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New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Admire John McPhee, Bill Bryson, David Remnick, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr and James Martin (and most open and curious minds)

27.9.16

Jose Fernandez R.I.P.

#16

There were few dry eyes. Dee Gordon's leadoff homer launched the Marlins to a 7-3 win against the New York Mets in Miami's first game since the death of star pitcher Jose Fernandez. The team held a pregame ceremony at the mound and wrote messages in the dirt to Fernandez - who died in a boating accident Sunday at age 24 - before resuming their quest for the NL wild card. Fernandez's funeral is set for Thursday, before the Marlins close the regular season with a trip to Washington.

The Arts


This Week: Why is it so hard to tell if American theatre is thriving or not?… Have art and technology had a falling out?… Perhaps TV is the solution to our political polarization… The music industry seems to be finally getting it together… A cautionary tale about getting swallowed up by the online world.
  1. Theatre: The Best of Times or the Worst? Why is it so difficult to judge the state of American theatre right now? Looked at one way, things have never looked brighter. Yet in another way there are problems and challenges everywhere. Helen Shaw has spent the last 12 years as a theatre critic in New York. She says the state of the field is mixed. “As recently as 2007, critic Robert Brustein could say on a panel that we had 35 ‘really fine’ playwrights; even the hardest-to-please observer would say now that the number has more than quadrupled. Some theatre lovers don’t like to categorize the flood because of the canon’s long history of exclusion.” Even if you look just at play writing, it’s impossible to tell whether this is a Golden Age or really a bear market.
  2. Are Art And Technology Friends Or Enemies? Everywhere we look people are talking about the convergence of the arts and technology. Creativity as broadly defined is found across science and technology and that’s where some of today’s most interesting ideas are to be found. There is a historical precedent. “It was the assertion of the Romantic movement that art makes us appreciate the beauty, richness and sheer size of the world. And technology, used appropriately, brings us closer to that sublime.” But more and more technology is bumping up against that idea. “Even if that was true in 1939, it’s not true now: not now our drones do our flying for us; not now our technology has got away from us to the point where large portions of nature are being erased; not now we live mired in media and, indeed, have to make special efforts to escape it.”
  3. How Are We Going To Have Our Toughest Political Debates If We’re So Divided? The Answer: TV TV critic Emily Nussbaum says our politics are so charged that as soon as an issue is brought up it is so polarized that it’s impossible to hear the arguments. But there are TV shows that have fans across the political spectrum and talking about the politics in these shows can be an interesting stand-in for the arguments we can’t have directly. This is an updated take on what art has often been able to do – stand in as a translator when the world seemingly can’t agree.
  4. You Mean The Music Business Isn’t Dying Anymore? The recording business has been mired in a slump as long as digital distribution started to crater old business models. Suddenly though, things are looking up. There’s been a big surge this year, following on a strong 2015. “U.S. streaming revenue grew 57 percent to $1.6 billion in the first half of 2016 and accounted for almost half of industry sales, more than countering shrinking purchases of albums and singles. Subscriptions totaled $1.01 billion, according to the RIAA data.”
  5. Is Real Life a Casualty of Our Online Obsessions? Ex-blogger Andrew Sullivan holds himself up as a cautionary tale and in a thoughtful essay explains why he had to largely quit his digital life.  “By the last few months, I realized I had been engaging — like most addicts — in a form of denial. I’d long treated my online life as a supplement to my real life, an add-on, as it were. Yes, I spent many hours communicating with others as a disembodied voice, but my real life and body were still here. But then I began to realize, as my health and happiness deteriorated, that this was not a both-and kind of situation. It was either-or. “ I respond by suggesting technology isabout choices about how and whether to use it. “We can be unconscious of a choice when it’s not yet a choice. When technology extends our grasp however, we then have to choose it or not. Having chosen it, we can be consumed if we’re not also conscious of learning when not to use it.”

A Stranger in the House of Memory

A Stranger in the House of Memory



Henry James

Relentlessly Relevant | The Smart Set



id_cohen_james_fi_002

26.9.16

The Secret Life of Trees: The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate – Brain Pickings

The Secret Life of Trees: The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate – Brain Pickings



