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July 2008

Letters to the editor, July 2008

This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for July 2008.

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From: Mark Magill
Date: 16 July 2008
Subj: It is just “The face on the floor”

I really don’t understand why more people don’t empathize, sympathize or plain get the story…But my favorite poem by far. My father born in 1941 would deliver this once a year or so, he got sober 26 years ago. He always read it from a book of American Poetry that was his mothers (who was born around 1908)it was much older than the 1936 face on the floor in Colorado. That book gives the title as “The face on the floor” by Hugh D’Arcy. If you are interested at all, I can get the copy title and date of the book. I like “Face Upon the Floor” better, but I am sure that is wrong as well.

After some research I’m fairly well convinced that the original title was “The Face upon the Floor”. My original source was “The Home Book of Verse” collected by Burton Egbert Stevenson, copyright 1912, 1918. It gives the title as “The Face upon the Floor”. See pages 3864 and 3332.

A web search turned up “Famous Poems from Bygone Days” By Martin Gardner which discusses the poem and its popularity. Gardner also gives the title as “The Face upon the Floor”. In any case D’Arcy was the author of a book entitled “The Face upon the Floor and Other Ballads”. According to Martin Gardner it was first published in 1890 and then in a later edition in 1912.

A source of confusion is that Charlie Chaplin made a movie in 1914 entitled “Face on the Barroom Floor” based upon D’Arcy’s poem. Quite often the movie title is mixed up with the poem title. Sometimes people muddle the two titles together.

If you could find the particulars of the book that you mentioned I would take it kindly. If possible, see if you can get the title, the date, the publisher, and the editor.

Be all of that as it may, it also is one of my most favorite poems. Thanks very much for writing.

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From: Manuel Marino
Date: 14 June 2008
Subj: Manuel Marino – small update

Hello! How are you? I remind you that we are connected in one of my many networks. Just check my name in your network and read my profile if you don’t remember! This is a small update about me and my projects.

I send this email every 6 (six) or so months, so don’t worry, next one will be in December or January 2009!!

– I worked with James McMullan and Angela Rutledge at MTV London. Nice experience, they are very professional and kind. Ask them for all your multimedia needs!

– I made hundreds of spots clips for Spotzer (Netherlands). My contact there is Dennis Brouwer. Dennis if you read this: you are the best boss (and I can say more if you give me Karen number) 😀

– I completed my trance track The Stars, if you know a good label to contact, please tell me. I am very proud of this track and I would like to have a top contract for it!

– My Yahoo Group is doing great! Many topics and good people. We talk mainly about Music and Arts, but lately we had also Technology and Social discussions.

Fascinating. I didn’t even know I had a network and here I’m in one. I must have mislaid mine somewhere along with the rest of my life. Ah, I know, I shall spam the internet and create one there.
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From: Alan Oscroft
Date: 22 June 2008
Subj: Fashionable Nonsense

On reading your piece “Fashionable Nonsense” (, I notice you make reference to “Kuhn and Feyerbrand”. Presumably you mean Paul Feyerabend. I know typos inevitably abound (it’s one of the things they do best) and there are one or two others in the article, but in the case of people’s names I hope you’ll agree they should be corrected.

PS: I have been enjoying your site for several years now – many thanks for your varied and entertaining thoughts on life.

Thank you for catching the error. I suspect that subconsciously I thought of Feyerabend as a firebrand. I shall correct the error forthwith. After all, I could do no other for a gentleman with such excellence of judgement.
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From: William R. Hearter, Jr.
Date: 20 June 2008
Subj: Harter-Hearter-Heartter-Haertter

I found your notation regarding a name change for your branch of German “Harters” about the Civil War as well as it descending from a Caspar “Haerter” about 1750. I wonder if we are related and these facts are almost correct.

My Haerter/Haertter family came from Wuerttemberg, Germany in 1831. There were 5 siblings including Christian, Caspar, and George Haerter who accompanied their widowed mother, Regina Bessey Haerter, wife of Johan Georg Haerter IV who had died in 1820. They initially settled in Reading, PA. and finally Schuylkill County, PA. by 1840. By the Civil War, the family branches had split into Haert(t)ers, Heartters, and my Hearters. Most descendants are still in Dauphin and adjacent Schuylkill Counties in SE Pennsylvania.

I known of 2 Jacob Haerters by the Civil War, one from Caspar and one from Christian(b.1835).

I thought the similarity might correlate with your story. Please let me know.

