Remembering Mark Twain From 'The Farm' at Elmira College


If Samuel Clemens had lived a little longer he might have had his own radio show.  As Mark Twain he was a prolific writer and a delightful performer, one of the most popular speakers of his time on the world’s lecture circuits.  He also had an interest in adopting new technology, such as the typewriter.  But he died in 1910 and though there is not even a recording of his voice that we can play (Thomas Edison did record Twain but the recording was destroyed in a fire) there is an abundance of literature from “The Prince and the Pauper” to “The Diary of Adam and Eve”.  There is even autobiographical writing that Mark Twain himself intended to be released only now, on the 100th anniversary of his passing.  So the centennial of Mark Twain’s death is being widely observed, nowhere more enthusiastically than in Elmira, NY.
Elmira stands alongside Twain’s boyhood home of Hannibal, MO and his residence in Hartford, CT as one of the places the widely-traveled writer called home. He felt it was his favorite spot on Earth. His wife, Olivia “Livy” Langdon was from Elmira and for twenty years they spent the summer at Quarry Farm, the home of Livy’s sister and brother-in-law.  In a small octagonal “study” built for him a short distance up the hill from the house, Mark Twain did some of his most important writing, including “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn”.  The farm is now owned by Elmira College and is part of the college’s Center for Mark Twain Studies.  The small writing room was moved to the college campus in 1952. There have been observances throughout the Southern Tier’s Mark Twain Country, ranging from the dedication of a nature trail in Big Flats to a full-scale reenactment of Samuel Clemens’s 1910 funeral at Woodlawn Cemetary.  The Kroch Library at Cornell University is presenting a major display of Mark Twain papers and artifacts through October 8th.  Elmira College continues its perennial Twain lecture series, presented under the title the humorist himself coined for his first public lectures, “The Trouble Begins at 8.”

National Poetry Month 2010


In a tradition within a tradition, OFF THE PAGE offers an April program in observance of National Poetry Month. Previous presentations have brought together some of the outstanding poets living and writing in our region and invited listeners to send in poems they’ve written. Last year at this time we received a veritable anthology of poems, which you can still read here. The invitation is out again, and if you’ve got a poem you’d like to share, please send it to OffThePage@WSKG.ORG. The poem should be written in the body of the e-mail and not as an attachment (our Information Technology people warn we must be protected from viral verse).

"Love and War" by Paddy Welles and Dolf Harmsen


“The major purpose of our book is to get us in touch with the ways we employ aggression and passion to meet our personal needs and to achieve our ambitions, goals and dreams.  Experiencing our aliveness is our deepest psychological need from the cradle to the grave.  Feeling passionately alive is the ultimate gratification of that need.  Must we behave irrationally or violently to attain that gratification?  When does love become irrational?  Is war ever rational?” — from “Love and War”

For most of recorded history much of the history that was recorded was about war.  This should not be surprising, as war is a big event and can mark a turning point in a nation’s history.  It’s also an exciting experience and a much stronger story than recalling days behind a plow or fishing in a river.  Everyday life can also be a bit ho-hummy, but the tedium we experience is brightened by being with those we love and who love us.  In either love or war we leave the fallow flat country and ascend into the exceptional.  But these “peak experiences” may carry their own risks: the love can be strained or transient, the war will be destructive and deadly.  To understand what makes wars so frequent and love so evasive we turn to a psychologist and a biologist. If war is so awful and peace and love so wonderful, why has the human race had such a tough time stopping war and also making love survive?  In their new book “Love and War: Human nature in Crisis”, biologist Dr. Rudolf Harmsen and psychologist Dr. Paddy S. Welles seek the answer to these questions in a complex of social and evolutionary factors.  People can be propelled by feelings that run ahead of reason.  “We actually have an emotional mind,” the book tells us, “which preceded our rational mind in evolutionary development.”  Human society originated with family and tribal connections, and it appears that among the earliest conflicts were disputes over natural resources. Harmsen and Welles do not shy away from critiquing the idea that love and war both fulfill a deep human need.  They endorse the 2007 “Civil Paths to Peace” recommendations of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding as pointing the way toward avoiding calamity.  In “Love and War” we find Drs. Welles and Harmsen writing in turn from their individual expertise and shared concerns.  Paddy S. Welles of Horseheads, NY  is a marriage and family therapist with a doctorate from Syracuse University.  She is the author of “To Stand in Love” and “Are You Ready for Lasting Love?”