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Posted 5/4/2011 6:01pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Prince Von speaks of the German Emperor William II over dinner at the Duc de Guermantes.

“The Emperor is a man of astounding intelligence,” resumed the Prince, “he is passionately fond of the arts, he has for works of art a taste that is practically infallible, if a thing is good he spots it at once and takes a dislike to it. If he detests anything there can be no more doubt about it, the thing is excellent.“  Everyone smiled.

Le côte de Guermantes, Marcel Proust 1920; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrief 1925.

Tags: Proust
Posted 5/2/2011 8:42pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Last Saturday night about 8:30 PM as I stood on 3rd St. waiting for the light to change at Avenue A, I had doubts about going, as I was, to see a play about "lesbian pirates."  The flashing red hand of the traffic signal seemed to be telling me more than not to cross the street.  But I'd promised Ryan who appears in the play and who works for me on occasion that I'd go.  When the light turned green I crossed. "Swashbuckling Swordfights," the advertisements for the play promised; but that seemed to describe the busy day at Union Square Greenmarket I'd just had.  

I took a seat.  The program said the play would last for 90 minutes.  How could I stay awake that long if the play were sophomoric.  If I'd brought my sound cancelling ear buds, I could pull the hat over my eyes and play piano work by Reynaldo Hahn on my iPhone while I dozed the evening away in a romantic fantasy of my own invention, but the ear buds were in the truck. I would have to make do and I began to think over what I might say after the play.  I could half-lie to Ryan, "My day was long and the play was great."  But Virgo that I am, I would probably tell him the regrettable truth sooner rather than later.

The house lights went down...

Expecting the worst of art is a good way to approach it because with such sorrowful expectations there exists the possibility of pleasant surprise; and indeed, pleasantly surprised I was by My Base And Scurvy Heart, a Studio 42 production at The Wild Project.

The production was professional and worthy of the lights of New York.  There is a wealth of theatre talent in the city and much has been gathered by Studio 42 particularly for this production.  That the 90 minutes passed so quickly awards the play's writing and directing for how well they kept the audience involved in the story (writer: Adam Szymkowicz) by the timing (director: Moritz von Stuelpnagel) of its telling.

Relating the bare-bones tale of these sea worthy sexual pirates wouldn't do them justice because this is a play where the performances are integral to the storytelling and inseparable from it.  We had a theatre ensemble before us where one misstep by any of the group, either onstage or backstage, would have shied the self-conscious audience away; but we were with them, having accepted their theatrical invitation, and isn't this what good theatre is: the audience forgets itself and becomes one with the performance.

Ryan Andes (James) was at his best (although he's pretty good in the stand with knitters from Toledo) and that is because theatre is similar to playing barroom 8-ball: you're only as good as your fellow shooter; when playing a role, you're only as good as your fellow actor.  The cast was impressive.  Waif Christina Shipp and commanding Amy Landon as the shepherdess (Jessica) and the pirate captain (Lottie) beguiled us with their on and off romance and the subplot of lover Sandra Struthers-Clerc (Angie) and beloved Liz Wisan (Mildred) was marvelous.  You wanted for them.  

So Ryan, let me be straight up with you and truthful too, "My day was long and the play was great."

Posted 4/26/2011 12:52pm by Eugene Wyatt.

These are the ewe lambs in an iPhone snapshot, or now that they are a year old, these are the yearling ewes at pasture on the first day of the grazing season.  They love the growing grass brought forth by the warm sun.  No more costly oats (which they also love) for these girls this Summer.  Sheep and shepherd rejoice.

Posted 4/24/2011 7:08pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The Spring has been cold and wet, and that we know by the many times in recent weeks we've left the barn open at night so the lambs and their mothers could take shelter from the cold killing rain driven almost horizontally by the wind from the northwest. 

When lambs are older and stronger they can take the wet and cold as well as their mothers can given the plane of nutrition that we provide them.

It should be noted that most of our 5-6 week old lambs are able to endure these weather events without  problem, but there are always a few who are slow or weak and command the shepherd's attention.  These are the lambs that usually get temporary names like "Minny" or "Milky Way" when we talk about treating them, and they are lambs from  mothers who have little milk or who are not as attentive to their young as we would like them to be.

When you have a flock of sheep—we must have close to 450 ewes and lambs in and around the lambing barn—you tend to pay attention to the lambs who are the 'weakest links' and manage the flock to what those lambs need. To make sure a weak lamb has adequate nutrition in a communal feeder you might overfeed his hearty fellows, or over care for them, to the financial detriment of the farm.  But what's money for?

Posted 4/24/2011 10:04am by Eugene Wyatt.


      if I had been tempted to scoff at her (Françoise, the old servant) when,

             in her misery at having to leave a house in which one was "so well respected by all and sundry,"

      she had packed her trunks weeping,

            in accordance with the rites of Combray,

      and declaring superior to all possible houses that which had been ours, 

on the other hand,

      finding it as hard to assimilate the new as I found it easy to abandon the old,

I felt myself drawn towards our old servant

      when I saw that moving into a building

           where she had not received from the hall-porter,

              who did not yet know us,

                 (what) the marks of respect necessary to her spiritual wellbeing,

                      had brought her positively to the verge of prostration.

The Guermantes Way Volume II, p. 3; In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, translated by Moncrief and Kilmartin, Vintage Edition.

Tags: Proust
Posted 4/19/2011 8:41pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Tags: Hahn, Proust
Posted 4/18/2011 10:42pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Reading Carter's biography of Proust, I came upon this  mention  of  Saint-Saëns's Opus 75 and accessed it on iTunes as both the narrator and Swann go on expansively about "the little phrase" which finds it source here.

