Tuesday, November 06, 2007


A friend of your scribe was recently playing soccer mom for a duo of kids whose parents wanted to take their first vacation together in two decades, and she allowed as how a major fringe benefit of her subbing was the frequency of hugs she received from her charges. Turns out she was on to something, as befits the fact that she is generally ahead of the curve in just about everything:

Experts say adults are not getting enough hugs

This link to an article appeared on Yahoo! this morning, and although your scribe has not yet read the article, he quickly cut and pasted the link into a blog-to-be (which is now, of course, a blog-that-is).

Your scribe frequently opines on matters of which he knows little or nothing, and thus he will fearlessly discuss the Yahoo! article without having read past the headline.

It is curious to consider the topic of who the "hug experts" might be. Are they psychologists who go around hugging each other and then writing up their findings? How does one get to be a "hug expert"? Is there a school where your scribe can sign up to get a degree in hug management? Inquiring minds want to know....

But let us look at their conclusion, and perhaps jump to a few of our own. Would the world be a better place if grownups got more hugs? Would it make wars to cease in all the world, and knap the bow in sunder, to borrow from the Psalmist? Would the population explosion tend to explode further and faster?

And then, of course, there's the question of what constitutes enough. Your scribe wonders, in fact, if most adults are getting any hugs. Personally, he can only recollect getting about two or three so far in 2007 (fortunately from beautiful young women), and he admits that they did give him the warm fuzzies. The question arises, of course, as to whether a hug from a smelly overweight truck driver who had just eaten an onion and garlic pizza would give one a similar sense of well-being; your scribe suspects not. In other words, the quality of the hugs needs to be taken into account as well as the quantity.

But back to the question of quantity. What is the numerical definition of "not enough"? And, of course, if hugs are good (as they mostly are), can you ever have enough of them? The scribal opinion is, probably not.

Well, that's enough of a riff on this headline for now. Time to post this entry, and then click on the link to see what the hug experts actually have to say, now that your scribe has gone and said it all for them.


Blogger Vicki said...

I'm with E on the hugs. And you as well. There is something about a true hug that makes you just plain feel better. Yes, the hugs from a child is wonderful. More often than not they come without conditions.

Not the hug that's a quick pat on the shoulder while you're earnestly trying to hug the person but the warm embrace that takes away the cares for a few moments.

November 06, 2007 3:55 PM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Hi Bill, I applaud your writing in response to the article without reading it. It's much better to think for yourself without being influenced by others, especially if they're "experts". When I was studying English lit at university, I never read the critics. Were they "hug experts" in the article, by the way? I didn't click on the link to find out. I have always been of the opinion that hugs are unequivocally good, but your smelly onion (and garlic?) eating guy has given me pause for thought. Hmmmmm. I foresee trouble in paradise. Perhaps they don't have onions there....

November 06, 2007 5:44 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Leigh, thanks for the kudos on my rashness at writing before clicking. It turns out that the "article" is actually a video from Merrie Olde England, put out by Aunty, no less. It's quite funny, and I recommend that you watch it at the first opportunity. Speaking of recommending, the story concludes that most of us "aren't getting our RDHI - recommended daily hug intake."

Where did you study English lit? I did my studies at Harvard College (English) and the Yale Graduate School (Comp Lit). And where are you teaching now?

November 07, 2007 10:03 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

the warm embrace that takes away the cares for a few moments

Well said, Vicki!

November 07, 2007 10:29 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Hi Bill, I studied at Kent University of Kent in Canterbury. I teach at a minor public school where the pupils have discovered I've written a book. I told a few colleagues and the cat was out of the bag. I don't mind. The pupils want to know the name of my book. I haven't told them. Hence the pseudonym. Harvard and Yale - not too shabby. Where do you teach?

November 07, 2007 10:47 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Sorry, Bill, I think I just entered a comment twice. I was trying to preview it. I hope it makes sense at least once.

