Arimathea
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There is need in human life for levity. So, enjoy your time here in leisurely frivolity, where no Puritan can condem you.
Monday, January 26, A.D. 2009
Wal-Mart Cake

I received the following photograph as an e-mail forward. I tried to find the origin of the story with Snopes and Google, but I was unsuccessful in trying to discover if it was a hoax. It is widely featured on the web. I found the displayed photograph on Show-Ket’s Flickr account (Show-ket sounds like an Egyptian deity, no?):

Various blog entries that comment upon the cake feature widely divergent “ebonic” caricatures—some more forthright, others rather self-censored. I think that the photograph speaks for itself. I am, nevertheless, curious as to the original posting of this picture. What was the real story? Perhaps, if we pieced together the testimony traditions throughout the blogosphere, we could reconstruct the Q source of the Wal-Mart confectionary. Was the story the result of a white supremacist fringe group angry at the oppression of multicultural politically correct censorship? Did the photograph originate in one file-sharing community but was taken up by another community who reinterpreted its significance to suit the needs of their own group narrative? Was the cake even made at Wal-Mart, or is its designation so a projected of negative value by upperclass snobs? Just think . . . we might be able to secure academic grants to pursue such research. We could even establish our own UnderNeat Seminar . . .

Posted by Joseph on Monday, January 26, Anno Domini 2009
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Friday, January 16, A.D. 2009
Give Geese a Chance

Yesterday, I wrote about flight 1549’s awesome pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger, III. Thanks to his wits, the able crew, and the magnificent work of New York’s and New Jersey’s emergency teams, everyone survived—what we normally call a happy ending but what the ancients called a comedy.

In the comic spirit, I offer you Andy Levy’s “If I Wrote for the Huffington Post—Give Geese a Chance.”

In the wake of the events of 1-15, in which a wedge of Geese brought down a US Airways aircraft, here’s what you won’t be hearing about from the so-called “Mainstream Media”: We brought this on ourselves.

After an event such as this one, it’s important to look at the root causes: Why did the Geese attack us? Well, the truth is, for years we have been oppressing the Geese, using them for the fuel they provide for our bodies.

Boneless Goose Breast, Brandied Roast Goose, Roast Goose with Cumberland Sauce and Apricot Stuffing. And of course, the Christmas Goose. In the name of religion, we have been engaged in what can only be called a Crusade against the Geese. Is it any wonder that a few brave suicide Geese would seek revenge?

Under the neocon/neofascist Cheney-Bush administration, Goose consumption is up 1541%. Geese have been systematically deprived of their rights at a level never seen before. (Look around your workplace: do you see any Geese? Wouldn’t you be nervous if you did?) Reports of shameful anti-Goose activity are at an all-time high, mainly in the South and Midwest, of course.

The fact is, WE (and, of course, Israel) are responsible for the rise of militant Gooslam.  Given our actions, is it any wonder that gaggles of Goslings would reject the teachings of moderate Goose leaders, when those leaders are perceived as being in the pocket of the West? Given our actions, is it any wonder that these young Gooslamists would flock to more assertive leaders, leaders whose commitment to their cause cannot be questioned? Given our actions, the rise of a “Goosama” was inevitable. We have only ourselves to blame. (Does anyone doubt that somewhere there’s a photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with a Goose?)

In the moments right after 1-15, many have been quick to praise the actions of the US Airways pilot. But the TRUTH is that our pilots have been instruments of the BUSHITLER illegal war against the Geese. I know the Repuglicans will attack me for saying this, but speaking TRUTH TO POWER of course makes me a true PATRIOT. And very brave.

Right now America’s relationship with other species couldn’t be worse. Like most Americans, often when I’m hiking I find myself apologizing to woodland creatures for the actions of our illegitimate government. And like the rest of the world, I’m hopeful that once President Obama takes office, things will change, and that we will end our imperialistic attempts at hegemony over the rest of the planet. After all, if he can sit down with Iran and Hezbollah, he can sit down with the Geese.

