Daily Archives: April 22, 2004

The Buck Stops…Where?

The Buck Stops…Where?

Haverhill v. Hartford Correspondence

Recently, someone sent the following paper to me, though I don’t have the faintest idea why, or who sent it. It’s really not my kind of thing, but on the off-chance that it might actually be important, I am posting it for whatever and whoever may be interested.

Note: I have no idea who these people are–or were–and I don’t know what “duel” they’re talking about, so don’t ask

Recently, scientists with the Crypto-Orphea-Cyberarcheology Squad unearthed fragments from several letters which they believe to be remnants of a lost conversation between Samson Haverhill, the eminent art critic and social historian who once said of Winston Churchill, “There goes a man who knows a good cigar when he see one”, and Marcus Hartford, Dean of the Paleo-socioculturists and Haverhill’s arch-rival, who once said of William Clinton, “There goes a man who knows what to do with a good cigar when he sees one.”

The fragments were retrieved from a half-burnt hard-drive found behind the coffee-maker (a Braun, naturally) in Haverhill’s personal library by Vladimir MacClane, Haverhill’s household accountant, maid, appointments secretary, and “masseur”. McClane was cleaning out the whiskey nips Haverhill used to lovingly stuff down behind the filing cabinet (on which the Braun was kept) in, as McClane put it to me when I interviewed him, “the naive belief that he was putting one over on me. As if I didn’t know the little lush was chugging them like candy whenever my back was turned.”

Hartford and Haverhill were, as all the world knows now in the wake of their astonishing and tragic duel, the deadliest of enemies. It was said that when Hartford once saw Haverhill walking on the same side of the street, he crossed it, took the No9 bus to Jersey City, and moved his entire menagerie to the far slope of Mount Tanganyika rather than run the risk of it happening again. Now that’s aversion, if you like.

And yet the fragments that the COCS were able after many months of labor to piece together show, in fact, an almost collegial relationship between the men. Nary a harsh word is spoken, or so it seems to me, and while it’s obvious that they disagree somewhat on the merits and appropriate level of recognition that should be assigned to the object of their discussion–the quasi-artist Botero–and even on the meaning of the bulk of the work of this most elephantine member of the German/Columbian PMS (Pachydermics & Modern Sycophants) Movement and its relationship to his reputed worship of hot chocolate, there is almost no animosity expressed in these letters. Indeed, to the contrary, they appear to reveal a surprising familiarity, even intimacy, with each other that seems to belie later events. The tone is informal–at least, informal for those two–and, I might say, approaches a level of good-natured joshing in spots that positively reeks of a species of humor hitherto unsuspected in either of them.

As to the final meaning of these crucial sociological documents, who can say? Cultural anthropologists will be dissecting and writing dissertations on them for years to come as it is, and the partial nature of the find can only serve to fuel ever more arthritic conspiracy theories jack-knifing with a deteriorating series of bonehead academic drivel that between them may very well manage to bury the gargantuan achievements of these two Prometheus-like figures under an avalanche of the kind of syllogistic piffle and disingenuous Ivory-Tower parasitic twaddle of which the best graduate theses are composed.

Rather than allow that to happen without putting up a fight, the COCS has allowed me to release these precious contributions to the history of two of the most enigmatic if not esoteric minds of the 20th Century in the hope that they might attract the attention of legitimate scholars before the grad students get their crummy little mitts all over them.

The fragments in question comprise only three short letters of what was obviously, judging the letters in context, a much longer correspondence on the subject, and one that involved several more participants (reference is made to a “Mark” and a certain “Ms Field” [Dorothy? Betty? WC? Marshall?] along with others in replying to their commentary) as yet unknown to COCS researchers.

For now, although we cannot fill in the many gaps in order to divine what the great men were trying to get at, we can at least enjoy the circumlocutions of their gigantic brainpans and revel in their joy of artifactual semi-coherence.

