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Just For the Record

Back when Sam Tongue’s and my edited volume from Glasgow-associated biblical interpreters came out, I was browsing about for last-minute fact checks and so on. It occurred to me to check on my claim, initially made in 2005 at the Ekklesia Project annual Gathering, to a trademark/copyright/prior art for the portmanteau ‘Sacramerica’. At the time, Google reported no other sources; when I rewrote the essay, there other results were nugatory (or references to my Ekklesia talk, transcribed here and reported elsewhere).

On that fateful morning, though, I discovered that there was another iteration of Sacramerica forthcoming, and that it was virtually guaranteed to have a higher media profile than anything I have ever done or am likely to do. Italian novelist and film director Angelo Cannavacciuolo is planning a novel to bear the title Sacramerica, and apparently there are cinematic possibilities (as would seem obvious, since the novel concerns California). Dr Gregory Pell of the Italian Department in Hofstra University is preparing the English translation.

So with a bit of curiosity, a bit of gentle innovation-preservation, I wrote Dr Pell a couple of years ago to check in and say, ‘Oh, by the way…’. A pleasant academic exchange followed, and in short order Sig. Cannavacciulo himself wrote me (or, to be more precise, ‘his Anglophone wife wrote me’) to assure me that he thought up ‘Sacramerica’ independently (inspired by Sacramento, one of the locales of the novel). The book apparently still awaits publication, but when it reaches press I have been promised copies in Italian and English, with perhaps even a nod of acknowledgement on an obscure page that no one will read.

In the meantime, Avanti, Sacramerica! (The novel, that is, not the signifying practice of deified nationalism.)

Source?

There’s a snippet of text that bounces around the ’net at irregular intervals — it concerns the latest development in digital gadgetry, called ‘Built-In Orderly Organised Knowledge’ (B.O.O.K.). Nowadays it strikes me as a bit precious and predictable, but here’s the thing: I remember having read it (or something very like it) in the late 60s, at which point I thought it was exceedingly clever.

I thought I remembered that it was written by Stephen Leacock, partly because I was on a big Leacock kick in those years, fuelled by my father (who was a connoisseur of astringent humour in essays). So to satisfy my bibliographic obsession, I began googling searching the Web for “built-in orderly organized knowledge” and “leacock”, but came up with no results. I then searched for Leacock with various parts of the title phrase, likewise to no avail. At length I decided that the most important aspect of my search was the date of my first encounter with the phrase, jettisoned my Leacock search terms, poked around a bit, and discovered what must be the ur-source of the meme.

The document I found is ‘The Education of the Gifted Child: An Annotated Bibliography’ by Maurice G.Verbeke and Karen A. Verbeke (you can try to order a bound copy from Amazon, though it’s currently not available) — but that’s not where the B.O.O.K. originated. Rather, the Verbekes list the publication in 1965 (the chronological sweet spot for my having had access to it) of an article by R. J. Heathorn, entitled ‘New Teaching Machine — Great for the Gifted,’ in Gifted Children Newsletter 8:23-24, September 1965. And the annotation that the Verbekes so providently supply reads ‘Article describing the new teaching machine called BOOK (Built-in Orderly Organised Knowledge). It is quite adaptable and covers a lengthy program of information.’ It has been reprinted several times, and you can read it here. It differs from the more recent meme, but the later version has evidently been rewritten (to suit actual technological developments) on the basis of Heathorn’s.

But wait! It turns out that, on further searching, the Gifted Children Newsletter has lifted Heathorn’s essay from his column in the April 1963 edition of Harper’s — here entitled ‘The Ultimate Teaching Machine.’ I don’t have access to Harper’s, so I can’t check, but the title and the illustration (visible in the thumbnail provided) match the essay.

But that’s not all! Apparently Harper’s got Heathorn’s essay from Punch (May 9, 1962) (thank you, Brian!)

So, several lessons learned. One, I can afford to trust my memories in general, if not in particular. The essay I remembered was more subtle and clever than the internet-ified version that now dominates the Web, and it was indeed written by a professional humorist (though not Stephen Leacock himself). Two, don’t stop searching at the first positive result; add elements from that first result to the search and find more, deeper, older results. And three… I have forgotten the third thing, but it was good, trust me.

