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[JULY 2008.]

That Everything is Going to the Dogs

Perhaps Williams’s greatest achievement by 1961 was to have fashioned a form and idiom in which to combat the dominant cultural pessimism without ceding the moral high ground. What he identified as the ‘long revolution’ was a record of ‘actual growth’, of a liberation of human potential rather than a dilution of ‘standards’. As he put it in a never published conclusion to the book of that name (which Smith reproduces in full), ‘Everything that I understand of the history of the long revolution leads me to the belief that we are still in its early stages.’ That was an important thing to say in Britain in 1961; it’s still an important thing to say, especially if given a properly internationalist application. Part of the value of Smith’s painstaking account is that it shows that even Williams had to feel his way towards that conviction and towards the confident declarative terms in which it is expressed. Thereafter, he could easily sound too confident, too declarative, but, for all his later lapses into abstraction and pomposity, he was right about this central matter, impressively and inspiringly right. Claims that everything is going to the dogs all too often rest on the hidden supports of parochialism, snobbery, class insouciance and a wilful refusal of the intellectual effort required to try to draw up a more realistic balance sheet of gain and loss. Williams fought against those things all along the line. It is hard to come away from this biography without admiring the way he made himself strong enough to fight that fight to such good effect.

 

Ostranenie

A Bastille Day revision note: the novel won’t have to go to the guillotine, it can still be reformed for the good of the Republic, I just came close to forgetting an essential bit of aesthetic theory from John R. Cash:

We were just a plain old hillbilly band with a plain old country style
We never played the kind of songs that’d drive anybody wild
Played a railroad song with a stomping beat
We played a blues song, kinda slow and sweet
But the thing that knocked them off of their feet was (hoo-wee)
When Luther played the boogie woogie
Luther played the boogie woogie
Luther played the boogie woogie
Luther played the boogie woogie
Luther played the boogie woogie
Luther played the boogie woogie
Luther played the boogie woogie
Luther played the boogie in the strangest kind of way
 
Play it strange!

 

La Busca de Averroes

1) Anyone still thinking about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, or just wondering what kind of metaphysics play a role in Spanish daily life, should consider the following:

Latin res: thing
Catalan res: nothing
Spanish res: beef

About Arabic I’m not sure.

2) Anyone still trying to work out an ontology of aesthetic experience should consider that all the undated works at the Fundació Joan Miró are labeled Sense data.

 

Assembling the Fridge

While you can eat your cold gazpacho with a spoon, like soup, it turns out also to work as a V8-type beverage available in awesome prepared bottles.

We buy “T’estimo” milk, which is Catalan for “I love you.” This seems to be the little girl’s sentiment toward her Photoshopped-in companion cow; likewise for the couplet below, which translates as:

Thanks for helping me to grow;
for we are also what we drink.

'i estimate you'

 

“It’ll be awesome, guys. We’ll do the guillotines, and the Jacobins, and the Terror all over again—only this time, in space!!!”

 

Jo Soc un Os

We like Cafè de les Delicies on the Rambla del Raval (a wide local street which was a slum block until 2000, when they demolished it in order to make way for the Universe of Cheap Turkish Food). Usually there are only a few people inside, talking about computers, and a sassy Catalan barista who is not too sassy to bring you your tasty drinks (for me, espresso before six and wine after) with alacrity. This is on the men’s room door:

The bear seems to have come first. Then we have the anteater (lit. “ant-bear”), a marmot, a mouse and a I-don’t-know-what-I-am. Everyone is speaking Catalan except the marmot, which speaks your standard Castilian Spanish.

 

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