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KATHRYN'S ORPHANS


Ada Monroe and Inman  (Cold Mountain)

Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)

Babe (Babe)

Bambi

Bathsheba Everdene (Far from the Madding Crowd)

Batman

Beatrice (Much Ado about Nothing)

Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair)

Cecily Cardew (Importance of Being Earnest)

Champion (Les Triplettes de Belleville)

Cinderella

Collin Fenwick (The Grass Harp)

Dorothea Brooke (Middlemarch)

Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz)

Edward Scissorhands

Eleanor Roosevelt

Elizabeth (Frankenstein)

Ellen Foster (Ellen Foster)

Ellie Arroway (Contact)

Eppie (Silas Marner)

Estella (Great Expectations)

Esther Summerson (Bleak House)

Eustacia Vye (Return of the Native)

Evelina

Flora Poste (Cold Comfort Farm)

Francis Marion Tarwater (The Violent Bear It Away)

Frodo Baggins (The Lord of the Rings)

Gou Wa “Doggie” (King of Masks)

Hadji (Johnny Quest)

Harriet Smith (Emma)

Harry Potter

Harvey Cheyne, Jr. (Captains Courageous)

Hawkeye (Last of the Mohicans)

Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)

Heidi

Helena (All’s Well That Ends Well)

Homer Wells (Cider House Rules)

Huckleberry Finn

Hyacinth Robinson (The Princess Casimassima)

Irwin (Northfork)

Isabelle Archer (The Portrait of a Lady)

Jack Dawson (Titanic)

Jack Redburn (Master Humphrey's Clock)

Jake and Elwood Blues (The Blues Brothers)

James Henry Trotter (James & the Giant Peach)

Jane Eyre

Jane Fairfax (Emma)

Jen and Kira (The Dark Crystal)

Jo (Bleak House)

Joe Christmas (Light in August)

Jude Fawley (Jude the Obscure)

Kim (Kim)

Leo Tolstoy

Lilo (Lilo and Stitch)

Lillian (The Chimes)

Lily Bart (The Age of Innocence)

Lily Owen (The Secret Life of Bees)

Little Foot (The Land Before Time)

Little Nell (The Old Curiosity Shop)

Little Orphan Annie

Lucinda Leplastrier (Oscar and Lucinda)

*Lucy Manette (Tale of Two Cities)

Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)

Margaret, Helen, and Tibby Schlegel (Howard's End)

Marilyn Monroe

Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden)

Mary McCarthy

Mathilde and Manech (A Very Long Engagement)

Mattie Silver (Ethan Frome)

Miette (City of Lost Children)

Millie Theale (The Wings of a Dove)

Miriam Chadwick (Oscar and Lucinda)

Mowgli (The Jungle Book)

Nameless (Hero)

*Neo (The Matrix)

Oliver Twist

Orphan Girl (Gillian Welch)

Oscar Hopkins (Oscar and Lucinda)

Our Johnny (Our Mutual Friend)

Pai (Whale Rider)

Patrick Dennis (Auntie Mame)

Peter Pan and the Lost Boys

Philip Carey (Of Human Bondage)

Pip (Great Expectations)

Pollyanna

Posthumus (Cymbeline)

Princess Mononoke

Queen Elizabeth I

Rickie Elliot (The Longest Journey)

Rosa (Edwin Drood)

Salvatore “Toto” (Cinema Paradiso)

Sara Crewe (The Little Princess)

Seymour Krelborn (Little Shop of Horrors)

Smike (Nicholas Nickleby)

Solomon Perel (Europa Europa)

Sophie Neveu (The DaVinci Code)

Sophy Viner (The Reef)

Spiderman

Stuart Little
Sue Bridehead (Jude the Obscure)

Tarzan

Tanya Chernova (Enemy at the Gates)

Tertius Lydgate (Middlemarch)

Tom (Water Babies)

Tom Jones

Tom Sawyer

Trilby

Trinity (The Matrix)

Will Ladislaw (Middlemarch)

Will Turner (Pirates of the Caribbean)

W. Somerset Maugham

 

 

 

* = new or recent addition

 


AMNESIACS


[no name] (The Man Without a Past)

Dory (Finding Nemo)

Eleanor Mannering (Garden of Lies)

Giambattista "Yambo" Bodini (The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana)

Jason Bourne (The Bourne Identity)

Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

Leonard Shelby (Memento)

*Manech (A Very Long Engagement)

Nick Petrov (Oblivion)

Peter Appleton (The Majestic)

Rita (Mulholland Drive)

Ryder (The Unconsoled)

Samson Greene (Man Walks into a Room)

Will Barrett (The Last Gentleman)

 

August  30,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

[V]ery little achievement is required in order to pity another man's shortcomings.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

August  29,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"My love," he said, with irritation reined in by propriety, "you may rely upon me for knowing the times and the seasons, adapted to the different stages of a work which is not to be measured by the facile conjectures of ignorant onlookers.  It had been easy for me to gain a temporary effect by a mirage of baseless opinion; but it is ever the trial of the scrupulous explorer to be saluted with the impatient scorn of chatterers who attempt only the smallest achievements, being indeed equipped for no other.  And it were well if all such could be admonished to discriminate judgments of which the true subject-matter lies entirely beyond their reach, from those of which the elements may be compassed by a narrow and superficial survey."

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

[N.B.:  The laggard scholar's condescending reply.]

August  28,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Doubtless, my dear," said Mr. Casaubon, with a slight bow.  "The notes I have here made will want sifting, and you can, if you please, extract them under my direction."

"And all your notes," said Dorothea, whose heart had already burned within her on this subject, so that now she could not help speaking with her tongue--"all those rows of volumes--will you not now do what you used to speak of?--will you not make up your mind what part of them you will use, and begin to write the book which will make your vast knowledge useful to the world?  I will write to your dictation, or I will copy and extract what you tell me: I can be of no other use."  Dorothea, in a most unaccountable, darkly feminine manner, ended with a slight sob and eyes full of tears.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

[N.B.:  The despairing plea of the graduate thesis advisor confronting the foot-dragging scholar.]

August  27,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

These characteristics, fixed and unchangeable as bone in Mr. Causabon, might have remained longer unfelt by Dorothea if she had been encouraged to pour forth her girlish and womanly feeling--if he would have held her hands between his and listened with the delight of tenderness and understanding to all the little histories which made up her experience, and would have given her the same sort of intimacy in return, so that the past life of each could be included in their mutual knowledge and affection--or if she could have fed her affection with those childlike caresses which are the bent of every sweet woman, who has begun by showering kisses on the hard pate of her bald doll, creating a happy soul within that woodenness from the wealth of her own love.  That was Dorothea's bent.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

August  26,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made himself ill with doses of opium.  Nothing greatly original had resulted from these measure; and the effects of the opium had convinced him that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution and De Quincey's.  The superadded circumstance which would evolve the genius had not yet come; the universe had not yet beckoned.  Even Caesar's fortune at one time was but a grand presentiment.  We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes may be disguised in helpless embryos.  In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

August  25,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee"--the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands.  General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: "You say that it is your custom to burn widows.  Very well.  We also have a custom when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them.  Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.  You may follow your custom.  And then we will follow ours."

India today is better off without suttee.  If you don't agree with that, if you think that's just dead-white-male-Eurocentrism, fine.  But I don't think you really do believe that.  Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis.  After all, most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society.

--America Alone by Mark Steyn

August  24,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

We enter adolescence much sooner and leave it much later--in some cases, not until middle age.  We've created a world where a thirty-one-year-old European male can stroll into a nightclub, tell the babes he lives at his mom and dad's place in the same bedroom he's slept in since he was in diapers--and he cans till walk out with a hot-looking date.  This guy would have been a laughingstock at any other point in human history.

--America Alone by Mark Steyn

August  20,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

And yet even those who understand very clearly the nature of Islam are complacent about Europe's own structural defects.  Olivier Roy, one of the most respected Islamic experts in France, nevertheless insists "secularism is the future."  Almost by definition, secularism cannot be a future: it's a present-tense culture that over time disconnects a society from cross-generational purpose.  Which is why there are no examples of sustained atheist civilizations.  "Atheistic humanism" became inhumanism in the hands of the Fascists and Communists and, in its less malign form in today's European Union, a kind of dehumanism in which a present-tense culture amuses itself to extinction.  Post-Christian European culture is already post-cultural and, with its surging Muslim populations, will soon be post-European.

--America Alone by Mark Steyn

August  19,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ever since the Second World War, as Weil's Need for Roots makes plain, the human race has been trying not to live with the knowledge that if the blind determinisms of science and economics were the only truths, there should be nothing to prevent another archipelago of Gulags, another Belsen, another Dachau, another Auschwitz.  The little spark, the 'irrational' little glow in the dark, the belief that each individual is of importance - it might not derive from religion, but when religion goes it becomes very difficult to keep it alight.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  In other words, it derives from religion.]

August  18,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Without free will, the human race has lost its moral purpose.  Each generation, therefore, tries to escape its determinist straitjacket by some myth, or ritual, or grand gesture, which will give to us dignity, individuality, freedom.  Those who hate religion will see it, and especially Islam and Evangelical Christianity, as the ultimate determinism.  But is not the advantage of religion over irreligion (speaking of it merely as a life tool, and ignoring for a moment the question of whether 'it' is 'true' or 'false') that it sees every person as a soul, a person who carries about their own destiny?  If this is the case, then the Muslims in their seemingly identical ranks, bowed to Mecca in prayer, may perhaps be closer to perfect freedom than a Western materialist who believes he is merely the product of genetic inheritance and economic circumstances.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  In other words, religion teaches that people are ends ('souls') not means (tools).]

