Tuesday, April 30

Paragraphs from Stein, 16

The room was soon very very full and who were they all. Groups of hungarian painters and writers, it happened that some hungarian had once been brought and the word had spread from him throughout all Hungary, any village where there was a young man who had ambitions heard of 27 reu de Fleurus and then he lived but to get there and a great many did get there. They were always there, all sizes and shapes, all degrees of wealth and poverty, some very charming, some simply rough and every now and then a very beautiful young peasant. Then there were quantities of germans, not too popular because they tended always to want to see anything that was put away and they tended to break things and Gertrude Stein has a weakness for breakable objects, she has a horror of people who collect only the unbreakable. Then there was a fair sprinkling of americans, Mildred Aldrich would bring a group or Sayen, the electrician, or some painter and occasionally an architectural student would accidentally get there and then there were the habitués, among them Miss Mars and Miss Squires whom Gertrude Stein afterwards immortalised in her story of Miss Furr and Miss Skeene. On that first night Miss Mars and I talked of a subject then entirely new, how to make up your face. She was interested in types, she knew that there were femme décorative, femme d'intérieur and femme intrigante; there was no doubt that Fernande Picasso was a femme décorative, but what was Madame Matisse, femme d'intérieur, I said, and she was very pleased. From time to time one heard the high spanish whinnying laugh of Picasso the gay contralto of Gertrude Stein, people came and went, in and out. Miss Stein told me to sit with Fernande. Fernande was always beautiful but heavy in hand. I sat, it was my first sitting with a wife of a genius.

--Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

Monday, April 29

North American Journeys, 3

Dezi drove her to his apartment on Northside Drive. He drove a tan Celica, and the whole ride he talked on a cellular phone in the deep voice of a midnight deejay. He mostly talked about some ball game, but sometimes he would just say, "Yeah," in a way that seemed shorthand for things he didn't want her to hear.

The staid stores of Virginia Avenue gave way to grillwork-caged liquor stores with names like Max's or The Place, and more to the point, Liquor Here. Some businesses gave no indication as to what they might be selling, their signposts were signless, their neon neonless.

The only spots of color were the billboards and the prostitutes. The billboards all advertised Kools or Newports, and against the green backdrops, beautiful black people wore toy-colored clothes. They were shown sledding, or skiing, or some other activity involving snow, all of them somehow managing to hold on to their cigarettes.

--ZZ Packer, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

Saturday, April 27

North American Journeys, 2

They among Englishmen who best love and most admire the United States, have felt themselves tempted to use the strongest language in denouncing the sins of Americans.
Who can but love their personal generosity, their active hatred of ignorance, the general convictions in the minds of all of them that a man should be enabled to walk upright, fearing no one and conscious that he is responsible for his own actions? In what country have grander efforts been made by private munificence to relieve the sufferings of humanity? Where can the English traveller find any more anxious to assist him than the normal American, when once the American shall have found the Englishman to be neither sullen nor fastidious? Who, lastly, is so much an object of heart-felt admiration of the American man and the American woman as the well-mannered Englishwoman or Englishman? These are  the ideas which I say spring uppermost in the minds of the unprejudiced English traveller as he makes acquaintance with these near relatives. Then he becomes cognisant of their official doings, of their politics, of their municipal scandals, of their great ring-robberies, of their lobbyings and briberies, and the infinite baseness of their public life. There at the top of everything he finds the very men who are the least fit to occupy high places. American public dishonesty is so glaring that the very friends he has made in the country are not slow to acknowledge it--speaking of public life as a thing apart from their own existence, as a state of dirt in which it would be an insult to suppose that they were concerned! In the midst of it all the stranger, who sees so much that he hates and so much that he loves, hardly knows how to express himself.
     "It is not enough that you are personally clean," he says, with what energy and courage he can command,--"not enough though the clean outnumber the foul as greatly as those gifted with sight outnumber the blind, if you that can see allow the blind to lead you. It is not by the private lives of the millions that the outside world will judge you, but by the public career of those units whose venality is allowed to debase the name of your country. There never was plainer proof given than is given here, that it is the duty of every honest citizen to look after the honour of his State."

--Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography (1883)

Tuesday, April 23

13 Sentences by John Cage

John Cage's "On Robert Rauschenberg, Artist, and His Work" includes, in no particular order, the following sentences:

1.   A canvas is never empty.

2.   The icicles all go down.
3.   Would we have preferred a pig with an apple in its mouth?
4.   He is like that butcher whose knife never became dull simply because he cut with it in such a way that it never encountered an obstacle.
5.   Shortly the stranger leaves, leaving the door open.
6.   Setting out one day for a birthday party, I noticed the streets were full of presents.
7.   Does his head have a bed in it?
8.   He is not saying; he is painting.
9.   I know he put the paint on the tires.
10. Ideas are not necessary.
11. As the lady said, "Well, if it isn't art, then I like it."
12. What do images do?
13. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I am doing. 

Thursday, April 4

North American Journeys, 1

One summer day, Merce Cunningham and I took eight children to Bear Mountain Park. The paths through the zoo were crowded. Some of the children ran ahead, while others fell behind. Every now and then we stopped, gathered all the children together, and counted them to make sure none had been lost. Since it was very hot and the children were getting difficult, we decided to buy them ice cream cones. This was done in shifts. While I stayed with some, Merce Cunningham took others, got them cones, and brought them back. I took the ones with cones. He took those without. Eventually all the children were supplied with ice cream. However, they got it all over their faces. So we went to a water fountain where people were lined up to get a drink, put the children in line, tried to keep them there, and waited our turn. Finally, I knelt beside the fountain. Merce Cunningham turned it on. Then I proceeded one by one to wash the children's faces. While I was doing this, a man behind us in line said rather loudly, "There's a washroom over there." I looked up at him quickly and said, "Where? And how did you know I was interested in mushrooms?"

--John Cage, Silence