Monday, May 31, 2010
Forget what I said earlier. Things have taken a positively giddy turn in CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I am sure you recall Apollonius of Tyana, who could see really far like Superman. In the "post" about Apollonius of Tyana, I happened to mention that one of Superman's other powers is blowing really hard (look, here he is as a boy, blowing on a tiger). Well, that brings us to the Irish missionary Columbanus, who was running around near Switzerland in the 580s or so, spreading the word. According to legend, he saw these dudes about to sacrifice a barrel of beer to "their fierce god Woden." MacCulloch goes on, "Columbanus had nothing against alcohol, but he did not want to see all that beer wasted on a false god, so he made a preemptive strike by blowing hard on the giant barrel. It exploded and Woden lost his beer."
Has the cheeriest of "blogs" - this one - become a repository for downers? What is going on? I was reading some interesting material about the mother of Augustine's son in CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS. What a good and interesting person! We don't know her name because Augustine didn't tell us. A footnote in MacCulloch directed me to some comments in Peter Brown's biography of Augustine. I happen to have a copy, so I flipped through it, looking for the reference to which I had been directed. My edition of the Brown differs from MacCulloch's, so the page numbers included with the footnote didn't help me. It took a long time to find this honorable woman in Brown's index, because here is how she is listed: "concubine." That's it! That's all she gets: generic concubinage. Thanks for nothing, Saint Augustine. (I would illustrate this "post" with an image of her, but as far as I can tell there's not one! You can find plenty of his Mom, who said [I'm paraphrasing] "Get rid of this concubine who has been faithful to you for fifteen years so you can marry a NICE LADY.") I should credit Brown's index for introducing me to the word "concubinage," which is just above "concubine." So that is one good thing. It's fun to learn your word for the day! See? Not everything is horrible. I'm glad to help.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Thomas Paine's funeral was sad and almost nobody came. No eulogy, no statesmen. His housekeeper's remembrance of it is quite moving. But you won't see that here! The "blog" is not sad! How many times do I have to tell you? Nor is it political. The morosely righteous political "blogger" who could fix the world for us if only we would allow it is the most presumptuous and dullest of creatures living on the "internet." Anyway, I was reading Mr. Paine's COMMON SENSE this weekend, and it's very witty. It made me think (not due to any similarity of style, because there was none) about the angry little white man who waggled his finger at me through the TV screen over three years ago. I had no idea who he was! But three years is forever on television! Now everyone knows my waggling friend! He has a famous show each weekday afternoon where he throws blubbering tantrums and talks about the founding fathers - often simultaneously! He also loves the past. I lived in the past, and I don't recall grown men - either of my grandfathers, for example - behaving in such an outré fashion, so it's odd that he loves the past so much - were he to achieve his dream of traveling there, I cannot imagine he would find it welcoming. Is that how your grandfather comported himself in public? I highly doubt it! And as I was reading COMMON SENSE I was thinking about how much this gentleman on TV and Thomas Paine would hate each other, maybe. I can't imagine that John Adams would have had much use for the TV man either. But entertainment comes in all forms! That's fine! And he seems to assume that John Adams would love him! And maybe he would! It makes him feel better about stuff! Great! We are all just looking for some relief! That's the way it is! Let me stress that I cannot predict how John Adams would feel if we managed to bring him back to life. That's where my friend and I differ! So be it! Okay, I just have to tell you that the French housekeeper, Madame de Bonneville, stood at one end of the grave and asked her son to stand at the other. Then, as she later recalled, "Looking round me, and beholding the small group of spectators, I exclaimed, as the earth was tumbled into the grave, 'Oh! Mr. Paine! My son stands here as testimony of the gratitude of America, and I, for France!'"
Friday, May 28, 2010
Let's get back to being happy! And what is happier or nicer than our quest to find every single person on the "internet" covering every single Beach Boys tune? Here is #39. I like this guy. His voice isn't high like a Beach Boys voice, so he just sings the song his own way, very conversationally. See? Now everybody is happy again.
