Saturday, February 18, 2012

In which we declare an overnight recess

I'm sorry to do this
on a Saturday night.

 James, having forgotten 
 his clarinet again, 
 rather moots the point 
 of our Quintet practice 
 for this evening. Of
 course you are free to
 practice on your own.
 And, James. You might
 go over the sheet music
 when you get a chance.

Saturday commute lv: the interval at the matinée

 Two very lively and very real 
 young persons love each other 
 and are about to marry. But 
 the boy is struck by the sight 
 of a mysterious stranger, the  beautiful Coppélia, who sits 
 on a balcony. Naturally, his 
 first girl is vexed and hurt. 
 That night the mysterious 
 Coppélia turns out to be only 
 a mechanical doll.

      The flesh-and-blood girl 
      breaks the doll, she harries 
      the old dollmaker, she even 
      rescues the boy, whom the 
      dollmaker has drugged with 
      a sinister intent.

The boy acknowledges his fault, 
and the next day there is a 
celebration at which the local 
duke pays for everything, the 
boys and girls all get married 
and get money, and everybody 
watches dancing and dances 
happily, too.

Critics have claimed that the celebration scene added nothing and could as well have been omitted. It cannot, because you haven't until then seen the boy and girl dance together and exhibit all their virtuosity, their combined dance power at its highest pitch. When you have seen their motions and physical proportions beautifully balanced, when you see them harmoniously overcoming impossible difficulties, you have seen a convincing image of what would make two young lovers happy in marriage.

    As you watch the dance you notice 
    how the more perturbing the emotion 
    becomes, the purer becomes the move-
    ment of dancing and the more open 
    and free the dancer's bearing. You 
    see the magic of the heart's sincer-
    ity, its most urgent necessity, trans-
    form a village girl into a grand and 
    gracious ballerina. And what a solace 
    the transformation is!

Edwin Denby
Coppélia tells the facts of life
  New York Herald Tribune
  September 24, 1944
Dance Writings & Poetry
Robert Cornfield, editor
Yale University Press, 1998©

Friday, February 17, 2012

Suppose it were Friday lv: then how shall you measure all things?

All those armchair hours with
Liebling and Root, Fisher and
David, Olney and Lulu, Keller
and Boulud .. until, as is al-
ways the case, your last sweet-
heart supposes a Viking is all
you need, to bring you out -
and surprises you, Christmas
morning, with your very own
equivalent of a Bentley Con-
tinental for the kitchen. Yet,
still, all you've really done,
is boil water in your Alessi
kettle, missing now its whist-
ling fuchsia wings in flight.

And so, Gérard, the grand reck-
oning is not about the morning's
reconnoitre of the strand, it's
about that gratin, that daube 
from A Room with a View, which 
fell to the cutting room floor 
because cinema couldn't hunger
for more than one thing at a
time. Even former sweethearts
can be right: there is tragedy
in abandoning hunger, and more
in being satisfied.

The coquilles St Jacques, from
your college days in Witherspoon
Street, are simply not done any-
more, and you've been wondering,
why not. Investigate. Invente,
découvre .. enivrez-vous, Le Cor-
busier calls, from your litho of
his Modulor. Find, revise, reform,
re-father, reconfigure, reclaim. 
The system of alimentation is al-
ready perfection, incarnate. But 
it does seek birth. Doesn't it, 

"Is there any coffee here?"

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret,
Le Corbusier
Lithograph, ca 1950

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The AKC operates on a principle called, the breed standard

It has to.

 You'd think it would be 
 a virtue of Fashion Week, 
 to celebrate the good news: 

 we don't.

 some day.

i, ii  Mathias Lauridsen
iii    Jeremy Young
vi    Chad White
vii   thanks to Derek

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The cakes that were served

All across Europe a partial eclipse
is checking in: Unsudden surprise
and its sister, weary impatience,
mark the flow once the sluices
have been opened a little. Then it just goes,
an impromptu horizon clipped to it.

I ask what is special about this helix, if
indeed anything is. Can you see it, 
its difference, distinguish among halftones,
fugitive tints, measure the rising level
even as it suffocates us? Time was
it all seemed like a party, even work
before the workers were expelled for the day.
Dreams were positive heaven then, not just
framed pictures for the sleeper's instruction
and, yes, delight.

                  So if the mercury plummets
again, as it's supposed to tonight, what shred
of blanket will you deem sufficient for the occasion,
dread or ecstasy, or just wanting to be covered?

A low-grade fever installs itself.
These were dancers once, with faces
and senses of humor. Which of course wasn't
too much to ask, and so she came through smiling,
good-natured to the end. The cakes that were served - 
is there a record of those? Or leaves collected
in the hollow of a stump, something one
would wish to have included in the reckoning
even if it was never going to be reckoned,
or small sail breasting the apparent tide,
on and out of the forever harbor, just this once?

John Ashbery
  A Worldly Country
  Autumn Tea Leaves
Harper Collins, 2007

iii  Photo Laurent
        Russian sailor below decks, San Francisco
        Leica M-6, 50mm Summicron, 1/30 sec.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thrashing out our tempest

This posting is encouraged
by the warmth of two sweet
people in France and is
dedicated with great love
to the memory of two friends 
from the stage with whom I 
stayed up late in this play.
All four deserve better.

The late Tony Tanner reminds 
us, this play was inspired by 
writings of the first Dickie
Hakluyt, Diverse Voyages 
touching the Discovery of
America, 1582. Plus que ça
change ..

I have known more men 
who were young when 
they were trained by 
business or commerce 
schools in batches, 
as meat to be browned 
for a stew, than I have 
known men who struggled 
with Prospero, though
they were young, as 
they lay dying.

Those liberal Arts being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother
And to my state grew stranger,
being transported
And rapt in secret studies.

I never thought to buy a ticket 
to Mitt Romney's education. I 
put my study where my heart was, 
and never did look back. But now 
I'm offered a stew much reduced 
in its ingredients' concentration 
I'm not the first or only one.

I, thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated
To closeness and the bettering of my mind
With that which, but by being so retired,
O'erprized all popular rate, in my false brother
Awakened an evil nature, and my trust,
Like a good parent, did beget of him
A falsehood in its contrary as great As my trust was ..

.. He .. like one
Who having unto truth, by telling of it, 
Made such a sinner of his memory
To credit his own lie, he did believe
He was indeed the duke, out o' the substitution
And executing the outward face of royalty
With all prerogative. Hence his ambition growing - 
Dost thou hear?
To have no screen between this part he played
And him he played it for, he needs will be
Absolute Milan.

     We all were sea-swallowed, though some cast again,
     And, by that destiny, to perform an act
     Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come,
     In yours and my discharge.

William Shakespeare
The Tempest
  I, ii, 74-77; 89-96;
          97-109, excerpt
  II, i, 246-249
The Arden Shakespeare
Frank Kermode, editor
op. cit.

Tony Tanner
Prefaces to Shakespeare
op. cit.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Anxiety, taste, discretion, and the fugitive caesura in blogging

More or less, everything
that can be done to dis-
sipate the mass and gloss
of the invasive cistern
seems to have been ex-
ecuted with poise. I'm
not so sure that the rem-
edy hasn't more than un-
derscored the anxiety to
achieve that end. I won-
der how impractical it
would have been to en-
fold the chilly intruder
in rustic materials, and
restore the fertile mig-
ration of shadows to an
alcove, respected.

For the beauty of the al-
cove is not the work of
some clever device ..
though we know perfectly
well it is mere shadow,
we are overcome with the
feeling that in this
small corner of the at-
mosphere there reigns
complete and utter si-
lence, that here in the
darkness immutable tran-
quillity holds sway.

I wish a text, even a
scrolling one such as a
blog, could exploit the
gainful amenities of jap-
onesque architecture, as
nourishing hiatuses. Beth
Nelson has gone the fur-
in exploiting picture ed-
iting and layout to this
positive advantage, and
this spiritual refuge of
composition is profound
in photographers cited
in Context. 

The communication of the
is past remarking in music;
anyone who revisited Va,
pensiero here the other
day, will have seen that.
In an epistolary blog, the
challenge is considerable
to be able to say, almost
if not completely unliter-
ally, draw peace from this
space. Adjustments acquire
an aura of mood swings, in-
congruous pleadings; a sus-
picious advertisement.

I agree with Tanizaki and
with Terestchenko, who has
written of this as well as
exhibiting it in his work,
that the well-framed mys-
tery is no mere void. It
is an irony of the argu-
mentative mode, that this
can be achieved one of two
ways - discoursing to the
adoptive, or adapting the
essay to the sonata form,
so that in place of the
caesura's expressive si-
lence there can have been 
a beginning, middle, and 
end of some formal resolu- 
tion. But that remains, 
audible, space-occupying: 
a restaurant.  

That compromise, the promise
of the essay form, is still the
most rational where the writer
and the reader may be crossing
paths, but not necessarily, pur-
poses. A visitor is likelier in-
terested in the stimulation of
light; his host may be trying
to turn away from the fray where
it emerges. This is why I do
respect argument, not to turn
away from light or implore its
remission, but to savour its 
lenity in the end.

Tanizaki Junichiro
In praise of shadows
Thomas J. Harper and
Edward G. Seidensticker
Leete's Island Books, 1977©