Thursday, August 29, 2019

Sweepings from a Blogger’s Floor

For this end of summer post, I am going to present what my mother Helen used to call “Sweepings from the Floor.” She was a knowledgeable music lover and when she heard a composition that she thought was not up to the composer’s usual standard, she’d say, for example “Oh that was Sweepings from the Floor of Beethoven.”  The image is that of the composer gathering up scraps of torn up manuscript paper from the floor and cobbling them together in order to meet some commission deadline or another.

Sweeping #1:  I tried to engage this summer in what the Dutch call Niksen,  the translation for which  is  “doing nothing.”  The Dutch consider the concept of Niksen an art form, as a way of combating stress. According to The New York Times, a psychologist Doreen Dodgen Magee, whose specialty is boredom, likens Niksen to “a car whose engine is running but not going anywhere.”  Gazing at the mountains or the sea during visits to Colorado and Maine this summer was good for my Niksen aspirations.

Sweeping #2:  I was struck by a line in a report last spring on the political demise of UK Prime Minister Theresa May. A colleague of hers said: “She is very hard working. She can’t construct a song, or write poetry. And if you’re driving big change you must infuse that either with drama or with lyricism.”   This criticism evokes unfavorable comparisons to Winston Churchill, John F, Kennedy, Dr. King and Barack Obama who had those qualities. At the same time, we are daily reminded that our current president clearly does not.  

Sweeping #3: I just discovered a profession that, should it be espoused widely, might help leaders with expression deficit. In a New York Times wedding announcement August 18, the groom’s job at a solar-energy equipment installer in Rhinebeck NY was listed as “a creative content producer and story teller.”  I wish I had that job description during my career as I did just that frequently and I guess I still am trying with this blog.  At my 50th prep school class reunion dinner, after I told the story of having to deal with a  guest orchestra conductor with bad BO,  the prep school master who tried to teach me Greek declared: “I always knew you’d be a raconteur “– a great compliment.

In the same wedding announcement the bride was named as a great-great-great-great granddaughter  of a  19th century publisher whose importance I’m sure can be found somewhere in the mists of time. Maybe it’s the influence of but shouldn’t there be a limit to how far back you go to impress the reader in such announcements?

Sweeping#4:  An update. I have been writing about the opioid epidemic, the  Sackler family , and the family’s connection to museums - .  In July the art world was surprised by the announcement that The Louvre had decided to strip the Sackler name from the famed facility in Paris, namely the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities. The advocacy group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), which was active in demanding similar action in the USA,  was part of a demonstration outside the Louvre Pyramid on July 1. The Louvre announced its decision July 17, later claiming it was done in concordance with a policy that limited naming rights to 20 years. The Sackler donation was made in 1993. As the prestigious Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, look for other institutions that thus far have declined to scrub the Sackler name, to think again. 

Sweeping #5: On a cheerier museum note, and one very much in tune with disappearing summer, let’s applaud the decision by the Museum of Ice Cream to build a permanent space in New York City’s SoHo. The museum has previously been very popular with pop-up installations in New York, as well as San Francisco, Miami and Los Angeles. The 25,000 square foot building will feature a “Hall of Giant Scoops” and a “Sprinkle Pool.”   Yippee!!  If they are smart they won’t get into the naming game.

Sweeping #6: According to Agence France-Presse (via The Week magazine) two professors from the University of California, Berkeley,  have installed what they call the “Teetertotter Wall” –three pink seesaws across the U.S. Mexico border wall between Sunland Park, N.M. and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, that enables children on both sides of the border to play together.  Professor Ronald Rael, one of the designers, said the seesaws clearly illustrate that “actions that take place on one side have direct consequences on the other side.”

To which I add - “As well as having fun,” which I hope you will be having these remaining days of summer.

I welcome comments on this post, and any of the others seen in the archive to the left, at:

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