Alas, Poor Lester, I Knew Him Horatio

I posted comment to another blog that chose to obliquely defame the memory of Georgia's late governor.

I need to disclaim that I am a big fan of The General, such a big fan, in fact, that I will be adding him to my blog roll immediately. His satire is sharp, intelligent and gut busting funny. I cannot recommend him highly enough.

That having been said, he has chosen to satirize the late Lester Maddox. Now, the governor ranks high on any list of American political leaders deserving of commentary, satire and ridicule. This I cannot argue. His politics, though complicated, were reprehensible, his conduct unforgivable. All historicizing aside, I feel safe in presuming that the General never met the late governor. I did, more than once and never in a political capacity.

I had coffee with him in a tiny house in Cobb County, now since demolished. I shook hands with him and chatted with him as a friend of a friend with no agenda other than convivial conversation. I found him to be quite unlike his historical characterization. I posted the following comment to the General:

By a strange twist of fate, I dated the granddaughter of one of Maddox's best friends for more than a year. Strangely, she was unaware of the fact that 'uncle Lester' had ever been involved in state politics. He was simply a friend of the family, one of Cobb County's old guard. I met the man twice. He was sharply intelligent and remarkably literate even in his old age.

What struck me most about him, even knowing his history as I did, was that he did not come across as the history books had portrayed him. He was not the angry sort. He was quite polite, reserved and, though I had a black friend with me on one of the occasions on which I spoke with him, evidenced no bigotry whatsoever.

Perhaps this was simply old southern courtesy, the desire not to make a fuss when a guest in the home of another. Perhaps he had changed his ways in the years since his tenure as governor of Georgia. Perhaps he was too old to care.

The facts, in many respects, speak for themselves. He ran and won office on a states' rights platform, the same platform that won Reagan many southern votes in the 1980's. He handed out axe handles to his white restaurant customers and poured corrosives into the pool at the hotel and diner he owned in order to deprive black customers of access,

Via that same token. as governor, he forcibly integrated hiring practices in his state and integrated the Georgia civil service despite the protests of dozens of his subordinates. He hired more minorities, blacks in particular, into the Georgia's government workforce than any governor in the history of the state.

On the two occasions, and the total of fifteen minutes, I spent with him, broaching such topics seemed rude. I made small talk with him as if he was any other lifelong friend of my girlfriend's grandfather. Something in me cannot reconcile history's view of him with the frail and clever old man that I met.

Perhaps I am deluded, bamboozled by the etiquette of an antiquarian. Perhaps he was a product of his age, a true believer in states' rights whilst not a bigot, in the manner that Confederate fetishists wish. Most likely, history has not been entirely fair with him, nor I honest in my interpretation and the truth lies at some nebulous point in between.

Point being, I've met the man and I'm confident most others that would comment here have not. History is neither fair nor accurate. Lester Maddox, while no hero of mine, I can say with certainty, will never be fully understood.

And that's the whole point.

My meeting the former governor did not change my opinion of him nor of my state's history. It did, however, change my opinion of history as a concept.

There is much more than what is written in educational texts, so much more than was ever committed to print. When I am old, historians will write at length about the man that I met and that they never shared time, let alone coffee or conversation, with. I cannot claim that that does makes me more knowledgeable about him than future historians. It does mean, however, that I have a unique perspective on him and that, in the end, is what history really is, perspective.

Old Man, Take a Look at Your Life.

Though I am loath to concede to the concept of history's uncounterable force, I must concede that my generation, despite the generation previous reneging on a myriad of social promises, has never been cured to hardness by a vast social crisis.

In the words of Frank Herbert:

There should be a science of discontent. People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.

The unifying experiences of our parents and their parents have left us unprepared for a lifetime without commonality.

Thusly, we have been betrayed.

The fact that this is not being played out in the current election rhetoric is a disgrace to our nation and to our perception of the future.


Never Heard of Laurels

The riders in a race do not stop short when they reach the goal. There is a little finishing canter before coming to a standstill. There is time to hear the kind voice of friends and to say to one's self: "The work is done." But just as one says that, the answer comes: "The race is over, but the work never is done while the power to work remains." The canter that brings you to a standstill need not be only coming to rest. It cannot be, while you still live. For to live is to function. That is all there is in living.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


It's Something Unpredictable, but In the End, It's Right

It shouldn't be a big deal. It's a business move by Cumulus media. I shouldn't be bothered.

It's just a radio station and, until just yesterday, I thought it was going to be just another of those trivial events in local media that usually pass me by. That's not the case, though. My general contempt for popular culture notwithstanding, I find I have some very mixed and some very powerful feelings about today.

99.7fm, WNNX-Atlanta, Everything Alternative Ninety-Nine X, goes off the air today. Sure, they're going to soldier on as an internet and HD station but their days as a staple of Atlanta broadcast are over. Though I cajole myself for an emotional attachment to such a thing, I'm going to be very sorry to witness such an important symbol of my formative years silenced.

Before they were 99x, they were Power99 and they were the only ATL station I took a liking to when I moved here as a frustrated and hateful eleven year old.

I remember the day the first Iraq war ended. Power99 played the song "Celebrate," the same one that's gotten so tiresome at weddings, for two solid hours.

99.7 sponsored my first concert when I was twelve and at least two dozen more in the intervening years.

I was still in junior high when they shifted format from the new wave/technopop playlist to the alternative rock format of 99x, back when "alternative rock" still meant something, back when Nirvanna, Pearl Jam and Sound Garden were just getting ready to make headlines, when most rock stations were dominated by guys who permed their hair and dressed in spandex.

It's one of two local radio stations for which I can always remember the name, frequency and call letters and it's been the first station I've programmed into the radio of every car I've ever owned.

It's so staid to say but that station was, in a very real way, the voice of my generation. Anyone my age that grew up in suburban Atlanta knows that station and can sing along with nearly every song on it's playlist. This was the music that we all listened to through high school and college, the songs that played in the background behind so many of our lives' firsts.

There it was, just now: 0528 EST, 1/25/08

They played the oh-too-obvious Green Day song, the one I first heard on that station. The one that made us all go, 'excuse me, who? Doesn't sound anything like them.' I remember the day, driving my Camaro along Post Oak Tritt road not far from my old house, on the way back from a line rehearsal at Katie D's house. Strange that I should remember that song on that particular day but that is just how important some of that music has become.

And then, silence. A long deep silence as they switched over to the simulcast of the sister station that will now be appropriating the frequency.

All things must fade, I suppose and it does me little good to get so worked up over it. That last song hit it right on the head. So, thank you to 99x and to everyone who has been a part of it. Thank you for being there as I grew up. Thank you for shaping my taste and for sucking so much less than every other station on the Atlanta dial.

I hope you had the time of your life.


The Most Divisive Question in History.

At least, in the history of mead making:

To Boil or not to Boil?

This may seem a trifle but I once saw this debate come to blows. More than once I've seen it come close. Mead people get really worked up over this.

Should one boil honey before fermenting it?

Honey is basically an emulsion of simple and complex sugars and waxy lipids. Boiling the honey causes the emulsion to separate. If you've ever tried to heat hollandaise above a critical temperature you've noticed a similar phenomenon as the sauce split back into butter and egg yolk. When honey is heated slowly the solids, the wax, grit and bee effluvium separate from the sugars and float to the top. Along the way it becomes a sticky, slimy, foul smelling mess that is easily skimmed off the top of the mix and discarded. This process is time consuming and labor intensive.

There are advantages and disadvantages to boiling. I'm going to go over both and save my opinion for the end.

First, health issues. As most people make it, mead is an entirely organic, natural, authentic beverage produced from uncorrupted ingredients. Thusly, we always run the risk that there are harmful organisms present in the finished product. Boiling the honey greatly reduces the chances that a stray bacterium or fungus will contaminate the mix. On the other hand, most people are perfectly happy to eat raw honey with no from of decontamination whatsoever so this concern, while valid, isn't life or death.

Second, consistency. Honey varies in color, density, complexity and quality. Because the boiling process removes virtually everything but the fermentable sugars, each batch of mead produced from similar honeys will be that much more alike. You will have more predictability in your product from year to year and even from batch to batch in the same year.

