How to stop running if you hate it so much

Reverse of this real story in the WAPO. I mean, really.

When companies/governments go quiet about their so-called ESG efforts, whether it’s investing or actually taking steps to reduce their carbon print(s), to avoid criticism and backlash well, you know we are once again through the looking glass:

The phenomenon, known as green hushing, has become pervasive even as businesses set more ambitious internal targets, according to a survey by South Pole, a climate consultancy and carbon offsets developer.
South Pole surveyed 1,200 large companies from 12 different countries, all of which have set net-zero targets and more than two-thirds of which identify as “heavy emitters.” It found that although a majority of companies have set science-based targets to help them deliver on their commitments, 23% “don’t plan to publicize” them.
The findings suggest that the stigma of so-called greenwashing, where a company exaggerates its green credentials, is so feared that executives will do anything to avoid being accused of it. Being labeled a greenwasher brings with it reputational harm, financial damage and, increasingly, the scrutiny of regulators. And once tainted by such allegations, companies can struggle to resurrect their reputations.

But green hushing also comes at a cost, South Pole said.
“More than ever we need the companies making progress on sustainability to inspire their peers to make a start,” said Renat Heuberger, chief executive and co-founder of South Pole. “This is impossible if progress is happening in silence.”

So, it’s a preemptive PR move, if that makes you feel any better (Ed: it doesn’t). But it does remind us who/what companies serve first – their reputations. If everything is done for optics, what are we ultimately looking at? Much less seeing. We do well to keep this in mind across many contexts – which news stories, politicians, examples of corruption, coups d’etat get more play – all are choices. There’s nothing celestial about which news makes headlines. Someone decided.

It’s much the same with these companies who decide that ‘being quiet about it’ is just another tool in their climate tool box. People and planet need confirmation, verification, allies, and affirmation.

Apologies to Dylan Thomas but Do not go quiet into that good night,

What does Henry Green mean?

h-greenGetting back to our actual life, I’ll be reading “Concluding” now and finding out more about this now-obscure mid-century wonder:

At the time, Green was in his late forties and the author of nine novels, including “Living,” “Party Going,” and “Loving,” and a memoir, “Pack My Bag.” His stock was high among fellow-writers. In a 1952 Life profile, W. H. Auden was quoted calling him “the best English novelist alive.” The following year, T. S. Eliot, talking to the Times, cited Green’s novels as proof that the “creative advance in our age is in prose fiction.” But Green had never been a popular success. In 1930, Evelyn Waugh had reviewed “Living,” Green’s novel about Birmingham factory life, under the headline “A Neglected Masterpiece.” It was the first of several dozen articles that bemoaned Green’s lack of acceptance and helped bind his name as closely to the epithet “neglected” as Pallas Athena is to “bright-eyed.”

Waugh blamed philistine book reviewers, but he knew that Green’s image hadn’t helped. “From motives inscrutable to his friends, the author of Living chooses to publish his work under a pseudonym of peculiar drabness,” he wrote. Green was born Henry Vincent Yorke, to a prominent Gloucestershire family, and he worked as the managing director of H Pontifex & Sons Ltd., a manufacturing company purchased by his grandfather; he presented himself as a Sunday writer. (Where other novelists might serve as secretary of pen, Green did a stint as chairman of the British Chemical Plant Manufacturers’ Association.) He claimed that he wrote under an assumed name in order to hide his writing from colleagues and associates. The Life profile, “The Double Life of Henry Green,” had the subtitle “The ‘secret’ vice of a top British industrialist is writing some of Britain’s best novels.” But Green’s first book, “Blindness,” was published in 1926, while he was at Oxford, and a desire for privacy characterized much of his behavior. After a certain point, he refused to have his portrait taken. Dundy had first recognized him from a Cecil Beaton photograph that showed only the back of his head.

As a fan of Auden, I take the above characterization with great seriousness. The undermining of omniscience on the part of the narrator is also serious business, to which I will attend.



Alice WThe great American novelist and poet Alice Walker was in town the last two days, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at her public event last night at the Morton Theatre. It was a conversation with a great and generous soul, who reminded us to be kind, generous, curious and grateful to the wonder of which we are all a part, and to which we are ever-present witnesses. She instructed us to read, read, read, and to be aware of all that we allow into our consciousness via the invasive nature of electronic and broadcast media. We should be mindful of our ancestors and their suffering, because of which we should work to alleviate all suffering that we are aware of and encounter. Truly amazing and inspiring. She even read a couple of pages of dialogue between Shug and Celie talking about God from The Color Purple. I hope your Thursday night was good, too.

But here, I’ll share a poem from her website [yes, she blogs]. This is The Future Captured in A Heartless Fist by Alice Walker:

Somehow it is left to us

This most hopeful of generations

To bear

The unbearable.

We do not need to have given birth

To the children

Who are being destroyed

To know they are our children

Not only in the present and the past

But certainly in the future.

All children are connected at birth

To all the others ever to arrive.

Their faces turned upward

Toward the parents all grown-ups were meant to be.

How can you separate your child

From mine?

Little one, they have captured you

And placed you in a cage.

What are we to make of this?

Are we supposed to see you

As an animal?

Though animals also do not deserve

This fate.

Are we supposed to think

That you are, at five years old,

Already a “terrorist”?

Are we to believe you deserve

To stand alone in this tiny jail

Obviously constructed with you in mind

While grownups stand around

And frighten you?

Who paid for this cage


Whose taxes?

Whose labor?

Whose sweat?

Little One,

You are Palestinian

You are also Earthling,

You are Every Child.

By most humans of this planet

You are beloved.

But in this moment,

So hard to own

As what any parent or grownup


Could desire or wish

You are The Future

Captured in a heartless


Image from last night, stolen without permission from fB.


Translating what one person says in the same language in which they said it can be difficult enough. One language to another can be very tricky; crossing languages with poetry can be outright criminal.

One of our favorites, Vladimir Nabokov, published a translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin into English in 1964 (later revised, 1975). The publication literally ended his long friendship with the great Edmund Wilson, who took the great novelist to task in the pages of the New York Review of Books, a deed Nabokov never forgave.

As great as such literary skirmishes can be (as well how far away they can seem, as though from a misty past on some faraway planet), the challenge itself of translation stands rude, even obdurate. Here is Nabokov’s translation of the first stanza of chapter one of Pushkin’s novel in verse, Onegin:

“My uncle has most honest principles:

when taken ill in earnest,

he has made one respect him

and nothing better could invent.

To others his example is a lesson;

but, good God, what a bore

to sit by a sick man both day and night,

without moving a step away!

What base perfidiousness

the half-alive one to amuse,

adjust for him the pillows,

sadly present the medicine,

sigh — and think inwardly

when will the devil take you?”

Now here’s another translation of the same section by Walter Arendt:

“Now that he is in grave condition,

My uncle, decorous old dunce,

Has won respectful recognition;

And done the perfect thing for once.

His action be a guide to others;

But what a bore, I ask you, brothers,

To tend a patient night and day

And venture not a step away:

Is there hypocracy more glaring

Than to amuse one all but dead,

Shake up the pillow for his head,

Dose him with melancholy bearing,

And think behind a public sigh:

‘Duce take you, step on it and die!'”

Words for thought, nourishment for the hungry. And you can still buy Nabokov’s translation. So take that, Mr. W.

Image: Portrait of Aleksander Pushkin by Orest Admovich Kiprensky. Oil on canvas, 1827.

The larger curve

I love this stuff. From Henry David Thoreau‘s Journal, July 18, 1851:

Here I am thirty-four years old, and yet my life is almost wholly unexpanded. How much is in the germ! There is such an interval between my ideal and the actual in many instances that I may say I am unborn. There is the instinct for society, but no society. Life is not long enough for one success. Within another thirty-four years that miracle can hardly take place. Methinks my seasons revolve more slowly than those of nature; I am differently timed. I am contented. This rapid revolution of nature, even of nature in me, why should it hurry me? Let a man step to the music which he hears, however measured. Is it important that I should mature as soon as an apple tree? aye, as soon as an oak? May not my life in nature, in proportion as it is supernatural, be only the spring and infantile portion of my spirit’s life? Shall I turn my spring to summer? May I not sacrifice a hasty and petty completeness here to entireness there? If my curve is large, why bend it to a smaller circle? My spirit’s unfolding observes not the pace of nature. The society which I was made for is not here. Shall I, then, substitute for the anticipation of that this poor reality? I would [rather] have the unmixed expectation of that than this reality. If life is a waiting, so be it. I will not be shipwrecked on a vain reality. What were any reality which I can substitute? Shall I with pains erect a heaven of blue glass over myself, though when it is done I shall be sure to gaze still on the true ethereal heaven far above, as if the former were not, – that still distant sky o’er-arching that blue expressive eye of heaven? I am enamored of the blue-eyed arch of heaven.

May your Neck be Hung with the Beads of Various Gods

marquezI wanted to put this up in memoriam, but I had to find the book first. I finally did. Of Love and Other Demons isn’t one of the big ones, but it’s great nonetheless. To wit:

One morning, during a late rainstorm and under the sign of Sagittarius, Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles was born, premature and puny. She looked like a bleached tadpole, and the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck was strangling her.

“It’s a girl,” said the midwife. “But it won’t live.”

That was when Dominga de Aviento promised her saints that if they granted the girl the grace of life, her hair would not be cut until her wedding night. No sooner had she made the promise than the girl began to cry. Dominga de Adviento sang out in jubilation: “She will be a saint!” The Marquis, who saw her for the first time when she was bathed and dressed, was less prescient.

“She will be a whore,” he said. “If God gives her life and health.”

The girl, daughter of an aristocrat and a commoner, had the childhood of a fondling. Her mother hated her from the moment she nursed her for the first and only time, and the refused to keep the baby with her for fear she would kill her. Dominga de Adviento suckled her, baptized her in Christ, and consecrated her to Olokun, a Yoruban deity of indeterminate sex whose face is presumed to be so dreadful it is seen only in dreams, and always hidden by a mask. Transplanted to the courtyard of the slaves, Sierva Maria learned to dance before she could speak, learned three African languages at the same time, learned to drink rooster’s blood before breakfast and to glide past Christians unseen and unheard, like an incorporeal being. Dominga de Adviento surrounded her with a jubilant court of black slave women, mestiza maids, and Indian errand girls, who bathed her propitiatory waters, purified her with the verbena of Yemaya, and tended the torrent of hair, which fell to her waist by the time she was five, as if it were a rosebush. Over time the slave women hung the beads of various gods around her neck, until she was wearing sixtenn necklaces.

Thank you, dear Sir. Safe travels.

Old Bull Lee

JunkieOn the 100th anniversary of his birth (Feb. 5), Will Self in the Guardian pulls Uncle Bill back down off the shelf:

Burroughs makes of the hypodermic a microscope, through which he can examine the soul of man under late 20th-century capitalism.

That’s all the way at the end. But Self gets there with a nice rendition about Junky, originally published as you see here as a Two Book in One for 35 cents, complete with Nom de Plume.

Begin with an Individual

Today is the birthdate of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, born in 1896, whom I have always held in dear affection and esteem.

Here’s an excerpt from The Rich Boy (1926), which has that quote that is so well-known, and by which we may feel we know him well and may well even believe he knows us, as well as so many other things. Thanks, Francis:

There are no types, no plurals. There is a rich boy, and this is his and not his brothers’ story. All my life I have lived among his brothers but this one has been my friend. Besides, if I wrote about his brothers I should have to begin by attacking all the lies that the poor have told about the rich and the rich have told about themselves — such a wild structure they have erected that when we pick up a book about the rich, some instinct prepares us for unreality. Even the intelligent and impassioned reporters of life have made the country of the rich as unreal as fairy-land.

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different. The only way I can describe young Anson Hunter is to approach him as if he were a foreigner and cling stubbornly to my point of view. If I accept his for a moment I am lost — I have nothing to show but a preposterous movie.

A Great American

James Arthur Baldwin, born today in 1924. He hit the jackpot all right, and handed the winnings directly over to us.

Every Man is aware

On the 99th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, an excerpt from Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front:

We wake up in the middle of the night. The earth booms. Heavy fire is falling on us. We crouch into corners. We distinguish shells of every calibre.

Each man lays hold of his things and looks again every minute to reassure himself that they are still there. The dug-out heaves, the night roars and flashes. We look at each other in the momentary flashes of light, and with pale faces and pressed lips shake our heads.

Every man is aware of the heavy shells tearing down the parapet, rooting up the embankment and demolishing the upper layers of concrete. When a shell lands in the trench we note bow the hollow, furious blast is like a blow from the paw of a raging beast of prey. Already by morning a few of the recruits are green and vomiting. They are too inexperienced….

The bombardment does not diminish. It is falling in the rear too. As far as one can see spout fountains of mud and iron. A wide belt is being raked.

The attack does not come, but the bombardment continues. We are gradually benumbed. Hardly a man speaks. We cannot make ourselves understood.

Our trench is almost gone. At many places it is only eighteen inches high, it is broken by holes, and craters, and mountains of earth. A shell lands square in front of our post. At once it is dark. We are buried and must dig ourselves out….

Towards morning, while it is still dark, there is some excitement. Through the entrance rushes in a swarm of fleeing rats that try to storm the walls. Torches light up the confusion. Everyone yells and curses and slaughters. The madness and despair of many hours unloads itself in this outburst. Faces are distorted, arms strike out, the beasts scream; we just stop in time to avoid attacking one another….

Suddenly it howls and flashes terrifically, the dug-out cracks in all its joints under a direct hit, fortunately only a light one that the concrete blocks are able to withstand. It rings metallically, the walls reel, rifles, helmets, earth, mud, and dust fly everywhere. Sulphur fumes pour in.

If we were in one of those light dug-outs that they have been building lately instead of this deeper one, none of us would be alive.

But the effect is bad enough even so. The recruit starts to rave again and two others follow suit. One jumps up and rushes out, we have trouble with the other two. I start after the one who escapes and wonder whether to shoot him in the leg-then it shrieks again, I fling myself down and when I stand up the wall of the trench is plastered with smoking splinters, lumps of flesh, and bits of uniform. I scramble back.

The first recruit seems actually to have gone insane. He butts his head against the wall like a goat. We must try to-night to take him to the rear. Meanwhile we bind him, but in such a way that in case of attack he can be released at once….

Suddenly the nearer explosions cease. The shelling continues but it has lifted and falls behind us, our trench is free. We seize the hand-grenades, pitch them out in front of the dug-out and jump after them. The bombardment has stopped and a heavy barrage now falls behind us. The attack has come.