chomolungma’s share

When I first read about Mallory and Irvine years ago — there was a plaque in a church to the latter, and I used to gaze at it as a child — I was fascinated and intrigued by the idea that two people could just vanish off the side of a mountain. The clouds came down, and when they disappeared, the climbers had disappeared too: a ghost story, really.

I’ve read enough about Everest since to get a sense of how unimagineably and breathtakingly vast it is: and now I think what strikes me, really, is that so little does actually vanish. Everything’s still there, of course; but the curious fact is that everything gets seen — it just doesn’t always get reported.

“wait long enough by the river…

… and the severed heads of your foes* will bob on by, biting hilarious and inadvisable chunks out of one another”

This is by no means a kind or a healthy post.

*Where “foes” means people who have vaguely and quite variously annoyed you sometime in the past

the age of intellectual mass repro

When the first film came out and I spotted you could collect little Lord of the Rings figurines at Burger King, I grinned: I imagined Tolkien’s vast rage at same, and the complex irony of his world-spanning success, in relation to his actual beliefs.

Then I started imagining the factories and warehouses full of these pale green and poorly fashioned figurines, and started feeling a bit ill myself: it’s not such a bad habit, when something mass cultural entertains you momentarily, to imagine how it would strike you en masse.

In my day-job I have to read — and deal with — the terms “appropriation” and “subversion”, maybe not exactly en masse, but far too bloody often. The people using these words (not just these words) mostly imagine they are observing stuff from a higher intellectual plane: on the whole they’re really really not.

the new modernism

small girl on bus: I love that building! It’s so cool!
somewhat distracted mum: I think it’s stupid — it’s so ugly! Where are all the windows?
sgob: It has lots of windows! There’s all the little ones up the side, and then the roof is all windows. [triumphantly] It’s a HOUSE OF WINDOWS!”

The she got busted for having really dirty hands, which she blamed on stroking the CAT too much (nice save!), because the cat now sleeps in the DUSTBIN (hmmmm).

“just” an “accident” mlud

The Ranter — who was there — makes the argument that the NHS demo’s encounter on Saturday with a carful of armed police was probably mischance, bad as it looked. Which may well be true, but, as this seriously terrifying comments thread reveals, the unintended can nevertheless easily become catastrophic.

(As the thread also reveals, weaving away from the thread-topic via the Olympics to the De Menezes shooting, the unplanned can sometimes be enormously valuable and clarifying. But this is not an excuse Sir Ian Blair can help himself to)

le beau sejour de commun jour

“But if you look long enough to understand it, to conceive its sentiment, you will find that these wanton lines have a spirit guiding their caprices. For there is style there; one temper has shaded the whole; and everything that has style, that has been done as no other man or age could have done it, as it could never, for all our trying, be done again, has its true value and interest.”
—Walter Pater, The Renaissance, Fontana Library, 2nd imp., 1964, pp.170-71

Pater knows and declares that the Pléiade were nostalgists rather than modernists; making not a people’s art, but the poetry and prose of and for a courtly few and a vanishing culture, “the losing side, the forlorn hope”… And yet they were the first to see modern (meaning 16th century) French as the language of subtler expression, at once flippant and melancholy, helping dethrone a millennium’s uncritical reverence for classical Greek or Latin as the only tongues of literature and scholarship and wisdom — and they also began gently to set out the argument for the here-and-now as the better time to treasure, rather than eternity to come: “their dejection at the thought of leaving this fair abode of our common day…”

As established realism in the early 16th century this last perhaps only had unimpeachable appeal to a privileged few, but as a call to arms, is life is short so seize the day — despite its counterintuitive and unpromising provenance here — ever in the end anything but a call to a radical democracy?