Third, sediment. If you don't boil the honey, a thick layer of sediment, approximately an inch's worth in a five gallon batch, will collect at the bottom of the brewing vessel. Sediment poses all kinds of problems. When draining or siphoning the mixture you may suck up sediment that will then take days to settle. If you don't filter you will always end up the bit of it in the finished bottles that might make the last swallow unpalatable. The more sediment the more often you will have to rack the batch from one container to another. Worst, if left too long without racking or chemical stabilization, yeast will feed on the sediment producing an unpleasant, burnt/spoiled flavor.

Fourth and most important, clarity. Because boiling removes everything in the honey save the sugars, the components that might cause a batch to be discolored or cloudy are removed ahead of time. Mead from boiled honey is lighter in color and much more transparent than mead from unboiled honey. This gives you a leg up in getting your mead consumed by the uninitiated or bought by the unsure. People are simply more willing to drink things that they can see through. Also, if you were to enter your mead in a brewing contest, clarity is often, though not always, one of the judging criteria.

On the other hand, boiling has it's disadvantages.

First, loss of color. True meade from boiled honey will look like a white wine, whereas the same product made from unboiled honey might have a light amber or orange color that more reflects the nature of the beverage. Hue is also a judging criteria at many festivals. Specifically, the color of the finished product is expected to reflect the color of the varietal of honey.

Second, loss of complexity and varietal. While separating the solids from the rest of the honey, heating also causes the more complex sugars such as maltose and dextrose, which are rich and fruity in flavor, to break down into fructose and glucose, which are basically the same as the white sugar you put in coffee. This leaves you with intense sweetness but costs you subtlety. Heating robs the honey of most of its character and distinction, essentially reducing it to refined sugar. It flattens the taste of the mead, making it much less complex while eliminating many of the flavors specific to varietal honeys.

Third, aging, related to consistency as explained above. Like wine, mead should age, depending on the type, anywhere from four months to three years. While mead made from boiled honey requires less aging compared to an equivalent blend with an unboiled honey, the aging does less. Fewer age dependent compounds are present in the mead. Some people consider this an advantage but most do not. The smoothness, complexity and and robust flavors that come from a properly aged, unboiled, mead cannot be matched in a boiled product. Though the boiled honey mead peaks much faster, if it has an unpleasant sharpness or an aftertaste, those flavors will probably never fully age out.

Personally, I don't boil my honey. Partly, I'm lazy I don't want to take the extra step and I don't want to stink up my kitchen. Much more importantly, though, I'm an adventurer. I make mead as a means of self exploration. I don't like determinism and I'm not trying to produce a commercial product. I much prefer a rich, complex, developed mead to a consistent one. For that matter, if every batch I made came out the same, I probably wouldn't enjoy it nearly so much.

In summation, if you want a consistent, transparent, sterile mead, and you're willing to put in the effort, by all means boil. Don't let any dickhead homebrew snob tell you not to. If you want a less predictable but richer, darker and more adventurous drink don't boil and, likewise tell anyone who says otherwise to perform biologically untenable acts upon themselves.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no right and no wrong way to make mead. I've never understood why but mead people get themselves really worked up over this boiling thing. It's the Catholic/Prodestant, Army/Marines, Camaro/Mustang, GT/UGA, Tastes Great/Less Filling argument of the mead world. Who gives a rat's ass?

Know what you're getting into from the beginning. If you're pleased with your product, make that and drink that but, no matter what you do, do it deliberately.


Another Nail in my Coffee Table

My apartment is atrocious to look at, poorly decorated and usually a mess but I'm a twenty-something bachelor so what do you expect?

The one thing that always gets a comment, though, is my coffee table. Whenever someone enters my home for the first time, they notice it. Granted, it's hard to miss being so much larger than a regular coffee table. It's also directly opposite the front door such that you have to step around it in order to cross the room.

That, and it's a coffin.

It's not one of those rectangular, polished, bevel-top coffins that are used today, oh no. It's one of the flat-topped, elongated hexagons meant to loosely mimic the shape of a person. It's made of unvarnished wood. It's the the kind of coffin you might see in a western when they bury the sheriff or that a certain immortal nobleman from eastern Europe might like to sleep in.

Dimitri, a friend from my old theatre troupe and quilting circle built it as a stage prop. It proved too heavy and the cast eventually found a replacement that was more wieldy. He bequeathed it to me when the USAF transfered him overseas. There it has sat ever since, huge, heavy, obvious, unique and always commented upon. I think it's my favorite bit of furniture.

What Will I Give to Tomorrow?

If you don't learn to bleed and bleed like you mean it, nothing really matters, does it?


I Love America.

I love my country. Even more importantly, I love the principles on which it is founded. But, Gods, You People Make It So Fucking Hard.

As a proponent of basic American values, I'm obligated to defend the right of others to say whatever they want, no matter how stupid, foolish, irresponsible, hateful or demonstrably false what they say may be. I can't help but feel that this liberal ideal is being abused by people who would, if given the chance, rob others of similar rights. Freedom of speech is being exploited by people who don't much support privacy rights, due process or freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. It's certainly being abused by people that think freedom of religion was a bad idea.

Luckily for the dominionists, the creationists and the faux conservatives, real liberals aren't willing to jettison ideals like freedom of speech no matter how appealing it would be to compel that very vocal and hugely misguided minority to simply shut the fuck up.

So, keep talking, assholes.


I'm Terrified of Flying.

Even before 9/11 they decided that only ticketed passengers could go to the gate. After 9/11 came the no fly lists, the larceny of nail files and knitting needles, the de-shoeing and the rules about liquids that I still can't understand except for the assertion that ultra-fundie nitwits can apparently mix dynamite from toothpaste, root beer and cologne.

In the end, all of this hullabaloo scares the shit out of me.

Mind you, I'm not scared that terrorists might try to hijack or blow up my plane. Those possibilities don't bother me in the slightest. What bothers me is that, if my plane is hijacked or blown up, it will be because the TSA and the rest of the Department of Homeland Paranoia have their heads completely up their collective asses.

Why do I say this? Because they banned razor blades and nail files only after 9/11, because they started checking shoes only after that Seattle stoner lookalike tried to set his loafers on fire and because they started regulating liquids only after the Brits discovered a plot to make boom-boom goop in airplane toilets. That last plot, incidentally, Turned Out to be as Full of Shit as the septic reservoirs of the planes that I now have to run an obstacle course, give a blood sample and sing Hail to the Chief to be allowed to board.

I will only even begin to feel safe when the TSA and similar agencies can begin to think ahead of the terrorists. Then, and only then, will they have even begun to justify their own existence, let alone all of the headache they have caused air travelers over the last seven years.

Until that happens, harken CEO's of floundering airlines, I'm taking the fucking train.

The Three Laws are Absolute

The question of whether Machines Can Think...is about as relevant as the question of whether Submarines Can Swim.

- Edsger Dijkstra


When in Rome, Freak out and Run the Fuck Away

It's late, even by the standards of the industrial club scene. This place, being technically a speakeasy and not a club, is open later than everywhere else and is still packed as dawn approaches. This is the time of night when the place is filled with tourists. All the mainstream establishments have closed and small cadres of mundane folk, not content to end their night at last call, wander in here by accident or design. Some don't know what they're coming to, only that the single, unadorned door in an otherwise faceless downtown building will open if knocked upon. Others have heard of the place and come to it as if to a carnival sideshow. Most can't handle it. Like a haunted house in late October, gaggles of college kids dare each other to see how much further into the den of iniquity they are willing to venture, some slight and trembling girls make it all the way to the end and find it's not so bad while some burly beta males can't make it through the front hallway.

I'm sitting under the big canopy, have been all night. I rarely dance. I haven't touched a drink in weeks and most of the venue's other attractions don't interest me tonight. I'm perfectly happy to sit, chat with friends and watch the freakshow, of which I'm only a casual member, stroll by. I didn't watch any of the shows tonight. The performance art in my community has gotten pretty watered down the past few years. The whole scene needs an infusion of new ideas because we've all seen these shows before. The only people that watch the performances these days are the tourists and the friends of the performers and right now, the former outnumber the latter at least five to one.

My group of friends is poised to leave as the last show ends. We're standing by the door to the dance hall waiting for our last to return from the restroom. At the same time the audience from the last show starts filing out of the big room. The scene's veterans look disappointed and most of the tourists look baffled, distressed even.

Suddenly a trio of gentlemen, by the looks of them, all members of a Greek letter organization and all dressed in clothes that only their parents could afford come stumbling, tripping over themselves, out of the hall. They're all tall and broad of shoulder, athletes for certain, the type that are used to being the biggest and most respected ones in a room. Tonight, tonight they're a bit out of sorts.

