So to start, here are some things I forgot to add from Albi. First, and most importantly, here I am flipping off Paul Gaugin’s works and, by extension, the “artist” himself.
Here’s a shot across the river there.
Here is a cool glass structure placed inexplicably atop an otherwise normal building.
On Friday we went award-winning winery Domaine Merchien. I took a picture of their wall of awards, but it came out fuzzy. Instead, here is the winery’s namesake leaning against my mother because it was 100 degrees out and, as you can see, he’s not really made for warm weather.
As part of our visit to the winery, the proprieters booked us into L’Auberge du Mas d’Aspech. We got lost and showed up 45 minutes late, but it didn’t seem to be a big deal. The food was wonderful. I’d say the highlight was this quiche which, as you know, is one of those things at which the French leave the rest of the world far behind.
Here I am feeling a bit smug after a wonderful meal.
I know, right? So what has been happening? Well, as mentioned elsewhere, it was my birthday recently and C and I travelled to San Francisco to celebrate it. While the most obvious addition to my life upon returning to the Northwest was an infected cat bite, there have also been some subtler changes.
Living in Portland and spending time with C, who is an inveterate cocktailer has dulled my palate for wine considerably. For a long time I was more or less okay with this (note that this is at least in part because said palate is still remarkably sophisticated), but after dinner at Absinthe, I’m reversing my course on this one. Cocktails are fine, but I am totally over drinking them with dinner. That shit is for savages.
We also spent a fair amount of time at SFMOMA one day, and The Palace of the Legion of Honor the next. Portland has a very nice art museum, of course, but it doesn’t have a lot of the high-modern stuff, the supremacy (Suprematy?) of which, unlike wine, is something C and I agree about vehemently. It’s nice that I always end up at SFMOMA with artists.
On the plane home I finally finished Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and returned to The Line of Beauty, which I had laid aside while ago, having not found myself particularly engaged. I think that something about the trip put me in the mood for the high Hollinghurst style, and I have been enjoying it immensely. Now that Amis has retired to xenophobic avuncularity, it may be the case that Hollinghurst is England’s best practicing author. Obviously that’s not the best novel of the second half of the century of the novel, but it’s not nothing either.
The upshot of all of this is that I think it’s time for me to return to snobbery. I am planning on going out less but bringing much more decadent things into the house. Time to get my damn culture back.
As noted elsewhere, I went to the beach for a while. It was lovely. C and I periodically discuss moving out to the coast when we’re older, and it’s definitely appealing. Portland sometimes seems like an unhappy medium to me between a dramatic urban environment like New York and a dramatic natural environment like you find along the Pacific here or in the ancestral homeland.
Unsurprisingly, my aspiration to get through The Past Regained in short order trailed off pretty dramatically. I have gotten to the crux of the biscuit (cookie/whatever) as discussed in “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” and it’s pretty cool. In another Proust/Benjamin connection that I hadn’t been aware of before, one section of reflection concludes “the task of the writer is the task of the translator.” He also mounts what is, as far as I know, history’s first attack on hipsters, wherein he bitches about people who listen to music primarily to gush about how much they love it in an attempt to appear sensitive and artistic.
I have been doing a lot of writing. Some of this has been your standard hand-on-forehead diary fare, but I’ve also been trying to do a better job of keeping my random thoughts in some kind of repository, mostly so I can see if any of their threads intersect or if I’m going through certain topics at an interval cycle that prevents new instances from building on old ones. I’d say that this latter project is too new to know if it’s effective, but it does seem as if it’s clearing internal clutter, which is always nice.
So I really did my level best to read all of Homo Sacer, but I found myself getting hung up on the Arendt citations, and the abuse of Foucault. I did a fairly good job of getting through the broad coverage at the beginning, and that’s the best part anyways. When we get to particulars, Agamben seems to forget the way power obfuscates the interior/exterior dichotomy, and we end up discussing the differences (!) between how life is politicized under fascism and whatever we’re calling the corporate democracy of The West (as such) these days.
Probably the most intriguing insight in Homo Sacer is the categorization of state violence as a lifting of the law, rather than the law being brought into force, and that this suspension is, in fact, originary to law. Unlike the structure suggested by the so-called “social contract” the sacrifice of individual liberty is part of a bargain that is essentially one-sided. Further, the conditions of the contract are malleable from the perspective of the authority, but not from the perspective of the subject, meaning that abiding by the law is no protection against it. Instead, an individual is compelled to act in such a way that their status under the law is preserved. Security states produce subjects who are always involved in a manic avowal of the status quo, as this is the condition of maintaining your protections.