Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Origins of Wednesday xi: stones of shelter

This is where the seals go
in Picardie to reproduce ~
Cayeux-sur-Mer, or in Eng-
lish, pebbles by the sea.
The custom is not unknown,
elsewhere in that extra-
vagantly fertile fulcrum
of Europe, the geological
wellspring of our whole i-
dea of natural bounty. In
Pauillac, by the river's
edge, the pebbles ripen
the most treasured fruit
of this world. This photo-
graph is part of a com-
pelling exhibit in Lon-
don for the next month,
reported in the Guardian
on-line. But this is my
favourite of the show. 

Picardie lies in the one 
département of France we 
know as more infested by
stones than any other,
at innumerable graves of
the battles of the Somme,
100 years ago. These con-
tain our imprint as the
Cretaceous chalk they are,
and drain the roots of our
Champagne to invigorate
its backbone. It would
be incoherent to appraise
these slopes without ap-
preciating their shelter
by the Bay of the Somme,
of another unpardonably
menaced species in our 

Michael Kenna
The Guardian
January 27, 2015

Patrick Forbes
  The Wine, The Land,
  and The People
Reynal & Co., 1967©

James E. Wilson
  The Rôle of Geology,
  Climate, and Culture
  in the Making of French
University of California Press, 1998©

John Keegan
The First World War
Knopf, 1999©

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I am gigantically fortunate
not to have pursued the re-
solution of my soul, to be-
come a teacher-scholar. I'd
be crediting others highly
for the simple capacity for
amazement. I see it in pos-
tures of virtual squirmings
of extraction, of floppy el-
oquence ascribed to fey but 
fascinated, faintly fetid
puppies, surpassingly hilar-
ious, yet authentically as-
tute. And then I'd remember
the irony of composure among
one's peers, immobilised by
competence. Or does contor-
tion among amateurs prefig-
ure, rather, blogging? The
notion belongs to one of
the naughtiest wits of our
lives, an ornament of the

    To compose
    one reassuring line per day
    to placate our public
    with a positive gesture
    we quite simply
    owe ourselves
    First of all

    we breathe in deeply
    and look into the mirror
    until we like what we see
    we glance around the room
    for a truly insignificant object
    ignored by everyone
    which we gaze at lovingly
    a speck of dust maybe
    that for us represents all galaxies
    As soon as we feel the world to be good
    or even wondrous
    we hurry to our desk
    hold our breath
    and pen our panegyric


Alfred Brendel
One Finger Too Many
Richard Stokes
  assistant in translation
op. cit.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mysteries of Monday

   Hard to believe, sometimes,
   one can leverage weight so
   easily at a distance from
   the fulcrum. Does this mean,
   this impassive, flattened slab 
   doesn't so much shadow Central 
   Park, as tend to hoist it up?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Eat this, then talk

This very plain soup of dried beans
was once the daily dish on which ev-
ery poor man subsisted. It is pain-
ful to record that at the time of
writing this book, Greeks are queu-
ing in line in Athens at emergency
food stations, to be served this
subsistence soup, which their ances-
tors would have recognized.


        1 lb dried haricot beans
        2/3 cup olive oil
        14 oz canned tomatoes
        1 tbsp tomato purée
        1 large onion, chopped
        2 carrots, diced
        2 celery stalks with leaves
        sea salt and black pepper
        3 tbsp fresh parsley

Soak the beans in cold water overnight;
drain, place them in a large pan and
cover with fresh water. Bring to boil,
cook for 10 minutes, then drain. Cover
again with cold water, bring to boil a-
gain, lower the heat, cover and simmer
for 1 hour. Add the other ingredients
and simmer for a further 30 minutes or
until the beans are tender.

The dissident Party in the Greek e-
lections is calling for the restora-
tion of electricity to homes strip-
ped of the means of purchasing it.
If they should get that far, against
the combined might of the continental
financial system, the people of Greece
can not anticipate dining any better,
anytime soon. But they might do so at
home. Electrification was the core of
Franklin Roosevelt's Freedom from Want.

Who is interested in obstructing it?

Belinda Harley
Roast Lamb in the 
  Olive Groves
  A Mediterranean
Hardie Grant, 2014©

Heywood Hill
  Books for Christmas, 2014

Decisive moments we've survived

You know, I think I'd al-
ways wanted to affect an
open collar, but it was-
n't until events allowed
one to do so, that he and 
I were persuaded that it
would not make one resem-
ble Bastiaan van Gaalen. 

Mind you, the eye does
race to affirm the like-
ness, but then accustoms
itself fast enough to the
speed of light, as to run
right on past. Even so,
you can't know the rush 
of that first harrowing, 
rational, defenseless ap-
prehension, of collision 
with that reckless, ruth-
less organ; but this only 
makes any escape the more 

Alexandre Benois
Costume design for 
  "Tsarevich Aleksei"

Don Hong-Oai
Tianzi Mountain, gibbons

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday commute ci: Where is James traveling?

The little watering-place of
Ilfracombe is seated at the
lower verge of one of these
seaward-lunging valleys, be-
tween a couple of magnificent
headlands which hold it in a
hollow slope and offer it se-
curely to the caress of the
Bristol Channel..

                 My chief conclusion, perhaps,
                 from all these things was that
                 the English are masters of the
                 art of not losing sight of ease
                 and convenience in the pastoral
                 life - unlike our own people,
                 who, when seeking rural beguile-
                 ment, are apt but to find a new
                 rudeness added to nature.

  I'm honestly not one of
  those admirers of James
  who insist that he real-
  ly meant to be gross,
  and crude and awful, but
  was constrained and ruin-
  ed in life and in art by
  conditioning. I just cop-
  ied, above the previous
  illustration, a classic
  example of his gift for
  appreciation, because it
  renewed my apprehension
  that our "sympathy" only
  substantiates his impres-
  sion of the second excerpt.
  I urge a truce with James,
  even at the beach.

                                and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show
              Ready to drop upon me; that, when I wak'd,
              I cried to dream again.

Henry James
English Hours

William Shakespeare
The Tempest
  III, ii, 138-41
op. cit.