larvatus: (rock)
What are the five biggest lies?
    “The check is in the mail.”
    “I won’t come in your mouth.”
    “Some of my best friends are Jewish.”
    “Black is beautiful.”
    “I’m from your government, and I’m here to help you.”
— Blanche Knott (Ashton Applewhite), Truly Tasteless Jokes, 1983, p. 104

“I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”
— William F. Buckley Jr., Yale alumnus, Rumbles Left and Right: A Book about Troublesome People and Ideas, 1963, p. 134
larvatus: (rock)
It is the peculiar genius of the French to express their philosophical thought in aphorisms, sayings hard and tight as diamonds, each one the crystal centre of a whole constellation of ideas. Thus, the entire scheme of seventeenth century intellectual rationalism may be said to branch out from that single, pregnant saying of Descartes, ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Resistentialism, the philosophy which has swept present-day France, runs true to this aphoristic form. Go into any of the little cafés or horlogeries on Paris’s Left Bank (make sure the Seine is flowing away from you, otherwise you’ll be on the Right Bank, where no one is ever seen) and sooner or later you will hear someone say, ‘Les choses sont contre nous.’ ‘Things are against us.’
    This is the nearest English translation I can find for the basic concept of Resistentialisin, the grim but enthralling philosophy now identified with bespectacled, betrousered, two-eyed Pierre-Marie Ventre. In transferring the dynamic of philosophy from man to a world of hostile Things,’ Ventre has achieved a major revolution of thought, to which he himself gave the name ‘Resistentialism’. Things (res) resist (résister) man (homme, understood). Ventre makes a complete break with traditional philosophic method. Except for his German precursors, Freidegg and Heidansiecker, all previous thinkers from the Eleatics to Marx have allowed at least some legitimacy to human thought and effort. Some, like Hegel or Berkeley, go so far as to make man’s thought the supreme reality. In the Resistentialist cosmology that is now the intellectual rage of Paris Ventre offers us a grand vision of the Universe as One Thing – the Ultimate Thing (Dernière Chose). And it is against us.
    Two world wars have led to a general dissatisfaction with the traditional Western approach to cosmology, that of scientific domination. In Ventre’s view, the World-Thing, to which he sometimes refers impartially as the Thing-World, opposes man’s partial stealing, as it were, of consciousness – of his dividing it into the separate ‘minds’ with which human history has made increasingly fatal attempts to create a separate world of men. Man’s increase in this illusory domination over Things has been matched, pari passu, by the increasing hostility (and greater force) of the Things arrayed against him. Medieval man, for instance, had only a few actual Things to worry about – the lack of satisfactory illumination at night, the primitive hole in the roof blowing the smoke back and letting the rain in, and one or two other small Things like that. Modern, domesticated Western man has far more opportunities for battle-losing against Things – can-openers, collar-studs, chests of drawers, open manholes, shoelaces…
    Now that Ventre has done it for us, it is easy to see that the reaction against nineteenth-century idealism begun by Martin Freidegg and Martin Heidansiecker was bound eventually to coalesce with the findings of modern physics in a philosophical synthesis for our time. Since much stress has been laid on the ‘scientific’ basis of Resistentialism, it will not be out of place here, before passing on to a more detailed outline of Ventre’s thought, to give a brief account of those recent developments in physical science which have so blurred the line that separates it from metaphysics. It is an account which will surprise those whose acquaintance with Ventre is limited to reading reviews of his plays and who, therefore, are apt to think that Resistentialism is largely a matter of sitting inside a wet sack and moaning.
    A convenient point of departure is provided by the famous Clark-Trimble experiments of 1935. Clark-Trimble was not primarily a physicist, and his great discovery of the Graduated Hostility of Things was made almost accidentally. During some research into the relation between periods of the day and human bad temper, Clark-Trimble, a leading Cambridge psychologist, came to the conclusion that low human dynamics in the early morning could not sufficiently explain the apparent hostility of Things at the breakfast table – the way honey gets between the fingers, the unfoldability of newspapers, etc. In the experiments which finally confirmed him in this view, and which he demonstrated before the Royal Society in London, Clark-Trimble arranged four hundred pieces of carpet in ascending degrees of quality, from coarse matting to priceless Chinese silk. Pieces of toast and marmalade, graded, weighed, and measured, were then dropped on each piece of carpet, and the marmalade-downwards incidence was statistically analysed. The toast fell right-side-up every time on the cheap carpet, except when the cheap carpet was screened from the rest (in which case the toast didn’t know that Clark-Trimble had other and better carpets), and it fell marmalade-downwards every time on the Chinese silk. Most remarkable of all, the marmalade-downwards incidence for the intermediate grades was found to vary exactly with the quality of carpet.
    The success of these experiments naturally switched Clark-Trimble’s attention to further research on resistentia, a fact which was directly responsible for the tragic and sudden end to his career when he trod on a garden rake at the Cambridge School of Agronomy. In the meantime, Noys and Crangenbacker had been doing some notable work in America. Noys carried out literally thousands of experiments, in which subjects of all ages and sexes, sitting in chairs of every conceivable kind, dropped various kinds of pencils. In only three cases did the pencil come to rest within easy reach. Crangenbacker’s work in the social-industrial field, on the relation of human willpower to specific problems such as whether a train or subway will stop with the door opposite you on a crowded platform, or whether there will be a mail box anywhere on your side of the street, was attracting much attention.
    Resistentialism, a sombre, post-atomic philosophy of pagan, despairing nobility, advocates complete withdrawal from Things. Now that Ventre has done the thinking for us it is easy to see how the soil was being prepared for Resistentialism in the purely speculative field by the thought of Martin Freidegg (1839-1904) and Martin Heidansiecker (1850-1910), both well known anti-idealists and anti-intellectualists. It is in the latter’s Werke (Works) published at Tübingen in 1894, that the word Resistentialismus first appears, although it has not the definite meaning assigned to it by Ventre. It is now possible to trace a clear line of development to Ventre from Goethe, who said, with prophetic insight into the hostility of one Thing, at least, ‘Three times has an apple proved fatal. First to the human race in the fall of Adam; secondly to Troy, through the gift of Paris; and last of all, to science through the fall of Newton’s apple’ (Werke, XVI, 17). Later we find Heidansiecker’s concept of Dingenhass, the hatred of Things. But in the confused terminology of this tortured German mystic we are never sure whether it is Things who hate us, or we who hate the Things.
    To the disillusioned youth of post-war France there was an immediate appeal in Ventre’s relentlessly logical concept of man’s destiny as a néant, or No-Thing, and it was the aesthetic expression of this that gave Resistentialism such great popular currency outside the philosophical textbooks. Ventre himself is an extraordinarily powerful dramatist; his first play, Puits Clos, concerns three old men who walk ceaselessly round the bottom of a well. There are also some bricks in the well. These symbolize Things, and all the old men hate the bricks as much as they do each other. The play is full of their pitiful attempts to throw the bricks out of the top of the well, but they can, of course, never throw high enough, and the bricks always fall back on them. Puits Clos has only recently been taken off at the little Theatre Jambon to make room for another Resistentialist piece by Blanco del Huevo, called Comment sont les choses? Del Huevo is an ardent young disciple of Ventre, and in this play, which is also running in London under the title The Things That Are Caesar, he makes a very bold step forward in the application of Resistentialist imagery to the theatre. He has made Things the characters, and reduced the human beings to what are known in Resistentialist language as Poussés. The nearest English translation that suggests itself for this philosophical term is ‘pushed-arounds’.
    The chief ‘characters’ in Comment sont les choses? are thus a piano and a medicine cabinet; attached to the piano is Poussé Number One – no human beings are given actual names, because names are one of the devices by which man has for so long blinded himself to his fundamental inability to mark himself out from the Universe (Dernière Chose). Poussé Number One is determined to play the piano, and the piano is determined to resist him. For the first twenty minutes of Act I, he plays a Beethoven sonata up to a certain bar, which always defeats him. He stops, and plays this bar over a hundred times, very slowly. He gets it right. He begins the sonata again and when he gets to this bar he makes the very same mistake. He pours petrol on the piano and is just about to set it on fire when he hears a huge crash from the bathroom, also visible to the audience on the other side of a stage partition.
    All this time the medicine cabinet has been resisting the attempts of Poussé Number Two to fix it on the wall, and it has now fallen into the bath. Poussé Number One who is in love, naturally, with Poussé Number Two’s wife, Poussée, mimes his derision at the woeful lack of manhood of one who cannot even dominate Things to the extent of fixing a medicine cabinet. While he does so, the piano, with the tragic irony of a Greek chorus, speaks of Poussé Number One’s own hubris and insolence in imagining that he can master the piano. Poussé Number Two is too busy to retaliate, as he is sweeping up the mess of camphorated oil, essence of peppermint, hair cream, calamine lotion, and broken glass towards the plug end of the bath, meaning to swill them out with hot water. He is desperately anxious to get this done before Poussée arrives home. She comes, however, while he is still trying ignominiously to get the bits of glass off one sticky hand with the other sticky hand, the glass then sticking to the other sticky hand and having to be got off with the first sticky hand (a good example of choses co-rélatives in the Resistentialist sense). Poussée expresses her scorn and asks her husband, all in mime, why he can’t play the piano like Poussé Number One (who has persuaded her that he can). Eventually she goes out with Poussé Number One, and Poussé Number Two, exhausted by his labours at the bath, falls into it and into a deep coma.
    Act II is extremely unconventional, and although some critics have hailed it as a great attempt to break down the modern separation between players and audience it seems to me to be the weakest part of the play, the nearest to a mere philosophical treatise. The curtain simply goes up on a Resistentialist exhibition, and the audience are invited to walk round. While they are examining the exhibits, which contain not only Resistentialist paintings but also what Ventre as well as Del Huevo calls objets de vie (chests of drawers, toothpaste caps, collar buttons, etc.), the stage manager comes on in his shirt sleeves and reads the chapter on sex from Ventre’s Résistentialisme. Ventre takes a tragic view, of sex, concerned as it is with the body, by which the World-Thing obtains its mastery over human territory. In so far as man is not merely a body he is only a pseudo-Thing (pseudo-chose), a logical ‘monster’. Ventre sees woman, with her capacity for reproduction indefinitely prolonging this state of affairs, as the chief cause of humanity’s present dilemma of Thing-separation and therefore Thing-warfare. Love between humans, i.e. between Man (Not-woman) and Woman (Notman), perpetuates bodies as Things, because a man, in being a Not-woman, shows the capacity of all things for being only one Thing (it is all much clearer in the French, of course). Just as a man is a Not-woman, he is also a Not-sideboard, a Not-airplane. But this is as far as man can go in Thing-ness, and if it were not for women we could all die and be merged comfortably in the Universe or Ultimate Thing.
