dual personalities

Month: July, 2017

Steadfast resolution

We had perfect flyover weather this weekend–and to think, it was 108-degrees last Saturday! Anyway, we had a pleasant weekend, although we did very little. I went to a few estate sales and got a few things,

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including this book which I have been looking for for quite some time.

I also found a nice Hitchcock table and four chairs for daughter #1 who will now have room in her flyover apartment for such things!

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After taking the table apart, the OM and I wrestled everything into my Mini Cooper and his Accord and were pretty proud of ourselves for doing so.

I also sat outside and read a good deal of Longmire #9, which was excellent. It includes exchanges like this:

I opened the volume to the title page and read: “The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Volume XXV, History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming 1890.” I gently closed the heavy, leather-bound hardback and rested it against my chest. “Is this book for sale?”

She smiled at me with all the warmth of a Moroccan rug salesman. “Do you know what it’s worth?”

“I do.”

“Twenty-five dollars.”

I studied the marbled edges of the pages. “That’s not what it’s worth.”

“I wasn’t negotiating a price; I was simply trying to see if you knew the value.” She sighed deeply and picked up another from one of the towers near her. “I’m past the point of caring what things cost; I just want to know that beautiful and important objects are in the hands of people who will appreciate them.”

…I stood there holding the two books and looking at the piles around us–they were like literary land mines just waiting to explode minds…

And this:

He smiled, and a line settled alongside the upturned corner of his  mouth as he popped the lid on the center console–he knew all my caches and cliches–and pulled out an extra box of shells. “What other weapons do we have?”

I started the Bullet and pulled the gear selector down into drive. “Steadfast resolution.” I turned and looked at him, not as if he would take the option, but it had to be said. “If you want out now would be the time.”

He actually laughed as he reloaded the round. “I try never to miss an episode of Steadfast Resolution–it is my favorite program.”

Having finished Longmire #9, I am now reading Cheyenne Autumn by Mari Sandoz, a classic novel published in 1953 about the 1,500-mile flight of the Northern Cheyenne from the Indian Territory back to their home in the Yellowstone region in 1878–because Henry Standing Bear put it on his list of 10 Books to Read. Is it weird to take literary suggestions from fictional characters?

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I don’t think so either.

Meanwhile we continued to receive adorable pictures of the wee babes in Florida

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We also heard from daughters #1 and #2 enjoying one last weekend together in NYC!

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I went to church because I was reading and was treated to this lesson:

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:26-39)

I don’t know about you, but I cannot read verses 35-39 without a tear coming to my eye. Great stuff.

Have a great week!

Wisdom of the ages

Each generation tends to think the challenges it faces are entirely new and much harder to overcome than anything anyone has ever dealt with before. If we think about it, we know that isn’t true, but we persist in our ahistoric viewpoint anyway. Don’t worry, I’m not going to preach. Instead, I thought I’d entertain you with some surprisingly relevant Sumerian proverbs that I recently came across.

People complained about double-standards, and criticized mothers about their parenting skills:

A chattering girl is silenced by her mother. A chattering boy is not silenced by his mother.

They recognized the importance of gratitude, and that negativity and complaining are not useful.

You don’t speak of that which you have found. You talk only about what you have lost.

They also realized that a reputation lost through lying is hard to reestablish.

Tell a lie and then tell the truth: it will be considered a lie.

Perhaps my favorite Sumerian proverbs involve literacy and education. We live in a day and age when correct grammar is (apparently) the preserve of elitist pedants, and many young people have a poor command over their native tongue. But things were ever thus:

What kind of a scribe is a scribe who does not know Sumerian?

A scribe who does not know how to grasp the meaning — from where will he produce a translation?

A votive statue of the scribe Dudu dedicated to Ningirsu, 2900-2450 BC

Those socially conscious ancients even had advice for the poor — a social class that included the majority.

Taking action defeats poverty. He who knows how to get moving becomes strong. He will live longer than the sedentary man.

