Bulletin Board Postings
12/9/06 - The person with whom I worked at WNCS in Montpelier has left the station. So that means there will be no more "That's The Way I See It." Consequently, we've decided to drop it from our list of active topics and keep it on the site simply as an archive.
We are replacing it with a topic called "Products and Services." I've observed that a good deal of what people actually talk about involves the things they pay their money for. Though there are quite a few consumer-oriented publications, they tend to fall into the aids-for-shoppers category, and usually fail to emphasize the actual experience of using products and services.
Here, we'll try to tell you what happens when we pay our money for something, how we like or don't like it, whether it meets our expectations, and whether the sellers are behaving in what seems to us an ethical or sensible manner.
We hope that as you read these comments you'll want to respond with some of your own thoughts about your purchases.
11/17/06 - I'm sorry to have been remiss in adding to this site over the past several days. We have had a bad occurrence in our family which pulled my attention away. My daughter, her husband, their son and little dog were taking a morning walk last week when they were attacked by pit bull guard dogs which broke out of a construction site where they were being kept. My daughter, was knocked down, scraped, bruised and bitten on the hand. But by far the worst of it was that her dog Moses, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, was killed. It's not possible to convey what that has meant. All of us in the family loved Moses. He has been a bright presence in our lives for seven years. But the effect on Elizabeth goes beyond all our sorrow. To say that she has been devastated is miserably inadequate.
Her account of what happened:
Moses died last night. On Saturday morning we were taking our walk when he was attacked by two large dogs who broke out of their yard. We were able to get him away from them and to the vet. At first they thought his injuries were minor but he kept getting sicker. On Sunday night we took him to the emergency vet and on Monday morning we took him to a surgical hospital. They did an exploratory surgery during which they found and repaired extensive internal injuries. He survived the surgery and we were hopeful that he might pull through but there was just too much damage. His heart stopped a few hours after surgery. Moses was eight years old and he brought us joy and love every day of those eight years. He was the best little dog. We were lucky to have him and are heartbroken that he's gone. We loved him so much. If anyone is so inclined, a donation to PAWS Chicago would be a nice memorial.
I'll try to start posting here at a normal rate over the next few days.
9/20/2006 - I spoke with friends recently about why I go to the labor of posting political comments on the internet. From one perspective, it's futile. The World Wide Web contains such a flood of argument, a single site can't make a noticeable difference. But when I roll the subject over in my mind, I'm continually drawn back to the drip-drip theory of political movement. No single voice, particularly one without institutional backing, can make much difference. On the other hand, multiple millions of voices do. When I was growing up the theory held that unless one could become a best seller or a big name there wasn't much sense in writing. But the time has come to put that notion behind us. I've been gradually won over to the thought that it's good to write whether one has a single reader or millions. We can never know what that one reader might do. And besides, writing is a form of mental gymnastics. We all have to do something to keep our minds alive.
7/28/06 - As some of you may have noticed, I've been in a lackadaisical mood about this site over the past several weeks. I post an item when its subject particularly draws my attention but I haven't felt driven to comment on all current political events. One reason is it's summer and I'm lazy. Another is I've been traveling quite a bit lately. A third is that the Harvard Square Commentary uses a considerable portion of my energy. As fall approaches, I'll return to a more normal pace. I recently bought a new digital camera -- a Canon A-620 -- and it has encouraged me to make "Out and About" a more active component of the site. I confess, I'm still astounded by a technology which allows you to take a photograph one hour and place it before your friends -- indeed, before the whole world -- the next. Is this a good thing? Let me know what you think.
6/2/06 - You may notice that we've modified the framework of the web site slightly. I have not been satisfied with "Literary Appraisals." Though the term was accurate it sounded a little too highfalutin, and the way the page was organized didn't fit well with my impulses to make notes from my reading. So, we got rid of the former term and now simply call the page "Readings" with archives for the standard genres. I hope this will encourage me to add to it more often than I have lately. My goal is to have it be as active as "On and Off the Mark." Lately, I've been reading about Samuel Johnson and the dictionary. His notion that the dictionary should function as a sort of book, allowing readers to put themes from it together in their own minds, encouraged me to offer a dictionary of thoughts sparked by general reading, and invite readers to use it in the same way. We'll see how it goes. Send me you thoughts about it if you can find time.
5/26/06 - I've finally got around to working up some of the places I visited during my recent trip to Scotland and England and I'll be posting one or two a day for the next week or so on the "Out and About" page. I began this morning with Fleet Street, London. I find that travel involves two distinct experiences, and I'm not sure which of them is best although one is clearly dependent on the other. I'm speaking, of course, of the actual experience of being in a place and then the recollection of it afterwards. I do believe that travel loses much of its worth unless the recollection is full and lengthy. So, I'll try to minister to that need here over the coming days.
