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Letters to the Editor – 1997

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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.

Index of contributors

Uwe Günther writes:
Subject: guess you are boring

I was just flowing over your page about my hometown Cancun and I was really pissed because of your comments. I don’t know what kind of you are but how can you judge about something, you don’t even know? Maybe you should write something about the cooking from your mother the next time. I’m not sure you know what she’s doing, but maybe you appreciate the taste.

Since 1997 has just about run out I guess this has to be the winner of the “flakiest letter of the year” contest. Last years winner, Lanny Myers, was as vitriolic, albeit his command of the English language was better. It’s all very sad. You just can’t make some people happy.

In case you’re wondering what all of this is about, I spent Christmas in 1996 in Cancun and wrote a little essay about my visit. Uwe Günther (an unusual Mexican name) is unhappy with some of my comments. It’s not entirely clear what although I expect that he took strong exception to some comments about Mexican food.

Harvey Stroud writes:


I love the homepage! I am a final year student of Paleontology at Liverpool University here in the UK. My end of term thesis is on the formation of stromatolites ( pretty standard stuff ), and Ichnofosslis and other life traces ( gets a little trickier in parts !)

Obviously, I have a great…nay DEEP interest in Seilacher, and his ideas on uniformity in marine invertebrate ichnology, however I am currently experiencing HUGE problems finding any information regarding the ichnofossils of two of the most important organisms of the Precambrian era, ie the Sabre toothed sausage dog and the duck-billed donkeysaurus.

If you could find your way clear to directing me down the correct avenues of exploration I would be forever in your debt, and who knows, I may even get a first !!!


I am in receipt of your message of the 15th. I am delighted to see that students today are pursuing the study of Paleontology with such vigor and, may I say, inventiveness. Regrettably I cannot help you to the extent that I would like to.

The definitive study of the Precambrian Sabre toothed sausage dog is, of course, is Krankheit’s 3023 page monograph. It is to the highest degree unfortunate that he chose to write it in the transliterated script of Wackawack tribe of New Guinea. I say unfortunate because the last member of the Wackawack tribe expired last thursday in a chain-saw accident. The plates are, I am given to understand, excellent and I commend them to you. It is true that the labels are unreadable but that is all to the good – it is notorious that most of the plates were incorrectly labelled in the first place. I myself do not have a copy but it is believed that copies still remain at the Osteohead Institute in Brrgvh. (Whether Brrgvh is in Bosnia or Albania is a bit mysterious; my understanding is that each country claims that it belongs to the other.) Rumor has it that because of the current political difficulties the Institute has been closed and has been converted to a small factory manufacturing plastic sausage dogs for Chinese tourists. You could, of course, go into the field to search for new finds. The Mt. Everest beds have been well picked over and somewhat despoiled – the locals have quite a little black market trade palming off sausage dog fangs as fossil Yeti fangs. However the K-2 site is still unexplored and quite promising.

The duck-billed donkeysaurus is more of a problem. As far as I know there are only two extant finds, the single tooth found near Alice Springs in Australia, and the almost complete specimen (missing one tooth) found in Turkestan. Do not be fooled. The supposed third find, the Panamanian specimen, is an obvious forgery. The duck-billed donkeysaurus is no doubt of great interest to you because it was a stromatolite grazer. Chilblaine is of the opinion that overgrazing by the donkeysaurus led to the collapse of the Precambrian ecosystem which ushered in the subsequent Cambrian explosian. As you probably know, the specimens were on the same train as the Peking Man fossils. Find them and you find donkeysaurus. I am confident that you will have no difficulty.

Do study hard. I hope that I have been of some little assistance in the advancement of your academic career.

Your obedient Servant, Richard Harter

Anne Lewis writes:

Hi there.
I was surfing the net in desperation of finding some information on, among other things, post modernism and Yahoo! spat out your home page as a prime starting point. I couldn’t help but notice however, that your site is dedicated to a certain Richard McEllwee who in your many pictures bears an undeniable resemblance to THE Richard McEllwee of Sherman’s March and Harvard film school fame. Being a film student at Northwestern, I have seen Sherman’s March on several occasions and praise it highly. Is this just a strange coincidence or are we talking about the same man? I would love it if you would email me back if you get a chance. My email address is [email protected]. Thanks — and great site!

P.S. What’s this about Clementine and the Marine Corps battle hymn?

Oh Lordy me – Yahoo thinks my home page is a prime starting point for post modernism? I am, ahem, startled. The strength of my emotions upon learning this is of such force that no ordinary phrasing can encompass my reaction and I needs must resort to the most drastic understatement.

I fear we are looking at a coincidence. My Richard McElwee was a close personal friend, an engineer, a sometimes social activist, and a thorough going womanizer. He was not THE Richard McEllwee. The pictures that you refer to are, methinks, those of your humble scribe. I haven’t seen Sherman’s March, although I shall keep it in mind on your recommendation.

I assume that you are aware of the words and tune of Clementine. The Marine Corps hymn, perhaps not. The score is suitably martial. The words of the first verse go:

From the halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli
We will fight our countries battles
On the land as on the sea

First to fight for right and freedom
Then to keep our honor clean
We are proud to bear the title
Of United States Marine

My Richard McElwee had been in the coast guard many years ago. As you may know there is a certain amount of interservice rivalry between the branches of the military. He and some of his compadres used to taunt Marines by singing the Marine Corps hymn to the tune of Clementine (In a cavern in a canyon, excavating for a mine,…). This was usually good for an amiable discussion of the fistifuff variety. He was wont to do this sort of thing; he would wear an Orange suit to South Boston (the heart of the Boston Irish) on Saint Patricks day. After the inevitable fight he and his new found friends would get drunk.

