Monday, 31 May 2010

Home Movies

All night Greyhounds are super movie parlors
breaking us out of total snooze
at frost bump/semi's brights/a neighbor's bladder trip
No double features here
but cartoons animated by buried feeling
dredged up from the dark of the trains
and travelogues of fled interiors.
Outside of Thunderbay my students
marched on the dean for more homework
and coming into the Soo I lost
another automobile, how careless I am--
auteur, auteur my mind practices
as the critic driver flushes us into the French cold
with overhead lamps that paralyze memory
in this "leave the editing to us" cinema
there are no coming attractions.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Letters after a Love Affair

The patterns of your feelings
are as intricate as a Persian miniature.


Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Impending End of American Conversation

One of the serendipities of octogenarianism is the discovery of a splendid new book by a long forgotten former colleague. I speak of Stephen Miller’s “Conversation: A History of a Declining Art” (Yale, 2006) The last time I saw Miller was in Fall 1981 when he visited my Beaver College Media class, unannounced, as I was projecting a slide show of my art tour of Russia that summer. He was one of the few members of the English department I had found congenial enough to have a serious conversation with, although there had been damn few of those, come to think of it.

I left teaching shortly after to become a Welcomat pedagogue, and that was the end of him. In this book, there are allusions to his dispensing grants for the National Endowment of the Humanities and to his high class journalism (Partisan Review, Wall Street Journal et al) as well as working awhile for a conservative think tank. No more college teaching! Puzzling. He was clearly too good for Beaver. Googling got me nothing more about his career.

Anyway, the book is a wonder! We begin this essay on the history of what he neologistically calls “the conversible world” with the beginning of language, naturally. A pit stop in Sumer, where the new device of the city not only encourages conversations but devises libraries for its cuneiform records. “Gilgamesh” contains “conversation poems”. The genre gets ready to bloom. The Book of Job is scanned for diverse human intercourse. Plato and Socrates up the ante in Athens, whilst Sparta sets a contrary model of illiterate militarism. You get the idea. Conversation of steadily growing complexity makes the world seem to go round!

Eventually we get to his heroic models, Hume and Doctor Johnson, whose good manners and intellectual brilliance set the high standards this book counsels us not to forget. Coffee houses and private clubs flourish. There is a speedy but not unuseful skittering through American Lit from Franklin, Thoreau and Whitman (neither good at conversing—barbaric yawps are no go’s!) to Norman Mailer whose plea to replicate a culture of the White Negro gets him a big fat F from Professor Miller!

Crankiness is not civilized. Which leads Norman to Eminem whose foul mouth and misogyny shows US all how the sleazy Sixties misled us. I grew up in the 40’s and 50’s two miles from his Detroit 8 Mile Road milieu and he turned me off the first time I caught an earful of his lewd lyrics spinning the radio dial in search of my black Negro jazz and white swing.

It’s not the post modern junkies who are killing conversation, in my judgment. It’s the solipsism of the electronically isolated that keeps from knowing enough and having good enough manners to share what we’ve learned that’s killing conversation, artful or not. And Miller is good enough at reporting the limitations of the likes of Jerry Springer and Oprah and Rush Limbaugh. He even recommends small neighborly meetings and clubs to keep the art alive. (Yawn.) Pissing in the wind!

The K-12 curriculum must inoculate the masses against our media-born semi-barbarians. Q&A testing won’t do it. Teachers who know how to start and continue civilized talk in the daily classroom could immediately improve our medians. Trouble is they’ve already been gimmicked by the Ed Schools.

As I read his brilliant 13 page Bibliographical Essay which concludes this funky book, I suddenly understood what I’d been mulling over during the several hours I have been reading it. It’s a brilliant doctor’s oral. For 99 percent of our compatriots trying to read its recommendations, they’d never ever try to converse again.

The dining room table, late night palavers, exemplary adults are the only accessible routes out of the infantilization that has molded our electronic sandbox during the past century. Get a generation of high school teachers to metabolize Miller’s intellectual safari, and we’d soon be out of the woods. Otherwise HO HUM! Pass the TV commander.

You may read this piece on Broad Street Review.

Friday, 28 May 2010


The Gross Clinic/Thomas Eakins

Dear Stephan Salisbury, Many thanks for your meticulous reconstruction of what "The Gross Clinic" has had to put up with over the years.


I hope your essay will enter the curriculum of conservation to minimize abuse in the future. 

Patrick D.Hazard

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Advice to a Son Getting Married

This is all so new to me--
telling someone dear to me how to do it
already muddled by having done
some of it wrong all by myself
Trained in commandments
Let me try a New Decalogue
Thous shalt not want everything
(thus never wanting anything)
Consciousness is Pandora's box
which unleashes infinite desires.
Thou shalt not dominate or be dominated
You two doves could savage each other
It has happened so gently before
Thou shalt not be too discouraged
Remembering Emily's sweetest failure
Invest yourself in your only present
(which need not be anybody else's future)
Thou shalt not be ashamed
to admit to temporary or permanent failure
Even this holy wedding will end in death
Some day, or sooner if you're thick and unfeeling
Prepare for it by ignoring death insolently
Living our your lucky love
(as you must love yourself)


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Reverend Al Fitzpatrick, the editor of The Catholic Universe Bulletin, with Mike Hazard.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Can Neuroscience Save English?

Can ‘Neuro Lit Crit’ Save the Humanities?

Alice Rawsthorne, that prescient design critic of the International Herald tribune, had it right when she observed that 90% of our designers work for 10% of the world's population. A fortiori, 90% of our humanists work for the fiscally lucky 10% of all extant human beings.

As I look back in my retirement at sixty years of humanist activity, I deplore the prevalence of Iv(or)y Tower dominance in our "discipline". (My PhD in American Studies, 1957, Western Reserve, dead-ended in a new kind of cultural colonialism.)

