easy to laugh at grandiloquence reading too much to too little
Adapted from the book, The Architecture of Happiness (2009, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton, and the passage:
It may be easy to laugh at the grandiloquence of claims directed at objects which on occasion resemble giant earplugs or upturned lawnmowers. But, instead of accusing critics of reading too much into too little, we should allow abstract sculptures to demonstrate to us the range of thoughts and emotions that every kind of non-representational object can convey. The gift of the most talented sculptors has been to teach us that large ideas, for example, about intelligence or kindness, youth or serenity, can be communicated in chunks of wood and string, or in plaster and metal contraptions, as well as they can in words or in human or animal likenesses. The great abstract sculptures have succeeded in speaking to us, in their peculiar dissociated language, of the important themes of our lives.
According the The New York Review of Books, this is “A perceptive, thoughtful, original, and richly illustrated exercise in the dramatic personification of buildings of all sorts.”
What I find irrestible in reading Mr. de Botton is his use of language.
I get the feeling that if you made a spread sheet of all the words, adverbs and adjectives used by Mr. de Botton, you just might find that he used each word just once.
back when the man said its the team the team the team who knew who listened
It is not surprise to my readers (and I know I am thinking positive when I use the plural) that I follow the sports teams of the University of Michgan.
It truly is in my blood.
My Grand Father, Roelof Hofman, the first one in that part of the family tree to be born in the USA, was also the first one to graduate from Michigan in 1911 as Dr. Robert Karl Hoffman, DDS. (Yep Americanized the name).
My Dad graduated from Michigan in 1942.
Me and my brothers and sisters make up the largest group of siblings, nine, to ever graduate from Michigan.
So I come by it honestly.
For a big chunk of my life, Michigan was Michigan Football and Michigan Football was Bo Schembechler.
He was the guy who when asked what made Michigan special, responded with three things.
The team, the team, the team.
So now for my deep dark secret.
Michigan Basketball has always been closer to my heart than the football team.
Sports teams have batters, pitchers, quarter backs, left wings, spin bowlers and stars.
Don’t get wrong as basketball has stars and teams led by stars.
But basketball to me, when played by a team, as a team, is something wonderful to behold.
Michigan is famous for its FAB FIVE.
A team of 5 superstar high school players who all agreed in 1991 to sign up at Michigan at the same time and create a legend.
Like so many legends, the movie has a bad ending.
It ends with Chris Webber calling timeout in the Championship Game when there were no time outs to be called.
When the demise of the legend is the stuff legends are made of, you know its a legend.
Oddly enough the head of the athletics at Michigan at the time was none other than Mr. Schembechlor.
He was NOT impressed with the FAB FIVE.
The shaved heads.
The baggy pants (yes those are part of the legend AND the start of a new look in uniforms).
The black socks.
“What did they win? NUTHIN!”, said Mr. Schembechor.
Something I always thought a bit disingenuous on his part but I digress.
But they were a team.
A member of that team was Juwan Howard.
A young man who went on to play 19 … NINETEEN … years in the NBA.
Now Mr. Howard is the basketball coach at Michigan.
And he has a good team.
He has a good TEAM
The basketball effort at Michigan has been very team oriented in this century.
Under Coach John Beilein, the team was the plan and Mr. Beilein found the players to fit the plan and it worked.
With 2 final four appearances, it worked rather well.
Then comes Coach Howard.
I am not sure what the Coach Howard plan is.
This is what it seems to be.
Get the best players possible.
Then get those players to play better than they thought they ever could.
Get those players to play defense.
Get those players to play defense better than they ever thought they could.
Get those players to play better than they thought they ever could play and play together as a team towards a team goal.
Sounds easy right?
Let me tell you if this was easy other coaches would do it.
Get players to play better than they themselves know how to play.
And play as part of a team where the team the team the team is what matters.
This team is fun to watch.
Somewhere along the line I was told to try and watch the game away from the ball.
My senior year at Michigan, we had season’s tickets in the 2nd row of Crisler Arena.
Boy howdy but you could watch the game away from the ball from down there.
This is hard to do on TV and the TV follows the ball but the other night I tried to watch the game between Hunter Dickinson and Luke Garza.
names what you should know is Moses Fleetwood Walker listed in your brain
Pleasantly surprised to start my morning online newspaper reading today and find a story on Moses Fleetwood Walker on the front page of The Guardian.
Even though almost every one knows who Moses Fleetwood Walker is, or at least what he did, or what happened because of Moses Fleetwood Walker, I am surprised at how few folks recognize the name.
