Wonders and Epiphanies – Michael Dirda

My Pleiade edition of Gérard de Nerval’s works is inscribed “en toute sympathie” from its French editor to Enid Starkie, the noted Oxford eccentric and biographer of Baudelaire and Flaubert. I found the slightly worn volume in a secondhand bookshop in Arlington for $6, and have often wondered how it got there.

The most restful place in the world is the periodicals reading room of any public library.

In eleventh grade we studied Oedipus the King in a translation for students by Bernard M. W. Knox. Fifteen years later I became friends with Knox, then director of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies here in Washington. It was almost like meeting Sophocles.

From the essay Talismans, in the book Readings, by Michael Dirda
Amazon

Tom Colicchio Spent 19 Years Building a Restaurant Empire. Coronavirus Gutted It in a Month.

What it’s like to lay off nearly 300 employees—and rethink unchecked capitalism

Now New York is facing another unthinkable catastrophe — this time, along with the entire world — and the restaurant industry is threatened as never before. Last week, Danny Meyer, Colicchio’s one-time partner, shut down all 19 of his storied establishments, laying off 2,000 people — some 80% of his workforce. Thomas Keller furloughed 1,200. And Colicchio has done the same, laying off all but a few of his 300 employees.

Recognizing an existential crisis for his industry — with many other sectors of the economy sure to follow — Colicchio has turned his attention to defending independent restaurants and their 11 million employees around the country from total devastation.

Aaron Gell talking with Tom Colicchio, March 27 2020, Medium

Diderot, Garrick, King Lear

ROACH: Yes, well Diderot comments on that in the Paradox of the Actor, which you alluded to a moment ago. It was a demonstration of facial physiognomy, of control over the face and its expression, that paralleled a pianist playing scales. Garrick started on one emotion, and then ran his face through nine distinct emotions, recognizable, stopped, and ran his face back down through the same sequence, but in reverse, just as you would play a scale on the piano.

BOGAEV: Wow. And these two screens are kind of like a frame, a picture frame or a door frame?

ROACH: Yeah, they’re like a proscenium to frame his face. So it was just the face coming through. And that—to your point about did he need a full-body posture or movement to work his magic—the answer is as long as it was close enough, he could do it with his face alone.

BOGAEV: So, talk about a rubber face. So Diderot, as you say, wrote these passages in the Paradox that he attributed to Garrick and Garrick’s voice. He has Garrick talking about acting and also about the type of person that an actor should envision himself portraying, and he talks about an ideal man, as opposed to playing oneself. Garrick says that if you play only yourself, you’ll be a crappy actor, a mediocre actor.

ROACH: Yes, yes. That’s exactly…  You’ll be mediocre. It is a being that you imagine, that you bring into being, by the force of your creative imagination. And when you think of it, it’s an extraordinary thing to, as it were, give birth to a human being who’s not yourself, but the distillation of all that you have observed and remembered and felt, and then can recombine to put it into the two hours’ traffic of our stage.

BOGAEV: Can you give us some examples of where you see this in action?

ROACH: Diderot…

BOGAEV: For instance, he did Lear.

ROACH: Yes, yes. So that would be a good example because it was one of his most famous and successful Shakespearean roles. And he left a note behind, it was actually to the French when he was giving his parlor exhibition of Lear, and he explained how he came to his understanding of the crushing tragedy of Lear’s loss of his daughter. Garrick had heard tell of a madman who was kept confined in a private home nearby where Garrick lived, and he got permission to study the gestures of this madman, which consisted of an impassioned reenactment of a terrible event. And again and again and again, this poor man would go over this, a traumatized memory that he kept repeating and repeating. Evidently, he’d been holding his child in his arms on an upper story window while a parade went by outside, and he lost his grip on his little girl, and she fell to her death in the street below. His tragedy was reenacting this. Garrick had the insight that this was the Lear action. Garrick would reenact this madman’s gestures and then coolly step back and say, “Thus it was I learned to imitate madness.”

Joseph Roach interviewed by Barbara Bogaev
Shakespeare Unlimited

https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/joseph-roach-acting

Fighting the Insurance Company – Example of

After My Son Suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, I Was Told Insurance Would Cover His Medical Bills. I Was Dead Wrong.

When RJ was discharged from the ICU after three weeks, he was transferred to a rehab facility. After he got there, they called me on the phone and said, “Your insurance company called and said RJ’s rehab benefits are up on Friday.”

I said, “No, no, no, no. That’s covered. I was told by my insurance company that this facility is covered for at least 60 days and possibly more. We have more time.”

But all I had was a voice on the phone. Without written proof, without the summary plan description, I couldn’t prove it. So when the rehab facility got another call from my insurance telling them these benefits had lapsed and I couldn’t prove otherwise, I went to the facility and I asked, “Where am I supposed to take him? He’s in a coma.” I remember a social worker telling me I could look into foster care.

Months passed, and I still couldn’t get the summary plan description. I kept calling my insurance company, and they’d be telling me my benefits, and I’d say, “You’re giving me information that you’re looking at. Give me, like, a screen grab of your computer screen.” But they wouldn’t do it. They kept telling me it was being “revised.”

I did some research, and I found out that under a law called ERISA—the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974—I was entitled to the details of my insurance policy.

So I called an ERISA lawyer and told him the situation, and he said, “I can help you, but you’re going to have to give me a retainer of $30,000.”

Stephanie Peirolo
First told at a show by the Moth, the live storytelling group, at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle

Readers digest: https://www.rd.com/true-stories/survival/when-insurance-stops-paying/

Stephanie Peirolo is executive director of the board of the Health Care Rights Initiative, a nonprofit providing advocacy and navigation services for patients and caregivers. This story was excerpted from All These Wonders.

Ballad of Tom Hill

For years now, Tom Hill and I have been about as friendly as a doorman and tenant can be. It’s not just that we discuss baseball and politics, or people in the building. When we both have free time we talk about a mutual obsession — Mississip­pi. I spent about a year there as a civil rights worker and a journalist. Tom, who now lives in the Bronx, was raised on a plantation in the Delta, during the last, violent impoverished years of segregation. Emmett Till was one of his best friends. Indeed, he was with Till until about 7 p.m. on the horrible, legendary 1955 night when Till was murdered allegedly for whistling at a white woman.

Tom’s life incorporates the sea changes that have swept through Mississippi and New York over the past 25 years. It is the story of a brave man’s attempt to deal with two dangerous, difficult environ­ments. It’s not just a doorman’s story. It is a capsule version of a crucial segment of American history.

Paul Cowan, October 8, 1980
https://www.villagevoice.com/2020/03/25/the-ballad-of-tom-hill/

Here Are the Urban Highways That Deserve to Die – City Lab

On one side of Interstate 980 in Oakland rise the new glass skyscrapers of the city’s Uptown neighborhood, home to a bustling entertainment district and Silicon Valley’s spillover tech startups. On the other lies West Oakland, a “food desert” where two-thirds of residents live below the poverty line.

West Oakland residents should be able to benefit from the growing number of amenities available in Uptown, since they technically live in walking distance. But crossing the 560-foot-wide interstate and two frontage roads is a daunting task. It’s a prime example of one of America’s most divisive freeways—literally.

CLAIRE TRAN APRIL 3, 2019
https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/04/urban-worst-freeway-without-future-teardown-demolition-list/584707/

15 American Plays It’d Be Great to See Revived | The Village Voice

Everybody knows theater critics are useless. All year round, they occupy free seats, and in return they do nothing but complain, complain, complain. Why, you ask, can’t they do something useful for a change?

So I was complaining (as usual), a few weeks back (Voice, May 23), about having to review the same plays over and over, when the world, so I claimed, was “full of unperformed great plays” deserving revival. In response, I only got press releases announcing that next season, like the last one, would be full of familiar titles. Some of them worth seeing again, no doubt, but not exactly unperformed rarities likely to fill a desperate hunger in our collective theatrical soul. Why can’t our theater find at least a few less well-known plays that are worth a fresh look?

That drove me, shockingly, to do something useful: compile my list of plays we rarely or never see—plays we should be seeing, because they add some quality, which our theater currently lacks.

A Few Stout Individuals (2002) by John Guare. Everyone’s favorite theatrical fantasist spun this dizzying web of words for the Signature’s all-Guare season. The dying U.S. Grant, ruthless general and hapless President, struggles to make sense of his life, nursemaided by his would-be publisher, Mark Twain, and a host of Gilded Age figures low and high. I’d gladly take this exhilarating trip again.

  • Sin (A Cardinal Deposed) (2004) by Michael Murphy.
  • The Danube (1984) and The Conduct of Life (1985) by María Irene Fornés
  • Ready for the River (1991) by Neal Bell
  • The Fabulous Miss Marie (1971) by Ed Bullins.
  • In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (1969) by Tennessee Williams.
  • Who’ll Save the Plowboy? (1962) by Frank D. Gilroy.
  • The Gingham Dog (1969) by Lanford Wilson.
  • Lagrima del Diablo (The Devil’s Tear) (1980) by Dan Owens.
  • Boy on the Straight-Back Chair (1969) by Ronald Tavel.
  • The Cocktail Hour (1988) by A.R. Gurney.
  • The Ceremony of Innocence (1967)
  • The Credeaux Canvas (2001) by Keith Bunin.
  • A Few Stout Individuals (2002) by John Guare.
  • Zero Positive (1988) by Harry Kondoleon.

MICHAEL FEINGOLD, JULY 4, 2012
https://www.villagevoice.com/2012/07/04/15-american-plays-itd-be-great-to-see-revived/

William S. Burroughs Talks With Tennessee Williams | The Village Voice

Although they were both born in St. Louis within three years of each other, William Burroughs did not meet Tennessee Williams until 1960, when they were briefly introduced at a table in the Cafe de Paris in Tangiers, by Paul and Jane Bowles. Burroughs had read and admired Williams’s short stories, and later in the ’60s Tennessee was known to quote at length from Burroughs’s Naked Lunch. But despite their mutual acquaintances (including the Bowleses and the painter Brion Gysin), they were not to meet again until 1975, at a gathering of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Their first conversation of any length took place at a party after a Burroughs reading at Notre Dame University earlier this year, and there they talked and carried on like old friends.

Tennessee’s new play, Vieux Carre, opens tonight on Broadway. Burroughs and I attended a preview two Saturdays ago. The next day we visited him at the Hotel Elysee, where he has maintained a spacious flat on the 12th floor for some time. It was late afternoon, and as I arrived, a few minutes after Burroughs, they were already seated at the opposite ends of a sofa. Tennessee seemed chipper; he got up to show us a pastel gouache he had just completed on his terrace that morning. Two bottles of wine arrived, and Burroughs and Williams resumed their talk.

James Grauerholz

Orpheus Holds His Own: William Burroughs Talks with Tennessee Williams May 16, 1977, https://www.villagevoice.com/2020/02/16/william-s-burroughs-talks-with-tennessee-williams/

Lindsey Graham Is Quietly Preparing a Mess of a Bill Trying to Destroy End-to-End Encryption – Gizmodo

The draft version of the EARN IT Act, which has not yet been formally introduced but is reportedly being circulated by Graham and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, bills itself as a way to fight the distribution of child sex abuse material (CSAM) on major platforms. But it does so by threatening Section 230, a core building block of the modern internet that shields tech platforms from liability for user-generated content (for example, it’s why Gizmodo is insulated from libel lawsuits stemming from what happens in the comments section). The EARN IT Act would threaten tech companies like Facebook, Google, and WhatApp’s Section 230 immunity regarding CSAM unless they comply with a set of so-called “best practices” determined by a 15-member commission.

Dell Cameron and Tom McKay, Gizmodo

No Man is an Island. John Donne, Meditation 17

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

That is what I am familiar with.  It’s part of a longer piece apparently:

Meditation #17 By John Donne From Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623), XVII:
Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris (Now this bell, tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.)

Perchance, he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is.

The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that this occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

Wikisource