Monday, April 30, 2012

call anytime

Lately I was thinking about baby-sitting:  a short-lived, part-time career I, like most teen-age girls in America, had briefly in my middle school and high school years.

Someone mentioned recently that since their TV has several remotes (large things, with a multiplicity of buttons on them), their baby-sitter called them once to ask -- something -- where the remote was, or how to work it...

I found myself kind of surprised about that:  I thought, ("Call up the people you're baby-sitting for to ask questions about a television remote - ??")

Never happen, in my version of the world.  But of course that was a different century.

Reviewing back, I tried to remember ever calling moms and dads whose children I was baby-sitting:  didn't happen.  (We didn't have any TV-remote "emergencies"...)

I remember, as a baby-sitter, feeling sort of -- alone and together, at the same time.  Together with the people's children, but alone in the sense of I was the only person responsible for them.  Calling up the parents -- about anything -- never crossed my mind.  Was fortunate enough not to ever have any dire situations, & -- I remember having a feeling that this time -- the two or three or five hours that the parents would be gone, was their private time.  They were "out" --

out on the town

maybe out OF town

out to dinner

out at the movies

out at some church deal

they were


and whatever it was in their absence, was my responsibility. 

Calling them up to ask questions about a television remote control was about the last thing I would have thought about doing. ...

Today, however, with cell phones everywhere, the culture of calling people has changed and people call, (and e-mail and "text") about little things, sometimes, I think.  Semi-constant contact is a condition which some people want, others put up with, and still others probably think they want for a while, & later find out they don't.

And the mom, in the present-day situation, probably leaves for an evening out with the cheerful, friendly phrase, "Call me if you need anything!"  And -- the baby-sitter needed to know how to work the remote, so she called the mom...'call me if you need anything'...would make perfect sense in modern context.

This also made me remember a phone conversation where someone ordered me, (rather harshly, I thought), "Don't call her!  She's at a dinner party!" 

(Geez -- stop the world, and I'll just get off.
I mean, sorry I blew up...
First of all, I called you, not her --
have no intention to call her at dinner party,
or wherever she might be,
don't go ballistic...)

And then it kind of fits together -- am thinking now, the party ordering me not to call someone I had no intention of calling was perhaps not wanting to harangue me, but was maybe feeling like the Culture Of Calling All The Time About Everything was not allowing the other person any free time to relax -- that theory I could understand and empathize with.  Maybe she was trying to protect the other person from ALL calls, not just the one I was never going to make. ...

Things get tangled.

Plus -- I looked up on Google, and part of the reason we never had trouble with TV remote controls when I was baby-sitting was because they hadn't been invented yet. ...(!)


Friday, April 27, 2012

sea of mystery

Yesterday I went and looked up The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, online -- the version that I used, to read the beginning of the book, was from the University of Virginia.  Thanks, Univ. of Va.

Reason why I looked up Twain's H. Finn:  an obscure feeling I had in back of head after watching the film Coal Miner's Daughter last weekend -- the way the main characters talk in that film sounds simultaneously foreign and familiar, to my ear -- the accent and the phrasing and the overall approach -- a mixture of diffidence and pessimism and optimism and guarded suspicion -- sometimes they seem to become challenging and even combative, in conversation, and you're like, "Where did this come from?" as you're listening to it, but it's just how they process stuff and protect themselves in a world that's not set up to offer them anything.

Subconsciously, maybe, I felt it was going to sound like Huckleberry Finn --

in the movie, when Doolittle gets exasperated with Loretta, his 13-year-old wife (?...!?), he growls, and Loretta (played by Sissy Spacek) tells him strongly and loudly in a tone of protest, "Stop makin' that noise!  Ya sound like a ol' bear, a-growlin'!" 

("a-grellin'...", the way she says it...)

Like -- the Widow Douglas, who, according to H. Finn, was "a-bothering about Moses"...

And in the movie when Doolittle Lynn brings home a guitar for his wife, as an anniversary present, and she's exasperated -- "Ah can't play that thing!"
Doolittle replies -- swift and punchy, in the usual pugnacious verbal style, "Well most people can't without they learn how first!"

(I listened to that and reviewed the idea of it -- "without they learn how first" -- "without they"...Not the way we would say it, but we understand his meaning...)

And Huck Finn starts out, using "without" the same damn way - !

"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer..."

--  you don't know about me without you have read a book...

--  most people can't without they learn how first...

--  a-growlin'...

--  a-bothering

How did I know these unusual and unique speech styles of Coal Miner's Daughter were going to surface, just the same, in Huckleberry Finn?

I didn't.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

I lit out

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.  That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.

