A toast on Whiskey and Cigar Day 2016: Excelsior! to Mark Twain’s and Winston Churchill’s births (November 30)

November 30, 2016

Mark Twain, afloat

Mark Twain aboard a ship, on his way to Hawaii. Young Samuel Clemens apprenticed to be a Mississippi river boat pilot, and held a fascination for water-going vessels his entire life. His pilot years are documented, and analyzed, in Life on the Mississippi.
This photo of Twain remains one of my favorites.

November 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), and Winston Churchill (1874).

This is the traditional Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub post to remind you. Both Twain and Churchill were lovers of good whiskey, and good cigars. Surely they would have toasted themselves with a drink and a smoke.

Even if we don’t, we can pretend we did.

In 2016, we have the benefit of having had time to digest Twain’s Autobiography, and Volume II; and we have the benefit of scholarship from a great book on Churchill, William Manchester’s and Paul Reid’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.

We have special need for the wisdom, and wit of each man in a year marked by terrorism and unholy war on educators.

Twain had a comment on the Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education:

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.

Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson‘s New Calendar

The Nobel literature committees were slow. Twain never got a Nobel in Literature; he died in 1910. Churchill did win a Nobel in Literature, in 1953.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 was awarded to Winston Churchill “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Both men were aficionados of good whiskey and good cigars. Both men suffered from depression in old age.

Both men made a living writing, early in their careers as newspaper correspondents. One waged wars of a kind the other campaigned against. Both were sustained by their hope for the human race, against overwhelming evidence that such hope was sadly misplaced.

churchill-time-cover-man-of-the-year-1941.jpg

Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine. Churchill’s career was built much on his work as First Lord of the Admiralty, a position he took in 1911.  While he was the goat of the Battle of the Dardanelles (and had to resign as a result), his earlier work to switch Britain’s Navy to oil power from coal, and to use airplanes in combat, kept the British Navy as an important and modern military organization through World War II.

Both endured fantastic failures that would have killed other people, and both rebounded.

Each possessed a great facility with words, and wit, and frequently said or wrote things that people like to remember and repeat again.

Both Churchill and Twain rank near the top of the list of people to whom almost any quote will be attributed, if the quote is witty and the speaker can’t remember or doesn’t know who actually said it.

Surely they said something like any piece of wisdom, at some point in their lives, right?

Both men are worth study. And wouldn’t you really love to have had them over to dinner?

Twain, on prisons versus education:

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” – Speech, November 23, 1900

Churchill on the evil men and nations do:

“No One Would Do Such Things”

“So now the Admiralty wireless whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and captains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenceless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all.”

—1923, recalling the possibility of war between France and Germany after the Agadir Crisis of 1911, inThe World Crisis,vol. 1, 1911-1914, pp. 48-49. (Obviously, and sadly, Churchill was wrong — twice wrong.)

Yet we continue to make those mistakes, and then to seek out the wisdom of Churchill or Twain to get out of the mess, and to tell us we won’t be in such a mess ever again.

Image of Twain aboard ship, on the Pacific – origin unknown. Image of Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine.

More on Mark Twain

More on Winston Churchill

Orson Welles, with Dick Cavett, on Churchill, his wit, humor and grace (tip of the old scrub brush to the Churchill Centre):

More, contemporary reports from 2012:

And in 2013:

2014:

Should you fly your flag today?  Congress doesn’t list this dual birthday as an event for flying the U.S. flag.  But you’re welcome to fly the flag any day.  Go ahead, if you want to.

If I get one, it will be the only cigar I’ve had this year. Or this decade.

I will break out the Scotch.

At a very minimum, click on some of the links and read the works of these two great writers. Nothing else today will be so profitable.

Churchill gets attention, even in Texas:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Save


New Yorker on gripping, good books

October 17, 2016

So, you saw the cover to the October 17, 2016 New Yorker?

Poignant commentary on good books.

Cover of New Yorker, October 17, 2016. “The Finish Line,” by R. Kikuo Johnson.

Cover of New Yorker, October 17, 2016. “The Finish Line,” by R. Kikuo Johnson.

It was the fall book edition, after all.

I miss the good old days, when I subscribed to The New Yorker at full price for $6.00 a year. Helped me enormously in college and graduate school, and introduced me to John McPhee’s writing.

Good books are really that good. Haven’t read one like that lately? Pick up another, keep trying until you get one that good.

Save


Typewriter of the moment, and cold: Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard

September 25, 2016

Wikipedia caption: Polar explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard in front of his typewriter in the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans (Ross Island, Antarctica). August 30, 1911. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection)

Wikipedia caption: Polar explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard in front of his typewriter in the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans (Ross Island, Antarctica). August 30, 1911. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection)

Even in the Antarctic, scientists and explorers need to write their findings down. A typewriter was the state-of-the-art tool in 1911. Here we see Apsley Cherry-Garrard with his typewriter, on expedition.

