Friday, May 30, 2008
This seemed appropriate since I have been trapped at one of our satellite offices all week with limited computer access. So even less posting then normal for a while probably. I am working on a post about summer reading. And by working on I mean I just thought of the idea about five minutes ago. I have a list of what I want to read though. In my head. The new Rushdie book, The Enchantress of Florence sounds perfect for a summer read. Excerpt here. Rave review here.
I am enjoying this new book about John Quincy Adams currently focusing on his role as a congressman after his presidency, his role fighting slavery in the House of Representatives and the defense of the Amistad escaped slaves. Adams was as excellent a statesman as his father but more neglected by history. In part due to an ineffective term in the White House caused mostly by being saddled with an opposition controlled Congress and Adams' stubborn refusal to remove various Jackson sycophants from his own Cabinet.
This book shows our sixth President enjoying more success in getting another chance at establishing his proper legacy. Another cool thing is that most of diaries are available on the web at the Massachusetts Historical Society. It is a little bit of work to decipher his handwriting but it is fascinating stuff. (OK, maybe that's a bit strong. I did read a few pages and they are okay but fact that they exist online I think is cool). Enjoy the weekend.
Friday, May 23, 2008
[An address delivered for Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, at Keene, NH, before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic.]
Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other-not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth--but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories, and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord.
So far as this last is concerned, to be sure, there is no trouble. The soldiers who were doing their best to kill one another felt less of personal hostility, I am very certain, than some who were not imperilled by their mutual endeavors. I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had had no such feeling. I know that I and those whom I knew best had not. We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win; we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluable; we, or many of us at least, also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that slavery had lasted long enough. But we equally believed that those who stood against us held just as sacred conviction that were the opposite of ours, and we respected them as every men with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief. The experience of battle soon taught its lesson even to those who came into the field more bitterly disposed. You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at least something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south--each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then , it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier's death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side.
But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories. When men have instinctively agreed to celebrate an anniversary, it will be found that there is some thought of feeling behind it which is too large to be dependent upon associations alone. The Fourth of July, for instance, has still its serious aspect, although we no longer should think of rejoicing like children that we have escaped from an outgrown control, although we have achieved not only our national but our moral independence and know it far too profoundly to make a talk about it, and although an Englishman can join in the celebration without a scruple. For, stripped of the temporary associations which gives rise to it, it is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for the country in return.Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Full speech is here. There is another one here too.
During his senior year of college, at the outset of the American Civil War, Holmes enlisted in the fourth battalion, Massachusetts militia, and then received a commission as first lieutenant in the Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He saw much action, from the Peninsula Campaign to the Wilderness, suffering wounds at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. He is also said to have shouted at Lincoln during the Battle of Fort Stevens, saying "Get down, you fool!" when Lincoln stood, making him a susceptible target. He was mustered out in 1864 as a brevet Lieutenant Colonel after his three-year enlistment ended. Holmes emerged from the war convinced that government and laws were founded on violence, a belief that he later developed into a positivist view of law and a rejection of romanticism and natural rights theory. After his death two uniforms were discovered in his closet with a note attached to them reading, "These uniforms were worn by me in the Civil War and the stains upon them are my blood."
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
In the interest of equal representation and so as not to play favorites I present Ig. His brother may actually be inside the Prairie Lights bag. They like bags.
On a movie kick lately, the other night I watched "The Darjeeling Limited" and enjoyed it more than was expected. I like Wes Anderson films even if Owen Wilson plays the same character in every movie he has ever done. The DVD also has the short prequel film, "Hotel Chevalier", a must see as as it introduces a full version of the song "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)" by Peter Sarstedt. The film soundtrack is excellent as usual with Wes Anderson, a lot of Kinks and the scores from several classic Indian films. Check out the clip that someone obviously put some effort into.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Dialing While Intoxicated
Even this late I'm clever as cold coffee
and whisky. Scavenged that desperate pouch
of black shag I should've chucked ages ago,
ashes over-spilling the bread plate, butts
floating in backwash. Cup rings roam
the tabletop, the phone pad, half-stamp
my game of solo hangman. All of the E's
in "every ounce of everclear" busted
my bank long before tonight. But I dial on,
the kite and key of electric currency,
that flash of red, first frost in the maple trees:
in Amsterdam, look who's coming down the canal,
bicycle tires turning, up over the flock of bridges,
hump-backs bent and feeding, and round the crocus
and hemlock circle at Weteringschans. Who knows
which ex- is on the line? Then pub doors open
down Dorset Street, lights go off over Liffey murk,
the kitchen receiver sounds its dull double-bleat.
My sister, single now, searches for the phone.
And in Dunedin, the next day's already broken,
wobbled its way up summer twilight on sea legs,
half a year ahead. I could lick and tuck
one last roll-up, even call there collect.
The poem is from the Poetry Daily archive due to be retired this week. Seemed like a good combination for a Monday. A pleasant weekend overall.
Last night I saw the surprise Oscar darling "Once". It was sublime and worth the hype. Check out his band The Frames doing the Pixies "Where is My Mind"....and this version of "Gigantic" with a kid's choir. He and his co-star of the film where on Jimmy Kimmel doing "Caribou" but I couldn't find it.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008
"The trouble with intellectuals," Manny, my boss,
once told me, "is that they don't know nothing
till they can explain it to themselves. A guy like that,"
he said, "he gets to middle age—and by the way,
he gets there late; he's trying to be a boy until
he's forty, forty-five, and then you give him five
more years until that craziness peters out, and now
he's almost fifty—a guy like that at last explains
to himself that life is made of time, that time
is what it's all about. Aha! he says. And then
he either blows his brains out, gets religion,
or settles down to some major-league depression.
Make yourself useful. Hand me that three-eights
torque wrench—no, you moron, the other one."
from American Life in Poetry
"Though at the time it may not occur to us to call it "mentoring," there's likely to be a good deal of that sort of thing going on, wanted or unwanted, whenever a young person works for someone older. Richard Hoffman of Massachusetts does a good job of portraying one of those teaching moments in this poem."
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
I thought I would finish up National Poetry Month as belatedly as I started to post about it. Kooser's column is another great source of poetry via E-mail. This seemed uncannily prescient.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Stupid University Job
Your loveliest of sway-backs;
of mine I was once ashamed,
and my uni-brow and crooked teeth,
and red hair my mother never let me wash
afraid I'd catch a draft.
She wouldn't let me bathe, either,
which made gym class a horror.
I thought I had it bad
until I met that handsome Scottish man
whose parents tried to make him spontaneously combust
by feeding him haggis laced with gunpowder
and making him sleep in the stove.
Instead of an ear, he had a shiny, snail-shaped ridge.
I guess we all have our tragic flaw.
Mine is like that of the naked man
who holds up a sign that says "I'm naked"
and runs screaming through the park.
My handlers say I'm difficult,
but don't you believe it.
My soul still radiates a luminous intensity
despite this stupid university job.
by Sharon Mesmer
From The Virgin Formica
This comes about as close to describing my job as I can find in verse. Although it does beat the one I had after college where I was paid to watch people weld and make sure they didn't start any fires. At least I was mostly outdoors for that one. (The tiger picture is from the image blog FFFOUND!)