5/22/06 - I have returned from my trip to England and Scotland, arriving home at 7:00 P.M. on Sunday evening. I'll have quite a bit to say about the trip over the next couple weeks. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and I saw many things I had not seen before, particularly in Scotland. This was my longest sojourn there. We were following the route of Johnson and Boswell's trip in 1773, and we kept to it pretty faithfully with only a couple diversions. What are my main first impressions? Scotland is beautiful and maintains a culture fairly distinct from England's. Prices throughout the United Kingdom continue to rise compared to what we pay here in America. When I first went to England thirty-three years ago, things there cost about 70% of what they cost here. Now, you have to pay 140% of what you would pay in America. The dollar is very weak and the psychological effect of its weakness is felt strongly by Americans travelling in Europe. To say we feel diminished may be too strong. But the experience is something like that. I'll be trying to get my sites, both Word and Image of Vermont and the Harvard Square Commentary, back on a normal schedule over the next few days.
5/3/06 - Word and Image of Vermont is going into a form of hibernation for the next two and a half weeks because I'm going to England and Scotland. I hope you'll continue to visit, and poke into some features of the site that don't normally draw your attention. I've found recently, that skimming back through "On and Off the Mark" from two years ago is startling in some instances. In any case, I'll be home on May 21st and I'll start up again the next day. I hope I'll have some interesting items about Johnson, Boswell, Virginia Woolf, Scotland, the Hebrides, et cetera.
4/28/06 - Lately there has been a spate of articles about personal web sites which everyone else but me insists on calling "blogs." Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post says they are "the most vibrant, innovative and controversial form of information delivery in the media world today." But after seeming to praise them, Kurtz goes on to say that "the biggest evil of blogs is that first flaw, blogging's original sin: the discounting of news-gathering in favor of news analysis. Bloggers are forever telling us how easy journalism is, yet very few of them have ever really practiced it." In other words gathering "information" is what's really important. Thinking about it is insignificant. I can't fathom the logic of this. What's easier than what is not the point. If "information" is not digested and thought about, then it's no more than piles of musty reports moldering unread in remote warehouses. Yes, we need to know that a certain number of troops were killed in Iraq on a certain day. But we need even more to think about what the killing means. If we don't, it's hard to see what good the information is. I wish Mr. Kurt would explain that to me.
3/20/06 - I allowed myself to get a little jammed up this past week, which you may have noticed from the reduction of posting on the site. I went to Boston to give a talk to the Ethical Society. My remarks there can be found on the Essays page. My TV watching was thus much reduced. The short trip caused me to reflect on the comparative benefits of solitude and being out among people. Mr. Jefferson said that company is a great force for broadening one's view of things whereas being alone deepens one's insights. My experience tends to confirm his judgment. Talking to lots of people gives you a sense of just how many viewpoints there are in the world. It's bewildering, really. But company forces you to jump from one topic to another without having a chance to dig as much as you would like. This week I'm not going anywhere, so I should be able to bring the number of my postings back to what I consider a normal rate. If you get a chance to read my musings on the effects of abstract thinking (the Boston talk) I would like to hear your response.
2/14/06 - If you'll go to the "Literary Appraisals" page you'll see that we've reorganized it once again. I want it to be a place where I can post thoughts about both the topics that most strongly hold my interest and about the kind of chance readings that anyone who wishes to be a common reader is bound to encounter. So, we've tried to give it an organization which reflects that division. Over the past year, or so, I've been reading more than I had done for years in the classical writers of ancient Greece and Rome and also in modern historians who treat the period. I've read, for example, the histories of Herodotus, Suetonius on the twelve rulers of the early empire, several biographies of Julius Caesar, and Plutarch's Lives. Now, I am launched on Tacitus. The effect of this reading is curious. It gives me both an enhanced appreciation of the wisdom of those times but also a sense of the intellectual gaps characterizing them. What the classical writers thought about, they thought about well. But they did not take up many topics that need to hold our minds now. Both their strength and their vacancy has come through to me in a way that makes me want to say something about them. So, for the immediate future, I'll try to post a series of thoughts on the ancient writers and their times.
