December 28, 2006

Christmas week reading: "lovely interesting discussions"

My Christmas week reading so far:

Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York by Adam Gopnik (thanks, Mom and Pop); my Upper West Side past and rural Canadian prairie present run into each other:
In my experience, at least, it is liberal parents who tend to be the most socially conservative -- the most queasy at the endless ribbon of violence and squalor that passes for American entertainment, more concerned to protect their children from it. One migh have the impression that it is the Upper West Side atheist and the Lancaster County Amish who dispute the prize for who can be most obsessive about having the children around the table at six p.m. for a homemade dinner from farm-raised food. Morals and manners proceed in twisting spirals of contradiction more often than in neat sandwiches of sameness, and the attitudes of the prohibitive and the secular end up resembling each other. We try to find a way to say grace every night., too, although in our own way. We hold hands, and clink glasses.
The Making of Pride and Prejudice, found in the Deluxe Gold-Embossed Cloth Slipcase (wowee!) of the Pride & Prejudice 10th Anniversary Limited Collector's Edition (a gift to myself, double wowee!); from Chapter 5, Music, an interview with composer Carl Davis:
Q: What were you trying to say with the opening music?
A: There were two main things I wanted to communicate. The first was to pick up the essence of the book -- its wit and vitality, its modern feel, something of the character of Elizabeth and her family. I worked through something very lively and bright for this and then, without my being conscious of it, a slight hunting refrain crept in -- which, of course, echoes one of the main drives of the book, the hunt for husbands! And this was linked with my second theme, which was marriage and affairs of the heart. This is what the story is about. ...
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (one of my presents to Tom, which I couldn't resist picking up before he did); from the title piece, the transcript of a 1981 BBC interview for the program Horizon:
Looking at a bird [my father] says, "Do you know what that bird is? It's a brown throated thrush; but in Portugese it's a . . . in Italian a . . . ," he says "in Chinese it's a . . . , in Japanese a . . . ," etcetera. "Now," he says, "you know in all the languages you want to know what the name if that bird is and when you've finished with all that," he says, "you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You only know about humans in different places and what they call the bird. Now," he says, "let's look at the bird."

He had taught me to notice things and one day when I was playing with what we call an express wagon, which is a little wagon which has a railing around it for children to play with that they can pull around. It had a ball in it -- I remember this -- it had a ball in it, and I pulled the wagon and I noticed something about the way the ball moved, so I went to my father and I said, "Say, Pop, I noticed something: When I pull the wagon the ball rolls to the back of the wagon, and when I'm pulling it along and I suddenly stop, the ball rolls to the front of the wagon," and I says, "why is that?" And he said, "That nobody nows," he said. "The general principle is that things that are moving try to keep on moving and things that are standing still tend to stand still unless you push on them hard." And he says, "This tendency is called inertia but nobody knows why it's true." Now that's a deep understanding -- he doesn't give me a name, he knew the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something, which I learnt very early. ... So that's the way I was educated by my father, with those kinds of examples and discussions, no pressure, just lovely interesting discussions.

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