Saturday, September 30, 2017

Flat Feet

In Heinrich Mann's novel Man of Straw (in German Der Untertan), the eponymous anti-hero Diederich Hessling manages to get out of his compulsory year of military service as having flat feet. In the first letter of Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900-1949, Thomas Mann describes to his brother the progress of his scheme to get out of the army on the same plea. A dozen years later he summarized this for Heinrich Mann, then writing Man of Straw. Hessling got his disqualification from a medical officer who had belonged to the same student society, the Young Teutons. Thomas Mann got his through a medical officer who was friends of the family physician.

It seems unlikely that the German army lost greatly by Thomas Mann's early release from duty in 1900. No doubt he would have been on the old side to have been recalled for duty in 1914.

It is not clear to me whether Penguin keeps Man of Straw in print, but the book does not seem hard to come by. As a satire on Wilhelmine Germany it is powerful. As a picture of that society, one wonders whether it isn't exaggerated. The University of California Press has put Letters etc. out of print. I found it used, and haven't read far in it.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Maneuvers

While running in Rock Creek Park on Saturday, I saw a couple of young men in blue tee shirts standing at the foot of Bingham Road. I'd have liked to have been able to read their tee shirts, but I couldn't. Then in the parking lot of a picnic grove I saw an easel set up, and near it nine or a dozen camouflage packs laid down. A young woman stood in Beach Drive with a clipboard, so I asked her.

It was a ROTC field exercise, she said. Her blue tee shirt read "Hoya Battalion" on the front, and she had on camouflage trousers. I went on my way. On the return leg of the run, at Wise Road and Oregon Avenue, I saw a young man in the same outfit. He had a five-gallon jerrycan on the trunk of his car.

Thirty and more years ago I would see the Georgetown University ROTC contingent in full camouflage utilities, getting their coffee at near campus before their duties began. On reflection, I am a  bit surprised that I never saw them out in the woods then, for I ran a lot more in those days.

I hope that the camouflage trousers went straight into the wash after the exercise. Rock Creek Park has a great deal of poison ivy, and the oils from the leaves can remain effective on unwashed clothes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Beach Drive

Since we moved to Crestwood in July, 2004, on most weekend days we have walked down Mattewson Drive to Blagden Avenue, and followed that to Beach Drive. From that point we have gone running, sometimes together, usually separately. That won't work for the next several months.

At the end of August, the contractors finished repaving Beach Drive from Tilden Street down to Cathedral Avenue. The National Park Service then blocked off the next stretch of Beach Drive, from Tilden up to Joyce Road. The barriers, as I encountered them that Wednesday, were nothing one could not step over or around. On September 3, the barriers had been pushed aside, and Beach Drive above Broad Branch was full of runners, walkers, and bicyclists.

Last Saturday, we walked down Blagden as usual, but found a construction site at the bottom. There were workers with jackhammers taking up pavement, and there was a policeman, polite but very definite that we might not pass through. We walked back uphill to Argyle Terrace, after which my wife ran around the neighborhood, and I ran up to get into the park near Carter Barron.

Now Carter Barron, the next obvious access point north, is a good route into the park. The difficulty arises with access from the south. The nearest way is along Piney Branch Parkway. The right side looking downhill  is mostly all right, in having a place to run out of the roadway. However, it has about twenty yards where a chain link fence comes right to the curb, and there one must run in the gutter while cars go by at what seems high speed. On the other side of the road the ground is less satisfactory, and there is an equal or greater stretch of chain link. After that, one ends up at Klingle Road, which is farther down the park than I'd prefer to get in, or, on a route that started upstream, out.

The neighborhood in general is unhappy, though more about vehicle access, or so I judge from the email traffic To cross the park one must go north to Military Road or south to Park Road. In the best case this adds ten or fifteen minutes to the time needed to drive to Chevy Chase or points west. A family on our block determined to sell their house this year because of the road work: the husband's commute to Tyson's Corner needed no lengthening, they thought. They now live in Chevy Chase.

I should add the bike trail replaced over the past year is very smooth, and I gather that the roadway is too. The pavement above Tilden is not smooth, but rather much patched. When running on it I aim to compromise between avoiding the worst bumps and cavities on the one hand and intruding on space the bicyclists suppose to be theirs on the other. I look forward to that work being done, if not to the detours we shall have to make around it in the meantime.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Friend of My Copier

This past week, I received a request to connect on LinkedIn from a person whose name I did not recognize. This happens regularly, but in most cases I can guess a connection: the person is in a technology business, or is connected with someone else I know. This person had no obvious connection.

Then I looked more closely at the mail, and saw that the email was addressed to scanning@myorg.tld. Then I understood, or thought I did. Somebody in our organization had used one of the Xerox Multifunction Copiers to scan a document to be emailed this person. At some later date his person had signed up for LinkedIn, and clicked on the button that allows LinkedIn to see her email address book. LinkedIn had immediately sent emails on her behalf to every address in it, whether that address belonged to a person or a machine.

I suppose that someone with time to waste could create a LinkedIn profile corresponding to the address--Steven or Susan Canning, maybe. But the minor amusement to be derived from prank doesn't seem to me to be worth the multiplication of junk emails.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Troubling Thought

Noticed last week in The World as Will and Representation:
Thilo (Über den Ruhm) also observes that  usually there belongs to the vulgar herd one more than each of us believes.
(Supplements to the Third Book, Chapter XXXI, "On Genius")

I am not sure that I ever considered myself as not vulgar--I remember too much evidence to the contrary. It is true that I seldom consider myself as mistaken. Yet an acquaintance with the history of reputations keeps me from believing too much in the lasting value of my judgments of any given work of art.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Unexpected Reading

On Friday, I had more or less a notion of what I would read Friday evening and Saturday: one book until it wore me out, then perhaps another. That might have worked had I not stopped by Second Story Books after work, and had I not found there The Selected Writings of Sydney Smith. Late Saturday afternoon,  I was able to think that I had probably read enough Smith for the week and might go on to other matter.

The volume is "Edited, with an introduction, by W.H. Auden". Auden justly remarks that
 As a general rule it is the fate of the polemical writer to be forgotten when the cause for which he fought has been won or is no longer a live issue, and it will always be difficult to persuade a later generation that there can be exceptions, polemical writers, journalists if you will of such brilliance and charm that they can be read with delight and admiration by those to whom their subject matter is itself of little interest.
Indeed so. I would not have said that the changes in Church of England benefices under a Whig administration a century and a half ago could hold the least interest for me. But Smith, a canon of St. Paul's, though probably at that point in his life not much dependent on such revenue, fills pages that I couldn't stop reading. One might call his arguments worldly--
I object to the confiscation [of livings from the deans and chapters of the cathedrals] because it will throw a great deal more of capital out of the parochial Church than it will bring into it. I am very sorry to come forward with so homely an argument, which shocks so many Clergymen, and particularly those with the largest incomes, and the best Bishoprics; but the truth is, the greater number of Clergymen go into the Church in order that they may derive a comfortable income from the Church. Such men intend to do their duty, and they do it; but the duty is, however, not the motive, but the adjunct. If I were writing in gala and parade, I would not hold this language; but we are in earnest, and on business; and as very rash and hasty changes are founded up contrary suppositions of the pure disinterestedness and perfect inattention to temporals in the Clergy, we must get down at once to the solid rock, without heeding how we disturb the turf and the flowers above. The parochial  Clergy maintain their present decent appearance quite as much by their own capital as by the income derived from the Church.... So that by the old plan of paying by lottery, instead of giving a proper competence to each, not only do you obtain a parochial clergy upon much cheaper terms; but from the gambling propensities of human nature, and the irresistible tendency to hope that they shall gain the great prizes, you tempt men into your service who keep up their credit, and yours, not by your allowance, but by their own capital.
.. when every atom of power and patronage ought to be husbanded for the Crown. A Prebend of Westminster for my second son would soften the Catos of Cornhill and lull the Gracchi of the Metropolitan Boroughs. Lives there a man so absurd, as to suppose that Government can be carried on without those gentle allurements? You may as well attempt to poultice off the humps of a camel's back as to cure mankind of these little corruptions.
--but I at least kept reading.

One can find the Peter Plymley letters on-line at Gutenberg, and they make a good introduction to Smith. The abuses the letters address, in the treatment of the Catholics of Ireland, were largely resolved within twenty-five years after the writing, and I think that I could canvass a fairly literate acquaintance of two dozen without finding three persons who could identify most of the persons that Smith wrote against. (Castlereagh and Canning, maybe; Spencer Perceval, George Rose, and Lord Eldon, probably not.) Still the letters are readable. They offer among other things an example of what political polemics can be in the hands of the literate. Perceval is a favorite target, but Canning gets his share:
It is only the public situation which this gentleman holds which entitles me or induces me to say so much about him. He is a fly in amber, nobody cares about the fly: the only question is, How the Devil did it get there? Nor do I attack him for love of glory, but from the love of utility, as a burgomaster hunts a rat in a Dutch dyke, for fear it should flood a province.