One of the local branches of the LA Public Library, the one on Sunset across from Wendy’s, is named after Will and Ariel Durant.
David Brooks grows wistful as he considers the Will and Ariel Durant project:
Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.
I’ve taken a look at the first volume of the series,
and was astounded, amused, and delighted by what I found there. Here’s an example.
When Will met Ariel Durant, her name was Ida, she was fourteen, and she was his student.
She was 15 at her marriage on Oct. 31, 1913, and came to the ceremony with her roller skates slung over her shoulder. Her husband was just about to turn 28. He called her Ariel, after the the imp in Shakespeare’s ”The Tempest,” and she later had her name legally changed.
(from Will’s NYT obituary). In Our Oriental Civilization, Will makes the case for himself:
It’s pretty funny that we named the library after a pair of lovers whose romance would get the man arrested today.
On the other hand, that’s the kind of paradox of historical and civilizational change that Will Durant took so much joy in teaching about.
More from the NYT:
Dr. Durant consistently took a generally optimistic view of civilization, despite a growing belief that ”the world situation is all fouled up.”
”Civilization is a stream with banks,” he said in his precise voice. ”The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues.
”The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”
Will and Ariel, from Wikipedia:
Some real talk from Larry McMurtry
One of these days I’m going to rank all of McMurtry’s non-fiction books. They’re all chatty and great. This is the single best one.
Either Film Flam or Hollywood tells what it’s like to be friends with Diane Keaton and her mom.
McMurtry has really meant a lot to me. Here are some other posts about him:
My copy is pre-owned and comes already highlighted:
I’ve always hated Hugo’s. On acting technique:
How about this one, about Australian historians?
Geoffrey Blainey’s recipe for peach-tin eggs:
Graeme Davison on the wrong side of the law in Melbourne:
There are no wasted humans:
from the boss Thomas Cleary:
And finally, some Daily Drucker:
seen on Inside The NFL on Showtime.
MORE ON public lands under Trump to come, but first we have to address a reader email:
Will you continue your tradition of discussing the Super Bowl coaches, in anticipation of Big Game LI?
So writes reader Abigail J. in Wellesley, Mass.
Thanks for writing Abigail! Last year, we profiled the somewhat dim personalities of Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak.
Rivera’s Panther’s may have controlled their APE but it wasn’t enough.
This year we have a return for Bill Belichick, whom we investigated to the edge of known facts before the epic XLIX game. In that battle he squared off against Pete Carroll, the most compelling coaching figure in the NFL and subject of an in-depth Helytimes profile.
This year comes Dan Quinn.
He won a Super Bowl under Pete Carroll in 2014, and seems more Carroll than Belichick for sure. Here’s an article about him from the AJC by Jeff Schultz. Bumper stickers are a theme:
Quinnisms: Iron sharpens iron. Do right longer. Do what we do. It’s about the ball. It’s about the process (Former coach Mike Smith left that one behind.)
Quinn also has had a dozen T-shirts or hats with punchy thoughts made up during the season, the latest being, “Ready to Ride, Dog.” The week of the first playoff win over Seattle, players wore shirts reading: “Arrive violently.” Those words were referenced by Neal after the game.
Don’t have much more to add. In light of Belichick’s Trump support perhaps this a revealing moment, from Inside the NFL:
We’ll see what happens in Houston.
At the moment, who can fail to find NBA coaches more compelling?:
By reader vote, these were considered
The Top Ten Helytimes Posts Of The Year
about Geoffrey Blainey’s book on how that country became what it is, and their national cry Cooo-EEE!
9) Jo Mora and Mora Update
about how the Uruguayan-Californian artist influenced almost a century of design
Conversations between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton
A visit to that famed city and the Diego Rivera murals hidden around it
On Incan rope counting systems and their decipherment
An investigation into a photo of the former first lady
This was by far our most popular post by views
A trip to the national park, and its place in our national consciousness
2) Lady Xoc
About the Mayan queen of the 8th century
The definitive winner for the year?:
A review of writing by and about fighter pilot John Boyd, who offers a way into DT’s thinking.
a brief look at Sanders and Trump
about you know who, comparing him to Tim Ferriss.
a big wild roundup.
on how a Swiss chocolatier came to own freshwater springs in Southern California
about the Vietnam War correspondent, Kubrick pal and Zen Buddhist
on the work of Randall Collins, an underappreciated hero
extracts from a 1769 description of California,
a dispatch from rainy New Zealand,
and a personal favorite,
about Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, and America.
The most popular post of the year
by views, was
You can email us anytime at helphely at gmail. Let us know what you think.
All the best for 2017.
stirred the pot the other day with this tweet.
I mean, I like being lumped in with the #coolkids.
When I tweeted that, I meant what I said: it would be a cool movie. The Electoral College members are mostly, as I understand it, a bunch of ordinary schmoes. 99 times out of a hundred their job is rubber stamping, a comical bit of leftover political inanity.
But what if, one day, it wasn’t so easy?
What if, one day, these ordinary citizens were called upon to make a tough choice.
A choice that would bring them right into the line of fire.
A choice that would change history.
The idea of Trump in the White House makes me sick. 61,900,651 Americans disagree, obvs. An Electoral College revolt is a crazy fantasy. But I enjoy thinking about it!
What is right and wrong for the Electoral College to do?
Says the National Archives:
There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states, however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—Electors bound by state law and those bound by pledges to political parties.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require that Electors be completely free to act as they choose and therefore, political parties may extract pledges from electors to vote for the parties’ nominees. Some state laws provide that so-called “faithless Electors” may be subject to fines or may be disqualified for casting an invalid vote and be replaced by a substitute elector. The Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on the question of whether pledges and penalties for failure to vote as pledged may be enforced under the Constitution. No Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.
Today, it is rare for Electors to disregard the popular vote by casting their electoral vote for someone other than their party’s candidate. Electors generally hold a leadership position in their party or were chosen to recognize years of loyal service to the party. Throughout our history as a nation, more than 99 percent of Electors have voted as pledged.
The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has compiled a brief summary of state laws about the various procedures, which vary from state to state, for selecting slates of potential electors and for conducting the meeting of the electors. The document, Summary: State Laws Regarding Presidential Electors, can be downloaded from the NASS website.
From the NASS website, here’s how it goes down in my home state of California:
Whenever a political party submits to the Secretary of State its certified list of nominees for electors of President and Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of State shall notify each candidate for elector of his or her nomination by the party. The electors chosen shall assemble at the State Capitol at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their election. In case of the death or absence of any elector chosen, or if the number of electors is deficient for any other reason, the electors then present shall elect, from the citizens of the state, as many persons as will supply the deficiency. The electors, when convened, if both candidates are alive, shall vote by ballot for that person for President and that person for Vice President of the United States, who are, respectively, the candidates of the political party which they represent, one of whom, at least, is not an inhabitant of this state.
That seems pretty standard. In some states they meet in the governor’s office or the office of the secretary of state. In Massachusetts they will meet in the Governor’s office:
You’ve probably seen this quote:
Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States
But to me, the more interesting one is this one:
Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.
Now, I hear the argument that the cool kids are always changing the rules. I don’t think I agree with the logic of this petition, which is half “Hillary won the popular vote” (who cares, that’s not the rules we were playing by) and half “Trump is unfit to serve.”
The Trump being unfit to serve bit was up to the voters. Seems very dangerous to me for the Electoral College to start making that call. That is some wonked aristocratic bullshit that the Constitution maybe intended, but which the Constitution as practiced and understood has moved away from?
But if it were proven Trump colluded with a foreign power, then I think hell yeah! If you believe, as I do, that the Constitution is a genius mechanism full of checks and failsafes, isn’t the Electoral College designed exactly to be one last chance for good old-fashioned citizens to stop a presidential candidate who allowed a foreign power to gain an improper ascendant in our councils?
I don’t think we have the proof that Trump did that. But I think the Electors are totally within their rights to think about it and decide what to do.
In closing my feelings are well summarized by Ben White: