Three over coffee.


A balmy 36 degrees today.

It was only a week ago that we were in Palenque in Southern Mexico where it was 90 degrees and I was by the side of a pool sipping pina coladas and eating guacamole.

In two days I will be back in the classroom. Single digit temps are expected next week.

Two weeks go by fast. Of course, civilians have no patience for all this. They will inevitably point to my summers off. I use to say something about the physical toll that teaching 400 k through 5th grade kids a week takes on the knees of a 60 year old. But that gets me no where. No sympathy. So, now I just keep it all to myself.

I am a compulsive NY Times obituary reader.

An obituary of Sir Michael Levey caught my attention this morning. An art historian, he worked his entire career at the the National Gallery in London. He also never took an art history class and was hired as a curator with no background in art history. A common practice in England it appears. It says something about teaching and learning.

While helping a friend fill out a job application for the National Gallery, he decided to submit his own as well. He was hired as an assistant curator in 1951 and rose steadily through the ranks.

In the grand tradition of British art historians who have never taken an art-history course, Sir Michael developed into a one-man industry, turning out both scholarly and popular works on Renaissance art, Italian art of the 17th and 18th centuries, Ottoman art and French art of the 18th century. Besides writing about Tiepolo, he wrote monographs on Albrecht Dürer, Botticelli, Jacob van Ruisdael and, most recently, the portrait painter Sir Thomas Lawrence. He also wrote three novels, none of them particularly well received, as well as a life of Mozart and two highly praised books on Florence and Venice.

A new year’s e-mail from a high school pal.

In recent days I have received e-mails from old (42 years!) high school friends. This year they have taken on an unusually reflective tone.


We’ve collectively turned 60? The political changes? Careers wrapping up? Who knows. But they have been thoughtful and touching to read.

The amazing group of people, whom I assumed were typical (although very different from Wally Cleaver’s Mayfield High), were anything but. Children of holocaust survivors, writers, communists, Spanish Civil War vets, (and maybe all of the above), I didn’t appreciated the different and very atypical perspectives brought to school.

What do the these thoughts have to do with the New Year? They seem to me to be one side of bookends. I lost touch and only reconnected during the past few years. The world, as usual, seems to be going to hell. But we will now have the most Kennedy-like President since the Kennedy who was in the White House when we entered high school. One modest marker of the success of the modern civil rights movement that some of us participated in will occur when Obama is sworn in.

The last bookend is the most frightening. We never knew the Great Depression but our parents did. It now seems quite possible that our children will experience another one. I hope not.

JD is cutting his hair. Mine is already gone.

Resolutions are all over the place. Lots of people make them. It is tempting…

But what sort of resolution? The standard eat better, not be late, lose some pounds, be more active, get nicer clothes… All nice. All things worth working on any time, not just New Years. And why resolve what will not be resolved? (ie completed. The grammarian in me says resolutions should consist of perfective, not imprefective action) “Do you promise to do better?” “Yes, I do” is a silly dialogue, whether in class with a kid or here now. I will not engage in it.

Something specific? How about two things…

Replace my car (built during Reagan’s second term, in West Germany)?
Cut my (quite long) hair?
So what if I had decided to do them earlier. I resolve… and they will be done. The car goes tomorrow (giving it away). The hair will go through an intermediate phase first… the cut will wait a month or two. Two issues resolved.

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