Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Report

I ended up having a pleasant, if extremely low-key Christmas holiday.

The week before Christmas is the darkest of the year, plus I had the stomach flu, plus everyone was still in school and had a million parties and end of year activities to organize, and the combination of all this probably wore me down more than it would have even a few years ago.

I didn't eat while I had the stomach flu for four days and lost nine pounds, which put me down to 216, which is the lightest I had been in many years. Since I recovered of course I have been eating a little more regularly and am back up to 220. However I have been having smaller portions, not having seconds, not eating late at night, so hopefully I will be able to keep this up and be able to hold at this weight or even work myself down a little more. Of course the big test is when I become depressed again, which will probably be within a few weeks.

New Year's Eve is still to come, and I am looking forward to it, as I always do, as the last gasp of Christmas. It has become fashionable to dislike this day, and I suppose it has some structural flaws, but in recent years I have tried to embrace it, have a little party at home, play some games. I suppose it appears more attractive once you have resigned yourself to a modest life in which nothing spectacular or scintillating will never happen, and can sense the approach of your own death. That clinging to Christmas for another four or five hours every year comes to have some appeal.

I am ridiculous in my adaptation of technology. I got an MP3 player as my gift this year. I have finally decided to give up on playing CDs in the car because almost all the songs skip after about five plays, and I am hoping this will work better. Also I am hoping I can download some podcasts from the internet and listen to them (I think you can do this) because this is something I simply do not have time to do at home.

We went to Odiorne Point State Park near Portsmouth on Sunday. We walked along the rocks by the sea for about an hour but then it started to pour rain (if you saw highlights of the Patriots-Buffalo football game last weekend you have an idea of the weather). They have a little science center there where we we able to take refuge. It is the sort of small scale museum I like, cheap (around $20 for all seven of us to get in), simple displays, not too much to take in. I think they had six fish tanks for example. They had two blue lobsters, which are exceedingly rare, one in 500,000 I think. They are the same species as regular lobsters, just a few have this coloring, which I had not known. I also learned that there used to be vacation homes all over the point where the park is, but the Navy seized them during World War II and built fortifications to protect the nearby Naval Yard. I'm not sure why the land was not returned to the former owners after the war but it wasn't. Evidently nobody very important had a place there. After this we went to Pizza Hut in the dark, with the rain pouring down, all of which took me back to my high school days in Maine. My wife commented that the same music was playing the last time she was in Pizza Hut--in 1989.

With all of our children if we do go out we usually have to go to pizza places because you can order in bulk (the pizza) and have them share it rather than everyone having to order his own meal. This works at Chinese restaurants too, though some of the children will only eat chicken fingers.

We have snow, currently about four inches with a top coating of slush from last night's rain/snow mix that is now frozen into a crust with the drop in temperatures--currently 8 degrees, going down to -1. We had a white Christmas, which we have here 90% of the time, though last year we did not.

My writing is really in a (distraction--completely forgot the adjective I was going to put in here) state. I am muddling, muddling, muddling through. Got to go for tonight. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Golden Age of Hollywood 1939-1942

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

I had seen this ten or fifteen years ago. It did not seem as good to me as I had remembered. It is very talky, and not in the way that moves the story along. It is also darker (as in shadowy), quieter--there is no music in large parts of it, if there is any at all-- and more claustrophobic than I had remembered. Also the circumstance that the film ends abruptly in the middle of the story, given that it does have a story, and that the story is not incidental to its execution, is a problem that I cannot seem to wave off as easily as I must have before. It still might have been one of the all time greats if it had been completed, though it would have been awfully long and ponderous. I am not as high on it as I used to be however.

