The Day After Richard III Lost His Crown

At a certain moment in the afternoon of  August 22, 1485, King Richard III saw that things were falling apart. His army should have been mauling that of his adversary, the upstart Henry Tudor. After all, they outnumbered their opponents and they were charging downhill. But they were getting pushed back, and some fighters were ignominiously sneaking away from the fight.

Richard decided to roll the dice one last time with a wild horseback charge in full armor aimed directly at young Henry. He came roaring down the hill with a small retinue and he came close to killing Henry. But he was unhorsed and then killed on the battlefield. There was no thought of showing any mercy.

It was a historic moment that Churchill described this way

(It) may be taken as closing a long chapter in English history. Though risings and conspiracies continued throughout the next reign the strife of the Red and White Rose had in the main come to an end.  Neither won. A solution was reached in which the survivors of both causes could be reconciled. The marriage of Richmond with the adaptable Princess Elizabeth produced the Tudor line, which both Yorkists and Lancastrians had a share The revengeful ghosts of two generations were laid to rest for ever. Richard’s death also ended the Plantagenet line. For over three hundred years, this strong race of warriors and statesmen kings, whose gifts and vices were on the highest scale, whose sense of authority and Empire had been persistently maintained, now vanished from the fortunes of the island. The Plantagenets and the proud, exclusive nobility which their system evolved had torn themselves to pieces. The heads of most of the noble houses had been cut off, and their branches extirpated to the second and third generations. An oligarchy whose passions, loyalties and crimes had for long written English history was subdued. Sprigs of female or bastard lines made disputable contacts with a departed age. As Coeur de Lion said of his house, “From the Devil we sprang and to the Devil we shall go. “

The reference to the Devil is apt. To exert one’s will in order to gain and wield power at all costs is the Devil’s work. And it was what kingship was all about. Gaining and holding power was a winner take all game.

have we moved on from that line of thought? My answer would be that some have and some have not.

What do you think?

Is the Bugatti Chiron the Last Supercar?

Nothing happens quickly at Bugatti. To the contrary, the engineers and designers there are committed to building the finest automobiles that can be imagined at a given point in time. And they have now produced a car for our moment called the Chron. It looks like this when parked in front of your estate.

Image result for Bugatti  Chiron

And what makes this car so special?

The Chiron, which will be revealed this week at the Geneva International Motor Show, is the improbable successor to the Veyron, the most extreme automobile ever built. The Veyron was an ode to excess, the fastest, most powerful, most lavishly appointed motor car available at any price. Its specifications are legendary: 1,200 horsepower, a top speed of 268.9 mph, and an average price of $2.6 million. Bugatti sold every one it built—450 in all—and, the story goes, lost money on every last one of them. But profit was never the point. The Veyron was born of one man’s relentless pursuit of the best, regardless of time or cost. It was a vehicle to appease the unappeasable.

So how would a successor to the Veyron meet expectations?

The Chiron was designed to surpass the Veyron in every aspect. The engineering brief could be summed up as “more.” It is faster, more comfortable, more elegant, more unconscionably and unfathomably powerful. Its massive 16-cylinder engine produces 1,500 horsepower and 1,200 pound-feet of torque. Its top speed remains unknown, but software will limit customers to 261 mph. It starts at $2.6 million, and the deposit that secures your place in line would buy you a Lamborghini Huracàn.

In other words, it is an absurdity, or if you will, a work of art. Not a car, but a work of art.

“We are not talking about transportation,” says (Wolfgang) Durheimer (head of Bugatti). “We are talking about being very fast, being very unusual, being top of the top.” The Chiron spits gasoline in the face of practicality, then tosses a match on it. It exists simply because one man insisted that it would, then directed his company to once again expend the time, money, and effort to make it so. It exists for no other reason than because it could. Which may well make it the last truly great internal combustion automobile.

That one man is Ferdinand Piëch.

Check out the Wired story about the Chiron – and find out why it most likely is the last great supercar of our era.

How Robert Pirsig found Zen on his Motorcycle

Things went bananas back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Counter-culture had gone from fringe to mainstream. Everyone was rebelling against something and everyone was trying to find themselves in the process. It was kooky.

