Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday commute xxxiv: Thomas Isermann in the dunes

Have we given any thought, to what they'll think of us, at White's, as we raise the inherent question? (Raw envy, will do as a start). And there we are, on a Saturday, exploring some bluffs with a friend from out of town: Yes, you can see Cypress Point from here; Yes, that is the Peninsula down there; Yes, the whales really seem disportive this afternoon.

In the brain death, to which we have all contributed in our adaptations of an image to some nobler purpose, Isermann intervenes as something of an inconvenience, cloaked in a suspension almost colloidal in its instability. He has inflicted that effect here, frequently, and with the gods' consent, probably will ultimately wreck the place.

Tell you what, Tom. It's going to get pretty windy up here; best to move along.

And thank heavens, we do. But we were there, in the dunes, with Thomas Isermann. As we have said, we forget nothing. And this doesn't even come close. 

So, chin up. You might write a blog someday, on scarcity, and how much more it teaches you than luxury. To which, of course, no ob-jection need prevail ..

With this entry, we open yet another oblique research tab for our "Matter" listing, provoked by a page which heaps one test upon another of our endurance of California. Not that there are not other things to read about, there; but everywhere, its ambient menace sets a fragrant context you can sense without a word. We've declared, it's safe to touch our page. I wouldn't go that far with this one.

How can you sell doughnuts and not open 'til eleven?

Some deal.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Suppose it were Friday vi: would you come with me to scarcity?

A London dining club is a curious organism, for it combines great tenacity of life with a chameleon-like tendency to change its colour. A club which begins as a haunt of roysterers may end as a blameless academic fraternity; another, which at the start is a meeting-place of the intelligent, becomes in the progress of time a select coterie of sportsmen. So it has been with the institution of which I am the chronicler .. its dinners are admirable .. it has enlarged its interests, and would not now refuse a Lord Chancellor or a Bishop. 

But in its infancy it was different. Founded just after the close of the War by a few people who had been leading queer lives and wanted to keep them together, it was a gathering of youngish men who met only for reminiscences and relaxation .. the food and wine were execrable, hence the name of the Runagates Club, given it .. from the verse in the 68th Psalm:

     'He letteth the runagates continue in scarceness'.

In an - almost relentlessly, you could say - outwardly charmed life, one has repeatedly found oneself nestled snuggestly among others of that complaint, who nevertheless find each other, as renegades in spirit, for merriment upon the most vulnerable elements of the heart. This starts with Mr Porter, admiring a resiliency - a valour, in him - commensurate with his wit. I do not mind citing John Buchan, seemingly unpresentable amongst today's enlightened scruples, on the nugget of that treasure, who is the friend in whom a scarcity must always live. For us, the ostensibly slender 'something' becomes a sociable spur, the residual legacy flourishes, and we embrace it.

But not with ambivalence. With clear-headed consciousness of its vitality. For toastings, at an Important Birthday celebration of a dear friend, I wrote, truthfully,

     You're an Owl,
     You're a Knickerbocker,
     You're a towel
     In a Folsom locker ..

And so he is; and so every cummerbund or watch chain rippled in the candlelight to laughter bred of pure affection. We did not fret that, somewhere, outside, people might scorn our adaptation of a happy song. We were where it had come from,

     You're the rave
     On a weekend A list,
     You're a slave
     To a motorcyclist

Bohemian cheek in that, but not un-Cole. The vital jest comes naturally, for navigation, not just flotation in some scarcity in which we all participate, but against that reduction of ourself that isn't ours.

Every cluster such as this, Buchan so presciently remarks, evolves and changes. I anticipate and will welcome that here; for as the blog goes on, it cannot expect its readership not to recombine, and it could not go on if that didn't. Yet who is not here, to reach out, to explain, to aver, to suggest, to tease, to play, remonstrate and fall on his face, but - always - to celebrate a scarcity. This page has no abhorrence for luxury, but it has nothing to give. 

That scarcity will not move. And just as well, for it is not merely beautiful. It is our nourishment.