I started to globalize English, first by assimilating AfroAm and Appalachian Lits into American Lit, then adding Canadian and Caribbean, African Lit. I decided my new rubric was International English by accessioning Commonwealth Lit.I couldn't resist the wiles of Lowell Blair, editor of Michigan State Press, when he introduced me to R.K.Narayan.

English is not a fiefdom for $100,000 professors and legions of untenured peons. It is a profession ideally suited to helping the masses become more humane in our first global era. We first abandoned the common schools and secular media to an unexamined consumerism in our hunger to make it big in the "Humanities". We abandoned our natural charges to the hysterical hijinks of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

And now we want to bury our heads in another sandbank of polysyllabic foolishness. We have forgotten that the simple mandate of the humanities is to help the under-tutored to be more humane. At least that's why I value literature.

What we need is the literary equivalent of Cameron Sinclair's Architecture for Humanity and their Bible, "Design Like You Give A Damn." We don't need more Ph.Ds in the Humanities. We need more savvy elementary and high school teachers to lead the least supported out of their urban hellholes.

University presidents with million dollar salaries should be cashiered as phony humanists. Ninety percent of the humans alive today are suffering subhuman lives. Our curricula should be designed to save them inhumane lives. That's why literature and the arts are crucial.

Patrick D.Hazard
April 6th, 2010

Monday, 24 May 2010

Serving Notice to a Back Biter

Gossip is the sex of the impotent.
Behind their impudence a limp dick lies.
The lust for dirt obscures a dead strung clit.
This is the balling that never comes.
This is the foreplay that leads nowhere.
The limbo of the toujours tristesse.


Saturday, 22 May 2010


I love to look at bottles
I envy their openness
their transparent imperturbability
And the chemistry of glass
Must be the last unrefutable argument
for the existence of God
Silica transubstantiated
to colonial purple and Michelob brown
Ah, the eternities of delight
in these fine fine grains of sand


Friday, 21 May 2010


Don't kid yourself,
It's not always a virtue
It can mask cowardice
Flight from a necessary fight.
It's easiest to forgive children
But to too easily do is to
Rear unforgivable ungrownups
Who are mainly unforgiving
Themselves as well as others
Newman's gentleman never
needlessly inflicts pain
But the surgeon cuts out quickly
without compunction the deadly cancer
giving no benign tumors
Benefits of doubts they sometimes deserve
and Nazi doctors cannot be allowed
By history to hide their unblushing faces
Behind their collected Heinies
And I will not easily forgive
My family doctor bloated with half-earned dollars
Or my college chum who roams
Through Florida scrounging for
Condominiums to multiply a whiplash fortune with
Nor a colleague who smirks on
Petty put downs of a major poet
And I will not so soon forgive myself
For taking so long to learn these things.


Thursday, 20 May 2010

Peter Conn's America

Peter Conn’s “The American 1930’s: A Literary History” (Cambridge University Press, 2009) is such a scholarly wonder that it made regret for the first time ever at Walter Annenberg and Charles Lee’s conniving to welch on my right to return to Penn if The East-West Center’s directorship didn’t work out. (A $3000 salary cut from their first offered contract, a house too dinky for three teens when we had just left our new Louie Kahn manse in Philly, and the unapproved appointment as my number two a Ph.D. from Iowa who had spent his first decade in the CIA were my three reasons for fleeing Honolulu.) So whatever the opposite of nostalgia is I experienced as I read for the first time a book by Conn who would have been a colleague.

His Penn presence now even compensates for the the sad disappearance of the Department of American Civilization in the interim. Both this book and his website of class assignments and educational ideology establishes that American Studies is alive and kicking in what used to be a creaky English Department (always excepting my poet pal Daniel Hoffman!)

And in the lee of reading with great pleasure Morris Dickstein’s “Dancing in the Dark”, I’m astonished to see how their diverse complementary perspectives make so comprehensible the complexities of that tortuous decade. Dickstein’s angle is more esthetic, Conn’s sociological.

Together my perspective became more and more three dimensional. Dickstein is better at compare and contrast, Conn at making sure nothing important is ignored. For example, Robert Penn Warren’s Southern vision is clearly explained by Dickstein , but Conn shows how Warren’s first book ,”John Brown: The Making of a Martyr”, denigrated the heroic outsider. (It was long before Malcolm X changed his Southern mind!) And he shows in Warren’s “Night Rider” how his Guthrie, Kentucky home folks fought the American Tobacco Company monopoly.

And beyond the usual dominance of “Gone with Wind” Conn points out how Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ “The Yearling” revealed how poor Southern whites dealt with Reconstruction. (Conn’s book contains a list of Pulitzer Prize fiction and nonfiction winners as well as bestsellers in that decade: his website shows how his classes use these aids to broaden and deepen student literary sophistication.

He prefaces his book with a cultural and political timeline which I will copy before I send the book back to Jena, checked out on the Common Book Network, an indispensable aid to an American in Germany. There are so many details he deploys: WPA writing, theatre, and painting. Handbooks of American Design and Architecture. The Dictionary of American Biography. You get the impression that this joint appointment with College of Education wants every English teacher trained at Penn to know about every aid that will make them more professional.

And while Dickstein alludes to the way left wing black intellectuals rsented wealthy whites “slumming” in Harlem, Conn actually quotes Richard Wright’s putdowns. He described the Harlem Renaissance writers as “prim and decorous ambassadors who went a-begging to white America. . . .They entered the Court of American Public Opinion dressed in the kneepants of servility, curtsying to show that the Negro was not inferior, that he was human, and that he led a life comparable to that of other people. For the most part these artistic ambassadors were received as though they were French poodles who do clever tricks.” P.189.

Wright lampooned Zora Neale Hurston as the character Sweetie May Carr, and needled poet Countee Cullen as Dewitt Clinton. Similarly, Conn analyzes the many left wing manifestoes that thrived in the decade.

