Monday, January 26, 2015

Blog News

I have been away from the site for a couple of weeks because my wife had another baby, and I haven't been organized enough to put up a post about it, even just a few pictures. But things have calmed down enough that I should be able to manage to do that at least.

The baby was a girl (this was known in advance), the second daughter after four boys. I'll be 63 when she graduates from high school, and 75 when she turns 30, if I make it that far. I sure hope all of these children will be all right by then, able to make some kind of life for themselves and so on. The general zeitgeist is so pessimistic about this unless the individual person is both unusually talented and possessed of a superhuman work ethic (I suppose it could be argued it is my duty to instill the superhuman work ethic in them, though I am not really sure what the inner qualities and motivations necessary to drive it consist of). I am not quite so pessimistic about this, first because I kind of have to be, but also simply because beyond a certain point the number of young people with a prayer of achieving any sense of success in life becomes so vanishingly small as to become logically unsustainable. What I mean is that the society will have to re-orient its understanding of what is an acceptable or desirable goal for young people, especially those of above-average brightness, to something that is at least reasonably attainable, if it hopes to reclaim some semblance of sanity. I think that it will do this over the next few decades.

The baby's name is Dorothy Harriet. It was tentatively going to be Harriet Dorothy for about a month until it was born, when some reservations about Harriet emerged. I have always wanted to name a daughter Dorothy, though I do like Harriet too. So far I find I am calling the baby Dodo Bird a lot, but this will probably not persist once the child progresses into the early grades of elementary school.

I am backtracking here to Christmas time, which I missed on the site this year. This is all four of the boys at their grandmother's house.

#1 & #4 visit the hospital. With me. This is probably what I look like most of the time.

Completely spontaneous and unposed picture of Dorothy's first homecoming. This was only a week ago. We've had about two more feet of snow and a seemingly continuous decline in the temperature since then. It is not actually unusual for us to get the amount of snow we have had in the last month, but it is unusual to have these kinds of large storms when it is simultaneously 10 or 15 degrees out (rather than say, 29). That's what has really been the story of the weather, to me.

Obviously this picture of my older (age 3) daughter was too much to pass up.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Movies 1959-1963 (Legendary Ones Too!)

As increasingly happens to me with books, I have hit a snag with regard to my movie watching where I haven't been enjoying it as much lately as I did before. Part of this is that there are always too many other things going on, and I don't have, or don't feel that I have, even an hour in a day that I can take to watch a film or write or do anything I want to do without getting distracted or jittery. The other part is that I have been seeing almost all modern things, modern for me being anything after about 1970, which I rarely like. So having finally gotten back again towards the time period and the accompanying sensibility that I like, and with the next three pictures up on my list iconic and all time popular classics, I had hope that I would get swept up in the spirit of the project again, as seems to have been the case with my reading when I began sprinkling in again novels and plays of the sort that I like, intelligent and funny without being at every instant a test or indictment of my intelligence or other development, among the heavier material that I find I am no longer able to read with any sense of accomplishment or enjoyment. This partially happened. I did feel, in one instance especially and in parts of the other two, that I was experiencing great and significant work, and I could see where at another time and in another psychological state of mind I would have taken to them with real enthusiasm. At the same time I feel at this point so remote from the artistic process and the state of mind in which it flourishes and which is the basis of what most great artworks are about, maybe more so than at any time in my life, that it is hard for me to take up anything that does not belong to the truly remote past, before the adult memory of almost any living person, without feeling sheepish or embarrassed before it. Also at least two of these movies were very long, so that I had to watch them over several nights, and in my current agitated state I was never really being able to settle in to the world which the film inhabited, which is especially important to do with epics.

8 1/2 (1963)

I may have the mind and perception of a child, but I have enough sense to know that this has greatness imprinted on it in just about every frame. This does not require a keen insight, as the movie's status as one of the immortal monuments of the postwar international art cinema has been established almost from the day it came out. It is hard for me to project seriousness, but I do mean it, it's an impressive work. Fellini was a true badness, and this movie is a two hour and eighteen minute. masterfully stylized demonstration of what being that kind of artist consists of. The scene (I was going to say the famous scene, but almost every scene in this is famous) where Mastroianni, who seems to have been a badass of acting in his own right, in his dream, has gathered all of the important women in his life, wives, mistresses, prostitutes, childhood fascinations, actresses and so on, in his childhood home where they cook dinner and bathe him and wrap him up in blankets before they begin to snipe and make accusations and demands, at which he has to drive them back with a whip is one of the most memorable depictions of a properly flourishing male ego that I have seen. But then the set of the spa, both by day and night, where Mastroianni and his entourage have come, nominally to begin work on his next movie, the nightmare of the traffic jam, the dingy railway hotel where he stashes his mistress--these are all wonderful enhancements and understandings of the possibilities of life also. But you knew all that.

