Tuesday, June 28, 2011
St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – 1100)
Ontological Argument for God’s Existence
St. Anselm was born at Aosta in Piedmont. He became a Benedictine Monk. He was a prior, and an abbot of Bec. He succeeded Lanfranc as Archbishop of Canterbury
He liked to argue with the King at that time. He was a Christian and a firm believer. He liked believing better than reasoning, “I believe in order that I may understand,” he said. He carried that even a step further; he felt that if you didn’t believe you couldn’t understand.
St. Anselm is most famous as originator of the Ontological Argument for the existence of God. I think that when anyone first hears this argument, they instantly know that it is wrong, but they don’t know why. There certainly had to exist a better and greater and more perfect argument than this argument as imagined by Anselm.
Anselm claims that even a fool “... is convinced that something exists in the understanding than which nothing greater can be conceived ... And assuredly that than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality, which is greater.
“Therefore, if that than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.
“And it assuredly exists so truly that it cannot be conceived not to exist. For it is possible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceived not to exist; and this is greater than one which can be conceived not to exist. Hence, if that than which nothing greater can be conceived, can be conceived not to exist, it is not that than which nothing greater can be conceived. But this is an irreconcilable contradiction. There is, then, so truly a being than which nothing greater can be conceived to exist, that it cannot even be conceived not to exist; and this being thou art, 0 Lord, our God.”
Did you get that? Wow! This guy is truly that which is greater than that which I have the ability to conceive. But you know nearly all theologians sound like St. Anselm to me. They all seem to hold a capacity that than which is greater than that
than which I have the capacity to conceive.
Believe it or not this argument has lived through the ages.
A contemporary of Anselm, another monk from Marmoutier, near Tours, a guy named Gaunilo disagreed. He applied Anslem’s logic to real things – like a beautiful island. St. Anselm dismissed Marmoutier by stating that his argument only applied to God and should not be used in any other examples.
They argued back and forth for awhile. Then Thomas Aquinas rejected the argument again about a hundred years later.
Thomas Aquinas said: “Even if it be granted that everyone understands this name God to signify what is said (namely, that than which is greater cannot be thought), it does not follow from this that he understands that which is signified by the name to be in the nature of things, but only in the apprehension of the understanding. Nor can it be argued that it is in reality, unless it be granted that there is in reality something than which a greater cannot be thought - which is not granted by those who maintain that God is not.”
But then came Rene Descartes: “It is no less inconsistent to think of a God (that is, a being supremely perfect) to whom existence is lacking (that is, to whom any perfection is lacking) than to think of a mountain to which a valley is lacking.”
But Immanuel Kant then countered: “I simply ask you, whether the proposition, that this or that thing ... exists, is an analytical or a synthetical proposition. If the former, then by its existence you add nothing to your thought of the being ... If ... you admit ... that every proposition involving existence is synthetical, how can you say that the predicate of existence does not admit of removal without contradiction.”
My God, how true, how very true!
Then Hegel mumbled something to the contrary and others followed. But what the hell is wrong with this argument? Better yet what the hell is this argument? What is the Premise?
Well the first premise is that something that is - is greater than something that is only conceived.
This sounds good when you are thinking strawberry shortcake; it doesn’t sound so good when you are thinking terminal brain tumor or a stick up the ass. To my way of thinking, the thought of a stick up the ass would be greater than actually having a stick shoved up my ass.
To tighten up here, the premise might be that it is greater to exist, in reality, than it is not to exist, or only exist in concept. To be or not to be, that is the question.
I suppose that first off most of us would say that it is better to be than it would to not be, but under analysis it may be otherwise.
Let’s speak theologically for example. If your being intends that you will end up in hell for eternity; I would say to not be or to never have been would be a much more rewarding alternative. In which case, it would be greater to not exist at all than to exist.
To exist entails both pain and pleasure. To not exist entails no pain and no pleasure. Depending on your tolerance for pain and suffering, if you were given an educated choice in the matter, you very well may have opted for non-existence. Unfortunately we got no such choice. And as Albert Einstein once asked; “Did God have a choice in his own existence?” Could God, if He does exist, not exist if he chose not to? Could God in the beginning have not been and then have chosen to be?
Another problem that I have with this Ontological proof of the existence of God is this: Most definitions of God include a reference to his infiniteness. Infinite in terms to His greatness would mean that there is no end to God’s greatness. In mathematics, for example; is there a number than which no greater number can be thought?
Whatever number you can think of, I can add one to it and have a greater number. Numbers are infinite. So then there is no number than which no greater number can be thought.
In Geometry: is there a straight line that which no longer straight line can be thought? As with the greatest number stated above, so it is with the longest line. Lines are infinite and therefore a longer line than any line contemplated can be conjured. So is there a line whose length no greater can be thought? No.
This is the nature of infinity. If God is an infinite being, then His greatness is without capacity. To say that there is something that exist that which nothing greater can be thought - may be self-evident to the fool; but with regards to the infinite or infinity it is not true. Infinite greatness would imply that no matter how great I could imagine God to be - He is greater. So: is there that which nothing greater can be thought?
So the basic premise: that even the fool must admit of a being that which no greater being can be thought - is false. Infinity has no end or capacity.
The second premise: that existence is greater than no existence, is debatable. It would depend upon the state of said existence and upon the notion that non-existence is even possible.
A non-existence without pain, suffering or angst would in my opinion be greater than an existence filed with pain and suffering; surely greater than an infinite existence of unimaginable suffering - which is promised by many religions to non-believers and sinners.
I’m not a mathematician but ... Is zero greater than minus one?
So, are there any more premises left to this proposition?
Does infinity exist only in our understanding or in reality?
It certainly exists in our understanding, but as for reality we can only suppose.
The Universe could be infinite - if not the Universe, then Space.
Einstein, as I understand, claimed that space was merely a property of matter. As an amateur philosopher, I find this notion impossible - unless, of course we then claim that it is matter that is infinite. If we say that matter is finite and limited, then space must be infinite. To say that the Universe (both space and matter) is limited is conceptually and logically impossible because, if the Universe is limited, it must be limited by something.
If we define the Universe as - all that is. Then whatever it is that limits the Universe would be part of the universe and thus the universe would be unlimited. If what limits the universe is limited, then what or where or in what does it exist? This is an infinite regression (or expansion). It tells me that the universe can not be thought of as anything but unlimited or infinite.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
For more information on this title click on book cover at right of this blog. Thanks.
Today’s question is: Can a sewer cover be made to fall through the hole that it was designed to cover?
We were playing stickball up the old Howard Playstead when our sponge rubber ball got away from us. It rolled down the Birchwood Rd. hill or went over the Howard Corner wall and right into the sewer on Lawrence St.
Losing rubber balls of one type or another down a corner sewer was a common childhood experience in Lawrence and I imagine in any inner city. The balls were not all that expensive as I remember, but none of us ever had a dime between ten of us. Even if we all chipped in and came up with the required amount then we would have the problem of whom the ball actually belonged to once the game was concluded. But in truth the option of buying a new ball was rarely even considered.
We all gathered around the sewer and contemplated.
The ball was right there. We could see it bobbing up and down. Could we get it with a stick or maybe two sticks? What about a tree branch? How about a coat hanger with a loop in the bottom tied to the end of a stick? How about a stick with a Dixie Cup tacked to the end of it? This was a job for Plastic Man.
What if we lifted the sewer cover off the hole and then had the one of us with the longest arms reach down into the sewer and grab up our ball? Good idea.
The sewer cover was heavier than we thought. It took four of us gripping the sewer cover through the square holes to get it up and carry it off to the side. But then we realized that our sewer with no cover was right on the corner of busy Lawrence St. and Birchwood Rd. If a car was coming up Lawrence St. heading to Broadway and it wanted to turn on Birchwood, its front tire could go right into the hole. Oh man, it could get destroyed.
