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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR AUGUST 2010

August  31,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The avenue, therefore, must not be too long.  It is quite a mistake to suppose that there is sublimity in a monotonous length of line, unless indeed it be carried to an extent generally impossible, as in the case of the long walk at Windsor.  From three to four hundred yards is a length which will display the elevation well, and will not become tiresome from continued monotony.  The kind of tree must, of course, be regulated by circumstances; but the foliage must be unequally disposed, so as to let in passages of light across the path, and cause the motion of any object across it to change, like an undulating melody, from darkness to light.  It should meet at the top, so as to cause twilight, but not obscurity; and the idea of a vaulted roof, without rigidity.  The ground should be green, so that the sunlight may tell with force wherever it strikes.  Now, this kind of rich and shadowy vista is found in its perfection only in England: it is an attribute of green country; it is associated with all our memories of forest freedom, of our wood-rangers, and yeomen with the "doublets of the Lincoln green;" with our pride of ancient archers, whose art was fostered in such long and breezeless glades; with our thoughts of the merry chases of our kingly companies, when the dewy antlers sparkled down the intertwined paths of the windless woods, at the morning echo of the hunter's horn; with all, in fact, that once contributed to give our land its ancient name of "merry" England; a name which, in this age of steam and iron, it will have some difficulty in keeping.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

August  30,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

There never was, and never can be, a universal beau idal in architecture, and the arrival at all local models of beauty would be the task of ages; but we can always, in some degree, determine those of our own lovely country.  We cannot, however, in the present case, pass from the contemplation of the villa of a totally different climate, to the investigation of what is beautiful here, without the slightest reference to styles now or formerly adopted for our own "villas," if such they are to be called; and therefore it will be necessary to devote a short time to the observance of the peculiarities of such styles, if we possess them; or, if not, of the causes of their absence.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  How naive of Ruskin to think that climate or geography might have something to do with architectural style--clearly he missed out on the lovely blocks of cement and cubes of glass foisted upon us by the likes of Le Corbusier.]

August  26,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Man, the peasant, is a being of more marked national character, than man, the educated and refined.  For nationality is founded, in a great degree, on prejudices and feelings inculcated and aroused in youth, which grow inveterate in the mind as long as its views are confined to the place of its birth; its ideas molded by the customs of its country, and its conversation limited to a circle composed of individuals of habits and feelings like its own; but which are gradually softened down, and eradicated, when the mind is led into general views of things, when it is guided by reflection instead of habit, and has begun to lay aside opinions contracted under the influence of association and prepossession, substituting in their room philosophical deductions from the calm contemplation of the various tempers, and thoughts, and customs, of mankind.  The love of its country will remain with undiminished strength in the cultivated mind, but the national modes of thinking will vanish from the disciplined intellect.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

August  25,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

One of the principal charms of mountain scenery is its solitude.  Now, just as silence is never perfect or deep without motion, solitude is never perfect without some vestige of life.  Even desolation is not felt to be utter, unless in some slight degree interrupted: unless the cricket is chirping on the lonely hearth, or the vulture soaring over the field of corpses, or the mourner lamenting over the red ruins of the devastated village, that devastation is not felt to be complete.  The anathema of the prophet does not wholly leave the curse of loneliness upon the mighty city, until he tells us that "the satyr shall dance there."  And, if desolation, which is the destruction of life, cannot leave its impression perfect without some interruption, much less can solitude, which is only the absence of life, be felt without some contrast.  Accordingly, it is, perhaps, never so perfect as when a populous and highly cultivated plain, immediately beneath, is visible through the rugged ravines, or over the cloudy summits of some tall, vast, and voiceless mountain.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

August  24,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

What is most musical, will always be found most melancholy; and no real beauty can be obtained without a touch of sadness.  Whenever the beautiful loses its melancholy, it degenerates into prettiness.  We appeal to the memories of all our observing readers, whether they have treasured up any scene, pretending to be more than pretty, which has not about it either a tinge of melancholy or a sense of danger, the one constitutes the beautiful, the other the sublime.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

August  23,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

After a dozen paces Quirke cleared his throat and said: 'I'm sorry about this morning, walking in like that when you were in the bath.'

'I didn't mind.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I felt like--oh, I don't know, Helen, or Leda, or somebody, being swooped down upon by a god disguised as a bull.  You do look quite bullish, you know, in a confined space.'

'Yes,' he said, 'and the world is my china shop.'

--Elegy for April by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

August  22,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The past had poison in it.

--Elegy for April by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

August  19,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

'I've been away too,' he said.

'Oh, yes?'

'I was in St John of the Cross.'

'My--what's that?'

'A drying-out clinic.'

'Yes, now that I think of it, Phoebe mentioned in one of her letters that you were in the bin.  I thought she was exaggerating.  What was it like?'

'All right.'

She smiled.  'I'm sure.'  The barmen poured the champagne and set the sizzling glasses before them.  Quirke looked at his, chewing on his lip.  'Do you dare?' Rose asked, smiling with sweet malice.  'I don't want to be responsible for putting you back on the cross.'

