Saturday, July 22, 2017

Taking the 5th (House, that is!)

 Leo by Ronald Searle
The Sun is about to leave zodiac sign Cancer and begin its transit through the sign of Leo. Leo is associated with astrology's 5th house. 5th house represents, among other things, childhood and child-like activity.

We all, no matter how sophisticated or knowledgeable, retain remnants of childhood/child-like fantasies within our nature. As this summer progresses and nothing at all in current news cycles has much ability to improve a dismal mood, it might be wise to simply "5th-house-it", at least for a short interval, before heading back into the gloom.

Authors of books intended for children often had timeless wise advice to offer, for us all, whatever stage of maturity we have or haven't reached. The following wee snippets always cheer me during times of worry, and wondering about what could possibly come next:

Think (laterally) about A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh ~~~

'Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?'
'Supposing it didn't,' said Pooh.
After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this.

It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

The old gray donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

Then think about the Sesame Street story:

There's a Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

Grover is horrified to learn that there is a monster at the end of the book, and begs the reader not to finish the book, so as to avoid the monster.
Fearful of reaching the end of the book, Grover constructs a series of obstacles, such as attempting to tie pages together and laying brick walls, to prevent the reader from advancing. Increasingly frightened (and also in awe of the reader's strength at overcoming the obstacles), Grover pleads with the reader to stop reading as the book nears its conclusion. However, the monster turns out to be Grover himself, making the story self-referential.

OR: the Harry Potter tales~~~

"Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light." - Albus Dumbledore.


If You Give a Moose a Muffin, by Laura Joffe Numeroff ~~~

If a big hungry moose comes to visit, you might give him a muffin to make him feel at home. If you give him a muffin, he'll want some jam to go with it. When he's eaten all your muffins, he'll want to go to the store to get some more muffin mix.


But, it's always good to remember that:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ From Hopper House to McMansions to Rapunzel & Pringles

The Sun will soon leave zodiac sign Cancer, for this year, but before it does I notice there'll be an important American painter's birthday anniversary tomorrow, that of Edward Hopper. I've blogged about this artist on three past occasions: HERE, HERE and HERE, between 2007 and 2013. Today I'm drawing attention, again, to just one of his works:

The House by the Railroad (1925)

Edward Hirsch wrote a poem about that painting, it begins:

The House by the Railroad

Out here in the exact middle of the day,
This strange, gawky house has the expression
Of someone being stared at, someone holding
His breath underwater, hushed and expectant;

This house is ashamed of itself, ashamed
Of its fantastic mansard rooftop
And its pseudo-Gothic porch, ashamed
of its shoulders and large, awkward hands......

Full poem can be read HERE

It ends:

...This man will paint other abandoned mansions,
And faded cafeteria windows, and poorly lettered
Storefronts on the edges of small towns.
Always they will have this same expression,

The utterly naked look of someone
Being stared at, someone American and gawky.
Someone who is about to be left alone
Again, and can no longer stand it.

I was reminded of this particular Hopper painting after spending much time nodding and chuckling though a website/blog McMansion Hell. There's a section devoted to the 50 States of McMansion Hell, where the author, Kate Wagner, has begun taking readers through the architectural horrors and decor mis-demeanors of high-priced modern mansions in each US state. There are also sections devoted to architecture, McMansions 101, history, as well as some of general arty-farty type interest. A visit is highly recommended. From the home page, to access heading links to all the good stuff available, just click on the three little lines in the very top left-hand corner of the screen.

Edward Hopper's House by the Railroad wasn't, of course, a McMansion, but many of today's over-priced, piles, filled with pretensions to opulence and historical relevance do owe a lot to similar styles from decades past - it's just that they their designers didn't know when to stop - or where!

I've wondered if, in decades long past, builders used a common catalogue of styles available as "sets" - a bit like a Lego set. The customer would pick one from the "menu" and could also order from a list of "sides" - as happens in restaurants. Perhaps the same things happen today, in the case of McMansions, but menus now have a wider variety of sides, and McMansion customers have bigger appetites and fatter wallets.
 "Rapunzel Towers"

 McMansion "Pringle Can of Shame"
As we drive around, just through some of our neighbouring "fly-over" states, we often spy much older houses, either left unoccupied, or currently owned by people of fairly modest means, sporting what we've come to call "Rapunzel Towers"; Ms Wagner calls these "Pringles Cans of Shame". Kansans, especially, during past decades, seem to have had a liking for this "side" of architectural kitsch.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Doggedly Plodding through the...

Dog Days. The Old Farmer's Almanac, a venerated publication first on the streets of the USA in 1792, tells that we in the Northern hemisphere are currently experiencing "the dog days" of summer - summer's hottest, most sultry days, spanning dates between mid to late July and mid to late August, depending on source, but generally around a 40-day span. Whichever dates are involved there's a link to the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of Sirius, known as the the Dog Star from its Latin name, Canis (=dog) Major.

Movements of the star Sirius have been noted by inhabitants of planet earth from as long ago as records exist - and probably long before. Sirius is a binary star system composed of Sirius A and Sirius B; there's supposition of a third star involved, but no proof of this. Sirius shines brightest of all bodies in the night sky. In case of difficulty pinpointing Sirius just look for the three stars in a row, forming Orion's belt, extend the line southeastward - there it is.

For some lucky people the dog days of summer are welcome - like a friendly cuddly puppy, eager to be taken for walks. For others (we in south-west Oklahoma included) the dog days come on, often in triple digits, more like a snarling, angry guard dog, ready to adversely affect any who dare cross the line. But, as Jonathan Swift once wrote/said:
"Every dog must have his day."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

From Summer of Love to Mars (and back?)

Another 2017 anniversary has been noted by several writers and columnists this month: the so-called Summer of Love's 50th. Here's one writer's take on it - Todd Gitlin: Summer of Love and Rage.

Hippie-dom, and Summer of Love were something I only read about, back in England, and, otherwise engaged in my own throes of marriage, separation and frustratingly attempting divorce in an era when it was nowhere near as easy as it is today. I did fleetingly enjoy a few of the LSD-induced songs drifting through my transistor radio, but back then the other side of the Atlantic seemed as far away as Mars - and as alien.

Commenter "Rodmacd", in a thread below the linked piece had this to say:
The hippie era was pretty brief. The Summer of Love, followed 2 years later by Woodstock; thought, with breathless anticipation, to be an "OMG, What's Next?!" event -- and, as we all now know, "next" turned out to be a few years of a whole lot of not much until the hippies traded in their tie-dyes for tie clips and pasted over their "War is not healthy for Children and other living things" bumper stickers with ones that read "He who dies with the most toys wins". Mighty Mammon took a shot or two back then, but it rallied strong and remains the heavyweight champion of the American Dream.

Oh - and speaking of Mars... dragging myself back to 2017 again, here's an interesting piece by Tyler Losier:

The race to the red planet: How NASA, SpaceX are working to get to Mars.

Well then...speaking of space travel, and potential future ways to do it, or aid it: here's another interesting piece, this by Tom Spender:
Teleportation: Photon particles today, humans tomorrow?

As the always quotable and much lamented Sir Terry Pratchett once wrote:
“This is space. It's sometimes called the final frontier. (Except that of course you can't have a final frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier to, but as frontiers go, it's pretty penultimate . . .)”
― Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

Monday, July 17, 2017

Music Monday ~ GUEST POST

GUEST POST by "anyjazz" (my husband)

I felt badly about not caring for rap performance because it destroyed my status of being able to enjoy and appreciate all forms of music. I finally rationalized, “How can anything be music if it is not musical?”

Most (and I feel safe in saying “most”) rap performance is merely inflammatory, profanity-filled, roughly rhyming couplets, set to a rhythmic background of raucous and thumping sounds. It is seldom musical.

How can that which is not musical be termed “music”? Simply put, rap is not music.

I don’t know what it is. Some kind of performance art I suppose.

And there’s something else that worries me: We hum and whistle the songs and music of our youth. That’s what makes them so eternal, so legendary to us. Just what are people going to be humming 20 years from now? It’ll be slim pickings surely. Will it be “bomtiddy bomtiddy bomtiddy bom”?

I have pawed through the cut-out bins, the pawn shops and the abundant thrift stores for cast out and cast away recordings, 8 track, cassette, 45rpm, LP and now CD. Years of doing this taught me (among many other things) that the music that is temporary and disappointing in our lives ends up there in the discard bins, reverting to dust.

Sometimes it was heart-throb entries like David Cassidy or Michael Parks there in the bins. Or maybe classical albums like Ravel’s Bolero or Handel’s Messiah orchestrated and played by small town bands in Europe or Alabama somewhere and bought from magazine ads. There were stacks of stand-up comedy albums, played once and never touched again. I found lots of vanity albums from show-biz personalities hoping to supplement their income in the music business. But, “William Shatner Sings?” or Robert Mitchum’s “Calypso is Like So” although treasures to the collector now, were turkeys when released. The used boxes contained albums by one hit wonders and head bangers. Never a Sinatra, never a Brubeck. It was seldom any jazz album would appear in the charity shop or garage sale. A used Charlie Parker album? Get real.

Today what do you find? Rap CDs. Lots of them. LOTS of them. It seems they do not stand up to repeat plays. The rap protagonists listen to the recording once and then move on. They must. Apparently there is not enough pith in the helmet to wear it repeatedly.

Of course in any art there are exceptions to every premise and medium. I make no judgments here; it’s only an observation.

Since the advent of recordings, one generation of parents grew up listening to jazz and show tunes. That was the popular music of their time. They listened to songs with fine poetry and indelible melodies. They also carry the guilt of the “Charleston” and the “Lindy Hop” and other dances of that ilk.

Along came Bill Haley and Little Richard. Parents were wary because they couldn’t understand the lyrics and thought the dances too sexually symbolic. Turns out they were right and well … wrong. Rock didn’t promote sexual activity any more than the crooners and the snuggle dances of the ‘40’s.

Rap is not the same story. The older generation may just be completely right. The current younger generation may just be the victims of the emperor’s new clothes. The next BIG thing might just be the cash-cow of corporations, eager to exploit the markets with a product that is transitional and must be replaced often; another edition of the planned obsolescence ploy, geared to selling the same product over and over.

The jury is still sequestered on that and ordered Gulf Shrimp today. It's going to be a long session.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Week That Was... or wasn't

I cannot bring myself to even think, never mind write, about the never-ending feeding frenzy the mainstream media has been engaged in for months on end. I don't give a flying fnyeh if Donald Jnr. interacted with a Russian, or if Donald Snr. has Russian business ties, a peculiar handshake, or...whatever. So, I shall concentrate on my personal week; it included a rare visit, one afternoon, to our local cinema.

Wonder Woman, or any superhero tale, wouldn't usually be our choice of fare, but a chance to get out of the house and into another cooled environment for a few hours was tempting. The film had gathered some good reviews, a quick read of its theme wasn't too disagreeable, so off we went. We were the sole audience members for a late afternoon showing of Wonder Woman. The movie is in its second, maybe third week here, maybe everyone else has already seen WW and moved on to Spiderman Homecoming, Transformers or Despicable Me 3.

Wonder Woman, we decided, on the way home, isn't bad, and it's message and heart is definitely in the right place. Too long, though - trimming around 20 minutes off its 2 hr 21 mins run-time would lose little of importance.

The film's first segment gets into some fairly shallow waters of Greek mythology, so as to "begin at the very beginning...a very good place to start" (as Julie sang in a long ago blockbuster). We meet WW, real name Diana, as a small child. We also meet WW's mum, Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, and her mother's sister, General Antiope. They live on the mythical isle of Themyscira. The Amazons, all female, all gymnastically adept and A+ grade in self defence, were created by the gods of Mount Olympus, allegedly to protect humankind. Ares (aka by Romans as Mars) god of war, who we shall be meeting later, killed all the other gods, but was struck down by Zeus, his father. More at Wikipedia.

