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Black Lamb

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August 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 8 — August 2014

August 1st, 2014

The All-England Issue

In this special themed issue, John M. Daniel writes about an unpublished historical novel, Willikins Rex. In Not like us, Terry Ross elucidates a few differences between English and Americans. Elizabeth Fournier examines English mourning rituals in Headstones. In Imaginary England, Toby Tompkins thanks the old country for its rich literature. Four books are reviewed by writers Brad Bigelow, Sharon Harrigan, and M.A. Orthofer. Authors Percy Bysshe Shelley and Walter Scott are added to our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis offers new maneuvers of interest. Our delicious monthly lamb recipe is for Lamb Chops Stuffed with Chicken Livers. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall answers readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another tricky Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All England Issue, Month summaries | Link to this Entry

The All-England Issue

Including the fascinating story of Willikins Rex

August 1st, 2014

BY JOHN M. DANIEL

During the summer of 1961 I worked for an antiquarian bookstore in Dallas. While I was there the store acquired a Book of Common Prayer inscribed by Caroline of Brunswick to her ward, William Austin, dated Christmas 1805, Montague House, Blackheath. The store manager sent me downtown to the public library to research these people in order to put a price on this book.

What I uncovered allowed us to charge $100, which was cheap, I thought. A hundred bucks bought a lot of book back then, but this one had a royal signature and included a special prayer for the King’s health, which was touch and go at the time, to the grief of his adoring subjects and the annoyance of his heir, who was impatient for the old man to get on with the business of dying.

georgeiii*Who were these people? The King was George III (pictured), who had lost his American colonies in 1776 and who was now mad as a hatter. The heir was George, Prince of Wales, the promiscuous, over-eating scoundrel who would eventually become Prince Regent and finally King George IV. Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick was the Prince’s first cousin as well as his wife, and the person he hated most in all the world. William Austin was Caroline’s darling child, whom she adopted in 1802, when he was three months old. Little “Willikins” lived and traveled with Princess Caroline until she died in 1821.

I typed up a one-page paper relating these facts, and it was displayed in a glass case next to the book. That one page was the first of hundreds of pages I wrote about Caroline and Willikins, off and on over the next twenty years. It turned into a novel of love and hatred, insanity and cunning intrigue, manners and scandal. Fortunately for my career, my novel, Willikins Rex, never got published. I had no business attempting a historical novel, but I enjoyed the writing and the research. Along the way I bought every book I could find about Caroline and George, many of which were deliciously opinionated one way or the other about the twenty-five-year royal squabble. At this point I don’t remember how much of my novel came from research and how much I made up. I told the story from the point of view of William Austin, who was a child, and bonkers at that.

Here are a few things that really happened.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All England Issue, Daniel | Link to this Entry

July 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 7 — July 2014

July 1st, 2014

In our July issue, Lane Browning extols the virtues of crows in Avian individuals. In A true sense of duty, Terry Ross suggests that American soldiers nowadays may have been sold a bill of goods. Elizabeth Fournier looks back happily on her first hearse in Low & sleek & silver & gorgeous. In Bloodsuckers, Toby Tompkins gives us the skinny on vampires. John M. Daniel continues his dissection of literary style in Tag, you’re it! Inspired by Marcelle Sauvageot's novel Commentary, Nic Grosso muses on Looking in, not out. In A cell of one’s own, Doug Bruns wonders what it would be like to do time in a prison with an excellent library. Authors Iris Murdoch and Giorgio Vasari are added to our gallery of Honorary Black Lambs. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis offers new conundrums to solve at the table. We offer another wonderful lamb recipe from James Beard. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall again answers readers’ questions. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another tricky Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Avian individuals

Crows make me smile.

July 1st, 2014

BY LANE BROWNING

It’s come to this. I bought mealworms.

