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Good Mountain Press Presents DIGESTWORLD ISSUE#132
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~~~~~~~~ In Memoriam
Russell Paternostro (1941 - 2012
~~~~~~~~ Classmate at Westwego High ~~~~~

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Quote for the Super Bowl Month of February:

The way the Buddhist asks the question creates a different view of nature than the way the physicist does. The Buddhist asks wave questions and the physicist asks particle questions. One sees an unbroken whole and the other sees scattered parts.
Bobby Matherne

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GOOD MOUNTAIN PRESS Presents ISSUE#132 for February 2013
                  Archived DIGESTWORLD Issues

             Table of Contents

1. February's Violet-n-Joey Cartoon
2. Honored Readers for February
3. On a Personal Note
       Flowers of Shanidar Poems
       Movie Blurbs

4. Cajun Story
5. Recipe of the Month Cafe du Monde: Beignets
6. Poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Psalm of Life
7. Reviews and Articles Added for February:

8. Commentary on the World
      1. Padre Filius Cartoon
      2. Comments from Readers
      3. Freedom on the Half Shell Poem

9. Closing Notes — our mailing list, locating books, subscribing/unsubscribing to DIGESTWORLD
10. Gratitude

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1. February Violet-n-Joey CARTOON:
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For newcomers to DIGESTWORLD, we have created a webpage of all the Violet-n-Joey cartoons! Check it out at: Also note the rotating calendar and clock that follows just to the right of your mouse pointer as you scroll down the page. You'll also see the clock on the 404 Error page if you make a mistake typing a URL while on the website.

The Violet-n-Joey Cartoon page is been divided into two pages: one low-speed and one high-speed access. If you have Do NOT Have High-Speed Access, you may try this Link which will load much faster and will allow you to load one cartoon at a time. Use this one for High-Speed Access.

This month Violet and Joey learn about Incomparable in a 2-Panel Strip recently excavated from January 21, 1983. This is Strip 1 of 4 with 3 more to follow in succeeding months.

#1 "Incomparable" at

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Each month we choose to honor two Good Readers of our DIGESTWORLD from those all over the World. Here are the two worthy Honored Readers for February, 2013:

Glennda Bach in New Orleans

Fran Brookins in Austin, Texas

Congratulations, Glennda and Fran !

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Out Our Way:


Last New Year's Eve we watched the midnight fireworks celebration from the hill right behind our house with two grandsons, but this year we watched it together, just me and Del. Having our LSU football team playing in a bowl game on NY Eve made it easier to stay up till midnight. Earlier in the morning, three of our daughters who had spent the previous night together at Timberlane left for their homes. The next day, on New Year's Day, Del and I enjoyed our traditional New Orleans meal for New Year's Day: blackeye peas over rice, boiled cabbage, and cornbread. This year the cornbread was a special treat, Poppa Frank's Cornbread Mix, prepared by Shirley Renatza from her dad's famous recipe. Shirley is the the mother of our hairdresser, Renelle and Renelle had given us a packet of the mix as a Christmas gift. We have never tasted better cornbread in our lives, and while I must add that it seems strange to be waxing eloquent about a mundane baked item like cornbread, this one is truly special. We've already acquired some for next New Year's Day.

The night before New Year's Eve was a special one for me, a time warp back to 1968, to our home at 3615 Ole Miss Drive in Kenner, when my four kids slept upstairs in three bedrooms, Maureen and Yvette in a large bedroom with a double bed, Carla in a small garret size bedroom, and Robie in the nursery in his baby bed. Here's how this time warp happened:

Carla, Yvette, and their kids decided to go downtown with Patrick for some beignets, and Maureen had asked them to meet her at Jennifer's house near City Park and then they'd go to Café du Monde together. When they returned, it was dark, and Maureen brought her nightwear to spend the night, a rare occurrence since she has always lived nearby in Metairie. As I walked upstairs to say goodnight to my three girls, a sense of deja vu came over me. I was walking upstairs to a balcony over a great room just like we had at in the 1960s, to tuck my kids in bed just as I did then. When I entered the large bedroom there were Yvette and Maureen in a double bed on exactly the same sides of the bed they had slept on in the 60s! And there was Carla walking over to the separate bedroom where she would sleep. As I walked to say goodnight to her, there was Carla's red-haired boy, Garret, looking ever so much like Robie who slept in a small bedroom between his three sisters' rooms.

Warped me into 1960s for a few minutes before I could escape. Amazing how life can repeat itself in such detail.


Del wanted to clean our electric oven, but because it is an Auto-Clean Oven, the chemical oven cleaner she had brought from our old house was not needed and shouldn't be used at all. Instructions said never to use chemicals on this oven's specially coated surface. We got out the oven's instructions and followed them. They were easy enough to understand: clean out the heavy accumulations and press a couple of buttons. That was the toughest problem: our START Button would not respond. We have been using that button several times daily since moving in, mostly to Start the Timer while broiling, cooking, and to end our twenty-minute post-prandial reposes (naps). But lately the START Button had gotten balky and wouldn't respond dependably. Since we had done all the preliminary stuff for the AUTO-CLEAN, we had to complete the operation. One push of START Button to set it up and another to get it going. I pushed and pushed and wiggled and pushed some more to get the first activation and basically did the same process again to activate the AUTO-CLEAN. I needed our Appliance Man to come look at our fridge and decided to get him to check the START button. It's a fifty-cent item, but replacing it may be like replacing a bad transistor in a CPU today: you gotta replace several million transistors a the same time with a whole new CPU chip. Basically he said that replacing that cheap-o START switch would cost about $350 because the entire electronic panel needed to be replaced. The AUTO-CLEAN function cleaned the oven perfectly and we're awaiting now the Technician from our homeowners insurance to come replace the panel so our Timer can become functional again. GOOD NEWS: the Sears Repairmen came and were able to remove the START button, set it properly back in place, and it works good as new! No parts needed replacement. You never know until you find out! ! (MR#2)


With our Screening Room at Timberlane, I prefer to watch movies at home, even if I have to wait a few months to get them on NetFlix DVD and BLU-RAY disks. But it was New Year's holiday time, and Del and I went to see "Life of Pi" at Elmwood cinema. First thing I noticed was that the theater's restrooms are in bad shape, the floor was sticky and the walls looked shabby, like the rest of the building. Luckily the theater had no obnoxious commercials, just a few previews, before th movie began. This is my first (and last) 3-D movie experience with the so-called new technology. Once I put on the glasses, the screen got dimmer and I did not like that a bit. 3-D added no information and no enjoyment to my movie-watching experience, but took some away because of the bulky glasses and dimmed screen in a room already too bright for movie viewing. I predict this new 3-D will be another fad to disappear in a couple of years when people discover what I knew when it began, namely, that 3-D technology has not changed one whit since the Creature from the Black Lagoon scared folks in 3-D in the 1950s and when it appeared in Comics Book about the same time. Its novelty quickly faded away back then and will in this decade. My movie blurb of the movie is in this Issue, and my review is here: Life of Pi.

To get to Elmwood we drove in both directions across the Huey P. Long Bridge for the first time since its reconstruction began many years ago. By this time next year, it will be a modern bridge with 3 11-foot-wide lanes each way plus a breakdown lane.

Compare that to the two nine-foot-wide lanes which suited only the Model A's of the time the bridge was designed. Learning to drive the Huey P. in the 1950s in a large American sedan was considered a right-of-passage for teenaged drivers, especially if you could pass a large truck in a curve! Imagine doing that with the loosey-goosey steering of US cars of the time: the only way to go straight was to wobble the steering wheel left and right continually. We encountered no slow downs over the bridge each way, and there's still a few months for novice drivers to get the true experience of driving on 9 foot wide lanes which the bridge has had since 1935.

We drove to Sal's Restaurant on the way home for boiled crabs the old-fashioned way, the way we ate them at home in Westwego when I was a kid: dumped on a newspaper-covered table. We were served by Cherie from Westwego, all decked out in Purple and Gold with two of her children graduates of LSU. I ordered a half dozen large female crabs and I think I got an extra crab. Del had a plate of catfish, hot out of the frying pan. Delicious.


Finally got around to some upgrades to our computer systems this month. I installed NORTON 360 on my two PC's and LT. Earthlink can bill me by the month with my Web Hosting charges for website and it has more robust virus and system protection. Managed to get the 82 days left over on my Norton Internet Security (NIS) software (which 360 replaced) added to Del's NIS subscription.

For the first time ever, after buying numerous keyboards for various PC's since the 1980s, I bought a keyboard which came with a failure. The CTRL key did not work on the brand new, just out-the-box keyboard. I was lucky that keyboard failed, because I had bought an extra keyboard as a spare. Once I get used to a keyboard, I don't want to learn a new keyboard if the letters wear off as is the usual mode of keboard failure for me. I even bought letter replacements for my favorite keyboard and then the left shift key began getting stuck and that led me to buy two replacements. I finally worked my way through the labyrinthine maze of the Third Party Sourcing to be able to return the bad keyboard, but forgot to tell them I wanted a replacement instead of a refund. By that time a month had passed and I was sure that I liked my new keyboard so I chose to simply re-order two new keyboards. When I took the bad keyboard to UPS to return it, I noticed a cute little aquarium ball. It had a floating fish in it which stayed upright about 1 cm from the base. This amazing feat required two different colored fluids with different densities. The object was too small to be a paperweight, instead it acts as a Paper Stand-up device. You place a business card or a full sheet of paper in the slightly curved slot and the paper will stand up for easy display or reading. Only $8 so I bought one and it's useful for editing a review when my assiduous Copy-Editor has made emendations to one.

I got the wireless mouse which our son John gave me for Christmas connected to my LT and reworked the area in front of the five TV's in the Timberlane Screening Room to get rid it of the various wires formerly needed to watch NetFlix Instant Play movies on the theater-size KURO plasma TV. I do not mean literally "theater-size", but by measuring the angle subtended from my eyes to a first-run movie house's screen and the angle subtended by the KURO, I have determined they are the same. The result is that from our chairs at home or from our usual seats in the theater, the movie screens look the same size.


Normally speed traces are done silently, especially for long-time users, especially myself who created the quick way of removing unwanted doyles or bodily states, which quickly replaced Doyle Henderson's elaborate and time-consuming original tracing procedure. Doyle himself quickly converted to using the Speed Trace after I told him about it. But this day was an exceptional one, one which began with my goal of getting rid of unwanted emails from pesky advertisers. The most difficult to get rid of was from Sirius/XM, a service which we pay a monthly fee to provide satellite radio service to our new Maxima. You would think they would like to make it easy to use their service, and you would be WRONG!

Here's the sad story with a fun ending, as I hope you might agree. It started off very frustrating. We've had satellite radio in Del's new car for over two years and she had never logged onto their website and all the many emails which they sent out were directed to my Read-Only email. These I can let stack up in its In-box for weeks as no personal emails will be hidden in them. I had recently gone through and Done an Un-subscribe to all bulk emails, especially those which filled my Inbox with "ONLY FIVE DAYS" left, and before every holiday. Well, when I went to the SiriusXM website to do this, they would not let me get rid of all the emails, saying, "As a Subscriber, we need to Communicate with you." So I left that one on, but made a mental note to check if they used this loophole to drive a MAC truck of special offers through and yes they did! So, a few days ago, I resolved to get rid of ALL emails from them.

I went to their Live Chat and it took me over ten minutes just to qualify to use it. Looking up Acct. numbers, what name was used to subscribe, and what phone number was used (out of 3 possible phone numbers), and they also wanted to know my Radio ID! What is that? "Oh, you go to Channel 0 on your radio and it tells you." I had to politely remind the Chat Lady that I was on my PC in my office, not in front of my car satellite radio. So I asked Del to get the number, but she said she would back the Maxima out of the garage just to get the number, so I had to ask Chat Lady to cool her high heels while I went outside to the Maxima to Turn Accessories On (no easy feat with a keyless ignition), Tune Satellite Radio to Channel 0, and write down the radio number. NOTE: Have this ready if you need to contact SiriusXM, as you may need it.

Fifteen minutes later, I finally got the Chat Lady to stop ALL emails from them. And she told me how to log on and register on their website. Another 15 minutes later I was still trying to locate the completely new set of information that the website needed from me just to register with them! About this time I was fuming! I was mad! I was really mad!!! I was mad especially at SiriusXM for being so complicated and unhelpful and taking so long! I decided to do a Speed Trace, but instead silently doing one, as I have so often done, Del and I were home alone, so I stood up and walked into the other room screaming, "I"m 72 years old and I am PISSED OFF!" Another step and "I'm 60 and I am still PISSED OFF!" and went down each decade's time marks, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 and when I got to the next step, I screamed, "I am 5 years old and I even more PISSED OFF!!!" Then I said, "I am 4 and I am . . . not so much PISSED OFF." My tone and intensity change was obvious to me and to Del who stayed in the other room to be as far away as possible from me. Having done many Speed Traces herself, she knew what was going on. And she, too, could notice the dramatic softening of my tone. Next step, "I am 3 and I am not hardly pissed off." Again a chunk of intensity had slid away. "I am 2 . . . and what was that I talking about anyway?" Not only had all my anger and frustration dissolved, but it was as if nothing at all had happened to me. I went back in the other room and Del and I had a sane and sensible conversation over the ridiculous hoops I had to jump through just to stop the junk emails from a company that we paid a monthly fee to, a fee we paid to be entertained, not to be hassled by!

I was reminded of the quote by Emerson which graces the top of the Main Page:

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.
       Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

In this case, I would modify that to say, "He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount an anger." Emerson could not say that in the 19th Century because the Speed Trace had not been invented yet. And today, I can report the salient success of the first ever, to my knowledge, "Screaming Speed Trace." If you're so angry that you could scream, go ahead and scream, and while you're at it, do a Speed Trace to eliminate the source of the scream. The source of my screaming, my original event, occurred around 2 to 3 years old as I discovered by the reduced intensity as I went from 4 to 3 to 2 years old. Something, I'm not sure what, happened to me at age 2, again at 3, and was reinforced again at 4 and remained with me, up until now.


I love my Silver SONY T300 camera — it takes great photos and fits easily in the front pocket of all my pants so I can carry it with me, and I make sure to have both a backup memory stick and a backup battery with me in the camera's case, at all times, so that I never miss a photo opportunity. I loved the T300 so much that when it started acting up at the beginning of a cruise, while we were at The Time Hotel on Times-Square, I walked around the corner to buy a replacement for it, identical except for its red color.

The problem was something I had encountered before: an incessant vibration that would not stop. The Silver T300 was under warranty when it first happened and I mailed it off to be fixed. It worked fine when it came back and then about a year later it began happening again, when I was in NYC, so I bought another T300, this time a Red T300, and I was glad for the different color as it distinguished the two cameras. After a couple of years, the Red one began vibrating, so I switched to the Silver one and now I switch back and forth every month or so, whenever one starts misbehaving. On trips I carry both of them with me. I figure it this way: why waste time and money getting them fixed, if the fix is only temporary. So I plan to use both of them. It appears that when one of them has been "ridden hard and needs to be put up wet" (vibrating), the other one is dry and ready for use. This has worked well, and in the meantime I bought a different model camera but it does not take as great photos as the T300 does, so it sits unused. SONY does not make any T300 model anymore, so I'm sticking with the alternating use routine until both of them irreversibly begin vibrating, which may never happen. I suspect the vibration is due to humidity which gets into the camera and causes an intermittent short-circuit in the Steady-Hand electronics, creating a continual, soft-buzzing vibration, during which any photo I make will be blurred. When that happens, I put the trail-worn workhorse into its dry barn and ride its stable-mate T300 until it needs to be rested.

When I had only one T300, I carried around an identical battery and memory chip in the pocket camera case, so that I was always ready to take photos even if the battery used up its charge or if the memory chip got full. If the 2Gb memory stick in the camera got full and then I switched the memory chips between the camera and its case, formatting the one I just placed in the camera. During that formatting, I cleared away about 800 photos from the stick. The full stick I had just removed contained my most recent 800 photos, and remained as a backup or in case I needed to refer to them while away from home. It was also ready to use when the stick in the camera got full.

Normally, after a day or so of shooting, I upload the latest photos to my PC and back them up several times, including an off-site backup. The full stick in the camera case is also a backup of the latest 800 photos. On a couple of occasions, I have needed to retrieve a photo from that stick.

My Silver T300 memory stick got full one day this month, and I didn't have a memory stick in the camera case to replace it with. Why? Because the other 2Gb stick was in the Red camera which was in my office near its charging station. Oops, I thought, "I did not account for my switch to alternating T300s." Luckily I was home, outside the house, when this happened. Immediately I realized where the backup 2Gb stick was and had been for some time, in the Red T300! I had been walking around for a month or so not carrying a backup memory stick. The 2Gb memory sticks are not easily available to purchase any more, but I found an old 1 GB memory stick and added it immediately to my camera case and now I have a temporary backup stick with me at all times.

Now with two T300 cameras, 3 memory sticks, and three batteries, I can walk around with a spare memory stick and a fully charged battery at all times. Meanwhile the other T300 is at home with its battery fully charged or charging, and it contains a 2 Gb memory stick ready to go if I need a fresh workhorse, er, camera. In my PC folder where I upload new photos, I mark the place of the last uploaded photo from the camera with a special photo which I rename, e.g., as LAST.DSC0777. This allows me to upload only new photos beginning with DSC0778 in this example. With two alternating workhorse T300 cameras, I had to add a and a photo so I can easily keep track of the progress of new photos on both the Red and the Silver (Ag) cameras.

This process may seem convoluted and strange to those people who only upload their memory sticks when they are full, but these people are carrying around, in effect, a whole shoebox of photos and are subject to losing 800 to 2,000 photos if their camera is lost, dunked in water, or the memory stick gets broken, etc. If that happens to me, I will lose only a handful of photos from a day's shooting, all the rest are multiply backed up.

What's the three most important things in Real Estate? Location, Location, Location.
What's the three most important things in Digital Photography? Backup, Backup, Backup.

Early on, in the 1990s, I learned that every new digital camera came with some special photo uploading software which had to be figured out. I began ignoring that software and simply copying files to upload photos using Windows' File Explore, whose procedure has barely changed from the first version of Windows. I keep my photos in a separate disk partition or drive other than C: (It contains all the complicated Windows systems, application software, and temporary files, and does not need daily backups like my photos do.)

This makes my photos quick and easy to back up with an XCOPY batch file which copies only the most recently changed photos, plus I can watch to ensure that the photos have been backed up. I know someone who depended on software to do her backups, and when her computer failed, she lost everything because that invisibly working software was invisibly not working. Better to visibly see and confirm the changes that are important. I take 3 to 5 thousand photos a year, rarely make hard-copy prints of them, and have yet to lose a single important photo. I also process every photo to crop it, clean it up a bit, compress it about 5 to 1 in .jpg form. When I store it, I label the photo file with YYMMDD code (today's code would be 130128 for 1/28/2013) followed by description of people, places, etc. This arrangement of the date allows me to use Explore to sort photos for me chronologically. If you depend on the date stored with the file name, that date can change if you modify the photo, and the photo will disappear from the Sort where it should be. Having the additional descriptive info allows me to find photos of every place, person, or thing using the Search function of Explore. With the View Pane open I can find every photo of someone named Edmund in a group of folders containing 50,000 photos in mere seconds, and scan through to find the one I want to use by looking through a few photos. This is my 21st Century Magical Shoebox for photographs.

Do digital cameras take better photos than Kodachrome 64 film did on my 35mm cameras? No. But the shoe boxes full of paper photographs have disappeared. Thank God, because they were just about useless for finding a particular photograph in under two hours. Backup, duplication, searching and easy printing of hard copy photographs are easy with digital photos whereas they were time-consuming to the level of impossibility with film-based photography. Plus, I have a fully-equipped Dark Room for processing, enlarging, and retouching my photography with my Picture Publisher and Photoshop software, without the expensive, messy, and smelly chemicals.

And there is little incremental cost for each photograph as there was in previous decades. $3.50 to buy and $3.50 to process a roll of 35mm film and print it in 1970 may not sound like much, but that $3.50 could buy over ten gallons of gasoline then, which serves as a measure of inflation. Imagine having to pay $70 for every 36 photographs you shoot today. Plus the cost of new shoe boxes. It's a brave new world of photography and it feels fun to me to be part of it, as the expense of the hobby had kept me a dabbler in the art of photography, up until now.


My daughter had a birthday in January and I took her out to dinner to celebrate it. After dinner, she looked at me earnestly and said, "Dad, I know what I want you to give me for my birthday." I never know what to expect from Maureen, and this was a surprise and a delight to me because she broke the rules of gift-giving or maybe just stretched them a bit. Read on and see if you agree.

She said, "For my birthday, I want you to give Del a Pandora bracelet." She showed me the one her mother had given her for Christmas and said that Del had shared with her that she would like such a bracelet. The charms slide right on and most are priced about the level of gifts one might give a mother or grandmother, and Maureen and Del are both of those. I agreed but had no idea how to accomplish this meta-gifting procedure. I offered to wait till April and give it to Del as her birthday present, but Maureen nixed that. She made me understand, to be a birthday present to Maureen, Del had to receive her gift close to Maureen's birthday.

The next day, I asked Del to accompany me to Jared's Jewelry to buy a Pandora bracelet that Maureen wanted for her birthday. Please note the ambiguity. I gave the impression it was for Maureen (which it was), even though it would be a gift for Del. We walked up to the counter and I explained to Savannah, the Sales Rep, that I wanted a Pandora bracelet for this lady and pointed at Del. The look of surprise and delight on Del's face was marvelous, a gift to me as well.

After Del put on her bracelet, I asked Savannah to bring us a Capricorn charm for Maureen's bracelet and an Aries charm for Del's. Del added the charm to her bracelet. Savannah asked if I wanted her to wrap Maureen's charm, and I said yes. When we got back into car I suggested we drive by EJ High School and give Maureen her two presents, one: let her see Del's bracelet with her Aries charm, two: let her open her Capricorn charm from me. It was great. I made two of the most wonderful loving women in my life very happy. Then I invited Del to have lunch with me at La Madeleine's in the Riverbend. We had hot soup and quiche. Their mushroom soup is great! A wonderful lunch together in the middle of the week and a charming story to share with you, my Good Readers.


On the night of the Krewe de Vieux Parade, we drove to park behind Café du Monde, but we were forced to make a U-Turn because the street was blocked before we reached the turn off to parking lot. We doubled back and parked in the Hilton Parking Garage, only to find the streetcar line along river had stopped running at 7 pm, the minute we wanted to catch it. But all good things come to people who walk in New Orleans. We began walking to Margaritaville's Storyville Tavern, and along the way we met a Baton Rouge couple, Janet and Andy, who were going to Molly's at the Market and weren't sure how to find it. I explained that Molly's was right across the street from the Tavern where we were headed, so they walked along with us and enjoyed the ambience and excitement of the first night Carnival parade, one of the few that still run through the French Quarter. They came into the Tavern with us for a while before they left to meet some friends at Molly's. We talked to Ted Graham as his band was getting ready. We finally got a table, as our friend Annie Kotch joined us. Del ordered a big Nacho plate and onion rings and the food came just as parade started going past. I was hungry, so I didn't see much of Krewe de Vieux, running out to catch the Some-Times Picayune marcher and a couple of exuberantly obscene floats and marchers. Annie had come over the ferry from Algiers Point on her bike, and we walked together with her back towards the ferry, taking photos of colorful footballs which have been punted into place all over town like the colorful fish sculptures of years ago. The town is getting SUPER BOWL ready!


My good friend Christopher Tidmore has returned to New Orleans this month after a trip around the world, almost entirely without using an airplane. You may have read in DIGESTWORLD some clips of the emails he sent during his travels, especially the YouTube clip of him eating fried scorpions in the Beijing Night Market. He left mid-April of last year on a cruise ship to Barcelona, Spain, and then drove overland to Beijing, China, motoring and camping across Europe and Asia, then down the Malaya peninsula to its tip, and took a ferry to Darwin, Australia. Following a trip across the Outback, a walk around Ayers Rock, a visit to Tasmania and New Zealand he returned home, a bit thinner and a shade tanner, a year older and wiser. We had lunch at the Bon Ton Restaurant and shared stories of our past year with each other, covering in person what we hadn't be able to do via emails during his trip. He expects to write a book of his trip which I look forward to. He writes for a local weekly newspaper which deals mostly in politics, but we talk about everything but politics. Welcome Home, Christopher!


Over the years of working at my desk, I have noticed through the window to my right, a man with a pickup truck who would stop across the street periodically, remove a ladder from his truck, and walk a ways to the left and then to right of my window. He never seemed to bring anything but the ladder back with him, so this morning as I was putting finishing touches on this Issue, I walked across the street to introduce myself to him. His name is Tony Spatafora and he uses the ladder to climb up to inspect his handmade wood duck boxes. He showed me how he opens them, first, knocking softly on the side cover to keep from scaring any wood ducks in the nest (keeps them from possibly soiling their nest, after which they would leave it forever), then he puts his hand into the wood shavings to check if they're still clean. Then closes the box. The box he checked while I was talking to him was clean and did not require extra wood shavings. He carries a bag of them just in case. He said that earlier this morning down close to the Clubhouse end of Timberlane Drive, he found a baby squirrel nesting in a box. He said, with a smile, he gave it a month to vacate the premises. Once he found a nest of six baby Screech Owls in one of his boxes.

He has a hundred such wood duck boxes and one year he counted 105 broods of wood ducks during his census; some of his boxes had more than one brood. These are broods that might never have hatched had he not put up his wood duck boxes. He keeps notes on each box as he makes his regular trips to the boxes. He is about my age and a graduate of USL in Lafayette, and we found that we both studied and could speak German. When I asked why he didn’t take French in college, he said, “You think I would try to speak French in an area where everyone else speaks perfect French?” I understood. After I said goodbye to him I was thinking as I walked back to the house that surely I had one of my dad’s small wood duck decoys that I could spare. I found one and took it back across the street and gave it to him. He was so appreciative that it was a gift that gave both ways.

Here is a volunteer who works to save the wood ducks he cares so much about. So, if you see one of these boxes like in the photo of Tony on his ladder, please remember, do not knock on the box or throw a rock at it, there may be a family which needs this place to live and you could make them homeless. And if you happen to see Tony, say Hi to him, and thank him for his good work.


Great news for Saints fans: Coach Sean Payton is back at the helm after his suspension. Scuttlebutt has it that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell didn't feel safe coming to the city for the Super Bowl if Sean was still suspended. Jolly Roger was persona non grata in New Orleans after he picked on the Saints to stop bounty programs in NFL teams across the league. There are restaurants who claim they will not allow him inside, but those are unlikely eating stops for Goodell anyway. We're just glad the wait is over. On his first day back, Sean fired the defensive coordinator responsible for our setting the league record for most yards given up for a season. Things will be looking up for the Saints again.

Del has a Garden Club meeting scheduled at our home in February, and it's White Glove Inspection time for her. Our handyman Marcelo has pressure washed the West and East Portico porches, the shutters, the Pergola, windows, etc. Plus he has painted the Pergola, the shutters and thresholds and touched up other places.Our landscape crew headed by Frank Bergeron, Jr. has moved camellia bushes around, weeded all the gardens, planted hundreds of petunias, and mulched all the beds.

Del has been suffering with some stenosis in her neck which restricts her head motion, side-to-side, and has been wearing a traction device several times a day to relieve the pain. She is having chelation therapy, considering having metallic fillings removed, and juicing green vegetables, all of which is helping. She has found a new chiropractor who specializes in neck problems and will see a surgeon to investigate surgical possibilities for relief. So long as her neck is bothering her, we will not be able to take any long trips by plane or car as sudden movements cause her pain. Our planned auto trip through Florida to see friends is on hold until she is feeling better and able to travel.


The past 31 days of this New Year has been a month of bleak, rainy days until the last week or so when summery weather with sunny skies had us and our itinerant neighbors (golfers) in short sleeves and short pants. Days are getting longer and the warming Sun will soon reach our now-frigid neighbors up North. This next month of February will be a month of Super Bowl and Mardi Gras celebrations for us with family and friends, as we celebrate the new life and resurrection promised by the coming Spring and Easter! Till we meet again in the gusty days of March, God Willing and the River Don't Rise, whatever you do, wherever in the world you and yours reside, be it frigid or warm, snowy or sunny,

Remember our slogan for this new year:



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Quotes Selected from quotes.htm this month:

  • Of the Gettysburg Address: it was not the Union forces that were fighting for government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but the people of the southern states.
    H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)
  • A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.
    — Fred Allen (American Humorist 1894 - 1956)
  • It is one of the joys of publishing as I do directly to the Internet that I can have my cake and eat it, too, so to speak. Directly I publish a review, an essay, or a newsletter to the Internet, I hear the cries arise from the text for emendation, for improvement, for parsing, for clarification — they beckon me to give them attention like a houseful of children newly arrived home from school. I must attend them — attend each paragraph, each sentence, each word, and allow them to reveal to me how the meaning they hold matches my intent when I first set them carefully into place. When, as sometimes happens, I read my words after a rest period and am puzzled as to my original intent, I must first recover my intent, sacrifice my prose with a flourish of the delete key, and reform my intent into words with more clarity. Then I can immediately dispatch my newly rewritten sentences into publication over the Internet.
    — Bobby Matherne in Thoreau's Journal No. 6.
New Stuff on Website:
CLICK HERE to See New TIDBITS of memories from the 1950s, like this one:

Do you remember when your Black & White TV Station finished regular programs,
it ran a test pattern to help you adjust the Horizontal, Vertical and Clarity of your set?

From Flowers of Shanidar, A 1990 Book of Poetry by Bobby Matherne

       In a small dark cave in the hills of Northern Iraq near the Turkish border the excavator Ralph Solecki found in 1960 the bones of a young man placed in the recess between two large boulders. Analysis of the remains from the cave of Shanidar determined that the burial occurred over 60,000 years ago.
       Soil samples collected near the bones were only analyzed several years later and produced a quite unexpected result. Ordinarily a small random assortment of pollen grains would be found in funereal soil samples, but the Shanidar soil analysis revealed thousands of pollen grains from wild flowers of the region. Flowers of rose mallow, hollyhocks, hyacinths, and other indigenous varieties of flowers had been systematically collected and transported to the cave of Shanidar as a funerary tribute.
       Astonished, the scientists were confronted with the earliest known evidence of a burial ritual. From the very dawn of mankind a message had come down to us, written in pollen grains from the flowers of Shanidar, of the birth of a new consciousness — the consciousness of death.
       How far have we progressed in the knowledge of ultimate destinations in the 600 centuries since that funeral celebration? As we stand before the door to the new millennium, do we dare to knock? Are we ready for the new flowers of Shanidar and the birth of consciousness that will surely accompany our passage into that new era?

These poems are from Bobby Matherne’s 1990 book of poetry, Flowers of Shanidar and have never been published on the Internet before. Here in the beginning of the new millennium, we are publishing each month five poems, one from each Chapter of the book. (Flowers drawn by Artist Maureen Grace Matherne)

1. Chapter: Hollyhocks

      Dogma On A Leash

He kept his dogma in a cage,
Safe within his cyclone center
Kept its educated mentor
Safe from the controversial rage.

He could wander around the cage
Safely without being bitten,
Safely without being smitten
By the heresy of the age.

Sundays he'd take it for a walk
To leave its mark on neighbors' lawns
And hide the progeny it spawned
For after all people will talk.

2. Chapter: Hyacinths

      Face to Face

Face to face with C. G. Jung
His eyes twinkling in black and white
His voice a raspy roar
Over the projector's clatter.
A fuzzy ghost speaks from the screen
"I do not believe, I know."

Like the pale reflection of reality
Our consciousness presents to us,
A flux of fuzzy light and shadows
Forms a moon-like negative
Of our departed friend who
Discovered something that wasn't there
And left to become part of it.

3. Chapter: Rose Mallow

      Mister Sperm

Mister Sperm has a whale of a time
As he dives into the center of things
A world of doubling doublings
Anthropoforms around his replicants
Until his progeny whirl about —
Star clusters in a Mega Milky Way —
Arms and legs of a spiral galaxy
Crawling out from the primordial sea.

The doubling slows down, shaped with gravity
Messrs. Sperm have formed a plan —
In a concealed cavity they're building
Three billion Mr. Sperm's
Who will soon swim for dear life
Right into the center of things
In a neighboring universe.

4. Chapter: Shamrocks

      Over The Milky Way

Brush off the illusion of size
Like sleep from your earthbound eyes.
Play hopscotch with galaxies
Mid moons as full as toy balloons.

Global clusters dangle from your ears
Nebula blue eye shadow appears
Over black hole mascara on your eyes,
Glorious scion of the skies.

Take a drink from the Milky Way
You'll need your energy today —
And when you're ready to descend
Hop upon the solar wind.

You'll find it possible to shrink
Much further than you'd ever think —
To wind your way to yesterday
Among the molecules of DNA.

A crowd waits there for your reception
Newly met at the conception.
And if they are a friendly lot
Introduce yourself on the spot.

Tell the gang you've come to stay —
That they are not to be forlorn —
For soon they'll see the light of day
Through your eyes when you are born.

5. Chapter: Violets


On the wings of angels
The mortal mind is borne
Over earthbound prison walls
Into the realms of freedom.

No man-made laws to be enforced —
Run for better, not for worse,
Leave all past coercion behind,
Face the future with an open mind.


