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.

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Organized Lightning

“Electricity is really just organized lightning”
― George Carlin

Beltline Road and the Glenville Bicycle Trail, Richardson, Texas

Along my drive to work there is, as there always is, a line of giant electrical distribution towers. Over the past few months, I have watched them replace the towers with even larger and higher towers. Twice a day I was treated with a show of technology while this operation proceeded step by step.

They did this without disturbing the wires. First they poured huge round foundations near the old towers. Jutting out of the concrete were rings of heavy bolts. The new towers went in – placed in multiple sections lifted by a crane. Modern crane operators cans sling these massive cylinders of galvanized steel around like they were chopsticks.

Once the new towers were in place, the wires from the old ones were moved over. I didn’t see this – it happened while I was at work. I assume the transfer was done hot – with untold thousands of volts coursing through the conductors. Think about that – a miracle taking place above your head while you only gripe about the traffic delay caused by a closed lane keeping you away from the danger.

Only then were the old towers sliced with a torch and removed.

The stubs are still there – I’ll keep an eye out for how they disappear.

The Most Powerfully Advertised Commercial Product of This Century

“The ambiguous role of the car crash needs no elaboration—apart from our own deaths, the car crash is probably the most dramatic event in our lives, and in many cases the two will coincide. Aside from the fact that we generally own or are at the controls of the crashing vehicle, the car crash differs from other disasters in that it involves the most powerfully advertised commercial product of this century, an iconic entity that combines the elements of speed, power, dream and freedom within a highly stylized format that defuses any fears we may have of the inherent dangers of these violent and unstable machines.”
― J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition

Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

Invasion Car Show, 2015

Cisco and Generac in Frisco

“I am somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure Of The Dying Detective

Sculpture by Mac Whitney, Cisco
Emergency Generator by Generac
Frisco, Texas

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Cicso, by Mac Whitney, Frisco, Texas

Cicso, by Mac Whitney, Frisco, Texas

“Invention is the most important product of man’s creative brain. The ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of human nature to human needs.”
― Nikola Tesla, My Inventions

Cisco, by Mac Whitney, Frisco, Texas

Cisco, by Mac Whitney, Frisco, Texas

“Is it a fact – or have I dreamt it – that, by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time?”
― Nathaniel Hawthorne