Monthly Archives: October 2011

Foreign (and other) Affairs

October 13, 2011
Sidney Buchannan’s class has arrived at an opportune time, as representatives from the nation’s political  parties are debating the size and power of the federal government

Buchannan’s class delves into the important subject of constitutionality, exploring each branch of the federal government and the powers it can exercise.  In particular, he will examine the constitutionality of forced detention of aliens (and US citizens) without trial, the use of military power without formal declarations of war, recognition of foreign governments, and more – all of which are have occurred in recent years. We asked Professor Buchannan to tell us the particulars about his class, and his propensity to burst into song at unexpected moments.

WIH Reporter: Why have you chosen this particular subject for your class?
Buchannan: I have chosen The Constitution and Foreign Affairs as my topic for the current fall season because if fits neatly with the present foreign affairs issues that confront our nation. This course also gives me a chance to show how difficult it often is to even get the Supreme Court to review a case.

WIH Reporter:  We understand that you often sing in your classes, placing your own lyrics into well-known songs to get the point across. Can you tell us more about this?  
Buchannan: From childhood forward, I have thrived on putting my own lyrics to familiar tunes. As I surged through boarding school, college, and law school, I did this frequently, and it became a regular habit as I entered my adult years, a habit from which people could not escape even if they wanted to.  And so, at family birthday occasions, in the law school classroom, and in various church activities I belt out songs with lyrics appropriate to the situation at hand.   It is advantageous to me in that, because of the settings in which these songs occur, no one expects me to sing in operatic tones.  It is like the dog that can stand on three legs: it is not that I do it well, but that I do it at all.  In any event, it has brought me great joy to sing my lyrics to the various audiences that have been subjected to them over the past decades!  

WIH Reporter:  Can you tell us what books are on your night table?
Buchannan: I am currently reading “How Would a Patriot Act” by Glenn Greenwald and “The Land of Painted Caves” by Jean M. Auel, the last in her excellent series on Earth’s Children.  The strongest influences on my life are too numerous to list but certainly include my family, my church, my close friends, and my teaching career at the University of Houston Law Center.  I think most people who know me well would describe me as a joyous person, and I plead guilty to that charge!  Finally, as a child, I was a fervent fan of the Oz books authored by L. Frank Baum and later by Ruth Plumly Thompson.  I am “joyously” happy to share that fact with the world at large.

Are You Well Read? – October

October 13, 2011
Venice is one of the most magical cities in Europe, and authors over the centuries have made ample use of its enchanting ambiance in their work. Here are just a few of the well-known books set in Venice:
Death in Venice, Thomas Mann
The Aspern Papers, Henry James

Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon

A Venetian Affair, Andrea di Robilant

Venice Observed, Mary McCarthy

The World of Venice, Jan Morris

The Comfort of Strangers, Ian McEwan

Don’t Look Now, Daphne du Maurier

For a more comprehensive list, along with a description of some of the books, see the following web page: Fictional Cities.

The Lure of Venice

October 14, 2011
“There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world, that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden..” Mary Shelley


Barry Greenlaw took us to Venice, to experience the history and culture of this enchanting city that became one of the greatest economic and cultural powers in the history of the western world. In his Sunday lecture, we were immersed in the the history of this city born out of a marshy lagoon in the time of the Romans.

Did you know…

* Venice is slowly sinking, and has sunk by about 24 centimeters over the past century.
* Venice has no sewer system. Household waste flows into the canals and is washed out into the sea twice a day with the tides.
* Famous people associated with Venice include Titian, Tintoretto, Marco Polo and Vivaldi.

Here are some facts about famous denizens of Venice, followed by famous quotes about this “City of the Sea”.

Titian (1477 – 1576 )

Titian was a prominent artist during the Renaissance and a renowned Venetian portraitist. His works have been treasured all around the world over the centuries. His first painting, ‘The Three Frescos in Padua’, allowed him to rise to become appointed as the official painter of Italy.

Tintoretto (1518-1594)

Tintoretto, a Venetian painter, typified the movement of Mannerism and was influenced by Michelangelo. He is known today for his bold use of color and the stunning manipulation of light and shadow. During his time, he was not well liked by contemporary artists, who accused him of social climbing, among other things. Yet he conceived of art as a social good, a healing and teaching vision for the people. His work still creates a feeling of enclosure and unreality, and his heralded manipulation of light leads inward, to a realm of spiritual meditation.

