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End times

Last week I had a little fun with the chiliasts,* the usual mixture of instruction (vocabulary, history, theology) and ribbing.

Then a commenter opined that “I hope to be left behind in a country where the political situation will be vastly improved thanks to the departure of all those nutty Christian fundamentalists,” and other commenter said “Long ago, when I was a kid and fire was still a new fangled idea, our Mama's told us not to make mock of other peple's religious beliefs. Be real careful, y'all. There are things more important than clever. Respect is not entirely out of style.”

I grew up among evangelical Protestants, many of them fundamentalists and good people in the main. And I have no reason to think that most American evangelicals and fundamentalists are other than basically good people trying to live out their beliefs in a secular society that presents much that disturbs them. (I do wish they would leave off toying with the biology textbooks, though.) So I’m sympathetic to the issue of insulting other people’s religious beliefs.**

Still another reader, writing privately, wondered why we can’t refer to “ ‘nutty Islamic fundamentalists” and “nutty Christian fundamentalists” on a blog? How about “nutty colonic irrigators” and “nutty carrot-juice proselytizers”? Is there any doubt that some adherents of various beliefs are nuttier (less rational, more disruptive) than others?”

I have some sympathy there, too. The Rev. Fred Phelps and his congregation have seen their right to proclaim their obnoxious views protected by the courts. I agree with the First Amendment principle, and I abhor the Phelpsian gay-baiting as much as anyone. And no one appears to be shy about denouncing these repellant views and behaviors. So we can apparently deplore some religious views.

The obverse side of the First amendment is that once you exercise your right to proclaim your views publicly, others enjoy the same right to counter those views. I was, I concede, dancing on the edge that separates condemning idiotic views from labeling people as idiots. That’s where the challenge lies.

 

*Chiliasm, from the Greek chilioi, “a thousand,” is the belief in the, usually imminent, coming of the millennium.

**Someone writing as “Cranmer” (nice touch) said, “I thought Mr McIntyre was an Episcopalian. It seems disingenuous for someone who believes in the trinity, and possibly even the real presence, to mock another's laughable delusion.” But Anglicans have always been fair game. Barchester Towers. Monty Python’s "dead bishop" sketch. The weather report in Anglican chant.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 7:53 PM | | Comments (20)
        

Comments

graf 3, sentence 2?

Got my hands crossed. Sentence has been cleaned up.

Also: It would be a shame to have to give up lines like Matthew Bramble saying to Humphry Clinker in the Smollett novel, "What you call the inner light I perceive to be coming through a crack in your upper storey."


Wayne C.,

Could you be any more of a nit-picky, picayune prescriptivist, w/ that feeble citation, "graf 3, sentence 2?" ? Hmm....... you likely could, if the truth be known.

Prof. McI., like most of us imperfect mere mortals who frequent this particular site, are prone to flub, err, or just plain trip up, on occasion. So how about you actually adding some constructive, thoughtful commentary to the article at hand, instead of ferreting out one-too-many "thats"in a single sentence, and getting your jockey's all in a twist over such a clearly unwitting, minor faux pas?

Hmm............ interestingly, I just noticed that Prof,. Mac has already 'corrected' his minor error, so I imagine you are just beaming w/ satisfaction about now. Although satisfaction can be very fleeting. So, indeed, relish it while you can, for tomorrow is yet another day............. to fault- find to one's heart's content.

Wayne, try not to take this little admonition too personally. You caught me in a feisty mood, that's all. This too shall pass.

Oh, sorry, I'm Canadian, eh.

ALEX

Unhappily, the prevailing sentiment seems to allow for pillorying of select groups only: the Roman Catholics and the Baptists. Just try making light of nearly any other religion, and you'll have some group or spokesman or other in high dudgeon wherever he can find a camera. It's probably best to leave the topic alone. (But if you can find some levity in the Latitudinarians you won't get any complaint from this quarter.)

I have no religious belief, but I am given pause by the knowledge that there are many people of faith with far greater intellectual and moral strength than me. And in a any case politeness and respect should be the default position.

But what am I to make of those who tell me that because I am not a member if their church I shall be judged with the wicked and made to suffer everlasting pain? Are they to threaten and insult me with their nasty beliefs, and am I to be castigated if I offer even such a mild reproof as "nutty"?

Picky, we have a friend who responds to such people by telling them he is a devout Druid. That usually sends them off scratching their heads.

