Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday commute lxiv: not that it's worse via Italy

While not, strictly speaking, a tor-rent, the flow of messages which came in yesterday, protesting a perceived defamation of Italian motorcar de-sign in the day's installment of Suppose it were Friday represented enough of a chastisement to prompt this urgent adjustment in our scrolling programme. We are not recommending a reluctance to accept a ride in a vehicle produced in Italy for the hallowed purpose of bleeding off the pressings of the male ego, even if an oil slick may reasonably be expected in the roadways of one's wanderings. Or, rather, we have won the concession to put it a slightly different way: we are not recommending a discriminatory dread of passengership in an Italian vehicle under such circumstances.

That said, no one went so far as to suggest that one might prefer to be in such a vehicle for the traversal of an oil slick, given Italian motorcar manufacture's quite lovely other vir-tues. I refer, of course, to the genius of the grander marques for turn-ing heads, dressed or 

not in overnight dust mittens, gurgling or not from their mid-engine camshafts at idle in the piney shade of Carmel-by-the-Sea, drawing adoles-cents as so many stray needles to the thyrsus. What a genius these things do have for run-ning a pogrom against the village boys, in case our military should run out of pipers.

But with the migration of the limited slip differential to Modena, and the discovery of modulated braking systems, the chance of surviving a spin in the Forest of Fontainebleau is not materially lessened in a macchina of sub-Alpine provenance. Fortunately, too, none of these prophylaxes against catastrophe has been adopted at the expense of the conveyance's exciting attention. That said, to the Bugatti Brescia's 30 brake horsepower, inflation has lent another 15 times as much, none of it useful except for acoustic display; so the cure for elegant risk has come at the price of a redundant layer of frustration. Hence the persistence of riding bareback.

If there is any element in the pa-thetic evolution of the sports car, which is more to be regretted than its hideous encumbrance with osten-sible safety features, it is the ascendancy of electronics over mechanical quirkiness. Twenty zillion little computer-controlled servo motors intervene between the driver and his experience - indeed, between ignition, itself, and the driver's command - so that one may as well be daydreaming a drive at home, as actually steering (to the extent the vehicle allows) its avoidance of life's little hazards. Adding incalculably to the cost of the car, this degeneracy works an ironic and gruesome decapitation of pleasure.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Suppose it were Friday lxi: whose seat are we saving?

Most people associate the stages of their lives with events - it was the year Lindbergh flew the Atlantic .. The year of the Exhibition .. The year the talkies came in. But my calendar is related to friends. Every period of my life has been dominated by the figure of a friend .. 

When, after Marquitta, in which he played the part of a taxi driver, Pierre Champagne at last realised his ambition to own a Bugatti .. his first thought was to take me out for a trial spin. He drove at full speed along one of the roads through the forest of Fontainebleau. 

A car in front of us had had 
an oil leakage and left a 
slippery patch behind it. The 
Bugatti went out of control 
on this patch of oil and spun 
round, flinging us both out. 
Pierre landed on a heap of 
stones and was killed instant-
ly. I landed on a grassy bank 
and woke up to find myself in 
a van filled with game. It be-
longed to two poachers who were 
going to sell their bag in Par-
is, at Les Halles. In going out 
of their way to take me to hos-
pital they risked being arrested. 
I am profoundly grateful to them. 
Moreover, I owe them the idea 
for my stage play, Orvet.

The memoirs of Jean Renoir are as fine a companion between two covers as almost any one can know from life. Even if he were not the maker of at least two or three of the motion pictures lying forever closest to our heart, this autobiography of a creative personality's close friendships is a stunning, open-hearted staple of our kind of gentleman's library, a wonderful document on the power of the most creative influence we know. In preparing to present an entry or two on his insuperable work in the mode of Beaumarchais, The Rules of the Game, one could not fail to be drawn to comparisons with French literature on the intricate and vital moral consensuses which held together that culture's aristocracy, under the strains of the paradoxically rigid limitations its existence imposed upon the exercise of self-expression, and the agreed fictions with which it indulged their inevitable violation. Renoir has reduced that syntax to possibly the most haunting cri de coeur ever to leap forth from the dark - Gentlemen, there has been a deplorable accident.

