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Spontaneous Aphorisms

RIP Walter LaFeber, the distinguished historian & Cornell professor

Walter LaFeberWalter LaFeber, the legendary Cornell professor of history, with many devoted students included who went on to hold oimportant posts in the US government, died yesterday in Ithaca at the age of 87. The Clash: U.S.-Japanese Relations Throughout History (1997) won the Bancroft Prize in American History. LaFeber’s book on Michael Jordan makes brilliant use of a central metaphor, arguing that the marketing and promotion techniques of the National Basketball Association are exemplary of globalization. He was a neighbor of man and a great gentleman. I posted this quote of his in our "Spontaneous Aphorisms" series on November 2, 2012.


Anyone can have a bad century.

-- Walter LaFeber


The eminent historian Walter LaFeber -- author of The American Age: U. S. Foreign Policy At Home and Abroad, from 1750 to the Present, as well as the more recent Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism (Norton) -- turns out to be a diehard Cubs' fan, the experience of which has to have a chastening effect on the mind and heart.

The line reminded me of a remark made by Marv Levy, coach of the Buffalo Bills, the team that was always the bridesmaid, never the bride, to use that most curious of all sportscaster's cliches. The Bills would get to the Super Bowl and lose it -- not a bad fate, all in all, when you consider the history of teams that have been to the Super Bowl once in forty-three years. One week Levy was asked whether the following Sunday's game was "do or die." No, Levy said firmly, putting things in perspective. "D-Day was do or die," he said. Sunday against the Packers or Giants was just another game.

--- DL

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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