Friday, August 28, 2009


Hello Shepherd University! Nice of you to visit.

The admin of this blog is currently advising Matt Beynon Reees on his post-doc research on Floral Management. More anon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Laura Joh Rowland not only writes well researched and entertaining novels, she also gives a terrific interview. She is the author of the acclaimed Sano Ichiro series set in 17th. century Japan. Recently, she wrote Charlotte Bronte's Secret Adventures, a mystery that places the Victorian writer and her family center stage. Read what she has to say about her work at
While working on Joh Rowland's interview I read Jonathan Spence's biography of Chinese essayist and literary stylist Zhang Dai whose long life spanned the late Ming and early Qing Dinasties. Having lost his home and nearly all his possessions, including 30 000 volume library, and a priceless collection of art and antiques during the Cataclysm, the Manchu invasion of China, in 1644, Zhang rented a house in his favorite place, Happiness Gardens and set out to become a farmer. He learnt how to hull rice, how to care for silkworms, how to cultivate eggplant and pumpkin, and how to use his memory to reconstruct his paradise lost. here is what Spence, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus, Yale, wrote about Zhang in Timeasia Magazine,

"As part of his reconstruction of the vanished past, Zhang Dai wrote a further essay offering his readers the chance to construct the paradise for themselves. He gave all of us a blueprint for the use of air and space, in which wisdom was not buried underground or hidden by rocks but was part of an airy spring and summer world, where the formal placement of halls and corridors and pavilions was given logic by its relationship to the landscape of hills and trees, sky and water, always visible beyond. The constructed spaces echoed nature's rhythms, and paths led to waterways that guided one naturally to a river, curling through paradise to the north. There stood the gate, clearly marked "Paradise," and there was a bridge that might take one farther if one chose. But what would happen if one crossed it? Zhang Dai did not say; his paradise ended at the bridge. If we chose to linger there, he provided a chair, a breeze, and the clear light of the moon. The rest was up to us."

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Hello Argentina, East Northport, Westchester, Brooklyn, Carmel, Mineola, NY, Skillman. NJ, Augusta, GA, Lemesos, Cyprus, Parow, ZA. Pozuelo de Alarcon, Spain, Mill Valley, CA! Thanks for visiting.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
4 eggs
1 cup milk
8 ounces grated Parmeggiano cheese
6 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons coarsely grated black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 egg, beaten
Half a cup poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350F. Blend butter and eggs. Add grated cheese. Add milk. Blend flour with pepper, salt and baking powder. Add to liquid mix. Add cheese and rosemary. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Shape into two 12" flattened logs. Place logs on a buttered cookie sheet. Score, diagonally, at half inch intervals. Brush each log with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow logs to cool. Cut along scored lines. Return to cookie sheet and bake for ten minutes. Flip biscotti over and bake for ten more minutes. Allow to cool before storing.


A katydid does a superb job of blending with red salvia leaves . Photo by IMB

Friday, August 21, 2009



Identify the print media wonk who allegedly made this comment to a citizen who wishes to remain anonymous,
"You don't get young people. You only care about the value of property. That's because you bought a big house."
Hint--it did not happen in  our town. No, it didn't, right?


Hello Brooklyn, Ubatuba, Sao Paulo, Turkey, Winchester, VA, Shenandoah Junction, WV, Zionsville, IN, Finland, Netherlands, Chile, Edmonton, Canada! Thanks for visiting.

According to neighbourhood sources an eagle was sighted at Rumsey Park. Eagles are a protected species. Hmmm...Most interesting. Another kind of beastie few people seem to see at the park though it is there, is darling little copperhead snakes.--nests and nests of 'em. Will they be given free wine and beer? Hmmm. Hmmm.
There are beer guzzzling beasties almost everywhere these days and some of them are nowhere as darling as copperheads. I hope the municipality is not going to launch an extermination campaign. I am rather fond of Alfredo, an abstemious snake who lives under my front step. I would have to launch the Snakes Are People Too and Them Have Rights! Sure them do.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Hello all ye faithful Winchester, Sharpsburg, Bethesda,  Boonsboro, Eastern Panhandle Frontiernet clients, DC, California, NY, Texas, Bayern and ZA blog watchers. Hello Brazil, Malaysia, Tel Aviv and J'lem! This one is for you.

