Saturday, November 27, 2010


A friend of this page, evidently having seen the previous posting and not wishing to embroil himself in the furor of comment it might engender, has passed along the present photograph to replenish one’s supply of apples. At the same time, a kind of atonement held me in its grip, for not having visited a single play of Shakespeare since initiating this blog. (I imagine one may not be alone in this default, whether or not consumed by Red Mug, Blue Linen). To me, then, this portrait was not about apples, but about being circummured, as its hero is.

Now I give away the hand, of course: I was reading Measure for Measure. You’d know this, because you know that Shakespeare invented the word for this comedy, and never used it again. As has been widely reported, and sometimes even blogged, this outrageous fount of philological radiance, this subtlest of all known celebrants of the gusher we know as English, this humanest of voices ever to resound from its stage, has often been invoked by that mountebank lodestar of injurious ignorance, herself, Mrs Palin, in defense of her latest ejaculation of logophobia. There is, as Hawthorne remarked of Zenobia in Blithedale Romance, “no folded petal, no latent dew-drop, in this perfectly developed rose.” She is the fullest flowering of her faction's calculated, chronic contempt for learning since the King and the Duke held forth on the river in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - which, we are given to understand, they've abandoned trying to suppress.

But I stray into tinctures of partisanship, where play is the spirit of this page. It turns out, to one’s further annoyance, that Measure for Measure - which nobody thinks is a very good play - poses the plight of our harridan harlot to a T: how to reign in sexuality, without slaughtering the populace.

It all works out, of course, by that sleight of hand she has been so foully accused of, herself - the substitution of one conjugal heroine for another. Who can doubt the lady’s entitlement to the legacy this play is, for sorting out the peril of Big Government? 

Yet, what a morbid fortress she would forge for us, circummuring all in corporate concupiscence, as she is by her casuistry and cant. The plainness of her lust would do her credit if she'd not draped it in such zealotry. But William Shakespeare saw her coming, and I savour this good apple with much debt for her depiction:

Act II, Scene iv, 183-186

Then, Isabel live chaste, and brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity,
I'll tell him yet of Angelo's request,
And fit his mind to death, for his soul's rest.

Atoning with Soldati

.. for bold rebellion

Be welcome then, great Sir,
to constant vows of loyalty

Henry Purcell
Fly, Bold Rebellion, 1683
James Bowman, counter-tenor
Robert King, King's Consort
Hyperion, 1990©

Particle undetectable

I love photography for being uncollectible, and for other things.

Mathias Lauridsen

Saturday commute vi

Jakob Wiechmann
JCB, Attingham House
Pierre Frey, Paul et Virginie
Anonymous, Stadium Steps

Friday, November 26, 2010


In khaki, 
late Autumn.

Billy Budd on Friday

He was enjoying what he was doing.
The look was one of pure rapture.
I still remember his look.

Frank Bidart
FS&G, 1997©

We really have to blame the aviator on Jean Renoir

Well, to be sure: there was Lindbergh, there was Earhart. But when you think of it - as you do, every time - the first thing to cross your mind as the unfathomable, frequently reflective allure of a gaze fastens on you from a pair of these things is, rather, of an impromptu, imponderable height which the wearer occupies in your regard. And why should this be, but for the panache of the aviator in two (can you stand it) two of the greatest motion pictures of all time? 

But, rest easy. Where else is it possible to repair, to any discussion of La Grande Illusion (1937) or La Règle du Jeu (1939), without enduring some recital of the latest critical fetish, replete with the sort of slovenly neologisms Orwell deplored in Politics and the English Language? Not for that did you head for this relais, I hope. 


Here, now, sip a flute of Billecart, and we'll hear nothing more of the curious cultural history of cinema. These are movies for people who like movies, in the way people who like flying think of it as sport. A gallant pastime, albeit somewhat less attractive down below.

Ah, sport. That weirdly fungible allusion to anything pleasant involving adrenalin and perspiration. Selection, contact, engagement, contest, release, reflection. Ancient cycle. Still goes on, I'm told. We may all think we are discussing, say, tennis, when various percentiles of us are transposing the narrative into the discus, the javelin, or cat burglary, already anticipating getting together later for a second flute. 

And this, too, was central to both films. They pointedly do not hammer one with an insistence upon What this Thing is About, any more than it would be polite to remark on the Champagne as other than pleasant. They exude, moreover, a serenity that Champagne, itself, is not in peril from the Other Side. 

We get the drift, civilisation assimilates the text in its way - so much of La Règle familiar, already, from a play by Beaumarchais which launched the slide of the Bourbons; and of l'Illusion, from pesky Geneva Conventions which don't apply to the Stars and Stripes, much less to any drug-financed goon squad we outsource our morals to, instead - and we reflect on our elevated appreciation of aviators, in this progressive and discerning age of drones. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010


You should blog for yourself.

AIP to Laurent
25 xi 10

Reading Homer with Nicholas Ray


Headlock. Body slam. Hands that do not reach back. Low dust.
Stormed by Chylabborak, driven-in by Abassee
The light above his circle hatched with spears
Odysseus to Sheepgrove:

"Get lord Idomeneo from the ridge."

Then prays:

"Brainchild Athena, Holy Girl,
As one you made
As calm and cool as water in a well.
I know that you have cares enough Other than those of me and mine.
Yet, Daughter of God, without your help
We cannot last."

Setting down her topaz saucer heaped with nectarine jelly

Emptying her blood-red mouth set in her ice-white face

Teenaged Athena jumped up and shrieked:

  "Kill! Kill for me!
  Better to die than to live
  without killing!" 

Christopher Logue
All Day Permanent Red:
  The First Battle Scenes
  of Homer's Iliad, Rewritten
FS&G, 2003©

Hedi Slimane, Taner & Anna

Nicholas Ray
Rebel Without a Cause
Warner Bros, 1955©

The Flaming Lips
Fight Test
Warner Bros, 2002©

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The drug war, the fear wars, to say nothing of the war on equity

have taken Bermuda, 
Cozumel and St Croix 
out of quick commute
for Thanksgiving.

The rational mind
objects to this
wasting of blonds.

The aesthete swoons,
but is too chaste to
bring it up.

Tresses tarnish
now, untumbled
by the tides. 

Maybe we can get
Fox News to fret
the fall in rentals.

Just a thought.
Worth a try.

Stay out super-late tonight
picking apples, making pies

put a little something in our lemonade 
  and take it with us
we’re half-awake in a fake empire


Bruce Weber, i
Hedi Slimane, iii & vi

The National
Fake Empire
Beggars Banquet, 2007©

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ireland again

Some things, one doesn't even want to think about; a self-inflicted catastrophe for Ireland seems to've happened enough.

The best thing I've seen discussed on this crisis is by one of Ireland's true lights, Fintan O'Toole, whose A Traitor's Kiss on Richard Brinsley Sheridan is a beautiful book on a glorious man. 
Ian Jack's review of his Ship of Fools in The New York Review of Books promises that it is brilliant and dreadful. It seems that it has to be read.

Benjamin Britten
Chant, Variations on 
  a Theme by Frank Bridge
Herbert von Karajan
Philharmonia Orchestra
EMI, 1954©

Monday, November 22, 2010

"I only know what I know"

profound apologies to Chet Baker

hedge-pig. A young hedgehog.

Such is the exuberance of signification, which many words have obtained, that it was scarcely possible to collect all their senses; sometimes the meaning of derivatives must be sought in the mother term, and sometimes deficient explanations of the primitive may be supplied in the train of derivation.

Do you love them?

Samuel Johnson
The Dictionary, 1755
1st Modern Library Edition, 1965

For a purer extract of Monday ii

morceau d'un berceau tassique

Lars Stephan

St Cecilia's Day


Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of Fate,
All but the page prescrib'd, their present state;
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer Being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy Reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flow'ry food,
And licks the hand just raised to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv'n,
That each may fill the circle marked by Heav'n;
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.

Nor was the Work impair'd by Storms alone,
But felt th'Approaches of too warm a Sun;
For Fame, impatient of Extreams, decays
Not more by Envy than Excess of Praise.
Yet Part no injuries of Heav'n could feel,
Like Crystal faithful to the graving Steel;
The Rock's high Summit, in the Temple's Shade,
Nor Heat could melt, nor beating Storm invade.
. .
[This] ever new, nor subject to Decays,
Spread[s], and grow[s] brighter with the length of Days.

Alexander Pope
Yale University Press, 1963©

An Essay on Man, 1734
Epistle I, iii, 77-90

The Temple of Fame, 1711

Mathias Lauridsen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We are what they drink

Talleyrand expressed extreme astonishment at the apathy of Americans in the face of religious sectarians;

. . but he explained it by assuming that the American ardor of the moment was absorbed in money-making.

It was from Talleyrand that our great anti-imperialist picked up Louisiana. If we thought another generation might see the end of Talleyrand's nightmare, we might just send out for more hooch and wait. 

Watch them, then, watching us. We may drink what we want, but they must drink what we show them. Like revelers in Wagner's Venusberg, we seem to await a Tannhaüser we haven't bred ourselves, to interdict our Calvinist bacchanale. 

Watch them, the generation to whom we default and yet suppose to be the engine of our emergence from this admirabile commercium at the same time. In Growing Up Digital, a superb work of journalism from The New York Times today, we read of youths in one of the securest and most bucolic neighborhoods on earth, all but unable to sustain the act of reading.

Henry Adams' History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson is Clio's own text for unraveling our hereditary confusion. It comprises 4 volumes. The Library of America has it in 1. Like his Mont St-Michel and Chartres and The Education, it is a non-negotiable American legacy.

Contemplating St Cecilia's Day tomorrow, we remember Daniel Mendelsohn's explanation of Housman's unyielding fidelity to textual comprehension, as of a natural piece with his allegiances in Shropshire Lad. Abdication is not merely the refusal of an inheritance for oneself; it's a refusal to pass it on. Its renunciation wreaks a widening pool of destruction. How, then, can it be asserted that one values anything, without valuing its destiny? The American orgy will not be lifted by the disinherited. Today's scholars are ours in the most inalienable, undeniable way. 

Who will inherit this land? 
Do you love them?

Henry Adams 
The Jeffersonian Transformation
New York Review Books, 2007©

Georg Frideric Händel
What Art Can Teach
Carolyn Sampson, soprano
An Ode for St Cecilia's Day
Robert King, King's Consort
Hyperion, 2004©