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Sunday surprise existential question: so, are actors real people?

Monday, August 6th, 2018

{ by Charles Cameron — and are you maybe reading this zenpundit post in real life? ]
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You’ve almost certainly seen one or more of these Chevy ads, more than twice..

Real people. Not actors.

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Indeed, they’ve been viewed so many times, in so many variants, that there’s now a Progressive ad that pulls the obvious reversal:

Real actors. Not people.

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Then there’s the existential question, referenced in The Atlantic‘s The Reality of Those ‘Real People, Not Actors’ Ads piece:

During commercial breaks at the Olympics viewing parties I’ve been at in the past week, one company’s ads have consistently sent the room into a round of existential questions. What is reality? Aren’t we all actors? Just how excited can a normal person get about J.D. Power awards?

Existential? Holy Moly. But then, according to One Of The ‘Real People’ From That Chevy Commercial Speaks Out:

As The News Wheel reported in 2015, some of the “real people” were actors by profession, a fact explained away by a GM representative who claimed this was just because they scouted for people in LA. Struggling actors who know that faking enthusiasm could yield a better paycheck could explain this.

Phew, that was a close one!

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And every actor surely knows Shakespeare, no? Jaques, in As You Like It? All the world’s a stage? In the Globe Theatre, motto: All the world enacts a play?

But forget Shakespeare and the more things in heaven and earth than are dremed of in his existential philosophy — I think I know what the Chevy ads boil down to:

Real ads. Not truth.

Aha, mini-epiphany! Fast forward, if you ask me.

Sermo I: Sanctity of the unsavory

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — my most original contribution to theology? — saints of negative virtue ]
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Anthony Bourdain, RIP.

Friend Callum Flack drew my attention to Don’t Eat Before Reading This: A New York chef spills some trade secrets in the New Yorker yessterday. It’s a piece Anthony Bourdain, chef raconteur extraordinaire, wrote in the waning months of th twentieth century, and in Callum’s note it is “The article that kicked off Anthony Bourdain’s writing career. Everything is there already: curiosity, no-bullshit, brotherhood, secrets. Hell of a rollick.”

I’ve occasionally dipped into one of Bourdain’s exotic foods shows on TV, but was frankly surprised and impressed by the outbreak of love and high respect that attended his recent passing. Naturally, I read the piece, and this sentence jumped out at me:

In fact, it was the unsavory side of professional cooking that attracted me to it in the first place.

Those words crystallized for me something i’ve been feeling my way into for years — the sense that there is a second sanctity, just as laudable as the well-recognized first. Bourdain, I saw very clearly in that moment, is a saint of the second category — no insult or diminishment in any way intended — and that remark of his offers exactly the right term to begin my consideration of the hitherto intuited, but to my knowledge seldom theologically recognized category of the sacred to which Bourdain belonged.

Anthony Bourdain was a saint of thee unsavory.

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Bourdain’s piece opens with a paean to unsavories to be savored and tasty cruelties of various forms:

Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger—risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.

Shocking. Distinctly unsaintly.

Sanctity of the first category is liable to sound more like this account of the diet of FF Baptiste Vianney, the Curé d’Ars:

There was no housekeeper at the presbytery. Until 1827 the staple of his food was potatoes, an occasional boiled egg and a kind of tough, indigestible, flat cake made of flour, salt, and water which the people called .[2] Subsequent to the foundation of the orphan girls’ school, to which he gave the beautiful name of ” Providence,” he used to take his meals there. At one time he tried to live on grass, but he had to confess that such a diet proved impossible. He himself reveals his mind, as regards all this, in the words he addressed to a young priest: “The devil,” he said, “is not much afraid of the discipline and hair-shirts what he really fears is the curtailing of food, drink and sleep.”

This too is shocking — but Shakespeare would have recognized and, may we even say, delighted, in both. Indeed, in responding to Callum, I wrote:

Shakespeare knew all about this type of sanctity, theology misses, the blues know it.

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We frequently view the creator, religiously speaking, as “all good” — in which cae the category of the sacred will tend to be open to those whose lives demonstrate extreme “goodness ” — purity, love, self-sacrifice, call it what you will. But if we view the creator, religiously or in terms of evolutionarily biology and psychology, as an artist, then tension becomes a positive, the brilliant extreme of “evil” as significant as that of “good” — and Hannibal Lecter a paragon of negative virtue. Shakespeare must have relished writing Lady Macbeth.

Shakespeare, the great dramatist of our humanity, speaks to the unsavory as well as the savory virtues, while the blues, among the most piercing of our expressions of grief, fury, jealousy, and yes, sin, is also a fount of joy and exultation. In a later sermon in this series, I shall explore Eric Clapton‘s two songs, Have You Ever Loved a Woman, and Wonderful Tonight — one of which is an exploration of “a shame and a sin” — the other of the wonder of an evening in love..

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Let me note briefly here that Santa Muerte is an example of a folk outcropping from traditional Catholic piety in a morbid direction not sanctioned by the Church — an unsavory saint, and what is perhaps worse, visually an inversion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her typical offerings include whiskey and cigars.

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Getting back to our culinary theme, I ran across a fascinating account of JS Bach‘s eating habits recently, headed:

J.S. Bach’s wife recorded an epic meal that he enjoyed after dedicating the new organ in Halle on May 3, 1716. The meal had almost as many courses as he had children

That was quite a few. The courses:

Beef bourguignon, followed by sardines and pike, then smoked ham, a side plate of peas and a side plate of potatoes, spinach (that apparentttly counts as one course), belgian endive, and let’s get hearty, roast mutton, veal, squash, a head of lettuce, ooh, sweet, glazed donuts (plural), white radishes, sweet again and a touch sour, candied lemon peel, fresh butter, and cherry preserves

— surely those last two go with a large tranche of bread, no? — Mrs Bach didn’t tell us. In any case, stout JS Bach was obviously quite a trencherman.

And yet his name crops up in an Episcopalian church calendar as that of a saint, with his feast day on July 28:

Johann Sebastian Bach, 1750, George Frederick Handel, 1759, and Henry Purcell, 1695, Composers

followed a short while later on August 5th by:

Albrecht Dürer, 1528, Matthias Grünewald, 1529, and Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1553, Artists

— while the Orthodox Church in DC celebrates the life of “St. Andrei Rublev, iconographer” on July 4/17.. while Kenneth Randolph Taylor, an Episcopalian in Georgia, is compiling his own “ecumenical calendar of saints”, and includes “the poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkinsas a saint, and surely John Donne and perhaps even Jonathan Swift will soon follow..

My point being that artists seem to occupy a space that has plenty of room for culinary delight, wives and childen, asceticism, monasticism, Lutheranism, Catholicism, Anglicanism, you name it. My own birthday, November 27, occurs in older Catholic calendars as the feast of Sts Baarlam and Ioasaph, whose story is recounted by St. John Damascene and can be traced back to a tale of the Buddha (Ioasaph = Iodasaph = Bodasaph = Bodhisattva if I recall the various names as they can be traced back to their various sources) — so I have a truly ecumenical saint’s day for a birthday in Catholic tradition — and the Buddha as a patron saint!

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Anyway, how long till the church recognizes the uncanny lack of hypocrisy in Hannibal Lecter, ambling down a street in the Bahamas, intent on having “an old friend for dinner”…?

IMO, that’s the over-the-top case that brings my whole suggestion here into the status of an Open Question.

A DoubleQuote with games ref, natsec, and a ratio!

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — President Donald Trump Legal Team Loses Ty Cobb (And His Mustache) | MTP Daily | MSNBC ]
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I just have to give you this DoubleQuote (visual) with verbal accompaniment taking the form of a ratio (a : b :: a* : b*) — and it’s politics, current affairs, natsec (Bolton) and law (Cobb), and even (very Shakespearean, this) exits and entrances

And here’s the ratio, as expressed on MSNBC by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Daily:

But seriously, Bolton is to Cobb as miniature golf is to the Masters — similar — but really — not really

That’s simply delicious.

Here’s the clip:

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If you’re me, trolling the online waves for DoubleQuotes, game metaphors and natsec, that’s a trifecta at the very least. And I just had to give it its own post.

As Chuck Todd put sit to Ari Melber:

Well, y’know, hey, you gotta entertain yourself somehoe, some days.

There’s even a tiny ouroboros in thre!

By your gracious permission..

