Saturday, September 19, 2020

Word from the land of always something


Word came to Americans some time in
the evening of the 18th that a hold-
out against replacement on the high
court had passed from the scene, al-
lowing speculation of whether, how,
when, by whom something definitive
would be done about this. This was
not the first intrusion on a wedding
anniversary of mine, when a highly
presentable plate of rognons de veau
was first served to me on the night
of my farewell to the East Coast. I
found myself back here eventually,
unmarried, and although cured of com-
memorating occasions with food, still
easily consoled by a determined defer-
ence to offal.

This latest bulletin in the struggle
for power in the United States found
me just as glad to be able to rely on
my friends already to be in earnest,
plotting various interventions. No 
one had telephoned me, anguished to
be reminded, how to breathe, and I
found myself managing equally well,
once I'd recalled the virtues of 
fresh coffee. Not for this house-
hold, then, will hands be wrung in
wonder of what will become of life
for another 40 terms of this court;
no swooning on the indignity of the
present power structure's swan song
of bottomless villainy. Possibly,
some frantic defections from that
cabal can be negotiated; possibly
a bolt of gastronomic clarity will
descend upon the illumination of
well-grazed kidneys, but in any
case, calving season will return, 
in all its telling raucousness.

For more than 50 years, a tenuous
claim to a position in the general
population and an ill-bred fixation
on the mythology of judicial review
have left me with the conviction 
set out above, that one's time can
much more securely be invested in
a study of the classics in cuisine
than in the tergiversations of a
casuist tradition under demagog-
ic appointment. Enough, please, 
of heroes of magical powers. Win
games, breed good beasts, honor

Now. That's revenge.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Of frogs we should have expected

’Twas a warm Summer night, just the 
weather for merchants of sentiment 
to stuff our throat with frogs. Not 
merely to agitate the lachrymose, but 
equally the otiose, our hapless Clas-
of Aristophanes to which the amphibi-
ans lent their name, a battle of tra-

Already in everyone’s mind had been 
shades of Franklin Roosevelt and his
leadership of national recovery, re-
form, and resistance to fascism. Who
would muck with this? 

Enter boldly the nominee, citing FDR’s 
crippling by polio - a virus, he alert-
ly recalled - and then, not referencing 
to others at Warm Springs, segued into 
presenting himself as mentor to a school-
boy who stutters. None dare call it pla-
giarism, but his opponents are what they 
are, and I hold four hopes in escalating 
order of intensity - 

That the campaign is ready for the fire-
storm of exploitation of his fuel; that 
the soul of FDR is slapping his knee with 
glee at this overreach for his image; 
that nobody faults Aristophanes for our
witless memory; and that the boy in ques-
tion will be held as blameless as he is.

This leaves the nominee. I respect the
necessity to project an unanswerable im-
pediment to Trump and Trumpism's penchant
for mocking his speech as a symptom of 
frailty. At the same time one would like
to be able to expect the candidate to ex-
ercise his own strength, without sending
for a child in his place. One would like
him to stop striving for poignancy and be-
gin to enact raw, exposed superiority:

Listen, swine. I have a neurological prob-
lem with my speech. I'll stutter all day,
before I'll emulate your lies.

5th C BC
Metropolitan Museum

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Saturday commute clxxxi: This very day, no less

In James Brooks’ hit film comedy, “As 
good as it gets” (1997), Helen Hunt, 
playing a single mother of an asthmat-
ic boy being neglected by the American 
medical establishment, receives an en-
dowment covering all of the medical ex-
penses necessary to transform her son 
into a soccer star within a week. But, 
suspecting that this gift comes with 
carnal expectations attached, she turns 
to Shirley Knight, her mother, to fret 
that maybe she should reject it. “No,” 
she flatly declares. “This isn’t a pair 
of stockings, this isn’t a string of 
pearls. This you do not give back.”

I find myself unable to imagine that 
Joseph Biden could have foreseen that a 
prospective running mate, often seen but 
"somehow" blocked in her quest for the 
Presidential nomination that he won by 
attrition, would be revealed as a soccer 
star within hours of being presented with 
his favor. How oblivious the presumptions 
so often are, at the foundation of our ex-
pertise, we need hardly note in this moment 
of Donald Trump. Yet suddenly the campaign 
that might already be seen as straight, but 
which no one pretended might see very far, 
finds itself carried aloft on a wave of ju-
bilation not seen since the conquest of 

Look here. People are affected. That very 
night one could feel the country, stand up. 
Stephen Colbert found Jon Batiste, composing 
a song, "for Kamala." Those who were able to 
squeeze into the donation sites of the Democ-
ratic National Committee, managed to deposit
$48 million there in those hours. Personal
ties, political commitments, alumni networks, 
lately moribund in the moment of Donald Trump, 
sprang to giddiest life — and all without the 
least forewarning. There was pandemonium at
the corner of Castro and Market, without a
word from Dionysus. This selection is not 
a pair of stockings; it’s not even a pair of 
Bernie’s fishnets. Alas, it isn’t pearls of 
Elizabeth Warren. It's the ore of our ground,
not of our statues. This is our birth.

No tentative “connection with the future,” the 
cliché of the day — or light at the end of a
tunnel, Kamala Harris declares the truth of
this very day, that only an unyielding maze 
of sordid, illegitimate structures could con-
ceal. Nor could it be lost in the confetti,
this revelation was ultimately forced upon
powerfully reluctant beneficiaries. But it's
done, and what one feels is the pace at which
such power can shift.

ii  Joshua Lott
    Getty Images©

Friday, August 14, 2020

Suppose it were Friday clxxvi: So run

             I live with the sound my body is.

             . .