The first letter in the series is from Mr Haverhill and is evidently a–rather polite–reply to a letter from Mr Hartford in which Mr Hartford seems to have made a reference to the quasi-artist Botero’s love of hot chocolate with which Mr Haverhill takes umbrage.

Note: One of the most interesting discoveries for scholars of the future may be the somewhat surprising one that Mr Hartford was, at best, an indifferent speller and of no use at all when it came to punctuation. His skill with metaphors is shown to be equally dubious.

Marcus:Having read with great interest the erudite circumlocutions absent manifestational indignities inherent in the discussion and discovery of banesworthy motivational techniques and loquacious perambulations concerning both the terminal casuistry of the quasi-artiste Botero and the camouflaged pertinacity of the Holy Bean, I can only say, I beg to differ.

Samson Haverhill

Samson:”Obtusity [sic] of the self”, that old cannard, has made its home in me yet again.

But what is missing here is the fact that one finds pleasure in the eating/tasting/making/melting/double boiling of chocolate for many reasons and certain expressions are best put into words that are perhaps not so commonly or easily ascertained in general.

For example, the word “surfeit” was used. (Then, of course, “parfait” comes immediately to mind when discussing chocolate for it is my fervent supposition that there is no greater surfeit but “pudding as parfait”.) The use, inclination, predisposition, or substantiation of such words leaves one without circumstance and without the proper affiliation to supercede.

As the character Hooper Brant put it in the Canterbury Saga:

“Bring forth your haste from every rafter and leave thine brigand pellmell to his lot. For Neptune’s devil sends no kind favor at play in the sheltering lee! Carry on then, Oh, Whistler of verve, sauce of shadows, distaff of Godiva, for the break-neck of Godspeed be his ended bough!”

Here would be such. Godiva, in this instance, is none but the thought that leaves the great compatriot and furthers the end of the protagonist into inseperable [sic] and indecipherable conclusions. Godiva (as chocolatier to come later), though not one of these ends, is certainly the principal “endomorphin of choice” when one “breaches the barrier of transmorgraphication” [sic] and begins “anew” as in “Tertiary singularity.”

Through these revelations, and arguably only through these revelations, does one define a certain “raison d’etre” that may explicate the afformentioned [sic] “mystic of the effervescence”. And so it is good.

Reasons to search for other verbiage notwithstanding there are suppositions yet to discover in the search for quantum mechanics “round and round as the crow flies.” It must not be relegated to a lesser extreme unction. Superfluous magnanimity and post-affectation linguistical pyrotechnics are a primary respite of the maternal/cryogenic/hermetological/ metamorphic/ Thesauranistic impulsives/compulsives of history.

“Thingularity” vs “Singularity”. It’s an important distinction.

Marcus Hartford

Marcus:Ah. In that case, I withdraw my objection, though not without wishing to have it noted that double-boiling in itself represents both the canonical variations mentioned by Lupone and the theocrastic dichotomy of the sequence, “pallet, pallette, palate”, that is found in Socrates (who committed suicide at the order of the Greek Senate by drinking hemlock; that is well-known; what is less well-known is that the hemlock was placed in a cup not of the fruit of the grape but of “cakoyu”, or, as we would call it, “hot chocolate”, because Socrates felt that no wine could compare with the metaphorical avoirdupois of this southern delicacy–a direct slap at Porpopolous, the usual provider of execution wines, who had not long before attempted to charge Socrates nearly ten latte [about 40 cents US] for a half-jug of indifferent ouzo; an act of such ardent rapacity that Socrates never forgave him. Exactly why a Greek wine merchant was demanding to be paid in Burmese currency has never been satisfactorily explained, although speculation centers around a fiduciary irregularity in one of his interest-bearing money-market accounts).

Gaby said, “I certainly think we should just let them be elephants but my big concern is their survival in the wild.’

This is clearly off-topic and irrelevant. The “survival” of elephants “in the wild” is of no interest compared to their impact on our collective psyche (look at the popularity of Babar) and imagination since they have no contradistinctive reality apart from it, as Ms. Field so cleverly suggests. The real issues have been, once again, clearly delineated by S. Morgenstern (even if he can’t spell “Expedition”), and these are the grounds in which speculation and commentary may prove most fertile.

