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July 2018
Vol. VIII, No. 307

July 2018

The Summer of Our Discontent

George Inness, “Pines and Olives at Albano,” 1873

George Inness, “Pines and Olives at Albano,” 1873

George Inness, “Early Moon Rise, Florida,” 1893.

George Inness, “Early Moon Rise, Florida,” 1893.

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: Dr. William Ramp returns to Hubris” this month like the evergreen prodigal he is, to the great delight of, first, his editor; and then, his fellow contributors and readers. This July, he writes of the reanimation of continuity. Further: Pieces of china, photographs, a stone, a fruit-tree scion, a piece of rootstock, a cutting, a torn snapshot with a scrap of handwriting; these objects accrete significance through what anthropologists call ritual condensation, a process by which the particular and concrete comes to embody the abstract and general. Ramp’s soaring essay  begins with one fragile cutting: by the end of it, we are all of us in full, seemingly eternal, summer leaf. William A. Balk, Jr., this bittersweet summer, removes us to Beaufort, South Carolina, where he introduces us to Bubba the crab fisherman, and sets down before us a mess of Frogmore Stew. Diana Farr Louis remembers her brother, Tom, also late of Beaufort (as well as Yorkshire Puddings and Farr Bullshots of yore). Dr. Skip Eisiminger riffs on political correctness (that skillet with a drafty hole in it). Helen Noakes asks us all, yet again, to wake up (and grow up). Claire Bateman introduces us to poet John Gallaher, of rural Missouri. Ross Konikoff writes about sex, as usual (ho hum). Dr. Guy McPherson addresses The American Dream, and patriarchy. And we close with an archival essay by Elizabeth Boleman-Herring about poet James Dickey, a toad, and a word-garden.

Beauty that comes from no labor but life itself.

Beauty that comes from no labor but life itself.

Small Things Recollected

“Sic Transit: On the Love of Portable Plants,” By William Ramp

LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018— I began to write this column in April. According to the calendar, it was spring, but the sun struggled weakly to reduce the latest dump of snow, legacy of an extraordinary overstay of displaced polar air. The year was already out of sorts climatically and socially; there was no roaring concelebration of sunburnt and beery students on the final day of classes. The mood was subdued and anxious, reflecting the pressures of examinations and final assignments, job-seeking and packing. Leave-takings were tense and opportunities uncertain. Politicians and pundits parsed the latest political and fiscal atrocities, and someone referred, as someone has every year I can remember since 1973, to “these challenging economic times.” As if they were, somehow, still extraordinary. (Read more . . .)

Home on Bay Street, Beaufort, South Carolina.

Home on Bay Street, Beaufort, South Carolina.

Epicurus’ Porch

“Frogmore & The Gold Eagle,” By William A. Balk, Jr.

BEAUFORT, South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018—After decades of cosmopolitan life in the nation’s capital, and nearly a decade of watching more than a hundred friends die in the viral plague which left us survivors pained and angry, depleted, exhausted and, finally, facing a future deprived of much of a gifted—and loved —generation, I finally returned in 1990 to the state of my ancestors and the places where I grew up. Beaufort is where our family spent summers. My father recalled his own childhood escapes to Beaufort, when his parents would pile all four boys into their Model A for the hours-long drive, much of the way over still-unpaved highways. The family would stay downtown in the handsome village of Beaufort; and, after the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 created the magnificent state park, Hunting Island, long days were spent in the surf and in the maritime forest there, a trip of only a few miles from Beaufort, but which took an hour or more, depending on drawbridges and shrimp boats. (Read more . . .)

My brother Tom and I in 1944 or 5: he was eight years older (Thomas Arnold Farr, 9 July 1932-22 June 2010).

My brother Tom and I in 1944 or 5: he was eight years older.

Eating Well Is The Best Revenge 

“Is Tom There? Remembering My Brother,” By Diana Farr Louis

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018—“Is Tom there?” I can still hear my father mimicking the girls who used to call my teen-aged brother several times a day back in the mid-1940s. He would lift his own voice an octave or two and make it simper, rising at the end of the question. My middle brother was popular with boys, too. Everyone loved him because he was funny and kind, nice-looking though not drop-dead gorgeous, with light brown hair and brown eyes; the only one of us four children with the eyes of our mother. In November 1943, several months before she finally gave up her duel with cancer, she wrote poems about her life and about her children. Her ode to eleven-year-old Tom was titled “The Diplomat.” (Read more . . .)

Cartoon by Rick McKee, political cartoonist for “The Augusta Chronicle.”

Cartoon by Rick McKee, political cartoonist for “The Augusta Chronicle.”

Skip the B.S.

“Easter Eggs & The Spheres of Spring: Political Correctness,” By Dr. Skip Eisiminger

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018—A former colleague of mine says that she rejects “any word that hurts people.” I asked her once if this means that she wouldn’t damn the lies of someone like Donald Trump. She said, “I’ve written at length about the President’s ‘counterfactual propositions’ but without hurtful and irrelevant references to his gender, ancestry, and such.” “So,” I said, “I suppose you’d call the President ‘a fibber’ instead of ‘a lying son of a bitch.’” “No, I just wouldn’t say his pants are on fire; I’d say his pants are smoking.” I’ve never thought of myself as prejudiced, but I know there are at least two who would disagree. One was a Jewish student in the 1980s who overheard me telling a colleague at a fall registration how I’d tried but failed to “Jew down” a used-car salesman. I apologized and have not used the term in conversation since. The other is a Dutch colleague who in 2017 received my invitation to a “Dutch treat” luncheon and lecture. He replied explaining how if the guests were expected to split the bill, my invitation should have been to a “no-host” luncheon. (Read more . . .)

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” (From “Pogo,” by Walt Kelly.)

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” (From “Pogo,” by Walt Kelly.)

Waking Point

“The Way We Are,” By Helen Noakes

SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018—A salient fact about dictators or aspiring despots is that they consistently place the blame for all the ills of the world on “the other.” They seduce followers by affirming that any tribulations in their world are caused by people who differ from themselves, thus fomenting hatred, which is grotesquely and momentarily cathartic. No longer need a “true believer” confess that “The devil made me do it”; he or she can point at “the other” and claim,“The devil did it.” Oppressive regimes are built on hate, and that hate is effectively maintained by a manipulative leader who is filled with it, a leader who is unwilling to examine his own immense deficiencies and self-hatred. (Read more . . .)

Poet John Gallaher.

Poet John Gallaher.

Speculative Friction

“Two Poems by John Gallaher,” By Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018—John Gallaher’s forthcoming book of poetry is Brand New Spacesuit. He is an associate professor at Northwest Missouri State University and has served as an editor for the Laurel Review and for the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics. He lives in rural Missouri. “Any one of these days can be the new first day, Day One, where things seem to be going well. No problem. Any missed understanding can be beginner’s luck, it can be even better than you intended, a kind of innocent perfection. I’ve read a climbing perch can live on land for up to six days as it travels between bodies of water. And Love, we’re also but travelers here.” (Read more . . .)

San Francisco's heart attack hills.

San Francisco’s heart attack hills.

West Side Stories

“I Almost Left My Heart in San Francisco,” By Ross Konikoff

MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018—No, literally. I was on tour, staying at the ritzy Ritz Carlton Hotel, a beautiful place to wash your shirts in the bathtub to avoid paying a $15 per shirt fee to the hotel laundry. Having concluded my show business in town, I was in pursuit of a Citibank branch in which to safely park my paycheck. The concierge informed me that the closest was a mere four blocks away, “down this street, turn left at that street, go three more blocks and you’ll see it on the left.” What he didn’t tell me was that each block slopes to an almost 45-degree pitch, either upwards or downwards, an angle that provides the local cobblers, heart surgeons, and undertakers with incredible growth opportunities. (Read more . . .)

Leonard Nimoy, as Spock: “Live long and prosper.”

Leonard Nimoy, as Spock: “Live long and prosper.”

Going Dark

“Beyond Ownership: The New American Dream,” By Dr. Guy McPherson

SAN ANTONIO Belize—(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018—The phrase “The American Dream” was popularized by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, The Epic of America. My 2005 book, Killing the Natives, begins with a comparison of Adams’ ideas to the version of the American Dream articulated by First Officer Spock in the television series “Star Trek” (“live long and prosper”). Since the historian James Truslow Adams popularized the phrase in 1931 until shortly before Mr. Spock’s eloquent catch-phrase became his signature line, the American Dream meant that ‘life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.’ Adams was clear to note that the American Dream was not about material possessions; rather, it was ‘a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable . . . unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.’ (Read more . . .)

At the Tomochihi archery range in Virginia (Photo: Christopher Dickey).

At the Tomochihi archery range in Virginia (Photo: Christopher Dickey).

By Way of Being

“James Dickey: The Toad in the Word-Garden,By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

PENDLETON South Carolina(Weekly Hubris)—July 2018— Several Sundays ago, I heard Jim Dickey read again, at Manuel’s Tavern here; and the old anger flared up. Can this thing die, I thought, this rage? You wouldn’t know I’m an angry person. I don’t look the part. It’s hard, too, for anyone who’s ever owned an eyelash curler and/or spent night after sleepless night working on the “turn” in a sonnet to articulate anger. But I’m a person with a veritable pilot light in my soul, whose phthalo-blue flame never goes out. Hearing Dickey just eased the thermostat around from “Simmer” to “Boil.” I got my MA in English at the University of South Carolina in Columbia—that desert on The Broad—and I nurture a cordial hatred, still, for the graduate department of English there . . . of which James Dickey was part, if not parcel. Seeing the poet at Manuel’s, surrounded by sycophants, “The James Dickey Newsletter”’s editors et al, for God’s sake, the pentameter-groupies, just reminded me of my own season in hell in Columbia. (Read more . . .)

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