Pinacolada Biscotti.

If life hands you a fresh coconut, make pinacolada biscotti. The recipe is simple.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons golden rum
2 tablespoons Cointreau
2 teaspoons coconut extract
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated coconut
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup chopped dried apricot

Sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in three eggs. Add rum and Cointreau. Add flour mix followed by coconut, almonds. chopped apricot. Divide dough in half and shape each half into two 12" rolls. Place on buttered cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. remove from oven. Allow baked rolls to rest for 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut each roll diagonally into half inch segments. Return biscotti to cookie sheet. Bake biscotti for 10 minute. Flip biscotti over and bake for another 10 minutes. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Shalom Eitan,

The world does not revolve around village politics. My interview with award winning writer and illustrator Judy Byron Schachner certainly proves that there is more to life than local meshuganess. Schachner is the creator of Sippyjon Jones, El Skippito Friskito, the World's Greatest Sword Fighter. Imagine a blue eyed, playful, imaginative Antonio Banderas and you get the idea.
Que viva El Skippito!
Look for the interview at and
On another note, what is this about the staff of the Jerusalem Zoo making a wheelchair for a disabled turtle? Too wonderful. Enjoy Tel Aviv and act like a Jerusalemite. Your children will thank you. Kiss my friends and frown on eco terrorists.

Mrs. WVQuill


This morning, a pair of goldfinches attracted by thistles a resident of historic Shepherdstown failed to zap with Round Up, had a good nosh on the thistle seed bar. That happend near the little park soon to be the site of a series of sticky and sweet rock'n'roll concerts. So far the municipality has yet to issue a fatwa on thistles, but hey, everything is possible, n'est-ce pas? I mean, look at who calls the shots. Not a single greeny in the lot.

I hope the finches are packing ear plugs since the village's noise ordinance isn't worth diddly. Please note that once upon a time there was an EPA noise ordinance in place--yes, I repeat myself. It is unAmerican to be silent in face of bad government--but it mysteriously disappeared. What is this, pre-democracy Argentina?The replacement ordinance probably would not stand legal scrutiny. No one is challenging it yet. The municipal administration continues to sock it to the environment while its PR machine sets up a Potemkin village for the benefit of moneyed tourists.
Peron lives.


Momentous news--the municipal administration has installed parking metersnext to Rock'n'roll Park. Parking tickets will no doubt be dispensed, as usual, by the surly meter maid who patrols an area that is all of a four block square in an emormous gas guzzling SUV. The mayor is aware that not everyone in the village agrees with this, but since it is not election year, he feels no compulsion to make any PR gesture.

Expect those who cannot afford parking fines to seek political asylum in Czechoslovakia. This would solve the municipality's problem. The poor are not welcome in the village, but the rising cost of sewer and water services and parking permits for residents who do not happen to have a driveway, might not be enough to force all those below the poverty line to seek another place of residence. Forcing the elderly to trot back to parking meters every forty five minute or face ungodly expensive tickets might help rid the municipality of some of the unwanted impoverished section of the population. Mind you, there are some Georgetown tourists who get wicked angry at the cost of the local parking tickets--they claim that Georgetown's are less costly. However, it would seem that disposable income is less of a problem for them than it is for local persons on a bare bones budget. The mayor does not think that the tickets are expensive at all. It is Brigadoon all right, folks. In a pig's eye.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Sus scrofa domesticus, the homely pig, is not on my list of edibles. That makes me a member of a small minority. Pig farmers and pig butchers may disagree, but I doubt that I am missing much. As far as I know, eating pork does not make one particularly clever. In fact, there are a few Nobel Prize winners who have never partaken of pig flesh. That is not to say that there is a correlation between their diet and their intellectual ability. It is simply a matter of choice.
I am well aware that there are consequences for every choice I make. Setting myself apart from pig eaters, I am automatically cutting myself off from the greasy conviviality of bacon and sausage fests. The question is, how would this conviviality enhance my spiritual and intellectual life? Do I lose, socially, by not joining the majority? I am not a politician, I don't have an eye on a certain rung of the social ladder, nor I do have any desire to schmooze with who's who in the pig world.
Being marginalised is good for artists in general and it is excellent for writers. Balzac could never have immortalised French provincial life if he had not been distanced from it. I am no Balzac, but I happen to think that looking at the inner workings of a society requires a certain objectivity, a certain emotional distance. On the surface, this seems like lonely work. It isn't. Being part of a majority does not mean that one is not alone. Sometimes it means that one is too afraid to make the right choice.
Let those who would rather bask in the safety of being part of a crowd pig out. As for me, in swinish matters, I will continue to to abstain.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