August  17,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The struggle between free will and determinism is one of those philosophical conundrums which can never be adequately solved, which is why neat-minded people will always be determinists - it is easier.  But determinism crushes the imagination, and almost all exciting developments in Western thought, Western art, Western music and literature over the last seven hundred years have been in one way or another an assertion of free will.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August  14,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

For Simone Weil, 'the modern conception of science is responsible, as is that of history and art, for the monstrous conditions under which we live, and will,  in its turn, have to be transformed, before we can hope to see the dawn of a better civilization'.  Her book The Need for Roots was published in English in 1952, the year of Queen Elizabeth II's accession. . . .  Weil made the connection - inescapable to anyone who has read his by now innumerable biographies - between Hitler and the nineteenth-century worship of science.  She quoted Mein Kampf: 'Man must never fall into the error of believing himself to be the lord and master of creation . . . He will then feel that in a world in which planets and suns follow circular trajectories, moons revolve round planets, and force reigns everywhere and supreme over weakness, which it either compels to serve it docilely or else crushes out of existence.  Man cannot be subject to special laws of his own.'

Simone Weil added, 'These lines express in faultless fashion the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from the conception of the world contained in our science.'  She added, 'Who can reproach him for having put into practice what he thought he recognized to be the truth?  Those who, having in themselves the foundations of the same belief, haven't embraced it consciously and haven't translated it into acts, have only escaped being criminals thanks to the want of a certain sort of course which he possesses.'

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August  13,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

A belief in 'science' as the sole arbiter of what is true must always resolve itself into a belief in force, in blind force.  Before this idea, the nineteenth century fell prostrate, and from it emerged two of its most influential determinist prophets, Karl Marx and Charles Darwin.  The writings of Marx were said to have been discredited in our times, although it only takes a crisis in the stock market or a run on a bank for his picture of Western man's dependence upon the vacillations of capital to seem mythologically true.  Too much concentration on the failure of Marx's prophecies - that the revolution would first take place in the industrial heartlands of England, for example - can blind observers to how much Marx actually got right.  Darwin got many things right, too, about the evolution of finches' beaks, about the breeding habits of earthworms and the expression of emotion in animals.  That was only part of the reason why this great Victorian natural historian was deified in our times.  He was placed on the throne once occupied by God, overseeing like a sad old bearded Jehovah the workings of a purposeless, blind process of procreation.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  Other than the trite truism that modern capitalism depends on capital (next up, monetary policy is affected by the fluctuations of money), Mr. Wilson does not deign to enlighten us as to Marx's other profound pronouncements.]

August  12,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

But what would the Islamists have achieved, by bombing or negotiating?  Who would restore their Caliphate for them?  Certainly not the Turks, who were anxious to join the European Union and escape from the religious maniacs.  Nor would the Saudis, whose royal family enjoyed the benefits of unbounded wealth, based on the craven dependency of the Western powers upon oil.  Nor would any other group, or head of state in the Arab world, or in the wider Islamic world, ever have been able to head such a Caliphate.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  And, but of course, ISIS has now not only established a Caliphate but is busily expanding it. When one considers that Wilson published this book in 2008, it is quite remarkable the amount of unintended irony he managed to pack into this one short paragraph.  It is a great example of anti-prophecy, anti-prolepsis.]

August  11,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was, then, a bossier, less tolerant Britain under Mr Blair.  This should perhaps have made the British more capable of understanding the Muslims, who follow a scripture which is almost devoid of the narrative interest of the Hebrew Bible, and is largely injunctions and prescriptions.  The Koran and New Labour's formidable reams of new legislation, governing every aspect of British life, could indeed be seen by students of comparative religion to have much in common.  Both were essentially puritanical creeds, and though New Labour was not teetotal as such, it was undoubtedly a movement fuelled by white wine spritzers rather than Thatcher's malt whisky. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August  10,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was as far back as 28 March 1989 that Bevis Hillier, biographer of John Betjeman, wrote to The Times with the suggestion, that 'it is not too late to start planning a British exhibition or festival to celebrate the year 2000?  Like the Great exhibition of 1851, it should have a cosmopolitan aspect rather than the insular character of the 1951 Festival of Britain.  It should be a celebration of the western world's achievements.  Not just a crowning manifesto of its own.'  Bevis sowed the seed, and Heseltine watered it.  It was a typical Heseltine idea, based on the fallacy that by hiring a sufficiently trendy and expensive modern architect--Richard Rogers--and building an eyesore in a run-down urban area, they would achieve 'regeneration'.  It was all to be paid for out of the National Lottery.  At his pre-election conference speech Blair had told the bewildered party that they had 'a thousand days to prepare for a thousand years', a typically New Labour phrase which provided the missing link between the language of the Third Reich and a cheap advertising jingle. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August 4,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Diana paradoxically reminded people of why monarchy is a more satisfactory system of government than republicanism.  It allows a focus upon persons, rather than upon institutions.  It is a cult of personality without any of its sinister or fascistic overtones.  Diana needed, wooed, and received, wild adoration.  But the kind of 'democratisation of the monarchy' which James Fox so dreaded did not do any harm to the monarch herself, who drew forth from her people emotions which were different, but in many subjects no less deep: respect, reverence, and a sense which only a person, not an office, can embody, continuation with the past. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August 3,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

When Mountbatten's nephew Philip married the future Queen Elizabeth II it was the fulfilment of all Mountbatten's desire to control the destinies of the British Royal Family.  As a boy cadet, he had witnessed the humiliation of his father, Prince Louis, who had so longed to become the First Sea Lord but was dismissed in the understandable wave of anti-German feeling which swept the country upon the outbreak of the First World War.  The family name of Battenberg was changed to Mountbatten, just as the House of Saxe-Coburg became the House of Windsor. ('Now," the Kaiser had joked, 'I suppose we shall have the Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg.')  Mountbatten was so anxious to attend, and interfere in, the wedding of Philip and Elizabeth that, even though he was the last Viceroy that he was so anxious to speed up Indian independence arrangements, leaving Greater India with the Partition of West and East Pakistan (the latter subsequently Bangladesh), with much avoidable slaughter and perhaps a million lives lost. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August 2,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Institutions, secular as well as religious, need repetitious rituals to retain their sense of identity, which is why for many non-military minded people there is still a virtue in the annual ceremonies of Trooping the Colour and laying wreaths at the Cenotaph at Armistice.  Institutions also need to believe at least a substantial percentage of what they claim to believe.  No adherent to a Church or a political party can ever have truly subscribed to every word of the manifesto, but when the discrepancy between aspirant and actual belief becomes too glaring, then institutions break up.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August 1,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The incident which most endeared [British Foreign Secretary George Brown] to the Foreign Office, however, occurred during an official visit to Brazil during a diplomatic reception at the Brazilian President's Palace of the Dawn.  A witness recalled, 'It was really beautiful - I think only the Latin Americans still do it that way: all the military officers were in full dress uniform, and the ambassadors were in court dress.  Sumptuous is the word, and sparkling.  As we entered, George made a bee-line for this gorgeously crimson-clad figure, and said, "Excuse me, but may I have the pleasure of this dance?"  There was a terrible silence for a moment before the guest, who knew who he was, replied, "There are three reasons, Mr Brown, why I will not dance with you.  The first, I fear, is that you've had a little too much to drink.  The second is that this is not, as you seem to suppose, a waltz the orchestra is playing, but the Peruvian national anthem, for which you should be standing to attention.  And the third reason why we may not dance, Mr Brown, is that I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

July  31,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

In an ideal world, corrupt standards in public life would be purged by exposure.  Dishonesty, sexual depravity, financial irregularity by public figures would result in their disgrace, and replacement by those who were pure, lovely and of good report.  In the imperfect world we actually inhabit, the elimination of double standards resulted in the weakening of any standards at all. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  Or, as La Rochefoucauld more pithily put it, "hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue."]

July  30,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Post-Profumo, British politicians were noticeably less intelligent.  What intelligent person would choose to enter a sphere of life where it was deemed legitimate for the popular press - and, in time, all newspapers, and even the BBC - to publicise love affairs and sexual indiscretions?  It is arguable that for those who were thrust into public life either by insatiable ambition (the politicians) or by the accident of birth or marriage (the Royal Family) the scrutiny was actually intolerable, a fact which is surely one of the explanations for the psychological oddity of so many late twentieth-century, early twenty-first-century politicians and royal persons.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

July  29,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Violent crimes, and murders, and even thefts, tended not to be punished by imprisonment until the close of the nineteenth century.  Floggings, hangings or transportation, or (same thing) pressing the criminals into military service were thought better ways of dealing with both crime and its causes.  For the Victorians, who cared so deeply about financial probity and about the exercise of reason, incarceration was the appropriate treatment of the indigent and the insane.  The workhouse was the place where they locked up the poor who had fallen upon hard times, whereas the debtors' gaol was for the more genteel Mr Dorrits and their families. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

July  28,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The manner in which societies care for the mentally ill reveals much.  In primitive societies, mental illness could be seen as a form of diabolic possession.  In post-Enlightenment times, the most disturbing feature of madness was its assault upon order.  The phrase was that a man or woman had 'lost their reason' - a terrible thing by any standard, but if your entire social and metaphysical system was, as you supposed, based on reason, madness was especially to be feared.  Hence the post-Enlightenment view that those who had 'lost their reason' should be incarcerated.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

July  27,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Eden, the only male British Prime Minister known to have varnished his fingernails, was easily the best-looking individual, of either sex, to occupy that office int he twentieth century.  Many also regarded him as the most disastrous, though there is so much competition for the role that attempts to draw up an order of prime ministerial incompetence, during the period 1956 to the present day, would be invidious.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

July  26,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

William Cawley, who had been frail at the time of his flight from Restoration England, died in Vevey in 1667, aged sixty-five.  He had been one of the commissioners for 'demolishing superstitious pictures and monuments in London', whose brief had culminated in the destruction of the stained-glass windows of Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster, and of Queen Henrietta Maria's chapel in Somerset House; her altarpiece, designed by Rubens, was cast into the Thames.

--Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

July  25,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Cromwell and the army representatives instead approved Harrison's proposal to commit the government of the nation to a council of religious men, who would contemplate God's will, and express it through legislature.  This body became known as Barebone's Parliament after one of its members, Praise-God Barebone, a leather merchant of Fleet Street and a 'man of great piety, understanding and weight'.  It proved to be rather better at prayer and contemplation than government, and it soon became clear that Harrison had recommended it to Cromwell as a prelude to the Second Coming, in accordance with his apocalyptic beliefs, rather than as a practical political entity.  Fifth Monarchists believed that good men were needed to prepare the way, before the victory over the Anti-Christ could be made complete.

--Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

[N.B.:  What a great name for the next Mad Max movie: Praise-God Barebone.]

July  24,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Axtell had the Royalist prisoners disarmed, then led to a mill, where, within the hour, they were murdered in cold blood.  Aston was beaten to death with his wooden leg, which his killers then split open: there had been a rumour that this was where he stored gold coins.  This gossip proved to be false.

--Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

July  23,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

When further incarnations of the High Court of Justice sentenced prominent Royalist leaders from the Second Civil War to execution, the Duke of Hamilton - leader of the force from Scotland, defeated at Preston - asked the executioner if the axe he saw awaiting him was the one that had dispatched the King.  Informed that it was, the duke kissed it in homage, before presenting his neck to the same blade.

--Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

July  22,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

[Charles] broke off when he saw a man touching the axe, fearing he might dull the blade: 'Hurt not the axe, that may hurt me,' he implored.

--Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

July  21,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

As the case progressed, some of those opposed to the King found their anger turn into contempt.  Astonished onlookers observed one man spit in Charles's face.  The King reached for his handkerchief and silently wiped himself clean.

--Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

July  20,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

One of the most obstinate pockets of Royalist resistance in the south had been Basing House, home of the Roman Catholic Marquess of Winchester.  As an English stronghold, it was second only to Windsor Castle in size, and successfully withstood two sieges in 1643 and 1644.  Conditions were so dire for Basing's defenders at one stage that the marquess's brother secretly plotted with some dispirited comrades to let the Parliamentarians take the place.  When the scheme was discovered, this aristocrat's life was spared, but his punishment was severe: he was forced to hang his fellow conspirators.

--Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

July  19,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

On the side, without making a big deal of it, Brad started to teach Ronan the language of trading.  A "bid" was an attempt to buy stock, an "offer" an attempt to sell it.  To cross the spread, if you were selling, meant to accept the bidder's price, or, if you were buying, the offering price.

--Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

July  18,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The amazing idea the big Wall Street banks had sold to big investors was that transparency was their enemy.  If, say, Fidelity wanted to sell a million shares of Microsoft Corp.--so the argument ran--they were better off putting them into a dark pool run by, say, Credit Suisse than going directly to the public exchanges.  On the public exchanges, everyone would notice a big seller had entered the market, and the market price of Microsoft would plunge.  Inside a dark pool, no one but the broker who ran it had any idea what was happening.

--Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

July  17,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Dark pools were another rogue spawn of the new financial marketplace.  Private stock exchanges, run by the big brokers, they were not required to reveal to the public what happened inside them.  They reported any trade they executed, but they did so with sufficient delay that it was impossible to know exactly what was happening in the broader market at the moment the trade occurred.  Their internal rules were a mystery, and only the broker who ran a dark pool knew for sure whose buy and sell orders were allowed inside.

--Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

July  16,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The idea that a human being needed to stand between investors and the market was dead.  The "exchange" at Nasdaq or at the New York Stock Exchange, or at their new competitors, such as BATS and Direct Edge, was a stack of computer servers that contained the program called the "matching engine."  There was no one inside the exchange to talk to.  You submitted an order to the exchange by typing it into a computer and sending it into the exchange's matching engine.  At the big Wall Street banks, the guys who once peddled stocks to big investors had been reprogrammed.  They now sold algorithms, or encoded trading rules designed by the banks, that investors used to submit their stock market orders.  The departments that created these trading algorithms were dubbed "electronic trading."

--Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

July  15,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

At the behest of the SEC, in turn responding to public protests about cronyism, the exchanges themselves, in 2005, went from being utilities owned by their members to public corporations run for profit.  Once competition was introduced, the exchanges multiplied.  By early 2008 there were thirteen different public exchanges, most of them in northern New Jersey.  Virtually every stock now traded on all of these exchanges: You could still buy and sell IBM on the New York Stock Exchange, but you could also buy and sell it on BATS, Direct Edge, Nasdaq, Nasdaq BX, and so on. 

--Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

July  14,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Worried that it needed to do more to promote diversity, RBC invited Brad along with a bunch of other nonwhite people to a meeting to discuss the issue.  Going around the table, people took turns responding to a request to "talk about your experience of being a minority at RBC."  When Brad's turn came he said, "To be honest, the only time I've ever felt like a minority is this exact moment.  If you really want to encourage diversity you shouldn't make people feel like a minority."  Then he left.  The group continued to meet without him.

--Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

July  13,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Even then, none of the line's creators knew for sure how the line would be used.  The biggest question about the line--Why?--remained imperfectly explored.  All its creators knew was that the Wall Street people who wanted it wanted it very badly--and also wanted to find ways for others not to have it.  In one of his first meetings with a big Wall Street firm, Spivey had told the firm's boss the price of his line: $10.6 million plus costs if he paid up front, $20 million or so if he paid in installments.  The boss said he'd like to go away and think about it.  He returned with a single question: "Can you double the price?"

--Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

July  12,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Generals' personalities sometimes lack colour, but this could not be said of Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien.  Twelfth in a family of sixteen children, as a young transport officer in Zululand he was one of the few survivors of the 1879 disaster of Isandlwana, following which he was nominated for a VC for his efforts to save other fugitives.  Thereafter he gained extensive experience of colonial wars, and fought at Omdurman - he became a lifelong friend of Kitchener.  He emerged from the Boer War with an enhanced reputation, and thereafter held a succession of commands.  A committed army reformer, he especially promoted musketry and was an evangelist for machine-guns.  In July 1914, Smith-Dorrien was sent to address several thousand public-school cadets at their summer camp, where he astonished an almost uniformly jingoistic audience by asserting that 'war should be avoided at almost any cost; war would solve nothing; the whole of Europe and more besides would be reduced to ruin; the loss of life would be so large that whole populations would be decimated'.  At the time most of his cadet listeners recoiled from such heresy, but those fortunate enough to survive until 1918 came to look back with respect on Smith-Dorrien's frankness and independence of thought.

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

July  11,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Napoleon wrote that the presence of the general is everything, that he is not merely the head but the very all of an army: 'it was not the Roman army which conquered Gaul, but Caesar; it was not the Carthaginian army which caused the republican army to tremble at the gates of Rome, but Hannibal; it was not the Macedonian army which reached the Indus, but Alexander'.  By 1914, personality had become less important, and mass more so, than a century earlier.  But Bonaparte's thesis was not invalidated.

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

July  10,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Mangin wrote in a deplorable book he published in 1910, La Force Noir: 'In future battles these primitives, for whom life counts so little and whose young blood flows so ardently, as if eager to be shed, will certainly display the old "French fury" and will reinvigorate it if necessary'.  Now that war had come, Moroccans, Senegalese and Algerians were indeed hurled foremost into its flames.  By 1918, France's black soldiers had suffered a death rate three times higher than that of their white comrades, because they were so often selected for suicidal tasks.

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

[N.B.:  Indeed, even in so-called Modern Times, racism kills.]

July  9,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The infantry tried to renew their advance uphill in short rushes.  French Field Service Regulations assumed that in twenty seconds as assault line could move fifty yards before an enemy could reload.  A survivor of Virton observed bitterly: 'the people who wrote those regulations had simply forgotten the existence of such things as machine-guns.  We could distinctly hear two of those "coffee-grinders" at work; every time our men got up to advance, the line got thinner.  Finally our captain gave the order: "Fix bayonets and charge!"  It was midday now, and . . . devilish hot.  Our men, in full kit, started running heavily up that grassy slope, drums beating, bugles sounding the charge.  We didn't even reach those Württembergers.  We were all shot down before we got to them.  I was hit and lay there until I was picked up later.'  Gen. Edgard de Trentinian, who had orchestrated the disaster, later faced an inquiry.  He was acquitted, and received a decoration for his morning of madness.

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

July  8,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Most British generals took pride in their personal appearance, but Joffre's often verged on the slovenly.  His corpulence was the object of some mockery: it was claimed that the regulation requiring every French officer to be capable of riding a horse with conviction had to be waived in his favour.  He was sixty-two in 1914, and native talent had propelled his rise from humble origins as one of eleven children of a cooper.  Most of his career had been spent in France's colonies, but when the post of chief of staff of the army fell vacant in 1911 Joseph Gallieni, the obvious candidate, asserted vehemently that Joffre, and not he, must be the man.  The general was famously a listener rather than a talker.  He unsettled and indeed alarmed subordinate army commanders by sitting for hours in their headquarters, through conferences and crises, often without interjecting a word.

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

July  7,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

She reflected uneasily: 'it is said that "an orderly retreat was unimpeded by the enemy".  But why retreat if they have won?'

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

[N.B.:  And then again some things never change.]

July  6,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Some patriots decided that if insufficient young men were volunteering for military service, women could 'do their bit' by shaming them into doing so.  Bernard Hamley was playing golf with a friend on Wimbledon Common, and just congratulating himself on a fine tee shot, when two girls came out of the nearby clubhouse.  One said sharply, 'That was a good shot, wasn't it?  I hope you will be making as good a shot against the Germans,' before presenting both players with white feathers.  The men then identified themselves as officers in the 1st London Rifle Brigade, granted a few hours' leave of absence.  'The young females were somewhat crestfallen and made some inadequate excuses.'

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

[N.B.:  Sometimes the past is not just a foreign country--it's a different planet.]

