Sunday, November 19, 2017

Shoes!

As you can see from my most recent post, I have acquired a rather exotic women's shoe.  I was walking to the library when I spotted it on the sidewalk. Apparently discarded, a single shoe, left foot, size 7, "Kiss & Tell" – How's THAT for branding? There's a label on the sole at the instep that says, "All Man-Made Material Made in China". What does that mean? I understand "Made in China", but "All Man-Made Material" is ambiguous. Does it mean that all the materials are man-made (and they're made in China), so that the suede uppers are actually some artificial suede substance? Of does it mean that the man-made materials were made in China (the sole and heel are plastic) but the rest might well be natural? If so, was it also assembled in China?

Anyhow, as soon as I saw the shoe one of those little light-bulbs went off above my head:

Prop!

So I grabbed it and put it in my backpack and then continued on to the library to return my film, Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky, and pick up my book, King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson. There's a connection, you see, between King Kong and that shoe. King Kong died on the Empire State Building, right? Why not pose the shoe with the Empire State Building. Like this perhaps:

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Notice that, from this angle, that size 7 woman's shoe is larger than that phallic whatsiewhoseit across the river.

Then I realized that these aren't the only photos of shoes I've got. For example, I found these hanging outside the improvised shack of some homeless person:

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And then we have the stash of women's shoes that my friend Wayquay is selling at The Ruins JC. Mostly women's shoes, but not all of them. I suppose we could say these baby booties (made by Wayquay herself) aren't shoes, strictly speaking, but they serve the same function, no?

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And I've got other shoe shots as well, like these:

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This, of course, is a minor sport.

Anyhow, I figured that, with these latest shots of the green shoe – I've got more that I haven't uploaded, and I plan to take more photos as well (perhaps in Narnia) – I should create a tag here at New Savanna (shoes) to capture those shots and write up a brief post acknowledging the importance of shoes.

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Isn't that green just gorgeous! That shoe's the greatest prop ever!

Two views of Manahattan

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BONUS below the fold –

"It was beauty killed the beast."

Ben and the Boys: Some Casual Remarks Violence, Authority, and Sex in Bonanza

Bumping this to the top of the queue as it is relevant to current news about sexual harassment and rape in America.
A couple of weeks ago I watched my way through the first season of Bonanza, a TV western that I had watched in my youth. As some of you may know, it was one of the most popular shows on television at the time and ran for 14 seasons from 1959 to 1973. It was set in Nevada in the 1860s and centered on the Cartwright family, father Ben and his three adult male sons, proprietors of the Ponderosa, a large cattle ranch bordering on lake Tahoe and near Virginia City, a mining town.

This post consists of two casual notes about the show. The first concerns sexual violence against women and the second is about the structure of (political) power.

Rape in the Old West

After I’d watched about a dozen episodes a thought struck me: there’s a lot of sexual violence against women in this show. That thought stayed with me to the end of the season, 34 episodes. I wasn’t taking notes or keeping count but I’d say that half the episodes depicted sexual violence.

What do I mean? As I said, I wasn’t keeping notes, but typically a man would embrace a woman and try to kiss her. She would resist but he wouldn’t stop. At this point either the camera would cut away, leaving us to imagine what happened next, or a Good Guy, such as one of the Cartwrights, would come along and rescue the woman. The violence wasn’t nearly as graphic as we’d see on Deadwood, set in a similar place a decade later, but then Deadwood wasn’t made for a family audience watching on primetime network television back in the day when network television was much more important than it is now. Bonanza WAS made for a family audience.

Was this typical of primetime television back in the 1960s? I don’t know, but I suspect it was more common than I remember. Was this typical of westerns? I don’t know.

I know that it is not typical of The West Wing, a more recent and very different television show that I’m now watching. As you may know The West Wing is a political drama set in the west wing of the White House, which contains offices for the President, Vice President, and high-level staffers. While sexual violence comes up as a topic every now and then, the show doesn’t have a lot of scenes where a man forces himself on a woman. In fact I cannot think of one such scene off hand, and I’ve been through the whole run of the show.

