Friday, April 3, 2020

Tweet of the Day (Kent Graham, on His Wife’s Pancakes)

“My wife was going to make pancakes. Then she wasn't. Then she was. Then wasn't. Then was. Now it looks like she's just waffling.”—Kent W. Graham, tweet of Sept. 4, 2014

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Quote of the Day (Edith Wharton, on “The Value of Books’)

“What is reading, in the last analysis, but an interchange of thought between writer and reader? If the book enters the reader's mind just as it left the writer's -- without any of the additions and modifications inevitably produced by contact with a new body of thought -- it has been read to no purpose…. The value of books is proportionate to what may be called their plasticity—their quality of being all things to all men, of being diversely moulded by the impact of fresh forms of thought. Where, from one cause or the other, this reciprocal adaptability is lacking, there can be no real intercourse between book and reader. In this sense it may be said hat there is no abstract standard of values in literature: the greatest books ever written are worth to each reader only what he can get out of them. The best books are those from which the best readers have been able to extract the greatest amount of thought of the highest quality; but it is generally from these books that the poor reader gets least.”—American novelist and short-story writer Edith Wharton (1862-1937), “The Vice of Reading,” in Edith Wharton: The Uncollected Critical Writings, edited by Frederick Wegener (1996)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Quote of the Day (Winston Churchill, on the Worst ‘Mistake in Public Leadership’)

“There is no worse mistake in public leadership than to hold out false hopes soon to be swept away.”—British Prime Minister and Nobel Literature laureate Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), The Hinge of Fate (1950), Vol. 4 of his six-volume “The Second World War”

Gee, I couldn’t imagine anyone these days doing something like that. Could you?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Photo of the Day: Battleground—Englewood Hospital, Bergen County NJ

These days, the coronavirus crisis has become the fight of our lives. The current occupant of the Oval Office has even taken barely concealed delight in styling himself a “wartime President.”

But the real combatants against the so-called “invisible enemy” are the doctors, nurses, and associated medical personnel thrown into a fight for which their country left them precious few weapons.

One battleground in their desperate war is Englewood Hospital, a few blocks from where I live in Bergen County, NJ. When I walked by late this afternoon and took this photo of this medical center’s exterior, I could not imagine the struggle being waged inside. 

Staffers have to be as exhausted by what they have already seen as they are fearful at what is to come. Don’t imagine that before this is all over, more than a few will experience the equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Just keep these statistics in mind: As I write this, Bergen County holds the dubious distinction of having the most coronavirus cases (2,909 positive test results as I write this) in densely populated New Jersey. And Englewood places second only to adjacent Teaneck among the number of cases in the county, according to results released two days ago.

Several years from now, after all this over, when we can measure our sacrifices and losses, I suggest that plaques be erected at Englewood and other hospitals around the country to honor those in the thick of the fight—and specifically name those who put themselves at risk so the rest of us might live.

Will doctors become our new heroes? I sure hope so, but based on not-so-distant history, I have my doubts. Nearly 20 years ago, in the wake of 9/11, America looked to the public safety personnel—the firefighters and the police—who braved the fire and preserved order on the streets. And then, Americans took too seriously the advice to “go shopping” and turned back to the business buccaneers who have periodically claimed their allegiance.

How pathetic that so many lionized not those who saved lives, but those who, when their own crisis came in the Great Recession, couldn’t even be counted on to save jobs?

Quote of the Day (Napoleon Bonaparte, on the Caprices of Fortune)

“Profit by the favors of Fortune while her caprices favor you; fear only that she will change out of spite; she is a woman.”—French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) quoted in Napoleon in His Own Words, edited by Jules Bertaut, translated by Herbert Edward Law and Charles Lincoln Rhodes (1916)

(The image accompanying this post, Adolph Northen’s painting Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow, depicts the moment when Fortune turned away from the soldier who once held most of continental Europe under his thumb. It gives hope—a quality needed now more than ever—that, with enough time, even the mighty, with all their unscrupulousness and cruelty, can be brought to heel by fate.)