Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fruit from the Tree

There is nothing like eating fruit picked from the tree. I have always felt that way, regardless of the potential wormholes and wasp bites on the fruit. I was happy to find I'm not the only one.

For example, there's my friend who lives in Guadalajara.  He was the fruit he had for breakfast -- mango, apples,"tuna" from cactus, oranges, plums, and all kinds of wonderful fruits. At first I thought that he had purchased them in the town near his "rancho" near Guadalajara, Mexico. But, he said he picked them himself -- that several years ago he put in a little orchard, and that for him, there is no greater pleasure than strolling through it in the morning and picking fruit that is still wet with dew.

My parents had fruit trees, and I loved eating cherries, peaches, apples, pears, and persimmons. But, hands down, the fruit I like to eat most from the tree is grapefruit. What I like about grapefruit is that it's such a random thing; you never know what you'll get. The fruit can be really sweet, or really bitter, or somewhere in between, and you can never tell by its color, size, or even firmness.

The first time I picked a grapefruit was on New Year's Eve when I was 15 years old.  I was in Palm Springs, California, accompanying my dad on a trip. He was the head of a contract mining company, and one of the companies, Atajo Mining (short cut mining!), was not performing, and he was going to have to enter in some rather difficult conversations. He had told me all about it as we drove across the desert from Phoenix to Palm Springs. 

While he was in negotiations, I was riding bicycles and horses at locations near the hotel where we were staying. Nothing was going as planned. I was seriously saddle-sore from riding a horse for 4 hours instead of the 1 hour, and I felt very alone. It was late afternoon and I had a few hours to kill before my dad came back to the hotel to go to a New Year's Eve celebration. I decided to sit outside, relax, and read a book. My room was perfect for it, because it had a small patio shaded by a grapefruit tree that was bursting with bright yellow fruit, and many felt soft and ripe to the touch.  I picked two grapefruits and tried them. They were wonderfully bitter (I love bitter things), as was the time itself or perhaps, let's say, bittersweet...

But, that's another story and one I'll save for another time. Another story would be based on the saying that fruit never falls far from the tree where it grew, referring to characteristics of a child and his or her parent. That's a saying that fills me with angst and dread, but again that's another story. 

In the meantime, every time I think of a grapefruit tree, I think of that amazing time with my dad, who, interestingly enough, sends me off with a small bag of grapefruits each time I see him.

I'm aware that age and time are linear, but memory is not. Thank goodness for that. If memory were linear, we would lose everything -- there would be some sort of expiration date, I guess, and I'd lose the things I love most -- picking grapefruits, eating them from the tree, while on an unforgettable trip with my father when I was 15.

This photo does not have much (or anything) to do with picking ripe grapefruits and eating them straight from the tree, but it does bring a smile to my face. I'm at the 2014 AAPG-PAPG-PPG Marcellus-Utica GTW. In this picture, there I am (Susan Smith Nash) on the left, looking about giddy after facilitating all day. We're standing in front of a poster on XRD. That's Randy Shannon of PMET in the middle, and Dawn Snyder, an attendee and presenter, on the right.
This photo does not have much (or anything) to do with picking ripe grapefruits and eating them straight from the tree, but it does bring a smile to my face. I'm at the 2014 AAPG-PAPG-PPG Marcellus-Utica GTW. In this picture, there I am (Susan Smith Nash) on the left, looking a bit giddy after facilitating all day. We're standing in front of a poster on XRD. That's Randy Shannon of PMET in the middle, and Dawn Snyder, an attendee and presenter, on the right.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Good-bye, Johnny Winter: Renaissance Angel and Texas Blues and Slide Guitar Genius

It was partly his music, but it was mainly that he looked like an angel with his pale blonde hair, his porcelain skin, and his light amber eyes. When he burst onto the rock and roll / blues scene in the early 1970s, John Dawson Winter III (Johnny Winter) often dressed in Renaissance-inflected loose, flowing shirts and shiny slacks along with elegant platform shoes -- he could have stepped off the canvas painted by Botticelli, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, or other Italian Renaissance artist. His younger brother, Edgar, was also an albino and a musician. Edgar, however, was not beautiful, nor was he the least bit angelic, despite the fact that he adorned himself with chunky women's necklaces and you had to wonder who came first - Edgar Winter or David Bowie. I remained unmoved by Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. However, when it came to Johnny Winter, I was utterly transfixed.