According to the genealogical chart my mother prepared my line is descended from Caspar Haertter. He was born in May 17, 1815 in Germany, married in 1838 in Pennsylvania, to Susan Haveling. At some point he moved to Hamilton County, Nebraska, where he died in October 1883. His son, Jacob Harter, was born in Tower City, Pennsylvania, and was married in 1870 in Schuyhill County to Esther Amelia Stephens.

All told it looks as though we are indeed related. My mother was an avid genealogist; she probably had the relevant information in her notes. I will contact the family members who inherited her materials; I expect that that should settle the matter.

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From: Edi Wester
Date: 19 June 2008
Subj: Hiring Women

Here ya are!

I am indeed here. I suspect, however, that you meant to send a page URL to someone else and the gremlins made sure that a truncated message got to me instead. In case you’re wondering, the URL for the “1943 Guide to Hiring Women” page is
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From: Carl
Date: July/1/2008
Subj: Information for saturday 5th july as requested

Thank you for submitting your email request, The horse that will win runs at Beverley in the 4.05 Number 3 Celtic Strand. This is a free no obligation Tip following on from our previous 6 consecutive winning bets

You know, it’s odd, but I don’t in the least recall submitting an email request. It must have been sent by Alphonse, my Gentleman’s Gremlin of Typoes. He does these things from time to time. I will let him know of your kind tip. If perchance he should be on your horse and win, I’m sure that he will deliver to you all of the thanks that you deserve.
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From: morsed
Date: 16 June 2008
Subj: Beatific or Miserific Vision

In response to the query about the source of the quote on Beatific and Miserific visions, I have just started re-reading ‘Christian Reflections’ and had been dwelling on this reference in the foreword by Walter Hooper:

‘…And though there [seem] to be, and indeed [are], a thousand roads by which a man could walk through the world, there [is] not a single one which [does] not lead sooner or later either to the Beatific or the Miserific Vision.’ (Perelandra – tenses altered)

The author of the preface then develops the theme with a quote from Lewis’ sermon ‘The Weight of Glory’ to the effect that everyone you ever meet is immortal and will outlive nations, cultures, art and civilisations:

… ‘It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit…’

Hooper asserts that if all of Lewis’ works were to be published in one volume in chronological order we would find: ‘There are passages in some of the earlier papers where readers will find anticipations of his later work…’ So I would expect that there are other references to this vision elsewhere to be found.

One such reference that springs to mind is the tale in ‘The Last Battle’ where all of Narnia’s sentient life comes before Aslan and passes either into his kingdom or into the darkness.

As an aside and in Lewis’ defence, one character in that tale (representing such conscientious people as are described in Romans 2:14-16) recognises in Aslan those qualities he had been ascribing to and sought to aquire from his false god (Tash). This character enters the kingdom with joy. That Lewis was prepared to draw attention to this possibility has drawn criticisms of universalism, but it is a position backed by Paul’s “gospel” and the critics have to be overlooking everything he says about the two eternal states of being.

An interesting point here is that Lewis propounds essentially different thoughts in different works. In Perelandra and again in the Screwtape Letters we have the beatific and miserific visions. On the other hand there is no miserific vision in The Great Divorce. There Hell is a matter of infinite diminishment, sans devils and flaming pits of brimstone.

All of this is consistent with the contradictions within Christian belief. On one hand God is the Almighty, creator of the universe, and the source of all Goodness. There is no room for a coeval Satan within such a view. On the other God is, so to speak, just one of the powers that be, and Satan is his great adversary. Perhaps the case is that theologians want to banish Satan – evil is the absence of good – whereas the public wants the battle between Good and Evil to be a near thing.

The beatific vision is a Christian thing. Variants of the beatific vision are integral to the numerous varieties of mysticism. The beatific vision can be described, even if not accurately, as a sea of limitless joy in the midst of union with the divine. It is part of our culture; at least, that part of our culture that lies beyond the bounds of what Hollywood and Television have to offer. (Bill Murray did “The Razor’s Edge” which is all I need to say about that.)

The miserific vision is another matter. Judging from The Screwtape Letters, the miserific vision is supposed to be an intense ecstatic experience characterized by intense misery and despair. I can understand a combination of pain and ecstacy. They are notorious for keeping company. I’m not sure ecstacy and despair can coexist except as a romanticized counterfeit. Still, I suppose we can grant Lewis his miserific vision as a satanic version of the beatific version.

