Saturday, December 11, 2010

Shirtlifter for a cause

Having been roundly upbraided, left and right, for a posting in the previous meridian which I confessed to be tedious, only to find it debated, rather, for prurience, I restored myself by consulting my mentor, Mr Spectator. One reader of that posting accepted my apology for inflicting it on his delicate, though landed gaze, while an urbane fellow  extolled indelicacy as its redeeming attribute, drawing no umbrage from a bourgeois labyrinth which is familiar - exposing me from the first to calumny for guile (which comes hard, from an heir of Odysseus, I may say), and from the second to faint praise.

“A spectator of mankind, rather than as one of the species,” Mr Spectator is infallibly impartial in matters such as divided the readership today; and as one’s betters in society and government, age and cultivation implicitly concur, it is just as well for one to heed his example, or bugger off the page. Shall we glance, then, at our exemplar’s patient invention of one's mode? In his Sir Roger de Coverley papers, he elucidates how one may be a shirtflifter for a cause, where the cause is Reform.

The first and most obvious Reflections which arise in a Man who changes the City for the Country, are upon the different Manners of the people whom he meets with in those two different Scenes of Life. By Manners I do not mean Morals, but Behaviour and Good-Breeding as they show themselves in the Town and in the Country.
And here, in the first place, I must observe a very great Revolution that has happened in this Article of Good Breeding. Several obliging Deferences, Condescensions and Submissions, with many outward Forms and Ceremonies that accompany them, were first of all brought up among the politer Part of Mankind, who lived in Courts and Cities, and distinguished themselves from the Rustick part of the Species (who on all occasions acted bluntly and naturally).

These Forms ... by degrees multiplied and grew troublesome; the modish World found too great a Constraint in them, and have therefore thrown most of them aside. [Presentation], like the __ Religion, was so encumbered with Show and Ceremony, that it stood in need of a Reformation to retrench its Superfluities, and restore it to its natural good Sense and Beauty. 
At present therefore an unconstrained Carriage, and a certain Openness of Behaviour, are the height of Good-breeding. The fashionable World is grown free and easy; our Manners fit more loose upon us: Nothing is so modish as an agreeable Negligence. In a word, Good-breeding shews itself most, where to an ordinary Eye it appears the least.

If after this we look on the People of Mode in the Country, we find in them the Manners of the Last Age. They have no sooner fetched themselves up to the Fashion of the polite World, but the Town has dropped them, and are nearer to the first State of Nature than to those Refinements which formerly reigned in the Court, and still prevail in the Country.
One may now know a Man that never conversed in the World, by his excess of Good-breeding. A polite Country 'Squire shall make you as many Bows in half an hour, as would serve a Courtier for a Week.. 

In our mobile world, alternations in taste between Town and Country can disorient the bearings of many of us, having no more than one foot in either place, and nothing more than an abyss of chain stores or a big box of wage depressants to join us. Now, as in Mr Spectator's time, the spirit of reform is on the side of the shirtlifter, and one does wish to be welcoming to the future.

As for reform, the natural affections, we must expect, are even likelier than shopping mall architecture to bridge that gap between the two spheres, and this hope must meet with everyone's favour, surely?

Sir Joseph Addison
The Coverley Etiquette, 1712
Addison and Sir Richard Steele,
The Spectator, 1711-1715
The Heritage Press, 1945©
Jeremy Young

Saturday commute viii

We are absolutely and utterly completely not ready for this. We are so off-the-charts unready, that vertigo, which we don't know, threatens to tip us over the ledge of this plastic balustrade and into an Escherite pit of pure, appalling clawing for our purse.

This Wagnerian Venusberg, this dystopian cockpit poured from Fritz Lang, has been created only to strip us and flail us and drain us on some pretext of delight. No one lives here. No dogs walk by on lead, no birds excite the air, no corner lets us take a turn to stop and share a kiss. Who thought of this? Who dreamt this?
What is my answer to my dog, of how this came to stain his day, in obscenely sprawling solicitation? Gary Cooper turns to his mother in Sergeant York, "What are they a-fightin' fer, Ma?" She puts the skateboard to the ground, "I don't rightly know, Son. I don't rightly know." 

And so we arrive at the banquet for the Armistice in the first reel of Warren Beatty's Reds, where Jack Reed is asked to stand up and discuss the meaning of the war. He rises on the dais, says one word, and promptly takes his seat. "Profits."  

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just a place

places, mozartmozart
glad faces, anonymous

Missa Hodie 
  Christus Natus Est, 1575
Martin Baker
Westminster Cathedral Choir
Hyperion, 2003©

The seduction of boys ii

Twenty-four hundred years ago, an 87-year-old man staged a play, on looking right into the eyes of a son of the gods, teaching him to embrace lying about war. The youth obeyed. This was called, tragedy. Those were the days.

I far prefer failure, if it is honest,
to victory earned by treachery.

You will see as I have that everywhere
it is our words that win, and not our deeds.

What are your orders, apart from telling lies?

To take him by trickery, however deceitful.

And you do not find such lying disgusting?

You will be called wise because of your trick,
and brave for the sack of Troy.

Then let it be so. I will do what you order,
putting aside my sense of shame.

409 BC
Gregory McNamee, translation
Copper Canyon Press, 1986©

Thursday, December 9, 2010

D'you come here often?

