Saturday, April 03, 2010

It is accomplished

Eucharist and Orders, Fruits of the Spirit

For Holy Thursday 1998 as a part of his preparation for the Holy Year of 2000 John Paul II writes in a letter to his priests:

In tender and mysterious language, the Gospel of John tells the story of the first Holy Thursday, when the Lord, at table with his disciples in the Upper Room, "having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end" (13:1). To the end! : until, that is, the institution of the Eucharist, which anticipates not only Good Friday and the sacrifice of the Cross but the entire Paschal mystery. At the Last Supper, Jesus takes bread in his hands and for the first time utters the words of consecration: "This is my body which will be given up for you". Then, over the chalice filled with wine, he proclaims the words of consecration: "This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven," and he adds: "Do this in memory of me". Thus, in the Upper Room and without the shedding of blood, Christ completes the Sacrifice of the New Covenant, which will be accomplished in blood on the following day, when he will say on the Cross: " Consummatum est " - "It is accomplished" ( Jn 19:30).

Eloi, Eloi Lema Sabchthani

Translated this means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and according to Mark and Matthew this phrase is a citation of the Hebrew or Aramaic text of Psalm 22:1. It is one of several allusions to Psalm 22 in the narratives of the death of Jesus. There are six other utterances from Christ on the cross as noted by the Gospel writers. "I thirst," 1 "Father, forgive them," 2 "Woman, behold your son; here is your mother," 3 "Today you will be with me in Paradise," 4 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," 5 " Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," 6 and "It is accomplished."7

Each evangelist presents the death of Jesus from his own perspective. For Mark, the death of Jesus was the occasion for the unveiling of the messianic secret. Only at the crucifixion could he be acknowledged as the Son of God 8 Mark may have been offsetting the view that exaggerated the miracles as revelations of Christ's divinity. For Matthew, the cross was Israel's rejection of the Messiah. Because of it, God's judgment came upon the nation at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. 9 For Luke the death of Jesus at Calvary and his following assumption into heaven 10constituted a major crossroad in the account of salvation, launching a new period of the church and its widespread mission. This period would be go on to be covered in the book of Acts.

However the Gospel of John progresses like a pendulum. It opens by proclaiming, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" Then the story arcs in a descending sweep, as the Word becomes flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The earliest disciples accepted Jesus cheerfully. They dubbed him as Rabbi, Messiah, Son of God, and King of Israel, and jovially went along with him to Cana's wedding feast. But the pendulum kept on plunging, as people became more and more bewildered, cynical, and unreceptive to Jesus' claims; they charged that he was a blasphemer, tried to stone him, and finally they pulled out all the stops and began plotting his execution. The low point comes in the middle of the gospel, when Jesus' public ministry comes to an end, and it's clear that even though he had presented all of these signs they still refuse to believe. All that is left to do is to throw down the challenge and prove his case. Craig R. Koester explains in his manuscript The Passion and Resurrection According to John:

The Fourth Gospel... portrays the crucifixion as the glorious completion of Jesus' ministry and the fulfillment of God's will. In contrast to the other gospels, John says that Jesus went out "bearing his own cross" (19:17); there is no suggestion that Simon of Cyrene had to help Jesus reach Golgotha. Unlike the other gospels, there is no reference to darkness or mocking at the cross. Instead, the text stresses that the cross brings Jesus' ministry to its telos or "goal." Jesus knows that all is now "accomplished" (telein, 19:28a) and asks for a drink "to accomplish" the scriptures (teleioun, 19:28b). His final words are "It is accomplished" (telein, 19:30). The cross is the completion, not the interruption of Jesus' ministry.

The Old Testament scriptures provide further clues to this Johannine perspective. An ordinary observer would assume that the soldiers divide Jesus' clothing and cast lots for his tunic for the sake of their own personal gain. But John explicitly states that these actions fulfill Ps 22:18, indicating that the scene is governed by divine purposes (John 19:23-24). Again, Jesus' words "I thirst" (19:28) could be a simple statement of human need. But John points out that this too accomplishes God's will, since the vinegar fulfills Ps 69:21.

