Monday, November 30, 2020

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine: An Early Dylan Morality Play

One of the themes of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is how information discovered later sheds new light on things we experienced earlier. In other words, the past is not fixed but fluid. This notion re-asserted itself as I was reading Agatha Christie's Elephants Can Remember this past week. 

Perhaps this is one reason why many Dylan fans not only appreciate his music but are avid readers of books about aspects of his life and career. The books, written much later, often shed new light on the songs that so moved us, inspired us and sometimes challenged us. 

Daryl Sanders' That Thin Wild Mercury Sound is one such book that brought new light to old memories. In light of how different this album was from the trio of what I would call astonishing studio albums that preceded it--Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde--I'm somewhat surprised it reached #2 on the U.S. charts and achieved #1 in England. 

Numerous writers have noted the quantity of Biblical allusions in the album, from 60 to more than 100 depending on who you listen to. I referenced this detail when writing about this song in 2016. Up until I read Sanders' book I'd always assumed that these spiritual themes and moral probing were a by-product of the motorcycle accident that ended his touring. That Thin Wild Mercury Sound dispels that idea altogether.

WHAT SANDERS NOTED in his book about the making of Blonde On Blonde was how much time Bob spent poring over the Scriptures, either looking for words and images or inspiration. Charlie McCoy, Kenny Buttrey and the rest of the studio crew had dealt with a situation like this before. By this I mean not the Bible reading, but the hours of having to chill while on the payroll. 

These recording sessions took place before the controversial motorcycle crash, so my assumption of the crash being a trigger that resulted in spiritual reflection was mistaken. This album, and some of the tracks on New Morning were my "evidence" of a turning point of sorts.

The reality is that from his earliest Dylan made no effort to conceal this moral aspect of his belief system. Those early songs about apocalypse ("Hard Rain") and injustice ("Only a Pawn in Their Game") are very much infused with a moral tone that had roots in a spiritual worldview. It was Dylan who in the Sixties told Noel Paul Stookey to "read the Bible." 

When one steps back and looks at the whole of Dylan's life, what one sees is an early seriousness about spiritual things followed by an earnest quest for God that led him to his embrace of Christianity in 1979. The next ten years we see him floundering somewhat as he attempts to synthesize these revelations with the greater whole of his life. The fruit of that period was the marvelous Oh Mercy in 1989 and the Never Ending Tour that was birthed shortly before. 

* * * 

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine was first performed live at the Isle of Wight in 1969 with the Beatles in the audience and played numerous times during Rolling Thunder Revue. Here's some information from the Wikipedia page about the album it appeared on.

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John Wesley Harding is the eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on December 27, 1967, by Columbia Records. Produced by Bob Johnston, the album marked Dylan's return to semi-acoustic instrumentation and folk-influenced songwriting after three albums of lyrically abstract, blues-indebted rock musicJohn Wesley Harding shares many stylistic threads with, and was recorded around the same time as, the prolific series of home recording sessions with The Band, partly released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes, and released in complete form in 2014 as The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete.

John Wesley Harding was exceptionally well received by critics and sold well, reaching No. 2 on the U.S. charts and topping the UK charts. The commercial performance was considered remarkable considering that Dylan had kept Columbia from releasing the album with much promotion or publicity.

* * * 

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold
“Arise, arise,” he cried so loud
In a voice without restraint
“Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
And hear my sad complaint
No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own
So go on your way accordingly
But know you’re not alone”
I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive with fiery breath
And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
That put him out to death
Oh, I awoke in anger
So alone and terrified
I put my fingers against the glass And bowed my head and cried

Copyright © 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music

* * * 

Related Links

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Elephants Can Remember: Agatha Christie's Last Hercule Poirot Novel

Was it suicide or was it murder? That is the question at the heart of this Agatha Christie novel about memory and the influence of the past. More than once the saying "past sins cast long shadows" is noted. 

