What Song the Superman Sang: Commonplace Book of Quotations for February 2009

"Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky."
- Alan Moore

“I always offend someone by asserting that the reason the death of a pet is worse than the death of a human is that you have mixed feelings about all people.”
-- Dick Cavett

"I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies, and -- to return to my first instance -- toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable… At any rate, Spring is here, even in London N.1, and they can’t stop you enjoying it. This is a satisfying reflection. How many a time I have stood watching the toads mating, or a pair of hares having a boxing match in the young corn, and thought of all the important persons who would stop me enjoying this if they could. But luckily they can’t. So long as you are not actually ill, hungry, frightened or immured in a prison or holiday camp, Spring is still Spring. The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it."
-- Orwell

“This town [Washington,DC] talks to itself and whips itself into a frenzy with its own theories that are completely at odds with what the rest of America is thinking.”
– David Axelrod

-- image by Sleestak, for his blog Lady, That's My Skull

“Faith is at best morally neutral, and at worst a vile mental distortion. Our habits are to respect people of faith, but I think we’ve been forced to question those habits. The powers of sweet reason look a lot more attractive post-9/11 than the beckonings of faith, and I no longer put them on equal scales.”
-- Ian McEwan, profile in The New Yorker

“The search for an impartial and neutral tool to mitigate the disruptive effect of factionalism was an important feature of political life in Italian city republics. As Waley (1991) maintains, the political scene in medieval Italy was characterized by factionalism fueled by intense competition for political office. The citizens were driven by an ardent desire to obtain the "honors and benefits" of office (Manin 1995). To overcome factional strife, most Italian communes adopted the institution of podesta, a foreigner endowed with judicial and administrative powers. The podesta was usually hired for a year and played the role of military leader, judge, and administrator. An important attribute of the podesta was that he had to be a foreigner so that he could be neutral to the internal "discords and conspiracies"
-- via Steve Clemons, The Washington Note

“The aim of literature is the creation of a small object covered with fur which breaks your heart.”
-- Donald Barthelme

"I’m confused now, because I thought Lindsey Graham was DC’s official angry chimp."
-- comment by Sassette on the "dead chimp cartoon" controversy at Wonkette

"In Final Crisis 7, Superman finally kills Darkseid [by singing a song into the newly constructed Miracle Machine. Morrison doesn't let the reader know exactly what song Superman sings, but instead leaves it up to the reader to fill in this particular gap."
-- Meme explained in Dr. K's 100-Page Super Spectacular Blog, with links to other examples. (For the record, it is the opinion of this writer that this song would only lengthen Darkseid's reign.)

Thirsty Girl in Australia

Koala means "doesn't drink" (most of their intake coming from morning dew on eucalyptus leaves) so it's a sign of how thirsty she was that Sam drank from a bottle held by a volunteer fireman named Dave Tree. Caught on the ground in the daylight, too, but she quickly accepts that he is a creature of good will offering comfort from the forest fires that killed at least 180 people and Saint Francis knows how many animals.

Sam and her (Sam's a girl) burnt nose and pads are healing now at the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter. She's even acquired some celebrity, a Facebook page and a boyfriend named Bob.

Addendum, March of 2010: Sad news on Sam's Facebook page: Sam has since passed away, of causes unrelated to the fire.

He Watched Until His Eyes Bled

My friend Jef Burnham just finished his 100th review for Film Monthly, on a film of Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer. Were this a comic book, it would have a wraparound cover with the entire cast of characters and a hundred little Jefs watching them; if this was Vanity Fair, there would be a lot of manufactured drama over whose expensively powdered bare bottom should grace the cover; if it was Time magazine, there'd be a cover informing us how important Time is. Instead we have Jef emerging from his burrow and predicting six more weeks of night.

The Violent Death Index

Awake at three in the morning. Plane crash in Buffalo on TV; 49 souls gone. But who knows how many-- the people who loved them-- who might be still asleep and don't yet know that their lives just stopped, too? I wonder about all the violent deaths in this country, more murders in one month in our larger cities than Japan has in a year, and does all that sorrow left behind add up in some way, accumulate like an invisible pollutant in the atmosphere? What kind of creatures feed off of that sorrow? What kind of thing thrives in an environment like that?

Joseph Campbell's Story About the Tiger Who Thought He Was a Goat

I heard Joseph Campbell tell this story at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids back in the Eighties. Just found this transcription, and the story wants to be told again, for what it's worth.

A starving and pregnant tigress comes upon a flock of goats and pounces on them with such fervor that she brings about the birth of her little one, as well as her own death. The goats scatter, but soon come back to find the newborn tiger by the side of its dead mother.

Tho goats adopt the baby tiger and it grows up believing it is a goat. He learns to bleat and eat grass, but the trouble is that grass doesn’t nourish tigers well, and he grows into a weak and miserable member of his own species.

One day, a large male tiger pounces on the flock and the goats scatter. The young tiger, not being a goat, remains standing there. The big male is surpised to find a young tiger living with goats, and when he enquired into it, the young one simply says, “Maaaa.” Mortified, the old tiger swats him back and forth a couple of times, but the only response coming forth was more bleating and grass nibbling.

The old tiger brings the young one to a pond and makes him look at his own reflection for the first time. He leans over and points out to him, “See, you look like me. You’re not a goat. You are a tiger, like me. Be like me!” He then brings the young tiger to his den and shows him bloody chunks of gazelle meat from a recent hunt. Taking a big chunk, he says “Open up and eat this!” “Oh no, I’m a vegetarian,” says the little one. But the old tiger would not take no for an answer, and shoves a piece of red meat down the little one’s throat, causing him to gag a little. Now the real tiger food is in his gut, getting into his blood. Spontaneously, the young one gives a a tiger-like stretch, and then a small little tiger roar.

“Now you’ve got it! Now go into the forest and eat tiger food!” says the big one.

Is there something larger than our ego that wants to come through, to demand authenticity and genuineness in the way we live? Are we to cruise onwards toward that inevitable ending, that certain exit on terms that were assumed and purchased for the first half? The second half of life is not a chronological issue, but a psychological one, in which we question what values and paradigms we are living by.
This is a question for each of us, whatever stage of life we’re in - are we tigers living as goats? If the answer is in the affirmative, then a second question - what is good tiger food? In other words, if we are not living as we ought to be, activating our fullest potentials, then what must we do, what would nourish us towards that?

-- A Joseph Campbell Companion, edited by
Diane K. Osbon, The Joseph Campbell Foundation, 1991.

Thumbs Up, Michigan! And Whadda YOO Lookin' At?

Upstate New York exists to make Michigan feel better about its status as the Texas of the North. Sure, we wolverines gave America its mad bombers, Nixon's pardon, the Amway-Blackwater dynasty, breeding enclaves for Calvinists the Netherlands didn't want, and city planning worthy of a post apocalyptic zombie film, but at least we don't shop at Forever Leather in Utica.