Poem of the Week

You smile upon your friend to-day

By A.E. Houseman

You smile upon your friend to-day,
To-day his ills are over;
You hearken to the lover’s say,
And happy is the lover.

’Tis late to hearken, late to smile,
But better late than never:
I shall have lived a little while
Before I die for ever.

Poem of the Week

Inviting a Friend to Supper

by Ben Jonson

Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house, and I
Do equally desire your company;
Not that we think us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignify our feast
With those that come, whose grace may make that seem
Something, which else could hope for no esteem.
It is the fair acceptance, sir, creates
The entertainment perfect, not the cates.
Yet shall you have, to rectify your palate,
An olive, capers, or some better salad
Ushering the mutton; with a short-legged hen,
If we can get her, full of eggs, and then
Lemons, and wine for sauce; to these a cony
Is not to be despaired of, for our money;
And, though fowl now be scarce, yet there are clerks,
The sky not falling, think we may have larks.
I’ll tell you of more, and lie, so you will come:
Of partridge, pheasant, woodcock, of which some
May yet be there, and godwit, if we can;
Knat, rail, and ruff too. Howsoe’er, my man
Shall read a piece of Virgil, Tacitus,
Livy, or of some better book to us,
Of which we’ll speak our minds, amidst our meat;
And I’ll profess no verses to repeat.
To this, if ought appear which I not know of,
That will the pastry, not my paper, show of.
Digestive cheese and fruit there sure will be;
But that which most doth take my Muse and me,
Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine,
Which is the Mermaid’s now, but shall be mine;
Of which had Horace, or Anacreon tasted,
Their lives, as so their lines, till now had lasted.
Tobacco, nectar, or the Thespian spring,
Are all but Luther’s beer to this I sing.
Of this we will sup free, but moderately,
And we will have no Pooley, or Parrot by,
Nor shall our cups make any guilty men;
But, at our parting we will be as when
We innocently met. No simple word
That shall be uttered at our mirthful board,
Shall make us sad next morning or affright
The liberty that we’ll enjoy tonight.

Poem of the Week

Do the Others Speak of Me Mockingly, Maliciously?

by Delmore Schwartz

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man”

Do they whisper behind my back? Do they speak
Of my clumsiness? Do they laugh at me,
Mimicking my gestures, retailing my shame?
I’ll whirl about, denounce them, saying
That they are shameless, they are treacherous,
No more my friends, no will I once again
Never, amid a thousand meetings in the street,
Recognize their faces, take their hands,
Not for our common love or old times’ sake:
They whispered behind my back, they mimicked me.

I know the reason why, I too have done this,
Cruel for wit’s sake, behind my dear friend’s back,
And to amuse betrayed his private love,
His nervous shame, her habit, and their weaknesses,
I have mimicked them, I have been treacherous,
For wit’s sake, to amuse, because their being weighed
Too grossly for a time, to be superior,
To flatter the listeners by this, the intimate,
Betraying the intimate, but for the intimate,
To free myself of friendship’s necessity,
Fearing from time to time that they would hear,
Denounce me and reject me, say once for all
That they would never meet me, take my hands,
Speaking for old times’ sake and our common love.

What an unheard-of thing it is, in fine,
To love another and equally be loved!
What sadness and what joy! How cruel it is
That pride and wit distort the heart of man,
How vain, how sad, what cruelty, what need,
For this is true and sad, that I need them
And they need me. What can we do? We need
Each other’s clumsiness, each other’s wit,
Each other’s company and our own pride. I need
My face untamed, I need my wit, I cannot
Turn away. We know our clumsiness,
Our weakness, our necessities, we cannot
Forget our pride, our faces, our common love.

Poem of the Week

Invitation to Hsiao Chü-shih

Written by Po Chü-i | Translated by Arthur Waley

Within the Gorges there is no lack of men;
They are people one meets, not people one cares for.
At my front door guests also arrive;
They are people one sits with, not people one knows.
When I look up, there are only clouds and trees;
When I look down–only my wife and child.
I sleep, eat, get up or sit still,
Apart from that, nothing happens at all.
But beyond the sixty Hsiao the hermit dwells;
And with him at least I find myself at ease.
For he can drink a full flagon of wine
And is good at reciting long-line poems
Some afternoon, when the clerks have all gone home,
At a season when the path by the river bank is dry,
I beg you, take up your staff of bamboo-wood
And find your way to the parlor of the Government House

Continue reading

Speed the Plow


Another David Mamet play seemed a fitting read as I’m currently taking his MasterClass online.

I’d seen the play at the Remains Theater in 1987.

The play is a satire of show business. Charlie Fox brings a movie deal consisting of a hot star and a blockbuster-type script to his long time buddy, Bobby Gould, who’s career is on fire since he’s gotten a promotion. He’s got till 10 am the next morning to get a producer to agree to make it. So he trusts his pal to make the deal, which will earn them boat-loads of money.

