AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

12 December 2019

Epistemological.


The segment itself is strikingly straightforward. Like each of the other 104 skills, it takes place in a Spartan studio. This was no faux Connecticut kitchen, with pothos plants and chicken-shaped pottery in the background. “This was a reference work,” explains Stein, “so I wanted the set to be spare, clean, and abstract.” A few standing set pieces, sort of flattened columns, occupy the background. They are silk-screened with illustrations of kitchen ephemera (a clove of garlic, a knife, a rolling pin) that the set designer, Ron Haake, had modeled after Pépin’s own illustrations. There is no fancy camera work, just the three cameras rolling simultaneously, shooting to videotape, with few cuts—and the few that occur are purely functional. It’s almost Russian Ark–ian, avant-garde without trying to be.

“It was mostly continuous,” says Salter, “a lesson in its entirety.” Pépin’s language, though fluent, is plain, bordering on folksy. I counted only one simile, no metaphors, and a remarkable dearth of adjectives. It was all improvised, Pépin tells me. (“No, are you kidding?” he says when I ask. “There was never a script.”) And yet it’s a thing of flawless beauty to watch him narrate turning four eggs into two omelets.

And at the end, when he slices open the classic omelet to reveal quivering curds—“curd” in his accent, always singular—and a nice jazz piano riff comes in (the work of a local Bay Area pianist named Mike Greensill), one is moved in a way omelets rarely can. One is emotional. Why? Because as it turns out, Jacques Pépin isn’t teaching us how to make an omelet. He is giving us a lesson in epistemological certainty. This is what it is to know something so profoundly that the knowledge flows from you effortlessly, like water.

CONNECT

And begin ...

Happy Birthday, Sinatra


Francis Albert Sinatra was born on this date in 1915.

"One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" ...

09 December 2019

Stop.

Led Zeppelin, "Tangerine"

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Virtuous.


Do you think, because you are virtuous, that there shall be no more cakes and ale?

William Shakespeare, Othello, Act 2, Scene 3 

Strength.

Ho!


Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by.

J.R.R.Tolkien

Again.

Technique.


Technique is the proof of your seriousness.

Wallace Stevens

Excellent.

An excellent book ...


BACON FAT MAYONNAISE

Ingredients
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 7 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups rendered bacon fat
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper to taste
Directions

  1. Put the egg yolks, mustard, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the into a blender or mixing bowl. Beat on high for 2 minutes, until well blended.
  2. Add the bacon fat (no need to add gradually if everything is properly chilled), continuing to beat until the mixture is thick. Depending on how thick and rich you like your mayonnaise you may or may not need the entire amount of fat.
  3. Slowly blend in the remaining lemon juice, sea salt and pepper, whipping it pretty much continuously throughout. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
The mayonnaise keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Escape.

Door.

Eagles, "Earlybird"

Bernie Leadon, banjo ...

08 December 2019

Inverted.

Premiered.


Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 premiered on this date in 1813.

Lepnard Berstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic ...

 

Vivaldi, Gloria, RV 589

Sara Mingardo performs with Concerto Italiano, directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini ...

Alive.

Reni, St, Cecilia, 1608


Music will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

07 December 2019

All.


UP-HILL

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
   Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
   From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
   You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
   Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
   They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
   Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
   Yea, beds for all who come.

Christina Rossetti

Into.

Alleaume, Beethoven Listening to a Muse, 1928



Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Shooter Jennings, "Some Rowdy Women"

I'd gladly trade all my big city livin'
For some rowdy women and a honky tonk tonight ...

Tree.


Away into the winter prospect. There are many such upon the tree! On, by low-lying, misty grounds, through fens and fogs, up long hills, winding dark as caverns between thick plantations, almost shutting out the sparkling stars; so, out on broad heights, until we stop at last, with sudden silence, at an avenue. The gate-bell has a deep, half-awful sound in the frosty air; the gate swings open on its hinges; and, as we drive up to a great house, the glancing lights grow larger in the windows, and the opposing rows of trees seem to fall solemnly back on either side, to give us place. At intervals, all day, a frightened hare has shot across this whitened turf; or the distant clatter of a herd of deer trampling the hard frost, has, for the minute, crushed the silence too. Their watchful eyes beneath the fern may be shining now, if we could see them, like the icy dewdrops on the leaves; but they are still, and all is still. And so, the lights growing larger, and the trees falling back before us, and closing up again behind us, as if to forbid retreat, we come to the house.

There is probably a smell of roasted chestnuts and other good comfortable things all the time, for we are telling Winter Stories-- Ghost Stories, or more shame for us--round the Christmas fire; and we have never stirred, except to draw a little nearer to it. But, no matter for that. We came to the house, and it is an old house, full of great chimneys where wood is burnt on ancient dogs upon the hearth, and grim portraits (some of them with grim legends, too) lower distrustfully from the oaken panels of the walls. We are a middle-aged nobleman, and we make a generous supper with our host and hostess and their guests--it being Christmas-time, and the old house full of company--and then we go to bed. Our room is a very old room. It is hung with tapestry. We don't like the portrait of a cavalier in green, over the fireplace. There are great black beams in the ceiling, and there is a great black bedstead, supported at the foot by two great black figures, who seem to have come off a couple of tombs in the old baronial church in the park, for our particular accommodation. But, we are not a superstitious nobleman, and we don't mind. Well! we dismiss our servant, lock the door, and sit before the fire in our dressing-gown, musing about a great many things. At length we go to bed. Well! we can't sleep. We toss and tumble, and can't sleep. The embers on the hearth burn fitfully and make the room look ghostly. We can't help peeping out over the counterpane, at the two black figures and the cavalier--that wicked- looking cavalier--in green. In the flickering light they seem to advance and retire: which, though we are not by any means a superstitious nobleman, is not agreeable. Well! we get nervous-- more and more nervous. We say "This is very foolish, but we can't stand this; we'll pretend to be ill, and knock up somebody." Well! we are just going to do it, when the locked door opens, and there comes in a young woman, deadly pale, and with long fair hair, who glides to the fire, and sits down in the chair we have left there, wringing her hands. Then, we notice that her clothes are wet. Our tongue cleaves to the roof of our mouth, and we can't speak; but, we observe her accurately. Her clothes are wet; her long hair is dabbled with moist mud; she is dressed in the fashion of two hundred years ago; and she has at her girdle a bunch of rusty keys. Well! there she sits, and we can't even faint, we are in such a state about it. Presently she gets up, and tries all the locks in the room with the rusty keys, which won't fit one of them; then, she fixes her eyes on the portrait of the cavalier in green, and says, in a low, terrible voice, "The stags know it!" After that, she wrings her hands again, passes the bedside, and goes out at the door. We hurry on our dressing-gown, seize our pistols (we always travel with pistols), and are following, when we find the door locked. We turn the key, look out into the dark gallery; no one there. We wander away, and try to find our servant. Can't be done. We pace the gallery till daybreak; then return to our deserted room, fall asleep, and are awakened by our servant (nothing ever haunts him) and the shining sun. Well! we make a wretched breakfast, and all the company say we look queer. After breakfast, we go over the house with our host, and then we take him to the portrait of the cavalier in green, and then it all comes out. He was false to a young housekeeper once attached to that family, and famous for her beauty, who drowned herself in a pond, and whose body was discovered, after a long time, because the stags refused to drink of the water. Since which, it has been whispered that she traverses the house at midnight (but goes especially to that room where the cavalier in green was wont to sleep), trying the old locks with the rusty keys. Well! we tell our host of what we have seen, and a shade comes over his features, and he begs it may be hushed up; and so it is. But, it's all true; and we said so, before we died (we are dead now) to many responsible people.

