Friday, January 17, 2014

Paging Dr. Cbarl!

This post started way back when we decided to write about our search for a reputed photograph of Thomas Pynchon duelling with Richard Fariña while students at Cornell University.  We wrote the post and sent out a few queries to some of the people we thought might have been involved.

Investigating these individuals led us to write another post about a student protest, sometimes dubbed a "riot", that occurred about the time this photograph was taken in 1958.

One of the people we contacted was Carl Leubsdorf ('59), a veteran political journalist and past president of both the Gridiron Club and the White House Correspondents' Association.  He was also Associate Editor of the Cornell Daily Sun at the time of the duel photo shoot (The Cornell Daily Sun, Volume LXXV, Number 25, 24 October 1958).  These photos feature one "Ivan Cbarl":

Dr. Cbarl confirms Aladar's death.

Digging around The Sun archives, we discovered that Leubsdorf's name had been misspelled as "Cbarl" on a byline for an earlier article and speculated that Ivan Cbarl and Leubsdorf were one and the same. We also found a letter to the editor by Ivan Cbarl from a couple years later, and speculated that it was written by the same person.

We sent Mr. Leubsdorf a link to the post and asked him if he could shed any light on Dr. Cbarl's origin.

This was his response: 

I can indeed help you. As the blog points out, I was indeed Dr. Ivan F. Cbarl and the name was indeed inspired by the typo in which my byline appeared one day in The Sun as Cbarl P. Leubsdorf. I did write the letter when I was working for the AP in New Orleans.

The duel was conceived by the editors of The Sun, led by Editor-in-Chief David Engel and Managing Editor Bob Malina, for the Spring Weekend edition of The Sun. I was the Associate Editor, or editorial page editor, of The Sun. As the article points out, college newspapers of the day often had joke issues, akin to today's Onion, for special social occasions on campus. Our idea was to have a perfectly straight paper with the exception of the article about the duel. We had hoped to stage it in the middle of campus, in the Arts Quadrangle, but realized that, by the time there was enough light, there might be others there. So we moved it to the cemetery on Stewart Avenue, just below the campus. As the pictures show, the light was indeed not very good.

Farina was indeed Herman Hochkappler; I can't remember where that name came from but I don't think it came from another student; the name of the other dueler, Marcel Aladar, came from Editor-in-Chief Engel, whose middle name was Aladar. [...] The young lady, who was the object of the duel, was perhaps Farina's girl friend. She was not Diane Divers, whom I knew well and was in a number of classes with since we were both government majors. 

Heartened by this response, we sent him a list of questions:
  1. Did we get anything totally wrong in our blog posts? If so, can you clear up the facts for us?
  2. Who was using the name Ludlow in the photos? Just to clarify, in the third picture on our first blog post, was that Guy du Puy on the left and Ludlow on the right?
  3. Did Fariña write the dueling article?
  4. We'd like to know more about the pantheon of characters and pseudonyms. Aladar, Cbarl, Hochkappler, Ludlow, du Puy, Huntington...what other adventures did they get into, other than those we cited?
  5. In our article, we wrote, "If Minstral Island is a jagged look at concerns Pynchon and Sale would address throughout their lives, mightn't the Sun articles also have some use, however minimal, in that regard?" Any thoughts on this speculation? Can you point us to anything that Pynchon or Fariña wrote (or collaborated on) in The Cornell Daily Sun under pseudonyms?
  6. Do you know why Sale's arm was in a sling in photos of the protest?
  7. One of the four students who was initially suspended immediately following the student protest was identified in newspapers as as "Robert M. Perry". Was this Perry the same person as Todd (or Tod) Perry who was reportedly good friends with Fariña, Pynchon, and Sale?
  8.  As you can tell, we think this was a fascinating time/place to have gone to college -- with such talented group of students! Do you have any stories you'd care to share or misconceptions you'd care to clear up?
  9. Can you tell us if Pynchon, Sale, Fariña, and/or Perry appear in any of these photos of the student protests (see attached)? If so, can you point them out for us? These photos all appeared in the Sun's coverage of the student protest, although the first one is copied from an AP reprint in the NY Daily (by the way, President Malott is the person circled in this first photo). If it helps to see these images in the context of the Sun, here are links: images 1 and 2 (The Cornell Sun, May 26, 1958, p. 7); image 2 - The Cornell Sun (The Cornell Sun, May 26, 1958, p. 1).
Mr. Leubsdorf responded: 

Let me try to answer at least some of this. Perhaps my general discussion will help you with the specifics. 

