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Educator and Cultural Critic Jacques Barzun Dies at 104;

 

Historian, essayist, cultural gadfly and educator Jacques Barzun, who helped establish the modern discipline of cultural history, was probably best known for viewing the West as sliding toward decadence. He died Thursday night at his home in San Antonio.  He was 104.

His remarkable curiosity and manifold interests and accomplishments, encompassed both Berlioz and baseball (and many other subjects.) He stood with Sidney Hook, Daniel Bell and Lionel Trilling as one of  the mid-20th century’s most wide-ranging scholars. He tried to reconcile the achievements of European philosophy and culture with the very different American intellect and culture.

He wrote dozens of books across many decades, demonstrating that old age did not necessarily mean intellectual decline. He published his most ambitious and encyclopedic book at the age of 92 (and credited his productivity in part to chronic insomnia). That work, “From Dawn to Decadence,” is an 877-page survey of 500 years of Western culture in which he argued that Western civilization itself had entered a period of decline.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Barzun showed little interest in taking political positions. This was partly because he became a university administrator and had to stand above the fray, and partly because he approached the world with a detached civility and a sardonic skepticism about intellectual life.

He traced periods of rise and fall in the Western saga, and contended that another fall was near — one that could cause “the liquidation of 500 years of civilization.” It looks like he won’t be around to see it.

 

I’ve only seen 5 of the Oscar nominees so far…

… but I knew two of them were clearly going to end up on the list when I saw them. Unfortunately they are competing against each other. I enjoyed them both with equal enthusiasm.

Hugo was a salute to the early film industry in France (the fantastic films of Georges Melies) with chase and mystery in the Paris railroad station. I brought two of my grandsons to see it and I don’t know who liked it more, them or me. Martin Scorsese made a real winner here… and it was in 3D!

The Artist, which Elly and I saw last week, was a tribute to silent movies… black and white, some sound added for effect… and funny. One of the few movies I’ve seen lately that I would have watched again on the same day.

Both of these are worth winning the Oscar. I hope one of them comes through.

I guess I’m REALLY feeling older…

Al Thomas

Last night was Al Thomas’ Birthday Party over at the Folly, the wonderful timber frame performance area he built some years ago on Bradley Sanders’ property, surrounded by talking areas and wood benches and what’s left of Al’s giant trebuchet (which he says he’s going to put back together one of these days.)

Al turned 60 this week, which makes him 5 years younger than me and a person with so much more energy and personality, able to carry on discussions with anyone and loved by everyone, that I am totally jealous.

Elly and Bud were also at the party with me ( Bud stayed there till 1:00 AM… 1:00 AM!… when his mother picked him up and the party was still going on.) We got there around quarter past five and after 2 1/2 hours I was exhausted, so I talked Elly into going home (she was going to a 10PM showing of “Paris Texas” at the Opera House with her friend Joan anyway), where I went to bed (I had been up since 4:30 in the morning and could barely keep awake.

The music was great, the food was terrific and beer and wine flowed freely. By the time I left there were easily 100 people there… from folks my age and older to the youngest of children running around and speeding through crowds on bikes… and Elly said when she picked up Bud cars will still arriving as others were leaving. How folks close to my age can keep going so far into the night is more than I can understand.

My son says I’m not “social” and that’s probably true (Elly agrees), but I think part of it is that I can never think of things to talk about unless someone else and I are involved in the same project, and I can’t remember most names… even of people I’ve met only a day or so ago. I am so embarrassed about my inability to remember names and how it makes it hard for me to introduce people to my wife and son or others, that I avoid doing it… or I do “one way” introductions, hoping the person whose name I can’t remember coughs it up when saying “nice to meet you.”

As I get older, I’m losing my memory of other things, too… events, movies I’ve seen, etc. … and my energy level is dropping like a bag of stones from a bridge. I’m having more and more trouble losing weight as I get more and more sedentary. I only sleep in 90 minute chunks, so I’m up and down all night. If it were not for this blog, my podcast, and co-hosting for John Case on the Friday morning radio show, I would probably be in a coma.

I can’t figure out who I am at this point in life. Perhaps working on the Carnival project for August at the Folly will help me see who I am (and someday I’d like to direct some theatre again… there are so many pieces I want to do and no one, so far, interested in having me do them.

At least it is Sunday and I can nap the afternoon away.

Anyhow… Happy Birthday, Al. You are one of the people whose names I CAN remember and who I really enjoy talking with.

If you are tired of hearing Republicans tear down the Affordable Care Act…

… then this video from the Kaiser Family Foundation will give you an overview of what is actually covered, what it costs and how it keeps more people safe than not having it:

Those candidates who “debated” last night should sit down and watch this all the way through.

Libya Update… Big Change Today

Cropped version photo of Ahmet Davutoglu, June...

Ahmet Davutoglu

Just announced by Hillary Clinton: NATO is taking over the No Fly Zone command.

Turkey‘s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said through Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency:

“The coalition that was formed following the Paris meeting will abandon the mission and hand it over entirely to a single command system under NATO.

“All of Turkey’s concerns, demands on the issue have been met,”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe sought to debunk speculation that the allies were after oil-rich Libya‘s hydrocarbons:

“People always say that it’s oil behind all this – that’s not true. To have consistent, cheap oil, the best thing would have been to change nothing in Libya. It’s not oil that pushes us to all this.”

I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens next.

Recorded Live in Paris, 1968: Son of Mr. Green Genes – Today’s Zappadan Selection.

This was made before Uncle meat was released in 1969 , which had Mr. Green Genes on it. The arrangement here is much closer to the Son of Mr. Green Genes that is on Hot Rats, but the band is the original Mothers of Invention – the short baritone sax solo by Ian Underwood is a standout.