Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Notes


I don't think any great novel has been cynical.   I don't think any great art has ever been cynical.  To be cynical is fundamentally to deconstruct, to carp, to cavil.  The test of greatness, the core residuum of its existence, by contrast is of making--building.  I don't say that there must, in a great work, be no trace at all of cynicism--for to make the universe is to make a universe complete, and no universe is complete without cynicism. I suggest only that it cannot be the animating force, the core elemental structuring device.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Within A Budding Grove

Image result for images swann proust
“Good heavens!” exclaimed M. de Norpois, inspiring me with doubts of my own intelligence far more serious than those that ordinarily distracted me, when I saw that what I valued a thousand thousand times more than myself, what I regarded as the most exalted thing in the world, was for him at the very foot of the scale of admiration. “I do not share your son’s point of view. Bergotte is what I call a flute-player: one must admit that he plays on it very agreeably, although with a great deal of mannerism, of affectation. But when all is said, it is no more than that, and that is nothing very great. Nowhere does one find in his enervated writings anything that could be called construction. No action — or very little — but above all no range. His books fail at the foundation, or rather they have no foundation at all. At a time like the present, when the ever-increasing complexity of life leaves one scarcely a moment for reading, when the map of Europe has undergone radical alterations, and is on the eve, very probably, of undergoing others more drastic still, when so many new and threatening problems are arising on every side, you will allow me to suggest that one is entitled to ask that a writer should be something else than a fine intellect which makes us forget, amid otiose and byzantine discussions of the merits of pure form, that we may be overwhelmed at any moment by a double tide of barbarians, those from without and those from within our borders. I am aware that this is a blasphemy against the sacrosanct school of what these gentlemen term ‘Art for Art’s sake,’ but at this period of history there are tasks more urgent than the manipulation of words in a harmonious manner.




From  "Swann at Home"

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A New Way Forward

Will see me start blogging regularly again.  Good news for my millions of loyal readers.

I've felt less need to blog since I've returned from my long exile in California.  Most of the readers for whom I wrote posts now live in my area code.  That proximity takes away some of the urgency I felt about communicating my thoughts.   I think, though, that I've found a new way to make use of this space.  One that features thousands--literally thousands--of candid Kardashian pictures.  Plus, dancing dog gifs!

That's for the future, though.  This morning I'll just record the incredibly vivid dream I had last night. In it, Jon Gruden was teaching a class on "The Waste Land."  I was in the class, along with a lot of other high school students, and several professional football players.  Marshawn Lynch was sitting right next to me, wearing his Raiders outfit.  The lecture on "The Waste Land" itself didn't register.  I do remember that Gruden himself was very passionate about the material.  Then at some point the class devolved into a discussion of the subjunctive in English.  A heated debate broke out on whether or not the phrase "If I were a rich man" counted as subjunctive or not.  Marshawn Lynch came alive during this discussion, I remember.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Healing?

We've made progress, The Bink and I, towards his recovery.  Daily dosages of anti-inflammatories, plus pain meds, seem to have alleviated his suffering.  We haven't one had pain yelp in the last three days. 

We have a new problem now, however: his naturally rascally nature.  The Bear is not a Bear of idleness.  Check that--he is a Bear of idleness, but not unrelieved idleness.  Eighteen hours of sleep a day--yes: that's reasonable.  Necessary even.  But twenty-two hours of sleep a day--that's too much. 

Too much, though, is what he needs.  For his body to fully heal, he has to stay calm.  Sudden jumps and lurches, yowlings, bounding--these are all actions the Bear enjoys.  But they're not good for his recovery. 

I'm trying to keep him as sedate as I can, but it's now been two weeks since he's gotten out of the house and walked in the neighborhood, and smelled the new smells.  He's becoming restless, and unhappy.  The obvious solution is to take him for walk.  That sounds fine--but walking requires a leash and that opens the possibility of reinjuring himself. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dark Days

Sad Bear
The Bink is suffering.  We don't know what happened, but on Saturday he woke up in pain.  When I rubbed behind his ears to comfort him he yelped--in pain.  Dogs don't yelp in pain often; in my life to this date I can count maybe ten times Bink has made that noise (usually when someone stepped on his paw by mistake).  The pain seemed to be coming from his neck and it didn't go away.  When we took him to the Hospital they gave us painkillers and anti-inflammatories but did not take XRays.  They hoped--we hope too--that after a few days it might go away.

Now it's Wednesday--four days later.  It hasn't gone away.  The wife is out of town and I'm spending all day alone in a house with a suffering animal.  It's been one of the worst (half) weeks of my life.

As anyone who's ever been around a suffering animal can tell you, they don't act like healthy animals.  They walk with their tail down.  They cower in odd places--Bink right now is huddled under an end table by our couch, pressed up against the wall.  It's as if he wants to make himself disappear, as if by taking himself out of existence he can also take his pain out of existence.

Of course we have to take him back to the Vet.  (We're waiting one more day to see if there's any improvement).  That doesn't promise to lead anything good, however.  The most likely reason Bink is suffering is so much is that he has a slipped disc, or a pinched nerve in his back.  Neither of those prognoses are good ones--neither are ones that admit to treatment.  If it's just inflammation, of a muscular-skeletal problem, it should begin to get better soon.  Let's hope it does.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Fargo's Unappealing New Season

I'm trying to get through the third season of Fargo right now.  It's pretty rough.  I guess the people who write the show must all have decided to get heavily into PCP this season, because it's been a disaster.  Poor casting choices.  Storyholes so big you could drive a semi- through them.  And a nausea-inducing reliance on curelty and shock, instead of story or dialogue, to generate interest.  The show feels like the spiritual equivalent of watching someone torture and then kill a small animal.  It is utterly unredeeming.

What a come-down this marks from the glories of last season.  The second season of Fargo was everything this season isn't.  Sharp surprising dialogue, complex memorable characters--but best of all were its villains.  Its villains were figures of complexity.  They weren't pasteboard monsters, who existed only to kill and maim, their depravities 'justified' by trite speeches about man's bestial nature--they were fully imagined human-beings.  That's all gone this season.  It's a grim, dispiriting slog, one unleavened by any notes of hope or cheerfulness.  Avoid it, I say--at all costs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Whining about Wine


Interesting piece about a growing brouhaha in the world of wine.  My wife and I enjoyed the TV show Top Somm last year; it showed a group of highly-driven, slightly unstable New York sommeliers working to prepare themselves to qualify as Master Sommeliers--a designation that counts for a lot in the wine world.  One of them, Morgan Harris, is referenced in this article.

Cork Dork, the book that's excited all the furor, will, I confidently predict be turned into a movie within the next five years.  You heard it hear first.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Gotterdammerung

Last night the wife and I attended the HGO's production of Wagner's Gotterdammerung (trans: kitten play-time). It's about the apocalypse at the end of the world, and ends with the death of all gods. It lasted five and a half hours and featured two intermissions.

I have been to only two other operas in my life; both were relatively obscure Baroque works that featured little in the way of spectacle.  This had been described to my wife--two of her close friends at work are hard-core opera fanatics--as being like 'Cirque du Soleil, only with singing.'  So I was primed for some big-time excitement.  It's the end of the world, here, people.  It ought to be big.

The actual ending--the end of the world, and the burning down of Valhalla--did not live up to expectations.  Essentially it consisted of various 'Gods' hanging from the ceiling on wires and writhing in mid air while computerized fire imagery played on the large movable blocks they used for scenery.
Image result for images gotterdammerung hgo
The performance itself, however, had a lot to offer.  The first scene features the three Norns suspending in mid air wearing an immense strand of rope which represents time and fate.  While they sang complicated net images played over them, and they rose and fell in mid-air as each one handed the rope to each other.  Later, the Rhinemaidens sang while suspended in floating cubes of water (each, according to the program, weighed about 2500 pounds).  The sequence where Siegfried, disguised as the evil Gertrun, comes to Brunhilde's fortress castle and forces her to marry him was exceedingly well done.

In general the whole experience was supremely satisfying.  Sitting in a dark space and surrendering to  an experience offers an escape from day-to-day worries.  For the first thirty minutes I worry about my dog and my business and the emails I need to send.  Then that all gives way and I attain true contact with the present, existing only in the moment, without any irritable reaching before or ahead.  It has value.

I want to see more operas, I think.

I also intend to resume posting.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

WTF!?

I am sad but I am slowly making my peace with it. I am nourishing the hope that, while Trump has done a lot of awful things, and said a lot of awful things while running, he has always, in the years prior to now, been (politically) a fairly moderate person. He's so duplicitous that I think it's fairly likely most of what he said he would do on the campaign trail won't happen. I hope. My fear is really international relations. I don't want us to go to war.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The New House

We've now been here about two months and slowly things are coming into shape. For the last two weeks we've had landscapers shuffling and rooting around the home's perimeter. The dog is a constant state of furor and working on anything requiring unbroken concentration has proven impossible. But--and it's a big but--our yard finally exists. We no longer are surrounded on three sides by piles of grassless dirt. We have planter boxes and climbing jasmine and Backstar gravel (which is gray) and all variety of flowering plants. And our sprinklers have been made to work. The inside of the house also progresses. Two of our rooms are still uninhabitable, however--the formal living room and the dining room. Our dining room table, ordered off EBay, arrived last week. Then, as the movers were bringing it inside--check that: after they had brought it inside and were in the final stages of lowering it to the floor, the table slipped. A leg broke and they took it away. They claim they can repair it back to how it was, however. We'll see. Regardless, we have no light source for that space--the home sellers took the chandelier--so it's not likely we'll have any dinner parties very soon. Maybe before the New Year. In an hour I'm going to a football game--the first professional football game I've been to in maybe twenty years. My wife's father has season tickets to the Texans and he's been good enough to let us borrow them. We're going to go early and experience the tailgating. The way our QB is playing, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Coach O'Brien asked me to suit up, either. Given my knowledge of 19th century French poetics.