Archive for May, 2006

Entry for May 31, 2006

May 31, 2006

Above is Bobbie Ann Mason as pictured by the University of Kentucky where she she became writer in residence  in the English Department in July 2001. 

At Hindman Settlement School’s annual Appalachian Writer’s Workshop, I was once asked to walk Bobbie Ann back to the Quiltmaker’s Inn, since it was dark, although I doubt whe remembers.  Now  Mary Ann Johnson, the book editor of the Roanoke Times, has  sent me an advance copy of Nancy Culpepper: Stories, due to come out from Random House in July.

You can read an excerpt here.  The New York Times has a page linking to all its features and reviews and audio clips. Michael Sims has an May 1999 interview, “Facing toward home” at Book page, published in response to her Clear Springs: A Memoir (Random House). Johanna Price has a 2000 book out from the University of South Carolina Press, Understanding Bobbie Ann Mason, which is just one of a series of books on southern authors.


UK’s also where Gurney Norman teaches, usually, although he’s currently on leave.  Gurney is one of the first folks I met at Hindman Settlement School.  I last saw him at this year’s Appalachian Studies conference.  His Divine Right’s Trip was the novel featured in the Whole Earth Catalogue and his  Kinfolks remains one of my favorite books of short stories.


Entry for May 30, 2006

May 30, 2006

The above  illustration  , from 2002, “I found Jimmy Hoffa” is by PrinceOK. 

His son, James P. Hoffa,  was elected Teamsters President in 1998. His daughter , Barbara Ann Crancer,  is an associate circuit judge in St. Louis County, MO.

Detroit News’s Pat Zacharias reports in “The Day Jimmy Hoffa Didn’t Come Home”  that at a 1995 memorial service  at Detroit’s Holy Trinity church, attended by over 2000 people,  longtime friend and associate Robert Holmes  reflected on Hoffa,

He never backed down from anybody. He was not only strongly opinionated, but he could take care of himself in other ways too. Everybody was mad at Hoffa but his membership. He was a real rank-and-file guy. The world has changed, everything has changed. People are more educated. I don’t know if he could do now what he did. But one of Hoffa’s best secrets was he knew how to get along with people. His name was his bond. He never asked you to do anything at all he wouldn’t do himself.

James Riddle Hoffa was last seen July 30, 1975 before a scheduled dinner with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain, both of whom are now dead.  In March 1967, he had entered Lewisburg Federal Prison to begin his 13-year sentence, after refusing to give up the presidency of the union.  After being turned down at three parole hearings, Hoffa announced his retirement in June 1971.  President Richard Nixon commuted Hoffa’s sentence on Dec. 23, 1971.

 In just the new millenium, the FBI has torn up a  backyard pool a few hours north of Detroit, in 2003,  and the bloodstained floorboards in a Detroit home in 2004.  Some have speculated that  Hoffa was buried at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands; ground up and thrown into a Florida swamp; or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant.

If only Mr. OK had sent this clue to the FBI,  he could have saved them a lot of digging and a quarter of a million dollars over the past two week.  Instead, they listened to a tip from Donovan Wells, an ailing federal inmate  who once at Hidden Dreams Farm, a  reputedly mob meeting place 3o miles northwest of Motown in Milford Township.   Wells had told attorney James Elsman that he saw a grave being dug at the farm in 1976 and heard comments about Hoffa being buried.

So since May 17, dozens of agents, along with anthropologists, archaeolists, cadaver-sniffig dogs and a demolition crew have been at the horse farm, once owned by the now 92-year-old former Hoffa associate ,Rolland McMaster 

The township seemed to relish the attention. A bakery sold cupcakes with a plastic green hand emerging from chocolate frosting meant to resemble dirt. Other businesses sold Hoffa-inspired T-shirts and put up signs with wisecracks such as “Caution FBI Crossing Ahead.”

 According to Judy Chilen, assistant agent in charge of the Detroit FBI,

There are still prosecutable defendants who are living, and they know who they are.


