Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday commute xlii: When people don't come to the door


   They've probably
   already subscribed.

      But here, early this morning, 

      somebody heard the Mozart 
      Laudate dominum, 6 times.


Friday, September 30, 2011

First, I needed to know what I could get away with

David Lamprey

 and that
 was certainly 

 then I wanted to know
 what I could take

  and I thought
  I'd see who 
  might stay



          not reckoning

  then I came
  home, to see
  if I could
  make it be

    that we might sit
    on the ground
    in sunshine.

Cy Twombly
Fifty days at Illiam
  fire that consumes all
Philadelphia Museum

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'll be seeing you, in all the old, familiar places

I had no notion,
opening this blog,
of undertaking the
production of a
daily publication. 
To this day, have
enjoyed it without
seeing it that way.
It is gorgeous;
but until a lad
wrote in to say,
he enjoyed his
daily jolt, the
pace of the page
had all but es-
caped my notice.

That is not an
expectation rmbl
was intended to
meet. But of 
course, it will
not relent, and
it will still
surprise me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I was out of town over the weekend, with some undergraduates

I spent some time with an American undergraduate of West Indian descent, who'd never heard of Derek Walcott, and also of English descent, who didn't know of Gandhi's genius for exemplary civil disobedience. The squalor of public education in the United States exceeds everything known to me in its capacity to amaze. Because of this nation's enormous vestigial power I regard the steadily deteriorating sense of history among its elites as an international emergency, and I have not been reluctant to name names of gangsters who depend upon it, for their corruption of our judgment and their exploitation of our people's good will. 

Naturally, I did not direct my scholarly acquaintance to this page's references to Gandhi and Walcott; one's isolation in Virginia is acute enough. Rather, I asked him what he would like to see fixed, that seems to him a disorder in his world. 

He said, the failure of his university to achieve his high school's harmonisation (integration, an indispensable consensus in America for three generations, until flouted by the Roberts Court) in the student population. I asked him, how he saw himself - English? West Indian? 

"I'm black," he answered impatiently; and when I responded that there are any number of ways of being that, he smiled and said, "Yes, but we'll never get that far."

This page has its reasons for rejecting that isolating assumption, which go directly to the capacity of this nation to govern itself rationally and to protect its people equitably. For my three undergraduate summers, when we were pursuing our versions of the Grand Tour, I was compiling my own motorcycle diaries at college, teaching high school boys literature and their history. They were from Trenton, Newark, Hightstown, New Brunswick. But we never got that far. They were all black.

Where is the shore of the heart of darkness? What is the beach, where it can be penetrated? We could give learning any number of place names, but here are two resources which propose a single method, instead; and it is plainly not a bad beginning. I refer readers of Joseph Conrad, and viewers of Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah to Elizabeth Avedon's globally vital blog, for an indispensable recent report from Ghana. And I refer readers of Peter Matthiessen to Ivan Terestchenko's several recent postings on East Africa. Let the camera connect the dots. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The musical ear v. the deformations of flattery

My late mother-in-law's gift for euphemism was so advanced, it was possible to relish the most sardonic cut and the soothingest substitution of subject in one of her remarks, as facets of a single polished thought. This can be explosive, when maturity's perspective intersects with youth's plentiful dilemmas. One could certainly have lived with that woman, but for matrimony's fatal weakness for the wrong generation. Still, as I stumble about life's redundant desert to this day, I ponder the compliment she paid me once, of having a musical ear. I think she was referring to an innocent susceptibility in my accent, to the tone prevailing in my last place of sleep (I was frequently in California, while she was in darkest New York); but I don't rule out, she was praising my hypocrisy in plain sight.

People who hasard the publication of writing ought strenuously to ignore their readers' assessments, at least where venturing into remote demographics. If they have a musical ear, they risk quickly being drawn and quartered. I have readers who want fewer pictures; I have readers who want fewer words. I have readers who want fewer syllables - and these are the readers who survived the previous waves of emigration from the page; but now, for some imponderable half-life of a newly discovered element, I have readers from Canada, who do this stuff very well in a freer format. Naughty Robbie Rosses, if you will, natural rhetoricians of the wordless throat, spelling doom in one's seduction by their eloquence -- who call for less of everything. I like my hypocrisy to be accused, not shown.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Where should we turn but to Paris

Ciné and
Ernst Lubitsch

To the city that gave us radium,
pasteurisation, and the first
honest map of the human immune
deficiency virus, to say
nothing of the little black
dress, the largest holdings
in Greece's bonded debt, and
the boulevard, itself:

with awe we turn again
to the house of Dior,
for the adjustable rate
waistband, with no taint
of elastic to offend the
ethos of le smoking as we
know it: tailored with a
witty secondary pouch,
coct for convenient resort 
without deformation in the
global credit system.

