Sunday, December 16, 2018

Gosh, there were good stories

See a sympathetic figure escape from
danger. I don't know for how long the
formula prevailed in English fiction,
but I'm not going to pretend to dis-
dain for it. It seems that the advan-
tage of this formula has less to do
with characterization and outcomes
than with freeing its composing agent
to perfect narrative scheme and style.

Knowing what the story is, seems to
have lent such stability to its arch-
itecture that, whether one cared for
the edifice or not, one could not
help but admit to its integrity. If
one were writing about an honest Am-
erican President within that genre,
his speech would hold such granitic
congruency that it could hardly be
expected to gain such trust today,
when the more thrilling improvisa-
tions of a fashion for psychological 
conjecture so absorb public taste.

If Hitchcock's Roger Thornhill were
to hang by his fingers, being crushed
by Leonard's shoe on Mount Rushmore,
would anyone recall the outcome if he
were a contemptible liar? I put this 
down to a curious feature in language,
regardless of who wields it over us.
Suspense, itself, is endangered, then.

                   There's no saying anent that - 
                   zeal catches fire at a slight
                   spark as fast as a brunstane
                   match .. I hae kent a minister
                   wad be fair gude day and fair
                   gude e'en wi'ilka man in the
                   parochine, and hing just as
                   quiet as a rocket on a stick,
                   till ye mentioned the word ab-
                   juration oath - and then, whiz,
                   he was off, and up in the air
                   an hundred miles beyond common
                   manners, common sense, and com-
                   mon comprehension.

Sir Walter Scott
The Heart of Mid-Lothian
  Ch xviii
J.M. Dent, Ltd., 1906©

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Saturday commute clxi: Holidays against type

    The phrase throttles the throat
    which utters it, as humiliating
    tautology. Yet, we can imagine
    characters in Forster, wandering
    from pensione to pensione, in a
    cocoon, wrapped up in a gondola,
    on a single, cluttered canal, ex-
    periencing that extraction which
    the holiday must be, as a restor-
    ation of timidity. Slip Maggie
    Smith into the craft, and you'd
    almost row for free. Someone has
    to substitute for Helena Bonham
    Carter, who leapt out, oars ago.
    Watch the film again. I've been.
    It doesn't go so far as Venice,
    but it does suggest, one might. 

James Ivory
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
E.M. Forster
Ismail Merchant
Goldcrest et al, 1986©

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tinkle, tinkle, media star

 You and I, involuntary stakeholders as
 we are, in the conduct of the American
 Presidency - whether hailing from Char-
 lottesville or Abbéville - could only
 gasp in wondering delight when the no-
 toriously female San Franciscan tidied
 up her Oval Office host, changing his
 nappies for no extra charge. To relive
 any one moment of her catechism on fact-
 speaking, so risks that dissolution in
 its absorbent lace as to foil the foil
 how the world did weep for the hilarity
 of the sight, of the haplessly incontin-
 ent misogynist's being exhibited in his
 own crib, for the boasting, taunting bul-
 ly his Republican godfathers insulate
 from justice. There has always been an
 underlying odor of infancy in our vaude-
 villian taste for slapstick, but never
 let it be said, the genre lacks revenge.

 Still, the last word was best reported
 capturing the synopsis offered by the
 Senate Minority Leader, a New Yorker -
 When the President brags that he won
 North Dakota .., he's in real trouble.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Origins of Wednesday lxxxv: Réflexions sur la question Bush

I opened a much-too-young vintage from
Graves - a favorite appellation - the
other night, and I told my excellent
wine merchant that I'd spend a little
time revisiting the writings of one
of its earliest vignerons. My impetu-
osity in tampering with a 2012 was
only doubly edified, in samplings of
sound and balanced discernment.
Where possible, I take that style of
commentary on our time as a favorite.

Several days ago, in a country house where 
I was staying, I came upon two scholars who 
enjoy a wide reputation here. Their charac-
ter struck me as admirable. The conversa-
tion of the first, when properly weighed, 
came down to this: "What I said is true be-
cause I said it."  The conversation of the 
second dealt with other matters: "What I 
did not say is not true because I didn't 
say it."

