Thursday, August 28, 2003

In class the other day, I offered the question,
"What is the difference between a medieval passion play and Mel Gibson's The Passion?"
A classmate shot back, "The medieval passion plays were written in the language people actually spoke," i.e. the vernacular of the plays' audiences.

Of course, as one of my friends had to remind me (idiot that I am, I didn't notice it right away), not only is Latin not the vernacular of The Passion's audience, but it wasn't even the vernacular of first century Palestine. What did Jesus speak? Aramaic and Greek.

In other words, while the passion plays offered the death of Jesus to their viewers in a language and surrounded by a culture that brought the passion closer to the audience, the movie's choice of language will distance the events both from viewers and from "history". I wonder what Gibson thinks he's trying to say with these intentional or unintentional linguistic choices?

Sorry about the long hiatus. I've been settling myself in California, getting to the first few days of classes, and wondering why in a town with as many cafes as this one seems to have, there isn't a single grocery store.

This afternoon, I was sitting in one of the cafes, eating an excellent Italian salad, and trying to read The Shewings of Julian of Norwich. At the table next to mine sat two older men. One had hair that, while relatively long, was controlled in a neat ponytail, and wore a decent, although plain, suit. The other man's hair and beard resembled those of an anchorite who had been sitting on the top of the mountain, far away from brushes and scissors, for twenty years; his coat and trousers may not have been washed for the same length of time. In an articulate and grammatically sound Irish brogue, the dirty man was explaining to the clean man the finer points of collecting coins dropped on the floor. At his friend's coaching, the clean man found a coin under a nearby table, which he then (also according to coaching) dropped in the Tips jar at the cafe. I think it had to do with personal dignity - sitting in a cafe, the homeless person should donate money to the cafe that lets him sit there and drink his cappuccino, rather than claiming every penny for himself - but am not sure. The event was intriguing to me, but not being an anthropologist, I can't quite unpack it. Any thoughts from you guys?

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Danger: What You Read In Sunday Styles May Not Constitute A Trend

According to On the Media (yeah, that one NPR show), the whole idea of Metrosexuals and their hyping on the New York Times' Sunday Styles page was a conspiracy to give writers an excuse to mention gay marriage without boring people to death. That metrosexuals probably don't exist comes as no surprise to me. Looking around my own sphere of society, I see the gay guy I work with beautifully dressed and probably self-manicured (I haven't stared at his hands, but it looks like he irons his shirts), while the known straight guys in the library are considered well dressed if they get to a barber bi-monthly and wear clean trousers.

The fact that gay rights news needs a boost from pretty straight men and bad TV does surprise me.

William Powers, in his column for the Atlantic, writes:

No Pop Culture, No Story. The Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws. Gay marriage became legal in Canada, and some American states might follow suit. Howard Dean, the Democratic candidate to beat, is gay-friendly. George Bush and the Vatican are not. And the Episcopal Church is at war with itself over a gay bishop-elect. But you know what? None of that would amount to squat newswise—a few days each on the front page, max—without a Hollywood angle.

If this is true, then the national deficit needs to directly correlate to the number of movies Mary Kate and Ashley are capable of producing. Perhaps then people might start thinking about bringing it back under control.

When not reading The Sword of Knowledge...

If you enjoy trashy fantasy novels (admit it, I know you do!), you'll love Methusela's daughter. A blog apparently written by a 3500 year old woman, this is like reading Edgar Rice Burroughs crossed with Jean Auel.

A tidbit of the ancient immortal answering one of those 25 question emails:

4. What is the wildest thing you’ve ever done?

Oh, my. I am not certain the provider’s TOS will let me be explicit. Does scratching my way out a shallow grave count?

5. Do you regret doing it?


I came across it reading this blog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

California Recall: A Revolution, or a Really Dumb Idea? (perhaps both)
Thomas Nephew got me thinking about the California recall vote. I've of course had my opinions on the subject, but now that people are starting to attach democratic ideals to this three ring circus, I thought I would stop being coy, and be myself:glib.

If one were to believe that this recall is really the will of the people, like the storming of the Bastille, then let them deal with the consequences, like the French had to.. I'm not saying Arnold is the next Napolean (though he's not as tall as you think he is), but just think of all the heads that will roll. Sorting out who stays and who goes underneath the new governor is going to be a nasty, nasty business, and not the least bit economical.

But this is not about economics, nor is it about democracy, or something like it. It barely touches most of our political psyches, because the act of putting your signature down on a sheet of paper is not directly connected to your brain-- if it were, there would be a lot less credit card debt in this country. No, this started as a combination of one man's ego, a group of people's greed, and a mountain of suckers.

Let them eat cake.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Ms. Mickey?
"Ou est le souris?" I asked. "La souris," he shot back. "Souris is feminine. I will find him for you."

Euro Disney is having financial hardship.

Why do I care?

Despite my anthropological studies, I do not lift my nose at the hyper-commercialized, artificial culture of a Disney theme park. I actually revel in it. Universal, Six Flags etc. don't come close to the experience of such a park, with its insane attention to detail, and incredible number of women's toilets. The masses of humans which stream into the pleasure domes of Florida and California rarely hit bottlenecks, rarely stand in line for more than an hour, and rarely go home disgruntled, unless they aren't willing to enjoy the magic of having their wallets emptied for the sake of mouse-eared frozen treats. The grounds are as clean as the inside of your television set. It would make sense that the French would not enjoy the place half so much as I do, because it is far from "authentic". But the critics are missing something important about the culture of Disney world, and its role in the human psyche: its about as close to utopianism as we allow ourselves to get these days.

I always felt that Disneyworld Florida was a descendant of previous attempts at finding Utopia in Florida. Long after Ponce de Leon wasted years searching for the Fountain of Youth, people came to Florida for the cheap land, warm weather, and lack of government oversight. Denys Rolle's Charlotta was meant to magically transform paupers into princes by bringing the wretched of the British streets to a beautiful new land, and reform them. Cyrus Teed's Koreshan Unity was a place not unlike the inside of a TV set, where Teed's followers believed the world was a concave sphere where people lived forever if they practiced celibacy. Of course, neither community lasted longer than the life of its founder, but the vision of transformation and trascendence through purity of living never lost its desirability.

So when Walt make his dream park, he meant it to be not just an all day affair, but a community too, with houses and schools and the whole kit and caboodle. You see this idea rearing its ugly head recently with Celebrations, but we don't need to focus on that: its not a trend. The theme park, however, allows people to get a breath of utopia for a little while, about as much as they can stand, and then go back to the normal disharmonies of life, like sex, work, and death.

Is this harmful, this escapist fantasy of Disney? Some people tend to think so. People who get persnickety about Mickey's gender think so. But that's some people. :)