He seems to know everything cultural in that era, even the pioneering Cleveland Karamu House where Langston Hughes’ “Emperor of Haiti”(1936) was first performed. It was about the 1791 revolt of Jean-Jacques Dessaline motivated by the French Revolution but ultimately a political failure. And William Levi Dawson, Professor of Music at Tuskegee (where he taught Ralph Ellison), arranged dozens of African-American spirituals to form his “Negro Folk Symphony”(1934). Leopold Stokowski conducted the premiere with the Philadelphia Symphony.

Conn also explains the social contexts of these cultural sorties. Deflation meant that those with regular income “prospered”. Life expectancy rose from 57.1 in 1929 to 63.7 in 1939. 52 million people in 15 million cars spent $5 billions on motor travel. Motels proliferated alongside the new highways. (The Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940 as the decade ended.)

This piece also appears at Broad Street Review.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Today is the 115th birthday of this blogger's Mother, May F. Hazard.

Big Book, Little Medium

I don’t always whine about the Anna Amalia Library’s collection being too Eurocentric. Yesterday (in my weekly screening of the New Books stacks), I came across a humungous folio size volume entitled “Interpretive Wood-Engraving: The Story of the Society of American Wood–Engravers” by one William H. Brandt (Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, Delaware, 2009).

What an epiphany for this once obsessive Brandywine Valley familiar. A really neglected chapter in our cultural history was this mini-efflorescence in the last two decades of the nineteenth century of a cadre of wood engravers, many German and British immigrants.

They mostly made famous paintings accessible to culturally mobile Americans who couldn’t afford the Grand Tour. Not that they totally ignored American artist. There’s Alsatian Henry Wolf’s 1885 "interpretation” of Eastman Johnson's ”The New England Peddler”, Union Army vet J.H.E. Whitney’s 1891 version of Andre Castaigne’s "The Post Office in San Francisco,” Walter Aikman’s 1887 version of a photograph “Scene in Hope Ranch”.

Timothy Cole, whose 1918 interpretation of John Singer Sargent’s "Woodrow Wilson," was born in England in 1852 and came to America with his family when he was five, was in Chicago during the great fire of 1871, where the family piano and violin were destroyed. They moved to New York and found work as a wood engraver. When he asked for better assignments, he was fired! He started selling his engravings to the American Tract Society. They caught the eye of the art editor of Scribner’s Monthly.

When that mag became The Century Magazine in 1881, he was commissioned to do two wood engravings in Europe a month for $250 each. It was an assignment he couldn’t always make, but his series of Italian, Dutch, Flemish, English masters made him famous in America as one of their greatest wood engravers. He got gold medals at the world fairs of Chicago in 1893, Paris in 1900, Buffalo in 1901 and St. Loius in 1904.

The National Academy of Design made him a full member in 1908, a rare honor for that minor genre. He was one of the 9 founders of the The Society of Wood-Engravers. And when he died in 1931, the Print Club of Philadelphia mounted a month long memorial exhibition complete with catalog and biography.

Woodcuts of course were the the first printmaking technique. By drawing on the plank side of a piece of fine grained wood and then cutting away all the wood between the marks of the wood was a drawing in relief. Ink was then applied and paper pressed against the relief surface. When the paper was pulled away, the resulting image was a replica of the drawing, i.e. a woodcut.

Master print makers like Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein were using this technique in the late 1400’s. Prior to the nineteenth century wood cuts were the preferred mode for printing illustration with type. Then the graver made the reappearance of the white line. Renewed, the wood medium drove out intaglio-engraving (on steel and copper).

The book is a labor of love. Bill Brandt’s day job is a scientist at Oregon State. He not only explains the whys and wherefores of the then newly ascendant medium which made illustrated journals possible, he tells you the history and present state of collecting these treasures. The enthusiasm of the amateurs who literally love their hobby of collecting ensures that their passion will survive the replacement of their genre by photographic reproduction.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sculptures Interstate/Ontario Route 69

Caterpillar chisels reduce "monumental"
to a cliche bounded by David and The Kiss.
Outcroppings speak casual glacial.
The mind races at speed limits
to comprehend on the run.
Not ex nihilo, a theologian fantasy.
But from unhyped history of this battered earth
aeons of fire and ice, fissure beyond planning for
the adamant stone, least computable
of man's legacies, bringing Art back to scale.
Every thrust and stratum an agony in time.


Monday, 17 May 2010

A Kook's Tour of St. Paul's Art

Carl Milles' God of Peace

In the melioristic tradition of "if you're stuck with lemons, make lemonade," St. Paul turns both frozen cheeks each end of January and stages an icy Winter Festival (Jan. 24-Feb. 4--phone 612-297-6985). I was recently spying there to see what the chicken-hearted, hot-blooded indoor types like myself could do to get in out of the cold. Here's the thaw plan.

The Minnesota Museum of Art has three irresistible shows on view for the temperature-timid. Begin at the Landmark Center, that floriously recycled Romanesque old Federal Building kitty-corner from the St. Paul Hotel on Rice Park. Benjamin Thompson's Ordway Theatre and Music Center and a beaux artsy Public Library complete the neighbors on the square at Fifth and Market.

Both the SPPL and the Landmark Center are prim pickup points for the free weeklies and other cultural orientation materials that distinguish St. Paul as one of the grandest self-promoting cities in the country.

The Landmark has (until January 28) a perfectly splendid show on one of my favorite sculptors, Gaston Lachaise, under the randy rubric, "20th Century Venus: Sculptures and Drawings by GL." Man, was that guy into nipples and labia. With one fell swoop of his pen his establishes the most erectile nipples in the long and often aroused history of femininity. The labia and monses also positively throb with a sweet sensuality.

I learned from the captions that this Paris-born and -educated genius (his woodworking father moved to the capital from the Auvergne) fell in love with a Canadian woman ten years his senior in the Luxembourg Gardens and lusted after her as far as Boston, where his money ran out.

