Son Excellence Eugène Rougon

“He [Eugène Rougon] believed exclusively in himself; where another saw reasons, Rougon possessed convictions; he subordinated everything to the incessant aggrandisement of his own ego. Despite being utterly devoid of real self-indulgence, he nevertheless indulged in secret orgies of supreme power.”
― Émile Zola, His Excellency

Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, real life basis for Clorinde Balbi, from the book His Excellency, by Emile Zola

I just finished another book in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart cycle. This one was Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (His Excellency, in English). This was the sixth book written, but the second one in the recommended order – that I am following. The book was excellent (even though I was reading an inferior translation) although I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book The Fortune of the Rougons.

The book is a finely-drawn portrait of the highest reaches of power during France’s Second Empire. It follows the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise of Eugène Rougon – a power mad politician and one of the branches of the Rougon trunk of the Rougon-Macquart family that spreads across the twenty novels. Rougon has a diverse crew of hangers-on that depend on his influence for their ill-gotten gains – but are more than ready to throw him under the bus at any time.

His main rival is Clorinde Balbi – a young, beautiful ambitious woman that is forced to depend on her own skills and machinations – all behind the scenes – to advance her own cause and bring her revenge upon Rougon – who rejects her and marries her off to one of his friends. She is by far the most interesting character in the novel – a woman before her time doing the best she can. Still, the novel is more of a portrait of an age and place than a gripping story – its one weakness is that none of the characters are really worth caring about. I am glad I read it, though – it does a great job of transporting the reader to an exotic time and place – one that in its corruption and grubbing for power is still frighteningly familiar.

I finished the book on vacation, on a Caribbean cruise. The last few pages were turned (more accurately clicked – I was reading on a Kindle) lounging on a remote uncrowded deck, while the turquoise waves rumbled past. Reading on vacation seems like a waste of precious leisure time, but I enjoy it immensely. What could be better than being in one exotic location (on a ship at sea) and being transported to another – Paris in the Second Empire?

Now, on the the next, La Curée (The Kill). This one looks especially good.

A-Hole in One

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”
― Winston S. Churchill

Oblique Strategy: Always give yourself credit for having more than personality

On our bicycle tour of The Cedars Open Studios we stopped at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, The MAC. The gallery is undergoing extensive construction after its move from McKinney Avenue to The Cedars. But outside, there was a very interesting, fun, and cool installation, an interactive performance – A-Hole in One. The artist, Angel Cabrales, had set up a number of large carpeted outlines of various strategic countries across a vacant lot. The participant/observer would then take a wooden sculpture of a gun, equipped with a battery powered fan, and shoot golf balls out at the targets/countries.

From the artist:

A-Hole in One examines current political events and perceived societal norms through a consumable and familiar format: golf.

In a time when executive decisions regarding the fate of global politics appear to be determined on the golf course, Cabrales invites the viewer to hold this very power in their own hands. The MAC’s outdoor space will be staged as Cabrales’ ‘global’ golfing green, complete with golf greens and golf holes, where viewers can ‘play a round’ and inform the world of important decisions by way of random tweets. Golf equipment is provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their mobile phones and download the Twitter app.

A-Hole in One, The MAC

A-Hole in One, The MAC, if you look closely, you can see the blue golf ball travelling dowrange

A-Hole in One, The MAC

What I learned this week, January 18, 2013

Earlier this year, I saw the new Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom and really liked it.

moonrise_kingdom

Now that it has received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, Focus Pictures has made the entire script available on their website. Check it out – it’s illustrated and colorful and a lot of fun.

It’s also available in PDF here.


 

babes1

30 Essential Texas Restaurants to Visit Before You Die

I’ve eaten at over half of these (including Babes Chicken Dinner House). I was not overly impressed by the list. Most of these restaurants are not very good – they are touristy and over-hyped. They probably were excellent at one time but have jumped the shark and now exist as a caricature of themselves. Some may be excellent, such as, say, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, or Fearing’s  but these are so famous you don’t really need an article to tell you that.

Give me an interesting new place over these hoary old chestnuts anyday.



Life After Blue

At the heart of the enduring liberal ideal is a truth that is often forgotten in today’s political debates: the relationship between order and liberty does not have to be zero sum. More government can mean less freedom, and more freedom can mean less government—but things don’t always work out that way.

At one level this is obvious; people don’t so much surrender their liberty by forming a government and agreeing to live in an ordered society as they defend it. Life in an anarchy governed only by the law of the jungle is less free than life as a member of a democratic commonwealth. But this non-zero sum relationship holds in other ways. To have the freedom to drive at 65 miles per hour on an interstate highway, I must accept a lot of rules and restrictions. But the end result of all the requirements about driver’s licenses, insurance, registration and traffic laws is that I can go much faster and farther than I could in a state of nature. There is more order and more liberty in a modern industrial democracy than there is in the forest where our ancestors lived.

The secret of Anglo-American civilization has been its ability to combine the two elements of order and liberty at successively higher levels of both. To think constructively about our future we shouldn’t be thinking about a zero sum tradeoff between order and freedom; we should be thinking about how to build the kind of order that extends our liberty in new and important ways.



bike love: feels like flying


What I learned this week, September, 29, 2011

Russell Blake – On Editing

The ease with which the self-publishing platforms now enable aspiring writers to upload their work is mind-boggling. The only thing standing between you and being on Amazon are a few mouse clicks. Gone is virtually the entire delivery system that defined the traditional publishing business for generations. Trees don’t need to be sawed down, trucks don’t need to go to and from warehouses filled with freshly printed books, stores don’t need to occupy valuable space that could house another Starbucks or fast food joint. It’s a brave new world we’re writing in; the old rules are dead and the sky’s the limit.

(read the whole thing)



I have this continuing fascination with Food Trucks. One of the interesting aspects is the battle with City Hall and the struggle for permitting and permission. You would think that you could drive where you wanted and sell sandwiches. Nope.

Even when the city likes something, it sets up barriers. And charges fees.

Dallas City Hall Likes Food Trucks


Why does the Good Life End?

by Victor David Hansen

Redistribution of wealth rather than emphasis on its creation is surely a symptom of aging societies.



What Should I Do with the Cables, CDs, and Accessories that Come with My Gadgets?

Great Ideas, from Lifehacker


My camera is fixed! If you need repairs or other work on your digital cameras – I highly recommend Archinal Camera Repair. It is located in an old storefront in old Downtown Richardson.

It isn’t cheap – repairing complex electronics and delicate mechanical devices never is – but they do good work and are pleasant to deal with.

Archinal Camera Repair on Beltline Road in Downtown Richardson


from The Telegraph
 
  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
  • The Long Goodby by Raymond Chandler
  • Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson
  • Give Us a Kiss by Daniel Woodrell

Do you remember this song from “Kill Bill”? It was originally done by Cher, and was written by Sonny Bono.