Mike Nicholss Life and Career: The Definitive Oral History

Mike Nicholss Life and Career: The Definitive Oral History



Religion

How the Council of Nicea Changed the World

When Constantine became the first Christian leader of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, his vast territory was populated by a hodgepodge of beliefs and religions.
Within his own young religion, there was also dissent, with one major question threatening to cleave the popular cult — as it was at the time — into warring factions: Was Jesus divine, and how?
It's hard to imagine riots in the streets, pamphlet wars and vicious rhetoric spawned by such a question, but that was the nature of things in A.D. 325, when Constantine was forced to take action to quell the controversy.
That summer, 318 bishops from across the empire were invited to the Turkish town of Nicea, where Constantine had a vacation house, in an attempt to find common ground on what historians now refer to as the Arian Controversy. It was the first ever worldwide gathering of the Church.
The Christianity we know today is a result of what those men agreed upon over that sticky month, including the timing of the religion's most important holiday, Easter, which celebrates Jesus rising from the dead.
Young religion
Christianity was young and still working out the kinks when Constantine took power over the Roman Empire in A.D. 306. Christian doctrine at the time was muddled and inconsistent, especially when it came to the central question of Jesus' relationship to God.
Jesus was as eternally divine as the Father, said one camp led by the Archbishop Alexander of Alexandria. Another group, named the Arians after their leader Arius the preacher, saw Jesus as a remarkable leader, but inferior to the Father and lacking in absolute divinity.
Supporters on both sides scrawled graffiti on town walls in defiance while bishops from across the empire entered into a war of words as the controversy simmered to a head in 324.
Fearing unrest in his otherwise peaceful territory, Constantine summoned the bishops to his lake house in Nicea on June 19, 325.
Savvy move
In a savvy move that would put today's shrewd politicians to shame, the compromise proffered by Constantine was vague, but blandly pleasing: Jesus and God were of the same "substance," he suggested, without delving too much into the nature of that relationship. A majority of the bishops agreed on the compromise and voted to pass the language into doctrine.
Their statement of compromise, which would come to be known as "The Nicene Creed," formed the basis for Christian ideology. The bishops also used the Council of Nicea to set in stone some church rules that needed clarification, and those canons were the reference point after which all future laws were modeled.
As a final order of business, the bishops decided upon a date for the holiest of Christian celebrations, Easter, which was being observed at different times around the empire. Previously linked with the timing of Passover, the council settled on a moveable day that would never coincide again with the Jewish holiday — the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox.
Nicene legends still circulating
While the Council of Nicea had important consequences, its significance has been exaggerated into legend by a few conspiracy theorists, documentaries and books such as Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," historians say.
Contrary to popular belief, the council had nothing to do with selecting which verses and gospels would be included in the Bible, nor whether Christianity agreed or disagreed with the concept of reincarnation. Bishops did not burn books they deemed heretical there either, historians say.

Literature

After Irony

Kathy Acker (via Vol. 1 Brooklyn)
Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction
by Lee Konstantinou
Harvard University Press, 2016, 384 pp.
Affect and American Literature in the Age of Neoliberalism
by Rachel Greenwald Smith
Cambridge University Press, 2015, 194 pp.

In July 2015 the writer Jess Zimmerman tried to settle a bill with the men in her life. The charges were for “unpaid emotional labor”; payment was long overdue. “Acknowledge your thirsty posturing, $50,” she wrote in an essay for the Toastwebsite. “Pretend to find you fascinating, $100. Soothe your ego so you don’t get angry, $150.” Frustrated that her advice and attention always went uncompensated, she insisted that the kind of care demanded of women should be considered work. We might not end up charging our friends and family, she wrote, “but we absolutely get to recognize that the constant labor of placating men and navigating patriarchal expectations is exhausting because it’s work.
Zimmerman’s essay signals the intensification of a decades-long discussion of the relationship between feelings and labor. In 1979 Arlie Hochschild developed the concept of “emotional labor” to describe how employers train workers to “induce or suppress feelings” as part of the job. Examples included the cheeriness of female flight attendants as well as the threatening manner of bill collectors. Today, this kind of labor is required of workers across sectors: nurses, teachers, customer-service workers, and domestic workers. (This is to say nothing of the emotional labor men require of women, or white people demand from people of color.) Even start-up employees are told to “do what they love” and warned that they might be called to account for not loving more volubly. Our smiles aren’t simply expressions of goodwill; they are our insurance against unemployment.
The primacy of feelings in our economy has given rise to a new field of scholarly inquiry. “Affect studies” refers to humanistic and social-scientific investigations of the ways that feelings are generated, experienced, and interpreted. An affect is a particular kind of feeling, one distinct from an emotion. For academics in the field, affects are feelings that reside not in individual people but in social groups, institutions, or physical spaces. They’re not personal property; rather, they belong to a social body or to a collective experience. Individuals who participate in social life are always responding to these affects, sometimes by sharing a dominant affect, sometimes by rejecting it. If you work in academia, for example, you may feel anxious because the corporate university is pervaded by free-floating anxiety—you imbibe the affect that the institution generates. Drawing on queer theory and feminist theory, scholars interested in affect ask us to probe the negative feelings we experience on a daily basis—depressed, anxious, fearful—to see how they might reveal something about our political and economic circumstances.
Two new books examine the relationship between affect and politics. Lee Konstantinou’s Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction investigates the cultural connection between disaffection and political subversion. He focuses on irony, which, he argues, is always a political feeling. His book demonstrates how, from the midcentury to the present, American literature and culture moved away from irony and embraced a form of sincerity. We now live in a “postironic” moment, a time when irony is no longer cool. Instead, it’s cool—even radical—to love, believe, and hope. Rachel Greenwald Smith’s Affect and American Literature in the Age of Neoliberalismapproaches affect and politics from a different angle. Her study focuses on the way readers respond affectively to literature. Discouraging readers from identifying too much with literary characters, she draws attention to what she calls “impersonal feelings”: feelings that exist not in people, or in characters, but in books themselves. Untethered from individuals, such feelings thwart the market logic of neoliberalism and, perhaps, make collective action possible.
Both scholars suggest that there’s something to be gained politically from probing uncomfortable feelings. This is a principle they share with other affect theorists. Many affect theorists would argue that a negative feeling—like sadness, guilt, or anxiety—is not a psychological problem, belonging to a moody or disordered individual, but rather the product of an unequal economic or political order. Take the case of the “feminist killjoy,” an identity coined by Goldsmiths professor Sara Ahmed. “Does the feminist kill other people’s joy by pointing out moments of sexism?” she asks. “Or does she expose the bad feelings that get hidden, displaced or negated under public signs of joy?” Likewise, the Chicago-based Feel Tank—an institution founded by activists, academics, and artists—has offered the following slogan: “Depressed? It Might be Political!” Liberation will come, these thinkers suggest, when we look away from feeling individuals and towards social feelings.
Greenwald Smith, too, wants us to stop privileging the feelings of specific individuals. Her book is, fundamentally, an argument against empathy—more specifically, the empathy readers feel for literary characters. She advises readers to stop seeking out books that move them, or searching for characters to whom they can relate. Instead, she encourages readers to pick up books that seem cold, cerebral, or impersonal. These are the books that will generate productive discomfort; they’ll force readers to reflect and, maybe, to make change.
This argument goes against an old story about the ethical value of reading. We read fiction, so the story goes, in order to encounter people unlike us, and worlds unlike ours. When we relate to these fictional characters, we gain new perspectives, and we become better global citizens. A woman in Wisconsin reads a novel about a young Sudanese refugee, and, distressed by his plight, she starts to raise awareness about the conflict in Darfur. But Greenwald Smith dissuades us from reading in this way: in feeling for and with specific characters, we might become politically quiescent. Channeling Brecht, she argues that a reader’s political consciousness is best awakened not through empathy but through estrangement. In discussions of novels by a range of contemporary American writers, she makes the case for reading fiction that alienates rather than fiction that moves. Emotional catharsis, for Greenwald Smith, is escapism.
Often, she illustrates her argument through comparison, placing one somewhat conventional novel alongside another, more experimental one. Take the contrast she draws between Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel The Road and Paul Auster’s 2002 novel The Book of Illusions. McCarthy’s dystopian novel, which follows a father and son on a journey through a post-nuclear landscape, was widely celebrated—the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded the book the 2007 prize for fiction, and Oprah Winfrey selected it for her Book Club. Critics have noted its “tenderness” and called it “emotionally shattering.” But this is precisely the problem, in Greenwald Smith’s opinion: in offering its readers the emotional catharsis they crave, the book gives them no incentive to reflect upon their contemporary situation. Instead, readers are better served by Auster’s supposedly “cold” book, the story of a university professor who mourns the deaths of his wife and children. The book never plumbs the depths of the protagonist’s pain, and as a result, it’s not exactly moving. However, Auster’s novel is the more “transformative” because it forces readers to engage in “detached assessment” of their feelings. Such feelings are often unrecognizable, impersonal, and, according to Greenwald Smith, politically significant; works that produce them are “not easily incorporated into a market model of literary production and consumption.”
Indeed, one of the main reasons she thinks “impersonal feelings” are politically useful is because they disrupt current economic relations. Identifying with a literary character, and feeling moved by that character’s emotional experiences, is far too similar to the neoliberal subject’s habit of investing money, time, or even love with the expectation of a guaranteed return. Using this reasoning, Greenwald Smith argues that reading Karen Tei Yamashita’s “chaotic” 1997 novel Tropic of Orange, a story told from the perspective of many different characters, does more to dismantle neoliberalism than reading Jonathan Franzen’s heralded 2001 novel The Corrections. This is because she believes the emotional bonds we form these days are too often transactional; a novel like Franzen’s encourages us to make similar affective contracts with characters. In her account, we now form friendships—“affective ties”—not out of love or compassion but out of “economic imperative,” as a way of making sure we’re adequately networked. She suggests that by reading books that demand similar affective attachments, we only reinforce the structures of neoliberal life.
But there’s a problem with the way Greenwald Smith describes American life under neoliberalism. For her, contemporary life is defined by increased freedom as well as increased privatization. The neoliberal individual is an “entrepreneurial actor,” someone whose daily life is defined by increased, dizzying freedom and an ever-proliferating bevy of consumption choices: “we can choose among three different private insurers; six different charter schools; eighteen different espresso drinks; four different student loan providers; organic bananas or free trade; natural gas or oil; twelve blockbuster films.” But these experiences only pertain to one segment of American society—those who are insured, employed, and empowered with disposable income. For many, neoliberalism is about the constriction of choice and the diminishment of freedoms. It’s not about espresso drinks or free trade bananas but about prison cells, falling wages, occupying armies, and poisoned water. These problems won’t be solved by reading cerebral books.
In fact, it’s not quite clear how reading—and feeling—according to Greenwald Smith’s theory amounts to political resistance. Time and again in her book, we read that certain novels match up with neoliberalism—the form of one 9/11 novel “runs parallel to” the policies of the Bush administration, while another kind of formal experimentation “finds an analog in” global capitalism. This isn’t the same, however, as saying that this fiction props up the neoliberal state in any real way. To be sure, literature helps form our beliefs about ourselves and our world. While it’s possible that books like Auster’s might cause us to question some of these beliefs, it seems a bit of a reach to imagine that immersion in any novel’s affective atmosphere could compel a change in the global order. Also, books that trade on a reader’s compassion can advance political change quite effectively. One thinks of recent fiction by feminist authors like Chris Kraus, Elena Ferrante, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—works firmly grounded in the emotional experiences of individual characters. At times ironic and playful, at times sincere and, yes, moving, these books do the work of consciousness-raising.
Konstantinou has a more concrete idea about what it means to engage in politically revolutionary action. (A hint: it involves organizing.) But for him, the more interesting question is why, in the postwar United States, certain creative and literary communities understood displays of feelings or attitudes as political acts. Drawing on literary and cultural history, he focuses on the life and afterlife of irony. For him, irony is not just a feature of good literature but a disposition, an attitude, an ethos. Over the last fifty years, irony has migrated from the margins of American life to the center; as a result, writers and thinkers have been forced to adopt different attitudes in order to criticize the political and cultural mainstream. Showing us how we got from bohemia to the Believer, Konstantinou examines four character types who relate to irony in some way. The midcentury hipster and the 1970s punk were ironists: they belonged to bohemian subcultures that maintained a critical distance from the mainstream. Two contemporary figures are “postironic”; they’ve moved beyond irony and embraced an ethic of sincerity. They are the “believer,” which he describes as “a newly earnest countercultural figure” modeled on David Foster Wallace, and the “coolhunter,” a type of trend forecaster. In an epilogue, Konstantinou addresses the figure of the “occupier,” a different kind of hipster from the hipster of the midcentury, who marries irony and sincerity in a new way.
Cool Characters is a remarkably thorough work of literary scholarship, most valuable for how it unravels the political thinking of canonical American writers (Ralph Ellison, Norman Mailer), as well as some celebrated contemporary writers. Konstantinou takes evident delight in tracing the influences and legacies of each of his authors—in showing, for example, the way French feminist thought influenced the avant-garde writer Kathy Acker, who was associated with the New York punk scene. The chapter on punk is in fact the book’s most provocative. In it, Konstantinou suggests that anarchic writers like Acker aimed to bring about utopias but actually shored up the political order. In his account, punks rebelled against the state, but their rebellion didn’t always amount to anti-capitalist action (there’s even an implication that punk politics may have anticipated neoliberalism). The political vision of punk, which was grounded in the destruction of state-protected private property rights, was in fact perfectly synonymous with the dictates of free-market capitalism. Many of these subversive writers ended up popular, he argues, because they were telling “Americans a story about themselves that many of them—that many of us—want to hear.”
The chapter points to Konstantinou’s general skepticism of those who claim that their detached, disaffected attitudes amount to political resistance. The trouble with adopting the guise of irony, he argues, is that it makes politics an individual matter rather than a collective one. The danger of “cultivating personal irony” is that it “might, at best, allow us to shelter ourselves from the nastier depredations of capitalist modernity without having to do the hard work of engaging in political action or transforming dominant institutions.” In other words, the adoption of a cultural attitude becomes a stand-in for political action. This isn’t to ignore the politics of culture entirely—Konstantinou thinks that some leftist critics are too quick to dismiss the role culture plays in politics. But he is wary of the kind of political “quietism” that postures of irony can produce.
It’s not only the ironists who come under fire. Konstantinou is also skeptical of “believers,” those who suggest that exhibiting childlike wonder amounts to challenging political oppression. He argues that we must dispense with the fantasy that countercultural ways of being (or buying) will change the political order. Our sentiments, whether feigned or authentically felt, have less of an impact than we might like. To effect change, we need to develop clear political goals and effective tactics. Not surprisingly, he is skeptical of the “prefigurative” politics of a movement like Occupy, which, he fears, could produce more cynicism than it cures. “If you think you have already literally lived the future,” he writes, “you may become quietist. If you thought that the General Assembly was the sole legitimate means of achieving a better future, and came to see it destroyed . . . you might become cynical.” We must instead engage in “specific ambitious, sustainable, scalable, and—yes—sometimes dull political projects” of transforming the structures and institutions that produce cynicism as well as political and economic inequality.
It’s hard to find fault with this prescription for political change, but it’s also hard to imagine how diverse groups of people might engage in collective political projects without a small dose of prefiguration—what some might call hope. Sustaining the hard and disciplined work of actual movement-building requires the utopian imagination and desire of the General Assembly—people must learn to dream, feel, and relate in ways to which they’re unaccustomed. At the same time, though, decisions must be made, and opposition must be overcome. This is where Konstantinou’s hardheaded pragmatism is not only useful but necessary.
The negotiation between pragmatism and utopia is the hallmark of political life. Politics may be the “strong and slow boring of hard boards,” in Weber’s evocative phrase, but it is no less an endeavor of passion. If Greenwald Smith overstates the political significance of feelings, Konstantinou slightly undersells it. Sentiments aren’t actions, but they’re often the precursor to actions. It’s in the transition from fear to rage, or from rage to inspiration, that political transformation becomes possible. More work—hard, “dull” work—must be done to turn collective desires into realities, but these desires must be recognized, articulated, even cultivated. The use of affect theory is that it offers us a way to understand and express our dreams for the future as well as our contemporary unease. Hope, too, might be political—not just a comforting feeling, but a necessary tool.

Arnold

Arnold Palmer, Beloved Golf Legend and Internationl Icon, Dead at 87

The Meaning of Arnold Palmer
One of the first superstars of the TV age, Arnold Palmer was like nothing the sports world had ever seen before. 
Arnold Palmer, who died today in Pittsburgh at age 87, led an American life that will never be duplicated, so rooted was it in a lost time and a place and the sui generischemistry of the man.
The golf legend won his last major championship in 1964 and his last PGA Tour event in 1973, but in the 43 years since then his status as an international icon has only grown. He had a knack for making people feel better about themselves, and about their prospects. As a player, he allowed his fans to join him in his unbridled assertiveness. He created a vicarious thrill as no player before him and none since. When his golf skills faded and his hair turned silver and then white, he exuded grandfatherly warmth that was also unmatched, possibly in any sport. For these and other reasons he was not only the most beloved figure ever to play golf but the rare golfer who was able to transcend a niche sport and become a genuine celebrity.
At the 2016 Masters, Palmer did not hit a ceremonial opening tee shot alongside his friends Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus -- that trio in its prime was marketed as the Big Three -- and Nicklaus, his great rival, spoke about Palmer's absence with notable sadness, already anticipating Sunday's news. Two months later, at the U.S. Open at Oakmont, 35 miles from Palmer's hometown in Latrobe, Pa., players and commentators, young and old and in between, paid tribute to the man known as the King. All of golf has been preparing itself emotionally for Palmer's death, which for millions of golfers around the world was almost like losing a parent. The golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez spent decades preaching this message: "Every touring pro should bow down and pray to Arnold Palmer, for what he did for golf."
Photo: 
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Palmer, by virtue of his spectacular wins and losses, made golf a sport that enjoyed broad popularity on TV. All he had to do was contend, and he often did. It has been said that Palmer sold a million color TVs -- nobody wanted to watch him perform his magic in black-and-white, neither the man of the house, nor the lady.
Yes, the terms are old-fashioned: Palmer connected with conservative Middle America in ways that made him the envy of various presidents, Republican presidents in particular. Palmer had a particularly close relationship with Dwight Eisenhower.
He was an odd sort of matinee idol. Palmer had a rugged, regular-guy handsomeness -- more out of the John Wayne school than anything else -- but there was a physicality to him that drew men and women to him in almost equal numbers. He became, over the decades, fantastically rich, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He was a child of the Depression and a proud son of the working-class and he lived, essentially, a modest life, except for his penchant for private planes. Palmer was an accomplished pilot who at one point had a world-record for circumnavigating the globe in a private plane. In his everyday lunchtime grillroom conversation, he spoke of his flying adventures with the same enthusiasm with which he spoke of golf, which is saying something.
The world has likely never seen anybody who loved golf more than Palmer did. He played or hit balls virtually every day of his life. His late first wife, Winnie Walzer Palmer, used to say that her husband would not last long if he could no longer fly his own plane or hit balls. Palmer gave up his pilot license, with great reluctance, in 2014 and was still hitting balls up until his final days.
Photo: Jack Nicklaus helps Arnold Palmer put on the green jacket with Augusta National chairman Clifford Roberts in the background.

Jack Nicklaus helps Arnold Palmer put on the green jacket with Augusta National chairman Clifford Roberts in the background.