Movies we watched this past month:

Notes about our movies: Many of the movies we watch are foreign movies with subtitles. After years of watching movies in foreign languages, Arabic, French, Swedish, German, British English, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and many other languages, sometimes two or three languages in the same movie, the subtitles have disappeared for us. If the movie is dubbed in English we go for the subtitles instead because we enjoy the live action and sounds of the real voices so much more than the dubbed. If you wonder where we get all these foreign movies from, the answer is simple: NetFlix. For a fixed price a month they mail us DVD movies from our on-line Queue, we watch them, pop them into a pre-paid mailer, and the postman effectively replaces all our gas-consuming and time-consuming trips to Blockbuster. To sign up for NetFlix, simply go to and start adding all your requests for movies into your personal queue. If you've seen some in these movie blurbs, simply copy the name, click open your queue, and paste the name in the Search box on NetFlix and Select Add. Buy some popcorn and you're ready to Go to the Movies, 21st Century Style. You get to see your movies as the Director created them — NOT-edited for TV, in full-screen width, your own choice of subtitles, no commercial interruptions, and all of the original dialogue. Microwave some popcorn and you're ready to Go to the Movies, 21st Century Style. With a plasma TV and Blu-Ray DVD's and a great sound system, you have theater experience without someone next to you talking on a cell phone during a movie plus a Pause button for rest room trips.
P. S. Ask for Blu-Ray DVD movies from NetFlix.
Hits (Watch as soon as you can. A Don't Miss Hit is one you might otherwise ignore.):
“The Life of Pi” (2012) brings the essence of the novel to the screen, beautifully, but 3-D Sucks! This is a book which deserves to be read in its entirety, even after watching the movie. E.g., in the book you can read the entire Japanese interview with Pi on his hospital bed in Mexico. I hate seeing a story altered to create childish 3-D effects, which is another reason to wish for so-called 3-D effects, which have not improved since 1950s, to once more fade away until true holographic movies arrive. You want true 3-D, look around you, your eyes create it for you every minute.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012) which illustrates how easier it is to be alone if the end of the world is not imminent. Unlikely friends (Carell and Knightley) team up to visit their childhood homes in an amazing adventure of finding themselves. A DON’T MISS HIT !
“Better Off Dead” (1985) Early John Cusacks tale makes you better off laughing.
“The Wrong Man” (1956) Henry Fonda caught in a Hitchcock movie dilemma, accused of robbing an insurance office when he went to borrow money on his wife’s policy. Note the absent of Miranda plus many other shortcuts in legal system that are no longer allowed.
“Ocean’s Eleven” (1960) is a time warp back to 1960's Las Vegas strip and the five great casinos, two of which are now gone and the other three unrecognizable in 2013. Great watching clan of friends at work on a project together. They filmed this in Vega and got together on the stage of the Sands every night to do a show while shooting the film. Recognized the late night lounge at Sands where I first saw Don Rickles.
“Men in Black III” (2012) Black is Back, like in Darth Vadar. If you only arrest the future, you might have go back in time to kill it. A DON’T MISS HIT OR TWO! ! !
“Rock of Ages” (2012) was long on music and thankfully short on Tom Cruise. Hit
“Hesher” (2010) Natalie Portman stars as love interest for thirteen year old TJ who lost his mom and whose dad sleeps on couch all day. Into this stagnant home comes loose cannon Hesher who will blast apart their chains and set them free. Be prepared to be grossed out to the max.
“The Last Time I Saw Paris” (1954) Van Johnson was trying to write and Liz Taylor was trying to be a loyal wife, maybe the last time she tried to do that. Good movie based on F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, lots of bittersweet melodrama.

“Lawless” (2012) will tickle you down to your toe like White Lightning from the Wettest County in the World. The only thing less moral than being lawless then was being the Law.
“Young Goethe in Love” (2010) Like St. Augustine, Germany’s secular saint and genius, Goethe, led a riotous and licentious existence in his 20s before he settled down to a life of science, botany, philosophy, poetry, and drama. His affair with Lotte had enough drama in it to fill several Faust’s.
"Me and the Colonel" (1958) Danny Kaye stars in a non-hyperactive role as a Jew fleeing Paris helping a Polish Colonel wanted by the Nazis by using his wits to elude them.
“Hans Christian Anderson” (1952) Watch Danny Kaye morph from Hans the Shoemaker to Hans the published storyteller in this music and tale-laden feast for the eyes and ears of a poor cobbler who just wanted to tell stories and make people feel better.
“Five Fingers” (2006) you can bet your five fingers on this advice: If he looks like a terrorist and acts like a terrorist, he is a terrorist. On the other hand, if he doesn’t, he may be one anyway. As Gomer would have said for that advice, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.”

“Welcome Stranger” (1947) Bing Crosby in a wonderful TCM movie with Barry Fitzgerald as the older doctor who resents the newcomer, but comes to trust his life to him.
“The Well-Digger’s Daughter” (2011) Patricia meets Jacques who carries her across a stream and disappears off to war without a word after impregnating her and is missing in action. Her widowed father disowns her, and he stays home and take care of her five sisters. She raises the boy with help of her aunt, but can this NetFlix IP movie ever have a happy ending as beautiful as the serene Provencal countryside? A DON’T MISS HIT ! ! ! !
“Downton Abbey” Season 3 (2013) picks up the torch and lights a fire between Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine. A DON’T MISS HIT !
“The Lucky One” (2012) a Nicholas Sparks story made into a good chick flick. Battle-scarred veteran’s life is saved during Iraq War when he leaves his seat to pick up a photo of a blonde woman and a rocket pulverizes the place he left. He searches for the woman to thank her and after a few walks in the rain, well, you can guess what happened next.
“Conquest” (2011) which is what Nicolas Sarkozy did to Chirac when he replaced him as President of France, and which he was unable to do to his second wife.

Misses (Avoid At All Costs): We attempted to watch these this month, but didn't make it all the way through on most of them. Awhile back when three AAAC horrors hit us in one night, I decided to add a sub-category to "Avoid at All Costs", namely, A DVD STOMPER. These are movies so bad, you don't want anyone else to get stuck watching them, so you want to stomp on the disks. That way, if everyone else who gets burnt by the movie does the same, soon no copies of the awful movie will be extant and the world will be better off.


Your call on these — your taste in movies may differ, but I liked them:

“Monsters” (2010) full of gravity-defying huge aliens trying to immigrate across the Mexican border over a Great Wall as porous as Swiss Cheese and story line just as full of holes. Maintains drama while stretching credulity makes it a Your Call.

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Le Boudreaux Cajun Cottage, drawn by and Copyright 2011 by Paulette Purser, Used by Permission

Boudreaux had an old maid aunt that everyone called Aunt Angelle. She was silver-haired, in her eighties, and had been the choir organist at the St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church for as long as anyone in St. Martinville remembered. She was admired for her sweetness and kindness to all. Boudreaux and Marie went to church there on the Acadian Memorial Festival and while Marie was talking to his aunt up in the choir, he introduced himself to Father Usey the young priest from Lafayette, who had arrived to take over after the old priest had retired.

When he told the priest that Angelle was his aunt, the priest took him aside and said, “Boudreaux, your aunt is such a treasure with her wonderful organ-playing. The old priest told me Ah should go over and make her acquaintance and let her know how valuable she is to St. Martin’s.”

“Mais, Ah’m glad you done tole me dat. Aunt Angelle is mah favorite aunt, Ah guarantee!” Boudreaux beamed proudly.

Father Usey continued, “It’s been several weeks since Ah’ve taken over as pastor here, so last Saturday, Ah thought it was time for me to pay your aunt a call. She was so nice to me. Ah sat in her parlor and she brought me some coffee from the pot on her stove and offered me some hot beignets she had just cooked.”

Boudreaux smiled, “She make de good beignets, don’t you t’ink?”

“Mais de best, but as Ah waited for her in the parlor, Ah noticed something strange: on the old Hammond organ she practices on was a cut glass bowl filled with water and floating on the top of the water was a condom!”

“Oo, mais dat’s strange, yeah! Did you axe her ‘bout dat t’ing?”

“Frankly, Boudreaux, Ah was a little embarrassed to mention it, but the longer Ah sat in the parlor with her, the more my curiosity got the best of me. So as we drank the coffee and ate the beignets, Ah said, ‘Aunt Angelle, Ah wonder if you could tole me about this?’ as Ah pointed to the bowl. ‘Mais,’ she replied, 'Bon Dieu, dat is de most wonderful t’ing! Ah was walking home from choir practice one night and Ah found dis little package on the ground. De directions said dat you place it on the organ, keep it wet, and dat it would prevent the spread of disease. Mais, do you know dat Ah haven't had even a cold all winter long.’”

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5. RECIPE of the MONTH for February, 2013 from Bobby Jeaux’s Kitchen:
(click links to see photo of ingredients, preparation steps)
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Background on Beignets:

These are the original powdered donuts served in the French Quarter for over a hundred and fifty years. Originally there were two doughnut stands: Morning Call and Cafe du Monde. In the 1950s it was a tradition among teenagers to stop for coffee and donuts at these two places after a late night date. They were open 24/7 and helped get the driver sober enough for the drive home. Back then, you could pull in next to the curb, and the waiters in the white hats would come to your car, take your order, and deliver it to you without your having to get out of your car. Late at night, there was always an open slot.

No more curb service today, but the order of three hot beignets (pronounced bane-yeahs' ) dusted with powdered sugar are as delicious as ever and match up well with a mug of their cafe au lait, coffee with hot milk, which has also not changed since the 1950s, so far as I can tell. Morning Call has moved to Metairie, but Cafe du Monde is still open, never closes, and is a great meeting place or place to rest after a walk through the French Quarter. This recipe is on the box of Cafe du Monde's Beignet Mix, which can be purchased at the coffee stand, at local groceries (Rouse's), and over the internet here:

When we want beignets we usually wait for company to come and we take them to the French Quarter with a pause at Cafe du Monde. It is well-named, the Cafe of the World, because on any day or night, you could be sitting next to and being served by people from all over the world; I know, I usually ask folks where they are from and rarely is it within 50 miles of New Orleans. But this recipe will allow folks out of easy driving range to New Orleans to create the cafe au lait and beignets experience in their own home.

It is almost a tradition that people arrive at Cafe du Monde wearing black and get tell-tale signs of powdered sugar during the consumption of their beignets. If it happens to you, consider it a badge of honor, and don't dust it all off too quickly. Wear the badge and a smile as you continue your discovery of New Orleans. You are part of a great tradition!

2 cups of Cafe du Monde's Beignet mix.
7 oz of water
cooking oil
powdered sugar

Place mix in bowl, add 7 fl. oz. of water. Stir with spoon until blended. Rolf the dough to 1/8" thickness on a floured surface, using flower liberally on the dough. Cut into 2 1/4" squares. Makes about 2 dozen. (Note: box makes two batches or 4 dozen)

Cooking Instructions
Heat an inch or two of cooking oil in frying pan to 370 degf. Oil should be hot enough for dough to pop to the surface in 8 to 10 seconds.

Serving Suggestion
Serve while still hot after covering with heaps of powdered sugar immediately.

Other options
Have some of your favorite coffee with hot milk poured into it to make a tawny color, and enjoy! Bon Apetit!

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6. POETRY Selected by BOBBY from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's works:
Thanks to Joe Riley of for calling my attention to this poem.
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       A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

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7. REVIEWS and ARTICLES for February:
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And for my Good Readers, here’s the new reviews and articles for this month. The ARJ2 ones are new additions to the top of A Reader’s Journal, Volume 2, Chronological List, and the ART ones to A Reader’s Treasury. NOTE: these Blurbs are condensations of the Full Reviews sans footnotes and many quoted passages.

1.) ARJ2: It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium by John Ed Bradley

This is a true story of a football player at LSU who left the team, but the team never left him. It stuck around him like a man's ghost hangs around the scene of his sudden death, only his sudden death came when John Ed graduated and left college and football for good, or was it for good? Football for him was like a disease from which he never quite recovered, one which infected his memory, tickling it into action at curious times, like when, years after he left college, the temperature in Baton Rouge was 35 one day, and he said aloud to himself, "That's cold. Better wear your winter coat, Rusty Brown" because Rusty Brown wore 35 on his football jersey. That's silly, you may think, but it's not silly when you remember everything from your football days as if it had just happened and you can barely remember what you ate for dinner yesterday.

[page 6, 7] I still remember the most insignificant things about my teammates, even though I have to concentrate to tell you what I had for dinner last night. I remember how tall they were and how much they weighed — that's easy — but I also remember things that don't matter anymore, that probably never mattered: the kinds of cars they drove, the music they played in the dorm, how many letters they earned, their injuries, their dreams, their girlfriends' favorite lipstick colors, the length of their sideburns, their times in the 40-yard dash. . . . I remember their voices and how they sounded when we prayed together deep in the stadium before kickoff, and how they sounded later when things were coming apart and they cursed in anger and despair out on the field. I remember how quiet they could be after a road loss on the flight back to Baton Rouge. And I remember how they carried on when we won. Heaven help me, but I remember how they smelled on a Saturday morning in the spring when we scrimmaged in Tiger Stadium and the beer they'd drunk at sorority parties the night before came whispering from their pores like sewer steam from the manhole covers on Dalrymple Drive.

The title comes from a myth, that is more true than not, that it never rains in LSU's Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, the most common time for an LSU football game. Our Fall weather in South Louisiana brings the driest time of the year for us, as cold fronts slide through with only a sprinkle or two followed by dry, cool air which hangs around, often until the next cold front. But, like a Kentucky Derby winner is not a sure thing to win the Triple Crown, it does rain on occasion in Tiger Stadium, and I remember such an occasion. In the 1980s, my wife and I hovered under a plastic covering as cold rain pelted us during an LSU-Tulane game, which LSU lost 34-32 in the last minute. She and I vowed never to make that long drive to Baton Rouge to watch an LSU game — a pledge made easier by the increasing availability of LSU games on TV. The hardest part for me was the drive back, when even after an invigorating win I had to fight to stay awake on the way home. For John Ed Bradley, the eponymous expression seemed aimed at his life, in which a lot of rain fell, but not while he was on the field in Tiger Stadium in his LSU uniform. It was like he walked a foot above the ground and a rain shield covered him from the elements. For him, during his days at LSU, as it was for me, it never rained in Tiger Stadium on football nights. And any rain that did fall could not erase the spots on the field, e.g., the spot near East sidelines on the South end of the field at the 8-yard line where Billy Cannon received a punt on Halloween night and ran it back all the way to beat Ole Miss 7-3 in 1959. Being a football player on that field, John Ed had a lot more spots than I did, as he recalls the day he left the LSU football team forever.

[page 20] When I finished packing, I walked down the chute that led to the playing field. I pushed the big, metal door open and squinted against a sudden blast of sunlight. The stadium was quiet against a blue winter sky. As I glanced around, I could point to virtually any spot on the field and tell you about some incident that had happened there. I knew where teammates had dropped passes, made key blocks and tackles, threw interceptions, and recovered game-saving fumbles. I knew where they had suffered career-ending injuries. I could point out the spot where Scott Sulik blew out a knee in a collision with Charles Alexander, our All-America running back. It had happened in spring practice, and Scott, a strong safety, never played again.

Was this going to have been the best time of his life? He was scared it might, but swore then and there it wouldn't.

[page 21] I was only twenty-one years old, and yet I was afraid that nothing I did for the rest of my life would equal those days when I played for LSU. I might have a satisfying career and earn a lot of money, I might marry a beautiful woman like Missy and fill a house with perfect kids, I might make a mark of some significance in the world. But what if I never had it better than when I ran out under the goalposts on Saturday night, the crowd on its feet, my team-mates all around?

In my junior and senior years at LSU I tutored football players at Broussard Hall, and got to know some of the players like Sammy Odom, Billy Truax, and Jerry Stovall, but I never got to see any of the athletic dormitory other than the small study hall, so I couldn't even have imagined the scene which John Ed portrays in this next passage.

[page 25] Players lived year-round with injuries that required antibiotics, painkillers, and other drugs, and the trainers made sweeps to make sure we weren't stockpiling the stuff and flirting with addiction. The sweeps came only a couple of times a year, but they were reminders that our lives were not our own.
      Drug stockpiles weren't the only things forbidden in your room. Mac wouldn't let us have women in there either. In fact, women weren't allowed past the sitting area in the lobby. Get caught with one and you were gone from the team, your scholarship revoked, your name forever sullied. It took only one incident and you were banished. "I don't care if it's your mother," Coach Mac warned us. Up went his thumb again. "Please don't test me, fellas."
      One night, I got up late and staggered down the hall to the bathroom. A naked coed was sitting on the middle toilet, her long hair hanging in a tangled mess in front of her face and covering her breasts. The overhead lights were off, but I could see her in the moonlight pouring through windows made of mottled glass. I recognized her as one of the regulars who hung around the stadium after games, hoping to catch our attention. The guys called them groupies, but I'd been calling them regulars ever since I mentioned the breed in front of my father and he gave me a look. I stood before the urinal and fiddled with the slit in my boxers. There was nothing doing. I decided to go back to my room and pee in the sink.
      "They catch you with him and he's off the team," I said to the girl. She reached for the roll of toilet paper on the floor between her feet. "He doesn't get off the bench anyway. Wouldn't matter none."

