If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 13

If Thoreau were live blogging the Oscars, he might take a moment to note that an (excellent) film about the first openly gay elected official in California winning the best actor award for Sean Penn reminds him (Thoreau) that people are often wondering whether or not he (Thoreau) was gay. Thoreau is the kind of guy who always turns a question around. For Thoreau, the question might not be, Am I (Thoreau) gay? The question might be, What's up with 21st Century America that they are so concerned with who is gay? With how close your relationships are with those of the same sex? In Thoreau's day, there were intense male to male relationships that would now be labeled gay and maybe were and maybe weren't gay, a kind of moot point, given that they were good relationships. I am reminded of the fact that Lincoln, as a young legislator, answered an add for a roommate and shared a bed with the guy in Springfield for a while, no big deal. I guess the question is, Gay, not gay? What do you care? The question really is, Are you relating?

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 12

I don't know what the Reader is about even; I have not seen it. The people I am watching the Oscars/Live blogging the Oscars pretending to be the Thoreau You Don't Know tell me it's about a woman and a boy and post-WWII Germany and him reading to her, or something along those lines. All I know is that Thoreau says this, in the opening section, entitled "Reading," in Walden:

WITH A LITTLE more deliberation in the choice of their pursuits, all men would perhaps become essentially students and observers, for certainly their nature and destiny are interesting to all alike. In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fear no change nor accident. The oldest Egyptian or Hindoo philosopher raised a corner of the veil from the statue of the divinity; and still the trembling robe remains raised, and I gaze upon as fresh a glory as he did, since it was I in him that was then so bold, and it is he in me that now reviews the vision. No dust has settled on that robe; no time has elapsed since that divinity was revealed. That time which we really improve, or which is improvable, is neither past, present, nor future.

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 11

If you are the Thoreau You Don't Know then you don't know if they will name Frost/Nixon for any awards this evening, but you feel compelled to mention, after seeing Paul Newman's picture in the pictures of actors who passed away this year, that Newman was on Nixon's enemies list. Newman was what Thoreau, in Civil Disobedience, described as a friction, that thing necessary for the proper functioning of a machine, in this case the machine of government. Just for fun, read to his name on this list, which can be found here and is below:

The original list of 20 names of White House "enemies" submitted with comments submitted with comments to Dean by the of office of Charles W. Colson.*

Boldface type indicates a correction in erroneous White House identification of its political enemies. Material in brackets is additional information supplied by the editor.

Having studied the attached material and evaluated the recommendations for the discussed action, I believe you will find my list worthwhile for status. It is in priority order.

1. Arnold M. Picker, United Artists Corp., N.Y. Top Muskie fund raiser. Success here could be both debilitating and very embarrassing to the Muskie machine. If effort looks promising, both Ruth and David Picker should be programmed and then a follow through with United Artists.

2. Alexander E. Barkan, national director of A F.L.-C.I.O.'s committee on Political Education, Washington D.C.: Without a doubt the most powerful political force programmed against us in 1968 ($10 million, 4.6 million votes, 115 million pamphlets, 176,000 workers--all programmed by Barkan's C.O.P.E.--so says Teddy White in "The Making of the President 1968"). We can expect the same effort this time. [See p. 468E3]

3. Ed Guthman, managing editor, Los Angeles Times [national editor]: Guthman, former Kennedy aide, was a highly sophisticated hatchetman against us in '68. It is obvious he is the prime mover behind the current Key Biscayne effort. It is time to give him the message.

4. Maxwell Dane, Doyle, Dane and Bernbach, N.Y.: The top Democratic advertising firm--they destroyed Goldwater in '64. They should be hit hard starting with Dane.

5. Charles Dyson, Dyson-Kissner Corp., N.Y.: Dyson and Larry O'Brien were close business associates after '68. Dyson has huge business holdings and is presently deeply involved in the Businessmen's Educational Fund which bankrolls a national radio network of five-minute programs--anti-Nixon in character.

6. Howard Stein, Dreyfus Corp., N.Y.: Heaviest contributor to McCarthy in '68. If McCarthy goes, will do the same in '72. If not, Lindsay or McGovern will receive the funds.

7. Allard Lowenstein, Long Island, N.Y.: Guiding force behind the 18-year-old "Dump Nixon" vote campaign.

8. Morton Halperin, leading executive at Common Cause: A scandal would be most helpful here. (A consultant for Common Cause in February-March 1971)[On staff of Brookings Institution]

9. Leonard Woodcock, UAW, Detroit, Mich.: No comments necessary.

10. S. Sterling Munro Jr., Sen. [Henry M.] Jackson's aide, Silver Spring, Md.: We should give him a try. Positive results would stick a pin in Jackson's white hat.

11. Bernard T. Feld, president, Council for a Livable World: Heavy far left funding. They will program an "all court press" against us in'72.

12. Sidney Davidoff, New York City, [New York City Mayor John V.] Lindsay's top personal aide: a first class S.O.B., wheeler-dealer and suspected bagman. Positive results would really shake the Lindsay camp and Lindsay's plans to capture youth vote. Davidoff in charge.

13. John Conyers, congressman, Detroit: Coming on fast. Emerging as a leading black anti-Nixon spokesman. Has known weakness for white females.

14. Samuel M. Lambert, president, National Education Association: Has taken us on vis-a-vis federal aid to parochial schools--a '72 issue.

15. Stewart Rawlings Mott, Mott Associates, N.Y.: Nothing but big money for radic-lib candidates.

16. Ronald Dellums, congressman, Calif.: Had extensive [Edward M. Kennedy] EMK-Tunney support in his election bid. Success might help in California next year.

17. Daniel Schorr, Columbia Broadcasting System, Washington: A real media enemy.

18. S. Harrison Dogole, Philadelphia, Pa.: President of Globe Security Systems--fourth largest private detective agency in U.S. Heavy Humphrey contributor. Could program his agency against us.

19. Paul Newman, Calif.: Radic-lib causes. Heavy McCarthy involvement '68. Used effectively in nation wide T.V. commercials.'72 involvement certain.

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 10

Speaking of scores... From the South Florida Classical Review:
For most of his lifetime, Charles Ives was regarded as something of a benighted crank.
The Danbury, Connecticut, native was successful in the insurance business, but little of his music was known or performed while he was alive. In the 1950s and, largely, after his death, Ives’ stupefying originality and the innovative, experimental nature of his music were finally recognized when he was championed by Leonard Bernstein and others.

And then this:
In addition to requiring a pianist who can handle the fusillade of notes, the sonata also calls for a flute in the concluding Thoreau movement, and, in some editions, a viola in Emerson, which Denk believes is a too-literal misinterpretation of Ives merely asking for a viola sound. “I don’t think even Ives was perverse enough to put a viola in a piano sonata.”

Here's some from Ives.

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 9

Philip Petit won! Or the documentary that is about his tightrope walk between the towers of the World Trade Center, the now-gone Twin Towers. Tight rope walking, just after Thoreau died, at the turn of the century, was a national obsession, according to a book I read and enjoyed by Ginger Strand.
Strand goes from being dismissive of the stunts the falls inspire to being appreciative of their meaning. Blondin, né Jean-François Gravelet, the famous aerialist who high-wired back and forth to Canada in 1859 and 1860, becomes for Strand emblematic of the national balancing act for a nation that was on the verge of civil war — Niagara was a last stop on the Underground Railroad. Blondin tightroped in shackles, which confused Strand at first. “But imagine magician David Copperfield putting on a show somewhere in the desert along the Mexican border. Imagine he gets Regis and Kelly to come and tape segments of the show in which he builds a wall and makes someone disappear on one side of the wall and reappear on the other.” In 1905, W. E. B. Du Bois and Mary Talbert convened a group of African-American intellectuals on the American side of the falls and, after being denied a hotel room, crossed into Canada, where they began the Niagara Movement, which eventually became the N.A.A.C.P.

Once, Petit was quoted in Newsweek as saying: "I never fall," he says, "but, yes, I have landed on the earth many, many times." This is very Thoreau. Petit rules!
A live news report here.
(Photo above, of Petit's signature on Trade Tower, by Brian Rose.)

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 8

Thoreau is thought of primarily as a nature writer--the guy in the cabin in the woods. A lot of his writing, though, is about alternate histories. He looks thoroughly at the past. From The Thoreau You Don't Know:
If America was found and lost again once,” Thoreau wrote, “as most of us believe, then why not twice?” Walden calls us to jump out of the boat as we race over the falls of greater and greater materialism. Cape Cod is the book that looks back at the source of it all, that shows us we are not coming from where we thought we were coming from. Here Thoreau ends up looking less like a dead white male and more like the original alternative historian. Especially when it comes to Indians. A passage that stands out as forward- thinking, even by today’s standards, when it comes to Native American treaty rights, is this one, which is also funny, very Mark Twain (who was working as a printer when Thoreau wrote it):

When the committee from Plymouth had purchased the territory of Eastham of the Indians, “it was demanded, who laid claim to Billingsgate?” which was understood to be all that part of the Cape north of what they had purchased. “The answer was, there was not any who owned it. ‘Then,’ said the committee, ‘that land is ours.’ The Indians answered, that it was.” This was a remarkable assertion and admission. The Pilgrims appear to have regarded themselves as Not Any’s representatives. Perhaps this was the first instance of that quiet way of “speaking for” a place not yet occupied, or at least not improved as much as it may be, which their descendants have practicecd, and are still practicing so extensively. Not Any seems to have been the sole proprietor of all America before the Yankees. But history says, that when the Pilgrims had held the lands of Billingsgate many years, at length, “appeared an Indian, who styled himself Lieutenant Anthony,” who laid claim to them, and of him they bought them. Who knows but a Lieutenant Anthony may be knocking at the door of the White House some day? At any rate, I know that if you hold a thing unjustly, there will surely be the devil to pay at last.

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 7

The Letterman interview with Joaquin Phoenix was just spoofed, as Thoreau would have seen:

This reminds me of reading the New York Times today, and seeing an editorial call him a "prig." I think that when we call him a prig we run the risk of commenting less on the guy we are calling a prig and more on ourselves.

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 6

Say Thoreau were watching the Oscars tonight. He would be a little bored by now, and getting up to get another glass of something. The photo above (Library of Congress, by Russell Lee, and taken in 1939 or 40, of an orchestra during intermission at square dance in McIntosh County, Oklahoma

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars 5

Steve Martin just handed out an award. Best screenplay. Steve Martin plays the banjo—a clip:

A great banjo book that Thoreau would definitely have and would not doubt peruse were he watching the Oscars now would be Philip Gura's banjo book, America's Instrument. Gura, of course, won not an Oscar but a National Book Award last year for his book on the Trancendentalists--a book that put the transcendentalists back in a good place, as pre-1960s radicals, as opposed to the place that they have been in for a long while, which was a dusty place, a place where people thought they weren't doing anything. Speaking of banjos, of tunes still learned by ear, as they were in Thoreau's time, there is great banjo here.

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 4

If Thoreau saw Penelope Cruz win the best supporting actress award, he might have thought about Woody Allen as an artist who has been called too parochial--writing about just one town, one set of people, which is not true, or no longer true, especially given that the movie that she just won for was set in Barcelona. Of course, that's what Thoreau did. There's a lot to that. Why do people have a problem with that? Says H.D.T.:
We are acquainted with the mere pellicle of the globe on which we live.

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 3

He just touched the hand of Kate Winslet, who is sitting next to Sam Mendes, who directed the play that Thoreau, if he were living in Brooklyn and had gone to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, would have seen: Mendes' version of "A Winter's Tale." Winter's Tale includes the following line:
Nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean; so over that art
Which you say adds to Nature, is an art
That nature makes;.....this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature.
— Winter's Tale IV. 89

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 2

The red carpet has begun. Miley Cyrus said that Angelina "is my favorite person in all of history. Among the many people he seemed to think of as his "favorite person(s) of all history" was/is Chaucer, Sir Walter Raleigh, Emerson (for a while), and Whitman. But he also seemed to really like the old guys at the post office. People talking, people congregating, people socializing, in a way that people are less likely to socialize anymore. What if everyday were a red carpet day? What if we all processed? That would be a lot of work. Says H.D.T.:
I'm thankful that my life doth not deceive/ itself with a low loftiness...

(Photo by LIbrary of Congress: Orphans going to Coney Island in Autos, June 7, 1911.

If Thoreau Live Blogged the Oscars, 1

If Thoreau live blogged the Oscars, he would just be turning it on, and you have to believe he would be watching via analogue, the clear choice for (A) simplicity and (B) cost saving in a down economy time. To wit:
The handoff of the White House seemed like a piece of cake next to America’s transition from analog to digital TV signal. With the White House, you switch residents but get a lot of the same stuff: podiums, helicopters, tour groups. With the switch that is officially taking place in television transmitters around the country starting this week, you could wind up with frame skipping, frozen screens, or, worse, nothing (as in snow). Bill Beam, the engineer in charge of the signal that WABC-TV sends off the Empire State Building, said recently, “We don’t know how it’s all going to wind up.” In the months leading up to the switchover, the city’s anxious cable- and dish-less citizens have been turning for answers to the Antenna King.