He soon met and became the main aide of Paul Manship--he of the Rockefeller Center-sans Golden Prometheus. e.e. cummings, that funky poet who wished he was a better painter than he was, touted GL's early work in the influential Dial magazine. Lachaise did reliefs for the RCA Building in 1930, large plaster reliefs for Chicago's Century of Progress in 1932, reliefs for Rockefeller Center's International Building in 1934. Hell, while most American artists were on WPA relief, he sculpted reliefs for more than good dough.

The Philadelphia Art Alliance enjoys the distinction of giving the Deco-dent relief picturer his first one-man in 1932. MOMA in New York gave him a retro in 1935, the year he died. The Minnesota Museum of Art has the neat idea of getting its patrons to kick in enough dough (the museum is free) to buy a cast of his "Dolphins" (c. 1922), one of an edition of six, on display courtesy of the Kraushaar Gallery. I hope they make it.

Men who love women and their bodies we will always have with us, despite temporary aberrations like Andrea Dworkin and her fear-of-fucking cadre. ("Thou shalt not penetrate me," Ms. Dworkin moans, abusing herself selfishly.)

To prick her illusion, she should gaze at GL's "Dynamo Mother" (1933), which is all vulva, an expressionist romp over the woman's greatest blessing to man's kind: her capacity to nurture a fetus to term. Who cares about penis envy? GL's sculpture gave me instant vulva envy. Hey, if GL's love affair with the female body doesn't give you the esthetic hots, you deserve to die of the cold in St. Paul's exterior darkness.

Down the street, overlooking the river (yes, you geographically illiterate Americans, St. Paul is on the Mississippi), is the lovely Deco original Minnesota Museum of Art Jemne Building. It offers a great-view "Deco" restaurant on the fourth floor. Do a powerless lunch there. It also has two more first class art exhibitions.

"The American Landscape," a chrestomathy from Minnesota collections, has the usual national suspects, plus some unknown (to me, who is more than happy to have his ignorance relieved) locals--such as Mike Lynch (1938-  )--whose blue-pink cast "Elevator--29th and Harriet" (1988) is more than a Sheeler updating, it's local color, colored locally--and John Moore ("Quarry," 1987).

And by all means don't miss James Daugherty's "Will Canfield's House." Its Oscar Blemner-like composition and ominousness is delicious.

Wait. There's more. "The Silent Language of Dress" is the kind of show that takes only an attic-full of clothes from all over the globe and an energizing curatorial vision. My fave is an Ainu kimono, not like the first Aino kimono I ever saw--in the Batchelder Museum in Sapporo, Hokkaido, woven of elm bark!--but on the same track, of heavy hemp cloth. Oh, those Ainus were aesthetically hairy creatures, taking the delicate traditions of their Japanese Conquerors and goosing them up most lovingly. They flattered by weirdly misimitating.

And save some time for building inspections. Like the centennial-celebrating St. Paul's Building at Fifth and Wabasha. It's Richardsonianized red sandstone. How I love the aura of that era! 99% of American architecture since has been a precipitate drop into the pits of speculation and peculation. Yucko.

And don't fail to have breakfast at Mickey's Diner, a National Hysterical Building--although its cuisine is better. I always have the "twos" when I drop off the Greyhound across the street: two eggs, two sausages and two pancakes.

Down the street is the headquarters of Minnesota Public Radio, where you can buy Garrison Keilloriana by the freight carload. That's the World Trade Center across the street, and emblem of former mayor George Latimer's ambition to position his blue-collar city in the international markets.

A good cheap, central place to stay is the Civic Center Motel, kitty corner from the Civic Center, except when rock concerts or dog shows (I often confuse the two) prompt them to raise their $40ish rates. The airport is straight out that street, where a $12 cab ride will get you into a bed. A city bus will do the same a little slower for 75 cents.

And don't miss the Ramsey County Court House across the street from MMA/Jemne. In it is Carl Milles' greatest statue, the soaring Mexican onyx Peace Indian.

I love St. Paul, and not just because my granddaughter Sonia lives there. She's just the latest, sweetest frosting on a basically great cake. Other attractions are the Science Museum, the Minnesota Historical Society (and its James J. Hill house), Cass Gilbert's State Capitol, and much more.

Reprinted from Welcomat: After Dark: Hazard-at-Large, January 24, 1990

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Letters to Alice II

Generation gap was no cliche to us.
Your ludes and hash and pot
dismayed me after I'd tried them out.
And poets and profs and straights
seemed always to be squashing you.
Their Olympian distances simply sucked.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Letters to Alice I

It used to bug you
that my muse browned out
when you moved in.
Have you forgotten the daily epic
we were roughly drafting
that new Eden of a May and June?
It still dazzles me recalling
my rush of blood
when you came nude to play.
First bra, then briefs
my bedroom Botticelli,
arising from your sea
of naked candle flicker.
The poems shape again in me.
My tumescent muse of recollection
numbing the bite of separation.


Friday, 14 May 2010

Tour Guides

That Friday we drove him to New Jersey he didn't know what to make of us. Bucking the turnpike traffic and mocking the Garden State, he talked nervously of Scotland and skye.

We relished the mansion he was crashing. I lectured him on art and nouveau riches. He was dazzled by your beauty.

That evening we left him in New Jersey and drove to Brooklyn for its bridge but driving over it you see less than nothing. What an emblem of our love.

You charmed my college chum and his mistress who talked about brownstones and how they grow over.

Later we made hungry love in a Hackensack motel. You cowered in the car, and I teased your fearing prudery.

That morning we took him to Jersey museums.

In the shade of Wall Street, we relished Manhattan and at Coney Island we showed him around the schooners and aquarium.

By then he knew we were meaning business. He could tell us lovers from our quarrels.

That afternoon we drove him to Caledonian/JFK.

Favoring the bodies we had strained so sweetly the night before in the cramped yellow Gremlin.

We knew he knew from his parting words. "You two come visit me in Glasgow, soon, please do." And we will, we will.


Thursday, 13 May 2010

When We Go Upon the Sea

Re Robert Zaller’s review of Lee Blessing’s When We Go Upon the Sea, at Theatre Exile—

What is disgraceful and terminally disheartening about our brain-damaged 43rd president was his structural dishonesty in touting a totally false oil-igarchic Iraq idealism while blindly refusing to support the world’s admittedly feeble efforts to help establish international law.

If you want to understand these endemic American confusions, I recommend Empire of Illusion, by Chris Hedges (Nation Books, 2009).

Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
April 19, 2010

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Sporting a beet juice mustache, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Hazard has yet to comment on his eponym's epic report.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Soviet Posters

Re Andrew Mangravite’s review of Soviet posters at Arthur Ross Gallery—

“Stalin died laughing” is not funny, any more than New York Muslim fanatics exulting in 9/11 is a joke. Mindless absolutism is life-denyingly inhumane and unacceptable, whether it comes from Stalinists suppressing peasants, Ratzinger telling African AIDS victims they can’t use condoms, or Osama bin Laden spreading
Sharia’s insane laws.

Howard Zinn’s recent death has moved me to reread Nicholas Coles and Janet Zandy, American Working Class Literature (Oxford, 2007) and Julia L. Mickenberg and Philip Nel, Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature (New York University, 2008). We smirk smugly about the absence of freedom elsewhere when virtual (and vicious) censorship keeps 99% of us as ignorant as Commie apparatchiks of our blue-collar origins.

Let him who is without Zinn slavishly join the SEC’s pornorama!

P.S. I still love Popova, Andrew!
Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
April 24, 2010

Monday, 10 May 2010

Free Association

Free association is a lark when students fake majorities. But what is happening in Europe and Africa with Muslims emigrating and threatening to install Sharia law is no joke.

Surely cultural relativism as construed by anthropologists should not threaten the freedoms that majorities have worked centuries to establish. Could we not exclude or deport if necessary those who would violate social contracts that took centuries to devise and install?

Let them play god in their sand dunes, but not set us back with their cruel “certainties.”

Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
April 23, 2010

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Barnes Burner

So be it, Barnes burner. There’s only one Argyrol rule this lower-case culture pusher insists on: We must seek modern equivalents of his having had his own factory workers study art on the clock. Ask Penn’s Peter Conn to devise encounters such that new teachers could explain art the way his English majors do— as practice teachers in a nearby high school before they’re qualified. Press doctoral candidates to devise station-break critiques of local art, the way Roger Clipp and Tom Jones let me do it in the 1960s at WFIL-TV.

Art is too important to be monopolized by the rich. The poor need it more.

Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
April 16, 2010

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Self-Inflicted Blindness of the American Empire

The American Gospel, of course, foolishly insists that only US was free of imperial behavior. (It was our Superego’s way of persuading the National Id that we never acted imperiously either to the red American indigenes or the black American slaves.) Citizens who still insist on our unblemished state need to consult the autobiography of Woodrow Wilson’s Marine General. Chris Hedges’ “Empire of Illusion” (Nation Books, 2009) brings the sad self delusion up to date.

He bases his overall critique about the infantilization of our voting public on my former NCTE colleague Neil Postman’s book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death:Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business”(Penguin, 1985). Sadly, Neil passed away from lung cancer at age 71, a terrible loss to media criticism.

He chided his generation for preferring George Orwell’s “1984” where people are controlled by pain To Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” where nonreaders are “amused to death”. H.L.Mencken’s “booboisie” had become Alfred Neumann’s Mad mag anti-hero in one generation. For example, the once able city mayor Jerry Springer induces morons to shriek “JER-RY,JER-RY” in weekday TV shoutouts.

How did Las Vegas become the cultural capital of America? Postman explained:”At different times in our history, different cities have been the focal point of a radiating American spirit. In the late eighteenth century, for example, Boston was the center of a political radicalism that ignited a shot heard round the world.” In the mid-nineteenth century New York “became the symbol of a melting pot America.” In early twentieth century Chicago came to symbolize “the industrial energy and dynamism of America”.

“Today,” Postman continued,” we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot high cardboard of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment.

Our politics, our religion, news, athletics, education, and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice.”( P.65.)This is the urban morass to which local guru Robert Venturi took Yalies to “learn” about the values of architecture!

Chris Hedges has examined American mores to understand how we managed to lend in such an intellectual ditch. He begins with astonishingly rapid growth of the media porn business. He also examines how our mainstream media have become corporate puppydogs, with notable exceptions like Amy Goodman, Bill Moyer and Jim Hightower. The next sector of his enlightenment is the corruption of university psychology departments who have devised corporatist syllabi that induce their employees to give over all policy decisions to executive control.

These agendas of self destruction—first abandon literacy, then love, next comply with media ignorance, and finally accepting without revolt the militarization of the industrial culture. Blackwater types go berserk in Iraq. Uncontested contracts loot the treasury. Mainly the blue collar and the poor Americans die, not to forget thousands of indigenes. All promoted with clichés of freedom when control over oil is what really matters.

Corrupted by such a fatuous daily media education, only a specialist handful are aware that we have 761(!) military bases throughout the world. Or that the U.S. military spends more than all the rest of the world combined! In fiscal 2008 that came to $623 billion (2010, estimated $700 billion). The nearest to that is China’s piddling $65 billion.

The Defense industries deploy their factories across as many electoral districts as possible, as if their lobbying had not given them another leverage. We have been lying to each other for so long that Chris Hedges has no real program for self restoral. Like Neil charged in his most cogent book, we have abused our culture mercilessly as we amused ourselves into early oblivion.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Nygaard Notes

Nygaard is really good, unlike our Island of Shame (Note 452) which is abominable.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Barbara Kingsolver: She Preaches What She Practices

One of the debits of my “afterlife” as a new Euromensch (now into my twelfth year) is being out of the loop. Barbara Who? Googled, she’s celebrated as the founder of the Bellwether Prize? The What? Webster helped this city boy with “bellwether”: a ram castrated before sexually maturity and fitted with a bell around his neck to better lead his flock. Hmmm.

Google the Prize part: Every two years since 2000, a writer is awarded $25,000 (presumably from her own royalties)and a publishing contract for a novel “that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships.” Finalists for 2010 award just announced. (See her website for the titles. No author names!)

BK says it even better: “Fiction has a unique capacity to bring difficult issues to a broad readership on a personal level, creating empathy in a reader’s heart for the theoretical stranger. Its capacity for invoking moral and social responsibility is enormous. Throughout history, every movement toward a moral peaceful and humane world has begun with those who imagined the possibilities. The Bellwether Prize seeks to support the imagination of humane possibilities.” WOW! My steadily bleeding heart could not have expressed it better.

Her funky bio soon moved me closer to this total stranger. Daughter of a Carolina doctor who took her as a youngster (1955- ) to Africa for several years. Aspired first to be a classical pianist at Arizona State. Moved over to biology. Didn’t finish degree but ex-temped a life as a journalist. Now she spends the teaching year in an Arizona adobe with her mate and summer vacations in her log cabin in a Carolina hollow.

My God, “The Lacuna” (Harper Collins, 2009), which I will now begin to review, is her 13th book. But my first expatriate inkling of her. Personally, very simpatico to me. Erratic, idealistic, demotic, preaching what she has reputedly practiced so well. My kind of person.

The title not only alludes to the multiform gaps in her hero’s (not so)upbringing. He mother is a friendly Mexican tramp nailing any available American man with cash enough to fund her likes, seriatim. But there are also plenty of “lacunae” in the future novelists obsessive note taking about the Mayan civilization that will become his career. Also don’t miss the “lacuna” that is an idiosyncratic geological feature in the Yucatan which has no rivers that run to the sea, but only these deep water caves where Harrison Shepherd spent his most glorious moments as an abandoned boy.

(It knocked me out that when curious Gringos asked Mayans what a local place was called, they invariably responded “Yucatan”, Mayan for “I don’t understand you.”) He dies in his mid 30’s as a successful author, a suicide in his beloved Caribbean, after the Aware, Inc. weasels accuse him of Communism before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, where Joseph McCarthy and the fledgling Richard Nixon are trying out their detestable Shticks.

But the heart of the story is his serendipitously getting a job as a plaster mixer for Diego Rivera’s Mexico City murals. Thanks to my first art history teacher at the University of Detroit, he steered me to the recent Rivera murals of the Ford River Rogue complex in Dearborn, thanks to Edsel Ford’s inspired philanthropy. Just as your first successful kiss is unforgettable, so is your first masterpiece confronted with understanding.

(I’ve never forgiven Nelson Rockefeller for not having the balls to protect the Rockefeller Center Rivera just because it had a Lenin portrait.)

The “central action” of this novel is Shep’s interaction with Diego and Frida, especially in their brave defense of Trotsky as he tried to elude Stalin’s assassins. It’s the fallout from this history after he settles in Asheville, North Carolina and hires the widow Violet Brown to be his amanuensis (and defender). His very straitlaced life there as a very inactive gay man is contrasted with Zelda Fitzgerald’s rotting away in the local sanitarium and long absent Thomas Wolfe’s rep as an embarrassment to local straights.

A plethora of book reviews and feature stories about his idiosyncratic life from fabulous success to his destruction as an alleged Communist. The leitmotif is the unworthy “patriotism” of the American 30’s and 40’s. It forced me to face again my first political mistake, voting for Dewey instead of Truman, in my first election. My pal Henry Maloney and I went to Olympia for some Wallace hoopla and I was so turned off by the faux pop of Wallace Veep candidate Senator Glenn Taylor that I over-reacted and pushed my first lever for Tom.

Mea Culpa. I’m now in the middle of a Depression Buzz, what with Morris Dickstein just behind me and Penn’s polymath Peter Conn’s 1930’s Am Lit my next assignment, it makes a more and more complicated assessment of our Great Depression irresistible. I feel like I have a bell around my neck, urging the flock behind me to forswear snap judgments. Kingsolver would not approve.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Caddying/Tawas Golf Course 1939

It was Huron cool
in my nine-green Eden
those first few rounds,
elated at my first "job."
This was no "chore."
I fingered my tips at the tee.
My eyes out described Clark Kent's.
No rough was unready for me.
I always picked just the proper club.
By noon the shimmering greens
had become Burning Tree, St. Andrews, even.
Then we broke brown sacks together
by a driving range "club house."
Dessert was unexpected fruit:
"I'll kick the shit
of out you!" (economic competition)
Rangy red haired Mick.
My mother's sandwich turned to bile.
I quit in the blazing sun
pleading gut ache.
Ever since then, I've fought back
with my mouth.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

PeePoo, Anyone?

Did you know that 1.5 million children die annually from diarrhea?

That horrendous statistic comes mainly from defective sanitation in the Third World. The UN wants to reduce those fatalities in half by 2015. A Stockholm architect and professor, one Anders Wilhelmson wants to do better than that with his PeePoo! It’s a one shot plastic bag priced at 2- 3cents per poop or pee! (The price of ordinary plastic bags.)

Use, it’s knotted and buried. A layer of urea crystals breaks down the waste into fertilizer, killing off disease-producing pathogens found in feces! He’s tried it out in both Kenya and India. As it goes, slum dwellers when they’re up to date use a “flyaway or helicopter toilet”, namely a plain plastic bag whose contents fester dangerously.

There is actually an NGO, dubbed the World Toilet Organization, meeting annually since 2001 at a World Toilet Summit, trying to deal with the toilet problems of 2.6 billions (40% of world total) with no access to healthy sanitation. James Sim, the WTO president reports that an Indian nonprofit, Sulabh International, has successfully pioneered a process that turns the defecation into bio gas, which is then used for cooking.

There are worse afflictions than constipation! (Sindya N. Bhanoo, “For Pennies, a Disposable Toilet That Could Help Grow Crops”)

Monday, 3 May 2010

"An Intellectual-property Broker"

Dear Mr. Naedele: Reggie Bryant was a great spirit and a good friend. He was one of the few contemporaries who understood what I was up to in the `70s and 80's. And your obit gets at his greatness beautifully.

I'm sad to see him go so soon.

Thanks, Patrick D.Hazard, Weimar, Germany

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public

BRADLEY S. GREENBERG and EDWIN B. PARKER (Eds.). The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public: Social Communication in Crisis. Pp. xvi, 392. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1965. $8.95.

"But the central question," William L. Rivers argues in The Press and the Assassination, "is whether the best tradition of the press is good enough. ... Is it possible that the proud Age of Instant Communication sparks competition that debases journalism? " (pp. 56-60).

And the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) reporter Tom Pettit's virtual answer was the following: "People who watched the events in Dallas on television probably saw more than those of us who were there. Television almost always permits people to see things more perceptively than they could if they actually were at the scene of an event, because cameras and microphones create an extension of the senses" (p. 66). Perceptively is the key word.

Only in a media system, where sobriety almost always succumbs to instaneity, could sense impressions be confused with maturing judgment. Surely the evidence gathered in this volume of participant reports and research studies does not encourage belief in statements like, television held the nation together, and television came of age those four days in Dallas.

If anything, one leaves more skeptical than before-by, say, the ABC placement of its only mobile television camera at the county jail because the psychiatrist they consulted figured that scene more closely resembled the presidential assassination site! The social science coverage of our reactions to the assassination is uncomfortably analogous to the original media coverage: a triumph of massively assembled trivia over the "intuitive" good sense of an unconnable observer like Rivers.

A book like this makes a media consumer conclude that there is another "two-cultures" dichotomy deserving analysis: the subculture of communications organizations-with a diction and logic chillingly frenetic and self-congratulatory-and the subculture of communications research-given to arcane clarities like "attitudinal strategies" and relishing the prospect of infinite regress through multivariate analysis.

When the latter musters courage to judge the former, as in Ruth Leed Love's summary of ninety interviews with network news personnel involved in the black weekend, we are treated to "all the news that's fit to print is not necessarily fit to be seen" (p. 85) and "the norms and values that guide the news departments, then, are flexible and adaptable to the needs of the occasion" (p. 86). Surely, it did not take ninety interviews to arrive at these complacent bromides.

It is astonishing and depressing to see the most meticulous attention given to meaningless differences-percentage of those first learning the news by medium-yet no thoughtful speculation at all about how escalation of surface coverage of the news creates its own problems: that America 1963 reeled under an assassination so that television had to "hold it together" was mainly because broadcasting's flash reporting made it reel. And television does not appear to me to keep up with the changes its technological hubris unleashes.

Its massive siphoning off for aimless viewing year in and year out of the leisure that should be invested in liquidating our fast escalating social ills is not repaid by pseudo-philanthropic poses about nobly foregoing commercials every weekend a president is assassinated. The ideologues of broadcasting who praise these media for their survival potential-warning against tornadoes, calming the darkened during massive power blackouts-are not meeting criticism seriously.

And communication researchers who get lost in their own mazes of multiple causation are a hindrance rather than a help in easing an anti-intellectual, violence-prone culture through the strains of modernization. Books like this are no substitute for an elementary education into the nature of news and the dynamics of bias in the common school system.

Yet the communication research discipline neither creates such a curriculum to enlighten the consumer of news nor brings sanctions to bear on the producers of news. It is bemused by its compulsion to be a social science, supposedly free of sticky existential influences. "Given the current state of the art," the editors of this collection concede, "the measurement of such variables as grief, anxiety, rededication, and political commitment leaves room for considerable improvement" (p. 378).

My flinch at the word "art" in this context left me with considerable room for improvisation: What would happen if the media personnel and communication researchers got a foundation to fund a symposium to evaluate their separate performances after having carefully pondered, reread, even savored the recent book of-mostly short-poems reacting to the events of the same weekend. I wonder.

They might even understand why Negroes were so agitated by the event-even "on the grief index developed by Bradburn and Feldman (p. 377)." Those poems have news for the communication researcher: Ezra Pound took years to come up with a singular truth, "Literature is news that stays news." Failing to understand that truth, they should subscribe straight off to the favorite newspaper of the Mad Woman of Chaillot.

Source: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 374, Combating Crime (Nov., 1967), pp. 199-200 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. in association with the American Academy of Political and Social Science

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Stage is Set for Puppets

Don't be alarmed, but there is a great American puppet boom heading our way, a marionette mania that's as irresistible as an outbreak of giggles at recess. The exceptional exhibition "Puppets, Art & Entertainment" is about to arrive, brought to the Oakland Museum for its exclusive West Coast presentation Feb. 11 through May 8 thanks to major grants from Mervyn's/Dayton Hudson Foundation and from the Women's Board of the OMA, with additional support from The Clorox Company Foundation.

This puppetry madness breeds only the most benign vibrations, and it's a broad-based obsession. As I observed the enthusiastic crowds on the exhibition's final day in Detroit not long ago, no age or persuasion seemed missing--grandmas and grandpas, moms, dads and moppets all were mesmerized by the stunning display, assembled by the Puppeteers of America, that has been touring the country for more than two years.

Ever since the first American Puppetry Conference in Detroit in 1936 led to the founding of a national organization, the Puppeteers of America has been beguiling generations of fans. This non-profit corporation expresses its dedication to preserving and developing the art of puppetry through an annual National Festival as well as by sponsoring performances, workshops and exhibitions. It has more than 3,000 professional members and is affiliated internationally with UNIMA, l'Union Internationale de la Marionette, a UNESCO branch with members in 55 nations.

In fact, "Puppets, Art & Entertainment" opened in 1980 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., as part of the 13th quadrennial Congress of UNIMA, which has been celebrating puppetry worldwide since 1929. So the wave of wonderful wackiness goes far beyond our shores: you might say it's an international unconspiracy.

