December 17th, 2003

Found Poetry

I still get regular invitations to enlarge my penis. But many of the spams I get these days are inscrutable. They're like that Bank of America commercial from last year -- Pac-10 Tournament on FOX Sport Net , every break in the action -- in which the blind woman practiced martial arts. Half the time, I can't even tell what they're trying to do.

This morning's, though, takes the cake for random beauty:
buildup stephanie woven kingdom prudential stable conversation nee lily embargoes nimbus adobe cowpea basic incomputable almighty programmed blameworthy inability stowage titus adhere salamander manageable cowman interviewee durable wiremen critique gagwriter demean dangle happen indecent doom confront felon gaucherie they'll smokestack grossman anthropology disquisition throne enunciate classify bingle gal bane culbertson caveat geophysical ballet hexane denture doleful allstate spider wolf emerge ball conscientious boxy literature pendant communicate grownup saxony stucco rundown vitro greer inapt religion indefensible teamster trademark truly aztecan exorcist knotty graft probate delightful polloi attache gorham galactic detention marvelous loggerhead jensen satisfaction respirator woods bolster beverly duncan paramus egghead profound workday sovkhoz print vagina elicit bongo deltoid armature boyish basalt sundew blasphemous strap lesson chicano noisy fafnir bun yiddish cyrillic zest sanhedrin lair burl drawbridge deltoid dispense farcical euripides delaney mentor waldo commercial caracas birdie vaughn buchwald jacobite audition ness bolshoi vendor confiscate willard dogma apices activate bathtub befog estuary carry phrasemake diabetes redpoll daley kiosk girlish lascivious conceit clutter jejunum scandium brittany wheezy babel exuberant guenther bosonic scrooge constantine downfall bleed afterward reduce surgery greece myrtle yin baneful windowpane cosec exposition barfly excelled melanesia carruthers eclat mistress abnormal berman cannel male residue navel indochina abreast befogging baud bamboo aden elute qualitative catlike fantasy shone moraine glycerine anomie boutique ditto referendum actual alibi rotund nucleotide rite waspish cohn exhaust clipboard sect adage bookshelves ineffective cramer hockey auberge boyish lakeside cryptanalysis absurd boycott cyclotomic unify drizzle album grey cassette horse iniquity doorkeep bluebonnet shipwreck sugar decibel pronunciation prostitution catalpa grasp hem calendar accrual prelude question telekinesis pegasus confucianism matson automata men sheet commissary gasify inholding bye gaffe detent antler erasure tapestry bon conference bedevil ductwork rockland refectory
Who needs language poetry?

Let's hope o' Recycle Bin's minions aren't able to transform this passage into plans for world domination.
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Paganism Today

Here's what the X-Men are saying about number three.

I'm just thankful that the concept of elvish immortality allows me to talk to Skylar about death without resorting to an explicitly Christian framework.
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Undergarments

Picked up a copy of The Silmarillion this evening at B&N -- I know, I know, but I was there -- and read around in it for a bit while Skylar colored next to me.

After seeing the first two installments of the trilogy in their extended versions on the big screen this past week -- I avoided the DVD releases, perhaps sensing that they would eventually put them in theaters -- I was surprised to realize that the whole Arwen-Aragorn romance, which struck me as an unnecessary "Hollywood" supplement in 2001, is actually an attempt to do for love what the balrog in The Two Towers does for fear.

The time before the Third Age shines through, however faintly, when Aragorn is singing at the campsite between Bree and Rivendell and Frodo, already having a hard time sleeping, asks him what the song is about.

"Beren and Luthien," replies Aragorn.

I remembered that Strider -- as he is known at that point in the tale -- sang some ancient songs for the hobbits, but not what they are about.

So I went to the book. He both sings a song about Beren and Luthien (Tinuviel, as Beren called her) and explains it, at length, to the company. There's no sense, though, that the story pains him.

By transposing the daylight history lesson into a private reverie, interrupted by Frodo, the extended version of Fellowship of the Ring provides a distant precursor to the Arwen-Aragorn romance that functions much like the tale of Morgoth does in relation to that of Sauron.

There's something deeply satisfying about repetitions that bridge huge gaps of time, whether in the "real world" or in fiction.

In American literature, the Bible is the major source for those precursor stories: Moby Dick, Absalom, Absalom!, East of Eden etc.

The genius of Tolkien was to craft both original stories -- though based on medieval poems and sagas, obviously -- and their precursors as part of one huge project.

You see a little of that in Faulkner, of course. Thomas Sutpen's spirit flits about in the negative space of novels that make no explicit reference to him. But it's less obvious and intense than it is in Lord of the Rings.

Within the realm of fantasy and science fiction, there are plenty of series -- Star Wars, for starters -- that do what Tolkien did.

He did it very well indeed, however, and before it was the thing to do.

Since I've been spending lots of time thinking about the sublime over the past year, I can't help but map my description of these layered chronologies onto the aesthetic notion that it is better to show something by putting something else in front of it than to expose it directly, that the sublime comes into being from this masking.

At any rate, I have more respect for Peter Jackson's decision to foreground the "new" story of Arwen and Aragorn in a trilogy that is otherwise remarkably faithful to the books.

Also, the fact that it is a female who is willing to forsake immortality wards off the ideological problem in Wings of Desire, where the male angel comes down to earth to get fleshy with a woman.

Female sacrifice brings its own troubles, to be sure, but it seems preferable to reinforcing the conflation of masculinity and mind and of femininity and body.

This is embarrassing. Why am I so psyched?

And why do I still want to use embarrassing retro slang like "psyched?"

Wait, I get it. I''m letting my precursor story shine through my present one, creating a sublime effect. . . :-)
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