I've been an admirer of the good folks at The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society for a long time. Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, their series of radio-style adaptations of Lovecraft's stories, has been great fun, and so I'm always eager to hear the latest episode. But as the years have passed, I've wondered how much longer the HPLHS could continue to adapt Lovecraft in this fashion. After all, he wrote only so many stories of sufficient length to fill an entire CD.
Three days ago I was very excited to learn that a new episode of DART is now available for pre-order. I immediately purchased a copy of the CD with props (which, by the way, are always a hoot). Much to my surprise, though, my order included a free MP3 file. So I was able to download and listen to Dagon: War of Worlds as soon as I completed my PayPal transaction.
I had thought that the HPLHS, once they ran out of sufficiently long stories, could produce anthology episodes of DART. But what they've done this time around is much more compelling than that. They've taken HPL's "Dagon" (as well as aspects of "The Temple" and "The Whisperer in Darkness") and adapted it in the style of Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast.
I have to say that the HPLHS has really hit a homerun with this episode. The results are vastly more action-packed (lots of gunfire and explosions) than a typical episode of DART. You'll follow with rapt attention as Nathan Reed of Worldwide Wireless News covers the breaking news of a global attack on the surface world. It's really quite a ride that bodes well for the future of DART.
I just listened to DWOW a second time, and I'm so worn out from all of the thrills that I'd kill for a bottle of Bub-L-Pep.
Finally, a size comparison with two other editions of HPL's work.
My initial impressions are very favorable. The pages are nicely laid out and the print is large and easy to read. It seems to me, from briefly flipping through all three volumes, that most of the variant readings revolve around spelling. HPL preferred British spellings, but his American publishers tended to change them to conform to American conventions.
You should know that this edition is meant primarily for scholars and ardent admirers of HPL's work. Because the hardback edition is limited to 750 sets, it's rather expensive. I can only assume that there will be a cheaper paperback edition at some point.
But since this is not an annotated edition, I imagine that most readers are likely to stick with, say, their copies of S. T. Joshi's Penguin paperbacks, which contain useful introductions and explanatory notes. The variorum edition is just supposed to collect the most accurate versions of HPL's fictional works, and nothing more.
Anyway, it's good to see HPL's work treated with such seriousness.
I blog about crime every once in a while, and as I've pursued this interest during the past couple of years, I've taken to following the work of the British criminologist David Wilson. I've read a couple of his books (more on them in the future) and watched as many of his documentaries as I could find on the web. I've also bookmarked his Facebook page, just in case something interesting turns up there as well.
Not quite three months ago Professor Wilson linked to an interview with the pianist James Rhodes. I had never heard of Mr. Rhodes before, and so I began to learn more about him. His story attracted Professor Wilson's attention because Mr. Rhodes was repeatedly raped as a young boy. The interview was conducted shortly after the conclusion of the legal brouhaha surrounding his autobiography Instrumental. He had been fighting a court injunction and had just won the right to publish his memoirs. Winning the right to publish his autobiography, I admit, sounds strange, but I don't need to recount the story for you. You can read the interview for yourself.
Well, I confess that I was intrigued. Because Mr. Rhodes's autobiography had yet to be published at the time of the interview, I had to wait a little while before I could read it. (I bought a copy as soon as it became available. It's quite a book, and I'll say more about it in the future.) In the meantime, though, I figured that I could watch his TV series Piano Man.
I ordered a copy of the DVD from a third-party seller on Amazon for about ten dollars (which included shipping and handling). So the price was right. Here are a couple of pictures to get you started.
The splashy graphics give you a hint about the intent of the series. It's not meant to be the sort of supposedly respectable program designed for those who have already been initiated into the alleged mysteries of classical music. In short, the show isn't stuffy. In each of the seven episodes Mr. Rhodes introduces various pieces of piano music and then plays them while the camera rolls. As he plays, graphics pop up on the screen to give the viewer tidbits about the composer and the composition. It's all good fun and very entertaining.
