Saturday, March 9, 2013

I just think it's enormously too nice a day

  I just think it's     enormously too nice a   day, to be remembering   James Knox Polk.

But that's just how it is, so many times, as one accepts the advice of a strong review. Fine, yes; but how much of his awful war is going to comport with a tour of one's gar-den, right now, when a week's pressing business is at last, suspended? No, it wasn't fair of Mr Polk, but what do you say we refuse him another day to ruin? And you know, it will only make us think of Texas.

Amy S. Greenberg
A Wicked War:
  Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the
  1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico
Knopf, 2012©

Thorny in California
  at 6 weeks

Friday, March 8, 2013

Paddy Chayefsky on Executive Action

  Whaddaya wanna do to     kill some time, Mr       President?

  I dunno, Mr Brennan.     What can you give me in   the way of a bang, that   won't get me into         trouble?

  Guess that rules out a   housebreaking contest?

Paddy Chayefsky, script
Philco Television Playhouse, 1953
United Artists, 1955
Palme d'Or
AMPAS Best Picture

Thorny in California
  with his brother

I felt a terrible renunciation coming on, of all seriousness

   This sets an insupportable example for the young,
   I realise, second only to yielding to the tempta-
   tion to confide it. But we'd been going through a
   little impromptu power outage in our neighborhood,
   a classic if tiresome Virginian response to snow-
   fall of the gentlest distribution; and there one
   was, alone under the covers with a trusty torch.
   What to do, what to do; yes, and with so little
   practice of having to improvise the onset of drow-
   siness without adding to one's irritation. The e-
   ternal hole card at bedtime - reading - would have
   to be played just right, or news of the Battle of
   Kursk (in Antony Beevor's fine telling) or Alan
   Bennett's inconclusive interview between Auden and
   a rent boy in Oxford, could, well could ratchet up
   the sense of a day's not ending just perfectly, es-
   pecially as one is being napped in freezing ambient

I suppose it is as obvious to everybody else, as it eventually became to me, that it's to the sardonic that we turn, in such circumstances, even at some risk of a literary experience. Who else do we know, who could make such a happy omelet of privation, as Dorothy Parker? Yes, but everybody else remembers, better than I, how she turned Benchley's seat of theatre criticism into such an unhinged riot of contrarianism, when he took leave at The New Yorker in the early '30s, to dabble in Hollywood (everybody else loved him with milk, in his bar room greeting of Joel McCrea in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent).

I very much hope that everybody else would be prepared to say, that this page has 'roused no suspicion of taking a position on whom one should read in bed, even in a power outage. John Lanchester, for example, is blessedly sardonic, and even edifying on how to murder a talentless cook in the subway. There are, that is, horses for courses: natural pairings which occur circumstantially, and under certain conditions, per-form at their very best. Ms Parker and everybody else are a match of enslavement at the best of times - everybody else and I couldn't think, of better guest room reading - but if one is ever feeling the pinch of a pitched tank battle or a dys-functional tryst, it helps to believe it might not be happen-ing, if (that is) it is.


Antony Beevor
The Second World War
  Chapter 31:  The Battle of Kursk
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012©

Alan Bennett
The Habit of Art
Faber & Faber, 2009©

Dorothy Parker
Kindly Accept Substitutes et seq.
The New Yorker, 21 February 1931
The Portable Dorothy Parker
Marion Meade, editor
Penguin Classics, 1976©

John Lanchester
The Debt to Pleasure
Picador, Henry Holt, 2001©

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We were never fancy

Over the weekend, preparing for the arrival
of an infant English dog, I went out to pro-
vision the house with a maker of smoothies -
the new compulsion among the green Maoists -
for his nutrition and mine, to see that I'll
keep up with him. I foraged a breakfast with
the thing this morning, inducing its opera-
tion for the first time. Immediately, I fell
into a gentle basin of despond, if not fully
a pit, as the device exerted itself in dig-
itally nuanced pulsings and whirrings and
ancillary esoteric frolics, to persuade me
that I'd made a witty acquisition.

I take, needless to say, the contrary view.
I'd been had by a culture of technology over
technique, and left with an incurably glossy,
supersafe chemical compound for a canister of
state-of-the-art extracts and chopped debris.
If only my family were here to indulge a de-
served laugh at my expense, I'd feel I were
still living in a gentler, more humane world.

Our world is one of cutting boards and sieves,
food mills run by hand, and mortars and pestles.
Our engagement with our ingredients is physical,
stylised, an exercise of craft. Apart from the
undeniable lewdness of the machine, there was
its mockery of time and feeling, caring and cre-
ativity to welcome, suddenly, as if some stan-
dard befitting the puppy.

I will not go that way with him. 

Adam Prucha

  Hemisphere™ Control Blender

Thorny in California

Monday, March 4, 2013


  Caïque in the wind's center,
  sails hauled in bow-taut,
  tiller swung into the final tack
  against the bare blue mountains.

   And the heaven-coursing howl that swamped
   rigging, backstays, the yard
   -- dolphins in pursuit all the way --
   strummed her over the waves: an upright lyre.

Angelos Sikelianos
Selected Poems
Edmund Keeley and
  Philip Sherrard, translation
Princeton University Press, 1979©

California, 3 March