This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, March 3, 2023.
If you pay attention to these things, you hear a lot these days about “public shaming,” and its subsidiary concept, “body shaming.” These two activities are generally thought to be bad, if not evil. I would agree. Holding people up to public ridicule is, on the whole, not a productive activity in my view.
Running counter to all of this, however, seems to be a marked lack of shame by many people in public life. Not too long ago, a politician who got caught in a lie would experience public remorse, if not the end of his or her career. Today, a congenital liar continues to lie and never apologize or acknowledge the lies. Someone who commits outrageous acts in front of millions of people can not only exhibit a notable lack of shame, but that person is actually rewarded with increased attention from the mass media.
So, where does that leave those of us who consider ourselves naïve keepers of the values we learned as children. One of the basic principles that was repeated to me often when I was a child and did something wrong was, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” (I usually was.)
I am certainly against “public shaming,” but I also can’t help feeling that there is not enough shame in our public lives. I’m still trying to sort all this out.
Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.
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Charles Henry Turner, a ground-breaking zoologist
Decades before the world had ever heard of the great entomologist and writer E.O. Wilson, Charles Henry Turner was taking a close look at the behavior of insects, particularly ants and bees.
Turner’s observations and discoveries about the social instincts and behavior of insects would set the stage for much of the scientific exploration by Wilson and others that was to occur during the 20th century.
Turner rarely gets the credit that he is due for his groundbreaking research in this area. In great part, that is due to the fact that he was born in 1867 and was an African-American. His skin color prevented him from obtaining the academic position that he deserved, but it did not in any way dampen his enthusiasm for finding out what made the little critters around us tick.
Born to working-class parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, Turner graduated as valedictorian from Woodward High School in 1886. He went from there to the University of Cincinnati and obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1891. A summary of his undergraduate thesis on the neuroanatomy of bird brains was published in the journal Science in 1891. He was the first African-American to have an article in that publication.
In 1892, he earned a master’s degree in science, also from the University of Cincinnati, and he remained at that university for another year as an assistant instructor in the biology laboratory. He went from there to Denison University to work on his doctorate. He did not complete his degree, however, because his program of study was discontinued.
Turner held several teaching positions at various schools, including Clark College, now Clark Atlanta University, for the next dozen or so years. He then went to the University of Chicago where he earned a doctorate in zoology in 1907.
Collegiate teaching positions were extremely rare for African-Americans at that time, and Turner and his new wife, Lillian Porter, finally settled in St. Louis in 1908, where he taught science at Sumner High School. He stayed there until his retirement in 1922.
Despite the restrictions imposed upon him because of his race to research libraries and laboratories, Turner was determined to follow his dream of finding out about the habits of vertebrates and invertebrates. During his 33-year career, he published more than 70 papers on a wide variety of topics in this area.
Turner looked at how insects navigate, the way in which they feign deaths, and many aspects of how they learn. He was likely the first investigator to apply Pavlovian conditioning to the invertebrates that he studied. He also discovered color recognition among honeybees, and looked at how cockroaches trained to avoid dark chambers. Much of his research challenged the traditional thinking about what insects did and how they responded to their environment. One of his major discoveries was the fact that insects use experience to modify their behavior.
In addition to his scientific work, Turner was an advocate for increased civil rights and better educational opportunities for all people. He believed that the answer to racism was education.
Turner retired from his teaching job in 1920 because of ill health. He died at the home of his son in Chicago in 1923. He was 56 years old.
Since his death, numerous schools in the St. Louis area have carried the name Turner in honor of his life and his work.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
From the archives: G.K. Chesterton: Everything about him was big
In so many ways, Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton (1874-1936) was an enormous man.
– Physically, he was massive: 6 feet 4 inches tall, he weighed more than 250 pounds. He had a shock of hair that on many days looked like it had exploded out of the right side of his head.
– His range of writing covered multiple genres: non-fiction, critiques and reviews, mystery novels, editorials, social issues, biographies (Charles Dickens and St. Francis of Assisi, to name a couple), and others. He produced a weekly newsletter, G.K.’s Weekly, for much of the last 15 years of his life. There were few topics and genres that escaped Chesterton’s pen.