Elephants Can Remember is striking in the manner in which it is written. It's told in a series of dialogues that take place in various situations. I can't help but think of Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason dramas in which descriptions are sparse, story details emerging via dialogue.

The two main characters in this story are Hercule Poirot--that odd little Belgian with a singular mustache and an abundance of brain matter ("little grey cells") that is perpetually in motion--and Ariadne Oliver, a famous author of murder mysteries, who says she has no idea how murders take place in real life, that her works are simply fiction.

The central event in this story involves the deaths of an apparently happy husband and wife about 15 years earlier. They were found on a hillside near their home shot with a gun that lay between them, the only fingerprints present being their own. Did he kill her, then take his life in remorse? Or did she shoot him first? Did they agree to die together like this or was something else at play.

The Ravenscrofts had a daughter Celia, who was Mrs. Oliver's goddaughter. Celia, somewhat rudely to Mrs. Oliver's thinking, asks Mrs. Oliver to help her. Celia is about to marry a man, but rumors of mental illness in the family were stirring up concerns, and this double death on a hillside was never properly resolved. Mrs. Oliver turns to Poirot and the two set about to see what the elephants can remember.

The story is especially fascinating to me after having read Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go this summer, which is essentially a story made of memories. Insights from later in life illuminate earlier moments and give them new meaning. 

Painting by Ms. Wendy Rouse
Agatha Christie had been publishing for more than half a century when she wrote this, and was purportedly experiencing the onset of dementia at the time. This undoubtedly contributed to her interest in the subject of memory. It may also have contributed to the writing style which some Amazon reviewers  criticized sharply. One call it her worst book and says, "Skip it." Another says, "Stick with her earlier books." Yet others say, "Don't miss this one."

Ironically, I have found it exceedingly compelling. And I like the set up. A writer of murder mysteries teams up with the greatest contemporary sleuth to solve a long forgotten mystery. 

Each person they talk with reveals new details about the Ravenscrofts, thereby patching together an image in the reader's mind. But which details are accurate? How much is true and how much is rumor? Aren't we all subject to partially flawed memories because of our biases, our tendency to incorrectly interpret stories we heard, or question their veracity?

I remember a kid on our block when I was growing up who tortured grasshoppers and seemed like a troublemaker. A year or two after he moved away a rumor circulated that he'd been killed because he was sticking his head out the window of a school bus which got too close to a telephone pole. What stuck with me from the story was that he was told not to stick his head out the window like that. 

In retrospect, the story doesn't seem credible, but we believed it, perhaps because it seemed consistent with his character. (Wouldn't the rear-view mirror hit the pole before something sticking from the window? Wouldn't the bus have to be over the curb for that to happen?) Alas, we did not have Snopes in the 60s and here's what Snopes has to say about a similar urban legend.

I should mention here that I am "reading" audio books from the library, and they are a special joy in part because of the readers. I love the way Poirot says "Ah!" -- or rather, the reader has Poirot say "Ah" with a delightfully crisp little puff. The pacing feels peaceful and reflective. It's been a good read.

Related Links

A New Thought Regarding Agatha Christie's Crime Fiction
Shooting an Elephant (Notes on an Essay by Orwell)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Flashback Friday: A Whiter Shade of Pale

The unfortunate part of blogging--in the manner that I do--is that I have so many directions I want to go that I can't possibly complete them all. Many topics/idea threads required so much more time to properly invest than I had time for. So many themes, so little time.

Currently I have a half dozen ideas "in progress" and nearly a thousand aborted. So it is I re-share this post from ages past. When you get to the end and have to choose a favorite rendition, please listen to all... and vote, by leaving a comment. 

* * * 

, admit it. You loved the song, have always loved the song, but have never been entirely sure what it was all about.