It is not a pretty invertebrate to behold. Hugely fat, it oozes over sidewalks, leaving behind a trail of slime. When it finds something to damage--a fragile plant, for example--it begins to nibble at it with its little denticles. It should have a heck of a of a sex life, being hermaphrodite, but sometimes, it can only detach itself from its partner by chewing its genitalia.
The slugs in moist, damp places. It eats rubbish and carrion,in addition to feeding on green plants. Gardeners troubled by this slimy creature can take comfort in knowing that it has predators and that it cannot resist beer.
It hides from the sun, preferring murky hideaways such as drainpipes. It is usceptible to salt and ashes eventually bring about its demise. Ducks, turtles and birds are effective predators of this repulsive creature. Humans should avoid it at all costs, due to its poisonous nature.The USDA reccomends that "If ingested, one must vomit immediately." That should not be a problem. The very sight of it is enough to induce nausea on the viewer.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Dear Vaclav,
My village is going to hell in a hand basket. Consecutive years of bad municipal government have created havoc with laws put in place by people who really cared about democracy, the environment and a historic legacy of which their children could be proud. Granting permission for rock concerts in the last green space in the corporation's historic district is only part of the problem. There rats on High Street and residents of East High cannot sleep due the noise emanating from a honky-tonk whose existence which the municipal government made possible. Rats and noise do not enhance the value of housing and housing usually is the only economic asset the average citizen has. But there will be no Velvet Revolution in Shepherdstown. The very characteristics that make it unique--its fierce pride in individualism, for example--make it impossible for locals who oppose the Council's high handed attitude band to together, form a grassroots movement and restore the laws that were beneficial to the entire village. The bad laws, put in place in the dead of night, will remain in place. Some of the city people who moved here for peace and quiet will say, as a recent arrival,
"Compared to picking up bullets in my backyard, this is great."
Face it Vaclav, America has grown complacent, Obama's election notwithstanding. Shepherdstown is a little mirror of a great country in economic thrall to the Chinese and to oil prioducing countires. If you think I exaggerate, look at the national debt, for goodness sakes. We Americans have forgotten how to plan for the future. We settle for instant gratifacation, for whatever takes the lest effort to accomplish. My village is no different. We settle for what takes the least effort. We are selfish and greedy and we care nothing for that which does not affect us directly. We talk about healing the world but when it comes to the crunch we do precious little. We care about money, our cars and how much crab grass we can eliminate from our yards. So, what do you say will come to Shepherdstown and show Town Council what really matters in the long run? I am calling from Warsaw, another place where people know how to get things done. Will you tell the local Planning Commission that there is a way to effect change for the better? You can do it. You have charisma and you have clout and Shepherdstown loves ceelbrities. Velvet revolutionalize this place, guy. Pretty please, with sugar? VACLAV? Are you there?



Sentences useful for to when apply in Polish Embassy to asylum.

Dobry wieczor! Gdzie jestesmy?

Czy moze mi pan?

Czy moge skorzystac z telefonu?W porzadku. Spiesze sie. Do zobaczenia.

Thursday, August 13, 2009



NOTE This is a previous post and part of my failed effort to speak truth to power.

The concept of land stewardship is one elected officials in my village have yet to embrace. Take, for example, the little park in our historic district. It is small--something like an acre and half, at the most. It is the only remain green space within the village proper. As such, it is a haven for wildlife rarely sen in urban settings. Zebra swallowtail butterflies, Baltimore orioles, Carolina wrens, bluebirds, woodthrushes, blue herons, barred owls, pileated, redbellied, flicker and downy woodpeckers, ruby throated hummingbirds, nuthatches, chickadees, snapping and eastern turtles, the occasional black bear, all depend on its fragile ecology.