For example, here:

‘Largeness’ being a universal trait of “The Universe” (big U) and (not unlike the recently ‘bandied about’ artist Botero’s own awareness/expression of such) brings one to the creature which most expresses the deeper meaning of ‘Universality’ itself by merely ‘being’. Size then is important for this discourse.

This brilliant juxtaposition of the work of the pseudo-quasi-artiste Botero with the massive implications of social destructuring suggested in the “largeness” (or again, the “largesse”) of the representational anagram points clearly to the dichometrical pusillanimity of a colonial configuration. This has even reached the “street”, where such phrases as “elePHAT” (something really good) and “going elephantal” (maintaining the highest possible level of expectations for oneself) are in common usage everywhere.

Or here:

Pachederms [sic]/elephants indeed bring one to ‘knees of worship’ (AJ Farnsworth of the National Geographic) . To find in the elephant a treasure trove (or ‘trunk’, if you will) of import is not uncommon in Africa also. In fact breaking with tradition the Hampa tribe of the Skeleton Coast brings about the deepest appreciation and though it has been recorded through history to be a fossilized sub species the prehistoric Mammoth is no different on its effect to early developmental mankind/womankind/childhood hunter gatherers of the plains. The ferocity of elephantine coalescence and indigenous cultural integrity of prior generations of bushmen bring forth a panoply of mismatching hectares on the African geographic ‘inter- exetero- aspersion’.

This exegesis could hardly be clearer, and his use of the monochromatic metaphor of the “trunk” linked to man’s early creation of the word “mammoth” to describe it show that without doubt the image and meaning of “elephant” is deep in the collective unconscious, and, indeed, may properly be considered to be one of the founding formatives in the tangential psychometry of the development of the id.

Or yet again, here:

Stone wielding aboriginis which never saw elephants on their native soil found ghost-like apparitions of elephant-like ‘sublimations’ (as the primordial ‘walkabout’ sayings go) near the ‘red rocks’ of central Australia. The visions are confirmed and fire the imaginations only because the inherent mystery leaves the storied tales to the wayward gurus who without pretense dispense as traditionally required the ramifications of this ‘animalian spirituality’ so confirmed.

This single paragraph contains within it the fruit of endless speculative primordial ahistorical analysis that might be expected to provide enriching material for a hundred post-doctoral- graduate theses.

But let us have no more of the interruptions of a Gaby, who so misunderstands or misintuits the significance of the topic question, the effect of which is to belittle its relevance and the cutting-edge nature of its psycho-social penetration, that doubt is cast on its ultimate importance.

From Mark: “I think we are facing a serious ecological challenge and what we need are serious discussions.”

While the first half of this syllogistic paradigm is obviously true, I’m afraid I must respectfully disagree with the second. Serious discussions of physical issues such as ecology are, as the television producers obviously understand (and as is shown in their consistent choice of so- called “inconsequential” topics) no longer of any lasting isometric value. In this, the first decade of a brand-new millennium, psycho-social issues are far more important and of more lasting interest, and these are nearly always discovered lurking close under the skin of the kind of trivial, often unnoticed phenomena which these producers have quite rightly dedicated themselves to unearthing.

Marcus undoubtedly understands this, as Mark, Gaby and Don do not, and consequently aims the thread of his remarks toward deepening our understanding of the underground role of nonentitious and entropic co-prosities in social functioning. And, of course, the shows in question were chosen using the very same criterium: their ability to illuminate and “enlarge” our comprehension of the heretofore unknown role of triviality in modern psychometric profiling.

Look around you, Mark–is the burgeoning ecological disaster of, say, “global warming” receiving significant attention in the mass media? No–lip service only. Why? Because it isn’t important any more. In the new era, again, as the producers clearly understand, the new society values bits of small, seemingly unimportant and irrelevant data, attitudes, and personal responses to vicarious and virtual realities over the antiquated concerns of the old century (viz., “ecology”, “democracy”, “ethics”, etc.), replacing them in toto with our modern concerns (viz., virtual-reality architecture, self-responsive impulses, “looking out for No. 1”, etc.).

It is a new day with new sociopathological endives, and The Media is simply responding to them, it seems to me, with characteristic opportunism. Carpe diem, as they say. I think it would behoove you to leave your old-fashioned, and may I say, anachronistic attitudes behind and attempt to join in the spirit of the new eon. Marcus will continue, I am sure, to provide us with trustworthy guidance through this minefield of trivia, finding gold where you may see only pyrite.

I say this with all due respect, of course.

Samson Haverhill

ps. As both you and Don seem so concerned, I have kept the language of this missive as simple as possible so as not to impede your comprehension.

In that last letter, it would seem that Mr Haverhill was responding to some concern (hardly creditable to us) that the quasi-artist Botero was not a fit subject for a serious documentary, and Mr Haverhill was replying that of course he wasn’t, that was the whole point. Unfortunately, neither the COCS nor I myself have been able to find any record that such a documentary was ever produced by anyone anywhere at any time, leaving us mystified as to why–and how–these correspondents would have–or could have–carried on such a lengthy and determinedly passionate argument over something which apparently didn’t exist. But of course, they were academics of extraordinary intelligence and language skills, the kind of people who, a few hundred years ago, would have argued for a couple of decades over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, so anything is possible.Given that several letters in the chain are clearly missing, it is at this point impossible to know for certain if Mr Haverhill was in fact, as he appears to be, graciously admitting his misunderstanding of Mr Hartford’s previous point at the beginning of the last letter, or if his benediction was actually intended for another of the correspondents. The latter seems the more likely option because of what we know of the poisonous atmosphere that existed between these two superstars of scholarship, but one of the irritating weaknesses of this remarkable find is that the dates of this correspondence have entirely vanished (or at least have remained hidden thus far from the eager beavers at COCS). It is therefore impossible to tell exactly where in the chronology of their rivalry these incendiary letters fall. Do they belong to the earlier “Blue” period when the two bitter opponents were still known to be speaking to each other, if coldly? Or to the later “Red” period that led up to the duel, a period during which Mr Haverhill, when he discovered that Mr Hartford favored the same brand of rare Brazilian cold cream that Mr Haverhill used, tore out huge chunks of his thinning hair and mailed them to Simon Haverford, Prefect of Ocho University in Madrid, Ohio, with a note that said, “Look what that bastard has done to me!”?

If the latter, we apparently have startling new evidence that these two prickly prima-donna pedants were capable of putting aside their mutual loathing in order to profitably discuss an area of mutual interest, a development that will undoubtedly give quasi-artistic socioculturists and historians Excedrin headaches for the next twenty years, for it throws a Montana-sized monkey wrench into the well-developed sub-discipline of Haverhill-Hartford scholarship that is bound to reverberate globally, casting pearls of doubt over the core of discipline’s foundational dogmas. If the former, who cares?

Timing, they say, is everything, and in this case that’s certainly true. Work continues apace at COCS and we can only hope that some undreamed-of stroke of good fortune will lead the hunters to the lair of the beast where hide the Dates of Truth. Perhaps one or more of the other correspondents in the chain will step forward with the critical information and maybe even some of the missing letters. Until then, we can only speculate as to their ultimate meaning, which, if it does nothing else, will provide useful employment for a bevy of otherwise idle and unemployable academics who, without it, would be wandering the streets, homeless, sadly clutching their dog-eared copies of Haverhill’s mythically seminal tome, Fiduciary Responsibilities in Avro-Markensian Sinecures During the Reign of Paliser IV, to their chests and lecturing themselves at the top of their lungs.

It’s a small price to pay.

Rice Pudding–The Sequel

In case you were wondering, here’s the post I had just finished Monday when the computer went phzzzzt, szzl, crinch! (I wouldn’t want you to miss anything):

We aren’t often lucky enough to get a peek at what kind of thinking is going on deep underground at GOP HQ, but today Condi Rice may have given us one.

Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that the administration was worried that terrorist groups could find the approaching presidential election “too good to pass up” and that Washington was already considering measures to deter an attack seeking to influence the election’s outcome.Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Ms. Rice acknowledged that the March 11 train attacks in Spain, for which groups linked to Al Qaeda have been blamed, could send what she called “the wrong message.”

Is this sloppy writing or does Minute Rice actually think the message of the Spanish attack is confusing? Who does she think she’s dealing with, graffitti-writing teen-agers who aren’t sure what they want? If there are any doubts left of her incompetence after her sad performance in front of the 9/11 Commission, she’s erasing them every time she opens her mouth.

“[W]e are actively looking at that possibility, actively trying to make certain that we are responding appropriately.”

Uh-huh. I’ll let Tim Dunlop at The Road to Surfdom take this one; I couldn’t say it any better.

We are “trying to see” if we’re doing the right thing? She “thinks” they have to take the chance of attack seriously? If this is any indication of how prepared they are now, two years after 9/11, after the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, after Bali, after Madrid, then I submit they simply didn’t have a clue prior to 9/11. I would expect her to be able to give chapter and verse on how prepared they are, or at least some confident indication that they have it under control. Instead we get this drivel.

Yup. “Drivel” is a good word. But her most interesting statement is this little tidbit that I think escaped her subconscious without her noticing:

“I think we also have to take seriously that they might try during the cycle leading up to the election to do something,” she said. “In some ways, it seems like it would be too good to pass up for them….” She added: “The hard thing about terrorism is that they only have to be right once, and we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And nobody can be certain there won’t be another attack. But, of course, we are concerned about the election cycle.”

Where that’s coming from are the sub rosa dialogues going on in the deepest, darkest caves where radcon strategy sessions are held. In the same way that the radcons speculated before 9/11 about what they’d need to justify an invasion of Iraq (remember “We’d need another Pearl Harbor”?), they’re speculating NOW about how to maintain their hold on power at the end of Junior’s second term. The discussions are running in two directions:

1) Repeal the 2-term limit that Publicans passed to keep Roosevelt from a possible fourth term so Junior can run in perpetuity. This was their favorite until the public began to catch on to his weaknesses; they thought that, like Reagan, Bush’s eternal popularity combined with the Personality Cult they’d built up around him so carefully would ensure endless popularly-elected BA’s for as long as they could prop him up. When that whole facade began to crumble, they went to Option #2:

2) “We’d need another Pearl Harbor.” What possible excuse could they come up with to justify cancelling elections altogether? Answer: Another 9/11, or, failing that, the threat of another 9/11.

So here’s how the meme will go in the Mighty Wurlitzer: We have received a dire threat from the terrorists to use every possible means to disrupt our democracy by disrupting the election process. It’s too dangerous to hold elections at a moment like this because it puts our democracy in jeopardy. We are at war and cannot afford the luxury of an election, especially when the opposition are traitors who will sell out the country to the terrorists if they win. It’s a risk we can’t afford to take. We must postpone the elections until our victory over the enemy makes it once again feasible for our democracy to flourish without danger to voters. And it’s only temporary. Really. Honest. We mean that. (Heh-heh. Nitwits.)

Sound far-fetched? Not to the radcons, it doesn’t. And the beauty of this is that it rewards their almost total incompetence by arguing that the worse they make things, the more we need to keep them in power.

Their desperation to maintain their grip on govt on behalf of right-wing loonies and greedy corporations who like the way things are going is almost palpable. They have always been capable, as we now know, of entertaining the worst, loopiest, most un-democratic notions without so much as a twinge of doubt or a soupcon of conscience. A little thing like cancelling a national election “for the greater good of the country” wouldn’t cause them to lose so much as 30 seconds’ sleep.

Remember: You heard it here first.