The work of Christ

The phrase the work of Christ it is intended to describe the saving significance of the Christ event or soteriology. The original Christian traditions recorded in Acts does not draw attention to the death of Christ, but addresses the Christ event in its entirety as God's act of salvation. Over the course of time, more exact descriptions were established to understand the implications of Christ's death and it is John who shifts the focus away from the cross and spotlights the revelation that Jesus brings in his earthly life. 11

His death looks on the surface as if to be no more than the occasion when he retuned to the Father from whom he came 12 But this miscalculates the magnitude of Christ's death in the Fourth Gospel. The words and works are all eclipsed by the hour of the passion. 12 When he states, "It is accomplished" Jesus conveys that he has done his part and what happens next, is up to the power and love of God. Earlier in Luke, Jesus gives a hint to his disciples as to the divisions that are to come and uses this phrase for the first time saying, 'I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished.' 13 By the time he repeats the expression again he has been convicted by both the Romans and the Jews and is hanging from the cross. As was customary for the times, a notice is fastened to his cross. It is a charge sheet and every criminal who was crucified received one so that people would know what happens to those who would commit similar crimes. The two greatest charges against humanity at this time are the crimes of defying the rightful authority of God and of trying to set oneself up in the place of God. Jesus has been found guilty of treason and blasphemy.

As Jesus hung from the cross for six hours Luke notes that there was darkness over the land. Vinegar is offered to him for the first time. It is refused and then Jesus accepts the second offering, then John writes that he says, 'it is accomplished or completed or fulfilled —tetelestai. Having spoken his last, Jesus bows his head and hands over his spirit or wind or breath —pneuma.'(John 19:30). Theologian Derek Morphew, in a book on Gnosticism says, "Tetelestai means 'it is accomplished' or 'it is consummated.' Christ was declaring His sacrificial work to be completed."

Despite of all of the confusion, the secrecy and plots, the conspiracies of Herod and the Pharisees to trump up charges and set the stage for the subsequent conviction. Up until this split second, all of the miracles and mysteries lead up to what Jesus would finally complete on the cross. It is the instant where he brings in the new order that he represented by the changing of the water into wine. 14 It is when he makes his flesh accessible for the life of the world, 15 that he heals the blindness of humanity, 16 and that he bestows eternal life. 17

It is also on the cross that all the claims made in his great "I am"s are confirmed. The I ams are the sayings of Jesus that not only raised a lot eyebrows but also goad the community leaders into taking action against him. After saying, "I am the bread of life," Jesus left most of his disciples scratching their heads, grumbling that it was a "hard teaching" that no one could figure it out. After declaring, "I am the good shepherd," many people called him a lunatic, saying he was "raving mad." Finally, John tells his readers, it was when he said, "I am the resurrection and the life," that the case against Jesus was cinched and the chief priests quickly set into motion the judicial wheels that would get Jesus arrested and put to death.

Throughout his gospel John emphasizes that it is because of what is accomplished on the cross that Jesus is the true bread from heaven, 18 that he is the light of the world, 19 the door of the sheep, 20 the good shepherd, 21 the resurrection and the life, 22 the way the truth and the life, 23 and the true vine. 24

Additionally, it is through his accomplishment at the cross that the Spirit-Paraclete is released which leads the Johannine community into all truth. 25 So it was the death of Christ and his glorification that made it possible for the Fourth Gospel to not only ascribe the "I am" sayings to Jesus but to demonstrate that the work of Christ as complete.

In spite of the noticeable concern of the author on the Revelation with the events leading up to the end and with the new heaven and the new earth that lie beyond, the cross for John played a crucial role in salvation history. Later on it would be the central Christological image in Revelation as the Lamb that was slain, along with Jesus' fulfillments of the prophecies in Psalms, that would establish the new covenant with God and determine future course of history.


Fuller, Reginald H. The Oxford Companion to the Bible,(1993) p. 184.

Koester, Craig R. "The Passion and Resurrection According to John"

Accessed May 7, 2005.

Pope John Paul II. Letter of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II to Priests
Accessed May 7, 2005.

Sarris, Chris. It is Finished Six Hours One Friday
Accessed May 7, 2005

Tiller, Patrick A. The Oxford Companion to the Bible,(1993) p. 184.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the
communication below, expressing at the same time
our great gratification that its faithful author is
numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say
there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it
in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is
there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have
been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age.
They do not believe except they see. They think that
nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their
little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be
men's or children's, are little. In this great
universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his
intellect as compared with the boundless world about him,
as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping
the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
He exists as certainly as love and generosity and
devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give
to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how
dreary would be the world if there were no Santa
Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.
There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no
romance to make tolerable this existence. We should
have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The
external light with which childhood fills the world would
be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not
believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire
men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to
catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa
Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees
Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no
Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those
that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever
see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but
that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can
conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen
and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes
the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the
unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the
united strength of all the strongest men that ever
lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love,
romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture
the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?
Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus? Thank God he lives and lives
forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times
10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad
the heart of childhood.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!
From The People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9.(Public Domain)

Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter thirty-six years after it was printed:

"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had
never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little
boys and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was
filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a
little evasive on the subject.

