Posts Tagged ‘The Flâneur’s Turtle’

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

When Paul Gaszak and I started this blog 4 years ago, we did so with the goal of avoiding ‘controversial’ and ‘political’ topics. Of course, this has not always been possible.  Completely ignoring the aforementioned two topical realms pretty much closes off most blog possibilities.  Our blog’s discussions of race, education, food, history, science and pop culture can’t help but be political. These topics themselves are politicized in our culture.  Plus, would you really want to read this blog if those topics were never discussed? Our subjective viewpoints make this blog interesting; without them, our little venture would be pretty lifeless. All in all though, I think we have fulfilled our initial promises. We have kept out of many of the ugliest political controversies that seem to rock our world on an ever more common basis.

But, times change and so do politics. As anyone can see, this election year is unique.  I capitalhave been dying to write about it, but we have that whole ‘no controversy’ goal. What to do, what to do?

I’ve decided to start anew….kinda.  With this post, I am creating a new subsection of the Turtle titled ‘Politics 2016’.  ‘Politics 2016’ will be devoted to analyses of the coming November elections, and the state of American politics generally.  Of course, I will be voting and I have an interest in who wins the upcoming election. I fall on one side of the political divide, and I’m sure many readers fall on the other. Hopefully though, the posts that appear on our blog will not identify any Map_of_the_District_of_Columbia,_1835sort of partisan alliance. There will be no hyping of one candidate or the other. There will be no soap-box stances taken on any particular ‘contentious’ issues. This subsection will simply deal with the changing face of American politics, and our larger political culture.

This will be a challenge.  Can this challenge be faced without generating nasty political rancor?  I don’t know. But, I feel it is necessary to try, both for our few readers and for my own mental stability during this crazy election cycle.

So, join us, won’t you?  And, if you have something to add, please do!


By Jane Wendorff Craps, English Faculty.

I instantly fell in love with the title of our beguiling CLA blog: The Flaneur’s Turtle. Maybe it was the monocled, top-hatted Anglo-Saxonite image that was introduced with the blog. I’ve always thought I was born in the wrong country; I’m a closet Anglophile.

Quite honestly, I had to look up what flaneur meant, and it wasn’t in my 1975 edition of Webster, which is always kept on my desk for quick reference, so I had to high-tail it to the 21st century and “Google it.” I’ve always thought I was born in the wrong century; I believe Geoffrey Chaucer and I would have been best pals in high school.


Jane Wendorff-Craps?

I discovered I may actually be a “flaneur”—an idler or loafer, according to The whole idea of “loaf” reeks of negativity, thanks to Jenny Jocks-Stelzer’s Facebook post on those 1970’s recipes inspired by gelatinizing meats, veggies, and fruits into idle loafs of uneaten globs on a plate.  I’ve always thought gelatin was weird science; I’m a left-brain language lover.

By all descriptions of me provided by others, it seems as though I often become one with my couch while befriending a book, magazine, or the Turner Classic Movie channel. I never considered it “loafing,” though. The online dictionary says a loafer is one who “idles time away,” but reading and classic movies aren’t idle hobbies. I’ll sit on my couch and argue that all day long; I’ve never been one to get up for no good reason.

A “loafer” has a connotative connection to “good-for-nothing.” So let us adjust the definition of flaneur to an idler or a lounger—one who sits or stands in a relaxed way. Relaxed is good; I like to relax.

As for turtle, I’m not so sure what the affection is to that animal. It is cold blooded, it retracts its head (more weird science), and it has sharp toenails, not conducive to snuggling under warm, cotton sheets. However, it does house itself in a cool shell with a unique design. Not to mention, there is an entertaining and timeless cartoon about four turtles named after Renaissance artists—heroes in a half-shell, turtle power!

Turtles make great soup, too. I like soup; who doesn’t?!

But there is no denying that turtles move slowly, hence a direct connection to loafer. They do appear to be relaxed as well, hence a direct connection to lounger. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare where the relaxed, unworried tortoise wins the race, all because he was relaxed and focused on his goal… which begs the question, is a tortoise a turtle? Back to Google. There is one major difference: a turtle is a water dweller, and a tortoise is a land dweller.

d_blumin_streetparis2000-thAs a kid, I probably spent more time in the water—living near a lake, going to summer camp, bathing daily. As an adult, sadly, I definitely spend more time on land. Not by choice, though. I’ve always thought I lived in the wrong state; Hawaii has more water.

Now back to the elusive Flaneur’s Turtle: the best darned blog this side of the Mississippi. In kindergarten, we learn “when all else fails, read the instructions.” In the “About” section of the blog, readers will discover the meaning behind the name. The historic, Parisian flaneur was known for walking his turtle around the streets of the city, which then gives him plenty of time to gaze, smell the roses, and enjoy all that Paris has to offer. I’ve always wanted to go to Paris; I took French classes on the high hopes of fulfilling that lifelong dream.

I find the image of a man, in a double-breasted wool coat, tailored knickers—oh wait, that is British—tailored pantaloons, polished shoes, and a leashed reptile quite exciting, nay sensational! It could easily be Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable, or Charles Coburn… more likely, Charles Boyer, we are in France you know. Why, my pulse ever quickens with the thought, and I didn’t even have to get up off the couch to make that happen. I wish I liked doing cardio as much as watching old movies; wait, no I don’t.

There are many Flaneur Turtle fans out there, as rising blog “Likers” indicate. These “Likers” come from near and far and are not limited to the Liberal Arts arena. What makes us flaneur and what makes us turtles certainly varies, too, which is great. The blog speaks to all kinds, and the blog serves several purposes, not to be confused with porpoises. That is a different blog. I like the second purpose labeled “B”: to explore and discuss topics and ideas. I’m not much of a talker, but writing is even better than talking since it is way more reflective. It seems to be more formal as well; I like formal.

Maybe that’s why this turtle enjoys old movies where people dress for dinner, slap someone with a glove when they are angry, or tell someone off using no curse words, which sounds so much worse than the “f” word sometimes. I tip my hat to my fellow flaneurs as I am perched comfortably on my couch, lounging with my cat. I’m not yet aged (please read that with two syllables, as if Cary Grant said it) enough to submit to the senile idea of a pet turtle, or maybe not lonely enough, or maybe I’ve never liked reptiles. I’ll settle for a Flaneur Turtle.


By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

I am definitely a Millennial, because nothing is ever fast enough. All internet connections seem slow, McDonald’s can’t have enough drive-thru lanes, and instant oatmeal is never quite instant enough.

Hence, it is difficult for Millennials to have perspective on growth rates and progress, because we truly expect Rome to be built in a day.

My impatience also applies to The Flaneur’s Turtle. I am rather upset that we have not yet been bought out for billions by Google or Yahoo! And how much longer do I have to wait for some powerful person to discover my comedic genius like Ira Glass did with David Sedaris?

C’mon, fame and fortune! Turn your gaze on the Turtle!

Despite my Millennial desire for instant gratification, I understand that some things take time to develop.

To that point, last week I had a moment of reflection on the Turtle’s development.

The Flaneur’s Turtle was born from a brilliant idea by Michael Stelzer Jocks. He bounced that idea off of me and our entire department, with the blog’s title being brainstormed during a departmental meeting.

The Turtle went live on April 16, 2012, with a first post that simply said, “Welcome to The Flâneur’s Turtle, the new blog of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) at Robert Morris University – IL.”

Turtle First Post

That was the first and only time the Turtle has managed to be concise.

(Three cheers for verbosity!)

The Turtle got off to a hot start before hitting some rough patches, such as publishing NO material in September or November 2012.

Entering 2013, the Turtle rededicated itself. I declared that I would write something new every week – both to continuously have material on the site, and to keep myself writing. I settled into Thursdays as my days to publish. MSJ followed with Mondays. Since then, Tricia Lunt has held down the middle of the week, and Peter Stern has recently taken Fridays.

Along the way, other Robert Morris University faculty have written wonderful posts, as have some RMU students.

Collectively, we have now reached this post: the Turtle’s 200th.

In 19 months, we’ve written 200 pieces! Our unofficial word limit on posts is 750 words (which we often fail to keep). But, just for the sake of perspective, 200 posts at 750 words is 150,000 words.

(And students think a 1,000 word essay is long! Geez!)

To put that number in perspective, 150,000 words is about the same length as TWO average-sized paperback novels.

And it was all given to you for free!

You’re welcome.

And by “YOU” I mean the 341 Facebook ‘LIKES,’ the 53 e-mail followers, and the additional 93 WordPress followers. We are so happy for all of our readers, and we look forward to adding more people to this Turtle community.

But all of this wasn’t my real reflection last week. When I step back and look at the Turtle’s full body of work, and don’t just focus on the here and now with my next post and who is liking it on Facebook, I find something interesting.

The Turtle’s content has gotten progressively better, and the term “blog” seems almost inappropriate any longer. I credit Michael Stelzer Jocks for founding what has now developed into a real online publication of quality creative nonfiction.

(That’s kind of Creative Writer jargon. My apologies.)

On April 16, 2012, I wouldn’t have guessed the Turtle would blossom into what it is now. But now that is has, I am eager to see where it will climb to in the next 19 months, which at current pace will put the Turtle nearing its 500th post.

Let this be a lesson to all my fellow Millennials, which includes my students. Waiting for something to develop can be maddening when stuck in our mindset of instant gratification. We are part of a society now that wants to evaluate everything from athletes to politics on a moment-to-moment basis, rather than wait until a full body of work is available to look at. However, it’s true that good things come to those who wait are patient and work hard.

By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty

O Flaneur’s Turtle how do I love thee, let me count the ways–or rather, let me try, only try, unfortunately, to count the ways–so fecund are the ways and so paltry are my number crunching abilities, regardless of how assiduously I work to transform, like Cinderella, this wretched paltriness into a blessed abundance.

Turtle LoveConfined to exactitude’s absence, I must turn to Plan B and be satisfied with a mere approximation of the number of ways I love “The Turtle,” settling on the word “myriad” to give some hint of their plenitude. Myriad. Okay. So the ways are myriad, yet that still leaves unclear their quality, does it not?

Perhaps: so let me answer the quality question by stating categorically that, in my view, the quality of my love for the Flaneur knows no surcease. That’s because those myriad ways always connect to a deeply felt trust that the quality of the Flaneur and all its postings (which is what Mr. Michael Stelzer Jocks likes to call Flaneur submissions) reaches towards the heavens. And should they fall short of heaven and its perfection or a writer’s understanding or wish for perfection, they come sufficiently close that readers never need fear after reading a post, they’ll lack nourishment and arrive home hungry.

Nonetheless should you find shortcomings even contradictions in my writing or the writings of others, please consider, dear Flaneurite, you divine turtle dove, that those contradictions are the result, according to Mr. Walt Whitman, of the multitude of stuff we’ve somehow managed to create and the multitude of stuff we’ve become. Which has led me to conclude, finally, that if Walt Whitman wasn’t worried about contradictions, neither should we.

Moreover, by now out of grade school for years, it’s time to put away some of the admonitions of our childhood and realize that contradictions can be our friends. They needn’t spell disaster for both sides of the contradiction can prove to be correct. That’s part of the great lesson fecundity teaches us.

After all, can’t an evening breeze be both serene and disturbing? The chocolate be bittersweet? And a heavy Hollandaise enjoy a certain piquant and paradoxical lightness? Moreover, doesn’t our effort to describe the particulars of a specific situation often require us to conjure up from the deep numerous numbers of metaphors and similes rather than simply stringing together a list of single syllable qualities–hot, cold, blue, green, tall, short?