    In Act III, the action, if one can call it that, is resumed. When the curtain goes up Poussé Number Two is discovered still lying in the bath. The tragedy of man’s futile struggle against the power of Things begins to draw towards its fatal climax as we hear a conversation between the piano and the medicine cabinet in which the piano suggests an exchange of their respective Poussés. The piano, realizing that Poussée doesn’t know anything about music anyway and will probably accept Poussé Number One’s word that he can play, queering the pitch for Things, with this ambivalent concept of love, wishes to lure Number Two on instead. (In Ventre’s system, Things are quite capable of emanations and influences by reason of their affinity with man’s Thing-Body or Not-other.) Accordingly, when Poussé Number Two wakes up in the bath he feels a compulsive desire to play the piano, forgetting that his fingers are still sticky – and of course it is not his piano anyway. The piano, biding its time, lets him play quite well. (In Resistentialist jargon, which unashamedly borrows from the terminology of Gonk and others when necessary, the resistance of the I-Thing is infinite and that of the Thou-Thing is zero – it is always my bootlaces that break and of course Poussé Number Two thinks he is playing Poussé Number One’s piano.) Number Two only leaves the instrument when he hears the others coming back. He goes to the bathroom and listens through the partition with a knowing smile as Poussé Number One begins to play for Poussée. Naturally, his fingers stick to the keys, the piano being an I-Thing for him, or so he thinks. This makes Poussé Number Two feel so good that he actually manages to fix the medicine cabinet. Poussée, returning to him disillusioned from the pseudo-pianist, flings herself into his arms, but it is too late. He has cut an artery on a piece of the broken glass sticking out of the medicine cabinet. In despair she rushes back to the music room, where Poussé Number One has just lit a cigarette to console himself and think out the next move. (‘As if that mattered,’ says the piano scornfully.) As she comes in there is a great explosion. Poussé Number One has forgotten the petrol he had poured on the piano in Act 1.
    The drama is not the only art to have been revivified in France (and therefore everywhere) by Resistentialism. This remorseless modern philosophy has been reflected in the work of all the important younger composers and painters in Paris. Resistentialist music, based on acceptance of the tragic Thing-ness, and therefore limitation, of musical instruments, makes use of a new scale based on the Absolute Mathematical Reluctance of each instrument. The A.M.R. of the violin, for instance, is the critical speed beyond which it is impossible to play it because of the strings’ melting. The new scale is conceived, says Dufay, as ‘a geometric rather than a tonic progression. Each note is seen as a point on the circumference of a circle of which the centre is the A.M.R. The circle must then be conceived as inside-out’. Dufay has expressed in mathematical terms that cosmic dissatisfaction of the artist with the physical medium in which he is forced to work. Kodak, approaching the problem from a different angle, has taken more positive steps to limit the ‘cosmic offence-power’ of the conventional scale by reducing the number of notes available. His first concerto, for solo tympanum and thirty conductors, is an extension of the argument put forward some years ago, in remarkable anticipation of Resistentialism, by Ernest Newman, music critic of the London Sunday Times, who said that the highest musical pleasure was to be derived much more from score-reading than from actual performance. Kodak is now believed to be working on a piece for conductors only.
    I have left Resistentialism in painting to the end because it is over the quarrel between Ventre and Agfa, at one time his chief adherent among the artists, that the little cafes and bistros of the Quartier Latin are seething today. When Agfa first came under Ventre’s influence he accepted the latter’s detachment, not so much Franciscan as Olympic, from Things. His method was to sit for hours in front of a canvas brooding over disasters, particularly earthquakes, in which Things are hostile in the biggest and most obvious way. Sometimes he would discover that the canvas had been covered during his abstraction, sometimes not. At any rate, Agfa enjoyed a succès fou as a painter of earthquakes and recently he has shown himself impatient of the thoroughgoing néantisme (no-thingery) of Ventre, who insists relentlessly that to conform completely to the pure Resistentialist ideal a picture should not only have no paint but should be without canvas and without frame, since, as he irrefutably points out, these Things are all Things (ces choses sont toutes des choses).
    The defection of Agfa and of other ‘moderates’ among the Resistentialists has been brought to a head by the formation, under a thinker named Qwertyuiop, of a neo-Resistentialist group. The enthusiasm with which medieval students brawled in the streets of Paris over the Categories of Being has lost none of its keenness today, and the recent pitched battle between Ventristes and followers of Qwertyuiop outside the Café aux Fines Herbes, by now famous as Ventre’s headquarters, has, if nothing else, demonstrated that Paris still maintains her position as the world’s intellectual centre. It is rather difficult to state the terms of the problem without using some of the Resistentialists’ phraseology, so I hope I may be pardoned for briefly introducing it.
    Briefly, the issue is between Ventre, the pessimist, and Qwertyuiop, the optimist. Ventre, in elaborating on his central aphorism, les choses sont contre nous, distinguishes carefully between what he calls chose-en-soi, the Thing in itself, and chose-pour-soi, the Thing for itself. Chose-en-soi is his phrase for Things existing in their own right, sublimely and tragically independent of man. In so far as Ventre’s pregnant terminology can be related to traditional western categories, chose-en-soi stands for the Aristotelean outlook, which tends to ascribe a certain measure of reality to Things without reference to any objective Form in any mind, human or divine. There are even closer parallels with the later, medieval philosophy of Nominalism, which says, roughly that there are as many Things as we can find names for; Ventre has an interesting passage about what he calls inversion (inversion) in which he exploits to the full the contrast between the multiplicity of actions which Things can perform against us from a slightly overhanging tray falling off a table when the removal of one lump of sugar over-balances it, to the atomic bomb and the paucity of our vocabulary of names on such occasions.
    The third great concept of Ventre is le néant (the No-Thing). Man is ultimately, as I have said, a No-Thing, a metaphysical monster doomed to battle, with increasing non-success, against real Things. Resistentialism, with what Ventre’s followers admire as stark, pagan courage, bids man abandon his hopeless struggle.
    Into the dignified, tragic, Olympian detachment of Ventre’s ‘primitive’ Resistentialism the swarthy, flamboyant Qwertyuiop, has made a startling, meteoric irruption. Denounced scornfully by the Ventristes as a plagiarist, Qwertyuiop was, indeed, at one time a pupil of Ventre. He also asserts the hostility of Things to man – but he sees grounds for hope in the concept of chose-pour soi (the Thing for itself) with which it is at least possible to enter into relationship. But he is more a dramatist than a philosopher, and what enrages the Ventristes is the bouncing optimism of his plays and also the curious symbolic figure of the géant or giant which appears in them all. This giant is a kind of Resistentialist version of Nietzsche’s superman, a buskined, moustachioed figure who intervenes, often with great comic effect, just when the characters in the play are about to jump down a well (the well is, of course, a frequent Resistentialist symbol – cf. Ventre’s own Puits Clos).
    The Ventristes point out acidly that in the first edition of Résistentialisme the word géant appears throughout as a misprint for néant. Friction between the two groups was brought to a head by Qwertyuiop’s new play Messieurs, les choses sont terribles, (loosely, Gentlemen, Things are Terrible). On the first night at the Théatre des Somnambules, the Ventristes in the gallery created an uproar and had to be expelled when, at the end of the second act, the inevitable giant had stepped in to prevent three torturings, seven betrayals, and two suicides. The battle was renewed later with brickbats and bottles when Qwertyuiop and his followers interrupted one of Ventre’s choseries, or Thing-talks, at the Café aux Fines Herbes. Five of the moderates and two Ventristes were arrested by the gendarmerie and later released on bail. All Paris is speculating on the outcome of the trial, at which many important literary figures are expected to give evidence.
    It is, however, not in the law courts that the influence of Resistentialism on our time will be decided. It is in the little charcuteries and épiceries of the Left Bank. It is in the stimulating mental climate of Paris that the artists and dramatists will decide for themselves whether there is any future for art in the refined philosophical atmosphere to which Ventre’s remorseless logic would have them penetrate. Although Qwertyuiop has succeeded in attracting many of Ventre’s more lukewarm followers among the arts, who had begun to rebel against the Master’s uncompromising insistence on pictures without paint and music without instruments, without any Things at all, there seems no doubt that Ventre is the greater thinker, and it is an open question whether he will achieve his object of persuading the world to abandon Things without the indispensable help of the artistic confraternity in moulding public opinion.
    There is no doubt, either, that Ventre’s thought strikes a deep chord in everyone daring these sombre, post-atomic times. Ventre has, I think, liberated the vast flood of creative hatred which makes modern civilization possible. My body, says Ventre, is chose-en-soi for me, a Thing which I cannot control, a Thing which uses me. But it is chose-pour-soi for the Other. I am thus a Hostile Thing to the Other, and so is he to me. At the same time it follows (or it does in the French) that I am a No-Thing to the world. But I cannot be united or merged with the WorldThing because my Thing-Body, or Not-Other, gives me an illicit and tragically deceptive claim on existence and ‘happiness’. I am thus tragically committed to extending the area of my always illusory control over the Thing-body – and as the ‘mind’ associated with my Thing-body is merely the storing up of recollected struggles with Things, it follows that I cannot know the Other except as one of the weapons with which the World-Thing has increased its area of hostile action.
    Resistentialism thus formalizes hatred both in the cosmological and in the psychological sphere. It is becoming generally realized that the complex apparatus of our modern life – the hurried meals, the dashing for trains, the constant meeting of people who are seen only as ‘functions’: the barman, the wife, etc. – could not operate if our behaviour were truly dictated by the old, reactionary categories of human love and reason. This is where Ventre’s true greatness lies. He has transformed, indeed reversed the traditional mechanism of thought, steered it away from the old dogmatic assumption that we could use Things, and cleared the decks for the evolution of the Thing-process without futile human opposition. Ventre’s work brings us a great deal nearer to the realization of the Resistentialist goal summed up in the words, ‘Every Thing out of Control.’
—Paul Jennings, The Jenguin Pennings, 1963, reprinted from Town & Country.
larvatus: (rock)

Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down you dig farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard.
    This ass talk had sort of a gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose? Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.
    This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriliquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called “The Better ‘Ole” that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, “Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?”
    “Nah I had to go relieve myself.”
    After a while the ass start talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time.
    Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy in-curving hooks and started eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: “It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we dont need you around here any more. I can talk and eat and shit.”
    After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole’s tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call un-D.T., Undifferentiated Tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body. He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly and grow there, grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell. So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have have amputated spontaneous — (did you know there is a condition occurs in parts of Africa and only among Negroes where the little toe amputates spontaneously?) — except for the eyes you dig. Thats one thing the asshole couldn’t do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eyes on the end of a stalk.
—William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch, 1959

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As is well known, Holmes’s theory of liability rested on two interlocking principles. First, the primary purpose of the law is to ‘induce external conformity to rule’, [The Common Law, (M. DeW. Howe edn., 1963), p. 42.] and second, personal moral blameworthiness is not generally an ingredient of liability. [Ibid., pp. 42-3.] I turn first to consider how Holmes applied these central principles to the case of contract. Naturally enough we find many of the same themes as in his theories of liability in the criminal law and in tort. There is, for a start, Holmes’s hostility to the role of morals, expressed in extraordinarily vehement language in ‘The Path of the Law’. [Holmes complained that his own way of looking at the law of contracts ‘stinks to the nostrils of those who think it advantageous to get as much ethics into the law as they can.’ 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457, at p. 462 (1897).] Morality helps put the cart before the horse and makes people think that it is morally wrong to break a contract, and that there is a duty to perform a contract. Not so, says Holmes. The duty to perform a contract is imaginary, and the right to the other party’s performance is even more imaginary. A contracting party has a choice—to perform or to pay damages for not performing. To enter into a contract is not to assume any duty to perform, and is thus analogous to committing a tort. Holmes thus presents his marvellous apothegm: committing a contract is more or less the same thing as committing a tort, except that in the former case liability is conditional on non-performance. [See Pollock-Holmes Letters (ed. M. DeW. Howe, 1941, published in America under the title, Holmes-Pollock Letters), vol. i, at p. 177, vol. ii, at pp. 199-200, 233.] A contract is, in effect, a way of allocating a risk, the risk of non-performance or non-occurrence of an event. [The Common Law, pp. 324-6.] This, in Holmes’s words, frees the subject from the ‘superfluous theory that contract is a qualified subjection of one will to another, a kind of limited slavery’. [Ibid., p. 235.] Many of us today would share Holmes’s satisfaction at the dissolution of that quasi-metaphysical nonsense in his cynical acid. Holmes’s theory of the nature of contractual liability also leads to the conclusion that damages should be limited to those that can reasonably be regarded as part of the risks assumed by the defendant. So punitive damages can be ruled out, the contract-breaker’s motives become immaterial, and perhaps, more generally, damages should be kept on the low side. 
    Lastly, Holmes’s thoughts on contract focus on the external standards of liability and the unimportance of actual internal intention. Mistake, fraud, and the like affect the validity of contract not by reason of a deficiency in the will of the contracting parties, or a failure of assent, but for other, more external reasons. [Ibid., pp. 245-6, 253.] Such external reasons might include the fact that ‘there is no second party, or the two parties say different things, or essential terms seemingly consistent are really inconsistent as used’. [Ibid., p. 246.] Holmes even made the remarkable assertion that the ‘true ground’ of decision in the famous case of Raffles v. Wichelhaus, [(1864) 2 H. and C. 906.] involving the steamship Peerless, was ‘not that each party meant a different thing . . . but that each said a different thing’. [The Common Law, p. 242.] As Grant Gilmore said, this was, ‘even for Holmes an extraordinary tour de force’. [The Death of Contract (1974), p. 41.]
    —P.S. Atiyah, Essays on Contract, Oxford University Press, 1986, pp. 57-58
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Henry Watson Fowler
10 March 1858 – 26 December 1933

Pedantic Humour. No essential distinction is intended between this & Polysyllabic Humour; one or the other name is more appropriate to particular specimens, & the two headings are therefore useful for reference; but they are manifestations of the same impulse, & the few remarks needed may be made here for both. A warning is necessary, because we have all of us, except the abnormally stupid, been pedantic humourists in our time. We spend much of our childhood picking up a vocabulary; we like to air our latest finds; we discover that our elders are tickled when we come out with a new name that they thought beyond us; we devote some pains to tickle them further, & there we are, pedants & polysyllabists all. The impulse is healthy for children, & nearly universal—which is just why warning is necessary; for among so many there will always be some who fail to realize that the clever habit applauded at home will make them insufferable abroad. Most of those who are capable of writing well enough to find readers do learn sooner or later that playful use of long or learned words is a one-sided game boring the reader more than it pleases the writer, that the impulse to it is a danger-signal—for there must be something wrong with what they are saying if it needs recommending by such puerilities—, & that yielding to the impulse is a confession of failure. But now & then even an able writer will go on believing that the incongruity between simple things to be said & out-of-the-way words to say them in has a perennial charm. Perhaps it has for the reader who never outgrows hobbledehoyhood; but for the rest of us it is dreary indeed. It is possible that acquaintance with such labels as pedantic & polysyllabic humour may help to shorten the time it takes to cure a weakness incident to youth.
    An elementary example or two should be given. The words homoeopathic (small or minute), sartorial (of clothes), interregnum (gap), or familiar ones:—To introduce ‘Lords of Parliament’ in such a homoeopathic doses as to leave a preponderating power in the hands of those who enjoy a merely hereditary title./While we were motoring out to the station I took stock of his sartorial aspect, which had change somewhat since we parted./In his vehement action his breeches fall down & his waistcoat runs up, so that there is a great interregnum.
    These words are like most that are much used in humour of either kind, both pedantic & polysyllabic. A few specimens that cannot be described as polysyllabic are added here, & for the large class of long words, the article Polysyllabic Humour should be consulted:—ablution; aforesaid; beverage; bivalve (the succulent); caloric; cuticle; digit; domestics; eke (adv.); ergo; erstwhile; felicide; nasal organ; neighbourhood (in the n. of, = about); nether garments; optic (eye); parlous; vulpicide.