July  5,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The newspaper Neue Preufsische Zeitung was the first to employ the word Burgfrieden to describe Germany's new political truce.  It derived from a medieval custom, forbidding private strife within the walls of an embattled castle.  Now, Burgfrieden became once more a common currency.

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

July  4,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

In tangled harness Bethmann, the Kaiser and Moltke made the critical decisions.  Germany actively encouraged the Austrians to attack Serbia, and Berlin's three principal actors made no attempt to manage events in such a way as to avert a wider calamity.  Therein lies the case for their culpability for what followed.  It seems mistaken to argue that they entered the July crisis bent upon precipitating a general European conflict; but a pervasive German fatalism about such an outcome contributed largely to bringing it about.

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

July  3,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

In June 1912 a schoolboy shot at the governor of Croatia in Zagreb, missing his target but wounding a member of the imperial administration.  In March 1914 the vicar-general of Transylvania was killed by a time-bomb sent through the post by Romanians.  Yet Franz Ferdinand was capable of seeing the funny side of the threat: while watching military manoeuvres one day, his staff succumbed to panic when a dishevelled figure suddenly sprang from a bush clutching a large black object.  The Archduke laughed heartily: 'Oh, let him shoot me.  That's his job - he's a court photographer.  Let him make a living!'

--Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings

July  2,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

But not only must the respiration be considered; the ear is pleased in good writing by variety and grace of cadence, and above all by that personal rhythm, that song which in a great writer is the sound of his voice and the essence of his style.  But the lack of any rhythm in their writing is not the only fault I find with the prose of modern authors.  Their diction is quite as undistinguished; they all seem to take their vocabulary from a common dust bin.  Our older writers were lovers of language; they were fine gentlemen, even dandies sometimes in their use of words; they read old books and studied dictionaries in their search for apt expressions, and now and then on their pages we would be pleased to see some ancient, primitive word appear with its face washed and its eyes again shining.  Or again there might be some lovely, new-minted term to express a meaning which had not yet found expression.  One might also come on one of those unexpected encounters of familiar words in which Emerson said the art of writing consisted, or be enchanted by those longer phrases which possess a kind of magic--phrases either written with care and deliberation as by Sir Thomas Browne, or Pater, or sparkling sometimes unexpectedly like those waves which break into little gleams of foam on the ripple of Thackeray's easy prose.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

[N.B.:  Although unmentioned by Smith, the best example of this is the great bard, Shakespeare himself.  He is credited with either coining or using for the first time in preserved writings (it is hard to tell which is which given that earlier writers were not treated with the same care as he) several thousand words.  He is also thought to have the widest vocabulary of any prose writer.  This, by the bye, also explains why a writer such as Cormac McCarthy will be of interest for generations to come.]

July  1,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The truth is that almost all that makes the reading of old books delightful is neglected by those who wield their steel nibs in this age of steel.  There were arts, there were blandishments, there were even tricks, which were intended to beguile the older generations, and which have succeeded in beguiling subsequent generations as well.  In the first place good prose used to be written, not, as it is written to-day, for the eye alone, but also for the ear.  "Write so wisely as we may," Landor makes Horne Tooke remark, "we cannot fix the minds of men upon our writings unless we take them gently by the ear."  There must be suspensions, parentheses, pauses now and then for taking breath.  If the writer puts down one word after another without regard to any consideration but that of saying somehow what he wants to say, the effect will be very much like that of the sentence itself--we cannot read for long such piece-of-string sentences without boredom and fatigue.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  30,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Modern writing is mushroom writing; modern books are written for the day, and perish with it; and even while the day lasts how readily they drop from one's hands!  The thought of purchasing such a book and keeping it to look at again occurs to no one, and who would dream of reading the best-seller of last year?

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  29,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

A slight touch of friendly malice and amusement towards those we love keeps our affection for them, I find, from becoming flat.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  28,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Edith Wharton was an extraordinarily shy person; meeting strangers frightened her, and to protect herself against them she would assume the air and manner of the aristocratic New Yorker she had happened to be born.  This assumption of a great lady's manner was unfortunate, as it tended to terrify the people of whom she herself stood in terror.  But at a gleam of sympathy and consideration there would emerge, as from some prickly carapace, one of the most intelligent, witty, and freest of human beings I have ever known, and one of the most tender and loyal of friends.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  27,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

I had with me a volume of Baudelaire's, which I read with equal enthusiasm and, I like to think, with more profit.  What writer, he asked in this little volume of Prose Poems, has not, in his moments of ambition, dreamt of a prose, musical without rhythm or rhyme, supple and abrupt enough to express the sudden joys of the spirit, the undulations of our reveries, the ups and downs of our moods?  Such a book of prose might be composed, like a book of verses, of loosely connected or disconnected fragments; they could be cut in pieces, but each piece would have a life of its own, and some of them life enough to amuse the reader.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  26,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

What mortal is happier after all than the complacent, self-satisfied, self-applauding prig?

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  25,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Henry James was to me then but a revered master, not the friend he became afterwards, and I listened with reverent ears to what he said about my stories.  His praise was kindly but tepid; I think he saw the gift for story writing was not my gift; and, as he said in another connection, about matters of art one doesn't lie.  About the profession of letters in general, the desire to do the best one could with one's pen,--and this I confessed was my ambition,--he made one remark which I have never forgotten.  "My young friend," he said, "and I call you young,--you are disgustingly and, if I may be allowed to say so, nauseatingly young,--there is one thing that, if you really intend to follow the course you indicate, I cannot too emphatically insist on.  There is one word--let me impress upon you--which you must inscribe upon your banner, and that," he added after an impressive pause, "that word is Loneliness."

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  23,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

In all the inhabited world there exists, and has existed, only one centre of disinterested artistic interest.  Paris welcomes would-be artists with its urbane, heartless grace; it provides them with every facility for learning the art they will never learn to practise; it appropriates with a charming smile the savings they have brought with them, and with the same smile it watches them fade away or perish, knowing that new generations will soon appear to occupy their little hotels and lodgings.  All are doomed, as Paris knows, to inevitable failure, but it goes on with its own business, remunerated and undisturbed.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

[N.B.:  In this sense, too, New York took the baton from Paris when it became the cynosure of the art world.]

June  22,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

This ideal of endowment for research was particularly shocking to Benjamin Jowett, the great inventor of the tutorial system which it threatened.  I remember once, when staying with him at Malvern, inadvertently pronouncing the ill-omened word.  "Research!" the Master exclaimed.  "Research!" he said.  "A mere excuse for idleness; it has never achieved, and will never achieve, any results of the slightest value."

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  21,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The word "Research" as a university ideal had, indeed, been ominously spoken in Oxford by that extremely cantankerous person, Mark Pattison, some years ago; but the notion of this ideal, threatening as it did to discredit the whole tutorial and examinational system which was making Oxford into the highest of high school for boys, was received there with anger and contempt.  In Balliol, the birthplace and most illustrious home of this great system, it was regarded with especial scorn.  If the prize fellowships and the fellowships at All Souls were to be no longer regarded as the legitimate reward of those who had won First Classes in the Schools; if the means they provided were not to be spent in helping ambitious young men on the first rungs of the ladder of worldly success, but used, as Mark Pattison's ill-mannered supporters suggested, in the maintenance of researchers, ambitious of the fame of scholars, would not the whole tutorial system be deprived of one of its important features, and the university endowments be seriously abused?

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

[N.B.:  The author here clearly has his tongue firmly in his cheek.  Interestingly enough, Mark Pattison was, at least in part, the model for George Eliot's pedantic scholar manqué, Causabon, in Middlemarch.  At least from the author's viewpoint, this was an unfair caricature.]

June  20,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Universities should, it seems to me, be organized, not for the purpose of educating the second-rate and stupid, for transforming at infinite expense of labor the ears of sows into some poor semblance of silk purses, but for the enlightenment and development of the keenest intelligences, for the encouragement by example of original research.  Daring and original minds are cramped and injured by being always led in strings and fed on pap which has been carefully prepared for them.  They should be allowed to make their profitable mistakes; and, above all, their spirits should be kindled by contact with original scholars and masters of first-hand learning.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  19,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Nor could anything be more profitable from the pupil's point of view than the way in which this scheme of education was carried on.  The student would prepare a paper on some special subject, and go with it, generally alone, and read it to his tutor, who would then discuss it and criticize it at length; or a group of two or three would meet in the tutor's room for a kind of Socratic discussion of some special point.  These discussions were carried on much in the spirit of the Socratic dialogues; and the Socratic irony and assumed ignorance of the instructors, their deferential questions, as if the pupil were the teacher and they the learners, was a method which I found it hard at first to understand.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  18,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Oxford school of Litterae humaniores--or "Greats," as it is called--seems to my mature judgment the best scheme of education that I have ever heard of.  It is based upon an accurate knowledge of Greek and Latin texts, especially the texts of Plato and Aristotle and Thucydides and Tacitus, and the subjects studied in it are the eternal problems of thought, of conduct, and of social organization.  These are discussed, not by means of contemporary catchwords, but by translating them back into another world and another language. 

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  17,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

But while I think it almost impossible to exaggerate the misery of pennilessness, and the degradation it involves, my experience of life has taught me to believe that, with the firm foundation of a small fixed income, money in excess of this is peculiarly subject to the law of diminishing returns.  I have been both poor and comparatively rich in the course of my existence; I have associated with both poor and rich people; but, given the satisfaction of one's simple needs, I have found that, from the point of view of human happiness, the possession or absence of wealth makes very little difference--that, in fact, my poor acquaintances have been, on the whole, happier than the rich ones.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  16,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

This advice she justified by the Bible text, "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do," and "will" should be interpreted as "want," she contended, in this context.  "But surely, Mother," we sometimes protested, "this is dangerous advice to give to people!"  "Well," she would answer, "our Heavenly Father knows the kind of advice I give, so if He sends people to me it must be because He wants them given this advice.  Besides, children," she would add, "people always in the end do what the want to do, and they might as well do it with a good conscience."

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  15,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

My mother was altogether on my side.  Indeed, throughout her life she had held the conviction that what people really wanted to do was what they ought to do.  When in her later life she came to be a sort of mother-confessor to the many people who used to come to her for advice in their perplexities, her advice was always, she told us, for them to do the thing they really and seriously wanted to do.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

[N.B.:  I wonder how far our modern counseling professions have evolved from this model--of course, Smith's mother was not able to write prescriptions so that's one strike against her.]

June  14,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Thus the sense of malease grew, and has indeed remained with me so vividly that I never meet a rich, successful business American without some slight speculation about the bones he has crushed and the wretches he has eaten.  These experiences have given me a certain dislike for the whole iron economic system upon which our civilization is founded--a dislike, however, which I must admit is by no means strong enough to make me forgo any of the pecuniary advantages which I derive from it.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  13,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

I was still the dupe of the cleverest of the Devil's sophisms, which alleges that one can comply with his behests for a limited period in order safely to defy him afterwards. 

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  12,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

And I certainly tasted one joy during this year of business which I have never tasted since--the joy of Sunday, of that precious day of golden leisure, the memory of which, and the prospect of its sure recurrence, sweetened all the intervening days of work. 

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  11,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Most human beings are born for harness and are melancholy when out of it too long.  Like Wordsworth, they feel the weight of chance desires; the definite routine, the daily necessary task, eliminates the need for self-imposed activity, and they are freed from that irresolution, that temptation to postponement, that degrading sophistry of laziness which is the curse of those whose tasks are voluntary and can be performed at any time.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  10,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The debt of our civilization to the ancient Greeks is of course beyond calculation, but in one respect we have no cause to thank them.  Their adoration of the youthful human form, in contrast to the Eastern idealization of venerable age, has put a kind of blight on human life; our progress, as we grow older, in wisdom and humanity is thought of in terms of the physical decay which accompanies that luminous advance.  We feel ashamed, instead of feeling proud like the Chinese, of our accumulating years; we are always trying in vain to seem younger than we really are; and in our Western world it is by no means a compliment, as it is in the wise East, to attribute to others a greater age than their appearance might suggest. 

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  9,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Much that was suppressed in the young people of my generation found a frank avowal in the Leaves of Grass; feelings and affections for each other, which we had been ashamed of, thoughts which we had hidden as unutterable, we found printed in its pages, discovering that they were not, as we had believed, the thoughts and feelings of young, guilty, half-crazy goblins, but portions of the Kingdom of Truth and the sane experience of mankind.  It was above all Walt Whitman's rejoicing in his flesh and blood, -- "there is so much of me," he sang, "and all so luscious," -- his delight in his own body and the bodies of his friends, which seemed a revelation and gave the Leaves of Grass so strong a hold upon a generation of puritans who had ignored, or treated as shameful, those habitations of the spirit. 

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  8,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

To tuck a happy childhood under a child's jacket was the principle which my mother's kindly father often preached as the best preparation for happiness in future years . . . .

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  5,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

So there we sat, a row of Quaker children, staring with all our eyes at the performing elephants, but with our organs of vision closed and our hands before them during the less seemly interludes.  But one little Quaker boy permitted himself a guilty peep through his fingers, and gazed on a show of muscular limbs moving, slowly moving, in pink tights.  What he was gazing at was, he knew, the spectacle of Sin; and so striking was the impression that his concept of that word became colored in his imagination for a long time with the pinkness of those slowly moving legs.  It was only long afterwards that he came to understand why he had been forbidden to gaze upon them, and the grave danger he might have thereby incurred.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

[N.B.:  By the time Smith wrote these memoirs in the late thirties this taboo seemed comic--but even he would not guess that the taboo would be reversed in modern times so that it is the elephants that one must shun.] 

June  4,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Barnum's Circus came to Philadelphia in my boyhood, rousing considerable excitement in the youth of that quiet city; and among the Quakers the question was much debated whether their children should be allowed to witness this entertainment.  While it was admitted on the one hand that the sight of the elephants and the other exotic animals would help to enhance their conception of the wonders of creation, there were grave fears on the other hand that the spectacle of the scantily clad female acrobats on the tightropes might sully the innocence of their childish minds.  The compromise finally arrived at, at least in our family, was that the children should be taken to the circus and allowed to see the animals, but should sit with closed eyes while the acrobats were performing.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

[N.B.:  Logan Pearsall Smith, a friend of Henry James, lived a long life from 1865 to 1946--and this book was written near the end of that life in 1937.  In it, Smith, with a light touch of irony (witness the above passage), documents the Decline and Fall of the Puritan Empire.  If one wonders how we reached today's understanding of moral issues, one could do worse than to start with this book.]

June  3,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was in this library at least that, encouraged by my librarian uncle, I first formed the habit of reading.  What that habit might grow into was impressed upon my by my occasional visits to the aged ex-librarian, my grandfather, at the house to which he had retired in the Quaker suburb of Germantown, where he lived to a great old age, spending his days in his study upstairs, with his gouty toe on a cushion, reading and reading all day long.  "I believe it may be safely said," he wrote of himself towards the end of his life, "that for forty years, eight hours of every day, or nearly so, have been employed in reading of the most miscellaneous character, often the best books, but too often the lighter kind."  When I happened, not long ago, upon this sentence in my grandfather's Recollections, I was struck by the accurate description it gave of my own existence, which for the last forty years or so has been spent, like his, in miscellaneous reading, and often too, like his, "of the lighter kind."  The analogy was a curious one; indeed, I found it more curious than pleasing; for recalling my visits to that old gentleman, I turned my eyes on my elderly self, where I sat reading upstairs, and saw myself for a disconcerting moment.  And then I went on reading.

--Unforgotten Years by Logan Pearsall Smith

June  2,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was, I think, a related sentiment that gave rise to another characteristic feature of the Early Hellenistic Age, the wide diffusion of the cult of Tyche, "Luck" or "Fortune."  Such a cult is, as Nilsson has said, "the last stage in the secularising of religion"; in default of any positive object, the sentiment of dependence attaches itself to the purely negative idea of the unexplained and unpredictable, which is Tyche.

--The Greeks and the Irrational by E. R. Dodds.

June  1,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

[H]e who treats another human being as divine thereby assigns to himself the relative status of a child or an animal.

--The Greeks and the Irrational by E. R. Dodds.

May  30,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Antiquity had indeed a conscious reason for insisting on religious conformity in wartime, where we have only unconscious ones.  To offend the gods by doubting their existence, or by calling the sun a stone, was risky enough in peacetime; but in war it was practically treason--it amounted to helping the enemy.  For religion was a collective responsibility.  The gods were not content to strike down the individual offender: did not Hesiod say that whole cities often suffered for one bad man?  That these ideas were still very much alive in the minds of the Athenian populace is evident from the enormous hysterical fuss created by the mutilation of the Hermae.

--The Greeks and the Irrational by E. R. Dodds.

May  29,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

More important, perhaps, was the influence of wartime hysteria.  If we allow for the fact that wars cast their shadows before them and leave emotional disturbances behind them, the Age of Persecution coincides pretty closely with the longest and most disastrous war in Greek history.  The coincidence is hardly accidental.  It has been observed that "in times of danger to the community the whole tendency to conformity is greatly strengthened: the herd huddles together and becomes more intolerant than every of 'cranky' opinion."  We have seen this observation confirmed in two recent wars, and we may assume that it was not otherwise in antiquity.

--The Greeks and the Irrational by E. R. Dodds.

May  28,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

But [Xenophanes'] decisive contribution was his discovery of the relativity of religious ideas.  "If the ox could paint a picture, his god would look like an ox" : once that had been said, it cold only be a matter of time before the entire fabric of traditional belief began to loosen.  Xenophanes was himself a deeply religious man; he had his private faint in a god "who is not like men in appearance or in mind."  But he was conscious that it was faith, not knowledge.  No man, he says, has ever had, or ever will have, sure knowledge about gods; even if he should chance to hit on the exact truth, he cannot know that he has done so, though we can all have our opinions.  That honest distinction between what is knowable and what is not appears again and again in fifth-century thought, and is surely one of its chief glories; it is the foundation of scientific humility.

--The Greeks and the Irrational by E. R. Dodds.

[N.B.:  Well, you don't see much of that anymore--paging Mr. Dawkins.]

May  28,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Orpheus, however, is one thing, Orphism quite another.  But I must confess that I know very little about early Orphism, and the more I read about the more my knowledge diminishes.  Twenty years ago, I could have said quite a lot about it (we all could at that time).  Since then, I have lost a great deal of knowledge; for this loss I am indebted to Wilamowitz, Festugière, Thomas, and not least to a distinguished member of the University of California, Professor Linforth.  Let me illustrate my present ignorance by listing a few of the things I once knew.

There was a time when I knew: . . . .

When I say that I no longer possess these items of information, I do not intend to assert that all of them are false.  The last two I feel pretty sure are false: we really must not turn a bloodstained huntsman into an Orphic figure, or call "Orphic" a doctrine that Plato plainly denies to be Orphic.  But some of the others may very well happen to be true.  All I mean is that I cannot a present convince myself of their truth; and that until I can, the edifice reared by an ingenious scholarship upon these foundations remains for me a house of dreams--I am tempted to call it the unconscious projection upon the screen of antiquity of certain unsatisfied religious longings characteristic of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

--The Greeks and the Irrational by E. R. Dodds.

[N.B.:  What a wonderful metaphor--quite Gibbonian.]

May  27,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

All that I can do here is to consider briefly some aspects of it which crucially affected the Greek interpretation of nonrational factors in human experience.  But in attempting even this, I shall have to traverse ground which has been churned to deep and slippery mud by the heavy feet of contending scholars; ground, also, where those in a hurry are liable to trip over the partially decayed remains of dead theories that have not yet been decently interred.  We shall be wise, then, to move slowly, and to pick our steps rather carefully among the litter.