November 07, 2007 10:48 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi again, Leigh - no, only one comment came through, in addition of course to your second one. Both of them make perfect sense.

Canterbury! My English home! Ave Mater Angliae! Waves of nostalgia sweep over me at the sound of the name. *Bill sniffles loudly into his hankie*

My mother once swore there was a magnet in the ground that attracted our family to certain geographical locations. Thus we lived for a while in Switzerland (where her ancestors came from), and Concord, MA (birthplace of the American Revolution, or, as you Brits refer to it, the late Colonial unpleasantness), where some of our ancestors who came over with the Winthrop Fleet (yes, "The Winthrop Woman" and all that) settled in the 1630s, including one William Warriner, who grew up in - wait for it - Canterbury!

I was unaware of any of this when I went to Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys during the O-Level year (fifth form); I just knew I'd never felt so much at home in my life, even if the natives did speak with a funny accent. I hopped on my bicycle after school every day, raced down the Old Dover Road and into The Precincts, parked in the cloisters and raced up the Dean's Steps to hear evensong. Afterwards I would ride home - we were across from St. Augustine's Abbey on Monastery Street - being careful to avoid the infamous Dark Entry celebrated by Thomas Barham in "The Ingoldsby Legends".

It was based on my year in Canterbury that I was admitted to Harvard without even filling out an application - they had an A, B, C rating system in those days, and after I'd spent an hour telling the interviewer about my wonderful year in England and my admiration for the English, he awarded me the only A rating in my class. Basically it meant, just show up in September. (Things are a bit different now, I hear.)

I taught at Yale U. and Mount Holyoke College in the English departments, and had loads of fun doing it. But tenure in those days was an iffy proposition at best, so I made my mid-career change early and went into development (fund raising) back at Yale. Again, I had scads of fun travelling all over the country (and even to Switzerland) to pry megabucks from the pockets of obscenely wealthy Yalies, whom I was able to persuade that a scholarship fund or endowed professorship would pay them a far richer psychic dividend than any to be found in the marketplace.

Yikes! Too long! Gotta stop before Blogspot cuts off my space allotment. But thanks, Leigh - our mutual Canterbury connection has made my day!

November 07, 2007 11:30 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

I think I just left a comment on your previous post, but possibly here. I'm still reeling from reading Erica's amazing blog and feel disorientated.

November 07, 2007 3:12 PM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Pay careful attention here, Bill. Please.

The low-level motor activity of typing is very conducive... to letting the ideas lurking therein come to the fore.

Get me! I've done it - with a mere inordinate amount of advice and guidance.

I feel mentally exhausted now.

Your comment (quoted above, in italics) reminds me of Henry Fielding: "To the composition of novels and romances, nothing is necessary but paper, pens, and ink, with the manual capacity of using them." I wonder if he too found the act of writing released his creative ideas?

November 07, 2007 5:29 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

OMG, Leigh, your comments positively sparkle with italicised brilliance!! What finally broke the logjam?

November 08, 2007 11:01 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Clearly my natural aptitude for computers! I thought that was obvious. And the little man inside the machine. Oh, yes, and I think the instructions from yourself and Kara may have helped a little.

November 08, 2007 7:28 PM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Flatter as much as you like, Bill, it doesn't compensate for the distinct absence of gossip here. Not that I'm one to gossip - perish the thought* - but you have adopted the charmingly alliterative name of Greenwich Gossip (Get me - what is it about italics that makes me feel so damn clever?) so where is it? Hmmm?

* Although a recent survey of different professions has shown that teachers are the worst gossips! Personally, I'm a people person. Although to all appearances there may seem to be no difference, us people persons sit around discussing other people (behind their backs of course) in a completely different way to others who indulge in mere gossip. Gotta go - just spotted a couple of gossips behind my back...

