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

05 December 2021

04 December 2021

Frank Sinatra, "Mistletoe and Holly"


He felt at peace only in the hour before dawn, when the darkness seemed to give way slowly to a mist, and it was at this hour that he would wake and sit by his window.

Peter Ackroyd, from Hawksmoor

Haydn, Cello Concerto No.1 in C major, Hob.VIIb:1

Andreas Brantelid performs with the Copenhagen Soloists directed by Jonathan Ofir ...



An excellent album ...


Dürer, The Anzogen-Rennen, 1517

If any one should feel himself offended by our remarks, let him attack us in return —we shall not wince from the combat.  If his passes be successful, we will be the first to cry out, "A hit!  A hit!" and we doubt not we shall frequently lay ourselves open to the weapons of our assailants. 

But let them have a care how they run a tilting with us; they have to deal with stubborn foes, who can bear a world of pummelling; we will be relentless in our vengeance, and will fight "till from our bones the flesh be hack't."

Washington Irving from Salmagundi, or The Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq.

Happy Birthday, Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke was born on this day in 1875.

Unknowing before the heavens of my life
I stand in wonder. O the great stars.
The rising and the going down. How quiet.
As if I didn't exist. Am I part? Have I dismissed
the pure influence? Do high and low tide
alternate in my blood according to this order?
I will cast off all wishes, all other links,
accustom my heart to its remotest space. Better
it live in the terror of its stars than
seemingly protected, soothed by something near.

Rainer Maria Rilke


From "Christmas," found in Washington Irving's The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon ...
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.

The pitchy gloom without makes the heart dilate on entering the room filled with the glow and warmth of the evening fire. The ruddy blaze diffuses an artificial summer and sunshine through the room, and lights up each countenance into a kindlier welcome. Where does the honest face of hospitality expand into a broader and more cordial smile—where is the shy glance of love more sweetly eloquent—than by the winter fireside? and as the hollow blast of wintry wind rushes through the hall, claps the distant door, whistles about the casement, and rumbles down the chimney, what can be more grateful than that feeling of sober and sheltered security with which we look round upon the comfortable chamber and the scene of domestic hilarity?

03 December 2021


Execupundit asks, what two Christmas music CDs we would choose if we could only choose two?

Mine ...

Thanks, Kurt.


The Country Life is to be preferr’d; for there we see the Works of God; but in Cities little else but the Works of Men: And the one makes a better Subject for our Contemplation than the other.   

As Puppets are to Men, and Babies 1 to Children, so is Man’s Workmanship to God’s: We are the Picture, he the Reality.   

God’s Works declare his Power, Wisdom and Goodness; but Man’s Works, for the most part, his Pride, Folly and Excess. The one is for use, the other, chiefly, for Ostentation and Lust.   

The Country is both the Philosopher’s Garden and his Library, in which he Reads and Contemplates the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God.

It is his Food as well as Study; and gives him Life, as well as Learning.
A Sweet and Natural Retreat from Noise and Talk, and allows opportunity for Reflection, and gives the best Subjects for it.   

In short, ’t is an Original, and the Knowledge and Improvement of it, Man’s oldest Business and Trade, and the best he can be of.
William Penn

Thanks for the image, Kurt.

Praetorius, "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen"

Performed by VOCES8 ...



     Now is the time for mirth;
     Nor cheek or tongue be dumb;
     For with [the] flowery earth
     The golden pomp is come.

     The golden pomp is come;
     For now each tree does wear,
     Made of her pap and gum,
     Rich beads of amber here.

     Now reigns the Rose, and now
     Th' Arabian dew besmears
     My uncontrolled brow,
     And my retorted hairs.

     Homer, this health to thee!
     In sack of such a kind,
     That it would make thee see,
     Though thou wert ne'er so blind

     Next, Virgil I'll call forth,
     To pledge this second health
     In wine, whose each cup's worth
     An Indian commonwealth.

     A goblet next I'll drink
     To Ovid; and suppose
     Made he the pledge, he'd think
     The world had all one nose.

     Then this immensive cup
     Of aromatic wine,
     Catullus!  I quaff up
     To that terse muse of thine.

     Wild I am now with heat:
     O Bacchus!  cool thy rays;
     Or frantic I shall eat
     Thy Thyrse, and bite the Bays!

     Round, round, the roof does run;
     And being ravish'd thus,
     Come, I will drink a tun
     To my Propertius.

     Now, to Tibullus next,
     This flood I drink to thee;
     —But stay, I see a text,
     That this presents to me.

