Battery

In New York on April 30, 1921, as the liner Aquitania sailed up the bay from quarantine, the tenor John McCormack, one of the most celebrated singers of the time, showed himself before the recording instruments of the media. The role he was performing approximated what his fellow Irishman William Butler Yeats was to call (in “Among School Children”) “a smiling public man.” A space of foggy air and wooden decking separated him from the battery of cameras.

32289uaiD

Then, though, the cameras moved in closer and the singer began to speak.

32292uaiF

The reporters took down his words. They turned out to be Irish words.

New_York_Tribune_Sun__May_1__1921B_
New York Tribune, 1 May 1921, page 12

Along with the celebrated singer, a celebrated newspaper publisher was on board the ship, and so was a celebrated Hollywood producer. We’re willing to believe they were because the story tells us so in indirect discourse. We don’t need the publisher’s or the producer’s actual words to bear witness. And as to the singer, in 1921 all the cameras had to be silent.

But perhaps we can see words forming on his face.

32292uaiG

Sources: George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014712442/ and http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014712445/. Post-processed to restore detail and contrast.

It will be interesting to teach Emerson again after two years away

In 2016, all I had to say to get the discussion started about “Self-Reliance” —

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think–

was “Ayn Rand.” This coming spring, in the Trumpera, the discussion seems all too likely to self-start out of an indignant and rejecting silence.

Still, yes:

Nature is the opposite of the soul, answering to it part for part. One is seal, and one is print. Its beauty is the beauty of his own mind. Its laws are the laws of his own mind. Nature then becomes to him the measure of his attainments. So much of nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess. And, in fine, the ancient precept, “Know thyself,” and the modern precept, “Study nature,” become at last one maxim.

It’s true, as you see. Nature doesn’t contemplate the possibility of an Ayn or a Donald. In her domain there is only law, reproducing its works by contemplating itself.

DSC_6078aiG

Sources: Emerson, “Self-Reliance” and “The American Scholar”

Pathos as a resource

Many Flickr accounts, mine included, are currently accumulating Likes from girls with lower-case composite names (“faithgoodman,” “kaylaromero”) and identically formatted Flickr pages: every one brand new and displaying nothing but four or five unrevealing pictures of the girl (or “girl”) herself (or “herself”). Moused over to become revealing, each picture obligingly displays a text invitation on the short affective gamut from coy (“I like to wear tight underwear”) to wistful (“Will you be my sex friend?”). And the pages link to sites in, no surprise, Russia.

It’s an extractive industry — an industry whose raw material is pathos.

Several pictures of flowers on my Tumblr page have recently been Liked by somebody with a pseudonym, an egg avatar, and a small collection of pictures of adults wearing diapers.

His raw pathetic nature is open to extraction. The industry will process him, then equip him in his processed state with a hat, a gun, and an identity: Trump voter.