Saturday, December 12, 2009

* Who?

It's 1972. We've been trying to get Nixon to overrule his attorney general and convene a federal grand jury investigation of the slaughter at Kent State for a year now. A friend of mine says, "Why don't you write Garry Trudeau and ask him for help?" I say, "Who?" He says, "This cartoonist who writes Doonesbury."

"Never heard of it."

My friend says, "He's a Yale student who started this cartoon at Yale and then went national. He's counter-culture.He's big."

I say, "Yeah? Never heard of him. But I grew up in New Haven. Maybe I'll see if he's in the phonebook."

He is. I call. I entreat him for 40 minutes (Strangers are introduced to each other by and are loyal to "issues" in the 1970's). I write him afterward.

He sends me a note and a copy of the cartoon he wrote for May 4th the second anniversary of the killings. It gets him thrown out of a dozen newspapers that day.

Governor Rhodes of Ohio is pissed about the cartoon. Maybe Nixon too, I hope.

End of story.


PS: (2009) I still don't read Doonesbury or any other cartoon (except the singles in The New Yorker); but, I understand getting thrown out of those newspapers 37 years ago didn't hurt Doonesbury one bit.

* Gloria Swansong: Reverse Sexism and "Small lobes"

I was 27 in 1972 and Gloria Swanson was 72. I'm sure she would have an astrological interest in that numerical inversion. Through no intention on my part, I wound up spending half an hour in a Watergate Hotel room with Miss Swanson (who was between her 5th and 6th marriage at the time). My mentor (mentess?) Miss Vivien Kellems had asked us both to join her in testifying before Rep. Wilbur Mills' House Ways and Means Committee on a bill Miss Kellems had succeeded in having introduced to equalize the tax burden between single and married taxpapyers. All three of us were unmarried at the time, albeit a brief interruption in a series of married states for Miss Swanson.

Miss Swanson's ego was like Eddie Murphy's expanding body in his "fat" pictures: it just grew and grew until there was no space left in any enclosure Miss Swanson inhabited for anything but that incessantly inflating monstrosity of self-absorbtion.

Miss Swanson took an instant dislike to me, perhaps because I did not bow when introduced. She reached up (she was short and I am tall) and took my right ear lobe in her fingers and said with patronizing (matronizing?) disdain, "Small lobes" only she drew it out with a hollywood-british [sic] pronunciation "Smaaaaawwwwwwlll loooohhhhhbbbbzzzzz".

I didn't quite catch on. The words seemed to make no sense even though she had her fingers on my ear lobe. I said "What?" puzzled; and she replied, "Small ear lobes mean you weren't breast fed* as a child," all in that upper crust phony auntie mame scarsdale-british accent [sic] that only hollywood [sic] seemed to produce in the 1940's and 50's. (BTW: She was correct: I wasn't breast fed as a child!)

Now I caught on. She was dissing me (before the word "diss" had been coined). Not one to back away from a challenge, I began to question the authority of such a biological axiom.

Miss Kellems saw an argument brewing and walked over between us and said "Paul..." something or other, changing the subject as a diversionary tactic.

There were only the three of us in the room and we were due to testify in an hour and Miss Kellems did NOT want to blow her chance to get her bill out of committee (it failed) and on to the House floor with some unexpected personality clash.

( I wish I had had the zest to say in return to Miss Swanson's "Small lobes" the words "Long face" "LOOOHHHHNNNGGGG FAAAASSSSUUUHHH". She had an enormously long face for a short woman, perhaps the result of 'heavy lifting', shall we say.)

So the storm was averted, I was invited to pose for a photo with both of them (see below or and we all testified and evaporated back to our respective lives.

But Miss Swanson had given me a wonderful anecdote which I have repeated dozens of times over the years. In 1972 she was herself now the very "caricature of the caricature" she had made famous in the movie Sunset Boulevard: the fading star Norma Desmond. Well into her four decade Swansong, she had precious few "gifts" to bestow.

She gave me something else which as a 6'2" male with the aura of still youthful looks, I had never felt before: the sting of sexism.

Miss Swanson was a woman in a open-air market shopping for male merchandise worth her attention, and my "small lobes" (and my failure to genuflect upon being presented to her starship) disqualified me instantly.

On to the next display case please.

Imagine the gazillion times a day women have been so dismissed as "inadequate" by men, including Rose Kennedy herself, the mother of President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. and Edward M. Kennedy.

Rose Kennedy had to endure the quite public affair her husband, Joseph P. Kennedy, conducted in the late 1920's with none other than Gloria Swanson.

This I believe is called horizontal sexism, when one member of the same gender treats another member of the same gender as an inferior unworthy of respect.

So thank you Miss Swanson, for this fabulous anecdote, and for sensitizing me to the plight of women who are passed over disdainfully by the mercantile eyes of male flesh shoppers a trillion times a day on this planet.

