August 27, 2016

Walden Pond & The Mount

Edith Wharton (nee' Jones). The American Idiom "Keeping Up With the Jones's" alludes to EW's Society Matron forbearers moving Uptown Manhattan with the socially ambitious keen to follow suit.

Two weekends ago, I had an unexpected layover in Greater Boston. I do have someone near & dear in the area but since I hadn't given prior notice, I wasn't just going to sneak up on her unannounced disallowing the usual lavish preparation GSL gals giddily undergo after long separation.

Replica of shed where Henry David Thoreau secluded for 2 years and wrote Walden.

Saturday, I headed over to Walden Pond which is a State Park with several miles of walking trails and of course the famous little cabin where Henry David Thoreau retreated to "live deliberately and to front only the essential facts of life..."


Sunday brought the fulfillment of a long intended pilgrimage. I have said on at least 1 other blog when faced with the oft asked Fantasy Dinner Party query, I'd first invite and then defer host duties to Edith Wharton. Ms Wharton is my absolute favorite woman of History. Until 2010, I thought of her only as a Society Matron who could write a little.  She was so much more than that. She had her summer home, The Mount, in the Berkshires built and decorated to her specifications which were more form & function oriented contrary to the more chintzy oaky-baroqoey Victorian tastes of the day. She considered herself a better gardener than novelist. When I was in Haiti on Humanitarian Relief post Earthquake  back in early 2010, I asked a UN staffer if she had access to any good books. The following day, she handed me the Pulitzer Prize winning bio of Wharton by R.W. B. Lewis. Amid the devastation zipped in a mosquito net on a cot in an overcrowded tent wearing rifle range earplugs, to enter EW's world was an enchanting diversion. I've since read House of Mirth, Custom of the Country and her memoirs: A Backward Glance and several of her short stories. She was a brilliant writer but I admire her even more for how she threw herself into aiding orphans & refugees during the first World War. Then living full time mostly in the South of France, she took up residence at her Paris apartment, EW leveraged her talent, fame, and resources and became the first foreign woman awarded the Legion of Honor by a grateful nation.

A docent and one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. Probably mid-70s, largely untouched to my eye,  likely French to my ear; which may explain a lot. The land The Mount sits on was purchased by EW from the Sargents...yes those Sargents. Their cousin, John Singer, would have lunged at an opportunity to immortalize the above beauty.
Our guide was the delightful Wendy.  GSL loves docents and fills Sergeant-at-Arms (no, those other sergeants) duties to border collie slowpokes and shoot shushing glares at chatterboxes.
EW's bedroom where she wrote House of Mirth. Docent Wendy said she'd write all morning while sitting in bed tossing finished pages to floor quickly scooped up by chambermaid relaying to secretary for transcription. She had a staff of 20 at The Mount.  EW was independent but not low maintenance.
This view from the Italian Garden opposite the French Garden.

This is from a photoshoot Vogue did at The Mount back in 2012 celebrating EW and her literati circle that was shot by Annie Liebovitz, styled by Grace Coddington for a mag edited by Anna Wintour. Why have a Russian Supermodel, Natalia Vodianova, as Edith Wharton and not a female writer or literary scholar? GSL would have viewed this as a wonderful opportunity to introduce a young, talented female author to a huge international audience.... and do so with even greater style and substance.

I just remembered that Uncle L helped bring this splendid film adaptation of one of EW's darker novels to the big screen.
Shot in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont on a shoestring budget, I remember him telling me a fortuitous snowstorm cut production time and prevented cost overruns.

August 21, 2016

The Gender Gap: Narcissism

Narcissus by Caravaggio
Everybody misses the main point Ovid intended: Don't be obsessed with your physical appearance.

First in a series as GSL helps close the Gender Gap.

One of GSL's great joys is helping the many fine women in his life get ahead or deal with adversity. I like being the first person they turn to when spirits are in need of uplift or triumphs celebrated. A couple months back during a National Guard fitness test, I was designated as one of the graders entrusted to accurately count standard meeting push-ups, sit-ups, and 2 mile run. GSL is a strict grader so everybody looking for favorable treatment gets into the line with their buddy holding the clipboard who will "hook them up" with an inflated score.  Everybody that got in GSL's line was female. They know they won't get a free ride but they like how crafty old pro GSL shows them the tricks of the trade such as how to grab a legal breather during push-ups and sit-ups enabling an additional 4 or 5 reps and guidance on how to pace the 2 mile run. With GSL holding stopwatch calling out splits and encouragement, they never quit. The 3 decades younger females love getting a GSL fistbump when they achieve their best ever score earned by giving their all.

Grandpa Cooper, Great-Grandma Long, and Grandma Cooper with Uncle D & Mum in front. The women up GSL's matrilineal line were strong, smart, independent, and accomplished. Their fine example is one GSL tries to follow and wishes to share.

No doubt you've recently come across an article referencing #ontrend Narcissus but they all miss the main point Ovid intended. The female obsession with beauty and their physical appearance is a big reason women have underperformed in many fields compared to men. Men don't admire men for being handsome, Women too often admire women just for being beautiful. Men hearing a negative comment about his physicality deals with it far better than women. You almost never hear a man complaining about someone chiding him about his weight, baldness, height, etc. The Sticks & Stones Nursery Couplet serves men well. Thank goodness GSL's mum & Grandma taught him that invaluable life skill as a wee lad. Talk is cheap so don't be offended or too flattered by it. The Den loves cheering on strong, highly competent women who excel in male dominated fields although we are often disappointed at the lack of female support we feel their impressive achievements deserve.

Is this what a Double Standard Bearer looks like? No, but you must admit had a man said what Ms Steinem said on Bill Maher, he would have been tarred & feathered

GSL prefers this Heavyweight Public Intellectual. She'll go toe-to-toe with anybody.
I suspect if she had Playboy Bunny tenure, more women would read her. No woman, and very few men, understand men
better than Camille Paglia..
Highly recommend her Sexual Personae which I devoured when it first came out.

The Den featured Barbara Tuchman in one of our first posts. You'd think a woman who won 2 Pulitzers after only writing her first book at age 50 would be a prominent inspiration to middle aged women. Do you think Instagram Feminists would be more admiring if she looked like Joan Didion and slept with JFK rather than writing the book that convinced him to exercise greater caution during the Cuban Missile Crisis?
I'll bet at least 10 times more men have read her books than women.

Another fabulous writer The Den has promoted is Hillary Mantel. I can make the following claims with near certainty.
Far more men read her than women. If she was a size 4 and looked like Sharon Stone, her female readership would more than triple and her male readership would remain virtually unchanged.