An Unsocial Medium


Farhad Manjoo is a favorite journalist of mine. I’ve read him from when he wrote about tech on Slate before joining the NYTimes. He touts in this column an “unsocial” digital diary app called “Day One,” describing it as “a private social network for an audience of one: yourself.”

I use it to jot down my deepest thoughts and shallowest jokes; to rant and to vent; to come to terms with new ideas I’m playing with, ideas that need time to marinate in secret before they’re ready for the world; and to collect and reflect upon all the weird and crazy and touching artifacts of life in this bracing historical moment…
(Farhad Manjoo, “Why a Digital Diary Will Change Your Life,” 6-12-19)

I have to write to think. Before (re-)starting this blog I considered doing private journaling on Penzu instead. However, that seemed a bit too solipsistic. It risked trapping me in the echo chamber of my own head. EthicalDative is middle ground. Though theoretically anyone can view it, it feels private. Its readers are few, and likely to be persons to whom I would open my diary anyway.

(c) 2019 JMN

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The Un-Rosie Side


Montlaur painted this self-portrait in 1969… Credit The National WWII Museum/Estate of Guy de Montlaur.

Twenty-five-year-old Guy de Montlaur was a heroic French commando in Normandy on D-Day. Having studied before that for a promising art career, he evoked his war-time experience on canvas until his death in 1977 at 58. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has collected his paintings in an exhibit called “In Memory of What I Cannot Say.”

The canvases… are a stark departure for the sprawling museum, where displays tend to focus more on the triumph and carefully restored weaponry of World War II. There is no shortage of bombers, fighters, tanks and cheery newsreels showing Rosie the Riveter cranking out equipment on the home front. But little time is spent on the more than one million American troops killed or wounded, or the hard-to-count psychological casualties who struggled to move on from what they witnessed on the battlefield.


“On the Road Near Sallenelles, a Friend,” 1969. Credit The National WWII Museum/Estate of Guy de Montlaur.

The exhibit includes a 1946 documentary film about what it termed “battle neurosis.” Directed by John Huston, its title was “Let There Be Light.” The Army kept it classified for 75 years, releasing it in 1981.

(Dave Philipps, “He Couldn’t Talk About What He Saw in World War II. So He Painted It,” NYTimes, 6-12-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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Prophecy Fire

Denzel Washington, NYTimes

Denzel Washington, NYTimes.

Paul Theroux traveled in China in 1986 and 1987 for his book “Riding the Iron Rooster” published in 1988. He described police assaults on pro-democracy demonstrators that he witnessed. The book was dismissed by some reviewers “as alarmist and Sinophobic.” The Tiananment Square massacre in 1989 made it seem prescient. “… All I had done as a traveler was record what I saw: Writing the truth is prophetic,” Theroux adds in his letter to the NYTimes. He concludes as follows:

I have mentioned this in lectures I have given, in many Western cities as well as in Hong Kong, and each time I raise the subject, uttering the words “Tiananmen Square,” two or three Chinese people — sometimes more — rise and rush to the exits, as if I’d yelled “fire.”

The first time it occurred I was puzzled. When it continued to happen, I was told that all Chinese people connected to the government — which includes business people and academics — are under instructions to respond to any mention of the massacre by turning their backs on the speaker and fleeing the room.
(“Paul Theroux: Truth and Tiananmen [Letter],” NYTimes, 6-7-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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Parting Looks — HJN

Harold J. Nichols (1924 — 2013) (c) 2019 JMN

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Parting Looks — HJN

Harold J. Nichols (1924 — 2013) (c) 2019 JMN

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Mistakes Were Made


I’m haunted by that sentence in Lincoln’s second inaugural: “And the war came.”
(David Brooks, “The Racial Reckoning Comes,” NYTimes, 6-6-19)

David Brooks is well haunted. Lincoln could make words punch above their weight. His mastery lends killing clout to a simple declarative sentence. The banal, intransitive verb following the copulative conjunction and naked noun-of-war implies fatalistic, repetitive consequence. It has the passivity of “mistakes were made” but without the dodginess. Both constructions erase the agent, leaving mistakes and war as their own perpetrators.

(c) 2019 JMN

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Parting Looks — HJN

Harold J. Nichols (1924 — 2013) (c) 2019 JMN

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