Votive figurines from the Temple of Abu at Tell Asmar

Whatever problems you face, take comfort in the fact that they are neither new nor unique. They are simply part of the human condition. Accept what comes and be grateful. The Akkadian author of Gilgamesh shared some good advice:

As for you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
Make merry day and night.
Of each day make a feast of rejoicing.
Day and night dance and play!
Let your garments be clean,
Wash your hair, bathe in water.
Pay heed to the little one that holds your hand,
Let your wife delight in your embrace.

Not bad for a pagan writing (about) four thousand years ago, eh?

Have a good weekend and do not fret. All is well!

*Pictures from Google image; proverbs from the Electronic Corpus of Sumerian Literature

There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy*

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I am looking forward to catching up on some sleep this weekend, how about you?

I have no plans, and the wee babes are in Florida.

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IMG_1418.jpgThey appear to be enjoying themselves…but I miss them!

By the way, today is the anniversary of the wee babes’ parents’ wedding! It’s been five years since they tied the knot. They’ve been through a lot and we’re very proud of them.

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God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
defend you on every side, and guide you in truth and peace;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.

Amen!

Have a great weekend!

“They have their exits and their entrances”*

I was sad to read that the actor John Heard had died. You remember him from Home Alone (1990) no doubt,

john-heard-d.jpgbut he was in a lot of other movies and television shows through the years.

I guess he was sick of being identified as “the frazzled father in Home Alone“–thanks, New York Times–but, you know, everyone can’t be Robert DeNiro. He was a working actor with a recognizable face, and thereby, ahead of the game in my book.

Anyway, I always liked him. Maybe I’ll scrounge around and find one of his more “serious” films, such as The Trip to Bountiful (1985) or (my personal favorite) Awakenings (1990) or “One Way Ticket,” episode 14, season two of Miami Vice.

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 12.49.44 PM.pngSo a toast to John Heard and his long career.

Meanwhile, it’s Thursday. Time to start thinking about the weekend!

*As You Like It

Away, you rolling river

steamboat.jpgTwo hundred years ago the first steamboat arrived in St. Louis on (or around) July 27, 1817. The S.S. Zebulon M. Pike  was a small steamboat, and its underpowered engine needed help from old-fashioned poles in the hands of cordellers before it could tie up at the dock at the foot of Market Street.  This was on the natural riverbank. By the 1830s, the landing was paved with limestone. The red granite levee that still exists was built in 1868-69.

Built in Louisville, the Pike was the first steamboat to ascend the Mississippi River above the mouth of the Ohio River. Its voyage from Louisville took six weeks since the boat could run only in daylight. After the Pike’s arrival, no phase of life along the river was ever the same. Keelboats were instantly obsolete and the voyageurs who manned them soon passed from the scene.0334-0199_heimkehr_der_trapper.jpgTwo months later a second steamboat arrived, the S.S. Constitution. Then the following spring, the S.S. Independence fought its way up the more challenging Missouri River as far as Franklin, about half-way across the soon-to-be state of Missouri.  Next the S.S. Western Engineer, carrying the military/exploration party of Major Stephen Long, went up the Missouri as far as Council Bluffs.St._Louis_Levee._1850.jpgThus St. Louis was transformed into a bustling inland port.

“And the moral of the story is?”

“What is it with you white people and morals? Maybe it’s just a story about what happened.” He paused for a moment. “If an Indian points at a tree, you white people are always thinking, What does that mean? What does the tree stand for? What’s the lesson in this for me? Maybe it’s just a tree.” (Virgil White Buffalo in Hell Is Empty)

While waiting for cabs and resting between long walks and Big Events last weekend, I sought solace in the company of Walt Longmire in the Wyoming mountains.  Hell Is Empty is amazingly apropos reading for wiling away hours in LaGuardia Airport! (“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”–Shakespeare, The Tempest)

Anyway, at the beginning of this novel we are told that one of Walt’s deputies, regretting a stint in higher education devoted almost exclusively to criminal justice, is attempting to fill in some of the literary gaps. Walt and his deputies, plus the dispatcher and the lady who runs the diner have all made book lists for him. Dante’s Inferno plays a big part in the rest of the story.

Craig Johnson, understanding that his readers would want to know, thoughtfully includes the different lists in an appendix to the novel.