What a piece! I like especially, “Look around your workplace: do you see any Geese? Wouldn’t you be nervous if you did?” and the apology to woodland creatures.

Ah, the silly, silly Left. It is no wonder that Michelle Malkin calls them moonbats.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, January 16, Anno Domini 2009
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Tuesday, January 13, A.D. 2009
Boy Movies

On the occasion of my nephew Austin’s fourteenth birthday, I’ll offer my favorite “boy movies.” The most prominent theme in such films is, naturally, the “coming of age” mixture of adolescent wonder and terror. New freedoms, new knowledge, new powers, and new responsibilities come—but with less of the old securities and simple, satisfying answers. I have included some “younger” films, as well, because of their quality and nostalgia-invoking ability.

Rob Reiner’s take on Stephen King’s The Body, Stand By Me is perhaps my favorite boy movie. It has a fitting measure of wonder, camaraderie, and melancholy. Growing up involves a certain level of pain and loss, but reminiscing upon one’s youth heightens that sense of temps perdu. As A Christmas Story or The Wonder Years, Stand By Me is an act of such remembering, and this sort of revisiting is always bittersweet. I believe that Nietzsche remarks that man learns suffering through memory—quite a profound observation. At any rate, the movie created eternal enmity between leeches and boys everywhere, and it further taught me the useful phrase, “cheap dime store hood.”

Though geared toward the younger set, Andrew Davis’ Holes might be the most interesting movie on this list. I was shocked by how much I liked it. It has everything that makes for a good boy movie—morality tales, oppressive adults, abundant “life’s not fair” tale telling, musings on class, status, and hierarchy in a child’s world, beautiful landscapes, and blessèd liberation at the end. It also includes rather deep—for a kids’ movie—religious and philosophical signposts. The idea of providence features prominently in the story, and I would further argue that the film plays out Saint Maximus’ understanding of man as microcosm and mediator of the world. Really, it’s a good film.

Danny Boyle’s Millions is set prior to tween concerns—the main character is seven years old—and it is more of a fantasy morality tale than a boy movie. Yet, having somewhat identified with the little guy who has regular conversations with saints—religion captivated me for as long as I can remember—I had to include it.

Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society may be spiritual poison for young men, but I drank it readily before I was wise enough to see its folly. As Socrates tells us, the appetites grow stronger the more that we feed them, and my appreciation of teenage anguish, alienation, and the delights of a young intellectual’s destructive self-pity formed into an permanent feature of my soul long before I was mature enough to see the cancer for what it is. I can thank a young Jesuit mentor for having removed the blinders, but he got to me years after Robin Williams’ character John Keating did. As such, I love the pathos that the movie invokes, though I now marvel how I became such a sucker for soixante-huitard counter-cultural foolishness.

From A.D. 1963, and then from A.D. 1990 . . .

I’ll include the two film adaptations of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies by Peter Brook and Harry Hook because boyhood is not a romanticized Norman Rockwell experience. Men are largely wicked, and children are even more irrational and appetite-driven than men. They may not be as depraved as human beings who have, with more time, sunk ever deeper into vicious mire, but their innocence has more to do with the lack of power and opportunity than with inherent virtue. Both films depict this disturbing trait in mankind with their “boy as naked man” idea wherein human beings, when stripped of tradition, culture, law, and the inherited rules of society, act like beasts. I appreciate the full frontal attack on Rousseauian stupidity.

Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun is more of a war movie boy film. I love its scenery and its amazing soundtrack, which I bought as a kid. I listened to “Suo Gân” hundreds of times growing up. Plus, anything from the Second World War automatically gains a style advantage. The 1930’s and 1940’s were, in my opinion, the last time that the world had good taste.

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders is a necessary part of any boy film set. We just need to belong, eh?

Jerome Robbins’ and Robert Wise’s take on West Side Story may be more of a musical Romeo and Juliet romance—naturally hated by boys—but I’ll throw it in, anyway. Its conflict of gang versus gal loyalties is one that has played out billions of times.

