Archive for December, 2019

Gâter — “to spoil”

December 30, 2019

La rhétorique se trouve partout : elle gâte les tableaux comme les livres. Ce qui fait la différence entre les livres des gens de lettres et ceux des hommes qui écrivent seulement parce qu’ils ont quelque chose à dire, c’est que dans ces derniers la rhétorique est absente ; elle empoisonne, au contraire, les meilleures inspirations des premiers. (Delacroix, 1844) (Google)

December 29, 2019

Idea for Col. Pike corridor: a “hilarious” tribute to the Pentagon — rows of wooden columns of shells and missiles, a homage to war and peace; lamp posts made to look like missiles, county police dressed like soldiers, zoning for “bombed out” store fronts, etc.

“Major de Spain, General d’Espagne”

December 28, 2019

Reading this passage in Chandler made me wonder how familiar Faulkner was with the Napoleonic wars and was this the source for his Major de Spain (Campaigns of Napoleon, pp.702):

One notable casualty was the brave cuirassier commander, General d’Espagne, killed by an Austrian saber stroke, a grievous loss to the French cavalry.

(This refers to Jean-Louis-Brigitte Espagne at the battle of Aspern-Essling). Cursory searches for “Major de Spain General d’Espagne” in Google and JSTOR turn up nothing obvious nor does “Faulkner Napoleon.”

If the reference is intended, I would say it is also intended to be ironical, with many levels of comedic difference between the persons of Major de Spain (absurdly American) and General d’Espagne (authentic, heroic, European), — the transliteration itself suggests as much– though I must say, I don’t have a clear memory of the fictional de Spain just now.

December 27, 2019

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Strange Commonplace: “family dynamic” and clothing in same-name chapters

December 25, 2019

This was an effort to see if there were any correspondences between the same-named chapters of A Strange Commonplace with respect to two recurring motifs: types of clothing and what I called “family dynamic” (were the chapter’s characters brothers, lovers, parents, or what.). In bold is the chapter title and (1) (2) refers to the book the chapter occurs in. Result was: I found no such correspondences.


In the Bedroom (1) homburg, fedora; lingerie, stockings; white silk scarf with blue polka dots (2) loose shoes; furry coat, dress, green dress.

Success (1) dark suit, elegant tie, gleaming white shirt (2) dark business suit and white blouse; gold-ball earings, jacket, skirt, shoes stockings.

Born Again (1) coat, dress, slip, flats, pink chenille bathrobe, worn corduroy slippers; lingerie drawer; white chemise from wedding day (2) “you need clean clothes

Lovers Not even a passing or general reference to any type of clothing in either (1) or (2).

Another Story (1) A suede jacket (in a box). (2) “to find you gone with all your clothes and things gone”, “I look in your empty closet and my heart feels as if it is going to break.” A doll with three outfits.

Movies: No clothes mentioned in (1) or (2).

Pair of Deuces: (1) Borsalino, baseball caps, powder blue worsted suit, white sun dress. (2) Blue suede jacket, (dress, skirt, blouse, panties, run in stocking, t-shirt) “he wanted her out of her clothes” ; “She hated to buy clothes for Bill, whatever she bought him, even underwear and socks, was always wrong.”

In Dreams: (1) “a dark suit, starched white shirt, small patterned navy blue time, and navy blue polo coat”, grey suede gloves, black watch cap, woman’s suit jacket, white brassiere, “a white shirt, fashionably faded and tattered jeans, and highly polished boots.” (2) skirt, pale blue silk suit, “naked save for her white cotton anklet and white canvas shoes”, “white nylon uniform” (said to be waitresses but seems like a nurse’s), “pink polyester uniform”

On The Roof: (1) oxford gray suit, gray homburg, black wingtip shoes, black socks, black garters, white shirt, dark blue tie, gold tie clasp. (2) dark suit, white shirt, carefully knotted tie; blouse, skirt, half-slip, brassiere.

A Familiar Woman: (1) purple velvet dress, black gabardine suit, shorts, suede jacket, long flowered skirt; “would change his clothes prior to making drinks”; “refuse to remember owning or wearing these clothes.” (2) skirt, blouse.

In the Diner: (1) pink polyester uniform, white crepe-soled shoes; (2) navy blue overcoat, snap-brim fedora, silk scarf snow-white with blue polka dots, “black dress with golden things on it”,

Happy Days: (1) none. (2) hat, silk scarf, skirt.

Claire: (1) none. (2) slip (taken on and off), hospital gowns, paper slippers that say mickie and minnie, blouse, pumps, “New York clothes”.

Rockefeller Center: (1) black velour dress, silver stitching on the bodice, stockings (2) grey homburg, camel hair polo coat, snap brim felt hat, Adam hats.

Brothers: (1) pajamas and overcoat, stained homburg. (2) “cheap one-button lounge suits”, hipster sunglasses, purple tie.

A Small Adventure: (1) an expensive dark suit that needed cleaning and pressing, a white shirt with a dirty collar, panties, slip; (2) underwear, “she didn’t, at least, have to get dressed.”

Another Small Adventure: (1) no underwear but hat and scarf (2) “office clothes” dark suit, white blouse.

Cold Supper: (1) shoes, shoe laces, housecoat, onyx and gold earings, best underwear, silk stockings (carefully gartered), overcoat, taught black dress with gold threading, persian lamb coat. (2) stained housecoat, tattered stockings, “sweaty dirty dress”.

Pearl Grey Homburg: (1) pearl grey homburg (like new), oxford grey shadow stripe suit (2) pearl grey homburg (soiled), long flowered skirt, “her clothes, of course, would all be gone,” heavy black woolen sweater, Hanes briefs (unopened), “they often shared each other’s clothes, even shoes and underwear,” black french garter belt and nylons, black gabardine suits, chignons.

An Apartment: (1) flower print housecoat, high-heeled pumps (times two). (2) none.

Saturday Afternoon: (1) none; (2) none.

Snow: (1) navy blue overcoat, pearl gray homburg, white silk scarf with blue polka dots; (2) black silk blouse, bright green skating costume with matching fur-trimmed tam (skirt), scarf and coat, upturned collar, dressed and undressed.

The Jungle: (1) crotch of metallic jeans, (2) shoes, adjusting, fixing, taking off clothes.

Rain: (1) black and silver evening dress that needs cleaning, wingtip shoes oozing and dissolving; (2) shoes ruined by the rain, sodden overcoats.

The Alpine: (1) scarves, “clothes”. (2) mother’s pants, skirt.

A Wake: (1) Hugo Boss or Armani suit, purple velvet dress with black silk dress, black pumps and stockings, black gabardine suit; (2) black and grey argyle socks, dark grey suit, white shirt, navy blue tie, bluchers, “articles of apparel”, black dress, badly fitting suit, purple velvet dress, skirt, little black dress.

Family dynamics

In the bedroom (1) straying husband, faithful wife, a daughter (2) straying husband, faithful wife, a son.

Success. (1) a single man, a straying wife (in an open relationship) (2) coworkers, married to other people, about to begin an affair.

Born Again. (1) a presumably straying husband and faithful wife with a daughter (2) a straying husband (with a single woman), a straying wife (in retaliation) with a single man.

Lovers (1) Woman long estranged (but not divorced) from husband, no kids, a male companion (2) Woman with a male companion who divorced her first husband, who has gone on to remarry and have three kids.

Another Story (1) Singles: a man, a friend from the past, the friend’s girlfriend at that time. (2) A trio: straying husband, wife, and daughter.

Movies: (1) a family of three from the standpoint of the grown son. (2) a “fake” family of three in the movies, (Hal, Peggy, Scotty).

Pair of Deuces: (1) old man with a son and daughter-n-law; (2) husband, wife and daughter/ husband and wife.

In Dreams: (1) a family of three, husband, wife, and son. (2) a single guy.

On The Roof: (1) father (having left his former wife and child) and new wife. (2) husband and wife.

A Familiar Woman: (1) Man and wife ( partner). (2) Husband, wife, two kids; man’s second wife; two widows.

In the Diner: (1) no relatives. (2) son, father, mother.

Happy Days: (1) no relatives. (2) father, mother, daughter / single woman.

Claire: (1) divorced man / incestuous: father, daughter, uncle. (2) single woman.

Rockefeller Center: (1) man first single then married (2) two seniors married to other people, at least one with kids

Brothers: (1) man, wife, daughter/ man, wife, daughter, son .(2) two married couples.

A Small Adventure: (1) married couple. (2) woman, son, ex-husband / married couple.

Another Small Adventure: (1) A married couple (2) single woman (maybe).

Cold Supper: (1) man, wife, son (Joey) (2) man, wife, son (Charlie).

Pearl Gray Homburg: (1) father, wife, daughter, son; (2) single people.

An Apartment: (1) unknown, single woman. (2) unknown, old man.

Saturday Afternoon: (1) old man with grown son (dating) and daughter (apparently single) and a teenaged grandson (wife/ mother absent); (2) old man with son (engaged), daughter (one guesses, divorced), and highschool aged grandson (wife/ mother absent).

Snow: (1) mother, father, son; (2) (unknown)

The Jungle: (1) single man (unknown); (2) married woman.

Rain: (1) dreamer (2) fathers and sons.

The Alpine (1) father, mother, son (suggested); (2) mother, father, son.

A WAKE: (1) single woman; (2) man, his girlfriend, ex-wife, her husband,

December 24, 2019

ngrams: Captain Ahab,Ichabod Crane
ngrams: Song of Roland
ngrams: Citizens United,Roe v. Wade
ngrams: Euripides,Aeschylus,Sophocles,Aristophanes

Chance Sweepings, Heraclitus 124

December 23, 2019

I’ve chose “Chance Sweepings” as the title of what I’m somewhat improbably calling the first volume of my autobiography because (1) it evokes what has been my main means of employment during my prime working years, and (2) suggests something of the shambolic, desultory character of the work itself, which, at least as of this writing, doesn’t go anywhere, and resembles more than anything a sort of collage or pile.

There was also, however, a recollection of a Heraclitus fragment that involved a ‘heap of random sweepings’ and I now see, after a superficial investigation into it, that there is significant dispute about what Heraclitus said and meant. The fragment is 124, which I recall as being something like:

“The most beautiful order in the world is a heap of random sweepings”

(You can find various versions of that translation about) And I’ve always taken it to be a statement that Nature’s order is capable of greater beauty than the sort we humans create (or in terms of human creations, that the unplanned will be the most beautiful, as is sometimes the case, for example, with city blocks). But this paper from 1941 reveals that considerable revision of the source text for the quote (a Theophrastus work) is needed to arrive at that formulation; and that the unrevised version, which says something quite different, makes sense if taken in its context.

I will not give its version of the translation of the quote, which is not nearly so pithy as the above, and which I don’t in fact understand very well, but the paper itself is quite short: Note on Heraclitus, Fragment 124, John B. Mcdiarmid.

Like unworked blocks of building stone

December 20, 2019

Came across in Chandler this example of a sentence structure I don’t care for and seem to come across fairly frequently (The Campaigns of Napoleon, pp. 594):

Indeed, the pleasures of the chase proved considerably more eventful and certainly more dangerous for senior personnel than many a battle field.

I want this to instead read something like:

Indeed, the pleasures of the chase proved considerably more eventful and certainly more dangerous for senior personnel than the occupational perils of the battle field.

It’s not the lack of an exactly parallel structure per se that bothers me, but the logical problem that Chandler seems to want to contrast the dangers of a leisure activity (hunting) with the dangers of an occupational activity (battle) yet winds up comparing the dangers of the pleasures of a leisure activity with the dangers of an occupational activity. This seems to me not just non-parallel in form but also a little unequal in content.

But then I will think of “austere composition” and of how I must really prefer Chandler’s sentence to my own, as being more natural —

(The austere style) does not in the least shrink from using frequently harsh sound-clashings which jar on the ear ; like blocks of building stone that are laid together unworked, blocks that are not square and smooth, but preserve their natural roughness and irregularity.

And more:

its clauses (are) not parallel in structure, or sound, nor slaves to a rigid sequence, but noble, brilliant, free.

In the end, we know exactly what Chandler meant, which is the precondition for writing a post of this kind.

December 17, 2019

A cold-blooded dedication to stopping climate change means having the willingness to step away from our comfortable shibboleths, accept the criticism that comes with that, and place ourselves squarely behind a plan that has a chance of working. Building out renewable energy will get us part of the way there, but we’ve got more to do and not much time to do it.We Need a Massive Climate War Effort—Now

December 17, 2019

A story tells that once, when they had only a bundle of straw for a bed, a poor man came to beg some straw for a bed for his sick wife. Akiva at once divided with him his scanty possession, remarking to his wife, “Thou seest, my child, there are those poorer than we!” This pretended poor man was none other than the prophet Elijah, who had come to test AkivaAkiva

December 16, 2019

The Philistine element in life is not the failure to understand art. Charming people, such as fishermen, shepherds, ploughboys, peasants and the like, know nothing about art, and are the very salt of the earth. He is the Philistine who upholds and aids the heavy, cumbrous, blind, mechanical forces of society, and who does not recognise dynamic force when he meets it either in a man or a movement…. De Profundis