John Buchan
The Runagates Club
Houghton Mifflin, 1928©

Cole Porter
Anything Goes
  You're the Top

iv, v  Marcus Zierke

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"A figure of unfinished invention," I have been called


.. but I've been on a journey that I'm grateful for, a year at tomorrow's dawn, an ostensible occasion. I do not believe in occasions, I believe in what we do; and on this day, forgetting that exer-tion, I must say I'm glad to be home to remember those moments, a year ago, before that embarkation did take place; home with some things I've brought back, very sweetly saved for my perusal and reflection. 

I'm not racing any more today. I have a friend with big, black eyes to see, and featherings to groom, bursting in his frame to hear his name, and show me how to play.

i  Beth Nelson

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today in LA

So Virgil's bouldered stream
exceeds its bed, and contemplates
correction in the gesture where
we're led -

by a reader's contribution of a
canvas lately catching his eye
in Amsterdam, in travels as an
architect ~

soon he'll be in Mougins,
having lunch for me

does fortune cry, nay nay to me?

P. Gaye Tapp
Little Augury
July 27, 2011

Cole Porter
I Concentrate on You
Ella Fitzgerald
op. cit.

Gerard ter Borch
ca 1655

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Because they don't stop very well

You have probably noticed, too, that a mental construct does not stop very well. Almost without exception, the raw materials and witnesses of the thoughts of this page appear precariously inclined toward a decay of coherency when captured in repose. This, one discovers, is more truly what we mean when we say we sense a decadence in their arrest; but while decay or disintegration is a fact, decadence is a term of art invented by a degenerate will to see. But if sight were not such a close cousin to language, one cannot doubt that our world would snap into less resisted focus.

The same is famously no less true of fine edifices, which only appear to interrupt their dance for our convenience. Stasis is painful to the searching character of Monticello, Katsura Villa, and the Salk Institute, as we observe upon the instant of our slightest movement. Because movement in our perspective excites or tracks movement in our subject, we appreciate the unstable and the contingent as much as fluency in design, as an endowment of necessary capability. But it is movement, that we are celebrating, exactly as Rossellini said we would.
Of all of one's debts to the sources of this page, their natural validation by movement rises to the top. Yet to learn from them, we have to place them within a frame, so we resort to an implement whose genius is to interpose the least delay between perception and assimilation. Every picture of one's own at this page was made possible in critical ways, by this device. Yet the participation of a machine is only a universal element of discourse in this medium; it can expose the means, not the substance, of our perception.
To pare delay so auspiciously in text, is to approach axiomatic generalisation, as in Heraclitus, at rising cost in texture. But the principle of movement is preserved by the elegant means of his gift for framing interruption. Interpose a line between a figure and a daunting light, and you will feel character, because you have changed the rhythm.

The complaint cannot be with the image, only with the line, which is language. It's almost healing, in a time of language's most anguished civic debauch, to beg for it to mean nothing, like the evidence barring the door between war and peace, Laffer curves and public debt, snobbery and gentility. But you and I, sitting here, are not brain-dead to implication; and I hope not to the first sense we acquired, touch.

Touch the page; it's OK. I know of no one in whom its plain-spoken evidence is distrusted. Use a common sense, to restore demand for evidence, the pathway through the lurid glare.

i    James Dean, late film actor
iii  Leica III-f 35mm film camera

George Orwell
Why I Write
  Politics and the English Language
Penguin, 2004©

"Nor streams that race adown their bouldered beds"

breath of our friends

Therewithal at my behest 
Shall Lyctian Aegon and Damoetas sing,
And Alphesiboeus emulate in dance
The dancing Satyrs. This, thy service due,

Shalt thou lack never, both when we pay the Nymphs
Our yearly vows, and when with lustral rites
The fields we hallow. 

Long as the wild boar
Shall love the mountain-heights, and fish the streams,
While bees on thyme and crickets feed on dew,
Thy name, thy praise, 
thine honour, shall endure.

Even as to Bacchus and to Ceres, so
To thee the swain his yearly vows shall make;
And thou thereof, like them, shalt quittance claim.