In any event he told me once about his musical maladaptation. I liked it; it appealed to my sense of the ridiculous which is quite lively. I promptly turned it around and sang Clementine to the martial strains of the Marine Corps hymn.

I would utter the usual words expressing that I hope I have been of help were it not for my distinct doubt that this missive constitutes help of any sort. On the other hand it may have been amusing. Be that as it may I sincerely appreciate the compliment on my site.

Michael Poyzer writes:

More power to your web site.

I suggest that the US Government should sponsor you and your ilk (I believe this is some kind of friendly deer).

I’m firmly in agreement with your suggestion about government sponsorship provided there is no enquiry into the contents. Ilk, if I apprehend correctly, is the past tense of elk. Since they are no longer tense it is natural for them to be friendly.

Although…I have just been caught laughing out loud (enjoying work is considered a sign of instability, especially during company hours) by my colleagues and the men in white coats have been summoned. I’ve requested the women in white, shiny plastic coats but to no avail.

I dunno about that. Those women in white, shiny plastic coats are leftover extras from Barbarella. They’re a bit older than you think and the plastic is not confined to the coats. Settle for the men in white coats.

Explain to your colleagues that laughing out loud does not indicate that you are enjoying your work but rather that it is a nervous tic induced by stress. This may get you a promotion. I, myself, am noted for my hearty laugh and find it quite useful. Often is the time when I enter a crowded subway car, chuckle to myself, and find that several seats in all directions from me are suddenly empty. I pay no attention to the worried looks.

Bob Oppenheimer writes:

There’s some very funny stuff on your site. I can’t wait to show some around the engineering department Monday.

Following is a joke from hope you find it funny too.

I had indeed seen the joke before but had mislaid it. Deeming it worthy of the august pages (actually the december pages, but schedules slip) of this site I have added it as The Sad Story of the Cobol Programmer.
The word about this excellent site seems to be spreading much like a waistline in latter years. I’m sure this says something about the place of the web in the intellectual resources of the human race. Perhaps it would be better if we not speculate about what it says.

JC Howard writes:

Thanks for a good story! Followed the link from the “Daily Bikini” and (as usual) didn’t know what I’d find.

I’m not the least bit a horse-knowledgeable guy; my ex was an enthusiast, even though, like Leslie in your story, she chose parents who didn’t own horses: the closest she came as a kid were the Herefords her folks raised for a few years. She did the craft sales at a few horse shows toward the end of our long but uneventful marriage and I even tagged along, for whatever reason.

I ride motorcycles — on the open road: my one and only off-road experience resulted in bent and missing parts (motorcycle only, fortunately) and some bruises and torn clothing. That was quite enough. Still, on the open road, folks in cars have no idea what they’re missing: sewage stench, bird droppings, and bug splats (had a .45-caliber bug hit me in the throat one time .. oh, and the hornet inside the helmet visor). But that’s communing with nature in a way unknown to folks in “cages.”

Anyway, I only wanted to say I enjoyed your story, especially the under-stated humor. Thanks for making it available to the unwashed masses via the world-wide web.

Thanks for writing. I’ve never done the motorcycle trick except once or twice as a passenger. I’ve never done the hang glider bit either. I guess life has just passed me by. Your description of all the things I’ve been missing almost makes want to get right out there on a Harley. I don’t suppose I will though – no adventure in my soul and all that.
I have ridden bicycles on roads used by commuters. I forgot about that. Cars stink. You don’t realize it until you’re peddling along sniffing the lilacs by the side of the road when, all of a sudden, a string of cars go by.

Don writes:

Re stuffed camel:
I just could not believe that this was possible! Now that the timely and traditional turkey dinner is overwith, I have a new idea for Christmas and the neighbors. Thanks for the needed humor.
Do you know the best place, besides the zoo, for camel?

I think they are still raised and used in the South West. A quick web search didn’t turn up any leads. There’s a camel market in Luxor, though. (Don added in a followup note that he heard about the recipe on a talk show.)

Melissa_Sanchez writes:

I’ve been trying to look for information on modernism in literature. Do you have any information or web pages I can look for?

Thanks, Melissa Sanchez

I’m not the chap to answer this but the ever helpful moggin provided the following.
Could you be any less specific? Here’s a few, off the top of my head. Hugh Kenner’s The Pound Era is wonderful — definitely my top recommendation. The Modern Tradition, ed. Ellman and Feidelson, is a big, fat teaching anthology. Oxford Press has a smaller one, edited by Kermode and Hollander, with a tighter focus; Modern British Literature is the title. There’s a helpful collection of essays called Modernism, ed. Bradbury and McFarlane. Modern Poetics is a nice anthology of statements by poets like Yeats, Pounds, Frost, and Eliot (ed. Scully). Lots of good stuff there.

Lori Casanova writes:

Loved your horse stories!! As a riding enthusiast of days gone by, I truly related to what I’ve read so far (haven’t quite finished it yet, but the rest will make for great Thanksgiving day reading). Spent an unforgettable summer as a fairly inexperienced rider wrangling horses for an outfitter in Wyoming. The best experience of my life! Best wishes to you, and happy holidays….