What struck me most about the series, though, is Mr. Rhodes's autobiographical approach to the music that he plays. I couldn't help noticing that Mr. Rhodes has a nervous, twitchy personality. It's part of his charm as a host, actually. As he goes through the seven episodes of the series he mentions his lifelong psychological difficulties (without ever revealing that he is a rape victim) and explains how classical music has always helped him to feel better when he was down.
In other words, Mr. Rhodes's approach to classical music is therapeutic. Whenever he introduces a composition, he tends to refer to the difficulties that the composer was experiencing while composing the music. Mr. Rhodes then typically marvels at how the composer was able to work through his emotional turmoil and create something of such great beauty and power.
In this way Mr. Rhodes hopes to make classical music accessible to listeners who have never thought that classical music really was for them. Mr. Rhodes's thinking behind this approach seems to be something like the following: "If classical music can help me to get through life, then maybe it can do the same for you. Isn't that a reason to give it a chance?"
There's nothing inherently wrong with such an approach to classical music. We certainly can turn to music for the emotional comfort that it can offer us, and we can certainly luxuriate in the relief that it can bring us. But the emotional benefits of music, as great as they can be, aren't really explained by reference to the emotional life of the composer. Our receptivity to music of any sort is more complicated than that.
Telling us that composer X was feeling emotions A, B, and C when he (or she, of course, but Mr. Rhodes restricts his attention to male composers in this series) composed some piece of music really tells us very little about why we happen to be moved when we hear a performance of that composition. The emotional content of music comes from, among other things, the history of musical style and technique.
Furthermore, facts about the composer's emotional life tell us very little about the composition's emotional content. A composer need not feel happy in order to write happy music, or feel sad in order to write sad music. Sad composers who know their stuff can write happy music, and happy composers can write sad music. Once again, the mechanics of musical composition are more important than the composer's mental state.
Our emotional troubles, however varied they may seem to us as individuals, are actually more uniform than we tend to think. All of Mr. Rhodes's composers experienced the many forms of human misery common to us all, yet each of his composers wrote music that differs from that of the other composers. These composers also experienced joy and ecstasy. But how to express all of these emotions depends on style and technique.
The most important composers tend to be those who create forms of musical expression that allow them to express familiar emotions in new ways. These composers are the musical geniuses, and their originality becomes exemplary. They blaze a trail for others to follow, until some new genius comes along and shakes things up again.
Mr. Rhodes talks about style and technique from time to time. For example, in episode 1, when he talks about Beethoven's Waldstein sonata, Mr. Rhodes briefly discusses the way in which Beethoven used chords, scales, and arpeggios to compose the first movement. In episode 3, when he introduces Chopin's Étude Op. 25, no. 12, Mr. Rhodes fleetingly mentions arpeggios, scales, and repeated notes. And in episode 5, he talks about the impressionistic musical style when he introduces Debussy's Clair de lune. But, of course, he never goes into much detail on such matters. After all, the series is intended to entice people into enjoying classical music, not to lecture to them.
I'm not a member of Mr. Rhodes's target audience. I've been listening to classical music and opera for much of my life. I'm even currently translating a book by Richard Wagner. (See my Wagner posts for more on this project.) And since I'm not really one of his intended listeners, he doesn't need to convince me to give classical music a chance. It's all to the good, though, if he manages to win new admirers for classical music.
But since Mr. Rhodes clearly has a talent for explaining things to his audience, it behooves him to go beyond his preferred autobiographical approach. If he did, he could help to dispel some of the genuine difficulty involved in listening to classical music. It can be very complex, and thus can be very demanding on an audience, which no doubt turns away some people.
It's comforting to know that even great geniuses have the same problems as everyone else. It's slightly more comforting to know that the fruits of their compositional labor can move us deeply and help us to get through life's traumas. (And more power to Mr. Rhodes on this score, by the way. My emotional troubles fall vastly short of his. I'm impressed that he has managed to achieve so much.) But if you ask me, what is most comforting to know is that we can learn to appreciate the great works of musical genius that have moved and comforted us. The distance between great composers and mere listeners, while it exists, is not as wide as we tend to think. Mr. Rhodes is in an excellent position to help us to bridge this gap.
But, first, some photographs to get you started. Here are the cover and the title page.
Next, the table of contents.
As you can see, I read the revised edition, which was published in 2014. Because I haven't read the original edition, I can't compare the two versions of the book. But, of course, you should stick with the 2014 edition, since it's the more recent one.
As the title indicates, Mr. Badal's book is about the Cleveland Torso Murders, a series of twelve unsolved homicides that took place between 1934 and 1938. The story of the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run doesn't seem to be much discussed these days, which is odd, since these serial murders intersected with the career Eliot Ness, who became the Cleveland safety director during the time of the murders. Given Ness's place in American popular culture, regardless of how inaccurately his exploits are usually portrayed, you would think that more attention would be paid to his hunt for a serial killer. It's hard not to think that we won't eventually see a major Hollywood movie based on this story.
Mr. Badal makes a good case that Ness and the Cleveland police managed to identify the murderer, a doctor named Francis Edward Sweeney. Unfortunately, though, they were never able to prosecute him for the crimes. He spent much of the remainder of his life in and out of mental institutions, occasionally sending a taunting postcard to Ness through the mail.
If you read much true crime writing, you've no doubt noticed that a lot of it, stylistically speaking, doesn't rise above the level of semi-literacy. Fortunately for us, Mr. Badal's book is highly literate. I found his book to be well written and properly sourced. He does his best to support his conclusions with real evidence, and thus avoids the sort of speculation that sometimes ruins an otherwise good true crime book.
In some of my earlier crime posts I complained about a lack of maps. Mr. Badal's book contains maps of the relevant areas of Cleveland, but I have to say that they strike me as being somewhat rudimentary. Here are a couple of examples:
As maps go, these aren't especially informative, and since Cleveland doesn't have much of a place in our popular imagination, I sometimes had trouble getting a sense of where the murders took place. Some aerial photographs of Kingsbury Run would have been helpful, I think, but perhaps there are no such photos from the 1930s.
Since part of the mystery surrounding the murders involves precisely where Dr. Sweeney (if he was in fact the killer) killed, decapitated and dismembered his victims, perhaps it was fitting that from time to time I had trouble imagining the killer's hunting grounds. But don't let the poverty of my imagination deter you from reading this excellent book. I highly recommend it.
One word of warning. Mr. Badal's book contains several grisly photographs of the Mad Butcher's victims (or, in some cases, merely their severed body parts). So just keep that in mind if you're squeamish about such things.
Laura McKenna looks at how the use of adjunct professors adversely affects students.
From my own experience as an adjunctsee my academic autobiography for the detailsI know that the demands made on adjunct faculty often reduce their effectiveness in the classroom. But this can take many forms.
When I was an adjunct, I was fairly well paid and managed to do most of my teaching at a single school. So most of the time I didn't have to dash from one school to the next, but when I did have to teach at more than one school, I was able to take the subway or a commuter train, which allowed me to relax or work as I saw fit.
I was always prepared for class and was able to meet with students in my office(s) when they needed to see me. (I was fortunate in that I always had some sort of office space wherever I was teaching.) I even managed to write recommendation letters for students and occasionally was able to improvise a field trip (that sounds odd coming from a former philosophy professor, but it's the best description that I can think of) to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
But as the years of adjunct teaching went on, I often found that I was exhausted. This led to increased illness, among other things. Fortunately for me, I was never seriously ill, but I had to cancel more classes on account of illness as the years went on. And as I became increasingly sleep-deprived, there were a few mornings when I simply couldn't get out of bed, and thus I had to cancel class again.
The job search also became more involved, as schools became more demanding in what they wanted applicants to include in their application packages. So my job search tended to take up more time as the years dragged on. I didn't have any choice but to apply for jobs, so I occasionally had to cancel class in order to have time to get my applications in the mail to meet the deadlines.
So, I guess, the most direct effect on my students of my being an adjunct was my missing class from time to time as I tried to juggle everything that I had to do. (That is, I missed more classes than I would have if I had been a full-fledged professor.) I'd like to think that I didn't fail my students in any major way during my decade as an adjunct. I worked very hard and did the best I could. I'm just glad that I don't have to work at such a ridiculous pace anymore.
