Jean Racine’s Dramatic Mode of Expression

Literary critic Bernard Weinberg reveals his survey of Racine’s plays, The Art of Jean Racine (1963,) it is in Phèdre that Racine finally solved the challenge of his demanding dramatic mode of expression:

Where the action had seemed to be satisfactorily compounded, the emotion had sometimes remained divided among several main personages, it had at other times failed to become a truly tragic emotion. Where the protagonist had seemed to possess the necessary qualities and to produce the desired, effect, his general effectiveness had been impaired or limited by the lack of a properly dramatic action. Only in Phedre will Racine combine the lessons learned about both action and protagonist into a brilliantly successful synthesis.

Consumers Buying Experiences Not Things

Explaining the shift in consumer values towards experiences over things that bring happiness and well-being, Caroline Bremner and Sarah Boumphrey of Euromonitor International explain,

Unilever’s Persil brand’s “Dirt is good” campaign also taps into the experience trend. Rather than focusing on the laundry detergent’s technical attributes and stain-busting properties, the campaign signals that children in particular should be free to experience the world around them no matter the /impact on their clothes.

Famous Bachelors

The Futility Closet notes,

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Johannes Brahms
  • Plato
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Sir John Gielgud
  • J. Edgar Hoover
  • Henry James
  • Bill Maher
  • Isaac Newton
  • Al Pacino
  • Blaise Pascal
  • Alexander Pope
  • Cecil Rhodes
  • Arthur Schopenhauer
  • Adam Smith
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Luther Vandross
  • Voltaire
  • King William II of England
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein

Charlie Munger on the Power of Avoidance

Charlie Munger at the 2019 Daily Journal Meeting,

How do you scramble out of your mistakes without them costing too much? And we’ve done some of that too. If you look at Berkshire Hathaway, think of its founding businesses. A doomed department store, a doomed New England textile company, and a doomed trading stamp company. Out of that came Berkshire Hathaway. Now, we handled those losing hands pretty well when we bought into them very cheaply. But of course, the success came from changing our ways and getting into the better businesses. It isn’t that we were so good at doing things that were difficult. We were good at avoiding things that were difficult.

My system in life is to figure out what’s really stupid and then avoid it. It doesn’t make me popular, but it prevents a lot of trouble.

Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awardees

The Futility Closet notes,

Only nine people have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award:

  • Mel Brooks
  • John Gielgud
  • Marvin Hamlisch
  • Helen Hayes
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Rita Moreno
  • Mike Nichols
  • Jonathan Tunick
  • Richard Rodgers

If you count honorary awards, then Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli also qualify. If you count “daytime Emmys,” then so does Whoopi Goldberg.

Human Triumph Over Dehumanizing Pressures

In 1965, the American poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren reviewed Ralph Waldo Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952):

No one has made more unrelenting statements of the dehumanizing pressures that have been put upon the Negro. And Invisible Man is, I should say, the most powerful artistic representation we have of the Negro under these dehumanizing conditions; and at the same time, a statement of the human triumph over those conditions.

New Year’s Resolutions Are Stupid

The Federalist contributor Jacob Trunnell wonders why people continue to repeat making New Year’s resolutions every year—as though just making about those resolutions and bragging about them is in itself a sense of self-accomplishment:

I hate New Year’s resolutions. They are a polite conversation piece while at a party with friends and family. It is a bunch of worthless empty talk, and the worst sort of virtue signaling possible: promising something but failing to do it.

Why do we put off doing the thing we need to do, and why are we slow to stop doing the things we need to stop doing? New Year’s resolutions—and Lenten sacrifices, for that matter—are a trap: they show us exactly how full of baloney we are.

When we procrastinate, we are not thinking in the present tense, but stuck worrying about the past and the future. I have found that making decisions in the present as situations come up has much better results that actually stick. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I make resolutions year round. A more frequent habit of self-reflection makes changes more likely than assuming we can jump cold-turkey into new ways of living.

Learning by

British philosopher Alan Watts writes in The Joyous Cosmology (2013):

The transformation of consciousness undertaken in Taoism and Zen is more like the correction of faulty perception or the curing of a disease. It is not an acquisitive process of learning more and more facts or greater and greater skills, but rather an unlearning of wrong habits and opinions. As Lao-tzu said, “The scholar gains every day, but the Taoist loses every day.”

Doing the Right Thing

From an interview with Russell Ackoff, a pioneer in the field of systems thinking, on efficiency and effectiveness,

Peter Drucker said ‘There’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.’ Doing the right thing is wisdom, and effectiveness. Doing things right is efficiency. The curious thing is the righter you do the wrong thing the wronger you become. If you’re doing the wrong thing and you make a mistake and correct it you become wronger. So it’s better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. Almost every major social problem that confronts us today is a consequence of trying to do the wrong things righter.

Driven Away from a Simple Life in Nature

Sereno Sky writes in Lonely Traveller (2014,)

Not only is the industrial revolution driving people away from a simple life in nature, it’s beginning to drive them crazy with more and more stress that continued economic growth requires. The worst thing is that people and governments have gotten addicted to this race for materialism, and don’t know how to stop it anymore, to the detriment of nature and souls.