK. 

We played with his Hot Wheels cars upstairs for a bit.  I whispered we’ll have desert when mommy left.  "Shh," I said.  "It’ll be our secret."  Matthew put his index finger over his lips and said “shh.”  “What are we going to have,” he whispered.  “How about ice cream,” I whispered back.  “Shh,” I said putting my index finger over my lips.  He put his finger over his lips.

Mommy called from downstairs to say she was leaving.  “OK,” we said.  “Have fun.”  We heard the door close.  “Let’s make sure she left,” I whispered.  “What we gonna do?” he asked.  “Let’s look out the window.”  I pulled the blind up.  Matthew has his little table chair by the window so he can look out.  He climbed up and I stood beside him and we watched mommy walk down the front stairs and turn left and walk on.  “She’s gone,” I said.  “Let’s go get ice cream.”  “Yay,” Matthew said.  “We gonna be Indians.”  “We gonna be Indians,” I repeated. 

And then we started marching downstairs and singing.

One little, two little, three little Indians.
Four little, five little, six little Indians.
Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians.
Ten little Indian boys!

Then we looked in the freezer.  I said we had a choice.  Chocolate or Cherry Vanilla?  I thought for sure he would pick chocolate.  But he wanted Cherry Vanilla.

I started to scoop some out to put into a cup.  “Wait,” he said.  He wanted to watch.  He ran and brought over his little one step stool.  With it he’s able to look on the counter.  I put a few scoops into the cup and let him taste it.  “Here’s a spoonful with a cherry piece.  Do you like it?”  “Uh-ha,” he nodded.

We went over to the couch and watched one of his shows on the Nick Jr. channel.  It was Dora the Explorer.  We watch as we alternated a spoonful of ice cream for him and a spoonful for me.  He loved it.  Then we let Brandi (our Yellow Lab) lick the cup after we finished it. 

We did it.  And then when it was time for bed, we went back up marching and singing, “One little, two little, three little Indians…”

He was a happy camper going to bed.





Sunday, July 21, 2013

Notable Quote: Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway had so many great quotes on either writing or reading.  Perhaps this one is my favorite.

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”
            -Ernest Hemingway


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Short Story Review: Hills Like White Elephants By Ernest Hemingway

“Hills Like White Elephants” is one of the many great Hemingway short stories.  I may have said this elsewhere, but I’ll also say it here.  Hemingway was over rated as a novelist.  The Sun Also Rises I think stands as his one great novel but his other novels are either OK (such as A Farewell To Arms) or not so good.  His greatness rests with his short stories and shorter than novel length works such as The Old Man and the Sea and his memoir, A Moveable Feast.   Some of his short stories are the best ever written.  If you enjoy reading short stories, get yourself The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vegia Edition, which is the most comprehensive collection.  It contains “The First Forty-Nine Stories,” which were collected during Hemingway’s life time, and I assume the stories he considered his magnum opus, but it also pulls together the other existing stories, ones that were published during his lifetime and others which have been found and published posthumously. 

I have owned “The First Forty-Nine Stories” for a long time, well before they started collating the other stories into a collection.  If by chance you come to a used book sale and you find it at a real cheap price, get it instead of The Complete Stories.  The first forty-nine are the great ones.  I’ve read two of the unpublished and they were not remarkable.  I don’t know if the ones outside the forty-nine contain any gems but they probably don’t stack up.  The last few years I’ve been reading three to five sequentially of the forty-nine every year as I make my way to reading them all.  I’m just about a little half way.


Very little that Hemingway wrote is available free on the internet.  He mostly published after the1923 cutoff for free distribution.    However for some reason “Hills Like White Elephants” is currently available online as a pdf.  It’s only four or five pages long, so if you wish to follow this analysis and you don’t have the story, you can read ithere.  It’s a quick read.

The first thing you might ask is what the heck is this story about.  The couple (the man is referred to as the American and the female as “the girl,” though the man at one point calls her Jig) talks about some sort of medical procedure he wants her to undergo.  When I first read this story as a very young man, I could never pick up what they were talking about.  I did find out later that the procedure is an abortion.  This story is essentially a discussion on whether the girl should accept having one.  You can read the story’s Wikipedia entry. 

