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Posted 1/31/2012 2:44pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A couple of weeks ago, it was cold and we were working indoors; Rebecca and Dominique were over at my place and we'd fired up the wood stove for the first time. We were barcoding 1500 skeins of yarn in 6 different weights and in many colors from natural dyes and modern dyes. 

We were tired and I think it was the afternoon of the 3rd day and we were on worsted Indigo blue and we had blue yarn spread all over the floor. I asked them if they knew who Yves Klein was; they shook their heads.  "He was a post-war French artist who died young in the early 60's; in his Blue Period he painted all paintings—I mean every one—with one color: Blue."

Dark Indigo Blue

I remember him best for a photo of a performance piece he did in 1960.

Le Saut dans Le Vide

The girls looked at the photo and Rebecca said we should name the dark Indigo Yves Klein Blue.

Posted 1/25/2012 9:13pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Was I three, was I four? I don't exactly know how old I was. One of my first memories was of one of wonder; the seeing of a dog, a black dog, running by me, a fast dog, small dog (a very small dog, smaller than me), speeding around me, I, thinking this dog was faster than a car, faster than anything I'd ever seen; I was sure it was the fastest thing in the world and I knew what wonder was, looking at that running dog, before knowing what the word 'wonder' meant. And this memory was not part of a shared past that had been told me over and over by older people such that it became a recollection that defined who I was. This dog on that day was something that I'd never told anyone of until now.

Tags: Dogs
Posted 1/23/2012 8:28pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Dominique calls him a polar bear as he weighs close to 400 lb. and is twice the size of a Saxon Merino ram.  But he is all gentleman and, to my mind, wise.

The Corriedale breed is the result of crossing the Lincoln and Merino breeds.  

Posted 1/22/2012 7:15pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A bright moment on a cold and snowy Saturday at Greenmarket in Union Square was my visit to the National Arts Club to see an exhibition of paintings and etchings by J. W. Middendorf and his daughter Frances.

In New York you can go an exhibition at a museum during market hours, given competent market help which I am fortunate to have, or go to a play after you fold your tent for the day. The sheep don't care what you do there as long as you bring back enough money to feed them.

The temperature outside was just below freezing and I was dressed for it. But going up Park Avenue South to the Club located on Gramercy Park I did wonder if the doorman would let me in; I was, by all appearances, a street person who slept on subway grates to stay warm, with two pair of pants under my old and ragged Carhart insulated overalls and a two-sizes too big barn coat over my 3 shirts. Plus I had my clunky waterproof Muck books on, the ones I slog around the barnyard in, but the nice thing was that I didn't have to turn and jump over the puddles as the fashionably but ill shod New Yorkers did walking along the slushy avenue with expressions of furtive pain on their faces like they were being pelted by molten lava when they were touched by a floating snowflake, I splashed straight ahead—"Damn the torpedoes"—I was someone who walked on water.

At the red lights, to myself and to the imaginary doorman, I rehearsed in a droll and innocent manner, "I say old boy, is there a show of etchings here?" like I were William Powell playing the suave and tuxedoed Nick Charles in The Thin Man to whom no door is closed. 

It worked.  "Downstairs and to the right," I was told. "Will the artists be here?" I asked in passing.  The man at the door shrugged, "On a day like today..."  We smiled knowingly, even though we knew different things.  I was in.  Now where was Myrna Loy?

The mission of the National Arts Club is to stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts.

To enter the Club is to step back in time to a 19th century overstuffed elegance that Edith Wharton might have written about and to rub elbows with celebrated American artists who were members, Frederic Remington, Robert Henri and George Bellows to name but a few.

The first gallery was devoted to Frances and what impressed me were her watercolors; I had seen her drawings before after Cesare Pavese poems  but never had I seen her work in color. Very nice.

The second gallery featured her father's etchings of the circus and a favorite of mine was an etching of high trapeze aerialists, one caught up in the air, and upside down, but so composed with his arms at his sides. So trusting.

Delightful to see the works of father and daughter in the same gallery and at the same time.

Paintings and Etchings by Frances Middendorf and J. W. Middendorf at The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South NYC through January 28, 2012.

Posted 1/20/2012 2:15pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Fall Brown 

I asked David at Green Mountain Spinnery, being that they had made our Bulky Yarn by twisting four spun strands together into a singles, if they could they could twist six strands together making us an even thicker yarn, a Super Bulky. "Hmm," he said, "we can try."  Never had they made a yarn that thick before. "Well, if it's iffy," I said, "spin a small lot, say 50 lb."

I called David several weeks later, "We did it and we like it," he said. "Good!" I said and I had them send me a couple of boxes of the new Super Bulky yarn, so eager I was to see and feel it.

It is soft and lovely as is all our Saxon Merino yarn, but it is thick and you must use large needles to knit it.

4 oz (100 g), 110 yd, 4 stitches per inch on US 15

Last week I asked Rebecca to dye several colors, ones that would look good on a yarn so thick—she was to dye only one pound of each color to see if they worked—and she did, and I like them.

Look at the colors in the Super Bulky Yarn store and tell us if you like them.

Posted 1/18/2012 9:48pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Stanley Fish in his How to Write a Sentence describes the additive sentence mastery of Virginia Woolf: here is a sentence from To the Lighthouse and several pages later he quotes and discourses on a sentence from Mrs. Dalloway.

"Sterne, Salinger, Stein, Hemingway—the additive, non-subordinating style is obviously versatile; it can be the vehicle of comedy, social satire, philosophical reflection, realism, and something approaching photography. In any of its guises it displays the advantages of being able to stop on a dime, arrest action, freeze the frame, stay still at the same time the reader moves linearly—all effects achieved in spectacular fashion in a sentence from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse (1927). Mrs. Ramsey has just rebuked her daughters for mocking "the little atheist" Tansley. We see them react in a moment that expands and remains in focus despite the passing of considerable reading time:

She was now formidable to behold, and it was only in silence, looking up from their plates, after she had spoken so severely about Charles Tansley, that her daughters, Prue, Nancy, Rose—could sport with infidel ideas which they had brewed for themselves of a life different from hers: in Paris, perhaps; a wilder life; not always taking care of some man or other; for there was in all their minds a mute questioning of deference and chivalry, of the Bank of England and the Indian Empire, of ringed fingers and lace, though to them all there was something in this of the essence of beauty, which called out the manliness in their girlish hearts, and made them, as they sat at table beneath their mother's eyes, honour her strange severity, her extreme courtesy, like a queen's raising from the mud a beggar's dirty foot and washing it, when she thus admonished them so severely about that wretched atheist who had chased them to—or, speaking accurately, been invited to stay with them in—the Isle of Skye.

The word "behold" is a command: behold this woman! In the sentence, our surrogate beholders are the three daughters who gaze upward at their mother as if at a portrait and think thoughts in silence. From its beginning to "a life different from hers," the sentence proceeds in the subordinating, hypotactic mode: "looking up from their place" is the present action the three young woman perform, but the present is immediately framed by the "after" clause—"after she had spoken so severely"—-which provides a past and causal perspective on what they are doing. But then, "in Paris, perhaps" the prose breaks free. Who says "perhaps"? Is it a qualification from the outside, made by an omniscient narrator, or does the word belong to the three sisters, who perhaps have not yet settled on their preferred dream? And who is it that wants not to be "always taking care of some man or other"? Surely the daughters have not yet taken on that burden; does this wish belong to their mother, who is now playing in the fields of her daughters' consciousnesses? Are the "infidel ideas" the sisters "sport" with theirs or hers? Is it for her or for themselves that they imagine "a life different" from the one their mother leads? The latter is the more likely; the austere majesty of Mrs. Ramsey leads them to question the world of ceremony and courtesy they associate with her; and yet—the sentence does not progress, but keeps adding to the perspectives and vistas that open up in its leisurely spaces—the severity from which they imagine themselves freed has its own attractions, its own beauty, which is summed up in the person of their mother, to whom they, and the sentence, return, re-conceiving her as a queen admonishing her subjects. At the same moment the subordinating style, with its clear temporal demarcations ("who had chased them—or, speaking accurately, been invited to stay with them"), also returns, putting events and persons in their proper place.

