Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber (Hongloumeng) is one of the great novels of all time. Spanning 5 volumes in David Hawkes English translation, it is longer that Proust, but much more interesting. We follow the life of Jia Baoyu, as he is pulled between living his dreams and conforming to the expectations of society. But that is not all; the whole Jia family, living a life of ease at the height of traditional China's civilization, is presented to us, from the revered matriarch to the lowest servant. Baoyu comes to live in Total Vision Garden, which had been built for the visit of his older sister, a concubine of the Son of Heaven. There also, in little houses, dwell many of his closest female relatives. Together they try to form an ideal society rooted in poetry and beauty, but the real world intervenes most harshly, and none of them are able to escape their fate.

But I oversimplify. I cannot even begin to summarise 2,500 pages. The scenes that most stick in my mind include an exhibition of patriarchal authority that would make the Old Testament proud: "Tie him up! Beat him to death!" shouts the overwrought father at his seemingly worthless son (until grandmother interveves). My favorites have to do with the Crab Flower Club, the garden's poetry society. I have always loved the company and conversation of girls, and living like Baoyu in a fantastic garden with several talented girls would be my ideal life. Shi Xiangyun is my favorite, she is the girl who drifts toward the male gender as Baoyu drifts toward the female gender. In fact gender boundaries blur throughout, especially in the running of the household by the adults. For the traditionalists, Lin Daiyu is the ideal of fragile beauty, whereas Xue Baochai in the practical conformist, who puts herself back into her traditional place.

Within the poetry club, the members seek the ideal hearer for their works. Who is the one whose heart was meant to receive that which their heart has poured out? And how can we stay true to our dreams in the face of real world obligations? In the end, Baoyu does accomplish what his family expects of him, but no more. The dreams formed in the garden cannot endure, and, like the cherry blossoms, they blow away in the wind. And I have not yot even mentioned Wang Xifeng, or the haughty young nun Adamantina.

Cao Xueqin (1715-1763) is the author of most of the work, as well a possible model for Baoyu. The work at first circulated in manuscript among family. These first readers annotated and edited the work. Ruchang Zhou, a contemporary "Redologist" (student of this work) in his Between Noble and Humble: Cao Xueqin and the Dream of the Red Chamber, puts forth the hypothesis that Shi Xiangyun is in fact the editor "Red Inkstone," and possibly the wife of the author. Whoever they were, the editors helped Cao Xueqin steer clear of topics that might anger the government censors, and thus ensured the work's survival.
I love the challenge of a long work of fiction, but there must be some theme or investment in character(s) that pulls me along. Sheer weird wild beauty pulled me through 48 books of Nonnos' Dionysiaca. I made it all the way with Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities. But Proust left me flat, and I just didn't grow to care about anybody in the Mahabharata. Three Kingdoms, I may give another chance, but I am done with Journey to the West. Hongloumeng, I have read three times, and hope to read it again. It is, after all, the expression of my ideal pure world of beauty, poetry, girls, and dreams.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Anime Gifts

Had a wonderful Christmas! While I am still struggling with Proclus' On Timaeus, a present from last year, this Christmas I got ANIME! Hooray! Saw the Rebuild of Evangelion 1.11. Love the new and re-done scenes, but I don't know if this edition is a good way to bring in new fans. Or maybe I am just too stuck on the original 26 episode TV series. Slower pace, more time for character developement. EVA is very deep, and yet entertaining...it stands as a classic.

I also received the ADV edition DVD set of Sailor Moon, which includes the first 89 original Japanese episodes, minus episode 67 for some strange reason (maybe they don't like dinosaurs?). I have seen all of the old DIC dubs, except for the Nurse Venus episode, so I jumped right in to watch the ones which were never broadcast in the US. We looked of course for the reasons why. Our upstanding student Melvin (海野 ぐりお) turned into quite the stylish delinquent in one of them. American children could never have resist the dark side if they had seen that. I have a lot of happy memories of watching Sailor Moon, so this will be a fun series to watch during the coming year. And now, since DADT has been repealed, perhaps we can finally get a US edition of Sailor Stars.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hunger by Knut Hamsun

This is a short novel written by a contemporary of Edvard Munch, whom we all know and love for his painting The Scream. Hamsun, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920, has created a Kafkaesque narrator who struggles through a very rough patch in the city, before setting out on the voyage that will make or break him as a functioning adult. Sorry about using the term "Kafkaesque,' by the way.

If you read Hunger as a narrative, a traditional novel, you will be disappointed. Better to stick with Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment. Hamsun's narrator, his K, his analog-I, seems to drift on through from one thing after another by the power of his own inner compulsions. But what are they? Ahh! Once you ask that question, you will be on the way to seeing the deeper level of Hunger, as a tale of a boy trying to become a man and take a place in the symbolic order.

I hated Biblical allegory because I never saw it on my own. Once somebody pointed out the hidden, deep and secret meaning, then I could say, 'Aha! I get it!' But never a minuite before. In literature, sadly it is the same, but, thanks to Freud, Jung, Erich Neumann, and the demigodic Lacan, I enjoy what I find so much more. And Hamsun digs deep, oh so deep.

The novel is about 200 pages in the Penguin Classics edition, divided into four sections. In the first, we are dragged along through three days of the narrator's life. And what a life! Signs and talismans abound. But I don't want to spoil your digging, so I will only hit the high points. Our poor young man has already pawned all that he brought with him from home. What remains are the clothes on his back, his pencil and paper, and a borrowed blanket which will eventually become part of a great moral struggle. But let's look at the pencil. It is the extention of his hand, and thus of his brain, where all the knowledge cramm'd in by classics-loving schoolmasters is kept. And it is the way he proposes to earn his place in society. Write!-- yes, but what? He wants, it seems, to write serious literature, but the only things he can sell for now are newspaper articles, articles to the public taste (ugh!) and not learned gobbledeguk, as his father..oops....I mean his editor reminds him later. But today he must move one more step down the ladder of life and pawn his vest. Trouble is, he forgets to remove the pencil from the pocket! His talisman of manhood is lost! And he must do all he can to get it back.

Having no vest meant that it is no longer possible for him to even pose as a respectable person, much less keep warm at night. In part two, the narrator takes refuge in jail for a night, where he takes on the identity of an important person who has not been able to make it home. He does pull it off, but then cannot take part in the breakfast provided for the homeless, lest he blow his cover. Andreas Tangen, journalist--is his assumed identity, but it is a sham. When he does get to the place of empowerment, the editor's office, what he had written is rejected out of hand. To the editor it is a non-incident, for he has a place in the symbolic order, but for the narrator, the pittance he would have been paid is a matter of life and death.

In part three, he meets a girl around whom he has thrown a web of fantasy as his 'Princess Ylajali.' Turns out, she has taken a fancy to him as well, though God only knows why. He can's smell very good, and sleeping in one's clothes does nothing for the appearance. In the real time of the novel, I cannot explain it, other that a strange whim, but in the world of symbols she is the (gasp) mother figure in his Oedipal drama. On the winding way to her sitting-room he is symbolicaly castrated twice, by biting his finger and when a bakery wagon crushes his foot. If that were not enough, Hamsun hits us with a third symbolic castration when, just before he reaches his prize (no, not THAT!), Ylajali discovers that his hair is falling out. (Think Sampson, but dont run off to read Milton's Sampson Agonistes.)

I wont spoil the fourth part, other than to say Primal Scene? Yeh, it's in there. From the 1700s on, I have found that education went well ahead, even though based in the classics, but jobs for all these newly educated were few and far between. Hölderlin could be a pastor, if there were a parish for him, or he could be a tutor to some rich brats, treated no better than a house servant. Not that there's anything wrong with being a house servant, but the education received put the mind on lofty, unobtainable things. The Brontë family, including brother Branwell struggled with this as well. The girls could be governnesses or work in a Madeline-y school in Brussles. Branwell tried to work for the railroad. Baudelaire has a better start, but his voyage was a disaster; he gave up half way and returned home. We can only hope for better things from the voyage of Hamsun's narrator in Hunger.

And, yes, I give this book seven thumbs up^^

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Charmed and Oddshipping

Watching Charmed episode "Death Becomes Them" on WE. Poor Daryl!! I always felt that he was a part of the Haliwell extended family. but there he is, ignoring an important call from Paige. Well, if is just Paige after all, but still, he should answer and be there for them. Especially Piper. Why do TV couples have to be sooo normal, so vanilla? Even Cole couldn't stay in Balthasar-form. But I don't care about him. Ugh! As a true hearted Hank Williams III/Lady Gaga shipper, I know I am way out there in coupling my favorite media stars. I loved Katy Perry and Moe in the recent Simpsons episode! But my all time favorite TV couple (that I can think of just now) are Kif and Amy from Futurama.
Why do I like weird couples? It's probably hereditary. My Mom likes the human oddities on Discovery Health, and she can't seem to learn enough about Onkel Adi on History Channel. But normal is just so...so normal. Let there be odd and unusual couples, if only to give hope to all of us who reside just outside of normal. And, for the novelty! Most good traditional stories have been written, the archetypal scenes have been exhausted. Let us have something new! And a good Daryl/Piper fanfic!
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Pre-Christmas addendum: I was watching a Christmas themed movie this morning with a blonde Lauren Holly as a defence attorney protecting Santa's son Kris Kringle, Jr., on his first outing. They made a cute couple and I was really rooting for them. But WHO did she end up with? A police detective playel by Judd Nelson. Judd Nelson! The guy from Cabin by the Lake, who 'gardened' his victims... ugh! bah! ptooey! Left me with less holiday spirit than I started with.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is Second Life still...

