December 29th, 2018
Poem for the End of the Year


Let me die under a true dark sky
A certified cloudless lightless sky
Far down the Atlantic let northern lights
Dip their curtains when I die
Shallow breathing on the observation field
Skyglow gone and city brightness sealed
Let me sleep at ease in the windless clear
While mourners keep their torches low 

Let me find a window in the weather
For deep sky and a circle of telescopes
And a circle of mourners riveted
To the Milky Way

December 28th, 2018
Stump puffballs encountered …

… on a walk through my woods in today’s rain.

I see the shrieking head of a monster.

December 28th, 2018
‘Something about our current national mood suggests we’re yearning to see con artists, to watch their rise and, more hungrily, their fall.’

It’s all Villains, Thieves, and Scoundrels Union here on planet earth, and University Diaries, in a year-end, retrospective mood, recalls with you not merely the prolific literary frauds of our day (chronicled on this blog, to the extent that I can keep up with them), but cultural frauds more generally. Obviously, we’re most interested here in frauds perpetrated in university settings – the hilarious venerable ‘student/athlete’ thing; plagiarism; made-up research; corporate-whore research; stashing federal funds away for personal use; or simply, Jimbo Ramsey-style, stealing your university’s endowment…

Or go way back to the much spiffier Andrei Shleifer, eminent Harvard economics professor, turning his federal-government-funded advisory position into a get-rich-quick scheme… Persistently, this blog, and planet earth, have been located in The World According to Trump University, and with the election of that university’s CEO, people have made it pretty clear that this is where they want to be. It’s not – as the Vanity Fair quotation in my headline has it – that we want to watch the rise and fall – few fraudsters fall… I mean, you’ve got to be Bernie Madoff to really FALL. His comrade in crime, Ezra Merkin, will remain out of jail – although, to be sure, in courtrooms – for the rest of his life. James Ramsey, larcenous president of the University of Louisville, will die with his McMansion lifestyle intact and the case against him grinding slowly on. The literary fraudsters described in the VF article are getting immortalized in fancy schmancy movies. Shleifer continues to ride high.

But it is true that watching ourselves being frauds and perpetrating frauds has become a keener and keener spectator sport – it’s part of the Italianization of culture about which Adam Gopnik writes. Our self-alienation, wrote Walter Benjamin long ago, has “reached such a degree that [we] can experience [our] own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.”

Yet the blogeuse you hold in your hands hopes you can, like her models (Orwell, Camus, Arendt, Murdoch, Hitchens), resist la dolce vita spectatorship in favor of sour indignation.

December 25th, 2018
Rome Wasn’t Trashed in a Day

It took years of cynical sloth to bring about the trash heap described in this article about one of the world’s great cities.

December 23rd, 2018
Inside a quiet Quiet Car, passing Manhattan on the left…

UD wends her way, yet another year, to Boston, for a Soltan Christmas. Longtime readers know UD dislikes creaky old Boston and certainly wishes she didn’t have to go north in December. But at least she’s going south in January – Sanibel Island, a place I’ve always wondered about, and will of course blog about here.

December 22nd, 2018
There are SO many poems titled ‘Winter Night’…

But UD likes this one best, by Jon Lang.


Before we go there: My own winter night sky tonight – viewed from my back deck in Garrett Park, Maryland – is blackly clear, with a large, full, bright moon.  This cosmic clarity comes equipped, this evening, with very cold, very awakening, air.  Like all those winter night poets, I’m stirred, and I’m lifted, out here, off the earth, to something acutely articulate; something post-human, and post-humous…   Yet as it happens, I don’t know what the universe is saying — I only know I’m exposed, in my coatless, ghosty condition, to its voice.   Wallace Stevens hears something of this with similar recognition and confusion at the seashore: 

The water never formed to mind or voice,   
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion   
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,   
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.
If you’re ever going to “break through the sensual gate,” writes Cecil Day-Lewis, it’s liable to happen facing the ocean, facing the stars; but that breakthrough, though heady, will be muddled and unnerving.  Better to return, continues Day-Lewis, to sublunary reality: “Friend, let us look to earth,/ Be stubborn, act and sleep.”
Philip Larkin, in “Sad Steps,” responds in a similar way to a sublimely moonstruck night:
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,
One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain   
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare…


Winter Night

How often we draw back, detached from the world

Like a star, and thinking the mind a pure space

Imagine our fate somehow suspended – almost

As if, like a far eye, or a small fist

Of light, we might take the whole of it, coldly, in.

But ah, what a show … for nothing really stops –

And the further we fade, the more the smallest pain

Heightens, iced to a moon’s edge. O, could we just

See! How even without us the vanishing earth

Goes on, child without mother, bearing itself

Blindly toward spring! Would we still, like gods,

Think ourselves beyond it all? Now, shrinking

Within, we only at best mimick the dead,

Who have earned with a life that richer, darker distance.

