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 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 Aqua Buddha, Snookie, or "the Situation," then I feel like I am back to square one again. 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

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. 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.