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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR AUGUST 2013

August 31,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

People who don't know will look at her and speak of the cruelty of history.  And the most terrible thing is it can't be avenged.  The old lords oppressed and humiliated and injured for centuries.  No one touched them.  Now they've gone away.  They've gone to the towns, they've gone to foreign countries.  They've left these wretched people as their monument.  This is what I meant when I said that you have no idea of the extent to which the victors won and the losers lost here.  And it's all hidden.  When you compare this with Africa you will have to say that Africa is all light and clarity.

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

August 30,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

You cannot understand the degree to which the victors won and the losers lost.  Hitler would have called it a war of annihilation, a war without limits and restraints, and this one succeeded to a remarkable degree.  There was no resistance.  The serfs in the villages policed themselves.  They were of various low castes, and there is no caste hatred greater than that of the low for the low, one sub-caste for another.  Some ran before and after the horses of their lords.  Some did the scavenging.  Some did the grave digging.  Some offered their women.  All of them referred to themselves as slaves.  All of them were underfed.  That was a matter of policy.  It was said that if you fed a slave well he would want to bite you.

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

[N.B.:  The point is that there is no Hegelian Spirit of the Absolute marching like God towards a secular paradise here on Earth.  Heaven can turn to Hell in "weeks, possibly months."  We all live on the edge of the void--and even if we refuse to look into the void, it, assuredly, still looks into us.]

August 29,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Joseph said, "All the land of India is sacred.  But here we are on especially sacred ground.  We are on the site of the last great Indian kingdom, and it was the site of a catastrophe.  Four hundred years ago the Muslim invaders ganged up on it and destroyed it.  They spent weeks, possibly months, destroying it.  They levelled the capital city.  It was a rich and famous city, known to early European travellers.  They killed the priests, the philosophers, the artisans, the architects, the scholars.  They knew what they were doing.  They were cutting off the head.  The only people they left behind were the serfs in the villages, and they parcelled them out among themselves.  The military defeat was terrible."

--Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

August 28,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

What Wolf began to realize was the the secret of Roseto wasn't diet or exercise or genes or location.  It had to be Roseto itself.  As Bruhn and Wolf walked around the town, they figured out why.  They looked at how the Rosetans visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, say, or cooking for one another in their backyards.  They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town's social structure.  They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded.  They went to mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church.  They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in a town of just under two thousand people.  They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures.

--Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

[N.B.: You mean, pursuing the good life for myself and forsaking family and children in order to embrace atomization leads to a shorter lifespan?  But why would a government want to encourage that?]

August 27,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

When the commonplace "We must all die" transforms itself suddenly into the acute consciousness "I must die--and soon," then death grapples us, and his fingers are cruel; afterward, he may come to fold us in his arms as our mother did, and our last moment of dim earthly discerning may be like the first.  To Mr. Casaubon now, it was as if he suddenly found himself on the dark river-brink and heard the plash of the incoming oar, not discerning the forms, but expecting the summons.  In such an hour the mind does not change its lifelong bias, but carries it onward in imagination to the other side of death, gazing backward--perhaps with the divine calm of beneficence, perhaps with the petty anxieties of self-assertion.

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 26,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Mary could not have acted otherwise, even if she had known what would be the effect on Fred," said Mrs. Garth, pausing from her work, and looking at Mr. Farebrother.  "And she was quite ignorant of it.  It seems to me, a loss which falls on another because we have done right is not to lie upon our conscience."

The vicar did not answer immediately, and Caleb said: "It's the feeling.  The child feels in that way, and I feel with her.  You don't mean your horse to tread on a dog when you are backing out of the way; but it goes through you when it's done."

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 25,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"We should not value our vicar the less because there was a ridiculous curate in the next parish."

"There's something in what she says, though," said Caleb, not disposed to have Mary's sharpness undervalued.  "A bad workman of any sort makes his fellows mistrusted.  Things hang together," he added, looking on the floor and moving his feet uneasily with a sense that words were scantier than thoughts.

"Clearly, said the vicar, amused.  "By being contemptible we set men's minds to the tune of contempt."

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 24,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

He had also taken too much in the shape of muddy political talk, a stimulant dangerously disturbing to his farming conservatism, which consisted in holding that whatever is, is bad, and any change is likely to be worse.

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

[N.B.:  I don't think modern conservatism has changed much from this view--except perhaps the believe that the present is very bad and any change will be much worse.]

August 23,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I will go anywhere with you, Mrs. Cadwallader," Celia had said, "but I don't like funerals."

"Oh, my dear, when you have a clergyman in your family you must accommodate your tastes: I did that very early.  When I married Humphrey I made up my mind to like sermons, and I set out by liking the end very much.  That soon spread to the middle and the beginning, because I couldn't have the end without them."

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 22,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There are many wonderful mixtures int he world which are all alike called love, and claim the privileges of a sublime rage which is an apology for everything (in literature and the drama).

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 21,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I am so miserable, Mary--if you knew how miserable I am, you would be sorry for me."

"There are other things to be more sorry for than that.  But selfish people always think their own discomfort of more importance than anything else in the world: I see enough of that every day."

"It is hardly fair to call me selfish.  If you knew what things other men do, you would think me a good way off the worst."

"I know that people who spend a great deal of money on themselves without knowing how they shall pay, must be selfish.  They are always thinking of what they can get for themselves, and not of what other people may lose."

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 20,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Looking at the mother, you might hope that the daughter would become like her, which is a prospective advantage equal to a dowry--the mother too often standing behind the daughter like a malignant prophecy--"Such as I am, she will shortly be."

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 19,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is a sort of jealousy which needs very little fire: it is hardly a passion, but a blight bred in the cloudy, damp despondency of uneasy egoism.

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 18,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

But the idea of this dried-up pedant, this elaborator of small explanations, about as important as the surplus stock of false antiquities kept in a vendor's back chamber, having first got this adorable young creature to marry him, and then passing his honeymoon away from her, groping after his mouldy futilities (Will was given to hyperbole)--this sudden pictures stirred him with a sort of comic distrust; he was divided between impulse to laugh aloud and the equally unseasonable impulse to burst into scornful invective.

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 17,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

These characteristics, fixed and unchangeable as bone in Mr. Casaubon, 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 be George Eliot

[N.B.:  Great advice for new husbands--but also a great example of varying long and short sentences for maximum impact on the reader.]

August 16,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Certainly, small feet and perfectly turned shoulders aid the impression of refined manners, and the right thing said seems quite astonishingly right when it is accompanied with exquisite curves of lip and eyelid.  And Rosamond could say the right thing; for she was clever with that sort of cleverness which catches every tone except the humorous.  Happily she never attempted to joke, and this perhaps was the most decisive mark of her cleverness.

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

[N.B.:  I wonder who did not have small feet and perfectly turned shoulders?]

August 15,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

For in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little.  The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardor in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardor of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly.  Nothing in the world more subtle than the process of their gradual change!  In the beginning they inhaled it unknowingly : you and I may have sent some of our breath toward infecting them, when we uttered our conforming falsities or drew our silly conclusions : or perhaps it came with the vibrations from a woman's glance.

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

[N.B.:  Or maybe this should be the epitaph of the baby boomer generation.]

August 14,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

We are not afraid of telling over and over again how a man comes to fall in love with a woman, and be wedded to her, or else be fatally parted from her.  Is it due to excess of poetry or of stupidity that we are never weary of describing what King James called a woman's "makdom and her fairnesse," never weary of listening to the twanging of the old Troubadour strings, and are comparatively uninterested in that other kind "makdom and fairnesse" which must be wooed with industrious thought and patient renunciation of small desires?  In the story of this passion, too, the development varies: sometimes it is the glorious marriage, sometimes frustration and final parting.  And not seldom the catastrophe is bound up with the other passion, sung by the Troubadours.

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

[N.B.:  Hmmm, a woman of great intellectual but not physical "makdom and fairnesse."  Whomever might Eliot have in mind??]

August 13,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Still, I repeat, there was a general impression that Lydgate was something rather more uncommon than any general practitioner in Middlemarch.  And this was true.  He was but seven-and-twenty, an age at which many men are not quite common--at which they are hopeful of achievement, resolute in avoidance, thinking that Mammon shall never put a bit in their mouth and get astride their backs, but rather that Mammon, if they have anything to do with him, shall draw their chariot.

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

[N.B.:  The epitaph for the Baby Boomer generation.]

August 12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities

--Middlemarch be George Eliot

August 11,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Another of the strange and evil tendencies of the present day is to the decoration of the railroad station.  Now, if there be any place in the world in which people are deprived of that portion of temper and discretion which are necessary to the contemplation of beauty, it is there.  It is the very temple of discomfort, and the only charity that the builder can extend to us is to show us, plainly as may be, how soonest to escape from it.  The whole system of railroad travelling is addressed to people who, being in a hurry, are therefore, for the time being, miserable.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  Just substitute for these times "airport" and there you go.]

August 10,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Look abroad into the landscape and see if you can discover any one so bent and fragmentary as that of this strange windlass-looking dripstone.  You cannot.  It is a monster.  It unites every element of ugliness, its line is harshly broken in itself, and unconnected with every other; it has no harmony either with structure or decoration, it has no architectural support, it looks glued to the wall, and the only pleasant property it has, is the appearance of some likelihood of its dropping off.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  How refreshing to find a critic who can be just as effusive in his condemnation as in his praise.  Also note Ruskin's humor--all great writers have this characteristic in common (and is the sure sign to distinguish them from their lesser brethren).]

August 9,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

They fell, like the old Romans, by their luxury, except in the separate instance of the magnificent school of Venice.  That architecture began with the luxuriance in which all others expired: it founded itself on the Byzantine mosaic and fretwork; and laying aside its ornaments, one by one, while it fixed its forms by laws more and more severe, stood forth, at last, a model of domestic Gothic, so grand, so complete, so nobly systematised, that, to my mind, there never existed an architecture with so stern a claim to our reverence.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

August 8,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Speaking truth is like writing fair, and comes only by practice; it is less a matter of will than of habit, and I doubt if any occasion can be trivial which permits the practice and formation of such a habit.  To speak and act truth with constancy and precision is nearly as difficult, and perhaps as meritorious, as to speak it under intimidation or penalty; and it is a strange thought how many men there are, as I trust, who would hold to it at the cost of fortune or life, for one who would hold to it at the cost of a little daily trouble.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

August 7,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is a marked likeness between the virtues of man and the enlightenment of the globe he inhabits--the same diminishing gradation in vigor up to the limits of their domains, the same essential separation from their contraries--the same twilight at the meeting of the two: a something wider belt than the line where the world rolls into night, that strange twilight of the virtues; that dusky debateable land, wherein zeal becomes impatience, and temperance becomes severity, and justice becomes cruelty, and faith superstition, and each and all vanish into gloom.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  Ruskin, it seems to me, is the British equivalent of Taine in terms of being a master of the extended metaphor.]

August 6,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is not less the boast of some styles that they can bear ornament, than of others that they can do without it; but we do not often enough reflect that those very styles, of so haughty simplicity, owe part of their pleasurableness to contrast, and would be wearisome if universal.  They are but the rests and monotones of the art; it is to its far happier, far higher, exaltation that we owe those fair fronts of variegated mosaic, charged with wild fancies and dark hosts of imagery, thicker and quainter than ever filled the depth of midsummer dream; those vaulted gates, trellised with close leaves; those window-labyrinths of twisted tracery and starry light; those misty masses of multitudinous pinnacle and diademed tower; the only witnesses, perhaps, that remain to us of the faith and fear of nations.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  What?  Isn't minimalism art's highest achievement?  It's certainly art's cheapest.  A stone is a stone--but in a gallery it's a minimalist masterpiece.]

August 5,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

We are none of us so good architects as to be able to work habitually beneath our strength; and yet there is not a building that I know of, lately raised, wherein it is not sufficiently evident that neither architect nor builder has done his best.  It is the especial characteristic of modern work.  All old work nearly has been hard work.  It may be the hard work of children, of barbarians, of rustics; but it is always their utmost.  Ours has as constantly the look of money's worth, of a stopping short wherever and whenever we can, of a lazy compliance with low conditions; never of a fair putting forth of our strength.  Let us have done with this kind of work at once: cast off every temptation to it: do not let us degrade ourselves voluntarily, and then mutter and mourn over our short comings; let us confess our poverty or our parsimony, but not belie our human intellect.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  You can see why no one reads Ruskin--he's an open reproach to the age; a bleeding sore that no poultice will ameliorate; just another aged crank reminiscing about the good old days that may have been old but were certainly not good.]

August 4,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

And I have been the less careful to modify the confidence of my statements of principles, because in the midst of the opposition and uncertainty of our architectural systems, it seems to me that there is something grateful in any positive opinion, though in many points wrong, as even weeds are useful that grow on a bank of sand.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  And here is a gift to all the budding, bombastic art critics seeking to plant their gaunt weeds in the sands of contemporary art criticism.]

August 3,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The memoranda which form the basis of the following Essay have been thrown together during the preparation of one of the sections of the third volume of "Modern Painters."  I once thought of giving them a more expanded form; but their utility, such as it may be, would probably be diminished by farther delay in their publication, more than it would be increased by greater care in their arrangement.

--The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  As a public service to all of you hasty, slip-shod writers out there (yes, Joyce Carol Oates, I'm looking at you) above is printed for your service and delectation a handy-dandy all-purpose excuse for not being able to polish your works as much as you ought.]

August 2,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Again, Shakespeare has been blamed by some few critical asses for the raillery of Mercutio, and the humor of the nurse, in "Romeo and Juliet;" for the fool in "Lear;" for the porter in "Macbeth;" the grave-diggers in "Hamlet," etc.; because, it is said, these bits interrupt the tragic feeling.  No such thing; they enhance it to an incalculable extent; they deepen its degree, though they diminish its duration.  And what is the result? that the impression of the agony of the individuals brought before us is far stronger than it could otherwise have been, and our sympathies are more forcibly awakened; while, had the contrast been wanting, the impression of pain would have come over into ourselves, our selfish feeling, instead of our sympathy, would have been awakened; the conception of the grief of others diminished; and the tragedy would have made us very uncomfortable, but never have melted us to tears or excited us to indignation.  When he, whose merry and satirical laugh rung in our ears the moment before, faints before us, with "a plague o' both your houses, they have made worms' meat of me," the acuteness of our feeling is excessive: but , had we not heard the laugh before, there would have been a dull weight of melancholy impression, which would have been painful, not affecting. 

--The Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  This, by the bye, explains not just the genius of Shakespeare but also, to a large extent, theodicy.]

August 1,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

By imitation we do not mean accurate copying, neither do we mean working under the influence of the feelings by which we may suppose the originators of a given model to have been actuated; but we mean the intermediate step of endeavoring to combine old materials in a novel manner.  True copying may be disdained by architects, but it should not be disdained by nations; for when the feelings of the time in which certain styles had their origin have passed away, any examples of the same style will invariably be failures, unless they be copies.  It is utter absurdity to talk of building Greek edifices now; no man ever will, or ever can, who does not believe in the Greek mythology; and, precisely by so much as he diverges from the technicality of strict copyism, he will err.  But we ought to have pieces of Greek architecture, as we have reprints of the most valuable records, and it is better to build a new Parthenon than to set up the old one. 

--The Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  Who knew that Ruskin was a proponent of the aesthetic of Epcot Center?]