That’s how it has been for me to some extent. Right from the start when it first aired in the Summer of Love it had a gripping, seductive quality. The chord progressions mesmerized as did the lyrics, strangely abstract yet vivid enough to play with your imagination. It seemed like there was something there but you just couldn’t get your hands on it. At least that’s how it was for me. Whether the lyrics or the evocative music, in England when Sgt. Pepper was the number one album, this was the number one single.

Twenty years later I still played the 45 once in a while. (I think it’s still inside my Wheels of Fire album by Cream.) And to this day as an amateur pianist I can’t help but run through those chords now and then, just letting the sweet sounds saturate the room.

But those lyrics… Unraveling the poetic unto total transparency is not always necessary. Appreciating a turn of phrase, and accepting the ambiguities, this is what gives a poem or a song like this one, and many of Dylan’s, it’s longevity. The mind can play with it endlessly, like an impossible labyrinth or Borges’ Library of Babel, and you never figure it out. But each time it leaves you with something to take away, a moment of delight and self-forgetfulness.

It's the opening line of the second verse that really used to get me. "She said there is no reason, and the truth is plain to see..." Which truth? The truth that there is no reason? Or the ultimate truth that caused her face to turn a whiter shade of pale?

The playing cards speak to me of the old "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" type of thing, though Kenny Rogers didn't do The Gambler till a few years later. Dylan, too, refers to having to play the cards your dealt in Series of Dreams. And the last couplet in that stanza "Although my eyes were open, they might just as well've been closed" it speaks of an interiority of transcendence, the contrariness of Truth with a capital T, and seeing the light. Which I did, but did not. Or, of blindness in spite of light.

Here then are the lyrics. Frivolity and fear, clarity and obfuscation, vividness and ambiguity all rolled into one. Afterwards I've given you a link to a page with much more insight about this song than I would have mustered on my own. Before you head there be sure to watch the YouTube vid below featuring Gary Brooker, who co-wrote this, accompanied by Peter Frampton on guitar and Ringo Starr on drums.

A Whiter Shade of Pale

We skipped the light fandango,
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor.
I was feeling kind of seasick,
But the crowd called out for more.
The room was humming harder,
As the ceiling flew away.
When we called out for another drink,
The waiter brought a tray.

And so it was that later,
As the miller told his tale,
That her face at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale.

She said there is no reason,
And the truth is plain to see
But I wandered through my playing cards,
And would not let her be
One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast.
And although my eyes were open,
They might just as well've been closed.

And so it was later,
As the miller told his tale,
That her face at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale.

For more background about White Shade, check this site out. Listen first to the music, however. Let it take you away.

Here are four interesting versions from YouTube. Listen to each and tell me your fave.




PROCOL HAREM 2006 Denmark

Please listen, enjoy and share your thoughts.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving 2007, 2008 and 1944

Gobble gobble. 'Tis the season. 

Here are a few blog posts and a diary entry from past Thanksgivings. The diary entry is actually my father-in-law's from his book And There Shall Be Wars. These notes were from a week in Italy, 1944.

Much to Be Grateful For (Thanksgiving 2007)

Mumbai Heartbreak Hotel (Thanksgiving 2008)

Turkeys Gobble (2010)

Journal notes from my father-in-law's diary during World War II

Thursday, November 23, 1944
Woke up early with a little headache.  Layed in bed and recalled how I spent other Thanksgivings.  Probably the happiest, and one that will live long in my memory was at Payne in 1940 when the folks, Pa and Ma, Rod, Arlene, and Dick came up there with a dinner Mother had cooked.  Took Mom and the kids out to the car when they left, with Bird pulling the sleigh.  

Cleaned up this room, carried in water like I do nearly every morning.  Shells came in last night, but not in our area.  

Got 2 letters, from Mom and Ruth Eliason, and Time magazine.  

We had our dinner at 2:00, which consisted of turkey, potatoes, dressing, and cherry pie.  Good, but not exceptionally so, though I am thankful to have had that much.  The fellows put up a hospital tent with tables where we ate.  Some fellows gave a little entertainment after dinner.  A few acts, songs and music.  