December 22nd, 2018
UD isn’t sure the best first line for an article about the very Jewish Rapoport family…

… is “Christmas came early for the heirs of the historic building…” — but let that go. The heirs of UD‘s grandfather’s brother just won an appeal of a 2017 Worcester County Court decision that would have allowed Ocean City to take away from them a boardwalk building they’ve owned since 1905. 

UD‘s grandfather, Joseph Rapoport, was one of seven brothers who came here from Russia and settled in Philadelphia, but eventually bought and operated businesses in Ocean City, Maryland. Indeed, Nathan – the brother at the center of the appeal – eventually moved to OC full-time and lived on the second floor of the building at issue (its first floor has, for decades, been a Dumser’s ice cream parlor).

Interestingly, Nathan’s obituary only lists Joe among the many brothers.

Nathan Rapoport, 88, one of the business pioneers in Ocean City, died Wednesday in Peninsula General Hospital in Salisbury after a short illness. Mr. Rapoport was formerly of Philadelphia. He was born in Russia. He had operated a games concession business on the boardwalk since 1912, retiring about five years ago. Mr. Rapoport’s wife, Minnie, died in 1968. Surviving are a daughter, Mrs. Gertrude Goldenberg, who with her husband, Bernie, operates a beach accessory business here; three granddaughters; nine great-grandchildren; and a brother, Joe Rapoport, Baltimore. Funeral services wiil be held Friday at 2 p.m. in the Goldstein Funeral Home, Philadelphia. Interment will be in Roosevelt Memorial Park, near Philadelphia. The family suggests, that as a tribute to the memory of the deceased, contributions may be made to the State of Israel, in care of the Beth Israel Synagogue, Salisbury. 

Ocean City “failed to present sufficient evidence to support the circuit court’s conclusion that the Property is located within the boundaries of the dedicated and accepted public easement of Atlantic Avenue,” so it stays for the time being with the Rapoport heirs, who remain in OC and who get rent from Dumser’s.

The current owner of Dumser’s remembers Nathan:

 I remember him walking on the Boardwalk in the mornings in his long sleeved white shirt with a bow tie. A very quiet man. What I know of him is that he came to this country at the turn of the century, and decided to invest his life in business in Ocean City. He owned the property across the Boardwalk where Daytons and Dough Roller sit today. He had to rebuild after two devastating fires only to lose the property in the depression. He and his descendants have occupied the present building for more than 100 years. This is all that is left of one of our pioneers who took a chance on Ocean City when tourism was all about new businesses.

December 21st, 2018
Headline of the Day.

Urban Meyer To Unironically Co-Teach A Class On Character And Leadership At Ohio State

December 21st, 2018
Der Spiegel Goes to Fergus Falls

Claas will go to Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s — make that prairie’s — shade,
And interview the local bores.
Young man, approach this mindless sow
Make buddies with that cretin maid,
And brood on fact and truth no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon this country’s mystery;
For Fergus is your mason jar,
Containing all our kinfolk rude
And all our white supremacy
And all our politics bizarre.

December 20th, 2018
The University of Louisville’s Rick Pitino…

… now coaching Greece’s Panathinkaikos basketball team, finds his level.

Panathinkaikos owner Dimitrios Giannakopoulos is known for his temper, and was once fined $150,000 in 2015 for threatening to kill officials and their families following a EuroLeague win over CSKA Moscow.  

December 20th, 2018
C’mon. It’s the U of Smell. Not only does everyone steal…

… but their now-deposed Cheertator only stole $40,000, while their last president apparently stole tens of millions. If UL goes after even petty thieves, the place will lose its entire administrative structure.

December 20th, 2018
How could words express…

… Your divine appeal?

The feds will continue to go after America’s Super-Clit-Slasher herself, the pride of Johns Hopkins medical school, Jumana Nagarwala. Will she wield her well-trained knife once again, against the joy, integrity, and welfare of our nation’s children? Stay tuned.

December 19th, 2018
A Laff Riot

Written, starring and executive produced by [Timothy] Simons, [new HBO comedy] Exit Plans centers around assisted suicide. When assisted suicide is legalized in 2019, a man from California opens a small business helping people transition into death peacefully while struggling to keep ahold of his crumbling personal life. In short, he’s trying to figure out his life while ending yours.

December 18th, 2018

The affidavit filed with the charges described many of Pham’s text messages, indicating in one case that he was having a sexual relationship with a patient. He was prescribing drugs to that woman and also to her 9-year-old daughter, according to the document by DEA Special Agent Lindsey Bellomy.

December 18th, 2018
More from the town everyone’s calling Takewood New Jersey.

A massive insurance fraud conspiracy; failure to vaccinate or educate their children; systemic welfare benefits theft: UD awaits Lakewood! The Musical as soon as some lyricist gets hold of America’s most pious, most fascinating, municipality.

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