Although it is Kermit's familiar froggy likeness that graces the Preface page of the paperback catalog that accompanies the exhibition, it's his longtime associate Jim Henson, the president of UNIMA-USA, Inc., who explains the show's purpose. "Our continent," he notes, "was formed by different groups of people coming from many countries throughout the world, living and working together and mutually sharing their ethnic backgrounds. Puppetry in North America has benefited from the diversification of our society and the contributions made by all the different forms of puppetry from around the world.

"Today, through television and film, people around the world are able to share each other's contributions to the field of puppetry," he adds. "It is our hope that this exhibit will be a tribute to our international heritage and help us to further explore the role puppetry plays in cultural life, not only in the past and present, but also in the future." (Kermit must agree, since he seems to be smiling.)

When Henson says diversity, he means diversity. It's astonishing how many forms puppetry has taken over the centuries. The earliest in North America are some hand modeled and molded clay statues with articulated limbs dating between 300 and 600 A.D. made by Indian tribes in what is now Mexico.

And some time before 1590 a Spanish friar reported seeing a Toltec medicine man make a tiny figure dance in the palm of his hand. Sixty-five years later a European immigrant to Canada saw an Iroquois medicine man use a cleverly designed puppet squirrel to demonstrate that his herbs were powerful enough to bring the dead back to life. So puppetry in North America begins less in fun than in the efforts of pre-industrial societies to deal with the tough issues of keeping on living.

The Hopi Indians of northern Arizona still use their puppets in such serious ways. In their water serpent ceremony, they try to appease Palolokon because all liquid--water, sap, blood--is thought to be under his control. He is believed to inhabit subterranean seas, the surface waters of which he uses as windows to observe people and events in the world above. When he doesn't like what he sees, earthquakes, floods, and droughts ensue. In the desert, of course, water is vital--too little or too much of it spells the difference between life and death. Understandably, Hopi puppeteers are among the most respected members of their tribe.

On the other hand, Hawaiian puppets were used to satirize local customs, politics and personalities. These one-third life size hand puppets were made from local materials, the heads carved from a soft wood and costumes from a bark cloth called mahuna. One puppet master handled all the characters, but an accompanying musical combo would interrupt the action to shout out reactions to what was going on, sometimes even interrupting what was being mimed to the audience. In one famous skit, the boastful warrior Maka-ku is teased for his chutzpah as he tries to match his bragging with credible performances in javelin throwing, sling shooting and stone throwing--a kind of early Hawaiian triathlon.

Of course, North American puppetry has also been enriched by all the energy and traditions of European artists. By the 19th century that art was going gigantic, featuring spectacular historical dramas with knights in gleaming armor, hundreds of 80- to 200-pound figures simulating enormous battles with fireworks and gallons of beet-juice blood splashing about. The Manteo family still stages the legends of Charlemagne and Constantine using four or five foot tall combatants. These puppet extravaganzas are played as serials and can take as long as six months to finally unreel!

Another phase of this protean art involves staging classical plays with puppets. For example, Professor Peter Arnott of Tufts University has been touting productions of Greek classics like Euripides' Medea and Sophocles' Oedipus the King. In Plays without People (1964), Arnott argues that some spectators prefer historically accurate stylizations on an obviously artificial puppet stage to real live people who are harder to relate to a distant time or place.

During the Depression, American puppetry got an important boost from the U.S. government. The Federal Theater Project's puppet section employed 350 performers and technicians in adaptations of well-known stories like Cinderella, Hansel and Gretl, or Sleeping Beauty. Putting on more than 100 shows a week to audiences of thousands kept artists from starving and the art of puppetry from declining. Eventually, however, funds were shifted from performance troupes to educational and therapeutic programs--although it's clear that all good puppet theater is both therapeutic and educational, as essayist Michael Malkin notes in the catalog.

"It is therapeutic because it provides socially accepted avenues and arenas for the discovery, expression and release of our innermost attitudes and feelings," he writes. "It educates us to the extent that it manipulates and remolds our emotions in order to let us see problems and events with fresh insights." So we come full circle--from medicine mean to a medicinal mania.

Serious, but never solemn; fun, but not frivolous. That's why puppetry so easily bridges any generation gap. For the old, it provides a chance to re-enter the mysterious innocence of the young. And for the young, it offers a non-threatening way to simulate being in the grown-up's world.

No matter how you approach it philosophically, "Puppets, Art & Entertainment" is a delight to see. There are hourly live performances, video documentaries, and scores of the most interesting puppets you'll ever lay eyes on. Indeed, one of the most enchanting aspects of your visit is the chance to see old puppet friends, make a few new ones, relish characters borrowed from other media, and enjoy the bluesiness of our multi-ethnic heritage.

For me, growing up in the 1930's, Sunday night meant Charlie McCarthy and the rest of Edgar Bergen's zany radio dummies. Radio was a medium for our own mind to grow in--so it's a kick to see what Charlie actually looks like up close, without the hum of the airwaves to distract you from scrutinizing him. (Hmmm. More wooden than he sounded. And Mortimer Snerd, Daaaaaw. He shore do look dumb, don't you think. Huh? Me, er, THINK?)

And one of the joys of sliding helplessly into middle age is Nostalgia. Well, there I was growing up in Detroit but always spending my summers at Lake Huron--so I missed the fact that the Detroit Institute of Arts was the national leader in having its puppets and its symphony perform in concert together. Those superb larger-than-life characters from Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring are a part of my childhood I had to wait till I reached 55 to encounter.

And when it comes to borrowings, how about those towering giants from Sophocles's Oedipus Rex. Ominous. Or he Super Pupps from an obscure Italian opera that each require several people to function.

As for bluesiness, look around and see how just about everybody has gotten into the puppeteering act. Hopi and Zuni Indians, ghetto blacks, descendants of Sicilian immigrants, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans all take part in this United Nations of entertainment, doing everything from educational TV to slick vaudeville to social action theater.

Some things old, some new, some borrowed, some bluesy--all in "Puppets, Art & Entertainment" for the enjoying.