Saturday, November 10, 2012

Whit, willingly at play

Early this morning, under a clear
Autumn sun, I took a happy walk in 
an expansive meadow on a neighbor's
farm, where my English Cocker, Whit
had run as a puppy with his uncle, 
Geordie; and as I went on with them 
in spirit, I let go the ashes of his
remains to mark again those sweet 
and antic paths the two had charted
in their play.

In a year of unusual domestic sur-
prises this English dog and I did
participate more closely in each
other's lives, than ever before. In
many weeks of recuperation from one
surgery, and then another; in end-
ing some customs and beginning new
and wiser ones; and in endless for-
tunate hours together to observe
the subtle changes of them all, he
and innocent and beautiful being
can contribute to the acceptance
of complication and novelty.

I accept that these cannot prac-
tically be a writer's purposes.
What interests me is the bench-
mark they set for pride in what
one does. I do not think a dog's
unfaltering pride is simply in-
herent or bred. I think, like
ours, it is in part responsive.
I think he knew he was a kindly
dog; and I admire that he was
willingly this way.

Camille Pissaro
Near Sydenham Hill,
  Looking towards Lower Norwood
Kimbell Museum of Art

Friday, November 9, 2012

I dressed as the man who dressed for the man who dressed James Bond

      Do not be self-conscious.
      It is better to be affected.

Villiers David
1908 - 1985
Advice to my Godchildren
Juan Saumarez Smith, editor
Maggs Brothers
Estate of Villiers David, 2012©

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who was that lawless roads pedestrian?

I was amazed at daybreak, yesterday, to find proclamations of a new alignment being offered on the strength of an admittedly amusing night. I was advised that it had been, if not especially good, then at least historically enormous; but then as I set about scrutinising its definition, I found recurrences of effect being misconstrued as cause, and coincidence as stable remedy. These sentimentalised deceptions were as innocent as the sensations that designed them, I allowed, and might well subside as such things do, innocuously enough. But then, at evening, there was more.

Ross Douthat's invention of an emergent coalition from an undifferentiated flight of commonsensible refugees of every condi-tion and occupation, from attack by Republican contempt, was dwarfed by Andrew Sullivan's com-pulsion to announce the greatest conjugal upheaval of all time.

Were the news not, in these parameters, benign enough to warrant such huzzahs, we'd have to reacquaint our mentors with society's assimilative powers all over again, that genius for absorption which allows abrupt deflection its novel but not much altering flight.

Yet here we were: pursuing innumerable, unremarked wars without the approbation or oversight of our institutions, but by one authority, stripped constitutionally of the power to do so. This was to have been the not George Bush presidency: the not war criminal presidency, the not civil liberties violating presidency, the not arbitrary presidency. 

The late campaign illustrates that triumph of history over political change which renders its morning-after raptures bitter precedents. Mr Obama sought office to fix an institution, and got away with neglecting to, by saying the economy ate his homework.

It was good to get past the Republicans, but I very much doubt that our culture can count forever on such a purified embodiment of the barbarian. Who can be sure that reason will not be resumed as their guide, as fast as it was abandoned, precipitating a pluralist outpouring from this coincidental coalition, as sweets from a piñata? The election held promise of a wiser pursuit of criminal justice in California, while nevertheless exposing the profound hazard of populist intervention in due process which rallied harsh misrule in the first place. But it is no exaggeration to say, the trends of the evening were framed as a flight from cruelty. It is not popular, against so many.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


      I think of you in black and white
      When we were made of dreams ..
      Just when I thought you were gone,
      you came back
      Just when I was ready to receive you ..

      On the rising curve
      where the waves of Nature will test every nerve;
      I took you close and got what I deserve
      When we were born in time.

Bob Dylan

The Bootleg Series
  Volume 8
  Born in Time
  alternative version

Special Rider Music, 1990©


        And then turning where the last pale
        Lighthouse, like a Samson blinded, stands
        And turns its huge charred orbit on the sands
        I think of you - indeed mostly of you,
        In whom a writer would only name and lose
        The dented boy's lip and the close
        Archer's shoulders; but here to rediscover
        By tides and faults of weather, by the rain
        Which washes everything, the critic and the lover.

Selected Poems
  [fourth verse]
Peter Porter, editor
Faber and Faber, Ltd, 2006©


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Freedom riders


   We have so little to say
   about the world where we
   awaken, it is a constant
   trial so much as to ex-
   press a yes or a no. But
   the exercise of even the
   emptiest act is all that
   can preserve the right
   for others.

The New York Times
  Ballot by Ballot
November 3, 2012©