Here’s the situation.  The couple is sitting outside at a train station bar in Spain.  They decide to have some drinks while they wait for the next train, observing the rural terrain before them and the hills in the distance.  It’s hot, they drink a few beers and in between try an anise based liquor that is advertised.  They talk about the hills, the liquor, and the sort of meaninglessness of their lives.  Then the conversation turns toward the procedure, and that makes up for the bulk of the story.  When the train’s arrival is imminent, the man moves the baggage to the other side of the station, and while inside the bar has another drink alone, and goes out to the girl.  You wouldn’t think that’s much of a story, but what makes this great is what is unsaid and the tension of the conversation.

Before I get to the analysis, there are three questions I think the reader must try to answer in order to come to a conclusion on what this story is about.  First, is the man in the story trying to manipulate the girl into having the procedure?  Second, is Hemingway sympathetic to the man or to the girl in their conflict?  Finally, is the girl more worried about the morality of the abortion or her relationship with the man?

The story’s structure divides into three parts: the part where they discuss the liquor and their wasteful lives, the part where they discuss the procedure, and the conclusion where the man steps away and has a drink inside the bar. 

The first part situates the story and identifies it with the sort of life characterized by T.S. Eliot as a waste land.  Here’s a key passage from the first part.  The man and girl are discussing the Anis del Toro drink.

“Yes,” said the girl.  “Everything tastes of licorice.  Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.”

“Oh, cut it out.”

“You started it,” the girl said.  “I was being amused.  I was having a fine time.”

“Well, let’s try and have a fine time.”

“All right.  I was trying.  I said the mountains look like white elephants.  Wasn’t that bright?”

“That was bright.”

“I wanted to try a new drink.  That’s all we do, isn’t it—look at things and try new drinks?”

“I guess so.”

A number of reasons why their lives are associated with Eliot’s characterization of modern life.  First, they say it: all they do is look at things and drink, a soulless existence.  Second this story was written in 1927 when the influence of Eliot’s The Waste Land was most prominent in literary culture and just after Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, of post WWI waste land life.  This story is a variation of similar characters in that novel. 

Another reason is the allusion to absinthe.  Characters in The Sun Also Rises drink absinthe.  It was a banned drink in many places around the world, including the United States.  You can read about it here and here, but in addition it was associated with satanic activity.  It’s an allusion to a life of the damned and with people who are heading to hell.  Another reason for the Waste Land association is the fertility motif in the description of the landscape and the fact that the girl is pregnant.  Abortion also figures in The Waste Land as I mentioned it earlier this year when I blogged on the poem.

The second part of the story features the key discussion, but what I think one needs to fully ascertain the dynamics between the couple is the tone within the dialogue.  Here’s the beginning of that section.


“It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,” the man said.  It’s not really an operation at all.”

The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on.

“I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig.  It’s really not anything.  It’s just to let the air in.”

The girl did not say anything.

“I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time.  They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.”

“Then what will we do afterward?

“We’ll be fine afterward.  Just like we were before.”

“What makes you think so?”

“That’s the only thing that bothers us.  It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.”

The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold two of the strings of beads. 

“And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.”

“I know we will.  You don’t have to be afraid.  I’ve known lots of people that have done it.”

“So have I,” said the girl.  “And afterward they were all so happy.”

“Well,” the man said, “if you don’t want to you don’t have to.  I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to.  But I know it’s perfectly simple.”

The tone of the dialogue is critical to understanding the moral implications.  It would be unclear if the girl is worried about the immorality of an abortion or having concerns for her health.  One has to read the line “And afterward they were all so happy” as dripping with sarcasm to come to the conclusion that, despite what the man thinks, the girl is not worried about her health but on something else.  It’s shortly thereafter the girl agrees to have the procedure: “Then I’ll do it.  “Because I don’t care about me.”  What is foremost on the girl’s mind is a return to what apparently once was a loving relationship.  The pregnancy has altered the couple’s romance.  The conversation continues. 

“You’ve got to realize,” he said, “that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to.  I’m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you.”

“Doesn’t it mean anything to you?  We could get along.”

“Of course it does.  But I don’t want anybody but you.  I don’t want anyone else.  And I know it’s perfectly simple.”

