Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Samothrace revisited








Approaching tabulations of the final two per-cent of ballots cast, the State of Georgia was seen today to have rejected the campaigns for re-election of incumbent Senators representing the same Party, replacing them with candidates offering instead to represent people of Georgia. 

Resisting this distinction, 
much discordant heat had been generated by the disgraced head of the Party, which was anxious-
ly observed, suffered, and seen transformed into light by those it had scorched. 
 
















Sunday, November 22, 2020

Not the easiest thing

 



I find myself reading Jack Schaefer's
Shane (1949) this weekend, occasioned
by nothing more than a browse in Wil-
liam Allard's beautiful Leica photog-
raphy. I don't think there'd be much
chance of my reading a Western these
days, which only goes to show how ill
one can understand one's time. That's
not the easiest thing.

It was a shrewd choice on Schaefer's
part, to present this intensely sen-
timental story through the sustained
first-person voice of a young boy. It
allowed him to support a tone of leg-
itimate awe for the upper Plains of
the American West, to carry the some-
times fevered responses of his narra-
tion. (Noting this, director George
Stevens adopted the same perspective
in a film which so immortalized his
child star, as to illuminate every-
thing this actor did in adulthood,
opposite Paul Newman in Hud). Today,
readers who've been present for the
same years as Brandon de Wilde will
cut this story a wry slack. For all
its naïveté - not to say, cynicism - 
it touches faithfully upon what is
not the easiest thing.




                    He was there. He was there in
                    our place and in us. Whenever
                    I needed him, he was there. I
                    could close my eyes and he would
                    be with me and I would see him
                    plain and hear again that gentle
                    voice.


















William Albert Allard
Vanishing Breed
Photographs of the Cowboy
  and the West
Little, Brown & Co, 1982©

Jack Schaefer
Shane
1949
The Library of America
Ron Hansen, editor
The Western
  Four Classic Novels ...
LOA, 2020©




Saturday, November 7, 2020

Saturday commute clxxxii: Nice start


After an interval of unexpected length, it is a pleasure for me to look now upon a fresh, unmarked page in this journal. I would be the first to join whatever chorus there may be, for leaving it that way, if the project were completed. 

However, we have just noticed that the United States has discharged the obligation of disposing of its sitting President, and good behavior is always to be encouraged within sight of the young. Compliments, then, to the people of the United States disdained by that figure, over the last four years of exercising his preference for the fragment he seduced and betrayed. By every count, from epidemiology to pluralist reconciliation to international comity to planetary stewardship to fiscal sanity, he had rendered the nation the first justifiably outcast pariah of the New World. How delightful, then, that on the very date when first permitted by their constraining founding document to right his institutionally unchecked hostilities, the country showed him the door.

I know, there are those morose who wail, that this remedy is not enough. They are wonderfully paid, glitteringly honored, and as obvious as yesterday's excesses. I see too many minor movies, not to have heard Rossano Brazzi declare to Katharine Hepburn for David Lean, "Eat the ravioli." Please, do not instruct us in the array of anomalies still disfiguring the feast. Rather, organize for the State of Georgia's double Senatorial runoff in early January, of which more, soon enough. For this weekend, come outside. 

Refresh acquaintance.










Photo courtesy, ubayuri©



Sunday, October 4, 2020

Timely blades and second chances





No one, of course, has any appetite for
seeing a certain name again, except as
a line to avoid selecting, at the top of 
his ballot, At last the gathering of a di-
verse and remarkably distributed storm
of revulsion is poised to restore self-
determination to the United States. The
The New York Times portrays a rescue op-
eration deeply reminiscent of med-evac
Hueys lifting from the battlefields of
Southeast Asia, saving the passengers if
possible, but more certainly ceding na-
tive ground from which they are removed.

Nor was this an expulsion by cruel chance,
but by the incapacity and illegitimacy of
the occupation, revealed in its helpless
incompetence and reliance on its own lies.

This chance is one not to blow, but also
not to crow. It's generous, even to desig-
nate this deliverance as a restoration, 
given how few have ever influenced their
own governance in this country. But every
such valuation is relative, and is being
re-examined under pressures both urgent -
pandemic, racial discord, economic dis-
location - and implacable - climatic
crises, other environmental despoiling,
and international security hazards both
recklessly propagated or negligently
denied by the government soon to depart.





The circumstances are auspicious for a
popular insistence on self-determination.
They are equally vulnerable to repressive
pre-emption, which is the unfailing custom
of our history. But now at least we know
why: racism has been the contortionist
corrupter of every populist opportunity in
this nation's experience. This contortion-
ist is avid to overwhelm the pending elec-
tion by intimidation, deception, malicious
prosecution, and every rejection available.

At last, the great anti-progressive energy
of the American experience has fallen into
the hands of a spent force. We now behold
the readying of an electoral swift sword -
a climax of nothing, a beginning to be de- 
termined by the People. We have our vote. 













Saturday, September 19, 2020

Word from the land of always something

 




Word came to Americans some time in
the evening of the 18th that a hold-
out against replacement on the high
court had passed from the scene, al-
lowing speculation of whether, how,
when, by whom something definitive
would be done about this. This was
not the first intrusion on a wedding
anniversary of mine, when a highly
presentable plate of rognons de veau
was first served to me on the night
of my farewell to the East Coast. I
found myself back here eventually,
unmarried, and although cured of com-
memorating occasions with food, still
easily consoled by a determined defer-
ence to offal.

