Monday, September 15, 2014

I know the halting pursuit

The other day, motoring along in our
quiet neighbourhood, I was listening
to National Public Radio in one of
those bright and sparkling mid-day
interview programmes they should be
commended for conducting. An Indian
web frees people from having to know
things, allowing them to cultivate
the nobler facets of their networks.
He was quite exuberant on the pros-
pect of supplanting cultivation as
it used to be understood, with an
admittedly enviable suppleness of
cordial ignorance. I'm sorry, I did
not make notes of the event; but I
cannot believe I raise an unfamiliar
paradigm, to anyone brilliant enough
to log on.

I do not complain of obsolescence 
in one's style of having lived by
recombinant acquisitions of learn-
ing, each moment identified by an
interval of life in which it was
assimilated, but always contempor-
aneously with much else, furnishing a
a crucible of context of some confu-
sion, within an ongoing, organic de-
velopment of the mind and of life,
with occasional side trips to look
at paintings, and other human bod-
ies. (My, how abrupt they can be).

To know something immediately, not
only defies the structure of Na-
ture - and you may say, its compact
with time - it rends and claws
and smashes the organic relation-
ship between development and its
deployment. But I understand our 
Indian mentor's exaltation of the 
bull in the corrida, seeking death. 
Having to know immediately is rou- 
tine, ordinary, to calves at a dis-
pensing teat. To the bull, spontan-
eously inspired by the banderilla,
it's expedient, and useless all at 

His power is not his magnificence,
it's his hysteria, inflicted by un-
examined stimuli. Nobody has any
trouble, unfortunately, in recog-
nising the culture being played 
by banderillas, in the bullhorns
of its warrior cheerleaders. This
would not be conceivable, in the
plodder's naïveté. The futility
of knowing in the upstart mode of
search engines has been exhibited
enough, yet I don't argue for its
abandonment, merely for its appre-
ciation as the parlour game that
it is. We hope to diminish the 
futility of knowing, by the only
means in which we could suggest
any confidence in it: measuring
the vitality of its condition
by its endurance of reflection.

There are the willful naïves and
the natural kind. Who can accept
being imitated by incompetents?

George W.S. Trow
Within the Context
  of No Context
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997©

Man Ray
George Platt-Lynes
Paris, 1927

Sunday, September 14, 2014


                                All over the
                                ground already.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


   The President spoke
   of the distribution
   of blessings on his
   nation as requiring
   war, as obligations
   of providence. So I
   don't listen to the
   excuse, but for who
   would be listening. 

Hans Baumgartner
  Mosel River
  Germany, 1937

Bruce Weber
  Ad campaign
  United States, 1982

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Origins of Wednesday viii: Oh, goody

   Another White House
   address on the pac-
   ifying distinctions
   of American slaugh-
   ter. How filled one
   must be already, by
   hope - or would all
   this be enthusiasm?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A surprising flourish of dignity

     I think it bears remembrance,
     that the Apple board deposed
     Steve Jobs, himself. Bankers
     are that way, as Bugsy found.
     But Steve converted some op-
     tions and, parbleu, regained
     the upper perch in the happy
     junglejim he and Wozniak put
     together as if it were a gar-
     age wine: from raw belief. I
     recall these highly ordinary
     corporate growing pains now,
     because I think we glimpse a
     devolution of the mantle, we
     can recognize.

     I'm a cardiovascular patient
     of the anxious years; I row
     very hard every day, because
     I live with a young dog whom
     I do not wish to fail. Under
     no circumstances, except for
     these, would I consider this
     new iThing, designated Apple
     Watch. An end to the iFetish
     may be too distant to celeb-
     rate; but the departure from
     voyeurism in this appliance,
     is not a bad idea.

     There must be many oddities
     of this vulgar kind to have
     captivated bankers, already.
     But I know that tribe of id-
     iots for having edited Orson
     Welles, and gotten away, in
     the bargain; I don't expect
     vision in that discipline,
     after the death of Andrew
     Mellon, which (difficult to
     believe as it is) must have
     taken place.

     Did you know, the watch has
     a knurled crown of familiar
     and neo-mechanical quality,
     even more sensitive to our
     experience than the origin-
     al iPod's dial, and hugely
     more decent than the dis-
     missive swipe screen of Ap-
     ple's laboratory rat toys?

     So I can rotate this witty
     thingamajig, as if it were
     the crown of an Oyster Per-
     petual, and it will know,
     I want information, not ex-
     hibition. I'll ignore any
     endearing entertainments, 
     it may thrust my way, much
     as I don't take my field
     glasses to an art gallery.
     No one will ever see me,
     wearing it. If it works,
     I'm in. And if the bankers
     want a smoothie to go gush-
     ing from its tap, tap into
     retained earnings. Give the
     shareholders something to
     double-down on.

     Come back to compassion, 
     Apple. Come back to true 
     assistance. Good start.

Wayne Thiebaud
oil on canvas