A poem, about halfway through this piece by the Clancy Brothers:
"Get drunk, and never pause for rest: with wine, with poetry, or with virtue as you choose."
That's one I had not heard.
A friend who really has my number sent me home from a recent visit with a copy of the movie "Temple Grandin." I was curious to watch it, having read about this very high-functioning autistic woman fifteen or twenty years ago in a New Yorker article. It's a wonderful movie. Ms. Grandin made a very successful career designing humane and cost-effective animal-handling systems for cattle feedlot and slaughter operations. Her view is that nature is cruel, but we needn't be. If she were a cow, she wouldn't want to be ripped apart by a large predator but would prefer to have a painless death preceded by a serene life. Realizing that cattle would exist only in zoos if we didn't raise them for our good, she nevertheless felt that we owed them some respect. She persuaded so many feedlot operators of the practicality of her designs that a large fraction of this country's operations use them.
Always baffled by people, Grandin was drawn to cows early in life when she saw the chute used on her uncle's ranch to restrain the animals for innoculation. She realized that she, too, would find the squeezed-in retractable walls soothing during one of her frequent over-stimulated panic attacks, so she built a version for her own use. It raised many eyebrows in her dorm room at college. Later in life, she would explain that autistic children need hugs to calm down, but can't bear to receive them from people.
In the same vein, I'm reading Thomas Sowell's "The Einstein Syndrome," about children (like Einstein, and like Richard Feynman) who begin to talk very late, at age 3, 4, or even 5. We had a family friend like that, one of my father's colleagues, who never said a word until he was about 4, then burst out with "Look at the little bird up in the tree." Those children tend to grow up to be a little ways down the autism spectrum disorder, and very often become yet another mathematician or musician or engineer in a family already unusually full of them. Sowell's own son was that way. His family installed child-gates in the open doorways, with supposedly childproof locks. When the infant boy instantly got the first one open, they installed a more complicated one. He stared at it for quite a while without moving, then opened it on the first try. At age 3, he was forbidden to touch his father's chess set, which normally stood in his study with the pieces in mid-game. One day his father came in and found him playing with the pieces all over the floor. When he angrily demanded that his son put the pieces back on the board, the boy instantly replaced them in exactly the mid-game position in which he had found them.
There's a lot we don't know about how the mind works.
The fundraiser ends tomorrow, and we are very far from its goal. There is little chance we will reach it -- perhaps a war weary nation, in the deepest recession in generations, is hard pressed to find anything to offer.
Nevertheless, I hope you will read BLACKFIVE's post on the subject. Once you have you must do what you think is best, and what is right for your families at a difficult time.
It's the 12th of July.
Happy Boyne Day, Major Leggett!
UPDATE: And since it is, why not an Irish night? The summer has few enough joys.
That last band is Sgian Dubh -- "Black Knife," the hidden blade a good warrior keeps secretly about himself at all times -- from Marietta, Georgia.
Here they are again:
And watch this one, from the same set. This was obviously done when the Clancy Brothers were at the height of fame, for the people in the good seats are too well-mannered to sing along in the spirit of the thing. The worse for them! Malory's gentleman -- take Uther Pendragon, whom Malory praised as "a lusty knyghte" -- would find his company in the cheap seats.
I haven't been to Boston since 1996, when I took refuge there briefly from the Olympics that were bedeviling Atlanta. To judge from Heather Mac Donald's review, though, I'm sorry I am missing their Early Music Festival.
Steffani was a priest as well as composer, which suggests how differently that vocation was understood in the seventeenth century. Niobe’s libretto, written by a court secretary in Munich, Luigi Orlandi, contains some of the most voluptuously erotic writing since Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea.... Niobe’s high point is an unworldly aria, “Sfere amiche” (friendly spheres), without counterpart before or since. Theban King Anfione, renown in classical myth for his supernatural musical powers, has abdicated his throne to devote himself to celestial contemplation. In a vision of mystical transcendence, he calls both on the celestial spheres to give his lips their harmony and on earthly nature to take its motion from his breathing.
I know someday I'll convert some of you. This clip has four excellent songs (Poland, Consecration, Stratfield, and China), performed by Irish singers at the First Ireland Sacred Harp Convention in a fine old church. The singers know what they're doing.
"Hear me, goddess: come, bless me with speed!
As close as to a weaving woman's breast the bar
of warp is drawn, when accurately she passes
shuttle and spool along the meshing web
and holds to her breast one weighted bar, so close
in second place Odysseus ran: his feet
came sprinting in the other's tracks before
the dust fell, and on Aias' nape he blew
hot breath as he ran on. All the Akhaians
cheered for Odysseus, the great contender
and called to him as he ran with laboring heart.
But entering the last hundred yards, Odysseus
prayed in his heart to the grey-eyed one, Athena:
"Hear me, goddess: come, bless me with speed!
-The Iliad, Book 23, translated by Robert FitzgeraldAnother thing that I have been doing lately is running barefoot. This is something that came from my sister, whose running has lately come to embrace marathons. A few years ago in New York, she studied with Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen. His thesis is that humanity evolved to hunt through long-distance running, pacing prey to exhaustion. Running therefore should come as naturally to us as it does to wolves, loping over the hills.
The key secret hit me like a thunderbolt. It was so simple, yet such a jolt. It was this: everything I’d been taught about running was wrong. We treat running in the modern world the same way we treat childbirth—it’s going to hurt, and requires special exercises and equipment, and the best you can hope for is to get it over with quickly with minimal damage.Odysseus is an interesting example of that ethic from the ancient Greek. Reading his description in the Iliad, he is the last of the heroes we would think of as likely to win contests for speed: he is shorter than the other heroes, for one thing, and somewhat older than many.
Then I meet the Tarahumara, and they’re having a blast. They remember what it’s like to love running, and it lets them blaze through the canyons like dolphins rocketing through waves. For them, running isn’t work. It isn’t a punishment for eating. It’s fine art, like it was for our ancestors. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle—behold, the Running Man.
To the Greeks it seemed natural that he should nevertheless be a great runner. In the Homeric period of literature, there is an emphasis on what later Greeks would call "essential nature." Odysseus' essential nature is to be a troublemaker -- that is what the name "Odysseus" means. He is therefore wily in strategy and counsel, speedy with his glib tongue and, when necessary, his feet. This is why, when the Trojan scout Dolon comes down to spy upon the Greek camp, Odysseus is one of the two Greeks who is wary enough to spot him, and speedy enough to catch one of Troy's fastest runners.
Mr. McDougall has the opposite physical problems: he is six-foot-four, and weighs over two hundred pounds. When asked about whether that suggests that he isn't built for running, he scoffs. "I bought into that bull for a loooong time.... so many doctors are reinforcing this learned helplessness, this idea that you have to be some kind of elite being to handle such a basic, universal movement."
My own experience has been that my feet have toughened up nicely over the last few months, so that running is easy on sand, concrete, grass, or any other surface except superheated summer blacktop. It is more pleasant than any running I can remember having done, except when I used to run over Burnt Mountain -- and that was only because the surroundings were so much more beautiful, and so much better suited to my own essential nature.