Archive for August, 2011

A Weeping Song

Apropos of the post on misery last week: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “The Weeping Song”, 2 chords and a whole lotta misery:


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Believe in yourself

A scene I’ve wanted to draw for a while; alas, I don’t actually have a story for it to go in, and probably never will, lacking the story-telling talent some are born with (hint hint, Brian, post summit).

caught between the devil and daytime TV shows

(Click for larger version.)

This isn’t the sketch I wanted to put up today; embarrassingly, I can’t even find that one. Maybe next saturday…

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A man after my own heart: The Advantages of Pessimism by Alain de Botton:

For those teetering on the verge of despair, there can paradoxically be no finer book to turn to than one which seeks to grind man’s every last hope into the dust. The Pensees – far more than any saccharine volume touting inner beauty, positive thinking or the realisation of hidden potential – has the power to coax the suicidal off the ledge of a high parapet.

If Pascal’s pessimism can effectively console us, it may be because we are usually cast into gloom not so much by negativity as by hope. It is hope – with regard to our careers, our love lives, our children, our politicians and our planet – that is primarily to blame for angering and embittering us…

We should honour Pascal, and the long line of pessimistic writers to which he belongs, for doing us the incalculably great favour of publicly and elegantly rehearsing the facts of our sinful and pitiful state. This is not a stance with which the modern world betrays much sympathy, for one of its dominant characteristics and – in my opinion – its greatest flaw is its optimism.

A woman after my own heart: “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” (acoustic version) by Garbage. (The original single version is also excellent – official video here.)

When I was in school, a teacher once hurled the word “pessimist” at me like an insult. I was too young to think of it, but I should have hurled back “optimist” in the same tone of voice. Alas, alas.

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“The Death of the Virgin” by Andrea Mantegna:

Eastern-style Dormition icon (Coptic; source): The archetypal image of Madonna and Child is reversed in the Dormition, with Mary as a child in the arms of Christ as her soul is taken up into heaven (her body to follow some days later.)

(Note also at the bottom the archangel Michael cutting off some dude’s hands: a Jewish priest called Athonias, who, per later traditions, was annoyed by the Virgin’s funeral procession winding through Jerusalem and so tried pushing her body off its funeral bier. He repented and believed and was promptly healed, however.)

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back in the atmosphere

“Drops of Jupiter”, by Train: a beautiful song, full of strangeness and wonder. An explanation of what it’s about and what inspired it may be found here, although the song’s one of those where it gains depth but loses some of its wildness and mystery once you understand it, so I recommend not clicking through there.

The core of the song is the question posed by the 3rd verse: the lady has ascended, transcended, danced along the light of day: become something finer and wilder, “refining fires burning me to spit and spirit” (Revere, by John Smith), gone on wonderful journeys, moved up in the universe – the guy she leaves behind has to ask whether her fabulous gnosis leaves room for all the little human things she (they) once enjoyed:

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken,
Your best friend always sticking up for you
(Even when I know you’re wrong)
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze-dried romance,
Five-hour phone conversations,
The best soy latte that you ever had… and me

(A similar anguish is evoked by Master Rudd in Mike Carey’s Lucifer comic, where he incites the grief of the damned by calling to their memories times of love in mortal flesh, losing and finding oneself in every breath of one’s lover; and perhaps now their beloved “sups with the angels, and cannot recall thy name.”)

Chesterton addressed this issue in Manalive: in Heaven, will there be a house with a green lamp-post and a hedge? Innocent Smith’s gives a very vehement, very Chestertonian answer:

`My grandmother,’ I said in a low tone, `would have said that we were all in exile, and that no earthly house could cure the holy home-sickness that forbids us rest.’

`I think that must be the reason,’ he said–`the secret of this life of man, so ecstatic and so unappeased. But I think there is more to be said. I think God has given us the love of special places, of a hearth and of a native land, for a good reason… Because otherwise,’ he said, pointing his pole out at the sky and the abyss, `we might worship that.’

`What do you mean?’ I demanded.

`Eternity,’ he said in his harsh voice, `the largest of the idols– the mightiest of the rivals of God.’

`You mean pantheism and infinity and all that,’ I suggested.

`I mean,’ he said with increasing vehemence, `that if there be a house for me in heaven it will either have a green lamp-post and a hedge, or something quite as positive and personal as a green lamp-post and a hedge. I mean that God bade me love one spot and serve it, and do all things however wild in praise of it, so that this one spot might be a witness against all the infinities and the sophistries, that Paradise is somewhere and not anywhere, is something and not anything. And I would not be so very much surprised if the house in heaven had a real green lamp-post after all.’

(In John’s Gospel there’s a hint of this too: when John finds the empty tomb, the detail which causes him to believe is the folded graveclothes: Jesus (now transcended, able to walk through walls) has folded his shroud just as he folded his bedclothes when waking up in the morning.)

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