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"For Your Improvement, and Our Furtherance"
THREE WEEKS, VOLUME 1 ISSUE 18 - October 19, 2002

"Everything seems stupid when it fails."

Cover
An Accounting of Our Cessation, by Henry William Brownejohns
First Addendum, by Alexander Swartwout
Secondary Addendum, by J. Ephrain Underhill
Tertiary Addendum, by Eliza Anne Bonney
Notices
Menagerie at the Cathedral, by Jonathan Ephrain Underhill
Notes on the Political Season, by Alexander Swartwout
Shrodinger's Cat & Lombardo's Adam, by Eliza Anne Bonney
Miscellanium
The Eavesdropper
The Weather, by Henry William Brownejohns

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FROM OUR OFFICES

 

INTRODUCTORY TO THIS ISSUE

 

AN ACCOUNTING OF OUR CESSATION

 

POLITE FAREWELLS

 

 

CONSOLATIONS TO THE READERSHIP

&

A EULOGY UNTO OURSELVES

 

by Henry William Brownejohns

No-one is more incredulous, let the reader be assured, than your very editors, that it is one year and four days already since THREE WEEKS was introduced to widespread confusion and concentrated adulation.  And our incredulity is not for lack of faith in our powers – though there is much truth to that principle of labor wherein the more difficult a task is, the more readily it devours time, and the more quickly the industrious individual finds himself occupying the future, and reaping the rewards of his efforts.  No, our incredulity is more largely due to the sheer uncertainty of the age; a year ago, to rely on the sun’s rising the subsequent morning was as sure a proposition as looking forward to a drink in the desert – it may happen, but one is best advised not to empty his canteen until he has seen a source for its replenishment.

Even under such dubious circumstances, we set down the first smattering of our thoughts and insisted them upon the public, pleased that for all its woes, our country still boasted its best feature: that an indignant foursome such as we could announce themselves freely to the people, and not fear the overturning of their press.  It remains so today, and one of our pet desires has long been that other scribblers might emulate us, in recognition of the purpose of our various rights – that they be exercised.  This has happened a few times already as our influence increased, and we expect it shall happen a few times more, spawning such a glut of opinionated pamphlets as has not been seen since Swift went into the ground – all before the next generation again forgets to claim the ink-stained benefits of their heritage. 

The reader has never known this: that even as we inaugurated our periodical, we were calculating our energy and our tolerance for collaboration, and made a secret oath that in one year, we should pause and review our position, and determine from there how to best serve those principles we had devoted ourselves to.  Well we tell it to you now, to cut short your complaints about our inadequacy.  It has been one year since our cautious pact, though a year is a rough measure, granted, based upon a relative motion about the Sun that is impossible to measure with perfection, or to presume has any significance beyond our puny realm – we would not have been so outlandish to give ourselves a Jovian year to test our faculties, if we were feeling robust, or a Mercurial one, if our confidence was frail.  But we chose a terrestrial year, and now are bound by our promise to re-consider our purpose, and decide if we can, must, or ought to continue. 

And it is fairly clear, looking about our offices, that we shall not.  With this issue, THREE WEEKS cheerfully comes to its conclusion, and sends its quartet of authors out as sovereign individuals into the wide world.  Does the reader suppose that we believe our mission is accomplished, that in fifty-two weeks we have resuscitated the democratic spirit, revived the skeptical soul of humanity, and fueled the guttering flame of common sense?  We concede to being far from any such accomplishment.  If such an object as THREE WEEKS was ever necessary, it is as much now as it was twelve months ago.  But we have present and practical concerns, also, and we are canny strategists; so after much haggling amongst ourselves, we have determined that our dissolution will be better for our mission than our continuance would be.

Even the least enthusiast will grant that this paper is gifted with an unusual concentration of rhetorical wizardry and intellectual gunpowder.  It has been well for us to spend these months in collaboration, if only to display the potential of such an alliance to prospective pamphleteers who may be considering founding such an institution alone.  But over a long term, we have concluded that it is not the heft of a singular periodical that matters, but the general depth of the public discourse, in which we four are now intrinsically involved.  Just as, in mechanics, leverage is gained by dispersing oneself from the fulcrum and distributing one’s powers, we feel our influence on the public palaver will be the greater for spreading ourselves out.  As it has been, every three weeks a great mass of Reason has been lobbed from our position into the fray – and for the tremendous density of our effort, we feel it is quite possible that the harried reader may have overlooked the occasional ingot of wisdom.  Too much of a loss for our taste. 

Now we shall be free to let flow a more constant, if less concentrated, stream of good sense, from any of the hundreds of vantages offered to us by the generous managing editors of the cognoscenti.  If there remains a venue in American letters that has not offered us a platform and a lucrative compensation for it, then it is one we simply have not yet heard of.  Let those not be embarrassed; we will still be happy to hear from them, if their per-word is decent, or especially if their flat rate is ample.

So see that we have not given up on our first devotions – an improvement in the literature, a heightening of the public debate, a castigation of the lowly standards today so common, and the maintenance of those principles upon which this land was incorporated.  That our reputations have been consequently inflated, and our names widely celebrated in the meantime, is only a happy by-product, and a signal that our priorities are not so antiquated as our critics would have you believe.

It may seem a paradox to our readers that an institution so fixated upon democracy as this publication would make such a radical and autocratic decision, without our public’s consent.  It is a strange fact of even the most humane literature, that it is an art, and art is a tyranny, even when it speaks for commonwealth.  The reader is always at the mercy of the authors, and we do not pretend that this isn’t how we prefer it.  We only hope that our reign has been duly honored, and that it will  be longed for once lesser monarchs take up their pens in emulation.  Do not be glum, though, for we have not abdicated in the typical kingly fashion, without our heads; rather, we are freely taking our noggins with us elsewhere, where we expect they will do their work from a greater vantage.  We depart, graciously, and beg that the readership not decline to the lowly state we found them in, but rather build upon our efforts, and anticipate our future advices.

 

FIRST ADDENDUM,

by Alexander Swartwout

My revered associate, Mr. Brownejohns, unsurprisingly, has cast THREE WEEKS’ demise in the prettiest possible terms, and not without some seedlings of truth.  But I have long felt it my responsibility, among this esteemed quartet, to serve as the acid to Mr. Brownejohns’ eloquent etching, so I here elucidate, with more brutal honesty, the conditions of our departure.

The matter of our oath, taken twelve months erst, is quite true.  Nothing so grand as this periodical could have been established with pretenses to immortality, and we thought it wisest to perceive our work as a trial from the get-go, so as not to suffer from fears of premature irrelevance.  As a result, we have worked through the year fearless of imminent infirmity, for between the four of us, there is hardly scant opinionation and novel perception to last four seasons.  We were also guarded against that venom that will inevitably build up between any corps of prodigies when they have been bound into collaboration – at every crossroads, we courteously swore at one another, and passed on, consoled that we were not banished to this partnership indefinitely.  Such coexistence, premised on impermanence, has been such a general success that we are each likely to apply its attributes to all our future partnerships; if, for example, a civil marriage were made more like to our temporary artistic arrangement or a lease on a building, it may save the sanity of millions of either gender.

It has been a testament to our stratagem’s effectiveness that in these pages the fellowship has appeared to be seamless, but I must respect the reader’s juscience and admit that the pearl of every issue was only born out of much friction.  Mr. Brownejohns is an effective despot in the editor’s chair, even as he is producing tracts in praise of democracy.  Mr. Underhill’s genius is for spreading his powers over the greatest possible area of mental geography, so that at times, he might be in his office, but in a contemplative trance that renders him as present as would a flight to Bhopal.  And Ms. Bonney took it upon herself to perform conversely, and vacate bodily for days at a time; a source of editorial anguish even though she routinely proved her reliability with last minute filings.  And the lot of us, when we did collide in the common space of our office, would set loose each of our private complaints, to the annulment of actually gathering the gist of another’s.  In short, an association of such close quarters and high demand, between such like and disparate figures as your editors, was doomed to burn out with quickness, if also with brilliance, like a shred of magnesium.

This so far concurs with the extent of Mr. Brownejohns explanation, but it is insufficient to the complete truth.  A fifth figure of considerable influence was Mr. Peckinpaugh, who handles our shabby finances, a matter suited more to a fifth-grader proficient in pure subtraction, than anybody versed in knowledge of interest, acquisition, and multiplication.  During our heady first months, Mr. Peckinpaugh only showed himself every four weeks or so.  As our work progressed, and our influence accumulated, we spotted him more and more often, until, in the last two months of the year, he became as regular around headquarters as our most loyal intern.  He came to demonstrate the rapid evaporation of our fund – which to be honest, was never actually a positive number, but merely a figure of tolerable debt.  There has been much speculation regarding our resources, and I shall profess that they are entirely speculative, founded on our cocksurity and our fair credit rating.  Once the small sum gathered between the four of us was exhausted, we calculated our imminent reputation, and converted it, using an equation of our own invention, into fiduciary return.  We have come quickly to the maximum allowance of that equation, and while our fame fits with our model, the monetary reward has somehow failed to transfer.

You say Mr. Brownejohns boasts of the attentions received here from the cash-saturated publishers of the American intelligentsia.  I counter that this is a nervous fabrication.  I have seen nothing of these favors, and, at the risk of alarming the readership, suggest that for a short term, at least, we four authors shall be hard-put to vent with the frequency we’ve grown accustomed to.  I don’t doubt that after the initial shock of our closure has rattled through the literary cosmos, we shall be buffeted by generous employments – but the array of opportunities suggested by our chief is, to my knowledge, better than an exaggeration.

It is not the tragedy you may think it is, though, that we find ourselves out of work and out of money.  We are willful people, and we have no doubts about our persistence; for the time being, it serves for us to be plunged into the same bog as the rest of our countrymen, who are as optimistic as we, and as handicapped by idiotic governance.  We clearly never took Mr. Peckinpaugh’s dour expression with the gravity it deserved, and we maintain our disinterest in such fiduciary matters – therefore we are more likely not to be long hindered by our limitations in that field.  It may be sooner than the reader expects before he sees us in ink again – and it may be a yet more novel form.  At the same time, the public must not underestimate the adversity such a project as this encounters.  The value of the obstructions we face in enlightening the hoi-polloi is only equaled by the worthiness of such an effort.

 

SECONDARY ADDENDUM,

by J. Ephrain Underhill

It is the great flaw of our historical method, with which we remorselessly educate our youth, that every incident of note through the entire span of time has come about subsequent to a Cause.  Anyone who has lived a day in the real world must surely be able to see, with minimal reflection, that a Thing never happens directly because of Something Else – it happens as a virtually inevitable consequence of time, context, circumstance, a trillion variables conspiring to shape the moment.  I was awoken this morning as much because the utility company began jackhammering a hole into my street, as because I got to sleep rightfully early last night, and as much because my dinner was not too large, and was easy work for my metabolism, which allowed me to slumber comfortably.  We are in whatever condition we are not because of any string of singular incidents – history, both the grandest sort, and the most personal, is a dense, bushy tangle of influences.  As such, I cannot condone my associates’ too-simple explanations for the imminent end of this vaunted rag.  Is it because we swore to consider retirement at the close of a year?  Somewhat – but we were as free to renew ourselves, as we were to cease.  Is it entirely attributable to the famous conflict in our quadrophenious collaboration?  Not entirely, for much less compatible personalities have labored in tune for much longer durations, when they have had to.  And can the reader conveniently blame our accountant Mr. Peckinpaugh, for bearing one too many insurmountable receipts into the office?  If this were the case, as fleetingly described by Mr. Swartwout, then THREE WEEKS should never have been born in the first place.  The figure of debt we have achieved in one year is an arbitrary one, no more likely to be paid off in our lifetimes as one twice as large, or half.  We have simply gotten tired of looking at it.

No, our accession is as bound up by the piddling necessities of daily history, as it is by the gross fluctuations of politics our in-house historians would have you believe them to be.  Our immense debt is as much a cause of our closure as is the turning of the seasons, the changing of our moods, and the unfolding of our own lives.  A moment arrived when the multiplicitous ingredients of existence all conspired to make us suddenly realize we would rather be the former authors of THREE WEEKS than the current ones.  Our perspective broadened, and possibly our standards of self-satisfaction were heightened, so that hammering away at the conscience of our fair city every twenty-one days was no longer the ideal expression of our characters.  The world, in short, beckoned.

It is, indeed, the unacknowledged intention of this quartet to disperse themselves to the corners of the world, and attempt the continuation of our efforts from afar – afar from one another, and from the domestic reader.  For, despite the great natural breadth of our perception, we know too well that the world cannot be ascertained from a singular coordinate – the ambitious artist is obliged to string his net around the globe, and with his own hands.  So while Mr. Brownejohns and Mr. Swartwout publicly dispute the matter of our succeeding venue, I dare to broach the likelihood that we shall instead shun all such attentions, and set off to faraway lands, from which we can better view the movements of our own, and hopefully return with eloquent, and marketable, reports for the sedentary readership – to be published in a manner as yet undetermined.  What my explanation has in common with my colleagues’, at least, is that we are too absorbed with our first priority - compiling an intelligent catalogue of the world and its inhabitants, and with increasing our fair reputation - to ever be accused of abandoning those questionable characters who have graciously become our readers.