One thing is important to understand: Though a couple of people were involved in both, there was no real connection between the May 1958 demonstrations and the fraudulent duel that was staged for the October 1958 Fall Weekend issue of The Sun. The demonstration that got out of hand was the culmination of a long battle between the Cornell administration, led by President Deane Malott and his executive assistant Lloyd Elliott (later president of George Washington U), and various student groups including the Student Council and The Sun over student rights. As such it was something of a forerunner of the more significant civil rights struggles of the early 1960s.

It was precipitated, as is suggested in the post, by the comments of Theresa Humphreyville (real name), who was chair of a President's Committee on Student Affairs. At a Student Council meeting at the beginning of the week, she made the inflammatory comment that "apartment parties (a term used for the presence of men and women at social or even academic gatherings in off-campus apartments) were conducive to petting and intercourse" and should be banned. I've always believed that her comment, reported in The Sun, was the spark that set things off. I was Associate Editor and David Engel was editor-in-chief and, following in the footsteps of previous editors Andrew Kopkind (56-57) and Kirk Sale (57-58), we roundly condemned the administration position. What started as a peaceful demonstration at midday got out of hand with eggs thrown at Edmund Ezra Day Hall, the administration building. A second demonstration at night got even more out of hand and led to the burning of President Malott in effigy and the march on his off-campus house. I wrote about many of these events in a 100th anniversary edition of The Sun in 1985. Sale, the former editor of The Sun, appeared at the nighttime rally, and was one of the main speakers who fired up the crowd. I believe he is the person pictured in the middle of the group with his hand up in the air. At the time, Sale, who was about to graduate, was living off campus with several friends, I believe including Pynchon, Seidler and possibly Farina. They were there with him, but he was really the principal figure as the former Sun editor who had led the fight against the restrictive student rules. His picture appeared in a prominent waythe one with his hand raised in a way that made him look like the ringleaderin many pictures across the country and, among other things, cost him a newspaper job he had lined up. Robert Perry and Tod Perry were, I'm pretty sure, the same person; he was another friend of Kirk's. I believe Farina is pictured in the picture that shows Dean Frank Baldwin, but most of the pictures are too crowded for me to recognize individuals. The Sun said that, while the cause was justified and the initial demonstration was a good idea, the nighttime demonstration was a mistake and the violence was inevitable. For that, we were roundly condemned by some of our former Sun colleagues. Ironically, Lloyd Elliott was headed for a new job as President of the University of Maine. The same edition of The Sun that reported on the demonstrations also reported on the naming of John Summerskill as Vice President for Student Affairs. Summerskill, a liberal, was very different from Malott and Elliott and, over the next several years, guided the administration and student body in a very different direction including far more power for a revamped student government. Summerskill later became president of San Francisco State University and was a central figure in the student demonstrations there in the mid-1960s. Many accounts described his appointment as resulting from the demonstrations but, in fact, he had been named beforehand.

The duel was totally separate, conceived of by a group of Sun editors, as a good centerpiece for the Fall Weekend issue. As I said before, like many college papers, we sometimes did totally fraudulent Onion-like papers for these weekends; this time, the whole paper was legitimate except for the duel. I've explained to you the origins of Dr. Cbarl and Marcel Aladar. The name Ludlow stems from a Linotype process involving the melting down of lines of type after they're used. Though Farina was Hochkappler, I don't think he had any further involvement in either the conception or the writing of the article. Pynchon was not the other dueler.

You've listed several names:

Carol Huntington was someone's girl friend, but she definitely was not Diane Divers. As I recall, we wanted sort of a willowy, long-haired blonde as the prize for whom the duel was fought. Diane, with whom I had classes in government honors, dated Farina at one point. She went to work in one of the 1960 presidential campaigns after graduation (I think Stuart Symington), moved to Arkansas where she became a well known professor of government. She and her second husband, a prominent Arkansas Democrat named Jim Blair, were married by Bill Clinton, and she became especially close to Hillary Clinton before her untimely death from cancer at 61 in 2000.

C. Michael Curtis, who had a lengthy college career before graduating in about 1960, was at Cornell at the time but I don't believe he had anything to do with the Sun parody.

Kirk Sale, as I mentioned, had graduated at the time. He and Faith started dating midway through college and got married after graduation (I'm not sure precisely when). Stephanie Greene had nothing to do with any of this. Stephanie Gervis '58, who later wrote for The Village Voice and married Socialist Michael Harrington, was Associate Editor of The Sun when Sale was editor, but was not directly involved in either event.