It is a sign however of how off I am at the moment that I did not feel much personal emotion or thrill, even of the quieter sort, while watching this, which I usually do when encountering artworks of this stature and caliber. As enumerated above, this has much to stir and raise even the most dormant spirit, but mine does not seem to be capable of being stirred by anything. It even has Claudia Cardinale in 1963 for goodness's sake-- her 1963 is one of those singular years in the history of movies, or anything else, where a woman attains a unique and frankly awesome state of near perfection that is too fragile to hold for more than a few months (Grace Kelly around 1954 comes to me as another example of this phenomenon; no one else is coming immediately to mind in this same way at the moment). But I can't feel that any of this has anything to do with me anymore, and such a thing is to me a kind of indictment or accusation for the obvious reasons that we don't need to go over again. But I hope our culture can continue to produce enough people who possess enough intelligence and spirit to enable the film to survive, that it may speak to people even many generations generations from now and the names and personae of Fellini and Mastroianni and Cardinale and Italy and even Europe will still resonate and have meaning for them. I don't think it is a certainty that they will by any means.

Psycho (1960)

To be honest, I find the story here to be unsatisfying. It doesn't hold together. The characters aren't strong enough. From the 21st century point of view it is wholly implausible that the Bates Motel would not be under 24 hour police surveillance just on principle, though implausibility in itself is not enough to mar an otherwise fascinating tale. There isn't really enough tension or motivation here to interest me.

That said, I find it very watchable. The world of the old U.S. highways with their oddly designed turns and exits, lined by empty spaces or local nature that looks more organic than that along most of the interstates with the occasional sketchy hotel or odd, out of place looking Victorian mansion has largely disappeared in much of the country, namely the more populated parts of it, but where I live the roads are largely still like this. The film was shot on the same lot as Hitchcock's TV series was, and it has the look and feel of television productions from that time, which effect however I like (Inherit the Wind was also filmed on a TV lot around this time, and I noted that I liked this aspect about that movie too). Janet Leigh's muscular, almost strapping, physique caught my attention--it is not a type I associate with this time period. As I begin to move beyond the time of life where I can even pretend that varied experiences of the sensual kind are still realistic possibilities, I have taken more of an interest in the variety of physical body types and attributes than I was want to do in my desperate youth, when I wrote off everything beyond finding someone who was identifiably female from ten feet away and would not be too harsh for my fragile personality to be capable of contending with as luxuries I could not afford. I also like the quiet, slow pace of this movie; it is not that I don't like the frenetic, anything can happen style of Fellini and other artists of his type, but as hardly a day of my life has ever assumed that form, it is always an alien experience for me to try to comprehend. The tone of my day to day life is, unfortunately, a hell of a lot closer to Norman Bates's than it is to that of any character in a Fellini movie. Anyway, the main thrust is there are many things about Psycho that I like, I just think the plot misses in some way. I missed the Hitchcock cameo as I always do. I haven't bothered to look up where it was--what's the point of that? The game is to find it on your own.

This guy is not me. Seriously.

Ben-Hur (1959)

I was a little piqued when this came up. It is certainly legendary, and won a chariotful of Oscars, which kinds of movies I find I usually enjoy, provided they are old enough. I also had not seen anything of this kind, namely an old Hollywood studio epic set in ancient times, in a while, and I thought that might be something that could revive my sense of enjoyment of life, which effect watching and reading depictions of Roman-era fighting, torture, injustice and so on often inspires in me.

I had seen it. or some of it at least, when I was around eleven, and while various of the more vivid scenes, i.e. the slave galley and the chariot race, had imprinted themselves on my memory, my ability to follow the story had been hindered by my complete lack at that time of any background in either religion or ancient history. I may have recognized that the unnamed man who gives Ben Hur water when the slave caravan passes through his village is supposed to be Jesus, but how that otherwise fit into the story would have been beyond me. The emphasis on Ben Hur's being a Jew would also have meant little to me at that time other than as a signal that he was probably going to be treated unfairly (i.e., I don't think I was clear at the time what 'being Jewish' meant either in a religious or racial sense). Other aspects of the plot had been confusing to me as well. Seeing as my understanding of some of this background matter has improved somewhat in the ensuing 34 years, I anticipated a much heightened viewing of the movie this time around.