How, how repay thee for a song so rare?
For not the whispering south-wind on its way
So much delights me, nor wave-smitten beach,

Authorities anxiously tell us, that among the poems of Virgil, The Eclogues are his most puerile. It puts one in mind of the deficiencies of the Hope Diamond, against the Burton. But I question if this is so, because I love them, and I value that I met them when alerted to the rolling, Lucullan wonder of language. I, Laurent, am but acquainting myself with affections which, it seems, can comprehend my breath. And should I find finer zephyrs to shape it as I would, myself, to my awe with its gift, I shall embrace them, fiercely, as my friends. Possibly, to subdue internal demagogues is a stride toward the republic which is safe. That is the essence of Virgil.

Eclogues, V [fragment]
Fairclough, translation
Loeb Classical Library, 1916©

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Vesperae Solennes de Confessore
  Laudate Domine
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Sir Colin Davis
op. cit.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Call me by my name

A man and his hobby-horse, tho' I cannot say that they act and re-act exactly after the same manner in which the soul and body do upon each other: Yet doubtless there is a communication between them of some kind; and my opinion rather is, that there is something in it more of the manner of electrified bodies - and that, by means of the heated parts of the rider, which come immediately into contact with the back of the Hobby-Horse - 

by long journeys and much friction, it so happens that the body of the rider is fill'd as full of Hobby-Horsical matter as it can hold; so that if you are able to give but a clear description of the nature of the one, you may form a pretty exact notion of the genius and character of the other.

In truth, my uncle Toby mounted him with so much pleasure, and he carried my uncle Toby so well - that he troubled his head very little with what the world either said or thought about it.

In the last few days of this year of Laurent's 'life and opinions', I interrupt him for remarks I'll not allow him to hear. I have been taken by his manifestation of an unexpectedly autonomous spirit, and quite possibly only my obligations to him have sustained my study of its emergence. I am glad that they have, because he has been teach-ing me something which seldom presents itself in one's limestone canyons of assumption. He has taught me respect, a word so much befouled by protestations of tolerance that I'm glad I learned its meaning from him, instead. I refer to that openness which can allow one to receive what another has to give. I had nothing to do with that. His name is Laurent, not mine.

Laurence Sterne
The Life and Opinions of
  Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
op. cit.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A sabbath, like any other

If there is a virtue to any of those days, widely reserved as a sabbath, could it lie in learning the release of time within oneself? We don't know a meditative approach to this, living with an English dog, but naturally a tactile one suggests what's in our reach. How do those nourishings of time conduct their universal distribution in our frame, to let the elbow bend and the fingers still feel, and even reach each other, out of sight?

The project of time is so very ordinary, its allowed expenditure for us inspires odd perfect-ings, as if of title by our own acts and purchases, trying to mark its way. Astrophysics is indifferent to this play; while, braceleted or not, the residue of time's birth is making and unmaking all the figures we resemble, every one impartially constructed.

The narrative of these figures is that of the popinjay impulse, indifference of time notwith-standing; yet with this creative force at work, we speak of good and not-good consequences, as if they existed. This is a sabbath-like confection, an exclusionary purchase, marking time. Contemplating the inconvenience of an infinite number of such confections, these figures contrive the illusion of an Arbiter - the gaudiest descendant of the incongruous claim to time. Waiter, bring me shad roe.

Cole Porter
Let's Do It
Ella Fitzgerald
op. cit.

Perils of multi-tenant housing: the awkward hours

The thump of the Sunday Times
at your door.

Just when you thought it safe
to venture out for the wedding 
of the week, somebody shows up
to borrow the book review. And
what is this world coming to?

As if that weren't enough, he wonders if he mightn't borrow your shaver, resonating through the wall.

And, oh yes, by the way, just in case you aren't at the moment using your father's Mark Cross chinning gloves ..

or thought you might be able to take in a quiet swim, without drawing the entire human race into a traffic jam at this ostensibly private gym ..

but please don't even ask why he doesn't seem to have any hot water, not that you've been showering at unusual length ..

and don't say we didn't warn against a breakfast on the balcony, that's the slightest bit aromatic ..

so it would be only too gruesome, under the circumstances, to coun-tenance resort to the elevators.