Through the years, there have been plans to disrupt the ecology of the park. The most pernicious was the proposal to pave over a large section of the park in order to attract skateboarders from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. That the person who put forth this plan was a local merchant who made it clear that he intended to profit from an influx of skateboarders raised no eyebrows. Perhaps the fact that the member of the Park and Recreation Board--aka Park and Wreck--who put forth the official proposal was married to merchant should have. It did not and it was only the high cost of liability insurance that kept Town Hall from implementing the proposal.

The latest threat to the ecology of the park is a series of rock concerts meant to attract large crowds. Town Council approved the concert promoters' request without consideration for the adverse impact high intensity use of the park might have on the local fauna and flora. Park and Wreck appears to have made no effort to set limits to use of the park. Actually, its role seems to be limited to finding new ways to spend the tax revenues accrued by hotels and casinos in the county. At no time have these revenues been used to maintain or improve park ecology. The thrust of Park and Wreck's efforts is to attract greater numbers of visitors to the park. More visitors require structures such as Port-a-john, which require space previously available to wildlife. Recently. town workers have destroyed a stand of blood root, one of the species of wildflowers that had survived previous depredations. It is not only wildflowers that suffer whenever Town Hall dispatches its minions to the park. This year, lilacs that were planted to honor local soldiers who died during WW II narrowly escape the fatal attention of municipal workers.
This is what I have done to try to shift the local authorities' attention from depredation to preservation,
  • I have sent the mayor, town council, The Wildlife Federation and all local newspapers an e-mail about the possible consequences of rock concerts and all high impact activities for the park's fauna and flora.
  • I sent the mayor an e-mail suggesting that Town Hall and the local university join with Cornell University to make the park a safe area for urban birds and to focus on educational activities that would not endanger the park's ecology.
  • I e-mailed Cornell University for suggestions. Cornell's Urban Bird Project is prepared to contribute educational material to be used in local schools which might result in higher awareness of the park's unique role in local ecology.
  • At the suggestion of the Urban Bird project I will be keeping a cyberjournal of events connected with the park's ecology.
  • I plan to design a website dedicated to this issue. In that website I will publish my correspondence with Town Hall and I will add a map to the park, photos and information on fauna and flora.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quiet, please!

It's no secret that I like a relatively quiet environment. I read, knit, listen to my vintage radio shows, cook, and do various other things, and no one's ever complained about the volume at which I do them. The neighbors haven't come to bang on the door in protest or called the police because I've been knitting at 2 AM. The animals haven't been driven away by the thumping bass of my spinning wheel, the birds haven't dropped from the sky because I'm reading too loudly, and the plants haven't withered because I'm cooking at too loud a volume.
There's a rock concert planned for the little park in our neighborhood. Forget planned! They've been actively promoting it. From what I've been told, the town sprang for electrical hookups in the park and this will allow any and all to use amplifiers for their music.
To say I hate music is absolutely incorrect. Once upon a time, there was a man who went up to the park to play his bagpipes. As it turned out, he was preparing to perform at a wedding. Then there was the elderly man who took his fiddle to the park one spring afternoon. There was also a classmate of mine who went up there to play his banjo, and I suppose there have been other people who have gone to take advantage of the quiet to practice penny whistles. None of them used amplifiers and none of the residents were bothered. So it's really not the
music that bothers me, but the fact that if it's amplified, it's impossible to escape without actually fleeing town and/or buying earplugs.
I question the wisdom of the coordinators' choice of venue. A 1.5 acre park at the end of a dead-end street is hardly the right place to have a charity event for a number of reasons--parking, inability of emergency services to get through if needed, impact on residents who may not necessarily want to hear a garage band blasting at top volume, impact on the wildlife who may be terrified, not only of the noise, but also of the people tromping all over their habitat without any thought for what might be living there. The promoters had a number of other options: the university football stadium, the university concert hall, the university's new theatre building, the
big park outside of town. All of those have electricity ample parking which would not only allow the tourists to fall out of their cars and into the venue without having to walk two or three blocks through August heat while perspiring and carrying picnic baskets, toddlers, and whatever impedimenta required to enjoy a concert. And yet, the promoters chose the park here. The only reason I can think of is that the venue, if you can call it that, is a mere stone's throw from the commercial district.
For about twenty years, dad's said that the town government's main aim is to further the interests of the two-block commercial district. None of the merchants will benefit from the concert because they're all closing in protest--which I say with heavy irony. Nor are they the ones who are affected by the problem since--surprise--most of them don't live locally, let alone in our neighborhood. Of course, if asked, most of them would probably say it's a wonderful idea to have a steady stream of people listening to a steady stream of amplified noise because it's for a good cause. I think there's a flaw there somewhere. Ahem.
The whole thing reminds me of a scene in
As Time Goes By. Lionel has gone to Norwich to plug his book and is unaware that the publisher has presented it as a gritty, nonfiction adventure in which a coffee planter hacks his way through the Kenyan wilderness while slaughtering elephants. In response to the publicity, a number of students attend the lecture in the hope of protesting the apparentatrocities committed against the elephants of Kenya by Lionel-the-elephant-killer. One of the students stands up and says, "Because of you, my children may never see a wild elephant!"
There may not be any wild elephants here, but thanks to the thoughtful people downtown, there are generations yet unborn who might never see an oriole or a bluebird in an urban setting, or hear the foxes barking or the woodpecker knocking. Dramatic? Maybe, but definitely

