Triumph And Disaster

If someone had read Rudyard Kipling’s poem to me when I was sixteen.

If he had sounded like Sir Michael Caine when he did it.

If I could have then set aside my mistrust of anyone older than myself to actually listen to what was being said.

If when I finally discovered the poem years later, even then I had applied its lessons to my life.

If I could have read it to my own children when they reached an age, and if they possessed more patience and understanding than their father had at the same life stage.

I dunno … what if? These are some good words strung together in a particularly good way. Although the poem ends with the words “You’ll be a man, My son,” there is nothing in the rest of it that couldn’t be applied to humans of all varieties. And to my antiquated way of thinking, we’d be the better for it.

One line stood out as I heard it read it this morning.

If you can meet with triumph and disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same

If, by Rudyard Kipling

There is a mote of Buddhism here, suggesting (Buddhism never demands, you know) that since both of these extremes are illusory and transient, we give them only the slightest nod and go on with our lives.

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From The New Yorker

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An adult granddaughter is coming to visit us for a few days next week, and we have been busy planning things to do while she is here. We had scheduled a couple of motel stays, and were feeling quite good about ourselves until the weather, which was supposed to cool off (read: Autumn in New York) decided instead to turn to scorching (read: Death Valley Days).

Here’s the really amusing thing. Many of those plans we made involved sightseeing in southeastern Utah. Which is a desert. Where it will be 100-plus degrees during her stay. The kind of territory where the highway signs read: “Welcome to Utah! Senior citizens please cower indoors at all times.”

Now this young woman, who we will call Elsa, is a very resilient person. She’s had her share of travel snafus, and even more important, she is fully aware of my limitations in putting together pain-free vacation itineraries.

So if it comes down to a three-person cribbage tournament in an air-conditioned room at the Whispering Sands motel in Hanksville UT, she will do just fine, I am sure.

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I’ve mentioned Hanksville before in this blog. It is a small town that has not quite regained the hustle and bustle it had when everyone was prospecting for uranium here in the 50s, but it still has its hopes, I am sure. If you go to its official website, and click on the menu item called “Attractions,” you will see a drop-down list which contains this item: Mars on Earth. Click on that and these bits of prose come up, giving you a pretty good idea of what you will find there.

The complex terrain of Wingate, Navajo Sandstone, Mancos Shale, Morrison and Chinle formations that surround Hanksville, has attracted the attention of the Mars Society, which believes it to be a good candidate for an imitation of the red planet.

While the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) does not take visitors, their presence here shows how similar Hanksville’s surrounding terrain and climate can be to the Red Planet. If you’re looking to explore the wonders of Mars, but can’t wait for the advancements in technology needed to get there, explore the surrounding areas of Hanksville. With the bentonite hills, sand dunes, rocky outcrops, unique geological phenomenon, and desolation you’ll feel like you’re on another planet. 

This area has served as the film set for several movies set in space, most notably Galaxy Quest (1999), Star Trek (2009), John Carter (2012) and The Space Between Us (2017). As you can see, the area surrounding Hanksville bears an uncanny resemblance to the red planet, making it the perfect place to film movies set on Mars. So next time you’re looking for a place to explore that feels out of this world, head to Hanksville.

Mars on Earth, Official website for Hanksville, Utah

I suspect that when the author of this particular bit of puffery sat down at their computer to compose it, they overlooked a possible dampening effect on the reader, since we are still looking for signs of life on Mars.

Rocket Man, by Elton John

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From The New Yorker

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Friday’s Times of New York featured an important guest column written by Ashley Judd which I can recommend to you. It recounts what happened after her mother’s suicide in April of this year, when police investigators and reporters descended on the family at a time when they were trying to process what had just happened. Coming to grips with how much their life had just changed.

Privacy. It’s what they hoped for at that awful time, and are now fighting in the courts to maintain. A suit to keep videos, tape recordings, and transcripts of interviews from being made public. Not because they contain state secrets, but because of the privacy all of us deserve, and which is so fragile.

I don’t know that we’ll be able to get the privacy we deserve. We are waiting with taut nerves for the courts to decide. I do know that we’re not alone. We feel deep compassion for Vanessa Bryant and all families that have had to endure the anguish of a leaked or legal public release of the most intimate, raw details surrounding a death. The raw details are used only to feed a craven gossip economy, and as we cannot count on basic human decency, we need laws that will compel that restraint.

Ashley Judd: The Right to Keep Private Pain Private, New York Times, September 2, 2022

The lady writes exceedingly well. When my son took his own life, those of us who loved him and were left behind to wander stunned and adrift. It was a hard time indeed, but we were spared the public scrutiny that the Judd family is still going through, because we were not celebrities. The Judd family has all my sympathy and I hope their suit is successful. The public does not always, and in every case, have “the right to know.”

[This morning I’m feeling quite self-righteous re: the Judd story, but honesty requires admission that there have been times in the past that I have been a part of that “craven gossip economy.” Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.]

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A friend of mine has suggested enuff awreddy with the versions of September Song I’ve been sending your way. Not only is he obviously tired of that song, but he suggests September Morn as the better alternative.

His suggestion follows quickly on the heels of Robin’s tactful observation the other day that in her opinion It is time to stop with the September Songs altogether. It was a cute idea that quickly wore thin, I am led to believe.

Two against one. I surrender … September Morn it is!

September Morn, by Neil Diamond

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This is getting to be an awfully long post, but just moments ago I ran across an obituary in the Times of New York. That of Archie Roach who died at the age of 66 years. He was an aboriginal folk singer from Australia who came to international prominence in the early 90s on the strength especially of this song from his first album, Took the Children Away. The story of Europeans taking away the native children and sending them off to schools for cultural re-education is a familiar one. It’s not just Australia’s story, but a source of national shame for the U.S. and Canada as well.

Here’s Roach as a young man, telling his story and that of so many others.

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