The City on a Hill and the Teddy Bear

I wrote this last month for my nephew’s teddy bear project. It’s similar to Flat Stanley but you write a little note and then send this roaming Teddy bear to someone new. Content seems apropos, y’know.

Hey Teddy, you made it to Boston. Great news. Nice work, Teddy.

While you’re here, Teddy, I’d love to tell you about Boston’s founding and the creation of America’s identity. When the Puritans sailed over from merry ol’ England, which in the 17th century was not so merry for Puritans due to the religious intolerance that ruled the day, their leaders wanted to start over and start the right way in America. They dreamed of a better world. Lucky for them just across the ocean was The New World, a clean slate.

During their voyage, one famous Puritan leader, John Winthrop, gave a speech on his ship referencing the Biblical passage about “the city on a hill.” The Puritans wanted to build a shining example to the world on how to live. And that’s what they set out to do. Boston, the capital of the colony the Puritans founded in Massachusetts, was the first such “city on a hill.” Over time the idea of “the city on a hill” extended to the whole of the American colonies; 150 years later, it would be a guiding principle on which the United States of America was founded.

What does the “City on a hill” mean? Well it means that you strive to do better than the rest of the world, you strive to set an example worth following. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect. But it does mean you strive to earn everyone’s attention and respect and emulation. It’s a never-ending quest to improve and to lead. So in America, that means we’ve shown how democracy can work better than monarchies, how freedom and equality for all are ideals worth fighting and dying for, and how civil rights and social justice and societies that incorporate as many different types of people can be more successful than monocultures. And that’s just the first four centuries of our “city on a hill,” all starting with Boston.

Speaking of never-ending quests, it’s about time for Teddy to get on his way.

Happy travels, Teddy!

Missy and Will

Timeless Philosophy

By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.
Lao Tzu

Let it go, let it go…
Elsa

Movies Movies Movies of the First Half of 2014

Dr Mabuse the Gambler

In an order that mixes year and rating (e.g. later movies typically show up later), best movies I saw in 2014’s first half:

  • Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
  • Run Lola Run (time is flat)
  • Brick
  • Notes on a Scandal
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Dr Mabuse The Gambler
  • Sherlock Jr.
  • Strike
  • Metropolis
  • The Blue Angel
  • Pandora’s Box
  • The Big Sleep
  • La Jetée
  • Band of Outsiders
  • Bulitt
  • The Piano
  • Before Sunrise
  • Pi
  • In Bruges
  • A Hijacking (the director is a maniac)
  • Her
  • In The House
  • Frozen
  • Lone Survivor
  • Jodorowsky’s Dune
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier (my first reaction when leaving the theater was that I should go back in the theater and watch it again)
  • Edge of Tomorrow

2013 Movies and Me

Upstream Color will mess you up

Here are the best film year 2013 movies that entered my eyeballs (tiebreaker goes to movies not nominated for awards):

  • Upstream Color
  • Stories We Tell
  • Gravity
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • A Hijacking
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Her
  • In The House
  • American Hustle
  • Rush

The worst 2013 movie that subjected me to itself: C.O.G.
The most wasted opportunity documentary (next time let Werner make this one): The Act of Killing
The best movie that featured Werner Herzog as a villain but wasn’t just a documentary wherein Werner Herzog was the director: Jack Reacher

A Place in the Sun featured the two most handsome humans ever

And now something different, the best non-2012, non-2013 movies I saw in 2013:

  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (from another planet?)
  • All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
  • A Place in the Sun
  • The Elephant Man
  • Primer
  • Rust and Bone
  • A Man Escaped
  • Un Chien Andalou
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Bridge on the River Kwai
  • The Prestige
  • Ratatouille
  • Jackie Brown
  • Election (Johnnie To’s, not Alex Payne’s)

The worst non-2012, non-2013 movie I watched in 2013: The Fury by Brian De Palma — a 60 year old Kirk Douglas does parkour in this 1978 movie made by the most binary director out there.

Most dated movie: The Swimmer, whoa boy. Burt Lancaster races a horse in this one.

Burt Lancaster vs Horse

Most epic driving sequence: tie, The Year of Living Dangerously, driving through a roadblock drunk on Vangelis, or Withnail and I, waking up in the backseat of a car and asking a drunk Richard E Grant what he is doing and having him turn to the camera and say “Making Time!” as he weaves through highway traffic, assorted booze as his co-pilot, Jimi Hendrix’s guitar as herald.

Dominant Epitaph

Marilyn L. Saltzman:

She loved a good lobster roll.

Encountered this on a bench in the area of Ogunquit called Perkins Cove. The bench was next to the local iconic lobster restaurant, Barnacle Billy’s. A fitting spot for the last words on Marilyn L. Saltzman.

Pictures of Planes from The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff is a great book, but a great book that didn’t feature any pictures of the amazing planes, jets, and rockets that populate its stories. Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield, Joe Walker, Al White, the Mercury 7, and many other possessors of the right stuff thrusted through the sky in these vehicles. This list is roughly chronological.

X-1

X-1A (Yeager broke the sound barrier in this)

X-2

D-558-1

XF-92A (book refers to it as “horrible”)

D-558-2 (book refers to it as “beautiful”)

X-3 (book should’ve described this as “needle-nosed”)

X-15 (the plane that was to be a bridge towards the X-20 and manned ground to space flight)

F-104 Starfighter (Yeager’s crash towards the end of the book happened in one of these)

Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Atlas rockets

X-20 Dyna-Soar (never flew)

Planes Dropped from Motherships

Typical X-15 Mission (alleged)

P-51 (what Yeager flew in WWII)

Euphemisms for Stalin in the The Gulag Archipelago

A mostly complete list of euphemisms for Joseph Stalin from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (capitalization is faithful to the book):

  • Great Genius
  • Great Evildoer
  • His Graciousness
  • Best Friend
  • He Himself
  • Great Coryphaeus
  • Beloved Father
  • Supreme Soviet
  • The Benefactor
  • Wise Teacher
  • The Great Deceased
  • the shoeshine boy
  • Daddy Stalin
  • Fathers of the Peoples
  • greatest strategic genius of all times and all nations
  • The Big Mustache
  • The Leader
  • Old Man Stalin

Read Gulag partially because Cloud Atlas featured a poignant quote from it (“Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.”). But one of the strongest features of the former turned out to be how it reflected a quote from the latter — “Humor is the ovum of dissent.” If you can laugh, and certainly if you can mock, you have not yet been destroyed.

Tale of Baby Mouse

In pictures.

Shivering mouse, found alone on the porch, unable to move. We brought him inside, heated him up for a couple hours, and gave him a warm meal. We then set him up in a shelter near where we found him, with enough provisions to last him days and with hope that his renewed vigor would allow him to reconnect with his mouse family.

Songs for Saint Valentine’s Day

The National — Slow Show
Bon Iver — Skinny Love
Kanye West — Love Lockdown
Tokyo Police Club — Tesselate
Arms — Tiger Tamer
New Order — Ceremony
Black Keys — I’ll Be Your Man
The Faces — Ooh La La
Blur — Tender

My Favorite Zen Koan

A man walking across a field encounters a tiger. He fled, the tiger chasing after him. Coming to a cliff, he caught hold of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Terrified, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger had come, waiting to eat him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little began to gnaw away at the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine in one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

Zack Parsons sent me this over IM when I was in college. I never knew why but that could describe most of our conversations. It moved me so much that I have, to this day, never forgotten it.