You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
March 8, 2007
· On Aging — De Facto and De Jure Style ·
So I have thought to trade up some today. Happily, my chance comes on my son Suave's birthday, his thirtieth. You may remember Suave from Standing Firm on Ceremony and A Lonerganian Précis — when he married Dr. Saavy — and from Valentine's Day Music and Space and Transcendence in Bach's Fantasia in G — when he was more musical. Nowadays Suave is a law student.
I'm the one aging now, and he wisely explaining — and agreeably so.
What I've in mind is Suave's LSAT essay, which I found last week on my desk. What luck, I thought — ready to reach for a bottle of Geritol, I have found much better "literary medicine." Though I've read thousands of such essays (but only at the pre-freshman level), to find one at the graduate level is welcome relief indeed.
Here's what Suave faced in a key moment of his twenty-somethingness. What do you think you'd write in reply?
Clear relief, acceptance, understanding, bald wit, and even stylish insight. Agreed?
So, to all you freshmen, Back to the Future!*Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
December 21, 2006
· Aesthetically-Styled Christmas Prose — Re: Introductions ·
I thought to begin this way since holiday prose is my theme today. You may recall I've dealt with it before in X-Mas-Letter Blues, Two Christmas Letters, in Minor and Major Washington Style, and Epistolary Happy Holidays. Stylish and I recently finished our letter — and Soulful and Smart theirs — studies in contrast that, for fun, I thought to share.
You know my "Keep-It-Simple-Stupid" style — but Soulful's fuller, richer style suggests I might fatten mine.
I mean here's the too lean note I thought to start on:
What can I say, that it sustained, even in summer, my "summary" refrain?
By way of contrast, now compare Soulful's far more musical
Makes Styles want to take a big whiff, or bite, of lefse!
Oh, if you've wondered why I've posted so little lately, here's my too-simple answer: analagous office moves, bad rain storms, house repairs, bike farkles, belated Christmas chores, and my Soulfully-Smart, Savvily-Suave, and, I hope, Stylishly-Stylechoice writing.
So to everyone today, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
June 19, 2006
· Pro Deo et Patria — Father-Called, Father-Sent ·
But we were mindful, too, of less happy families. For Tony, a U. S. Navy Lieutenant, and his wife Natalie — with their children Gabrielle, Hayden, and Hudson — are soon facing a sad separation. Dressed Sunday in his parade whites, Tony is being sent to Iraq Wednesday.
I can't begin to describe the service, which honored members graduating and others leaving for building work in Mexico, but pastor's words for Sunday were profound: "transition" and "confidence." What struck me more, however — since Tony had ended his talk to us by saying, "Here I am" — came in a bible reading of some weeks before from the prophet Isaiah,
You'll appreciate that Tony stressed that, regardless of our views on Iraq, our larger duties to God and country transcend personal, merely private claims. It is good we remember that, while we pray for fathers everywhere separated by the sad scourge of war.Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
January 13, 2006
· My Boilerplate Baptism Unto Death, Seahawk Style ·
So what's the word today, you ask? Well, water — though maybe not quite as viewed, "thereunto," in Better Than It Ever Gets. That needs even some fine grain "brewing" in the sun to take. So I've thought to offer my own unlegal boilerplate on death and taxes — those in light of a theme I thought to mark in terms of a question, "How have stylish literary artists used water 'symbolically'?"
That Redskin who goes down in Moby-Dick at last — Tashtego is his name — is not quite taking another Seahawk with him. Care to bet on that? For win or lose, there's always-already, folks, another game, or year, or life to look forward to.Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
December 21, 2005
· Epistolary Happy Holidays ·
I thought to share it today — though you'll get no added Bush-whacking letter from Laura now. My last one, in Two Christmas Letters, in Minor and Major Washington Style, might suffice for some semi-inspired introduction. In any event, do enjoy our 2005
Not bad compression, huh, for the shortest day of the year?Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 8, 2005
· Nature's Double Bill, Locally and Stylishly Displayed ·
It's of course the old life-death theme; for you should have seen the dog-fight of a Merlin chasing a small Western Sandpiper Friday. Even at telescopic distance, it was like no aerial ballet I had seen. Much like the mother-birders on our boardwalk, I was rooting, myself, for the sandpiper.
But then Saturday night, hearing the often-paired productions of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, I knew that death's cold knife can pierce human life forms, too. Those sopranos, I mean, knew what they're doing, but, oh, what glorious singing!
Then today, in celebrating Mother's Day — happily the Seventh Sunday of Easter this year — to be having, along with Stylish, a breakfast courtesy of a loving son, well, it doesn't get much better than that, does it?
Best of all, both of us shared blue cheese and champagne at lunch before heading to a nearby nursery for our pick of summer plants. Indeed, we're going to have ourselves a pleasant, colorful place this year.
Come and see things for yourselves.Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 2, 2005
· A Belated May-Day Post — Olds Folk at Home ·
I begin this way because I don't want to make that mistake now, surely not in describing my old Oldsmoblile. The thing's a fine 1963, a Holiday 88, sadly banged up a year ago in the neighborhood. Though it's somewhat crippled, it still has style. I took it out Sunday to our family rest home up north, an old barn, where it'll have to continue rusting unobserved. I mean, there's a time when everything has to go.
But I can still get sentimental. On Sunday I thought again about us Stylechoices, all four of us, indeed driving off across the country in 1982. Stylish and I read Huck Finn aloud to our sons Smart and Suave, a fresh breeze whipping around as old Pap — our two kids loved him — came stepping along with that cross in his heel. Again, in 1989, in Detroit, only Stylish and I heard that big black truck dude remark one evening, "Where'd you get that thing? I think I made it." Such music to American ears!
I got it, in fact, in North Hollywood in 1977, for only $450. It had 23,852 miles on it. Though it needed valve seals and new paint, it was like the sixties all over again. I've had to rebuild the engine since and paint the body twice, and I've put several sets of brakes on and even stitched some new seat covers, most recently, two years ago. I could almost think I made it all myself, but that's, of course, something of an exaggeration.
In any case, it's not your daddy's Oldsmobile any longer, but it's maybe ready now for organ (I mean part) donation since son Smart has another one much like it.
As I say, we Stylechoices (short of auto-resurrection) do trust in family values.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 14, 2005
· An L.A.-Style, Multicultural, Memorial Weekend ·
My wife and I began visiting my parents' gravesites near LAX. We'd cared for them before they died, Dad in 1990, Mom in 1993. Dad was the first native-naturalized American I'd ever known, a Minnesotan really (later a Canadian-American), and Mom found him, in L.A., to marry in 1942. We thought we'd brought Washington rain with us Friday to California, but we knew it was really sunny up north. (Dad, you should know, died of malignant melanoma, Mom of heart failure.)
There lay my uncle, too, and his lovely Jewish wife, my aunt, and beyond them my grandmother who died before I was aware in 1949. My Norwegian grandfather, who died in 1923, lies in Rainy Hills Cemetery on the plains of Alberta, Canada. As I wrote on my dad's death: "In youth he negotiated in Southern Alberta coulees on the Red Deer River; in maturity he negotiated the colossus we call Los Angeles."
We made our way north after stopping briefly for lunch by a park where I once pounded tennis balls against a wall in imitation of my tennis-playing cousin, Pancho, whose stepmom was my aunt (Willa Gonzales). Then off to my first house, now a small factory owned by Mexican-Americans working iron for Las-Vegas places like The Bellagio, The Venetian, and Mandalay Bay. Then we paused by David Wilson's nearby Museum of Jurassic Technology, where in the 1950s I'd had haircuts done by a vaguely British barber. I noticed the old Chinese restaurant two doors down was preparing Thai cuisine now.
Later that night we gathered in an Italian restaurant to recount tales of our American experiences. My cousin's husband, a Russian Orthodox priest's son, laughed along with us when my brother-in-law, a retired Swedish pastor, told how his own granddad had been forced to emigrate when he made the mistake of singing the Danish national anthem when Germans held sway in Silesia. Then we heartily laughed together as we recalled how Grandma might even have had some relation to Kaiser Bill.
Saturday's memorial service, I'm glad to say, was attended by some scores of other souls maybe with similar tales to tell. In any event, I think our JoAn — who died a month shy of her seventy-second birthday — would have enjoyed our fine mix of California-style memorializing.
To our beloved JoAn, then (1933 - 2005) — whose life led from Sacramento to L.A., but whose reach embraced the extended journey we can all take from sacrament to sainthood.
And that's one day short of "the rest of the story."Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 20, 2004
· Two Christmas Letters, in Minor and Major Washington Style ·
We've been fitting the happenings of a whole year into a short text. It's hard work, especially when in a page your best tricks turn mostly on what's left out, not on what's put in. Since we have said little about our recent offline life, we've thought to share our Christmas letter, one edited each year with that cast of characters you've maybe come to know.
We Stylechoices are of course mostly insubstantial, with some minor Washington-State visibility, celebrity, and reality. So, please, do enjoy our
Should you want some major Washington visibility, celebrity, and reality, we can also oblige. For we've just received from Laura Bush what she's recently sent from Crawford, Texas, via London. Since naming her in Home on the Range of Texas Gobbledygook, I've indeed been marked for my stylish democratic patriotism and Christian charity, at least online. So enjoy, more stylishly, from the Southern White House, Howdy Friends! What a year!Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
June 27, 2004
· Better Than It Ever Gets ·
So begins John G. Mitchell's National Geographic article, Nature's Champion (July 2004). I cite it today since, though I'm only a denizen of Olympic National Park, its "natural" subject I can almost call home.
