Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Poet Pablo Neruda Translated

I just ran across an a book of Pablo Neruda's sonnets translated from Spanish into English by Stephen Tapscott and I'm enjoying it tremendously.

Pablo Neruda was the pen name of a Chilean leftist politician, Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto, who didn't know when to leave well enough alone (he actually praised Stalin in some of his poetry), but who could nonetheless turn a powerful poetic phrase in Spanish. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, despite some concern over his over-the-top political tone deafness.

I remember reading some of his work in the early 80's and being very impressed by it.

My favorite phrase from Neruda is-

"un oro duro como el vino de una copa colmada
llena la tierra hasta sus limites azules."

Which Tapscott translated into English as-

"Like wine in a glass, a hard gold
fills the earth to its blue limits."

Here's a complete sonnet from the book, sonnet #53, translated into English by Tapscott-

Here are the bread-the wine-the table-the house:
a man's needs, and a woman's, and a life's.
Peace whirled through and settled in this place:
the common fire burned, to make this light.

Hail to your two hands, which fly and make
their white creations, the singing and the food:
salve! the wholesomeness of your busy feet;
viva! the ballerina who dances with the broom.

The rugged rivers of water and of the threat,
torturous pavilions of the foam,
incendiary hives and reefs: today

they are this respite, your blood in mine,
this path, starry and blue as the night,
this never-ending simple tenderness.

Here's the sonnet in its original Spanish-

Aqui esta el pan, el vino, la mesa, la morada:
el menester del hombre, la mujer y la vida:
a este sitio corria la paz vertiginosa,
por esta luz ardio la común quemadura.

Honor a tus dos manos que vuelan preparando
los blancos resultados del canto y la cocina,
salve! la integridad de tus pies corredores,
viva! la bailarina que baila con la escoba.

Aquellos bruscos rios con aguas y amenazas,
aquel atormentado pabellón de la espuma,
aquellos incendiarios panales y arrecifes

son hoy este reposo de tu sangre en la mia,
este cauce estrellado y azul como la noche,
este simplicidad sin fin de la ternura.


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, men's stuff part nineteen.

Let's talk men's watches.

In terms of quiet elegance for daily life, my Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Grand Taille (pictured left) takes the grand prize over all the other watches I own.  It was a Christmas gift from my wife in 2013 and I've grown very fond of it over the past year. 

As a watch enthusiast I had lusted over the Jaeger Reverso for a number of years, but was on the fence about my next major watch purchase between a Reverso or a PaneraiLuminor 1950 GMT. I had finally decided on the Reverso, and was actively pondering which Reverso model I was going to purchase when my wife gave me the Christmas surprise.

My wife’s choice for me was a simple stainless steel GT with only one complication- a small inside dial for seconds.  The strap is light brown alligator leather with a stainless steel butterfly clasp assembly.  I also have a second alligator strap in black. The watch tastefully understated. It's an inconspicuously branded luxury good that is likely to be recognized only by other watch aficionados/enthusiasts.

For a watch enthusiast, the Reverso requires no introduction.  Its art deco design still shines as brightly today as when it first made its worldwide splash with the café society in 1931. The watch was supposedly designed for British military officers who played polo in British Colonial India.  The polo players kept breaking their watch crystals during play, and the Reverso solved the problem by enabling them to “swivel” the crystal face into a reverse position- exposing only the metal back. Hence the name, "Reverso."

Originally the back was a plain metal surface, but with time, Jaeger LeCoultre began decorating the backs of Reversos with everything from the watch owner’s initials to elaborate designs infused with diamonds, enamel, and other creative resources.  One model, the Reverso Duo, has a second watch on the back that can be used like a GMT for a second time zone.

Today, the Reverso is still considered Jaeger LeCoultre signature watch and is available in multiple models, with a large variety of complications, and ranging in size from the small classic size measuring only (L x W) 38.5 x 23.1mm, to the new large Squadra models measuring a full 50.5 x 34.9mm.

In addition to the Reverso collection, Jaeger sports a number of watch lines on its official website, most of which are in traditional round faces.

The company, Jaeger LeCoultre, has been around since 1833 and has had quite a history with royalty, celebrities, and the infamous.  For example Queen Elizabeth II wore a Jaeger 101 movement on her coronation day, and the scoundrel mountebank Bernie Madoff had a Reverso Dou that was seized and auctioned off after his fraud conviction. 

One Caveat- Size Matters when it comes to choosing your Reverso

Having sang its praises; the caveat with the Reverso is its size.  For many men today, who are used to large watches, the original classic size feels too small- at only 38.5mm by 23.1mm.  I think this is the reason Jaeger introduced the uber-sized “Squadra” Reverso that measure a wrist imposing 50.5mm length and 34.9mm width.

Size then, not the complications, was my main concern when choosing my Reverso.  A couple of online bulleting board comments, from dissatisfied purchasers, had stuck with me.

One disappointed purchaser stated he had had to trade in his classic sized Reverso for a Squadra Reverso, at a significant monetary loss, because he simply could not get used to the small size.  With the classic, he had always felt like he was wearing a ladies watch.  (If you want to see how small it looks on a man’s wrist, Google photos of Mad Men’s Don Draper for the first season.)

A second frustrated purchaser also made a size comment. He complained his Reverso was too long in length, and uncomfortable.  What he meant was that because the Reverso pivots, the watch back case is flat and it does not curve to the wrist upon its length like some square watches do.  As a result the purchaser complained that the watch was always slightly uncomfortable on his wrist, and because of this, he didn’t wear it often.  I believe the model he was referring to was the Ultra Thin model.
From here you can see the flat back back surface, no curvature to the wrist. For the blog photo, I removed the watch's serial number which is etched on the bottom below the emblem.
Lastly, I had personal reservations against a Squadra Reverso because (A), I felt the oversized Squadra Reverso lacked the elegance of a more traditional Reverso, and (B), I thought the Squadra would be too big for my wrist. My wife had the same thoughts about the Squadra models when she was shopping for my watch. 

For me, my wife’s gift of a Reverso Grand Taille (GT) was the perfect “Goldilocks” size for my wrist.  At 42.2mm Length and 26mm Width, it’s both comfortable and elegant, and fits well underneath my shirt cuff.  It’s the opposite of today’s monster sized overstated watches.  At the same time, I don’t feel I’m wearing a woman’s watch.  I think my wife made a great selection with my Grand Taille.

If you want to get an idea of how it looks on a man’s wrist from different angles and distances, catch the 1999 movie “The Thomas Crown Affair.”  In it, Pierce Brosnan's character, Thomas Crown, wears a Reverso Duo, which is the exact same size as the Reverso GT.

As an interesting aside, the Reverso worn by Pierce Brosnan in "The Thomas Crown Affair" was actually owned by him (it's said hes' a big Jaeger fan), but the "Jaeger LeCoultre" lettering in the face was edited-out in close-ups of the watch. Presumably this was because Brosnan had a promotional contract with Omega at the time due to his James Bond films.  
With my pen and reading glasses, this photo provides size scale for the watch.
One last caution- in the online watch review by “The Talking Hands,” one of the online reviewers warned, “They should warn you that these things are made of butter.”  He was observing that just as the watch is extremely beautiful, it is also extremely vulnerable to scratching.  I have found that to be true even of my stainless steel model due to the high polish finish. You do have to be mindful while wearing it.

For more information on these beautiful watches, I've placed below a couple of YouTube Links.  

One is a short 13 minute review of the Reverso by “Talking Hands," specifically the Grand Reserve with an 8 day power-reserve-indicator on the back. This is the one where we are warned about the watch's "butter" like delicacy to scratching.

The other is a simple demonstration of the pivot action of a Reverso GT. Incidentally, it does show the "correct" way to flip your Reverso.  Push it in halfway (left to right), then flip the face to the back, then push the rest of it in sideways until it locks in place (again, left to right). This prevents accidental scratching of your Reverso.

-John P.

If you're a watch enthusiast, here are some additional watch related posts:

Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) wearing a stainless steel Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso GT with brown strap in "Money Never Sleeps," the sequel to the classic 1987 movie Wall Street.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A little late summer Rimbaud

With the onset of milder fall weather, I get to use my screened in back porch again for reading. Anticipating this, I began looking at my poetry books and I thought I’d share my favorite poem by Rimbaud.

I first became familiar with Rimbaud after reading a reference to him in Heavy Metal Magazine, and I later became intrigued by the various English translations of his French work.

Albeit admittedly a little risqué, in this poem Rimbaud reminds me of the Cavalier poets who had a much more realistic approach to the wooing game than the Petrarch sonneteers. While the sonneteer wailed and moaned and in general elevated the woman of his passion, the Cavalier poet recognized that the woman he was after was composed of living tissue, and most importantly that living tissue needs living tissue. (“let’s obey the proclamation made for May, and sin no more, as we have done, by staying; But my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.”)  The pretentious elevated “eternal passion” of the Petrarch, was replaced with the new motto of “seize the day!”  Poor Phillip Sidney and his group could have learned from Robert Herrick and Andrew Marvell. 

In this spirit, let me introduce “First Evening,” by Arthur Rimbaud.

First Evening
                 (Première Soirée)

She was barely dressed though,
And the great indiscreet trees
Touched the glass with their leaves,
In malice, quite close, quite close.

Sitting in my deep chair,
Half-naked, hands clasped together,
On the floor, little feet, so fine,
So fine, shivered with pleasure.

I watched, the beeswax colour
Of a truant ray of sun-glow
Flit about her smile, and over
Her breast – a fly on the rose.

– I kissed her delicate ankle.
She gave an abrupt sweet giggle
Chiming in clear trills,
A pretty laugh of crystal.

Her little feet under her slip
Sped away: ‘Will you desist!’
Allowing that first bold act,
Her laugh pretended to punish!

– Trembling under my lips,
Poor things, I gently kissed her lids.
– She threw her vapid head back.
‘Oh! That’s worse, that is!’…

‘Sir, I’ve two words to say to you...’
– I planted the rest on her breast
In a kiss that made her laugh
With a laugh of readiness….

– She was barely dressed though,
And the great indiscreet trees
Touched the glass with their leaves
In malice, quite close, quite close.

               Arthur Rimbaud, 1870

*The painting is Picasso's Le Reve, a portrait of Picasso's mistress Marie-Therese, sitting in a chair, in a pose more suited for a Balthus painting. It was recently purchased by hedge fund manager Steve Cohen for $155 million from casino magnate Steve Wynn.  Wynn had previously agreed to sell the painting to Cohen in 2006 for $139 million, but the sale was cancelled when Wynn accidentally put his elbow through the canvas.  However, Wynn had the painting repaired and the two came to a new arrangement in March of 2013.  Glad it worked out.   -JP

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Got Shame?

Recently Travis County brought a political payback indictment against Governor Rick Perry because he vetoed some funding for a DA Rosemary Lehmberg who was convicted of drunk driving. Governor Perry offered to continue the funding if she resigned, and even signaled his willingness to appoint another democrat to the office. But being a democrat, and having no shame, Lehmberg declined to resign and the rest as they say is history.

Aristotle made the point that shame is a fundamental requirement for a society as it functions to self-police behavior. By bringing all of this back into the public eye through her political payback indictment, Rosemary Lehmberg has assured that thousands of Texas that had not previously seen her arrest video will now see it and rightfully cringe at her chutzpah. The one bright spot is that she didn’t kill anybody while driving with 3 times the legal limit in blood alcohol.

The second point is that the indictment is without merit as Perry executed his lawful authority to defund Lehmberg. There’s an old saying that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and so the hyperbole becomes reality here. The reporting method treats the fact of an indictment as the primary news, and the merit as a secondary analytic question, making it difficult for people reading the news to grasp just how farfetched this indictment is. (The Wall Street Journal has gone as far as to recommend Governor Perry file litigation against the Travis County attorneys in their private capacities for their mischief.)

Third, while we can expect the usual liberal huzzahs, from a raw political perspective, tying your cause to such a fundamentally flawed person depicted in such graphic footage is simply not a smart use of political chips.

Apropos, one of the reasons Texas Democrats are now hurting in the governor’s race is that they rushed into bed with Wendy Davis whose one and only signature issue was late term (20 weeks) abortions, a gruesome cause from which she’s lately try to unsuccessfully back paddle from. Off hand I can think of at least 3 Texas State Senators who are both Hispanics and Catholics, who would have made much better gubernatorial candidates for the Texas Democrats. But instead they went with a candidate who has been called “Abortion Barbie.” Nice going guys.

Finally, the sophist argument being made by some of “a pox on both your houses,” –meaning a pox on both democrats and republicans- while providing a quick feeling of moral superiority, does nothing in terms of our stewardship responsibility. In politics you don’t get a custom fitted suit, you take what you can get off the rack. Sadly, partisan knee jerk reactions of the Roman Mob are now the norm.

I’m fully aware that Rick Perry is a big boy and that he can take care of himself, but ask yourself this- If a shoddy extortionate prosecutor can misuse the law and bring such frivolous charges against a rich powerful governor, then what can they do to you?

-John P.

“I would uphold the law if for no other reason but to protect myself.”
- Sir Thomas More

Below is the train-wreck-footage that Texas Democrats were so proud to share with the nation.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ogden Nash Redux

This morning I was speaking with a man who makes a living by doing odd jobs and repairs, and he was complaining about his shrinking paycheck under Obama, not only in the form of less work opportunities, but the actual deductions from his pay in the form of added taxes and health care costs (I think he files quarterly).

His lament was almost word for word Mr. Nash’s famous poem:

One From One Leaves Two

Higgledy piggledy, my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
Gentlemen come every day
To count what my black hen doth lay.
If perchance she lays too many,
They fine my hen a pretty penny;
If perchance she fails to lay,
The gentlemen a bonus pay.

Mumbledy pumbledy, my red cow,
She’s cooperating now.
At first she didn’t understand
That milk production must be planned;
She didn’t understand at first
She either had to plan or burst,
But now the government reports
She’s giving pints instead of quarts.

Fiddle de dee, my next-door neighbors,
They are giggling at their labors.
First they plant the tiny seed,
Then they water, then they weed,
Then they hoe and prune and lop,
They they raise a record crop,
Then they laugh their sides asunder,
And plow the whole caboodle under.

Abracadabra, thus we learn
The more you create, the less you earn.
The less you earn, the more you're given,
The less you lead, the more you're driven,
The more destroyed, the more they feed,
The more you pay, the more they need,
The more you earn, the less you keep,
And now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to take
If the tax-collector hasn’t got it before I wake.

-Ogden Nash

Snaps of my old battered 1975 book of selected poems by Ogden Nash-

In addition to his poetry, the book also contains many of Ogden Nash's hand drawn cartoons.
This one reminds of a certain politician I know.

Another of my favorites.

- JP

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

Nancy and me checking out the Christmas lights at nearby Johnson City

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. "

 Merry Christmas from the Texas Hill Country!

Postscript: This was my last Christmas with Nancy, my Chocolate Lab. She passed on in January 2013. At 13 years of age, she was suffering from ill respiratory health and arthritis. I loved all my three Labradors, but from a pup, Nancy always held a special place in my heart.

“I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness (in Heaven). If it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there.”
-Billy Graham