Ben-Hur has its moments, though the three hour and forty-two minute running time is a bit excessive, given that the major episodes in the plot, extended though some of them are, are really not that numerous. There is a lot of dead time waiting around for the highlights. After the chariot race there are still forty or so minutes left, which are given over mainly to Ben Hur's finding his mother and sister in the leper colony and the last days and passion of Jesus Christ. It may have been good, but by that point in the movie my concentration was gone. I assume Ben-Hur must have converted to Christianity at the end, but I do not remember the scene or announcement when he did this, which is kind of embarrassing.

The logistics of showing this in the theater in some noweheresville American town, or even a place like Brattleboro or Concord, in 1959 are of interest to me. Unemployment in those days was like 2% and nothing stays open past 10pm even now so during the week they must have had to start the show around 6pm sharp, and with intermission they'd be lucky to be done by ten o'clock. It was a full night's outing, or afternoon if you went to the matinee. I suppose I only find it fascinating because I feel like I haven't had an evening, or a four hour block of time in which to do anything, sit in a beer garden or whatever, in years, and so I assume no one does such things anymore.

Burt Lancaster (as well as Marlon Brando) was offered the role of Ben Hur before it descended upon Charlton Heston, which only strengthens my theory that you could not keep Burt Lancaster out of classic movies in the late 50s and early 60s, unless he kept himself out of them.

Ben Hur's sister was played by Cathy O'Donnell, who was Wilma, the girlfriend/wife of the amputee in The Best Years of Our Lives, which was also directed by William Wyler. I had never seen her, or noticed her, in any other part. Ben-Hur turned out to be her last film.

I have to admit that I kind of like Charlton Heston. He was really a man of his generation, which is pretty much gone for good now, including him, though he was active in an often outrageous, frequently hilarious and to me somewhat endearing way up to the early 2000s. Of course as one of the last visible and combative elders of the World War II generation the ever obnoxious baby boomers were sniping at him to the very end, at which point he had alzheimer's and probably didn't know what he was saying half the time. I'm sure he was a more genial man to talk to in person than most baby boomers of similar stature would be. Though he became famous late in his life as a right wing caricature, he did not vote for a Republican presidential candidate until Nixon in 1972 when he was nearly fifty years old, which was an election when a lot of people of roughly his age decided things had gone a bit far and switched side. He did not officially register as a Republican and become the activist on their behalf that he is thought of as now until he was in his 60s. I suspect that in the 2030s, when I am 64 or so, I will appear to younger people to be the embodiment of a conservative reactionary, they'll regard me as Samuel Johnson regarded the old Puritans who were still hanging around scowling at everybody when he was a boy. I hope it doesn't happen, but we've all seen that old men, especially if things have always gone along pretty well for them in life, don't as a group take much to change, which eventually comes to some point that they just can't go across.    

The next five star movie on the list is the cartoon Aladdin, which I am not going to watch. It is not a favorite of my children, though they saw it once, or the older ones did, a few years back, and what I saw of it I didn't like. So I am recording it as done here.

The incident from Ben-Hur that made the greatest impression on me was the part during the chariot race when Messala, who has by that point long established himself as the embodiment of Roman tyranny and cruelty for the sake of cruelty, lays off from lashing his horses for a moment and in a furious rage begins to lash Ben Hur, his childhood best friend whom he has already sent to the galleys for three years, with the intention that he never return. I was struck by the capacity that Messala had to hate another man that much for what appeared to me at the time no apparent reason, because I did not understand the exchange in the beginning when Ben-Hur refuses to sell out his people to give smoother sailing to Messala's political ambitions. It seemed something worth noting to me.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Battle of the Broadcasting Erins

I need to get some quick copy in here while waiting for the appearance of my next important think piece. I do have a few new posts up on my spinoff blog dedicated primarily to the nostalgic feelings aroused in me by old books and literature. It has an appropriately miniscule readership, so anyone going there will immediately be one of the elect, after a fashion.

Of course there is no actual battle here. That is entirely the creation of my fancy. Doubtless if these two seasoned professionals met they would embrace cordially and agree that they would never let that silly Bourgeois Surrender pit them against each other.

For some time now when I have a fifteen minute break at my work I often go and sit in an empty meeting room in the dark and watch television. There is never anything on that interests me, but I'll still sit there and flip through the channels figuring there must be some cute girls on somewhere, if nothing else. In spite of supposedly knowing better I find some of the Duggar girls to be cute (the ones old enough to get married, obviously), so I've watched five or ten minutes of that show a few times. Their lifestyle and belief system would not be my ideal, but evidently they have some qualities I find appealing. I assume they fit in much better in Arkansas than they would in the east, where there is a lot of company it would be problematic to bring them into. They are not in themselves weird in the least; if anything, they are the very product that the culture they grew up in desired them to be, and the projection of that inner sense of success probably contributes to my perceiving them as attractive. It is the people who end up completely at odds and unable to connect with their own native environment that develop the most characteristics of pure weirdness.

There was another night, however, when I noticed that the woman doing the news, or some kind of news-driven program, on CNN was more than usually attractive to me. I lingered for a minute or so and moved on, as the topic on the show was terrorists or racism or immigration or some other subject that never gets resolved or even produces interesting conversation on television. But afterwards I came across the same lady on a few other occasions and thought each time 'she is really quite pretty', I made a point of finding out her name so that I could at least look her up on the Internet. This proved to be *Erin Burnett*, which is a very good 90s-era liberal arts girl kind of name. I could relate to that. Of course the substance of her interviews with leading experts on major international financial and political events was always so far above where my mind was in the moment that I never even bothered trying to analyze or otherwise make sense of it.

Erin Burnett seems to be an identifiable representative of the .01 percent, certainly of the northeast meritocracy division of that club. She grew up in Maryland (albeit on the eastern shore, which is not a region at the white hot center of the production of these kinds of people), went to a boarding school in Delaware and to Williams College, in my lifetime always considered one of the only real contenders (out of a field of about three) for the title of American's best liberal arts college. She got a job at Goldman Sachs, and not as a secretary either, right out of school before getting into television, it seems through connections acquired through the Goldman Sachs job. Seeing what is at the end of that gauntlet, socially, of trampling all the competitors of your generation for admission to the best schools, the best graduate programs, the best internships, the best jobs, in traveling and athletic prowess and financial acumen, is interesting to me. I don't know these people at all naturally, though I admit that if the king were to tell young me before I set out to try to achieve something worthwhile that my reward on coming back successful would be the best-looking (or even the second or third best-looking) girl on the Williams College field hockey team, I would have been pretty pleased with that prospect without even needing to know who the person was as an individual. And it will always be curious to clueless people that individual persons not of immediately obvious and overwhelming superiority should occupy particular positions at such commanding heights, and to possess a value in monetary terms that would appear impossible of attainment to most onlookers.

Erin Burnett acts out the course of her life trajectory vis-a-vis the author 

Here are the students of Williams College on the annual day when they hike their mountain. They don't look that intimidating, but nearly all of them will make their way to being high end adults. Not too many of them are very fat either. From what I have seen of other top schools in my neck of the woods (Dartmouth, Middlebury, Bates, Bowdoin) they seem to do some kind of screening to weed out fat people, and the slovenly and unkempt in general. Coming from St John's, the total absence of this element (which includes a lot of highly intelligent people, by the way) on these campuses strikes one immediately.

For all that I don't really 'like' Erin Burnett all that much, though my response to her indicates to me that her type is representative of one of the especially important missing pieces of my youthful experience and attempts to participate actively in Life, the paucity of success in which I have never been able to overcome. Also I can only take her show in very small doses. Fortunately her program often runs opposite The New Hampshire Chronicle on WMUR-TV channel 9, an ABC affiliate that is New Hampshire's only non-PBS broadcast station. One of the stars of the Chronicle, and also WMURs news anchor, keeping us informed on a nightly basis of all the crimes, fires, car crashes, wild animal incursions and other perils of living in the Granite State, is Erin Fehlau, the other half of our battling Erins. In contrast to Erin Burnett's nightly powwows with potentates of finance and government policy breaking down the state of the world, Erin Fehlau, in her NH Chronicle incarnation, travels around to the hidden corners of our tiny state visiting apple farms and outposts of the Appalachian Mountain Club. It is truly a Main Street versus Wall Street confrontation.

