audenhome

Auden at Home

In About the House, published in 1965, W. H. Auden gives readers a tour of his home in Kirchstetten, Austria. Each of the twelve poems in the section titled “Thanksgiving for a Habitat,” bears a dedication to an individual, one of Auden’s friends.

(“Down There,” about the cellar, is dedicated to Irving Weiss, and “Up There,” about the attic, is dedicated to Anne Weiss. Irving Weiss taught in the English Department of SUNY New Paltz and retired in 1985, before I was a student in that department, but he was still around when I was there. Anne was his wife. For me, “Auden dedicated a poem to him” may as well have been the caption under his face each time I saw Professor Weiss. He is still alive, 94 years old, and a profile of him in a recent Long Island newspaper does not mention any of the above.)

Back to Auden’s home (pictured in a recent photo at top with a poster bringing the master back to the porch outside his upstairs study):
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Martin and Lewis

Today in History: July 25

From July 25, 1946, to July 25, 1956, the two men built one of the hottest acts in show business: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis became a top nightclub attraction, and the two were television stars, radio stars, and they made 17 movies together in those 10 years.

They started out as show business acquaintances. Seventy years ago tonight, a singer booked to work with Jerry Lewis at the 500 Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey, bailed out, and Lewis suggested Martin as a replacement. Martin was a decade older than Lewis, smooth on stage, a professional who had not yet found his audience. The two tried a standard “comedy and music” formula with no meaningful interaction, and the audience was memorably unmoved. The club owner threatened to fire them.
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Memories of the Future

In his Confessions, St. Augustine writes, “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain it to one that asks, I know not.” He decides that time is an idea, unique to humans, and also unique in that we can simultaneously grasp the past in memory, the present by attention, and the future by expectation. In our minds, but only there, we are not locked to one perception of one reality.

Earlier, I deleted everything that I had written up to that point by dragging my unbuttoned shirtsleeve across my laptop’s touchpad while reaching for my coffee. (No, I can not replicate the results in an experiment; yes, like an idiot, I have attempted to replicate these results in an experiment.) In a feat of memory, I retyped all that I had written to that point: simultaneously, I remembered what I had written, was super-present and typed it attentively in the moment, and I lived in expectation of a future in which I regularly saved my work, a lesson I first learned, oh, 20 years ago.

I was in three specific time-experiences at once, and each one sucked.
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machu-picchu

Today in History: July 24

Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan settlement high in the Peruvian mountains, was (re)discovered by American Hiram Bingham (who was later a U.S. Senator) on this date in 1911.

Only the locals knew that something had been there once upon a time, and they had continued to use the agricultural terraces the Incans had started to use in the 1400s, but the buildings had been forgotten and overtaken by the jungle.
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1stAmendmentTwitter

Harassment & Free Speech

The essayist who wrote this in 2012:

We are all by now accustomed to the periodic whinging of public figures after another round of drive-by shootings on Twitter. But the problem isn’t restricted to those who put themselves on a public platform. Just take a look at how people are talking to each other as well. Frankly, it’s terrifying, and it occurs to me that one of the great challenges of the next decade will be how we, as a society, manage those people unable to manage themselves.

… was banned “permanently” from posting on Twitter this week. A spokesman for Twitter told an interviewer for Buzzfeed, “People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter, but no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”

The author of the essay quoted above, titled, “The Internet Is Turning Us All Into Sociopaths,” is one Milo Yiannopoulos, who seems to have decided that his article was more useful to him as a point-by-point, how-to-become-a-sociopath expository essay instead of a complaint against sociopathy. In the subsequent four years, he became famous as an Internet sociopath, celebrated as an “alt-Right wing” hero of some sort, a keyboard bully who never had the balls to say what he wrote to anyone’s face and yet wore a bulletproof vest for show as if he had even one time spoken truth to power.
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1024px-W_A_Burt_typographer

Today in History: July 23

U.S. Patent Number 5581X was awarded to William Austin Burt on this date in 1829 for his “typographer” (seen above). It was the first device that can be called a typewriter, although that term (with a hyphen) was not in use until the 1860s.

Burt’s invention was large: 12 inches tall by 12 inches wide by 18 inches long, and it did not utilize a keyboard. It worked via a wheel on the front, which one used to dial up the desired letter and line it up where one wanted it, and then one pushed an attached lever to make contact with the paper. (It must have been like composing a text on an old cell phone via a number pad, one letter at a time, except with a giant wooden box.)
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Dillinger

Today in History: July 22

On this date in 1934, federal agents shot and killed a man while he was watching a movie in a theater.

Now, that man was John Dillinger, and he had in fact robbed about a dozen banks and he had escaped prison, but nothing he had done impelled federal attention (he was accused of killing a police officer)—except that he was attracting national attention, “bad guy getting away with it” attention, and was receiving more positive media coverage than J. Edgar Hoover’s Division of Investigation (the precursor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and his “G-Men.”

After viewing Manhattan Melodrama in Chicago’s Biograph Theater, Dillinger stepped outside, detected the presence of law officers out to get him, and ran into an alley, where three G-Men pursued him and each one of them fired his weapon.
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