"A'ight, we're going," calls one to his friends as they walk with great urgency towards the door, encumbered by the crowd exiting the hall.

"We don't need to talk about this. Ain't nobody seen nothing," says the second as he catches up to his more rapidly fleeing companion, dodging his eyes about as if being pursued.

They grab a third, more reserved, friend and jostle their way to the front door, feeling very out of place and probably quite outnumbered.

I laugh out loud for a long moment. They stare at me like I'm insane but all quickly look away when I try to make eye contact.

"Nobody gonna talk about this," says the tallest as he ushers the quiet one out, "Nobody needs to know that we were ever here." I wonder if the quiet one will ever be back.

Such fuss. Like I said, some folks can't handle it.


Auld Lang Syne

I have only a single new year's resolution. I was inspired to make it while ruminating for this earlier post. I'm not going to go into any detail because, as superstitious as this is, I believe one should keep resolutions and birthday wishes to themselves or they are bound to fail.

That having been said, I'm going to monitor the progress of my resolution on the unique page for this post. Every other blogger out there posts reviews of books or movies so I'm not going to expect anyone to actually read or heed any of this but it'll be here if anyone's interested.

Here goes.

1. Paganism: An Introduction to Earth- Centered Religions.
by Joyce & River Higginbotham
ISBN-13: 978-0738702223

My Catholic girlfriend read this book to help her understand my faith. For the sake of discussion, I read it as well. This is the only book I've ever read on the subject that really drives home the breadth of belief in the Pagan community, properly emphasizing that we are not one religion but a family of dozens of religions that share a scant few common traits. For someone unfamilliar with Paganism or the Pagan community, this book is an excellent primer thought it really should be followed up with further reading about specific traditions. I would advise skipping the chapter on "the living universe" entirely it's full over with the kind of poorly researched, pseudo-scientific, new age mumbo-jumbo that makes anyone with a degree of skepticism roll their eyes.

2. The Year of Living Biblically
by A.J. Jacobs
ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-9147-7

She'd never say so, but I often get the feeling that my girlfriend's Catholic mother doesn't approve of my Paganism. I had thought that she bought this book for me, not fully understanding it, because it was the only thing on my Xmas list that seemed even vaguely pious. In fact, I was the one that failed to understand the book. I had assumed it would be irreverent, a send up of biblical literalism and an indictment of religious orthodoxy that would confirm my liberal prejudices and give me a long giggle at the expense of the followers of Abraham. Instead I was treated to an enlightening and endearing series of meditations on the nature of spirituality. While often funny, the book is much more about understanding religion than about mocking it. Sadly, the constant pop culture references may relegate the book to irrelevance long before it's time; perhaps A.J. Jacobs will be prompted to update them for later editions. That aside, this has proven one of the most informative and insightful popular books I've ever read on mainstream religion. I haven't been prompted to convert and neither was Jacobs but I have been admonished to understand and that is a holy gift, indeed.

I also understand that A.J. Jacobs routinely Googles himself so maybe he'll comment here. I can hope, can't I?

3. Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown
by Michael Shermer
ISBN-10 0-8050-7708-1
A collection of essays by the founder of Skeptic magazine. There are a handful of interesting insights about prominent scientists like Stephen J. Gould and and some interesting musings about the nature of inquiry.

4. Coraline
by Neil Gaiman
ISBN-13 978-0-06-113937-6
In theory, this is a children's book. It's not very long. The language is basic. The story is fairly simple and not much is left to be inferred. Despite all that, this is the creepiest book I've read in years. Perhaps it is because the language is so simple, because it reads like a children's book. Perhaps because the imagery invokes some powerful memories of my family's old house in England. Either way, this book made my skin crawl.

5. The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right
by Rabbi Michael Lerner
ISBN-10: 0060842474
Wise but wordy, this book addresses the political left's consistent failure to acknowledge a spiritual aspect to the modern American experience. The template for reconciliation, almost a manifesto for liberal theological politics, is, after careful scrutiny, as ambitious as it, at first, seems naive. Very enlightening and provocative but could have been about a hundred pages shorter.

6. You Suck
by Christopher Moore
ISBN-13: 978-0060590307
Exceptionally funny, especially given my history in goth culture. The handful of chapters told from the perspective of Abby Normal are particularly hilarious, combining adult jadedness with the worldview of a snotty teenager. Definitely a novel take on the vampire craze.

7. The Execution Channel
by Ken MacLeod
ISBN-13: 978-0765313324
A near future extrapolation regarding the The War on Terror[TM]. Eerie in it's plausibility and thought provoking in it's alternative take on modern history, Gore wins in 2k and invades the middle east to drive up the price of oil in order to further his militant environmentalism, for instance. The twist ending is pretty obvious and the stylistic device of ending each chapter with a list of execution victims peters out midway through the book for no obvious reason but, on the whole, well worth the read.

8. Crooked Little Vein
by Warren Ellis
ISBN-13: 978-0060723934
This was one of the most profoundly disturbing books I've read in the 21st century. It is a catalog of perversions, a laundry list of psycho-sexual and chemical adventures with a cast of characters so strange and so obviously mentally ill that I'm really troubled by the reflections of my actual friends and family that I see in them. I want to use the White House Chief of Staff's expository on his heroin habit as an audition monologue. I loved this book.

9. How Doctors Think
by Jerome Groopman, M.D.
ISBN-13: 978-0618610037
Informative and very clearly written. Though I've not spent a day in hospital my entire life and have never found myself at odds with my doctor, I feel this book has well prepared me for any major medical episode. The central theme seems dual, first, that doctors make professional mistakes, just like anyone in a highly specialized field. They are prone to confirmation bias and to rest on the findings of others. They can be impatient with the medically uneducated and can jump to unfair conclusions about their charges. This is not a failing of doctors, specifically, but the inevitable outgrowth of any discipline as complex as modern medicine. These intellectual biases and professional heuristics can be confronted or avoided by informed patients who are aware of these "cascades of cognitive pitfalls" that actively engage and help their doctor in the act of treating them. Secondly, Dr. Groopman, though not harshly critical, has little good to say about managed care or business influence in medical science. He blames insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospital managers and even the greed of some doctors for the witholding, misapplication and corruption of the healing arts. Definitely a worthy and informative read.

10. Myron
by Gore Vidal
ISBN-10: 0-934-49477-6
How is it that I had never before read Gore Vidal? Sure, I'd seen his bit part in Gattaca and knew that he was a writer and social critic of some standing but, as is the case with too many great authors, I'd never actually read anything by him. Myron, a schizophrenic former gay hustler turned crusading transvestite film obsessive turned suburban everyman Chinese caterer finds himself sucked into a late night movie. Living in the back lot limbo of Metro studios in '48, he battles with his other personality, Myra who is secretly trying to remake the world in her image by manipulating the film Siren of Babylon and by stealthily castrating extras. This bizarre and unique book kept me laughing at it's pure audacity. My favorite touch is Gore's response to the Supreme Court's decision to base obscenity charges on "local standards." He replaces all curses and all references to sexual anatomy with the names of Supreme Court justices. Myron, for instance, is often cited for having a huge, if artificially augmented Rehnquist. One character gets handcuffed to a bed and Burgered in his Blackmum. Wish I had thought of it.

11. Why People Buy
by John O'Shaughnessy
ISBN-13: 9780195040876
Hugely anachronistic, this book, written in '89 details a concept of consumer behavior ultimately based on the assumptions of classical economics. The meat of the work is an algorithmic model of purchasing behavior that presumes a rational consumer deliberately evaluating the details of each purchase. It relies mostly on extended statements made by consumers, themselves. The past two decades of branding and buying psychology have shown us that most purchasing behaviors are emotional, not rational and are rarely based on the constructive merits of the products. This book is mostly interesting as a glimpse into the thinking of it's era.

12. Dinosaur in a Haystack
by Stephen Jay Gould

13. Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
by Chuck Klosterman

14. jPod
by Douglas Coupland

15. I Love You, Beth Cooper
by Larry Doyle

16. W.A.R: The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose
by Mick Wall

17. Asimov on Science: A 30 Year Retrospective
by Issac Asimov
ISBN-13: 9780385263450

18. The Tao of Pooh
by Benjamin Hoff, Illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard