A briefing that every single scrappy scribe and stalwart citizen should notice, and consider pondering carefully, about alleged overcharges of the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system to attorneys and other who seek HTML documents from the sprawling judicial sources that exist in the U.S., in the event an article as well that reports that the plaintiffs in the case just survived a motion for summary judgment, or a move to dismiss the action altogether, in the process of which recounting the author also points out that a veterans group has sued PACER separately, in a more robust complaint, and that this second lawsuit is also facing a summary judgment motion, all of which touches on issues of copyright, freedom of information, government in the sunlight, and other matters that basically determine, or at least massively influence, whether only the rich, or regular people as well, will be able to discover and then document and use key facts about the political and economic and social aspects of the lives that we lead in relation to government and bureaucracy and so on and so forth.
This Day in History
Today is International Translators Day and, for those who decry enforced obeisance, the last day of September is also Blasphemy Day; towards the end of the times of Ancient Rome, one thousand five hundred ninety-six years ago, the iconic priest and theologian who went through life doing good deeds and extolling the virtues of moral philosophy as Saint Jerome, died; sixty-nine years later, in 489, the Ostrogoths under king Theoderic the Great defeated the forces of Odoacer for the second time at Verona; in always conflict-ridden Central Asia one thousand two hundred seventy-nine years ago, an Ummayad invasion ran into a Turgesh brick wall that maintained Turkic control of the fringes of Tang China; forty-seven decades precisely after that point, in 1207, the infant male who matured to become the famous Persian poet Rumi came into the world; MORE HERE
A Thought for the Day
In and of itself, no degree of clever deconstruction can cure the ills that so evidently evolve in front of our eyes, since even the most ‘evolved’ understanding and highest expression of consciousness necessarily contain, on the one hand, a measure of ‘sympathy for the devils’ that have schooled us from our social inception and, on the other hand, easily enough devolve into the sorts of ‘paralysis of analysis’ that stop short of engaging and acting in relation to transformative possibility, the upshot of which is the foundational importance of combining mythos and doing, of placing psyche in conjunction with real sallies into conflict, of melding mediation with planned solutions to the problems under review.
Quote of the Day
My entry into the environmental arena was through the issue that so dramatically–and destructively–demonstrates the link between science and social action: nuclear weapons. The weapons were conceived and created by a small band of physicists and chemists; they remain a cataclysmic threat to the whole of human society and the natural environment. MORE HERE from Barry Commoner 1997 birthday interview, Scientific American
"paulo freire" "pedagogy of the oppressed" "popular education" OR "democratic education" engagement OR outreach OR enrollment OR commitment OR involvement grassroots OR community necessity OR requirement OR "sine qua non" learning OR knowledge OR consciousness transformation OR evolution OR transition = 8,220 Results.
TODAY’S HEART, SOUL, & AWARENESS VIDEO
NAZI FACTIONS WITHIN CONTEMPORARY ‘INTELLIGENCE,’ ZERO ‘COVERAGE
From the stalwart and courageous geniuses at Radio Free America, a half hour or so about the life and career of Nazi intelligence officer Rienhard Gehlen, whose jurisdiction centered on Ukraine and the Soviet Union, and, far from facing legal or practical consequences for his participation in the vast depredation that characterized the Eastern Front, he instead found himself under the protection of the Office of Strategic Services at war’s end, and with the demise of that organization the recruitment by military and strategic thinkers in the U.S. command who soon enough morphed into the newly developed Central Intelligence Agency, which saw to Gehlen’s placement as the head, not an operative in but the administrative and political leader of West German Intelligence, a decision that needless to say did not occur in a vacuum and that guaranteed that one element of overall ‘allied’ spy strategy would be in the hands of a lifelong fascist and virulent anti-communist, conclusions at once enlightening and horrifying and that a much longer documentary investigation –over three hours–fleshes out in voluminous detail, delineating the role that big business and professional politics at the highest levels played in approving and deepening such and intersection between reactionary murderers and the agendas of the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave,’ points that scrappy scribes and stalwart citizens need to note with profound clarity if they are to avoid a future that would be bleak or nonexistent, inasmuch as these same patterns continue right down to the present moment.
The Writing by Writers Tomales Bay Workshop will be held from October 19 to October 23 at the Marconi Conference Center in Marshall, California. The program features daily workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as panels, craft talks, student and faculty readings, and time to write. The faculty includes poet Ada Limón; fiction writers Richard Bausch, Pam Houston, Justin Torres, and Claire Vaye Watkins; and nonfiction writer Paul Lisicky. The cost of the program, which includes lodging at the Marconi Conference Center and most meals, is $1,750. Using the online submission manager, submit 5 poems of any length or 10 pages of prose along with a $25 application fee by October 15. Registration is first come, first served. E-mail or visit the website for more information.
The Robert Bosch Foundation and Cultural Vistas invite US professionals to apply for the 2017-2018 Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program. Bosch Fellows act as consultants in their field of expertise at leading public or private institutions in Germany. In addition, Bosch Fellows participate in professional seminars, where they travel to meet and exchange ideas with key figures across Germany and Europe. Fellows are from the fields of public policy and administration, foreign and security policy, urban and regional planning, business, journalism and communications, law, or cultural and arts management (ex. museum, theater, orchestra).
Dent Research, an established multi-million dollar publishing company is seeking an Assistant Managing Editor to join its team. Our ideal candidate will help our high-growth, quality-driven and entrepreneurial editorial team meet the deadlines of the publication’s daily, weekly, and monthly dispatches. Adept at molding prose to enlighten and engage an audience, this candidate will have a keen eye for grammar and inconsistencies as well as a love of the language.It is necessary that the person be organized and able to deftly prioritize a wide variety of projects so that they are consistently delivered on time and meet our high standard of quality content. A background in finance or investment writing is a plus.
A Truth Dig piece that looks at the work of an iconic sports figure who has developed a thoughful and valuable perspective on race matters, culture, society, and healing the world’s inequality problems, in the context of sports figures’ protests, police shootings, and ongoing emiseration of entire swaths of human population: “In a discussion of how the idea of race was invented and is used to marginalize and oppress, Abdul-Jabbar concludes: “The word ‘race’ is ghettoizing language that perpetuates seeing people of color as a different species. The word encourages fear and distrust. Language is the fuel that feeds the great racist generator.” Race eventually “should become the new n——- and people will refer to it in hushed tones as the R-word.” Until then, he writes, “for the sake of sharing a common though inaccurate language in order to foster a solution, most of us, myself included, will continue to talk about race as if it actually existed—and racism because it does actually exist.””
A Tin House podcast that provides serviceable advise to those seekin to write expository writing: “Too often, when writers try to write an essay, they stumble on common pitfalls like cramming too much information into too small a space, giving too much back story, or trying to write an essay for a particular column rather than writing an emotionally true one. We all have read memoirs that take our breath away, but how does a writer manage to produce that effect in under 3,000 words?
In this lecture from our 2014 Summer Writer’s Workshop, Ann Hood offers up ten steps to help you write a kick-ass essay.”
A Fast Company look into ways that current technology can facilitate creative expression and connecting with readers: “Do you ever feel like your book and your phone are at odds with each other? You begin a new read, only to become distracted—by the ding of an email, a text notification, or the desire to Wikipedia something that piqued your interest in the very book you’re reading. Before you know it, the book is abandoned in favor of the device.
Instead of attempting to write a book that would defeat the distractions of a smartphone, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal decided to make the two kiss and make up with her new memoir.”
A Facing South post that exposes the corrupt core of the election process, in the face of a good win: “A good-government group has won its case against the Federal Election Commission for negligence in enforcing campaign finance laws against two conservative political groups that have ties to billionaire industrialists and conservative juggernauts Charles and David Koch and that were active in several Southern states.”
A Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist article that looks at an artistic installation that deconstructs the futility of protesting nuclear war, energy, and armaments in a recent context of newly commissioned weaponry: “The yellow and the black. In response to all of this, A Provisional Memorial to Nuclear Disarmament places Morris’s fabric in another nuclear context, one prompted by the work of the British Marxist historian E. P. Thompson, who published the political biography William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary in 1955 then updated and republished it in the 1970s, when Thompson was a leading intellectual in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”
A WEEKLY SELECTION OF MATERIAL ON MEDIATION & ITS IMPORTANCE https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/after-irony-affect-theory-emotional-labor-review
At the starting post this week, a dandy review-essay from Dissent Magazine that manages in short order to countenance a pair of important books that consider feeling and affect in relation to politics, all the while also examining the way that feelings and economic ambition intersect in ways that harm our political interests and require careful deconstruction that appropriate narratives are capable of providing, an initial take-off that melds nicely with a trio of items that look at contemporary journalism in a way that the Dissent account would recognize as congruent with its analysis, in the first place a partial presentation of the speech about news now that the director of British Broadcasting Corporation gave upon her resignation, in the second place an overview fromColumbia Journalism Reviewof the present pass that reader commentary faces in a time of desperately needed engagement and dangerously ubiquitous trolls, in the third place a piece from Poynterabout how the Amazon outlet in Washington is insisting that its reporters write shorter material; all of which as a jumping off juncture fits in as well with such analyses as one fromNieman Reports about crowdfunding the news, another Columbia Journalism Review briefing about the declining job prospects for intrepid gumshoes who would work in the realm of digital reportage, and a final bit, again from Poynter, about the pending arrival of censorious ‘right-to-be-forgotten’ moves, primarily by corporate thugs who would remove documentation of predation from the web–the sum total of which then leads to a New York Times “Room for Debate” portal that looks for ways to conduct useful and respectful conversations about some of the insane controversies that bedevil humankind, as well as causing readers to ponder a recent Benton.org gateway to a bizarre data-retrieval triumvirate, in the form of the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Facebook; or to consider another Bentonset of citations about how librarians are fighting FBI overreach, a weekly aggregation that is possible to cap sweetly with the Gutenbergcitation that leads to Herman Melville’s story about the prototypically modern man, “Bartleby the Scrivener,” and a ‘nerdy’ grammarians entry about “indirect construction” that Contributoria made available before it came to pieces, the complete total of which will provide food for thought and potential guidelines for action for scrappy scribes and stalwart citizens alike in the days to come: “The primacy of feelings in our economy has given rise to a new field of scholarly inquiry. ‘Affect studies’ refers to humanistic and social-scientific investigations of the ways that feelings are generated, experienced, and interpreted. An affect is a particular kind of feeling, one distinct from an emotion. For academics in the field, affects are feelings that reside not in individual people but in social groups, institutions, or physical spaces. They’re not personal property; rather, they belong to a social body or to a collective experience. Individuals who participate in social life are always responding to these affects, sometimes by sharing a dominant affect, sometimes by rejecting it. If you work in academia, for example, you may feel anxious because the corporate university is pervaded by free-floating anxiety—you imbibe the affect that the institution generates. Drawing on queer theory and feminist theory, scholars interested in affect ask us to probe the negative feelings we experience on a daily basis—depressed, anxious, fearful—to see how they might reveal something about our political and economic circumstances.
Two new books examine the relationship between affect and politics. Lee Konstantinou’s Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction investigates the cultural connection between disaffection and political subversion. He focuses on irony, which, he argues, is always a political feeling. His book demonstrates how, from the midcentury to the present, American literature and culture moved away from irony and embraced a form of sincerity. We now live in a ‘postironic’ moment, a time when irony is no longer cool. Instead, it’s cool—even radical—to love, believe, and hope. Rachel Greenwald Smith’s Affect and American Literature in the Age of Neoliberalism approaches affect and politics from a different angle. Her study focuses on the way readers respond affectively to literature. Discouraging readers from identifying too much with literary characters, she draws attention to what she calls ‘impersonal feelings:’ feelings that exist not in people, or in characters, but in books themselves. Untethered from individuals, such feelings thwart the market logic of neoliberalism and, perhaps, make collective action possible.