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Of course, Ruby, the dispatcher and my soul sister, includes The Holy Bible (NT), The Pilgrim’s Progress, Inferno, Paradise Lost, My Antonia, The Scarlett Letter, Walden, Poems of Emily Dickinson, My Friend Flicka, and Our Town.

How great is that? I guess I’ll have to read My Friend Flicka!

I love lists.

My list would include: The Holy Bible (NT), The Book of Common Prayer, Moby-Dick, The Catcher in the Rye, O Pioneers!, The Big Sky, The Waters of Kronos, The Big Sleep, Gilead, Lonesome Dove…

I’m sure I’m forgetting something important that I really love. You know how that goes.

Here’s Frederick Buechner on a similar theme:

THE WRITERS WHO get my personal award are the ones who show exceptional promise of looking at their lives in this world as candidly and searchingly and feelingly as they know how and then of telling the rest of us what they have found there most worth finding. We need the eyes of writers like that to see through. We need the blood of writers like that in our veins.

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was one of the first books I read that did it to me, that started me on the long and God knows far from finished journey on the way to becoming a human being—started making that happen. What I chiefly learned from it was that even the slobs and phonies and morons that Holden Caulfield runs into on his travels are, like Seymour Glass’s Fat Lady, “Christ Himself, buddy,” as Zooey explains it to his sister Franny in the book that bears her name Even the worst among us are precious. Even the most precious among us bear crosses. That was a word that went straight into my bloodstream and has been there ever since. Along similar lines I think also of Robertson Davies’ Deptford trilogy, Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond, George Garrett’s Death of the Fox, some of the early novels of John Updike like The Poorhouse Fair and The Centaur, John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. I think of stories like Flannery O’Connor’s “The Artificial Nigger” and Raymond Carver’s “Feathers” and works of non-fiction, to use that odd term (like calling poetry non-prose) such as Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm and Geoffrey Wolff’s The Duke of Deception and Robert Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb or plays like Death of a Salesman or Our Town.

What 10 books would you put on your list of must-reads? Think about it.

But excuse me, I have to get back to Absaroka County…

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“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”*

IMG_2749.JPGWell, I’m back from my whirlwind weekend in New York. We arrived on Friday around noon, and while the OM napped, daughter #1 and I hiked through Central Park and visited a few of our favorite UWS spots. Then we cleaned up and went to happy hour, dinner and the wonderful Morgan Library.

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IMG_2751.JPGwhere we saw the Thoreau exhibit.

IMG_2757.JPGThe next day we had breakfast with daughter #1 who then went off to work and we headed to the Guggenheim Museum.

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The building is quite amazing and the collections it houses are fun to see although not really my thing. But I did finally get to see some wonderful Joseph Cornell shadow boxes. (He has always fascinated me.)

IMG_2763.JPGThen we set off to Long Island for the Big Wedding at Oheka Castle.

1200x1200_1386870737947-ohekacastle130buildresizedwe.jpgYes, that Oheka Castle. I think Peta and Maks were married there…but believe you me, their wedding didn’t have anything on this one.

IMG_2769.JPGWell, we headed home on Sunday and it sure was nice to get back to our flyover home. I can only take so much of cab and Uber rides and busy, busy streets and all. those. people!

*H.D. Thoreau,Walden

This has been a day to die for*

Son #2 is in town this weekend, so we decided to go see the much-anticipated “Dunkirk” on its opening day. The movie has been receiving rave reviews. The New York Times called it one of the best war movies ever made. All I can say is that the NYT reviewer can’t have seen many war movies. Dunkirk is stylish and not without merit, but I wouldn’t call it a war movie and it certainly doesn’t do justice to the events it purports to record.  But let’s start with what’s good about it.

Christopher Nolan clearly wanted to do something new with the genre and avoid comparison to hyper-violent movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Hacksaw Ridge.” Refreshingly free of gore, Dunkirk is rated PG-13 (although I would not recommend taking a child to see it). He used real Spitfires for the aerial combat scenes, which were beautifully shot and lyrical.