Renoir departs from cynicism and has the power to take his characters with him. We observe his gift for acute closeness with people through any carapace of class as the solvent we feel, ourselves, in watching this movie tread its breakwater of plot development. I've been put in mind as much of Turgenev's A Sportsman's Notebook as I have, of Radiguet's Count d'Orgel's Ball, in accounting for the deeper feeling beneath the erotic desperation Renoir presents to us, as if the subcutaneous tendernesses of this film speak to greater intimacy in feudal distinctions than is possible in a mater-ialist bourgeoisie; but I think they are a personal vision.

Absorbing this movie in the dated way referenced before, with college friends (the war in southeast Asia competing for our attention on the television down the hall, and in the mail we might get from a family splintered by it), it was terribly easy to recognise improvisations of consensus for discussing our own lives, akin to those of his figures from the late Thirties. Now, cascades of flukes later, cast from one side of the spinning Bugatti of friendly fire, of HIV, of this delusional market bubble or that, instead of the other, The Rules of the Game seems timelessly prescient, substantially because Jean Renoir could be a friend.

Jean Renoir
Ma vie et mes films
op. cit.

La règle du jeu
La Nouvelle Édition Française, 1939©
John McGrath and
  Maureen Teitelbaum, translation
Andrew Sinclair, editor
Classic Film Scripts
Lorrimer Publishing, 1970©

Raymond Radiguet
Le bal du Comte d'Orgel
1924 (op. post.)
Annapaola Cancogni, translation
New York Review Books, 2005©

Ivan Turgenev
A Sportsman's Notebook
Charles Hepburn and
  Natasha Hepburn, translation
Viking, 1950©

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Good news about rowing

    I am aware that you may see
    a landloct subject, strain-
    ing to pluck the lead from
    his English Cocker's collar,
    now that they've come to a
    rest in the shade. But in
    fact it's an enthusiast set-
    tling into his rowing mach-
    ine, having been permitted
    by his doctors to resume a
    light workout, twice a day,
    to amuse his restored ex-
    tremities. The interpreta-
    tion of pictures becomes a
    simple matter, don't you 
    find, once it's conceded,
    that nothing else is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

There's a new litter on the way in Santa Barbara


  readinesses for this
  information vary wide-
  ly and are seldom ab-
  solute, are they ..

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sarközy and the expiration of national exceptionalism

It wouldn't be pretty for anyone, to preside over the day to day disexceptionalising of his nation by a globalism past restraining, but Nicolas Sarközy has surpassed every humiliation of the tide of history in his conduct of his reign - as Philip Gourevitch astutely refers to the character of the French presidency - with the most squalid dissipation and fecklessness to speak for France since Napoleon III. His pugnacity graces our page today not merely to cite his resiliency in French politics, but to acknowledge what it suggests for the American election.

We know very well, the American plutoc-racy will mount a denial of history's tides with the throatiest roar of "exceptionalism" it can buy with its corporate accounts, matching its evangelists' lust for social intimi-dation with demands for a loyalty oath on the nation's divine mercantile mission. Sarközy's composite minority (including the ultra-right Le Pen movement) matches Republican strength in the US, at some 47.5 percent of the electorate. If Republicans can elevate disdain for Obama by so much as half a point, if Sarközy can scare a few more Frenchmen with a Teutonic Cross of Gold, the two greatest democracies will be in the hands of the lowest talents to lead them, the surest to bring them shame.


  Again, why on 
  earth does all 
  this matter?

Philip Gourevitch
  No Exit: Can Nicolas Sarkozy
  and France survive the Eur-
  opean crisis?
December 12, 2011
The New Yorker©

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dozing off into the bisque at Betty's

It had been absolute weeks since Betty Commilfaux had dragooned Thorny into appearing at one of her parties, and only then in the middle of the night, with no benefit of prior tweet to publicise her triumph. She caught him, though, dozing off into the consommé at a lunch for one of their common charities, and snapt a photo of his bouilloned mane for safe keeping, to exchange for acquiescence in her next invitation. Everything was arranged to celebrate her glory, at the opening of her summer place on Gin Lane, with lunch for 40 on the morning terrace. All went well until the crayfish bisque seduced his cheek to soothe itself within the brim of her best Dresden.

Such a long way around to addressing the bicep

  Voluminous discarded drafts
  and pulled postings aside, 
  a general consciousness of
  the bicep has infused some
  nine hundred six dozen es-
  says here so far, without 
  conceding the space to it
  that its ubiquitous exist-
  ence might have conquered,
  in view of its impartiality.

  But who could ever embrace
  belief in the impartiality
  of St George?