AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

22 December 2014

Jerry Jeff Walker, ¡Viva Terlingua!

Joy.


We clear the harbor and the wind catches her sails and my beautiful ship leans over ever so gracefully, and her elegant bow cuts cleanly into the increasing chop of the waves. I take a deep breath and my chest expands and my heart starts thumping so strongly I fear the others might see it beat through the cloth of my jacket. I face the wind and my lips peel back from my teeth in a grin of pure joy.

Again.

Hibernated.


Then in winter, we hibernated. Returning in the evening gloom, even before you reached the canal, you’d catch the homely smell of smoking coal. The towpath would be still, and on every boat, doors and curtains would be closed against the cold, chimneys puffing cheerily away. While summer was a buzz of conversation, hailed hellos and clinking bottles, the sound of winter was the stolid rattle of a coal scuttle being filled. We still visited each other, enjoying wine and warmth and admiring our neighbours’ stove-lighting technique, perhaps exchanging views on the best type of coal to use. But this was an altogether more internal time, drowsy days spent deep within the boat, and, as winter peaked, in contemplation of the view outside. Almost every year the slow-moving canal would freeze grey-white, startling, beautiful, and so close at hand it felt as if your boat had moved overnight to another planet. This virgin layer of ice would gradually get more battle-scarred as the kids from the local estate attempted to smash the surface with increasingly oversized objects, graduating from stones to bricks, until with inevitable surrealism, you’d wake to find a shopping trolley embedded in the ice.

Service.


I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.

Khalil Gibran

Faith.

WFB asks Malcolm Muggeridge, "How does one find faith?"



The heart of reality is a mystery.

CONNECT

21 December 2014

Endure.


On the Beach at Night

On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.

Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.

Walt Whitman

Jimmy Buffett, "One Particular Harbor"

I know I don't get there often enough
But God knows I surely try
It's a magic kind of medicine
That no doctor could prescribe

Connections.

Ching, Untitled, Undated


A Puritan twist in our nature makes us think that anything good for us must be twice as good if it's hard to swallow. Learning Greek and Latin used to play the role of character builder, since they were considered to be as exhausting and unrewarding as digging a trench in the morning and filling it up in the afternoon. It was what made a man, or a woman -- or more likely a robot -- of you. Now math serves that purpose in many schools: your task is to try to follow rules that make sense, perhaps, to some higher beings; and in the end to accept your failure with humbled pride. As you limp off with your aching mind and bruised soul, you know that nothing in later life will ever be as difficult.

What a perverse fate for one of our kind's greatest triumphs! Think how absurd it would be were music treated this way (for math and music are both excursions into sensuous structure): suffer through playing your scales, and when you're an adult you'll never have to listen to music again. And this is mathematics we're talking about, the language in which, Galileo said, the Book of the World is written. This is mathematics, which reaches down into our deepest intuitions and outward toward the nature of the universe -- mathematics, which explains the atoms as well as the stars in their courses, and lets us see into the ways that rivers and arteries branch. For mathematics itself is the study of connections: how things ideally must and, in fact, do sort together -- beyond, around, and within us. It doesn't just help us to balance our checkbooks; it leads us to see the balances hidden in the tumble of events, and the shapes of those quiet symmetries behind the random clatter of things. At the same time, we come to savor it, like music, wholly for itself. Applied or pure, mathematics gives whoever enjoys it a matchless self-confidence, along with a sense of partaking in truths that follow neither from persuasion nor faith but stand foursquare on their own. This is why it appeals to what we will come back to again and again: our architectural instinct -- as deep in us as any of our urges.

Ellen Kaplan

Jolly.

Stolen.


If you`re wondering how you`ll find time, it means you don`t really want to read. Because nobody`s ever got time. Children certainly haven`t, nor have teenagers or grown-ups. Life always gets in the way. Time to read is always time stolen. Stolen from what?  From the tyranny of living.

Daniel Pennac

Look.

20 December 2014

Less.

The more you know, the less you need.

Someone

Chouinard on fishing, simplifying, and life ...



