suddenly conscious power in numbers safely permit viciousness
Part of the Mencken Project
Taken from the line:
Not because the stoneheads, normally virtuous, are suddenly criminally insane. Nay, but because they are suddenly conscious of the power lying in their numbers—because they suddenly realize that their natural viciousness and insanity may be safely permitted to function.
In other words, the particular swinishness of a crowd is permanently resident in the majority of its members—in all those members, that is, who are naturally ignorant and vicious—perhaps 95 per cent. All studies of mob psychology are defective in that they underestimate this viciousness.
From Damn! A Book of Calumny. XX The Crowd, by HL Mencken, 1918
matter of making conscious effort to notice understand elements
Adapted from the book, The Art of Travel (2002, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton, and the passage:
True possession of a scene is a matter of making a conscious effort to notice elements and understand their construction.
We can see beauty well enough just by opening our eyes, but how long this beauty will survive in memory depends on how intentionally we have apprehended it.
The camera blurs the distinction between looking and noticing, between seeing and possessing; it may give us the option of true knowledge, but it may also unwittingly make the effort of acquiring that knowledge seem superfluous.
Adapted from the book, The Art of Travel (2002, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton.
According to the website, GOOD READS, Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why.
As I said in the section on Architecture , what I find irresistible 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.
Being from London, it is four or five hours ahead of me so I know that somewhere in the world, someone has already made through the next four or five hours.
It also has the best traffic reports.
When the A1 to Cambridge was backed up all the way to the anti clockwise at Potter’s Bar due to a lorry overturned in the lay by, Atlanta traffic didn’t seem so bad.
It is an interesting radio station in that it uses the same software to determine playlists used by pop radio stations.
This is bad as that you did get to hear a lot of music a lot.
I mean it repeats favorites often.
Maybe I could do with a little less Elgar in my day.
But this is good as you avoid a lot of Mahler.
And it is good because when you hear something unfamiliar there is a chance you will hear it again.
So it happened today.
You see, some time back I caught a piece of music new to me.
While I could browse the online playlists for the stations, I think this was one of those moments when the presenter snuck a piece of music on air to see the reaction.
I could tell from the sound that the piece was American.
And I could tell from the sound that the piece was most like from the Big Band – Jazz era.
It was Aaron Copland-esque without being Aaron Copland.
It was Virgil Thomson-esque without being Virgil Thomson.
But I could not found what it was.
And it was played again today.
This time it WAS listed in the online playlist.
I wasn’t prepared for what I learned.
I had never, NEVER heard of the piece of music or the composer ever.
The piece was the 3rd Movement of the 4th Symphony of one William Grant Still.
The symphony is titled, Autochthonous which is defined as an adjective (of an inhabitant of a place) indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists.
The 3rd Movement is titled, ” With a graceful lilt.”
William Grant Still, according to Wikipedia, is known primarily for his first symphony, Afro-American Symphony (1930), which was, until 1950, the most widely performed symphony composed by an American. Also of note, Still was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (which was, in fact, the first one he composed) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television.
Wikipedia continues, “Still arranged music for films. These included Pennies from Heaven (the 1936 film starring Bing Crosby and Madge Evans) and Lost Horizon (the 1937 film starring Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt and Sam Jaffe). For Lost Horizon, he arranged the music of Dimitri Tiomkin. Still was also hired to arrange the music for the 1943 film Stormy Weather, but left the assignment because “Twentieth-Century Fox ‘degraded colored people.’
I typed William Grant Still into the google and am now introducing myself to the wonderful works that Mr. Still created for us.
I didn’t know his name until today.
But I will know his name and his work for the rest of my life.
I have to ask, how many more William Grant Still’s might be out there?
Sometimes the changes brought upon us by the information superhighway are for the better.
I’ll take the access to the music of William Grant Still any day.
floods of yellow gold gorgeous, indolent, sinking burning, expanding
Adapted from When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d by Walt Whitman
Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes, With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright, With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air, With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific, In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there, With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows, And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys, And all the scenes of life and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.
Sunset over Pinckney Island and Skull Creek at high tide on the north end of Hilton Head Island.
what is said, not said have to listen to not hear what I did not say
What is a haiku?
Anyone who reads this blog will tell you that I am the last one to answer that question.
I just write them.
I recently wrote a series of haiku that I felt was one haiku with five stanzas.
Was this allowed I wondered.
I knew who to ask.
My brother Pete teaches a class on poetry, through no fault of his own, at Michigan State University [sic].
I asked him if my use of the word stanzas ‘worked’ when constructing haiku.
He responded much to the point and with words much better than I ever could have brought together.
…does this work? Hmmm…
Well, yes, it works if it accomplishes the purpose you intend for it.
But is it a “haiku in five stanzas”?
That is little like saying, “I have a car with wings that flies.” You can call it that if you want to, but if you brought it to 456 Auto Fix, Hendrick would tell you that is not a car – it’s a plane.
Historically, the most popular Japanese poem form was called a Tanka, consisting of 5 lines and 31 syllables. The first three lines were 5-7-5 syllables, and the last two lines were 7-7.
Among the common people, a kind of slam poetry was developed, where two poets would try to outdo each other. The first poet would offer the hokku – the first three lines, and the second poet would complete the final two lines. These tanka composed by two poets were called Renga. These Renga were of two types – serious and comic. The comic forms came to be known as haikai.
In the Imperial Court, these Renga could be extended by five more lines, with the poets reversing roles, but still connecting the themes of the previous stanza. This could go on and on, up to 100 lines or more, with the “competitions” becoming highly structured and rule-governed.
Haiku is Basō’s reaction to these long court poems that tended to drone on and on. Instead, he tried to say as much as possible with just three lines. He took the hai from haikai and the ku from hokku, and made ‘haiku’ – and called it complete; no poetic completion or response or extension was necessary. It depended on the listener to complete the poem – to connect the dots, so to speak – in his head.
So in a good Japanese haiku, what is unsaid is just as significant – and just as clear to the listener! – as what is spoken. This skill – hearing what is not said – is highly valued not only in Japanese poetry, but also in Japanese life. (It also helps a lot in conversation with your wife!!)
It is a bit like Elijah sensing the presence of God – not in the wind, or the fire, or the earthquake, but in the utter silence – something that sounds like sheer nonsense to the modern western scientific mind. But now I am talking about theology, not haiku.
So a “five stanza haiku” is as oxymoronic as a long shortcut or a tall midget.
Too many words…!
And that is pretty much everything I know about Haiku…
Thanks for sharing your words and thoughts, and for all the things you didn’t write…
From what my brother says, it seems that these haiku competitions were the rap battles of 8 Mile fame in Imperial Japan.
It struck me that I often leave a lot unsaid in my ‘haiku’, hoping that the reader will catch what is unsaid.
And it struck me that to hear what is unsaid one has to listen more closely to what is being said to hear what is being unsaid or not being said to avoid the 1984isms of unsay.
As Chief Dan George said in the movie, “Outlaw Josey Wales”, I will endeavor to persevere.
And thank you all for not listening … I think?
As I am so fond of quoting, like Frank Lloyd Wright liked to say, “There you are.”
PS: The use of [sic] with Michigan State University implies that the error is in the original or “Michigan State University as it is understood.”
there is a corpus, congenital attitudes, found in everyone
a way of thinking of ineradicable doctrines determine
one’s reactions to persons ideational lone environment
In fact, primary attitudes will constitute essential person
understanding of place, function as member of human society
Part of the Mencken Project.
From THE AMERICAN CREDO: A Contribution Toward the Interpretation of the National Mind
By George Jean Nathan and HL Mencken, 1920
From the line: “deep down in every man there is a body of congenital attitudes, a corpus of ineradicable doctrines and ways of thinking, that determines his reactions to his ideational environment as surely as his physical activity is determined by the length of his tibiæ and the capacity of his lungs. These primary attitudes, in fact, constitute the essential man. It is by recognition of them that one arrives at an accurate understanding of his place and function as a member of human society;”
The first multi stanza haiku I ever wrote.
The question then, what are these primary attitudes?
That is what this Mr. Mencken and Mr. Nathan attempted to gather together in this book.
Mencken writes, “Well, here is an attempt to assemble in convenient form, without comment or interpretation, some of the fundamental beliefs of the largest body of human beings now under one flag in Christendom. It is but a beginning. The field is barely platted. It must be explored to the last furlong and all its fantastic and fascinating treasures unearthed and examined before ever there can be any accurate understanding of the mind of the American people.”
Then they two list some 488 odd things that back in 1920 may have been what we call ‘accepted wisdom.’
#411 – That if one’s ear itches it is a sign that some one is talking of one.
Many have not passed the test of time.
#384 – That all Japanese butlers are lieutenants in the Japanese Navy and that they read and copy all letters received by the folks they work for.
Some of these ‘fundamental beliefs’ that are beyond acceptability today I will attribute Mr. Nathan.
Why should I give Mr. Mencken a pass and not Mr. Nathan on some of their comments?
Mr. Nathan seems to be that brilliant man who would have been mad and angry and prejudiced in any era.
much thinking marked by blowsy vacuity disregard of facts
For the Mencken Project
Adapted from the Minority Report by HL Mencken 1956
The line reads, “… and I sometimes suspect that it may be the main cause of the blowsy vacuity which marks so much of the so-called thinking of mankind. What ails that thinking, two times out of three, is simply its disregard of large categories of essential facts …”
Having a sloppy or unkempt appearance or aspect.
Lack of thought or intelligence; empty-headedness.
Put them together?
An unkempt lack of intelligence or a sloppy empty-headedness.