Monthly Archives: April 2014

“I Miss Her If She Goes to the Bathroom”: The Richard Burton Diaries

The Richard Burton DiariesThe Richard Burton Diaries. Edited by Chris Williams. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. $35.00. 693 pp.

“Do you really keep a diary? I’d give anything to look at it. May I?” So asked Algernon, to Cecily, in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Reading someone else’s letters and diaries can be a great guilty pleasure. What people choose to say about themselves in their diaries can tell us a great deal about who they thought they were and, usually, what they wanted the world at large to know about them. Because let’s face it, everyone who keeps a diary knows that at some point someone besides themselves is going to read it. So one chooses very carefully what to put in and what to leave out. The very act of keeping a diary or a journal is an act of self-selection, self-editing, and self-censorship.

Richard Burton was one of the most gifted actors of his generation. He was born in Wales in 1925 and died in Switzerland of a stroke at the age of 58 in 1984. Years of hard living, primarily booze and cigarettes, took their toll. He was one-half of one of the most famous Hollywood couples in history, having been married—twice—to Elizabeth Taylor. And he had a reputation of being an enormously talented artist who squandered that talent on lesser roles because of alcohol, women, laziness and lack of ambition. Why, one might ask, would anyone publish his diaries 30 years after his death, and why would anyone want to read them?

Because they are absolutely fascinating. Most good diaries are. Samuel Pepys was a government clerk, but his diary is still widely read 300 years after his death (“I went out to Charing Cross to see Major General Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; he looking as cheerful as any man could in that condition.”) boswells-london-journal-penguiin-tpJames Boswell’s journals—the famous biographer of Dr. Samuel Johnson—were long thought to have been lost but were rediscovered at Malahide Castle in Ireland in the 1920s 150 years after his death, and they are still being published. When Boswell’s London Journal was published in 1950, it became an immediate world-wide best seller, much to the surprise of the publisher and editor. There’s something voyeuristic about us, and reading other people’s diaries, letters, or emails is almost irresistible, particularly when the juicy parts are left in, as when Boswell accused his mistress Louisa of giving him gonorrhea: “Madam, I have had no connection with any woman but you these two months. Such a thing in this case is worse than from a woman of the town, as from her you may expect it. You have used me very ill. I did not deserve it.”

Richard Walter Jenkins was born November 10, 1925, at Pontrhydyfen in the Afan valley of Wales to a family of coalminers. He took the surname of his legal guardian Philip Burton in 1943. Burton was nominated for seven Academy Awards but never won, and was best known for playing Mark Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (1963), Thomas Becket in Becket (1964), Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days (1970) and O’Brien in 1984 (1984). His family deposited his personal papers, including his diaries, at Swansea University in Wales in 2005. The Burton Papers now are a  central part of the new Richard Burton Archive facility, which was formally opened in April 2010.

richard burtonBurton began keeping a diary as a teenager in 1939 and sporadically kept up the practice until his death 45 years later. There are enormous gaps in the chronicle, but what’s here makes for wonderful reading. Burton was a gifted writer, and I found myself underlining and underscoring passages throughout. He had a keen insight into human nature and character and was remarkably honest about his own talents and foibles.

Two things stand out above all else in these pages, one a surprise, the other not. The surprise: Richard Burton loved books more than anything else in the world and would rather spend his time reading than acting, drinking, or chasing women. Books remained the one constant in his life from childhood to death and he read constantly, widely, voluminously. Who knew that Burton and Taylor read the Encyclopedia Britannica together?

Second—not so surprising—he was infatuated with Elizabeth Taylor. Everything about her—her acting ability, her brain, her conversation, but above all else, her beauty, captivated Burton, and some of the most stunning passages in his diaries are about her. His descriptions of her physical attributes and his attraction to her make the book worth reading all by itself.

In these pages, Burton is amazingly self-effacing. He often thinks that acting is a silly way for a grown man to make a living, and he says so. He loathes so much about his profession and he grouses constantly about it: “One of those days when acting seems peculiarly silly. What a sloppy job to have.”  For him it was a means to an end: good books, good food and drink, good living, great women. He dreads having to go to work, hates reading scripts and trying to memorize lines. There is a lot of small talk and gossip here about other actors and their faults and failures, but he is equally unsparing about his own.

