Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sportsmanlike conduct

    Are we able to adopt this ancient
    phrase where the structure of the
    game has evolved to penalize fair-
    ness? An idle world admired an up-
    set victory in basketball last e-
    vening as two distinctly sadistic
    practitioners of immeasurable cow-
    they'd been suspending from piano
    wires for months. Their names are

    In their gutter flows our Rubicon,
    a minor stream no one has located
    on a map, yet undoubtedly exists,
    Now they have turned upon this Re-
    public not by right but by force,

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"We need to see the pool from the casino"

There are days, in any pundit's
life, when he frets whether he's
committed himself to the wrong
avatar for his favorite figure
of satire. Our American Presid-
ent, long may he flap, cast him-
self so endearingly candidly in
the Primaries and the Final Heat
as a helplessly craven debauché
of age 15 at military school, we
dubbed him, Donny Thump-Thump, at
no foreseeable risk of revision.

To our chagrin, who on Earth had
foretold his appropriation of the
mantle of Benjamin Siegel, "Bugsy" 
to the social-climbing, in no more
than an hour upon touching down
in the desert to unfold his para-
dise? Undergraduate film societies
and willing slaves to portable de-
vices suddenly leapt to the screen-
play of James Toback, recovering
gambler himself, for Warren Beatty
and director Barry Levinson's im-
mortal Genesis epic, Bugsy (1990). 

As the great President - indeed,
the most great, the most massive -
proclaimed that his border wall on
the glittering casino of liberty
and justice for all must, must,
he flagellantly underscored, have
a window upon the talent pool be-
ing denied entry for lack of loot
or influence among friends, such 
as Nordic flesh, dance hall legs,
or steamer trunks of rubles to
rinse in his desolate condominia,
cinéastes of devout reverence for
precedent began to recall that
earlier desert boondoggle, the
Flamingo in Vegas. And what a
cash drain it was upon the Treas-
ury, as Benny continually fret-
ted the lack of grandeur in his
monument, the lack of requisite
enviability, to justify the name
of country.

The unsheltered must be surtaxed,
as night follows day, for a header
beam between the casino and the
imploring pool beyond, to mount
a sheath of glazing fit for awe
and wonder, beyond any splitting
bodice one could rip.

We forbear to recall how all that
worked out, as some volunteering
Second Amendment people rose to
virtue's own primordial summons
- wink-wink, lecherously aside -
to perfect Benjamin's martyrdom.
We'd be just as glad to laud the
pulp-bred exhortations of our sage
as adequate, for curdling's sake.

But maybe, as Virginia says, he's
just getting old.

Once upon a time in Pennsylvania

     We haven't launched a trade war
     against our partners in commerce
     to protect national security or
     to uphold fairness. We've done it
     for one district in Congress, and
     we'll back further away from it,
     in a matter of hours. We haven't
     barred a foreign merger in the
     microchip industry to safeguard
     our cybersecurity. We've done 
     it for applause on a visit today
     to San Diego, and we'll proclaim
     our safety by bedtime, tonight. 
     All the world's a frightening
     mirror to the narcissist in the
     White House, and every day's a
     clawing panic to be flattered. 

     Conor Lamb is on the ballot to-
     day in Pennsylvania, for grown-
     ups. Let's see if they're home.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Safer than Google, truer than the Yellow Pages

If fly fishing is not one's
exact thing yet, inevitably
it will be. It has in com-
mon with cricket or curling
a whiff of provincial eccen-
tricity, although it remains
still less arcane than the
Field Game at Eton or the
bedtime sports of the Amer-
ican President. The setting
is indeed wet, but without
risk of cholera.

By far the best primer in
fly fishing known to me is
so bracingly recondite as
to exceed the Wrykyn tales
of P.G. Wodehouse in scar-
city, and equal them in hi-
larious compensation. The
sense of a triumph of des-
tiny in the book's discov-
ery is bound to strike one
as worth the wait, to be
convulsed so benignly, giv-
en prevailing alternatives.

The book is not widely a-
vailable anymore, if it ev-
er was, which rather ful-
fills the hilarious prin-
ciple in its inspiration,
an advertising campaign
in Britain for what were
known as the Yellow Pages,
some time between Hearst's
campaign for war with Spain
and the Steele memorandum.

I suggest contacting the
London bookseller where I
found my copy. She may be
able to direct one to a
bad book, but she'll warn
one not to go there. What
makes these stories so
delicious is precisely
the joy they instill, of
being in a true place.
For all their high and
low humor, they embody
a humane genius for ob- 
servant travels in the
inexhaustible island.

Michael Russell
All the Way to
  the Bank
  Fly Fishing
  by J.R. Hartley
  J.R. Hartley
  Casts Again
Patrick Benson
Michael Russell, Ltd., 2015©

Cole Sprouse

Friday, March 9, 2018

Pieces for dwelling

Alan Bennett kept for some years with
Rupert Thomas a house in rural France,
L'Espiessac, which he has extraordin-
arily captured in small prose entries
in his recently published diaries. In
present days of inundation by grandi-
osity from Washington - yesterday's
carnival of trade warmongering with
friends and Napoleonic terror teas-
ing with North Korea being only typ-
ical - I think of Bennett's uncanny
gift for designing whole shelters of
lucidity of the lightest yet lasting
weight. These domiciles are designed
by what's in them, not pretended, and
recur continuously in texts one could
willingly read again, at least in the
life of the humane imagination, whose
home is observation and whose mode 
is self-discipline. This places him
outside of the flaneur's tradition,
exemplified in Baudelaire, where one
may find stimulation, if no peace.

            8 August 2006. The garden and the countryside
            already shaggy and unkempt, August the middle
            age of the land, shambling, pot-bellied and in
            need of a haircut. Some of the sounds escape
            me now (though I did manage to hear a cricket
            last night). Now sitting at the open window
            with Rupert still asleep there is just one pi-
            geon, hitting the same note again and again
            like a piano tuner.

Alan Bennett
Keeping On
  Keeping On

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Origins of Wednesday lxv: Acting

I have always liked music,
but I grew to like opera
in my 30s because it told
me a story, and I could
hear dialogue as conver-
sation explained on par-
allel tracks. Except in
Mozart, naturally, where
da Ponte's libretti were
no more than narratives
one no longer needs.

I watched Ang Lee's mov-
ie on the Annie Proulx
story, Brokeback Mountain,
for the first time since
the daytime screening I
saw of it more than ten
years ago. Now, I think
Heath Ledger's portrayal
of Ennis del Mar, widely
praised back then, holds
up honorably well. Ledger
is gone, our Jacks and
our Ennises are gone; but
he put something on the
screen for the generations
to see themselves by. In
the meantime, we all have
Jack's shirt on its hook.
Long after it held there
for anguish, it persists
in place, to warm his kind.

Willy Vanderperre
Clément Chabernaud