I rather liked the first man: that a man 
should be opinionated doesn't bother me 
at all; but that he should be impertinent, 
that does bother me, and a lot. The first 
man defends his own ideas; they are his own 
wealth. The second attacks the opinion of 
others, and that constitutes the wealth of 

Oh, my dear Uzbek, how badly vanity serves 
men who have a stronger dose of it than 
they need for the preservation of nature. 
Those fellows seek to be admired by dint 
of displeasing. They strive to be super-
ior; they are not even equal.

Charles de Secondat
  Baron de la Brède et
  de Montesquieu
The Persian Letters
  144: Rica to Uzbek
J. Robert Loy
  editor & translator
World, 1961©

1    Château de la Brède

iii  5th Avenue
      from the St Regis

Monday, December 3, 2018

Out, seeing: Ivan Terestchenko in Marrakech

This picture goes back about 8 years,
of a man carrying water on the street
in Marrakech. An incidental testament
to what still photography can show, a
rhythm in architecture, for one thing.

Ivan Terestchenko
Visual Diary
  Silhouette ...

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A practiced mourning glow

We are coping as best we can this weekend with the backlit glare from a political legend crafted over more than six decades, under a reluctance, both instinctive and inculcated, to speak anything but pleasantly of the dead. Coincidental occurrences, irrepressibly happening while he had been rightfully empowered to alleviate or prevent them — the enshrinement of the evildoer Willie Horton as the baseline of Republican dog whistling, the elevation of the mendaciously malignant Clarence Thomas to the highest Federal court, the nasty indulgence of AIDS in America and thence in the world, the denial of reality as the touchstone of governing — we blow aside, for Peggy Noonan’s Sancho Panza of “decency.” 

Much more to the point, would be to take at face value the cardinal myth of the late President, breeding, and indulge not in his current successor's gaudy 30 days of lowered flags, and parades of lachrymose crocodiles, sacrificial virgins, and legions of redhats; but rather, take up a patio with circumspect grief and calm reflection. The incumbent President manifestly has pervasive ignorance on his side, of the Presidency under remembrance now, which in any case cannot be filled in or topped up by information alone. It calls for a recital from Tony Kushner, of what human life was reduced to by decisions in that place in this country, and how indolence and insolence cleared the way for a regime we claim not to have expected.

Edward Hopper


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Saturday commute clx: Thunderbird days

Wistfulness for the decline in toys,
from one generation to the next, fol-
lows so well the trajectory of Thun-
derbirds that eventually the manufac-
turer felt compelled to issue a reviv-
al of the original's profile, albeit
heavily laden with extraneous amenity
and oppressive adjustments for safety.

The arrival of December can always be
counted on to stir nightmares of itchy
trousers and interminable devotional
silences, in our house at least; so if
an instant bares itself for celebration,
it is likely to be out of bounds, away
from traffic of every kind, with a
grateful dash into consoling distance.

I realize, one is expected to defer to
the taste for shorter sentences, shaped
by the extraneous and compulsory enter-
tainments of our current toys; but some
of us have never lost our distaste for
itchy pants, and devotional longueurs.
We love a time of not being followed,
our discovery of admiration at stake.

Miles Davis 
Columbia Studios

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

English language vacation day

Kindly do not bother me,
because I am one happy
fella. Mississippi just
elected an utterly inane
poster child of Confed-
erate dog whistlers to
the Senate, against an
African American veteran
of progressive governing.
And it wasn't even close.

On top of that - can you
stand it - the President
gave an occasionally on-
the-record interview to
certify conclusively his
imbecility. And it wasn't
even close.

November is a confusion
of holidays, some noted
for their original date,
with some known for our
penchant for long week-
ends, as in the day the
Germans quit the First
World War, and others
known for possibly not
actually happening at
all, as in Thanksgiving.

Here, on the other hand,
was a day that happened:
the most immaculate vaca-
tion ever bestowed by a
suspicious nation upon an
innocent international
language. Let the final
Tuesday in every November
hereafter, be remembered 
for no reliance at all 
upon English as the world
has ever used it before.