Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway.

Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway. Then, after nine years, failing at it and giving it up in disgust and moving to Englewood, N.J., and selling aluminum siding. And then, years later, trying the thing again, though it wrecks your marriage, and failing again. And eventually making a meticulous study of the thing and figuring out that, by eliminating every extraneous element, you could isolate what makes it work and just do that. And then, after becoming better at it than anyone who had ever done it, realizing that maybe you didn’t need the talent. That maybe its absence was a gift.

These were the stations on the via dolorosa of Jacob Cohen, a.k.a. Rodney Dangerfield, whose comedy I hold above all others’. At his peak — look on YouTube for any set he did between 1976 and 1990 — he was the funniest entertainer ever. That peak was long in coming; by the time he perfected his act, he was nearly 60. But everything about Dangerfield was weird. While other comedians of that era made their names in television and film, Dangerfield made his with stand-up. It was a stand-up as dated as he was: He stood on stage stock-still in a rumpled black suit and shiny red tie and told a succession of diamond-hard one-liners.

The one-liners were impeccable, unimprovable. Dangerfield spent years on them; he once told an interviewer that it took him three months to work up six minutes of material for a talk-show appearance. If there’s art about life and art about art, Dangerfield’s comedy was the latter — he was the supreme formalist. Lacking inborn ability, he studied the moving parts of a joke with an engineer’s rigor. And so Dangerfield, who told audiences that as a child he was so ugly that his mother fed him with a slingshot, became the leading semiotician of postwar American comedy. How someone can watch him with anything short of wonder is beyond me.

~ Alex Halberstadt, from “Letter of Recommendation: Rodney Dangerfield” (The New York Times, January 26 2018)

Driving I-95 N. With Raheim.

AA2263. DFW to LGA. Early Friday afternoon, start of a long weekend, Board flashes: “Delayed“.

It’s been a long week.

Sorry about the delay folks but we were late arriving in Dallas and we had a minor repair that we had to take care of. We’ll see if we can make up time.”

He’s makes up time.

The giant steel bird, a Boeing 737-800, does a slow gentle turn over Manhattan, the Empire State Building is adorned in red and green holiday ribbons, the stage lights of Time Square light up the hulking scrapers, the grid layout frames up the streets and neighborhoods.

The plane tilts its wings softly, leaning in towards the city. Here pal, get a closer look at the Big Apple. Whaddya think, cool right?  I’m a drop of water, a drop in something so vast, so incomprehensible…

The video monitor on the seat signals 10 minutes from destination. Altitude: 8,000 feet

A text messages flashes: “Sir, my name is Raheim. I’ll meet u at Upper Level. Text me.”  I text back: “Haven’t landed yet. Didn’t check luggage. Should be ~30 minutes.” Indicator flashes: “Read.”

Miracle. All of it.

[Read more…]

It’s been a long day

In our marginal existence,

what else is there but this voice within us,

this great weirdness we are always leaning forward to listen to?

Mary Ruefle, Someone Reading a Book Is a Sign of Order in the World


Notes:

It’s been a long day (from ~ A.D. 409)

Bryan-jones

I live in town without all that racket
horses and carts stir up, and you wonder

How that could be. Wherever the mind
dwells apart is itself a distant place.

Picking chrysanthemums at my east fence,
far off, I see South Mountain: mountain

air lovely at dusk, birds in flight
returning home. All this means something

something absolute. Whenever I start
explaining it, I’ve forgotten the words.

Colors infusing autumn chrysanthemums
exquisite, I pick dew-bathed petals,

float them on that forget-your-cares
stuff. Even my passion for living apart

Soon grows distant. I’m alone, but after
that first cup, the wine jar pours itself.

Everything at rest, dusk: a bird calls,
returning to its forest home. Chanting,

I settle into my breath. Somehow, on this
east veranda, I’ve found my life again.

~T’ao Ch’ien, No. #3 and #4 from Drinking Wine in The Selected Poems of T’ao Ch’ien


Notes:

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week


Source: For animated gifs

It’s been a long day


It is not always clear
these days whether between here and there,
I am supposed to break or
hold the line.

Cynthia Dewi Oka, from “Elegy with a White Shirt


Notes:

It’s been a long day

If just looking could be so satisfying, why was I always striving to have things or to get things done? Certainly I had never suspected that the key to my private reality might lie in so apparently simple a skill as the ability to let the senses roam unfettered by purposes. I began to wonder whether eyes and ears might not have a wisdom of their own.

~ Marion Milner, A Life of One’s Own (First Published, 1934)


Notes:

It’s been a long day

Or was Mill concerned that, in a perfect world, with nothing more to strive for, we might simply grow bored? As the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once upliftingly put it, “life swings back and forth like a pendulum between pain and boredom.” When we are not consumed by the desire to achieve something (food, shelter, companionship, wealth, career, status, social reform, etc.), we are tortured by boredom…

The answer, he discovered through reading Wordsworth, is to take refuge in a capacity to be moved by beauty — a capacity to take joy in the quiet contemplation of delicate thoughts, sights, sounds, and feelings, not just titanic struggles…

I hope, and suspect, that Mill is right about this: that we all have the ability to find some durable joy in quietude, normalcy and contemplation. In our personal lives, and in our political lives too, it would be nice if we could escape Schopenhauer’s pendulum:

to simply enjoy where we are, at times; to find some peace in the cessation of motion…

~ Adam Etinson, from Is a Life Without Struggle Worth Living? (NY Times, October 2, 2017)


Notes: Photo: via bea’titudeRelated Posts: It’s been a long day

 

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week

I
slowly
withdraw
from
my
body.

~ Anna Kamienska, from A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook


Notes: Photo Manipulation by Laurent Rosset (Denmark) (via this isn’t happiness)

It’s been a long day

…Days too small to fill their slots,
days too large for the day to hold them.
And days, no matter what their size,
that leaked into the next.
A leaky day is a dangerous thing…

Richard Siken, from The Field of Rooms and Halls


Notes:

 

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