Saturday, January 14, 2012

Please, let's go to Wilton's, and insist they bake a pie

Saturday commute liii: between cabañas

At the present pace, rmbl will very shortly mark its thousandth posting, as I hadn't noticed until only this week, consulting the records on another matter. I found myself, surprised, if one could prolong this instant of disclosure a little more, to have come so far by going, by my own compass, rather closer to nowhere than I would have expected. The issue of trying to articulate a frame of reference, to one's own satis-faction at least, had taken a much more protracted turn than applying that frame to one's interests. I am compelled to admit that I seem to be attached to this frame of reference as an interest.

Between the imprint of a seeming erogenous aspect of the page, and a flatly sentimental one, I seem to walk a tightrope in almost all of these postings, between two cabañas at the same beach. Their propinquity must have led to a great deal of confusion among readers, whose clarification the blog form resists. Anyone can hop one of these streetcars at any stop, ride to the next, and wave off. Someone may see a service-able deltoid in the portrait above; but it is there, to depict the state of mind observed along-side. Yet, bring me an alternative portrayal of that state of mind, and I must still screen it for energy, delineation, and depth.

The commuter marks, then, an inordinate dilation on frame of reference above other interests, and a deferred scrutiny of any two cabañas. This is not a recipe for another thousand postings, at least under this aegis. This is none of the reader's concern, of course; but a blog may adopt this voice from time to time. This is not a blog of creativity; it is a blog of criticism. I love those goddies, Beth and Valéry, who carry that thing off with a radiant light, and Ivan, who gets away with criticism on top of it. Maybe I could do that but life has lent my nature to something else. It's not very complicated, it's just slow. If you are looking for its bloom here, I am not.

We seem to have lived in the persons of our forefathers; it is the labor and reward of vanity to extend the term of this ideal longevity. Our imagination is always active to enlarge the narrow circle in which nature has confined us. 

I am plainly not looking to live here, for this is not a creative blog; and lives do make themselves. The ideal longevity I am trying to extend is hypothetical and prospective, because I do not live in a world where I wish to die; and I am irreconcilable to sagac-ity, that I should love it more. I love it quite well enough. I blog for a world where my life will not have to be lived. But I happen to be impressed by many things I should be sorry not to find in this prospective world, and I honestly don't mean Billy Baldwin's zebra. I mean, the even smaller things, the little treasures of a text, the panoply of things you remember all at once when you study an eye you love.

I was guiding a classmate down the corridor to my office one day, over-looking Nob Hill and the Golden Gate, when I answered a pleasant question of his, Oh, I don't know if I'm gay, or just neurotic. This brought the guffaw I knew and loved, and grew to expect in zillions of good-night drop-in's during our years at college; so I record it here as illustrative of a life that shouldn't necessarily have to be perpetuated, to satisfy the blogger at this page. There's no doubt, these figures stand in for some continuity of expression here, but I wouldn't go so far as to trouble them for an I.D. They are going to get along just fine without rmbl.

But I was a very young man at the time that I said this, and I wouldn't hold a reader to the assumption that it rep-resents a present view. Whatever may be said for a moyen that is so expe-ditious and efficient, I'm far from being in a position to be one of its seers, and never did propose to be. Still, to be merely neurotic tends to stifle coherency. 

And who can deny, that an obfuscating glare is the most constant complaint of readers? Between naps lately, I've been freshening up on solid citizens of prose, and I can tell you, Mr Gibbon is a real tonic. At the same time, commuting between cabañas, I notice that the page has often employed a kind of shorthand symbolism which is vulnerable to misconstruction. Still, we do think it's possible to show a face without having to beg, Where's the rest of me? I've learned to doubt that readers come here for me, but if I can slip in a kind word for Gibbon's autobiography along the way, I'm likely still to try.

Is there not always a glare, Mr Gibbon, from the enlargement of a narrow circle? Is this an effect of extension's part in our defeat of narrowness?

We are still a riotously young page, in Context. A non-committalism may or may not be becoming, but a premature attachment satisfies no one. If you should chance upon the thousandth posting here, it is very likely to resemble the others; but it will have your eye, and be grateful for it.

