(Roughly) Daily

“Imagination creates reality”*…

 

Wagner was and is so controversial before and after his appropriation by the Nazis, before and after 19th-century radical antisemitism led to the Holocaust, because art-making and self-fashioning on the scale on which Wagner worked are terrifying, at once attractive – drug-like, dream-inducing, mesmerising – and repulsive. Few of us are comfortable travelling so near the gravitational field of a man “who had access to parts of his psyche that most nice people hid from themselves” and who created from such a murky source dramas and music of horrible beauty…

A provocative review of a provocative book, Simon Callow’s Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will: “What makes Wagner so controversial?

See also this fascinating piece on a man often linked with Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche.

* Richard Wagner

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As we grab for The Ring, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Francesco Manfredini; he was born on this date in 1684.  A Baroque composer, violinist, and church musician, he was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.  Much of his music is presumed to have been destroyed after his death; only 43 published works and a handful of manuscripts are known.  But they are sufficient to have earned him a reputation as an accomplished composer (more in the vein of Vivaldi than Bach).

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Written by LW

June 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves”*…

 

When you think about politics these days, it’s hard to avoid focusing on Donald Trump’s remarkable rise to power and his even more remarkable presidency. It’s even harder to avoid thinking about the scandals swirling around him day to day. It’s not that I don’t think these are important. But they are not the subject of today’s talk.  In this talk, I want to look at the big picture. In this picture, Trump is merely a symptom. He is a symptom of a serious problem with our political and constitutional system.

Because Trump’s method is to provoke outrage and fluster his opponents, many people have wondered whether we are currently in some sort of constitutional crisis.  We are not. Rather, we are in a period of constitutional rot

Yale Law professor Jack Balkin on the importance of not missing the forest for the trees: “Trumping the Constitution.”

[image above, sourced here]

* “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”   – Thomas Jefferson

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As we batten down the hatches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1788 that the eleven states voted to adopt the new U.S. Constitution, and it was formally ratified; it went into effect on March 4 of the following year.  The two remaining states ratified by 1790.

Page one of the original copy of the Constitution

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Written by LW

June 21, 2017 at 1:01 am

“You know why the French hate us so much? They gave us the croissant… We turned it into our croissandwich”*…

 

There’s a looming crisis in France.  Over the last year, the wholesale price of butter there has almost doubled, to over $5,000 per ton.  Exploding demand in Asia and a shifting of producer priorities to cheese and cream help explain the spike.

But whatever the reasons, it’s creating a tight squeeze for the 30,000 bakeries in France (a $9.5 Billion industry); butter is 25% of the ingredient make-up of a croissant.

More at “Croissant Apocalypse.”

* Denis Leary

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As we eat ’em if we have ’em, we might recall that today– the birthday of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of vitamins– is National Vanilla Milkshake Day.

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“If commas are open to interpretation, hyphens are downright Delphic”*…

 

The tilde is 3,000 years old, but is there any grapheme that’s more ~of the times~? The little traveling worm, originally designed to convey approximation (and used in Spanish and Portuguese to denote certain sounds), expresses so much more: strangeness, emotional and physical distance — but perhaps most importantly, sarcasm…

The twisted mark’s twisted story in its entirety at “The Internet Tilde Perfectly Conveys Something We Don’t Have the Words to Explain.”

– Mary Norris (the New Yorker‘s “Comma Queen”)

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As we move our fingers to the upper left of our keyboards, we might send rib-tickling birthday greetings to Moses Harry Horwitz; he was born on this date in 1897.  Better known by his stage name, “Moe Howard,” he was the de facto leader of The Three Stooges, both on stage and off.

Moe, flanked by Curly and Larry, in The Three Stooge’s classic “Disorder in the Court

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Written by LW

June 19, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough”*…

 

“You’re a wizard, Harry,” Hagrid said. “And you’re coming to Hogwarts.”

“What’s Hogwarts?” Harry asked.

“It’s wizard school.”

“It’s not a public school, is it?”

“No, it’s privately run.”

“Good. Then I accept. Children are not the property of the state; everyone who wishes to do so has the right to offer educational goods or services at a fair market rate. Let us leave at once.”

An excerpt from the gloriously spot-on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Objectivism; more at “Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.”

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

– John Rogers

* Christopher Hitchens

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As we obviate Objectivism, we might spare a thought for José de Sousa Saramago; he died on this date in 2010.  A Portuguese author and Nobel Laureate, he was described (in 2003) by Harold Bloom as “the most gifted novelist alive in the world today.”

An atheist and proponent of libertarian communism, Saramago was criticized by institutions the likes of the Catholic Church, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, with whom he disagreed. In 1992, the Government of Portugal ordered the removal of his The Gospel According to Jesus Christ from the Aristeion Prize‘s shortlist, claiming the work was religiously offensive. Disheartened by this political censorship of his work, Saramago went into exile on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, where he lived until his death.

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Written by LW

June 18, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses”*…

 

In the original edition of Heinrich Hoffman’s 1845 German children’s book, the most famous character—Struwwelpeter, or “Shockheaded Peter,” whose name later became the book’s title—appeared last. In six short, illustrated stories, Hoffman, a physician from Frankfurt, told grisly moral tales: of a boy who wasted away after refusing his soup, another who lay writhing in pain after a mistreated dog exacted revenge, and yet another who had his thumb cut off after he sucked on it one too many times. Struwwelpeter’s sin was that he never cut his nails, bathed, or combed his hair; his punishment was distinct and cruel—he was unloved…

More original illustrations from the book that inspired Edward Scissorhands at “The 19th-Century Book of Horrors That Scared German Kids Into Behaving.”

* Neil Gaiman

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As we mind our p’s and q’s, we might send polymathic birthday greetings to James Weldon Johnson; he was born on this date in 1871.  An African-American author, college professor, lawyer, diplomat (US consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua), songwriter, and civil rights activist, he is probably best remembered for his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he started working in 1917 and of which he later became the first African-American head.

A part of the Harlem Renaissance, Johnson’s literary works included memoir, poems, novels, anthologies– and a children’s book.

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“It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree independent of men”*…

 

After 20 years of roaming the Americas brawling, gambling and murdering close to a dozen people, the man known as Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán had one last option. Having often turned to the church for sanctuary when waist-deep in trouble, and now facing execution, the soldier and explorer chose the nuclear option: admitting to the bishop that he was actually a woman.

Now known as Catalina de Erauso, a mesmerizing and confusing figure in Basque history, the prisoner not only avoided being executed but also got to meet the pope…

The amazing true tale at “The ruthless conquerer who cross-dressed her way to infamy.

* Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

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As we speculate on the spectrum, we might send carefully-composed birthday greetings to Mary Katherine Goddard; she was born on this date in 1738.  A Colonial printer and publisher, she published the Maryland Journal, a revolutionary periodical, throughout the Revolutionary War.  She was also the second publisher of the Declaration of Independence (considered at the time a treasonable document by the British); her copy, the Goddard Broadside, was the second printed, and the first to contain the typeset names of the signatories.

She was the first female postmaster in the U.S., heading the Baltimore Post Office from 1775 to 1789, and ran a book store and published an almanac.

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Happy Bloomsday!

 

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