--The Greeks and the Irrational by E. R. Dodds.

[N.B.:  What a wonderful metaphor--quite Gibbonian.]

May  26,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Mary's disappointment over the bazaars and their goods had to be assuaged, so our delightful and informative guide took us just outside one of them where they make the copper and brass "antiques" they sell inside.  Here she purchased, over my dead body (it's been dead so many times and stepped over by her, I wonder how I've survived), an enormous copper brazier, brand-new, but dated 1874.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

May  25,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

[T]he greatest thrill the collector can have is the "discovery."  By discovery, I mean many things: (1) something someone thought was something else, but you know to be different; (2) something someone overlooked who was in the shop just before you were, but your eyes are brighter and you didn't overlook it, although sometime later you understand why they did, and wish you had; (3) something extraordinary which you "sense" is better or rarer than other people think, and it turns out to be so; (4) and lastly, something which you never heard of but which, after you've "discovered" it, turns out to have been "discovered" importantly many times before, but anyway was a discovery to you like a well-known little resort where everybody goes--or Paris.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

May  24,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

In Luke's case, something took him away from the light, from what he most wanted and loved.  As if the seed's impulse towards the light becomes warped or damaged so that it takes itself deeper and deeper into the soil.  as it buries itself deeper so it redoubles its efforts to attain the light.  But in doing so, like the deer we saw exhausting itself by struggling in a trap, it succeeds only in burying itself still further.  Eventually the urge towards the light withers because, as if through the workings of some last-ditch, built-in fail-safe, only by ceasing to struggle can it hope to survive.  At some very late stage it senses that it is its longings which have condemned it.  And so it remains where it is, a faint pulse of life in the darkness, directionless, not moving.

--Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

May  23,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

I think now that certain destinies are the opposite of manifest: ingrown, let's say.  Hidden, rarely revealing themselves, probably not even felt as a force, they work like the process or instinct that urges a seed in the soil in the direction of the light: as strong, silent and invisible - as imperceptible - as that. 

--Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

May  22,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Women withheld themselves from men and then, for a while at least, they gave themselves to a man, to one man.  And what a stroke of fortune it was, what a miracle, if you turned out to be that man!  I am her man, Luke thought to himself.  But how arbitrary it was, this privilege, and how precarious.  There could come a time when he would find himself excluded as totally as Pierre from the invisible field of her consent, her desire, her trust.  He held her tighter, as if this extra exertion of pressure could indefinitely forestall such an eventuality.  Everything he could think of saying was inadequate.  He was her man.  Nothing he could do or say could do justice to this fact.  He kissed her.

'You taste of cherries,' she said.

--Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

May  21,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

People were crowded together as tightly and neatly as an audience at a cinema but here they were both audience and subject; in watching everyone else they were watching themselves.  Everyone had a part to play and everyone played the same part.  In these circumstances, sunglasses - looked at, looked through - came into their own.  Implicit in the idea of sitting on the café terrace was both question ('It's nice sitting here isn't it?') and response ('Yes, lovely') and all conversations were more or less elaborate versions of this basic call-and-response of reflexive affirmation: 'What better place to be in the world than here at this café?'  'Nowhere, this is perfect.'

--Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

May  20,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

There was an element of novelty, of absurdity, to what had happened but they were both fearful that they had crashed through to that other dimension of domestic relationships where arguing and making up, yelling and apologising become the norm.  Then the making up and apologising fall by the wayside.  From there it is a small step to plate-smashing, hatred and attritional dependence.

--Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

May  19,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Especially as what had seemed so vital and affirming about him ('yes, always yes') became, exactly as Sahra, half-jokingly, had claimed, simply greedy ('more, always more').  He fell for the easy part of the Rimbaud myth, the prolonged and systematic derangement of the senses, but - like many before him - he had none of the discipline or drive of the genuine artist and ended up with nothing to show for it, except what he'd done to himself.

--Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

May  18,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Walking in the royal park at Brussels, the inquiring traveler, if he diverge but a few yards from the graveled alleys of pleached lime, will come across a hollow among the shrubberies which is now used as a midden in which the gathered leaves are rotted down for leaf mold.  In this declivity there is a small stone bearing a Latin inscription.  It ells the inquiring traveler that on this spot the Duke of Muscovy, having drunk heavily, was violently sick.  What is interesting about this memorial is that the Belgians at that date should have regarded the public vomiting of a reigning, even if barbarous, prince as so odd as to merit being recorded for posterity.  It is strange also that, even after Poltava, they should have styled him Duke of Muscovy and  not given him his correct title of Tsar of All the Russias.

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

[N.B.:  This little anecdote concerns Peter the Great, 1672-1725).]

May  17,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Perhaps the most absurd of all these distinctions and badges was what they used to call "le pour."  When the King went to Marly only the most favored of his courtiers were asked to accompany him and it became a matter of intense preoccupation to know whether on arrival one had or had not been granted "le pour."  What did this so desired distinction amount to?  It was regarded as infinitely more glorious if the master of the household had written in chalk upon one's bedroom door "Pour M. le Duc de Soubise," or merely "Le Duc de Soubise."  By such tiny points of differentiation did the King impose upon his courtiers the illusion that they were in fact playing an honorable and useful part in public life.

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  16,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The pattern of servitude that he imposed may appear to our minds degrading.  Yet when we were schoolboys we took it as quite natural that those who excelled in games or became prefects or monitors should be granted privileges, which although utterly trivial in practice were esteemed and sought for as symbols of distinction.  It was at Versailles regarded as a high honor to be permitted to hand the King his shirt in the morning or to hold the candle for him when he retired to bed.  Elderly ladies of the court would protest venomously if anybody not possessing the right to sit on a footstool was granted a footstool by royal favor.  Endless quarrels arose over the right, when in church, to kneel on a square of cloth laid on the marble pavement; on the right to have both panels of a double door opened for one by the lackeys; on whether one was privileged to attend the King's smaller levées or only to enter with the others when the doors were opened to the crowd.

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  15,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Saint Simone, who disliked him personally, could not but admire the unsurpassed skill with which he fulfilled his function.  "Never," he writes, "has any prince possessed to so high a degree the art of reigning."  He admired his unwavering dignity and that "terrifying majesty of bearing which came so naturally to him."  He admired his capacity for regular hard work and the extreme punctuality with which he carried out his many duties.  He admired what he called "the mechanism" that he had invented for his courtiers, providing them with intricate ceremonial functions and thus diverting their attention from politics or the affairs of state.

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  14,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Night after night the flicker of ten thousand candles would be reflected in the mirrors of saloons and galleries, throwing a radiance on tapestried or marbled walls, on painted ceilings, upon crowds of silk and velvet courtiers, upon the rubies and diamonds looped in their high headdresses, upon blue liveries and white wigs.  From the garden terraces outside would come the sound of violins mingling with the splash of fountains and cascades.  The King was about to enter.  The courtiers, with only apparent casualness, would range themselves down each side of the gallery, still laughing and chattering among themselves.  Suddenly the halberds of the guards would crash sharply upon the parquet of the anteroom and a hush would descend.  The doors would be flung open and Louis XIV, followed at a carefully prescribed distance by the reigning mistress, the bastards, and the great officers of state, would pass rapidly down the aisle, acknowledging the bows and curtsies with a slight but majestic inclination of the head--undeviating, formidable, and superb.

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  13,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I like," writes Fontenelle, "to discover small chance origins for important events.  It seems natural to me and worthy of the play of fortune."

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  12,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

He thus avoided all emotion, all passion, all unattainable desires, anything that might ruffle his equanimity.  As Madame Geoffin recorded, he never laughed; like Lord Chesterfield, he only smiled.  He never wept; he never lost his temper; he never "broke into a run."  He never allowed himself any feelings other than those that might profit his felicity.  As his biographer, Le Cat, remarked, he was like a bee who sucked nectar from every pleasure but never allowed himself to be pricked by a thorn.  He avoided all romantic attachments and busied himself, as Stendhal said, "by addressing subtle remarks to young women."  When Diderot commented upon this insensibility he replied, "It is now eighty years since I relegated emotion to my eclogues."

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  11,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

When misfortunes do occur it is a wise practice to look forward to the time when one will have forgotten all about them and thus to project oneself into a calm future.  He pities those "agitated persons" who despise tranquility.  Nothing is so fragile as the state of happiness and we should do everything to avoid giving it shocks.  Ambition, for instance, is a most dangerous emotion, since even when it is successful it increases a man's bulk and thus enlarges his area of vulnerability.  One should strive to be "on good terms with oneself [être bien avec soi]," since when misfortunes occur one is inevitably thrown back upon oneself and it is thus very important to render oneself "an agreeable place into which to retreat."

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  10,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

A curious link between the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries was Bernard de Fontenelle, who lived for exactly one hundred years from 1657 to 1757.  He was not so much a skeptic as an Epicurean, who believed that the sole aim of life was happiness and that this could be achieved only by detaching oneself from all passion and all worldly ambition and by reaching a condition of almost complete ataraxy.  In a way he succeeded in this ambition.  His contention was that the gift of happiness was born in an individual character, even as a sound constitution and healthy organs are inherited.  Man is granted but a limited ration of happiness upon this earth and must preserve and expend his ration with care and forethought.  His precept was: "Do not by your imagination create for yourself imaginary ills, since we are not perfect enough to be continually miserable."

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  9,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The youths of France have always been tempted to repudiate the conventions of the older generation, and they are glad to think that their own minds are nimble, fashionable, and up to date.  Thus in the eighteenth century the Paris intellectual acquired the habit of questioning, not the supernatural only, not only existing institutions, but anything that had been believed in, or reverenced by, their fathers and mothers.  And since Paris in those days was the crucible of ideas, what was felt and thought in Paris rapidly spread throughout the civilized world.

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  8,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

When Catherine II, in bidding farewell to Ségur III, referred to "the new philosophy," she was not thinking of any coherent system, such as that of Descartes or Locke, but rather of the pervading climate of skepticism that spread across Europe under the influence of Voltaire, Diderot, and the Encyclopédistes.  It is more difficult, when addressing intelligent minds, to found faith than to disseminate doubt.

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  7,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

[Saint Simon] was devoted to his placid and sensible wife, and when she died he gave orders that one side of her coffin should be left open, so that when he himself should follow her to the grave they should remain united and their two coffins could be joined together by iron clamps.  At the time of the Revolution the villagers of La Ferté-Vidame broke into the vault, dragged the coffins apart, and flung the two skeletons into the village midden.  Even in this posthumous outrage the duke and duchess remained united.

--The Age of Reason: The Eighteenth Century in Reason and Violence by Harold Nicolson

May  6,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

At length the Iron Chancellor would propound to his court his special recipes for roast oysters; grumble that once upon  a time he could devour eleven hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, but now he could only manage three; boast how in his diplomatic training he and his fellows practised drinking three-quarters of a bottle of champagne while negotiating.  'They drank the weak-headed ones below the table, then they asked them all sorts of things . . . and forced them to make all sorts of concessions . . . then they made them sign their names. . . . .'  It was a revealing insight into the art of 'blood and iron' diplomacy.

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

May  5,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Few butchers were above taking advantage of their sudden emergence as the most powerful (and most detested) section of the community; cat, said Professor Sheppard, was frequently sold as 'an otter, or a rare species of hare, or an extraordinary small and odd kind of sheep', and a lamb offered to one British correspondent ironically turned out to be a wolf.

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

May  4,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

One resourceful Parisian made handsome profits through a factory manufacturing false 'trophies' of war, where he produced Prussian Pickelhauben and sabres by the score, as well as forging 'next-of-kin' letters that were certified to have been removed from a Prussian corpse; and O'Shea remembered an 'ingenious rascal with a bandaged head who paraded a pair of human ears in a jar of spirits of wine on the boulevards, and brought down a flush of coppers by making believe that they were his own, sliced off by the Barbarous Prussians'.

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

May  3,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

But most of the ideas reaching the Committee formed a fascinating catalogue of science fiction and sheer fantasy.  One suggested the poisoning of the river Seine where it left Paris; another the 'decomposition' of the air surrounding the Prussians; and a third the loosing of all the more ferocious beasts from the zoo--so that the enemy would be poisoned, asphyxiated, or devoured.  There was a considerable vogue for adaptations of 'Greek fire' that would consume him by fire in various ways, and someone proposed a 'musical mitrailleuse' that Siren-like would lure the Kultur-lovers by playing Wagner and Schubert, and then scythe them down.  Another ambitious soul suggested hitching a sledge-hammer worthy of Vulcan, weighing ten million tons and encompassing fifteen miles, to a series of balloons and then cutting the ropes over Moltke's H.Q.

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

May  2,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Although it was by far the most practical, the balloon was by no means the only scientific development to occupy fertile Parisian minds during the Siege.  Inventions and ideas of all kinds poured into the government by the hundred, so that even before the investment it was forced to set up a Comité Scientifique to deal with this flood of ingenuity.  One of the first serious propositions placed before it had been the mining of Versailles and St.-Cloud; the mines to be fired electrically from Paris so as to prevent the Prussians setting up gun batteries there.  Fortunately--although some forebears of 'Dr. Strangelove' on the Committee seem to have regretted it--this proposal was turned down. 

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

May  1,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

All these conflicting components tended to lead to the same cul-de-sac; whatever Louis-Napoleon intended for his people, the final result was usually the opposite.  Above all, he pledged them 'the Empire means Peace', but gave France her most disastrous war; Canute-like, during the terrible floods of 1855 he had declared, 'I give my honour that under my reign rivers, like revolutions, will return to their beds and not be able to break forth'; yet in his wake France was plunged into the bloodies revolt in her history.  'If surnames were still given to Princes', said de Girardin, the journalist, 'he would be called the Well-Meaning.'  It was fair comment.

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

April 30,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

As long as historical speculation proves profitable, the character of Louis-Napoleon will engage biographers.  Seldom has so controversial a character held the sceptre of such power in Europe.  It would be hard to name an opposite not contained in him: outrageous audacity and great personal courage wrestled with timidity; astuteness with almost incredible fallibility; seductive charm with its antonym; downright reaction with progressiveness and humanity ahead of their age.  Machiavelli jousted with don Quixote, and the arbiter was Hamlet.

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

April 29,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

For their delectation, as well as for those lower down the social scale, there were the semi-amateurs: the comédiennes (whom it was said the Bois de Boulogne 'devoured in quantity'), the lorettes with their apprentices called biches, the grisettes, and the cocodettes.  All could be picked up by the bushel at 'Mabille's', or at the circus which on opening nights reminded the Goncourts of 'a stock exchange dealing in women's nights'.  For the Bohemians there were the grenouillères; unattached, easy-going young women who hopped from garret to gareet, like the English art student who declared she was for 'free love and Courbet!'

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

April 28,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

For clients the grandes horizontales drew from the idle rich dandies like feuillet's 'Monsieur de Camors', who described his day as follows: 'I generally rise in the morning. . . . I go to the Bois, then to the club, and then to the Bois, and afterwards I return to the club. . . . In the evening if there's a first night anywhere I fly to it.'  Everything in the Second Empire seemed designed for their greater convenience; there was even a newspaper, the Naïade, made of rubber--so that it could be read while wallowing in the bath.

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

April 27,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The greatest of the grandes horizontales, 'La Païva', once asked Ponsard the playwright to compose some verses in honour of her sumptuous new staircase (in what is now the Travellers' Club on the Champs Elysées), and he replied with a single line adapted from Phedre: 'Ainsi que la vertu, la vice a ses degrés.' ['Vice, like virtue, has its steps up and down.']

--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

April 24,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

One of them, whom I dearly wish I had known better, was a psychiatrist named Mariano de la Cruz, who, because psychotherapy was so uncommon in Spain (though slightly more familiar in Barcelona, the least Catholic and most "European" of Spanish cities), was the man to whom artists and intellectuals who felt destabilized would resort, as more devout people would seek the absolution of a favorite priest in the confessional  Since few of his patients had much money, they paid in paintings, prints, and drawings, and he ended up with a handsome collection that crammed the walls of his modest flat in Eixample.  There would have been nothing so very unusual about this except that Mariano was also a passionate and erudite aficionado of the bullring, of which Barcelona had two, and led what was more or less a second life as the bullfight critic of La Vanguardia.  I am right in thinking that his elderly charmer, who looked like a rubicund peach with a fringe of white hair, was the first and only man in the world to make his living half from Freudian/Lacanian analysis and half from tauromachy?  I hope so.  Certainly he was the only shrink at whose table (and he was a great gourmet, too, courted, feared, and respected by the restaurants of Barcelona, and famed for his version of the festive boiled-meat dish known as escudella) one might conceivably have met El Cordobés or, years before, Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, the torero whose death inspired García Lorca to write his lament with the refrain At five in the afternoon.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

[N.B.:  And a fictionalized Senor Cruz as an amateur detective would give Hercule Poiret a run for his money.]

April 23,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Artists, I came to believe, are not prophets and should not imagine themselves to be, for that is merely a form of pomposity.  Their work does not "foreshadow" later paintings or sculptures, as in an act of divination or clairvoyancy; instead, it becomes the basis of later works by being used, imitated, learned from by later artists.  In other words, it becomes part of the past and assumes the value that we associate with the past.  To the extent that it is radical, it is only so in the literal sense of the Latin radix, a root; it absorbs nourishment, gives support, and offers rootedness and a degree of security in an otherwise bafflingly hypothetical future.  It may be what you call "conservative" I might call "radical," but that does not preclude the possibility that both of us are looking at something new.  The truly radical work of art is the one that offers you something to hold on to in the midst of the flux of possibility.  Thus Piero della Francesca's Baptism, in London, or Rembrandt's sublimely inward-looing Bathsheba, in the Louvre, is radical in a deep way that no Damien Hirst could ever be--which is why even mentioning them in the same sentence is faintly comical.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

April 22,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The past is pervasive; it seeps into everything; it is the very air that artists and their public breathe.  And yet because the past is irreplaceable and cannot be done again, it was that very past, not the present or the future, that was so delicate, so vulnerable, so dreadfully easy to erase.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

[N.B.:  And this quality is exactly what motivates ISIS with respect to its destruction of cultural artifacts that pre-date Islam.  You can write anything on an erased--a blank--slate.]

April 21,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

For there we were filming in the gallery on press day, and not a hundred feet away, across the shiny parquet, was my literary demigod: Old Man Palinurus himself, Cyril Vernon Connolly.  Shall it be now?  I asked myself.  Or shall it be never? Quaking somewhat, I approached the dread presence and launched into one of those atrociously clumsy self-introductions that young Australians are so good at.  I owed him so much, so very much.  If I had nor read (and read and reread) The Unquiet Grave, I could hardly have raised the gumption to leave Australia.  This speech took rather a long time, and by the end of it I caught an icy glint in Connolly's froggy eyes.  "I cannot believe," he said at last, "that I am to be held entirely responsible for the accidental effects of my juvenilia in remote colonies."  Just like that, one sentence.  It was the remote, hit with the clarity of a funeral chime, that got me.  He then turned on his heel and walked away, leaving me to contemplate oblivion.

--Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes

April 20,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is a frequent irony that those in whom we feel we need to make an offering of our past feel threatened, or isolated, or diminished by that past.

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

April 17,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Also, of course, there are people who come to tell you things, who want to have told someone a certain thing, to have talked about it - but can't actually bring themselves to say what the real matter is.  Some people are very oblique-partly because they daren't say-partly because they're not prepared to trust anyone who can't guess what they only hint at-partly because they don't know what they are on about, and hope if they go on talking it'll become clear to them.  They don't care so much if it's clear to me."

