Monday, November 12, 2018

Pourquoi pas les Invalides?

There were those, among whom we did
not count ourself, who worried that
our Little Father had opened himself
to ridicule on his trip to Paris, to
dine with Turkey's fun raconteur/auto-
crat, by citing inclement weather as
a reason for avoiding observances of
an unpleasantness ensnaring this em-
pire in the soils of continentals.

Far from piling on with those silly
objections, we delighted instead in
his more constructive exploitation
of the 10th, in secret meetings and
calls of great value to our country.

Those in the media, who cannot read
between these lines to realize that
he'd sneaked off to commune with the
have only the excuse of a protracted
disorientation syndrome, another of
the Little Father's head fakes. Was
he really to soak his shoes in some
remote meadow, if he need only limo
across the Alexander III bridge to
consort with such other flamboyant
architects of empire as Louis XIV,
who commissioned that grand campus
for veterans of his wars, and Nap-
oleon and half his descendants, up-
holding Bourbon tradition on behalf
of the secular republic? No self-
respecting devoté of gold leaf in
the latrines of his own estates,
could be expected to ignore an ed-
ifice groaning beneath two hectares
of the stuff, gleaming 350 feet a-
bove the Seine. Why, just think of
the refugees the place would house;
but then, what else is an Emperor,
after holidays ill spent in Moscow?

Liam Rogers

Sunday, November 11, 2018

For November 11th: The soldier's speech

A day for remembrance in the West,
known here and there as Veterans'
Day or Armistice Day, was chasten-
ed from some righteous pomp by a
screenplay by Christopher Nolan,
which he filmed as "Dunkirk." As
a memorable passage, shown above,
records the survivor's modesty,
we're led by train to the follow-
ing morning, to see this soldier
demand of an impromptu comrade,
that he read a news account of
Churchill's unforgotten speech
to the House of Commons. In one's
own estimation, this unavoidable
dramatic climax of Nolan's story
was unexpectedly enhanced by his
giving of the speech in a voice
fogged by fumes of newsprint, af-
ter inhalations of cordite, flame,
oil, salt, gore, shit, sand, and 
aviation fuel in the previous week.

It was a face framed as Ford had
done for Fonda's Tom Joad, and it
just may endure as long in memory.
But the reader/actor is English
and responsibly educated, so the
rhetoric was far from compressed
in the flatter delivery of the
exhausted, unrehearsed soldier.
Unrehearsed, except in the life
and mind of that uncanny writer.

A speech, voluptuously elegiac
yet cast in a tone of defiance,
shone as candor, prosaically,
irony verifying its brilliance.
Enlistment breathed it life,
its impetuosities innocently em-
bodied and rescued, dutifully,
simply; not to be doubted at all.


Sir Isaiah Berlin
Personal Impressions
  Winston Churchill in 1940
Hogarth Press, 1980
3rd Edition
Princeton University Press, 2014©

Friday, November 9, 2018

White House media chippie mauls naïve reporter

One hates to be late with a bulletin,
but how many of us can keep pace with
the flings and farrows of our porcine
President? Only the other day, the na-
tion exulted as one, as he loosed one
of his crack party hostesses upon an
unprepared reporter, lunging for his
crying, Climb it down, Buster, as the
Little Father belched his approbation.
Not since Rosalind Russell pinned Cary
Grant to the mat, has the front page
against the molestations of inquiry.

Yet, to many, this was no particular
news. Then, on cue, our White House
made it so, by interpolating a reality-
complete with BAD GUY etched in the re-
porter's forehead, plain enough for of-
ficial media goons to ostracize him.

Thus sighed the nation with relief to
see, at least a chastened Court can
maintain a perkily irreverent style.

Shall we proceed, then, to a weekend?
Where all enjoy, a grasping at straws.

ii  Michael Bidner

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

We go home now ix

It is a tempting response to the
Provincetown photographs of Joel
Meyerowitz, which have been seen
here before, to adjust their re-
production to suppress an ambient
haze, where of course the quality
of their light is the whole point.

Not just the light, but the haze,
itself. "Greedy boy," as Smiley
teased Lacon and the Minister,
when they leapt at intelligence,
"you hounded Control out, and you
let Karla in." The suppression of
uncertainty is to color, as the
critic Jed Perl remarks in his es-
say on Delacroix just now, in The 
New York Review of Books, a clari-
fication more in tune with the au-
thoritarian, than the authoritative.

It remains as wonderfully im-
pulsive to identify the facts
of one political election as
responses to another, as it
had been to reckon with the
latter by dismissing its lav-
ish haze. This temptation, so
widely shared as to have crept
even into comment here, invoked
the sense of reality in a grop-
ing more for prestige than for
authenticity. Yesterday, the 
legislative district in which
I reside managed to replace in
office a card carrying savage
of the casuist Far Right, with
a retired female operative of
the CIA. We have color today
for which we prayed, and haze.

             When we warn people not to pit their wills
             against the greater power of the historical
             situation, which they cannot alter, or can-
             not alter in the manner they desire, what
             we mean is not that we know facts and laws
             which we obey, but that we do not; that we
             are aware, beyond the facts to which the po-
             tential reformers point, of a dark mass of
             factors whose general drift we perceive but
             whose precise interrelations we cannot for-
             mulate, and that any attempt to behave as if
             only the clear 'top level' factors were sig-
             nificant or crucial, ignoring the hinterland,
             will lead to frustration of the intended re-
             forms, perhaps to unexpected disaster.

Take away the haze, take away
the hinterland. We see, reform
has been chastened enough, be-
fore its eyes, to respect the
haze of a historical situation.

Le Carré, Perl, Isaiah Berlin.
As Johnson said of Taliesin, 
He has developed the arrange-
ments of secrets of space. I
call it the hieratic aspects
of architecture, the proces-
sional aspects .. the essence
of architecture. Play itself.

ii  Robert Frank

Sir Isaiah Berlin
The Sense of Reality
  Studies in Ideas 
  and their History
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Ballot security

     From the very day the New American
     Government took office, to this
     certain first day of its collapse,
     it has advanced a confusion of bal-
     lot manipulation with ballot secur-
     ty, so odious, as to encourage on-
     ly the most cynical embrace of the
     franchise. Yet within the mechanism
     of the personal secret, there is a
     paradise of inviolability that all
     have tasted, and delight in sharing.

Jay Maisel
Boy in New York Harbor

Monday, November 5, 2018

Public enemy number one

Never forgetting the American President's
denunciation of menstruation in his first
campaign debate, with a stage full of Re-
publican wise men who stayed right there,
instead of leaving him in the solitude he
earned right then and there, always it is
the Other who energizes him to vitriolic,
inhumane depths never domiciled before in
the Office he holds, by the most discred-
itable cowardice and complicity of people
who hold office as Republicans. Together,
now, they bring their caravan to the bal-
lot box. Let them claim asylum elsewhere.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Who would create a country

        whose asylum
        would not be

        where no new
        would make a

        and said: we
        can be pari-

        and name our
        desert truly




Suppose it were Friday clxvi: And hotter than we knew

          I live with a lot
          of information I
          was free to deny.

          I don't think one
          can respect a sol-
          icitation to do so.

          I also never fig-
          ured that's what
          my freedom's for.

          I will vote as if
          reality were true,
          even though a gift.