Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday commute xx: prefects' meeting

I don't know what we're going to do about him.

Yes, I know. House is quite up in arms about it -

The fanny thing, you know, and right at the top -

No, it isn’t so much that. It’s a phase .. junior bloggers ..

You think so? I’m afraid he really means it.

Well, whether he does or not, that will sort itself out. No, what I’m hearing, is that he just won’t dress. And heaven knows ..

Hmm. Yes. Still, they say, if cuffs ever were to come down again, he might relent.

ii Mathias Lauridsen

A picture I want in this blog ii


Leonard Bernstein, music
Betty Comden and Adolf Green, book
On the Town, 1944
  Some other time
Bill Evans, piano
Orrin Keepnews, recording
Time Remembered
Milestone Records, 1999©

Did they tell you, Andrew Cooper'd been in town?

They didn't tell us, I can tell you. I'm not prepared to say that the city could stand it, even by way of photoshop. I'd certainly have warned against it. I don't know that it's wise to place a menswear performer at the intersection of Divisadero and Vallejo, and simply hope for the best - much less, with his hands jammed into his pockets, and grimacing to the south in that appalling mode of selling clothes with a scowl. 
Don't we tire of this? Whit and I've been driven to ignore the announcements that pile up, for this little Sexton trunk show or that Brioni cocktail thing: squadrons of princelings, scowling as if no one would feed them.
Who inclines to go walking, in this air of all settings, with the disposition of being stuck inside of Mobile, with the Memphis blues again? It won't move; it can't be done. As you see, you have to staple a guy to the pavement, for this misprision of place and time to work its way into his feat-ures, and stamp a fatuous grievance. Oh, don't come to San Francisco and try this!
They have to be taut to do it, for it works such violence on their nature, as Oliver Cheshire was confiding only the other day. Here, he's flogging jeans that might survive one dry cleaning, internalising the hideous rip-off they represent. Don't try that in the home of the 501.

Now, poor Oliver, another runway of angst behind him, exchanges the junk he's hired to hawk for the soothings of consol-ing terry. And why not? But you know, and I know (I've kept it from Whit), tomorrow he'll be held up before some harridan in Milan, who'll Prad him to be furious, lest she re-veal sublimity in a stone that isn't hers, against a setting that is.

Yet we cannot allow you to suppose, we would settle for some gratification of badinage on the sartorial grimace in lieu of satisfying at least one of two higher motives - the elimination of the one, or of the other. And you may certainly come to us for that.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My favourite clothespin iii


Come to think of it, how did he know?

A friend - not, alas, of our page - wrote in this week, asking how I liked the new toy. I asked him which one he meant; he said, I had discussed it here. 

Now it's a Friday,
in early Spring.
Would you narrow
it down any

iv, VL

The perfectly reasonable explanation

Gennnnerally  speaking, one has never taken a particular interest in the tenants of the sauna. But given that they’re identified as those already in the establishment, one could say that the die had been cast. As always, we learn more about what we really believe, when pressed to come up with the perfectly reasonable explanation, than when lying with peers. The PRE is distinguishable, as any child knows, from alibi, which is simply verifiable denial. When one's shedding buckets epidermally with untold others in a box nobody would countenance alone, there really isn't any doubt that one's there. The PRE calls, pace Marx, for embracing the alligator.

The choice of candour over rationalisation is a little pedestrian for unfurling the baroque PRE. There's even more ostracism in habituating an esteemed institution - Stanford, say - than in being found basting on planks. At least in the latter case, chairs of interest huddle close to the table, as our re-searches into wood's burnishing of the tanline are confided. There's none of the Ew-ww effect of Kant to defuse.

If anyone should feel, that we're poaching upon demagoguery's genius for government, we couldn't claim to have intended it. May we remind each other, we're on the cusp of fashioning a city of coffee from a widely execrated taste, in our migration from the steeping cabinet; 

if anything, we're turn-ing populism back upon itself. Let us address, then, the rôle of sand-ing, timber vintage, nailheads, and varnishes in the tanline's evolu-tion, and be civil in exchanging our experi-ence. The perfectly reasonable explanation depends upon our invest-ment in its lulling in-tonation.

With all of the inventiveness of childhood, then, at the very moment when its innocence seems so distant, we bridge that divide with the sociable reflex of morphing the subject. Of course the tanline prospers on the floor, but eventually someone will observe that one oughtn't to be naked for a tanline at all. By then, however, our lunatic argument will have elicited such fellow feeling for unutterable delight, that we'll have matched Supply Side's raid on the Treasury. Yet, far be it from us, to have proposed a basic course in government by cupidity, as the analogue of cupid's sovereign shaft. We have our own hide to save.

And Stanford? It's the safest place on the continent, to park a Porsche.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Winner of games

He comes from Caerphilly, not the happiest part of Wales; 

and now he'd like his ball back, if it's all the same to you.

Aaron Ramsey

In which we revisit the adamancy for Ingrès

The other day, relishing a study of one of the more consequential figures of the 19th Century, we read how the subject had been adamant for Ingrès as her portraitist, and were plunged immediately into reflection on how little things have changed. Do we have a fair historiography of the persistence of this passion? If so, we should like to do our part to augment its evidence. However little it may resemble it, the adoption of a favoured ensemble is probably nothing other than this conscious-ness, made prosaic by its pervasiveness.

We marvel, that until this obsession with the portraitist of opulence had been reduced to such a musical phrase, it had been possible to dismiss its manifestation as the mere pursuit of laundry day. And yet, what we observe is the insistence on the presentation of our choice. We have learned, now, that that delicious combat of blue and rose, so central to the Ingrès we have, is an underlying stipulation of an idée-fixe of self-projection inspired by the canvas, itself.

Again we find ourselves leveraged to a higher comprehension by a felicitous turn of phrase. What a gentle turning back, we all now feel, of conceits of prior conception. And yet, in our common moulding by a zealotry for art, which it took a Rothschild - twice affirmed - to exhibit to the mind, is there not some encouragement to all to step forth, and acknowledge Ingrès?

But lest it then be said, hampered by distraction in the house colours, we had not reached home before dark with this exegesis, we allude to that condition in fairest monochrome, and keep a flacon of some salts to stir a hasty judgment's sense. The same breeze stirs all the linen on the line. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Structure + contingency

There is nothing to do, but play.

Valéry Lorenzo

One tries extremely hard not to envy the classicists

In Charlottesville, I must say, resistance to envying the classicists is not especially trying. A paper of pervasive circulation and omniscient gossip boasted this week that it has no idea who Cavafy is, but it knows the University alumnus who will be speaking about him. (This assertion, as we've seen, is impossible; one can't know Daniel Mendelsohn without knowing Cavafy, but the defiant ig-norance and oblivious condescension are quite authentic).

So let us take up poor Mendelsohn, an unknown known, with a degree from this place and another from mine.

What's enviable about classicists, is not what they've learned and what they've seen, so much as the quality of their reminiscences of doing so. They were all under 21 when they read and recited and translated and reflected upon Catullus, and they were not doing it alone. You and I try our best not to maim such people, such perfect lovers that the heart simply sinks to know they may be in the boat at the same time as we are reeling in the catch of the day. They were immersed in the most opulent and subte and lucid erotic poetry ever conceived, at the very time of life that you couldn't pay them to be anywhere else. And what is memory?

One of the reasons [Catullus' translation of Sappho's ode] was so easy for me to memorise when I was twenty and couldn't stop looking at the pale-haired boy sitting opposite me was the lulling rhythm of the two last lines, qui sedens adversus identidem te / spectat et audit, 'who, sitting opposite you, repeatedly / watches and hears you.' 

How do you know who you are? You are the one who sits there in class, day after day, trying to memorise an ancient poem of love and of watching, repeating to yourself identidem-de, identidem-te, and although you know it means repeatedly-you, repeatedly-you, it begins to sound like identity-you, identity-you, and I suppose this is really why it slipped so easily into my mind, a lifetime of reflections ago, because that made a perfect kind of sense to me.

There is another way to know your-self, and that is not by identifica-tion with the thing you love, by collapsing into the other, but by differentiating yourself from it. Catullus is aware of this and wants to remind us of this .. In ordering the words out of which he creates his own version of Sappho, he puts the adverb adversus, 'opposite,' immediately next to identidem, so that one of the effects of this climactic line is to make you hear the words opposite and same one after the other: otherness, alterity, and sameness, identity, are exquisitely contraposed.

How do you know who you are? You are the one who loves by superimposing sameness over difference. This is the etymology of your desire.

These extracts from Mr Mendelsohn's first book portray his debt to learning, without misrepresenting it to himself as fitting a self-conception still in formation. His career in criticism - chiefly for The New York Review of Books - is distinguished by acute and capable vigilance against any slovenly adaptation of literature to common or individual certitudes. He must relish his embrace by the paper of the place where he mastered Catullus.

But Mendelsohn's critical posture is not only available in other discip-lines, it is just as crucial to their pursuit, the object of which is to acquire resistance to slovenly certitude. It's for their acquain-tance with the skeptics, more than for the luxuries of their poetry, that the classicists aren't to be envied, but emulated. If we were wine, we would say skepticism is our acidity, our backbone and guarantor of age. But we are not wine. We cannot therefore tire of resort to youth to embody what is at stake in our intellectual conduct. And what is memory, but the resource of resolve to preserve, and get it right. 

Daniel Mendelsohn
The Elusive Embrace
  Desire and the riddle of identity
Knopf, 1999©

In San Francisco, as is widely known

Streets called Gough and Post run east to west in parallel, and frame Union Square on their way into the omnivorous gulley called Market. Moving in the direction of the sun, however, they crest at a peak framing Nervi's Cathedral, and settle into a brisk discourse on their way to Golden Gate Park. At the advent of what is called Pacific Heights to the north, and The Fillmore to the south, they embrace a strip known as Japantown, which Beth Nelson had occasion to recall to us this week.

In Japantown one can indulge the stunning luxuries of the Hot Spring, for the soothing furo bath, the icy splash, the shiatsu redemption of the shoulders fraught with too much commerce. One can meet the daughter of Orson Welles, introducing the reconstituted celluloid of Othello, and hear Marcel Carné, himself, explaining the masterpiece he created with Jacques Prévert, Le jour se lève. One can expand one's library by hectares in an afternoon's browse of rare volumes on Japanese cinema, art, poetry, gardening, history, and architecture. And there is always the miso, the aroma of enigma, to draw one spontaneously for a pittance. 

There is, as she discovered, an Aegean aspect to the most Shinto of preserves. It's less in the colours she reminds us of, than in the sparkle of the setting beneath the sun of presiding spirits. Now the orderly plates she assembles for us in this brilliant photograph bear the shadow of severe incision and displacement. The antic wonder we associate with the Cycladic declension of Aegean beauty is, rather, compacted in the preciously groomed and framed vistas in the Japanese archipelago; the garden is everywhere, consciousness of it is immanent. There, its injury is desecration. Here, it is inhumane. We need it. And the portal of this vision.

In 1988, Harvard's Judith Shklar (1928-92) gave the Storrs Lectures on Jurisprudence at Yale Law School, distinguishing "misfortune" from "injustice." Voltaire's and Kant's confusion in the face of the Lisbon earthquake (1755) furnished the core incidents of her argument, which many consulted with extreme urgency during the Gay Men's Health Crisis. Among them, I was fortunate to be disposed to the solace of reason. But we never know its worth until we are tried.

I would like to commend her 'talks' to any reader, as we discover Japan in our soul.