The Revd Richard A. “Dick” Bamforth, Pastor and Teacher 1930-2017

The Rev. Richard Anderson Bamforth, 86, of 17 Brooklawn Avenue, Augusta, died peacefully, at home, on January 6, 2017.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, January 7, 1930, the son of Captain Charles N. Bamforth and Dorothy Anderson Allan, Dick Bamforth grew up in Swampscott where he completed high school in 1947. He majored in French and Classics at Bowdoin College and graduated in 1951. After further study at Middlebury College he taught French, Latin, and Social Studies at Cony High School for one year before enlisting in the U. S. Army during the Korean War. In the Army Security Agency he studied the Russian language in Monterey, California and spent the rest of his tour of duty in communications reconnaissance on the border between the American and Soviet Zones of divided Germany.
Inspired by a German Lutheran pastor who reached out to American GIs, Bamforth shifted his direction and, upon release from the Army, entered Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. He graduated with the degree of Master of Divinity in 1958 and was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. He served in two Missouri parishes: Grace Church, Kirkwood, and Holy Cross Church, Poplar Bluff. In 1959, he married Patricia Anne Pennington of Kirkwood. Their two daughters were born in Poplar Bluff.
In 1966 Bamforth was called as Rector of St. Mary’s Church, Rockport, Massachusetts where he served until 1992. Forever a student of language and literature, he took many evening courses at Harvard and, in 1982, earned an additional master’s degree from Boston University in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. While ministering in Rockport, he tutored numerous refugees and foreign students in English and taught courses in Russian language and culture in the continuing education program of North Shore Community College.
Bamforth retired from full-time parish ministry in 1992 and moved with his wife, Pat, to Augusta. For nine years he was a regular substitute teacher at Cony High School, served as Interim Rector of St. Mark’s Church, Augusta, from 1993 to 1994, and was for 20 years a frequent supply priest in many Maine parishes. More recently he served as Assisting Priest at St. Mark’s. His book reviews and articles have appeared in several church periodicals and, with his brother, he co-edited the autobiographical journals of their sea-going father, Iron Jaw, A Skipper Tells His Story, published in 2002.

An avid gardener and photographer, Bamforth enjoyed his kayak and canoe at “Someplace Else,” his summer camp on Damariscotta Lake. Dick and Pat enjoyed traveling in Great Britain, where he sought out English and Scottish relatives, and in Russia, where he twice visited seminaries of the Orthodox Church. A spiritual director and small group Bible Study leader, he also did tutoring in the Russian language. In recent years, he taught a variety of courses in the UMA Senior College, focusing on literature, art, history, and religion.
In Maine, he served on several diocesan committees and was a member of both Veterans for Peace and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
Bamforth delighted in the nicknames others gave him. His grandchildren call him “Pa Moose,” high schoolers called him “Abe Lincoln” or “Colonel Sanders,” and parishioners often called him “Father Bam-Bam.” In addition to the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer he considered both Celtic and Russian Orthodox spirituality, together with the classical Anglican theologians, to be great resources for his faith and life.
Bamforth is survived by his wife, Patricia of Augusta; daughter Jeanne Bamforth of Topsham; daughter Margaret and her husband Andrew K. M. Adam of Oxford, England; three grandchildren: Nathaniel Adam and his wife Laura of New Haven, CT, Josiah Harris-Adam and his wife Laura of Watertown, MA, and Philippa Adam of Bristol, ME; sister-in-law Janice Bamforth of Belmont, VT; niece Judith Jervis of Danville, N.H.; and nephew Charles H. Bamforth of Kingston, N.H.
A memorial Eucharist was celebrated at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 9 Summer Street, Augusta on Saturday, Jan. 14, at 1:30pm, followed by a public reception. Interment of ashes will follow at a later date in Forest Grove Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are invited for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 209 Eastern Ave., Augusta, ME 04330.
Arrangements are by Plummer Funeral Home, Augusta.

Richard Bamforth Obituary from the Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic

Accounting for Drumpf

HoopoeThere’s been some online bafflement about how evangelical (or other) Christians can possibly support Drumpf. George Lakoff contributed an essay that uses his now-familiar cognitive linguistic model (widely publicised in his Don’t Think of an Elephant) to spotlight Drumpf’s self-representation as a Strict Father and his concomitant appeal several strands of Republicans and conservative Democrats and independents. True enough, I guess, but there may be another angle, about which I left a comment on Mitch Ratcliffe’s FB page. The clue might be the parallel between (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this) Drumpf and Jesus — as modern Christians often read the Gospels.

The hero of the story confounds his detractors who are hostile, alien, oppressive, self-righteous, elite, from the political establishment, threatened by his candour and popularity. When confronted, he insults them and outwits them, so that they dare not ask him any more questions and people are amazed at his authority. They marshal all their resources in a conspiracy against him, and despite their evil plans, he rises triumphant at the end.

