After the Party

In RakeMag, a fascinating life of the man behind a poem I discovered and have read voraciously, The Wild Party.

If you were looking for a young man with a great literary life in front of him in 1928, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a better candidate than 29-year-old Joseph Moncure March. His narrative in verse The Wild Party, a tale of Manhattan hedonism and the tragic hipsters who indulge in it, had been published that spring in a limited edition, achieving an immediate following and brisk sales. (A musical adaptation will open this month at the Fitzgerald Theater). The book even got banned briefly in Boston, bringing March something every writer craves—a prominent but not damaging censorship battle.

Read the Whole Thing, as they say, but in a nutshell, after The Wild Party and a sequel, The Set-Up, he made the move to Hollywood and that did not turn out as planned. He ended up working in a shipyard, managing a sheet metal plant, and then writing and producing industrial films during WW2 (in the first war, he’d been an infantry private). That led to a second career making films for big firms that lasted through the 1960’s.

Many of these can be found in the Rick Prelinger archive of industrial films, and two inparticular— Design For Dreaming and A Touch of Magic , both Technicolor spots for the General Motors Motorama starring industrial films icon Thelma “Tad” Tadlock— have become favorites among the sort of ironists who think it’s the height of wit to mock the styles and affectations of a half-century ago. One couplet from Design, “Girls don’t go to Motoramas dressed in a pair of pink pajamas, ” has been picked up by fans as a tagline for all that was corny and square in the fifties. Do these sneering hipsters realize that the author of Design For Dreaming was once a sneering hipster like themselves?

The question is, if they did, would it stop them?

The Wild Party got a 1994 revamp with Art Spiegelman cartoons, but The Set Up is hard to come by. I’d like to read more, and I’d like to revive the concept of a narrative poem. Something to aspire to, anyway.

Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation

Or OP, as they call it.

 

My first impression is that it sounds very Celtic, which is odd, as the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and their Norman overlords were none of them Celts. I must be wrong about that, then.

My second is that the lines flow with a musicality that they do not with modern pronunciation, and they aren’t any harder to follow than Shakespeare’s thoughts are anyway. Fascinating stuff.

Thanks to Twentytwowords.

On the Fear of Hell

Bad Catholic for the win, as the kids don’t say anymore:

Unless we have an assurance that the people we love will never suffer and die, to accept an invitation to love is to accept an invitation to fear. Love does not comfort, then, but “ups the ante” of human existence, making higher the highs and lower the lows. It makes life ginormous. It widens our capacity for sorrow just as it widens our capacity for joy. It increases our possible pain just as it increase our possible pleasure. It broadens the total scope of existence.

The person who fears Hell, then, has opted for the largest life, the broadest possible scope of feeling, the highest high and the lowest low. He accepts the invitation to the greatest possible love and thus the invitation to the greatest possible fear.

Something something unexamined life something something.

 

You Can’t Defeat an Idea

A lovely old Chestnut by Kate Paulik on the great folly of PC:

political correctness in every incarnation I’ve seen is nothing more than lipstick on the Newspeak pig. PC has never – and can’t engage the root cause it purports to be about. Banning “racist” words does not magically make a bigot less bigoted. The bigot just uses other words in public and more than that, starts to figure that the folks he’s bigoted against must be a bunch of useless wimps because they can’t handle a bit of mockery. If it gets really ridiculous, guess what? The bigot gets more bigoted. I’ve seen it happen. As soon as the bigot figures that nothing he, she, or it can do will be good enough for the authorities, he, she, or it (oh, hell with this. I’m portmanteauing it to s.h.it) figures whoever s.h.it’s bigoted against is in with the authorities to beat s.h.it down. Once we get there, a backlash is guaranteed.

One can respond to this with  Orwell’s thesis that we cannot think thoughts that we don’t have words for, so removing racist words will eventually remove racist thoughts. But PC isn’t as efficient as Newspeak: the old words don’t vanish down the memory hole, they just slide onto the samizdata by which dissidents recognize each other. Creating an Index Expurgatorius doesn’t mean the books on it won’t get read.

Also, when you admit that you’re using Orwellian methodology, you’re supposed to feel bad about that.