There is no end to the old houses, with resounding galleries, and dismal state-bedchambers, and haunted wings shut up for many years, through which we may ramble, with an agreeable creeping up our back, and encounter any number of ghosts, but (it is worthy of remark perhaps) reducible to a very few general types and classes; for, ghosts have little originality, and "walk" in a beaten track. Thus, it comes to pass, that a certain room in a certain old hall, where a certain bad lord, baronet, knight, or gentleman, shot himself, has certain planks in the floor from which the blood WILL NOT be taken out. You may scrape and scrape, as the present owner has done, or plane and plane, as his father did, or scrub and scrub, as his grandfather did, or burn and burn with strong acids, as his great- grandfather did, but, there the blood will still be--no redder and no paler--no more and no less--always just the same. Thus, in such another house there is a haunted door, that never will keep open; or another door that never will keep shut, or a haunted sound of a spinning-wheel, or a hammer, or a footstep, or a cry, or a sigh, or a horse's tramp, or the rattling of a chain. Or else, there is a turret-clock, which, at the midnight hour, strikes thirteen when the head of the family is going to die; or a shadowy, immovable black carriage which at such a time is always seen by somebody, waiting near the great gates in the stable-yard. Or thus, it came to pass how Lady Mary went to pay a visit at a large wild house in the Scottish Highlands, and, being fatigued with her long journey, retired to bed early, and innocently said, next morning, at the breakfast-table, "How odd, to have so late a party last night, in this remote place, and not to tell me of it, before I went to bed!" Then, every one asked Lady Mary what she meant? Then, Lady Mary replied, "Why, all night long, the carriages were driving round and round the terrace, underneath my window!" Then, the owner of the house turned pale, and so did his Lady, and Charles Macdoodle of Macdoodle signed to Lady Mary to say no more, and every one was silent. After breakfast, Charles Macdoodle told Lady Mary that it was a tradition in the family that those rumbling carriages on the terrace betokened death. And so it proved, for, two months afterwards, the Lady of the mansion died. And Lady Mary, who was a Maid of Honour at Court, often told this story to the old Queen Charlotte; by this token that the old King always said, "Eh, eh? What, what? Ghosts, ghosts? No such thing, no such thing!" And never left off saying so, until he went to bed.

Charles Dickens, from "A Christmas Tree"

CONNECT

Treehouse.

Those.


CHRISTMAS TREES

(A Christmas Circular Letter)

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

                                                     “You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

Robert Frost

Beethoven, Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra performs, lead by Iván Fischer ...

Again.


When I am tired, my way of reading returns, across three score years and some, to the pleasure of reading like a child again.  When I was a child, each time I fell in love with a poem, I read it again and again until I had it by heart.  Then I would go off by myself, whether indoor or outdoor, in order to have the pleasure of chanting it endlessly to myself.  I have seen children do that still.

Harold Bloom

Teacher.


These days, whenever I read, teach, or write, I am haunted by friends who educated me: Richard Rorty, Angus Fletcher, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man, John Hollander. I was very close to the poets A. R. Ammons, John Ashbery, William Merwin, and in quite a different way to James Merrill. They seem to be in the room with me. They also appear in my dreams. I have never written a poem. My only gift, as I understand it, is to have learned to listen: to students and to ghosts ...

If I have a potent precursor, it would have to be Dr. Samuel Johnson. I am a good schoolteacher: he is beyond me and beyond disruption. Had I followed family tradition, I would have become a rabbi. Instead, I am a secular rabbi like those celebrated by Wallace Stevens. I teach Shakespeare as scripture. When I teach Poetic Influence, in some ways I vanish, and in some modes I am exalted ...

I receive endless emails, straight mails, phone calls, and visits from good readers throughout the world who have been kind enough to want to tell me that I have been their teacher. There is a saving remnant. Young women and men the world over read and hear the call of wisdom and the urgency of intelligence. I am pretty much a relic, yet I believe the future — if there is one — will depend upon deep readers all over the globe. Without reading Dante, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Cervantes, and their few peers, we cannot learn how to think. And if we cannot think, then the future belongs to the Trumps of the world — that is to say, to the apocalyptic beasts from the sea.