November 09, 2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

Bill & Leigh--You guys crack me up! Also, I'm feeling left out for never having been to Canterbury. (I can recite the first half dozen or so pages of Canterbury Tales by heart thanks to my high school Lit teacher... does that count for anything? *g) Maybe I'll make a trip to that corner of the pond in 09. (08, if all goes well, is on the other side of the Continent.)

Oh, and I suppose I should comment on hugs. Vicki, if I were not on the opposite coast today instead of at the TARA meeting as usual, I would give you a non-garlicky, more-than-a-mere-pat hug. Raincheck you for the December party.

As to the possibility of too many hugs, even from those who are neither garlicky nor skimpy patters, I am going to break from what's been said so far and state that, yes, I believe in too many hugs.* Primarily, this occurs when either a) you have no wish to be hugged by the hugger, and/or b) the hugger's hugs are a manipulative tactic.

* (I whole-heartedly agree with Vicki, who says children's hugs are wonderful and come without conditions.)

November 10, 2007 12:11 PM  
Blogger Lapa said...

Hi. Nice blog and interesting. Cool layout w/ all the extra widgets :) Great job!!

November 10, 2007 1:10 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

I can recite the first half dozen or so pages of Canterbury Tales by heart


Sounds like the whole General Prologue! I'm good for about 30 lines or so.

Leigh, where do you fall in all this?

November 10, 2007 1:49 PM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

April is the cruelest month
Breeding lilacs out of the dead land
Mixing memory and desire.....

hang on let's try that again

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,


Anyone who accuses me of cheating here, and cribbing off the internet, I can only say that I'm outraged! (Outraged at being found out? you ask. But answer came there none Leigh (refrains from) a response with staggering originality.

November 10, 2007 5:48 PM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

Yup, pages. I set it to music to make it easier.

I had a Lit teacher who (naively) declared that she would give an extra credit point per memorized line, no doubt anticipating nobody would memorize much of anything. And, in fact, most of the kids butchered their way through the first four or six lines and that was about it.

Me, on the other hand, never one to back down from a challenge...

Let's just say, she ended up cutting me off mid-recitation (the bell rang *g) and I ended up with an A. =)

November 10, 2007 7:32 PM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

I'm surprised you're allowed to read the Canterbury Tales in America. I presume the offensive passage is censored? (I refer, of course, to the Wife of Bath's teeth....)

Anyway, here goes -

April is the cruellest month
Breeding lilacs out of the dead land
Mixing memory and desire...

Let's try that again... From the top...

When April with showers of soot
Permed the roots of March's daughter
And vain people washed in alcohol
Mixed with flour
Zephirus cried "eek" in a little voice (
seen a mouse?)
blah blah blah
or was it his young son?

And you can't accuse me of cribbing that from the internet, because I've taught Chaucer.

Seriously, I love Chaucer. He's great fun and it's amazing to find that people were engaged in a power struggle between the sexes even then. Plus ca change...

November 11, 2007 4:52 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Bill - I rewrote my comment as the first try (which was cribbed) didn't appear. I assumed that being so erudite a blogger, you have a well read gremlin in your computer who spotted staight away that I was cheating and wasn't having any. So I devised a cunning strategy to fool him and tried again. Only then did I realise that comments on your blog require your approval and so I probably now have two in the pipeline... three including this.... I'll just go away quietly now and hang my head in shame. (At my computer idiocy or my confessed cribbing? Well, it's got to be the former these days, hasn't it?)

November 11, 2007 5:03 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

ps Did I tell you I have a book coming out in APRIL????? !!!!!!!!

November 11, 2007 5:07 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Wondered where you've gone, Bill. I asked the little man in my computer if he knew and he came up with this.

I'm just a bill,
Yes I'm only a bill,
And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill,
Well then I'm off to the White House
Where I'll wait in a line
With a lot of other bills
For the President to sign.
And if he signs me then I'll be a law...
Oh, how I hope and pray that he will,
But today I am still just a bill.

So I guess you've gone to the White House. Let us know when you return....

