Not the Same Perfect Ten

Forty years ago, Bo Derek modeled a certain standard of beauty in the movie “10.” Svelte and tanned, she sported Caucasian cornrows and a thin, sculpted body below her blonde Northern European features. Sixty-five years ago, it was another blonde, Marilyn Monroe, who was the poster girl, though her figure was much larger and hourglass-shaped rather than willowy. A hundred years ago, it was the Gibson girl, though she was an artistic rendering rather than a real person; also hourglass shaped with a body exaggerated by a corset. These beauty ideals have all shared common features: they represent a look that is unattainable, reflecting either wealth, lucky genetics, or a figment of the imagination.

Consider the French Age of Enlightenment. In the 18th century, before Louis XVI’s head was lopped off, the aristocracy and the arts reigned supreme. French fashion is still splashed across hundreds of portraits in the average museum, displaying on white faces, giant hairstyles, and massive gowns overflowing with fabric. Those faces were painted to make them look unblemished since the average French face had scars and discolorations. Unfortunately, the huge amount of lead in the ceruse paint often created the very scars it was designed to hide. Eyebrows were also supposed to have a certain look – different from however they normally grew —  so they were shaved and mouse hair was glued on instead, in a more ideal place or just different from wherever eyebrows would normally grow. Beauty marks were added, even according to a certain code. Continue reading “Not the Same Perfect Ten”

Faded Philosopher Cage Match: Plato v. Aristotle

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Do you prefer dogs? Do you own a cat? Do you drive a Prius or an SUV? Do you prefer baseball or football? In theory, these preferences could be an indicator whether you are more influenced by the Greek philosopher Plato or his equally famous student Aristotle. I came across an interesting little quiz that you can all try:  http://www.signature-reads.com/2013/11/the-personality-divide-are-you-more-like-plato-or-aristotle/

I am taking a Philosophy mini-course, so I will share the benefit of my quick-learned wisdom. The subject is philosophy and once you dip your toe into Metaphysics – that is, What’s the universe made of – you’re not far from delving into Epistemology – How can I know what I know – and then it’s a slippery slope to Existentialism and Deconstructionism and Miley Cyrus.

But let’s start much simpler.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozin’ beggar who could drink you under the table
Dave Hume could outconsume Schopenhauer and Hegel
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine who was just as schlossed as Schlegel
–Monty Python’s Philosopher’s Drinking Song

The origins of philosophy came from a guy called Thales of Miletus (now southern Turkey) who thought that the ultimate nature of reality was water. Our bodies have a lot of water in them, the area near where he lived had a lot of water, if you dig deep down you get water, and voila! All is water.  Perhaps that explains why philosophers like to drink so much. Continue reading “Faded Philosopher Cage Match: Plato v. Aristotle”

Spatchcock! Gesundheit…

The turkey is a truly noble bird. Native american, a source of sustenance to our original settlers, and an incredibly brave fellow who wouldn’t flinch from attacking a whole regiment of Englishmen single-handedly! Therefore, the national bird of America is going to be…
–Ben Franklin from the musical, 1776

Are turkeys noble? Or are they silly, vain and colossally stupid? Is their meat sleep-inducing?  Do they come from Turkey? And did the pilgrims really eat them on the First Thanksgiving?

Let’s sort myth from facts as we look forward with Great Anticipation to the big Eats and Dysfunctional Family Show, the Slidin’ into the Holidays, the Day before Black Friday, known in these United States as Thanksgiving.

First of all, Ben Franklin’s line from the musical 1776 is a mishmosh of truth and exaggeration. Franklin did write that the new nation might be better represented by a turkey than an eagle, which he did describe as a thief and a coward, a bird of mischief rather than nobility. In looking at early artwork of the national seal, he said the drawing looked more like a turkey than an eagle. He went on to laud the bravery of our native birds in facing down the British, though he called them “silly and vain” rather than noble. Whether they were brave, near-sighted, kamikaze, or just plain stupid is something history will never know. Continue reading “Spatchcock! Gesundheit…”

It’s the Great Pumpkin, People!

Jack be Nimble
Jack be Quick
Jack’s been carving candlesticks
and putting them in hollowed out vegetables for about 300 years

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Origins of Jack o’ the Lantern
Of course, there aren’t any pumpkins in Scotland and Ireland which started the tradition of putting candlesticks in food. This lighting practice originated in turnips which are plentiful and easier to grow in the resistant soil. The jack o’ the lantern carving was reminiscent of the lights that appeared in peat bogs which represented spirits of the dead (like Gollum says, don’t look at the lights). Jack of the Lantern was also the name of a story  about an Anglo-Saxon trickster, a character who might fool the devil or fairies through cleverness rather than through strength or hard work. The same character ends up climbing beanstalks, killing giants, spreading frost, and sticking his thumb into pies.

Pumpkins are native to America, so the early colonists shifted the idea of carving to the vegetable at hand. Soon enough, we not only had jack o’ lanterns in these United States, but we had stories about pumpkin-heads from Washington Irving (1820) and L. Frank Baum (1929). Halloween as a holiday expanded and changed – with a little help from capitalism – to the major event it is today, an event which now other countries are adopting.

Halloween Then and Now
The Halloween as we know it emerged from four elements:

  • A celebration of spirits of the dead or spirits in general
  • Donning costumes to act out plays, sometimes called “mumming” and sometimes carried on by troupes traveling house to house
  • A celebration of the trickster, especially one who tricks the spirits or the devil
  • Horror and Halloween in stories, arising out of a Gothic tradition but proliferating in the United States, especially through film

Continue reading “It’s the Great Pumpkin, People!”

Do Not Go Gentle Away from that Frenzy

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This past Monday, September 19, the Japanese celebrated Respect for the Aged day.  It is called “keiro-no-hi,” chosen as the third Monday in September.  The celebration recommends sharing a special meal for the elderly, providing perhaps a musical presentation, and giving presents. The ecommerce website Rakuten, for example, suggests giving a kumquat tree or a hydrangea wreath.

The older I get, the more it seems we need this day. In America, we celebrate holidays that glorify the military, the labor force, religion, harvest, love, our country, our country’s dead presidents, our country’s dead inspirational leaders, the change of the season and the calendar—as well as the day that people are born. But we have no celebration aimed at the 1/6 of our population who are the wise elders. We celebrate “Grandparents,” but as an event the way that we celebrate “Secretaries” or “Administrative People” – primarily as a limited commercial boon for florists and card shops. We don’t respect the aging. We don’t celebrate getting older – we run and hide from it. Continue reading “Do Not Go Gentle Away from that Frenzy”