“Yes, you know it’s perfectly simple.”

“It’s alright for you to say that, but I do know it.”

“Would you do something for me now?”

“I’d do anything for you.”

“Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?”

Here you can hear the sweat talking tone of the man, and the agitation and sarcasm of the girl that tells us it’s more than the surface issues for her.  Hemingway’s skill at dialogue is on display there.  Notice too that the girl is in a position of power.  She’s the one who dictates the conversation.  The man just simply repeats.

The final section of the story is a bit mysterious.  The waitress (referred to as “the woman”) comes out with another order of beers and tells them the train will be arriving in five minutes.

“What did she say?” asked the girl.

“That the train is coming in five minutes.”

The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her.

I’d better take the bags over to the other side of the station,” the man said.  She smiled at him.

“All right.  Then come back and finish the beer.”

He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks.  He looked up the tracks but could not see the train.  Coming back, he walked through the barroom, where people waiting for the train were drinking.  He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people.  They were all waiting reasonably for the train.  He went out through the bead curtain.  She was sitting at the table and smiled at him.

“Do you feel better?”

“I feel fine,” she said.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  I feel fine.”

Why does Hemingway go through the trouble of this little drama?  He could have concluded the story without it.  He purposely gives her time to think by herself.  He had the beer waiting at the table, why have a drink at the bar?  I can’t fully answer that.  Perhaps it suggests a future separation.  And why does the girl suddenly feel fine.  Has she accepted her fate or has she made up her mind to back out?

Before I present some of my conclusions, I wanted to highlight the dualism that’s all over the story.  We have the dualism of the male and female, the dualism of the hot day and the cool drinks, the sun and the shade, the flat plain before them and the hills in the distance, inside the station and outside, the youth of the girl and the age of the woman that is the waitress, the fertility on one side of the station and the brown and dry sterility of the other side, the two sides of the river which divides into opposite banks.  Why the dualism?  Several reasons.  It subtly heightens the tension between the man and Jig.  It reduces the conflict to elements, and here it may point to an Adam and Eve elemental allegory.  It points to an elemental choice of yes or no.  It suggests a portal that one must cross through.. 

It’s because of that dualism that I believe the key symbol of the story is not the hills that look like white elephants but the curtain of beads that separates the bar from the outside.  The Wikipedia entry has it correct.  The hills form a point of discussion between the couple that distinguishes male and female perceptions.  That in turn underscores the difference in the way the man looks at the abortion (as a health issue) and the girl (as an issue regarding their relationship).  The curtain is that portal of choice that has to be crossed.  Notice how many times in the story the girl looks at or plays with the beads. 

So let’s return to the three questions. 

Is the man in the story trying to manipulate the girl into having the procedure?  I would say so.  He repeats the same “it’s perfectly simple” line.  And while he says he will honor either decision, he never paints a picture of a future with the baby.  That would have reassured her of their future.  He only walks her through the procedure.  And even that delay at the end of the story where he stops to have a drink alone while she waits for him outside is a sales tactic where the salesman has made his pitch and now leaves you to think through the decision.  If he’s made his sales pitch right, you will come to his decision. 

Is Hemingway sympathetic to the man or to the girl in their conflict?  I would say he’s sympathetic to the girl.  She has morality on her side, and the man’s motivation seems to be to keep this wastrel lifestyle going.  So many of Hemingway’s stories have a male figure as a stand in for the author.  And normally that male figure is a protagonist.  The man may still be a Hemingway stand in this story as well, but I think it’s quite clear he’s not a protagonist; he’s an antagonist.  The girl actually has the most insightful moment of anyone.  It happens in the second section, where in the middle of their dialogue the girl gets up.

The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station.  Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro.  Far away, beyond the river, were mountains.  The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.

“And we could have all this,” she said.  “And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.”

“What did you say?”

“I said we could have everything.”

“We can have everything.”

“No, we can’t.”

“We can have the whole world.”

“No, we can’t.”

“We can go everywhere.”

“No, we can’t.  It isn’t ours any more.”

“It’s ours.”

“No, it isn’t.  And once they take it away, you never get it back.”

‘But they haven’t taken it away.”

“We’ll wait and see.”

“Come on back in the shade,” he said.  “You mustn’t feel that way.”

“I don’t feel any way,” the girl said.  “I just know things.”

What she sees in a transcending vision is a paradise lost.  Her insight is that there will be a loss of innocence no matter what the decision.  If she has the baby, they can’t be children any more.  If she has the abortion, she will have crossed a moral divide, and it’s not really clear that her relationship will be repaired.  Either way, innocence will have been destroyed.  The shade signals a darkness.

Is the girl more worried about the morality of the abortion or her relationship with the man?

Her agreeing to have the abortion suggests she what she really wants is the loving relationship she once had with the man to return.  She’ll do anything to get it back, but I think she realizes that no matter which choice she makes the relationship will never be the same.  Her decision to go through with it is almost exactly midway into the story.  There is more to the story than making the decision.  This is a story about a loss, almost an Edenic loss.  That allusion to paradise lost suggests a decision that is sin.  She too never paints a picture of what life will be like with the baby.  She never envisions the baby.  It remains abstract, almost as if it will never be born.  When she looks at the waitress toward the end of the story, the girl looking at the woman, I can’t help but feel that’s a suggestion that the girl will become a woman now.  That realization is why she suddenly feels fine.    

Now I could be wrong.  What do you think?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Music Tuesday: Yankee Doodle Dandy

This is honor of the fourth of July holiday last week.

I was surprised to read that this song actually predated the Revolutionary War, but it certainly is associated with it.  It's so easy to fit lyrics to this tune, that I could not find the exact ones sung here.  Variations must arise frequently.

Here are some of the lyrics:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
A-riding on a pony,
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni.


Yankee Doodle, keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Goodin',
And there we see the men and boys
As thick as hasty puddin'.


And there was Gen'ral Washington,
Upon a slapping stallion,
A-giving orders to his men-
I guess there was a million.


A long war then was fought and won:
The British were defeated,
And Yankee Doodle was the march
To which their troops retreated.


What a great melody. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Matthew Monday: Putting Out The Flag on The Fourth of July

It was a quiet weekend.  I took Wednesday and Friday off around the Thursday July 4th holiday.  Matthew and I hung out Old Glory on the fourth of July.

Quick little story.  I was dressing him that fourth of July morning and I told him that later tonight we would stay up and look for the fireworks.  He was standing on the bed when I told him this.  He started jumping on the bed shouting, "Yay! Yay!  Fireworks, fireworks!"  Then he got quiet and looked at me and said, "Daddy, what are fireworks."  LOL.  I tried to explain, but it's very hard to describe it to a child with no reference point of explosions.  In the end I told him you'll just have to see.

Here's a picture.

We did stay up and I took him out on the deck at dusk hoping that the fireworks might be seen above the trees.  But it was disappointing.  I did catch sight of one through the trees but I'm not sure he saw it.  Also I could swear that three bats flew right over our heads.  I had not seen bats in the neighborhood but these didn't seem like birds.  It was hard to make out.  I told Matthew bats just flew by, and he ran inside to tell his mother.  "Mommy bats just flew by."  She was incredulous.  "Are you sure?"  He turned to me and said, "Daddy, are you sure?"  "Didn't you just see it?" I said.  "I don't know," he replied.  "Yes, we did," I said.

Then we decided to hang out in front of the house and see if the fireworks would be visible.  One finally did and he stood with his mouth open.  It was a burst of bright colors in the night sky.  "Is that cool?" I asked.  He just nodded.  We could hear a whole bunch going off in the distance and I guessed they were lighting them by a school yard, which was about a quarter of a mile away.  So I decided to walk there, and when we got close we saw a bunch of rockets burst in the sky.  He enjoyed it, and he got to stay up to ten o'clock.  The next night he expected more of the same.  I told he had to wait until next year.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: The Gospel In Four Minutes

This is an original way of preaching.  It's hip, it's cool, and it's poetic.  Hat tip to Rebecca Hamilton at Public Catholic blog for finding.

Very well done!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Poetry: I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman

In honor of the Fourth of July, here’s a poem by the most American of poets, our national poet, Walt Whitman, writing about what he writes best, the heart and wonder of America.

I Hear America Singing
by Walt Whitman
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
     singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or
     at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
     the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
     robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Here's a video clip of a reading of this poem.
Happy birthday America! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2013 Reading List: Update #2

You can read about my previous 2013 progress updates here and here.  These updates seem to be coming every three months, and I think I’ll make that a regular quarterly feature. 

As you can see since the last update I've completed seven short stories, another book of the Old Testament, T.S. Eliot most influential poem, and the Mark Helprin’s epic scale novel, A Soldier of the Great War.  The Helprin novel was a three month effort, but well worth it.  I’ll be posting a couple of blogs on the work.  I’ll definitely be posting on at least one of Poe’s stories and at least one of Hemingway’s. 

 I've now pushed into the Currently Being Read category ifferisms and Purgatorio.  I try to read one book a year on writing, and this year it will be ifferisms, a book on the use of the word “if” in writing aphorisms.  As you will see it is an incredibly fun read, and I’ll need something lighter for more relaxation.  Purgatorio has been on my re-read list for a long time, and I can’t wait to get to it.  Given the length and emotional commitment required for A Soldier of the Great War, I really made next to no progress on Rome and Jerusalem or Les Mis this past quarter.  I’ve also pushed up the remaining short stories I had planned.  I’ve decided to read “Rip Van Wrinkle” for the fourth of July.

I’m still planning on Twain’s Life on the Mississippi toward the end of the summer and Henry James’s Washington Square in the early fall.  I’ll also be completing the last few history books of the Old Testament.  I’ve added Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” to the list and a Steinbeck short novel (Cannery Row) that I may have read a very long time ago but have no memory of it.  I need to scout out some more short stories to add.

Here I am at midyear, and I’ve completed 12 short stories, two books of the Old Testament, a biography, and three novels, one novel being over double the typical length.  I’ve also made progress on the history book and Hugo’s triple the typical length novel.  That’s pretty much on track for my goals, if not even a little ahead. 

As I’ve said before, if there is a work I’ve read that I haven’t blogged on, or a work I plan to read that you really want my thoughts on, please let me know.  I’ll be glad to accommodate.


“A Star Trap,” a short story by Bram Stoker.
“Grandfather and Grandson,” a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. 

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare, a novel by G.K. Chesterton.
“Feathers,” a short story by Raymond Carver.

The Cossacks, a novel by Leo Tolstoy.
“In Another Country,” a short story by Earnest Hemingway.

First Book of Chronicles, a book of the Old Testament, KJV.
Catherine of Siena, a biography by Sigrid Undset.

“The Masque of Red Death,” a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.
“William Wilson,” a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

“A Descent into Maelstrom,” a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.
“The Lovely Lady,” a short story by D.H. Lawrence.

“Hills Like White Elephants,” a short story by Earnest Hemingway.
“The Killers,” a short story by Earnest Hemingway.

Second Book of Chronicles, a book of the Old Testament, KJV.
“The Fall of the House of Usher,” a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

“The Waste Land,” a long poem by T.S. Eliot.
A Soldier of the Great War, a novel by Mark Helprin.

“The Shawl,” a short story by Cynthia Ozick.

Currently Being Read:

Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations, a non-fiction history by Martin Goodman.
Les Misérables, a novel by Victor Hugo.

Imagist Poetry: An Anthology, a collection of poetry edited by Bob Blaisdell.
ifferisms: An Anthology of Aphorisms That Begin With the Word if, a work of non-fiction by Dr. Mardy Grothe.

“Purgatorio,” 2nd part of the epic poem of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
The Book of Ezra, a book of the Old Testament, KJV.

“Rip Van Winkle,” a short story by Washington Irving.
“Pillar of Salt,” a short story by Shirley Jackson.

“The Body-Snatcher,” a short story by Robert Lewis Stevenson.
 “Chi Ti Dice La Patria?” a short story by Earnest Hemingway.


Upcoming Plans:

Life on the Mississippi, a memoir by Mark Twain.
Washington Square, a novel by Henry James.

The Book of Nehemiah, a book of the Old Testament, KJV.
The Book of Esther, a book of the Old Testament, KJV.

MacBeth, a play by William Shakespeare.
Cannery Row, a short novel by John Steinbeck.