And, Flaneur’s Turtle, in addition to the above reasons for my love, I want to give you a few more. For instance, let me tell you how I love thee for persuading Paul Gaszak to eloquently defend group work against the slings and arrows of callow students complaining about a pedagogy which they don’t realize will enhance their lives and polish their future; and Michael to explain what books need to do to gain his affection, and how war most often erupts out of passions deeper and more complex than the love of lucre; and me to wax foolishly about Mr. Marc Trestman’s shortcomings before he’s directed so much as a single practice session with the Bears; and Jenny Jocks Stelzer to give us a taste and feel for her hip hop happiness; and Tricia Lunt to describe the mystical enjoyment of a single class or a single moment in that class where a lone student suddenly gets “it”; and Blake Whitmore to brilliantly explain why Breaking Bad ain’t bad–rather the reverse! It’s great, greater even than the Sopranos trumpeting their bric a brac brand of joy to the delight of millions of people over millions and millions of fast paced minutes.

True, this ain’t the New Yorker, or the Atlantic Monthly, or the Paris Review, but it ain’t beanbag, either. Through the Flaneur, we who have provided it bunches of posts have engaged full force that mysterious medium somewhere out there called cyber space and made it a home for our energies and hopes, our observations and insights, and our always admirable wish to enlighten, entertain, and share with fellow scribes and readers the ineffable delight we find in jointly producing the printed word.

A Great Loss

Posted: June 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

On Friday, a genuine friend of ours Imagepassed away.  Phil Harder was an instructor at Robert Morris University, and a truly kind man.  He was  a wonderful colleague who could always put a smile on your face.  He will be greatly missed.

Because most of us don’t feel much like blogging this week, we thought we would take a couple days off from The Flâneur’s Turtle.  We will return next week.  Thanks. 

By Mick McMahon, English Faculty.

How do you feel right now? Comfortable, I hope. How did you get this way? Did you have a long productive day at work and now have the chance to unwind? Did you spend a number of hours researching and drafting a paper for school and just handed in the work confident you will earn an A? Did you just run a marathon and now icing down while reading this Turtle post? Whatever the task completed, large or small, congratulations! You just completed something important and, even though you may feel exhausted, you most likely feel quite good about yourself.

Now, I’d like you to think about how you felt before undertaking that task. Did you stress? Were you a bit fearful of the unknown? Or did you charge in, head first, with reckless abandon, knowing that whatever the outcome, you did your best? Maybe this sounds familiar.

Often times, I stress about things that I have little control over: getting caught in the rain, having a heart-attack out of the blue while exercising, the apocalypse (thanks a lot Hollywood). I generate unwarranted anxiety that leads to inaction and excuses, and end up stalling and stressing instead of acting. And folks, I’m not the only one. We’ve all made up a few excuses at one time or another. Sometimes, we end up focusing a tremendous amount of energy on stressing about the task, instead of channeling that energy into the actual task itself.



So what creates anxiety? It can be several things, but the one characteristic that stands out to me is the unknown. Think about your first day of high school or college. Maybe you felt a bit nervous, because you didn’t know what to expect. Compare that feeling to how you felt during your senior year of high school or college. Even though you were exhausted, you probably felt a lot more comfortable because you went through experiences. It’s how we traverse the unknown that helps us learn about ourselves, and what we find out, whether good or bad, makes us unique and wonderful individuals.

What you now read before you was weeks, nay, several months in the making. Ask my colleagues sometime about the excuses that I came up with as to why I haven’t written Turtle posts. Most likely they all lead up to me having to walk my dog. The plain truth is that I was anxious about sending out the perfect bit of writing into the universe. So, I lay my discomfort before you now. Will you say, what on earth is he talking about? Is he crazy? Perhaps, but I will learn about myself and my writing by sending this post out to the world.

So, while comfortable is good, uncomfortable can be even better, for it helps us learn the truth about ourselves, and makes the beer taste so much better.


Welcome to The Flâneur’s Turtle, the new blog of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) at Robert Morris University – IL.