vacation reading

Yesterday’s poem of the day on The Writer’s Almanac site, impressed me. Here it is:

This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labors to others,
Hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
Have patience and indulgence toward the people,
Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
Or to any man or number of men,
Go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
And with the young and with the mothers of families,
Read these leaves in the open air,
Every season of every year of your life,
Reexamine all you have been told,
At school at church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem,
And have the richest fluency not only in its words,
But in the silent lines of its lips and face,
And between the lashes of your eyes,
And in every motion and joint of your body.

by Walt Whitman, from the preface of Leaves of Grass

I admire the idealism in this poem. But it reminds me of Shirley Robin Letwin’s comments about the multitudinous criteria for being a gentleman “hardly distinguishes a gentleman from a saint.”

I interlibrary-loaned her book, The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct, recently for giggles. I’m thinking of taking it along on my vacation to read.

Also have been reading Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion by Charles Rosen.

I will probably take this on vacation with me as well. I have been consulting my two volume hard back scores while reading this, but will not take those with me. I figure I can find the scores online if I have a text question.

I’m planning to use my netbook to read fiction. I have The American Senator by Anthony Trollope and The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky on it and have been reading both them via Kindle for PC software.

Traveling with this kind of access is like having a bookstore in your pocket. If I decide I want to read something I can always buy it and download it. This feels like luxury to me. Amazing.

I’m still wondering how I will do without daily practice. This is always the question for a musician. We don’t really take a vacation from our vocation, only the circumstances of work. Ideally I would maintain access to an instrument even when relaxing. In fact, it’s HOW I relax most of the time.

But it seems to work out just fine even if I don’t have access to a piano or a guitar.

I know I am looking forward to time off, that’s for sure.


An African Adventure, and a Revelation –

NYTimes columnist Nicholas Kristoff has been running contests the past few years. I think they are essay contests. Anyway, the winners get to go to Africa with him and see poverty and other problems up close and personal.

This year he took a student and a teacher. His essay describing it is excellent. Recommended.


E.J. Dionne, Jr.: What Our Declaration Really Said – Truthdig

Dionne points out that modern “conservatives” who claim precedent for their privatizing anti-government anti-tax theology from the American Revolution, specifically the Declaration of Independence are mis-reading it.

Note that the signers wanted to pass laws, not repeal them, and they began by speaking of “the public good,” not about individuals or “the private sector.” They knew that it takes public action—including effective and responsive government—to secure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” from the linked article


Book Review – Bright’s Passage – By Josh Ritter –

reviewed by Stephen King. Josh Ritter is a musician who has gone from writing songs to writing a novel. King thinks he’s good enough to keep trying.

Book Review – Conscience – By Louisa Thomas –

This non-fiction book sounds like it would appeal to me. It’s the story of two brothers who work their way through religion and the problem of war in early 20th c. USA.


Corporate Cash Con –

Those dang liberals at the NYT point out that corporations already have tons of money. Their sitting on it and waiting for consumers to regain their confidence and begin buying. Not gonna happen.

I also think Robert Reich succinctly explains the economic mess we are in in this video:


Free Speech and the Internet –

Editorial supporting freedom on the Internet.


Online Scandal Underscores Chinese Distrust of Charities –

This is an unusual look at China’s domestic  charity giving.


Gauging Consequences for Republicans Who Backed Gay Marriage –

profiles several Republicans who broke ranks on this issue. I keep thinking that Gay issues are moving away from the usual U.S. partisan rancor. Being gay has nothing to do with being conservative, liberal or what have you.


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