A couple of time jumps bring us to the year 1918, when Diana, by now a beautiful young woman, rescues American pilot Captain Steve Trevor from the sea, his plane having crashed off Themyscira's coast. And...we're off! Off to war - the one we know as World War I - and to find Ares who, Diana knows instinctively, has to be at its source.

There are some mildly funny exchanges, between WW and Steve the pilot, and others in the 1918 scenario at various points, as WW encounters human nature at its worst, but also at its best. Some more serious exchanges come later between Ares and WW, as he explains to her why humans must be destroyed because of their many and varied failings. They are a failed experiment, he declares. WW does not fully disagree but also points out that humans are capable of good things too, as she has experienced, and there is a choice they all make, some good, some bad - importantly not always bad. She adds that it's love, and only love, which will save them (us!)

So, you see, though this movie might be a tad shallow in places, a tad overdone, though cleverly and stylishly so, the message young (and older) audiences should receive is a good one - the best, in fact. Gal Gadot, as WW, was excellent by the way - I doubt there'd be anyone, anywhere, who could better portray the Wondrous One, in looks plus athletic ability.

Also this week, and staying with the movie theme, while returning momentarily to last weekend's
mention of the re-make of Robo-Cop. The original movie was said to have had allegorical links to the story of Jesus Christ. Having now watched the Robo-Cop re-make, via DVD, I'm convinced that any allegory has been either purposely smothered or lost in translation.

The basic re-make story in the 2014 film directed by José Padilha, remains as was, with detail adjusted for modern-day sensibilities, and census requirements. Producers did not want younger viewers excluded, of course - ka-ching! See this list of horrors from the 1987 original movie. Horrific events are not entirely cleaned up in the newer version, but there's more "at a distance" viewing, and instead of the brutal beating of the cop, upon which the story rests, in the new version we get a car bomb, and can view the scene only at a distance, in the dark too.

My somewhat hazy memories of the original are, oddly enough, pleasant ones. I felt engaged and I cared about the characters. In spite of the tale's dreadful events, I clearly remember coming away with a good feeling. Not so in the case of the re-make. Even Joel Kinnaman's face under the Robo-helmet couldn't engage me sufficiently to fully enjoy the film. He's such a good, nuanced, actor, far too good for this role, which basically entails an actor lending/renting his face to the show. Peter Weller did the same in 1987 of course, but back then the film's director, Paul Verhoeven, had managed to inject more warmth, humanity and eventual good feeling into the story.

For a good assessment of all the differences between the 1987 version of Robo-Cop and the 2014 version see THIS article at Screenprism.

Neither Weller nor Kinnaman could have driven the movie's "feel" one way or t'other from their swaddled-in-metal situation. I look forward to seeing Joel Kinnaman in future roles commensurate with his talent.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Wenceslaus Hollar & His Etchings

 Portrait of Wenceslaus Hollar by Jan Meyssens
Wenceslaus Hollar, (1607-1677) Bohemian etcher whose works are a rich source of information about the 17th century. His work is still much appreciated by connoisseurs. He illustrated a number of books and produced the celebrated Views of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Some 3,000 plates are credited to him. He died in extreme poverty.

By the 17th century it had become established practice to issue books with engraved title pages and portraits. The process required a different printing process and led to an increase in the use of the copper plate press. The popularity of etching in Britain was predominantly due to one man, Wenceslaus Hollar, who was born in Prague. He arrived in Britain as a member of the household of the Earl of Arundel, one of Charles I’s Ministers of State who was a great patron of the arts. Less than 10 years later both the Earl and Hollar had to flee due to the Royalist defeat in the Civil War.

More at:

Hollar was a contemporary of famous astrologer William Lilly. His portrait, from Hollar's etching:

As for Hollar's astrology, there's a question mark over the exact date of his birth, according to our modern calendar:


I've taken a quick look at both dates, Sun remained in Cancer, Moon could have been in Cancer too on 23 July. I like 23 July chart for Venus in Virgo - that Virgo practicality and meticulous attention to detail would be needed in etching on copper plates, and Saturn in Capricorn (whichever date is correct) also echoes the kind of solid practical application etching on copper would require.