1/23/06 - As some of you know, I recently agreed with my old friend Ernest Cassara to become the managing editor of a web magazine he has been publishing over the past two years. The Harvard Square Commentary has tried consistently to raise questions about the directions of national policy. We will certainly continue to do that but I would like also to add more commentary on literature, film, and popular culture. We've just put out the first number under the new system. The format has been designed by my brother Neil Turner, who's becoming quite an accomplished web manager. We'll continue to play with the design over the coming weeks to try to make it as pleasing and easy to use as possible. If any of you have suggestions about that -- or about the content -- please send them along. The temporary URL for the magazine is hsc.homestead.com. In a couple weeks, we'll return to the regular address, harvardsquarecommentary.org, but you can continue to use the temporary address indefinitely, making it, I guess, not quite so temporary. If you get a chance, let me know what you think.
12/31/05 - Here at the beginning of a new year, prompted by my webmaster brother, we've decided to change the format of Word and Image of Vermont slightly to make it easier for you to find items recently posted to the site. Now, the first link in the panel at the top of each page will be "The Latest Postings." By clicking on it you'll go directly to a page which will offer links to everything added over the past week, regardless of where it appears in the site. It seemed sensible to do this because some of you may miss items put on the less active pages. For example, over the past few days I've posted several notices to "Literary Appraisals" after not having done much with it for a while. My New Year's resolution is to be steadier in posting to all the pages and not to leave any of them unchanged for more than a week. But, of course, "On and Off the Mark" will continue to get more attention than any of the rest. And if you want to go directly to it, you can do it just as in the past. I wish you all a happy New Year.
12/28/05 - I mentioned in one of the items of "On and Off the Mark" a few days ago that while I was here in Annapolis, I bought a little volume in the "Essential Thinkers" series of Barnes and Noble, the one with selections from the writings of Nietzsche. I've been reading a few pages of it every morning lately, and it has disposed me to be more active in posting items to my "Literary Appraisals" page, and in particular, for the next few months, items to the Nietzsche section of that page. So if you have interest in Nietzsche, or how the ruminations of a notable thinker spark thoughts about current events, you can go there to see what I have to say. I'd be grateful to hear from you about those items. I am leaving here today to return to Vermont. We've had a good visit and enjoyed ourselves. But now it is time to go home.
12/17/05 - I've been in the Annapolis-Washington area for a full week now. I've driven around a portion of the Beltway and up and down Connecticut Avenue more times than you would be likely to credit. And I've seen many fascinating and interesting things. Last night, for example, partially lost, I wandered down a street off Connecticut from the Cleveland Park area and at a dead end found myself looking down into a vale which encompasses the Malaysian Embassy, glimmering and twinkling romantically in the kind of haze I usually associate with Hollywood fog machines. It actually did appear as a fantasy of blissful retreat. Yet, retreat is not the term I can normally associate with this area. Many of the residents seem possessed by demons, and the effluvia of self-importance swirls so thickly up and down the boulevards radiating out from Duport Circle you actually can feel yourself choking. Washington is a city for the young and for mandarins who march about attended by cohorts of sycophants. It's exciting, but it's not welcoming to those who have reached the stage of desiring quiet independence. So I intend to enjoy the rest of my time here but to be happy when I again find myself on the road north to Vermont.
12/10/05 - After a short stay at home, I'm off on another trip, this time to Washington to help my daughter and her husband move into their new condominium. Driving down here yesterday was easier than I expected, once we got out of the snow in Vermont. Even so, the traffic in New York, New Jersey and Maryland was horrendous. Every time I make my way through the Garden State Parkway and down the New Jersey Turnpike, I am grateful Vermont exists. Though I'll probably never be a real Vermonter and will remain a Southerner in some respects all my life, the pace of things in Montpelier suits me. Society there is less frenetic and less grim than what I generally find elsewhere. In Montpelier, I never think anyone is going to kill me, either when I'm in my car or walking down the sidewalk. I can't say the same in the regions I passed through to get here. Many of the drivers I observed once I got on the interstate system struck me as insane. But I made it, and for the next little while, I can report to you on things I see in the nation's capital and round about.
12/2/05 - Today I end my sojourn in Florida and return to Vermont. There is at least one clear educational benefit from a visit like the one I'm ending. It teaches that geographical differences go well beyond the effects of nature. Floridians believe, with a fervency that is sometimes unnerving, that the weather in their state is superior to the weather in the northern regions of the United States. Yet, that's just a matter of taste. But the differences in climate between Vermont and Florida are minor compared to the differences in society. Both Floridians and Vermonters are thoroughly America and therefore they share many similarities. Yet the differences between them are so striking I don't think it's an exaggeration to say they constitute distinct and opposing veins of civilization. To compare them would require a complexity far outside the reach of this note. The only hint of comparison I can make is to say that, at the moment, Vermont remains the place where I want to live whereas Florida is a place I can sometimes enjoy visiting.
