Remorseless

A tiny moth was fluttering at the curtain. George leaped up from my bed, curved through the air, swallowed the moth in a single muscular ensemble, continued ascending for a moment, clawed himself, swinging, onto the curtain, and then jumped back down. He landed on my head, leaving my scalp gashed in two curving lines.

A few hours later, the rising sun revealed him to be remorseless.

There was nothing I could do except to make a record of the occurrence and then go pessimistic about its effect. Art tells everyone who tries to look into it, “Remember me all you want, but I won’t remember.” Then it adds: “Even if I were not a picture but a poem made of words appearing to speak, I wouldn’t speak. Unlike you who copied me down, I am gone from your memory. I am elsewhere in time now, and the chasm that opened between me and you at the moth-moment can never be bridged. Forever after, anyone who looks at me will become a casualty of the void. Art’s double function is first to fill the void with false memory and then to reforge that fiction into a tool for outliving with.”

A steamroller, a cat, five judgments, and Miss Moore

1.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1923_Aveling_%26_Porter_E_Type_Stream_Roller.jpg

2, as posted yesterday.

3. About (2),

— Yong Ju writes, “Cute!”

— Jane writes, “Amazing eyes!”

— Cora writes, “Darling!”

— Susan writes, “Hooray for kittens!!!”

— Fran writes, “Scary . .”

 

4. Within duly qualifying quotation marks, Miss Moore tentatively concludes in her “To a Steam Roller” that

Therefore (5),

 

Airship with airboat

If they’re to continue bearing our consciousness through the restlessly changing universe, the forms of our knowledge will also have to change. The men of this image, for example, are enclosed in a form shaped for the knowledge of earth and water. Soon, but not yet, it will be reshaped for the knowledge of air.

But not yet because the men don’t yet have a new name for their old form. They are still bound to earth and water by the old name, and they haven’t realized yet that the form’s impending ascent into air has left the name’s primary referent behind and reduced what is left to metaphor.

The name is Gondola. On earth, Gondola signifies transit through narrow waterways in a city delimited by history and language. But when this gondola ascends through limit-disdaining air, the men it bears within will learn that it needs a new name. With that revelation, the renamed form will be changed. It will no longer be made of boat-wood and boat-rope and sailcloth, and so it will no longer have to be thought of as boat-shaped. The men in the image can’t yet speak the new form’s new name. They are still under tuition in the Venetian dialect of the old form, a dialect that includes the term gondola. But between the student Venetians and us an educational caption at the image’s front plane promises that the new name will, in time, be taught. If the men there on the other side of the caption won’t have time to learn it, at least we on our side have already been taught that it will be learned.

For now, too, the caption teaches us something we can say in our own language about the language of the men in their gondola. It has to do with the limited time available for them to learn in, it’s in history’s own aesthetic form, and in that form it repeats once more history’s own unchangingly fascinating witticism: Little do they know.

 

Source: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Ausbildung von Zeppelin-Mannschaften an dem Schulschiff Hansa.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-024d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99. Photoshopped. The caption translates as, “Training of zeppelin crews on the school ship Hansa.” Hansa’s period of service as a trainer (Wikipedia, “LZ 13 Hansa”) dates this photograph between early 1915 and August 1916.

With many thanks to the New York Public Library for its newly released collection of restriction-free digital images.

 

Theory of laundry: to judge a book by its cover

The book is a ten-page pamphlet by the chief prosecutor of the conspirators in the murder of Abraham Lincoln. The prosecutor, Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, had attempted to prove that President Davis of the Confederacy was aware of the conspiracy, and Davis’s sympathizers responded by attacking him in print. In print, he replied:

Printed in 1866, the paper has gone brown with age. The florid rhetoric looks old as well. Since at least the era of Hemingway, our taste in prose about moral conflict has trended monochrome.

But there were also monochrome effects in 1866. Before, during, and after the black-and-white absolutes of the Civil War, Washington was a Southern town where white was what gentlemen wore in the summer. In the presence of white, both time and the conflict seemed to halt at the wardrobe door. Fashion sometimes looks like a parallel morality, and as of the second half of the nineteenth century one of its commands began, in a body language which seemed to transcend the mortal changeableness of the body: “Thou shalt wear . . .”

Experiment with the command yourself. Think of this photograph of Judge Holt by Mathew Brady’s studio as a frontispiece to the pamphlet. Then ask: after I’ve seen this image of an author’s body in absolute white, will I have any desire to turn the page and read his words’ transient brown? Won’t I lose as much as I gain when I leave the white behind, back there at the innocent beginning where faces are fortunes, books are judged by their covers, and to appear seems to be?

Sources: Holt’s Vindication is online at Archive.org, https://ia600302.us.archive.org/21/items/vindicationofju3693holt/vindicationofju3693holt.pdf.

The photograph of Judge Holt is in the Brady-Handy Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/brhc/item/brh2003001193/PP/. I have photoshopped it.

Role model: art teaches us the way to live

This video

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/feb/24/ukraine-president-viktor-yanukovych-palace-video

shows a first look inside one of the palaces of President Yanukovych of Ukraine. There are no subtitles for the Ukrainian voiceover, but you will recognize the word Голлівуд.

*

“But,” inquired John curiously, “who did plan all your wonderful reception rooms and halls, and approaches and bathrooms — ?”

“Well,” answered Percy, “I blush to tell you, but it was a moving-picture fella. He was the only man we found who was used to playing with an unlimited amount of money, though he did tuck his napkin in his collar and couldn’t read or write.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”