Back in April the Woodbury sims were removed from SL and many connected to them were banned. Now while I am not in any way a supporter of anything, including content theft, that violated the TOS, I do wonder about something. If the talented rogues are into something, it is cutting edge...worthy of their interest. But their attentions may make life difficult for regular residents. If they are expelled, then they will just move on to something else. Then where does that leave the technology they have been forced out of? There is so much out there now, things blossom and fade seemingly overnight. So if we as upright citizens have supported the expulsion of some who trouble us, yet somehow make us relevant, does that make us irrelevant? By pushing our those who trouble us, we make our world safer, but without their talents, do we have what it takes to survive?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Susquehanna II

our river wand'ring south
old father!-- born afar
flowing from many mothers
up from hidden deeps
out from primal forests
past field and bridge
mill and rusty town--
here you push apart
two ancient noble houses
named York and Lancaster
where long ago lands
taken by wand'ring children
who crossed cold oceans
laying their bones here
in soil that resents
yet still somehow enfolds
their storehouse of memories

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Religion: Ozian-Hölderlinist

Ozian-is for the human imagination, the creative part of us that is also a bit of divinity. If faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, then faith is our free passage to Oz. It is imagination that creates the things hoped for, things which we cannot see and experience with our five senses.

Hölderlinist-Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) embodies the poet as vates or shaman. The spiritually gifted among us, those who bridge the gap between humanity and divinity, are few in any generation. The gift is not easy to bear, and at its must intense, cannot be sustained by even the strongest. We should be thankful for the gifts and sacrifices of those who are able to bring back and share with us divine oracles, in whatever form they come.

An Ozian-Hölderlinist seek out the divine oracles which surround us, absorbs them, and shares them with others. In doing so, the connection with divine things is renewed and continued.

the kisses of spirits

"...Atalanta, imagine the kisses of spirits. And when nothing more prevents them from flowing one into another, and an embrace lasts an eternity..."

~Waiblinger, Phaethon I.42

forget trouble
pass hope and pain
joy and forgiveness
until at last
two borders meet
touching gently
then at length
collide full measure
open through
all gates o'erwhelmed
awash with light
until no more
is you nor i
but only one

Monday, November 29, 2010

Susquehanna I

in our river
near to the far shore
stubborn rocks
at low ebb
stuck in so firmly
they can neither move apart
nor come together
before the water hides them

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Harry Potter VII.1 movie review

This is a movie for fans, so if you are not a fan, then stay home and watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Noo, I'm not being a meanie, I'm saying this for your own good. If you want to be a fan, then start at the first movie and work your way up.

The feeling of being lost in the wilderness that I felt in the book is well-reproduced in the movie. Our characters that we have come to know and love (or hate) are there doing their parts. Shadows of nazi-ism aside, the plot winds on to a reasonable caesura, leaving us to wait until next June to continue on to the neo-apocalyptic conclusion.

There are only two small problems. One is the lack of Hogwarts. I felt this in the books as well, since I had come to love them primarily as a school story. Good Bye Mr Chips always brings a tear to my eye, so I was looking forward to a peek into a 7 year boarding school. But I did not get that, unless Deathly Hallows is a metaphor for senoiritis. My other problem is Severus Snape. I have always thought him a bit too complex. Perhaps this has to do with my wondering why there is a Slytherin at Hogwarts at all. To me it is as if God invited the Devil into heaven to be a part of the Trinity. Ok, well He may have tried that in the Book of Job, but, Origen's apokatastasis aside, it grates on me. Slytherin is evil, get them out! Ok, maybe I am too muggled or not spiritually evolved enough to get it.

Bottom line: if you are a fan, it is a must see. If you have, like me, enjoyed the books enough to overlook any faults, dont turn back now!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hölderlin and his education

During the Reformation, England destroyed its monasteries. Hölderlin's homeland turned them into schools. At Kloster Denkendorf and Kloster Maulbronn, young Hölderlin was prepared for the prize, Tübingen Seminary. A holy caste of pastors, caretakers, educators and officials had grown up to be as much of a state within a state as the Catholic Church had ever been. Hölderlin, as a member of this caste, was expected to take his place where and when it was assigned to him. His education at Tübingen was free, but if he ever defaulted on his state church obligations, he would be obliged to pay it back in full. This he was never in position to do, since, like Baudelaire, his mother and her financial advisors controlled his inheritance throughout his life.

Gottlieb Christian Storr (1746-1805) was Hölderlin's professor of theology at Tübingen. He gave a nod to the Enlightenment, which enraged the traditionalists, but in the eyes of the students secretly reading Kant, he did not go far enough. This "Old Tübingen School" recognized the validity and possibility of divine revelation, but did not believe that Divinity spoke today.

So what did Hölderlin learn from his religious education? Well, if we accept that divine revelation was possible in Bible times, then why is it now now possible? And if it is possible today, who within our society is best equipped to receive the word of God? Not the clergy, with their rigid adherence to dead forms, and the belief that Jesus had been the best and last revealer. Not the government, who know it was dangerous to have unrestricted access to divine things. The other half of Hölderlin's education gave him the answer--the Classical World. Since the time of Augustine and Jerome, the Church was tied to the great pre-Christian models of the liberal arts. Hölderlin says to us that divine revelation is still possible and the poet is the one who is best equipped to reveal divine words to the community. Thus his education proved both his making and his undoing. Like many students of theology and the Classical world, he was pulled in two directions: to see the Dantean Christian Kosmos and be a part of it and to see that humans had once lived another way in a time when they knew neither Jesus nor the Bible. Hölderlin found his path, but did not find his community to be receptive. While Storr's pupils continued to focus on God's Biblical communication through His chosen messengers, Hölderlin tapped into the wellspring of divine life, and in the doing found the ecstasy and emptiness that accompany the office of divine messenger.

Scott Pilgrim movie review

Just saw the Scott Pilgrim movie as my Black Friday treat. I have not read the graphic novels, so that was a plus. I read Miyazaki's Nausicaa before seeing the movie, and it totally ruined it for me. (Though the movie and I have since reconciled.) On the other hand, seeing the Harry Potter movie(s) without having read the books.....is not a good idea. Anyway, back to Scott Pilgrim and his wacky world. And I loved the wacky world, I really did. It was campy and game-y and full of manic energy. But the characters...ugh! Scott the slacker was very slack, until he burst forth into super game fight mode. Too unfocused, except for his attachment to Ramona. Aaah, Ramona, she was a total blank to me, and to Scott too, it seems. Who was she but a blank canvas for him to project his unrealistic and unresolvable desire for his Lacanian objet petit a. Knives by contrast was wonderful, obsessed to be sure, but she showed genuine character growth and would be well rid of both Scott and Ramona, who seem to flow into deserving each other without my caring one way or another. So, on the basis of the quirky energy and Knives, I will say that this movie is worth seeing at least once, and I just may give the graphic novels a page-through at the bookstore.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lil Bunny and Munny

Once upon a time, lil bunny went to the store. There she saw people getting all knids of good things, so she wanted some too. She saw that the other bunnies went up to the shopkeeper and then took their goodies out of the store, so she did that too. "Ahh hello," said the kindly shopkeeper, "what can I do for you, lil bunny." "I-I want these," she said shyly, placing the candies on the counter. "Well, lil one, you need bunny munny to get them." "Bunny munny?" "Oh yes, let me show you," so the shopkeeper opened the cash register and showed the lil bunny the bunny munny. "Oh," she gasped, "I understand!" And lil bunny left the candy on the counter and rushed home. Lil bunny was very talented, so she sat down at her table and drew a perfect replica of the bunny munny that the shopkeeper had shown her. The next day, lil bunny went to the shop and picked out her candy. Full of confidence, she went up to the counter and presented it to the kindly shopkeeper. "And do you have some bunny munny today?" ""Yes I do," replied lil bunny, placing her bunny munny on the counter beside the candy. "Oho, what's this!," exclaimed the shopkeeper, carefully looking at the bunny munny. "Why, this is funny bunny munny!" "What?" asked lil bunny. "B-but that is what you showed me yesterday, isnt it?"
'Well, yes, it is a good copy, but this is funny bunny munny, and I can only accept real bunny munny in exchange for goods at my store." So lil bunny took back her funny bunny munny, and trudged sadly home. There she sat at her table, and plotted a terrible revenge. She grew up, went to university, got a degree in economics, went forth and mastered Bunny Wall Street, and came back to her home town with enough money to buy that shop several times over!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Life is miles ahead of me...

Ever get the feeling that life has moved miles ahead of you? Back when I was religious, I had a library that was equivalent to a monastic library from the middle ages. Then I got a Christian Book Distributor Catalog in the mail with a CD which held 40 books! At that moment I knew that the world had moved right past me into another century! It was shocking and depressing at first, but I pulled myself together, got a computer, and...well I still love real books, and I just can't read online books, but I feel better about where I stand. Sometimes I feel that I am with or ahead of the curve, like with Utena (!)...I loved Utena from the start, Toradora, and Marimite too. But then when a cultural reference comes up in media that I don't get...like Aqua Buddha, Snookie, or "the Situation," then I feel like I am back to square one again. But...no despair! I just dig out my laptop and Google to get back in the know. *sigh* But I really don't want to know ALL of this, do I? Someday I must forget it all, then forget that I have forgotten. Only then will I be able to smile the smile of insanity and be truly happy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hölderlin and other poets

Poetry can be wonderful! It's metaphors can speak to us in the language of divinity. Poetry is something that I think I should like, but very few poets actually take root in my heart. Dante and William Blake were the first, but I seem to have wandered away from them. In college, I loved the biographies of the English Romantics-Keats, Shelley, Byron, Chatterton, Coleridge &c-but did not do so well with their actual works. Classes in Chaucer and Milton were enjoyable, until I wandered off with Robert Herrick.

Then a long time passed. I saw a movie in which a character bought the complete works of Baudelaire, so I tried a copy of Fleurs du mal. Aah! It was amazing, like the first time I heard the Sex Pistols at Terry Lancaster's house circa 1978--now THAT was MUSIC! Anyway, Fleurs is Dante for the modern age, where the supernatural world of the Commedia has collapsed into the streets of the modern city. Liking Baudelaire, I tried Verlaine, Rimbaud, Valery and Mallarme. Of them, all greats to be sure, I could only bond with Mallarme. He combines the desire for the mystical with the hidden fear that there is really nothing beyond life after all. But please try some Baudelaire--this is from my favorite, le jet d'eau--

So does your flashing soul ignite
In lightnings of voluptuous bliss
And rushes reckless up the height
As though the enchanted sky to kiss;
Then it relaxes, grows more fine,
And in sad languor falls apart
Down an invisible incline
Into the deep well of my heart.

The image is that of a fountain or fireworks. English cannot quite do it justice.

Which brings me around to Hölderlin. I knew he existed, but knew nothing about him until recently. Coming off a magical journey to Oz, I wandered into my ancestral homeland of Swabia, and decided to explore Hölderlin's world. Like me, he lost two fathers, and while pointed to the church, was undone from that path by a classical education. In exploring Hölderlin's life, I found the world of my ancestor Johann Martin Obermuller (1743-1803). The education at Tubingener Stift (Seminary) was free, but a graduate was under obligation to the State Church all the rest of his life. I believe my ancestor was enlightened, as Hölderlin was, by his education and as a result fled to America to escape the obligation. For Hölderlin, escape was not so simple. He had to register every lodging, have every employment approved, all the while struggling against the power of his mother and society to take his role in the State Church. In the end, he escaped into 36 years of madness. Johann Martin Obermuller spent 36 years as a farmer in York County, Pennsylvania, living in Rousseau's happy state of nature. Hölderlin's hope for his society vanished with Napoleon's betrayal of the ideals of the French Revolution, but my ancestor got to see the American Revolution close up and personal when the Continental Congress sat at York City in 1777-78.

Currently, I am reading Hölderlin's poems and letters. Amazingly, he is becoming, like Baudelaire, a part of me. So if you think that your heart loves poetry, yet you cannot seem to find the right poets, just keep looking and they will find you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wonder and Awe

This is from notes I prepared for a Second Life meeting which I missed.

My mind has always worked like this: it fixates on a topic, person, or thing that has come into view. The desire arises to know and experience everything about him/her/it, often at any cost. The wonder is over the perceived possibility that a connection can be made. The awe in that a wonder has arisen that I identufy as a Lacanian objet petit a. I get quite obsessed with my objet, to the extent of extending my meagre resources to gather all that I can if it into myself. Thus the objet as I perceive it becomes a part of me. When that happens, I bring forth fruit in imitation of it, whether in writing, or in drawing. When the obsession fades, the objet remains as a part of me that may be recalled and used at any time in the future.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Johan Martin Obermüller

Genealogy has been an on-and-off passion for many years. I dabble a bit, get frustrated, and put it aside until later. Recently, in response to my Mother's desire to find out what her grandfather did for a living, I found this document http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/h/a/w/Gretchen-Hawkins/GENE1-0001.html

which answer'd her question as well as some of my own.

Johan Martin Obermüller and Maria Christiana Manbeck came to America and settled in York County, Pennsylvania. He was educated, but not so far from the land that he could not manage a farm. Now he and his wife lie under plain field stones about 14 miles from where my son is attending college. In Baden, Johan could have become a tutor to the children of a wealthy family, like the poet Hölderlin. Or he might have gone east to find a new life in the growing state of Prussia, where his descendants would have suffered a terrible fate in 1945.

Johan's youth was dominated by the Seven Years' War, and his adulthood by the Rebellion of England's 13 colonies. He found a refuge in school from French troops marching to fight Frederick the Great (his son was named Frederick). In America, his farm was close by the Continental Congress when it met in York in 1777. http://www.hsp.org/default.aspx?id=492 What did he think of them so close by? Did he even have time to care? Perhaps the survival of his family was enough to keep him occupied.

When Johan died in 1803, his little Frederick was only 7 years old. Was there enough time to pass on any more than a fading memory? Johan and Maria left their homeland to start a new life on the edge of their world, leaving one war only to find another. I do hope that they found some bit of the joy of life here on their farm near the Susquehanna River, the Rhine of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Well it's election time again. I tried to stay out of it but the constant stream of negative adverts has got to me. Will someone plz tell me what they will do for me, instead of what a monster their opponent is! In our country there are only two parties, Demokins and Republicrats, whom we swap in and out with mediocre regularity. If one doesen't get the job done we put the other in, and so on. Demokins mean *demo- which is Old Gothic for to show, to demonstrate, and kin who of course are relatives you can't get out of your house no matter how many hints you drop. Thus, they are folks who pretend to care about us, but really just want something from us that we love and just wont ever ever leave us alone. Republicrats means republic, which is the country, or all of us, and rats which are small scruffy creatures who infest all our hidden nooks and crannies. Republic and rats were linked because at first they were a group of people who rose up out of the woodwork of the 1790s to push that notorious jacobin Thos. Jefferson into high office. They later were seen leading the reaction to jacobinism, but not so far as calling for the Prince-Regent to re-assume control of the lost colonies in the name of his insane father.

In conclusion, we have come a long way, but have far yet to go by far, perhaps even in an electric car. In the last Presidential Election, we saw the spectacle of two doughty Irishmen battling it out, McBama and O'Cain. Why just 50 years ago it was a stretch to have just one doughty Irishman in the race! (Side note: here in Pennsylvania, we hoped and prayed that neither of them ever ever found out what happened at Duffy's Cut in 1832...) Of course while O'Cain was a true Munsterman, some wags implied that McBama was nor even Irish at all, but a Scottishman transplanted to the Ulster Plantations in the 1590s by Sir Edmund Spencer, landholder and author of the Faerie Queene (!)!

Anywayhow, I am a socialist, supporting socialism in one nation, which should NOT be confused with fascism or leninism or anything the UK or Sweden have done. I believe in housing and employment, and in using the skills of those at hand to improve our rusting infrastructure. So, come on candidates! If any of you have real ideas, let us know! There is still one week left to the election after all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Prue and Piper and...(Charmed rant)

I love the first 3 seasons of Charmed. Like the 5 seasons of Buffy, they form a unity, after which comes the deluge. Prue was the oldest, ambitious and smart, fashionable and in charge. How smart? Just watch her match wits in the auction house. She knows her stuff! Yet she seemed somehow disconnected with her knowledge. How did she acquire it? All girl and all brains.

And Piper, the middle sister, the aspiring chef. I didn't approve of her transition to a club owner, but I tolerated it. She is the home-maker, the potential mother, stern, yet understanding...and willing to do the work. My favorite episode is season 1 episode 4. John Cho played a character whom I wish Piper could have developed a relationship with. And by the way, what was wrong with Officer Andy? And...whe Piper went to the church to ask obliquely about being a witch...well, that pastor and Piper.... But nooo, she ended up with Leo, who is a good guy, and I'm glad & all, but, sooo vanilla, sigh.

Phoebe...ugh, should have stayed in New York. And what's with that hair!? Pick a style (and a color)! But without her return there would have been no power of three, so I guess I will tolerate her presence. My ideal character developement would involve Prue rising to the top and running her own auction house (no photography!). Piper would run her own kitchen like Lenny Henry in Chef. And...well I suppose Phoebe could....aww, I don't know...stay in New York. Noo...