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Celebrated John Ford tearjerker that won the Best Picture Oscar over Citizen Kane but was so great in its own right that cinephiles do not complain much about this decision. I had never seen it before. I like it, it's very good, and several times it came close to causing the swell in my bosom and welling up in my eye that I had feared. As I often find to be the case with John Ford however, perhaps because the expectations for his films have been raised so high, I found myself thinking that as good and well laid out as the movie was, that it could have been still better, or at least could have gone for the full pathos or sentimental effect, and did not. The opening scene, for example, I felt would have made more of an impact incorporated into the ending. At other times he went for humor instead of pathos, which humor hasn't really aged well. This is my take as someone who was especially looking forward to seeing this and eager to like it. I do like it, but not as much as other people do.

It has been noted by most astute commentators that even though the characters are nominally Welsh, Ford essentially depicts them as if they are Irish, which he was by ancestry, and his parents by birth. The repressed love between Maureen O'Hara and the priest even when she was being courted by the son of the factory owner was a pleasing example of the Irish romantic sensibility. Marrying for wealth, or the potential of wealth, does not seem to be as developed an instinct among Irish girls, even pretty ones, as it is among women of other nationalities. The immortal quote "I'd rather cry in the back of a Mercedes than laugh on the back of a bicycle" that appeared in the New York Times report on the dating situation in China a few years back is not a sentiment that seems to be as widely held among Irish women. Even after marrying the wealthy man she did not love and moving into the mansion and having a taste of life with servants and other luxuries the beautiful Angharad (Maureen) is still pining for the priest, who is a good man, but is not exactly a fiery take-charge type, unless prompted heavily. Not to mention that he lives in the dingy rooms appropriate to his station. But for all that I didn't think it was an unrealistic portrayal.

How Green Was My Valley, like a lot of classic films from this time, was based upon a book that was a huge bestseller in its day that has been forgotten. This one even won the (U.S.) National Book Award in 1940. The author was Richard Llewellyn, whom I had never heard of before this. I suspect the book is not half bad, and probably better than the movie in some ways.

The Letter (1940)

William Wyler directed movie starring Bette Davis based on a story by Somerset Maugham and set in colonial era Singapore. These are all points in its favor. It's the most smoothly classical of the classic Hollywood films in this group, or at least it has the most sophisticated veneer. Murder, adultery, expat Brits, cynical, plotting natives, fairly crisp, literary dialogue, The plot is nothing spectacular but the Maughamian atmosphere is conveyed well enough to hold one's interest, the acting and direction are first-rate, and Bette Davis, who is still young here (she would have been 31 or 32) does have a kind of mesmerizing quality, especially when considering that she is playing a stone-cold murderess in this movie. She looks to have been rather small, as actresses. I had not known either that she was a New Englander (Massachusetts). She described herself as her first screen test, when fifteen men had to lie on top of her and give her a passionate kiss, as the 'most yankee-est, most modest virgin who ever walked the earth" (Wikipedia). It sounds like she was able to overcome this Yankee prudery as her career progressed however.

Take Me Back to Oklahoma (1940)

This is what I would assume is a B-movie, Saturday afternoon matinee, what have you. The production values are a shock after seeing the three above films. It is like being dragged back to the early silent period. I wanted to get into the spirit of this, which features the singing cowboy Tex Ritter, his sidekick Arkansas Slim, a singing group called the Texas Playboys who are not unversed in the use of firearms either, and some non-musical bad guys who want to take over, preferably by violent means, the only on the level coach line left in the west. It was just a little too goofy and raw for me however. It is only 60 minutes long.

Destry Rides Again (1939)

Another odd western, starring Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, who is the current old star that is all of the sudden turning up all over the place on my list. It's got some entertaining parts to it, and I thought it was mildly interesting for a while, but it kind of lost me towards the end. I think I was tired, and maybe I should have tried to watch the ending a second time. Marlene Dietrich's character, I have to confess, was more trashy than I really have a taste for, especially at this point of my life, and while I like the idea of Jimmy Stewart as an even-keeled, law-revering, use the guns only as a last resort sheriff in the midst of a world wholly composed of morally corrosive hotheads, it doesn't strike me as very plausible. The lawlessness of the town at the beginning of the movie was one of the most extreme examples of what that would mean that I have seen in a film. That was one superlative thing about it.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Post of December 23. Exercise of Ploughing Through, Frustration With Machine

I recently obtained several bags of discarded books from a school library where I live. I would be tempted not to accept these castoffs of a bygone time and way of approaching knowledge if it were at all clear to me that the new methods are in any way identical, if not superior. However, as my wife actually picked out these books, the haul was pretty good, a lot of high school classics and middle-aged novels that I have heard of but that aren't as famous as they once were. So we kept them, except for one book by the apparently disgraced Greg Mortenson that we have for the time being donated to the camp in Vermont. It is a good-looking hardcover, beautiful jacket, etc, and the idea that it is in some part a fabrication and a scam somehow makes it more interesting to me than when I thought it was about another energetic and determined overachiever accomplishing incredible things and single-handedly bringing light to places where none had penetrated for ages, which naysayers like me did not believe could be done.

The main point of interest about this set of books however is three of them came attached with warning labels that seem mildly ludicrous if one has never seen such a thing before.

On Humans and Animals, a 1980 anthology of magazine articles belonging to a series called The Reference Shelf (contributors included Sir Kenneth Clark and Richard Adams, as well as James Fallows and Nicholas Wade, whom I had not realized were so old, the reader is advised that:

"This book contains information that is between 10 and 20 years old. However it still has value, especially if it is used for comparative purposes."

There is no indication however on what exactly may be outdated, and who is making the determination that the book still has value, and on what grounds.

The next book that required a disclaimer was Franklin D Roosevelt and the Age of Action--ed. Alfred B Rollins, Jr (1960):

"This document contains dated and possibly incorrect information. However it is considered to be an important work in this field. Please use it with care."

This one is a masterpiece. "Possibly" strikes me as the vital word, but "dated" is good too. And the heartfelt urgency of the final admonishment seems almost out of place in this age. Glancing over the book it looks like pretty much a general survey of the period referenced, in the old style, by and about people who had in fact lived through the entire era. The question I guess is, can information be dated but at the same time correct?

My favorite warning was that for Colin M. Turnbull's Man In Africa: From Cairo to the Cape of Good Hope (1976):

"This is considered to be an important, seminal work within the subject area. However, you must (italics not mine) review current literature in order to have an accurate understanding of the issues."

I guess these statements are not wholly contradictory, though they would seem to indicate that Colin M. Turnbull, who was a pretty famous anthropologist, did not possess the accurate understanding of the issues that awaits the high school student who keeps up with the current research. I cannot find much information about what might be wrong with this particular book online, apart from the author's apparent belief in a power unity that binds all African cultures, 'one that may link them to Black Americans'. Turnbull was white (English-born), as well as flamboyantly gay, especially by the standards of his generation, taking part in a marriage ceremony with his partner in the 1950s. I don't know what this has to do with anything, but it is noted in most accounts of him on the internet. My guess is, his books combined a lot of interesting and important observations in the field, along with some theories that are a little too far out, or even mildly kooky by today's standards, to gain a wide acceptance.

Pretty persuasive essay about the decline of college here. The more stuff like this I read, the more I have to concede that maybe it really isn't worth getting that excited about anymore, if you aren't one of the 1,000 or so genuinely brilliant students in the country (I've seen other claims that there are less than 100 high school seniors in any given year in the entire country who are regarded as having meaningful intellectual talent by the colleges, who are of course well aware of who these students are, but even I am a little skeptical of this) or your parents don't have nine-figure net worth. I'm sure all of my children will still go to whatever version of it exists in 10-15 years, and most of them will probably finish and probably a few of them will even acquire professions or skills of some kind. I have an idea of college, and education generally, slowly being disabused, that is stuck in the 1950s or 1960s, with a few concessions to the realities of the 1980s perhaps, to which very few schools that most people attend now bear any resemblance. This includes the way that it is financed.

