The Florida Highwaymen


There is a house in Florida called the Florida House. It is advertised as the only state ’embassy’ in DC. It’s right behind the Supreme Court and catty corner from the Library of Congress (and also just down the street from my first job in DC, at a now defunct nonprofit called the Population Institute, whose main claim to fame is having introduced me to some of my best friends).

As an aside, it was privately funded, but is decorated like an official arm of the state, but is more semi-official. In fact, I have no idea what it even does, really, besides host some meetings.

It also has a nice collection of paintings by the Florida Highwaymen, which fact is not even mentioned on their website.

I made a mini-pilgrimage there (the only difficulty was the hours of the Florida House do not mesh well with working hours, if you don’t work close enough to walk there during lunch).

Sadly, the person who showed me around had no idea who the Florida Highwaymen were, so finding their paintings became an annoying scavenger hunt.

I jotted this post down because of seeing this article about them, so you can read that to get a better idea and, if you so desire, go further down the rabbit hole. It’s not my job to decide for you and I cannot be solely responsible for your cultural education, so take some responsibility for your philistinism or lack thereof, will you?

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The Prisoner Of Zenda


This Washington Post article calls Anthony Hope’s wonderful, brisk novel, ‘The most romantic book you’ve never read.’

Well, I’ve read it many, many times. A dozen at least (though not for many years). And it is as awesome as Michael Dirda claims. Despite taking place in the 1880s, Hope is never afraid to make his heroes choose swords over pistols.

However, I have to break with the esteemed reviewer over his praise for its sequel and though, in the days before Amazon and the internet of things, I searched long and hard for it, I wish that I had never had it and that The Prisoner of Zenda had remained as it was: a single, perfect adventure.

Anyway, I may have to read it again. But not the sequel.

This is what my old edition looked like

Edmonia Lewis’ ‘The Death Of Cleopatra’


I came across this article about Edmonia Lewis, an African-American sculpture who achieved success in the nineteenth century. It’s a neat article, it’s not that long, so just take a moment and read it.

Ok.

One of the statues pictured look awfully familiar to me: The Death of Cleopatra.

I swore that I’d seen in the Luce Gallery. When we took our daughter to participate in one of the Luce’s many family friendly events (this one a ‘color-in’) I made a point to find it and snap a picture.

All the world is all around you, if you just take a moment to put the pieces together.

Cycle, Repeat


I find myself repeating the habits of my father, now that I’m father. Something about which I have, let us say, mixed feelings.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the casting of my father for the role of parent was a deeply flawed decision and maybe didn’t play to his strengths. But I suspect that to be true of most fathers, in general, and almost all of them before a certain time in our history (some mythical point where we understood the importance of a father as a caregiver).

But I find myself repeating some of his paternal patterns. Not, I hope, the most obviously destructive ones. Nevertheless, at a playground, I kept pushing my child to try more things, to climb its more intimidating structures. I never really thought that I was doing anything bad and she doesn’t really need much incentive to be frighteningly fearless, but because I remember similar actions by father, I do wonder whether I am building her self confidence and independence or recycling negative traits from my own childhood.

You can’t really tell me, either, unless you witnessed, at the least, what I do in those moments. And it’s probably nothing. But when you’re inside the cycle, surely, it is wretchedly difficult to be sure.

#Instapoets


I have picked up copies of books by Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav and leafed through them. Like the alliteration of ‘Lang Leave and leafed,’ I am not convinced by their quality. Actually, I’m pretty convinced of their quality and don’t think they have much. I have seen, in magazine articles, screen shots of work by other ‘instapoets’ and it has made me think that the genre as a whole is pretty lacking.

I also don’t have much affection for slam poetry. If we are ranking these things, slam poetry ranks orders of magnitude above instapoetry in my estimation.

Me? I learn and comprehend best through interaction with the written word. I like to read, is what I’m saying. More than that, reading is how I engage in dialogue with the world around me.

So neither forms are really aimed at folks like me.

And I really don’t know what to say nor what to add to the current kerfuffle over instapoets and, to a lesser extent (mostly because of this article, which singled out a particular, recently published in book form, slam poet), slam poets. It’s not the first kerfuffle and it won’t be the last. Or, more likely, it’s all the same kerfuffle, which has been going on for a couple of years, at least.

But my two cents. It’s not good poetry. I haven’t read deeply into the genre, but I feel like I’m on pretty solid ground. Both in terms of my critical evaluation of what I have read and as regards the follow up question as to whether I’ve read enough to form a valid opinion.

But… I’m glad poetry is selling. I didn’t think the poetry collection by the singer, Jewel, was very good either (though, of course, I listened to her first  album constantly in the mid-nineties and nursed a mild crush on her in my early twenties). But I believe that having read one poem, people may read another. Having bought one book, they may buy another.

Also, though we may feel resentful that someone has achieved success with what we believe to be pretty shoddy work, most of these folks are in their twenties and I think we must forgive people their awful youthful poetry, even if it does get published, sell in the millions, and make them rich. And we should try not to be too bitter about it.

Six Four


The novel was mostly better than I expected and then worse than I had expected.

I don’t read many mysteries, but I know enough that this was not your typical police procedural – to its benefit. Mikami is a former detective; former because he was transferred to media relations and made the department’s director.

The tension comes from the protagonist seeming to discover a conspiracy to cover up police misconduct during the investigation of a now fourteen year old kidnapping case (internally nicknamed ‘Six Four’).

When that is revealed, the author keeps up the tension, but something slips. It’s not clear what the endgame is nor what Mikami will actually have to do with it. And, in the end, the resolution seems to have little to do with him.

Six Four got a good bit of favorable coverage in the press and after reading another Japanese mystery some time ago, I decided to give this one a try. This one is more a psychological tale and the differences between American and Japanese norms both more and less visible. Perhaps the ‘more’ has to do with with I found unsatisfying about the last hundred pages or so.

That all being said, if you read a lot of mysteries, chances are, Six Four is better than ninety percent of what you’ve been perusing.