Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just A Heads-Up

I can't discuss it in any detail without feeling sad and ill, but if any of you out there are considering, even casually, attending the touring company version of Immortal (Cirque du Soleil's celebration of the music of Michael Jackson) DO NOT DO SO.  Take your money, set it on fire, and then poke yourself in the thigh with a fork for an hour.  You'll have a better time.

And this is from someone who likes Cirque du Soleil (usually) and love Michael Jackson.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Guru Said Keep Walking

So my question about this is... well. What do you make of it?

I found it on a poker site, of all places. A blog by a fairly serious player; he talked about how he watched it every day to motivate him to train and prepare for poker tournaments.

So then I watched it and the first time I saw it I thought: YES. ROCK ON. And I decided to submit my name to the NFL combine.

By the way, the voiceover is from some guy who styles himself The Hip Hop Preacher. He has quite a Facebook page if you're interested. The video, on the other hand, is from a East Carolina running back named Giavanni Ruffin. He has a twitter feed (I looked into all this on YouTube) that is sort of dispriting and inspring at the same time.  Apparently he's trying to impress scouts in February and make the NFL.


My point here is: I don't know, really.  I don't know if this is genuinely inspiring or just kind of...over-manipulated rubbish. I do like the way it builds, though.  And the long pauses in the audio track.  So that you really do want to know what happens to the young man who goes out to the beach.

"Most of you people would rather sleep than be successful" That's funny. And true.

And I like the way he cites Fifty Cent, as if that sort of is the ultimate trump.  If Fifty adheres to this philosophy, what more is there to say?

I don't know. I don't usually watch stuff like this--stuff with so few Muppets, I mean. But this kind of stayed with me.

Interested to hear your thoughts.

Probably worth watching in full screen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Am Not Issuing Another Post

Until at least five people respond to the Muppet Video below. At least watch it. And say you have.

Because I know that I, for example, rarely watch videos that are on blogs. And that I've been a bit lazy, putting up lots of non-original material.

But this is non-negotiable. Five people must post some post that indicates that they've seen it, that comments on some aspect of the video that they couldn't otherwise comment on, without having seen it. ("Mama??")

I'm through playing. Word.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Was In A Funk Today

And then I saw this.

It gave me hope.  I wish Beaker were a friend.  I would want to spend as much time with him as I possibly could.

Tuesday, January 24

This comes from Book I of The Histories, by Herodotus:
[Persians] are accustomed to deliberating on the most serious business while they are drunk, and whatever decision they reach in these sessions, it is proposed to them again the next day by the host in whose house they had deliberated the night before.  Then, if the decision still please them when they are sober, they actd on it; if not, they give it up.  Conversely, whatever provisional decisions they consider while sober, they reconsider when they are drunk.
The first part, I can believe.  The second I doubt.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ernest Givens Lives

For an old Houston Oiler's fan, this article on the team's notorious "Run and Shoot" offense is irresistible. It name-checks Haywood Jeffries, for God's sakes. How can it not be worth your time?

A sample:
The run-and-shoot was supposed to be dead, at least in the NFL. The offense (at least one form of it) was conceived by Glenn "Tiger" Ellison back in the 1950s, while Darrel "Mouse" Davis developed its modern form throughout a four-decade coaching career that has touched nearly every level of football imaginable. The offense had its moment of glory in the NFL in the early 1990s. Back then, the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, and Houston Oilers (and the Seattle Seahawks, extremely briefly) ran the 'shoot, which featured four wide receivers and one running back on every snap. The offense used no fullbacks and no tight ends.1 These teams had mixed success. The Lions won 12 games in 1991; the Falcons won 10 and made the playoffs twice during their 'shoot days. But the NFL team that most exemplified the run-and-shoot, in both its glory and its shame, was the Houston Oilers. The Oilers made the playoffs in seven straight years with the run-and-shoot (and fielded a top-10 offense in each season), and quarterback Warren Moon blitzkrieged defenses with his four-receiver aerial assault. But the Oilers never reached the Super Bowl, and they managed to be on the wrong end of the greatest playoff comeback in NFL history. Against the Buffalo Bills in the 1993 wild-card round, Moon threw four first-half touchdowns, but he wasn't able to burn the clock and the defense collapsed in the second half of a 41-38 loss. The Oilers became part of an even more ignominious moment the following year, when Buddy Ryan, Houston's defensive coordinator, punched the team's offensive coordinator in the face.  Ryan was no fan of the run-and-shoot, which he called the "chuck-and-duck." 
Eventually, a consensus formed around the league that a team couldn't win championships with the run-and-shoot, and teams abandoned the offense. Without a tight end or fullback, they said, the 'shoot was "finesse only" and lacked the physical element necessary to win.3 But not everyone agreed. When Hall of Fame safety Rod Woodson heard Houston had given up on the offense, he said: "Tell the owner thank you, and tell the front office thank you. The run-and-shoot got the Oilers where they are, and I think defenses all over the league are going to be very relieved when they hear about it." 
But the run-and-shoot went out of fashion for a reason. In a modern NFL full of tight ends and multiple formations, an offense that limits itself to one personnel grouping — whether it's four receivers and one running back or two running backs and a tight end — can't be successful. The run-and-shoot forced the Oilers, Lions, and Falcons to protect their quarterback with six players; without multiple looks, today's defenses would develop schemes to destroy those protections. Indeed, what killed the run-and-shoot wasn't the playoff failures or the perceived lack of physicality, but rather the zone blitz, which was designed to defuse the kind of six-man protection schemes that run-and-shoot teams used on every down. For a while, at least, everyone around football seemed to agree that the run-and-shoot had died and would never come back. 
But the run-and-shoot never left.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