There it is. Dixie and its satrapies, throttling the nation again today, in eternal schadenfreude. The New York Times portrays the failure of a bill in the Senate of the United States, to repeal the discriminatory exclusion of gay men and women from the nation's service. Not, need it be said, by a failure of majority will, as if that should be enough to perpetuate discrimination. No. By the exercise of arcane institutional privilege, not even contemplated in the Constitution.

If you live where these red pustules defile the map, this is how you are being represented. By three dozen pimples in an insufferably constant pattern on this country's copious ass. Is this the government you inherited, paid for, voted for, gave children for, and suffered for? 

It's the one you're being given, by sharecropping sectarian stalking horses of plutocracy. But such a state needs its young to die unnatural deaths, in wars it daren't end. If not today, then when the beast is bled enough, it may begin to live.

Who shall sew the first button?

A crisis in conditioning of the young has reached the attention of even the President's wife. All about us, their upper trouser button is simply a bridge too far. A notorious proclivity for games and revels is rightly coming under scrutiny in our media, ever enthralled by any fluttering of tanlines.
Fashion, however, seems not to be wholly blameless in the ascendancy of the descending demarcation. The appalling lengths to which the young will go, to imitate each other's entitlement to this affectation, exposes a tendency upon which our schoolmarms have always been alert to pounce, with hatpin rampant. Hopefully, this entry can help to gather that furore.  

When, in the course of canine events

.. should one discover the dreadful news?

Ideally, when everything else is still new, too -

especially, oneself! 

Geordie ventures next door
18 weeks
Photography, Laurent
Leica M-6
Kodak Ektar 1000, daylight

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beloved Alibi: An Air in Three Variations

"Not everybody agrees with us."

The White House
Welcoming remarks
  by the President
  of the United States
December 7, 2010 

The fact of Desertion 
I will not dispute; 
But its guilt, as I trust, is removed,
(So far as it relates to the costs of this suit),
By the Alibi which has been proved.

yet shall my heart not be afraid;
though there rose up war against me,
yet will I put my trust in him.

                      .. But in these cases,
            We still have judgment here; that we but teach
            Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
            To plague th'inventor: this even-handed Justice
            Commends th'ingredients of our poison'd chalice
            To our own lips.

.. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongu’d, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And Pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven’s Cherubins, hors’d
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind.

.. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
and falls on th’other.

Yves, oil on canvas, 1991
Joan Mitchell

Lewis Carroll
The Hunting of the Snark
The Annoted Edition
Martin Gardner, editor
Norton, 1962©

The Book of Common Prayer
Georg Frideric Händel
10th Anthem for the Duke of Chandos
Harry Christophers
The Sixteen
Chandos Records, Ltd, 1994©

William Shakespeare
The Tragedie of Macbeth
I, vii, 7-28
1606, published 1623
The Arden Shakespeare
Kenneth Muir, editor
Methuen, 1951©

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mr Obama makes yet another deal

Neville Chamberlain,

  The soul is undiscovered, 
  though explored forever 
  to a depth beyond report. 

Paul Strand, Wall Street

Heraclitus of Ephesus
Brooks Haxton, translation
Penguin, 2001©

Gustavo Santaolalla
Opening, 'Brokeback Mountain'
Verve Music Group, 2005©

Monday, December 6, 2010

What if Monday's mark

were fresh?  

to Native Kee and Valéry Lorenzo 
for discussing Fabienne Verdier; 

All things shining is in Context, 
Lachowski times his own levée.

Franz Josef Haydn
Piano Trio in F, Andante
Beaux Arts Trio
Philips, 1996©

Francisco Lachowski

Eva Truffaut revisits Jean Vigo

Readers may recall a previous entry on Jean Vigo, which pursued an interest in water which he naturally enriched enormously in film. Now, owing entirely to heeding one's own advice, one finds Eva Truffaut celebrating Vigo for his interest in light, if I may be so bold as to put the pillow fight in Zéro de conduite in such simple terms. In any event, she makes a splendid case for this appreciation, with an invaluable entry at a blog I'd possibly never have discovered, but for watching the movements of Valéry Lorenzo, with whom she left a comment allowing us to track her down.

That posting, alone, is priceless for its salvaging of signal images from one of the treasures of world cinema. But this is the work recorded in her blog, and it directly precedes a stunning comment on Hannah Arendt, in cinematic stills. That work is beyond praise and this blog gives an answer to many a filmlover's prayers. It follows that none will ignore this discovery.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday night above the clavicle

How servile is the task to please alone,
Though beauty woo and love inspire the song ..

John Clare
Two Songs 
  and some stanzas
  from child harold
circa 1837
"I am," The Selected
  Poetry of John Clare
Jonathan Bate, editor
FS & G, 2003©

El perro, a conversation

Goya, 1819-23
Paschalis, 2005
Lorenzo, 2010

Red, 1960

Literature has not always led society, but when there has been leadership, literature has furnished it. Other arts, from time to time. History assuredly recalls the election of 1960 as an event of cultural decompression, exorbitantly deferred, foretold in 1936. Of social promise, shiningly exposed. We will not see the election of 2008 in this light, but as 1948, revisited.

Most of the young I know cannot bear to recall the attention they paid to the incumbent's election. They don't know their history. Very well, they were never told: we learn it, before we can be it.

The way up is the way back.

Heraclitus of Ephesus
Brooks Haxton, translation
Penguin, 2001©