Friday, July 21, 2017

People who make jam

One could derive the foundation
of this page by a simple act of
triangulating certain influence
from other pages, listed in the
sidebar under Context. They are
the people who make jam, and it
is up to you to investigate who
they are, although in one case,
it is obvious. Another, is less
so, having been deleted to keep
stray attention from being paid
to a member of that family. But
the third I interrupted one day
with a transatlantic call, hint
hint, and rang off promptly, so
as not to put at risk the fruit.

Michael George
Sean, traveler in Aubrac

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Origins of Wednesday liv: Letter from a watchman on the coast

Stubbed toe

Mulling it over, I have hope that this fracturing of the Republican Party over its cardinal objective will make it harder for Bannon and Trump to achieve the intimidating character they were looking for, by means of any salient legislative triumph in the two Houses they unambiguously possess, not merely control. Their erasures of Obama's regulations and their extraordinarily prompt destruction of the Executive departments, possibly excluding the Pentagon but plainly not the State Department, are of truly daunting semi-permanence, which will probably mature into irreversibility if they control both Houses for another two years. But they left the President unsatisfactorily feared. He needed (not that he knew it, but Bannon does) to exhibit himself as truly contemptuous of his base, in order to solidify his position. This was Himmler’s insight, and he is evidently Bannon’s model, his exemplar in the genuine seizure of power over the ostensibly organized, neo-representative State. He doesn’t want to martyr them, any more than he particularly wanted to expose the tremulous docility of Congressional figureheads. But he does need them go to mad in the knowledge of his control.

Bannon knows, Trump can never achieve all that he must as merely ‘primus inter pares’ in a party already obsessed by visions of financial concentration in the fewest unregulated hands. He must mature that consequence. He must destroy the position of the United States and avenge any pretext for its liberties.

The alienation of dozens of millions, of whole organic sectors of the population from sustainable life - the unifying vision of “health care” legislation emerging from both Houses of Congress - would represent the most articulate image of this agenda, imaginable, short of full bore terrorism hysteria in the streets, with all its racist and religious ornamentation, all the darling bells and whistles of anarchic carnage. Garden variety thievery, such as we see in the rape of Dodd-Frank and foretell in tax “reform,” are mere orthodoxy of Republicanism, not the clarifying eradication embodied in the health care crusade.

I passed along Al Hunt’s appreciation of the rôle of Old Media in this. I don’t wish to exaggerate it, but the Times - one has to admit - has been vigilant in this beyond precedent, and we did read the damn paper every day through the Administration of Richard Nixon. The Post, by slight contrast, has taken the lion’s share of open warfare with the President’s personality in all its ramifications, certainly not avoiding the health care fight but casting its net just as diligently into foreign policy, trade policy, war and peace 
(its arrogated purview, for many years), and of course the partisan tradecraft of Party politics. Bannon welcomes this; not that he has a choice, but because it affirms his lifelong message to the base — “they” are snotty pricks. What the Republicans could not have measured, or at least failed to do, was the energy of CNN in its own open warfare against the President, to say nothing of SNL’s remarkable cheerleading for us all. This made the essayists, from lettered venues such as The New Yorker, The New York Review, The Atlantic, New York, and The Nation, Huffington, etc, etc, not exactly superfluous, but almost. One didn’t need to know Plato, to know that the President is incompetent, crazy, and adored for both virtues.

So, I do think there is a momentary condition of trench warfare now, with both sides “dug in,” and you will tell me, it is such an unstable interval, and untenable for Trump, that I should expect something extraordinarily depraved on his part, any day now. Well, I do. He does retain the initiative, merely because any reprimand is in partisan lockdown in the Republican Congress. But this only argues for not letting up in the exposure, while it still bleeds, of the rotten carcass of Republican health care, so that whatever Trump next pursues, will draw its revolting stench. He does control the Party well enough, still, for imminent lying before investigative committees to be seconded, praised, upheld and embraced. So, for me, if Summer has shown us anything, he is immune in his corruption, his betrayals, his treasons and his striking incapacity. But he is not feared enough to satisfy himself. And this bothers him, because he really is the only power who can bring himself down.

History tells us to expect a trade war exacerbated by a naval incident or two. I don’t think George HW Bush’s foray into Panama affords the scale this time. Sounds like China, from where I’m sitting. He has to be seen to be willing to make his base suffer; and he has to be seen as so reckless of security, that he can claim not to need it, and of common sense, that his genius can be seen at last. But endocrinology tells us something else, which is the intolerability of the gradualism of a strangulation by commerce. He needs a paroxysm - garish, noisy, inversely scaled to his magnitude. If he were sane, we'd say he had endangered himself. Not intentionally. As he has taught us, he'll eat whatever will bear his name.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Allegations of downfall, revisited

Bennett Miller's an intelligent
and I'd go so far as to say, a
charismatic director of motion
pictures; a craftsman as gifted
in eliciting superior acting as
he is in bringing strict discip-
line to script and art direction.
We are not going to see a movie
by Bennett Miller that he didn't
want. Why, I ask myself, given
that he wants only to make films
exploring a distinct moral ques-
tion, do his questions expire?

It's telling, that the inspira-
tion to develop a movie around
the gruesomely corrupt philan-
thropies of John du Pont, for
which he won the Director's
prize at Cannes, was literal-
ly handed to him by a stranger,
as a set of press clippings on
the story. Indeed, one could
count on Miller to wrap up all
the gossip in an orderly way.

And it's for his taking on the
"downfall" narrative of Truman
Capote, in 2005, that this re-
liance of strangers is so under-
standable. I have been troubled
by the simplifications of that
movie, in the mildest kind of
uneasy way, ever since I first
watched it, more than a decade
ago. But, with Truman Capote's
personal life, never forgetting
that this was his creative car-
eer, one has grown used to be-
ing reconciled to a WWD stand-
ard of perception. "He asked
for it," the jurors say; which
is no more than to confess, to 
no one's surprise, the jury is 

Of Bennett Miller, his trust-
ed high school writer friend, 
and Philip Seymour Hoffman, 
this is simply not the answer. 
Is the answer to this prefer-
ence, the demands and incen-
tives of drama? Miller intim-
ates, it is, in marketing in- 
terviews packaged by Sony with
their dvd. With Gerald Clarke, 
the biographer he rides in on, 
Miller depicts the struggles of
writing In Cold Blood literally
as a descent into tragedy, which
is defined as Capote's failure
to complete another major work,
amidst a déluge of pills and li-
quor. The stunning thud of tab-
loid subtlety engulfs our lesson.

 Only the other day, I presented
 an excerpt from a novel Capote
 never submitted for publication,
 coinciding simply with the temp-
 tation incurable in many readers,
 to see the language exercised by
 an authentic artist. I did not 
 cite anything from the most mov-
 ing element in the story, the
 characters' keen responsiveness
 to anyone who cares for them, 
 because for that to have been
 germane, I'd have had to be less
 flippant; and few of us can be
 sure we possess that other voice.
 This, about Capote, Miller and his
 team conveyed extremely well, be-
 fore turning it against him.

Now we are embarked upon an
age of Augustan understand- 
ing, where addictions grip- 
ping whole tranches, say, of
our new government's wounded
base, are wisely understood 
as pertaining to ailment, a-
part from volition. We still
understand tragedy, in other
words, as a catastrophe trig-
gered by something Capote of-
fered the gossips in spades -
the spectacle of misconduct,
invoking the will in all its
immaculateness. This is the 
card the Greeks never knew,
of Puritanism.

To play this hand, Miller
is a meticulous scavenger of
anecdotes drawn from Capote's
personal life, as if they did
substantiate the charge this
screenplay brings down as an
axe - ambition.

The cliché of the precocious
American writer, brought low-
er by his later work, than his
first things seemed to promise,
is slightly repulsive to mine
for money at the cinema, much
less for capturing the figure
more as he was, than he was,
himself - the accolade heaped
upon the ingenious Mr Hoffman,
who renounced it bitterly. It
ought to dawn upon these mer-
chants, that their pattern be-
trays them. We could cite Or-
son Welles, to pluck a figure
from their field from thin
air, for the proposition that
making it in America lends a
layer of complexity to sustain-
ing it, that figures from James
to Eliot to Baldwin evaded, for
good reason. Truman Capote, how-
ever, did not run. He burrowed,
he suffered, and he triumphed.

What the movie casually dis-
dains, Henry James literally
dreaded in himself, as the ar-
tist's intemperate invasion of
his characters. By accident he
was always aware of, but of a
magnitude outside his control,
Capote reached his literary
destiny in personalities en-
countered almost magnetically;
and almost as his invented
child on her birthday, Miss
Bobbit, he met a kind of end.

There is more to say on this
subject, not because the movie
compels it, but because to ac-
cept its argument is to condemn
literature, and history, in fa-
vor of an abusive invention of
folly, a straw man to condemn.
His literature rebuts the old
saw, in Capote's case; and if
there is tragedy in his not be-
ing redundant, the argument can
not have it both ways. No one is 
allowed more than one Ithaca.

                The train lurched; a ghost of steam
                hissed against the window; slowly the
                dingy lights of the lonesome depot
                faded past.

                'Boy, what a jerkwater dump,' said the
                woman. 'No town, no nothin'.'

                Kay said, 'The town's a few miles away.'

                'That so? Live there?'

Truman Capote
The Complete Stories
  of Truman Capote
Reynolds Price
  A Tree of Night
Random House, 2004©

iv - vi  Stuart Sutcliffe

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

C'mon, Pruitt, there's something we haven't destroyed

Our metric reference for today's
celebration of the new government
is the immortal exhortation from
Rock Hudson to Elizabeth Taylor,
in George Stevens' 1950s romance
on Texas, Giant. Embracing inter-
racial enlightenment during the
Eisenhower Administration, hotly
rejected in the rise of our New
Greatness (hilariously interpret-
ed only this week by David Brooks
as the rebirth of a frontier spir-
it), Stevens' screenplay finds a
newlywed couple disembarking from
their private rail car at their
imperial ranch in Texas, as the
élitist coastal bride graciously
accepts a welcoming bouquet from
a sub-captive Hispanic retainer
of her man-of-the-people husband.

A touch annoyed by this forbidden
interaction, his final demand to
get into the car for the drive to
the house, rings loud and clear -

C'mon, Leslie, it's 50 miles to coffee!

Amidst all the buffoonery of the new government, yet coiled in plain sight in its horror of illegiti-macy, it is easy to over-look its childlike agony. A workmanlike apparatchik was certain to emerge in the maelstrom of hate mongering headliners staffing the regime. He is the former attorney general for fossilized Oklahoma, and he is destroying everything he possibly can, before the nation's day in Court, much less at the polls. 

In all the President's frenzy in
the stealing of myths, is said to
be some cover for his henchmen's
theft of resources. But his clock
is right, twice a day. They are
inextricable. Nice car, not his.

i    Xavier Serrano
ii   Luc Défont Saviard
iii  Kenneth Blom
      Les palmiers
v    George Stevens
      Elizabeth Taylor
      James Dean