Now that I have a free hour to try to finish this post which should have taken twenty minutes to begin with, my machine is working slowly, my words appearing at a remove of some seconds after I have typed them.

The same author who wrote the college article above also recently wrote another article, which I cannot now find, in which he chastises supposed progressives for, primarily, not being angrier and bringing some heat to bear in the current national economic debate, or non-debate, as this writer, Frank, sees it. He referred in the piece to generational theory, which he called false, and accused many who longed for a juster order of taking a phony solace in the belief that the passage of time, rather than aggressive opposition to the powerful now, will miraculously produce solutions to our current problems. I suppose it could be said that I belong to the group that puts some stock in the generational theory, mainly because it is obvious that trends which are in some sense subject to volatility, good or bad, cannot go on forever, and especially if such a trend is the cause of widespread dissatisfaction through a society, it seems very likely that only so many years can pass before the matter is brought to some kind of head. This is not to say that a lot of hardship and terrible things will not occur when this happens, or that there is any guarantee that the end result, when the fury of the crisis will have exhausted itself, will not be even greater domination by the financial-cognitive elite and de facto serfdom for everyone else. It is, however, an opportunity for the kinds of corrections and major changes of policy that many desire to be enacted which should come if the desire for it is what it is said to be. I do agree, however, that the intellectual/rhetorical force on behalf of the common man has not been as committed or strong as that of capital, and that it will need to become so if anything is to change...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Music Videos, Depression, Christmas in the 1960s and Even Some Pat Boone!

I never thought I would become that cranky middle-aged man who dreaded the approach of Christmas as too burdensome in its expense and other obligations to be enjoyable anymore. For about three days, including most of this past weekend, I seemed to have become that person however. I was not excited about Christmas, or much else in what remained of life for that matter. I was even getting agitated at the thought that my children would likely wake up at 5:30 on Christmas day and I would not be able to go back to bed the whole long morning because that would not be in the 'spirit' of the holiday. Even this morning when I woke up I was still depressed and unenthusiastic about anything with regard to my situation or anything that loomed in the day ahead. The weather did not look any too promising for relieving ennui either, though it was the sort of day I had liked when I was younger--approximately 28 degrees and overcast with occasional snow showers, the earth covered with about a inch of snow from the previous day--however as the day went on I found I felt a little better. I read a chapter of the 19th century warhorse classic novel that I am re-reading, which always cheers me, and then I went outside and shoveled the walk and built three rows of an igloo, which was not my first choice of activities but it seemed to have a good effect on my general mood. The day was calm, and no great costs arose or had to be immediately addressed in the course of it, which I probably needed as well.

I am almost ready to play some Christmas videos.

"Silent Night"--(Deanna Durbin) 

From Lady On a Train. The attitude of the camerawork and the circumstance of her lolling on a luxurious bed singing this particular song were mildly scandalous in 1945.

"Christmas Waltz" (1968) "Silver Bells" (1959)

I haven't put up any Lennon Sisters videos since February. But I have been saving these. The above clip is from (I believe) a Bing Crosby Christmas Special. You see what could happen when they were able to get away from Lawrence Welk and work with some real Hollywood hairstylists, makeup artists and fashion experts. I think it can be admitted that they are a little ravissantes here. I've spent much of my life in places (New England; St John's) where the women are considered by the greater world to be, on average, uglier than in other places. There is a joke in New England about trying to describe your own or somebody else's girlfriend's looks in a favorable light by saying, "She's a Vermont ten, a New Hampshire nine, and a Maine three hundred". That said, there are of course plenty of women even in these places who are plenty attractive, but it is true that in most instances these do not maximize their potential for strikingness of look with regards to wardrobe, makeup, and so on not merely on a daily basis, but much more than a handful of times in their entire lives. I of course find this kind of endearing, as I can hardly identify with the kinds of people who are to some extent glammed up all the time, but I also take a certain pleasure in someone I consider to be coming from where I'm coming from in this regard to show that they can look more conventionally or glamorously beautiful.

