Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Pierre Bonnard

Conversation between Friends over a Cup or Two of Earl Grey Tea

Carolina missed her mother intensely in the first weeks after the event. Joanna had died twelve years before, and well before this was not herself, or I should say, was another, different, somewhat demented self. Carolina believed that the strength of visits from the dead waxes and wanes according to rules the living can’t possibly imagine. Joanna came to her daughter predictably enough when holidays approached. There would be an extra dollop of pleasure coming from an almost tangible, audible, (“You need more evergreens on the mantle.” Or, “Aren’t you going to put up the crèche?”) visual Joanna when it was time to decorate the house for Christmas. Her anxiety about planning, cleaning, and cooking for life’s occasions was certainly not hers alone. However, spirits don’t put much store in predictability, as Carolina, and I, for that matter, learned. For example, Carolina, who had been reserved around strangers for most of her life, would become garrulous at odd times—she’d happily chat about details of her life with people she couldn’t expect to ever see again. When and where didn’t seem to matter to her. And there, almost part of the conversation, would be her mother, her presence strong, inside her, not 84 and dying, but 60, plump, beautiful, interested in her daughter’s doings and in everyone else’s. 

In the materials the nurses gave Carolina with her hospital discharge papers were kindly worded comments about depression being common after a heart attack and reassurances that if she did this and that and “gave herself time” her mood would improve. This was quite true she discovered. Once she got out of the ICU and home again, she brightened. Of course. Maybe, she thought, the next test would show that her heart muscle was not so badly damaged after all; driving would someday be permitted; travel might be possible. The sadness underneath these better thoughts might finally stop thickening her throat, she was sure, if she could only feel her mother close by. But Joanna had disappeared. 

Then one day, not long ago, Carolina understood. For this time of recovering, after this time of nearly dying, not one of her beloved dead, not even her mother, should be keeping her company. Living brothers, friends, cousins were who she needed now. And indeed, they were there for her in myriad ways, willing to help, eager to extend love and warmth. Carolina also understood, although maybe not as well, that when she herself stopped thinking about death, her wise mother might consider it safe to join her again. I think she's right about that. These days I've come to believe if our dead sense that we are giving into reveries about our own departure, almost enjoying the heavy and sunless air we are breathing, if they think all these morbid thoughts are unnecessary and premature, they, our beloved dead, will keep a distance from us. I feel certain that Carolina will smell her mother’s sandalwood soap the next time one of life’s innumerable glories rocks her soul or sets her laughing or moves her to dance or plants her firmly again on Earth’s good ground. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

In my book, "To See Who's There." It will be out in the world any minute

Martin Johnson Heade, Magnolias on Gold Cloth, 1880-90

the first to open all, poised ten feet above our fuss.
As far as she’s concerned … well, she’s not, is she?
Her splendor cows me.
On this Tuesday morning I feel aged, dry, critical, although
I’ve used my potions.
Lousy sleep. Awake at 4 a.m., 5, 5:30. Sweaty.
And I feel short.
Arrogant” comes to us via Old French from Latin— 'claiming for oneself',
from the verb arrogare.
Soon the fraying, browning, finishing. Disarray happens.
An old record plays. Mother and nuns scolding:
No one likes a complainer.”
Wipe that look off.”
Jesus suffered.”
My sweet dog’s done her business and here is the poor bloom (soon to die) again.
The magnolia deflects my murky sensibility. Flowers, leaves, trunks, weeds, grass—
all of it—brushes me off. Of course.
Home and somewhat smoothed, despite the visit from my scolds,
despite the niggling moans from death.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Archy and Cracy

Archy and Cracy
This post is my lesson to me for the week and maybe it will be handy for you. I’ve been trying to keep straight those 
 -archy and -cracy words. (I didn’t include monarchy because I’ve been straight about that one since I was 4 or so. Even baby boomers played princess.) These terms keep coming up in my reading, during conversations, and in my nightmares and I would like to be less vague about what they mean; become more certain that this is that one and that is this one. I went to the Oxford Online Dictionary and once or twice to Merriam Webster, talked to a super smart friend, and read some Carl Jung regarding “technocracy.” It’s been a long time since I’ve read Jung; I’m going to read the essay, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man” in full, soon. I need to know more about that. I chose mostly lightweight example sentences (provided by the OED and MW lexicographers) because there is such heaviness in the air these days. Speaking of air, did we (none of us did it, but) really have to shoot down that Syrian government jet? Really?
I have deliberately chosen a chaotic form for this post.
1978-Me at the Parthenon
Do you believe me?Really?
So. Here are the words I want to remember from now on. No more cloudy-headedness for me about these here terms!


            (forming nouns) denoting a type of rule or government, corresponding to nouns ending in -arch.‘monarchy’

Representing Greek arkh(e)ia ‘government, leadership’, formed as -arch: see -y.




            Denoting a particular form of government, rule, or influence.‘autocracy’‘democracy’
From French -cratie, via medieval Latin from Greek -kratia ‘power, rule’.


mass noun

            1A state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems.‘he must ensure public order in a country threatened with anarchy’
            2Absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal. autocracy

‘Or maybe Dr. Chaos really is the last hope of anarchy, and it's all a big lizard plot?’

Mid 16th century: via medieval Latin from Greek anarkhia, from anarkhos, from an- ‘without’ + arkhos ‘chief, ruler’.

mass noun

            1A system of government by one person with absolute power.                     
                        1.1 A state or society governed by one person with absolute power. ‘the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was an autocracy’

                        1.2 Domineering rule or control. ‘a boss who shifts between autocracy and consultation’

‘And as a form of social protest against autocracy and political tyranny, there is no medium that can surpass cartoons.’
Mid 17th century (in the sense ‘autonomy’): from Greek autokrateia, from autokratēs (see autocrat).


1. A small group of people having control of a country or organization.
‘the ruling oligarchy of military men around the president’

            1.1 A country governed by an oligarchy. ‘he believed that Britain was an oligarchy’

            1.2  mass noun Government by an oligarchy.

‘The city's artisans rebelled against the ruling oligarchy of merchants and nobles.’

Late 15th century: from Greek oligarkhia, from oligoi ‘few’ and arkhein ‘to rule’.


plural kleptocracies

         :  government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed; also :  a particular government of this kind
kleptocrat\ˈklep-tə-ˌkrat\ noun
kleptocratic\ˌklep-tə-ˈkra-tik\ adjective

from Ancient Greek (kléptēs, “thief”),  (kléptō, “steal”), from Proto-Indo-European*klep- (“to steal”); and from the Ancient Greek suffix -κρατία (-kratía), from (krátos, “power, rule”; klépto- thieves + -kratos rule, literally "rule by thieves")
Recent Examples of kleptocracy from the Web
         The move to consolidate the matters, involving allegations of kleptocracy of Ukrainian government funds, indicates that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is assuming a broad mandate in his new role running the sensational investigation.Associated Press, Fox News, "Special counsel's Trump campaign probe includes Manafort case", 2 June 2017
         Russia has been given many labels, from kleptocracy to Mafia state, but the most analytically helpful may be among the oldest: feudalism.Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, "Putin’s Shadow Cabinet and the Bridge to Crimea", 29 May 2017
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'kleptocracy'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors.

First Known Use of kleptocracy: 1819


mass noun

            1Government by the wealthy.

            1.1 A state or society governed by the wealthy.

            1.2  An elite or ruling class whose power derives from their wealth.

Mid 17th century: from Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos ‘wealth’ + kratos ‘strength, authority’.

‘Since most people don't want to admit out loud that they live in a plutocracy, successful politicians have, until now, worked hard to keep up an illusion.’



            1A system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

‘Unquestionably those good English zealots founded unforgiving theocracies on the soil of New England.’

Early 17th century: from Greek theokratia (see theo-, -cracy).


mass noun

            1A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

            1.1 A state governed under a system of democracy. ‘a multiparty democracy’
            1.2 Control of an organization or group by the majority of its members. ‘the intended extension of industrial democracy’

            1.3 The practice or principles of social equality. ‘demands for greater democracy’

‘The history of the world is a history of systems: monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, what you will.’

Late 16th century: from French démocratie, via late Latin from Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule’.


mass noun

            1The government or control of society or industry by an elite of technical experts.failure in the war on poverty discredited technocracy’
               1.1 An instance or application of technocracy.
               1.2 An elite of technical experts.

‘He argues that we live in a corporate oligarchy in which technocracies control technologies.’

Early 20th century: from Greek tekhnē ‘art, craft’ + -cracy.

timocracy (Bonus word for me—never heard this one before.)


            1A form of government in which possession of property is required in order to hold office.
            2A form of government in which rulers are motivated by ambition or love of honour.

‘These days we have moved on from a timocracy, but you'll still find plenty examples of the John Jay mentality here.’

Late 15th century: from Old French timocracie, via medieval Latin from Greek timokratia, from timē ‘honour, worth’ + -kratia ‘power’. timocracy (sense 1) reflects Aristotle's usage, timocracy (sense 2) Plato's.