Relaxing

Stillness of Heart is taking some time off to fully enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

Stillness of Heart is taking some time off to fully enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

Stay in touch. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

See you in the fall.

Happy Birthday to me, sort of

There’s still so much left to do, so much still to explore. Thanks for joining the party. I’m just getting warmed up.

“I resisted creating a personal, standalone blog like this for a long time.”

That’s how I began this blog, one year ago today. I’m so happy the resistance crumbled, the hesitation eased, and the words flowed.

I’ve used dozens of posts to write about the Civil War and mojitos, Yuri Gagarin and Eva Longoria, Michelangelo and Theodore Roosevelt.

I’ve written about Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream. “Mad Men” and earthquakes. Papa Hemingway and Papa Ortiz. Writing and writers. I’ve recommended great reads and remembered great places.

There’s still so much left to do, so much still to explore.

Thanks for joining the party. I’m just getting warmed up.

F.

TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. MISS YOU The Rolling Stones
2. COLOMBIA Jan Hammer
3. CRY Godley & Creme
4. TONIGHT, TONIGHT, TONIGHT Genesis
5. RICO’S BLUES Jan Hammer
6. CARRY ME Chris DeBurgh
7. FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME Foreigner
8. CROCKETT’S THEME Jan Hammer
9. NOTORIOUS Duran Duran
10. ALL SHE WANTS TO DO IS DANCE Don Henley

Homo universalis

One of my guiding principles is that we’re all capable of self-improvement at any age, particularly intellectual self-improvement. Sometimes that faith is the only thing that enables me to sleep through the night and get out of bed in the morning.

KS16

That’s Latin for “universal man” or “man of the world,” if Wikipedia can be relied on for a proper translation.

I glide through a small, comfortable life — trying not to bother anyone, trying to be pleasant and polite, non-judgmental and sympathetic, charming and humble, trying to be intellectually honest and self-aware of my limits and flaws, every day edging closer to fulfilling all my ambitions.

One of my guiding principles is that we’re all capable of self-improvement at any age, particularly intellectual self-improvement. Sometimes that faith is the only thing that enables me to sleep through the night and get out of bed in the morning. I’ve always been blessed with a hunger for knowledge, a curiosity that often flares into full-blown passion for new arenas of experience, a curiosity perhaps sparked by a bittersweet frustration that I don’t know as much about literature, science, mathematics, history and culture as I think I should.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve always embraced wholeheartedly people like Theodore Roosevelt and Michelangelo, those who lived their lives desperately hungry for more of the world to absorb into their hearts and minds, constantly reaching out to make more of it their own.

A friend once called me a polymath. Other friends have called me a Renaissance man. I politely laughed off both compliments. I’m certainly no genius. I’d hardly consider myself intelligent, compared to the accomplishments and capabilities of the other men and women in my life.

As I understand it, polymaths and Renaissance men and women possess an immensity of talent to complement that fiery passion to achieve great things in multiple fields, professions, etc. As my quiet life sadly illustrates — in which I’ve been not much more than a minor writer, historian, editor, painter and arts critic — I have very much of the latter and very little of the former.

Perhaps later life will prove otherwise, as I’m slowly exploring how to become a proper pianist, an amateur boxer, an effective apiarist and gardener, an expert numismatist and philatelist, a stellar professor of American Civil War and Roman and Spanish imperial history, a sympathetic and effective psychologist, an historical novelist, a decent speaker, writer and translator of Turkish, Spanish and Latin, and a less-than-atrocious golfer, photographer, and salsa dancer. My mandate is to be more than a simple-minded, well-meaning hobbyist.

But if none of that works out, perhaps this particular man of the world will be content being someone who’s fun to spend time with, whose passion for history is inspiring, whose writing makes the heart soar, who’s always interesting, always relaxing, always enriching. Always happy.

I’d settle for that last one, above and beyond all the rest.

preparing for mad men

Have You Been Caught Masturbating? Do Tell.: The blogosphere is still buzzing about Sally’s self-pleasuring scene, including Jezebel, where Sadie Stein asks her readers for some TMI: “While we’re hoping your stories of being caught in the act don’t rate quite to Draper-level of trauma, we’re guessing there are some classics out there — and we want to hear them. So share your tales of masturbatory angst! Let us heal through group therapy!”

Not Even Christina Hendricks Is Safe From Photoshop: Jezebel was also grimly amused with some altered photos of Christina Hendricks after she posed for London Fog, one of the companies featured in a “Mad Men” episode.

How Joan Holloway Gives Me Confidence: From earlier this summer, The Frisky’s Wendy Atterberry admits that it “wasn’t until … I finally rented the first season of the show that I really understood what a compliment it was to be compared to the incomparable Joan Holloway. She’s a vixen! A sex symbol!”

Were lives really messier in the “Mad Men” era?: On Salon.com, Mary Elizabeth Williams amusingly frets that Americans today “care about the ice caps and our cholesterol levels and attend sexual harassment seminars and recycle now, right? We must be atoning for somebody’s crimes. Wasn’t it easier somehow when we didn’t have to give a crap?”

Why We Need Betty: Linda Stasi, TV critic for the New York Post, wants more Betty Draper in Season 4. As Stasi explains, “(Betty’s) shallow narcissism, it turns out, gave every scene a very scary, very unpredictable aspect. Ms. Jones as Mrs. Draper was a perfectly perfect female specimen who was always just one mussed hair away from becoming a monster.”

(Photo from the ‘Mad Men’ soundtrack album)

preparing for ‘Mad Men’: history, design, protection

As the fourth season of “Mad Men” rages forward, I’ll mine the Web for interesting tidbits that will enrich the experience for all of us, and I’ll post what I find before the weekends. You’ll be properly marinated in time for the Sunday premieres of new episodes.

As happens with every new season, we take a moment to orient ourselves on the timeline of American history. New York Magazine made it a little easier with this look back at the real history that unfolded between the third and fourth seasons: “What Happened During Mad Men’s Year Off?” The New York Times recently assembled a magnificent interactive timeline of the history dominating the series, which can be savored here.

One thing we do know that continued during the show’s year off was Draper’s slick though not-always successful pursuit of women. New York Magazine created a slideshow exploring a question not even Draper can answer: “What Is Don Draper’s Type? A Guide to His Many Women.”

And what do those many women find so appealing about Draper? Natasha Vargas-Cooper, the editor of the blog Mad Men Unbuttoned: A romp through 1960s America and author of its book version, recently explored the answers in a piece in the Daily Beast. “Whether it’s ancient biology or socialized norms,” she concludes, “there is a protection that Don offers that we women want.”

The key woman in Draper’s life, arguably, is Betty, who has left him with hopes for a better life with Henry Francis. But do we know what her fate will be, regardless of how she may try to defy it? Open Letters Monthly offered Laura Tanenbaum’s grim review of the cultural and historical tides that have and will affect Betty’s evolution as a character. “It seems unlikely her life with Henry will bring her much in the way of feeling, phantom or otherwise,” Tanenbaum warns us. “As the series moves into its post-JFK assassination high-sixties moment, we don’t know where it’s taking us, but we’re fairly certain it will be leaving Betty behind.”

The aesthetic sense of the 1960s “Mad Men” examines through its historical prism is explored in “Designing ‘Mad Men,’ “ a short piece by Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books blog. Miller commends Matthew Weiner for “performing one of the most instructive—not to say diverting and entertaining—sleights of hand in the modern theater of memory.”

Many more links can be found at the wonderful Basket of Kisses blog.

(Photo from the ‘Mad Men’ soundtrack album)