"It was a habit in our family that whenever any

doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some
question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to
the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would
always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's so,'
and that settled the matter.

"Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find

out the real truth," I said to father.

"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will

give you the right answer, as it always does.' "

Francis P. Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and worked for 20 years at The New York Sun , more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. The son of a Baptist minister he usually received the more controversial subjects on the editorial page, in particular those dealing with theology. A sardonic man, Church had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant."

"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church said he knew that there was no avoiding the question. He had to answer, and it was imperative that he answer truthfully. And so he turned to the task and began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history. Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" originally appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, more than a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until the paper went out of business 1949.

Virginia O'Hanlon grew up to become a teacher and principal for the New York City school system retiring after 47 years. Whenever she received mail about her Santa Claus letter she penned a reply and attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Public domain text


O my grey hairs!
You are truly white as plum blossoms.

In spite of the burden of his medical practice and a young family, Williams published four books of verse, Al Que Quiere! (1917), Kora in Hell (1920), Sour Grapes(1921), and Spring and All (1921), that visibly launched him as America's leading modernist. It was throughout the 1920s and 1930s while Williams labored mainly in anonymity during his stint with Robert McAlmom editing Contact where strong ideas arose to bond the earth with the reality of life. Soon the editors of the short-lived publication insisted that art stem from everyday life.

This celebration of the everyday came in part from a response to archaic forms of expression. Early in the century, poets of the movement known as imagism included many American poets. In addition to Pound and Lowell, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and William Carlos Williams–turned from ideas to things. They endeavored successfully to use a detached depiction of objects in the world, an approach that could truly create a deep emotional response in the reader.

Williams' work was frequently published in both Pound's and Amy Lowell's Imagist collections of poetry. Hence his first successful poems adhere essentially to the dictates of Imagism. The poems from this period of his life illustrate Williams steadily fashioning his elastic enjambment modes from the unrefined textile of run of the mill Modernist verse. They expose a gathering of distinctive imagery, alongside his desire to prove that he really values them. Words are used to envision short scenes and vivid objects. From time to time they pay homage to Eastern precedents and the subject of living life, love and the nature of truth and beauty, many of which are encapsulated within the metaphor of fruit. Profoundly influenced by Chinese and Japanese poets, Williams composed verse in which the existence of an object took center stage.

In this manner Williams shapes his response to the forces around him and Spring is no exception. Like summer spiders, an autumn moon or the winter bush warbler of the well seasoned haiku. The poet brings to the reader spring plum blossoms. He does a stunning job of putting such a simple sentence before the reader and allowing the mind's eye to clearly place it in an 8 X 10 mental Rolodex.


Original text: "Spring," Sour Grapes: a Book of Poems (Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1921): 58. York University Library Special Collections 4748.

Selected Poetry of William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner

William Carlos Williams

Williams' Life and Career

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Solar sail

"We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean.
We are ready at last to set sail for the stars."
-Carl Sagan

Inspirations for setting sail for the stars in science fiction goes back at least as far as Cordwainer Smith's The Lady who Sailed the Soul published in 1960. Arthur C. Clarke popularized the idea four years later in his short story Sunjammer, since reprinted in 1972 under the title The Wind from the Sun.

I first read about the idea of a spacecraft unfurling a huge but incredibly thin solar sail,in Larry Niven's sci-fi novel The Mote in God's Eye . His idea was to utilize the pressure of sunlight on the sail - radiation pressure – on a craft weighing several tons that could accelerate to more than a kilometer per second within days, and then go on accelerating so long as it remained relatively close to the sun. It was one of his technological ideas I could understand and it has fascinated me ever since. Niven's idea is similar to what Xeger discuses in the previous write up. By using giant ground based lasers that would give the craft an initial shove and it would even make it possible to tack the craft by angling the sail. By using the light of the sun which is composed of electromagnetic radiation that exerts force on objects it comes in contact with with a solar sail and lasers the combination would create the potential to send a craft anywhere within the solar system.

Related to many gossamer dreams about space travel, solar sailing is most often read about in science-fiction tales, however using the sun to glide through space has more than just a fictitious etymology; it's now being given more serious consideration as new materials composed of lightweight carbon fibers only a few microns thick become available. Ed Gabris, a senior engineer at NASA, notes:

    "Solar sailing is more than a science fiction fantasy. NASA used solar sailing to increase the experiment time for the Mercury Mariner spaceprobe in 1974-75. The 'sail' was the spacecraft's solar panels. And by controlling the attitude of the spacecraft and the angle of the solar panels to the sun, the operations team was able to cause the spacecraft to visit Mercury several times more than would have been possible with the on-board liquid propulsion system".
The proposal of using the sun's energy to propel spacecraft across the cosmos has been around for centuries, says one expert:
    Nearly 400 years ago, as much of Europe was still involved in naval exploration of the world, Johannes Kepler proposed the idea of exploring the galaxy using sails. Through his observation that comet tails were blown around by some kind of solar breeze, he believed sails could capture that wind to propel spacecraft the way winds moved ships on the oceans. While Kepler's idea of a solar wind has been disproven, scientists have since discovered that sunlight does exert enough force to move objects. To take advantage of this force, NASA has been experimenting with giant solar sails that could be pushed through the cosmos by light. There are three components to a solar sail-powered spacecraft:
    • Continuous force exerted by sunlight
    • A large, ultrathin mirror
    • A separate launch vehicle

    To give you an idea how fast (solar sailing) is, you could travel from New York to Los Angeles in less than a minute with a solar sail vehicle traveling at top speed...If NASA were to launch an interstellar probe powered by solar sails, it would take only eight years for it to catch the Voyager 1 spacecraft (the most distant spacecraft from Earth), which has been traveling for more than 20 years. By adding a laser or magnetic beam transmitter, NASA said it could push speeds to 18,600 mi/sec (30,000 km/sec), which is one-tenth the speed of light. At those speeds, interstellar travel would be an almost certainty.

Actual theories about solar sailing had their beginnings in the Russian aeronautics pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and his associate Fridrickh Tsander. In 1924 they were making notes about "using tremendous mirrors of very thin sheets" and "using the pressure of sunlight to attain cosmic velocities". It was American engineer Richard Garwin who has been attributed with coining the term in the latter part of the 1950s. Early on models included huge aluminum-coated Mylar sheets that could be aimed at the sun and "blown" toward deep space, powered by sunlight. However, such relatively heavy sails would take a very long time to go anywhere, so scientists have spent years researching and developing fresh kinds of sails and innovative techniques to thrust them into space faster and more efficiently. The promise of solar sailing in space continues, NASA has recently been in the news about awarding funds for the expansion of solar sail hardware and simulation development. The time is coming soon where we can set sail for the stars. A solar sail powered space ship is scheduled to be launched in the fall of 2002:
    The Cosmos 1 mission is a joint venture of the Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, a group of film-makers and writers set up by the widow of scientist and writer Carl Sagan.

    The craft will be launched on a rocket fired from a submarine in Russian waters. The solar sail spacecraft will separate from the rocket, then unfurl and fly for a few weeks or months around the Earth pushed by the Sun.

For many space enthusiasts the modest sum of a four million dollars price tag for this Kitty Hawk moment embodies the future of practical, reasonable and quicker space travel exploration. Soaring through galaxies on sunbeams is magic and I for one can't wait!


How Stuff Works

Picture Source Exclusive: Breakthrough In Solar Sail Technology

Space News

Turns of Phrases

Friday, March 26, 2010

Douglas C-47 Gooney Bird

The early 1900's saw great progress in aviation. Though most research at the time was spent on the military operation of this newfangled and far-fetched mode of transport, the civilian sector was able to take great advantage of the groundbreaking movements forward in flight. The Douglas Aircraft Co. constructed the first DC-3 at their California plant in the mid thirties. On the whole it was an advanced improvement of the earlier DC-1 and DC-2 airliners, the DC-3 became the most adaptable transport aircraft of the 20th century. At last carrying passengers could make profits. It made such a splash people called it "the airplane that changed the world" and by the middle of the decade the Douglas DC-3 had launched their commercial airlines and in 1939 the DC-3 accounted for 90% of all world airline trade. One writer at the Photovault Aviation Museum notes:
    Douglas produced the DC-3 aircraft from 1935 to 1946. Some 12,000 DC-3/C-47's rolled off the production line. The magnificent twin-engine DC-3 became the most successful air transport of all time. Over 2,000 DC-3s and C-47 Dakotas (military) were built under license in Russia designated the L I-2 and a further 500 DC-3's were manufactured by the Japanese. Almost indestructible and able to take incredible amount of punishment and damage, some 1000 DC-3s are estimated to fly into the 2000's. Many cargo operators favor them because their low purchase cost allows them to fly low volume cargo routes where the airplane is not forced to be constantly in the air, generating revenues. The aircraft cruises at an average speed of 170 m.p.h., it burns 100 gallons per hour and can carry up to 800 gallons of fuel.

    The cabin of the DC-3 can seat up to 28 passengers in comfortable reclining seats. I still get goose bumps seeing this venerable airliner take to the air. The legacy of this aircraft type is unmatched in the history of aviation.

Nicknamed C-47 Gooney Bird, the DC-3 is the plane that made civilian transport a profitable reality, and has become a legend in its own time. It has many names and designations - Skytrain, Spooky, Puff the Magic Dragon, DC-3, C-47, R4D, Li-2 and several others. But the name that most USAF pilots know it by is the Gooney Bird. Eisenhower depicted this plane as one of the most important weaponry of WWII. The C-47 "Gooney Bird" was the military version of the dependable DC-3. C-47s were based out of some of the most primitive airfields around the globe. It flew in a multiplicity of configurations. The rugged and dependable C-47 made a crucial contribution to the Allied war effort during World War II, serving as a transport for troops, supplies, and wounded soldiers There were over a thousand C-47's, carrying paratroopers for the assault, filled the skies over Normandy on D-Day. As a military aircraft the C-47 Gooney Bird was used for supplies to airfields and, most importantly, dropping paratroops for taking over neutral airfields. A slow climber it was easy pickings to blow the Gooney Bird with a single hit. It was never intended to fulfill a high altitude role, and thus is limited to 25,000 feet or below. She carried a single rear gunner and typically flew with an escort.

The Gooney Bird has played many roles besides being an aerial workhorse to transport people and cargo. It has been a bomber, fighter, airborne communications center, amphibian, living quarters, hospital, a flying washing machine, and command post. No aircraft in history has held the longevity of the C-47 in all of its variations. Capable of carrying substantial loads to and from even the most primitive of airfields, and possessing a durability record unequaled in aviation, this type is in wide service still files into the 21st Century. When some of the more than 10,000 built ended their days, they have been made into a hamburger stand, tea house, mobile home, seaside cottage, an officers club and even a chicken coop.


C-47 Skytrain, D- Day Invasion, Olive Drab - Pacific Aircraft

Commercial Aviation-Aircraft: the Douglas DC-3

Conversations with my dad.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Literary criticism

The most basic definition of literary criticism would be a reasoned consideration of literary works and issues. Often taken as the earliest important example of literary criticism is Plato's warnings against the hazardous outcomes of poetic inspiration in general in his Republic

More specifically it has been referred to as"practical criticism," the interpretation of meaning and the judgment of quality. In the most narrow sense:

Concepts and contents of literary criticism include, but are not limited to, an author page citation,bibliography ,direct quotation,extrinsic criticism,impressionistic criticism, intrinsic criticism, judicial criticism, literary criticism,paraphrase, précis, correct usage of private domain vs public domain, summary, technical criticism, and works cited.

To demonstrate a mastery of literary criticism the author creates a working bibliography listing and properly formatting a number of sources of information from literary criticism sources, at least three indices to find sources for a research a preliminary outline, and identifying the best sources to support their thesis and subtopics. Is able to adjust their topics based on the availability of sources, take notes to gather information to support their outlines, and communicate their appreciation to others by selecting a variety of appropriate media sources.

Using outlines and notes, adjust their topics based on the availability of sources take notes to gather information to support their outlines communicate their appreciation to others by selecting a variety of appropriate media sources Literary criticisms customarily have a title page, a final outline, author page citations, and a works cited page.

As the very basic definition of a literary criticism it is a discussion of literature, including description, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of literary works. Like literature, criticism is hard to define. The critics objective is to challenge definitions of literature and criticism that seem unworkable, too general or to narrow in some manner. The task is to deal with different dimensions of literature as a collection of texts through which authors evoke more or less fictitious worlds for the imagination of readers.

For example one can look at the text's formal characteristics, critics usually recognize the variability of performances of dramatic works and the variability of readers' mental interpretations of texts. By paying particular attention to its language and structure; its intended purpose; the information and world view it conveys; or its effect on an audience--in studying an author's purpose the literary critic forces beyond a writer's conscious intentions affecting what the writer actually communicates. At heart an exploration of the complex relationship between truth and fiction in various types of storytelling. In studying literature's impact on its audience, critics have been increasingly aware of how cultural expectations shape experience.

Works of literature are studied long after their first publication, awareness of historical and theoretical context contributes to the enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of them. Historical research relates a work to the life and times of its author. Paying heed to the nature, functions, and categories of literature provides a theoretical framework joining a past text to the experience of present readers. The tradition of literary criticism combines observations by creative writers, philosophers, and, more recently, trained specialists in literary, historical, and cultural studies.

Selected References


Literary Criticism

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cuban Missile Crisis

Fourteen days in October 1962 when John F. Kennedy went eye ball to eye ball with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Russians are discovered installing offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba when an American U-2 RECON spy plane returns with intelligence photos catching Khrushchev red-handed. Khrushchev categorically denied it until Adlai Stevenson, an American statesman, showed the photos to the United Nations. This angered Khrushchev to the point that he took his shoe off and pounded on the table in an effort to gain attention.

President Kennedy, in a televised address on October 22, 1962, announced the discovery of the installations and proclaimed that any nuclear missile attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union and would be responded to accordingly. He also imposed a naval blockade on Cuba to prevent further Soviet shipments of offensive military weapons from arriving there.

The stand-off lasted for a day or two after the United States blockade against Cuba. Khrushchev backed down and removed the missiles.

Source: Most of this information comes from recollections of my father. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis we were stationed at Dobbins AFB in Marietta, Georgia, near the Third Army Headquarters. He recalls lots of flying time in the C-47 Gooney Bird taking Army VIP's down to Key West, Florida. The Army moved a lot of troops down there during the crisis. Nike missiles were installed in preparation to shoot down any Russian missiles should they appear over the horizon. Most of his work that he did while stationed there is still classified.

While Army brats wore dog tags in case the world went up in smoke and we needed some identification, a couple of Navy brats living across the street, twins Kevin and Ken, disappeared overnight. I asked at the bus stop that morning and was told their family were given eight hours notice to bug out.

Picture Source


    (There) lived a family of bears ... together anthropomorphically in a little cottage as a nuclear family. They were very sorry about this, of course, since the nuclear family has traditionally served to enslave womyn, instill a self-righteous moralism in its members, and imprint rigid notions of heterosexualist roles onto the next generation. (They named) their offspring the non-gender-specific "Baby."
    James Finn Garner,
    "Goldilocks ," Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, (1994).

When I first saw this word womyn there was lots of confusion, then a deep sigh of realization. Gone were my guilt-free days of eating Cool-Whip out of the tub in a chocolate induced bliss. Now they had reshuffled semantics to demonstrate compassion toward people who can't spell.

I was wrong. This isn't about spelling in the strictest sense, but more about how people view themselves in terms of societal values. Several studies by linguists have discovered that a good deal of the time many people think that using the word "men" refers to both genders. Since the idea of women as men's possession is becoming more and more antiquated in first world countries a significant number of womym would like to change grammar that reflects a more modern image of their gender in today's society by replacing the letter 'a' in the singular sense and 'e'for plural usage with the letter 'y.'

The word man evolved from Old English which was used to describe a man, mann, human being, or person. Sometime around the latter part of 1000 AD it gained the sense of "adult male." Later on people began to use wer and wif to distinguish the sexes, but wer began to disappear by the end of the 13th century and was replaced by man. Many think that woman means "of man." arieh explains where the suggestion of this comes from, "People may think that woman means 'of man' because of Genesis 2. Of course, the words in question there are the Hebrew Ish and Ishah, not the English. And Ishah doesn't even mean 'from Ish.'" A little research into the etymology reveals that woman comes from Old English in the form of wimman and the plural wimmen. It began replacing the older Old English term wif sometime during the 17th century. Before that the archaic word quean was used to describe a "female human being."

Since America had no authoritative source that determined what vocabulary was acceptable Noah Webster published his first of dictionary in 1806. Many editions followed and were considered the authorities, prescribing the "correct" spelling and the "correct" meaning of words. By middle of the 20th century the unabridged Webster's Third International Dictionary was published and this particular kind of prescription came to an end as being the primary reason for a dictionary. Rather than telling readers what was "correct" and "incorrect" about language, dictionary editors "described" how the language was being used. By the early 1990s the Random House dictionary listed gender-neutral words like chairperson as well as gender specific ones such as herstory, and spellings like "womyn." This is what lexicographers call "word choice." As words begin to appear in the media they note down citations in the popular press like the example above. Political cartoons and advertisements are another source for citations. When a particular word appears in "reputable" papers dictionary editors will finally accept it.

The debate over this word is a lively one. Many camps claim it as their own and several think it quite clever to eliminate the male association and promote feminism or lesbianism in one fell swoop. Others say it's mind-bogglingly childish and it makes their head hurt to think about it. Yet at the same time a number of people point out that this is another form of sexism. No matter what anyone's preference is, only time will tell whether or not this word becomes a linguistic preference in the English language and the best way to find out is keep checking those dictionaries.


Online Etymological Dictionary

Word Use and Abuse

Lion of Lucerne

The commerce of Lucerne consists mainly in gimcrackery of the souvenir sort; the shops are packed with Alpine crystals, photographs of scenery, and wooden and ivory carvings. I will not conceal the fact that miniature figures of the Lion of Lucerne are to be had in them. Millions of them. But they are libels upon him, every one of them. There is a subtle something about the majestic pathos of the original, which the copyist cannot get. Even the sun fails to get it; both the photographer and the carver give you a dying lion, and that is all. The shape is right, the attitude is right, the proportions are right, but that indescribable something which makes the Lion of Lucerne the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world, is wanting.

The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff--for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. How head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder; his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France. Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies.

Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion--and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.

Martyrdom is the luckiest fate that can befall some people. Louis xvi did not die in his bed, consequently history is very gentle with him; she is charitable toward his failings, and she finds in him high virtues, which are not usually considered to be virtues when they are lodged in kings. She makes him out to be a person with a meek and modest spirit, the heart of a female saint, and a wrong head. None of these qualities are kingly but the last. Taken together they make a character, which would have fared harshly at the hands of history if its owner had had the ill luck to miss martyrdom.
Mark Twain, The Nest of the Cuckoo-clock A Tramp Abroad (1880)

Four years after the success of Innocents Abroad, Twain undertook a new journey; for his journeys have been largely the occasion of his books and from this adventure emerged A Tramp Abroad written as a humorous and cynical commentary on his walking trip through the Black Forest in Germany to the Alps. In this excerpt Twain is remarking upon his visit to a Swiss monument. Located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is a banquet of beauty, with indigo blue waters that shine brightly against the verdant hills of the nearby mountains. High-speed trains whisk vacationers around at astonishing speeds, though many decide to take a trip by longboat on some of the country's quiet waterways and easily reach its charming communities and modern metros. It is one of the world's most advanced industrialized nations, yet Lucerne remains a captivating medieval city. Located in north central Switzerland Lucerne, also called Luzern, is adjacent to lac des Quatre Cantons. It's easy to understand why Lucerne belongs to the ten most recommended cities in the world with its magnificent settings of lake and mountains The town grew up around an 8th century monastery and has been a vital trade center since. Today the city enjoys a bustling tourist trade and thriving manufacturing plants for metals and chemicals.

And, like a dew-drop from the lion's mane
Troilus and Cressida. Act iii. Sc. 3.

Just northeast of Löwenplatz is one of the highlights of Luzern, the somber Lion Monument. Craved into the face of a sandstone cliff It is a monument to the Swiss Guard who perished during the French Revolution shielding the Tuileries.

The sanctuary is 6 meters high and 10 meters long. Carved into the face of the rock is a dying stone lion above a reflecting pool. An inscription etched in Latin above the memorial reads "Helvetiorum fidei ac virtuti -- "To the fidelity and bravery of the Swiss"; Underneath are the names of the 26 officers who fell protecting the Tuileries. Mark Twain described it as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."

