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)

Coup in Mali

I hope Amadou and Mariam are ok

Luke Kelly’s Hair

OK, wikipedia, gimme the tragedy:

On 30 June 1980 during a concert in the Cork Opera House Luke Kelly collapsed on the stage. He had already suffered for some time from headaches and forgetfulness, which however had been ascribed to his alcohol consumption. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The subject of the song, btw?:

[Kelly] was dragged from his bed and hanged by British soldiers who decapitated his corpse and kicked his head through the streets shortly after the fall of Wexford on 21 June 1798.

Van Wyck Brooks on: Elizabeth Peabody.

Van Wyck Brooks clearly has a little crush on Miss Elizabeth Peabody, “the founder of the American kindergarten.”  More from The Flowering of New England.

As for Miss Peabody’s future, one could see it already.  One pictured her, forty years hence, drowsing in her chair on the lecture-platform or plodding through the slush of a Boston winter, her bonnet askew, her white hair falling loose, bearing still, amid the snow and ice, the banner of education.  If, perchance, you lifted her out of a snowdrift, into which she had stumbled absent-mindedly, she would exclaim, between her gasps, “I am glad to see you!  Can you tell me which is the best Chinese gramar?”  Or she would give you the news about Sarah Winnemucka.  “Now Sarah Winnemucka” – this was the maligned Indian princess who was collecting money to educate her tribe.  Or she would ask if you had read your Stallo.  She took down every lecture she heard, although she seldom wrote what people said: most of her reports were “impressions.”  *

* “I saw it,” Miss Peabody said, when she walked into a tree and bruised her nose.  “I saw it, but did not realize it.”

Look at this asshole

Anthony Van Dyck, Self-Portrait.

“Possibly 1620-1.”  Art historians, DO YOUR JOBS and get that “possibly” out of there.

“A precocious talent…” yeah I bet he was, The Met.

Trying to learn how to pronounce “Childe Hassam,” found this.

Childe hassam

President Barack Obama in the Oval Office 1/28/09. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

That’s his “The Avenue In The Rain” past Barry.  Pronounced “Child HASS-m.”

via SDB via SL

“Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman

Reading doomsaying screeds from awhile ago is strangely comforting, because either a) things didn’t happen as the author direly predicted or 2) they DID happen, like 1000x worse than what the author predicted, but I guess we just deal.

File Neil Postman’s 1984 Amusing Ourselves to Death in category 2.

Postman’s book is worried about the rise of TV.  He holds out for special, extended, outraged scorn The Voyage of The Mimi, which is a pretty amazing thing to be mad about.

Towards the end, Postman wonders what we can do about the stupidity of TV:

The nonsensical answer is to create television programs whose intent would be, not to get people to stop watching television but to demonstrate how television ought to be viewed, to show how television recreates and degrades our conception of news, political debate, religious thought, etc.  I imagine such demonstrations would of necessity take the form of parodies, along the lines of “Saturday Night Live” and “Monty Python,” the idea being to induce a nationwide horse laugh over television’s control of public discourse.  But, naturally, television would have the last laugh. In order to command an audience large enough to make a difference, one would have to make the programs vastly amusing, in the television style.  Thus, the act of criticism itself would, in the end, be co-opted by television.  The parodists would become celebrities, would star in movies, and would end up making television commercials.

You called it, buddy.

Q: What year did Brazil abolish slavery?

A: 1888.


Learned from this fantastic article by the amazing Charles C. Mann.

Come with me!

To Reunion Pitons, Cirques, and Remparts UNESCO World Heritage Site!

 Pack a lunch!  Or should we stop for cari and bonbon piments?

Yank’s A Million

Friend Of The Blog and exceptional human YankAmerica reviews one million albums!  

O’Donoghue’s Opera (St. Patty’s Roundup, Finale)

In the 1960s, some impoverished Irish musicians and folk singers decided to put together an Irish musical.  Based on the balled “The Night Before Larry Was Stretched,” attributed to “Hurlfoot Bill,”* the film, “O’Donoghue’s Opera,” starred Ronnie Drew, later incredibly famous for his work with The Dubliners.  The film, left uncompleted when the makers ran out of money, was found in 1997 in a junk shop in Galway.

Now you can enjoy the entire film on YouTube.  I can’t encourage you to power through the whole thing.  But I think you’ll have some fun around 2:44 of Part 1, where some winning girls sing an old IRA recruiting song.  Then hop to 7:51 to see Larry’s cat burglar costume and the temptation that proves his undoing.

The stirring conclusion I have TubeChopped for you.

It is quite moving, really, to see Ronnie get hung.  This really happened to people all the time.

A great shame that I never had the chance to discuss this film with fellow cinephile/Hibernophile SDB, who was seemingly designed by the Almighty to enjoy this picture.

Elvis Costello recorded “TNBLWS” but I prefer the version by The Wolfe Tones:

* Wikipedia has some stern words on the subject of attribution for this song. 

Abandoned places, from The Atlantic

Yes to this.  #30 is cheating but other than that.

Hildegard von Bingen receives a vision and dictates it to the monk Volmar

(if I don’t cite a picture’s source it’s from wikipedia commons or I took it myself)