What makes the Woolf sentence able to shift direction and emphases without seeming discontinuous or disjointed are those "slight ligatures" that mark the coordinating style: "and," "for," "though," "when." These interact with a succession of present participles—"looking," "taking," "raising," "speaking"—verbal forms indicating ongoing actions, no one of which is completed and all of which combine in almost a symphonic fashion to paint a densely layered moving, kaleidoscopic, sometimes frame-frozen picture."

How to Write a Sentence Stanley Fish 2011, Harper

Tags: Fish, Woolf
Posted 1/11/2012 8:31pm by Eugene Wyatt.

In order for an improvised scene to be successful, the improvisers involved must work together responsively to define the parameters and action of the scene, in a process of co-creation. With each spoken word or action in the scene, an improviser makes an offer, meaning that he or she defines some element of the reality of the scene. This might include giving another character a name, identifying a relationship, location, or using mime to define the physical environment. These activities are also known as endowment. It is the responsibility of the other improvisers to accept the offers that their fellow performers make; to not do so is known as blocking, negation, or denial, which usually prevents the scene from developing. Some performers may deliberately block (or otherwise break out of character) for comedic effect—this is known as gagging—but this generally prevents the scene from advancing and is frowned upon by many improvisers. Accepting an offer is usually accompanied by adding a new offer, often building on the earlier one; this is a process improvisers refer to as "Yes, and..." and is considered the cornerstone of improvisational technique. Every new piece of information added helps the improvisers to refine their characters and progress the action of the scene.

Improvisational Theatre Wikipedia

Tags: Improv
Posted 1/10/2012 12:37pm by Eugene Wyatt.

...produced not by anyone but by everyone in concert, meaning not waiting for us at the end of a linear chain of authored thought in the form of a sentence or an essay or a book, but immediately and multiply present in a cornucopia of ever-expanding significances.

There are two things I want to say about this vision: first, that it is theological, a description its adherents would most likely resist, and, second, that it is political, a description its adherents would most likely embrace.

The vision is theological because it promises to liberate us from the confines of the linear, temporal medium in the context of which knowledge is discrete, partial and situated — knowledge at this time and this place experienced by this limited being — and deliver us into a spatial universe where knowledge is everywhere available in a full and immediate presence to which everyone has access as a node or relay in the meaning-producing system. In many theologies that is a description of the condition (to be achieved only when human life ends) in which the self exchanges its limited, fallen perspective for the perspective (not a perspective at all) of union with deity, where there is no distance between the would-be knower and the object of his cognitive apprehension because, in Milton’s words, everyone and everything is 'all in all.'"

The Digital Humanities and the Transcending of Mortality Stanley Fish, NYT January 9, 2012

Posted 1/9/2012 5:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Symptom no. 2:
That we are unable to write after reading a good book

This may seem a narrowly professional consideration, but it has wider relevance if one imagines that a good book might also stop us from thinking ourselves, because it would strike us as so perfect, as so inherently superior to anything our own minds could come up with. In short, a good book might silence us.

Reading Proust nearly silenced Virginia Woolf. She loved his novel, but loved it rather too much. There wasn't enough wrong with it—a crushing recognition when one considers Walter Benjamin's assessment of why people become writers: because they are unable to find a book already written that they are completely happy with. And the difficulty for Virginia was that, for a time at least, she thought she had found one.

Marcel and Virginia

A short story

Virginia Woolf first mentioned Proust in a letter she wrote to Roger Fry in the autumn of 1919. He was in France, she was in Richmond, where the weather was foggy and the garden in bad shape, and she casually asked him whether he might bring her back a copy of Swann's Way on his return.