 

TERTIARY ADDENDUM,

by Eliza Anne Bonney

In a pattern all too reminiscent of one passed down through the unseemly history of Western civilization, I find myself in the feminine position of organizing the disarray of my more hirsute companions, and following up their slovenly path with an eye towards order, clarity, and truth.  Though as it is a better age, and I am less than in thrall to historical models of behavior, I do so not with the traditional matters of laundry and dishware, but with the Thoughts and Ideas so recklessly strewn about the reader’s mind by Mr. Brownejohns, Mr. Swartwout, and Mr. Underhill.

Mr. Underhill makes a valid point in discounting Cause as a concern for the reader regarding this paper’s extinction.  It is probable that Mr. Brownejohns and Mr. Swartwout have involuntarily succumb to a need to apologize for their retirement from periodical writing.  I feel no such compulsion.  We have granted far more to the public than it has returned, and without the least subtraction from our considerable store of Charity, we are able to end this run, and proudly.  Indeed, I argued to omit this entire essay, on the grounds that the public does not really merit an accounting for our maneuvers, and I can say that what compromise we arrived at, provides us with an ample store of undisclosed information – if only to tantalize those perusers who prefer fodder for speculation over food for knowledge.  Much about our situation, happily, remains to us.  The rest of it, as you may have read, is a horrific, petty tangle left for you to negotiate.

Of more lofty concern is the public perception of our departure as it regards the literature, and the overall state of society.  As for the latter, already there has been ample explanation, though convoluted, which should relieve the public of its child-like fear of abandonment.  But as for the effect our absence may have on the realm of letters, let me briefly account.

We established at the outset that we were exhausted with the state of the literature, to say nothing of our perturbation with the condition of publishing, by extension.  This has hardly changed.  At THREE WEEKS’ inception, we promised that we would be an antidote against irrelevance – meanwhile, literature has plunged itself further into that shoddy wasteland.  So we do not relent in our purpose.  The great mass of material put out for publication would hardly be passable on the back of a cereal-box, let alone for inclusion in the canon.  But we do not suggest that the presses all be stopped.  Rather, we have made an effort to offer up our own standard as an example for the renewal of a concern for the language, and for a realization of its potential.  Publishing remains a matter of being friends with a publisher – as the standard of prose in this country has hovered, since Hemingway, near the mean abilities of any non-lobotomy.

But in rejecting both the acquaintance of influential publishers (and rejecting the influence of our own friends on us), and by insisting instead on self-sustained relevance and a respect for the whirligig marvel inherent in the vocabulary, we expect to have provided some small nudge in the direction of a respectable literature.  We remain generally disappointed by the thousand senseless efforts at fiction hacked up monthly, and entirely persuaded that the poets would be better off learning a trade; and convinced that an era as vast and as mazy as ours requires that the literature return to a focussed consideration of reality, and depart from its dependence on established reputations and slow, behemoth publications.  We have discovered that none of our constraints preclude the indulgence of the author’s whimsy, but rather they concentrate his powers on a thing which is in fact useful to the reader fortunate enough to pick it up and read it - a greater success, by our measure, than the superficial decoration of bookshelves with unbent bindings.

So if we depart the scene, then who shall carry on our purpose?  This is precisely a critical enough question to necessitate that we find out.  We must, it turns out, discontinue, if only to force those few sloths with an inkling of their own ambition to pick themselves off the floor and carry on.  What we have done cannot, by terrestrial means, be undone.  At the worst, our purpose shall be stalled while we gather up the energy to harangue humanity again.  At best, THREE WEEKS shall have created a space into which our like-minded antecessors can comfortably move.  For us to persist without conviction, and contrary to our strategic instinct, would be to choke off our heirs.  And so, as with every one of our actions, our own self-destruction has been calculated to benefit posterity, as much as to tantalize the Academy and guarantee our celebrity.

            And so we exit, confident that the world is better for having witnessed us – the literature, though bad, is an iota improved; society, though haggard, is more self-assured; politics, though a travesty, is chastised on record; and the mindless, though numerous, are infinitesimally advanced upon by the mindful.  The readers, who have understood us, are extended our gratitude.  The ones who have not are consoled, and we urge them to keep at it.                                         3W

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NOTICES

 

INVENTORY OF ADVERSITY

While we have dedicated our time on Earth to the advancement of Reason and Rational Thought, we must remind the reader that we are not an exceptional species - we are merely dedicated members of their own.  As evidence, please consider that we have accomplished what we have, in spite of those absurd insecurities to which every person is naturally prone: we trust that our food, heretofore nourishing, doesn't suddenly become lethally poisonous;  we trust that our furniture doesn't acquire the ability and inclination to dislike us, and make us uncomfortable, or harm us bodily;  we trust that oxygen will continue to react favorably with our bloodstream, as it has so successfully 'til now; we trust that our very brain will not suddenly begin to register an unstimulated pain response, crippling us and preoccupying our every thought with agony;  we trust that the small birds chirping there upon the window-sill are benign;  we trust that the great majority of other individuals will be within their right minds later today, tomorrow, and the next day, posing no unpredictable threat to us or our endeavors; we trust that something worthwhile will happen to us in the future, rendering the present at least useful; we trust that we will neither drown suddenly nor go thirsty, or that if we do, it will be as a consequence of actual events, and not simply a bolt from the blue, or a glitch from an unseen parallel universe.    We come sometimes to the belief that a Moment of Time, if it were suddenly stationary, would have an infinite weight - and we are grateful that our life seems to pass in a reasonably tolerable breeze of such moments.  But our easy conscience sometimes is seized with the worry that Time may stop, and our precious being will be stifled beneath the immense weight of any old Second.  It is the burden of any thoughtful human, that not one of a billion petty impossibilities will suddenly become possible, and make the whole careful framework of existence moot.  The sympathetic individual will see how, in light of this list of preposterous and universal  distractions,  it should be difficult be to accomplish anything, not least as much as we have accomplished here.  We only think it is reasonable that the scrooge who hasn’t yet granted us his appreciation do so now, as we have proved ourselves both as fragile as the next neurotic, and as capable as any savant.

 

OUR CONFEDERATES

It would be inconceivable that we would depart the scene without having given public notice of our gratitude to a select cadre of supporters and assistants.  We are appreciative of the efforts -though spotty and frequently weeks belated - of our foreign correspondents, in every world capital, and a few provincial ones.  And likewise, we are grateful to those domestic associates who took up the task of illuminating those crannies of American life that we neglected either by choice or as a function of our failure to be omniscient.

THREE WEEKS extends its perfunctory gratitude also to those members of the readership who felt compelled to communicate with us, even though they often wanted for anything of value to tell us.  We grew steadily more dependent on the crazed missives of strangers, until they became the staple of our ego’s diet, and it is probably not a habit we will soon break, if ever.  And of course, we owe considerable thanks to our wily printer, Mr. Robert Haines, of Greenpoint, and his Merchanteer.  We are, in every manner possible, indebted to the fellow.  As a condition of our debt reduction, we recommend him to any and all who aspire to the making of their name in type.

