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Thursday, August 08, 2002

When I Was One-and-Twenty

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free’
But I was one-and twenty
No use to talk to me


What happened in the year when I entered adulthood?

Nixon travels to China on his “Journey for peace”.
That same year Time Magazine features Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger on its cover, as joint “Men of the Year”.
Time describes he odd couple as:

‘In their personal dealings, Kissinger and Nixon tend toward formality, with a certain restraint and distance that are natural to both men. Each, in his own way, is a somewhat enigmatic character. Despite moments of humor, Nixon remains his intense, somewhat rigid self, even with Kissinger. Both men have their private lives, and Kissinger is not on the list (a short one) of the President's intimate friends. For all his outer ego, his fierce driving of subordinates and his international celebrity, Kissinger has a servant's heart for Nixon when it comes to power and ideas. He has been willing to subject himself to the scorn of his academic peers (after the Cambodian invasion) and serve the President with a total loyalty that is matched inside the White House only by H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Press Secretary Ronald Zeigler and Kissinger's own deputy on the National Security Council, General Alexander Haig’

Nixon trusted Kissinger as much as as he was capable of. Spurred by remarks made by Kissinger in regard of ‘damaging reports’ by the New York Times of the War in Indochina, he had 7 of Henry Kissinger’s NSC entourage wiretapped by the FBI. The Time article quotes a high-ranking US diplomat:

"The halls of the State Department are littered with the bones of those who thought they could split the President and Henry." The President even wrote Kissinger once: "Frankly, I cannot imagine what the Government would be without you.".

Nixon was a political bully and chessmaster, prepared to defend his position at all cost. When he heard of J.Edgar.Hoover’s demise in that same year, he reacted:
"Jesus Christ! That old cocksucker!"
Publicly he called Hoover a "truly remarkable man" and "one of his closest friends and advisers."

Tom Wicker noted in an essay: ‘Richard Nixon was an introvert in the extrovert calling of the politician’ and: ‘I have to conclude that he was neither evil, nor a victim; except of himself’

Henry Kissinger received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1973, together with the North Vietnamese peace negotiator Le Duc Tho, who declined the Prize.

In a review of: ‘The Trial of Henry Kissinger” by Christopher Hitchens in The Village Voice, Kissinger is described by Hitchens as:

‘Kissinger is a man hiding in plain sight’

Henry Kissinger considered himself a “realist”. His book: ‘A World restored, Metternich, Castlereagh, and the Problems of Peace1812-1822’ that he wrote in 1957, lends the following quote:

‘Every statesman must attempt to reconcile what is considered just with what is considered possible. What is considered just depends on the domestic structure of his state; what is possible depends on its resources, geographic position and determination, and on the resources, determination and domestic structure of other states’.

Today Henry Kissinger is Chairman of Kissinger Associates, an international consultancy firm. The Wall Street Journal recently reported his stake in China Ventures: a company engaged in ventures with China’s state bank.

In Nixon’s first inaugural address on Monday, January 20, 1969, he concludes his speech, with a metaphor related to the Apollo moon mission, by poet Archibald MacLeish:

‘’To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold, brothers who know now they are truly brothers’

And he continues:

‘In that moment of surpassing technological triumph , men turned their thoughts toward home and humanity-seeing in that far perspective that man’s destiny on earth is not divisible; telling us that however far we reach into the cosmos, our destiny lies not in the stars but on Earth itself, in our own hands, in our own hearts.

We have endured a long night of the American spirit. But as our eyes catch the dimness of the first rays of dawn, let us not curse the remaining dark. Let us gather the light.

Our destiny offers, not the cup of despair, but the chalice of opportunity. So let us seize it, not in fear, but in gladness-and, ‘riders on the earth together, ‘let us go forward, firm in our faith, steadfast in our purpose, cautious of the dangers; but sustained by our confidence in the will of God and the promise of man’

When I was 21, I was dazed and confused, trying to sort out the irrationality and chaos of a fractured world.
The socio-psychological climate at the artschool that I attended was fiercely liberal, if not communist; an all-out experimentation platform that offered scant regard for anyone intent on learning the basics of design and painting.

