the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for February, 2011

quotes: kahn on expression

Posted by rigorousm on February 20, 2011

Today I distinguished desire from need

that need is  a temporary, measurable thing.

There is no denial that need is disgraceful not to give.

But desire is insatiable,

and presents itself in many, many aspects,

always new because it is completely immeasurable and unpredictable.

Only circumstance brings it out

and it always surprises as another aspect of the nature of man.

I had to write about a thought I had

about the inspirations, the desire to be, to express,

which is the real reason for living

and the means to express,

and I thought of the whole area of the source from which was to be desire

as that being the aura of silence.

Silence, the wordless,


murmur of the desire to be, to express.

–          Louis Kahn, 1972,  “Architecture: the John William Lawrence Memorial Lecture”


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quotes: kahn on essential desires

Posted by rigorousm on February 20, 2011


If you talk to a brick and ask it what it likes, it’ll say it likes an arch.  And you say to it, look arches are expensive and you can always use a concrete lintel to take the place of an arch. And the brick says, I know it’s expensive and I’m afraid it probably cannot be built these days, but if you ask me what I like it’s still an arch.

— Louis Kahn, “An  Architect speaks his mind” House & Garden vol 142 no 4 Oct 1972 pp. 124

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quotes: on completion and shame

Posted by rigorousm on February 20, 2011

Shame is a healthy impulse… protecting whatever is still in the act of “becoming” — a new love affair, a creative project– from the destructiveness of public exposure. Exposure “completes” a process before it is ready to be formed. “Becoming” is thwarted and it shrivels. Hiding and shame can be powerful, postive virtues.

— Daugherty, Hiding Man p 365

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quotes: the encounter of two masters

Posted by rigorousm on February 20, 2011

Hearing Satie’s music was as much an experience as playing, at least for listeners used to listening to the soothing harmonies of Romantic composers. Satie thought such masters as Wagner and Tchaikovsky pompous and sentimental, and their mellifluous symphonic forms outdated. To him harmonies were less important than patterns of music. He would isolate fragments of melody, many of them reminiscent of American jazz, and repeat them in monotonous rhythms. The effect was at once cerebral and childlike; Satie, in fact, once expressed an eagerness to figure out what kind of music a one-year-old would compose.

— Lael Wertenbaker – World of Picasso p 75

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quotes: stein on ugliness

Posted by rigorousm on February 20, 2011

Every masterpiece has come into the world with a dose of ugliness in it. This ugliness is a struggle to say something new.

— Gertrude Stein on Picasso’s “Two Nudes”

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film, women, talk

Posted by rigorousm on February 14, 2011

  • I spend about a twentieth of my time avoiding dinner parties these days.
  • An unpleasant resurfacing of an old job — returning to the language and posturing of, like the faceless bureaucrat, “an evil civil servant but civil in his evil,” evil being entirely dependent on the extent of one’s commitments to pragmatism or ideology.
  • Three years ago, a friend and I borrowed a Peter Greenaway film– something about twin brothers and rotting fecundity. As now, I had a terrible habit of falling asleep in darkened rooms given the slightest opportunity and Greenaway is an acquired taste; I woke up to snails, hundreds of snails, and that dissonant string music that features so prevalently, and it would have been amusing if it hadn’t been so disconcerting.
  • The Bechdel Test is a standard by which to test whether or not films have three-dimensional female characters. It goes something like this: there has to be more than one female character, and female characters must have a scene together in which their conversation does not revolve around the presumptive male lead or their relationships to him or other men.
  • The Junebug scene starting at 3:08 is an example of this, or of giving the characters an aspect that isn’t dependent on romantic relationships but, instead, a slightly hushed-mortified-ecstastic shared revelation: you did that? I did that, too!
  • Watched Greenaway’s 8 1/2 Women this weekend. I think I liked it, in much the same way I like Fitzgerald novels: unsympathetic society creatures milling about, occasional digressions into the Nature of Art, or Woman that could easily be read as the unvarnished opinion of the author breaking through– but just as easily could be a sly send-up of that opinion. Also, the dated/futuristic opening images and sounds, the tableaus, the beautiful women and beautiful shots of pachinko machines, bookshelves, what have you.
  • Everything is over, says Aragon, by the age of twenty. For everyone here, it seems like the entirety of the decade is in anticipation of, the not-yet-begun– despite or possibly because this is the age during which capitalism promises us the most pleasure. Aragon might be right insofar as his comments relate to romance, sex — falling back on the couch and crying, “Oh, Charles!” without fail. If one is inclined to go by the book about seduction, or being seduced.
  • The scene that stands out, for me, in 8 1/2 Women takes place between two of the maids, discussing the ascension of one of the fellow-maids to the 8 1/2. They discuss the audition and one of the maids admits to having auditioned, but not having been chosen– she was too willing. The other maid feigns ignorance, possibly, and the first rattles off a veritable menu of fetishes, then admits it’s all a little obvious, nevertheless…. They are alone with their mops, next to the swimming pool. I’m almost certain that the kind of people who take the Bechdel test seriously would probably fail the movie, and yet. It’s an interesting little scene. It’s somehow reminiscent of Genet.
  • Last night, downtown at an improbably large bar with an old friend, sharing the anxiety of waiting for something to happen. It’s the problem of studying humanities, it doesn’t necessarily feel like work, she says. It’s all very Mme. Bovary-esque. It comes out that we also have in common two main dispositions– a feeling of invincibility or a feeling of terror at things not happening now, the lack of certifiable/recognized events in one’s life– and the shared occurrences of bewildering housemates by bursting into tears, you do that, too? I thought it was just me.
  • Peter Greenaway, recently at UCSD,  on the three generations of cinema: “New Possibilities: Cinema is Dead, Long Live Cinema” at UCTV.