As well as illustrations of London and portraits of the so-called Great and Good, Hollar produced several etchings relating to traditional fables, which are referenced, still, in the 21st century:

The Fox and the Sick Lion is one of Aesop's Fables: "fable against trust in kings" - SEE HERE

"The implications of accepting the State’s desired monopoly of violence are perhaps best illustrated by one of Aesop’s fables "The sheep and the Wolves" " - See HERE:

The Belly and the Members is another of Aesop's Fables and is numbered 130 in the Perry Index. It has been interpreted in varying political contexts over the centuries. Wenceslas Hollar's illustration from John Ogilby's version of the fables, 1668. (Wikipedia)

There's a nice explanation of this fable at a blog called Rock Your Paper SEE HERE.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tag Lines

Seen last week in local supermarket car park:

As it happens, neither do I!


I like this one, an oldie but goodie

Now yer talkin'! Impeachment, then, would have been really something to wish for!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

An "art film" I actually understood...I think

At the weekend we watched, via Netflix, an "indie" movie titled Paterson, directed by arty farty specialist Jim Jarmusch. I'm not a big art film fan generally, haven't seen any other of Mr Jarmisch's offerings. Paterson, for the first 15 minutes or so was under threat of the big switchoff - by me. Husband is more of an art film fan, but even he had early doubts about this one. We persisted though, and I'm happy that we did.

Although I know not of Jim Jarmusch's work, I do know of Doctor William Carlos Williams and his poetry, which forms a kind of under-pinning of this film. When the film drew to its close I realised, and commented, that it was, in itself just like a William Carlos Williams poem. The ordinary, the undramatic, a celebration of everyday things: their everyday-ness evoking, eventually, something more than ordinary.

Bare-bones of the movie = a New Jersey bus driver called Paterson, in a New Jersey town called Paterson; his creative, slightly ditzy stay-at-home wife, and their English bulldog called Marvin. Marvin is the only one in the film exhibiting any sense of humour - with a name like "Marvin", as a bulldog, you'd have to, wouldn't you? The bus-driver is also a secret poet who writes his poems in an old fashioned notebook, during his breaks, and later at home, in his den in the cellar. He's a fan of William Carlos Williams, who had been a doctor practising in and around Paterson, the town.

Deeper into the movie's flesh and organs there are signs and symbols, things to be noticed : twins turn up frequently in the background, different sets, sometimes in the foreground too. Paterson's wife Laura's arty creations are always in black and white, repetitive and often circular in shape, repeating, repeating, like the bus driver's workday routines, Monday to Friday. Even Laura's cupcakes, baked for the farmer's market, are strangely repetitive, also decorated in black and white icing. Paterson does not carry a smartphone, own a laptop or computer; his favourite neighbourhood pub, where he drinks just one beer each evening, does not have a TV. Paterson lives in the world of Paterson, in his head and in his notebook.

Does anything exciting or interesting happen in this film? We waited for some kind of climax, and there came a couple of low-key events, but these proved even more low-key because of Paterson's own attitude to them. There was, though, a single event, involving Marvin. Marvin, by the way, does not get killed off for drama's sake in this movie, as dogs are wont to do in many movies. The Marvin event, for a while, shakes Paterson to his core, but a rather mystical, healing event follows.

Not everyone will appreciate Paterson, the movie. For viewers weaned on super-hero, slam-bammers, raunchy language, and soft-porn-ish scenes punctuating films, Paterson will seem like an anachronism and a complete waste of almost 2 hours. For anyone who enjoys the William Carlos Williams style of poetry, I suspect they would adore this film. I enjoyed it - didn't exactly adore it, but did appreciate what it was about, what it was doing.

There are a couple of my archived posts, from 2011 and 2015, about William Carlos Williams, including some astrology, HERE and HERE.

In closing this post, I cannot resist quoting a few lines from one of Williams' poems, The Forgotten City, where he recalled a "curious and industrious" working-class neighbourhood, he had driven through after a storm, and wrote:

.....I had no idea where I was and promised myself
I would some day go back to study this
curious and industrious people who lived
in these apartments, at these sharp
corners and turns of intersecting avenues
with so little apparent communication
with an outside world. How did they get
cut off this way from representation in our
newspapers and other means of publicity
when so near the metropolis, so closely
surrounded by the familiar and the famous?

