December 2018
Vol. VIII, No. 311

December 2018

“Be joyful because it is humanly possible.”―Wendell Berry

Two paintings from his “Interior, Strandgade” series, by Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1909.

“Ida Hammershøi,” by Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1907.

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: This month, Helen Noakes, beneath the pall of smoke from Californias wildfires, writes an epistle of light and love for all, all, all our holidays. Following Helen is one of two new columnists posting  this month, cartoonist Mark Addison Kershaw, with a stocking full of single-panel cartoons: make him welcome here, Weekly Hubrisians! Mark is accompanied by Presbyterian minister (and new columnist) Robin White, who writes of comfort and challenge. The publisher of Weekly Hubris weighs in with a brief meditation on her near-death-year, and the difficult lesson of subtraction, after which Michael House, FRGS whisks us all away to fun and games in Kyrgyzstan. Burt Kempner describes a nearly-nude photo shoot, and Ross Konikoff imagines Trump attending The International #MeToo Convention (bear with us). Dr. Guy McPherson brings us back to rapidly warming Planet Earth with Seeking a Mission for the End of the World; (Poet) Claire Bateman introduces us to (Poet) Vera Gómez; Dr. Skip Eisiminger, our Humanist-Polymath, contributes Cool Summers & Warm Winters: Seasons; David Christopher Loya relates a (perceived) brush with The Vast Ineffable; William A. Balk, Jr. recounts a delicious jaunt to New Orleans (complete with recipe for Crabmeat Cheesecake); and Dr. William Ramp returns to us after a long hiatus with a meditation upon photographs truncated from their multiple, life-giving roots (snapshots from our lost communal past). We reprise, for the holidays,  two classic Weekly Hubris columns: Sensei Jerry Zimmermans Old Corrections, New Understandings: Aha! and Dr. Harilaos and Diana Farr Louiss Christmas in Athens: An Ancient Greek Reminisces.We close with an essay and two poems by Jean Carroll Nolan who, in this season of light, reflects upon necessary darkness (and the lovely, blurred line between the two).

(About the painter featured here on Decembers Home Page.) The Telegraphs Richard Dorment writes: Hammershoi died in 1916, aged only 52. He lived with his wife as a near recluse, painting only a few pictures a year. Many of these show the interior of the couples neat, clean flat at Strandgade 30, which was also his studio, at different times of the day and night. He treats his domestic surroundings as a still life, rearranging the furniture and framed pictures in each new composition, while adding and deleting figures in what amounts to a series of visual themes and variations. Hammershøi was a slow worker and it shows. You can sense the deliberation with which he applied every touch of paint to pictures in which he plays off light against dark, solid against void, and transparency against opacity. Empty space is given the same visual importance as solid form because it is as meticulously painted as everything else in the picture.

Holiday decorations, Union Square, San Francisco.

Holiday decorations, Union Square, San Francisco.

Waking Point

“December Light,” By Helen Noakes

SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—December brings with it a sense of anticipation, of music, of celebration. I’ve always liked this month, with its scent of pine, its lights, its festive colors. It is, perhaps, the only month when so many faiths celebrate the coming of the light. Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Yule, all in their own traditions remind their congregations of the need for peace, for love, for sharing one’s bounty. As I bring pine boughs into my home, as I string lights, listen to holiday music, bake kourabiedes (Greek butter cookies) for my friends, I know these acts to be expressions of hope that, somehow, we all might find a moment to set aside our acrimony and see our neighbors as people like us, in need of love. (Read more . . .)


“Not Far Enough From the Maddening Crowd,” By Mark Kershaw

ATLANTA Georgia(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—Mark Addison Kershaw says that his influences include James Thurber, Jean-Jacques Sempé, Charles Schultz, Berke Breathed, and several cartoonists from The New Yorker. Kershaw was born and brought up in Nebraska, spent college dabbling in philosophy and a few decades during/after in Minnesota, and now makes his home in Atlanta, Georgia, where he may be spotted walking his dog around the lake behind his home, taking photographs and thinking cartoonish thoughts. (Read more . . .)

