Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday commute lxxxv: A New Orleans specific

I live in a region whose prevailing culture rests on the seductive conviction that there is nothing to be done about life. Some of this aversion to progressive tampering derives from anticipating another life, often called the next, where all scores will be settled unfailingly in one’s favour, anyway; some, from a conditioned avoidance of labour; and some of it comes from the captive’s delectation of shared secular oppressions. 

To sustain us through the meteorological amenities of our Summer, we turn often to New Orleans, a settlement in a marsh at the confluence of a fat and undisciplined Ganges and a torpid and polluted gulf, bubbling sultrily along as if there were nothing to be done about it, with Nova Scotia no more than a boarding pass away. This accounts, inter alia, for the philosophical acceptance by an apocalyptic Texan head of state toward the rinsing mystery of a destructive storm, to say nothing of the widespread indigenous erasure of the palate with peppers.

Yet if there is a lingua franca with which to reach these people it is, quite famously, distilled spirits, in which even the justifiable one - Scotch - can be trusted to weather the great crossing into the morass of New Orleans in Summer. I happened, therefore, to recommend a certain lighter brand of malt whisky to a friend visiting there for the season. This is a pale nectar, tempered for some years in casks of long experience of Sauternes, and his imaginative palate leapt at the suggestion with that underresearched zeal of taste for conforming to circumstances. I don’t know that he’ll try it, but he has still a youngster’s sense of what matters, and he’s been down there only a few days.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön

We seem to be undergoing another of those ages of demand for high resolution in what we call, our media. Every such age adopts a new consensus for defining definition, going invariably further astray from the original imprint. The degradation these awakenings inflict upon the senses, is one thing, their stripping of mentalities, another. In this I do not refer to the passive presumption, that if the image can be presented with sufficient acuity, it will impose no demands upon perception. I refer to the flight from experience, itself. If one wants to know the sound of the piano, one must first know where it comes from. Yet again, Bonaparte was right. One must play the piano.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

It gets so late, some nights

Last night, on the eve of the 4th anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, Marat was assassinated and promptly commemorated by his friend, David. It precipitated the placement of the Terror on the a-genda of the fledgling Convention, Jacobins supporting it against domestic enemies and the Girondins invoking it against hostile for-eign powers. Phrases like, you're with us or you're against us, history is over, we will not await attack poured fast throughout the capital, indignant organs of media churning them, the Law of Suspects sailing through the Convention two days later, 220 years ago. 

The Furies:
  Violence and Terror
  in the French and Russian
Princeton University Press, 2000©

I was thinking of blowing off Bastille Day

I was thinking of blowing off Bastille Day this year, with deference to a friend who selected this radiant date, a year ago, to be locked into the kind of matrimony permit-ted even in Dixie. Honestly, I've rather had my fill of matrimony in recent days, and I have to say again that it is not the first of the Rights of Man to leap into one's heart, as one reflects upon our chronic fortress prisons of less cheer. Matrimony was a fun redoubt to take, but an easy one, and now I think the best thing to be said, is that it's behind us. 

Paraphrasing Bonaparte, If you wish to take Vienna, don't hang about Paris.

Has anyone ever written Charles Lamb's deathless Bachelor's Complaint, from the inside, out? Oh, millions upon millions, yes, have waxed (waned?) on matrimony's genius for stripping one of friends, exchanging them for alliances; but what of its talent for depriving one of Paris? One might as well be spoused in San Francisco, can you stand it, as immured in legal bonds of our forging by the Seine. Mind you, I don't refer to matrimony's reputed sexual limits, threadbare, porous, plastic and fantastic as they are, when I think of its disproportionate return on invest-ment. I think of overpaying, a pleasure we all can understand. It is almost impossible to squander any resource amenable to it. Now, that is rare.

So there. Matrimony's arrogant conservation of energy isn't sexual, anymore (and what would have made that enviable?); it's a gas guzzler of the spirit of in-vention, itself, a playground for the wit to make it work. Nobody was ever so sentimental for the Bastille, I must say. Even the Crown was satisfied, and all good men dreaded it as intended. And so, my dear reader, it very much was.

So love was crowned, but music won the cause. I'll give you Bastille Day for matrimony, to wear it inside out, and let the prisons fall about us.

John Dryden
Alexander's Feast,
  Or the Power of Music
Georg Frideric Händel
Harry Christophers, director
The Sixteen
Collins, 1990©