Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday commute xlv: toward the boating stripe

Tolerant readers (are there any other kind?
will recall a Summer digression on the boat-
I invoke that classic in the way others 
resort to the white flag, not of surrender 
but of truce, which I really feel like ex-
ploiting to my private delight and that of 
my dog, this weekend, and to the relief - 
one can only hope - of those who keep up 
with what the page churns out from day to 
day. It's October in Virginia, and believe 
me, if the place has the slightest excuse, 
this is it. For us, to go down to the wa-
ter, represents not the slightest paradox.

Next weekend, of course, are the Montpelier
Hunt Races. Please do not imagine, we would
miss them.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Is it possible that Canada is timing our annexation just right?

The underlying arithmetic of the founding of our Empire - that is, dear wanderers, the United States - having haunted us since day one, a nagging anxiety to annex the great wastes to the north, never forgetting their oil, their endearing Mounties, and their French cuisine - has plagued our statesmen and designers now for centuries. A simple illustration portrays the dilemma of our inception, as one of too few entities - a scant 13, where 2 or 3 more would have made our portrait so suitable for daytime viewing. Ultimately, of course, we hasarded an adventure of militarism in that direction, only to be rebuffed and sent packing, Mr Madison the first to grab a cab home to Virginia. But what was especially telling about the War of 1812, was the jubilation of our most compulsively martial sector.

Yet why, indeed, should this have been, with the South having furnished so many of the illuminati of our founding? Who ever would have dreamed of our republic's emulation of autocracies' wars, with such impassioned peaceableness in our excuses? But in fact it was a passing nationalist phase, stoked by a string of headstrong Virginian presidencies, which generated that rising clamour, which led our great Federalist advocate Mr Webster to render judgment on our intemperate outbursts to the present day: there is in the nature of things an unchangeable relation between rash counsels and feeble execution. 

Now, however, with Governor Perry's generous offer to remove Texas from our equation, we naturally thirst for petroleum replenishment and grazing vastnesses, to say nothing of superior dining. Et voilà, the bilingual gem of every aperture to splash a flash of light upon the film plane, already permeable of border, is now so elegantly integrated in its administration as to be approached on the matter of our absorption. Heretofore, the indelicacy of asking anyone to host Texas has proved a sticking point in any dream of consolidation. With that thorn's removal, what is not possible, in reaching a becoming amalgam of our provinces?

I know, I know. We can all hear the objections - well, this simply won't do: Canada has never committed an act of aggression in its history - and there is, to be fair, much to be said against this oversight. But shall we not, our-selves, take heart in our indignant numbers, and the consolation that we shall certainly be hauling South Carolina with us, and all of Wall Street, too? Possibly never, you may come to reason, will a State have been so roused from its unmanliness, since the Norman conquest. I put it to you in the simplest terms, and beg you to divine the defect: going in, as Canadians, is there any limit to the dominion we might wreak, as Americans?

Well you may query, the bona fides of a suggestion such as ours, from a page so absorbed in gentler matters than imperial aggrandisement. But the clock of Canada's abiding patience with us, like Apollo's with Achilles, has run its course in the rubber-stamping of our wars, and with the maladministration of our purse. To fail to heed Canada's implicit standing offer, to redeem ourselves in its embrace, at the very moment when Texas is so willing to be excused from our endurance, would not only be to sustain the shrivelling impoverishment of our fig leaf, but to confess our alienation from the Greeks. Just as idiot Helen vows to confine herself to the Gulf of Mexico, will Athena turn her down?

Alan Taylor
Knopf, 2010©

Sean Wilentz
The Rise of American Democracy
  Jefferson to Lincoln
Norton, 2005©

iii-vii  Dorian Reeves

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sumptuous friction

Poetry, Durrell suggests beneath a cypress tree on Rhodes, attempts to provide the link between the muddled inner man with his temporal preoccupations and the uniform flow of the universe outside .. everyone is conscious of these impulses; but the poets are the only people who do not drive them off.

Dry friction of cicada from the palm tree across the road. Eucalyptus leaves breaking their wrists with a small click as they begin to plane down over the tombstones. The maceration of pebbles by seawater, mingling with the noise of coffee being ground, and the shearing noise of a pot being scrubbed. An inventory of sounds from a late morning walk.

Lawrence Durrell belongs to the soul of a people of a natural disposition. Virgil's famous incantation in the Georgics - show me the journey of stars through heaven - is his spontaneously, as in the whispering sweep of a jacket from the shoulders of a welcome guest.


Lawrence Durrell
Reflections on a Marine Venus
  Orientations in Sunlight
  In the Garden of the Villa Cleobolus
Faber & Faber, 1953©

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beyond rhetoric

  No part doesn't speak,
  no part doesn't hear.
  Utterance and resonance,
  indivisibly confided;
  interchanging music
  of our means.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

While we were out

Contemplating the racist, xenophobic, scabrous and, at long last, candidly neo-Confederate movement styling itself as a Tea Party, is not even remotely an inclination of this page. More and more, how-ever, I find the positive, progressive pages of which I know - The Slab and Little Augury, notably excepted - failing our obligation to readers whose education we know to have been so castrated of history as to impose a duty of reasonable care. 

This movement has gained possession of the only political party which stands to benefit from the incumbent President's manifestly deserved unpopularity. Not constituting any form of Hobson's choice, yet poised for unprecedented monstrosities, the Republican Party now openly vows to ruin all it can of the United States in which the pre-Reaganite generations grew up. This party, wholly indebted to the un-Reconstructed lower middle class and ignorant nouveaux riches beneficiaries of oil prices and the Clinton boom, detests that country; and that country, saddled with an Executive of shocking frailty, deserves defense by comment now, more than ever since the centuries of African enslavement.

And to think, today's posting was to have been on the loveliness of a sunrise glass of orange juice in Ocho Rios, but for the Collect of the Day in The New York Times. Merely to mention Jamaica, of course, is to revive memories of Nancy and Ronnie's first-ever State Dinner (and weren't they darling), fulsomely bestowed upon Jamaica's new prime minister, Edward Seaga, after bitter years of Kissinger's covert war on Michael Manley's progressive government. How a Jamaican could dine at the White House to celebrate the political cleansing of his nation, with that amiable instigator of so many Central American assassinations and massacres, is rather beyond the ordinary conception of diplomacy - unless, needless to say, he were ours.

But I stray, into well-tilled fields of unanimous consent, in what I supposed must be an entry of argumentation. Now, exploiting the lust of its base for hallucination, leading Republicans are demanding, inter alia, (a) the closure of a Court (the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) whose founding is unrepealable, and (b) the removal of equal rights to matrimony from the jurisdiction of any judiciary, inscribed in the Constitution as one of the few conclusive and responsible outcomes of the defeat of slaveholding secession. 

"Grounds for celebration," you say; and I'm not far behind. Fewer laws, happier parties, after all. It used to be, of course, that the Party of xenophobia and bigotry would campaign on such dementia to rally its base, and then govern dimly within the purview of preced-ent and pragmatism. No longer. Down the road, we have a zealot dandy in Richmond who is running this Party in the House, to destroy the United States as the creature of the Union that he loathes. I know him, and he knows I know him. His protectors read this page. (Hi, guys; country ham biscuits are on the porch). What they say, they mean to do.

Now, of course, the removal of the Equal Protection of the laws from the purview of the Yankee judiciary really can not be done, without precipitating a crisis foretold in Marbury v. Madison, settling judicial review in this country for centuries. But what do these ignorant thugs have to fear; the less one knows, the more one can fantasise. And they fantasise very, very big. It's wondrously sweet of them to credit homophiles with the keys to their kingdom, when before it was card-carrying Communists, and before that, organised wage-earners. But you know, they don't care what they fear, so long as they can claim vengeance.

This calls for some dynamite orange juice, and the laving wash of the supplest tides. But let's drive a belated stake through the depravity of the Confederacy, first. Then we can find our peace with Jamaica. You and I, if we know anything, know this will not come cheap. How much, then, we can risk by not resisting these people, is what we can afford to lose of ourselves. They are the Party defeated at Appomattox. They are the Party which exulted in the gay men's health crisis as their own vengeance. They are the Party reduced to using us to revive their humiliation. We embody their unadmitted damnation by history. Let them see us, everywhere.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The murder with which we can get away

If you would like to resort in your blog to the kind of imagery which drives critics to boast of swank hotels, I suggest that you feign an erotically anarchic disposition. Nothing so rings the bourgeois bell of alarm, as a perfectly ordinary guy in a rattan chair, without his clothes on. By way of illustration of this menace, I invoke a recent posting from a tumblr found in our Context, on which a quiz will be given in due course. Bear in mind, then, the gravamen of the offense: it is the assertion of privilege, by universally accessible means. But has any inequity flourished in an erotically equable milieu?

You can always tell when you're in a repressed environment, by the number of naked limbs a portrait projects. At 4 (the known maximum, to date), this portrait plainly intervenes in a culture of acute genital rejection, so starved by Google's vigilante threshold of "abuse" that herz und mund und tat und leben, itself, rings hollow without its demonstrative faculties. But the internet is such a spectacle of liberty that no one really minds, that the rentier which controls its water supply is so cautious. 

The paradox of repression's contradictions is too famous to recite on a Monday, and would be pointless to recall in a page of such conventional limits as ours. Rather, one writes to pass along two considerations. The first, is simply an accident of joy, forever: and that is that we can all sit to épatez les bourgeois. The second is a masculine corollary, and it is that we will. I introduce this portrait to celebrate the incurable fact that we will disport ourselves in every posture under the sun, merely to celebrate that we can. It's a beautiful thing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Some Sundays

    might begin
    at the Mark Hopkins


   where there would
   be talk

  eight bells.