11/14/05 - Tomorrow I will fly to Florida where I'll stay until December 2nd. Then, I'll come home again. I'm taking my computer with me, so I'll continue to post items here, but they might be slightly different in character from the ones I normally put up. When I'm away from home, I don't spend as much time poring over current political events as when I'm here. And the difference in intellectual atmosphere will mean that different topics are pressing themselves on my mind. The contrast between Montpelier, Vermont and Bowling Green, Florida is astounding, considering that they're both small American towns. For one thing, I assume that about 80% of the people in Bowling Green voted for George Bush in the last election, whereas in Montpelier, four out of five voted against him. Another change is that I'll be reading the Tampa Tribune everyday. It's not the worst paper in America, but it's sure not the best either, and I've never seen anything in it that would strain one's analytical abilities. Still, the weather will be pleasant and I'll be with family. So, I expect to have a happy time.
11/7/05 - I've been slack about posting items to this site lately because I've been involved in other projects. The latest one is a talk about modern war I gave on Thursday of this week to a group at Lyndon State College here in Vermont. Now that it is out of the way, I may be able to step up my posting for a while. I hope so, at any rate. You would think that a man of my age would have sorted out exactly how to manage his life, to know how many hours to give to reading, how many hours to jot down notes, how many hours to spend on long projects and how many to devote to shorter ones. But, try as I will, I remain in a big confusion about all that. As soon as I've made the talk at Lyndon, I've posted the paper on this site. If any of you have a chance to read it, I'd enjoy learning what you think. (Click here to link to paper) ~~ Equinox Press has finally come out with the anthology of articles from the Millennial Studies Conferences at Boston University, which Dan Noel and I went to together for so many years. It has pieces by both Dan and me -- I guess it's Dan's last published article. The book is titled War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth. I don't suppose many of you will get a chance to see it, but if you should, let me know.
9/22/05 - I'm back at home again after spending eight days in the Southwest. I'll resume my regular postings on Friday, September 23, 2005. We had a fine time and encountered stupendous sights -- the Grand Canyon, the ancient cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in southern Colorado, the huge pueblo cities in Chaco Canyon, and on and on and on. It's healthy to see the vastness of the country sometimes and to remind oneself of what humanity once was and how people lived a thousand years ago. I confess the experience makes me less satisfied with the civilization we're now building, concentrated on airports, shopping malls, and urban sprawl. Nothing can make the contrast between now and then more vividly than coming down out of the desert mountains into Phoenix, a conglomeration both endless and terrifying. That's not to say that being out in the desert with no civilization wouldn't have been terrifying -- and lethal too. At any rate, I'll post some pictures of the Southwest on "Out and About" and try to weave what I found there into my comments in the coming weeks.
9/13/05 - I'm going off on a short vacation to Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico this afternoon. And, I've decided not to take my laptop with me. So, I won't be posting anything here again until September 22nd. Be sure to check the Harvard Square Commentary at the beginning of next week. My regular column will appear there. I'm hoping to come back from the Southwest with fresh thoughts, and a few good pictures to add to "Out and About."
9/5/05 - I've been put off my usual round by the sudden death, last Thursday, of a longtime friend. I met Richard Hathaway in December 1967, when I went to Goddard College to interview for a faculty position. Dick was the last person I met in a long day of appointments, and before we were half through talking he had invited me home for dinner. The number of meals we've shared since then is countless. Now, there will be no more. That's what death means. To tell the truth, I don't know how to grasp the taking away of somebody who has been a daily presence in my life for almost thirty-eight years. It seems, somehow, inconceivable. Yet, there it is. I was thinking just yesterday I would ask Dick what he thought about it. And then, of course, I realized I can't ask him anything. People say, to console themselves, that someone who died had a good life. I suppose we can say that about Dick, though he had his misfortunes. But such talk doesn't matter much to me. What matters is I can't talk to him anymore.
8/29/05 - Most of you will have noted that during the late-summer doldrums I've concentrated only on "On and Off the Mark" and have posted very little to the other pages. I've going to try to change that now and, at least, try to get back to keeping an eye on television and the movies. I started with a comment today about the new HBO production, Rome, and through the fall I'll try to add something about a film or a TV show most days. The truth is, of course, television is dead -- and deadly -- in the summertime. Some say it's deadly all the time, but most of the year I can get something out of it, though probably not enough to repay the time I spend on it. Books remain more informative and more imaginative than the visual media. But they also require more energy. Consequently, I don't expect a great increase in reading from the general public in the coming years. Maintaining a reasonable balance is the best course. But, it's not easy.