Likewise, the Chicago-based Feel Tank—an institution founded by activists, academics, and artists—has offered the following slogan: ‘Depressed? It Might be Political!’ Liberation will come, these thinkers suggest, when we look away from feeling individuals and towards social feelings. Greenwald Smith, too, wants us to stop privileging the feelings of specific individuals. Her book is, fundamentally, an argument against empathy—more specifically, the empathy readers feel for literary characters. She advises readers to stop seeking out books that move them, or searching for characters to whom they can relate. Instead, she encourages readers to pick up books that seem cold, cerebral, or impersonal. These are the books that will generate productive discomfort; they’ll force readers to reflect and, maybe, to make change.
But there’s a problem with the way Greenwald Smith describes American life under neoliberalism. For her, contemporary life is defined by increased freedom as well as increased privatization. The neoliberal individual is an ‘entrepreneurial actor,’ someone whose daily life is defined by increased, dizzying freedom and an ever-proliferating bevy of consumption choices: ‘we can choose among three different private insurers; six different charter schools; eighteen different espresso drinks; four different student loan providers; organic bananas or free trade; natural gas or oil; twelve blockbuster films.’ But these experiences only pertain to one segment of American society—those who are insured, employed, and empowered with disposable income. For many, neoliberalism is about the constriction of choice and the diminishment of freedoms. It’s not about espresso drinks or free trade bananas but about prison cells, falling wages, occupying armies, and poisoned water. These problems won’t be solved by reading cerebral books.
(In Cool Characters), Konstantinou has a more concrete idea about what it means to engage in politically revolutionary action. (A hint: it involves organizing.) But for him, the more interesting question is why, in the postwar United States, certain creative and literary communities understood displays of feelings or attitudes as political acts. Drawing on literary and cultural history, he focuses on the life and afterlife of irony. For him, irony is not just a feature of good literature but a disposition, an attitude, an ethos. Over the last fifty years, irony has migrated from the margins of American life to the center; as a result, writers and thinkers have been forced to adopt different attitudes in order to criticize the political and cultural mainstream. Showing us how we got from bohemia to the Believer, Konstantinou examines four character types who relate to irony in some way. The midcentury hipster and the 1970s punk were ironists: they belonged to bohemian subcultures that maintained a critical distance from the mainstream. Two contemporary figures are ‘postironic;’ they’ve moved beyond irony and embraced an ethic of sincerity. They are the ‘believer,’ which he describes as ‘a newly earnest countercultural figure’ modeled on David Foster Wallace, and the ‘coolhunter,’ a type of trend forecaster. In an epilogue, Konstantinou addresses the figure of the ‘occupier,’ a different kind of hipster from the hipster of the midcentury, who marries irony and sincerity in a new way.”—Dissent
“The world I entered all those years ago as a young reporter on a commercial radio station in the north-east of England, would be unrecognisable today. It was a world of certainties and some existential anxiety, dominated by the Cold War and a western European economic and military consensus built around NATO and the Common market. Indeed, the UK had recently joined the Common Market at the second attempt…Journalism then meant newspapers, radio and television – all of them separate and regarding each other with a significant degree of suspicion. Broadcasting, at home and in Europe, was dominated by the big public service corporations which were generally well funded and accepted, almost without question, as a force for good and a source of independent information in a continent anxious to learn the lessons of the Second World War.
How things have changed. The Cold War is a distant memory and some comfortable certainties have gone. Political consensus is hard to find. The public service broadcasters who once ruled the roost now have their backs to the wall as they face an onslaught of competition. And as journalists we live in the age of instant news and digital recording. Thanks to digital technology, we can report more, and more easily, from nearly every corner of the world.
To be frank, I worry about the direction in which we’re going. By ‘we,’ by the way, I mean my profession, our profession – the media generally – not the BBC in particular. It seems to me that the media can sometimes rush very fast in order to stand still. Some of this is inherent in a particular medium. Television news, for example, tends to see things in shards. It reports quickly and fluently but with limited time and space, before moving on to the next thing. The context it can give is necessarily foreshortened by these demands. The viewer, less obsessed by world events than we are, can understandably tune in and out of stories from time to time without catching up on intervening developments. Do we, the media, do enough today, to explain and explore? Or are we too busy moving on to the next thing, in thrall to the pace of news?
(Radio, as a ‘speech medium’ is less driven by speed and the ‘next thing.’) But however we distribute our journalism, it does not exist in a vacuum. All media outlets, whatever platform they are on, and whether they are public service or commercial, are fighting for attention in a new world order. On the internet, so-called ‘clickbait’ is often dangled to hook a reader in: broadly, that means content of a sensational or provocative nature, to draw visitors to a particular web page. The aim is to generate online advertising revenue, frequently at the expense of quality or accuracy.
(Problems like the refugee crisis are so huge, and with such deep roots, that media today barely scratch their surfaces). In our search for answers to a problem which appears if not intractable then complex, is the speed of the media’s technology – and the politicians’ willing participation in the 24/7 news cycle – obscuring rather than illuminating the issues? Are we simplifying the arguments if only by default, by not investigating them fully, or by appealing to an emotional response rather than an explanatory one? Let me go back in time. The man who shook up the BBC more than any other in my experience was John Birt who was Director General between 1992 and 2000. I was a rather challenging young editor when he took over and can tell you that he was at the time an enormously controversial figure – forcing radical change on an organisation which resisted him almost every step of the way.
He made us save 30 per cent of our budgets to fund his new digital strategy for TV and radio services and the BBC’s website. It did not make him popular. Yet today the BBC still benefits from his farsighted digital strategy and I am pleased to say that a new generation of eager young technologists and journalists in the BBC rightly revere him.”—The Independent
“More and more news sites are shutting down the troll-ridden comment sections on their articles, but my experience as co-founder of a religion website that helped pioneer these kinds of online comments makes me think the troll infestation didn’t have to happen, and that news sites can and should preserve this valuable service.
How did we get here (to a pass typified by vitriol and slander and threatened mayhem)? The site I started in 1999, Beliefnet, was one of the first to run reader comments attached to articles rather than in a separate ‘forum’ area, as many sites did then. When we first offered this feature, it was met with some concern from our staff and outside writers. How would we get people to write for us if the authors knew they’d be subjected to immediate, in-their-face criticism? Wouldn’t it dilute our authority to have people publicly declaring that our prose was shoddy or, since we were a religion site, an abomination unto the Lord?
But we also operated under the assumption that online community didn’t just happen; it had to be cultivated. I don’t just mean ‘policing.’ Our community staffers (as well as those at other quality websites) were part police, part social workers, and part cruise directors, guiding the conversation, suggesting topics, and encouraging productive behavior. It was fairly expensive and labor intensive. At one point, we had four paid staff and 80 volunteers just to moderate comments and encourage civil discussion. The results were spectacular: vivid, detailed personal testimonials and surprisingly reasoned polemics about religion. It was early proof that great content could be created by readers themselves.
Good community managers understand troll psychology. For instance, we found that if you banned a user, he’d just come back with a new name, angrier than ever. Our staff ingeniously decided that instead of ejecting them, we would send them to special message boards where they could yell at each other as much as they wanted. We called these areas ‘dialogue and debate’ boards. Sometimes they spurred fascinating discussions; at other times, they acted as rubber rooms for the unhinged. By segregating such users, we helped other areas of the site—such as our online support groups—feel safer. The fulminators became like pigs rolling around in their own vitriol.
(Fighting costs, management turned to technology and algorithms, believing that this would work ‘even better’). Except it didn’t. Instead of using the new tools and algorithms to better empower community managers, some news sites cut back on the number of moderators to save money. Perhaps they were susceptible to wishful thinking about the wisdom of crowds because it aligned with their desire to cut costs. Financially, message boards were considered low-revenue areas because they could not attract blue-chip advertisers (who were nervous about appearing amidst unregulated chatter). So it became hard to justify putting more staff resources into maintaining them. Such non-moderation also could be rationalized as being more in sync with the freedom-of-speech ethos of the internet. But too often, with the cops and cruise directors gone, the trolls have taken over.”—Columbia Journalism Review
“(In the U.S. so far, getting rid of facts and presentations on the web is still against the grain, despite much begging and pleading from ‘damaged subjects’). Though a judgment call for editors, these dramas play out against a complex and changing legal background. Most states allow for a form of ‘expungement’ of the record of convictions — sometimes even for felonies — if the offender has stayed clean for a period of years. In May 2014, the European Union’s highest court ruled that there is a privacy ‘right to be forgotten’ — and that Google needed to respond to any reasonable request that information ‘inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive’ be removed. (The case was brought by a Spanish businessman who wanted to unpublish an account of an earlier insolvency).
(Now stateside), I became aware of the recent surge in such requests six weeks ago when Zach Ryall, digital managing editor of the Austin American-Statesman called Poynter asking if we knew of an ethics code providing guidance. ‘This is getting scary,’ Ryall told me. ‘We are responding to more and more of these…And when I checked with my colleagues at other Cox papers, I found they are too.’ Some of the callers are courteous, others belligerent, Ryall continued, but the concerns stick to several common themes.
Ryall and others alerted me to a compromise solution — a story can remain in the paper’s archives, but the link to Google broken. However Ryall agreed with me that in practical terms the effect may be three-quarters of the way to unpublishing. The matter of developing a new policy remains open at the Statesman, Ryall told me later. Meanwhile, stories are taken down only under unusual circumstances — ‘if we unknowingly endangered somebody or did not have permission to use information or received it improperly.’
The issue surfaced at the ASNE-APME convention earlier this month in a panel on Freedom Information issues. Nancy Barnes, editor of the Houston Chronicle, said that she and other editors are being ‘besieged’ by requests to delink. Her rule of thumb had been to say ‘we don’t do that,’ but now she is making decisions on a case-by-case basis.
(Closer to Poynter’s home base, the Tampa Tribune cut the tie to an article about a ‘naked maid’ service). Similarly, Barnes (in Houston) told me that she was sympathetic to a request from a young woman who had been reported as a teen runaway but now has turned things around and is going to college. ‘This is something editors are going to be dealing with more and more,’ Barnes said, and both editorial judgment and legal considerations need to factor in. (A hundred fifty miles West in Austin), Ryall said that though delinking ‘seems a naturally obliging thing to do,’ he remains reluctant. One persistent reader wants a story removed reporting that he stabbed someone at a party (who later died). The man was arrested but not convicted. Even so, Ryall said, ‘I can’t see it — that’s plenty serious.’ None of the editors I spoke with had a clear sense of what is behind the surge of requests. After all, the Internet and Google searches have been around for a while. The EU ruling could have raised awareness and privacy concerns seem to grow by the year. Also it is easy to find (with a Google search) advice or even a service for a fee to get an article removed.”—Poynter
“Having arrived at the fourth installment of a Grammar Nerd’s explication of a style sheet, the fundamental point of our presence here bears repeating. We hack away at words because we are trying to make sense of things. The complexities and curiosities of life beg for our intentional attention.
Month after month on Contributoria, daily or even hourly at Guardian Media and other such denizens of ‘constant comment’ on the state of the world, reporters are offering views, facts, analyses, and other ways of wrapping experience. Writers do their work in ways that permit readers to unfold these textual packages so as to increase understanding, evoke reflection, or simply enjoy themselves as they play language games with a given scribe.
Even were this process to continue into an infinite future, in which countless new actors put their fingers on innumerable new keyboards, every article that appeared throughout this ongoing, never-ending festival of meaning would likely be unique. Nothing, except for random plagiarism, would necessarily ever repeat any past piece’s precise wording or intonation.
Nevertheless, every author’s particular approach to stringing words together will follow some pattern. A few wordsmiths quite consciously make such choices of style and tone. More commonly, perhaps, a writer’s methods are less reflective than reflexive. Looming deadlines, beckoning breadlines, and hoped-for headlines can make most thinking about usage and style seem to threaten a paralysis of analysis.
The Happy Union Grammar Nerd has launched this series with a triptych about turns of phrase that we know, technically, as passive voice. Sentences that express such usage are, to coin a phrase, as common as corn, though the G.N. asserts that they are altogether absent in his pages.
The next three installments will be considering something that quite likely appears at least as frequently as passive voice does in our compilations. T echnically, these represent instances of inverted sentences, in what many grammarians term expletive construction. The Grammar Nerd terms this specific iteration of inversion, or ‘expletion’ as indirect construction, and he avoids such wording as obsessively as he forswears, like the plague as it were, passive usage.
If anyone has perused each of these first H.U.G.N. episodes, he will have noticed or she will recall that the Grammar Nerd proffered a simple rubric to initiate this series. This template recommends a set of choices:#1—Death to the Passive Voice;
#2—Death to the Second Person;
#3—Death to Indirect Construction.
The balance of this fourth item, and the two essays that will follow in March and April, examine the third directive in this series, advancing the Grammar Nerd’s contention that ‘Death to Indirect Construction’ makes good sense.”—Contributoria
Today is International Translators Day and, for those who decry enforced obeisance, the last day of September is also Blasphemy Day; towards the end of the times of Ancient Rome, one thousand five hundred ninety-six years ago, the iconic priest and theologian who went through life doing good deeds and extolling the virtues of moral philosophy as Saint Jerome, died; sixty-nine years later, in 489, the Ostrogoths under king Theoderic the Great defeated the forces of Odoacer for the second time at Verona; in always conflict-ridden Central Asia one thousand two hundred seventy-nine years ago, an Ummayad invasion ran into a Turgesh brick wall that maintained Turkic control of the fringes of Tang China; forty-seven decades precisely after that point, in 1207, the infant male who matured to become the famous Persian poet Rumi came into the world; four hundred seventy-four years ahead of now, Spanish plunderer Hernando de Soto led a group of his compatriots into Western Arkansas against tremendous indigenous resistance; the first performance of The Magic Flute opened in Vienna a quarter millennium hence, in 1791, Mozart’s last opera to debut, and Maximilien Robespierre and his cohorts took control of the French revolutionary process; a hundred fifty-six years back, England’s first tram operation opened in Birkenhead on the Mersey River; one hundred forty-eight years prior to today, the first volume of Little Women was published; fourteen years later across the Atlantic, in 1882, one of the world’s first electric power plants opened under the leadership of Thomas Edison and began producing electricity in Appleton, Wisconsin, and the male infant entered our midst who would grow up as the renowned nuclear physicist, Hans Geiger; ten years hence, in 1892, in Pennsylvania, plutocrat executive of Carnegie Steel convinced Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court to charge striking workers with treason, a tactic that helped to break labor’s work action in this case; one hundred twenty-one years ago, Madagascar became a French protectorate; four years after that moment, in 1899, also in Pennsylvania, Mary Harris(Mother) Jones, seventy years old, helped to organize miners’ wives to descend on a strike-bound facility and to agitate there, helping to win the strike; one hundred ten years prior to the present pass, the Royal Galician Academy started working in Havana; three years later still, in 1909, the Industrial Workers of the World issued its first Free Speech Call to workers who were willing to risk arrest in order to fight for the right to organize publicly for union representation, which almost everywhere in the U.S. then declared illegal; a half dozen years past that juncture, in 1915, striking railroad workers’ fight for an eight hour day and human rights came to pieces under court-ordered injunctions, strikebreakers’ replacements, and company thugs’ attacks; another four years onward, in 1919, sharecroppers—almost all Black—who were seeking to organize a union faced murderous ‘race riots’ in and around Elaine, Arkansas that brought about mass arrests and over a hundred deaths among workers; ninety-two years back, the infant who grew up to become prominent author Truman Capote was born; four years subsequently, in 1928, the baby boy who underwent the Holocaust and became Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel came into the world; seven years afterward, in 1935, the official dedication of Hoover Dam took place on the Colorado River; the League of Nations unanimously, and the infant who was destined to become celebrated American singer-songwriter Johnny Mathis first cried out; three years hence, in 1938, condemned and outlawed “intentional bombings of civilian populations;” another three hundred sixty-five years onward, in 1939, the National Broadcasting Corporation broadcast the first televised football game;seventy-three years ahead of today, the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; six further onward, in 1949, the Berlin Airlift came to an end; another year past that point, in 1950, the baby girl was born whom fate had designated to mature as novelist and screenwriter Laura Esquivel; four years further along time’s road, in 1954, the U.S. Navy launched the world’s first nuclear-powered vessel, the submarine that bore the name Nautilus; eight years nearer to now, in 1962, Dolores Huerta and Caesar Chavez and colleagues founded the National Farm Workers Association, the nascent United Farm Workers, and in another civil rights score, James Meredith formally became a Black student at the University of Mississippi; two years further on, in 1964, Berkley University saw the staging of the first large scale antiwar demonstration; a year later, and half a world away in 1965, the Thirtieth of September Movement attempted a coup in Indonesia that led to reprisals in which over half a million died under suspicion of favoring communism; seven hundred thirty days thereafter, in 1967, back round the world in England, the British Broadcasting Corporation restructured and expanded its radio operations; three years closer to today’s sun and air, in 1970, Jordan made a deal with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine for the release of the remaining hostages from the Dawson’s Field hijackings; seven years past that conjunction, in 1977, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration endured budget cuts that forced the abandonment of equipment and research on the moon; three years still closer to the current pass, in 1980, three media and technology conglomerates, Xerox, Intel, and the Digital Equipment Corporation, first issued Ethernet specifications; two years down the pike, in 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died after consuming cyanide-laced Tylenol; four years even later on, in 1986, Israel’s intelligence apparatus kidnapped Mordecai Vanunu for the ‘crime’ of revealing his country’s criminal nuclear weapons program to British media; twenty-six years ago, Nobel Prize literary laureate Patrick White died; six years yet more proximate to the present, in 1996, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment that prohibited firearms ownership by anyone whose record included a domestic violence conviction; three years subsequent to that, in 1999, Japan’s worst nuclear accident until Fukushima occurred at a Uranium reprocessing facility near Tokyo; six years subsequent to today, in 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published some controversial drawings of Muhammad; and four years prior to today, the ecologist and thinker Barry Commoner died.
“SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: Happy birthday, Dr. Commoner. You became a powerful voice for protecting the environment years before most of us ever heard the words “environmentalist” or “green.” What led you to become an environmental activist?
BARRY COMMONER: My entry into the environmental arena was through the issue that so dramatically–and destructively–demonstrates the link between science and social action: nuclear weapons. The weapons were conceived and created by a small band of physicists and chemists; they remain a cataclysmic threat to the whole of human society and the natural environment.
World War II had hardly ended when–not satisfied with the wartime bombs that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Japan–the U.S. and the Soviet Union began testing new and nastier ones, creating enormous amounts of radioactivity that spread through the air worldwide, descending as fallout. Many atomic scientists, alarmed by the consequences of their wartime work, protested. But the tests continued and were even expanded.
The tests were done in secret, marked only by Atomic Energy Commission announcements that the emitted radiation was confined to the test area and, in any case, “harmless.” This convenient conclusion reflected the AEC’s assumption that the radioactive debris would remain aloft in the stratosphere for years, allowing time for much of the radioactivity to decay.
SA: We now know that those assumptions were very wrong indeed. How could that have happened?
BC: The AEC had at its command an army of highly skilled scientists. Although they knew how to design and build nuclear bombs, it somehow it escaped their notice that rainfall washes suspended material out of the air, or that children drink milk and concentrate iodine in their growing thyroids. I believe that the main reason for the AEC’s failure is less complex than a cover-up but equally devastating. The AEC scientists were so narrowly focused on arming the United States for nuclear war that they failed to perceive facts–even widely known ones–that were outside their limited field of vision.
SA: So how did the truth about the dangers of weapons testing finally come out?
BC: After 1954, when some of the secret reports were declassified, independent scientists were able to further analyze the fallout data that AEC scientists had developed but had failed to understand.
The new analyses confirmed that they had grossly underestimated the dangers: E.B. Lewis, a geneticist at Caltech [the California Institute of Technology], showed that iodine 131, a major fallout component, was likely to cause thyroid tumors in children; Linus Pauling, the noted chemist, added carbon 14 to the roster of fallout hazards; Norman Bauer, a chemist at Utah State University, and E.W. Pfeiffer, a University of Montana zoologist, showed that there were high local fallout concentrations near, but outside, the Nevada test site; Erville Graham, a Canadian botanist, showed that the extraordinary capacity of lichens to absorb fallout directly from the air greatly amplified the hazard to native peoples in the Arctic.
SA: But, ultimately, wasn’t it public opposition that halted the tests?
BC: The AEC taught us that when science is forced to serve a powerful self-justified purpose, it becomes too narrow to serve the wider needs of society. It was the independent scientists, outside the AEC, who understood their obligation to society; it was they who met society’s need for the truth.
When the Committee for Nuclear Information was organized in St. Louis in 1958, we brought scientists and civic-minded citizens together. Our task was to explain to the public–first in St. Louis and then nationally–how splitting a few pounds of atoms could turn something as mild as milk into a devastating global poison.
At about that time, several of us met with Linus Pauling in St. Louis and together drafted the petition, eventually signed by thousands of scientists worldwide, that is credited with persuading President Kennedy to propose the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty–the first of continuing international actions to fully cage the nuclear beast.
SA: Do you consider the ratification of the treaty the real victory?
BC: No doubt about it. The U.S. Senate was a nest of cold-warriors and, according to common wisdom, was unlikely to ratify the treaty. But the Senate was besieged by letters, many of them from parents who abhorred the idea of raising their children with radioactive fallout embedded in their bodies. What convinced the senators was not so much their constituents’ fear of radiation, but that they were informed; they knew how to spell “strontium 90” and could explain precisely why it was so dangerous. The treaty was easily ratified.
SA: The key lesson, then, in opposing nuclear weapons was the power of an informed public?
BC: Absolutely. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty victory was an early indication of the collaborative strength of science and social action. It was this conclusion that led CNI to become the Committee for Environmental Information and extend its mission to the environmental crisis as a whole.
SA: When you refer to the “environmental crisis,” what exactly do you mean?
BC: The environmental crisis arises from a fundamental fault: our systems of production–in industry, agriculture, energy and transportation–essential as they are, make people sick and die. The modern assault on the environment began about 50 years ago, during and immediately after World War II.
The sharp rise in environmental pollution in the 20 years following World War II could be traced to such new technologies of production: new ways of producing electric power, transportation and food that, while they generated these valuable goods, now violently assaulted the environment as well. The changes were massive and fast: in less than two decades the total amount of automotive horsepower increased fourfold, of inorganic fertilizer nitrogen sevenfold, of synthetic organic chemicals 20-fold.
These were manmade mistakes that were therefore within our power to remedy. The mistakes were made by the auto companies when they decided to build bigger cars with high-compression engines that for the first time emitted nitrogen oxides, which in turn triggered the smog reaction; by the petrochemical industry that persuaded farmers to spread huge amounts of toxic pesticides–many of them carcinogenic–into the environment; by electric utilities that, believing propaganda that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter,” built the plants that generate highly radioactive spent fuel, which is yet to be dealt with.
I am grateful that my own adult life has covered this span of time, so that I have witnessed most of the notorious environmental blunders that led to the crisis–sometimes as simply a bystander, other times as an attentive observer, and at least once–in the case of DDT–as an unwitting perpetrator.
SA: Wasn’t tackling environmental problems caused by industry a very different kind of task from banning the bomb?
BC: Not at all. First, the scientists, engineers and technologists who designed and built the new technologies–not to speak of their corporate masters–gave no public notice of their environmental faults, because they were unaware of them, uninterested in them or, in some cases, deceitful. The vaunted sorcery of modern technology was hard at work, but environmentally, it was in the hands of apprentices.
Second, outsiders were needed to set things right–or at least to help the American people learn what went wrong and why. In every case, the environmental hazards were made known only by independent scientists, who were often bitterly opposed by the corporations responsible for the hazards. The result of grassroots action was that the American people were informed, became concerned, and sought ways to act.
SA: The first Earth Day is generally considered a prime testimonial to that new awareness.
BC: Earth Day 1970 was irrefutable evidence that the American people understood the environmental threat and wanted action to resolve it. The government quickly responded, and within the year, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established, as a national purpose, “efforts that will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to administer these efforts, and beginning with the Clean Air Act, legislation was quickly enacted to establish specific remedial programs, encompassing the now massive legislative and regulatory program, which extends into states and municipalities.
Environmental concern is now firmly embedded in public life: in education, medicine and law; in journalism, literature and art. It has turned hitherto indifferent politicians into self-proclaimed environmentalists, starting with Richard Nixon, an environmental nonstarter who made the issue the centerpiece of his first State of the Union address.
SA: So can the environmental movement now claim victory?
BC: Looking back on these changes, or perhaps startled by the latest advertisement of an oil company that has turned itself green, we might be justified in proclaiming victory. Certainly, we have made things happen. But what has motivated environmentalism and, in my view, defines its purpose is the state of the environment itself.
By that measure we are far from victory. Neither the general aim stated in NEPA, nor the specific improvements mandated in the enabling legislation, have come even close to being achieved.
SA: Can you give an example?
BC: The numerical evidence on the required improvements in air quality–which called for 90 percent reduction in pollution within seven years of 1970–is a persuasive example. According to the latest EPA assessment, after 25 years the best percentage improvement in emissions of the standard air pollutants (for sulfur dioxide) since 1970 is only 30 percent. Nitrogen oxide emissions have not improved at all over that period.
Worse, in almost all cases whatever improvement did occur came to a halt after 1980; since then, except for a slow reduction in carbon monoxide emissions, the curves are flat. And EPA foresees no further improvement; their latest projections of air emissions show slight increases for all the standard pollutants from now to 2010, except for a small decrease in sulfur dioxide.
SA: What went wrong?
BC: The methods that EPA introduced after 1970 to reduce air-pollutant emissions worked for a while, but over time have become progressively less effective. The chief remedial method has been the installation of emission-control systems–devices attached to the pollutant-generating source (such as autos, power plants and incinerators) that trap and destroy the pollutants before they enter the environment.
The fault is not that the control devices have themselves become less efficient since the 1980s. Rather, a countervailing process has overcome their emission-reducing capability. That process is economic growth: year by year, there are more cars and trucks on the road and more energy generated. As long as a control device is not perfect–that is, it does not reduce emissions to zero–this increased activity counteracts the device’s ability to reduce environmental pollution, and economic growth becomes the enemy of environmental quality.
It is simply economically impossible to require controls that even approach zero emissions. In turn, this economic limitation renders the control system vulnerable to the countervailing effect of increased economic activity. By adopting the control strategy, the nation’s environmental program has created a built-in antagonism between environmental quality and economic growth.
SA: Is there an alternative?
BC: Tragically, this conflict–as well as the accompanying failure to meet the legislative goals of environmental improvement–could have been avoided if the enabling legislation had required EPA to abide by NEPA’s stated purpose to prevent and eliminate pollution. By any interpretation, this requirement means zero emissions, which, if accomplished, would meet the mandated goals and undo the fatal embrace between the environment and the economy.
Ironically, hidden in the otherwise dismal data on air-pollution emission trends, we can find concrete evidence that the strategy of prevention can actually achieve this astounding result. In 1970 U.S. vehicular transportation emitted 180,000 tons of lead into the air; by 1994 emissions had decreased by 99 percent, to 1,600 tons. This was achieved while vehicular transportation–a major economic activity–increased by 50 percent, as measured by fuel consumption.
Environmental quality was drastically improved while economic activity grew by the simple expedient of removing lead from gasoline–which prevented it from entering the environment. This only too-rare miracle was accomplished by a well-known industrial practice: the technology of production was altered, albeit at the behest of the government.
SA: Where else can we apply the principle of pollution prevention?
BC: There are existing pollution-free alternatives to the production technologies that brought on the postwar environmental crisis. The major source of photochemical smog–petroleum-fueled vehicles–can be replaced by emission–free electric vehicles. In turn, many power plants now fueled by oil, natural gas or uranium can be replaced by zero-emission photovoltaic cells or wind generators.
What is needed now is a transformation of the major systems of production more profound than even the sweeping post-World War II changes in production technology. Restoring environmental quality means substituting solar sources of energy for fossil and nuclear fuels; substituting electric motors for the internal-combustion engine; substituting organic farming for chemical agriculture; expanding the use of durable, renewable and recyclable materials–metals, glass, wood, paper–in place of the petrochemical products that have massively displaced them.
SA: But many people are concerned that these “green” technologies are not economical.
BC: The new production technologies may be more economical than the ones they replace. For example, a recent CBNS study shows that in the states adjacent to the Great Lakes the impact of trash-burning incinerators on the airborne dioxin deposited in the lakes can be reduced to zero by diverting the trash to intensive recycling programs. The net economic effect would be a $500-million reduction in disposal costs, including the cost of paying off the incinerators’ existing debt.
SA: In the U.S. economy, the decisions that determine what is produced and by what means are in private hands. How can the desire to improve the quality of the environment be brought to bear on what are often corporate decisions?
BC: I believe that the first step is to extend the environmental issue into the relevant social, economic and political arenas. Consider, for example, the decision to replace conventional cars and light trucks with electric vehicles, powered, ultimately, from solar sources. The relevant corporations are reluctant to make this change because, compared with conventional ones, electric vehicles would initially be more costly and more restricted in their uses. Such a shift would damage a corporation’s economic interests, they argue, in comparison with firms that refrained from making the change.
This issue can be dealt with by establishing, as a national industrial policy, that all suitable vehicles are to be powered by electricity, placing all of the auto industry’s firms on the same level playing field, economically.
SA: Isn’t “industrial policy” one of those dirty words in Washington?
BC: There is nothing new about national policies on major social interests such as education or labor–or, for that matter, the environment. After all, despite the economic advantage to firms that employed child labor, it was in the social interest, as a national policy, to abolish it–removing that advantage for all firms. What is new is that environmentalism intensely illuminates the need to confront the corporate domain at its most powerful and guarded point–the exclusive right to govern the systems of production.
SA: How can the environmental movement challenge such a deeply rooted privilege?
BC: A useful way to approach this question is to think about it directly in economic, rather than environmental, terms. Seen that way, the wholesale transformation of production technologies that is mandated by pollution prevention creates a new surge of economic development. But this would touch on other social concerns as well. The wave of new productive enterprises would provide opportunities to remedy the unjust distribution of environmental hazards among economic classes and racial and ethnic communities. For labor unions it would represent a source of new jobs and opportunities to advance the cause of a healthy work environment and worker retraining.
Indeed, the transformation, although environmentally mandated, may be much more powerfully inspired by the vision of an economic renaissance that would be generated by the new more productive technologies. The most meaningful engine of change, powerful enough to confront corporate power, may be not so much environmental quality, as the economic development and growth associated with the effort to improve it.
SA: Aren’t many environmentalists fearful of advocating economic growth for the very reasons you cited earlier–that high rates of production and consumption are the chief cause of environmental degradation?
BC: That view is based on the assumption that production is necessarily accompanied by pollution, so that these two processes rise and fall together. It reflects a prevailing myth that production technology is no more amenable to human judgment or social interests than the laws of thermodynamics, atomic structure or biological inheritance. The environmental experience has shattered this myth. The high-compression engine and the nuclear reactor were built in response to human decisions, and their linkage to smog and radioactive waste can be readily broken by building electric vehicles and photovoltaic cells instead.
There are powerful reasons why environmental advocates should favor economic development and growth, as long as they are based on ecologically benign technologies of production. The most cogent reason is that the massive transformation of our major systems of production–which is essential to environmental quality–cannot achieve this goal if it is pursued only in developed countries. The environmental crisis is a global problem, and only global action will resolve it.
SA: Aren’t there serious constraints on introducing new technology in developing countries?
BC: Certainly, and if they remain unrelieved, they will greatly reduce developing countries’ ability to participate in the transition to ecologically sound systems of production. Since for some time the required production facilities–for example, solar energy equipment–would need to be imported, developing countries are potentially a huge market for the new environmentally benign products. In the United States and other developed countries, this demand would hasten the development of the transition and facilitate the growth of the new production facilities.
We must remember that the human inhabitants of the earth’s ecosphere are engulfed in a global epidemic of poverty, hunger and despair. The grim statistics can be summarized in a simple image. As the earth spins through space, a view from above the North Pole would encompass most of the wealth of the world–most of its food, productive machines, doctors, engineers and teachers. A view from the opposite pole would encompass most of the world’s poor. The planet is split by a chasm that separates the North from the South, the rich from the poor. This global chasm must be bridged. This is the rational, logical outcome of the environmental experience.
If environmentalism is to be devoted to human welfare, there are reasons more powerful than the environmental ones. Simple morality dictates that the rich should share their productive capacity with the poor. And an even more compelling imperative is justice, for the poor half of the planet has been brought to that plight through the exploitation of its resources and its people by the imperial nations of the North.
A briefing from TeleSur about developments in the increasingly tense and disputatious relationship between Manila and Washington, in particular in relation to Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement from Hanoi that the upcoming military exercises that the Philippines have annually conducted with U.S. Special Forces will be the last such engagement during the present President’s term of office, an eventuality about which Al Jazeera also reports in some depth, including the presentation of Duterte’s perspective that he is preparing to ‘cross the Rubicon’ in regard to America’s prior colonial and current neocolonial imprimatur over the archipelago, a key indicator of imperial power and conflict that scrappy scribes and stalwart citizens will attend closely if they know what’s good for them, as it were.
This Day in History
In a favorite observance of many scrappy writers, today is International Coffee Day, and for the World Heart Federation, the 28th is World Heart Day; in Persia twenty five hundred thirty-five years ago, in a sign of the longstanding depth of conflict in the region, a ‘Great’ Darius led troops that killed the then usurper of imperial leadership, Gaumata; two thousand seventy-seven years before today, Pompey the Great celebrated his third triumph for victories over the pirates and the end of the Mithridatic Wars on his 45th birthday; MORE HERE
A Thought for the Day
Whenever we have about the ways of the world a complaint or a desire that views or conceives the present pass as wrong or deficient or, despite all advice to ignore such issues, unfair, a multitiered process must develop if we ever hope to have a positive impact on society’s affairs in this and related arenas, at a minimum the first of which involves locating our own complicity in what we disparage or despise and the second of which entails noticing, and redressing, how we ignore or undermine the possibilities for mutual service and enriching interdependence in managing our relations with this and similar matters.
Quote of the Day
“CLAUDE was passing in front of the Hotel de Ville, and the clock was striking two o’clock in the morning when the storm burst forth. He had been roaming forgetfully about the Central Markets, during that burning July night, like a loitering artist enamoured of nocturnal Paris. Suddenly the raindrops came down, so large and thick, that he took to his heels and rushed, wildly bewildered, along the Quai de la Greve. But on reaching the Pont Louis Philippe he pulled up, ragefully breathless; he considered this fear of the rain to be idiotic; and so amid the pitch-like darkness, under the lashing shower which drowned the gas-jets, he crossed the bridge slowly, with his hands dangling by his side. MORE HERE from Emile Zola’s His Masterpiece Ch. 1
"political economy" OR "leading indicators" OR "socioeconomic conditions" crisis OR collapse OR stress deflation OR depression OR decline "monetary conflict" OR "currency war" OR "trade war" history OR cycle OR "cyclic development" analysis OR explanation marxist criticism OR deconstruction = 21,200 Connections.
TODAY’S HEART, SOUL, & AWARENESS VIDEO
SPECIAL DELIVERY, WRY & OVER EASY, OF AN APOCALYPTIC ENDING
From one of YouTube’s myriad providers, a fully operational clip of the entirety of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, which in farcical exchanges and deadly dead-pan tells of the lunacy that would end human life in the form of thermonuclear warfare, a film that for decades militarists and so-called ‘strategists’ treated derisively and dismissively as propagandistic fantasy that had zero basis in reality, but which recently declassified documents prove ineluctably, about which a two year oldNew Yorkerarticle delivers a briefing that scrappy scribe and stalwart citizens should read very carefully indeed if anything other than mass collective suicide is their lifestyle choice, a contextualization of the actuality of the military industrial complex’s necessities that one might examine in relation to Evo Morales’ recent speech at the United Nations and its warnings to all humanity, imprecations that echo what Fidel Castro said in the same venue fifty-six years ago when he too demanded that the death sentence of empire and war would eventually, one day, truly execute humankind unless the world’s peoples, and at least some of the world’s leaders, stood up for and showed a willingness to fight for a different set of eventualities, choices that, like it or not, we still face today.
The Other Words Literary Conference, sponsored by the Florida Literary Arts Coalition (FLAC), will be held from November 3 to November 5 on the campus of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. The conference features workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as panels and readings. This year’s theme is “Writing Funny: The Literary Art of Humor.” The faculty includes poets Kenneth Hart and Michelle Boisseau; fiction writers Ron Cooper and Suzanne Heagy; and nonfiction writers Dawn S. Davies and Bob Kunzinger. The cost of the conference is $50 for FLAC members and $80 for nonmembers. The registration deadline is October 15. Call, e-mail, or visit the website for more information.
Rockland is a creative residency designed to support dedicated artists and writers seeking a private space in an urban environment to generate new ideas, complete projects, or make artistic connections in Seattle, WA, USA.
We will be accepting applications July 1-October 1, 2016
Daily Progressive is seeking a full-time Editor, based in the United States, who will help manage all stages of our online magazine’s publication process.The Editor will be supervised by the Publisher and will manage freelance contributors and staff writers. This position is compensated with a $55,000-$60,000 annual salary with benefits. As we become more financially sustainable, we are committed to making this and other salaries at Daily Progressive more competitive. Since we are a virtual organization, the Editor works from home and attends meetings via Google Hangouts or conference call.
An Evonomics piece by a powerful thinker who places the discipline of economics into an evolutionary framework that actually has something value to offer the viability of humankind: “In my 2004 book entitled The Evolution of Institutional Economics, I outlined what I called “the principle of evolutionary explanation”. This is the idea that any behavioural assumption, including in the social sciences, must be capable of causal explanation in evolutionary terms, or at least be consistent with a scientific understanding of human evolution. This principle is found in Veblen’s work.”
An LA Review of Books offering that extols the virtues of ‘keeping your day job’, not just for the sake of financial and emotional stability, but so as to have experiences that help improve a writer’s craft: “While having a day job is clearly good for your financial well-being and mental health, I would argue that it can also be good for your art. Because my writing is separate from what I do to make a living — because no one expects it, or assesses it for promotion or retention purposes — it makes the writing itself an escape, and a joy. Without the burden of external pressure, I can take all the time I need to get it right.”
A Melville House posting that releases results to a National Endowment of the Arts posting that looks at the dismal state of reading in America in the context of general arts and culture consumption: “As one might imagine, there’s good news and bad news regarding the cultural health of America’s body politic. The good news is that, after a decade of striking decline in gallery, theater, and live music attendance, things seem to have leveled off. In 2015 American adults went to museums, art exhibits, and concerts at roughly the same rate as in 2013.
The bad news is that nobody is reading. The survey shows that across all populations, the percentage of adults who read “literature” (defined as poetry, plays, short stories, or novels) fell from 47% in 2012 to a shade over 43% in 2015.”
A Common Dreams post that looks at some of the unsavoury circumstances inside of a recently leaked trade deal document: “Greenpeace Netherlands exposed the threats to democracy and climate action contained within the little-known Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) on Tuesday with new leaks divulging several chapters of the clandestine global trade agreement.
“It’s a sad day for democracy when ordinary people are dependent on leaks to learn about the far-reaching consequences of toxic trade deals that are being cooked up behind closed doors,” said Nick Dearden, head of the U.K.-based Global Justice Now.”
An Atlantic report on the fact that our entire civilization is victim to the cancer of finance capital from a fairly establishment, if liberal, media outlet: “These two towns have different fates in part because of two distinct dynamics in the American economy. Yet there are economists who believe that there is a link between the improving prosperity of the wealthy and the eroding bank accounts of everyone else. The reason? It’s two-fold: First, there is the rise of the financial industry, which has fueled extraordinary wealth for a very few without creating good jobs down the line, and, second, a tax policy that not only fails to mitigate these effects, but actually incentivizes them in the first place. It’s probably not surprising, then, that the 10 states with the biggest jumps in the top 1 percent share from 1979 to 2007 were the states with the largest financial service sectors, according to the Economic Policy Institute analysis.”
In a favorite observance of many scrappy writers, today is International Coffee Day, and for the World Heart Federation, the 28th is World Heart Day; in Persia twenty five hundred thirty-five years ago, in a sign of the longstanding depth of conflict in the region, a ‘Great’ Darius led troops that killed the then usurper of imperial leadership, Gaumata; two thousand seventy-seven years before today, Pompey the Great celebrated his third triumph for victories over the pirates and the end of the Mithridatic Wars on his 45th birthday; seven hundred eighty-nine years ahead of now, the Roman Pope excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor for refusing to play a part in crusading; four hundred seventy-five years prior to the present pass, 1541 a boy child came into the world in standard fashion en route to the life of magisterial painter and artist, Caravaggio; the baby boy who would have such a life of adventures that he would conceive Don Quixotesix years later, in 1547, first came into the world, with the name Miguel Cervantes; three decades and a year hence, in 1578, marauding Spaniards claimed Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras; Henry Robinson, a crusader for access to information and communications channels, one hundred two years subsequently, in 1650, opened his Office of Addresses and Encounters in London; two hundred twenty-seven years in advance of today, 1789 the United States’ honestly named Department of War first established a regular army that consisted of under a thousand troops, and Congress first adjourned; forty years further onward, in 1829, London first established a police force along modern lines for the entire city; for the first time in over two centuries, a hundred sixty-six years prior to the present pass, 1850 the Catholic Church reestablished its official presence in England; four years onward, in 1864, in Spain, the male child came along who would mature as the renowned philosopher, Miguel Unamuno; twenty-one years hence, in 1885, the world’s first economically viable electric trolley opened in Blackpool, England; a hundred eighteen years back, 1898 the Ukrainian baby who would grow up to become the tricky and false biologist, Trofim Lysenko, was born; three hundred sixty-five days closer to the here and now, in 1899, the Malolos Congress ratified the Philippine Declaration of Independence from Spain, and back in Eastern Europe, the baby boy destined to grow up to be the proud inventor of the ballpoint pen, László Bíró, drew his first breath; two years later,in 1901, the Italian baby who became the monumental scientific thinker Enrico Fermi first took an independent breath; a year beyond that conjunction, in 1902, the estimable French writer and thinker, Emile Zola, drew his final breath; a year still further down the line, in 1903, the baby girl destined to grow up to be Diana Vreeland was born; nine years henceforth, in 1911, Italy declared war on Ottoman Turkey; another year onward in Italy, in 1912, a male infant entered the world who would rise as the masterful filmmaker and screenwriter, Michelangelo Antonioni; yet another year into the future from that point on, in 1913, the brilliant Gernam engineer Rudolf Diesel whom invented the diesel engine breathed his last; two years on the dot subsequent to that, across the Atlantic in 1915, the male infant who became the renowned historian, Oscar Handlin, was born; eight years thereafter, in 1923, the British Mandate for Palestine came into force, and across the Atlantic, the baby boy first opened his eyes on his way to becoming Stan Berenstain, the American author and illustrator of the beloved Berenstain Bears children’s series; another eight years hence, in 1931, police forces in Canada murdered three miners by firing indiscriminately into a crowd of strikers; the Munich accords that allowed German occupation of Czechoslovakia took effect seven years past that point, in 1938, though neither Czechs nor Soviets could attend the conference that issued the ‘agreement;’ three years beyond that juncture, in 1941, the Babi Yar massacre started in Ukraine; two years afterward, in 1943, the boy child who became Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa was born; six years subsequent to that moment, in 1949, halfway round the world, the Communist Party of China composed the Common Programme for the Peoples Republic of China; three hundred sixty-five days even closer to today’s light and air, in 1950, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 87 relating to Taiwan was adopted; two years hence in 1951, Duke played
University of Pittsburg on national TV in the first such game; three years still later on, in 1954, the European Organization for Nuclear Research formed, which we know by the acronym CERN; fifty-nine years ago, a Soviet explosion at the nuclear plant at Chelyabinsk released twenty Mci of radiactive material into the atmosphere; half a dozen years nearer to now, in 1960, Soviet Premiere Khruschev angrily interjected comments when he visited the United Nations in New York; two years later, in 1962, Canada launched its first satellite, and the average weekly manufacturing wage in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, was just a few percent less than it is in 2015; fifty-one years before today, Mafalda, the iconic Latin comic strip was published for the first time; three years still more proximate to the present day, in 1967, the lyrical storyteller Carson McCullers died; twenty-three years after China became communist, five years after McCullers’ demise, in 1972, Japan established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic; three hundred sixty-five days after that, in 1973, poet W.H. Auden breathed his last; another two years further along time’s path, in 1975, Detroit’s WGPR became America’s first Black-owned television outlet; seventeen years later, in 1992, Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello was impeached; nineteen years before this point, modern artist Roy Liechtenstein died; ten years subsequently, in 2007, England demolished the world’s first commercial nuclear power station at Calder Hall in a ‘controlled’ demolition; exactly a year hence, in 2008, Lehman and Washington Mutual went belly up and the stock market lost plus-or-minus ten percent of its value in a single day, and three years ago, over 42 people were killed by members of the Boko Haram in Nigeria.
“CLAUDE was passing in front of the Hotel de Ville, and the clock was striking two o’clock in the morning when the storm burst forth. He had been roaming forgetfully about the Central Markets, during that burning July night, like a loitering artist enamoured of nocturnal Paris. Suddenly the raindrops came down, so large and thick, that he took to his heels and rushed, wildly bewildered, along the Quai de la Greve. But on reaching the Pont Louis Philippe he pulled up, ragefully breathless; he considered this fear of the rain to be idiotic; and so amid the pitch-like darkness, under the lashing shower which drowned the gas-jets, he crossed the bridge slowly, with his hands dangling by his side.
He had only a few more steps to go. As he was turning on to the Quai Bourbon, on the Isle of St. Louis, a sharp flash of lightning illumined the straight, monotonous line of old houses bordering the narrow road in front of the Seine. It blazed upon the panes of the high, shutterless windows, showing up the melancholy frontages of the old-fashioned dwellings in all their details; here a stone balcony, there the railing of a terrace, and there a garland sculptured on a frieze. The painter had his studio close by, under the eaves of the old Hotel du Martoy, nearly at the corner of the Rue de la Femme-sans-Tete.* So he went on while the quay, after flashing forth for a moment, relapsed into darkness, and a terrible thunder-clap shook the drowsy quarter.
* The street of the Headless woman.—ED.
When Claude, blinded by the rain, got to his door—a low, rounded door, studded with iron—he fumbled for the bell knob, and he was exceedingly surprised—indeed, he started—on finding a living, breathing body huddled against the woodwork. Then, by the light of a second flash, he perceived a tall young girl, dressed in black, and drenched already, who was shivering with fear. When a second thunder-clap had shaken both of them, Claude exclaimed:
‘How you frighten one! Who are you, and what do you want?’
He could no longer see her; he only heard her sob, and stammer:
‘Oh, monsieur, don’t hurt me. It’s the fault of the driver, whom I hired at the station, and who left me at this door, after ill-treating me. Yes, a train ran off the rails, near Nevers. We were four hours late, and a person who was to wait for me had gone. Oh, dear me; I have never been in Paris before, and I don’t know where I am….’
Another blinding flash cut her short, and with dilated eyes she stared, terror-stricken, at that part of the strange capital, that violet-tinted apparition of a fantastic city. The rain had ceased falling. On the opposite bank of the Seine was the Quai des Ormes, with its small grey houses variegated below by the woodwork of their shops and with their irregular roofs boldly outlined above, while the horizon suddenly became clear on the left as far as the blue slate eaves of the Hotel de Ville, and on the right as far as the leaden-hued dome of St. Paul. What startled her most of all, however, was the hollow of the stream, the deep gap in which the Seine flowed, black and turgid, from the heavy piles of the Pont Marie, to the light arches of the new Pont Louis Philippe. Strange masses peopled the river, a sleeping flotilla of small boats and yawls, a floating washhouse, and a dredger moored to the quay. Then, farther down, against the other bank, were lighters, laden with coals, and barges full of mill stone, dominated as it were by the gigantic arm of a steam crane. But, suddenly, everything disappeared again.
Claude had an instinctive distrust of women—that story of an accident, of a belated train and a brutal cabman, seemed to him a ridiculous invention. At the second thunder-clap the girl had shrunk farther still into her corner, absolutely terrified.
‘But you cannot stop here all night,’ he said.
She sobbed still more and stammered, ‘I beseech you, monsieur, take me to Passy. That’s where I was going.’
He shrugged his shoulders. Did she take him for a fool? Mechanically, however, he turned towards the Quai des Celestins, where there was a cabstand. Not the faintest glimmer of a lamp to be seen.
‘To Passy, my dear? Why not to Versailles? Where do you think one can pick up a cab at this time of night, and in such weather?’
Her only answer was a shriek; for a fresh flash of lightning had almost blinded her, and this time the tragic city had seemed to her to be spattered with blood. An immense chasm had been revealed, the two arms of the river stretching far away amidst the lurid flames of a conflagration. The smallest details had appeared: the little closed shutters of the Quai des Ormes, and the two openings of the Rue de la Masure, and the Rue du Paon-Blanc, which made breaks in the line of frontages; then near the Pont Marie one could have counted the leaves on the lofty plane trees, which there form a bouquet of magnificent verdure; while on the other side, beneath the Pont Louis Philippe, at the Mail, the barges, ranged in a quadruple line, had flared with the piles of yellow apples with which they were heavily laden. And there was also the ripple of the water, the high chimney of the floating washhouse, the tightened chain of the dredger, the heaps of sand on the banks, indeed, an extraordinary agglomeration of things, quite a little world filling the great gap which seemed to stretch from one horizon to the other. But the sky became dark again, and the river flowed on, all obscurity, amid the crashing of the thunder.
‘Thank heaven it’s over. Oh, heaven! what’s to become of me?’
Just then the rain began to fall again, so stiffly and impelled by so strong a wind that it swept along the quay with the violence of water escaping through an open lock.
‘Come, let me get in,’ said Claude; ‘I can stand this no longer.’
Both were getting drenched. By the flickering light of the gas lamp at the corner of the Rue de la Femme-sans-Tete the young man could see the water dripping from the girl’s dress, which was clinging to her skin, in the deluge that swept against the door. He was seized with compassion. Had he not once picked up a cur on such a stormy night as this? Yet he felt angry with himself for softening. He never had anything to do with women; he treated them all as if ignorant of their existence, with a painful timidity which he disguised under a mask of bravado. And that girl must really think him a downright fool, to bamboozle him with that story of adventure—only fit for a farce. Nevertheless, he ended by saying, ‘That’s enough. You had better come in out of the wet. You can sleep in my rooms.’
But at this the girl became even more frightened, and threw up her arms.
‘In your rooms? Oh! good heavens. No, no; it’s impossible. I beseech you, monsieur, take me to Passy. Let me beg of you.’
But Claude became angry. Why did she make all this fuss, when he was willing to give her shelter? He had already rung the bell twice. At last the door opened and he pushed the girl before him.
‘No, no, monsieur; I tell you, no—’
But another flash dazzled her, and when the thunder growled she bounded inside, scarce knowing what she was about. The heavy door had closed upon them, she was standing under a large archway in complete darkness.
‘It’s I, Madame Joseph,’ cried Claude to the doorkeeper. Then he added, in a whisper, ‘Give me your hand, we have to cross the courtyard.’
The girl did as she was told; she no longer resisted; she was overwhelmed, worn out. Once more they encountered the diluvian rain, as they ran side by side as hard as they could across the yard. It was a baronial courtyard, huge, and surrounded with stone arcades, indistinct amidst the gloom. However, they came to a narrow passage without a door, and he let go her hand. She could hear him trying to strike some matches, and swearing. They were all damp. It was necessary for them to grope their way upstairs.
‘Take hold of the banisters, and be careful,’ said Claude; ‘the steps are very high.’
The staircase, a very narrow one, a former servants’ staircase, was divided into three lofty flights, which she climbed, stumbling, with unskilful, weary limbs. Then he warned her that they had to turn down a long passage. She kept behind him, touching the walls on both sides with her outstretched hands, as she advanced along that endless passage which bent and came back to the front of the building on the quay. Then there were still other stairs right under the roof—creaking, shaky wooden stairs, which had no banister, and suggested the unplaned rungs of a miller’s ladder. The landing at the top was so small that the girl knocked against the young man, as he fumbled in his pocket for his key. At last, however, he opened the door.
‘Don’t come in, but wait, else you’ll hurt yourself again.’
She did not stir. She was panting for breath, her heart was beating fast, there was a buzzing in her ears, and she felt indeed exhausted by that ascent in the dense gloom. It seemed to her as if she had been climbing for hours, in such a maze, amidst such a turning and twisting of stairs that she would never be able to find her way down again. Inside the studio there was a shuffling of heavy feet, a rustling of hands groping in the dark, a clatter of things being tumbled about, accompanied by stifled objurgations. At last the doorway was lighted up.
‘Come in, it’s all right now.’
She went in and looked around her, without distinguishing anything. The solitary candle burned dim in that garret, more than fifteen feet high, and filled with a confused jumble of things whose big shadows showed fantastically on the walls, which were painted in grey distemper. No, she did not distinguish anything. She mechanically raised her eyes to the large studio-window, against which the rain was beating with a deafening roll like that of a drum, but at that moment another flash of lightning illumined the sky, followed almost immediately by a thunder-clap that seemed to split the roof. Dumb-stricken, pale as death, she dropped upon a chair.
‘The devil!’ muttered Claude, who also was rather pale. ‘That clap wasn’t far off. We were just in time. It’s better here than in the streets, isn’t it?’
Then he went towards the door, closed it with a bang and turned the key, while she watched him with a dazed look.
‘There, now, we are at home.’
But it was all over. There were only a few more thunder-claps in the distance, and the rain soon ceased altogether. Claude, who was now growing embarrassed, had examined the girl, askance. She seemed by no means bad looking, and assuredly she was young: twenty at the most. This scrutiny had the effect of making him more suspicious of her still, in spite of an unconscious feeling, a vague idea, that she was not altogether deceiving him. In any case, no matter how clever she might be, she was mistaken if she imagined she had caught him. To prove this he wilfully exaggerated his gruffness and curtness of manner.
Her very anguish at his words and demeanour made her rise, and in her turn she examined him, though without daring to look him straight in the face. And the aspect of that bony young man, with his angular joints and wild bearded face, increased her fears. With his black felt hat and his old brown coat, discoloured by long usage, he looked like a kind of brigand.
Directly he told her to make herself at home and go to bed, for he placed his bed at her disposal, she shrinkingly replied: ‘Thank you; I’ll do very well as I am; I’ll not undress.’
‘But your clothes are dripping,’ he retorted. ‘Come now, don’t make an idiot of yourself.’
And thereupon he began to knock about the chairs, and flung aside an old screen, behind which she noticed a washstand and a tiny iron bedstead, from which he began to remove the coverlet.
‘No, no, monsieur, it isn’t worth while; I assure you that I shall stay here.’
At this, however, Claude became angry, gesticulating and shaking his fists.
‘How much more of this comedy are we to have?’ said he. ‘As I give you my bed, what have you to complain of? You need not pay any attention to me. I shall sleep on that couch.’
He strode towards her with a threatening look, and thereupon, beside herself with fear, thinking that he was going to strike her, she tremblingly unfastened her hat. The water was dripping from her skirts. He kept on growling. Nevertheless, a sudden scruple seemed to come to him, for he ended by saying, condescendingly:
‘Perhaps you don’t like to sleep in my sheets. I’ll change them.’
He at once began dragging them from the bed and flinging them on to the couch at the other end of the studio. And afterwards he took a clean pair from the wardrobe and began to make the bed with all the deftness of a bachelor accustomed to that kind of thing. He carefully tucked in the clothes on the side near the wall, shook the pillows, and turned back a corner of the coverlet.
‘There, that’ll do; won’t it?’ said he.
And as she did not answer, but remained motionless, he pushed her behind the screen. ‘Good heavens! what a lot of fuss,’ he thought. And after spreading his own sheets on the couch, and hanging his clothes on an easel, he quickly went to bed himself. When he was on the point of blowing out the candle, however, he reflected that if he did so she would have to undress in the dark, and so he waited. At first he had not heard her stir; she had no doubt remained standing against the iron bedstead. But at last he detected a slight rustling, a slow, faint movement, as if amidst her preparations she also were listening, frightened perchance by the candle which was still alight. At last, after several minutes, the spring mattress creaked, and then all became still.
‘Are you comfortable, mademoiselle?’ now asked Claude, in a much more gentle voice.
‘Yes, monsieur, very comfortable,’ she replied, in a scarcely audible voice, which still quivered with emotion.
‘Very well, then. Good-night.’
He blew out the candle, and the silence became more intense. In spite of his fatigue, his eyes soon opened again, and gazed upward at the large window of the studio. The sky had become very clear again, the stars were twinkling in the sultry July night, and, despite the storm, the heat remained oppressive. Claude was thinking about the girl—agitated for a moment by contrary feelings, though at last contempt gained the mastery. He indeed believed himself to be very strong-minded; he imagined a romance concocted to destroy his tranquillity, and he gibed contentedly at having frustrated it. His experience of women was very slight, nevertheless he endeavoured to draw certain conclusions from the story she had told him, struck as he was at present by certain petty details, and feeling perplexed. But why, after all, should he worry his brain? What did it matter whether she had told him the truth or a lie? In the morning she would go off; there would be an end to it all, and they would never see each other again. Thus Claude lay cogitating, and it was only towards daybreak, when the stars began to pale, that he fell asleep. As for the girl behind the screen, in spite of the crushing fatigue of her journey, she continued tossing about uneasily, oppressed by the heaviness of the atmosphere beneath the hot zinc-work of the roof; and doubtless, too, she was rendered nervous by the strangeness of her surroundings.
In the morning, when Claude awoke, his eyes kept blinking. It was very late, and the sunshine streamed through the large window. One of his theories was, that young landscape painters should take studios despised by the academical figure painters—studios which the sun flooded with living beams. Nevertheless he felt dazzled, and fell back again on his couch. Why the devil had he been sleeping there? His eyes, still heavy with sleep, wandered mechanically round the studio, when, all at once, beside the screen he noticed a heap of petticoats. Then he at once remembered the girl. He began to listen, and heard a sound of long-drawn, regular breathing, like that of a child comfortably asleep. Ah! so she was still slumbering, and so calmly, that it would be a pity to disturb her. He felt dazed and somewhat annoyed at the adventure, however, for it would spoil his morning’s work. He got angry at his own good nature; it would be better to shake her, so that she might go at once. Nevertheless he put on his trousers and slippers softly, and walked about on tiptoes.
The cuckoo clock struck nine, and Claude made a gesture of annoyance. Nothing had stirred; the regular breathing continued. The best thing to do, he thought, would be to set to work on his large picture; he would see to his breakfast later on, when he was able to move about. But, after all, he could not make up his mind. He who lived amid chronic disorder felt worried by that heap of petticoats lying on the floor. Some water had dripped from them, but they were damp still. And so, while grumbling in a low tone, he ended by picking them up one by one and spreading them over the chairs in the sunlight. Had one ever seen the like, clothes thrown about anyhow? They would never get dry, and she would never go off! He turned all that feminine apparel over very awkwardly, got entangled with the black dress-body, and went on all fours to pick up the stockings that had fallen behind an old canvas. They were Balbriggan stockings of a dark grey, long and fine, and he examined them, before hanging them up to dry. The water oozing from the edge of the dress had soaked them, so he wrung and stretched them with his warm hands, in order that he might be able to send her away the quicker.
Since he had been on his legs, Claude had felt sorely tempted to push aside the screen and to take a look at his guest. This self-condemned curiosity only increased his bad temper. At last, with his habitual shrug of the shoulders, he was taking up his brushes, when he heard some words stammered amidst a rustling of bed-clothes. Then, however, soft breathing was heard again, and this time he yielded to the temptation, dropping his brushes, and peeping from behind the screen. The sight that met his eyes rooted him to the spot, so fascinated that he muttered, ‘Good gracious! good gracious!’
The girl, amidst the hot-house heat that came from the window, had thrown back her coverlet, and, overcome with the fatigue of a restless night, lay steeped in a flood of sunshine, unconscious of everything. In her feverish slumbers a shoulder button had become unfastened, and a sleeve slipping down allowed her bosom to be seen, with skin which looked almost gilded and soft like satin. Her right arm rested beneath her neck, her head was thrown back, and her black unwound tresses enwrapped her like a dusky cloak.
‘Good gracious! But she’s a beauty!’ muttered Claude once more.
There, in every point, was the figure he had vainly sought for his picture, and it was almost in the right pose. She was rather spare, perhaps, but then so lithe and fresh.
With a light step, Claude ran to take his box of crayons, and a large sheet of paper. Then, squatting on a low chair, he placed a portfolio on his knees and began to sketch with an air of perfect happiness. All else vanished amidst artistic surprise and enthusiasm. No thought of sex came to him. It was all a mere question of chaste outlines, splendid flesh tints, well-set muscles. Face to face with nature, an uneasy mistrust of his powers made him feel small; so, squaring his elbows, he became very attentive and respectful. This lasted for about a quarter of an hour, during which he paused every now and then, blinking at the figure before him. As he was afraid, however, that she might change her position, he speedily set to work again, holding his breath, lest he should awaken her.
And yet, while steadily applying himself to his work, vague fancies again assailed his mind. Who could she be? Assuredly no mere hussy. But why had she told him such an unbelievable tale? Thereupon he began to imagine other stories. Perhaps she had but lately arrived in Paris with a lover, who had abandoned her; perhaps she was some young woman of the middle classes led into bad company by a female friend, and not daring to go home to her relatives; or else there was some still more intricate drama beneath it all; something horrible, inexplicable, the truth of which he would never fathom. All these hypotheses increased his perplexity. Meanwhile, he went on sketching her face, studying it with care. The whole of the upper part, the clear forehead, as smooth as a polished mirror, the small nose, with its delicately chiselled and nervous nostrils, denoted great kindliness and gentleness. One divined the sweet smile of the eyes beneath the closed lids; a smile that would light up the whole of the features. Unfortunately, the lower part of the face marred that expression of sweetness; the jaw was prominent, and the lips, rather too full, showed almost blood-like over the strong white teeth. There was here, like a flash of passion, something that spoke of awakening womanhood, still unconscious of itself amidst those other traits of childlike softness.
But suddenly a shiver rippled over the girl’s satiny skin. Perhaps she had felt the weight of that gaze thus mentally dissecting her. She opened her eyes very wide and uttered a cry.
‘Ah! great heavens!’
Sudden terror paralysed her at the sight of that strange room, and that young man crouching in his shirt-sleeves in front of her and devouring her with his eyes. Flushing hotly, she impulsively pulled up the counterpane.
‘Well, what’s the matter?’ cried Claude, angrily, his crayon suspended in mid-air; ‘what wasp has stung you now?’
He, whose knowledge of womankind was largely limited to professional models, was at a loss to understand the girl’s action.
She neither spoke nor stirred, but remained with the counterpane tightly wrapped round her throat, her body almost doubled up, and scarcely showing an outline beneath her coverings.
‘I won’t eat you, will I?’ urged Claude. ‘Come, just lie as you were, there’s a good girl.’
Again she blushed to her very ears. At last she stammered, ‘Oh, no, monsieur, no—pray!’
But he began to lose his temper altogether. One of the angry fits to which he was subject was coming upon him. He thought her obstinacy stupid. And as in response to his urgent requests she only began to sob, he quite lost his head in despair before his sketch, thinking that he would never be able to finish it, and would thus lose a capital study for his picture.
‘Well, you won’t, eh? But it’s idiotic. What do you take me for? Have I annoyed you at all? You know I haven’t. Besides, listen, it is very unkind of you to refuse me this service, because, after all, I sheltered you—I gave up my bed to you.’
She only continued to cry, with her head buried in the pillow.
‘I assure you that I am very much in want of this sketch, else I wouldn’t worry you.’
He grew surprised at the girl’s abundant tears, and ashamed at having been so rough with her, so he held his tongue at last, feeling embarrassed, and wishing too that she might have time to recover a bit. Then he began again, in a very gentle tone:
‘Well, as it annoys you, let’s say no more about it. But if you only knew. I’ve got a figure in my picture yonder which doesn’t make head-way at all, and you were just in the very note. As for me, when it’s a question of painting, I’d kill father and mother, you know. Well, you’ll excuse me, won’t you? And if you’d like me to be very nice, you’d just give me a few minutes more. No, no; keep quiet as you are; I only want the head—nothing but the head. If I could finish that, it would be all right. Really now, be kind; put your arm as it was before, and I shall be very grateful to you—grateful all my life long.’
It was he who was entreating now, pitifully waving his crayon amid the emotion of his artistic craving. Besides, he had not stirred, but remained crouching on his low chair, at a distance from the bed. At last she risked the ordeal, and uncovered her tranquillised face. What else could she do? She was at his mercy, and he looked so wretchedly unhappy.
Nevertheless, she still hesitated, she felt some last scruples. But eventually, without saying a word, she slowly brought her bare arm from beneath the coverings, and again slipped it under her head, taking care, however, to keep the counterpane tightly round her throat.
‘Ah! how kind you are! I’ll make haste, you will be free in a minute.’
He bent over his drawing, and only looked at her now and then with the glance of a painter who simply regards the woman before him as a model. At first she became pink again; the consciousness that she was showing her bare arm—which she would have shown in a ball-room without thinking at all about it—filled her with confusion. Nevertheless, the young man seemed so reasonable that she became reassured. The blush left her cheeks, and her lips parted in a vague confiding smile. And from between her half-opened eyelids she began to study him. How he had frightened her the previous night with his thick brown beard, his large head, and his impulsive gestures. And yet he was not ugly; she even detected great tenderness in the depths of his brown eyes, while his nose altogether surprised her. It was a finely-cut woman’s nose, almost lost amidst the bristling hair on his lips. He shook slightly with a nervous anxiety which made his crayon seem a living thing in his slender hand, and which touched her though she knew not why. She felt sure he was not bad-natured, his rough, surly ways arose from bashfulness. She did not decipher all this very clearly, but she divined it, and began to put herself at her ease, as if she were with a friend.
Nevertheless, the studio continued to frighten her a little. She cast sidelong glances around it, astonished at so much disorder and carelessness. Before the stove the cinders of the previous winter still lay in a heap. Besides the bed, the small washstand, and the couch, there was no other furniture than an old dilapidated oaken wardrobe and a large deal table, littered with brushes, colours, dirty plates, and a spirit lamp, atop of which was a saucepan, with shreds of vermicelli sticking to its sides. Some rush-bottomed chairs, their seats the worse for wear, were scattered about beside spavined easels. Near the couch the candlestick used on the previous night stood on the floor, which looked as if it had not been swept for fully a month. There was only the cuckoo clock, a huge one, with a dial illuminated with crimson flowers, that looked clean and bright, ticking sonorously all the while. But what especially frightened her were some sketches in oils that hung frameless from the walls, a serried array of sketches reaching to the floor, where they mingled with heaps of canvases thrown about anyhow. She had never seen such terrible painting, so coarse, so glaring, showing a violence of colour, that jarred upon her nerves like a carter’s oath heard on the doorstep of an inn. She cast her eyes down for a moment, and then became attracted by a picture, the back of which was turned to her. It was the large canvas at which the painter was working, and which he pushed against the wall every night, the better to judge it on the morrow in the surprise of the first glance. What could it be, that one, she wondered, since he dared not even show it? And, meantime, through the vast room, a sheet of burning sunlight, falling straight from the window panes, unchecked by any blind, spread with the flow of molten gold over all the broken-down furniture, whose devil-may-care shabbiness it threw into bold relief.
Claude began to feel the silence oppressive; he wanted to say something, no matter what, first, in order to be polite, and more especially to divert her attention from her pose. But cudgel his brain as he would, he could only think of asking: ‘Pray, what is your name?’
She opened her eyes, which she had closed, as if she were feeling sleepy.
‘Christine,’ she said.
At which he seemed surprised. Neither had he told her his name. Since the night before they had been together, side by side, without knowing one another.
‘My name is Claude.’
And, having looked at her just at that moment, he saw her burst into a pretty laugh. It was the sudden, merry peal of a big girl, still scarcely more than a hoyden. She considered this tardy exchange of names rather droll. Then something else amused her.
‘How funny—Claude, Christine—they begin with the same letter.’
They both became silent once more. He was blinking at his work, growing absorbed in it, and at a loss how to continue the conversation. He fancied that she was beginning to feel tired and uncomfortable, and in his fear lest she should stir, he remarked at random, merely to occupy her thoughts, ‘It feels rather warm.’
This time she checked her laughter, her natural gaiety that revived and burst forth in spite of herself ever since she had felt easier in mind. Truth to tell, the heat was indeed so oppressive that it seemed to her as if she were in a bath, with skin moist and pale with the milky pallor of a camellia.
‘Yes, it feels rather warm,’ she said, seriously, though mirth was dancing in her eyes.
Thereupon Claude continued, with a good-natured air:
‘It’s the sun falling straight in; but, after all, a flood of sunshine on one’s skin does one good. We could have done with some of it last night at the door, couldn’t we?’
At this both burst out laughing, and he, delighted at having hit upon a subject of conversation, questioned her about her adventure, without, however, feeling inquisitive, for he cared little about discovering the real truth, and was only intent upon prolonging the sitting.
Christine simply, and in a few words, related what had befallen her. Early on the previous morning she had left Clermont for Paris, where she was to take up a situation as reader and companion to the widow of a general, Madame Vanzade, a rich old lady, who lived at Passy. The train was timed to reach Paris at ten minutes past nine in the evening, and a maid was to meet her at the station. They had even settled by letter upon a means of recognition. She was to wear a black hat with a grey feather in it. But, a little above Nevers, her train had come upon a goods train which had run off the rails, its litter of smashed trucks still obstructing the line. There was quite a series of mishaps and delays. First an interminable wait in the carriages, which the passengers had to quit at last, luggage and all, in order to trudge to the next station, three kilometres distant, where the authorities had decided to make up another train. By this time they had lost two hours, and then another two were lost in the general confusion which the accident had caused from one end of the line to the other, in such wise that they reached the Paris terminus four hours behind time, that is, at one o’clock in the morning.
‘Bad luck, indeed,’ interrupted Claude, who was still sceptical, though half disarmed, in his surprise at the neat way in which the girl arranged the details of her story.
‘And, of course, there was no one at the station to meet you?’ he added.
Christine had, indeed, missed Madame Vanzade’s maid, who, no doubt, had grown tired of waiting. She told Claude of her utter helplessness at the Lyons terminus—that large, strange, dark station, deserted at that late hour of night. She had not dared to take a cab at first, but had kept on walking up and down, carrying her small bag, and still hoping that somebody would come for her. When at last she made up her mind there only remained one driver, very dirty and smelling of drink, who prowled round her, offering his cab in a knowing, impudent way.
‘Yes, I know, a dawdler,’ said Claude, getting as interested as if he were listening to a fairy tale. ‘So you got into his cab?’
Looking up at the ceiling, Christine continued, without shifting her position: ‘He made me; he called me his little dear, and frightened me. When he found out that I was going to Passy, he became very angry, and whipped his horse so hard that I was obliged to hold on by the doors. After that I felt more easy, because the cab trundled along all right through the lighted streets, and I saw people about. At last I recognised the Seine, for though I was never in Paris before, I had often looked at a map. Naturally I thought he would keep along the quay, so I became very frightened again on noticing that we crossed a bridge. Just then it began to rain, and the cab, which had got into a very dark turning, suddenly stopped. The driver got down from his seat, and declared it was raining too hard for him to remain on the box—’
Claude burst out laughing. He no longer doubted. She could not have invented that driver. And as she suddenly stopped, somewhat confused, he said, ‘All right, the cabman was having a joke.’
‘I jumped out at once by the other door,’ resumed Christine. ‘Then he began to swear at me, saying that we had arrived at Passy, and that he would tear my hat from my head if I did not pay him. It was raining in torrents, and the quay was absolutely deserted. I was losing my head, and when I had pulled out a five-franc piece, he whipped up his horse and drove off, taking my little bag, which luckily only contained two pocket-handkerchiefs, a bit of cake, and the key of my trunk, which I had been obliged to leave behind in the train.’
‘But you ought to have taken his number,’ exclaimed the artist indignantly. In fact he now remembered having been brushed against by a passing cab, which had rattled by furiously while he was crossing the Pont Louis Philippe, amid the downpour of the storm. And he reflected how improbable truth often was. The story he had conjured up as being the most simple and logical was utterly stupid beside the natural chain of life’s many combinations.
‘You may imagine how I felt under the doorway,’ concluded Christine. ‘I knew well enough that I was not at Passy, and that I should have to spend the night there, in this terrible Paris. And there was the thunder and the lightning—those horrible blue and red flashes, which showed me things that made me tremble.’
She closed her eyelids once more, she shivered, and the colour left her cheeks as, in her fancy, she again beheld the tragic city—that line of quays stretching away in a furnace-like blaze, the deep moat of the river, with its leaden waters obstructed by huge black masses, lighters looking like lifeless whales, and bristling with motionless cranes which stretched forth gallows-like arms. Was that a welcome to Paris?
Again did silence fall. Claude had resumed his drawing. But she became restless, her arm was getting stiff.
‘Just put your elbow a little lower, please,’ said Claude. Then, with an air of concern, as if to excuse his curtness: ‘Your parents will be very uneasy, if they have heard of the accident.’
‘I have no parents.’
‘What! neither father nor mother? You are all alone in the world?’
‘Yes; all alone.’
She was eighteen years old, and had been born in Strasburg, quite by chance, though, between two changes of garrison, for her father was a soldier, Captain Hallegrain. Just as she entered upon her twelfth year, the captain, a Gascon, hailing from Montauban, had died at Clermont, where he had settled when paralysis of the legs had obliged him to retire from active service. For nearly five years afterwards, her mother, a Parisian by birth, had remained in that dull provincial town, managing as well as she could with her scanty pension, but eking it out by fan-painting, in order that she might bring up her daughter as a lady. She had, however, now been dead for fifteen months, and had left her child penniless and unprotected, without a friend, save the Superior of the Sisters of the Visitation, who had kept her with them. Christine had come straight to Paris from the convent, the Superior having succeeded in procuring her a situation as reader and companion to her old friend, Madame Vanzade, who was almost blind.
At these additional particulars, Claude sat absolutely speechless. That convent, that well-bred orphan, that adventure, all taking so romantic a turn, made him relapse into embarrassment again, into all his former awkwardness of gesture and speech. He had left off drawing, and sat looking, with downcast eyes, at his sketch.
‘Is Clermont pretty?’ he asked, at last.
‘Not very; it’s a gloomy town. Besides, I don’t know; I scarcely ever went out.’
She was resting on her elbow, and continued, as if talking to herself in a very low voice, still tremulous from the thought of her bereavement.
‘Mamma, who wasn’t strong, killed herself with work. She spoilt me; nothing was too good for me. I had all sorts of masters, but I did not get on very well; first, because I fell ill, then because I paid no attention. I was always laughing and skipping about like a featherbrain. I didn’t care for music, piano playing gave me a cramp in my arms. The only thing I cared about at all was painting.’
He raised his head and interrupted her. ‘You can paint?’
‘Oh, no; I know nothing, nothing at all. Mamma, who was very talented, made me do a little water-colour, and I sometimes helped her with the backgrounds of her fans. She painted some lovely ones.’
In spite of herself, she then glanced at the startling sketches with which the walls seemed ablaze, and her limpid eyes assumed an uneasy expression at the sight of that rough, brutal style of painting. From where she lay she obtained a topsy-turvy view of the study of herself which the painter had begun, and her consternation at the violent tones she noticed, the rough crayon strokes, with which the shadows were dashed off, prevented her from asking to look at it more closely. Besides, she was growing very uncomfortable in that bed, where she lay broiling; she fidgetted with the idea of going off and putting an end to all these things which, ever since the night before, had seemed to her so much of a dream.
Claude, no doubt, became aware of her discomfort. A sudden feeling of shame brought with it one of compunction.
He put his unfinished sketch aside, and hastily exclaimed: ‘Much obliged for your kindness, mademoiselle. Forgive me, I have really abused it. Yes, indeed, pray get up; it’s time for you to look for your friends.’
And without appearing to understand why she did not follow his advice, but hid more and more of her bare arm in proportion as he drew nearer, he still insisted upon advising her to rise. All at once, as the real state of things struck him, he swung his arms about like a madman, set the screen in position, and went to the far end of the studio, where he began noisily setting his crockery in order, so that she might jump out and dress herself, without fear of being overheard.
Amidst the din he had thus raised, he failed to hear her hesitating voice, ‘Monsieur, monsieur—’
At last he caught her words.
‘Monsieur, would you be so kind—I can’t find my stockings.’
Claude hurried forward. What had he been thinking of? What was she to do behind that screen, without her stockings and petticoats, which he had spread out in the sunlight? The stockings were dry, he assured himself of that by gently rubbing them together, and he handed them to her over the partition; again noticing her arm, bare, plump and rosy like that of a child. Then he tossed the skirts on to the foot of the bed and pushed her boots forward, leaving nothing but her bonnet suspended from the easel. She had thanked him and that was all; he scarcely distinguished the rustling of her clothes and the discreet splashing of water. Still he continued to concern himself about her.
‘You will find the soap in a saucer on the table. Open the drawer and take a clean towel. Do you want more water? I’ll give you the pitcher.’
Suddenly the idea that he was blundering again exasperated him.
‘There, there, I am only worrying you. I will leave you to your own devices. Do as if you were at home.’
And he continued to potter about among the crockery. He was debating with himself whether he should ask her to stay to breakfast. He ought not to let her go like that. On the other hand, if she did stay, he would never get done; it would mean a loss of his whole morning. Without deciding anything, as soon as he had lighted his spirit lamp, he washed his saucepan and began to make some chocolate. He thought it more distingue, feeling rather ashamed of his vermicelli, which he mixed with bread and soused with oil as people do in the South of France. However, he was still breaking the chocolate into bits, when he uttered a cry of surprise, ‘What, already?’
It was Christine, who had pushed back the screen, and who appeared looking neat and correct in her black dress, duly laced and buttoned up, equipped, as it were, in a twinkle. Her rosy face did not even show traces of the water, her thick hair was twisted in a knot at the back of her head, not a single lock out of place. And Claude remained open-mouthed before that miracle of quickness, that proof of feminine skill in dressing well and promptly.
‘The deuce, if you go about everything in that way!’ said he.
He found her taller and handsomer than he had fancied. But what struck him most was her look of quiet decision. She was evidently no longer afraid of him. It seemed as though she had re-donned her armour and become an amazon again. She smiled and looked him straight in the face. Whereupon he said what he was still reluctant to say:
‘You’ll breakfast with me, won’t you?’
But she refused the offer. ‘No, thank you. I am going to the station, where my trunk must have arrived by now, and then I shall drive to Passy.’
It was in vain that he told her that she must be hungry, that it was unreasonable for her to go out without eating something.
‘Well, if you won’t, I’ll go down and fetch you a cab,’ he ended by exclaiming.
‘Pray don’t take such trouble.’
‘But you can’t go such a distance on foot. Let me at least take you to the cabstand, as you don’t know Paris.’
‘No, really I do not need you. If you wish to oblige me, let me go away by myself.’
She had evidently made up her mind. She no doubt shrank from the idea of being seen with a man, even by strangers. She meant to remain silent about that strange night, she meant to tell some falsehood, and keep the recollection of her adventure entirely to herself. He made a furious gesture, which was tantamount to sending her to the devil. Good riddance; it suited him better not to have to go down. But, all the same, he felt hurt at heart, and considered that she was ungrateful.
‘As you please, then. I sha’n’t resort to force,’ he said.
At these words, Christine’s vague smile became more accentuated. She did not reply, but took her bonnet and looked round in search of a glass. Failing to find one, she tied the strings as best she could. With her arms uplifted, she leisurely arranged and smoothed the ribbons, her face turned towards the golden rays of the sun. Somewhat surprised, Claude looked in vain for the traits of childish softness that he had just portrayed; the upper part of her face, her clear forehead, her gentle eyes had become less conspicuous; and now the lower part stood out, with its somewhat sensual jaw, ruddy mouth, and superb teeth. And still she smiled with that enigmatical, girlish smile, which was, perhaps, an ironical one.
‘At any rate,’ he said, in a vexed tone, ‘I do not think you have anything to reproach me with.’
At which she could not help laughing, with a slight, nervous laugh.
‘No, no, monsieur, not in the least.’
He continued staring at her, fighting the battle of inexperience and bashfulness over again, and fearing that he had been ridiculous. Now that she no longer trembled before him, had she become contemptuously surprised at having trembled at all? What! he had not made the slightest attempt at courtship, not even pressed a kiss on her finger-tips. The young fellow’s bearish indifference, of which she had assuredly been conscious, must have hurt her budding womanly feelings.
‘You were saying,’ she resumed, becoming sedate once more, ‘that the cabstand is at the end of the bridge on the opposite quay?’
‘Yes; at the spot where there is a clump of trees.’
She had finished tying her bonnet strings, and stood ready gloved, with her hands hanging by her side, and yet she did not go, but stared straight in front of her. As her eyes met the big canvas turned to the wall she felt a wish to see it, but did not dare to ask. Nothing detained her; still she seemed to be looking around as if she had forgotten something there, something which she could not name. At last she stepped towards the door.
Claude was already opening it, and a small loaf placed erect against the post tumbled into the studio.
‘You see,’ he said, ‘you ought to have stopped to breakfast with me. My doorkeeper brings the bread up every morning.’
She again refused with a shake of the head. When she was on the landing she turned round, and for a moment remained quite still. Her gay smile had come back; she was the first to hold out her hand.
‘Thank you, thank you very much.’
He had taken her small gloved hand within his large one, all pastel-stained as it was. Both hands remained like that for a few moments, closely and cordially pressed. The young girl was still smiling at him, and he had a question on the tip of his tongue: ‘When shall I see you again?’ But he felt ashamed to ask it, and after waiting a while she withdrew her hand.
Christine, without another glance, was already descending the steep ladder-like stairway whose steps creaked, when Claude turned abruptly into his studio, closing the door with a bang, and shouting to himself: ‘Ah, those confounded women!’
He was furious—furious with himself, furious with everyone. Kicking about the furniture, he continued to ease his feelings in a loud voice. Was not he right in never allowing them to cross his threshold? They only turned a fellow’s head. What proof had he after all that yonder chit with the innocent look, who had just gone, had not fooled him most abominably? And he had been silly enough to believe in her cock-and-bull stories! All his suspicions revived. No one would ever make him swallow that fairy tale of the general’s widow, the railway accident, and especially the cabman. Did such things ever happen in real life? Besides, that mouth of hers told a strange tale, and her looks had been very singular just as she was going. Ah! if he could only have understood why she had told him all those lies; but no, they were profitless, inexplicable. It was art for art’s sake. How she must be laughing at him by this time.
He roughly folded up the screen and sent it flying into a corner. She had no doubt left all in disorder. And when he found that everything was in its proper place—basin, towel, and soap—he flew into a rage because she had not made the bed. With a great deal of fuss he began to make it himself, lifting the mattress in his arms, banging the pillow about with his fists, and feeling oppressed by the pure scent of youth that rose from everything. Then he had a good wash to cool himself, and in the damp towel he found the same virgin fragrance, which seemed to spread through the studio. Swearing the while, he drank his chocolate from the saucepan, so excited, so eager to set to work, as to swallow large mouthfuls of bread without taking breath.
‘Why, it’s enough to kill one here,’ he suddenly exclaimed. ‘It must be this confounded heat that’s making me ill.’
After all, the sun had shifted, and it was far less hot. But he opened a small window on a level with the roof, and inhaled, with an air of profound relief, the whiff of warm air that entered. Then he took up his sketch of Christine’s head and for a long while he lingered looking at it.” Emile Zola, His Masterpiece, 1885-6; Chapter One