Saturday, November 8, 2008

Frankly Faced

Yep, I went to Zappanale.

So sue me.

The short answer = joys outnumbered sorrows and while some members of the Arf Society do employ special pins and shirts to make their point, the organization as a whole as I experienced it isn't anywhere near as menacing as that tenacious historical prescident of another long since disbanded Unified German organization which also happened to employ pins and shirts as a means of getting their message across. Of course when the two are soberly and rationally compared, one can't help but find there really is no comparison, despite the occasional effort by Arf Society/Zappanale detractors to align their means and their mission.

The long answer as written by me may or may not be forthcoming--though likely not forthcoming as the decay of said event's resonance has been sharp and quick (for a number of reasons) and, as the maestro once said, "who gives a fuck anyway?"

Speaking of resonance, I did find the below quotes which harmonize with both my experience and themes explored thus far in this humble blog.

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The Second Temple, completed seventy years after the destruction of the First by Nebuchadnezzar, differed in four ways especially from the Temple of Solomon. Though about the same in area, it was not so high. It was also less of a unit, being divided now into a outer and inner court. In equipment and decoration it was barer. Above all, the Holy of Holies was now an empty shrine, as it was also to remain in the magnificent Third Temple built by Herod. The Ark of the Covenant was gone, and no one felt at liberty to try and replace it with a substitute.

W. Jackson Bate, p.27

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The truth is that like Scripture, or like any other comprehensive body of ideals, the classical can always be used for more than one purpose. If we can invoke it to help us in taking a particular stand (especially one in the name of form, order, or sanity -- qualities associated almost by definition with the classical, and especially revered as much during the long adolescence of post-classical Europe), there is also much that can be cited against us as soon as we begin to specialize too purely or narrowly within what we think is the classical example. Hence the classical so often proves a Trojan Horse when more restricted movements in the arts try to embrace and incorporate it for authority. More than what is wanted at the start inevitably emerges, and in time the gates of the city are reopened.
Once the effort to reform -- to give a "new form" to or simply to cap -- the Renaissance achievement was really under way, other qualities of the classical (Greek now rather than Roman) returned by the middle of the eighteenth century to haunt the cultivated imagination: the great classical ideal of the moral function of art, and poetry in particular -- poetry as an educator of the mind and emotions; the rage of appeal in the audience it had touched and should touch; the range of genres -- epic, tragedy, and on down through the "lesser" types; the strong, widely shared national involvement in poetry and the other arts; the variety of characters portrayed in epic and dramatic form; the emotional immediacy of language; the imaginative strength of metaphor. Above all there was "originality" -- the power of "invention"; and, as Pope said in beginning the preface to his translation of the
Iliad (1715), it is "invention" that especially "distinguishes all great genius." This was the dilemma that eighteenth-century neo-classicism inherited, and with which it was to live as it reconsidered its position throughout the remainder of the century. A dilemma, like any other form of challenge, can be fruitful, depending on how we react to it. In fact, if frankly faced, it can be one of the ways by which a movement stays alive, deferring -- even avoiding -- the senilities of self-congratulation and the irrelevance and thinness of defensive mannerism.

W. Jackson Bate, p. 36

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Moreover, it is absurd to say that there is anything properly describable as youthfulness in the American outlook. It is not that of young men, but that of old men. All the characteristics of senescence are in it: a great distrust of ideas, an habitual timorousness, a harsh fidelity to a few fixed beliefs, a touch of mysticism. The average American is a prude and a Methodist under his skin, and the fact is never more evident than when he is trying to disprove it. His vices are not those of a healthy boy, but those of an ancient paralytic escaped from the
Greisenheim. If you would penetrate to the causes thereof, simply go down to Ellis Island and look at the next shipload of immigrants. You will not find the spring of youth in their step; you will find the shuffling of exhausted men. From such exhausted men the American stock has sprung. It was easier for them to survive here than it was where they came from, but that ease, though it made them feel stronger, did not actually strengthen them. It left them what they were when they came: weary peasants, eager only for the comfortable security of a pig in a sty. Out of that eagerness has issued many of the noblest manifestations of American Kulture: the national hatred of war, the pervasive suspicion of the aims and interests of all other nations, the short way with heretics and disturbers of the peace, the unshakable belief in devils, the implacable hostility to every novel idea and point of view. All these ways of thinking are the marks of the peasant--more, of the peasant long ground into the mud of his wallow, and determined at last to stay there--the peasant who has definitely renounced any lewd desire he may have ever had to gape at the stars. The habits of mind of this dull, sempiternal fellah--the oldest man in Christendom--are, with a few modifications, the habits of the mind of the American people. The peasant has a great practical cunning, but he is unable to see any further than the next farm. He likes money and knows how to amass property, but his cultural development is but little above that of the domestic animals. He is intensely and cocksurely moral, but his morality and his self-interest are crudely identical. He is emotional and easy to scare, but his imagination cannot grasp an abstraction. He is a violent nationalist and a patriot, but he admires rogues in office and always beats the tax-collecter if he can. He has immovable opinions about all the great affairs of the state, but nine-tenths of them are sheer imbecilities. He is violently jealous of what he conceives to be his rights, but brutally disregardful of the other fellow's. He is religious, but his religion is wholly devoid of beauty and dignity. This man, whether city of country bred, is the normal Americano--the 100 percent. Methodist, Odd Fellow, Ku Kluxer, and Know Nothing. He exists in all countries, but here alone he rules--here alone his anthropoid fears and rages are accepted gravely as logical ideas, and dissent from them is punished as a sort of public offense. Around every one of his principal delusions--of the sacredness of democracy, of the feasiblity of sumptuary law, of the incurable sinfulness of all other peoples, of the menace of ideas, of the corruption lying in all the arts--there is thrown a barrier of taboos, and woe to the anarchist who seeks to break it down! The multiplication of such taboos is obviously not characteristic of a culture that is moving from a lower plane to a higher--that is, of a culture still in the full glow of its youth. It is a sign, rather, of a culture that is slipping downhill--one that is reverting to the most primitive standards and ways of thought. The taboo, indeed, is the trade-mark of the savage, and wherever it exists it is a relentless and effective enemy of civilized enlightenment. The savage is the most meticulously moral of men; there is scarcely an act of his daily life that is not conditioned by unyielding prohibitions and obligations, most of them logically unintelligible.

H.L. Mencken. Prejudices: A Selection. (taken from) On Being American p. 99-101

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Let me say, then, that hereditary states which have grown used to the family of their ruler are much less trouble to keep in hand than new ones are; it is simply a matter of not upsetting ancient customs, and of accommodating oneself to meet new circumstances. Hence, if a prince is just ordinarily industrious, he can always keep his position, unless some unusual or excessive act of force deprives him of it. And even if he is dethroned the slightest mistake by the usurper will enable him to get it back..Since a prince by birth has fewer reasons and less need to offend his subjects, it follows that he should be better liked; if he has no extravagant vices to make him hateful, it is only natural that he should be popular with his own people.

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, II: On Hereditary Principates

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