 I loved Johnny Winter's music because it was so expressive, although I did not even like the blues. His slide guitar work was mesmerizing, especially when I could watch him perform at a concert recorded for television.  I liked it also that Johnny Winter was a man of few words; he spoke through his costuming and also through his music. When Johnny Winter died, he was no longer beautiful in the same way that he had been when he was in his 20s and 30s. Years of heroin addiction will do that to you. However, there was still something in his stage presence that pulled in the ineffable, and at 70, he had the same heart-stopping phrasing and his voice the same forceful growl; a sound utterly at odds with his frail, often other-worldly appearance. He was still an angel, albeit one whose appearance tugged your heartstrings because he still did what angels did, which was to be in touch with the divine, and bring the music of the spheres to our own mortal coils.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

George Gissing's In the Year of Jubilee (1894): Mini-Lecture / Learning Object

Late Victorian writer George Gissing and his works are not well known, but they are emotionally gripping, psychologically realistic, and ultimately both destabilizing and reinforcing of how we come to understand the world around us vis-a-vis rapid cultural and technological change. To correct the fact that his works have slipped into invisibility, The Fringe Journal is launching a series of learning object mini-lectures.

In the Year of Jubilee (1894) is the first in this series. You may click the link, or the graphic to access the interactive learning object. The full text transcript appears below. You may access the full text of the book at Project Gutenberg. There is an audio recording of In the Year of Jubilee at

George Gissing: In the Year of Jubilee  (1894)

TEXT TRANSCRIPT:  In the Year of Jubilee (1894) by George Gissing
Mini-Lecture by Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

In the Year of Jubilee (1895) is, as other novels by George Gissing, extremely sympathetic toward women. It takes place in the late Victorian world where there is more access and communication with far flung regions, and where the British Empire has enriched the nation.

However, Gissing's is also a complex word where one step outside the norms results in a loss of marriage prospects, a loss of inheritance, loss of social standing, and the potential for disease and literal starvation.
About "Jubilee"

Jubilee refers to the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign, and also to the biblical concept of “Jubilee” a year in which property reverts to its proper owner.

Gissing’s novel starts with the Jubilee celebrations, which usher in disruptions.

The old order is turned upside down, and new enterprises are built upon false appearances, short cuts, and vanity.  They replace what came before.

Nancy Lord: Trapped in a Social Caste System and Gender
At the center of the narrative is Nancy Lord, the daughter of a successful piano dealer. She has been raised to a higher level than what might be expected, with the idea that education ushers in social mobility. Thus, she aims higher than previous generations may have dared to do, given that her father was in "trade," and not a gentleman (by Victorian standards).

Despite the fact that her father is in trade, Nancy's mother, who abandoned the family when Nancy was a toddler, was in fact, born of gentry. The mother, however, displays little innate nobility is a shallow woman who it seems will do anything to live in luxury.

Nancy’s mother rather hypocritically condemns the sisters, Fanny and Beatrice French, daughters of a wealthy builder, and their lives in a large home in a new suburb of London. 

Fraud and skill fakery are keys to success in this new world where mass production, advertising, distribution, and credit make it possible for women and men to achieve the appearance of the upward mobility as they do what they can to actually achieve higher places in society.

Jubilee: Restoration with Resignation

The restoration of money to rightful owners takes a long, convoluted path in the narrative of the novel, which includes attempts to hide Nancy’s marriage (and baby) in order to avoid losing her inheritance, and the ultimate unmasking of unsavory business practices on the part of spiteful, vindictive members of the sisters French.

At the same time, the energetic and entrepreneurial-spirited self-invented Luckworth Crewe, achieves wealth in the newly emerging business of advertising and public relations.

Apocalypse and the Jubilee

Jubilee is, at its heart, deeply apocalyptic, because it suggests a new order, or at least a return to natural distribution and order. Apocalypse is a theme that is a theme that occurs throughout Gissing’s work. Change refers the destruction of the old and a replacement of the new.

The purpose is to either rid oneself of old inequities or to create a vibrant world of technology (trains, telegraph, newspapers, gas lights).

At the same time, however, the world to be replaced already contains the consequences of change, including poisonous, lung-searing fog, dark, crowded urban landscapes, and hunger, both physical and psychological.

Women and Education: New Access, but to what end?

Gissing rails against the useless schooling that is bandied about as women’s “education” and the socially-encouraged destructive in-fighting, competition, dependence on others, enslavement in marriage, and lack of self-determination.

Gissing also suggests that when a friend of Nancy who works as a governess, Jessica suffers a nervous breakdown as she tried to pass an exam in order to matriculate at London University.

As Gissing depicts the situation, Jessica does not collapse because she is intellectually incapable, but because it is too difficult to work full-time as a governess and try to study all night (instead of eating and sleeping).

Further, Jessica must combat the ridicule and negativity of the men who scoff at her goals.


George Gissing’s late Victorian naturalistic novel, In the Year of Jubilee (1894) concerns itself with both people and property, and how both are both lost and gained in both material and metaphorical senses. 

Using people and property as a point of departure, the novel also addresses change in society: the changing roles of women, the impact of technological and commercial innovations, and about education’s form and impact in late Victorian times.