Why then is it so common in Bonanza? Westerns are typically set in a world where the rule of law is tenuous. Westerns are about violence: cattle rustling, disputes over land, conflicts with Indians (aka Native Americans), bank robbery and other forms of theft, and, in the case of Bonanza, rape. What about other TV Westerns? I don’t know off hand; though I watched many TV Westerns when I was young, I don’t recall many of them.

Whatever the more general case, the first season of Bonanza was concerned about sexual violence against women. In some cases the women were saloon girls, prostitutes I (now) assume, though that was certainly not explicit (unlike Deadwood). In other cases the women were married or simply single; in one episode two Indian women were raped at a trading post.

Were the other 13 seasons like this? I don’t know and I don’t intend to watch them. It would be interesting to know, though.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

OOO: Baby Jesus and the Sausage Roll


LONDON — A British bakery chain has apologized after creating a Nativity scene in which the baby Jesus, surrounded by three wise men, was replaced by a sausage roll.

Friday, November 17, 2017

“King Kong” as a ring-form game: Some preliminary notes [#HEX01]

I’m thinking about what would be involved in making a game that would play-out as a ring composition. Given that ring composition is a specific form of plot it is possible that it could not be adapted to open-ended gameplay. But that is by no means obvious to me. Ring-composition narratives have a an internal logic that is oriented toward certain kinds of problematics, if you will. I’ve spent enough time dealing with ring composition that I’m beginning to get a sense of how they work & what they’re for. The idea would be to set up a game world so that successful play would take the form of a ring, but no tightly specified sequence of actions is required. What’s important is the high-level pattern.

Why King Kong?

Because it’s there?

No, seriously. I’ve developed a pretty sophisticated understanding of the 1933 film. I’ve seen the 2005 Peter Jackson remake and the 1976 remake, but I don’t remember much about either, which is mostly a statement about what I remember, not an aesthetic judgment. I’ve also seen Kong: Skull Island, which is a different kind of beast. For that matter, I’ve seen a bunch of Planet of the Apes films and, of course, a whole bunch of action-adventure films in jungle settings involving big animals. It’s a world I’m comfortable with.

But it’s the 1933 film that interests me. That’s the one that started the whole business. It’s an astonishing film. And it’s ring form. It’s not, as I’ve observed in several posts, that I believe there’s some special magic in ring-composition – a key to all mythologies, an Open Sesame! that will lay the wonders of the world before my feet – rather, it’s something specific to look for. And, having found various examples, I can compare and contrast them to get a sense of what’s going on.

I am aware that various games have been based on the character and even one or more of the specific films (e.g. Peter Jackson’s King Kong). I may well want to investigate one or may of them at some point. But I need to do some thinking before I get to that point. Just what thinking I need to do...

... THAT’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Policy, Strategy, Tactics and cultural psychodynamics

In On War Carl von Clauswitz made a tripartite distinction between policy, strategy, and tactics.  National political policy established the objectives to be achieved by military strategy; strategy established the objectives to be achieved by tactics; and tactics governed the actual deployment of troops and equipment on a day-by-day basis. I find this a generally useful way of thinking about a variety of things. One might, for example, think of an action-adventure game (like Jackson’s Kong) as a strategic level adventure realized, at various points, though tactical level actions.

But what of policy? Northrop Frye has observed that a certain kind of comedy has a three-part plot: “One is the period of preparation . . . Another is the period of license and confusion of values . . . Third is the period of festivity itself” (A Natural Perspective, p. 73). If you drop the third part, you get a tragedy.

Well, the 1933 King Kong more or less follows that model, where the Skull Island sequence is that “period of license and confusion of values”. What would happen if Kong failed to defeat T-Rex and, consequently, R-Rex killed Darrow? The possibility of the existing happy ending, in which Darrow and Driscoll are destined to be married, disappears. Are we left with a tragic ending?

