Monday, July 28, 2014

Tweet us not into temptation

  David Carr at The New York Times has
  raised the subject of social media's
  influence in the dissemination of in-
  formation, and I naturally passed his
  column along to a member of the demo-
  graphic class likeliest to receive da-
  ta in that form, which is to say ine-
  luctably, of that kind. Carr's piece
  put one in mind of remarks David Rem-
  nick attributes to Harold Ross, the 
  most circumspect editor of the pre-
  vious century, on dispatching Flanner
  to Paris in the '40s. Paraphrasing, he
  said to her, I don't want to read what
  you think. I want what to be told what
  the French think.

  Mr Carr sounds almost as aware as Ross
  was, that the wholesale violation of
  this standard of reporting, which tweet-
  ing represents, is not an influence so
  much in the dissemination of news as an
  influence upon its content, at the most
  wanton risk, at best, of its misconstruc-
  tion. I wrote to my young friend, I am 
  Jeffersonian in my appreciation of every-
  one's right to the possession and use of
  information, but Madisonian in sifting it.
  I take to heart Sontag's warning, of the
  risk of diminishing the horrible, but I'm
  greatly more troubled by the certainty of
  suppressing the relevant. Tweeting around 
  editing is not in the interest of cogni-
  tion; it is not even interested in it.

  Tweeting embodies that grotesque defor-
  mity wrought in the Clinton Presidency,
  by victims' statements in the leveling of
  criminal justice. When humanity agreed to
  exchange the volatility of vengeance for
  predictable standards as the foundation of
  justice, it ceded the claims of private
  agony to the legislature to anticipate, 
  the jury to apportion, and the judge to
  administer. It is why we grade papers, why
  we have Mozart to relieve dulness, why we
  breed horses to run. There is little about
  democracy that learning can't ameliorate.
  But the taste for it is vulnerable, and
  always the victim of impulsive toys.

  We discuss occasionally the horrors of un-
  representative, undisciplined government
  from the top. But demagoguery depends on a
  demos to endure it. I have argued before,
  that taste is a human right. But it is a
  human achievement, not an animal reflex.
  I want to know what the French think; and
  I know I need them to do it.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The same thing troubled Hockney, as we saw

He lay back comfortably in the flickering light. An odd place. Odd people in Los Angeles. Wonderfully kind. Needing kindness too. The ragtag-and-bobtail, whatever did that really mean, of the human race packed together in an area of two hundred square miles facing the grey Pacific, why did I always think it would be blue? With their backs to a desert.


Dirk Bogarde
West of Sunset
Allen Lane, 1984
Penguin, 1984©

When marketing meant just, marketing, perhaps

  Of all the delightful discoveries
  in internet reading that I've made
  since offering this blog - some of
  which I mean to admire this week,
  marking yet another year of it - 
  Ivan Terestchenko's referral of 
  Mailhos has meant as much to me as
  Valéry Lorenzo's of Lionel André's.
  You will see them there, listed in
  this page's "Context," although I 
  don't think I've ever mentioned it
  to them. These two blogs capture a
  fellow's imagination with the hap-
  piest interplay of complementary
  values: the one, agrarian and his-
  toricist, and nourishingly domes-
  tic; the other, searchingly ad-
  venturous, and holistically phil-
  osophical. I only wish I didn't 
  have to leave them for my page. 
  Or, one could do more shopping?

Bumped into Dirk Bogarde in Fry's splendid vegetable shop in Cale Street. He was finger-ing oddly shaped tomatoes with a knowledgeable air. He re-jected them and cast a dark eye over some frivolous greenery. He finally settled for a big, shiny yellow pepper. I was envious of his concentrated marketing skill.

The media seem to have gathered round the parish pump to dis-cuss the challenge to the Prime Minister, and to speculate .. Not a word about Sarajevo.

Sir Alec Guinness
My Name Escapes Me
  The Diary of a Retiring Actor
  30 June 1995
Penguin, 1996©

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shadwell Stair

Shadwell is Thomas Jefferson's
father's estate, now notable as
a filling station at a glossy
planned unit development of er-
satz gentry fantasy. It is also 
the name of something important.

   I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
   Along the wharves by the water-house,
   And through the dripping slaughter-house,
   I am the shadow that walks there.

   Yet I have flesh both firm and cool,
   And eyes tumultuous as the gems
   Of moons and lamps in the lapping Thames
   When dusk sails wavering down the pool.

   Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
   Where I watch always; from the banks
   Dolorously the shipping clanks,
   And after me a strange tide turns.

   I walk till the stars of London wane
   And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
   But when the crowing sirens blare
   I wish another ghost am lain.

Wilfred Owen
The Collected Poems
  of Wilfred Owen
    Shadwell Stair
C. Day Lewis, editor
Chatto & Windus, 1963©

Horace at your back vii: only one thing

     You occupy the nest; I praise
     the brooks of the lovely coun-
     tryside, its woodland and rocks
     overgrown with moss. In short, 
     I know life and am a king of the
     moment, I leave behind those
     things you extol to the heavens
     with loud applause, and, like the
     slave who refuses the sacrificial
     cakes from his master the priest,
     it is bread I want and now prefer ..

     I am dictating these lines to
     you behind Vacuna's crumbling
     shrine, happy in everything
     else apart from not having 
     your company to share.

I like it, that one
studies pretty stren-
uously with this son
of a slave. I like it,
that there is always
more. I like it, that
so many of the minds
I admire, walk around
in his consciousness.
The rigor they accept
is infectious, a bond.

  Through the years, the 
  hexameters, flows an  
  uncanny demonstration. 
  The strain is nothing.  
  One is being imagined.

20 BC
John Davie
Satires and Epistles
  Epistles I, 10
op. cit.