168 The Dwarfs

October 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Harold Pinter’s “The Dwarfs” is the kind of material that makes you look forward to the unfolding of every chapter not for what will happen next but for what the characters will talk about next. For Len Pete Mark Virginia always have such interesting erudite comical discourses on just about everything – spirituality relationship philosophy politics education morality poetry. They make you think with them; sometimes you get a resolution, most times you don’t. Here’s Len and Mark:

  • Do you believe in God?
  • What?
  • Do you believe in God?
  • Who?
  • God.
  • God?
  • Do you, or don’t you, believe in God?
  • Do I believe in God?
  • Would you say that again?
  • Have a biscuit.

Of all their verbal jousting, however, it is the confrontation between Pete and Mark I find quite mesmeric. And I’d have to say Pete handily wins the match with this repartee alone:

Up to this point and no more, I have been proved a wiser and a better person than any of you. I am, I think it, though you may not believe it, a god in my essential dimensions. Of course, I cannot be worshipped. I have to be lived with.

167 The Mists of Avalon

October 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Well, so it must be, for as man saw reality, so it became.

Feminists would probably have a field day with “The Mists of Avalon”. For here, in this Marion Zimmer Bradley’s re-imagining of the Legend of Camelot, women take the front top center.

The men are relegated to the sidelines. Arthur is reduced to a whimpering gullible cuckold. Lancelet is no more than a simpering lovestruck string-puppet. Mordred, for someone who is supposed to take down the King Stag, is an unmemorable incompetent bore. And Merlin, a mere sidekick to the Lady of the Lake.

But the women. They rule. Viviane is the scheming High Priestess of Avalon who might as well be the Goddess herself. Gwynhwefar is the sanctimonious bitch who holds the strings that move Arthur and Lancelet whichever way she pleases. Morgause is the powermonger who holds her own against the men.

And Morgaine? I don’t know what she is. She could have everything but her unfettered angst gave her nothing. She goes from Cornwall to Avalon to Camelot to nowhere. She goes from being a Priestess to Lady-in-Waiting to Queen to nobody. After regretting the Beltane Fire Fuck with her stepbrother Arthur, she charms her cousin Lancelet to her bosom, gives Kevin the Harper a series of pity fucks, and carries an extra-marital affair with Acolon (son of her husband, King Uriens). I honestly find no virtue in this woman. I must agree with her own assessment of what she has become: “What a whore I have grown!

166 My Brother

October 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

A great sadness overcame me, and the source of the sadness was the deep feeling I had always had about him: that he had died without ever understanding or knowing, or being able to let the world in he lived know, who he was; that he who really was—not a single sense of identity but all the complexities of who he was—he could not express fully: his fear of being laughed at, his fear of meeting with the scorn of the people he knew best were overwhelming and he could not live with all of it openly.

Jamaica Kincaid‘s incantatory “My Brother” reminds me of my own brothers.

I have five. I have a brother who teaches. A brother who preaches. A brother who sells. A brother who builds. A brother who vanishes. I know what they do but nothing more. I do not know what makes them happy, what makes them sad, what makes them angry, what makes them scared, what makes them proud.

We talk when we can. We see each other when we can. We don’t care if we don’t get to talk as often as we probably should. We don’t care if we don’t see each other as often as we probably should. If one of us dies, the rest of us will not cry. We will feel sad, maybe even shocked, but we will not cry. We will be sad, maybe even shocked, because we care. We will be sad, maybe even shocked, because somehow we love each other.

But we will not cry because we really don’t know each other. We don’t know who we will lose.

165 Practical Magic

September 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Like most of us ordinary mortals, witches have problems too. Practical problems like falling in love with murderous men, or men who are nice but doomed to die just because. Raising difficult and impossible kids. Running away from neighbors who are scared of the unusual.

And like most of us ordinary mortals, when their problems get too serious, witches too resort to practical solutions. Perhaps a little too practical.

There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.