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quotes: on expression

Posted by rigorousm on February 12, 2011

“Fuck” is good. “Fuck” is a poetic expression for the unsayable soul.”
Skins S5e1

…writing is to be fought: in it the inexpressible becomes indecency.

– Patrick Chamoiseau, Texaco p. 2o2.

The artist’s imagination is a world of potentialities that no work will succeed in realizing. What we experience by living is another world, answering to other forms of order and disorder. The layers of words that accumulate on the page, like the layers of colors on the canvas, are yet another world, also infinite but more easily controlled, less refractory to formulation. The link between the three worlds is the indefinable spoken of by Balzac: or, rather, I would call it the undecidable, the paradox of an infinite whole that contains other infinite wholes.

– Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium, p. 97.

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quotes: klee, miller, winterson, de beauvoir on folly and satisfaction

Posted by rigorousm on February 12, 2011

Satirical Opus:
The happy man is half an idiot for whom all things flourish and bear fruit. He stands on his little estate, one hand holding a watering-can, the other pointing to himself as the navel of the world. Things sprout and blossom. Boughs heavy with fruit bend towards him.

– from Paul Klee’s Journal 316, 1901.

The fellow who is out to burn things up is the counterpart of the fool who thinks he can save the world. The world needs neither to be burned up nor to be saved. The world is, we are. Transients, if we buck it; here to stay, if we accept everything created is also creative.

– Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, p. 144.

Symbolic man surrounds himself with objects as tyrants surround themselves with subjects: ‘These will obey me. Through them I am worshipped. Through them I exercise control.’ These fraudulent kingdoms, hard-headed and practical, are really the soft-centre of fantasy. They are wish fulfillment nightmares when more is piled on more to manufacture the illusion of abundance. They are lands of emptiness and want. Things do not satisfy. In part they fail to satisfy because their symbolic value changes so regularly and what brought whistles of admiration one year is next year’s car boot sale bargain. In part they fail to satisfy because much of what we buy is gadgetry and fashion, which makes objects temporary and the need to be able to purchase them, permanent. In part they fail to satisfy because we do not actually want the things they buy. They are illusion, narcotic, hallucination.

– Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects, pp. 144-145.

The human being, stripped of pretensions and reduced to its simple truth, has something comic, ludicrous and touching about it, and at times something mysterious, as we see in Senecio: the name calls to mind both old age and the flower of the coltsfoot (senecio) and the picture shows us a lunar, childish face.
The title makes one think: for although there is nothing literary about Klee’s painting, words have great importance in it– he brings printed and written letters into his pictures and he chooses his titles with great care, so that they form part of the painting and modify its meaning. It is these interchanges between the written language and that of painting, between the various earthly creatures, and between nature and architecture that give Klee’s world its poetry. His process is the opposite of Picasso’s, for Picasso’s painting breaks reality down and analyses it. Klee sees it as a universal presence that beyond its apparent limits: everything is bound to the cosmos as a whole, and it is the painter’s task to make this connection visible by isolating the analogies that exist between all things.

– Simone de Beauvoir, All Said and Done, pp. 205-206.

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poetry: belieu on marriage

Posted by rigorousm on February 12, 2011

He lived in a sod house,
a formal nest of grass
that wove green thread
around his soul, a bed
of mud and cellulose.

And she was small. She
never grew; the empty
wind that blew and reared
had bent her to the plains she cared
so little for. But he,

he didn’t seem to mind
her size, he’d found
a shape to love there;
and she was spare where
he was generous as sand, the kind

of man who drifted
like the yellow hills that lifted
their sloping shoulders to the bad
lands. For her his mud
heart tumbled like the tufted
weeds that wheel along the plains,
that sea of mammoth bones,
that state all made of sky—
they married in July.
Her thin bouquet of corn

flowers remains the brightest thing
he’d ever see. I have her ring
now, a silver band so little
it won’t budge over the knuckle
on my pinky. How long

ago, a man gave his grass
soul to her in her brown dress—
and she was always stern,
too small, and learned
to keep inside a sod house.

–  Erin Belieu – “Plainsong”

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poetry: cummings on appeal

Posted by rigorousm on February 12, 2011

kitty”. sixteen, 5′ 1″, white, prostitute.

ducking always the touch of must and shall,
whose slippery body is Death’s littlest pal,

skilled in quick softness. Unspontaneous. cute.

the signal perfume of whose unrepute
focusses in the sweet slow animal
bottomless eyes importantly banal,

Kitty. a whore. Sixteen
you corking brute
amused from time to time by clever drolls
fearsomely who do keep their sunday flower.
The babybreasted broad “kitty” twice eight

–beer nothing, the lady’ll have a whiskey-sour–

whose least amazing smile is the most great common divisor of unequal souls.

Chimneys V., e.e. cummings

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