Thursday, May 10, 2012

Confessions of a hocks-hunting man

I think sometimes of how different everything would be, for those of us writing in this form from America, if the cataclysm of virulent Republicanism hadn't deprived our institutions of efficacy, to sustain the fragile balance inbred in our system between creative separatism and national cohesion. The separatists' hijacking of the nation, under a sequence of campaigns of terror, financed by parvenu wealth and given voice by religious thugs and hyperpatriots, seems all but complete in the imperilment of an incumbent President by a collapse intended by his adversaries. In this entry, less than 10 away from the 1,000th, I have to reckon with some surprise of hope.

Our grand conflation of greed and exceptionalist hysteria, which we saw reborn in the handiwork of Richard Nixon's prophetic victory of 1968, presses interminably to precipitate the terminal Crash of the United States as a nation governed by a free people, not the faceless, irresponsible, limited-liability entities which exercise the real power over its affairs on behalf of a handful of self-dealers. We were given the means to study this decline in real time, contemplating in calm its precedents in our Mauve Decade and the long abdication of government between Wilson and Roosevelt.

The city of coffee we briefly glimpsed, as the promise of our last respectable Supreme Court and the momentary vitality of Lyndon Johnson's liberal coalition, was rendered only more compelling by the fellowship in which it dawned, and the unmentionable fires through which it was drawn in the rise of the Republicans. In this street scene from San Francisco, now twenty years ago, the faces of George HW Bush and Jesse Helms share the spectacle of a genocide without the slightest trace of coincidence or remorse. If any-thing the handiwork of the second Bush presidency was even more apocalyptic. Refusing any duty of repair, their heirs crave their offices only to destroy them.

I know the bizarre illusion of entitlement that clings to privilege; the bacchic rites of indulgence were not unrevealed to me. I know (and we all do) another experience, of underclass non-white teens I taught at my college in summer, while rioting tore apart their neighborhoods and endangered their families, in liberalism's Katrina moment. But I saw, instead, Nixon's gleeful misuse of the Executive branch to let peril propagate itself, to condemn it for electoral gain. I watched this Party, mine at birth, learn to thrive on the pain of this nation, and learn to want it.

Tuesday's transparent ballot scam in North Carolina, a cynical voter registration coup against the youth vote that drove the state 'blue' in 2008, showed how reliably bigotry can rally the base. The delusional elections in France and Greece portrayed how erratic a democracy can be under pressure; and pressure is the American Right Wing's middle name. The city of coffee needed a re-fill, and yesterday it did get one from the President of the United States. I don't dispute that he had to do it; but no one can gloat that it may harm him, and at the same time deny, it is his job. The pot is in everyone's hand.

ii   Derek

iii  Photo, Laurent
      Leica M-6, Kodak Plus-X Pan

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A question about art

"Can you remember the moment you 
decided art was your love and noth-
ing would change that?"
Question lately posed at a blog
I read, then withdrawn. 

I did not answer that question, because I never have felt about art, that way; but I can remember heroes, and who can't. They came from art and they came very early, and as art does, they came numerously. Art taught me discernment before discernment taught me art, and these things I learned to keep to myself, and bring out largely in dreams. It was in consciousness that I found, art would not be my love but would be my friend. This (if you like) decision taught me the stature in that word, which is the largest.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"Who knew?"

           Oh, my gosh, Auguste.
           They don't know yet. 
           I haven't found the
           moment to tell them. 


      I know.
      But they
      aren't here

  I suppose we'd 
  better get back. 
  Hercule and his 
  friend must be 

  I doubt it.

i   Derek
iii, iv, v   Ivan Terestchenko

Say, by the way, North Carolina

            If you're saying,
            I'm not valid for
            your marriage,

            how valid is
            your marriage?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rituals, rights, resemblances

The contest for the right to marry reflects, in part, a schism over resemblances. Discriminatory enact-ments, whenever possible, are root-ed in descriptions of the bearers of entitlement, rather than naming the offending aspect of the ostra-cised, which purport to distinguish them from others. Rites of qualif-ication resemble so well, in their systematic tidiness and choreog-raphy through the civic or litur-gical space, rites of exclusion and deportation, that what strikes one about discrimination is its order-liness - its surface banality, as has been said. Here the sacrament of the visitation of the sick may be permitted, while that of communion or matrimony may not.

The scene is a rail station in Lyon. But for an absence of baggage these docile families, here to vote in recent national elections in France, might be report-ing to be deported for 'work' to the east in 1943, or simply because alien in the near future. The shine in the floor builds confidence for either act.

The act of deciding the fate of others bears the ceremonious aspect of a prim perambulation with one's dog. A qualified gentleman or lady pulls a curtain, and brings horror to the existence of others of no name, except a lack of standing to protection by the State.

