Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

Suppose it were Friday iv: we do not mean to scare the horses

We met a guy in painter's pants,
t'offer sinecure of fame,
despite the likely circumstance
we'd never know his name.

It's fair to be conscious of the 1st of July

The conduct of one's seeing, from the exercise of our capacity, to the character of our assimilation of information, to our consolidation and critique of opinion, has recurringly surfaced here as a matter of 'customs in common' as well as of personal ethics. The very comprehension that seeing is conduct is, we think, one of the earliest discoveries an incongruous personality will make in life; but that does not make it uncommendable.

The month of July is pivotal, of course, in the Julian calendar, and presumably everyone is cognisant of July's climax of one almost metabolic adjustment, commencing another. By coincidence, July also figures in the rapport of this page with the friend we refer to in the first person. 

Equidistantly removed from July's diurnal ex-tremes, are two dates which present watersheds internal to the page: the birth of the father of that friend, and the introduction of Laurent. Unportentously, these coincidences naturally invigorate a discussion of seeing which we are grateful to have shared, from our incongruous quadrant, with others acknowledged as Context, especially a tireless Little Augury.

It's fair to be conscious of the first day of July. A father writes in from Australia, to say he has a son who reads this page. A lady from Stinson Beach shares mementoes of her family, and a mother from the Peninsula has the charity to thank our praise of her children. How do these people see, we wonder? We admire gentillesse even before we feel it; and often we invoke the act of seeing, without saying so.

Possibly this has not been plain enough, but it is better for a picture's pertinence to be felt. We know ennui with our pictures alleges a lack of enigma, by which is meant the gesture of asking the reader to see what he wants. But we are about exerting sight; and the moment of July's arrival reminds us, as this portrait vigorously portrays, that seeing, while rewarding and obligatory, is always contingent, subject to myriad variables. He sees half on tiptoe in bare feet in a street made of dirt. Yet we feel the immense moment of this conduct and are invested in its outcome. The picture's whole structure is a paean, to conduct which becomes him.


iv photo Stranka
vi photo Goranjovich

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In which we offer to make up for lost time with painting

A greatly unintended shortcoming in our greeting to the reader of this page has lately been brought home to us with the sweetest of remonstrances. Inadvertently, we have succumbed to a recourse to photography more often than to painting; and so we are hoping that a long weekend's indenture to the elevations of needy edifices in Provincetown would afford the revivification and adjustment which lie at the heart of any wise correction. If the discourse of our postings should turn salty in that time, the effect is sure to dissipate as we return to Virginia, and must be attributed to the native salinity of the setting.

Michael Cunningham
Land's End
  A Walk through Provincetown
Random House, 2002©

Lush slope brave fruit

The wintry haw is burning out of season,
crab of the thorn, a small light for small people,
wanting no more from them but that they keep
the wick of self-respect from dying out,
not having to blind them with illumination.

But sometimes when your breath plumes in the frost
it takes the roaming shape of Diogenes
with his lantern, seeking one just man;
so you end up scrutinised from behind the haw
he holds up at eye-level on its twig,
and you flinch before its bonded pith and stone,
its blood-prick that you wish would test and clear you,
its pecked-at ripeness that scans you, then moves on.

Seamus Heaney
The Haw Lantern
  The Haw Lantern
The Noonday Press
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987©

Photo James Dwyer

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The markets are up

And don't think for a moment, that Whit and I are not positively squirming with delecta-tion of our dividends' new biscuit, even as we speak above the smog and trauma of Syntagma Square. That said, we do have only this one caveat to suggest, to our benefactors in all the Bourses of this world. 
Why, when you're shoving nightsticks down the throat of real people, of impertinent opinions, suffering real deprivation that we all know very well is good for them, teaching them a lesson their shabby morals deserve, don't you close your damned exchanges for the day, and rake us all the winnings of our hedgings on the morrow?
You know? We could wait 'til breakfast, and send your shady croupier a tip, even now.

Athens today
  The New York Times

River, it had to go that way

We put the stage version of 'Chimes' on in Belfast in 1960; Welles discovered me .. As you know, the subject matter had long fascinated [him]. He had experimented with it in 'Five Kings', and it was .. getting clearer. He always saw it as a triangle, basically, a love story of a Prince lost between two father figures. Who is the boy going to choose?

It can persuasively be argued that Orson Welles' treatment of this primordial question is second only to Shakespeare's, but that is virtually to place the achievement beyond mortal capability, and praise needn't go that far. Particularly with treatments also by van Sant and Kenneth Branagh, the story of Prince Hal's accession to the path of his usurper father has been framed for the people of America to ponder in the most serious gratitude to art. Gus van Sant, alone, has addressed this question in not one, but three films, cited below; but of course it is the genuinely tragic history of the United States under the Bush family's dysfunctions, in synergy with secular illiteracy and abject naïveté, for which we will return again and again to Shakespeare's Bolingbroke plays - Richard II, Henry IV 1, Henry IV 2, Henry V, and the catastrophic Henry VI. Even ignoring the degeneracy of his companions, the 43rd President's endless public renunciations of his namesake more than underscored the wasteful cruelty of his governance; they prefigured it.

Laurent has friends named on this page, who broke our condition to him when there may have been time to thwart it. They and he, ideas merely, stand to inherit a bequest of understanding we see as their right to expect us to have known. We only regret that we are in the cast of these plays, in their audience never. The theatre they made is not ours to leave, as is our wont - indeed, as Michelle Bachmann pretends to us, we can do. The nation has been unmade with her repeated affirmation, and for her to arouse despair with her achievement now, surpasses all vulgarity and effrontery.

A page, such as this, taxed for revelry in fannies and reproved for showing smiles, is likely to elicit disgust for stepping out of the form for which its critics flock to it. But what could they have believed we had in mind, as they conceded the charm of our pictures? Did they expect another sleepwalker to hold their coat, indulging their identifying sentiments without a sense of debt? William Shakespeare is standing there, prodding our bunks and scorching us from the sun dial - Honour thy young. We were raised to know, and we did. 

Their image lives in our vestigial heart as ours; what shall it mean to say that we're its host?

Keith Baxter, actor
  Interview with
  the editor
Chimes at Midnight
op. cit.

Orson Welles, director
Chimes at Midnight, 1965

Gus van Sant, director
Mala Noche, 1986
My Own Private Idaho, 1991
Good Will Hunting, 1997

Kenneth Branagh, director
Henry V, 1989

N.B. Olivier's Henry V, a wartime 
consolation and a personal triumph, 
cuts the crucial scenes of Henry's
seduction by the monks and his 
harshness, and is not this story.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In one breath: making Falstaff, being Henry V

William Shakespeare
made his Falstaff
only to unmake him.

                     What a director must have 
                     is a capacity to throw out 
                     his most beautiful shots.

Orson Welles 
   Interview with Jean Cobos and
 Miguel Rubio, Sight and Sound,
 Autumn, 1966;
 Chimes at Midnight /
  Orson Welles, Director
 Bridget Gellert Lyons, editor
Rutgers Films in Print
Rutgers University Press, 1988©                    

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fashion and Crimea, smiling faces from Milan

History does not record whether it were the teal sweatshirt, eliciting the fanny, or the rakish shiny redband at the exposed, pale throat which led critics of our haberdashery to such applause for orange-banded purple socks and periwinkle mittens at Milan's runways of Autumn this year. It was enough for The New York Review of Books to call upon Max Hastings to round up the latest publishing on the Crimean War (1854-56) for the issue of June 9th, to regale us with tales of War by Fops and Fools. One does not find more than one sustained reference to George W. Bush in this whole, heroic example of tongue biting, and we are certainly not going to fail that standard.

One of the sublimest, and by unanimous consent the prettiest of the wars of immaculate futility which captivate students of Tom Brown's School Days, Crimea set a standard for consolations of fashion which we are not amazed to find invoked again.

Hastings' article affords a natural bookend to his own original text on a Crimean jaunt of modern times, the Falklands conflict of previous note in our pages. We wonder where this mightn't end, the joyride of our gender between fellowship and fratricide, except at fashion's door.

Elizabeth, Lady Butler
Calling the Roll

Dsquared, 2011

Suiting up, suiting down

Paris in calmer days

An eventual dozing off at the switch of gender sabotage is suspected for the present notable exception to the rule at Louis Vuitton for Men. True, the structural and mechanical details remain predictably shabby, still no threat to the durability of Hermès. But someone of long espionage in that direction has made off at last with the open glaring secret of dress-ing this complexion, in fawn and beige and white and, by ancient association, navy blue. This flimsy will go the way of all manufactured detritus; the colours, meanwhile, defy effacement. We think of the intrepid model, lending himself to irony.

That said, a glitch in sellier multi-tasking has probably accounted for the runaway surprise at the new sport necklace from Hermès. Defying the bespoke house's many generations of resistance to the one-size-fits-all principle of assembly-line production, it is said that the new ornament can be created by no more than 23 craftsmen at the rate of one per month, in further mockery of a priceless renown for inefficiency.

Indeed the news from Paris for Spring, 2012 (commonly accepted as the bellwether of consumer confidence in markets, worldwide) was inconclusive as to whether suiting up or suiting down were to represent the theme of the season. The Bourse responded to the confusion with an abrupt Long Weekend, closing while industry analysts parsed the tea leaves of runway oracles. Models, from whom this fallout was to have been kept at all costs, inevitably caught wind of it, flooding the streets of Paris with runaways from the plantation making off in the last thing they happened to be touting at the time.

For this reason, all eyes will likely now be riveted on the outcome of the Papandreou government's hurried announcement of a swimwear show in Athens, which some industry cynics are denouncing as a desper-ate gesture to arouse neo-Classical sentiment in the face of a gathering Protestant consensus for flogging cheap and selling dear, and on the backs of our innocuous goddies at every opportunity. Apprehensions of unravelling, long an unspoken assumption in the capital of couture, lay under threat of Attic exposure as a panic with the familiar. We shall see.

For LV Ryan Alexander
For Hermès and Panic Harry Goodwins
For Mabile Francisco Lachowski

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Within limits ii

A little play inspired by conversation at an imaginary lunch with Terestchenko and Valéry Lorenzo, on the seeing of limits. One steals recurringly from each of them, and one hopefully always will. 

When I asked them to illustrate the phrase, within limits, they proved that it couldn't be done except as a diptych. Terestchenko insisted that this requires depicting a nullity, to show a limit on the vision we know exists but are unable to use. Valéry argued for portraying the limit in the limit, itself, without showing it. It was only later, I realised I'd been rather sociably taken in, with each of them anticipating and speaking out for the other, as a fellow might do at lunch.

The boy will not run into a wall; he will continue, the wall is finished. And a good thing, too, because we needed more wine.

Within limits i

Living well is so practical, that's what makes it seem unfair

good health to Barry Leach

In Ten Vineyard Lunches, Richard Olney's classic guide to agrarian custom, we find scant mention of couture, for while no garment is forever, scrambled eggs and asparagus more or less are. But he did not sup-pose we'd neglect any need, so it is convenable that Hermès have seen to ours with characteristic lightness of heart.

So let us say no more of clothes, which can be picked up just about anywhere, and abandon urban tastings to their spit-bucket sur les toits; we'll rusticate in Bordeaux next Spring, attired without care: in climate Californian, clement wine innately in the air.

We notice, therefore, how the usual objections to living well are dispatched, one by one, where to do so is most practical. It's only in this light that we'd entertain that mode in the first place, and it's because it's certain to gain wider support for that reason, that we turn our sights from stacks of sumptuous hides and urbane silk in the Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré to that light merriment in the garden of a vineyard in Graves, which it is only natural to expect of a springtime lunch with the innocent contadini of such restorative Mozartean context. As a happy prelude to the braise of beef in glazed onions and artichoke bottoms, let us meet with a pretty Chevalier Blanc as our eggs are coaxed accordingly.

Nor is this a repast to press impetuously, as Olney remarks. I find scrambled eggs with asparagus, something which requires little concentration when one is subjected to a milling crowd and multiple conversations, to be one of the most practical and appreciated of starters. One must not be impatient, it may take half to three-quarters of an hour for eggs [for 12] to arrive at a proper consistency, and the water in the bain-marie must not be permitted to reach the boil. Indeed, it is with his discussion of scrambled eggs that Olney reaches that apogee of imperviousness to pressure for which we turn to him often, to this day, in consultations on our nourishment, not to mention the hosting of others.

As we'd have supposed, the minerally virility of the vivid whites of Graves truly sparkles in discovery of the acidic asparagus, wasting none of the buttery foil of the eggs in responsive adumbration of their texture and latent earthiness. But what could be more practically expressive, of the compan-ionability all about one at table? Legs and backbone, touchstones of terroir in Graves, adopt a livelier, more open stride than in the more sustained pace of the noble chardonnays of Burgundy, of course; and for mid-day, out of doors, the edge of spontaneity is not misplaced. Immediacy and freshness of fruit is how Olney perceives these wines, based on sauvignon blanc, blended with semillon of power and eloquence. Just so.

We cannot expect to know what Horace might have worn, padding around Tivoli, or what amenity he'd have brought to the service of his eggs. But in embracing the comeliness of our world as we find it, and extracting our requisites with that modesty which alone can bring us peace, there's little doubt that a decent pair of sandals are a starting place we share with him. In fairness, too, we recall his warning -

Did that young brute bruise your ivory shoulder
After too much drink, or lustfully bite your lip
Moistened by Venus with her precious nectar?

Flash forward, then, to our Beaume de Venise or if you please, a nobly wrought Sauternes, a glowing thought of apricot awaiting us in turn, a far cry from the rooftop where we burned to no avail, 
for countryside and scrambled eggs, a good life without fail.

Richard Olney
Ten Vineyard Lunches
Ebury Press, 1988©

The Odes, I, 13 [fragment]
  New Translations by
  Contemporary Poets
op. cit.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Le Nozze di Figaro
  Giovani liete ..
Antonio Gui
Glyndebourne Festival
EMI, 1953©

Mailhos cuisine de jardin

Hermès, S.A.
Spring, 2012