8/6/05 - I stand for open-mindedness on most topics. But I also believe that a person in the mature stage of life should have come to certain convictions, which, in effect, go a long way towards self-definition. These should not have been reached lightly and they need to have tested themselves against counter arguments. Yet, at some point they should become firm and not to be uprooted. Otherwise, a person fails in coming to grips with the nature of his or her life. I don't know how many of these I have and I'm not interested in confessing them all. But since at least two will show up from time to time on this site, I think I ought to state them publicly. One is opposition to the so-called death penalty. I don't think the constituted powers of the political state should ever be used to kill a helpless person. His crimes do not affect my opinion on this subject. The second is that I have no respect for the argument that faith permits one to know the mind of God in a way that justifies dictating to, or punishing, other people. Most of those who claim these rights can't make a cogent explanation of their concept of God. But, regardless of theological sophistication, I will not accede to anyone's contention that I, or anyone else, should, or should not, do something because that's what God requires. No one knows what God requires, and anyone who says he does is either deluded or a charlatan. I'm happy to discuss these positions, but no one should expect to dislodge me from them.
7/22/05 - Humanity has devised numerous forms of tyranny and one of the more irritating is the demand that everyone not only feel the same way the majority feel but also express himself as all other people do. When they wring their hands, you have to wring your hands. When they gasp, you have to gasp along with them. I've never been good at gasping or hand-wringing and these are weaknesses that have cost me from time to time. If you've read my comments for a while you may have noticed these shortcomings, and I guess I need to warn that they're not likely to diminish anytime soon. In fact, when I notice requirements to get in line emotionally, I'll probably point them out. This is for the sake of other emotional eccentrics who may well feel they're completely alone in the evolving pathos of America.
7/11/05 - Kevin Drum in the Washington Monthly warns about the dangers of maintaining a personal web site. It seems that prospective employers now check the internet regularly to see if an applicant expresses opinions or displays interests there. And if the employer finds things he doesn't like, the applicant will never know why he was eliminated from consideration. A few years ago, in a talk on the responsibilities of the elderly, I noted that people beyond the job-seeking years are free to express themselves firmly without having to worry about repercussions in the work place. There are many bad things about getting old. But there are good ones too. And chief among the latter is enhanced freedom. I think older people should try to use that freedom frankly, but without falling into the snarly, snippy internet parlance But whatever style they choose, the internet offers an important forum for those who no longer have to fear others looking over their shoulders.
6/18/05 - If you poke around much in my archives you will have discovered that the one for movies, under "Images Rising," has changed. You can now go to it and get an alphabetical list of the films I've discussed. Then, by clicking on a title you'll get the item. Over time, though I have no aspiration to rival Leonard Maltin, there should quite a few films listed. I've tried for a long time now to keep up with the picture shows (as we called them when I was a boy). And after watching what must be, by now, thousands, I still don't know what, collectively, to make of them. Are they the grand art form of our time? Are they simply cheap entertainment? I don't know. I do know this: they introduce people to thoughts and ideas they would otherwise never encounter. They may not treat these subjects as intelligently as books do. But, still, introduction is something. It's hard to imagine what our civilization would be now without the movies.
6/6/05 - While I was away visiting in the Washington, D.C. area I got a cold and felt crummy for a few days. I still had a good time, but I suspect my health cut down on my production here. Now I am back at home and beginning to recover. I'm facing, though, a deadline. And I've reached the point where I don't like deadlines very much. On June 8th, I'm scheduled to go to the library in Burlington and talk about Anthony Trollope's Can You Forgive Her. It's a delightful novel which I've read several times. But I always like to read a book again just before I talk about it. And, in this case, I put off the reading because of my cold. Then, when I finally got round to it just a few days ago, I was reminded that it's a novel of about a thousand pages. I'll finish it before I go, but it will require that I take more time reading and, consequently, less time writing than I like. I'm still looking forward to the talk, but I do wish I were able to read the novel at a more leisurely pace. After I've been to Burlington, I'll let you know how it went.
