Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Notes for a commonplace book (17)

Luc Sante:
The game may not be over, but its rules have irrevocably changed. The small has been consumed by the big, the poor have been evicted by the rich, the drifters are behind glass in museums. Everything that was once directly lived has moved away into representation. If the game is ever to resume, it will have to take on hitherto unimagined forms. It will have much larger walls to undermine, will be able to thrive only in the cracks that form in the ordered surfaces of the future. It is to be hoped, of course, that the surface is shattered by buffoonery and overreaching rather than war or disease, but there can be no guarantee. It may be that whatever escape routes the future offers will be shadowed by imminent extinction. Life, in any case, will flourish under threat. Utopias last five minutes, to the extent that they happen at all. There will never be a time when the wish for security does not lead to unconditional surrender. The history of Paris teaches us that beauty is a by-product of danger, that liberty is at best a consequence of neglect, that wisdom is entwined with decay. Any Paris of the future that is neither a frozen artifact nor an inhabited holding company will perforce involve fear, dirt, sloth, ruin, and accident. It will entail the continual experience of uncertainty, because the only certainty is death.
The Other Paris (2016)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Right to Left: When Company Comes

A seasonal song, sort of, in that many of us will be having company over the next few days. The short-lived band heard here, Right to Left, morphed into the Indiana incarnation of the Vulgar Boatmen. The singer is Dale Lawrence. Black Brittle Frisbee was a compilation album featuring various Indiana bands.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Notes for a commonplace book (16)

Luc Sante:
The occult forces in the city are always at work, indifferent to rationality, scornful of politics, resentful of urban planning, only intermittently sympathetic to the wishes of the living. They operate with a glacial slowness that renders their processes imperceptible to the mortal eye, so that the results appear uncanny. But much like the way stalagmites and stalactites grow in caves, such forces are actually the result of long passages of time, of buildup and wear-down so gradual no time-lapse camera could ever record them, but also so incrementally powerful they could never be duplicated by technology or any other human intent. Over the course of time they have worn grooves like fingerprints in the fabric of the city, so that ghostly impressions can remain even of streets and corners and cul-de-sacs obliterated by bureaucrats, and they have created zones of affinity that are independent of administrative divisions and cannot always be explained by ordinary means.
The Other Paris (2016)

Leonard Lopate's radio interview with Luc Sante is available here, and below is a representative chanson by Damia (Marie-Louise Damien), mentioned in the book.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Vulgar Boatmen Update

Time Change Records in Indiana has just released a 25th-anniversary remastering of the Vulgar Boatmen's You and Your Sister. The Indiana incarnation of the Boatmen, led by Dale Lawrence, has been making a few appearances to coincide with the re-issue.

This CD version includes three bonus tracks, of which the keeper is the spunky "Nobody's Business." I don't think there are any available videos directly associated with this release, but below are two favorite Boatmen tracks, the first [no longer available] from an earlier CD release of You and Your Sister, the second from their subsequent album, Please Panic. The lead vocalist on the former, if I'm not mistaken, is Robert Ray; on the latter it's Dale Lawrence.

Previous Vulgar Boatmen-related posts:

Mary Jane
We Can Figure This Out
The Boatmen, Rowing On

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Note: This post has been updated (September 2019) based on new information from the family. See new post for a photo of Alexandra's sister Marie. Thanks, JH.

According to the inscription below the image, the subject of this carte de visite was named Alexandra Marie Fulton de Lipowski. The photograph was taken in 1887 by the studio of Photographie Prost, also known as Bruant, in Meaux, a bit east of Paris.

The young woman can fairly safely be identified as the daughter of Gen. Ernest de Lipowski (1843-1904), a French military officer who served with distinction in the Franco-Prussian War. His daughter Alexandra was born on May 28th, 1874, and thus would have been twelve or thirteen at the time this photograph was taken. Her mother, Marie Eggerickx, died in 1875, and her father remarried a year later, to an English woman named Marianne Eastwood. Alexandra Marie (she also went by Alexandra Mary) eventually married a prominent French architect, Charles Blondel (not to be confused with the more famous psychologist of the same name), who died in 1912, and then married one François Geanty five years later. She died in 1971.

Ernest de Lipowski (more fully Joseph Antoine Ernest, Comte de Lipowski) was a French-born descendant of Polish aristocracy, though one document suggests that his parents had at some point resided in Spain. In October 1870, he commanded a unit of French francs-tireurs that temporarily held off a much larger force of German infantry at Châteaudun, and for his service he was made a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. Towards the end of his life he served in the Russian Army.

De Lipowski's career was evidently distinguished, but it wasn't entirely without stain. In 1873 or 1874 he was fined and sentenced to a month in prison for escroquerie — a type of fraud. The gist of the accusation seems to be that he traded on his laurels (and perhaps on assurances of a fortune he did not in fact possess) to run up debts he didn't intend to pay off.

The whole affair strikes me, frankly, as a bit odd. Légion d'honneur archives preserved in the Base Léonore contain various documents related to the matter, most of them written longhand and with elaborate formality by various functionaries of the French government. Several of the documents suggest that de Lipowski was at least temporarily stripped of his title in the Légion d'honneur (and perhaps of his pension as well) as a result of his conviction, yet by 1880 he had ascended to the higher rank of officier in the Légion. Whatever it was all about, it appears to have eventually blown over. There is a bust of de Lipowski surmounting his tomb in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.

Below: From the Base Léonore, the 1873 judgment against Ernest de Lipowski, his death notice from 1904, and a mention of Alexandra's marriage in 1901.

Friday, December 11, 2015