This, it seems to me, is a very high-level consideration. The battle between Kong and T-Rex is a tactical-level action, but the consequence is up there at the policy level, which is where I’d put the difference between tragedy.

That’s something I have in fact investigated [1] in the case of three Shakespeare plays, Much Ado About Nothing (a comedy), Othello (a tragedy), and The Winter’s Tale (a romance). In all these plays the shape of the dramatic action follows from the same situation, a man mistakenly believes that his beloved has betrayed him. These plays differ systematically in the types of characters they have in various roles, their age, social position, and temperament. I’m inclined to think that, if this is what you want of a game, then you need to give the user Sims-like powers of set-up at the very beginning.

Friday Fotos: Zoom cranes

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Is formal peer review really useful anymore?

Timothy Gowers, in TLS, "The end of an error?", opens by discussing three cases: 
  1. In 1998 an article appeared in the Lancet (on the link between MMR vaccine and autism), was found to be deeply flawed, but not retracted until 2010.
  2. Three articles posted to asXiv proving an important piece of mathematics. The articles were difficult and a bit sketchy, but others went to work and cleaned things up.
  3. A couple months ago a different article was posted to asXive. It was clear and complete and within days a serious flaw was found and the original claim was retracted.
The first case involved formal peer review whereas the second two involved review by peers, but not the standard prepublication process typical of the formal literature. The first case was a disaster while the second two were successes. In light of such cases, should we reconsider the role of formal peer review in academic publication? Has the Internet rendered it obsolete?

Gowers notes that prepublication in arXive is how mathematicians now disseminate ideas and establish priority, "Of course, different disciplines have different needs and very different publishing ­cultures." It may well remain useful in some disciplines, but no longer for mathematics. Peer review is defended with respect to three functions:
  • Reliability: "The first is that it is supposed to ensure reliability: if you read something in the peer-reviewed literature, you can have some confidence that it is correct."
  • Weed out the chaff: "... a vast amount of academic literature is being produced all the time, most of it not deserving of our attention, and the peer-review system saves us time by selecting the most important articles. It also enables us to make quick judgements about the work of other academics."
  • Feedback to the author: "If you submit a serious paper to a serious journal, then whether or not it is accepted, it has at least been read, and if you are lucky you receive valuable advice about how to improve it."
Gowers then goes on to discuss these functions, mostly in terms of the (scientific) disciplines he's familiar with. Reliability is important in mathematics because researchers build on the work of others in a fairly 'tight' way. This is not so much the case in literary criticism, which is as close to a home discipline as I've got. He notes:
In some disciplines, the formal peer-review system appears to have failed on a huge scale. This is particularly true of articles about scientific experiments where the conclusions are statistical in nature.
Nor, for that matter:
...does formal peer review seem to manage very well to stop wrong ideas from spreading outside academia. Climate change deniers are not put off by their lack of representation in respectable academic journals. Drugs policy bears little relation to the harm that drugs actually cause. An economics paper that supported austerity-based policies influenced several governments before it was discovered to contain some very basic mistakes that invalidated it. 
As for weeding out the chaff: 
Again, the way things already are in mathematics suggests that this would not be as serious a problem as it at first looks. Far more papers are posted to the arXiv than I have time to check through, even if I restrict myself to a few areas of particular interest. But I use a recently created website called arxivist.com, which puts each day’s preprints in what it judges to be their order of interest to me.
As for saving time, yes, we certainly can "make quick judgements of publication lists by looking at the names of journals" but this "encourages the measurement culture that has infected academia, with all its well-known adverse consequences." As for the feedback function, that 
is much more obviously valuable, especially in some subjects. Remarkably, we have arrived at a system where academics feel a moral obligation to perform the thankless task of reviewing the work of other academics, anonymously and unpaid. This undoubtedly makes the literature better than it would otherwise have been, and ensures at least one reader for each paper.
While other feedback mechanisms are possible "it is less clear how they could become widely adopted." Thus one could add a comment function to preprint servers but "only a small minority of preprints are actually worth commenting on" and
there is no moral pressure to do so. Throwing away the current system risks throwing away all the social capital associated with it and leaving us impoverished as a result.
That is a strong argument against an abrupt change to a new system, but it is not an ­argument against a gradual one. And it is not unrealistic to hope for gradual change. 

Metaphoric and Metonymic Invariance: Two Examples from Coleridge

I've added another article to my online stash. Title above. Download from:

Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/35168392/Metaphoric_and_Metonymic_Invariance_Two_Examples_from_Coleridge
SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=3072879
ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275688816_Metaphoric_and_Metonymic_Invariance_Two_Examples_from_Coleridge

Citation: William Benzon. Metaphoric and Metonymic Invariance:  Two Examples from Coleridge.  MLN 96:  1097 - 1105, 1981. DOI: 10.2307/2906237

Abstract: “Kubla Khan and “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” are two very different poems by the same poet. But they share the same two-part structure, and they share imagery as well. The roaring dell of “Lime-Tree” corresponds to the savage chasm of “Kubla Khan.” The concern with sight and sound manifest in “Kubla Khan” shows up in “Lime-Tree Bower” in the image of the creeking rook flying across the sun. And the way in which both Charles and the poet have access to that sight gives it a role similar to the sunny dome and caves of ice in “Kubla Khan,” where both the poet and his audience are linked through the image. These two poems share the same world. But they take radically different paths through it. One path is regulated by metonymy and unfolds though two consciousness moving through different parts of the same landscape. The other path is regulated by metaphor and so unfolds in two different worlds linked by a common image; the path it takes through these worlds is, however, the same.

I. Forms of Invariance – 1097
II. Metonymic Invariance – 1099
III. Metaphoric Invariance – 1001
IV. Toward Poetic Grammar – 1103
NOTES – 1105

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Between Jersey City and Hoboken at the crest of the hill

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Vehicularization & Ring-Form: Remarks on some issues raised at #HEX01

Edit 11.16.17: I've added some new material to the section on ontological mismatch. I've marked it by highlighting it.
I enjoyed presenting to HEX01: First Workshop on the History of Expressive Systems. I wish I’d had more time (don’t we all?), I wish I’d been there in person to talk with people and play with the exhibits. We do what we can.

I’ve been thinking about these issues for years. And will continue doing so. Indeed, between the time I submitted a draft paper (Abstract Patterns in Stories: From the intellectual legacy of David G. Hays)...


And the time I put the last touches on the PowerPoint I used for the talk ...


I had a few ideas that pushed the work forward here and there. I continue the push in these notes, which are rather informal. I’m just trying to get the ideas down on (virtual) paper.

Of course, the workshop was about history, so what was I doing presenting new ideas? Continuing the history. Oh yes, I presented some history, the computational ideas worked out by David Hays and his students in the mid-1970s, and how I, a student of literature, came to them. But streams of intellectual development don’t stop just because they’re always disappearing into the past.

More importantly, things change, deeply. I went into the 1970s with one set of ideas – call it paradigm in Kuhn’s sense, an épistème in Foucault’s – which I used to think about how language and literature work. I encountered a very specific issue (problematic?) within that paradigm, the structure of “Kubla Khan”, and my efforts to deal with that issue forced me to think in terms outside that paradigm, to start cobbling together a new paradigm (if I may). Am I there yet? Who knows?

That’s what I address in the first of these notes, about ontological mismatch in our thinking. Then I take a look at the triune model of the brain, as Hays and I recast it in terms of control hierarchy. I then use that recasting to think about ring-form in King Kong. I conclude with some remarks about Heart of Darkness.