Harold Bloom, interviewed by the Los Angeles Review of Books in 2019

Value.


Pragmatically, aesthetic value can be recognized or experienced, but it cannot be conveyed to those who are incapable of grasping its sensations and perceptions. To quarrel on its behalf is always a blunder.

Harold Bloom

Pursue.

Ingpen, The Dream Keeper, 2006


The WHITE ISLAND, or PLACE of the BLEST

In this world, the isle of dreams,
      While we sit by sorrow’s streams,
      Tears and terrors are our themes
                     Reciting:

      But when once from hence we fly,
      More and more approaching nigh
             Unto young eternity,
                     Uniting:

       In that whiter island, where
       Things are evermore sincere;
       Candor here and luster there
                   Delighting:

    There no monstrous fancies shall
       Out of hell an horror call,
       To create, or cause at all,
                  Affrighting.

    There, in calm and cooling sleep
      We our eyes shall never steep,
       But eternal watch shall keep,
                   Attending

    Pleasures, such as shall pursue
         Me immortalized, and you;
        And fresh joys, as never too
                  Have ending.

Robert Herrick

Musk.


Roast Dexter, Chanterelles and Bone Marrow. Deeply pink, tender and melting. Rich and nourishing with late Autumn musk.

Always.


However much you feed a wolf, it always looks to the forest.

Marina Tsvetaeva

Felicity.


A man might then beholdAt Christmas, in each hallGood fires to curb the cold,And meat for great and small.The neighbours were friendly bidden,And all had welcome true,The poor from the gates were not chidden,When this old cap was new. 
Old Song
There is nothing in England that exercises a more delightful spell over my imagination than the lingerings of the holiday customs and rural games of former times. They recall the pictures my fancy used to draw in the May morning of life, when as yet I only knew the world through books, and believed it to be all that poets had painted it; and they bring with them the flavour of those honest days of yore, in which, perhaps with equal fallacy, I am apt to think the world was more home-bred, social, and joyous than at present. I regret to say that they are daily growing more and more faint, being gradually worn away by time, but still more obliterated by modern fashion. They resemble those picturesque morsels of Gothic architecture which we see crumbling in various parts of the country, partly dilapidated by the waste of ages, and partly lost in the additions and alterations of latter days. Poetry, however, clings with cherishing fondness about the rural game and holiday revel, from which it has derived so many of its themes,--as the ivy winds its rich foliage about the Gothic arch and mouldering tower, gratefully repaying their support by clasping together their tottering remains, and, as it were, embalming them in verdure.

Of all the old festivals, however, that of Christmas awakens the strongest and most heartfelt associations. There is a tone of solemn and sacred feeling that blends with our conviviality, and lifts the spirit to a state of hallowed and elevated enjoyment. The services of the church about this season are extremely tender and inspiring. They dwell on the beautiful story of the origin of our faith, and the pastoral scenes that accompanied its announcement. They gradually increase in fervour and pathos during the season of Advent, until they break forth in full jubilee on the morning that brought peace and good-will to men. I do not know a grander effect of music on the moral feelings than to hear the full choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a cathedral, and filling every part of the vast pile with triumphant harmony.

It is a beautiful arrangement, also derived from days of yore, that this festival, which commemorates the announcement of the religion of peace and love, has been made the season for gathering together of family connections, and drawing closer again those bands of kindred hearts which the cares and pleasures and sorrows of the world are continually operating to cast loose; of calling back the children of a family who have launched forth in life, and wandered widely asunder, once more to assemble about the paternal hearth, that rallying-place of the affections, there to grow young and loving again among the endearing mementoes of childhood.

There is something in the very season of the year that gives a charm to the festivity of Christmas. At other times we derive a great portion of our pleasures from the mere beauties of nature. Our feelings sally forth and dissipate themselves over the sunny landscape, and we "live abroad and everywhere." The song of the bird, the murmur of the stream, the breathing fragrance of spring, the soft voluptuousness of summer, the golden pomp of autumn; earth with its mantle of refreshing green, and heaven with its deep delicious blue and its cloudy magnificence, all fill us with mute but exquisite delight, and we revel in the luxury of mere sensation. But in the depth of winter, when nature lies despoiled of every charm, and wrapped in her shroud of sheeted snow, we turn for our gratifications to moral sources. The dreariness and desolation of the landscape, the short gloomy days and darksome nights, while they circumscribe our wanderings, shut in our feelings also from rambling abroad, and make us more keenly disposed for the pleasures of the social circle. Our thoughts are more concentrated; our friendly sympathies more aroused. we feel more sensibly the charm of each other's society, and are brought more closely together by dependence on each other for enjoyment. Heart calleth unto heart; and we draw our pleasures from the deep wells of living kindness, which lie in the quiet recesses of our bosoms: and which when resorted to, furnish forth the pure element of domestic felicity.

Washington Irving, from "Christmas"

CONNECT

All.

Kings College, Cambridge, "The Holly and The Ivy"

Sacred.

Dalí, Fleurs, 1948


Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.

Salvador Dalí

Value.


The drama surrounding the damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Europe’s most visited monument, continues to build as the French government debates the fate of the cathedral’s befallen spire. The National Assembly’s cultural commission was convening last week to discuss the renovation when General Jean-Louis Georgelin, appointed to spearhead the project by French President Emmanuel Macron, suggested chief architect Philippe Villeneuve should “just shut his big mouth.” 

The animosity is due to disagreement over the direction of the $1 billion restoration project. The devastating fire in April, whose cause is still under investigation, completely destroyed the mid-19th-century timber-and-lead spire and the majority of the medieval wooden roof, and President Macron announced an international design competition for a contemporary replacement soon after. Despite the passage of a bill in May ruling that the Notre Dame restoration must maintain the original design, the fate of its spire still appears up in the air. Chief architect Villeneuve, meanwhile, has made his opposition to anything short of an identical reconstruction clear. “I will restore it identically and it will be me, or they will build a modern spire and it won’t be me,” said Villeneuve in an interview with the French radio station RTL last month. He invoked the 1964 Venice Charter, which requires restorations of historic buildings to retain their original architectural and historic value. 

CONNECT

Happy Birthday, Bernini

Bernini, David (detail), 1624


Gian Lorenzo Bernini was born on this date in 1598.

"Bernini," from Simon Schama's Power of Art ...

Resolve.

06 December 2019

Del McCoury Band, "My Love Will Not Change"

D-wight Lightnin', "Silver Bells"

WOO-HOO!

HAPPY FRIDAY and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Upgrades.

“And what do you get from serving humans that you do not get from running free?” sneered the wolf.
“Free food, unconditional love and tactical upgrades,” replied the herding dog.

Kazuaki Tanahashi: The Brush Mind

Kazuaki Tanahashi, born in Japan in 1933 and active in the United States since 1977, is an artist, writer, and peace and environmental worker. As a painter and calligrapher, he has been pioneering the genres of one-stroke painting, multi solo exhibitions of his brushwork worldwide and has taught numerous workshops, including at seven international calligraphy conferences. As a writer, editor, and translator, he has produced over forty books in English and Japanese.

CONNECT

05 December 2019

The Kinks, "Father Christmas"

The lamp is lit ...

Marvelous.


The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God. Music is a gift and the grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity, and other devices.

A person who does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.

Martin Luther

Adjust.


Acquire worldly wisdom and adjust your behavior accordingly. We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.  If your new behavior gives you a little temporary unpopularity with your peer group, then to hell with them.

Charlie Munger

Thanks, Kurt.

Mozart, Requiem in D minor, K. 626

Karl Böhm leads the Vienna Philharmonic ...