I had wanted to put a version of this up several years ago, but it was taken down, and seems to have returned only recently. This is another non-Lawrence Welk appearance (the Welk show at this time was not in color) but still being young and in the 50s, the girls remain in character. When Dianne gives the gift-bearing man a kiss on the cheek at the end of the second song, i thought, if that were me I probably would have had a heart attack. Like other mid-20th century, secular Christmas Songs ("Christmas Waltz", "Marshmallow World"), that the Lennons do especially endearing versions of, this is one of my favorite Christmas songs, probably in part because I feel like it is not played to death, and never has been.

"Sleigh Ride" (1963)

There is another group of older songs that I don't recall ever hearing on the radio in the 70s and 80s that since sometime in the 90s have become extremely popular and are in danger of being played to death. This is one; "Santa Baby" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" are two others of this class that come immediately to mind. When I was at college, there was a guy on my floor who had the Phil Spector Christmas Album and played it regularly during the revelrous few weeks of the season when you are still at school (we didn't have exams at our school, so the opportunity for parties, dinners, egg nog tastings, etc, of a universal nature was considerably expanded). Never having heard any of the songs, I declared to somebody, whether the owner of the record or someone else I don't remember, "this is great", and the other person replied, "Yes. Everybody loves the Wall of Sound". But now everybody knows this record and this year especially I sense that "Sleigh Ride" is being overplayed, which ultimately kills the pleasing effect of the song.

As you can probably tell, my idea of Christmas is, and probably always will be, rooted in the ever receding 1960s, even though I wasn't alive in that time. But most of the Christmases of my childhood, being spent mostly at my grandparents' houses, were stylistically reprisals of Christmas as it had been in 1965 with only slight changes that did not begin to become noticeable at all until the late 80s; the same artificial tree, the same ornaments, the same door decorations, the same music, the same candy dishes, etc and etc. Neither of my grandparents' households contained much in the way of books, so my idle time was passed looking endlessly through the old photo albums that were deposited in the cabinets of all the endtables, which were heavily weighted towards the legendary Christmases of the years immediately predating my birth, before the old neighborhood broke up and various of the riotous neighbors had moved away and Wild Uncle Bill had had his unfortunate coronary at age 46, and the witty, endlessly entertaining family friend who looked just like James Joyce had had his embarrassing embezzlement scandal and ceased to come around anymore. These larger than life characters had been replaced by me, a neurotic eight year old with thick glasses, and my mother, who in 1970s party people terms was kind of like Karen Carpenter without any singing or entertainment component at all. As you can imagine, things were not what they had been. But I still like to think I was able to absorb something of the flavor of the time, at second hand.   

"Love Letters in the Sand" (Pat Boone)

So we're getting away from the Christmas theme a little bit. I am not a Pat Boone fan, although I do like this song. When I was young of course, Pat Boone was widely regarded as the most awful person in the history of music, primarily because he was a soulless white guy who made millions of dollars by ripping off black geniuses, who never got to make the money that was rightfully theirs (This is an aside, but whenever I read some lament about genius musicians who are living in poverty while Pat Boone and various oleaginous record producers are the lords of financial empires looted from the work of these impoverished geniuses, I always wonder why the National Endowment of the Arts or some similar body cannot at least provide some kind of pension to these contributors to the cultural life of the nation similar to that which Samuel Johnson received from the Crown. The obvious answer is that King of England could decide arbitrarily to give one guy a pension and not another, and that was the final word on the matter, while in our system the fighting over who deserved the money and who didn't, and how much was just and so on wold be neverending. But it seems like somebody could have set up a private foundation at some point to try to address this issue that everyone indignantly complains about but are apparently impotent to resolve). Anyway, I've always been mildly fascinated with Pat Boone, for the hatred he inspires among a certain type of person for being more or less like me and 90% of the people I know. He is goofier and more discomfiting than the people I know because he is comparatively unselfconsciousness about who he is and what he represents and how repulsive that is to basically everyone who is cool, but I recognize the instinct.

One of the comments on this video--Pat Boone videos draw a lot of heated commentary, because of what he symbolizes and the emotions this produces--began "I am a 57 year old black man, and I love Pat Boone." It could be trolling, but I actually think it is real, because the guy went on to talk about being a Christian and so on. It is just funny, because it is the sort of thing the Official Narrative had always led me to believe could never happen. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Vivien Grey II

1. Stock character of (Euro?) literature--the impish dwarf/(unintelligible word) feather ruffler. Where is this type now?

2. Loveliness of Ems noted. I like to record these things.

3. p.157. "Her features were like those conceptions of Grecian sculptors which, in moments of despondency, we sometimes believe to be ideal."

4. Not much differentiation between characters, flow (flaw?) to (unintelligible word).

5. p. 174. Raptures on outing to Nassau Castle.

6. p. 203. Grey gets off from gambling trap(?) too easily. Not convincing.

7. p. 213. This is a picnic at the end of a long hike. No wonder so many servants were necessary.

8. p.217. White Anglo-Saxons dancing in the woods. Divine.

This picture came up in a search for "white anglo saxons dancing in the woods".

9. p. 227. This book starts to get weird--in a good way--at the castle where the Duke of Johannisberger breaks out the bottle of his namesake liquor. "'And now', continued the Grand Duke, 'having introduced you to all present, sir, we will begin drinking'".

10. Whenever I am reading one of these books and lament that I haven't acted in a situation as a 19th-century German aristocrat would, my wife explains with admirable rationality why we don't need to.

11. Is this a satire on aristocratic custom generally or just Germans? (Germans a popular subject of humor at this time).

12. p. 257. "...at your age, if, in fact, we study at all, we are fond of fancying ourselves moral philosophers, and our study is mankind. Trust me, my dear sir, it is a branch of research soon exhausted; and in a few years you will be very glad, for want of something else to do, to meditate upon stones." He goes on to encourage him to take up geology. "...for the geologist is the most satisfactory of antiquarians, the most interesting of philosophers, and the most inspired of prophets; demonstrating that which has passed by discovery, that which is occurring by observation, and that which is to come by induction." I used to wonder if geology were not one of my lost careers (i.e., something requiring some intelligence that I might have been able to do competently). It seemed like something I could have done when I was young, though everything is so complex and requires so much innovative and restless thinking to be able to contribute to it now that if I had gone into it I probably would not have been able to keep pace with ongoing developments and been obsolete by this point anyway.

13. p.264. I like Beckendorff's periodic sweeps of all 'philosophers' from the royal presence.

14. Sciolist: One who exhibits a pretentious attitude of scholarliness, superficial knowledgeability. I identified with the idea of this word.

15. p. 280. Beckendorff's Italy tip: "Well, then, when either of you go, you will, of course, not miss the Lago Maggiore. Gaze on Isola Bella at sunset, and you will not view so fair a scene as this!"

I have to confess, I don't have a lot to say with regard to the passing of Mandela, whom most thinking people have felt moved to pay their respects to over the past few days. I am not being a contrarian in this instance, I simply have not followed or studied his struggles and the progression of his life enough to have the strength of feeling for him such as other people seem to have. I am certainly persuaded by the general narrative and other superficial impressions that he was a superior and historically important man. I'm suspicious of the depth of sincerity and understanding of many most of his white upper class American admirers with regard to the type of man he was, since they do not seem to me to partake any too strongly, if at all, of the great qualities of which he is supposedly representative, beginning with humility, which admittedly does not come naturally to most people who have gotten anywhere in this society; but I could very well be wrong in this, and besides it has nothing to do with Mandela himself. And I will leave it at this.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Three Brothers (1980)

Do you like this movie? Yes.