             I can't forget the pure sound I heard once
             when a violin string snapped nearby
             in three o'clock's perfect silence.
             But I tell myself I'm safe. I remind myself
             of the boy who discovered order in the piano
             and ran upstairs to tell his little sister
             that they didn't have to be afraid anymore.

Jack Gilbert
The Dance Most of All
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009©

Conor Fay

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Origins of Wednesday cxi: A country maybe to be living in

  No, I didn't believe it either, when
  I heard that New Yorkers were buying
  cars to get around, much less that a
  chance had been laid upon the table,

  It's enough to promise to stop World
  maybe just refocus it on fascists of
  our own. But I stray, which the Bid-
  en campaign, so far, does not. Nice. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A feast on hold

In allowing the 29th of July to pass 
without comment, I found myself in a
position of deferring recognition of
the anniversary of rmbl in a context
of widespread suspension in society,
as well as of suspense in individual
life. I don't think I describe an ob-
literation in our communities of in-
terest, so much as an enlargement in
their enrollments in overlapping com-
mon cause. Public health, social jus-
tice, national reclamation from its
direst imaginable imperilments, seem
to depend upon one date's promise of
commitment to their advancement, be-
ginning this November. And yet, even
though the fork for the fish course
of a feast bears suggestive resem-
blance to the fork for a later, the 
salad, they are different enough to
argue for their individual mastery,
lest we falter in their requirements.

Emergency is always at its most per-
ilous when it challenges discernment,
and a combination of emergencies is
especially fraught. The first order
of business in the emergence of the
unimaginable is to recognize, with-
out being comforted, how familiar
it is. Yes, it is now as late as the
salad course, but the mix is still
a salad of discernible ingredients.
We did not imagine this compilation,
but we know its addresses must be
compendious, and it is time to re-
ly on an instrument well designed
for selection as well as embrace. 

We recognize, such is the tick-
et of Joe Biden for President of 
the United States, and Kamala Har-
ris for Vice President. Look at
how congruent are the tines, look
at how excellently they are dis-
tributed, look at how purposefully
they alternate, and how they accom-
modate and balance what they hold,
with our acceptance. Set the table.


Friday, June 19, 2020

Juneteenth now

Who might ever have guessed that the genealogy of America's deliverance from Donald Trump and his Republican Party would be traced directly through the emphatic embrace in Spring, 2020, of racial equality before the law?

And why was this, except that both the necessity and the reward for struggle came to be seen as one. People turned to each other in disbelieving unison to ask, Where the hell have we been, to forget that playing fair is first of all to play? They rid themselves of Trump by reclaiming the sheer pleasure of the soul-sustaining resolve to be fair. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Tom Cotton, Tom Cotton: whose moon's misbegotten?

I ask you to imagine being a fellow
with a nicely developed capability  
to pass as conventional, who wanted
as much to be admired as something
of the model for that virtue. You'd
leap at the chance to have been
named Tom Cotton, would you not? Ah:
a burnished ordinariness, with the
sobriquet to make Huck Finn wilt with
envy! One could go far, even within
the enchanted salons of condescension.
Even if ordinariness where you come
from is racist, even if convention
where you come from is the chivalry
of the anguished lost cause, even if
the way to be its model is to linger
for the retirement of the drooling-
est old dog, Tom Cotton plucks you
from the vestibule of pretenders.
What say you, Robert Penn Warren? 

Thus at last, the mise-en-scène
had been laid for our own Tom Cotton,
the scrupulously exact impersonator
of such knighthood, to pass an op-
Ed diatribe through that most con-
tested gate in journalism, the guest
room of The New York Times.

A lifelong dissident friend of mine
found it reprehensible, that the
inn-keeper hadn't even read the
text, but what would he read it for?
Accuracy of aim, when its aim would
perforce be so corrupted, the gauge
does not exist to measure it? Impec-
cability of grammar, when the death
of that value is one of the merriest
bear-baiting rites of modern media?
Virtue of advice, when its virtue
swims up through such a provenance
of the cuspidor as to cite mucosity 
as its sponsor? Probably not. An edit-
or who vouches for a guest will only
contradict himself with the next one.

That much being obvious, we need turn
to the intoxicated momentum of de-
manding heresy in defense of prin-
ciples too ascendant to be trusted.
Do we need a more handsome depiction 
of crowd-sourcing our shunnings, a
loftier torch of our convictions,
than a festival for their frailty?

Anti-racism is having such a vogue,
just now, that it seemingly can't be
trusted to remain a default condition
of human literacy. Enter the keepers
of the flame, to be sure their as-
sociations are unviolated; hoist the
petard of endangerment. Exile the
editor, by that brightest of all hy-
pocrisies, the exhibition of chastity.

Another friend, whose long leniency 
to rmbl has shown no audible limit,
has gently inquired into the cause of
its present mode of meagreness. That
question claims priority for its own
occasion, but a silence in the face 
of an epistolary auto-da-fé such as
this, is not within one's capability.

One can hardly feel let down, by the
publisher's concession to his flock,
in re-assigning a person who misjudged
the terms of a private employment. One
can claim no necessity to publish an
Tom Cotton submitted to the Times. Yet
again and again and again and again,
excuses have to be made for benign 
distrust of the mind, or this must be
recognized as its universal menace. 
No huzzahs for any nitwit's repression 
can possibly advance the cause of jus-
tice better, than the exhibition of
the awesomely distinguished Tom Cotton.

It's possible to see a particular dan-
ger, in any impression of thinking as
a correspondent to Americans. It is 
that their impression of themselves is
so variable that it is too often at
its least stable, when it is certain.
I don't fear Tom Cotton. I can resist 
his repulsive gambit, but he's not our
dog in this hunt. It is one thing to be 
ineducable. Yet another, to demand to be.

Tom Cotton
The New York Times
June 3, 2020