Sunday, December 16, 2012

Architects' Sketches

•                                                                  •                                                                   •

When one travels and works with visual things - 
architecture, painting or sculpture - one uses
one's eyes and draws, so as to fix deep down in
one's experience what is seen.  Once the 
impression is recorded, it stays for good, entered
registered and inscribed.  The camera is a tool for 
idlers, who use a machine to do their seeing for them.

To draw oneself, to trace the lines, to handle the 
volumes, organize the surface... all this means to 
first look, and then to observe, and finally perhaps 
to discover ... and it is then that inspiration may
come.  Inventing, creating, one's whole being is 
drawn into action, and it is this action which counts.

Others stood indifferent - but you saw!
                                                   Journey to the East 
                                        Le Corbusier 
                                                                 (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret)

sketch by Le Corbusier

Recently my nephew, Brooklyn Architect, Nicholas McDermott,  gave me Le Corbusier's Journey to the East.   The text is lucid and interesting, and as you can tell from the excerpt above, it can be inspiring as well; but as interesting as as the narrative can be, it's the architect's sketches which grab hold of the attention and won't let go.

Architects' sketches are not designed as ends in themselves  but as means to an ends.  While an artist tries to transform reality in his drawings, an architect is trying to render faithfully either some artifact as it already exists or some idea he wants to bring into being.  In the latter case, it can be either be some idea already worked out, or it can be his thinking through his idea there on the page.

For this reason, an architect's sketch gives us a much better  sense of how the eye sees space than
does a sketch by a typical artist.  the structure os sight is there for anyone who would explore it.

•                                                                  •                                                                   •

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Money in Politics

•                                            •                                            •

Given the fact that so much of the Super-Pac money spent
by the Republicans was spent of the losing side, many
are arguing that money in politics doesn't mean that much
after all.

But commentators may be looking at the wrong end of the
primaries.  In retrospect, some GOPers are saying Jon
Jon Huntsman was their strongest candidate.  Given that
he was the only moderate, you'd think he'd place at least
second or third  from the beginning.  There's only one catch.
He didn't have enough money to make a credible candidate.

Money won't seal the deal for a weak candidate, but
lack of money will slam the door for a strong candidate
who doesn't have enough.  Simply put:  a strong but
cash poor candidate has no chance.  Big money is still
the admission ticket to politics; and we're talking lots
of money:  remember Huntsman is rich, and his father
put quite a bit of money into his campaign.

•                                            •                                            •

Saturday, November 3, 2012

River North Chicago

•                                                       •                                                     •

There's a block along Huron taken up almost entirely by a Whole
Foods.  There are almost always two pandhandlers on the block,
one at either end of the block.  Both are usually silent and sit with
bowed heads while wearing a sign explaining his predicament.

One day there was a third man, standing near though not exactly
in front of the store.  He had a can and clipboard indicating he
was raising money for a cause other than himself.

As I came closer I was relieved to see he was only approaching
women.  I was safe from solicitation.  As I came near I heard him
say to one lady, "Are you and I going to get together tonight."

"I'm afraid not, " she said, barely registering his presence as
she passed.

"That's a sad shame," he said cheerfully.

I'm sure she felt differently about the matter.

•                                                       •                                                     •

Saturday, October 27, 2012

At The Farmers' Market

•                    •                    •

Oh, to reach out and unerase
The beauty of
Your disappearing face.

•                    •                •

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Paul Ryan Baptizes Ayn Rand

Now we see what an Ayn-Rand-Paul-Ryan form of Christianity would look like.  After a soup kitchen closes for the evening, Paul Ryan pretends to clean dishes which have already been washed to further his own political career.  In other words, a cut rate performer imagining himself as a Nietzchean superman exercising his will to power feels  no compunction to a dupe the christian suckers who while ironically still holding power over him continue to espouse a slave's mentality.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing but MacBeth

•                                                          •                                                          •

It's tempting to become an Oxfordian, ignore inconvenient dates altogether
and say the title of Much Ado About Nothing is obviously a direct reference
to MacBeth's claim that

Life's but a ...a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

In any case, the two works are obviously inverted twins of each other.  
Beatrice with her desire to be a man and her offers to eat any soldiers 
Benedict killed at war has the potential to become a second Lady MacBeth,
and Benedict like MacBeth himself is often in danger of falling into
ineffectiveness without his woman's stiffening influence.   Both women
order their men to kill.   Both men accept the charge.  Only one becomes
a murderer.

One of the most maddening tendencies in the orthodox Shakespearean 
literary criticism is to view Twelfth Night as a great comedy while viewing 
Much Ado About Nothing as a bit of fluff whose insignificance Shakespeare 
clearly trumpets in the title - as if there were anything more terrifying than 
nothingness.    Perhaps critics are thrown off by Benedict's bit of moralizing
at the end where he seems comfortable accepting all that has happened 
under the justification that "Man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion,"
as if that washes away all the suffering we have just witnessed.  The point-
lessness of the suffering makes it more troubling, not less so.  The energy with
which Claudio inflicts it, leaves a bad taste in the mouth and soul even after
the supposed happy ending.

Nothing makes the seriousness of Much Ado About Nothing so clear as its
clear kinship with MacBeth.   Lady MacBeth and Beatrice are both only 
unhappily consigned to the female sex.  Both express a fervent desire to be
a man and free to work within the realm of violence which is socially
open only to men.   Both get swept up in the speed with which events 
unfold,  and each tries to harness that momentum to her own ends.   

In each case, the woman must work through the man and push him to 
act, but while MacBeth gives himself over as fully as he is capable of 
to his wfe's bloody vision, Benedict complies with reluctance.  Both
plays are about speed, the rush of events with no pause to think.  

Benedict is the one exception to the rule, the one character who doesn't
automatically react.  (There is a hint he can take this caution  
sometimes too far.  Perhaps this reluctance to act is what keeps him
from committing to Beatrice and makes her so resentful of him.)  In
any case, despite the fact that Beatrice is definitely smarter than he
is - anyone denying this refuses to accept the evidence of the play that
she wins every battle of wits into which they enter - he is a more 
independent thinker.  In an early scene at a mask ball she sees the 
dance go by and says, "We must follow the leaders."  Even in this
trivial instance he can't help but qualify her statement with "In all
good things."  He is circumspection personified.  His humor is a
delaying tactic.   

Of course the other great delayer in Shakespeare is Hamlet, with
tragic results; but in the Bard's work, it's usually speed which leads
to disaster:  characters as disparate as Romeo and Hotspur both
die from the onrush of events.  

And of course so do the MacBeths, who never take a breath 
and ask themselves what the witches might be up to - as if any
answer can be given to that question beyond obviously 
nothing good.  In the end all that serparates the violence of
MacBeth from the comic ending of Much Ado is Benedict's
capacity for delay.   As for the nihilism at the heart of both
plays; laughter is all Shakespeare can offer to fend it off:
as Benedict says, "Man is a giddy thing, and that is my 

•                                                          •                                                          •

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rahm and Freedom From the Press

•                                                   •                                                   •

Rahm Emanuel seems to have come to the rather surprising
conclusion that he does not need the Chicago press in order to
shape Chicago public opinion.  If anything, he seems slightly
antagonistic to the news media.

He seems to have made the calculation that the public will
side with him in his conflict with labor which is shaping up as
the defining issue of his administration.  Rahm was not elected
to be a nice guy.  He was elected to deal with the looming
fiscal crisis created by previous mayors' unaffordable  largesse
to city workers in the matter of pension benefits.

Rahm sees that the public understands that in a funny way the
insider-outsider dynamic has been reversed in this instance.
Chicago's reporters know the union leaders; they have become
the bastions of the old guard who do not want change.  It's
the Mayor who is the outsider fighting for reform.

Perhaps because people live longer than expected when the
contracts were negotiated, or perhaps because previous
mayors put political expediency before Chicago's long term
health, Chicago is stuck with pension obligations which
will cripple the ability of the city to invest in schools,
public transportation and environmental initiatives.

Do we pay for the future or past?  Chicago elected Rahm
get us oriented to the future again - as painful as that is
given both Chicago's and Illinois's huge debt.  The public
realizes pensions will have to be renegotiated.  This is not
a matter of "throwing the workers under the bus"; it's a
matter of necessity.

Rahm and the electorate understand this.  The Chicago press
by and large does not.

•                                                   •                                                   •