O. Kristin Osterholm had graduated in 1957. She was on The Sun but was gone from campus when all this happened.

David Seidler was, I believe, principally involved because he was friends with Kirk. He had nothing to do with The Sun.

Bob Wegryn was The Sun's Photo Editor.

Allan Metcalf's use of the name Marcel Aladar may well have occurred because he was a Sun staffer at the time of the duel.

I hope this is helpful. But I have to ask: why are you so interested in this?

We responded with a note explaining our interest (which basically boils down to our interest in Farina and Pynchon as artists, as well as our curiosity about this time at Cornell). We also asked for Mr. Leubsdorf's permission to post his emails and shared a draft of the article with him, and he was kind enough to allow us to publish this. In this email to us, he wrapped up by stating that: 

The 1958 demonstrations were among the most significant events of my years at Cornell, while the fake duel shows how much fun at The Sun often had. It may explain why, some 55 years later, I'm still writing for a newspaper.

Having read a handful of Mr. Leubsdorf's opinion pieces in the Dallas News, we see that this sense of fun combined with tackling the significant still comes through in his writing.

Well, this wraps up our fourth post on this topic. We appreciated the opportunity to discuss this seminal period with some of its key figures. We entered this series of posts about Cornell in the late '50s with a focus on a series of pictures of the fake duel, and, thanks primarily to Mr. Leubsdorf, we have identified half of the participants: the two duelists and the doctor. If anyone is able to identify the two seconds or the woman in the photos, we remain curious....

Thank you, Mr. Leubsdorf and Mr. Perry, for your recollections and insights into these tumultuous times and interesting people, including yourselves.  We would appreciate hearing from anyone else who we've discussed, whether it's to share more anecdotes, clarify any mistakes we may have made or just to tell us to knock it off and leave you alone....

Related articles on LoS:

* Start of a Duel (Buried in The Sun) (the post that kicked this series off)

* Teacup in a Tempest (our follow up to the original post)

* Cozy & Loud as a Camel in the Rain: An Interview with Mr. Tod Perry

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Laws of Silence has a Facebook page

I'm not sure if we've plugged it yet on LoS, but we set up a Laws of Silence Facebook page two weeks shy of a year ago.

On the page we link to all new posts on the blog, but we also link to articles and Internet discoveries pertinent to our longer posts and reflecting our various interests.  Some of these don't merit a post of their own or we're simply unable at the time to do something more with it.  Sometimes the links become posts, sometimes an accumulation of similar stories forces our hand to do something larger with them, as what at first seems an isolated event or data set becomes something resembling a pattern.

In any event, if you find that our posts are too long or more than you want to know about a particular topic, you can check out some links we've provided with no commentary.  There's no systematic way to determine what goes up, so it's "random" in the sense that we haven't said that every article of a certain category will gat a link, but the articles are usually about things we've covered in more or less detail on the blog.  Sometimes they're interesting updates to specific events with reference to posts we've done and in some cases they focus on things we may have only danced around.

I hope you visit and "Like" it.

Happy 2014, may all you hope and work for come to rewarding fruition!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Living Tarot in Bangladesh

Recent parliamentary elections in Bangladesh have resulted in violence, as these things are wont to do, claiming at least 21 lives as of January 6th. (Bharat Press).  This photo was snapped on January 5th in Rajshahi by a Reuters photog:

I know nothing about Bangladeshi politics and am not sure if that violence is being played out today.  No lack of respect intended but this shot seems so archetypal, kind of familiar.  To the point, it reminded me of the following Tarot card, the 5 of Wands from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck:

The Rider-Waite deck was first published in 1909, illustrated by Pamela Colman (1878-1951) under instructions from mystic A.E. Waite (1857-1942), himself influenced by master occultist Eliphas Levi (1810-1875) and the Sola-Busca Tarot (ca. 1491).

Colman Smith, ca. 1912
Colman had been initiated in the Golden Dawn in 1901, putting her into contact with Waite.  This commission is certainly her most widely known work; the deck itself is arguably the most widely-recognized.  I think they're beautiful and after almost thirty years I'm still struck with a sense of wonder as I remove the cards from their hand-carved box with inlaid flower on the lid I bought for them. It's Indian, I believe (wouldn't it be more full-circlish if it had been made in Bangladesh).  This box is a perfect size, as if it had been made to the deck's dimensions.  This was an inexpensive item from Pier 1 Imports.  My high school style relied upon Pier 1, my blue Mao cap (no red star) and Chinese slipper-type shoes were part of my daily attire.  New Waver, dude.  Strangely, these shoes were known among other people I knew as Jap Flats or even Pol Pots.  Something along the line of the "they all look the same" branch of genetic research.