“The Return of the Flock,”or “Shepherdess,” by C. Sprague Pearce, 1885.

“The Return of the Flock,” by C. Sprague Pearce, 1885.

Wing + Prayer

“Canticle of Comfort & Challenge,” By Robin White

LAKE HARTWELL South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—How many times have you heard the words of Psalm 23? It was probably included in almost every funeral service you have ever attended. It comes up in the Revised Common Lectionary, that guide book to the Protestant year, at least every three years, and it may come up every year, in one way or another, so that many, many of us in the West frequently hear it read as part of worship. Fortunately, despite its recurrent use, Psalm 23 does not wear out. (Read more . . .)

Tigers in a Bamboo Grove (detail), mid-1630s, Kano Tan'[http://asianartnewspaper.com/ink-and-gold-art-of-the-kano/].

Tigers in a Bamboo Grove (detail), mid-1630s, Kano Tan’.

By Way of Being

“The Difficult Lesson of Subtraction,” By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

PENDLETON South Carolina(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—As though life, or fate, or chance were willful, conscious, possessed of intent, the lesson I was set (or set for myself) in 2018 began on January 1st, the day my husband and I left Florida, for good, to move to South Carolina. Dean had weathered pneumonia, and recovered fully, and I was, myself, well, happy, and looking forward to building a new house, settling into a new life, with gusto. Then, a routine blood test revealed—or did it?—that I was, appearances notwithstanding, critically ill. And, at this juncture in time, at this hurdle in the brief steeplechase that will comprise my individual life, there is a divergence in the narrative. (Read more . . .)

Modern life on the ancient Silk Road.

Modern life on the ancient Silk Road.

Polemicist on Holiday

“Fun & Games in Kyrgyzstan,” By Michael House, FRGS

KINGS SUTTON England—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018— “You’re going where? Kurdistan?” “No! Kyrgyzstan!” Kyrgyzstan. The secret jewel of Central Asia. Major artery of the Silk Route. Home of the Mountains of Heaven, hunting eagles, upland lakes, alpine meadows, yaks and yurts, nomad herders, onion-domed Russian churches, shy whistling marmots, and acrobats on horseback. But most of all, on this trip, venue of the World Nomad Games. When I first heard of the Games, I thought of a few blokes from the former Russian Stans getting together in a field for a bit of wrestling and archery. But they are a big deal. (Read more . . .)

“Lady Godiva,” by John Maler Collier, 1897.

“Lady Godiva,” by John Maler Collier, 1897.

Pinhead Angel 

“No Good Deed . . .By Burt Kempner

GAINESVILLE Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—In late October 2018, I received a message from a Facebook acquaintance I’ll call Marie. Marie is an intensely interesting woman— Harvard Law grad turned sexuality and relationship counselor. She was writing to see if I knew of someone who could write a press release for her. I told her I’d be happy to do it and asked for the raw data. Which was: she was organizing a photo shoot over the week-end in which a number of women would disrobe and hold sample ballot forms over their lady parts. The caption of the photo was a play on Donald Trump’s infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” line, and the intent was to urge women to vote for candidates who would not try to control what they did with their own bodies. (Read more . . .)

Donald Trump and female WWE performers attend a press conference on June 22, 2009, in Green Bay, Wis.  (Photo: Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images)

Donald Trump and female WWE performers attend a press conference.

West Side Stories

“Trump Speaks at The International #MeToo Convention,” By Ross Konikoff

MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—The Scene: Trump mingles with the multi-national crowd of women in attendance, making small talk and being himself at his most charming. Kellyanne Conway: “Mr. President, this is Paula Yaacoubian. She’s running for a seat in the Lebanese parliament.” Trump: “Hello, Paula. What country are you from?” Paula: “Umm . . . I’m from Lebanon, Mr. President.” Trump: “Oh, so you’re a Lebian.” Paula: “A what?” Trump: “A Lebian. You hate men, right?” Paula: I beg your pardon. I’m afraid . . .” Trump: “Paula, it’s alright. We have many queers in my country. I love the queers. Many of them are great people so, if you don’t like men, that’s OK.” (Read more . . .)

“Dung Beetles,” © Steve Roberts / Footprint Design, Painting commissioned for the 2008 International Congress of Entomology in Durban, South Africa.

“Dung Beetles,” © Steve Roberts/ Footprint Design.

Going Dark

“Seeking a Mission for the End of the World,” By Dr. Guy McPherson

WESTCHESTER COUNTY New York—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—I am often asked, “Why are we here?” Occasionally, I am asked, “Why am I here?” I will attempt to respond to both questions in this short essay. Not surprisingly, my responses align with a paragraph from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: Human life must be some kind of mistake. The truth of this will be sufficiently obvious if we only remember that man is a compound of needs and necessities hard to satisfy; and that even when they are satisfied, all he obtains is a state of painlessness, where nothing remains to him but abandonment to boredom. This is direct proof that existence has no real value in itself; for what is boredom but the feeling of the emptiness of life? (Read more . . .)

Vera Gomez. (Photo: DeDe Norungolo)

Vera Gomez. (Photo: DeDe Norungolo)

Speculative Friction

“The Tongue Is In the Eye: The Poetry of Vera Gómez,By Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—As a first-generation child of immigrants, Vera Gómez considers herself a habitual border-crosser between her American upbringing and Mexican heritage. She is a firm believer in the power of words, a workshop facilitator, performance poet, and a teaching poet. She has a poetry collection, Barrio Voices, and her work has appeared in ARCHIVE; “State of the Heart: Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, Volume II”; “Ties that Bind”; “Quintet”; “Kakalak,” and “Emrys Journal.” She recently placed in the Palmetto Luna 2018 Poetry Contest, and her poem, “Tortilla,” was selected as part of Enough Pie’s Words on Windows poetry in public places display for Free Verse: Charleston Poetry Festival 2018. (Read more . . .)

The face of Siberia. (Photo: Instagram/@anastasiagav)

The face of Siberia. (Instagram/@anastasiagav)

Skip the B.S.

“Cool Summers & Warm Winters: Seasons,” By Skip Eisiminger

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—Lord Byron, who’d decamped to warmer climes, complained that the winter he’d fled ended in July and started up all over again in August.  Not many years after, Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “In Maine, they have not a summer but a thaw.” I’ll leave it to the people of England and Maine to decide whose summer is shorter, but my guess is that few have ever visited Verkhoyansk, Siberia, whose 1,300 residents cope with temperatures as low as -90°F in the winter and 100°F at the other extreme. I’m all for seasonal change as my title above suggests, but I have to wonder what humans were thinking when they moved to Verkhoyansk. Some Siberian prison camps have no guards because to escape during the winter or summer of a prisoner’s discontent is certain death. (Read more . . .)

“Creazione di Adamo,” fresco by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, c. 1508–1512.

“Creazione di Adamo,” fresco by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, c. 1508–1512.

Renegade Lens™

“Losing My Religion,” By David Christopher Loya

BURBANK California—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—It was early in my career, and I had just completed a very long shoot day. I returned home near midnight, after a 6 a.m. call time. However, upon entering my house, I wasn’t feeling exhausted but, rather, exhilarated. It was the first real film project that I was directing for my newly formed production company. My wife was already asleep, and so was my nearly-one-year-old daughter, Sarah. I gingerly opened her bedroom door and gazed upon a tiny slumbering angel nestled against her favorite stuffed animal. (Read more . . .)

Photo of Anna and Germaine Sierens, ca. 1924, before and after restoration.

Photo of Anna and Germaine Sierens, c. 1924, before and after restoration.

