Monday, March 18, 2019

Quote of the Day (T.S. Eliot, on ‘Gus: The Theatre Cat’)

“His coat's very shabby, he's thin as a rake,
And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake.
Yet he was, in his youth, quite the smartest of Cats--
But no longer a terror to mice and to rats.

For he isn't the Cat that he was in his prime;
Though his name was quite famous, he says, in its time.
And whenever he joins his friends at their club
(Which takes place at the back of the neighbouring pub)
He loves to regale them, if someone else pays,
With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days.
For he once was a Star of the highest degree--
He has acted with Irving, he's acted with Tree.
And he likes to relate his success on the Halls,
Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls.”—American-born British poet, essayist, and playwright T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), “Gus: The Theatre Cat,” in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939)

For nearly the past four decades, theatergoers have also recognized these verses in a quite different context: as the lyrics to a song from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. But I discovered it first in a far different source: the very fine Philip Larkin-edited anthology, The Oxford Book of 20th-Century English Verse.

The Eliot poems that I know best are about as funny as heart attacks: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Waste Land,” “Ash Wednesday,” and “Four Quartets,” not to mention the verse drama Murder in the Cathedral. So I couldn’t be more excited to discover this distinct change of pace for him.

Well, somewhat different, anyway. It's not massively somber like so many other Eliot poems, but this certainly has an element of melancholy to it. And take a look at the face in the photo. Hasn't it seen better days? He's not even feared anymore!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Quote of the Day (Book of Psalms, on God’s Deliverance of the Righteous)

“The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”—Psalms 34:19-22 (New International Version)

(The image accompanying this post is Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity, a watercolor by the English artist-poet William Blake.)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Quote of the Day (John Sipher, on Vladimir Putin and the World’s First ‘Intelligence State’)

“The history of the brutal Soviet security services lays bare the roots of Russia's current use of political arrests, subversion, disinformation, assassination, espionage and the weaponization of lies. None of those tactics is new to the Kremlin. In fact, those tactics made Soviet Russia the world's first ‘intelligence state,' and they also distinguished it from authoritarian states run by militaries. Today's Russia has become even more of an intelligence state after Mr. [Vladimir] Putin's almost 20-year tenure….[A] decade after the Soviet Union fell, Mr. Putin rose to power and recruited many of his former K.G.B. colleagues to help rebuild the state.  The result is a regime with the policies and philosophy of a supercharged secret police service, a regime that relies on intelligence operations to deal with foreign policy challenges and maintain control at home.”—Former CIA station chief John Sipher, “Putin’s Main Weapon: The ‘Intelligence State,’” The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2019

Friday, March 15, 2019

Photo of the Day: Wishing Tree, Children’s Discovery Garden, Berkshire Botanical Garden, MA

This “wishing tree”—which I photographed a year and a half ago in late summer, while visiting Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA—is part of a children’s discovery garden. This tree, containing four different kinds of cherries grafted onto it, features a mailbox and supplies that children used to leave dozens of messages.

Joke of the Day (Rodney Dangerfield, on His ‘Real Tough Neighborhood’)

"I came from a real tough neighborhood. Once a guy pulled a knife on me. I knew he wasn't a professional, the knife had butter on it." —American stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004), It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect But Plenty of Sex and Drugs (2004)