Opinion | The Global War on Books, Redux – By Duncan White – The New York Times

By 

Mr. White teaches history and literature at Harvard.

CreditCreditIllustration by Delcan & Company; Photographs by Steven Errico/Getty Images, and CUTWORLD

“Around the world, many authoritarian regimes — having largely corralled the internet — now have declared war on the written world, their oldest enemy. The received wisdom after the close of the Cold War was that physical books were outdated, soon to be swept aside in the digital age; and that the internet was instead the real threat to governments seeking to repress provocative thinking. A generation later, the opposite may be true.

The People’s Republic of China has been the most successful in curbing the internet. But their stranglehold on society is also the result of their largely successful push in the past decade to ban nearly all bookstores, books, authors and academics that do not adhere to the Communist Party’s line. Even before the current Hong Kong protests, there was a crackdown on Hong Kong publishers. In the fall of 2015, associates of the Causeway Bay Books store disappeared, later discovered to have been detained on the mainland, accused of trafficking in “illegal” books critiquing leading members of the Communist Party. In 2017, the Communist Party formally took control of all print media, including books.”

Babette’s Feast — The General’s Toast — Mercy and truth have met together – YouTube

Last night we watched the movie Babette”s Feast, based on a short story by Isak Dinesen. Extraordinary Movie. Very spiritual, but not necessarily a realistic story. A beautiful thought piece. Now I really want to know which part Elly Lindsay had in the theatrical version recently played in Dallas, The soldier, who becomes the heart broken suitor, becomes a successful general, and gives this toast at the end of the feast, while the woman who refused him 40 or so years earlier looks on:

“Mercy and truth have met together.

Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness…
believes he must make choices in this life.
He trembles at the risks he takes.
We do know fear.
But no.
Our choice is of no importance.
There comes a time when your eyes are opened.
And we come to realize…
that mercy is infinite.
We need only await it with confidence…
and receive it with gratitude.
Mercy imposes no conditions.
And, lo!
Everything we have chosen…
has been granted to us.
And everything…
we rejected…
has also been granted.
Yes, we even get back what we rejected.
For mercy and truth are met together.
And righteousness and bliss…
shall kiss one another.”

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Babette’s Feast (1987)
“Babettes gæstebud” (original title)
Director: Gabriel Axel
General Lorens Löwenhielm: Jarl Kulle
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“Perhaps it is a desecration to take this scene out of context, but it is so wonderful in context that it shall be risked. The General has just enjoyed the rarest of meals in the most unlikely of places. He makes an after dinner speech that is more of a sermon and prayer.” – Youtube blogger named Straussian.

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Opinion | My Father- Out to Sea – By Jaed Coffin – The New York Times

By Jaed Coffin

Mr. Coffin is a writer.

CreditIleana Soon

“For as long as I can remember, my father’s favorite expression has always been “out to sea.” As in, “Well, I used to see that guy around, but then he got divorced, quit his job, and he just went out to sea.” Like many of my father’s expressions, “out to sea” is based on a vague and maybe misunderstood historical allusion; in this case, to the original men of Nantucket, who, my father claims, are my direct male ancestors. These brave souls would regularly leave their families for years on end, to slaughter sperm whales in distant oceans thousands of miles from home. “That’s just how it was back then,” my father often told me, in a whimsical tone laced with longing and nostalgia. “The men in our family, they just went out to sea.”

I’ve never been to Nantucket, and, raised by my single Thai mother, have never had much interest in my father’s heritage. But as a boy, something about my father’s use of the expression “out to sea” always intrigued me. For my father, going “out to sea” carried a mystical connotation, charged with rebellion and renunciation. Men (always men) seemed to reach a point in their lives when the burdens of domestic life — spouse, kids, job, community, whatever — grew too heavy, and the only path to spiritual freedom required that we drift into the mists of existence, never to be seen again.

We make strange heroes out of those who go “out to sea”: Don Draper is one of the newest members of the club. Jack Nicholson’s character in “Five Easy Pieces” (one of my father’s favorite movies), who abandons his girlfriend at a gas station by hitching a ride to Alaska in a logging truck, definitely belongs, too. Even Siddhartha Gautama, auspicious figure of my faith, who left behind his newborn son “Rahula” (Pali for “shackle”) for a life of meditation in the forest, might be the most famous man to ever go “out to sea.” How can I argue with the Buddha?

But my affection for men who go “out to sea” gets complicated when I locate it within the context of my relationship with my father, who met my mother on a military base during the Vietnam War. After the war, my parents came back to the United States, to New England, to start a family. Shortly after I was born, my father got involved with another woman, an American woman, wandered around for a few years, then moved in with her and her five children in Vermont. This left my mother, who worked the night shift as a psychiatric nurse at the local hospital, to raise my older sister and me on her own back in Maine. Throughout my boyhood, it never occurred to me how carefully my mother — who’d been raised in a stilt house, in a dusty village in Central Thailand — had to both scrutinize and adopt the strange customs of New England culture, how learning to navigate these foreign waters became, by necessity, the great project of her adult life.”

Opinion | The Comeback of the Century – The New York Times

“In the digital age, the printed book has experienced more than its share of obituaries. Among the most dismissive was one from Steve Jobs, who said in 2008, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.”

True, nearly one in four adults in this country has not read a book in the last year. But the book — with a spine, a unique scent, crisp pages and a typeface that may date to Shakespeare’s day — is back. Defying all death notices, sales of printed books continue to rise to new highs, as do the number of independent stores stocked with these voices between covers, even as sales of electronic versions are declining.

Nearly three times as many Americans read a book of history in 2017 as watched the first episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones.” The share of young adults who read poetry in that year more than doubled from five years earlier. A typical rage tweet by President Trump, misspelled and grammatically sad, may get him 100,000 “likes.” Compare that with the 28 million Americans who read a book of verse in the first year of Trump’s presidency, the highest share of the population in 15 years.”

The Movie Dunkirk is gripping- excellent- homework. by David Lindsay

Kathleen Schomaker and I went to see the movie Dunkirk, because after some research I discovered that it got a score of 94 at Metacric.com, and got some rave reviews, and it was not criticized for tampering with the history.

It was criticized for not saying more about the heroism of the French, who held the perimeter, keeping the Germans at bay for the 8 needed days, or the 2.5 million Indian soldiers that were in that British army, but, we thought the the film was excellent. It wasn’t fun, but gripping, and exhilarating. Not to be missed by anyone who loves small luxury yatchs. Think of it as valuable, unpleasant homework.

Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books – The New York Times

“Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped — in his life, convictions and outlook on the world — by reading and writing as Barack Obama.

Last Friday, seven days before his departure from the White House, Mr. Obama sat down in the Oval Office and talked about the indispensable role that books have played during his presidency and throughout his life — from his peripatetic and sometimes lonely boyhood, when “these worlds that were portable” provided companionship, to his youth when they helped him to figure out who he was, what he thought and what was important.”

Finding Myself Through My College Major – The New York Times

HOLLAND, Mich. — At some point during my freshman year in college, I went to a church in town with a friend. When the service was over, I stood up and an elderly man who sat in the pew in front of me shook my hand. I’m not sure I’d even gotten his name before he fired off, “So I suppose you’re from one of those Oriental nations, right?”

I was more shocked than offended. He’d meant it, I’m sure, without malice; I’d certainly heard worse before. I launched into a two-minute spiel about Where I’m Really From, trying to explain what it was like to be born in Montana, raised in Malaysia and going to college in Michigan. By the time I was done his eyes were glazed over and I was fumbling for the door.

Muhammad Ali, the Political Poet, by Henry Louis Gates Jr. – The New York Times

“A friend asked me the other day to choose my favorite Muhammad Ali fight. “The Rumble in the Jungle,” I responded. I was thinking of all the rhymes that accompanied it, from “You think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned? Wait till I whip George Foreman’s behind,” to the very phrase “rope-a-dope”, as he named the strategy he used to defeat a superior opponent in the heat of Kinshasa. It was an athletic event but it was also a linguistic one.Almost from the beginning of his career, when he was still called Cassius Clay, his rhymed couplets, like his punches, were brutal and blunt.

And his poems, like his opponents, suffered a beating. The press’s earliest nicknames for him, such as “Cash the Brash” and “the Louisville Lip,” derived from his deriding of opponents with poetic insults. When in the history of boxing have critics been so irked by a fighter’s use of language? A. J. Liebling called him “Mr. Swellhead Bigmouth Poet,” while John Ahern, writing in The Boston Globe in 1964, mocked his “vaudeville” verse as “homespun doggerel.” Time magazine, in a particularly nasty triple dig in 1967 over Ali’s opposition to the Vietnam War, his embrace of the Nation of Islam and his name change, called him “Gaseous Cassius.

”But the same verse can strike one critic as doggerel and another as art, and not everyone missed the power — and the point — of Ali’s poetics. Even Ahern admitted that “the guy is a master at rhyming,” and The New Yorker editor and Ali biographer David Remnick would eulogize him as “a master of rhyming prediction and derision.” Perhaps Maya Angelou, whose own poetry is sometimes labeled doggerel, said it best: “It wasn’t only what he said and it wasn’t only how he said it; it was both of those things, and maybe there was a third thing in it, the spirit of Muhammad Ali, saying his poesies — ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’ I mean, as a poet, I like that! If he hadn’t put his name on it, I might have chosen to use that!” ”

Source: Muhammad Ali, the Political Poet – The New York Times