All their lives, the ostracised are witnesses to this consolation of decorum in their privation. From the American 'pledge of allegiance', rewritten in the McCarthy era to contain a divisive religious boast, to the recurring ballotings against their liberties and privileges, they observe and often, indeed, are invited to participate in their humiliation or worse, by the most fastidious of rites. I exalt the erotic nemesis, here, to honour the compulsion to sustain discrimination against gay men, for touching a nerve of indecorum. I revive the stereotype of pathology, above, to square the circle of excuses for this stately crime against humanity, which flourishes in the United States.

How ever more quaint this criminality emerges, as the province now almost exclusively of a single, albeit significant political party. If I were a Republican now, as I was in my youth, I would feel more than somewhat queasy to line up in orderly fashion to declare my preference in a Party primary, where not one candidate could appear on the ballot if he favoured nondiscrimination. Not one. I would feel like one of those "repeat sex offenders," reporting to the parole board. Shame would long ago have left my mind, and the drudgery of sustaining an inflexible, incurable designation would probably eliminate much consideration of the further lease on life I would earn with my appearance. You'd think I would tire of it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Catastrophe in Greece, near miss in Paris, cruelty in North Carolina

The noblest culture 
on earth has elevated 
Nazism into its Parlia-
ment and forgetfulness 
into its soul. Do they
think they can vote 
them out? 

The French have rebuffed a turn to the Right by the slenderest but - for France - most familiar of margins. And the far Right rose portentously. 

And in North Carolina 
on Tuesday the vulgar 
Right is poised to pun-
ish gay men and women 
by gratuitous Consti-
tutional amendment,
having nothing more

   Yes, they show their power,
   which is to say their pow-
   erlessness, who slaughter
   baggage handlers on the
   field of Agincourt.

   The way of our people is
   only one of hope. We would
   be with them, even if we
   were not of them at all.

My i-Pod: Larousse Gastronomique

As a college sophomore I lived
with the French language ver-
sion of the Larousse Gastron-
omique, on extended loan from
the university library. For
those who do not know the Lar-
ousse, it is the compendious
database of the cuisines of
France, and it has the power
to transform the borough of
Manhattan into the proximate,
crucial laboratory of inves-
tigation that one's dazzled
browsings in its entries re-

In the 60 days since undergoing a substantial surgery at the university down the road, I have consulted my i-Pod no more than once or twice. It is a convenient cistern of stored pleasures, but it is not a patch on the Larousse. The i-Pod's genius for isolation and daydreams in the familiar is enormously surpassed by the book's capacity to inspire and to restore through the common mechanism of hunger. Yes, their assumptions are the same: One can turn without chronology to anything one wants, to revive memory and haul it forth by witty indexing. But the one expects renewal and the other supports retreat. I cannot re-orchestrate Il Quattro Stagioni, but at home I can and must reconstitute my marmite Dieppoise.

I'd take myself, alone, in those early years, to educate my palate in some parity with the mind-and-body training I pursued then with my peers. Oh, I made many mistakes. I remember stepping into an infa-mously marvelous restaurant in the East 60s in my earnest college tweeds on my 19th birthday, and being conducted as the bambino to an unobtrusive table around the back. But I remember the classic meunière I tried that day as if I prepared it just now. I've heard Blowin' in the Wind 5,000 times, and I could not recite two verses of it here. When do you forget the resonance of a lemon, in a finishing clarified butter?

And now the new Larousse is hip, can you stand it, to the preparations and styles of our time; and I read it in English, because I haven't lived with French since boyhood. The editors haven't abandoned the classics, they've simply expanded the thing to a truly prodigious dimension for one lap to bear. Yet there never was anything mistaken in the text that lasted some 70 years since its inception; how do you reform the profile of a prize of supple seaflesh if it's destined for the kiss of a Meursault? If you have no deference to the fish's maritime origin, you may certainly resort to grapeseed oil and serve yourself with an up-the-Loire Vouvray. But this doesn't just re-orchstrate the music, it changes its tempo, materially; and I do believe in the integrity of the natural palate length of the under-lying ingredient. Why enjoy less?

At a time when the concept of terroir in viticulture is finally making conservatives of us all, when it comes to varietal typicity in wine, the Larousse has always been there in its respect for provinciality in cuisine. It isn't so much that a fish has to be prepared one of only 14 different ways, approximately, barring vanity's intervention with some shibboleth of antiquity. It's that the place where it comes from can be trusted to have learned how to handle it. I will always prefer to go to that place, than to haul the beast to mine, which I know already, rather well. Why is my i-Pod in such constant disuse? Because its contents lose their place somewhere in there.

Aude Mantoux, editor
Le Grand Larousse Gastronomique
Larousse, 2007©
Hamlyn [English edition], 2009©