{This is the beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
"He told the truth, mainly." ...}

----------- [excerpt]: 
There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.  That is nothing.  I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary.  Aunt Polly -- Tom's Aunt Polly, she is -- and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

Now the way that the book winds up is this:  Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich.  We got six thousand dollars apiece -- all gold.  It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up.  Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round -- more than a body could tell what to do with. 

The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out.  I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied.  But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable.  So I went back.

The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it.  She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up.  Well, then, the old thing commenced again.  The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. ...

After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people.

Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me.  But she wouldn't.  She said it was a mean practice and wasn't clean, and I must try to not do it any more.  That is just the way with some people.  They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it. 

Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it.  And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.

...  [end Excerpt]

{The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,
by Mark Twain.  1884 in England, 1885 in America.
publishers:  Chatto & Windus, Charles Webster.}

...a thing that had some good in it

finding a power of fault with me

...Moses which was no kin to her  (!!)

Here she was a-bothering about Moses


...because I don't take no stock in dead people

Moses and the Bulrushers  (lol.  ol.  l.)

learned me

got out her book and learned me

allowed she would sivilize (sic. - "civilize") me

an awful sight of money

mostly a true book with some stretchers


Here I am, with a B.A. in English literature & I've never read this before.
By the time you get to college, Huck Finn is one of the books educators just assume you've read, or experienced in some way -- they try to introduce you to literature you may not know already...

All the time I was growing up, the idea somehow soaked into my awareness that Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was somehow controversial.

It was good for you,

but the library might not have it because someone might have whined & made them take it out.

And that wasn't good -- censorship, yikes -- but still,
while Tom Sawyer was available to me during childhood, no one ever handed me Huckleberry Finn.

If I had brought it home, would either one of my parents have suggested I read something else instead?
I can hardly imagine that, but I don't know. ...

If I had taken Huckleberry Finn to school, would the guidance counselor have confiscated it?

Was H. Finn's adventures in the school library?

I wish I could turn back time and venture and find out.  But I'll never know, now.

Huck Finn was --

It walked the line.

Writing like that is, I suppose, how Mark Twain got to be Mark Twain and not just a person with some notebooks.



okay this is a different format does it look different when published with this HT thing Clicked?


can't deal with this new format which has been foisted on me (or -- upon my blog)
so intimidated by technology

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

very truly yours

I think, along with LOL there should also be
 GAL, for Giggling A Little, and
SSWRE, for "surprised smile with raised eyebrows"...
-------------------------------- {Information from excellent site,}:
After graduating from George Washington University in 1951, Jacqueline Bouvier got a job at the Washington Times Herald, where she was the "Inquiring Photographer." The position required her to pose witty questions to individuals chosen at random on the street and take their pictures.
The paper would publish Q and A, plus photo.
November 11, 1952 John H. Davis (Jackie's cousin)
Q: Are men as inclined to fall for a "line" as girls are?


hello, there's some kind of new format going on; too scary, don't know how to ...

Monday, April 23, 2012

if it mixes...if it dances

Learned today that Levon Helm passed, Thursday, April 19.

In the past two months or more, I had been listening often to the soundtrack to The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese's documentary / concert film featuring The Band.

Then yesterday I saw Coal Miner's Daughter.

So lately for me, it's been Levon Helm this,
and Levon Helm that

since his vocals and percussion are featured in The Last Waltz,
and in Coal Miner's, he plays the part of Ted Webb, Loretta Lynn's dad.

I always think it's important to honor and talk up (and revel in) the arts and performances that we like, while the people are alive, not just wait until they die and then, in the eulogy-mania, it's like, "Oh we like ya now that you're dead." (Whatever...)

And I had been going to talk about The Last Waltz anyway, and the following, one of my favorite passages from the ongoing interview with band members in that film was something I wanted to feature wherever I could, anyway -- well, now Levon Helm passed, but this conversation and music and film was great when he was alive, and it will be great forever regardless of who is alive or dead, when. ...

(Levon Helm):

Near Memphis,

cotton country, rice country,

the most interesting thing

is probably the music.


Levon, who came from around there?

Carl Perkins.

Muddy Waters, the king of country music.

(Robertson) Elvis Presley.

Johnny Cash. Bo Diddley.

(Levon Helm) That's kind of the middle of the country back there.

So bluegrass or country music,

you know, if it comes down to that area

and if it mixes there with rhythm

and if it dances,

then you've got a combination

of all those different kinds of music.

Country, bluegrass, blues music.

- (Robertson) The melting pot.

- (Levon Helm) Show music.

- (Scorsese) And what's it called?

- (Helm) Rock and roll.


Friday, April 20, 2012

all the talent we can get

Civil rights
was an even more difficult issue to manage in the campaign.

{the Kennedy-for-President campaign in 1960.
excerpt, An Unfinished Life / Dallek}------------

The conflict between prsesures for economic, political, and social justice for black Americans and southern determination to maintain the system of de jure and de facto segregation presented Kennedy with no good political options. He was mindful of the political advantages to himself from a large black turnout, and of the transparent moral claims to equal treatment under the law for an abused and disadvantaged minority. But he was also greatly concerned with the counterpressure from white southerners who were antagonistic to the Democratic party's advanced position on civil rights.

Virginia senator A. Willis Robertson reflected the divison in the party in a letter to Kennedy saying he would support the entire party ticket in November but refused to "endorse and support the civil rights plank that was written into our Party platform over the protests of the delegates from Virginia and other Southern States."

LBJ's vice presidential nomination had been, as intended, some solace to southerners, but not enough to counter Kennedy's aggressive commitment to civil rights.

Once again, political imperatives determined Kennedy's course of action. Liberals were already angry at Johnson's selection, and if Kennedy gave in to southern pressure on civil rights, it would mean losing their [the liberals'] support (not to mention black votes). Kennedy signaled his intentions by writing Robertson, "I understand the problem the platform presents to you," but he offered nothing more than the "hope [that] it will be possible for us to work together in the fall."

Kennedy was not happy about having to choose between the party's competing factions, but once he chose, he moved forward. When he saw civil rights advocate Harris Wofford in August, he said, "Now in five minutes, tick off the ten things a President ought to do to clean up this goddamn civil rights mess."...

Kennedy agreed to speak before several black conventions, praised peaceful sit-ins at segregated public facilities across the South, criticized Eisenhower for failing to integrate public housing "with one stroke of the pen," and sponsored a national advisory conference on civil rights. In a speech, he described civil rights as a "moral question" and promised not only to support legislation but also to take executive action "on a bold and large scale." And the more he said, the more he felt. By the close of the campaign, he had warmed to the issue and spoke with indignation about American racism.

After [Republican vice presidential candidate] Henry Cabot Lodge announced that Nixon would appoint a black to his cabinet -- which angered Nixon -- Kennedy declared on Meet the Press that jobs in government should go to the best-qualified people, regardless of race or ethnicity. But he emphasized the need to bring blacks into the higher reaches of government. "There are no Federal District Judges -- there are 200-odd of them; not a one is a Negro," he said. "We have about 26 Negroes in the entire Foreign Service of 6,000, so that particularly now with the importance of Africa, Asia and all the rest, I do believe we should make a greater effort to encourage fuller participation on all levels, of all the talent we can get -- Negro, white, of any race."

----------------- {end excerpt}
{An Unfinished Life, John F. Kennedy. 1917-1963., by Robert Dallek.
Copyright 2003, Little, Brown
and Company. Boston, New York, London}


Thursday, April 19, 2012

you must be slipping

July 15th, 1960, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. wrote in his journal about the Democrats' nominating convention in Los Angeles, to select a candidate for president.

-------[excerpt] One great difference between Stevenson and Kennedy is the amateur vs. the professional. There is no "we happy few" nonsense about the Kennedy camp. And this is part of a more decisive difference -- the difference in their attitude toward power. The thought of power induces in Stevenson doubt, reluctance, even guilt. He is obsessively concerned with the awesome responsibilities of the presidential office. Possessing the genuine modesty of a profoundly civilized man, he is hesitant about imposing his own views on others.

Feeling (or claiming to feel) inadequacy in the face of high office (for which no one is adequate), at the same time he recognizes that he has seemed on occasion to work almost willfully toward his own defeat. Lauren Bacall once argued persuasively to me that he had a political death wish. I have never believed that Stevenson is essentially indecisive in the sense that he would balk for a moment at executive necessities. I am sure that he would have ordered American troops into South Korea quite as swiftly as Harry Truman. Yet the exercise of power does present a problem for him.

Kennedy, on the other hand, is like FDR. The thought of power neither rattles nor discomposes him. He takes power in his stride. He had absolute assurance about his own capacity to do the job, and he has a sure instinct about how to get what he wants. In Jack Kennedy the will to victory and the will to command are both plain and visible.

I have no regrets about having backed Kennedy. I think that Adlai Stevenson would have made a great President, but I do not think he could have made it against Nixon. Yet I find myself feeling much cooler about Kennedy at the end of the convention than at the beginning.

I believe him to be a liberal, but committed by a sense of history rather than consecrated by inner conviction.

