The Antimony Year

The clicks on life’s odometer resound with more of an echo on certain days—one’s birthday, usually.

In Paul Auster’s diary of his sixty-fourth year, Winter Journal, Auster recounts a moment in which the actor Jean-Louis Trintignant tells him solemnly, “Paul, at fifty-seven I felt old. Now, at seventy-four, I feel much younger than I did then.” Auster writes that he was confused by the remark but that because it seemed important to Trintignant to tell him this, he did not ask the actor to clarify. Auster writes that as he has entered his sixties, the comment has come to appear true in its own way, for him.

Today, November 18, I am fifty-one. In Trintignant’s schema, at least six more years of aging until I feel old lies ahead for me, to be followed by the youth of old age. (The great actor himself is still with us, eighty-eight years young, with a birthday in December.) It is probably true that I feel younger at fifty-one than I felt in my thirties, and this is not from a sense of renewed vigor or newly discovered stamina. It is more that life as I have experienced it has shifted my priorities away from the obsessions of my twenties and thirties: dollar bills and public esteem.
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Thanks for Thanksgiving

In her earlier career as a poet and editor, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788–1879) composed a poem so beloved it is a surprise to learn that a human being wrote it: “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She is also the individual most responsible for the creation of an American holiday so beloved that it is a surprise to learn that someone had to campaign for it: Thanksgiving, which we celebrate today.
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‘Dulce et decorum est’ …

My grandfather’s younger brother, my great-uncle Walter, fought with the 104th Infantry and died in action in France in 1944. Above is a photo from Find A Grave.com of Walter Aldrich’s gravestone in Lorraine American Cemetery, near Metz, France, one of 10,000 Americans buried in that cemetery. It is the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe.
My family is not one that talks much about its military service, but many members on both sides served. Today is Memorial Day, and my family’s attitude of doing service because service is what one does without expectation of reward is worth celebrating.

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JFK at 100: A Personal Reflection

President John F. Kennedy laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 1963. The photo at top is from that day, May 30, 1963. By the end of that year, President Kennedy joined the company of dead service members buried there.

President Kennedy would be 100 today, which coincidentally is this year’s Memorial Day.
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For Those Left Behind: Memorial Day 2017

“Their life consisted wholly and solely of war, for they were and always had been front-line infantrymen. They survived because the fates were kind to them, certainly—but also because they had become hard and immensely wise in animal-like ways of self-preservation.”—Ernie Pyle, World War II journalist, writing about what he saw at the front. Killed in action April 18, 1945.

I do not come from a family that talks much about its military service. My father was drafted in 1958, served his two-year-long tour, and then came back home to a job that had been held for him. This was during the Cold War, so he did not see action but he did see more of the world than he had up till then, or since. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany during the Cold War as a calculator tasked with determining missile flight paths. (I believe he worked with the Atlas missile, an early ICBM model.)
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The Old Stone

Because the Rosetta Stone was (is) a document of a very important decree, it was carved into granite; however, its preservation into the modern era (it was found in 1799) is an accident of circumstance. Without it, we would not have the term “Rosetta stone,” and then where would we be?

Because it is the document of a very important decree, it has a date on it, a date that may have been as important to its readers as July 4, 1776, is to some Americans. The date is given as 18 Meshir during the ninth year of Ptolemy’s reign; that date is March 27, 196 BC.
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February 5 in History

A movie reviewer for the Los Angeles Times wrote that the new film “drags terribly with a long and tiresome chase of one [train] engine by another.” The film under review was Buster Keaton’s The General, which debuted in the Capitol Theater in New York City 90 years ago today.

The film flopped. Up to this point, Keaton possessed complete creative control over his film comedies, and Metro and United Artists gave him a $750,000 budget to make the Civil War-era film, which tells a true story in a mode that Hollywood―and its audiences―was not yet accustomed to: action-adventure-comedy. The film earned back less than $500,000 at the box office. Keaton’s next contract with MGM restricted him to comedies and did not allow him to direct. He descended into alcoholism.
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February 4 in History

A web site, Thefacebook.com, was launched on this date in 2004 on the campus of Harvard University by Mark Zuckerberg and others. It was a successor site to one called “Facemash” that had been created just months before. Within hours of its launch, thousands of Harvard students had registered, and within its first week, the first lawsuits were filed.
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