Saturday, June 28, 2014

Return of the Grammar Nazi

Lately, as usual, I've been noticing odd pronunciations of words in the media, and by people I see in my daily life.

When I was young, or a young adult, I don't recall now having had this sensation, of hearing odd variations in speech, which bothered me the way they do now.

Is this sensitivity a condition of older age, of some aspect of cantankerous crotchety-ness? 

I often have the feeling that "wrong" pronunciation is an aspect of simple ignorance, or of a poor education.

People who pronounce words wrongly tend to think of language as a simple facility. For them, as long as others "understand" what you're "trying to say" correct grammar or pronunciation simply don't matter. Why speak or write correctly unless there's some reason to do so? Language, after all, is a social medium, whose life is defined by utility.

Lately, I've heard people pronounce the word student (or students) in ways that I don't recognize as typical, either of "American speech" or even as typically English-speaking. 

The way I learned to speak it was STOOd-nt, with the final "t" consonant sound closed off by the tongue against the roof of the mouth, or made soto voce with the upper nasal palate.

But now I hear people saying it these ways:

STOO-den or STOO-denz


or STOO-dun or STOO-duns

These variations suggest to my ear a distinctly germanic quality--which I imagine to be counter-intuitive, since German exerts very little influence on American culture these days. I've even heard this:


This last is quite germanic. E.g.: Studenten (plural of students in German). 

I'm not clear about why this word should be undergoing this subtle change. It's almost as if some English speakers are hearing the word as foreign in their own milieu. Who, after all, would devise independently to pronounce student as shtoo-denz in America, today, and why? It's baffling to me.

Hardly anyone has the courage (or the cheek) to correct mispronunciations these days. Everyone seems disinclined to be thought picky or fastidious. It almost seems worse than looking or sounding dumb. 

It seems a part of the current tendency toward politically correct behavior and non-discriminatory courtesy. Ignorance is almost a kind of excused difference.

Stupidity isn't a failure, but an honored (or at least protected) trait. We wouldn't want to hurt someone's feelings by suggesting that they've committed an error. It might cause pain. And pain, or embarrassment, is cruel, or awkward. It's more important to get along, to keep everyone happy, or at least happily ignorant, than it is to single out individual failures.

Maybe, in America, there is no such thing as a correct pronunciation. We're a big melting pot of different cultures and languages in this country. No pronunciation is correct, none is wrong. 

Maybe, in a hundred years, we'll pronounce students STOO-ns, suppressing the D and T consonants completely, simply because enough high school seniors in successive generations were just too lazy to learn how the word should be said. 

Language is a living thing, and we can neither predict where it will go, nor prevent its transformative progress through excessive rigor and regulation. 

My resistance to the decay of words such as student is a contrary motion to the continuing metamorphosis of our common vocabulary. I want the word students to sound like students forever, but a single life is a very brief blip on the graph of time. It's nothing more or less than a temporary convenience. How I feel about it is of no importance, in the larger scheme of the world's sidewise drift. I, like all the rest of the human race, am just a student of the language, not its guardian angel or rueful apologist.


Though we eat out a great deal, I don't conduct a survey of favorite restaurants, either online or elsewhere, though we often exchange recommendations with people we meet. So it's a special occasion when I do discuss one here.

I've probably had a dozen meals at Gabriella's Restaurant, which is at 910 Cedar Street, in Santa Cruz, California. I have been visiting Santa Cruz for the last decade or so to scout the inventory of Logos Book Store, a big two floor space devoted to used and remaindered stock. With the decay of the retail general used book venue over the last two decades, places like this are becoming few and far between. It was at one of my early trips here that I happened to try this place out for lunch. 

Gabriella's is such an unassuming place, from the street, that you might not even notice it, and even if you did, you might not be intrigued by the entrance which is on the side, by way of a narrow patio. The architecture is vaguely Spanish, with a decorative tile cornice at the roof edge, and ceramic potted plants ranked along the edge of the sidewalk. But the emphasis is not on Latin flavors or preparations. 

You'd have to call it nouvelle cuisine, with a very slight French twist. The wines are American, and the bias is for fresh ingredients, finely prepared sauces, and stylish presentations. The proprietor changes the menu every week or so, so you won't find the same selections unless you go more than once a week. Over the last decade, I've never had the same dish twice, so it isn't a round-robbin; it's a constantly unfolding experiment.   

I had thought to do a review a few months ago, and even took some cell-phone pictures of the meal I'd eaten then, but finally got around to it this weekend. Wife and I drove down for lunch on Friday, with no particular expectations. I ended up ordering the vegetable cream soup (with corn kernals), and wife ordered the pork tacos, which came with a preliminary salad of gems lettuce, avocado, sliced cucumbers, radiches, and a subtle vinagrette. My soup was magnificent--smooth picante and rich.   

I ordered the gnocchi with crushed poricini mushroom, chopped tomato, zuchini, sausage bits, in a silky thick bechamel sauce. The gnocchi were the best I have ever had by far, big, fat, fluffy, consistent, and elegant. And filling!   

Wife's entree was equally impressive, by no means what you'd expect from the picture here. Pork tacos with hot spice (cumin?), a little cream, pepper, avocado, lettuce--standard in the ingredients, with no excess grease.   

The wine was filled with lactic sweetness, hints of apricot, green olive, red apple. the sort of wine, really, which you'd expect to have to pay $60 for, but which was priced at about half that. 

I've reviewed Gabriella's for Yelp@, and I stand behind that verdict. Gabriella's is the small, out-of-the-way place that you'd expect to find in the neighborhood of a large, cosmopolitan city like San Francisco or Portland. But it endures in a beach town which was once no more than a boardwalk amusement park destination. The presence of the UC campus, with its sophisticated faculty crowd, and a diverse community that always evolves around big college places, have made it possible. You can't run a serious eatery like this for locals who spend all their spare time at church or at the local fraternal mens' club. Its customers care about good food, and will pay dearly for it. 

As for me, I'm an out-of-towner, whose periodic visits afford me the occasional chance to verify that this fine, modest, polished little restaurant still survives.  

Long may it prosper!       

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Granados - Master of the Late Romantic Spanish National Style

Previously, I have done blogs on Albeniz, Rodrigo, Montsalvatge, Mompou, and Lecuona. But it would be inconceivable to discuss 20th Century Spanish classical music without mentioning Enriques Granados

Like Albeniz, Granados [1867-1916] was a classical pianist, who came to maturity during the end of the 19th Century, in an era in which the grand piano-forte had come into its own as a solo instrument, and had developed its own separate tradition, dominated by a preoccupation with dramatic flourish and melodramatic display. Its great heroic figure was Franz Liszt, the Hungarian virtuoso, who composed and performed his keyboard works to rapt audiences, often in intimate settings. His approach was histrionic, meant to exploit the romantic potential excesses of music as hypnotic emotional feeling. This tradition of the keyboard luminary extended well into the 20th Century (think of Horowitz, Rubenstein, Van Cliburn, or Gould), and is still with us, though somewhat evolved. 

Liszt's influence on the pianistic performers and composers of his time, and on subsequent generations of players can't be overemphasized. 

In Spain, there hadn't been a strong classical music tradition, as there had been in Italy, France, and Germany. Spanish musicians and composers typically emulated the Italian, French or Viennese traditions, studying in Paris. Both Albeniz and Granados, as ambitious pianist/composers, emulated the virtuoso tradition. Their early compositions reflected this influence, and sounds to our ears today, not very original. 

During this same period--roughly between 1880 and 1920--there was a movement towards musical nationalism throughout Europe. In Spain, this was expressed through a resurgence of interest in traditional Spanish, Gypsy and Oriental folk music styles. Albeniz and Granados combined the resources of the romantic piano-forte with adaptations of Spanish folk material to produce lively compositions, suitable not only for the keyboard, but for the guitar (Spain's national instrument). 

These composers were consciously attempting to create a new tradition which would incorporate nativist themes and musical styles that expressed their country's flavor and character. There was nothing accidental about their campaign to establish this new tradition; it was an nothing less than a kind of declaration of independence and pride in their culture. 

Spanish court music had more or less followed the French and Italian examples, but the new nationalism drew on the music of the people, the peasant dances, the "deep song" of Andalusia. They were lively, and passionate, and very lyrical. Later, during the 1920's and after, Spanish composers such as Falla and Rodrigo, opted to exploit both kinds of traditions, mixing folk and court styles.    


In Granados's early piano compositions, such as the Escenas Romanticas--played here by Daniel Ligorio [1903] (you'll have to turn your sound up, the recording isn't quite loud enough)--the familiar Liszt style predominates. The material is softly romantic, and the flourishes and embellishments seem only to advertise the gently swooning quality of the inspiration. It's quite beautiful, but not particularly Spanish in its suggestiveness. On the other hand, it doesn't sound Germanic or French, either. You could say with justice, however, that the music asks to be played with indulgence. It has a late 19th Century feel to it. Granados had mastered the materials of the instrument, and clearly possessed the genius to make it speak in the new (or "old") musical language of his people. 

Granados's reputation rests largely on the Twelve Spanish Dances, and the Goyescas (1911, named after the great early 19th Century Spanish painter Francisco Goya). The 12 dances constitute perhaps the purest realization of the Spanish "deep song" lyricism, which has become nothing less than the stereotypical essence of Spanish music. Now, a century after they were composed, they sound as inspired and inevitable as any musical signature--as dependably Spanish as Brahms is German, or Copland is American. 

The Goyescas, though conceived as Spanish musical tableaux, are nevertheless more specifically virtuosic than the 12 dances--or for that matter, the Eight Valses Poeticos [1900], the Six Popular Spanish Songs [1915], or the Bocetos [1912]. 

From a purely musical point of view, Granados doesn't challenge the formal frameworks of traditional forms, though rhythmically many of the pieces employ tempi and effects that are clearly and obviously Spanish. The dances, in particular, have a rhythmic liveliness and quirkiness that are exotic and energetic. Though all of the dances are relatively short, they are distilled down to their simplest essence--unlike the Goyescas which are festooned with brilliant elaborations and decorative flourishes. 

It's always amusing to imagine what any artist might have done, had they lived longer. In Granados's case, we have an instance of an ironic and unexpected turn of fate. Returning from a successful concert tour in America in 1916, the boat that he and his wife were on was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. In the confusion of the disaster, Granados dove into the English Channel to save his wife from drowning, ultimately perishing himself (along with her) from drowning--a touching early end to a very promising career. He was only 48 when he died, virtually in the full flower of his creative life. 

The tendency among successful pianists in those days, was to extend their composing skills into full concert pieces, or operatic efforts, since solo instrumental compositions were then considered to be a limited application of talent. We will never know whether Granados would have created more ambitious instrumental pieces, but had he lived into the 1920's and 1930's, his fame would certainly have allowed him access to larger orchestral, perhaps even operatic, venues.  

As with the works of Albeniz, Granados's pieces lend themselves beautifully to adaptation on the Spanish guitar, since the figures and effects they employ are really guitarristic in character. Where the chords stack up too high, they can be played by two guitars in duet--an adaptation that is also used with pieces by Scarlatti, for instance, as with other the works of other non-guitar composers.

Everyone has favorites among Granados's works. Of the Dances, I've always loved #1, #2, #4 (Villanesca), the central section of #5, #7, #10, #11. Most of these pieces are easily fingered for the guitar, and #5, especially, has been more identified with that instrument than with the piano. 

I am also quite partial to certain of the pieces from the waltzes, and popular songs. They have an ardent, almost fatalistic quality that has always appealed to me, alternating between ecstatic, joyful release, and a fatal melancholy. If Albeniz was the impressionist, Granados is the poet of the dance, whose irresistible catchy tunes are immediately seductive and charming. 

Granados must have been quite the figure, with his big dark eyes, handlebar mustache, and natty corduroy jackets. In some ways, he seems part of an earlier era, who lived past his time, though he was still relatively young when he died in 1916. He seems a bridge figure, between the late romantic world of Liszt, Brahms, Saint-Saens, Bruckner, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Franck, and the early Modernist figures like Stravinsky, Ives, Hindemith, Bartok, Janacek, Prokofiev, etc. Though his musical palette is relatively simple and limited, its clarity and force have little in common with the late romanticism from which he emerged. And though I doubt that he would ever have evolved into a more subtle and intellectual composer such as Falla, I'm sure he would have produced more beautiful keyboard pieces. Alas, we shall never know, as that possibility died in the frigid waves of the English Channel, another casualty of World War I. 

YouTube furnishes a range of recordings of much of Granados's keyboard works. The simplest entry is Alicia de Larrocha's extended concert sequence here, in 19 parts, as follows:

1-3 & 4-6: Escenas Romanticas
7-10: Bocetos
11-15 & 16-18 & 19: Cuentos de la juventud (Scenes of Childhood)

Here she plays the Seis Piezas Sobre Cantos Populaires Espanoles

And here she is in an early recording of the 12 Spanish Dances, from 1954. 

And here she plays the Valses Poeticos.

I should say that though de Larrocha was a great pianist, justly recognized and appreciated around the world, I have usually found her playing a bit too brittle and hard. Spanish music from this period is emotionally flamboyant, but de Larrocha tends towards a classicist interpretation, with little modulation or variance in emphasis. Had she lived in the 19th Century, I'm convinced she would have had a more appropriate approach to the works of this period. Nevertheless, all her recordings are competent, and communicate the gist of the scores. I would encourage anyone exploring this music to sample different performances by various players, to see if they don't agree with my assessment.


Friday, June 13, 2014

B O R I N G World Cup competition begins in Brazil

This week the World Cup Soccer Matches begin in Brazil. 

I am not a soccer fan, have never been a soccer fan, and never will be a soccer fan.

I am an American. I like American sports. Football. Baseball. Basketball. These are sports that were invented in America. American baseball is popular in other parts of the world, and there is some exportation of basketball. But for the most part, these sports belong in America. They're part of our culture--competitive, complex, fascinating to watch and speculate about.    

Soccer was invented abroad, and has thrived there. 

Previously, I wrote a blog about how dull soccer is--dull to watch, anyway.

Part of the campaign of what has become known as "globalism" is the promotion of sports that all nations can participate in. 

The Olympics, held every four years, has often been regarded as a favorable occasion for international cooperation and friendly contention. Contestants compete in sports that otherwise have little interest in the individual nations. Only hockey seems to stir much interest, at least in America or Europe.  

The World Cup has been around since 1930. It didn't draw much interest in the U.S. until the 1980's, when promoters began to push it in the media. Over the last three decades, interest in the sport has spread like wild-fire across the U.S.

As I said in my previous post from October 2009--

"The movement in America to expand soccer in the schools and professional venues is regressive. Believing, perhaps, that soccer is more fashionable and "universal" than our homegrown sports, middle-class parents and public schools have allowed soccer to shoulder aside traditional sports. Everywhere you look today, you see stripe-shirted youngsters running in circles in the grass. Hardly understanding what's happening, they spin around and dart back and forth, aimlessly, as the parents and "coaches" scream instructions to them. 

People will say that children get more exercise playing soccer, but exercise per se has never been the main point of sport in general. And for players in childhood years, soccer participation lacks focus, as the tots wander from place to place on the field, trying to understand how to engage in the action. Because it's a game more about "position" than engagement, anticipation and accident are more important than any kind of physical skill. 

Soccer is a ridiculous game, regressive and idiotic. Audiences typically become so frustrated and angry that fights and mob riots frequently occur (abroad). Do we really want to adopt this Old World anomaly as our national pastime? I earnestly hope not. We already have four of the best team sports in the world. We don't need soccer."

As an opponent of globalism--and all it stands for--I would like to see soccer remain a popular sport outside of America. American sports are superior to soccer. I might even go so far as to say that advocating soccer participation in America is un-American. We should be encouraging kids to play baseball and basketball. Tackle football may be inappropriate for most kids, so I wouldn't promote it in the schools. 

The World Cup is a boring event. Whenever I go into a tavern where there's a television showing a soccer event, I respectfully request they change the channel. If Brits and Aussies and other foreign birds want to watch these boring games, they can bloody well do it in the privacy of their own homes, or not at all. Or go back home where they'll be among their kind. 

Enough with your stupid World Cup. 


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mocha Faville (2000-2014)

Mocha was a quixotic figure in our household.

When we first brought him home, he was just a fuzzy little white kitten, whose Siamese points hadn't begun to darken. He'd had a difficult birth--the runt of the litter of a Stockton breeder--and he'd had to be given supplemental bottle feeding before we could take possession. He was thin, and had an oddly large tail, which rode forward over his back. It looked a little silly. 

But we soon grew to love Mocha, who developed into a real personality. His parents, appropriately named Sadie, and Big Kahoona, gave him a mixed genetic make-up. Though his paws were unusually large, and his tail was thick and dark, and his head was wide with a "bull's" ruff around the neck and shoulders, his body was otherwise thin and sleek, and his white fur, which stayed white all his life, was smooth and silk-like. He eventually developed an aversion to liquids (particularly water), which led from time to time to periods of dehydration and a reluctance to eat. During these periods, we'd have to dropper him with water, to jumpstart his hunger reflex. 

Personality-wise, Mocha tended to be a little squirrelly. He seldom wanted to be picked up or held, but would often choose to sleep on a handy lap, as long as you didn't move around much. With our other cats, he was a good playmate, but if he lost his temper, you had to be careful with him: Once his feral instincts kicked in, he could be dangerous. But usually his gruffness masked fake courage; he would back off if faced with superior force. There was something of Don Quixote in him--he often believed he was a great menacing tiger of a cat, much as his father Big Kahoona was. But Mocha wasn't a big bruiser, so the dominant nature seemed a little absurd in him. Despite his dreams of glory, he was really a little pussy-cat most of the time.    

When he was still not fully grown, I got the idea to have a San Francisco 49er blanket made for him. Cats usually don't like things put on them, though occasionally I have seen little jackets on domestic cats when they're outside, to keep them warm. Cats don't usually tolerate collars well either. Anyway, it took a couple of months to have this article made, and by that time, Mocha had grown about 20% larger, so he never was able to wear it.  

Mocha had a good heart, and a kind of presence that is hard to define. Perhaps it was his wildness. Domestic cats are mixtures of wild and tame, with one or another tendency stronger from time to time. Even when Mocha was at his most docile, there was a kind of power held in check in his nature, which made him seem stronger. Certainly he believed this, even if he seldom showed it overtly. His pride was his most nobel characteristic, even though it had this quixotic aspect. "I'm one tough hombre," he seemed to be saying, even if the claim wasn't always convincing. 

One of his little "demonstrations" of his prowess was, when running down from upstairs, at the turn of the landing, to bounce up off the wall and ricochet back down the next flight of steps. He usually did this when feeling enthusiastic, when being chased, or just out of an excess of high spirit. 

Mocha didn't talk much, but when he did it was usually for something important. He was actually very territorial. As an indoor cat, he was attuned to outdoor noises, and would often feel that order needed to be restored, if he heard an animal or suspicious sound. He would rise up and pace deliberately around the room, emitting a low-pitched snarl or moan, as if to say "What the heck is going on out there? I'm not going to tolerate this disturbance in my area!" 

In his birth litter, he tended to feel like an outsider, and I suppose that was true of him all his life. He would sleep and play with his companions in the house, but he never gave his full trust and loyalty either to us, or to the other cats. I thought of Mocha--or, as I called him alternately from time to time, Mochee, or Moch-er, or Moch-us, or just Moch'--as my alter-ego, a fundamentally ordinary guy who liked to fantasize about being a knight in shining armor, or the sexy boss-chief of the tribe.

In the last few months, he'd grown more and more reluctant to eat, despite our efforts to re-hydrate him and offer the most enticing of treats, and last month a visit to the local vet revealed that his kidneys were failing, and that nothing could be done to save him. As we had with our previous casualties Lottie, and Coco, we decided to let him die at home. His decline was fairly rapid, and he died in his sleep yesterday afternoon. The photograph above, taken just a week before he died, is an inadequate likeness of the quirky little guy we lived with for 14 years. 

I will miss his beautiful dark thick tale, carried high like a flag of joy or insouciance as he trotted around the house. I will miss his deep, mysterious eyes which seemed like windows to an ancient blood-line of hunters. I will miss his softness, and mischievous elusiveness when he wouldn't allow himself to be caught. I will miss his independence, and the wonderful gift of his friendship when he did choose to settle on my lap, or to chase a string across our big California King bedspread, or to fiddle with my pencil as he hid behind the Apple computer-screen at my work desk in the dining room. I will miss him. I will miss him a lot. 


As a result of overwhelming requests, I am posting an additional photo of Mocha--this one taken approximately six months ago. Note the "Lone Ranger" face-mask appearance. RIP 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Detached Sentences [Ian Hamilton Finlay]

Little Sparta. Detached Sentences. Ian Hamilton Finlay. Robin Gillanders. Afterword Alec Finlay. Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1998. 

I've written about Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden, Little Sparta, previously in my post of Wednesday, June 24, 2009.  We visited Scotland in 2006, and enjoyed an afternoon visit to the garden, and a brief tea conversation with its designer, Ian, himself. 

Finlay, who died a few months after our visit, was a poet, and thought of his gardening project as a poetic artifact, rather than a landscape design. Or perhaps it was both things, and much more. Finlay completed a number of landscape commissions, and his own property was the crucible for many of the design ideas that he used elsewhere. He wrote less poetry over time, though many of his visual works of art on paper incorporate what has traditionally been called concrete poetry--that is, poetry that expresses visual meanings through wit or visual design of words or letters. 

This book is a collection of black and white photographs of Little Sparta, by Robin Gillanders, as well as a selection of quotations by Finlay, some of which I will quote here. Little Sparta is difficult to photograph effectively. 

A garden is not a fixed principle, at least in Finlay's mind. It is an evolving, modulating construct, which not only changes through seasonal influence and growth, but in the eye of its maker, and the viewer (occupant). A garden may have preferred views, and preferred times of the year (at its best) during which it should be seen. But it is a procession, a movement through spaces. There is really no way of representing how it feels, physically, to move through a garden. A camera cannot convey the way something smells, or the brush of a leaf against the arm, or the feeling of a stone underfoot. Each person's experience of a carefully thought out garden, kinetic and processional, is unique, and cannot be conveyed in pictures or film or diagrams. 

A garden is not an object but a process.

This is the a priori principle of Finlay's conception. 

Ecology is Nature-Philosophy secularized.   

Finlay's notion was that treating a garden as a purely aesthetic or scientific phenomenon robbed it of its soul. 

The dull necessity of weeding arises, because every healthy plant is a racist and an imperialist; every daisy (even) wishes to establish for itself an Empire on which the sun never sets. 

The larger implication of an appreciation of nature is that the universe is not merely a basically inhospitable place, but that, under even the most propitious circumstances, it fosters competition, and that this fundamentally contentious aspect is expressed everywhere that there is life. 

Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks. 

What these statements alert us to is the intense and sophisticated vision that Finlay brought to his landscape projects. They can stand alone as independent critical pronouncements about landscape design, or as pure aesthetics. Taken in conjunction with his projects, they comprise a complete post-Modernist philosophy of garden design and meaning. 

The most pleasing aspect of water--strange to say--is its flatness.

In the whole of philosophy there is almost no weather.

It may be worth observing that it's unlikely anyone but a poet would make these kinds of statements. Finlay moved quickly from the writing of poems, to a conceptualized view of abstract texts which are more like works of art than literature, and then on to an exploration of the thematic materializations of spatial concepts. 

Formal gardens are (as it were) statues of Nature.

Superior gardens are composed of Glooms and Solitudes and not of plants and trees.

Both the garden style called 'sentimental' and the French Revolution, grew from Rousseau. The garden trellis, and the guillotine, are alike entwined with the honeysuckle of the new 'sensibility'. 

This combination of decoration and violence is characteristic of Finlay's reading, and one we don't ordinarily associate with gardens. The competing values are surprising, especially inasmuch as we don't think of a composed space as exhibiting or containing open conflict. A decorative garden may symbolize the domination of space by privilege, but it might also offer a threatening revelation, an unexpected reminder of mortality. 

There is more tolerance of classical gardens than of classical buildings. The former bring to mind Claude and Poussin, the latter Albert Speer. 

Finlay has been criticized for his appropriation of certain aspects of Nazi iconography. I have never completely understood his underlying intention, but it seems to derive from conflicts that he had over the years with public authority-centres, which left ironic scars that were expressed as tamed menace (guns, submarines, military insignias etc.). It had an adolescent aspect, as if these were the naughty toys of a naughty boy--not that this was inappropriate for a quirky post-Modern artistic temperament. There's a kind of ethical translucence in being able to see Speer's gaunt fascist brutalism as a purely visual immanence, devoid of association.  Perhaps it is an assertion of the power of imagery to invoke feelings outside of assigned values. 

It is the case with gardens as with societies. Some things require to be fixed so that others may be placed

We are unaccustomed to read political meanings into gardens, though there is no reason why we should be. It's Finlay's genius to have thought through these kinds of implications, and to get us thinking about them. The dissociative effect of seeing written language as distinct from its assigned meaning may be the key to understanding Finlay's garden art. The natural tendency to regard organized nature as an aesthetic pleasure in situ, is turned completely upsidedown, seeing trained plantings as wild and combative in a Darwinian context, while placing loaded signs from classical antiquity and myth as not-so-sutble hints to pilgrims. It's a question whether visitors to the garden even realize what they are being shown.