The robes don't suit me, Dahlink, that's the thing. When I adopt devoutness it will have to be in a religion that allows me to wear trousers.


Picky,

So, dear chap, are you implying that any self-respecting, devout Druid (modern day or auld school), worth his, or her salt, wouldn't be caught dead wearing 'troo-zers' under their flowing robes? I would imagine wearing pants beneath the garment might be deemed optional, not unlike the Scots, who depending on their inherent cheekiness, or desire for copious ventilation of their nether regions, often go sans undershorts when sporting the kilt. (Sporran, and dirk optional. HA!)

(I, for one, in those halcyon days of my competitive bagpiping youth, usually kept my 'jockeys' on under me kilt, even on the steamiest, most smoldering summer afternoons at our typical annual Ontario highland gathering (games). Never quite knew when a major gust of wind might blow up from the rear, and indeed, expose one's posterior, for all to see. (Wanted to keep that tattoo of Hello Kitty on my right butt cheek, completely under wraps. HA!)

I'll never forget a set of naughty photos that went viral on 'the net' a few years back, w/ Her Majesty posing in the center of the front row for an official group photo w/ a fairly large contingent of Scottish kilted military lads. The back two tiered rows of soldiers were standing at attention, whilst the entire front row, of course including The Queen, were sitting on their duffs. Elizabeth II was all decked out in her usual sartorially sharp, modest, manner, w/ broad-brimmed, colorful hat, white gloves, and beaming her signature smile for the camera.

On either side of Her Majesty one couldn't help but notice that both proud young military gents, legs akimbo, all smiles for the official photo, were without undies, basically displaying their exposed 'manhood' to the world at large. (Yikes!)

Thankfully, The Queen hadn't a clue. Whether these guys were intentionally trying to pull off a childish naughty prank, or just failed to realize they were fully exposing their 'family jewels' for all to see.......... well we'll never likely know.

The posted photos looked completely kosher (Nothing to do w/ circumcision.... Oh, behave! HA!), yet the old Photoshop ruse could well have come into play. A superb fake job if that were the case.

Picky, on a more serious note, as for The Queen's recent junket to the Republic of Southern Ireland, and Dublin's fair city, IMHO, symbolically, it was a very historically, and culturally significant gesture on the part of the Royals, in hopefully continuing the long healing process from a rather nasty and ugly lengthly chapter in the shared history of the English/ Brits, and Irish Republican Catholics.

Indeed, much more solemn ceremony than lavish pomp. I believe there was an official government sanction afoot that regular townsfolk could not gather on the streets of Dublin, and environs, to either celebrate, or protest Elizabeth II's official, and historic visit.

The fact that The Queen paid a short visit to the graves of some of the deceased IRA rebels (some would argue, terrorists), was an incredibly moving display of both contrition and begrudging respect on her Majesty's part. For me it had a similar import, but maybe not as in-your-face, or direct, as those Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings in post-apartheid South Africa, where the victims of violence met w/ their perpetrators. Very moving, in my view.

As you say Pinky, at 85, the old girl still has to doggedly go through the officially required charm-and-chat routine, ad nauseum, most recently, for the likes of those swell-headed Trinity College academic toffs, all puffed up w/ their rarefied station in life. (Hmm.... i'm sure some of these chaps are OK, quite likable blokes?)

The Queen is truly a remarkable, most delightful lady, seemingly w/ that enduring warm and genuine common (I didn't say "commoner" HA!) touch. May she continue to have good health and longevity........... the rest of it will play out as it should.

ALEX

I can see that if one were wandering about Stonehenge at the time of the Winter Solstice, one might want to be protected by trousers beneath the robes, but I think too much of my Druid friends to believe they would compromise their faith in that way. Certainly if I become a Druid I shall require the full untrousered regalia, like a Brythonic KKKlanner - or am I mistaken - do they wear trousers, for heaven's sake?


Picky,

Respectfully, old lad, sometimes your attenuated little lettered short-forms, most recent case-in-point, today, w/ your "Brythonic KKKlanner"citation, and whether these folk were generally trousered, or nay, under their ritualistic robes, can be a little obtuse, or unclear.......... unless one is in-the-know, so to speak.

As I understand the term "Brythonic", it connotes, 'related to indigenous ancient Briton stock', as opposed to the 'invasive' strains of the early British populace--the motley Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Jutes, Vikings, and Picts.

Now "KKKlanner" would normally suggest to me, a short-form for that hateful grassroots Klu Klux Klan riffraff------- the predominantly Southern/ Mid-West U.S.-based white supremacist fringe organization, who are partial to donning pointy hoods w/ eye-and-pie-hole slits, and the requisite white-sheets-cum-ritual-robes.

Oh, these kooks also have an ardent abiding fondness for burning large wooden crosses on occasion, when they are able to muster a quorum of their bigoted brethren, celebrating their abject hate and loathing for all Black folk, and pretty much anyone in these United States of America who doesn't fit the profile of a Teutonic-descended, red-neck, white person.

So maybe I'm missing something here, Picky, 'cause I fail to see the direct connection between "Brythonic" and "KKKlanners", although I may be totally ignorant (uninformed) in this regard.

Perhaps elements of the cancerous U.S. Klan phenomenon have recently gravitated over 'The Pond' to the U.K., as more visible minorities, 'foreigners', choose to permanently settle in Great Britain?

Picky, I'm sure most KKKers, at least those spewing their hatred here in the States, would wear baggy boxer shorts under their white robes, likely emblazoned w/ little burning cross, and cartoony devil motifs. No form-fitting Speedos, or bikini briefs for these tradition-bound, sartorially-challenged xenophobes. HA!

ALEX

P.S.: Picky, Winter Soltice trousers sounds a tad 'whoosie' (unmanly). Surely the hardy early druids circling about those formidable granite monoliths at Stonehenge, or other sacred Brit Neolithic sites, strode pretty much without a stitch on under their heavy (likely wool) robes. Choosing to be at-one w/ Nature does have both its many rewards, as well as its vicissitudes. (A dram, or two of hot, honeyed mead might help w/ the chilly-willy factor. HA!)

Picky, where do you stand on recent archaeological finds that suggest Stonehenge was really an enormous necropolis?

Dahlink,

If I may chime in here, I've seen a few fairly recent TV documentaries re/ the discovery of interred ancient human remains, with, as I vaguely recall, some accompanying significant ritual 'accouterments', only a stone's throw from the famed megaliths at Stonehenge. One of the buried bodies was thought to be that of some high-ranking druid priest, or perhaps the chief of a specific local tribe, or clan.

Not unlike the strategically situated standing stones at the site, I believe the archeologists who discovered (and uncovered) these graves speculated that they were deliberately spacially oriented, in an almost mathematically precise manner, relative to the standing stones, and the seasonal fluctuations in the location of the sun, moon and other key celestial bodies.

So apparently, according to archeological evidence, Stonehenge, over the centuries may have had multiple, and diverse functions, both as a celestially configured place of sacred pagan seasonal ritual worship, but w/ a burial-of-the-dead aspect as well. Not unlike the earliest Christian kirks w/ their adjacent cemeteries-----the final resting place of deceased congregants.

Standing stones, or megaliths, dot the landscape all over the British Isles, and indeed, on the Continent, particularly in the Brittany region of France in the environs of the village of Carnac, where it's estimated there are over 3,000 deliberately placed, mostly hand-hewn boulders.

These peculiar, mysterious standing stones configured in all their myriad patterns, still intrigue archaeologists specializing in the pre-Celtic, Neolithic age. The entire book has not yet been fully written on the meaning, and significance of these curiously arranged giant stones, but experts in the field are fairly convinced that in the day they must have had powerful religious import, and ritual significance to the folk who made the herculean effort(s) to erect them.

Hopefully Picky can shed more light on this fascinating subject, particularly the notion of Stonehenge being a possibly significant burial site.

ALEX

P.S.: ----Dahlink, have you ever run across the fabulous, beautifully both drawn and written comic graphic novels from Belgium called "Asterix"? Not only are these books highly entertaining, but they are very educative as well, delving into the early history of Europe going back to the Gauls, Goths, Romans, Celts, and the like.

There's even a regularly featured charming, cheerful big oaf-of-a-character who has a penchant for carrying aloft megalithic boulders, and has a name reflecting his special talent for hoisting gigantic stones....... namely Obelix............ derived from the word "obelisk". If you haven't discovered these literary gems yet, (there are scores of books in the series), then I recommend you track them down, and give them a gander. You will not be disappointed.

Alex, I love the Asterix and Obelix stories. I just wish that Getafix the Druid was around here so I could have some of his special potion!


Tim,

Hmm............ would druid priest, Getafix's special magic elixir happen to be 'Love Potion No. 9th Century'? (Groan).

So I pushed the Asterix timetable up a few centuries for that feeble attempt at levity. Call it comedic license.

But seriously Tim, I'm heartened to hear that you too enjoy these wonderfully humorous, so well-crafted books. There are around 34 published volumes in the series, to date, and they've been translated into over 100 languages, or dialects.

I actually discovered the incredibly rich world of Asterix & Co. way back in the early '70s. An art school buddy back in Toronto who was originally from Macedonia introduced me to a number of the earliest books, some even translated into German, as I recall. As an artist, I was more immediately seduced by the masterful drawings than the actual narrative----the pictures basically translated to me no matter how the attendant copy read. From then on, I was completely hooked on Asterix comics.

This long-lived, most charming series of hilarious, but equally instructive books has apparently been a staple of many young European youngsters' early reading (and aesthetic) upbringing, going on for over half a century.

I honestly feel my opting to work in the cartoon animation field out here in L.A. for almost 30 years can be at least partially attributed to the inspiration I've gained from fully
embracing the Asterix books while still at art college. I remember I just couldn't wait for the next scheduled 'installment' to be released.

(Ironically, I was a sculpture major, w/ a minor in printmaking, so I never really contemplated ending up as a cartoonist after graduation. Thankfully, I've continued to create sculpture over the years, but my meal ticket, so to speak, has really been background-and-character design for animation at Hanna Barbera, Filmation, Warner Bros. and Disney Studios over all these years. I've been enjoying retirement for the past three years.To actually have gotten paid to draw every single day for those premier studios for all those fun years, for me was a beautiful thing. But i digress.)

Tim, I've always marveled at the ability of Asterix illustrator, Albert Uderzo, to capture such sheer variety in his character renderings. For instance, he would draw an entire phalanx of ancient Roman soldiers in a huge precision lineup, and every guardsman's face would be entirely different from the next. A lesser artist wouldn't take the time, or have the patience to give each incidental figure its own unique character. Uderzo's attention to the most minute detail is phenomenal.

Technically, Asterix began as a French published cartoon series, originally appearing in 1959, excerpted in the popular French variety humor magazine, Pilote, then from that date forward was published by Darguard, Paris.

In my earlier post I claimed Asterix as a Belgian series, but in fact both the late writer, Rene Goscinny, and fabulous illustrator , Albert Uderzo, were both of French birth, and all the Asterix books were published in France. On well, close, but no cigar.

I believe I could have been confusing Asterix's country of origin w/ the equally popular Smurf comic book series, which has Belgian roots, w/ artist Peyo and writer Delaporte being native Belgiques. Belgium, in fact, has quite the proud and lengthly tradition of excellent, and renowned native comic strip cartoonists, humorous illustrators, and graphic novelists. Brussels, the capital, and the headquarters of the EU, has one of the greatest cartoon galleries on the planet, the superb Musée des Bandes Désignés. Translated----- the Comic Strip Museum. (I may have made a boo-boo on the French, but it's close enough.)

I actually worked on the Smurf TV series back in the mid-'80s at Hanna Barbera Studios doing character layout----basically designing the backgrounds and posing the characters in each scene.

Actually had a bit of a crush on little Smurfette.HA! She was quite the little coy coquette, being the sole female in the entire Smurf village. Very strange scenario, but Smurfette clearly enjoyed all that constant male attention. What ever floats your boat, I guess.

Frankly, I'm surprised the creative folks at Viagra haven't exploited 'les petits Smurfs bleu' for a novel ad campaign. HA! The powerful blue pill, coupled w/ the horny little mushroom-aboding blue cartoon munchkins. A match made in ED heaven. HA!)

As Bugs would say, "That's all folks!"

ALEX

I see we have forsaken Scots for Druids. I admit that just the word "Druids" makes me break out in giggles. Tee-hee!

It was with some difficulty, Patricia, that we managed to wean Alex off the subject of the Kilted Ones. Don't spoil it, now.

And you do well to giggle at the Druids. The ancient ones would no doubt have taken firm and probably fatal action if they caught you giggling, but it's probably safe to smirk at the young and not so young men carbuncular who waddle berobed about the Stones at solstice time these days invoking the Spirit of This and That.

But, Dahlink, what a question to ask! And I regret to say that I think Alex has the right of it. We seek An Answer to Stonehenge. There is unlikely to be An Answer, I think, and if there is it is unlikely we shall find it. There have certainly been a variety of things taking place on this part of Salisbury Plain over the past few thousand years. Even in historical times places of modest highland in England may have had multiple uses. There may be a trignometrical survey pillar there, or a boundary stone, or a monument to a man or event, or a signal beacon, or an ancient tree where the men of the surrounding valleys met in Saxon times to agree what needed to be agreed. Again, English churches, for instance, have not always had the same pattern of use: before church authorities got fussy about such things, the village church was where the local authority met, and it was the scene of most of the non-sacred entertainments of the village. There is no reason to think the Stonehenge site has had only a single use.

In my youth it seemed clear that the henge itself was a sort of celestial timepiece, and it certainly is that.

Recently there has been evidence unearthed that suggests to some (but I must say doesn’t convince my ignorant mind) that Stonehenge was a place of healing.

Yes, burials have been found - and if you have been there you will know that the whole landscape is littered with burial mounds. Death is certainly an important factor in this landscape. And there is the investigation that has been taking place over many years that seeks to understand links between Stonehenge, other henges, what appear to be processional ways, and a standing stone gateway at a nearby river. The suggestion is that some societies see the boundary between land and water as (either symbolically or actually) the boundary between this world and another: thus the Excalibur type myths, and the offerings frequently found at pools and wells.

All this suggests that we are dealing, if not with a necropolis, at least with somewhere intimately connected with death and the ritual veneration of those who have died.

But hold on there: Alex made the point very well. If you visit an old English parish church you will find a graveyard with stones carrying the names of the buried dead. If you were allowed to excavate the graveyard, you might find bodies from more than a thousand years ago. Inside the church would be more memorials to the dead, and possibly their tombs, perhaps dating from the 13th or 14th century. All this would suggest that there was an intimate relationship between the church and the rituals of burial and the remembrance of the departed. So there is: but that doesn’t make the church a necropolis or the Christian faith a matter of ancestor worship. We need to be a bit more careful than archaeologists sometimes are about the conclusions we draw from such evidence as we can find.

We need to remember that Stonehenge is part of an area of several square miles which is covered with ancient earthworks - henges, other enclosed areas, burial mounds and barrows and ways - in a palimpsest written and overwritten, and dating back over the past 10,000 years. Gradually we will tease out more about the history of this amazing landscape, but our knowledge will of course always be incomplete. It may be the relationships between one monument and another, or between one period of use and another, that reveal most.

It was about midnight when they went along the deserted streets, lighted fitfully by the few lamps, keeping off the pavement that it might not echo their footsteps. The graceful pile of cathedral architecture rose dimly on their left hand, but it was lost upon them now. Once out of the town they followed the turnpike-road, which after a few miles plunged across an open plain.

Though the sky was dense with cloud a diffused light from some fragment of a moon had hitherto helped them a little. But the moon had now sunk, the clouds seemed to settle almost on their heads, and the night grew as dark as a cave. However, they found their way along, keeping as much on the turf as possible that their tread might not resound, which it was easy to do, there being no hedge or fence of any kind. All around was open loneliness and black solitude, over which a stiff breeze blew.

They had proceeded thus gropingly two or three miles further when on a sudden Clare became conscious of some vast erection close in his front, rising sheer from the grass. They had almost struck themselves against it.

"What monstrous place is this?" said Angel.

"It hums," said she. "Hearken!"

He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp. No other sound came from it, and lifting his hand and advancing a step or two, Clare felt the vertical surface of the structure. It seemed to be of solid stone, without joint or moulding. Carrying his fingers onward he found that what he had come in contact with was a colossal rectangular pillar; by stretching out his left hand he could feel a similar one adjoining. At an indefinite height overhead something made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a vast architrave uniting the pillars horizontally. They carefully entered beneath and between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but they seemed to be still out of doors. The place was roofless. Tess drew her breath fearfully, and Angel, perplexed, said----

"What can it be?"

Feeling sideways they encountered another tower-like pillar, square and uncompromising as the first; beyond it another and another. The place was all doors and pillars, some connected above by continuous architraves.

"A very Temple of the Winds," he said.

The next pillar was isolated; others composed a trilithon; others were prostrate, their flanks forming a causeway wide enough for a carriage and it was soon obvious that they made up a forest of monoliths grouped upon the grassy expanse of the plain. The couple advanced further into this pavilion of the night till they stood in its midst.

"It is Stonehenge!" said Clare.

"The heathen temple, you mean?"