John Ed wanted most of all to be a writer, so he enrolled back in LSU to study creative writing, but out of Broussard Hall and the regimen of a football player, it wasn't the same for him. Things of football, the hard things, disappeared and things of academics were easy to him. Why did he feel like his life was done when it was only beginning?

[page 46] I was deep into the spring semester, moving along like a cheap clock that needed to have its batteries changed. Classes ended for the day, and there was nowhere to go, nothing to do. No meetings with coaches to attend, no film to watch, no workouts to complete, no practices to endure, no reporters to talk to, no autographs to sign. I didn't have to visit the training room for whirlpool or hot-wax baths or ultrasound treatments or massages or traction or complicated ankle tapings or shots to kill whatever pain had sprung from whatever injury.
      I didn't have the dorm, I didn't have the food, I didn't have my teammates, I didn't have the life. My mother encouraged me to look for the good in things, and I'd managed to come up with only a few noteworthy items. For one, I didn't have to stay up late and get up early to shoehorn study time into my day. I slept a lot now. And keeping up with class assignments; once an impossible task, suddenly had become a breeze. I was carrying twenty-one credit hours and making straight A's even though I was barely trying.
      One day you're on the team, the next you're a guy with a pile of memories and a feeling in his gut that he is seriously done.

Bradley offers me many memories of my four years at LSU, such as sitting in the live oak-shaded Quadrangle between classes. On page 47 he conjures up something I saw on many occasions, but he puts into a wonderful maternal simile: "Even more satisfying was the parade of girls in faded jeans and cashmere sweaters who moved across the Quad, books held like nursing babies at their chests."

So many of my memories of LSU get conjured up by my post-graduation visits to the campus, even it's mostly on TV during football games, that I seem to be hallucinating during those times. While writing this review, the scanner software kept converting LSU into LSD, and I had to correct the OCR error so often that it made me consider the hallucinogenic quality of my years on the LSD, er, LSU campus during the pre-LSD drug era of the 1950s.

One day at Opelousas High School, a boy came to John Ed’s classroom to say that he was wanted on the phone in the office.. When he got to the phone, the caller was Charlie MacClendon, the coach at LSU. The coach wanted to know if John Ed had been paged on the school's public address system. When John Ed said, no, the coach said he'd try back the next day. In this episode, you can see how Coach Mac wanted to publicize each of his recruits as well as LSU's football program to the whole school, to every high school he called. One can imagine that the coach asked her to say "Coach Mac at LSU" on a followup page when he called the next day and the office lady didn't mention his name on the first page.

[page 87, 88] . . . the coach called again the next day, and this time the front office didn't bother to send a messenger.
      The voice of one of the ladies who worked in the office came sputtering over the intercom. "John Ed Bradley, please report to the principal's office."
      I got up and moved toward the door and the woman's voice sounded again. "John Ed Bradley, Coach Mac at LSU needs to speak to you on the telephone."
      As I started down the hall headed to the front of the building, classroom doors pulled open and kids came out to congratulate me. We slapped hands and traded high fives, and then one of myteachers stepped out and applauded with his physics manual tucked under an arm.
      "Did they announce it?" Coach Mac asked when I reached the phone at last.
      "Yes, sir, they announced it to the whole school."
      "Oh, I'm glad. One of these days you're going to look back and be grateful to your old coach for doing that."

What a great gift Coach Mac gave John Ed by having their two names linked together in the minds of the entire school. In this book, John Ed is expressing his gratitude to his old coach for that gift.

One weekend my bride and I went to her company's function at the Seabreeze condos near Destin, Florida. On Saturday night, as the waves crashed on the beach and gulf breezes tossled our hair, some of the guys hovered around a small portable AM radio to listen to the LSU-Southern Cal football game being played in Tiger Stadium. USC was one of the top teams in the country and the Tigers kept the Trojans at bay, leading them 12-10 until the final minute. On the decisive drive of the game, an LSU's player's hand brushed the face mask of a USC player on a third and 9 play and that was a called a penalty, which allowed USC to score a touchdown with 33 seconds left in the game to seal a 17-12 victory. At the end of the game, all of us listening in the dark around the small radio were exhausted, and we knew that LSU had performed admirably. Former USC players from that night recall it as the most memorable game they ever played. John Ed Bradley remembers it that way himself and mentions it more often in this book than any other game in his four years at LSU.

After that game, John Ed, bruised and bloody, beat his fists in the turf of Tiger Stadium in despair. As he walked off the field, LSU fans were still cheering for their team, and some of them yelled at him for a souvenir, so he stripped off parts of his uniform and pads, until he walked into the dressing room nearly naked. His chest was bloody from an old scar, and when a student trainer asked how he was, here's how he replied.

[page 90] "I did fine," I lied. Then I turned and had another look at Tiger Stadium.
      Thousands of fans were still at their seats, beating their heels against the aluminum bleachers and cheering us on, even though our game with top-ranked USC had ended. We'd lost 17-12 when the Trojans scored with only thirty-two seconds left on the clock, ruining our dream of pulling off the biggest upset in school history. Somebody needed to tell the fans that the wrong team had won and it was time to put away their whiskey flasks and go home.
      "What are y'all doing?" I said under my breath.
      Maybe I imagined it, but no sooner had I asked the question than the crowd erupted with more noise. You like to make the home folks happy, but you typically don't do that unless you win. Going back to my days as quarterback of the Opelousas Junior High Cavaliers, I couldn't recall any fan who ever stood and cheered for me when I left the field a loser. Tonight had changed my understanding of what it meant to win.

When he met someone he loved, she was so much older than he was that John Ed couldn't introduce her to his parents, but he did introduce her to the scar on his chest. It was an old wound which he never allowed to fully heal and had pulled out its stitches too early, an act which allowed him to continue playing, but it continued to pop open again during every game. He literally bled from his heart to play football.

[page 138, 139] Later, in her garage apartment, it came to me that I should tell her everything. "Connie, I need to show you something."
      She was on the other side of the room. I could smell the smoke on my clothes. Music from the Oaks still rang in my ears.
      "I don't think you know me well enough yet to show me anything."
      "I need to show you my chest." I began to unbutton my shirt. My hand was trembling.
      "What happened?" she said.
      "Football," I whispered then let out a breath.
      She walked up to me and inspected the scar, her eyes washing over with tears as she brought her face close.
      "It's like this is all I have left," I said. "LSU took everything else.(1) Or else I left it there."
      She shushed me and put a finger to my lips, the painted nail touching the tip of my nose. "I think you're beautiful," she said.
       "Don't lie to me."
      "You're beautiful," she said again. She leaned forward, holding her long hair, and kissed the scar with such tenderness that for once I believed it might go away forever.

Sometimes when I am writing a particularly poignant passage, I will get goose-bumps all over — I will have to get and walk away for awhile just to let them play out over my body. I always thought there needed to a better way of naming this exquisite feeling than by using the portmanteau phrase "goose-bumps" and in this next passage I found it, frissons. Marty never got to play because he was on second string in the line-up behind his buddy now visiting him, John Ed. Marty was sitting up, paralyzed by a swimming pool accident, and explained how he felt running out onto Tiger Stadium for the first time as a football player.

[page 231, 232] "Nothing I've ever experienced compares to that first time I ran out with the team as a freshman — out into Tiger Stadium. God, I was fifteen feet off the ground and covered with frissons. You know what frissons are, John Ed? They're goose bumps. It's the French word for goose bumps. It was the highest high you could have, and no drugs could match it — the way it felt to run out there with the crowd standing and yelling for you. I wish every kid could experience it.

This is a book full of spots, frissons, and scars — scars of John Ed bleeding from his heart upon the pages of this book, each letter a tiny scar upon the page, assembled together artfully into words of scars, into sentences of scars, into paragraphs of scars, into chapters of scars, into a book of scars, into a night of scars in which the LSU Tigers along with John Ed Bradley gave everything they had and left it on the field against USC in 1979, emerging not as winners of that game, but winners in the game of life.


---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------

Footnote 1. My comically-inspired OCR software broke the moment by converting this touching passage into "It's like this is all I have left," I said. "LSD took everything else."

Return to text directly before Footnote 1.


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2.) ARJ2: Six Memos for the New Millennium by Italo Calvino

The first thing which will strike anyone reading the Table of Contents is that there are only five memos listed: Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, and Multiplicity. But in a handwritten photocopy on the page before Page 1, we can discern a faint image of six's title, looking as if it had been rubbed out by a pencil eraser. The title Consistency appears at the bottom of the list of Six Memos. His wife Esther notes that Italo planned to write it when he arrived in Cambridge to give the lectures(1). Since many of Calvino's tales seem to leave something for the reader to finish, perhaps this book provides an example of his consistency in process, an unwritten but hinted at sixth memo for the new millennium for us as his readers to flesh out for ourselves after reading the first five memos. What resources from the literature of the world would he have cited and in which languages, Italian, French, German? Quotes in all of these languages fill the first five memos, so consistency would have required him to include them in the eponymous last memo, would it not? One should perhaps read the book a second time with this thought: What would Calvino have said about Consistency in the memo he had in mind to write, before he left us alone with his first five memos?

In a prefatory note, Calvino notes that modern languages and books as we know them got their start in his millennium, in the middle of which the printing of books began in 1456 with Gutenberg's Bible. In this new millennium we enter the digital age of books where printing is moving to being done by recycled electrons on flat screens instead of black ink on paper.

[page 1] My confidence in the future of literature consists in the knowledge that there are things that only literature can give us, by means specific to it. I would therefore like to devote these lectures to certain values, qualities, or peculiarities of literature that are very close to my heart, trying to situate them within the perspective of the new millennium.

In his first memo, he gives us a heavy look at Lightness, opposing weight to lightness and vowing to uphold the "values of lightness". One cannot approach reading about lightness without the memory of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being coming to mind, a salient example of dealing with heaviness and lightness in a novel, and Italo mentions it, aware that his own inclination to the light touch in writing was weighed down by increasing heaviness and opacity of the world.

[page 4] At certain moments I felt that the entire world was turning into stone: a slow petrification, more or less advanced depending on people and places but one that spared no aspect of life. It was as if no one could escape the inexorable stare of Medusa. The only hero able to cut off Medusa's head is Perseus, who flies with winged sandals; Perseus, who does not turn his gaze upon the face of the Gorgon but only upon her image reflected in his bronze shield. Thus Perseus comes to my aid even at this moment, just as I too am about to be caught in a vise of stone which happens every time I try to speak about my own past. Better to let my talk be composed of images from mythology.

Perseus' forte is flight and reflection, which Calvino's epitomizes as the poet's touch: physical flights on winds and clouds for perspective on the world aided by the wings on his feet and flights of fancy aided by reflection upon the things of the world including myths, literature, and one's own ephemeral thoughts. Perseus would have been turned to stone as were all the men who confronted the Medusa directly, so he allowed himself to view her only through a mirror image in his polished shield, a large mirror he always carried with him. Poets likewise carry such a mirror in which to reflect upon the heavy things of the world, which are made insubstantial images by the mirror and thus can develop the lightness required by their pen.

Calvino cautions us against interpretation which can squeeze the life out of a metaphor or a myth.

[page 4] But I know that any interpretation impoverishes the myth and suffocates it. With myths, one should not be in a hurry. It is better to let them settle into the memory, to stop and dwell on every detail, to reflect on them without losing touch with their language of images. The lesson we can learn from a myth lies in the literal narrative, not in what we add to it from the outside.

He leads us to examine and to understand each step and each connection made in the myth of Perseus. How he carried Medusa's head hidden in a bag, only taking it out in dire circumstances to stay his enemies who deserve the fate of being turned to stone. The blood from the horrible head dripping on stone turned into Pegasus, a horse embodying the lightness of flight. After slaying the Gorgon to free Andromeda, Perseus must wash his hands, but stops to make a bed of leaves and sea plants to hold the head face-down while he washes.

[page 6] But the most unexpected thing is the miracle that follows: when they touch Medusa, the little marine plants turn into coral and the nymphs, in order to have coral for adornments, rush to bring sprigs and seaweed to the terrible head.

Finally Calvino’s reflection on the Perseus myth leads him to Milan Kundera who wrote of the Russian occupation, which in his own country had thrown everyone who opposed or even publicized their heavy-handed bureaucracy into stone prisons. How is one to live, really live, to find lightness in such a country?

[page 7] It is hard for a novelist to give examples of his idea of lightness from the events of everyday life, without making them the unattainable object of an endless quéte [quest]. This is what Milan Kundera has done with great clarity and immediacy. His novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being is in reality a bitter confirmation of the Ineluctable Weight of Living, not only in the situation of desperate and all-pervading oppression that has been the fate of his hapless country, but in a human condition common to us all, however infinitely more fortunate we may be. For Kundera the weight of living consists chiefly in constriction, in the dense net of public and private constrictions that enfolds us more and more closely. His novel shows us how everything we choose and value in life for its lightness soon reveals its true, unbearable weight. Perhaps only the liveliness and mobility of the intelligence escape this sentence — the very qualities with which this novel is written, and which belong to a world quite different from the one we live in.

Next Calvino takes us into an examination of software which has the ultimate lightness, weightless bits of 0s and 1s arrayed in intricate patterns, patterns which do not add weight by their arrangement of trillions of bits in digital computers(2), but allow the heavy computers to perform their tasks. He sees these bits as one of a continuum of tiny objects and quasi-objects which support and vivify us humans and the massive world around: neutrinos, quarks, neurons, and DNA molecules, among other things.

[page 8] The second industrial revolution, unlike the first, does not present us with such crushing images as rolling mills and molten steel, but with "bits" in a flow of information traveling along circuits in the form of electronic impulses. The iron machines still exist, but they obey the orders of weightless bits.

He next takes up Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, which he calls "the first great work of poetry in which knowledge of the world tends to dissolve the solidity of the world, leading to a perception of all that is infinitely minute, light, and mobile." In an amazing metaphor, he quotes Lucretius as talking about minute physical things that surround us, such as, "the spiderwebs that wrap themselves around us without our noticing them as we walk along." (Page 9) Books have many unnoticed spidery webs of meaning which stick to us as we read them; they comprise the theme of books we read, but which we may finish without being aware of them, as I did with Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

From Lucretius' tiny particles, he moves to Ovid's transformations of living beings in his poetic masterpiece, Metamorphoses, written fifty year after Lucretius' De Rerum Natura.

[page 9] For Ovid, too, everything can be transformed into something else, and knowledge of the world means dissolving the solidity of the world. And also for him there is an essential parity between everything that exists, as opposed to any sort of hierarchy of powers or values. If the world of Lucretius is composed of immutable atoms, Ovid's world is made up of the qualities, attributes and forms that define the variety of things, whether plants, animals, or persons. But these are only the outward appearances of a single common substance that — if stirred by profound emotion — may be changed into what most differs from it.

It is this polarizing effect of strong emotion which leads police to suspect lovers when someone is murdered. They have often observed how love can turn into hate in an instant of intense emotion.

Next he shows us Boccacio's Cavalcanti, the poet, who when confronted in a cemetery by his friends concerning a philosophical dilemma they perceive in him, he leaps deftly over a tombstone to escape the cemetery and flee the dead minds remaining behind, but only after leaving behind this smart-ass comment, "Gentlemen, you may say anything you wish to me in your own home."

[page 12] Were I to choose an auspicious image for the new millennium, I would choose that one: the sudden agile leap of the poet-philosopher who raises himself above the weight of the world, showing that with all his gravity he has the secret of lightness, and that what many consider to be the vitality of the times — noisy, aggressive, revving and roaring — belongs to the realm of death, like a cemetery for rusty old cars.

The so-called "vitality of our times" is like the stubborn mule who would not move from the middle of the bridge. The farmer picked up a large tree branch and whacked the mule across the head. A friar wandering past admonished the farmer saying, "Do you not think it would be better to ask the mule nicely to move on?" "Yes, Friar," replied the farmer, "but first you must get his attention." Cavalcanti's presuppositious assertion and precipitous jump must have clung to his friends like unnoticed spider webs for days and weeks, cutting eventually through the bustle of their times into meaning.

In our favorite series, NCIS, the repertory company ranges from the lightness of Abby, who flies around her lab and the squad room bringing cheery thoughts and her boss Gibbs who deals with bodies, usually dead ones, and concrete facts, evidence, and things like shell-casing, slugs, DNA, and bank accounts. Calvino discusses these two opposites.

[page 15] We might say that throughout the centuries two opposite tendencies have competed in literature: one tries to make language into a weightless element that hovers above things like a cloud or better, perhaps, the finest dust or better still, a field of magnetic impulses. The other tries to give language the weight, density, and concreteness of things, bodies, and sensations.

To tilt means to "charge with a lance" which Don Quixote did to windmills and famously one time a windmill hoisted him up into the air, causing him to be tilted in return! It is the most recognizable image from the long Cervantes novel and certainly the most memorable — one in which Quixote is lightly lifted into the air.