Some of us would have to direct traffic around the sewer hole while the rest of us rescued our ball.
Well … not so simple! Even Dolan who was all arms couldn’t reach it – even with one of us sitting on his calves while two of us each grabbed onto a foot and sneaker. There was only one way. We would have to dip Dolan down into the sewer, head first, while two of us held him by the legs.
Dolan opposed this idea. “What if you guys drop me?” he argued.
“Why would we drop you?” we countered.
“Because two of you ain’t strong enough.”
“Okay, what if we put two guys on each leg?”
“And what if you guys decide to drop me just for the fun of it?” Everybody laughed. “Yeah, see?”
“No we won’t let you go. We need the ball. It would be stupid for us to let you go.”
Dolan was not thoroughly convinced but he agreed. He laid down on the ground and scootched himself forward over the sewer hole as far as he could. Two of us on each side grabbed a leg and upsy-daizy went Dolan. We lowered him down into the sewer, head first.
It was a bit hairy there for a moment or two as proper positioning got a little cramped and guys started stumbling over one another’s feet. Then Dolan, feeling the stumbling, began screaming and cursing up at us. Unfortunately this started me laughing. As the laughing spread, Dolan began screaming louder and louder. But in-between the sputtering we got him down low enough into the sewer that he was able to latch a mitt onto our ball. There were several other balls down there and one of the guys suggested to Dolan that while he was down there why didn’t he toss the one he had in his hand up and out of the sewer and then start gathering up some of the others.
Dolan’s response to this suggestion was not nice – very, very gutterish. A kind of sewer talk, you might say. This caused a resumption in the sputtering amongst the holding crew. Dolan demanded to be fished back up immediately.
We began stumbling away from the sewer in a direction to Dolan’s advantage. When we finally dropped Dolan on the asphalt we all dropped to the ground laughing.
Okay, the operation was a success now all that was necessary was to get the cover back onto the sewer hole.
We took our positions around the sewer cover and dead-lifted the monster. We clumsily side-stepped, our way back to the sewer. We had four of us holding the sewer cover about 3 feet above the sewer hole. It was heavy and we were all straining. “Let’s just drop it,” someone suggested. “Then we can straighten it up.”
It was agreed that on the count of three we would all let go of the sewer cover and jump backwards getting our toes out of the way. We didn’t want any smushed toes.
“Okay … one … two … three … drop it!”
The drop went perfect and none of us got our toes smushed but to our total amazement the sewer cover dropped somewhat tilted and instead of landing a little off center, the damn thing went right through the hole and splashed down into the sewer.
For some reason our first reaction when any catastrophe struck, was to run. Somebody screamed “Oh shit!” and we all took off running. We didn’t get further than the next corner when someone yelled, “We can’t run away. What if a car goes into the sewer hole and then crashes and kills everybody?” We all spun around and ran back to the sewer hole. We positioned ourselves around the sewer and then sent Jack Greco, who lived nearby, to call the cops.
Calling the cops was not something that occurred to us on a regular basis. It fact, it almost never occurred to us. But on this occasion, it somehow came right to mind.
When the cops got there we told them that when we arrived at the corner to play a little stickball we noticed to our horror and shock that the sewer had no cover. So, good citizens that we were, we immediately stationed ourselves around the sewer and had somebody call the cops.
The cops looked at us very suspiciously but called the city department nevertheless. The city department came out with warning sawhorses with reflectors and placed them around the sewer. Both the cops and the city workers complimented us on our community spirit. One of the cops kept smirking at us as we all gleamed and glowed and took our bows. It was like he knew but for some reason wasn’t going to rat on us. We all played it for all that it was worth. We were the little Howard Playground heroes.
But after the cops and everybody else left we all breathed a sigh of relief and slapped each other on the back. We agreed unanimously that removing the sewer cover was stupid. We tried to recall which one of us decided that we should all return to the scene of the crime and then have Grecs go back home and call the cops. Dolan said that it was his idea but that didn’t … float. We all quickly agreed that a good idea from Dolan would be without sufficient precedent.
It is rather amazing in retrospect to reflect on how stupid can turn into genius with the casual flip of a sewer cover.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
For more information on this title click on cover of book to right of this blog Thanks.
"A Summer with Charlie"
1 Charlie Gets Liberty
“Rich?” my buddy Willie said in a whisper, slipping up next to me at the pool table. “That was Charlie, man.”
“What’s he doing home from the Navy?”
“He’s dying, man. Didn’t you hear?”
“Dying? You’ve got to be kidding?”
“No man! He got some disease from workin’ them X-ray machines for the Navy.”
“How come he ain’t in some Navy hospital or something?”
“He’s gone, man. There ain’t no cure. So I guess the Navy just let him go and he’s back home at his mom and dad’s house until he croaks. They called me up to find out where all of us guys were hanging out now. I guess Charlie just sits around the parlor staring out the window and smoking cigarettes. Mr. and Mrs. K don’t know what the hell to do, I guess.”
“No joke, man.”
I stared down at the pool table as I pretended to be racking up the balls. Chucky was home from the Navy. He was home to die.
Charlie’s home, and my home, was a mill town in the northeast corner of the State of Massachusetts. It was thick with people, rough and tumble, down and dirty. It was tough, blue-collar, working, immigrant folk from just about every country in the world. In fact, today it calls itself The Immigrant City. There aren’t too many places like it in the United States that I have ever seen. I have been all over the United States and I haven’t seen anything like it. I’m not saying that Lawrence is or was something great, I’m just saying that it is unique, a one of a kind. Seeing it once, though, would probably be enough for most folks. This is where Chucky and I were raised.
Robert Frost graduated from Lawrence High School which was just one block north of the “Y” (YMCA). I had to tell you all that. It’s the only fact that most of us know to brag on in old Lawrence.
Across from the Y was the Common. The Common was a city park. It had a baseball field, and a softball field, a wading pool and played host to many city events. I’ve since read that one-eyed Big Bill Haywood was there in 1912 for the famous Bread and Roses labor union strike. The largest labor union strike of the era, involving tens of thousands of workers. Supposedly that strike changed labor history and turned things around for the workingmen, women and children in America.
I always thought that it would be interesting to research that strike. Two of my grandparents were there and probably on different sides of the picket lines.
My grandmother on my mother’s side was a weaver, and my grandfather on my father’s side was a mill foreman at the Arlington Mills on Broadway. My grandmother worked at the Wood Mill.
The Wood Mill was the largest of its kind. It was built, owned and operated by a William Wood. My grandmother, the weaver, was Polish and my grandfather, the foreman, was Irish. My grandfather might have been standing, looking out a fourth floor window, slapping a club into his palm or wielding a shotgun, while staring down onto the street at my Polish grandmother marching and picketing with her newly arrived, poor, immigrant friends.
Growing up, I never heard one word about unions or strikes. I never heard of the Bread and Roses Strike, or Big Bill Haywood, or Elizabeth Gurley Flynn or Mother Jones. Nor did I hear about the deaths of strikers that were caused by the authorities and then blamed on the strike leaders. A little Italian girl by the name of Anna LoPizzo was shot and killed by police and a fifteen year old Syrian boy by the name of John Ramy was bayoneted by the militia and eventually died in a Lawrence hospital. They framed two of the union leaders for the murders. Smiling Joe Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti were in jail for over a year and finally absolved of the trumped up murder charges brought against them by the state.
My friends and I never discussed any of this. The Bread and Roses Strike of 1912 is the most documented labor/management disaster in union history, yet I never heard mention of it in or out of any of my Lawrence school houses. I don’t know if the town was ashamed of it, or it was my Catholic, “support the State and keep the peace” education. Maybe there were such hard feelings over it that everyone just refused to talk about it. So there you go - history in action.
