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

Monday, March 2, 2020

The field, unwinnowed

  The withdrawal of Pete Buttigieg 
  does not leave the field of can-
  didates for the Democratic nomin-
  ation properly winnowed, so much
  as it sustains his renown for a
  shrewd appraisal of his position.
  He's left before he'd be crushed.

  Lest we forget, a winnowing is
  supposed to dispose of the chaff,
  not the grain, but the reverse
  befalls us all, in the resulting
  concentration of expectation up-
  on alternatives perfectly matched
  in dispiriting unacceptability:
  a noisy, confused fundamentalist
  for justice, and a maudlin wreck
  of a vapid egotist. Yes, our own
  intact, but its intactness looks
  like a symptom of being ignored.

  Our responses are already be-
  ing assiduously shaped to pre-
  serve Buttigieg as the polite
  and valiant spokesman, for a
  future he was allowed more to
  embody than to rally, having
  argued (assiduously) for con-
  geniality over conviction, if
  the latter requires more than
  goodwill toward an inoffensive
  outcome. Betting all one's
  chips on one's private life, 
  to evince a capacity for com-
  mitment, turns out not to be
  so winning as he'd thought. 

Has our political history ever presented us with such a striking case, of a candidate who so squandered the virtues of youth as to campaign against them all at every turn: naïveté, fire, fecundity, iconoclasm,
He campaigned as the knight of the managerial class he was hired by McKinsey to be, not as the knight of the risk-welcoming class of the politician he most disdained, Elizabeth Warren. To think: in a single generation, everything we learned from John F. Kennedy, Robert Ken-nedy, and Ronald Reagan, submerged in a porridge of bland calculation, was offered as the tocsin of a "new generation of leaderhip." Yes, he did it ingratiatingly, and yet why, therefore, did our connoisseur class fail to tell him what the winner would be serving? 

The field is the loser, for this gainless occlusion of the qualities of youth, but for the persistence of Elizabeth Warren. One fine day she, too, may be counseled to do the noble thing, but I think it is likelier that she would be defeated by others' flight from nobility. 

Bruce Davidson
ca 1960

Harris Dickinson

Friday, February 28, 2020

Suppose it were Friday clxxv: I do late, pretty well

The Democratic Party's rites of selection for the Presidential nomination have now run long enough for all of the surviving contenders to have made at least one appearance which would not have to be described as hideously inept. I shouldn't think this wat-ershed will seem very important to many, even so, given how assidu-ously ineptitude is pursued by the incumbent. Yet, it is important to me, as one of the few perquisites granted to the morally marginal, to be careful. Now that we're told, it's all come down to Mr Sanders or Mr Biden, there's nothing to complicate the natural choice of Elizabeth Warren.

In this lugubrious fog, where she is deemed no longer a threat to an inferior selection, Elizabeth Warren insinuates herself into one's sensibility in an almost sisterly way, as if something in me had been reluctant to see another campaign of rigorously tested perceptions and policies appear to be discredited, simply by losing to the habits of our erratic electorate. She was drawn to politics by a resistance to losing, not by pangs of any appetite for approval; but the President has shown how approval of the self is the most powerful motive and impregnable shield against defeat in a culture devoted, as this one is, to gratification at the public expense. What would be the cost to policy, in a defeat of Mrs Warren which would be bound to be sharply, and as evasively as possible, ad hominem? 

Had I, moreover, of no noticeable suffering under the injustices so zealously maintained by our government, any right to expose the vulnerable to its manifest lust for reprisal? With its courts corrupted, with its pulpits putrefying lustily every Sunday, with its captive Confederacy quivering for every redundant injustice, with its debauched bankers incapable of shaving their oversold returns, and with its Babbits unacquainted ever with a single honest page, would a candidacy of Mrs Warren penetrate this superstructure of sadistic ad-dictions, to be met with any vestige of rationality?

Yet the question which has been framed for us is not, if so likely to meet resistance, why bother; it is the aggravating factor, on the one hand, of the profuse and pious hostilities of a Sanders candidacy, menacing the Party's positions in the legislative branch and in the State houses, and a Biden candidacy, anesthetizing the Party into a swooning torpor on a diet of nostalgia, stunning hallucination, and dazed malapropism. Even the morally challenged may choose not to be humiliated.

But I stray. It can't be a recommendation for Mrs Warren, that this set of alternatives is unacceptable. What does recommend her is the quality condemned by the Senate Majority Leader, that she persists. For decades in public life she has held to principles not merely heroically, but effectively in the labyrinths of legislation in the public interest. Noticing the charisma of her intellect, a small-city mayor has been inspired to project a candidacy on what he takes to be competitive terms, without substantiating achievement or the tenacity of holding ground. Noticing the valor of her endurance of misogyny, a gutsy Midwestern Senator has offered to stand in her place, minus its principles. Noticing the directness of her appeal to them, everyone stipulates to her authenticity, despite autobiographical confusion.

In the past few days, just since one had "leaned Klobuchar," Sanders has insufferably championed a brutal neo-Leninist statesmen and waved aside his indefensible support for the domestic gun lobby as a phase in our past. Simultaneously, Biden has pretended to have been arrested in South Africa for a pilgrimage to meet Mandela in prison, a stupid yet chronic example of compulsive fabrication. Between Sanders' incurable contempt and Biden's career-long self-inflation, I don't discern a material moral distinction.

If, then, it is already late to choose a candidate, there is even less foundation for getting it wrong. Elizabeth Warren is my candidate for the Party's nomination because she undeniably does represent its core traditions more eloquently than anyone else in the field, and equally undeniably does perceive the policy implications of its obligations, with the least inhibition or exaggeration. She has the stature to deflect the excessive demands of the novices, and to exemplify and dignify the inclusive reach of democratic liberalism. 

Equally to the point, she disorients the opposition as no one can, who does not also reach their conscience. That is the field of this year's campaign. Elizabeth Warren reaches people's minds by sustained, concise relevancy, constantly exhibiting the inherent connection between the rational and the merciful, constantly exposing ostensibly irreconcilable confusions of the hour as products of vicious political cynicism. She is the most exciting, inspiring, and legitimate candid-ate for the Presidency since 2012. She is the balsam of clarity in a vessel of healing passion, and how we do want to be in that number.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A most peculiar fallout

Almost as if outrage and anxiety,
goaded by virulent, unrelenting
cynicism and savagery, had ex-
tinguished all hope of resort to
reason in recovering the nation,
the call of Mr Sanders and a few
novices in Congress for "revolu-
tion" has seemed to precipitate
a most peculiar inference, that
extreme emotion is a substitute
for political feasibility. Yet,
for all the depredations of the
present government, its experi-
ence has only confirmed the op-
posite, at almost every turn. 

The damage that can be done in
the misuse of language is sel-
dom any match for the thrill of
taking one's turn with mocking
fact and reason. Now it is un-
derstood, that language is the
enemy against which every hyper-
heated "issue" is arrayed, for
which it must pay the price of
the extinction of definition.

Mr Sanders and his clique are
converts to what they oppose.
In every thrust of his disor-
derliness, he has turned the
word, justice, into the blunt-
est, crudest, least coherent
of all the epithets of politics,
rivaling greatness in villainy.

Sandro Botticelli
Portrait of a young man
Pitti Palace
ca 1470