                                                                           3W

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ZOOLOGY & THEOLOGY

 

A MENAGERIE AT THE CATHEDRAL

 

The Feast of St. Francis

&

the Blessing of a Thousand Pets  

 

by Jonathan Ephrain Underhill

 

No doubt, your author was as surprised to find himself up early on a Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as God was, but the reader will instantly suspect that I was embarked there not for my salvation, but for their own scholarly benefit.  This was the occasion of the eighteenth annual Blessing of the Animals, held on the Feast of St. Francis; and such a confluence of entertainment, theology, superstition, and spectacle that only our farraginous old cosmopolis could qualify to host it.

On this brilliant autumn morn, more Knickerbockers than usual line up outside the Cathedral doors, and not for a sudden dose of piety.  They have all come accompanied by their pets, either tied to a string, lassoed into a collar, cloistered in a cage, or wound around their neck, so that the animals might be blessed, and put on a show.  The church, for its part, brings an elephant and sundry other beasts, for a procession through the hallowed chamber, and just the right sort of ironic juxtaposition to kick off a lazy urban Sunday of debauchery and brunch.

St. Francis in his day was a notorious ascetic, but the clever pastors at St. John’s know that humility and quietude are not tools with which to win over the devotion of the modern Gothamite.  The church has realized, as Walt Disney did decades ago, that animals are a panacea to the sermonizer, and what a person will shun from another person, he will eagerly accept if it is offered by a monkey.  So St. John’s has taken to annually inviting a great crowd of quadrupeds, gill-breathers, and cagelings, and blending in a touch of Broadway extravaganza, with the unsubtle hope of claiming a few new Episcopalians.  I came accompanied by a borrowed pooch so as not to attract any undue attention.

It was a large crowd, enough to fill the big boomy nave of the Cathedral, and then some.  With dogs sweetly barking into the echoey vaults, a cadre of nubile dancers in white tights began prancing up and down the aisle, while a cacophonous free-jazz symphony burst forth from above.  It was unfortunate that St. John’s felt the need to install loudspeakers on the columns, instead of trusting the ancient abilities of the cathedral space to amplify the sound.  Despite a vast chamber, and one of America’s largest pipe organs, the entire service sounded from the pews as canned as if it were being watched on a second-hand television set.

The dancers subsided, the sermon was intoned, and throughout the interminable service, a thousand attentions were paid instead to dogs snifflingly socializing beneath the pews, cats clawing at medieval tapestries, and determining the exact species of the inhabitants of dozens of tiny plastic cages.  Beside my seat was one of those ill-tempered terriers, which strains at its collar to raise Hell, only the clamp of its owner’s arms keeping the surrounding pets safe from its wrath.  For two hours, the thing gasped and choked and barked in a sinister laryngal whisper, desperate to break free and fight and kill.  I wondered what effect a blessing could possibly have on such an animal, so clearly overtaken by Darkness.

  The service was frequently interrupted by new musical arrangements, all keyed around the same skirling alto saxophone, meant to tantalize the canine faithful into howling in chorus.  There were a few cooperative dogs, but the larger contingent of them simply barked without regard for the mass.    In all, the ceremony was a strange confection for the ears, if not an uplifting one.  At one point, indeed, the eerie hooting of a humpback whale was played over the speakers, a particularly New-Age flavored accoutrement to the ordinary trappings of the Episcopalian mass, and again, those dogs with an affinity for cetaceans, either as colleagues or snacks, were invited to sing along.

And while the music strived to include the non-human in the practice of Christianity, the relentless dancing celebrated the forgotten cult of the prophet Martha Graham.  At least three troupes of leotard-clad bunglers leapt and ran through the aisles at various times during the service, employing no dearth of flowing banners, flamboyant ribbons swirled around on sticks, and at one point, a shoddy nylon fish-puppet, which was waved around in the air by an enthusiastic white-haired leftist, incongruously clad in a pastor’s frock.  Similar scenes, I suppose, might have been witnessed upon the conquering of a country church by a roving band of hippies, but this was carefully choreographed modern theology, as I had never witnessed it – nor, apparently, had any of the alarmed pets who were generally transfixed by the gallavanters.  Devotion was less of a theme at this service than communalism, and even the elevation of animals took a back seat to the sacralization of emotive therapy for burned-out Homo sapiens.

This ceremony, as has been mentioned, has been held annually at St. John’s for eighteen years, when the bond between churchgoers and their best friends finally became too great for the church fathers to rend, even for one day a week.  And every year, the gathering has drawn a larger and larger crowd, until the actual blessing of individual pets finally had to be moved to the churchyard outside.  What does occur in the sacred space of the Cathedral is a solemn procession of animals - most of which St. Francis himself would never have even heard of - up to the altar, where they are sanctified as a sort of representative of their respective genera.  It is this procession that draws out the curious, and the church, like any good impresario, knows to keep this best act until the end. 

At last, after much tooting of horns, and a whole bevy of catnaps and accidents, the great bronze doors are opened, and in from the street proceeds the zoo.  Behind a gently flowing standard of seeming pictorial and symbolic irrelevance, strides a camel, attended by a gleamingly frocked handler.  The animal is surprisingly calm, though he is being stared at by a Cathedral-ful of snickering hominids, and what’s worse, sniffed with murderous ecstasy by hundreds of dogs, barely restrained by their leashes.  The anguish of the pets in attendance, having such an exotic buffet paraded past without the opportunity to sample even a one, must have been truly divine, for the growling and yapping surely was.

One after another, in come the animals serenely to the church, including a handsome ram; a few meek sheep; a pair of smug llamas; a bat sleeping upside down in a glass jar;  a distinctly dissatisfied penguin in the arms of another holy-man; a hive of bees encased in glass; kittens sweetly borne by rapt little girls; a couple of ample cows; and a very hungry goat.  A donkey neglected to receive the honors of the Lord - having set his feet down on the steps outside he refused to budge.  Either he was Methodist, or not even God can budge a determined donkey.  (No elephant this year!  No monkey!  Are pachyderms and primates doomed to a year’s sacrilege?  Or are the denominations among the animal kingdom as rigidly separated as the human ones?)  The whole thing was attempted with the utmost sobriety, but it was clear that beneath marble buttresses or a red-and-yellow tent, a circus is a circus. 

