Today’s Word: perspicacious (adjective) – Someone who is perspicacious (pur-spih-KAY-shus) has acute mental vision or discernment. As used by Honoré de Balzac in Catherine de’ Medici: “Such a policy was, of course, indicative of a shrewd and perspicacious mind.”
Did You Know?: The Stegosaurus was a 30-foot-long dinosaur with a brain the size of a walnut.
Worth Quoting: “The only sure thing about luck is that it will change.” – Bret Harte
What I’m Reading: Bill Bonner on “The Billionaire Backlash”: Whatever side of the “tax the rich” argument you’re on, you’ll enjoy this…
Watch This: Feeling old? This will make you feel young again.
Today’s Word: fatuity (noun) – Fatuity (fuh-TOO-ih-tee) is complacent stupidity; smug foolishness. As used by Helen Keller in The World I Live In: “The fatuity of their union was evident to them, and they parted.”
Did You Know?: Nearly all of the gold on Earth came from meteorites that bombarded the planet over 200 million years after it formed.
Worth Quoting: “Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity.” – Samuel Johnson
What I’m Reading: Maurice O’Sullivan was born in 1904 on Great Blasket – a remote island off the Atlantic coast of Ireland that was abandoned in the 1950s. In Twenty Years A-Growing (translated from the Irish), he tells the story of his youth, first in the coastal city of Dingle and then on the island… a way of life that is now in the past.
Very charming, clever, involving. Reminds me of Mark Twain at times.
Watch This: There is hope. Happiness is possible and contagious.
Today’s Word: sui generis (adjective) –Sui generis (soo-ee JEH-nuh-ris) is a Latin term (literally, “of its own kind”) that is used to describe something that is unique. As I used it today: “Las Vegas is a one-and-only and offers a sui generis experience to all who visit.”
Did You Know?: Adults laugh an average of 17 times a day; children 300 times.
Worth Quoting: “Show me a wealthy gambler and I’ll show you someone who has made his money from something other than gambling.” – Terrence Murphy
What I’m Reading: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin is a “woman’s” book in many ways. It is in good part about the protagonist’s love life. It is told from her perspective, and it focuses on food and dress and petty jealousies/competition among women. It also seems to have a sentimental arch: The heroine is loved by two men and chooses the loyal lapdog. (If I didn’t know that Toibin is a man, I would have guessed that the author was a woman.)
But I liked the book for three reasons: The sentences are well written, the characters are believable, and it does present this piece of American immigrant history, which I find interesting. I grew up in a neighborhood of Irish and Italian families, including mixed Irish/Italian families. I’ve been struck since by how well we got along, how the Irish/Italian marriages produced good, smart kids… and I wondered how that all happened.
Look at This: My Kind of House
We’ve been renting a house in Hollywood Hills this week while visiting two of our sons and their four children. As always, I judge the quality of a house’s decor by how much it makes me want to snoop around. This house is owned by a movie couple — she is a Harvard educated, award-winning director and he is a successful entertainment lawyer. Judging from the art and the bookshelves, these people have led intellectually rich lives. I’ve been looking at their books and records and I’m thinking that we’d like them as friends.
Today’s Word: luculent (adjective) – Luculent (LOO-kyoo-luhnt) means cogent, convincing, clear or lucid. As I used it today: “… a book that strikes us as luculent in our youth might seem dim or even dimwitted decades later.”
Did You Know? There are more than 130 million books in print. The three most read books in the world are The Holy Bible (King James version), Quotations From the Works of Mao Tse-tung, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Worth Quoting: “When the reader is ready, the best book will appear.” – M.M. Ford
What I’m Reading: From The Atlantic: “Rising Instagram stars are posting fake sponsored content”
The cleverest marketing is usually not created by the companies that win awards but by the oddballs cruising on the thin tails. Instagram marketing is no exception…
Watch This: I can’t get enough of these rockabilly dancers… the skill, the technique, and most of all the spirit. You can’t watch them without being reminded of how youth, at its energetic apex, once felt.
Today’s Word: immure (verb) – To immure (ih-MYOOR) is to enclose within walls; to seclude or confine. As used by the 19thcentury Unitarian preacher William Ellery Channing: “He who possesses the divine powers of the soul is a great being, be his place what it may. You may clothe him with rags, may immure him in a dungeon, may chain him to slavish tasks. But he is still great….”
Did You Know?: Scientists say that Saturn’s icy rings are losing so much water that they could disappear… in 300 million years.
Worth Quoting: “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Zig Ziglar
What I’m Reading: The short, simply written and heartfelt essays in Gratitude were written by Oliver Sacks in 2015 when he was dying of cancer – fearing extinction, yet grateful for the life he’d lived and the friends he’d loved. There are four essays: “Mercury,” “My Own Life,” “My Periodic Table,” and “Sabbath.” True and touching, I found them difficult to read at bedtime.
Watch This: When I was in my early teens I worked part-time for a sign painter. Most signs today are done digitally, but back then every town had at least one sign painter that would service all the retail stores, car dealers, and other businesses that needed signage.
I don’t remember the sign painter’s name, but I do remember being amazed at his technical expertise. This video will give you an example of what I mean…
Today’s Word: balmy (adjective) – Balmy (BAH-mee) means soft, soothing, mild. As used by Eugene Field in A Little Book of Profitable Tales: “The night wind was balmy, and there was a fragrance of cedar in its breath.”
Did You Know?: The kidneys are involved in almost every bodily function and 500 biochemical actions.