Right away, a careful reader will spot vast discrepancies between Drumpf and Jesus even within this narrative frame, but that doesn’t matter — as long as it feels right to a certain constituency of Drumpf voters. Drumpf has mastered the practice of agonic self-definition — building himself up by belittling others in such a way that they can’t, or won’t, respond effectively in kind; that’s very similar to Jesus’ role in the controversies with his antagonists. Oh, and I could add that both had powerful fathers who set them up with advantageous inheritances, but that’s stretching an already laboured comparison.

I’m last in line to offer advice on political strategy (when was the last time I was elected to anything? I don’t remember, and I’m the one who would have known), but to the extent that I’m on to something, this Drumpf-Jesus resonance will blunt the value of accusations of womanising (“he associates with prostitutes”), direct attacks (supporters will have faith that in the end, he will be victorious), anything that looks like a ganging up on an isolated hero. If I were running against Drumpf, I would avoid any negative characterisation of him at all (there’s no benefit there, there’ll be plenty floating around) and aim for sympathy, suggesting that he needs gentle treatment; facts asserted as a matter of record rather than an assault (“it’s not fair to introduce his failed business ventures as evidence, because he can always just print more money if he wins the election”); and keeping him associated with the very tiny group whose actual interests he represents (“He brought so many casino jobs to Atlantic City, offering part-time employment to hundreds of desperate citizens and giving gamblers a chance at winning big”). But that’s just me.

Short Bit from Sensuous Hermeneutics

A little more than a year ago, I gave a talk at Oxford fortnightly seminar on The Bible in Art, Music, and Literature (hosted by the Centre for Reception History of the Bible). Once upon a time, I’d have posted the transcript of the talk here right away, but no longer being a diligent blogger, I left that in abeyance. It would be handy, though, for the blog to link to the paper — so here is a link to the paper at academia.edu which should last for a while, together with a taster paragraph to convey part of what I was getting at in the discussion (sadly, probably much less convincing without the accompanying visual presentation):

No one signifying practice controls a uniquely privileged methodological or ethical key to interpretive legitimacy; within each interpretive practice, indigenous conventions will raise up some interpretations as sounder and more compelling, and will discountenance others as uninteresting, poorly-executed, unsound. In order to have made sense of everything we have experienced in all our lives, we must have had viable conventions and criteria by which we venture and assess interpretations. The same capacities will serve us well as we undertake interpretations of the Bible; though we may falter at first, and err more often than we would like, we will in short order be able to acclimatise ourselves to interpretations authorised on the strength of characteristics that do not depend primarily on their deference to an unreachable “correct” meaning.

Re: John’s Femininity

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man;
and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.
Much Ado About Nothing, (II.i.28–32)

Ever since The Book That Shall Not Be Named sold a couple billion copies, people have been conditioned to point out that John the Apostle looks effeminate in paintings. “Oooooh, maybe it’s really Mary Magdalene!” I used to have a collection of paintings that unambiguously depicted John, and his appearance definitely has softer features, often silkier hair, he is beardless, and so on. John was, in other words, painted as a youth, not as a woman — as Shakespeare conveniently illustrates. (Posting this here because I often forget the exact wording of the quotation)

The Badness of the Good, the Goodness of the Bad

HoopoeMargaret and I have fallen into a number of conversations recently involving the problem of mixed personae: the status of benefactions from donors whose character has been subjected to question, the exquisite work of artists who perpetrate horrors, the useability of ideas proposed by morally compromised thinkers, and also the grim side of exemplars held up by the Church, or by culture, as heroes and saints. Just on a quick run, we came up with Cecil Rhodes, Woodrow Wilson, Eric Gill, Martin Heidegger, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., St Junípero Serra, John Howard Yoder — and that was just a moment’s effort.

Our interest concerns not so much the justification of particular accusations as the relation of the alleged behaviour to the reception of the hero/villain’s legacy (on one hand), and the rhetoric of accusation and defence that these allegations inspire. Though we know to expect that almost everyone has flaws as well as strengths, those whose strengths “we” particularly admire seem to elicit rationalisations and justifications; when those of whom “we” disapprove seem to have committed similar malfeasances, we show less forgiveness. When our hero has a tainted side, we insist that their ideas/art can be distinguished from their moral failings; when scandal attends an opponent, their teachings/works must be purged.

If everyone is a microcosmic mixed economy of vice and virtue, how should we go about dealing with extreme examples? Can we, in good conscience, appreciate the thought or art or music or literature or political action of someone we have reason to think was a persistent sinner? How do we answer those whose lives have been particularly affected (directly or indirectly) but the sorts of malfeasance that these figures practised, if those affected charge us with glorifying their oppressor? How should we frame a general account of the relation of conduct to ideological production?

Once we clear our writing agendas of current projects (“the resurrection of the body”, in one case, and further boring hermeneutical reflection on the other), we’d love to work on this together.

Eighty

Today’s my father’s birthday; he would be 80 today. This afternoon I bumped into a couple of ‘Net essays about parents and children and ageing and death, and only just now did I figure out why I was so teary and reflective.

A K M Adam and Donald G Adam

Dad taught English Lit (among other things) at Chatham College. He loved bringing students to England and showing them the places so many of his heroes, and theirs, walked and talked, drank coffee, drank wine and ale, and wrote. He was a great teacher.

This evening I’ll head out to the High Street to meet up with some students and former students at the Mitre. I know Dad had visited Oxford — I’m not sure whether it was a regular stop on his student tours — I know he’d been here because on one of his first trips, he brought back a yellow Oxford University t-shirt for me. I wore it through college, I wore it for years after, and it may well be in a storage bin in an upstairs closet right now. He wasn’t a perfect dad, and I was by no means an ideal son. I’m a teacher too, though I’ve come to terms with the fact (amplified by observing what an excellent teacher Margaret is) that I won’t ever be as good at it as he was. But I’ll have a pint, maybe more, and I’ll give thanks for him and his imparting to me his love of teaching and learning, and I’ll try not to embarrass my students by weeping at how he taught me to care about them, and how much I do.

Thanks, Dad.

Just To Remember

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Turner Network

Our dear friend Gary Turner used to be famous online for his manic comic inventiveness, which he sometimes expressed in new-media stunts such as posting messages left on his phone-answering machine, colourful interviews, Blogtank organising, and photoshopped pictures of his cronies in various situations with television caption crawl incorporated into the picture. I was looking for one of these earlier, and I’m posting them all now so that they’ll be easier for me (and the internet) to find.

From “OK, No More Now, This Time I Mean It” (that is, it would be there if the Wayback Machine had saved the image file):

AKMA Nat Enq Preaching

From “I Got AKMA His Gig on Fox News” (note fountain pens in chest pocket:

akma_fox

And last of all, coverage of the notorious “Information Highwayman” incident:

AKMA_FELON

Those were the days….

Jamie Lawrence Mitchell

Last Friday night, a friend of mine from more than ten years ago died. Jamie had been undergoing a series of surgeries to treat his heart. He had begun the process with confidence and bluster that we would have expected of him, and came back after his first treatment with determination to resume life full speed ahead; but a second surgery was required, there were complications, and quite unexpectedly Jamie Mitchell of Goulburn, New South Wales, died as a result.

I knew Jamie as Dargarian, the mercurial, boisterous, impatient, utterly determined lead warrior — our “tank” — in the World of Warcraft guild that Joi Ito founded, of which I was an admin. Very often I was Darg’s healer; he would yell “BIG HEALS” into the guild’s shared audio channel when a monster was raining down damage on him, and on those occasions when I did not successfully keep up a stream of healing equal to the damage he sustained (sometimes through random mischance, sometimes through my own slowness, sometimes because Darg would keep moving forward and I’d lose sight of him) he would shout “Tank down!” and sometimes suggest that we start the attack over again as soon as his character died. “Tank down, it’s a wipe” he would say, and we would point out that thirty-nine of us remained who might possibly be able to finish a particular event without his participation. I loved healing Darg, even though he sometimes cursed me out for not doing a good enough job; that’s what we want in a tank, a sort of swash-buckling, irrepressible enthusiasm for the job he has to do, and though I healed many excellent tanks before and after Darg, none were as colourful, as manic, as mad for the struggle as he was.

Eventually the close-knit raiding group from our guild changed direction, changed characters, changed times and emphases. Darg — who, after all, was devoting his Australian midnight morning and daybreak mornings to our raids — took less part in both the group raiding and in the guild as a whole. He’d pop up now and then, we might run a lesser dungeon crawl with him, but the mad glory of the huge 40-member raids ebbed away.

We kept in touch through the Guild forums, through Facebook, and in the years after our guild conquered its first big raiding challenge, Jamie went on to marry and have a fine son; we’d see photos on Facebook and imagine Darg as a Dad. He must have mellowed over time, but not too much. I’ll invite Giselle to leave her own comments — but we know dozens of comrades-in-arms who will remember Dargarian, will remember Jamie, as an unstoppable force (for better or, sometimes, for worse) with a big heart, comrades who will miss hearing him explode into the guild audio channel, who have been sending him big heals, big heals, and who have been greatly saddened this past weekend to hear that the tank is down. For now, it’s a wipe.

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