Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday commute lvi: moving house

Death in Venice,
Martin. She sim-
ply couldn't dis-
cuss it with him.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Consecration row

  As for the final calcula-
  tion, it's hard to explain: 
  you just know it is right.
  What .. I realised then
  was the importance of in-

Not just scientific intermittency, but mental and emotional intermittency, too. How, in a world of disintegration and endless renewal .. one must find one's own rhythm exactly by recognising the incompleteness of the melody.

It was a great gift, because incompleteness is what points to that ideal of the whole. It shows the way to whatever is emergent at the limits of any system, from an ant-lion's nest in Nyasaland to the ever-expanding edges of the universe.

Giles Foden
op. cit.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Traffic of the narrow platform

memory of Marcel Carné



 Departures and arrivals
 seem to carry the same
 moment on a span where
 nothing gathers because
 it isn't zoned for it,
 adepts of the balance
 beam reversing vector


Let us shape, shape residues -
or are they vestiges? -
I debate with the man no one wanted aboard. 

Shape, trace; or shape, sculpt?
Shape past, or shape future? 

Shape, forget me well. Shape now. 

One has not the blame one needs, 
to do thatForget me first.

Not inaudibly enough, the day comes up.  

Marcel Carné, director
Jacques Prévert, scénario
Alexandre Trauner, décor
Le jour se lève
Marcel Carné, 1939©

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If you sense no friction, there could still be turbulence

I am reading a smooth-
featured text, a novel
by a fellow I discov-
ered in California,
with his then-new The 
Last King of Scotland.
He is very subtle - in
case you happened to 
see the movie - and
attractively easygoing.

One could say, Turbulence,
this novel, takes its hon-
ourable place in that genre
of fiction on how Britain's
many secret services exploit
the genius of innocents in
times of crisis - to crack
codes, invent disinformation,
seduce others for St George, 
and so forth. In these res-
emblances to Philoctetes,
it is very good.

It's in its originality, 
on quirks of Nature under
the scrutiny of physics, 
of human nature under the
pressure of feeling, that
again one is tempted to wor-
ry if literature will ever
be read by adherents of
certainty. If you live in
the United States, you know
this to be a defining ques-
tion. If you do not live
in the United States, when
were you last undisturbed
by its certainties?

.. as we stood there under those yawning, whispering beeches, with weather balloons pulling in our hands, his pacifism struck me as hopelessly naïve, if not downright irresponsible .. Finding ourselves at an impasse of argument, we stood unspeaking, face to face, both listening to the wind as it passed through the trees, making them stretch out their melancholy limbs.. 

There was another sound - air moving over the rubber of the balloons. A whining rasp, and I could tell from his face that it had provoked thought in him as well as me.

'That, and it is to the point, my young friend, is the sound of friction.. Along with turbulence, friction is one of the  most important things in the universe. Perhaps they can be described as cousins, even brothers. Or actually the same person, appearing in different profile..

You see, Meadows, nothing can start without something to push off from. But good comes even when there's no positive action. Blocking, delaying, braking .. these things create value just as the mixing of turbulence does, enabling the birth of new systems and the death of old ones, the transfer of energy from one place and time to another.'

Over the weekend, it was widely reported that the foreign ministers of the United States and Great Britain had cautioned the Netanyahu government in Israel against a pre-emptive war upon Iran. Coming from a nation saturated in the bellicose indiscipline of its previous President, it was obvious that the American leadership (which may well have been dissimulating) would come under intense fire from his Party. And so, like clockwork, it has done. Here, in the precise rhetoric with which that Party castigates every restraint upon its petulance, is how Foden's Meadows responds to his balloon-flying colleague:

'But friction is mostly a negative force, socially speaking. It reduces efficiency.' 

'Yes, but that negativity prevents bad plans as much as good ones ..'

I do wonder if any hope can be
drawn from the distinction, that
Mr Bush did not extoll aggressive
war until he was safely in office,
while his wannabe successors don't
yet hold the White House. Surely,
I do wonder if efficient friction,
which he never faced in office,
if not the restoration of a pre-
apocalyptic culture as nearby as
right here.