A half-century of ontological mismatch (beyond the singularity)

I mean ontology in the sense it has come to have in computer and cognitive science, the organization of different types of objects in some domain. Prior to my work on “Kubla Khan” [1] I had internalized a certain ontology for dealing with literary phenomena. But the moment I decided to interpret line-end punctuation like parentheses, brackets, and braces in a mathematical expression (or like nested parentheses in a LISP expression) I moved out of that ontology and into a different one. It’s worth noting that, when I made that decision, I specifically thought about the computer programming course I had taken, and how, in THAT world, if you place a comma where a colon is expected, it won’t work.

The problem, then, is how to think about literary texts in a world where LISP expressions are ‘native’ objects.

Of course, we–me, my teachers, others–didn’t realize that that’s what had happened. (Of course, we didn’t think in terms of conceptual ontologies at all.) We just thought I was doing something strange and interesting within the existing (or perhaps emerging) ontology. The same with my 1976 paper on Sonnet 129 [2]. To be sure, it looked very different from every other article in the special issue of MLN. It had all those diagrams, while the other papers had no diagrams at all.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that, when I did that work on “Kubla Khan”, I had irreversibly left the conceptual world of academic literary criticism. “Irreversible” because I can’t go back, though I can do good imitations.

Contemporary work in computational criticism presents the same problem. The desire to call it “distant reading” reflects a commitment to the standard ontology, an ontology is which the text is only incidentally marks on paper. In the standard ontology the text is, well, that’s hard to say. It’s that thing that you read, it’s somehow tethered to those marks on the page, but it’s more than those marks.

Well of course its more than those marks, but I can’t think of a better way to characterize that “more” than to think of it as come kind of computational process. And that’s what computational critics are scrupulously avoiding. On the one hand thinking of the mind as somehow fundamentally computational is of little practical value in their computational work. But also, they need to deflect the criticism of their more traditional colleagues who are wont to think of the notion of the mind as computational as, you know, the work of the devil.

Yet, in their own work, computational critics are working within an ontology in which the text is just marks on paper. The (miraculous? not really, but very artful (rare device)) craft in computational criticism is to analyze massive collections of such (mere) marks in a way that reveals the traces of mind, thousands and tens of thousands of minds reading. Think of it, from mere marks to the mind. That’s what computational criticism allows.

THAT ontology is different from, incommensurate with, the ontology of ordinary lit crit. There’s a deep tension that that is being glossed over. On the one hand, computational critics call it “deep reading” and note that, no, it’s not in competition with “close reading”. They’re complementary activities, complementary perhaps, but not ontologically compatible. On the other hand, traditional critics see “computer” and give a shudder–“There be dragons! Weave a circle around them thrice, and then lock ‘em up and throw away the key!” It’s not that bad; really, it isn’t. 

But still, THAT conversation has no happy ending. But no one’s dealing with that ontological gap. It can’t be bridged. Rather, it signals a need to rethink the discipline from top to bottom.

Which brings us to The Singularity. I figure that dreams and/or nightmares of the day when computers will become super-intelligent, those fantasies are rooted in a 19th century worldview. As such there’s an ontological mismatch between them and computing technology.

More later.

Boundaries, when humans make claims on the land

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When I took this photo (just the other day) I was standing in the area of Jersey City known as The Heights. The reason for the name is obvious, that there down below, that's not high. It's low. It's also not Jersey City. It's Hoboken.

Within seconds after I snapped that shot I went through the walkway and into an elevator in that tower. When I exited the elevator I was in Hoboken. Just when did I cross the boundary between Jersey City and Hoboken. How accurately can we determine it? Perhaps more important, how accurately do we need to determine the boundary, and for what purposes?

If a crime is committed in the walkway, a mugging, or a kidnapping, who investigates, Hoboken or Jersey City? Hudson County? All three? Does it depend in just where in the walkway the crime was committed? What if the wallet was snitched on the Hoboken side, but the criminal escaped on the Jersey City side? Where's the trial held?

