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Chyrons, metaphors, headlines, graphics 22

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — inter alia, a micro-essay on the Passions of Christ and Hussain, and AOC feeling “physically ripped apart” by the effects of her recent fame ]
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How can I resist a title like Passsion Plays?

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Okay, that sent me on my way..

I was at Oberammergau, age seven, in 1950:

And besides, in 1971 I witnessed a troupe of flagellant youths, very disciplined, inside the circular road that surrounds the shrine of the Imam Reza in Mashhad, Iran. They may well have been celebrating Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, commemorating the martyrdom of Hussein and his offspring at Karbala — a celebration often accompanied, though I did not see one myself, by one or more Ta’zieh or Passion Plays.

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Memorializing the massacre of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet and a highly venerated figure in Shi’ite tradition along with his three hundred or so companions, is indeed a grievous matter, comparable — for comparative religious, cultural anthropological and depth psychological purposes, my purposes — to the Passion of Christ as memorialized in the Catholic Stations of the Cross — it is said that one tear shed for Hussein washes away a hundred sins.

The devotional mind-and-heart — may we call it soul, to give that word a less diffuse meaning? — the devotional soul finds in grief plumbed to its depths an antechamber to the heights of joy. This we find in Oberammergau‘s celebration of Christ‘s final week in Jerusalem, his Last Supper, his agony in the garden, his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension… and likewise in the spirituality of the passion of Hussain. Let me quote from an earlier post of mine, Ashura: the Passion of Husayn:

Annemarie Schimmel, the great Harvard scholar of Islamic mysticism, has a fine essay on the poetry of Ashura, encompassing both Sunni and (strongly Shia-influenced) Sufi traditions, Karbala and the Imam Husayn in Persian and Indo-Muslim literature. The mindset is very different from contemporary secular westernism, seeing death itself — and the grief that accompanies it — as a prelude to resurrection, and thus part of the timeless love-play of God with those who love him:

In having his beloved suffer, the divine Beloved seems to show his coquetry, trying and examining their faith and love, and thus even the most cruel manifestations of the battle in which the ‘youthful heroes’, as Shah Latif calls them, are enmeshed, are signs of divine love.

The earth trembles, shakes; the skies are in uproar;
This is not a war, this is the manifestation of Love.

The poet knows that affliction is a special gift for the friends of God, Those who are afflicted most are the prophets, then the saints, then the others in degrees’, and so he continues:

The Friend kills the darlings, the lovers are slain,
For the elect friends He prepares difficulties.
God, the Eternal, without need what He wants, He

That is not by any means the spirit of Larissa MacFarquhar‘s New Yorker piece, Passion Plays: The making of Edward Albee — but it’s the spirit of passion plays as best I can understand it, drawing on my first and fourth decades of life, and on both Catholic Christianity and Shi’ite Islam.

If we are to understand grief — both passionate and compassionate — we might care to ponder such matters.

How’s that for a mini-essay, as promised?

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Nicolle Wallace 3/12/2019:

Guy needs a new stump speech. Democrats effectively check-mating Republicans in Congress by saying, We will only move toward impeachment if there’s evidence of criminal conduct, and practically daring the GOP to say they’s let crimes committed by the President slide…

Glenn Kirschner:

We’re spending so much time trying to decide whether what we have seen publicly reported that may be 5% of what Bob Mueller has, is enough to impeach, is enough to charge somebody with obstruction, with a cover-up, I mean, that’s like sitting here and talking about whether after the first inning of the baseball game, we can predict with 100% confidence which team will win [..]

So for us to debate whether we have enough to begin impeachment proceedings, whether we might have enough to bring a criminal charge against the President or his family members is really folly, it’s folly that we enjoy, and it’s important … but you know, this is still the first inning, with respect to this game, and it may go into extra innings before we know who wins and who loses ..

Peter Baker:

I think he’s done a remarkable job of holding his cards tight to the vest, his office doesn’t leak, much to our frustration, we do not know things until he’s ready for us to know them, and it’s very possible that just when he finally shows those cards, he has a lot of things there that we don’t know anything about.