I also believe him to be a devious and, if necessary, ruthless man. I rather think, for example, that Ken and I were in a sense had by him; that he sought our support when he considered it useful before the convention to have liberal Democratic names behind him, but that, if he thinks our names would cause the slightest trouble when he starts appealing to Republicans, he will drop us without a second thought. I am not even sure that he has at any time seriously intended to make Stevenson his Secretary of State -- not that he has anyone else in view for the job, but that in his own mind he has always reserved the decision till after the election, while leaving contrary impressions in the minds of others.

I do not dispute -- indeed, I have recognized -- the inevitability of Kennedy. But I feel that my own pleasure in national politics is coming to an end. Nothing again will ever be as agreeable as those days with Stevenson. If I go into the Kennedy campaign, it will be into something quite different; and I don't really much care whether I get into it or not. And, while understanding why Kennedy had to win and Stevenson had to lose in this convention, one must understand at the same time what Stevenson accomplished in the last eight years.

Under his leadership a revolution took place in the Democratic party. Almost single-handedly, he wrought a transformation in the party's ideas and style and sense of purpose. Thus no one in Los Angeles sounded like Harry Truman; all the contenders, even Johnson, were speaking in the spirit and often in the idiom of Stevenson, and none more so than Kennedy.

Under Truman the essence of the Democratic appeal was to promise benefits; under Kennedy it is to demand sacrifices; what conclusive evidence of the Stevensonian triumph! Kennedy is the heir and executor of the Stevenson revolution -- whether either Jack or Adlai realize this fact. In the long perspective of history, as I said on Tuesday, Stevenson must go down as the true victor in the convention.

But I cannot find it in me to blame Kennedy for being as he is. Indeed, I fear he may have learned too well the lesson of the last part of The Coming of the New Deal. He has commented to me several times in the past how illuminating he found my discussion of FDR's executive methods. I am quite sure now that Kennedy has most of FDR's lesser qualities. Whether he has FDR's greater qualities is the problem for the future.


(Journal, 1960) August 6
Last Tuesday night (the 2nd) Jack Kennedy called up, in person, and invited us for lunch on Saturday, the 6th. This was my first communication with him since the convention.

We drove down from Cambridge on a beautiful summer day....
He had lunched the day before in NYC with Luce and the editors of Time and Life. ...

Jack said that he rather liked Luce. "He is like a cricket, always chirping away. After all, he made a lot of money through his own individual enterprise so naturally he thinks that individual enterprise can do anything. I don't mind people like that. They have earned the right to talk that way. After all, that's the atmosphere in which I grew up. My father's that way. But what I can't stand are all the people around Luce who agree with everything he has to say." He imitated Luce saying to Hedley Donovan, "Well, Hedley, what's your view on all this?" and Hedlely's hasty agreement with whatever Luce had just said.

He said that everyone was excited about Galbraith and regarded him as a great radical. "Actually," Jack said, "he is a conservative." He then said to me, "You had better watch out for yourself. In 1952 everyone was mad at you. Now people seem to like you. Everyone is mellow about you. You must be slipping."

General attitude. Jack seem still to be reading a great deal. He had read a good part of The Liberal Hour. He spoke with appreciation and enjoyment of Murray Kempton's stories from Hyannis Port in the New York Post. He had read the Time cover story on Che Guevara (which I had not) and had read Dick Rovere's convention pieces in the New Yorker. Norman Mailer had been there in the morning when we arrived; Jack quoted a sentence from a Mailer story for a paper in Provincetown in which Mailer said that he had thought Stevenson's speech on the Friday night much better than Kennedy's; Jack added to me, "You wrote Stevenson's speech, didn't you?"
------- [end excerpt]

{Journals. 1952 - 2000.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. edited by Andrew
Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger.
The Penguin Press. New York. 2007.}


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

a pretty pass

Things have come to a pretty pass,
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that.
Goodness knows what the end will be,
Oh, I don't know where I'm at...
It looks as if we two will never be one,
Something must be done.

You say eether and I say eyether,

You say neether and I say nyther,

Eether, eyether, neether, nyther,

Let's call the whole thing off!

You like potato and I like potahto,

You like tomato and I like tomahto,

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!

Let's call the whole thing off!

But oh! If we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part.
And oh! If we ever part,
Then that might break my heart!

So, if you like pajamas and I like pajahmas,
I'll wear pajamas and give up pajahmas.
For we know we need each other,

So we better call the calling off off.

Let's call the whole thing off!

You say laughter and I say lawfter,
You say after and I say awfter,
Laughter, lawfter, after, awfter,
Let's call the whole thing off!

You like vanilla and I like vanella,
You, sa's'parilla and I sa's'parella,
Vanilla, vanella, Choc'late, strawb'ry!
Let's call the whole thing off!

But oh! If we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part.
And oh! If we ever part,
Then that might break my heart!

So, if you go for oysters and I go for ersters
I'll order oysters and cancel the ersters.
For we know we need each other,

So we better call the calling off off!