Giles Foden
Knopf, 2010© 

iii, iv  Jeremy Young

Virginia Governor raises disgust to new depths

As previously reported, the Republican seizure of power in every branch of Virginia's government has led to measures exciting the opprobrium of humanity, exposing the long-held obsessions of its Governor to the unexpected duty of fulfilling them in public. The grotesque proposition of a compulsory intimidating ultrasound invasion of the womb on the eve of terminating a pregnancy has now conflicted with the Commonwealth's ancient fastidiousness about ladies and their parts, not on principle, not on human decency, not in the defense of liberty or the equality of the gender, but out of prurient squeamishness. It doesn't matter to the Governor, that he intends utterly to subjugate women; what matters to him, now that he's openly running for Vice-President as the palatable Santorum, is being exposed as invading them. The universal nausea his misogyny excites, is utterly lost on him. He simply doesn't wish to be seen.

Fritz Lang
Nero-Film AG, 1931©

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Foot traffic



  I half expect to hear
  sad remonstrance that
  feet lead to legs and
  heaven help us all af-
  ter that. But I trust
  their information. 

I injured a foot lately, and while it is recovering, it disturbs the other foot to submit to pressures which distort its reports to me. It's a pity that the mind, so famous for dualities that no one has a clear tally of them anymore, is only less aware.

I give you the stoicism of a Ben Hogan, playing hurt before the aggression sport of football made a cult of martyrs, who adjusted his game knowingly - versus a hypocrite of the front page today (take your pick), who seems to be the last to know he is maimed. I will never not treasure the sensibilities of the feet again, honesty not least among them. But never before, I'm ashamed to say, had I felt the extent of my debt to those extremities, as unequivocally central to my sense of place, on many levels. Now I savour everything they tell me, with the consciousness of a great gift. It goes so far as to ease the mind of pressure to report, even to propose delight or regret.

My dog, Whit, is way ahead of me in this perception. I have always admired his movement as an element of his character; but I've not appreciated how it has shaped his aplomb. Of course this is elementary "phys ed," but we can forget the basis for it. I find one can tire of news furnished by the mind, but not by the foot. On the contrary. The most modest suspension of its feedback truly heightens regard for that content, and that gift for securing our place in relation to it, which can only make one glad to awaken. Moreover, the memories of the foot are surprisingly indestructible, so that the lake road we ran in crew workouts, still unraked of stones, is a living treasure.

    Isn't this the path we

    took to school, Auguste? 

    It is our school, Hercule.

vii  Mathias Lauridsen

Monday, February 20, 2012

All bundled up and nowhere to go

    Twice wronged.

Bertrand Russell was a popular don at Cambridge

.. and he prided himself on being on good terms with his students. His better students flocked to the Tuesday morning "squash-ups," when he was available in his rooms to discuss anything with anyone who cared to come. Yet for all the seeming openness of this concept, these sessions were resoundingly closed by virtue of the gulf between what Russell knew and what they knew.

But the real difference was not so much what they knew or didn't know but rather how they knew it.. Russell saw that it was not intellect or even imagination they lacked, but that clawing, irrational desire to know. This Russell could not teach, and not through any effort in the world could they acquire it. And not from mere lack of ability, but for a simpler, chicken-crossing-the-road kind of reason: unlike Wittgenstein, they had no real reason to make the crossing.

I have parsed this internal monologue not a few times, to find that window of opportunity we know to exist in life for it to slip free from its character's limitations. This is novelist Bruce Duffy's characterisation of a narcissistic reflection in an invention of his, something of an intellectual Willie Mays of his day, in the parlance of cinema a natural, who bore a famous name. But whose thinking it is, scarcely matters, given that it's common enough. 

If not taught, then imparted or uncovered; if not through any effort, then by circum-stance, coincidence and personality, we have seen, all about us, the direct descent of the inquiring torch. Our means of flattering the most luminous, then, have to avoid casting them as unnatural and ourselves as unrespectable, for the simple reason, occurring every single day, that we will meet or be in a position through other means to affect, a young person. Let this be Monday. 

Bruce Duffy
The world as I found it
New York Review Books, 2010©

v  Sunrise over Keros, from Koufonissi
    Photo Tassos Paschalis