... and fishing with a tankara rod ...

19 December 2014

Raise.


Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, A Ghost Story of Christmas was first published on this date in 1843.

Creative.

“The real virtue is not in the tools we create, it is in how we use the tools to create, how creative we become with the tools,” [Sir Ken Robinson] says. “The challenge with technology is not a technological one, it’s a spiritual one." 



CONNECT

More here.

Thinking.


On this date in 1799, William Wordsworth moved into Dove Cottage, the home where, through "plain living and high thinking," he was to write his greatest works.

If from the public way you turn your steps
Up the tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll
You will suppose that with an upright path
Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent
The pastoral mountains front you, face to face.
But, courage! for around that boisterous brook
The mountains have all opened out themselves
And made a hidden valley of their own
No habitation can be seen; but they
Who journey thither find themselves alone
With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites
That overhead are sailing in the sky
It is in truth an utter solitude;
Nor should I have made mention of this Dell
But for one object which you might pass by, 
Might see and notice not. Beside the brook
Appears a struggling heap of unhewn stones!
And to that simple object appertains
A story—unenriched with strange events
Yet not unfit, I deem, for the fireside,
Or for the summer shade.

William Wordsworth, from "Michael, A Pastoral Poem"

18 December 2014

Crackling

Marco Pierre White prepares the perfect crackling ...

Happy birthday, Keith.

Keith Richards was born on this date in 1943.

"Happy" with The X-Pensive Winos ...

Hurdy gurdy.




The hurdy gurdy is a stringed instrument that produces sound by a crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to those of a violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard that presses tangents—small wedges, typically made of wood—against one or more of the strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic stringed instruments, it has a sound board to make the vibration of the strings audible.


Thank you, Jessica.

Harmony.


The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony.

Heraclitus

Bob Dylan, "It Must Be Santa"

17 December 2014

Discovered.


Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly. So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snow-storms.

The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts' content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.

For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball -- better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest -- laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.

The Grocers'. oh the Grocers'. nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.

But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the baker' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was. God love it, so it was.

In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.

`Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch.' asked Scrooge.

`There is. My own.'

`Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day.' asked Scrooge.

`To any kindly given. To a poor one most.'

`Why to a poor one most.' asked Scrooge.

`Because it needs it most.'

`Spirit,' said Scrooge, after a moment's thought,' I wonder you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment.'

`I.' cried the Spirit.

`You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,' said Scrooge. `Wouldn't you.'

`I.' cried the Spirit.

`You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day.' said Scrooge. `And it comes to the same thing.'

`I seek.' exclaimed the Spirit.

`Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family,' said Scrooge.

`There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned the Spirit,' who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.'

Scrooge promised that he would; and they went on, invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of the town. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Scrooge had observed at the baker's), that notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he could have done in any lofty hall.

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge's clerk's; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinkling of his torch. Think of that. Bob had but fifteen bob a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house.

Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob's private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.

`What has ever got your precious father then.' said Mrs Cratchit. `And your brother, Tiny Tim. And Martha warn't as late last Christmas Day by half-an-hour.'


`Here's Martha, mother.' said a girl, appearing as she spoke.

`Here's Martha, mother.' cried the two young Cratchits. `Hurrah. There's such a goose, Martha.'

`Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are.' said Mrs Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.

`We'd a deal of work to finish up last night,' replied the girl,' and had to clear away this morning, mother.'

`Well. Never mind so long as you are come,' said Mrs Cratchit. `Sit ye down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye.'

`No, no. There's father coming,' cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. `Hide, Martha, hide.'

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame.

`Why, where's our Martha.' cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.

`Not coming,' said Mrs Cratchit.

`Not coming.' said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. `Not coming upon Christmas Day.'
"He had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church."


Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.

`And how did little Tim behave. asked Mrs Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's content.

`As good as gold,' said Bob,' and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.'

Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.

His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool before the fire; and while Bob, turning up his cuffs -- as if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby -- compounded some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round and round and put it on the hob to simmer; Master Peter, and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession.