Rachel Maddow:

And on top of all of that, the, heh, out of control, spinning carousel of scandal around this President is about to enter one of its most kinetic and dramatic periods yet ..


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And on top of all of that, authorities in New York State, interestingly, in both the legislature and in law enforcement, in the Attorney General’s office, they have started, today, to turn their own state-level law enforcement resources on this President and his business, and they’re starting to do it like they’ve got him in a tractor beam.

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Language, language:

Alec MacGillis, The Tragedy of Baltimore
Since Freddie Gray’s death in 2015, violent crime has spiked to levels unseen for a quarter century. How order collapsed in an American city.

In Baltimore, you can tell a lot about the politics of the person you’re talking with by the word he or she uses to describe the events of April 27, 2015. Some people, and most media outlets, call them the “riots”; some the “unrest.” Guy was among those who always referred to them as the “uprising,” a word that connoted something justifiable and positive: the first step, however tumultuous, toward a freer and fairer city.

This is why choice of metaphors matters.

So:


“I FELT LIKE I WAS BEING PHYSICALLY RIPPED APART”

Ocasio-Cortez admits that the sudden fame has been disorienting. “At first, it was really, really, really hard. I felt like I was being physically ripped apart in those first two to three months,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

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And that’s a wrap.

Princes & saws DoubleQuote

Monday, November 19th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — not exactly a knife (or sayf) to a gunfight, but .. ]
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Here:

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The obvious MBS DoubleQuote is with Jared Kushner, as in the Medium article, Two Princes: Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman. Prince Hamlet offers a third and more ambiguous choice..

When the wind is southerly, Hamlet [Act 2 Scene 2] says, I know a hawk from a handsaw — but tell me, who knows whence [John 3.8] the wind blows?

More metaphor &c

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing the series, with a choice gobbet of Updike ]
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from Meet the Press, 10/21/2018

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I continue to find the close reading of metaphors an invaluable analytic tool, and one that is also of interest to me personally, for writerly, poetic purposes. I’ve expanded my search from its original focus on games — specifically including sports, theater, war games &c as metaphors for politics — to cover something I’ll characterize as fine writing — giving me the ability to note and quote across a wider range of topics and usages.

My last post in the series ran to 18 comments, each one containing a couple of dozen or so instances of metaphor or fine writing, and I don’t expect my expanded search criteria to expand my actual collection — if anything I hope to cut back in favor of writing other things. But when MSNBC’s Meet the Press splashes a great End Game banner on my screen, as it did today, see above, I still won’t be able to resist.

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On the subject of fine writing, though, how’s this?

Dorothy Dotto, thirty-eight, happily married for nineteen years, the mother of three, a member of the Methodist Church, the Grange, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary. She lives, and has lived all her life, in the town of Elm Corners, somewhere in the Corn Belt; as a child, she won seven consecutive pins for perfect Sunday school attendance, and she graduated with good grades from a public school where the remarkable truthfulness of George Washington and the durable axioms of Benjamin Franklin were often invoked. Her father, Jesse, who is retired but still alive (bless him), for forty years kept above his desk at the feed mill a sign declaring, “Honesty Is the Best Policy.”

That’s John Updike, describing “the unimaginably tactful and delicate process whereby the housewife next door was transmogrified into a paid cheat” in what in retrospect looks like a major turning point in the American psyche — the loss of innocence that occurred when it was revealed that many hundreds of Dorothy Dottos had been suborned into a grand cheating system in what’s now known as the 1950s quiz show scandals:

The American quiz show scandals of the 1950s were a series of revelations that contestants of several popular television quiz shows were secretly given assistance by the show’s producers to arrange the outcome of an ostensibly fair competition. The quiz show scandals were driven by a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons included the drive for financial gain, the willingness of contestants to “play along” with the assistance, and the lack of then-current regulations prohibiting the rigging of game shows.

Back to Updike:

Now, as we remember the flavor and ethos of that innocent era, we realize that the contestants, aside from their freakish passion for Hittite history or skeet-shooting statistics, were meant to be us — you and me and the bright boy next door. This was America answering. This was the mental wealth behind the faces you saw in a walk around the block.

