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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR JANUARY 2015

January  29,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

We finished lunch, and a 'cigarette cup', then whistled the Company together for the afternoon's work.  At 3 p.m. a short, stout figure puffed up to Pepper and greeted him heartily.  It was Major Townsend, with whom Holland used to disappear for his drinking bouts.  We walked a little way with him, across to an old ruined sugar factory behind the road.  There was nothing left of the building, and in a huge, green, slimy pool were piled bodies of men and horses in a ghastly putrefying swamp.  The stench was horrible and we soon beat it back to the road, meeting a dozen high-velocity shells en route, one of which burst a few yards from Pepper as he lay grovelling in the mud.

Just after 4 p.m. we marched back to Longavesnes, the troops heavily laden with salad and vegetables which they had scrounged.  I don't think they had carried out a lot of work.

--Some Desperate Glory: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917 by Edwin Campion Vaughan

January  28,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

We were perfectly quiet all day, and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering round with Kentish and Ewing looking at corpses of Jerries.

--Some Desperate Glory: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917 by Edwin Campion Vaughan

January  27,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

I now found myself in the square, the general aspect of which was one of cruel and dreary devastation.  All the houses on my left were in ruins, whilst those on my right, though still standing, were badly battered, all doors and windows being smashed in.  Opposite me the whole side was enveloped in tremendous walls of fire.

Near the centre of the square, an iron paling surrounded a stone pedestal, from which the statue had been removed.  I walked over to it, wondering what statue had been there, and then I stopped--sickened by the sight of a body impaled on the iron spikes.  In a Frenchman's blue uniform, gaily bedecked with ribbons, he hung with arms extended along the railing, his head hanging down to his bright-buttoned chest, and his legs dangling.

Sick with horror but impelled by curiosity I went nearer, and saw some straw sticking out at the knee.  Then I peered into the face--a black grinning mask--and saw that it was a realistic dummy.  Nevertheless, in the eerie half-light, with the flicker of flames on the scene of devastation, it was a gruesome spectacle, and walking on I stood for a while at heat-range from the flames into which the heavy rain poured with no effect whatever.

--Some Desperate Glory: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917 by Edwin Campion Vaughan

January  26,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

After coming off duty, I was lying alone in the straw, and just dozing off, when I heard someone stop outside the cellar.  Sitting up, I saw the blanket slowly lifted and a head appeared in the dim light of the candle.  I hardly repressed a scream of horror, and an icy numbness gripped me as I scanned--a blackened face, thick lips and acquiline nose, big eyes that stared at me, and a cap comforter drawn down almost to the eyebrows.  It was the face of the dead man that I had buried.

For fully half a minute we looked in silence at each other, then he asked me if I could tell him what time the rations would be up.  I laughed hysterically and made him come in so that I could dispel by conversation the awful fright that this appearance had given me.  It was Corporal Harrison, his face blackened with wood-smoke but his every feature identical with that of the corpse.

--Some Desperate Glory: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917 by Edwin Campion Vaughan

January  25,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

In the old cellar I found Watkins and an older fellow, attached from the 25th Londons, and chatted to them until 'Stand-to'.  Stand-to is the name given to the period of one hour during which every soldier in the front line is on the alert.  It takes place twice a day--the hours before sunrise and the hour after sunset.  During these eerie periods of twilight, when normally all living things are just awaking or settling down for the night, the air is full of strange noises, the light is dim and deceptive and all things are most favourable for an attack.  As a precaution, therefore, every officer and man gets into fighting order and for a solid hour remains at his post on the parapet with rifle loaded and bayonet fixed, until either day had broken or darkness descended and the order to 'Stand-down' is passed along.

--Some Desperate Glory: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917 by Edwin Campion Vaughan

January  24,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Gribelin had been as complicit as any in the conspiracy against Dreyfus, had venerated Henry and had not changed his mind about Dreyfus's guilt; but he was astute enough to see that the wind was now blowing in a new direction.  He co-operated with Targe.  'He had become truthful with age,' Joseph Reinarch would write, 'as one becomes obese or bald.'

--The Dreyfus Affair by Piers Paul Read

January  23,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

This deadly hatred of French Catholicism is skillfully depicted in the novels of Octave Mirbeau.  the anti-clerical Julien Sorel in Stendhal's Le Rouge et le noir was a Bonapartist; the same class antagonism in Mirbeau's Sébastien Roch, Abbé Jules and The Diary of a Chambermaid leads to a darker, embittered anarchism.  Mirbeau was among the Dreyfusards who met at the Trois Marches during Drefus's second court martial in Rennes.  His depiction of Catholicism as the hypo-critical ideology of a pretentious bourgeoisie, cold-hearted clergy and arrogant nobility is of more use in the understanding of the aftermath of the Dreyfus Affair than Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu.

--The Dreyfus Affair by Piers Paul Read

January  22,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Brunetière's anti-Dreyfusard stance went beyond questioning the qualification of a novelist to judge judicial questions; he had been critical of Zola as a writer long before the Dreyfus Affair.  His misgivings about intellectuals, which he expressed in a book entitled After the Trial, were part and parcel of his misgivings about academics as such, with their arrogant assumption that their insights into the working of the material world somehow placed them on the high moral ground.  He did not understand, he wrote, 'what entitles a professor of Tibetan to govern his equals, nor what rights to obedience and respect are conferred by a knowledge of the properties of quinine or cinchonine'.

--The Dreyfus Affair by Piers Paul Read

January  21,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Freemasonry was also perceived as a conspiracy against the Catholic Church.  As early as 1738 Pope Clement XII had published a papal constitution, In Eminenti, condemning Freemasonry for its secrecy, its religious indifferentism and its promotion of humanistic values detached from Christian revelation.  Catholics were forbidden to become Masons.  The spread of the ideas of the French Enlightenment confirmed, in the eyes of subsequent popes, the prescience of Clement's warnings.  Freemasonry 'was officially blamed for the calamities that had befallen the Church since the French Revolution, for example in the Encyclical Quo Graviora of 1826'.

--The Dreyfus Affair by Piers Paul Read

January  20,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

One of the main attractions of Freemasonry to its members was a commitment to mutual assistance.  Masons took a vow to come to one another's aid.  They made useful contacts in the Lodges and supposedly identified one another outside by secret handshakes.  Because of the oath of secrecy, non-Masons had no way of knowing whether they were denied a promotion or lost a contract because their competitors were Freemasons and they were not.

--The Dreyfus Affair by Piers Paul Read

January  19,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

[Freemasonry] was not atheist in its inception but nor was it Christian: the Supreme Being recognised by the Freemasons was not the God of Israel, let alone the Trinitarian God of the Christian religion, but a philosophical notion, and in France it was the philosophes - those writers whose sceptical attitude towards feudal institutions and revealed religion paved the way for the Revolution - who became its apostles.  On 7 February 1778, Voltaire was solemnly initiated in Masonic garb by 'Brother' Helvetius, who was in fact an atheist; uniquely in France, atheists were admitted as Freemasons.  They did not have to subscribe to a belief in a Supreme Being.

--The Dreyfus Affair by Piers Paul Read

January  18,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

The essential point is to avoid celebrating the liturgy as an occasion for the community to exhibit itself, under the pretext that it is important for everyone to involve himself, though in the end, then, only the "self" is really important.  Rather, the decisive thing is that we enter into something that is much greater.  That we can get out of ourselves, as it were, and into the wide open spaces.  For the same reason, it is also very important that the liturgy itself not be tinkered with in some way.

--Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times by Benedict XVI

January  17,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Your predecessor called the Jews "our elder brothers".  You speak of them as our "fathers in the faith".

The phrase "elder brothers", which had already been used by John XXIII, is not so welcome to Jews.  The reason is that, in the Jewish tradition, the "elder brother"--Esau--is also the brother who gets rejected.  One can still use it, because it expresses an important point.  But it is true that they are also our "fathers in the faith".  And this way of putting it illustrates perhaps even more clearly the character of our relationship to each other.

--Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times by Benedict XVI

January  16,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face.  The danger is that reason--so-called Western reason--claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom.  I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger.  No one is forced to be a Christian.  But no one should be forced to live according to the "new religion" as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.

--Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times by Benedict XVI

January  15,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

This, too, is one of the terrible responsibilities of the West: that it uses drugs and that it thereby creates countries that have to supply it, which in the end exhausts and destroys them.  A craving for happiness has developed that cannot content itself with things as they are.  And that then flees into the devil's paradise, if you will, and destroys people all around.

and then there is a further problem.  The destruction that sex tourism wreaks on our young people, the bishops say, is something we cannot even begin to imagine.  The destructive processes at work in that are extraordinary and are born from the arrogance and the boredom and the false freedom of the Western world.

You see, man strives for eternal joy; he would like pleasure in the extreme, would like what is eternal.  But when there is no God, it is not granted to him and it cannot be.  Then he himself must now create something that is fictitious, a false eternity.

--Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times by Benedict XVI

January  14,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

A large of proportion of contemporary philosophies, in fact, consist of saying that man is not capable of truth.  But viewed in that way, man would not be capable of ethical values, either.  Then he would have no standards.  Then he would only have to consider how he arranged things reasonably for himself, and then at any rate the opinion of the majority would be the only criterion that counted.  History, however, has sufficiently demonstrated how destructive majorities can be, for instance, in systems such as Nazism and Marxism, all of which also stood against truth in particular.

--Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times by Benedict XVI

January  13,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

For many people today, practical atheism is the normal rule of life.  Maybe there is something or someone, thy think, who once set the world in motion eons ago, but the does not matter to us at all.  If this attitude becomes a general existential position, then freedom no longer has any standards, then everything is possible and permissible.  That is why it is so urgent also to bring the question about God back into the center.  Of course, this does not mean a God who exists in some way or other, but rather a God who knows us, speaks to us, and approaches us--and who is then our judge also.

--Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times by Benedict XVI

January  12,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Of course the intellectual climate of the 1970s, for which the 1950s had already paved the way, contributed to this.  A theory was even finally developed at that time that pedophilia should be viewed as something positive.  Above all, however, the theses was advocated--and this even infiltrated Catholic moral theology--that there was no such thing as something that is bad in itself.  There were only things that were "relatively" bad.  What was good or bad depended on the consequences.

--Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times by Benedict XVI

January  11,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Evil, too, will always be part of the mystery of the Church.  And when we see what me, what the clergy have done in the Church, then that is nothing short of proof that he founded and upholds the Church.  If she were dependent on men, she would long since have perished.

--Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times by Benedict XVI

January  10,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

The intellectually inclined had another reason to hold Napoleon in high regard: his exceptional intelligence shone all the more brightly at a time when rulers were almost invariably dynasts, very ordinary people and perhaps less than ordinary because of inbreeding.  The contemporary belief that Napoleon had an extraordinary mind is easily proven by the 41,000 or so letters preserved in the archives, in which he directed his ministers on how to govern France, instructed his familiars in the rule of their vassal states, commanded the campaigns of his armies, and ordered their supplies.  He would habitually dictate four letters at a time on four different subjects to four different secretaries, to give each of them the time they needed to write down each paragraph he spoke out loud, and all this in a style both elegant and concise, which could convey complex orders and important admonitions in very few words, sometimes by way of revealing details ('I noticed that several gun caissons did not have their little pots of grease or all their replacement parts').

--A Damned Nice Thing by Edward Luttwak reviewing Britain Against Napoleon: The Organisation of Victory, 1793-1815 by Roger Knight in London Review of Books (Volume 36 Number 24, 18 December 2014) 

January  9,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

I walked over to Notre Dame along the quays, and was more than ever struck with the brilliant picturesqueness of Paris as, from any point opposite to the Louvre, you look up and down the Seine.  The huge towers of Notre Dame, rising with their blue-gray tone from the midst of the great mass round which the river divides, the great Arc de Triomphe answering them with equal majesty in the opposite distance, the splendid continuous line of the Louvre between, and over it all the charming coloring of Paris on certain days--the brightness, the pearly grays, the flicker of light, the good taste, as it were, of the atmosphere--all this is an entertainment which even custom does not stale.

