“You do have to feel some sympathy — Senate campaigns are wicked expensive. The question is whether you should respond to this barrage of email requests for donations. The downside, as you probably suspect, is that it will make you an even more popular target.”—Political commentator Gail Collins, “Do You Think Your Newfound Popularity Has Something to Do With Politics?” The New York Times, Sept. 8, 2022
Friday, September 30, 2022
Thursday, September 29, 2022
Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605)
Miguel de Cervantes—born on this day in 1547—is lucky to have stayed alive long enough to write his masterpiece. At the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, he suffered three grave wounds—two gunshot wounds to the chest and another that completely maimed his left hand.
As if that weren’t enough, he was captured by pirates and imprisoned for five years, then jailed on two more occasions owing money to the treasury from a shortage in his accounts.
Maybe Cervantes needed to find a laugh somehow, somewhere to get his mind off his terrible situation. In any case, he came up with one of the great satires in world literature: a parody of chivalric romances.
In the process, he offered the world one of the most indelible depictions of the clash between illusion and reality, in this scene that has become immortal:
“Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth."
"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza.
"The ones you can see over there," answered his master, "with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long."
"Now look, your grace," said Sancho, "what you see over there aren't giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone."
"Obviously," replied Don Quijote, "you don't know much about adventures.”
Cervantes, the greatest writer in the Spanish language, died in April 1616 on the same day as William Shakespeare, arguably the greatest writer in the English language.
(The image accompanying this post comes from the film adaptation of Man of La Mancha, with Peter O’Toole as Don Quixote.)
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Quote of the Day (Christopher Marlowe, on the Mistaken Belief That ‘A Sound Magician is a Mighty God’)
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,
Is promis'd to the studious artizan!
All things that move between the quiet poles
Shall be at my command: emperors and kings
Are but obeyed in their several provinces,
Nor can they raise the wind, or rend the clouds;
But his dominion that exceeds in this,
Stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man;
A sound magician is a mighty god:
Here, Faustus, tire thy brains to gain a deity.”—English playwright-poet Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), Doctor Faustus (ca. 1589-1592)
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Areopagitica: A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, to the Parliament of England (1644)
Monday, September 26, 2022
No One Wants to Be the Good Guy’”:Hugh Grant, Richard Madden, Billy Porter and The Hollywood Reporter Drama Actor Roundtable,” The Hollywood Reporter, June 5, 2019
(The image accompanying this post, of Hugh Grant at a charity fundraiser held in South Bank, London, was taken Mar.15, 2011, by Julien Rath. Judging from Grant's smile, his producing experience was long behind him by this point.)
Sunday, September 25, 2022
The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer (2010)
(The accompanying photo of John Dominic Crossan was taken during a lecture at Bellarmine University on Nov. 8, 2008 by Donald Vish.)
Saturday, September 24, 2022
Sundial of the Seasons (1964)
I took the attached photo of a scene from Ringwood Manor here in New Jersey back in November 2015. We’re still nowhere near the colorful landscape I marveled at back then. But dropping temperatures in this area like we’ve had the last couple of days and nights will bring us closer to that point.
Friday, September 23, 2022
“[In one form of Northern hospitality], you walk into a dry cleaner’s for the 30th time, and the proprietor, recognizing you at last, says, ‘You again!’ If you are willing to accept that he is never going to welcome you, then you’re welcome. The advantage of this form of Northern hospitality is that it works irritation right into the equation, up front. Let’s face it: People irritate one another.”—Southern humorist Roy Blount Jr., in Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations (2016)
(Photo of Roy Blount Jr. taken at the 2007 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, Nov. 3, 2007, by Larry D. Moore.)
Thursday, September 22, 2022
The History Boys: A Play (2004)
(The accompanying photo of Alan Bennett was taken in London in 1973 by Allan Warren.)
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
I still hold out for the date of the traditional autumnal equinox—i.e., tomorrow. Pushing for any earlier date ignores not only that celestial fact, but the gradual but real increase in September temperatures over the last few decades.
Well, even if my city’s sense of seasons might be a bit off, its sense of what will bring out crowds isn’t. This past summer, the festival featured roughly 50 merchants and information vendors promoting their businesses in Depot Square.
But I couldn’t help but smile at the free petting zoo. Its creatures certainly appealed to me—a big reason why I took this photograph.
Me Before You (2012)
(The accompanying photo of Jojo Moyes at the Salon Livre Paris was taken by Claire Onirik on Mar. 25, 2017.)
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Will his future be feast or faminy?
Will he eat his lunch in a one-arm joint,
Or in a swell estaminet?
For Fiorello’s footsteps
Still echo in the corridor;
Reform is a horrid word enough,
But Fusion is even horrider.” —American light-verse poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971), “Don’t Bite the Hand That Puts the Foot in Your Mouth” in Everyone But Thee And Me (1962)
Seventy-five years ago today, Fiorello La Guardia—the “Little Flower” of New York City—died of pancreatic cancer. Having guided New York through the Great Depression and World War II, he had stepped down as mayor after three terms less than two years before, utterly exhausted—and, after so much time in the public eye and more than a little irascibility, the city had grown tired of him, too, according to public opinion polls.
By the time Ogden Nash recalled his legacy 15 years after his death, La Guardia had recovered his popularity. The musical Fiorello! won the Tony and Pulitzer Prizes in 1959, and the mayor was posthumously hailed for his attempts to root out corruption. And in 1961, Mayor Robert Wagner Jr. had turned decisively against the Tammany Hall political machine that had sustained his own rise—and that had been the object of La Guardia’s tireless (and noisy) anti-corruption efforts.
La Guardia had won his first campaign for mayor by campaigning on the “Fusion” ticket (primarily GOP-backed, with additional support by breakaway Democrats and independents). By the time Wagner ran for a third term, the “Reform” movement, which had sprung up among Manhattan insurgents three years before, was now spelling a threat to the power that Tammany Hall had enjoyed again after La Guardia’s departure.Wagner’s defeat—and the fall from power of Tammany boss Carmine deSapio—proved in the end that Reform was, Nash’s contention to the contrary, “horrider” than Fusion to the old political machine.
Monday, September 19, 2022
TV Quote of the Day (‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ on a Disastrous Combo of News Footage and Ted Baxter)
[played by Ed Asner]: “Explain to me why, while I was hearing Ted's voice describing the arrival of the new water buffalo at the Minneapolis zoo, I was watching film of the vice president returning from his trip, and Ted's voice saying, ‘And here's the big ox now, lumbering down the ramp with his handler.’” —The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 3, Episode 13, “Operation: Lou,” original air date Dec. 9, 1972, teleplay by Elias Davis and David Pollock, directed by Jay Sandrich
Sunday, September 18, 2022
The Church of Mercy (2014)
Saturday, September 17, 2022
, Aug. 22, 1953, reprinted in The Housebreaker of Shady Hill and Other Stories (1958)
Friday, September 16, 2022
writer and “Weekend Update” co-anchor Colin Jost, “Commuting,” The New Yorker, Mar. 16, 2020
(The accompanying photo of Colin Jost—cropped from another showing him with Michael Che—was taken at Citi Field, Oct. 12, 2015, by Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr.)
Thursday, September 15, 2022
Liberty and the News (1920)
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)
Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Laura Lippman: By the Book,” The New York Times Book Review, February 16, 2014
(Photo of Laura Lippman taken at the 2015 Library of Congress National Book Festival, Sept. 6, 2015, by fourandsixty.)
Monday, September 12, 2022
Decline and Fall (1928)
(The image accompanying this post shows Douglas Hodge as Captain Grimes in the BBC’s 2017 miniseries adaptation of Waugh’s classic satire.)
Sunday, September 11, 2022
An African Prayer Book (1995)
(Photo of Archbishop Tutu taken by Elke Wetzig at the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag in Cologne, Germany, in 2007.)
Saturday, September 10, 2022
Tender Is the Night (1934)
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all.”—John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “In My Life,” performed by the Beatles on their LP Rubber Soul (1965)
Friday, September 9, 2022
[played by Amy Irving] [Objecting to a surprise appointment with a matchmaker]: “Excuse me, but I don't know what you think you're doing.”
Bubbie Kantor [played by Reizl Bozyk]: “First you'll listen, then you'll talk.”
Hannah Mandelbaum [played by Sylvia Miles]: “Very nice, very nice girl. She lives by her parents?”
Bubbie: “Naaaah, they live in Florida with Red Buttons. All the social security checks under one roof—you can have it!”
Hannah: “So, Isabella, you got your own apartment?”
Bubbie: “Naaaaah, she lives alone in a room, like a dog. A dog should live alone, not people... a dog!”
Isabelle: “It is not a room, it's an apartment, a very nice apartment. You know, you've been there, there's a bedroom, a bathroom...”
Bubbie: “Sure, with bars on the windows like a prison. Someone should crawl in at night, I'm always thinking!”
Isabelle: “Stop thinking!”—Crossing Delancey (1988), screenplay by Susan Sandler, directed by Joan Micklin Silver
One of the best parts of the offbeat rom-com Crossing Delancey was the performance of Sylvia Miles (far left, seated next to Amy Irving), who practically walked off with the picture as matchmaker Hannah Mandelbaum.
But then again, it wasn’t the first time that the actress—born on this day 98 years ago in New York as Sylvia Scheinwald —made a major impression in a subsidiary role. She was nominated twice for Best Supporting Actress Oscars in dramatic roles—as an aging kept woman in Midnight Cowboy and as an alcoholic in Farewell, My Lovely.
Yet for as long as she lived—until her death two years ago—she couldn’t help mourning the roles that got away—including the role of sitcom writer Sally Rogers, which she played in a pilot but lost out to Rose-Marie for the regular run of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Thursday, September 8, 2022
On the light fantastic toe,
And in thy right hand lead with thee,
The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty;
And if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreproved pleasures free;
To hear the lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-tower in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise.” —English poet John Milton (1608-1674), “L'Allegro,” in The Complete Poems, edited by John Leonard (1999)
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
These last several days, rain—the lack of it and the overabundance of it alike—has been at the heart of the drumbeat of the news, locally, nationally and internationally. In an age of climate change, the kind of soft, steady rain, falling consistently, that many of us recalled from younger days seems to be, more and more, a thing of the past.
The weather forecasters have taken increasingly to warning we’re in for flooding, particularly after a series of consecutive days of high temperatures coupled with humidity.
Still, no matter how much we brace ourselves, though,
those of us in the Northeast are unlikely to be mentally prepared for rain as a
“malignancy of the primitive powers of nature” that Maugham evoked in this classic
tale of the South Seas.
Tuesday, September 6, 2022
Joey [played by Matt LeBlanc]: “'Sup? 'Sup, dude?”
Chandler [played by Matthew Perry] [putting his hands up]: “Take whatever you want, just please don't hurt me.”
Joey: “So, you're playing a little Playstation, huh? That's whack. Playstation is whack. 'Sup with the whack Playstation, 'sup? Huh? Come on, am I nineteen or what?”
Chandler: “Yes, on a scale from one to ten, ten being the dumbest a person can look, you are definitely nineteen.” —Friends, Season 7, Episode 1, “The One With Monica's Thunder,” original air date Oct. 12, 2000, teleplay by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, directed by Wil Calhoun
Monday, September 5, 2022
—reciprocally engaging two wills, one leading (often in disguised ways), the other following (often while resisting). Leadership is always a struggle, often a feud.”—Historian-journalist Garry Wills, “What Makes a Good Leader,” The Atlantic Monthly, April 1994
Happy Labor Day, friends—and remember the inherent value of work (even, God help us, Judge Reinhold's job at Captain Hook Fish and Chips in Fast Times at Ridgemont High).
(Photo of Garry Wills by Lauren Gerson, taken on March 10, 2015 at the LBJ Presidential Library, where he was joining the Friends of the LBJ Library to discuss his book, The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis.)
Sunday, September 4, 2022
The photo of Eamon Duffy accompanying this post was taken Apr. 24, 2010, by Fr. James Bradley from Southampton, UK.
Saturday, September 3, 2022
The Power of Art (2006)
(Photograph of Simon Schama at Strand Book Store, New York City. taken August 15, 2006, by David Shankbone)
Friday, September 2, 2022
American humorist Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing From America's Favorite Humorist (1996)
Thursday, September 1, 2022
The Wings of the Dove (1902)
James never tells exactly why Kate Croy’s father Lionel has left her so bitter and emotionally—and financially—impoverished. That ambiguity has furnished a free hand to filmmakers. (In the 1997 movie adaptation starring Helena Bonham Carter, Lionel—played by Michael Gambon—is an opium addict who’s stolen from his wife.)
But the carefully chosen adjectives here (e.g., "sallow, shabby," "vulgar") add up to an alliterative pronouncement all the more devastating for being non-specific: “the faint, flat emanation of things, the failure of fortune and of honour.”