    Pedantry may be defined, for the purpose of this book, as the saying of things in language so learned or so demonstratively accurate as to imply a slur upon the generality, who are not capable or desirous of such displays. The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else’s ignorance. It is therefore not very profitable to dogmatize here on the subject; an essay would establish not what pedantry is, but only the place in the scale occupied by the author; & that, so far as it is worth inquiring into, can better be ascertained from the treatment of details […].

    Polysyllabic Humour. See Pedantic Humour for a slight account of the impulse that suggests long or abstruse words as a means of entertaining the hearer. Of the long as distinguished from the abstruse, terminological exactitude for lie or falsehood is a favourable example, but much less amusing ad the hundredth than at the first time of hearing. Oblivious to their pristine nudity (forgetting they were stark naked) is a less familiar specimen. Nothing need here be added to hat was said in the other article beyond a short specimen list of long words or phrases that sensible people avoid. Batavian, Caledonian, Celestial, Hibernian & Milesian for Dutch, Scotch, Chinese, Irish. Solution of continuity, femoral habiliments, refrain from lacteal addition, & olfactory organ for gap, breeches, take no milk, & nose. Osculatory, pachydermatous, matutinal, diminutive, fuliginous, fugacious, esurient, culinary, & minacious, for kissing, thick-skinned, morning, tiny, sooty, timid, hungry, kitchen, & threatening. Frontispiece, individual, equitation, intermediary, cachinnation, & epidermis, for face, person, riding, means, laughter, & skin. Negotiate & peregrinate for tackle & travel.

    Purism. Now & then a person may be heard to ‘confess’, in the pride that apes humility, to being ‘a bit of a purist’; but purist & purism are for the most part missile words, which we all of us fling at anyone who insults us by finding not good enough for him some manner of speech that is good enough for us. It is in that disparaging sense that the words are used in this book; by purism is to be understood a needless & irritating insistence on purity or correctness of speech. Pure English, however, even apart from the great number of elements (vocabulary, grammar, idiom, pronunciation, & so forth) that go to make it up, is so relative a term that almost every man is potentially a purist & a sloven at once to persons looking at him from a lower & a higher position in the scale than his own. The words have therefore not been very freely used; that they should be renounced altogether would be too much to expect considering the subject of the book. But readers who find a usage stigmatized as purism have a right to know the stigmatizer's place in the purist scale, if his stigma is not to be valueless. […]

—Henry Watson Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage: The Classic First Edition,
Oxford University Press, 2009 (1926), pp. 426-427, 444, 474-475
larvatus: (Default)


1. Ах, Йосиф, Йосиф, старый добрый Йосиф, —
Какие есть на свете имена.
Состриг ли ты свою больную мо́золь,
Иль до сих пор она тебе нужна?

Ах, Йосиф, Йосиф, славный, добрый Йосиф,
Состриг ли ты любимую мозо́ль?
Зачем чтоб наступали все,
Лучше, чтоб упали все.
Выставить лишь ножку ты изволь.

С добрым утром, тётя Хая, ой-ёй-ёй.
Вам посылка из Шанхая, ой-ёй-ёй,
А в посылке три китайца, ой-ёй-ёй,
Три китайца красят яйца, ой-ёй-ёй.

2. Я как-то встретил Йосифа на рынке,
Он жидкость от мозо́лей покупал,
В зубах держал сметану Йосиф в крынке,
Ну, а руками мо́золь обнимал.

Хотел я поздороваться с ним чинно,
Улыбку сотворил и шляпу снял,
Но Йосиф вдруг заметил тётю Хаю,
Нырнул кормой и мимо прошагал.
3. Так вот она какая, тётя Хая,
Йосиф, видно, с нею не в ладах.
Ей кто-то шлет посылки из Шанхая,
А Йосиф умирает в мозоля́х.

Но Йосиф сострижет больную мо́золь
И кой-кому намнёт еще бока,
И вспомнит он тогда про тётю Хаю
И ей подставит ножку, а пока…
2-й и 3-й куплеты исполняются на мелодию первой части 1-го куплета.

За основу мелодии песни взят фокстрот “Джозеф” (музыкальная обработка А. Цфасмана, не позднее 1941 года). Слова и мелодия записаны с голоса Г. Димонда не позднее 1980 года.

Шел трамвай десятый номер… Городские песни. Для голоса в сопровождении фортепиано (гитары). / Сост. А. П. Павлинов и Т. П. Орлова. СПб., “Композитор – Санкт-Петербург“, 2005. Переделка песни 1920-х гг. “Тетя Хая” на мелодию фокстрота 1920-х гг. “Joseph“. Написана в начале 1970-х годов в Ленинграде Рудольфом Фуксом для Аркадия Северного.

Из книги Игоря Ефимова и Дмитрия Петрова “Аркадий Северный, Советский Союз!” (2007):
Ну, и наконец, Фукс даёт “путёвку в жизнь” ещё одной тёте, в пару к тёте Бесе, – тёте Хае!!! На мотив джазовой мелодии 20-х годов “Joseph” ещё с нэповских времён были известны весёлые куплеты с припевом про трёх китайцев. Рудольф знает же только припев, и дописывает к нему куплеты опять-таки сам. И, что особенно примечательно, на основе “личных впечатлений“, привезённых им всё из того же Бердичева:
      Ах, Ёзель, Ёзель, старый, добрый Ёзель,
      Какие есть на свете имена!
      Состриг ли ты свою больную мoзоль,
      Иль до сих пор она в тебе видна?
“…Именно Ёзель, а не Йозеф, как стали потом петь. Так звали дядю моей жены. И мозоль у него была, и все об неё спотыкались. Вот я про это и сочинил песню” – так рассказывал об этом Рудольф Фукс. История, действительно, куда как содержательна… Что не помешало, однако, стать этой песне очень популярной. “Как раз в это время кто-то нам принёс кассету с записями Аркадия Северного. Голос Аркаши всем очень понравился, но песни на кассете были не очень интересные, кроме одной – про тётю Хаю. А точнее – про дядю всем известного Рудика Фукса, про которого Рудик эту песню и написал, и которого звали Йозеф. Мы её выучили, и первый раз сыграли на дне рождения нашего официанта, которого тоже звали Юзя. Песня настолько понравилась народу, что мы её стали играть каждый день раз по десять на заказ” – так вспоминал потом о своих впечатлениях от этого поэтического шедевра будущий “Брат Жемчужный” Евгений Драпкин.


Ах, Йозеф, Йозеф, старый добрый Йозеф, —
Какие есть на свете имена!
Состриг ли ты свою больную мо́золь,
Иль до сих пор она в тебе жива?

Ах, Йозеф, Йозеф, старый добрый Йозеф,
Состриг ли ты любимую мозо́ль?
Лучше чтоб не знали все,
Лучше чтоб упали все, …
Выставить лишь ножку ты изволь!

С добрым утром, тётя Хая, ай-ай-ай!
Вам посылка из Шанхая, ай-ай-ай!
А в посылке три китайца, ой-ой-ой!
Три китайца красят яйца, ой-ой-ой!

Я как-то встретил Йозефа на рынке, —
Он жидкость от мозо́лей покупал.
В зубах держал сметны Йозеф крынку,
Ну а руками — руками мо́золь обнимал.

Хотел я поздороваться с ним чинно,
Улыбку сотворил и шляпу снял, —
Но Йозеф вдруг заметил тётю Хаю, —
Вильнул кормой — и мимо прошагал!

С добрым утром, тётя Хая, ай-ай-ай!
Вам посылка из Шанхая, ай-ай-ай!
А в посылке три китайца, ой-ой-ой!
Три китайца красят яйца, ой-ой-ой!

Так вот она, какая тётя Хая, —
И Йозеф с нею, видно, не в ладах, —
Ей кто-то шлёт посылки из Шанхая,
А Йозеф умирает в мозоля́х!

Но Йозеф сострижёт больную мо́золь
И кой-кому, ой, кой-кому намнёт бока!
И встретит он тогда и тётю Хаю,
И ей подставит ножку, а пока…

С добрым утром, тётя Хая, ай-ай-ай!
Вам посылка из Шанхая, ай-ай-ай!
А в посылке три китайца, ой-ой-ой!
Три китайца красят яйца, ой-ой-ой!

Тексты песен из репертуара Аркадия Северного, Тихорецкий концерт (1979 г.).

(Sammy Cahn / Nellie Casman / Saul Chaplin / Samuel Steinberg)

The Andrews Sisters - 1938

A certain maid I know, is so afraid her boy
Will never ask her, will she name the day
He calls on her each night, and when she dims the light
It’s ten to one that you would hear her say

Oh Joseph, Joseph, won’t you make your mind up
It’s time I knew just how I stand with you
My heart’s no clock that I can stop and wind up
Each time we make up after being through

So listen Joseph, Joseph time is fleeting
And here and there my hair is turning grey
My mother has a fear, wedding bells I’ll never hear
Joseph, Joseph, won’t you name the day

Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Name the day, name the day

Oh Joseph, make your mind up
It’s time I knew just how I stand with you
My heart’s no clock that I can wind up
Oh Joseph, each time we make up after being through

Oh Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, time is fleeting
And here and there my hair is turning grey
My mama has a fear, wedding bells I’ll never hear
Oh Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, won’t you name the day

Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Name the day, name the day

Also recorded by: Stanley Black; Ruby Braff; Café Accordion Orch.; London Festival Orch.; Glenn Miller; Russ Morgan & His Orch.; Gus Viseur.