Yes, witches, in many ways, are just like us ordinary mortals. But, in their charming spellbinding magical ways, not really. Alice Hoffman tells us why and how in “Practical Magic”.

164 The Justification of Johann Gutenberg

September 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Print is better that way, because self-effacing. It makes the script undistinctive. It takes all ‘character’ out of the characters. It is oblivious, as no man’s hand can ever be.

Printing, unlike writing, is a subtle art. To do the work requires a pentangle of skills.

A book is like a friend we laugh with or an enemy we fight against. When we read, it is not only our mind that reads, but our whole body—the lips that move, the hands that turn, the nerves that tremble, the heart leaping in its cage.

In fingering metal, and dabbing with ink, and rushing about the room there is pleasure which reading can never furnish. So though the knowledge derived from books is needed, the world being laden with ignorance, yet to me it always brings gloom and sadness.

So Johann Gutenberg might have been a swindler trickster charlatan. He might have been an ungracious son. He might have been bisexual. He might have also been a pedophile, and he might have molested the young Anton.

Clearly Gutenberg has a lot to explain and, on his vulnerable behalf, Blake Morrison tries to account for each of his alleged transgression in “The Justification of Johann Gutenberg”.

Gutenberg lengthened our collective and individual memory with his printing press. He made information accessible, and with it knowledge. For this alone I think he was justified in his dealings with Fust and the Fathers of Strasbourg and Mainz. He did love his mother but he had to set out, strike on his own, and make his mark. Whether it was Ennelina or Peter, or maybe both, he truly loved is and should not at all be an issue.

It was only his seduction of the young Anton I find unjustifiable. He’s only human, yes, even a brilliant one at that, but that’s no reason to corrupt the innocent.

163 Humble Pie

September 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Lying is the biggest sin you can commit in a kitchen. Working with someone who lies to you is worse than working with someone who can’t cook.

Gordon Ramsay is rude loud manic. He has a tyrannical, almost demoniacal, way of running his kitchen. That’s from what I’ve seen of him over the many seasons of Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef. Of which I am an avid fan.

But I don’t think Gordon Ramsay is a bully. He gets overexcited easily and tells his cooks to fuck off for their mistakes, stupid mistakes, costly mistakes. Here’s why: because they’re being fat sloppy donkeys and he can’t stand fat sloppy donkeys. Let’s face it: who can?

“Humble Pie” offers no justification but mere context to why Gordon Ramsay advocates tough love in pursuit of excellence and perfection. And to why he’s almost obsessed with getting stars, the ones that come from the Michelin Guide in particular.

162 Teacher Man

September 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is where teacher turns serious and asks the Big Question: What is education, anyway? What are we doing in this school? You can say we’re trying to graduate so that you can go to college and prepare for a career. But, fellow students, it’s more than that. I’ve had more than that. I’ve had to ask myself what the hell I’m doing in the classroom. I’ve worked out an equation for myself. On the left side of the blackboard I print capital F, on the right side another capital F. I draw an arrow from left to right from FEAR to FREEDOM.

I don’t think anyone achieves complete freedom, but what I am trying to do with you is drive fear into a corner.

I come from a long line of teachers—from my mother to sister and brother, nephew and nieces, aunts, and cousins. I thought I’d be teaching too after I left the seminary.

I took on odd jobs but never teaching. I don’t think I’d have survived the classroom anyway. I don’t have Frank McCourt’s stomach for his students’ impertinence indifference rudeness. I don’t have his wit patience eloquence for explaining concepts and ideas to impressionable minds. And I don’t have the maturity and sensibility for imparting lessons and values that will shape young minds into smart and responsible adults.

Every one should give McCourt’s “Teacher Man” a go. Its gentle prose has that subtle force to not merely change but even bring in new perspectives. Students will probably recognize newfound respect and appreciation for their teachers. For those of us who are done with school, we’ll remember our teachers and then feel embarrassed for all the drama we caused to get their attention and secure passing marks.


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