Judith N. Shklar
Cowles Professor of Government
Harvard University
The Faces of Injustice
Yale University Press, 1990© 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Le style et la matière a deux ans

I doubt that I'm alone in associating this instrument with this extraordinary publication. No one has ever used it better than Dennis Brain, the only soloist, it is said, whom Herbert von Karajan ever addressed by his Christian name. I thank this blog for its beautiful imagery of the most wonderful wine country on earth.

i  Dimitri Theocaris
ii Le style et la matière

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Concerto in E Flat, K. 495
  Romance (andante)
Dennis Brain, horn
Herbert von Karajan
Philharmonia Orchestra
EMI, 1953© 

We remember refreshing the human face

Philippe Sands
Lawless World
  America and the Making
  and Breaking of Global Rules
Viking, 2005©

Jane Mayer
The Dark Side
  How the War on Terror
  turned into a War on American Ideals
Doubleday, 2008©

Monday, March 21, 2011

Abroad in the flux of breath

Aristophanic contemplation in Lionel André is habitual, the change is in its flux. A man could learn to love it, and to live it.


Lionel André
20 March 2011

Onward, Christan Payloads

Wasn’t this chastisement of the merciless to have been a No-Fly Zone? How wondrously the Kampuchean abbatoire metastasised in minutes, a Triple Entente of Jesus as rusty in its aim as its rationale, degrading a Muslim society’s capacity 

to reproduce itself, sustain its families, inherit the energy of its youth, and redeem the promise of its future. This is the Tuskeegee experiment in flying colours, the cynical calculus of the fish-in-a-rain-barrel school of Just Warfare we taught ourselves with the Seminoles, while sparing the rails to Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Theresienstadt. 

This is glory a redneck culture can understand, Red State porn at its ripest, rectitude rampant.

i,   Benghazi, Reuters, 2011
ii,  Basra, The New York Times, 2003
iii, Oscar, dancing, Hedi Slimane

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mr Lamb shed some light on the rejection of the face

for our auguress

Some don't come here so much as they used to; you remember how they were frightened, that they could be accused of looking at what they like, on the one hand, or felt excluded by the persistence of youth, on the other. Guilt and abandonment can make for a dicey strait in blogwriting, and yet we were blithe enough to risk it. But you were here back then; you remember, we talked about a city of coffee, adopting our literal experience as a metaphor to allay these impressions. We still desire that city, and after some 400 posts, we can give more credit to desire than we had expected. 

But we did disturb nice people, all pursuing a driving interest in expenditures, being misdirected here by lapse of judgment. All their urgent, exquisite passions had been invented to escape this page, until some whiff of our seeming acquisitive then set an unintended trap.

We unintendingly portray this flight to a possession of the exquisite, or to its idolatry, as to a Faustian barricade against the face. We've discussed this, in our comment bars; and so, famously, did Charles Lamb in one of his last essays. But the face is always there, as a dynamic marker of experience.

When I married, I gave my bride a picture of a face: an Ansel Adams original of a farm woman behind a worn screen door. It cost an approp-riate lot, then, and today it would be priceless. We, too, believed in fine things, but she very much did not like this portrait. She feared it was about her. 
We should have been so lucky; and I should have understood her better.

Competence to age is supplementary youth; a sorry supplement indeed, but I fear the best that is to be had .. And now do just look at that merry little Chinese waiter holding an umbrella, big enough for a bed-tester, over the head of that pretty insipid half-Madonna-ish chit of a lady in that very blue summer-house. 

I have always known, it would be difficult to stake a position for the cultivated life through the presentation of picture after picture of a seemingly privileged countenance. But these are not undeserving visages, for not having been painted on porcelain. Their existence, moreover, is contingent; its quality is contingent; its longevity is contingent. Those contingencies, to say the least, are exciting and morally compelling. 
Yes, I would hold the face with the care I might extend to a tea-cup; yes, I would celebrate its expression; yes, I would drink from it. Four hundred postings, still under development.


Bob Dylan
Most of the Time
  Rare and unreleased
Columbia Records/Sony, 2008©

Charles Lamb
Old China
  The Last Essays of Elia
Jonathan Bate, editor
Oxford University Press, 1987©