Lastly, Nicholas Ray’s Rebel without a Cause is a painful story—a perfect portrayal of and serving for the privileged youth of the American bourgeoisie who have been materially pampered but spiritually starved. Of course, James Dean’s death a month before the release of the film made it more interesting, in a morbidly tragic way, for its viewers.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, January 13, Anno Domini 2009
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Saturday, January 10, A.D. 2009
Irony, Corniness, and Bobby Van

A couple of days ago on Big Hollywood, John Nolte posted a clip from Small Town Girl that features a jolly musical number by dancer Bobby Van of Kiss Me Kate fame:

See also Van’s “Take Me to Broadway”:

Nolte’s entry—“What’s Wrong With Corny?”—laments the passing of the old-fashioned musical and wishes for corny to be the new irony. Yet, corny does not impress the folks who fancy themselves philosophical when they dwell upon macabre themes. Only cinema that exposes the demons of the soul deserves such silver screen immortality. The rest is eye candy—or so film snobs think, and they seem somewhat correct. Comedy can be very insightful, but compare the best comedy with the tragic novels of Dostoevsky, and comedy appears to come up short. Yet, Nolte does not contrast comedy with tragedy but the corny with irony. The corny has to be comic, it seems, but what then is irony? Does it deserve the respect that we have for tragedy—the high drama revered since the Greek Dionysia?

Like a skilled surgeon, a great artist may use irony to cut through our willful blindness and foolish assumptions. In our age of the less than great, however, irony has become the safe haven for mediocre minds infected with vain arrogance. Sophomoric nihilists proudly bask in their derisive cleverness at portraying human life with contempt; yet, they offer no constructive critique for the many whom they condemn. They cannot offer such painful assistance because they have not concerned themselves with trying to find an answer themselves. Their irony springs from sterile hatred rather than from a desire to perfect.

I sympathize with them. Sometimes, you simply have revulsion toward something that is wrong even when you do not know how such a thing could be corrected. This situation could lead one to create irony from despair, but I suspect that pride is still involved. Irony seems to result from a special kind of hatred in the creative mind—one that esteems itself worthy enough to play the sophist in a work of art. For irony is the sophist’s stock in trade. He is like a blind man who obtains a superiority over the other blind by haughtily mocking their ignorance—though he knows not the truth himself. As such, irony, in the hands of lesser men, is a smoke and mirrors intellectual game that allows such cowards to entertain their nihilism without accountability—without the risk of losing the status of an intellectual yet never performing the work or the duties of an intellectual. Welcome to our post-modern world. Note how it ironically serves us the inverse of true Socratic irony—a demonic joke upon mankind!

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, January 10, Anno Domini 2009
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Sunday, January 4, A.D. 2009
David and the Gnomes

On the occasion of my brother Adam’s birthday, I would like nostalgically to revisit David the Gnome, which I would watch with Adam long ago. The Spanish cartoon was based on Wil Huygen’s children’s books. You can learn about David, Lisa, and his merry company on Faber’s fan page and on Wikipedia.

Here is the pilot episode, “Good Medicine,” which incidentally aired on my brother’s birthday:

Though a bit heavy on eco-worshiping leftist drivel, I really like the cartoon. I have a proclivity for woodland paganism in general, and the simple but fantastic elements in the show are quite fun. David frequently explains the gnome way of doing things, and mythical anthropology always fascinates me. Moreover, the cartoon stays truer to the spirit of its inspiration than I would have expected. For example, David and Lisa turn into trees at the end.

Imagine what Disney would have done . . .

Posted by Joseph on Sunday, January 4, Anno Domini 2009
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Saturday, January 3, A.D. 2009
A Christmas Story

This may be hard for you to believe, but until this Christmas break, I had never seen A Christmas Story. It is more shocking than you may expect—for the movie is frequently quoted in my family. It has something of canonical status, referred to like Holy Writ, Seinfeld, or The Adventures of Pete and Pete. So, I decided at Thanksgiving that I would watch it with my father upon my return to Cincinnati.

It was a bit of a struggle to obtain a DVD of the movie. The neighborhood library’s copies were checked out in perpetuity. So, we had to trek all the way to the next library—seven minutes further away! I know folks from the West who drive five hours just to buy socks. I know boys in Alaska who take plane trips to play high school basketball. Yet, in Cincinnati, a ten minute drive is excessive for some. However, my dad was feeling plucky, and off we went into the remote regions of the West Side.

At the library, I felt somewhat embarrassed to go in for a DVD—like a Mormon boy in a porn shop. I knew that the old mare librarian would look condescendingly upon peasants who enter her hallowed hall of learning just to get a movie—and it’s not even a foreign flick, a filmed stage production, or a P.B.S. documentary. I suspect that, when the rabble isn’t around, she commiserates with her colleagues about the fall of American culture: “Hollywood’s pedestrian filth has invaded even our dear library. No one reads anymore. We must prostitute ourselves out like some common Blockbuster whores! The insanity of it all!”

Actually, the lady smiled and reminded us that we could renew our four day DVD over the phone—but secretly, in that sanctimonious abyss that exists in every librarian’s soul, she snarled with malice, daring us to break her prejudice by walking over to the literature section and checking out Middlemarch, or at least something by Wolfe . . . she would even eat crow if we took Crichton. But no—we fit the mold that she has come to loathe . . . for the love of heaven, we did not even glance at a comic book.

Well, once we safely made it back home, away from the projected jeers and derision of my fevered imagination, we watched A Christmas Story. I expected to enjoy it—I am easily pleased with movies—but I thought that it would be more of a ritualistic enjoyment, like the kick that we get out of watching traditional make believe fare, like the claymation Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer or the annual State of the Union address. However, I found the movie quite funny. I especially liked the Santa scene, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas!” I have loved running gags since The Muppet Movie (“Have you tried Hare Krishna?”). There are many gems in the film that highlight some of the absurdities of childhood; I remember being parka-ed like an Eskimo by my mom so that I could not even move, I remember ghoulish bullies with weird facial features, and I remember those dangerous dare wars.

The nostalgic narration reminded me of The Wonder Years and The Adventures of Pete and Pete. A Christmas Story must have inspired them, or at least The Wonder Years, given the similarities in style. Well, here is the trailer:

I recommend the film, and now I can happily follow the references to it in my family’s language community.

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, January 3, Anno Domini 2009
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Friday, January 2, A.D. 2009
The Peachy Cobbler

I never watch television in D.C., but my trips home allow me to catch up on some mindless entertainment. Freezing temperatures? No car? No problem! I just have to turn on the idiot box to take a trip back to my earliest years. Since it is Christmas time, there are cartoon marathons featuring Santa, Frosty, gingerbread men, and anyone else remotely connected with the winter feasts. Some of these shows are beyond the acceptable boundaries of taste. My IQ must have lowered some points as I watched Santa get lost in Pac-World. Yes, Pac-Man had his own cartoon. I don’t remember it—and that is a good thing. I also watched Santa become grounded at Fred Flintstone’s house—why Santa Claus would deliver gifts during the Cretaceous period is beyond me.

What I find remarkable about some of these cartoons is how I remember, upon seeing them again, that which I must have seen before I could read. One such cartoon that I watched last week is The Peachy Cobbler:

When the M.G.M. lion roared and the title was shown, no memory stirred. However, as soon as I saw the cobbler’s house, I remembered the show. It may be silly and common, but I find such recollection very pleasant. Even if it is only television, in reconnecting with a long dormant childhood memory, I find again a part of me that I forgot existed. The wholeness of human life that time and change whittle away reconstitutes itself, if only for a moment, when you remember in such a way. A similar and superior pleasure occurs when I dream what I call a memory dream. Such dreams are not necessarily replayed experiences, but they do involve places, people, relations, and circumstances lost in the past. I have no firm opinions about dreams or their significance, but I find some joy in experiencing—even in phantom sleep—some time spent among the ghosts of my youth.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, January 2, Anno Domini 2009
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