- Shakespeare, Antony in Julius Caesar
I figured it all out today. I was talking to a fellow in the library, and I got onto my little speech (which I've given in this space before) about the big difference between English and German.
German is famous for long, long words. But those words can be broken down into their constituent parts and analyzed by any moderately educated German speaker. This gives the language tremendous precision.
In English, our long words tend to be borrowed from Latin. And hardly any of us speak Latin anymore. So most of us don't know what our long words mean.
This has contributed tremendously to the obfuscation of our discourse.
It makes it possible to sound very intelligent in English without making any sense whatever.
In other words, it has given us modernism.
So all we have to do to reclaim the culture is to start teaching Latin again.
There, I've figured it out. I leave it to you to work out the details.
The Council of Nicea. I think St. Nicholas is the bald guy with the book on the right. Photo credit: Hispalois.
Our friend Dr. Paul McCain of Cyberbrethren quotes another friend of ours, Dr. Gene Edward Veith today, reprinting his classic account of Saint Nicholas (whose feast day is today) slapping the heretic Arius.
During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.
Dr. Veith goes on to make some constructive suggestions concerning new Christmas slapping customs we might adopt.
Have you seen Garfield Minus Garfield? The book has been out since October 2008, collected from the comics posted on Dan Walsh's website. The gist is to remove the cat from the strip and discover a remarkably funny, albeit dark and usually depressing, comic strip.
Publishers Weekly says, "If Samuel Beckett had been a strip cartoonist, he might've produced something like this." Here are a couple.
For a slightly different angle on this joke:
Allan Sherman was an entertainer from the days of my youth, who had no particular talent except for his ability to write clever parodies of popular songs. I was a great fan of his, and even tried to write parodies of my own. But I was never as good at it. The clip above is perhaps my favorite of his works, a take-off on the song, "You Gotta Have Heart," from the musical D*mn Yankees (fifty years after the show opened on Broadway, I still can't bring myself to spell out the title). It came to my mind today, heaven knows why.
I came up with a one-liner today that is, in my opinion, hilarious. It’s so good that I’m positive somebody else must have come up with it first.
“I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.”
Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week.
My big entertainment, over the weekend, was watching all three Man With No Name movies on Blu-ray. I’ve had a Blu-ray player for several months now, but I didn’t actually own a Blu-ray movie. Finally I noticed that Amazon was selling a set of all three Eastwood spaghettis for about twenty-five bucks, so I sent away for them.
Consumer report: I enjoyed the movies very much, as I always do. But I realized more than ever before – I suppose it’s inevitable as I grow older – that there is no moral value in them whatever. I first encountered the term “moral holiday” in a review of a James Bond movie when I was a teenager, and that conception applies just as well to Sergio Leone’s westerns. They’re works of art, and sometimes breathtaking. But they do not know good from evil.
They think they do. I’m sure director Leone thought he was teaching a moral lesson to the world with his works. He loved westerns – it’s apparent in every frame – but he did not love America. Part of the mystique of the spaghetti western was the suggestion that these movies were more honest than the older movies. The old movies had sugar-coated the hard truth, turning gunfighters into boy scouts. But now we could see the true motivations – hatred, revenge, and especially pure greed.
In fact this was no more realistic than the earlier westerns. If the traditional American oaters romanticized the cowboy and the shootist, the Italian westerns imposed on them a purely modern, amoral sensibility. You can see that in the frequency of violence against women in the Italian movies. In the real American west, violence against women (at least white women) was among the chief taboos. These were Victorians, after all, not members of the Manson family.
But Leone knew how to make a film, and he hired one of the greatest geniuses in film music, Ennio Morricone, to do the sound tracks. The result is pure entertainment, the kind of alteration of consciousness that only a master epic filmmaker can produce.
Just as Leone “tore the mask” off the American cowboy, I shall here tear the mask off the moviemaker – moviemakers are manipulators. They always stack the decks, for good or ill. Understand that and you’re free to have a good time.
Applies equally to novelists, come to think of it.
You're fun, energetic, serious, and focused on what's important. You may not have the world by the tail, but you're going to look like you do, by gum.
Whoa! Another earthquake. They seem to come every morning about this time too. Did you feel it? It isn't just me, is it? (via David C. Cook)
I just pulled up something I wrote in 2002 and thought I'd share it with you. It's true. I did not make this up.
My co-worker was home alone when she found a large spider on a pile of towels. She smacked it repeatedly with a fly swatter. screaming all the while, but afraid that it was only stunned, she scooped it up in the towels, dropped them on the driveway, and whacked it several more times, again screaming the whole time.
Later, she overheard her husband asking her son about the spider in the driveway, assuming he had run over it in his car a few minutes prior.
“Oh, that big, brown thing?” her son exclaimed. “It was huge! I couldn’t believe it! Good thing Mom didn’t see it.”
Our friend Anthony Sacramone sends a link to a snarky column at Intercollegiate Review: "How to Be a Really Lousy Journalist for Fun and Profit":
Start with the assumption that your own views are moderate. Within your newsroom, they probably are, even if last night at a colleague’s dinner party you argued for single-payer health care and mandatory re-education camps for homeschoolers. Then, instead of describing the views of people outside your newsroom, just label them “right-wing,” “anti-abortion,” or “extremely conservative.” You might be wondering if, finding rational argument too burdensome, you can just resort to calling the people you disagree with bigots and dismiss them. Turns out you can!
If you need to beef up your word count, throw in a few stereotypes and clichés about backwoods believers. Be careful even here, though, as you don’t want to showcase views that might catch on.
Read the whole thing here.
Lars shared this article on Facebook, and I was moved--moved I tell you--to share it here, because you can't get good writing like this often: "The voice at the other end of the line gave a sigh, like a mighty oak toppling into a great river, or something else that didn’t sound like a sigh if you gave it a moment’s thought. 'Who cares what the stupid critics say?' advised the literary agent. 'They’re just snobs. You have millions of fans.'"
Michael Deacon writes in response to the Dan Brown's upcoming novel, Inferno, which if you are going to buy it, you must use this link. Must! Support starving artists!
The novel is another unique take on art history and world conspiracy. From the book: "Against [the backdrop of Dante's Inferno], Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered."
Dude! That is one unique thriller! I'll go on record now by predicting this will tell of a Manx plot to manipulate world currency. Dante has been rumored to be Manx sympathizer among all the scholars who have studied him. Sorry, I should have given you a spoiler alert.
On a note related to Lars' last post, here are ten American habits which at least one Brit cannot understand. Take flossing, for instance, or talking to strangers.
By contrast, here are ten British habits which apparently don't jive with Americans. Take avoiding eye contact and direct intentions. I wonder how many times I'd be tempted to tell a Brit to shut up.
And now for something completely different:
In the spirit of Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine, I offer the following excerpt from the nonexistent book, Lars Walker's Fulsome Compendium of Rightfully Forgotten Church History:
The Vigilant Baptist Movement (June 1852): On June 3, 1852, independent Baptist preacher Titus A. Drumhead founded the Vigilant Baptist Fellowship. The Vigilant Baptists took their marching orders from Luke 21:36: “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Operating on the hermeneutical principle that nothing whatever in Scripture is ever to be taken symbolically, Rev. Drumhead declared that he had given up sleeping forever, trusting that God was able to sustain him in wakefulness so long as he lived. He exhorted his congregation (which consisted of six people) to follow his godly example. On June 5 of that same year, the Vigilant Baptists nearly entered into a merger with the Independent Church of Spiritual Water, a group which took its inspiration from John 4:14: “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst....” and so abstained from all liquids entirely. The merger was never consummated due to Rev. Drumhead's unexpected unconsciousness. Awakening twelve hours later and concluding that he was not among the Elect, Rev. Drumhead became a Methodist. The fate of his movement, however, was happier than that of the I.C.S.W.
Our friend Loren Eaton gave me a plug over at his blog, I Saw Lightning Fall, yesterday. Thanks, Loren.
Finally, another great article about an American cartoonist from Stefan Kanfer at City Journal. This time he writes of Winsor McCay, the first great (and insufficiently remembered) newspaper cartoonist and pioneer animator. When I was a kid, my grandparents had a book of Little Nemo in Slumberland in their house. I glanced at it, but didn't care for the look of it. Little Nemo, in particular, looked like a sissy to me.
And indeed, McCay's work isn't really for children. As an adult I've had the chance to look at a little of the man's work, and it's... gobsmacking. Great vistas of incredible, hallucinatory images splashed all across the newspaper page in full color. The man's draftsmanship, modeling, and use of perspective have never been surpassed. In fact, I don't think anyone else ever tried to do what he did.
This is for our friend, Hunter Baker of Union U.
- There's nothing worse than having a billboard block your view of a gorgeous sunrise. That's why I use The Awayinator, an environmentally safe dashboard ray gun that will zap those billboards into the nothingnessville. Ahh! A clear view with the touch of a button. (A Doofenshmirtz Evil Inc. Invention)
- There's nothing worse than unrequited love. That's why I use Money, a technique scientifically proven to keep women from falling out of love with you. Try it yourself today. Where all quality products are sold. Seriously, everywhere.
- There's nothing worse than getting your key stuck in the ignition when the zombies are storming your parking lot, except perhaps eating a stale Rice Krispy treat when you sit there thinking what a dummy you are for paying $3 for what looks like a big, marshmallowy treat that can't be stale because it's $3 for Pete's sake and yet in the back of your mind a little voice says it's going to be stale and you argue with that little voice, spend the money, and take a bite--man, I hate that.
This is common, perhaps, and fun. Readers have retitled works to better describe them, such as George Eliot's "Why Be Nice To Your Siblings When You're Just Going to Die in a Flood" (The Mill on the Floss) and George Orwell's "If You Give a Pig a Windmill, He'll Pursue Absolute Power." This one from David Foster Wallace looks like a great title to me.
Star Wars may not be the greatest sci-fi story ever told, but it is a very loud voice in the room. And Legos may not be the best toy ever made--that's just silly. They are the best toy ever made. And now we have,
"The Fastest and Funniest LEGO Star Wars Story Ever Told"
Today is Star Wars day. May the Fourth be with you.
I cannot endorse this brand, but this video of the president proposing to save our economy by helping everyone write a YA novel is pretty funny.
And now, a moment of inspiration.
Despite being always full of great good wishes for all the Irish on the feast day of their patron saint, I have too much integrity to stoop to the low trick of pretending to be Irish, when I'm obviously not.
So to keep the discussion at the high level of authenticity it deserves, I have instead asked for a guest column from a true Irishman beyond suspicion, Father Ailill, Erling Skjalgsson's priest:
To all the elect within the range of this message, whether Irish or Norse, or even Scot or English, yea even unto the barbarians of distant lands, wherever you may be, scattered about the islands of the earth,
I, Father Ailill, have not been unaware of doings among men since my Elevation nearly a thousand years ago. I have paid some attention to the course of the world, and to the state of the Church, and I have but one word for all of you, small and great, learned and uncouth:
I mean it. This has gone beyond a joke.
Where does one start? The excesses of your generation would make scrap enough to fuel a thousand bonfires, but in view of the day I'll just draw your attention to the way you mark—I'll not say observe—the saint day of Patrick of Ireland.
Now I happen to know Patrick myself. He lived far before my corporeal time, of course, but since my Elevation we've become fairly chummy, and I'll tell you, just between you and me and the hearthstone, it's best not to raise the subject of St. Patrick's Day in his presence. If it's all a joke, you may as well know the guest of honor doesn't get it. He said to me once, “If I'd known they'd honor my memory by getting drunk on green beer and puking all over policemen, I'd have gone to Frankia and become a hermit. I'm not kidding. St. Augustine never lets me forget about it. And I've taken to avoiding Boniface altogether, because he never sees me but he starts singing that 'Frosted Lucky Charms' jingle, and then gets to giggling.” Read the rest of this entry . . .
I have thought of myself as a citizen of the Internet, but yesterday I took a step deeper into the swamp of Netdom. I made a video response to a You Tube video. I've been watching the online morning show, Good Mythical Morning, by the singing comedians Rhett and Link. Last Friday, they asked what the best board game ever is according to their fans, and I recorded for them my story of playing a few minutes of Backwords with a some friends in college. Backwords is not the best board game ever by far, but I thought my story would add to the conversation.
See my response here, and if you want to watch the original video, go here.
Author Sarah A. Hoyt was kind enough to let me guest post on her blog, According to Hoyt. You can read the piece here. Thanks, Sarah.
A friend forwarded this YouTube video to me. The idea is, “How would Shakespeare have told the story of the Three Little Pigs."
I don't love it, frankly, because I don't think the comedian uses the words as well as he might, and this is the kind of thing you've got to absolutely nail (at least for my taste).
But I got to wondering, how do they tell the story of the Three Little Pigs nowadays? Surely its traditional lesson—that you ought to take trouble to construct strong defenses, to protect yourself from enemies—is unacceptable in today's educational environment. I imagine the contemporary version would go something like this.
There were three little pigs whose mother sent them out to make their fortunes in the world. When they'd come to a new part of the forest, they decided to build themselves houses. The first little pig built his house out of straw. The second pig built his house out of sticks. But the third pig built his house out of bricks. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Bookriot has a list of five signs you are reading too much of the current swath of YA Lit. For examples: "You keep a spreadsheet to try to determine whether you exist in a utopia or a dystopia. (Corporate ownership of media? Dystopia. New Muppet movie on the horizon? Utopia.) You secretly hope it turns out to be a dystopia so you can demonstrate your awesomeness in some world-liberating way."
This morning, while driving to work, Malvina Reynold's song "Little Boxes" popped into my mind.
And I pondered it it. All that snide condescension toward people who live unexciting lives, and are able to own houses, however small.
Malvina Reynolds, of course, was a socialist, so she dreamed of something better for the masses. And it occurred to me to wonder, "What kind of life would she wish for ordinary people?"
I have to assume the glorious Soviet Union must have been her model. Delightful accommodations like those pictured above, where the happy workers shared a fulfilling communal existence.
And so I wrote my own version of the song, which you may read below the fold: Read the rest of this entry . . .
And now for something completely different: The Keep Calm Gallery, where one may buy all manner of things to calm oneself among other things.
"These are songs about growing up on a tough planet," said Springsteen, telling reporters that when the idea of humans and aliens working side by side in an extraterrestrial labor colony first occurred to him, he immediately knew he "had to tell their story." "The Martians aren't trying to run away from their lives or make excuses. They're proud of what they do and where they're from, even if the high-impact ion-compression carbonate mining industry isn't what it used to be," the Onion New Network reports.
Hits you deep. Hmm.
I've noticed an odd phenomenon over the years. The very people who, you would think, would be able to give the best advice on raising children seem to be oddly reticent to offer a list of rules. And the more children they have, the more reticent they are.
Fortunately, there is an ever-growing demographic of people who have no such shyness about sharing their views on child-rearing. These, of course, are the people who (like me) have no children of their own.
I saw this article today (hat tip Strange Herring) on a recent study that concluded that children who watched “Sponge Bob Square Pants” showed decreased attention spans, as compared to children who watched “Caillou,” and a control group who (I assume) used a magnifying glass to fry ants. Read the rest of this entry . . .
I enjoyed Phil's link to this year's Bulwer-Lytton Award finalists so much that I thought that instead of trying to say anything coherent tonight, I'd just craft my own opening for a detective novel I would rather undergo minor surgery than read.
Det. Dierdre Hamerstein was just finishing up the paperwork from tonight's arrest, adjusting the sling in which the emergency medics had put her arm after the .45 shell had ripped through her shoulder, when Lieutenant Greese swung his pendulous belly through the office door with that familiar, “I've got a high-profile murder and I need to put my best detective on it, even if she is a girl and has lost three pints of blood tonight” look on his insensitive face.
The following news item is "fake but accurate," in the finest tradition of American contemporary journalism.
WASHINGTON DC: As part of an ongoing effort to streamline government and make it more efficient, officials of the Justice Department announced today that, instead of publishing their annual multi-volume edition of the Statutes of the United States, they will instead publish a single, softcover book containing a list of things that aren't regulated.
"There isn't much in here, really," said E. Cleveland Weckmeyer of the Attorney General's office. "Basically you can have consensual sex with anybody you want, any way you want. Other than that, everything's either illegal or you need a permit for it."
A representative of the America Civil Liberties Union, Eleanore Rigby-Trotsky, when asked for her organization's response said, "We'll have to look into it more closely, but from what I hear I'd say we're OK with it. Call me back in a half an hour."