Who can doubt, then, that
fashion's final frontier -
the homologation of the
snapping turtle - is just
around the corner?

I think it must be fair
to say, very few of us
have not known the pain
of leaving our snapper
behind. Now that we can
see, that the well-
rounded man has the at-
tention of Dior, what
room is there for fear?

i-ii Nikolas Sachs

Yes, I do feel there is room for daring in the natural shoulder

We observe the social climb
that goes on all about us
as a quest for a ratifying
structure. To the couturier, 
this is ancient news.
He was not the first to see
the allure of a benign tyranny
in our own form; but he was
shrewd to grasp its renew-
ability in our resistances. 

Before any discernment, of 
hallmarks of the classical 
in original expression in 
couture, the experience of 
resistance is revived by 
evidence of novelty. The 
underlying tyranny is ref-
reshed, its allure recons-
tituted, in rhetoric 
embraced almost as one's 
own act of expression.

                                          .. But I know
         Why the other one frightens me. He is the question
         about whether the loves were phantoms of what existed
         as appearance only. I know how easily they come,
         summoned by our yearning. I realise the luminosity
         can be a product of our heart's furnace. It would
         erase my life to find I made it up. ..

Jack Gilbert
The Dance Most of All
  Becoming Regardless
op. cit. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A difficult vintage, or a false one?

The paradox of the
superior vintage
is to be no less
beset by temptation
than the off years.
When conditions fur-
nish the most perfect
ripening of the fruit,
there is the tempta-
tion to overcrop it,
reducing its vigour;
to sell it on the fame
of its year, or to al-
low its potential al-
cohol to overwhelm its
acidity, to boast: one
has the biggest red on
the block. It will fade,
and it should.

In equivocal vintages,
such as ours this year,
additives of potential
alcohol (plain sugar),
acids, off-the-shelf
tannins and infusions
of oak tempt one to de-
ceptions against the
hard work of hand sel-
ection of the fruit,
for an inevitably small
return on investment,
with nevertheless
estimable wine.

Viticulture is full of
difficult vintages and
good people, and very
few unambiguous prin-
ciples. The cultiva-
tion of ignorant de-
mand is anathema to 
the vigneron. But in
this country, a market
based still in saloons
exerts great pressure on
winegrowers; with fewer
louts, the palate would 
be better developed,
and it would appreciate
the character of time's
convergence with place,
from which there is wine.

I observe temptation in
viticulture, to tamper
with that convergence, 
as leading time and again
to the defeat of elegance.

The farmer is the first 
to be moved unbearably 
to decry that consequence, 
and not just because his 
love and that of his ances-
tors, or his living and 
that of his dependents are 
so exposed. There is nothing 
ambivalent about the claims 
upon his soul. He is not 
a winegrower by necessity. 

Elegance, he knows, is supple 
enough for compromise, but not 
for contempt. Possibly he has
always lived in that time and
in that place, where popular 
vulgarity tested his soul. If 
he lives here and now, he knows 
acutely and fatalistically that
the invisible hand is a poor
artist and a tragic husband, 
but excitable and obdurate.

We have to concede, the
integrity and structure 
of wines are a bellweth-
er of their culture; the 
mystical allusion, terroir 
appropriately surveys this 
variable. The winegrower 
can shape structuring var-
iables within the limits 
available to the educator,
in loco parentis; he is
aware of this model, and
that his wine depends up-
on his embrace of it. 
But he can seldom develop 
taste in the taster or def-
end the emergence of beauty
against inclement consump-
tion. Other ages, other cul-
tures, other visions pour 
his soul. And how has this 
always been done?   

            Counting from the vintage of 1785: 
            Son Altesse Sérénissime has the goodness
            to accord to Étienne Magnien, vigneron of
            La Romanée, an augmentation of ten livres,
            .. on condition that he cultivates the vines
            with the greatest of care .. S.A.S. desires
            not a large quantity of wine, but of quality.
            You know that a vine overcharged with fruit
            produces only a mediocre wine. Please tell
            the vigneron to prune the vines accordingly.
            Such is Monseigneur's ultimate wish ..

            Memorandum of the Prince de Conti
            3 May 1786

Richard Olney
Romanée - Conti
  The world's most fabled wine
Flammarion, 1991©
Richard Olney, translation
Rizzoli, 1995©

vi Benjamin A. Huseby, photography
     Bolshoi youth