Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Head count

    Heading into another
    American election cy-
    cle, we prepare to
    count the innocents
    who still take their
    place at the polls.

    Like rodeo riders,
    or wildlife restored
    to its habitat, we
    should think of as-
    signing them numbers
    or banding them. A
    fairer way of track-
    ing what becomes of
    their participation
    in this democracy,
    than looking at the
    people they empower.

A cup on the run ii


   While public funds flow
   into fraternal holidays,
   a clock of pink fire
   strikes in the clouds.

   Stirring up a pleasant
   taste of India ink, a
   black powder rains gent-
   ly down on my sleepless
   night. - I lower the gas-
   light, I throw myself on
   the bed, and turning to-
   ward the dark, I see you,
   my daughters! my queens!

John Singer Sargent
HRH The Duke of York

George VI

King, by default of a frat-
ernal king, father of the
Queen, grandfather and
now great-great-grand-
father of a royal Princess 
in that line for which he
stood, without warning,
for civilisation's most
necessary victory. The
latter's brother bears
his name, and she, of 
monarchs and a goddess,
Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

Jean-François-Arthur Rimbaud
Les illuminations
  Fragments of Folio 12
John Ashbery

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A cup on the run

    The high pool is
    always steaming.
    What witch will
    rise up on the
    white sunset?
    What purple fo-
    liage will des-

Jean-François-Arthur Rimbaud
Les illuminations
  Fragments of Folio 12
John Ashbery
op. cit.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

I don't mind the plates so much

    It's the clank they
    make, that wears on

    Gone for a few days.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Pangs of death and pangs of birth"

Over an entrance to the quadrangle
of the Yale School of Law, one can
make out an inscription carved al-
most a century ago. The law is a
living growth, not a changeless
code. Still the most illuminating
guest lectures in the school's fa-
mous Storrs series under this ae-
gis, were given in the 1920s by a
Columbia Law School grad, working
in New York, Benjamin N. Cardozo,
a descendant of Portuguese Sephar-
dic Jews, and a self-effacing bach-
elor, all his life. Those lectures,
on the Judicial Process, were met
with such respect that when the
Republican Herbert Hoover nominated
Cardozo to the Supreme Court of the
United States, they were cited in
his support even more strenuously
than his brilliant career on the
New York State Court of Appeals.

But he had second thoughts on his
Storrs Lectures; so he gave a sec-
ond series, which are bedrock tes-
taments in the life of the mind.

              I have become reconciled to uncertainty,
              because I have grown to see it as inev-
              itable. I have grown to see that the pro-
              cess [of jurisprudence] in its highest
              reaches is not discovery, but creation;
              and that the doubts and misgivings, the
              hopes and fears, are part of the travail
              of mind, the pangs of death and the pangs
              of birth, in which principles that have
              served their day expire, and new princip-
              les are born.

Justice Anthony Kennedy's candid
confession of trepidation, in yes-
terday's oral arguments at the Sup-
reme Court, in rendering a decision
he would perceive as at odds with
"millennia," called to mind the pangs
Cardozo not only felt, but explained
to him, and to all people within the
purview of our hybrid legal system.

Benjamin Cardozo is gentle, but he
is unfailingly not vague. Here, in
fraternal advice to Justice Kennedy,
he is saying there are times when
incremental redistributions of em-
pathy can no longer defend the af-
front of decrepit, incongruous rule.
The duty to act is not paradoxical,
it is preservative. 

I turned to his voice last evening,
and rested not on bedrock, but on
polishings of its grain.

              We may say that in the everyday trans-
              actions of life the average man is gov-
              erned, not by statute, but by common
              law, or at most by statute built upon
              a substratum of common law, modifying,
              in details only, the common law founda-
              tion. Failure to appreciate this truth
              has bred a distrust of a creative activ-
              ity which would otherwise have been seen
              to be appropriate and normal. A rule
              which in its origin was the creation of
              the courts themselves, and was supposed
              in the making to express the mores of
              the day, may be abrogated by courts when
              the mores have so changed that perpetua-
              tion of the rule would do violence to the
              social conscience .. If abrogation is per-
              missible in cases of extremity, still more
              plainly permissible at all times is con-
              tinuing adaptation to varying conditions.
              This is not usurpation. It is not even
              innovation. It is the reservation for our-
              selves of the same power of creation that
              built up the common law through its exer-
              cise by the judges of the past.

Who could make a secret of the
call to justice in one's time?

Benjamin N. Cardozo
The Growth of the Law
Yale University Press, 1924©

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Arrival of displaced persons
  New York

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

No Leica

The famous epitaph of Walter Kerr 
for I am a Camera must recall it-
self to anyone who sat through
the wrestling demonstration at
the Supreme Court today. Natur-
ally, readers will recall Nick
Charles' riposte to a gangster
who promised him a great night
of wrestling - "You must have
seen the rehearsal." This oral
argument achieved the depths of
our great debate which haven't
been stirred since Stonewall.

I think we all appreciate, that
no device which sprang from the
mind of James Madison, for the
purpose of tempering democracy's
hysteria with the nourishment of
probity, and yet which could, in
scarcely 200 years, produce the
Presidency of George W. Bush,
could be said to be working as
intended. It was the essence
of adroit camouflage, then, for
our Progressive-baiting Inten-
tionalists, not to denounce mar-
ital equality for being absent
from the ledgers of slavehold-
ing Founders.

But, no. Today, we gazed upon
loftier heights, the oracular
coincidences of "millennia."
Many feared Justice Kennedy's
swoons for that trope would
carry him off in a seizure,
yet he lingered to polish his
tautology like a man. He under-
took to "define," as he put it,
the state of matrimony, not by
what it is, or what interests
it protects, but by who may
play the game. I have tried
this with golf, and I can't
be the only one to doubt his
grip on "definition." So much
for the swing that awes us.

Uncannily, given the Court's
more than oracular expansion
of the human species, to em-
brace the Delaware-chartered
corporation, no Justice pro-
tested plaintiffs' neglect
of its hallowed interest. Ra-
ther, our own little Sammy al-
lowed his breeding to tell a-
gain, in speaking up for the
maritalising of orgies, as the
Chief Justice, scenting car-
rion in Kennedy's tautologies, 
interjected that the plaintiffs 
wish to change the right they
have been denied. Can contempt
be perfected any further, than
to pet its victim so publicly?

What a letdown this morbid
troupe can be, when we are
given so little delight in
its lifeless skit.

W.S. Van Dyke
Harry Kurnitz
  and Irving Brecher
Shadow of the Thin Man
William Powell
Myrna Loy
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1941©

Choatie in a room with Shaw

      I'm gettin' married 
        in the morning
      Ding, dong, the bells 
        are gonna chime
      Pull out the stopper, 
        we'll have a whopper
      But get me 
        to the church on time

      I got to get there
        in the morning
      Spruced up and lookin'
        in me prime
      Girls come and kiss me
        say that you'll miss me
      But get me 

George Bernard Shaw

Alan Jay Lerner '35
My Fair Lady

Crane Brinton
The Anatomy of
Vintage Books

Edmund S. Morgan
The Stamp Act Crisis
University of North
  Carolina Press

Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of
  Scientific Revolutions
University of Chicago Press

James Obergefell
Obergefell v. Hodges
Supreme Court of the United States
28 April 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

427 Only Avenue

 Unlike, say, Bertrand Russell,
 who turned to philosophy with
 hope of finding certainty where
 previously he had felt only doubt,
 Wittgenstein was drawn to it by
 a compulsive tendency to be struck
 by .. questions. Philosophy, one
 might say, came to him, not he to
 philosophy. Its dilemmas were
 experienced by him as unwelcome
 intrusions, enigmas, which forced
 themselves upon him and held him
 captive, unable to get on with
 everyday life until he could dis-
 pel them with a satisfactory 

Ray Monk
op. cit.

Alex Godart
Edward Wilding