Cherry-Garrard probably used that machine to write the notes, if not the actual text, for his account of the expeditionThe Worst Journey in the World:

The Worst Journey in the World is a memoir of the 1910–1913 British Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott. It was written and published in 1922 by a member of the expedition, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, and has earned wide praise for its frank treatment of the difficulties of the expedition, the causes of its disastrous outcome, and the meaning (if any) of human suffering under extreme conditions.

More:

Save

Save


2016 International Literacy Day, September 8

September 8, 2016

International Literacy Day in Mongolia:

International Literacy Day in Mongolia: “A young girl studies during class break. With rapid growth, the Government of Mongolia introduced a number of programs to improve the country’s education system, especially rural primary education. Photo: Khasar Sandag/World Bank”

I almost never remember on time:  September 8 is International Literacy Day, a day designated by the United Nations to celebrate literacy.

From the Dag Hammerskjöld Library:

Literacy is a cause for celebration since there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. However, literacy for all – children, youth and adults – is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target. A combination of ambitious goals, insufficient and parallel efforts, inadequate resources and strategies, and continued underestimation of the magnitude and complexity of the task accounts for this unmet goal. Lessons learnt over recent decades show that meeting the goal of universal literacy calls not only for more effective efforts but also for renewed political will and for doing things differently at all levels – locally, nationally and internationally.

In its resolution A/RES/56/116, the General Assembly proclaimed the ten year period beginning 1 January 2003 the United Nations Literacy Decade. In resolution A/RES/57/166, the Assembly welcomed the International Plan of Action for the Decade and decided that Unesco should take a coordinating role in activities undertaken at the international level within the framework of the Decade.

Sources listed by the Dag Hammerskjöld Library:

Links to UN and UN System sites:

Unesco

United Nations

UNICEF

United Nations Development Programme

World Bank Group

Additional resources:

The additional resources links on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not necessarily represent an endorsement by the United Nations.

Asia-Pacific Literacy Database

Center for Literacy Studies

Commonwealth of Learning

Education International

International Reading Association
—   International Literacy Day

Literacy Online

Proliteracy Worldwide

SIL International – Literacy

StoryPlus Foundation

Even more resources:

It’s fascinating to me that activities on International Literacy Day seem to be noted in out-of-the-way U.S. newspapers, and even there not much.  Do Americans care about literacy, really?

I half expect the Texas State Board of Education to pass a resolution condeming literacy, since the UN worries about it.

Save


#NationalLibrariesDay in Britain: Honor your local font of knowledge and civilization

February 6, 2016

British National Library. Image from All My Dreams Lead to London

British National Library. Image from All My Dreams Lead to London

What will we do when libraries are gone?

Way back in the Eisenhower administration, some Thinkers of Great Thoughts pondered what life would be like in America after a nuclear “exchange” with the Soviet Union. In other words, how would Americans carry on, get on with life, and, it was hoped, re-create civilization?

Realizing most major cities could be wiped out, the Thinkers determined it would be a good idea if information to make civilization were decentralized. They proposed the Eisenhower Library Program, legislation that provided money and assistance to be certain every county, borough and parish in America had at least one library, and a well stocked one. When New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles were snuffed out, any local citizen could go to her local library and get access to all the information necessary to rebuild, technical information, and human information (humanities).

In the first year of the Eisenhower Libraries (1957 if I recall correctly), $100 million was appropriated to build and stock libraries.

Designers thought it would be a one-time appropriation, but it worked so well, by the Reagan administration, it was $100 million a year, to aid at least 3,143 county/borough/parish libraries. In 2016, there are more than 119,000 libraries of all kinds across the U.S.

The Reagan administration was a turning point. Books for civilization were deemed superfluous, and the program was killed to “save money,” letting civilization save itself if it needed to.

Once a year in America, we celebrate National Library Week, April 10 through 16 in 2016.

In Britain, it’s National Libraries Day. That day is today, February 6, 2016.

Twitter is all atwitter about it. See how they celebrate in Britain? Steal some of these ideas, librarians, and hold them for U.S. National Library Week. I especially like the cake idea.

All you Boy Scouts working on the Citizenship in the Community merit badge, nota bene:

This one is a great thought:

Is the trend equally bad in the U.S.?

Did Einstein actually say this? Good on him, if he did.

Well, hee haw! and Buffalo Gals Won’t You Come Out Tonight!

Good heavens. At #NationalLibrariesDay, there are a thousand of ’em!

What was Andrew Carnegie thinking?