5/17/05 - The New York Times has announced that it will begin charging for online access to its columnists. The fee will be $50 a year. Since many personal web sites have responses to the Times columnists this will be seen by some as an attempt to reign in the blogosphere -- or, at least, to make money off it. For myself, I doubt I will pay the fifty dollars. Truth is, the Times columnists are not markedly better than other commentators who can be found on the web. I read them simply because they're prominent. And I might be just as well off not to read them and spend my time on other things. Of the batch, I'll probably miss Nicholas Kristoff the most. I don't always agree with him, but he's the Times writer who's most likely to say something I don't expect and to cause me to think. As for Brooks and Tierney, I agree with Ezra Klein of Tomorrow's Media Conspiracy Today that the main reason for reading them is they're easy to refute, so they give you something to write about when you're too lazy to think
5/6/05 - I'm now back in Vermont and I admit, I'm glad to be here. Florida, for me, has its pleasures, natural beauty and seeing family and friends, but it seems overall to be a pathogenic society. The nightly local news out of Tampa is a pure horror show. And though Floridians cluck about how bad things have got, they seem also, to take a perverse pride in it. I have my little theory about why Florida is as it is. It appears to exist almost entirely for the sake of comfort and convenience. Many Floridians are enthralled by the thought that they have escaped chilly weather and they can't seem to grasp why all other people are not similarly inclined. I guess staying out of the cold is all right. But, surely, it can't be the purpose of life. The temperature when I got to the Burlington airport on Wednesday about midnight was in the thirties, which in Florida would produce paroxysms of terror. But, it didn't seem too bad to me -- actually, sort of refreshing. And when I got home to find my cat Calo in a good mood, I forgot all about the terrific frigidity.
4/29/05 - I've been in Florida for a little over a week now. I said before I left that I would continue posting items at about the same rate I do when I'm at home. But I don't think I've quite kept up that pace. Florida seems to induce laziness. Still, I have added seventeen items since I got here, including three new "Out and Abouts." I hope that has been enough to keep all of you from deserting me. I'll try in the four days I have left to increase my activity at least a bit. One of the features of Florida that makes posting hard is that the news here is so crazy I don't know how to comment about it. I fear that if I told you about everything I see on the TV you'd think I had flipped out. Remember, that if anyone should need to talk to me, my Florida phone number is 863-375-3738. I've got to go out now and help pick some oranges. Our seemingly inexhaustible supply of juice in the ice box just ran out. And here, when that happens, you don't go to the store; you go to the backyard.
4/19/05 - Beginning tomorrow, I'll be away for two weeks on vacation in Florida. I'll return to Liberty Street on May 4th. That doesn't mean the site will be inactive while I'm gone. I'm taking my computer and I've arranged to access the internet through phone lines.. I'll try to post items about as often as I have over the past weeks, but they might be of a different character since I'll be in a different environment. Florida, as you know, is not the same as Vermont. If, by chance, anyone should want to call me, I can be reached at 863-375-3738. You can send me e-mail in the ordinary way. I have mixed feelings whenever I leave home for more than a couple nights. It makes me feel like I'm deserting something, especially Calo, my cat. On the other hand, if I never go anywhere I might be transformed into something weird. It's probably healthy for me to see how the world works elsewhere, although, to tell the truth, I know pretty well how it works in Bowling Green, Florida. In any case, I'm going. No way to get out of it now.
4/15/05 - Obviously, a person who puts up a web site has no control over how it is used. Nor should he. But, I can't help musing about what wordandimageofvermont.com has become over the months it has been up. My web manager tells me it's now quite extensive, containing more than 150 pages, some of them fairly voluminous. I don't know how that translates into traditional terms, but, certainly, all the stuff here, if published in book form, would add up to several volumes. The only page I think of as being up-to-date is "On and Off the Mark," where I try to post one to three political (in a broad sense) items almost every day. The next most current is "Images Rising," where you can find comments about recent TV shows and movies. The rest, I add to as I find time or as events push me in their direction. I hope readers will want to see what I have to say about current matters, but I hope, also, that some will get into the habit of visiting the site just to browse. You might find surprising things if you would poke around a bit.
4/3/05 - Those of you who check "Literary Appraisals" will have noticed I haven't been active there lately. That's because I've been putting my literary efforts into a final revision of a novel I've been working on for quite a while. It's now complete. The title is Adair Street, and it ended up being 101,845 words long, a fairly common size for a novel. Now I begin the mind-benumbing job of trying to get a publisher or an agent to read it. If any of you have tips on that process I'd be grateful for them. I'm not sure what to say about it. Here are a few sentences I included in one of the first letters of inquiry I sent out. They probably convey as much as is needed here. "People tell me that publishers, now, will consider only high concept novels. I'm not perfectly sure what a high concept is. So I can't speak confidently about whether Adair Street meets the standard. Sometimes I think it's a little scandalous. At others it seems simply a great calmness. Mostly, I see it as a peculiar combination of the two, with neither being able to dominate."
