Saturday, February 24, 2018

A conservatism the word would never know

Ill fares the land, famously lamented Oliver Goldsmith (1770), 
to hast'ning ills a prey, where wealth accumulates and men decay. 

An extraordinary convocation of rapture in bigotry and every other scourge of ignorance and fury, is taking place in Washington under the name, Conservative Political Action Conference. Naturally, the American President keynoted the occasion with reminiscences of his worst rhetorical debaucheries, but to many the radiant highlights were two immaculately demented sermons by the National Rifle Association. Goldsmith's Village has been sold. 

One can make too many arguments 
for the company Samuel Johnson 
kept, who included the versa-
tile Oliver Goldsmith; one can 
even wonder, sometimes, how he 
kept any company. We notice, 
however, on Boswell's intimate 
authority, that we can't ignore 
his interest in the recombinant 
and resilient fecundity, de- 
spite a demagogic vulnerability, 
in the English language, of which 
he remains its wittiest guardian.

Where plain cherishing of the lan-
guage's resources comes into play,
however, we have his quiet friend: 

          Even now, methinks, as pondering here I stand, 
          I see the rural virtues leave the land: 
          Down where yon anchoring vessel spreads the sail, 
          That idly waiting flaps with every gale, 
          Downward they move, a melancholy band, 
          Pass from the shore, and darken all the strand. 
          Contented toil, and hospitable care, 
          And kind connubial tenderness, are there; 
          And piety with wishes placed above, 
          And steady loyalty, and faithful love. 

Rex Whistler
Capriccio Self-Portrait
  in a Dining Room Mural
Plas Newydd, Anglesey
undated, 1930s

Oliver Goldsmith

Friday, February 23, 2018

Suppose it were Friday cl: Hey, there's a thought

When the American President has a thought,
you know he's been listening to a broad-
cast of which he can unfailingly be trust-
ed to play the mime. Yesterday afternoon,
the head of the National Rifle Association
(the trade group who shackle the country
to compulsory exposure to firearms) blamed
the Democratic Party for not blaming the
schools for drawing endless waves of mur-
der to their premises. Sure enough, in the
same news cycle, the President vouchsaved
a proposal to deputize the janitors, and
flood the halls and heads and vestibules
of public education in America with mutual
assured destruction in event of any attack.

Given that teachers have unanimously re-
nounced their obligation to pack heat in
the classroom, and infuse every playground
contretemps with wondrous pacification,
this, in addition to tightening the portals
and screwing down the hatches, is Republican
policy now for holding power in Washington.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A market like no other

     Anyone willing to be arrested
     may shoot this irritant dead.
     This is only because, we know
     how remorseless the anger is,
     and its constituency pays for
     him to linger as its destiny.
     On earth, we are alone in our
     protections of this commerce.


C.B. Macpherson
The Political Theory
  of Possessive Individualism
Oxford University Press, 1962©

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Origins of Wednesday lxiv: Stale peanuts

The comic strip ran so long, that when
Lucy withdrew the football she feigned 
to hold for Charlie Brown’s kick-off, 
we ultimately assimilated that she was 
not a team mate but, for all the endear-
ing mirth in her first or second jest, 
she was nothing but a chronic saboteur 
of her own tease. My, how gamely Charlie 
Brown did bounce off his ever-trusting 
backside, as he slipped on one yellow 
peel after another in her deceptions,
as in, I'll sign any bipartisan bill a
majority wants. But that was last week. 

In the sickeningly familiar, dirty old man 
intonation he reserves for such occasions, 
to entice the naïve republic into his limo 
with a candy bar, he framed another above-
the-fray deception between heroic portraits 
in the East Room of the White House, to an 
audience of dress-uniformed conscripts for
the photo op. Now petting the very wings he 
had ripped from scores of butterflies there-
yet another pronunciamento, for his very per-
sonal Department of Justice to frame as some 
kind of enforceable restraint on the inter-
state sale of force multipliers for homicide
machines. Naturally, one could not expect a 
national prohibition against the enjoyment of 
the many dozens of thousands of such devices 
already in circulation, to say nothing of in-
vading their yeomanly trading at the sacred 
suburban Ballistics-and-Brew bazaars which dot
the map, proliferate online, and invigorate
our fairgrounds. His judges have seen to it.

Do we remember wondering, after a while, why
Charlie Brown kept on falling for Lucy's joke?
Was it because he'd been raised as a trusting 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Feeling recruited yet, today?

In the annals of tradition's tawdry tran-
sitioning from practical custom to acquis-
itive compulsion, we naturally cast our
mind back to the Bronze Age, when a metal
suitable for molding emerged as one more
noted for burnishing, not to say petting
into iconographic sculpture. Yet, never
ones to overlook the inventiveness of re-
cent generations, we have to ask, what
was wrong with the First World War? It
was, after all, from that watershed of
improvisatory ferment that the hallowed
plaid of Burberry first loomed large, to
magnify the wearer as a target, and so
to indulge its manufacture by such sur-
plus as to survive the original hostil-
ities, to concentrate class struggle at
home in Clapham. What was wrong with the
First World War, was pessimism.

In their unreasonably brilliant movie on
life in Clapham at the end of that war,
up to its resumption in 1939, Sir David
Lean, Sir Noel Coward, Sir Ronald Neame,
and a cast of immortals from the London
stage portray this civilian adaptation
of a military artifact with telling point,
as the maternally cautious Celia Johnson
inquires of her most incautious daughter,
Kay Walsh, if she has brought her Mac[in-
tosh] on their way to the Park. It's not
a Mac, the girl corrects her. It's a Bur-
berry. The tale goes on to delineate the
doom inchoate in that branding, as gent-
ly as her ticket to Singapore in 1939.

Over the weekend just passed, we all had
occasion to follow the movings-on of the
Burberry CEO and head of design, as re-
ported in The New York Times. As one verse
in his swan swong this Fall season, he an-
nounces the plaid's embrace of the logo-
type colors associated with the worldwide
movement for gender freedoms, not that he
has ever signaled much neglect of market
realities. A plaid, so inextricable from
baubles, has set its sights on the heart-
strings of history, and can anyone remind
me where I laid my trusty Macintosh?

ii  Swatch, Burberry
    The New York Times
    February 17, 2018©

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sighting the fugitive

  The press pool photographer caught the
  frantic Presidential flight from a hur-
  ried dump of platitudes on victims of
  his gun policies, yesterday, to his Xa-
  nadu retreat outside Palm Beach. It is
  a stressful weekend for being visible:
  with pristine probity, a prosecutor an-
  atomized his denial of foreign corrup-
  tion of the election that lent him his
  office; teenaged texters ran rings a-
  round his Fox News propaganda apparat-
  us, in wave after wave of real time ev-
  idence of their generation's devastas-
  tated trust in his government; as ad-
  ulterous liaisons continued to come
  forth, to attest to being paid off to
  forget him, and immigrant Americans
  learned first-hand the value of any
  of his promises. Where better to lick
  one's fork of chocolate cake, than in
  Xanadu's poshest suite, whilst laying

Al Drago, photography
The New York Times©
February 17, 2018