And that gets at the most enjoyable aspect of the whole ritual.  In the eyes of the animals, blank, uncomprehending, there was discernible the most perfect atheism.  In the life of a camel in New York, the interior of a great cathedral was hardly any more remarkable than the truck that brought him there.  That the procession was trailed by a priest with a wheelbarrow and a shovel only drives home the happy indifference these creatures showed for our species’ most mystical rites.  The scene of a llama being blessed was not made ludicrous by the smirk of the llama, but by the earnestness of the fellow doing the blessing, and his endearing conviction that the llama was any better for having been spritzed.

            Not to belittle the admirable intent of the Episcopalians, and certainly St. Francis remains among this author’s favorite martyrs – but the Blessing of the Animals suggests, and provides ample support for, a cult of raw Nature more practical than any institutionalized faith.  New Yorkers who would not recognize the inside of a church from the surface of the Moon line up as soon as they are permitted the chance to see it taken over by pets and livestock.  The audience, largely, merely tolerated the spooky rituals of Communion and such, just to see the ancient orthodoxy of religion invaded by craven beasts.  City-folk get quite intimate with their dogs and cats (and parakeets, and lizards, and hamsters), and I don’t doubt that the one-sided conversation between master and pet has largely replaced the practice of prayer.  Not only does a dog more clearly acknowledge that he is being spoken to, contrary to most divinities, but on occasion, the little fellow will actually do what he has been asked, if not something cuter.  As therapy, and as assurance, a pet is as fine an icon as a Crucifix or a Buddha; and more generally, an animal can draw out our humanity with much greater effect than an abstract deity ever could.  It is worth admiring St. John’s for effectively debasing their cathedral in such a generous and entertaining manner, and one can only hope that they don’t ever discontinue the ceremony, on the grounds that the animal kingdom is gaining more converts out of it than the Episcopalians are.            3W

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COMMENTARY

 

NOTES ON THE POLITICAL SEASON

 

THE BRIEFEST POSSIBLE SURVEY OF THE MOST EXCRUCIATING TIME OF YEAR

 

Pleasant Weather Squandered

 

by Alexander Swartwout

 

Exactly as the term of this conclusive issue of THREE WEEKS is expiring, the readership shall be called out to the dusky halls of the polling places, and be required to give form to their government, out of lumpy clay.  For it is election season, when the most venerable democratic society on the planet raises up its stupidest specimens, and chooses among them its favorites.  For this reason, this periodical takes it upon itself to degrade, once more, the sorry class of contemporary public figures, and simultaneously encourage the woebegone citizen to his responsibility.

The former task may seem to preempt the latter, but it is exactly this misconception that compels me to throttle, one last time, the sense of the reader.  Just because the American politico is a uniformly vile species is no rationale for the voter to neglect his duty.  Indeed, the lameness of our representative class is that much more shrill of a call to action.  I am acquainted with too many fashionable dolts who will prefer to sleep in on election day, straight through to dinner, in fact, than make a choice between indistinguishable propagandists.  But I shall be ashamed of every one of them – rather, I offer the possibility that the most engaged, most refined approach to even the most reprehensible election will not only provide for the best of all possible immediate effects, but will, in due time, improve the process, when it next must be performed.

In every aspect of our lives, we have become impatient for success, and have no taste for gradual change.  Yet there has not yet been invented a semiconductor for the hastening of the imperfect democratic process, and hopefully, there shall never be.  Hopefully, I offer, because even as a stable a sanity as my own sometimes likes one thing one moment and then another a bit later, and is not immune to a rapid variation of tastes.  Thus, when making a decision of great weight, or between difficult options, I know to leave myself considerable time to mull the choices, which will result in the most rational path taken, if a slower one - and something of the mean between my own personal extremes.  Otherwise, I should live in the center of a fluctuating maelstrom of variable tastes, and would be miserable.  So it is with the regular disappointments of the electoral process.  I know that if I choose, in the sour mood of an overcast day, to neglect my duty to the pollster, then I have no recourse to expect an improvement in my country’s state, or any eventually preferable condition of the ballot.  By steering clear of an ugly runoff, I make no progress towards a better one, and I lose even the intermediate satisfaction of expressing my disdain.  And if I measure my whole opinion on shallow premises, such as things gleaned from television advertisements and gossip, I similarly betray the magnitude of the process.  In certain moods, I will even argue that an ill-informed member of the electorate should not even enjoy the right to register his vote; an ignoramus deserves the tyranny he will suffer.

It is worrisome that the most sensible members of this new generation are not lucid enough to see the advantage of even a gentle push versus sitting still.  As for outright revolution, which the simpleminded majority always seems to revert to, I propose that they feel free to go ahead with their plan, so long as they will grant me the compromise of participating in the current system while it exists, to placate my own agenda.  And as for those few outcasts who find, in any candidate present on any ballot, a like mind, or a sympathetic heart, I congratulate you, for your decision is easily made – but I suggest that you thoroughly review your priorities, and also check your date-book, and make sure you aren’t an amnesiac politician yourself.

 ---

Mr. Bush, who remains the unhealing bruise on the thigh of democracy, has certainly made a mockery of even the most idealistic election season.  He trumpets an unforgivable aggression at the fundraisers of his lesser cronies, under the pretense that he even holds dear the process of tallying votes.  That the outrage this tactic has inspired is hardly anything worse than national indigestion proves that my fears about the modern, disenfranchised electorate are well founded.  They are exhausted by the insubordination of the politicos, so that levering the insensate votership with threats of global war is not even recognized as foul play.  It is not enough to say that Mr. Bush is living proof that we have let our standards down – we have relinquished standards altogether.  It is not clear how his maneuvers on behalf of the Grand Old Party are any different from simply holding a match beneath the Constitution and threatening to torch it, lest he get your loyal vote.  Threatening war in an electoral campaign is as suspect as threatening the premise of the electoral campaign itself.

The politicians who disagree with the route to war can say nothing, because they rightly fear the shallow motives of the American electorate; and the citizens who desperately want their dissent recorded have nothing with which to record it, so the lot of them will, as noted above, just stay in bed, depressed and dowdy.  Somewhere, there must be a valiant effort to unite those few conscientious pols with those multitudes of disaffected humanitarians in the population, so they might devise an antidote to the President’s easy peddling.  But there is little time for it, and in the meantime, the worst of the Capitol bunch have claimed credibility for simply making a racket about how nobody is really making a racket.  The much-vaunted debate about our imminent war is really nothing but a meta-debate, an argument about the presence of argument.  There is no November result that can reverse the administration’s despicable contraption, but at the very least, we might leave a shred of evidence to our heirs that next season’s conflagration was first this one’s electoral iniquity, and no grand military victory can recover that lost virtue.

 ---

While the administration gesticulates remorselessly about war, it is much more dainty about matters local.  Mr. Bush’s newest federal judge, Mr. Ronald Clark of Texas, has nearly embarrassed the home team at a critical moment, and the President has had to hustle to keep the fire to the curtains.