Big Bill Haywood stood up on the bandstand at the Common and gave his famous, or infamous, clenched-fist, unity speech. Each finger standing alone was destructible, but once the hand was closed into a fist and united, the fingers could now defend themselves like a club - today’s black power salute.
Dwight David Eisenhower appeared in the Common in 1952 on his first run for the presidency. Between Lawrence, Lowell and Haverhill you probably had several million eligible voters. I don’t remember Ike being there at the Common. I would have been nine or ten at the time. I could have been there in the crowd for all I know.
“Hey Charlie, you feel like losing a game of pool, do yah?”
I had just walked into the YMCA. The gang from the old Corner had migrated to the lobby at the Y. I didn’t even know what the letters YMCA represented. I really didn’t care. The important thing was that for fifty cents I was now an associate member of the YMCA. Being an associate member entitled me to complete and unadulterated access to the Y lobby and its multiple and various facilities. This included a free seat in the “peanut gallery” for TV viewing; access to two official-sized pool tables; visiting privileges to the public reading room; and permission to use one of their chess boards, checker boards, or decks of bicycle playing cards. It was really the best deal for a winter quarters that our street gang had ever stumbled upon. A nice warm lobby with all of the above mentioned amenities, plus vending machines that sold hot chocolate, coffee, potato chips, crackers, Coca-Cola and a whole array of other goodies. I don’t know which one of the guys had discovered the associate membership to the Y lobby, but this was the berries. This was the closest we had ever come to being treated as adults in our entire career. It was great; coatracks and everything. Just like real people and not street hooligans or roughnecks. That’s what my mother used to call me and my buddies ... roughnecks. “Where are you and your roughneck buddies going tonight? Don’t let the cops catch you. STAY OUT OF TROUBLE!” Yah, yah, yah.
I heard a familiar voice call out my name, but my quick scoping out of the peanut gallery revealed no recognizable candidates. I proceeded across the lobby and over to one of the pool tables. I put my quarter in the machine apparatus, shoved in the sliding doohickey thing and then started racking up the balls.
The peanut gallery was always dark, so that you could see the TV which was elevated high up on a wall. If you wanted to change the station on the TV, you had to drag one of the folding or straight-backed chairs over, and climb up onto it. Of course, you had better ask the crowd in the peanut gallery before you ever made such an attempt, if you didn’t want to get lynched.
I saw a smile spread under the porkpie hat over in the dim, poorly lit corner.
“Well,” Charlie said rising up from his chair. “I suppose that this will be embarrassing. It has been so long since I’ve shot a game of pool.”
“Oh my god, will you listen to this? The overseas, international billiards champion of the entire US Fleet and it’s going to be embarrassing? Yah right! Don’t give me any of that Willie Mosconi hype. I know better.”
Charlie was laughing now. By the time he got to the table, I had the balls all racked.
“You break ‘em, hustler,” I said with a grin.
Charlie picked himself a cue and rolled it around the table. After three or four cue sticks bumped their way over the felt, he grabbed up the last one and laughed.
“That’s a good one. You can probably shoot around corners with that sucker.”
Charlie didn’t look like Charlie anymore. His face was all puffed up. He was a little chubby. He wasn’t the lean, mean, fighting machine that he was when he had joined the Navy. If Willie hadn’t come up to me and pointed him out, I certainly wouldn’t have recognized him. He didn’t look sickly though. He still pranced like a young colt with his leather healed loafers clicking on the hardwood floor. He always dressed well; neat and clean, not fancy. Charlie was a sharp looking guy - neat, trim, good looking. He used to slick back his hair and puff a big wave up in the front, as we all did. We all looked like Elvis in those days.
Charlie had been a member of the “corner gang” since the early days. Myself and John Robert Michael McSheehy Sr. were the organizers of the original Corner Gang. We were on our way home from the St. Rita’s grammar school in route number four when we got the bright idea.