You can find the FBI’s files on the disappearance at the Paperless Archives.  There’s a  webpage on Hoffa, as well as other crime stories at “Deadmen Do Tell Tales” by Troy Taylor, who is hosting the tenth annual conference of the American Ghost Society this June in Illinois.  Judging from his published works Mr. Taylor seems to make ghosts his full-time job.



By the way, I found Mr. OK’s illustration in a google image search.  It’s from  from the Second Chances  Hoax Contest.  He says he’s an aspiring Nashville webdesigner and,  of course, songwriter.  Couldn’t find out any other info, except that someone by the same nom de web who writes in  Korean maintains a website of images at

Entry for May 29, 2006

May 29, 2006

Photo of the day:   A garden show piece entitled the 4Head Garden of Dreams by designers Marney Hall and Heather Yarrow is on display on the preview day for the annual flower show, in London. (AFP/Carl De Souza) .

Entry for May 28, 2006

May 29, 2006

The above is the cover of My Life as A Fake by Australian writer Peter Carey, who, since 2003 has directed the MFA Program  in Creative Writing at  Hunter College, my mom’s alma mater. The first American edition (ISBN 0375414983) came out in 2003 from Knopf.  The Vintage paperback came out in January of 2005 and I just picked up a copy, perhaps attracted by the whole James Frey debacle revealed by Smoking Gun in its January 9, 2006 feature, “A Million  Little Lies:  the Man Who Conned Oprah”.  The Cobert Report featured an interview with Smoking Gun’s editor, Bill Bastone on May 10.

A detailed review of the book by staff writer Blair Mahoney by  is at The Modern Word.  I hadn’t realized that  Carey’s novel is based on a famous literary hoax, Ern Malley.  Michael Heyward published a non-fiction book on the topic, the Ern Malley Affair,  reissued by Faber and Faber in 2003, after it was first published in 1993 by the University of Queensland Press (ISBN 07022256220).

Faber and Faber is also the UK publisher for his newest novel, Theft, which has made the first two chapters available online.  The U.S. publisher is Knopf, which has added the subtitle, Theft: A Love Story.

Powell’s interview with Carey talks  about the development of his novel Jack Maggs, which won the 1998  Commonwealth Writers’ Prize  and how he started from trying to tells things from the point of view of convict  Magwitch in Dicken’s Great Expectations.   According to the holdings at the Library of Congress, the University of Queensland Press published the book in 1997 (ISBN 0702229520). London’s Faber and Faber also published the the book that year.   Knopf came out with the first American edition in 1998 (ISBN 0679440089) and came out with the Vintage trade paperback in 1999. 

Nicholas Dunlop of Queens University of Belfast compiled a bibliography, but it has not been updated since 1998. Carey  is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

CEI argues against global warming (05/27/06)

May 27, 2006

The illustration is from  Yesterday, the Annenberg Political Fact Check sent me an analysis of the Competitive Enterprise Insitute’s (CEI) new ad buys to argue against global warming.

On August 6, 2003, the CEI filed a lawsuit against the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science and Technology Council arguing that the National Assessment of Climate Variability and Change (National Assessment) and EPA’s Climate Action Report 2002 should be invalidated because it failed to meet scientific standards for objectivity and utility.  This peer-reviewed study documenting global warming and identifying its dangers was cited  in the EPA’s Climate Action Report 2002, produced by the United States pursuant to its obligations under the 1992 Rio Treaty on climate change. 

The CEI attracted the attention of the attorneys general for Maine and Connecticut,  as they they wrote  John Ashcroft  on  August 11, 2003, about a June 3, 2002  email received under the Freedom of Information Act regarding the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Phil Cooney, the Chief of Staff at CEQ contacted Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy at CEI to request CEI’s assistance in dealing with this “crisis.” Mr. Ebell’s response to this request reveals great intimacy between CEI and CEQ in their strategizing about ways to minimize the problem of global warming.  It also suggests that CEQ may have been directly involved in efforts to undermine the United States’ official reports, as well as the authority of the EPA Administrator.