3/11/05 - March 2005 marks the first anniversary of wordandimageofvermont.com in its present form. It has been an interesting process -- setting it up and keeping it going. But, it's also frustrating because one hopes for more readers than it seems possible to get in this age of information excess. If someone had told me twenty years ago that I would be able, one day, to write something and make it instantaneously accessible throughout the world, I would have thought he was lost in fantasy land. But, I probably wouldn't have imagined that if I could do it, millions of others would do it also and, therefore, that my efforts would be no more than a speck in a flood. Of course, I need to remember that keeping up this site is a kind of intellectual gymnastics which, if I do it right, supports my mental health. It also creates a huge bank of words which I may, someday, find other ways to use. So, those are reasons to keep on, even if nobody reads. But I confess, I keep hoping a miracle will bring my site to the attention of millions.
2/28/05 - We have refashioned the literature page, giving it a new title, "Literary Appraisals," and making it into a list of links which lead to various topics. Over time, I want to make this a more important feature of the whole site than it has been till now, so I'll be adding topics at a fairly rapid rate. I hope you'll check them from time to time to see if I've addressed any of your interests. I'll define literature in its broadest sense, so that commentary about philosophy, religion, history and criticism will be included, along with appraisals of fiction and poetry. One of my ambitions is to find a way to help literature return to the central place in public discourse it once occupied. That won't be easy because its place has been invaded by film, television, and the internet. But if we begin to think of it not as high fallutin indulgence but as a practical aid to thought, then maybe it can make a comeback. Without employing it, I think we'll get stuck in the shallows so badly we'll have a hard time ever getting out.
2/20/05 - Two recent items I posted to "On and Off the Mark" offer explanations about why George Bush won the election of 2004. Since they give the appearance of being different, I may seem to be contradicting myself. But, I don't think I am. I think, instead, they complement one another. The kind of faux "real men" whom I say provided Mr. Bush's margin of victory are exactly the people most offended by the manners of an Arthur Kleinman. They know they are scorned by the liberal ranks of university professors and, therefore, a part of being a real man for them is to show contempt for those who can be labelled elitist intellectuals. The impressions taken from observing the arrogance of men like Kleinman are a kind of glue for holding the wad of real-manism together. Would there be real-manism if there weren't guys like Kleinman fueling it? Probably. But I doubt it would be, politically, as lethal.
1/28/05 - Those of you who check "On and Off the Mark" may have observed that I'm on a kick about American political culture and its dysfunctions (did you know that a slang definition of "kick" is a temporary, often obsessive, interest?). It may be naive on my part, but I don't see why we have to accept a condition which forces politicians to lie. I know -- people say politicians have never told the truth. I don't know if that's the case or not. But when I think back over American history, it doesn't strike me that Abraham Lincoln, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Harry Truman was as regularly dishonest as politicians are today. It may be that modern modes of communication have put all politicians into a permanent panic, so they're convinced they have to manipulate to survive. But it's clear that if we rewarded them for the truth, they would use it more. They are, after all, maniacally self-interested creatures. So, I want to push all of us to tell politicians we won't hold truth-telling against them, and mean it.
1/15/05 - Making a site like this useful requires being ready to admit your mistakes. I now have to confess that the page begun a little over a month ago, titled "Using 'Family' As An Adjective" cannot be what I thought I could make it. I started with the assumption that groups who push what they call "traditional values" had interesting thoughts that would be worth examining on an ongoing basis. But my investigations over the past weeks have convinced me they don't have vital thoughts. What most of them have are prejudices they aren't willing either to analyze or discuss. To keep saying that, over and again, is of little value. So, I've decided to drop "Using 'Family" As An Adjective" and replace it with a page about the issues of education which will be called "Education or Schooling?" The title reflects the thesis, which is that most of us don't know the difference between education and schooling, and that our confusion often produces efforts that are, in truth, anti-educational. I'm fairly sure this is a sustainable topic. And, it's one that needs far more airing than it has been getting. (The items that appeared in "Using 'Family As An Adjective" will continue to be available in an archive).
1/13/05 - A ongoing theme of this site will continue to be the fatuity of thinking we can have a vibrant healthy democracy with an ignorant, slack-minded electorate. It's okay to rail against manipulative politicians. But, ultimately, we must recognize that they get their power from our inclinations. One can say, for example, that the Iraq invasion was George Bush's fault. But if the public had been more skeptical about his arguments in late 2002 and early 2003 -- arguments that any half-informed person could see were full of holes -- our nation would not now be scorned by the rest of the world. When people allow themselves to be duped, over and again, whose fault is it? We are an idolatrous nation and the idol we worship is ourselves. From all sectors of the political spectrum, we hear proclamations about our grandeur. But, what's grand about us? And if we do have virtues, is it seemly always to be patting ourselves on the back? I'd like to see us modify our lust for flattery and start inquiring about who we are.