November 11, 2007 7:18 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Jeez, guys, I take a weekend off (plus the Remembrance Day holiday, Leigh), and you pepper me with comments and poems and prodigious feats of memory. I love it!! (Or, as Erica would say, lurve it!!)

As to Erica: I am blown away by the PF of M! Setting it to music - now there's a technique I hadn't heard of. But it makes a lot of sense. What music did you use?

As to Leigh: you really *do* crack me up, to borrow Erica's expression of a few comments earlier! (OK, I'm done borrowing from Erica for the moment...after all I do have a mind of my own...I think...cogito ergo sum, and all that.) Where to begin with your awesome posts?

Well, first of all, I wasn't sure if you'd cribbed or not - I mean, it's one thing to memorize the words and pronunciation, but the very orthography of the Ellesmere Manuscript?! Give me a break!

(Except that I don't believe that the EM has commas and semi-colons....)

So between laughing over the Eliot false start (he's an American, BTW - went to Harvard, too, as I recall - so why are you Brits reading him? Oh, well, you let us read Chaucer, so I guess we can let you read Eliot) and gaping in awe at the Middle English spellings, my mouth was open as wide as the great fish that swallowed Jonah.

And yes, we *do* study Chaucer here in America. Unexpurgated. We never had a Thomas Bowdler over here to "correct" our literary texts for us. :-)

Next I had to laugh again at the "showers of soot" version. Very clever! Yours, or someone else's?

Seriously, I love Chaucer. He's great fun and it's amazing to find that people were engaged in a power struggle between the sexes even then. Plus ca change...

Ah, Leigh, we are definitely soulmates! Chaucer is one of my great loves, too; and, like you, I have taught him to the younger generation. I still remember my maiden lecture at Yale, on the Nun's Priest's Tale, which I had practic/sed endlessly in front of a mirror and my long-suffering then wife. It went well, and got a round of applause at the end - unusual for a bunch of callow Yalies. (Oops - hope Diana Peterfreund and her new husband aren't reading this blog today!)

I, of course, had studied Chaucer at Harvard with the great B. J. (Bartlett Jere) Whiting, himself successor to the renowned George Lyman Kittredge, who first propounded the "marriage group" theme to which you refer. Hmmm...is it fair to say that American Chaucerian scholarship is (gasp) better than British?

As you say, plus ca change...from the Knight's idealiz/sed romance to the Wife's bawdy recital of her five (so far) marital adventures (withouten other compagneye in youthe) to the Miller's tale of swiving to the Merchant's tale of marital woe (perhaps his reason for being on the pilgrimage?) to the Franklin's resolution of total equality of the sexes in marriage, the whole thing is as modern as today's tabloids. Chaucer rocks!!

And yes, I *did* know you have a book coming out in April. Will you be getting ARCs before then? If so, I'd love to get one! As well as a signed copy of the final product, of course! ;-)

Finally, I am impressed with how well the little man in your computer understands our political process in this country. But I think his skills as a poet need a tune-up; some of the lines, alas, don't rhyme! (Perhaps he's been reading more Eliot than Chaucer?)

The little man in my computer, by contrast, prefers rhymed iambic pentameter/re:

Whan that April, cruellest month of all,
Hath filled Leigh's cup with wormwood and with gall,
For that the branch that might have grown full straight
Of laurel, meant to crown her writer's pate,
Instead was cropp'd, as I have heard report,
Before its time; yea, in a phrase, "Cut Short";
Then Leigh, to give her credit where 'tis due,
Refused to harbor bitterness or rue;
Instead she said, with customary dash,
"Forget the plants - just shower me with cash!"

November 13, 2007 11:06 AM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

Setting it to music - now there's a technique I hadn't heard of. But it makes a lot of sense. What music did you use?

Well, I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, so at the time I was way into music and knew the lyrics by heart of all my favorite songs/bands without even trying, because I heard the songs so much. I also played piano and liked to make up my own songs. So I did. I set the Tales to music I specifically made up to fit the rhythm of the couplets. If you and I are ever in the same room as a piano, perhaps I will perform a jaunty Chaucer tune...

November 13, 2007 11:41 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

If you and I are ever in the same room as a piano, perhaps I will perform a jaunty Chaucer tune...

It's a date!

November 13, 2007 11:52 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Oh Bill, I hope you're not labouring under the illusion that your brilliant original verse can compete with my ridiculous cribbed poem?

Sorry to pepper you with comments, I'd try some pathetic pun about not wanting to be saucy but that would probably just rub salt in the wound (sorry!)

Let's be serious here. shoures of soote no, I don't think it's original, I believe Chaucer said it before me. Of course, he was writing before the Clean Air Act.

What, pray, is an ARC? Author Rsomethinged Copy? I'm not making any promises, mind, until I know what it is.

I love Erica's idea of setting Chaucer to music. I must visit her amazing blog and bathe in the energy there again.

Keep in touch or, like your famous politician says, "I'll be back" - several times, probably!

November 13, 2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

What, pray, is an ARC? Author Rsomethinged Copy?

An ARC is an Advance Reader's Copy, something most publishing houses in the States create as a kind of final galley proof. Authors then send them to their writer friends to have their gimlet eyes look for any last-minute corrections.

Dunno if they do this in GB or not, but it might be worth a call to your editor to find out. Maybe you can start a trend! :-)

brilliant original verse

Hardehar (American slang for a belly laugh)...mere tinkling rhymes compared to our hero Geoffrey!

I love Erica's idea of setting Chaucer to music. I must visit her amazing blog and bathe in the energy there again.

Ooh...nicely put.

*Bill goes off to do the same*

November 13, 2007 1:02 PM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

gimlet eyes - whoa there! My MS is with an editor at the moment, who I think does everything.... (OK, I've no idea about any of this. I'll let you know when I hear from her.) last-minute corrections ... no ... no ... I'm not going to comment on that -(corrections? I'm an English teacher) because that would definitely be tempting fate. I think the editor deals with that too. I'm pinning my hopes on her. Maybe ARCs are a good idea. But gimlet eyes, Bill? It's too cruel.

November 13, 2007 6:15 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Well, OK, let's soften it to eagle-eyed, which is what Diana Peterfreund called yours truly when he caught a few whoppers in her ARC. Yes, Leigh, I know that we English teachers are perfection incarnate, but even Homer nods, as we all know.

Frankly, now that I know you, I wouldn't dare venture forth into print again before I ran an ARC by you. After all, we have our reputations for perfection to maintain!

November 14, 2007 9:51 AM  
Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Hey Bill, thanks for visiting. In a rush - replied on mine but maybe should have done so on yours, in case anyone I know reads it - hate to be cryptic but gotta go - another parents' evening!! The real comment is on my blog and now out of time. sorry.

November 14, 2007 1:21 PM  
Blogger Sarah Darer Littman said...

Wow, I bury my schnozz in work for a little while and I miss all this new info about Greenwich Guy's past.

And I wish I'd seen you driving the minivan during your "soccer mom" stint. :-)

I shall make sure to hug you if I see you in the library (or elsewhere) to ensure you get an adequate hug quotient for 2007.

November 18, 2007 7:15 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hey, Sarah, thanks for stopping by! I think there was a hug from you that counted in my 2007 quotient - after all, you certainly fit in the "beautiful young women" category - but I'm always up for more!

November 18, 2007 1:15 PM  
Blogger Sarah Darer Littman said...

Yes, because as the "experts" have now told us (as if any parent worth their salt didn't already know) the more hugs the merrier.

BTW, I've got some exciting but top secret book stuff going on...will reveal ALL when I see you. About the secret book stuff, that is. The Webmeister might have something otherwise...

November 18, 2007 5:27 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Too funny, Sarah! And I can't wait to hear the news!! :-0

November 19, 2007 9:45 AM  

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