Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday commute cxxxix: Between nonsense and neglect

Some time ago I recommended the  private compilations and published musings, of David Cecil; and I find them an inexhaustible model of taste, the longer I live with them without apparent benefit. I especially admire his gentle shrewdness, in juxtaposing extracts of some experience of Neglect, beyond all alphabetical coincidence, with those of unredeemed Nonsense. Their correlation, naturally, is broader than his exquisite selection of evidence, but Cecil’s reticence in suggestion needs to be honored in any praise of his taste. One can refer what one may, to such a pool of refreshing perspective, without doubt of being welcome. In his selection from Tennyson, he might have left the question of category to any reader - but he didn’t -

Come not, when I am dead,
To drop thy foolish tears
  upon my grave,
To trample round my fallen
And vex the unhappy dust
  thou wouldst not save.
There let the wind sweep
  and the plover cry;
But thou, go by.

Child, if it were thine 
  error or thy crime
I care no longer, being
  all unblest:
Wed whom thou wilt, but
  I am sick of time,
And I desire to rest.
Pass on, weak heart, and
  leave me where I lie:
Go by, go by.

Lord David Cecil
Library Looking-Glass
  A Personal Anthology
  Come not ..
Harper & Row, 1975©

Peter Zumthor
Studio detail
Haldenstein, Switzerland

Le Corbusier
Les oiseaux

Friday, April 7, 2017

Depending in part on definition

   With due respect, it never
   fails to help to know what
   the antecedent of it might
   be. Authorities are incom-
   petent to answer that one. 

i  Will McPhail

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The petulant, the easy call

A shower of cruise missiles, inflict-
ing negligible, gratuitous damage, à
la mode of Bush league shock and awe -
degradation, we will hear it said, in
offensive capability - is both a fu-
tile and a narcissistic gesture, open-
ly lacking any of the commitment re-
quired to justify itself as a message
of resolve. For those who were not
born yesterday, or reduced to cheap
thrills by the stalwart knights of
the Fox News feedback loop, this is
the act of a showman dilettante, in
a moment of urgent need to present
a circus to his Great Power guest,
notwithstanding its portrayal of an
infantile incoherency of policy.

Like clockwork, you were saying. 
You will forgive us, then, if we 
don't wait up for the selfie. Its 
shelf life will expire at dawn.

Victor Alonso, photograph

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The sketch, the ship, the afternoon


  It's like him, of course,
  this little pencil portrait.

  Hurriedly sketched, on the ship's deck,
  the afternoon magical,
  the Ionian Sea around us.

  It's like him. But I remember him as       better looking.
  He was almost pathologically sensitive,
  and this highlighted his expression.
  He appears to me better looking
  now that my soul brings him back, out of   Time.

  Out of Time. All these things are very 
  old --
  the sketch, the ship, the afternoon.

                  Les calculs de côté, l'inévitable 
                  descente du ciel et la visite des
                  souvenirs et la séance des rythmes
                  occupent la demeure, la tête et la
                  monde de l'esprit.

                  Once we put our calculations aside,
                  the inevitable descent of the sky
                  and visiting memories and the sé-
                  ance of rhythms occupy the home,
                  the head and the world of the mind.

Constantine Cavafy
On Board Ship
Edmund Keeley &
  Philip Sherrard
George Savidis
C.P. Cavafy
Collected Poems
Princeton University Press, 1975©

Arthur Rimbaud
ca 1875
  John Ashbery
W.W. Norton & Co, 2011© 

i    Evgeny Mokhorev
     Double Portrait, revised
     21st C

ii   Jean-Louis Forain
     Arthur Rimbaud

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ain't we got grit

In the fabulous toy shop of sover-
eign power opened to the screwiest,
the crankiest, and the naughtiest
fringe of the minority in national
life - yes, this did happen here -
plainly the escapades of the Attor-
ney General draw the kind of fascin-
ation Nature, herself, reserves for
the tenacity of infancy's euphemisms
for its recreational savageries. His
impregnable Muslim ban, for example,
concealed its thrilling intentions,
within the cloak of incompleteness. 

For today's trick, we note the re-
turn of Pontius Pilate to the admin-
istration of justice in that juris-
dictional matrix we celebrate as Fed-
eral, when we're being stingy, lazy,
or just blatantly indifferent to dom-
estic abuses of power; and imperial,
when we're being xenophobes, clods 
for creationism, and transactional
crooks at the pinnacles of graft. 

Today, mirabile dictu, our bouncing
ferret of fungible distinctions has
launched his instincts in plain view,
to endow, unleash, and invigorate 
our legions of cultural enforcement
with the weaponry, discretion, and
ideological petting they so sadly
were denied under the United States,
in favor of sober and fair policing.

This is the context for the selection
of a stoned-out "originalist" to deny
Judge Merrick Garland his seat on the
Supreme Court of the United States;
and there's weeping in the Coliseum,
that the martyrs aren't playing nice.

Photo, Evgeny Mokhorev

Monday, April 3, 2017

Steak knives, Hitchcock, and Alexandra Petri's Final 4

In recent days we have seized upon the
silliness of the steak knife, the endur-
ing allure of early Hitchcock, and even
the gothic Hogarthians who run the leg-
islature in North Carolina as inmates
of Charenton under the direction of the 
late Marquis. It was with some surprise,
therefore, that we discovered our child-
hood hometown newspaper, The Los Angeles
Times, midway just now upon a methodical
dissection of the plainly over-arching
subject of the season, the destruction
of the republic and the trashing of as
much of the world as possible, by self-
confessed enthusiasts for terrorism. 

taste for silliness, style, and hilar-
ity, meanwhile, has been ingeniously be-
friended in the rhetorical tournament
being refereed by Alexandra Petri, at
The Washington Post, now in the finals 
between the two most glorious pronounce-
ments of the new government, Conway's 
on alternative facts vs. the master's
own, on the complexity of health care.

People are still training samurai swords
on their tenderloins, squirming breath-
lessly to treacherous blondes on film, 
and tearing the wings off flies in Ral-
eigh, but Alexandra Petri and The LA
Times are way out in front in exposing
these distractions for their underlying
projection of the general trauma. To
the Times, for taking our Augean stable
seriously, and to Ms Petri, for ranking
the manure through the steam, we extend
glad thanks for allowing us all a rest.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Further report of the aviator: Air Force One's a lonely gig

  Does it seem entirely fair,
  that the military adjutant
  gets to socialise with the
  swells on the dining patio
  at Mar-a-Lago, dazzling in
  possession of his nuclear
  launch code briefcase - in
  rough Republican hide, one
  supposes, like Pat Nixon's
  famous winter coat - while
  the aviator ferrying that
  modest party has to loiter
  in constant readiness, to
  haul ass back to some base
  in suburban Maryland, with
  scarcely a fleeting nap?

  Of all the personnel deci-
  sions of this improvising
  government, this ranks up
  there with the Election,
  in conspicuous rashness.

  How forgetfully cast aside 
  our consciousness of the a-
  viator can be, under darker 
  provocations of the moment; 
  we need look no further to 
  consider, than to the oeuvre 
  of Mr Rothko, so seldom ref-
  lecting the palette of avia-
  tion, even though the world 
  may turn within it, and not 
  ungratefully at that. The 
  faultless calm of the pilot’s 
  concentration draws no notice 
  on the patio of dark ambition.
  But who could welcome there, a 
  spectacle of self-government?

Mark Rothko
acrylic on paper