Didn't go to the battalion.  Cloudy and dreary all day, a big contrast from a year ago.

The present offensive in France looks encouraging; French troops have crossed the Rhine and captured Mulhouse.

November 24th to December 2, 1944

Spent the time at the rest center in Montocatini.  Very boring, and I didn't even have a note-book with me for notes.  It was in between Florence and Pisa.

Sunday, December 3, 1944

Had to make 2 trips last night.  Back about 11:00.  Had a package, a letter from Ray, and 2 from Mom.  Up at 7:00 this morning.  Tried to clean up my peep.  It rained while I was gone, and everything is mud again.  

Cleaned up and shaved.  The old nervous tension grips a fellow as he hits the line again.  Quite a few shells coming in while I was at the battery.  To the battalion tonight, or late this p.m. actually.  Another package from Aunt Myrtle.

* * * *

A strange Thanksgiving in a strange year. 

I just read that the governor of Connecticut is fining families $10,000 if they socially gather for Thanksgiving this year. Maybe it only applied to small businesses, since I am not finding the original article. A 10K fine for failing to enforce protocols there, and no fines at all for vandals who destroy businesses in Portland. Very strange disparities. Either way businesses lose. 

The Apple store there (in Portland) was gutted earlier this year and hasn't re-opened. A restaurant owner was on the news saying how it was a shame his neighboring businesses were vandalized. They burned his restaurant to the ground the next night. 

Yes we have much to be grateful for. But I'm sad for the destruction that is taking place in many of our cities. Let's pray that 2021 will give us a turn for the better. This is a year man will hope they can soon forget.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Asher's Story: A Young Pittsburgh Entrepreneur's "Wild Soda" Business and Fledgling Etsy Store

From my earliest youth I have been a fan of creativity in all its forms. From drawing pictures to conceiving halloween costumes to story telling, the creative spirit is part of our nature. Entrepreneurialism isn't just about the business of making money. It is often simply another expression of the creative urge. 

I was probably around 10 when my brother and I sold home made popsicles that we made with Kool-aid back in Maple Heights. I was probably trying to add to my allowance money so I could buy baseball cards, Civil War cards or a model airplane. Most of my my regular allowance (a quarter a week) went to Mad magazines and Famous Monsters of Filmland mags.

When a long time friend of ours told me about the entrepreneurial activities of his grandsons, my interest was stirred. I asked what he's selling and he told me about a product called "Wild Soda" as well as T-shorts and T-tubes. 

Asher Deming is 12 and he's already got an Etsy store titled TheMegAndFreddieCo. The headline on his page reads, "I love making unique functional eco friendly items for others to enjoy." With the coronavirus he has had more time on his hands and rather than being idle he's been making things to sell.  

According to his Etsy page Asher's been sewing as long as he can remember. First it was pillows and then clothing. Eventually he began making stuffed animals and clothing for his nephews. 

Here are some notes from an interview we did via email.

EN: What products do you make and sell?

Asher: We sell t-shorts, t-tubes, and Wild Soda, with more products coming soon.

EN: Where did the idea of going into business come from?

Asher: I got the idea from a last minute Birthday gift. I randomly sewed a “pillow” out of a t-shirt, to make for my little cousin, which looked much like shorts, and they just happened to fit.

After that first pair of t-shorts my mom asked her "buy nothing" Facebook group for t-shirts we could upcycle. Then we made a lot more t-shorts, and a new product we call a t-tube, which is supposed to be something like a neck gaiter. 

I had also been on Pinterest looking at recipes for ‘wild soda’ which we figured out was pretty easy to make. So we got a bunch of reusable mason jars for a “soda club.” Every week our members are delivered a new flavor of wild soda.

EN: What prompted you to get into recycling and upcycling?