Small Things Recollected

“What images Say: On Amateur Photographs & Ways To See Them,” By William Ramp

LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—I’m a habitual browser of antique stores when I find the time, and when I eat at an establishment featuring some pastiche of “period” décor, I need to be prompted to eat rather than studying artifacts wired to the walls. But this can be a painful pastime. Antiques are now bought and collected mainly as décor items. Their provenance, beyond a very rough periodization in terms of style, is less important. It’s hard to see old books that might have thrilled some Victorian reader displayed for atmosphere, all the interpretive possibilities of their inner texts, gift inscriptions, annotations, and owner’s bookplates left unnoticed. (Read more . . .)

Riverboat queen.

Riverboat queen.

Epicurus’ Porch

“Rollin’ On the River: A Naïve Gourmet in The Big Easy,” By William A. Balk, Jr.

ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—Having arrived in New Orleans hours earlier, starved from a pre-dawn flight and forced to ask the hotel doorman to recommend a very close-by place to get breakfast, my colleagues and I were considerably happier now to find ourselves on an evening cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the paddle-wheeler, Natchez: hors d’oeuvres and drinks on all three decks; feeling like I’m inside a Tina Turner song. Touristy as hell, but New Orleans seems to think tourists and locals alike deserve to eat and drink well. Our start earlier in the day had not seemed so promising. Hotel doormen have not always been the most reliable concierges, and our hotel—on lower Canal Street, as busy and touristy a French Quarter location as the city offers—was a half block away from one place the doorman said, “was supposed to be OK for breakfast.” There was another, he said, only two and a half blocks farther, that got good reviews. (Read more . . .)

Leading the energy given to me . . . to a new place.

Leading the energy given to me . . . to a new place.

Squibs & Blurbs

“Old Corrections, New Understandings: Aha!,” By Jerry Zimmerman

TEANECK New Jersey—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—I run a martial arts school that teaches Aikido, a Japanese art of self-defense. While teaching class one night, I corrected a student, not so much as to what he was doing, but as to why he was doing it. As I spoke, I realized that the words coming out of my mouth were the same correction I had received five years ago from an Aikido master teacher from whom I had taken a class while visiting in San Francisco. I was dumb-struck. Not because I was saying the selfsame thing, but because I had not understood what he had meant so many years before until that very moment! The words came unbidden from my mouth—it was the first time I had ever made this correction to one of my own students because it was the first time I had actually understood it. (Read more . . .)

The iconic Greek family at their dinner table.

Eating Well Is The Best Revenge

“Christmas in Athens: An Ancient Greek Reminisces,” By Diana Farr Louis

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—December  2018—Crises bring up memories of other crises, and this country has had more than its share in the past hundred years: world wars, Balkan wars, a civil war, dictatorships, and financial upheavals. But there have also been times of relative calm and prosperity, so let’s look back to the kinder, gentler Athens of the 1930s for a dose of Christmas cheer. These are the reminiscences of my husband Harilaos, known to some of you as “Joy of the People,” a rough translation of his name. As a very youthful octogenarian, he does not live in the past, but I compel him to tell his stories over and over. So, in his own words . . . (Read more . . .)

Who we were then.

Who we were then.

More Light

“The Devil’s Playground,” By Jean Carroll Nolan

SEASIDE California—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2018—Lucifer fell, the changeling prince of heaven/Flung by the maddened and immortal arm/Of God, and Hell was born. The flames eternal,/Burst from the realm of everlasting day,/To light, with cruel brilliance, the halls of darkness./And from the stars, crushed in the Father’s hand,/The sparks flew million fold. Within each spark,/An embryonic demon, wrath-conceived,/Lay cradled, Hell-intentioned, ripe for birth./There were the griffin, Phoenix and March hare,/And dragons, every shade that one could dream,/And monsters of the deep, and snake-haired Gorgons,/To dance with gargoyles in the garish halls,/While all alone, the unicorn paced time . . . (Read more . . .)

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