Saturday, March 12, 2011

Who among us would not extoll the comfy shirt?

Before one leapt into the unbridled contentments of blogging, one was truly aghast to discover great rafts of edict-writers on this sine qua non or that in the specification of a man's shirt. Given all the indecent disclosures one has been chastened, since, to suppress at this page, it's consoling to think that never, 

once, has one stepped forward to hurl a few exquisite poniards of amour propre on that pile of principled pleas. I believe we've made it plain, that we regard it as degenerate in a man to purport to dress his fellows, much less to aver to how he pleasures himself in that mode. It's bad enough, that all of France is in open, remorseless warfare against the natural shoulder, without gadflies of their own condition-ing pretending to have invented the norms of urban America. And of course no tribe is so silly about this as the one that was adolescently clothed in uniform.

It follows that it's the optional shirt which benefits least from the hazings of arrogant oversight, but which can lead to the very most lamentable parodies in styling. Here a decent regard for the mis-ruled throat of Everyman compels us to offer the prayer to let it breathe. Plentiful enough are the knots that gather about the gorge, that we needn't inflict another in our invitations to each other. Enough, with breathless excitement to judge another's purchases for playing up to our pride, without a care for his comfort. To purge hospitality of its paradoxes, we would first decline to be played.

Saturday commute xviii: in the rocketing phase of mastering things

If one were to imagine Francisco de Goya in an especially good mood, on an improbably happy day, one might very well expect to meet this marvelous ruffian. Portrait de Louis gives us an intelligence bursting with the pleasure of mastering things, eager in many different directions. Experience is filling his play with initiating self-reliance, unfurling from an involuntary and propulsive gift for learning, which seems to have ignited itself all at once. To our eye he fills a purse of great charm and scrambled fascination at the same time, to be so continuously and variously enriched. He has the excitement, without the mantle, of a gathering competence. In the settling undermoldings of the face, are written energy, cognition, expectation; and one discernible sliver, quite pardonable, of pride. He has seen that he is a bearer now of sounds that others find beautiful, and that he is welcome to be heard as well as seen - the piping laugh; the breathy, abrupt response; the high-throated cheer of competition.

He is engaged with the second birth of his life. His is the project Mr Schubert's beßrer Zeiten drop to their knees to bring forth. 

How can this be better painted? This beautifully composed commotion - this vibration qui donne la vie, Valéry Lorenzo has called it - richly contrasted and textured as it is, presents itself as a kind of domestic inventory update, but reads as the confession that it quite properly is. Welcome now Elisabeth Baysset to Context in our readings, discovered in the reading and comments bar of Valéry Lorenzo ~ as we might have supposed. 

Elisabeth Baysset
Portrait de Louis

Franz Schubert
An die musik, D. 547
Ian Bostridge, tenor
Julius Drake, piano
EMI, 2005©

Friday, March 11, 2011

"What a genius they have, for the small change of freedom"

Shall it be Kings, then, for Easter this year?
Oh, I don't see why not. We promised ourselves.
But you died.
Couldn't be helped. I'll still go with you.
They'll let you?
Haven't you figured it out? They haven't any choice anymore.
Yes. I owe you for that. 


Heading, Sybille Bedford
Pleasures and Landscapes
  A traveller's tales from Europe
Counterpoint, 2003©

Georg Frideric Händel
Anthem for the Duke of Chandos, 5
Every day will I give thanks
Ian Partridge, tenor
Harry Christophers, The Sixteen
Chandos Records, Ltd., 1994©

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Now and again it cannot hurt for the gaze to be defended

How can you tell they're
cowboys, said Cosgrove. If
they're naked?

They'd still have their
Stetsons on.

Roy halted as Cosgrove
jumped up, went into the
bathroom, and turned on
the shower. Did I say

Try the Stilton,
David Savage urged.

Ethan Mordden
Some men are lookers
St Martin's Press, 1997©

There is another Caldicott and Charters ii

An unsustainable presumption, I suppose, of the blog form is that a reader can happen upon it out of context, and make spontaneous sense of the whole, from an incidental presentation. The photography blogs don't require this, the better prose blogs avoid it scrupulously, reasonable as it may be to rest some assumption on their renown. Here the habit is (possibly unnervingly) to treat the reader as a classmate returned from a long vac, not expected to know what we've done, but probably to have heard what his culture has done. You know C&C the way you know G+T, and I know you do because you've read this far. Even then, C&C and G&T are never the whole point.

I have introduced few pictures with the provincial delight that this one gives me. If the blog did have a regular, timely and voluble following, I would expect to see 7 or 8 learned and nuanced remarks on it in the moderation box by the cocktail hour, and I would probably mix a Negroni out of season just to light their review. To satisfy this urge I should simply send it off to Victoria or Barry or PGT, and allow Nature to take its course. I might even improvise an appreciation of my own. 

A picture can't bring a more fundamental illumination to this space than this one. But it belongs to the reader now, and so I remark on only one of its inescapable points: how the rules of a game, however subtle their variation from one to another, will distinguish the posture of the human form exploiting them. How gaily and concertedly the responsive mechanism shapes itself to its conduct, is a grat-ification, also, to the calculations of the cynic. We're taught, quite rightly, to distrust the loiterers at our playgrounds. I give you the ones on horseback, most of all. 

