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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR FEBRUARY 2014

February  28,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and that is, his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution.  It is Frank Churchill's duty to pay this attention to his father.  He knows it to be so, by his promises and messages; but if he wished to do it, it might be done.  A man who felt rightly would say at once, simply and resolutely, to Mrs. Churchill--'Every sacrifice of mere pleasure you will always find me ready to make to your convenience; but I must go and see my father immediately.  I know he would be hurt by my failing in such a mark of respect to him on the present occasion.  I shall, therefore, set off to-morrow.'--If he would say so to her at once, in the tone of decision becoming a man, there would be no opposition made to his going."

--Emma by Jane Austen

[N.B.:  Women hate wimps--Austen knew good game.]

February  27,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is a great deal more natural than one could wish, that a young man, brought up by those who are proud, luxurious, and selfish, should be proud, luxurious, and selfish too.

--Emma by Jane Austen

[N.B.:  Otherwise known as the apple not falling far from the tree.]

February  26,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Mr. Elton in love with me!--What an idea!"

"I do not says it is so; but you will do well to consider whether it is so or not, and to regulate your behaviour accordingly.  I think your manners to him encouraging.  I speak as a friend, Emma.  You had better look about you, and ascertain what you do, and what you mean to do."

"I thank you; but I assure you you are quite mistaken.  Mr. Elton and I are very good friends, and nothing more;" and she walked on, amusing herself in the consideration of the blunders which often arise from a partial knowledge of circumstances, of the mistakes which people of high pretensions of judgment are for ever falling into; and not very well pleased with her brother for imagining her blind and ignorant, and in want of counsel.

--Emma by Jane Austen

[N.B.:  No, "irony" does not mean saying something that turns out to be in error--rather it is saying something that turns out to be true but only the audience knows it at the time (i.e., the audience has greater knowledge than the speaker).]

February  25,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.

--Emma by Jane Austen

February  24,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"And then their uncle comes in, and tosses them up to the ceiling in a very frightful way!"

"But they like it, papa; there is nothing they like so much.  It is such enjoyment to them, that if their uncle did not lay down the rule of their taking turns, which ever began would never give way to the other."

"Well, I cannot understand it."

"That is the case with us all, papa.  One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other." 

--Emma by Jane Austen

February  23,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I have always thought it a very foolish intimacy," said Mr. Knightley presently, "though I have kept my thought to myself; but I now perceive that it will be a very unfortunate one for Harriet.  You will puff her up with such ideas of her own beauty, and of what she has a claim to, that, in a little while, nobody within her reach will be good enough for her.  Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.  Nothing so easy as for a young lady to raise her expectations too high. 

--Emma by Jane Austen

[N.B.:  "Likes" on Facebook should be re-branded "Emmas."]

February  22,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

I have not done about Harriet Smith.  I think her the very worst sort of companion that Emma could possibly have.  she knows nothing herself, and looks upon Emma as knowing every thing.  She is a flatterer in all her ways; and so much the worse, because undesigned.  Her ignorance is hourly flattery.  How can Emma imagine she has any thing to learn herself, while Harriet is presenting such a delightful inferiority?  And as for Harriet, I will venture to say that she cannot gain by the acquaintance.  Hartfield will only put her out of conceit with all the other places she belongs to.  She will grow just refined enough to be uncomfortable with those among whom birth and circumstances have placed her home. 

--Emma by Jane Austen

February  21,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Upon such occasions poor Mr. Woodhouse's feelings were in sad warfare.  He loved to have the cloth laid, because it had been the fashion of his youth; but his conviction of suppers being very unwholesome made him rather sorry to see any thing put on it; and while his hospitality would have welcomed his visitors to every thing, his care for their health made him grieve that they would eat.

--Emma by Jane Austen

February  20,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

REMEMBER TOMORROW

Starting point for search:

It no longer avails to start with creatures and prove God.

Yet it is impossible to rule God out.

The only possible starting point: the strange fact of one's own invincible apathy--that if the proofs were proved and God presented himself, nothing would be changed.  Here is the strangest fact of all.

Abraham saw signs of God and believed.  Now the only sign is that all the signs in the world make no difference.  Is this God's ironic revenge?  But I am onto him.

--The Movie-goer by Walker Percy

February  19,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

My mother's family think I have lost my faith and they pray for me to recover it.  I don't know what they're talking about.  Other people, so I have read, are pious as children and later become skeptical (or, as they say on This I Believe: "in time I outgrew the creeds and dogmas of organized religion").  Not I.  My unbelief was invincible from the beginning.  I could never make head or tail of God.  The proofs of God's existence may have been true for all I know, but it didn't make slightest difference.  If God himself had appeared to me, it would have changed nothing.  In fact, I have only to hear the word God and a curtain comes down in my head.

--The Movie-goer by Walker Percy

February  18,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

But, good as it is, my old place is used up (places get used up by rotatory and repetitive use) and when I awake, I awake in the grip of everydayness.  Everydayness is the enemy.  No search is possible.  Perhaps there was a time when everydayness was not too strong and one could break its grip by brute strength.  Now nothing breaks it--but disaster.  Only once in my life was the grip of everydayness broken: when I lay bleeding in a ditch.

