So I’m about halfway through Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia, and have read Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Furthermore, I’ve played over 100 hours of Crusader Kings 2. From what I gather, this makes me more than qualified to be an expert on Middle East policy at a right-wing think tank. If anyone could get me in touch with my fellow experts at, e.g.: The Washington Institute for Near East policy, that would be great.
I have somehow ended up being the sort of person who is always doing all kinds of stuff. I’ve had a shocking dearth of evenings where I lay on my bed with my hand on my forehead and think about emptiness or whatever.
Here is a picture of C looking very maudlin, despite having some delicious pizza from Sizzle Pie.
Here are C and I goofing off with my camera’s lens cap.
If I look a bit like Rob Ford, it’s because I’d come back from class not so long before these were taken.
Here is C looking rawther dramatic.
Las weekend C and I decided riding the North Coast Scenic Railroad would be a fun day trip. We went to Girabaldi and discovered that our visit coincided with the town festival, Girabaldi Days. There was a little parade, but I didn’t get any pictures because we were at a little cafe eating turkey roasted on the premises. The train ride was charming. We were sad to have to come home, as we always are when we’ve been out at the coast.
So C and I went to see Only Lovers Left Alive. On the positive side, between this, Grand Budapest Hotel, and Jodorowsky’s Dune, this has been a pretty remarkable year in terms of new movies that I don’t despise. On the negative, Lovers and Budapest share a sort of tragically detached feel that makes it seem as if the impulse of the auteur these days is to basically tell people that it’s all basically ending. The only optimists left live and crazy old men like Jodo. Hopefully we can learn something from them before they shuffle off this mortal coil.
Phew, running behind here.
So after the whole key thing was resolved I did the obvious thing, and took in some modern art at the Centre Pompidou. You know a place is classy when its bathroom graffiti requires a passing familiarity with art history to enjoy.
This painting, from 1928, predicts 99% of all video game level design. Time to get a new paradigm, fellas.
If you know me, you may be aware that my dream has hitherto to been to live in a concrete cube atop a single column. This is no longer the case. I now want to live in a house based on this architectural maquette. I’m not sure about what would be under it. Maybe a deck supported by a single column.
On Saturday I went to the Marche aux Puces in Saint Ouen. Despite not really being a shopping person, I really like being up there. I think I find it funky like a French village while simultaneously being very much in Paris. Unfortunately, I had a really shocking disappointment when I went to cafe that I had really enjoyed when I’d been there with C and was served a quiche that had clearly come out of the fucking microwave. Not on, French people, not on.
In the afternoon I finally found Buttes Chaumont, which, as mentioned previously, shouldn’t have required two days of effort. Once there, I was rewarded with a pretty great over-the-top folly, and a very nice greenspace generally.
As always, however, don’t think too much about that water. Good enough for ducks, and that’s about it.
So it’s 4ish on my first day galavanting around Paris. I’ve been back since 2, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do later. I should almost certainly propel myself out into things again, but it is awfully nice just sort of lounging around here.
I woke up around 6, which is a little better than I was doing in the south and went out for delicious pastries. So fortified, I walked along the Seine to the Paris Museum of Modern Art, where I experienced the sublime.
Strong showing, right?
On Sunday, C and I went to the Portland Art Museum to see (amongst other things) Three Studies of Lucian Freud. It’s very nice, although obviously it suffers somewhat by the inevitable comparison to its subject.
Later in the evening I read Freud’s Wikipedia article, which is really quite remarkable. I had, heretofore, imagined Freud having a more philosophical approach to the beauty of apparently-hideous reality, so I have actually sort of been wrestling with this new information a bit. Not at all what I got from the work itself.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but Oui Presse on Hawthorne is my current favorite coffee and languishing spot. They also make really sublime cookies and coffee cake.
The latter is, sadly, less photogenic than the former.
A now-inevitable evening sky. These have just been so great.
So I watched The China Syndrome last night. It was. . . not particularly good, but like every movie that I watch, it highlighted how lousy movies coming out these days tend to be. It was marvelous, for example, to not have every single dramatic line delivered in front of a screeching orchestral score. I mean, I like musical melodrama as much as the next guy, but if something important is happening, maybe the audience can pick it up from context.
A picture of my dream house:
So in the NYT today, Mayor Mike endorses Barrack Obama in a way that shows him to be a self-aggrandizing jerk who, despite some relatively sensible ideas, doesn’t really have much good to contribute to the political tone of this country.
For starters, look at his complaint about Obama failing to find a non-ideological coalition aimed at resolving Mayor Mike’s (quite reasonable, to be honest) pet issues. Look at that list of issues. Those are not issues that will be resolved by forming a non-ideological coalition. Those are issues about which Republicans love to freak the fuck out. Despite the fact that there has been no gun-control legislation of any kind introduced during his term, the Republican punditry has gone crazy with accusations that he’s about to come for you guns at any second. For Mayor Mike to complain about this issue on a national level with any frame other than dismantling the insane discourse of the Republican Party, then he’s being deeply disingenuous.
Naturally (har), the same thing is true regarding the key issue of the endorsement: the threat of climate change. The Republican record on climate change is utterly non-ambiguous. Commentators have moved to the meta “it has been proved to be a hoax” mode of argumentation, divorcing themselves completely from any sort of engagement with facts or information. Again, the idea that someone should be looking for a bipartisan solution to a problem whose existence is denied by a whole swath of people involved in legislation shows an unwillingness to address where the problem really lies.
In short, in Mike wants progress on the things that he purports to be most concerned about, he should be working on changing the fact that the Republican Party in America 1) has been overrun by its most maniacal elements and 2) completely controls our public discourse. Without changing those facts, gun control and legislation that acknowledges the realities of climate change simply aren’t possible.
In times as desperate as these, I’m reluctant to dabble in their-all-the-same-ism, or otherwise make the perfect the enemy of the good, but the fact is the phantasmal centrism that gets cast about these days is deeply destructive, and has as its object the elimination from the popular political imagination of a real spectrum of ideologies.
So Seven Pillars of Wisdom continues to be very good. I think that I’m finding the character of the melodrama kind of illustrative. It’s interesting to contrast it to America’s current adventurism, provided you already feel like things are fucked, so a little additional grim is neither here nor there.
Also, enjoy this somewhat unconventional take on the difference between the French and the British.
Even in situations of poetry the French remained incorrigible prose-writers, seeing by the directly-thrown light of reason and understanding, not through the half-closed eye, mystily, by things’ essential radiance, in the manner of the imaginative British: so the two races worked ill together on a great undertaking.
So one good thing did come of Prometheus: I started Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I suppose a century is a long time, but even so the changes in the state of the world since it was written are pretty dizzying. So far I am enjoying the purple-ness. We’ll see if I end up getting tired of it. I suppose the events are sufficiently dramatic to absorb a lot of that.
Last weekend I went to SF to dork the fuck out and play Dungeons and Dragons. It was pretty great. It was Pride Weekend, so bus service was worse than usual. If you know anything about SF, then you know that’s a tall order. I guess this is the price of progress, or something.