Shorts 3: Bear, Tiger & Sanctuary, Service / Servitude, &c

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — gotta serve somebody, but best not Richard III ]
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Bear vs Tiger:

Watch a bear pick a fight with a tiger to try to save her cub

Only a few dozen tigers roam this 30,000-acre reserve in central India, according to the Hindustan Times. Yet they dominate the coveted water holes, where barking deer and hyena packs must come to drink. Even humans have to respect the laws of nature in this park. [ .. ]

And Matkasur ran from the bear; this time not turning back. She chased him all the way to the water hole. He splashed straight into it, as if it were sanctuary. Maybe it was, because the bear stopped at the water’s edge.

Projecting sanctuary back to the animal realm — semi-joking, srsly? And water, holy water, as the sanctuary? Or would the boundary (limen, in Victor Turner‘s terms) between earth and water might be enough? Obvs, the tiger doesn’t think, “Ah, Victor Turner time!” — but what might be the sensibilities of tiger and bear cognition? Seriously?

Paleo-religion? Time to rethink sanctuary cities?

Tyger! Bear!

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It Can’t Happen Here, i:

It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis, and a 1936 play adapted from the novel by Lewis and John C. Moffitt.

Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a politician who defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values.

And so on..

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It Can’t Happen Here, ii:

Inspired by the book, director–producer Kenneth Johnson wrote an adaptation titled Storm Warnings in 1982. The script was presented to NBC for production as a television miniseries, but NBC executives rejected the initial version, claiming it was too cerebral for the average American viewer. To make the script more marketable, the American fascists were re-cast as man-eating extraterrestrials, taking the story into the realm of science fiction. The revised story became the miniseries V, which premiered May 3, 1983

And so forth..

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It can’t happen here, [Richard] iii::

Wachet auf!

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Serve somebody, i:

Why I regret being in the pocket of the NRA: Marc Dann

The mass murder of 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has reignited the national debate about the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that began nearly 30 years ago. Since the Parkland massacre, I’ve been asked repeatedly why politicians steadfastly oppose banning firearms that serve no other purpose than to efficiently kill innocent human beings.

I know the answer because, as an Ohio state senator and attorney general, I was in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. [ .. ]

I made a devil’s bargain with myself: To stay in office, I adopted pro-gun positions that made me uncomfortable.

The bargain paid off.

Amazing to see how (a) how he quite casually invokes theology by way of explanation, and/or (b) how the Faustian bargain “myth” works out in real life:

I soon learned however, that in making a deal with the devil to advance my political career, I had abandoned my principles and sold my soul.

D’oh! That’s what the Bargain is! You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody:

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Serve somebody, ii:

Yom may be the heavyweight champion of the world..

I’ll end on this note.

Trump in Arizona, Rosalind in Arden

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — think of the universe as a handkerchief — folding it into one by its opposite corners ]
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Consider these two phrasings — the first, from a WaPo report of Donald Trump‘s speech in Arizona, in which Jenna Johnson or her editor thought he “ranted and rambled” —

— the second from fair Rosalind, in Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 3 scene 5.

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I donm’t think in the long haul that Trump is very Shakespeare the playwright, though as a character he may be Shakespearean. But I’m very taken with the genius of Shakespeare’s Rosalind, “insult, exult, and all at once..” and Trump’s “never left, right? All of us..”

Audrey Stanley, who directed a superlative Greek-tragedy-influenced As You Like It at Ashland while I was an adjunct anthro professor there, instructed her actors to make of each word its own universe, before running them together with the natural rhythms of speech, focusing in on “insult, exult” — both of which are two syllable words of which the second syllable is “sult” — yet having diametrically opposed meanings, and thus “universes”.

The actor who can move his or her breath and rib-cage from the fullness of “insult” to the fullness of “exult” — spitting defiance to joyous exaltation, at opposite extremes of the verbal spectrum — has performed a “coniunction oppositorum” as Jung would say, a folding of the universe as I would put it, from two (opposites) into one — “and all at once”.

It’s a brilliant and potentially transformative utterance, given to the brilliant and potentially transformative character, Rosalind.

Is Trump “brilliant and potentially transformative” — eh?

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Under Audrey’s inspiration, I have long admired that brief line of Rosalind’s, and have only found one line — in Dylan Thomas — to match it:

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray

— that’s from his scandalously fine villanelle, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night:

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Oy. Only one comparable usage. Until Trump.

Well, I’ll leave you there. I don’t think Trump, as I’ve said, is Shakespeare, quite — but in Arizona he stumbled into a speech pattern that attracts my notice.

Shakespeare Trumped, perhaps? I don’t know, but it comes close..

Until next time..


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