Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Après le déluge ..."

". . . moi."

By the same token, everyone's customary reading would have unearthed these more comprehensive, but surely equally sweet specifications for a happy Saturday evening, cited below. One intends no mischievous purloinment of that imagery of comfiness, in reciting it here. Rather, the familial theme is paramount, as ever, as we claim the shelter of home.

Incoming mail - a hat in the ring for a KG

A curiosity of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the escutcheon visited only hours ago, is that its lineage goes back to the middle of the same century to which the English Cocker Spaniel traces its own - not that anyone on the planet, save our happy few, appreciates this dazzling correlation.

The 14th Century was evidently a good one for tonsorial flamboyancy, to which I think the world remains unanimously drawn in the featherings of a fine scrounger for woodcock and sandcrabs, if less consistently so in KG's. That said, I hazarded an inquiry to a reader this morning, on whether one had unearthed another portrait (L) of the KG discussed on the 13th, guessing that not very many people would be so self-effacing as to conceal a brow to which a refining benevolence must certainly have been extended.

I suppose one deserved the answer which was returned in the afternoon post in monochrome, tending to undermine one's somewhat prayerful hope that the eradication of the nobler properties of any face had not become a custom, while one was out at the beach.

An inconvenient feature of any life conducted with inattention to our media is not only the assumption that everyone is still parsing his way through Horace and savouring martinis of gin, but the discovery that hair, per se, is being cultivated as volubly in one's own species as in its better. I'm not sure that I welcomed this tossing of a hat into the ring for a KG, either, naïve as it surely would be, to suppose the honour to be above campaigning.

But one learns from the times. I set about, this evening, specifying terms of a search engine to comb the known world of forelock cultivation, and found it invading even the innocent world of the parallel bars, where I let the matter rest.

Hellas on fire ii

Grey apparitions at verandah ends
like smoke, divisible, but one
your age is ashes, its coherence gone... 

Derek Walcott
Verandah, 1st verse
Collected Poems, 1986

Hellas on fire i

3 years ago this month

Your house has voices, your burnt house
shrills with unguessed, lovely inheritors,
your genealogical roof tree, fallen, survives,
like seasoned timber through green, little lives.

Derek Walcott
Verandah, 9th verse
Collected Poems, 1986

Photographs, courtesy Tassos Paschalis

Friday, August 13, 2010

Honi soit qui mal y pense

Since childhood I have loved the way this radiantly defiant expression more than merely trips off the tongue. I still think the light seduction it works in one's oral muscles and nasal resources is well worth a closing of one's door, to indulge the act, its insouciant cadence and its soothing resonance, a dance of a vowel line parsed by a sibilant whisper and soft press of the lips. I was taught it as a little mantra for playground courage; and as much as anyone, I needed some. It's those who have that kind of courage who are my heroes.

Here, working with a large and somewhat ambiguous image, I knew that whatever drew me to this face was concentrated within its contours, and I was pleased to believe I found it. The follow-through of the upper arm is strengthened by the set of the jaw and the confident lips; that's where this face held me, and confidently projected the distribution of the limbs, concluding with the hand resting at the waist. This is the image on my telephone screen. I admire this man.

Amitié en fuite

Let us begin to cut
the folks who merely strut
And talk of nothing but their incomes.

Let's have no further use
For going on the loose
The moment orange juice and gin comes.

Olive Grove, Porto Rafti, Attiki
Photograph Tassos Paschalis
"Why don't we try staying home?"
Lyric by Cole Porter, 1929

Can you stand it?

Bordeaux -- is getting hot?

From the website of The New York Times

"I am his Highness' dog at Kew ...

... pray tell me Sir, whose dog are you?"

Alexander Pope, 1737
Collar of a dog he gave to the Prince of Wales

The lad Geordie calls on his aunt in her garden on Russian Hill, a dutiful gesture and a memorable foray into blog society. Tending to them both is her longtime major-domo. I am standing by with my camera, enormously anxious for this interview to go well. A classic feature of the English Cocker Spaniel is its facility for breed recognition; after shows, when the dogs are allowed to run and play, the English Cockers will find each other and "hang out." Adding, then, to the irritation of this one's appearance, must have been the primordial cognition of having to adjust to his existence. 

Did you ever cross over to Sneden’s
Where the white houses cling to the hill?
Did you ever cross over to Sneden’s?
Do you think that you ever will?

Lyric by Alec Wilder, for Mabel Mercer
Photography by Laurent, Leica M-6, Agfachrome

I do not wish to be taken with you

I wish you to stay.

Scan of correspondence in crayon on paper by Laurent;
Photographic suite by Hedi Slimane, revised,
excerpts of Diary entry for July 29, 2010.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"But the strife still continues in the heart of men . . .

. . . ever prone to substitute the human for the divine."

E.M. Forster
Pharos and Pharillon

This space has been favoured with manifold encouragements, but not another so chastising as the gift of this image, on the condition of writing about it. As I hope everyone can discern, the pediment of the device is an unexpended ballistic cartridge. The base is hammered from a shell casing, whence presumably the floral sconce is carved, probably by regulation issue, possibly in a trench. This is a relic of the Great War, whose legacy persists in the calamitous misprision adduced by Forster. Who knows whose munition was adapted to this ironic purpose? But when do we light a candle?

for Daniel, for writing

Monday, August 9, 2010

A short break

I was really aghast to notice the number of postings this space has absorbed in a short interval - admitting that some have responded to events in the news which were not expected so soon, and the longest one was broken down to track with the imagery of a poem. I had fun with that one, by the way. The "cathedrals" posting makes great sense to me, and for character elicited under some pretty terrible photographic conditions, I especially like the interlude with the guitarist. But when one has to be one's own critic, one might as well not go public.

I'm taking an indefinite break, and I thank very much the supportive readers of this awkward little project.

For Tiepolo, for Turner, for Gainesborough - and for girls

A friend of this space has already so well framed the facts of the latest secession from humanity by the great State of Texas that it would simply be ill-read of one to recite them again. We all know, that on a straight Party-line vote mirroring the behaviour of the corrupted United States Supreme Court, the Board of Education has substituted the Manichaean heresy for empiricism, and ideological denial for learning. This is not to say, they run their classrooms the way they run their Air National Guard, with a fratboy's thrill in truancy. This is to admit, they run them as madrassas of sectarian paranoia. As has been celebrated by their Governor, the United States can get along perfectly well without this deformity. But the marketplace of textspookery is dominated by the demography of mass publishing, and Texas wags a very obese tail. Children, ostensibly protected by the Constitutional mandate for States to deliver a public education, will read this stuff across America. The great object of humanity - the quarantine of hooliganism - is the first casualty of low taxation.

We also know, however, that Manichaeanism took root in our lower latitudes long before it reached, in serene aggression, the Rio Grande. One ran into it only the other day, in the spectacle of a Believer's dandling of an infant boy on his knee, gurgling over an array of crayons. "Show me yer fav'rite keller, Algernon." Evidently the child pointed to one; he wasn't old enough to speak very well. "Oh, no! That's pink! Yew cain't like pink. Pink is for gurls! Pick another."

Who could ever learn to speak very well in a culture coerced by this terror? For Tiepolo, I thought. For Turner. For Gainesborough. This space is blessed to be visited by the highest sophistication in colour, per capita, since Josef Albers dreamed alone. So let us speak of girls.

The knife in this child's heart, plunged and twisted by reflex of prejudice, cuts both ways. It teaches the boy to fear himself. It steals from him forever, any access to that sovereign piece of himself. He will not forget this lesson. If one cannot comprehend the pederasty in this act, one must not speak to children.

And girls? How many times, Title IX notwithstanding, is the gender of Diotima, de Staël, de Beauvoir and Decca Mitford distanced from this boy's esteem, under penalty of resemblance, dread of empathy? What is the rape of Europa, to Texas?

But is pink's diminished concentration of red its dissipation, or its rising? What an absurdity, this convention is, was not lost in Homer's report from Iliam, or Cy Twombly's, either. This is the abiding, Manichaeanly unendurable power of pink, its volatile genius, to comprehend and project a spectrum greater than Texas can bear to know. Who can't marvel, that it coincides so chronically with the enlightening epochs of Western art, and was the badge of history's greatest crime?

for Tony Judt

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A strenuous conscience

Tony Judt, historian
2 Jan 1948 - 6 Aug 2010

I prefer the edge: the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another—where cosmopolitanism is not so much an identity as the normal condition of life.

I can understand and even empathize with those who know what it means to love a country. . . But over the years these fierce unconditional loyalties—to a country, a God, an idea, or a man—have come to terrify me. The thin veneer of civilization rests upon what may well be an illusory faith in our common humanity. But illusory or not, we would do well to cling to it. Certainly, it is that faith—and the constraints it places upon human misbehavior—that is the first to go in times of war or civil unrest. In this brave new century we shall miss the tolerant, the marginals: the edge people. My people.

Edward Steichen, Moonlit Landscape, The New York Review of Books, July 15, 2010
Tony Judt, "The Edge People," The New York Review of Books, March 25, 2010

It cannot be thought

that the Sherry-Netherland
ever poured a mean drink, 
or failed "a fine romance."