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Okay, game shows, in addition to Updike’s undoubtedly fine writing, that’s a game reference. But a loss of American innocence? That’s not nothing. That’s something worth pondering..

In fact, a loss of innocence is fundamentally a loss of the default assumption of trust — and isn’t it precisely the loss of trust that leads to all those conspiracist theories of a mysterious “They” who run “our” world, Skull and Bones, the Bohemian Club, No Such Agency, whoever — and the ensuing distrust of and between political paetiues, leading us eventually to today’s:

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And how’s that for a delicious paradox? The United States are now Divided as to whether they’re divided or united — with divided in the majority..

Okay, loss of innocence, let alone loss of virginity, may be strong language to describe the impact of those 1950s quiz show scandals on the American psyche — but something broke, a ratchet slipped, and perhaps we haven’t been quite the same since.

In any case, I’ll be collecting my usual snippets and gobbets of this and that — often sports, politics, war or strategy related, but also just plain curious or fine stuff — here in the comments section. And oh, btw, I’ve been misspelling gobbet as gobbit for years hereabout: forgive me, it’s spelt (spelled?) with an e, and means a chunk, primarily of meat or writing — no Gandalfian echo intended.

Ad now, as my friend David Ronfeldt would say, Onwards!

Decapitation — Variations on a theme by Vollmann

Monday, September 24th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — preliminary to a rave review, i suspect, with Helena Bonham Carter as Red Queen thrown in ]
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There’s an old English saying, presumably about the martyred King Charles I:

The King walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off..

Young boys, getting acquainted with rules and grammar, and somewhat literal minded as a result, find this statement a paradox, which, however, can easily be resolved by the addition of a comma or perhaps better, a semicolon:

The King walked and talked; half an hour after his head was cut off..

Older boys quickly learn the (semicolon) reason of the riddle, and eagerly apply the first version to younger boys, the better to perplex and torment them. And thus both versions, the beauty of the paradox, the ease of its resolution, and the cruelty thus made available are transmitted across the generations..

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I have written this because the beheading of a king clearly marked my young soul, as I was yesterday reminded by three passages from an Atlantic review of Vollmann‘s latest Opus — Magnum III at least [I, II, and let us not forget, gods I would love to read this, Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater]..

Summits chopped off:

  • In West Virginia, mountains do not have their summits chopped off but are granted “removal of overburden.”
  • Decapitation:

  • His insatiable appetite for detail yields both irrelevant trivia (“Embarking on the Super Limited Hitachi Express, which was also known as the Super Hitachi 23 Limited Express”) and magisterial portraits of landscapes befouled by poking and prodding and, in the case of West Virginia’s mountains, decapitating.
  • Headless:

  • Vollmann breathes a cool wind “whose degree of particulate contamination was of course unknown,” hears on a silent street at night the grunting of a radioactive wild boar, and walks on broken glass through an abandoned clothing store advertising a 50 percent–off sale and peopled by headless mannequins.
  • Headless mannequins and radioactive wild boars — vivid metaphors, no? — we the humans have been brain-dead, and in all likelihood will continue so.

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    We’re all too familiar with images of ISIS executioners with their orange jump-suited prisoners, just prior to and after solo and group beheadings — as a corrective to the “it’s all Islam” narrative, here’s a para from an article titled Inside the Minds of Cartel Hitmen: Hannibal Lecters for Hire (which includes an interview with Robert Bunker that I will be taking a more extended look at now my review of JM Berger‘s new book. Extremism, is in):

    And the tactics employed in all that killing have become more and more gruesome over time. Maybe the rush felt by some murderers is like a drug itself, and they are junkies needing ever greater doses to get the same high. But how is it that ordinary people get hooked on activities like beheading, acid baths, and cannibalism?

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    Quoth the Red Queen: Off with their heads!

    Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

    Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Thomas à Becket, Jim Comey, Vladimir Putin, Stormy Daniels ]
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    Okay, let’s start with the movie version of “Who will rid me..?” Here’s the set up, the breaking of the long and deep friendship between King Henry II, his will driven by the power of the State, and his Archbishop, Thomas à Becket, driven to opposition by the honor of Mother Church

    When the King determines at last to have his Archbishop removed, he utters those words which ring down the centuries — “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” — shown here in Anouilh‘s version of Becket at 3.32 in this clip or thereabouts:

    Sigh.

    Becket meanwhile offers his resignation unto death in surrender to the will of his God:

    In Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral, a passage with which one must wrestle lays out the conflict and its resolution:

    They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer.
    They know and do not know, that acting is suffering
    And suffering is action. Neither does the actor suffer
    Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
    In an eternal action, an eternal patience
    To which all must consent that it may be willed
    And which all must suffer that they may will it,
    That the pattern may subsist, for the pattern is the action
    And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still
    Be forever still.

    Becket was killed in his cathedral on 29 December 1170, by four knights acting on the spur of the moment utterance of their king, and their own certainty as to the wish their king intended to express.

    Becket was canonized — named a saint and martyr — in 1173. And the King? Wiki summarizes:

    The king performed a public act of penance on 12 July 1174 at Canterbury, when he publicly confessed his sins, and then allowed each bishop present, including Foliot, to give him five blows from a rod, then each of the 80 monks of Canterbury Cathedral gave the king three blows. The king then offered gifts to Becket’s shrine and spent a vigil at Becket’s tomb.

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    So much for Becket.

    President Trump, who had somewhat reluctantly fired Flynn, suggests to Jim Comey, head of the FBI, that he might want to close down the further investigation of the Russia business:

    I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.

    Comey was later questioned by Sen. Angus King in an intelligence committee hearing:

    KING: In terms of his comments to you — I think in response to Mr. Risch — to Senator Risch, you said he said, “I hope you will hold back on that.” But when you get a — when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like “I hope” or “I suggest” or — or “would you,” do you take that as a — as a — as a directive?

    COMEY: Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

    KING: I was just going to quote that. In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” and then, the next day, he was killed — Thomas Becket. That’s exactly the same situation. You’re — we’re thinking along the same lines.
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    That’s the direct use of the Becket theme turned to a contemporary purpose. But there’s more..

    Julia Ioffe on All In with Chris Hayes, speaking of Putin‘s plausible deniability using the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin as a cut-out:

    IOFFE:It`s a very, very close relationship. In Russia, he`s known as Putin`s chef. And this is very much in keeping with how the Russians do things, right? There`s never going to be or probably not going to be any finger – any of Putin`s fingerprints on this, right? Probably what it looked like was Putin essentially saying, you know, who will rid me of this you know troublesome Hillary and everybody else kind of gets what that means and swings into action.

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    You might think the Becket story was enough. You might take delight in its contemporary echo by Comey and King. Julia Ioffe using the same example of Vladimir Putin was an unexpected bonus — but there’s (sadly) more..

    Consider this:

    Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Stormy? The Michael Cohen Story:

    Doing conspicuous favors and fixing things is in the nature of this bizarrely public toady-chieftain relationship. Read through Cohen’s interviews. You’ll find it’s replete with mixes of mafia tough guy talk and zany levels of conspicuous self-abnegation. It’s all theater at some level. But I think to a great degree it’s genuine. It’s the guy’s identity, like the way a top captain thinks about the mob boss he serves. Who will rid me of this meddlesome Stormy? Did I mention that Cohen and Trump’s mafia business partner Felix Sater were childhood friends long before they both ended up as top Trump business partners right around the same time? Well, that’s true too. In the scale of money both Trump and Cohen operate at, covering the $130,000 payment himself seems entirely plausible as something Cohen would do as part of the larger relationship. He probably did get paid back some way or another. But I think it’s totally plausible he didn’t. He’d love to be that guy who made the problem go away. Doing Trump a solid like that would be something he’d happily do. It’s the basis of their relationship. He’d get paid back in other ways.”

    When Donald Trump, in one of his furies, makes an offhand comment about Mueller, does that then become an order in the ears of one of his loyal subordinates?

    The Becket story has much to teach us.


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