So I am going off in a strange direction. I want a show with two sisters, two professional women. With some romance (I'll accept Andy, but he must live!!), and Britcom humour. And lots of great food and historical references from the auction house.

One last thing, for Piper...NO Forehead!

YES!! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~NO!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

RPT's Oz: Tiny Kingdoms

I have always loved tiny kingdoms, mini states which once spread over the Rhineland and British India, or the realms which reproduce by symbol the family drama of our childhood. Such a grouping of petty rulers arises when soverignty is divided, whether by policy or by weakness at the center. A Holy Roman Emperor might make a grant of Reichsfreiheit to any person or entity, thus freeing them from all liege lords save the emperor himself. A landholding, a convent, or even an individual could be reichsfrei. Pressure from Napoleon forced the 1803 Reichsdeputationshauptschluss, consolidating these somewhat, and the Congress of Vienna settled the rest down to a manageable number, all of which were swept away (except Liechtenstein) in the Revolution of 1918. In India, the maharajas arose as the Mughal Empire contracted and the East India Company expanded. They flourished under the Viceroyalty (1870s to 1947) and were swept away when the Republic of India decided that it could do without them. It is still a hobby of mine to compile lists of the rulers of these micronations. from the Gaekwars of Baroda to the Reichsfürstin (princess-abbesses) http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/womeninpower/Princess-Abbesses_2.htm
Ruth Plumly Thompson was the successor to L. Frank Baum as Royal Historian of Oz. She wrote a book a year from 1921 to 1939. Her favorite fantasy setting was the tiny kingdom, and I hope to examine some of these in the future. How did there come to be so many tiny realms in Oz? Did a strong center collapse or give away soverignty? Or did they arise independent of a central authority, and were gathered into the center as the realms of India were by the British? Oh, it doesn't really matter. For in the realm of Faerie, what is, is. We are not going there to dig archaeologically, but to enjoy ourselves thoroughly.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

John R. Neill's Oz: Scalawagons

Before I leave Neill for a time, I want to examine a third example of the sentient enclosed space: the scalawagon. High up on a carrot-shaped mountain in the Quadling Country, the Wizard established a factory devoted to the creation of scalawagons. Made of red glass, with a dome on top, it blended naturally into its surroundings. Tik Tok was appointed Superintendent, with an office and a rubber mallet. The scalawagons themselves are made in a Production Room, by means of a strange and secret process, controlled by a lever. There are also many other buttons and levers. As they are created, the scalawagons come out of this room into the factory common area.

As can be seen on the book cover, the basic shape is a half-circle. There is enough open space to make one wonder about safety and protection from the weather. However, the seating is very comfortable, filled with foam rubber insulation. There are many buttons on the dashboard, the nost important of which is the LUNCH button. The vehicle, being sentient, operates by voice command. A turret on the very top protects the "brains" of the vehicle as well as (presumably) the goose-egg sized engine. The turret has a hinged lid and at the very top is a small metal cap marked "FOR PELI-CAN MOTOR FLUID." Peli-cans, sentient fuel cans, fill the scalawagon's tank with its beak. Running boards extend, so that the vehicle may function as a low flying glider. And, have no fear, these vehicles are unbreakable!

Now, to the LUNCH button. When this button is pushed, a table unfolds from the side containing exactly the food we wished for. Everyone in the car will be fed, and...the food will never run out. Models are available from spike wheel tractors to a custom made Royal Scalawagon.

The Wizard's wish was that everyone in Oz should have a free taxi. But these scalawagons have somehow obtained rudimentary sentience. They can feel panic and terror, they can flock together (like Peli-cans) and become confused, they can act in unison and park in perfect order, they can be tired and they can jump, glide, and go out on the water (thank you, Captain Salt!).

At the factory, Tik Tok's main job is to use the rubber mallet to knock sense onto the scalawagons. This helps them obey traffic rules and avoid danger. In fact, the effect of this amazing mallet on the pops was to give them intelligence, good posture, and a significant improvement in personal grooming. The houses of the Emerald City were afraid of them at first, but since Ozma welcomed them with a great party and decreed that every home should have one, they were soon accepted.

Last evening, I made a prototype of a scalawagon out of cardboard
and tape. Once I had placed the facing seats inside, I found it difficult to see where the dashboard would be placed, perhaps at the sides? I still need a small ball or marble for the eyes peeking out of the turret. The first thing I can remember making was a little voting booth for the 1968 election. I cut caricatures of Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace out on my grandfather's news magazine. It's not very artistic, but after all these years it is still fun to make things like this.
To sum up: Neill's use of the sentient enclosed space in the scalawagon, the Emerald City houses, and the wooden whale Davy Jones strikes me as symbolic of a return to the security of the mother in early childhood. Caring, enclosing spaces that feed and protect us, giving us a warm place all our own, and operate through a magic beyond our understanding, but are nevertheless there just for us. I will not go so far as to claim that Neill's Oz is best of all, but I certainly found it the most psychologically stimulating.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

John R. Neill's Oz: The House as Sentient Enclosed Space

I am still in an Ozzy mood, all started by this insightful and interesting book: The Origin of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Michele Rubatino (available on Amazon.com). Each of the Royal Historians whom I have read so far has presented a unique view of Oz that reflects their own individual ideas and tastes. While I agree with Baum's social philosophy and would love to visit Thompson's tiny kingdoms, it is Neill's Emerald City that I want for my future home. Today I will briefly examine the housing situation there.

A new arrival in the Emerald City must find a house to make their home. This is easier said than done, because the houses have some choice in the matter. You must look for a house that wants you (Wonder City p. 69-70). And houses have strong opinions on the matter of who may nest inside them. By law (Scalawagons p. 294), they are not allowed to leave their places, though it seems that they would if they could, and indeed sometimes desire to do so. There is also a law forbidding houses to shout (WC p. 100). Most appear to be dome shaped, with a face-like front and two chimney apendages.
Once accepted, you are in for a treat. Your house will clean and decorate itself, prepare food, and set the table. The affectionate nature of the relationship is further illustrated in that houses shutter themselves when we depart and await our return with anticipation. If we stay out late (not a City custom), our bedroom will wait up for us, and presumably not be content untill we are safely settled in for the night. (WC p. 182-83, 190-91, 193, 258-59) The houses can defend themselves from 'Nome invasions, but not very well ^_^; (WC p. 193, 195-96, 202).
And personality! Wow! Houses sleep quietly, feel disgust, slam windown in anger, sneeze, listen to gossip, feel delight, and in rare circumstances (we hope!), houses can fight. (WC p. 99-107, 128, 202) Yes, fight! Wonder City chapter 10, 'The Battle of the Houses,' is a surreal twist on urban conflict, complete with flying furniture. People are accustomed enough to house fights that they know enough to hide for the duration, only emerging when the conflict has ended and the dwellings rebuild themselves and set things to right.
Curved sentient space, providing us with warm and protected interior space where we can find rest and nourishment. A sentience that has chosen us above all others as worthy to dwell within. In Neill's Wonder City, Jenny Jump finds a house which she can call her own, a firm foundation from where she can set up her Style Shop and contribute to the community of Oz. I hope there is a house in the Emerald City waiting for me.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Language USA

This year, inspried by the TV show Who Do You Think You Are, I did a free sojourn into Ancestry.com. I traced my maternal grandfather's family back to some of the first German settlers in Pennsylvania. They were even related by marriage to William Penn--no wonder they got here so early! Jumping across the ocean, we went back even further to...Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (1415-1493)! While some of the links are...questionable, I am happy to imagine that I am related to my favorite Late Medieval ruler, so I will leave it at that.

My grandfather grew up speaking German in his home. Since his mother lived until 1961, that means that his ancestors had been here in America speaking German for almost 300 years! He interacted with the German community in New York City when he lived there (1927 to 1940). Alas this gift was not passed on to me. My mother was born in 1939, and my grandfather worked for AT&T Long Lines division. It just wouldn't do to have a child learning German in the 1940s when her Dad worked in such an area vital to national security.

This is just something to think about today, when some people are all concerned about others whom they hear speaking Spanish or Hmong or Russian or whatever. Not taking anything away from the importance of English, it is my hope that children can grow up bilingual. To really learn a language, it should be learned in childhood. We are all Americans, but we should not forget our heritage. I know about "Dutch treats" and "Dutch courage", but Ish only hap' ein biszchen Deutch.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Characters in John R. Neill's Oz

I wish we knew more about Neill's life. His family has custody of his legacy, and that is as it should be. Some elements of Neill's personality do shine through to me in the characters he created for the four Oz books that he is credited with: The Wonder City of Oz, The Scalawagons of Oz, Lucky Bucky in Oz, and The Runaway in Oz.

Jenny Jump is Neill's premiere character creation. With her red hair, green eyes, fiery temper, and willingness to help others and be a part of Oz, she is quite unforgettable. In New Jersey she is a misfit with a gift for seeing fairies. She arrives suddenly in a new place, but soon fits in due to an unexpected gift and a talent for fashion. In Jenny, I see a young John R. Neill in the 1890s, going to the big city and using his artistic talent to make a living.

