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August 2, 2012 - July 26, 2012

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter approaches...

Parsifal, Act III, Good Friday Music

ANOTHER YEAR HAS PASSED. Say what you want about Wagner, the man could write some portentous music. The source of the translation below has plenty more to say about the composer, pro and con, but I suggest you just listen and take the cues of your own hearts.

In Wagner's poem it is on Good Friday that Parsifal arrives at the edge of the forest with the Spear and with a burden of guilt. Here Wagner seems to be following his sources, in which Perceval or Parzival, who had not been inside a church or made confession in several years, met some pilgrims who were shocked to see him wearing armour on the holiest of days, Good Friday. They directed him to an old hermit whom they had just visited. In Wagner's drama the old hermit is identified with the knight Gurnemanz. Parsifal's guilt is only increased when Gurnemanz tells him of the death of Titurel and of the decay of the Grail community.

Und ich, ich bin's
der all dies Elend schuf!
Ha! Welcher Sünden,
welches Frevels Schuld
muss dieses Toren Haupt
seit Ewigkeit belasten.

And I, it is I,
who brought this woe on all!
Ha! What transgression,
such a load of sin
must this my foolish head
bear from all eternity.

Soon after, however, Gurnemanz blesses the new Grail king and cries out to heaven:

Du - Reiner!
Mitleidsvoll Duldender,
heiltatvoll Wissender!
Wie des Erlös'ten Leiden
du gelitten,
die letzte Last entnimm nun
seinem Haupt!

O - Pure One!
Pitying sufferer,
all-wise deliverer!
As the redeeming torments
you once suffered,
now lift the last load
from his head!

Have a joyful Easter, one and all.

P.S. I know Wagner isn't everyone's cup of tea; he isn't mine, either. But I try. You know. Don't always make it. For those of you don't make it either, a reminder that a German-speaking composer can still write celestial music appropriate for this most dire of days in the Christian calendar and its glorious aftermath.

Good Friday:


Mozart. Eternal Light. What I wish for you.

Now I feel better.

I can cheer you up for $5.30

Ring Lardner. Yuk. He smoked.

NOTHING NEW. Depending on who you are, of course. Exploring my Kindle, I've found four books that are funny, not in the contemporary way, but in the old-fashioned way, meaning they are not mean, obscene, or politically charged, but, uh, funny. You know, they just make you laugh.

Here they are:

Nonsense Novels by Stepehen Leacock. $0.99 on Kindle

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. $0.99 on Kindle.

Selected Short Stories by Ring Lardner. $0.99 on Kindle.

The Informal Execution of Soupbone Pew by Damon Runyon. $2.30 on Kindle.

And if you should fall into the habit of liking actual humor, here are some others that cost more but are definitely worth their price in gold. Masterpieces all. And all for (mostly much) less than $15.00 apiece.

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy. *****

The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. ****

The Benchley Roundup by Robert Benchley. ****

Max Shulman's Large Economy Size (3 novels) by Max Shulman ************

I won't say anything more right now. If you're curious about who is who and why anyone is on the list, query me in the comments. I promise I'll be far more forthcoming then.

I'll give a teaser, though. All these men were great writers, great souls. Here's what F. Scott Fitzgerald had to say about Ring Lardner upon his death at age 48:

"At no time did I feel that I had known him enough, or that anyone knew him - it was not the feeling that there was more stuff in him and that it should come out, it was rather a qualitative difference, it was rather as though, due to some inadequacy in oneself, one had not penetrated to something unsolved, new and unsaid. That is why one wishes that Ring had written down a larger proportion of what was in his mind and heart. It would have saved him longer for us, and that in itself would be something. But I would like to know what it was, and now I will go on wishing - what did Ring want, how did he want things to be, how did he think things were?

A great and good American is dead. Let us not obscure him by flowers but walk up and look at that fine medallion, all abraded by sorrows that perhaps we are not equipped to understand. Ring made no enemies, because he was kind, and to many millions he gave release and delight."

Humor requires love. Something we seem to have lost. Somewhere along the way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Breitbart's Folly

WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST. By all means watch the whole thing, but the critical moment comes at 9:45 into the clip, when MSNBC's BBC-bred hitman springs the chimp photo. Good God. It's hard to decide whether the photo or the interviewer's smarmy request for a "reaction" is more offensive. Yet the actual worst moment is at the end when Breitbart reiterates his past defense of the partisanship of MSNBC, as if it were in some way comparable to what conservative media outlets are doing. It isn't. I can't speak to Breitbart's intentions, though he certainly seems offended and outraged by what he's experiencing in the interview, but I can speak for an awful lot of us who do not engage in deliberate misrepresentation of facts and opposing viewpoints. We think they're wrong and we say so. That's far different from the cheap, doggedly programmatic ambush we're witnessing in this clip.

Wake up, Mr. Breitbart. They're not advocates. They're assassins.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Was Wrong.

Twice the gravitas (er, avoirdupois) of Ronald Reagan

SPEAKING THE TRUTH. No, it's not a rare event. But I thought it would get your attention because I so rarely admit it. I had occasion to reread my own post about the Republican candidates (somebody insisted), and I was forced to the not terribly brilliant conclusion that if the ones who intend to run are all there is, we're going to be stuck with Obama for another four years of American freefall.

Contributors to my epiphany. A Gallup poll showing that Americans favor NOT cutting Medicare expenditures by a two-to-one margin. Two to one. Another poll showing Obama with a 47 percent approval rating. With gas prices sprinting toward record levels and absolutely no U.S. policy for domestic drilling? Nothing hits the American pocketbook faster and harder than gas prices. 47 percent approval?  Watching Hannity twice in two days. Big mistake. First was the Frank Luntz debacle of focus groups confronting congressmen. The new Tea Party guys already sound like DC veterans, shucking and jiving with empty promises. I wanted to slash my wrists. Then Hannity, last night, championing Donald Trump (!) while Bob Beckel (somebody please stick a pin in this guy's zeppelin-sized pomposity) and I did slash my wrists. [All bandaged and on the mend now, thank you for asking.]

I give up. All is lost if we don't run Chris Christie.

He's The One. The Only. All the poll support for Trump is simple transference. What people want is a blunt, plain-spoken man with enough testosterone to be a real bruiser in the fights that have to be fought. Christie is the guy Trump is pretending to be. I've been telling myself, and all of you obviously, that there's no way he can climb down off his disavowals of presidential ambition without losing his credibility. But I'm rethinking that.

We can nominate him and he can win if we go about it in the right way. He has to be drafted. We need dozens of websites demanding that he run. We need grass roots organizations springing up across the country telling people how to write in his name in all the primaries he won't be entering. We need to force him to accept the mandate of a people who will not accept his demurrers.

If the hue and cry reaches critical mass, he will accept the popular mandate because he already knows no one else can do what he can. Which is the definition of leadership. And if we draft him, the ill impacts in New Jersey -- and there will be gravely ill impacts, make no mistake -- cannot be held against him. He will be a Jersey-boy version of Cincinnatus, called from his fields to become a hero of his nation.

I'm not a blind idolater here. He's got some ethics issues that always go hand-in-hand with Jersey politics the way they do in, uh, say, Chicago politics. (Chris Christie is Irish AND Sicilian but not actually a Soprano. Ba-Da-Bing) And he's also far too liberal from my political perspective. He's squishy on unions and other conservative issues I care deeply about. But that's also part of why he's such a formidable opponent for Obama. The independents have no social or cultural reasons for vetoing him. And the man knows a fiscal and financial crisis when he sees it. Which is absolutely, positively the most important issue we're facing right now. If he can put our economic house in order, I'll grin and bear the rest of it.

What else? Pundits have already started talking about the debates -- the gravitas of a sitting president against a challenger who automatically appears a lightweight on the same stage.

Christie is never a lightweight. He's a great big, fat, booming presence on whatever stage he chooses to set foot on (take that how you will), and given the slenderness of Obama's own credentials, inexperience cannot be a successful campaign issue against him.

In some ways it's just too obvious to see. We need a BIG MAN to take down the midget who's shrinking the country into ruin. Christie is that big man, in terms of both character and physique. Everybody else is just a sad demonstration of what small, ineffectual, and impotent also-rans look like.

You have your marching orders. I'm from the place where his loss will be most keenly felt. But the country needs him more than the Garden State does. We offer him up to you. Get to work.

Draft that great big gigantic loudmouth sonofabitch. I said a long time ago we needed the opposite of Obama. Now that we know our president is a small-minded, vicious little pipsqueak, we have a clearer idea what the anti-Obama looks like. It looks (and sounds) like Chris Christie.

Do your very best and we'll have something to celebrate in November 2012.

How to think of it? Make the voters an offer they can't refuse. Somebody needs to reestablish control over Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi. The Jersey Way is probably the only way that will work.

P.S. Contrast with Helkenberg's commercial:

Waddya want? Gangstas or Joisey Boyz? No problem for me. I'm from Joisey. How 'bout youse?

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