Asher: I understand that climate change and the environment is getting worse, with an imminent threat of climate disasters like pandemics, and wildfires as we have seen this year. So we try to make our products as environmentally friendly as possible.

EN: What is “Wild Soda”?

Asher: Wild Soda is what naturally sparkly fermented soda is called. It doesn’t taste real fermented, it just tastes like sparkling tea.

EN: Can you elaborate on how the Soda Club works? How much does it cost? What makes it unique? What gave you the idea to go with a Club versus just selling the drinks individually?

Asher: We deliver a unique drink weekly to neighbors doorsteps and reuse the bottles from week to week. If people don't live close enough, they pick up the drinks.

Isaiah Deming: Ultra-reliable Key Counterpart
How does your younger brother Isaiah help with the business? 

Asher: My brother is the only other paid employee,. He feeds the ginger bugs (the fermented thing that makes wild soda fizzy) and he sometimes helps deliver.

EN: Do you have a favorite flavor of Wild Soda?

Asher: I like orange Wild Soda.

* * * *

To learn more, and follow the evolution of their young enterprise visit TheMegAndFreddieCo on Etsy.
You can also follow them on @megandfreddieco on Instagram.

* * * *

For the record, Meg and Freddie are their pups.

Asher Deming: On the forefront of the Upcycling Revolution

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"Barbara Ann, I've Come To Play"

For a number of years I've been staying in touch with my mom by calling home every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. During this year of isolation, it's been especially meaningful. Usually we just catch up on current events, but this past month I began asking her to tell me stories about her life, like the ones she told me when I was little such as her prize winning calf at the County Fair and the time her dog Bob got bit on the nose by copperheads. 

Mom grew up in rural West Virginia in a town called Highland, moving with the family up to Warren, Ohio when she turned 12. My grandmother, an avid reader and self-taught artist, wrote poetry much of her life, influenced by a great uncle who was known as "the blind poet of Ritchie County." 

One of the poems that my grandmother wrote was called "Barbara Ann, I've Come to Play." Here's the backstory, which I learned only this past weekend, and then the poem. It's a poem about a little girl named Libby. Ruth.

The story of Libby Ruth
At the time that my grandmother was pregnant with Mom, my grandmother's sister-in-law Alice (married to my grandfather's brother Harl) was pregnant at the same time. Aunt Blanche was trying to get pregnant at the same time as well, and the three were all hoping for girls. My grandparents already had two boys, so a little girl was on the wish list this time around.

As it turns out, Alice and my grandmother delivered girls, one being my mother Barbara Ann, and the other Libby Ruth. (Blanche eventually adopted a girl named Jane.) 

Libby Ruth and my mom used to play together when they were very little. When Libby Ruth came over she’d say, “Barbara Ann! I’ve come to play.”

When Libby Ruth was four a tragic accident occurred. She had gone to the bathroom and somehow her nightgown caught fire and she died. 

Grandma wrote a poem about this terrible tragedy titled “Barbara Ann I’ve Come to Play.”

The poem is about Libby after she died and she was now an angel. Heartbroken, Aunt Alice was never the same after that. She’d always been so happy up till then.

Here is the poem my grandmother wrote.

“Barbara Ann, I’ve Come to Play”

Little girl with eyes so brown

Always dancing all around

Here and there about the town

And when she came our way

She’d always call so gay,

“Barbara Ann, I’ve come to play.”

What a glorious time they had.

We were always very glad

From Joanne clear on up to Dad

When a car came out our way

And we’d hear a clear voice say,

“Barbara Ann, I’ve come to play.”

Dear little Libby, so very dear,

An angel in heaven without a peer

Your sweet voice ringing in my ear;

How very sweet would be the day

When you would cry in your own sweet way,

“Barbara Ann, I’ve come to play.”

