Feb 22 2017

What Happens When I Write (a Prose Poem)

Whenever I am believed to be wrong,

I write to feel right.

Who then has the right

To trust what I say

With the words I have used?

Mere muses and abuses–

The lot of ’em.

The muses range from maniacal to melancholic,

The abuses from obsessive to addictive,

And awareness doesn’t really play into the picture.

When I reread what I’ve written,

The reader sees no limit of accusations against the author.

One reads in order that the mind might bend,

But one writes in order that the mind might extend,

Hoping to tangentially touch something somewhat like itself.

Feb 22 2017

How Germany Gave Us Heino (via Nietzsche)

As Nietzsche puts it:

The Germans alternate between complete devotion to the foreign and revengeful craving for originality…. The Germans––to prove that their originality is not a matter of their nature but of their ambition—think it lies in the complete and over-obvious difference: but the Greeks did not think thus about the Orient … and they became original (for one is not original to begin with, but one is raw!)

[Birth of Tragedy XI, 110; cf. V, 246; VI 339] Kaufmann, Walter. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP. 1950. Fourth Edition. 1974.  p. 154.

Does this not explain the kitsch phenomenon of Heino?


Feb 19 2017

“They Took Away My Books!”

Book-theft is never a good idea:

Feb 19 2017

Why Do Artists Travel? (Part 02)

Two additional quotations I’ve recently come across:

For in writing it is as in travelling: if a man is in haste to be at home (which I acknowledge to be none of my case, having never so little business as when I am there), if his horse be tired with long riding and ill ways, or be naturally a jade, I advise him clearly to make the straightest and the commonest road, be it ever so dirty; but then surely we must own such a man to be a scurvy companion at best.  He spatters himself and his fellow-travellers at every step.  All their thoughts, and wishes, and conversation turn entirely upon the subject of their journey’s end, and at every splash, and plunge, and stumble they heartily wish one another at the devil.

––Jonathan Swift[1]

A car whipped past, the driver eating and a passenger clicking a camera. Moving without going anywhere, taking a trip instead of making one. I laughed at the absurdity of the photographs and then realized I, too, was rolling effortlessly along, turning the windshield into a movie screen in which I, the viewer, did the moving while the subject held still. That was the temptation of the American highway, of the American vacation (from the Latin vacare, “to be empty”). A woman in Texas had told me that she often threatened to write a book about her family vacations. Her title: Zoom! The drama of their trips, she said, occurred on the inside of the windshield with one family crisis after another. Her husband drove a thousand miles, much of it with his right arm over the backseat to hold down one of the children. She said, “Our vacations take us.”

She longed for the true journey of an Odysseus or Ishmael or Gulliver or even a Dorothy of Kansas, wherein passage through space and time becomes only a metaphor of a movement through the interior of being. A true journey, no matter how long the travel takes, has no end. What’s more, as John Le Carré, in speaking of the journey of death, said, “Nothing ever bridged the gulf between the man who went and the man who stayed behind.”

––William Least Heat-Moon[2]

See also: Why Do Artists Travel? (Part 01)


[1] Swift, A Tale of a Tub. (1663.) Section XI in Jonathan Swift – the Major Works 152–53.

[2] Least Heat-Moon, William. Blue Highways. NY: Little and Brown. 1982. p. 88.

Feb 17 2017

Why do Artists Travel?

What foreign walls will open to a wanderer?


This is my home and my homeland. It tallies with secrets my father
Left me, that talked about fate.


Rosalind: “A traveler? By my faith, you have great reason to be sad. I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s. Then to have seen much and to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.”

Jacques: “Yes, I have gained my experience.”

Rosalind: “And your experience makes you sad. I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad— and to travel for it, too.”

––Shakespeare [3]

The traveller that distrusts every person he meets, and turns back upon the appearance of every man that looks like a robber, seldom arrives in time at his journey’s end.

––Oliver Goldsmith[4]

It must be confessed in the main that travelers who withdraw from the limitation of their homes think they step into not only a strange but a perfectly free nature, and this delusion we could at that time cherish the more as we were not yet reminded every moment by police examinations of passports, by tolls, and other such like hindrances, that abroad things are still more limited and worse than at home.


All the arts commonly aspire toward the principle of music….. The aim of our culture should be to attain not only as intense but as complete a life as possible…. The demand of the intellect is to feel itself alive.

––Walter Pater[6]

No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. Take an example from our own day. I know that you are fond of Japanese things. Now, do you really imagine that the Japanese people, as they are presented to us in art, have any existence? If you do, you have never understood Japanese art at all. The Japanese people are the deliberate self-conscious creation of certain individual artists. If you set a picture by Hokusai, or Hokkei, or any of the great native painters, beside a real Japanese gentleman or lady, you will see that there is not the slightest resemblance between them. The actual people who live in Japan are not unlike the general run of English people; that is to say, they are extremely commonplace, and have nothing curious or extraordinary about them. In fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people.

––Oscar Wilde[7]

See more: Why Do Artists Travel? (Part 02)


[1] Statius, Thebaid. Translated by Ross. XI, 730

[2] Virgil, Aeneid. VII, 123.

[3] Shakespeare, As You Like It. IV, i.

[4] Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield, “26. A reformation in the gaol. To make laws complete, they should reward as well as punish.”

[5] Goethe, Dichtung und Wahrheit, XIX, 661.

[6] Pater, The Renaissance 135, 188, 220.

[7] Wilde, “The Decay of Lying.”

Feb 14 2017

Proust: the work of art is the mistress of the artist.

Proust teaches us:

People often say that, by pointing out to a man the faults of his mistress, you succeed only in strengthening his attachment to her, because he does not believe you; yet how much more so if he does!

À la recherche du temps perdu. (In Search of Lost Time.) Vol. I. Du côté de chez Swann. (Swann’s Way.) § “Swann in Love.”

But is this not even truer for artists? The work of art is the mistress of the artist. All his time and energy are spent with and on his mistress. But problems crop up. The artist starts to fall in love with the flaws in the work of art. The work of art can then never become a masterpiece. Hence, the artist in love with the flaws in his own work is a failed artist. For as Proust puts it:

“The danger of that kind of love, however, is that the woman’s subjection calms the man’s jealousy for a time but also makes it more exacting. After a little he will force his mistress to live like one of those prisoners whose cells they keep lighted day and night, to prevent their escaping. And that generally ends in trouble.”

À la recherche du temps perdu. (In Search of Lost Time.) Vol. II. À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs. (Within a Budding Grove / In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.) 1919. “Madame Swann at Home.”


Feb 10 2017

Brainstorming Ideas about Institutions, Communities, & Citizens

For G. E. M. Ascombe: “What is institutional must exclude all that is personal, casual or sporadic.”[1] This is because institutions:

  • erode individuals,
  • corrode their creativity,
  • and commode only resentment.

Despite our institutions, we must strive to be good citizens, right? Why not ask Goethe?

“Well,” said Lothario, “I hope to be able to make a good patriot out of you. A good father is one who at mealtimes serves his children first; and a good citizen is one who pays what he owes the state before dealing with everything else.”[2]


  • The dutiful citizen pays the police before going out to buy his own gun.
  • The sincere confessor gives consent before receiving his reward.
  • The merciful cop shoots the criminal before turning the gun on herself.
  • And while Trump has paid few taxes and given little to charities, he now must serve the community. For what is a community but a collection of institutions?


[1] Anscombe, G. E. M. “On the Source of the Authority of the State.” From Ratio 20 (1), 1978. The Collected Philosophical Papers of G. E. M. Anscombe Vol. III: Ethics, Religion and Politics. Blackwell: Oxford. 1981. p. 131.

[2]  Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.) VIII, ii, 311.

Feb 10 2017

Trump Quotes Goethe

I’ve been reading Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and will write about that soon. In the meantime, all I have are Goethe memes:

Trump quotes Goethe #Trump #Goethe #deutschland

A photo posted by Christopher Landrum (@landrumc) on

Trump quotes Goethe #Trump #Goethe #deutschland

A photo posted by Christopher Landrum (@landrumc) on

Trump quotes Goethe #Trump #Goethe #deutschland

A photo posted by Christopher Landrum (@landrumc) on

Trump quotes Goethe #Trump #Goethe #deutschland

A photo posted by Christopher Landrum (@landrumc) on


Feb 7 2017

There is No Emoji for the Word “Emoji”

Vico writes:

In this study, we shall greatly profit from the antiquity of the Egyptians. For they have preserved two fragments of their history which are no less amazing than the pyramids and which contain two great historical truths. The first is recorded by Herodotus, who says that the Egyptians divided all of the world’s history into three ages: (1) the age of the gods, (2) the age of heroes, and (3) the age of men. The second fragment is reported by Johannes Scheffer in his Pythagorean Philosophy. He says that in these three ages the Egyptians spoke three languages, corresponding to them in number and order: (1) a hieroglyphic language, using sacred characters; (2) a symbolic language, using heroic characters; and (3) an epistolary language, using characters agreed on by the people.

The Third New Science. Penguin: NY. 2000. I, § 1, i, [¶ 52], p. 44. See also I, § 2, xxviii, [¶ 173], p. 86.

Are we not returning to an age of hieroglyphic language?

There is no emoji for the word “emoji.”

There is only the word.

And the word is only a representation of the idea of “emoji,” while emoji are representations of words that are themselves representations of ideas.

An idea represented by a word is once-removed. An emoji is an idea twice-removed.

Feb 7 2017

Three Articles on Russia

Three things I read about Russia over the weekend:


Putin’s Intelligence Crisis,” by Amy Knight, New York Review of Books, February 3, 2017.


Exxon, Rex, and Russia: a Deep Drilling,” Dana Snitzky, LongReads.com, February 3, 2017.


An Activist is Mysteriously Ill in Russia; and the U.S. Needs to Speak Up,” Editorial Board, Washington Post, February 2, 2017.