Kirk Douglas on the “glories” of New York

 

 

“I find myself in Albuquerque. No work, no money. …. No Lindy’s. No Madison Square Garden. No Yogi Berra. …

“You know what’s wrong with New Mexico? Too much outdoors. Give me those eight spindly trees in front of Rockefeller Center any day. That’s enough outdoors for me. No subway smelling sweet, sour. … No more beautiful roar from eight million ants fighting, cursing, loving. No shows. No South Pacific No chic little dames across a crowded bar.”

 

— Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas), Ace In the Hole

 

 

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Ace in the Hole is a 1951 American film noir starring Kirk Douglas as a hard boiled, cynical reporter who stops at nothing to try to regain a job on a major newspaper. He has come west to New Mexico from New York City, out of money and options. He talks his way into a reporting job with a newspaper in Albuquerque.

Lindy’s was a restaurant chain in New York City famous for its cheesecake.

 
— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2019

Walt Whitman: simplicity and complexity

 

 

 

“No one makes craft, carefully wrought, seem more casual than Walt Whitman.”

 

— Richard Rhodes, How to Write: Advice and Reflections (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1995), pg. 12

 

 

A former friend of mine, the poet Charles Pierre, made a comment to me — I wish I could remember exactly what he said — to the effect that Walt Whitman is actually very difficult. Difficult for the reader, that is. That he presents a level of difficulty that requires acute understanding of? I think Pierre would have said: an understanding of what Whitman is doing; of his poetic technique, of his originality, poetic genius, and ingenuity. That Whitman, who seems on the surface so simple, is not really simple.

And yet, I find Whitman to be easy to become acquainted with and comprehend without necessarily being (as in the case of myself) expert at poetry. I “got” his poetry almost right away.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   February 2019

“Congress shall make no law …”

 

 

In a story in yesterday’s Washington Post

 

“Supreme Court seems to seek narrow w:ay to uphold cross that memorializes war dead”

By Robert Barnes

The Washington Post

February 27, 2019

 

It is indicated that

 

A majority of the Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed to be searching for a way — a narrow way, most likely — to allow a historic cross commemorating World War I dead to remain where it has stood for nearly 100 years.

Two of the court’s four liberals suggested the unique history of the Peace Cross in the Washington suburb of Bladensburg, Md., may provide a way to accommodate its position on public land in a highway median.

But more than an hour of oral arguments showed the difficulty the court faces when it must decide whether government’s involvement with a religious symbol has an allowable sectarian purpose or is an unconstitutional embrace of religion.

 

And so on.
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This is a contentious issue that has been with us for a long time. But I think it is absurd for jurists and interest groups to be splitting hairs over such questions. It calls for a satirist such as Jonathan Swift to show the absurdity of this kind of public debate.

My former therapist, Dr. Ralph Colp Jr. (not an arrogant or haughty person, it should be noted) once remarked to me, in a completely different context, that human stupidity would always be very much part of humanity, very much with us.

Here’s food for thought.

The Constitution should not be taken literally. The Founders, schooled in Enlightenment thought, were wiser than that: Their intention was to produce a document the underpinning of which was clear, rational thinking.

Some of the “original intent”/strict constructionist types — including supposedly eminent judges and jurists, and legal scholars — are, to put it bluntly, idiots. Who read and interpret the words of the Constitution over literally, without any context or nuance, and without using common sense.

So are the citizens who, in reading the words of the First Amendment, think that it was intended to prohibit public exercise of religion. The Founders would have been horrified to see it interpreted that way.

The freedom of religion clause did not bar exercise of religion, or display of crosses, Christmas trees, or creches, for example, either in public or private. This would have been unthinkable to the Founders.

 

 

 

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In making convoluted, tortuous arguments, the litigators do a great disservice to the public and threaten the common weal. Someone shouldn’t feel anxious about, or have to explain or defend oneself about, erecting or preserving a monument with a cross to honor war dead. To maintain the converse is the worst type of sophistry. And, by the way, it’s also a good example of a form of perverse presentism. Believe, me, when the Bladensburg Peace Cross was erected in 1925, it was done with good intentions. It was meant to show honor and respect. And, the Founding Fathers would be turning in their graves to be told there was something wrong about erecting a monument with a religious symbol on it.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   February 28, 2019

“Kullervo” post updated

 

 
I have updated my post about Sibelius’s great symphonic tone poem Kullervo. The post now contains a complete libretto in Finnish and English.

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/01/22/sibelius-kullervo-and-incidental-music/

 

I attended a performance of Kullervo last night by the Oratorio Society of New York, conducted by Kent Tritle, with the men’s chorus of the Manhattan School of Music, at Carnegie Hall.

It was wonderful — and for me revelatory — to hear Kullervo performed live.

I hope to have more say about Sibelius in another post.

 

 
— Roger W. Smith

   February 26, 2019

pre-spring haiku

 

 

 

all over the place

water running faster than you can walk:

snowmelt

 

 
— Ella Rutledge (posted on her Facebook page, February 2019)

 

 

I wish to thank my friend Ella Rutledge for giving me permission to post her haiku on this site.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 24, 2019

 

 
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photographs of Central Park taken February 21, 2019 by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

 

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Brahms

 

 

On February 14, I attended a concert at Carnegie Hall of Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 in E minor, in a performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (one of the world’s premiere orchestras).

Brahms’s first and fourth symphonies are equally good. The first is a personal favorite of mine. Both symphonies rank right up there with Mozart’s greatest, Beethoven’s symphonies, Schubert’s ninth, and one or two others. Unquestionably.

A word that came to my mind last evening in connection with Brahms’s music is powerful. (Or should I say vigorous?) Incredibly so. In this respect, I would say very similar to, rivaled by, Beethoven.

Other encomiums:

such clarity of structure, development, and phrasing;

brilliant orchestration;

sonority, orchestration, harmony, the interplay among instruments: a brilliant fusion of same;

works that sound totally original;

in no way derivative or imitative.

When you hear Brahms, it’s unmistakably Brahms. Brahmsian. He has his own sound.

In the fourth, there is not one boring stretch or passage, no instance of a putative listener thinking the first and fourth movements were great, but the Andante was nothing special.

Don’t stop there, dear reader. His violin concerto. His German Requiem. His quartets. What impresses me most about Brahms is complete mastery combined with such sincerity and depth of feeling so clearly expressed.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 15, 2019