Friday, September 19, 2014

Suppose it were Friday xcix: Twill for a pillowcase

      Knoll, for my Charles
      Pfister couch on Tel-
      egraph Hill, offered
      a twill in Swiss wool
      and I took them up on
      it. Place and texture
      simply circumstantial?

      Maybe. Or maybe night
      is not just more day,
      Wassily chair geomet-
      ry, warmed with down.

Wassily Kandinsky
Study for Landscape
  with Tower
Oil on board
Solomon R. Guggenheim 
  Museum, New York

Summer Liebling v: PR pump for Picasso's Pirate

The Seagram Building, an occupancy app
subject to occasional updates here, is
wholly owned by a figure with a PR de-
partment capable of calling in a colum-
nist from the Business section of The
New York Times within days of drawing
the disgust of all New York. The fruit
of that processing can be imbibed at
the paper's website under the title,

Despite Record Prices, RFR Goes on a Manhattan Buying Spree

and the news is thrilling. Not merely
debauched, this building is set to be
delivered from untrendiness, down to
a food service tenancy of immovably
unyielding quality. But this is not a
publicity scam about hip chow, and be-
spoke floral fantasies. This is about
jobbing a newspaper for the price of
an interview. It's puff-piece pabulum,
down to the miraculous peaks of price
its protagonist will scale, to dazzle
chauffeurs with garage amenities. At
worst, he'd have us see him as a one-
man tenant roster of Mr Liebling's en-
dearing Jollity Building, a Broadway
bilker's paradise, where the highest
praise you can accord someone is to
say, 'He has promoted some very smart

There's no assessment of his financial
performance - more or less, the only
excuse for a Business column; but ood-
les, instead, on how he dazzles the
bourgeoisie at home and in town, with
antics of compulsive distraction. The
man owns the Lever Building, not the
Lever brand. Now he has his whitewash,
without the Sunlight. We make no mis-
take, to remember Liebling also on the 
Press and its docilities in such report-
ing: This is an economic process, like 
the displacement of oranges from "orange 

Julie Satow
Square Feet
  A Column
September 16, 2014
The New York Times©

A.J. Liebling
The Sweet Science
  and Other Writings
  The Jollity Building
  The Press
The Library of America
op. cit.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland's victory

As I write, the polls have just
closed in Edinburgh, and I have
poured a sip of whisky from Is-
lay, over a single ice from Fi-
ji. Before the results come in,
we have them. It is another day
of Scottish triumph, and I have
no doubt, we are all the better
for it.

The Scots have reintroduced,
templative standard of upris-
ing, which I fear has been o-
verlooked in many people's 
dread of demagogues, such as
my own and that of my friends.
It isn't easy to possess the
natural right - a Scottish in-
novation - to self-determina-
tion, and lay it by indefinite-
ly, for fraternity's sake. E-
quality rises ever more acute-
ly in the balance, as liberty,
of whatever proportion, shows
prejudice in her distribution.

I believe Scotland has captured
the flag of the United Kingdom,
if not wrung her own from it in
today's historically universal
turnout of eligible voters, in
peaceable polls throughout her
borders. This has no precedent;
the appetite it displays, com-
mands our respect. Its daunt-
ing confidence confirms its 
heritage. Its manner commends 
our humanity. This is the civ-
from the cradle.

No trumped up purple thumbs, no
UN observers to monitor the dig-
nity of the facts, not even a
star in the East, but an elec-
tion setting the union's agenda
more unequivocally than any
Queen's Speech. Her Majesty's
government has been chastened,
and the world now watches how
equitable it shall be. 

If not opprobrium, then awe and
bitter irony fall upon the soothe-
sayer marketmakers of doom, in fa-
vour of a refusal to vacate the
United Kingdom. I preferred their
of sustaining an irreproducible
patrimony of diversity in our
English-speaking cultures. But 
the "No's" offered cowardice as
a way of keeping whole; and e-
even if they win the vote, they
were certainly demolished in the
process, and reek in its outcome.

