Archive for the ‘Brain bubbles’ category

Today In Unsolicited E-Mails

May 26, 2016

I get mail.  This one came today, unsought, unanticipated, and unctuous, from some placement/staffing guy who clearly understands the extensive personnel needs of a writing teacher and sometime scribe:

I am representing the below talented professionals passively seeking their next permanent position.

“Passively seeking…”

A Maid Asleep *oil on canvas *87.6 x 76.5 cm *signed c.l.: I·VMeer·

I’m so using that one as soon and as often as I can.  “I’m passively seeking my Nobel Prize in procrastination…”

(Actually, it made me think of Zombie Eyed Granny Starver Paul Ryan’s non-candidacy for president this year, but that’s another story.)

Consider this a safe-zone thread, with nothing to do with anyone whose initials are DT, BS or HC.  Just take this as a glimpse of the more comfy* domestic absurdities that attend us every day.

*My fingers sped past my brain in my first attempt at that word:  confit.  Almost left it that way — I like the idea of confit absurdities.

Image:  Johannes Vermeer, A Maid Asleep c. 1656-1657

 

 

Monty Python’s Holy Grail…

November 26, 2013

…was a documentary:

ku-xlarge-3

And hell, you think that’s bad, check this out:

ku-xlarge-7

Holiday brain sploosh has already begun chez Levenson (first relatives show up in minutes), so killer rabbits somehow seem…

Appropriate.

BTW: there are a bunch more medieval psychoses on display at Tom Kane’s site, who, it seems, has come up with a socially useful application of writer’s procrastination syndrome.  My awareness of all this comes via @PZMyers, who got it from @SirWilliamD.

And with the honors thus done, you may consider this a “how weird will your holiday get” post.  Add your own notions in the comments.

Images:  Axe-rabbit comes from the Gorleston Psalter, England, 14th century.

Rabbit murderers lurk in the Smithfield Decretals, c. 1300

A Stilletto Leaves Such A Nice Tidy Hole

October 30, 2013

Oh those Edwardians could push the knife in so … elegantly. Thomas Seccombe on Thomas Love Peacock:

His philosophy was for the most part Tory irritability exploding in ridicule, but Peacock was one of the most lettered men of his age and his flouts and jeers smack of good reading, old wine, and respectable prejudices.

This from that insomniac’s friend, the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica — from the “English Literature” entry in Volume IX.

I had a conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates in the run up to last nights events, about whether or not our current snarkalicious age is nastier, more insulting than any pre-‘net political or cultural affray.  We both came to the conclusion it was not — and if you demur, then get back to me after you check out just about any random 19th century campaign cartoon:

Ma_ma_wheres_my_pa

But I felt there still was a difference between then and now.   Last night’s 4 a.m. reading reminded me of what it was….

Style, man.  Style:  “…good reading, old wine, and respectable prejudices.”

That’s poetry, that is, guv’nor.

Image: The Judge magazine, “Another voice for Cleveland,” political cartoon in the 1884 campaign, referencing the rumors Grover Cleveland had sired an out-of-wedlock child.

In Praise of Footnotes (Polar Bear Cub/Anything But The Republicans Dept.)

January 11, 2012

Because more or less anything is better than contemplating ten more months of Romney’s self-congratulatory predation of the electorate, I thought I’d try to counter (in some minor way, a jot or a tittle)  the quadrennial sense of despair that comes with the mention of Dixville Notch.

My antidote?

The treasures to be found in those pre-digitized lodes of easter eggs, footnotes in books written by generous minds.

In today’s case, that would be what I found as I finally got my crack at a book I had given my wife this Chanukah, Verdi’s Shakespeare, by one of our national treasures, Garry Wills.  There, in the first chapter, Wills made mention of Winter’s Tale, and its alpha and omega of stage directions: “Exit, pursued by bear.”

That’s one of those bits of theatrical trivia that I can’t remember learning. I think my father was the first person I heard say it, misquoting to “exit hurridly,” whenever he wanted to be gone from something dull — or to get his wild and wired son to bed.  And like most folks (I guess) I always assumed (at least from the time I realized it had something to do with a play, and not a playacting dad) that any action on stage would have been between an actor and some guy in a bear suit.

But no, Wills tells me — laconically, first, in the body of his text, writing that “when it [Shakespeare’s troupe] had a  young polar bear on hand, he wrote a scene stopper…”

That was curious enough.  A polar bear?  In London.  In 1610?

Dive into the footnotes, and it gets better:

It used to be thought that the “bear’ was a man in costume.  But scholars have now focused on the fact that two polar bear cubs were brought back from the waters off Greenland in 1609, that they were turned over to Philip Henslowe’s bear collection (hard by the Globe theater), and that polar bears show up in three productions of the 1610-1611 theatrical season….Polar bears become fierce at pubescence and were relegated to bear baiting, but the cubs were apparently still trainable in their  young state.”

Well, that explains that.  But Wills is a kind and giving writer…and so there’s more:

Since polar bears are such good swimmers, the king even turned them loose in the Thames to have aquatic bear baitings.*

Oh, joy! So much out of so little — and what a reward for the virtuous act of actually looking at the endnotes!**  There’s threads of all kinds of historical ideas to pull there — everything from thoughts about the extended pre- or early history of globalizing media to the power of spectacle as social glue, then as now — and much more, of course.  But what pleased me more, I think, as I retold this factoid to the unwary all day, is simply the images that Wills evoked, playing across my mind’s eye.

Which is to say that nothing here has much to do with the price of eggs. But my brain and my world are enriched, just a little, by the thought of a shambling cub, coat too big for its limbs, rising up on its hind legs to glare at the squealing, hooting, transfixed and terrified audience clamoring just beyond the edge of the stage.

Just thought I’d share…

*Wills directs those with yet more interest in the performing beast of Winter’s Tale to Barbara Ravelhofer, “‘Beasts of Recreacion’ Henslowe’s White Bears,” ELR 32 (2202), pp. 287-323 and Teresa Grant, “Polar Performances, The King’s Bear Cubs on the Jacobean Stage,” Times Literary Supplement, June 14, 2002.

**To declare what is, I hope, obvious:  I’m no fan of bear baiting.  Torturing animals for sport is not my idea of a good time or a good act.  But I dearly love gaining glimpses into the past, and it is always important to remember:  that’s a different country, and they do things differently there.

Image:  Albert Bierstadt, Bears in the Wilderness, c. 1870.

I Love the Smell of Godwin in the Morning: Rich Iott/Gay Mexican Muslim edition

October 18, 2010

I’m as jaded on the snark-subtitled Hitler-in-the-Bunker vids as the next blogger, but this version did have a bit of a kick to it.  So in the spirit of Monday, enjoy:

Sunday Post — The Horror, The Horror: Mr. Spock, Bilbo Baggins, and the Worst Song Ever Recorded

September 26, 2010

Unwatchable.

Leonard Nimoy, singing “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”

Once you watch it, no amount of bleach will wipe your mind clean.

Your brain will explode.

Grotesque.

You have been warned.

Premature Friday Stuff Post on The Latest Sign That The Apocalypse Is Upon Us

September 23, 2010

Journalism Barbie.

See Amanda Hess for commentary, Xeni Jardin for pile-on snark, and a tip 0′ da chapeau to twitter feeds frinMIT SciWrite alumna @EmilyAnthes, @JenLucPiquant and @alexwitze for the heads up.