Faces are another matter. In “The Face of God” I wrote:

“For God to be meaningful he must have a human element, i.e., he must have a face. No human can be God, i.e., no human’s face can be the face of God. Ergo, the face of God must be human but unknown; to know the Face of God is to strip him of divinity and reduce him to mere humanity.”
Lewis, it would seem, had a different answer. God and Satan have faces – they have that essential feature in common with us – but they are not human faces. They may be idealizations of human faces, but they are not human. They only look human if you fail to see them for what they are, and you cannot fail to see them for what they are if you come face to face with them.

… continued on nex rock …

Thanks very much for your reply. I did not think my message had got through as I got a “failed to send” notification and I believe the post to which I was responding was over a year old and may have been a closed post.

It was a pleasure to hear from you and to revisit the topic. As for the time of the post, with me all times are now.
To your point that Lewis presents us with very different thoughts in Perelandra / Screwtape and “The Great Divorce” I agree that they are different thoughts but not a different statement of beliefs. Rather they are the same in being concepts of hell, but different in terms of aspects explored. In The Great Divorce Lewis is focussing on the misery that we have within us NOW, it’s a sort of “what if” story where present problems are taken to the conclusion of an eternity of “this-ness”. Even without the consuming misery of complete self awareness or satanic taunting I still find the cameos present something utterly miserable:

1/ Napoleon in a state of eternal denial, forever trying to blame someone else for why things went wrong. I know people like this, who build lie upon lie thinking to evade responsibility and in fact driving away every honest person who would befriend them.

2/ In place of the “onward ever upward” exploration of heaven hell is limited to what mankind can imagine, an eternal pointlessness of existence where houses are thought into being and abandoned when the novelty wears off or the neighbours prove to be below the individual”s standards, resulting in increasing isolation and futile wandering.

3/ Hell is so unable to comprehend heaven that the very grass causes pain to them. Thus the reality of heaven becomes an extension of the suffering of hell, and even the separation of the two is questioned. Could hell simply be being in the presence of God but in a relationship to that presence of hate, anger and misery rather than love, joy and peace?

Add to our self made misery a complete awareness, perfect memory recall, and we have something even worse. Napoleon would be robbed of the ability to cover up his responsibility, to conceal it from his own mind or anyone else’s. And on top of that we’re to expect spiritual creatures to be present which take delight in our misery – which is the full vision of Screwtape”s hell.

You’re ignoring what Lewis has to say in “The Great Divorce”. The grumbling old lady turns into a grumble. Napoleon endlessly repeating complaints about whose fault it is has ceased to be a person and has been reduced to the vocalization of a complaint. In the end, those who have not chosen God are dust to be blown away. The message here is that those who say, “My will, not Thine”, in the End have chosen nothing and become nothing. “The Great Divorce” is quite clear about this.

In the judgement scene in “The Last Battle” those who are judged wanting are cast in the final shadow. We are not told what happens to them, but the fact that speaking animals lose their power of speech suggests that here, too, they lose their very selves.

So, in some works, Hell is nothingness, and the damned do not suffer eternal misery because they choose to be nothing. On the other hand “The Screwtape Letters” follows the classical picture of Hell, Satan, and Demons with the damned being eternal souls suffering an eternal misery.

These are not simply different aspects of Hell; they are fundamentally different fates for the damned.

With regards to faces the first image that sprang to my mind on reading that was of Moses” coming from the presence of God (having only seen His “back” -Exodus 33:23) has to cover his own face because of it”s glowing and scaring the people. There God says that He has a face but that no man can see it and live.

It’s a sort of sun and moon picture, Moses having reflected glory of God in his face.

In this regard gods are like natural disasters – fascinating but beyond our capacity to experience directly.
I’m also reminded that Lewis wrote of the Trinity in Mere Christianity that The Son was begotten from all eternity and was the means by which all that is the physical universe was made. Thus God, in the Son, has always had a face but whether it was a face seen by unfallen man when they walked in the garden with Him is speculation.

My understanding is that in our present state this view would be deadly to us, but it is not a permanent state. Now we are at risk of making an image of Him which would seduce us away from our poorly perceived reality of Him, but as we develop (as individuals) our ability to love in truth and to resist temptation, the “dim mirror” shall become clearer and clearer until we see Him face to face:

1 Corinthians 13:12 (Amplified Bible) 12 For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].
I’m inclined to the view that the passage in quote is Paul’s version of Plato’s cave and has little to do with faces.
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From: Neville
Date: 16 June 2008
Subj: Where are they

Hi Richard,

I don’t think you mentioned my personal favorite as to why no one seems to have given us a call.

Assuming the speed of light limit is insurmountable, I would expect that virtually all visiting spacecraft would be robotic. So, if the home planet is vastly distant from us, Mrs. Robot clearly has to work without instructions.

Guess what the First Instruction might be: Observe Without Being Observed! After all, the people you’re observing might be nutty fruitcakes who build enough bombs to destroy their entire species 25 times over, and let millions of people starve to death, while others have more income than they can even count. Get the picture???

If a spacecraft sent by a technology even a few hundred years ahead of us wanted to observe us without being observed, we would have as much chance of becoming aware of the situation, as would Neanderthals being studied with pinhead microphones and nanotech video devices.

Warp speed and hot keyboards,


I suspect that nonobservability is a short term sort of thing, i.e., the window of time between the onset of an industrial revolution and being able to spot advanced technology intruders in your space is only a few hundred years. To us a few hundred years is a big deal but to species accustomed to operating in deep time it is a momentary phase transition.

Now what could be happening is that we have been under observation by robots for the past thousand years or few. What’s going on is that the robots have noticed that the natives are getting restless, and they have sent home for instructions.

One scenario is that all those reports about aliens kidnapping people are true. (The ‘aliens’ are biological robots.) Their masters back home are fascinated by our peculiar biology, culture, and psychology, and want to know if humans can be used in a galactic freak show.

I wouldn’t worry too much about our species being considered nutty. The deal on that is that IMNSHO evolution cannot produce a sane technological species. Social species are not nice – to quote from “Bill, The Galactic Hero”, it’s always bowb your buddy time. Whether we need to be sane as a species or whether it is even possible is open to question. Either high tech species can survive without sanity, in which case we would be just another member of the club, or they can’t, in which case … well, whatever will be will be.

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From: Nick Dillard
Date: 13 June 2008
Subj: Whatever


I’m sorry, Nick, but I don’t handle cattle chutes. I’ve never handled cattle chutes. If per chance I do in the future I will let you know.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 7 June 2008
Subj: Swedish citizenship

I shall grant you your Swedish citizenship. It is conditional, however. You must retroactively embrace those aspects of the Old Country which caused your ancestors (and mine) to leave the damned place.

My grandmother reported that she had problems with the Lutheran Church, especially with bishops. I suspect that it might have been one bishop in particular, but have no details. Other known problems in Scandinavia were military conscription (those peaceful Swedes used to be those nasty Vikings) and the ending of primogeniture. Famine was not unknown. So they set out for America, and reached a fruitful area that reminded them of the bleakness of home: the upper Midwest.

My father visited Sweden in 1946 or 1947. His employer, the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, needed someone to bring back a ship that had no captain. The captain had died by his own hand when he was found to have been involved in loose living, involving (so I have heard, but I was young when I was a wee lad) wine, women and song. Maybe it was gambling, not singing. Cleary the cause was the influence of those Immoral Swedes who stayed home i gamla landet.

At any rate, my father reported that he had no temptation to live in Sweden. “You need permission for everything,” he said. “There’s a local committee that has to approve the words on your tombstone.”

As you and I approach the Stone Age, or more precisely the Tomb Stone Age, we should be wary of asking for citizenship in such a censorious country.

As for the good aspects of Sweden, the singing (did I mention it already?) is good, as is the dancing (the hambo) and fiddle playing (including the nyckelharpa). The singing must be done in Swedish. Are you ready?

Since my ancestors left Sweden for Denmark and then Denmark for America, I can only conclude that Denmark is midway between Sweden and America, much as the Habitable Earth is midway between Heaven and Texas.

BTW, my apologies for not answering sooner. I have been building things such as cabinets, fencing for a community garden, and software. I’m sure I had a life somewhere; I will find it as soon as I get organized which will happen as soon as I get a life …. oh, dear.

… continued on nex rock …

Richard Harter wrote:

> fencing for a community garden

Yes, someone should do that in the SF community, particularly now that the noted fencing expert Dr. Patri Pugliese ( has passed away. The idea, I presume, is to fend off evil being who might harm the community’s Pine Tree Proper (and other plants within the counties of South Dakota) with the threat of impalement or worse.

My fencing tasks are mostly concerned with defending the garden against the ravages of rabbits. Some may share the popular misapprehension that rabbits are cute little things and no worthy foe for a skilled fencer. Anyone who has seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail knows better.
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This page was last updated July 17, 2008.

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