BurtonL1402_468x624Here we see Richard Burton stripped of much of his glamor. He watches his weight and his waistline, usually complaining about both. He tries to cut down from as many as 100 cigarettes a day. He drinks too much—at one time apparently 3 bottles of vodka a day: “I became very drunk later and shouted a lot. At E. I don’t know what about. Just plain sloshed…I have been more or less drunk for two days. I don’t know why but I enjoyed it thoroughly.” He quarrels too often with fellow actors, strangers, and especially with his four wives through five marriages. He feels old and out of shape and can’t sleep. He falls behind in his diary and chastises himself for it. He wishes he could stop working so he could spend all his time reading, drinking, playing Yahtzee, and doing crossword puzzles: “Both Eliz and I agreed that we never want to work again but simply loll our lives away in a sort of eternal Sunday. We are both bone lazy. And enjoy it.”  “I wouldn’t object to having the whole year off. I could write a book, or dream a lot, or get fit or fat.” He wishes people would leave him alone: “I have one disease that is incurable, that I am easily bored.”

diary-rbAnd why did he keep these diaries? As editor Chris Williams points out, Burton never laid out a rationale, he “just got on and did it.” For all of his reputation for laziness, Burton wasn’t intellectually lazy. He read constantly and wrote long thoughtful passages in his diaries about politics, world events, and history. It seems he believed that a well-rounded, educated gentleman should keep a daily account of his thoughts and deeds, and should try as best as one could to do so honestly. This Burton tried to do when his drinking and other distractions didn’t get the better of him, which they did for months at a time:

“I woke to my astonishment at 11:00. How late. I would like to awake, until my death, about 6 or 7 in the morning, but life and nerves being what they are, one is lucky to be up and shouting at 4 in the afternoon. There is a kind of lethargy, induced only by vulgarity, which prompts late rising. I remember the days when to sleep more than 5 hours a day was considered self-indulgence. And I am now self indulgent. It must be booze and age.”

Elizabeth Taylor is the co-star of these diaries, and she comes off as being lovely, talented, and1159765-elizabeth-taylor long-suffering at the hands of Burton, who could be an absolute load to have around. He was by turns loving and hateful, broodingly silent and mentally cruel, and an alcoholic, who, by his own admission, had a hard time expressing affection or sympathy for other people’s suffering. But he loved her beyond all telling, and several of the lines on E, as he called her, are worth quoting at some length:

“I am madly in love with her at the moment, as distinct from always loving her, and want to make love to her every minute.”

“E has become very slim and I can barely keep my hands off her. She is at the moment among the most dishiest girls I’ve ever seen. The most. I mean dishiest.”

“After 7 or is it 8 years I still miss her if she goes to the bathroom.”

“My God she’s a beauty. Sometimes even now, after nearly 8 years of marriage I look at her when she’s asleep at the first light of a grey dawn and wonder at her.”

“Elizabeth. . .asked if I would stop loving her if she had to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. I told her that I didn’t care if her legs bum and bosoms fell off and her teeth turned yellow. And she went bald. I love that woman so much sometimes that I cannot believe my luck. She has given me so much.”

“I have been inordinately lucky all my life but the greatest luck of all has been Elizabeth. She has turned me into a moral man but not a prig, she is a wildly exciting lover-mistress, she is shy and witty, she is noboburton-taylordy’s fool, she is a brilliant actress, she is beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography, she can be arrogant and wilful, she is clement and loving, she is Sunday’s child, she can tolerate my impossibilities and my drunkenness, she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her and she loves me! She is a prospectus that can never be entirely catalogued, an almanack for Poor Richard. And I’ll love her till I die.”

Burton and Taylor fought as passionately as they loved and finally divorced in June 1974. Less than sixteen months later they married again, though the second time lasted less than a year. Still, it’s clear in these pages that he loved her as he never loved anyone else: “I miss her like food.”

His love of reading is noted almost every day: “Maybe I’ll just read and read and read…Sunday burton readingpapers arrived and I settled down for the day…spent the afternoon browsing through Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. . . new bookcase arrived and I had it fixed next to the bathroom in guest bedroom and suitably filled it with books. Will have to order another bookcase. . .Looking forward to Switzerland and books and peace.”

