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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR SEPTEMBER 2008

September  30,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The complete contrast of both method and aim between Debussy's work and that of the German Romantics may be seen again if we compare the maddening repetitions in Wagner's operas with the equally maddening repetitions in Pellas and Mlisande.  The Wagnerian repetitions are a mounting and rhetorical series reminiscent of a lawyer's speech--an oratorical device whose aim is to emphasize the meaning of the argument until not even the dullest member of the jury remains unconvinced.  Debussy's static repetitions do not quicken the pulse--they slacken it.  Like the repetitions of an oriental priest their aim is to destroy the superficial connotations of the phrase until it appeals to the deeper instincts rather than to the reason. 

--Music Ho! by Constant Lambert

September  29,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Experiments may take many forms, but only one general direction, whereas the spirit of pastiche has no guiding impulse.  Once invoked it becomes like the magic broom of the sorcerer's apprentice, to whom indeed the average modern composer, with his fluent technique, but lack of co-ordinative sense, may well be compared.  It is the element of deliberate pastiche in modern music that chiefly distinguishes it from the experimental period of before the war.  The landmarks of pre-war music, such as Le Sacre du Printemps, Pierrot Lunaire and Debussy's Iberia, are all definitely anti-traditional; but they are curiously linked to tradition by the continuous curve of their break-away, comparable to the parabola traced in the air by a shell.  But this shell has reached no objective, like a rocket in mid air it has exploded into a thousand multicoloured stars, scattering in as many different directions, and sharing only a common brilliance and evanescence.

It may be said in defence of the present age that the elements of decay are already to be found in the period that immediately preceded it, that the experiments of the pre-war period were of a type to lead inevitably to the present cul-de-sac. 

--Music Ho! by Constant Lambert

September  25,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

We are most of us sensationalists at hear, and there is something rather sad about the modern composer's relapse into good behaviour.  There is a wistful look about the more elderly 'emancipated' critics when they listen to a concert of contemporary music; they seem to remember the barricades of the old Russian Ballet and sniff plaintively for blood.  The years that succeed a revolution have an inevitable air of anticlimax, and it is noticeable that popular interest in the Russian Soviet films has considerably waned since the directors turned from the joys of destruction to the more sober delights of construction.  With the best will in the world we cannot get as excited about The General Line as we did about Potemkin, and it is doubtful if any of the works written since the war will become a popular date in musical history, like those old revolutionary war-horses Le Sacre du Printemps and Pierrot Lunaire.

--Music Ho! by Constant Lambert

September  24,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Rulers recklessly anticipated their revenue, sold Crown lands, mortgaged their royal privileges, and thus progressively weakened the central government.

This confusion explains the bitterness and suspicion towards their rulers common to the middle classes in the early seventeenth century, a bitterness manifested in permanent obstruction and occasional revolt.  Periods of transition are always periods of mismanagement; thus the predominant demand of the time was for efficiency.  Acutely conscious of the prevailing insecurity, that small section of the populace which exercised its influence was in general prepared to accept any government which could guarantee peace and order.

--The Thirty Years of War by C.V. Wedgwood

[N.B.:  Sound familiar?]

September  24,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The goal was to up-sell.  In short, up-selling means convincing people that they really want a more expensive item than they have requested.  In this case, we were to persuade callers that they didn't really want the bargain-basement $999 computer.  What they really wanted was the $1,299 computer with the larger monitor.  If we were especially talented, we could push them up to the $1,499 system with the bigger monitor and the bigger printer.

--dot.bomb by J. David Kuo

September  23,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Our next meeting was with the Robbie Stephens "convert guys."  Convert guys specialize in offering convertible bonds on behalf of a company.  These are offerings of debt, which are convertible into stock in specified circumstances--like if the company's stock price rises to a certain level.  This attracts investors who prefer to have some sense of security about their investment being repaid, on time and on schedule, with interest, plus the option to turn their investment into stock if the company succeeds in its goals.  Bonds were one of the only "good" ways we could raise money, since a new stock offering would depress the stock price, diluting the company's current total value as represented by the number of shares outstanding.  No one wanted stock in a troubled company.  This time, so far as the bankers were concerned, it would have to be debt--our promise to repay, with interest.

--dot.bomb by J. David Kuo

September  22,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Then I thought of what I was going to do.  Since I seemed to have piloted myself into the position of being immoral and moral at the same time, the thing was to keep trying not to be immoral, and then to keep trying might turn into a habit.  I was always, at least until I reached the climacteric, going to get pulled two ways, and keeping the pull from going the wrong way, or trying to, would have to take the place, for me, of stability and consistency.  Not giving up was the important thing. 

--That Uncertain Feeling by Kingsley Amis

September  21,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

I came over to her.  "You mean that's wrecked the whole thing, all our marriage and everything, just because of that?"

"Yes, that's right," she said, learning forward in her seat.  "The whole thing.  What do you think it's all about, anyway?  Whey do you think we got married?  I know your rich pals think different, but I didn't know you did.  Not then, not when we got married.  Or I shoudn't have married you, see?  Yes, I now a bit of chasing round after other women now and then doesn't matter, according to you.  As long as there isn't too much of it.  Well, according to me a bit does matter, a bit's too much.  Any at all's too much, so it's over, there's nothing left of the whole bloody issue."  She began crying.  "Anything at all of that sort matters.  According to me."

--That Uncertain Feeling by Kingsley Amis

September  16,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The sea smelled of swamp; it barely rippled, had glitter rather than color; and the heat seemed trapped below the pink haze of bauxite dust from the bauxite loading station.  After the market, where refrigerated trailers were unloading; after the rubbish dump burning n the remnant of mangrove swamp, with black carrion corbeaux squatting hunched on fence posts or hopping about on the ground; after the built-up hillsides; after the new housing estates, rows of unpainted boxes of concrete and corrugated iron already returning to the shantytowns that had been knocked down for this development; after the naked children playing in the red dust of the straight new avenues, the clothes hanging like rags from back yard lines; after this, the land cleared a little.  And it was possible to see over what the city had spread: on one side, the swamp, drying out to a great plain; on the other side, a chain of hills, rising directly from the plain.

--The Guerrillas by V.S. Naipaul

September  15,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Well, that was awful!  I don't know how they have pluck to cut their throats; if I was doing it, I'd like best to put a pistol to my head and fire, like the young gentleman did, they say, in Deadman's Hollow.  But the fellow that cut their throats, they must be awful game lads, I'm thinkin', for it's a long slice, you know."

--Uncle Silas by Sheridan le Fanu

September  14,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

How little was there left to this old man to make life desirable, and yet how keenly, I afterwards found, he clung to it.  Have we not all of us seen those to whom life was not only undesirable, but positively painful--a mere series of bodily torments, yet hold to it with a desperate and pitiable tenacity--old children or young, it is all the same.

--Uncle Silas by Sheridan le Fanu

September  13,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

I was in business once, but this is better.  As one footing fails, the Lord provides another.  The stream of life is black and angry; how so many of us get across without drowning, I often wonder.  The best way is not to look too far before--just from one stepping-stone to another; and though you may wet your feet, He won't let you drown . . . ."

--Uncle Silas by Sheridan le Fanu

September  12,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

YOU WITHIN LOVE

You within love are lion leaping in darkness

glorifying night with a fiercer day,

passion of rivers leaping in curled dances,

greed of sun in all the whirling dew.

And love around you echoing only you

conjures the spring in the year's every day.

Bold sun, slim moon

that trembles beyond virgin

I creep with you behind the lion's pounces,

vanish in a morning glitter, rise with passion

in an echoing spring burn every day.

-- Norman McCaig (from New British Poets: An Anthology)

September  11,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Moscow," "Russia": nothing you haven't seen before.  My mother tongue--I find I want to use it as little as possible.  If Russia is going, then Russian is already gone.  We were very late, you see, to develop a language of feeling; the process was arrested after barely a century, and now all the implied associations and resonances are lost.  I must just say that it does feel consistently euphemistic--telling my story in English, and in old-style English English, what's more.  My story would be even worse in Russian.  For it is truly a tale of gutturals and nasals and whistling sibilants.

--House of Meetings by Martin Amis

September  10,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Danger, do I smell richness coming into your life?"

"You might put it that way, Mac.  Yes.  I think you could put it that way.  Would you ever say now that this room had the universal twitch.  Could we say that?"

"You could say that, Danger."

"I've known Mondays come on Friday.  Thursday on Tuesdays.  But Sunday is a day I can never accept.  Can I put it this way?  I think we all need a drink."

"Danger, Parnell and meself have been driven to agree.  And now if you will all kneel down I'll give ye me black blessing and sprinkle the holy juice over your young innocent heads, a fine bunch of pagans you are anyway."

"Mac, you'd say I was conceived in idolatry.  Parnell here by mistake and you ye yourself not even at all."

"Aye."

--The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy

September  9,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

One's capacity to forget absolutely is immense.

--The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

September  8,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The normal man is a chaos of desires; he likes to eat, drink, smoke, seduce women, raise canaries, play tennis, go to the theatre, wear good clothes, bring up children, collect stamps, have a profession and many other things.  The normal man remains mediocre precisely because he can't resist frittering himself away in many and various desires.  But the man with a true vocation for power dreams only of power.  He is sentenced to power; it is his obsession, his trade, his family, his pastime.  Since all his faculties are concentrated on this one point, to the masses he easily appears an extraordinary man, and thus becomes a leader.  In the same way, those who concentrate completely on God become saints, and those who live only for money become billionaires.

--The School for Dictators by Ignazio Silone

September  5,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Professor Pickup:  In all biographies of dictators I've always been particularly fascinated by the parts that tell of the years of waiting, the years of youth.  You see the young man, predestined to become a dictator, passing his childhood and early manhood far from the noise of the crowd, in solitary places, lonely islands or mountain tops.  If he occasionally goes to the city, it's only to visit the glorious monuments of the past, and when he finds them abandoned and falling to pieces, his rage is expressed in noble invective which always draws a crowd.  But the vulgar herd doesn't understand him, the time is not yet ripe, and he is considered a poor dimwit.

Mr. Double You: I share the opinion of the vulgar herd.  Your description couldn't sound sillier.

Professor Pickup:  You're free to think that, if it helps you to excuse your own wasted youth.  The rude way you speak to me, even in front of strangers, authorizes me--I believe--to answer you in the same tone.  You tried your hand at five or six different trades, but you don't know any one of them well enough to make a position for yourself.  You've always had great ambitions, but never the tenacity that a great ambition demands.  You've always hated being alone, you always want somebody with you, but you've never been able to make any real friends.  You're not lacking in certain good qualities, but you've never been able to adapt yourself to anything.  During the war . . .

Mr. Double You:  Shut up.

--The School for Dictators by Ignazio Silone

September  4,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

For a totalitarian system to be able to take over, the first condition is that there should be a paralysis of the democratic state, that is to say, an irremediable breach between the old political system on the one hand, and a radically transformed social system on the other.  The second condition is that the collapse of the state should at first benefit the old opposition party and lead the masses to it as being the only party capable of establishing a new order.  The third condition is that this party will prove itself inadequate for the difficult task, and in fact, by disappointing the hopes placed in it, will merely add to the already existing anarchy.  When these conditions have been fulfilled, and everyone is at the end of his tether, the totalitarian party bursts upon the scene.  If its leader isn't a complete imbecile, it stands a good chance of getting into power.

--The School for Dictators by Ignazio Silone

[N.B.:  The above excerpt is taken from remarks by Thomas the Cynic for the benefit of Mr. Double-You, an American aspiring dictator traveling incognito in Europe with his mentor, Professor Pickup.  Original date of publication?  1938.]

September  3,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Politics has its virtues, all too many of them--it would rank with baseball as a topic of conversation if it did not satisfy a great many things--but one can suspect that its secret appeal is close to nicotine.  Smoking cigarettes insulates one from one's life, one does not feel as much, often happily so, and politics quarantines one from history; most of the people who nourish themselves in the political life are in the game not to make history but to be diverted from the history which is being made.

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Maile

September  2,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Muskie made every mistake in the last few months.  He had run a primary campaign with the slogan "Trust Muskie" in a year when nobody was trusted.  Probably, he trusted himself.  He had a slow honest bottom-of-the-barrel integrity on tough issues.  He was ready to scrape the barrel of his own insides on difficult issues, searching within until he felt the authenticity of a bona fide answer.  It was a good way for a politician to work so long as he was successful--people began to believe in the depth of his comprehension.  Once he began to lose primaries, however, it turned inside-out.  He could not recover his timing--suddenly he seemed always too strong or too weak.  When his temper made him emotional at unpleasant slight to his wife in New Hampshire, the Press turned.  They began to look for his nuts and bolts after Florida and Wisconsin--since they had once predicted his victory, now, unforgiving, they looked to take him apart.  By now it would not have mattered if he began to do something right--they had him fixed as a man who was now always wrong. 

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

[N.B.:  Yep, Hillary was too late for the Iraq landgrab and she got Muskied for her troubles--no wonder Bill was hopping mad.]

September  1,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Politics at the national level can still be comprehended by politics-as-property provided one remembers that moral integrity (or the public impression of such) in a high politician is also property, since it brings power and/or emoluments to him.  Indeed a very high politician--which is to say a statesman or leader--has no political substance unless he is the servant of ideological institutions or interests and the available moral passions of the electorate, so serving, he is the agent of the political power they bestow on him, which power is certainly a property.  Being a leading anti-Communist used to be an invaluable property for which there was much competition--"Richard Nixon had once gotten in early on the equivalent of an Oklahoma landgrab by staking out whole territories of that property.  "End the war in Vietnam" is a property to some, "Let no American blood be shed in vain" is obviously another.  A politician picks and chooses among moral properties.  If he is quick-witted, unscrupulous, and does not mind a life of constant anxiety, he will hasten--there is a great competition for things valuable in politics--to pick up properties wherever he can, even if they are rival holdings.  To the extent a politician is his own man, attached to his own search for this own spiritual truth--which is to say willing to end in any unpalatable position to which the character of his truth could lead him--then he is ill-equipped for the game of politics.  Politics is property.  You pick up as much as you can, pay the minimum for the holding, extract the maximum, and combine where you may . . . .

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

[N.B.:  Substitute "Iraq" for "Vietnam" and you have today's Oklahoma landgrab. Hillary, one might say, had the slow horse on that one.]