Archive for 2008

short stories, long sentences

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Allow me to introduce you to the wonderful Hjalmar Söderberg whose collection of short stories has consumed the last day of my life.

There are people who are not exactly devoid of conscience, but who have never by themselves come upon the idea that they might have done something wrong.

The two old ladies stop in front of the bronze group and exchange their thoughts about the work of art; I cannot hear what they are saying, but I see from the shaking of heads and from the violent waving of the dark green parasols in the air that they are regarding the matter from the point of view of morality rather than aesthetics, and that their verdict is unfavourable.

There is wisdom and wisdom. The wise men of old will always remain the wisest of all. But there will come a time when any fool can do a number of things which the wise men of old considered impossible. Tricks and trifles of no special importance. But what is it that you want of me?

quote: History &/or Memory

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

The explosive pertinence of a remembered detail may challenge repressive or merely complacent systems of prescriptive memory or history; memory like the body, may speak in a language that reasoned inquiry will not hear.

Randolph Starn & Natalie Zemon Davis

dress for success

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

This week, via the the Library of Congress flickr account, I came across the fantastic story of my (now) favourite ever ship.

In the 1850s it was employed as a prison ship off the coast of Australia, gaining notoriety when, in 1857 prisoners managed to murder the Superintendent of Prisons John Price. After this, it was “purchased by a group of entrepreneurs to be refitted as a museum ship to travel the world advertising the perceived horrors of the convict era.”

It then travelled to England before spending more than twenty years sailing up & down the east coast of the U.S., only falling into disrepair during the great depression, which coincided with a fall in the public’s appetite for buying museum tickets.

Now as far as I am concerned this, especially alongside the striking images of torture equipment makes for a fine tale. But the really remarkable thing about this museum about horror, pain & death, is that throughout its history, it retained the original name given to it. Which was the Success.

To Mr Herman E. Goodman of the Franklin Corporation

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

By way of contribution to the current debate around the “World Financial Crisis” I am presenting this letter from Groucho Marx to Mr Herman E. Goodman of the Franklin Corporation:

April 24, 1961

Dear Mr Goodman :

I received the first annual report of the Franklin Corporation and though I am not an expert at reading balance sheets, my financial advisor, (who, I assure you, knows nothing) nodded his head in satisfaction.

You wrote that you hope I am not one of those borscht circuit stockholders who get a few points’ profit and hastily scrams for the hills. For your information, I bought Alleghany Preferred eleven years ago and am just now going through the process of disposing of it.

As a brand new member of your family, strategically you made a ghastly mistake in sending me individual pictures of the Board of Directors. Mr Roth, Chairman of the Board, merely looks sinister. You, the president, look like a hard worker with not too much on the ball. No one named Prosswimmer can possibly be a success. As for Samuel A. Goldblith, Ph.D., head of Food Technology at M.I.T., he looks as though he had eaten too much of the wrong kind of fodder.

At this point I would like to stop and ask you a question about Marion Harper Jr. To begin with, I immediately distrust any man who has the same name as his mother. But the thing that most disturbs me about Junior is that I don’t know what the hell he’s laughing at. Is it because he sucked me into this Corporation? This is not the kind of face that inspires confidence in a nervous and jittery stockholder.

George S. Sperti, I dismiss instantly. Any man who is the President of an outfit called Institutum Divi Thomae will certainly bear watching. Is he trying to imopress stockholders with his knowledge of Latin? If so, why doesn’t he read, “Winnie ille Pu”? James J. Sullivan, I am convinced, is Paul E. Prosswimmer photographed from a different angle.

Offhand, I would say that I have summed up your group fairly accurately. I hope, for my sake, that I am mistaken.

In closing, I warn you, go easy with my money. i am in an extremely precarious profession whose livelihood depends upon a fickle public.

Sincerely yours,
Groucho Marx
(temporarialy at liberty)

This letter is found in The Groucho Letters which are excellent, and moreover the only truly sound investment I can think of in these Troubled Times.

Should anyone have/find copies of the photographs in question, I would be fascinated. My searches have been fruitles.