Friday, October 8, 2010

"Scholarly rows of sycamores"

Always wondering what's left besides us

and how much time, I stare at the bright
fall of morning...

I can't tell you how much
you would like today, the pomegranates
heaped in baskets, air drowsy with wood-smoke...

You'd like
the burnt-siena of the cleared fields,
the pang of yellow shivering through the vines,
scholarly rows of sycamores leading you down
Such light.

Paul Monette, teacher at Milton 
"To GB from Tuscany," 1990
National Book Award, 1992

JS Bach, Sarabande in D major
Cello Suite, BWV 1012

A work in progress

Advisory from the Route de Lahontan

It has been announced that the surfer hut - one of those few auspices of humane enclosure which Philip Johnson did not idealise for all time at his estate in New Canaan - may anticipate its fulfillment one day, on canvas or other media at least, if not on a beach on the Bay of Biscay.
We attend upon this prophecy with the circumspection of the gallery at Augusta or Ballybunion, having perfect faith that the putt will drop, but taking care not to deflect it with our gathered breath. In the meantime, we survey from burnished memory those models which have marked the progress of the surfer hut through time and clement weather.
From improvisations of mobile encampment to the visionary readiness of erecting the surfer hut in the Arizona desert, for a spillage of the Pacific if time really ever should stand still, we have seen the surfer hut emerge in manifestations of every aspiration for the ideal wave. We must be patient.

Taliesin, West

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One cool place to go

... the human/canine relationship is universal,

she said, and we take care to pay attention. One of the coolest guyblogs not known for that virtue, is the work of a lady in Maine. Just when you think you're going to be reading about dogs and their liberties, she whacks you with a demonstration of free expression and human rights.

Gentlemen, bring your dog, and blog.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In plain English

When thou shalt be disposed to set me light 
And place my merit in the eye of scorn,
Upon thy side against myself I'll fight
And prove thee virtuous, though thou
art foresworn.
With mine own weakness being best acquainted,
Upon thy part I can set down a story
Of faults concealed wherein I am attainted
That thou in losing me shall win much glory.
And I by this will be a gainer too,
For, bending all my loving thoughts
on thee,
The injuries that to myself I do,
Doing thee vantage, double-vantage me.

In many's looks, the false heart's history
Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange,
But heaven in thy creation did decree
That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell;
Whate'er thy thoughts or thy heart's workings be,
Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness tell.
  How like Eve's apple doth thy beauty grow
  If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show.

William Shakespeare
Sonnets 88, 93

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The fonts are impeccable

A good friend remarked at his blog, only today, on how refreshing it is to work with craftsmen in the presentation of text and imagery. One can well believe it, struggling as one does with little talent here, and seemingly intractable limits in the malleability of one’s blogging format.

This print advertisement, of ancient derivation, struck me instantly for the boldness of its branding and its deference to the image at the same time. The familiar logotype font could not be more judiciously spaced, each letter either doing no harm, or working positively (the 1st C) to diminish the optically exaggerated and physically undelineated foreground mass for the benefit of the figure’s overall balance. Any mild incoherency in the intrusion in the lower right corner (shall we ever know what that intervention was?) only establishes the figure more firmly. 

I also think the naming of the character of the clothing deserves commendation. The temptation to dispense with it would have been great, to allow the image to illuminate the ethos of the source, indeterminately. But there would have been endless calls to the shops - Where can I get that thingamajig?  - if cooler heads in Florence hadn’t reigned. Moreover, the font’s alteration and reduction are both outstandingly judged, given the recital of sites, below. 

We need a stairstep or two from the sublime, to the ridiculous.

American veteran

The Loma Prieta earthquake of October, 1989, had already struck, and San Francisco's homeless had exploited sudden shelters in the fallen freeway overpasses in the Civic Center.

This young man is not homeless. He is an independent scholar of the works of the German classicist, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and will shortly give a lecture of his findings in a parish church in the Castro neighborhood, attended by le tout monde. We dimly know each other, but we all know him, and we know he is worth hearing.

He is a bookseller.

This is a calling, not an accident of earthly plates. The young man is the mainstay, adjutant and heart of the City's leading resource for books in interior design, gardening, and antiquity - up the street one block from its hottest gym, down a back street from the Symphony.