Those shoes cost about three bucks and at the beginning had woven cloth soles.  Basically, they were a kind of espadrille; you could see them a lot in Kung Fu films, another 80's staple hungover from the 70's.  Those Mao caps were also de riguer for the budding young bohemian back in the day.

Back when I was a pup, this was the only deck easily found...I think I bought mine in a B. Dalton's or Waldenbooks down the road from my parents' place--for 8 dollars even--in a strip mall near the entrance to Northdale, one of the way-too-numerous unincorporated collections of subdivisions in North Tampa with the usual insipid names, evoking rural tranquility and the genteel life.  I often heard a snippet from Penelope Spheeris's Suburbia in my mind, a "sample" from the film found on the soundtrack:  "Slums of the future...."  Mainstream bookstores were much more limited in those days but you could still pick out some spine-tingling titles.  How many times did I look at those glossy black paperbacks until my meagre allowance or hoarded lunch money accumulated into enough coin to acquire them?  The Necronomicon, The Satanic Bible, or The Magic Power of Witchcraft.  I not only had to collect my money, but gather up my courage.  I was a D&D kid and these books were powerful for me, exuding a kind of danger.  I kept them discretely placed on my bookshelf behind such innocuous tomes as Singing Wheels or Little House in the Big Woods.  Not because I'd get in parent trouble or have them confiscated, but I wanted to avoid a concerned talking to; plus, these were my private interests.  A book of shadows should stay in the shadows.

The bookstore where I bought the cards might have even been the same place I plunked down a few dollars for Eden Grey's (Priscilla Pardridge, 1901-1999) influential A Complete Guide to the Tarot, published by Bantam in 1970.  I still refer to it from time to time on those rare occasions when I pull out the deck and have a go.  When I read, I don't usually have the book meanings in my head, but I do like to sometimes take a peek in order to stimulate my thoughts.  It was written with the Waite-Rider in mind and these cards illustrate Grey's text.

For a while in High School I ran with a group of self-styled Wiccans and that influenced my readings.  Why not, I suppose, but I would have been much-better served if I'd dug more into the Bible, the Kabbalah and the Golden Dawn, which spawned both Wicca and the O.T.O.  Wicca founder Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) and O.T.O. founder Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) had cut their teeth on its teachings and rituals.  Crowley even designed his own Thoth Tarot deck, but in my opinion they compare poorly to Colman's graceful lines and the deceptive simplicity of their composition and symbolic content.  Waite and Colman do less with more and her work has aged more gracefully; Crowley's additions just seem kitschy, crowded and contrived to be menacing.

Tarot for me is not about fortune telling, but it is a useful way to place some random data into a structure and contemplate the correlations:  numbers, suits, reoccurring images, Major vs. Minor arcana.  Hell, if we can use Rorschach inkblots to measure the psyche, why not Tarot cards?  I run loose with the cards and stick to the so-called "Keltic" cross layout or sometimes (rarely) a simpler three card technique for a quicker way to inquire about relatively simple concerns; I think less about traditional meanings than I do at developing my own series of impressions based upon the internal correspondences and little details that might catch my eye.  The meaning of a card, none of it inherent, changes anyway in terms of where it appears and in the relationship each card has with those around it.

I rarely look at the cards unless my wife mentions it and someone presses for a reading.  Sometimes I'm half-lit by this point, which is not the best state to be in when working with systems more complex than a bottle opener.  But some of these readings have turned out really well.  I elicit commentary from the querent:  "What do you see?  What does this bring to mind?"  I'm still excited when I begin to formulate a narrative while the querent is still throwing darts blindfolded (not literally!)  The querent's wide-eyed recognition can be delightful.  Not so much if the brow over the wide eyes is darkened.

Anyway, apart from the fact that I have a strange tendency to sleep in a position like the Hanged Man (XII in the Major Arcana), I have nothing here to add.

This was not intended to be a reminiscence or a "Tarot" post, merely a juxtaposition of two images.  In the first we see men fighting in a field using staves over the results of a disputed election.  In the second, we don't know the cause, but the strife and weaponry are the same.  The sky is blue and the day seems lovely.

The Waite-Rider deck is simple, yet not devoid of complex symbolism derived from Waite's extensive mystical knowledge; in addition to the Golden Dawn he was a Freemason and Rosicrucian who'd later write extensively on ceremonial magick, the Kabbalah, alchemy and other Western esoteric traditions.  I still refer to his New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (1921) whenever I write about Freemasonry or related topics.

All that knowledge is distilled into a series of 78 clean-lined and finely composed images of a Goldilocks just-rightness.

I love coming back to an old flame from something so (superficially) unrelated.  Time folds and the threads that keep the past and future bound together become visible.  Tie up the fraying ends or tear through them, let it all drift apart.  Apparently the ghost of someone, I can feel it overlooking my shoulder, is urging me on.  But that could be something else entirely.

2014: a query and a hope

Damn right.

The query

What do you regular readers want to see more of in 2014?  Any new subjects to visit or old posts to update and/or develop?

Personally, I'd like to do one more thing on the Knights of the Golden Circle (LoS label) after I've finished David's Keehn's book Knights of the Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War, which has already answered a lot of my speculations regarding their roots and activities.

After that, I want to get back to doing more things on French folklore, saints, Vierges Noires, odd little tales....a Gallic gallimaufry basically.  Also I still haven't started Stephen Curl's The Egyptian Revival: Ancient Egypt as the Inspiration for Design Motifs in the West.  I won't even link to this with my Amazon Associates code because it's a 40 or 50 dollar book and as such only worth it to a specialised reader.  Besides, if I get to it right after reading the Curl book, LoS fans should get a good review which ties in to the posts in which I've already mentioned the book or speak about specific examples of the Egyptian "revival".  I put this in finger-formed air quotation marks because this revival seems to be ongoing even today, although its heyday has certainly passed, the last big expression appearing to be the Art Deco period.  But then again, a few-hundred year old current is a flash in the pan compared to an empire that spanned millennia.

The request

I've personally asked pals and other other bloggers/writers to draw up a post for us on one of their favorite hobby horses.  So far some vague "maybes" and even some outright rejections.  One guy told me he writes nothing for free, for anybody.  Hey, I'm poor as a church mouse but I'll give you five or ten bucks, I told him, just for form.  No articles forthcoming.

We've only had one true guest writer and that is the very busy Dr. Kristen Jensen, DVM.  Her story about visiting the infamous Plum Island Animal Disease Center is hilarious and a glimpse into a world most of us will never get to see close up, with details that belie the image we might have in our heads about a Top Secret US research facility that looks into all manner of public health and military initiatives involving animals and the diseases that kill them....and us.

Oh, my mother wrote me a letter about her experiences during the Blitz that also made a great post and inadvertently perfect:  lots of little details, a straightforward style not designed to tug the heartstrings but do because it's not trying to.  Just the facts, ma'am.  She says something my which stuck with my wife:  "We were very poor, but we were happy."

All that to say:  guest bloggers are great.  I've interviewed sWineDriveR., and he's provided our banners and amusing images for a number of our posts:  Bush's head on a pike, anachronistic portraits of yours truly, Choco strips, excerpts from his films....  Actor Dimitri Diatchenko indulged us with an insider's look at "working class Hollywood":  real full-time actors, not stars, doing what they do as TV show guests, small parts in big films, bigger roles in the indies, video games, commercials, whatever it takes.  Poet Tod Perry and journalist Carl Leubsdorf have shared their memories and thoughts about Cornell University in the late-fifties, when Thomas Pynchon and Richard Fariña,were their colleagues.  It was researching Pynchon and Fariña that led to these interviews about the stimulating writing culture of that place and time and a less than mild-mannered protest cum small "riot" in 1958.  These guests and friends bring in new experiences and ideas, new tones and tenors.  A different voice, perspective, obsession:  left or right, we don't care as long as the general thrust of LoS is respected.  We're not a political agitators, nor journalist, nor academics, but we play at it sometimes

And we want you to come out and play too, Warriors.  Send us an idea, an interview, rough-hewn notes....or a finished gem.  We love to have contributors, but we want someone willing to take a thing from beginning to end

I'm tired of asking for this, but it is January, a new year, realm of Janus, god of gateways and transitions.  Won't you write something for us?  If you're a friend, a regular or a first time visitor, we'd like to hear a proposal, see a sample and give the green light.

We can't pay, but I'll send you a collage or some kind of little drawing by my very own hand.

Whaddaya say?