The Now of Then
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Gertrude Stein famously said of her home town of Oakland , “There
is no there there.” I have been thinking about this under a different light and
from an altogether different perspective involving time more than space.
My memory is very good so I have cognition of stuff that
happened to me when I was very young. And when young, when one thinks, “Today,”
“Now,” one rarely thinks of an in-the-future, “Now,”or “Today.” And specifically
one never thinks of a situation in a far off future as there are no coordinates
to base oneself being in.
But it is astounding to do it backward and see-saw. By this
I mean to look at myself in a mirror now (I have one on the wall nearby as I
write this) and remember that first incident when I may have been around 6 that
I looked at myself in my mother’s bedroom armoire mirror and thought (in some
rudimentary way), “I am that boy in the mirror. I am me.” And then to look at myself in the mirror now thinking about that then and being aware on how that distance in time has been compressed to a quantum now (quantum, the correct definition of it is of the very small!)
I now have the luxury and the fantastic ability to look now in my now and remember the now
of then. Obviously there is one catch
and that is that this process can only procede (precede?) in the direction of the past with the help of that past memory in my present memory, and not
And of course there is that stunning idea that all that time
has transpired and “here I am.” But if one remembers Borges' obsession with Heraclitus and how it is impossible to dip into the water of a river twice without going from an instant now to a future instant now one can put reserved definition to that present now.
If all the above seems confusing my only point in this present endeavour is to meditate on the fact that as I look forward, I can now imagine a future (not in perfection but one of statistical possibility) and that I could not have done that when I was 6.
Sartre said that we cannot find ourselves to know who we are. We are always in a process of becoming (change). And yet I must affirm that the boy I saw when I was 6 reflected in that mirror and the old man I see now somehow are essentially the same person.
Aquí. Hoy –Jorge Luís Borges
el olvido que seremos.
elemental que nos ignora
fue el rojo Adán y que es ahora
los hombres, y que no veremos.
en la tumba las dos fechas
principio y el término. La caja,
obscena corrupción y la mortaja,
triunfos de la muerte, y las endechas.
el insensato que se aferra
mágico sonido de su nombre.
con esperanza en aquel hombre
sabrá que fui sobre la tierra.
indiferente azul del cielo,
meditación es un consuelo.
Here, Today – Jorge Luís Borges
Already we are the oblivion we shall be—
the elemental dust that does not know us,
the dust that once was red Adam and now is
all men, the dust we shall not see.
Already we are the two dates on the headstone,
the beginning and the end. The coffin,
the obscene decay and the shroud,
the death rites and the dirges.
I am not some fool who clings
to the magical sound of his own name.
I think, with hope, of that man
who will never know I walked the earth.
Beneath the blue indifference of heaven,
I find this thought consoling.
Grace Kelly's Neck
Friday, November 25, 2016
By 1956 while living in Mexico City I had seen every
Grace Kelly film. I was almost 15 and madly in love with her. I was extremely
depressed when I saw her last film The Swan. I ate a whole bag of pistachios at
the Cine Roble and became so sick that only in the last few years have I
re-acquainted myself with the nuts. I hated Alec Guinness, Louis Jourdan and Prince Ranier. They were all idiots.
I wasn’t as sophisticated as you might surmise from my
choice for my teenage infatuation. At the same time I was buying as many cheap
Mexican magazines that featured Brigitte Bardot’s cleavage.
My interest in Kelly besides her spectacular voice was
her spectacular neck. It was in salient evidence in To Catch a Thief.
At the time of my pistachio debacle I had a Californian
cousin staying at home. Brian Forment's parents were Christian Scientists. Brian developed a terrible
toothache. My mother took him to our dentist who solved the problem. His
parents were furious that he had gone to see a doctor.
I had another visitor, Dolores Humphrey my beautiful
first cousin. I remember telling Brian and Dolores that I was really interested
in that Kelly neck. They snickered and snickered and refused to tell me why
they were doing it. Only now have I figured out that I must not have known of
the significance of the verb “to kneck
” and they did.
After all these years I can explain to most people why it
is that we men like women with the hair up. And I also know why women used to
(not anymore?) put perfume behind their ears. My mother used to blow gently
into my ears (as a child) and would tell me that I smelled like an Englishman.
So I like necks.
I can further tell you that ballerinas in classical ballet
always have their hair up so you can see better their grace and they will also
So I like necks. And Nina Gouvaia, below, has a spectacular one.
But when I take my portraits and figure shots of women I
abhor the sight of neck folds. The reason for this is that neckfolds and (ugh!)
armpit folds are generally the darkest spot in a photograph and your eyes will
gravitate towards them. For neckfolds the only solution is to adjust the pose
or hide them with a handkerchief of long hair.
But I like necks a lot.
When we ate roast chicken my grandmother would point out
that the neck of the chicken was called “la
nariz del papa
” or the pope’s nose. I don’t like chicken necks even though
I have never tried one.
Perhaps my Grace Kelly thing had more to do than just her neck. I may have had something in common with Alfred Hitchcock. When I saw Raintree County
at the Varsity on Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas, I ignored Elizabeth Taylor. I was all eyes on Eva Marie Saint.