Edit: 12:30 August 13- Found this article. Am in total sympathy with the citizens of Prague but doubt that Madonna will cancel her concert just because three thousand people are against it. I wish them luck in their attempt, though!


About 3,000 protest Madonna show in Prague; concerns over noise, traffic

PRAGUE — Almost 3,000 people have signed a petition to protest Madonna's concert in the Czech capital.

Protest organizer Jiri Styler says local residents are afraid of traffic chaos and noise. The outdoor venue is located on a field between a major highway and a large residential area. Intense security measures, including road closures and transport disruptions are in place before Thursday's show.

Local authorities said the show must be over by 10 p.m. and organizers will clean up the area, It is being used for a concert for the first time.

Styler said the protesters "are horrified" that more big concerts could follow in the area.

Some 40,000 are expected to attend the show, part of Madonna's "Sticky&Sweet" tour.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The sweltering summer heat slows down garden work. Writing is a cooler occupation. I am thrilled with the answers I got from Julian Goodwin--please see his interview on my book blog, I am looking forward to hearing from Laura Joh Rowland and Louis de Bernieres. Fiction work is progressing and a nonfiction project in English and Portuguese is taking shape. Bear with me, Blotaniacs. I am working on a review of Wicked Plants, Amy Steward's wonderful treatise on flora that kills. I can tell you upfront that no serious gardening library should be without her scholarly books.

That is not to say that scholarship is the be all of summer. I have to stay indoors pounding a keyboard, but during breaks I amuse myself with gems such as these from the Elizabethan Curse Generator,

"Thou villainous elf-skinned ruffian!
Thou mewling onion-eyed dogfish!
Thou distempered rug-headed snipe!
Thou surly pottle-deep whey-face!
Thou puking pox-marked skainsmate!
Thou gnarling earth-vexing hugger-mugger!
Thou rank sour-faced codpiece!
Thou bawdy tickle-brained coxcomb!
Thou knavish toad-spotted minimus!
Thou warped crook-pated apple-john!Thou dissembling folly-fallen gudgeon!
Thou currish clapper-clawed canker-blossom!
Thou weedy flap-mouthed rabbit-sucker!
Thou weedy pale-hearted gull-catcher!
Thou vacant hedge-born varlot!
Thou fitful fen-sucked measle!
Thou jarring rump-fed haggard!
Thou cockered dog-hearted crutch!
Thou spongy toad-spotted miscreant!
Thou grizzled folly-fallen codpiece! "

Know any person who's cruisin' for a bruisin' malediction? I don't. Everyone I know is so amazingly kind, polite, civic minded, so focused on the greater good, so intent on Tikkun olam. Still, it is good to have a supply of these on hand for educational purposes.

P.S. About that bridge? The price still is half mil.


Alain de Botton lost it when lit crit Caleb Frain of The New York Times Book Review trashed The Pleasures and the Sorrows of Work earlier this year. The e-mail de Botton sent Frain ended with this,
"I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make.”
This might seem a bit much, coming from a man whose book on Proust is a literary romp filled with humorous insights. What are we to make of an author who talks of Proust, Epicurus, Montaigne and Schopenhauer, but seemsunable to apply their teachings to his own life? I think that it is safe to conclude that coming from a privileged Sephardic family, that having attended Harrow and Cambridge does not inoculate one from anger and disappointment. Brilliant essayist that he is, de Botton is not immune to righteous rage. Should he be? Should writers be judged by a standard other the the one used for non-writers? Why? Is writing work? Does it fit into the same category as, say, a wall built by a bricklayer. Why?
These are some the questions I have in mind for de Botton. I am not at all sure that his outburst was representative--he says that The New York Times has given him bad reviews six times in a row-of the way he deals with critics. Shortly after his blistering response to Frain, de Botton apologised and quoted Montaigne,
"To learn we have said a stupid thing is nothing: we must learn a more ample, important lesson: we are but blockheads."
Full disclosure, I love de Botton's essays on philosophy, his take on architecture and his ideas for a school for life. So the guy has the temper of an Iberian caballero. So what?
The garden rests in the sweltering summer wheather. Pentas, geranium,

Friday, August 7, 2009


I learnt to bake bread in self defense. That happened thirty some years ago when I was a green arrival to the frozen vastness of North Dakota. At first, the perishingly cold winter nearly did me in. Food tasted flat and unappetising to my Latin American taste buds came close to finishing the job. Most of all, I missed the crisp, warm baguette bakers delivered twice a day to my Brazilian home. In North Dakota, the pale, unnapetising loaves I bought at the supermarket had a mouth feel of ancient papier mache.
There was good bread in North Dakota all right. It was baked at home by people whose Scandinavian culinary history was rich, if utterly foreign to me. The Norwegian families I knew baked thin pancake like lefse similar to a tortilla, but made with flour and potatoes rather than masa harina. They baked rye and whole wheat bread, delicate pastries, delectable cookies richly flavored cakes and pies. A friend who had perfected her culinary skills at the kitchen of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, took pity on me. Under her tutelage I progressed from basic English muffin bread, to hamburger to bagels, golden braided Challah. I found a little health food store that carried a large variety of grain and flour with lecithin thrown in as a better for you baked goods preservative. I have been baking bread ever since.
Throughout my bread baking career I had two memorable disasters. The first was when I added so much salt to the dough--I am incapable of talking and mixing dough simultaneously--that the bread ended up tasting like a pretzel. The latest disaster happened yesterday when I prepared a a double batch of honey one bread minus the yeast. Actually, yesterday disaster was averted by a little risk taking. Once I realised that the dough had not risen, I decided that adding the yeast at that stage might just work. If it didn't, I'd have to settle for matzos.
I dissolved the yeast without using a thermometer--another example of risky behavior in the kitchen--and kneaded it into the load. It worked. I got the four beautiful loaves pictured above. One of them I will share with friends with whom I am having lunch tomorrow. It is my belief that baking bread is good, but breaking bread with friends is better.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Ever wonder what it is like to rub elbows, cybernatically speaking, with celebrities? I can tell you that it is not an unalloyed pleasure. The good thing is that pleasant or not, one never fails to learn a lesson whenever a very rich person whose much ballyhooed work got global attention treats every day folks disrespectfully. Uncouthness for the hell of it is a powerful tool as attention getter. No one uses it more effectively than a two year-old. In anyone above that age, gratuitous rudeness is less than enchanting. Some rich celebrities, however, seem to have trouble addressing ordinary people. They seem to need to remind those who do not breathe the same rarefied air they do that they are superior intellectually, morally, artistically, what have you.
In my last post I mentioned The Younger Pliny, whose letters are filled with real charm, delightful wit, a wealth of kindness and generosity. More importantly, they are masterfully written. Pliny was a lawyer who constantly sought to share his superior status with younger, less known lawyers. He freed his slaves and he cared enormously for his freedmen. He was gentle, kind, generous and he was supremely elegant in the way he addressed all and sundry.
It was not Pliny's good qualities that made his writing immortal. It was the quality of his mind. It is possible for a damned rude writer to write like an angel and it is possible for a gentle writer to write like a pig. The worst possible combination in the world, however, is a a poor writer who behaves badly. Pliny was a mensch. I would have liked to have met him in person.
For a view of how a thoroughly professional writer treats citizen journalists on cyberspace, please read my interview with Chandler Burr at or