Monthly Archives: August 2007

9 posts

Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

The Arlington Park of the title is a ‘green, ruminative, inchoate suburb’ with ‘avenues and well-pruned hedges’. We follow five married women who live there, all of whom, we are to imagine, are in early middle-age. They have young children and live in nice, comfortable houses. They do not want for money. But each is beset by worries as to the nature and meaning of their domesticated, suburban lives.

Alfred S. Posamentier on the Fibonacci Numbers

“The golden ratio is also quite ubiquitous in art and in architecture. We find it by placing a rectangle around the Parthenon (Athens, Greece) and the United Nations building (New York), as well as at the doors of the Cathedral of Chartres (France). Let’s not forget that the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C. must contain the golden ratio as do all regular pentagons.”

Notes From Italy: Looking Back at Mussolini

Mussolini was not the only dictator of his time. In his Europe, in a time of worldwide economic depression, a whole series of governments were run by “strong men.” Besides Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany, there were authoritarian regimes if not dictatorships in the 1930s in Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. There were Blueshirts in Ireland, Blackshirts in Britain, and Vidkun Quisling’s followers in Norway. At the eastern end of Europe lay the greatest dictatorship of them all, Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Terrors on Terra

How grotesque it must have sounded to a child, and how frightening. Outdoors, the sun of Southern California sparkles on the watered green lawn; within, the house is tranquil. And here in this pleasant kitchen sit two grownups, his grandparents, filling the day’s bright first hour with descriptions of disasters around the globe, massacres marching on to catastrophes and death by the thousands. And then these same grownups fold their papers, rise smiling and replete from the table to drive off to work as usual.

Notes From Italy: Cimitero Acattolico

In 1738 came the first burial by the Pyramid that we know of, that of a young Oxford graduate named Langton. After him a number of other non-Catholic foreigners were buried there, and not just English people; there is a record of a student from Hannover being buried there a few years later. But while the Papal authorities now tolerated the non-Catholic burials, they had to take place at night, probably to lessen the possibility that the local folk would mock if not attack the foreigners’ funeral processions. (As late as 1854 a small mob tried to assault a Protestant clergyman who had officiated at the funeral of the wife of a German diplomat.)

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram

Whether amputating a shrapnel-torn limb or performing an emergency appendectomy, Dr. Tram proved to be remarkably adept. The diary entry for 8 April, 1968 reads, “Operated on one case of appendicitis without adequate anesthesia. I had only a few meager vials of Novocain to give the soldier, but he never groaned once during the entire procedure. He just kept smiling, to encourage me.”

History of Madness by Michel Foucault

By the 1700s the “correctional” metaphor prevails and most of them are placed in moral and physical restraints in order to correct their aberrant attitudes or behaviors. Many of these souls were chained as animals in appalling conditions which would get us convicted if we treated our dogs similarly today. Such unfortunates included those convicted of debauchery, crime, and sexual license “where reason was the slave of desire and a servant of the heart.” (I suppose all of us would require sequestration under those criteria).

Is There a Doctor in the House?

She smoked a lot, but she laughed a lot too. I could easily support her, I was at thirteen, a good two heads taller — she even looked like Betty Boop! And when her lady partner went ahead or loitered poking through the rough in search of another lost ball, Miss Rothschild would walk on with me, linking my elbow gaily, helping me along. “My poor caddie has to carry my clubs!” she’d wail. And there, at 11 in the morning under that bright, glancing sunlight, facing into the brisk mountain breeze, I’d get a whiff of lipstick and whiskey-tainted breath, mingled with her flossy perfume, her laughter enveloping me in a mist of genial, confusing sensuality. She liked to tease: she set anyone and everyone up, her friends male and female alike; she even set me up. Pixyish, it seemed that was the word for it … yet that “it” always eluded me.

Jeffrey J. Kripal, Author of Esalen

“By human potentialities, Huxley and Esalen meant to refer to all those aspects of the human being that have not been generally developed in western educational practices and culture but are nevertheless quite real. It was Abraham Maslow who gave the Esalen actors a vocabulary and psychology to express how such potentialities might be actualized.”