Let's call the whole thing off!

---------------- {"Let's Call The Whole Thing Off," by
George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, 1937, for the film
Shall We Dance}


Monday, April 16, 2012

Republicans say the darndest things

A Republican state representative I knew who was chairman (chairwoman, chairperson) of the powerful House Appropriations Committee had a new kitten once, that she had placed in her room at the motel.

After the meeting I went to see the kitten.

The deal was, the Appropriations chair and her husband wanted to adopt a new kitten; a Democrat representative from the western part of the state had some new kittens that were old enough for adoption / placement in suitable homes, & both reps had to be at the meeting in the state capitol, so they "made the drop" during the day-and-a-half scheduled meeting.

(Like the French Connection,
only it was the feline connection.)

I was like, "Oh, you're getting a kitten!"
"Yes, he's in my room at the motel right now. I have to get back there and check on him after this [the meeting] is over. You can come and see him if you want to."

(She was an educator, and always spoke in a decided, "underlined" kind of manner -- as if to say, 'Here's what we're gonna do. We're going to keep the plan simple and straightforward...' [So there!])

This Appropriations chair was sort of famous (at the legislature) because of the two cats she & her husband had, at their home in our state's largest town. When people would hear that I had two cats, they would sometimes say, "Do you know about Representative JN's cats? One of them swims!"

I heard that more than once, over the years: with Cats being the Common Conversational Link, and the Swimming being the unusual thing that a person didn't forget.

("One of them swims!
In a little wading pool they set up in their backyard sometimes, in the summer!")

Some unusual breed, I guess that would enjoy some swimming (supervised, by their humans, of course).

They also were known for riding motorcycles.

The Appropriations chair and her husband, that is, not the cats.

When I went to see the kitten, the Republican representative was wearing her casual clothes, eating cold carrots and celery from a Tupperware container, and watching the new kitten play on the carpet.

I had a concept of picking him up and holding him and petting him, but turned out, there wasn't much of that -- a kitten is different from your own, grown-up cats. Your own cats know you. A new kitten doesn't know what anything is, in the world, and is busy trying to find out. He doesn't know what a human is -- he does not even really know what he is.

(Oh! What's that?!
The tip of my own tail!
You're kiddin' me!
Ya-aauu--gh! Yow!)

He was very busy springing, bounding, boing-ing and re-bounding all across the tough-textured motel carpet -- a small, economy room, but in the kitten's world, a vast Plain To Be Explored And Learned.

While we humans talked a little about the meeting, & the next one, and mostly about summer trips and Cats, we watched the kitten motoring around on his four nimble feet, his curious nose searching, eyes trying to take in more than he could process, so -- go FASTER! Rolling, running, stopping short. Leaping, pouncing. A perpetual-motion "Machine."

And after about twelve minutes of that, he came to rest for a moment, in a classic, graceful posture typical of a grown Cat, when I again hoped for a moment to Pick-Up-And-Cuddle, and before I could reach, he lay down right where he was in the middle of the carpet, (not yet having skills for finding and creating a sheltered and extra-cozy Napping Location) and abruptly, immediately,


It made me think about how kittens grow up and learn their Cat Skills by Nature, without, like, books and tapes, or school. ...


Friday, April 13, 2012

kids say the darndest things

One day Pokey, a beautiful, pleasant, and friendly dog sat on a step in my friends' garage, and I was petting him and talking to him. Their granddaughter A. joined me and hugged the dog and made kissing sounds above his black-and-white fur.

He gazed at us with sweet, appreciative, brown eyes. He tolerated or enjoyed our fussing. A. and I agreed we loved Pokey so much, and I said to her what a terrific dog he was, and on inspiration, I said, "We are Pokey's fan club!"

"Yes!" she agreed.
And I floated on -- "I'm the president of Pokey's fan club, & you're the vice-presi- or no, you're the president of Pokey's fan club, and I'm the vice president"...catching myself mid-sentence, thought, ("be generous, let the child be 'president'...!")

She was only 4 or 5, at the time. She looked at me calmly with serious, gentle eyes, and said, "You're the president of patting, and I'm the president of hugs and kisses."


She made us both presidents.

Sort of impressively complex thinking, for a child so young.
Even for some adults.

Power sharing.
Separation of powers.
She created a mini-democracy.
On the porch step.

Later when her father was making shish-ke-bobs (sp?) on a grill out on the driveway, I went & told him what she said. He said,
"She said that?"
I told him,
"Yes she did."


Thursday, April 12, 2012

intensity packed

Janet [Lee Bouvier Auchincloss] lived by the credo -- shared by many women of her class and period -- that men disliked women who had their own intellectual interests and opinions.

