Dame Daphne Sheldrick

 

August 15, 2012

 

Wild Thyme 1798

The Congo is the poorest country in the world but has a symphony orchestra that ebulliently plays Beethoven and Carl Orff. So inspiring!  Kinshasa the capital has ten million souls– when is Africa going to wake up and practice aggressive population control? Kenya is the neediest with the world’s highest birthrate.  There are not enough resources to sustain the population explosion that threatens to undermine the continent more than any other natural disaster. Melinda Gates is listening we know.

Did you happen to catch NBC’s segment where Chelsea Clinton visited Nairobi and Daphne Sheldrick’s baby elephant refuge? Their mothers had been slaughtered by poachers for ivory. There is no one doing better work to preserve what remains of wildlife in Africa than this naturalist. Here is a note we received last year; it is reprinted here because it shows how difficult it is to be a part of this cause. We have volunteered all over the world to help save The Big Five but as you can see it is complicated. Spread the word and the funds if you can.

Dear Lucia,

Thank you for your Email which was waiting on my desk when I returned from Tsavo a day or two ago.  Regretfully, I don’t have any Mid West contacts that I could pass on to you, but take heart, it took several years for my Agent to secure a Publisher for my (much abbreviated) autobiography, due out next year.   It is kind of you to offer to help the cause, but really the only thing that one can do is to spread the word and encourage folk to support our Orphans’ Project by fostering an elephant on line.   We are not permitted to accept hands on help, even if offered voluntarily, due to Kenya’s burgeoning population and mass unemployment, but also due to safety concerns involving dangerous wildlife when walking with the elephants out in the bush.

 Best wishes.  

 Dame Daphne Sheldrick

 

Cycling on Kinzie

Meanwhile closer to home, in the event you have ever wondered why  writers/journalists/wordsmiths of any stripe are such critics of the status quo, whatever that status might be,  it is that they take the mandate of the Fourth Estate seriously though now it is sadly equated with Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell two massive rogue waves.

Those studying to be writers or journalists are taught in college to be the conscience of the times, objective, fair and dispassionate which is of course impossible to ask any man to be. They seem contrary because they often do not have a stake in the system so are able say things other wallets and vested interests cannot.  At least ideally.

Writers are often best when they have a personal experience to relate as in Evelyn Waugh dragging himself off the Abyssinia or Graham Greene wherever he was. Or Paul Theroux grumbling his way across the globe, so much more entertaining than that irritating chipper commentary from Bill Bryson.

This year we lost Christopher Hitchens, Alexander Cockburn, Gore Vidal, Robert Hughes all major misanthropes now in the Pantheon of Sourballs. In Chicago there is no longer much of that tradition left. John Kass has always tried to be the new Royko but never has had the wit or the comedic gift so his attacks on the mayors or Italians always come off flat and basically insulting. He bashes the politically correct stereotypical targets.

The Young Pythons

Writing about the expat writers from the UK in American exile, Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes, “Fleet Street refugees supply an antidote to U.S. journalism and its cult of suffocating respectability.” And you wonder why we have to resort to the internet to read anything worth reading?

Waters were stirred a bit here when Fleet Streeter Harold Evans tried to launch a newspaper Chicago Evening News, but when the major investors wanted control over content he bolted and married Tina Brown who falls over the bad taste edge. She brilliantly rescued Vanity Fair then flopped.  Did you see the latest cover of Newsweek? Desperate for sales, it’s in a major time warp with that supine asparagus eating fellatio (yawn) cover. Tina — sex doesn’t sell as much as it used to since it’s all over the bloody place.

Can you believe the obits about Helen Gurley Brown posing her as an advanced social thinker? Come On! Cosmopolitan has always been a deeply stupid magazine with women reduced to the role of Panting Male-Pleasers.  Hell with that noise

At the East Bank Club

Maybe we’re in the wrong! One sees the prosperity of hookers and kept women and wonder if all those books and education were to blame for our relative penury.

Hear Hear Chicago Big Two! You could afford to use more brain power and not assume the reader is a jamoke (as we used to say in the 42nd Ward.)  Perhaps you share the point of view of former president Clinton who, when asked why he used the tired metaphor “build a bridge between old and new”, responded, “Hey Junk Works!” There is a definite disconnect between political reporting and low brow cultural offerings.

The Guardian, a bright newspaper though not as bright as it was in the past, with its smart, critically aware theatre, film, art and book reviews, is claiming Britain’s Age of Decline is Officially Over because of the Olympics. Doubt it darlings.

The closing ceremony was all neon and noise and even Prince Harry looked bored. Eric Idle was downright embarrassing and the overblown tribute to John Lennon’s meek ditty Imagine. Ya gotta hand it to the Pythons however – they all tried to cash in on the Oxford undergrad drama success that the divine David Attenborough produced.  Palin tried some batty travelogues, Cleese became a broom salesman or something and funniest madcap Eric went into the movies, sort of.   Favorite line from the series…in a thick Cockney accent :“Whatcha doin luv?” “Just putting lard on the cat’s boils.”

 

Chicago Botanic Garden

Note from a friend, a professor, “The other day at my book sale, a

young, 25 year old guy was inspecting a photo book about JFK and asked

about others in the photos. He did not recognize the names of Bobby or

Eunice or Sarge. And he is a Ph.D. student. I explained and told

stories about seeing them at the demo convention in Chicago, visiting

with them and LBJ. He didn’t recognize that name either….so it goes.”

 

The Duc de Saint-Simon is the cattiest writer ever, a typical courtier toady who harbors resentment of his boss, in this case Louis XIVth. His description of Mme de Maintenon is especially delicious, reminding us of Princess Diana’s contrary personality (read Patrick Jephson much the best of the biographers)….thus “She was easily and excessively infatuated and just as easily lost interest and became disgusted and both usually without cause or reason.” Then again in a few more years she will be forgotten like LBJ or Bobby.

Made a special trip into the Loop to visit the new Target in Carson’s in a sort of memento mori mood.  The original Carson’s which opened on State Street in 1899 was a chain store too but the clothing and furniture still solid and once even stylish and today well it’s as if everything were bottom line, reduced to the lowest common denominator.  What does that tell you about the change in society? Less money to go around…and we still encourage illegal immigration!

Town and Country features an excerpt from Ashley Prentice Norton’s first novel. She is of course the daughter of Abra Wilkin and Jon Anderson, the brilliant journalist and friend from the past. The Rockefeller name still has pull in a time when there is a dearth of the upper class. T&C is on the case!

Did you know that those who went down on the Titanic were bourgeois businessmen and were frowned upon by the aristocrats in England and Europe? Consult the weighty academic tome The Decline and Fall of the English Aristocracy by David Cannadine.

Wildlife Pioneers

James Joyce helped many Jews escape from Austria and Germany during the war.  The good side of all this critical thinking/writing/ and so on is just that — there is frequently an uptick in humanity.

 Marginalia

Never trust a TV food review! Yes, tried one of the hamburger places recommended. Lockdown – a hunk of ground beef served amidst ear splitting heavy metal noise. Once you get into the ‘hoods you’re in Alternative Land where young mothers bring infants into bars, wear tattoos and short shorts and –most horrifying– revealing halter tops when they’re enceinte. Shudder. We are old enough to remember when mothers wore flowered dresses and nylons.

Hash on State next to PJ’s. Though the location has The Curse of past failures we were optimistic about the chain’s latest effort. The food is Cracker Barrel -fattening and the Margaritas weak to extinction but it seems to be flourishing since breakfast is perhaps the last pleasure allowed in 2012.

We hear that NONE of the people in Illinois State government actually pay their gas bills’  apparently they wait for their gas to be turned off, then negotiate a payment plan, but cannily time it so it gets to a point where it becomes illegal for Peoples Gas to turn it off. Just what we hear mind you.

Please — someone enlighten us. What is the allure of fashion? As in the World of Fashion? We loathe shopping and cannot imagine how other women like to spend their time engaged in that irritating activity then dress up and parade in front of other women and the occasional disgruntled husband.  There has to be a subtext here. No doubt we’re the oddball once being voted The Worst Dressed Journalist in Chicago by Skyline. We’ve been laughing ever since.

 

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