Author: Martin

XXXI. memories

Like a commute, a Renaissance garden is a buffer between outer landscape and internal living: outside and inside, departure and arrival. A good commute would be like the Piccolomini Palace garden in Pienza. Opposite me a young man’s neck cranes down to his phone. His ears are covered by green metallic headphones. His perception is limited. His breathing oscillates. An excited crescendo is followed by a sigh. He leans forward sometimes and his stale breath enters my range of olfactory perception. The fold-out bikers coalesce into a peloton on Whidborne Street. It is not safe to cross the road until they pass. A man in a grey tracksuit and a woman by the window argue. He has a can of Red Bull on his table. His black training shoes are immaculately black. He is probably forty years old. The argument pauses. He asks me whether they are in the right carriage to King’s Cross. Two men at Starbucks talk about God. “I know I should be praying” says the one wearing a light beige coat, …

XXX. frayed

A watch of nightingales, a kit of pigeons, an abandon of thoughts. The equivalent of grinding lenses today? What would Spinoza do? Code? The computer is our primary optical device, a  telescope of sorts. People are stuck to them as they walk around. Activity behind me that I cannot see. She was penciling her face when I walked past to sit one row in front. Now she must be packing her face-colours away. Breakfast wrappers uncrinkle audibly. In a pink shirt he reads something about Manchester United in large font on a Samsung phone, his blue bag so frayed you wouldn’t keep it unless attachment to it was a carelessly formed habit, like chewing fingernails, which he does too. The train is full after three stops and the driver’s young voice announces another unscheduled stop at Welwyn Garden City. His fair hair matches a Sainsbury’s bag. Blue pullover, blue shirt. He is studying Japanese with a frayed exercise book. Yesterday between Farringdon and St. Pancras two men talked about a younger colleague at work: I …

Notes on balance

The contest is over for the players, but not for the camera professionals and commentators. The spectator is presented with portraits of joy, relief, agony. Zoom to a clutch of players: all hands to heads. All the evidence is in and the critics make their case. Preparation? Lax. Leadership? Too relaxed. The team? Undisciplined. Would-be heroes had spent too much time nurturing their second-curve careers in fashion and idleness. For almond trees, poor soil [is preferable], for if the soil is deep and rich, the trees experience an exuberance [hubris] because of all the good nutrition, and they stop bearing fruit [a-karpeîn]. Theophrastus About the aetiologies of plants 2.16.8, trans. Nagy. A headstrong defender presents himself for interview, shirtless, tired, bare. He scratches his head as he delivers his analysis. It’s very, very difficult to express the situation in words. We believed in ourselves until the end, even after first goal against us we were looking to turn the game around, but just couldn’t find the goal, none of us could. We had the opportunities. I should have scored when I had …

Notes on a goal

It is the last possible moment. He stands away from the ball at an angle, his back arched, his elbows pointing outwards, his head extending forwards, his feet aligned, right in front of left in a line that ends at Reus. The replay is available from twelve camera angles. The moment is a few seconds long. This is sport in condensed form, thick and full. If a work of art is something you don’t get tired of then a replay could hang looping on a screen next to a Rothko and I think I know what I’d spend more time looking at. Am I making too much of this? It’s a game. These seconds are unimportant outside the game. Yes, but isn’t that always true? 63. If we imagine the facts otherwise than as they are, certain language-games lose some of their importance, while others become important. And in this way there is an alteration — a gradual one — in the use of the vocabulary of a language. 64. Compare the meaning of a …

XXIX. balls & bugs

“The signaler tried to terminate us early at the last station.” A new reason for a morning’s train delay. Illusions become stale. Once you’ve seen the Müller-Lyer arrows they won’t fool you again. Psychologists may at some point in the future run out of illusions to illustrate the mind’s foibles. Follow simple rules and study the effect. For example, take a deep breath before you use an electronic device. What happens? Most of us become obsessed with work at some point. How many calories are channeled into corporate endeavours? There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state — Karl Marx? They pull out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories and minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, …

XXVIII. progress?

A bulky man in a jacket wears a gold watch and brown suede slippers. The lowest button of his jacket is done up in spite of his girth and the rules. Good rules are based on good stories. The story for the button rule is that Edward VII became so fat he couldn’t do up the last button on his waistcoat. In solidarity members of the court all set their last button free. This jacket is cream, beige, green with an orange square pattern. Two North Americans: He is wide, bulky with a Mammut jacket over a checked business shirt. His attention is focused on his phone. His wife is bored. He shakes his legs like a novice poker player excited by a mad bluff. The woman is slender, thin, younger looking. Her ears sport two large pearl earrings, her ring fingers carry jewel-studded rings. She is looking at her phone as well, but it is not the greedy look of the man. She has no choice. He is not paying her any attention and the …

XXVII. cire perdue

Between Coulsdon and Redhill from the train I saw decommissioned red telephone boxes stand close together in the cold weather. What makes the prospect of death distinctive in the modern age is the background of permanent technological and sociological revolution against which it is set, and which serves to strip us of any possible faith in the permanence of our labours. Our ancestors could believe that their achievements had a chance of bearing up against the flow of events. We know time to be a hurricane. Our buildings, our sense of style, our ideas, all of these will soon enough be anachronisms, and the machines in which we now take inordinate pride will seem no less bathetic than Yorick’s skull. The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Alain de Botton Perched by the window on a plane due to fly from Munich to London is a well-suited man with hair combed back from a widow’s peak who dominates more than the space he has paid for, V-legged, but one row behind the edge of alpha-class, where …