He picked up his glass and tipped the rim of it against hers.  They drank.  'Here's to sobriety,' he said.

--Elegy for April by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

August  18,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Malachy was gazing at him, his eyes hardly visible behind those gleaming lenses; Quirke felt like a specimen being studied under a glass.  Now Mal asked softly: 'Don't you ever just want it to be--to be done with?'

'Of course,' Quirke answered impatiently.  'In the past couple of months I thought at least once a day it might be best to go, or to be gone, at least--the going itself is the ting I don't care for.'

Malachy considered this, smiling to himself.  'Somebody asked, I can't remember who, How can we live, knowing that we must die?'

'Or you could say, how can we not live, knowing that death is waiting for us?  It makes just as much sense--more, maybe.'

--Elegy for April by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

August  17,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The trouble with sins and sorrows, he had discovered, is that in time they become boring, even to the sorrowing sinner.

--Elegy for April by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

August  16,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Jimmy had finished his cigarette and now he lit a new one.  No one smoked as much as Jimmy did; he had once told Phoebe that he often found himself wishing he could have a smoke while he was already smoking, and that indeed on more than one occasion he had caught himself lighting a cigarette even though the one he had going was there in the ash-tray in front of him.

--Elegy for April by Benjamin Black (a/k/a John Banville)

[N.B.:  The use of short sentences alternating with long, compound ones is a sure sign of a master prose stylist.]

August  15,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Originally consisting in the patient pursuit of a fox, on steady horses assisted by contemplative and sagacious dogs, the hunt was accelerated in the eighteenth century until it had become a steeple-chase.  Squire Osbaldeston, in the next century, prostrate in a ditch with the bone of his leg sticking through the boot, after being jumped on by Sir James Mugrave, observed, 'I am so unlucky that I think I shall give up hunting'--and did not.  Mytton's insane leaps were the cause of his popularity.  Jorrocks was able to assert that the sport offered 25 per cent of the danger of war.

Drink was also taken as a form of endurance.  Barrington gives an example of ten men who locked themselves in a room with a hogshead of claret and contrived to finish it, together with unspecified amounts of cherry brandy, in a week.

--The Age of Scandal by T.H. White

August  14,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Samuel Rogers said that 'when Lord Holland was a schoolboy, he was forced, as a fag, to toast bread with his fingers for the breakfast of another boy.  Lord H's mother sent him a toasting fork.  His fagger broke it over his head, and still compelled him to prepare the toast in the old way.  In consequence of this process his fingers suffered so much that they always retained a withered appearance.'  Some of the fags survived, and, according to the inexorable law of nature, the survivors were the fittest.

--The Age of Scandal by T.H. White

August  13,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

At sea, a hundred years later, in the navy which Pepys had made, a part of the drill known as 'clearing decks for action' consisted in removing the seamen's chests to the middle of the aisle between the gun-ports.  This was done by the Loblolly Men, who made a platform with the chests, on which the surgeons laid out their saws and chisels.  When the action began, and the eighty-pound shot began to thump against the wooden walls, and to splinter them, and to enter, the Loblolly Men seized the casualties and hauled them screaming to the platform, where the surgeons sawed off any shattered limb as quickly as possible, tied up the arteries with silk--which was to be tugged daily, if the patient survived, until it rotted and came away--and dipped the stump in hot tar.  Those who were to badly wounded were thrown overboard.  Shelley's romancing friend Trelawny said that his ship, the Superb, was uniformly painted red inside at the period of Trafalgar, so that the blood would not show.

--The Age of Scandal by T.H. White

August  12,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The eighteenth century managed to eat so much more than we do because it ate more slowly.  It could drink more, by drinking all night.  Old Lady Dorothy Nevill, who was born in the reign of George IV, survived to complain n 1910 because 'everything is served at such lightning speed that it is as much as one can do to swallow the few mouthfuls called dinner before one's plate has been snatched away.  The whole system of these hurried modern meals is uncomfortable and unhealthy.'  It would be interesting to find out whether the pulse rate has gone up.

--The Age of Scandal by T.H. White

[N.B.  White wrote this book in 1950--in the middle of Britain's post-war austerity (rationing would not be abolished for several more years).  As in the United States, the "big" difference between people then and people today is that people were not only not "big" but were positively thin.  In a mere 60 years we have gone from marveling how people could be so fat in the eighteenth century to wondering how White could be so wrongheaded as to think such was the case.]

August  11,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

When [King George IV] was finally dead, with the dreadful cry of 'This is death! O God, they have deceived me!' there were found in his wardrobe all the coats, boots and pantaloons of fifty years.  He had remembered them all, and could call for any one of them at any moment.  There were five hundred pocket-books, containing forgotten sums of money amounting to 10,000 together with countless bundles of women's love-letters and locks of hair.  Greville was indignant about this, as he had been indignant when the king spent all is time altering the uniforms of the Guards and seeing more of his tailor, for that purpose, than he had seen of his Prime Minister.  But the prerogative of the Crown had already been hamstrung by the growth of parliamentary power, and there was little left for kings to do, unbidden, except to alter uniforms and count their clothes.