--Parisian Sketches by Henry James

January  8,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is the "idea" that is somehow conspicuous by its absence in M. Meissonier's pictures; and yet in so eminent a painter you cannot help looking for it.  But, to my sense, they are dry and cold.  Look at them beside a Gérôme, indeed, and they seem to bloom and teem with high suggestions; but look at them beside a Delacroix or a Millet and they appear only brilliantly superficial.  It is a difference like the difference to the eye between plate glass and gushing water.

--Parisian Sketches by Henry James

[N.B.:  It is unfortunate that nowadays Millet would be considered closer to Gérôme  than to Delacroix.  But, given the current high praise meted out to the likes of Koons and Hirst, I should take some small comfort in how history will ultimately judge these painters.  Oh Fortuna!  Oh Mores!]

January  7,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is probable that the painter considers it his greatest achievement, for he has evidently spent a world of care and research upon it.  The critics in general, apparently, are not of this mind; most of them are of the opinion that the success, on the whole, is not proportionate to the attempt.

--Parisian Sketches by Henry James

[N.B.:  Me-Oww!]

January  6,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

And yet, in spite of these reflections, M. Meissonier's little picture seemed to me dear, as I have said, at $76,000.  It must be added, however, that in dealing with so high a talent as Meissonier's, it is very hard to fix the line of division between the fair value and the factitious value.  The ability is so extreme, so consummate, so defiant of analysis, that it carries off with an irresistible assurance any claims it may choose to make.  To paint so well as that, you say as you stand and look, must be so difficult, must be impossible--to anyone but Meissonier; and if Meissonier is unique, why should he not command the prices of unique things?  If there were only one sewing machine in the world, for instance, who can say what might be the pecuniary conditions annexed to its changing hands?  And then I humbly confess that if a certain number of persons have been found to agree that such and such an enormous sum is a proper valuation of a picture, a book, or a song at a concert, it is very hard not to be rather touched with awe and to see a certain golden reflet in the performance.  Indeed, if you do not see it, the object in question becomes perhaps still more impressive--a something too elevated and exquisite for your dull comprehension.

--Parisian Sketches by Henry James

[N.B.:  Every age has its Meissonier--the prior generation had Warhol and ours is blessed with two:  Koons and Hirst.]

January  5,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

He had immense talent, and if to seize and imprison in clay or marble the look of life and motion is the finest part of an artist's skill, he was a very great artist.  The shopwindows just now are full of reproductions of his figures and busts.  They are the most modern things in all sculpture.  That undressed lady and gentleman who, as distinguished from the unconsciously naked heroes and heroines of Greek art, are the subjects of modern sculpture, have reached in Carpeaux's hands their most curious development.  In this vicious winter weather of Paris, behind their clear glass plates, they make the passer shiver; their poor, lean, individualized bodies are pitifully real.  And to make the matter worse, they are always smiling--smiling that fixed, painful smile of hilarious statues.  The smile in marble was Capeaux's specialty.  Those who have seen it have not forgotten the magnificent tipsy laugh of the figures in the dancing group on the front of the Opera; you seem to hear it, as you pass, above the uproar of the street.

--Parisian Sketches by Henry James

[N.B.:  More back-handed insults--James packed them in tight for Capeaux.]

January  2,  2014

Patrick: Lagniappe

Nothing in this way was too difficult for Barye to attempt; like all real masters he relished difficulties, he loved them, and he triumphantly solved the problem of impossible attitudes and inconceivable combinations.  One of his works is in this respect prodigious; the "Combat of the centaur and the Lapitha" is, perhaps, indeed, the strongest of his productions.  The Lapitha is astride of the Centaur's back, locking his flanks in his powerful knees, swinging a club in his uplifted arm.  The Centaur's torso is twisted back with an admirable play of muscle, and he is fiercely trying to unseat his enemy.  The subject is magnificent, and the author has handled the human element in it with a skill which, for him, is quite exceptional.

--Parisian Sketches by Henry James

[N.B.:  Yet another fine example of James's mastery of the feline, back-handed insult--that neat insertion of the qualifier, "for him," is as professional as Mack the Knife's chiv between the ribs.]