This latest bulletin in the struggle
for power in the United States found
me just as glad to be able to rely on
my friends already to be in earnest,
plotting various interventions. No 
one had telephoned me, anguished to
be reminded, how to breathe, and I
found myself managing equally well,
once I'd recalled the virtues of 
fresh coffee. Not for this house-
hold, then, will hands be wrung in
wonder of what will become of life
for another 40 terms of this court;
no swooning on the indignity of the
present power structure's swan song
of bottomless villainy. Possibly,
some frantic defections from that
cabal can be negotiated; possibly
a bolt of gastronomic clarity will
descend upon the illumination of
well-grazed kidneys, but in any
case, calving season will return, 
in all its telling raucousness.

For more than 50 years, a tenuous
claim to a position in the general
population and an ill-bred fixation
on the mythology of judicial review
have left me with the conviction 
set out above, that one's time can
much more securely be invested in
a study of the classics in cuisine
than in the tergiversations of a
casuist tradition under demagog-
ic appointment. Enough, please, 
of heroes of magical powers. Win
games, breed good beasts, honor
reality. 

Now. That's revenge.











Friday, August 21, 2020

Of frogs we should have expected





’Twas a warm Summer night, just the 
weather for merchants of sentiment 
to stuff our throat with frogs. Not 
merely to agitate the lachrymose, but 
equally the otiose, our hapless Clas-
of Aristophanes to which the amphibi-
ans lent their name, a battle of tra-
gedians. 

Already in everyone’s mind had been 
shades of Franklin Roosevelt and his
leadership of national recovery, re-
form, and resistance to fascism. Who
would muck with this? 

Enter boldly the nominee, citing FDR’s 
crippling by polio - a virus, he alert-
ly recalled - and then, not referencing 
to others at Warm Springs, segued into 
presenting himself as mentor to a school-
boy who stutters. None dare call it pla-
giarism, but his opponents are what they 
are, and I hold four hopes in escalating 
order of intensity - 





That the campaign is ready for the fire-
storm of exploitation of his fuel; that 
the soul of FDR is slapping his knee with 
glee at this overreach for his image; 
that nobody faults Aristophanes for our
witless memory; and that the boy in ques-
tion will be held as blameless as he is.

This leaves the nominee. I respect the
necessity to project an unanswerable im-
pediment to Trump and Trumpism's penchant
for mocking his speech as a symptom of 
frailty. At the same time one would like
to be able to expect the candidate to ex-
ercise his own strength, without sending
for a child in his place. One would like
him to stop striving for poignancy and be-
gin to enact raw, exposed superiority:

Listen, swine. I have a neurological prob-
lem with my speech. I'll stutter all day,
before I'll emulate your lies.
















Polykleitos
5th C BC
Metropolitan Museum







Saturday, August 15, 2020

Saturday commute clxxxi: This very day, no less






In James Brooks’ hit film comedy, “As 
good as it gets” (1997), Helen Hunt, 
playing a single mother of an asthmat-
ic boy being neglected by the American 
medical establishment, receives an en-
dowment covering all of the medical ex-
penses necessary to transform her son 
into a soccer star within a week. But, 
suspecting that this gift comes with 
carnal expectations attached, she turns 
to Shirley Knight, her mother, to fret 
that maybe she should reject it. “No,” 
she flatly declares. “This isn’t a pair 
of stockings, this isn’t a string of 
pearls. This you do not give back.”

I find myself unable to imagine that 
Joseph Biden could have foreseen that a 
prospective running mate, often seen but 
"somehow" blocked in her quest for the 
Presidential nomination that he won by 
attrition, would be revealed as a soccer 
star within hours of being presented with 
his favor. How oblivious the presumptions 
so often are, at the foundation of our ex-
pertise, we need hardly note in this moment 
of Donald Trump. Yet suddenly the campaign 
that might already be seen as straight, but 
which no one pretended might see very far, 
finds itself carried aloft on a wave of ju-
bilation not seen since the conquest of 
Vicksburg.

Look here. People are affected. That very 
night one could feel the country, stand up. 
Stephen Colbert found Jon Batiste, composing 
a song, "for Kamala." Those who were able to 
squeeze into the donation sites of the Democ-
ratic National Committee, managed to deposit
$48 million there in those hours. Personal
ties, political commitments, alumni networks, 
lately moribund in the moment of Donald Trump, 
sprang to giddiest life — and all without the 
least forewarning. There was pandemonium at
the corner of Castro and Market, without a
word from Dionysus. This selection is not 
a pair of stockings; it’s not even a pair of 
Bernie’s fishnets. Alas, it isn’t pearls of 
Elizabeth Warren. It's the ore of our ground,
not of our statues. This is our birth.

No tentative “connection with the future,” the 
cliché of the day — or light at the end of a
tunnel, Kamala Harris declares the truth of
this very day, that only an unyielding maze 
of sordid, illegitimate structures could con-
ceal. Nor could it be lost in the confetti,
this revelation was ultimately forced upon
powerfully reluctant beneficiaries. But it's
done, and what one feels is the pace at which
such power can shift.















ii  Joshua Lott
    Getty Images©







Friday, August 14, 2020

Suppose it were Friday clxxvi: So run





             I live with the sound my body is.

             . .

             I can't forget the pure sound I heard once
             when a violin string snapped nearby
             in three o'clock's perfect silence.
             But I tell myself I'm safe. I remind myself
             of the boy who discovered order in the piano
             and ran upstairs to tell his little sister
             that they didn't have to be afraid anymore.










Jack Gilbert
The Dance Most of All
  Poems
Infectious
  [fragment]
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009©

Conor Fay