Friday, November 21, 2014
I hurried through Bryant Park subway station the other day, but screeched to a halt when I saw art by Portia Munson, whom I first mentioned two years ago.
Munson makes huge symmetries of flowers, arranged in circles which are beautiful explosions of color. Viewed from a distance or close up, they are striking and vivid, especially now that winter grips the city once more.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Sunday, November 09, 2014
James Randi first entered my consciousness when I was devouring books in Dungannistan library, aged 13 or 14. I knew that he was a magician, but a peculiar kind of magician, one whose work kind of went in the opposite direction from spectacular mystification. Randi is a debunker, a de-mystifier, who has made his name by poking holes in the 'magic' tricks of others, exposing those who claim supernatural powers or psychic abilities as practioners of deceit.
Randi's severely rational, scientifically skeptical cast of mind appealed to me as a school boy. Today, the NYTimes magazine profiles Randi, and reveals something I had not known: Randi is openly gay.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Of course, the Darien mentioned in the poem by John Keats, below, is not the same as the one in Connecticut. Keats' Darien is Darien Province in Panama. Locals in Conn. pronounce their hometown, 'dairy-ANN', or so I was told.
The other Darien, the only other one that I have ever heard of: I suppose that ever since Keats wrote this sonnet, people have been pointing out that Velazquez, not Cortes, was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean:
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer
Friday, October 17, 2014
Ed Koch's grave: north-west corner, 153rd and Amsterdam Avenue.
As we're leaving the graveyard, we see a mysterious wooden lamp post.
Wooden all the way up to the light fitting.
And with a socket near the base...
...that charged Zach's phone!
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Monday, October 06, 2014
This endearing little story comes from the
French Genevan-born philosopher of liberty and democracy, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, one of the best-known figures of the 18th century Enlightenment:
Every night, after supper, we read some part of a small collection of romances [i.e., adventure stories], which had been my mother's. My father's design was only to improve me in reading, and he thought these entertaining works were calculated to give me a fondness for it; but we soon found ourselves so interested in the adventures they contained, that we alternately read whole nights together and could not bear to give over until at the conclusion of a volume. Sometimes, in the morning, on hearing the swallows at our window, my father, quite ashamed of this weakness, would cry, "Come, come, let us go to bed; I am more a child than thou art."
— Rousseau, Confessions, Book 1.
Rousseau is of course the author of The Social Contract, and its famous opening line, which I think is one of the greatest opening lines of all time:
"L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers."
("Man is born free, and is everywhere in chains"). It's sometimes translated "… but is everywhere in chains", however, there is in the use of 'and', a greater sense of astonishment at the statement as it unfolds itself: "Man is born free, and (yet) is everywhere in chains!" It has set in motion the acceptance of its own logic, so that immediately, the reading mind asks: 'how can this be?'
There could hardly be a statement more diametrically opposed to the one I heard so frequently as a child, from Psalm 51, verse 5:
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me".
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Friday, September 26, 2014
Summer's lease is up, and it has flitted away early this year, replaced by the exquisitely cool, mild days of Autumn in New York. Some, many, people say, that this is the city at its finest.
Normally, these calmer days and cooler nights do not come upon us until late October, and are squeezed into a week or ten days, before suddenly, it seemed in recent years, Hallowe'en was the last day of ethereal warmth. November 1st, All Saints' Day, would arrive with the almost scalding cold, the howling rain and the freezing wind of winter.
In the gardens of the American Museum of Natural History, there is a fairly ordinary pink granite obelisk, on which are many names on three of its sides.
Barack Obama is listed here, amongst many others. The President's chiseled name was receiving a power hose cleaning today, along with the others: see above. The obelisk lists Americans who have been awarded a Nobel Prize.