– Chesterton’s wit was original and entertaining. He had a talent for turning words, phrases, and ideas inside out and forming structures that were brief and memorable. For instance: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
– He was friends with most of the major intellects of his day, even those with whom he differed. He once said to George Bernard Shaw, “To look at you, one would think that famine had struck England.” Shaw replied, “To look at you, anyone would think you had caused it.” Shaw also said of Chesterton, “He was a man of colossal genius.” Besides Shaw, he was friends with the likes of Hilaire Belloc and H.G. Wells, among many other notables.
– His absent-mindedness was legendary. One of the many stories about it was that Chesterton once found himself in a train station he did not recognize. He telegraphed his wife: “Am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” She replied, “Home.” Fortunately, Chesterton could write just about anywhere, and he did a lot of writing in train stations.
– The influence of his writings spread far and wide. C.S. Lewis attributed his conversion to Christianity to Chesterton’s writings; Mahatma Gandhi was “thunderstruck” by a Chesterton piece published in 1909; Irish Republican leader Michael Collins read and re-read Chesterton’s novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill; and the list goes on and on.
We will explore some of those influences in future posts. Meanwhile, enjoy the caricature presented here. I think G.K. might like it. Among his many areas of genius was the fact that he was an artist and began his career as an illustrator. While working as an illustrator for two London publishing houses, he began writing freelance articles of art criticism.
In that writing, Chesterton found his true calling. Fortunately for the world of letters, he followed that path.
Next week: Chesterton on the detective story.
New rules for the 2023 baseball season (part 1)
Now that the 2023 Super Bowl is dead and buried and the so-called March Madness irritation will end by the end of the month, it is time to turn our minds to the truly important considerations of the coming baseball season. Major League Baseball is imposing several important rule changes this season, and it will be especially intriguing to see how those new rules play out.
I should say, as a matter of full disclosure, that I am a longtime fan of the game, and I put myself in the category of a “semi-traditionalist” when it comes to changes in the game. I still do not like the concept of the “designated hitter,” but I am realistic enough to know that ship sailed about four decades ago. Still, I think pitchers should have to get into the batter’s box at least once a game.
One of the new rules that will be instituted this season is a time clock for pitchers and hitters. When no one is on base, a pitcher must throw the ball within 15 seconds of an umpire starting the time clock. When there are base runners, a pitcher has 20 seconds to throw the ball. (Read more about the new rules at MLB.com.)
At the other end of the battery, a batter must be in the batter’s box and ready to take the pitch with at least eight seconds left on the time clock.
This rule concerns me for a variety of reasons. A batter’s concentration should be on the pitcher and the ball that is heading toward him—often at 90-plus miles an hour. A batter who is not concentrating on that, and that alone, will have an increased chance of being hit by the ball and sustaining a possibly-serious injury.
I am very interested to see how both batters and pitchers cope with the idea of the time clock, and I sincerely hope that no one is injured because the clock is now part of the game.
I will likely have more to say on other changes in the rules as the 2023 baseball season progresses. But, with that said, it’s time to “Play ball!”
Group giveaways for March
Kill the Quarterback, Point Spread, and Murder Most Criminous are part of several group giveaways this month:
Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.
Vince V.: Your caricature of Graham Greene has always been one of my favorites. As young people say today: “You nailed it.”
The Quiet American by Greene has always been one of my favorite books. I knew of some of Greene’s clandestine activities, but I look forward to the podcast.
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: Mountain trail bridge
Best quote of the week:
Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action. James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat (1819-1891)
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
1st United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee (full disclosure: my home church) is offering daily devotionals that will land in your in-box every day during Lent. They are written by church members and take less than a couple of minutes to read. (And yes, I have written one of them.) Sign up to receive them here.
Helping those in need
Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: The espionage activities of Graham Greene, the literary merits of Spare, and the last of February’s giveaways: newsletter, February 24, 2023
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