I always seemed to know who Mr. Walker was.
It was in my brain.
But I have always had issues with the odd little facts in my brain.
I have always had a hard time realizing that the goofy little things stored away in my brain aren’t common knowledge.
Everyone, right, everyone knows that when Julia Roberts was born in Atlanta, it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who went to the hospital and paid all the medical bills.
Everyone, right, everyone knows that Henry Ford sent test tubes to Thomas Edison’s son so that when Thomas Edison died, his last breath could be captured for history.
I read a lot and I remember a lot and I can often bring up what I remember quickly and some folks think that is what being smart is.
But its not.
Smart is math and science and such.
That is smart.
I am good at trivia.
I grew in a family full of smart people.
With 10 brothers and sisters, when I went to Grand Rapids Creston High School I walked past trophy cases filled my brothers and sisters names.
Our last name was all over those awards.
Doctors, Lawyers and me the Indian Chief, I guess.
I was quick.
And quickly bored.
I could do algebra.
Really I could.
But in a very odd way.
I could stare at an algebra problem and after awhile my brain would spit out an answer.
Oddly enough that answer was usually correct.
But show my work?
Explain how I got the answer?
Couldn’t do it.
Well, I guess had I put in more effort I could have, but it was toooooooooo boring.
I wanted to read and gather more useless knowlegdge.
Presidents who didn’t use their first names?
Steven Cleveland, Thomas Wilson, John Coolidge.
Lots of stuff in my brain, but since I knew I wasn’t smart, I have always held to the idea that if I knew something, well, everyone has to know it as well.
So I think everyone knows who Moses Fleetwood Walker is.
I may be on firmer ground when I say everyone knows who Jackie Robinson is.
In 1997, Major League Baseball somehow celebrated Jackie Robinson.
It had been 50 years since Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier.
The so-called gentleman’s agreement that kept black ball players from playing in the so called at the time, Major Leagues of Baseball.
They turned it into a celebration.
Nothing wrong with that.
But I kept waiting for the Major Leagues to say that it had been 50 since they got it through their minds that they had been wrong.
I kept waiting for Baseball to say, for over 60 years, we screwed up.
I kept waiting for Baseball to say, for over 60 years, we were wrong.
I kept waiting for Baseball to say, we are sorry to every player who played between 1947 and Jackie Robinson back to 1884 when Moses Fleetwood Walker took the field for the Toledo Blue Stockings and the opposing manager, Cap Anson (of Hall of Fame fame) said, “get the N***** off the field.”
That is who Moses Fleetwood Walker was.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier that was created because of Moses Fleetwood Walker.
Mr. Walker played college ball at Oberlin and the UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN.
After a year at Michigan, Mr. Walker moved on the Toledo Baseball club in 1883 and at the start of the 1884 his skin color came to the attention of those folks who felt skin color made a difference.
I am not sure if Baseball as a whole, ever came flat out and said they were sorry that happened.
I know the names.
To help my kids remember, we named our third son, born in 1997, Jackie Robinson Hoffman.
Had I known how much trouble he would have with the name I might have not pushed for it.
Not any real problems just book keeping and such.
I have been in offices answering questions for paperwork with Jackie,
LEGAL FIRST NAME??
You wouldn’t believe the number of times people just assume by his name, he his a girl.
And that is also kind of funny as he was supposed to be a girl.
We had been contacted by his birth mother and asked to adopt Jackie prior to his being born.
“It’s a girl, I can tell,” said the birth mom.
So we had a girls name picked out.
Keziah by the way.
And we planned on a girl.
Then for some reason I began having doubts,
Anyway my wife was invited to the birth and when we got the call and she walked out the door, I called to her and said, “Just in case, I got a boys name picked out.”
She was thrilled I can tell you.
We already had a Franklin David Robert (FDR) and a Lucas EDWIN (Edwin being our Great Great Grand Father who fought in the civil war).
“He will be Jackie Robinson Hoffman,” I said.
My wife just said, “OK” and off she went to the hospital.
Hours later I got call from her.
“Well, Jackie Robinson is here.”
Thirteen years later when we learned we were again going to adopt another boy I called together all our kids that we had by that time, 3 boys and 3 girls, and I said that we needed a new name and they were going to vote on it.
I said the new baby could be Ellington Bernard after Duke Ellington and my wife’s Father,
He could be MOSES FLEETWOOD WALKER.
I explained how COOL it would be to have brothers named Jackie Robinson and Moses Fleetwood Walker.
I explained how important those two names were.
I explained why they should know those names.
They voted for Ellington Bernard.
I didn’t feel too bad as I had slipped one past everyone as I also wanted Ellie to named after EB White.
Ellington goes by Ellie.
Jackie goes by Jay.
But they both know who Moses Fleetwood Walker was.
As a postscript I wondered why this story happened to be written at this time.
I searched the story for clues like, “New movie coming out” or “soon to be part of an HBO special.”
I then looked for the authors bio thinking it would say, “This is excerpted from a new book coming out this spring.”
I found the authors name, Andrew Lawrence, and the short blurb under his name said simply the Mr. Lawrence is a free lance writer and that formerly, he was an award-winning Sports Illustrated staff writer.
It also said that Mr. Lawrence is “Based in Beaufort, South Carolina.”
Poet whose outlook spanned anarchism, ecology, publishing and the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco
(From the above obit) Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, artist, activist and founder of San Francisco’s famous City Lights Bookstore, who has died aged 101 of interstitial lung disease, was the least “beat” of the Beat Generation. In addition to a political commitment that blended anarchism and ecology – he loathed the motor car, calling it “the infernal combustion engine” – he had an instinctive business sense, founded on the philosophy of small is beautiful. City Lights, which he started in partnership with the magazine editor Peter Martin in the early 1950s, is still among the most welcoming of shops, with its tables and chairs, sheaves of magazines, and signs saying: “Pick a book, sit down, and read.”
Pick a book, sit down, and read.
That is what Lawrence Ferlinghetti said.
Pick a book, sit down, and read.
What more could you want to have written in your own obituary some day?
Oh I know, there should be lots of things in your obit.
“The signs in his bookstore read, Pick a book, sit down, and read.”
That isn’t too bad.
I know it’s bad form to imagine one’s own obituary and try to choose what good thing might be said about you.
Or even to hope that good things might be thought about you once you are gone.
You can’t really control what people think I guess.
Jim Harrison wrote that, just once, he wanted to win an award for his poetry that he had heard about prior to being told he had won the award.
Mr. Harrison enjoyed winning awards.
He just didn’t like saying, “Who are you again?” when the award was presented.
Thinking this one through.
I don’t plan on having a gravestone.
Ashes in the sea is where my mind is going.
I did want to have my ashes tossed off the Mackinac Bridge but my wife keeps asking, “By who?”
And it’s just too cold.
But if I was going to have a tombstone, I would ask that “Pick a book, sit down, and read.” be carved on it.
Maybe have a little bench.
Maybe if I can talk my wife into tossing me off the pier at South Beach on Tybee Island, I can get a brass plaque on one the pier benches.
Pick a book, sit down, and read.
I’d put that right there with Conrad Aiken’s “Cosmos Mariner – Destination Unknown” in Savannah’s St. Bonaventure Cemetery.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died.
Some time today, pick a book, sit down, and read.
Today’s Haiku is lifted from Mr. Ferlinghetti’s poem:
I Am Waiting
I am waiting for my case to come up and I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder and I am waiting for someone to really discover America and wail and I am waiting for the discovery of a new symbolic western frontier and I am waiting for the American Eagle to really spread its wings and straighten up and fly right and I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety to drop dead and I am waiting for the war to be fought which will make the world safe for anarchy and I am waiting for the final withering away of all governments and I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the Second Coming and I am waiting for a religious revival to sweep thru the state of Arizona and I am waiting for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored and I am waiting for them to prove that God is really American and I am waiting to see God on television piped onto church altars if only they can find the right channel to tune in on and I am waiting for the Last Supper to be served again with a strange new appetizer and I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for my number to be called and I am waiting for the Salvation Army to take over and I am waiting for the meek to be blessed and inherit the earth without taxes and I am waiting for forests and animals to reclaim the earth as theirs and I am waiting for a way to be devised to destroy all nationalisms without killing anybody and I am waiting for linnets and planets to fall like rain and I am waiting for lovers and weepers to lie down together again in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed and I am anxiously waiting for the secret of eternal life to be discovered by an obscure general practitioner and I am waiting for the storms of life to be over and I am waiting to set sail for happiness and I am waiting for a reconstructed Mayflower to reach America with its picture story and tv rights sold in advance to the natives and I am waiting for the lost music to sound again in the Lost Continent in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the day that maketh all things clear and I am awaiting retribution for what America did to Tom Sawyer and I am waiting for Alice in Wonderland to retransmit to me her total dream of innocence and I am waiting for Childe Roland to come to the final darkest tower and I am waiting for Aphrodite to grow live arms at a final disarmament conference in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting to get some intimations of immortality by recollecting my early childhood and I am waiting for the green mornings to come again youth’s dumb green fields come back again and I am waiting for some strains of unpremeditated art to shake my typewriter and I am waiting to write the great indelible poem and I am waiting for the last long careless rapture and I am perpetually waiting for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn to catch each other up at last and embrace and I am awaiting perpetually and forever a renaissance of wonder
low down mind messin and steadily depressin’ covid nineteen blues
Based on Jim Croce’s Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues.
According to Wikipedia, “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues” is a 1974 single written and recorded by Jim Croce. It was the third single released from his album I Got a Name. It reached a peak of #32 in July 1974 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is Croce’s last Top 40 hit to date. It was also the fourth single released (including Christmas-themed release “It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way”) after Jim Croce’s passing in September 1973.
Croce explained he came up with the idea for the song while in the military at Fort Jackson running telephone cables on poles and thinking he should be doing something else.
Fort Jackson is about 40 miles from where I am right.
Covid Ninetime Blue is what I am right now.
Not exactly anything to complain about.
I am not sick.
I do have a great job.
I work from home.
I work from home at my desk.
My desk is between my bed and a window.
I sleep 8 hours.
I work 8 hours.
I spend 16 hours a day in an area about the size of my car.
slight shades of difference religion, manners, habits triumphed together
For George Washington’s Birthday, this was taken from General Washington’s 32 page farewell address to the nation written in 1796.
Famous for his warning against Foreign entanglements saying, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake,” the General was also aware of the problems of party and states and government by party and by states.
The General said this:
“Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”
Citizens, by birth or choice,
of a common country,
that country has a right to concentrate your affections.
The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism.
I recently ran across an essay that took the form of an email from a grand father to a grand son trying to explain the what this country was in danger of losing.
Have to point this essay appeared in the New Yorker on April 6, 2020 (Love Letter by George Sanders)
“… disrupt something so noble, so time tested and seemingly strong that had been with us literally everyday of our lives. We had taken a profound gift for granted. We did not know the gift was a fluke, a chimera, a wonderful accident of consensus and mutual understanding.”
The General understood this.
He even warned us saying:
“Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
… you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity;
watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety;
discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned;
and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”
Happy Birthday General.
We miss you very much and wish you all the best.
As a postscript and a new citizen of the State of South Carolina I have to point out this little factoid.
The image I used today is from a portrait of
The image I used today is from a portrait of George Washington as Colonel in the Virginia Regiment, Charles Willson Peale, in 1772.
Notice around his neck is a small metal ‘gorget’ that was worn by officers of the era as a symbol of military rank.
The shape of the gorget was adapted as the insignia or badge of the 1st and 2nd South Carolina Regiments that were formed to protect Charleston from a certain British invasion in 1775.
These two regiments manned Fort Sullivan in Charleston Harbor that held off an attack of Royal Navy, June 28, 1776.
Fort Sullivan was constructed of palmetto trees.
The gorget and the palmetto tree are the symbols on the flag of State of South Carolina.
Sometime after the flag was designed a state functionary changed it a bit by tilting the gorget which makes folks think it is a crescent moon.
It is not the moon but the gorget badge of the 1st and 2nd South Carolina Regiments.
I wrong. You right. I … have the big humility. So, how about you?
In the movie Lilies of the Field from 1963, Homer Smith, played by Sidney Poitier is frustrated when the local families want to pitch in and help Smith build a chapel for their local Catholic community.
When is spite of Smith’s protest, the locals take over the major part of the labor, Smith goes off in a sulk.
Sitting under a tree the owner of the local diner who has befriended Smith walks over and talks.
Juan, played by Stanley Adams, says in heavily accented and paced Hispanic english:
“So… Oh, do not stop now. OK, OK. I thought you was loco. I was wrong. You was right. See, I have the big humility, amigo. How about you?”
fear of fear, frenzy wisdom can hope to acquire is humility
Adapted from TS Eliot in East Croker, Four Quartets: II. Fear and Humility.
Do not let me hear Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly, Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession, Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God. The only wisdom we can hope to acquire Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless. The houses are all gone under the sea. The dancers are all gone under the hill.
I looked up humility in the OED and got back, The quality of being humble or having a lowly opinion of oneself; meekness, lowliness, humbleness: the opposite of pride or haughtiness.
Having a lowly opinion of oneself?
Saved by the last, the opposite of pride or haughtiness.
If you follow the news of late it would seem that it is the lack of humility, the lack of any wisdom we can hope to acquire, is endless