Friday, January 24, 2014

Evanston: beyond 'La Mer'; wreck

        Perhaps because of my recently writing about the Chasing Shackleton series, which completed showing here this week—Ron in Australia, where the series had already been telecast, wrote to warn me after the first episode that it would get worse, and if you watched you know it did—Tim recommended Ralph Vaughan Williams’s SINFONIA ANTARTICA.  I found and downloaded it from Amazon and like it very much.
        From Wikipedia I learned that until a few days before its first performance, the composer was considering the title, SINFONIA ANTARCTICA, but finally decided to be consistently Italian and drop the C.
        The symphony was based on a film score Vaughan Williams wrote for SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC,  and includes spoken quotes before each of the five movements, the last from the dying Scott himself: 
        I do not regret this journey; we took risks, we knew we took them, things have come out against us, therefore we have no cause for complaint. 
        In searching for SINFONIA ANTARTICA, which is Ralph Vaughan Williams’s seventh symphony, I saw that his first is called “A Sea Symphony.”  I couldn’t resist and downloaded it, too.
        Having listened to both twice, I like both but prefer ANTARTICA.
        Both contain choral elements are are loud, essential today when the wind howls at gale force around our building.   Nocturnes would be lost.
        And both, along with Heggie’s opera, MOBY DICK, will be perfect to play at full volume aboard GANNET in mid-ocean.


        I had never heard of Andrew Cockburn before a review of his posthumously published A COLOSSAL WRECK appeared in the NY TIMES, a newspaper he held in some contempt as being a pillar of the established order.  But that’s all right, I’m sure he had never heard of me.
        Cockburn, born in Scotland, raised in Ireland, came from a journalist family, started his career in England and moved to the United States in the early 70s to write for THE VILLAGE VOICE.  Eventually he became a U.S. citizen, and has been described as the foremost radical journalist of his generation, which is my generation, for he was born five months earlier than I.  He died of cancer in 2012.
        I am not going to repeat what can be found in the NY TIMES which you can read here.
        The book is subtitled “A road trip though political scandal, corruption, and American culture.”  The colossal wreck is us; and the Oxfam report a few days ago that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest would surely have elicited comment from Andrew Cockburn.
        Cockburn did not write just about politics, and had an engaging and entertaining style.  With the exception of a too long piece in which he portrays one of his enemies seeking admission to heaven, the book is full of energy and does not drag.
        Although he was diagnosed with cancer two years before his death, and for the last three months of his life wrote from a medical facility, he kept this from his readers and most of his friends.  There is not in the book the least indication that he is ill.  His last entry is as vital as the first.  The reader only learns what happened from an afterward written by his daughter.
        Remarkable and admirable.


        I noticed at the bottom of an email from Sid the intriguing quote:  On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of those who on the dawn of victory sat down to rest.
        Seeking the source, I found more:  On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who on the dawn of victory, sat down to rest, and resting died.
        ‘Wait’ and ‘waiting’ are sometimes substituted for ‘rest’ and ‘resting’, and the quote is variously attributed to Adlai Stevenson and George W. Cecil.  It would appear Cecil was first by thirty years.

        From John came four lines from Edna St. Vincent Millay, for which I thank him.
                "My candle burns at both ends
                    It will not last the night;
                But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
                It gives a lovely light"


        The wind at the nearest NOAA buoy is 39 knots.  The air temperature 14°F/-10°C.   
        I’m going to light the fireplace.  
        And, after I workout, maybe pour myself an early glass of Laphroaig.

        The photo is of Bora-Bora.  I’m tired of looking at snow.