Showing posts from March, 2013

Kral Majales

In the spring of 1993 I spent a few weeks in Prague wandering about the streets and staying briefly with a Czech couple in their cramped apartment on the outskirts of the city.  Most of the time, however, I rented a cheap room at the Hotel Merkur, which featured hard narrow beds, thin sheets and shared bathrooms down the hall.  I remember my room had an ancient radio that received only one station. I would lie in bed at night listening to somber dirges and reading Ivan Klima's novel Love and Garbage.

I was surprised, then, to run across the photo at left.  It's a picture of Allen Ginsberg outside the Merkur.  In 1968 he had been invited by the Czech government to come to Prague.  They very quickly dis-invited him after he was crowned the King of May (Kral Majales) and led an unsanctioned and very joyous parade through the streets of the city.  Ginsberg subsequently wrote a poem about his ejection from the country while taking a jet from Prague to London:

And the Communists ha…

Escape Routes

Spring Break officially begins on Friday at 4:00 pm, which means it actually began yesterday around noon. Considered on its merits, there is something a little dubious about having a one-week hiatus in the middle of the term.  It's a custom observed nowhere else but education, and higher education specifically. Apparently it traces its origin to the 1930s when college swim teams annually migrated to Florida for pre-season practices.  No doubt, too, it received a boost from the 1961 movie Where The Boys Are.  And there's also no doubt that it's here to stay.  One can only imagine the undergraduate uproar --to say nothing of the chamber of commerce commotion--were someone to suggest doing away with it. 

I mean other than an economic boon to bar owners and warm weather resorts, it has little value.  It certainly lacks academic or pedagogical value.  It ruins the week beforehand and sometimes a few class days afterward.  It's just a bad idea.

But it's here, so I'…

On the Usage of "On" in Titles

The literary antecedents of blogging are easy to identify. Montaigne was a proto-blogger, one as willing to explore the ethics of cannibalism as his own bowel movements. Orwell certainly qualifies, especially his As I Please columns in which he wrote about English cooking, good-bad books and the cultural rhetoric of penny postcards. I would also add MFK Fisher to this list, and Boswell's London Journal would have made a fascinating blog.
A good argument could be made that the golden age of proto-blogging occurred in the 19th century. One thinks of Lamb, Hunt, De Quincey on opium and certainly William Hazlitt, whose companionable essays on a variety of topics are still worth reading. Here, for example, are a few of the subjects he turned his attention toward in volume I of Table Talk:

On People With One Idea
On the Ignorance of the Learned
On Will-Making
On Vulgarity and Affectation
On Going on a Journey
On Great and Little Things
On the Disadvantages of Intellectual Superiority