Lucky Bucky is Neill's male version of the newcomer to Oz. He works for his uncle in the USA, and it is no coincidence that he encounters the "Land of Uncles" in Oz. Davy Jones, a wooden whale, is the catalyst for Bucky's "rebirth" into Oz. The boy is secure on his uncles well-run boat, but in the background lurks a fear of prison and the sound of hungry boys begging for bread. Through sheer accident of fate, Bucky Jones becomes a benefactor to the Oz community. Again, I see echoes of the strggles of a young man in the 1890s, one who reached success almost be accident, because he has a talent that he can use to escape the harsh fate of others of his generation.

Number Nine is the Munchkin boy who becomes Jenny Jump's office boy. He leaves his large family to follow the path blazed by his uncle and seek his fortune in the Emerald City. By chance he meets Jenny, and this is his making. Through her, he meets the celebrities of Oz and establishes himself there. Just as Neill become the "assistant" to L. Frank Baum and his legacy, Number Nine becomes the assistant to the great Wizard himself.

Popla the Power Plant becomes a good friend to Scraps when she runs away from her life in the Emerald City. She has to be uprooted, but has the ability to put down roots wherever she finds soil. Popla is very strong, and willing to help her friends however she can. I like Popla almost as much as Jenny because of these qualities. But Jenny reminds me so much of my grandmother that I will state unequivocally that I like her best of all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stories I heard somewhere...

Once upon a time there was a little girl who got teased a lot because her grandmothers' Apache features showed clearly in her face. She lost her grandfather and father before her seventh birthday, so she had to go with her sisters to work in a hosiery mill. This little girl worked her way through high school somehow and entered nursing school. There they told her she was wasting her time. Upon receiving this devastating blow, she tried to kill herself, but her younger sister and her friends saved her. So, she went to another nursing school, lied about her age, and finally got her RN at age 31. Our girl was now in her glory, with friends and money, making her home in New York City. But she was still self-conscious about her features. So she did what was at that time in history a sensible thing, she married a "pure blood German" to eliminate the wide face and high cheekbones in the next generation.

A daughter was a blessing, but there were to be no more children. And this one received the full brunt of her mother's medical theories. Please keep in mind that many of the things that Germany took blame for were part of the common beliefs of all "civilized" nations at one time. Then, at the appropriate time, the daughter was sent to college to find a husband, having never even chosen her own clothing, or had the chance to learn her father's native tongue.

And what a husband she found! An old, hard-drinking combat veteran, who loved honky-tonks and cigarettes. Their first home was a brothel where she worked as a maid while he tried his hand at a shoe factory. Once, when a customer mistook her for another kind of working girl, he put his hunting knife through the fellow's hand.

They had to get away from there, even he could see that. A one room shack behind a store was affordable, so there they went. The night the baby was born, dad couldn't drive to the hospital. The neighbor was drunk too, so she poured a pot of coffee into him, and got to the hospital by 2 a.m.

The little fellow cried so much. Mommy didn't know what to do, and daddy had to work. Once mommy gave the little guy a does of laudanum to shut him up. Daddy was cracking under the pressure. It was time for grandmother to step in. This was what she had been waiting for. She had failed with her daughter, but at least the girl had provided her own replacement. So our older and perhaps wiser Apache-featured RN took the child and put him into his mother's old room. Throwing herself into the task, she was sure things would be better this time.

But time was running out. Our little fellow lost his father and mother by the time he was four. At seven, when he had never bathed himself, dressed himself, cut his own food or tied his shoes, grandfather died. On his death bed, the old man repented that he had not involved himself in the life of his daughter or his grandson. Before witnesses, he made his wife promise to put the little fellow into a charity home for children. To her credit, she did this, though she plagued the staff there until her death.

So, what then is left for this child? Having lost the equivalent of two fathers, he might long for a love he can never have, like in Springsteen's "My Father's House." His mother abandoned him and he begged her not to go, this may lead him to push friends away, because he believes they will abandon him anyway. And....being so severely dominated by his grandmother, both physically and emotionally...well that might make him shun physical contact with any people, as well as other issues.

Ah, the past! Each of us is dragging along a whole collection of narratives, perhaps even like these. They can twist our present and rob us of the possibility of happiness in the future. Whether we are female or male, society shown us it's ideals and when we look at our narratives...well...who can ever measure up to an ideal? So, if we cannot escape them, at least let's help each other create some new narratives that will be challenging and fun!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Psychology of John R. Neill's Oz

When I hear about a book that I should avoid, I will often seek it out. In college, I asked my Chaucer professor if there were any other good works from that time period. He told me to try Gower, but stay away from Lydgate. Of course I ran right out and read Lydgate's "Troy Book."

Within the universe of Oz, there are some books that are *ahem* less esteemed than others. John R. Neill's 3 or 4 contributions seem to fall into this category, so I just had to read them. Ah! I can say that I found them wonders of surreal and psychological phantasmagoria! Well, I do have odd taste, so I won't ask anyone else to like them. Just give them a chance.

Today I want to look at some aspects of "Lucky Bucky in Oz," published in 1942. Neill uses a type of character that I find exciting and numinous---the sentient enclosed space. The living houses of "Wonder City," and the scalawagons exemplify this to a degree, but Davy Jones, the wooden whale, is the best of them. And, Davy is the vehicle for Bucky Jones' rebirth as a citizen of Oz.

Here I must pause to thank the spirit of Erich Neumann (1905-1960), pupil of Carl Jung and author of "The Origins and History of Consciousness." I discovered this work at college some 30 years ago, and whenever I encounter a story that resonates with my soul (Xenogears and Evangelion spring to mind), I get out my Neumann. Joseph Campbell is all right, Julian Jaynes is a bit loopy, so I will stick with...Lacan! No....well....*cough*

Anyway, Bucky Jones arrives inworld when he lands on a dough volcano, a "Doughminion," as it were. This mountain is an unending source of nourishment, indeed the cupboards in the back of the wooden whale are filled with its products. Such is the power of the mountain that even invading pirates are turned into bakers. Hmmm...a metaphor for....well, I'm not using Neumann's "The Great Mother: An Analysis of an Archetype" today, so we'll give that a miss.

Bucky is cast off into the sea where he meets Davy Jones. The wooden whale is monstrous and fascinating to Bucky. It overpowers and befriends him by its swift, strong actions. Davy is older than Bucky, and they share a last name. The wooden whale protects, shelters, and nourishes Bucky, as well as providing him a map to his new life in Oz and the means to follow that map. Traveling inside Davy Jones, Bucky is carried through air and water to the Emerald City. There the boy is symbolicaly reborn as the hero, in that his actions are the catalyst for the transportation of the "Doughminion" to a place where its gifts can be shared by all.

I am wading in deep here, I realize. If Davy is the Good Mother archetype, then imago-Mombi may be the Terrible Mother.... I don't want to say that this is a true interpretation of Neill's work, but Neumann-interpretation has always added a dimension to my reading.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Nostalga of Fall

All through the heat of the summer, I live for the first cool, crisp morning which tells me that fall is on the way. All the opressive heat and humidity will soon be gone, and all the green things that I don't want to be growing in my yard will die off. "With autumn closing in..." That line from Bob Seeger's song "Night Moves" has always filled me with such a sense of nostalga. Even as a teenager, I had lost important things, and looked backwards with deep longing, trying to hold on to fading shadows of once familiar people and places. Anyone who has moved to a new home knows part of this feeling, but childhood moves are deeply engraved on the inexperienced mind. Then, there is the start of school, with it's fears and hopes, remembering departed friends and loking for familiar faces, continuing a cycle that gives a false image of permanence and stability. In Japan, the spring cherry blossoms symbolize the impermanence of earthly things. But for me it will always be that first cool morning, which tells me the green leaves will soon be turning to vibrant reds and yellows, just before they blow away in the wind.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Run-Around in Oz - Chapter 2

