Albert Einstein in Washington, D.C., c. 1921 (Library of Congress)
In Impromptus today, I have a mish-mash of subjects, as usual. They include Elon Musk (the rocket man), presidential Bible-holding, William F. Buckley Jr., and decency. Feel like a little mail?
Responding to a piece of mine about the Koreas, a reader writes,
Between 1999 and 2003, I visited South Korea five times as an inspector for the U.S. military dental laboratory services. Being me, I spent many days in Seoul and out in the surrounding countryside. . . .
After a day out in the North Seoul mountains, and then an evening drinking (30 toasts: “Korea great, America great”; “Korea, America, friends”), I stumbled into a deserted Dobong-dong train station. I had noticed many Iranian menial workers, and three of them were the only other people in the station. They approached and I backed away.
“Oh, no, no, no! Friends!” They all came and kissed my cheeks. “You did something in Iraq, Iran needs it worse, when are you coming?” (I am a dentist, and all three had severe untreated dental disease.)
Last week, I published a post that was illustrated by a photo of two people on their way to a wedding. Whose? Well, the groom was Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon. I received a delicious note from Richard Brookhiser:
. . . I recall how Baron de Charlus in In Search of Lost Time refuses to recognize even the existence of Napoleonic nobility — he being a legitimist of the House of Bourbon. Now that is reaction for you.
I believe it is also Charlus who becomes suspicious of anti-Semitism when he notices that mere colonels are being invited to parties he attends simply because they too are anti-Semites. A prejudice that leads to social leveling better be reconsidered . . .
In another post, I wrote of a record that a reader sent me: an LP, released 50 years ago, but still wrapped in its plastic, of speeches by Spiro T. Agnew. Another reader writes,
Had to laugh . . . When we were cleaning out my parents’ home, my brother and I found this in their record collection.
“This”? The reader has sent me photos of an album: Richard M. Nixon’s Second Inaugural Address.
It was still wrapped in the original plastic. It now resides in our bathroom.
In a column, I had occasion to quote a limerick by the late, great Robert Conquest:
That wonderful family Stein —
There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein.
Gert’s poems are bunk,
Ep’s statues are junk,
And nobody understands Ein.
“Gert” would be Gertrude Stein, of course, and “Ep” would be Jacob Epstein, the sculptor. I have no opinion of her poetry or his statues, being acquainted with neither.
Einstein? My friend Mike Brown, the newspaper editor, quoted another limerick, this one by A. H. Reginald Buller, published in a 1923 issue of Punch:
There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She started one day
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.