Category: Obits

Prof. Joshua Whatmough — Linguistics 120

Joshua Whatmough (c. 1950)
—- Prof. Joshua Whatmough —- © 1955 G. Paul Bishop

This morning, rising with formless, benignant wonderings about my future and vague remembrances of my long-ago youth, I surprised myself with an abrupt focus on Prof. Joshua Whatmough (“WUTT-moe”).

I googled and found a perfect description of his terrifying and exhilarating classroom (in 1947) put up on a webpage by one of Whatmough’s former students, William Harris, Professor Emeritus, Middlebury College. Prof. Harris’ recollections lit up a room I hadn’t been in for many years. Continue reading “Prof. Joshua Whatmough — Linguistics 120”

Dog Gone

My daughter recently put her 13-year-old cat down. Her post about it was heartfelt and touching. Today Lee Geiger, a chum from my Wall Street days, wrote about saying farewell to his dog. I reprint his goodbye below.

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This is not a good day. The Fat Guy is driving me to the vet. At least he brought treats. The Pretty Blonde brought tissues. She’s got tears in her eyes. I wonder what for?

I feel old. My hips are killing me. I can barely stand up and walk anymore. My nose is shot. I can’t smell any difference between the kitchen and the backyard. Glaucoma’s nearly blinded me, and I haven’t heard anything since the last Super Bowl. At least The Pretty Blonde Continue reading “Dog Gone”

Kvetcher in the Rye

Catcher in the RyeI began writing an obituary of J. D. Salinger, but given his reclusiveness and academia’s already exhaustive shelves of critical essaying, it morphed into a personal reflection on how Catcher in the Rye affected me and my 60’s world. But Greg Palast did it better (and faster), so I reprint his February 1, 2010, reflection below.

In the sixth grade, the Boys’ Vice-Principal threatened to suspend me from school unless I stopped carrying around The Catcher in the Rye I think because it had the word “fuck” in it. Since the Boys’ Vice-Principal hadn’t read the book – and I don’t think he’d ever read any book – he couldn’t tell me why.

But Mrs. Gordon was cool. She let me keep the book at my desk and read it at recess as long as I kept a brown wrapper over the cover.

I think J.D. Salinger Continue reading “Kvetcher in the Rye”

Irving R. Levine (1922-2009)

America fawns absurdly over singers and actors and expects under-educated athletes to be our role models. National and international news in my local newspaper, the Santa Rosa, CA, Press Democrat (owned by The New York Times), almost always comprises fewer column inches than the sports section.

The Stupidification of America continues unabated.

Irving R. Levine died Friday, an intelligent journalist whose thoughtful, clearly articulated reports educated and explained difficult political and economic topics for almost 50 years. But the obituary I read focused on Levine’s bow tie and middle initial rather than on the caliber of his reportage. America craves infotainment.

Written by the Washington Post‘s Patricia Sullivan, it reads like something out of Obits for Dummies. Almost half of Ms. Sullivan’s 666-word review of Levine’s worthy life dwells on the minutiae that made him a character rather than the work that made him a respected journalist. Some excerpts: Continue reading “Irving R. Levine (1922-2009)”

Darwin and Lincoln: 200 Years Today (or are they?)

Born 200 years ago, February 12, 1809: Charles Darwin, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in the bios, and Abraham Lincoln, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in society.

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But perhaps these two Great Men were not born on the same day. Darwin’s birth was in a time zone five hours later than Lincoln’s. If “date of birth” is defined by calendar, then the two men were born on the same calendar day. But if Baby Abe was born later than 7 p.m. in that little log cabin near what is now Hodgenville, Kentucky, then it was already February 13 where Baby Darwin lay in Shrewsbury, England. Similarly, if Infant Charles took Breath One earlier than 5 a.m., then it was still February 11 in Kentucky. Accordingly, to be safe, I am posting this a day early.

Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “February Traces”

This short piece, from the Opinion page of The New York Times (2/2/09), is unpretentious, evocative writing. Read it aloud…slowly.

Up here in the country, the world gets a used-up look a day or two after a February snowfall. Dust drifts over the fields from the dry roads, the corn stubble begins to poke through, and the plows have left a margin of gritty slush and knocked down a mailbox or two. All the more reason to look for those moments just after a snowfall, when the snow is not yet public, when it has only been tracked by an animal or two out on the ice and in the fields.

I never see a truly straight track. There is always a bend in it, as if curiosity was a kind of lateral gravity, always Continue reading “Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “February Traces””