Erin Burnett was born in 1976, and Erin Fehlau in 1973, the same year as my wife. 1973 was a great year for women, though the vintage is a rare one, 1973 being the year with the lowest total number of births in the United States of any since 1945, and the only one in which the total number of births dropped below 3 million (by comparison, the current number is around 3.9 million, and it was over 4 million in the years before the recession). I was born in 1970; the birth rate crashed noticeably in 1972, bottomed out in '73, and remained low all the way through the remainder of the decade. Like many men, since I was and remain fairly immature it was evident from a fairly early point that if I were ever going to get any women they were going to have to be from one of the younger age cohorts--age cohorts that turned out to be considerably smaller than my own, causing a squeeze in the competition for these ladies. I have always clung to the theory that this shrunken pool of women in the key years for my fishing for them was a leading cause of my restricted success in getting to date many of them. Because even admitting my many shortcomings, I am still far enough above the true average in most areas that I should have been able to do a little better than I did.

Like most successful people in New Hampshire, Erin Fehlau actually grew up in Massachusetts. I wonder if there is any other state in the union where the majority of the most prominent citizens originate not only from another state, but from one particular state, as if it were a de facto colony of that state. I guess Vermont seems to largely run by people from New York (Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders, Ben & Jerry; J.D. Salinger, ever the contrarian, managed to end up in New Hampshire, though the town where he lived was right across the river from Vermont, and is culturally more like that state), and I suspect there is a state or two in the west that has been taken over by settlers or refugees from California. Whatever native talent there is in New Hampshire usually finds it necessary to leave. Anyway Erin Fehlau went to Syracuse, which (along with Northwestern) is a school people actually go to to study how to be in television media. She has three children (Erin Burnett, though she is married to a Wall Street trader who presumably has genes nearly as spectacular as hers are, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars to boot, has just one, which lends credence to my theory that people who perceive that they have attained kind of maximization or perfection of their genetic potential do not feel as great a need to have children as people who do not think they have done this). I actually know very little about her, and I don't even have much of an idea of how smart she is, but I enjoy seeing her on television, she doesn't annoy me, and I think she is cute, so she must have some kind of brains going for her.

This guy plays 'rhythm bones'. Sounds like something you could make a joke out of. Erin F. was intrigued enough to put him on her show.

Erin F with a retro 80s hairstyle. Still cute. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Notes on Dead End Reading

The Pilgrimage to Parnassus; The Return from Parnassus (c. 1598-1602)

A series of plays put on at St John's College, Cambridge around the end of the Elizabethan period, as part of their Christmas festivities, though they are not about Christmas. They are about a couple of students who decide to make their way in the world as poets, and the predictable indifference, humiliation, and poverty that befall them when they set out to do this. There is some comfort in being reminded that the problem of impractical young people with liberal arts degrees leaving school without any prospects for obtaining an income, nor any realization of how one might ever go about developing any did not just spring up in the last 20 years. Maybe these kinds of schools, which ironically seem to be most emotionally necessary as a pleasant refuge during youth from the otherwise pitiless business of real life for the less successful of their graduates, will continue to sputter along in some form, in spite of even the most well-meaning, though mistaken efforts to kill them off and spare these more hopeless graduates from what is perceived to be the source of all of their perceived subsequent misery.

The plays themselves are hard going at times to read--I guess they have not been edited so as to be made intelligible to modern readers, assuming that can be done, and there are lots of references to people and inside jokes and slang that doubtless meant something to the assembled audience but can signify nothing to me. There are numerous references to contemporary as well as historical English poets (i.e. Chaucer), including Shakespeare, which accounts in some part for its historical interest. Shakespeare is identified only as a poet and the author of the Rape of Lucrece and Venus and Adonis. His plays I did not notice as being referenced at all, though even by 1598 a good part of the comedies and histories would already have been written.

It could be interesting if it could be made more intelligible, I guess, though even most of the experts seem to be of the opinion that only the middle play (the first part of The Return) contains any real literary value.

Philippics--Cicero (44-43 B.C.)

This was the first Cicero I had ever read, and I am well into my forties. My education has been light on the Romans, so he is not the last of them that I have yet to read either (all in translation, of course, which I know scarcely counts anyway). These writings, being purportedly the transcripts of orations, are much different in tone from those of other classical authors with which I am familiar, having much more raw agitation and hostility in them. Of course Cicero here is an active partisan politician who has to sway the wavering opinions of, if not precisely a mob, a body of senators. I suppose I was expecting the style of delivery and the subject matter to be grander, less earthbound.