For some, me included, this significantly raised the level of angst. How could you feel otherwise when things were not “ok”, and you didn’t know if they would get any better?  I became a big fan of Kafka and thought that the novel “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s News” (written back in 1962 by Ken Kesey) was prophetic. The folks in power seemed like nurse Ratched and we all wanted to be the MacMurphys of our lives. Of course, we were not, in fact, all that heroic, and so Woody Allen’s comedy (about hilariously failing to live up to standards) hit the mark.

In that environment, a book like Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (published in 1974) was a tonic for the soul.  Pirsig actually was a bit nuts – diagnosed as schizophrenic – which was a good starting point when being a bit nuts was cool. Not completely bonkers, but just a bit wild-eyed. And Pirsig needed to find peace.  To get there. he fused two cool symbols: zen and motorcycles and pitched a tale of healing — as well as closing the generation gap with his son. Naturally, it became a best seller.

The Guardian writes

Pirsig said its protagonist “set out to resolve the conflict between classic values that create machinery, such as a motorcycle, and romantic values, such as experiencing the beauty of a country road”.

People talked like that a lot back then and it was serious stuff. Pirsig was trying to tell us something about being overly committed to “romantic” storylines at the expense of rationality. It was an idea that Nietzsche had talked about as well. One could get pleasure out of riding motorcycles AND fixing them.   Balance dude!

Of course, few got into the serious side of Pirsig’s thought. Zen and transcendental meditation became pop culture artifacts. So everyone got the joke in the film Annie Hall, when at a Hollywood party Jeff Goldblum complains to his therapist (?) over the phone that “I forgot my mantra.” Here is that classic scene.

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..After the great success of his first book, Pirsig then spent 17 years writing a sequel to Zen. It was called Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, and it came out in 1991.  It traces a sailing journey along the east coast of the US. Sadly, the word “morals” did not resonate in the 1990’s the way the words “zen” and “motorcycles” did in the 1970’s   Self-improvement –  as in Jane Fonda workouts – yes, but morals, not really. Lila went unread and even unnoticed by most.

That does not diminish what Pirsig gave to us back in 1974 with Zenn. The thing I remember most about reading it was that it was ok to calm down a bit. Not that I actually did calm down just then. But it was an option to keep in mind. One might at least try to figure out what was going on around oneself rather than just rebel. Later on, I bought into that point of view.

Robert Pirsig just passed on at the age of 88. Thanks man!

We are Naked and Call Each Other Du

What else could this post be about, except for the German proclivity for public nudity. Americans find this to be peculiar. But does that have more to say about American prudery than anything else? I think so.

It may be time for someone to write a history of nudity. Not of the nude in art. Sir Kenneth Clark already did that,  and you can buy his work for $50 in paperback-I am talking about attitudes towards the exposed human body detached from sex.

More than one hundred years ago in Europe, some promoted public nudity as a way to find a more healthy and balanced connection to nature. This idea still resonates in Germany. though it is under assault. CityLabs discusses the issues.

Most regretfully, our digital culture appears to be spreading the least enlightened view.

Tant pis!

The Carefree Days of Somerville and Ross

Somerville and Ross were a pair of Anglo-Irish ladies. Edith Somerville was born in 1858 on the island of Corfu.  She then grew up in County Cork. In 1886, she met her cousin Violet Martin.  For reasons that are not altogether clear. the two decided that they were a superb collaborating team of writers and inseparable companions. They began to write together, assuming the nom de plume, Somerville and Ross. By the time of Violet’s death in 1916, they had written 14 books together.

Edith was stunned by the loss of Violet. She refused to accept that Violet was gone, connected with her regularly via seances and continued to write as if Violet were co-.authoring.  Hmmm … perhaps in a sense, she was.

They were birds of a feather. Though they had political differences (Edith was an Irish nationalist and Violet a unionist) they saw the world through the same filter. That filter was the nurturing and pleasurable country life, especially that of the upper middle class of the Anglo-Irish, to which they both belonged. And that enjoyment spills into their story telling. It is not serious and it is not meant to be serious. I would compare it to Jerome K. Jerome, who was writing around the same time. Though Jerome was more flippant.

Back in the 1980’s snippets of their stories were cobbled together into a TV series called “The Irish RM”. It is brilliant, due in large part to the acting of Peter Bowles (who played the English major with the job of RM — resident magistrate — trying to figure out obscure and clever Irish ways).  I highly recommend watching the whole series. Here is one episode.