Jan. 31st, 2012 12:58 am
larvatus: (Default)
I must quit sleeping in the afternoon.
I do it for my heart, but all too soon
my heart has called it off. It does not love me.
If it downed tools, there’d soon be nothing of me.
Its hammer beat says You are, not I am.
It prints me off here like a telegram.
What do I say? How can the lonely word
know who has sent it out, or who has heard?
Long years since I came round in her womb
enough myself to know I was not home,
my dear sea up in arms at the wrong shore
and her loud heart like a landlord at the door.
Where are we now? What misdemeanor sealed
my transfer? Mother, why so far afield?
                                               —Don Paterson
                    The New Yorker, 23 January 2012

blue monk

Jan. 30th, 2012 10:50 pm
larvatus: (rock)
Bigotry is the lot of retards. A grown man has enough enemies of all stripes to preempt uniform grudges.

“When I was a kid, some of the guys would try to get me to hate white people for what they’ve been doing to Negroes, and for a while I tried real hard. But every time I got to hating them, some white guy would come along and mess the whole thing up.”
—Thelonious Sphere Monk as quoted by Harry Colomby in Down Beat, Vol. 25, 1958
larvatus: (Default)
Inequality has made upward mobility difficult. Equality would make upward mobility impossible. Either way, more and more Americans will get screwed.

« N’être pas republicain à vingt ans est preuve d’un manque de coeur ; l’être après trente ans est preuve d’un manque de tête. »
“Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”
—François Guizot (1787–1874)
« N’être pas socialiste à vingt ans est preuve d’un manque de coeur ; l’être après trente ans est preuve d’un manque de tête. »
“Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”
—Georges Clemenceau (1841–1929)
“A recent Pew Research Center poll found that for the first time more people under the age of thirty view socialism positively than view capitalism positively—49 to 46 percent—although what they meant by socialism was not clearly defined.”
larvatus: (Default)
“Ce qu’il y a d’ennuyeux dans l’amour, c’est que c’est un crime où l’on ne peut pas se passer d’un complice.”
“The tiresome thing about love is that it is a crime that one cannot commit without an accomplice.”
— Charles Baudelaire, Mon cœur mis à nu
Men have lower attention spans than women… except where they count:

20. Diversion during coitus. We have already pointed out (p. 384) that effective female responses during coitus may depend, in many cases, upon the continuity of physical stimulation. If that stimulation is interrupted, orgasm is delayed, primarily because the female may return to normal physiologic levels in such periods of inactivity. This appears to be due to the fact that she is not sufficiently aroused by the psychologic stimuli to maintain her arousal when there is no physical stimulation. We have pointed out that the male, on the contrary, may go through a period in which physical activity is interrupted without losing erection or the other evidences of his erotic arousal, primarily because he continues to be stimulated psychologically during those periods.

    Similarly, because the male is more strongly stimulated by psychologic factors during sexual activities, he cannot be distracted from his performance as easily as the female. Many females are easily diverted, and may turn from coitus when a baby cries, when children enter the house, when the doorbell rings, when they recall household duties which they intended to take care of before they retired for the night, and when music, conversation, food, a desire to smoke, or other non-sexual activities present themselves. The male himself is sometimes responsible for the introduction of the conversation, cigarettes, music, and other diversions, and he, unwittingly, may be responsible for the female’s distraction because he does not understand that the sources of her responses may be different from his.
    It is a standard complaint of males that their female partners in coitus “do not put their minds to it.” This is an incorrect appraisal of the situation, for what is involved is the female’s lack of stimulation by the sorts of psychologic stimuli which are of importance to the male. Such differences between females and males have been known for centuries, and are pointed out in the classic and Oriental literature. From the most ancient to the most modern erotic art, the female has been portrayed on occasion as reading a book, eating, or engaging in other activities while she is in coitus; but no artist seems to have portrayed males engaged in such extraneous activities while in coitus.
    Various interpretations may be offered of these differences between females and males. Many persons would, again, be inclined to look for cultural influences which might be responsible. But some sort of basic biologic factor must be involved, for at least some of the infra-human species of mammals show these same differences. Cheese crumbs spread in front of a copulating pair of rats may distract the female but not the male. A mouse running in front of a copulating pair of cats may distract the female but not the male. When cattle are interrupted during coitus, it is the cow that is more likely to be disturbed while the bull may try to continue with coitus. It explains nothing to suggest that this is due to differences in levels of “sex drive” in the two sexes.23 [23 As examples of the fact that the female is more easily distracted, see: [Frank A.] Beach 1947b[“A Review of Physiological and Psychological Studies of Sexual Behavior in Mammals”, Physiological Review, 27, 1947, pp. 240-307]:264 (bitches will eat during coitus, most male dogs refuse food in this situation; female cats may investigate mouse holes during coitus). Robert Bean, director of Brookfield Zoo, reports (verbal communic.) females of various species eating during coitus.] There are probably more basic neurologic explanations of these differences between females and males (p. 712).
— Alfred Charles Kinsey and the staff of the Institute for Sex Research,
Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Indiana University Press, 1953, pp. 668-669
larvatus: (MZ)
“Most people are unconscious up to 17, dreaming until 25, awake to 39, mad after 40, dead after 60.”
— Ian Fleming

“Woe, woe, woe (I think I am quoting Ezra Pound more or less) in a little while we shall all be dead. Therefore let us behave as though we were dead already.”
“It was like this, Mr Bond.” Zographos had a precise way of speaking with the thin tips of his lips while his half-hard half-soft Greek eyes measured the reaction of his words on the listener… “The Russians are chess players. They are mathematicians. Cold machines. But they are also mad. The mad ones forsake the chess and the mathematics and become gamblers. Now, Mr Bond.” Zographos laid a hand on Bond’s sleeve and quickly withdrew it because he knew Englishmen, just as he knew the characteristics of every race, every race with money, in the world. “There are two gamblers… the man who lays the odds and the man who accepts them. The bookmaker and the punter. The casino and, if you like” — Mr Zographos’s smile was sly with the “shared secret” and proud with the right word — “The suckers.”

Of all the visitors to the Deauville casino, perhaps the greatest gambling wizard was Nicolas Zographos, a Greek-born mathematical marvel who in the nineteen-twenties and thirties was the keystone of “the Syndicate,” an association of gamblers who worked together and financed their star joueurs. His background was as mysterious as that of the late Sir Basil Zaharoff. Zographos’ favorite game was not roulette, boule, vingt-et-un, or chemin de fer, but the big one, baccarat in its most rarefied form — banque à tout va (the sky’s the limit ) — played in the privacy of the “salle privée,” a special room with its own set of alert guards. Experts have called Zographos the greatest cardplayer who ever lived. “I decided to perfect myself at them,” he once told a Deauville visitor in the thirties, and he added that he had worked hard at his chosen career and amassed a number of fortunes. “Perhaps you do not realize it, but there is as big a difference between a good baccarat player and a poor one as there is between a scratch golfer and a man with an eighteen handicap,” he went on. “People think, because at baccarat or chemin de fer you have to play with the cards dealt to you, that there is little opportunity for skill, except, of course, when it is à volonté to draw. But I assure you they are wrong, and I should know.” In those days, he kept himself in perfect shape by playing not six-pack bezique but eight-pack bezique and remembering the whereabouts of every card in the eight packs.
    Zographos’ largest loss at a single session of baccarat was thirty-six million francs, at a time when that amounted to nearly a million and a half dollars. “The largest number of times I have ever won consecutively on both sides of the table is twelve, and on one side of the table nineteen,” he has said. “The banker, in drawing his second card after the player’s, has a tiny but definite advantage. But the main difference is that the players double up their bets when they are losing and hedge when they are winning. It is only human nature, but there you are. I will put it another way. The bank plays baccarat as though it were contract bridge, weighing up every chance mathematically. And let me tell you it needs the brain of a very good accountant to assess immediately the amount of money being staked on either side of the table and then to work out mentally whether it is worth drawing a third card. … There is no such thing as good luck or bad luck.” Another member of the Syndicate, a Greek shipowner named Athanasios Vagliano, was often the banker of baccarat games in which two and a half million dollars changed hands in one night.
—Phyllis & Fred Feldkamp,
The Good Life… or What’s Left of It: Being a Recounting of the Pleasures of the Senses that Contribute to the Enjoyment of Life in France,
Harper’s Magazine Press, 1972, p. 123
larvatus: (Default)
     “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
—Martin Luther King, Harvard University, 1968