The Young Cicero Reading--Vicenzo Foppa (1464)

The fourteen Philippics are denunciations of Mark Antony, who at this time following the assassination of Julius Caesar was out of the city seeking military allies and in Cicero's opinion carrying on the worst of the dead Caesar's transgressions against the traditions of the old Republic. It is a different view of Antony than we usually get from both classical and post-renaissance literature. His arrogance, which in other depictions is usually presented with a heavy emphasis on vanity, here is expressed as of a more dangerous and willful quality. He is ambitious, a driver of events and a leader, of sorts anyway. I didn't previously think of him (based mainly on Plutarch and all the Shakespeare and Cleopatra plays) as a man capable of rousing this degree of anger and condemnation as a main target in himself, separate from his association with other people or events that are greater than he is.

I did not read this all that well. I suppose it is possible that the entire book is not great as a whole (various of the individual Philippics, especially the second, seem to be considered more important than the whole collection), maybe the translation did not perfectly capture the mood of high excitement and historical seriousness. I also have the sense that the Orations against Catiline (which Cicero himself, reliving that glory, references dozens of times in the course of the Philippics) are the essential Ciceronian reading. In any case he demands a more serious consideration than I seem to be able to give him at present.

Ben Jonson's Conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden (1618-19)

There is not much conversation here, on Drummond's part anyway, and what was recorded was mostly snippets--what would become popularly known as table talk--of Ben Jonson's observations, which amounted to 58 printed pages, most of which were more than half taken up with footnotes. The impression given is that there was not much in the way of give and take between Drummond and his guest, but that their talk consisted mostly of Jonson making pronouncements in a vaguely bullying manner. I don't remember much of this, either. Obviously I have reached the point where it is pointless for me to read any more. I am struck by so little of it, and as you can see I have trouble even putting my most simple general observations into words at this point. But I would have to take up some other pursuit to fill the time--I still can't just spend all my waking hours doing laundry and dishes, but maybe I am being ground down to the state where that is all I will be capable of doing--and I still desperately want to have some communication with the reasonably intelligent (and socially relevant) part of the world, and I don't know how else I can achieve this than by some attempt at producing content.

Drummond of Hawthornden

Tour of the Hebrides--Boswell (1773)

Not included in most editions of the Life of Johnson, this comparatively under-celebrated work is a book-sized bonus treat for people like me who are fans of this lively duo and their exploits in the social and literary society of their day. Johnson wrote his own account of this famous trip as well, which is one last further treat for me to look forward to, assuming I ever get around to reading it.

This is the edition I read.

I ordered my copy of this book online, and as sometimes happens with older memoir-type books, the edition I received was not the edited and polished standard one that all of the professors and other critics who have promoted the book as great are primarily thinking of, but the rougher version of the tour as it appeared in Boswell's journals. Nothing was left out as far as the major episodes of the trip went; on several occasions where pages of the journal had gone missing, the editors filled in the missing parts with the text from the printed Tour. These finished excerpts were far superior from a reading standpoint to the journal account, giving off much of the same high-spiritedness and humor of the Life itself, and I kind of wish now I had abandoned my edition entirely and found a copy of the traditional printed Tour. The journal was by no means a bad read, and almost certainly was more representative of what the trip was like on a day to day basis. There were numerous passages in it detailing parts of the trip where Johnson especially was bored and restless on account of the inferior level of education and dull conversation of many of the people they encountered, which provoked in him some rather harsh and decidedly unforgiving observations with regard to the limitations that several of their hosts and new acquaintances had revealed. My impression from the scholarly notes is that most of this material was either left out of the published version, or softened so as to appear more in a humorous and flattering light. And I think this was a good idea, as much of the special quality of these Johnson books come from the atmosphere of heightened intellectual alertness and drama that the scenes in them evoke. The life and conversation in them is far more entertaining and captivating than anything that ever occurs in real time, while plausibly resembling reality (if nothing else, the contrast between the journal and the published book reminds the reader of the art that is essential even in the production of a ostensibly non-fiction account to give it this sheen of heightened reality); but I realize more and more that it is these appearances of life heightened and made more consistently intense and significant and exhilirating that I seek in reading and other artistic entertainment.