It's easy to be royal
If you're already leonine
- I just can't wait to be king

From the 15th to the 18th century the Swiss mercenaries were a highly respected fighting force among the European armies. The most famous of these were the Swiss guards in the French army hired by the Bourbon Kings for protection in 1516. On August 10, 1792, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and their children at the Tuileries Palace in Paris found themselves encircled by a violent horde of 30,000 French Revolutionaries. Demanding that the contingency of 900 Guards step aside the Swiss mercenaries, prepared to die for the French royal family they had been hired to protect, refused. As a result over 700 Guards lost their lives in the fight that followed.

Shortly before the crowd arrived at the palace gates the king and his family snuck out and ran away. No one told the Swiss Guard that they were protecting a vacant palace; their noble sacrifice was pointless. Within a year a decree by the French Legislative Assembly which suspended the king's powers King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were captured and executed by guillotine.

The French revolutionists attempted to bring to an end the Swiss troops. However in 1803 Napoleon I employed a number of Swiss regiments, which were practically wiped out in the Moscow campaign of 1812. Swiss Guards were hired for the Bourbon restoration, and countless were slaughtered in the July Revolution of 1830, after which they were abolished for good. In 1874 the constitution of the Swiss government constitution "forbade all military capitulations and recruitment of Swiss by foreign powers." Finally by 1927 even volunteering in foreign armies was prohibited. Only one exception remains today and that is the Papal Swiss Guard of the Vatican. Established by Pope Julius II in 1505, the Guard remains as a personal sentinel of the pope. Enlisted from the Catholic provinces of central Switzerland, the Swiss Guard at the Vatican consists of 6 officers and 110 privates who are not allowed to marry. These papal guards of the Vatican in Rome wear colorful uniforms that, are by some accounts, designed by Michelangelo. the complexion of virtue.

It is the heroism of the Swiss Guard at the Tuileries Palace that was eventually commemorated in 1821 by the great sculpted lion outside one of the gates of Lucerne. Commissioned by one of the survivors in 1812, it was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844) a principal neoclassicist; he created sculptures of mythological characters, including Hebe (1806), and monuments, such as the Lion of Lucerne (1819). Most of the work was done by a student from Constance, Lukas Ahorn (1789-1856). The original stucco model is on exhibit in the nearby Glacier Garden. During the early 1800's many artists felt that neither reason nor neoclassical art could do justice to human reality. Much of the art was affected by the rational ideal of Neoclassicism and its use to symbolize moral and heroic links with the ancient past. The lion, always considered a symbol of courage and strength, served the artist to demonstrate a heartrending event, a struggle to the death. Added into the mix was the strong trend of nationalism sweeping Europe during the 1800's. This gave rise to commissions for large monuments and the earliest one was the Lion of Lucerne and it was clearly meant to convey a sense of national identity.

There is no doubt that the monumental three dimensional relief is an allegorical reference to the noble courage of the Swiss Guards The large innocent creature is depicted, suffering pains of mortal wounding, alone and in silence, unable to articulate or express the depth of his anguish. The poignant expression on the lion's face rivets the eye. As the observer looks beyond the face they see that the dying beast is draped over his shield; his heart impaled with a broken lance. Cast aside is a shield with the Swiss state seal recognized throughout Europe as the insignia of the Thirteen Cantons of Switzerland. The Guards had no flag but they had a shield with a white cross "traversante" on a red field, and it came to be known in Switzerland as the "federal cross". A paw reaches forward in final allegiance protecting the French fleur de lis even as it dies, the motif of the Bourbon kings. Sometime during the 12th century a French monarch became the first to use the fleur de lis on his shield. It may have been Louis VI or, some sources say, Louis VII. Later on the kings of England would take on this emblem as a part of their coat of arms to call attention to their claims to the throne of France.

Since its creation this particular lion has earned a special place in many hearts. The German war memorial in Fuchsstadt, near Hammelburg, has a dying lion analogous to the well-known Lion of Lucerne. There is also the Lion of Atlanta. A civil war memorial unveiled in 1894 to pay tribute the approximately 3,000 Unknown Confederate Dead. The large marble replica of the Lion of Lucerne also portrays a dying lion lying on a furled Confederate flag.


Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Swiss Guard," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988. Swiss Guard

The Fleur-de-lis Symbol in Crests, Arms, and History

Lion of Luzern

The Lion of Luzern Monument

Lucerne : The Lion Monument and around

Oakland Cemetery

Picture Source

Public domain text taken from Project Gutenberg's A Tramp Abroad, Part 4, by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)