But this does not give you a glimpse of the writing style of Somerville and Ross. To get that, check out how they open this story entitled “When I first Met Dr Hickey”

There was a wonderful chandelier in the hotel dining room. Fine bronze it was made of, with mermaids, and tritons, and dolphins flourishing their tails up towards the dingy ceiling-paper, and peaked galleys, on whose prows sat six small lamps, with white china receptacles for paraffin and smokey brown chimneys. Gone were the brave days when each prow had borne a galaxy of tall wax candles; the chandelier might consider itself lucky in that it had even the paraffin lamps to justify its existence, and that it still hung from a ceiling, instead of sharing the last resting place of its twin brother, in the bed of the tidal river under the hotel windows.

Wow! What a whopper! Overdone? Of course, but in a way that still draws you in, as it reveals that attitudes of the authors and the context in which they observe the world. And I love this story from The Irish RM.

In one scene, the (RM)’s English wife, Philippa (Doran Godwin) is dancing with Flurry’s groom, Slipper (Niall Toibin), at a servants’ ball. Slipper ventures to say that ‘The English and the Irish understand each other like the fox and the hound,’ to which the lady replies in good humour, ‘But which is which?’ The answer is, ‘Ah well, if we knew that, we’d know everything!’

Yes, this is comedy. Something we desperately need nowdays!

Trump’s Obsession with Winning Makes Him a Loser

Donald Trump’s favorite rhetoric is about winning. He likes to brand his opponents “losers”. And he likes to celebrate “wins” even if they are nothing of the kind.  He holds himself out as the ultimate “winner”.

BTW, this is classic Dave Logan level 3 talk. Boiling down that kind of talk, it is “I am great and everyone else sucks”.  That implies that no matter what happens, Donald Trump wins. He has to, or his view of the world will be shaken. And because he has to win, he cannot be trusted to play by any “rules of the game”. He will change the rules or just ignore them so that he can emerge from the game as a winner. And it matters not if his behavior hurts you or anyone else. That is less important than him winning. After all, I apologize for reminding you, but you suck anyway in his view of the world.

So you can imagine what is going on at the White House these days. Trump is coming up on 100 days in office and has no credible wins. HOW COULD THAT BE? Worse still, it is not likely that he will get any big wins.

The reason is very simple. Washington is filled with politicians. To get a political win with these folks, you must persuade them to vote your way, They will only do that if it makes it more likely that this will get them re-elected.

Who can be persuaded that going along with a big Trump deal will get them re-elected? Forget the democrats. Their constituents would flay them alive if they voted with Trump on taxes or health care reform or building a wall on the Mexican border. And the republicans? A few might do a deal if it were well crafted. But they already tried that with Trumpcare and it turned out that they could not craft anything that was credible. Plus, a Trump deal will not look like “true blue conservatism”.  Thus, while republicans hold majorities in both houses, that does not translate into reliable voting majorities.

Oh, and if you have not noticed, Trump is polling at abysmally low numbers.

See what I mean? Trump is not in a strong position here and there is not much he can do to strengthen his position in the near term. So he is likely to pass by the 100-day mark with no major victories. Worse still, he (and we) may get yet another government shut down.  From experience, we know that no one emerges from that type of unforced error looking like a winner. Using golf terminology, you are left with the unappetizing task of salvaging a bogey after slicing your drive into the woods.

So what will Trump do if things shake out this way? I do not expect any bold new directions. That would require courage, and I have not seen much evidence that Trump has that energy consuming character trait. I do expect him to continue to fake it. It is, after all, what he is good at … errrr … very good at. He will make a big deal over continuing to sign lots of meaningless executive orders. He may start doing more campaign-style speeches where he vilifies democrats like Elizabeth Warren.  He may start lashing out again at Hillary. Perhaps he will invade Grenada or some other Carribean island so that he can build a Trump hotel there. But, paraphrasing Disraeli, it will become more and more obvious that the man sits like an exhausted volcano at the bottom of the ocean.

Oh. He may try to give Jim Comey a call. Would Jim be willing to call off those nasty FBI investigators in return for something? Errr … and just what would Trump have to offer at this point? Straight-laced Jim already had his guts ripped out for trashing Hillary before the vote. My guess is that he will not likely want to experience that again on behalf of the Donald, especially after evidence of numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence has already leaked out to the public.

Stay tuned!