Mapping Rome, the Golden Era of American Chess, and Cheap Friends
The recent passing of Pal Benko and Shelby Lyman, Peter Nicholas argues in The Atlantic, ends the “Golden Era” of American chess: “The loss of Benko and Lyman draws the curtain on an era in American chess that produced some of the game’s richest personalities and most sparkling play. The players and teachers who dominated the firmament in the mid-20th century were the game’s greatest generation. They bested a Soviet pipeline of grand masters who once had a stranglehold on the title. One by one, they’re dying out.”
The real Huey Long: “Long controlled everything in Louisiana public life, from using the Louisiana National Guard as his personal police force to coaching LSU’s football team. When the media wouldn’t do his bidding, Long created and distributed his own newspaper. In it, he mocked his political adversaries and smeared anyone who spoke against him, endangering their livelihoods and the safety of their families. To maintain his schemes, Long demanded unwavering allegiance from everyone, ranging from elected officials to low-level civil servants. If you resisted, you paid dearly.”
Berthe Morisot’s “necessary talent”: “The template for a potential artist’s career is often: enthusiastic family (especially mother) overpraises the slightest sketch, the haziest verse, the whisper of a tune; then the world – teacher, grown-up artist or writer or musician, and later the critical press – examines that talent with sterner eyes or ears, and stomps on it. With Berthe Morisot, this paradigm was reversed. It was her mother who doubted her talent, who urged her to quit, who wrote of her to Edma: ‘She has perhaps the necessary talent – I shall be delighted if such is the case – but she has not the kind of talent that has commercial value or wins public recognition; she will never sell anything done in her present manner, and she is incapable of painting differently.’ This wasn’t the objection of a philistine parent: Mme Morisot was a cultivated woman, on warm social terms with painters and composers (Rossini had picked out a piano for Berthe, and even signed it). She just wasn’t able to believe her daughter was good enough. Not even when assured of the fact by established artists: ‘Puvis [de Chavannes],’ she reports to Edma, ‘has told her that her work has such subtlety and distinction that it makes others miserable, and that he was returning home disgusted with himself. Frankly, is it as good as all that?’ Further: ‘M. Degas dropped in for a moment yesterday. He uttered some compliments, though he looked at nothing – he just had an impulse to be amiable for a change. To believe these great men, she has become an artist!’”
Yet another White House book: “Sarah Huckabee Sanders, one of the most recognizable faces of the Trump administration, is writing a book that is expected to be published next fall, St. Martin’s Press said Thursday. In a news release, George Witte, the editor in chief of St. Martin’s Press, said the book would cover the former White House press secretary’s years working for President Trump and offer ‘a unique perspective on the most important issues, events and both public and behind-the-scenes conversations inside the White House.’”
The promise of mapping Rome: “Carandini’s team has built the most comprehensive model, to date, of an ancient city . . . The intricate relationships between infrastructure, streets, squares, monuments, temples, baths, marketplaces, and private realms are depicted at a level never before seen. A close parallel might be found in the early-20th-century Sanborn Fire Insurance maps that show the granular forms of American industrial urbanism in the period before zoning. The Atlas depicts the original case of large-scale, traditional Western urbanism (including its customs, patterns, and evolution) in similar relief.”
Essay of the Day:
Wilfred M. McClay surveys the cheapening of the word “friend” for The Hedgehog Review:
“[T]he noble term friend has already been so diluted and cheapened in our times, like so many of our most important words of personal and social connection, that it has become like the Platte River, a mile wide and an inch deep. Such cheapening has occurred not only in our personal usage but in public discourse. When Abraham Lincoln concluded his First Inaugural Address with a heartfelt plea to the seceding Southern states to recall that ‘we are not enemies, but friends,’ the word had great emotive power, describing the very bonds of public affection that were being sundered. Such earnest usage has all but disappeared. Friend as we now use it embraces a particularly large portfolio of evasions and line-blurring maneuvers, especially useful in the hands of diffident teenagers, as in this familiar exchange: Mother: ‘Who was that on the phone?’ Daughter: ‘A friend.’
“As this example illustrates, friend can designate anything from a mysterious or otherwise uncategorizable love interest to a study-group classmate to a business associate to a helpful neighbor to the ‘friends’ who accumulate on people’s social media accounts, where they are as plentiful and enduring as the daily harvest of low-tide sea shells on a beach. The television series Friends (1994–2004) became one of the most successful sitcoms in TV history by depicting a collection of very attractive twenty- and thirtysomethings ‘hanging out’ together as a kind of quasi-family, a light and frothy fantasy that transposed the social life of the college dorm to not-quite-adult life in implausibly toney Manhattan apartments. For its characters, friendship was that relatively flexible and easygoing state of social relations before the hardening categories of adulthood come along.
“This resonated with American audiences, including aging boomers who were nostalgic for the friendships of their college days. But when we’re confronted with the far profounder ideas about friendship put forward by Aristotle, the greatest of all writers on the subject, or by C.S. Lewis in his splendid account in The Four Loves, we tend to be nonplussed.”
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