Such melancholic enthusiasts see the ruin beneath the plan
Adapted from the book, The Architecture of Happiness (2009, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton, and the passage:
Freud was unsympathetic; for him, the capacity to love anything attractive, however fragile it might be, was a hallmark of psychological health. But Rilke’s stance, though inconvenient, helpfully emphasises how it can be those most in thrall to beauty who will be especially aware of, and saddened by, its ephemeral character. Such melancholic enthusiasts will see the moth hole beneath the curtain swatch and the ruin beneath the plan. They may at the last moment cancel an appointment with an estate agent, having realised that the house under offer, as well as the city and even civilisation itself, will soon enough be reduced to fragments of shattered brick over which cockroaches will triumphantly crawl. They may prefer to rent a room or live in a barrel out of a reluctance to contemplate the slow disintegration of the objects of their love.
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.
envision old age memories roll past endlessly so far not happened
Adapted from the book, Noah’s Compass (2009, Alfred A. Knopf) by Anne Tyler, and the passage:
He sat down in his rocker and stayed there, empty-headed, hands loose on his thighs. Long ago when he was young he used to envision old age this way: man in a rocker, idle. He had read somewhere that old people could sit in their chairs and watch their memories roll past like movies, endlessly entertaining; but so far that hadn’t happened to him. He was beginning to think it never would.
Part of the series of Haiku inspired by from Noah’s Compass (2009, Alfred A. Knopf) by Anne Tyler. Anne Tyler is an American novelist, short story writer, and literary critic. She has published twenty-three novels, including Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982), The Accidental Tourist (1985), and Breathing Lessons (1988). I came across Noah’s Compass as an audio book when living in Atlanta I commuted 1 hour each way. As the book had to deal with memories and memory loss and it involved someone my age, I was taken with the book. I have enjoyed reading most of Ms. Tyler’s work. Accidental Tourist maybe better known for the movie which I also recommend.
doesn’t know if cause is hopeless, most fantastic victories ever
Listening to the 3rd Test at Leeds of India’s tour of England today, I was able to hear the BBC Test Match Special broadcast team when they took time during the lunch break to revisit the Ashes Series of 1981.
Cricket, if you read this blog, is something of a hobby with me.
At some point years ago I said I am going to figure that game out.
And I did or at least to the point of being able to follow the game.
Cricket, like many other sports, has a couple of ways that one team can, within the rules, insult the other team.
Somewhat along the lines of when an American Football team that is ahead, will go for two points after scoring a touchdown instead of one, just to rub it in.
The true Dark Lord, Woody Hayes of that school in Ohio once went for 2 against Michigan with a 50-14 lead.
When asked why, he said, “Because I couldn’t go for three.”
In cricket there are two innings like baseball.
But unlike baseball, there aren’t 3 outs but 10.
In other words, you have to get everyone out.
That is why in test cricket, the ultimate in cricket, a test match is played over 5 days in a series of 6 hour games with Lunch and Tea breaks after two hours play.
30 hours of cricket.
Again you have to get everyone out for the match to be over.
And it has to be over at the end of day five or the match goes into the books as No Result or a draw.
There is a difference between a NR and a draw but I can’t remember.
With that mind, you can understand that time can often come into play even when 30 hours for the match is scheduled.
With this in mind, the team in the lead has two calls they can make.
One, they can declare.
They are so far ahead in their half of the inning, for example they have scored 423 and only given up 4 wickets or outs, they can declare.
That is to say they feel they have enough runs and will stop batting.
That is say they declare that the other team is so bad they might as well bat, we got enough to beat you, nannie nannie boo boo.
This is often used with an eye on the clock and an eye on the weather to make sure the other team gets their innings in and the match is played out to the end.
The other thing a team can do to the other is ‘follow on.’
This happens when Team One bats first in the 1st inning and gets a big lead.
Team Two in their half of the 1st inning bats for a miserable total.
Team One can then call for Team Two to ‘follow on.’
That means, instead of Team One batting in the top of 2nd inning, Team Two has to get right back up to the wicket and start batting again.
Team One is saying you are so bad we don’t even have to bat again to beat you.
During the lunch break today, the BBC broadcast team talked about how until that series in 1981, only ONE team in the history of test match cricket, won after following on.
Then came 1981.
The Ashes is the Test Match played between Australia and England every 2 years, alternating host country for each match.
It is separate from all other leagues and schedules.
In a way it would be as if Michigan and Ohio State were not in same conference or even association or anything and regardless of any other schedule, played each other every other year in a grudge match.
In 1981, with the series being playing in England, Australia destroyed and demoralized England in the first match.
The 2nd match was a draw (time ran out).
Though it was a draw, Australia looked so big and mean that the England team and fans felt hopeless.
Except for the England Captain, Mike Brearley.
In cricket, the Captain will function much like a baseball manager and put together lineups and put in / pull out bowlers.
It was said of Mike Brearley that he didn’t know if a cause was hopeless.
The 3rd match, Australia batted for a big lead and then forced England to follow on in the 2nd Inning.
England batted again and got a small lead.
Geoff Boycott got a ‘stubborn’ 46 at bat for England but who has enough time to talk about Geoff Boycott.
Then Mike Brearley put in a bowler named Bob Willis.
Mr. Willis then got 8 wickets or outs while giving up only 43 runs.
THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN CRICKET.
If this was American Football it would like throwing 3 Hail Mary passes after 3 successful onside kicks.
England became only the second team in Test Match history to win a match after being made to follow-on.
The BBC Commentators reminisced about how low tickets sales had been due to the power of the Aussie line up yet everywhere they went today, people told them they had been there.
England went on to win the test match 3-1 (with 2 draws) and the Ashes stayed in England for two years.
The key was that 2nd half of match three.
Mr. Willis’ 8 wickets took the wind out of the Australian sails.
It was, from the recorded match play-by-play that was played today, one of the most “fantastic victories ever known.”
Now here is the point.
Bob Willis was interviewed today as part of the broadcast.
He was asked, was he, now 40 years later, still recognized, still appreciated, still a hero?
And Mr. Willis responded:
“The other weekend my daughter was over with her family and we had a barbecue out back.
I had the wine glass in one hand and the cricket bat in the other and I played with my grand kids.
The next day my daughter called me to say that she had just got back from taking her kids to school.
One her sons got out of the car and turned back to his Mom and asked, ‘Was Grand Dad really really good when he played?’
His Daughter looked at her boy and said, ‘One of the best.’
The boy looked down, then looked at his Mom and said, ‘Well, he’s crap now.'”
had one job to do just the one job but did not get it right, come on!
Winston Churchill once said of his opponent, the right honorable Clement Attlee that, “He was a modest man.”
Then Mr. Churchill added, “He had much to be modest about.”
Mr. Churchill’s image today is that he smoked cigars, drank whisky and also decided early on, that Adolf Hitler was bad and that any and all steps to get rid of Mr. Hitler should be taken and taken sooner rather than later.
There are times when I think that that is just about right.
To be sure Mr. Churchill did much much more.
Just enter Tonypandy into the google for another side of the great man.
But lets hit those three things.
By most counts he managed to smoke, in his lifetime, over 300,000 cigars.
That comes out to about 8 a day.
One time, Franklin Roosevelt announced his plans to leave a meeting the next day early at 6AM.
Mr. Churchill announced he would say goodbye now as no sane person was up at that hour.
At 6AM as FDR was being hauled aboard his plane, a limo pulled up.
Mr. Churchill got out.
He was wearing his sleep vest pajamas (tops only say the books) a bathrobe and slippers.
Photographers came out in mass.
Mr. Churchill, smoking a cigar of course, gestured them away saying with a smile, “You simply cannot do this to me.”
Later that day he was asked what it was like to get up at 6AM and he replied it was wonderful as he had “time for another cigar.”
A word about his whisky drinking can be said by quoting Mr. Churchill’s quote that, “He had taken more out of Whisky than Whisky had taken out of him.”
“Everything in moderation” was what Mr. Churchill said.
Which led one admirer to comment, “I must say, if the way Winston drinks is ‘moderation’, then he drinks an awful lot in moderation.”
On Mr. Hitler, Mr. Churchill said simply, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”
So why all this Churchill stuff.
For one its fun.
As a writer, he made sure he got all the best lines.
NANCY ASTOR: “Winston, if you were my husband, I would put poison in your coffee.”
WINSTON: “Nancy, if you were my wife, I would drink it.”
The other reason Mr. Churchill was on my mind is that the BBC recently produced a 6 hour documentary titled, Churchill.
What can you say?
Even Spielberg titled Lincoln, Lincoln. (and Jaws, Jaws)
This documentary promised to be in the best tradition of Ken Burns at his best, which if you read this blog, you will know I find barely above a passing grade.
Mr. Burns does quality work.
And he is smart enough to get quality people both in writing and narration to carry him along.
But in his directorial use and selection of source material, video and photographs he falls far short of the mark and in my opinion is quite the historical humbug.
I was trained in a tough school of historiography in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Historiography is the study and CRITICAL REVIEW of historical writing.
I would complain to my Professors that they were often too tough, their standards too high when they would blast a colleague on some minor error.
NO ERROR IS MINOR they would reply.
If you catch that ONE, how many did you NOT CATCH due to your lack of depth on the subject.
So I was taught.
So I hold Mr. Burns to that standard.
So when Mr. Burns uses photographs to illustrate events in the narrative THAT TOOK PLACE 10 YEARS before the photograph was taken, and knowingly crops or alters the photo so it fits into the narrative, well then.
I have to close that door.
But back to the new Churchill Documentary.
It has got some good reviews.
I told myself to give it chance.
Watch it through.
Then make up my mind on.
So was the plan.
It is on You Tube to make it easy to watch.
6 episodes at 1 hour per episode from the BBC.
I am sorry I have to announce I got through less than 30 seconds.
In the bit I saw, the narrative said, “Churchill was spending the weekend at the PM’s country estate, Chequers.
The video however showed Mr. Churchill’s country estate, Chartwell.
OH COME ON.
One job to do.
One job to do to tell the story of Winston Churchill and you can’t keep his house straight from the house of the British Prime Minister.
I shut off YouTube and reached for my blog.
I happily typed out this paean to myself and my self admitted genius.
Then I went looking for pictures of the two house to show how dumb these folks were.
THEN I checked YouTube to be sure I was right.
I had one job to do.
TO watch and comment on the passing show and be correct in my assertions.
And I blew it.
So mark this down.
I was wrong.
I admit it.
I was wrong.
This isn’t like the time in the WZZM13 Newsroom when I stood on a desk a yelled, “I WAS WRONG.”
I really did that.
I stood up and yelled, “I APOLOGIZE. WRITE TODAY DOWN. I WAS WRONG … NOT ONE OF YOU IS AS SMART AS I THOUGHT YOU WERE.”
This one is all on me.
The show was correct.
They had the right house.
I will get back to you as soon as I make up my mind to watch the show.
people to tell us? crazy, or funny, absurd ironic, tragic
Let’s get this straight right off the bat.
I like watching, listening to Fran Leibowitz.
I enjoy her pithy comments very much.
Consider this recent comment on travel.
“As far as wanting to go places, I can’t believe people do it for fun. When I’m in airports, and I see people going on vacations, I think, ‘How horrible could your life be? How bad is your regular life, that you think, you know what would be fun? Let’s get the kids, go to the airport, with thousands of pieces of luggage, stand in these lines, be yelled at by a bunch of morons, leave late, be squished all together – and this is better than our actual life.‘”
Ms. Leibowitz recently made a six part 2021 Netflix docuseries Pretend It’s a City where she gets to complain about everything and its fun.
It was created and directed by Martin Scorsese.
Wikipedia says that Mr. Scorsese is “One of the major figures of the New Hollywood era, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential directors in film history.”
I have to say I do not have the background to comment on that comment but if I am making a comment just for myself, I would say well, maybe, not so much.
I mean he is not John Huston is he?
As for influence on film, I mean I see a mobster flic and say ‘oh yes, that Martin feller.’
But I see deep focus shots, low angle shots, tracking shots, I say, “Oh Yes, Gregg Toland!”
But then Mr. Toland was a cinematographer so maybe I am mixing apples and oranges.
Back in the early 90’s there was a TV show called Northern Exposure.
While it was supposed to be about the life a New York City type trying to exist in Alaska it was really a vehicle for the two creators, Joshua Brand and John Falsey, to comment on le monde informatique.
One of the many re-occurring themes was a character in the show who wanted to make movies.
In expanding this theme it was hinted that Woody Allen’s Grand Mother lived in the town and spent her days watching Avant Garde films (Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal) in the local movie house.
In one episode movie making wannabe character, Ed was his name, approached the lady and said, “Grandma Woody how does Woody do it? What is his secret to success?”
Grandma Woody responds, “Woody? My Woody? He gets an idea, he writes it down, and he films it – again… and again and again.”
Grandma Woody’s only other reported quote is, “All we are, basically, are monkeys with car keys.”
But that comment, “Again and again and again” pretty summed up Mr. Allen’s career for me.
If you look at the list of Martin Scorsese movies its almost the same thing.
Mr. Scorsese got his man alone idea, he wrote it down, and he films it – again and again and again.
But that is neither here nor there.
What is here and there and that I was reading this morning an article about the making of that 2021 Netflix docuseries Pretend It’s a City and the writer quoted Mr. Scorsese.
The writer quoted Mr. Scorsese on Fran Lebowitz.
Full disclosure, Lebowitz and Scorsese are great friends, just ask them, they well tell you.
You bet, they will tell you.
Mr. Scorsese said, or was quoted as saying, “I admire her clarity and unequivocal stances.”
Mr. Scorsese went on, “We need people to tell us: this is crazy, this is absurd, this is ironic, this is funny, this is tragic.“
My brain stopped.
My brain stopped as sure as if it were a freight train hitting a concrete barrier.
Not the stopped of a runaway truck turning onto a runaway truck ramp and slowing to stop in soft sand.
Stopped dead stopped.
And like parts of that train hitting the barrier, little bits and pieces of something dribbled out of my ears.
Again Mr. Scorsese said, “We need people to tell us: this is crazy, this is absurd, this is ironic, this is funny, this is tragic.”
a symbol, a tool of history people find very attractive
Growing up, in my house there was a complete or near complete set of the Random House Landmark books.
If we missed any the library at my elementary school and the local branch library had the rest.
The Voyages of Christopher Columbus, The Landing of the Pilgrims, Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, Paul Revere and the Minute Men, Our Independence and the Constitution.
According to Wikipedia, Landmark Books children’s book series published by Random House from 1950 to 1970, featured stories of significant people and events.
Wikipedia states, “David Spear, writing in the American Historical Association’s news magazine, says that the series “lured an entire generation of young readers” to the history discipline, “including many of today’s professional historians.”
Sign me up for that.
Understand that a lot of history in these books was, for lack of better word, sanitized (?) or maybe, politically correct FOR 1950.
The book on Custer’s Last Stand for example presents a fairly unfair image of the Native American cause.
It also ends with the General Custer and his brother Tom as the last two men standing and that they are killed together and fall into each others arms.
As Director Raoul Walsh said of his movie, ‘They Died with Their Boots On,’ on the same topic, “It wasn’t the way it happened. But it was the way it should have happened.”
(That being said who cannot be stirred in the early scenes of the movie that takes place during Custer’s Civil War career, leading the Michigan Calvary Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg with Errol Flynn yelling, “Ride You Woverines!”)
Those books stayed with me in my brain and some are on my bookshelf today.
One that I read several time was Captain Cortés Conquers Mexico by William Weber Johnson.
One modern review states, “Without posing the question of the rights or wrongs of the Spanish conquistadores, Mr. Johnson has presented the figure of Cortes, conqueror of Mexico, in as favorable a light as possible.”
I’ll go along with that.
I will say on my own behalf that I kept yelling at the Aztec’s to just send everybody and attack, you got them outnumbered 200 to 1.
You can just smother them.
Reading and re-reading the account of La Noche Triste I liked how the Aztecs chased Cortes out of Tenochtitlan even when I knew Cortes was coming back.
I remember that the author pointed out again and again that the conquistadores all carried swords made of the FINEST TOLEDO STEEL.
The author referred to these swords like they were wonder weapons.
The article states, “The conquest is a singular event in Mexican history, seen both as a moment of national trauma and the founding act of the nation – and it remains deeply controversial.”
It remains deeply controversial.
I believe that was Mr. Al Gore’s movie.
Social History or the history of how people lived in their day to day lives making a living as swordsmiths versus narrative history, the history of the great road scrapper that made and remade the world every day or the history of how those swords were used.
I guess we can be happy that the craft needed to create a sword to the high standards of 500 years is kept alive.
The sword, we can recognize, as a symbol, a tool of history.
A tool that people find very attractive.
But tool that a played a key role in a deeply controversial conquest.
Two sides, maybe more to every story.
Maybe someday people will go to the Smithsonian and in the window marked 2020s there will be some face masks.
The text with the masks could read, “In the Covid Era Decade of 2020, these masks were embraced as a way to protect yourself and others from Covid and at the same time rejected as an expression of Government intrusion and over reach of authority.”
I doubt that any artisan will be making masks the way they were made in 2020.
And I am sure that a mask will be a symbol and it will always be a symbol.
I am sure it will be a tool of history that no one will find very attractive.
PS – AL Gore DID NOT invent the internet NOR did he say that. He did say that “I took the initiative in creating the internet.” Which is true so far as he was on the committee that funded early efforts of a PUBLIC INTERNET and in the big picture I got no problem with what he said so far as everyone who voted yes on the committee for funding can say the same thing. That being said saying what he said shows the fundamental lack of understanding between the internet and the world wide web.
When the first 6 or seven computers were created, scientists realized that people were up and awake at Harvard when they were asleep out on Berkeley and if the computer could be connected or ‘net worked’ or on an inter net, folks out east could use the computers out west. So the INTERNET (Hardware, computers, cables and such) has been around since day one pretty much. Back in the day when I worked at the Grand Rapids Public Library almost every library collection in the world could be connected through our terminals. When the GRPL local database went down I would tell patron’s that I could tell them what was on the shelf at the Sorbonne in Paris, I just couldn’t tell them what was on that shelf over there. I have to add that when we connected those terminals to other libraries the message PHONE RINGING would display on my screen. I loved connecting to libraries all over the world thinking there is a phone ringing in a basement in Berlin right now. If the connection was not accepted it would time out and stop. One night I was trying to connect to Oxford and the connection would not shut down. Not knowing what to do at the end of the night I turned off the terminal and weeks. It was weeks before I stopped worrying that I was going to be given a bill for a 24 hour long long distance phone call. It has to be pointed out this goofy interest and waste of time is a direct line connection to that job I have now.
The World Wide Web came around in the 1990 and its the content that LIVES on the internet.
“… it was the caring about little things — the faith in ordinary life;
the simplicity that made you break up a bit of bread into a paper bag, walk down to the beach, and throw it to the gulls.
It was this respect for triviality which he had never been allowed to possess; whether it was bread for the seagulls or love,
whatever it was he would go back and find it“
Written by John le Carré in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: A George Smiley Novel. Penguin Books (Kindle Edition).
I should point out that the word triviality, from trivial from trivia does not have to mean small or meaningless even though the Online Merriam Webster states, “unimportant matters : trivial facts or details”.
I was taught that the word trivia is a Latin word, the plural of trivium.
The related Latin trivialis, meant “common or ordinary.”
But the literal meaning of the Latin trivium is “a place where three roads meet.”
Some sources then state that as three roads came together, there was lots of odd little bits of knowledge or trivia exchanged between people on the roads.
Thus crossroads came to be known as distinctly public, or common places where inconsequential or trivial things were said and done.
I was taught the ‘place where three roads meet’ were NOT real roads, but the three paths of study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.
If you take in everything covered by grammar, rhetoric, and logic, you will have lots of odd little facts.
All this really for nothing really because all I want to say is that I like is what le Carré may have been going for with the line respect for triviality.
I love that.
A respect for triviality.
Faith in ordinary life.
At this time in the world, these two concepts may be more important than the city shining on a hill.
More important and harder to get.
Whatever these are, where ever these are, faith, respect, ordinary, triviality, I going to go find them.
breath sweet-smelling air contentedly smoked evening cigar
At some point in my Mother’s remarkable life she decided to expand her horizons and join the book of the month club.
The books she received over the years were packed up moved from house to house until the time when I showed up.
I liked to read.
I realized that when I was reading I was anywhere and everywhere in the world.
And where ever that was it wasn’t were I was which for me, and for those around me, was a good thing.
I suffer from bibliophobia.
The fear of being stuck without something to read.
My bibliophobia drove to discover and examine my Mom’s book of the month club books and that was how I discovered Clarence Day.
At some point in time, the Book of the Month Club sent my Mom a copy of Life with Mother which contained all four Clarence Day short story collection.
I picked up and read his collected short stories in the book ‘Life with Mother’ at some time most boys were reading Boys Life.
Let me tell that God and My Father was NOT a book I should have read at that age.
But from that book I have lots of fond thoughts and I distinctly remember the short story, “Father Wakes up a Village.”
The story details how Clarence Day Junior’s father, Clarence Day Senior, came home from work to discover there was no ice in the house to chill his evening wine or ice water.
Clarence Day, Senior made his way to the local ice house and the local ice box distributor and, in his own way, he rectified the situation.
It was the last paragraphs that really struck me with romance.
Father’s soul was at peace. He dined well, and he had his coffee and cognac served to him on the piazza. The storm was over by then. Father snuffed a deep breath of the sweet-smelling air and smoked his evening cigar.
“Clarence,” he said, “King Solomon had the right idea about these things. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,’ Solomon said, ‘do thy damnedest.'”
I heard Father saying contentedly on the piazza, “I like plenty of ice.”
It may have been at this point in my young life I fell for cigars.
Truly, does anything else sound so civilized as “Father snuffed a deep breath of the sweet-smelling air and smoked his evening cigar.“
At some point in my later life I began smoking cigars.
I was most likely also influenced by the life of General Grant but another time for that.
One time I ordered a box and had it delivered to me when I still lived at home.
I watched the mail and the day they arrived I made sure I grabbed the box as soon as I could so I could hide it.
That night after dinner as we sat around the table, my Dad says, “Go get me a cigar.”
My Mom didn’t say anything.
I got up and came back with my box of cigars and handed it to my Dad.
He looked over the cigars and selected and called for a match.
My Mom says, “Bob!” and kind of looked at him across the table.
But my Dad just say there with a cigar so I got the matches.
My Dad lit the cigar with the motions of Winston Churchill and sat back blowing thick clouds of smoke over the table.
We were all speechless.
When we didn’t think anything could top this, my Dad started blowing smoke rings.
My mind truly exploded.
You can’t learn to blow smoke rings by reading a book.
My Dad sat back.
He held the cigar to one side and said, “I don’t smoke cigars.”
There was a pause.
“But if I did, I would smoke cigars like this.”
As I remember it, my Dad finished the cigar and life went on.
I took my box of cigars back to my room.
I wasn’t told to throw them away.
I wasn’t told to not smoke them.
But I was told, without words, don’t be a dummy, dummy.
If asked today I will say I don’t smoke.
I don’t smoke but I enjoy a cigar from time to time.
Tonight I sat out on the two bit balcony of our apartment in South Carolina.
A storm was coming with all the wonder and fun of thunder and lightning.
I snuffed a deep breath of the sweet-smelling air and smoked my evening cigar.
It was satisfactory.
It seemed so civilized in a messed uncivilized world.
A little bit of escape without leaving anywhere or anything.