the unicorns in patagonia

“‘O Patagonia!’ he cried. ‘You do not yield your secrets to fools. Experts come from Buenos Aires, from Nortg America even. What do they know? One can but marvel at their incompetence. Not one paleontologist has yet unearthed the bones of the unicorn.’

‘The unicorn?’

‘Precisely, the unicorn. The Patagonian unicorn was contemporary with the extinct megafauna of the Late Pleistocene. The last unicorns were hunted to extinction by man in the fifth or sixth millennium B.C. At Lago Posadas you will find two paintings of unicorns. One holds its horn erect as in Psalm 29: “My horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn”. The other is about to impale a hunter and stamps the pampas, as described in the Book of Job.’ (In Job 38:21 it is the horse that ‘paweth the valley’, while in verses 9–10 the unicorn is found unfit to haul a plough.)”

(Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia, p. 73.)

the indolent security of the germans

“Jovinus, who had viewed the ground with the eye of a general, made his silent approach through a deep and woody vale, till he could distinctly perceive the indolent security of the Germans. Some were bathing their huge limbs in the river; others were combing their long and flaxen hair; others again were swallowing large draughts of rich and delicious wine.”

(Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. II, chapter XXV; p. 990 in volume 1 of the Penguin edition.)

like a skilful politician

“101. At first Constantine threatened in speaking, but requested in writing, και αγραφως μεν ηπειλει δε, ηξιον. His letters gradually assumed a menacing tone; but while he required that the entrance of the church should be open to all, he avoided the odious name of Arius. Athanasius, like a skilful politician, has accurately marked this distinctions (tom. i. p. 788), which allowed him some scope for excuse and delay.”

(Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. II, chapter XXI; p. 798 in volume 1 of the Penguin edition.)

the almost invisible and tremulous ball of orthodoxy

“Within these limits the almost invisible and tremulous ball of orthodoxy was allowed securely to vibrate. On either side, beyond this consecrated ground, the heretics and dæmons lurked in ambush to surprise and devour the unhappy wanderer. But as the degrees of theological hatred depend on the spirit of war, rather than on the importance of the controversy, the heretics who degraded, were treated with more severity than those who annihilated, the person of the Son. The life of Athanasius was consumed in irreconcileable opposition to the impious madness of the Arians; but he defended above twenty years the Sabellianism of Marcellus of Ancyra; and when at last he was compelled to withdraw himself from his communion, he continued to mention, with an ambiguous smile, the venal errors of his respectable friend.”

(Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. II, chapter XXI; p. 783 in volume 1 of the Penguin edition.)

demilitarization

“I let it be known to my friends, and even strangers as I was wandering around the country that what was interesting me was making English less understandable. Because when it’s understandable, well, people control one another, and poetry disappears – and as I was talking with my friend Norman O. Brown, and he said, ‘Syntax,’ which is what makes things understandable, ‘is the army, is the arrangement of the army.’ So what we’re doing when we make language un-understandable is we’re demilitarizing it, so that we can do our living.”

(John Cage, interviewed about Empty Words, 8 August 1974.)

november 1–november 15

Books

  • Parker Tyler, Florine Stettheimer: A Life in Art
  • John Crowley, Conversation Hearts
  • Roberto Arlt, Mad Toy, trans. Michele McKay Aynesworth
  • Percival Everett, Glyph
  • Robert Kelly, Queen of Terrors

Films

  • Rome Against Rome, directed by Giuseppe Vari
  • Nothing Sacred, dir. William Wellman
  • A Bucket of Blood, dir. Roger Corman
  • Absolute Wilson, dir. Katharina Otto-Bernstein
  • Nóż w wodzie (Knife in the Water), dir. Roman Polanski

Exhibits

  • “Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe,” Met
  • “Photographic Treasures from the Collection of Alfred Stieglitz,” Met
  • “Historic Images of the Greek Bronze Age: The Reproductions of E. Gilliéron & Son,” Met
  • “John Ashbery: Recent Collages,” Tibor de Nagy

jael & sisera

“24. Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. 25. He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. 26. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. 27. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead. 28. The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots? 29. Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself, 30. Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil? 31. So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.”

(Judges 5, 24–31.)

clearly i should be reading tertullian

“100. Tertullian considers flight from persecution, as an imperfect, but very criminal, apostacy, as an impious attempt to elude the will of God &c. &c. He has written a treatise on this subject (see p. 536–544. Edit. Rigalt.), which is filled with the wildest fanaticism, and the most incoherent declamation. It is, however, somewhat remarkable, that Tertullian did not suffer martyrdom himself.”

(Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. I, chapter XVI; p. 548 in volume 1 of the Penguin edition.)