The little black box, numbered 58 on the right margin in the field below, is that of the Institute for Defense Analysis, an ostensibly independent think tank. And where is it? Not a 5-minute walk from every playing field at Princeton, right next door to where the innocent are fed. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

It would sometimes amaze us, the company we had kept

We, of whom so many wild oats are expected, grow accustomed to a somewhat relaxed restraint from time to time in the company we might keep. Nobody ac-cords any importance to the inevitable blunder or distraction. A latitudin-arian mirth greets our occasional em-barrassments, even a bit of bemused affection is earned for garnering what Benedick called some predestinate scratch, from a harpie of arch haut-eur. Yet there are mornings when we reflect, rinsing those surface anom-alies away, that we are not remorseful to show them the drain. The alter-native, an excessively guarded life, is simply an intolerable endangerment of the mind. The question, then, is what caution is excessive? 

Not long ago, the Blue Remembered Hills blog published an open-ended rumination on snobbery, and I hope it takes up the question again. The other day, the Greek Brazilian Boy blog published pictures illustrating a popular paraphrase of that disorder; and then over the weekend various comment came in, to lay the question aside. But of course it lingers, because of the diversity of experience we all bring to bear on the subjects of our study, even drawn sometimes from our earliest relationships.

Snobbery finds nobody alone in its stain. I cannot be alone in disliking incentives for disgust, its reflex. We dislike the seizure by disgust even more than that of anger. Something about it makes us as sick with shame as with revul-sion. Disgust with snob-bery squares this circle, by dipping us in snobbery to vituperate it.

[It] is a recognition of danger to our purity. But it is more. The mere sensation of it also involves an admission that we did not escape contamination.. Disgust admits our own vulnerability and compromise even as it constitutes an assertion of superiority; .. it does not move us to condemn for pure pleasure because it always makes us bear some of the costs of condemnation.

I wish something better for this place. The moist sand of morning, the awakening sun may cultiv-ate us. The "wild oats defense" belongs to the oats, not to us, and to everything new which lacks suspicion and takes risk. And caution? Let it not be our excuse.

William Ian Miller
The Anatomy of Disgust
Harvard University Press, 1997©

LVMH straps on another bauble

The soulless conglomerate that finally swallowed Château d'Yquem in a ferociously aggressive destruction of its founding family, has just scarfed itself up a luridly gaudy bangle in Bulgari, we are informed. Readers, inured by now to Karl Lagerfeld's grotesque campaigns for Dom Pérignon, LVMH's most debauched brand, can be heartened that at last he'll have a client who deserves him. But the bloated python's 20 percent position in Hermès is very foreboding news for horses of the slightest thoroughbred descent, particularly given its ominous vow of "patience while the family sells out." 

A vulgar, seething holding company, laying siege to one of the last, little treasuries of sweet indulgence on the globe, is not likely to galvanise the fashion-blogging community to lift a finger, except to test the wind. But with those to whom price is distin-guishable from quality, I pray for a mongoose to referee that vigil.

Attaché, Estate of Jean Cocteau
Photo Terestchenko

We were all born in the first week of the month

une anxiété par le fait qu'il indique le passage
du connu à l'inconnu : un cycle s'est accompli, 
quel sera le suivant ?

i, iii   Franck
ii        Lionel André

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sport and the random, accidental convergence

Theorists of the random, accidental convergence of guyfaces unanimously cite contact sport as a venue of substantially enhanced probability for a merger of such parts. Standing alone in a meadow in the rain, by contrast, is reckoned as a low-risk behaviour, especially if lightning is present. 

Prudence and calculation, though, have a way of invading our sampling base against the strict-est oversight of spurious rejection. Countless fel-lows have given every waking thought, for en-tire semesters, to devis-ing, strategising, chor-eographing, and scoring for 4 hands that poten-tially ostracising sur-

prise, the shining non sequitur, the impeccably hold-harmless, drop-dead, you'd-never-have-predicted-this-of-us-in-a-million-years alignment of their face with somebody else's of unshakeable irritation.

In statistics, as in headmastering, there is that shrewd school of thought which lets these things sort themselves out as the self-cancelling, larksome pratfalls they obviously, harmlessly are. 

Yet as the dispassionate mathematician the scholar has to be, we couldn't possibly entertain con-vergences skewed so broadly by permission, much less by intent. It may very well amuse the general run of mankind, to indulge that disposi-tion boasting of the name, tolerance, but if liberty's effect is to erode distinction, what's to grace our blondness, if not Alex Dunstan?

I hope it's plain enough, in this goofy sabbath jest, that what we're driving at it is that liberty isn't ever needed because distinctions don't exist; it's needed because they do; that tolerance of non-blonds may affect all it wants to grant them the stature of blonds, but that non-blonds will be just as happy to assert their own virtues. All of the oxygen of human right, that is, not some of it, not generic equivalents of it are literally of the most urgent moment for all because none are alike. And would anyone have it, any other way? Voltaire figured this out, and Shaw hammered it, leading famously to this aperçu of VS Pritchett, which I take to be an intimate admonition to the blog form in general, not to cast stones too far:

Shaw's letters must have been delightful to receive; unlike Voltaire, who was called a chaos of clear ideas, he was a chaos of clear arguments. They become monotonous .. The happy shock of the argument wears off. What really gets us is that the performer is at heart the industrious apprentice .. It is a moral story.

Victor Sawdon Pritchett
Lasting Impressions
  Essays 1961-1987
Random House, 1990

Alec Wilder
While We're Young, 1947©
Bill Evans, piano
National Public Radio, 1978©
The Jazz Alliance, 2002©