* Miss Swanson was a macrobiotic enthusiast who was known to bring her own food to dinner parties in a paper bag. It didn't work. She died at 84, no longer a life span than the average woman of our day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

*The Bridge of San Luis Rey Desk

New Haven Register


Writer's furniture finds home at retreat

By Herb Epstein

After 33 years in Paul Keane's home, former Hamden resident Thornton Wilder's furniture is now on display at a New Hampshire artists' retreat where he wrote part of his classic play, "Our Town."

Keane donated Wilder's furniture in honor of the writer's late sister, Isabel Wilder. She privately gave Keane the furniture in 1976, a year after Thornton Wilder's death. Included in Keane's donation are the desk at which Wilder wrote "The Bridge of San Luis Rey"; his favorite chair; a Persian rug; and a bookcase from Wilder's study on Deepwood Drive in Hamden. Wilder was a Hamden resident for 50 years.

"Her private donation to me has been in my house for 33 years," said Keane, a former resident of Hamden, who now lives and teaches in Vermont. "This is the first year it'll be on display."

A year before Wilder died, Keane met him at dinner in the Old Heidelberg on Chapel Street in New Haven. Over the final year of Wilder's life the two exchanged a few letters.

"He was very charming," said Keane.

While on the Bicentennial Commission in Hamden, Keane had asked Wilder to endorse a project for fundraising for a museum in Hamden. However, Isabel Wilder wrote to Keane telling him that Wilder was unable to endorse the use of his name and pictures in promotion of the project because of his declining health.

Once Wilder died, his sister decided to make a contribution in his honor. She donated another desk of his, which is on display in the Miller Memorial Library in Hamden. It took nine years for an architect to create an exhibit that would display Wilder's desk in the library.

"I exchanged letters with Thornton enough that Isabel Wilder wanted to honor him," said Keane.

In a letter to Keane, Isabel Wilder wrote, "My brother wanted to make a contribution. Now I'll do so in memory of him."

Keane and Isabel Wilder developed a strong relationship over the years, as she even gave Keane some of Thornton's furniture.

"She took a liking to me," said Keane. "She treated me like a son."

Isabel Wilder died in 1995 at 95 years old. Now Keane has decided to donate the furniture in her honor. At 64 years old, Keane wanted to see the furniture go into good hands.

"I wanted to see for myself before I died that it got into appreciative hands," said Keane. "I have received as much pleasure in giving this furniture away as I have had in owning it for the last 33 years."

Keane offered the furniture to the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H., and officials there were happy to have it.

"It means quite a bit for this piece of history to come back here," said Cheryl Young, executive director of the MacDowell Colony. "Especially as a writer to get his desk means a lot."

Keane added, "All I wanted was for someone to enjoy it. It is something that ought to be shared."

Keane understands how fortunate he was to meet Thornton Wilder and later Isabel.

"If I hadn't been invited to sit down with him, then none of this would've happened," said Keane.

Keane added that "Isabel and Thornton made a conscious decision to share with the public, and they were extremely generous in that way."

Monday, November 30, 2009

* The Serenity Prayer: Play it again, Sam.

Yale Daily News

Briefly: Yale librarian recants doubts of “Serenity Prayer” authorship
By Ilana Seager
Staff Reporter
Published Monday, November 30, 2009

Yale librarian Fred Shapiro, who last year questioned whether Reinhold Niebuhr ’14 GRD ’15 truly authored the Serenity Prayer, has been persuaded to retain Niebuhr as the author in the next edition of The Yale Book of Quotations, which Shapiro edits. The decision came after a researcher at the Duke University library found a Christian student newsletter from 1937 that explicitly cites Niebuhr as the writer of the prayer. Shapiro first suggested that Niebuhr was not the author after finding newspaper articles and pamphlets that cited the prayer as early as 1936, while Niebuhr’s family said...

#1 By 5:15a.m. on November 30, 2009
Here's one time authorship is almost irrelevant (except to the Niebuhr family) since plagiarism made this the second most famous prayer in the Christian world, one which is even used by atheists and agnostics by simply omitting the first word and starting with "Grant". The "Grantor" could be "Cosmic Tranquillity" or any number of acceptable non-anthropomorphic , non-deistic amorphous "forces"

NB: Agnostics accomplish the same end with the first and most famous prayer in Christendom by turning the "Lord's prayer" into two question[s]: Our Father? Who art in Heaven?


* Gaming The Yale/Harvard Game

Yale Daily News

FOOTBALL Yale blows lead in final minutes
Williams: 'It hurts'

By R.J. Rico
Staff Reporter
Published Saturday, November 21, 2009

#81 Gatsby Old Sport (PK) Monday, November 30, 2009 5:15 A.M.

Eighty comments in eight [days]!
You outdid the "Mr. Yale" gender puckersnatch which ended after a week at 68 comments.

What are sports FOR?
To soak up all this mindless energy?

What is Yale FOR?


Saturday, November 28, 2009

* The Academic Industrial Complex (Killing Huck Finn Once and for All)

"It is a rare person who is naturally inclined to sit still for sixteen years in school, and then indefinitely at work, yet with the dismantling of high school shop programs this has become the one-size-fits-all norm, even as we go on about 'diversity' ". (Crawford, p. 73)

Matthew B. Crawford

Matthew Crawford ( Ph.D from the University of Chicago and a motorcycle mechanic), reminds us several times in his brilliant ---alternatingly dense and coarse --- book, of the words of Anaxagoras: "It is by having hands that man is the most intelligent of animals."

He raises the spectre of America becoming a nation of disembodied brains, skilled in reading the social cues of a managerial culture, but divorced from the joy of knowing things empirically from the process of "analyzing" them with our hands.

He does not raise the spectre of a nation which seems to be handing its children's education over to a monolithic Academic Industrial Complex, which devises brain measurements and instruments to test those measurements, instruments which require no more use of the hands than keyboard choreographies.

In his last speech as president, Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the nation in 1961 and warned of the dangers of a Military Industrial Complex, dangers we have seen, and see now, in dubious military proposals for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ike forgot to clean his glasses and see what was else was boiling on the national stove: The Academic Industrial Complex which is about to drain the Huck Finn joy out of American childhood forever.

When I was a child in the 1950's and hung around the livingroom on an afternoon watching TV, my mother would issue her hated but wise command which I can still hear even today: "Go outside and play and don't come back until supper."

There are no such commands being issued in homes or even in the recess-free, obesity-prone school populations today.

Instead, eyes are rivetted to screens, ears to earphones, and hands to keyboards.

And we wash our hands of it as we post the standardized test scores of our standardized children on our standardized refrigerators with our standardized magnets.

". . . all made of ticky tacky . . ."



Friday, November 27, 2009

* "Entertainingly Off-Topic" (I hereby steal this for my epitaph. Thank you YDN.)

(My brother, Chris, who died of AIDS six years ago at age 57; his son, Jonathan; and me: Vermont, 1998)
Yale Daily News
Updated: Friday, November 27, 2009 6:45 p.m

Discovery could help treat HIV
Molecules can enhance immune system’s response

Yale University researchers have synthesized molecules that could help discover new methods of therapy for HIV and prostate cancer.
A team of researchers headed by assistant professor of chemistry David Spiegel has developed two molecules that can enhance the body’s immune response to HIV, HIV-infected cells and prostate cancer cells using the organism’s own antibodies. The results were published in two separate articles in the October and November issues of the online Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The two molecules bind antibodies already in the bloodstream to the...

#1 By Pessimist 5:51a.m. on November 11, 2009
Here is the only disease on the planet that you can prevent by NOT doing something and humans can't get it together. My.
(heterosexual connection to AIDS discovered at Yale 25 years ago)

#2 By ? 9:48a.m. on November 11, 2009
Pessimist: you are a fool. Read some medical literature. Pretty much every infectious disease can be prevented by not doing something (i.e. not going out in public and not making any human contact will certainly prevent swine flu!). Your comment adds nothing to this article and I can only guess at how brilliant the website you advertise can be given the caliber of your post here.

#3 By Pessimist 4:17p.m. on November 11, 2009
#4 "By?"
Why so impatiently unpleasant? Can't you simply dismiss an opinion you think foolish without attempting to injure the opinionator?
In 1984 when 60 Minutes came to Yale to report on the previously unrecognized (denied?)heterosexual transmission of AIDS certifiably uncovered at Yale-New Haven Hospital, there were 200[0] cases of know[n] AIDS nationwide and the number was doubling every 9 months. (Recall, HIV had not yet been discovered. There was no test to determine you had the illness which went undiagnosed until you were treading dangerously near death from immunodeficiency.)
Today the US statistics suggest there are 1 million (1,000,000) living with HIV and half a million (500,000) have died after developing AIDS.
Choosing to reject the cultural valorization of orifice-sex and to instead valorize and encourage non- orifice sex could have saved many of these lives and infections.
Pretty hard to do when the entire weight of the culture implies that non-orifice sex is immature sex if not downright second-rate sex.
That 60 Minutes excerpt (12 minutes) can be seen under October entries ("25th Anniversary..." etc.) at the blog you seek to derogate:
I wish you better digestion tomorrow.

#4 By Not #2 6:33p.m. on November 11, 2009
Pessimist, you are entertainingly offtopic. You should keep it that way, because you contribute nothing to the topic itself.

#5 By Pessimist to By Not #2 10:20p.m. on November 11, 2009
I have been entertainingly off topic for fifty years.

#6 By Optimist 1:59p.m. on November 18, 2009
Pessimist, while we are off topic, can you please elaborate on what you mean by the terms "non-orifice" and "orifice" sex? These terms are vague and ambiguous.

#7 By Pessimist 10:13p.m. on November 18, 2009
Come now, really! I'm too polite to be specific.