     Behold!  Tibullus lies
     Here burnt, whose small return
     Of ashes scarce suffice
     To fill a little urn.

     Trust to good verses then;
     They only will aspire,
     When pyramids, as men,
     Are lost i' th' funeral fire.

     And when all bodies meet
     In Lethe to be drown'd;
     Then only numbers sweet
     With endless life are crown'd.

Robert Herrick


Technique is the proof of your seriousness.

Wallace Stevens

Happy Birthday, Stuart

Stuart, William Woollett, the Engraver, 1783

Gilbert Stuart was born on this date in 1755.


if you haven't visited Julian Summerhayes, do yourself a favor.

A gem he's pointed toward ...

Thanks for the introduction, Kurt.

02 December 2021


Whip 'em off an' drink ...


In the morning, each leaf wears an edge of rime and the jewelry of almost-frozen rain. A fox, the same colour, nosed through them last night, sniffing their beery tannin, hungry for a trace of voles where worms slip deeper underground.

This morning is one of frost and fog. Hawthorn, damson, ash, for the first time this year, have a gauntness; they are winter trees now. Flying wood pigeons disappear silently; distant traffic growl merges with the muted banter of blackbirds and robins; a peregrine on radar ghosts above.

The oaks, free of foliage clutter, begin a kind of afterlife, darkly. Their leaves are tickets dumped at summer’s destination, receipts for the life that came from light. Now they wait for the return journey, to a subterranean realm where darkness turns death back into life. 

An oak leaf in the midst of the nitrogen cycle .... the official "flower" of The Oyster Months.


"Hang care!" exclaimed he. "This is a delicious evening; the wine has a finer relish here than in the house, and the song is more exciting and melodious under the tranquil sky than in the close room, where the sound is stifled. Come, let us have a bacchanalian chant—let us, with old Sir Toby, make the welkin dance and rouse the night-owl with a catch! I am right merry. Pass the bottle, and tune your voices—a catch, a catch! The lights will be here anon."

Charles Ollier, from "The Haunted Manor-House of Paddington" 

For best results, listen to this ... The Kinks, "Father Christmas" ...

The euphony transformed me and inundated my soul in a roguish countenance, the likes of which I had know well in younger days. Such impishness soon drove out the complaints of the day.

Umberto Limongiello


The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements—all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics—to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think.

Television, radio, and all the sources of amusement and information that surround us in our daily lives are artificial props. They can give us the impression that our minds are active, because we are required to react to stimuli from the outside. But the power of those external stimuli to keep us going is limited. They are like drugs. We grow used to them, and we continuously need more and more of them. Eventually, they have little or no effect. Then, if we lack resources within ourselves, we cease to grow intellectually, morally, and spiritually. And we we cease to grow, we begin to die.

Mortimer J. Adler, from How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading


Come, bring with a noise,
     My merry, merry boys,
The Christmas Log to the firing;
     While my good Dame, she
     Bids ye all be free;
And drink to your heart's desiring.

     With the last year's brand
     Light the new block, and
For good success in his spending,
     On your Psaltries play,
     That sweet luck may
Come while the log is a-tinding.

     Drink now the strong beer,
     Cut the white loaf here,
The while the meat is a-shredding;
     For the rare mince-pie
     And the plums stand by
To fill the paste that's a-kneading.

Robert Herrick

01 December 2021



Whatever the circumstances may be, always put the Invisible before the visible, the Supernatural before the natural; if this rule is applied to all your actions, know that you will be equipped with strength and bathed with deep joy.

Léon Bloy 


An excellent albums ...


Wyeth, Brandywine in Winter, 1943


While snow the window-panes bedim,
The fire curls up a sunny charm,
Where, creaming o'er the pitcher's rim,
The flowering ale is set to warm;
Mirth, full of joy as summer bees,
Sits there, its pleasures to impart,
And children, 'tween their parent's knees,
Sing scraps of carols o'er by heart.

And some, to view the winter weathers,
Climb up the window-seat with glee,
Likening the snow to falling feathers,
In fancy infant ecstasy;
Laughing, with superstitious love,
O'er visions wild that youth supplies,
Of people pulling geese above,
And keeping Christmas in the skies.

As tho' the homestead trees were drest,
In lieu of snow, with dancing leaves,
As tho' the sun-dried martin's nest,
Instead of ickles, hung the eaves,
The children hail the happy day -
As if the snow were April's grass,
And pleas'd, as 'neath the warmth of May,
Sport o'er the water froze as glass.

John Clare

30 November 2021


If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.

Ulysses S. Grant


To surround anything, however monstrous or ridiculous, with an air of mystery, is to invest it with a secret charm, and power of attraction which to the crowd is irresistible. False priests, false prophets, false doctors, false patriots, false prodigies of every kind, veiling their proceedings in mystery, have always addressed themselves at an immense advantage to the popular credulity, and have been, perhaps, more indebted to that resource in gaining and keeping for a time the upper hand of Truth and Common Sense, than to any half-dozen items in the whole catalogue of imposture. Curiosity is, and has been from the creation of the world, a master-passion. To awaken it, to gratify it by slight degrees, and yet leave something always in suspense, is to establish the surest hold that can be had, in wrong, on the unthinking portion of mankind.

Charles Dickens


An excellent album ...

Happy Birthday, Palladio

Andrea Palladio was born on this date in 1508.

Beauty will result from the form and the correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other, and of these again to the whole; that the structure may appear an entire and complete body, wherein each member agrees with the other, and all necessary to compose what you intend to form.

Andrea Palladio

PALLADIO: The Architect and His Influence in America ...


An excellent book ...


I know about the despair of overcoming chronic temptation. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience, etc. don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence. 

C.S. Lewis

Happy Birthday, Churchill

Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.

Sir Winston Churchill, born on this day in 1874.

29 November 2021

Happy Birthday, Lewis

C.S. Lewis was born on this day in 1898.

In those days a boy on the classical side officially did almost nothing but classics. I think this was wise; the greatest service we can do to education today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects we destroy his standards, perhaps for life. Smewgy taught us Latin and Greek, but everything else came in incidentally. The books I liked best under his teaching were Horace’s Odes, Aeneid IV, and Euripides’ Bacchae. I had always in one sense "liked" my classical work, but hitherto this had been the pleasure that everyone feels in mastering a craft. Now I tasted the classics as poetry.

C.S. Lewis

Surprised by Joy ...

28 November 2021


History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.

Sir Winston Churchill

Genesis, "Firth of Fifth"


Wyeth, N. C., Nathan Hale, 1922

I find the earliest years of my life are the source of my best inspiration. 

N. C. Wyeth

Happy Birthday, Blake

Blake, Self-Portrait, 1802

William Blake was born on this day in 1757.

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise

William Blake

26 November 2021

Gordon Lightfoot, "Blackberry Wine"

There's a south wind risin' and
The moon shines on my window sill
I've got a feeling I might walk on over the hill
I'm bent but not broken, all I need is some rest
And a bottle of your very best
Blackberry wine

I love this guy ...



It is precisely the colouring, the atmosphere, the unclassifiable individual details of a story, and above all the general purport that informs with life the undissected bones of the plot, that really count.

J.R.R. Tolkien

25 November 2021

Happy Birthday, Desmond

Paul Desmond was born on this day in 1924.
I think I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted it to sound like a dry martini. 

Paul Desmond
Desmond with the Dave Brubeck Quartet performing "Audrey" and "Stomping for Mili" ...


Today is Evacuation Day ...
On this day 1783, nearly three months after the Treaty of Paris was signed ending the American Revolution, the last British soldiers withdraw from New York City, their last military position in the United States. After the last Red Coat departed New York, Patriot General George Washington entered the city in triumph to the cheers of New Yorkers. The city was captured by the British in September 1776 and remained in their hands until 1783. Four months after New York was returned to the victorious Patriots, the city was declared to be the capital of the United States. It was the site in 1789 of Washington’s inauguration as the first U.S. president and remained the nation’s capital until 1790, when Philadelphia became the second capital of the United States under the U.S. Constitution.



WHEN the FROST is on the PUNKIN

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me—
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

James Whitcomb Riley


I had made up my mind to find that for which I was searching even if it required the remainder of my life. After innumerable failures I finally uncovered the principle for which I was searching, and I was astounded at its simplicity. I was still more astounded to discover the principle I had revealed not only beneficial in the construction of a mechanical hearing aid but it served as well as means of sending the sound of the voice over a wire. Another discovery which came out of my investigation was the fact that when a man gives his order to produce a definite result and stands by that order it seems to have the effect of giving him what might be termed a second sight which enables him to see right through ordinary problems. What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.

Alexander Graham Bell


An excellent album ...

A treasured gift from my friend, Kurt, this collection has become a Thanksgiving tradition.