Plenty of nothing
El sexo debil
Titzling's support for women
Blanca Rosa de un Jardín Borrado
Thursday, November 24, 2016
The above photograph may not agree in any way with the line in Borges' poem (in English and in Spanish below) A Rose and Milton
O you vermillion, white
Or yellow rose from a garden long erased,
But then I am the editor, art director, photographer and publisher of this blog so that's that. On the other hand the portrait of Kimberley Klaas who is now dead, makes the poem perhaps appropriate as she was a white rose of a now erased garden.
Una Rosa y Milton - Jorge Luís Borges
generaciones de las rosas
el fondo del tiempo se han perdido
que una se salve del olvido,
marca o signo entre las cosas
fueron. El destino me depara
de nombrar por vez primera
silenciosa, la postrera
Milton acercó a su cara,
verla. Oh tú bermeja o amarilla
rosa de un jardín borrado,
mágicamente tu pasado
y en este verso brilla,
sangre o marfil o tenebrosa
sus manos, invisible rosa.
A Rose and Milton
By Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Amid the generations of the rose
That in the deep of ages lie long gone
I want one to be spared oblivion,
Unmarked and undistinguished among those
Bygone. I am bequeathed by destiny
The privilege of bestowing the first name
Upon that silent rose, the last and same
Flower that Milton held and could not see
Before his face. O you vermillion, white
Or yellow rose from a garden long erased,
Your immemorial past, by magic placed
In the one present, is this verse's light:
Gold, ivory, or blood, the shades enclose
You, as his fingers once, invisible rose.
Sirius - that Dog Star Dog
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Plaxy and Sirius were already forming their companionship
which was to have so great an effect on both their minds throughout their
lives. They played together, fed together, were washed together, and were
generally good or naughty together. When one was sick, the other was bored and
abject. When one was hurt, the other howled with sympathy. Whatever one of them
did, the other had to attempt. When Plaxy learned to tie a knot, Sirius was
very distressed at his inability to do likewise. When Sirius acquired by
observation of the family’s super-sheep-dog, Gelert, the habit of lifting a leg
at gate-posts to leave his visiting card, Plaxy found it hard to agree that
this custom, though suitable for dogs, was not all appropriate to little girls.
She was deterred only by the difficulty of the operation. Similarly, though she
was soon convinced that to go smelling at gate-posts was futile because her
nose was not as clever as Sirius’, she did not see why the practice should
outrage the family’s notion of propriety.
Sirius – Chapter III – Olaf Stapleton
If you do read the above paragraph I would understand
your confusion. But, If I explained that
Sirius is a super-intelligent dog raised by a scientist and that the scientist
happens to be Plaxy’s father (a very normal but precocious girl who is raised
from birth with Sirius) it might be at least fathomable.
In 1965 as I wrote here
I discovered in Buenos Aires a
Spanish translation (El Hacedor
) of Olaf Stapleton’s Starmaker
introduction by no less than Jorge Luís Borges). I was keen on finding more so
I went to the nearby foreign language (everything but Spanish) bookstore
Pygmalion on Calle Corrientes and found Sirius (1944). It is a lovely book that
amply proves the non-existence of a Superior Being. If that Superior Being
existed Art Bergman would be a millionaire and Spielberg would have optioned Sirius
It is a lovely book that I am now reading again 51 years later.
A lot of it is forgotten including how sensitive and how elegant Stapleton’s
writing is. A startling quality of this book is that Stapledon attempts to look at humanity objectively
by noting how an almost human dog would observe our accomplishments and follies.
I knew in 1965 why the super-dog was called Sirius. I had
received a very good education at St. Edward’s High School in Austin and I had
read enough science fiction to know that the brightest star in our night sky
Sirius was in Constellation Canis Major:
Follow the belt of Orion to find Sirius. Sirius, also
known as the Dog Star or Sirius A, is the brightest star in Earth's night sky.
The name means "glowing" in Greek. With a visual magnitude of -1.46,
the star is outshone only by several planets as well as the International Space
Only recently have I learned that Sirius A has a small
white dwarf companion Sirius B.
But I have not been able to locate anything on the little
girl’s name of Plaxy that is relevant here.
In the years after 1965 sometime in the 80s I lost my original Penguin copy. What you see here is a pristine brand new (Gollancz 2011) which I recently purchased from AbeBooks.com.
A Pant Brush - William Blake
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
I askd my Dear Friend Orator Prigg
Whats the first part of Oratory he said a great wig
And what is the second then dancing a jig
And bowing profoundly he said a great wig
And what is the third then he snord like a pig
And puffing his cheeks he replied a Great wig
So if a Great Panter with Questions you push
Whats the first Part of Panting hell say a Pant Brush
And what is the second with most modest blush
Hell smile like a Cherub & say a pant Brush
And what is the third hell bow like a rush
With a lear in his Eye hell reply a Pant Brush
Perhaps this is all a Painter can want
But look yonder that house is the house of Rembrant
Association is what I believe separates us from animals,
even highly intelligent ones. But then I have never met an animal who has told
me that I am wrong.
Casi-Casi, Rosemary’s cat, runs down the stairs at the mere
opening of one of his food cans. So her cat does have a limited ability to
But let me give you an example of human association. I
remember very well when Kimberley Klaas called me one evening and told me she
had a new boyfriend called Glen. I asked her what he did. She told me he was an
artist and that he painted. I replied, “I have an idea. Tell him to bring one
of his thinnest paintbrushes. Let’s meet in my studio.”
Below is a link that further explains that our ability to associate involves memory of moments past.