Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Self-esteem run amok

I like the closing line from this article on the secretary at Goldman Sachs in London who embezzled $7 million from her bosses.
As investigators connected Ms. De-Laurey to the missing funds, they discovered that she had also stolen almost $2 million from her a previous Goldman boss, Ron Beller, and his wife, Jennifer Moses, who also worked at the firm. Ms. De-Laurey claimed Mr. Beller had given her the money "as a reward for me being me."

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Ripped from the headlines - Revolutionary Communist edition

So this morning on the 6 train the guy next to me was reading Mao Tsetung's Immortal Contributions, by one Bob Avakian. I googled the book up just now, and ran across this excerpt:
The Cultural Revolution was unprecedented, not only in general or in China, but in the history of socialism. It went against all the "norms" of what socialism was supposed to be, what a communist party is supposed to do, and so on.
Um, yeah, Bob; except most people tend to think that that was a bad thing.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Fitful symbolism on Court Street

I've fitfully been reading The Life You Save May Be Your Own, which is interesting, but somehow feels like a very long term paper by a bright sophomore, not like a real "grown up" biography. Anyway, walking down Court Street on Saturday, I was startled to see a shirtless, heavily tattooed man, whose back was fully covered by an image of Christ's face, complete with crown of thorns. Not quite the Pantocrator of "Parker's Back," but still striking.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Ripped from the headlines - Singapore edition

Belle Waring plays this game too.

Ripped from the headlines - belated 4/5 train edition

I'm torn as to which of the following two statements from Tuesday's New York Times is the more banal. (1) was the headline from a World Business story, and (2) a quote from the day's top Arts story.

1. Slovakia No Longer A Laggard in Automaking

2. "[I]n the land of the Tigris and Euphrates let it be recorded: Soldiers assigned to civilization's cradle will rock."

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

And to think that I saw it on Montague Street

Two banners celebrating former famous residents of the neighborhood: "Brooklyn Heights: home of Truman Capote" and "Brooklyn Heights: home of Henry Ward Beecher." Oh well. Something for everyone, I suppose.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Poetry Thursday

For Holy Thursday, a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins: "That Nature is a Heraclitean fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection."

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air -
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest's creases; in pool and rutpeel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed |dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fueled, | nature's bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selved spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is |, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Dept. of adjectives, continued

I did a double-take at this headline in the New York Times today:

"Plane Wreck of the Author of 'Prince' Is Discovered"

Huh? I thought. Machiavelli lived before airplanes existed. But no, the piece was about Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of the The Little Prince.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I do not like my adjective

In the midst of a completely annoying day at work, I was amused to read this missive from NPR's Scott Simon. His complaint: the author of an article on Bob Edwards called him (Scott Simon) "odious." Simon's lament: "I think the term 'odious' ought to be reserved for the likes of Slobodan Milosovic or Saddam Hussein -- not some guy who reads children's stories once a month on the radio." OK, fine, I wouldn't like being called "odious" either -- but I don't think I'd write a letter to the editor giving them a lesson on my personal hierarchy of pejorative adjectives.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Monday malaise

A pretty common complaint around here. A counter-quote: from Anne Lamott. Yes, I hated the "epiphany of the week" her Salon column devolved into, but this is pretty good.

You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you. You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Speaking of exhibitions...

This is so, so cool. (Ignore the project statement and draw your own conclusions. Via a comment in Making Light.)

Time capsule

I decided to write about Gustaw Herling's wonderful Volcano and Miracle. To organize my thoughts, I googled up a website on Polish culture, and then was swept up in a stream of almost-forgotten references. Names of minor Polish poets came back to me, as did Milosz's History of Polish Literature (which I stole from the American Embassy, and now have hidden somewhere in shame). And then I thought of my much-loved CSW, with its quiet tensions between the "transgressive" exhibitions and the inherent dignity of the rooms, and the "post-modern cuisine"* at the Qchnia Artystyczna. (This site will tell you how to get there, with the note that "Buses in Warsaw are not very comfortable but they will take you wherever you want to go in a reasonable length of time." That sounds about right.)

Anyway, so you should read Herling's books, even if I'm losing steam here in my effort to describe them; for they are a far better meditation on memory and place (and great art, and politics) than what I can create. There's a sample of his writings here.

*No, this is not as pretentious as it sounds, and actually edible.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

"Good bad poetry" Thursday

Not only was George Orwell a connoisseur of good bad poetry, the man could write it himself. These verses, about the Spanish Civil War, keep ringing through my mind lately; perhaps because almost every act of terrorism brings the last two lines to mind.

The Italian soldier shook my hand
Beside the guard-room table;
The strong hand and the subtle hand
Whose palms are only able

To meet within the sound of guns,
But oh! what peace I knew then
In gazing on his battered face
Purer than any woman's?

For the flyblown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing what I had learned
Out of books and slowly.

The treacherous guns had told their tale
And we both had bought it;
But my gold brick was made of gold —
Oh! who ever would have thought it?

Good luck go with you, Italian soldier!
But luck is not for the brave;
What would the world give back to you?
Always less than you gave.

Between the shadow and the ghost,
Between the white and the red,
Between the bullet and the lie,
Where would you hide your head?

For where is Manuel Gonzales,
And where is Pedro Aguilar,
And where is Roman Fenellosa?
The earthworms know where they are.

Your name and your deeds were forgotten
Before your bones were dry,
And the lie that slew you is buried
Under a deeper lie,

But the thing that I saw in your face
No power can disinherit;
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.