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course -- and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah.

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last. Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows. But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone -- too nervous to bear witnesses -- to take the pudding up and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough. Suppose it should break in turning out. Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose -- a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid. All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo. A great deal of steam. The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered -- flushed, but smiling proudly -- with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding. Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

`A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.'

Which all the family re-echoed.

`God bless us every one.' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father's side upon his little stool.
Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

`Spirit,' said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, `tell me if Tiny Tim will live.'

`I see a vacant seat,' replied the Ghost, `in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.'

`No, no,' said Scrooge. `Oh, no, kind Spirit. say he will be spared.'

`If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,' returned the Ghost, `will find him here. What then. If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief. `Man,' said the Ghost, `if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die. It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God. to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.'

Footsteps.


When Herman Melville was twenty-one, he embarked on the whaleship Acushnet, out of New Bedford. We all know what that led to. This past summer, Mystic Seaport finished their five-year, 7.5-million-dollar restoration of the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, the sister ship to the Acushnet. The Morgan is in many ways identical to Melville’s fictional Pequod, save that sperm whale jawbone tiller and a few other sinister touches. Mystic Seaport celebrated the completion by sailing the Morgan around New England for a couple months. I went aboard for a night and a day, intent on following in Ishmael’s footsteps, hoping to breathe a little life into my idea of the distant, literary ship. 

15 December 2014

New Order, "Dreams Never End"

November 19, 1981 ...

Forgive.

It was a beautiful night, the stars were out, and it was calm, just beautiful. And it was around midnight, and I got up and I prayed. And I sat down, sat there for a while, and then all of a sudden I had these like flashbacks, of Sand Creek, Wounded Knee. And every policy, every law that was imposed on us by the government and the churches hit me one at a time. One at a time. And how it affected my life.

And as I sat there I got angrier and angrier, until it turned to hatred. And I looked at the whole situation, the whole picture, and there was nothing I could do. It was too much. The only thing I could do was, when I come off that hill, I'm going to grab a gun and I'm going to start shooting. And go that way. Maybe then my grandfathers will honor me, if I go that route.

I got up, and I came around, and I faced the east, and it was beautiful, I mean, it was dawn, light, enough light to see the rolling hills out there, and right above that blue light in that darkness was the sliver of the moon and the morning star. And I wanted to live. I want to live, I want to be happy. I feel I deserve that. But the only way that I was going to do that was if I forgive. And I cried that morning, because I had to forgive.

Albert White Hat


Forqueray, "La Leclair"

Vittorio Ghielmi, viola, and Luca Pianca, lute ...


The lamp is lit.

Delight.


The defining quality of the snack, it seems to me, is its immediacy. A snack is a one-off, a single dish, quick and easy to prepare, quicker and easier to eat. It is absolutely a means of refueling. That does not mean that it should be rubbish or not give pleasure. Indeed, the very evanescent nature of the snack lends itself to a certain kind of delight, like a nocturne or a study in music.

Well-chosen.

Shishkin, Stream by a Forest Slope, 1880


The Permanence of Reverie

We have only to speak of an object to consider ourselves objective.  But by our first act of choice, the objective designates us more than we designate it, and what we consider our fundamental thoughts about the world are often a declaration of the mind.  At time we marvel at a chosen object; we amass hypotheses and reveries; thus we form convictions, which have the appearance of knowledge.  But their initial source is impure: the primary evidence is not a fundamental truth.  Indeed, scientific objectivity is possible only after one breaks with the immediate object, rejecting the temptation of the initial choice, checking and contradicting the thoughts aroused by the first observation.  Any objective method, appropriately verified, belies the initial contact with the object.  It must first scrutinize everything: sensation, common sense, even the most constant experience, etymology itself, for the word, which is meant to sing and to charm, seldom coincides with thought.  Objective thought does not gaze in wonderment: it must be ironic. Without this critical vigilance, we will never take a truly objective attitude. In the examination of men, equals, or brothers, sympathy is the basis of the method. But confronted with this inert world, which is not imbued with our life, which suffers none of our sorrows, and which is exalted with none of our joys, we must halt all effusion, we must restrain ourselves unmercifully. The axes of poetry and science are opposed from the start.  All that philosophy can hope is to make poetry and science complementary, to unite them as two well-chosen contraries.  We must thus oppose to the poetic mind’s effusiveness nature the taciturnity of the scientific mind, for which preliminary opposition is a healthy precaution.

Gaston Bachelard, from On Poetic Imagination and Reverie

Afro-Cuban All Stars, "Distinto, Diferente"

14 December 2014

Happy birthday, Drew & Zuzu!


ZoĆ« Ann and Drew Harrison Firchau were born on this date in 2002. Happy birthday!

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

Kurt Vonnegut

King's College Choir, "Past Three O'Clock"

13 December 2014

Felicity.

Caldecott, Yule Log, 1875


A man might then behold                               
At Christmas, in each hall                            
Good fires to curb the cold,                               
And meat for great and small.                            
The neighbours were friendly bidden,                               
And all had welcome true,                           
The poor from the gates were not chidden,                               
When this old cap was new.                                    

Old Song 


CHRISTMAS

There is nothing in England that exercises a more delightful spell over my imagination than the lingerings of the holiday customs and rural games of former times. They recall the pictures my fancy used to draw in the May morning of life, when as yet I only knew the world through books, and believed it to be all that poets had painted it; and they bring with them the flavour of those honest days of yore, in which, perhaps with equal fallacy, I am apt to think the world was more home-bred, social, and joyous than at present. I regret to say that they are daily growing more and more faint, being gradually worn away by time, but still more obliterated by modern fashion. They resemble those picturesque morsels of Gothic architecture which we see crumbling in various parts of the country, partly dilapidated by the waste of ages, and partly lost in the additions and alterations of latter days. Poetry, however, clings with cherishing fondness about the rural game and holiday revel, from which it has derived so many of its themes,—as the ivy winds its rich foliage about the Gothic arch and mouldering tower, gratefully repaying their support by clasping together their tottering remains, and, as it were, embalming them in verdure.

Of all the old festivals, however, that of Christmas awakens the strongest and most heartfelt associations. There is a tone of solemn and sacred feeling that blends with our conviviality, and lifts the spirit to a state of hallowed and elevated enjoyment. The services of the church about this season are extremely tender and inspiring. They dwell on the beautiful story of the origin of our faith, and the pastoral scenes that accompanied its announcement. They gradually increase in fervour and pathos during the season of Advent, until they break forth in full jubilee on the morning that brought peace and good-will to men. I do not know a grander effect of music on the moral feelings than to hear the full choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a cathedral, and filling every part of the vast pile with triumphant harmony.

It is a beautiful arrangement, also derived from days of yore, that this festival, which commemorates the announcement of the religion of peace and love, has been made the season for gathering together of family connections, and drawing closer again those bands of kindred hearts which the cares and pleasures and sorrows of the world are continually operating to cast loose; of calling back the children of a family who have launched forth in life, and wandered widely asunder, once more to assemble about the paternal hearth, that rallying-place of the affections, there to grow young and loving again among the endearing mementoes of childhood.


There is something in the very season of the year that gives a charm to the festivity of Christmas. At other times we derive a great portion of our pleasures from the mere beauties of nature. Our feelings sally forth and dissipate themselves over the sunny landscape, and we "live abroad and everywhere." The song of the bird, the murmur of the stream, the breathing fragrance of spring, the soft voluptuousness of summer, the golden pomp of autumn; earth with its mantle of refreshing green, and heaven with its deep delicious blue and its cloudy magnificence, all fill us with mute but exquisite delight, and we revel in the luxury of mere sensation. But in the depth of winter, when nature lies despoiled of every charm, and wrapped in her shroud of sheeted snow, we turn for our gratifications to moral sources. The dreariness and desolation of the landscape, the short gloomy days and darksome nights, while they circumscribe our wanderings, shut in our feelings also from rambling abroad, and make us more keenly disposed for the pleasures of the social circle. Our thoughts are more concentrated; our friendly sympathies more aroused, we feel more sensibly the charm of each other's society, and are brought more closely together by dependence on each other for enjoyment. Heart calleth unto heart; and we draw our pleasures from the deep wells of living kindness, which lie in the quiet recesses of our bosoms: and which when resorted to, furnish forth the pure element of domestic felicity.

Washington Irving

CONNECT

Echo & The Bunnymen, "The Game/Lips Like Sugar"

12 December 2014

Pleasure.


Do not be afraid of cooking, as your ingredients will know, and misbehave.  Enjoy your cooking and the food will behave; moreover it will pass your pleasure on to those who eat it.

Fergus Hnederson

Create.


I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

William Blake

Happy birthday, Sinatra.

Francis Albert Sinatra was born on this date in 1915.

Here's "Just One of Those Things" ...



Check this out ...

11 December 2014

Haunt.


Walks will come back to haunt you.

Drew Firchau

Fete.


I ate as often as I could in the kitchen—more fun than sitting in the formal dining room—and it was in Louis’ kitchen that I tasted my first partridge. For reasons I forget, my parents and sister went visiting an aunt, leaving me behind, along with a half dozen birds that had been hanging in the cool of an October larder for three days and were ripe to eat. It was an unusual feast for the help, and because of the uncharacteristic nature of the windfall, the meal developed into a fete.

Other than me, then eleven years old and still shooting the 6 mm, the dinner included Chef Louis and George, the handsome black-haired butler/handyman who would teach me about guns; Vera, an old, warty, and always angry Polish maid; and Yolande, her young soft-skinned, credulous helper. Louis served the roasted partridge, barded and trussed with pork fatback on top of squares of lightly fried bread, to which he had added the birds’ mashed livers and hearts and minced shallots. The side dishes were green beans and double-fried potato chips that, on their second visit to the oil, filled like magic with air and became as light as the breath of the young maid Yolande, whose lips resembled Sophia Loren’s.

I was given two glasses of what I knew, from being witness to the general hilarity, was some of my father’s better claret, cut with water. Louis carved my bird at the plate and told me to pick up the legs with my fingers. If the term terroir can be applied to birds, red grouse and gray partridge qualify. The minerals that grow cereals, the decomposition of vegetable and animal matter back into the soil, clean rain, filtered sunlight (and heather, in the case of grouse), grow flavorsome birds, wine, first-class Scotch whiskey, and in France, lovely women.

Civilization.

Chatham, Untitled, 2000


The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.

Jim Harrison

Ziggy Marley, "Love is My Religion"

Truth.


A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is "merely relative," is asking you not to believe him. So don't.

Roger Scruton

Trade.


The Detroit Tigers at last have executed the long-rumbled-about Rick Porcello-for-Yoenis Cespedes trade.

Meanwhile, in a later deal, the Tigers acquired starting pitcher Alfredo Simon from the Cincinnati Reds ...

CONNECT

Now, about that bullpen ...

Echo & The Bunnymen, "I Want To Be There (When You Come)"

Strategy.


How can a mountain better prepare us for life? At over 14,000 feet, there’s more to learn than I would have thought.

Last week I sat on top of Mt. Shasta, a 14,179 foot mountain in Northern California. It was my first real summit and I was proud. Getting there took me through two days of snow, ice and below-freezing camping conditions, using crampons, an ice axe, and more layers than I thought I owned.

As I climbed, and especially on my way down, I began to realize the lessons required to reach the top and make it back down safely. As it turns out, the most important rules are just as relevant in the snow as they are in conquering our everyday challenges.

We face our own mountains everyday. Some small. Some big. There’s always a summit we want to reach. Maybe it’s running those few miles before work, making that intimidating sales call, or running your business. Goals, no matter the size, require a strategy for success.

A cold tall mountain reinforced an approach that can convert life’s everyday challenges into gratifying accomplishments.