--The Movie-goer by Walker Percy

February  17,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

A rotation I define as the experiencing of the new beyond the expectation of the experiencing of the new.  For example, taking one's first trip to Taxco would not be a rotation, or no more than a very ordinary rotation; but getting lost on the way and discovering a hidden valley would be.

--The Movie-goer by Walker Percy

February  16,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Sometimes when she mentions God, it strikes me that my mother uses him as but one of the devices that come to hand in an outrageous man's world, to be put to work like all the rest in the one enterprise she has any use for: the canny management of the shocks of life.  It is a bargain struck at the very beginning in which she settled for a general belittlement of everything, the good and the bad.  She is as wary of good fortune as she is immured against the bad, and sometimes I seem to catch sight of it in her eyes, this radical mistrust: an old knowledgeable gleam, as old and sly as Eve herself.

--The Movie-goer by Walker Percy

February  15,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

[Rasputin's] line of theology is worth notice.  Its big point was repentance.  "Repent, and ye shall be clean."  The deeper and oftener the repentances, the higher the spiritual bliss.  But it is clear as daylight that there can be no repentance without sins to repent of.  We must sin, then, in order to repent and receive the blessing.  Temptation is sent by heaven for this purpose, argued the "holy man," and to resist it is to resist God!

--Colossal Blunders of the War by William Seaver Woods

February  14,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Lord Clark of Civilisation, a man who spent his entire life protecting and curating heritage--though he would have wrinkled his epicurean nose at anything as tacky and saccharine as nostalgia--once said that his favorite quotation was German.  It translated as: "If we do as our fathers did, we don't do as our fathers did."  On first meeting it sounds Krautishly opaque, but persevere and it becomes, in a Teutonic head-furrowed way, quite profound.  And it couldn't be more appropriate for the English; to repeat something is not to re-create it, every action is new within the context of its time.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

[N.B.:  Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story based on this theme.]

February  13,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The vile two-tier love of primogeniture is peculiar to England.  Apart from being nastily eugenic it lands the genetically favored boy with the sole responsibility for some hopeless, Jurassic pile of bricks and mortgaged parcel of rough grazing, which is deemed to be his lot in life.  He's chained tot he service of this leaky box because his father was and his grandfather got it for fiddling military procurement or gathering slaves or sending Welsh children down holes.  Now he's indentured to being a janitor in his own home.  Never able to do anything else, live anywhere else or have any money, just the hocked wealth of more damp rooms than he'll ever know what to do with.  Forced to search out the sort of girl who'll put up with his unwinnable battle against decay and be sustained by the thin gruel of nostalgia.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Every English person has a cautionary tale, an apocryphal story, about those who transgress the un-law of queues--often foreigners.  I've just been told this one, a story of a ski lift.  Apparently the lift was a little funicular.  It pulled into a platform, its doors opening and closing automatically.  People hopped on, clipping their skis to a rack on the side.  The queue was long.  As my storyteller got to the platform a band of strapping Germans loudly shoved their way to the front and jumped into the next empty car.  The rest of the queue looked on in fury, the automatic doors closed and the Germans stared back with their characteristic mien of Germanic entitlement and triumphalism.  "We came to ski, not to stand in line," their faces said.  And then just as the car began to move, a slight middle-aged man, an Englishman of no distinction with a look of calm determination, trotted onto the platform and unclipped the German skis. laying them with exaggerated care on the platform.  German faces were wiped with impotent indignation and mimed threats.  The queue erupted into polyglot cheers, the little Englishman was slapped on the back.  His hand was wrung and he made his way back to his place in the queue.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  11,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The renaissance of sport in the nineteenth century served a practical purpose for a small country that had a lot of the world to administer.  Games were a way of quickly and enjoyably working out leadership material, extolling and teaching all those things that the administrative class admired so much.  Games, particularly team games, fostered clannish bonding and homo-erotic hierarchy worship--all of which was held to be a good thing when dealing with lesser people.  Games gave you a sense of honor and justice and were implicitly the gift and birthright of evolved societies.  If you had to find a district commissioner, a magistrate, a police chief or a civil servant to run some lost corner of Empire, then a games captain or a boy with House Colours was as good a bet as any.  The English had to work with the material to hand--there weren't that many Englishmen and there was an awful lot of Empire.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  10,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The best heckle I ever hears of was to Kirk Douglas's other son--Zeppo Douglas.  He was a drunk and a bit of a druggie and a bit of a lost soul with personal worth issues.  So naturally he turned to stand-up.  His act was dying in some Hollywood club and in desperation he said:  "You know who I am, I'm Kirk Douglas's son," and someone in the audience stood up and shouted, "No, I'm Kirk Douglas's son," and then another stood up: "I'm Kirk Douglas's son," and the whole audience was on its feet.  That was a proper moment of Anglo-Saxon humor.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  9,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