With malice toward none, with
charity for all, hovers anew in
the English-speaking air, for a
nation to embrace it. Look, what
Scotland's done.

Abraham Lincoln
March 4, 1865

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scotland's Cross

There is a secret tie
or union among partic-
ular ideas, which caus-
es the mind to conjoin
them more frequently,
and makes the one, up-
on its appearance, in-
troduce the other.

The white cross, anchoring the
four corners of the Union Jack
over the field of blue, is one
of the most recognised herald-
ic devices on the globe. With-
out the Cross of St Andrew, St
George's, intersecting at its 
center, is itself reduced to a 
lonely, unstable symmetry. 

That Scotland's Enlightenment
arose in the English language
was a coincidence. That it il-
luminates still a world think-
ing in that tongue is not. It
is mitigation for much history
we've been grateful to survive.
But it also demonstrates a prin-
cipal in the Scotsman, Hume's,
Treatise on Human Nature (1740),
of contiguity as connective in
one of his signal discoveries,
the association of ideas. Phil-
osophy cannot account for long- 
embattled union, but it can
for its subject. That island 
is more than a habit. 

Such a fashion there is for dis-
solution to achieve redemption,
it must derive from the allure
of abruptness, against which a
society where I live has often
lost its struggle. I trust the
experiment of being whole, to
gain understanding; generosity,
between siblings who originated
my impetuous, unhealed country,
has enlightenment to exemplify
to anxious cousins, worldwide.

David Hume
Treatise on Human Nature
Stanford University 
May 21, 2014©

John Ruskin
Ashmolean Collection

James Buchan
Crowded with Genius
  The Scottish Enlight-
  enment: Edinburgh's
  Moment of the Mind
Harper Collins, 2003© 

Monday, September 15, 2014

I know the halting pursuit

The other day, motoring along in our
quiet neighbourhood, I was listening
to National Public Radio in one of
those bright and sparkling mid-day
interview programmes they should be
commended for conducting. An Indian
web frees people from having to know
things, allowing them to cultivate
the nobler facets of their networks.
He was quite exuberant on the pros-
pect of supplanting cultivation as
it used to be understood, with an
admittedly enviable suppleness of
cordial ignorance. I'm sorry, I did
not make notes of the event; but I
cannot believe I raise an unfamiliar
paradigm, to anyone brilliant enough
to log on.

I do not complain of obsolescence 
in one's style of having lived by
recombinant acquisitions of learn-
ing, each moment identified by an
interval of life in which it was
assimilated, but always contempor-
aneously with much else, furnishing a
a crucible of context of some confu-
sion, within an ongoing, organic de-
velopment of the mind and of life,
with occasional side trips to look
at paintings, and other human bod-
ies. (My, how abrupt they can be).

To know something immediately, not
only defies the structure of Na-
ture - and you may say, its compact
with time - it rends and claws
and smashes the organic relation-
ship between development and its
deployment. But I understand our 
Indian mentor's exaltation of the 
bull in the corrida, seeking death. 
Having to know immediately is rou- 
tine, ordinary, to calves at a dis-
pensing teat. To the bull, spontan-
eously inspired by the banderilla,
it's expedient, and useless all at 

His power is not his magnificence,
it's his hysteria, inflicted by un-
examined stimuli. Nobody has any
trouble, unfortunately, in recog-
nising the culture being played 
by banderillas, in the bullhorns
of its warrior cheerleaders. This
would not be conceivable, in the
plodder's naïveté. The futility
of knowing in the upstart mode of
search engines has been exhibited
enough, yet I don't argue for its
abandonment, merely for its appre-
ciation as the parlour game that
it is. We hope to diminish the 
futility of knowing, by the only
means in which we could suggest
any confidence in it: measuring
the vitality of its condition
by its endurance of reflection.

There are the willful naïves and
the natural kind. Who can accept
being imitated by incompetents?

George W.S. Trow
Within the Context
  of No Context
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997©

Man Ray
George Platt-Lynes
Paris, 1927

Sunday, September 14, 2014


                                All over the
                                ground already.