Yes, how did they...the working class? Words as relevant today as on that day long ago when Doctor Williams drove through those streets and found inspiration for his poem.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Stardusty Music Monday ~ Mitchell Parish

Mitchell Parish (July 10, 1900 – March 31, 1993) was an American lyricist.

Parish was born Michael Hyman Pashelinsky to a Jewish family in Lithuania. His family emigrated to the United States, arriving on February 3, 1901 on the SS Dresden when he was less than a year old. They settled first in Louisiana where his paternal grandmother had relatives, but later moved to New York City. By the late 1920s Parish was a well-regarded Tin Pan Alley lyricist in New York City.

The melody of that lovely song, Star Dust, composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1927, was enhanced by Mitchell Parish's lyrics in 1929. Remember them?
Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely night
Dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you......

From a 1993 obituary in the New York Times:
Mr. Parish also contributed lyrics to many other well-known songs, including "Sweet Lorraine," "Sophisticated Lady," "Stars Fell on Alabama," "Deep Purple," "Stairway to the Stars," Moonlight Serenade" "Sleigh Ride," "Ruby" and "Volare"...........

The history of "Star Dust" illustrated Mr. Parish's conviction, expressed in a 1987 interview in The New York Times, that songs that are overnight sensations tend to be quickly forgotten, while those that become standards often take longer to be recognized.

The song was conceived by Carmichael in 1927 as a jazz instrumental, influenced by Bix Beiderbecke. Mr. Parish wrote the lyrics in 1929, and the song became a hit the following year in a recording by Isham Jones, the tenor saxophonist, band leader and songwriter who led one of the most popular orchestras of the pre-swing era. In 1931 Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong also had minor hits with the song.

Not yet a standard, "Star Dust" languished until the dawn of the swing era, when Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey both had hit versions released back to back on the same Victor 78-r.p.m. single. In late 1940, Artie Shaw recorded his classic version of "Star Dust" featuring Billy Butterfield's famous trumpet solo. Its popularity coincided with Tommy Dorsey's second version featuring Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers.

The song went on to have three other commercially significant lives, each in a different style. In 1957, it was a million-selling rhythm-and-blues hit for Billy Ward and the Dominoes. The same year, given a lush orchestral arrangement by Gordon Jenkins, it became the centerpiece of one of Nat (King) Cole's most successful albums, "Love Is the Thing." Of all the recorded versions of the song, Mr. Parish later recalled, Cole's was his personal favorite.

In 1978, Willie Nelson revived "Star Dust" as a spare country-swing ballad, making it the title of an album that sold three million copies.

There are countless versions of Stardust available, from just about every decade. Jo Stafford - what a great vocalist she was - is sometimes overlooked, so...

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Saturday & Sundry Thoughts on Allegory as Side-effect

Allegory: we humans seem wired into it, a side-effect of human nature, encouraged and developed by early exposure to myths, parables, fables...and religion.

Allegory, as a concept, has been around since at least the days, and philosophers, of ancient Greece. I suspect that it was around but undocumented long before that. Its use and appreciation in matters religious, moral, political and general is accepted as another of our innate human characteristics.

Billy Collins' poem, The Death of Allegory, proposed that allegory is really a thing of the past. First verses are below, the rest at an archived post HERE.

The Death of Allegory
By Billy Collins
I am wondering what became of all those tall abstractions
that used to pose, robed and statuesque, in paintings
and parade about on the pages of the Renaissance
displaying their capital letters like license plates.

Truth cantering on a powerful horse,
Chastity, eyes downcast, fluttering with veils.
Each one was marble come to life, a thought in a coat,
Courtesy bowing with one hand always extended,

Villainy sharpening an instrument behind a wall,
Reason with her crown and Constancy alert behind a helm.
They are all retired now, consigned to a Florida for tropes.
Justice is there standing by an open refrigerator.........

