(1764), reprinted in “Candide” and Other Writings, edited by Haskell M. Block (1956)
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Monday, November 29, 2021
But he expresses himself in slang long passé in Passaic.
His signature is purple ink in an illegible curlicue,
And he compares baseball to ballet, and laments the passing of burlesque, which he refers to as burlicue….
For the most part, my feelings about him I silently conceal,
But when he comments that ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ burns with a hard, gemlike flame, I can only cry that he is robbing Pater to paw Peale.”—American poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971), “Just How Low Can a Highbrow Go When a Highbrow Lowers His Brow?,” originally printed in The New Yorker, Aug. 30, 1958, reprinted in Everyone But Thee and Me (1962)
Three hundred pounds of hustle and muscle.
He won't complain if double-teamed;
It isn't Bubba who gets creamed.”
Sunday, November 28, 2021
Fall 2013-Winter 2014 issue
The image accompanying this post is an example of the “Catholic imagination”—Madonna of the Book, painted in 1480 by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli (ca. 1445-1510).
Saturday, November 27, 2021
Daybreak: An Autobiography (1968)
God, how much noisier has it gotten in the half-century since Ms. Baez wrote this?
The photo of Ms. Baez accompanying this post, was taken at a press conference on Apr. 26, 1966, by Ron Kroon / Anefo. The source is Nationaal Archief, the national archives of The Netherlands.
Friday, November 26, 2021
] was peel some of those away. To do some self-remembering without indulgence, simply trying to open what had been covered up. Because there’s so much of who I am that was formed in that period up to 8 years old and before that riot occurred. But from that moment there was a guardedness, there was an inability to roll with things in the way that one had done before.”—Actor-director Sir Kenneth Branagh quoted in David Marchese, “Talk: Kenneth Branagh Is Finally Processing His Childhood Trauma,” The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 7, 2021
Nearly 30 years ago, while still married to Kenneth Branagh, actress Emma Thompson told an interviewer that, because of the sectarian unrest he had witnessed during his Ulster boyhood, the sight of a church left her husband almost physically ill as an adult.
Now, in Belfast, Branagh immerses moviegoers in a semi-autobiographical recreation of that traumatic childhood.
I have been following the actor’s career off and on since he first attracted wide notice here in the U.S. with his Oscar-nominated performance in Henry V. But, as an Irish-American, I am especially interested in how he treats this particularly intense chapter in the tangled British-Irish relationship in his critically acclaimed new movie.
A move away from all the friends, places and other certainties one has known to date can be difficult for any child. The decision by Branagh’s parents to relocate to England as a result of the wrenching violence that erupted in Northern Ireland in 1969 must have been far worse.
Fans of film and theater should be glad that he and his family survived. It should never be forgotten that far too many others died—physically, emotionally or spiritually—during the three-decade period that ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
One can only hope that the Protestants and Roman Catholics of Ulster’s six counties will be able to work out on their own a future of justice, peace, opportunity and equal rights for all, without the specter of the gun ever darkening their lives or the history of that region again.
(The accompanying photo of Kenneth Branagh was taken on July 10, 2009, at the Roma Fiction Fest that year, by Giorgia Meschini. For a fine short piece from six years ago, hailing Branagh’s “diversity of work” while centering on his abundant productions of The Bard, I urge you to check out this this post from “The Shakespeare Blog” by Sylvia Morris.)
Thursday, November 25, 2021
A Short History of England (1917)
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
yourself in the first place.”— Health and psychology journalist Melissa Dahl, Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness (2018)
I have noticed the “reminiscence bump” occurring among myself and others in my age group especially lately as so many of our contemporaries pass away. In the aftermath of their demise, we summon up memories not just to give shape to their lives, but also to better understand our own.
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
My friend, who moved down to Florida in the early 1990s, passed away in late May. Though the warm temperatures down south were better for her health during the winter, she had thought of moving back up here several years ago, only to defer the decision because of the pandemic and insufficient income in the changing real estate market.
On one of our many long-distance phone calls, she grew weepily nostalgic about the changing seasons she missed from the Northeast. Unable to pay my final respects after her death in Florida, I thought of revisiting the town that had once meant so much to her.
Veterans Memorial Park, which I managed to photograph just before sunset, seemed a pretty good spot to bring my friend viscerally to mind again. It was just down the street from her home, and from the shoreline she would often push off into the Hudson River with her kayak.
Nyack is a unique community, with a long history and bohemian vibe to go with its picturesque riverine setting. But a place is more than a point on a map or a real estate agent’s listing, but a collection of souls.
In the restless journey of her life, one such soul settled here for a while. Last Saturday afternoon, the sunlight along the Hudson may have faded, but I knew that my friend’s impact on my life would not.
“Only individuals with an aberrant temperament can in the long run retain their self-esteem in the face of the disesteem of their fellows.”— Norwegian-American economist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)
Monday, November 22, 2021
, 1993 appearance
The image accompanying this post shows Ms. Garofalo at the world premiere of Bad Parents at the Montclair Film Festival, taken Oct. 3, 2012, by Edwin Torres.
Sunday, November 21, 2021
, Nov. 3, 2021
The accompanying photo of William Galston was taken Jan. 8, 2012, at a Civics Ed panel at the Brookings Institution by Medill DC.
Saturday, November 20, 2021
The Technopolar Moment: How Digital Powers Will Reshape the Global Order,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2021
Let's see how much longer those "constraints on their power" last.
The accompanying photo of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook (or Meta, or whatever the heck he’s calling it these days to disguise its malodorous ways) and one of the pillars of Big Tech, was taken at the F8 2018 Keynote on Apr. 3, 2018, by Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI.)
Friday, November 19, 2021
!’ I used to shout, and Marcel always y allait. I get a feeling of participation that way that I don't in front of a television screen. I could yell, of course, but I would know that if my suggestion was adopted, it would be by the merest coincidence.”—American journalist A.J. Liebling (1904-1963), “Boxing with the Naked Eye,” in The Sweet Science (1956)
Thursday, November 18, 2021
Collected Stories (2020)
(This photo of Shirley Hazzard was taken by Christopher Peterson at the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction's Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner, held at the New York Tennis and Racquet Club at 350 Park Avenue, in New York, on Oct. 29, 2007.)
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Talk: The Who’s Pete Townshend Grapples With Rock’s Legacy, and His Own Dark Past,” The New York Times Magazine, Dec. 1, 2019
This quote is interesting in itself, but it’s also a good way for me to touch on, briefly, what I should have mentioned already earlier this year: the 50th anniversary of the band’s masterful album, Who’s Next.
In this link, blogger Bobby Owsinski— producer/engineer, author and coach—posts about a video of producer/engineer Glyn Johns talking about the recording of that LP.
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Their hoofs heavy with tumult, their eyes glimmering white;
The North unfolds above them clinging, creeping night,
The East her hidden joy before the morning break,
The West weeps in pale dew and sighs passing away,
The South is pouring down roses of crimson fire:
O vanity of Sleep, Hope, Dream, endless Desire,
The Horses of Disaster plunge in the heavy clay.” —Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet-playwright William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), “He Bids His Beloved Be at Peace,” in The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)
Monday, November 15, 2021
[played by Paul Eddington]: “I think education is extremely important. It could lose me the next election.”
Sir Humphrey Appleby [played by Nigel Hawthorne]:” Ah! In my naivete, I thought you were concerned about the future of our children.”
Hacker: “Yes, that too. After all, they get the vote at 18.”— Yes, Prime Minister, Season 2, Episode 7, “The National Education Service,” original air date Jan. 21, 1988, teleplay by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, directed by Sydney Lotterby
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1995)
Saturday, November 13, 2021
Today, I managed to get some walking in before, the meteorologists predicted, another major storm like yesterday’s arrived. So I ambled along on the west side of the Hackensack River in Foschini Park, then crossed the William F. Ryan Memorial Bridge to Bogota’s Oscar E. Olsen Park.
There, I sat in a gazebo, where I took several photos, including the one seen here.
And our most impressive critics have commonly been such English majors, and they are squeamish about technology to this very day. So it is natural for them to despise science fiction.
“But there are those who adore being classified as science-fiction writers anyway, who are alarmed by the possibility that they might someday be known simply as ordinary short-story writers and novelists who mention, among other things, the fruits of engineering and research. They are happy with the status quo because their colleagues love them the way members of old-fashioned big families were supposed to do. Science-fiction writers meet often, comfort and praise one another, exchange single-spaced letters of twenty pages and more, booze it up affectionately, and one way or another have a million heart-throbs and laughs.”—American novelist and short-story writer Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), “Science Fiction” (1965), in Kurt Vonnegut: Novels and Stories 1950-1962 (2012)
Friday, November 12, 2021
Herman Munster [played by Fred Gwynne]: “Grandpa, don't you know curiosity killed the bat?”
Grandpa [played by Al Lewis]: “But satisfaction brought him back!”—The Munsters, Season 1, Episode 8, “Herman the Great,” original air date Nov. 12, 1964, teleplay by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, directed by Earl Bellamy
Thursday, November 11, 2021
I think it might be worthwhile to highlight, in this brief description and the photo I took that day, the last of these, America’s so-called “Forgotten War, and the local servicemen who, as Abraham Lincoln put it at Gettysburg, gave “the last full measure of devotion” to duty, their comrades and country.
Westfield’s Korean War Memorial, dedicated in 2004, was created by a then-17-year-old high school senior, Kevin Devaney. The granite piece drew my eye not for its size but for its design: a cutout of Korea, a peninsula where, over three years, 6.8 million American men and women served. Approximately 54,200 of them died, with 33,700 of these occurring during combat.
The memorial honors three men who died within three months of each other:
* Charles A. Lipphardt, an army first lieutenant who, after serving in the South Pacific in WWII, returned to active duty in September 1950. Lipphardt, who died in February 1951, was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean War Service Medal.
* Richard R. Wilson, an army private first class, was listed as missing in action in January 1951.
* Griswold M. Hill Jr., a marine private first class, lost his life in March 1951.
Ranging in age from 24 to 30, this trio never had the chance for a normal life span. For many passersby in this busy downtown 70 years later, they might be merely names on a tablet. But they meant far more to their families and this community for years, and their sacrifice is worth recalling and honoring.
The Things They Carried (1990)
The interconnected stories in the acclaimed The Things They Carried are harrowing, sometimes difficult to read, as seen by the angry responses they continue to evoke from some readers on Amazon. In this, they resemble nothing so much as the visceral reactions that America’s major conflicts since the end of World War II have sometimes inspired.
For the soldiers in Alpha Company, “the things they carried” represent not just the physical material they lug around Vietnam, but also the psychological burden hauled by the survivors of that conflict, a weight not understood by civilians.
One of these occurred in the scene begun above, when Norman Bowker witnessed his comrade Kiowa slide to his death amid all that "waste" (an unforgettable symbol for what the war meant for so many).
In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln urged his countrymen to help with the essential post-Civil War duties “to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” More than a century and a half after he uttered those words, those tasks remain just as essential this Veterans Day.
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.”—Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963), “After Apple-Picking,” in North of Boston (1915)
Monday, November 8, 2021
It all changes when the clocks are turned back an hour, as they were this weekend. From this point on, there are few hours to take advantage of the waning sunlight—a difficulty for those of us on a more-or-less 9-to-5 schedule.
It can be mid-afternoon, with the sun burning brightly, and before you know it it’s time to turn on the headlights as you follow the line of cars heading home—as happened to me yesterday, shortly after I snapped this picture of sunlight in Overpeck County Park, not far from where I live in Bergen County, NJ.
“Dionne Warwick” [played by Ego Nwodim]: “I understand that your nemesis is Hannah Montana. My nemesis is Wendy Williams. Let’s make a pact and kick their asses!”
“Miley Cyrus” [played by Chloe Fineman] [chuckling]: “You know, Hannah Montana isn’t real.”
“Dionne Warwick”: “All right. Well, neither is Wendy Williams!”—Saturday Night Live, Season 47, Episode 5, “The Dionne Warwick Talk Show” sketch, original air date Nov. 5, 2021, directed by Don Roy King
Sunday, November 7, 2021
First United Methodist Church, so much so that I took this picture. Even in this bustling downtown, near a railroad underpass, this structure commands attention as it overlooks the intersection of North Avenue West and East Broad Street.
But it’s not just because it’s on a slight rise over the traffic. This Greek Revival structure has, in its present form, stood on this spot since 1968. It replaced another building for this faith community that had lasted 92 years.
Resign its sovereignty
Listen to the sovereign heart
Don’t listen to me.
Which doesn’t need to be
Listen to the mind of God
Don’t listen to me.” —Canadian poet-singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen (1934-2016), “Listen to the Hummingbird,” in The Flame: Poems Notebooks Lyrics Drawings (2018)
Saturday, November 6, 2021
On Judges, Innocence and Being ‘Review-Proof,” The New York Times, Oct. 18, 2021
The accompanying photo of John Grisham was taken Jan. 25, 2008, by Scott Brenner.
Friday, November 5, 2021
The Origins of Modern Science, 1300–1800 (1957)
Professor Butterfield could not imagine at the blackboard Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory (pictured here). Like, for instance, that fictional theoretical physicist’s baffled reaction to neighbor Penny’s crying jag when she can’t understand his “basic” explanation of his field of science. (“That's no reason to cry. One cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid, and it makes me sad.”) Like how Sheldon’s condescension makes even best friends (and fellow nerd-geniuses) Raj, Howard and Leonard sometimes want to kill him. And like how everyone else he meets can only gape at his utter lack of social skills.
All of this radically lowers the possibility that Sheldon can even get to a blackboard without being murdered, let alone that he can scrawl those equations that, in Butterfield’s optimistic vision, can simplify previously complex phenomena.
Thursday, November 4, 2021
The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time (2010)
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Back to Methuselah (1921)
So it was, again, this year, a century after Shaw wrote these words. And it wasn’t even a midterm election, let alone a Presidential one.
Shaw was correct about the shamelessness and self-abasement displayed by those running for office. But he could not conceive that, by the time he died nearly 30 years later, a worse kind of “moral horror” would be triggered in vast stretches of Europe, by Fascists and Communists—intimidation of candidates and interference with the right to vote—or that now, similar blights on democracy would crop up on both sides of the Atlantic.
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
“A. Dogs are usually left cold by all phases of psychology, mental telepathy, and the like. Attempts to hypnotize this particular breed, however, are likely to be fraught with a definite menace. A bloodhound, if stared at fixedly, is liable to gain the impression that it is under suspicion, being followed, and so on. This upsets a bloodhound's life, by completely reversing its whole scheme of behavior.”—American humorist, cartoonist, and playwright James Thurber (1894-1961), “The Pet Department,” in The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities (1931)
Sixty years ago today, perhaps the most popular American humorist of the first half of the 20th century, James Thurber, died, a month after being stricken with a blood clot in his brain. It was a miserable end for a writer with more than his share of private torment—notably, increasing blindness, alcoholism, a thyroid condition, and orneriness that could morph into malicious mischief-making.
The quote I selected was written before the worst of Thurber’s health issues began to plague him. It reflected a lifelong affection for dogs that was in direct opposition to his cynicism about their masters: “If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.”
Monday, November 1, 2021
for 40 minutes, you know? You're hanging from a rope. You have hardly any clothes on. Teachers are yelling at you, ‘Where's your jockstrap?’ You know, and kids are throwing dodge balls at you. You're trying to survive. Then it's history, science, language. There's something off in the whole flow of that day.”—Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld, Season 3, Episode 5, “The Library,” original air date Oct. 16, 1991, teleplay by Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry Charles, directed by Joshua White