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James Polk

Up until this morning, all I knew was that he was a 19th-century president. Now I know all sorts of scintillating tidbits:
* NC-born, TN-raised James Knox Polk was elected to the U.S. Congress at 29, where he served for 14 years, including two terms as Speaker of the House.
* He was the Democrats' dark horse candidate in 1844, when more well-known candidates Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, James Buchanan and Thomas Hart Benton couldn't muster enough support. He beat out the Whig candidate Henry Clay by promising to encourage westward expansion. He favored Texas statehood and the acquisition of the Oregon Territory. "Although critics expressed concern that aggressive expansionism might lead to a war with Great Britain or Mexico and might destroy the tenuous balance between  Read More 
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The New Museum

Sheesh, it's 3 blocks away but we only went there for the first time today. (Insert obligatory apologia about New York's embarrassment of cultural riches.)

Roof first (always!): cool view: no chairs or I might have stayed up there all day.

We saw:
* Ragnar Kjartansson's Me, My Mother, My Father, and I. His mother spits at him in a video & a bunch of kids lay around on mattresses playing kumbaya guitar
* Camille Henrot, The Restless Earth. Flowers! And complicated videos.
* A secret installation in the back stairs by David Horvitz, bells + he melts & re-blows seaglass.
* Roberto Cuoghi's ancient Assyrian lament (composed by him and played on handmade instruments), called Šuillakku Corral Read More 
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Romona Youngquist

Johnny's off to MoMa, while I'm drinking in Romona Youngquist. She's an Oregon-based artist who probably isn't as popular as she should be, at least not in the high-art world. That might well change, though. Weren't Chandler and Hammett, for example, (considered) hacks until they became (considered) great? It's certainly true that in the 1860s, the French Classicist painter and sculptor Ernest Meissonier outranked and outsold the likes of Manet, Monet and half a dozen other artists whose names we know far better now than  Read More 
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Forever 21

Derek & me, 2000
My heartthrob Derek Jeter turns 40 today. People you don't actually know don't need to actually age.

My friend Pat reminded me that I'd have to pick a new favorite Yankee after this season. She's decided on Jacoby Ellsbury, "sticking with the 2s and the youthful cuteness."

I had better get through the 5 stages first: disbelief, resentment, self-pity, lust, Mark Teixiera. Or maybe—  Read More 
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A friend was recently in Wales, which reminded me to look at the wedding shelf above our kitchen table. My Auntie May (1902-92) gave us the Welsh love spoon on the left, & someone else gave us the less ornate one. Grapes and leaves mean "love will grow."

Traditionally, the love spoon was made from a single piece of wood by a young man to show both his intentions and his practical skills. The earliest surviving example is from the late 17th century, although they are probably much older. That one can be seen at St Fagans, an open-air museum of Welsh life (Urdd Gobaith Cymru) in Cardiff. It might be my favorite museum in the world.

I don't know why people go to England and Scotland but not Wales. I don't know why people go to the Rockies but not the Black Hills.  Read More 
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Vote early, vote often II

Jerry Nadler when there was more of him to love
I suppose I should have been suspicious when I got a ton of email about Charles Rangel but no robo-calls, flyers or email about Carolyn Maloney or Jerry Nadler (they gerrymandered him away from us but he's still ours!). Turns out there are primaries today in only 10 of New York’s 27 congressional districts. I don't get it. What if I wanted to write in Donald Duck? Is democracy dead?

And speaking of gerrymandering, my favorite U.S. history quote comes from Elbridge Gerry. The Constitutional Convention was discussing whether to maintain a permanent militia. He said, A standing army is like an erect member*: an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure.
* I have heard it as "penis," but I think he was more subtle.

I'll probably write in Nadler when it comes time to vote for Maloney. Read More 
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New music

I have been stocking up on music via the NY Public Library's Freegal service. I get 3 free songs a week, which I've used to choose musicians that I don't often know much about. That's how I got turned on to Elizabeth Cook, for example, who's now one of my favorites.

This weekend I also shelled out cold cash for:
* Rosanne Cash's latest, The River and the Thread. The deluxe edition, at that, since I love that Jesse Winchester song "Biloxi."

* A compilation called Hard Times Come Again No More: Early American Rural Songs of Hard Times and Hardships. I love the eponymous Stephen Foster song & every once in a while I check if there's a version of that song that I don't have. That's how I found this album. It has a bunch of people I already knew, like  Read More 
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Conversation with Ace

"What should I write my blog about today?"

"The effect of summer solstice on the psyche. The contradictory notion that the days are now getting shorter and the weather is now getting warmer."

"And why is it called MIDsummer's night, when it's the FIRST night?"

"And then you can extrapolate that into 1 million different philosophical and rabbinic teachings."


"Okay, just checking how much you are hanging out with that synagogue crowd." Read More 
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Still life
I had never heard of this Japanese store until a wonderful Facebook thread. The poet Joseph Massey asked what notebooks people write in, & being writers, we had our opinions. Several mentioned Muji, & one branch turned out to be just a couple of blocks away, on Cooper Square near the Carl Fischer music store (that is something else now). I went over this afternoon.

Didn't love the notebooks, mostly because I prefer lines, but I did buy a pocket one ($2.25). I sat on a bench & inaugurated it with a little poem. The best things I got were a key ring/notebook (99c) and a bookmark/pen holder ($4.75).

Update: I went back a couple of days later & bought more of everything plus pens. Lost the little key ring notebook, however.  Read More 
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Hug Life

I wish.

The other day I (selfishly, I know) said it was someone else's turn.

It was.

But it's still mine.

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