Burton is self-effacing but he could be wickedly, bitingly funny and sarcastic about other people as well.  A few of his bon mots: “She was as mini-skirted as a California palm tree. The hem was only slightly below the neck.” Pop singer Gordon Waller was “suffering from a bad attack, which may be permanent, of refusing to be impressed. I feel sorry for the poor bastard. He was one of those pop singers who didn’t survive his first success.” Writer Roddy Mann “fairly bristles with insignificance.” On Charles de Gaulle: “I’d kick him in the arse if I could reach that high.” Frank Sinatra was “a petulant little sod.” Eddie Fisher, one of Elizabeth’s ex-husbands, was “a gruesome little man and smug as a boot.” And then there was this, on fellow actor Rod Steiger’s facelift: “it makes him look like one-half of a naked asshole. He says he can’t get any jobs and will soon be broke. It might be because people don’t want to be looking  at a talking asshole.”

Burton would have no doubt been pleased, if not a little amused, to see his own diaries in print. He was approached about it during his life: “I have been offered a million dollars for one month of this diary. Somebody is mad. And I is not it. But I wonder if it would be interesting. I would, after all, like to read the diary of an office-worker. Might people be interested in reading a month in the life of an actor, especially one married to such an exotic wife as mine?” Indeed they would.

As to life beyond death, he didn’t expect it: “I wish I could believe in a God of some kind,” he offers at one point, “but I simply cannot. My intelligence is too muscular and my imagination stops at the horizon, and I have an idea that the last sound to be heard on this lovely planet will burtonbe a man screaming. In fear and terror. It might be me.” Needless to say, it wasn’t. Burton suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in August 1984 and is buried in Switzerland. Elizabeth Taylor outlived him by almost 27 years.

As writer Jessamyn West wrote, “people who keep journals have life twice.” Thanks to Chris Williams and Yale University Press, Richard Burton in these pages has achieved a kind of immortality that a lover of the printed word like himself would have prized far beyond the afterlife he has long enjoyed for being—one can almost hear Burton yawning—an actor.  “My first love,” he said, “is not the stage. It is a book with lovely words in it.” A man after my own heart.

Worth Reading: Spencer Tracy: A Biography

tracy book coverSpencer Tracy: A Biography. By James Curtis. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, 1,001 pp. $39.95

He’s the kind of actor who makes it look so easy and you think to yourself, I can do that. Go ahead and try it. It’s not easy and you can’t do it.

Spencer Tracy is widely considered to be the greatest film actor of the 20th century.  Perhaps even the greatest actor of all time. Clark Gable considered him untouchable.  “The guy`s good,” Gable famously said. “There`s nobody in the business who can touch him, and you`re a fool to try. And the bastard knows it, so don`t fall for that humble stuff!”

Having recently plowed through mammoth biographies of Lyndon Johnson and Walter Cronkite, two of the seminal figures in the second half of the twentieth century, I decided to complete the triumvirate by reading James Curtis’s recent biography of my favorite actor. At almost exactly 1,000 pages, it’s not a fast read, but it’s a wonderful journey.

I first encountered Spencer Tracy as a college senior at the University of Georgia in 1986. As a journalism major focusing on radio-TV-film production, I took the late great Barry Sherman’s class on journalism and broadcast history, and he challenged us to become familiar with the great movies and actors of the past, in the same way one reads “classic” books and authors to become more “well rounded.”

To help us along on that quest, he screened Citizen Kane in class, and before long I was haunting the student center theater for any classic movies that showed up. It was there that I first saw Casablanca and Gone With the Wind, both on the big screen. I was hooked.

Pretty soon I was wearing out my VCR, recording old movies on TBS and AMC (back when they showed old movies on either of those stations), anything that featured Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. Arsenic and Old Lace led me to Cary Grant, other movies to Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Edward G. Robinson, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, and Katharine Hepburn.  I watched Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Preston Sturges, Ernst Lubitsch, and other directors. I bought a copy of Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion and read it to tatters, all 1,200 pages.

Spencer-Tracy-LIFE-January-1955James Cagney died that spring and I became interested in his work, watching and studying everything of his that I could find.  Nobody then or now could dance like him, and when he was on screen, you couldn’t watch anybody else. As one critic wrote about Cagney, “He can’t even put a telephone receiver back on the hook without giving the action some special spark of life.”