Frequent political gatherings were held in the School’s Aula, and the printing department was constantly occupied by political advocates and zealots, who exploited the school “free press” technical facilities.

This free-spirited climate was fueled further by an ample supply of grass and other substances, two school-based rockbands, and occasional costumed balls in the school's grounds; sometimes culminating in public disorder.

My coming of age happened well after I left artschool, and hardly in accordance with the second stanza of Housman’s poem that I selected to connect with my previous post:

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
‘Tis paid with sighs a-plenty
And sold for endless rue’
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ‘tis true, ‘tis true.

posted by Walter at 8/08/2002

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Seventh Year Itch

What did the world look like when I was a seven year old?

The first radar speed checking machines were introduced
BMA report blames cigarette smoking as the chief cause of lung cancer
BOAC launches the first trans-atlantic Comet jet service to New York, Pan-Am launches 707 service from New York at the same time

Playboy magazine was introduced. The first centerfold: Marilyn Monroe.

Top 5 music chart of 1958

1-Johnnie B Goode – Chuck Berry
2-Donna – Richie Valens
3-Tequila – Champs
4-Get a job – Silhouettes
5-Smoke gets in your eyes – Platters

Grammy winners of 1958

Record- and song of the year:
Nil Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare) – Domenico Modugno

Academy Award winners of 1958

Best Movies:
Auntie Mame
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Defiant Ones
Separate Tables

Best Actors:
Tony Curtis – The Defiant Ones
Paul Newman – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
David Niven – Separate Tables
Sidney Poitier – The Defiant Ones
Spencer Tracy – The Old Man and The Sea

Best Actresses:
Susan Hayward – I want to Live
Deborah Kerr – Separate Tables
Shirley MacLaine – Some were Running
Rosalind Russell – Auntie Mame
Elisabeth Taylor – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

I’ve saved the best for last:


- Snoopy stands on two legs for the first time -

Peanuts on da house!

posted by Walter at 8/07/2002

Monday, August 05, 2002


Today, 40 years ago; Marilyn Monroe died through suicide caused by a barbiturates overdose. The circumstances of her death remain unclear ever since.
Her life was marked by an enduring quest for spiritual balance, and a desire to extend her public image beyond the Hollywood dictated format. Above all Monroe endures as a pre-eminent “Supermodel” archetype of all times. Almost any picture made of her; rather than the pictures that featured her; are congruent with an image that was essentially her own.

A lesser known anecdote of her private life is her infatuation with Rainer Maria Rilke’s writings, in his book: “Briefe an einen jungen Dichter” (Letters to a young poet), that he wrote between 1902 - 1908 to Franz Xaver Kappus, a young officer and poet.
Rilke offers spiritual mentorship to Kappus, exchanged through a series of letters, that belong to the most famous correspondence of the twentieth century.

In this quote from his first reply to Kappus’ introduction, of February 17 1903 Rilke wrote:

“I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take the destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.

But after this descent into yourself and into your solitude, perhaps you will have to renounce becoming a poet (if, as I have said, one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn't write at all). Nevertheless, even then, this self-searching that I as of you will not have been for nothing. Your life will still find its own paths from there,and that they may be good, rich, and wide is what I wish for you, more than I can say”.

I imagine that Marilyn Monroe sought such a beacon in her countless liaisons; predominantly with older men, all exemplifying authority, leadership, or simply father figures.
Most men she was involved with exploited her femininity, or profited from her media appeal. Monroe once professed her amazement at their obsession with sex. For her, she said; “Sex is much like shining your shoes”.

The song ‘Celluloid Heroes’ written by Ray Davies, lead singer of the British rock group ‘The Kinks’; offers a stark image of Monroe; among other victims, on Hollywood Boulevard.

-Celluloid Heroes-

Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star,
And everybody's in movies, it doesn't matter who you are.
There are stars in every city,
In every house and on every street,
And if you walk down Hollywood Boulevard
Their names are written in concrete!
Don't step on Greta Garbo as you walk down the Boulevard,
She looks so weak and fragile that's why she tried to be so hard
But they turned her into a princess
And they sat her on a throne,
But she turned her back on stardom,
Because she wanted to be alone.
You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognise, some that you've hardly even heard of,
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.
Rudolph Valentino, looks very much alive,
And he looks up ladies' dresses as they sadly pass him by.
Avoid stepping on Bela Lugosi
'Cos he's liable to turn and bite,
But stand close by Bette Davis
Because hers was such a lonely life.
If you covered him with garbage,
George Sanders would still have style,
And if you stamped on Mickey Rooney
He would still turn round and smile,

But please don't tread on dearest Marilyn
'Cos she's not very tough,
She should have been made of iron or steel,
But she was only made of flesh and blood.

You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognise, some that you've hardly even heard of.
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.
Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star
And everybody's in show biz, it doesn't matter who you are.
And those who are successful,
Be always on your guard,
Success walks hand in hand with failure
Along Hollywood Boulevard.
I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show,
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes,
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die.
You can see all the stars as you walk along Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognise, some that you've hardly even heard of,
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.
Oh celluloid heroes never feel any pain
Oh celluloid heroes never really die.
I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show,
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes,
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die.

Urls worth viewing:

posted by Walter at 8/05/2002

Sunday, August 04, 2002


“How would I describe myself? It’ll sound terrible-just a housewife. It’s true. What is a housewife? You don’t have to have any special talents. I don’t have any”.

My mother was an old school housewife. Mother of six children. Wife to my father, who for the first part of their marriage worked from an office based in our home. Our family was an energetic, rambunctious, impatient and curious cast of characters; of which I’m the eldest. My mother was the hub thereof; and as I recall; forever busy, doing the groceries, laundry, ironing, and engaging in the preparation of 3 daily meals, next to educate 6 teeming kids. My mother loved to socialize: so whenever she was cooking, would steal into the sitting room and take a quick smoke, whilst sipping her sherry at the same time. Obviously nobody took responsibility of the kitchen proceedings in the meantime. I remember coming home late one hot summer afternoon, entering the kitchen and seeing a cloud of billowing blue smoke emanating from the stove where she was preparing the family’s favorite Indian dish. The windows were already blackened, the curtains scorched. Just in time I snatched the doormat, took the lid of the flaming pot and stifled the fire. I saved the household, if not the house. Needless to say that the combination of my unruly mother, and hot-spur father made for an adventurous masthead to our household.

To talk condescendingly of housewives is not my custom. Nowadays double income households have become a new meter for happiness and wellbeing. Based on the American paradigm that’s been so successful in securing its mental footprint on the European continent.
I look out on the schoolyard of a popular primary school in a privileged neighborhood of Amsterdam. Every morning well dressed, catwalk conscious parents take their children to the school, in a savvy pantomime of social accomplishment. It’s entertaining to watch them from up above, offering a good perspective of the gaming board that the schoolyard temporarily has become. Are there any housewives among them?
Mothers maybe.

The quote from oral historian Studs Terkel’ wonderful book “Working” (Pantheon Books 1970), that I started with, offers an insight in the ancient prepositions that surround the notion of the “housewife”. Terkel has included two interviews with self confessed housewives in the book, one of which he starts with a wonderful D.H.Lawrence quote:

Even if it is a woman making
an apple dumpling, or a man a stool,
If life goes into the pudding,
good is the pudding, good is the stool.
Content is the woman
with fresh life rippling in her,
content is the man.

In the interview the woman says:

“People will complain: “Why do I have to scrub floors?” To me, that isn’t the same thing as a man standing there-it’s his livelihood- putting two screws together day after day after day. It would drive anybody nuts. It would drive me wild. That poor man doesn’t even get to see the finished product. I’ll sit here and I’ll cook a pie and I’ll get to see everybody eat it. This is my offering. I think it’s the greatest satisfaction in the world to know you’ve pleased somebody”.

For the book Terkel also selected an interview with Pauline Kael, the “New Yorker” film critic who deceased last year. In the interview Kael pauses to reflect on the depiction of the housewife in American cinema.

“Housewives in the movies and on television are mindless. Now it takes a lot of intelligence to handle children and it’s a fascinating process watching kids grow up. Being involved with kids may be much more creative than what their husbands do at drudge jobs”.

More about Studs Terkel can be found at:

For a tribute to Pauline Kael:

posted by Walter at 8/04/2002