It seems Mr. Clark, simultaneously awaiting confirmation by the Judiciary Committee, and re-election to his seat in the Texas State legislature, came to believe he might perform both offices at once.  When the Senators finally approved him for the court, Mr. Clark opted to continue his pursuit of the legislative seat, hoping, as he said, to squeeze in one more term before going to the bench, so as to assure Republican control of the legislature.  Even for American politics, the same fellow holding a federal judgeship and a state legislative seat at the same time is a dubious sleight-of-hand, but apparently not one the President was initially averse to.  He is evidently in favor of the melding together the three branches of governance, and Mr. Bush opted for a strategy of negligence on the matter, holding Mr. Clark’s final confirmation papers on his desk, until indeed the Republican victory in Texas was secure.  But as surely as there is ever a criminal burgeoning in Washington, there is a snitch to call him on his transgression, and happily Senators Schumer and Kennedy trained the spotlight on Mr. Clark’s duplicity.  Mr. Bush, plausibly deniable, quickly finished up the judge’s paperwork, and now the G.O.P. shall need a new tactic to retain the house of the Lone Star state.  The story, so far as the sanctioned press is concerned, ends with the foiling of the crime, and the return to right.  I remain behind to ask, though, what are we left with, but a new federal judge without the sagacity to realize that running for state legislature and serving on a federal bench are incompatible, not to say unethical?  A successful diversion, the whole shenanigan now appears, to slip another cad into a robe, who might someday bail out another, and another, until the doltish have the Judiciary by the throat.

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New Jersey has earned the prefix on its infamy this season, and it is no small honor considering the competition around the colonies.  This is largely due to the adventures of Mr. Torricelli, who finally relinquished his Senate seat to the chaos of the Democratic Party.  As for his scandal, it is monumentally uninteresting.  Feigning indignation at the discovery of a politician with payola in his pocket is as convincing a posture as being startled by the heliocentric theory, and thoroughly enforcing meritorious conduct would leave the halls of governance barren.  We know already that a political career draws the most callow among us, and I think the electorate figures that into their calculations on November’s first Tuesday.  This is not to say that it is foolish to insist on improvements, but if one proposed this without also proposing an complete reformulation of the role of the politico in society, than it might be.  As well as it may be to have Mr. Torricelli retired, yet I still long for the day when politics is no longer a career path, but a responsibility.  Senators and Presidents would be well stripped of their salaries, their requirements for living covered by the state, a pension guaranteed – but otherwise duty in the Capitol would be a calling for only the purposeful, and if one of them sported too-gauche cufflinks, he would be immediately spotted for his decadence.  Give them plain robes to wear, even, and let nothing detract from the pure practice of debate, the exchange of ideas, and the concentration upon the task of improving the lot of the masses.

Mr. Torricelli’s opponent, Mr. Forrester, is hardly less shady, and indeed looks to this author like an overt criminal mastermind, inexplicably right out in the open, the way the villain in a comic book somehow hides in plain sight without being recognized.  His affinity for weaponry and his distrust of the female gender do not aid his scant efforts to appear less than diabolical.  And Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Torricelli’s unwilling replacement on the November ballot, earns my sympathy – as marginally conscientious as any civil servant can be, Mr. Lautenberg must surely see what a scam the whole situation has been on the process of the people choosing their leaders.  Though it would have boded badly for the Democratic Congress, it was the right of New Jersey’s voters to chastise Mr. Torricelli, if indeed that was their wont.  But once again, the Parties have demonstrated their cynical lack of trust in the population – and consequently, the competence of the population to ever recover their responsibilities is diminishing.  Lack of exercise in any endeavor breeds atrophy, even in choosing one’s leadership.

Of greater entertainment value is the brouhaha over Mr. Amiri Baraka, Poet Laureate of the Garden State.  This is the fellow who penned a winning verse about the Jewish conspiracy to destroy lower Manhattan, and read it aloud from his station as state bard.  Mr. Baraka, who used to be known as Leroi Jones, is and has long been something of a radical, and has always suffered the peculiar influenza of that breed – he is never sure who his enemies are, only that he has a lot of them.  So with the Governor’s indirect assent, Mr. Baraka tried lobbing a shell at the Jews, which might have worked pretty well in the Black Panther days, for gathering the credibility of other radicals – but has not been taken kindly to from a state-sanctioned versifier.

For the potentially dire implications of Mr. Baraka’s effort, I cannot grant him the status of serious threat.  He is, firstly, a poor poet, evident to anybody who has tried to measure out the meter of his rants.  And secondly, he is hardly the most dangerous sort of anti-Semite; he is gullible enough to read his news off the internet, and he is slow-witted enough to think public pronouncements at the local library branch are an effective mechanism for social upheaval.  (Even the greatest Poet Laureates of old England merely penned their blandest odes in honor of the triumphs of the realm, thanked the crown for the paycheck, and saved their best efforts for private publication.)

What has made the Poetry Debacle a debacle at all has been the subsequent effort to remove Mr. Baraka from his post, and the discovery that, per the patchwork constitution of the State of New Jersey, the Poet Laureate, a post created only within the last decade, is the most powerful person in the capital, and cannot be retired, even by the Governor.  This is all gravy on the revelation, to most of the state’ voters, that they even had a Poet Laureate, and the feud has generally drowned out the more functional argument, why does New Jersey need one?

Whatever natural beauty the Garden State might still possess - and if it is pastoral idylls Trenton wants - it is unlikely to be trumpeted by a crusty old reactionary from the Black Power movement.  And even the paltry sum of ten thousand dollars, which the Laureate is entitled to, seems excessive for such a magnificently irrelevant station.  If the State hankered to spend ten thousand dollars on the arts, which is an admirable intention indeed, it would surely have been able to find a more effective outlet – and this is overlooking this periodical’s own distrustful stance towards poetics as a viable modern art form.  Consider the tax-bracket of most poets; for ten thousand dollars, New Jersey could have paid five of them more money than they will see in their lives, rather than blowing it all on the most absurd candidate for a civil platitudinizer, only to have him blow the opportunity with ill-advised metric editorializing.  New Jersey has spawned decent verse before, and certainly bland enough stuff be appropriate for government use.  But if Trenton maintains its craving for a state poet to crank out new sonnets for every dinner party, I cannot see but that Mr. Springsteen might be a more sensible choice, among others.

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Last among the soft-headed parade of autumn in America, comes the float of Mr. Stan Jones, candidate for Senate in the great state of Montana, on the ticket of the Libertarian Party.  Mr. Jones heralds a new inclusiveness in American politics by becoming the first blue candidate to run for national office.  He is neither a Smurf nor a Hindu deity, but a log-cabin paranoiac, who began dosing himself with colloidal silver in 1999, as a safety measure in case the new millennium indeed turned out to be the apocalypse.  The silver was intended to shield Mr. Jones from infection, after the international supply of antibiotics ran out, and North America reverted to Neolithic tribal warfare.  It has instead afflicted Mr. Jones with a condition known as argyria, wherein the skin of the entire body turns permanently blue – even after the victim ceases taking the stuff.  And indeed, with the millennium more or less safely arrived, Mr. Jones has kicked the habit, but not the cerulean coloration.  One can only presume that Mr. Jones’ sudden political ambitions mean that he is not regretful about being proven wrong about the apocalypse.  And as the indigo syndrome is permanent, the blue population of Montana can rest assured that he will never revert to whatever color he was before, and forget about the constituency, as so many politicians have done before. 

            Nobody gives the Libertarians much chance of taking the Senate seat – though it is reasonable to ask whether the Libertarians would take it if offered, as their type tends to be shy about cities like Washington, not to mention a little skeptical about the government’s good will – but at the very least, Mr. Jones has opened a door previously shut tight.  I have often heard orators, invoking the multifariousness of America, using a phrase like “black, white, yellow, brown, and blue,” and thinking it was just lazy thinking.  Now I am reformed, and only wonder when the first blue person will enter the Oval Office, and how he will pay tribute to the intrepid Mr. Jones of Montana.         3W

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DISSEMBLIES

 

SHRÖDINGER’S CAT & LOMBARDO’S ADAM

 

A MISHAP AT THE MUSEUM

 

Quantum Physics’ Toll on Renaissance Art

 

by Eliza Anne Bonney

 

On a sleepy Sunday night in a spacious sculpture gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, four hours after closing and without so much as a mouse present, a fifteenth century Italian marble sculpture fell over, and though nobody was there to hear it, it made a sound.

The sound being that of a marble Adam shattering into umpteen pieces, and somewhere far off, for reasons at the time unknown, the momentary interruption of a curator’s heartbeat.  It is as bad a thing as can happen to a museum, and the particular victim, Tullio Lombardo’s 1495 ‘Adam,’ does not salve the hurt.  ‘Adam’ is among the first neoclassical figures produced by the Italian Renaissance, and is as fine a specimen as there is of the new naturalism of the movement.  He is a svelte, curly-haired nudist, gingerly grasping an apple in one hand, resting his weight on a trunk of wood entwined with a vine and serpent with the other.  He is not ‘David,’ either in stature or reputation, but by most expert accounts, Michelangelo’s giant-slayer owes much of his heritage to Lombardo’s now schizophrenic son of Eden.

Epicures, it turns out, are a more robust sort than one might suspect, and the Met’s corps of them have sworn to piece ‘Adam’ back together, even though, in the words of one curator, there had been “some pulverizing.”  The gallery was sealed off to the public, while a squadron of esthetes crawled across the floor, tweezing up even the tiniest fragment of the First Man.  The aftermath of the incident warms the heart for all its earnestness, and it recalls, by way of contrast, last year’s  destruction of the giant stone Buddha by the now-defunct government of Afghanistan.  That statue’s fall, for its greater magnitude, made much less of a bang in the ears of its caretakers.

Back in the dark, after-hours halls of the Met, though, let us envision the security guard who stumbled at last upon the crime.  Having heard nothing, expecting nothing, he emerged into the darkened atrium and saw the art-historical equivalent of a gruesome suicide, even a gruesome celebrity suicide.  The other statues in the hall must have gazed at him with evil implications, callous to his suspicion that they might have become momentarily animate, and toppled the preening Lombardo.  I wonder if coming upon such a scene, I would have maintained my composure long enough to report, or if I would have remained until morning, insanely begging the stone occupants of the gallery to take no more lives.  The guard who did make the discovery has remained anonymous, probably to respect his trauma.

Of course it was not the other sculptures that smashed ‘Adam,’ in a jealous rage.  The Met now offers that the pedestal the statue was installed upon “gave way” at one corner, thus unbalancing the marble, and knocking him into a hundred bits.  This is not implausible – things happen when people aren’t around all the time.  More than once I have returned home to discover a bookshelf on the floor, its occupants scattered, or a glass left on the sink’s edge inexplicably fallen to the floor.  It is an eerie feeling to imagine the mute workings of matter in an unoccupied room.  But it becomes more appropriate to picture just that sort of inanimate mechanism; the pedestals in the gallery, it turns out, had been built only two years ago, by a contractor who devised them out of plywood.

  

Tullio Lombardo’s ‘Adam,’ intact

 

The scientific philosophers might want a crack at the matter, while the custodians have theirs.  One might postulate that the Lombardo marble was not actually broken until the security guard entered the gallery, and saw that it was broken.  In the same way, they offer the example of the cat, kept in a box with a vial of cyanide, a hammer, and a single unstable atom, as postulated by Professor Schrödinger.  It is well-known that the behavior of atoms does not adhere to the ordinary linearity of our own experience, but is instead probabilistic.  There is a fifty-fifty chance that a particular atom, at a particular moment, will decompose and emit its consequent particles.  Close the box, and ask yourself, if the atom breaks apart and triggers the hammer, which breaks open the cyanide – is the cat dead or alive?  The experimenter must learn how to determine this without observing the cat in any way.  To save the reader the trouble of conducting the experiment, which can be costly and under certain circumstances inhumane, let it be clear that such a judgement can not be made without opening the box.  Until this is done, the cat is neither dead nor alive.  It is, quantum mechanically, superposed between the two states.

So what killed Lombardo’s ‘Adam’?  In an empty room, we presume a piece of plywood under strain slowly frayed, until with a crack and a crash, the crime was committed.  But we can never be certain.  Quantum probabilities also tell us that at any given moment, there remains some likelihood, though minute, that anything can happen.  A cup of tea, once every five hundred billion trillion years, will spontaneously overturn itself.  But how does such a bizarre occurrence differ from regular clumsiness, if there is no tea-drinker home to witness it?

 

Schrodinger’s Cat, indeterminate

 

As for the statue at the Met, unanswerable yet profound questions linger.  Did the pedestal “give way” as the result of traditional shoddy craftsmanship, or did all the atoms in the statue simultaneously win the cosmic lottery, and wind up, without direct cause, in pieces on the floor?  And if this is the case, what of the likelihood that another quiet night at the Met won’t find the statue spontaneously resurrected?  It is incorrect to claim such a thing is impossible – it is distinctly possible, merely improbable.