They talk about the business and their careers.  They dream of what they’ll do after this life-changing film is released. In the background a temp secretary bungles along with the phone system. Eventually, she comes into the office and winds up having to read a far-fetched novel as a “courtesy read” meaning she’s to write a summary of a book that’s not going to be adapted to film.

 
After she leaves the office, the men make a bet, a bet that Bobby Gould, whom Karen is working for, will succeed in seducing her. Karen’s not in on this but she agrees to go to Gould’s house to discuss the book she’s to summarize.

Karen finds the book about the end of the world life-changing. Like many 20-something’s She’s swept up by its message. What’s worse, when she goes to Gould’s house she convinces him to make the crazy book into a film and to leave his pal in the dust. The book and play are brisk and, as you’d expect, contain rapid-fire dialog. I enjoyed this book, but can see how some would find problems with Mamet’s portrayal of women. I think he portrays Hollywood quite realistically.

Banning Best Friends?

I heard that some Chicago schools have banned best friends, but I had to discover if that’s true.

Sadly, it is. The practice isn’t universal but it’s not new. In 2010 the New York Times reported about this trend.

Some teachers and schools ban or try to discourage best friends to shield children from the hurt when there’s a disagreement with a friend or the loss of a best friend.

I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, friendship features hurt, but it also offers joy. Children can learn to be loyal, forgiving, helpful, honest, giving and responsible from having a best friend. Also, is it the school’s job to protect students from the pain inherent in life?

It seems schools and teachers should offer wise counsel on dealing with all facets of friendships as they impact a class and the individuals in it. These lessons are as important as anything in school. As an adult, I have had to work in more small groups than those of 10 or more.

I have been blessed with close friendships that started in school. I’m in contact with many of my close friends from high school. I’ve lost touch with those from grade school, but I still reap benefits of lessons learned from having and even losing those relationships. An article in Business Insider validated my belief in having close friends stating:

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 12.21.02 PM

The whole idea of No Best Friends, smacks of a dystopia like WE or 1984 where society dominates individual choice. If teachers don’t like dealing with social issues, they probably should find other work. It is part of child development, which is a class required for teacher education. There are plenty of books and films on friendship, which aid teachers in addressing the problems of friendship.

I think schools should allow students as much freedom as possible. A day at school, of necessity, requires a lot of rules: Don’t run in the hall, Don’t fight, Listen to the teacher, etc. There should be an area where children are free. You can’t legislate every facet of life. Children should learn to manage their social lives.

I’m wondering if children are getting punished for having best friends in these schools.

Mr. Six

Mr. Six (left), his pal (right)

Mr. Six (left), his pal (right)

At a hotel, I asked a concierge for a list of good Chinese movies and Mr. Six was among them–and wow did it belong there.

I found it on a Singapore Air flight and this tale of the clash of the old and poor Beijingers with the rich and young blew me away. The film opens in the hutongs of Beijing where an old time gangster, nicknamed Mr. Six, lives and rules dispensing justice as he threatens pickpockets and intervenes between the police and a poor vendor. Mr Six, a widower, hasn’t even heard from his twenty-something son in six months. He knows the kid doesn’t care about him. He soon hears that his son’s been kidnapped as vengeance for sleeping with a super-rich kid’s girlfriend and then keying that guy’s Ferrari.

Mr. Six knows his son was in the wrong and tracks down the gang of rich car racers, who might as well come from another world. Their culture and mores have little in common with this old geezer who has a very clear, almost eye-for-an-eye view of justice.

Rich kid with blond hair and scratched Ferrari

Rich kid with blond hair and scratched Ferrari

In a curious way, Mr. Six shocks and impresses the kid whom his son wronged. He’s given 48 hours to come up with 20,000 rmb to pay for the car’s paint job. Mr. Six then proceeds to make the rounds of his old pals, some who’re squeaking by and others who’ve become wealthy to get the money.

The film is a good look into China’s culture today. The young are (in some regions more than others) not buying into the old ethos. Materialism is on the rise and taking its toll in the form of souls. Mr. Six has the old justice system down, and it differs from Western ways so he surprised me again and again.

Also, the film itself takes some interesting turns that wouldn’t come up in an American film. At one point the young, spoiled kids agree to meet Mr. Six and his cronies to resolve the matter with a big fight. The old guys show up, but the young ones don’t. I can’t remember a no-show like that in a Western film. Returning home, Mr. Six gets surrounded by henchmen sent by the rich kid’s dad. They proceed to threaten and beat him.

The film captivates and has stayed with me and will for quite some time.

Warning: Mr. Six will strangle and fight anyone who’s treating his son unjustly. It’s not as violent as The Godfather but there’s a lot of fighting and some blood. Some graphic sex scenes, well one.