The cast did a fine job with what little dialogue there was. Mark Rylance, in particular, shined as the civilian taking his small yacht to evacuate troops, but he wasn’t in it enough.

Unfortunately, my objections far outweigh what I liked about the film. For clarity and brevity, I’ll list only what bothered me most (I could include other points).

  1. The audience gets no context. No one identifies the time (1940) or the enemy as the Germans — not once. We are just told that the British army needed a miracle. The film starts with soldiers arriving on the beach. We learn nothing whatsoever of how they got there.
  2. Characters were so underdeveloped as to be manikins (though admittedly, Mark Rylance could humanize a rock and Tom Hardy is expressive, even when masked).
  3. Nolan chose to concentrate on three young soldiers who were essentially cowards willing to do almost anything to save themselves. It’s true that two other groups — Mark Rylance and his son as well as the pilots — behave bravely, but the fact is that Nolan did not just downplay the heroism of Dunkirk, he subverted it. The officers (especially Kenneth Branagh) stand around looking decorative and doing nothing to help their men. You never get the sense that the army and navy have a plan or are trying to help themselves.
  4.  Aside from the aerial combat, there is no fighting in the movie. Sure, some soldiers shoot at planes from the beach, but you would never know that those 400,000 stranded men had lifted a finger against the enemy at any time prior to their evacuation. No naval ship mans anti-aircraft guns and the French (!) provide the only visible defense. In other words, Nolan depicts the British as almost entirely PASSIVE VICTIMS.
  5. We get no sense of the scale of the disaster. A few hundred men, a couple of planes, a handful of ships, and about 30 small craft stand in for 400,000 men and the hundreds of ships, sailboats, yachts and craft of all types that laboriously evacuate them while under continuous fire from the German army and Luftwaffe.
  6. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is painfully intrusive and jarring. Presumably designed to create tension in the viewer, it seems like a form of torture. Perhaps that was intended.
  7. Just as son #2 predicted, the film ends with one of the characters reading the famous passage from Churchill’s speech: “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” But Nolan couldn’t leave it at that. No. He had to go on and remind the audience that despite the heroism, the evacuation had been “an unmitigated disaster.” God forbid anyone should leave the theater feeling admiration for what the British had done or with a sense that the worst was yet to come. Certainly, at the time the British were painfully aware of that fact.

I cannot recommend Nolan’s “Dunkirk.” If you want a different understanding of those events, read a history book or Paul Gallico’s novella, The Snow Goose (1940), watch the (undoubtedly patriotic) 1958 movie, or listen to “Piper to the End” by Mark Knopfler, whose uncle, Freddie, according to Wikipedia, “was a piper  of the 1st Battalion, Tyneside Scottish, the Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment. Freddie was killed with fellow fighters at Ficheux, near Arras in the north of France in May 1940. He was just twenty.”

It wasn’t all waiting around on beaches, and young men were not just helpless victims.

*Mark Knopfler, “Piper to the End”

“I tramp a perpetual journey.”*

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 1.51.34 PM.pngThe OM and I are heading off to NYC tomorrow to visit daughter #1 and then attend a wedding on Saturday on Long Island.  I am looking forward to taking one more walk through Central Park.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 1.24.07 PM.pngA month from now daughter #1 will be back in the Show Me state and a hop, skip and a jump down the road in Columbia.

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*Walt Whitman

Fix our Thoughts on Thee

You may have noted that yesterday was the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death.

Jane_Austen_coloured_version.jpgI thought this article was very interesting.

And, of course, the new bank note is in the news.Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 11.03.38 AM.pngI have a feeling Jane would be non-plussed by the whole bank note thing. Especially with the quote on the note which is causing twitter controversy.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 11.08.49 AM.pngI have to say, I concur. We can assume that no one involved in designing the note had ever actually read one of her books. But there are memes galore, so…that counts, right?

C6Z62VEWAAIKWzO.jpgOne more big eye roll and then we’re done.

This probably didn’t sell out.

But this made me tear up a little. Amazing Americans.

Have a good day!

Give us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our Hearts, as with our lips. Thou art every where present, from Thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our Thoughts on Thee, with Reverence and Devotion.