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Archive for March, 2010

Although I read a lot of biography I would walk across the street to avoid stargazing.  The only letter I have by someone famous is an insignificant note from Virginia Woolf .  I don’t go to book signings or author appearances, well I did attend a talk by Seamus Heaney.  There are only three authors I would have enjoyed being with on a perfect afternoon when they were at their best and I was perhaps an unnoticed Chickadee.  No surprise, they are ED, WW, and LC.

Writing about Lewis Carroll is equivalent to traversing the rim of an ancient active volcano.  Get serious, come down, and make something of your life.  Lewis Carroll spent his life trying to explain himself and never succeeded so why would a lesser writer think they could do a better job?  I don’t know the answer, but I do know that Jenny Woolf has written a masterful account of what we can know today of The Mystery Of Lewis Carroll:  Discovering The Whimsical, Thoughtful, And Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created Alice in Wonderland.

If you like the certainty of a short, glib answer, or enjoy a salacious account over a reasoned, partial explanation, then you are definitely not going to enjoy Woolf’s book.  She has the good grace to not try to categorize, tag, or in any way make Lewis Carroll fit current pop psychology.  His talents had not occurred before in English literature nor have they appeared since.  Neither family, colleagues, or his child-friends understood him fully.  He would have been apoplectic, physically and emotionally fractured if any one of them had gone so far into his inner world.  Good research and smart writing give us a better picture than his contemporaries, but the picture will never be complete or totally errorproof.  It is exciting as it is, so take it, blank spaces and questions.

It happens often.  A talented, complex writer dies and his estate becomes the property of an untalented, provincial family.  While the writer made history, they made cookies and loved him.  When they see the record left behind, they immediately assume they are his superior and proceed to protect him from himself.  They burn, rewrite, deny, and otherwise clean up his life.  They are oblivious to the harm they have done their beloved family member.  They create problems where there may be none.  They raise questions and speculation.  A pox on surviving families who meddle.

If only the family of the Queen featured here had exercised the good judgement to expand her early experiences at 6 or 9 years of age beyond dance lessons and regal posture to include an introduction to Lewis Carroll.  And if he and the Princess had taken a liking to each other, who knows what that imaginative and delightful relationship might have done for her life and for the Empire.  And if he had suggested she visit Christ Church unchaperoned for nude and costumed portraits, and her parents had said yes but with one stipulation.  They must have a copy of each photograph to put in an album for her to enjoy when childhood is gone.  There might have been coins minted of a smiling Queen, but alas this did not happen.  She did however enjoy reading Alice in Wonderland.  And before anyone nags me about dates, may I suggest you drop down a groundhog burrow.  Charles Marlin

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There really isn’t much room for more plants in my yard, but when any garden catalog arrives in the mail I usually find something I want.  I rationalize that I should be able to dig a hole somewhere.  

On a dreary, cold day last week I was cheered up when miniature iris I forgot I had planted greeted me with their beautiful, brave blooms. 

I’m now anxious for the next garden catalog to arrive in the mail!

John Hink

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After many months of not finding the kind of help we needed to make the PayPal connection work we have given up.  Not enough people cared.  Spring brings new energy, so we have a new Donations page.  Check it out.  If we get a positive response we will create a new one ever so often.  Charles Marlin

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The Clarion County Community Foundation plans to publish a Legacy Society brochure that will include several photographs of scenes and people in Clarion County.  If you have a Clarion County portfolio, please volunteer to help us.  We will also put them on Clarion Friends credited to your name.  Call Charles Marlin at (814) 797-2233.  I am at this very moment sitting beside the phone waiting.  Charles Marlin

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If your local museum has an Edward Hicks, you are most fortunate.  He is poorly understood and grossly under appreciated, but that could change if you happen upon a copy of Carolyn J. Weekley’s richly illustrated and researched The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks.  I found my copy at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Cranberry for only $7.41 total.

Hicks was not a simple man nor was his religion simple.  He was not a primitive painter of child-like visions.  For the earlier generations for whom the paintings were made, they were infused with theological meaning and a Quaker aesthetic of which they wholly approved.  He was a minister at the center of the schism between the visiting English Quakers identified as Orthodox and those Quakers led by Elias Hicks, a cousin of Edward, known as the Hicksite.  As the schism continued and became more entrenched, the treatment that Edward Hicks gave his Peaceful Kingdom paintings changed to a darker interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Weekley has done the scholarship, illustrations, and thoughtful interpretation to bring excitement back to viewing the work of Edward Hicks.  Your job, if you don’t want to pay full price, is to haunt the bargain tables until you find a copy.  The motto to remember with religious paintings is, whether Edward Hicks’ Peaceful Kingdoms or Renaissance Italian paintings, Everything is in its place and for a reason.

When Edward Hicks died August 23 in 1849, more than three thousand people attended the funeral and the service that followed.  A biblical quote was used to identify him as a prince and great man.  I heartily agree.  Charles Marlin

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Something new at Clarion Friends has arrived this Spring.  John Hink, our artistic director, has created two new pages  that give the blog some added punch.  The Honor Roll page recognizes our two donors who created endowment funds.  We honor them with a flower and ribbon on Founders Day, March 13th, but the new page will be continuous recognition of their generosity and loyalty to the community.

The Our Funds page puts in one place all the approved endowment funds of Clarion County Community Foundation.  As you may know the three non-memorial funds are at a starvation level.  Any donation to any one of the three would be very meaningful.  A donation is a beautiful thing whether small, medium, or large.

You know how to find us.  Use an envelope and a 42 cent stamp to CCCF, P O Box 374, Oil City PA 16301.  Charles Marlin

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All the trout fishermen of America can not be fools, so perhaps this group collectively made peace with the devil.  No, I think a lot are just plain ignorant, please notice I did not say stupid.  Anders Halverson’s An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America And Overran The World will enlighten but not lighten your day.  But how could so many upright Americans, even some who vote Democratic, have been so misled into believing the stocked trout they fish for were made by nature?  The answer is they were misled by bureaucrats lost in their own faulty science and vote ravenous politicians.

Halverson is good at telling a story so he will take you from the somewhat innocent beginnings to the bureaucratic state run-for-money business that gives you your almost beautiful, bastardized rainbow trout.  Taste, please forget that.  This is all about selling fishing licences, hopefully to out-of-staters.  Here is your first glimpse of the world of fish management.  “Rainbow,” Halverson writes, “are native only to the watersheds of the Pacific Rim, from California to Kamchatka.”

So he goes into more detail.  “The crazy-quilt distribution of trout in the freshwaters of western North America resulted from tens of millions of years of fluctuating topography and shifting river systems that occurred at the same time as a series of invasions–first by the cutthroats, then by the redband rainbows, and finally by the coastal rainbows.”  For historical reference only, “imagine a band along the Pacific Rim, from Baja California and Mazatlan all the way around to the Kamchatka Peninsula.  It stretches inland along the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers in California, up the Klamath River in northwestern Montana and to Shoshone Falls on the Snake River in Idaho, and into the Athabasca River in Alberta.  That is the native range of rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss.”

Along the way to your favorite fishing spot that rainbow trout has gone through so many rough hands, cruel minds, sexual and nutritional abuse, not to mention unwise liaisons that what you eventually hold in your hand is, well just a slave of the trade.

Halverson tells a fast paced story that you know is true when you read it but is hard to believe when you look at the fresh thing that has just sprang into your hands.  Will I turn down any rainbow offered me, certainly not.  I know I can’t have what my Uncle Barney had when he went out to California at the end of the nineteenth century, but with a dry martini that fish is going to taste alright.

There are so many books I feel President Obama should read, and here is another one.  The issues are much larger than stocking rainbow trout, and this is an entertaining introduction to the illusive definition of endangered species, or rather what is a species.

Finally, I can not believe so many who spend time and heart, as well as money on waders and gear, do not also care a great deal about their partners, the whatever trout.  Charles Marlin

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