* * * *

As many of you know, my interest in poetry was stimulated by my grandmother. I remember a big fat volume of Ogden Nash poems that I sometimes enjoyed reading when visiting her. Her diaries are full of verse. Late in life some of her poems were collected in a volume called Helping the Sun Grow. Others were contributed to other poetry collections. This one, untitled, sums up her attitude toward these personal scribblings.

If you read between the lines

That herein I indite,

You’ll find a picture of my life

At morning, noon, and night.

If you find a word ill-used

Or yet a clumsy phrase,

Remember, I only write for fun

And not for fulsome praise.

--Elizabeth Sandy

For more, visit:

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Butler Who Folds His Hands Spills No Tea

In 2018 I published an article in which I shared 9 Maxims Which Carried Me Through a Career in Corporate America. While preparing a speech this week about leadership (which I delivered Thursday evening) for our Toastmasters group, I drew upon several of those life lessons. I had so many things I wanted to say that I deleted this from the speech lest it take too much of my allotted time. 

I'd first heard the expression in one of advertising guru David Ogilvy's books. If I remember correctly he was discussing the manner in which we manage creatives. Creating fresh ideas day in and day out is a challenge, and hitting it out of the park doesn't happen with every swing of the bat. (Unless you're Joe Hardy.(1) There are risks involved in aiming for the exceptional. Risk means there's a possibility of failure. The best way to kill a creative team is to never allow a whiff. 

There's always risk involved in any creative venture. Not every idea works. The best way to eliminate risk-taking is to do nothing. If you do nothing, you will never make a mistake. This is a business in which the competition for eyeballs is fierce. Creating something memorable and effective is no easy task. 


When we focus on punishing mistakes rather than rewarding initiative, we turn motivated students and workers into demotivated sheep. This is what prompted me to develop an alternative method of grading writing assignments when we were homeschooling our children. You can read my ideas on grading here.


Those ideas came from painful experiences I had in school (even though I tended to be an A student) and also from a workshop I attended for soccer coaches back in the 1990s. In the workshop Buzz Lagos, head coach of the Minnesota Thunder pro soccer team, taught of various games that our kids could play, by which they would develop as players. Ball control, passing and teamwork would develop as they played these various competitive skirmishes. 

During the Q&A afterwards, one of my fellow coaches asked an important question. "Sir, what skill level should my ten-year-olds be at?" That is, what are the benchmarks or milestones they should be at for the various stages at their age levels? How deft should their ball handling be? How strong and accurate their kicking?

Coach Lagos replied, "Don't even think about it. Only one thing is important, that they enjoy the game." 

When we are kids we do what we love and we get better at it. I'm not sure that parents, teachers and coaches can create these passions, but I am absolutely persuaded that we can quench them. 

The same can be true in the workplace. I believe most people want to do a good job, until years of mismanagement and abuse have corrupted this motivation. How we manage people can foster or frustrate their desire to excel. Once ruined, employees spend more time thinking about how to avoid punishment instead of focusing on the mission.

Do our employees know what the mission of the company is and how they fit into it? Are they--like players on a football team--playing in the right positions? Have they been properly trained? Is the value of their contribution recognized? Do you praise publicly and criticize privately? 

It's often easier to know the right things to do than to do them. Unless we try, however, we'll end up being the same old rat stuck in the same old maze. If you're a teacher or leader, and you're not seeing a spark in your students' or employees' eyes, it may be time to re-assess, and learn some new tricks.


Related Links
How to Teach Writing: A Soccer Coach Handed Me the Key
9 Maxims That Carried Me Through Three Decades in Corporate America

Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash 

(1) Joe Hardy was hero for Washington in the musical Damn Yankees.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Orphanage Update: Christmas Is Coming to Samaritan's Way In Kampala, Uganda

When Susie and I worked for a year at an orphanage in Mexico (1981), we were surprised to learn that most of the kids had a parent (usually a mother) who was alive. I'd always assumed orphans had no family. Nevertheless, these were abandoned kids for one reason or another and the orphanage provided a safety net of sorts. 