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

April 16,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"They said you were going to be a head-shrinker."

"No, no, no.  An academic psychologist.  I intend to study the relations between perception and thought.  Not libido, dear girl, thought.  The ultimate narcissism, the brain measuring its own ticks and fluctuations.  The roots of knowledge."

"How can it?"

"How can it?"

"How can it know itself?  How can it study what itself is?  It can't get outside itself."

"Machines, Federica."

"Machines it thought up itself."

"Well - not it.  Several discrete brains.  But it's a valid point.  A closed circle.  The brain can't check the brain's conclusions about the brain's conclusions about the brain.  No harm in trying, though."

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

[N.B.:  A closed circle--where did we run across that image before?  Oh yes, the post from April 13th.]

April 15,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

He was the sort of boy schoolmasters secretly hope will come a cropper, so blithe, so arrogant, so effortless, so ingrate had been his academic proceedings.  They wrote heavily qualified references which Cambridge ignored.

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

April 14,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Conjuring with the wrong images.  Since then we've been living in an anthropocentric universe with our eyes and ears and minds shut.  What's called Religion isn't about inhuman Spirit but about Man and Morals and Progress, which are much less important.  and then Science came, which should have given them an inkling, an inkling of the inhuman Powers that Be, but what they did was develop their antrhopocentricity into the terrible idea that Man is the Master of all Things.  Now that, Potter, is black conjuring, that produced Hiroshima and Satanic mills.  Science could have been used, of course, to re-establish the ancient knowledge that Man had his place on a Scale of Being as an intermediary between Pure Matter and Pure Spirit.  But they talked about the indomitable human spirit and the empty heavens and lost their chances."

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

April 13,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"The Renaissance was when they got Man's relationship with Spirit wrong.  They revived the old pagan idea that Man is the Measure of all things, which of course is absurd, and that idea did untold damage.  Instead of infinity you had to be content with a circle a man could touch at every point." 

--The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

April 12,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The abuse of words upon which our official doctrine depended was already prefigured in the sacred texts of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.  The goal, Karel said, was not to tell explicit lies but to destroy the distinction between the true and the false, so that lying becomes neither necessary nor possible.  And he compared Newspeak to kitsch, the purpose of which is to destroy the distinction between true and false sentiment, so as to remove emotion from reality and invest it in a world of fantasy, where nothing has a value, though everything has a price.

--Notes from Underground by Roger Scruton

April 11,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Distrust was built in to the system from the beginning," he said ignoring my question.  "The first axiom of Marx Scientist is that everything they tell you is a lie.  The second axiom is that it doesn't matter, since you are lying too.  The third axiom is 'Kill all liars!'  That's what they did to this guy, Radim Drejsl, who came back from the Soviet Union with an odd desire to tell unofficial lies of his own.  He ended up on the pavement, five floors below his apartment.  In those days you went forward with Gottwald through the nearest window."

--Notes from Underground by Roger Scruton

April 10,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Dressed in this music-hall costume, he accompanied himself in the song composed by Radim Drejsl for the First Church of Marx Scientist, Czechoslovak branch: Za Gottwalds vpred, "Forward with Gottwald," which he sang in a high caressing tenor.  The effect was so ludicrous that I found myself curled up in laughter on a broken-springed sofa, clutching in my merriment the batting-eyed doll in frilly underwear that occupied one of its corner.

--Notes from Underground by Roger Scruton

April 9,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

There are things, he explained, which in their true form cannot be bought and sold: love, honor, duty, sacrifice.  But if we wish to buy and sell them nevertheless, we have to construct soft fairyland versions of them.  That, he said, is the meaning of kitsch: it is the representation, in a world of falsehood, of ideals that we once had in the world of truth.  All this culminates in communism, which is kitsch of a new kind: kitsch with teeth.

--Notes from Underground by Roger Scruton

April 8,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Living now in a country of religious maniacs, I hold onto my Czech skepticism as a badge of sanity.  But I spontaneously resonated to Father Pavel's message.  He described the supernatural as an everyday presence, folded into the scheme of things like the lining of a coat.  The Christian religion, he said, is not refuted by suffering, but uses suffering to make sense of the world.  And he added a thought that surprised me, not because it was at odds with what I knew, but because it fitted my experience so exactly.  God, he said, could be present among us only if He first divests himself of power.  To enter this world dressed in the power that created it would be to threaten us all with destruction.  Hence God enters in secret.  He is the truly powerless one, whose role is to suffer and forgive.  That is the meaning of the sacrifice, in which the body and blood of the Redeemer are shared among his killers.

--Notes from Underground by Roger Scruton

April 7,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

She stopped in the Charles Square, by the New Town Hall, from the windows of which, in 1419, the Hussite leader Jan Zelivsky had thrown thirteen town councillors to their deaths.  Defenestration is a Czech tradition, the only one that the communists had retained.  The monument to Zelivsky stands in the square, reminding us of our national virtues.  No monument commemorates those thirteen councillors.

--Notes from Underground by Roger Scruton

April 6,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

And he wrote of a spiritual force that had rotted things from within: the religion of Progress, which forbade humanity to stand still, not even for a moment, making it a sin to enjoy the luminous present and all the depths that shine in it, as they shone for me in those two Mahler symphonies--5 and 6--that had acquired a special place in Dad's collection of records.

--Notes from Underground by Roger Scruton

April 5,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Dad stood in his pajamas, his handcuffed wrists in front of him, his face white and frozen.  He was found guilty of subversion in collaboration with a foreign power.  We never knew which foreign power they had in mind.  the power of literature, maybe.  Or perhaps his reading parties were the cover for something more serious that they chose not to reveal.  anyway, he got five years hard labor.  Three years on, we were told that a mine had collapsed, burying a dozen enemies of the people.  Dad was one of them.

--Notes from Underground by Roger Scruton

April 4,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Everything seemed to be moving along well, developing favorably and successfully and most loyally; the Empire was growing and even, as His Supreme Highness stressed, blossoming--when suddenly reports came in that those overseas benefactors who had taken upon themselves the trouble of feeding our ever-insatiable people had rebelled and were suspending shipments because our Finance Minister, Mr. Yelma Deresa, wanting to enrich the Imperial treasury, had ordered the benefactors to pay high customs fees on the aid.  "You want to help?' the minister asked.  "Please do, but you must pay."  and they said, "What do you mean, pay?  We give help!  And we're supposed to pay?"  "Yes," says the minister, "those are the regulations.  Do you want to help in such a way that our Empire gains nothing by it?"  And here, together with the minister, our press raises its voice to denounce the rebellious benefactors, saying that by suspending aid they condemn our nation to the cruelties of poverty and starvation.  They oppose the Emperor and interfere in internal affairs.  It was rumored, my friend, that half a million people had died of hunger, which our newspapers blamed on these shameful, infamour missionaries and nurses. 

--The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat by Ryszard Kapuscinski

April 3,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

We must remember that the Palace was a nest of mediocrity, a collection of second-rate people, and in a time of crisis such people lose their heads and think of nothing but saving their own skins.  Mediocrity is dangerous: when it feels itself threatened it becomes ruthless.

--The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat by Ryszard Kapuscinski

April 2,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Up north there was no rebellion.  No one raised his voice or his hand there.  But just let the subject start to eat his fill and then try to take the bowl away, and immediately he rises in rebellion.  the usefulness of going hungry is that a hungry man thinks only of bread.  He's all wrapped up in the thought of food.  He loses the remains of his vitality in that thought, and he no longer has either the desire or the will to seek pleasure through the temptation of disobedience.  Just think: Who destroyed our Empire?  Who reduced it to ruin?  Neither those who had too much, nor those who had nothing, but those who had a bit.  Yes, one should always beware of those who have a bit, because they are the worst, they are the greediest, it is they who push upward.

--The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat by Ryszard Kapuscinski

April 1,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

And I'll go so far, my friend, as to say that we had a loyal press--yes, loyal in an exemplary way.  To tell the truth, there wasn't much of it, because for over thirty million subjects twenty-five thousand copies were printed daily, but His Highness worked on the assumption that even the most loyal press should not be given in abundance, because that might create a habit of reading, and from there it is only a single step to the habit of thinking, and it is well known what inconveniences, vexations, troubles, and worries thinking causes.

--The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat by Ryszard Kapuscinski

WHAT WE'RE READING


Patrick:

  1. The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham
  2. Their Finest Hour by Winston S. Churchill
  3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  4. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Kathryn:

  1. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  2. Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis

 


RECENT READS
Patrick: Kathryn:
IN THE QUEUE
Patrick:

Kathryn:

  • Story by Robert McKee
  • Consilience by Edward O. Wilson

LITBLOG BIBELOTS

SUGGESTED LINKS
Patrick:

The Reading Experience (a smart and witty litblog)

Invisible Adjunct (a sad and poignant blog written in ravishing prose by an anonymous adjunct professor ultimately denied tenure; she  left the site up as a well-visited tombstone)

The Dickens Page (Dickens, Dickens and more Dickens)

About Last Night (Terry Teachout rocks!)

OS Shakespeare (All things Shakespeare--and it's free!)

Kathryn:

Arts and Letters Daily

Internet Movie Database

Literary trivia: First Line Quiz

Movie reviews: Rotten Tomatoes

Photo.net: Fish around in "Top-rated photos."

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About: Want a good laugh?

More earnest chain email propagating misinformation? Send the sender to Snopes.com.

An animated primer on The Internet vs. Real Life; takes a long time to load.

New Orleans Links
NOLA.com
WWOZ radio
Jazz Fest
Parasol's for po boys
Maple Street Books

Basin Street Records
Mardi Gras 2005

Austin Links
Mother Egan's Irish Pub
Austin City Limits Music Festival
Salvage Vanguard Theater
Book People