     “I was amazed at how many intellectuals took issue with me over a piece I wrote a while back for the New York Times saying I was against the practice of Israeli soldiers going door-to-door and randomly breaking the hands of Palestinians as a method of combating the intifada. I said also I was against the too-quick use of real bullets before other riot control methods were tried. I was for a more flexible attitude on negotiating land for peace. All things I felt to be not only more in keeping with Israel’s high moral stature but also in its own best interest. I never doubted the correctness of my feelings and I expected all who read it to agree. Visions of a Nobel danced in my head and, in truth, I had even formulated the first part of my acceptance speech. Now, I have frequently been accused of being a self-hating Jew, and while it’s true I am Jewish and I don’t like myself very much, it’s not because of my persuasion. The reasons lie in totally other areas—like the way I look when I get up in the morning, or that I can never read a road map. In retrospect, the fact that I did not win a peace prize but became an object of some derision was what I should have expected.”
—Woody Allen, “Random Reflections of a Second-Rate Mind”, Tikkun, Jan/Feb 1990

“Thanks to Weininger, I realised how wrong I was—I was not detached from the reality about which I wrote, and I never shall be. I am not looking at the Jews, or at Jewish identity, I am not looking at Israelis. I am actually looking in the mirror. With contempt, I am actually elaborating on the Jew in me.
    The Jew in me is not an island. He is joined by hostile enemies and counter-personalities who have also settled in my psyche. There are, inside me, many characters that oppose each other. It isn't as horrifying as it might sound. In fact, it is rather productive, amusing and certainly revealing. […]
    The present should be understood as a creative dynamic mode where past premeditates its future. But far more crucially, it is also where the imaginary future can re-write its past. I will try to elucidate this idea through a simple and hypothetical yet horrifying war scenario. We, for instance, can envisage an horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.’”
—Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who?: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics, O Books, 2011, pp. 94, 179

“Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it incredibly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.”
John J. Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, September 2011

larvatus: (rock)
Nos femmes prennent tout notre argent pour rester avec nous, tandis que nos putes en prennent un peu pour nous quitter. Lesquelles font donc la meilleure affaire?

Frans de Geetere, Une prostituée et son client, les années 1930s

Nous répétons après Samuel Johnson, qu’un second mariage est le triomphe de l’espoir sur l’expérience. Mais même si on ne peut pas se plonger deux fois de suite dans la même rivière, aucune force de la nature ne lui interdit pas de pisser à chaque fois dans le même égout. De même la facilité de faire renaître une vieille haine contraste avec la difficulté de renouveler une vieille amitié. À cet égard, nos amours sont plus proches des égouts que des rivières.

Basile Poukireff, L’Union mal assortie, 1862
larvatus: (Default)
About the James book: It is not great no matter what they tell you. It has fine qualities and greater faults. It is much too long and much too bitching and his one fight, against the planes, at Pearl Harbour day is almost musical comedy. He has a genius for respecting the terms of a kitchen and he is a K.P. boy for keeps and for always. Things will catch up with him and he will probably commit suicide. Who could announce in his publicity in this year 1951 that “he went over the hill” in 1944. That was a year in which many people were very busy doing their duty and in which many people died. To me he is an enormously skilled fuck-up and his book will do great damage to our country. Probably I should re-read it again to give you a truer answer. But I do not have to eat an entire bowl of scabs to know they are scabs; nor suck a boil to know it is a boil; nor swim through a river of snot to know it is snot. I hope he kills himself as soon as it does not damage his or your sales. If you give him a literary tea you might ask him to drain a bucket of snot and then suck the pus out of a dead nigger’s ear. Then present him with one of those women he is asking for and let him show her his portrait and his clippings. How did they ever get a picture of a wide-eared jerk (un-damaged ears) to look that screaming tough. I am glad he makes you money and I would never laugh him off. I would just give him a bigger bucket on the snot detail. He has the psycho’s urge to kill himself and he will do it. 
    Make all the money you can out of him as quickly as you can and hold out enough for Christian Burial. 
    Wouldn’t have brought him up if you hadn’t asked me. Now I feel as unclean as when I read his fuck-off book. It has all the charm and true-ness of the real and imitation fuck-off. I give you James Jones, Gentlemen, and please take him away before he falls apart or starts screaming.
— Ernest Hemingway, letter to Charles Scribner, 5 March 1951, Selected Letters 1917-1961, edited by Carlos Baker, Scribner, 2003, p. 721

Ernest Hemingway, late spring 1952, John F. Kennedy Library

Jones made another remark that I had difficulty dealing with. When Hemingway’s name came up, he proclaimed that, “The problem with Papa was he always wanted to suck a cock. But when he found one that fit, it had a double barrel.”
— Michael Mewshaw, Do I Owe You Something?: A Memoir of the Literary Life, Louisiana State Univ Press, 2003, p. 53
larvatus: (Default)
At the end of Patrice Leconte’s sublime film Ridicule, the marquis de Bellegarde, the refined and humane physician played by Jean Rochefort, discovers the villainy that underlies the “bel esprit” committed to the art of brilliant repartee that determines and defines the pecking order at the royal court. Revolution sweeps away the French aristocracy, and Bellegarde finds himself exiled in England, a humble tutor to the overprivileged offspring of his indigenous counterpart. There, while walking along a seaside cliff with his native host, he becomes agitated as a gust of wind carries away his hat. “Mieux vaut perdre son chapeau que sa tête”, better to lose one’s hat than one’s head, phlegmatically points out the Englishman. Whereupon Bellegarde, recalling his long forgotten befuddlement by the notion he is about to invoke, has his epiphany: “Ah… L’humour!”

Which is to say that it would take another Revolution followed by a therapeutic exile to instill a sense of humor in Russian intelligentsia.

— Быть невесёлым, это как кому угодно, — сказал Бьюмонт: — но скучать, по моему мнению, неизвинительно, Скука в моде у наших братьев, англичан; но мы, американцы, не знаем ее. Нам некогда скучать: у нас слишком много дела. Я считаю, мне кажется (поправил он свой американизм), что и русский народ должен бы видеть себя в таком положении: по-моему, у него тоже слишком много дела на руках. Но действительно, я вижу в русских совершенно противное: они очень расположены хандрить. Сами англичане далеко не выдерживают сравнения с ними в этом. Английское общество, ославленное на всю Европу, и в том числе на всю Россию, скучнейшим в мире, настолько же разговорчивее, живее, веселее русского, насколько уступает в этом французскому. И ваши путешественники говорят вам о скуке английского общества? Я не понимаю, где ж у этих людей глаза на своё домашнее!
    — И русские правы, что хандрят, — сказала Катерина Васильевна: — какое ж у них дело? им нечего делать; они должны сидеть сложа руки. Укажите мне дело, и я, вероятно, не буду скучать.
— Николай Гаврилович Чернышевский, «Что делать?»

“One may be melancholy as he pleases,” said Beaumont; “but to be bored is in my opinion unpardonable. Boredom is a fashion among our brethren, the English, but we Americans know nothing about it. We have no time to be bored; we have too much to do. I think; I mean, it seems to me” (he corrected his Americanism) “that the Russian people ought to see themselves in the same situation: as I see it, they too have too much to do. But, in reality, I see exactly the opposite in the Russians; they are very much disposed to gloom. Even the English cannot equal them in this respect. Englishmen are known all over Europe, including Russia, to be the most boring people in the world, but they are as superior to the Russians in sociability, vivacity, and good cheer, as they are inferior to the French in these respects. And your travelers tell you how boring English society is. I don’t understand what they see when they look at themselves.”
    “And the Russians are right in being gloomy,” said Katerina Vasilyevna; “what chance do they have for activity? They have nothing to do! They have to sit with folded hands. Give me something to do, and in all likelihood I shall not be bored.”
— Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done?
larvatus: (Default)
Royce’s excursion to Europe and the eastern U.S. fixed in his mind a decided hatred of his native state. California’s provinciality, its ruthless economics, its blind and selfish politics—everything, in fact, but its exquisite natural beauty—filled him with loathing. Compared with the cultural centers that Royce had just left, California had little to offer besides stock speculation, wheat ranching, political charades, racial warfare, and agitation. “Foundation for higher growth we sadly lack. Ideals we have none. Philistines we are in soul most thoroughly. And when we do talk, our topics of discussion are so insufferably finite!’ As a place for philosophical thought, it was execrable. “There is no philosophy in California—from Siskiyou to Ft. Yuma, and from the Golden Gate to the Summit of the Sierras, there could not be found brains enough [to] accomplish the formation of a single respectable idea that was not a manifest plagiarism. Hence the atmosphere for the study of metaphysics is bad, and I wish I were out of it.”
—John Clendenning, The Life and Thought of Josiah Royce, Revised and Expanded Edition, Vanderbilt University Press, 1999, p. 74

The word “logic”, fortunately or unfortunately, rings with varied overtones not all of which are in harmony. One ear may be deaf to what excites another, and great care must be taken in claiming that the “logic” of a subject has been found or revised. As one of my undergraduate professors once told me, “When you question a man’s logic you question his taste,” which may explain the contempt of some mathematicians for logical studies. Now that there seems to be a chance for formal logic to have a wider audience, all the more care is required. Easy victories waste too much time in celebration. Formal methods should only be applied when the subject is ready for them, when conceptual clarification is sufficiently advanced. This is not to discourage experimentation—only the party giving. Modal Logic is a good example: colorful axioms have been strung up all over, but few couples are dancing. Maybe Quantum Logic is another example, but at least the mathematics being served at that party is vastly more sophisticated than the Coca-Cola of the modal logicians. Besides, those who study the foundations of quantum physics readily agree that the fight has only just begun.2 [2 A general reference is J. M. Jauch, Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass. 1968). A related discussion and some interesting new ideas have been initiated in C.H. Randall and D.J. Foulis, “An Approach to Empirical Logic”, in American Mathematical Monthly 77 (1970) pp. 363-374.] Whether, then, the claim of a carry-over for modal logic is going to be justified is to my mind a very moot point and is one of the main motivations for attempting this essay.3 [3 Reservations about modal logic, mingled with some optimism, have been expressed by George Lakoff, “Linguistics and Natural Logic”, in Semantics of Natural Language, ed. by D. Davidson and G. Harman (D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1972) pp. 545-665. Note especially the final section of Concluding Remarks. The point about presuppositions and three-valued logic does not seem to be entirely well-taken, however, in view of van Fraassen’s well-known analysis in terms of supervaluations. This does not mean that the connections between “natural” and “formal” logic are all that clear.]
—“Background to Formalization”, Dana S. Scott, in Truth, Syntax and Modality, edited by H. Leblanc, Studies in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics, Volume 68, 1973, pp. 244-273, at p. 245

In what important and often neglected sense are there many worlds? Let it be clear that the question here is not of the possible worlds that many of my contemporaries, especially those living near Disneyland, are busy making and manipulating. We are not speaking in terms of multiple possible alternatives to a single actual world but of multiple actual worlds. How to interpret such terms as “real”, “unreal”, “fictive”, and “possible” is a subsequent question.
—Nelson Goodman, “Words, Works, Worlds”, Erkenntnis, Volume 9 (1975), Number 1, pp. 57-73, at pp. 57-58; reprinted in Ways of Worldmaking, Hackett, 1978, p. 4

Richard Montague was a small, very dapper, compact, cufflink of a character. He was dressed in a neat blue suit, a snowy white shirt, and a matching crimson tie. We had met for drinks in mid-town Manhattan—he, Daniel Gallin, and I. His hands, I noticed, were square, the fingernails manicured and covered with a clear polish. A logician by profession, Montague had a reputation for great technical brilliance. His papers were adroit, carefully written, biting, and completely beyond the intellectual grasp of all but a handful of analytic philosophers.
    For some reason he was ill at ease that afternoon, and looked fitfully around the hotel’s bar, as if he suspected somehow that nothing was going to turn out properly. Beyond the bar, in the lobby of the hotel, there was an absurd canary cage in which a pair of yellowish birds were cheeping nervously, complaining, I am sure, about the price of drinks or room service.
    We talked of taxes and politics and How on Earth do you survive in this place—meaning New York. Then the discussion turned to mathematics and Montague cheered up. He had just commenced his research program into formal grammars and had published a series of papers of truly monstrous technicality. He liked to imagine that he and Chomsky were rivals. “There are,” he said, “two great frauds in the history of twentieth-century science. One of them is Chomsky.”
    I reached for the peanuts.
    “And the other?”
    “Albert Einstein,” Montague said decisively, glad that I had asked.
    —David Berlinski, Black Mischief: Language, Life, Logic, Luck, Mariner Books, Second Edition, 1988, pp. 139-140

Bonus links: Richard Montague’s obituary signed by Montgomery Furth, C.C. Chang, and Alonzo Church; reviews by Sacha Arnold of more or less improper treatments of Richard Montague in literary fiction, Less Than Meets the Eye by David Berlinski and The Mad Man by Samuel R. Delany, and The Semantics of Murder by Aifric Campbell.
larvatus: (MZ)

Elaborating on his fascination with Che’s will, Soderbergh explained: “His ability to sustain outrage is what is remarkable to me. We all get outraged about stuff, but to sustain it to the point of putting your ass on the line to change what outrages you, to do it consistently year after year, and to twice walk away from everything and everybody to do it—it’s not normal.”

Soderbergh’s treatment explains the cult of Che Guevara for me. Its grounds are not to be found in the fighter’s altruism looking out for the victims of oppression contrary to their will welcoming its violation. Neither is the would-be liberator morally disqualified by the resistance of his potential beneficiaries; for what good is his intelligence, if not to warrant his authority to speak and act on their benighted behalves? Be it due to sacrificial selflessness or intellectual vanity, Che’s capacity for staying pissed off makes him stand out.

Anticipating his own political martyrdom, Cicero commented on an earlier occasion of noble failure: “ut aegroto, dum anima est, spes esse dicitur”. (Letters to Atticus 9.10.3.) To the sick, while there is life there is hope. Proverbial wisdom condensed Ciceronian dicta to expand their purview: “dum spiro spero”; while I breathe I hope. But to the truly outraged, hope is beside the point. Suffice unto them to spew forth. Dum spiro sputo.
larvatus: (Default)

Distributed Royalties in Interactive Media

For the purposes of this discussion, we shall understand royalties as the sum of money earned by and paid to the proprietor and licensor of intellectual property (IP) rights for the benefits derived by the licensee through the exercise of such rights under a licensing agreement. Initially we further restrict our discussion to royalties due and payable for copyright-protected content contributed by identifiable users to advertising-supported Internet discussion fora.

As experienced on the Internet, an online forum, also known as a discussion board, is an asynchronous communication platform realized as a website that is composed at its core of a number of discussion threads. Each such thread begins with one individual contributing a comment or question posted online. Other individuals who read that contribution may respond with their own remarks over time. Their responses may elicit further remarks, and so on. The resulting threads comprise and organize diverging sequences of multimedia messages that are freely contributed by individuals who may be allowed to do so anonymously, or may be encouraged or required to undergo optional or mandatory registration. We distinguish between visitors who passively browse the website, users who interact with it, and members who register on it by providing verifiable personal information. Contributing users and members may change or edit only the website content that has been submitted by them, identified as such by association with their registration, their IP address, or some other token of realspace identity. Further edit privileges are reserved for moderators.

An online forum may encourage freedom of expression by accepting anonymous or pseudonymous contributions, and even offering to warrant the privacy of its contributors against any inquiry that falls short of a court order. Nevertheless, the commercial value of an interactive website is thought to be closely associated to the demographics of its user base and its accessibility to commercial initiatives that emanate from its owners. In order to increase value, the owners of an online forum may encourage or enforce registration of its users that is more or less reliably linked to their authentic realspace identities. Such registration might be encouraged by a website policy embodied in software functionality that grants additional privileges to registered members. Alternatively, registration might be enforced as a prerequisite for serving pageviews, performing searches, or accepting user contributions of content. As is well understood, in the task of eliciting personal details online, the carrot works better than the stick. On the one hand, Internet populace tends to be very forthcoming with personal advice and anecdotes. On the other hand, its constituents are notoriously reluctant to engage in any online transactions, all the more so when these transactions require them to divulge their personal identities. Successful operators of online communities navigate between these conflicting tendencies. In other words, they succeed by converting visitors to users to members.

In pursuing their business, operators of online fora must accommodate a variety of laws. Special concerns include preventing sexual exploitation of minors, protecting intellectual property rights of their contributors and any unrelated parties, avoiding defamation and invasion of privacy, and controlling the distribution of politically sensitive speech in jurisdictions not bound by legal guarantees of freedom of expression. At the same time, their business depends on encouraging their contributors to submit content that attracts high levels of visitor traffic and user interaction. Visitor traffic yields the basis for the associated commercial transactions, whereas user interaction increases their conversion rates. We take a user clicking on a targeted advertising hyperlink as a paradigmatic example of such transaction. Such clicks are responsible for supporting some of the most commercially successful websites operated at this time. Our aim in this paper is to define a model for distributing revenue derived from advertising by operators of online fora in a way that optimizes the qualities of their content and the ensuing quantities of traffic and interaction.

At present, online fora generally abstain from creating commercial incentives for their contributors. This abstinence results in an unstable situation, in which user and member contributions are motivated solely by a desire for exposure, whereas this exposure, as provided by the owners and operators of communities, is motivated solely by a profit motive in harnessing this desire on the behalves of their investors and advertisers. In effect, this model serves the profit motive by actions grounded in cravings for esteem. Business models of successful Internet communities suggest their operators’ expectation for this motivational disparity to continue indefinitely. However, this expectation is belied by the historical record of commercial distribution of content in all relevant media.

