Sunday, August 2, 2020

A feast on hold

In allowing the 29th of July to pass 
without comment, I found myself in a
position of deferring recognition of
the anniversary of rmbl in a context
of widespread suspension in society,
as well as of suspense in individual
life. I don't think I describe an ob-
literation in our communities of in-
terest, so much as an enlargement in
their enrollments in overlapping com-
mon cause. Public health, social jus-
tice, national reclamation from its
direst imaginable imperilments, seem
to depend upon one date's promise of
commitment to their advancement, be-
ginning this November. And yet, even
though the fork for the fish course
of a feast bears suggestive resem-
blance to the fork for a later, the 
salad, they are different enough to
argue for their individual mastery,
lest we falter in their requirements.

Emergency is always at its most per-
ilous when it challenges discernment,
and a combination of emergencies is
especially fraught. The first order
of business in the emergence of the
unimaginable is to recognize, with-
out being comforted, how familiar
it is. Yes, it is now as late as the
salad course, but the mix is still
a salad of discernible ingredients.
We did not imagine this compilation,
but we know its addresses must be
compendious, and it is time to re-
ly on an instrument well designed
for selection as well as embrace. 

We recognize, such is the tick-
et of Joe Biden for President of 
the United States, and Kamala Har-
ris for Vice President. Look at
how congruent are the tines, look
at how excellently they are dis-
tributed, look at how purposefully
they alternate, and how they accom-
modate and balance what they hold,
with our acceptance. Set the table.


Friday, June 19, 2020

Juneteenth now

Who might ever have guessed that the genealogy of America's deliverance from Donald Trump and his Republican Party would be traced directly through the emphatic embrace in Spring, 2020, of racial equality before the law?

And why was this, except that both the necessity and the reward for struggle came to be seen as one. People turned to each other in disbelieving unison to ask, Where the hell have we been, to forget that playing fair is first of all to play? They rid themselves of Trump by reclaiming the sheer pleasure of the soul-sustaining resolve to be fair. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Tom Cotton, Tom Cotton: whose moon's misbegotten?

I ask you to imagine being a fellow
with a nicely developed capability  
to pass as conventional, who wanted
as much to be admired as something
of the model for that virtue. You'd
leap at the chance to have been
named Tom Cotton, would you not? Ah:
a burnished ordinariness, with the
sobriquet to make Huck Finn wilt with
envy! One could go far, even within
the enchanted salons of condescension.
Even if ordinariness where you come
from is racist, even if convention
where you come from is the chivalry
of the anguished lost cause, even if
the way to be its model is to linger
for the retirement of the drooling-
est old dog, Tom Cotton plucks you
from the vestibule of pretenders.
What say you, Robert Penn Warren? 

Thus at last, the mise-en-scène
had been laid for our own Tom Cotton,
the scrupulously exact impersonator
of such knighthood, to pass an op-
Ed diatribe through that most con-
tested gate in journalism, the guest
room of The New York Times.

A lifelong dissident friend of mine
found it reprehensible, that the
inn-keeper hadn't even read the
text, but what would he read it for?
Accuracy of aim, when its aim would
perforce be so corrupted, the gauge
does not exist to measure it? Impec-
cability of grammar, when the death
of that value is one of the merriest
bear-baiting rites of modern media?
Virtue of advice, when its virtue
swims up through such a provenance
of the cuspidor as to cite mucosity 
as its sponsor? Probably not. An edit-
or who vouches for a guest will only
contradict himself with the next one.

That much being obvious, we need turn
to the intoxicated momentum of de-
manding heresy in defense of prin-
ciples too ascendant to be trusted.
Do we need a more handsome depiction 
of crowd-sourcing our shunnings, a
loftier torch of our convictions,
than a festival for their frailty?

Anti-racism is having such a vogue,
just now, that it seemingly can't be
trusted to remain a default condition
of human literacy. Enter the keepers
of the flame, to be sure their as-
sociations are unviolated; hoist the
petard of endangerment. Exile the
editor, by that brightest of all hy-
pocrisies, the exhibition of chastity.

Another friend, whose long leniency 
to rmbl has shown no audible limit,
has gently inquired into the cause of
its present mode of meagreness. That
question claims priority for its own
occasion, but a silence in the face 
of an epistolary auto-da-fé such as
this, is not within one's capability.

One can hardly feel let down, by the
publisher's concession to his flock,
in re-assigning a person who misjudged
the terms of a private employment. One
can claim no necessity to publish an
Tom Cotton submitted to the Times. Yet
again and again and again and again,
excuses have to be made for benign 
distrust of the mind, or this must be
recognized as its universal menace. 
No huzzahs for any nitwit's repression 
can possibly advance the cause of jus-
tice better, than the exhibition of
the awesomely distinguished Tom Cotton.

It's possible to see a particular dan-
ger, in any impression of thinking as
a correspondent to Americans. It is 
that their impression of themselves is
so variable that it is too often at
its least stable, when it is certain.
I don't fear Tom Cotton. I can resist 
his repulsive gambit, but he's not our
dog in this hunt. It is one thing to be 
ineducable. Yet another, to demand to be.

Tom Cotton
The New York Times
June 3, 2020

Monday, May 25, 2020

My glimpse

    Fifty years later, the detail enlarge-
    ment is still the best penetration I
    have found, of the character of this
    snapshot from Cam Ranh Bay. I under-
    stand the expression at this moment,
    because I had seen it for 20 years.
    I was born with a youngster officer, 
    looking after me. Whenever in life I
    have turned, in pain or fear or des-
    pair, even before 1969, I have felt
    he has known what I mean. I know it.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

"Change," and other motives

I have been toying with an impression that one could be relevant with-out, necessarily, being topical. Circumstances, it now seems to me, are not a bar to this ambition, so much as the intrusive omnipresence is, of the day’s leading personality. This represents a measurement of the scale of the latter as greater, possibly not to our surprise, than that of the most unnerving neutral scourge to engulf the planet in the present generation; and this would be true if he hadn’t undertaken, with his genius for precaution and infamous antic exuberance, to inflate the horror of it all past humane imagining. 

Children, raised in the most distant continents, studying the seizure of their parents and siblings by protracted asphyxiating torment and implacable extinguishment, must now mature in the understanding that what crippling he willed upon the vital organs of international epidemiological co-operation, had left his signature on these more proximate formations of their consciousness. A mind, we used to say in charitable moments, is a terrible thing to waste, only to discover now that the waste of a terrible mind lives after it. In short, laboring under the oppression of the rudest topicality, we must inquire again, Es muss sein?

Yet I couldn’t claim the agency of my own reflection as giving form to these effects, without the help and support of two of our least impeachable chronic-lers these days, Haberman and Martin of The New York Times, who published today this fascinating reduction as their lead:

President Trump’s erratic handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the worsening economy and a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the Senate if Mr. Trump does not put the nation on a radically improved course.

And you were suspecting, dear Reader, that a reference to remote continents were a reach too far? Well, then you are exactly the reader to see this Pulitzer-provenanced projection for what it is: a preposterous hypothetical. It isn’t necessary to be an Isaac Newton to recall that inertia on a certain scale does not turn on a dime.

The stunning silliness of the condition laid down in this writing only exposes, once again, how confident so many have become in the habitation of unreality, or rather, the shiny-object dominion. Republican officekeepers don’t clamor for a radically improved course. They want a defter twirl of the topics. The passivity to which they’ve succumbed has never been more eloquently pealed. At the same time, the exalted powers presumed by our correspondents, for the constant puller of their focus, can be a lesson to us all in what to read. 

I’ve been wondering if Miss Anne really could have harbored a conjugal intention toward Wentworth through all those missing years, without her captivity in Austen's fiction, and why Fielding's Sophie Western exhibited such indifference to the escapades of Tom Jones, unless her education in Paris had been comparably varied, or reconciled to exploiting his. 