{excerpt, Mrs. Kennedy, by Barbara Leaming}
Frequently she repeated that the worst thing a woman could do was permit a man to see she had serious interests.

...Certainly, Janet had been wrong in another respect. Far from being put off by Jackie's intellectual interests, Kennedy was delighted by them....Like Jackie, his great obsession was history. While her specialty was French history, his was English, but they shared a particular taste for the eighteenth century. He was thrilled that they seemed to fill in each other's intellectual and cultural gaps in dozens of ways. He was as curious to learn from her about art history and design as she was to share his knowledge of the movies.

While he had read every word of Churchill, she was an admirer of de Gaulle. They both loved poetry and competed in memorizing each other's favorite poems. His idea of a present was a book he loved, and he was much given to snatching away the books Jackie was reading if they looked interesting.

Jackie...was captivated when, early on, Jack gave her two of his favorite books as a way of explaining to her who he really was. None of the young men touted by her mother had ever done anything like that. One of these books was John Buchan's Pilgrim's Way (Memory Hold the Door in the U.K.), from which Jack had derived the credo that public life is "the worthiest ambition," politics "the greatest and the most honorable adventure."

...Jack, so much older, was clearly the more learned, worldly partner, but Jackie prized the fact that he sought information from her as well. With Jack, no part of her curiosity about the world had to be concealed. Fully accepting the superiority of her knowledge of France and prepared to trust the reliability of her reports, he soon asked her to read and summarize articles on contemporary French politics to assist him in his work.

...Jackie complained that in these years [1956 to 1960] she rarely spent two days in succession with Jack.

He would spend those years constantly on the road. He would speak to every group that would have him and charm the local political bosses in the hope that by election time he would have established himself as a national figure. ...

...During days and nights alone, she read rapaciously, stuffing her mind with information with which to divert and intrigue her husband when he came home. She consciously stored up her energy and excitement for the moment of his return, and the better she became at maintaining focus on those hours of his that belonged to her, the more intensity she packed into them and the more vibrant they became. Even as her visible participation in Jack's public life became rarer, she operated more and more as his secret weapon, a source of ... images and ideas....She translated portions of de Gaulle's memoirs and read them aloud to him. In his own speeches about America, he was soon re-working the general's marvelous evocation of the image of France. ...
----------- {end excerpt}
[Mrs. Kennedy, by Barbara Leaming. Copyright
2001. Simon & Schuster, New York.]

"She operated more and more as his secret weapon...."



: )


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

even optimists...

to divide, or fork, into two branches]

Yesterday by chance began reading some about industrial designer Raymond Loewy:

Never Leave Well Enough Alone,
(The Johns Hopkins Press)
autobiography of an industrial designer named Raymond Loewy, who moved to America from France.

[excerpts from the autobiography's Introduction, written by Glenn Porter]-------------

“The whole world admires and envies American products, American appearance, American quality.” The nation “should, and I believe will, take advantage of this receptive attitude,” he forecast. He lamented the fact that “no one has yet been able to make [democracy’s] high spiritual values of freedom, liberty and self-respect a ‘packaged’ item to be sold to the rest of the world.”

But consumer capitalism and American products offered “substitute solutions.” “The citizens of Lower Slobovia may not give a hoot for freedom of speech,” he asserted, “but how they fall for a gleaming Frigidaire, a streamlined bus or a coffee percolator.” Here was the key to victory in the Cold War, and to the extension of a democracy of consumption at home.

------ [end excerpt]
"The whole world admires and envies American products, American appearance, American quality." "...democracy's high spiritual values of freedom, liberty and self-respect"...

the idea of winning the Cold War -- and ending it -- and making life better here in our own country as well...those things he talked about there were familiar thoughts & ideas and beliefs we grew up with...The part about the gleaming Frigidaire meaning more to people than freedom of speech seemed a little harsh & cynical to me, but a person can see by reading the rest, where he was going with it.

"Lower Slobovia"...hmmmh. Who was he insulting with that phrase? I've heard that term before, but not much, or for a long time -- Wikipedia says,

Lower Slobbovia (also sometimes called Outer, Inner, Central, Upper or Lowest Slobbovia) is an imaginary nation used in conversation to denote a non-specific, faraway country—generally connoting a place which is underdeveloped, socially backward, remote, impoverished or unenlightened. First coined by Al Capp (1909–1979), the term has also been used by Americans to refer in an informal way to any foreign country of no particular distinction.