About that time, PBS aired a documentary on Spencer Tracy. He was in a class all by himself. I had heard of him, of course, and was familiar with the names of some of his movies like Bad Day at Black Rock, but I’d never seen him on the screen. He was so good that he didn’t seem to be acting; as his fellow actors say, you never saw the mechanism at work. One reviewer watching him on stage in 1929, before he ever set foot in front of a camera, captured his style perfectly:

“No makeup—none to speak of—no tricks whatever; just an unassuming, easy manner that gets him about the stage without your quite knowing how he does it. He belongs to that school of acting—if it is a school—which doesn’t want you to think it is acting. It is acting, though, of a very high order, forceful, reserved, artistic.”

Tracy was born in Milwaukee in 1900, served in the Navy in World War I, and made his stage debut as a student at Ripon College in 1921. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (where he learned, he said, “the value of sincerity and simplicity, unembellished and unintellectualized”) and mastered his trade for 10 years in the daily grind of a stock company. The legendary George M. Cohan called him “the best goddamned actor I’ve ever seen.”

8_spencer-tracyHe hit it big on Broadway in 1930’s The Last Mile, and Fox Studios in Hollywood signed him to a contract that same year. He made his big screen debut in Up the River, directed by John Ford. Unlike most actors trained on the stage, Tracy was subdued, letting the camera come to him. It was inauspicious debut to the 75 films he would eventually make and that would establish him as the best screen actor in history, with nine Academy Award nominations and two Oscars for best actor.

For all his acting talent, Tracy was the stereotypical “tortured” artist. He was as well known for his long-standing relationship with Katharine Hepburn, his moodiness, and his alcoholism as he was for his acting. After his first-born child, John, was born deaf, Tracy for the rest of his life blamed himself and his sins for his son’s affliction and it ate at him like a cancer. He suffered from chronic insomnia and took mouthfuls of pills just to catch an hour’s sleep. Tracy had multiple affairs with other actresses long before he met Hepburn—most notably Loretta Young and Ingrid Bergman–and his marriage to actress Louise Treadwell had settled into an awkward, platonic partnership by 1940.

spencer_tracy_hepburnTracy and Hepburn first met filming Woman of the Year in 1942 and were together until his death 25 years later. I had always assumed it was an open secret, but Curtis tells us that was not the case. They were finally outed in several high-profile national magazines in the mid 1950s. Tracy had been married to Louise Treadwell since 1923, and they never divorced. After discovering their son John was deaf, Louise founded the John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles and used her celebrity status to ensure its eventual success. Tracy’s staunch Catholicism and Louise’s insistence on remaining Mrs. Spencer Tracy until her death combined to keep them in a relationship that was unusual even in Hollywood. Despite their estrangement, they were still married at Spencer’s death in 1967, still respected each other, valued the other’s advice, and maintained a semblance of family with their two children. Curtis deftly details the finer points of their shared and singular history.

Hepburn’s attraction to Tracy was immediate and intense. But what did Tracy see in Hepburn? We’re never quite sure, and Curtis lets the reader fill in the blanks on this particular subject. According to Hepburn, she never knew exactly how he felt about her. That he loved her is beyond doubt, but he apparently never told her, which is hard to believe.  They appear to have been intellectually suited and admired each other’s acting ability enormously. They were undoubtedly lovers, though one wonders how much that ever entered into the equation, as Tracy was 42 when he met Hepburn and looked and acted 10 years older. She helped him through his insomnia and alcoholism, though the evidence points to the inescapable fact that he physically abused her on more than one occasion. They didn’t share a home until the last 5 years of his life; “I love him but I can’t live with him and he won’t live with Louise,” Hepburn said. In the end, it’s clear they were best friends, in the truest sense of those words, and enjoyed each other’s company and companionship. They made each other contented and happy.

At least as happy as anyone like Tracy could ever be. Alcoholism nearly ruined him. Several times in his career he would go on 10-day benders and wind up in hospital detox centers, bringing to a screeching halt whatever picture he might be working on or about to start, holding up production and costing the studio millions. His father and grandfather were alcoholics, and his working-class Irish Catholic upbringing in Milwaukee did nothiSpencer_tracy_fury_croppedng to dissuade him from seeking solace in a bottle. He went through long periods of sobriety, most notably after meeting Hepburn, but never really sought professional help. Alcoholism was more often seen as a moral failing than a disease during his life, a view to which both Hepburn and Tracy partially subscribed. He eventually brought it under control himself, though he never fully mastered it. He would go on and fall off the wagon with excruciating regularity all of his life.