--The Age of Scandal by T.H. White

August  10,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The full facts about bird migration were unknown even to the immortal Gilbert White--fortunately unknown, since it gave Dr Johnson the opportunity for one of his more prodigious belly-floppers.  'Swallows', he explained tremendously, 'certainly sleep all the winter.  A number of them conglobulate together, by flying round and round, and then all in a heap throw themselves under water, and lie in the bed of a river.'

--The Age of Scandal by T.H. White

August  9,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Stories," he said, "are only of interest when they are true, or when you have made them up specially to amuse me.  Ghost stories, made up by some dim old English virgins, are neither true nor interesting.  So no more ghost stories, please, Madame."

--The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

August  8,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Really," she thought with a giggle, "this is a very penny-novelettish seduction, how can I be taken in by it?"

But she was filled with a strange, wild, unfamiliar happiness, and knew that this was love.  Twice in her life she had mistaken something else for it; it was like seeing somebody in the street who you think is a friend, you whistle and wave and run after him, and it is not only not the friend, but not even very like him.  A few minutes later the real friend appears in view, and then you can't imagine how you ever mistook that other person for him.

--The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

August  7,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Twice a week Linda worked in a Red bookshop.  It was run by a huge, perfectly silent comrade, called Boris.  Boris liked to get drunk from Thursday afternoon, which was closing day in that district, to Monday morning, so Linda said she would take it over on Friday and Saturday.  An extraordinary transformation would then occur.  The books and tracts which mouldered there month after month, getting damper and dustier until at last they had to be thrown away, were hurried into the background, and their place taken by Linda's own few but well-loved favourites.  Thus for Whither British Airways? was substituted Round the World in Forty Days, Karl Marx, the Formative Years was replaced by The Making of a Marchioness, and The Giant of the Kremlin by Diary of a Nobody, while A Challenge to Coal-Owners made way for Kong Solomon's Mines.

--The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

August  6,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

We had never learnt to dance, and, for some reason, we had supposed it to be a thing which everybody could do quite easily and naturally.  I think Linda realized there and then what it took me years to learn, that the behaviour of civilized man really has nothing to do with nature, that all is artificiality and art more or less perfected.

--The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

August  5,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

After dinner the girls had taken Louisa upstairs.  She was rather startled at first to see printed notices in the guests' rooms:

OWING TO AN UNIDENTIFIED CORPSE IN THE CISTERN VISITORS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO DRINK THE BATH WATER.

VISITORS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO LET OFF FIREARMS, BLOW BUGLES, SCREAM OR HOOT, BETWEEN THE HOURS OF MIDNIGHT AND SIX A.M.

And, on one bedroom door:

MANGLING DONE HERE.

But it was soon explained to her that these were jokes.

--The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

August  4,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Yes," she said, vaguely.  "It is the worst pain in the world.  But the funny thing is, you always forget in between what it's like.  Each time, when it began, I felt like saying, 'Oh, now I can remember, stop it, stop it.'  And, of course, by then it was nine months too late to stop it."

At this point Linda began to cry, saying how dreadful it must be for cows, which brought the conversation to an end.

--The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

August  3,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

A few weeks before Satchmo came out, he appeared on Stage Show, a TV series hosted by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.  "We was going to play '[South] Rampart Street Parade,'" he remembered, "and we're discussing what tempo to play it, and I say, 'Why don't you play it not too slow, not too fast, just half fast.'  The audience finally picked it up. . . . From then on--couldn't nothing follow it."  That was Stachmo: he took his music seriously, but never himself.

--Pops by Terry Teachout  

August  2,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Armstrong, whose preference for dark-skinned women was so marked that he wrote a piece for Ebony about it, was struck not only by "the glow of her deep brown skin" (he liked to call her "Brown Sugar") but also by the fact that she had gotten into the Cotton Club's chorus line in spite of it.  "Lucille was the first girl to crack the high-yellow color standard used to pick girls for the famous Cotton Club chorus line," he wrote in Ebony.  "I think she was a distinguished pioneer."

--Pops by Terry Teachout  

[N.B.:  There are still a number of racial issues that are rarely discussed and discrimination based on color within the African-American community itself is one of them.  Just reflect how rarely one sees an African-American political figure, corporate executive, movie star or musician whose skin is as dark or darker than that of Louis Armstrong.  But we are not to speak of such things in our post-racial society when the "high-yellow color standard" has long since been abolished and forgotten.  It's just a coincidence that things have worked out as if it still existed.]

August  1,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Few survivors of the big-band era romanticized it.  Charlie Barnet summed up life on the road in six blunt words: "You stay tired, dirty and drunk."  Mike Zwerin was more expansive: "You skim more than read, pass out rather than fall asleep.  You work when everybody else is off, breakfast in the evening, dinner at dawn.  Disorder is the order, physical alienation is so powerful, so omnipresent, that no treatment seems too extreme. . . . You've got to find a familiar internal place to hang on to, it's a matter of survival.  And there is one place, a warm corner called stoned."

--Pops by Terry Teachout