On June 3, 2002,  Ebell had written Cooney revealing their relationship,

Thanks for calling and asking for our help.  I know you’re in crisis mode, but from our end it is a most welcome change from the Administration’s SOP, which is to tell conservatives to stop bothering them and to shut up.  So it’s nice to know we’re needed once in a while.  I want to help you cool things down, but after consulting with the team, I thing that what we can do is limited until there is an official statement from the Administration repudiating the report to the UNFCCC and disavowing larbge parts of it blaming EPA for freelancing.  It seems to me that the folks at EPA are the obvious fall gues, and we would only hope that the fall guy )or gal) should be as high up as possible.  I have done several interviews and have stressed that the president needs to get everyone rowing in the same direction. Perhaps tommorow we will call for Whitman to be fired.  I know that that doesn’t sound like much help, but it seems to me that our only leverage to push you in the right direction is to drive a wedge between the President and those in the administration who think that they are serving the president’s best interests by pushing this rubbish.

The references in the National Assessment in the report are the most hurtful to us because we dropped our lawsuit last September 5th after receiving a written assurance that the National Assessment did not represent “policy positins or official statements of the U.S. governemnt.” The previous communications from the U. S. government to the UNFCCC was a detailed criticism of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report that reflected that agreement and also implied a cisavowal of the NAtional Assessment. So the new transmittal to the UNCCC looks to us much like it looks to the New York Times.

So I’m willing and ready to help, but it won’t be possible to do much without some sort of backtracking from the Administration. Inless that occurs, then you have handed an awful lot of ammunicition to Jim Jeffords, and the only way we will be able to fight him and all his allies in Congress is to get much more strident and noisy.  Even if the administration does move quickly to get back on the right side of the issue, it may be too late to save our side in the Senate from being squashed.  If it were only this one little disaster we could all lock arms and weather the assault, but the Adminisgtration has managed, whther therugh incompetence or intention, to create one disaster after another and then to  expect its allies to clean up the mess.  I don’t know whether we have the resources to clean up this one.


The attorneys general conclude that

 We are concerned that the new litigation is an improper product of that close relationship and we therefore ask that you investigate this.


The AG’s  had joined the Massachusettes AG in suing the EPA over CO2 emmissions June 4 of that year.  September 3, they challenged EPA’s ruling that they had no authority over the emissions.  They also sued the EPA over greenhouse emission   and to to block the EPA’s new rule that would consider

any modification costing up to 20 percent of the replacement cost of the unit [as] routine maintenance, therefore exempt from pollution controls, even if the plant modification results in much higher levels of air pollution. 

So far, the federal courts have sided with the EPA.  The fight still continues, as 10 states sued again April 27, 2006. 




Entry for May 26, 2006

May 26, 2006

The above illustration from PhysicsWeb shows scientists have figured how to make items invisible.

Starting in 2000, David Smith and David Schurig  at Duke University and their colleagues constructed artifical”metamaterials,” composites tiny rods, ensembles of metal rings and whatever that  have a negative refractive index .  This means they bend light in the “opposite” direction to ordinary materials. Their electromagnetic properties can also be “tuned” by manipulating their structure.

John Pendry of Imperial College London, Smith and  Schurig have now shown how metamaterials could guide light around a hole within it. Any object placed inside this hole would then be “hidden.”

All this talk of physics coincides with last night’s discussion  at the Blue Katt book group folks of Black Bodies and Quantum Cats by science writer Jennifer Ouellette.  Most folks had trouble with the book.  I just started it today, but my problem is that it is not in enough depth, not that it is too complicated.

The cat in question is Schrodinger’s.  There’s even a not quite interactive website on the topic bu Cecil Adams.

Entry for May 25, 2006

May 26, 2006

The horrendous photograph (credit  Corbis-Bettman) from the photo gallery of the  American Museum of Achievement in Washington, DC.  shows Elie Wiesel on the far right of the center bunk at one of the barracks at Buchenwald on April 16, 1945, just after the camp’s liberation.

For June, the book group at the Blue Katt Gallery has chosen Elie Wiesel’s Night, just published and selected for Oprah’s book club in a new translation from the French by Maron Wiesel by Hill and Wang, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hill and Wang was also publisher of the first American edition in 1960, with a forward by  François Mauriac and translated from the French by Stella Rodway.  A detailed study guide is here.

The May 2006 Commentary has published Christopher M. Leighton’s “Oprah, Elie Wiesel and My Fellow Christians” which details his concerns that his co-religionists will not confront the “animus embedded within Christianity” which resulted in antisemitism.

I got to see Wiesel on Oprah as they toured Buchenwald on her program on Wednesday.  Wiesel’s language is so spare, it is like a heartbreaking found poem.

Oprah first interviewed Wiesel for the November 2000 issue O Magazine, which is available in print online.  There is also a link to a clip, which I couldn’t open, so I don’t know if that’s a permanent problem or not. 

Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.


Entry for May 24, 2006

May 24, 2006

That’s the logo for Swallowtail, New England band at the Blacksburg contra dance tonight.  Unfortunately, we’ll be late, as Maria said to meet at 7 and the dance starts at 7:30 and only goes until 10:30.  Maybe I should have driven.

Entry for May 23, 2006

May 23, 2006

Today, I came across this wonderful poem, “Against God,” by David Graham , pictured above in a photograph from his homepage,  in the most recent issue of Salt River Review.

Against God

God’s not dead to me, just a concept,
like honor among thieves, like neutrons,
like progress with its contradictory flags.
I can’t even say I yearn to believe,
not with that boyish, tight-in-the-groin ache
that saints report–in which I believe,
at best, the way I acknowledge other
languages, other foods at distant tables.
Praying to God is like talking to a bank.

Still, I’m not denying the storms of glory.
With me there’s a wisp of cloud soaking light
from the far end of a loved lake.
There are whispers in the attic, scuttlings
across the cellar floor.  There’s the tang
of winter breath, the spine-stiffening spasm
of love.  A dog snuffling leaves brings me
good news from another territory
where I’ll never live and may not ever visit.

With me it’s enough, some days, that I lift
my eyes to both streetlamp and vagrant star,
that somewhere in my closet is a coat
owned by my father when he was my age,
long soaked in darkness and his smell,
a coat I can neither discard nor wear.

I knew David and his wife, artist Lee Shippey, when he was an English Department  instructor at Virginia Tech from 1981-86 .  The school foolishly refused him tenure and so he changed the credit to North Carolina State University on his first collection, Magic Show, which came  out from Cleveland State University Press in 1986.  He taught there a year before going on to Ripon College in Wisconsin, where he is now a full professor.  He maintains a nice resource page, Graham’s Poetry Library, as well as links to all his work available online.  I started a page for him on Wikipedia today.

Entry for May 22, 2006

May 22, 2006

The above graphic is for the National day of Out(r)age scheduled for the day after tomorrow, May 24 at the Verizon World Headquarters from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Other actions are being planned that day for Chicago, San Francisco and Boston.  Organizers,  which include,  Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), NYC Grassroots Media Coalition, Paper Tiger TV, Center for Digital Democracy, Free Press, Association for Community Networking, Action Coalition for Media Education, Chicago Media Action, Media Alliance, Media Tank, CCTV-Cambridge and the Center for Media & Democracy complain that telco companies are 

are spending $1 million a week to buy votes in Congress for their deregulatory legislation COPE HR.5252 and S.2686. Local cities have expressed their opposition to this legislation—now it’s time for the public to stop this phone company backed legislation and demand accountability to local communities and the public interest.

Common Cause has produced an excellent report Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing covering these astroturf groups:

*Consumers for Cable Choice
*Keep It Local NJ
*Internet Innovation Alliance
*Hands off the Internet

And these think tanks:

*Progress and Freedom Foundation
*American Legislative Exchange Council
*New Millennium Research Council
*Frontiers of Freedom

As in other industries there are also paid analysts, a la Patrick Moore and the nuclear industry.  For an interesting article on Jeff Kagan, see the New York Post’s May 3  article, “Paid for Pundit:  Analyst Cashes in on Telcom Talk by Tim Arango.

Timothy Karr takes a look at MiKe McCurry, former Clinton aide, who has sold his services to ATT&T on his blog Media Citizen.