Curtis chronicles all of this in wonderful detail, but the heart of the story—as in Tracy’s life—was his work before the camera. Tracy labored in obscurity at Fox Studios through 5 years and 19 films before moving over to MGM and stardom in 1935. If you’ve never seen him on screen, go on Netflix right now and queue up any one of a dozen of his best pictures: Inherit the Wind (widely acclaimed as his best work), Judgment at Nuremburg, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Father of the Bride, Boy’s Town, Fury (his 1936 break-out role), Captains Courageous, San Francisco, The Old Man and the Sea, Bad Day at Black Rock.

In my opinion all nine of his movies with Katharine Hepburn are good but especially watch Woman of the Year, Keeper of the Flame, State of the Union, Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike, and Desk Set. The latter movie is little regarded among movie critics, but two scenes in it are worth studying in some detail: when Tracy quizzes Hepburn about her memory over lunch on tAdam's Rib 1he rooftop of their office building, and later when Tracy gets caught in the rain on the way home and Hepburn invites him in for dinner. Both scenes feature two movie legends at the top of their game, with a natural affinity for their work and for each other that comes through brilliantly on screen. I particularly like him in Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, because he’s as superb a comedian as anyone else in that picture. Bottom line: if he’s in it, watch it. You will never be disappointed.

There are many actors, then and now, who never convince you they’ve done anything more than memorize lines and pretend to be someone else. For all their matinee idol appeal, I’ve always felt this way about Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise; you can tell they’re performing. Even some of Hollywood’s greatest legends, like Clark Gable, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Errol Flynn, were always accused of just playing themselves, that they weren’t really actors. As John Wayne famously said, “I don’t act, I react.” (Tracy once told the Duke, “It’s a good thing you’re so good looking, because you can’t act your way out of a paper bag.” Of Gable, whom he loved, he said, “Can’t act, doesn’t care, and everybody loves him better than any actor that was ever born.”)

Tracy, as one critic wrote, did not act, he was. It never seemed as if he was trying to perform. He belonged to a school of acting “which believed in selection—not how much the actor could do in any given scene, but how little he had to do to make the point, using the minimum to make the maximum.” Tracy understood the power of silence, of scarcely moving; it was all in his eyes and face, and the way he held himself. As Curtis writes, he demanded the audience’s attention in a natural and subdued way, dared them not to feel what he was feeling, not to think what he was thinking. To my mind, Tom Hanks is the living embodiment of Spencer Tracy: they both underplay to enormous effect what others would turn into farce.

How did he do it? What was his technique? No one really knows, because he never really shared his secret, a legacy, perhaps of his days working as a magician as a boy. Gene Kelly, who starred with Fredric March and Tracy in Inherit the Wind, described it thus: “I could understand and see what March was doing. He was like Olivier. A wonderful technician. You could see the characterization taking shape—the cogs and wheels beginning to turn. If you studied his methods closely, it was all there, like an open book. But with Spence it was just the reverse. He’d play a scene with you, and you’d think nothing much was happening. Then, when you saw the rushes, there it all was—pouring out of his face. He was quite amazing. The embodiment of the art that conceals art. It was impossible to learn anything from Spence, because everything he did came from some inner part of himself, which to an outsider anxious to learn, was totally inaccessible. All you could do was watch the magic and be amazed.”

Part of it, of course, was his natural talent and ability. When other actors asked him for advice, he would invariably reply, “There’s nothing I can teach you. Your either are an actor, or you’re not. And you are.” But though he made it seem effortless, it wasn’t. He did have a photographic memory, a gift for any actor, but he worked hard at making it seem as though he wasn’t doing anything at all. He spent long hours alone in his room at night preparing himself for the next day’s work.

Watch him read the verdict in Judgment at Nuremburg (over 10 minutes, done in one take): “Before the people of the world . . . let it now be noted . . . that here in our decision, this is what 600full-spencer-tracywe stand for: Justice, truth, and the value of a single human being”; watch him cross examine Fredric March in Inherit the Wind, or give the final speech in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: “Old? Yes, Burnt out? Certainly. But I can tell you the memories are still there—clear, intact, in destructible. And they’ll still be there if I live to be a hundred and ten.” A cough here, a lowering of his voice mid-sentence there, a catch in his throat as he described his love for Christina (Hepburn): Small, subtle things, that make his performances seem wholly natural, but nearly impossible to replicate. As Stanley Kramer, who directed all three movies, said: “Tracy reduced everything to a fine powder of simplicity, and that takes hard work, it takes a lot of hard work. ‘Improvisation,’ Tracy always said, ‘is perspiration.’”

It wasn’t unusual for his fellow cast and crew to burst into applause after one of his scenes. Fellow actors on the set or movie lot would stand offstage just to watch him work. The three movies cited above contain his best work, superb, flawless performances. If I ever aspired to act, I would study them until my eyes blurred. Burt Lancaster, following the verdict scene in Judgment at Nuremburg, asked Tracy, “How did you do that so easily?” Tracy quietly replied, “You practice for 35 years.” The art that conceals art, using the minimum to make the maximum. There was nobody better.

Historic Selfies and Presidential Poo Poo: History in the News

bost_gazette_1758nov06nameplateIn case you missed them, here’s a roundup of some interesting stories related to history that have been in the news recently. The freshest advices, foreign and domestic. Enjoy.  

Selfies before Selfies: Here’s a story about a cache of photographs that were founds-deaton of a manMysteryManInteriorHighRes who took almost 450 pictures of himself in a photo booth over a number of years. Who is he, and why did he take these pictures? Was he documenting his appearance over time? Was he, as some have suggested, a photo-booth repairman who was simply testing the equipment? Or was he simply taking selfies before the invention of cellphone cameras? This is an exhibit worth seeing.

You Never Write Anymore: An interesting story about a recently-translated letter written by a Greek soldier to his family, complaining that he’s written six letters home with no response. Have they forgotten about him? The letter was written nearly 2,000 years ago.

Tippecanoe Poo: Historians have long thought that President William Henry Harrison literally talked himself to death. He died a month after his 1841 inauguration, where he talked for over an hour in the wet and cold and caught pneumonia. New research shows that perhaps something else got him: Washington’s bad sewage that flowed too close to the White House.

Quiet on the Set: Mickey Rooney celebrated his 93rd birthday mickey_rooney_1927_-_h_-_2014.jpglast September and film buffs now have another reason to celebrate: A copy of the silent film that featured his very first starring role, 1927’s Mickey’s Circus, was recently discovered in the Netherlands, along with dozens of other long-lost silent films, and they are all now slated for restoration. Film fans rejoice.

I Got You, Babe: Recently discovered footage of Babe Ruth standing in the New York Yankees dugout was shot on an historic day: June 1, 1925, the day that Lou Gehrig began his streak of 2,130 consecutive games. Baseball fans rejoice, and not just because the season started this week.

Not so fast, my friend: The Brits halted the sale and export of two manuscripts that they Rosetta Stonedeemed irreplaceable cultural treasures, and they’re now housed at the British Museum. It doesn’t say who the buyer was, but probably some wealthy American. Good for them. That’s how they lost the papers of James Boswell (the great biographer of Samuel Johnson) nearly a century ago that are now housed at Yale. But isn’t it ironic that the Brits have had the Rosetta Stone, an Egyptian cultural treasure, safely housed at the British Museum since 1802, and have resisted all calls by the Egyptians to return the stone to them?

Read it and Weep: The National September 11 Memorial Museum opens next month in Manhattan, and some folks are questioning the use of a line from Virgil’s Aeneid that will be onSept 11 prominent display at the Memorial: “No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time.” But who, exactly, is the “you” referring to in this quote? Read the article to find out. No matter where you stand on this issue, I’m in favor of seeing classical authors like Virgil in the news. If this controversy prompts one person to actually read the Aeneid, that’s a good thing.

Dumb, dumb, dumb: Finally, there’s this little gem, which just confirms that dodo birds are not, in fact, extinct. StealingMy mother taught me that if you take something that doesn’t belong to you, it’s stealing. When you spend the $31,000 the bank erroneously deposits into your account,  you better hope you look good in orange.

Have a nice day.