Archive for September 13th, 2010

Satan Was A Dancer

Feasts of Fools, Mischief Nights and Bonfire Nights once chirped up the whole cycle of the year, wherever in the world you were. From Brazilian carnivals to ancient Festivals of Swings in parts of Asia, using see-saws to encourage crops to grow high, from Mardi Gras to Hopi festivals, serious fun has been a part of the annual round for thousands of years.

There is saying in the German Rhineland that “whoever is not foolish at Carnvial is foolish for the rest of the year.” A calendar vivid with carnivals varies the year’s course and patterns the social experience of time; all human societies have some form of off-time, of carnival or festival, for without festive rhythms, time is too sensible, too well behaved, too regular and too clockworked. The spirit of carnival is quite the reverse; time-mischievous, time-misbehaved, insensible with inebriation.

In Britain, there were once hundreds of carnivals. There are still cheese-rolling days, that eccentric English custom, occurring in many places including Brockworth in Gloucestershire. “If you can’t hurl yourself down a steep hill after a few drinks chasing cheeses, what’s the point of being British? Not even the Black Death stopped our cheese-rolling,” said one local.

Broadly speaking, carnivals have five important attributes. First, they are almost always tied to nature’s time. Second, they have an ahistoric quality, not tied to specific events in a recorded past. Third, they transform work-time to play and have a quality of reversal, turning the tables on ordinary social relations, or expected behavior. Fourth, they are characterized by an earthy vulgarity, deeply sexual in their traditions and symbols. And last, they emphasize a community of people and a locality of land.



The Santa Question

“Hitler humor” is parlous; Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is today in trouble for regaling a youth rally Sunday with a real Adolf kneeslapper. Seems Der Führer, having been discovered alive by his adherents, is urged to return to power. At first the former paperhanger demurs, but eventually he says: “I’ll come back, but on one condition. Next time I’m going to be evil.”

Of course, Berlusconi is something of a professional boor: at the same rally he claimed to be fit for public office because “I am friendly, I have money, legend has it I know how to ‘do it,’ and lastly because girls think: ‘He’s old and rich, he will die soon and I will inherit everything.'” The richest man in Italy, Berlusconi urged the young people assembled to “marry into money,” noting “I have a daughter who is free to marry.” He also claimed that his football team had lost Friday due to decisions made by “left-wing referees,” and de-scribed Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev as “a gift from God” to Russia. Pictured there to the right, we see Berlusconi giving a Wrong salute.

Opposition party leader Antonio Di Pietro observed: “At this point the problem is not political or judicial, but psychiatric.”

In any event, the following piece offers a bit of “Hitler humor.” Some people think that—The Producers notwithstanding—there can be nothing funny at all about the man. Accepted and understood. So if you are one of those people: horseman, pass by.

Today in the store the Christmas merchandise was out on the shelves. Seems a little early to me, but what do I know? No one put me in charge of capitalism.

Trailing down the aisle ahead of me was a small girl child and her mother. The child paused in front of a display of Christmas goodies, and said to her mother: “Will there be a Santa this year? Or will he not be coming?”

At first I thought this poor child was referencing the recession—perhaps she thought conditions were so bad the fabled Nordic fat man may have been laid off. Then I concluded that this child had probably been bushwhacked by classmates who had sneeringly derided her belief in the mysterious midnight gift-giver.

That’s what happened to me when I was around her age. I can still picture it. This pint-sized smart-ass—who later arrived at the bad end that for this he deserved—arrogantly declaimed that Santa Claus was a figment, shit just made up by grown-ups for Some Unknown Reason. He said he knew this because his father had told him so. I told this kid he was heavy with bollocks, because my father had told me Santa was Real, and my father would never lie. And anyway, the previous Christmas Eve I had seen Rudolph, when I peered out my window. And I really had.


When I Worked

September 2010
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