It is true that early masterworks in literature and music have been freely volunteered by their creators unconcerned with any prospects of remuneration. But these selfless efforts became predominantly overshadowed by the products of self-interest. Early commercial composers sold their wares under the system of patronage. They sought royal, noble, or ecclesiastical patrons who would underwrite works by in exchange for favorable mention in the text or its dedication. The most adroit of them supplemented these lordly benefits with plebeian marketing. Thus Beethoven devised a system whereby a patron could pay a fee to receive a dedication for a major new composition together with rights to sponsor his own performances thereof until a certain date, whereupon the composer would regain possession of the work and arrange for its commercial publication. (David Wyn Jones, The Symphony in Beethoven’s Vienna, Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 167-168.) But inexorable advent of the Third Estate ensured eventual domination of market incentives. As the patronage system waned with the decrepitude of the old regime, an ethos of freelance composition gained ground in the XVIIIth century. By its last quarter, artists and their public alike understood all too well that “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” (James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Vol. VI, Chap. iii, 1776.) This economic understanding underpinned a legal concern with vesting the rights to a literary work in its author instead of consigning them to its publisher. In its mature form, the concern found its expression in the system of royalties due to the author as a result of licensing his work to a publisher. (L. Ray Patterson & Stanley W. Lindberg, The Nature of Copyright: A Law of Users’ Rights, The University of Georgia Press, 1991, pp. 27-47, 109-122.)

Today, the amount of royalties tends to be calculated by a formula specified in the licensing agreement, under a definition of the royalty rate and the unit base to which it is meant to be applied. Typically, the royalty rate may amount to a certain percentage of the annual sales value of the product derived by the licensee, from the content created by the licensor. The calculation of royalties is subject to the licensing agreement for commercial use under specific terms within a circumscribed market, medium, or territory. At present, these agreements are tailored towards a single party responsible for creating the content and entitled to payment for its use. Our task is to extend their form to cover multimedia content created and contributed through collaboration in Internet fora. The immense value of this endeavor is borne out by a retrospective consideration of successes reaped by the publishers through timely and effective exploitation of incentives for writing.

As described above, each discussion thread within an online forum has the form of a conversation structured as an interconnected series of user- or member-contributed posts. A single individual is responsible for the root contribution. That contribution may elicit a number of follow-up responses. These responses may in turn precipitate further follow-ups. Under the Pareto principle, 20% of follow-ups will be responsible for 80% of the ensuing traffic and interaction. Further stratification of performance will attribute 80% of that top 80% of effects to 20% within 20% of the causes, and so on. This statistical truism results in the situation where a handful of content contributors are responsible for the vast majority of the website’s earnings. The most popular among them are bound to realize the benefit of guiding their fans away from the online forum that launched their careers, to their own personal pages. This benefit tightly correlates with their inability to profit directly from the traffic they generate for the community website. While the value of online fora depends on their ability to monetize the traffic generated by their contributors through ad sales and marketing, their remuneration is limited to providing the services of web development, hosting, and distribution, complemented by the benefits of community networking. In this trade-off, the services offered by the fora are rapidly diminishing if not reversing in their real and perceived value, owing to their commodification. On the other hand, the appeal of the online network effect is subject to the vagaries of fashion responsible for the undoing of thriving communities ranging from subscriber-era AOL to Friendster. In the long run, it is unlikely that the attraction of packaged social networking will dispel the readymade tedium of brand fatigue. Absent the profit motive, nothing can keep the trendsetters from defecting. A startup supported by venture capital and expected to maximize its popularity and revenues at all costs can scarcely afford such defections. (Michael Hirschorn, The Web 2.0 Bubble: Why the social-media revolution will go out with a whimper, The Atlantic Monthly, April 2007.)

Accordingly, rewarding top performers can be expected to come to the fore as the key issue of Internet social networking. In the online culture that thrives on free exchange of information, an effective policy of performance incentives must be regarded as fair by the majority of its constituency. The first step towards instituting a fair and effective reward policy is to formulate a metric of performance. It would not do to take the user-supplied measure of peer popularity as the basis for identifying the best performers. For it is often the case that the least liked contributors are responsible for the greatest amount of visitor traffic and user interaction. As Peter Cook explained it to Dudley Moore, “You love to hate the one who loves the one you hate to love to love.” (The Psychiatrist, BBC2, 1966, in Tragically I Was an Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook, edited by William Cook, St. Martin’s Press, 2002, p. 95.) An important exception to any incentive policy based in this observation arises from the phenomenon of trolling, vacuous, vexatious, and invalid contributions motivated by a wish to cause disruption. It falls upon the moderators to formulate and execute an effective policy for dealing with the ensuing disturbances.


It might be objected that creating financial incentives for participating in an online forum would reduce the quality of contributions to the lowest common denominator. But there is no reason to suppose that concern with quality poses itself more acutely in a setting motivated by profit than in one motivated by esteem. In any event, spam control is as applicable to the former scenario as it is to the latter. More importantly, extending the financial incentives enjoyed by the website owners to its user populace, appeals to the sense of fairness and equity that permeates and motivated Internet culture. The most effective salesmanship emerges organically from sincere belief in the value of the product. The current practice of fitting advertising links to keywords passively identified in the web page would greatly benefit from providing an active incentive for users to tailor their contributions to commercial ends. A fair and effective method for distributing royalties in Internet media creates a powerful competitive advantage for advertising-supported online fora through converting their participants to full-fledged partners of their proprietors.

The foregoing method can be extended to threaded interactive contributions of heterogeneous content, such as graphics, photos, or video files followed by comments or multimedia responses. Future attention should be directed to extending our model of distributed royalties to collaborative authoring in a wiki, a website that allows visitors to add, remove, edit and change content, typically without the need for registration. Providing the correct solution for this problem would depend on rewarding priority in persistent editorial contributions.

— Michael Zeleny, 22 March 2007 – 12 August 2008

larvatus: (Default)
Niggers always want credit for some shit they’re supposed to do. They’ll brag about stuff a normal man just does. They’ll say something like, “Yeah, well I take care of my kids.” You’re supposed to, you dumb motherfucker. “I ain’t never been to jail.” Whaddya want? A cookie? You’re not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!
Chris Rock
Русский народ никому ничего не должен. Напротив, это ему все должны за то зло, которое он мог причинить миру — и сейчас еще может, — но не причинил. А если и причинил — Чернобыль, то не по злу, а по простоте своей технической. Кто защитил Европу от Чингисхана и Батыги ценой двухсотлетнего ига, кто спас ее от Тамерлана, вовремя перенеся в Москву из Владимира чудотворную икону Божьей матери, кто Наполеона окоротил, кто своим мясом забил стволы гитлеровских орудий? Забыли? А надо бы помнить и дать отдохнуть русскому народу от всех переживаний, обеспечивая его колбасой, тушенкой, крупами, картошкой, хлебом, капустой, кефиром, минтаем, детским питанием, табаком, водкой, закуской, кедами, джинсами, спортинвентарем, лекарствами, ватой. И баснословно дешевыми подержанными автомобилями. И жвачкой.
    Но никто нас не любит, кроме евреев, которые, даже оказавшись в безопасности, на земле своих предков, продолжают изнывать от неразделенной любви к России. Эта преданная, до стона и до бормотания, не то бабья, не то рабья любовь была единственным, что меня раздражало в Израиле.
    — Юрий Нагибин, Тьма в конце туннеля, 19
Russian people do not owe anything to anyone. On the contrary, everyone owes them for the evil that they could have caused to the world — and can cause even now, — but refrained from causing. And even if they did cause evil, as in Chernobyl, it was not out of malice, but due to their primitive technology. Who defended Europe from Genghis Khan and Batu Khan at the cost of a bicentenary yoke? who saved her from Tamerlane, by a timely transfer of Our Lady of Vladimir to Moscow? who cut Napoleon down to size? who stopped the barrels of Hitler’s guns with their flesh? Or have you forgotten? But you should remember, you should help Russian people recover from their tribulations, you should surfeit them with sausage, canned meat, cereals, potatoes, bread, cabbage, yoghurt, pollack, baby formula, tobacco, vodka, snacks, sneakers, denim, sporting goods, medicine, cotton. And fabulously cheap used cars. And chewing gum.
    But nobody likes us, except for the Jews, who, even upon finding themselves secure in the land of their ancestors, continue to suffer from unrequited love for Russia. This love, devoted unto moans and murmurs, be it womanish or slavish, was the only thing that annoyed me in Israel.
     —Yuri Nagibin, Darkness at the End of the Tunnel, 19, translated by MZ
larvatus: (rock)

― for Victor Yodaiken        
ἔτι καὶ αἱ παροιμίαι, ὥσπερ εἴρηται, μαρτύριά εἰσιν, οἷον εἴ τις συμβουλεύει μὴ ποιεῖσθαι φίλον γέροντα, τούτῳ μαρτυρεῖ ἡ παροιμία, μήποτ' εὖ ἔρδειν γέροντα.
― Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1376a
Further, proverbs, as stated, are evidence; for instance, if one man advises another not to make a friend of an old man, he can appeal to the proverb, Never do good to an old man.
― translated by J. H. Freese

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, 1653, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
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