What kind of contracts had to be made for that structure, elevator and walkway, to be built? Who's responsible for maintenance?

Boundaries can be so tricky.

Ted Underwood on Canon/Archive [#DH]

Ted Underwood reviews Canon/Archive, by Franco Moretti (Author and Editor) and 13 others (Mark Algee-Hewitt, Sarah Allison, Marissa Gemma, Ryan Heuser, Matthew Jockers, Holst Katsma, Long Le-Khac, Dominique Pestre, Erik Steiner, Amir Tevel, Hannah Walser, Michael Witmore, and Irena Yamboliev, all authors). How, you might ask, could that be? Simple, says Underwood, more or less. Moretti worked at Stanford's Literary Lab (he's now retired from Stanford) and laboratories are (typically) sites of collaborative and collective work. People at different stages in the intellectual life, with different sets of conceptual, craft, and rhetorical skills, work together in a common intellectual enterprise. I participated in such a group when I was doing by PhD work at Buffalo (English), where I was a member of David Hays's linguistics/cognitive science group (Linguistics). It can be a good way to work, but it is not how work in the humanities has ordinarily–classically, if you will–been done.

And, despite the sense one gets in the general media that quantitative work is new to the humanities, that's not the case, says Underwood. It's been around for several decades.
But over the last 30 years, the enclaves have joined to produce a practice of quantitative interpretation that is no longer purely sociological, or purely linguistic, but able to range freely across the spectrum from single words to social trends. Computers are certainly useful in this mode of interpretation, but they aren’t the new element.
What's new is a certain "human connection between scholars." Initially Moretti and Matthew Jockers, but others joined the party, and this volume presents their collective work.

And so:
Experiment is presented here not just as a test of reliable knowledge but as a style of intellectual growth: “By frustrating our expectations, failed experiments ‘estrange’ our natural habits of thought, offering a chance to transcend them.” At moments, the point of experiment seems to become entirely aesthetic. In the book’s introduction, Moretti admits that he set out to write “a scientific essay, composed like a Mahler symphony: discordant registers that barely manage to coexist; a forward movement endlessly diverted; the easiest of melodies, followed by leaps into the unknown.”
I wonder, did Moretti get the musical trope from Lévi-Strauss, who uses it to structure The Raw and the Cooked, with section, chapter, and subchapter titles all derived from music (e.g. "The Fugue of the Five Senses", "The Oppossum's Cantata").

Underwood continues:
The essays within are unified by a deliberately wandering structure, which keeps its distance both from scientists’ predictable sequences (methods → results → conclusions), and from the thesis-driven template that prevails in the humanities (counter-intuitive claim → evidence → I was right after all). Instead, these essays become stories of progressive disorientation, written in the first-person plural, and arriving at theses that were only dimly foreshadowed.

This narrative form has given the Literary Lab a coherent authorial persona, which may lead readers to assume that the experiments gathered here are also unified by shared methods and theories, more or less identified with Moretti. That would be a mistake. The Literary Lab is genuinely a collective project, and these essays have been shaped by many different approaches to the literary past.
Of numbers and meaning?
The most important fracture in the book involves the nature of the connection between numbers and interpretation. Several of the essays make this connection with statistical models. In chapter 1, for instance, Michael Witmore reveals that a model of textual similarity based purely on word frequencies can group Shakespeare’s plays into comedies, histories, and tragedies. But when Moretti describes the book’s methods in the conclusion, he downplays the interpretive connection provided by models, in order to tell a story that leaps from observation of opaque “patterns” to the “discovery of a causal mechanism.” This account again reveals Moretti’s commitment to framing the work of the Lab as a humanistic narrative. Scientists don’t usually understand their methods as a process of pure induction that produces meaning at the last moment; instead, they tend to begin with a hypothesis, and find a way to test it (often using a model).
Except that "humanistic narrative" tends to be short on causal mechanism.

But who cares? Will it spread? Underwood notes that New Historicist criticism spread rapidly because it didn't require new skills, just a somewhat different deployment of standard lit crit skills, "surprising connections between works of literature and historical events" plus anecdotes. Computational criticism of the sort done at the Literary Lab, however, is a different kind of beast. The work requires people with programming skills, statistical skills, and a nose for experimental design in addition to a feel for literary phenomena. No one individual has to have all these skills, but all skills must be available in the group, and all members of the group need to be able to talk with one another.

Thus, Underwood assures his (humanistic) reader, "there is no danger that a quantitative approach to literature will spread like wildfire". Whew!  However, "there will certainly be more books like this one." Yes, there will.

And even stranger ones. I've been exploring this territory for some time now, since the mid-1970s. Oh, not the particular regions Moretti and Underwood (and others) have been exploring so fruitfully for the last decade or two. That's new to me, as it is to the discipline. But that's not all there is here, wherever THIS is, not by a long shot. I've got to tell you, Guys, this isn't the East Indies, it's not even Kansas. It's something else, maybe not even terrestrial.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The color purple, with texture

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Shenanigans among the Hopkins literati @3QD

evergreen house library

My latest for 3 Quarks Daily:

Old School: Torpor and Stupor at Johns Hopkins: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2017/11/old-school-torpor-and-stupor-at-johns-hopkins.html

This piece was inspired by an essay Leanne Ogasawara posted to 3QD in September: Take My Camel, Dear..... Here’s the opening paragraph:
There were not many things that drew me back to America, but the thought of joining a bookclub seemed like one potential perk of moving back. I am not sure if bookclubs exist to this extent in other countries, but in the US they are incredibly popular! More and more people I know had been joining, taking part and talking about their bookclubs... And, I became --slowly but surely--intrigued.
I enjoyed the piece and posted a comment in which I told here about the Tudor and Stuart Club at The Johns Hopkins University, a literary society:
Bill, I actually got chills when I read the first paragraph about the torpor and stupor! The nun with the black leather --- and the cognac and cigars and cold cuts! it just kept getting better and better. Seriously, it. sounded like heaven on earth! And was exactly what I was imagining!! Old school can be a good thing sometimes, don't you think? Thank you so much for leaving this, and it made my day!
That’s it! I had to do it, devote a whole 3QD piece to the Tudor and Stuart Club. That's what I did for this month.

Clipping the genitals of Adam and Eve

But I didn’t tell all the stories. 

It came to pass one day that the Club decided to move some of its rare books to a more secure and a more accessible location, the Evergreen House, a mansion owned by the University where it had various collections, rare books included, and a nice closet theater. That’s the library up there.

On the appointed day I showed up at the Club Room. Here’s what it looked like in 1929 or so:

T&S club room

If you open the panel where Revere Osler’s portrait hangs–that’s it up there in the corner–you’ll find a modest safe, at least one was there back in the day. And inside the safe were the Club’s rarest books, including a 1st edition of The Fairie Queen and a 1st edition of Paradise Lost. The Paradise Lost had an engraved frontispiece depicting the ejection of Adam and Eve from Paradise. Alas, some meticulous prude had taken a knife and excised the genitals from the picture.

Ouch!

Some time after I attended a small celebratory dinner, just the officers of the Club and, I suppose, a guest or two, in a private room at the Evergreen House. That was very nice.

But, alas, it did little from poor Adam and Eve.

That famous grin

Maybe one day I'll tell the story about how I ghosted an essay about Pink Flamingos – "a 1972 American transgressive black comedy exploitation crime film" – for Dick Macksey so we, The Office of the Chaplain, could get the film approved by Maryland's Board of Censors. It has nothing whatever to do with Tudor and Stuart, except that Macksey and I were members, but, in a way, everything to do with Hopkins in the 60s.

Later.