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Tuesday
Mar052013

The Return of the Native

 

       On the recommendation of Gear Patrol’s list of “100 Best Books for Men: The Definitive Men’s Library” I recently read (just finished it today) The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, the Victorian novelist and poet. I knew it was a classic, and I had a vague idea of a story about an Indian brave who escapes to the city but in the end learns the value of tribal living; boy was I wrong. It is a flowing third person narrative about country folks living on a rural heath in Eighteenth Century England. I mention the third person aspect of the book because Hardy brilliantly utilizes that voice in creative ways unknown to most books. The only other time I have been floored by 3rd person omniscient storytelling is in one of the Master and Commander books by Patricky O’Brien. In the book, Captain Jack Aubrey and a woman are fox hunting (on horses of course); suddenly, as they are about to jump a hedge the perspective changes to that of the horse Captain Aubrey is riding. Hardy is no less creative with his omniscient narration power.

      He considered himself a poet and it shows in his prose. Here there is no Hemmigway choppy brevity, but lovely colorful accounts of landscapes, weather, people and events. He delves into psychology, but avoids spending the entire story in the brains of his characters as many modern novels do. It isn’t too long, and the story is riveting, sad but morally astute and correct. It is a masterpiece of Victorian literature and worth the read.

 

R. Eric Tippin
On Victoria Road, Newton, KS
March 5, 2013 

Monday
Mar042013

Adlestrop

Adlestrop

Yes, I remember Adlestrop -- 
The name, because one afternoon 
Of heat the express-train drew up there 
Unwontedly. It was late June. 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. 
No one left and no one came 
On the bare platform. What I saw 
Was Adlestrop -- only the name 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass, 
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, 
No whit less still and lonely fair 
Than the high cloudlets in the sky. 

And for that minute a blackbird sang 
Close by, and round him, mistier, 
Farther and farther, all the birds 
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. 

 

--Edward Thomas, 1878-1917 (died in the Great War)

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Picture: Peter Higginbotham

Saturday
Feb232013

London Bells, London Cars

 

          I have been reading Peter Ackroyd’s, London: A Biography when I have the time—on the treadmill, between trays at work, in bed, in the pre-dawn darkness of my kitchen as I eat my breakfast and one time—almost—during church announcement time. One day while reading I came across this sad little passage:

“In 1994 the Meteorological Office reported that, before the sound of motorcars entered the already crowded streets, the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside “would have been audible all over London.”. . . Citizens used to bet which parish could make its bells heard at the greatest distance and it was said that bell-ringing was a salutary way of keeping warm in winter. It was sometimes surmised that at the Last Judgement the angels would peal the bells of London, rather than sound their trumpets, in order to convince the citizens that the day of doom had truly arrived. The bells were part of the sound and texture of its life. When the protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984 recalls the famous song with its mention of St. Clement’s and St. Martin’s, Bow and Shoreditch, he seems to “hear the bells of a lost London that still existed somewhere or other, disguised and forgotten.[1]

           My grandparents, on their first date in 1945, watched a film called “The Bells of Saint Mary’s” staring Bing Crosby as a priest and the Catholic church as its regal self. It’s sad to think, if they had decided to go see the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, London instead, they may not have heard them for all their looking.

           I like cars. I drive cars. I support the increase of cars (if the market will have it that way). Cars are imminently practical for anyone living in the Midwestern United States, but it is sort of tragic that they have drown out the bells of London.

          We’ve all heard the story of Sir Edward Gray staring out the window of the Foreign Office in London, at dusk, on August 3, 1914—the eve of The Great War—and saying sadly to a friend, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” He forgot the bells! For that was they time they too were dying out, and have hardly been heard of since.

 

R. Eric Tippin
The Study on 8th Street
February 23, 2013

Photo:
Tottenham Court Road, London c. 1908
http://www.peterberthoud.co.uk/


[1] Ackroyd, Peter (2009-12-23). London: A Biography (Kindle Locations 1080-1088). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Monday
Feb182013

Unweeded Garden

            As the days begin to lengthen and shades of green are added to the dull browns of winter, an excitement annually kindles in my spirit. From my earliest days, spring has always pricked my green thumb and inspired attempts to raise assortments of vegetables. When I was a young boy, I would race to my older brother’s garden and implore them to allow my miniature hands to assist them in their endeavors. I especially enjoyed the planting process; I would till the small portion of the garden assigned to me, and enthusiastically place the seeds within the dark soil. The hope and anticipation was tangible in the twinkle of my eyes and the spring in my step.

            Unfortunately, the excitement of planting was soon replaced by the monotony of maintaining the vegetable sprouts. I remember showing an impressive aptitude of neither being seen or heard when my brothers wanted to weed or water the garden. While my disappearing act proved quite useful when my brothers were overseeing the garden, it became a real problem when I became the primary caretaker of the family garden. I remember the compliments from my father and brothers upon my preparations and planting of the garden; these were soon contrasted by the displeasure and disappointment they communicated upon my lack of diligence in maintaining the rows of vegetables.

            After enduring a short reprimand from my father, I remember vividly plodding to the garden, dragging my hoe pathetically behind me. Upon arriving, my disdain morphed into despair. Where rows of sweet corn, beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables had once lined the garden, a convoluted tangle of vegetation lay before my little feet. As I slowly advanced through the foliage, I occasionally glimpsed a vegetable plant among the leaves and stalks of the weeds. After muttering under my breath and looking longingly toward my bike, I began to tackles the arduous task of reclaiming the soil from the army of invading weeds. Soon, I realized how difficult distinguishing between the vegetable plants and weeds could be. Various types of plants reflecting numerous shades of green muddled my mind, and I found myself occasionally destroying stalks of sweet corn or vines of cucumbers. Differentiating the nutritious vegetation from the multitude of botanic imposters was painstaking; it was a lengthy, scorching afternoon.

             As I reflect back on my childhood gardening escapades, I cannot help but notice similar principles in my adult life. Life is very much like an unweeded garden as Shakespeare says through his most famous character, Hamlet. Weeding my personal garden on a regular basis is vital for nutritious vegetation to thrive in my life. The rank weeds of falsehood slither up and entangle with one another between the rows of my marriage, career, and faith. Left unabated, they begin to blur my sense of what is wholesome and good, muddling my mind as the tangle of weeds once did to me as a child. As I unwittingly struck down the stalks of sweet corn concealed within the woven weeds, so also do I unknowingly attack the stalk of morality and the vine of truth in the garden of life.

             After being reprimanded by my father, I painstakingly had to remove the weeds from the garden without damaging the vegetable plants; likewise, weeding my life garden can be incredibly meticulous and frustrating. In order to make progress I must first obtain the ability to determine the identity of nourishing botany from water sucking vegetation. Failing to become knowledgeable of the truth will ultimately cause damage to the very morals and values Christians attempt to safeguard. Simply plowing into the problem blindly is a recipe for pain and disappointment.

            Eventually, I reclaimed the garden as a boy and continued to maintain its many rows of vegetables until harvest. Upon removing the weeds, I learned that weeding was much easier when the vegetable plants were easily identified. Never again did I allow the weeds to overrun the garden; never again did I have such a difficult time of removing the weeds. Life can be an unweeded garden, but we must continually maintain the truths of God’s Word by removing the falsehoods that tangle their way into our lives.   

 

Stuart Busenitz
At a Palatial Country Estate
February 17, 2013 

Painting:
"A Country Garden"
Oil on Canvas, 1892
Thomas James Lloyd 

Thursday
Feb142013

Battle of Bands

There was a time, at The Ink Society, when we wanted to declare a specific website the rival/antagonist to our protagonism (not a real word) if, for no other reason, to make things lively. We even sent a letter through the postal service to their stoop in notification of our intentions and to fire a shot across the bow.

However, when it comes to actual protagonists and antagonists in the public square they stop, like our innocent societal website rivaly, at very surfacy (not a real word) cultural issues like taxes, sporting events, group exclusivity, public transport, weather trends, and mobile device dominance. It has become quite difficult to track down any meaningful discourse and exchange of thoughts on the true inner issues of individual life (and death). These personal topics are little revered in lecture halls or the office canteen (almost anathema). However, they are debated on Spotify!

Bands and artists, through the songs that they sing, seem to be one of the last publicly acceptable outlets for introspection without sarcasm and irony (In this ironic era). While most of the lyrics are ignored in the main, acceptable themes range from spiritual searching to relational struggles to the face of death ("What Sarah Said" by DCFC comes to mind) to just honest questions of meaning (Jack Johnson's "On and On" album comes to mind) to whatever rhymes with "beach" that was used in the first line of the chorus. In spite of the general public understanding that we all should be moderate and accepting of the scientific description of the foundation of things in naturalism, the heart in solitude rebels (it also rebels when it discovers another heart). It is just in this need for actually living the everyday life that truth is not lost to the "acceptable public moderation of discourse." It finds its voice in the lyrical, in the lilt and waver. In the headphones.

If this be true, the battles that really must be won are nowhere near a military base, a conference room, or a classroom. No, the victors in those arena's will prove meaningless, a chasing after the wind, but the place that a meaningful victory could occur would be under the neon theatre sign announcing a battle of the bands.

For this reason, I feel, it is time to bring back the old tradition. If no one else is going to talk outside of platitudes, let's let the bands paint kingdoms using the best tools they know (soaring choruses, or what-have-you, sharpening the lyrics) and go to battle.

Is it not songs that often fly in, capturing the pathos in those who live on after all meaning has been stripped from before their eyes? The writers and composers continue to reveal the longings, pains, motivations, worries, fears, perspectives, and experiences of the heart. They seem unabashed (except when speaking in public) through lyrics (however misguided) in the true fight for the heart which will not die despite postmodernism's naturalists, simply because the soul doesn't go away.

Now one must understand, the public image of these artists will have no part in the battle. For, as soon as the public asks for an interview, the artist becomes calm, collected, funny, rational, non-opinionated, settled, accepting, successful, and not bothered by the desperations of the soul in their songs. This facade has no part in the battle. For, while the "public image" accepts the Grammy, the people who identify with the vision or the personal cry the artist so passionately relates over and over again in albums are paying the musician's hotel bill.

Sure, there are styles, rhythms, genres, genre-breaking-genres and so forth, but that certainly does not exclude anyone from battle. Regardless of style, the songs are being written about something even if only to demonstrate non-conformist randomization. About something! Not usually what happened last week, who is playing ball tonight, which car would be best for a family of five, or "did you hear about that video?". Even if the song is about reaching the pinnacle of success which turns out to be through the pursuit of sexuality, so be it! At least it is espousing a kingdom in which one sees one's self and is supported by a soundtrack. The songs give an actual glimpse of what one really desires or questions.

Formal debates in this realm of meaning are problematic because no one can give a whole picture without some piece being pulled out and attacked while the rest is ignored in the rebuttal. Therefore, an entire album would be the ultimate kind of debate. One gets to make a complete statement of what he feels true and then another gets to say how he sees it (probably using a completely different type of music and even theme). The whole vision could then be judged.

This is not a war that is motivated by hate or disdain but rather, I suppose like all growing kingdoms, it is motivated by victory and being shown to be the better country; proving the knights are of more noble character, the princesses are more worth the saving, the mountains and rivers more worth the poetic turn. In short, a necessary battle of bands must ensue!

While, of course, there are more than a Catan's worth of competitors, one could suggest two to get the battle off to a demonstrative start. The first two proposed here would be The Oh Hello's and Mumford and Sons' latest works.

Therefore, let us sit on the slopes and listen to the roar as they meet in the valley. May the best band win (and sell the most albums, I suppose).


Phillip Tippin
Three floors above the street
Kansas City, MO

Painting:
"At the Tavern" by Gustavo Simoni