"The King and his Diet"
The Royal Palace of Salador stood at the north-west corner of Max-a-million Square in the heart of Koto. It was actually five large housed cobbled together with a marble facade covering the three directly facing the square, but the Frogman didn't mind that one bit. Dressed to the nines in his yellow, white, green and purple, he was ready to move among the movers and shakers. Which, observed Trot, adjusting her oversized black hair ribbon, was exactly what the palace was doing. The outer walls pitched and swayed, and the roof heaved up and down. "Why, it's like being at sea in a squall," sighed Cap'n Bill. "Oh, do come on!," called the Frogman, who was already presenting his card to the doorman.
Inside, the little party waited in the vestibule. They could not enjoy the bits of bric-a-brack strewn about as fine art because of the huge din closing about them from all sides. Trot drew closer to her old and true sailor, but the Frogman broke away, feeling himself at last in his element. "I will go exploring," he announced, coattails swishing behind him. "No!'" called Trot, "You must wait. We are guests here." "Arr, let him go," said the Cap'n. Just then, the Royal Bottlier arrived. He looked about as if confused by some awful smell. "Eheu!," he cleared his thoughts, "I was given to understand there were three of you." "Just us two, my good man," cut in Cap'n Bill. "Verrry good then. Please fol-low me." Trot giggled, for all her tension broke. "What is is?," whispered the Cap'n. "I thought he was going to say 'Walk this way' and I was going to--" "Well it's good he didn't then, I suppose."
Through the maze of doorways and passages they tracked, until they reached the common room of one of the five cobbled houses. Here, the ceiling had been cut away to create a throne room. But what a room! Swirling papers flew from their stacks as good people and animals of Salador in all stages of fashion crowded around the throne. The Royal Bottlier cut a way through with his staff, parting courtiers and ministers, members of the diet, of the army, and of the bureaucracy, all shouting and gesturing on a stage-set sprung as if from the mind of Kurt Schwitters himself. Far off in an alcove, the Cap'n thought he saw the Frogman, speaking with what appeared to be a black bear in a frock-coat with high starched collar, pince-nez perched precaruiosly on his... "Oyez, oyez!," shouted the Royal Bottlier, his voice soaring above the turbulance. "I announce the presence of the Embassy from the Emerald City and its ruler, Queen Ozma."
All voices hushed. All eyes turned to them. Trot froze, and reached for Cap'n Bill's hand, her port in the storm. "Don't be afraid of them," he whispered, "Just do what you came here to do, for Ozma's sake." So the young lady pulled herself together, and began her speech.
Later, back an the inn, the two remaining members of the embassy sat together at supper. "Who would have thought it?," said Cap'n Bill between bites. "Yes," replied Trot, finishing her Salador stew, and wishing the dessert cart would return soon. "A king with no power! A royal figure-head." "And not a very good head at that," winked the Cap'n. "Well, we shall just have to go and see the retired king then, if he has all the power here." "And what about the frogman?" "He can stay here, as he appears to be enjoying himself. Found a pond of fish just like himself." "Yes," sighed Trot, "Perhaps he will end up negotiating a treaty."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ozzy Resources

For anyone who loves the Oz books, or is thinking of exploring them for the first time, I can think of no better resourses than these:


This is a insightful and witty commantary on all of the books included in the Famous Fourty. These blog postings are short and to the point, so you can get an idea of which of the books you would like to read, and which you might want to pass over.


Pumperdink is an archive containing more in depth discussion of the books. It includes books beyond the 40, as well as other works by L. Frank Baum. My only gripe is (and it's a small one)--the contributors seem to expect narrative consistency. While this is not necessarily a bad quality in a published work, in a world such as Oz, it is simply not necessary. To draw upon the model I used in my blogs on identity, Oz is a cosmos made up of many, often conflicting, bits. Each and every author who takes up the quest to "write Oz" gathers the bits that they want and excludes the bits they don't want. So what if RPT didn't use Shaggy Man? Or that John R. Neill and Jack Snow cherry pick or ignore RPT's contribution? Just pick up the bits you want and put them together! After all, if you have already succumbed to the temptation to believe you are worthy to "write Oz"...and this includes everybody who reads it, I think...then you might as well enjoy yourself and have a great visit to this marvelous land!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Run-Around in Oz - Chapter 1

"The Great Jack of Salador"
Trot and Cap'n Bill, were sent off one fine day on a diplomatic mission. Their task being to represent Ozma in her soverignty to the ruler of the newly discovered Kingdom of Salador. Since this miniature domain lay a way off down in the Winkie Country, the Frogman had been asked to assist them. So he went forth from the land of the Yips, leaving his dear wife Cayke the Cookie-Cook and their wee little tadpolings, to meet the party from the Emerald City in Koto, the capital of Salador.
When the party had gathered comfortably at the Royal Patent Inn of Koto, Cap'n Bill asked the innkeeper about local customs. "For we do not wish to look like fools," declaimed the Frogman, who had regained some of his confidence, being out of range of Cayke's rolling-pin. The innkeeper assured them that if they wished to see the king, they should apply first to the Royal Favorite Timba Limba, who was presently all-powerful with his majesty.
So after a hearty meal of sausages and salad, or what passed for salad in this realm, they had a good rest on soft, quilted matresses. In the morning they bade farewell to the kindly innkeeper, and set off to find the mansion of the king's favorite.
Aah, but the main gate of this dwelling was closed fast against them. the Favorite's doorman would not let them pass. "Let's go 'round back," said Trot, "There's bound to be a way in somewhere." "Capital idea!," boomed Cap'n Bill. So around they went, coming at last to the servants' and tradesmens' entrances. "Hmmm," mused the Frogman, "We have a Maid's Door, a Butcher's Door...all locked! ---Eureka! What's this? The Salad Door is open!" So on they went, surprising the poor cook at her work. She called for the bulter, who sighed, and took them into the receiving room.
There upon a shabby throne sat a thin, gangly fellow dressed in so many frills and lace that he looked as if his grandmother's sewing box had exploded all over him. "G-greetings, O Royal Favorite," announced Trot politely, "I come rep--" The figure on the throne shot bolt upright, as if stuck from behind with a needle. "But I'm not!", he stamped. "Not what?," asked Cap'n Bill, who was on the verge of getting angry at this rude interruption of Trot's carefully prepered speech. "Not the FAVORITE!," he blasted, "I'm the JACK, the Great Jack of Salador!" "Jack?," sprung the Frogman, ever curious about royal titles. "Let's him do the es'z'planin," cut in Cap'n Bill sternly. "Well...," said Timba Limba, appearing relieved at the chance to explain himself, "The King was told by his father, the retired king, and by his grandfather, the retired-retired king, that he must marry, and have him a queen. He didn't want one, but they made him get one anyway. So the king---our wonderful king---said, 'fine!, if I have to have a queen, then I will have a jack as well!' So he married me---his best chum---and made me his jack, the Great Jack of Salador."
Trot has listened carefully to this whole explanation. Quickly, she brought the topic of conversation back to its original purpose. "Ahem! O Royal Jack of Salvador, may we..." With a big "Harrumph" the butler cut in, "His Majesty, the Great Jack, if you please." Cap'n Bill felt his blood begin to boil again, but Trot calmed him by gently touching his hand. "Very well." she began for the third time that morning, "Your Majesty! Great Jack of Salador! May be have your permission to see His Majesty the King?" "Certainly!," came the reply. "Brave bulter! See that papers of a suitable nature are drawn up for these visitors!"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Getting rid of attached books

Haaa! Here I am again in my library trying to get rid of books. It is sooo hard to do because each of them is attached to a personal narrative about time & place, interests long cherished, or to the person who gave them to me. So how do I break free from these narrative attachments? Well first I must single out the personas that serve as the focus of the narratives. The bits of identity that comprise "me" (Lacan's le corps morcele) have gathered into these chemical compound-y things. These personas, as I will call them for lack of a better term, are imprinted with an idealized image and labeled with a name, such as "me the scholar ...behind my Lennon-glasses I am wise and kind, always eager to study history and philosophy."

But these seemingly benign personas have trapped me. They are difficult to live up to, for one thing, and the bits of me that are excluded from their mix cry out for attention--and go off to form personas of their own. (Be quiet, Mariko! Not NOW!) That may be the norm in Second Life, where these personas can be given pixilated form, but in Real Life, this process becomes problematic. As narratives of support for or the failures of these personas weave themselves around them, they become like prisons.

So how can we free our identity from these personas, which grow in power as we use them in our interactions with others, and as narratives grow upon them like weeds? Julia Kristeva says we should use language to free ourselves from these bonds. We must disrupt our process of identifying with the personas we have created or have been created for us by the expectations of others. When we believe in and act out our narratives, we are in as much of a fantasy world as Oz or Middle Earth. The narratives are easy and comfortable habits to slip into, but they are self defeating as they keep us going around in circles, stuck in the same ruts. Help me, Julia! If I cannot be a sage like T'oegye, free from narrative attachment to the past or the future, at least let me have more conscious control over what I do have.

*Ahem*...anyway, to get back to the original problem, the personas that have attached to the narratives of why I am such a person who should like these topics or should read these books...today, here and now, I confront you! Monk, Renaissance scholar, Hermetic Philosopher, Wm. Blake scholar, JRRT lover, Bible student! You are not me! (What a presumptive collection!) All of you together have included in your make-up parts of me, but not some of the most important parts (like humor, general silliness &c)! Begone, I adjure and command you, in the name of the Thrice Great Hermes and his disciple Tat...(oops), ummm...I mean, in the name of Ozma, fairy soverign of the marvelous land of Oz! Ok, that's done, now...back to the books. Anyone want a 38 volume set of the Church Fathers?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Shadow People

All the bits of identity that we claim or reject (for the rejected bits still cling to us), are pulled into a human shape by Lacan's mirror. We get an imago of the "I" that we now come to believe exists. Ah! Someone has even given this "I" a name. So, equipped with this ideal image and name, we procede into life's tempests. Which bits of identity we include in this image/name construct, which I will call analog-I, are determined in each "now" by feedback from interaction with others.

But sometimes stronger forces are at work within us, often related to residual emotional content from out childhood. This content is often raw and pre-verbal, coming from a time when we did not have the mental capacity to process it. How then does this content affect our analog-I? If it is strong enough, or if it receives outside encouragement, other self-images may develope. These at first have the same name as we do, but over time may become self-named, for example Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta became Lady Gaga. But not all alternate analog-I's become so powerful. For the most part, they exist as shadow people, emerging only when the environment is safe for them to do so.

In a virtual world such as Second Life, the bits of our identity can be broken out of their analog-I and shadow people shells more easily than in real life because their are more options and opportunities for us to really "build" ourself. Some people take a safe route and reproduce an idealized version of their real existence; others pick one of their shadow people that they have always wished to display, but for whaterer reason were unable to do so in real. Even those who experiment radically with image and name eventually find the form(s) with which they are most comfortable.

Lacan tells us that the core of identity itself is a falsehood. We are really all the bits of us, but the image we think we are and the name that attaches to that image can only hold a few of those bits. Therefore that analog-I, in whatever form we try to present it to others, is not really "us"--it is just a picture and a word. Perhaps Lacan was right, we can never experience the Real--all those bits of identity that make up a human being. But that should not keep us from experimenting!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In the now

In the now, all the bits of what we think is us are assembled as if drawn from a puzzle box. We use what we have chosen for the situation within the bounds of the situation as we perceive it. But these bits, these fragments of our identity, encompased within the ideal imago that we want to be seen as us, have narratives attached to them. We only think we are a "something" continuous through time because of these narratives. As soon as the now passes, the narratives are augmented by what we think happened, what we think should have happened, and what we are told has happened.

Each situation we experience as a now is unique. We must use the tools at our disposal as they are needed, and find a way not to allow negative narratives to overwhelm our good intentions. To live in the now is to become unattached from the narratives and deal with each experience as it arises.

These thoughts arose out of an attempt to explain my actions to someone. In the past I have thought of these actions as a form of magick. Attempts to manipulate the environment of the now to gain the outcome we desire. For the most part this is not consciously done, because the nows pass so quickly, but it can be. Master manipulators are known to exist, and mass media only extends their power. A good book on the history of this art is http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Renaissance-Chicago-Original-Paperback/dp/0226123162

A virtual world, like Second Life, can help us sort out the various bits of what we are, by giving us a way to express them in real time interactions. Being aware of these bits of ourselves will help us to use them more effectively, though sometimes just acknowledging their existence can be a huge step forward. Sometimes fear will hold us back, fear of what others may think of us, fear of admitting to ourselves that we even contain some odd bits within us. But all that we find, all that is encompassed within that boundary we have set between us and the world, is truly us, and must somehow be integrated into the whole.

Pictures can also be useful. If you like a picture, ask yourself why, especially when it is a picture of a person. Do you desire the image, or identify with it? And if you identify with the image, then--why? Whom do you "see" as seeing the "you" in the image? Explore the idea of the interaction of the you as the image and the ideal viewer of the image. Images are useful in unlocking the narratives attached to the bits of ourselves we are looking for, but anything may trigger a memory. So let's go and explore the puzzle box! Accept the bad and build up the good, and be prepared to use what divinity and experience have given you to make your cosmos a better place for everyone.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Prioritizze, dammit!

There are just too many things I want to do just now, and too many that I thought I wanted to do that still cling to me. I am reading through the Oz books...all of them I can find, anyway. Hope Shanower & Smith finish as many as they can for Marvel Comics. Ozma and Dorothy will meet this fall in Marvel's version of Ozma of Oz. I'm in the RPTs now, and to me they have their own unique charm, just as the LFBs did. I love little kingdoms with their little courts, and I wish that Germany and India were still full of them :)

Am trying to get through Proclus' On Timaeus too, but it's Thomas Taylor's almost 200 year old translation, so it is a struggle. Damascius' great work will be out this year, in a modern translation~~I hope to have better luck with that; it is a foundational work of 6th-7th century thought, I believe. I want to find the time to watch Wagner's Lohengrin again, and to finish Tannhauser at last, esp. after reading Baudelaire's essay, but when will I have the time? Watching all this anime is eating up my free time...Persona, and Toradora, then on to Spice & Wolf and...and...

Have I had enough of history? I would like to find a good home for some of my books, but not if I will be filled with regret about it 5 years from now. The church fathers can go, I have had enough of them, but am I really ready to give up on William Blake, and Tolkein? Joyce went away, and I don't miss him...well maybe just that one passage at the end of Portrait of the Artist.

Aah! Help! I have really got to set my library in order...where can I find the will power.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


My great-aunt gave regularly to a televangelist who was later exposed as a greedy fraud. She was very upset about this, so I said that her giving was all about what kind of person she was. What he did with her gift was between him and his god. It had nothing to do with her generous heart.

I believe that what we get from people we admire has little to do with that person and more to do with us. By that I mean in most cases we do not know our designated celebrity personally, rather, we respond to something in them that we also recognize in ourselves. It is in the bringing out of these hidden qualities that we become more truly ourselves.

Which brings me to Lady Gaga. I don't know Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, and I doubt that I ever will. As a public persona, she might live to a Mick Jaggerish old age, flame out like Janis, or even pull a Britney. But that does not matter to me. In her Baba Wawa interview, she spoke about feeling like a freak, an outsider. Then the struggle to be free from that often self-imposed fear and creating a space of ones' own. And she has done that in the most flamboyant style.

When you feel like an outsider, like you don't fit into any of society's imposed categories, you can be hard on yourself. You know no one who shares your interests, your passions, so you learn to keep silent about them. Until someone like Gaga comes along, it never crosses your mind to create your own space, to be yourself, whatever you are, without fear of the judgement of your peers, and most harshly, the judgement of your own inner voices. Some people do get this instinctively...so much the better for them. But for the rest of us, a Gaga speaks like a voice from heaven.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ghosts in the Oil

Since the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there have been some good documentaries on the formation of the coal and oil that fuel our modern lifestyle. It is a facsinating story that takes us back to the first flowering of ecosystems in the shallow water and on the land. All these new plants pulling so much carbon out of the atmosphere that the higher oxygen concentration allowed huge creatures to multiply. I knew that fossils had been found in coal, but I had no idea where oil came from. Now I know, but do I know too much? In my car, I think of the lives of the sea plants and creatured distilled into my tank. At home, I envision the ancient trees and plants whose bodies burn to create the electricity running my lights and air conditioner. Each of us has two lineages, the physical and the spiritual. I cannot prove the geneaology of the soul, but it uplifts me to think of it as a part of the Divine Reality, born and re-born through unending generations on this planet, and others. But that is not doctrine, just my fancy. Our other lineage is that of our physical bodies, going back through our known ancestors to unknown to, if evolution is to be accepted, the very origins of life on earth. Our distant ancestors wandered among those trees, and swam in those oceans, the very ones that now provide our coal and oil. Did they have dreams, other than food, rest, and survival? And are their untethered ghosts, if not bound in spiritual lineages to us, now flooding painfully back into our consciousness?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Human Communication

Mallarme's works are difficult, but rewarding. Sometimes, through the barriers of death, isolated human souls, and the thickets of two languages, he speaks to me. At least I want to believe he does ^^;

The White Waterlily shows the ultimate failure of human communication. In the online world Second Life, I attend several discussion groups. After each meeting, I come away with the feeling that the words mean something different to each of us, based on our education, bias, and life experiences. How can we comprehend all that context in a few short sentences? The word God, for example, is often connected with the word Father. If you has a good father, or a terrible father, then that word drags in a whole set of concepts to enliven God. But what if you never knew your father? Then, that word would bring none of the meaning the communicator expects us to be hearing.

In Mallarme's prose poem, the rower sets out with specific goals, a search for water plants, to survey the property line, and to say hello to a friend. In his little boat the fragile self is carried along until a swamp halts his progress. In my mind, the swamp is all the clog of sensory data that is hurled at us day by day, compounded so very much since Mallarme's day. Then, he sees the "other"...he senses her presence, he imagines her thoughts...but he cannot ever know them. She makes no indication that she has even seen him. At last, he gives up and departs, taking one flower as a memory of the (non)-event.

In speaking to others, we use words that we hope will cut through the swamp and reach them intact and full of our intentions. But these words arrive naked, and are re-clothed by the hearer. So we must not only judge our own, posssible hidden, intentions, but guess at the mind of the hearer...what do they think we mean? In that moment, human communications fail, and we drift back downstream, clutching our version of the memory of what may have occurred.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ozma and Ugu the Shoemaker

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star,
Sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair.

~Hyperion, John Keats

Ever since I read those lines more than 30 years ago, I have recognized and claimed the place of Saturn. It is far away from the "normal" world, the path of social expectations, a protected place of one's own in a world that seems at once hostile and uncaring. But a defined space that one can really belong, and be the unique person that you are. The place of an outsider, but not of self-pity. Rather, of self-definition, or the never ending attempts at such. A place not unlike the little rooms that are prepared for K in Kafka's The Castle. Rooms which are cozy and inviting, but rooms which he sadly rejects as he continues his futile search for the castle.

Ugu the Shoemaker, in L. Frank Baum's The Lost Princess of Oz, has created for himself such a saturnine space. But unlike K, Ugu does not want to leave it. He wants to strengthen it with all the magic that he can gather. But Ugu crosses a line. He begins to desire to impose his will on others. In the moment he impulsively kidnaps Ozma, his plan fails. He is not emotionally mature enough to deal with the introduction of this uncontrolable, random element into his lair.

Ugu has a great heritage in the city of Herku, his family had been users of magic for centuries. But he was cut off from this heritage, and forced to make a living as a shoemaker. We are all born with a fantastic heritage of art and literature, but life compels us to find a job, to make a living and be a productive member of society. Ugu discovers his heritage, and upon absorbing its implications, desires not to enrich his fellow citizens, but to flee and make an island unto himself.

In one night, Ugu gathers all the important magic of Oz, including one "item" not on his list, but probably the most important magical force in Oz, Ozma herself. He has planned for non-sentient magical items, what is he to do with a real magical being? He cannot deal with her, he cannot fit her in to his world-view, so he, being afraid, "disposes" of her.

At this point in the story, my imagination leapt into action. What should have Ugu done? What could have Ugu accomplished? So, for a brief time, I became a Ugu/Ozma shipper. a little three act play took shape in my mind.

Scene 1--Ugu's Study--Ugu reflects on his painful past as shoemaker, and on his recent accomplishments, obtaining the Magic Dishpan, various magic tools, Glinda's Book, and the Magic Picture. But there is also Ozma---what is he to do with her? He knows a rescue party is coming. Ozma is trapped. She sees that Ugu is a "bold and clever magician" but at this point can do nothing to oppose him. A typical Oz solution might occur to him--Ugu:"You will wash my dishes and clean my clothes!" Ozma:"Humph...I might as well be your wife!" Ugu:"AHA!"---and he goes off in the Magic Dishpan to gather a wedding party.

Scene 2--Ugu's Study--The kidnapped wedding party huddles together in fear. Carlo Luigi, the fat old Pontifex Maximus of Ev, is mopping his brow. Two inventors, William Ding XXI (whose ancestor invented the "Bill-Ding") and Arthur Q. Tillery, Esq. (who is working on a sort of tube-gun at the moment), cower behind a table. Then Ugu and Ozma enter in all their wedding finery. As the visitors gape in wonder at Ozma's beauty, Ugu lays out the situation. Carlo Luigi will perform the wedding ceremony and the two inventors will witness it. With much comic fumbling, the ceremony is performed, and the new couple withdraws from the assembled company.

Scene 3--Ugu's Study--The "guests" have been sent home and Ugu is back to work studying his magical books. But Ozma emerges in her nightgown, now strangely eager to assume her wifely duties. In fact, she just wont leave poor Ugu alone! Finally, the exasperated magician enchants his new bride into a peach and collapses on his chair.

Both in the canonical story and my frivilous contortion, Ugu cannot accept the physical manifestation of magic--Ozma--into his world view. Since he cannot come to terms with her, he is doomed to fail. There is something Jungian here, but I will not persue it. Just be careful with whom you bring into your lair.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Throughout my library lie the bleached bones of obsessions past, still waiting for the time when I will bring them to life again. The issue is, how many of these bones can I return to the masoleum of human thought & experience? And how many will I visit again, if I am granted future years of exploration?

Why did I fail to create a paracosm? Deity knows, I tried. I pull from the corner of the room a map of Iargalon. At 34"x 102", it is (almost) the largest work I have ever created. In fact, it was even bigger once....

At first, I tried to place myself into the stories that I was reading. There is still a log somewhere of all the miles I walked in Middle-Earth. As a "mary sue"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue i did not place myself with any of the main characters. I wanted to have my own adventures, and explore interesting parts of the map. So i did actually walk all of those miles arould the grounds of the chlidrens' home where I lived. But the adventures took place all in my imagination.

With Dante's Commedia, my experience was similar. I explored Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven (aided, to be sure, by the illustrations of Gustav Dore). But, again, I had my own adventure, seeing people I wanted to see...envisioning them in Dante's landscape. With each of there authors, JRRT and Dante, I performed the magick of conjuring the world through their words, and entered therein to explore. Here it can be clearly seen that I was not strong enough to pull away and create my own unique world, my paracosm.

In high school, I tried to break free from my influences. A poem called Protogenesis was created, destroyed, and re-created, as I went through phases of "enchurchment." A re-casting of the basic Bible narrative, with Tolkenian touches, this work focused on the loss of parental guidance, and the desire to find a new Eden in a cruel world. Only the apocalypse could bring in the longer-for new world.

Later, the Rand/Wissar narrative was also heavily JRRT influenced. The more detailed sucessor to this, the Iargalon World, presented kingdoms expanding to subdue indigenous peoples and set up new realms all over the world. The Iargalon map got so big because the expansion continued unabated, untill it became impossible to continue, due to the size of the map. Iargalon was basically a Biblical-type kingdom set in a map of New England, which was attached to S.France/NE Spain. Greece was attached to Italy.... From the original kingdom crusader armies set out to explore and conquer, only stopping when larger empires blocked their way.

The last narrative paracosm I attempted was Irland/Ladakha. This started as an island realm, based on Ireland being conquered by Anglo-Saxon types. They set up kingdoms, were converted to "Christianity," and were then themselves conquered by invaders. I later transported this whole realm to the area of Tibet and re-wrote it, as works supposedly surviving from the "fall" of the imagined kingdom. This book http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_History_of_the_Country_of_Albania was a huge influence.

Finally, since the time I read about the Bronte family and their paracosm Angria/Gondal, I have wanted to try to create a world with someone else. A few years ago I tried this with a person whom I had known for a long time, who had a great imagination, and who would not be freaked out by the proposal. She wanted to do it, so I started a story and gave her a note-book. But after a month, she gave it back to me and said she could not do it. I was really crushed by this, because, at my age, I don't see any other person with the vision and acceptance of imagination coming along to make the attempt. But I had to accept this failure and move on.

Even now I am drawn in to the worlds created by others. And there are so many more of them now..in manga, anime, movies, video games, books &c My personality leads me to be drawn in to them, to conjur them in my mind, rather than to create my own world. My last hope was the shared world, a world created by two people accountable to one another, and, sadly, that moment has passed. So this is the story of my paracosm fail...I will always wish to be a JRRT or Henry Darger, but in reality I will always be stuck in the dreams of others.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Time to Think

While I am at home on vacation, I have time to think. On a normal weekend, Saturday is spent recovering from the work-week past, and Sunday is spent worrying about the work-week to come. This is why I believe in the 3-day-weekend...i need that pure, untouched day in the middle, unconnected with making a living.... let that concept go hand in hand with property tax reform, politicians! and social justice for non-traditional-americans! aah, but i don't want to soap-box politics..at least not till fall...

How do we view the world around us? We take in signifiers from our surrounding society and modify them as we add our own experiences. I'm not saying this as an absolute, but as an explorer of human consciousness. We create models and destroy them, but all the models show a facet of truth. Right now I am fascinated by Lakoff &Johnsons' books on metaphoric thought. How many have I used so far...."have time"--possession of an object, "(time)spent"--time as money, "concepts (going) hand in hand"----well, you get the idea.

The world view of some is shaped by the paracosm(s) they create. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracosm defines paracosm as an imaginary world--developed during childhood--and continuing over time. Paracosms are a bit different from fantasy worlds because the person who creates them does so for survival, rather than for entertainment. The elements of a paracosm arise out of one's everyday experiences with the society around us, but these experiences are woven on a faerie loom. This loom contains the desire to create, as well as the desire to reshape and control. Those of us who create paracosms do so because we are unsatisfied with the world as it is. This can be for a variety of reasons...the death/departure of a parent, or a close friend, illness, injury, betrayal... The key, I believe, is having the knowledge that YOU can re-write the narrative, you can use the words, the ideas, the elements around you to bring about the world that you desire, and having the will to do so. The Brontes' did it, Henry Darger did it, as did JRRT, William Blake and Dante Aligheri.

A key to this is...how do you read a text? To gather information? To be entertained? Or to live? In my own experience, reading is an act of magick. By that I mean that the words on a page are a conjuration of thoughts, they "become real" in the very act of reading them. I believe that this is how writing was viewed by society when the art was first invented. As the writing "becomes real" it is like a seed planted in the mind. We each have our own ideas and histories about what the words mean, so these seeds will grow in a variety of ways according to the hearers' experiences. What this brings forth in us depends on our personality. Some wish to re-create what they are reading by acting out, by writing our own version, like a fanfiction, but some use what they have read to re-create the world as they see it. This truly is high magick.