Edward Gibbon
The Autobiography
  of Edward Gibbon
op. post.
Dero A. Saunders, editor
Meridian Books, 1961©

Friday, January 13, 2012

Suppose it were Friday li: we might share a more beautiful picture

Had I never been struck before,
by the aberrancy of following
the Great Men of our nation,
chasing each other across our
land for preferments that they
crave, by spreading terror in
their wake, I would be drawn 
into any schoolroom where I've
sat to gain respect and under- 
standing of the human being.

Sometimes I get caught up in
a kind of puzzled wonder at
things and think of all the
work and effort and unlimited
money that is used today to
'destroy' and not so long ago
there was no money or work and
it seems so wrong somehow ..
that money and effort could al-
ways be found to pull down and
destroy rather than build up.

This could have been written by any American at the expiration of the Cold War, so endlessly quiescent under end-less spending for war, so docile as towns and bridges and roads and manu-factures collapsed, capital turning from production to scavenging, from expanding society to shrinking it, from creation to consolidation.

That letter was written by a middle-aged house-wife in Lancashire, England, in the summer of 1940. Max Hastings cited it to illustrate the point that Churchill's wartime leadership of Great Britain had its very deep limitations in the aspirations of his people. I happen to think these limitations to Republican panics will decide this election.

So where do they go, but to 
South Carolina to scare the 
faithful about a war on the 
church, to shout the closest 
allusion they can dare to a 
Nat Turner in the White House, 
and to discuss marriage as a 
nourishment of grudges. They 
are doing this to control the 
people's wealth, to turn the 
Treasury of the United States 
into a protection racketeer's 
dream come true.

But there comes a question in
in the schoolroom, and again,
the beautiful picture.

Max Hastings
All hell let loose
  Britain Alone
op. cit.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

After NH, you know, I went out for a cone

    Nought seemed too hard for us to do
    But the sums upon our slates;
    Nought seemed too hard for us to win
    But the master's chair of state.
    The "Town of Troy" we tried and made
    When our sums we could not try,
    While we envied e'en the sparrow's wings
    From our prison house to fly.

    When twelve o'clock was counted out
    The joy and strife began,
    The shut of books, the hearty shout
    As out of doors we ran.
    Sunshine and showers who could withstand,
    Our food and rapture they;
    We took our dinner in our hands
    To lose no time to play ..

No one would promise me that our poor Newt would be OK if he didn't win, and that the persecution of the Christians would not go on, as he warns it does. No one would prom-ise me that our darling Mitt would not have to suffer grievously for growing up exempt from guilt, only now to be exhibited for banditry.

Oh, and I know what you're thinking: that this must be some dismal political comment (can you stand it), corrupting the sweet-ness of an honest cone of forget-fulness in Clare with a swoon of his depression. But no, my dears; for are we not, now again, in the midst of that Party of Anguish's umbrage toward the senses we were born with? Is not the highwayman now back, tuh-lot, tuh-lot, to teach us tender truths of his temerity toward our ever being free of pillage, paranoia, and prophets misconstrued? Yes, I went out for a cone, and yes, I lapt it with elation for recess of obliga-tion to their tears.

John Clare
"I Am," The Selected Poetry
  of John Clare
Jonathan Bate, editor
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003©

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter inventories

    I'll get the fire if
    you'll do the coffee.

 Is there
 any marmalade?

"For herself, avowedly, the world had always interested her .."

For herself, avowedly, the world had always interested her and the study of her fellow creatures been her constant passion. 

She would have been willing, however, to renounce all her curiosities and sympathies for the sake of a personal life, if the person concerned had only been able to make her believe it was a gain! 

This at least was her present conviction; and the thing certainly would have been easier than to care for society as Osmond cared for it.

He was unable to live without it, and she saw that he had never really done so .. He had his ideal, just as she had tried to have hers; only it was strange that people should seek for justice in such different quarters. His ideal was a conception of high prosperity and propriety, of the aristocratic life, which she now saw that he deemed himself always, in essence at least, to have led. He had never lapsed from it for an hour; he would never have recovered from the shame of doing so .. 

Her notion of the aristocratic life was simply the union of great knowledge with great liberty; the knowledge would give one a sense of duty and the liberty a sense of enjoyment .. 
She had resisted of course; at first very humourously, ironically, tenderly; then, as the situation grew more serious, eagerly, passionately, pleadingly. She had pleaded the cause of freedom, of doing as they chose, of not caring for the aspect and denomination of their life - the cause of other instincts and longings, of quite another ideal.

Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady
  Chapter XLII
Knopf, 1991©

i, iii, v  Little Augury

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Exercising our option to ignore the other news

We are not undemanding, are we

Don't we make a study of faces?
We have hopes, that we bring to
faces, and not to pictures of
anything else. I'm sure this has
been written about, but I have
not read the book or the essay,
some few excepted. I am remiss;
I've spent more time reading in
the philosophy and psychology
of hearing - in which, also, 
there is nothing obvious - and
too little in the study of our
study of faces. I would not care
to be an expert in the matter,
surprise and mystery and delight
being as important as they are
to me.

Almost every day, some days more
than once, there is a face posted
here, to exhibit a point which I
try to develop in writing. Some-
times rather a lot of the body is
shown, or some gesture, but al-
most always I happen to be think-
ing of the narrative of the face
which the body enacts. Henry James
did not do this; he built faces
from the inside, out; and I ob-
serve that what I see in a face
is what I see inside a character
to whom I am attached. This face,
which I know to be professionally
apt and variously presented, has
been published here exactly in
this way, and has come up on my
desktop every morning for years.
I still look into it. It's not
just a stylised exemplification
of an ancient standard; it's an
indefatigably interlocutory prod.

This, previously published here,
is a face I wish to restore to
this page, through the sordid
spectacle in New Hampshire. I
will not comment on its conclu-
sion. What could be the point?
But I wish also to turn away
from this spectacle, which I
apprehended would be enervating
to the page, as it has been, to
my way of thinking. Yet the num-
bers of readers it has drawn
have exceeded the highest ever
to come here; and I suppose, 
for the reason that others 
wish to get away from it, but 
with some sympathy for their 
view of it.

It's a handsome face, bred in
generosity. Let's assimilate 
this, and study what is beneath 
it, that we carry. Let's be 
grateful to each other for car-
rying it. Today, we observe a-
gain the advancement of folly
against our soul. We will turn
that, and we will see it. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

We hear, they're going to advertise Mitt's remedy for Monday

The New York Times reports that ear-nest Republicans of the moment are going to launch widely televised advertisements of our Mitt's career in eliminating Monday's gruesome resumption of the weekly grind, ie, the ignominy of employment. And who should not take note of that elegant freefall into entropy which has so often been the gift of the witty bird to the industrious worm?

Not that this hasn't led to the creation of that foul class of loiterers who staunchly withhold their profitability from our system, only to sap it with obscene deple-tions of its indulgent safety net.

  More wars, of course
  are the proper riposte
  to this indiscipline;
  who does not recall
  Bush the Founder's
  justification for put-
  ting half a million
  men on the ground to
  contend for Kuwait,
  in the midst of the
  family's first reces-
  sion, as creating jobs,
  jobs, jobs, only to pre-
  cipitate the most won-
  drous unemployment, our
  Republican remedy for

Has it only warped our grasp of Gilbert and Sullivan, to glance back through our emulation of Britain's imperial decline to see them now as satirists? Has the penchant for piracy in our Repub-licans defamed the good name of their doily art of dress-up derring-do? Something, indeed, must be counted as lost to the breed, when one of its pretenders can siphon off the sympathies of youth with disdain of an overly extended military establishment. Why, how can a paymaster profit from the State, my dear Lord Chandos, without a payroll; where every day's a Monday, the lark of Cheneyism's ascendant.

We can't suppose that those still subject to Monday, give any thought to the socialist regime which laid a threshold to their workplace in mid-air, as the lewd public works project that it is, lingering to mar their perfect alienation. With what disgusting disregard of opportunity do our socialists deliver the masses to their drudgery, that our Mitt would heal?

Has anyone witnessed a field of putative heads of state which has competed so strenuously for the mantle of Most Ridiculous, as to recall absolutely nothing of the naïveté of child-hood's excuse? I never saw such a pack of unregenerate resenters in my life, even at the Cow Palace for Barry Goldwater - of whom, the less said, the better right now, because he is their obvious model; and who could wish to deflect their free-fall into the dustbin of democracy? Bend your knees, Harry, was our Ben's advice on leaping from the train. I suppose they will have heard?

James Toback
  An original screenplay
Carol Publishing, 1991©

ii   Photograph Robert Doisneau
iii  The Slab