According to the United Nations Children's Fund website, UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death. By this definition, there were nearly 140 million orphans globally in 2015, including 61 million in Asia, 52 million in Africa, 10 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 7.3 million in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This large figure represents not only children who have lost both parents, but also those who have lost a father but have a surviving mother or have lost their mother but have a surviving father.

Of the nearly 140 million children classified as orphans, 15.1 million have lost both parents.

* * * 

A few years ago we learned about the work that Hon. Ida Mehangye has been doing ever since she first took in her orphaned niece and nephew after her sister and brother-in-law died from AIDS. The AIDS epidemic in Africa has caused immense and widespread suffering to a degree that Americans would find near impossible to comprehend. After these first two, other people began bringing her other orphaned Ugandan children in Kampala, true orphans with no parents. 

Before Covid-19, Samaritan's Way, the children's home she founded, was over capacity, with 45 kids in her care. All that changed, as did financial resources, and the facility had to be closed. The children were split amongst all the workers involved, 12 here, 11 there. 

Because of the impossible situation for one of the families, 15 of the children were returned to the home and the landlord extended mercy as well by allowing Ida and the children to remain. 

With Christmas approaching, I am making this appeal to any of you who wish to be generous in an unusual way right now. This is an orphanage that is not part of some massive fund-raising organization. They have no advertising committee, no offices somewhere. It is essentially a good will mission started by a couple who cares, who took a step to meet a need, and found there was much more need than even they realized. Any gifts supplied go directly to meeting needs.

NEW TECHNOLOGIES make it possible to send money straight to the orphanage. If you have an extra 50 or 100 dollars this year and wish to do something will make a real difference, I can help you get connected through Sendwave, a simple app for your phone. Even $10 will help... and will go much further than you can imagine. If you would like to help send an email to me at at this address: ennyman3 AT gmail DOT com.

The children in the photo at the top are (L to R) Grace, Shallot and Chris. Grace is five years old. She is an orphan who lives with her Aunt when not at the Orphanage. Shallot is a very active young girl of five years. She has been at the Orphanage since she was two years old. Chris, who is four, was brought to the Orphanage last year; by his Grandma. He is a very promising young boy.

Feel free to share this link with others. Together we can make a difference. As Idah would say: "Kind regards and God bless you."

Related Links

Would You Like to Help Paint an Orphanage?
Orphanage in Uganda Celebrates Christmas
About Schmidt: Even Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks & Make a Difference

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bibliography of Criticism of Public Schools and Colleges

One of the books on my bookshelf is a little volume from 1922 called Free Thought and Official Propaganda by Bertrand Russell. It is an first printing of the Crowley Memorial Lecture that Mr. Russell gave on 24 March 1922 at the South Place Institute. 

I was prompted to review the book because of the widespread influence of "cancel culture" that has been occurring in public discourse. It's interesting that Mr. Russell recognized early on, more than two decades before Orwell's 1984 made waves, that there is a tendency to pressure people to conform to certain ideas. The pressure comes in a variety of forms, and it is unhealthy. 

That, however, is not the subject of this blog post. On the empty page that precedes the title page of this little book someone penned a list with the heading Bibliography of Criticism of Public Schools and Colleges. 

The other night I searched online to see if I could find any of these volumes. The answer is that most are quite hard to find or too expensive to consider purchasing in order to quench my curiosity. Nevertheless, I did take notes, did a little cut and paste work so that others, if interested, could get a feel for some of the attitudes toward public education about a century ago.

Here's what I found.

The Goose-Step
Upton Sinclair (1923)
It is an investigation into the consequences of plutocratic capitalist control of American colleges and universities. Sinclair writes, “Our educational system is not a public service, but an instrument of special privilege; its purpose is not to further the welfare of mankind, but merely to keep America capitalist."