1/10/05 - Several of the Sunday morning talk shows yesterday dealt with bloggers. The required question was whether they add something positive to news coverage or just constitute a wave of pollution. The judgment was guardedly positive, with most commentators saying the "blogosphere" has sharpened our understanding of public events. Though "blog" and "blogger" have become well-established terms, I still don't like them. They exude an odor of vulgarity. Certainly, I don't want to be seen as a blogger myself. The web is bringing forth a new genre of writing which attempts to promote various tones of life, a genre less restricted than the older forms. At its best the new mode is like a good conversation, going where it needs to go. When it's bad, of course, it's horrid. Those of us dipping in it are more sloggers than bloggers, trying to stumble towards something we know not what, but which hints at a finer freedom of expression than we've known. Whether any of us can summon the literary force to get there remains to be seen.
12/29/04 - Here I am back from the Christmas break, full of resolve to modify myself, somewhat in the coming year. And, who knows? Maybe I'll do it. This morning I'm mindful of T. S. Eliot's warning that one can't devote his entire existence to making sure that he votes for the right political candidate. Applied to this site, that means I'm going to try to spread my attention more evenly than I did in 2004, and try to post as many items about entertainment and popular culture as I do about the machinations of politicians. The latter, for the most part, have neither strong nor interesting minds. So, if one spends his whole life in their presence, stupidity becomes a serious threat. I also want to give greater emphasis to literature than I've been in the habit of doing lately. I know that people say literature is a dying art. It takes too long an attention span. But, I don't care. When I was a young man I used to say that it's finer to be Dostoyevsky than Napoleon and, now that I'm older, I still believe it.
12/22/04 - After the postings this morning, we're going to take a short vacation for the Christmas season.. There will be no. new items until about December 29th. That doesn't mean I won't be writing any. But I'll just let them accumulate so that just before the new year you'll have a cornucopia. Meanwhile, if you haven't seen it yet, you might want to take a look at the essay about my experiences with the Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus. It appeared in a shortened version this week in the Montpelier Bridge, our local bi-weekly paper. I suspect some of you have had a similar experience with an institution you've tried to make contact with, and, if you have, I'd like to hear of it. I hope you all have a happy, warm holiday week. It's an interesting time of the year, and regardless of what religious associations people have with the season, I think it's a good thing to celebrate a time when private affairs come to the front and take the importance they, probably, should have all the year round.
12/13/04 - I've decided to change the nature of my "Literary Reagents" page. Formerly, I thought of it as a place to record random thoughts which came to me about anything I had ever read. Now, I want to make it more systematic and turn it into the place where I speculate on my current reading. It will become a kind of literary journal but, maybe, will differ from the average effort of that kind because I'll know that I must try to make it not only meaningful for myself but, also, readable for you. An ideal might be for people to read along with me and check their perceptions against mine. Yet, I know that's not likely because everyone picks his or her own reading and doesn't fancy being directed by anyone else. So, I hope I can make my responses worth your attention, whether or not you're interested in the book itself. I'll start the new regimen with John Shelby Spong's Why Christianity Must Change or Die, published by Harper San Francisco in 1998.
12/1/04 - I'm aware that maintaining a web site is, in some respects, like being a single drop in the ocean. The frightening truth is that there are almost as many web sites as there are people in the world. So, to stand out from that conglomeration is difficult. Yet, that's what I'd like to do. I don't delude myself that I can ever approach the number of visits Matt Drudge gets (about eleven million hits a day). But, I do tell myself that I might, someday, get to a thousand. After all, if one came to wordandimageofvermont.com regularly, the result would probably be as much thought and information as can be had from Drudge -- and, maybe, even more. The only way I'm going to move towards the thousand, though, is with the help of you who are reading this bulletin right now. If you'll pass word of the site along to your friends, a few of them might find it stimulating and some might even push it along to others. So, that's what I'm hoping. By the way, write to me when you get a chance.
11/22/04 - A new page is being added to the options on WordandImageofVermont.com. It will be titled "People Who Use 'Family' As An Adjective." One of the more interesting social developments over the past couple decades has been the evolution of "family" from a noun simply denoting a kinship group to not only an adjective but a charged adjective, an adjective which is like a bugle, summoning people to battle. Those who use the word in this way are claiming for themselves virtues especially productive in the raising of healthy children. But their notions of health -- particularly intellectual health -- may not be consistent with what many others wish for their own offspring. In any case, the "family-values" folk are creating a fascinating debate which digs towards the heart of what Americans think civilization is. The purpose of the new page will be to point out as many aspects of that debate as possible and, upon occasion, offer thoughts on what's sane and not-so-sane about it.
©John R. Turner
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