Joke about Boston, from Van Wyck Brooks

From The Flowering of New England:

One of [Boston publisher James T.] Fields’s jokes was about the Boston man who read Shakespeare late in life but found him far beyond his expectation.  “There are not twenty men in Boston who could have written those plays,” he said.

VWB also tells us about John Bartlett, who was just a guy in Cambridge you went to when you needed to know who said something, until he finally went ahead and published his Familiar Quotations.


The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars won the Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and for Best Folk Album of 2012.  I’d never heard of them until then.  I’ll be impressed if you can get through one of their videos without getting massively douched out:

The duo’s web site says that the name of their band, The Civil Wars, and their thematic direction, is best summed up in the lyrics of the song “Poison & Wine”. It is about the good, the bad, and the ugly of married life.


Van Wyck Brooks on: Emerson

More excellence from The Flowering of New England

…generations later, when people spoke of Emerson’s “education,” they put the word in quotation-marks – it was not that he did not know his Greek and Latin, but that he was never systematic.  He had read, both then and later, for “lustres” mainly.  He had drifted first to Florida and then to Europe, and finally settled at Concord…As for the lectures that Emerson was giving in Boston, on great men, history, the present age, the famous lawyer, Jeremiah Mason, when he was asked if he could understand them, replied, “No, but my daughters can.”

To the outer eye, at least, Emerson’s life was an aimless jumble.  He had ignored all the obvious chances, rejected the palpable prizes, followed none of the rules of common sense.  Was he pursuing some star of his own?  No one else could see it.  In later years, looking back, Emerson’s friends, remembering him, thought of those quiet brown colts, unrecognized even by the trainers, that outstrip all the others on the race-course.  He had had few doubts himself.  He had edged along sideways towards everything that was good in his life, but he felt that he was born for victory…


Bruce Chatwin

He definitely had bigtime Mike Daisey problems.  No way he’d be as famous if he weren’t so photogenic.  But still.  This is the entire chapter 69 from “In Patagonia”:

The “Englishman” took me to the races.  It was the sunniest day of summer.  The Strait was a flat, calm blue and we could see the double white crown of Mount Sarmiento.  The stands had a coat of fresh white paint and were full of generals and admirals and young officers.

“Day at the races, eh?  Nothing like a good race-meeting.  Come along with me now.  Come along.  Must introduce you to the Intendente.”

But the Intendente took no notice.  He was busy talking to the owner of Highland Flier and Highland Princess.  So we talked to a naval captain who stared out to sea.

“Ever hear the one about the Queen of Spain,” the Englishman asked, trying to liven up the conversation.  “Never heard the one about the Queen of Spain?  I’ll try and remember it:

A moment of pleasure

Nine months of pain

Three months of leisure

Then at it again.

“You are speaking of the Spanish Royal Family?” The Captain inclined his head.

The “Englishman” said he read history at Oxford.

The Nicholas Shakespeare biography is well-worth a flipthrough.  When Chatwin was diagnosed with HIV he claimed, among other things, that he had an extremely rare disease he caught from being bitten by a Chinese bat.


Story about Aaron Sorkin and pacing

Craig [Mazin]: There is a great story recently from The Social Network, because Sorkin writes very — the dialogue is designed to be delivered at an insane pace. And he turned the script in and everybody was kind of freaking out. And he recorded that great opening sequence with Mark Zuckerberg being dumped by his girlfriend.

He recorded it the way, at the pace he thought it should be, and supposedly — this sounds true to me — Fincher basically timed everything per Sorkin. And on the day, he would sit there and his script supervisor had a stopwatch, and if they didn’t hit it, they did it again. [laughs] It had to be at that pace.

So, the one minute per page rule is something that, some standard needs to be there, but… — Like I said, if you know that it is supposed to go faster, just make sure everybody knows beforehand.

– from John August and Craig Mazin’s podcast.  So helpful of them to provide a transcript.


Scott Prior

This guy is good at painting, right?  Am I crazy?

His “Nanny and Rose” used to hang in the lobby of the MFA and whenever I saw it as a kid I was like, oh that guy must be the best painter in the world.

But nobody ever talks about him.

Images from his website.


Theodosius Is Shown The Cave Of The Seven Sleepers

What?  You’ve never heard of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus?  Remember?  The persecutions of Decius?  Instead of submitting to his authority they went into a cave to pray?  Remember?  And they fell asleep?  Decius sealed the cave?  Then two centuries later Theodosius decides to open the cave, to use as a cattle pen?  They’re still alive?  One of them tries to spend his coins with the face of Decius?  When the sleepers see crosses they’re like, “oh? all of you worship Christ?  how wonderful the Lord has proved to be.” People lose it?  When the bishop heard about it he dropped dead?

Did you just, what, did you just sleep through CCD?

Oh, you’re Muslim?  NICE TRY STILL A BIG DEAL IN THE Q’URAN TOO!  They would’ve made pictures if the Q’uran didn’t also ban images of humans.

(photo from The Cloisters, great place to learn about a lot of “off center” medieval Christianity)