For My Wife

Who will love this.  So do I.  I laughed out loud watching it.  It took me a few seconds, after it started, to figure out what was going on.  But then I got it.  And it's pretty damn brilliant. Recommended in full screen.

Friday, January 20, 2012

"that, in fact, I think, is the great use of suffering"

One of the pleasures of reading Poetry magazine are its excellent critics.  This month's issue features two outstanding critical essays, one by Clive James on the relationship between poetry and craft and another, by Adam Kirsch, on the recently-issued second volume of T.S. Eliot's letters.  I've read four or five reviews of the letters so far and Kirsch's, I think, is the best.  

Of course, Eliot himself is the star of the review (as he should be).  I love both of these excerpts--the first for the power of the imagery ("regarding the world placidly through the fumes of an apertif"), the second for its wisdom and insight into human experience.  In two quotes, you see why Eliot was such a great poet (and why Kirsch is such a good critic).

"...it has often been noted how much Eliot had in common with Henry James—he noted it himself in his self-justifying letter to his mother. Prufrock, one might say, is a younger version of Lambert Strether, the protagonist of James’s novel The Ambassadors—a sexless man of letters, the editor of a mild New England literary magazine, who comes to Europe in late middle age and realizes that he has wasted his life. “Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to,” Strether famously exhorts, and it is a mistake that Prufrock fears he cannot avoid: “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,/Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?”

What made Eliot a great poet was the fact that in the crucial moment, he did find the strength to force a crisis. One of the most valuable and exciting achievements of theLetters is to document that moment, which came in the summer of 1915. After studying at Oxford, Eliot was expected to return to Harvard and finish his doctoral dissertation in philosophy. But as he wrote to his college friend, the poet Conrad Aiken, the prospect weighed on him like spiritual death:
I dread returning to Cambridge . . . and the people in Cambridge whom one fights against and who absorb one all the same. The great need is to know one’s own mind, and I don’t know that: whether I want to get married, and have a family, and live in America all my life, and compromise and conceal my opinions and forfeit my independence for the sake of my children’s future; or save my money and retire at fifty to a table on the boulevard, regarding the world placidly through the fumes of an aperitif at 5 PM—How thin either life seems!
He was willing to do anything, even wreck his life, in order to save it, as he hinted to Aiken in an earlier letter:
Does anything kill as petty worries do? And in America we worry all the time. That, in fact, is I think the great use of suffering, if it’s tragicsuffering—it takes you away from yourself—and petty suffering does exactly the reverse, and kills your inspiration. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bowie's Drum Sound, A New Web Site

I'm pleasantly shocked to discover a fantastic, completist Bowie site.  "Pushing Ahead of the Dame" features an intelligent, devoted Bowie scholar ("fan" seems too trivial a word for the effort manifested on his site) writing a critical history of every song Bowie has ever recorded.  It's not done yet (he's not reached the nineties) but all the major albums have already been discussed.  Highly, highly recommended.

Here, for Dez, is a discussion of Bowie's drum sound during "Low," a subject we debated, a little, a few months ago:
“Breaking Glass,” officially credited to Bowie, Murray and Davis, is the most compelling groove on the album, despite it being left in a something of an embryonic state. Murray holds the track together with his fingers: the thudding echoing of Davis’ drums in the intro/refrain, the rolling bassline under the verses, which becomes the lead instrument in the final, vocal-less verse that gets faded out. Alomar’s lead guitar (he also plays rhythm guitar, a drone that Alomar described as his attempt to sound like a Jew’s harp) gets a battlefield promotion to secondary vocalist. His opening pair of riffs, phrases echoing and answering each other, are a more melodic hook than anything Bowie sings. 
And Davis, who Visconti later called ‘the most original drummer I’ve ever worked with,” delivers beats that had never been on a Bowie record before: Low makes Ziggy Stardust sound like it was recorded on paper drums. (It’s as if he’s trying to imitate and yet outplay the synthetic drums on Cluster’s “Caramel”.) The trick was Visconti’s Eventide Harmonizer, which Visconti legendarily claimed “fucks with the fabric of time.” For Low, Visconti used the Harmonizer to sample the drum audio and, an instant later, echo the sound, but with the drums’ pitch dropped a semi-tone. Then Visconti, in his words, “added the feedback of this tone to itself.” So when Davis hit his snare drum, he heard in his headphones the “crack” but the following “thud” never stopped, it just deepened and deepened in tone. Visconti described the latter as sounding like a man struck in the stomach (forever). 
At first, Bowie was unsure about the distorted drum sound, so Visconti sneakily turned down the effect in the control room but kept it on in Davis’ headphones. So on “Glass” (and other Low tracks) Davis is dueting with his echo, in real time. He’s varying the power and length of his snare hits, especially on the one! one! one-two! one-two! pattern in the intro, and seems to be creating the massive synthesized, gated drum sound of ’80s pop music in the process.
This was also, to me, a revelation (I thought Fripp used an Ebow on "Heroes").
While most guitarists that took on “Heroes” had to use an Ebow to get Fripp’s sound, playing a sustained run of A notes, Fripp had worked out the feedback patterns on foot, literally. Standing in Hansa’s Studio 2, his guitar routed through Eno’s EMS synthesizer, Fripp marked with tape the places on the studio floor where he could get a feedback loop on any given note. So four feet away from his amp was an A, three feet away was a G, and so on. Fripp stepped and swayed through the song, his sound owed to a simple cartography.
Fripp ran through three takes, and the trebly nature of his playing (further distorted live by Eno’s EMS) meant that each solo on its own sounded thin and wavering. So Tony Visconti blended all three together, eventually bouncing them down to a single track, to achieve what Visconti called “a dreamy, floaty effect.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Haircuts I think are the undiscussed topic of our time"

I've written here often of my admiration and ongoing semi-obsession with Brian Eno. His thoughts on art, science, emergence theory and a whole lot of other fascinating junk can be read here. (It opens with a woman talking about totem poles, but that's equally fascinating.)

An excerpt, to whet the wombat:
There are really only four things you can do. You can repeat something. You can re-evaluate something that used to be there and you've now put a different value on it. You can leave something out, and you can put something new in. And putting something new, which is always considered to be the defining act of being an artist, is only one of four, I think. All those other four decisions are just as important. 
Of course, folk music and pop music apparently don't do very much of the latter one, of the innovation one. They are doing a lot of the other ones; they are reevaluating things that were around. They are choosing to leave something out, which can be a very important decision. They are looking again at what already exists; that's the definition of traditional and folk music. 
But because of our sort of enlightenment history of wanting to reward novelty we tend to favor, or dignify, or elevate the forms of art that specialize in novelty. And I think we tend to over-reward them actually, or rather we over-value them at the expense at those other conversational forms of art that are going around all the time around people or between people, like hairstyles, there is a popular art form that nobody talks about except me and a few hairdressers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday, January Something or Another

The long weekend studying American History ends today with, sadly, Reconstruction.  Perhaps no topic in American History is less enjoyable to contemplate.  Dispirited, uninspiring people giving up on any chance of actually effecting the goals for which the Civil War was fought.  Drunkenness, pettiness, idiocy.  It's not going to be an exciting morning.

Above is a video I found on Browser.  I dedicate it to my Wife, who has to spend a lot of her life listening to presentations on Power Point.  I have not had that privilege, but my guess is that the video is accurate.  Feel free, my readers, to let me know if I'm wrong (or add in any missing bits).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday, Jan 15

Ok, it's true: I missed one day.  I apologize.  I have a student who's taking a US History midterm on Tuesday.  We met yesterday and we're meeting tomorrow.  I've had to reread 200 pages of history in the last day or so.  Plus, I had to watch football.  How else could I be ready to help my student talk about the Corrupt Bargain?  I couldn't.  Watching the Saints game yesterday (WOW!) was crucial to understanding the election of 1824.  Everybody who understands American History can understand that.

In other news, my two friends at A Special Way of Being Afraid and Gonna Need A Bigger Boat (links on sidebar) have decided they too are going to start posting regularly.  So check out their pages; once more they are back among the land of the living.  John, at ASWOBA, has recently continued his long-delayed movie list.  And Ray, at GNABB, has posted recently about the Texans.

The Texans!  I'm almost ashamed to admit how much I'm looking forward to watching the game this afternoon.  Is there any chance we could win?  My heart says yes.  My brain says maybe.  It's not going to be easy but I think we have a shot.  What we can't do is let Joe Flacco beat us.  (That's a surprising sentence, huh?)  Last time we played the Ravens we did exactly that.  Our secondary got burned a few times on big pass plays.  That can't happen today.  Stopping Ray Rice is hard enough.  If we do that, we have to win.  No more Anquan Boldin.  No more, I say.  No more.

Or, as Henry Clay is reported to have said at his notorious dinner meeting with John Quincy Adams on January 9, 1825: "No more Goddamned Anquan Boldin.  Johnathan Joseph has got to do his job.  He's supposed to be a Pro-Bowler, right?  RIGHT?"

No wonder he became the Secretary of State!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Love Poem

"For Grace, After A Party"
by Frank O'Hara

     You do not always know what I am feeling.
Last night in the warm spring air while I was
blazing my tirade against someone who doesn't
             me, it was love for you that set me
           and isn't it odd? for in rooms full of
strangers my most tender feelings
                                                       writhe and
bear the fruit of screaming.  Put out your hand,
isn't there
                an ashtray, suddenly, there? beside
the bed?  And someone you love enters the room
and says wouldn't
                              you like the eggs a little
different today?
                           And when they arrive they are
just plain scrambled eggs and the warm weather
is holding.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When You Are Looking At Something, You Cannot Imagine It

from "Paraguay"
by Donald Barthelme
Herko Mueller walks through gold and silver leaves, awarded, in the summer months, to those who have produced the best pastiche of the emotions.  He is smiling because he did not win one of these prizes, which the people of Paraguay seek to avoid.  He is tall, brown, wears a funny short beard, and is fond of zippered suits in brilliant colors: yellow, green, violet.  He is, professionally, an arbiter of comedy.  "A sort of drama critic?"  "More what you would term an umpire.  The members of the audience are given a set of rules and the rules constitute the comedy.  Our comedies seek to reach the imagination.  When you are looking at something, you cannot imagine it."  In the evenings I have wet sand to walk upon--long stretches of beach with the sea tasting the edges.  Getting back into my clothes after a swim, I discover a strange thing: a sand dollar under my shirt.  It is strange because this sand is sifted twice daily to remove impurities and maintain whiteness.  And the sea itself, the New Sea, is not programmed for echinoderms.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thoughts On Mitt

Andrew Sullivan excerpts a small part of this post from Dan Drezner on his blog today.  I include more of the entry because I find it so relevant.  As far as I can see, the best argument partisans put forth for voting for Mitt Romney is that he has business experience.  Government, the argument goes, should be run like a corporation--with attention to profits and deficits (or something like that).  I find this argument unpersuasive for a number of reasons.  Take, for example, Social Security.  Without being made to, how many companies would pay their workers a living wage (sort of) after they had retired?  If the US was to be run like a company, why would we keep paying out Social Security?  How is it good for the bottom line?  How many companies would enforce onerous safety regulations or use more expensive processes because they were more environmentally friendly?  Companies do those things, in general, because governments compel them to.  If the US itself is the company, however, it sets its own rules.  And if profit is what matters, we can throw away all sorts of institutions and practices that most Americans would, in reality, not want to see done away with (Environmental Regulations, Government Aid, All Entitlements....).  It's a specious analogy.

But, on to Drezner.

The thing is -- and this is kind of important -- governments are not corporations.  I cannot stress this enough.  There's the obvious point that in democracies, legislatures tend to impose a more powerful constraint than shareholders, making it that much harder for leaders to execute the policies they think will be the most efficient. 

There's also the deeper point that it's a lot harder for governments to be "unsentimental" when it comes to the provision of public services.  It's a lot harder for states to eliminate the functions that are less efficient.  Frequently, demand for government services emerges  because of the perception that the private sector has fallen down on the job in that area.  This means that the government has been tasked with doing the things that are difficult and unprofitable to do.  It is precisely because these government outputs are often so hard to measure that Newt Gingrich's claims about Six Sigma sound pretty laughable.  Even libertarians who want the government to reduce its operations drastically will acknowledge the political risks and costs of trying to execute this plan. 

To be fair, there are some policy dimensions where this analogy holds up better.  Cohen implicitly argues that America's willingness to jettison costly and inefficient foreign ventures -- cough, Iraq, cough -- is an example of this kind of turnaround strategy.  Fair enough.  Even on foreign policy, however, it's hard to execute this kind of ruthless efficiency.  Israel is prosperous enough to not need the $3 billion it gets in U.S. aid.  Good luck to anyone trying to cut that.  Africa is not a vital strategic areas of interest for the United States, but I suspect AFRICOM isn't going anywhere.  I've been a big fan of getting the United States out of Central Asia, but critics make a fair point when they observe that the last time the United States tried this gambit, Al Qaeda took advantage of it. 
There's been a lot of bragging in the 2012 primary about candidates that have "real world" business experience, and how that translates into an effective ability to govern.  That logic is horses**t.  Being president is a fundamentally different job than being a CEO -- because countries are not corporations. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I'll tell you what makes me feel good: going to bed at 9:30.  I got something like ten hours of sleep last night, and for once I woke feeling great.  Sleep!  That knits up the raveled sleeve of care.  Or something like that.

The problem with taking on a long involved project like reading Herodotus is that you can't read anything else while you're doing it.  Well, I can, of course, but I'm not going to.  I have a pile of a dozen books that I got for Christmas sitting on my shelf.  They all call out to be read.  But, no.  First I have to get through Herodotus.  Or do I?  I don't know; maybe I could read only another hundred pages and then take a break. Herodotus has finally got into the history of Greece (in book FIVE, no less); that means the actual Persian should be coming up.  Or maybe not.  There are another 300 pages to go.  So we'll see.

On my daily walks I'm listening to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.  Gaiman is a wizard at big ideas and scene setting; his actual prose, however, leaves a lot to be desired.  The sheer imaginative power carries you along, but I still can't help wishing, once in a while, that he didn't write like a very dedicated high school student.  (Note the pronoun shift in that sentence.  Terrible!)

Another beautiful day in SoCal.  I have been urged by the Wif-al Unit to write more about family and home life and less about what I'm reading.  But what is there to say about home life?  It's peaceful and calm and idyllic.  The wife is in her office, the Bink is at her feet, gently snoring.  Things move on apace.

Addendum: all are urged to read this outstanding discussion of the life and work of PG Wodehouse by A.N. Wilson.

Monday, January 9, 2012


My father relaxes by playing solitaire.  Over the holidays, coming into the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon and seeing him carefully studying his pack of bent, often-shuffled cards, I thought of a story by John Updike.  The first paragraph is excerpted here.

The children were asleep, and his wife had gone out to a meeting; she was like his father in caring about the community.  he found the deck of cards in the back of a desk drawer and sat down at the low round table.  He had reached a juncture in his life where there was nothing to do but play solitaire.  It was the perfect, final retreat--beyond solitaire, he imagined, there was madness.  Only solitaire utterly eased the mind; only solitaire created that blankness into which a saving decision might flow.  Conviviality demanded other people, with their fretful emanations of desire; reading imposed the author's company; and one emerged from the anesthetic of drunkenness to find that the operation had not been performed.  But in the rise and collapse of the alternately colored ranks of cards, in the grateful transpositions and orderly revelations and unexpected redemptions, the circuits of the mind found an occupation exactly congruent with their own secret structure.  The mind was filled with being strained.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Morning

-If anyone wants to bet with me on Obama winning the election, I will give them the Republican field. I will take Obama. And we can bet as much as you want.

-The new season of Downton Abbey has begun.  Through my wife, we have the entire second season on DVD.  Last night we watched the first two episodes.  So far I'd say it's just as good as the first season.  World War I has started.  Matthew is at the front and the aristocratic women of the Abbey have begun to exit their cosseted environs and interact with the wider, working world.  The old characters have come back and a few new ones have entered the fold.  Matthew has a fiancee; the brooding bad-tempered lady's maid, O'Brien, seems to have found a softer side (slightly softer anyway; she still torments a new maid who gets above her station with a host of made-up chores); and Bates, as usual, is making honorable sacrifices for the good of the household.  The Bates storyline, so far, is my least favorite--can't we just let the man have a little happiness?--but that's a small criticism.  This season looks as good as the last.

-Two hours yesterday of American History, on the founding of the Colonies all the way through the Revolution.  This after I spent the weekend reading about Teddy Roosevelt, Progressivism, and the First World War.  Oh well.  I mostly remembered what we were doing.  The US was founded by Greek merchants, I think.  And Egyptologists looking for alien ruins.  Then, we fought against Libya and founded a new nation, using a constitution we'd stolen wholecloth from Erasmus.  That may not be completely accurate but it's close enough for a high school student.

I shouted several times at the TV while watching the game last night.  Am I ridiculous to believe we have a shot to beat the Ravens?  If we do, we could get home field advantage back for the AFC Championship (if the Steelers end up as our opponent, that is).  Man, it's been a long time since I watched a sporting contest and actually CARED who won.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"A Community Needs A Dojo"

This New Year's Eve, some friends introduced me to this video.  It starts funny and gets, uhm, awesome.  Maybe there are still great bands around?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 2: Tidbits

-Did you know in Britain, instead of 'tidbits' they say 'titbits?'  We Yanks changed it because we thought 'titbits' was too suggestive.  You did know that, didn't you?  Does everyone?  I don't know.  This is what happens when you work with fifteen year olds.  You start to lose sight of what is common knowledge.

-I lost ten pounds in the last half of last year.  My goal for this year is to lose ten more.  I'm going to try and increase my walking distance to a minimum of four miles, and my running distance to three.  Yesterday I ran 2.3 miles; for me that's pretty long.  I'll keep adding over the next few months.  By April I want to be at three miles per run.

-My weekend playoff predictions: Saints, Steelers, Texans and Giants.  I'm picking the Texans out of personal bias; I doubt I have enough distance and objectivity on the situation to think about it rationally (I would never bet on that game, for example).  The Giants are my playoff sleeper team.  They're incredibly erratic but when they play well they can play VERY well.  Last week against the Cowboys they looked great.  If they can keep going like that for the next few weeks, I predict they make it to the NFC Championship.

-One more football prediction: as long as Jerry Jones runs the team, the Cowboys will never win another Super Bowl.

-Also (last football thing), how does Norv Turner still have a job?  I don't get it.

-Reading goal for the next month: ten pages of Herodotus a day.  I'm also going to start reading some of my Christmas books.  Not sure where that will start.

-Date night tonight.  Then, back to the tutoring grind.  I have to help someone prep for a US History test tomorrow.  It's been almost a year since I helped someone study US History so I'll have to spend the afternoon rereading my old High School textbook.  Then, I'll focus the whole lecture on US monetary policy in the 1880s.  Nothing kids like more than bimetallism, or learning about the Gold Standard.  And nothing that I like more explaining!  (Actually, I do like bimetallism.  But then, who doesn't?)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I'm Back!

And committed, once more, to posting every day for the next month.  I'd challenge my friends and allies to do the same.

For today, an excerpt from The Vertigo Years, by Philipp Blom, a book about the experience of living in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century--about the emotional and intellectual instability and, at times, madness that pervaded European culture in the years before World War I.  Highly recommended.

(This is for my brother).
Speed and energy--not always well directed--were declared the watchwords of the day.  So universal was the feeling of pressure that the respected and conservative paper Deutsche Rundschau could run a story about a high-school boy who had contracted a fatal meningitis from learning the gerundive of the Latin verb amare (to love).  One has to admire the journalist for finding a story that included all ingredients: the rigidity of society represented by the school, the pressure of having to work hard in order to get on, and the devastating confusion resulting from any confrontation with sex--even or especially in the gerundive.