another day off (almost)


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For two days in a row, I have not put on my organ shoes. This means I haven’t practiced organ in a very long time for me. It does seem as though goofing off around the house, reading and playing piano and guitar, has helped a bit.

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Yesterday I had a fruitful discussion with Curtis Birky, my therapist. Then I stopped at church and practiced harpsichord. I am using it for the prelude and anthem Sunday. Today I have to go over and tune it and also meet with the guitarist for tomorrow.

These are little things to do. I deliberately came home after practicing harpsichord at church yesterday to do more relaxing. This seems to be helping.


I’m almost done with Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty. Eileen and I watched the full interview he did with Stephen Colbert last night. I’ve also caught bits of his other many interviews. I think he is mostly sincere in his stance and I admire his attempt at shaping the public discussion in way it needs to be beyond partisanship and more about integrity, morality, and clarity.

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I’m on chapter 13 out of 14 chapters. I want to finish it soon, but found myself wanting something a bit more meaty to read this morning in my morning session. At this point in the book, Comey is a bit gossipy about meeting and dealing with Trump. It’s mildly interesting to read, but I’m not that interested in Trump as personality. And I’m familiar with the incidents he describing. I look forward to his conclusion where I expect him to end with clear statements about what he thinks we need as a country and what leadership can be.

But even in my poetry reading this morning, I was drawn to deeper content and picked up Auden’s Collected Poems where I left off reading them.

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Googling to figure out some words I stumbled across John Fuller’s A Reader’s Guide to W. H. Auden.

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Looking at a page of this book on Google books I noticed that it’s cross indexed to my edition of Auden’s collected poems. I interlibrary loaned this book instantly and will probably purchase a use edition soon if it’s as good as it seems.

In order to cleanse my weary mind this morning I spent time with Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.

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He’s not kidding with the “definitive” in the subtitle. Did you know that the term, “mulatto,” was coined to reflect the concept that mules being the result of crossing donkeys and horses are infertile? It was a not so subtle reference to racist separation of peoples into subspecies. Yikes. I learned this this morning.

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Kendi has a steel trap mind. He delves deeply and critically into the 18th century Enlightenment movement, citing it’s major figures’ on race. It’s not pretty. Voltaire and subsequently Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were all convinced of the inferiority of peoples with dark skin. It’s helpful to remember Kendi’s three classifications of historical attitudes towards race: segregationist, assimilationist, and antiracist.

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Basically segregationists insist on the idea that humanity is divided up into types (races) which are clearly hierarchical. Guess whose at the bottom?

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Assimilationists are all about the colonial notion that uncivilized races can become more like white people. In the early days of this thought, many insisted that if dark skinned people moved to a more temperate climate they would whiten up. Sheesh.

Both of these ideas supported pro and anti slavery types. It’s interesting to read Kendi’s analysis of this.

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Antiracists are what you might think. Basically it boils down to disagreeing with any generalization about a group of humans that identifies them as having basic differing traits that sorts them into races. This is not as easy as it sounds.

In the 2017 article I recently linked, Kendi frankly examines his own change of mind about racisim, moving from some assimilationist ideas to more conscious antiracist.

Anti-racist ideas hold that racial groups are equal. That the only thing inferior about black people is their opportunities. “The only thing wrong with black people is that we think there is something wrong with black people,” a line that Kendi uses like a mantra.


a day off


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Yesterday I did not practice. I did not exercise. I went into a bit of a mental/physical stall. This morning I feel better as a result of it. I told Eileen I needed thirteen more days like that one. I spent the day moving back and forth from my reading chair to the piano and guitar. I would play some Mendelssohn on the piano or some Gervaise and Bach on the guitar, tire quickly, and return to reading.

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Consequently I finished Albright’s Fascism: A Warning and read a good deal in James Comey’s new book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. It quickly became apparent to me that Comey’s book was his first and that Albright’s book was her sixth.

Comparing the two books is a bit of an apples and oranges conundrum. Albright’s book is incisive and lays out the workings of a keen mind. Comey’s prose style seems to be lifted from Scott Turow or John Grisham, two other lawyers turned writers. This is ironic because in her acknowledgements Albright thanks Bob Woodward for his help with her books. Woodward’s prose style (what i can remember of it) seems closer to Comey’s than Albright’s.

I am enjoying Comey however. He leaves some things about himself and his wife unsaid.  I think they are probably Catholic. I thought of this as he described his wife’s incredulity at someone using the phrase “It’s God’s Will,” when expressing sympathy at the death of their newborn daughter.

This someone was probably a Roman Catholic priest. I remember the first time I heard a priest use that phrase to a mourner. The mourner was a young husband burying his wife. I looked at the widower and wondered which of us was going to hit the priest. Neither did. But the shock of it is firmly imprinted in my memory.

So fae I am finding Comey almost convincing in his attempt to “bring the reader into his mind.” Unfortunately, the book reads like it’s under the influence of one too many  “how to write” books. It will probably be a best seller.  The prose is easy. The topic popular (a memoir about people in the current or recent spotlight). Hell, I pre-ordered it

This morning I drive to Glen Michigan to spend forty five minutes with my therapist, Dr. Curtis Birky. I plan to discuss the gloom and sadness that I have been living through recently. Of course, this morning I feel chipper. That’s the problem. When I’m down I’m not usually scheduled for a therapy session. By the time they roll round, I am more in a reporting mode than a therapeutic one.

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I told Eileen last night that today I get to tell my shrink my wife said I’m drinking too much. Although that’s how she phrased it, I think what she meant was that my drinking habits in the light of some recent health thing she read are not good. I told her I was willing to go with her take on it, but that what troubled me was her own feelings of anxiety around my mortality.

At least I wish I had been that succinct and clear. That’s probably some of what we’ll talk about this morning. So of course after a day of mental stall and time off, I skipped my martini and wine last night, doing the dishes one more time before bed instead. Also, removing myself from the playing of the PBS News Hour on the living room computer which I am beginning to despise. Come to think o fit, maybe I’ve despised the News Hour for a while.

I have a semi annual check scheduled next week. I have been keeping an eye on my BP and weight realizing I will have to have them measured in the office next week. They haven’t been too bad. Skipping drinks will probably help those numbers. Ah. Getting old is goofy.

Image result for a personal anthology by jorge luis borgesI have been listening to Borges stories on New Yorker podcasts. He is an amazing writer. After listening to Paul Theroux read and discuss his “The Gospel According to Mark” this morning, I got up and found my copy of his A Personal Anthology sitting conveniently by my reading chair.  I immediately read “Death and the Compass” in it (link to pdf).

 This article from September of last year lays out some of Kendri’s basic ideas (e.g. racism precedes and dictates policy not the other way round). He links it on the first page of his website.