Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bearded Dragon

Pogona vitticeps, native to Central Australia; also a popular pet in Europe and USA.
[Left Click to enlarge and see more colors]

Doesn't he have a look of intense devotion, rather like a SADHU?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vailala Madness

Caroline Mytinger combined her art with a natural bent for anthropology, painting fine pictures of the indigenes of the South Pacific. Years ago my good angel (eudaimwn) led me to buy a copy of her 'New Guinea Headhunt', which has now become a rather rare book. She wrote in it (pp.323ff) of a Papuan, 'Emp' ("as big and black as Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones"), suddenly doubling-up, clutching his belly in painful spasms. This sort of attack was known to the indigenes as 'iki haveve', translating as 'belly-go-round'. The attack was resolved by her guide grabbing the man by his hair, jerking his head back, and then giving "the boy a blistering smack across the side of the head." Later she had read a paper by anthropologist F.E.Williams entitled "Vailala Madness" which, she wrote, appeared to explain the phenomenon as a 'cargo cult' manifestation.

I can recall scenes in early 20th Century cinema, especially in detective and psycho-drama, where a sudden slap was utilized to cure the 'emotionally out-of-control'. Perhaps Ms. Mytinger, not having much access to American pop culture, only saw this among the South Pacific indigenes. One wonders if this is still a socially acceptable reponse to such phenomena, or is it now ruled out as 'politically incorrect'?

Other 'cargo cult' manifestations were said to resemble the phenomena called 'getting the Holy Ghost' among some Christian churches and assemblies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Three exciting writers from the drab Forties & Fifties

"He was an erudite and an elegant writer and none of the artifices of rhetoric was unfamiliar to him. His style was rich in simile and metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and catachresis. He never let a noun go by without an escort of two stalwart adjectives. Images sprang to his mind as profuse and fat as mushrooms after rain, and being well read in the Scriptures, the works of the Fathers and the Latin moralists, he was never at a loss for recondite allusion. He was learned in sentence structure, simple, compound and compound-complex, and could not only compose a period, with clauses and subclauses, of the most choice elaboration, but bring it to a conclusion with a triumphant clang that had all the effect of a door slammed in your face. This manner of writing, to which an ingenious critic had given the name of Mandarin, is much admired by those who affect it, but it has the the trifling disadvantage of taking a long time to say what can be said in brief; and in any case it would be discordant with the plain, blunt style in which this narrative is written; and so, instead of making a vain attempt to reproduce the good father's grandiloquence, the author of these pages has thought it better to give the gist of the matter [Inquisition 'auto de fe'] in his own simple way."
W. Somerset Maugham: 'Catalina', Doubleday, 1948, pp.89-90

Maugham and Michener and Han Suyin are the writer of the postWW2 period that I most enjoy reading. Suyin's autobiographical works are quite excellent history.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior & the Arts

Man's Rage for Chaos by Morse Peckham, Professor of English at Univ. of Pennsylvania,
later Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of
South Carolina, is his much neglected 1967 breakthrough analysis of behavior and the arts.
Cultural criticism has been too obsessed with the rage for order to be able to grasp
the import of Peckham's search for "some human activity, which serves to break up orientations,
to weaken and frustrate the tyrannous drive to order, to prepare the individual to observe
what the orientation tells him is irrelevant, but what may be very relevant."
This book is destined to force a sharp turn in critical cultural studies, because it addresses
the rage for chaos in traditional "high culture," not just in popular culture.