Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday commute xxxiii: doux de montagne ii

Between the droning shore and
the roiling, clashing rapids,
a rock affords a fulcrum of

Homage, Vittorio de Sica


The power of the tumblr
to concentrate the mind
by spontaneous projection
is an alluring defect, as
well as a reconstitution
of the sovereign weight of
the image. For Laurent the
stamp of de Sica's second
film is almost absolutely
peerless in its orchestra-
tion of coherency from tum-
bling shots of unalleviated
legitimacy, a moral judg-
ment unequivocally earned.

Here, a simple fashion shot
captures the youth's inher-
itance of the fedora, which
is all we want, to identify
that film without purloining
images meant for the screen.

Inheritance, again. When will
you ever learn, Laurent?

Vittorio de Sica
Ladri di biciclette
Produzioni de Sica, 1948

Friday, July 22, 2011

Are you really totally completely not darling ?


A 1950s kind of question,
perhaps, but it's not un-
wise to be prepared for it.

Before going out this even-
ing, see James Dean dealing
with this interrogation from
Julie Harris in East of Eden,
Natalie Wood in Rebel without
a Cause, Carole Baker in Giant;
or Brando, from Eva Marie Saint
in On the Waterfront; or Martin
La Salle from Marika Green in

Think of a good answer, and then
adopt its opposite. She will not
be satisfied unless she draws you
to that other view, herself; and 
we do disfavour frustration. Love
favours victories which allow
either party a sense of exertion, 
both a sense of what they might
want, and which are not very costly.

And besides, we remember Heisenberg:
observation changes things. So what,
if you really are unspeakably adorably 
darling for a few hours? Live with it.

Getting free on Friday

ii Robert Capa

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Annals of the palate: the winefloggers are coming

     Charlottesville, Virginia - of all places - is about to furnish accommodation to a national conference of bloggers on wine, complete with a wine tasting on the lawn at Mr Jefferson's house, on a day assured of reaching 100º. One's half a mind to journey to this convention of the industrially occult as a fly on the wall, but these are very nice walls, and at that temperature adhesion can set in, and I don't intend to stay. So one must be reconciled to mingling as the alien any human is, at such swarmings of expertise.

  One hundred degrees, on the Fahrenheit scale, are some dozen above the absolute shutdown of photosynthesis in a vine, itself, and about 40 above the most advanced temperature at which any wine below the alcohol content of Port should be tasted, much less appraised.

  But this is a convening of industrialists, in whom the posture of connoisseurship is as legible in their loafers as in their lowered madras prose of delectation. This junket is not likely to be so distracted by the excuse for itself, as to notice.

  In some 700 postings we have seldom accosted each other here, with digressions on any potable, but wine does appear to our right under Matter, not that fog does not [yes, yes; one knows this doesn't count fog's unheralded appearance]. And who would not rather, among this page's readership, speculate together on the properties of the mist's dear condensation, more fondly than on anything that's bottled? 

  Still, if there should be anything of interest in this meeting, to distinguish it from ordinary chatter at Davos on financial conspiracy, or at country crossroads porches down here on who had spilled his Floris on his hankie overnight, then we might send a synopsis to the editorial committee for a ruling on its posting here. We might, but we might also heed these madras warnings and stay away.

  But is a digression of this conjectural nature any cause to abandon our consideration of the next tummy? One should very greatly hope not; and so much so, in fact, that without hesitation the editors have posted, atop this note, some of the most impeccable abs to hammer themselves into the vanishingly taut skin of a vessel of delight since Hephaestus faked a boybelt for Achilles. We know better than to suppose there's a vogue for silver, anymore, with blogging raising the ante past the conceits of the Sun King; but this is a blog about tummy, dearest darlings, and it will see those stale doubloons and raise them parallel gadroons of swirling light.

  Who knows? Ours is a natural world, after all. It might rain at this thing, ushering the whole mob into the servants' quarters - much the loveliest, in their bunkered ranges and fixtures of unquestioned authenticity. And the wines, having all been madeirised in their sojourn in the sun, might make a merry spread for our supper's toast.

  Batik and teak wine service is incongruous around here, but nothing slips the taste of the traveled palate, and no tincture has been spurned in heat prostration. Just when have madras warnings ever been known to be a match for clash, incarnate, that natural lightness of head to be endured as one sleeve extends handshake to another? The scene unfolds as we speak: a lawnful of champagne flutes with pretty straws to slurp tartaric precipitates from the stem; in brief, a native style of travesty at that.

i  Tastevin, Tiffany & Co.

With any more of this weather, we may be compelled to remark on it

Andrew Cooper, you must realise, came to our auditions for O'Hara's Raspberry Sweater with a perfectly serviceable impression of that fruit upon his frame. By mid-morning, as you see, even he was aware, at best, that we could engage him only on the character of our present temperatures, upon which no civil remark can be fashioned.

Indeed, lengths, those reaches of whose greatness many have been known to pursue, to abjure consideration of our weather, are becoming curiouser and curiouser in the protraction of a present caricature of our unfortunate seasonal renown. At such times, it's a toss-up between Winnie the Pooh and naughty Wittgenstein, as to whose reasonableness holds the likelier shelter from that fright of every tea bag of spontaneous effusion. Dawn, indeed, may require confession of these circumstances.

For this evening then, let us band together in denial, our gouty feet defiant on a café chair's vented rest, and celebrate when trousers were required to precipitate that emission to which they gave their name. When people come to us, to ask how we endure it, their incredulity will be so sharp that they will believe anything we tell them.

And is that not the genius of the idiot savant? If it works for Mrs Palin, to hoist a perfect parasol against invasive fact, why should we not aspire for a night to own her bliss?

i  Chabernaud
ii Cooper

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

As every decent coxswain'll tell you

Navigation, as opposed to
flotation, is contingent,
a precarious manoeuvre
relying on a practiced
distribution of wit, mass, and speed.

Remembering liking it

When I could remember liking
doing it, but not what
I had done, I took myself on
walks in the woods around
Litchfield, and to the sea,
off Gloucester and Point Reyes.
Always the scents, always the
sounds, seemed as if they 
could remind me, and let me
in again; temperatures, 
abrasions were my lover.

Not this, you may suppose: but
some paper on what welcomed me
some flimsy paper on what you know, 
some remark, such as everyone 
makes but seems 
so scarce with me.

    Possibly he's saving this,
    a boy who's playing 
    the viola from the

    Possibly he's
    breathing what I'd done.

Connecticut Forest
  and Park Association
Connecticut Walk Book
  Eighth Edition
CFPA, 1970©

Map of Point Reyes
  National Seashore, Tomales
  Bay & Taylor State Parks
Erickson Maps, 1972©

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why isn't it enough, that she demands a bad thing for him?

People speak as if Michelle Bachman
held some legitimate claim to be
in our government, simply because

Are we alive to endure this pretense:
that schadenfreude is not, by definition,
popular? Is her Party so triumphant in
its eradication of all memory, that the
starkest, plainest frenzy to injure looks
like an enthusiasm by any other name?

Were you there, for Reaganism's invention
of the phrase, the general population? 
Were you there, when that won victories
at the polls? Were you there, when men
went blind, by the tens of thousands in
the streets, because this discerning 
government denied their counting,
poisoned cruelly to death by drugs
protected by a patent to draw blood?

Or is there some pretending 
to be safe from her next favour 
to her mob?

Harold Brodkey
Sea Battles on Dry Land
  Notes on American Fascism
op. cit.

Randy Shilts
And the Band Played On
St. Martins Press, 1987©

Larry Kramer
The Normal Heart 
  A Play
Plume, 1985©

"It is next to my flesh, that's why"

It is next to my flesh,
that's why. I do what I want.
And in the pale New Hampshire
twilight a black bug sits in the blue,
strumming its legs together. Mournful


     glass, and daisies closing. Hay 
     swells in the nostrils. We shall go
     to the motorcycle races in Laconia
     and come back all calm and warm.

For me there is an ineradicable element of Nathaniel Hawthorne in the poetry of Frank O'Hara, and not merely for its power of time and place. Ever since adolescence - that unimpeachable age of criticism - there has been a lot of the erotic for me, in the writer who could say in A Blithedale Romance, that there was no petal folded, no dew-drop latent in Zenobia. But then I felt that way then about how the telephone directory gathered all the Smiths in one place, each one an enthralling layer of new oral sensations, with quite a lot of alliteration when one got to Alan. What else was erotic, and may I say ebullient in Hawthorne for me, I did much later find in O'Hara - a self-consciousness of constituting a new voice, and a lack of remorse in doing so; an awareness of being with people who were making a new thing, and one of them.

And there is another reason why one appreciates so very much the poetry of Frank O'Hara. He is from me as distant as I am from the extracts I invoke here; and he didn't reach me by imagining who I'd be. He did his work.

He did his part, you could say. More than as a Fourierist in expressionism's arcadia, he was a villager of time, malgré lui. He did what they do, renewing the invention of the bloodstream.

Frank O'Hara
A Raspberry Sweater
Donald Allen, editor
The Collected Poems
  of Frank O'Hara
op. cit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seems Mrs Palin was right again

Plain as day, there was Paul Revere again, warning the British about our small arms. Amazingly fair-minded chap, our Paul. By land, then, is it?

And how should any of us have doubted her illuminated comprehension? Would Rupert Murdoch just throw away money on some garden variety idiot, when he can seize a country the old fashioned way, by bribery, blackmail, and espionage? But take heart, all ye despairing cynics. The army of the good posture, the spiffy haircut is presently to be among us again; and should we not all be addressing the problem of quartering its troops?