The “routes” were the organized and patrolled or supervised pathways to our various neighborhood homes, orchestrated and devised by the Good Nuns. The Good Nuns, the Sisters of Notre Dame, had everything under control. The nuns were sweethearts I know, but I still don’t think that I had a nun in any grade who was unable to press her own body weight in the gym. I never saw a nun with a tattoo, though. I walked home in route number four because it was the shortest route. It was only one block long, and it ended at Nell’s Variety Store. I don’t know what brought up the idea of starting a Corner Gang, but we thought that we would like to start one. John Robert Michael McSheehy Sr. thought that starting a gang would be easy.
“Just start hanging around the same place at the same time everyday, and pretty soon you will have a gang,” he suggested. I didn’t believe it but I always hated going home so I suggested that we give it a try. John Robert Michael McSheehy Sr., commonly known as Jack, was agreeable to the idea. So everyday after school we went into Nell’s, got a bag of Granite State Potato Chips in the sealed fresh aluminum bag and a bottle of C & J (Curran and Joyce) Orange Phosphate, or Lime Rickey and we were in business. We would just sit outside on the steps of the store, or on the sidewalk or the steps leading up to the upstairs apartments and just wait. At supper time we would go home and eat quickly and then run right back. I remember thinking at that time that this was the most exciting thing. I couldn’t wait to get back to the Corner after supper each day. It was like fishing. How many bites would we get today and then could we hook them?
It was only a matter of weeks before we had a gang. First came Dolan, who lived just around the corner; then Costello, who lived right across the street from St. Rita’s; then Cusack, then Comier, then Charlie who also took route four; then Vinnie Whaley; then Mike Torla who was a friend of Jimmy Costello. It wasn’t long before there were fifteen or twenty of us out there every afternoon and evening. It wasn’t long before we were a part of the local police department’s regular routine also.
“Okay, let’s move it. Come on, come on. Don’t you little bastards have a home to go to, anyway?”
“You know officer, now that you mention it, you look a little like Dolan. You ever spent any time on Hampshire Street, sir? What do you think Dolan?”
“Daddy, daddy, oh please, can I go home with you tonight?”
“Get movin’ you little shits. If we have to get out of this cruiser you guys will be in big trouble.”
“Yah like what are you gonna do ... arrest us?”
“That’s it. Let’s get ‘em Billy.”
“ALL RIGHT! They’re gonna arrest us! SHOTGUN!”
“No no, I’m riding shotgun. You got to ride shotgun last time.”
The cops were a regular thing. It was a joke. This was a Catholic tenement-house city, with ten damn kids on every floor. The Police didn’t know what to do with us. They tried to keep us moving from one place or from one corner to another. But whatever corner we migrated to, the neighbors didn’t want us there either. But the truth was that most of the cops were just like us. They were Irish Catholic or sons of immigrants. They each had six or seven brothers and sisters, and they grew up in the streets or hanging out on the street corners just like we were. They mostly just laughed at us and told us to take a walk and give the poor people living in the surrounding tenement houses a break. We used to go on walks all over the neighborhood, but invariably ended right back where we started; sitting on the steps at Nell’s Variety.
“So, what’s the deal, you out of the Navy for good now, or just home on leave or something?” Small talk. I knew all the answers but you have to say something.
“I’m gonna be around for awhile,” Charlie offered, while inspecting the pool table for a good shot.
“Yah, lucky you guys.”
The guys who hung out on the Corner were more like family than acquaintances or even buddies. We all knew one another better than we knew our own family members. We sat there everyday, day after day, talking our personal stuff and our personal problems.
Charlie wasn’t one to be confessing a lot of personal stuff. He was busy, busy, busy. He was always just coming or just going. He was a year or two older than me and Jack and some of the others. He liked playing cards, shooting pool, and pitching pennies. He was a listener, and a laugher. He was the tease-ee rather than the tease-er. He loved getting razzed, or being the subject of a joke, but he never told any himself, and he didn’t tease others. He was the kind of kid who beamed when you called out his name or bumped into him someplace downtown. He loved to be recognized. He loved being a part of the Corner Gang. He played in all of the activities. He was an independent type. He had his own car when we got bigger.
He had his own cigarettes. He never bummed a cigarette. And he didn’t indulge those who did. He always had his own money. He never talked or complained about his mother or father or his sisters or brothers. In fact, I don’t know if he had a sister. I know he had a younger brother.
Charlie was up the Corner all the time, he was one of the guys. He skipped out of the senior prom to come down to Walter’s Variety to get a pack of cigarettes. Walter’s was one corner up from Nell’s and it was our latest refuge and hangout. Everybody loved that one. A dapper dude in a tux, smoking a cigarette, and reading comic books at Walter’s Variety on senior prom night. Walter loved it. He thought that was the greatest. Charlie was a pisser. He was no class clown, but he did unexpected things. Charlie was really so straight and conventional that when he did something out of the ordinary, it really stood out and made you giggle. When you were with Charlie, you always did the talking. I don’t ever remember Charlie voicing an opinion on anything. He was easy to be with. He was easy to be around. He was very easy to like. It would not be easy to watch him die.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
A Baker’s Dozen
For more information on this title click on "Baker's Dozen" bookcover at right on this page.
By Eve Paludan http://www.evepaludan.com/
[Eve Paludan is a writer and editor. Eve Paludan is an editor of scholarly works by day and a novelist by night, occasionally doing freelance fiction editing on weekends. She is currently attending Arizona State University (online) and is working on earning a Web Developer Certificate from Northern Arizona University. She is also writing another romance novel. Eve has been married for 2.1 decades to a software developer/publisher, Ron Paludan, who is also a 3D (Poser and Google Sketch-Up) artist, as well as a webmaster of commercial sites.]
"A Baker's Dozen" Short Stories by Richard Noble is not only a treat, it is a feast for the mind, with some of the stories reminiscent of the O. Henry type of plot twists that have captivated readers for generations. Like the proverbial box of fancy chocolates, each story in this collection gives the reader a satisfying taste of a different flavor, and yet a cohesive theme of American blue-collar nostalgia makes a pretty box to contain these 13 delectable story treats.
A consummate storyteller, Richard Noble brings to life both civilized life -- with themes like marriage and running a business and adventures with drinking buddies and unions and such -- and uncivilized life, such as my favorite story in the collection: In "I'm Going Home," an itinerant fruit picker and pot dealer named Jon enjoys the freedom and economy of living in a national park but ponders the suspicious death of an alcoholic Jesus freak known as Pea-Coat. The trouble starts when Jon starts his own investigation of the assumed suicide. Wow, this story grabbed me and didn't let go, nor did it disappoint. Well done.
In "Cain & Bernard's," the author takes the long way to getting his own specialty butcher shop ready to open, which will require a plumber. His hilarious first-person retelling of his guy-centric path to his goals keeps getting diverted to a local bar where he has to drink with a plumber, seemingly for days, before they get down to business. Apparently, all of the regulars have long ago dated many of his aunts and his mom, which causes him some consternation and embarrassment. Oh, and existing on bar food -- mostly pickled eggs -- and alcohol is not a proper diet for a working man.
In "Love is Blind," Diane is a thirty-something spinster with a lovely apartment. She hasn't had a date for years. One night she gets a call from a war vet whose memories of them dancing at Arthur Murray as youngsters sustained him through the worst of times. What happens next left me with a lump in my throat. So poignant and romantic. A what-if that we all think about. Could someone from our past re-surface and...?
In "Gluckman's Poultry," the author goes wholesale meat-shopping on what are possibly the wrong side of the tracks and has a small adventure and a lesson in managing people at the bottom of the blue-collar totem pole.
In "Mussels in Marinara," more adventures in the butchery business ensue in South Miami with the author's friend, Lenny, after their meatpackers' union ditched them. This story is about crackers and beer, and Lenny's wife, who is simultaneously a princess and a shrew. There's something of an urban, blue-collar Shakespeare feel to this short story. Very enjoyable.
In "A Government Job," an ad for a nondescript job for a "coordinator" sends Richard, our hero, into unexplored territory as he bluffs his way through the job interview in some of the funniest b-s-ing I've ever read, as both interviewer and interviewee muddle through in a battle of wits!
"A Corny Christmas Story" presents the author as a little boy possessed of charm and surprising wit as he peddles his mother's hand-crocheted hats door to door, so that the family can buy a Christmas tree while Dad is off fighting a war on the other side of the world. I loved this! It should be a short film for a Christmas special. It's wistful, hopeful and amusing.
There are other great stories in this collection, and each has a sense of place and characters that are unforgettable. The author wrote some stories in first person, others are in third person with protagonists who are likely veiled characters of people he seemed to know well.
If you're looking for an entertaining short story collection with a sense of the past, Noble nails it with 13 gems that will make you laugh, cry, and swear at the adventures of a vivid and down-to-earth Americana.
Five stars for an entertaining short story collection of man stories that even a girl can love. -- Eve Paludan, author of Letters from David, a romance novel.
For more information on this title click on book cover to the right of this post.
Adolf was a self-styled messiah, preaching a faith. He came from out the Germanic woods like the fabled Siegfried to rescue his people from world domination. World War I and his experience as a soldier formed the basis of his moral thinking and, from what I can see, his adult personality.
As I analyze this book it becomes more and more evident that these arguments of Adolf’s on varying subjects are still much of the political debate of today. Would Adolf be a Republican or a Democrat, a liberal or a conservative?
A big debate going on at this moment deals with the study of Western culture. Some are ashamed of it, some are proud of it. We have the AIDS virus and Adolf had the problem with syphilis. There is a continuous and on-going argument as to what society should do with its non-achievers. The problem with youth, vagabonds, the homeless and street-corner hooligans seems to be ever-present. How a government should operate and what should be its legitimate limits and concerns, is always in discussion. What is the destiny of our nation, or other nations? What should a society do with its sick, aged and infirm? What should be a country’s attitude towards war and aggression? What is the purpose of the media in a society? What is the main function of our educational institutions? What is the role of banking and finance? Who should be in charge and how should they get there? What is the role of religion and what should be the attitude of the state towards religion? What should our attitude be with regards to our expanding population and the expanding population of the world? What is the role of science, architecture, the arts and history in our present day society?
The argument of which race is the greatest is as vibrant as ever. We have even managed to expand this argument into which sex is the greatest. The Japanese are still reeling from their incarceration in the U.S. during World War II, and the fact that the only nuclear bomb ever, was dropped on their tiny island, as opposed to Western Europe. The African and Spanish cultures are in a heavy battle to make prominent their share in the history and cultural development of the world. China is rushing towards superpower status, and even today it seems as remote and strange and distant as it ever was.
Communism, socialism and capitalism are related in bitterness as seriously as any moment in the last hundred years. The competition within the species goes back to the foundations of human history. Humans were engaging one another in war before this bloody competition even had a name. The internal and external struggles for power between and among representatives of the human species are ongoing and seem to be incurable.
Adolf says to the human race that it must face reality and actively engage itself in the battle for the survival of the “greatest.” I say that if this lunacy is not eventually controlled and hopefully stopped with the recognition of the greatness (or mediocrity of all) the bitterness and beyond that lies in the hearts of the human beings will eventually destroy its kind entirely or continue to reduce the progress of the human race to its present and historical state of crawl.
Adolf says that me and those like me are cowards. Yet in his attempt to destroy us, he found his own cowardly end. I guess that it is up to each of us to decide which philosophy will lead to the greatest eventual good for the future of mankind. The same choices are still with us. Pick a side.