I may be better at keeping a blog than at keeping a diary, but I still suck at it. However, I did finish my latest manuscript, which is what counts.
It was not just the cockchafers yesterday. On Tuesday (five days ago) a colleague of mine messed with my head because he introduced me to a band I might like. We both love the 80s, but he is younger than I and thinks I need some education concerning modern music. So far, I had found the bands he introduced me to either too loud or even disgusting. Last week, he started reading my novel on the immortal Earl of Rochester. Maybe that prompted him to tell me that Steel Panther is a great band. Rochester wore tights, was bawdy and got laid so much his cock must have been chafed to the bone(er). His cock was community property, and Steel Panther were either inspired by Rochester's poems, or they took the words right out of the letters to his wife. Plus, the guitar player runs his mouth like Rochester and stole his hair.
The music is surprisingly good, too, so besides (or despite) Bon Jovi's leggings, Guns'n'Roses headbands, as well as chords sounding very much like them (and Van Halen, Def Leppard etc), they're worth checking out, if you don't mind honesty and oversharing – I know I just did.
Walked into a swarm of them yesterday. Gross.
...be someday she's got nothing on but Radio Ga Ga. After playing records in April, I regressed further back into my childhood in May. The fine weather warmed up the attic – it has no insulation and was bitter cold in winter when I moved in, so a bunch of stuff was just dumped there – and I started cleaning up, with the intention of cleaning out, i.e. throwing away. Since the way to hell is paved with good intentions, nothing went into the bin.
On the contrary, finding the few items I have left from my childhood, I remembered many of the things that weren't there anymore. Some got lost in one of the 13 moves, others had to be sold because money was needed. Which is fine, mostly. However, I really missed a couple of objects, so I went on ebay. Surely, you all know how that goes …
Yesterday a parcel from the U.S. arrived. Almost forgot about it, after so many weeks. Mind, I would've checked the tracking number at some point, but this way was so much more beautiful. First I was surprised, had no clue what was inside, even thought it might be some model train for my dad (in that respect he's never been anything but a big child, his house is full of model trains he bought on ebay), as the postman had written my dad's over my crossed out name. My parents live across the street now, my name is on their letter box and vice versa, to make sure we get our deliveries and don't have to travel down to the post office just because someone wasn't home. A bit confusing, I guess.
Anyway, my mum had put the parcel on my desk, so I decided to open it. And squealed with joy. Inside were three care bears from the early eighties in great condition! Man, was I happy. My dogs didn't understand what the fuzz was about, but they were happy as well. For a change, I didn't cuddle them. Usually they're all for cuddling, but what with the heat and all that fur – they were grateful I had found something plush to squeeze. Today they were rewarded with a good shearing, to make temperatures above 20 degrees more bearable.
The care bears have found their place in a big show case among other memorabilia.
You're welcome to think I'm retarded, but before you plan to rob me of my care bears or my stereo, keep in mind I have three dogs who do not take kindly to strangers entering their home. Also, I'm a lot crazy and split my fire wood with an axe. Yes, I'm also aware I'm being paranoid and it is unlikely anyone would want to steal old stuff. There is a reason I call the cellar Edgar. Edgar dates back to the seventeenth century. Other parts of the house as well. Restoring an unstable wall made of straw and clay, I found a vertebra and other bones. I really love this ancient wreck of a half-timbered house with its crooked walls and uneven floors and intend for it to be my final home.
13 moves is enough. Despite being very Americanized when it comes to a fascination with serial killers, preferring the DSM over the ICD and slurping strawberry-and-cream shakes, I hate moving. I love giant cars and motor homes, but in Europe that lifestyle is impossible, which means I never moved with my home on a truck, but from one still strange place to yet another. Let's just say I never want to lose my care bears again, as I obviously also lost a lot of marbles. Speaking of which – I only found nine of them. I am certain I used to have more than 50 …
Who thought a record player could be so fascinating? It is a simple model by ProAudio for two hundred bucks. The sound is incredibly clear and rich. Loudspeakers are Marantz SS5000 from the Seventies, originally meant to be built into a car; the amplifier is a Sony STR-6065, also from the Seventies, with tubes.
Compared to the CD player (also a late ProAudio model, as record and cd players don't stand the test of time as well as loudspeakers and tube amplifiers – granted, the latter two did get a makeover ;-) ) the record player sounds warmer and not as razor sharp when it comes to rock music – Hollywood Vampires 2, Anathema Best of –, which is actually nice, but the Bone Symphony EP from the Eighties could hardly get a higher resolution on CD.
So far excellent hearing has been a bane of my existence. It is not nice to be forced to listen to your neighbours' TV program and their snoring afterwards. One of the many reasons I moved to the countryside and live in a detached house. It is crooked and still needs a lot of repairs, but I have a weakness for old things and though the neighbours are a lot closer than I'd like them to be, at least I don't hear them fart anymore unless they are in the garden.
Aside from amazing sound, the turntable hypnotizes me very literally. With a CD it is just a blur, impossible to follow or watch how the laser picks up the music. With a record, I can watch the needle move through the grooves and proceed to the middle. If I try, I can even make out the words of the song titles printed in the center.
Hence no other blog entries for April. Busy with my brand new toy.
I neglected to mention any specifics in the last post. For those not familiar with the type, here are a couple of characteristics: gloomy, wounded, mourning, dark, sensual, artistic sensibility, quest for revenge, outlaw, cynicism,mocking attitude towards humanity, isolated, misunderstood, supernatural powers, conflicted, disabled (doesn't need to be a hunchback, emotional cripples also count in my opinion).
This list does not claim to be complete, nor does a character have to exhibit all those traits to qualify as Byronic.
Speaking of Romantic storytelling, darling Byron comes to mind. Far from being a dear, he is called the biggest anti-Romantic and created what came to be known as the Byronic hero, who is dark, conflicted, full of melancholy. He strikes a brooding pose, broken by loss and devoid of hope. Or you could say: Instead of strutting about as heroes usually do, he revels in self-pity, but never manages to drown in his tears or a bottle, hence goes on whining how cruel fate is. A total basket case – which is what you get when the type is overdone.
There are great ones, though. I'll take brooding Batman over sensational Superman anytime. In western culture, black may be associated with mourning, depression, goth etc. Yet there's no denying it beats red briefs worn over blue tights with a yellow belt. Byron may have thought of black as the color of melancholy, and Churchill described his depression as a black dog haunting him. African Americans certainly had something else in mind when they coined the phrase 'black is beautiful'. Ironically, blues music originated around the same time from the same African Americans, and 'having the blues' became a synonym for melancholy.
By the way, Churchill really did a number on dogs unfortunate enough to be born with a black coat. Theirs are the highest numbers in animal shelters and people are more afraid of black animals in general than of ones with light colored fur. They have good reason to feel blue! (Even if it is not Churchill's fault.)
Besides many superb black things out there (dogs, ravens, Chevy Impalas) my association concerning color runs something like: bat – Batman – hero – hunter – vampire hunter – Blade – what was that paper I read on hetero-normative-agendas for heroes? Anyway, the Byronic hero wasn't discussed in the paper. What was discussed, however, was how the black hunter on Supernatural breaks the normative rules and how anyone who does that gets marginalized and/or killed, also the female hunter Kate Argent on Teen Wolf. Which sucks if you consider it from this point of view.
The author was right, the argument plausible, I just never saw it that way. Before, I was glad Gordon (the black guy) failed in his mission, because he wanted to kill Sam, and I never liked that bitch Kate, but sided with the werewolves, which you're supposed to do on Teen Wolf. If you think about black people and women being put in their place by the roles they are assigned – bad guys who are in the wrong – the sweet taste of victory turns sour.
Back to the top(ic): Byron wasn't a rich recluse like Bruce Wayne. More of a headline-grabbing Clark Kent, he sold his writing to earn a living. Byron's bloodline may have died out, but his brainchildren became blueprints that fathered offspring galore: Batman (before he rises), Dracula (almost redundant to mention, since Byron's vampire is Dracula's predecessor), Eric Draven (rhymes with Edgar the Raven, lol) and Gaiman's Sandman.
Atara Stein wrote a book on Byronic heroes in modern culture, in case you're interested. It was criticized harshly by Peter Cochran from the Byron society, but so far no one has published a better study with the same focus. Thorslev's book is thorough, but outdated. I'll give you the citation below in a minute, just let me wrap this up: Though I love Byron, his suffering is sometimes too much for my taste and I could easily dispense with Manfred, Lara, or The Deformed Transformed. When it comes to love lost, Go no more a-roving is a concise masterpiece and still among my favorites. (Yes, I am that shallow and won't ever dare to show my face at a Byron conference again.) Also Don Juan, because he makes me laugh.
Adam Kem Yerima: Saving innocents: Tracing the human monster hunter' hetero-normative agenda from the 1970s to today. Wayne State University Dissertations. 2016.
Atara Stein: The Byronic Hero in Film, Fiction, and Television. Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press. 2004.
Peter Thorslev: The Byronic hero. Types and prototypes. Minneapolis, The University of Minnesota Press. 1962.
A dear friend, who is continually on the lookout for a distraction, keeps on asking me how to kill time. My answer's been the same for years: Watch Supernatural already!! Used to be talking to a brick wall until some higher power decided to show me miracles exist. He started watching. Not from the beginning, mind. He asked me for my favorite episodes. I prefer the funny ones, so 2-15 Tall Tales, 3-2 The kids are alright, 3-3 Bad day at black rock, 3-11 Mystery Spot, for starters. Not sure if they are that hilarious when you don't know the Winchesters and the whole (sad) story, but none of my concern.
Meanwhile, I was watching all three seasons of American Gods again, and returned to the Sandman comics. (Because my Supernatural trauma research isn't doing much for my mental health it took a break and then went on vacation, where it's happy and will stay for some time.) Though all three series are steeped in myth, there are important distinctions. As the title tells, American Gods deals more with gods than monsters – though a lot of these gods ARE monsters – and they only deal with humans if they have to, usually considering them nothing more than batteries, sources of energy and worship. Gods depend on humans to exist, yet are rather blasé about it, and don't give a fig about destroying lives.
The Sandman is more humble, usually sticks to his realm, and even protects humans from nightmarish creatures when they go too far. In Playing House, part three of The Doll's House, he declares: 'Humanity, I love you. You never cease to amaze me.' Nightmares like the Corinthean with additional mouths for eyes don't fit into Supernatural's mythology, while ghouls are too undistinguished for the Sandman. Their ideas of monsters and protectors differ, but the underlying structure is similar. Both series feature heroes to keep the supernatural in check, have stand-alone episodes which more or less tie in to bigger story arcs, and are self-reflective. Prominent examples for the latter are the Shakespeare-stories in the Sandman and the meta-episodes of Supernatural.
How they comment on themselves is rather different. For the Sandman it is a serious matter, drawing on literary history (along with Shakespeare the later Romantic notion of author as genius as creator is explored). On Supernatural, the meta-episodes are among the funniest (e.g. Sam and Dean discover they are the protagonists of a series of novels and stumble into a convention, where fans dress up as Sam and Dean in 4-18, or they have to play themselves as themselves as actors in a parallel world where they are just a TV show in 6-15).
Which takes me back to the beginning. I love to have a good laugh, and I love that car, which my dear friend now also gets. Still doesn't have a clue about the Sandman though. No, he doesn't think about Metallica when I mention the Sandman. Doesn't know Metallica either. Or the Foo Fighters and that amazing little boy who went on stage with them and made Dave Grohl sing 'Exit light, enter night …' . My friend probably thinks it's my way of saying 'good night' or 'I'm tired' when I talk about Dream of the Endless. Who looks dangerously like Robert Smith. Who is referenced in The Doll's House with a Cure – Boys don't cry – poster. Which makes me dream.
My mind may be overflowing sometimes (with useless stuff, I know), but there are a lot of things I don't have a clue about. Besides curing cancer and how to beam up to the dark side of the moon in less than 30 seconds, I'll never get the Star Trek universe. My friend is a total nerd, which is fine, but I don't like spin-offs. I want Kirk and Spock, not Picard or whatever they call themselves. James Tiberius Kirk is captain of the Enterprise. Period. And there is no Star Wars without Luke, which is why the new movies suck. Also, I don't care for a Sandman without Gaiman, cereal without milk and a car without gas.
In 1975, Reba Wilcoxon wrote an article on The Imperfect Enjoyment, a poem by one of my favorite poets, the Earl of Rochester (1647-1680). She argued it was not just pornographic, but obscene, because it fulfills aesthetic demands, which pornography does not. Pornography is merely promotional, “a stimulus to an experience rather than focused on one”. (1)
Reading this, I couldn't help a wry smile, thinking of The Cure's 1982 album Pornography and the controversy around that title. The only two founding members of the band who are still part of The Cure today, Robert Smith and Simon Gallup, butted heads because of it. I always thought it stupid that they fought about that word so much. Simon apparently laughed a lot, amused to no end by the title and ridiculing it, while Robert insisted it meant more than Simon's juvenile sex jokes and was indeed artistic, a sort of soul strip which exposed the inner workings of his (master) mind. (Most of the band biographies mention that fight, just pick one.)
As it turns out, Simon was probably right. “Pornography finally thinks of nothing more than the hand in the lap […]”, Herbert Gold stated. (2) Obscene on the other hand has a much wider meaning according to the New English Dictionary: abominable, disgusting, filthy, indecent. Which seems to fit Robert's intentions a lot better – he could've chosen Obscenity as a title. Not that his soul is filthy or strips can't be beautiful, but anyone who has ever listened to that album knows what I mean. Considering sales, the title was a smart move nonetheless. Most people would rather buy something linked to sex than a 43 minute long musical musing on disgusting depths of the mind.
This is precisely the reason Harold Robbins sold over 750 million copies of his books, while hardly anyone bothers to pick up a collection of Rochester's poems. Though Rochester wrote extensively about fucking, he did not only mention the fun part, but the downside as well (limp dick, STDs, dirty underwear and so on). As far as I remember, Harold Robbins' heroes never suffer from erectile dysfunction.
P.S.: A wonderful work on obscenity in the sense of indecency (yes, sex and also pornography) is Speaking the Unspeakable. A Poetics of Obscenity by Peter Michelson, published in 1993 by the 'SUNY series, the margins of literature' (you gotta love that series and its titles).
(1)Reba Wilcoxon: Pornography, Obscenity, and Rochester's 'The Imperfect Enjoyment', in: Studies in English Literature. 1975, Summer, 15(3), 375-390.
(2) Herbert Gold: The End of Pornography. SR, Oct 31, 1970.
I don't want to regurgitate this week's reading, some of it was rather intense. Hence no review, just a list:
Penelope Hollander: Cherchez la Femme, Cherchez la Femme: A Paradoxical Response to Trauma. Psychiatry 67 (3) Fall 2004, 212-216.
Richard M. Waugaman: Reality as an Inkblot: Looking at the Trauma Literature. Commentary on “Cherchez la Femme, Cherchez la Femme: A Paradoxical Response to Trauma.” Psychiatry 67 (3) Fall 2004, pp. 222-230.
Katherine B. Burton: Resilience in the Face of Psychological Trauma. Commentary on “Cherchez la Femme, Cherchez la Femme: A Paradoxical Response to Trauma.” Psychiatry 67 (3) Fall 2004, 231-234.
Benson, Porter, Dolchok: Circle of Healing: Traditional Storytelling, Parts 1-3. Arctic Anthropology Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 9-22, 2003.
Matthew Pittman: Thou Shalt Kill … Carefully: Secular Religion, the Immanent Frame, and Showtime's Dexter. The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 27:3, Fall 2015, pp. 171-185.
This last one was really entertaining. Not directly about trauma, though in my opinion Dexter's rituals are a consequence of what happened in his childhood, so it's an interesting prelude. Or maybe companion article? Like those tie-ins to series' and movies.