Paul Waldman wonders why so many politicians and policy makers think that the US needs a bigger military. After all, he asks, which of our many wars of the past half century was started because our military was too small? Precisely. So it's not really about defense, is it?
Mr. Waldman's article reminds me of something that I read years ago. Unfortunately, I don't remember the details, but it goes something like this. Lord Salisbury, who was the British Prime Minister several times between 1885 and 1902, once said in exasperation that his military advisers would garrison the moon to ward off an attack from Mars.
I think of Salisbury's remark whenever I read of renewed calls to enlarge our already huge military.
I'm reading a lot about crime these days, partly because the general topic interests me, but also partly because I've read a bunch of Colin Wilson's books during the past few years. I mentioned my interest in Wilson's work in an earlier post, and I hope to post about his ideas about crime in the near future. My own work has been taking up a lot of my attention, and so recently I haven't had much free time for blogging about my reading.
But I just finished Robert D. Hare's Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, and I thought that I should say something about it. It's a fascinating book, and certainly one that is relevant to criminology. After all, many criminals have psychopathic personalities. Consequently, some rudimentary knowledge of Hare's work might come in handy to anyone interested in crime, be it fictional or non-fictional.
Below you'll find two images: one of the book's cover, another of Hare's list of the ten key symptoms of psychopathy.
I have to admit that I was struck by how restrictively Hare formulates his concept of psychopathy. His checklist seems, at least to me, to epitomize confidence tricksters and unscrupulous glad-handing businessmen. Prior to reading his book, I assumed that lack of remorse and lack of empathy were the two salient features of psychopathy. Many people I would have characterizedin my casual way as someone who has not been trained in psychologyas psychopaths don't really meet Hare's more stringent criteria.
On page 175 Hare writes of psychopaths as leading "lives of callous self-gratification." I'm not sure that I've ever known someone who could be described in this manner, although I've known self-absorbed people who often acted in a callous fashion. Maybe that's the same thing under a different description. But there are self-absorbed people who can be brought to think and care about the consequences of their actions. It's just that they have to be pushed by outside influences to do so. Psychopaths, as Hare diagnoses them, just don't care, although they're often good at pretending that they do.
When I taught at the University of Pennsylvania, I met a few business students who almost certainly were the unscrupulous glad-handing type, but I never got to see them in their full glory in the business world. But they have to come from somewhere, and I'm sure that Wharton graduates its share of them. How else can you explain the financial crisis of 2008?
When I was in academia, I met many people who obviously possessed several of the traits on Hare's list. I guess, though, that their lack of imagination, their dogmatic certainty that they and they alone were in possession of the truth, and their indifference to the welfare of other peopleall of which taken together often produced behavior that seemed psychopathic to mewere what you should expect from highly introverted people whose scholarly training has convinced them that they belong to a special elite. But according to Hare's criteria, they shouldn't be classified as psychopaths. These people, whatever their faults, I would never have characterized as glib or impulsive. Some were certainly egocentric and grandiose, and obviously had shallow emotional lives, but they typically had tight control over themselves.
You might say that their personal rigidity was intellectual and emotional. They easily excluded other people from their moral purview, and probably did so because they did not regard others outside of their elite groupings as worthy of respect and decent treatment. Hence their abominable behavior. That seems psychopathic to me, but Hare's research indicates otherwise. I guess that for Hare it's just a rather involved form of learned callousness (perhaps grounded on a natural shortage of sympathy and empathy) that doesn't go all the way down to the roots of their personalities as psychopathy does with psychopaths.
Well, of course, I'm not in a position to settle this debate. I'm glad that I read Hare's book, and I recommend it to your attention. I'll take it as my starting point for future reading on the topic of psychopathy.
Once you've warmed to the topic after reading Professor Krugman's article, then you might want to look at another post on the austerity delusion. There you'll find an informative video from Professor Mark Blyth on the politics of austerity.