24 October 2021
October is a fine season in America. It is dry and cool and the land is wild with red and gold and crimson, and all the lassitudes of August have seeped out of your blood, and you are full of ambition. It is a wonderful time to begin anything at all. You go to college, and every course in the catalogue looks wonderful. The names of the subjects all seem to lay open the way to a new world. Your arms are full of new, clean notebooks, waiting to be filled. You pass the doors of the library, and the smell of thousands of well-kept books makes your head swim with a clean and subtle pleasure.
On one of those sober and rather melancholy days in the latter part of autumn when the shadows of morning and evening almost mingle together, and throw a gloom over the decline of the year, I passed several hours in rambling about Westminster Abbey. There was something congenial to the season in the mournful magnificence of the old pile, and as I passed its threshold it seemed like stepping back into the regions of antiquity and losing myself among the shades of former ages.
I entered from the inner court of Westminster School, through a long, low, vaulted passage that had an almost subterranean look, being dimly lighted in one part by circular perforations in the massive walls. Through this dark avenue I had a distant view of the cloisters, with the figure of an old verger in his black gown moving along their shadowy vaults, and seeming like a spectre from one of the neighboring tombs. The approach to the abbey through these gloomy monastic remains prepares the mind for its solemn contemplation. The cloisters still retain something of the quiet and seclusion of former days. The gray walls are discolored by damps and crumbling with age; a coat of hoary moss has gathered over the inscriptions of the mural monuments, and obscured the death’s heads and other funeral emblems. The sharp touches of the chisel are gone from the rich tracery of the arches; the roses which adorned the keystones have lost their leafy beauty; everything bears marks of the gradual dilapidations of time, which yet has something touching and pleasing in its very decay.
The sun was pouring down a yellow autumnal ray into the square of the cloisters, beaming upon a scanty plot of grass in the centre, and lighting up an angle of the vaulted passage with a kind of dusky splendor. From between the arcades the eye glanced up to a bit of blue sky or a passing cloud, and beheld the sun-gilt pinnacles of the abbey towering into the azure heaven.
Washington Irving, from "Westminster Abbey", found among the papers of the late Dietrich Knickerbocker in Geoffrey Crayon's Sketchbook
Connie Martinson and Ray Bradbury discuss several of his books including Dandelion Wine, Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury explains the influence his childhood experiences had on his work, as well as his involvement in city planning and his collaboration with local architects in an effort to transform city communities.
Rockwell, Ichabod Crane, 1937
The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female circle of a rural neighborhood; being considered a kind of idle, gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior taste and accomplishments to the rough country swains, and, indeed, inferior in learning only to the parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir at the tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary dish of cakes or sweetmeats, or, peradventure, the parade of a silver teapot. Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly happy in the smiles of all the country damsels. How he would figure among them in the churchyard, between services on Sundays; gathering grapes for them from the wild vines that overran the surrounding trees; reciting for their amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones; or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent millpond; while the more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior elegance and address.
From his half-itinerant life, also, he was a kind of travelling gazette, carrying the whole budget of local gossip from house to house, so that his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through, and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s History of New England Witchcraft, in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed.
He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spell-bound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow. It was often his delight, after his school was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch himself on the rich bed of clover bordering the little brook that whimpered by his schoolhouse, and there con over old Mather’s direful tales, until the gathering dusk of evening made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes. Then, as he wended his way by swamp and stream and awful woodland, to the farmhouse where he happened to be quartered, every sound of nature, at that witching hour, fluttered his excited imagination,—the moan of the whip-poor-will from the hillside, the boding cry of the tree toad, that harbinger of storm, the dreary hooting of the screech owl, or the sudden rustling in the thicket of birds frightened from their roost. The fireflies, too, which sparkled most vividly in the darkest places, now and then startled him, as one of uncommon brightness would stream across his path; and if, by chance, a huge blockhead of a beetle came winging his blundering flight against him, the poor varlet was ready to give up the ghost, with the idea that he was struck with a witch’s token. His only resource on such occasions, either to drown thought or drive away evil spirits, was to sing psalm tunes and the good people of Sleepy Hollow, as they sat by their doors of an evening, were often filled with awe at hearing his nasal melody, “in linked sweetness long drawn out,” floating from the distant hill, or along the dusky road.
Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or Galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were half the time topsy-turvy!
But if there was a pleasure in all this, while snugly cuddling in the chimney corner of a chamber that was all of a ruddy glow from the crackling wood fire, and where, of course, no spectre dared to show its face, it was dearly purchased by the terrors of his subsequent walk homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night! With what wistful look did he eye every trembling ray of light streaming across the waste fields from some distant window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered with snow, which, like a sheeted spectre, beset his very path! How often did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him! And how often was he thrown into complete dismay by some rushing blast, howling among the trees, in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of his nightly scourings!
Washington Irving, from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", found among the papers of the late Dietrich Knickerbocker in Geoffrey Crayon's Sketchbook
Come on. You lot have survived worse things:
Black Death, Plague and two World wars,
The Reformation (Cromwell clipped the wings
Of angels in the roof); and there are scars
On ancient faces, marble noses cropped
And poppy heads beheaded like the King;
And modern vandals too. But you've not stopped
Your ageless plain ability to sing
Of something quite indifferent to the now;
Built with a trusting love and potent faith
You stand there still in testament to how
Beauty is not a wafted fleeting wraith,
A ghost which chance can whimsically destroy;
You can be filled, if not by faith, with joy.
Anon, June 2020
Thank you, Churches Conservation Trust
Wyeth, Albinos Study, 2002
And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash grey at twilight, it seems Hallowe'en will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
But one strange wild dark long year, Hallowe'en came early.
One year Hallowe'en came on October 24, three hours after midnight.
Ray Bradbury, from Something Wicked This Way Comes
23 October 2021
Game day specials ...
- Schooners of Wiedemann for $1.75
- Fried mushrooms and nachos are half price until 7:00.
- We've also added bar cheese and rye toast to the salad bar.
As always, five plays for a buck on the jukebox ...
PLEASURE and PERFECTION
When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy. That’s what cooking is all about.
But to give pleasure, you have to take pleasure yourself. For me, it’s the satisfaction of cooking every day: tourneing a carrot, or cutting salmon, or portioning foie gras – the mechanical jobs I do daily, year after year. This is the great challenge: to maintain passion for the everyday routine and the endlessly repeated act, to derive deep satisfaction from the mundane.
Say, for instance, you intend to make a barigoule, a stew of artichoke hearts, braised with carrots and onions, fresh herbs, oil and wine. You may look at your artichokes and think, “Look at all those artichokes I’ve got to cut and clean.” But turning them – pulling off the leaves, trimming their stems, scooping out the chokes, pulling your knife around its edge – that is cooking. It is one of my favorite things to do.
Another source of pleasure in cooking is respect for the food. To undercook a lobster and serve it to a customer, and have him send it back, is not only a waste of the lobster and all those involved in its life, it’s a waste of the potential of pleasing that customer. Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do.
When you’ve pulled your pot from the oven to regard your braise, to really see it, to smell it, you’ve connected yourself to generations and generations of people who have done the same thing for hundreds of years, in exactly the same way. Cooking is not about convenience and it’s not about shortcuts. Cooking is about wanting to take time to do something that is priceless. Our hunger for the twenty-minute gourmet meal, for one-pot ease and pre-washed, pre-cut ingredients has severed our lifeline to the satisfactions of cooking. Take your time. Take a long time. Move slowly and deliberately and with great attention.
A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe. I can tell you the mechanics – how to make a custard, for instance. But you won’t have a perfect one if you merely follow my instructions. If you don’t feel it, it’s not a perfect custard, no matter how well you’ve executed the mechanics. On the other hand, if it’s not literally a perfect custard, but you have not maintained a great feeling for it, then you’ve created a recipe perfectly because there was no passion behind what you did.
The French Laundry
Yesterday my students asked that this video be played on loop as they wrote expositions inspired by the first chapter of Something Wicked This Way Comes. There are a few Onofri-heads in our school's orchestra now.
Enrico Onofri performs with Il Giardino Armonico ...
Jamie Harrison on food and memory ...
Tiny NJ’s grocery in Lake Leelanau, where we were allowed to run a huge tab between rare paychecks, mostly offered frozen peas, carrots and potatoes and onions, beef and pork and chicken, Gallo Hearty Burgundy and French Colombard (what was that, anyway?), but we had a garden, amazing despite hail and the learning curve, which I loved despite garter snakes and daddy long legs.
Remembering her dad ...
Though my father might have been born a poet, and born an eater, he was definitely not born a cook. His passion for tarragon chicken in the early seventies, and his talent for delivering it to the plate slippery and lukewarm; his general life-long impatience with grilling temperatures and times; the time he used the wrong stomach for menudo, and we all ran outside retching as the smell permeated the house; another exodus when he overheated chilies in oil for an early Chinese attempt, everyone running out of the house screaming and clawing at their eyes while the pan caught on fire. He was not good at details and he was not patient—he never reclosed a jar in his life; he never ceased to quarrel about cooking times with my husband—and he always thought more was better (garlic, peppers, wine).He remained, at heart, a pork chop and herring kind of guy, but he was spurred by a deep competition with my mother and with close friends who knew what they were doing: a Frenchman named Guy de la Valdene, and the painter Russell Chatham, who would arrive in early October for grouse and woodcock hunting and stay three inspired, somewhat sodden weeks. We went from pot roast with iceberg and blue cheese dressing (not that there is anything wrong with these things) to grouse with grapes, ravioli with truffles, salmi de bécasses. By fifteen I was making spring rolls and screaming at failed meringues.
A refrigerator-worthy thought ...
The French edition of my father’s food writing collection, A Very Big Lunch, has the epigraph, To cook is to love again. I’m not sure when he wrote or said this, but food is love, food is memory, food keeps people you love in the room of your head, even if you can no longer prove your love by feeding them. My father is the constant urge for more, in every part of life; my mother is everything we touch, still.
Sportsmanship is that quality of honor that desires always to be courteous, fair, and respectful, and it is interpreted in the conduct of players, spectators, coaches, and school authorities.
But, let me reiterate the spirit of Michigan. It is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways. An enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan Men to spread the gospel of their university to the world’s distant outposts. And a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours.
True loyalty is that quality of service that grows under adversity and expands in defeat. Any street urchin can shout applause in victory, but it takes character to stand fast in defeat. One is noise - the other, loyalty.
Fielding H. Yost, University of Michigan football coach (1901–23, 1925–26)
22 October 2021
The 40th-anniversary re-boot of Tattoo You was gloriously released today ...
People say you saw me in AfricaOut in the bush shooting lionsFlew into Nigeria,Posting the heads online
Woody's slide makes me smile out loud.
21 October 2021
"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 ... AC⚡DC, "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be"
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.
20 October 2021
The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;
She shines on thieves on the garden wall,
On streets and fields and harbour quays,
And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.
The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.
But all of the things that belong to the day
Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way;
And flowers and children close their eyes
Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.
Robert Louis Stevenson
19 October 2021
What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish?
Alexis de Tocqueville
Trumbull, The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, 1826
On this day in 1781, Major General Lord Charles Cornwallis, surrounded at Yorktown, Va., by American and French regiments numbering 17,600 men, surrendered to George Washington and Count de Rochambeau. Cornwallis surrendered 7,157 troops, including sick and wounded, and 840 sailors, along with 244 artillery pieces. Losses in this battle had been light on both sides. Cornwallis sent Brig. Gen. Charles O’Hara to surrender his sword. At Washington’s behest, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln accepted it. Washington himself is seen in the right background of “The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown” by artist John Trumbull. After conducting an indecisive foray into Virginia, Lt. Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis retired to Yorktown on August 2, 1781. On August 16, General Washington and Maj. Gen. Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, began marching their Continental and French armies from New York to Virginia. The arrival of a French fleet, and its victory over a British fleet in Chesapeake Bay, sealed the trap.
Thanks to This Day in U.S. Military History
Victory at Yorktown, narrated by Orson Welles ...
17 October 2021
Wyeth, Cider Apples, 1962
And then there is that day when all around, all around you hear the dropping of the apples, one by one, from the trees. At ﬁrst it is one here and one there, and then it is three and then it is four and then nine and twenty, until the apples plummet like rain, fall like horse hoofs in the soft, darkening grass, and you are the last apple on the tree; and you wait for the wind to work you slowly free from your hold upon the sky, and drop you down and down. Long before you hit the grass you will have forgotten there ever was a tree, or other apples, or a summer, or green grass below, you will fall in darkness.
Ray Bradbury, from Dandelion Wine
On this day in 1980, Bruce Springsteen released The River.
Well there she sits buddy just a-gleaming in the sunThere to greet a working man when his day is doneI'm gonna pack my pa and I'm gonna pack my auntI'm gonna take them down to the Cadillac RanchEldorado fins, whitewalls and skirtsRides just like a little bit of heaven here on earthWell buddy when I die throw my body in the backAnd drive me to the junkyard in my CadillacBruce Springsteen
... [A] deceptively simple triumvirate: bagel, cream cheese and lox. It is salmon that lies at the heart of this classic dish, and salmon that lies at the heart of its mystery. Those innocent pink ribbons of flesh could tell a tale of battered national pride, ecological battles, ethnic inauthenticity, economic flux and jousting connoisseurs, a tale that spans the globe and the centuries.
Volkov, Autumn Wind, n/d
Crispy air and azure skies,
High above, a white cloud flies,
Bright as newly fallen snow.
Oh the joy to those who know October!
Colors bright on bush and tree.
Over the weedy swamp, we see
A veil of purple and brown and gold.
Thy beauty words have never told. October!
Scolding sparrows on the lawn,
Rabbits frisking home at dawn,
Pheasants midst the sheaves of grain,
All in harmony acclaim, October!
Brown earth freshly turned by plow,
Apples shine on bended bough,
Bins o'erflowed with oats and wheat,
And satisfaction reigns complete. October!
Radiant joy is everywhere.
Spirits in tune to the spicy air,
Thrill in the glory of each day.
Life's worth living when we say, October!
Joseph Pullman Porter
16 October 2021
On this day in 1793, Marie Antoinette was beheaded during the French Revolution.
Our Consolation must be this, my dear, that Cities may be rebuilt, and a People reduced to Poverty, may acquire fresh Property: But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the People once surrender their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.
John Adams, from a letter to Abigail Adams, 7 July 1775
Execupundit points the way ...
George Orwell said that “the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” In an age of lies, telling the truth is high risk. It comes with a cost. But it is our moral obligation.It is our duty to resist the crowd in this age of mob thinking. It is our duty to think freely in an age of conformity. It is our duty to speak truth in an age of lies.This bravery isn’t the last or only step in opposing this revolution—it’s just the first. After that must come honest assessments of why America was vulnerable to start with, and an aggressive commitment to rebuilding the economy and society in ways that once again offer life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the greatest number of Americans.But let’s start with a little courage.Courage means, first off, the unqualified rejection of lies. Do not speak untruths, either about yourself or anyone else, no matter the comfort offered by the mob. And do not genially accept the lies told to you. If possible, be vocal in rejecting claims you know to be false. Courage can be contagious, and your example may serve as a means of transmission.When you’re told that traits such as industriousness and punctuality are the legacy of white supremacy, don’t hesitate to reject it. When you’re told that statues of figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass are offensive, explain that they are national heroes. When you’re told that “nothing has changed” in this country for minorities, don’t dishonor the memory of civil-rights pioneers by agreeing. And when you’re told that America was founded in order to perpetuate slavery, don’t take part in rewriting the country’s history.America is imperfect. I always knew it, as we all do—and the past few years have rocked my faith like no others in my lifetime. But America and we Americans are far from irredeemable.The motto of Frederick Douglass’s anti-slavery paper, the North Star—“The Right is of no Sex—Truth is of no Color—God is the Father of us all, and all we are brethren”—must remain all of ours.We can still feel the pull of that electric cord Lincoln talked about 163 years ago—the one “in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.”
To drift with every passion till my soul
Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play,
Is it for this that I have given away
Mine ancient wisdom, and austere control?
Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll
Scrawled over on some boyish holiday
With idle songs for pipe and virelay,
Which do but mar the secret of the whole.
Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights, and from life’s dissonance
Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God:
Is that time dead? lo! with a little rod
I did but touch the honey of romance—
And must I lose a soul’s inheritance?
Eugene O'Neill was born on this day in 1888.
Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually.
Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. But be drunken. And if sometimes, on the stairs of a palace, or on the green side of a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your own room, you should awaken and the drunkenness be half or wholly slipped away from you, ask of the wind, or of the wave, or of the star, or of the bird, or of the clock, of whatever flies, or sighs, or rocks, or sings, or speaks, ask what hour it is; and the wind, wave, star, bird, clock, will answer you: "It is the hour to be drunken! Be drunken, if you would not be martyred slaves of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will."
Eugene O'Neill, from Long Day's Journey into Night
15 October 2021
What do you want? Where do you find it?
You can call it what you will
The sound of heartbreak from a jail cell
Finding work in bar all nights
Jukebox letters and numbers
The burning hearts and starving minds
Souls in pain as if I’m punishment
The ways and needs to survive
There’s a passion that’s put on the line
Money to burn and fortunes to find
Without a claim, without a stake
I’m living only for today
There will be starts, there will be stumbles
Our tongue out on the line to dry
And a piece from wagers of working
And hell breaks loose on Saturday night
Aren’t you happy? The least it’s living
Freedom to choose to stay down
Always a wild wind blowing
Just want a guitar and a radio
In the fields of the valley
The sweet and toil along with the land
No cup of gold, no candy mountain
What better place to make a stand?
Jay Farrar, from the Son Volt album, Honky Tonk
O Merlin wise I learned a song,—
Sing it low or sing it loud,
It is mightier than the strong,
And punishes the proud.
I sing it to the surging crowd,—
Good men it will calm and cheer,
Bad men it will chain and cage—
In the heart of the music peals a strain
Which only angels hear;
Whether it waken joy or rage
Hushed myriads hark in vain,
Yet they who hear it shed their age,
And take their youth again.
Hear what British Merlin sung,
Of keenest eye and truest tongue.
Say not, the chiefs who first arrive
Usurp the seats for which all strive;
The forefathers this land who found
Failed to plant the vantage-ground;
Ever from one who comes to-morrow
Men wait their good and truth to borrow.
But wilt thou measure all thy road,
See thou lift the lightest load.
Who has little, to him who has less, can spare,
And thou, Cyndyllan's son! beware
Ponderous gold and stuffs to bear,
To falter ere thou thy task fulfil,—
Only the light-armed climb the hill.
The richest of all lords is Use,
And ruddy Health the loftiest Muse.
Live in the sunshine, swim the sea,
Drink the wild air's salubrity:
When the star Canope shines in May,
Shepherds are thankful and nations gay.
The music that can deepest reach,
And cure all ill, is cordial speech:
Mask thy wisdom with delight,
Toy with the bow, yet hit the white.
Of all wit's uses, the main one
Is to live well with who has none.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Toto released their self-titled debut on this day in 1978.
And you think it's realBut it's just another future dealAnd you know you're right'Cause you've waited for it all nightThen you find yourselfSitting on a little shelfWhoa-oh-ohDavid Paich, from "Rockmaker"
I have been called a curmudgeon, which my obsolescent dictionary defines as a "surly, ill-mannered, bad-tempered fellow".
Nowadays, curmudgeon is likely to refer to anyone who hates hypocrisy, cant, sham, dogmatic ideologies, and has the nerve to point out unpleasant facts and takes the trouble to impale these sins on the skewer of humor and roast them over the fires of fact, common sense, and native intelligence.
In this nation of bleating sheep and braying jackasses, it then becomes an honor to be labeled curmudgeon.
CARL R. FIRCHAU (1884-1973)
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REMEMBER EVERYONE DEPLOYED
TAO TE CHING, Lao Tzu
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Spitzweg, The Bookworm, 1850
I'm reading ...
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