Friday, September 7, 2018

Unité d'habitation

One always wonders about certain
maxims in architecture, not least
because of their power to arouse
precisely that angle of imagina-
tion. The man who set a pretty,
little box on slender pilotis in
the middle of a field in France,
calling it a machine for living,
struck upon the closest parallels
between the body and the building
since the Erectheion, endowing us
in his frequent style, with pro-
vocation worthy of the vocation
of life. I occupy space, he fam-
ously said, therefore I am. One
comes to appreciate such gnomic
aperçus, wryly; how they beg the
question, with the human frame

Here, a woman on a staircase car-
ries a bucket or a basket in one
hand and a bundle on her back, a
shawl shielding her from the sun.
Or is this a male laborer, in a 
cap, shoulders bowed beneath a 
heavy burden in both hands? Yes,
probably, one way or the other. 

The figure is captured by the
architect's loyal photographic
amanuensis, on the site of the
ifices. I haven't seen the build-
ing better portrayed, in decades
of studying its image. Its asser-
ion of concrete, alone, captures
the project's audacity with its
own naïve exuberance, by a work-
ing figure occupying the space, 
entirely as an ascending shadow.
I admire the gesture. I wonder.

Lucien Hervé
Construction of the
  Unité d'Habitation,


Thursday, September 6, 2018

What goes around

The lyric, ain't we got fun, can
seldom have leapt so elatedly to
the tongue, as it does on a day
when the riotously witty history
by Gore Vidal, of the stunningly
in America of 1876, casts a ben-
eficent light upon the collapse
of confidence in an incumbent of
a habitually horse-traded Office.

Here, we recall, is the template
for those necessary, showily fas-
tidious negotiations which will
be necessary to invoke the 25th
Amendment to the Constitution -
our little steam valve for mani-
fest incapacity. And yet, and
yet, the Republicans must strike
fast if they wish to extract com-
passion of Democrats, on the eve
of their flight out of Egypt. A
Pence in the White House is an
irony too far, for anyone on the
verge of escape from a pharaonic 
theocracy; and yet if the transi-
tion required it, what consider-
ation might check and balance it?

Merrick Garland on the Supreme
Court, for openers.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

If anyone edits The Washington Post anymore

                    Send him a protocol sheet. The
                    editorial pages are in the grip
                    of hysteria so redundant, they
                    drain the language of meaning
                    and political criticism of all
                    dignity. Today, the Editorial
                    Board, itself, leads with the
                    discovery of its thousandth
                    Grotesque New Low, in one of
                    the President's epistles, and
                    senior scribe Dana Milbank
                    writes himself not just emo-
                    tionally but physically in-
                    to the exposure of a Court
                    nominee. I suppose there is
                    some consolation, in these
                    persons' willingness to be
                    identified. But explaining
                    this conduct to innocents is
                    not going to be easy, and in
                    view of the Post's circula-
                    tion, must call for an army 
                    of underpaid educators. Just
                    as the President is gaining
                    traction for a consensus on
                    his unfitness, the air itself
                    retches with the rot of pride.

                    This is a spiritual exhaustion
                    which comes a little early for
                    the Press's rôle in this crisis.
                    What will any victory be worth?

Origins of Wednesday lxxviii: Counting on time

I've had the same second thoughts
as many about one's position in a
society at tooth and nail with it-
self over the abduction of the Am-
erican republic by a horde of Vis-
igoths in Republican cloth coats -
as Richard Nixon famously defended
the marauders in mink who financed
his character-assassinating career.

But my second thoughts are swollen
with regret at the frenzy of imita-
tion dissent is exhibiting, now-a-
days, against his heirs in office.
For me the McCain funeral was the
corkscrew on a very corked vintage
of wine. It stank of hideous rec-
titude, gone mythical and popular.

I've begun to hold my powder more
closely now, for the power of the
printed word, over time. I think
more highly than ever of the his-
torical temperament in which many
of us were raised; and I know, I
cannot expect to see its judgment
on our time. But I have never had
an inclination to find a frenzy I
could join, and I'm fortunate (by
mere accident) to have read widely
in the vehemency genre which is
this continent's chronic tone of
voice. I feel the present govern-
ment should be replaced. I have
not discovered a successor that
warrants assuming its degree of
power. There, certainly, I will
always be. Not enamored of power,
and wary of its constant excuses.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

In the spin

   I have a twin who bears my name;
   Bears it about with him in shame;

   Who goes a way I would not go;
   Has knowledge of things I would not know;

   When I was brave he was afraid;
   He told the truth, I lied;

   What's sweet to me tastes bitter to him;
   My friends, my friends, he doesn't love them;

   I walk the daylight in his dream;
   He breathes the air of my nightmare.

Of No Country I Know
  New and Selected Poems
  and Translations
  A Charm
University of 
  Chicago Press, 1999©

Monday, September 3, 2018

One could stay home

  There's something about the
  coincidence of encountering
  a good story on the eve of
  a national holiday (the as-
  pect of today where I live)
  that can catch one happily
  off guard. Suddenly, left-
  overs in the fridge will
  be perfectly OK, and head-
  lines learn their place. I
  didn't say, a good book,
  for that is an assertion
  vulnerable to alternative
  facts. I said a good story.
  Here's one, unless you're
  a buffalo. It's online, but
  I like the textures and the
  shadings of the page.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

At least that's over

The enormous advantage of the discipline
of history, when compared with the com-
pulsions of journalism, is that no one's
picking winners and losers in the turns
of human events. Yesterday's winner, the
historian is relieved not to have to say,
was a President of the United States who
had the presence of mind to head out for
a round of golf, as the National Cathed-
ral, that ostensibly Episcopal place of
Spencer in the pulpit, damning enemies
named and lewdly implied, did not out-
do the mourners of the man in the box;
and history records he was applauded,
in the righteous zeal with which media
critics of the President teased him for
being ostracized. As Groucho Marx re-
marked of a country club that invited
him, it obviously wasn't worth joining.

I think our perspective on the American
President is sufficiently established,
by now, to allow the plain verdict that
he certainly won that round, not to be
tainted by fainting spells of umbrage.
Her Majesty had always been right: the
occasion called for introspective grief.

Every sacred pretext for the obsequies
was smashed and trashed, and an entire,
institutionally obligated, if exploited
congregation's respects traduced, by a
festival of recrimination in the guise
of a Requiem, beneath the Cross and in
the presence of innocent servicemen, of
God and of country. Shame seems not to
live here anymore. To be a historian! 
Instead of witnessing that. Who hasn't

Wiktor Sudol