No, not live ones — dried ones. I blame the store; had I not seen them on the shelf next to bird food I never would have thought of mealworms. What did I know from mealworms? Crispy brown slender parenthesis-shaped things that might as well be husks, though the bag promised protein and other nutrients. The text assured me that “unusual” birds would be drawn to my property. Right, not your garden variety sparrows, wrens, chickadees and jays, but exotic atypical birds. Really desirable birds.

crow*The bag didn’t mention crows. Birdseed bags never do (though I suspect ammo boxes do). No one wants to lure crows. During World War II they were labeled “black bandits” and citizens used any possible method — shooting, trapping, poisoning, dynamite, voodoo — to dispatch them. King Henry VIII declared them “despicable predators” and urged Brits to decrow (well, more accurately “derook”) the whole island. For centuries crows have been maligned. A sampling of their sobriquets: trash birds, menaces, scourges, nemeses, grim reapers, marauders, filthy scavengers, flying rodents, pseudobuzzards, and dirty #!&*#@! (I won’t get started on Jim Crow, crow’s feet, eating crow, and other pejoratives associated with these birds.) Crowbusters.com celebrates seasonal “shoots” and “mass kills.”

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Browning | Link to this Entry

Low & sleek & silver & gorgeous

July 1st, 2014

BY ELIZABETH FOURNIER

I bought a hearse the same year I became self-appointed to the Green River Killer Task Force. She was low and sleek and silver and gorgeous.

hearse2I would peek between the blinds to admire her because she was so damn beautiful and all mine. I didn’t live on the safest street in Portland: two blocks down from the Clinton Street Theater, which played The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday and Saturday evening. All the dressed-up show creatures would creep past my window on the way to the movies. They would ogle and stroke my beautiful Lucrezia as she sat parked outside my window. If Facebook had been around then, I’m sure all of them would have posed with her for their death car selfie.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Fournier | Link to this Entry

March 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 3 — March 2014

March 1st, 2014

In our March issue, editor Terry Ross wonders in Vive la différence! whether it would more honest if society admitted that condescension is all right. In Soul on ice, Ben Feliciano, no sports fan, exposes himself to professional hockey. In Beating up the Bard Toby Tompkins pays tribute to the greatest writer of all after walking out of a play at intermission for the first time in his life. Elizabeth Fournier fondly remembers crashing Joe DiMaggio’s funeral in Joltin' Joe & Chinatown. In To tell the truth, John M. Daniel's recalls how he learned about lying from his mother and advertisers. Susan Bennett admits that she is Having an affair with a second horse. Lucia Cowles reviews Elisabeth de Wall's book about 1950s Vienna, and Nic Grosso reviews one about plants and their sex lives. We welcome Frederick Exley into our coterie of Honorary Black Lambs. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall defends the proud coyote against legions of urban cat lovers. And Professor Avram Kahn presents another tricky Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Vive la différence!

Why did "condescension" become a pejorative term?

March 1st, 2014

BY TERRY ROSS

The poor word has had a hard time of it. Once a proud descriptor, whether as noun, adjective, or verb, it has dwindled to a mere gibe. What had previously signified a praiseworthy act now means a rude, even a detestable, one.

The Oxford English Dictionary locates the derivation of “concescend” in the Latin roots meaning to “go down with.” As a verb, it lists two principal meanings: “to stoop voluntarily and graciously,” and “to depart from the privileges of superiority by a voluntary submission; to sink willingly to equal terms with inferiours.” As a noun, we have the delightfully worded “voluntary abnegation for the nonce of the privileges of a superior; affability to one’s inferiors, with courteous disregard of rank or position.”

This is the denotation; the connotation is quite different. In Roget, “condescend” is listed under “878. Pride.” “Condescendence” and “condescension” are grouped with “self-esteem,” “self-respect,” “self-importance,” “vanity,” and “haughtiness.” Nothing very “gracious” or “affable” here. As a verb it is listed alongside “act proudly,” “deign,” “stoop,” “look down one’s nose,” “strut,” “swagger,” and “show off.” As an adjective, with “dignified,” “noble,” “imposing,” and “stilted.” Like its cousin “patronizing,” “condescending” has taken on an almost entirely negative flavor.

The terms that annoy some well-meaning people in the OED’s definitions are “superior,” “inferiour,” “rank,” and “position,” precisely the words that denote differences among us. Our post-Sixties posture of “political correctness” [sic] discourages us from thinking in hierarchies. The intellectually deficient individual is no longer “disabled,” merely “differently abled.” Whole ranges of people are labled “special,” requiring “special education,” rather than more specifically categorized. Merely to hint that some people may in fact be stupid, thick, or not playing with a full deck is to risk being ostracized or, at best, accused of being “mean.” The bell curve is out, out, out! Even simple categories of human characteristics, along with hierarchies, are impermissible. No more fatsos (they have weight-related diseases), loudmouths (they’re bipolar and forgot their meds), string beans (bulemia), or goofballs (ADHD).

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ross | Link to this Entry

Joltin’ Joe & Chinatown

March 1st, 2014

BY ELIZABETH FOURNIER

My favorite memories of days spent in San Francisco are rich and ripe with pungency. Not in a stumbling-across-a-row-of-steamy-outhouses, death-spank way, but more of an aromatic bacon awakening after a long nap.

dimaggiotheswingOne perfectly sunny Thursday I crashed the funeral of Joe DiMaggio, the elegant Yankee Clipper. It was in invite-only service; the hubbub in the park across the street was that no Yankees had been invited. My original location was Washington Square Park, that huge green space across Filbert Street from the twin-spired Saints Peter and Paul Church. All of us fans, reporters, TV uplink trucks, city gawkers, and non-funeral invitees were sandwiched between cones on the exact chunk of grass where they had filmed scenes from Clint’s Dirty Harry, when his character was hot on the trail of the Scorpio Killer. I surveyed the park crowd a few times for George Steinbrenner.

I didn’t show up until after it started so I missed the seven limousines pulling in front of the church around ten that morning, shuttling about fifty family members and friends to the service. The word on the grass was that the presiding priest had known DiMaggio since the two grew up together, and that Joe’s only surviving sibling, his brother Dominic, would be giving the eulogy.

Even though the blocks of mourners were behind a police barricade, the crowds weren’t just lookie loos. A lot of ballplayers and former ballplayers’s kids were standing among us. Facing the church, this grassy park is North Beach’s center. Washington Square was the heart of San Francisco’s Italian enclave of North Beach, where DiMaggio spent his childhood, so many people here were neighbors with some connection or another.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Fournier | Link to this Entry

February 2014 in Black Lamb

Volume 12, Number 2 — February 2014

February 1st, 2014

The All-Moon Issue

In our first-ever All Moon Issue, editor Terry Ross muses on the lunar calendar. In Phases of the Moon, Toby Tompkins starts with the astronauts’s moon landing and goes on from there. Elizabeth Fournier tells of wanting to be a Musical Maiden of the Moon in My companion, the moon. John M. Daniel tells of his brief career as an entertainer in Shine on, harvest moon. Our Honorary Black Lambs column honors two more figures from the world of literature, Americans both: poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and novelist Wallace Stegner. Bridge columnist Trixie Barkis delivers another lesson in proper play. Our monthly lamb recipe is for Kreatopita Argostoli, a delicious Greek casserole. Advice columnist Millicent Marshall holds forth yet again. And Professor Avram Kahn proffers another challenging Black Lamb Word Puzzle.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Moon Issue, Month summaries | Link to this Entry

Shine on, harvest moon

February 1st, 2014

BY JOHN M. DANIEL

My short stint as a part-time, semi-professional musician began in the early 1980s, when I worked as the manager of Wilbur Hot Springs, a country inn and hot springs resort in Colusa County, Calif. Wilbur Springs was (and still is) twenty-five miles from the nearest town. Wilbur was a wonderful place to live and work, so long as I remembered that it was more a romantic interlude than a lifetime commitment. I worked hard managing the hotel, the hot baths, the grounds, and the cook-it-yourself kitchen. There I learned how to rely on lists and schedules, how to remember the names of thirty or more guests each weekend, how to manage a staff of twelve, and how to cope with weather. The weather in the Wilbur winters consisted of rain and mud. Woodstoves and hot baths. But in the summers Wilbur Hot Springs was a place of hot days and hot nights.

At Wilbur I reconnected with the moon. I learned her phases and welcomed them all. The place used no electricity, so nights were dark on the ground and brilliant in the sky. On moonless night the stars dazzled and danced over our heads. Then as the month marched on, the moon took over, first as a waxing blob already high when the sky turned dark, then growing fuller and fuller, rising later and later, until it was plump and enormous as it rose over the hills in the east as the day wound down. This phenomenon of the rising of the full moon got better each summer month until we approached the autumnal equinox, when the ambient sunlight had dimmed and the moon appeared brighter, bigger, more warm and golden. I still can’t think of this sight without hearing, as a pleasant earworm, the chorus of “Shine on, shine on harvest moon.…”

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Daniel | Link to this Entry

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