[page 17] The scene in which Don Quixote drives his lance through the sail of a windmill and is hoisted up into the air takes only a few lines in Cervantes' novel. One might even say that the author put only a minimal fraction of his resources into the passage. In spite of this, it remains one of the most famous passages in all of literature.

We leave this first lecture on Lightness wrapped by spidery threads of meaning, which had been dispersed loom-like throughout its pages during our wanderings. The loom-master himself, Calvino, marvels at the threads he has laid out for his spidery tapestry. Like a shoe wearer might wonder as he attempts to untie a large knot in his shoelace, "Which lace should I pull on to find the end in my hand?"

[page 26] Have a great number threads been interwoven in this lecture? Which thread should I pull on to find the end in my hand? There is the thread that connects the moon, Leopardi, Newton, gravitation and levitation. There is the thread of Lucretius, atomism, Cavalcanti's philosophy of love, Renaissance magic, Cyrano. Then there is the thread of writing as a metaphor of the powder-fine substance of the world. . . . There remains one thread, the one I first started to unwind: that of literature as an existential function, the search for lightness as a reaction to the weight of living.

In Kafka's tale of the "Knight of the Bucket" we find an Austrian man out in a wintry wartime night with a bucket looking for coal to bring warmth to his home. The bucket takes on a Pegasus attribute and carries the man into the air where he begs for some coal for his bucket. This story reminds me of a friend who had just lost his day job and formed a band playing for tips in a small pub late at night in the French Quarter. Several times, maybe too many times, he urged people to put some money in the bucket, often swinging the bucket or holding it up over his head as he did so.

[page 28] Many of Kafka's short stories are mysterious, and this one is particularly so. It may be that Kafka only wanted to tell us that going out to look for a bit of coal on a cold wartime night changes the mere swinging of an empty bucket into the quest of a knight-errant or the desert crossing of a caravan or a flight on a magic carpet. But the idea of an empty bucket raising you above the level where one finds both the help and the egoism of others; the empty bucket, symbol privation and desire and seeking, raising you to the point at which a humble request can no longer be satisfied — all this opens the road to endless reflections.

To Calvino, the Knight of the Bucket who finally flew to beyond the Ice Mountains was like himself — given that Calvino did face the new millennium in ultimate lightness — accomplishing the deed of leaving his bucket and body behind and me thinking: If reading is like walking, what do we call the spidery webs which wrap about us unnoticed, and what do we turn into after our reading walk is done?


This chapter starts off strangely, dealing with the quick and the dead: Charlemagne and Harald, King of Norway, each king reputed to have slept with his wife after she had died. Harald had his wife wrapped in a cloak which made her appear to him as alive, quick instead of dead. (Page 34) But the legend of Charlemagne, King Charles the Great, is filled with an amazing sequence of necrophilia and fetishes.

[page 31] Late in life the emperor Charlemagne fell in love with a German girl. The barons at his court were extremely worried when they saw that the sovereign, wholly taken up with his amorous passion and unmindful of his regal dignity, was neglecting the affairs of state. When the girl suddenly died, the courtiers were greatly relieved — but not for long, because Charlemagne's love did not die with her. The emperor had the embalmed body carried to his bedchamber, where he refused to be parted from it. The Archbishop Turpin, alarmed by this macabre passion, suspected an enchantment and insisted on examining the corpse. Hidden under the girl's dead tongue he found a ring with a precious stone set in it. As soon as the ring was in Turpin's hands, Charlemagne fell passionately in love with the archbishop and hurriedly had the girl buried. In order to escape the embarrassing situation, Turpin flung the ring into Lake Constance. Charlemagne thereupon fell in love with the lake and would not leave its shores.

Rhymes in prose, what a wonderful phrase Calvino introduces. It makes so much sense that I've already begun using the process in my writing, as in this sentence from a recent review, "This is a book full of spots, frissons, and scars — scars of John Ed bleeding from his heart upon the pages of this book, each letter a tiny scar upon the page, assembled together artfully into words of scars, into sentences of scars, into paragraphs of scars, into chapters of scars, into a full book of scars, and into a night of scars in which the LSU Tigers along with John Ed Bradley gave everything they had and left it on the field against USC in 1979, emerging not as winners of that game, but winners in the game of life." Parallel constructions can be considered to be "rhymes in prose" in which the repetition of a structural element builds a harmonious pattern which pulls us through into meaning.

[page 35] Just as in poems and songs the rhymes help to create the rhythm, so in prose narrative there are events that rhyme. The Charlemagne legend is highly effective narrative because it is a series of events that echo each other as rhymes do in a poem.

Everyone has heard someone tells a story poorly, pausing, offering apologies for not saying something right, carrying the story line on and on, until everyone is wishing that the storyteller would bring their clumsy novella to a quick end. Calvino offers us an example from Boccaccio and adds.

[page 39, 40] The novella is a horse, a means of transport with its own pace, a trot or a gallop according to the distance and the ground it has to travel over; but the speed Boccaccio is talking about is a mental speed. The listed defects of the clumsy storyteller are above all offenses against rhythm, as well as being defects of style because he does not use the expressions appropriate to the characters or to the events. In other words, even correctness of style is a question of quick adjustment, of agility of both thought and expression.

Calvino attributes the power of poetic style as largely due to rapidity, and from my experience this is true.

[page 42 The power of poetic style, which is largely the same thing as rapidity, is pleasing for these effects alone and consists in nothing else. The excitement of simultaneous ideas may arise either from each isolated word, whether literal or metaphorical, from their arrangement, from the turn of a phrase, or even from the suppression of other words and phrases.

One night I read aloud my poem “What is a Writer?”, which is full of simultaneous ideas, to a live audience (See my review of Building Great Sentences), reading its short lines in a rapid-fire fusillade, and I was delighted at the excitement it provoked, spontaneous bursts of applause popping up during my reading. The juxtaposition of incongruous images and double-meanings like "Michelangelo painting a cistern" and "Bogart making a double-bogey" had a most pleasing effect on my audience.

"Hurry slowly" Calvino claimed as his personal motto, which in Latin becomes Festina lente. In a Jazz Funeral in New Orleans, the motto is reversed, Lente festina, or to start off walking very slowly to a dirge until you reach the cemetery and the coffin has been lowered into the ground ("the Preacher releases the body") — that is the First Line — then the tempo picks up to double-time jazz tunes during the Second Line when people literally jitterbug in the streets with handkerchiefs and colorful umbrellas swinging high up in the air.

A Venetian publisher, Aldus Manutius, symbolized the Festina lente by a dolphin wrapped around an anchor. Calvino's favorite emblem involved the butterfly and the crab from a design by Paolo Giovio. "Butterfly and crab are both bizarre, both symmetrical in shape, and harmony," Calvino writes on page 48. Searching through archives on-line, I found Giovio's drawing of a butterfly right above a crab. Years ago I bought a butterfly-crab drawing symbolizing my astrological sign, only in this drawing the crab and butterfly were superimposed together, as if the Festina and lente were blended intimately together, the slow-moving crab internal to the fast flitting butterfly, illustrating graphically my steady Sun Sign blended with my unpredictable Aquarian Moon.

When Columbus returned to Spain and was dining with nobles, one of them said, "In Spain there are many men who could have built ships and have discovered America." Columbus replied by asking for an egg and wagered that none of the nobles present could get the egg to stand up on one end. They tried and failed. Then Columbus took the egg, lightly smashed one end of the egg, and the egg stood up on end. Having seen the fait accompli anyone could do it, but Columbus did it when no one knew how to do it, and he got to America when no one knew how to do it or even knew that it was there. Much like Columbus, Jorge Luis Borges created a new world of literary possibilities which Calvino describes.

[page 50] The last great invention of a new literary genre in our time was achieved by a master of the short form, Jorge Luis Borges. It was the invention of himself as narrator, that "Columbus' egg," which enabled him to get over the metal block that until nearly forty years of age prevented him from moving beyond essays to fiction. The idea that came to Borges was to pretend that the book he wanted to write had already been written by someone else, some unknown hypothetical author — an author in a different language, of a different culture — and that his task was to describe and review this invented book.

In his first attempt at this new genre in 1940, everyone believed it to be a review of an actual book by an Indian author. Borges did to books what the mathematician Rafael Bombelli did when he invented imaginary numbers — Borges invented the idea of imaginary books.

Calvino said he wanted to create a collection of tales consisting of one sentence only, but he could only find one he considered worthy of the collection, by Guatemalan writer Augusto Monterroso: "When I woke up, the dinosaur was still there." (Page 51)

We have seen Calvino migrating from quickness as speed to quickness as shortness in time or space. He also discusses the immobility of silent words and how the writer's craft attracts those who can enjoy contemplating these objects that do not move in time or space, but that move with the hearts, minds, and bodies of those reading them.

[page 52] Certainly literature would never have existed if some human beings had not been strongly inclined to introversion, discontented with the world as it is, inclined to forget themselves for hours and days on end and to fix their gaze on the immobility of silent words.

Here is the final story of the lecture on Quickness, a lente followed by a Festina, what I call the journey of 3,000 days ends in a single step. It is the gazing on the immobility of things which over time, in its own time produces the result. My wife used to tease me that I spent some much time staring at my writing with my back to her that she was going to paint a happy face on my bald spot to keep her company. Since then she has become my copy-editor and enjoys the quick step of reading my reviews which completes the journey of many days of my staring at the silent words.

[page 54] I began this lecture by telling a story. Let me end it with another story, this time Chinese: Among Chuang-tzu's many skills, he was an expert draftsman. the king asked him to draw a crab. Chuang-tzu replied that he needed five years, a country house, and twelve servants. Five years later the drawing was still not begun. "I need another five years," said Chuang-tzu. The king granted them. At the end of these ten years, Chuang-tzu took his brush up, and, in an instant, with a single stroke, he drew a crab, the most perfect crab ever seen.

Many years ago, before I had ever heard the above story, around 1978, I began drawing a symbol each year to represent the date and attached a number for the month and day to it. A friend, Ed Manning, referred to my drawing as a glyph and now I call it a "date glyph". When a new year starts, I prepare ahead of time for what the new year will look like. Generally the year glyph consists of two single strokes, though in some decades like the 1980s I managed it in one stroke, continuous, and without stopping. The first couple of months, the date glyphes are often awkward looking as I strive for smoothness and simplicity of the form. By the end of the year, drawing the glyph becomes as smooth as the one stroke of Chuang-tzu's crab must have been.


In 1988 when I read Giorgio de Santillana's book, Hamlet's Mill, I came to understand that myths are records of astronomical events, whether they be Mayan, Danish, Eskimo, or Hindu myths, etc. Now I learn the that Calvino heard this author lecture in 1963, some years before he wrote the above book which was published in 1977. I had often heard of experiments to determine the weight of a soul by measuring a person's body as they die, but never considered the possibility that there was a unit of measurement for the weight of a soul, the Maat.

[page 55] For the ancient Egyptians, exactitude was symbolized by a feather that served as a weight on scales used for the weighing of souls. This light feather was Maat, goddess of the scales. The hieroglyph for Maat also stood for a unit of length — the 33 centimeters of the standard brick — and for the fundamental note of the flute.
      This information comes from a lecture by Giorgio de Santillana on the precision of the ancients in observing astronomical phenomena, a lecture I heard in Italy in 1963 which had a profound influence on me. These days I have often thought of Santillana, who acted as my guide in Massachusetts during my first visit to the United States in 1960. In memory of his friendship, I have started this talk on exactitude in literature with the name of Maat, goddess of the scales — all the more because Libra is my sign of the Zodiac.

Calvino gives us three aspects in his definition of what he means by exactitude: (1) a well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question; (2) an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images; and (3) a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination. (Pages 55, 56) It seems that one who strove to speak with exactitude would never quite reach these three ideals, and Calvino is acutely aware of that aspect of speech and says he tries to talk as little as possible.

[page 56] It seems to me that language is always used in a random, approximate, careless manner, and this distresses me unbearably. . . . If I prefer writing, it is because I can revise each sentence until I reach the point where — if not exactly satisfied with my words — I am able at least to eliminate those reasons for dissatisfaction that I can put a finger on. Literature — and I mean literature that matches up to these requirements — is the Promised Land in which language becomes what it really ought to be.

First it seemed to me that Calvino saw language as some people view animals, poor creatures mistreated by their human owners who need a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Language to protect them from abuse and to provide sanitary and humane centers to protect language in the bosom of literature. Then, as a I read on, I saw another view of his intention.

[page 56] It sometimes seems to me that a pestilence has struck the human race in its most distinctive faculty — that is, the use of words. It is a plague afflicting language, revealing itself as a loss of cognition and immediacy, an automatism that tends to level out all expression into the most generic, anonymous, and abstract formulas, to dilute meanings, to blunt the edge of expressiveness, extinguishing the spark that shoots out from the collision of words and circumstances.

It seems that he wishes for a National Institute of Language Health which would do research into finding a cure for what ails language as it is used. Perhaps also a Center for Disease Control to find the source of the epidemic which he sees besetting language.

[page 56] At this point, I don't wish to dwell on the possible sources of this epidemic, whether they are to be sought in politics, ideology, bureaucratic uniformity, the monotony of the mass media, or the way schools dispense the culture of the mediocre. What interests me are the possibilities of health. Literature, and perhaps literature alone, can create the antibodies to fight this plague in language.

Having begun his lecture on the theme of exactitude, he moves in the opposite direction, wanting to write into the void of his own unknowing.

[page 68] Rather than speak to you of what I have written, perhaps it would be more interesting to tell you about the problems that I have not yet resolved, that I don't know how to resolve, and what these will cause me to write: Sometimes I try to concentrate on the story I would like to write, and I realize that what interests me is something else entirely or, rather, not anything precise but everything that does not fit in with what I ought to write — the relationship between a given argument and all its possible variants and alternatives, everything that can happen in time and space.

The story one would like to write is like a concentrated form, the form of a crystal perhaps, and the everything else is like a throbbing fire consuming form and creating all possibilities of flame reaching for the sky. Crystal and fire, two ways of being.

[page 71] Crystal and flame: two forms of perfect beauty that we cannot tear our eyes away from, two modes of growth in time, of expenditure of the matter surrounding them, two moral symbols, two absolutes, two categories for classifying facts and ideas, styles and feelings. . . . I have always considered myself a partisan of the crystal, but the passage just quoted teaches me not to forget the value of the flame as a way of being, as a mode of existence. In the same way, I would like those who think of themselves as disciples of the flame not to lose sight of the tranquil, arduous lesson of the crystal.

Were these two aspects of reality, crystal and flame, to come to battle, the outcome would likely be as in Leonardo's fable about fire.

[page 78] . . . the fire, offended because the water in the pan is above him, although he is the "higher" element, shoots his flames up and up until the water boils, overflow, and puts him out.


Which comes first the chicken or the egg? It is an ancient conundrum which Calvino resurrects here, in this memo to the new millennium, as this question: Which comes first the word or the image? Each one is an imaginative process. The word can be the egg for the image of the chicken; the image can be the chicken which lays the words as an egg which can grow into the chicken. The image is the word made visible; the word is the image made invisible.

[page 83] We may distinguish between two types of imaginative process: the one that starts with the word and arrives at the visual image, and the one that starts with the visual image and arrives at its verbal expression. The first process is the one that normally occurs when we read. For example, we read a scene in a novel or the report of some event in a newspaper and, according to the greater or lesser effectiveness of the text, we are brought to witness the scene as if it were taking place before our eyes, or at least to witness certain fragments or details of the scene that are singled out.

The second process involves the "mental cinema" of our imagination which "projects images before our mind's eye" which can be converted into words to describe an event in a novel or to create newspaper report of a real event from the memories of the event projected in our mental cinema. In our day, Calvino sees the visual images taking priority over verbal expressions. One need only to observe groups of people gathering to stare at YouTube videos on handheld devices to understand his point.

[page 86] Let us return to purely literary problematics and ask ourselves about the genesis of the imaginary in a time when literature no longer refers back to an authority or a tradition as its origin or goal, but aims at novelty, originality, and invention. It seems to me that in this situation the question of the priority of the visual image or verbal expression ( which is rather like the problem of the chicken and the egg) tends definitely to lean toward the side of the visual imagination.

How does Calvino devise a story? He tells us on page 893 that an image comes into his mind, charged with meaning, but as yet without words. Soon a field of analogies, symmetries, and confrontations form around the image. From these the outline of the story emerges and the writing becomes important. (Page 89)

[page 89] At the same time, the writing, the verbal product, acquires increasing importance. I would say that from the moment I start putting black on white, what really matters is the written word, first as a search for an equivalent of the visual image, then as a coherent development of the initial stylistic direction. Finally, the written word little by little comes to dominate the field. From now on it will be the writing that guides the story toward the most felicitous verbal expression, and the visual imagination has no choice but to tag along.

As a long-time computer scientist, I have studied the parallels between the human mind and computers. What I've learned is that computer scientists make too much of the parallels, jumping from the numerous analogies between human thinking and computer software/hardware to the unsustainable conclusion that the human brain is nothing but a computerized operation. My early work was in process control and I can tell you that what the computer worked on and manipulated involved huge chemical plants not just digital bits in the computer. Data arrived from outside the process computer, was used in calculations, stored, printed, and perhaps sent in modified form back out to the chemical process. Those data lines which come into the process computers could be considered as merely the five senses of the human being, but that thinking is simply a nothing-but reductionist approach.