It was terrible, what happened to Hypatia. That's why I didn't mention it! You know I am reluctant to put gloomy and disturbing things on the "blog" because I want you to be happy. But I read about Hypatia the other day in CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. You know, she was (as MacCulloch puts it) "the Neoplatonist philosopher... so well respected for her learning that she had overcome the normal prejudices of men to win pre-eminence in the Alexandrian schools." Well, I hate to tell you what a bunch of Christians egged on by monks did to her, and so does MacCulloch, calling it "perhaps the most repulsive case" of the mob violence going on at the time. As I say, I wouldn't even mention it, except that today in the New York Times I see that there is a brand new biopic about Hypatia. And that made me start thinking about where else I had seen her name recently. And I recalled (and have confirmed): it was in a "gawker" review of the final episode of LOST, employed in what I assume to be an extremely highbrow variety of sarcasm as a name for the nameless Allison Janney character who briefly appeared on the show (though please let me assure you that the Allison Janney character, who did something truly horrific right before a Wendy's commercial, has nothing to do with the actual Hypatia). So that is a whole lot of Hypatia going on, don't you think? In related news, the raves keep pouring in. Two of them! My friend from Hubcap City writes, "Wow! Keep those posts on [the MacCulloch book] coming... I read Bunuel’s autobiography My Last Sigh and closed the book feeling richly reworded. Yeah, reworded. His appreciation for odd syntax struck me as a metaphor for his visual vocabulary. MacCulloch’s phrase describing the true end of humanity’s endless quest for satisfaction reads like a title for an as yet unmade Bunuel film: The Embarrassing Non Sequitur of Death." My friend will be happy to know that I also heard from our mutual BFF Kelly Hogan, who submits the blurb-worthy praise, "Thanks for reading CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch... so we don't have toooooooOOOOOoooooo!!!" And now let me explain her reference, which is hilarious to me but will be as distant and mysterious to you youngsters out there as Hypatia herself. See, there used to be this commercial where these anthropomorphic "Scrubbing Bubbles" would clean out your bathtub. The leader of the Scrubbing Bubbles had a saying, which was, "We work hard so you don't have toooooooOOOOOoooooo!!!" The manner of his final cry is explained by the fact that he is last seen in the commercial swirling down your bathtub drain, to certain extinction. Hogan has helpfully provided the photo of a man dressed up like a bunch of Scrubbing Bubbles for Halloween (I guess). The plastic hands bother me for some reason. Aren't those plastic hands? Also pictured, Rachel Weisz as Hypatia in the new film AGORA.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I stumbled on a book by a woman who claims to have been the mind-controlled puppet of Henry Kissinger and Bob Hope. I don't want to "link" to it because I don't want to seem to make fun of or draw undue attention to the woman, who obviously has some problems, and also, I do not as a rule "link" to the impersonal behemoth of an electronic bookstore upon which I saw the book. As usual, though, the people who make the customer comments on the behemoth are interesting. One suggests that this woman's story is part of the same secret government program that produced Tiger Woods and Britney Spears. But allow me to quote directly: "Is this due to an organized effort by 'people in the know' to create dissassociated [sic], robotic, yet super talented pawns? Would 'Disney-created' Britney Spears be one? Tiger Woods another? Read how his dad trained him and you might think twice - what cinched it for me was seeing a tape of Tiger as a toddler being presented as a golf prodigy on the old Mike Douglas show by none other than BOB HOPE!" (Caps and exclamation point original to the commenter, who goes on to ask - somewhat reasonably - why Lindsay Lohan is "in so many movies where she is either a twin, plays 2 people or switches personalities.") Now, you may recall from an earlier "blog" report that there was a woman - an entirely different woman! - who used to write letters to the government complaining that Bob Hope "is violently insane and uses abnormal thinking processes which introject and project others’ egos." Those letters were originally printed in Harper's magazine, though we came across them thanks to "Emulsion Compulsion." So that makes two different women we know of who believed that Bob Hope was controlling their thoughts. So that's weird! Remember, I am a Bob Hope fan! I like his old movies a lot, though I do not and cannot approve of any mind control he might have done! To be fair to the woman, who may want to sell some books (the content of which I cannot endorse!), her work is named after a famous song Bob sang if you want to try to find it. I should mention that some of the material involved, however amusing for a sentence or two, turns out to be extremely depressing and sordid. You're better off just sticking with the "blog"!
It is time once again for Literary Matters. Horrible, horrible literary matters. Yet today's are not too horrible for some reason, necessarily, and there are only two, which helps. 1) Here is another good thing I found thanks to the twitter account of Maud Newton: the Biblioracle! You enter the last five books you have read and John Warner, who is a human being otherwise known as the Biblioracle, will tell you what to read next. Do as the Biblioracle commands you! 2) Speaking of Maud Newton, she and I will be fellow contributors in the immediately forthcoming issue of the Oxford American. Do you know who we just found out is another fellow contributor? Sharon Stone! What? I guess we'll all find out.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
What about this crazy character Simeon the Foolish? He was one of those holy fools such as you're always reading about in your Dostoevsky! Get a load of this guy! He "threw nuts at women during church services and gleefully rushed naked into the women's section of the city bathhouse ('as if for the glory of God,' his biographer optimistically commented)." Well, folks, that's right, this is a record: a second "post" in one day summarizing CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. There are just so many characters in this section I'm reading right now. What about poor old Arius, for example? He seemed like an okay guy. Sure, he had some views that were considered heretical, but he was pardoned by Constantine, so everything was copacetic, right? But guess what? Then he probably died of "an acute attack of dysentery in a latrine in Constantinople." And that's not even the worst part! His enemies made up a mocking hymn about him dying in a latrine and SANG IT IN CHURCH! That doesn't sound very nice at all! I can't even quote the hymn here! It is scatological beyond belief, like a teen comedy. But I also got to read about another Simeon, not the Simeon mentioned above, no, the other Simeon, one I always enjoy reading and thinking about, who sat on top of a sixty-foot pillar for forty years. He was the subject of that wild movie SIMON OF THE DESERT by Bunuel. As anticipated in the previous "post," I got to the first section of pictures in the book, and there is one of Simeon's actual pillar, or what's left of it. As MacCulloch puts it kind of wonderfully, it now looks like "a well-sucked lollipop." Speaking of the other Simeon, the first one, I forgot to tell you that when some women mocked him he supposedly cursed them and they all turned cross-eyed! Do you think maybe he had a problem with women? Go back and look at the evidence! And speaking of pictures, here are the characters Simon and Simon from the TV show SIMON AND SIMON to represent Simeon and Simeon. Just like their saintly predecessors, one Simon was uptight and stiff as if from sitting on a pole for forty years and the other was a rascal, or at least that's the way I remember it.
"Human societies are based on the human tendency to want things, and are geared to satisfying those wants: possessions or facilities to bring ease and personal satisfaction. The results are frequently disappointing, and always terminate in the embarrassing non sequitur of death." Ha! Is that a downer? I don't mean to be a downer! I thought it was wittily put. It's from that 1,000-page history of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I'm getting excited because I'm almost to the part with the pictures!
As you will recall, I discovered Michael Kupperman when I read his book TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE, VOL. 1, the funniest book ever made. Now it turns out that he is illustrating something I wrote! I couldn't be happier. Maybe I will fill you in on the details someday if I feel like it.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Today I was reading some Shakespeare - that's right, William Shakespeare, not some other Shakespeare - and I came across these lines: "He wears his honor in a box unseen/ That hugs his kicky-wicky here at home..." I and was like, "Kicky-wicky? Shakespeare, you really are a genius!" Hey, listen, don't worry, I haven't given up on CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. Right now I'm in a sort of cliffhanger with the end of the third century. Looks like the fourth century is going to be nuts! So where does ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL come in? I am simply heeding my own advice from this very "blog," which is that - as you certainly recall from several years ago - whenever you are reading a big, heavy hardcover book, you should keep a small paperback handy for when you need something more portable, although I said it in a more engaging way, maybe, so I hope you will "click" through. What else do you have to do? Something? In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of some dude in a Cleveland production of ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. Or how about "clicking" on these other times the "blog" has mentioned Cleveland? It's up to you!
Monday, May 24, 2010
I am going to explain the sixth season of LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY, because I finally understand it thanks to the sixth season of LOST. Spoiler alert! Well, no, I can't ruin either one for you. I will try to be discreet. Remember in the sixth season how the eponymous Laverne and Shirley moved to Los Angeles from Milwaukee? AND EVERY SINGLE PERSON THEY KNEW AND ALL THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS MOVED THERE TOO AND MIRACULOUSLY GOT HOMES RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THEM? All I'm saying is, maybe there was a reason for that. Maybe they were... I can't say it.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Turns out it is easy to find Jimmy Olsen acting crazy on the "internet," and why would I want to do anything else with my life? I do it for you! Here he is making Superman watch a sad movie, and catching the Man of Steel's resulting tears in a pipette, of course. Why not? And he is grinning maniacally. And he is saying, "Every teardrop is precious to me."
You can see this for yourself but I am going to describe it anyway. Hippies are throwing rotten eggs at Superman! One protester's sign says "Superman Is a Freak-Out!" (Exclamation point his.) Another sign says, "We hate money!" I got this cover from the same "web" site that treated me to Superman's obscure powers (and the picture of him watching TV and gorging himself). And wait! A more thorough examination reveals that it's not just ANY protester tossing a rotten egg at Superman! It's lovable Jimmy Olsen in a purple velvet jacket, frilly sleeves, and a filthy beard! Jimmy, what happened? You should check out this guy's entire "superheroes vs. hippies" "post." See hippies from the future throw rotten eggs at Green Lantern!
Please don't worry! I am still reading CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. The only reason I didn't give you any tidbits from it yesterday is that we are at a grim part of the book, where all the tidbits are grim. In fact, they are too grim to be called tidbits. They should be called grimbits. Well, yesterday there was an amusing story about Origen's mother hiding all his clothes but it seemed to require some explanation, and once you start explaining things, pretty soon you don't have a tidbit anymore. But here's something innocuous from today's reading: followers of Apollonius of Tyana claimed that he had super vision, like Superman! Superman is my example, not theirs. And then I started second guessing myself: Superman did have super vision, didn't he? I mean, in the sense that he could see really far? X-ray vision, sure. And heat vision. I know he can blow really hard. But I decided to double check on super vision. According to wikipedia, he has it! Also: "superhuman olfaction," which sounds like a terrible thing to have. According to wikipedia, Apollonius of Tyana "lived on a frugal, strictly vegetarian diet." Stay healthy while saving money! That's a tip from Apollonius of Tyana. Doesn't it seem as though Superman should be a vegetarian? A lot of times, people you think should be vegetarians aren't, such as the Dalai Lama. I am not lying. Look it up! Oh. I'm not sure this is a tidbit, but MacCulloch refers to Edward Gibbon's writing style as "feline," which seems kind of feline in its own way! And "click" here for some of Superman's obscurer powers, no thanks to wikipedia. Lack of tidbits has made me disjointed. I don't apologize.
Friday, May 21, 2010
I was just at a party at which Blair Hobbs was talking about writing an essay comparing the aesthetic of Jerry Lewis with that of the photographer William Eggleston. Hey, look, a couple of mothers were at the party saying that their little kids have been watching and enjoying Jerry Lewis! So that's nice. To the left, a photo by William Eggleston. Below, a still from THE FAMILY JEWELS, which all the mothers were talking about and in which, by coincidence - or is it? - Jerry plays a photographer.
I have been over on the imdb, looking at the promotional "taglines" for AUTHOR! AUTHOR! 1) The play must go on, and so must his family. 2) They share the laughter, the love, the frustration... and the bathroom. 3) Anyone can be a father. But not every father deserves a standing ovation.
Jerry Lewis homage confirmed: I have now watched a sufficient amount of AUTHOR! AUTHOR! to tell you that Al Pacino says "I'm very ANXious, WaHOYoh!" Moving on from the Jerry imitation, we do indeed - as reported earlier - cut to a roaring fire, where Al Pacino says, "I guess everybody figures, New York playwright..." and then he analyzes himself. So he doesn't say, "The thing about being a writer is..." no, we were wrong about that, but it's almost as piteous. And then he says, "I'm never at ease, Alice." A few lines later, he says it again: "I'm never at ease." Poor writers!
As promised, I have captured AUTHOR! AUTHOR! on the dvr so I can confirm Al Pacino's Jerry Lewis impersonation for you. It may take some time. I made it five minutes in or less. Then I had one of those "What am I doing with my life?" moments. But on the plus side, Al Pacino is already wearing a red velvet jacket and a tasseled scarf. So why so sour, Pendarvis? I don't want to be one of those sour "bloggers." There are millions of them! There is nothing duller. I want to be your cheerful and breezy companion. Yet there is this one commercial I want to complain about, too. Childish crayon drawings have come to life in the form of paper creatures as large as buildings, stalking around the city. And there is this guy sitting on top of a building gazing at the wonderful phone he has purchased. And a smile creeps across his face. He is like a much healthier and immaculately groomed Zach Galifianakis crossed with a character from a Hal Hartley movie. And the announcer is like (I may be misquoting, but only a little), "Remember when you were five years old and everything was possible? Welcome to your new fifth birthday." And I am thinking, you know, why stop there, man-child? Why not buy a phone that turns you into a fetus?
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I know you are waiting for your daily dose of CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch, whose name I can now spell without looking, just like David Strathairn's. No tidbits yet today. It's all getting so complicated and tough to distill into tidbits. In fact, MacCulloch even apologizes for the lack of tidbits, in a way, warning that as things get sticky, "Readers of this book may become bewildered, bored or irritated by my extended discussions of the theological niceties..." Not me! MacCulloch calls one old-timey bishop "energetically unpleasant." Is that a tidbit?
Whenever I see G. Gordon Liddy in his commercial for gold on the television set, I think about the time he ate a rat to conquer his fear of eating a rat. And then I imagine that the advertisement is for rats instead of gold. Like, "Hard times are coming, folks. Invest in rats!"
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I realize that every day you are just sitting around waiting to hear what I have learned from the latest installment of CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. Today I learned that the word "epiousios" is very hard to translate, resulting in a late-16th-century English version of the Lord's Prayer that went "give us this day our supersubstantial bread." As MacCulloch writes, "Not surprisingly [it] never caught on as a popular phrase in prayer." Also: an interesting reading of Mark 7:24-30, in which MacCulloch says Jesus "met his match in wit with a Greek-speaking 'Canaanite' woman." I read the passage in my Bible, and it is true that there are some zingers flying! Read it for yourself and see what you think. Good night, everybody!
I like things that exist. I am always like, "I am glad you exist, thing!" The cittern FAQ is a great example. Here is another one: this guy's place where he reviews superhero action figures. I found out about it through our "fave" Aquaman "blog," natch! Says the reviewer, "I can’t find any slop on Aquaman. Everything from his face to his feet is painted very well. The skin is a nice tan, with a great matte finish, and the hair is sandy blonde with a very nice wash... the black shorts are a flat matte, so the contrast between the gold shirt, black shorts, and green pants comes off very well... the only reason he is not a 10 is because I would prefer an orange shirt and darker green pants and gloves." Also (because Aquaman's arch-nemesis comes in the same box): "Getting two enemies in one pack allows battles to occur immediately upon opening them. I really didn’t think Black Manta would interest me too much, but because of his rubbery coating I just don’t want to put him down."
With all this talk of citers, cithers, zithers, citherns, citterns, and kitharai - yes, that's the plural of kithara! - I am afraid that some of you may have missed "clicking" on the "link" that would have taken you to this, which I think (I no longer pretend to be a "know-it-all" about citers cithers, zithers, citherns, citterns, and kitharai) is a Chinese citer (center):
"Ms. Loriod’s performances, in gowns of vibrant color, were exciting to watch, and even more so to hear." That's from the New York Times obituary of Yvonne Loriod, the pianist, who recently passed away. She was the inspiration and wife of Messiaen. Here is some video. Messiaen is out in the woods, transcribing the birdsong he liked to use in his work. Then Ms. Loriod plays like crazy.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Today in CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS... Jesus compared - favorably! - with Dr. Samuel Johnson. His "irony and humour" explored. One parable called "a gem of sarcasm." MacCulloch describes the "Sermon on the Mount" beautifully as "a chorus of love directed to the loveless or unlovable, of painful honesty expressing itself with embarrassing directness, of joyful rejection of any counsel suggesting careful self-regard or prudence." Now, I do not intend any blasphemy! My intentions are innocent and mellow. But look closely at that last long quotation - "the loveless or unlovable... embarrassing directness... joyful rejection of... prudence" - and see if it does not also exactly describe or echo the radical aesthetic of Jerry Lewis. I mean, divorce it from its context and just think about it as some scholarly words describing something. Okay!
Our in-depth investigation into the kithara continues apace. My friend from Hubcap City writes in: "Your search for the meaning of cither reached the right conclusion. Cither is the word in my translation of The Republic. I’m reading the Bloom translation. Apparently, Plato’s aversion to certain kinds of instruments is old news and goes back to a musical duel between Apollo and Marsyas (start humming 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' here). Marsyas was a satyr and played flute, the most reprehensible of all instruments in The Republic. Apollo played the cither. I don’t know the specifics about the smackdown, other than that the Muses deemed Apollo the winner. How did Apollo celebrate his victory? He skinned Marsyas alive (a far worse fate than the invitation to 'come on back if you ever want to try again' that the Devil received in the Daniels song). Although Plato would have loathed Daniels' instruments—both the guitar and fiddle are many stringed and capable of playing all modes—he would have applauded more than a few of the self-described Redneck Fiddlin’ Man’s lyrics. The chorus to 'This Ain’t a Rag, It’s a Flag,' is packed with the militaristic bravado Plato sought to teach the future leaders of his ideal nation: 'This ain't no rag, it's a flag / Old Glory red, white and blue / The stars and the stripes when it comes to a fight / We can do what we have to do / Our people stand proud / The American crowd/ is faithful, loyal and tough / We're good as the best and better than the rest / And you're gonna find out soon enough.' So, there you have it, the ideal citizen of Plato’s Republic is a cither playing Charlie Daniels!" So says our friend from Hubcap City.
I mentioned the "reliability" of wikipedia in my last "post," and I suppose it is instructive that if you "click" on the OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY "link" in it, you will be taken to something about "pterippi," which is something some dude made up, I guess, and stuck on wikipedia, the pernicious influence of which reaches even unto this My Little Pony fan forum, wherein someone says, "Lol, should we start calling winged ponies pterippi?!" Lol indeed, my friend. Lol indeed. But not in a nice way. Enough about My Little Pony! Our real project for today is to see what THE OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY has to say about the kithara. "Late in the 7th cent. BC, apparently after a period of experimentation, the great kithara that became the major instrument of professional and public performance first appears in art." And then there is a lot of stuff about "horn-shaped extensions" and lack of readily apparent "sound-holes" and arms that are "certainly hollow," arms which "curve forward" in later Roman depictions. "Quite probably this was so on the classical kithara, but Greek artists never successfully portrayed that instrument in profile." Hey, look: "Star instrumentalists and singers were idolized by the public, and like their modern counterparts enhanced their musical acts with striking costumes and histrionic bodily movements," sniffs THE OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY. "But as always in musical history, the new music gradually became old hat." What does THE OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY have stuck in its craw, I wonder? "There was a steady demand for instrumental accompanists, chorus-trainers, elementary teachers, and other hacks. [! - ed.] Pipe-girls and other entertainers... were professionals too, in their way, relying on music for a living." In their way! Wow. Way to put down the pipe-girls. What did the pipe-girls ever do to you? THE OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY really hates rock and roll. You know, I thought this OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY was going to come in handy. Yet it never truly helped me understand the allusions in Battlestar Galactica.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Of course it's all moot because Plato was talking about a kithara, and none of these other items we've been discussing. Kithara! That's where we get the word for guitar! I think wikipedia said that. So I believe it. My friend from Hubcap City's "cither" is closer in pronunciation to kithara than my "cithern." But according to the cittern FAQ, "Renaissance musicians may have seen the instrument as a rebirth or renovation of the ancient Greek kithara, which can be seen from... the 'scrolls' found near the neck of the cittern resembling vestiges of the 'wings' on the kithara." This looks like a job for THE OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY. But I'm so tired.
From what I can tell, then, a cittern or cithern is more like a lute while a citer or cither is more like a zither - two very different things! Observe the cithers laid flat upon the table. Obversely is the cithern held aloft. Therefore it would make no sense for Plato to hate lutes yet love citherns and I was wrong in oh so many ways to "correct" things.
What is this I have found on the "internet"? According to the text on the "internet," it is a "cither orchestra" playing "cither music." So I was wrong to insist upon calling it a cithern, thereby doubting my friend from Hubcap City. Ignoble!
The search function seems to be on the blink again. For example, if you search for "posts" containing the word "barber," for the moment it completely skips this one ("click" here), the "blog's" single greatest "post" about a barber. So some of the "links" I've given you recently might not be up to my usual standards. I have no way of knowing. I am sorry for everything.
That picture of a cithern comes from an instruction book from 1652, all about how to play the cithern and the gittern. Go get your cithern! I've already warmed up my gittern. The first three songs in the book are called "John come kisse me now. First way. John come kiss me now. Second way," and "John come kisse me. The third way." Ha ha ha! Olden times. There's also a song called "O Rogues, notable rascals, or Smarra Galumpshe." That sounds good!
Our friend from Hubcap City typed "cither." I was like, "Huh?" I was like, "Does he mean zither?" But then I found something called a cithern in my dictionary. So I added the last letter when I transcribed his email for the previous "post," though that was presumptuous. Because if he had typed "cithern" I would have been like, "Huh?" also. Because I never heard of a cithern until just now. How about you? Are you a big cithern fan? I don't know if that's right: cithern. Maybe my friend's copy of THE REPUBLIC said "cither." Maybe that used to be a thing. Maybe it still is. I don't know anything. I just sit around typing. But here, here's a picture of a cithern so you can see that it's a thing. I am sick of my random picture rule. I don't know why I even pretend to honor it. Isn't a picture of a cithern more helpful and fun? Let's hear it for education! Education teaches us things. And it's all thanks to citherns.
"Keep up the blogging about Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years," raves our friend from Hubcap City. In fact, our work has inspired his own scholarly pursuits: "Your quote from the book about Plato’s picture of government sent me to my copy of The Republic," he reports. "Book III is full of hilarious warnings about music scales. Lydian modes were only suitable for women. The Ionian mode was slack and encouraged drunkenness. Dorian and Phryigian modes were acceptable as they represented men who 'were courageous in warlike deeds and every violent work.' Based on Plato’s definitions, all the music I love must be in the Ionian key. I’m a total failure in the warlike deeds and violent work department. Plato not only despised some scales, he distrusted anyone who made flutes, harps or lutes. Only three instruments were deemed appropriate for his ideal state: the lyre, the cithern and 'a sort of pipe for the herdsmen.' Hey, goat boy! here’s a sort of pipe for you to toot. Now get back to work sitting on a rock surrounded by your herd!" We thank our friend from Hubcap City for a most admirable summary.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Now I am reading CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I'm already on page 34! Less than 1,000 pages to go. At this early stage, we find a saucy quip about Diogenes, far too spicy to be repeated on the "blog." And MacCulloch refers to Kierkegaard as Socrates' "most mischievous disciple" - nicely put! Also, "No one sane has sought to replicate Plato's picture of government in the real world - although some insane societies have warmed to his recommendation that the activities of musicians should be curbed and all poets expelled." An interesting fact: "And so the name of metaphysics, the study of the nature of reality, was born in an accident." Plus a fascinating pronouncement in the introduction: "The writing and telling of history is bedevilled by two human neuroses: horror at the desperate shapelessness and seeming lack of pattern in events, and regrets for a golden lost age, a moment of happiness when all was well. Put these together and you have an urge to create elaborate patterns to make sense of things and to create a situation where the golden age is just waiting to spring to life again." That's just in the first 34 pages! Just think: despite the flash-forward to Kierkegaard, we haven't even made it to Jesus yet! And so many tidbits already. If my math holds up, CHRISTIANITY should be good for at least 203.2 awesome tidbits for me to "blog" about. Oh, wait. "Is Shakespeare's Hamlet 'true'? It never happened, but it seems to me to be much more 'true', full of meaning and significance for human beings, than the reality of the breakfast I ate this morning, which was certainly 'true' in a banal sense." And, "There is no surer basis for fanaticism than bad history, which is invariably history oversimplified." So I think I'm going to get 239.05 tidbits out of this. PS: The government wants you to know that I did not receive this book free from a publisher. I bought it with my own money. It's already paying for itself!
Found myself sleepless again at roughly the same time as before... isn't that fascinating? You're the one reading a "blog"! Decided to try my old method of getting myself into at least a hypnagogic state: flipping rapidly between two or three movies on these movie channels they have nowadays until they blend into one incomprehensible yet strangely unified dream. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. On last night's menu: THE HANGOVER, AUTHOR! AUTHOR! (not one but two exclamation points original to the title - laudable!), and SWITCH. The latter was NOT the TV series starring Charlie Callas I recall from my shamefully squandered youth, but a film in which Ellen Barkin's body is possessed by the spirit of a crass rogue. But never mind about that! Here's the important part: I CAN ALMOST SWEAR I SAW AL PACINO IMITATE JERRY LEWIS. I won't be able to quote this with any accuracy because it was caught in a moment of quick flipping, like so many important things in life. Pacino (the star of AUTHOR! AUTHOR!) said something like "I'm very anxious" or "I have a lot of anxiety" in a familiar unmistakable lilt, and then he darted into the street slapstick-style, making a noise very much like one this goat might make. He was rewarded by peals and peals of famous laughter from his co-star Dyan Cannon, who was famous at the time for her peals and peals of laughter (I have uncovered an example - also featuring Johnny Carson - and include it for your study below). Pacino's Jerry Lewis imitation cut immediately to a scene of what we shall delicately call post-intimacy before a roaring fire, Pacino and Cannon wrapped tactfully in sheets. This implies that acting like Jerry Lewis makes the ladies love you! And right away! That part was fine. But Pacino's first words post-intimacy? "The thing about being a writer is..." Ugh! That made me flip the channel. Once again, it may not be an exact quotation, because of all the flipping. But still, ugh.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
My precious LPs of Jerry Lewis singing standards just fell over, seemingly of their own volition! I was afraid it was a horrible omen, so naturally I tweetered about it over on the twitter, because twitter is mainly for the dissemination of horrible omens. And that made me think, "I wonder who else is tweetering and twittering about Jerry Lewis!" And looking around to solve that mystery is how I found the greatest thing ever put on the youtube: a goat that sounds like Jerry Lewis! Here:
I love to justify all the time I spend informing you about how well the Hulk and Solomon Grundy would probably get along by citing John Ashbery, the thoughtful antiques dealer, and others. But then along comes Kierkegaard: "As long as I am engaged with the proof (i.e. so long as I am in the process of proving it), being does not appear, if for no other reason, than because I am in the process of proving it. As soon as I let go of the proof though, existence is there. But that I let go, this is also something, that is my Zuthat [contribution]." So then I start suspecting I've got everything backwards. Oh well!
Welcome once again to "Frasier, Briefly," your source for all the hottest and latest news about reruns of Frasier. Last night it was the one in which Diane comes to town for what the capsule description called "a surprise visit." Was I going to miss that? No way! I even switched from David Letterman, who was throwing a 55-gallon drum's worth of Super Balls off the top of his building. But there was a problem. "Blog" Buddy Kelly Hogan - ironically (maybe! What does "ironically" mean?) the world's biggest Frasier fan - was to appear simultaneously on the Jay Leno program. I comforted - yet tortured! - myself with the thought that musicians are usually the last persons to appear on any talk show, crammed into the final minutes with as little time to spare as possible. But just in case, I set the dvr to record Leno, a man I do not find generally entertaining - nothing against him! It is my own fault. But why are musicians always the last, forced to squeeze themselves into whatever remaining time? And why aren't they ever interviewed? People might enjoy hearing about the craft that goes into the popular rock and roll music of the present day youth! Just as I thought and feared, the dvr was unnecessary. Hogan came on in the last possible moments of the show and blew everybody off the stage in sweet and utter revenge. Beforehand, Leno announced her name! Did I feel the same frisson as when Letterman announced her name? Perhaps not. But there she was on THE TONIGHT SHOW, getting her name announced! It is too bad Johnny Carson is no longer with us, but still. Anyway, a theater group in Seattle was putting on Diane's play, a thinly veiled and humorously self-serving version of her days at Cheers. Sam was called Dan, Norm was called Ned, etc. As far as the relationship of Frasier and Diane goes, a modicum of closure was achieved, you will be happy to hear. It was all very "meta"! For example, after their parting scene, Frasier accidentally uses the false stage door representing the old CHEERS door to make his dramatic exit. He felt pretty sheepish after that, as you might imagine! That door led nowhere, in a bleak commentary on the possibility of love in the modern world. In other Frasier news, Frasier is on Broadway now and getting wonderful reviews, so good for Frasier. (Note that the review contains the word "bespoke," the hot new word in the New York Times.)
Bob Hope news from Brian Z.: Hope's "old dark house" thriller/comedy THE CAT AND THE CANARY is finally coming out on DVD. Here's the story. Meanwhile, McNeil sits around waiting in vain for THE IRON PETTICOAT. Do you care? No? Stop reading "blogs"! Leave me alone with my sorrow.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I think I can use Bizarro Superman to debunk handily what Jonathan Rosenbaum has called the "irrational denial that [Jerry Lewis] was all that popular to begin with." This is what I do with my life! In the previous "post" I "linked" to a comic book cover on which, if you look closely, a Bizarro Superman is proclaiming, "Ha! What Halloween fun we have with my super-dog, Krypto! Us Bizarros scare him with horrible masks of Earth people like President Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Jerry Lewis!" Now, if you know anything about Bizarro Supermen, they are the opposite of regular people. They say "hello!" when they mean "goodbye!" for example. They think ugly things are pretty and pretty things are ugly. Get it? So what we are clearly seeing here is that the desirable physical beauty of Jerry Lewis easily rivaled that of JFK and Marilyn. All right. That's settled. You know, the other day I was thinking about the Superman villain Solomon Grundy for some reason. The way I remembered him from childhood, Solomon Grundy wore a raggedy vest or something, exhibited great strength, had a problem speaking proper English, and was monochromatic. "How very like the Incredible Hulk!" I reflected as I lounged about in my cork-lined boudoir like Marcel Proust. Solomon Grundy and the Hulk would really get along, and they both need a pal. We need to get these two together! In my mind's eye, I even saw Solomon Grundy in purple, the Hulk's favorite sartorial choice, though the old pictures of Mr. Grundy on the "internet" show him to favor black or gray - perhaps misprinted as purplish in the cheap comic books of my lost youth? (That's right, blame it on the ink, old man.) He did dress in rags, though that has changed in our strange modern times, according to "Blog" Buddy and comic book villain expert Justin Riley, who reports: "Nowadays, SG rocks a tailored black suit straight from the ill-fated swing revival of the 1990s." I trust Mr. Riley in this matter as his most recent "blog" contribution was about the fashion sense of the Lizard. I think I will put up a picture of Solomon Grundy for you, in defiance of my self-imposed "rules." A quick glance at the "internet" tells me I am the ten-millionth person to waste his life "blogging" about the compatibility of the Hulk and Solomon Grundy but don't forget, there is nothing new on the "internet," as Solomon (NOT Grundy!) told us.
Jerry Lewis is never in the New York Times anymore. He's only in their "blogs," of which they have millions, and that's not good enough. What happened? Most recently I spotted Jerry in a wine "blog" of the New York Times, where the guy compared him to Prosecco, I think. Here: he said that for him (the writer) to refer "to cava as the 'Prosecco of Spain'" is "as if the French were to refer to Tom Hanks as the Jerry Lewis of America." I am making some charts and graphs to figure out what that means. No, wait, that makes Jerry the cava, doesn't it? No, I was right the first time, he's the Prosecco. In this Spenserian allegory, the writer is the French, Tom Hanks is cava, Jerry Lewis is Prosecco, and Spain is America? Even if that's right, WHAT DOES IT MEAN? What would it MEAN for a French person to call Tom Hanks the Jerry Lewis of America? Because isn't Jerry Lewis the Jerry Lewis of America? And what does that make Tom Hanks? Plus, isn't the writer complaining about his own headline (he is quoting the headline of an article he wrote)? It could be that he didn't write the headline. I think I'm missing the point. Let us substitute some of the words in his "blog" article with their allegorical counterparts and see how they stand up. "It’s a sad indication of the lack of respect accorded Tom Hanks that this sparkling wine, with a production that completely dwarfs that of Jerry Lewis, still gets second-banana billing... All over America you’ll see people refreshing themselves with a cold glass of Tom Hanks." No, it's still not working. Is Tom Hanks a second banana in France? Do people spit on him as he walks down the street? Maybe I'm thinking too much. Where it really breaks down is that Prosecco isn't produced in Spain, while America can proudly claim to be the producer of Jerry Lewis. For the allegory to work completely, Jerry Lewis would have to be from Hungary or somewhere, AND very popular in the present-day US, more popular than Tom Hanks. Is that right? No, Jerry would have to be currently the biggest star in France, AND from some other place entirely, let's say Monaco. My head hurts. I'm tired of taking these bones the New York Times is tossing to me. Plus it's the old snickering and inaccurate "the French love Jerry Lewis" gag I've worked so hard to abolish - I think that's what it is! I don't know, because it doesn't make sense. Have my efforts been for naught? Yes. Yes they have. I hope you have enough self-respect not to have read this far.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
It was a short hop from FRANKENSTEIN to THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON by Lauren Groff, the new selection in our super exclusive underground book club of private specialness. Maybe we'll ONLY read books with monsters in them. I don't know why I'm telling you this because no matter how much you beg you CAN'T BE IN OUR BOOK CLUB!
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Welcome back to the "blog," where you like to go for all your sizzling celebrity gossip. ITEM! What hot "power couple" was seen dining with Roy Blount Jr. - and being introduced to the character portrayed by John Goodman - on tonight's episode of TREME? Sources tell the "blog" it was none other than Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, in a brilliant episode written by Lolis Elie, who was spotted recently participating in a certain double-header of panels, where this reporter observed Mr. Elie hobnobbing with people who enjoy going to panels. As you know, the "blog" is now illustrated randomly. I am sad to say we have no sizzling gossip about Frankenberry.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
"A pigeon cannot eat a Cheeto, no matter how hard he tries," reports Laura Lippman via her facebook page. "I watched two of them peck and peck and peck and they could not conquer this Cheeto. They finally gave up." Little could she know how directly this ties into concerns of the "blog": to be specific, the strange Cheetos commercial involving pigeons, which bothers us so very much. Hey, hey, look, I don't want to get anybody down. That's not my bag! I realize that I complain about commercials too much, which is not in keeping with the upbeat spirit of the "blog." So before I go on, let me remind you about the many commercials I love: 1) the one where the dog is worried about his bone. 2) the radio ad for the hardware store. 3) the money clip. 4) space sticks. And I know there have been others, but I'm tired. Now that I am in a complaining mood, the most irresistible of all moods, I beg your indulgence. Let me just mention one last commercial - really a series of commercials - that is driving me crazy. It's for Netflix, and it features what I suppose is a parody of a 1950s sitcom family - take that, artifact from half a century ago! - played by actors with zombie-like affectations that I assume are supposed to be terribly subversive. The dad, for example, is a Patrick Fischler wannabe to whom I feel like shouting through the TV screen, "You, sir, are no Patrick Fischler!" The tone of the commercial seems to be informed by a block of cartoons and skit programs on basic cable that are targeted toward reinforcing the prematurely jaded sensibilities of privileged white male children 18-24, saturating it with a kind of double reverse repressive desublimation that really turns me blue, like that billboard for oatmeal that drives Phil crazy. They (the ersatz sitcom family), stiff and wide-eyed, use a lot of 80s slang with implied quotation marks around it, ALMOST causing me some remorse for all my own cute quotation marks - ALMOST. There! Now I feel better. Let's get back to being happy again.
You know how we're always talking about those bicycles with the great big wheel in front and the tiny little wheel in back? It turns out Verdell OWNS one! Of course she does. Except the great big wheel is tinier than usual and the tiny wheel is really, really tiny. Look! Here she is riding it around like it's no big deal in a fancy white dress and hat.