Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Command the World, while Caesar You Obey"

Mysthills' Geordie Auchinleck 


At 8 months, taking his afternoon breezes off the Pacific at San Francisco's Fort Mason, overlooking the beach at Crissy Field where we played every day in those years, when not making a day of it at Point Reyes National Seashore. Incomparably the most elegant beast with whom I have ever lived, the most stunning in panache of absolute sweetness. The quotation is from an anthem by Purcell, which became his song (merrily tongue-in-cheek).

He is for all visitors of rmbl.

Photo Laurent 
Leica M-6, Kodak Panatomic-X Pan

A seat in San Francisco ii

I in my ultima sedia

Benevolence of the Pacific Ocean, tempered and burnished indefinitely, thence to be disposed by gracious happenstance to intrigue an English dog.

She did not belong to me, but was the aunt of my first English Cocker, yet unborn, lent to me for exercise I needed more than she. 

Named for a heroine in Henry James and Scott Fitzgerald, whelped Santa Barbara 1990, 8 months previously. I adored her.

I live now with her grand-nephew, Whit.

A seat in San Francisco i

Bonhommie du raconteur  ~ 

beyond all else, the wine, the sun, 

refracted best by wit and largeness of spirit.

Male figure in blue linen, frequent guest and host, professor of British history, denizen of Wilton’s (dispensation for travel), the Opera, Bohemia, of fauna high and low, master of the all-day lunch and scourge of all who pose without humour. San Francisco to his DNA, perched on my terrace on Telegraph Hill in 1979, “moving day,” in a chair lent to me by my bookseller, a classmate of my father's and good friend of his. The glass is by Baccarat, their Volnay Nr. 2; the wine is from just up the Bay, in the Carneros region. He doesn't mind. 

In the previous posting, we noticed how miscalculation in travesty can diminish the audience as well as the work, and reflect grievously on their producer. What follows is not to state more of the obvious, but to thank a good friend.

What is true of maladroit travesty is true of an imbalance in raillerie, a gift, the necessity of whose cultivation is strikingly affirmed in Benedetta Craveri's brilliant history of the form, The Age of Conversation (2005). Raillerie evolved as a sardonic dismissal of what weighed on everyone's mind, already - injustice - into a mode of invigorating its resistance. It arose from of a largeness of spirit, a treasuring consciousness that the brighter filaments of the heart are there to light us toward a discerning but also a humane and just rapport.

Photography by Laurent

Times have Change-ationised!


A Wagnerian Treat for Children: ‘Tannhäuser’

The headline, at the website of The New York Times overnight, was genuinely too surreal not to present here immediately -- and let this be a 'listen' to us ALL in the susceptibility of grown ups to the thought that our amusements are for literally anyone's ears!
At long last, some innocent (in the guise of 2 Wagnerian great-grandchildren) has considered one of the masterpieces in carnal music to be child-friendly, despite its unmitigated debt to those extremes of Eros and of piety which amount, so transparently, to the very same thing. By turning Venus into a Lolita on skates, and with a few other minor tweaks to bowdlerise the Venusberg, the heirs to Bayreuth have contrived to merchandise their legacy as a kind of theme park for happy families of blissful alienation from musical context. Who hasn't known, the keen anxiety to graduate into long pants; but the craving to immerse children in sexual trauma commands a very spiffy forensic term of its own, whose mere mention is likely to shut down this blog. Now, THIS is progress, this insinuation of lust by costume-change. It's enough to make Grandpa Dick wonder what all that trouble was for, to create a sonic signature for the flux of human sexuality which distinguishes it from the attention span and incidents of hopscotch. (There really is a difference, yes?) I, myself, can't wait to see Gürnemanz, infantilised as a pudgy confectioner of after-school treats. Peter Lorre, come back, we're casting for Drosselmayr!

And when these children grow up, how shall they receive the same music they imbibed as a fairy tale, when it must lend light to their maturity? What will they require?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pleni sunt coeli

How many of these 
would it take to paint 
a man's shadow where he stood?

6 August 1945

Photography by Laurent

What we always seem to have to know

Which way is he facing?

Photography by Laurent
Leica M-6, 50mm Summicron

If you have to ask what it is about

Call it - water.

Salaminia, My Shelter

Sculpture in stone
of the prow of a trireme
overlooking the Aegean
from a garden in Attiki.

Sculptor, Angellos.
Gift of Tassos Paschalis

I promessi sposi

Morning on California Street, at the foot of the cable car line. 

The title refers to Manzoni's great national testament, on the trials of a young couple through separation, unrest, conflict, and even plague. It is why we have the Verdi Requiem.

The betrothed are saying their good-bye on the red granite plaza of 101 California Street. The architect was Philip Johnson.

Preface to the biography of a chair.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Biography of a Chair

A photo, taken from the photographer's terrace on the crest of the eastern slope of Telegraph Hill, 1979. This fragment, together with the edifices of San Francisco, from the Campanile to Nob Hill, would have been the scan of the naked eye from the dining room's southern windows. A spare room, it was furnished with an oval dining table of Thomas Chippendale, acquired through Malcolm Franklin in Chicago, a portrait of an ancient matriarch on the only unglazed wall, and 20th Century chairs, acquired through Knoll Associates in San Francisco. 

A project of this space has been to present a biography of that chair, which begins unexpectedly with its conclusion, here.

When he closed this apartment to move to Sausalito, the dining chairs were sold to a resident of Nob Hill. The purchaser has a name which belongs to history this morning, as the author of a decision rendered yesterday in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. The title of that case is Perry v. Schwarzenegger

It is always pleasing when a good chair can find a good home.

Sunrise on Calhoun Terrace
Photography by Laurent
Leica M-6, 50mm Summicron, Kodak Ektar Pan

Memo to the architect ii

Thank god, they built it.

Photography by Laurent
Scan of an ancient damaged print
results in a simile of the architect's rendering,
more than of the built edifice, which is beloved.
Jonas Salk Institute, La Jolla, California
Leica M-4, 50mm Summicron, morning, 1979

Memo to the architect

Whose space is this?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Do you love them?

On a weekday morning in Minneapolis, some years ago, I stole a couple of hours from an urgent trip from San Francisco, to visit the Walker Art Center. It was my habit, then, not to leave my Leica in a car. The Walker has since been greatly rebuilt and so has the Guthrie Theatre, its sublime sibling. Much noise has properly celebrated that pretty new architecture. 

But there in that workmanlike foyer, that winter morning, youth from the Guthrie were exploiting a staircase as if in a vision of Terestchenko. With very much the wrong film on hand for the occasion, I took hand-held cognisance of their play, their work, their striving, their discipline, their invention, their love; and I have never regretted the abduction of a few precious moments with the pictures. 

Time is a game played beautifully by children.

Photography by Laurent

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More dark news from the Borough

Not to mock the greatest opera in the English language, for the purpose of posting a General Alarm that Grimes seems to be at his business again, of disposing of the innocent for his own purposes at sea, we have been put on notice that the lives and quite possible loves of two defenseless figures are the sport of a new film. This will never end, of course, this DJ-like assertion of "artistry" on the backs of others' inventions. But it doesn't hurt to respond to the occasion, not with that flat rejection of gossip under the auspices of nourishment which would deprive us all of necessary dish; but with derision for the illumination of an absolutely common narrative by the glamour of the dead. Now, that carries necromancy into greater contempt for the living than one hopes the traffic will bear.

Image, Sony Classics
Source, The New York Review of Books  

On "caring more about each other than the music" iii

Wells Cathedral

On "caring more about each other than the music" ii

Whom is it for?

On "caring more about each other than the music"

In the previous posting, an abandoned disc jockey who has lately moved into iPhone arbitrage for night spots was heard to lament a decadent tendency in his clients, to care about each other. In last month's rondelay for gaye we witnessed this effect in people to look out for each other, whether at play or under adversity. 

Yet still they dance, and still they row, and still they draw more from each other than they can be told. Against this intractable effrontery, the world is full of professions, grandiose or hip as they may be, which chronically seem to suppose that the study of Latin is for Latin, that ownership of office space commends its occupancy, or that its food is the excuse for the restaurant. Perhaps we gave them that idea. Perhaps we can help them out of it.

Campanile and Parade, San Francisco, June 1990
Photography by Laurent

Dark news of Thebes

As we left we walked by the DJ booth. No one seemed to care. He could have played anything, really. And I lamented the loss of DJ culture. The boys today seem more concerned with a hit parade than with a journey.  Pretty boys care more about each other than music these days. And the DJ as an artist is a dying breed.

          This Bacchic arrogance advances on us like
          A spreading fire, disgracing us before all 
          I would control my rage and sacrifice to him
          if I were you, rather than kick against the 
          And with their motion all things moved.

Euripides, The Bacchae
Translation, Philip Vellacott
Penguin Classics, 1954

Can the lamentations of the Chef be far behind?

Monday, August 2, 2010

With thanks to Ivan Terestchenko


By: Mark Rudman
University Press of New England, 1999

What's the use of a Midsummer Night's Dream
without trampolines?

A diffuse, undirected aroma wafts through Venice tonight.

Perhaps the gods have not abandoned
these cathedral vaults.
The bells ring on time.
Eternal time.

Dreams surpassing explanations.


for the same reasons.

"There is no falling here . . ."

I have this sense that I am surrounded
by people falling in love with each other again,
familiars finding new qualities to marvel at---
as if they hadn't allowed their gaze to light on
their chosen mates for centuries.

Not years?

No, millennia.

Shadows in the dream green light.
Canal ripple.

Who did the lighting?

My legs and feet can't keep pace with my desires.

Don't be ashamed. The water's there to foster illusions.

More fog x

Don't be ashamed. The water's there to foster illusions.

More fog ix

My legs and feet can't keep pace with my desires.

More fog viii

Shadows in the dream green light.
Canal ripple.
Who did the lighting?

Here, I.T., I think were my 'angels'.

More fog vii

Not years?
No, millennia.

More fog vi

I have this sense that I am surrounded
by people falling in love with each other all over again,
familiars finding new qualities to marvel at --
as if they hadn't allowed their gaze to light on
their chosen mates for centuries.

More fog v

"There is no falling here . . ."

More fog iv

Dreams surpassing explanations.

All -- bottomless --

for the same reasons.

More fog iii

Perhaps the gods have not abandoned
these cathedral vaults.
The bells ring on time.
Eternal time.

More fog ii

What's the use of a Midsummer Night's Dream
without trampolines?
A diffuse, undirected aroma wafts through Venice tonight.

'Midsummer Night in Venice'
Mark Rudman, Provoked in Venice
University Press of New England, 1999
Photo, Leica M-6, 50mm Summicron, Ilford Pan F

More fog

Suspended water, not like an icicle; this is San Francisco from the rigging of a naval ship from Vladivostok. The ship sailed into port under one flag and out under another, without changing hands, but changing hands. It was September, 1991, and the occasion was truly a migration in water beyond the imagination of anyone. I was on board because one had to be there; and this is for a friend who shoved me into this water, and wrote the masthead for this place.

One red mug deserves another

No, you're not allowed to be properly dazzled by this photograph here, and not because of one's penurious vision but because we've had enough of orange-sequencing-into-red lately, and one is trying to contrive a posting which can stand on its own two feet. But this was wildly well found and justified elsewhere, so I refer you to that resort, for some sensible relief. I completely agree about the proclivity of the wheels, by the way, as it was explained at that place; but I, for one, could not resist exploiting the compression just clamouring at the valve of this vessel, to be loosed in such foghorn moans as are the natural acoustic of a visit here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

In media res

Here we go again, stepping into that narrative convention of being plopped into the middle of what the heck is going on, wondering whether to laugh or to cry. We wonder about the provenance of this Aviator, in a blog increasingly committed to water; and how it was that he should have been rescued without his flame-retardant suit, yet still with enough camouflage to pass security on either side of the internal Irish border. (But is he, as many have cause to fear, with orange pantaloons, Dutch?) He’s in cell with his iPhone, so plainly this is neither of the North American coasts. Yet this is a culture with an amiable racial mix, which rules out Europe, and suggests Brazil, where it can be chilly, these days. The good news, if any, is that his valet has managed to salvage his flight bag of spare shirts and gabardines for lunch, always assuming someone might have him.

The lady leads the plunge

Favoured, again, by a reader whose gift for clarifying one's own thoughts is in inverse proportion to the age of this blog, the posting on Vigo resulted in one's being drawn into not one but two deferred projects I let slip under that heading. Partisans of the submersive experience will understand the seductive effect of any undertow, without plodding elucidation here, but they will also sympathise with that resistance without which some other projects, such as lunch, might not be fulfilled. For now, then, I greet the temptation to digress in, I hope, the spirit in which it was offered, by quotation of another lady's indulgence of a riparian dip along the lines contemplated by Kenneth Grahame, in that culinary masterpiece to which she made reference. We are fortunate, I think, to suspend our chores to take the nourishment of evolved imagery in English prose, particularly when inspired by a lady's swim.

I am not in the athletic sense a keen swimmer, but I am a devoted one. On hot days in the Oxford summer my husband and I usually manage to slip into the Thames a mile or two above Oxford, where the hay in the water meadows is still owned and cut on the medieval strip system. The art is to draw no attention to oneself but to cruise quietly by the reeds like a water rat: seeing and unseen from that angle, one can hear the sedge warblers’ mysterious little melodies, and sometimes a cuckoo flies cuckooing over our heads, or a kingfisher flashes past. Very poetical. And how much more so than a swimming pool, which is just a machine for exercising in. 

Iris Murdoch, The New York Review of Books, March 4, 1993


A lady, commenting on the ‘roundelay’ posting of July 30th, drew my own attention to an interest we all evidently have in water. Dealt the favour of her perception, I felt spontaneously restored to that feeling for water which I have never seen more vividly celebrated as a flux for human relations than in the cinema of Jean Vigo, with its extravagant vitality, sense of play, sensuality, risk, erotic contingency and progressivism. This last element may sound extraneous, but I would give you the work of Leni Riefenstahl, to compare the effect of an authoritarian rapport with water - long on dominion, short on pleasure in reciprocating pressure. On the first, see Simone Weil’s magnificent Iliad, or The Poem of Force, 1945, on the second, Homer. Of course, we shall have to return to them both in this space.

For a delicate, albeit Sorbonne-educated child of two Andorran anarchists, there can be little greater happiness, one should think, than to be ranked higher for his silent movies in this impromptu "Hydraulic School" of aesthetics, than the writer of the Siegfried Idyll and Tristan. But there he is for me, and for that one word, play, as a revel in buoyancy. (For drier wit in this School, in drawing, I refer us all to the entry of July 28th at a blog likely to be well raided here, soon enough).

Here, in every sense, is where the cinema of France leapt from its blocks at last, as it was simultaneously doing with Jean Renoir - as Vigo insisted that it had to do. We’ve been saying that the cinema is in its infancy for so long that we’ve all turned into old men in the process. (Essay for Brussels journal, Sesame, 12/1932). Vigo worked, as Truffaut has documented, desperately feverishly, but gainfully so, to create images of humane relations as any orphan in the sun would burn to do - to redeem a father’s unlawful death in prison. He died of tuberculosis as completing L'Atalante.

Uncannily, too, the scenes of immersion, frolic, escapade, exertion and physical grace, flashing before one’s eyes from Taris, L’Atalante, and Zéro de Conduite - few enough, as his brief career allowed (1928-34) - put me entirely in mind, as ineluctably as to my first resort, into my second, a man whose debt to Vigo is unconcealed in If.... , his masterpiece.

I wonder what this corollary is, if not implicitly pre-natal, in poetic realism’s equal attachment to water and the act of development. Be that as it may, it’s rather a defining irony that Lindsay Anderson’s movie, which owes so much in humanist passion, surface energy, and fierce execration of the abuse of boys to François Truffaut’s Quatre Cent Coups as well as to Vigo’s Zéro, should have become famous, instead, for censorship battles over the sight of youth as they are in the shower - the very same trepidation of the Pentagon and the Senate of the United States, whose congenital corollary is chronic warfare.

As luck would have it in this amiably roiling cistern of data we call the internet, we have a clip from Anderson’s high-compression motion picture which goes quick to the core of his self-professed debt to Jean Vigo, and to the joy of every boy who ever got thrown into a lake. This clip responds to a diversity of motifs, but they are not compulsorily aggregated (or could we bear Die Meistersinger ?). One thing that cannot be said, is that it fails the test of our Hydraulic School, merely for taking place out of water. The artist imposes no inhumane exclusion or prior restraint. We are free to see as little art as we wish. At Cannes in 1969, If.... won the Grand Prix. Trashings of American youth in a watery land in Asia rose to 48,000.

But no honest rapport with water will linger in the contrary effects of phobia, ignorance, or superstition. “Insolence needs drowning worse than wildfire,” Heraclitus had said, and we all take his dictum on the fluidity of time as a settled law of Physics. There is too much to understand. Of course we’ll return to water here - Kenneth Grahame has already established it, as the sublimest antipode to the restaurant ever to be laid down beside that wild wood. Glancing back at this small image from Vigo, of Taris, “roi de l’eau,” is enough to possess Heraclitus’ defining aperçu forever, in the mode of Ivan Terestchenko’s valedictory monochrome of July 9th. 

Time is a game played beautifully by children.