It's a clever poem, nicely done, but in truth allegory is with us still, in literature, in art, in theatre, and in film.

A blog post is no place to be delving into every instance of recognised allegory. Blog readers, few as they may be in these Facebook-ridden days, are prone to ADD, as am I! That being so, I'm interesting myself here in just a couple of instances of allegory in movies, which had flown right over my head; perhaps I've not been alone in this.

A hat-tip to a piece at Taste of Cinema for this enlightenment. From the 14 examples of movies quoted - of those I'd actually seen - I found that the allegory in these two had zoomed right over my now silvery top-knot -

High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)
The Plot: On the day of both his marriage to a pacifist Quaker (Grace Kelly) and supposed retirement, a town marshal (Gary Cooper) is given less than two hours to decide what to do about a gang of killers headed for his town – a conflict that, playing out more or less in real time, is complicated by his realization that none of his neighbors seem willing to help.

What It’s REALLY About: McCarthyism

Wait, What? To understand this one, one must take into account when the film was made. Shot in 1951 during the Korean War, the film’s plot is heavily influenced by events concerning the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Carl Foreman, the screenwriter, was called before HUAC as he was in the process of writing the script and refused to name names, causing him to be labeled an “uncooperative witness.” He was blacklisted shortly thereafter.

Watching the film with this background knowledge, it’s impossible to disregard the parallels between the town’s inaction in the face of incoming danger and the refusal of many in Hollywood to stand up for their persecuted peers. The film isn’t quite as blatant with this idea as other works about McCarthyism were at the time, such as the plays The Crucible (1953) and Inherit the Wind (1955), so it’s understandable how the message of this thoughtful Western could go over the heads of modern viewers unaware of the circumstances under which the film was made.


RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)
The Plot: In a futuristic Detroit, Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is brutally gunned down by a gang of criminals, only to be brought back to life as a crime-fighting cyborg (justifying the film’s tagline: “Part man. Part machine. All cop. The future of law enforcement.”).

What It’s REALLY About: Jesus Christ (once again)

Wait, What? Director Paul Verhoeven has made no secret of his aim to portray the title character as a Christ figure. After all, Murphy suffers a cruel and painful death at the hands of laughing sadists, only to be resurrected and become a savior figure. The biggest visual clue comes at the end, when RoboCop walks through shallow water, appearing to almost walk on top of it. Of course, turning the other cheek isn’t exactly RoboCop’s style. As the Dutch director has stated, he’s “the American Jesus.”

As it happens, I've just this week ordered a used DVD of the Robo-Cop re-make starring, in place of Peter Weller, a new favourite of mine, Joel Kinnaman, whose performance in the TV series The Killing impressed me so much that we're watching the whole Netflixed series for a second time! I shall be watching the Robo-Cop re-make with yet another layer of added interest now!

A final thought, fitting for the 21st century, from Flannery O'Connor,
Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose :
“In any case, you can't have effective allegory in times when people are swept this way and that by momentary convictions, because everyone will read it differently. You can't indicate moral values when morality changes with what is being done, because there is no accepted basis of judgment. And you cannot show the operation of grace when grace is cut off from nature or when the very possibility of grace is denied, because no one will have the least idea of what you are about.”
Perhaps Billy Collins was right!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Quartet of Cancerian Painters

There are other painters whose birth dates fall during the next 4 or 5 days, but I've chosen the following for their diverse styles. (Hat-tip to Wikipedia.)

Félicien Rops (7 July 1833 – 23 August 1898) Belgian artist whose best known pieces are erotic or pornographic in tone and depict an imaginary underworld or subjects of social decadence.

Pornocrates, Pornokratès, La dame au cochon, or The Lady with the Pig

Artemisia Gentileschi (8 July 1593 – c. 1656) was an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio. In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.

My archived post on her is HERE.

Judith & Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes

David Hockney, OM, CH, RA (born 9 July 1937) is an English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. An important contributor to the pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.

My archived post on him is HERE.

A Bigger Splash

Giorgio de Chirico(10 July 1888 – 20 November 1978), an Italian artist and writer. In the years before World War I, he founded the scuola metafisica art movement, which profoundly influenced the surrealists. After 1919, he became interested in traditional painting techniques, and worked in a neoclassical or neo-Baroque style, while frequently revisiting the metaphysical themes of his earlier work.

The Song of Love

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Over-thinking Overton?

The Overton Window - four years ago, in a post titled:
Peering Through the Overton Window
I began:
The Overton Window is a political theory which describes as a narrow "window" the range of ideas the public will find acceptable, and states that the political viability of an idea is defined primarily by this, rather than by politicians' individual preferences. It is named for its originator, Joseph P. Overton, a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. At any given moment, the "window" includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.
That post bears a re-read, as do the comments there. I was prompted to seek it out after reading some comments at the naked capitalism website on Monday. These were from, among others, commenters HBE, jsn, & justanotherprogressive, who were surprisingly complimentary to The American Conservative magazine/website:

" [The American Conservative]often expresses more left leaning sentiment than any liberal publication (think the Atlantic, Huffpo, etc.)....Strange times indeed.

Responses included observation that
"The Overton Window has shifted so far to the right that traditional conservatism now seems “left”. The American Conservative espouses the same things traditional (not the crazies we have now who claim to be conservatives but are really right wing reactionaries) conservatives have always espoused – they really aren’t something new or more “liberal”……it just seems that way when you see what has happened to the Democratic Party……"
[The American Conservative]is actually Conservative which has more in common with the left (you can’t have a king without peasants) than Liberals do: people with out money are “useless eaters” to Liberals.

Overton Window...I wondered what else is being written this year on that, somewhat erm... steamed-up, topic?

From New Republic
The more divided we become, the harder it is to locate the Overton Window, let alone move it. There is now a window of policies that are acceptable to the Republican base, and another for Democrats, but on the national level, there is no window. Instead of a consensus edging one way or another, we have a choice between two poles. The Overton Window is ultimately a name for what we have lost, not an indication of where we are headed. Its popularity today represents a powerful nostalgia for the center. It doesn’t help us overcome fragmentation or rebuild a consensus. Its attractiveness lies in its reassurance that a middle ground once existed.
From Truthhawk

The current Overton window in America is wider than I could possibly have imagined.
Think about the following:

Liberal media is seriously all-in on the idea that Russia is hacking American democracy
Social media, with more young people, is even more ‘out-there’
Conservative media is seriously considering the idea that the CIA hacked an American political party, then ‘false-flagged’ it to make it look like the Russians did it
This was discussed on Hannity a couple nights ago – a late-night highly-rated show that will mostly get older viewers. The younger social media users are approaching full-on Alex Jones level.

I’m not going to pass judgment on these theories – that’s not the point. But can you imagine returning to the politics of 2005? 2010? Almost no idea seems beyond the American political imagination right now.

Where do we go from here? Let’s face it – the Overton window has intentionally been used by the media monolith to limit contrarian opinion. Real truths have been hidden outside the Overton window. Now that it’s blown wide open, those truths can be discussed in the mainstream, as it moves online.

Smart operatives and cunning entrepreneurs will find plenty of opportunity in a world without information gatekeepers. There is now one less limit on power, and one less bottleneck to the truth. Politics is permanently changed.
What, if anything can be made of those thoughts? Don't ask me - I'm not from around here! All that come to mind are words from a Tina Turner song:

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

"I wonder what went wrong..."

I've sometimes offered a "Happy birthday USA!" type of greeting on 4 July in years past, but this year Americans, life and breath of the USA, seem anything but happy; such a greeting would be akin to flogging a dead horse.

Although I'm a US Citizen myself, I guess I'm not, and can never be, at heart "An American". I do love the land itself though, but not much of what goes on within it.

There's no real political left in the USA. It's out of balance. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of the corporations, one does a tango the other a waltz, but both dance for beaucoup dimes. A proper political left is needed, to provide balance, and support for the working class. Yet because corporations own the media and can manipulate and brainwash those Americans not deeply into politics, the rise of any strong 3rd party has become impossible.

Paul Simon's classic beautifully rendered by jazz singer Kurt Elling: