Les Miserables 38: The Old Gorbeau House

Now Victor Hugo takes us to Paris.  We are in an old, dilapidated stretch of Boulevard de l’Hopital near La Salpetriere (an old gunpowder factory which was turned into a mental hospital; nowadays it is a general teaching hospital.  Princess Di was treated there the night that she died).  It is not very heavily populated; it isn’t the city, yet it isn’t quite the country either.  (At least it wasn’t back in Victor Hugo’s day.)  It is exactly the sort of place Jean Valjean is looking for, because he wants to live a quiet life and evade detection by the authorities.

50-52 Boulevard de l'Hopital, circa 2010

On this God-forsaken stretch of Boulevard de l’Hopital is an old, dilapidated house.  Victor Hugo goes into great detail describing this house; it is a hovel but with some architectural features reminiscent of a rich mansion.  The short end of this house faces the Boulevard, so it looks like a very small house, but it goes back a long ways.  It is a one-story house with an unused basement which is not accessible from inside the house.  This house contains a series of garret apartments.  The street address of this house is quirky; on the outside it is number 50 but on the inside it is number 52.  If the address ranges on Google Maps are consistent with what they were back in Victor Hugo’s day, then this house would have been located across the street from the La Salpetriere complex, just south of Rue des Wallons, one block beyond Boulevard Saint-Marcel (perhaps the Rue des Vignes-Saint-Marcel of Victor Hugo’s day).  The house is obviously long gone; the building which is there now is a seven-story apartment building with storefronts which include a flower shop and a driving school.

The owner of this house was a man named Gorbeau.  Victor Hugo tells us all about this man; he was a lawyer who was originally named Corbeau.  He did not like this name because his professional colleagues made fun of him and his partner (Corbeau is the French word for crow.  His partner was named Renard; this is the French word for fox).  So he and his partner petitioned the king to have their names legally changed.  Changing one’s name was not nearly as easy in 19th century France as it is today here in America.  You had to petition the king, and who knows how that would work out?  But Corbeau and Renard lucked out.  Their petition came before the king on a day when he was in a good mood; Victor Hugo tells us all about what the king (Louis XV) was doing that day.  Corbeau was allowed to change his name to Gorbeau.  Renard did not make out quite so well.  He was allowed to change his name to Prenard (which means “grasping fellow”).  But Victor Hugo tells us that this new name was perfectly apropos for him.

This house, known in local parlance as the Gorbeau House, is where Valjean and Cosette ended up.  They lived there for several months.  At first Cosette was unaccustomed to being treated well, but she got used to it.  Valjean let her play with her doll; occasionally he would attempt to teach her to read.  During this season of life Valjean felt something coming to life inside of him as he learned to love Cosette.  Victor Hugo sums up the state of the relationship between Valjean and Cosette as follows:

Life seemed full of promise to him, men seemed good and just; in his thoughts he no longer reproached anyone with any wrong; he saw no reason now why he should not live to a very old age, since the child loved him.  He looked forward to a whole future illuminated by Cosette as if with charmed light.  The very best of us are not altogether exempt from some tinge of egotism.  At times, with a sort of quiet satisfaction, he reflected that she would be by no means pretty.

This is only personal opinion; but to express our views completely, at the point Jean Valjean had reached when he began to love Cosette, it is not entirely clear that he did not need this fresh supply of goodness to keep him on the straight and narrow.  He had just seen the wickedness of men and the misery of society in new ways–incomplete aspects and, unfortunately, showing only one side of the truth–the lot of woman summed up in Fantine, public authority personified in Javert.  This time he had been sent back to prison for doing good; new waves of bitterness had swept over him; disgust and weariness had once more seized him; even memories of the bishop might occasionally fade, to reappear afterward, luminous and triumphant; but with time this blessed remembrance was growing fainter.  Who can tell whether Jean Valjean was on the verge of discouragement and falling back on evil ways?  He loved, and he grew strong again.  Alas, he was as frail as Cosette.  He protected her, and she gave him strength.  Thanks to him, she could walk upright in life; thanks to her, he could persist in virtue.  He was this child’s support, and she was his prop and staff.  Oh, divine unfathomable mystery of Destiny’s compensations.

But surely you know that this state of blissful satisfaction is not going to last forever.  If it did–well, we wouldn’t have much of a story now, would we?

Sure enough, the landlady began to snoop around and watch Valjean.  She saw him sneak into a back room and take some money out of his coat which had been sewn into it.  In another unguarded moment, she examined the coat and found it to be loaded with money and other things.

Shortly after this, Valjean stopped to give alms to a beggar whom he always stopped to give alms to.  But this time the beggar looked up at him and he thought he saw the face of Javert.  (Victor Hugo describes Valjean’s reaction in that moment as “the sensation of someone suddenly face to face in the dark with a tiger”–more animal imagery for Javert.)  The next night he stopped and gave alms to this beggar, and noticed that it was not Javert after all.  This put his mind at ease.

But then one night a new lodger came to the Gorbeau House.  The landlady did not say anything about him except that he was an older gentleman living off his savings just like Valjean.  But he parked outside Valjean’s door and watched him through the keyhole.  The next day Valjean watched him through the keyhole and saw that it was in fact Javert.

He knew he had to get out quick.  So he looked outside and, seeing that the coast was clear, he grabbed Cosette and took off.

Where does Valjean go from here?  Tune in next time.

One and Done: Jono’s Guide to the Best 80’s Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard

Some of the best 80’s songs of all time are those that stayed in the lower decks of the Top 40.  Today our theme is “One and Done” as we take a look at some of the greatest one-and-done hits from the 80’s–songs that debuted into the Top 40 and only lasted for a week or two or maybe more before dropping out.  You may have never heard of these songs before–you have now.  Forget Miley Cyrus.  Forget Justin Bieber.  These are the songs and the stars you need to be listening to.  Thanks to Youtube, I was able to find videos for each of these songs.  So crank up the volume on your PC and prepare to be blessed with these blasts from the past.

Cutting Crew, “One for the Mockingbird” The follow-up to Cutting Crew’s 1986 #1 smash “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight”, this song debuted into the Top 40 in 1987 at No. 38 and was gone the next week.  Cutting Crew would recover with their next single, “I’ve Been in Love Before”; after an inauspicious start it rallied to the #9 position.

Ray Parker Jr., “Girls Are More Fun” Ray “Whoyagonnacall” Parker Jr. had a long and distinguished musical career.  As part of the group Raydio, he was in on the hits “Jack and Jill” (#8, 1978) and “You Can’t Change That” (#9, 1979).  As a solo singer, he had the hits “The Other Woman”, (#4, 1982), “I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You” (#12, 1983), and “Jamie” (#14, 1984), but was best known for the #1 smash “Ghostbusters” (which, incidentally, got him sued by Huey Lewis for allegedly lifting the bass line from “I Want a New Drug”.  They settled out of court.  In 2001 Ray Parker Jr. sued Huey Lewis for allegedly violating the terms of their settlement.  Gotta love these two).  The follow-up to “Ghostbusters”, this one debuted at #39 in the spring of 1985, crept up to #34, then dropped out.

Device, “Hanging on a Heart Attack” Device was fueled by the musical prowess of Holly Knight, one of the most accomplished female songwriters of the 80’s, with a little help from a couple of her friends.  After a promising start, “Hanging on a Heart Attack” inexplicably bogged down at No. 35, slipped a notch to No. 36, then dropped out the next week.  “Who Says”, the follow-up single, got some MTV play (this was back in the days when MTV actually played music videos) but failed to catch even a whiff of the Top 40.  After Device broke up, Holly Knight released a couple of solo albums in the late 80’s, including her own version of “Love is a Battlefield” which she had written for Pat Benatar back in the day.

The Hooters, “Where Do The Children Go” The Hooters (not to be confused with that sports bar with the scantily clad waitresses–a “hooter” is a sort of keyboard harmonica that features prominently in the sound of this band) got lots of play in the mid 80’s with “And We Danced” (#21, 1985) and “Day By Day” (#18, 1986).  “Where Do The Children Go”, featuring background vocals by Patty Smyth of Scandal, debuted into the Top 40 at No. 38 in the summer of 1986 and was gone the next week.  The Hooters were never seen or heard from again.

Wang Chung, “Hypnotize Me” Wang Chung is best known for their hits “Dance Hall Days” (#16, 1984) and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” (#2, 1986).  This one, from the soundtrack of the movie “Innerspace”, debuted at No. 36 in the summer of 1987, slipped a notch to No. 37, then dropped out the next week.

Club Nouveau, “Why You Treat Me So Bad” In 1986, the group Timex Social Club went to #8 with the hit “Rumors”.  Unfortunately for them, Timex wasn’t too thrilled about this, so they changed their name to “The Social Club”.  This didn’t work out quite so well for them and they broke up shortly thereafter.  A couple of Timex Social Club members went on to form the group Club Nouveau, which went to #1 in 1987 with “Lean On Me”, a remake of Bill Withers’ #1 hit from 1972.  “Why You Treat Me So Bad” was the follow-up.  It debuted at No. 39 in late 1987 and was gone the next week.

Laura Branigan, “Spanish Eddie” Laura Branigan is best known for the hits “Gloria” (#2, 1982) and “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” (#12, 1983, this one was hers before it was ever Michael Bolton’s).  She got some play in late 1984 and early 1985 with “Self Control” (#4) and “The Lucky One” (#20).  “Spanish Eddie” debuted at No. 40 in the fall of 1985, stalled out at No. 40 for a couple of weeks, and then was gone.