A toast on Whiskey and Cigar Day 2015: Excelsior! to Mark Twain’s and Winston Churchill’s births (November 30)

November 30, 2015

Mark Twain, afloat

Mark Twain aboard a ship, on his way to Hawaii. Young Samuel Clemens apprenticed to be a Mississippi river boat pilot, and held a fascination for water-going vessels his entire life. His pilot years are documented, and analyzed, in Life on the Mississippi.
This photo of Twain remains one of my favorites.

(Whew! Nearly let the day get by without noting it.)

November 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), and Winston Churchill (1874).

This is the traditional Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub post to remind you. Both Twain and Churchill were lovers of good whiskey, and good cigars. Surely they would have toasted themselves with a drink and a smoke.

Even if we don’t, we can pretend we did.

In 2015, we have the benefit of having had a years to digest Twain’s Autobiography, and Volume II; and we have the benefit of new scholarship from a great book on Churchill, William Manchester’s and Paul Reid’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.

We have special need for the wisdom, and wit of each man in a year marked by terrorism and unholy war on educators.

Twain had a comment on the Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education:

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.

Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson‘s New Calendar

The Nobel literature committees were slow. Twain never got a Nobel in Literature; he died in 1910. Churchill did win a Nobel in Literature, in 1953.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 was awarded to Winston Churchill “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Both men were aficionados of good whiskey and good cigars. Both men suffered from depression in old age.

Both men made a living writing, early in their careers as newspaper correspondents. One waged wars of a kind the other campaigned against. Both were sustained by their hope for the human race, against overwhelming evidence that such hope was sadly misplaced.

churchill-time-cover-man-of-the-year-1941.jpg

Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine. Churchill’s career was built much on his work as First Lord of the Admiralty, a position he took in 1911.  While he was the goat of the Battle of the Dardanelles (and had to resign as a result), his earlier work to switch Britain’s Navy to oil power from coal, and to use airplanes in combat, kept the British Navy as an important and modern military organization through World War II.

Both endured fantastic failures that would have killed other people, and both rebounded.

Each possessed a great facility with words, and wit, and frequently said or wrote things that people like to remember and repeat again.

Both Churchill and Twain rank near the top of the list of people to whom almost any quote will be attributed, if the quote is witty and the speaker can’t remember or doesn’t know who actually said it.

Surely they said something like any piece of wisdom, at some point in their lives, right?

Both men are worth study. And wouldn’t you really love to have had them over to dinner?

Twain, on prisons versus education:

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” – Speech, November 23, 1900

Churchill on the evil men and nations do:

“No One Would Do Such Things”

“So now the Admiralty wireless whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and captains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenceless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all.”

—1923, recalling the possibility of war between France and Germany after the Agadir Crisis of 1911, inThe World Crisis,vol. 1, 1911-1914, pp. 48-49. (Obviously, and sadly, Churchill was wrong — twice wrong.)

Yet we continue to make those mistakes, and then to seek out the wisdom of Churchill or Twain to get out of the mess, and to tell us we won’t be in such a mess ever again.

Image of Twain aboard ship – origin unknown. Image of Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine.

More on Mark Twain

More on Winston Churchill

Orson Welles, with Dick Cavett, on Churchill, his wit, humor and grace (tip of the old scrub brush to the Churchill Centre):

Yeah, mostly this is an encore post from past years.

More, contemporary reports from 2012:

And in 2013:

2014:

Should you fly your flag today?  Congress doesn’t list this dual birthday as an event for flying the U.S. flag.  But you’re welcome to fly the flag any day.  Go ahead, if you want to.

If I get one, it will be the only cigar I’ve had this year. Or this decade.

I will break out the Scotch.

At a very minimum, click on some of the links and read the works of these two great writers. Nothing else today will be so profitable.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Save


Typewriter of the moment: Birthday boy William Faulkner

September 25, 2015

Faulkner at typewriter, Aug 12, 1954 - AP Photo, ShelfLife

William Faulkner at his typewriter, August 12, 1954, at his home in Oxford, Mississippi. Associated Press photo, via ShelfLife

William Faulkner at his typewriter, August 12, 1954, at his home in Oxford, Mississippi. Associated Press photo.

The photo was probably posed; the two books to the left of the typewriter are Faulkner books. Faulkner may have written in a pressed shirt and tie, but I doubt it.

Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, and delivered a memorable speech about “the human condition” and the importance of art, especially poetry and prose, at his acceptance. His 1954 book, A Fable, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, in 1955.

The typewriter is a Royal KHM.

Faulkner was born September 25, 1897 — 2015 marks the 118th anniversary of his birth.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

—Gavin Stevens

Act I, Scene III, Requiem for a Nun, by William Faulkner

More:


%d bloggers like this: