The only thing worse than the willfully ignorant is the legion of apologists enabling them.
Since the election – before, really – we’ve heard a lot of talk about how all those urban liberal elites need to stop being so arrogant and start listening to very real concerns of real Americans in rural flyover values America.
We have more recently begun to see some informed pushback against this silliness self-serving rhetorical engineering masquerading as good-faith socio-political analysis. Now we’ve hit the daily double, though.
While I have listened to (and sung) a lot of holiday music through the years, my little project introduced me to a classic that somehow I had never encountered before, the English traditional “Coventry Carol.” This version, by Darkwave artists Nox Arcana, is by far my favorite for the way in which it captures the interwoven beauty and horror of the Massacre of the Innocents story.
There is beauty in the darkness. This is all I have ever known.
Beauty doesn’t work the same for me as it does for most people. I first started realizing this in Mr. Booth’s (excuse me, Dr. Booth’s) English V class at Ledford High School in 1978 and 1979. I remember two moments distinctly. First, we read “The Eve of St. Agnes,” by Keats. I recall being overwhelmed by a) its darkness, and b) its beauty. This was not a traditional sunny pastoral. It’s a poem of the night, one of mystery and compelling seductive splendor.
Later we read Tennyson’s equally marvelous “The Lady of Shalott.” Again, I was struck by the way in which beauty was interwoven with dark, even sinister themes.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of my reactions to these masterworks, but something was afoot, and when I started writing poetry on my own (as long as we’re on the subject of darkness and doom) it began with a piece called “Octoberfaust,” which I tried to infuse with as much mystery and passionate nocturne as I could muster.
Of course, looking back, my melancholy aesthetic didn’t begin in high school. Continue reading →
Saturday dawned gray, cold, and wet. A light mist eased through the forest at my university. But a day walking in the woods with a camera is a good day, no matter the weather, right?
The university was on holiday break. Students had fled home to give thanks with family and friends. I did, too, but returned early.
The deeply overcast sky dictated a flat, low-contrast aspect to the trees and trails in the forest. I looked down. At least I can shoot leaves, now wet and trodden. I like to shoot leaves. A little Photoshop would add hue and color contrast to them, I thought.
But the gray and the cold and the mist cut into my coat and mind. I shivered. Bummer. A dark day growing darker. Melancholy arrived and tapped on my shoulder. I turned and shuffled back onto the main trail, intent on returning to my truck. My Canon hung unused from its strap around my neck. I hate the interregnum between seasons: no leaves on the trees, no snow on the ground.
Franciscans have walked through these woods for more than a century and a half. Franciscans like nature and apparently thrive in it. They have, over the life of the university, constructed stations of the cross on a circular trail in this forest — Bob’s Woods, named after Fr. Bob Stewart, who died of cancer shortly after my arrival at the university.
I am not a Franciscan. I am not as hopeful as they appear to be. Dank, dark weather like this day’s further eroded my ability to detect hope.
Life is a jest; and all things show it/ I though so once; but now I know it. – John Gay
It’s just words, folks, just words…. – Donald Trump
John Gay (image courtesy Wikimedia)
Friends ask me with some regularity why it is that I spend so much of my free time reading and contemplating and writing about literature. I forswore writing about politics several years ago. (I think it was about 2010 that I gave up trying to say anything useful on the topic. I may have let slip the odd veiled or not-so-veiled reference in the essays I write about literature, but my active days as a critic of this, that, or the other political activity or politician are over.)
Great days – or if the Chinese curse is more apt, interesting days – are upon us, however, and while I can and do find comfort at times in Lord Byron’s flippancy:
I would to heaven that I were so much clay, As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling— Because at least the past were passed away— And for the future—(but I write this reeling, Having got drunk exceedingly today, So that I seem to stand upon the ceiling) I say—the future is a serious matter— And so—for God’s sake—hock and soda water!
I find that as I contemplate the changes likely to be wrought in my country with the election of the author of one of the epigraphs that begin this essay, that I must find more – and healthier – consolations than the one the 6th Baron of Newstead Abbey proposes.
With the way things have progressed recently, I have been feeling ever so worse than usual, and it was already pretty rough being me. People don’t know the things that eat at me. If they did, they would wonder how I could sleep at night. All they know is the image that I give them when I hold my head up high every day. All they know is what they believe of me. God bless them, so many of them seem to think the world of me. If only they knew. And then there’s the mockery. That really tears at me because it’s so much closer to who I truly am. I feel like a fraud, a fake, a phony. I feel like I have great talents, and so much to offer to the world, but then so many things I’ve done have gone wrong. I’ve had great responsibility and failed it time and again. I feel like I’ve been advanced way beyond my competence and my expertise. When that has happened before, people died. How many more must die? Continue reading →
“It can never be said…. Because there’s no guide for the search and no definition for the thing found. There’s only the necessity…for man to go beyond himself, to go beyond reason, even beyond truth….” – Dana Burnet
Nicolai Gogol (image courtesy Wikimedia)
This, volume 6 of The World’s 100 Best Short Stories, has as its theme courage. I think that it’s the most frustrating volume of this collection that I have yet read. (With the exception of a classic tale by Gogol, none of the stories are memorable.) When I was searching for a quote, for example, to use as sub-heading, I probably spent the better part of two hours fumbling through the volume trying to find any quote that would work as a stand-alone. I had hoped to use a quote from the Gogol classic, “The Cloak” (you likely know it by its more common English translation, “The Overcoat”) mentioned above. No luck – whether it was the translation or the late hour when I was searching, no usable quote appeared from the only canonical author in this volume.
So I find myself using a quote from a popular author of the time, one Dana Burnet.
And here we go. You may, at this point, like those guys in Holden Caulfield’s Oral Expression class, begin yelling “Digression!”- but, as Holden says, “I like it when somebody digresses. It’s more interesting and all.”
I couldn’t find a picture of Dana Burnet. Burnet was a highly successful writer who wrote for Broadway and for Hollywood (including at least two screenplays for Jimmy Stewart movies). And so you see a picture of Nicolai Gogol.
Because you can’t find Dana Burnet’s picture. On the freaking Internet. Continue reading →
“…silent was the entire dark, deserted house.” – Leonid Andreyev
Leonid Andreyev (portrait by Ilya Repin – courtesy Wikimedia)
This third installment in this series of essays (volume 1 here, volume 2 here) of this Grant Overton edited collection called The World’s 100 Best Short Stories focuses on the theme, mystery. Something that I have been particularly pleased with in these collections (there are ten volumes, each with ten stories) has been that the editor has avoided conventional definitions of each of the genres of writing covered in the series.
Such is the case with the theme of mystery. There are classic examples of the genre, to be sure: Edgar Allan Poe’s “tale of ratiocination,” “The Gold Bug,” is included, as is a classic Wilkie Collins mystery, “A Terribly Strange Bed.” There are “contemporary” examples (remember the publication date, 1927) such as “The Doomdorf Mystery” by Melville Davisson Post and “The Bamboozling of Mr. Gascoigne” by E. Phillips Oppenheim. All of these are entertaining (if slightly creaky in spots) as classics of mystery detection, thriller, or caper account (the Oppenheim story recounts a classic con game, for example). Continue reading →
Late Monday, the NCAA announced it was pulling seven championship events out of North Carolina in the coming school year over the state’s so-called “bathroom law” — legislation best known for barring transgender people from using government building bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities.
The action came on top of numerous protests and calls to repeal the measure, all of which have gone unheeded by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who’s running for reelection.
Yesterday, Big Think posted an interesting collection of Gallup Poll results, along with some commentary: Obama Actually Made America Great Again. Here’s the Data. To hear the rabidly irrational Obama opposition on today, of all days, I can only say that these are funny numbers to describe how Obama has ruined America in eight years.
What’s truly deplorable is that, of all the ways Bush (with a boost from Dems) ruined America Continue reading →
Schlafly’s personal formula was to marry rich, employ a housekeeper while proudly touting her housewife credentials, follow her bliss (into enterprises for which she did not require a living wage), and then work to deny equality for all women.
We knew you too well and for too long, hypocrite extraordinaire.
She was a conservative who was against the New Deal, feminism (“Men should stop treating feminists like ladies, and instead treat them like the men they say they want to be.”), an equal rights amendment to the Constitution (“I simply didn’t believe we needed a constitutional amendment to protect women’s rights.”), legalized abortion, laws against the harassment of women in the workplace (“Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women.”), sex education for children in public schools (“Sex-education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.”), and the Supreme Court’s ban on teacher-led prayer in public schools (mind you, she only wanted Christian prayer in all children’s schools, of course). Continue reading →
I attended the 120th annual Cheyenne Frontier Days this afternoon and it was awesome.
A few things, first on the competition front:
1: The guy who won the bull riding was a rookie. A 20 year-old rookie. He rode three bulls in three rounds. These are serious bulls, and the idea that anybody rode one of them is ridiculous enough. Three in three days? By a wet-behind-the-ears kid? That’s absurd.
Day 2 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland is beginning peacefully. And, quite frankly, that’s just the way we like it. There are thousands of people who are trying to keep it that way. Because we know that if peace prevails in Cleveland, we win.
The Donald Trump campaign knows that, too. They depend on turmoil as a substitute for substance. And they admitted it on Day 1:
At a breakfast discussion here Monday, Donald Trump’s top campaign adviser suggested that “lawlessness” surrounding the Republican National Convention could benefit Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
“Frankly, that impact will probably help the campaign,” Paul Manafort told his audience, reports Bloomberg Politics, which hosted the session.
Since well before the RNC convened, while the barriers were going up to divide us, people in Northeast Ohio were looking for ways to pull together for our own good and for the good of the country. Continue reading →