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February 09, 2008


runner.jpg [photo: "Athletes"] Aesthetics begins in the body. Is that why running is so ugly? Is that why running makes beautiful people temporarily ugly?

It is ugly, but not necessarily pointless; it makes people ugly but admirable. Running may be necessary, healthy or fulfilling to the runner, and it may be exciting to watch, but it is not a beautiful action nor does running ever make anyone look beautiful. Evolution did not design us to run efficiently. That must be one reason why beauty dissolves in the heat of the race. Stillness, by contrast, seems almost intrinsically enhancing to a person and their face.

The association of stillness with beauty and authenticity has always been an established truth for advocates of neo-classical ideals. The idea dates back at least to Winckelmann, who in his writings on Greek sculpture, praised the "noble simplicity and sedate grandeur" ("eine edle Einfalt, und eine stille Grösse") of ancient art. The "more tranquillity reigns in a body", Winckelmann argued, "the fitter it is to draw the true character of the soul; which, in every excessive gesture, seems to rush from her proper centre, and being hurried away [by] extremes becomes unnatural."

Perhaps this is the secret of dance? It is the gravity-dominated baseness of all running sublimated into an illusion of weightless stasis as the dancer seems to hang impossibly and forever in mid-air, drawing the true character of what we once called the soul.

Posted by njenkins at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2008


primrose.jpg This morning, "Super Tuesday", there were drops of water, melted frost, clinging to the puckered skins of the oranges on our neighborhood's fruit trees. I noticed this as I walked to my polling station, my selection of music on the iPod blasting in my ears, Berlioz's Harold in Italy -- the version recorded by Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony in late November 1944. (This was just as the Wehrmacht prepared to launch its "Herbstnebel" counteroffensive. The Battle of the Bulge was about to erupt.) The recording's soloist on viola is the storied William Primrose who enraptured the cold air for me a lifetime later as he sawed delicately and passionately away with his bow on the expensive piece of wood to which he was so attached.

Posted by njenkins at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2008

a super tuesday not a good friday

Tomorrow, in the Democratic Presidential primary in California, I shall eligible to vote for the first time in the United States. (Indeed, if memory serves, I shall, shamefully, be voting for the first time in my life.)

In spite of all the horrors, tragedies and disasters which occur day by day in this country, I think it is impossible, at least for a European, not to feel that this place is still a work-in-progress in a way in which Europe is fundamentally not. And for that reason, and even while acknowledging that the course of history is not simply about individuals or the sum of election results, it just isn't possible for me to feel cynical about tomorrow's events. It has something to do with having a family; it has something to do with wanting to hope.

For a clue about how I shall be casting my first vote in the Presidential primary, check out this video:

As of this writing, this youtube.com version alone (one of many) has been viewed well over half a million times. For the full screen original, with credits and production details, visit DipDive.

Whatever happens, make sure you have a great day.

Posted by njenkins at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2008


cut_lemon.jpg [lemon image courtesy of WP Clipart] At 7.30 am this morning, in a moody kind of fugue state, I was in the kitchen gazing blankly at the type on the side of a carton of lemonade. Then, as a complete phrase, the words "Epitaph for a Lemon", like the title of a poem, welled up into my consciousness. I focussed on what the words on the box said. -- "This juice has been squeezed and packed in a state-of-the-art processing facility." Then, because one thing leads to another in the mind, I remember (I haven't looked it up; I could be wrong) what Balanchine said after he had visited a very sick Stravinsky: "God has not finished squeezing this lemon yet." And I shivered.

Posted by njenkins at 08:15 PM | Comments (0)

With the exception of the interspersed quotations, all writing © 2007-10 by Nicholas Jenkins [back]