Thursday, May 27, 2010


Authority, it seems to me, has progressively corroded during the half-century of my adult life. It has become overshadowed, perhaps, by the word's more negative derivatives: "authorize" and "authoritarian." It has come to be seen that authority sanctions authorization and justifies authoritarian actions. If we track back to the root of authority, it is "author." The author wrote the book. If, by "book," we mean more strictly a treatise, a systematic study of a given subject, or a document (as in the word's etymology), rather than any literary composition (as it is commonly understood today), the author claims by right the authority on that subject for having written it for public inspection. The author's authority thus merits respect and endows power. The author, exercising that power, authorizes, and, in excess, becomes authoritarian. In the area of knowledge I can claim authority, I insist on a tight hold on it.

英語の "authority" は "author" の派生語ですから、権力の意味は含意していても、厳密には「著者としての実権、又は影響力」とでも云った意味だと思いますが、日本語では、オーソーリティとも、又は第一人者と云いますけど、訳語は漢語をそのまま借用した「権威」で、英訳すれば  ”might by right”  でしょうか。著者を権力者にしてしまう感じです。

In Japanese, we say phonetically "authority" or, otherwise, "dai-ichi-nin-sha" (Number One Person) but the proper translation is "ken-i" borrowed from Chinese, which signifies something like "might by right." This seems to make the author ("chosha") by definition authoritarian. But "auctoritas" in Latin apparently already had extended meanings from "invention" to "influence" and "command."


More and more I see people writing "arguably" when they mean "unarguably." "Arguably" means "open to debate," and if one means "indisputably" the word is unarguably "unarguably."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Springtime in Manhattan

During the second week of May, Bryant Park in mid-town displayed an installation/prformance piece, Walk the Walk, by Kate Gilmore, chosen and supported by the Public Art Fund. Unfortunately, I missed seeing it in person but my friend Frank Moscatelli did and provided me with this beautiful photograph.

The work consists of a cube the size of a cubicle-size office, painted yellow, on the top of which six women in fluttering yellow dresses walk randomly but intently. The vivid yellow recalls the first spring blossoms -- forsythia, crocus, and daffodil, and the stereometric box of such height as to force us to look up at the women echoes the office buildings around the park, while the lush foliage of the plane trees in contrast harmonize with the moving human bodies.

Simple as it is in form, the work is rich in its layered images, all pertinent to Manhattanites who daily negotiate in cramped spaces at home and at work, and wade between crowding bodies in their commutes no less than in stores and theaters and sidewalks, especially the emblematic Times Square, where gawking tourists intermingle uncomfortably with the locals who stride on in a hurry, whether purposefully or aimlessly. The box allows people to step in and experience the metropolitan claustrophobia with the clicking of heels overhead magnified to loud clangs.

The most intriguing reference is Giacometti's City Square, now in MoMA, where the spindly figures crisscross without exchanging glances in their anonymous urban existence. But spring comes regardless, always worthy of celebration.