Thursday, December 05, 2013

the drain

The day starts again, and all that is familiar has to be redone – for instance, you have to put together again the two huge faces, the one with the long hair that you like to grab and that when you grab it a giggle exactly the size of a bubble floats up in your throat and the other face with the toy on his nose – a nose so big it goes from your nose to your chin! – that you grab when he isn’t looking and that you then cluster your fingers around tight but that he unpries – a good game, although not as good as with the hair. And then you are floating down the stairs, dressed, your feet dangling, each step one that you will have to remember scrambling up it later peering down and laughing at the faces – now you remember, mama and dada – and challenging them to hurry in their ungainly way and catch you. Then the seat and the strap, the end of which you have to think about and the way you think is to suck it, which you do gravely while Dada is in the kitchen and he’s pouring water into the machine that makes the glugging sound and smells and he is always drinking what happens to it, and so does Mama but not as much, and to get things moving you throw a few sounds at him, and he’ll throw some back and some of them you will ponder while sucking the strap. He favors Ah, and da, and um, and he puts it together – ah-da-um – like he’s made a big discovery and he keeps poking you and saying it. But that is alright, because he has given you a piece of bread, which is better than the strap. You lift it carefully and then you chew it. Meanwhile Mama and Dada are at the table and they are making sounds at each other. Dada is nice, but Mama is funnier. Why isn’t Dada so funny? Still, there’s enough of these sounds they are making at each other, you have to intervene, throw in a few sounds yourself, kick your legs, maybe toss away the bread – there’s always more bread, and when you are crawling on the floor, later, maybe you’ll find the bread you tossed away and put it in your mouth and Dada will say, okay, let me have it, and then he’ll take a broom and sweep up under the chair. You like the broom too, you like to grab it and tilt it and watch it fall whack on the floor.  But to return to now, now the machine appears on which you can see cartoons of les crocodiles and the meunier qui dort. Then Mama plays a game where she goes out the door and she hides for a long time. When you are tired of the chair you go lulululurrrrrrr and shake your head from side to side, and that does the trick. You float into your playpen.
Then the day breaks down into a million events and…
Well, one of them is the drain. There’s the door, the floor, the window, the curtains, the lamp, the wires, and the beat goes on, but let’s concentrate on the drain, and if we get through the drain that will be enough, a lecon, comme on dit, for today.
Drains are recent. When you look back, usually you were bathed in plastic tubs. But now in California there’s a real tub, an adult tub, and instead of the water being poured out of it by Mama or Dada – an operation to which you weren’t really privy, since you were in the other room wiggling away from one of them trying to trap your arms and legs and cover your privates, which eventually they do no matter what tricks you think up to defend yourself. But now you float over the water and down you go, feet first, lately you resist being sat somewhere, you stick out your legs and stand until you sit, but this sitting is your sitting, it isn’t their sitting. The water is warm, and there’s a blue blob – a whale – and a yellow blob – a duck – that bob around when you sit, and that you can chase while the bottle comes out and soap gets in your hair and is rubbed all over you, which hardly seems worth it because then it is splashed off by the water, but there you go.At first this was an awkward thing, you’d gingerly totter in the tub, and Dada’s hands would convey that he too was awkward, but lately things have gotten much better, you can sit there by yourself a little, and explore around. One day you spotted the white thing with the ring in it that was under the water at the front of the tub and you pulled it out. You had to think about what it was, and the best way to think about a thing is to put it in your mouth, so this is what you did. Then you slapped it on the surface of the water, which is like a big sheet of something. Then you noticed that the blue blob and the yellow blob went to the front of the tub and started twirling around. The got dizzy, and the water got less, and then – you had to reach out your hand to touch this just to understand the mechanics of the thing – the water bunched up and creased around this hole under the water. When you put your hands on the hole it tries to pull you in, but it is a weakling, it is weaker than a baby. And just as things get interesting you are suddenly floating again and plopped in a towel.
That’s a drain.

Monday, December 02, 2013

the use of imprecision

A beautiful passage from Proust, in his preface to Paul Morand’s Tendres Stocks:
“The sole reproach that I am tempted to make to Morand is that sometimes he has images that are other than inevitable. However, all images that are approximative don’t count. Water, under normal circumstances, boils at one hundred degrees celsius. We don’t see that phenomenon produced at  98 or 99.  Thus, it is better then to have no images.”
I find this faith in precision beautiful, modernist, and at the same time classic. And that it should be so decisively illustrated (the image of boiling water is as precise as you can get) makes it sound like something pre-Socratic, something oracular.
However, I don’t believe it. I believe that images “ à peul près” are sometimes incredibly useful – like smudges in a drawing, they can help the sketcher to open up a dimension of fantasy that would otherwise be lacking, that would otherwise make the drawing merely a banal copy.

Yet I love the way Proust says this.  


In Science, first hand, an odd, English language journal published by Akademika Koptyuga, there’s a fascinating article on the Gmellin-Mueller expedition to Siberia and the theme of alcohol by A. Elert, copiously illustrated with marvelous lubok – which are playing card sized woodcuts evidently produced for a mass audience.

The article is aptly summarized thus:

“This article will show our readers that the Russian people “took to the bottle” three centuries ago, which, however, did not prevent them from spreading over the vast area and building a most powerful empire in the world history. There is something wrong about it — too much passion in these talks about the “universal alcoholism” of Russians and too many extreme views. Our compatriots have long gotten used  to treating vodka as something almost sacred, something exclusively Russian, but in the last fifteen years they have been able to compare. The comparison proves paradoxical — Europeans drink at least as much as we do but liquor is not a domineering feature of their national character.”

Southern California Death Trip

    “He was kind but he changed and I killed him,” reads the caption of the photo of a woman in an old tabloid. She was headed to ...