Monthly Archives: March 2015

“When adultery was proof of ‘loyalty'”

Nell gwyn peter lely c 1675.jpg

Nell Gwynn, “the Protestant Whore,” a favorite mistress of Charles II…

 

I titled this post after a Harry Golden column, in his Carolina Israelite.  He included it in Chapter 6, “Tammany, Tammany,” from his book Only in America.

Unfortunately, in Harry’s delightfully retro format – an old-timey newspaper or newsletter – he couldn’t use the full-color pictures, flashy graphics and built-in links that we can use in today’s blogs.  So, this bit of a book review will be more than a bit of an update.

Briefly, the column dealt with the English Civil War, the execution of King Charles I, the Puritan Regime under Oliver Cromwell, and the Restoration of Charles II, as described below.

Harry started his column with a gruesome description of what happened when Charles II did get “restored to the throne after the death of Oliver Cromwell.”  Briefly, “the five judges who had sentenced Charles I to death” – Charles II’s father – were arrested, tried for treason and convicted.  (Their execution including having certain “privy members” cut off.)

From there Harry compared the period that followed with his own time, circa 1959:

Thus began a historic era, which interestingly enough has had its parallel in our own day.  We have all seen how folks have become superpatriots and vigilantes out of fear that they may be suspected of subversion.  This happened in a very interesting way at the beginning of the reign of Charles II.  (E.A.)

Briefly, after the Restoration of Charles II, there was a bit of turnabout is fair play.

That is, the Puritan Regime under Oliver Cromwell had “imposed a very strict moral code upon the people.”  That resulted in the “same old villainy” that plagues victims of oppression everywhere, and since time began.  That villainy – said Harry – was “being reported by friends, neighbors, and their own children.”  (Basically, for having too much fun.  Dancing, play-acting, kissing on the Sabbath…  In short, “gaiety of any kind.”)

But then Charles II got restored to the throne.  And in the era that followed, the best way to prove your loyalty to the new king was … “to have fun.”   And if you really wanted to prove to the new world order that you were “not now and never have been” a member of the Puritan Party, committing adultery was the most convenient way to prove it:

If a man and a woman were on a journey and they suspected the coachman of being a Government agent, they went to all sorts of extremes to prove their “loyalty” and throw the fellow off…   And so when the coachman peeked, and saw what was going on back there, he shrugged his shoulders; “Those people are all right, they ain’t no Puritans.”

See also, Tongue-in-cheek – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  (And – interestingly enough – Harry titled his next column, “My sermon on informers.”)

*    *    *    *

That was Harry’s take on the Restoration of Charles II and the era of free love that followed.

And just to review the history here, it all started with the Execution of Charles I, in 1649.  (From a site that said “King Charles I was his own worst enemy.  Self-righteous, arrogant, and unscrupulous; he had a penchant for making bad decisions.  His troubles began the moment he ascended the throne in 1625…”)

That execution came near the end of the English Civil War.  (Actually a series of three civil wars).  And after the Puritans executed Charles I, his son – Charles II – was forced into exile.  Then the English monarchy was replaced with the Commonwealth of England, from 1649–53.

And here’s how one English history-writer described everyday life under the Puritans.

He said the Puritans “concerned themselves actively with the repression of vice.” (To say the least.)  Gambling and betting were forbidden, and in 1650 the Puritan Parliament made adultery punishable by death.  “Drunkenness was attacked vigorously,” and swearing was punished by a series of graduated fines.  And “Christmas excited the most fervent hostility of these fanatics.”  (Since it often gave rise to carnal and sensual delights):

Soldiers were sent round London on Christmas Day before dinnertime to enter private houses without warrants and seize meat cooking in all kitchens and ovens.  Everywhere was spying and prying.

“Walking abroad on the Sabbath” became a crime.  (Unless you went to church, and then only a church in your own parish.)  All sports were outlawed, as was “going to the theater.”  And the Puritans thought “poverty should be punished rather than relieved.”  (Their Poor Law “has been called ‘harshness coupled with failure.'”)  And that’s not to mention the hypocrisy:

One may easily see how desire for office or promotion led to hypocrisy.  If sour looks, upturned eyes, nasal twang, speech garnished with Old Testament texts, were means to favor, there were others who could assume them besides those naturally afflicted with such habits.

(Does any of this sound familiar?)   But then – at last! – came the Restoration of Charles II to the throne, together with the generally peaceful overthrow of the hated Puritan regime:

Nature, affronted, reclaimed her rights with usury.  The [Puritans] had punished adultery with death; Charles scourged faithfulness and chastity with ridicule…  It was with relief that the public learned that the King had taken a mistress from the people, the transcendently beautiful and good-natured Nell Gwynn, who was lustily cheered in the streets as “the Protestant Whore…”  The King’s example spread its demoralisation far and wide, and the sense of relief from the tyranny of the Puritans spurred forward every amorous adventure.

*    *    *    *

Getting back to Harry’s column on adultery as proof of loyalty.  (Not to mention his “sermon on informers…”)  Together they bring up the “in our own day” he referred to.  Golden’s 1959  was right after the “Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956.”  (1959 was also the year when the “politically conservative climate” of the 1950s began to give way to the “Swinging Sixties.”)

So I think Harry’s main point was that history repeats itself in cycles.  So the question is:

Which cycle are we in now??

 

Joseph N. Welch (at left) tries to figure a way to escape McCarthyism

 

The upper image is courtesy of the article Nell Gwyn, included in Charles II of England – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.   The full caption reads:  “Nell Gwynn was one of the first English actresses and a mistress of King Charles II of England.”  

The lower image is courtesy of McCarthyism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joseph Nye Welch – shown above – was “head counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities.”  On the thirtieth day of the hearings, McCarthy accused a junior attorney in Welch’s law firm of a youthful association with a “Communist front organization.”  Welch’s response is widely believed to have been McCarthy’s downfallSee also Wikipedia:

Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.  Fred Fisher is a young man who … came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us.  Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad…   [At this point, McCarthy tried to renew his attack, but Welch interrupted him:]  Senator, may we not drop this?  We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild.  Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator.  You’ve done enough.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

(Emphasis added.)  Said Downfall “At this point, the entire American public viewed McCarthy with disdain.  On television, the senator from Wisconsin came off as cruel, manipulative and reckless.”

Getting back to Charles II of England , the article included the following:

Charles had no legitimate children, but acknowledged a dozen by seven mistresses, including five by the notorious Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, for whom the Dukedom of Cleveland was created.  His other mistresses included Moll Davis, Nell Gwyn,Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, Lucy Walter, and Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.  As a result, in his lifetime he was often nicknamed “Old Rowley,” the name of one of his horses which was notable at the time as a stallion.  (E.A.)

The full column by Harry Golden – “When adultery was proof of ‘loyalty'” – can be found at pages 210-11, of the 1959 Permabook edition of Only in America.

Re: “not now and never have been.”  See McCarthyism, during which era many people “signed affidavits swearing they were not and had never been Communists.”

The quotes from the “English history writer” are from Volume 2 of Winston Churchill’s A History of the EnglishSpeaking PeoplesVolume 2 was titled, “The New World.”  The quoted material is from pages 240-41 and 264 of the Bantam Books edition, published in 1968.

Re: history repeating in cycles.  See Historic recurrence – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

On “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

Exodus: Of Gods and Kings, out on December 12 in U.S. theaters tells the story of Moses (played by Christian Bale, left) rising up against the Egyptian pharaoh Rhamses (played by Joel Edgerton, right)

So we meet again,” says Moses to the Pharoah of Egypt, in Exodus:  Gods and Kings

 

I first reviewed E: G&K in my other blog. (E: G&K is the “2014 biblically-inspired actionadventure film directed by Ridley Scott.”  Stars included Christian BaleJohn TurturroSigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley, in a “loose interpretation of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt as led by Moses and related in the Book of Exodus.”  See Exodus: Gods and Kings – Wikipedia.)

So anyway, this shorter version of that earlier review has been “edited for content.”  As in:

The following … has been modified from its original version.  It has been formatted to fit this screen, to run in the time allotted and edited for content…

(Re-edited film.)  The original review is at On “Exodus: G&K,” but here are some highlights.  (From which I came up with a brand-new ending…)

To begin with it’s only natural to compare the 2014 film with Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments (1956 film) – Wikipedia.   Which brings up the anomaly – to some people anyway – that in the Ridley Scott version, God is portrayed by an 11-year-old boy:

If there’s anything daring in Scott and his screenwriters’ take on this oft-told tale …  it’s the decision to depict God, or his earthly iteration, as a bratty kid with an English accent.  As Moses struggles with issues of faith, madness, and spousal neglect … this pint-size Brit (Isaac Andrews) challenges Moses to rise to the occasion.  The lad warns the beleaguered Hebrew of the coming plagues, browbeats him, taunts him.  If you want a less portentous title for this big and curious cinematic endeavor, The Prophet and the Pip-squeak could work nicely. (E.A.)

See ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings‘: God as a bratty kid, and also Ridley Scott chooses 11-year-old boy as voice of God.  Which brings up the fact that the actual name of the character is Malak:  “Sacred texts give no specific depiction of God, so for centuries artists and filmmakers have had to choose their own visual depiction…   Malak [the “God character’] exudes innocence and purity, and those two qualities are extremely powerful.”  (See Ridley Scott chooses…)

And incidentally, Wikipedia defined Malak as “the Semitic word for ‘angel.’”  See also Strong’s Hebrew: 4397. מַלְאָך (malak).)

And that’s not to mention Angel of the Lord – Wikipedia, which included the image at left, “The Angel of the Lord appearing to Hagar in the wilderness.”  (“The biblical word for angel, מלאך malak, … translates simply as ‘messenger…'”)

So right from the start we have a controversy.  Aside from that, the film got lukewarm reviews like:  Very predictable, Historic mistake, and Ridley Scott made this movie out of contempt.  The third review said “has a personal grudge against all Christians.”

But as the Nathan Lane character said near the end of The Birdcage, “Not necessarily.”  (Which is being interpreted, “Not all reviewers feel that way…”)

To me the movie was well-paced, taut, and featured a compelling love story between Moses and his wife Zipporah.  And it showed the human price of becoming a Biblical icon: having to leave your wife and first-born son to “do your duty.”  Finally, the Moses played by Christian Bale was more human, more like us today and therefore more believable.

The film starts with Moses at the height of his military prowess.  He’s a proud, self-sufficient warrior with little or no patience for the reading of entrails (see Haruspex – Wikipedia) or other religious superstitions of the time.  But later on he “wrestles with the idea of God” after he finds out he’s actually the son of Hebrew slaves.  Then too this more-human Moses has his times of great doubt, and sometimes feels abandoned by God.  (Or at least that God isn’t there when he needs Him…)  The Moses in E: G&K is unlike what we’ve been led to expect because he is so full of pride and stubbornness and self-doubt, just like we “mere mortals” are today.

Another thing the movie got right was how Moses aged as a result of shouldering such great responsibility.  E: G&K ends with Moses riding in a wagon, with the Ark of the Covenant in the back.  (This was after the parting of the Red Sea and after he was re-united with his family, but before the 40 years of Wandering in the Wilderness that were coming up.)   Up to this point in the movie, Moses had appeared youthful and dark-haired.  But as the movie ends, Moses looks pretty much like the old guy portrayed in the painting, Victory O Lord!   (Shown below.)

Wikipedia said the painting “illustrates a passage in the Book of Exodus” – the Battle of Rephidim in chapter 17 – “which describes how Moses and his two companions watched the battle from the hill.”  (Briefly, when he was “watching the game” from a mountain-top, Moses saw that when he held his hands up, his team started winning.  But if he let his hands down, his team started losing…  See also the Intro to the DOR Scribe blog.)

Thus Moses had “aged” in way not unlike Jesus, as He was described in John 8:57, “‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!'”

That’s strange, because according to tradition, Jesus was 33 years old when He was crucified.  See Jesus year | Dictionary of Christianese.  And yet, like the Moses shown at the end of Exodus: Gods and Kings, Jesus at the end of His ministry seems to have aged greatly, “being a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, as well as of great gravity.”  (Biblehub, and specifically the Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible interpretation of John 8:57.)

Which is something like what happened to Abraham Lincoln after four years as president:

He arrived at the White House as a sinewy 6-foot-4, 180-pound strongman.  In the course of four years, he dropped 30 pounds.  “He was sunken-eyed and grizzled, nothing like that bright-eyed lawyer of Springfield [and] looks 75 years old, but he’s 56.”

Which leads to two final points.  First:  To the icons that we choose to throw our cares and responsibilities on – like Moses – we followers are pretty much a pain in the neck.

Second:  Exodus: Gods and Kings is a pretty good movie and well worth seeing, if only in the interest of broadening your horizons.

 

VictoryOLord.JPG

 

The upper image is courtesy of Ridley Scott chooses 11-year-old boy as voice of God in Moses movie.

The lower image is courtesy of Victory O Lord! – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re:  On “Exodus: G&K,” the movie.  Check out the “Part II” at On Exodus (Part II) and Transfiguration.  The latter review included “some things the movie left out:” 

For one thing, it didn’t mention Moses writing the first five books of the Bible, the Torah or Pentateuch.  For another thing, it left out the part about Moses’ father-in-law “inventing the Supreme Court.”  See On Jethro inventing the supreme court.  Third, the  movie left out Zipporah telling Moses, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me!  That was in Exodus 4:25, one of the “more unusual, curious, and much-debated passages of the Pentateuch.”  See Zipporah at the inn – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re:  Abraham Lincoln “ageing” in office.   See The Age of Obama: Timelapse of President Barack Obama…  The site included a before-and-after set of pictures of Abraham Lincoln:

He arrived at the White House as a sinewy 6-foot-4, 180-pound strongman. In the course of four years, he dropped 30 pounds. “He was sunken-eyed and grizzled, nothing like that bright-eyed lawyer of Springfield,” said Von Drehle. Lincoln sat for a famous series of portraits, and “by the last set of photographs, he looks 75 years old, but he’s 56.”

David Von Drehle wrote “Rise to Greatness:  Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year.”

Re: Nathan Lane and The Birdcage – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaNathan Lane played Albert Goldman:  “Armand Goldman is the openly gay owner of a drag club in South Beach called The Birdcage and his partner Albert is ‘Starina’ the star attraction of the club and is a very effeminate and flamboyant man.”  See also: English Script for “The Birdcage” (03)_wallistian_新浪博客:

Val: Dad, couldn’t the Keeleys slip out without being noticed at the end of the show?

Armand: No, they’re waiting for that. They’d be recognized in two seconds.

Albert: Not necessarily.  

[That scene was summarized by Wikipedia as follows:]

As they attempt to leave they realize that the club is surrounded by photographers and they will not be able to leave without being seen.  Albert suggests going through the club’s dressing room and they dress Kevin in drag while Armand choreographs a dancing line through the exit and Kevin goes unnoticed.  Even to the point where his driver; who had earlier betrayed the Keeleys to the press, didn’t recognize him.

[Which led to the following exchange between the arch-conservative Senator – now dressed in “drag” – and his driver, who doesn’t recognize him:]

Kevin: Meet me in 20 minutes at the corner of EI Dorado and Palm.

The Driver: Lady, not for a million dollars.

See also Object lesson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

On Pink Floyd and “rigid schooling”

Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland!

 

Speaking of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, shown above…

I visited that venerable institution last December, during a Christmas visit to Cleveland.

One exhibit was on Pink Floyd, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.  You can see their full bio at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum | RockHall.com:

The group carried rock and roll into a dimension that was more cerebral and conceptual than what preceded it.  What George Orwell and Ray Bradbury were to literature, Pink Floyd is to popular music, forging an unsettling but provocative combination of science fiction and social commentary.

Which could be another way of saying they were like some of the prophets in the Bible.  (Those old-timey prophets also made “‘unsettling and provocative’ social commentaries.”)

Pink Floyd’s variation on that theme was undoubtedly Another Brick in the Wall.  That hit was actually “three songs set to variations of the same basic theme, on Pink Floyd‘s 1979 rock opera, The Wall.”

Part 2 of the 3-part set was “a protest song against rigid schooling in general and boarding schools in the UK in particular.” See Wikipedia, which added –  as a side note – that both the single and album were “banned in South Africa in 1980 after the song was adopted by supporters of a nationwide school boycott protesting racial inequities in education under the apartheid regime.”

See also Pink Floyd’s The Wall:  A Complete Analysis:

Pink Floyd’s the Wall is one of the most intriguing and imaginative albums in the history of rock music…  the Wall traces the life of the fictional protagonist, Pink Floyd, from his boyhood days in post-World-War-II England…   From the outset, Pink’s life revolves around an abyss of loss and isolation…  Every incident that causes Pink pain is yet another brick in his ever-growing wall[, including:]  an out-of-touch education system bent on producing compliant cogs in the societal wheel…

“Compliant cogs in the societal wheel?”  That sounds like what Harry Golden was about.  (In his “sanity amid the braying of jackals,” he was definitely not a “compliant cog.”)

Which brings us back to prophets like Isaiah (at left).  Isaac Asimov said such prophets – 3,000 or more years ago – were also the “spokesmen of protest” and the “radicals of their day:”

The priesthood then, as always, was primarily interested in the minutiae of ritual.  This was something that could easily be followed by anyone and generally presented no difficulties.  It might be a tedious way of gaining God’s favor, but it was not really painful…  The prophets, however, were likely to disdain ritual and to insist, instead, on a high ethical code of behavior, something that could present serious difficulties.

See Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel (1981), page 527, emphasis added.  He noted it’s both extremely difficult to perform that higher good, and difficult to learn just what that ethical good might be.  (See also my post On “another brick in the wall”.)

Which is another way of saying going by the book isn’t always the best course.  It’s always a good place to start, and it’s always easier to do.  The problem comes when that’s all you know.

For example, William Shakespeare had Juliet tell Romeo, “You kiss by the book.”  But I don’t imagine many people like to get kissed “by the book.”  See also SparkNotes: Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, scene 5, which said that the comment could be taken two ways, one involving Juliet’s “lack of experience.”  Or it could be interpreted like this:

Juliet’s comment that Romeo kisses by the book is akin to noting that he kisses as if he has learned how to kiss from a manual and followed those instructions exactly.  In other words, he is proficient, but unoriginal…  (E.A.)

In other words, going by the book can mean you do something “in the correct or proper manner.”  Or it can mean “completing a task according to the rules or without cutting any corners to save time.”  On the other hand, going by the book tends to degenerate into learning by rote.   (Learning “by memorizing without giving any thought to what is being learned.”  As in, “I learned history by rote; then I couldn’t pass the test that required me to think.  If you learn things by rote, you’ll never understand them.”  Emphasis added.)

That in turn can degenerate into some of the synonyms for “unoriginal:” banal, trite, hackneyed and/or uninspired.   See also Rote learning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Rote learning is a memorization technique based on repetition…   [Alternatives] include meaningful learning, associative learning, and active learning…  Rote learning is sometimes disparaged with the derogative terms parrot fashion, regurgitation, cramming, or mugging

Bartolomeo Montagna - Saint Paul - Google Art Project.jpgWikipedia added that “students who learn with understanding are able to transfer their knowledge to tasks requiring problem-solving with greater success…”   So maybe that’s why the Apostle Paul (at right) took such care to distinguish the dead letter of the law and its “life-giving spirit.”  (In 2d Corinthians 3:6 he said followers of Jesus were ministers “not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”)

See also letter and spirit of the law.  And maybe that’s what Pink Floyd was protesting:  Rigid teachers who seem to have lost sight of the spirit – the originality – of what they were supposed to be teaching.

For another perspective, consider this from The Zen Way to the Martial Arts:

Every martial art – judo, kendo, aikido, etc. – has its own forms, actions, procedure.  Beginners must learn the kata and assimilate and use them.  Later, they begin to create out of them, in the way specific to each art.  (E.A.)

Or take the Bible…   (Please!!)  Some people think it should be taken literally, and only literally.  But others think it should be interpreted broadly, and maybe even – gasp! – liberally.  That way it applies “to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”  See liberal Interpretation and also On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?

Taking the example of the Bible a step further, maybe the “real goal is to help you grow and develop,” and not to give you “an effective instrument of aggression and domination.”  (Which Pink Floyd may have been protesting as well:  the misuse if not abuse of the Bible.)

All of which brings us back to the main point, similar to something Buddha once said:

Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honor for many generations…   Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or of priests.  After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is good for your good and that of others.  (E.A.)

(But see also 1st John 4:1, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  E.A.)

So maybe that’s what Pink Floyd was saying with “We don’t need no thought control.”  Teach us how to create out of the basics.  Teach us how to become both proficient and original.  But don’t try to turn us into “compliant cogs in the societal wheel…”

 

 

The upper image is courtesy of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, under “Visit the Museum.” 

The lower image is courtesy of Gautama Buddha … Goodreads.  See also Gautama Buddha – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The “Wall” image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article cited in Pink Floyd

The image of Isaiah is courtesy of Book of Isaiah – Wikipedia.  The full caption reads:  “detail of entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza showing verse from Isaiah 33:6 Rockefeller Center, New York.”

 Re: “take the Bible…   (Please!!)”  See Henny Youngman – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re:  “Buddha … on the strength of traditions.”  See How to Meditate  A Guide to Self-Discovery, Lawrence LeShan, Bantam Books (1975), at pages 101-102.

Re:   “Every martial art … has its own forms.”  See Deshimaru, Taisen.  The Zen Way to the Martial Arts, trans. Nancy Amphoux, Arkana Books, 1991, at page 116.  See also page 3:

Many people these days come to the martial arts as if to a sport or, worse, as if seeking an effective instrument of aggression and domination.   And, unhappily, there are studios that cater to this clientele…   (E.A.)

Re:  “The real goal.”  See, How to Meditate, at page 38, vis-a-vis Zen meditation in the martial arts:  “The real goal is to help you grow and develop … not to become a better archer or karate expert.” 

Re: “thought control.”  See Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2 – Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” (lyrics).  On the other hand, the members of the chorus singing “we don’t need no education” sound precisely as if they do need a bit of education.  See double negatives and also Wiktionary on “ignoramus.”

Re “compliant cogs … societal wheel.”  See also Whoso would be a man, must be a noncomformist.

 

 

Jeremiah and the Parable of the Dirty Underwear

 

 

 Jeremiah 13:1-11 is an interesting read.  It gives what might be called the Parable of the Dirty Underwear.

Verse 1 begins, “This is what the Lord said to me:  ‘Jeremiah, go and buy a linen loincloth.  Then put it around your waist.  Don’t let it get wet.’” 

A footnote said a loincloth was a “common undergarment in ancient Judah,” a short skirt that “wrapped around the hips.  It reached about halfway down the thighs.” 

(The illustration at left shows a “form of loincloth” – with a cape)…

It’s also translated “waist cloth.” 

So anyway, Jeremiah did what he was told.  Then the Lord instructed him a second time: “Jeremiah, take the loincloth you bought and are wearing, and go to Perath [a small village near Jerusalem].  Hide the loincloth there in a crack in the rocks.”

Then Jeremiah got a third message from the Lord.  He followed orders, went to the “cleft of a rock” a few days later and saw that the waist cloth was ruined.

So Jeremiah said, “There’s some kind of lesson here!!!

All of which got me wondering.  Was a waist cloth some kind of early underwear?  (Before even whitey-tighties?)   So I did some research and came up with the following sources:

1) The Sign of the Loincloth: Jeremiah (13:1-11),   2)  Loincloth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,  3)  Strong’s Hebrew: 232. אֵזוֹר (ezor) — a waist cloth – Bible Hub, and  4)  Intimacy during Menstruation | IslamToday – English.

The first source said, “Jeremiah’s vision of the sign of the loincloth is an affluent passage whose depth cannot be fully understood without a proper exegetical exploration.”

Which is a very wordy way of saying, “There’s more to this story than meets the eye.”

The last source was the most interesting.  It defined a waist cloth in terms of “intimacy.”  And according to this narration, the general consensus is that the area “typically covered by the waistcloth [is] the area between the navel and the knee.”

According to Strong’s, the Hebrew word is ezor, derived from the term azar: “to gird, encompass, equip.”  (Equip?  Verrry interesting)  And aside from “waist cloth,” it’s also translated as a belt or belts, or as a girdle or a waistband.  Not to mention loincloth.

Wikipedia defined that as a “one-piece garment – sometimes kept in place by a belt – which covers the genitals and, at least partially, the buttocks.”  Such cloths are worn:  1) in societies where no other clothing is needed or wanted,  or 2) as an undergarment or swimsuit.  In turn:

Undergarments are clothes worn beneath outer clothing, usually in direct contact with the skin, but may comprise more than one layer.  They keep outer garments from being soiled or damaged by bodily substances, lessen abrasion or friction against the skin, shape the body, and provide concealment or support for parts of it.  (E.A.)

http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/lt/lt_cache/thumbnail/960/img/photos/2014/02/17/e5/46/Buffett.JPG(But see Pencil Thin Mustache, “now I’m gettin’ old, don’t wear underwear, I don’t go to church, and I don’t cut my hair,” a la Jimmy Buffett.)  All of which gets us back to the original question:  Was a waist cloth some kind of early underwear, before even whitey-tighties? 

But first I had to research that term itself.  (In order to be assiduous.)

For one thing, there’s some debate whether the proper term is “whitey-tighties” or “tighty-whiteys.”  See POLL: Do you say whitey-tighties or tighty-whities?  (Some people apparently have way too much time on their hands.)  Then I found this definition:

If you are a boy or man it is the first kind of underwear your mother bought you.  White and tight, you didn’t have anything yet to be proud of, so they were ok.  But then you grew, and you were wearing the same underwear at 13 or 14 that you were wearing when you were 10.

That’s from Urban Dictionary: whitey tightys (emphasis added).   The site added this:  “White briefs, sometimes including brown stains, also known as skid marks.”

Famous manly men who wear whitey tighties were said to include:  “Vegeta, Vin Diesel, Billy Ray Cyrus [and that] mouse in the nutcracker.”  Finally the site said, “The term ‘tighty whitey’ is not only incorrect but inferior.  Whitey tighty is the proper term for white briefs.”

Then there’s Language Log: Tighty-whities: the semantics, which added a few nuggets of wisdom, starting with the idea that the expression is fairly new.  The absence of the term from the “standard dictionaries and sources of information on word and phrase histories suggests that it’s probably not more than twenty or so years old.”  (That is, going back to about 1990.)  The blogger added this, perhaps to explain some negative connotations:

A further subtlety is the evaluative dimension of tighty-whities.  It’s not entirely clear to me whether the judgments here are directly [at] the sort of men who would wear them…  I [do] know that some American speakers now view tighty-whities as a negative, dismissive label (perhaps through association with uptight and tight-assed and even the racial tag whitey)…

I’m not sure what “evaluative dimension” refers to, but like I said:  Some people seem to have way too much free time on their hands.  Meanwhile, back at Jeremiah…

I tried to read through Sign of the Loincloth again, but the International Bible Commentary (IBC) seemed to have the best spin.

The “intimate” nature of the loincloth was supposed to “symbolize the close intimacy the people [of Israel] once enjoyed with their Lord.”  Both sources agreed that the loincloth started out chaste, “placed upon Jeremiah’s loins, without touching any water, and thereby symbolizing that it was pure and lacking damage.”  But then came the soiling

As the IBC went on to say, the “close intimacy” with God – enjoyed by the people of Israel – “had been marred by contact with pagan and idolatrous streams of influence.”  Those streams of influence in turn had “destroyed the people’s pride in their God and so soiled them…  The nation, like the garment, is now good for nothing, and will be soiled in exile.” (E.A.)

So – as Sign of the Loincloth said – this passage is exceedingly more complex than it seems:  “The meaning of this passage in today’s context is very complex and complicated to determine.”

On the other hand it might bring new meaning to Mom’s old adage, “Always wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident.”

For years we Baby-boomers laughed at Mom’s advice, and/or thought it was just ludicrous.  “Heaven forbid if you got your leg cut off and had on dirty ‘drawers.'”  But with the passing years, maybe Mom was right after all.  “The goal is to have a little foresight, and plan in advance such that you can retain your dignity in the case of an unforeseen event.”  See What does it mean to wear clean underwear, and  The Modern Equivalent of Wearing Clean Underwear (which equates a bad picture on Facebook with the old “dirty underwear”).

Then too there’s always that symbolic “close intimacy” that people may still want to find with The Force that Created the Universe.  Or maybe it’s just a matter of sound stewardship

And it should also be noted that Harry Golden had something to say about all this:

Our religions have really conditioned us to what we call good taste and propriety.  I think of that wonderful Jewish legend of the girl who had been sentenced by the Inquisition to be dragged through the streets to the funeral pyre.  She was asked if she had a last request, and she pleaded for a few pins, , and when they gave them to her, she pinned her skirts carefully between her legs so that her body would not be uncovered as she was being dragged through the streets to her death…

That’s from Golden’s book Only in America, and specifically his column, “Causerie on death.”  (What could be called the functional equivalent of a modern blogpost.)

That is, a causerie is generally defined as a short, light, humorous essay, but Golden defined it as “French for ‘schmooze.'”  (See also Dichotomy.)

The point is: few people would use “schmooze” and “death” in the same sentence, let alone the same title, but Golden did.  In fact this causerie was one of his longer essays, but his point was:  Tomorrow may never come.  We all plan to live long, full and rich lives, but for all we know we might get run over by a bus ten minutes from now.  (And so among other things we should focus on important things, like letting our family and friends know how we feel about them…)

In turn, maybe being sure to wear “clean underwear” isn’t as ridiculous as we thought.  Maybe it’s just a form of mindfulness, of being aware that death could come at any minute, yet not being greatly troubled by it.  Then there’s the symbolism of the intimate nature of the loincloth, representing “the close intimacy the people with their Lord.”

And finally, come to think of it:  Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to have clean underwear if you were about to face guys like these. . .

 

 

The upper image is courtesy of Loincloth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption, “A form of loincloth worn with a cape by an Aztec ruler, circa 1500.”

See the full text at Jeremiah 13:1-11.  The text and footnote are from the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV).  It was the Old Testament reading for Saturday, March 14, 2015, in the Daily Office.  (See DOR.)

The full reference to Only in America by Harry Golden:  Penguin Books (1959), at page 10.   The quote is from his column, “Causerie on death.”  See also Causerie – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and The “Golden” Era of Civil Rights: Consequences of the Carolina Israelite

The Jimmy Buffett image is courtesy of www.wsbtv.com/news/entertainment/zac-brown-band-kiss

The Jeremiah image is courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The lower image is “Capricho № 80: Ya es hora (It is time),” courtesy of the Wikipedia article Spanish Inquisition – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Los Caprichos “are a set of 80 prints in aquatint and etching created by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya in 1797 and 1798, and published as an album in 1799…   Goya described the series as depicting ‘the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance or self-interest have made usual.'”  

A final note:  the Spanish word “caprichos” can be defined as “caprice,” but there are a host of other possible translations. See What is the meaning of the Spanish word capricho? – Word Hippo

 

 

On “Birdman,” the movie

Birdman poster.jpg

 

 

It’s not often – after spending 63 summers here on this earth – that I leave a movie and say:  “What the [expletive deleted] was that all about?!?

Which is being interpreted:  This is a review of Birdman , the movie.  It’s also the first post on my new blog, the “Georgia Wasp. ”  (Georgiawasp.com.)

Which leads up to an interesting story:  A story about me not being a “dating psycho.”

It all started when I signed up for the domain name, “Georgia Wasp.”

That was supposed to be a clever take-off on the Carolina Israelite.   The Israelite was a pre-Internet blog of sorts.  A newspaper, published in Charlotte, North Carolina, from 1944 to 1968, by “journalist, social critic, and humorist Harry Golden.”  See also:  Harry Golden – Wikipedia.

I bought a copy of his book, “Only in America” – as shown below – and it’s been an inspiration ever since.  I’ve always wanted to do an homage to him and his style of writing.

Harry Golden was Jewish, and he lived in North Carolina.  That’s how he came up with the name “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a classic WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), and I live in Georgia.  So I figured it would would be perfectly natural – not to mention, an homage –  to have the nom de plume (pen name) of “the Georgia Wasp.”

But there’s a problem…

Apparently there’s a website, “dating psychos.”  (Or “words to that effect.”)  One of the bulletins tells of a crazy guy – “Alias ‘Georgia Wasp’” – who is said to be a “pathological liar…   married many times and has cheated on each wife with multiple partners!”

So here’s a heads up:  I’m not that guy!!!

Now, about that Birdman.  First a brief summary from Birdman (film) – Wikipedia:  The movie is a “2014 American black comedydrama film.”  That’s an important note:  Black comedy “employs farce and morbid humor,” and takes on “subject matter usually considered taboo.” 

It’s sometimes called “gallows humor” – as in the image at right of “Major ‘King’ Kong riding a nuclear bomb to oblivion, [in] Dr. Strangelove.”  And it’s often controversial.

So Birdman stars Michael Keaton – as Riggan Thomson – “a faded Hollywood actor famous for his role as superhero Birdman, as he struggles to mount a Broadway adaptation of a short story by Raymond Carver.”   What follows are some expanded notes I made about the film, the day after viewing.  (In the manner of Hunter Thompson and his Gonzo journalism.)

Basically, Birdman is to the world of Broadway actors what A Few Good Men was to the Marine Corps and the military justice system.  It gives a fascinating, inside view of the world of Broadway actors, and that alone made it well worth while.  (Worth the $10.68 “we” paid to get the tickets, but not worth the extra $13.29 for the one large soda and large popcorn…)   

In doing so, the film focuses on one, slightly-demented caricature of a main character.  (If not a poseur, as was the case with Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup in AFGM.)

Riggan (Keaton) is a washed-up actor who used to be famous for his role in a blockbuster series of hack films.  (That is, as “Birdman.”)  He’s trying to make a come-back on Broadway, and one person stands in his way.  That’s the “evil” Broadway critic, “Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan), who tells him she hates Hollywood celebrities [who] ‘pretend’ to be actors.”  (I on the other hand, I found her to be the most sympathetic character in the whole movie.  She alone made sense, and was an island of sanity in an otherwise loony bin of a film.)  Then this happens:

On opening night, Riggan uses a real loaded gun for the final scene in which his character kills himself, and shoots his nose off onstage.  He earns a standing ovation from all but Tabitha [the critic], who leaves during the applause.  In the hospital, Jake tells Riggan that Tabitha gave the play a rave review, dubbing his suicide attempt “super-realism,”, a new form of method acting.  After Samantha visits Riggan, he dismisses Birdman and, seeing birds outside, climbs onto the window ledge.  When Samantha returns, Riggan has disappeared.  She looks down at the street, then up at the sky, and smiles.

Incidentally, “Emma Stone [plays] Samantha Thomson, Riggan’s daughter and assistant, a recovering drug addict.”  That may explain some alternate theories about that ending.

Birdman EndingThe best alternate theories come from the site: Let’s Talk About the Birdman Ending – Film.  (Which included “Samantha,” at left, watching her father “take off.”)

But first, here’s that writer’s take on the film in general:

This movie doesn’t just want to make you feel something, it wants to say something about humanity and stardom and the inner lives of celebrities and the “cultural genocide” that superhero films have wrought upon us.

Mmmmm-m-okay!   And here’s his first thought on the ending:

Every time in the film Riggan does something “supernatural,” there’s always some natural explanation for it, but this time, when he flies away [at the end], his daughter looks up, not down…    Thus, I posit that the very last shot of the film is Innaritu’s way of joining the metaphorical/imagined with the real.  Riggan still can’t fly, nor does he actually jump out a window in that last scene.  The movie is just conveying that for the first time, Sam is seeing her father the way he sees himself.  (E.A.)

But then the reviewer gave an alternate theory:  Essentially that Samantha went wacko after seeing her father’s body on the pavement.  (Remember, she’s a recovering addict):

Riggan, in a bout of self-delusion, does actually jump out the window.  When his daughter looks down, she sees his dead body and experiences a psychotic break, resulting in her look upwards at the end.  (E.A.)

But then this guy came up with yet another theory, about Riggan.  The theory is that this Riggan guy is actually the real jerk that he seems.  That he has a noble cause, but an unhealthy obsession.  In addition, he’s “destroying relationships left and right (not to mention his face).”

And this even though he manages to get a measure of “Twitter” fame, but still isn’t respected as an artist.  (And this even though he did manage to fool that theater-critic babe.)

He’s still a freak show.  And perhaps that’s really what the ending is trying to say:  no matter what we try, no matter what drastic measures we take, we will always remain prisoners to ourselves.

Which all adds up to this:  This movie was way too whacked for me!!!

That’s another way of saying this:  If you feel like a “prisoner to yourself,” this movie may make sense.  On the other hand, if you happen to like yourself, then the script comes off as having been written by some pompous, self-absorbed, left-wing, pointy-headed bleeding-heart Hollywood hack.  (See also personification.) 

So other than an inside look at the often never-never land of actors – Broadway or otherwise – this film might be a waste of time.  Like I said, the movie was well worth the $10.68 “bargain” price of admission, but not the extra $13.29 for popcorn and a drink.

(On the other hand, I do agree about that “cultural genocide” remark about super-hero films…)

 

That’s probably not how Harry Golden would put it, but it’ll do for a first post.

 

The upper image is courtesy of  Birdman (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Harry Golden – Wikipedia.

Other full internet references are available by clicking on the icon or link.