Thank you for writing. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the saga of riding. Perhaps you can help me with something – how did you come across the page? The reason that I ask is that I noticed recently that there is a lot of traffic on that page – a lot more than I would expect there to be. I’m assuming that it is listed somewhere but I haven’t the slightest idea where.
Best wishes and happy holidays to you, too. And may you also get back in the saddle again.

Lori very kindly replied:

Thanks for your response to my E-mail. To answer your question, I ran across your page on The Daily Menagerie, which is the default page on our computer. They highlight different people’s web pages every couple of days, and when I saw “Back in the Saddle Again…”, I knew it would be something I’d want to read!

P.S. The URL is

A small mystery solved. I reread the piece, Back In The Saddle Again, and it does (he says modestly) read well, albeit with a few typos. Why it was picked and how they stumbled across it is one of those things I expect I will never know.

Joe Gaucher writes:

I noticed you talk about the Thompson turkey. Do you have any backgrounder on thompson. I would like to read his writings. I don’t even know his first name or country of origin.

Thompson was definitely American. If I am not mistaken, he was a newsman of the hard-fisted drinking sort. I first read about the Thompson turkey in a book by H. Allen Smith, a humorist who wrote in the 40’s and 50’s. Somewhere I have the recipe but I can’t find the damned thing. I’ve never made it myself but I have had it and it’s just as good as its reputation.
Joe very kindly replied the recipe for the Thompson Turkey. It may be too late for this year’s Thanksgiving, but there is always next year.

David Humphreys writes:

Curiosity gets the best of me.

Listening to an old Police compilation disk one day at noon (after my daily jog), I sat stretching on the floor. As you might guess ( or maybe not), the seemingly esoteric Nabokov reference in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” caught my attention. I must investigate.

I guessed it right away, immediately after reading your paragraph.

To the Internet I go. I find the Police and Sting pages, eventually stumbling onto the lyrics. There it is – click – page loading ….

Oh! It’s spelled Nabokov (and not Navakoff as I had initially tried).

Which brings me to the abstract of your wonderfully fictitious book Nabokov. I really enjoyed it. Not what I was looking for, mind you, but enjoyable all the same.

I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve always wanted to read the book myself – it sounds interesting.

Dave writes:

Enjoyed your website. I didn’t see any reference to the Sartre cookbook, perhaps I missed it in my haste. It’s a nice segue between your recipes and the literary items.

Copy of the cookbook is on the philosophy page at

Thanks for the kudos. I looked for the Sartre cookbook but I didn’t find it. You’re right, though, it’s an obvious segue.
As a followup Dave sent me a copy.

carson jockell writes:

I was just about to pull the plug on my internet subscription when I happened to run across your site. I have never laughed harder at any other written page. Please keep up whatever it is your doing. There are those of us out here in cyber space that need and appreciate this stuff!

I dunno, this is kind of scary. I mean here you were, about to give up the internet and get a real life and probably win the Nobel prize or something, but no, you had to go read my site and now you’re hooked again. That’s sobering. Makes me realize my moral responsibility for unborn children of Afghani goat herders and that sort of thing.

Raheel writes:

Hi, my name is Raheel. I have an interview in less than 10 days. The interview will consist of questions on Options & Derivates aswell as:

5 Mental Arithimetic Multiplication questions in the form of XXX * XX within in 20 seconds in my head. (ie 3 figure numbers times 2 figure numbers, ie. 867 * 73) one wrong and I will be out.

Is your method the BEST…….

If you have come across any new ones, I will greatly appreciate your assistance.

Help. I want this this job very Badly. Its in LIFFE (london international financial futures & options exchange)!!!

Thankyou very much for taking the time out to read this email.

Hmmmm. Some of my pages seem to have turned out to be unexpectedly useful. Pity.
I won’t say it is the best (I think that depends on what comes naturally to you) but it is very good. The best alternative that I know about is the Trachtenburg system. I don’t have a copy of it anymore and don’t remember the details. One merit of the system I used is that it is easy to learn and to understand. The one suggestion I do have is that you practice intensively for a few days.

Jonny Evertsson writes:

Who r u ? Where r u from? What do u do ? How old r u ?? I found your site and just got so curious (I was searching for some information about the tuatara)…U r funny !! U may wonder what kind of idiot I am…well I´m a 17 year old Swede. Nikita is my nick if u ever chat on irc…please say hi.

I’m 62 or at least I might be. That does seem unlikely now that I think on it. See my Personal page for dubious details of my life.

Alex Quisenberry writes:

(I live on the Texas Gulf Coast – Corpus Christi)

My friend at Dupont liked your Darwin Awards well enough to send me the story below. Down here we have neither frozen lakes nor $400 payments on $30000 vehicles, nor would we go duck hunting with #8 loads, but the message is clear. While these two fellows missed out on the Darwin Award THIS TIME they would surely seem mentally qualified to achieve Award status NEXT TIME.

I’ve put the story on a separate page. See Now About That Grand Cherokee. There are people who shouldn’t be allowed to breed.

Now, I don’t KNOW whether this is actually true, but who would make this shit up?

Of course it’s true. As to whether it actually happened, who knows?

Tony Carulli writes: Your essays are great , however i wish you would write more on your definition on heroes.
thank you, tony carulli

Thank you for the kind words. I will take you request under advisement. I assume you are referring to the piece, A Hero’s Death. I hadn’t thought of it as a definition of heroes but now that you mention it, I seem to have smuggled one in. Elaborating on that idea might make for an interesting essay indeed.