It was 1922 before she next mentioned Proust. She had turned forty and, despite the entreaty to Fry, still hadn't read anything of Proust's work, though in a letter to E. M. Forster, she revealed that others in the vicinity "were being more diligent. "Everyone is reading Proust. I sit silent and hear their reports. It seems to be a tremendous experience," she explained, though appeared to be procrastinating out of a fear of being overwhelmed by something in the novel, an object she referred to more as if it were a swamp than hundreds of bits of paper stuck together -with thread and glue: "I'm shivering on the brink, and waiting to be submerged with a horrid sort of notion that I shall go down and down and down and perhaps never come up again."

She took the plunge nevertheless, and the problems started. As she told Roger Fry: "Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that! I cry. And at the moment such is the astonishing vibration and saturation that he procures—there's something sexual in it—that I feel I can write like that, and seize my pen and then I can't write like that."

In what sounded like a celebration of In Search of Lost Time, but was in fact a far darker verdict on her future as a writer, she told Fry: "My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? . . . How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp."

In spite of the gasping, Woolf realized that Mrs. Dalloway still remained to be written, after which she allowed herself a brief burst of elation at the thought that she might have produced some-thing decent. "I wonder if this time I have achieved something?" she asked herself in her diary, but the pleasure was short-lived: "Well, nothing anyhow compared with Proust, in whom I am embedded now. The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut and as evanescent as a butterfly's bloom. And he will I suppose both influence me and make me out of temper with every sentence of my own."


However, any bad mood she was in was liable to take a dramatic plunge for the worse after the briefest contact with the Frenchman. The diary entry continued: "Take up Proust after dinner and put him down. This is the worst time of all. It makes me suicidal. Nothing seems left to do. All seems insipid and worthless."

Nevertheless, she didn't yet commit suicide, though did take the wise step of ceasing to read Proust, and was therefore able to write a few more books whose sentences were neither insipid nor worthless. Then, in 1934, when she was working on The Years, there was a sign that she had at last freed herself from Proust's shadow. She told Ethel Smyth that she had picked up In Search of Lost Time again, "which is of course so magnificent that I can't write myself within its arc. For years I've put off finishing it; but now, thinking I may die one of these years, I've returned, and let my own scribble do what it likes. Lord what a hopeless bad book mine will be!"

The tone suggests that Woolf had at last made her peace with Proust. He could have his terrain, she had hers to scribble in. The path from depression and self-loathing to cheerful defiance suggested a gradual recognition that one person's achievements did not have to invalidate another's, that there would always be something left to do even if it momentarily appeared otherwise. Proust might have expressed many things well, but independent thought and the history of the novel had not come to a halt with him. His book did not have to be followed by silence; there was still space for the scribbling of others, for Mrs. Dalloway, The Common Reader, A Room of One's Own, and in particular, there was space for what these books symbolized in this context—perceptions of one's own.

How Proust Can Change Your Life Alain de Botton 1997 Pantheon

Posted 1/1/2012 7:59am by Eugene Wyatt.

Everything seems to suggest that his discourse proceeds according to a two-term dialectic: popular opinion and its contrary, Doxa and paradox, the stereotype and the novation, fatigue and freshness, relish and disgust: I like/I don't like.

Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes

"[Barthes] realizes that his greatest achievement is not what he is, nor even what he has done, but rather how he has done it. So his self- portrait is not primarily a recollection of events or earlier works. It is, rightly, a delineation of the method rather than the man. And so persuasive or provocative are its assertions and associations that it is impossible to read this portrait of a style passively."

San Francisco Review of Books, Jacob Stockinger


The word doxa picked up a new meaning between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC when the "Seventy" (evdomikonta) Hebrew scholars in Alexandria translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. In this translation of the Scriptures, called the Septuagint, the scholars rendered the Hebrew word for "glory" (כבוד, kavod) as doxa.


Pierre Bourdieu, in his Outline of a Theory of Practice, used the term doxa to denote what is taken for granted in any particular society. The doxa, in his view, is the experience by which “the natural and social world appears as self-evident”. It encompasses what falls within the limits of the thinkable and the sayable (“the universe of possible discourse”), that which “goes without saying because it comes without saying”.

Doxa, Wikipedia

Tags: Barthes, doxa