Palmer didn't have a quick wit, like Muhammad Ali, but he did have a directness that endeared him to millions of people regardless of their station in life. Almost like another icon of his era, Walter Cronkite, Palmer was consistent, reliable and trustworthy. Asked once how he made a 12 on a hole, Palmer said, "I missed the four-footer for 11." His humor was often literal that way.
He was the first professional golfer with his own raucous cheering section. The original members of Arnie's Army were GIs from Camp Gordon in Augusta, Ga., and Palmer was at ease with these enlisted men, knocking back cold ones with them on those occasions when they landed at the same bar. For some years in the 1950s and ‘60s, Palmer was a smoker, a vodka-and-steak man, and a night owl, but the protective press of his era never showed him in that light. People who followed the game closely knew, and he never pretended to be something other than what he was. He attended Wake Forest and was forever devoted to the university, but left in his senior year after his best friend, Bud Worsham, was killed in a car accident. Later, he served in the Coast Guard and at age 24 he was a half-lazy paint salesman with no particular direction. His life changed in August 1954, when he won the U.S. Amateur shortly before his 25th birthday. The next month, he met Winnie Walzer, a 19-year-old college student, at an amateur event in Pennsylvania on a Tuesday. That Saturday night he proposed. "Her father hated my ass," Palmer once said. "He said, ‘You're going to marry a golf pro?'" It was only in that period that Palmer decided to turn pro.
It worked out all right. The two Pennsylvanians were married from 1954 until Winnie Palmer's death in 1999. The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando is considered a world-class center for neonatal care. The couple had two children, Amy and Peggy, who were largely shielded from the spotlight. Palmer won 62 times on the PGA Tour (fifth on the all-time list) and 10 times on the senior tour. In his 50s and early 60s, when Palmer was playing the Champions tour regularly, that circuit enjoyed its greatest popularity. He won one U.S. Open, in 1960, two British Opens ('61 and '62) and four green jackets ('58, '60, '62 and '64). He never won a PGA Championship. He was a longtime member of the PGA of America, as was his father before him, but he had various and enduring frustrations with the organization. He believed that the golf body at first discriminated against his father, known as Deacon, because of his struggles with walking as a result of childhood polio. He also resented a PGA of America rule that prevented pros from cashing checks in the first six months of their professional careers. Palmer had a wide stubborn streak and a long memory.
Like Ronald Reagan and Warren Buffett, Palmer had the knack to reduce complex things to their essence. As a golfer, he belonged to the see-ball, hit-ball school and in his brief prime he drove the ball long and straight and putted as well as anybody. His swing had a slashing, muscular quality to it -- there was nothing country club about his action -- and that added to his popularity, too. He was the opposite of Ben Hogan in almost every way and he succeeded Hogan as the best-known American golfer. The two men never enjoyed much a rapport. Palmer once said, "He never called me anything except fella,'" Palmer once said. Nicklaus, a decade younger than Palmer, succeeded Palmer as the king of American golf. Even though the two men competed in golf and in business -- they both had thriving golf-course design firms -- they also had a close friendship. 
To the sports-watching public, the two became associated on June 18, 1960, the day Palmer hit one of the most famous shots in golf history, driving the 346-yard par-4 first hole in the fourth round of the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, in Denver. That swing set-up a two-putt birdie, gave birth to the Palmer Charge and was the first blow in a final-round 65 that allowed Palmer to surge from behind and win by two over Nicklaus and by four over Hogan, who was doomed by a final-round 73.
Photo: Arnold Palmer watches his tee shot for the honorary tee off before the first round of the 2015 Masters.

Arnold Palmer watches his tee shot for the honorary tee off before the first round of the 2015 Masters.

Palmer spent literally the rest of his life reviewing the costs of that win, which he felt contributed to his ultimately futile efforts to win a second U.S. Open despite being in contention many times. He revered what he called "our national championship." He regarded that U.S. Open win as the most significant of his career, in part because of how much his own father valued it. When he started making regular trips to the British Open in the early 1960s, he revived interest in that championship at a time when many American professionals couldn't be bothered with it. But it was his play at Augusta National, both brilliant and boneheaded, that defined his career. When he became the first pro to become a dues-paying member of Augusta National in 1999, the invitation to join struck a deep chord in him. The approval of the sophisticated, well-bred men who ran the USGA, and populated the membership roles at Augusta National, meant more to him than he ever let on. But the truth was that those men were far more in awe of Palmer than he was of them.
Businessmen had nothing on Palmer. He was, in 1995, a co-founder of Golf Channel and in that capacity made an indelible mark on the game while making, over time, millions of dollars. Over the years, the range of his business interests is mindboggling, with an ownership interest in dry cleaners, car dealerships, hotels, a golf-club manufacturing business, among many other ventures. He was a prudent investor but in general much preferred to be paid as a spokesman for various products, from Pennzoil starting in the early 1960s to a blood-clotting drug in recent years that had him appearing in TV spots with the comedian Kevin Nealon. There were scores of other products in between. Palmer's stiffness as an actor added to his appeal and his credibility.
Palmer wrote more golf books (13) than Dan Jenkins, designed or remodeled more courses (350) than Pete Dye and sponsored more products than Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jr. together. He drove that famous red tractor for Pennzoil for years, ran through airports with O.J. Simpson for Hertz and appeared in an Electronic Arts video golf game with Tiger Woods. A hundred other deals could be added to that list.
He is on the Mount Rushmore of American sportsmen and when he was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1960, Roger Maris and Cassius Clay and Frank Gifford all started talking about a golfer -- a golfer! -- as not only an athlete, but one that could be discussed in the same breath as a baseball slugger, a gold-medal winning boxer and a matinee-idol football player. In 1960, Palmer won the Masters and the U.S. Open and American golf had its first working-class hero. Palmer has signed that timeless SOTY cover thousands of times, his penmanship relentlessly consistent and legible. There cannot be anybody anywhere who has signed more autographs than Arnold Palmer. 
In his later years, Palmer's ceremonial opening tee shot before the first round of the Masters helped keep him in the public eye. There's a silver replica of the Augusta clubhouse at the front door of his Latrobe office and another at the SpringHill Suites Hotel in Latrobe, a hotel co-owned by Palmer and located on Arnold Palmer Drive. Palmer lost three U.S. Opens in playoffs and in his mind there were another three he should have won. Even though he won his last major in '64, Palmer felt, on a technical level, that he played his best golf between 1965 and '73. He was actually a far more consistent golfer than he is typically given credit for and he won at least one Tour event every year from 1955 through 1971.
Root around the soul of any professional golfer, including Palmer's, and you'll find something melancholic. Longtime fans remember Palmer tossing victory balls and flinging visors like Frisbees before there were Frisbees. Those photos were lodged in Palmer's mind, too, but he remembered just as well the ones that got away. He revisited these events without bitterness but with genuine regret. Hearing him talk about these tournaments -- during a clubhouse lunch or over a pre-dinner drink -- made him all the more real. He had a knack for creating intimacy. Friends, relatives and employees were intensely loyal to him. 
Unlike almost every other great champion, the game still brought Palmer joy even after age started eroding his skills. He liked being in public, he liked being with the boys and he liked the challenge of trying to improve. He liked golf on every stage. One day, when he was in his 70s, Palmer was playing a par-3 course in the California desert. Early on, he found himself one down to a duffer but then started turning the match around. He shook his club and yelled joyfully, "I got you now!" Palmer was externally a conformist but internally a maverick and people found that combination irresistible. He could be a Harvard Business School case study for the athlete as celebrity endorser and businessman. He paved the way for Jean-Claude Killy, Jackie Stewart, Michael Jordan, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and many others. 
Palmer was not close to Woods but was deeply impressed by his talent and played with him a handful of times. He occasionally watched Woods working on the driving range with his father, Earl, at Isleworth, a massive Orlando real-estate development developed by Palmer and associates, with a Palmer-designed course. Palmer once said that Tiger's relationship with Earl reminded him of his relationship with his father. Both fathers taught the importance of discipline and practice. Both instilled in their sons a competitive hunger bordering on starvation. 
Palmer's longtime agent, Alastair Johnston, recruited Woods to IMG. Palmer himself had a long association with Mark McCormack, the founder of IMG and the man who invented the Big Three (Palmer, Nicklaus and Player). Nicklaus, the Golden Bear, was a country-club kid and a plodder. Player, the Black Knight, was a globetrotting overachiever with movie-star looks. Palmer was simply The King. In the '60s, he made cigarette-smoking look cool but, on the positive side of the ledger, gave the men's line at Sears a stamp of legitimacy. Later, he became a public face of the anti-smoking campaign. Palmer, a prostate cancer survivor in his late 70s, also made earnest public service announcements about the importance of regular prostate exams. 
Photo: Palmer, shown here in 1978, hits a shot at the Phoenix Open at the Phoenix Country Club

Palmer, shown here in 1978, hits a shot at the Phoenix Open at the Phoenix Country Club

Palmer played quickly, often drove the ball superbly and, with his inimitable, knock-kneed, wristy putting stroke, could run the tables with his putter. He was not one to sit around and hyper-analyze swing positions or the meaning of life. Asked once about life regrets, Palmer said, "I wish I would have tried putting left-hand low." 
His legacy is vast. He was an owner of the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, where a PGA Tour event bearing his name is played each March. He was an owner of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. The appeal of his name got Golf Channel off the ground. Arnold Palmer was amused and a little embarrassed by the ubiquity of the Arizona beverage that bears his name, a lemonade-iced tea drink he is credited with inventing. There's a hospital named for him in Orlando and an airport named for him in Latrobe.
Through his two daughters, Palmer had six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. He married for a second time in 2005, to Kit Gawthrop. He and Kit lived across the street from Latrobe Country Club, where his father spent his working life and which Palmer bought in 1971. His home in Latrobe was a modern, boxy, comfortable mountain house, not a showpiece, and his prized possession in it was a landscape painting given to him by its artist, Dwight Eisenhower. His official residence was a condo at Bay Hill, but Latrobe was the center of his universe. At Bay Hill, he converted the garage into a workshop and in it he spent many happy hours, bending clubs and chewing the cud with friends like the former Tour player Dow Finsterwald, his longtime right-hand man Doc Giffin and various pilots and course superintendents who were both employees and friends. There was a small refrigerator in that workshop and at 5 p.m. sharp the first beers came out. In Latrobe, a massive barn served as a depository for 60 years' worth of Palmer memorabilia, overseen by his younger brother, Jerry, who previously served as the Latrobe Country Club's general manager. Palmer is also survived by his two sisters, Lois Jean Tilley and Sandy Sarni.
Arnold Daniel Palmer -- Arnie to millions -- was born in Sept. 19, 1929, and he was a man of his generation in all the expected ways. He insisted on men removing hats upon entering the various clubhouses under his watch and was a big believer in the benefits of the firm handshake. He often said that the secret to his success as a golfer was the firm golf grip his father taught him as a young child, just a few years after the Great Crash. He never changed his grip, he never changed his swing, he never changed his personality.
The sports columnist Dave Anderson once wrote that nobody could enjoy being who he or she is more than Arnold Palmer enjoys being Arnold Palmer. That observation got to the heart of the man and the matter. Palmer lived a full life and got millions of other people to believe they could do the same.
Photo: 

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Writing

COFFEE HOUSE CULTURE HOUSE DAILY

Our leading writers are inhumanly cool

6 September 2016
9:17 AM
I see that Geoff Dyer has a new book out. I’m sure it’s brilliantly written, devilishly witty, and as shallow as a mirror. He sums up, for me, the literature of today. The most critically lauded writers of our day are writers of stylish non-fiction. Or of fiction that looks like non-fiction, that presents itself as the author’s rambling musings. You see, the author is too charmingly laid-back to structure his work around anything. He’s too busy being a flaneur, or in Dyer’s updating of the concept, a slacker.
I have recently read two other authors of this type: Tom McCarthy, and the American Ben Lerner. And there are many others who half-fit, who echo this orthodoxy. The style has deeply influenced most of the critically lauded writers of our day, especially male ones.
What essentially defines them? They are cool. Cool meaning more than fashionable: meaning detached, unimpressed, ironic. They give the impression that strong opinions and emotions are to be avoided. Or at least held in quotation marks; for such opinions and emotions distract one from the urgent task of attending to the detail of the world. But they would quickly ironize the idea of the ‘urgency’ of this ‘task’.
The enemy is earnestness. Or perhaps we should say, higher earnestness. For it is fine to be earnest about something little and quirky, like the history of traffic lights or the supposedly sublime genius of Roger Federer. But one must not display earnestness in the traditional domain of the human soul. One must be dispassionate on two fronts: the meaning of life (to be either religious or atheist is embarrassing), and sex. It must not be admitted that sex is connected to that boring square matter of love, and stable relationships. For the clever gadfly author must not admit to vulnerability, dependence, need. He is therefore inhumanly cool. Though he flags up his humble humanity in various ways, and often plays the role of bumbling idiot, this is a distraction, a ruse. At root he writes to establish his separateness from the masses of humanity who suffer boringly difficult passions, who know existential anxiety. This whole style can be labeled Inhumanly Cool, which can be intensified as it is acronymized: IC.
Back to sex briefly. The defining scene in Ben Lerner’s novel 10:04 is a sex scene with a difference. The narrator is seeking to help out his best friend, a woman who wants to have a baby, using his sperm. Having tried more remote methods of impregantion, they finally resort to the old-fashioned method. And so we have a sex scene in which the author rises above the normal motivation, for even lust is too earnest when you think about it; it is linked to the fatal earnestness of love. This scene displays the real fetish of the IC brigade: ambiguity, complexity, wit.
Geoff Dyer’s favoured brand of IC is travel, especially the literary or artistic pilgrimage. But guess what – unlike some ordinary earnest journalist he daringly finds the experience amusingly underwhelming! He visits D.H. Lawrence’s haunts in New Mexico, and daringly debunks the romance. In his latest book he visits Gauguin’s grave in Tahiti and guess what – he wittily describes how underwhelming it is. In other words, he wants to highlight his detachment from the lure of romantic primitivism. Of course, this might involve some preliminary posturing as a devotee of these earnestly modern artists. A dose of faux-earnestness is an important ingredient of the ironic stew. Sometimes the narrator has a romantic adventure, keeping the reader guessing as to whether this has any basis in reality – prurient reader! Be content with a shimmering surface!
Look I like clever witty prose. But I get itchy when it’s assumed to be deep. And, maybe because he throws in a few quotations from Adorno, plenty of critics find Dyer deep. (Journalists love Dyer because his style is just broadsheet arts journalism on stilts: he’s what they aspire to.)
The core IC writers live in a bubble – and of course they know this and cleverly analyse it – of arts grants, screenplays, gallery openings. You could call it the Brooklyn bubble, because its London version is in thrall to its sleeker version. They are, to a man, friends of Zadie Smith.
But IC has leaked out from this bubble and infected just about all non-fiction writing. We are suffering a golden age of Fine Writing. Style utterly elbows aside content. A sleek brigade of miniaturist-memoirists can describe anything, in gorgeous, surprising, compelling prose – the sensation of eating crisps, the history of the colour pink, porn, being bored in art gallery, whittling wood, taming a badger, cooking a feast, flying first class. Or rather, they can describe anything except what it feels like to be a human being. For, in the age of IC, only a certain limited style of human existence is displayed and celebrated.
I partly blame Martin Amis, the undisputed hero of male British writers who grew up in the 80s – until they got wind of Amis’ own hero, Nabokov. According to these writers, style is a sort of alternative form of morality. If you can make prose dance on the page, then you belong to an elite that hovers above the normal humdrum concerns of humanity. It’s as an aesthetic phenomenon that the world is justified, as Nietzsche said. IC writers seem to believe this. They seem to believe that the function of literature is not to represent the struggles of existence, or to tell stories about human beings, but to demonstrate that prose can hover over life, be cool.
It’s a form of escapism. Because in reality none of us is that cool. We are stressed, needy, muddled folk with difficult passions that unsettle us, like the search for love, purpose, meaning. Why can’t some well-written literature acknowledge this? In real life there is a huge role for earnestness, sincerity, moral struggle – uncool stuff like that. These writers offer a fantasy, in which the most awkward and weighty aspects of existence are photoshopped out. There’s a timidity here, a fear of admitting themes that are difficult to handle neatly and coolly. Look how in control I am of my prose, they say. Infer from this my control of my existence.