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