Marco Polo (1254 – 1324)

Marco Polo was born in Venice to a wealthy family of merchants. In 1271, he went with his father and uncle to China. He stayed for the next seventeen years, and became an emissary, sent on diplomatic missions throughout the empire to Burma, Indo-China, Tibet, and further. He was forced by Kubla Khan to be the governor of a nearby commercial city and he did this for three years. When he finally returned to his home in Venice, he had probably traveled farther than anybody before him.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741 )

A native of Venice, Vivaldi was a priest and a composer, known for his red hair. He is mainly known for his violin concertos, four of which he arranged together in the series ‘Four Seasons’ (1723), which is still frequently performed. His father was a professional violinist who toured Venice and who took his young son with him. In 1693, Vivaldi studied to become a priest and was ordained at 25. Because of his hair color, he was known as the “Red Priest”. Soon after, he had to withdraw from active priesthood. He worked as a music teacher at a school for orphans and also composed his music.

Famous Quotes about Venice

“A splendour of miscellaneous spirits.” ~ John Ruskin

“Wherever you go in life, you will feel somewhere over your shoulder a pink, castellated shimmering presence, the domes and riggings and crooked pinacles of the Serenissima.” – Jan Morris

“It is held by some that this word VENETIA signifies VENI ETIAM, that is, come again, and again, for however oft you come, you will always see new things, and new beauties.” ~ Sansovino

“If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is – Venice is better.” ~ Fran Lebowitz

“In the winter, Venice is like an abandoned theatre. The play is finished, but the echoes remain.” ~ Arbit Blatas

“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.” ~ Alexander Herzen

“Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy.”
~ George Gordon Noel Byron “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”

“Until it seems the whole city
will be covered with gold pollen shaken
from the bell-towers, lilies plundered
with the weight of massive bees . . .”
~ Hilda Doolittle “Tribute to the Angels”

“It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.”
~ Erica Jong

“White swan of cities slumbering in thy nest . . .
White phantom city, whose untrodden streets
Are rivers, and whose pavements are the shifting
Shadows of the palaces and strips of sky.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Venice”

“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty-this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.”
~ Thomas Mann

“Underneath Day’s azure eyes,
Ocean’s nursling, Venice lies,
A peopled labyrinth of walls,
Amphitrite’s destined halls,”
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley “Lines Written among the Euganean Hills”

“Streets flooded.
Please advise.” ~ Robert Benchley, telegram from Venice to his editor

“Venice, the only place where you can get seasick by crossing the street.” ~ Anonymous

“Venice would be a fine city if it were only drained.” ~ Ulysses S. Grant

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” ~ Truman Capote

A Writer’s World

October 13, 2011

Christopher Woods has been teaching his popular creative writing class at the Women’s Institute for years. The class is designed for those who wish to express themselves in writing and participants are encouraged to write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction.  They are also encouraged to experiment in new forms in order to build a stronger writing foundation. We recently got a chance to visit with Chris. 

WIH Reporter: Of all the topics you could have chosen, was makes this one especially important to you?  

Woods: Conducting a writing workshop is the most natural thing I can do. I have been writing in one form or another since I was seventeen. I enjoy becoming familiar with the work of others, and encouraging them to find their voice. An added treat is to watch them find their way in the world and to begin to publish their work, which is a very gratifying thing.

WIH Reporter: What books would we find on your night table this month?
Woods:  You would find literary journals and photography books.

WIH Reporter: What were the strongest influences in your life?
Woods:  My parents. They provided such a normal childhood that I am surprised I became a writer. Later, a special creative writing teacher encouraged me, and in a way, he gave me permission to explore my own creativity. 

WIH Reporter: What is the one thing people should know about you (but do not)?
I once played guitar in a jug band on a ship crossing the Atlantic. Fortunately the ship was far away from the U.S., so no one here had to listen to my music. I don’t know that anyone needs to know about this, but it is something different. Other than that, as a writer I struggle as much as anyone else to find the right words. It’s an endless battle. 

WIH Reporter: What advice do you have for other writers?

Woods: Every writer should keep a journal, and make entries as often as possible. Most of the information in the journal will be perceptions, descriptions, and general thoughts about day to day life. From those journal entries, ideas for longer pieces can come about. A description of a person might lead to the creation of a fictional character, for example. Keep in mind that our lives are often frenetic, so any specific details that we record can be extremely helpful later when we attempt creative writing, in any form.

When an idea for a poem or story comes to me, I try to sit down and write immediately if at all possible. Otherwise, the inspiration passes. If I wait until later the moment could be lost.

WIH Reporter: What about writer’s block?

Personally, I do not believe in such a thing as writer’s block. But, we are very good at making excuses. If we want to be writers, our job is to write. Life throws roadblocks, crises, all kinds of things to take us away from our writing. There are even writing workshops for victims of trauma. I think we should try to make use of our life experiences, all kinds, and in the end we can become better writers because of it.