Theocide writes:

Just popped in to tell you I like your homepage/site a lot. I found it when I was in the middle of several heated creationist/evolutionist debates. Now, I, like Jim Meritt said once during our short exchange of emails, leave the foolishness to the fools. I still stop by here every once in a while though, and I have a link to your abiogenesis-page from my h-page (a never ending work in progress, here:

Thanks for the kind words; it’s always nice to know that people appreciate the pile of rubble that I’ve put together. As you may have noticed in your trips by it keeps growing, any where from 5-20 pages a month. I suppose I should reorganize as a magazine or some such.
I still follow regularly but mostly I keep out of the standard arguments – I’ve been around the horn a few too many times. Every once in a while, though, something interesting comes up.
I checked out your web page which is interesting. I see you are having a lot of fun fiddling with it. Looks good.

Suford Lewis writes:

Mr. Harter –

I should have resisted, but I found my way to your home page via a search for my own name in Alta Vista and there was your page on “Proper Boskonian – The Gory Years” as the 43rd reference. So, now that I have found Billy, wandered around and read a lot of your stuff, I have to comment on your comments about … Fairy Tales.

Fairy Tales are not structured as they are because they are for children. They are descended from oral narrative and epic poetry and bardic tales and “the oral tradition” … whatever name scholars are currently calling it – stuff that was meant for adults and meant to both explain the world and tell/reassure everybody about about “how it was meant to be”. They are contradictory because they usually have two or three cultures overlaid on them. Try picking the Christianity out of Beowulf; transcribed in the 8th century by a monk, it is clearly not a Christian tale!

All the “literary” theory is very artist self-conscious and, you rightly point out, inappropriate. The old bards may have shaped the artistry of the tales they told but the tales themselves were already known to most of the audience. There are not many bardic societies left but there are still a few places in the world where their social interactions can be studied – it is more like sociology than literature. I get most of my knowledge of all this from The Singer of Tales by Alfred Lord and The Serbo-Croation Heroic Song by Milman Parry.

(Aside on Milman Parry – Poor sod, he really wanted to study classical Greek but some charismatic scholar in the field, who had a theory that the Iliad and the Odyssey were the way they were because they were transcriptions of an oral art form, persuaded him at a conference in Paris to travel through the back woods of Serbo-Croatia in a broken-down truck with a bicycle electrical generator to run a wire-recorder to record native illiterate bards performing their 3-hour to 3-day stories to the accompaniment of a one-stringed “lute” called a gusla. I can just see the academic good old boys arranging for this promising young fellow to get funding and visas and what-not to go off and prove their current speculation. He was well-rewarded, I guess, he founded the discipline at Harvard – where they still have all the wire recordings – and got honors and tenure. He made three trips to SerboCroatia in the teens and twenties.)

As soon as people (from Pete Seeger to Alfred Lord) start to study folk-lore and narrative they start to talk about archetypes and normative constructs and symbolic events. All of which is a fancy way to discuss what fairy tales have summarized as “the moral”. These things were meant to be lessons – history, morality, good examples, bad examples, explanations of why we are good or why we currently are in a bad situation. Enuma elish (the Babylonian Creation Epic), Gilgamesh, the Mahabharata, the Mabinogian, the Sagas,… the Bible, … Burnt Njal, Cattle Raid at Cooley, the Kalevala, Beowulf, …

You pushed one of my buttons – I have much too much to say on this subject and how this johnny-come-lately, pansy “literature” stuff has perverted it and how SF and fantasy is more the real stuff of narrative, &c;, et cet., ET cetera! but I really should go home…

– Suford

And whenever alta vista resurveys my pages you will find another reference in If we had won in 71 in case you are interested in what happened to you in other universes.
I expect you are right about bardic tales – you know a good deal more about these things than I do. I will plead that that the review is written from the viewpoint that Bristol Bradlee would have had – she is, after all, a certified academic even if she doesn’t exist.
On the other hand I don’t think things are quite that simple. The big bardic tales, beowulf and company, were treated as literature even before literature became too big for its britches and became Literature. The small stories, the ones Grimm and company gathered, were not recognized as literature until late in the game.
It seems to be that there is a difference between stories like Hansel and Gretel and stories like Beowulf. It seems to me that there are really three different venues – village stories, noble stories, and tribal stories. In the latter category are stories like traditional American Indian stories. The latter may be the ultimate progenitors of the others.
However I agree with your assessment that they are explanatory and that they are usually archaic with cultural overlays. As a note on this the Sioux mythology (White Buffalo Woman, the sacred Black Hills, et cetera) are clearly of recent origin. The Sioux were of eastern origin and did not reach the plains until the 1700’s.

Steve Harter writes:

Hey Richard…
I’m Steve Harter (no, not that one!). My Dad’s family was from Kansas. I’ve dabbled in ‘Harter’ genealogy. It was great to find your page. I’ve been around the Net for a couple of years now. I certainly haven’t been through all your pages, but what I found was very interesting. Sounds like you’ve had a neat life and have been computing for a long time.

We seem to be big on Steve Harters around here. Actually, I’d be surprised if anybody has been through all of my pages. Even if they have I keep putting new ones up so they haven’t. They certainly are, uh, varied.
Computing? Yeah, I’ve been around for a while. I wrote my first program for money in 1961. I expect I’ve had an interesting life – in an off beat sort of way. I seem to be still going strong. Life keeps happening and new things keep coming my way. I expect that twenty years from now I will be doing something else that I never would have thought of doing.

My cousin is David Harter from your links list (Calif. Technologies). I also have a cousin Richard who is a Realtor in northern California. They’re the only two Harters I know who are on the web.

I was born in 1946 in Burbank, Ca. I’ve spent my life in northern California. My web page is: Drop by.

I took a look and put your URL up on the ‘Harters’ page. There is a massive genealogy on the web that has a lot of Harters in it. I haven’t figured out where it all starts. Some day I will track it down. My mother has done a lot of genealogical work. One of my sisters has transcribed into one of the genealogy packages. Someday I will get an HTML version of it and put it up on the web.

Mario Harter writes:

Your homepage is really huge. And your idea to list “all” Harters on the web is brilliant. How did you find all these homepages?

Ayup, it’s huge. Given time it will be a minature copy of the web – so large that nobody reads it all – people just wander through it.
I used search engines and searched for “harter”. You get a lot of irrelevant stuff that way but you do turn up home pages.

I´m sorry that my homepage isn´t up to date. I graduated from High School and until now I had no chance (no time) to update my homepage. I will create a new page when I begin to study international marketing at university in october.

Good luck. Study hard.

James Harter writes:

Thank you for the e-mail! I did a bit of browsing through the Harter’s page. My brother (Bill) has done some research into our family tree and I will be sure to forward the web page address to him. He doesn’t have a web page – maybe this will encourage him.

Thanks again,


You’re welcome. Tell your brother there’s a place for him on the web and that he can start out right away with links to his page.
He might check out Robert Harter’s genealogy page for any possible cross connections.

Back to index

Robert Harter

Subject: Stuffed Camel

… (snip)… Spread any remaining rice on large tray and place camel on top of rice. Decorate with boiled eggs and nuts. Serves friendly crowd of 80-100.

Friendly Crowd of 80 to 100?????? That must be an awfully hungry group as well as being friendly!!!!

It does seem to be a case of stuffed arab as well as stuffed camel, doesn’t it. Maybe it’s one of these feasts that lasts a while.

Back to index

Dustin Cook writes:

Thank you for your poems I enjoyed them all. Keep it up. I’ll check later for your latest additions to your site.

Thank you for the kind words. I am pleased that you appreciated the poetry. I don’t know about new poems – that’s a matter of chance – but I keep adding pages to the site, about 5-10 a month, so it’s worth while checking in now and then.

Back to index

Zack Keedy writes:

Subject: your postmodern creationism page:

Thanks for taking the time to put your page up. I laughed for a good hour. thanks, man. This stuff is priceless.

You’re welcome. It’s there to be enjoyed. Some people take it seriously though – I worry about that sometimes.

Back to index

jan c. schindler writes:

Hi, Richard,

I usually read the usenet groups rec art book and postmoderism which is where I found you. Your site is trully amazing. I had to put it on my bookmark list, there is so much stuff there. I read thru your article on Toto and the Elgin Marbles,I never saw the connection until now. I wonder if my art history professor would appreciate the insight?

I am a painter, studying for my master’s at the moment. I have bumped into the postmodern (mostly) French writers. I posted a request on its connection with art and got some good suggestions. (were you the one who suggested the Norris book on deconstruction?) Anyway, I can find material on the theories and I can find references to postmoderism in articles about specific art but I haven’t found anything that relates art theory to postmodern theory. I guess what I am looking for has to do with how postmoderism has influenced (or not) artistic thinking. Ah well….

I am in the early stages of getting my own page which actually means I haven’t decided on what to do. I don’t think it will be quite as elaborate as yours. I am very ignorant when it comes to this computer stuff. Hey, but I am learning!

I’m pleased that you like the site; I thank you for the kind words. Amazing is probably the appropriate term, although one can think of so many terms that might be used, e.g., a monument to undisciplined creativity. One could take that statement as a judgement and, by implication, an artistic dismissal, were it not for the fact that effect is an explicit, stated objective. If you like you can think of it as a metaphor for life – not the life of human beings but rather an ecological deme. As such there are multi-stranded interconnectivities. There are moments of tightly crafted beauty but it is not about tightly crafted beauty. Life does not extract and concentrate beauty into little museum pieces; it produces it almost accidently and yet necessarily. Nor is everything in a deme essential to the deme; a deme is the product of a historical evolution of complexity in a particular environment. This is here because it happened to be here and prospered; that is here because it is an essential element of the deme. Et cetera. A deme is a partial unity of partially ordered complexity. Each deme, however, has its own individuality, the whole stamped with a personality.
On the other hand you can think of it as the product of a bower bird courting immortality.
You have aroused my curiosity about the connection between Toto and the Elgin Marbles that you see. The piece is a collaboration, much like a jazz riff, a point and counterpoint of little fantasies. This is not so easy a thing to arrange in painting, although I have watched cartoonists happily create improvisational collaborations.
It wasn’t I who suggested the Norris book. I am not exactly knowledgeable about post-modernism. For what it is worth it is my impression that there are really two post-modernisms. One revolves around literary and philosophic theory; it is the common element of approach of such writers as DeMann, Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan. The other is a label of style which can be almost anything. I suspect that post-modernism as art theory really does not exist. Postmodern theory is a theory of text which attempts to appropriate visual art as text.
Good luck with creating a site. With luck you may create a site which is a real artistic statement rather than the godawful graphic abortions that infest the web.

jan c. schindler continues:

I tend to agree with your assessment of post-moderism. I find the term used in art reviews alot lately but don’t think there is a direct connection with the philosophic discource. If there is a connection I suspect it has to do with the emphasis on relativism as opposed to universals found in art. It seems to me that if postmoderism is using visual art as an example of text then, there would be some background theory that is referenced. As of yet, I find no direct connection. Also, as an artist, I tend to look with suspect at any theories regarding the artistic process. Being in my current academic situation, however, I find myself looking for some theory or such and I do think they help explain things up to a point. I want to understand what is being said about art today but in the end I tend to dismiss it all.

Postmodernism is much like Kierkegard’s famous quip about Christianity. Just as we have Christian churches and Christian universities and Christian businesses and Christian nations and even Christian whorehouses so it is with postmodernism. We have postmodern philosophy and postmodern literature and postmodern architecture and postmodern art and even, I suppose, postmodern whorehouses, to say nothing of postmodern theme parks.
I have to admit that I am not up to date on the airier reaches of art theory. In my experience most artists aren’t too big on art theory, even the ones that are doing something radically new. It is mostly the art critics and the art appreciators (and the more pretentious art wannabes) that produce this verbal goo.

My comment about Toto was my feeble attempt at humor. It kind of fits in with what I was saying above in that art historians take everything they say so seriously! And they are always looking for some missing piece of the puzzle, it seems.

Aha! How dense of me. But maybe you have something there. How does this sound: Toto and the Elgin Marbles exemplifies the very essence of the artistic process, a process of controlled free association of imagery which, when successful, induces further chains of imagery in the viewer. Utter BS of course, but good art theory.

My web site is still in the planning stages but it seems to be taking on a life of its own. Something I thought was fairly simple is growing into something a bit complex. I am fortunate in that I have someone who is computer literate helping me. We have a graphics lab at the university and the technician there has been quite helpful. She has made alot of good suggestions. I hope it will be a more ‘tasteful’ site as it will be used to introduce my work to the world, so to speak.

Good luck. It is the nature of web sites to be time sinks – even more so than web surfing.

I enjoyed your comparision to your web site to an ecological deme. I had to look the word up to make sure I understood your use of ‘deme’. Anyway, I like the organic reference and I think a rather accurate one at that. (mine keeps growing….) There is a statement I would question you on in that you said that “life does not extract and concentrate beauty into museum pieces; it produces almost accidently and yet necessarily”. Were you making a reference to the making of art here? I find that a curious statement.

It goes like this: You see things in nature that are beautiful, flowers, certain types of birds and butterflies, et cetera. But beauty isn’t their purpose. It’s a result; it’s accidental and yet inevitable. It’s only part of a larger whole; more than that it is transient. Human beings value beauty and we like to make beautiful things. Fine. But one of the things that we like to do is to extract essences. We take the naturally sweet and make refined sugar. We distill alcohol. And when we do this we throw away everything except the essence. I won’t say this is bad but there is something that happens when we do this in art. We make objects which are supposed to be beautiful and in so doing strip away their purpose, their original place in the world. A cathedral, for example, is beautiful but it is not dead; it has a meaningful place in the community. There is a sense in which a museum is a mausoleum for beauty.

Finally, the statement that intrigued me the most was the one with regards to the bower bird. I like the imagery and probably is the most apt.

Every once in a while a good line.

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Tian Harter wrote:

I was sort of curious what Harter web pages were out there. I enjoyed yours. Try checking out mine:

I took a look at your pages and liked them. Here are a couple of more Harter pages (no relation) (Robert Harter) (Steve Harter)

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lu ducharme writes:

I just stumbled on your web page. I will show it to my boy friend as soon as he commes back with the bed. I really like it and I am sure I will go back to it more than once; the same for all those neat links you propose. excuse my english if there is something wrong; scott usually corrects me when it comes to everyday communication. Aurevoir!

Your English is fine. The thought that my web pages are just the thing with which to greet your boy friend and the bed is a bit daunting in its implications. I’m not sure my pages are quite that interesting.

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jerry and judy write:

How do I subscribe to ~g (sci.astro)

Depends on how you are hooked to the internet. The older versions of netscape had a newsreader button. The current generation of browsers have to be configured to talk to your internet service. If you are using a company account they may have news turned off; check with the computer people that set up your machine. If you are coming from an ISP (Independent commercial internet connection) they will set you up with a news reader; give them a call.

You have a great site!! Where do you find the time? Hope I have time to read it all. Keep it up!!

Thank you for the kind words. I started out with a bunch of stuff that I had accumulated over time and then I kept adding a few pages every now and then. It does consume time but it’s not that bad.
Take your time reading. By the time you get through reading it all there will be something new. Who knows what.

If the speed of expansion of the Universe one second after the big bang had been smaller by one part in a hundred thousand million million the Universe would have recollapsed long before now!

Conversely, if the speed of expansion of the Universe one second after the big bang had been larger by one part in a hundred thousand million million the Universe would be so expanded by now that we would not even be able to observe any other galaxy that was not gravitationally bound to our own Local Group. (Very few galaxies probably would have formed!) (No heavy elements = no life!)

This is correct. You have described what is called the “flatness problem”.

My conclusion, we live in a perfectly balanced, closed universe which has oscillated forever and will oscillate forever. There probably are an infinite number of other oscillating universes outside? of ours but we will never know anything about them!!

It doesn’t work that way. If the universe is “flat” it will expand forever but the expansion rate will slow down to zero. The current theory is that the universe went through a stage of expansion at an exponential rate during the period 10**-37 seconds to 10**-35 seconds during which it doubled in size 100 times. This is known as the inflationary universe theory. Alan Guth, who first worked out the theory, has written a very nice account of it for the scientific layman.
jerry and judy continue:

In some mythical way the U must be beautiful (according to Einstein)! If the reality we point to expands for a trillion yrs ( how many do you want?) and then ever so slowly starts to contract due to gravity to complete the symmetry that we perceive in every other natural system, how can we be wrong? Nothing in nature is truly infinite/asymptotic, it would invoke an unfathomable deity—

I am subtly uncomfortable with the notion that the universe must be beautiful. Is a toad beautiful? Perhaps – it all depends on your point of view. Does a toad think the universe is beautiful? I doubt it. Is a piece of rock floating in interstellar space beautiful? Does it think the universe is beautiful? But this is not what Einstein meant.
He spoke of the laws governing the universe; it is these laws that he conceived of as having to be beautiful. Perhaps they are. But the formulations of those laws and the beauty of those formulations is a beauty defined by human beings. However beautiful those laws may be they are not the universe.
The universe is real; it has given us a place and time for life; it does not also owe us beauty.
As to unfathomable deities, only humans invoke them. It matters not whether the universe expands indefinitely or, in the fullness of time, contracts and collapses. Humans will invoke unfathomable deities regardless of what the universe will do. It is in their nature to do so.

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ddgfc writes:

I read your note on earthworms for food. I was once offered a hamburger, the meat portion made entirely of earthworms. Not being hungry enough I declined the offer. Your note was the first time I’ve come across any other reference of earthworms for food. Have you come across any real evidence of the practice of eating earthworms or was I falling for the three card trick? I enjoyed your page.

You’ve got me. Did you run across my note in a newsgroup posting or did you see it in one of web pages? The former I suspect – I seem to recall mentioning such. From my childhood memories raw earthworms are muddy tasting – not surprising since they are basically a tube through which dirt passes. I did a quick check on recipes for insects on the web. Here are three pages with recipes:
Nobody mentions earthworms although other kinds of worms are eaten. The earthworm sandwich might have been real – it wouldn’t hurt you and it would be edible. It probably wouldn’t be very tasty, though. On the other hand it might have been just a hack.

ddgfc continues:

Hi Richard
Thanks for answering my e-mail. I think I’ll stay with steak and eggs. I saw the article in one of your web pages, I think you may have written it with tongue in cheek. Worms are a hobby for me.
Regards and thank you,

Better tongue in cheek than worm in mouth.
Things are looking up. I don’t know what’s in my web pages any more.

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Ellen Harter writes:

I just recently became a Harter, and frankly, now I’m worried! Just kidding – great web page!

Welcome to the granfalloon. You have commendable taste both in your choice of last names and your appreciation of web pages.

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Steve Harter writes:

Dear Richard:

As one from the Harter clan, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed perusing your web page. My wife, Ellen, discovered it one evening and told me about it. The Harter line of which I am a part is from the Upper New York State (Mohawk Valley) crew, but there must be some genetic heritage which we share. After reading through selected areas of your website, I can understand Ellen’s comment to me – “You do come from a strange bunch!!”

Some evening after the kids are in bed, I’ll continue through your website. We’ve been working on one ourselves (mostly Ellen’s effort) – when it’s launched we’ll email you with the address.

Until then – “From the halls of Clementine…” (one ex-jarhead to another) – all the best

You mean to say you’ve been married long enough to have kids and she is just now figuring out that you come from a strange bunch? Very good, Steve. My apologies for having let the cat out of the bag about what strange people Harters are.
I used to have a record called “The Sounds Of Marine Corps Boot Camp” which I waxed sentimental over, much to the displeasure of my now former girl friend. It disappeared somehow. I can’t think how it happened.

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Tony Lewis writes:

The on-line NYNEX directory lists 28 Harter entries for Massachusetts, although you are the only one in Concord.

The state of Massachusetts is quite Harter-challenged. I append in evidence material extracted from my Harter correspondence files:
There are probably 10 times than number in Darke County, Ohio alone – of course they have been multiplying for a number of years. I was once told that when a distant cousin was young the question going around was whether ragweed or the Harters would take over New Madison first. On the other hand Massachusetts has a lot more Harters than does New Hampshire. So far as I know, there are three families in the state.

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Martin Jukovsky writes:

Fascinating Web site you have there. Very rich, very labyrinthine.

Thanks. That’s exactly the reaction I am striving for – that is, if there is any coherent policy associated with it at all.

I was led to your site by your message on the sf newgroup on “The Cold Equations.” I can’t remember whether I ever read the short story, but I just finished viewing the Sci-Fi Channel’s film of it. I must agree with you that it evades the moral issues while pretending to face them. The film then tries to put icing on the moral cake by giving the hero a triumph of sorts at his trial (where he gets to make a speech, and is sentenced to the mines for 15 years, but the guards — won over — initially refuse to escort him away). As you say, it’s not the unforgiving, uncaring universe that is at fault, but the company bureaucracy that runs the space service.

Oh Lordie. I’ve never seen the film version; from what you say I don’t want to. It sounds like they’ve taken a flawed story and butchered it. The thing that is a little discouraging is all of the response is the obstinate refusal of most posters even to consider the point. Sigh.

You are two years older than me (I’m 59), and I go back far in sf fandom (7th Fandom, Ellison before he sold his first story, conventions where the attendees could be counted in the dozens, the Gestetner as the machine you dreamed about). I haven’t been active for decades, though I return to reading sf often (usually the 40s and 50s). One of the Web search engines led me to a history of fandom in which I am a participant.

I did some letter hacking in the late 50’s but really didn’t link into fandom until the mid 60’s. On line fan histories – yeah, I’m in one too. Fascinating and scary – what one does in one’s mad youth is not lost even though one industriously forgets it. Fandom just started exploding about the time I got in. Tricon in 1965 was my first worldcon – it was big, big, big with about 600 attendees. Some of the people you knew are still active.
I dropped out for about 15 years. Of late I’m dipping my toes in the water to make some reconnection – mostly hitting the convention circuit a bit.
Your name sounds familiar. You probably have been immortalized somewhere in something that I’ve run across.

Good meeting you.


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Robert Mickus

Nice page, very nice. I will reference it often while scewering the misinformed.

Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place for misinformation.

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Ted Samsel

Liked your web site.
esp the Rio Hata bit…

Glad also someone “here” is older than I am besides Fido & McCarthy. (& Granny Yarnot..)

I’ll pass on the martoonies, but I do take gin with tonic, thankyouvedymuch.

I hate Cancun. I do like Isla Mujeres, though….

(“here” is the rec.arts.books newsgroup)
You know, that’s an interesting question. How well can you tell how old someone is from what they write in a newsgroup? Or in a fanzine for that matter?
Cancun, well I won’t say I hate it, but I’ll not be back, I suspect. The funny thing is I liked Puerto Rico. I alternated between staying in old San Juan and wandering all over the Island. Wanderlust, that’s the ticket.

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Scott Faust writes:

Re Post Modern Creationism:

It was not Erasmus Darwin who put forth the courageously consistent (if ultimately silly and perverse) theory of creation with appearance of age. Nor did he ever propose or believe anything remotely along this line.

The man you have in mind is Philip Henry Gosse, and his 1857 book _Omphalos_ (the greek word for “navel,” signifying that as part of a consistent created order Adam must have born this physical testament to a umbilical cord which never existed).

You are right, of course, about Gosse; I knew about him. I was under the impression that Erasmus Darwin had propounded the same theory. It seems I was wrong – there is nothing unusual about that, alas and alack.
However I don’t think it much matters; the whole thing is a crock anyway which was never meant to be taken seriously even though some people do. I think I’ll leave it the way it is. It’s much more, ah, poetic to contrast Erasmus and Charles.

No expert on Erasmus, but I think I would know about this. Erasmus was a free thinker. In the works I do now something of, the most he ever expressed was a noncommittal deism. He definitely wasn’t big on creationism, and was sympathetically inclined toward many of the religious (and political) radicals of his day. (He was an outspoken admirer of the secularism of the French revolution, for instance.)

Both his son Robert Darwin, and later Robert’s son Charles, liked to quote Erasmus’ quip about Unitarianism (the religion of the Wedgewood clan with which the Darwins repeatedly intermarried) being “a featherbed to catch falling Christians”.

Have enjoyed your pages, btw.

Being a Unitarian is very convenient in a society which expects you to be some kind of Christian.

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Thanatos writes:

Saw you in the scifi thread. noticed the tiac. Checked out webpage. I really like the Waiting for Godot section.

Thank you, kindly, sir. Some people think that I don’t take very important things seriously. They’re right. I don’t.

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Ray Slagle writes:

Dear Richard,

I am a premedical student with a newly found interest in paleoanthropology. I just started reading Johanson’s and Edey’s, “Lucy, the Beginnings of Humankind,” and have only made my way through the first three chapters which are concerned with a background to the first Hominid finds.

In these chapters the authors introduce and briefly discuss Piltdown Man. However, while making mention of the fraudulance of Piltdown Man they don’t expound on the issue, as it is not the focus of the book.

The subject of such fraud piqued my interest and I wanted to learn more about it. So, I turned to the Inter-Net thinking, “Good luck finding anything with much detail.” The first site I came to was yours and after reading it I had to ask myself, “How much more detail could a person want?”

I just want to say thanks for taking the time to author such an informative, detailed and generally well put together web site on the subject of Piltdown Man. I am sure that there are many thousands more out there like myself – as is evinced by the number of people visiting your site since May of this year – who find it so convenient to be able to simply turn on their computers and have at their disposal such great information as you have to offer. Web sites like yours are what makes the Inter-Net such an invaluable resource. Keep up the good work, Please!

As a general rule I don’t print letters associated with the Piltdown man page. Either they are of the “Gee, I had a paper to get done tonight and you just saved my life” variety or they are comments from the host of people who keep me honest. In some cases I suspect the writer would not want their teacher to know where they did their research.
Ray’s letter is a bit of an exception and it is very much appreciated. The Piltdown page may not be very important in the larger scheme of things but it is a little piece of a larger picture – an international collaboration of scholarship, free, and accessible to everyone who has access to the internet. When one puts together a resource it’s nice to know that people use it and find it useful, even though you don’t know who they are. It’s also nice to hear about it now and then.
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This page was last updated January 3, 1998.
It was remformatted and moved November 4, 2004