And the whole marvelous matter rests on the observation of the security guard, the proverbial lifting of the lid of the box.  For three and a half hours at least, Lombardo’s ‘Adam’ – too exquisite an eponymity, indeed - existed in a condition as yet unknown to any work of Renaissance art: a superposition between shattered, and whole.  Though its destruction is a travesty for the arts, let it not be overlooked that Lombardo’s work is now at the forefront of natural philosophy, as much as it was once at the cusp of aesthetics.  And when it is pieced back together, and hopefully installed on a more sturdy pedestal, it shall be infinitely more fascinating to sit and contemplate, knowing of the mysterious cosmic episode it survived.  There are exactly two sorts of reverie I am capable of in the labyrinths of a museum: one is the thrill of studying an object of scientific and historical significance, such as a moon capsule or the Spirit of St. Louis, which holds in its very objectness the presence of its exotic adventures; the other is the marvel felt in front of a work of art, which not only boasts its own historical acquaintances  (not least of all its own artist’s hands), but also rings with the almost supernatural melody of high aesthetics, and the deeply satisfying sympathy of a fellow human’s labor.  Lombardo’s ‘Adam,’ now that it has possibly visited the unmet realms of inner space, and is still a prime specimen of elegant human artifice as well, might be the first object in the world to enamor all of my tastes at once.  Though the Museum’s caretakers boast otherwise, I do desperately hope there is, after restoration, some small evidence of this incident – a crack, a chip, a scratch, to spur the viewer’s metaphysical inquisition.  Let generations visit it, and honor it for accomplishing the long due unity of the two great branches of human knowledge – the end of ugly science, and the death of ignorant art: a great leap for the species.                            3W

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MISCELLANIUM

To our docket of kind confederates on page 2, we must not fail to add the ladies and gentlemen of the literary beau-monde, who have affected the high standing bestowed on us unofficially by the ragged public.  The roster of cognoscenti that has rallied around our momentous achievement is spangled with celebrated personages, and such support is heartening to debtors such as we.  As well, we are pleased that our spat with the American Academy of Arts and Letters seems to have been resolved in our favor, and while we yet await our honorary membership, we are content to have the contrition and the rapport of that esteemed institution.    Eds.

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THE EAVESDROPPER

 

The Eavesdropper is shortly discontinued, and not a week too soon.  Devised as an ingenious counter to the gravity of the rest of this paper’s leaves, our penchant for listening in on strangers and framing their drivel in the humble majesty of humanity has slowly evolved into a dangerous precedent.  We have had to hand out a few dozen sharp looks this week alone, to idlers crudely following our example, and peering in on our own dialogue, not knowing of our eminence in the field.  So to squelch this nascent, snoopy industry, the Eavesdropper is retired, hopefully to the vast oblivion of the public’s miniscule memory.  As a parting epigram, we here offer an actual morsel overheard by one of our beleaguered foreign correspondents, stationed in Rome.  Standing at the weary end of a tour of gaudy St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican, our agent reports hearing a yankee reveal,

-I’m not into all this shit now that I see it.

 

The Eavesdropper now offers one last

ACTUAL CONVERSATION

 

-The power of faith is very important; it can’t be underestimated.

-Sure - I read this morning how Christopher Reeve believes he is going to walk again.

-And he believes it.

-Yeah.  And I believe I’m going to live in the West Village.

-Sure, why not?

-Even if it takes ten years, you gotta keep with it, you’ve got to believe.

-It’s important.  I think if I was going to be anything, I’d be a Buddhist.

-That’s a good one, yeah.  Do you believe in world peace?

-World peace?  Yeah.  Who doesn’t believe in that?

-There’s thousands of different religions, all over the world.

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METEOROLOGY

 

 

THE WEATHER

 

Without the benefit of radar, the advantage of a low-Earth orbit satellite, or even the assistance of an antique ship’s barometer, we have, in this space, focussed our able attention on the plot of the jet-stream though a full expression of its cycle – and not once has anything reported here helped a reader to know if a mackintosh or a tank-top was the order of the day.  This is hardly a confession of inadequacy, for I doubt that any of the hacks with a roomful of Doppler relays has actually been any more useful.  And for our part, at least, we have conscientiously considered not the superficial condition of the air, but  its more complex, and more critical, effect on the behavior of we temperamental hominids.

It is a testament to the appropriateness of this endeavor – the tri-weekly weather report – that through as difficult a year as we have just endured, as thoughtful a contingent as your editors and our readers remain concerned with atmospherics, as much as social politics.  And conversely, it is a measure of reassurance that even with the grim condition of civilization prevalent, we can still muster the tranquility of mind to discuss the weather.  All our neurons are not clogged with war and pestilence, happily; and such plagues have not got so immense yet that the weather cannot still overwhelm their significance.  I am pleased to report that the weather still matters, and matters as much as it ever will.

And this is the premise which we set out to persuade a pretentious literati of, and which is now practically dogma.  Whereas this paper was born into a literature that saw idle prose about the elements as the worst abuse of the language, now we have reformed the opinion, and shown how a careful and immediate survey of a drought or a thunderstorm is infinitely more importunate to American letters than the latest imaginary flim-flam of a post-graduate novelist.  It only remains for this new priority to enter the general lexicon, and for a conversation about the weather to qualify no longer as ‘small talk.’  The weather, to a lively mind, is the very context of human society; the palpable expression of Nature; and a reflection, in the mirror of the elements, of our own travails.  When we are miserable, and it rains, our sweet misery is deepened to satisfaction; just as when we are euphoric in a downpour, our bliss is doubled, and remembered longer.  Talk of the weather is now the profoundest sort of discourse, engaged in the great academy of the American public.  And so I report, one final time, and triumphantly, my own accounting of the clime, these three weeks. 

Though October is hardly middle-aged, already there is appreciable in the air the invigorating chill of the coming dark season.  This is that preliminary depression of temperature that signals the chlorophyll in the leaves to abandon ship, and sets off the spectral display of foliage that makes residency in the tropics so inconceivable.  I have not always held the turning of fall in such high regard, however. 

The coarser mindset of youth, I believe, does not appreciate the splendor of colored leaves, as greatly as the more mature refinements of adulthood.  I have been on numerous enforced pilgrimages to the forests of New England as a youth, and must honestly attest that my awe then was artificial.  I could not see the beauty in the fading of verdant summer into brittle fall.  Now, as of some alchemy of taste, I have come to that sentimental appreciation of autumn’s ruddy palette that I think all sybarites of the temperate zone eventually share.  And so it is with a more intense anticipation every season that I feel this first frigidity, knowing it will shortly be conveyed to the deciduous citizens of the soil.  I can only hope that I am not, inadvertently, still such an ignorant boor about some other of life’s pleasures as I once was of multicolored foliage, and the attending mood of fall.  But I suppose this is the curse of human pride – that we shall only amend our prejudices by a realization of the gratification we have denied ourselves previously.  I am reformed; and while I am further reformable, I yet hope that I lack any further need for it.  Winter comes, and I shall greet it as broad as Nature.          H. Wllm. Brownejohns

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