What Do You Like About It? It has the expansive, deliberate, unfrenetic, realist, novelistic style that reached its zenith in the 1970s, particularly in Europe. This depiction of consciousness, character, etc, was akin to how I used to experience life myself until I was around twenty-seven or so.

What Do You Dislike About It? Nothing stands out. It is a little unusual in that it sets out a group of characters with very serious problems or crises happening in their lives and kind of leaves it at that, as if to say, these are the pertinent facts of life, and there is no resolution for them, until you grow old and die (or are killed). But when you think about it you realize how foolish you are, not so much to want, but to expect a resolution such that a character will never be troubled by his great problem ever again.

What Do You Love About it? Nothing to that extreme. I like seeing something of the Europe of my childhood and youth that I could still get a little sense of in 1990, but as one of the themes is about how soul-crushing the modern urban lifestyle and economy were even at that time, I was not indulging in the nostalgia too much.

Who is the director? Francesco Rosi. This is the first of his films I have seen. I would say that on the whole he definitely belongs to the old camp (he was born in 1922, and began directing on his own in the 50s) that reached a kind of maturity by the late 60s and 70s. The films of this school are extremely well-made, both technically and in terms the overall coherence of story or theme. They know what they mean to say and want to show, and how they want to say and show it.

What is important about this movie? This movie is interesting because it comes near the end of an era that, unlike similar transitional periods, I don't think as many people on the creative side of the field realized was the end of an era. Or even if they had some sense of this, I don't think they grasped how different even intelligent people's attitudes towards art and artworks, and the manner by which they consumed and related to them would become. For it seems to me in this regard we are a long way from 1980. In Italian film no less than the other major national cinemas the period beginning around 1980 was a watershed time, as the older masters (Fellini, De Sica, Visconti, etc) retired, and the generation that only knew the postwar world rose to prominence. Rosi does address the theme, so prominent especially in this more recent generation, of the native but poor village one has had to leave behind to contribute economically and socially in the modern world, feeble as that contribution is. He does not fully romanticize it, and it is clear that for the most part it is hopeless for any young person to try to make a life there in 1980, but it is also clear that something serious has been lost with this breaking from tradition.

Anything Else. The sophisticated Euro-sex is kept pretty much to a minimum. There is only one of the brothers who is a threat to get it on with anybody. He does, mysteriously to me, have sex with his rather cold ex-wife (though I thought her attractive enough) after a conversation in which I could not detect any hint that she felt anything towards him other than contempt and security in her total superiority. I don't get how we are supposed to know that she still wanted it, or at least was willing to have it. And the beauty of it is, I never will. But you know why, superior reader. You have been there. And you will never forget it.

A Confession. When I was in college I would get a letter every year, or at least twice I got one, from the financial aid office or admissions office or alumni office or some other office informing me that my aid that year was in some part made possible by a very generous gift to the College from a Mr Whitebread Mayonnaise or other from the class of 1929, who was at the time still living in Baltimore, and that it would be appreciated if I would write him a letter of thanks and say something about my studies and my plans for the future and so on. Needless to say I never got around to writing any of these letters. At the time I no doubt forgot about them within fifteen minutes of leaving the mailbox, and I had thought about it once in all of the years since then, until a few weeks ago, when I remembered that I had been asked to do this one polite little thing in return for ten of thousands of money I was being given, and I had completely ignored it, as if it were beneath my contempt even to acknowledge it all. It's something I should have done, and emblematic of all the reasons why my life relative to the greater world amounted to so little as it did.

My wife has a blog now. She is a natural. Her site is for her Greek and Latin classes (substantial and purposeful) and is wholly devoid of narcissism. I can only marvel at the seriousness and restraint, two qualities I have always longed for and never come close to attaining.

No picture with tonight's posting because my computer situation is still a joke. I have two in the room, one of which is crashing every time I log onto the site, the other of which is loading pictures at 1998 speed. I will probably edit one in in a few days, when I can get something working again.