[end Wikipedia excerpt]


The consumer-economy comments made me think of nyt book review this week:
[excerpt -- Jonathan Rauch's review of Time To Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent, author Edward Luce]

As was true of Japan a generation ago, only much more so, China's obvious strengths cover underlying flaws and weaknesses. Its government is corrupt, rigid and (of course) authoritarian. Its economy is rife with politically imposed distortions. Its schools, like Japan's, rely heavily on rote instruction, good for playing economic catch-up but not so good for taking the lead. Its infrastructure buildup, also like Japan's, feeds on an unsustainable diet of political cronyism and environmental depredation. And its message to the rest of the world is less "Give us your huddled masses" than "Give us your precious minerals." If I had to bet on one system being in decent working order a generation from now, it would be ours, not theirs.

No, this is not an argument for complacency. Luce is right: America's economy and political system are both in worse shape than they have been in a long time, and their dysfunctions seem to feed on one another. His more compelling case, and the country's bigger worry, concerns absolute decline.

True, declinism has been wrong in the past (and I was among those who said so). America has an almost miraculous capacity for self-renewal. Right?

This time, however, that's not so clear. In recent years, productivity improvements have decoupled from incomes, so that between 2000 and 2007, as the economist Robert J. Shapiro notes, "for the first time on record, the incomes of most Americans stagnated or fell through ostensibly good times." Men have seen their earnings drop and have been withdrawing from the work force. Inequality has grown markedly, with not only the incomes but the lifestyles and lifetime prospects of the top and bottom bifurcating. [Had to look up that word.]

No one is really confident of what to do about these things, any one of which would be a challenge. ...Even optimists need to wonder if this time America is entering its own lost decade, or two.
-------[end excerpt]

-------[excerpt from Jonathan Freedland's review of two books -- America and the Crisis of Global Power, author Zbigniew Brzezinski, and The World America Made, author Robert Kagan]

And yet the great surprise is how much they agree with each other, especially on what matters. They both insist that reports of America's decline are exaggerated.

["Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
-- Mark Twain]

Both note that the United States still accounts for a quarter of the world's gross domestic product, a proportion that has held steady for more than 40 years. Both note America's military strength, with a budget greater than that of all its rivals combined. As Brzezinski puts it, on every measure "America is still peerless."

Usefully, Kagan states that much of the current decline talk is based on a "nostalgic fallacy," imagining a golden past in which America was all but omnipotent.

There never was such a time, he says, not even during those periods now remembered as the glory days of American might. Still bathing in the flow of total victory in World War II, the country watched events in China, Korea and Indochina that, Dean Acheson lamented, were "beyond the control of the...United States." In 1952 Douglas MacArthur warned of "our own relative decline." Indeed, Kagan shows that declinism is as old as America itself:

in 1788, Patrick Henry was ruing the Republic's fall from the days "when the American spirit was in its youth."

Kagan's message is that America has been gripped by these fears before, only to bounce back: "Anyone who honestly recalls the 1970s, with Watergate, Vietnam, stagflation and the energy crisis, cannot really believe the present difficulties are unrivaled."
------ [end excerpt]


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

global drift

I feel pretty sure that Bert Lance did not invent the phrase, "If it ain't broke don't fix it." I think it is much older than that.

One naturally thinks of a saying in the same "family" of phrases:
"Let well enough alone." Researched (well -- clicked) and discovered that this phrase apparently dates back to the ancient Greeks.

While seeking that info -- branched off to a book called
Never Leave Well Enough Alone,
(The Johns Hopkins Press)
autobiography of an industrial designer named Raymond Loewy, who moved to America from France.

[excerpts from the autobiography's Introduction, written by Glenn Porter]-------------
Industrial design extended well beyond merchandising, providing a unique link between marketing and production. It took into account not only appearance but also efficiency of manufacturing, quality and durability, new materials, ease and safety of use, and other factors. Later its concerns extended to the environmental impact of designs and how to make products usable by the disabled. When practiced well, industrial design made genuine contributions to a better life for consumers.

Loewy’s own designs sought those broader goals, and they combined engineering and artistic sensibilities. All his life he advocated simplicity of design, which he defined as reduction to essentials, the engineer’s commitment to minimizing the use of materials and combining parts.

A good designer, in Loewy’s view, should also smooth surfaces by removing or concealing protuberances, hinges, and other unsightly mechanical items such as motors, rods, wires, and the like. This would normally result in a simple, functional, modern solution that was beautiful as well as practical, and often less expensive to manufacture.

Although he was always identified with streamlining (the use of smoothed shapes that reduced air or water resistance), Loewy was never enthusiastic about that term, preferring instead to speak of simplicity. He praised light, airy, elegant, “thoroughbred” creations such as the bridges of Swiss engineer Robert Maillart. The worst design sin as he saw it was fussy, busy surface decorations, the principal shortcoming in the creations of the premodern era. If a form still looked disorganized or unfinished after simplification, he advocated encasing it in a shell for an appealing appearance.

...Loewy was well aware of the political punch in the American Dream. Speaking at the Harvard Business School in 1950, he noted that “The whole world admires and envies American products, American appearance, American quality.” The nation “should, and I believe will, take advantage of this receptive attitude,” he forecast. He lamented the fact that “no one has yet been able to make [democracy’s] high spiritual values of freedom, liberty and self-respect a ‘packaged’ item to be sold to the rest of the world.”

But consumer capitalism and American products offered “substitute solutions.” “The citizens of Lower Slobovia may not give a hoot for freedom of speech,” he asserted, “but how they fall for a gleaming Frigidaire, a streamlined bus or a coffee percolator.” Here was the key to victory in the Cold War, and to the extension of a democracy of consumption at home.

Never Leave Well Enough Alone concludes by placing industrial design in this broad economic and political context….
Loewy portrays their profession’s role in the nation’s consumer economy. Industrial design had the “social responsibility” of contributing to the “lowering of the cost of manufactured goods” and to economic growth. This would both “speed up employment and bring more essential products to the underprivileged classes.” “This,” Loewy concludes, “is democracy in action.”

Although it is difficult to gauge the true economic contribution of industrial design, there is no doubt that Raymond Loewy and his profession played a significant role in furthering the consumer culture of the twentieth century. First Americans and then many of the world’s peoples embraced the goals of endless growth and constant novelty in the material civilization of the modern era.

As much as anyone, Raymond Loewy symbolized the vast social changes implicit in the triumph of consumer capitalism. This autobiography gives a rare, fascinating, inside look at one of the major sources of the cultural transformation that produced the global drift toward the American Dream.


Monday, April 9, 2012

we didn't know how good we had it

They began the task of updating a program in our computer, and...
we haven't had the program for five days, now...!

The word "update" sounds good, but now we are reminded of the traditional phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," attributed by one website to Bert Lance, of the Jimmy Carter administration.

I thought it must also be a song;
it is,
think I heard it years ago. ...

"If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It"
By John Anderson

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, if it’s mixed, don’t try to mix it

Think before you speak and look before you leap

And if it’s wound up don’t try to wind it, if it’s not lost don’t try to find it

It always helps to make it easy on yourself


Make it easy on yourself and do the best that you can do

Stay away from folks who try to make it hard on you

And if it’s wound up don’t try to wind it, If it’s not lost don’t try to find it

It always helps to make it easy on yourself

If it ain’t true, don’t tell it, if it’s sold don’t try to sell it
Search and you will find, keep an open mind
And if its short don’t make it long, if it’s right don’t make it wrong
It always helps to make it easy on yourself


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

to be secure

This week the Supreme Court gave us a Decision that said police can strip search everyone.

Commenters on the internet think it's a crazy decision;
some think it's to help lead us toward a Nazi-style fascist "Police State";
others think it's the wealthy elite (the "one percent") trying to get people who work for a living (policemen, + everyone else) to fight amongst themselves;
others say the Supreme Court is trying to discourage protesters.

That would be a "free speech" problem, right?
And -- it seems like they definitely took the Fourth Amendment and just --
er --
removed it.

(If they can do that, they can get the people's guns away from them,
"at the drop of a hat,"
"with the stroke of a pen."...)

The Fourth Amendment says,
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

I got to thinking about it -- what kind of people would apply for jobs as policemen, under this type of rule?

I work with a guy who used to work in the police dept., & I wondered, after reading this news -- maybe that's why he changed careers, because he saw this coming, & realized there was a significant percentage of the local population that he does not want to see without any of their clothes on.

Yikes to the tenth power. ...


Monday, April 2, 2012

tell us one more time

Left a good job in the city,

Workin' for The Man ev'ry night and day,

But I never lost one minute of sleepin',

Worryin' 'bout the way things might have been.

Big wheel keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keep on burnin'
rollin' on the river.

Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis,
Pumped a lot of 'pane down in New Orleans,
But I never saw the good side of the city,
'Till I hitched a ride on a river boat queen.

Big wheel keep on turnin' --
Proud Mary keep on burnin'--
rollin' on the river.

If you come down to the river,
Bet you gonna find some people who live.
You don't have to worry 'cause you have no money,
People on the river are happy to give...

Big wheel keep on turnin',
Proud Mary keep on burnin',


rollin' on the river.
{"Proud Mary," written, John Fogerty.
Recorded, Credence Clearwater Revival,
Bayou Country album -- released 1969.}

When Tina Turner performed that song later,
the chorus was adjusted, energized to --
Rollin' --
rollin' - yeah,
rollin' on the river...

(Tell-you-one-more-time) --
rollin' yeah,