"I talked with another professor at Chicago, who does not want his name used. I asked him what he thought about the status of his profession, and he gave the best description of academic freedom in America that I have yet come upon. He said, 'We are good cows; we stand quietly in our stanchions, and give down our milk at regular hours. We are free, because we have no desire to do anything but what we are told we ought to do. And we die of premature senility.'" (p. 247)

University Control
J.M. Cattell (1913)

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

Cattell remains famous for his contributions in intelligence testing, as well as his work on individual differences in perception and reaction times.

Like many eminent scientists and scholars of the time, Cattell's thought was influenced by belief in eugenics, defined as the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population, usually referring to human populations."[6] Cattell's belief in eugenics was heavily influenced by the research of Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution motivated Cattell's emphasis on studying “the psychology of individual differences”.

Free Thought and Official Propaganda
Bertrand Russell

Of this I plan to write at least one or two future blog posts on aspects of the book.

The Goslings
Upton Sinclair

Cicero Brian wrote: Socialist Upton Sinclair penned this withering critique of government (a.k.a. "public") schools in the early 1920s. He realized, as Hitler, the Jesuits, and any else interested in controlling or influencing a society does, that schools are where the young clay is molded. Perhaps the best review of it was written by the great the libertarian intellect H.L. Mencken in the April, 1924 issue of The American Mercury (url: [...]). He recommended the book heartily, noting that it "presents an engrossing, instructive, and, if allowance be made for the author's indignation, highly amusing record of chicanery and imbecility--a vast chronicle of wasted money, peanut politics and false pretenses," but pointing out a serious flaw, "an erroneous assumption" from which "springs... a great deal of false reasoning and vain indignation." (Read about that flaw from Mencken himself.)

Many people, including yours truly, have long researched and warned about the conspiracy that has long gripped the American education system; among them, John Taylor Gatto is arguably the single most valuable. Named NY City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and NY State Teacher of the Year in 1991, he gradually realized that our schools were doing more harm than good. Having the ear of the top education officials in the nation because he rubbed elbows with them, he initially assumed his ideas for improving the schools would be welcome. When he found out that they weren't, Gatto quickly realized that our schools were not, as he had naively assumed, broken; they were working as designed. He quit teaching in 1991 and has been waging guerrilla warfare on gov't schooling ever since. 

Humanizing Education
Samuel Schmalheusen

Summary of review:

The Law of the Jungle Chap IX ff
Coburn Allen

The Higher Learning in America
Thorsten Veblen (1926)

Probably the best-known fact about The Higher Learning in America by Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) is that the author’s original subtitle for it was “A Study in Total Depravity.” By the time the book finally appeared in print in 1918, the wording had been changed to “A Memorandum on the Conduct of Universities by Business Men,” which gives the reader a clearer sense of the contents, albeit at a considerable loss in piquancy.

What’s Wrong with American Education
David Snedden (1927)

Many of the battles in education today are the same ones faced a century ago. 

The Education of Henry Adams
Henry Adams

The Education of Henry Adams is an autobiography that records the struggle of Bostonian Henry Adams (1838–1918), in his later years, to come to terms with the dawning 20th century, so different from the world of his youth. It is also a sharp critique of 19th-century educational theory and practice. In 1907, Adams began privately circulating copies of a limited edition printed at his own expense. Commercial publication of the book had to await its author's 1918 death, whereupon it won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize. The Modern Library placed it first in a list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the 20th century.

What Is and What Might Be
Edmond Holmes (1911)

The Standardization of Error
Vilhjalmur Stefansson

This thin tome is a seminal work on how we humans tend to cloud up topics of interest with utterly innane 'facts,' and how the folks who do so are like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, a behavior *never* observed in Nature.

Nonetheless, the allusion has progressed to an extremely useful rhetorical 'shorthand" of sorts, that far transcends its untruthful beginnings. A VERY good read, which will take you years to fully 'grok.'

Fads & Fallacies in Present Day Education
H. E. Bucholtz

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