(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘memoir

“The method preferred by most balding men for making themselves look silly is called the comb over”*…

Balding has been the constant scourge of man since the beginning of time, and for millennia, our best solution was the comb-over. Brian VanHooker tells the story of how its once-ubiquitous popularity thinned, receded, and then got pushed to the side…

For decades now, having a comb-over to cover one’s baldness has been generally seen as unacceptable. There may be exceptions, but men with prominent, noticeable comb-overs are often regarded as desperate — instead of aging gracefully, they’re seen as hopelessly clinging to a time when they had a full head of hair. Worst of all, for people with advanced hair loss, the comb-over is entirely ineffective. Instead of disguising a man’s baldness, it only accentuates it, thus laying bare their lack of hair and, even worse, their insecurity.

This wasn’t always the case. For at least a couple thousand years, comb-overs were perfectly acceptable and worn by the most powerful men in the world. It was only during the latter half of the 20th century that it all came crashing (flopping?) down…

From Julius Caesar to Donald Trump, a tonsorial trip through time: “The Rise, Flop, and Fall of the Comb-Over,” from @TrivialHistory in @WeAreMel.

* Dave Barry

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As we resist the urge, we might send scandalous birthday greetings to Giacomo Casanova; he was born on this date in 1725. A Venetian adventurer and author, he is best remembered– as a product both of his memoir and of other contemporary accounts– as a libertine, a womanizer who carried on complicated and elaborate affairs with numerous women.

At the same time, he associated with European royalty, popes, and cardinals, along with intellectual and artistic figures like Voltaire, Goethe, and Mozart. His memoir (written toward the end of his life, while he served as librarian to Count Waldstein) is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century.

Casanova preferred a wig to a comb-over.

Potrait by Casanova’s brother Francesco

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“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”*…

 

Chateaubriand’s tomb, Saint-Malo, France

Because history “belongs to the victors”– is shaped, both consciously and preter-consciously by writers looking back through the lens of their often very different presents– memoir can be an especially valuable as a vehicle for understanding a time in its own terms.  François-René (Auguste), vicomte de Chateaubriand’s Memoirs from Beyond the Grave are especially precious.  His autobiography helps us as readers locate ourselves in a time of tumultuous transition– from the ancien régime to the modern era: the Revolution of 1789, the downfall of the monarchy and the execution of the king, the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte and the empire, the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty after the definite defeat of Napoleon by the powers that joined in the Holy Alliance, its overthrow by the Revolution of July 1830, the inauguration of Louis-Philippe and the establishment of the July monarchy, and finally the birth of the short-lived Second Republic.

But more, Memoirs helps us understand the psychological reality of living through– and in Chateaubriand’s case, playing a series of engaged roles in– that social and political sea change.

Chateaubriand was attached to the past and its centuries-old traditions, but he was also a liberal, open to modernity: this is one thing that sets him apart in the history of ideas. He had been repulsed by the discourse and the violence of the French revolutionaries and was deeply impressed by the powerful composure of George Washington, “the representative of the needs, ideas, intelligence, and opinions of his epoch.” He had a vision of social transformation that did not entail the obliteration of the past, and was proud to declare himself “Bourboniste by honor, royalist by reason, and republican by inclination.”…

Anka Muhlstein on the significance of the Memoirs: “A Passionate Witness“; get the book here.

(Literature can play a similar role: consider the Prince in Lampedusa’s The Leopard and Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.)

* newspaper reporter Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young), in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence

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As we struggle to understand, we might send tasty birthday greetings to the culinary genius behind green eggs and ham, Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”; he was born on this date in 1904.  After a fascinating series of early-career explorations, Geisel settled on a style that created what turned out to be the perfect “gateway drug” to book addiction for generations of young readers.

The more that you read,

The more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go.

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)

 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 2, 2018 at 1:01 am

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