Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, May 5, 2018


Yesterday afternoon I finally made it to a Reed College Friday @ 4 recital. The Friday @ 4 series came to my attention about six weeks ago. The recitals are open to the public and free. It would be foolish not to check them out, but as often happens it took a while to get around to it. You know how I am.

The chapel on the third floor of Elliot Hall made for a comfortably intimate setting. The architecture of building and chapel are suitably academic in a wonderfully old-fashioned way. From the Reed website:

The chapel architecture borrows details dating back to the 10th century. The stairway leading up the chapel (from the chapel and admission office entrance), is patterned after that used just before the Elizabethan era. Named the "Staircase of Emulation," the walls of oak paneling were originally intended as a space for hanging commemorative plaques. Restoration work in the chapel has maintained the architect's original color choices for the stucco and fabrics, and for the finish on the wooden beams, carved chairs, and pulpit.

As is my custom I arrived some twenty minutes early and took a seat on the back row, left wing (as a political statement), on the aisle. Not every seat was taken but near enough to make for a good crowd that included youthful students, people of my generation, and the gamut in between. A rumpled fellow of Asian heritage, shirt pulled out over baggy jeans, set up a tripod in back to video the event. The scene was informal, with people feeling free to come and go throughout, always doing so quietly and courteously.

The recital opened with a rousing timpani solo that somehow seemed a fitting beginning. The program included vocalists and violinists performing works by Chopin, Monteverdi, Schubert, Sondheim, and others and was brought to a close with a piece for string quartet by Beethoven. I cannot speak to the professional quality of these student performances. Music for me is much like wine. I know whether I enjoy it but not much more than that and can speak of the experience only in vague, general terms. It would be nice to know more. Then again, it is nice to be able to enjoy it even without knowing more. This one was a delight from start to finish.

It has been a few years since I attended a concert. Listening, even on my unsophisticated level, is a talent that must be cultivated. For me it is, at any rate. My focus lapsed and attention wandered from time to time, but it always returned and when it did I became lost in the music again. I look forward to making Friday @ 4 recitals a part of the routine in semesters to come.

"I can forget the world and the Koreans, and the prodigious pain in the ass of living in an interesting epoch." —Albert Camus, writing to a friend in the summer of 1950. At the end of 1949 and on through the first half of 1950, Camus was beset with insomnia, eczema, depression, and a flare-up of tuberculosis, which had afflicted him since childhood. Biographer Olivier Todd wrote that he "was divided between a powerful desire to live and the temptation of death, and for the first time, suicide seemed the only serious problem." As always there were complications deriving from his love affair with actor Maria Casarès and obligations to his wife, Francine, and their children. In late summer of 1950 he rediscovered the pleasures of life, enjoying a discreet holiday with Casarès, finding a suitable new apartment in Paris for his family, seeing his health restored by a new treatment regimen. He made progress on L'Homme révolté (The Rebel) and planned to devote himself to "create in freedom" with a big new novel. Thoughts of suicide no longer hounded him.

As for news of the week, one hardly knows where to begin. A prodigious pain in the ass, indeed.

It seems only yesterday I was writing about a Politico piece about Sarah Huckabee Sanders published just prior to the infamous WHCD. My thoughts on that little foofaraw appear in a brief post from Monday (WHCD: Yet Another Dismal Moment of the Trump Era That Did No One Credit), to which I add only that I am more inclined than ever to speculate that Trump dispatched the troops, Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, White House communications flack Mercedes Schlapp, for the purpose of expressing faux outrage over predictable barbs directed at the regime. More baffling, though I suppose it should not be, are the accolades lavished on Michelle Wolf by comrades in the resistance. She got in a few good lines that elicited a chuckle from your oft humbled scribe, as when she said Trump couldn't shut her up unless Michael Cohen wired her $130,000 under her porn star name, Reince Priebus. But satiric genius? I didn't see evidence of it.

There's a new lawyer in town, boys. And Rudy Giuliani wasted no time shooting his client in the foot or maybe a more sensitive part of his anatomy, figuratively speaking of course, as he contradicted both the president and fixer Michael Cohen in the matter of l'affaire Stormy. Trump came to the new guy's defense, sort of, telling reporters Giuliani "just started a day ago" and "will get his facts straight." Why, one might wonder, would he start now?

Then there is that Nobel Peace Prize the president is angling for. Wasn't it Kim Jong Un who took the initiative on the meeting between maximum supreme leaders? Why wouldn't it be Kim who is up for the prize, assuming that something good comes of it all? You might also think the Nobel Committee would take into consideration the president's sabotage of the JPCOA with Iran if he follows through on threats to decertify the deal.

Speaking of Iran, we note late-breaking news of Giuliani's statement that Trump is committed to regime change in Iran and a report from the Observer that Trump aides hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a campaign to discredit individuals from the Obama administration involved in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal. Israeli puppet master Bibi Netanyahu must be beside himself.

My Phillies have struggled, dropping six of their last ten.

Let's close on a positive note. San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon is reported to be a candidate for the head coaching job of the Milwaukee Bucks. Hammon became the first female assistant in the NBA when Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich hired her in 2014. She will now be the first woman to interview for a head coaching position in the league. That's pretty cool whether she lands the job or not. The April 16, 2018, issue of The New Yorker has a fine piece on Hammon by Lousia Thomas, How Far Can Becky Hammon Go in the N.B.A.?

Keep the faith.

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David Matthews

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