Alas, Laura Branigan is no longer with us.  She died in 2004 of a brain aneurysm.

Cock Robin, “When Your Heart is Weak” Cock Robin came originally from California.  They had a great deal of success abroad, but they never did anything here in the U. S.  This was their only U. S. hit; it debuted at No. 37 in the summer of 1985, inched up to No. 35, then dropped out.

Duran Duran, “Skin Trade” Duran Duran was huge in the early 80’s, then went on hiatus in 1985 as the members went on to pursue separate projects.  John Taylor and Andy Taylor joined Robert Palmer to form The Power Station, while Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, and Roger Taylor recorded an album of their own under the name Arcadia.  When John and Andy Taylor did not rejoin, opting instead to pursue their own solo projects, the remaining three went on and recorded a new album under the name Duran Duran.  This album was called “Notorious”; the title track was a #2 hit in 1987.  “Skin Trade”, the follow-up, debuted at No. 39 in 1987 and dropped out the next week.  [Whoops:  The embedding on this one has been disabled.  The video is still out there, though.  Here’s the link.]

Glass Tiger, “I Will Be There” Glass Tiger is a Canadian band best known for the hits “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” (#2, 1986) and “Someday” (#7, 1986).  “I Will Be There” debuted at No. 40 in 1987, bogged down at No. 34, and then dropped out.  (Notice in the video how the band is performing on the frozen tops of the Canadian Rockies.  Anyone else out there wonder how their instruments would make out under such extreme conditions?  And how were they able to perform up there with no sound equipment except for their instruments?)

David & David, “Welcome to the Boomtown” This one debuted at No. 40 back in 1986, crept up to No. 37, then dropped out.  David & David broke up after this and went on to work with other musicians.  They would collaborate with Sheryl Crow on her debut album “Tuesday Night Music Club”.

Okay, the party’s over.  That’s enough for one day.  Those of you who are looking at this while at work:  You’re not getting paid to look at Youtube.  Get back to work.

The Monday Melange 02.22.10: Curling, Brennan Manning, Tiger Woods

–Curling:  Folks, sliding a rock down the floor and sweeping the floor in front of it is NOT an Olympic sport!!!!!

–This week I had somebody find this blog with the search terms “brennan manning eastern orthodoxy”.  I have not heard anything about Brennan Manning converting to Eastern Orthodoxy.  But as soon as I know something, I’ll let you know.

–For those of you who keep track of such things (and also for those of you who don’t), we are now in the first week of Lent.  Here is the Litany of Penitence from the Book of Common Prayer.  Hopefully this will be helpful to some of you during this season.

–So you think the Bible is just a nice book full of nice stories about nice people who did nice things?  Think again.  Chaplain Mike challenges us to rethink our ideas about the Bible in this post, entitled “The Bible:  Rated R”.

–Tiger Woods gave a news conference last weekend for a few select media, in which he delivered a prepared statement apologizing for his sexaholic ways.  For those of you who are interested, here, courtesy of my man Jeff Schultz, is a video of the event and a transcript of his statement.

–This year’s Braves will be lucky to finish third in their division.  What do you think?

Unsolicited Advice for Those of You Who Have Kids or Work With Them: Piaget and Vygotsky

Today’s post is the latest installment in my continuing quest to enlighten the world with nuggets of wisdom gained from my experience as a student of the field of education.

Today we are going to talk about child development.

It should be no secret to anyone who has spent any significant amount of time around children that they are NOT miniature adults.  Instead, they are totally different creatures, with their own interests, wants, needs, thoughts, feelings, and ways of looking at the world.  For this reason, it is vitally important to anyone who works with children in any capacity to understand how children develop and change as they move through the various seasons of life.  Any education system worth its salt will take this into account in order to devise learning experiences that are appropriate and relevant to the unique ways in which children look at the world.

The three biggest names in child development nowadays are Piaget, Erikson, and Vygotsky.  Piaget and Vygotsky were concerned with cognitive development–that is, the development of children’s thinking.  Erikson was primarily concerned with emotional and social development–that is, how children feel and how they relate to others.  Piaget and Erikson each came up with their own road map of the process of development over the course of life.  Vygotsky did not come up with a comprehensive road map like Piaget or Erikson, but he has very strong views about how learning happens. Continue reading “Unsolicited Advice for Those of You Who Have Kids or Work With Them: Piaget and Vygotsky”

Les Miserables 37: Inconveniences of Entertaining a Poor Man Who May Be Rich

Who was this strange man who just picked up and carried Cosette’s water bucket?  Here Victor Hugo takes a pause to fill us in a little bit.  Earlier in the day, he was in Paris looking for a place to stay.  He then caught a carriage to Lagny, but got off at Chelles and took a secret route, causing the driver to think that he had mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth.  He then passed through the woods outside of Montfermeil, stopping to inspect a spot where he had apparently buried something and see if the earth was freshly disturbed.  So apparently the former convict Boulatruelle was right to suspect that somebody was up to something out there in those woods.

(If you look at Chelles on Google Earth, you will find that it looks nothing like it did in Victor Hugo’s day.  There is nothing like a church near the center of town–at least not that I could find–and there are several very old 10-story apartment-type buildings near the center of Chelles.)

We then see the man and Cosette.  The man carried Cosette’s water bucket back to the inn, but Cosette took it from him outside the door because she was afraid of the Thenardiess and did not want to be seen accepting help from someone else.

Over the course of the evening, this man caused the Thenardiers no end of consternation.  When he first arrived, he presented himself as a poor man, and the Thenardiers did not mind treating him as such.  But during the remainder of the evening, it became clear that the Thenardiers were wrong in their estimation of him.  When Cosette was about to be whipped because she had lost a fifteen-sou piece that the Thenardiess had given her to buy bread, he “found” a twenty-sou piece on the floor.  Later he bought a pair of socks that Cosette had been working on, so that she could be free to play.  When Cosette got in trouble for playing with the Thenardier girls’ doll, the man went to the booth across the street and bought the very doll that Cosette had looked at so longingly earlier in the day and gave it to her.  This caused the Thenardiers the greatest consternation of all. Continue reading “Les Miserables 37: Inconveniences of Entertaining a Poor Man Who May Be Rich”

The Monday Melange 02.15.10: ATL Snow, Tee Martin, Mark Fox

–Hope you all had a happy Valentine’s Day (or Single Awareness Day, as the case may be for some of us) yesterday.

–Atlanta is one of the most beautiful cities in the entire country, if not the world, just as it is.  But occasionally a snowstorm passes through and it is transfigured into a veritable winter wonderland.  Here are a couple of pictures from the snow this weekend:

–Just found this:  Tee Martin, the quarterback who led Tennessee to its national championship in 1998, is not too terribly happy about Lane Kiffin.  Tee Martin is now an assistant coach on Joker Phillips’s staff up at Kentucky.

–Speaking of Kentucky, Rich Brooks is an excellent coach who has done some really great things up there.  But in all his time there, he never did any better than 8-5.  There are limits on how much can be accomplished up there.

–Just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Mark Fox because I hear he is doing great things over in Athens this year.  Hope he can keep it up.

–In honor of Valentine’s Day, here is some free marital advice for you fellas out there (I’m not saying this is good advice.  I’m just saying it’s free.  You get what you pay for):  If your wife or significant other asks you to do something, do it quickly, and do it wrong.  That way, you will get credit for doing it quickly, and you will also get the added benefit of knowing that you will never again be asked to do it.

–Think it’s cold here?  The high today in Amundsen-Scott Station, Antarctica, is forecast to be -34.  The low tonight is -49.  The windchill is -74.

Rod Rosenbladt: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification

Today I wish to direct your attention to an article by Rod Rosenbladt over at Modern Reformation.  This article is entitled “Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification“.  It has been up for a while now and it deals with the question of justification, which is the preeminent question of the entire Christian life:  “How am I to be saved?”

In medieval Catholicism, the answer to this question consisted of a kind of works-righteousness:  One must first be sanctified enough to merit justifying grace, and the essence of justification was a change in the human heart–a gradual transition from unjust to just.  Grace, in this way of looking at things, was nothing more than an infused power which enabled one to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, to move oneself from the category of unjust to just.  The results of grace over the course of one’s Christian life, if it were present, would be obvious:  fewer and fewer sins.

Now look at how we evangelicals view justification and grace.  Is it any different?  I don’t think so.  We talk a good game when we say that justification depends entirely on faith and not at all upon works–but we have completely and totally redefined faith so that it is in fact a work.  We know that saving faith is present in the life of a believer because we will see a gradual transition from ungodly to godly, from unjust to just.  Grace works inside of the believer to enable him/her to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and live a life pleasing to God.  Sound familiar?

Rosenbladt responds by saying that justification has nothing to do with anything at all that we do, it is instead entirely the work of Christ on the cross which justifies us.  Grace has nothing to do with helping us do anything for God; rather, it is simply unmerited and undeserved favor.

This article is must reading for those of us in the world of evangelical Protestant-dom.  We are dying from trying to do this justification thing on our own effort.  It ain’t gonna happen.  It has to come from God, when we stop trying to do it on our own.

Read Rod Rosenbladt’s “Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification”