Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Of Elegance, Monster Soakies, The Rapture and Product Placement in Literary Classics

As you may have noticed I have not been writing much as of late. Mea Culpa. I shall try to rectify the situation as quickly and as elegantly as possible. We are rediscovering elegance you know.
As I sit poised at the Louis XIII desk in the study at Chez Moose, I ponder poor Louis and the Thirty Years' War against the House of Habsburg. To think, France's greatest victory in the war came at the Battle of Rocroi, five days after Louis' death — apparently from complications of intestinal tuberculosis. Un destin terrible!
I catch my reflection in the glass covering a Russian Icon portraying John the Baptists severed head as a single, thin, gloved finger, hovers over my lip like a stray branch - I notice I need my roots done.
Anyhoo, in the span of months I have spent away I have taken time to carefully re-read some of the classics and noticed the blatant use of product placement even in some of our favourite books, which I am now quite excited to share with you, but I will tell you, over the last six months I have found it to be almost excruciating to write.
It’s not so much elaborate Emu quill plume to paper or the fluid dance of my fingers across the keyboard so much as writing that doesn’t make my skin try to escape off my bones. When I get the feeling of a hag fish nestling in the cavity of my chest, I know that what I am about to write will not be good. It will not have pizzazz, as they say. Then when I pause to think, the only genius that springs to my tongue seems to be that of other people, as I am always quoting some dead saint or libertine. My word, I think, surely there must be some left of my own somewhere out here.
The very prospect of writing down the million or so ideas and interesting experiences that seem to come in rapid succession often daunts me. I suppose that these days it might be called stress.
Once upon a time it may even have been called hysteria and diagnosed as wandering body parts – this has always been my favourite Victorian diagnosis as it makes me think that my insides are like a dark forest and my body parts some small girl in a cloak. I long for the days of my youth when stress relief was only as far away as a bubble bath with my favourite Colgate Soaky. (I only liked the movie monsters naturally) Why, now I have to resort to extremes, like setting Lamborghinis on fire and pushing them off cliffs. - Try it, you'll be amazed.
I dislike the word stress. Stress is not elegant. Stress is always frizzy hair. Lopsided (lopsided is our current favourite word) glasses and frantic hand gestures. Move slowly, readers, always. In your car, pull out like it weighs nothing and is carried like a skein of silk on the breeze – you will never have a crash because everyone will stop in your presence. Use your hands slowly, like you are moving through molasses. Elegance is slowness, patience and eyes that could shoot a whole room dead if they wanted to. Go slow, speak quieter and hold longer, then people will listen.
Have you ever tried speaking quieter in a chatty group? Everyone gabs louder and louder and as soon as you open your mouth their silence and rapture.

Oh – I must mention. I saw something recently that discussed the word Rapture. It seems that it has been misappropriated to an odd cause. The Second Coming, that of Mr. Christ and his cronies, will come down and take away (vanish, evaporate) those worthy to heaven – Leaving their clothes behind. My word, I thought, the only reason this might be possible is because there would be new wardrobes up there waiting – which almost made me convert but the fine print mentioned nothing of it. Even then, though, to leave behind my museum, my clothes, my photographs – surely I can pack a little overnight bag, Mr Christ? I shant take any of the champagne as I’m sure you are well stocked. Or perhaps I should, as you are better prepared for the middle class with your water to wine party trick.

What I mean to say, without diversions, is that elegance is knowing you have freckles, ginger hair and buck teeth, but knowing full well that these are precisely the reason you are not tanned and working for InStyle magazine. I was never a face woman, but that doesn’t mean it’s not exactly what worked in my favour. You’d be able to pick me out of a line up blindfolded in the thickest wool.

Oh piffle. Now where was I? I get so distracted. Oh yes....
Below, a few examples. Read carefully. See if you can discern the advertisement so well-woven into the text as to be indivisible from it. Truly, copy-writing genius at work.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Chapter Three
I Have a Change

The carrier's horse was the laziest horse in the world, I should hope, and shuffled along, with his head down, as if he liked to keep people waiting to whom the packages were directed. I fancied, indeed, that he sometimes chuckled audibly over this reflection, but the carrier said he was only troubled with a cough. If only he'd given the horse Dr. Locock's Pulmonic Wafers. They provide perfect freedom from coughs within ten minutes and instant relief and a rapid cure of asthma and consumption, coughs, colds, and all disorders of the breath and lungs. The carrier had a way of keeping his head down, like his horse, and of drooping sleepily forward as he drove, with one of his arms on each of his knees. I say 'drove', but it struck me that the cart would have gone to Yarmouth quite as well without him, for the horse did all that; and as to conversation, he had no idea of it but whistling.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Chapter Twenty-Two

Fanny, having been sent into the village on some errand by her aunt Norris, was overtaken by a heavy shower close to the Parsonage; and being descried from one of the windows endeavouring to find shelter under the branches and lingering leaves of an oak just beyond their premises, was forced, though not without some modest reluctance on her part, to come in. A civil servant she had withstood; but when Dr. Grant himself went out with an umbrella, there was nothing to be done but to be very much ashamed, and to get into the house as fast as possible. Oh, to have a W. & J. Sangster Alpaca umbrella! The superiority of Alpaca over every other material for Umbrellas being now generally acknowledged, W.&J. Sangster also always have a Stock of cheap Silk Umbrellas. The two sisters were so kind to her, and so pleasant, that Fanny might have enjoyed her visit could she have believed herself not in the way, and could she have foreseen that the weather would certainly clear at the end of the hour, and save her from the shame of having Dr. Grant's carriage and horses out to take her home, with which she was threatened.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Chapter Eight
"Look at me," said Miss Havisham. "You are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born?"
I regret to state that I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie comprehended in the answer "No."
"Do you know what I touch here?" she said, laying her hands, one upon the other, on her left side.
"Yes, ma'am." (It made me think of the young man.)
"What do I touch?"
"Your heart."
She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis, and with a weird smile that had a kind of boast in it. Afterwards, she kept her hands there for a little while, and slowly took them away as if they were heavy.
"I am tired," said Miss Havisham. "I want diversion, and I have done with men and women. Play."
I think it will be conceded by my most disputatious reader, that she could hardly have directed an unfortunate boy to do anything in the wide world more difficult to be done under the circumstances.
"I sometimes have sick fancies," she went on, "and I have a sick fancy for my Vigor's Horse-Action Saddle. It invigorates the system by bringing all the vital organs into inspiriting action! And I haven't had any action, inspiriting or otherwise, since the sun dawned upon the day you were born. There there!"

Silas Marner by George Eliot
Chapter Two

There were no lips in Raveloe from which a word could fall that would stir Silas Marner's benumbed faith to a sense of pain. In the early ages of the world, we know, it was believed that each territory was inhabited and ruled by its own divinities, so that a man could cross the bordering heights and be out of the reach of his native gods, whose presence was confined to the streams and the groves and the hills among which he had lived from his birth. And poor Silas was vaguely conscious of something not unlike the feeling of primitive men, when they fled thus, in fear or in sullenness, from the face of an unpropitious deity. It seemed to him that the Power he had vainly trusted in among the streets and at the prayer-meetings, was very far away from this land in which he had taken refuge, where men lived in careless abundance, knowing and needing nothing of that trust, which, for him, had been turned to bitterness. The little light he possessed spread its beams so narrow, that frustrated belief was a curtain broad enough to create for him the blackness of night. Would that he had a passel of Field's "Ozokerit Candles" for brilliant light, safety, economy and reliability to burn the Star-Lit Nights!
His first movement after the shock had been to work in his loom; and he went on with this unremittingly, never asking himself why, now he was come to Raveloe, he worked far on into the night to finish the tale of Mrs. Osgood's table-linen sooner than she expected...

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Chapter Ten

When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation at Lowood, it gradually disappeared from thence; but not till its virulence and the number of its victims had drawn public attention on the school. Inquiry was made into the origin of the scourge, and by degrees various facts came out which excited public indignation in a high degree. The unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity and quality of the children's food; the brackish, fetid water used in its preparation; the pupils' wretched clothing and accommodations--all these things were discovered, and the discovery produced a result mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurst, but beneficial to the institution: Frampton's Pill of Health. This most excellent Family Medicine is the most effective remedy for Indigestion, Bilious and Liver Complaints, Sick Headache, Loss of appetite, Drowsiness, Giddiness, Spasms, and all Disorders of the Stomach and Bowels; and where an Aperient is required nothing an be better adapted.
Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and clothing introduced; the funds of the school were entrusted to the management of a committee.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Chapter Eleven
Dr. Seward's Diary

Without an instant's notice he made straight at me. He had a dinner knife in his hand, and as I saw he was dangerous, I tried to keep the table between us. He was too quick and too strong for me, however, for before I could get my balance he had struck at me and cut my left wrist rather severely.
Before he could strike again, however, I got in my right hand and he was sprawling on his back on the floor. My wrist bled freely, and quite a little pool trickled on to the carpet. I saw that my friend was not intent on further effort, and occupied myself binding up my wrist, keeping a wary eye on the prostrate figure all the time. When the attendants rushed in, and we turned our attention to him, his employment positively sickened me. He was lying on his belly on the floor licking up, like a dog, the blood which had fallen from my wounded wrist. He was easily secured, and to my surprise, went with the attendants quite placidly, simply repeating over and over again, "The blood is the life! The blood is the life!"
Yes, indeed, For the Blood is the Life - Clarke's World Famed Blood Mixture is warranted to cleanse the blood from all impurities, from whatever cause arising. For Scrofula, Scurvy, Sores of all kinds, Skin and Blood Diseases its effects are marvelous. Thousands of testimonials from all parts.
I cannot afford to lose blood just at present. I have lost too much of late for my physical good, and then the prolonged strain of Lucy's illness and its horrible phases is telling on me. I am over excited and weary, and I need rest, rest, rest. Happily Van Helsing has not summoned me, so I need not forego my sleep. Tonight I could not well do without it. If only I had some of Dr. J. Collis Browne's Chlorodyne, the Original and Only Genuine. If you wish to obtain quiet refreshing sleep, free from headache, relief from pain and anguish, to calm and assuage the weary achings of protracted disease, invigorate the nervous media, and regulate the circulating systems of the body, you will provide yourself with that marvelous remedy discovered by Dr. J. COLLIS BROWNE (late Army Medical Staff), to which he gave the name CHLORODYNE, And which is admitted by the Profession to be the most wonderful and valuable remedy ever discovered.

Vanity Fair
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Chapter Twenty

The idea of hitting his enemy Osborne such a blow soothed, perhaps, the old gentleman: and, their colloquy presently ending, he and Dobbin parted pretty good friends.
"My sisters say she has diamonds as big as pigeons' eggs," George said, laughing. "How they must set off her complexion! Surely she avails herself of Madame A.T. Rowley's Toilet Mask (or Face Gloves), a natural beautifier for bleaching and preserving the skin and removing complexional imperfections. It is soft and flexible in form, and can be worn without discomfort or inconvenience. A perfect illumination it must be when her jewels are on her neck. Her jet-black hair is as curly as Sambo's. I dare say she wore a nose ring when she went to court; and with a plume of feathers in her top-knot she would look a perfect Belle Sauvage."

There. There are a few examples. Shocking is it not? Absolutely astonishing. It is enough to get my heart pounding, if I hadn't sold it to the fellow made out of tin. Russian oligarch, I believe. He was so elegant, how could I say no?
If you need me, I'll be in the bath.

Flaming Lamborghini
1 oz Kahlua coffee liqueur
1 oz sambuca
1 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
1 oz Bailey's Irish cream

Pour the sambuca and kahlua into a cocktail glass. Pour the baileys and blue curacao into two separate shot glasses either side of the cocktail glass. Set light the concoction in the cocktail glass and start to drink through a straw (this drink should be drunk in one). As the bottom of the glass is reached put out the fire by pouring the baileys and blue curacao into the cocktail glass and keep drinking till it's all gone. yumz.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

frosty the golem

“My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” - Psalms 139:15

There seems to be a significant amount of strange and supernatural phenomenon in childhood entertainment, from the Brothers Grimm and Harry Potter to the Disney classics.
I think it is lovely, for it guarantees that there will always be dark little thoughts formed alongside all of the faux wholesome tripe that is constantly forced down the throats of the child fortunate enough to be a scion of these times. Balance, you know, is so important.
Pondering these noir childhood entertainments, combined with the balmy weather, makes me think about the season that lies six or so months from now, it gives a new perspective on the Ho-Ho-Holiday stories that we all take for granted in the winter months, and nothing says "supernatural vengeance" like a mass of unliving natural materials animated and set on a path of justice by those who have suffered at the hands of others.

Frosty the Snowman, the sanitized Rankin-Bass television special aside, is a Golem in the traditional sense.The famous seasonal song immortalized by Gene Autry holds much clear evidence as to Frosty's origins and ultimate purpose. The lyrics of the tune are easy enough to interpret correctly. Frosty is in actuality a creature of Old Testament-style power created by Kabala-worshiping children to correct the inequities they suffered at the hands of the citizens and from the horrible pogroms of the anti-Semitic town in which they reside. Lacking tools or anything that could be used as a weapon the desperate and faithful children build a Golem of legend out of the only material they could easily manipulate and gather: Snow.
By placing a hat (very likely a yarmulke) imbued with powerful magic upon a humanoid form fashioned of inanimate matter, a Golem is brought to a semblance of life by a vengeful God in answer to the children's anguished prayers. Dubbed "Frosty"by the innocent and non-ironic children, the creature is sent from its birthing place in the forest armed with a "broomstick" (rather, a huge club of some sort) into the village on a mission of vengeance. Song scribes Steven "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson do not even attempt to hide the terrible descriptions of the Snow-Golem's murderous spree of righteous retribution to be found in the lyrics of the song.
The phrase "Thumpety thump thump" is repeated several times during the song, succinctly describing not the martial tune of an impromptu parade of happy children following an imaginary character into innocent play, but rather the continuous blows of icy fists made hard as granite by the bitter cold against the flesh of those who would oppress the innocent. Frosty's first target of retribution upon entering the village is a "police officer" who is actually the symbol of racist, intolerant government and authority. Just as in the classic legend of the Golem, once the ice creature completes it's mission it departs and returns to its previous state of lifeless, inanimate matter, promising to "be back again some day" if needed to mete out swift punishment against evil-doers.
While it is true that the Golem is merely a weapon that acts as the instrument of God's will sometimes not all of the missions end in large scale destruction and death. On occasion God is merciful and Frosty the Golem is set on a path not of destruction but enlightenment.
In the story adapted from ancient legends for the 1954 issue of Dell Comics "Frosty the Snowman" the Golem is summoned by a victim of intolerance and battles racism by the simple act of patrolling a village. Frosty the Golem appears harmless and even helpful in the all-ages version of the tale, but doubtlessly the very presence of the creature forced the terrified citizenry to re-think their intolerant ways and accept the cultures and people that do not act, think, worship or dress as they do.
Earlier audiences were treated the with “The Snowman,” a 1932 classic from Ted Eshbaugh. This is the cheerful story of a jolly little boy and his jolly pet seal who live above the jolly arctic circle, having a jolly old time with all the other jolly animals until one day when they build a snowman who comes to life and becomes a horrible flesh eating monster. Grrr.
Yeah, well, this is the same Eshbaugh who gave us “The Sunshine Makers”, so you knew the ride was gonna be a little twisted. No telling how many baby boomers sought therapy in their middle years as a direct result of multiple childhood viewings of this golden oldie.
There is supposed to be a real golem in Prague. It lies waiting. Inhuman, both protector and destroyer. All he needs is one word to be brought to horrifying life. The origin of this unthinking giant can be found in an appropriately macabre place; its creator lies buried in the oldest Jewish cemetery in all of Europe. The cemetery was established in the mid 1400’s and was part of Josefov, the Jewish Ghetto, an area created as a way of oppressing and controlling the Jewish population of Prague. With only a tiny plot of land on which it was legal for Jews to bury their dead, it was a crowded affair from the very start. Used until 1787, it came to contain the skeletal remains of over 100,000 Prague Jews. Graves were layered one on top of the other like pages in a book, reaching up to 12 deep. No doubt over time the simple coffins have disintegrated and the skeletons have drifted into complex three dimensional patterns of bone. The Old Jewish cemetery in Prague a wonder to behold. A stone forest of over 12,000 slabs grows from the mossy earth. The ground rolls and undulates through the cemetery and the massively weighty gravestones lean against each other at odd angles like a group of old drunks. One coffin along the winding path through the cemetery stands out from the rest. The large bed-shaped headstone is the resting spot of Rabbi Judah Lew ben Bezalel, or as he is often known, the Maharal of Prague. While he was an important Jewish figure for a number of reasons, he is remembered for one thing above all. His hands were the one that brought to life that proto-Frankenstein, that original man-made monster, the Golem of Prague. In 1580 the Jewish community was under attack, and was about to be accused of a ritual child murder, a common way a arousing public hatred against Jews and inciting a mob to anti-Jewish violence. It was also an excuse often used to expel the entire Jewish community from a city. Worried, the Maharal asked God what to do. That night in his dreams he was given instructions on how to create a Golem: a creature made of clay. Even for the holiest of men creating life is forbidden by Jewish law, but in this case an exception was to be made. The task would be a dangerous one. He was to use the “Shem Hameforash”, the true name of God, a word so powerful that it could easily kill its speaker. After purifying himself, the Maharal went to the river, and by torchlight sculpted a giant body out of the river clay. After performing the complicated rituals from his dream, he wrote the word Emet, meaning God’s truth, across the muddy forehead. The Golem’s fiery eyes snapped opened to his master. The Golem is soulless and unintelligent, a brute enforcer. It is said the Golem successfully defended the Jewish community against its aggressors, but that as it grew larger and larger it began attacking Gentiles and terrifying Prague. In some tales the Golem turns even on the Jews and its own creator. Eventually the Maharal was forced to destroy the creature by wiping off the first letter written on its forehead, changing the word from Emet, or God’s truth, to the word Met or death. However the body of the Golem was to be stored in the attic of the Synagogue in Prague. Perhaps the Golem still resides there today, waiting for the word, waiting to be summoned.
Can a golem G.I. Joe action figure be far behind? Hmmm... Until then, here is a little article from some magazine called the "New York Times"
Monster Piss
1 1/2 oz Absolut® lemon vodka
1 1/2 oz Captain Morgan® Parrot Bay coconut rum
4 oz pine-orange-banana juice
2 oz Sprite® soda
Mix everything in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and pour into glass. Add the sprite to the glass. Grrrr.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Early 1980's. Alphabet City. Segments are airing on national TV about drugs, guns, general life-threatening disorder. Yet, still and all, it's where the artists live. Coax a cab east and try your luck.

On Avenue B, half-windowed buildings. Puerto Rican mafia guys lurking. Street lights, but they do little more than rattle and buzz. Rats. You carefully watching your footsteps to avoid another one-beneath-as-one-scuttles-atop scenario. Maybe one of the discarded syringes will trip-up the fucker before you do. The Gas Station on your left as you and yours tumble out of the cab, which pulls off before you fully close the door. Kind of pretty in its charred regal manifestation. The usual gathering of performance artists, drug addicts and experimental bands (as in experimenting at being a band, as in GG Allin). Halos seem to float miraculously above them. You swear you can smell the gasoline wafting across the incessant breeze, but your date reminds you it's been forever since the joint burnt or exploded or was just in general abandoned and the drug addict artists took over. Shit. No electricity. No heat. Around the corner, on 2nd, Lucky Seven, a hopping heroin den. More images of rats skewered on myriad needles. Doubtful. You watch your feet.

Then: the door. Formidable. Grey. You seem to be alone on the street. How did that happen? A sound. Another. Closer? You've got to knock. There's a postcard sized peephole, which slides open and two rather naughty eyes eye you. You try to look cool, which could mean a number of things depending upon the doorman's mood. Mostly, it would seem, it means sufficiently seedy enough to add that je ne sais quoi, yet also capable of paying for the illegal overpriced limited-option drinks. The peephole slides shut. Clang! You're fucked.

On other nights, perhaps, though, you're not. Perhaps you're selected by the six something foot bald guy in the mini skirt and high heels who works the door. He's a doll if he knows you. A sweetheart. A gem. If he doesn't, he's finicky, sassy and, at times, downright mean. Of course, he's on drugs. Aren't we all? Cocaine is the prima donna at this affair. Most of the junkies prowling about aren't interested in what Save The Robots has to offer, though there's always the exception. Speed is drug-of-choice #2. Good luck with the john. Most nights, Joey Ramone is developing his crack habit in its wet tomb.

So: you get through the door, through the gate, past Dean, the doorman. Then: the hall. Long, like shoelace licorice. Skinny in the same way. Then: a narrow and not necessarily trustworthy set of stairs. You're cooking now. You can smell the sawdust that awaits you on the floor below. It's faux-Japanese restaurant decor though perhaps its hard to state as much with any authority. Dark. There's a couple of fold-out tables covered in white paper. Maybe they're bare. Does it matter? It's after 2:00. All the legal clubs are shut. You saunter over. Order a Budweiser or an orange juice and vodka.A screwdriver. Ten dollars either way. Bud comes out of a plastic cooler. Top flips up. Then, flips down. Pfft. Early enough it's cold; as the morning unfolds, the ice melts. Brewskis become lukewarm. Orange juice, warm or otherwise, tastes like Kool-aid. Bartender asks you if you're from around here. You develop a hankering for spiked kids' drinks.

There's a lot of folks down here. And you wonder what they're all on about. What they're doing here. But you already know. Sally Randall. Rudolph. Diane Brill. John Sex. Terry Toy. Heterosexual. Homosexual. Bisexual. Transvestite. Yeah, those are hot. They draw the most glee. Big hair on the "girls." A lot of up do's. Mermaid dresses. And so on. Lots of make-up all round in colours that twinkle and glow. A man in slip-on stilettos lets you borrow his lipstick. It's Dean, the doorman, and he's left the door, locked, for a quick spin on the dance floor. Though, not so quick you notice, as he pirouettes and stomps and slithers crammed in tight against others who are doing the same. The guys, the straight ones, still sport a few mohawks. Others, though, like me, are growing it long. It trails about behind them like rainbows. Dean is bald, you refresh watching him go, the only one. Jesus, he's pale. Never sees much daylight. Who here does?

They all live in this neighbourhood, you discover. When the epic clubs--Area, Dancetaria and so on--close at 2:00, (in the City That Never Sleeps) the clubbies, those ebullient few who make the clubs "clubs," traipse over yonder. Fuck the cabs. Most of them walk. No money. Plus, they have a nice buzz--from drinking free at marquee clubs, sweetened in by owners looking for the authentic goods--and the city looks beautiful that night. Plus again, who are they going to be afraid of? Okay, the mafia thing can get, um, dicey, but mostly not.

Dean the doorman had opened his own club, he tells you, when you get to know him, around the corner from Save The Robots just months before Robots opened. He'd named it Uncle Bud's Amway. After his Uncle Bud. And his Uncle Bud's employer. He'd established a velvet rope and refused everybody entry, perched on his high backed chair, glittering beneath the murky stars in sequined skirts and iridescent knit tops. The lines grew verbose. Soon enough, however, the mob guys wanted in. Hence: Dean's current employment where someone else tends to the tricky bits. Denis Provost and his wife Alexandria to be precise, the proprietors. Alexandria's father worked in robotics and he designed robots or parts of robots. Hence: the name of the club. Or so the bartender tells you. You've just purchased drink number two. Your date's ahead of you, #4, #5, #6? And he's mingling. You wonder how many of these people have made it into those segments on television.
One night, your date tells you having, briefly, wandered back, the cops busted the joint. The thing was, they'd just busted the after-hours hole a few streets over and they'd confiscated everybodys' crack. He smirks as he says confiscated. There's so much smoke around you, it's a bit the way you imagine the eye of a hurricane. When you think that, you think of Dean's eyes sizing you up the first time you came and you're glad you made it in the second. Mostly that's cuz your date has formed a pithy New York band and he's causing a little stir. Roboters like stirs. Or so it seems. So they confiscated it, he goes on. Then then did all the shit themselves so by the time they got here they were all fucked up. They busted the place up royal. Holes in the walls. Handcuffing and shit. Take everyone down to jail and lock them in the same cell with the people from the other club. They partied all night and were let go some time in the afternoon. This story amuses your date. As if the club had some sort of edge on the cops. You try to imagine your fellow revelers, heads currently bent over rolled up bills, released into the sun. Not likely.

And then? Well, they couldn't do shit to the club. I mean, they'd fucked up the bust. It's lucky Alexandria and Denis didn't press charges against the pigs. Except, of course, that would have been madness because their whole thing here is illegal. But you're certain, as you search the spray-painted walls for cop-punched holes, your date really does know as much.

There's music playing, of course. Dance, mostly, loud. Your feet vibrate. Your tendons too. And so on. Everybody's dancing. Thumping, pounding, whirling. Except, naturally, Joey. He's hogging the john. John Hall is in charge. He's spinning hip hop as well. You wonder what hip hop is. Though you notice there's a bunch of black guys hanging around looking mischievous. And chances are they've got something to do with it.

Later, when you're a regular and the door opens before you knock and Dean kisses you and slips you candies and the bartender sometimes doesn't charge you and Joey lets you use the toilet, sometimes, and you know all the songs John is spinning except for a few and when you ask him what those are he'll answer you, Alexandria and Denis open the upstairs. It's a lounge. They've acquired a couple of couches and chairs from somewhere. The street? They've embellished them: spray paint. You can sit there, for hours, and think about all the folks on the outside who didn't get in. And you know, if you think about it, that their hearts are breaking. That somehow Save The Robots is, inexplicably, The Promised Land. And Dean, teetering prettily in heels, holds your salvation in his large, and overly-white, you think, hands. Though perhaps that's pushing it.

It's after legal club time and there's nowhere to go. And now there's here. And everyone who's anyone, in those terms, has agreed that here is It. And Dean: eying. Later, around 7ish. The mawkish crowd moves northward, landing themselves at Pyramid. Reeks like old, old beer and smokes. Wired on coke and speed it's all talk, no listening. Then late afternoon sleep. Do they sleep? Or a job. Doubtful. Unless, of course, it's at one of the clubs.
Eventually Save The Robots gets sold to some out-of-towners. Out-of-countryers. Turns out, it's famous around the world. Who knew? Punks and hardcore kids and goths and speed bands and the nascent hip-hoppers and old school dance-heads and the new school techno-heads and so on. Check it out. Bridge and tunnel, now, as well. And you start to make some inner-housekeeping changes of your own.

Then: flash forward; 2002. Same streets, same sense of cool urging about. New generation. And a whole lot of gentrification. Guernica, a trendy restaurant on hallowed Robots ground, serving up, well, what the fuck, no Kool-aid here. The Gas Station, decimated. Brought down to honor a Kings Pharmacy and flights of yuppies. Lucky Seven, an Italian haunt. Good food. Visiting movie stars taste the fares: Julia Roberts, Benjamin Bratt. Separate dates.

Windows, now, lots of them. Street lights. Parents wouldn't let them live there without. Rents you couldn't make if you worked a dozen club jobs. Not true, not true. But where are the clubs these days? Still and all, it's hell over here. Carcasses of times barely recalled. You walk around a bit, check out the kids in their false-punk get-ups and mighty heels, know they are convinced they're the edge just as you were once convinced as much, stealing some other generation's way. But that was back before it took more than one beer, albeit Guinness, to give you a hang over.

Wind still blows, Northeast mostly. The Towers proved that. Alone? Hah, these days. Not. Likely. Then: maybe you are. And it smells like gasoline. Don't embellish. But smells the same, like back in the day, somehow. And you pass Il Bagatto, hang a louie on B, pass Kings, there she is: Guernica.

And you try, this quiet Sunday morning, to recollect.
But you can't.
They tore the fucking door down...


Rise Robot Rise
1/2 pint Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey
1/8 pint Absolut vodka
5 drops grenadine syrup
Combine jack daniel's, vodka and grenadine in a highball glass. Mix well, add ice, and serve.

Monday, July 19, 2010

poetic ooze

You know I'm devoted to poetry. Yes, I know simply everyone is these days, but I think I am especially in tune with it being an artiste and all. I simply ooze it from my pores like last nights tequila.
Sadly, poetry has taken a backseat to a cacophony of meaningless chatter; beautiful verse having been exiled to the greeting card section of your local supermarket- sigh. And everyone seems to be at it these days, blah blah blah!
Thanks to the Internet with it's E-mail, texting, sexting and IM (ing), we compose messages to each other as spontaneously as our parents picked up the telephone.
Among the literate classes of Europe, who did not have "Spellcheck", poetry used to be a kind of social media too.
Here, let me take a break from my morning routine of hunting eBay for Raymor vases and firing off snitty missives to NPR about their recent foray into celebrity tabloid coverage and fill you in on a little history.
Poetry back "in the day" worked in ways similar to ancient Japanese poetry, which, as Sei Shonagon’s 10th-century Pillow Book tells us, involved courtiers “texting” poems to each other, albeit on exquisite paper. Like Japan’s court poetry, English poetry in the early 18th century, the so-called Augustan Age
The first half of the 18th century, during which English poets such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift emulated Virgil, Ovid, and Horace—the great Latin poets of the reign of the Emperor Augustus flourished as a kind of messaging between members of a social circle.
But, informed by the rigors of metrical and rhetorical convention, it sparkled in a way that our missives—texts written in haste, or comments dashed off in high dudgeon—often do not.
These poems were in the form of “epistolary verse,” or letter-poems, and they were both public and private displays of alliance and conflict. Writing artfully to provide amusement for friends with good taste, the epistolary poets also regarded their high style as a persuasive tactic.

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, was one writer of Augustan epistolary verse, and her poem “The Answer” is an elegant example of the form. Swellegant even.
As with electronic messages, to understand “The Answer” you have to know what it was replying to. In this case, Finch’s poem is a response to another poem, “Impromptu,” by Alexander Pope, itself composed in answer to a rumor that Finch disapproved of him. The reigning poet of his day, Pope was 27 years younger than Finch. He had heard from a mutual friend that she objected to some diminishing remarks about female writers in his masterpiece “The Rape of the Lock”—yet another response poem, this one to a young woman Pope knew who threw a tantrum over a suitor’s bit of mischief. Finch thought his lines were misogynistic attacks on her female associates, to whom she was devoted. “Impromptu” was Pope’s way of charming himself back into her good graces:

In vain you boast Poetic Names of yore,
And cite those Sapphos we admire no more:
Fate doom’d the Fall of ev’ry Female Wit;
But doom’d it then when first Ardelia writ.
Of all Examples by the World confess’d,
I knew Ardelia could not quote the best;
Who, like her Mistress on Britannia’s Throne;
Fights and subdues in Quarrels not her own.
To write their Praise you but in vain essay;
Ev’n while you write, you take that Praise away:
Light to the Stars the Sun does thus restore,
But shines himself till they are seen no more.

“Impromptu” is a sly attempt to deflect his friend’s criticism with flattery. You think you’re defending your sisters, he says, but you’re so superior to them that by picking up your pen you just prove me right: “To write their Praise you but in vain essay; / Ev’n while you write, you take that Praise away.” By Pope’s logic, Finch is unconsciously a more devastating critic of (other) women’s writing than he could ever be.
“The Answer” matches wits with the cocky young Pope. Finch demurs, adopting a silken tone of feminine conciliation—“The contest I give oer.” She pleads for mercy yet calls him by his first name, which in debate is a tactic used to undermine the authority of one’s opponent. Then she laughs at him, comparing him to the mythic singer Orpheus. In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Orpheus was torn limb from limb by frenzied maenads—basically, female fans. His dismembered head kept singing all the way downstream to the sea, washing up on Lesbos, Sappho’s isle. Don’t worry, Finch says to Pope: this won’t happen to you because “you our follies gently treat.” Where Orpheus offered “scoffing rhymes,” Finch grants that Pope has spun the “thread” of his poem finely. And when she promises, “The lock won’t cost the head,” she is wittily confusing the beheaded singer with Belinda’s snipped tress in “The Rape of the Lock.” Grandiose Orpheus would have written as amusingly as Pope “[h]ad he in London town been bred, / And polished too his wit.”
Continuing her alternate reading of the myth, Finch mocks Orpheus’s failure to save his wife, Eurydice, when his music moved the god of Hades: “But he poor soul thought all was well, / And great should be his fame, / When he had left his wife in hell. . . .” By making light of this drama at the expense of the pompous Poetic Hero, Finch deflates Pope by analogy. She is treating serious things lightly—the opposite of Pope’s mock-heroic strategy in “The Rape of the Lock”—which undermines her apparent sincerity.
In her coup de grace, Finch reassures Pope—“Our admiration you command”—before a final, ambiguous insult: as she tells “the ladies,” wit is easy enough, but wisdom is something we learn—by others’ reprimands. Yet who is reprimanding who? While superficially conceding to Pope’s complaint, Finch sneaks in her own admonition to the younger man to mind his manners. And Pope’s response? He requested permission to publish her piece alongside “Impromptu” in his next book. Ever the lady, Finch softened her final version by omitting the beheading. Their friendship prevailed, more firmly bonded by this mutually amusing contest.
“The Answer,” like “Impromptu,” is a rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Both poems pretend to be reasonable while wielding the imbalances of power—her maturity, his maleness—as stealth weapons. Their reputations were imbalanced as well. Anne Finch, like many exceptional female poets, stood slightly apart from the mainstream of her time; it is only recently that she has been rehabilitated as an important 18th-century poet. Pope, on the other hand, was always the spokesman of the Augustan Age, an absolute master of its prevalent modes—satire and didacticism. After all, the period was dubbed “Augustan” because it harked back to the learned poets of Augustus’s reign in Rome—like Horace, who all but invented the epistolary form and was a wicked satirist as well.
The Augustans have long been overshadowed by the Romantics.
(A poetic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that turned toward nature and the interior world of feeling, in opposition to the mannered formalism and disciplined scientific inquiry of the Enlightenment. English poets such as William Wordsworth, . . . )
The Augustans prized neoclassical virtues such as reason and proportion; the Romantics enshrined vision and extravagance.
Following the Romantics, we have privileged the individual genius and the masterpiece, but perhaps Anne Finch has another message for us: take Alexander Pope off his damned pedestal.
We can look at Augustan poetry as a network of poets engaging one another with verse inseparable from their back-stories. Pope helped found the Scriblerus Club with Jonathan Swift and wrote The Dunciad to satirize the specific writers he loathed; Finch had many female contemporaries, though most of their names—Katherine Philip, Mary Chudleigh, Elizabeth Thomas, Sarah Fyge Egerton, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Elizabeth Carter, Sarah Dixon, Jane Brereton, Mary Jones, Mary Masters, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, among others—are, sadly, obscure to us now.
Without denying the fact that some writers are more talented than others—and without exiling the notions of genius or mastery—it is possible to see the highly networked milieu of English verse at this time as a social practice rather than a spiritual one—a precursor to our own secular, highly networked times.

We might learn something, as well, from the forms these poets’ messages took.
Their banter was charged with ironies but always civil; the rules of metrics and the bounds of discourse played their part in defusing hard feelings.
As it happens, the lines in “The Rape of the Lock” to which Finch objected not only were misogynistic but also could be construed as a very personal attack.
A character called Spleen is told that women write only to self-medicate, and “The Spleen” is in fact the title of Finch’s poem about her recurring depression.
But the conventions of Augustan poetry sublimated emotion into a contest of wits, so what could have been a petty complaint resulted in works that have instead lasted centuries.
While I’m certainly not suggesting that contemporary flame wars be conducted in epistolary rhyming hexameters, I feel it’s absolutely impossible to read the repartee between Finch and Pope and not feel pressed to raise the bar on our own poetic rhetoric.... unless you are an absolute boob, and you aren't are you? Hmmmm...?

Ruby Heart
1 shot peach schnapps
1 shot vodka
1 shot Malibu® coconut rum
pineapple juice
cranberry juice
Combine peach schnapps, vodka and Malibu rum in a cocktail glass. Almost fill with pineapple juice, add a splash of cranberry juice, and serve.

Monday, May 31, 2010

In Memoriam

A poem, on the rising glory of America by Hugh Henry Brackenridge

No more of Memphis and her mighty kings,
Or Alexandria, where the Ptolomies.
Taught golden commerce to unfurl her falls,
And bid fair science smile: No more of Greece
Where learning next her early visit paid,
And spread her glories to illume the world,
No more of Athens, where she flourished,
And saw her sons of mighty genius rise
Smooth flowing Plato, Socrates and him
Who with resistless eloquence reviv'd
The Spir't of Liberty, and shook the thrones
Of Macedon and Persia's haughty king.
No more of Rome enlighten'd by her beams,
Fresh kindling there the fire of eloquence,
And poesy divine; imperial Rome!
Whose wide dominion reach'd o'er half the globe;
Whose eagle flew o'er Ganges to the East,
And in the West far to the British isles.
No more of Britain, and her kings renown'd,
Edward's and Henry's thunderbolts of war;
Her chiefs victorious o'er the Gallic foe;
Illustrious senators, immortal bards,
And wise philosophers, of these no more.
A Theme more new, tho' not less noble claims
Our ev'ry thought on this auspicious day
The rising glory of this western world,
Where now the dawning light of science spreads
Her orient ray, and wakes the muse's song;
Where freedom holds her sacred standard high,
And commerce rolls her golden tides profuse
Of elegance and ev'ry joy of life.

Since then Leander you attempt a strain
So new, so noble and so full of fame;
And since a friendly concourse centers here
America's own sons, begin O muse!
Now thro' the veil of ancient days review
The period fam'd when first Columbus touch'd
The shore so long unknown, thro' various toils,
Famine and death, the hero made his way,
Thro' oceans bestowing with eternal storms.
But why, thus hap'ly found, should we resume
The tale of Cortez, furious chief, ordain'd
With Indian blood to dye the sands, and choak
Fam'd Amazonia's stream with dead! Or why,
Once more revive the story old in fame,
Of Atabilipa by thirst of gold
Depriv'd of life: which not Peru's rich ore,
Nor Mexico's vast mines cou'd then redeem.
Better these northern realms deserve our song,
Discover'd by Britannia for her sons;
Undeluged with seas of Indian blood,
Which cruel Spain on southern regions spilt;
To gain by terrors what the gen'rous breast
Wins by fair treaty, conquers without blood.

High in renown th' intreprid hero stands,
From Europes shores advent'ring first to try
New seas, new oceans, unexplor'd by man.
Fam'd Cabot too may claim our noblest song,
Who from th' Atlantic surge descry'd these shores,
As on he coasted from the Mexic bay
To Acady and piny Labradore.
Nor less than him the muse would celebrate
Bold Hudson stemming to the pole, thro' seas
Vex'd with continual storms, thro' the cold strains,
Where Europe and America oppose
Their shores contiguous, and the northern sea
Confin'd, indignant, swells and roars between.
With these be number'd in the list of fame
Illustrious Raleigh, hapless in his fate:
Forgive me Raleigh, if an infant muse
Borrows thy name to grace her humble strain;
By many nobler are thy virtues sung;
Envy no more shall throw them in the shade;
They pour new lustre on Britannia's isle.
Thou too, advent'rous on th' Atlantic main,
Burst thro' its storms and fair Virginia hail'd.
The simple natives saw thy canvas flow,
And gaz'd aloof upon the shady shore:
For in her woods America contain'd,
From times remote, a savage race of men.
How shall we know their origin, how tell,
From whence or where the Indian tribes arose?

And long has this defy'd the sages skill
T' investigate: Tradition seems to hide
The mighty secret from each mortal eye,
How first these various nations South and North
Possest these shores, or from what countries came.
Whether they sprang from some premoeval head
In their own lands, like Adam in the East;
Yet this the sacred oracles deny,
And reason too reclaims against the thought.
For when the gen'ral deluge drown'd the world,
Where could their tribes have found security?
Where find their fate but in the ghastly deep?
Unless, as others dream, some chosen few
High on the Andes 'scap'd the gen'ral death,
High on the Andes wrapt in endless snow,
Where winter in his wildest fury reigns.
But here Philosophers oppose the scheme,
The earth, say they, nor hills nor mountains knew
E'er yet the universal flood prevail'd:
But when the mighty waters rose aloft
Rous'd by the winds, they shook their solid case
And in convulsions tore the drowned world!
'Till by the winds assuag'd they quickly fell
And all their ragged bed exposed to view.
Perhaps far wand'ring towards the northren pole,
The straits of Zembla and the Frozen Zone,
And where the eastern Greenland almost joins
America's north point, the hardy tribes
Of banish'd Jews, Siberians, Tartars wild
Came over icy mountains, or on floats
First reach'd these coasts hid from the world beside.
And yet another argument more strange
Reserv'd for men of deeper thought and late
Presents itself to view: In Pelag's days,
So says the Hebrew seer's inspired pen,
This mighty mass of earth, this solid globe
Was cleft in twain--cleft east and west apart
While strait between the deep Atlantic roll'd.
And traces indisputable remain
Of this unhappy land now sunk and lost;
The islands rising in the eastern main
Are but small fragments of this continent,
Whose two extremities were Newfoudland
And St. Helena.--One far in the north
Where British seamen now with strange surprise
Behold the pole star glitt'ring o'er their heads;
The other in the southern tropic rears
Its head above the waves; Bermudas and
Canary isles, Britannia and th' Azores,
With fam'd Hibernia are but broken parts
Of some prodigious waste which once sustain'd
Armies by lands, where now but ships can range.

Your sophistry Acasto makes me smile;
The roving mind of man delights to dwell
On hidden things, merely because they're hid;
He thinks his knowledge ne'er can reach too high
And boldly pierces nature's inmost haunts
But for uncertainties; your broken isles,
You northern Tartars, and your wand'ring Jews.
Hear what the voice of history proclaims.
The Carthaginians, e'er the Roman yoke
Broke their proud spirits and enslav'd them too,
For navigation were renown'd as much
As haughty Tyre with all her hundred fleets;
Full many: league their vent'rous seamen sail'd
Thro' strait Gibraltar down the western shore
Of Africa, and to Canary isles
By them call'd fortunate, so Flaccus sings,
Because eternal spring there crowns the fields,
And fruits delicious bloom throughout the year.
From voyaging here this inference I draw,
Perhaps some barque with all her num'rous crew
Caught by the eastern trade wind hurry'd on
Before th' steady blast to Brazil's shore,
New Amazonia and the coasts more south.
Here standing and unable to return,
For ever from their native skies estrang'd,
Doubtless they made the unknown land their own.
And in the course of many rolling years
A num'rous progeny from these arose,
And spread throughout the coasts; those whom we call
Brazilians, Mexicans, Peruvians rich,
Th' tribes of Chili, Paragon and those
Who till the shores of Amazon's long stream.
When first the pow'rs of Europe here attain'd
Vast empires, kingdoms, cities, palaces
And polish'd nations stock'd the fertile land.
Who has not heard of Cusco, Lima and
The town of Mexico; huge cities form'd
From Europe's architecture, e're the arms
Of haughty Spain disturb'd the peaceful soil.

Such disquisition leads the puzzled mind
From maze to maze by queries still perplex'd.
But this we know, if from the east they came
Where science first and revelation beam'd,
Long since they've lost all memory, all trace
Of this their origin: Tradition tells
Of some great forefather beyond the lakes
Oswego, Huron, Mechigan, Champlaine
Or by the stream of Amazon which rolls
Thro' many a clime; while others simply dream
That from the Andes or the mountains north,
Some hoary fabled ancestor came down
To people this their world.

How fallen, Oh!
How much obscur'd is human nature here!
Shut from the light of science and of truth
They wander'd blindfold down the steep of time;
Dim superstition with her ghastly train
Of dæmons, spectres and forboding signs
Still urging them to horrid rites and forms
Of human sacrifice, to sooth the pow'rs
Malignant, and the dark infernal king.
Once on this spot perhaps a wigwam stood
With all its rude inhabitants, or round
Some mighty fire an hundred savage sons
Gambol'd by day, and filled the night with cries;
In what superior to the brutal race
That fled before them thro' the howling wilds,
Were all those num'rous tawny tribes which swarm'd
From Baffin's bay to Del Fuego south,
From California to the Oronoque.
Far from the reach of fame they liv'd unknown
In listless slumber and inglorious ease;
To them fair science never op'd her stores,
Nor sacred truth sublim'd the soul to God;
No fix'd abode their wand'ring genius knew;
No golden harvest crown'd the fertile glebe;
No city then adorn'd the rivers bank,
Nor rising turret overlook'd the stream.

Now view the prospect chang'd; far off at sea
The mariner descry's our spacious towns
He hails the prospect of the land and views
A new, a fair a fertile world arise;
Onward from India's isles far east, to us
Now fair-ey'd commerce stretches her white sails,
Learning exalts her head, the graces smile
And peace establish'd after horrid war
Improves the splendor of these early times.
But come my friends and let us trace the steps
By which this recent happy world arose,
To this fair eminence of high renown
This height of wealth, of liberty and fame.

Speak then Eugenio, for I've heard you tell
The pleasing hist'ry, and the cause that brought
The first advent'rers to these happy shores;
The glorious cause that urg'd our fathers first
To visit climes unknown and wilder woods
Than e'er Tartarian or Norwegian saw,
And with fair culture to adorn that soil
Which never knew th' industrious swain before.

All this long story to rehearse would tire,
Besides the sun toward the west retreats,
Nor can the noblest tale retard his speed,
Nor loftiest verse; not that which sung the fall
Of Troy divine and smooth Scamander's stream.
Yet hear a part.--By persecution wrong'd
And popish cruelty, our fathers came
From Europe's shores to find this blest abode,
Secure from tyranny and hateful man.
For this they left their country and their friends
And plough'd th' Atlantic wave in quest of peace;
And found new shores and sylvan settlements
Form'd by the care of each advent'rous chief,
Who, warm in liberty and freedom's cause,
Sought out uncultivated tracts and wilds,
And fram'd new plans of cities, governments
And spacious provinces: Why should I name
Thee Penn, the Solon of our western lands;
Sagacious legislator, whom the world
Admires tho' dead: an infant colony
Nurs'd by thy care, now rises o'er the rest
Like that tall Pyramid on Memphis' stand
O'er all the lesser piles, they also great.
Why should I name those heroes so well known
Who peopled all the rest from Canada
To Georgia's farthest coasts, West Florida
Or Apalachian mountains, yet what streams
Of blood were shed! What Indian hosts were slain
Before the days of peace were quite restor'd.

Yes, while they overturn'd the soil untill'd,
And swept the forests from the shaded plain
'Midst dangers, foes and death, fierce Indian tribes
With deadly malice arm'd and black design,
Oft murder'd half the hapless colonies.
Encourag'd too by that inglorious race
False Gallia's sons, who once their arms display'd
At Quebec, Montreal and farthest coasts
Of Labrador and Esquimaux where now
The British standard awes the coward host.
Here those brave chiefs, who lavish of their blood
Fought in Britannia's cause, most nobly fell.
What Heart but mourns the untimely fate of Wolf,
Who dying conquer'd, or what breast but beats
To share a fate like his, and die like him?

And he demands our lay who bravely fell
By Monangahela and the Ohio's stream;
By wiles o'ercome the hapless hero fell,
His soul too gen'rous, for that dastard crew
Who kill unseen and shun the face of day.
Ambush'd in wood, and swamp and thick grown hill,
The bellowing tribes brought on the savage war.
What could avail O Braddock then the flame,
The gen'rous flame which fir'd thy martial soul!
What could avail Britannia's warlike troops,
Choice spirits of her isle? What could avail
America's own sons? The skulking foe,
Hid in the forest lay and sought secure,
What could the brave Virginians do o'erpower'd
By such vast numbers and their leader dead?
'Midst fire and death they bore him from the field,
Where in his blood full many a hero lay.
'Twas there O Halkut! thou so nobly fell,
Thrice valiant Halkut early son of fame!
We still deplore a fate so immature,
Fair Albion mourns thy unsuccesful end,
And Caledonia sheds a tear for him
Who led the bravest of her sons to war.

But why alas commemorate the dead?
And pass those glorious heroes by, who yet
Breathe the same air and see the light with us?
The dead, Acasto are but empty names
And he who dy'd to day the same to us
As he who dy'd a thousand years ago.
A Johnson lives, among the sons of same
Well known, conspicuous as the morning star
Among the lesser lights: A patriot skill'd
In all the glorious arts of peace of war.
He for Britannia gains the savage race,
Unstable as the sea, wild as the winds,
Cruel as death, and treacherous as hell,
Whom none but he by kindness yet could win,
None by humanity could gain their souls,
Or bring from woods and subteranean dens
The skulking crew, before a Johnson rose,
Pitying their num'rous tribes: ah how unlike
The Cortez' and Acosta's, pride of Spain
Whom blood and murder only satisfy'd.
Behold their doleful regions overflow'd
With gore, and blacken'd with ten thousand deaths
From Mexico to Patagonia far,
Where howling winds sweep round the southern cape,
And other suns and other stars arise!

Such is the curse Eugenio where the soul
Humane is wanting, but we boast no seats
Of cruelty like Spain's unfeeling sons.
The British Epithet is merciful:
And we the sons of Britain learn like them
To conquer and to spare; for coward souls
Seek their revenge but on a vanquish'd foe.
Gold, fatal gold was the assuring bait
To Spain's rapacious mind, hence rose the wars
From Chili to the Caribbean sea,
O'er Terra-Firma and La Plata wide.
Peru then sunk in ruins, great before
With pompous cities, monuments superb
Whose tops reach'd heav'n. But we more happy boast
No golden metals in our peaceful land,
No flaming diamond, precious emerald,
Or blushing saphire, ruby, chrysolite
Or jasper red; more noble riches flow
From agriculture and th' industrious swain,
Who tills the fertile vale or mountain's brow,
Content to lead a safe, a humble life
'Midst his own native hills; romantic scenes,
Such as the muse of Greece did feign so well,
Envying their lovely bow'rs to mortal race.

Long has the rural life been justly fam'd;
And poets old their pleasing pictures drew
Of flow'ry meads, and groves and gliding streams.
Hence old Arcadia, woodnymphs, satyrs, fauns,
And hence Elysium, fancy'd heav'n below.
Fair agriculture, not unworthy kings,
Once exercis'd the royal hand, or those
Whose virtue rais'd them to the rank of gods.
See old Laertes in his shepherd weeds,
Far from his pompous throne and court august,
Digging the grateful soil, where peaceful blows
The west wind murm'ring thro' the aged trees
Loaded with apples red, sweet scented peach
And each luxurious fruit the world affords,
While o'er the fields the harmless oxen draw
Th' industrious plough. The Roman heroes too
Fabricius and Camillus lov'd a life
Of sweet simplicity and rustic joy;
And from the busy Forum hast'ning far,
'Midst woods and fields spent the remains of age.
How grateful to behold the harvests rise
And mighty crops adorn the golden plains?
Fair plenty smiles throughout, while lowing herds
Stalk o'er the grassy hill or level mead,
Or at some winding river slake their thirst.
Thus fares the rustic swain; and when the winds
Blow with a keener breath, and from the North
Pour all their tempests thro' a sunless sky,
Ice, sleet and rattling hail, secure he sits
In some thatch'd cottage fearless of the storm;
While on the hearth a fire still blazing high
Chears every mind, and nature fits serene
On ev'ry countenance, such the joys
And such the fate of those whom heav'n hath bless'd
With souls enamour'd of a country life.

Much wealth and pleasure agriculture brings;
Far in the woods she raises palaces,
Puisant states and crowded realms where late
A desart plain or frowning wilderness
Deform'd the view; or where with moving tents
The scatter'd nations seeking pasturage,
Wander'd from clime to clime incultivate;
Or where a race more savage yet than these,
In search of prey o'er hill and mountain rang'd,
Fierce as the tygers and the wolves they flew.
Thus lives th' Arabian and the Tartar wild
In woody wastes which never felt the plough;
But agriculture crowns our happy land,
And plants our colonies from north to south,
From Cape Breton far as the Mexic bay
From th' Eastern shores to Missisippi's stream.
Famine to us unknown, rich plenty reigns
And pours her blessings with a lavish hand.

Nor less from golden commerce flow the streams
Of richest plenty on our smiling land.
Now fierce Bellona must'ring all her rage,
To other climes and other seas withdraws,
To rouse the Russian on the desp'rate Turk
There to conflict by Danube and the straits
Which join the Euxine to th' Egean Sea.
Britannia holds the empire of the waves,
And welcomes ev'ry bold adventurer
To view the wonders of old Ocean's reign.
Far to the east our fleets on traffic sail,
And to the west thro' boundless seas which not
Old Rome nor Tyre nor mightier Carthage knew.
Daughter of commerce, from the hoary deep
New-York emerging rears her lofty domes,
And hails from far her num'rous ships of trade,
Like shady forests rising on the waves.
From Europe's shores or from the Caribbees,
Homeward returning annually they bring
The richest produce of the various climes.
And Philadelphia mistress of our world,
The seat of arts, of science, and of fame
Derives her grandeur from the pow'r of trade.
Hail happy city where the muses stray,
Where deep philosophy convenes her sons
And opens all her secrets to their view!
Bids them ascend with Newton to the skies,
And trace the orbits of the rolling spheres,
Survey the glories of the universe,
Its suns and moons and ever blazing stars!
Hail city blest with liberty's fair beams,
And with the rays of mild religion blest!

Nor these alone, America, thy sons
In the short circle of a hundred years
Have rais'd with toil along thy shady shores.
On lake and bay and navigable stream,
From Cape Breton to Pensacola south,
Unnumber'd towns and villages arise,
By commerce nurs'd these embrio marts of trade
May yet awake the envy and obscure
The noblest cities of the eastern world;
For commerce is the mighty reservoir
From whence all nations draw the streams of gain.
'Tis commerce joins dissever'd worlds in one,
Confines old Ocean to more narrow bounds;
Outbraves his storms and peoples half his world.

And from the earliest times advent'rous man
On foreign traffic stretch'd the nimble sail;
Or sent the slow pac'd caravan afar
O'er barren wastes, eternal sands where not
The blissful haunt of human form is seen
Nor tree not ev'n funeral cypress sad
Nor bubbling fountain. Thus arriv'd of old
Golconda's golden ore, and thus the wealth
Of Ophir to the wisest of mankind.

Great is the praise of commerce, and the men
Deserve our praise who spread from shore to shore
The flowing fall; great are their dangers too;
Death ever present to the fearless eye
And ev'ry billow but a gaping grave;
Yet all these mighty feats to science owe
Their rise and glory.--Hail fair science! thou
Transplanted from the eastern climes dost bloom
In these fair regions, Greece and Rome no more
Detain the muses on Cithæron's brow,
Or old Olympus crown'd with waving woods;
Or Hæmus' top where once was heard the harp,
Sweet Orpheus' harp that ravish'd hell below
And pierc'd the soul of Orcus and his bride,
That hush'd to silence by the song divine
Thy melancholy waters, and the gales
O Hebrus! which o'er thy sad surface blow.
No more the maids round Alpheus' waters stray
Where he with Arethusas' stream doth mix,
Or where swift Tiber disembogues his waves
Into th' Italian sea so long unsung.
Hither they've wing'd their way, the last, the best
Of countries where the arts shall rise and grow
Luxuriant, graceful; and ev'n now we boast
A Franklin skill'd in deep philosophy,
A genius piercing as th' electric fire,
Bright as the light'nings flash explain'd so well
By him the rival of Britannia's sage.
This is a land of ev'ry joyous sound
Of liberty and life; sweet liberty!
Without whose aid the noblest genius fails,
And science irretrievably must die.

This is a land where the more noble light
Of holy revelation beams, the star
Which rose from Judah lights our skies, we feel
Its influence as once did Palestine
And Gentile lands, where now the ruthless Turk
Wrapt up in darkness sleeps dull life away.
Here many holy messengers of peace
As burning lamps have given light to men.
To thee, O Whitefield! favourite of Heav'n,
The muse would pay the tribute of a tear.
Laid in the dust thy eloquence no more
Shall charm the list'ning soul, no more
Thy bold imagination paint the scenes
Of woe and horror in the shades below;
Or glory radiant in the fields above;
No more thy charity relieve the poor;
Let Georgia mourn, let all her orphans weep.

Yet tho' we wish'd him longer from the skies,
And wept to see the ev'ning of his days,
He long'd himself to reach his final hope,
The crown of glory for the just prepar'd.
From life's high verge he hail'd th' eternal shore
And, freed at last from his confinement, rose
An infant seraph to the worlds on high.

For him we sound the melancholy lyre,
The lyre responsive to each distant sigh;
No grief like that which mourns departing souls
Of holy, just and venerable men,
Whom pitying Heav'n sends from their native skies
To light our way and bring us nearer God.
But come Leander since we know the past
And present glory of this empire wide,
What hinders to pervade with searching eye
The mystic scenes of dark futurity?
Say shall we ask what empires yet must rise
What kingdoms pow'rs and states where now are seen
But dreary wastes and awful solitude,
Where melancholy sits with eye forlorn
And hopes the day when Britain's sons shall spread
Dominion to the north and south and west
Far from th' Atlantic to Pacific shores?
A glorious theme, but how shall mortals dare
To pierce the mysteries of future days,
And scenes unravel only known to fate.

This might we do if warm'd by that bright coal
Snatch'd from the altar of seraphic fire,
Which touch'd Isaiah's lips, or if the spirit
Of Jeremy and Amos, prophets old,
Should fire the breast; but yet I call the muse
And what we can will do. I see, I see
A thousand kingdoms rais'd, cities and men
Num'rous as sand upon the ocean shore;
Th' Ohio then shall glide by many a town
Of note: and where the Missisippi stream
By forests shaded now runs weeping on
Nations shall grow and states not less in fame
Than Greece and Rome of old: we too shall boast
Our Alexanders, Pompeys, heroes, kings
That in the womb of time yet dormant lye
Waiting the joyful hour for life and light.
O snatch us hence, ye muses! to those days
When, through the veil of dark antiquity,
Our sons shall hear of us as things remote,
That blossom'd in the morn of days, alas!
How could I weep that we were born so soon,
In the beginning of more happy times!
But yet perhaps our fame shall last unhurt.
The sons of science nobly scorn to die
Immortal virtue this denies, the muse
Forbids the men to slumber in the grave
Who well deserve the praise that virtue gives.

'Tis true no human eye can penetrate
The veil obscure, and in fair light disclos'd
Behold the scenes of dark futurity;
Yet if we reason from the course of things,
And downward trace the vestiges of time,
The mind prophetic grows and pierces far
Thro' ages yet unborn. We saw the states
And mighty empires of the East arise
In swift succession from the Assyrian
To Macedon and Rome; to Britain thence
Dominion drove her car, she stretch'd her reign
Oer many isles, wide seas, and peopled lands.
Now in the West a continent appears;
A newer world now opens to her view;
She hastens onward to th' Americ shores
And bids a scene of recent wonders rise.
New states new empires and a line of kings,
High rais'd in glory, cities, palaces
Fair domes on each long bay, sea, shore or stream
Circling the hills now rear their lofty heads.
Far in the Arctic skies a Petersburgh,
A Bergen, or Archangel lifts its spires
Glitt'ring with Ice, far in the West appears
A new Palmyra or an Ecbatan,
And sees the slow pac'd caravan return
O'er many a realm from the Pacific shore,
Where fleets shall then convey rich Persia's silks,
Arabia's perfumes, and spices rare
Of Philippine, Coelebe and Marian isles,
Or from the Acapulco coast our India then,
Laden with pearl and burning gems and gold.
Far in the South I see a Babylon,
As once by Tigris or Euphrates stream,
With blazing watch towr's and observatories
Rising to heav'n; from thence astronomers
With optic glass take nobler views of God
In golden suns and shining worlds display'd
Than the poor Chaldean with the naked eye.
A Niniveh where Oronoque descends
With waves discolour'd from the Andes high,
Winding himself around a hundred isles
Where golden buildings glitter o'er his tide.
To mighty nations shall the people grow
Which cultivate the banks of many a flood,
In chrystal currents poured from the hills
Apalachia nam'd, to lave the sands
Of Carolina, Georgia, and the plains
Stretch'd out from thence far to the burning Line,
St Johns or Clarendon or Albemarle.
And thou Patowmack navigable stream,
Rolling thy waters thro' Virginia's groves,
Shall vie with Thames, the Tiber or the Rhine,
For on thy banks I see an hundred towns
And the tall vessels wafted down thy tide.
Hoarse Niagara's stream now roaring on
Thro' woods and rocks and broken mountains torn,
In days remote far from their antient beds,
By some great monarch taught a better course,
Or cleared of cataracts shall flow beneath
Unnumbr'd boats and merchandize and men;
And from the coasts of piny Labradore,
A thousand navies crowd before the gale,
And spread their commerce to remotest lands,
Or bear their thunder round the conquered world.

And here fair freedom shall forever reign.
I see a train, a glorious train appear,
Of Patriots plac'd in equal fame with those
Who nobly fell for Athens or for Rome.
The sons of Boston resolute and brave
The firm supporters of our injur'd rights,
Shall lose their splendours in the brighter beams
Of patriots fam'd and heroes yet unborn.

'Tis but the morning of the world with us
And Science yet but sheds her orient rays.
I see the age the happy age roll on
Bright with the splendours of her mid-day beams,
I see a Homer and a Milton rise
In all the pomp and majesty of song,
Which gives immortal vigour to the deeds
Atchiev'd by Heroes in the fields of fame.
A second Pope, like that Arabian bird
Of which no age can boast but one, may yet
Awake the muse by Schuylkill's silent stream,
And bid new forests bloom along her tide.
And Susquehanna's rocky stream unsung,
In bright meanders winding round the hills,
Where first the mountain nymph sweet echo heard
The uncouth musick of my rural lay,
Shall yet remurmur to the magic sound
Of song heroic, when in future days
Some noble Hambden rises into fame.

Or Roanoke's and James's limpid waves
The sound of musick murmurs in the gale;
Another Denham celebrates their flow,
In gliding numbers and harmonious lays.

Now in the bow'rs of Tuscororah hills,
As once on Pindus all the muses stray,
New Theban bards high soaring reach the skies
And swim along thro' azure deeps of air.

From Alleghany in thick groves imbrown'd,
Sweet music breathing thro' the shades of night
Steals on my ear, they sing the origin
Of those fair lights which gild the firmament;
From whence the gale that murmurs in the pines;
Why flows the stream down from the mountains brow
And rolls the ocean lower than the land.
They sing the final destiny of things,
The great result of all our labours here,
The last day's glory, and the world renew'd.
Such are their themes for in these happier days
The bard enraptur'd scorns ignoble strains,
Fair science smiling and full truth revealed,
The world at peace, and all her tumults o'er,
The blissful prelude to Emanuel's reign.

And when a train of rolling years are past,
(So sang the exil'd seer in Patmos isle,)
A new Jerusalem sent down from heav'n
Shall grace our happy earth, perhaps this land,
Whose virgin bosom shall then receive, tho' late,
Myriads of saints with their almighty king,
To live and reign on earth a thousand years
Thence call'd Millennium. Paradise a new
Shall flourish, by no second Adam lost.
No dang'rous tree or deathful fruit shall grow,
No tempting serpent to allure the soul,
From native innocence; a Canaan here
Another Canaan shall excel the old
And from fairer Pisgah's top be seen,
No thistle here or briar or thorn shall spring
Earth's curse before: the lion and the lamb
In mutual friendship link'd shall browse the shrub,
And tim'rous deer with rabid tygers stray
O'er mead or lofty hill or grassy plain.
Another Jordan's stream shall glide along
And Siloah's brook in circling eddies flow,
Groves shall adorn their verdant banks, on which
The happy people free from second death
Shall find secure repose; no fierce disease
No fevers, slow consumption, direful plague
Death's ancient ministers, again renew
Perpetual war with man: Fair fruits shall bloom
Fair to the eye, sweet to the taste, if such
Divine inhabitants could need the taste
Of elemental food, amid the joys
Fit for a heav'nly nature. Music's charms
Shall swell the lofty soul and harmony
Triumphant reign; thro' ev'ry grove shall sound
The cymbal and the lyre, joys too divine
For fallen man to know. Such days the world
And such America thou first shall have
When ages yet to come have run their round
And future years of bliss alone remain.

This is thy praise America thy pow'r
Thou best of climes by science visited
By freedom blest and richly stor'd with all
The luxuries of life. Hail happy land
The seat of empire the abode of kings,
The final stage where time shall introduce
Renowned characters, and glorious works
Of high invention and of wond'rous art,
Which not the ravages of time shall wake
Till he himself has run his long career;
Till all those glorious orbs of light on high
The rolling wonders that surround the ball,
Drop from their spheres extinguish'd and consum'd;
When final ruin with her fiery car
Rides o'er creation, and all nature's works
Are lost in chaos and the womb of night.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wakey Wakey

Deal on, deal on, my merry men all,
Deal on your cakes and your wine;
For whatever is dealt at her funeral today
Shall be dealt to-morrow at mine.
–Maria Edgeworth, 1810

Isn't that nice? I knew you would like that. I procured this quote for mon frère jumeau mauvais, Le Petit-Guignol, for his little pet project , I think its wonderful that he finally has a hobby. Just wondering around that cemetery day and night must be a drag, I mean, honestly, no one to talk to but a bunch of stiffs, get it? I know, I should be on stage. Anywho, I am just glad he had wifi hooked up to the family tomb, now he is less likely to scare the bejesus out of the tourists, now if I could just get him to quit playing musical coffins with the neighbors, its so... unbecoming. Oh well, Family... what are you going to do?
We had the most awful row last week, Le Petit criticized my particular brand of Joie de vivre and said that I was a little too much of a Pollyanna, and that I needed to dim my eternally bright disposition a bit... The nerve! I slammed his coffin lid so hard that it split down the center- I felt so awful about the entire ordeal. I had a puss on for days. But no worries, we have since mended fences-or coffins as it were, He did send me the nicest gift as a peace offering, a tasteful granite marker that says "Wish you were here"- always the charmer.)
Speaking of the dead, and we were, I just attended the most fabulous wake. It was epic - hired mourners wailing away-in Armani- the entire venue veiled in black crepe, the heady scent from ten thousand tuberose's choking the air with their sticky sweetness, a rather ominous looking Sin Eater (that doubled as bartender) and an 18th century clockwork string quartet that played well past midnight until their little automaton fingers were worn out. You should have been there- well maybe you were, it's so hard to tell who's who in all that candlelight with everyone wearing veils and dark sunglasses-it's the silliest thing, oh well, c'est guerre, or rather c'est la mort.
You know, I think wakes are such a great Idea, don't you? I mean, isn't it better to make someones passing a real party with an old fashioned wake rather than your typical American post funeral bring-a-green-bean casserole affair? Well yes, of course I'm right.
Here is a little background to feed your thirst for knowledge of all things macabre. You're welcome.
When many people think of a wake, they envision the typical Irish wake. Friends and relatives of the deceased gathered to have a big hurrah to send their loved one off to their final reward. Drinking, eating, telling stories. But this is not the way the tradition originally began. Over the centuries, the wake has gone from a somber vigil over the dead to a boisterous event condemned by local officials and scorned by the church. The bastards.
Earlier wakes were a more practical affair. Ancient Greeks waited three days between death and burial, observing the dead to make sure they had actually transpired and to protect them from harm, just in case. Ancient Hebrews would also hold a vigil over the body to avoid premature burial and to investigate for signs of foul play. Early Christians continued the practice and allowed relatives and intimates to come and pray for the body and scrutinize it for signs of life.
Over time, this practice evolved to include more lively activities as guards attempted to enliven the tedious task by “rousing the ghost.” This often included practical jokes on superstitious relatives of the deceased and black magic rituals to raise the dead. This became so common that the Council of York forbade any attempts to raise the dead in 1376 and one guild would only allow members to stand watch if the agreed to “abstain from raising apparitions, and from indecent games.”
In some cases, the corpse would play a part in the practical jokes. After the limbs of an arthritic corpse were tied down to straighten them, a prankster would cut the ropes to make the body move or sit up. Irish wakes and their Scottish equivalent, the lykewake, were the most notorious for their rowdiness. Whiskey, wine and porter flowed freely and food was plentiful. In 1896, the Records of Inverness and Dingwall Presbytery wrote of lykewakes, “ƒthey were more boisterous than weddings, the chamber of the dead being filled night after night with jest, song and story, music of the fiddle and the pipe, and the shout and clatter of the Highland reel.” The typical wake included storytelling; the singing of love, patriotic or religious songs; music and dancing (often including the deceased for a reel or two!); and card playing, with the deceased often dealt into the game or being used as the card table. British, Germany and Scandinavian wakes often became even bawdier with lewd games, courtship and lovemaking taking place in the hall.
Attempts were made to decrease the debauchery of the wakes. In one instance, a Scottish schoolteacher removed the corpse and had an accomplice hide under the sheet. He was supposed to rise up and scare the party-goers, but instead he himself passed away! This so frightened the assembled that the merrymaking at lykewakes ceased for a period.
In 906 AD Regino, the abbot of Lorraine, France ordered his monks that “diabolical songs be not sung at night hours over the bodies of the dead, let no one there presume to sing diabolical songs nor make jest and perform dances which pagans have invented by the Devil’s teaching.”
The custom of wake soon diminished in France as his word spread. Wasn't that just like old Regino to ruin everyone's fun like that, the old poof.
As immigrants found homes in Colonial America, the tradition of the wake found its way here, as well. Often it was the only time, aside from weddings, when citizens were allowed to publicly drink alcohol. (huzzah)
In 19th century America, the body was displayed in the home and viewing the remains replaced the custom of visiting before and during death. True to form, the Irish immigrants brought their rowdy practices to the Colonies.
At one particular wake in the late 19th century, two brothers died in a railroad accident a passenger train collided with their handcar. One of the brothers was decapitated, but revelers placed his severed head on high stool with his pipe in his mouth so he could watch the whole affair. This was how ventriloquism was invented. Just kidding, I was checking to see if you were listening. Now sit up straight and get your finger out of your mouth. Thank you.
Often in the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania, the coffin had to be checked before burial to make certain the deceased was inside.
Revelers would often remove the deceased in order to sleep off their inebriation in the comfort of the casket instead of on the hard floor.
The practice of “waking the dead” is not restricted to European society. In South America, the Jivaro Indians would prop up the fully dressed body of the deceased and play dice for his possessions. Food and drink were plentiful during these festivities.
The Tana Toradja tribe of Sulawesi held a mourning ritual that would last for months or years, during which the corpse remained in its home. His wife would continue to care for him and provide him food. A festival would be held, with drinking and games. Finally, when the body was naturally mummified, it would be buried. The Isneg and Apayo tribes of the Philippines went even further by leaving the body to rot during their festivities. During this time, the living spouse is required, by tribal custom, to continue sleeping in the same bed as their dead mate. Once the body had reached an advanced state of decomposition it would be buried. As a result of this practice the tribes have developed a strong stomach in order to handle the constant stench. The Ilongo tribe of the Philippines is less extreme, only requiring that no one bath during the wake.
Over time, the wake has evolved into the contemporary “viewing” where the body is placed on display for respects to be paid to the family of the deceased. Food is still provided in most viewing, but the overall mood has become one of somber respect. Some vestiges of the old-fashioned wake still remain.
In one case, B.T. Collins, a state legislator for California arranged to have a wake held in a ballroom in Sacramento. It included three bars, a seven-piece band and a buffet with a massive ice sculpture.
It was attended by nearly 3,000 party-goers who saw him out in style. Statistically, only 22% of Anglo-Saxon Americans want a wake held for them, and only one-fourth of them want it in their homes.
Some psychologists defend the value of the wake to the bereaved. Bertram S. Puckle maintained that a delay between death and burial conditioned friends and relatives to the changed condition of the deceased and allowed them to observe the corpse to quell hopes that it might return to consciousness. Still, there are those who oppose the wake as a gruesome and needless activity. Perhaps the future will see a return of the traditional Irish wake or Scottish lykewake, but only when we can come to terms with our societal stigma on death.
In the meantime...

Why do cemeteries all have walls?
It’s silly beyond a doubt;
The people outside don’t want to get in
And the people inside can’t get out!

Oh ha ha - I kill me! (I'll be here all week...)

Wednesday Addams
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Southern Comfort
1 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz Sloe gin
1/2 oz Triple sec
Fill with Orange juice
1 dash Lime juice
1 oz Mummy Dust (optional)
Add all ingredients, Stir and serve over ice.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More from the Golden Treasury of Childhood

Personal Journal. April 6ish Nineteen Hundred Seventy-something.:
I write this while my gracious hosts play cards in the grand salon of a half empty house - built in the Palladian style- on the Côte d’Azur, (named "The Domain"...I call it "The Romaine" because my hostess incessantly refers to a salad she is known for- on the continent- which continent, it seems, is a mystery) I sit here happy as a clam in the never used chapel, scribbling and writing in this book that will never be read by anyone except me. Funny that.
Note to my future self: Your amazing hair was wasted on these people. That is all. Close this book now and die what I hope is a lovely sort of death. In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Santi and all that jazz...
I have been dubbed "Cherie" by my hosts, not because of the steadfast affection they display toward my quixotic yet lovable nature, but because I remind them of the character in the movie "Bus Stop" played by Marilyn Monroe- must have been the riveting rendition of "That Old Black Magic" I performed on the terrace after too much champagne- I wonder what my friends in New york would make of this? Fuck them. They are probably all coked out of their minds at Studio. I am the only person I know that hates disco- and Barbara Streisand. I think I need new friends. And maybe some coke. TTFN - le C.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More Artifice and Less Pretence please.

I found this great photo today while going through some boxes. It is a photo of my Great-Grandmother dressed as a Gothic cathedral. I am assuming that it was for Mardi Gras or a fancy dress party, but with my family it could have been anything from a bris to a royal wedding. *sigh*
Taking a break from whatever it was I needed to take a break from today, going through old photos and such, I decided to trot over to the National gallery while I'm here in DC to look at some of the Bronzino's.
I find it quite amusing that 25 years or so ago I felt so differently about his work- or any of the other Mannerists for that matter. I found an old VHS tape from 1985 of me at a speaking engagement at the Junior League (of all places) talking about how one can learn all sorts of decorative tricks and somehow develop a broader taste for the "Nature morte" tableaux by studying artistic masterpieces through the ages. I seem to have gone off on a tangent, from singing the praises of Flemish Vanitas paintings and how much fun it is to recreate them for your centerpiece at your next dinner party, ("Rotting fruit and human skulls can provide a certain element of surprise for your dinner guests...") then changing the subject and preceding to give my personal opinion ( to audible gasps and clutching of pearls) on how much I detested the Mannerists, everything Picasso and the current unnecessary incessant praise for blue and white Chinese import porcelain.
Although since that time I have softened my opinion- only slightly- on Picasso and blue and white porcelain- I find over the years I have developed quite an appreciation for the Mannerist movement. I discovered that how like the Fauvist, Dada and Pop art movements, the punk phenomena in the seventies or even the couture created by people like Gareth Pugh, Gaultier or the late Schiapparelli, Franco Maschino and Alexander McQueen, the Mannerists were renegades, wishing to change the idea of what is beautiful. (In his day, the then idealized beauty was being created by the "High Renaissance" artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and so forth)
As a stylistic label, "Mannerism" (also referred to at the time as "abrasive art") is not easily pigeonholed. It was used by Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt and popularized by German art historians in the early 20th century to categorize the seemingly uncategorizable art of the Italian 16th century — art that was no longer perceived to exhibit the harmonious and rational approaches associated with the High Renaissance.
One of the examples of Bronzino's work at the National Gallery is this painting:

The boy’s ghostly paleness—he is painted over the green background—and his compressed position reflect the painting’s history as much as they do the artist’s decisions. What is typically mannerist, however, is the sitters’ reserved elegance and, for Bronzino, their cold hardness. The woman appears invulnerable behind her detachment. No enigmatic smile here Mona. In the cruel intrigues of the Medici court, this was a useful, perhaps even necessary, protection. It has been said that the typical Bronzino portrait contained figures seemingly made with steel on the inside encased with ice, and was notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities. (More Artifice and less Pretence I always say, I should have that engraved on something, hmmmm?)
The great Bronzino's so-called 'allegorical portraits,' such as that of a Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria as Neptune is less typical but possibly even more fascinating due to the peculiarity of placing a publicly recognized personality in the nude as a mythical figure:

Bronzino was commissioned to paint Andrea Doria for a gallery of portraits of great men. Indeed, there was no more illustrious man of war in the 16th century than this famous Genoese admiral. (Doria (c1466-1560) had a dramatic effect on European history when in 1528 he abandoned his ally, the king of France, and sided with France's enemy Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of Spain. He put his galleys at Charles's disposal, and the Genoese fleet became the dominant power in the western Mediterranean on behalf of the Habsburgs. In 1535 Doria and Charles V conquered Tunis in a daring attack on the Ottoman empire. In his power over the sea, Doria seemed comparable to the god Neptune, with whom he is equated here)
Among the distinguishing features, Bronzino has the mighty admiral tantalisingly exposing his pubic hair behind the cloth he holds, which just barely conceals his penis. The painting consciously equates naval and sexual prowess, as Neptune/Doria holds aloft a thick-shafted trident in front of a powerful mast. (oink)
His richly flowing grey beard has the florid abundance of a fertile deity of the green waters; his chest and arms twist, ripple and flex like the rigging of a ship rolling into battle. He is old but his flesh is still supple. There is massive muscular force in his right hand, which shapes itself against the wooden shaft, almost like a crab or a coiling seashell. His beard, too, belongs in the sea, like weeds waving in the water.
He looks as if he has posed - as if Bronzino had painted Doria naked, from life - but this is not the case. And yet the provocative sense of nude posing, and the danger this brings to the image, anticipates Caravaggio in making us aware of a strong frisson of sex and power. Bronzino's admiral on the deck of his ship looks out of the picture, ready for anything, and convinces us that the sea is his to command.
Of course there were other and more "over the top" painters in the Mannerist style, why look at El Greco! He attempted to express the religious tension with exaggerated Mannerism. This exaggeration would serve to cross over the Mannerist line and be applied to Classicism. After the realistic depiction of the human form and the mastery of perspective achieved in high Renaissance Classicism, some artists started to deliberately distort proportions in disjointed, irrational space for emotional and artistic effect. There are aspects of Mannerism in El Greco such as the jarring "acid" color sense, elongated and tortured anatomy, irrational perspective and light of his crowded composition, and obscure and troubling iconography.
Whats not to like?
I could simply go in for hours about him too, but I bore easily, so here is a recap: We are totes Team Mannerist but as far as Blue and white porcelain, meh.

Neptunes Banana
2 oz gin
2 oz Pisang Ambon® liqueur
fill with Sprite® soda
Mix gently, and add ice cubes. Serve with a straw.

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zeitgeist, particular friend, perky libertine, animated trickster, iconoclast, rabble-rouser, object of worship, provocateur, capricious damp enchantress, idiosyncratic beloved reptile, whimsical saucy booze hound, bellwether, luminary, stoic, pensive illicit paramour, aloof, engaged, intuitive, curious, perplexing deranged mastermind, passionate, lasciviously adored offspring, amorous, sultry flamboyant charioteer, scholar, scribe, exalted thespian, voracious, considerable chieftain, impaired, cynical colleague, dreamer, procrastinator, loathsome glutton, artist, oppressed peasant, dainty heathen, narcissist, self-loathing...renaissance man