So I walked through Soho to the Crown on Brewer Street, with four televisions showing Chelsea v. Newcastle.  The pub was half full of office workers, waylaid on their way to homes too distant and uninviting to arrive at sober.  Everyone was looking up, eyes transfixed at a different corner of the room like so many cats watching moths.  The saloon-bar upstairs was where they kept the comedy, next to the lavatories again.  There was a powerful and effulgent smell of industrial disinfectant.  It's a smell that never reassures you about cleanliness; rather, it makes you doubly squeamish of lurking vileness.  Soap smells clean, disinfectant smells dirty.  Funny that.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  8,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was the successful blockade of France that precipitated the invention of canned food.  The French navy found it increasingly difficult to find ports where they could re-victual.  Even by the unspeakable standards of nineteenth-century navies, a ship of the line got through a lot of food, so they needed a way of preserving it.

Ships often used turtles, which could be stacked alive like cornflake boxes for up to six months.  A French chemist discovered that if you heated pork and beans to between 240° and 265°F in a sealed container they stayed anaerobically edible indefinitely . . . .  So one of the great social boons and culinary disasters of life was invented by the French.  They don't like it when you remind them they're responsible for baked beans and, alas, it didn't make their navy any more effective.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  7,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

England is one of the only countries in the world where you'll see people dressed up as soldiers from 1640, but not from the present.  Military personnel aren't allowed to wear their uniforms in public in peace-time.

Kipling famously wrote about the English expecting miracles from Tommy Atkins when the drumbeats rolled, but wanting nothing to do with him when it was all over:

Oh, it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy go away"; But it's

"Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play.

This may infuriate majors and snug-bar sentimentalists, but it's actually a surprisingly rational and far-sighted view for a nation.  The purpose of an army must surely be to put itself out of business.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  6,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

If you watch American films with the sound turned off, you can usually tell what's happening.  The story's readable through body language.  Often you can understand quite complex plots and emotions without hearing what anyone's saying.  But with an English film, it's almost always impossible.  There is barely any indication of what the participants are thinking or talking about.  The most extreme example is Brief Encounter, David Lean's melodrama of thwarted love between the characters played by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson.  This is a story of the highest emotion, but turn the sound down and you'd never know.  In fact the characters' reserve is so complete that they're utterly English.  Even when you can hear what they say, the emotion has to be carried by the Rachmaninov score.  It needed a Russian romantic to add the love.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  5,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The English do love their ostentatious shows of dowdiness.  The apogee of stateliness is for a duke to be mistaken for his gardener.  English generals regularly affected the dress of their soldiers, like Montgomery, the vainest of men, with his tank beret and sheepskin jacket; or the staff officers at Waterloo and the Crimea who turned up in hunting kit and umbrellas.  Being good at things while appearing completely hopeless is a joke which never ceases to amuse the English, they just love ragged billionaires, tongue-tied orators, engineers who are baffled by can openers, plutocrats who are bullied by their dailies and admirals who are seasick.  What they can't bear are men who boast, who show bravado, who try too hard.  It's often pointed out that England is the only country in the world where "intellectual" is a term of derision.  But so is "professional" and "expert."

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  4,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was the most perfectly English invention.  It only existed because everybody agreed it did.  There is a road beside Buckingham Palace called Constitution Hill.  We don't have a constitution and it isn't a hill.  The Establishment was an empty name that was given supernatural powers.  The English particularly like institutions that have grown without rules or written agreements.  They like the world to be unframed--a society formed from precedent and common practice.  Heritage and good manners are far more compelling than a contract or a rule book for the English.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  3,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

I watch a football match on TV in a pub.  Bony, thin men with lager-pregnant stomachs bellow singsong expletives at the screen.  Their hands are permanent fists, nicotine knuckles punching the air or throttling bottles.  Even on a Saturday lunchtime the atmosphere is thickly aggressive.  Flint-faced lasses with lank home-dyed hair, sloppy bosoms and bruised thighs slouch round-shouldered over their drinks.  Their eyes dart smugly, knowing that even the plainest of them could start a bone-spattering fight with the merest wink.

--The Angry Island by A.A. Gill

February  2,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

His Most Benevolent Highness no longer hurled people into dungeons, but very simply sent them home from the Palace, and this sending home meant condemnation to oblivion.  Until that moment you were a man of the Palace, a prominent figure, a leader, someone important, influential, respected, talked about, and listened to; all this gave one a feeling of existence, of presence in the world, of leading a full, important, useful life.  Then His Highness summons you to the Hour of Assignments and sends you home forever.  Everything disappears in a second.  You stop existing.  Nobody will mention you, nobody will put you forward or show you any respect.  You may say the same words you said yesterday, but though yesterday people listened to them devoutly, today they don't pay any attention. 

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

February  1,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Germame, according to this survivor of the old regime, understood that he had gotten a step ahead of history, that he had walked more quickly than others, and he knew that someone who strides ahead of history with a gun in his hand is bound to perish.  And he probably preferred that he and his fellow fugitives see to their own deaths.  So when the peasants rushed forward to capture them, Germame shot Baye, then he shot his brother, and finally he shot himself.

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