Frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command:

all I need is my Shelley book and my bra.

Source: Edward H. Hart, “USS Massachusetts, Figure of Victory,” between 1896 and 1901. Sculpture by Bela Lyon Pratt. Detroit Publishing Company Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994013876/PP/. Photoshopped.

Last gleaming: a date changes a connotation

I’m not going to state a source for this image. It probably wasn’t original to the site where I found it,  and the site itself is a fetish blog mostly devoted to Third Reich militaria.

The blogger has contributed one detail, however:  a caption which lovingly specifies the model of the bayoneted American shotgun held in the man’s hands. But that love isn’t of a kind to take in the man himself or the date on the wall with which he (or somebody who spoke the language of his epoch) once attempted to signify the expression on his face.

It’s an expression which now comes to us time-stamped with an expiration date: “44.” The meaning of the date changed as World War II slipped into history from the zone of the immediate, but for the date itself the process of aging has been slowed by its embracing quotation marks. Those functioned then as they function now: to communicate a sense of intimacy with their reader, as in

Source: “The ‘Blog’ of ‘Unnecessary’ Quotation Marks,” http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com

In the past seventy years, the history of language hasn’t changed folk punctuation, but the history of the body may have imposed changes on the expressive nature of intimacy itself. In 1944, the date on the wall could have been interpreted as a subject for which the smile on the man’s face was the predicate. Subject and predicate, the completed sentence could have communicated a proposal for action on the level of culture itself: “Together, you and I and all of us, let’s defend.” Seventy years later, however, the smile on the man’s face has been taken private. Now it seems to mean only something like:

“Maybe I own a hedge fund and maybe I don’t. But you’d better believe I do. “

The idea of history as a picture of the no longer there

In this image, Google Maps has followed its standard practice and blurred out identifying information, such as the license number on the truck in the foreground and the address on the ambulance in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant. The address of the restaurant itself is 1180 South King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

But to music history, all there is in the image is a different building which once was tagged with the same geocoordinates.  Demolished now, blurred out in its entirety and absorbed into the idea of history,  that building was the home of Territorial Sporting Arms: the enterprise where Mark Chapman bought the pistol with which he killed John Lennon.

Things remembered: two footnotes

* Era

Bounded by soft dusty curtains on either side of their narrow screen, the characters in a 1940s movie modify daylight in a 1940s way. On its 1940s emulsion, daylight’s world is an office where light is split by venetian blinds into shards of black and white. It is all hard. It is the seen, only. It is unequivocal. But at night, in night’s club, other senses join sight and uncase their equivocation equipment: saxophones, voices habited in clouds of cigarette smoke, the single combined smell of smoke and whiskey and the memory name of Kreml hair tonic.

 

* Trophy

Men seeking memories walked into the forest of the animals, who cannot know a past. Once they were present among the unspeaking animals they went silent, raised their rifles to their shoulders, and blasted the animals to death. Then they picked up the dead, had them formaldehyded, carried them into their dwellings, and hung them on interior walls. The idea was that the men’s sons would look at them in later years, speak of them, and in that way bring their fathers’ memories back to life.