Humans have the ability to sense that which transcends the five senses, do they not? Ever known a computer to have a hunch? To fall in love? To appreciate a poem or a piece of music or a work of art? Will anyone ever create a computer with the abilities of a 7-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? How did the inputs arrive in Mozart's brain, the fully-fleshed out concertos and symphonies which he wrote on paper and from which notes, others have strived to play and make it sound close to the music that Mozart had earlier heard in his mind? No, a nothing-but sensory input premise is not a worthy scientific approach to the understanding of the mind of the musician, the poet, the artist, or even the scientist.

[page 91] The poet's mind, and at a few decisive moments the mind of the scientist, works according to a process of association of images that is the quickest way to link and to choose between the infinite forms of the possible and the impossible. The imagination is a kind of electronic machine that takes account of all possible combinations and chooses the ones that are appropriate to a particular purpose, or are simply the most interesting, pleasing, or amusing.

Calvino cannot have meant that a computer can find things interesting, pleasing, or amusing in choosing a combination appropriate to a particular purpose; computers are, rightly understood, merely a very fast lookup file cabinet, but they have no personality nor opinions or preferences, much less a choosing ability based on interesting, pleasing, or amusing. "When will computers have reached the level of human intelligence?" a student asked Gregory Bateson and he answered, "When we ask them a question and they reply, 'That reminds me of a story.'" Or as I might ask those pretentious A. I. pioneers who see computers replacing humans, "What part of 'artificial' do you not understand in 'Artificial Intelligence'?" What kind of A. I. machine could ever evoke images of things not there?

[page 91, 92] Will the power of evoking images of things that are not there continue to develop in a human race increasingly inundated by a flood of prefabricated images? . . . We are bombarded today by such a quantity of images that we can no longer distinguish direct experience from what we have seen for a few seconds on television. The memory is littered with bits and pieces of images, like a rubbish dump, and it is more and more unlikely that any one form among so many will succeed in standing out.

Does it seem to you that Calvino was above talking the latest fad that we call Modern Art? You know those so-called artworks where a blank canvas is purposely "littered with bits and pieces of images, like a rubbish dump"?

Visibility means icastic forms in which meaning stands out in a memorable fashion, as in a Mozart, a Picasso, a Monet, a Dali, or a Georgia O'Keefe.

[page 92] I have in mind some possible pedagogy of the imagination that would accustom us to control our own inner vision without suffocating it or letting it fall, on the other hand, into confused, ephemeral daydreams, but would enable the image to crystallize into a well-defined, memorable, and self-sufficient form, the icastic form.


In the last of the five memos included in this book, we have a multiplicity of things to talk about. Take for example, That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda, known as the Italian James Joyce by some. Calvino quotes from it, two and a half pages of Italian prose, followed by an equally long English translation. I know very little Italian, but recognize many of the words with roots in other languages familiar to me. With my scant knowledge and exposure to spoken Italian from my weeks in Rome and other Italian cities, I decided to read the Italian passages to myself and was surprised how much of the language spoke to me clearly as I did so, passages and short sentences revealed their meaning to me. The French and German I had an easier time with, but somehow these various languages seemed appropriate for a lecture to be given at Harvard University, or would he have delivered all of the lectures in Italian? No indication was given by his wife Esther. So, we had to deal with a multiplicity of languages just to arrive at Memo 5 in this book.

Here's a quote from the Gadda passage, in English. Officer Ingravallo would interrupt his sleep to speak on the affairs of men and women, and his words were treated as trivial blather, but a curious thing happened over time.

[page 103] At first sight, or rather, on first hearing, these seemed banalities. They weren't banalities. And so these rapid declarations, which crackled on his lips like the sudden illumination of a sulphur match, were revived in the ears of people at a distance of hours, or of months, from their enunciation: as if after a mysterious period of incubation. 'That's right!' the person in question admitted, 'That's exactly what Ingravallo said to me.' He sustained, among other things, that unforseen catastrophes are never the consequence or the effect, if you prefer, of a single motive, of a cause singular; but they are rather like a whirlpool, a cyclonic point of depression in the consciousness of the world, towards which a whole multitude of converging causes have contributed.

We see the "whole multitude" as an example of the theme of this fifth memo, but exactly why did Calvino include this Gadda's work here? Usually, with other authors, we are left to ponder that question, like the people had to ponder the ejaculations of Ingravallo, but not with Calvino. He tells us why, as if he hears us asking him the question.

[page 105, 106] I wished to begin with this passage from Gadda because it seems to me an excellent introduction to the subject of my lecture — which is the contemporary novel as an encyclopedia, as a method of knowledge, and above all as a network of connections between the events, the people, and the things of the world. [and also] . . . because his philosophy fits in very well with my theme, in that he views the world as a "system of systems," where each system conditions the others and is conditioned by them.

People, in some group of every person together, comprise a system which conditions some other group of people and is in turn conditioned by them. For example, Gadda says (Page 108) "to know is to insert something into what is real, and hence to distort reality." Systems of systems we are all.

Robert Musil is another encyclopedic writer. (Page 110) "Everything he knows or thinks he deposits in an encyclopedic book that he tries to keep in the form of a novel, but its structure continually changes; it comes to pieces in his hands. The result is that not only does he never manage to finish the novel, but he never succeeds in deciding on its general outlines or how to contain the enormous mass of material within set limits."

Flaubert who wrote to a friend, "what I'd like to do is a book about nothing", went on to write "the most encyclopedic novel ever written, Bouvard and Pécuchet." (Page 113) Flaubert read over 1500 books on science, medicine, etal to write this novel of two men who devoted their lives to copy the books in the universal library.

Thomas Mann arises next before us; his Magic Mountain proffered by Calvino as "the most complete introduction to the culture of our century." Following on his heels is Alfred Jarry and his L'amour absolu (1899), a mere fifty page novel, but one that can be read as three different stories:

[page 117]
      (1) the vigil of a condemned man in his cell the night before his execution;
      (2) the monologue of a man suffering from insomnia, who when half asleep dreams that he has been condemned to death;
      (3) the story of Christ.

Before we can catch our breath or our balance, Calvino challenges us with his favorite author, Jorge Luis Borges and his vertiginous essay on time, "The Garden of Forking Paths", "which is presented as a spy story and includes a totally logico-metaphysical story, which in turn contains the description of an endless Chinese novel — and all concentrated into a dozen pages." (Page 119)

Naturally, Calvino mentions his own vertiginous work, a masterpiece in my opinion, If on a winter's night a traveler, which my review provides my own insights into, available by a click on the title. It is worthy to note that the Traveler book ends with the two main characters Ludmilla and Reader in bed together, and Reader is almost finished reading the book Calvino was almost finished writing. The last page, Chapter 12, is very short: Ludmilla closes her book and turns off her light to go to sleep, asking, "Aren't you tired of reading?" and Reader answers, "Just a moment, I've almost finished If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino." Here is Calvino looping himself as Escher does in his gallery drawing which shows a man looking at an image on the wall which includes an image of him looking at the image. We find ourselves reading a book in which a character in the book is reading the same book we are reading. Vertiginous.

From his wife Esther's prefatory comments we can deduce that Italo Calvino died shortly before his moment of departure for America to give these lectures at Cambridge, and thus he never got to write his planned sixth lecture on Consistency. Harvard later published his five lectures, and later Random House published this Vintage International Edition. Wading through a multiplicity of authors, we finally reach an end to this chapter of multiplicities of multiplicities, Calvino's meta-chef d'oeuvre, wondering if he ever reached what stood closest to his heart:

[page 124] "a work that would let us escape the limited perspective of the individual ego, not only to enter into selves like our own but to give speech to that which has no language, to the bird perching on the edge of the gutter, to the tree in spring and the tree in fall, to stone, to cement, to plastic . . . ."

What can we say after those fateful words from a speech which he never gave, but which speaks to our minds and hearts across the distance of 34 years, bridging his millennium and our millennium, speaking of the "nature common to each and every thing."


---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------

Footnote 1.

Esther Calvino also wrote that in 1985, a year he devoted entirely to writing these memos, he had early on announced to her he planned to write eight memos. The last she has not found any trace of, except it dealt with the "Beginning and Ending of Novels". She mentions nothing of memos 6 and 7, but it's possible she had his notes or a rough draft of them.

Return to text directly before Footnote 1.


Footnote 2.

Think of software in a computer like the disks on the rods of an abacus. Changing the disks' arrangement during an arithmetic computation does not change the weight of the abacus.

Return to text directly before Footnote 2.


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3.) ARJ2: What Has Geology to Say About the Origin of the World? GA#60 by Rudolf Steiner

How can one align the evolution of Earth as described by Steiner's spiritual science with that provided to us by the physical science of geology? Geology starts at the time when the granite of Earth becomes solid and cannot provide data about what our planet was like before then. Spiritual science shows us how the evolution of Earth proceeded through stages of progressive solidification to the most recent solid granite stage. If geology can only speak to the most recent stage of Earth's evolution, how much can geology give to answer the title question, the question which Steiner expands below:

[page 1] Our main purpose today will be to envisage the relationship in which spiritual science must stand to geology, and to answer the question, "How much has geology to say about the question concerning the origin, the gradual emergence, and evolution of the earth and its living organisms?"

The answer to the question "How much?" can only be "Not much" because geology only covers a small portion of the evolution of Earth, the solid stage. Nevertheless, Steiner gives a thoughtful reply to the question, "from the point of view of spiritual science which has always formed the base of our considerations."(1) In this lecture he discusses geology and how it fits into his spiritual science without contradicting it, geology only explaining details of the granite stage of Earth's evolution.

In 1975 I attended a lecture by a young geologist who was a pioneer in the new field of plate tectonics which explained how mountains formed, volcanos blew, and earthquakes shook. Her lecture made a deep impression on me. She began by promising to tell us "everything we needed to know about geology," and she fulfilled that promise so well that I remember her lecture now as if I had heard her give it last night. Particularly these memorable words: "There are three kinds of rocks: pink rock, green rock, and black rock. Pink rock floats on green rock, and when green rock seeps into the ocean bed, black rock is formed." That's it! Can you remember that? If you can, dear Reader, you'll know all that you need to know about geology. To summarize what she explained that night as best I can: Pink rock is granite; Green rock is the liquid asthenosphere on which granite floats; Black rock is basalt which is formed when the asthenosphere liquid (very dense and hot) contacts seawater and turns in basalt, the basis of what we know as volcanic pumice, the black sands of Hawaii, and the various ocean ridges formed by the leakage of green rock. Granite, the Pink rock, forms the basis of the large continents which float on Green rock. As these giant slabs of granite called tectonic plates move, they collide with other plates and must go either over or under the other plates, causing mountain ranges to rise. If there is a hot spot, a thin place in the plate, volcanic mountains can form. If the hot spot is at sea, volcanoes will rise to form islands with mountains on them, the condition which created the Hawaiian Islands, for example. When the plates rub each other as along the San Andreas Fault in California, you get earthquakes. There you have it, just as she promised me, all you need to know about geology, but remember this applies only to the Earth since it reached the physical level in our current stage of evolution of our planet.

What Steiner's spiritual science has to add to the knowledge of the Earth's evolution fills out the time before it became solid and the time to come when its solidity will disappear. The solid phase of geology can be seen as a minor speed bump in the grand scheme of cosmic evolution, a grand scheme in which humans have participated from the beginning and will see through to the end of the Earth, a time when "the Sun shall rise and set no more", a time when we will look back at the Earth as our launching pad for entering the spiritual world, in freedom and light.

Let us take a look at how Steiner sums up geology and natural science and their methodical approach.

[page 2, 3] Thus geology seems to be fully in conformity with what natural science knows today from other inferences, namely, that in the process of the earth's evolution the living creatures have developed by slow degrees from quite primitive to more perfect forms. When we now examine the Cambrian bed, namely, the lowest layer, and imagine that all the other layers had not yet come into existence, we shall have to assume that in the most ancient times there existed only the lowest animal forms, which as yet had no skeleton and were the first predecessors of the still undeveloped animals which were entombed in the deposits covering the lowest stratum of the rock-material. Then we must imagine that these beings have had descendants, that the latter may have underdone changes under the then prevailing, different conditions. In the next layer, which is again younger, we discover those animals in which there are already some indications of skeleton-like structures. And as we approach the younger layers we see evidence of more highly-developed animal species, until we come to the tertiary layers, where we already find the mammals, and then, in layers still younger than the tertiary layers, man.

According to geology and natural science, the geological event took place during billions and billions of years. Their method of calculating these numbers has an amazing logical problem, which Steiner has approached in various ways. In a previous lecture he mentioned how doctors might examine a man and calculate how much a disease is progressing in him per year, but if you were to use that same data to extrapolate backwards you would reach the conclusion that the disease must have started 300 years previously, only the man was not alive 300 years ago. This kind of backward calculation might seem ludicrous to us, but it is exactly the method used by geology and natural science to calculate the age of the Earth and the various geological epochs. In the next passage Steiner explains how this is done.

[page 3] Some idea of the methods applied and of the manner in which research is conducted may be gained from the following. — If, for instance, one observes how certain layers are still being formed today as alluvial deposits washed up by river-action or the like in the course of so and so many years, and if by measuring the thickness of such a layer a certain measurement is obtained by which it can be reckoned how many years it has taken for that layer to be deposited — then one can calculate how long the accumulation must have taken of all the layers we have had under review — provided that conditions were the same as they are today. As a result, the most divergent figures are obtained from the calculations made by the geologists. There is no need to enlarge upon contradictions which arise from this; for anyone who understands the contradictions will know that they have no essential significance, although they are really sometimes rather pronounced and amount to many billions of years according to the results obtained by different investigators.

The number of years is not so important as the overall assumption that if you go back far enough, there will be no life existing on Earth. "For geology finds itself compelled to assume that the lowest stratum owes its origin to a fire-process within which any possibility of life is unthinkable." (Page 3) The basic principle that life can only come from life cannot be confirmed from geological assumptions.

[page 3] When we consider those oldest layers upon which the life-carrying layers are resting, and study their rock-material which consists mainly of what is called granite, we envisage our globe in a form which, according to modern geology, still presents itself in a kind of lifeless condition. That is where the upper layers are open, and granite protrudes and forms mountains, so to speak, as a witness of the oldest times of our earth.

Our human body in this geological age consists of flesh and liquid which rests upon and is supported by our hard bony structure. Granite is the bony-structure of the great being we call Earth, and this granite is called by Goethe, the "oldest son of the earth". After reviewing the Plutonist fire origin and the Neptunist water origin for the Earth, Steiner explains:

[page 6] Thus Goethe already points out that in the last resort neither fire-action nor water can be thought responsible for the mysterious formation of this oldest son of our earth — granite. If against the investigations of geology, which anyhow have reached a point from which they cannot lead us any further, we quite simply set down what spiritual science has to say, what clairvoyant investigation has revealed, it presents itself somewhat in the following way. . . . We then find creatures without any vertebrate skeleton, and so, with clairvoyant vision, we do indeed come to a tellurian epoch in which we cannot find such beings as are now living on our earth.

We find creatures for whom we have never and cannot ever find skeletal remains, as they lived in a time when such minerals had not precipitated into a hard form. Spiritual science can fill in details for which geology and natural science have few suppositions pre-granite ages and below the mantle of the Earth conditions. What the young geologist told us about the three rocks had not yet come into being, and perhaps the Earth was only asthenosphere, Green rock, during those ages, the same Green rock which we can know only as the basalt it turns into upon exposure to seawater.

[page 7] If in the field of geology we remain on really safe ground (and no student of natural science ought to doubt what I am now saying), geology has only suppositions in regard to what precedes the granite-age; likewise geology can have no more than suppositions about conditions in the interior of the earth. For the bores that have been driven into the earth by drilling-operations reach depths which must be regarded only as tiny pin-pricks. There are suppositions, hypotheses, and nothing else — at best some dim divination about conditions which preceded the weaving and surging processes in granite-formation and so forth.

We humans have striven to penetrate the crust to the mantle of the Earth with our pin-pricks of long drilling tools, but success at doing that seems still far away: best estimates are that we may get samples of the mantle by the 2020s. But what we may make of the samples is yet to be seen. We will be sampling the asthenosphere as best I can understand this endeavor and given the violent reaction of lava when it interacts with seawater, being able to retrieve the sample unaltered seems rather difficult and unlikely.

The simple principle that life can only come from life reveals the folly of asking the question backwards as "How can life have developed out of the lifeless?" Those who try to answer that question have hit dead ends literally, but that has not deterred them from their quest and they generate even more preposterous claims of some primordial soup in which proteins arrangement themselves into living forms by random mutations. Many scientists have given up on the primordial soup hypothesis, only to replace it by the alien being hypothesis — but as least having an alien being drop some living molecules of DNA on Earth is a postulate which respects the life-from-life principle.

But the alien being hypothesis does not solve the origin of life, but only pushes the logical problem further away: Where did the life of the first alien being come from? We end up in an infinite regression from Alien1 to Alien2 to Alien3 . . . ad infinitum. This is the dilemma of hard science, the science of material things, it cannot create life from material things which are not already alive. That should be enough to discredit science, but science uses its tools of hypothesis to generate a bafflegab which few non-scientists can understand or challenge, up until now. Only a science which leads us to understand Earth as an organism will work, and Steiner has used this approach in his spiritual science which is not intended to discredit material science, but rather to extend the realm of science into areas which material science cannot handle due to its own defined limitations for investigation and hypothesis.

[page 8, 9] Thus spiritual science leads us back to the earth as an organism — not to a primeval state in which the earth was, so to speak, dead matter; on the contrary, the earth was originally a mighty organism. From the point of view of spiritual science one must practically reverse the way of asking a question that is put quite wrongly today. No science which assumes that the earth was once a dead globe in which only chemical and physical processes were active will be able to explain how life could arise out of this dead globe. This is a highly controversial question; but as a rule it is put quite wrongly. For generally people ask: How could "life" have developed out of the lifeless? — But that is not how it is: the living is not preceded by the lifeless, but the reverse is the case; the lifeless is preceded by the living.

How did life originate? The answer is found in Steiner's classic book, An Outline of Occult Science, and involved the evolution of our entire cosmos and the sacrifice of many beings of the spiritual hierarchies to form this life which evolves through the stages of Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon, and finally to the solid stage of Earth in which granite and other minerals could begin to aggregate and form the stage for the first Adam, the first "Hard Man", to walk upon an Eden, our Earth, prepared by the spiritual beings which we subsume under the single name God, a name which indicates our lack of understanding of the spiritual hierarchies who work together in concert to fashion the living beings which now populate the stage we call planet Earth. Not only is it the stage upon which we walk and strut our hour, but, rightly understood, it is womb in which our very life was born over aeons of time before it was ready for us humans to walk upon its surface. So how do the lifeless proceed from the living?

[page 9] The lifeless mineral is a product of segregation, as our bones are segregations of our organism. Similarly, all rock-material is a product of segregation in the earth-organism, and processes of spirit-and-soul forces — processes of destruction in the first place — are the means of producing such segregations in the organism of the earth. And were we to go further back we should see how this path would lead us much further still. We are led by what operates in the mineral domain to the earth as an organism, and indeed we already see, as we go still further back, that we are being led not only to an organism, but to a formation of our planet that is permeated with the working of forces of spirit-and-soul.

Now we are ready to learn how it came to be that granite became "the oldest son of Earth" as Goethe claimed.

[page 9] No longer do we trace life back to the lifeless, but we trace the lifeless back to processes of segregation from the living, and we regard the living as a state emanating from the sphere of the spirit and of the soul. And the further we go back, the nearer we come to that sphere in which lies the real origin of the present minerals, the plant-forms and so on: we approach the Spiritual and we let spiritual science tell us that it was not merely out of a lifeless, fiery nebula that there came into existence all that we perceive in the manifold forms of earthly phenomena, but that all this has taken shape out of the Spiritual, that originally our earth was pure Spirit, and that the course of evolution was such that on the one side emerged those forms which tend more towards the mineral element, and that on the other side the possibility arose for certain new forms to develop, capable of responding to spiritual functions of a new order. For if we now proceed in the opposite direction and say: In the old rock-material we have something which segregated out of the original organism of the earth, and if we then go on to our present age, this segregation is going on all the time. Granite is merely the oldest segregation; but the processes which bring about the segregation will be ever less and less living processes; for more and more they will tend to be mere chemical, mere mechanical processes; so that at last, in our time, we still have only those effects due to water-action, which can be observed when, for instance, a river carries rock-material from one place to another. But what we perceive there as the result of mechanical-chemical processes is only the final product; this has turned into the minerals in accordance with the laws of nature; it is a state resulting from what was originally at work in the realm of the life-forces.

With this next step, Steiner takes us through the organic evolution of our spirit and soul filled Earth until it reaches the geological stage of the Cambrian epoch in which the first living forms began to leave traces of their existence for us to view. If we walk on a beach and see footprints, do we claim that these are the first footprints to be left on the beach? No, other footprints could have been left and washed away. Similarly we must see that the Cambrian fossils are not the first living beings in or on the Earth, only the first ones to leave footprints behind them!

[page 9, 10] And so we see how actually in the course of the development of our earth something takes place in connection with the formation of the ground beneath us, which we find in a similar way in the individual human or animal organism. There we see, how a man lives to a certain age, how he then passes through the gate of death, leaving his body as a corpse, and we see the continuation of those processes which are purely mineral processes; during the body's lifetime, however, these chemical and physical processes were an integral part of those working through the forces of spirit-and-soul. Similarly we come back to a time of earth-existence when the processes which today are of a chemical and mechanical nature were caught up and perpetuated by organic — yes, by spiritual and soul-processes. But what is taking place on the ground formation of our earth is, so to speak, only the one stream, left from earlier — to begin with more living, organic processes — and then spiritual processes. This foundation had to come into existence, had to form itself, so that on its firm ground, life of a different order could function — that life which gradually became our life, in order that as time went on such cerebral instruments could develop in living beings which enabled them to become "inwardly" aware of the spirit, inwardly able to form thoughts and produce feelings which, as it were, repeat the outer processes in reflective and emotional awareness. Therefore the whole mass of our earth's substance had to be "sifted," the present purely mineral substances had to be discarded — and those retained which today can form the organisms which are permeated by a part only of the substance of the old massif. These are the parts which only now can form themselves, for example, into what man is today. The spirit which lives in the human head, in the human heart, that is to say in a being whose organization is as it were, more refined than that of the planetary being of the earth as a whole, this spirit could only originate in a being from which were eliminated those substances which today do not belong to organic life. This "sifting" of the whole mass of our earth's substance had taken place, and the one part was given over as a foundation to the purely mineral life in order that on it can develop a new life, which we see entering its lowest form at the moment which in later times geology has marked as that of the emergence of the most primitive beings in Cambrian form.

During early stages of life, the beings were in the fluid region surrounding the accumulating mass which eventually formed the surface of Earth on which these beings could function and evolve. Decomposition created by spirit-and-soul forces created ascending beings of a higher order as well as providing the foundation for these beings, all of which resulted in the organism we know as the human being.

[page 10] The development of these finer organisms is in the ascendancy. Why? Because, through having segregated the coarsest material as in a mighty process of elimination, which then became the surface of the earth, they were in a position to isolate themselves more or less from the earth and its inner processes — and are now open to cosmic influences streaming towards the earth from outside. They are now exposed to the more spiritual effects of the cosmos and it is to this that they owe the ascent from primitive forms of life to that of man.

Rightly understood, we walk about upon the earth-corpse which is yet decomposing beneath us. But we must at the same time consider the fructifying forces which lead us to our future, a future in which Earth becomes humankind's launching pad.

[page 10, 11] From the standpoint of spiritual science, we move about on a ground in process of destruction which had to come about in order to give us the firm, solid ground we need when we consider the blossoming forces which point to the future and move in the opposite direction to those we encounter in the body of the earth; for these future-building forces are something which, independent of the solid ground of the earth penetrates into human souls, into human spirits, perhaps also into those beings which are outside the human element, and are only beginning their ascent on the foundation of the solid earth. In the latter itself we should, however, have something in a state of decomposition. From the point of view of spiritual science our earth would appear as a progressively disintegrating dead body, and the geological laws would at the same time be those governing the decomposition of the earth-corpse. And man on earth would be a being who lifts himself out of the dead earth body, just as the human soul, passing through the gate of death, rises from the corpse and abandons it to those forces which bring about its decomposition and destruction.

If this sounds depressing, it can only be so to someone who does not understand the thrust of human evolution through many lifetimes which arrives eventually at the stage of spirit no longer bound to the surface of the earth-corpse.

[page 11] In some way it must obviously come about that not only the individual human being but the whole of humanity gradually throws off the earth-body in order to be able to rise step by step to other realms of development. And so, from the standpoint of spiritual science, the mid-period of earth-evolution had already been passed ever since the time when "the oldest son of the earth" was segregated, and the beings which are beginnings in preparation for the future will unfold further on the foundation thus laid down.

Having laid the basis for spiritual science's extension of geology, Steiner asks the eponymous question, "What does modern geology have to say about this conception of spiritual science?" He turns first to the preeminent geologist of his time, Eduard Suess, who thrust aside the Plutonist-fire-origin and the Neptunist-water-origin theories and focused on the physiognomy of the Earth in his book "The Face of the Earth". He saw the mountains on Earth to be like the wrinkles on the peel of an apple, and his theories set the stage for the continental drift and plate tectonic theories of geology which followed him. Suess used a sense-perceptive method for his research and concluded:

[page 12, quote from Seuss' book] ". . . The collapse of the globe is what we are witnessing. True, it had already begun a very long time ago, and so the brevity of the span of human life lets us be of good cheer. Not only are there traces of it in the high mountain ranges. Great blocks of earth have sunk hundreds, yes, in certain cases, many thousands of feet, and not the slightest sign of graded subsidences on the surface, but only the differences in the kinds of rock or deep mining betray the existence of a fracture. Time has leveled everything. In Bohemia, in the Palatinate, in Belgium, in Pennsylvania, in numerous places, the plough draws its furrows above the mightiest fractures."

Seuss's work on the evolution of Earth, being sense-based rather than theory-based, aligned itself with Steiner's spiritual science work on the evolution of Earth. What is unique about Steiner’s work is that it continues past the question-marks at which geology must stop.

[page 13] Spiritual science lets the spiritual facts speak for themselves and tell what they have to reveal of the cosmic mysteries; natural science speaks of what it has established by its own methods: the two are in full concord. If you ignore those popular works which declare this or that to be a "scientific fact" and go to the sources, then you will find, especially in the field of geology, that the geologists everywhere get to a certain point — and then put a question-mark. Arriving at those question-marks, one can take them as a starting-point for spiritual research. Then spiritual science tells us: if it is true what clairvoyance reveals, the external factual material must appear in this or that form. — In the case of geology it was this: if what spiritual science has to describe is right, then, with the present process of decomposition continuing, our globe must now be in a state of collapse. Geology, adhering to facts, has shown that according to the laws it is so! The findings of true natural science everywhere are in line with the results of spiritual scientific investigation.

Life is a puzzle with two question marks. We can in our imagination go back to our birth or go forward to our death, and each of those two points, we find a question mark. With natural science we are not able to proceed before or after these two question marks — it abandons us at these points, but proclaims that natural science provides a complete description of the world. With the natural science of geology, we find the same two question marks: one at the birth of geology (the Cambrian Age) and the other at the end of Earth. I was led to Rudolf Steiner's work exactly because he provided answers to the enigmas marked by the two question marks: before birth and after death for the human being. In this lecture, he takes us exploring past the two enigmas of geology, before the Cambrian Age and beyond the disappearance of Earth as a planet. Most geologists will find Steiner's explanations unsatisfactory, but will certainly notice that his spiritual science where it describes geological conditions aligns with their geological theories. If they were to spend only a fraction of the time they spent studying geology to study the basis of spiritual science, they might begin to see answers to the realities past those two question marks of geology and of their own lives.


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Footnote 1. The passage from page 1, I have completed here, paraphrasing it for clarity to English-speaking readers.

Return to text directly before Footnote 1.


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I hear often from my Good Readers that they have bought books after reading my book reviews. Keep reading, folks! As I like to remind you, to obtain more information on what's in these books, buy and read the books — for less information, read the reviews.

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In this section I like to comment on events in the world, in my life, and in my readings which have come up during the month. These are things I might have shared with you in person, if we had had the opportunity to converse during the month. If we did, then you may recognize my words. If I say some things here which upset you, rest assured that you may skip over these for the very reason that I would likely have not brought up the subject to spoil our time together in person.

1. Padre Filius Listens to Air Force Shortwave Band this Month:

Padre Filius, the cartoon character created by your intrepid editor and would-be cartoonist, will appear from time to time in this Section of the Digest to share with us some amusing or enlightening aspect of the world he observes during his peregrinations. This Cartoon uses drawing originally done April 5, 1983 (See Date Glyph.)

This month the good Padre Overhears Fighter Jet Pilot Reporting a Sighting of UFOs:

2. Comments from Readers:

  • EMAIL from Billy Hatchett about his and Del's Alma Mater:
    WOW! What a wonderful presentation of Warren Easton Charter School by Sandra Bullock on the People’s Choice Award Show last night. She is such a Wonderful and Real Person!
    Below are two links: the first, is from the awards show last night; the second link, is to the expanded video Sandy mentioned during her presentation. On two days in November there probably were 8 hours or more of footage shot, every bit of it good, but much that could not be used due to time limitations. Sandy hopes to produce a documentary on Warren Easton and hopefully more will be seen.
    People’s Choice Award segment of Sandra Bullock’s presentation:


    Expanded Video of Warren Easton with Sandra Bullock:
    Below is the link to the school’s website. Please go to it to place your order for Commemorative Bricks – Celebrating 100 years! Please do it NOW, don’t delay!
    Thanking you in advance for your help and support.
    Billy Hatchett
    Foundation Board
    Centennial Committee Chairman
    P.S. Please forward to those that are interested in a Great School and a GOOD Story!

  • EMAIL from Betty Chowning in Kentucky:
    Hi Bobby,
    Your digest is so full of fun things, neat activities and many wonderful family and friends in your life! I love reading it and seeing the beautiful pictures you always include of nature and of course, you and Del. I have been to VA for Christmas and just got home this past Saturday. I am glad to be home but enjoyed the snow and sleet encountered while there. Being in the country rejuvenates me, somehow.
    I wish you both a wonderful New Year and continued good times and happiness, good health too.
    Hugs to you both, Betty

  • EMAIL from Kevin Chapman, newcomer to doyletics:
    Hello Bobby,
    Well, I am moved enough by your website, (just discovered by me) to desire writing you. I understand the theory, of what you are teaching, and I do understand the logic of it.
    Dear Kevin,
    Thanks for writing. I will answer each of your questions below. Bobby
    A short time ago, I was going through a very difficult emotional time for myself, a divorce. It was, to say the least, very emotionally destructive. I can not ever remember going through such an emotional roller coaster by the loss of a relationship before.
    Yes, I remember such a time in my life, and looking back I wish I had had doyletics’ Speed Trace available to me then.
    I loved and hated the same person, at the same time, and both emotions in the same high degree. I caught myself often times wishing I could just "erase" the emotions from my mind. Is it possible to erase the hurtful emotions, while still holding the memory? Is this what your discovery enables one to achieve?
    Emotions, rightly understood, are physical body states which arise without conscious volition. These states we call doyles or doylic memories. What the Speed Trace allows you to do is to remove the onerous bodily states of emotions — it enables you to convert the doylic memory into a cognitive memory (just plain memory). When you do that, the bodily states do not return, and you may get a hint at what the triggering event was.
    Also, on another front. I have often been advised by "seers", some would call, palm readers, that my life does not make sense to them. They see that I am to be highly successful in this life, however, success has been fleeting to say the least. One even told me that she can see me leading a great corporation, but that something is blocking this, or rather holding me back from this. It would appear that I have the gifts of success, but always end up self destructing.
           So, my question: Can errant doyles prohibit our successes in this life? Is there a hidden blockade that our destiny can not move past until this doyle is discovered, and overcome?
    Hmmm, that’s a very interesting observation about how doyles can block us from doing things. I call these “stopper doyles” and when you remove a stopper doyle, you will be surprised to find yourself doing things freely and comfortably that you hadn’t attempted or had avoided before the trace. Likely you’ll forget you did the trace and only much later look back to see the connection between the new behaviors and the speed trace. I discovered this through conversations with my daughter many years ago.
    Bobby, are these doyles actually "opinions" that we have made into truths? Such as "I do not deserve to be wealthy, therefore I am not, and when success comes, I must de-rail it, because I am not worthy of it"
    No, doyles are simply bodily states to which we have given all kinds of names: hunger pangs, eg, or fear of spiders, or acrophobia, agoraphobia, seasickness, and many other kinds of things. The Speed Trace allows folks to convert the doyles into simple memories and the phobias etal just go away forever.
    I have heard that we suffer the sins of our parents, It has come to my attention that it is possible that these "doyles" are external opinons planted within ourselves by others which then we make into truths, and hence we make these implanted opinions.....reality for ourselves.
    I define doyletics as the science of the acquisition and transmission of physical body states, as one might define genetics as the science of the acquisition and transmission of physical body traits. A trait is a physical feature or anomaly, a state is a temporary status the body undergoes. Both traits (genes) and states (doyles) can last lifetimes, but a one-minute Speed Trace can remove a state (doyle).
    My father is always saying that we are poor people, and it is sorta our destiny. I do not put much salt into his sayings now that I am an adult, but after visiting your web site, I would guess that he had always been saying that, even when my mother was pregnant with me, and the opinion of being poor could have been formed in my mind, before birth.
    Clearly you will have received genes and doyles from your parents, and doyles from playmates and other caregivers before you reached five. The doyles you can trace away.
    Bobby, also is it possible that many disease states could also be "doyles" or rather the doyles be the origin of the disease? example: "My mother has Heart Disease, therfore, I will have heart disease"
    What Doyle Henderson and I discussed was his idea that what we call a disease is really the body’s healing state to overcome some internal condition (a bacteria or virus or whatever). Thus a rash is the body’s healing states which arise after contact with poison ivy, perhaps. If that contact came under five years old, you will likely have poison ivy every time you even see the plant because it will trigger the same healing states of when you actually had the very first contact with the plant under 5. For me, I have never had poison ivy and I don’t even know what it looks like, nor care to learn.

    Shingles requires you had chicken pox under five according to doyletics theory. Doctors do not know this aspect of shingles. If you had chicken pox over five, as I did – at seven, no shingles. Shingles can be easily traced away. Modern medicine does not know this, up until now.
    If we think it, do we not create it? and if it is an opinion, that we have made into a truth, does not this make it real?
    EAT-O-TWIST is my way of saying Everything Allways Turns Out The Way It’s Supposed To, which describes how what we suppose (eg, opinions) creates that reality given enough time.
    Well, I will end this letter, I just wished to contact you, and get some further insight from you.

    Happy New Year and best regards,
    Thanks for writing. I think you have already answered most of the questions I usually ask people, but a few are left:
    Married and divorced, I gather currently divorced.
    Any children?
    Current challenges in life?
    I suggest you learn to do the Speed Trace using an easily triggered doyle, such as a food dislike. This works best because the food can trigger the doyle, keep it there during that first speed trace and be used to confirm that the trace was successful. It will help you to identify what a doyle is, what it looks like (to others when one is active in you), and what it feels like internally when, say, a grimace appears on your face when looking at or thinking of a hated food. The muscles creating the grimace can be held consciously as you go thru the trace and at the age of the original event which created the grimace, the muscles will relax. This experience will become a model for you to proceed to more complicated doyles such as stopper doyles.
           Stay in touch, and thanks for giving me permission to use this email to you to share with others who may have similar issues.
    Most cordially,
  • EMAIL from Jennifer re: Hour of Power:
    I saw your page at this link:

    I like you was raised Catholic, and saw the Hour of Power after Mass on Sundays (You said you watched before Mass). The message of possibility thinking gave me the faith to believe I could go to university with no money. And I did.

    So sorry to hear what happened to the Chrystal cathedral. I don't know the details, but Dr. Schuller sure sowed some good seed. I didn't know the scripture to believe, but all I knew was that God could.

    Thanks so much and God bless you and your family
    Jennifer R.

  • EMAIL from Kathryn Yost in Indiana:
    Bobby and Del,
    We've had plenty of snow this year for sledding...I've never been on a toboggan but love to do so! There were a few interesting homemade sleds when we were there. Someone was using a wheelbarrow without the wheel. Another had made something that looked more like a bike but used skis instead of tires. It was entertaining! I'll pass on your compliments to Sierra on her hat and scarf :)
    Wishing you both a wonderful New Year!
    Love, Kathryn

3. Poem from Freedom on the Half Shell: "Poll Tax"

Give me your poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free and I will give them taxes, regulations, restrictions, and every manner of unfairness ever created by persons saddled with the illusion that they can decide what is best for someone else's welfare. The individual, like the business professional, knows what's best in a given situation and, given the freedom, will take that action. The forces of coercion are prying open the shell that contains the living muscle and spirit of the American people — will we resist those forces and keep our muscles and spirit alive, free to open at will, or will we give up like the oyster and settle for "freedom on the half shell?" Here is another poem from Freedom on the Half Shell:

Poll Tax — A Prologue

In a "Notes from FEE" for January 2006, celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) they abridged a 1961 lecture at FEE by Leonard E. Read (1898-1983).

Leonard E. Read said:
The first level of leadership requires an individual to achieve that degree of understanding which makes it utterly impossible for him to have any hand in supporting or giving encouragement to any form of socialism whatever misleading labels and nicknames it takes.

This level of attainment requires no “original” thinking, writing or talking, but we should not underestimate the enormous influence set in motion by an individual who does absolutely no ideological wrong. His refusal to sanction or promote unsound actions and his faithfulness to free-market ideals — even if he is silent — has a radiating effect and sets high standards for others to follow.

The “right to vote” is hurled as an epithet as if it were some God-given benison, but little voice is given to what happens when one votes for a coercive bureaucracy such as the one which rules this great land under the guise of "government", up until now. Every time one walks into a polling booth, one votes to continue the coercive bureaucracy. One gives it freely one's support, no matter who one votes for. What is one to do?

One can do “no ideological wrong” only by choosing to “vote” for proprietary organizations which provide one a service one wants quickly, conveniently, and without any coercion. Any fast-food establishment, for example, does that. Take their innovation of drive-up service. Can you find an example of any “government” office which provides drive-up service? Even the Department of Motor Vehicles requires to you get out of your car to apply for a license plate renewal, etc. You have to sit in an uncomfortable chair or stand in a long line in “government” offices, all the while people are waiting in short lines in their comfortable automobiles to buy food from fast-food outlets. What's the difference? The “government” offices force you to comply because they are all part of a “coercive bureaucracy” — a so-called government and not a true government. A true government would operate volitionally and not coercively — just as any proprietary business does. And, as a proprietary business, the clerk across the counter would treat you as a valued customer. The clerk would have an incentive to be nice, or helpful, and accommodating, just as the clerks at the fast-food outlets. Instead we find all too often at our at our so-called government offices, clerks who have no incentive to be nice, or helpful, or accommodating because they know we have nowhere else to go for their cherished “service" or "product". Every time we voluntarily support a so-called government office or program that we are not required to support by dint of a coercive law, we foster and perpetuate such behaviors. In addition, the product or service the office or program provides is supported by taking money out of the pockets of other citizens, citizens who may or may not use that product or service but are required to pay for it anyway through coercive taxes.

What are we to do? We can take Leonard E. Read advice and refuse to take “any hand in supporting or giving encouragement to any form of socialism whatever misleading labels and nicknames it takes” and recognize that what our so-called government in this land is a form of socialism under the guise of a more palatable name. This is a baldfaced deception supported by everyone in office and everyone who accepts a public office.

Rightly understood, we cannot achieve freedom by fighting for it — fighting only brings in its wake more fighting. So don't fight it. If the so-called government insists that we get a license to drive a vehicle, go do it. Yes, we have to go the Dept. of Motor Vehicles for a license. We have to pay taxes. But, consider this salient exception: we do not have to vote! It requires no fighting, it violates no laws to stay away from the polls in the United States of America, although voting is already mandatory in Australia and other countries. Americans in droves are staying away from polling booths. Meanwhile those who endorse our coercive form of bureaucracy, our so-called government, choose to label as “apathetic voters” those who stay home from the polls. This is a “misleading label” which disguises the true motivations of those non-voting Americans who stay away from the polls. They are seeding a new birth of freedom in this great land, one which will eventually proclaim a true government, a government of the free, by the free, and for the free. When will that day come? When no one shows up to vote for coercion in polling booths.

Who are you going to vote for come next election day? My plan to drive past the polling booth down to Dairy Queen, Wendy's, or Burger King and plunk my money down willingly for a delicious and nutritious product, served expeditiously at a minimal price without having to take money out of the pockets who don't choose to buy the product.

Poll Tax — A Poem

We think it incorrect to shun
The blessings of coercion:
Please force the voters to attend
Their duties in the next election.

The right to vote a duty must become
So jail the beggars who beg off,
Make them vote for liberty or else
Why should we fight for them?

Thoreau had the right idea —
Although it wasn't carried far enough —
Let's institute a brand new practice:
That when you go to vote, you pay your taxes:

Income, excise, sales, and property —
Paid in one lump sum for liberty.

How many would out the window toss
The right to vote, if they knew its cost?

So secure the blessing of our roots,
Stay away from polling booths,
With the voice of freedom sing,
"Next election vote for Burger King."


In the evening as we sat down together to watch Downton Abbey, our Pioneer KURO TV would not change channels. Antenna A goes through the Cox Cable card and decodes High Def channels, but it remained stuck on 1009 and wouldn’t move. I replaced batteries in the remote, but that made no difference. Besides that it was only the Channel Changing function that did not work. The Mute, Volume buttons worked fine. Every other function I tried worked except the Channel Changer. By going to the HDMI 7 Input we could watch all the channels using our Cox DVR box, but I couldn’t get one of my favorite configurations to watch both the evening playoff game and the NCIS DVR at the same time. I finally had to get the instructions to find where the manual pushbutton functions were hidden, figuring it was the remote that was malfunctioning. Moved things around and began pressing the manual Channel button and it did not respond. All the other buttons worked. Also another glitch I noticed was that when on Antenna A and I pressed Guide button, the screen went dark and repressing Guide would not clear it, had to power off. I reviewed the hassle I was in for, with calling the store which had promised me a 5 year warranty, of which 6 months were left, and service calls and maybe losing our large plasma TV for weeks. I considered other options which involved working around the glitch by getting another Cox Box, but all of these involved several trips and lots of attention.

I slept on the problem and in the morning, I remembered something important. ALL TV’s in recent years maintain a power connection even when the TV is OFF in order for the remote to be recognizable when you press Remote ON button. On the KURO, it’s dim red light which turns to blue when it powers on. A little background on digital electronics from my digital logic design course and my 50 years in the computer field, hardware and software: Stuff Happens! The best digital hardware is occasionally beset by a glitch. What’s a glitch? It’s like an elf which goes into a digital logic circuit and switches an isolated logic state, creating a completely illogical set of conditions and causing random results, that is, a repeatable sequence of actions, but a random change from the expected and previous sequence of actions. Just like my KURO had been doing the night before.

When the quiescent power (dim red light on, TV off state) is applied, ALL DIGITAL LOGIC STATES are held, even one which may have glitched! Turning the power On and Off repetitively using the remote or even the manual pushbutton will NOT clear the glitch. The only thing which will clear the glitch is UNPLUGGING the TV POWER CORD. I did that this morning and now the glitch is gone and TV is working properly.

What can cause a glitch? A cosmic ray can. Seriously, a cosmic ray is not a ray but actually a highly charged ion, usually a relatively large metallic ion, from outer space which has reached the surface of Earth, few do and cause little damage, except to little things like logic circuits. If such a ray happens to zap the digital logic circuit which controls the channel changing function, e.g., then the circuit will cease to operate as expected until such time as ALL DIGITAL LOGIC STATES are RESET to ZERO by removing ALL sources of power by unplugging the TV for about 15 seconds or so. That is the time required to ensure that any stored charge in capacitors have dissipated so all logic states are reset to zero voltage. The difference between a 0 and 1 (logic state) is represented in a digital circuit by 0 volts and 5 volts most commonly. When a zero voltage (somewhere between 0.0 and 2.0 volts due to electronic noise) exists in a circuit and a highly charged atomic particle (cosmic ray) hits the circuit, a quick jump in the voltage to 3.5 volts can switch the logic level from 0 to 1 (as the 1 level is represented by voltages from 3.0 to 5.0 volts due to noise). That is the genealogy of a computer (logic) glitch and explains why rebooting a computer does not always work to fix a problem. Sometimes a RESET (which pulls all logic levels to zero while power is still applied) is necessary, and sometimes a complete POWER OFF of the computer is necessary. Computers still mostly have the manual power off button, but unfortunately, TV designers in their finite wisdom have left those off, considering the people who watch the Boob Tube to be boobs, a reasonable assumption, I suppose.


Most of you reading this commentary probably will remember the day in science class when the teacher demonstrated surface tension to you. The usual method is to have a beaker of water and various diameter glass tubes. You got to see that the smaller the diameter of the tube, the higher up the water went in the tube. Like me, you probably thought, BORING! ! ! ! What possible use could it be to know this scientific fact?

As a physicist myself, I never got to use surface tension in any of my work, but I know that for some scientific work, such as low-temperature cryogenics, surface tension is crucially important. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. A little knowledge of the everyday effects caused by surface tension can help around the house.

For the non-scientist, why should we know about or care about surface tension? Here’s a few things which may open your eyes about surface tension. I thank Jim Flock, a soil engineer I worked with at the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for explaining how a knowledge of surface tension is important to homeowners who have trees and plants.

The tighter or more closely compacted a soil is, the deeper in the soil the water will be wicked to the surface where it evaporates. Hmmm, see how this is connected with the science demonstration of surface tension? Tight spaces between soil particles are like very tiny glass tubes in which water rises so much higher than in the wider tubes. Consider now the implication of this bit surface tension knowledge:

We add mulch to keep plants from drying out between watering. Mulch is chunky stuff which cannot wick moisture to the surface of the ground. It covers the tightly packed soil and deters evaporation of the soil’s moisture.

If you have sandy soil, the particles of sand are tightly packed and if you plant flowers in such soil, the ground will quickly dry up and kill the plants. So you add compost and manure to the soil around the plant, both of which separate the particles of sand and help keep the ground moist, especially necessary for new plants who need time to establish their roots underground.

When we say plants are established, we mean that their roots have gone down to level in the ground below the level at which moisture is wicked to the surface automatically. These plants no longer need periodic watering to keep them from wilting and dying. If a minor amount of wilting shows on established plants, you may have weeks to water them before they die because some of the longest roots are still below the wicking line and receiving water.

With trees, it’s important to know that the highest leaves on a tree receive water from the top of the soil. Anything which removes moisture from the top layer of soil will kill the topmost leaves of your tree. Here is a problem: those same leaves at the top of the tree pull moisture from the top layer of the soil and when moisture is removed from the soil, the particles of the soil can move closer together. And there is where surface tension comes into play: the soil compacts, due to surface tension, water is drawn from deeper down to be evaporated. This causes the top leaves to die out due to loss of water. The compacting of the soil at base of a tree can be seen as the base of the trunk seem to be growing up above the ground, but what has happened instead is that the ground level has dropped due to compacting of the soil by its own weight. Makes sense?

You may be thinking my trees don’t do that, and you would be right. Left alone, most trees don’t do this to any serious extent. It takes a human to cause damage to a tree, and here’s how it usually happens, and here I’m speaking of the South Louisiana area that I’m most familiar with, but this can happen anywhere with soil that compacts when moisture is removed. A well-meaning homeowner sees the base of his trunk rising out of the ground and thinks, “This is ugly”, and orders a load of dirt to be delivered to raise the soil level at the trunk to where it was before. He applies the soil and it looks fine for a few months and soon the soil has dropped to where it was before. Why? The extra weight of the soil has compacted the soil below it, causing the new and old soil to drop down, and, most importantly, the groundwater is being wicked up to the surface from further down than it was before the new soil was laid on top the older soil. What was previously a healthy Magnolia tree is now showing leaf loss at the top of the tree and has become unhealthy. A beautiful tree has been sacrificed to maintain a flat green lawn. Left alone the Magnolia Grandiflora would have remained healthy indefinitely.

Dirty clothes is one place we get soil where we don’t want it and how do we get the soil out of clothes? We use soap and detergent to remove the soil. Why can’t we just use water? ANSWER: Surface Tension

Surface tension is very strong in tight places like between the cross-hatched fibers of cloth and any soil in that watery space will be held tightly, unless we can remove the effect of surface tension. How do we do that? Through the magic of soap and detergents. They neutralize surface tension and allow the soil to be washed away by clean water during the Rinse cycle.

Water will dissolve and kill bacteria as quickly as strong acid will dissolve and kill a human being. If that’s so, why is it that bacteria seem to thrive in watery environments? Surface tension protects them. The skin of bacteria cannot be penetrated by water because of surface tension. But water without surface tension will dissolve the skin of bacteria and the bacteria will simply become non-functional and die. Thus, any plain soap will kill bacteria by removing surface tension of the water in the bacteria are bathed. Soap companies, in their earnest bid for your dollars, add strange chemicals you never heard of to their soaps and proclaim their products to be: ANTI-BACTERIAL. Well, that’s certainly true, but what they won’t spend Ad space or money to inform is this: The SOAP was ANTI-BACTERIAL before they added any special ingredients to it.

Fog is basically water where you don’t want it. It appears on the outside of drinking glasses, eyeglasses, and inside of showers. What causes this layer of tiny water droplets to form? Surface tension. The water sticks to the glass walls of the shower in tiny droplets which fog the glass. The tiny droplets stick to the glass, but not to each other, unless you remove the surface tension. How do you do that? Soap will do the trick. You’re in the shower already bathing with soap, so simply spread some soapy water with your hand over a section of the glass shower wall and it will remain clear while you’re showering and for a couple of days later.

Mulch around plants and trees, but don't add dirt to the base of trees. Don’t pay more for anti-bacterial soap, and if you want to see through your glass shower walls, wave a little soapy water on them.

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