May 24, 2005

From the Mail Bag--

A package, looking for all the world as though it had been trompled by wildebeests, from that great American Dr. James Smith, who sends along a CD-R that promises lots of hot Episcopalian acolyte action (lighting candles and such like), as well as a couple of books.

Now then, I TOLD the estimable doctor of philosphy that his faith in the institution of the Federal postal system was both charmingly naive and naively charming, believing (as I did) that the moment he slipped the material into the hopper that it would be summarily "lost," i.e., that an interested worker betwixt here and North Carolina would take both Practical Feng Shui for Business by Simon Brown AND the 1965 copy of The Churchill Wit (edited by Bill Adler), as said postal employee's very own.

WELL, I was wrong! An admission that both saddens and gladdens me; the former in that it indicates a fallibility I'd rather not acknowledge, the latter due to the fact that I now have new stuff to read! COOL!

The first book, the one about feng shui, Jim was not entirely certain I would appreciate. After all, I place feng shui in the same category as numerology, astrology, figure skating, and Social Security. This is because I do know a bit of Chinese, and know that feng shui (pronounced "fung shway") means "sucker."

BUT, aside from all the hocus-jumbo, the ideas of color, materials, light, composition and spacial order do have a lot to do with making architecture pleasing to its inhabitants. The underlying structure of the practice, devoted to producing harmony and a sense of well-being, is really not so much different from any other artistic endeavor in that all art, whether it's dance, literature, or architecture, has some sort of vocabulary and language. And, being able to read and understand that language can make you feel good.


You just have to remember, though, that art has deep roots in culture, and as such, isn't instantly importable to other places. Meaning, that to walk into a barbecue joint in Brewton and pronounce it unfit for the contemplative peaceful enjoyment of food because the feng shui is ALL WRONG will probably get you a laugh or two, or an escort out the door, or both.

There's nothing mystical about it (unlike hanging up a horseshoe above your door for good luck--because THAT'S REAL!) unless you just HAVE to read that into it, but that doesn't mean there aren't some good, common-sense ideas in it.

NOW, the second book has something of a story that I hope Jim won't mind me repeating--from his e-mail to me:

I finally got the envelope to put your books in and they should be in the mail today. One is a very small volume of sayings by Churchill. I noticed that it was given to my father by my mother. My wife would say don’t send it but I did learn something from my father. I learned that possessions don’t matter—friends do. When you finish it you can either send it back or pass it on to someone who would like it – blogger or not.

The fly is inscribed "Jimmy Smith from M.J."

Stuff like this makes me cry. I promise you that I scolded Jim for wanting to send this to me, and I really was concerned that it would get lost. But, he's rather muley about such things, and so, he was determined. And thankfully, it did get here, which means it will be treasured as only a selfish, Churchill-lovin' book-hog can treasure something. If Jim wants it back, I'll give it to him, but any of the rest of you might have a fight on your hands! Anyway, it's a wonderful little book, and I cannot post this without sharing a couple of zingers.

From page 50:

The human story does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle that two and two make four. Sometimes in life they make five or minus three; and sometimes the blackboard topples down in the middle of the sum and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye.

From page 65:

The Prime Minister had been criticized by some members of Parliament for the urbane fashion in which he had written to the Japanese Ambassador to inform him that Britain and Japan were at war. Mr. Churchill replied to this criticism, saying:

After all, when you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.

And from page 81:

Asked for his reaction to New York City, a young Mr. Churchill is said to have responded with just seven words:

Newpaper too thick, lavatory paper too thin.

And nowadays indistinguishable from each other.

Expect to have more excerpts in the future.

And a very heartfelt thank-you to the professor for such a fine set of gifts.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at May 24, 2005 02:20 PM

The CD has some great narration. Unfortunately that is what I sound like. I can’t tell anymore is the accent still Alabama? Or has it been merged with some Mississippi and plenty of eastern Carolina?

Posted by: jim at May 24, 2005 02:54 PM

I'll have to wait and play it at home--my system here won't make any sounds. I can play CDs, but anything that plays through the Windows Media Player (or QuickTime, for that matter) doesn't make any noise. I don't know why.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 24, 2005 03:33 PM

Does this mean we can now expect to see Churchill quotes mixed in with quotes from your book on how to wrought writing right?

Posted by: Larry Anderson at May 24, 2005 03:35 PM


Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 24, 2005 03:36 PM

In class I tell them that anything Mark Twain didn’t say, Churchill did.

Posted by: jim at May 24, 2005 04:35 PM

Do they look at you with blank stares and ask, "Who?"

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 24, 2005 04:39 PM

I thought all quotations came from Shakespeare or the Bible. Who are these young whippersnappers?

Posted by: Jordana at May 24, 2005 04:45 PM

By the second week some of them begin to get it. I’ll say something and one student will ask Twain or Churchill?

Posted by: jim at May 24, 2005 05:10 PM