Even now, though, I marvel that our media could be so helplessly fully abducted, as to leave us having to accost each other for the preservation of relevance. And who better, to cultivate the taste for what we must hear?

ii   Robert Mapplethorpe, USS Coral Sea, 1983

iii  Arnold Newman, Igor Stravinsky, 1946

iv   Bill Emrich, unidentified models, 1991

NB  The final link refers to a column published
        several hours after this posting, and was
        inserted as compatible, the next day, with
        no change in the original posting.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday commute clxxx: No rush ii

Like Stephen Spender, discovering
he'd been discovered by Pasternak,
Spring has been patient with us in
Virginia this year, on the sound
principle that someone is bound to
notice her before the onset of our
regional tragedy, Summer. At the
same time, this page has enjoyed 
an unannounced interruption of un-
usual length, for us, in the less
tenable belief that the American
President's lust for exhibiting
himself at his worst will dissip-
ate, allowing a subtlety like bud-
break to be restored to its proper
place above the fold. But now our
Piedmont temperatures are rising
to the 80s, F, placing us on not-
ice to take note. We do, and the
excuse is not unwelcome, to shed
our screen of distance from an
effrontery of just the right kind.

Christopher Schulze x Adam Washington

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Apple-eating weather, if ever

It was ideal apple-eating weather; 
the whitest sunlight descended
from the purest sky, and an east-
erly wind rustled, without rip-
ping loose, the last of the leaves
on the Chinese elms.

The rejection of Elizabeth Warren,
from within her own Party, of the
candidacy she waged to be the next
President, has finally taken place
this week, and there is much turn-
ing of faces to the wall in hearts
where in season, the tawny infinit-
ude of wheatstalks bristle, blaze.

These American places, which are
reduced to speechlessness by the 
pure evocations of themselves in
Lincoln, Whitman, Truman Capote,
and Elizabeth Warren, are silent-
ly aware of how they waken them.

All over the country, we read of
people in the reading media, set-
ting down their reasons for why
Elizabeth Warren's campaign will
be remembered -- having hastily
drawn the conclusion, that it's
ended. There can be no disputing
the intensity in these remarks,
apart from the telling imitation
of an academic festschrift.

To paraphrase a comparison Orson
Welles once offered to Peter Bog-
danovich, between Howard Hawks 
and John Ford, Clinton was prose,
Warren is poetry. The latter is
the most literally - strikingly,
to be fair - optimistic artist
of political outreach in my ex-
perience. At the same time, it
was inevitable to hear the male
rivals complaining, that she
audibly was undaunted. What a
telling stain she did reveal.  

Possibly Elizabeth Warren does
know, in her one hears a beauty
that the literate would recognize
immediately, but one also hears
an irritation, that this is not
enough. Here, it's apple-eating
weather, and it will do.

Truman Capote
In Cold Blood
Random House, 1965©

ii  Harris Dickinson

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Hey now, Super Tuesday, who will hang his name on you?

If this "Super Tuesday" casino of political preferences is not the end of the Democratic Party in the United States, it is likely to be cited as the last required mile marker of that destiny. A doctrinaire hysteric from one of the very least representative jurisdictions in the country is said to be poised to dispatch the candidacy of a gen-uinely mawkish bore, endlessly boasting of great personal sorrow and flattering servitude in a previous Presidency as its ceremonial gofer. In the contest still is the single credible candidate remaining, without the stature she originally brought to the field, yet with still more vitality than it would welcome.

It isn't that the program disappoints, it's that what could utterly have been foreseen by the unapproachable, anonymous, and incorrigible powers who structured it as a compulsory cataclysm waiting to happen -- appears so plainly to have been foreseen. Particularly after the last Democratic "Super Tuesday," when the least popular politician in America highjacked the political rights of an electorate starkly deprived of viable choice, who could not have predicted this re-run of the same generation of the same credentials, given how sparklingly well that worked to block the fascist seizure of power in America? 

Let it be remembered while it can be, then, what lies beneath this morally impeccable structure of policy distribution in America. Some 327 million human lives, all arrayed to function as required, if not to be marginalized by the only choice which is theirs. Rosebud. 

Lise Sarfati