Lunchtime walk ii: "beau rouleau sismique"

Our hottie in the T shirt has entered this compliment on a posting by Lionel André, a dialogue mounted for our fortunate consideration. The two poets are like the rest of us, drawn to the contemplation of trees. In a posting emphasising the tree's woven textures, André adopted the radical step of analogising an elevation of brick and mortar, and working the image to evoke a tree cut or fossilised in isometric section, depicting time within the rings we all know in concentric perspective. It isn't what he did; it's his letting be known what he saw. This was illumination we could hear. 

This vision wants to be and can be heard - and in French, as it was written; particularly the final phrase, which sounds as if it were an aria emanating from a wind instrument without valves, over a single resinous viola note, midflight. Ashbery has caught that string's grip.

Il y a une troupe des petits comédiens en costumes, aperçus sur la route à travers la lisière du bois.

There is a troupe of child actors in costume, seen on the highway through the edge of the forest.

For me a vigorous but also febrile sensitivity is one of the qualities of our hottie in the T shirt, which draws me to a blog which has amassed the seniority, now, of an entire year. One could not have imagined this prodigal giving away of one's own gorgeous dreams. Always, I'm just passing by the edge, admiring what I see inside. Much of what's here is borrowed from him, none of its use is his fault.

Arthur Rimbaud
  Enfance [extract]
John Ashbery, translation
op. cit. 

Lunchtime walk i: "disambiguation"

The buzzword of the hour in Wiki-speak falls inevitably to mind in encountering this seemingly conventional, if not almost rude portrait in monochrome - jaw, nose, clavicle, elbow, wrist, metacarpals and hips disambiguating the familiar sequences in angular stance against the sinuous driftwood found behind, porosity personified except by derivation.

One has seldom seen the folly of the illusion of disambiguation more suavely demonstrated, whether by default or not.


The subtle T-shirt tanline is more extraneous in marking this composition than the driftwood, as declaration of opacity's limitation of permeation, against the superficial foreground grain.

We see the permeability of these 
elements to be incontestable, opacity a veneer of utter vanity against observation, thought, experience and exemplary nature.

Poor Wiki, poorer student. The OED countenances disannul as having the same meaning as the term it would cancel, annul. How like decay to prosper where 
to strip would do just fine,
if not to drain, to clarify.


iv, v  photo, Jean-François Heckers

Bathing at bedtime

We have been postponing our Pushkin, and this is plainly not sustainable. Nabokov gives us the reason, quite unabashedly, in an unforgettable chastisement - 

Pushkin was a brilliant wit (especially so in his correspondence); but he did not shine in the didactic genre, and his indebtedness to the elegant generalities of his time .. is sometimes painfully evident.

Yet in an age whose generalities are drained ever more of elegance by the day, an evening shower in Pushkin can be restorative. 

To live it hurries and to feel it hastes.

Prince Vyazemski, cited by Aleksander Pushkin at the opening of his first chapter of Eugene Onegin.

Then, when tumultuous youth's season for Eugene came, ..

He did understand.

Aleksandr Pushkin
Eugene Onegin
  A novel in verse
Vladimir Nabokov, translation
  and commentary
Bollingen Series LXXII
Princeton University Press, 1975©

Sunday, July 17, 2011

La terra trema

One of the most persistent motifs of male iconography, the boating stripe paradoxically intensifies and desta-bilises perceptions at the same time. In a contemporary image from couture, it exemplifies these effects on every-thing it touches, most proximately the viewer's eye.

In world cinema the discoverer of the boating stripe is Sergei Eisenstein; its settler is Luchino Visconti. He resorted to it in two masterpieces which frame his oeuvre, La Terra Trema and Death in Venice. Impregnably aristocratic yet valiantly radical, Visconti was the natural custodian of a style which is internally redundant and outwardly traditional, yet diagnostic.

The stripe's capacity to emphasise the implicit character in diverse human conditions, is remarkable in a seemingly inflexible device. Not three feet separated from each other, two men may be more exposed, not less, in its adoption, and yet the stripe is not simply dichotomous. 

Its penetrability, rather, allows the radical to adopt it without self-contradic-tion. And because it holds the gaze beyond its usual half-life, its support of expression is more than proportionately magnified. Imagine Tadziu in a solid shirt; he dissolves, not Aschenbach.

Couturiers exploit some of this, painters a great deal of it, either in their own mode or on the canvas. A sweet and pleasing fantasy is, however, only one of its elements. Visconti brought the boating stripe to dramatic narrative, and one doesn't need to ask why. That we feel all its power to unsettle our assumptions is enough.

i, iv  Dirk Bogarde as Aschenbach, Death in Venice

vi     Sicilian cast as crew, La terra trema