Despite "passionate" admiration for Saint-Saëns's work, Proust thought less highly of the composer's accomplishments than did his former pupil (the composer) Reynaldo (Hahn).  But the haunting melody of one section of the first movement of Saint-Saëns's Sonata I for Piano and Violin, Opus 75, captivated him. Marcel never tired of hearing it and asked Reynaldo (his lover) to play it for him again and again, referring to it as “the little phrase."  In the Search… Swann asks Odette (his lover) to play it  for him again and again, "the little phrase," now attributed to Proust's fictional composer Vinteuil.

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2000

The Saint-Saëns sonata, is it in a minor key—it feels like it—I'm not sure, but after listening to it, Swann in love I'm not, and of that I'm sure. I did download piano music by Reynaldo Hahn, not being familiar with his work, to give it a listen.

But before we go, here is an excerpt of Proust speaking of the language of music  as Swann listens to the Vinteuil sonata containing the little phrase performed at the home of the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's.

At first the piano complained alone, like a bird deserted by its mate; the violin heard and answered it, as from a neighboring tree. It was as at the beginning of the world, as if there were as yet only the two of them on the earth, or rather in this world closed to all the rest, so fashioned by the logic of its creator that in it there should never be any but themselves: the world of this sonata. Was it a bird, was it the soul, as yet not fully formed, of the little phrase, was it a fairy—that being invisibly lamenting, whose plaint the piano heard and tenderly repeated? Its cries were so sudden that the violinist must snatch up his bow and race to catch them as they came. Marvelous bird! The violinist seemed to wish to charm, to tame, to capture it. Already it had passed into his soul, already the little phrase which it evoked shook like a medium's the body of the violinist, "possessed" indeed. Swann knew that the phrase was going to speak to him once again. And his personality was now so divided that the strain of waiting for the imminent moment when he would find himself face to face with it again shook him with one of those sobs which a beautiful line of poetry or a sad piece of news will wring from us, not when we are alone, but when we impart them to friends in whom we see ourselves reflected like a third person whose probable emotion affects them too. It reappeared, but this time to remain poised in the air, and to sport there for a moment only, as though immobile, and shortly to expire. And so Swann lost nothing of the precious time for which it lingered. It was still there, like an iridescent bubble that floats for a while unbroken. As a rainbow whose brightness is fading seems to subside, then soars again and, before it is extinguished, shines forth with greater splendor than it has ever shown; so to the two colours which the little phrase had hitherto allowed to appear it added others now, chords shot with every hue in the prism, and made them sing.

Swann's Way Volume I, 495ff; In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, translated by Moncrief and Kilmartin, revised by Enright. The Modern Library Edition.

Posted 4/17/2011 11:11pm by Eugene Wyatt.

My reply to email  from a customer who had been waiting for more Musik garlic and to his comment about my blog entry concerning paying for digital access to the New York Times.

We did not plant any Musik this year as there was a nematode, as described by Cornell University's Diseases of Garlic Factsheet, that invaded much of the seed garlic in the Northeastern United States & Canada; the only clean seed (free of all diseases including the nematode) we could find to plant within a reasonably priced shipping distance was a German White porcelain (like a Musik) and a Ukranian Red rocambole.  The nematode problem was so pervasive that the Saugerties Garlic Festival prohibited wholesale sales last September and the SGF is a major market for seed garlic in the NE; this was the 1st sales prohibition in the 17 years of the festival's existence.

As far as the New York Times is concerned, it is not an either/or situation as you describe: the Times will cease to exist as we know it and readers paying for it will not make up for revenues lost in advertising.  As you know, there is a redefinition of  news media going on brought on by the Internet: no longer is media a one-to-many activity (
NYT > public, as in a traditional print newspaper), it is a many-to-many activity (public > public, like The Huffington Post and other blogging websites).  This redefinition will only accelerate leaving the Gray Lady sick and getting sicker. 

But the Times will be free again (I've read estimates of  within 10 months) as it attempts to recapture readership lost by charging for digital subscriptions; but the death throes will howl on longer than if the Times, that venerable broadsheet, were a publicly managed company, rather than being family managed as it is now, because blood (tradition) is thicker and stickier and blinder than red or black ink.

Other than that, what are you reading in French?


Posted 4/17/2011 7:36pm by Eugene Wyatt.

This morning's reading:

"Adjectival styles often succeed in nonfiction descriptions of first­hand experience. A cellist calls on adjectives…to answer the question, "How do the members of a string quartet play together and tour together year in and year out, without killing each other?" Below, the adjectives are italicized...

Conversely, there is a danger that individual criticisms can become destructively hurtful and bitter. If they are voiced too harshly and personally, no one ends up in a fit state to play. After all, the deep feelings conjured up when we play great music already make us feel vulnerable. In addition, nearly all playing requires maximum self-confidence and complete physi­cal ease and relaxation, even (or especially) in music of great intensity and ardour, or that is rapturous or celebratory

David Waterman, "Four's a Crowd"

From Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style Virginia Tufte 2006

Posted 4/17/2011 9:14am by Eugene Wyatt.
Eugene Wyatt
The old Mark Bittman as we still love him: How to Carve Leg of Lamb in Three Cuts -

The good with the bad: Now we have to pay for the New York Times online: $0.99 + tax for a week for the first 4 weeks, then $8.75 + tax a week thereafter...and I wonder why Judith Miller & Jayson Blair come to mind?  I suppose that as they got around the news (by falsifying it) while on the NYT's payroll, I'd like to get around paying the cost of a digital subscription (by fair means, not foul) as a reader.

The good again: Bittman says that a properly done leg of lamb will have both rare and well-done portions to please all your guests.