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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR SEPTEMBER 2010

September 30,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

And it happened again, one of those planned conversations that go quickly awry, that leave you alone with a rage, a clarifying rage in this instance, in which it all came back in a harsh light: our fading marriage, the two New York years in which she withheld from me all kisses on the mouth, withheld these quietly and steadily and without complaint, averting even her eyes whenever mine sought them out in emotion, all the while cultivating a dutiful domesticity and maternal ethic that armored her in blamelessness, leaving me with no way to approach her, no way to find fault or feelings, waiting for me to lose heart, to put away my most human wants and expectations, to carry my burdens secretly, she not once in my mourning mentioning my mother, even that time when I wept in the kitchen and dropped a bottle of beer on the floor out of pure sorrow.  She merely wiped the floor with paper towels and said nothing, brushing her free hand against my shoulder blade--my shoulder blade!--as she carried the soaked paper to the trash can, never holding me fast, refraining not out of lack of humanity but out of fear of being drawn into a request for further tenderness, a request that could only bring her face-to-face with some central revulsion, a revulsion of her husband or herself or both, a revulsion that had come from nowhere, or from her, or perhaps from something I'd done or failed to do, who knew, she didn't want to know, it was too great a disappointment, far better to get on with the chores, with the baby, with the work, far better to leave me to my own devices, as they say, to leave me to resign myself to certain motifs, to leave me to disappear guiltily into a hold of my own digging.

 

--Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

September 29,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Like an old door, every man past a certain age comes with historical warps and creaks of one kind or another, and a woman who wishes to put him to serious further use must expect to do a certain amount of sanding and planing.  But of course not every woman is interested in this sort of refurbishment project, just as not every man has only one thing on his mind.

 

--Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

September 28,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Blocks of color stormed my window for a full minute.  By the time the freight train had passed, the sky over the Hudson Valley had brightened still further and the formerly brown and silver Hudson was a bluish white.

 

--Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

September 27,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Every aspect of the process is difficult.  It's a painstaking business, I'm telling you.  But that's my opportunity, you see.  I don't mind complication.  For me, complication represents an opportunity.  The more something is complicated, the more potential competitors will be deterred."

 

--Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

 

[N.B.:  And that, my friends, in a nut-shell is why big business loves government regulation.  Of course the chairman of Goldman Sachs would say that he supports the financial reform bill given that the only thing it will reform is the barriers to entry for banking.  So far this year just one new bank has been chartered in the United States (while hundreds have failed).  Success!]

September 26,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

He had suffered indeed; but he had not done penance, he had not made satisfaction.  If he who was of the New Learning and was so impatient of the old translation from the Greek which talks of "doing penance" instead of "repentance"--if he had understood that there is no repentance without satisfaction, without undoing so far as one can the ill one has done, he would have known--in his conscience he must have known--that he was on the path to the Pit.

 

--Cranmer by Hilaire Belloc

 

[N.B.:  Of course, we are too sophisticated to believe in such a barbarous notion of either "doing penance" or "repentance"--such grammatical niceties are the moral equivalent of asking how many angels might dance on the head of a pin.  And yet how many politicians take "full responsibility" for some vile act which merely means mouthing the platitude that they take "full responsibility."]

September 25,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Cranmer had pressed More hard in the examination, and it is significant that at Cromwell's side and agreeing with him was the Abbot of Westminster, and this last said certain words which should never be forgotten.  To which More made an equally unforgettable answer.

 

For the Abbot of Westminster said:

"You ought to think your conscience erroneous when you have against it the whole Council of the nation."  And More replied, "I should if I had not before me a still greater Council, the whole Council of Christendom."  In that objection and in the answer to it you have in a flash the new quarrel between nationalism--the religion of the State, the worship of England--on one side, and Catholicism upon the other.

 

--Cranmer by Hilaire Belloc

September 24,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Industrial Capitalism may be defined as the corruption of a system which has always been admitted by European men--the system of private property.  It has flourished under the protection which law and custom have extended to private property in essence, yet is had degraded property, allowing the swallowing up of the small man by the big one and the concentration of control in few and unworthy hands.  Nevertheless, from the idea of private property did it spring, and by the remaining sanctity of private property is it protected.  So also is it with the accompaniment of private property as an institution, the freedom of the family and the individual; freedom to make contracts and decide upon one's own activities.  The great proletarian body of working men, now in such violent protest against the capitalist system, owe their existence to such freedom--though by the very exercise of that freedom they have largely lost it.  They were free to accept such and such wages, or to refuse them; to drive their own bargain; in practice this has reduced them to the half-slavery we see around us.  But freedom is still our social theory--and by its very operation we are creating those great monopolies which are the negation of freedom.  Most men who protest against modern capitalism would still preserve property and freedom.  Some, more clear-sighted than the rest, demand reforms which shall re-establish the old freedom and the old well-divided property among men and undo the evils of modern capitalism by returning to what were always the first principles of civilization.  But there is another spirit abroad which would undo the evils of capitalism by destroying the right to property and by destroying freedom.  It would vest control in the officers of the State, reducing all men to a common slavery for the advantage of equal distribution and for ending the existing injustice.

 

--Cranmer by Hilaire Belloc

 

[N.B.:  Cranmer was written in 1931 during the ascendency of communism, so Belloc had no way of knowing what might be communism's ultimate ignominious defeat.  However, just because the scourge of communism has been defeated and along with it the threat of total slavery is no reason to embrace our post-industrial service economy where the capitalism no longer bothers to produce even half slaves but merely armies of indigents dependent on government largesse.]

September 23,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

He was not of those whom a fountain of creation fills and who declaim, as it were, great matter.  His art was of the kind which must work very slowly and in secret, isolated; his sentences when he desired to produce his effect must be perfected in detail, polished, lingered over, rearranged, until they had become so that one could feel them with the finger-nail and find no roughness.  But when he was composing a letter, a proclamation--anything which had to be done for workaday business and where there was no time or occasion for lengthy toil--you hardly ever find in Cranmer's work even occasional beauty.  Once or twice a phrase stands outs, but in the great mass of wht he has left he is as dull, turgid and cofuses as all his generation were; repeating himself, writing at vast length, using exaggerated terms, and seeming incapable sometimes of finishing his sentence at all.  But when he says to himself: "Now I have something specia to do; here I am on my mettle, I must produce some final thing"--then he constructs with a success only paralleled by the sonnets of Shakespeare.

 

I say "constructs."  Though we could not do the same ourselves, yet we can see how the hand is at work and how every word is thought out, each rhythm discovered, and the contour of the whole cameo carved.  There is not in all that he has thus left of perfect English one lengthy passage; most of the Collects, which, with the isolated phrases of the Litany are his chief triumph, consist in single sentences--but they are sentences which most men who know the trade would give their eyes to have written.  And since that endures which is carved in hard material, they have endured, and given endurance to the fabric--novel and revolutionary in his time, the institution at the root of which he stands--The Church of England.

 

--Cranmer by Hilaire Belloc

 

[N.B.:  Words matter.  The Church of England (a/k/a the Anglican Church--in the United States, the Episcopalian Church) very well may have gone into decline very early as a mere plaything of Kings and Queens if not for Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer.  And then in 1927 the Church of England wrote its suicide note and offered up a substitute book called Common Worship--and common it truly is (as in being composed of prose both pedestrian and deadly dull).  And so the death of Cranmer's prose led to the death of, in Belloc's shining prose, "the institution at the root of which he stands."]

September 22,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

For the genius of Cranmer in this supreme art of his--the fashioning of rhythmic English prose--was not of that spontaneous kind which produces great sentences or pages in flashes, as it were, unplanned, surging up of themselves in the midst of lesser matter; he was not among prose writers what such men as Shakespeare or Ronsard are among poets--voluminous, uneven, and without conscious effort compelled to produce splendours in a process of which they are themselves not aware.  He was, on the contrary, a jeweller in prose, a man who sat down deliberately to write in a particular way when there was need or opportunity for it, but who, on general occasions, would write as might any other man.

 

--Cranmer by Hilaire Belloc

September 21,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

"The economy's an animal," Jim continued.  "It evolves.  First it needed muscle.  Now all the blood it could spare was rushing to its brain.  That's where I wanted to be.  In finance.  In the coordination business.  And that's where you are.  You're blood brought from some part of the body that the species doesn't need anymore.  The tailbone.  Like me.  We came from places that were wasting away."  I had finished replacing the tire, so I shut the boot and unlocked the doors.  "Most people don't recognize that, kid," he said, buckling himself in beside me and nodding his head in the direction of the darkened building we had left.  "They try to resist change.  Power comes from becoming change."

 

--The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

September 20,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is remarkable, I must say, how being in Pakistan heightens one's sensitivity to the sight of a woman's body.  Do you not agree?  That bearded man--who even now, sir, continues from time to time to attract your wary gaze--is himself unable to stop glancing over his shoulder at those girls, fifty yards away from him.  Yet they are exposing only the flesh of the neck, the face, and the lower three-quarters of the arm!  It is the effect of scarcity; one's rules of propriety make one thirst for the improper.  Moreover, once sensitized in this manner, one numbs only slowly, if at all; I had by the summer of my trip to Greece spent four years in America already--and had experienced all the intimacies college students commonly experience--but still I remained acutely aware of visible female flesh.

 

--The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

 

[N.B.:  Who needs a pedestal when you've got a hijab?]

September 19,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Temperatures had fallen and the sodium streetlights come on by themselves as Skip Atwater drove the artist and his spouse home from Ye Olde Country Buffet with a styrofoam box of leavings for a dog he'd seen no sign of; and the great elms and locusts were beginning to yaw and two thirds of the sky to be stacked with enormous muttering masses of clouds that moved in and out of themselves as if stirred by a great unseen hand. 

 

-The Suffering Channel from Oblivion by David Foster Wallace

September 18,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Mrs. Amber Moltke, the artist's young spouse, wore a great billowing pastel housedress and flattened espadrilles and was, for better or worse, the sexiest morbidly obese woman Atwater had ever seen.  Eastern Indiana was not short on big pretty girls, but this was less a person than a vista, a quarter ton of sheer Midwest pulchritude, and Atwater had already filled several narrow pages of his notebook with descriptions and analogies and abstract encomia to Mrs. Moltke, none of which could be used in the compressed piece he was even then conceiving how to pitch and submit.  Some of the allure was atavistic, he acknowledged.  Some was simply contrast, a relief from the sucking cheeks and starved eyes of Manhattan's women.  He had personally seen Style interns weighing their food on small pharmaceutical scales before they consumed it.  In one of the more abstract notebook entries, Atwater had theorized that Mrs. Moltke's was perhaps a sort of negative beauty that consisted mainly in her failure to be repellent.

 

-The Suffering Channel from Oblivion by David Foster Wallace

September 17,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Don't knock business art unless you are very sure of yourself.  Anthony Powell once wrote that he never did his insurance policy without imagining it landing on the desk of Aubrey Beardsley before being passed to that of Wallace Stevens and eventually landing up in the in-tray of Franz Kafka.  And if you think these insurance men are scary, think of the ad-business.  Public relations as an American science was pioneered by Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud.  Salman Rushdie began his career as a writer of enticing ads and jingles.  Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg also worked in what was politely termed 'commercial art', but (of course) only to support themselves while they did the real stuff.  Only Andy Warhol proclaimed that there was no difference between the two things, except in the way you did them, and thus opened the question of whether there was or is an artistic way of making or finding art.  Partly, this was his settling of accounts with Picasso, of whom he said, 'When Picasso died I read in a magazine that he had made four thousand masterpieces in his lifetime and I though, "Gee, I could do that in a day."  You see, the way I do them, with my technique, I really thought I could do four thousand in a day.  And they'd all be masterpieces because they'd all be the same painting.' 

--Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere by Christopher Hitchens

September 16,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Here is a style that is often held against [Warhol], like his obsessive parsimony and his preoccupation with accountancy and his anal-retentive attitude towards savings and collections and even time capsules and souvenirs.  But of what does it remind you?  The answer should not, in a city of industrialism and abundance like Pittsburgh, seem very surprising.  The voice that is speaking is the voice of that great artist and innovator Henry Ford.  The Henry Ford who said that history was bunk.  The same Henry Ford who announced, this time really anticipating Andy, that any colour was fine as long as it was black.  Warhol's achievement was to define the aesthetics of mass production, not to be a business artist.  Business artists are more common than we want to think or like to believe.  Michael Fitzgerald's new book on Pablo Picasso, Making Modernism: Picasso and the Creation of the Market for Twentieth Century Art, has more tales of painterly stock manipulation and artistic insider trading than Warhol had cans of soup.  The thing is that Warhol cheerfully and in a way challengingly affirmed what the 'community' of painters and dealers was at some pains to muffle.

--Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere by Christopher Hitchens

September 15,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Warhol always spoke with a flat, defiant economism about the subject:

 

Business Art is a much better thing to be making that Art Art, because Art Art doesn't support the space it takes up, whereas Business Art does.  (If Business Art doesn't support its own space, it goes out-of-business.)

 

He made the same unhypocritical and down-to-earth point in a different tone of voice when he said, 'rich people can't see a sillier version of Truth or Consequences or a scarier version of The Exorcist.  The idea of America is so wonderful because the more equal something is, the more American it is.'  I think he must have thought about this paean to conformity and sameness a lot, because it appears several times in interviews throughout his life, often with tiny variations (such as the President having to relish the same cheeseburger as the rest of us) but always making the same celebratory point.

--Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere by Christopher Hitchens

September 14,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is a revenge that the bores and the bullies and the bigots exact on those who are too witty.  Wilde could never hope to escape the judgement of the pompous and the hypocritical, because he could not help teasing them.

I personally find it hard, if not impossible, to read the record of his trial without fighting back tears.  Here was a marvellous, gay, brave, and eloquent man, being gradually worn down by inexorable, plodding oafs and heavies.  At first, Wilde had it all his own way, with laughter in the court.  The grim, vindictive figure of Sir Edward Carson (later to take his Protestant rectitude into the incitement of a sectarian war in Ireland) was the grinding mill, with Wilde the leaping water:

             'Do you drink champagne yourself?'

             'Yes, iced champagne is a favourite drink of mine - strongly against my doctor's orders.'

             'Never mind your doctor's orders, sir.'

              'I never do.' 

The brutish Carson later asked Wilde how long it took to walk from his Chelsea home to a certain other address:

              'I don't know.  I never walk.'

              'I suppose when you pay visits you always take a cab?'

              'Always.'

              'And if you visited, you would leave the cab outside?'

             'Yes, if it were a good cab.'

That was the last genuine laugh that Wilde got from the audience in court.  Not long afterward, Carson, mentioning a certain servant boy, suddenly asked, 'Did you kiss him?' and Wilde incautiously replied, 'Oh dear, no.  He was a peculiarly plain boy.'  And that was that.  Carson seized the whip handle, and never let go.

--Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere by Christopher Hitchens

September 13,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Generosity is not the first quality we associate with the name of Ms Dorothy Parker.  But she did write the following rather resigned tribute and testament:

                                  If, with the literate, I am

                                 Impelled to try an epigram

                                 I never seek to take the credit:

                                 We all assume that Oscar said it.

And so we do.  'Work is the curse of the drinking classes.'  'He hasn't a single redeeming vice.'  'I can resist anything except temptation.'  'He is old enough to know worse.'  It's also worth bearing in mind the difference between an epigram and an aphorism.  The former is merely a witty play on words (if one can use 'merely' in such a fashion), while the latter contains a point or moral.  'Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern.  One is apt to grow old-fashioned quite suddenly.'  In what press or public-relations office should that aphorism not be on prominent display?

Oscar Wilde's weapon was paradox, and his secret was his seriousness.  He was flippant about serious things, and serious about apparently trivial ones.  'Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.  Conscience is the trade-name of the firm.'  That could have been said by Hamlet, and was indeed uttered by him at much wearier length.

--Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere by Christopher Hitchens

September 12,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Nobody noticed him leave, as many became engaged in a kind of rugby game with something or other they found in the Salome basket.

--The Doctor is Sick by Anthony Burgess

September 11,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

But the Stone twins tried, in a shy fumbling way, to show Edwin gratitude.  They told doubtful tales and anecdotes, chopped off raw chunks of autobiography for his delectation.  Both had been Briefly East.  Both had been dipped in the Merchant Navy.  Neither had been anything for long.  Leo had once been a child-actor, touring in Peter Pan, a catamite - till his voice broke - of the man who played Mr Darling.  He had been a comic's feed, a soft-shoe shuffler, a bogus sanitary engineer, a waiter, a sailor, a market-seller of hair-restorer, a quick-foot-jammed-in-the-door traveller in stolen encyclopedias, a Japanese shirts and dog food, a fryer of potato crisps in engine oil, a runner of clubs, a bankrupt.  Harry had been a bookmaker's runner, a ship's steward gladly bringing sex with the morning tea, a scullion, a cook, a Christmas postal worker, a kept man, a greyhound trainer, a hawker of cheap summer dresses, a railway dining-car steward, an assistant in a fish-shop, a procurer of sausage-skins for shady sausage-makers, a stain-remover demonstrator.  But, though each had mostly gone his own way, the calls of twinhood - which are deeper than love - had brought them together often in disastrous ventures at home and, on two occasions, abroad.  When the rap had to be taken, Leo normally elected to take it.  Prison life he found not uncongenial if the stretches were short and not too frequent - masochism aching back to the Land of Egypt and the House of Bondage.

--The Doctor is Sick by Anthony Burgess

September 10,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Yo hablo espanol, senora,' said Edwin.  Carmen now spoke.  She showed a smiling mess of decay, gum recession and metal, and said:

'Blimey, you 'ear?  'E spik lak good man.  Why you not spik lak 'im?  You bloody zis fackin' zat all time.  Seora, 'e say.  Bloody ole bag an fackin' 'oor, you say.  Why you not be a good man?  No money you give one day, two sree.  One day I go.  Blimey, yes, get good man.  Lak 'im I get.'

'She's a bit narked about not being really married,' said Les evenly.  'I've told her I can't, not in this country.  Got one in Gateshead.  Good thing, in some ways, to have one somewhere else.  Keeps them on their toes.'

--The Doctor is Sick by Anthony Burgess

September 9,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Edwin thought of a little article he had proposed to a magazine on Popular English Studies, an article on the bilabial fricative and its persistence through centuries of colloquial English.  Sam Weller did not, of course, interchange 'v' and 'w': he used a single phoneme for both - the bilabial fricative.  But a recorder like Dickens, untrained phonetically, would think he heard 'v' when he expected 'w,' 'we when he expected 'v'.

--The Doctor is Sick by Anthony Burgess

[N.B.: Only Burgess would dispute how a fictional character really talked.]

September 8,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Edwin shambled after one of these pert creatures to the X-ray department.

He pressed his cold chest to a plate on the wall and heard its picture clicked off.  He was strapped to a bed and had, from many angles, his grinning skull recorded.  'Webster, too,' he said, 'saw the skull beneath the skin.'

'Who was Webster?'

'A poet.'

'Oh, a poet.'  She thrust in a new plate fussily.  'Don't move,' she said.  'Keep absolutely still.'  There was another click.  'I don't go in much for poetry,' she said.  'It was all right at school, I suppose.'

'You think it's better to be a radiographer than a poet?'

'Oh, yes.'  She spoke with vocational fervour.  'After all, we save lives, don't we?'

'What for?'

'What do you mean, what for?'

'What's the purpose of saving lives?  What do you want people to live for?'

'That,' she said primly, 'is no concern of mine.  That didn't come into my course.  Now, if you'll just wait here, I'll get these developed.'

--The Doctor is Sick by Anthony Burgess

September 7,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

He had small not unhandsome moustached features set, as print in some expensive edition, in a face with wide margins.  Edwin looked for her over the heads of, in the gaps between, far uglier men and dishevelled women: though one trim drunken middle-aged woman in a smart hat twirled sedately to the music, her partner a glass of Guinness.

--The Doctor is Sick by Anthony Burgess

September 6,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

A series of sublime impressions, continued indefinitely, gradually pall upon the imagination, deaden its fineness of feeling, and in the end induce a gloomy and morbid state of mind, a reaction of a peculiarly melancholy character, because consequent, not upon the absence of that which once caused excitement, but upon the failure of its power.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.  And who does not now feel gloomy before the Mona Lisa, wishing that Duchamp drew the moustache upon the actual portrait itself?  The Mona Lisa should be banished from the halls of the Louvre for 50 years and all images of it destroyed so that upon its triumphant return men may know why it inspired such passionate awe.]

September 5,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

Every one who is about to lay out a limited extent of garden, in which he wishes to introduce many flowers, should read and attentively study, first Shelley, and next Shakespeare.  The latter indeed induces the most beautiful connections between thought and flower that can be found in the whole range of European literature; but he very often uses the symbolical effect of the flower, which it can only have on the educated mind, instead of the natural and true effect of the flower, which it must have, more or less, upon every mind.  Thus, when Ophelia, presenting her wild flowers, says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray you, love, remember: and there is pansies, that's for thoughts:" the infinite beauty of the passage depends entirely upon the arbitrary meaning attached to the flowers.  But, when Shelley speaks of

                                     "The lily of the vale,

Whom youth makes so fair, and passion so pale,

That the light of her tremulous bells is seen

Through their pavilion of tender green,"

he is etherealizing an impression which the mind naturally receives from the flower.  Consequently, as it is only by their natural influence that flowers can address the mind through the eye, we must read Shelley, to learn how to use flowers, and Shakespeare, to learn to love them.  In both writers we fine the wild flowers possessing soul as well as life, and mingling its influence most intimately, like an untaught melody, with the deepest and most secret streams of human emotion.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

September 4,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

If possible, however, he should aim at something more; he should draw his employer into general conversation; observe the bent of his disposition, and the habits of his mind; notice every manifestation of fixed opinions, and then transfer to his architecture as much of the feeling he has observed as is distinct in its operation.  This he should do, not because the general spectator will be aware of the aptness of the building, which, knowing nothing of its inmate, he cannot be; nor to please the individual himself, which it is a chance if any simple design ever will, and who never will find out how well his character has been fitted; but because a portrait is always more spirited than a composed countenance; and because this study of human passions will bring a degree of energy, unity, and originality into every one of his designs (all of which will necessarily be different), so simple, so domestic, and so lifelike, as to strike very spectator with an interest and a sympathy, for which he will be utterly unable to account, and to impress on him a perception of something more ethereal than stone or carving, somewhat similar to that which some will remember having felt disagreeably in their childhood, on looking at any old house authentically haunted.  The architect will forget in his study of life the formalities of science, and, while his practiced eye will prevent him from erring in technicalities, he will advance, with the ruling feeling, which, in masses of mind, is nationality, to the conception of something truly original, yet perfectly pure.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

September 3,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

These feelings we would endeavor to impress upon all persons likely to have anything to do with embellishing, as it is called, fine natural scenery; as they might, in some degree, convince both the architect and his employer of the danger of giving free play to the imagination in cases involving intricate questions of feeling and composition, and might persuade the designer of the necessity of looking, not to his own acre of land, or to his own peculiar tastes, but to the whole mass of forms and combination of impressions with which he is surrounded.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  Keep despairing, ye mighty writers.]

September 2,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

It should therefore be remembered by every proprietor of land in hill country, that his possessions are the means of a peculiar education, otherwise unattainable, to the artists, and in some degree to the literary men, of his country; that, even in this limited point of view, they are a national possession, but much more so when it is remembered how many thousands are perpetually receiving from them, not merely a transitory pleasure, but such thrilling perpetuity of pure emotion, such lofty subject for scientific speculation, and such deep lessons of natural religion, as only the work of a Deity can impress, and only the spirit of an immortal can feel: they should remember that the slightest deformity, the most contemptible excrescence, can injure the effect of the noblest natural scenery, as a noted of discord can annihilate the expression of the purest harmony; that thus it is in the power of worms to conceal, to destroy, or to violate, what angels could not restore, create or consecrate; and that the right, which every man unquestionably possesses, to be an ass, is extended only, in public, to those who are innocent in idiotism, not to the more malicious clowns, who thrust their degraded motley conspicuously forth amidst the fair colors of earth, and mix their incoherent cries with the melodies of eternity, break with their inane laugh upon the silence which Creation keeps where Omnipotence passes most visibly, and scrabble over with the characters of idiocy the pages that have been written by the finger of God.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  Speaking of the finger of God--I draw your attention to the fact that the above squib consists of just one sinuous sentence.  Look on Ruskin's works, ye mighty writers, and despair.]

September 1,  2010

Patrick: Lagniappe

The noble scenery of that earth is the inheritance of all her inhabitants: it is not merely for the few to whom it temporarily belongs, to feed from like swine, or to stable upon like horses, but it has been appointed to be the school of the minds which are kingly among their fellows, to excite the highest energies of humanity, to furnish strength to the lordliest intellect, and food for the holiest emotions of the human soul.  The presence of life is, indeed, necessary to its beauty, but of life congenial with its character; and that life is not congenial which thrusts presumptuously forward, amidst the calmness of the universe, the confusion of its own petty interests and groveling imaginations, and stands up with the insolence of a moment, amid the majesty of all time, to build baby fortifications upon the bones of the world, or to sweep the copse from the corrie, and the shadow from the shore, that fools may risk, and gamblers gather, the spoil of a thousand summers.

--Poetry of Architecture by John Ruskin

[N.B.:  Ruskin was green before green was keen.]