Though I'm wary of his penchant for hyperbolic "excess," as Jeffrey Kittay once rightly said more generally of English descriptive nature writing (especially if it seeks some larger droit de cite [right of a citizen]"),* Mitchell is at least encouraging. I mean — if you think about it — his lavish praise is fitting since Olympians are, of course, typically washed by excessive rainfall.
So today I thought to let him continue:
Naturally, Mitchell's stylish hyperbole should prompt a smile, but you might enjoy on this sunny day a handy, more-officially-approved photo gallery, while I, a bit lower on nature's food-chain, enjoy an Olympia brew.
You might recall, of this Northwest beer, its fitting motto: "It's the Water."
*Kittay's remark, from his 1981 introduction to Yale French Studies — entitled "Toward A Theory of Description" (Issue 61, p.i) — I include for added amusment, interest, and study:
Again, I'm but a championizing denizen of Olympic National Park, not yet a full citizen.
P.S. Do enjoy Mitchell's added peninsular Field Notes, too.Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
June 7, 2004
· The Physician's Oath, Geneva Style ·
All name changes are of course stylistic metonyms, but anyone familiar with such figures knows they also mark more substantive matters — like Savvy's. Indeed, Savvy's new name, like her degree, entails changed words and worlds. As she's moving now to the famed Mayo Clinic, we're told she's going to learn medicine not in the right or wrong way but in The Mayo way, so we thought she might also someday do medical things in A Stylechoice way. That would be interesting.
In any case, we heard Savvy with all her fellow graduates solemnly repeat the updated version of the Physician's Oath Saturday, and it sounded good to us:
You might like to know what we inscribed on Savvy's card, itself marked with St. Benedict's own good word: "Let peace be your quest and aim":
Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 1, 2004
· A Lonerganian Précis ·
Although we can't begin to describe a weekend stretching from Thursday's two-family meal to yesterday's gift-opening brunch, we can at least note Friday night's rehearsal toast. Being a garrulous philosopher, I am occasionally obliged to follow Thoreau's apt advice: "Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!" (which my wife naturally calls a prelude to a K.I.S.S.). So I decided to clothe our toast in a single text (Bernard J. F. Lonergan's Insight) and a pair of matched Fruit-of-the-Loom T-shirts. Here's our story:
Since Suave and Savvy will soon be honey-mooning happily in Lonergan's Canada, we thought to honor their college majors (philosophy and physics) by condensing Lonergan's complex text to a simple, plain-talking textile. I mean even for an Oxford-tutored Lonerganian and his new Catholic bride, such a heady honeymoon ironically begs physical smoothing (which is why I worked our Sunbeam steam iron before Friday's rehearsal). So I found myself referring to some key passages from Lonergan's Preface, first chapter, and Epilogue (much to the relief of our very astonished guests when they saw my 875-page tome). Lonergan's key passages follow:
So, the two T-Shirts? Well, their fronts and backs are depicted below — with Lonergan's brief quip reading: "But insights are a dime a dozen, eh?"
Nice send-off, eh?*Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 5, 2004
· Standing Firm on Ceremony ·
A conservative decision but one fit well to the liberal tradition, too. Indeed, as we're having a Lutheran wedding presided over by a Dr. (a cell biologist happily into her second Rev. career), and by a lay Catholic deacon blessing the day a bit more sacramentally, we reasoned, quite naturally: "Yes, the ceremony demands the right balancing of two traditions, yet maybe without full deference to either." So who should pop up here to confirm our choice but the sagey Russell Kirk, whose The Conservative Mind (1953) includes this paradoxical word happily fit to our circumstances:
So how did Kirk shape our invitations? Simply by reminding us to apply custom or principle "expediently" to particular circumstances. For as we employed trial and error on our own, we considered them quite serially: two real folks asking real guests on a real day to a real place in real time for some real food — beer, wine, salad, bread, lasagna, spumoni (plus toasts, talk, jokes, and gifts) — and then we thought, "Hey, we have some real Stylechoices here (left-to-right, say), a fine couple (Suave and Savvy), and some good writing to do! Let's go for it!"
But then our headaches began. Should we be Mr. and Mrs. Styles Stylechoice, or just Styles and Stylish Stylechoice, and with, or without, the two lovely Gracearts (Holy and Grail), whose soon-to-be Dr. Savvy daughter — her seldom-used first name is Nordicsmart — is, well . . . "betrothed" hardly seemed the word for her, much less "fiancée." Stylistically, we were simply overwhelmed!