We are on a Sunday morning stroll, playing with high-grain film and settings of contrast. It is December and the day is beautiful, as it so often is in that month of clearest skies. Something draws us down to the water, 'though the sun is everywhere. 

We pause frequently to rest. We're conscious of the textures where we stride and where we sit, without saying so. We're touching the City, and we know we are. He is, himself, happy, but he tires, and we are quiet about that. He dies in four months. This is an accident of earthly plates, not a calling. He is recalled now for his work of knowing others, as their bookseller.

Winckelmann's radical History followed the publication of Rousseau's Le Contrat Social by less than twelve months. The pier where the bookseller sits was the site of one of the most reviled triumphs of the labor movement in the history of the United States. 

It would be hard, and in the end undignified to say whose imagination was more generous, whose work more naïve, more repudiated in our time. He understood that, and gently, brightly sustained their faith. 

Now this lady has freight in her arms to look out for, and one less bookstore in her town.

Photography Laurent, Leica M-6

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dex met with Macaulay in his library

Heads-up for hedonists ~ 

Heywood Hill’s Autumn List has landed, ‘and there is no health in us.’ 

Or none that can't be restored by enlisting in the drama of literary selection, rooted in dialogue with discernment, play, cultivation and quirk. Browse the List, and let no more than three-fifths (a sentimental fraction for a sound constitution) of your choices reinforce your happy habits, and let the four-fold tithe that’s left engulf you in diversified new personalities, pleasures. It’s what a bookseller’s for, and these booksellers - in the English language, for the most part - are good, even better than the gossip that so richly hovers about their name.

You know the bookseller. He or she’s someone who’s known our family since before we were born, has known what books we’ve seen about the house all our life, who supplied our birthday books and college Christmas books and possibly even our tentative first venture toward our own untested taste, eyebrow only flickeringly in flight. 

One of the great and necessary callings in existence, we turn to it repeatedly, in all kinds of weather, and evermore most gratefully, now that its extinction’s in our face, an entire generation driven madly to accelerate its extirpation from this world, flogged by mergers, acquisitions, and the rest of the vulgar, flotsam fallout of fiscal fantasies we’ve fattened by, leaving the next to fend for itself with ignorant search engines.

A cordial word, then, to bloggers passing by. Never, please, commit an Amazonian referral of a text, when a simple publisher’s citation will very well suffice. Renounce i-Tunes’ hideously Luddite “Genius” app, Wikipedia’s revolting indolence, and cutting the throat of friendship at its finest, the person who knows our books. Especially to aesthetes, I pose this hypothetical: Do we love what Bruce Chatwin, Elizabeth David, and Syrie Maugham knew and saved and found and made and showed and did, enough, to secure their passage to another generation?

They live by relationships we know to be tenuous, by commendation we believe to be important, and by thought of others in their works from top to bottom. Google will find them, but who will know them?

If it’s good, let the calling for it live. If we have to be hod carriers, it will likely do us good. For me, there’s a new Le Carré, for which I’m happy to pay a fair price. But suppose it’s Josceline Dimbleby? Whose chump search engine’s going to give me her? And where does one go to say, “Hey, wonderful.”

Is it true, or is there a price on it?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Can somebody clear up for us, please

... whereas the mind of Man, when he gives the Spur and Bridle to his Thoughts, doth never stop, but naturally sallies out into both extreams of High and Low, of Good and Evil; His first flight of Fancy, commonly transports Him to Idea's of what is most Perfect, finished and exalted; till having soared out of his own Reach and Sight, not well perceiving how near the Frontiers of Height and Depth, border upon each other; With the same Course and Wing, he falls down plum into the lowest Bottom of Things... Whether a Tincture of Malice in our Natures, makes us fond of finishing every bright Idea with its Reverse ... it hath been the usual Method of Mankind, to single out some Being, either in Act, or in Vision, which was in most Antipathy to the God they had framed.

Is The Horror
John McCain
wants us to

or forget?

Jonathan Swift
A Tale of a Tub, 1702
JS Bach
Prelude in C major, 1722