"Yes. Older than the centuries; older than the d'Urbervilles! Well, what shall we do, darling? We may find shelter further on."

But Tess, really tired by this time, flung herself upon an oblong slab that lay close at hand, and was sheltered from the wind by a pillar. Owing to the action of the sun during the preceding day the stone was warm and dry, in comforting contrast to the rough and chill grass around, which had damped her skirts and shoes.

"I don't want to go any further, Angel," she said, stretching out her hand for his. "Can't we bide here?"

"I fear not. This spot is visible for miles by day, although it does not seem so now."

"One of my mother's people was a shepherd hereabouts, now I think of it. And you used to say at Talbothays that I was a heathen. So now I am at home."

from "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" by Thomas Hardy


Picky and Patricia the T.,

First off, thanks Picky for supporting my rather flimsy remarks regarding the possible multi-faceted functions of ancient megalithic sites such as Salisbury Plain's Stonehenge. Mostly informed speculation on my part, w/ a smattering of familiarity w/ some recent publicly broadcasted archeological findings. Still much to learn.

Also I enjoyed your own rather lengthly personal take on all these myriad curious ancient Neoclassical sites that inhabit the broad landscape of Great Britain. I dare say, my signature attenuated 'perorations' have rubbed of on His Pickyness, or is your above 'comprehensive' post just a rare anomaly? HA!

Patricia, I'm afraid you've awakened the sleeping Scottish giant. HA! If you want Scots, as you and Picky are too well aware, i can surely accommodate you folks on THAT score.

But, I agree, Patricia, the word "Druids" does have a kind of jocular air about it.

Why in fact just a few days ago I was at my local Toyota dealership service center getting my scheduled 90,000 mile major maintenance 'rip-off' (HA!), on my 2004 Sienna van, and my service manager came into the waiting room area (where you have your de rigueur stale donuts, and complicated coffee machine), and he queried, "Do you want all your FLUIDS checked?" Faced w/ the din of the inane Jerry Springer Show blasting away on the waiting-lobby flat-screen TV, I could have sworn Jim said, "Do you want all your DRUIDS checked, but then that didn't make a lot of sense. (Groan!)

Hmm...... I wonder if there were Scottish Druids w/ tartan robes, and such? (And you thought you guys had weaned me off the Scots. Not a chance. HA!)

As you folks likely know, the Scottish tartans of old, going back to the earliest clans, were graphically very broad in their plaid, crisscross design, w/ very subtle, muted, mostly earthy tones. (Maybe the odd light mauve, or soft sea-foam green hue, as well.)

The Highland tartan kilt, as we know it today, was apparently a rather latter-day invention. I believe actor/ director Mel Gibson* got it fairly historically correct in his smash hit film, "Braveheart", where it appeared that an entire large swath of vaguely tartaned wool cloth was draped, and then tied in a very specific manner, appearing to promote ease of movement for say swinging that heavy, slashing claymore, or appealing to the warring laddies vanity, the garment hanging just above the knobby knee caps to show off their muscular, hairy, most manly legs. HA!

The much later plethora of brightly colored, and widely varied tartans we are so familiar w/ today, popularized in kilts, trousers, decorative ribbons, tams, and ties, have only been around for maybe the past three--to-four hundred years. (Maybe slightly earlier....... hmm?)

On a personal note, my McCrae clan claims at least four distinct official tartans----The Hunting, The Dress, The Fighting............... and The Flatulent. HA! (Sorry!)

******************************

*I'm curious . Have any of our regular bloggers seen the recently released 'dramedy', "The Beaver", starring Mel Gibson and Jodi Foster? (Foster also directs, and hand-picked Gibson for the lead role as the emotionally troubled guy.)

Some respected critics have actually mildly praised Gibson's performance in the film, even though he plays a character who really isn't that removed from the real-life, screwed up Mel Gibson. In other words, not much of a real acting stretch. The main premise of this guy communicating w/ the outside world thru a dorky plush beaver hand-puppet, w/ a cockney Brit accent, no less, is a bit much. Yet somehow there's a kernel of believability in this whole bizarre scenario. Sadly, the film has been in theaters here in the States for almost a week now, and has barely taken in $1,000,000.00----------- a veritable box-office stinker. But that's showbiz, folks.

ALEX


Druid Check! Brilliant. The latter-day Druidiots could use some checking. I hear the strains of Elgar's "Caractacus" in my mind's ear.


Picky & Patricia the T.,

Wouldn't you just know it?

In (re)perusing my last post from earlier today addressed to you folks, I unwittingly tripped up in the second paragraph by typing, "........... curious ancient Neoclassical sites", when clearly it should have read, "........... curious ancient Neolithic sites". (Doh!) Just a discrepancy of ten millennia, or thereabouts, I reckon.

Hmm.........I don't imagine there are works by the famed French Neoclassicists, painters David, Poussin, Delacoix, or sculptor Canova strewn about the rural British countryside?

Patricia, thanks for that little nod to British composer Edward Elgar. Didn't know a whole lot about this very accomplished, apparently late-blooming gent. Discovered that "Caractacus" was actually an ancient Briton, who courageously lead his people (tribe) in battle against those pesky invading Roman legions.

He became a renowned figure of early British historical lore, and a famous standing stone somewhere in the British Isles was apparently named after this brave patriot, w/ a mysterious legend, (not directly related, per se, to the historical figure of Caractacus), arising re/ this particular impressive monolith.

I would guess Elgar's composition, "Caractacus", was created in honor, or in memory of the historical figure, and not the famous eponymously named standing stone?

@Laura Lee, thank you for that little passage from Hardy's "Tess of the d'Ubbervilles. Takes me back to high-school English lit class.

Wow!

Such evocative and powerful prose, and so very thematically fitting for our running discussion re/ Stonehenge. However, Hardy's referring to the initial looming megalith they stumbled upon in the drear as a "vast erection", kind of threw me off for a sec. (HA!) I gather just one of those now-arcane terms from that particular literary era-----in this case describing any vertical, standing, inert object, w/ clearly no naughty connotations implied, whatsoever.

Thankfully, Hardy didn't have his character, Angel, immediately respond to fair Tess w/ the query, 'What monstrous place is this?', Angel ejaculated. HA! (Oh, sorry. That would be more of a Hardy BOYS affectation, not the style of the very upright, and proper Victorian scribe (?), Thomas Hardy.

Laura, on my 1996 self-guided excursion to Scotland, while exploring my familial roots, I did manage to search out, and explore quite a large number of amazing ancient Neolithic sites. Some in surprisingly pristine condition for having been extant for over 10,000 years.

To actually be able to enter some of these sacred, often subterranean, ritual and burial mounds, w/ not a soul in sight, (as most of these sites were fairly remote from modern civilization), was very special, and I could say, verging on a spiritual experience for me.

Even though these Neolithic, former wandering hunter-gatherers, now more settled, agrarian farmer folk, were classified by historical scholars as so-called pagans, or animists, one could not escape the mystery and awe of it all, and somehow appreciate that these alleged primitive peoples believed in some power, (or powers) much greater, and more mighty than themselves; and moreover, that each of their deceased brethren deserve a decent burial, and an appropriate send off to the hereafter.

The latest critical archeological evidence indicates that even the Neanderthals, so called brutish cavemen, actually often buried their dead in some kind of rudimentary, ritualistic fashion. The belief that there is something beyond this earthly, mortal existence, after we pass, is not the sole reserve of us modern, or post-modern monotheists. The notion appears to lie deep in the homo sapien psyche over time------i dare say embedded in our very DNA. Oops! Hope i'm not treading on messieurs Hitchen's, Dawkin's and Schermer's territory there? HA!

Getting back to those Neolithic sites. As an artist, I just so appreciated the variety of iconic markings, basically petroglyphs incised into their stone built-structures, as well as their seemingly deliberately positioned standing stones. The infinite coil motif, and various cup-like circular depressions in the rock faces were very common, and clearly had special symbolic import to these ancient folk.

I could ramble on for ages about my amazing three week sojourn to beautiful Scotland, mid-summer of 1996, but I'll save some for another time, and subject.

Laura, thanks again for always picking just the right words of fine prose, or poesy to capture the essence of what we bloggers may be jawing on. Great literature will never die, w/ lovers of the form like yourself reminding us that there is such a bounty of sheer genius, infinite wisdom, and reading pleasure out there at our mere finger tips.

If only we'd, on occasion, make the effort to maybe watch a few less reality TV shows, or play fewer mind-numbing video games, and instead, nestle up w/ one of the literary classics that we perhaps promised ourselves, eons ago, that we should read, but just never quite got around to. No time like the present, I say.

Read on, McDuff!

Ta! Ta!

ALEX


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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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