Then matters temporal intervened ("'Half after' or 'half past' what?" I asked. "Let dinner do the talkin'," my wife suggested, rightly objecting to "o'clock."), plus attendant spatial matters: "Do we want a map, Styles?" Stylish asked me. "Ask Suave, maybe Savvy," I smartly replied.
Well, we finally settled on an invitation — not "right" or "left" — but "down the middle":
We trust even if you're uninvited you might also enjoy our food for thought.Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 21, 2004
· Laughter and the Love of Friends ·
It's just that Saturday night we had a special evening, a feast hosted by long-time friends of our future in-laws. The memorable image of the enduring love among couples there we might someday recall as the presence in microcosm of the wedding itself.
Here's what we found ourselves writing to the feted couple:
What I think we really meant to say was better marked in Hilaire Belloc's famous "Dedicatory Ode":
We think all might be glad to learn today that the pair have just bought their first home. May friends and family fill it now with love and laughter.Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 6, 2004
· Returned from California Sun to Washington Snow ·
Naturally, San Diego was everything I had hoped for, sunny days spent partially out-of-doors, romantic street-side dining on each of three nights there, and MLA sessions graced indoors with sparkling, occasionally stilted, literary wit and wisdom. The Modern Language Association chose well its 2003 Convention.
But 2004 has already begun with a blast of frigid air here, an icy spirit having bumped my three classes back two days now and making me think (bundled up in my fleece and Merino wool) only of Emerson's romantically compensatory take on
Though I like Emerson's point, sometimes I'd rather have Percy Bysshe Shelley's more famous line, one riding on the prophetic spirit of a single thought trumpeted at the end of Ode to the West Wind:
At least I'm glad to announce (from the local TV news) a warming wind now rising from the far South Pacific.Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 2, 2003
· Some Simple Secrets of Longevity ·
But a long sentence — one able to rise to the complicated challenge of a new journey — merits clear regard if without sacrificing speed it happily sweeps us along over the last bumpy road toward home, like riding with John Wayne as he pulls into Dodge City, gets down, casually ambles over to get a bourbon, and says, "Howdy, boys. What do y'all do here for fun?" I mean old Texas tumbleweeds really do roll.
I got to thinking as much Thursday in view of the wide stretch of ocean reaching in long relief westward from the south-facing windows of my house. You might recall my description of my Thanksgiving dinner: "We're all a happily diverse bunch," I said, describing my guests at length. Stripped of add-ons, here's what I actually said — "We're all a happily diverse bunch, with Tom, Nancy, and Savvy; Seppo and Rick; Pirjo; Tracy with Katri, Brett and Kaycey; Smart and Soulful; Suave; Matt and Marsha; and Stylish."
Now in thinking about that sentence, I suddenly recalled the secret — grammatically — of its construction, this in a classic British sentence by Sir Herbert Read:
What Read has in mind, really, is the stuffy old grammatical saw about simple, compound, and complex sentences, tempered by this helpful rhetorical tip, "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
I mean — returning to my Thanksgiving post — it turns on just five simple sentences, here ellipitcally stripped for easy reading:
William Bradford had three others:
Bradford's last sentence is but a fragment, of course, and brings me to the logical reason for today's post: to say happy birthday to my own older brother Styleshort, who turned seventy last Sunday.
He hasn't as yet made his own longevity disreputable by any untimely persistence in it.
And I hope I haven't either.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 27, 2003
· Now Thank We All Our God ·
We're all a happily diverse bunch, with a trio of medical types who speak physiology; two engineers who talk of electrical grids and blackouts; a secretary whose Finnish substitutions of what for which amuse; a soda distributor who with his wife and his two children represent the Pepsi generation; our museum-director son and his wife, an artist, who ooze local memory and imagination; a pianist son who keeps us all soundly entertained; a college student and his mom who both manage a substation of bright light hereabouts, and my wife who will once again keep everyone stylishly cheered and deliciously fed this Thanksgiving.
Of course, this is nothing like the first Thanksgiving, an original report of which I thought to share today — William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation:
So is this report, likewise, though I might feign saying I hear a knock at the door now.
Well, whoever you are, do have a Happy Thanksgiving!Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
October 22, 2003
· The Sweet Sound of Silence ·
But last week back East they were. On the stage of Avery Fisher Hall in New York two Saturdays ago, I heard Zoltán Kocsis play Béla Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3 (1945), and, again, last Tuesday there, I heard Murray Perahia play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15 (1795). Last Thursday at the 92nd Street Y, I again heard Kocsis play two Schubert sonatas [E minor (1817) and B-flat Major (1828)], these anchoring, brilliantly, a varied set of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies.
What prompts my recollections, however, is my understanding that words are simply inadequate to my musical experiences. Happily, I was put onto this theme by the fitness of David Wright's program notes for Thursday's Kocsis recital. Here is Wright's trying — and admittedly failing — to catch the very essence of the middle movements of the Schubert B-Flat Sonata:
But of course it doesn't stymie the creature. The sweetest sound I heard last Saturday, for instance — in Palmer Square in Princeton — was from a waitress (a lovely soprano at Westminster College Choir of Ryder University) who, in serving me a rich chocolate fondue dessert, happily heard me and a friend say, "Yes, chocolate."
Although she only nodded, if you ever chance to hear Sarah Sweet, do. I think I've caught the essence of her style.Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
July 23, 2003
· Such a Woman — Anniversary Style ·
Naturally and properly, we're off on a holiday, and I thought to say as much here. Cheerio!Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
June 25, 2003
· Dirty-Hand Style: Henry David Thoreau ·
Like Thoreau who recommends manual labor as a way of knocking palaver out of writing, I've been at that work recently, knocking out enough to have been silent or just invisible lately. Since submitting grades (I won't bore you with details), I've been "garaging" myself, and also garaging old pickups, too. Last night I drove to Snoqualmie Pass to trailer home my son's 3/4-ton Ford. Literally pulling an all-nighter from summit to sea — with eyes fixed on a heat guage — does concentrate the mind. I'm happy to say the rescue went well, with my son with a new part to find, his younger brother with a radiator to fix, and me with a good story to tell. Obviously, others will emerge in time.
Today I thought to share Henry Thoreau's take on a theme that has, since September, been alluded to much. In Wetting a Line \ Whetting the Points and Metaphors \ Methods \ Models, I'm afraid I left Thoreau's words mostly unattributed. So for those still awake I thought to cite them fully:
If you recall, it was my chore to split wood last December, but it's my task now to get down and dirtier with compost and concrete, grease and sawdust, and, yes, words and phrases, too. But I'm tired, I'm afraid. For in alluding at 4:30 a.m. to Homer's "rosy fingers of dawn," I fell into the sort of "palaver" Henry David Thoreau warned me against. Then again, being "grounded in antiquity and solid learning" may just be my way to style, pace Thoreau.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 17, 2003
· Syttende Mai: L. A. Style ·
They do, you know, even in L. A. The Half-Norwegian (On the Mother's Side) American Bar Association held their bash yesterday; I wish I had been there. A full-Norwegian myself — but a non-lawyer Angelino — I honor them, although I wasn't smart enough in fleeing L. A. (moving to the Pacific Northwest) to discover that Northwest cold does take its toll on Norskies fondly recalling soft Mediterranean warmth. But for such loss, "abundant recompense," as Wordsworth writes.
Like my childhood reading. In a book still widely read now called Snow Treasure, I learned at my Mom's insistence about kids sledding by jack-booted Nazi invaders — with Norway's gold bullion cleverly hidden under sled blankets. Impressive 1950s reading. Though I'm sorry Mom hid much from me whenever she talked Norwegian, the book's illustrations "jump-started" my learning. Though I still don't know the language, I am sharpening the style.
Speaking of style, my in-law Uncle Arnülf had it. Long Harbor Master of Haugesund, he once thanked the captain and crew of an American war ship, in perfectly eloquent English, for Norway's liberation. His style was sharpened by hauling Caribbean bauxite to American East Coast ports. The torpedo that hit his ship was, among the hundreds that sank others, only a dud. (By the way, his wife — back in Norway — could not reach him and his emigrant siblings for five years.)
Do you know that Norway sent more folks per-capita to America than any other European country — itself half-Norwegian — but one, Ireland?
Which raises the difficult issue of the Vikings. Well, all I can say is, we seem to be forgiven today. At least that's how I read, as I think you should, this very stylish speech by Superior Court Judge Lawrence W. Crispo, an Italian-American member of the L. A. bar raising a double aquavit to Norway's Two Independence Days.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 22, 2003
· On Parsing English Justice ·
These few words appeared in the court I sat in Wednesday. They brought to mind an old writing maxim; you've heard it: "prefer active verbs." The injunction invites verbal action from stylish English writers. Indeed, the best handbooks repeat it, zealous E-primers fetishize it, and alert, really competent writers follow it — maybe more dutifully than religiously. I know I do.
But Wednesday, asked by a judge to be his appointed tool of local justice, I knew I was in trouble. For I'd hoped I couldn't be, and when I wasn't, I dreaded I'd in fact wronged someone. I felt an essential guilt weighing, metaphysically, on anyone standing before the old bar of English justice.
It wasn't a matter of identity politics. For I'd not been asked if I was rich or poor, liberal or conservative, gay or straight, or a host of other oppositions bedeviling thought today. All I'd been asked was one question: could I be just? The categories figuring in my oath — "facts," "truth," "evidence," "reason" — were all good metaphysical abstractions, but when taken from me by a "peremptory challenge," I felt myself then pleading at the bar. For I couldn't be a juror, since I'd been judged and, indeed, found wanting.
Although I've known that's crucial to our system, today I thought to pass the explanation on to a better writer, G. K. Chesterton. Since Chesterton became an English juror (and I just a reject), I thought you might like his Twelve Men. By the way, consider me Chesterton's "bicycle thief."Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 14, 2003
· Valentine's Day Music ·
I got thinking about all this at my son's piano concert tonight. I'd earlier been following the news. Between Blix and Bush, of course, I'm glad my escape mechanism was just musical. I couldn't help thinking, though, that the distance between love and war — between Debussy's "L'Isle Joyeuse" and Liapunov's "Lezginka," say — isn't really that far. In my generation making love not war seemed the thing, but today "studying war no more" isn't quite our forte.
Still, I'm hopeful that like Suave's encore, we might in fact rest in the piano peace of Grieg's "Arietta."
It really is heartening Valentine's Day Music.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 9, 2003
· Space and Transcendence in Bach's Fantasia in G ·
Actually, since I can only represent the "sounds" indirectly, I'm forced here to be metaphorical, especially so since the musial thought I've in mind is actually my son's, and the "note" he would mark is a profounder one of J.S. Bach's. What I particularly have in mind is a brief essay written in appreciation of Bach's Fantasia in G (perhaps Bach's greatest organ work). What captured Suave's imagination, however, is only found in the score, not in the sound of Bach's work, and so I'm permitted a wider meditation on themes and variations fit to the still larger space of Bach's own musical imagination. For the theme is space itself — and how music marks its very transcendence. You'll see that very idea expressed in Bach's music.
Although I cannot fully represent the scope of Suave's essay — which turns successively from music to photography to literature to life and to music again — its concluding paragraph catches perfectly the essence of the point (the stylistic "note") both he — and I think Bach and Baker, too — would suggestively sound. Indeed, you might even hear it in Bach's music.
You should know that as I've been writing this, I've been listening to my son's own fine music. He's practicing for a Valentine Day's piano concert. One work, triply distant from the Fantasia in G, is Bach's great Partita No. 2 for violin, BWV 1004 — called "Chaconne" — arranged for left hand by Johannes Brahams. But on whatever instrument — and by whatever hand — it goes ("Andante," say), marked also in Suave's essay, "only by the grace of God."Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 25, 2002
· Christmas Light ·
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December 21, 2002
· Keeping Northwest Books in Style ·
It was good to find just two blocks from the Georgian Court, where we stayed, the impressive Vancouver Public Library. If you visit, VPL is a must-see. Built in 1995, the building gestures to the Roman Coliseum architecturally but remains alert to the rich, variegated life of Canada's most diverse, multicultural city. Designed in 1992 by Moshe Safdie & Associates, its 9 floors house 2.5 million items adjacent to a new $50-million, 21-floor Federal Tower. An upbeat gathering spot, the VPL has been among the first of North American libraries to have included, with great success, adjoining retail shops.
No less impressive was the 1997 Walter C. Koerner Library on the campus of the University of British Columbia. Commanding spectacular views from its 920 carrels, the Koerner rises five floors above ground, its lowest belted in rock granite and its remaining in plate glass. For UBC's humanities and social science students, it offers an impressive blend of literary, natural, and technological sophistication unequalled, in our experience, elsewhere. We did find it amusing that benefactor Walter C. Koerner, an important UBC backer, made his initial fortune as a clever verbal stylist — simply renaming our low-grade "Hemlock" as "Alaska Pine."
It goes to show you how far a little bit of style can take you. But here it has simply taken us from Vancouver to home, where, if our books are not so well housed, they are, we think, just as well loved.Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 16, 2002
· X-Mas-Letter Blues ·
You know the type?
Crazy Imaginary Cry Babies!
My Eye! Puttin' on the Agony — Puttin' on the Style!
Welcome, Family and Friends, to . . . · You Got Style ·Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 13, 2002
· Aldo Leopold: Good Oak, Good Cedar, Good History ·
What Leopold has happily set me to thinking about today is a famous passage near the end of "February." Leopold reflects on the tools of good history in it — and meditates simply and deeply on a glowing oak on his andirons, one cut, bucked, and split from an eighty-ring giant scarred by lightening and transecting, twice, American history from 1945 to 1865. He considers especially the environmental-geographical, not political, history of his oak, and dwells, at last, on the aforementioned tools making good wood of it. It is to these tools — "requisite to good oak, and to good history," as he says — that he points: namely, the saw, the wedge, and the axe.
Tomorrow, you should know, I am going to be making myself useful with the wedge (probably between rain showers). But I'm working on "Good Cedar," not "Good Oak." Two summers ago a Stihl chainsaw felled the cedars I'm splitting — indeed, cedars killed not by lightening but by tree bugs. But like Leopold's oak my cedar will soon warm the holidays (as it has warmed me twice already in summer) in a doubly reflective glow of Leopold's environmental meditation. Understandably, though, Leopold is an especially difficult stylist to follow.Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
November 16, 2002
· A Punny Thing Happened on the Way to . . . ·
I got to thinking about all this while I was writing Under the Weather Tuesday. You'll recall I was doing a deliberate double-take on weather/whether and a subtler, single-take on rafters. Although I felt like apologizing — even writing first, "Forgive my puns. I couldn't resist." — I decided to drop my sad pleading and, with the authority of James Clerk Maxwell behind me, stand up plainly and honestly for some electro-magnetic juice delivered straight. Maxwell, you say — literally or figuratively? Literally, though it's still, as you'll see, very tricky business.
What I have in mind is the witty first paragraph to his essay "Are There Real Analogies in Nature?" Included in Campbell and Garnet's 1882 biography of Maxwell, it remains a good literary-philosophical supplement to his more famous A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. Although Maxwell's scientific equations aren't my subject, his speculations in that essay seem in some ways their equal, especially in the wisely affirmative answer he gives to his essay's leading question (not surprisingly given Maxwell's Scottish-Presbyterian style, the answer has a nice moral tinge — slightly shaded by Kantian reflections on the larger methodological-scientific questions that prompt it). In any event, since my present interests are stylistic, I'll just cite Maxwell's witty (I think you'll agree) first paragraph. The subject is the reciprocal relation of puns to analogies.
Although I don't want to reciprocate the transposition here — by going astray into deconstructive excursions into catachresian takes on Paul de Man, say — it seems worth noting that, stylistically speaking, Maxwell's text seems to be onto something. In any case, as mine has expressly that aim, I thought to conclude with a good short story, one brought to my attention earlier this week in a widely-shared punny email. Slightly edited for dramatic emphasis, I give you
"Hot stuff," my dad would say. "Tell me, how much do we owe?"Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 12, 2002
· Under the Weather ·
In any event, I hope you're not feeling either figuratively or literally "under the weather" today, and here to express my hopes — summer-style, on the bright side of dark — I thought to excerpt a famous passage from Mark Twain. Though its plot-significance in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is tragically sad, at least for anyone who can ignore the unfolding story, the style is also in some ways descriptively pleasing, even comically so. Tragi-comic, let's call it, weather-style.*
*N. B. In quoting Huck in · You Got Style · know that I'm not fully satisfied with anybody's glib word about rafters. You never know when, "down the sky toward the under side of the world," a storm might turn your holiday into a Columbus Day or a Veterans' Day whether you like it or not.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 1, 2002
· For \ Four \ Fore! Philosophical Explanations ·
Partly by way of his wife Gjertrud Schnackenberg, the accomplished American poet, Nozick was in 1981 invited to give the Walter C. Schnackenberg Memorial Lecture at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. As I had known Dr. Schnackenberg and had just read Nozick's new book, I thought to drive the eighty miles from home to Tacoma to attend it. As I recall, just before the lecture began, we two chanced to eye one another in the lavatory as philosophers even must, and, with so apt an opportunity — both of us standing at the urinals relieving ourselves — I tentatively began:
So you're asking, what's the joke or the larger point? Well, since philosophy is mostly, as Alfred North Whitehead claims, "a footnote to Plato," I've thought to indicate its Platonic essence representationally — though you're of course free to doubt it.
In his previous two pages of Philosophical Explanations, Nozick had outlined an impressive fivefold scheme of broad ethical theory — nihilism, realism, idealism, romanticism, and realizationism (roughly his own position) — when, with an ironic grin, he happily drew one conclusion: "Unlike Lewis Carroll's cheshire cat, which disappeared leaving its smile, this disappearance of [realist] values did not even leave behind its (salient) value." Then, I'm happy to report, he added his footnote:
You should appreciate the pleasure I took that evening and, indeed, take again tonight, recalling (this All Saints' Day) the ever-so-very-ideal nimbleness of Nozick's witty-wise mind. Perhaps even the Triune God is enlarging the Plurality of Divine Being tonight, saying, "For, Four, Fore! Robert," as they consider other matters avocationally in still greener pastures of the Great Beyond.
In any case, you might see that Nozick's footnote is more than a psychological-sociological-cultural-ethical-philosophical matter of mere style. It might just possess Real Substance.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 31, 2002
· I \ Eye \ Aye ·
Alas, a resulting sugar high prompts today's announcements:
Now I can happily await All Saints' Day.
Cheers (and Boo) from your Nordic Logger.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 18, 2002
· T. G. I. Friday's Mourning ·
Today's title marks it as Friday's work, the work of mourning, I like to think, not of morning, of darkness, not sunshine, trouble, not peace. Thank God I have time today to consider it here.
I have in mind a particular poem written to acknowledge the loss by miscarriage last winter of a relative's child — Wren Marie — a girl who will never spread wings westward from Minnesota to see the rugged Washington Coast nor eastward ever to visit her grandparents in Rockville, Maryland, where, recently in the news, we have all mourned deaths even more terrible still.
"Flight Song for Wren Marie" is my daughter-in-law's poem, and when I wrote her last winter to mark its pointed achievement, I knew — as you should now — that it came from a woman whose own father took flight when she was just thirteen. As Yeats knew ("a terrible beauty is born"), poetry lives at the hard edges of experience, and people do too:
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October 13, 2002
· Gardening and Writing the Point-Defiance Way ·
I needed some instruction, of course, and, as fortune would have it, my wife wisely suggested as a witty and, I might add, beautiful model — both literary and natural — the Northwest gardening author Marianne Binetti. Now Marianne Binetti is Northwest all the way, living in Enumclaw just a bit east of Tacoma, Washington, not too far geographically from the real Point Defiance — the peninsula jutting northward into Puget Sound there. Last spring, she happened to visit our own more westerly Olympic Peninsula, leaving an autographed copy of her third book, Easy Answers for Great Gardens: 500 Tips, Techniques, & Outlandish Ideas, with my wife. "Go Easy," she wrote. (She has, I might add, very nice handwriting.)
I was charmed by her style. Here's good Northwest gardening advice, Binetti-style:
You get the picture. No-nonsense Marianne — smack, in-your-face, charming, and beautiful. I wish we writing teachers would get the hang of her particular genius. Perhaps then we'd have Tips-'N-Tricks texts better suited to postmodern student needs:
My literary fantasy does, I admit, have its own obvious limitations, since gardening and writing aren't exact analogues. They're not really quite fit. Whereas we might Go Easy with rhodys, we'd Go Wrong, alas, with "Composing Too Easily" — though I wish my students could today hear the straight, point-defiant, correct answer to:
In any event, thanks Marianne. And by the way, is it true that Point Defiance is a clone of Lem's Walloper? I'd really like to know.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 6, 2002
· St. Augustine Reading — Silently ·
Indeed, Bennozo Gozolli's St. Augustine Reading the Epistle of St. Paul — the tenth of seventeen famous frescoes in Sant' Agostino Church in San Gimignano, Italy, 1465 — is not here properly its apt expression or, better, visualization. Neither, for that matter, are Gozolli's depicted characters — St. Augustine and his intellectual friend Alypius — even the immediate subjects of my thought. Rather, they are Alberto Manguel and Stylish (my wife and intellectual friend), who, some years back in an extended review of Manguel's A History of Reading, wrote this intriguing paragraph:
My thought is simply this: just as we learned in the West gradually to mark words with visible writing spaces, so gradually we learned (as in the two scenes "depicted" and "described" above) to observe related reading silences. Both, of course, may just be twin aspects of a definition of style, appointed spaces and appointed times — marked, we might say, for reflection. I don't quite know what to make of them, save perhaps to recall E. B. White's famous dictum on writing: "Writing is an act of faith," he said, "not a trick of grammar." I think old St. Augustine would agree.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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On Aging — De Facto and De Jure Style
Aesthetically-Styled Christmas Prose — Re: Introductions
Pro Deo et Patria — Father-Called, Father-Sent
My Boilerplate Baptism Unto Death, Seahawk Style
Epistolary Happy Holidays
Nature's Double Bill, Locally and Stylishly Displayed
A Belated May-Day Post — Olds Folk at Home
An L.A.-Style, Multicultural, Memorial Weekend
Two Christmas Letters, in Minor and Major Washington Style
Better Than It Ever Gets
The Physician's Oath, Geneva Style
A Lonerganian Précis
Standing Firm on Ceremony
Laughter and the Love of Friends
Returned from California Sun to Washington Snow
Some Simple Secrets of Longevity
Now Thank We All Our God
The Sweet Sound of Silence
Such a Woman — Anniversary Style
Dirty-Hand Style: Henry David Thoreau
Syttende Mai: L. A. Style
On Parsing English Justice
Valentine's Day Music
Space and Transcendence in Bach's Fantasia in G
Keeping Northwest Books in Style
Aldo Leopold: Good Oak, Good Cedar, Good History
A Punny Thing Happened on the Way to . . .
Under the Weather
For \ Four \ Fore! Philosophical Explanations
I \ Eye \ Aye
T. G. I. Friday's Mourning
Gardening and Writing the Point-Defiance Way
St. Augustine Reading — Silently
Figures & Tropes
Grammar & Syntax