Worth Quoting: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” – Oscar Wilde
What I’m Reading:
I was in one of my daily lows, prompted in part by my decision to scrap an essay I’d spent half a day on. My blood chemistry was bad too. I needed something to lift my spirits. And there, in one of my overstuffed bookshelves in the den, was an old paperback copy of Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson.
I’ve read two other books by Bryson, and they were both 100% pleasurable and enormously informative. This one, published in 1991, was not so informative. But the pleasure was fully there. It’s about Europe and England and America from the perspective of a very smart and very curious American who had been living in England for 15 years. I was barely three chapters into it, and I could feel my mood moving from a 5.9 up to about a 7.5, which is more than I can get with any sort of natural therapy – or even any sort of drug –that I’ve so far tried. I checked out some online reviews of the book. Some were not positive. They complained that Bryson made fun of the Germans for being Germanic and the English for being English and the French for being French. But if you like Europe and enjoy wit, Neither Here Nor There is for you.
Try This: The “Tequila Sunset”
I claim to have invented the Long Island Ice Tea back in the early 1970s. I can’t prove that, but I am claiming this drink too. I call it the Tequila Sunset. It’s made with a shot (or two) of añejo tequila (aged 1 year), club soda, fresh passion fruit juice, and a few dashes of smoked sea salt. It’s very good.
Today’s Word: aegis (noun) – In classical mythology, the aegis (EE-jis) was the shield of Zeus or Athena. We use the word to refer to something that provides protection, support, or sponsorship. Example from Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry by Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon: “Will she refuse to protect with her aegis the most humble of her adorers?”
Did You Know?: Porcupines float in water.
Worth Quoting: “Trying to get without first giving is as fruitless as trying to reap without having sown.” – Napoleon Hill
What I’m Reading: Little Failure: A Memoir By Gary Shteyngart and Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Shteyngart’s memoir about being a child in Russia and then growing up in a Jewish community in Brooklyn is smart, funny, perceptive. Such a contrast to Noah’s memoir about growing up in South Africa as a colored person. Noah’s observations are more profound and inspired, but Shteyngart’s ideas and articulation are more impressive.
Watch This: I’ve introduced you to Steve Ludwin, my friend the venomous snake aficionado. He’s landed a series with the VICE TV network in which he travels around the world interviewing people that have fascinating connections with deadly snakes. This particular episode is about preachers in Western Virginia that “handle” snakes.
Today’s Word: bête farouche (noun) – Bête farouche (bet fah-ROOSH) is French for “wild beast.” I used the term this way today: “And most importantly, he should recognize that inflation is a bêtefarouche whose movements are wild and cannot be reliably anticipated – and, therefore, he should be very careful about long-term commitments to it.”
Did You Know?: The earliest use of the yin-yang symbol was in Rome, not China.
Worth Quoting: “It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.” – Oscar Wilde
What I’m Reading: I took surfing lessons once in Hawaii, and I liked it. But when I tried to surf in front of my house in Florida, it wasn’t as much fun. I sometimes think about trying it again sometime. If I do, it will be down the beach from my home in Rancho Santana. I got this into my head while reading this update from the Rancho Santana team…
Remembering Jack Bogle: Two people that have had a great impact on my thinking died last week – Mary Oliver https://www.markford.net/category/Blog/little-bits and Jack Bogle, the founder and CEO of The Vanguard Fund and the author of some very true and helpful books on investing.
Bogle argued for an approach to investing defined by simplicity and common sense. Below (from Wikipedia) are his 8 basic rules for investors:
Select low-cost funds.
Consider carefully the added costs of advice.
Do not overrate past fund performance.
Use past performance to determine consistency and risk.
Beware of stars (as in, star mutual fund managers).
Today’s Word: mutatis mutandis (noun) – Mutatis mutandis (myoo-TAH-dis myoo-TAHN-dis) is a Latin phrase that translates as “with the necessary changes having been made” or “with the respective differences having been considered.” It is usually used in a legal or academic context, but not always. Example from The Americans by Henry James: “Roderick made an admirable bust of her at the beginning of the winter, and a dozen women came rushing to him to be done, mutatis mutandis, in the same style.”
Did You Know?: CBS’s 60 Minutes is the only TV show that doesn’t have music or a theme song.
Worth Quoting: “Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best.” – Max Beerbohm
What I’m Reading: Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World by Alec Ryrie. The Reformation that began with Martin Luther in 1517 started with an argument about religion – whether only priests could interpret the Bible or whether each person, as Luther argued, was his own priest. But it sowed the seeds for the secular notion we have of democracy in the USA, including our belief in limited government and the equality of all races, religions, genders, and classes.
Remembering Mary Oliver: Mary Oliver died Thursday. A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning poet that wrote poems straight and truly, the way they should be, she was a welcome antidote to the more common variety of modern and contemporary poets that write as though they feel that expression rather than communication is the proper cause of writing anything.
Here’s a poem that demonstrates that and why I admire her – a contemplation of her own death…
When Death Comes
By Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world
Today’s Word: waggish (adjective) – Waggish (WAG-ish) means like a wag – i.e., humorous in a playful, mischievous, or facetious manner. As used by Booth Tarkington in Alice Adams: “No, that isn’t it,” he said, chiding her with a waggish forefinger.”
Did You Know?: Horses evolved from lamb-sized animals 55 million years ago. There’s no telling how long humans have appreciated their beauty. (There are cave paintings of horses that are 16,000 years old.) But the first evidence that they were used as transportation is 5,000 years old, in the form of fossils of horse teeth worn down by bridles. Of course, they could have been ridden without bridles long before that. Before being used as transportation, they were probably used for meat and milk.
Worth Quoting: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus