8 score and zero years ago.

8 score and zero years ago, surge!i
Forth his fearless gaze, across the Mall,ii
Emancipating darkness, still everywhere in chains.

Africa is as America does, Adajye retells in veils,iii
Alum cast five scores effort, nearby Metro two score more,iv
Slave Empires write our history, but what is Man?v
Self-consciously we ask, seeking Erstwhile Truths.vi

No time yet for Wagnerisation, wartime spokes fall first,vii
Navy Yards wrung like sponges, SF to DC direct,viii
Orphée dared look down, Constitution under load,ix
Blissful base of Capitol, leashed Kapital.

This peripatetic paradise, feeling Lime freedom,x
Stoically skimming across the swamp, oozingly legible it be,xi
L’Enfant’s visage to Vienna, Parisian as Piano,xii

That Founding Men did dare to dream, Sons or Gods these,xiii

Since 12 score and seven years ago, surge!


[Image Credits: Library of Congress (1,5), Tumblr (7), author (rest)]
  1. I’m just finishing up Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Elon Musk at the moment and one of the recurring themes in Musk’s chaotic (neutral? evil?) life is “The Surge,” in which he motivates one of his many teams to burn the midnight oil with ridiculous schedules but in doing so acheive far more than they themselves ever thought possible. Elon really is a wartime general! Which is a good thing and arguably sorely lacking in the rest of American social or economic life, much to its long-term detriment. Because after all, there really only is wartime:

  2. At this point in my middle-aged-life, I’m not sure that I’ve ever encountered a piece of sculpture more moving and powerful than Daniel Chester French’s 19′ tall masterpiece. The Berkshire Magazine article (archived) on the background of this striking sculpture and the Athenian-inspired architecture surrounding it comes highly recommended!

  3. I know I’ve given the US a hard time in the past for slowly but surely “africanising” but I assure you that after more than a week here, it couldn’t feel further from that continually-plagued continent. The institutional capacity here is enormous, which is really a testament to the vision of the Founding Fathers.

  4. “Scores” are a funny-sounding unit of account, don’t you think? Certainly they sound unusual to our modern anglo-ears, but they actually sound quite normal to franco-ears! “99” is “four-twenties-and-nine-teen” en français, tu sait.

    Anyways, Sir David Adjaye‘s recently completed National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC, the final museum on the National Mall, is a truly delightful piece of architecture. A century in the making and the subject of an intense international design competition, Adjaye’s vision pays homage not only to his native continent (he’s from Ghana originally) but also to the sophisticated and historically under-appreciated metalworkers who came over from Africa as slaves and built so much of the beautiful wrought ironworks in the New World.

    For weight purposes, the bronze-coloured repeating panels on this stepped facade are made of cast aluminum, which is lighter and more flexible than other metal options while also be more durable than woods or composites. The way the three levels of panels feel like they’re moving at different speeds as you walk across them is an enchanting trompe l’oeil.

    Also of interest in DC is the second largest metro network in North America after NYC. Brian Potter actually just published a fantastic article on the system’s lonnnng (two score!) construction on his blog Construction Physics (archived). Be sure to check it out.

    And if 40 years sounds like a “long time” to build something enduring, recall that the Egyptian-obelisk-inspired Washington Monument also took 40 years to build.

  5. The only Empire possible is Racist-Slave-Owning-Empire. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
  6. If you’re seeking the truth and writing a manifesto in order to attract other would-be-seekers, it’s good to be optimistic and ambitious! But don’t be ridiculous about it, and definitely don’t be so self-consciously hand-waving that you completely break the 4th wall and suck all the air out of the room. *cough*Lightning*cough* (archived)
  7. Speaking of “Wagnerisation,” do check out Alexander Gelland’s newest article for Palladium Mag (archived), from which:

    The same systemic chaos that made Prigozhin’s unconventional career possible also made Wagner itself possible. The Russian state’s inability to provide resources and coordination opened a window for him to carve out a fiefdom that could surpass the capacities of the state itself in its domain. These conditions are at an advanced stage in Russia, but they are not peculiar to it. “Wagnerization” may lie in the West’s future as well.

    This is the essence of Wagnerization: using the power of state patronage to feed and legitimize your own corporate body until it can exist independently from it.

    Which really makes one realise how obvious (and inevitable?) “Elonisation” at the periphery of the American Empire really is. Creating SpaceX, Tesla, Starlink, Neuralink, Twitter, Boring Company, Hyperloop, etc etc. is a hell of a lot easier in Florida, Texas, and California than in DC! The Capitol is very, very safe for the foreseeable future. There’s just soooo much fat to be rendered in the periphery before the core is ever touched. Probably a few centuries worth, at least.

  8. There’s no reason to not move to DC if you want to live Stateside, in my opinion. It’s the most balanced and beautiful city-state on the continent, perhaps only lacking Chokawa‘s more prominent connection to water, but the conversion to mixed-use white-collarism of the WWII-era Navy Yards is about to fix even that! There’s even plenty of AI startups here if that’s your thing. So unless you’re completely gung-ho on working 140-hour weeks with Sir Elon to make us a multi-planetary species, the Capitol seems very much the place to be.
  9. The Greek parable of Orpheus was on full artistic display this trip to DC! Not only Chagall’s tucked-away mosaic/mural in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden…

    …but also in Cy Twombly’s mystifying (and suitably cryptographic) sculptural representation at the magical Glenstone Museum just north of the city:

    What is it that’s so hard to resist about looking back? Why can’t be trust ourselves to forge ahead, no matter how painful, like Lincoln did?

  10. See guys, saving is fun!

  11. The ooze is real, immersive, and good? Rao seems to think so (archived) and pretty sure he’s sharper than me, so…
  12. Appointed by President George Washington, Pierre Charles L’Enfant drew up the Master Plan for DC in 1791/92, and what a plan it is! Wide sidewalks, large green spaces, and generous building setbacks make DC feel more like Paris than any other North American city, including Montreal. Also making this city feel rather French is the huge consumer support for the domestic auto industry. All the sports cars here are Challengers, Mustangs, and Camaro! The patriotism runs deep here and so its exceedingly rare to see a Cayman, Miata, or Supra, much less Italian exotica. Very strange for such a large and prosperous city, but remarkable all the same!

    A more architectural French connection is that none of the buildings here are over 10 stories (at least within five miles of the Mall), creating an open-skied balance with a beautiful mix of retail, commercial, residential uses. Combined with a very temperate climate and a sturdy stock of Greco-Roman Revival architecture and voila! an American city with European levels of liveability and liveliness year-round!

  13. Just ask Prigozhin. He knew (archived).

7 thoughts on “8 score and zero years ago.

  1. […] quatrième tour des quatrièmes tours, à l’infini, Comme une spirale ascendante, dans un metro […]

  2. […] let’s not flatter ourselves now, lest we repeat Orphée’s errors, And vol squeeze ourselves into a pre-AI world, one Taiwan at a time,vii Between the cherries and […]

  3. […] – which isn’t going anywhere no matter how much the US crumbles, no matter how many Iranian-TikTok-fueled “Phree Palestine” protests there are, and no […]

  4. […] Tradition isn’t orthodoxy, it’s orthopraxy Orthopraxy isn’t posting, it’s sacrificing Sacrificing isn’t burning, it’s glory before G-d Glory before G-d is. […]

  5. […] who. As far as I can tell he’s a 20-something of probable Jewish heritage living in DC who brandishes an intoxicatingly radicalised intellect (150+) the sort of which I haven’t […]

  6. […] to flourish at the expense of handcraft and human meaning, thus papering over the heights of human creativity and ambition with a mechanised mediocrity that’s “more just.”viii Ultimately, they want to […]

  7. […] “culture” is a network of spies and assassins, particularly in the modern age where war is abundant at the crumbling spokes of the periphery but there are still plenty of obstacles to domestic imperial “greatness” that benefit […]

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