AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

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

19 January 2021

Preview.


Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions. 

Albert Einstein

18 January 2021

RUSH, "Subdivisions"


Bigger.


The Guardian
on being a life-long beginner ...
It scarcely matters what it is – tying nautical knots or throwing pottery. Learning something new and challenging, particularly with a group, has proven benefits for the “novelty-seeking machine” that is the brain. Because novelty itself seems to trigger learning, learning various new things at once might be even better. A study that had adults aged 58 to 86 simultaneously take multiple classes – ranging from Spanish to music composition to painting – found that after just a few months, the learners had improved not only at Spanish or painting, but on a battery of cognitive tests. They’d rolled back the odometers in their brains by some 30 years, doing better on the tests than a control group who took no classes.

They’d changed in other ways, too: they felt more confident, they were pleasantly surprised by their work, and they kept getting together after the study ended.

Skill learning seems to be additive; it’s not only about the skill. A study that looked at young children who had taken swimming lessons found benefits beyond swimming. The swimmers were better at a number of other physical tests, such as grasping or hand-eye coordination, than non-swimmers. They also did better on reading and mathematical reasoning tests than non-swimmers, even accounting for factors such as socio-economic status.

Many of these studies or recommendations are oriented toward children. Chess, for example, is held up as a way to improve children’s focus and concentration, to strengthen their problem-solving skills, to bolster their creative thinking. But I’ve become convinced that whenever something is touted as being good for children, it’s even better for adults, in part because we assume we no longer need all those benefits an activity is said to provide.

And yet what better remedy for the widespread affliction of “smartphone addiction” than two hours of burning your eyes and brain into 64 squares on a board, trying to analyse an almost infinite variety of moves and countermoves?

Learning new skills also changes the way you think, or the way you see the world. Learning to sing changes the way you listen to music, while learning to draw is a striking tutorial on the human visual system. Learning to weld is a crash course in physics and metallurgy. You learn to surf and suddenly you find yourself interested in tide tables and storm systems and the hydrodynamics of waves. Your world got bigger because you did.

Off-sloughings.


Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history, mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadow about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.

P.J. O'Rourke, from Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government

Deserve.


Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

H.L. Mencken

Move.

Chatham, Tamalpais in the Fog, 2001


The CACHE

Behind the house in a field
there's a metal box I buried
full of childhood treasure, a map
of my secret place, a few lead pennies
from 1943.
The rest I've forgotten,
forgotten even the exact spot
I covered with moss and loam.
 
Now I'm back and twenty years
have made so little difference
I suspect they never happened,
this face in the mirror
aged with pencil and putty.
I suspect even
the box has moved as a mole would move
to a new place long ago.

Dan Gerber

Walpurgis, Talestri, Queen of the Amazon

Richard Egarr and The Academy of Ancient Music perform the Overture ...

Expedition.

Gass, Lewis & Clark Holding a Council with the Indians, 1817


On this day in 1803, Thomas Jefferson, determined to begin the American exploration of the vast mysterious regions of the Far West, sends a special confidential message to Congress asking for money to fund the journey of Lewis and Clark. 

Jefferson had been trying to mount a western expedition of exploration since the 1790s, and his determination to do so had only grown since he became president in 1801. In summer 1802, Jefferson began actively preparing for the mission, recruiting his young personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to be its leader. Throughout 1802, Jefferson and Lewis discussed the proposed mission, telling no one-not even Congress, which would have to approve the funds-of what they were contemplating. Jefferson directed Lewis to draw up an estimate of expenses. 

Basing his calculations on a party of one officer and 10 enlisted men-the number was deliberately kept small to avoid inspiring both congressional criticisms and Indian fears of invasion-Lewis carefully added up the costs for provisions, weapons, gunpowder, scientific instruments, and a large boat. The final tally came to $2,500. The largest item was $696, earmarked for gifts to Indians. 

Following the advice of his secretary of the treasury, Albert Gallatin, Jefferson decided not to include the request in his general proposed annual budget, since it involved exploration outside of the nation’s own territory. Instead, on January 18, 1803, he sent a special secret message to Congress asking for the money, taking pains to stress that the proposed exploration would be an aid to American commerce. Jefferson noted that the Indians along the proposed route of exploration up the Missouri River “furnish a great supply of furs & pelts to the trade of another nation carried on in a high latitude.” 

If a route into this territory existed, “possibly with a single portage, from the Western ocean,” Jefferson suggested Americans might have a superior means of exploiting the fur trade. 

Though carefully couched in diplomatic language, Jefferson’s message to Congress was clear: a U.S. expedition might be able to steal the fur trade from the British and find the long hoped-for Northwest passage to the Pacific. Despite some mild resistance from Federalists who never saw any point in spending money on the West, Jefferson’s carefully worded request prevailed, and Congress approved the $2,500 appropriation by a sizeable margin. It no doubt seemed trivial in comparison to the $9,375,000 they had approved a week earlier for the Louisiana Purchase, which brought much of the territory Jefferson was proposing to explore under American control. With financing now assured, Lewis immediately began preparing for the expedition. Recruiting his old military friend, William Clark, to be his co-captain, the Corps of Discovery departed on their epic exploration of the uncharted regions in spring 1804.

Same.


A speck of mold is a floral Pleiades; a galaxy is a stellar anthill. A comparably close interrelationship exists, even more astonishingly, between mental and physical things. Elements and principles unite, combine, marry, and multiply with one another, so that ultimately the material realm and the moral realm stand in the same light.

Victor Hugo

Difference.


During the nights I listened to the ice booming on the lake.  During the day when I used to fetch water from the hole in the lake, I began to see how subtle changes in the temperature and the wind affected the thickness of the ice.  I heard a lot of wind and came to like the difference between wind through spruce, wind through balsam, wind through bare poplar, wind through red oak, wind through marsh grass, and wind through dead cattails.  I saw what wind and sun did to old moose tracks and deer tracks and squirrel tracks and rabbit tracks and fisher tracks and marten tracks and fox tracks.  I once crossed a pond to check my traps, and when I crossed back ten minutes later, seven sets of timber wolf tracks had crossed over mine.

David Treuer, from Trapline: An Ojibwe Man’s Search for Identity on the Canadian Taiga

When ice settles and cracks on the Great Lakes, it sounds like a distant cannon going off.

Happy Birthday, Webster


Daniel Webster was born on this day in 1782.

I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence, I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing. Make them intelligent, and they will be vigilant; give them the means of detecting the wrong, and they will apply the remedy.

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.

Daniel Webster

17 January 2021

Fruit.


This is a time in which the power of words to introduce and justify and explain ideas matters, and that power is tangible in the changes at work. Forgetting is a problem; words matter, partly as a means to help us remember. When the cathedrals you build are invisible, made of perspectives and ideas, you forget you are inside them and that the ideas they consist of were, in fact, made, constructed by people who analyzed and argued and shifted our assumptions. They are the fruit of labor. Forgetting means a failure to recognize the power of the process and the fluidity of meanings and values.

Rebecca Solnit

Charpentier, Messe et Motets pour la Vierge

Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations perform ...

Happy Birthday, Franklin

Filleul, Benjamin Franklin, 1779


Benjamin Franklin was born on this day in 1706.

I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fix'd opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive, I apprehend, or I imagine a thing to be so or so; or it so appears to me at present. When another asserted something that I thought an error, I deny'd myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear'd or seem'd to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engag'd in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I propos'd my opinions procur'd them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevail'd with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right. And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence to natural inclination, became at length so easy, and so habitual to me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me. And to this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had early so much weight with my fellow-citizens when I proposed new institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public councils when I became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my points. In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Benjamin Franklin

Happy Birthday, Guarini

Guarini, Cappella della Sacra Sindone, 1694


Guarino Guarini was born on this day in 1624.

16 January 2021

Happy Birthday, Adu


Helen Folasade Adu was born on this day in 1959.

"Slave Song" with The Abyssinians ...

Begins.


Freedom begins between the ears.

Ed Abbey

Loomed.

Remington, Coming to the Call, 1905


I knew the wild riders and the vacant land were about to vanish forever and the more I considered the subject, the bigger the forever loomed. 

Frederic Remington

Bach, Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005

Viktoria Mullova performs the Largo ...

Happy Birthday, Service.


Robert W. Service was born on this day in 1874.

Because I love the soothing weed
And am of sober type,
I'd choose me for a friend in need
A man who smokes a pipe.
A cove who hasn't much to say,
And spits into the fire,
Puffing like me a pipe of clay,
Corn-cob or briar.

A chap original of thought,
With cheery point of view,
Who has of gumption quite a lot,
And streaks of humour too.
He need not be a whiskered sage,
With wisdom over-ripe:
Just give me in the old of age
A pal who smokes a pipe.

A cigarette may make for wit,
Although I like it not;
A good cigar, I must admit,
Gives dignity to thought.
But as my glass of grog I sip
I never, never gripe
If I have for companionship
A guy who smokes a pipe.

Robert W. Service

15 January 2021

British Sea Power, "Lights Out for Darker Skies"

The Police, "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KING


The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on this day in 1929.

On October 26, 1967, Dr. King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia ...  
Your life’s blueprint must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice. Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them.  Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice. You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. 

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

13 January 2021

Reasons.

Wyeth, Lawn Chair, 1962


Beauty, is the sole business of poetry. 
The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas, 
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.

Robinson Jeffers

Captain.


The Detroit Red Wings have announced their first Michigan-born captain, Hockeytown-native, Dylan Larkin.

British Sea Power, "True Adventures"

12 January 2021

Richard Thompson, "Take Care the Road You Choose"

Some take the high, some take the low
Some take the straight and narrow
Some still standing at the crossroads
Some fly like an arrow ...

Necessary.


If an artist wants to use his mind for creative work, cutting oneself off from society is a necessary thing.

Glenn Gould

Happy Birthday, Sargent

Sargent, Atlantic Storm, 1876


John Singer Sargent was on this day in 1856.

Own.


We cannot live in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening. To use our own voice. To see our own light.

Hildegard von Bingen

Thank you, Jessica.

Left.


He moves through the white glare of a Key West afternoon in that curious, rolling, cantilevered, ball-of-the-foot, and just-off-kilter gait that suggests a kind of subtle menace. He’s on dense and narrow and aromatic streets bearing people’s first names—Olivia, Petronia, Thomas, Emma, Angela, Geraldine. He’s Tom Sawyer on a Saturday in Hannibal, tooting like a steamboat, rid now of Aunt Polly’s clutches, left to his own devices, not to show back home until the sun is slanting in long bars. 

Paul Hendrickson, from Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961

British Sea Power, "Waving Flags"

Witness.


I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation. I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams. I write in a solitude born out of community. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me complacent. I write to remember. I write to forget….

I write because I believe in words. I write because I do not believe in words. I write because it is a dance with paradox. I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in sand. I write because it belongs to the force of the moon: high tide, low tide. I write because it is the way I take long walks. I write as a bow to wilderness. I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness….

I write as ritual. I write because I am not employable. I write out of my inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to speak. I write with the colors of memory. I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine….

I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient we are. I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love.

Terry Tempest Williams

Happy Birthday, London


Jack London was born on this day in 1876.

I would rather be ashes than dust!  I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.  I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist.  I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.  I shall use my time. I'd rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet.

Jack London

Jack London: A Force of Nature ...

Van Morrison, "So Quiet in Here"

This must be what paradise is like because it's
So quiet in here, so peaceful in here ...


Tommy Lasorda, Rest in Peace


Tommy Lasorda has passed.

He (Darryl Strawberry) is not a dog; a dog is loyal and runs after balls.

Tommy Lasorda

... and one to go.

10 January 2021

Happy Birthday, Fagen


Donald Fagen was born on this day in 1948.

"I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)" ...

Ask.


Ask, hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and still can shake hands with the murderers, then you are unworthy of the name of husband, father, friend, or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant.

Thomas Paine, from Common Sense, published on this day in 1776

09 January 2021

Into.


Think I might go out for a stroll
Into the night, and out of this hole.

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

MAIDEN, "Can I Play with Madness"

When I first heard this back in the late 80s I thought it was called "Can I Play with Matches" ... 

The Highwaymen, "The Last Cowboy Song"


It's sandwich time.

Virtues.


These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed.  Great necessities call out great virtues. 

Abigail Adams

Bach, Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

Bolette Roed, recorder, Peter Navarro-Alonso, saxophone, and David Hildebrandt, percussion, perform their variation on Variations One, Two, and Three ...

Through.


Execupundit
correctly reminds us, "We have gotten through much worse and we'll get through this."

To think otherwise is a continuation of the culture's malignant narcissism and utter ignorance and disrespect of our ancestors' gifts to us.

Compelled.


It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison, and yet not free – to be under no physical constraint and yet to be a psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the national state, or of some private interest within the nation, wants him to think, feel and act.

The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him, the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free.

Aldous Huxley